A VISIT TO BARON TAUCHNITZ
SINCE 1872 my
works have regularly appeared from the Tauchnitz Press, greatly to
my own advantage and, as I hope, not without amusement and
instruction to Continental readers. One fact let me affirm.
Had Baron Tauchnitz never paid English authors a penny, their gain
would all the same have been immense. He obtained for them a
vast, an unimaginably vast, public. No author, says "the
wise-browed Goethe," should write unless he can count his readers by
the million. The Leipzig Press brings us our million!
I was staying at Eisenach in 1880 when an invitation reached
me from Schloss Kleinschocher. Nothing could be more agreeable
than the prospect of two or three days in a country house just then.
The season was June; woods and breezy walks lie within reach of
Luther's town, but the place itself was becoming hot, crowded, and
noisy. Pianoforte practice rendered the hotel insupportable by
day, and supper-parties in the gardens adjoining made sleep
impossible till long past midnight. At the Leipzig station
Baron Tauchnitz met me, little changed since I had seen him just ten
years before. But for the slight accent of his otherwise
excellent English, you might have taken the great publisher to be an
English country gentleman. Half an hour's drive through a
pleasant country brought us to a mansion worthy of a more musical
I was never, I wrote to a friend, in a more beautiful house:
far and wide stretches a wooded park, whilst immediately around are
flower-gardens and sweeps of turf so velvety as to recall our own
lawns. And everything is of a piece within. We realise
at once that we are not only in a most sumptuous home, but in one of
the happiest and most cultured. Not that luxury is allowed to
lend a material aspect. At Schloss Kleinschocher we breathe a
literary atmosphere as completely as in the modest drawing-rooms of
savants and littérateurs at Leipzig. On the tables of
salon and boudoir lay the latest and best works in English, French,
and German. The hostess, a grey-haired, tall, graceful lady,
with very gentle manners, and her daughter, who welcomed me so
kindly,—alas! with her parents this dearly-loved daughter is no
longer among the living,—testified by their conversation to the
widest culture. When Baron Tauchnitz—then the younger—with his
charming wife joined us at the two o'clock family dinner, we
talked—and, of course, in English—of books, music, and the drama.
The drama, indeed, forms so important an element in German life that
it may be said to be part of daily existence. Baron Tauchnitz,
with a smile, soon reminded me of this, and also of another
fact—namely, of his excellent memory.
"When you first stayed in Leipzig," he said (just ten years
before), "you witnessed Lohengrin. To-night, if
agreeable, my daughter will accompany you to see Preciosa."
True enough, a seat in the Tauchnitz opera-box had been
placed at my disposal on my former visit, and in company of the
Baron and his son I had then enjoyed a first-rate performance of
Wagner's opera; but it surprised me to find the incident remembered
by one so busy. A stroll in the gardens, a visit from the
grandchildren, tea, and the opera, filled that first pleasant day at
Schloss Kleinschocher—Schloss Tauchnitz, I feel inclined to call it.
"Now you shall see my library, the real Tauchnitz
library," said my host next morning, leading me to a large, handsome
room, devoted to the 3,040 volumes known under that name. At
the time I write of, the number was much less, but already made a
goodly show, the little volumes being all neatly yet handsomely
bound in maroon calf with gilt lettering and edges, and placed in a
handsome bookcase reaching from floor to ceiling. Truly the
Baron has reason to be proud of his library—now doubled; what author
of voluminous works more so? No English-speaking person, least
of all a contributor to the series, can gaze on this collection
without feelings of pride and pleasure.
There are two circumstances especially to be borne in mind
when reviewing Baron Tauchnitz's achievement: first and foremost,
the originality of the undertaking; secondly, the high principles on
which it has ever been conducted. When the felicitous notion
of popularising English literature on the Continent first entered
the Baron's mind, the only means of procuring an English book was to
write to London for it. No international copyright existed,
consequently any foreign publisher could reissue works printed in
this country without asking an author's permission, to say nothing
of paying for the privilege. Baron Tauchnitz entertained too
much respect for literature in general, and for English literature
in particular, to dream of such a system. He preferred the
open, the magnanimous course, thereby not only furthering the
progress of international intercourse, but paving the way for
international copyright. The little Tauchnitz volume, so
portable, so inexpensive, so well printed, forms a kind of literary
currency: it prevents the English resident abroad from feeling
exiled; it passes from hand to hand, spreading a knowledge alike of
our classics and contemporary authors; lastly, it has been a
powerful protest against the piratical principle, the notion that
sharpness in business may well take the place of straightforward
dealing. To authors the gain has been twofold, the Baron not
only adding very considerably to their incomes, but also
establishing their reputation on the Continent.
Hardly less interesting than his Tauchnitz library at Schloss
Kleinschocher is my host's collection of portraits and autograph
letters. The photos of many English authors are here, whilst
from all writers included in the Continental Series the Baron has
Take the following Sterne-like line from Thackeray:
"Don't be afraid of your English; a letter containing £ s. d. is
always in pretty style."
Equally characteristic is the crabbed utterance of Carlyle:
"No transaction could be handsomer on your part. . . . The money
account concerns me. Please attend to that as already said.
Friendliness and help cannot be paid, but money can and always
How warm-hearted the frank sentences of Dickens:
"I have too great a regard for you and too high a sense of your
honourable dealings to wish to depart from the custom we have
already observed. Whatever price you put upon the book will
The author of Lothair wrote with equal cordiality, but in a
wholly different style:
"The sympathy of a great nation is the most precious reward of
authors, and an appreciation that is offered us by a foreign people
has something of the character which we attribute to the fiat of
prosperity. I accept your liberal enclosure in the spirit in
which it is offered, for it comes from a gentleman whose prosperity
always pleases me, and whom I respect and regard."
Here is an amusing extract from Longfellow:
"Your very generous addition to the original sum agreed upon between
us is pleasant to me, less for the sum itself than for the trait of
character it reveals in you and the proof of your liberal dealing.
The contingency you allude to—namely, of my employing another
Continental publisher—is about as remote as that of one of Dickens's
characters, who bought at an auction a brass door-plate with the
name of Thompson on it, thinking it possible that her daughter might
marry someone of that name!"
The great publishing house familiar to every English-speaking
traveller on the Continent is not to be confounded with an earlier
and famous business of the same name. So early as 1796
Christopher Tauchnitz set up a printing press in Leipzig, from which
latter were issued the cheap and handy
"Little Greek books with the funny type
They get up well at Leipzig,"
of which Robert Browning's Bishop Blougram speaks. These
classics are still published by the million.
A nephew of this Christopher, Bernhard, first Baron von
Tauchnitz, was destined to be not only a great publisher, but what
the late Cotter Morison called "A moral inventor." Born in
1816, following the trade of his uncle, he began his Continental
Series in 1841, of which 2,600 had appeared in the following fifty
years. Ennobled in 1860, this prince of pioneers was created
one of the few Saxon life-peers in 1877. He died in 1895,
"That which should accompany old age,
As honour, love, obedience, troops of friends."
Of the second Baron, alas! (1918) I cannot now get news.
In my desk lies one of those familiar registered notes dated
Leipzig, July 24, 1914, sealed with a T and containing a cheque and
an agreement for my penultimate novel From an Islington Window.
Thus runs the last sentence of a document that has almost a historic
"I am sorry to say," wrote the right hand and maybe partner
of my old friend, "that the Baron has not yet recovered from the
severe illness which had befallen him in (sic) Spring.
He is a little better, but the doctors cannot yet say when he will
be completely restored to health. — With kind regards, yours
sincerely, CURT OTTO."
A few days later war was declared with Germany. My
book, of course, was never published, and Dr. Otto was soon fighting
against us. What became of him I do not know.
The Tauchnitz Continental Series came to an abrupt end, and
to this day I cannot get news of the Baron. From his former
English publisher and agents I obtain a similar reply. They
can tell me nothing, and "a letter from me to Leipzig would do him
Does he live still, and under what conditions? Has his
colossal and honourably amassed fortune been wrenched from him?
Perhaps none of his English friends will ever learn further news of
their handsome, polished, affable host of the princely Schloss
AN AFTERNOON WITH LORD JOHN RUSSELL
"The chief political figure in fifty years of English
history " (Lord Houghton to Lord Granville, Jan. 17, 1875).
IT was in 1865
that I spent a long afternoon in the company of the "Lycurgus of the
Lower House," as Sydney Smith styled the statesman on whom devolved
the memorable honour of proposing the first Reform Bill.
From childhood I had been familiarised in Punch with
the figure of "the little great man," almost dwarfed by his enormous
hat, and who, like the great Sir Isaac Newton, was so diminutive at
birth that he could be cradled in a quart pot! Our rather
rough but good-natured rector, who, like the great Ipswich Cardinal,
was a butcher's son, used occasionally to get numbers of the famous
Charivari founded in 1841, and he never failed to bring them
for us to enjoy. And just as willingly he would lend a pair of
his own trousers to some needy parishioner unable to buy black for a
Thus, having already written two or three novels, and
travelled (rather lived) for a spell in Paris, Germany, and Vienna,
I could fully appreciate the following invitation from Mrs. and Mr.
(afterwards Sir Edwin) Chadwick: Would I lunch at Richmond the
following day and afterwards accompany them with Lord and Lady
Russell on a visit of inspection to the Poor Law School at Southall?
The Chadwicks were friends of Madame Bodichon, and I had
already made their acquaintance. Nothing, therefore, could
have been more agreeable than the proposed excursion.
Punctually to the moment, hosts and guests reached our
half-way rendezvous. It had been arranged that the two
carriages—in one, Lord and Lady Russell; in the second, my hosts and
self—should meet at a certain spot in the Hammersmith Road; and true
enough, there we were. But it was not till we reached our
destination that I stood face to face with Lord John Russell.
Just ten years before, on the fall of the Derby Ministry, the
outgoing Prime Minister had written to Lord Granville, saying, "I am
very sorry that the country will lose one of the best Foreign
Secretaries it ever had. . . . 'Tu Marcellus eris.'"
