GEORGE ELIOT'S "BARBARA"
GEORGE ELIOT AT HIGH MASS—DAUBIGNY—OLD HASTINGS—"POOR
LITTLE PRISCILLA"—PORTMAN HALL SCHOOL—ALGERIAN SOCIETY—UNDER THE
THIRD EMPIRE—AFFORESTING—GIRTON COLLEGE—DR. BODICHON
AS I have said,
our parsonage belonged to a High Church, and the vicar's scourge,
stained with expiatory blood, was not alone among suggestive
surroundings. In that arctic weather who could help smiling at the
large texts adorning the walls of breakfast, parlour, and
dining-room. "Gird up your loins," "Carry not scrip nor staff,"
"Take up thy bed and walk," and so on.
The place and its present occupants seemed ill-assorted, yet perhaps
such incongruousness was more imaginary than real.
Our High Church rectory adjoined the church, and on Christmas
morning Madame Bodichon carried off her friend to hear the fine
musical service, Mass I feel inclined to call it.
Reverence is a quality absolutely inseparable from true moral or
George Eliot hearkened with subdued rapture, the clear, shrill
voices of the choir, the majestic swell of the organ, evidently
evoking a religious mood, none the less pure or deep because
unallied with formulary or outward observance.
The midnight service was proposed, but "No, dear, I would not on any
account keep George up for us so late," said the great visitor,
unlike her hostess in one respect. Whilst Madame Bodichon never had
enough of the thing she loved, whether good company, downright
enjoyment, or æsthetic impression, her feverish energy always craving
expansion, George Eliot's nature needed repose. She did not, in
French phrase, go out of her way in search of emotion.
When the pair departed we had quite a different but hardly less
distinguished guest. This was the great French painter Daubigny,
then in grievous unquiet, not only for the welfare of his country
but for the personal safety of those nearest to him. The weather
remained arctic. Sketching out of doors was out of the question. French gaiety, genial companionship, and artistic enthusiasm
overcame all these obstacles.
In the exhilarating society of his hostess Daubigny could at
intervals shake off the gloom of that awful period. Must I admit the
fact? We were gayer, conversation was easier, existence more
buoyant. Even Lewes's captivating boyishness and love of fun could
not dispel a certain hush, a sobriety tending to pensiveness.
"Ah, Madame Bodichon, you always inspire me!" cried Daubigny to his
hostess again and again.
The scenery of the Isle of Wight pleased him much less than the
Fishmarket, Hastings, whither we accompanied him a little later. "Yonder flotilla of fishing-boats, how delicious!" he would say
repeatedly. The attraction of the old town was so strong that he
settled down with his son at a humble inn in its midst.
What would the great French painter say to Old Hastings of to-day? The view of the East Cliff immortalised by Turner is now disfigured
by harbour works, a hideous red building, and farther off, the
enormous chimney of a refuse destructor. But vandalism has not
stopped short here. It is now proposed to destroy the East Cliff, as
glorious a feature of coast scenery as England can show, for the
purpose of a harbour railway!
This close friend of George Eliot's, Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon,
was in every way worthy of the great novelist's confidence. Two
women could not more essentially differ from each other, nor were it
easy to find two equally gifted in more entire sympathy.
The basis of Madame Bodichon's character was that very rare, I am
tempted to say rarest, quality in my own sex, namely, a sense of
abstract justice. Nationality, racial distinction, religion, even
colour, for her were non-existent. A human being, whether Christian
or Jew, foreigner or English, white-skinned or black, remained a
brother or sister. As little she cared for demarcations of fashion
or routine. This immense largeness of sympathy and independence of
mind showed itself in the least little thing. Injustice she could
We were one day discussing Hawthorne's fine story "Brook Farm," and
its superb heroine, when she said in her quick, decided manner:
"No, I do not like Zenobia at all; she was so unkind to poor little
From one point of view all women were poor little Priscillas to her. English law was the unkind Zenobia, and English law, as it unjustly
affected her own sex, she combated for years tooth and nail. Her
"Brief Summary of the Laws of England affecting Women," and other
pamphlets on the subject, are models of their kind—lucid,
dispassionate, unanswerable. Alike her time, her talents, and her
money were lavished upon a cause of which she witnessed the triumph. It is, indeed, mainly owing to her initiative and exertions that
working women can now claim their own earnings. The Married Women's
Property Act may be called a piece of legislation effected by the unenfranchised, no bad augury for the future, the time that sooner
or later must come when rate-paying and a right to the poll will go
Long before a stone of her Girton College was laid, Madame Bodichon
had verified her claim to the title of good citizen and
large-hearted philanthropist. There were no Board Schools in her
early days, and by way of minimising the ignorance immediately
around her, she set up a school at Paddington for the daughters of
artisans and the working classes generally. The experiment proved an
entire success. The Portman Hall School flourished, its doors only
being closed in consequence of Barbara Leigh Smith taking to herself
a French husband and making her winter home beyond sea. Henceforth,
she divided the year between Algeria and England.
"I always joked with Barbara about the probability of her marrying a
Frenchman," Lewes said to me one day. "But I thought it would be
some gallant officer, his képi cocked on one side, and his hands in
the pockets of his baggy red trousers."
To fulfil the duties of an English citizen on French soil is no easy
matter, but the tremendous energy, I should rather say feverish
activity, of Madame Bodichon's temperament overcame all obstacles. It may be said that she succeeded in everything of a wholly
impersonal nature—that is to say, in everything concerning not
herself, her own interests and happiness, but the well-being of
humanity, especially feminine humanity. Her great artistic gifts
were sacrificed to purely philanthropic ends. Had she belonged to
the middle-class work-a-day world, she would, in all probability,
have achieved success and reputation as a water-colour painter. Dearly as she loved art, delightful as would have been such
acknowledgment, she gave up her life to what she considered higher
objects. A measure of success she could certainly claim. Frequenters
of exhibitions five-and-twenty years ago will hardly have forgotten
the brilliant sketches bearing the signature B. L. S. B. Critics,
among these Mr. Ruskin, were not slow to appraise the poetic
feeling, originality, and dash of every one. But art, no more than
literature, can be made the handmaids of social science and duty,
political economy, or educational reform. The holding of a salon,
the afforesting or replanting of Algerian wastes, Women's Rights,
and Girton College ever retained the first place. To her own
aspirations and gifts she proved a negligent stepmother.
Algerian society in the early years of the Third Empire was not what
Madame de MacMahon and the austere Marshal afterwards made it. As a
sample of morals and manners at that period take the following
stories. Madame Z――, a young, handsome, and adventuresome woman,
moving in the best circles, had a mind to test the fidelity of her
husband. Suspecting his presence at a certain ball to which ladies
were not invited, she disguised herself as a Moorish girl and
somehow obtained admittance. The pair danced together, and so
fascinated was the inconstant, yet in one sense constant, husband by
her bright eyes, all he could see of the veiled face, that he made
violent love, with what results to his after-peace may be guessed.
Another of Dr. Bodichon's famous stories was of a light-minded
Frenchman who danced away, not his fortune, as the hero of Greek
fable, but his own life. This votary of pleasure went to a ball and
danced so furiously the whole night that on returning home he took
to his bed, and died shortly afterwards of sheer exhaustion. He had
literally danced himself to death.
These anecdotes illustrate the looseness and frivolity of
Political morality was at a still lower ebb. Alike in civil and
military administration, corruption was the rule and honesty the
But Marshal MacMahon would tolerate no more bribery and malpractices
abroad, the Maréchale would have no more indecent dress or parade of
dissolute conduct at home. The general tone improved greatly, and to
this end Madame Bodichon's salon contributed in no small degree. She
was also a zealous pioneer in another most desirable cause, the
promotion of Anglo-French intercourse, the uprooting of
international antipathies—antipathies from which she herself was
Another work which, in conjunction with her husband, she took up
warmly, was the afforesting or replanting of denuded tracts in
Algeria with the health-giving Eucalyptus globulus. We had
traversed the fever-stricken plains of Oran together, and she never
forgot the experience. "The fever," I wrote at the time—"everyone
was falling ill, was ill, or had been ill of the fever." Since that
journey hundreds of thousands of acres in French Africa have been
afforested or replanted, malaria disappearing with the rapid growth
of the blue-gum tree.
Among the first and most zealous afforesters were Madame Bodichon
and her husband. They wrote about the eucalyptus, talked about it,
ordered large quantities of seed direct from Melbourne, and for
years never ceased their efforts.
With the aged Faust they said:
"A swamp below the mountain stretches wide,
Poisoning all husbandry. To draw away
The deadly damp, that were the highest gain,
I open place for millions here to dwell
Busy and free, if not secure from ill."
It was Madame Bodichon's pen that first drew attention in England to
the febrifugal qualities of the Eucalyptus globulus, or blue-gum
tree. She had hastily put a few facts and conclusions on paper,
which she read to George Henry Lewes. He touched up the piece and
carried it off to the editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, in which
paper it appeared next day, entitled, "Australian Forests and
Algerian Deserts." This was so far back as the year 1868.
Even earlier, the scheme of a university for women had been mooted
and planned by Madame Bodichon. With Miss Emily Davies, afterwards
resident mistress, she discussed the plan morning, noon, and night;
the result of their labours and confabulations being the very modest
experiment at Hitchin, a house temporarily accommodating half a
dozen students. Towards initiatory expenses Madame Bodichon
contributed £1,000, a very large sum for one who could never be
called a rich woman. I well remember the triumph with which she
carried me off to see the college of her dreams in embryo. Who could
foresee the magnificent building to arise just outside Cambridge a
very few years later? Educationalists rallied round the foundress of
Girton, money poured in, students were forthcoming by scores, but
without the self-sacrifice of Barbara Bodichon the scheme might long
have proved abortive.