I may as well take it for granted that some of my readers,
like myself, have "small Latin and less Greek"; but Mr. Frederic
Harrison, whose scholarship seems at his fingers' ends as in earlier
days, enables me to explain the allusion. "Ah, unhappy boy"
(Virgil, Æneid, book vi. l. 884), "if you break the bitter
fates, you will be Marcellus."
Marcellus, the only son of Octavia the sister of Augustus and
his destined heir, died when nineteen. In Hades, Æneas was
shown his ghost. When Virgil read this to Octavia, she
To return to my narrative. Surely the four quarters of
the globe could not have furnished a greater contrast than the
pioneer of reform and the initiator, we may almost aver the
inventor, of sanitation.
Outwardly there was the difference of breadth, bulk, and
inches; the contrast of a stalwart middle-class gentleman in his
prime and an undersized elderly scion of as noble and historic
family as any in England.
Did not, indeed, the great whig house of Russell trace its
origin to Thor, the Hammerer and terror of giants?
Sir Edwin Chadwick, Earl Russell's junior by ten years, came
of lowlier stock. Called to the Bar in 1830, his paper on Life
Assurance had attracted the notice of no less an authority than
Jeremy Bentham, and in 1883, on being named Secretary of the Poor
Law Board, he devoted himself to the better administration of the
Poor Law funds, public education, and especially to sanitation.
If ever any public benefactor deserved a niche in the Abbey it is
he, and where is his statue?
Drainage was one of his especial subjects, and some unkind
wit prognosticated a sad old age for its devotee. In his
failing years Sir Edwin would fall a victim to a tragi-comic
hallucination. He would imagine himself transformed into a
monster drain-pipe, its ramifications spread throughout the entire
No such calamity befell him. Sir Edwin enjoyed a hale
old age, and many a pleasant afternoon I have spent with his
charming wife, amiable young daughter, and himself in their
beautiful home at Richmond.
Lady Russell accompanied us on the expedition in question,
and, evidently shared her husband's interest in the Home and
training of the boys, several hundreds in number.
From the first moment my attention was held by the contrasted
mental attitude of the two men. Each saw everything from an
absolutely different point of view. Each set out from exactly
opposite premises. Each would be no more likely to assimilate
the other's view than two parallel lines to meet.
Sir Edwin Chadwick was an animated calculating machine, a
walking squarer of the circle. Earl Russell's concern was with
generalities, with mankind in the gross, with the human side of
everything. Patiently he listened to our host as he expatiated
upon figures, the cost to a farthing per head of every child in the
school, and also of every item outside maintenance and instruction.
Meantime the inspection went on, and from dining-hall, schoolrooms,
and lavatories we went upstairs.
Here Sir Edwin's pride was really pathetic. Each
occupant of the enormous dormitory we now entered seemed dear to him
as if of his own blood.
It was now late in the afternoon, and the vast sleeping
quarters were flooded with warm effulgence. Almost blinding
was the brilliance of the westering sun; one's unlidded eyes might
as well have been exposed on a mountain top!
Will it be believed? From ceiling to floor stretched
windows, unshuttered, uncurtained, without blinds, the children
therefore being in the position of Norwegian sight-seers.
Hardly sunset, hardly sundown could be experienced here, from eight
at night till eight in the morning, at this season of the year
Lord Russell looked, listened, hum'd, haw'd whilst his
exuberant host rattled on. Who so hard to be stopped in his
torrent of words as a propagandist? At last he turned to Sir
Edwin Chadwick with the remark:
"But what about the children's eyes?"
The remark betokened the man. Just as in moments of
national and political stress he had seen far beyond immediate
results, he now recognised the stone blindness of benevolent
reformers. There flashed before his vision the blear-eyed,
blinking, permanently injured young toilers to whom sight was their
most precious possession, generation after generation thus
handicapped in the struggle for daily bread.
Whether the hint was taken, whether ophthalmia was stayed in
its deadly course, I never heard. On writing lately to the
Board of Education for information on this and other points, I
learned that the Southall School had long been closed.
I shall never forget those hours spent in the company of the
great Liberal leader, and afterwards regretted one omission on my
part. "Before you choke me with your praise, Madam," thundered
Johnson to a fair enthusiast, "remember what your praise is worth."
I never venture to compliment my betters. But might not a word
or two as to Lord John's achievements in belles-lettres from an
accredited authoress have here afforded pleasure? How aptly
would have come in, say, a quotation from one of his twenty works,
above all from his romances or two tragedies! I proudly recall
the fact that my own works and those upon France were not unknown to
him, and that I spent a long afternoon in the society of the great
pioneer of reform, truly Reddest of Red-letter days in my calendar!
The Life of Lord Granville, [p.98]
1815-1891, vividly recalls surely the most nicknamed, or shall I say
pet-named, statesman in history. Johnny he always was, alike in the
mouths of supporters or adversaries. In 1859 Lord Clarendon
wrote to Lord Granville that a closer acquaintance with the Italian
imbroglio—not to mention other subjects—had, he fancied,
"considerably abated the veni, vidi, vici sort of feeling
with which Johnny had taken possession of that bed of roses, the
In 1867 Lord Coleridge wrote to a friend: "I had a very
pleasant dinner with Lord John on Wednesday. We were but
seven. . . . Johnny remains as you left him—very cocky, restless,
and physically strong." And later on he adds: "I dined at
Chesham Place on Wednesday—an education dinner. Bright was to
have been there but did not appear. . . . Lord Russell made a long
speech giving us a history of popular education beginning with the
time of Henry IV. (of France)."
This memorable speech was far in advance of the time, and
Lord Granville wrote to the Duke of Argyll that he spoke with more
power and animation than he had ever heard him. But it was a
valedictory oration, and fainting fits were followed by signs of
failing strength and diminished powers.
The wonderful old man (he was now seventy-five) was far,
however, from being an extinct volcano. These volumes seem to
bring his times very near our own. We here find one politician
writing to another "of the Manchester School and Reform agitators
being quite satisfied with Johnny chief and Gladstone leader."
In 1868 Lord Granville wrote to Gladstone that "Johnny's proposed
public dinner is a difficult one. If he persists in giving
one, I do not know how you can avoid giving another." The
difficulty was neatly got over. Gladstone's house was being
painted, and it was impossible for him to give a dinner to the
Opposition leaders of the House of Commons at his own table.
Lord John decided that the "smell of paint being bad for friends at
dinner would not be innocuous to friends in council," and the
council was held.
Lord John Russell's leading characteristic was unbounded
faith in himself. "The great little man was unshakably sure of
his own judgment," as one of his biographers has said. "He
knew he was right gives the key to both his career and his
It is pleasant to read that relaxation came in the way of so
indomitable a worker. In 1819 he travelled with Tom Moore in
Italy, the latter having crossed the Channel to avoid arrest,
despite the fact that he had lately received three thousand guineas
for Llalla Rookh, a poem certainly not worth the money.
Lord John afterwards edited the poet's works in eight volumes,
One of my own books is named in his biography. This is
Earl of Paris (Hurst & Blackett), in which is an account of
the historic little town of St. Jean de Loyne in Upper Burgundy.
DEAR Henry James!
My heart glows as I recall our long, warm friendship, from first to
last not the faintest cloudlet casting a shadow. We valued, I
may say we loved, each other, with a brotherly, sisterly affection
deeper, more sympathetic perhaps than are often these blood
relationships. On neither side was there exaggeration or
conventionality. Our respective literary achievements for the
most part were not touched upon. Indeed, the only direct
criticism he ever passed on a novel of mine was the reverse of
On June 9, 1913, he had written: "I am very glad to hear of
the good fortune of your Lord of the Harvest" (just included
in the Oxford World's Classics). But alas! the gilt was soon
taken off the gingerbread. A little later he paid me a visit,
and referring to the story, which he had read, "I should have liked
more of a tangle," he said; and, as far as I remember, that was the
only direct #allusion he made to any work of mine. Indirectly I
learned from other sources that he especially valued my studies of
French life and literature. And was not his friendship the highest
of all compliments?
Our meetings were arranged in this way. I would get a
telegram from Rye, answer prepaid, to this effect
"Can you receive me at five o'clock this afternoon?" and of
course the answer was always Yes. At five precisely his cab
would climb the hill, stopping short at a sharp curve of the road,
many drivers refusing to attempt an ascent so difficult for their
Thus it happened now, and well I remember how laborious and
painful the footing of that hundred yards or so proved to my great
visitor. He had hardly passed his prime, but was ponderously
built and moved with the heaviness of age.
Once having regained breath in my little parlour on the
ground floor—I never invited him to my study above, although there
were many treasures there that would have interested him—he settled
himself entirely to his satisfaction. The first thing he did
was to study the physiognomy of his hitherto unknown hostess.
Indeed, before opening his lips he looked me through and through
with those large eyes that seemed to see below the surface of
others. Then, that rather staggering attention over, he
glanced from the window with its matchless view, wide sweep of sea,
red-roofed old town nestled amid verdant heights, high above the
walls of the Conqueror's castle crowning the panorama.
Next he looked immediately about him, and I never knew anyone
so sensitive to surroundings.
"What a chair is this!" he said. "It has a positive
psychology of its own."
The chair in question was a present to me from India, of
native cane, high-backed, its proportions exactly suited to the
frame and well cushioned; it invited to repose but not inanition.
Then, after a glance at the opposite wall, he added:
"And those fine old engravings."
These were heirlooms, views of my native Ipswich with its
twelve churches and fine river and of Bury St. Edmunds with its
noble Abbey Gate and ruined tower.
"And yonder magnificent old oak chest?"
"Ah!" I replied, "that is my most cherished heirloom."
A bridal chest, perhaps destined for some noble bride
imitating royal example, this curio had long been in the De Betham
family, and had indeed served as my mother's linen chest.
It is a most beautiful and highly elaborate specimen of
English workmanship, highly-polished, its panels showing inlaid
canaries and pomegranate, fruit and foliage, under the splendid lock
inlaid the figures 1626.
1626, the year of Charles the First's second Parliament, the
year in which, on hearing that Eliot had branded his favourite
Buckingham as Sejanus, he had uttered the threat, "If then he is
Sejanus, I must be Tiberius"—which he tried to be to his cost!