As I said in a former page, I have never been able to feel much
enthusiasm about Women's Universities, Female Franchise, and the
rest. Such questions from the first settled themselves in my mind as
purely matters of abstract justice, unanswerable claims that must
sooner or later be satisfied. Commonsense, public opinion, and the
British boast of fair play would sooner or later resent anomalies at
variance alike with social and moral progress. But I could not, with
Madame Bodichon, regard Girton College or Somerville Hall in the
light of a new era dawning upon humanity, a tremendous intellectual
revolution. The glorious galaxy of Victorian women, Charlotte
Brontë, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, George Eliot, what could a
college curriculum, a B.A., M.A., or wranglership, have done for
these? Moreover, in the words of Lessing, it is permitted to genius
to remain ignorant of hundreds of things ordinary mortals have by
heart. Had that wonderful Yorkshire girl donned cap and gown, she
would most likely have "modelled her style" on that of a
leader; had the great poetess "gone up" and "come down" for three or
four years, instead of "The Cry of the Children" and "The Great God
Pan," we should have had cold, scholarly, unemotional, and
consequently uninteresting verse after the manner of "Alaric at
Rome"; had George Eliot, in early girlhood, quitted Griff for
academic air, Mrs. Poyser in all probability would never have
exhilarated the world, its author being remembered by a second
"Prolegomena" of Homer or—who knows?—a synthesis of universal
But in the eyes of the generous and large-souled foundress of
Girton, examinations and college certificates were talismanic. A
Girton student in her eyes was no mere woman; a semi-celestial
nimbus encircled the head of every "sweet girl graduate." Nor did
enthusiasm end here. Wherever the interests of her own sex were
concerned she showed the same eagerness of self-devotion.
"You remind me of the Arabs," I once said to her, "who pick up any
scrap of paper bearing the name of Allah." Articles, leaders,
reporters, bits of news relating to Women's Rights, she never tired
of; at last, during the long intervals we spent together every year,
a compact was made. I undertook to read the daily papers, omitting
all paragraphs dealing with the wearisome topic; these she heard
afterwards from another.
In 1857 Barbara Leigh Smith had married Dr. Eugene Bodichon, of
Algiers, a man of singular character and considerable attainments.
One of the little knot known as the Republicans of '30, among his
friends being Louis Blanc and Ledru Rollin, Dr. Bodichon had
rendered valuable services to the cause of democracy and
colonisation. Strange as it may appear, after twenty years of
conquest slavery existed in Algeria. Legislators and rulers had
overlooked the famous Declaration of the Rights of Man abolishing
slavery throughout the French dominions. When in 1848 the Breton
doctor was named corresponding member of the Provisional Government,
he recommended the liberation of slaves in the colony, a measure
which was immediately put into force. Long before the introduction
of the Eucalyptus globulus into Algeria, he had insisted on the
necessity of replanting denuded tracts, and his works on the
country, especially from an ethnological point of view, are quoted
by Henri Martin and the geographer Elisée Reches. Carlyle read and
re-read the doctor's monograph on the first Napoleon, and told his
friend William Allingham that the perusal had modified his ideas of
the French Cæsar. [p.161]
He died in 1885, and his noble wife survived him only a few years,
bequeathing £1,000 to Bedford Square College and £15,000 to her
College of Girton.
DR. B— AND HIS BIBLES—A STRANGE COMRADESHIP—AUERBACH'S
CELLAR—THE HEAD OF THE HOUSE OF TAUCHNITZ—INTERNATIONAL
BOOKSELLING—A COMPROMISING VISITOR—THE PRICE OF GLORY
ofttimes prove the crowning comedy of life; most mortifying checks
may be its saving grace. As children who wail over a tumble,
scratched knees, and bleeding nose, yet afterwards glory in having
clambered down a steep, thorn-beset bank, so do their elders
delightedly recall escapades and peccadiloes anything but pleasant
at the time. A golden, albeit valetudinarian holiday had passed as a
dream. The Mediterranean traversed under a warm spring sky—Egypt,
Asia Minor, the Greek Isles, Athens, Venice, Verona—all these were
fresh in my mind when I found myself at Leipzig.
Never was disenchantment more complete, awakening from radiant
dreams more prosaic. Midsummer had come here with a leaden sky,
gusty rain, and an atmosphere of October. To make matters worse, the
cheerful surroundings and engaging society bargained for proved a
delusion and a snare. Instead of family life, I discovered that my
only companion was to be a young law student, the daily board turned
out a Barmecide's feast; all that I must evidently expect for my
three pounds sterling weekly—at that time hotel charges in
Germany—was the use of a bedroom containing four windows, and thrice
or four times the number of Bibles. There were Bibles laid
album-wise on the table, Bibles on each window-sill, Bibles on
side-tables and brackets.
The recommendation to the four windows and the Bibles had come in
this wise. My excellent friend Dr. Paulus, the converter of the Jews
at Frankfort, hearing that I wished to devote a little time to music
and German, introduced me by letter to a certain Dr. B――, a Biblical
commentator of some renown, and a friend of the celebrated Delitzsch. But Dr. B―― was now a very ancient man and confined to his room by
infirmity; his wife was at Carlsbad taking the waters. The only
representative of the pair turned out to be their son, a University
student, more skilled in jurisprudence, slang, and duelling than in
domestic economy. Vegetable soup and potatoes for dinner, black
bread and butter with a morsel of raw sausage for supper, seemed his
only notion of a menu. But for good naturedness one would hardly
meet my young student's match in Europe. Finding the daily bill of
fare somewhat depressing, and being unused to Adam's drink, I
suggested the possibility of procuring English porter by way of a
"I'll get you some, liebes Fräulein," he said with alacrity; "they keep
it at Auerbach's cellar."
We set off together, and an admirable cicerone he proved to the
immortal scene of Faust's carouse. Guinness's stout was forthcoming,
a bottle, for which of course I paid, being carried home in each of
the young man's coat-pockets. Had food and drink been thrown into
the bargain, with the use of four windows and sixteen Bibles, I
should perhaps have stayed; here was the rarest possible chance of
obtaining an insight into German student life. My young host,
moreover, possessed many endearing qualities. Obligingness itself, a
slashing duellist, an adept in slang, he combined Gallic
light-heartedness with Teutonic sobriety. Never for a moment did he
forget that his guest was a well-bred young woman; he only forgot
that she had a palate not inured to black bread and raw sausage, and
that the prospect from four windows and the use of sixteen Bibles
was rather dear at the money paid for them. Fortunately, George
Henry Lewes had given me introductions to the great houses of Tauchnitz and Brockhaus, also to learnèd friends. On pouring out my
grievances to Baron Tauchnitz, he immediately carried me off to the
excellent Hotel Hauff, and there, but for an alarming spread of
smallpox in the town, I should have spent some time.
Few figures in contemporary history more merit a feeling akin to
veneration than the great publisher Bernhard Tauchnitz, none in our
own time have shed more lustre on the pacific annals of Germany. Diplomats, warriors, strategists, with victory and dominion, mete
out tears and bloodshed, international bitterness, and hardly
Their contemporaries, after the pattern of Tauchnitz, make their
influence felt in a higher, better way; linking race and race,
people and people, with the touch of nature that makes all men kin,
the irresistible spell of poetry and letters.
It may be urged that this princely publisher was no "moral
inventor," to quote a very good expression of the late Cotter
Morrison; instead, a mere keen, upright, and eminently successful
man of business, who saw in the international traffic of books a
road alike to popularity and fortune. I cannot for a moment admit
this view of the case, a belittling of any high-minded career,
simply because it has proved no less beneficial to the individual
than to the world.
Two circumstances must here be borne in mind. The late Baron Tauchnitz was pre-eminently a man of literary tastes. The book-lover
stood before the publisher. He could not, of course, winnow all the
chaff from the golden grain in his series. Several thousand volumes
would naturally contain but a small percentage of master-pieces. In
so far as was feasible he did make the Tauchnitz library of English
authors representative. If claptrap and balderdash were not
altogether excluded, the fault lay with the English public, not with
foreign printing presses.
For my part, I have never entertained feelings of bitterness against
American pirates. As no Anglo-American copyright formerly
existed, authors on this side of the Atlantic were not legally
robbed and thereby gained a million of readers, Goethe's raison d'être of
authorship. [p.165] Baron Tauchnitz, although precisely in the
position of American publishers, preferred the regal, the
magnanimous way. He acted as if international copyright already
existed, paying his authors alike, the grand folks and the little
people, for the use of their copyrights. And if it is gratifying to
obtain a million readers in the land of the almighty dollar, still
more agreeable is it to obtain the same number on the Continent with
the addition of a cheque, George Eliot's money test. At this time
the Baron was a fine, portly, handsome man of sixty, in appearance
recalling an English country gentleman, and the present head of the
house of Tauchnitz was a tall stripling, already his father's right
Some years later I visited the family Schloss near Leipzig, bringing
away delightful memories of a thoroughly German home, unspoiled by
It was delightful to hear the Baron, like Fräulein Fink, recite that
old-world Lutheran grace before meals
"Komm, Herr Jesus, Sei unser Gast,
Und segne was Du becheert hast."
Pleasant also the "Mutterchen" on his lips, recalling Voss's good
old pastor in "Luise." Soon after my visit to the Schloss, Baron
Tauchnitz and his sweet, stately "Mutterchen" celebrated their
One noteworthy feature in the history of this great publishing house
is this: Leipzig has ever been the very stronghold of Socialism,
the nucleus of Socialist agitation, yet no strike is recorded of the
Tauchnitz workmen. From first to last, relations of employer and
employed have remained on a frank and cordial footing. Here I would
mention one of those preposterous inconsistencies, as common among
nations as among individuals.
In autocratic Germany footmen and coachmen are bearded and
moustached no less than their masters. In democratic France and
England these ill-used beings are rigidly forbidden such manly
adornment. I remember an imposing butler at Schloss Tauchnitz. He
was extremely like the late Emperor Frederick, and quite as
George Henry Lewes—the Goethische Lewes, as, greatly to his delight,
the Germans called him—had thrown wide for me all the doors of
literary Leipzig. Another and even more interesting introduction
threatened to close them after abrupt fashion. One of my friends of
the International had given me a letter to the great Socialist
leader, whose voice still shakes the Reichstag, and whose influence
is mightier far now than it was twenty-six years ago. A gentleman
when bidden to pay his respects to a lady cannot, of course, excuse
himself. Two or three days after my arrival at the Hotel Hauff,
and greatly to the consternation of house porter and waiter, Herr
appeared. We were in the midst of a most absorbing conversation when
a second visitor was announced, this time Lewes's friend Professor Curtius, the learned translator of Darwin, and, of course, a sworn
enemy of Socialism in its mildest form.
Herr B――l, not inclined to act the part of overlapping guest,
immediately withdrew. As soon as he was gone, the Professor eyed me
narrowly, fidgeted on his chair, then got out, "My dear young lady,
who on earth could have introduced you to that fellow?"
I mentioned the name of Herr B――l's English friend, a gentleman of
ancient family, adding by way of palliative that I was studying
Socialism from the literary point of view, and wanted information at
first hand—which was strictly correct.
"Well," he said with a grave air, "all I can say is that if you have
such people calling on you, you must prepare yourself for smashed
windows and Heaven knows what besides." Domiciliary visits,
expulsion from the hotel, and perhaps graver peccadilloes were
evidently in his mind.
The professor was relieved to find that I had given up my plan of
spending some months in his town. Truth to tell, the usually
cheerful and attractive town of Leipzig just now wore a sinister
look. On the heels of glory, so-called, had come its inevitable
retribution. The crowding of French prisoners, the massing together
of sick and wounded soldiers and defective sanitation had brought
about an alarming epidemic. Small-pox, as I have before mentioned,
raged here as in some other parts of Germany. You could not walk a
few yards without encountering barely recovered small-pox patients.
Contagious diseases under normal circumstances have no terrors for
me. But to be stricken down in a foreign hotel and straightway
bundled off to a hospital might well alarm spirits far more intrepid
than my own. The weather, too, could not well be dismaller. My eight
days in Leipzig had been eight days of perpetual rain. So on the
coldest, rainiest and unfriendliest fourteenth of June I ever
remember, I set out for the little Athens on the Ilm I had always
longed to know.
THE GOETHES AT WEIMAR
FIRST IMPRESSIONS—OTTILIE VON GOETHE AND HER SONS—"DER
VATER"—A MELANCHOLY JACQUES—A GOETHE ON TROLLOPE.
LESS than a
generation ago the sojourner at Weimar seemed all but a contemporary
of its mighty spirits, just to have missed the meridian of its
literary splendour. Goethe's daughter-in-law would then entertain
her English visitors with talk of "der Vater"; elderly folks would
chat of the stately old man so well pourtrayed for us by Eckermann. Schiller's daughter might be recognised in the street by her
likeness to the poet. Herder's granddaughter, who remembered the
famous interview between Napoleon and the Duchess Luise, was still
living. A maiden lady would be pointed out to you as Fräulein
Wieland, she too a granddaughter. The great names that have
immortalised Weimar now live in history only. Goethe's race has
become extinct, and the family house is turned into a museum. Schiller, Herder, Wieland have left none of their name and no direct
There is something peculiarly fascinating in this apparent nearness
to a mighty epoch, this approaching the vesture-hem of earth's
immortals. There are certain associations that in liveliness and
force have the effect of veritable experience. We seem to be not
merely affected but impressed, acted upon directly and not through
the medium of others. Such was the nature of my intercourse with the
Goethe family. The sun gleamed out as I entered the dear, friendly,
quiet little town, its provincial air and grass-grown streets
offering a striking contrast to busy, populous, cosmopolitan
Leipzig. And the Weimar before me [p169] must have been a small
metropolis compared to the Weimar of Goethe's youth, the tiny
capital he entered so full of poetic frenzy a hundred years before.
I had brought with me a satchel of letters introductory, and
although court receptions—so pleasant for strangers—were at an end,
the theatre was about to be closed, and many other attractions for a
time withdrawn, I settled down in the homely, comfortable Erb Prinz
for a long stay and with the happiest expectations. When I first
arrived, Goethe's house was closed, the large, conspicuous structure
not being accessible to tourists under any pretext whatever. Ottilie
von Goethe was then occupying a modest flat in the Schiller Strasse,
and it was there that I made her acquaintance.
I found an old lady dressed with scrupulous neatness, one might
almost say coquetry, her soft grey cashmere dress and white muslin
kerchief recalling the Quaker matrons of my childhood. Goethe's
fondly cherished daughter-in-law must have possessed no small share
of beauty in youth, her bright eyes, silvery hair, and vivacious
expression rendered her handsome still, the lower part of the face
being marred by a certain heaviness indicative of strong will.
When foreign speech is made the vehicle of thought, conversational
powers are not to be adequately appraised. The Frau von Goethe was
fond of talking English, which she spoke fairly well, not well
enough, however, to give her thoughts free play. In German I could
well fancy her shining in epigram, persiflage, and repartee. Intellectual force she hardly possessed.
"I am very glad at all times to welcome the countrywomen of my late
dear friend Mrs. Jameson," she said, receiving me with the urbanity
and "grand air" of a great lady—such indeed she had been all her
life. The very atmosphere of a court hung still about attitude,
speech, and intonation. Every word was uttered deliberately and with
what I will unhesitatingly call well-bred distinctness. Then she
asked me many interesting questions about the higher education of
women and its progress in England. My report of Madame Bodichon's
Hitchin College and the Girton scheme were listened to with great
"If my own daughter had lived," she said, "the college you describe
is what I should have desired for her."
The golden-haired little granddaughter Irma, whom Thackeray mentions
in his charming letter to Lewes (see the Life of Goethe), died at
the age of sixteen. Her brothers Auguste and Wolfgang were now
elderly men. But such sorrows are immortal. As Ottilie von Goethe
named the little girl laid to rest more than a generation before,
her face saddened, her voice became tremulous with emotion.
From time to time she dropped into German, recalling the past,
positively thrilling me with the words, "Der Vater sagte dies," "Der Vater
meinte das" ("My father said this," "My father thought that").
Could it be? Was I in sober earnest chatting with Goethe's
daughter-in-law, the fondling of his old age, the one being in the
world privileged to caress, tease, and even playfully thwart him? Not perhaps always playfully! There is a story recorded by Eckermann
which shows that to Ottilie the author of "Faust" was at times only
a plaguesome, cantankerous old father-in-law. The great man had
given her some archæological treasure, and, after the manner of
many too lavish givers, wanted his gift back again. "No, father,"
stoutly replied Ottilie, "you gave me the object. It is now mine,
and I cannot part with it." The story is highly characteristic of
the petted young widow, of a fireside goddess who could do anything.
One of these references to "der Vater" was noteworthy.
"In my father's time," she said in German, "people used to meet and
discuss things worth talking about. Now the talk of society consists
of mere idle gossip and chatter ("Plaudern and Schwätzen").
She had an amusing horror of being written about in her life-time,
either by English travellers or her own country folks, but was very
hospitable to anyone introduced by a friend. Alas! the acquaintance
who rendered me this inestimable service has been long since lost to
sight. If these lines should ever meet his eyes I hope he will
assure himself of my life-long gratitude.
Before my stay was over the Frau von Goethe had moved back into the
poet's house, and here I spent a memorable evening. She occupied
with her two sons the upper storey, in winter giving small but
agreeable little gatherings, the Grand Duke and Duchess often
dropping in without ceremony.
Fine bronzes, life size, adorned the entrance hall, but that part of
the house occupied by Goethe was shut up, no one being ever invited
to see his rooms, and no one ever venturing to demand the privilege.
I found myself in a pretty little drawing-room, a melancholy,
handsome man already past middle life holding out his hand to me on
"My son Wolfgang," said the hostess, and soon after we passed into
an adjoining room to tea, an English lady guest presiding at the
teapot, her young daughter, the kind friend who had introduced me to
the Goethe family, and one or two others, making up the party.
The simple board, spread with brown bread and butter and
pfefferkuchen, or gingerbread, had nothing to distinguish it
from any other German tea-table; but how did association impart pomp
and circumstance! To break bread with Goethe's grandson seemed next
door to sitting down to tea with descendants of Shakespeare who had
gazed upon his face and prattled on his knee, and whether of set
purpose or from mere habit, this living likeness of the poet
perpetually recalled his august ancestor. Those startling words, "der
Grossvater" ("my grandfather"), again and again rose to his lips,
not uttered vauntingly but with a certain pensive, tempered pride.
Yes, a melancholy Jacques was this inheritor of the greatest name of
modern Europe, and no wonder! To come of honourable stock is coveted
of all. But what mortal shoulders could adequately sustain such Atlantean burden, keep up legend so glorious?