Henry James next examined the family portraits on the side
wall, all three sitters of which have a place in Sir Sidney Lee's
Dictionary of National Biography—the Rev. W. Betham, Sir William
Betham, Ulster king-at-arms, and Matilda Betham. And here I
made an unlucky remark.
"Yonder old cleric, my grandfather," I narrated, "a curate
for the greater part of his life, lived to be ninety-two and without
ever having lost his health or his temper. A few days before
his death, as he slowly paced the room leaning on my mother's arm,
he made a pun: 'I am walking very slowly, Barbara, but I am going
"A delightful record, but I could have wished without the
pun," was my visitor's comment.
I took no notes of those delightful monologues, nor was it
necessary; they imprinted themselves on the memory.
I remember well his description of Sarah Bernhardt's
impersonation of Jeanne d'Arc, of the wonderful way with which she
baffled her tormentors, keeping them at bay, foiling every trap,
laid for her tongue.
Of France and French subjects we talked much, and yet have
Henry James's novels found favour in the land par excellence
of crystal clear speech and logical expression?
He would sit down to the tea-table, though rarely taking tea,
and of course I could not help talking of his own books. One I
mentioned with great appreciation, the inimitable Three Meetings.
This was on the occasion of his second visit, whereupon he said
"You shall have my new book."
"No," I said, glancing at my faithful maid in attendance,
"pray give her one instead."
"Do you like reading?" he asked; and on her hearty reply in
the affirmative, he said:
"I will, I will, I will."
True enough, the promise was kept, and some time after a copy
of The Better Sort duly arrived, having on the fly-leaf the
"To Emily Morgan, with all good
Jan. 5, 1912.
And with it this letter to myself:
"I can now tell you the sad story
of the book for Emily Morgan, which I am having put-up to go to you
with this, as well as explain a little my long silence. The
very day, or the very second after last seeing you, a change
suddenly took place, under great necessity, in my then current plans
and arrangements. I departed under that stress for London,
practically to spend the winter, and have come back but for a very
small number of days, and I return there next week.
"'But,' you will say, 'why didn't you send the promised
volume to E. M. from London, then? What matters to us where it
came from so long as it came?' To which I reply: 'Well, I had
in this house a small row of books available for the purpose and
among which I could choose. In London I should have to go and
buy the thing, my own production, while I leave two or three
brand-new volumes, which will be an economy to a man utterly
depleted by the inordinate number of copies of The Outcry
which he has given away and of which he has had to pay for—his
sanguinary (admire my restraint!) publisher allowing him half!'
'Why, then, couldn't you write home and have one of the books sent
you, or have it sent to Hastings directly from your house?'
Because I am the happy possessor of a priceless parlour maid who
loves doing up books and other parcels and does them up beautifully,
and if the vol. comes to me here, to be inscribed, I shall then have
to do it up myself, an act for which I have absolutely no skill and
which I dread and loathe, and tumble it forth clumsily and
insecurely. Besides, I was vague as to which of my works I did
have on the accessible shelf (and I only know I had some, and would
have to look and consider and decide). And the thing will be
beautifully wrapped. 'That's all very well: but why, then,
didn't you write and explain why it was that you were keeping us
unserved and uninformed?' Oh, because from the moment I go up
to town I plunge, plunge into the great whirlpool of postal
matters, social matters, etc."
I do not give the rest.
Note his redundancy—a couple of pages and dozens of words
when two lines would have sufficed.
His last note, dated August 13, 1914, thanked me for my
welcoming him "into this ancient fold," i.e. his naturalisation as a
British subject on the outbreak of the war.
And his last visit—a most delightful one despite an
inauspicious beginning—was paid in the autumn of that year.
I have already explained that his cab always stopped just
below High Wickham Terrace, drivers refusing to try their hacks'
knees with the short, sharp upward hundred yards or so, and still
more fearful of their nerves if putting them to the downward ordeal.
Hitherto my visitor had footed the corner without apparent
difficulty. This time he arrived breathless and almost in a
state of collapse. The intervening years and the war had aged
Fortunately, a physician was at hand. My good friend
and benefactor, Dr. Dodson Hessey, happened to call just before, and
at my instance waited to renew an acquaintance that had previously
proved highly agreeable to both. "A nice man," had been Henry
James's summing-up after their first meeting, and, as I have shown,
no one was less addicted to compliments. Vainly did the doctor
now advise a cordial. The very mention of brandy made the
patient worse. However, he did induce him to take a cup of tea
and a slice of bread and butter, these very seldom indulged in when
visiting me, and, gradually reviving, Henry James was himself again.
A genial, animated, and generous self he became, giving us of his
Over an hour's tripartite conversation we enjoyed, turning
upon literature and winding up with lady novelists of the day—Miss
Braddon, Miss Broughton, and, gallantly added the author of Daisy
"Miss Betham-Edwards, whom I love best of all."
Had he dubbed me a second George Eliot on the spot, I could
not have crowed more.
I give one of the last letters I received from him. The
others appear in his Life.
August 16, 1911.
thanks for your kind note. I am back in England, after
a whole year's absence and terrible period of six or seven months of
extreme and confining illness, mostly in my bed, for six or seven
months before that. I was spoiling for that dire collapse when
we last communicated in the autumn of 1909. I was to have gone
over to see you then, but was in the event unable either to go or to
make you a sign. Then began the very bad time on which I hope
my return to England now will have finally and strongly closed the
gates. I will make you with pleasure that so long-delayed
visit, but I will, by your leave, wait till the "holiday" (God save
the mark!) turmoil of communication between this and Hastings shall
have somewhat abated. It's a sorry squeeze now—and long drawn
out with delays. I rejoice to infer that you remain stalwart
and patient and good-humoured—as I try withal to do—even if we
neither of us emulate the surprising Hale White. [p.109]
This is disappointing of him—a false note in his fine figure.
However! I shall make you a sign by and by and appear; and am all
AMELIA BLANDFORD EDWARDS,
"A born Amalgam" [p.110]
THE foundress of
the first chair of learning since the days of Dorothy Wadham was far
and away the cleverest woman I ever knew. Cousin on the
paternal side, Cockney born and bred, and, in a creditable sense,
precocious of the precocious, when ten years old she won the prize
offered for a temperance story, and as she grew to womanhood showed
a quite extraordinary capacity for assimilating knowledge without
the drudgery of attaining it.
"I can always teach myself anything better than I can learn
it," she once said to me, and, as far as I know, she never had an
hour's schooling or a governess at home. Like Topsy, she "grow'd,"
and to a brilliant maturity. If her powers of assimilation did
duty for painstaking, so with her did intuition stand in the place
Her mother was a lively Irishwoman of the Walpole family, her
father a Peninsular officer, and she was born in that dreary
cul-de-sac Westmorland Place, City Road, London, in 1830, thus being
six years my senior.
How it came about I know not that, unlike his brothers, my
uncle Thomas did not become a farmer, but was presented with a
On his retirement on half-pay he obtained a post in the
London and Westminster Bank, thenceforward spending his yearly
fortnight's holiday with my own family near Ipswich. The most
taciturn of men, he would occasionally be drawn into a word or two
about the battle of Corunna, at which he had been present, and as he
spoke of a commanding officer "stepping into the shoes" of his
fallen leader, I used to wonder how this could be, and how very
unlikely it was that the shoes would fit at all comfortably!
Oddly enough, he had made friends with a foeman, and in token of
good fellowship this French officer, at parting, presented him with
ten guineas to be spent on a ring, which was done. The ring,
containing a single diamond, was left by Amelia to myself, and
proudly I wear such a precursor of an Entente Cordiale as yet
undreamed of by the most Utopian.
That taciturnity of her father used to trouble Amelia.
"I fear I shall grow as silent as himself," she used to say; a
prognostic that fortunately did not come true. She only spoke
one language, her own, but that one, as she wrote it, with exquisite
purity and elocution, and, as we shall see, she became a highly
appreciated lecturer in the United States. Her talent for
acting and love of the stage were stimulated by frequent visits to
Sadler's Wells and other places of entertainment, euphemistically
described by her mother as "minor theatres."
How many careers invite the richly endowed! How
difficult is it for the non-gifted to find acceptance by any!
Literature, the stage, declamation were all well within the scope of
this rarely gifted girl, who, although busiest of the busy, ever
found time for frolic and escapade. Nothing delighted her so
much as camouflage—in other words, taking people in; as we
Suffolkers say, making them look a gaby.
When with her mother she stayed at our farmhouse she gave
full play to her high spirits, and of course was allowed pranks.
Thus on entering the schoolroom one day when we were at tea
with our very demure governess, she took up a thick slice of bread
and butter and exclaimed, "Who will dare me to throw this out of the
window?" No answer forthcoming, out went the bread and butter.
Later, she loved to dress up in boy's clothes, and one day
thus disguised frightened a homely neighbour almost out of her wits.
The comely farmeress was sipping her tea when, acting the spruce
young Londoner, she suddenly flung herself on the floor with clasped
"Mrs. Smith, I adore you!"
Upon another occasion she had been for a ride with one of my
brothers, and, looking very solemn and speaking under his breath, he
said as he entered the entrance without her:
"Poor Amy" (her pet name) "has had a bad fall, and I have
come for wraps and cushions, and Dick " (our house lad) "to help me
to bring her in."
Hardly were the words out of his lips than followed a ringing
laugh—oh, what a laugh she had!—and the culprit appeared, quite
relishing the excitement she had created.
But Amelia's days of sober work began early. Before
beginning her novels, which, once begun, followed each other in
quick succession, she was the paid organist of a north London church
and a teacher of harmony and counterpoint. How, when, and
where she acquired so much knowledge, Heaven knows! Not only
did she understand the theory of music, but was an accomplished
musician, at home alike on piano, organ, and guitar. To her I
owe my first lessons on the piano, and introduction to the great
masters. Every afternoon she gave me a music lesson.
Fostered in after years, how much pleasure has this taste afforded
me; and as I play favourite bits of Beethoven from memory during
winter twilights, I gratefully recall that painstaking teacher.
Her first novel, My Brother's Wife, appeared in 1855,
and was quickly followed by a warmly welcomed series, all now
accessible in cheap editions. Earning money as she did, she
could afford travel, and Italy was the lodestar. It is to
these Italian sojourns that we owe her crowning success,
Barbara's History, 1864, which ought to figure in the World's
Classics or some equally important set of Victorian chefs d'œuvre.
The story had an immense success, winning a quite uncommon
eulogium in the Times and elsewhere. Translations into
several European languages followed, and the authoress immediately
became a persona grata in the eyes of publishers. One
firm lost no time in soliciting a new novel, and offered her eleven
hundred pounds down for a speedy successor!
Amelia proved a cruel stepmother to her literary offspring.
No sooner had Barbara's History filled her pockets and set
her on a level with the best Victorian romancers than she turned her
back on story-telling altogether and seemed not to care a jot what
became of Barbara's History and its brethren. Had she
attained the Psalmist's three score and ten years, quite certainly
her next passion, Egyptology, would have been thrown to the winds
and one or two other subjects as enthusiastically taken up.
Who knows? She might have thrown herself heart and soul into
the Woman's Rights agitation, and by her brilliant lead and powers
of elocution have antedated victory by a generation. Not only
might we have had in her a powerful stateswoman and party leader,
but a lady Prime Minister.
The fates willed otherwise; very enviably she died in the
plenitude of intellectual powers, and was thus saved from that death
in life—a vacant, inactive, and colourless old age.
Amelia's good—and in one sense evil—genius was ever seducing
her to fresh fields and pastures new. And every new literary
enterprise added to her laurels. A Thousand Miles up the
Nile, 1877, was the last turning-point of her career. She
became the foundress and honorary secretary of the Egyptian
Exploration Fund, and devoted all her energies to Egyptology,
contributing papers on the subject to European and American
journals. Her scholarship brought her several degrees from
America, among these a doctorate from Columbia. In 1889, not
without misgivings on the part of her friends, she yielded to the
solicitations of American admirers, and with a friend sailed for a
lecturing tour in the United States. The undertaking ended
fatally. In descending an ill-lighted flight of steps before a
lecture, just before embarkation for home, she slipped down, and,
despite the shock to her system and pain in her head, insisted upon
not disappointing the expectant and immense audience.
She reached England safely, but never recovered her health,
and died in 1889 aged sixty years. She rests in the churchyard
of Westbury-on-Trym near Bristol, and was followed to the grave by
more than one distinguished Egyptologist, thus showing her the last
Amelia B. Edwards reaped harvests in many fields, and among
her titles of honour none is more deserved than that of scholarship.
In 1879 Messrs. Longman issued two volumes from her pen—A
Poetry-Book of Elder Poets and A Poetry-Book of Modern Poets,
English and American—which for learning, critical acumen, and
comprehensiveness rank with the best works of the kind in any
language. The abundant notes show how much care she gave to
this labour of love. Take the following Notes to the first
series, p. 162
"Come away, come away, Death,
And in sad cypress let me be laid."
Sad cypress, meaning Cyprus lawn, of which shrouds
and which was first made in the Isle of
Also the following on Sir Walter Raleigh's line:
"Were her tresses angel-gold."
An angel was an old English coin worth about ten shillings and of a
finer quality of gold than that known as crown gold. Benedick
in Much Ado about Nothing in his soliloquy about the sort of
woman he could love says: "Fair or I'll never look on her, Mild or
come not near me, Noble or not I for an angel." The pun upon
the two coins, the Noble and the Angel, seems to have escaped the
observation of commentators.
Now for the modern poets. Here is a note upon J. Blanco
White's famous sonnet Night and Death:
Coleridge pronounced this sonnet the best in the
English language, and Leigh Hunt adds that "in thought it stands
supreme, perhaps above all in any language." Our admiration is
almost exceeded by our wonder when it is remembered that the author
was born and brought up in Spain, was no longer young when he came
to England, and then spoke English like a foreigner.
Mrs. Hemans' line, "The Bowl of Liberty," is elucidated by
Plutarch's striking account of the commemoration of Platæa when
after a visit to the sepulchres the Souls of the Heroes were invited
to the sacrificial feast, and the chief magistrate, filling a bowl,
gave the toast: "I drink to those who gave their lives for the
liberties of Greece."
No better school prizes than these two little volumes could
be given in our Board schools, and it would be as well if both could
be issued alike in more elaborate and in cheaper forms, illustrated
editions for Christmas and other gift-books, and at the price of Mr.
Dent's admirable library.
Women are very disloyal to each other—I reiterate the words.
Neither Madame Bodichon, the noble foundress of Girton College, nor
Amelia B. Edwards, the erudite explorer in recondite literary
fields, to say nothing of their brimful lives, has found a
biographer. Thanks to the courtesy of Sir Sidney Lee, I have
been permitted to pay each a humble tribute in his great Dictionary
of Biography. No other woman I could ever discover has ever
put pen to paper for the purpose of recalling such exemplars.
No, in advancing years I am more and more struck with the littleness
and self-seeking of my sex, and less and less desirous of seeing
them either in Parliament or holding any public office of
AN HOUR WITH MISS BRADDON
dignified figure, sterling goodness evidenced by look, word, and
slightest action, absolutely unspoiled by fame and "wealth beyond
the dreams of avarice," such was my impression of the story-teller
whose fifty volumes are popular in every civilised language.
On learning that my great contemporary had settled at Bexhill
for the summer, I wrote begging her to favour me with a visit.
Most cordial was her reply. She had consulted her coachman; he
in turn had consulted drivers familiar with the road, and her
horses, they said, would never be able to climb to my terrace on the
East Hill, still less would they have the nerve to descend so steep
a bend. Again and pro tem. a still graver obstacle
stood in the way: her maid was away on holiday, and no one else
could lift her, crippled as she was with rheumatism, in and out of
the carriage. Would I not give her the pleasure of my company
to tea some afternoon instead?
So on the day and at the hour fixed I duly reached the
railway station, of course expecting to be met. But no such
thing. Pampered darlings must they have been, that pair of
horses, I presume, only put in harness once a day. So after
waiting a few minutes I hired a cab, with orders to be fetched in an
hour and a half.
Mrs. Maxwell was installed in a very handsome set of
apartments fronting the sea. On my name being announced, a
momentary awkwardness preceded a genial hour.
A tall lady, wearing rich black silk, rose from her seat with
a puzzled, interrogatory look. Then she turned to a young lady
having a little boy by her side. Who was I, and how came I to
be there? her face said. The pleasant daughter-in-law
succeeded at last in making matters clear, tea was served, and over
it we chatted in friendliest fashion. Mrs. Maxwell had now
attained a dignity not perhaps much coveted among ourselves but by
Frenchwomen considered the highest her sex can attain. An
imperial crown, the literary reputation of a de Sévigné, the
unmatchable beauty of a Ninon de Lenclos are a mere snap of the
fingers compared to that enthronement—namely, the fact of being a
grandmother. To be a mother, all very well; but to be a
grandmother! One must hear a Frenchwoman pronounce the words
Je suis grand'mère to realise what such a pinnacle of glory
means to our friends over the water. Miss Braddon—how can we
call her by any other name?—seemed to know me best maybe only as a
writer upon France and French subjects. Almost pathetically
she alluded to her own travels, sojourns at Swiss and other health
resorts crowded in their season with cosmopolitan globe-trotters.
"Ah!" I said, "could you only see as I have seen French
schoolboys devouring your translated novels in the hour of
recreation," and having drifted into French topics she liked to hear
more. It seemed so new a thing to her, that almost second
nationality of mine, a country in which a good third of my working
years have been spent. One fact I ought to have told her.
By no means a deep psychologist, for the most part describing men
and women as she found them, she would have learned with interest
that my maternal grandmother was of French Huguenot stock, the
family settling in England after the committal of the greatest and
most atrocious crime in modern history—namely, the Revocation of the
Edict of Nantes.
But we chatted pleasantly enough, and all too soon came the
hour of departure. We never met again, but a little later
Henry James told me how kindly she had received him at her Richmond
home, and what gratification the visit had afforded himself.
An endearing recollection, that meeting with an author whose
very first stories—Ralph the Bailiff, and others—had charmed
me two generations before.
Why has this first-rate story-teller had no biographer?
Her long life is not without lessons alike to wise and simple
literary aspirants. Several circumstances are especially
noteworthy in her career. In the first place, she did not wake
up to find herself famous like the authoresses of The Heavenly
Twins and Robert Elsmere. She did not win the crown
without running the race. And in the second, there was no
falling-off in the quality of her work. Her fiftieth novel was
every bit as engrossing and as well put together as her first.
There were no second or third bests, no Count Robert of Paris
to put Waverley to the blush. And if, as has been
written, her stories appeal to "that low vice, curiosity," would not
humanity sink to the level of animals without it? Wherein else
does the higher differ from the lower in creation?
A word or two about Mrs. Maxwell's early life and career.
The daughter of a solicitor, she was born in Soho Square in 1837,
and when a mere child began to write stories and verses, getting
poetic effusions, political squibs, and parodies into the Poet's
Corner of provincial newspapers, later on contributing stories to
Temple Bar and other popular monthlies. Her comedietta
called Loves of Arcadia was produced at the Royal Strand
Theatre in 1860, but without success. Nor was Garibaldi and
other Poems that followed more fortunate. But in 1862 her
story of the golden-haired murderess, Lady Audley's Secret,
made every publisher in London her liege lord. In three months
were sold no less than eight editions of the three-volume edition
published at a guinea and a half. Aurora Floyd, 1863,
which was no less sensational, proved hardly less popular.
One secret of such enormous and world-wide popularity is
doubtless the wholesomeness and cleanness of Miss Braddon's stories.
Therein vice is never sugared. No page, no sentence, tempts
youthful readers to lift the forbidden veil, by hook or by crook to
attain the knowledge that is as the poison of asps, "a
stumbling-block before the children." Can any writer desire a
I add that following this happy afternoon came two charming
reminders. Shortly afterwards, and on separate occasions, I
received by post carefully packed boxes of rare and beautiful
hothouse flowers from Bexhill. Another touch of a large,
I add her letter to me, just her kind unspoiled self in every
line. But what would she have made of C. P.?