"The two sons of Ottilie and Auguste von Goethe," said to me an old
Weimaraner who knew them well, "are both able and highly
accomplished men, men who might, under other circumstances, have
made a position and even a reputation for themselves. But they have
been dwarfed, etiolated, by the shadow of that mighty tree, the name
The thought suggests itself, would not diplomacy have offered a
career to gentlemen so distinguished and courtly? We must remember
the closeness of the ties that bound them to Weimar, and the
insignificance of their little state considered as a body politic,
also that the capacities of the brothers lay in quite another
direction. Both were admirable musicians and of a literary and
Perhaps domestic circumstances may have had something to do with
this look of habitual resignation, this apparent acceptance rather
than relish of existence. Rumour spoke of former financial
difficulties, of other complications equally hampering. Be this as
it may, the fact remained. The handsome, refined face before me was
that of a man whose life has proved a failure. And a few years later
both grandsons of Goethe passed away, and the world was as if it had
known them not. Conversation at the tea-table was light and
pleasant, a large portion falling to my share. Herr von Goethe spoke
English pretty well, occasionally lapsing into German. He showed
considerable knowledge of our literature, old and new, and we had a
long discussion on the contemporary English novel.
"No one entertains heartier admiration for Anthony Trollope's talent
than myself," I said, when his name had come up. "But I confess the
commonplaceness of his characters wearies me. In a novel, as in real
life, I prefer to meet the rare, the exceptional."
"There," put in Goethe's grandson warmly, and speaking German, "I
entirely disagree with you. When I read fiction, I find more
amusement and instruction in stories like Trollope's, dealing as
they do with commonplace, every-day folks such as one meets with in
daily life, rather than in pourtrayal of abnormal or out-of-the-way
types. Der Grossvater auch meinte" ("My grandfather was also of this
Here he quoted a sentence of Goethe in support of his views, whether
from hearsay or a printed work I forget. We argued the question for
some time, the others listening. I could not, unfortunately, back up
my theory with the words of a French critic who has since lived and
died, leaving behind him a brilliant, meteor-like reputation. "Genius," says J. M. Guyau, "occupies itself with possibilities,
rather than with realities. We recognise true genius by its power of outstepping the real and yet keeping within limits of the possible."
Our discussion over, my disputant turned with kindly interest to his
mother's youngest guest, the English schoolgirl before mentioned,
drawing her out, making her feel at home. I noticed the little
trait, indicating as it did not only good manners but real
amiability. One could hardly help regretting that Wolfgang von
Goethe had not a fireside and a family circle of his own. Both
brothers, I add, were unmarried. At this time the younger was
absent, and I never met him.
Politics, of course, were not touched upon, nor did we talk of the
Franco-German war so lately ended. One point struck me in discussing
literature with the Frau von Goethe, namely, her aversion to French
language and letters. This was all the more surprising as there was
no little of the Frenchwoman about her. She died a year after my
visit, and her sons soon followed her to the grave.
THE ABBÉ LISZT
A PHENOMENAL FOURTH FINGER—A TABLE D'HÔTE
GROUP—TAUSIG—FRÄULEIN CONSTANCE—AN HISTORIC GLASS OF CHAMPAGNE
I KNOW not how it
may be nowadays, but formerly host and hostess of the Erb Prinz
presided at the midday table d'hôte. The Fran H—, bless her kindly
heart! finding that I was alone, made me sit by her side, an
arrangement advantageous in many ways. I felt one of the family
circle, I chatted in German, and I learned all that was going on.
Now, I know very little of English landladies, but I should hardly
expect from them the kind and quality of conversation I heard here. The Frau H――, a florid, homely looking lady, and her brother-in-law
and partner, for she was a widow, would discuss with their friends
or clientèle Wagner's music, the drama, past and present, new works
of the Kunstschule, or academy, and kindred topics. Not only
was their conversation animated and spontaneous, but they displayed
no little artistic knowledge and insight. And busy as was mine
hostess, she rarely missed a good concert or play.
I have ever loved to fraternise with all sorts and conditions of
men, and among Fran H――'s acquaintances was a charming young actress,
whom I remember with pleasure. There was a depth of feeling about
her, mingled with much sparkle and sweetness, that recalled the
subject of Goethe's poetic apotheosis, those lovely lines beginning:
"Als eine Blume zeigt sie sich der Welt."
("Her apparition was as some sweet flower"). With this fascinating
yet wholly unspoiled girl and her fellow-actors and family I
picnicked in the country, bringing away one ineffaceable impression. The evident sincerity of these modestly paid artistes brought back "Wilhelm Meister," and seemed a living testimony to Goethe's
influence. My young tragedian cheerfully and as a matter of course
supported her younger brothers and sisters; here was no feverish
unrest, no craving for world-wide triumph or dazzling reward.
Devotion to art and duty dominated every other feeling.
Frau H―― had a little daughter attending a day-school; on learning
that one of my objects was musical study, she immediately placed her Mariechen's piano at my disposal. Whenever I chose, therefore, I
could leave my nice little room overlooking the market-place and
practise in the parlour below. Here I cannot help expressing my astoundment at the extreme benignity with which I have ever been
treated in all countries and by every class. Such things are
especially agreeable when dealing with foreign nationalities. They
testify to the fact insisted upon by David Hume and P. G. Hamerton—namely,
that men are much of a muchness all the world over, extraneous
circumstances, racial distinctions, accidents of climate and
language being merely skin deep.
I had not partaken of the twelve o'clock ordinary many times when I
noticed a remarkable figure at the foot of the table, a figure once
seen impossible to forget.
It was that of an elderly priest, tall, almost Herculean in stature,
and spare to lankness, his long hair hanging down "in silver slips,"
his face wearing a strange look only to be expressed by the word
illumination, his eyes of diamond-like piercingness and brilliance. But even more striking than build and physiognomy were the hands,
moved so restlessly and conspicuously. It could not be said that
those long, nervous, expressive hands were out of proportion with
limbs so large; the noteworthy characteristic was length of each
little finger, the fourth indeed almost equalled in size the
pointer. As he sat at table, whether manipulating knife and fork or
chatting to his neighbours, his hands were never for a moment still. It seemed as if they were restless spirits not to be coerced into
"Who is that extraordinary being?" I whispered to my landlady.
"Don't you recognise him?" was the astonished reply. "It is the Abbé
Truth to tell, the name of Liszt sounded almost like a resurrection
in my ears. So many years had passed since the great Hungarian's
appearance in England, that, except to musicians, he was a mere
name. The every-day English world had well nigh forgotten even that;
from the general memory he had completely faded.
I now discovered that at Weimar Liszt was enthroned as a pontiff, a
demi-god. To the little world of his followers and pupils, indeed,
Weimar meant Liszt and Liszt only. In their eyes Liszt was now the
sun in that firmament formerly lighted by Goethe. But to return to
the table d'hôte group.
The less said about unpleasant people the better, but it is
incumbent upon me to mention his entourage, a marked and often
regrettable feature in the career of genius. The present contrast
between a man of unmistakable distinction and his companions was,
moreover, so striking, it shed so much light upon Liszt's history,
that I feel bound here to say a few words.
On his right hand there sat a particularly plain,
unattractive-looking woman of decided Slav origin. She was
middle-aged, her grown-up daughter sat next, and the hour was noon,
yet her dress was sufficiently décolleté for an evening party, and
her sleeves only reached the elbow. The young lady beside her hardly
called for notice; she said little and seemed apt at playing the
part of dummy. But the adjoining figure evoked compassion. Whilst
the elderly coquette, his wife, behaved after the manner of a
love-sick schoolgirl, this poor semblance of a man neither opened
his lips nor showed the slightest cognisance of what was going on
around him. Native infirmity or paralysis had reduced him to the
condition of a huge, ungainly, breathing automaton. Behind his chair
stood a valet who adjusted his master's napkin, cut up his food, and
otherwise ministered to his wants.
It would be difficult to say which circumstance here most painfully
affected the mind—the immodesty of this wife and mother, the part of
spectator assigned to a daughter of twenty, witness of her mother's
amours, or the possible semi-consciousness of the man, her father. Some faint glimmering of the truth must surely have reached his
mind, however feeble.
"The Baroness X Y Z, she is madly in love with Liszt and that is her
imbecile husband and daughter," whispered my hostess.
The explanation was unnecessary. In a well-conducted maiden those
foolish feminine fetches and deep artifices might have evoked a
smile. In a matron with husband and daughter by her side, and a
score or more of lookers-on, the scene was positively loathsome. Now
she would feign inability to eat, and Liszt must transfer some
choice morsel from his own plate to hers, now she could not prepare
properly her Alpine strawberries, and he must perform the task, all
these little tricks being accompanied with lackadaisical—to use a
mild word—smiles and insinuating gestures. From Sarah Bernhardt
herself in Phèdre this woman could have learned nothing.
Personal fascination is perhaps of all Pandora's gifts the most to
be deprecated. Liszt, its victim, is hardly blameworthy here. Wherever he went sentimentalists and coquettes fluttered about him
as moths round a candle. Under such circumstances a man of his type
is defenceless. More wholesome and agreeable to witness was the
devotion of his own sex, pupils like the late Walter Bache and
A day or two later we were all sitting at dinner when poor Tausig
burst in, having just arrived unexpectedly from Leipzig. Liszt
jumped up, his whole being transformed, spontaneous joy replacing
forced smiles and cozened approval. Master and pupil embraced
cordially as emperors when concocting an alliance, then the
new-comer was made room for, and dinner went on.