EDWARDS,—It is so kind
of you to leave your eagle's nest and to give me and mine the
pleasure of seeing you next Thursday afternoon.
I hope the day may be as fine as it is at this hour—a lovely
blue sky after a tropical storm last night. —À jeudi, yours
P.S.—I should have loved to know Coventry
Patmore. He was one of my lost opportunities, as I believe we
were living near him in Hampshire for some years—off and on.
Alas! much of my life has been made of lost opportunities.
A FRENCH TALK WITH LORD KITCHENER
have a quite touchingly clannish feeling. It can no longer be
said that two of my countryfolks chance-met on the top of a London
bus would immediately recognise each other by their "Brant"—in other
words, drawl; their instructions to the conductor, beginning at C
major and ending two octaves higher, at once identifying them to the
knowing. School Boards and cosmopolitan habits for the most
part have changed all this, but were I to-day colloguing with
contemporaries in my native village near Ipswich I could "drant"
with the best of them.
I well remember an incident that occurred some years ago when
revisiting native haunts with my cousin Amelia. In her ever
polished and ornate speech she asked of a hobbledehoy if we were on
the right road to Bramford. Had she spoken in the language of
the Pharaohs, he could not have opened his mouth wider or looked
more hopelessly bewildered.
I immediately asked the way after his own fashion, raising my
voice three gamuts, whereupon the lad's face brightened. He
told us we were all right and pulled his forelock, the local form of
touching the hat, as he received thanks and twopence.
From the butcher's great son Cardinald Wolsey downwards,
Suffolk has shown a noble roll-call, and in 1895 was founded the
London Society of East Anglians, its object being the promotion of
good fellowship and pleasant intercourse among persons born in or
connected with Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, and Cambridgeshire. [p.126]
The initiator, I believe, anyhow the warm supporter of the
movement, was my distinguished friend and fellow-countyman, if I may
coin the expression, Sir Arthur Spurgeon. No relation, be it
mentioned, is the head of the great publishing house of Cassell to
the renowned preacher and wholesale converter of sinners, whom I
have heard hold forth in melodramatic style to thousands in the
Ipswich Corn Exchange. Nor, it seems, have any ancestors of
this name been recorded in history, a precedence always in some
degree diminishing the fame of after generations.
And now the East Anglian Society was to celebrate the
greatest day in its history.
On his triumphant return, the great Suffolker, vanquisher of
the Mandi and hero of Khartoum, had accepted an invitation to a
banquet offered him by its members.
I was just then the guest of Mr. and Mrs. Frederic Harrison
in Westbourne Terrace. In order not to disturb the household
at a very late hour, also to save myself much fatigue, I engaged a
bed at the great hotel facing the Thames, scene of the banquet.
I took care, of course, to be in good time, and after making my
toilet was duly guided to the place reserved for me, near friends,
in the enormous dining-hall.
We were all in our places with bated breath awaiting the
hero, and far too much on the qui rive to exchange whispers,
when at last the tension came to an end, the band burst into God
save the Queen, followed by See the conquering hero comes,
and our guest appeared, a striking figure enough in himself, but
made more so by decorations blazing on his breast.
In his early prime, eminently handsome, tall of stature and
magnificently proportioned, Lord Kitchener might say after French
fashion that he had chosen his parents with the utmost discretion.
As he confronted us, graciously acknowledging burst after burst of
tumultuous cheers, a glance told you that here was a man of iron
indeed. No one could behold that stern countenance without
comprehending the terror it had inspired among subordinate races,
and how, as before the Veiled Prophet of Khorassan, strong men had
quailed before the gaze.
How I wish I could describe the most wonderful eyes it has
ever been my lot to behold and look into at leisure. But I
give up the task. Wherein indeed lies the mystery, the whole
man, the whole woman, but in the eye?
We fortunate ones—that is to say, East Anglians—dined whilst
admiring crowds looked on. Just as Parisians gathered round
the Tuileries to see Louis Philippe, his spouse, and numerous
progeny fall to, which they good-humouredly did in public, by no
means disliking the compliment, so we were gazed at as we ate and
drank. On each side of the hall ran a gallery, to-night filled
with visitors of the hotel. Not only had they the
gratification of seeing Lord Kitchener eat, but of hearing Sir (then
Mr.) Rider Haggard and one or two others respond to the regulation
These very briefly over, we adjourned to the reception room,
and here the guest of the evening held his court. One by one
all present had the honour of shaking hands with him, and, owing to
happy circumstances, I was privileged beyond the rest. I had
whispered a word in Sir Arthur Spurgeon's ear. I wanted a few
minutes' conversation with the guest of the evening. Could I
obtain the privilege?
No sooner was my favour asked than granted.
"I was particularly anxious to have this opportunity, Lord
Kitchener," I began, "of conveying to you the congratulations of a
French colleague. My old and valued friend, the late General
Nicola, former Military Governor of Paris, learned from my letter of
a few days back that I was to be here to-night. But permit me
to repeat his exact words." I then went on in French, for I
well knew Lord Kitchener's familiarity with the language. "I
rejoice, dear friend," the General wrote, "that you are to have the
honour of meeting the great soldier whose achievements have added so
splendid a page to the glorious history of British arms."
Having glided into French, my interlocutor did the same, and
for some minutes we chatted genially on—were we not both Suffolkers,
knit together by an almost fraternal tie? Lord Kitchener spoke
French as to the manner born and without the faintest English
accent, which perhaps is more than I could say of myself!
Meantime we were the objects of quite legitimate curiosity
and equally legitimate envy. For I was the only guest to whom
more than a mere exchange of compliments was granted. But I
felt bound to make room for others, so tore myself away, as I passed
on a lady stopping me.
"If not impertinent, may I ask what you were saying to
Lord Kitchener?" she asked. "He looked so gratified and smiled
"We talked of France," I replied, and hurried by. Yes,
I had made Lord Kitchener smile, had softened that stern visage as,
I learned afterwards, children could soften it.
A day or two later, a leading lady in London society
entertained the lion of the hour at a garden party in Eaton Square.
"Imagine it!" she told me afterwards. "Some of the
prettiest, most striking debutantes of the last London season were
there, but Lord Kitchener had no eyes for these. He devoted
himself all the time to my quiet little Elizabeth, just twelve!
Fancy such a man being fond of children! No 'catch of the
season' is Lord Kitchener. Vainly any feminine snare set in
sight of such a bird!"
After a triumph the usual swallowing of humble pie!
Next day my good friend, the late Professor Beesly, lunched
in Westbourne Terrace, and the topic of last night's banquet
immediately cropped up. "Did Lord Kitchener show you the
Mandi's head?" Professor Beesly cruelly asked, evidently shocked at
the fact that I should have countenanced such a celebration.
The Positivists as a body had protested against the Soudan
RECOLLECTIONS OF VISCOUNT MORLEY
A GREAT BOOK [p.131]
awaited work has not disappointed public expectation. Deeply
interesting as such a record was sure to be, it is educational in
the literary sense of the word, epigrammatic, witty, and, last but
not least, very entertaining. Grave, momentous pages are
relieved by delightful touches of humour, and the author does not
hesitate to let his readers enjoy a smile at his own expense.
It was in the early seventies that I first met Mr. John
Morley at the house of his friend, the late distinguished Professor
Beesly. The guest of the evening had already attained a
brilliant position in the world of letters. Indeed, no writers
outside imaginative literature stood higher. His Edmund
Burke, Voltaire, and Compromise had already
appeared. He was editor of The Fortnightly Review and
of the "English Men of Letters" series. Finest personalities
are often the least describable. Add to the type of an English
gentleman and a scholar the qualities of reserve, adaptability to
the circumstances of the moment, and an utter absence of attempts to
shine, such was my dinner-table impression of Mr. Morley.
Quite naturally the conversation of such a quartette turned
upon books and authors. I well remember with what enthusiasm
the editor spoke of a recent work by Thomas Hardy, maybe the
celebrated Far from the Madding Crowd. I always play
the part of listener when in good company, and I don't think that I
had then read the story or I might have here had my innings.
Being a practical farmer I could have showed how, like Tom, Dick,
and Harry, or the wisest, the novelist made himself ridiculous when
talking of things he did not understand. His heroine Bathsheba
is described as offering her own wheat for sale in the Market Hall,
precincts closed to women farmers as rigidly as the other sex are
shut out of the harem! Like my Suffolk neighbours, widows and
spinsters having their names on their wagons, my samples of corn in
little brown paper bags were shown by my headman, and among the more
important of us by a farm-bailiff. Hardy, by the way a writer
much too Zola-esque to please me, and his pictures of farming life
are exactly the opposite of my own and thoroughly practical
The second time I met Mr. Morley was on the celebration of
Queen Victoria's Jubilee, 1897. Upon that occasion, a soirée
was given by women writers, each being permitted to invite a guest
of the other sex. Some lady had been fortunate enough to
secure Mr. Morley, then editor of The Pall Mall Gazette,
Member for Blackburn, Irish Secretary, and close friend and
supporter of Mr. Gladstone. A short, very short conversation
is my last recollection of one to whose editorial encouragement I
owed much. No one had taken more interest in my studies of
French life, and we talked for just five minutes about Arthur Young,
"that wise and honest traveller," as he had styled him, whose famous
Travels in France I had edited for Bohn's Library. No
more. But it was something.
Although savouring of egotism I add a few pleasant memories.
Mr. Morley's editorial letters, of which I had many, were always
short and to the purpose. Of my novel, Love and Mirage
(now published by Hutchinsons in their cheap series), he wrote
"graceful, interesting, and pathetic," and he accepted for The
Pall Mall Gazette and Macmillan's Magazine many of my
sketches of French and German life. Most of the former have
since been incorporated in my recent volumes on French life and
literature. Of the latter I am about to reissue the series
entitled, "Letters from an Island," giving an account of a summer
sojourn in the island of Rügen, with some very poignant notes of
German society and an anecdote of naval officers who landed and had
a drinking bout on the shore.
Memorable had been the intervening years in Mr. Morley's
career, and more memorable still were to follow.