That afternoon I heard some wonderful pianoforte playing in the
hotel, and I said to myself, Liszt, Tausig, or a demon? It was both. I should perhaps say, all three. The place seemed shaken with
Tausig was of striking appearance, but looked by no means in good
health. Although a young man he was florid and heavy almost to
obesity, having sacrificed health and hygiene to the piano. And a
very few weeks later came news of his death from typhoid fever at
Leipzig. The loss of his greatest pupil affected the Maestro deeply.
Throughout these summer months Liszt remained in his pretty villa,
giving musical parties every Sunday afternoon, himself taking part,
playing Beethoven, so said authorities, as no one had ever played
Beethoven before, or is in the least likely to play Beethoven again.
But the Open Sesame of such a salon, how on earth to obtain it? I
sounded Weimar friends, but one and all gave a melancholy shake of
the head. Except to a very few musical people, they said, Liszt was
absolutely unapproachable; a newspaper reporter might just as well
try to interview the Czar. And the Goethe family and Liszt were not
on visiting terms. I had no chance of meeting, rather hearing, the
great man in Frau van Goethe's pleasant drawing-room. The little
court, so hospitable ever to English visitors, and of which Liszt
was the darling, had removed to Eisenach.
In despair I bethought me of Walter Bache, whose most intimate
London friends I knew intimately also. An answer came back by return
of post, chilling in its positiveness. "Quite useless to ask Bache
for such a favour; he would not, I know, take upon himself the
responsibility on any account whatever."
The Peri outside Paradise was not to be thus discouraged. I
discovered that the solution of this problem, as is generally the
case with others far knottier, lay close at hand. My musical
professor at this time happened to be a sweet and romantic girl,
more devoted to Liszt, if that were possible, than the rest of his
pupils. Fräulein Constance, as I will call her, was about
twenty-five, and, without actual beauty, possessed infinite charm
and winningness. Perhaps she was more calculated to inspire mere
affection and regard than anything like passion in the other sex. She was what her country people called
sentimental and dreamy, and, as a rule, men do not like
sentimentalists. Here and there indeed you find a man who, to quote
Mrs. Lynn Linton, "likes women who scream easily." The majority
prefer smiles to sighs, spirit to sentiment, and the plain face of a
girl absolutely at one with herself and the world, to faultless
loveliness of lackadaisical pattern.
Fräulein Constance was an excellent musician and gained a very good
livelihood [p.180] in this way. From October to May she resided at Cannes,
finding pupils among rich valetudinarians. The summer months she
spent at Weimar, sunning herself in the presence of her adored
One day we had been playing one of Schubert's magnificent duets,
Liszt's name came up, and I spoke of my disappointment in failing to
obtain an introduction to him.
"Liebes Fräulein," she said, with an air of astonishment,
why, in Heaven's name, did you not mention this to me before? I
shall be delighted to manage the thing for you."
Which she did. That very evening came Liszt's visiting card with an
invitation to his Sunday afternoons, and on the following day our
acquaintance began after amusing fashion enough.
Upon this occasion Liszt was not dining with the Russian party, but
with other friends at a side table. Soon champagne appeared for the
usual health drinking, Liszt doing the honours. I now saw him fill a
glass and hand it to the waiter in attendance with whispered
That glass of champagne was brought round to me, straightway Liszt's
tall figure appeared above the heads of the rest, I rose also and we
smiled, bowed and drank to each other from opposite sides of the
"Dear fellow, how like him!" cried George Henry Lewes, when I
afterwards narrated the incident in Blandford Square.
Dinner over, I add that Liszt sought me out, we shook hands
cordially, and I saw my dearest wishes accomplished.
THE ABBÉ LISZT—continued
AVE MARIS STELLA—LISZT IMPROVISING—A PICNIC—"KEINE
FOR ELLEN!"—A TICKLISH CHARGE—A TRAGIC LOVE STORY
ON the following
Sunday took place a ceremonial of pathetic interest. The Abbé
Liszt had promised to play his own beautiful Ave Maris Stella [p.182]
on the organ of a little Catholic Church close to his own villa.
His performance, needless to say, an event of the utmost
rarity, was given in furtherance of some charitable scheme.
Needless to say also that miracles were worked with a second-rate
little organ, and that anyone with musical knowledge or instinct
must here have recognised the master, "der Einzige," with Jean Paul
to be acclaimed, "The Only One."
The incident also served to show Liszt's innate sweetness of
character, a sweetness unspoiled by fulsome homage and feminine
following carried to the pitch of positive molestation.
A number of English schoolgirls, pupils of his own pupils,
were present, and he kindly invited them all to that afternoon's
reception at his house. Thither, then, for the short service
ended when the musical matinée was about to begin, we all trooped, a
pert miss of fourteen remarking to me on the way:
"Of course, as mamma says, Liszt is a bad man and we ought
not to visit him, but attending a concert at his house is quite
The speech remains in my memory as illustrative of that
insular cant so odious to foreigners. Of course this British
matron's duty was clear, either to say, "No, my dear, I do not, for
reasons I cannot explain, approve of the Abbé Liszt, so we must stay
at home," or else to have held her tongue about "the bad man."
But no. "We have heard Liszt play" would sound so well in
England! It is just this sort of Philistinism that makes us
hated and hate ourselves abroad.
We flocked in, Liszt's handsome drawing-room being crowded to
its utmost capacity. First of all, one of Spohr's lovely
Quartets was perfectly played, the executants being friends of their
host; then, uninvited, the tall strange figure in priestly garb, his
white locks streaming on his shoulders, moved towards the piano.
A genius must ever be greater, more striking in expressing himself
rather than in his interpretations, however sublime, of others.
I am glad, therefore, that upon both occasions it was Liszt himself
I heard rather than those matchless renderings of Beethoven for
which he was so famous.
I will here add that to my thinking a pianoforte
improvisation, except by a Liszt, is of all performances the least
inspiring, perhaps indeed the most wearisome. Any fair
musician can put together pretty musical phrases, keep his fingers
going with passionless harmonies. But Liszt was so distracted,
so torn to pieces, by that terrible gift of personal fascination,
the moments he could give to composition were so furtive and so
irregular that very likely his finest works were never put upon
paper. Be this as it may, he did not now merely improvise, he
composed, as he went along, the performance being no dreamy, airy
fantasia, vague as the melodies of an Æolian harp, but a sublime
musical whole, a work impossible to describe or categorise, but
having a beginning, a middle and an end, having, moreover, that
passionate outpouring of soul by which alone we are transported into
the highest regions of art and poetry.
The hush was intense, for not on one but on all had the spell
fallen. When that strange, inspired figure rose, as much moved
by his own powers as his listeners, no one spoke. Not even the
four musicians seemed able to utter a word. I do not know what
impelled me, rather emboldened me, for, going up to him, I said in
French, his favourite language:
"Ah, Monsieur l'Abbé, vous noun avez transporté dans le
Paradis!" ("Ah! Monsieur l'Abbé, you transported us all to
Paradise!") He did not speak, but clasping both my hands in
his own, long pressed them to his heart by way of reply. On my
return to the hotel I in turn improvised, sending him the following
IMPROVISATION ON IMPROVISATION
TO THE ABBÉ LISZT
Fain would I praise such poetry as thine,
In fitting measures as a poet should;
But ah! thy music brings a deeper mood,
And only tears acknowledge the divine.
He at once wrote a little note of thanks [p.184]
in French, especially thanking me for the last words. "Ce beau
vers," this beautiful line. Liszt's excessive amiability, an
amiability amounting to positive weakness was soon evinced in
One day Fräulein Constance came to me with a radiant face.
She had got up a little picnic that afternoon in my honour, and the
Maestro had promised to be of the party.
"We start at three o'clock for Tieffurt," she said, "stroll
about for an hour or two, then take tea at the little restaurant.
I have telegraphed for trout—the Herr Doctor adores trout.
Heaven forbid that I should be disappointed!"
My young friend's lodging looked upon the park, and pleasant
was the brief interval of anticipatory waiting. True enough
Liszt kept his word. About half an hour after the time
appointed we drove off, the two seats of honour being assigned to
another guest, a violinist, and myself, on the seat opposite sitting
Liszt, Fräulein Constance on one side, another pupil of his,
Fräulein Anna — on the other, an arrangement that seemed to amuse
him and pleased the two girls mightily.
The picnic began gaily. Under such circumstances Liszt
was charming. He could unbend without effort and enjoy common
pleasures as if he had been an ordinary mortal. He frolicked
with his pupils, evidently delighting in this self-abandonment.
The weather too was everything to be desired. Goethe's
favourite haunt looked especially cool and inviting after the dust
and glare of Weimar.
But no sooner had we arrived than a great chagrin was in
store for our hostess.
"Es gibt keine Forellen!" ("There is no trout!") she cried,
ready to burst into tears. One might have supposed from her
mortification that Liszt was some poor protégé, some out-at-elbow
Bohemian to whom the proposed delicacy was an event, instead of a
great man and petted courtier who could dine off gold and silver
whenever he pleased.
Fräulein Constance had really tears in her eyes when we sat
down to tea, her friend Anna was hardly less concerned, but Liszt
soon made both smile again. He placed himself between the
pair, with his own hands spread brown bread and butter for each, the
girls smacking their lips over each enchanted morsel, exclaiming—
"Ach! es schmeckt so gut!" ("It tastes so sweet!") The
violinist and myself also did our best to mitigate the
disappointment. We were in truth hungry, and the rye bread,
fresh butter, and fruit cakes were excellent.
"Now tell us Erfurt news" (Erzählen von Erfurt), Liszt said
to Fräulein Anna when he turned to his own plate. The young
lady had just visited Luther's town, and every scrap of musical
gossip she brought back interested her listener. Then Liszt
chatted with myself about his devoted disciple Walter Bache, whom I
had often met in London, the Lewes, and others. The meal
passed off agreeably enough, but quite without exhilaration.
Somehow or other, it is always thus. Mischievous little
sprites seem bent upon checking mortal expectations when raised too
high, encroachments upon their own elf-land!
We were in "Tieffurt's Thal," Goethe's loved little valley.
Alike in park and chateau every object reminded us of the poet and
his time, of those free-and-easy little banquets at which Carl
August, the Duchess Amalia, Goethe, Schiller, Herder, and Wieland
assisted. Liszt gave me his arm as we sauntered through the
quaint little palace in which the Duchess received her great friends
without ceremony; what ceremony indeed was possible in such a
doll's, house? Wonderful memories crowded upon us; we were a
well-assorted company, the twilight of late summer was sweet, yet
one and all subsided into calm and commonplace.
It was growing dusk when we drove into Weimar, a group of
girls awaiting us just outside the park gate. Liszt was to get
down here, and these adorers wanted to salute the master on his way
home. As he alighted they pressed forward, each catching at
his hands, kissing them with what can only be called religious
fervour. He shook off the pretty intruders, good-naturedly
pooh-poohing the too fond tribute.
"There, there, my children, that will do," he said, hastening
away, doubtless to find a second bevy of devotees at his door.
That dæmonic irresistibleness, that magnetic influence felt not only
by the other sex but his own, was an ever-present thorn in the
flesh; to a passionately artistic and creative nature like his, it
could not be otherwise. And unfortunately Pandora had not
accorded a counterpoise, the wholesome antidote of moroseness, the
power of being irresponsive and occasionally unapproachable.
Without this good gift the most dazzling genius may be wasted.
I do not know exactly what happened after this picnic, but
the relations of my charming young music-mistress and her adored
Maestro evidently underwent change. It also became plain to me
that Fräulein Constance's feeling for Liszt was no mere girlish
sentiment, or what her country people called "schwärmerei," but a
deep consuming passion, the sort and degree of passion that drives
men into wild excesses and women either into wasting sickness or,
worse still, mental aberration.
Liszt had absented himself for a few days, Fräulein Constance
following him to Erfurt or Eisenach, I forget which; was it this
step, this fond espial that alienated or at least cooled her
master's affection? She gave no explanation, only hinted at
some little misunderstanding; and meantime would I, oh! would I see
the Herr Doctor and place in his hands a letter too confidential for
post or ordinary messenger?
I paused before replying. The poor girl's distress was
contagious. Short of disturbing Liszt I would have done any,
every thing to oblige her. But the request of a private
interview for such a purpose, and of one whose privacy was so little
respected? No, I could not bring my mind to the step.
I satisfied her, however, with the assurance that the letter
should be delivered either by myself or a trusty substitute.
On this understanding it was confided to me. A day or two
afterwards Fräulein Constance seemed in usual spirits. The
little cloud had apparently passed over; all was as before. A
lover's quarrel may be easily made up. What happy issue can
await such complications as these?—on the one hand, a girl's
self-immolating devotion; on the other, the shrinking, unwillingly
accorded tenderness of an elderly man to whom by this time the very
thought of a woman's fancy must have been terrible. I shall
ever believe that had he with the priestly robe adopted an ascetic,
rigidly artistic life, he would have rivalled Wagner—of whom, by the
way, I am no enthusiast—as a composer.
Exactly ten years later I revisited Weimar, and one of my
first enquiries was after my dove-eyed Fräulein Constance.
"Fräulein Constance ist verschollen" ("is vanished"), was the
The unhappy girl had vanished from mortal ken, not alas!
finding harbourage in some quiet God's acre, but within the prison
walls of a Maison de Santé. Love for Liszt had unhinged
DR. THOMAS WILSON
SOUVENIRS OF GEORGE ELIOT AND CARLYLE-SKETCH OF A
CAREER—MIRAGE—NOZRANI IN EGYPT—"THE CLEMENTINE HOMILIES"
IT has been my
good fortune to enjoy the warm friendship, I may say the closest,
most affectionate intimacy, of many good and gifted men, English and
French. From none have I learned so much, to none am I more
indebted than to the subject of the present chapter.
There was living at Weimar during my stay in 1871 an old
friend of George Eliot and Carlyle, a man wholly unknown to fame,
but hardly less deserving of a biographer than his great familiars.
For Dr. Thomas Wilson was no mere chance acquaintance of the
novelist and the sage. He had known George Eliot and George
Henry Lewes long before the publication of "Adam Bede," whilst his
friendship with Carlyle, begun a generation before, was only ended
by death. Every time he visited England, Dr. Wilson spent a
few quiet hours at the Priory and at Cheyne Walk; and it was his
privilege to see both these friends a few months before they died.
I have never myself been able to entertain much enthusiasm
for the apologist of brute force, of blood and iron policy, of
slavery. Carlyle's personality too, as portrayed, for I never
saw him, has ever been unattractive to me. [p.189]
Dr. Wilson's table-talk and anecdotes, nevertheless, could
but be full of interest. And very likely from the lips of this
high-minded friend fell the most withering sarcasm ever uttered on
Carlyle's system. The pair were holding earnest converse one
day when Dr. Wilson turned to him sharply with the question—
"Come now, my friend, answer me. Jesus Christ on the
Cross now, do you call that success?"
Carlyle was dumb. My Weimar friend, although always
cutting short unsavoury topics, could not help dropping pregnant
hints now and then. "That terrible cat-and-dog life," he would
say, with an expression of disgust, when alluding to Carlyle's
fireside. Long before a word had appeared about it in print, I
learned of the tragedy that later became so notorious, "the
cat-and-dog life" of Jane and Thomas Carlyle.
Dr. Wilson was living at Weimar on the occasion of George
Eliot's first visit to Germany with George Henry Lewes. He
used to smile as he recalled a certain table d'hôte experience: in
the midst of chattering tourists and the clatter of dishes, this
grave young woman propounding theories of human and cosmogonic
destiny, herself as utterly isolated from such surroundings as if in
their little study at home. The pair then occupied modest
lodgings in Regent's Park.
Dr. Wilson's career was full of nobleness and pathos.
Blessed—or shall I say cursed?—with transparent sincerity of mind,
with a conscientiousness that could brook no vid media, he
had thrown up the most dazzling prospects rather than palter with
the cause of Truth.
Of good clerical family, possessed of academic distinction
and every becoming personal endowment, he had entered the Church,
promising to prove one of her brightest ornaments, certain of
promotion, dignities, and the praise of men.
That embarrassing gift of a conscience soon interfered with
these brilliant prospects. Already preferment was his,
ecclesiastical honours also, when the other, the moral, side of the
question forced itself upon his mind. Diligently and
desperately he set to work, dissected the Thirty-nine Articles, saw
clear as day that acceptance of them by any intelligent being must
be make-belief, that in consequence his own life was a sham, payment
for preaching what no man in his senses could believe, what,
furthermore, no man, woman, or child should be asked to believe.
Self-questioning of such a mind could only end one way.
The dilemma landed him in Weimar, teacher of English in a ladies'
college. It was by Carlyle's advice that he betook himself to
the illustrious little capital. There, despite the modesty of
his position and circumstances, he received every consideration at
the hand of the Grand Duke and his wife. Of the Duchess he was
an especial favourite. Anxious to retain a resident so
distinguished, the ducal pair made over to his use a delightful old
manor-house outside the town, in which he could receive young
Englishmen preparing for examinations.
In the meantime Dr. Wilson had married a German lady, one of
the lady professors or patronesses, I forget which, of the ladies'
school just mentioned. This highly educated, amiable, and most
capable woman brought to the fireside exactly those qualities in
which her husband was deficient—namely, a capacity for business and
practical affairs, the tact, method, and forethought necessary in
all who have to provide for their own future. The middle-aged
marriage answered admirably, and it was mainly owing to Mrs.
Wilson's influence and exertions that years stole on without
At this time the Wilsons occupied the ducal residence alluded
to, as pleasant a country house as suburban Weimar could show, and
there I ever received affectionate welcome.
Dr. Wilson was now just sixty, and had not with his heresies
cast off clerical physiognomy. He looked indeed like a man
born for the Primacy itself. The teaching of German
school-girls, the coaching of school-boys, could not detract one
iota from a personal dignity that was absolutely unassailable.
He was not without the restlessness and irritability inseparable
from fastidious natures. He ever commanded respect. Of
course such a man must have been more than human to feel satisfied
with his actual position, and here I come to the real pathos of Dr.
The mere act of renunciation cannot satisfy an heroic nature;
it craves expression, the kind of action to be acquiesced in, the
fulfilment of destiny. The first part of his life had been a
storm, a cataclysm; the second, and perhaps the sadder of the two,
was a mirage. As I have mentioned, Dr. Wilson was at this time
just sixty, and no more living in the present than an exile or a
prisoner counting the hours until release. Nor was he changed
in this respect when, ten years later, I spent several months near
the Wilsons, then removed to Eisenach; and a few years later still,
on the occasion of his visit to Hastings, he was the same, a
mirage-haunted man, a dreamer of dreams!
His project was this—to settle in London, hire some building
as a free church, and there preach Christianity, untravestied,
unadulterated by Councils and Synods, St. Augustines and St.