In The Fortnightly Review for January of the present
year another great Victorian has paid a noble tribute to his friend,
without at the same time withholding a word of criticism regarding
his Recollections as a literary work. The title, urges
Mr. Frederic Harrison, should be Recollections and Meditations.
"Half of the book," he writes, "is literature that may rank with
that of our great essayists from Bacon to Burke. Half of it is
history interspersed with memories of our leading statesmen.
It is the political testament of a statesman who has held great
offices in critical times and has been at the helm in many a storm.
Again, it is the lifelong study of literature by one who now for
fifty years has had no superior in the prose-writing of this age."
The "defect," he adds, "perhaps inevitable, of the volume is
a certain discursiveness, of disjecta membra. The
narrative is not, as the French say, coulant; connecting
links are wanting, we are too suddenly plunged from one subject into
another. At the same time, there is a charm in these
Thus when writing to Lord Minto, Viceroy in 1906, himself
being Secretary of State for India, he rings the changes on grave
political matters thus:
"I am the least of a sportsman that ever was born,
and the sight of a tiger, except behind the bars of the Zoological
Gardens, would frighten me out of my wits; but I do rejoice to think
that you, who, I sincerely believe, are the most heavily burdened
public servant in the Empire, are seeing the fresh life of the
jungle, the Zemindars (land holders), and all the rest that you so
very pleasantly describe."
Perhaps the most valuable pages of Lord Morley's work are
those in his second volume devoted to India. Many chapters, it
is hoped, will be translated into the vernacular. Aristotle
has named magnanimity as the crowning virtue, and certainly the very
quality here needed. Nobly did the Secretary of State protest
against harsh and repressive measures.
Lord Morley is, certes, no courtier. Has he not in his
first volume spoken of Queen Victoria's chilling reception of
himself? It is pleasant to find from jottings here and there
that he was a persona grata at the court of the great Edward
VII. and of his son. Thus in the same year he writes:
"I'm bidden to Windsor for four days—very agreeble
always, only not rest."
Here is a gleaning from Lord Morley's sheaf of dicta,
epigrams, and witticisms, many of these as certain to be
incorporated into the English tongue as have been those of his great
forerunners. The "Time is money" of Franklin; the "Comparisons
are odious" of Shakespeare; the "Enough is as good as a feast" of
Heywood, to come to later times; the "Handsome is that handsome
does" of Goldsmith; the "Chip of the old block" of Burke; the "Hand
and glove" of Cowper; the "Keep your powder dry" of Colonel Blacker
and of our Victorian age the "Muscular Christianity" of Kingsley;
the "Rich in all—saving common sense" of Tennyson; the "Sweetness
and light" of Swift, popularised by Matthew Arnold; and of the
Georgians have we not goodly promise?
From Lord Morley's great book I quote the following many
citations, of course belonging to the Edwardian period:
"We talked away without saying anything, as men
are so curiously apt to do."
"So-and-so looks as if he were well up in his business and as if he
minded that before other things—the beginning of virtue in this
"What's the use of a historic sense if you don't recollect your
"The proper memory for a politician is one that knows what to
remember and what to forget."
Of a magazine article on himself:
"It was the ill-natured word for a defect when the
good-natured word would have done quite as well."
"I'm always finding the commonplace is the true
"All modern history and tradition associate empires with war."
"War ostracises, demoralises, brutalises reason."
"Certain people with a genius for picking up pins."
"People of good temper are not always kind people."
Philanthropists and agitators:
"Most of what is decently good in our curious world
has been done by these two much-abused sets of folk."
"Our master, the Man in the Street."
"Time is one thing, and eternity is another."
"A shining day worth living for."
"Waste of public money is like the Sin against the Holy Ghost."
"That most tiresome of all things, an Act of Parliament."
Of Keir Hardie, 1907:
"Perhaps it is only these men with unscrupulous
preconceptions—knocking their heads against stone walls—who force
the world along."
"I demur, in the uplifted spirit of the Trodden Worm."
Concerning a stormy scene forthcoming in the House of Commons:
"I shall survive in some shape or another, and even
if I don't, the sun will rise with his usual punctuality next
Under similar conditions:
"We will not bid good-morrow to the Devil until we
"Do not count me a Slow Coach."
Concerning an emblazoned Indian inscription, 1909, promising Lord
Ripon, Lord Minto, and himself a life in the Indian heart to all
"Time is quite enough for me, and you (Lord Minto)
are welcome to my share of the other, as well as your own."
"Deep is history in man, even although he may be
alive to it."
"The humane attraction of a hale old age."
"Dramas are not made by words but by situations."
"Loose logic is not enough to turn men somnambulists."
"Needs of life and circumstance are the constant spur."
Of the Victorian age:
"New truths were welcomed in free minds, and free
minds make brave men."
Of his pet dog:
"My little humble friend squats on her haunches,
looking wistfully up, eager to resume her endless hunt after she
knows not what, just like the chartered metaphysician. So to
my home in the fading twilight."
A most poetic ending to pre-eminently the book of
(WILLIAM HALE WHITE)
all the modesty of true genius, Mr. Hale White would have plumed
himself more upon his comparatively unknown contribution to
scholarship than to the 120,000th edition of Mark Rutherford.
For this "walker by the way," gloveless, sunburnt,
homely-looking, who at first sight one would set down as a farmer,
before settling down a few doors from my dwelling, had translated
Spinoza's famous Tractatus, adding to a most lucid rendering
very valuable notes. [p.140]
This is a beautiful book, and it is characteristic of the
author that he allowed a woman to revise his work. But
littleness could not enter into the composition of such a man, and
none more caustic in his deprecation of it in others.
I well remember his disgust when shopping in Hastings one
day. A carriage and pair drew up, and straightway out flew the
assistants, leaving himself, their customer, at the counter. His
time, of course, was of no consequence in their eyes, the idle
loungers must not be kept waiting a single second.
He could also be sardonically humorous. One morning we happened to
meet, his daughter being with him, at the Clock Tower, behind which
lies a small open space.
"If you or I had lived in times of burning alive for heresy, what
crowds would be gathered there to behold the spectacle of us two at
the stake," he said. A few minutes later the West End omnibus we
awaited arrived, and Miss White and myself were about to step in
when a private carriage was driven up, and so closely to the
pavement as to threaten our feet.
"What the devil are you about?" broke forth the irate philosopher,
and he gave the presumptuous lackeys the trouncing they so richly
deserved. Snobbery of this kind is not perhaps more conspicuous in
Hastings than in other health resorts, but, Heaven knows, lick-spittling
and sycophancy are rampant everywhere. Will high and low, rich and
poor, wise and simple acquire new standards of excellence, new
mental and moral valuations after the great lessoning of the world's
I always regretted that I could not find pleasure in, could hardly
indeed wade through Hale White's novels, so-called. He was by no
means an uncheerful man, but his series of introspective studies are
in the melancholy to morbidness. Life to him was pictured as a
long-spun-out threnody—Why was I born? How much better not to have
been born, one felt to be the underlying sentiment. Perhaps the
secret of his fabulously numerous—the great Sir Walter's did not go
off more rapidly—editions is thus accounted for by a clever friend:
"Folks are cheered up by finding how much worse off are many others
than themselves," she said. For myself, I consider that they are
more likely by far to make people cut their throats or jump into the
nearest pond handy—to get "anywhere, anywhere out of the world," as
Hood's poem runs. But there is no accounting for tastes—nor
opinions—upon any mortal thing!
A TRIO OF PIONEERS
"Pioneers! O pioneers!"—WALT
pioneers, each in a quite different field, each of whom at one time
I saw much, here deserve many pages. But the careers alike of Rose
Davenport-Hill, Frances Power Cobbe, and Elizabeth Blackwell, M.D.,
have been already told and retold by more competent hands. I will
therefore only say of these good friends a very few words.
Were any of my sex—except foreign opera singers—decreed a niche in
the national Walhalla, the above-named trio should surely be there
commemorated, Catherine Booth, the apostolic mother of the Salvation
Army, and Josephine Butler, friend of the fallen, keeping them
We must not hope for such recognition at the hands of Dean and
Chapter. Well might a Frenchwoman to whom I was introducing the
Poets' Corner in 1896 exclaim with astonishment:
"George Eliot, Charlotte Brontë, Elizabeth Barrett Browning,
absent—the only woman of the Victorian epoch memorialised within
these walls a foreign opera singer!"
A benevolent, admirable woman in her way was "the Swedish
Nightingale," and her voice was a goodly gift of nature. But what
tittle of a claim, she said, had Jenny Lind, afterwards Frau
Goldschmidt, to a niche in Westminster Abbey? [p.144]
The greatest thinker of the nineteenth century, one of its most
illustrious novelists, a poet famous as those two, shut out of the
national Pantheon! an alien prima donna being adjudged worthier of
place therein than John Stuart Mill, Charles Reade, and countless
others, by sacerdotal authorities! What will posterity think of the
My almost lifelong friend, Rose Davenport-Hill, belonged to that
innumerable clan of Hills, headed by their chieftain the great Sir
Rowland. Without tale are the public workers of this veritable
tribe, and without tale—i.e. innumerable—are the family
ramifications. There are Davenport-Hills, Birkbeck-Hills,
Berkeley-Hills, also Australian-Hills, these again subdivided by
And one of the second dynasty, herself an indefatigable pioneer, is
still among us. Florence Davenport-Hill (daughter of the well-known
eminent Recorder of Birmingham) will ever be remembered as the
friend and champion of women's suffrage, of workhouse children, and
later on as an active supporter of Children's Courts.
To Florence Davenport-Hill, on her eighty-ninth birthday, 1918, and
apropos of the Bill just passed according women the parliamentary
vote, I sent the following quatrain:
"Dear champion of the children's cause,
Amender of unrighteous laws,
Years crown your efforts as they roll,
Now you'll frisk gaily to the poll."
She also for many years filled the office of guardian of the poor.