Athanasiuses. Had my great friend lived a couple of hundred
years ago he would most assuredly have been imprisoned, mutilated,
perhaps put to a horrible death. Could he have secured a
West-End pulpit in the seventies, he might have done what
Salvationists have effected in the slums. "I have the gift of
speech," he would say wistfully, again and again going over the plan
But difficulties seemed insuperable. To a man so
delicate-minded the notion of expatriating his wife was painful in
the extreme. Again, his scheme involved outlay rather than
remuneration. And later, when, mainly owing to that devoted
wife's exertions, a modest competence was his, other objections
arose. Despite enormous taxation, housekeeping in Germany was
simpler, more economical than in London. And he was growing
old. Who could say? His experiment might turn out a
failure; he tried too late.
The mirage haunted him persistently nevertheless, and as he
would dwell on the little church of his dreams, a strange light came
into his face, he seemed to catch a Divine efflatus, some faint
reflex of that
"Strong Son of God, Immortal Love,"
to Whom he ever seemed so near.
Dr. Wilson was no mere intellectual stimulator after the
manner of George Henry Lewes, no imparter of encyclopædic knowledge
or generalisation. What he did was to open his listener's mind
to the deep spiritual meaning of life and life's teachers, revealed
in nature or in books.
Quite naturally Schiller was a favourite author, and one of
his favourite pieces of writing was the collection of "Letters on
the Æsthetic Education of Mankind." How much do we learn from
our friends' choicest books, the books that have become part of
themselves! Another boon companion was Seneca's Epistles.
The "Clementine Homilies," [p.193] a third
favourite, he always intended to translate, but the mirage stood in
the way of all but obligatory exertion.
The restlessness of unsatisfied craving and desultory purpose
soon after my first visit drove Dr. Wilson to Eisenach. When I
visited that town in 1881, in order to be near my friends, they
occupied a house not far from the station.
"I love the signs of life and movement that I see from our
windows here," Dr. Wilson said; "especially on fête days and
holidays the living streams that flow to and fro from morning till
night exhilarate me."
Although cheerfully uttered, the speech struck me as implying
intense, deep-seated melancholy. Was it not a sick man's
yearning after the hale and the rosy, a captive's envy of the free?
It only rested with himself to say the word; but his powers of
decision, once so cruelly put to the proof, were gone. From
Eisenach he moved back to Weimar, occasionally visiting England.
The last time I saw him was at Hastings, a few years ago. We
parted at the railway station, where he stooped down and kissed me
"We shall meet again," I said, for I was always hoping to
He said nothing, but an expression in his face seemed to say,
No. True enough, that was our final farewell. A
millionaire, as I have ever deemed myself in the matter of
friendship, how was my capital diminished by the loss of this most
beloved and worthily beloved man! Some of our friends
embellish our lives, others build up, one or two beatify.
Neither a flower, melody, nor palmer's staff was the close
friendship of Dr. Wilson, instead a Scripture, plain to read,
bearing the incontestible stamp of finer spirits' souls, in the
words of Plato and Spinoza, exempt from the lot of mortality.
The keynote of character is struck in early life, and in a
little book of Eastern travel, [p.194]
published by my friend so far back as 1848, I find the following
"Thank God, we have still a leaven of manly Christian
devotion working in the world's lump of vexatious vanity; we may yet
hope to see our national worship in spirit and in truth within the
walls of our churches, where upon one broad level, rich and poor,
old and young, learned and simple, may bow down as brethren in the
presence of the God and Father of us all. Here might be a
reknitting of that bond of union which is the bond of strength in
our social system, now bound by a rope of sand, . . . the Alpha and
Omega, the beginning and the end of practical Christianity realised
in our lives as professed upon our lips."
And just upon forty years later, in a little piece on the
"Clementine Homilies," [p.194] published for
private circulation, occurs the following:
"Anxiously painful feelings, to some even bewildering, may at
first suggest themselves on this train of thought [the Hebraic
attributes of the Divinity] as if tending to lower that standard of
Divinity so sacredly identified in all our childhood traditions with
the name of 'Our Saviour.' Yet painful as it may be to pious,
amiable, and estimable sentiment, we must be prepared to confront
pain, and much pain, should the service of Truth demand it.
All has in this world to be paid for, and Truth, or Love of Truth,
ranks too high in Heaven to be cheaply appraised on earth."
Here we have the writer's Christian Socialism and standard of
life fairly put forth; a little lower down occurs a Carlylesque
exposition of his theological views.
"Folks will have to look to it before long, to realise what
our mediævalism so readily forgets—that terrible rising of the
Copernican curtain of the universe, that natural revelation, the
indisputable autograph of Deity, which in the sixteenth century so
alternately paralysed and electrified the sensitive Melancthon, and
which sturdy Luther (like our own sturdy Samuel with Lisbon
earthquake) would not listen to, because it shook his faith."
And in a note Dr. Wilson adds of "a popular rhyme sung in our
Metropolitan Churches A.D. 1885:
'Jesus is God and made the world
And all our golden stars,'
a couplet surely betraying its recent escape from the nursery."
These brief extracts will show that a bottomless gulf divided
Dr. Wilson from that most flourishing and pretentious "branch of the
Civil Service called the Church of England."
A GROUP OF FRIENDS
MY CAPUCIN BROTHER—HIS ANTIPODES, POVERTY, CHASTITY,
OBEDIENCE, AND NOVEL-READING—TWO EX-PRIESTS—EX-PRIEST PASTOR
B.—EX-PRIEST THE COMMISSION AGENT—A SPANISH CONVERT TO
theologians have never possessed the very slightest attraction for
me. Yet, strange to say, some of my most valued friends and
some of my most interesting acquaintances have been theology mad!
A year or two after those Weimar experiences I spent twelve
months in the city of Nantes. Among my acquaintances was a
young Franciscan monk, an Irishman by birth, who had solved the
problem of life after cheerfulest fashion. For him the
Darwinian theory existed not. The political tempests from time
to time sweeping earth's surface were matter of no concern whatever,
wars, pestilence, social upheavals, international complications, no
more affected him than if he already occupied a fauteuil in Paradise
beside his intellectual master the Angelic Doctor.
Excellent company was this good-looking, florid, blue-eyed
young Capucin, his brown serge robe and hempen girdle of true
mediæval pattern, his bare feet sandalled, his red cotton pocket
handkerchief thrust in the folds of his pocketless [p.197]
garment. Easy enough to see that here spiritual dilemmas sat
lightly, that no qualms of conscience disturbed this
nineteenth-century follower of St. Francis.
His enjoyment of existence was artless, and would have been
delightful to witness but for some irresistible reflections.
Here was a vigorous son of Adam, a man by nature fully equipped for
life's battle, thews and sinews, aptitudes and capacities in good
order, who had yet unconcernedly thrown aside every vestige of moral
responsibility, to whom, indeed, humanity in general was less than
the worm avoided in his walks.
Could human selfishness go farther, egotism find a deeper
level? Alike civic, social, and domestic duties were
voluntarily shirked; for the sake of lazy pleasures and freedom from
care he had placed himself in the category of infants, idiots, and
minors generally, true manhood, the only birthright worth having,
being sacrificed out of sheer self-indulgence!
Father J— frankly acknowledged himself among the happy ones
of the earth. Lay brethren performed the menial work of his
community. Coffee was served in his cell just as milk and
liqueur to Sybarite under-graduates in their chambers. Six
hours a day were traditionally assigned to study; recreation,
religious exercise, and sleep filled up the margin. And
meantime from January to December, from lustrum to lustrum and
decade to decade, there were neither rent nor taxes to pay, no
military service to be undergone, no worries in the shape of
tailor's bills or reduced rate of bank interest. Might not
many at times feel tempted to don serge robe and hempen girdle on
The preposterousness of the situation was brought out all the
more striking by Father J—'s boon companion, the friend to whom I
was indebted for the introduction.
This was an American gentleman of singular engagingness, a
shining example of the masculine qualities insisted upon by me in a
former page, that capacity for self-sacrifice and devotion so often
arrogantly appropriated to themselves by my own sex.
My Transatlantic friend ought to have been a scholar with an
easy fortune, above all things, he ought to have lived at Boston, in
Paris, London, or some other literary centre, enjoying and enriching
a cultivated circle. Instead, he was a modestly paid official,
condemned to uncongenial routine, to exile in a country of which he
understood neither the language nor the people, for compensation so
many dollars per month, the meat, drink, and wherewithal to be
clothed, of a limp little wife and three or four limp little
Father J—, although under thirty, was fast emulating Friar
Tuck, being plump to rotundity. Mr. C—, on the contrary, was
lankier than the average American, which is saying a good deal.
His clothes hung about him as those of an outfitter's manikin, so
spare and fleshless looked he, that you dreaded lest any moment the
slender scaffolding should tumble, the ill-supported structure fall
Tenderly attached to the limp little wife and limp little
daughters, early imbued with notions of feminine supremacy, Mr C—
yet at every available moment vanished into a world of his own, a
world they knew not, the enchanted region of Bookland. He had
contrived, Heaven knows how, to carry his books about with him
wherever he went—a choice little collection, chiefly of imaginative
literature, and these compensated for earthly ills.
Shakespeare, Goethe, Calderon, Camoens made him forget the dreary
Darwinian problem, the struggle for life.