Her sister's work on the London School Board is too well known to
educationists to need recapitulation. One of several women elected
to the first body, greatly to J. S. Mill's rejoicing (see his
recently published Correspondence, 2 vols., 1911), she
retained her seat for many years, aiding the cause of national
education with unfailing devotion, ploddingness, and, marvellous to
Therein lay the gist of her career. To this enthusiast came no
disillusion. The School Board remained dear and engaging to the
last. Day after day she would set out from Belsize Avenue, neither
hail, rain, snow or blow, nor blackness Tartarean damping her
ardour, returning to the seven o'clock dinner as alert as when
starting, and ever with something piquant to relate. The humour of
routine and red tape would be delightfully brought out by one who
nevertheless was herself a routinist. No innovator, no inventor, was
this loyal member; her business, as she used to say, was to support
the policy of the Board. This was ever done wholeheartedly and from
Her wit would occasionally enliven very sleepy sittings. As she
never made unnecessary speeches, she used to put a piece of knitting
in her bag, plying her needles whilst listening. On being criticised
for such unconventional proceeding, Miss Davenport-Hill remarked:
"This is the first time that I ever remember hearing a woman
reproached for using her tongue too little and her hands too much."
As a constant visitor to the Brentford Industrial Schools, her work
was more especially valuable. And with what a glow she must have
received the many tributes from "old boys" in after years! Not many
months before her death one of these wrote from the Colonies: "You
have been as a mother to me, and my start in life and present
well-being are your doing." Could any fame or applause bring greater
satisfaction to a public worker, especially to a Hill.
Of Elizabeth Blackwell, for the past thirty years my Hastings
neighbour and anteriorly my good friend, there is little new to say. Her early struggles as a medical student are well known to all
interested in the subject of women doctors, and have been modestly
but tellingly told by herself in a volume well meriting reprint (Pioneer
As has repeatedly been the case with her friend, Barbara Leigh Smith
Bodichon, the laurels of her winning have been placed on other
brows. And now, "being very patient being dead," as Coventry Patmore
beautifully wrote, unless her biographical record is very carefully
prepared, the same mistakes are sure to recur.
One incident of this most honourable career, perhaps new to many, I
When, three-quarters of a century ago, a handsome Civil List
Pension—I believe of £300 a year—was offered to Harriet Martineau,
she made the dignified reply that, whilst most grateful to Her
Majesty's Government, the labours of earlier years had enabled her
to provide for her old age. Elizabeth Blackwell, who began life as a
teacher of the pianoforte, thereby supporting her younger sisters,
in old age could have made an identical reply to similar overtures. Retiring from practice soon after reaching her sixtieth year, she
purchased a pretty little residence at Hastings, therein enjoying
ease and dignity for yet another generation. No woman of Victoria's
reign has bequeathed a finer, more practical, more disinterested
lesson to her younger sisters.
The wise and witty "Bagshot" of The Westminster Gazette
lately discoursed with much finesse and pertinence on "the happy
Frances Power Cobbe's life-story is an illustration of the
felicitous dénouement, the happy ending. Most of us know how
she devoted herself to the cause of helpless animals—in other words,
the cause of anti-vivisection. With indomitable courage and unshaken
faith she pursued her way, having taken to heart the Platonic, the
final lesson: "As you properly conceive light and sight to be like
the sun but not to be the sun, so you must conceive knowledge and
truth to be of the nature of the Supreme Good, but not either the
one or other of them to be that Supreme Good" (Republic, book
vi., Whewell's translation). I have ever held this passage of Plato
to be an unanswerable argument against vivisection in any form.
Impaired health, loss of a beloved lifelong companion, diminished
income, could not depress such a nature as hers, but "the happy
ending" came welcomely all the same.
One morning she opened a letter from an unknown solicitor, saying
that a deceased client, like herself, an ardent anti-vivisectionist,
had bequeathed her a handsome fortune. So for the rest of her days,
not only could she enjoy ease, comfort, and the luxury of
benevolence, but also the power of propaganda. The capital at her
death was willed to the cause for which she had sacrificed so much.
Not very long before the end I received an affectionate mid-winter
invitation to her Welsh retreat, one of the many invitations, alas!
most regretfully refused by me of late years. North Wales in the
season of snowfalls! Not even the blazing logs and geniality of such
a hostess could have warmed me there in December.
But how happy we should have been together! With what quips, cranks,
and wanton wiles should I have been beguiled! What interminable
talks of old friends, old travel, and of the causes so dear to both! And we appreciated each other—that being once said of intercourse,
all is said!
I cannot do better than precede my colophon with this noble
life-story of "the happy ending."
pioneers must be placed the founder of Mudie's Library, a name
suggesting pleasant memories alike to high and low, rich and poor,
Radical or Tory, from end to end of the British Dominions, i.e. a
good third of the globe, and counting a fourth of its entire
Between the years 1890 and 1900 I was staying with relations in
North London, and used to shake hands with Mr. Mudie after
exchanging books at New Oxford Street. Every morning he drove past
my brother-in-law's house on his way into town, and two little imps
of nephews used to waylay the phaeton and get the treat of a lift. Mr. Mudie rented a very handsome house standing in large grounds at Muswell Hill. I do not remember that I was ever within its walls,
nor have I a very definite remembrance of the courteous gentleman of
the old school I often chatted with in his sanctum; it is a matter
of regret to me that I never carried away any memorial of our
friendship, neither a portrait nor autographed volume, nor anything
in the shape of a memento, those keepsakes which are as capital
letters to Saints' Days and Festivals in the Calendar. I am indebted
to his daughter-in-law, Mrs. Arthur O. Mudie, for the following
account of him:
"Charles Edward Mudie was born at 5 Cheyne Walk,
Chelsea, October 18, 1818, the youngest of many sons of a Scotch
bookseller. Among the habitués of his father's bookshop were the two Hazlitts, Madame D'Arblay, and Charles Lamb. He was sent to a school
kept by a retired officer who had lost a leg at Waterloo, and who
was more successful as a disciplinarian than as an educator; but the
boy's real education came from the mother who had taught him very
early to read. At seven years old he could just reach the 'S' shelf
in his father's shop, and Charles Lamb coming in one day noticed the
child sitting on the floor behind the counter, deep in a volume of
Shakespeare. (Scott had already been sampled.) My father well
remembered the kindly pat on the head and the dark eyes that looked
into his face when Lamb took him on his knee and asked him about the
play he had been reading.
"With so many elder brothers there was no place for him in his
father's business, and before he was twenty he had opened a
bookselling and stationer's business in King Street, Bloomsbury. This was soon frequented by students of the newly founded London
University, who told other young men of literary tastes that Mudie
knew something of the inside of the books he sold. Finding that
needy scholars longed to study books they were too poor to buy, it
struck him that a circulating library which could provide other
literature than fiction, up to that time the only stock of such
libraries, would be a boon to such readers. He brought down his own
private library and put the books in the window. Within twenty-four
hours every volume was in circulation, and he ventured on his first
order from the publishers of 'select' books, this being then the
trade term for history, travel, science, or belles-lettres. This was
"The parlour from which the books had been fetched became a
'rendezvous' for many of these young men, and they held there a
'coffee symposium.' Among the men who gathered there were Richard
Hutton, Frederick Tennyson and Charles Tennyson Turner, David
Masson, and, later, several of the Italian exiles then in London.
"He had already published for the first time in England Emerson's
Essay, to which he gave the title, Man Thinking.
"In 1844 he published the first edition in England of James Russell
Lowell's poems, and, with the audacity of six-and-twenty, he, in the
same year, published for Mazzini his pamphlet on the Bandiera
"A few days before starting on his fatal Arctic expedition Sir John
Franklin came in to choose books for the voyage, and among the
earliest subscribers were Anna Swanwick, the Wedgwoods, Tom Hughes,
and F. Denison Maurice.
"His tastes were strongly for music and art, and he was the friend
and earliest patron of many of the younger artists of his day. He
possessed the first exhibited pictures of Fred Walker, Albert and
Henry Moore, Stacy Marks, and Vicat Cole. In politics he was a
Liberal; he was a brilliant chess player, but his chief recreation
he found in travel. As a young man he travelled over great parts of
Britain on foot. After his marriage in 1847 he seldom passed a year
without visiting the Continent, chiefly Italy and the Mediterranean,
was several times in Greece, travelled in Palestine, Syria, and
Egypt, and made a visit to relations in a remote district of Asia
Minor, in all regions making friends with the people and interesting
himself in their life and customs.
"With wife and children he was in Italy during the War of Liberation
in 1859, which his warm sympathies with the cause of the
Risorgimento made trebly interesting to him.
"Of his intercourse with authors it would be impossible to give a
concise account. Of foreign librarians and publishers his most
friendly connections were with Vieusseux of Florence, Von Gerold of
Vienna, and Baron Tauchnitz of Leipzig.
"He died, after a long illness from paralysis, in October 1890."
His forefathers were Scandinavians, the patronymic Mudadi meaning
bold, courageous. The great librarian was eminently a domestic
character, eschewing alike politics, officialism, and matters that
would take him from his business and his family. Foreign travel was
his favourite relaxation, and on their travels in France, Germany,
Switzerland, and Italy, Mr. and Mrs. Mudie were accompanied by their
children and nurses. It was not till the number of the little ones overpassed five that they left them behind, or, as his daughter
expresses it, "made a selection." Once, and once only, did the
parents travel by themselves. To celebrate their silver wedding they
visited Egypt and Palestine.
No more generous or thoughtful employer ever lived than the magnate
of Muswell Hill, as in his last years Mr. Mudie might be called. Patriarchal as a Scotch laird, his fine mansion resembled those
ancestral halls we read of, in its precincts being housed several
generations. But his innate benevolence was pathetically attested by
those to whom his only relation was that of employer and employed. When his chief binder lay dying, his last request was that he should
be buried as near as possible to his beloved chief.
Here is another beautiful story.
During a serious illness of Mr. Mudie it came to light that one of
his messengers, an old Indian soldier, Irishman and Roman Catholic,
had been for weeks paying for Masses at Brompton Oratory for his
master's recovery, and on his return to business the good old man
completely broke down, so overcome was he by joy. Never was a "great captain of industry" more cherished by those to whom they
were indebted for a start in life or a help by the way.
I am gratified to find that although I have no vivid remembrance of
my host and hostess at Muswell Hill, my visit is not forgotten by
the present head of the house.