Whilst evidently it never struck Father J— that his existence
was one of egregious selfishness, so his American comrade took his
own hard lot quite as a matter of course. With the most
perfect good-humour he allowed himself to be bundled from one room
to another, on the most trivial pretext; now the children wanted his
study, being livelier than the other rooms; now he must make use of
the dining-room, and so on. With other American husbands and
bread-winners he seemed to be perpetually on sufferance, a necessary
Father J—, Mr. C—, and myself often collogued together, our
long discussions being upon literature, philosophy, or Romanism.
The young Capucin was a great novel reader. "I go to Walter
Scott, Dickens, and the rest, for knowledge of life, a knowledge I
cannot, of course, acquire within the monastery walls," he used to
The topic he loved best and the topic on which he shone was
the spiritual life as set forth by St. Thomas Aquinas.
The Franciscans have their own school of oratory.
Father J— could roll his eyes, lunge forward, go into ecstasies,
after approved fashion, expression, attitude, tone, having naught of
the lay element about them. Everything was as monachal as
could possibly be.
Nantes of all great French towns, and I may boast that I know
all, has fewest attractions for me. I never revisited the city
that lent its name to the first edict of religious tolerance ever
published, and, later on, to the infamous traffic in human flesh.
The young Franciscan and our common friend the fastidious book-lover
faded from my life as if I had known them in dreams only.
To later years belong a group of still more striking figures,
and all three belonging to French experience.
We hear in England enough and to spare about perversions to
Rome. Little is said about reversions from Romish superstition
to Protestant liberty of conscience. Yet such instances are of
frequent occurrence. In his new, most important work on
Greater Britain, [p.200-1] M. Leroy-Beaulieu
notes two deeply interesting and gratifying facts—namely, the
frequent conversions of Roman Catholics to Protestantism in
Australasia, and the comparative insignificance and stagnation of
the Romish element, our young, sturdy, healthy England of the
Antipodes being Nonconformist to the backbone. Whilst the
Salvation Army, [p.200-2] a body for which I
entertain the utmost respect, is gaining ground on every inch of
Australasian soil, our colonists will have nothing to do with
confession, tawdry ceremonial, and superstitions only becoming the
darkest of dark ages. The Salvation Army has the unmistakable,
indisputable quality of earnestness, freedom from sham. For my
part, I adore the poke bonnet and scarlet jersey. I have heard
Liszt improvise divinely, Sims Reeves sing in his apogee, the Garde
Républicaine, the finest orchestral, concerted, and individual
performances of our time. No music ravishes my ears as that of
the Salvation Army. Those hearty strains, vocal and
instrumental, heard every Sunday, never fail to stir my pulse with
purest rapture. For do they not remind me of our hardly
acquired religious liberty, the right enjoyed by every English
subject to save or damn himself as he pleases, to regard his
salvation, so-called, as purely a personal affair as that of
choosing a partner in life or a career?
It was in 1878 that I met the late Pastor Berthuel of Arbois;
there is no need to conceal this remarkable man's name, it belongs
to the history of French Protestantism. [p.201]
Not many years before the Romish Church in France had
suffered a severe blow; in her own words, had been humiliated by a
grave scandal. One of her brightest ornaments, a priest
endowed with rare intellectual and oratorical powers, announced his
intention not only of embracing the Reformed religion, but of
becoming a Protestant minister. Arguments, threats, coaxing
proved useless. Had he remained where he was, honours and
emoluments were certain to be his in due course, and now the most
tempting baits were held out. Firm as a rock, unmoved alike by
casuistry or the affectionate importunities of relations, he took up
his cross. For it must be borne in mind that whilst the
convert to Rome is fooled, to the top of his bent, the killing of
the fatted calf being insignificant beside the petting received by a
pervert, quite otherwise is it with the renunciator of tradition for
liberty of conscience. Cordially welcomed by his brethren and
co-religionists of course he is, but alas! intolerance is a weed not
as yet uprooted from French soil. In the eyes of the
Ultramontane a Protestant is still a heretic, a brand only fit for
the burning. What then must be the position of an ex-priest
turned Lutheran pastor? The défroqué for conscience'
sake is not only an accursed one, a theological castaway, a pariah
of society, he is also cut off from the domestic affections.
First to fall away from such a renegade are mother, sister, niece,
those who loved him, whose pure affection kept alive his own.
If kinsmen are less obdurate they are not always able to testify
their influence. Feminine influence is too strong.
Pastor Berthuel's case reminded me of Dr. Wilson's. The
one great struggle of his life seemed to have left him not
purposeless—he admirably fulfilled his duties—but quite unable to
take any further initiative. Protestant friends in England
invited him to London; there he would most assuredly have found
stimulus and a fitting sphere. But no, the humblest of French
pastorates, a congregation of fifty souls, chiefly peasants, a
stipend of as many pounds, with dwelling, these sufficed. He
did not look unhappy; on the contrary, there was chastened elation
in every reference to his new calling. Yet one could but feel
the inadequacy of such a position, and he must himself at times have
felt the cost of his sacrifice.
He had married a worthy Protestant lady, and a young niece
brightened their humble home. Very pleasantly he did the
honours of pretty little Arbois, showing me the exquisite Cluse
or valley of the river Cuisance, explaining here the formation of
tufa in the river bed, there its dissolution, the two processes
being observable near each other. Of the matter most
interesting to me, namely, his secession, he dropped no hint.
I learned afterwards that the confessional and its abuse had driven
him from Rome.
Pastor Berthuel died at Arbois four years ago; during his
ministry he had done more than keep the little Protestant
congregation together, adding several converts to the number.
One of these I met some years later at Champagnole.
The second ex-priest whom I have had the honour of knowing
was of quite a different calibre.
With Monsieur C— it was a revolt of commonsense rather than
of fastidious conscience. He threw up Rome and the priesthood,
sacrificing good repute, family ties, home, a livelihood, just
because reason had asserted itself. The monstrous childishness
of the tenets he was compelled to profess and inculcate, the
profound immorality of the confessional, the mockery underlying
priestly vows, all these made him ashamed of the tonsure and black
robe. Without means, without friends, without training for
active life, he burnt his boats and breasted the stream.
Poor fellow! When I made his acquaintance in Paris, he
was exercising as many trades as he counted years, the most
lucrative being that of epitaph writing! A seminarist may be
ignorant of everything else under the sun, he is bound to understand
So Monsieur C— was, so to say, put on the staff of a
monumental mason, earning a few francs here and there by wording
eulogistic epitaphs in Latin. When any person of note or
wealth died, the inscription would be pretty long, and Monsieur C—'s
emoluments in proportion.
He also had taken to himself a wife, and domestic anxieties
no more spare an ex-priest than one to the manner born.
Despite inborn gaiety of disposition and hopefulness not to be
checked by rebuffs, occasional fits of depression would overtake
him. Here is an extract from one of his letters to myself:
"Love of justice and truth, detestation of hypocrisy, induced
me to quit the Romish priesthood. Without fortune, without a
profession, ignorant of practical life and its struggle, I
nevertheless decided upon this step, confiding in my own courage and
in the uprightness of my purpose. I have undergone bitter
suffering, I have also had my intervals of joy and consolation.
The hardest part of existence is this: instead of being able to
devote myself to intellectual pursuits, to literature and
philosophy, I am compelled to run about from morning till night in
search of daily bread. I have knocked in vain at editorial
doors, I have vainly tried my hand at fiction. As a last
resource I now follow the calling of commission agent."
My third recusant from Rome needs no commiseration, rather I
should say, arouses no pensive sigh. Senor José, a young
Spaniard preparing for the ministry at Montauban, was the joyfullest
creature conceivable. He had just entered upon the Lune de
Miel of conversion, that blissful honeymoon when martyrdom for
his newly embraced creed would have been rapturously welcomed, the
rumour of a revived Inquisition, a resuscitated Torquemada on native
soil, awakened intensest delight. The mere fact of outlawry,
odium, revilings seemed contemptible drawbacks, wholly unworthy of
the occasion. Don José was spending the summer vacation under
the same roof with myself, in a pleasant French parsonage of the
Pyrenees. With what ecstasy he replaced the pastor during
temporary absence, improvising family prayers, giving long
expositions of Scripture! Delivered in the most imperfect,
strangely accented French, accompanied by unctuous personalities,
intolerably drawn out, we yet listened with the utmost patience.
Who could do otherwise? Let us hope that the fervid convert
will celebrate the Jubilee of conversion as joyfully as he has done
its initial fete! above all, that he will win a few
fellow-countrymen from their sombre mediævalism and intolerance.
Here, at least for the present, these reminiscences end.
Perhaps I cannot more fittingly close them than with the following
verses, verses in which are summed up reflections that have gone
before. No, let the Schopenhauers, the Ibsens, the Nietzches
say what they will, Life is good and wholesome. It rests with
ourselves whether it prove a curse or a benediction.
THE BRIDGE OF YEARS
Rose-garlanded, frail as if fairies wove,
Wet with the dew of all too happy tears,
Those memories of first, best, only love,
That span from youth to age our Bridge of Years.
As granite, cold, remorseless, obdurate
Alike to passionate prayer or trembling fears,
Those forces, shall we call them Chance or Fate
That sternly, slowly built our Bridge of Years.
Crystalline vault, aerial colonnade,
Such architecture as the hoarfrost rears,
Were evanescent hopes and dreams that made
Unreal, yet how fair! our Bridge of Years.
As starry path swept clean by tempest wrack,
Far off perspective of a thousand spheres,
That passing of high souls across our track,
Whose lives illuminate our Bridge of Years.
Symphonious as an aisle on Easter Day,
Or woodland avenue when the springtide nears,
Now with a requiem, now with roundelay,
Echoes from youth to age our Bridge of Years.