"My memory is still good enough to remember your visit when I was
quite a youngster," writes Mr. Arthur O. Mudie. "I remember also the
reverence and awe with which you were announced. And I know quite
well with what an amusing little blush my father would have heard of
you naming him in your Victorian memories."
He was one of those sensitive men who must blush at such tributes.
MR. JOHN MURRAY
IT is fitting
that some pages should be devoted, rather should I say dedicated, to
the head of the greatest publishing house in the world. Next in rank
to the firm in Albemarle Street stands that of Hachette, Paris, to
whose members I am hardly less indebted. My indebtedness to the
first is twofold. In the first place, the lucky accident that led to
my revision of the famous Handbook to France brought me
friends in every corner of "the splendid hexagon," rendering it for
many years my second home. In the second, those delightful sojourns
and entrancing studies have won for me the recognition of the Third
Republic and a title of honour I regard as one of the proudest I
How it came about that I undertook to bring Murray's Handbook for
Travellers in France, parts 1 and 2, up to date, I do not
precisely remember. I rather think that it was due to an account I
sent Mr. Murray of Dijon—its celebrated gingerbread, the invention
of a Duke of Burgundy, its equally celebrated mustard, pills, and
other manufactures, and last but not least, the famous wine cellars
of M. Paul Guillemot. Be this as it may, Mr. Murray sent me a very
handsome acknowledgment of the voluntary contribution, and on my
return to England I called upon him at his request. My first visit
was followed by others, the result being that I undertook a task
profitable and pleasant in the extreme. A thorough revision of the
original Handbook necessitated not only a comprehensive knowledge of
French history but also of France itself. I had, therefore, before
me many wanderings, many in out-of-the-way regions. Brittany I
already knew, [p.157-1] also Auvergne, [p.157-2]
also Nimes and Avignon, having French companions on the road, and at
each stopping-place the welcome of a French roof. Thus it came about
that I had, so to say, the entire map of France in my pocket. To
co-ordinate and render permanently useful this mass of laboriously
accumulated knowledge at first hand was precisely the opportunity
that Mr. John Murray and no one else could give me, and with only
one reservation he gave it.
Naturally enough my name was not to appear on the title-page. What
were my claims to those of the originator of the Handbook?
But let me begin my story at the beginning. The first of the dynasty
had chosen his parents with the utmost possible discretion, to cite
a French phrase I love. A charming portrait of John Murray the First
accompanies his biography. [p.158] Strange to
say, the publishing house, which dates from 1768, was founded by a
Lieutenant of Marines! Having retired from the service that year on
half-pay, John MacMurray purchased the bookselling business of
William Sandby at the sign of the "Ship," No. 32 Fleet Street,
opposite St. Dunstan's Church.
John MacMurray was descended from the Murrays of Atholl. His uncle,
Colonel Murray, was "out" in the rising of 1715 under the Earl of
Mar, served under the Marquis of Tullibardine, the son of his chief,
the Duke of Atholl, and led a regiment in the abortive fight of
Sheriffmuir. After the rebellion, Colonel Murray retired to France,
where he served under the exiled Duke of Ormonde, who had attached
himself to the Stuart Court. The Colonel's brother Robert followed a
safer course. He prefixed the "Mac" to his name, settled in
Edinburgh, adopted the law as a profession, and became a Writer to
the Signet. He had five children, the youngest of whom was the John
above mentioned, born in 1745. He entered the Royal Marines, but
after the Treaty of Paris, signed twenty years later, retired on
half-pay, dropped the prefix "Mac," and announced himself to the
public in the following terms:
"John Murray, successor to Mr. Sandby (whose daughter
he had married), Bookseller and Stationer at No. 32 over against St.
Dunstan's Church in Fleet Street, London, sells all new Books and
Publications. Fits up Public or Private Libraries in the neatest
manner with Books of the choicest Editions, the best Print and the
richest Bindings. Also executes East India or foreign Commissions by
an assortment of Books and Stationery, suited to the Market or
Purpose for which it is destined: all at the most reasonable rates."
The portrait of John Murray the First, which forms the frontispiece,
is interesting. No trace here of the gallant sailor who urged his
friend Falconer of the Shipwreck to become his partner. We should at
once set down the sitter as a man of thought rather than of action,
a scholar, a critic, a philosopher, anything indeed but one of those
Mariners of England to whom "a wet sheet and a flowing sea and a
wind that follows fast" have been their element. In the reflective,
expressive, and regular commanding features we see a striking
likeness to the present head of this great house.
Among the first books issued by the firm were new editions of Lord
Lyttelton's Dialogues of the Dead and of his History of
King Henry the Second, in stately quartos; also Walpole's
Castle of Otranto. What would not collectors give for these
Every page of these memoirs recalls some noteworthy event. Here is
one. On December 20, 1784, a correspondent writes to the Rev. Mr.
Whittaker: [p.160] "Poor Dr. Johnson's remains
passed my door for interment this afternoon. They were accompanied
by thirteen mourning coaches with four horses each; after these a
cavalcade of the carriages of his friends. He was about to be buried
in Westminster Abbey."
To John Murray the Second, Lord Byron's "My Murray," the "Anax of
publishers" and founder of the Quarterly Review, 1778-1843,
succeeded, 1808-92, the founder of the famous Handbook. Educated at the Charter House and Edinburgh University, he travelled
all over Europe and wrote most of the European Handbooks, which were
entirely original. I do not believe, writes the present head of the
house, that he copied a single page from any existing work. He was a
good Latin, Greek, German, and French scholar, and a special student
of Geology and Architecture.
I am tempted to dwell upon one or two phases of this fascinating
volume, every page teeming with every page teeming interest. To pick
out the plums would be a hopeless task, so redundant are they. Here
is a jeu d'esprit of Tom Moore, apropos of this entry in his
popular Diary: "Saw my 'Lord Edward Fitzgerald' as one of the
articles to be abused of course; and this too immediately after my
dinings and junketings with both editor and publisher."
THOUGHTS ON EDITORS
EDITUR AND EDIT
No! Editors don't care a button
What false and faithless thing they do,
They'll let you come and cut their mutton,
And then, they'll have a cut at you.
With Barnes I oft my dinner took,
Nay, met e'en Horace Twiss to please him; [p.161-1]
Yet Mister Barnes traduc'd my Book,
For which may his own devils seize him!
With Dr. Bowring I drank tea,
Nor of his cakes consumed a particle
And yet the ungrateful LL.D.
Let fly at me, next week, an article.
John Wilson gave me suppers hot,
With bards of fame like Hogg and Packwood; [p.161-2]
A dose of black-strap [p.161-3]
then I got,
And after, a still worse of Blackwood.
Alas! and must I close the list
With thee, my Lockhart of the Quarterly?
So kind with bumper in thy fist,
With pen, so very gruff and tartarly.
Now in thy parlour feasting me,
Now scribbling at me from your garret,
Till 'twixt the two, in doubt I be,
Which sourest is, thy wit or claret?
Murray the Second's transactions with Byron threw the earnings of
successful contemporaries into the shade. For three cantos of "Don
Juan" Mr. Murray paid £2,100!
In 1826 Mr. Murray lost £26,000 through an unfortunate journalistic
speculation, that of the Representative. On this subject he
wrote to Washington Irving: "One cause of my not writing to you
during a whole year was my 'entanglement,' Lady G―― says, with a
newspaper which absorbed my money, and distracted and depressed my
mind; but I have cut the knot of evil, which I could not untie, and
am now, by the blessing of God, returned to reason and the shop."
One of the most appealing chapters in the book is that called "Sir
Walter's Last Years," giving last glimpses of our beloved romancer. Sad, indeed, perhaps the saddest in literary annals, is the final
stage of his glorious career. Southey's, indeed, is pitiable enough,
as, worn out in body and mind, he fondled the books he could no
longer read with understanding, but Sir Walter's touched the last
note in tragedy, the pen dropping from his enfeebled hand, the
dismal truth dawning on his mind that the wand was broken, the
wizard's charm was gone.
Most interesting is an account of Mr. Murray's literary levees in
what he does not disdain to call "the shop," [p.163-1]
and no less so the correspondence during the same period, 1830-43. Here is a letter from the Countess Guiccioli, Byron's ladylove, who
at this period visited London and received much kindness at the
hands of Mr. Murray. After her return to Rome she wrote a long
letter thanking him for a beautifully bound volume of the landscape
and portrait illustrations of Lord Byron's works. She complained,
however, of the portrait of herself by an artist named Brockedon. [p.163-2] "It is not resembling, and to tell the truth, my dear Mr. Murray, I
wish it was so, not on account of the ugliness of the features
(which is also remarkable) but particularly for having this portrait
(sic) an expression of stupidity and for its being
molto antipatico, as we say in our language. But perhaps it is
not the fault of the painter, but of the original, and I am sorry
for that. What is certain is, that towards such a creature nobody
may feel inclined to be indulgent; and if she has faults and errors
to be pardoned for, she will never be so on account of her antipatia. But please don't say so to Mr. Brockedon."
In 1842 the health of this indefatigable worker, and one to whom
English literature is so much indebted, began to fail. On June 27,
1843, he passed away in his sleep at the age of sixty-five. He left
behind him a spotless reputation, and among the world-wide tributes
to his memory none is more touching than that of "the American
Hemans," Mrs. Lydia Sigourney, who wrote from Hartford, Connecticut:
"Your father's death is a loss which is mourned on this side of the
Atlantic. His powerful agency on the patronage of a correct
literature, which he was so well qualified to appreciate, has
rendered him a benefactor in that realm of intellect which binds men
together in all ages, however dissevered by political creeds or
With this enviable In Memoriam I will take leave of a worthy subject
of a delightful biography, a new edition of which is welcome to all
lovers of literary history.
AND now, to cite
one of the most famous books of any time and in any language, "I
have done with my island and all about it," may I with apology add a
It is a source of the greatest gratification to me that these
memorials should appear in the year of my diamond jubilee, and that
a new handsome edition of my first work (The White House by the Sea,
1857), with biographical notes and illustrations, in commemoration
of so rare a literary event, is to be brought out by the house of
Collins, of London and Glasgow.