Selected Quotations from “At the Sign of the Ship,” 1886

January 1886

“What is the origin of this word ‘Boss’ for ‘master’ or ‘lord’? . . . .Dr. Murray’s great new dictionary [The Oxford English Dictionary] has not reached ‘Boss’ yet, or, at all events, the part containing ‘Boss’ has not yet been published. I therefore make Dr. Murray and his allies a present of ‘Boss’ as used by John Knox.” (318)

“I know not whether the American phrase, ‘to give a person away,’ to ‘give yourself away,’ meaning to reveal your own or another’s secret, is of provincial English origin. Did it cross over withe the Pilgrim Fathers in the May Flower, or is it a recent bit of slang? ‘Who giveth this woman away?’ asked the rural parson in the wedding service. ‘I could,’ came the voice of a young man from the gallery, ‘but I’d never be so mean.’ (321)

“When Mr. James Payne, some years ago, fluttered the hearts of parents by proposing literature as an open and easy profession, he did not ‘give himself away.’ He did not tell his anxious readers how to write a story. He said that they must have a story to tell. But how to get the story? That was not explained; and to this day people keep asking ‘how it is done.’ In his new novel, La Voilette Bleue (‘The Blue Veil’), M. Boisgobey shows, I think, how he does it. He seems first to imagine a striking and highly improbable situation [a duel in Notre-Dame Cathedral]. Then he ‘writes up to it.’ . . . He worked back, devised the series of events, and there lay the skeleton of the story called ‘The Blue Veil.’ That is ‘how it is done.’ And now, young authors, as the trick is so easy, go and do likewise.” (321–22)

February 1886

“Once more we find ourselves disagreeing with Edgar Poe’s dictum that all poems should be short. But it is a good rule on the whole, at least when the poet is not Lord Tennyson.” (439)

“It is never safe to recommend a book in which the supernatural or the fantastic plays a part. The admirers of Hoffmann, or of Edgar Poe, of Sheridan Le Fanu, are people naturally qualified to understand and appreciate those writers. But there must always be others to whom they do not appeal; and if you recommend ‘Uncle Silas’ or ‘The Gold Beetle’ to one of these others, he does not thank you. Therefore I do not recommend Mr. Stevenson’s new short story, ‘The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyl [sic] and Mr. Hyde’ (Longmans). I can only speak to the powerful effect it produced on myself; it seems to me a masterpiece of the terrible and grotesque, and to possess within an unobtrusive and salutary moral. It made me afraid to look round, as I read it, much as Lord Lytton’s ghost story, ‘The Haunter and the Haunted,’ affected Thackeray ‘in the public reading-room of the Pavilion Hotel, Folkestone.” (441)

“Mark Twain has reached his fiftieth year . . . . But his genius is still young, and perhaps never showed so well, with such strength and variety, such veracity and humour, as in his latest book, ‘Huckleberry Finn.’ Persons of extremely fine culture may have no taste for Mark. When he gets among pictures and holy places perhaps we all feel that he is rather an awful being. But on a Mississippi boat, or in a bar-room, or editing (without sufficient technical information) an agricultural journal, or bestriding a Celebrated Mexican Plug, or out silver-mine hunting, or on the track of Indian Joe, Mark is all himself, and the most powerful and diverting writer, I think, of his American contemporaries.” (445)

“At least as far as I am able, I am under a covenant to keep King Charles’s head and Comparative Mythology out of this budget of scraps. But it is too strong for me. In the ‘Nineteenth Century’ for December, Mr. Max Müller was showing that Maui, the great hero of New Zealand myth, was originally a solar hero, the Sun. I do not agree with him, but he did not allude to a coincidence which, while perhaps it proves nothing, is certainly very curious. . . . . [He compares the story to a story in the Rig Veda and the Brahamana.] The tales are so like in their beginning, that Mr. Max Müller, if he had thought of it, or had not thought it unscientific, might have used the parallel to support his case, that Maui is the Sun also.” (447) [Lang, though he disagrees with Müller, gives him some evidence to use.]

“There are still bargains to be had at auctions—especially on wet days.” (447)

“In England we may come to need a term for the man who is too proud and contemptuous to vote, or take any heed of party politics. But it is not fair to use ‘Mugwump’ in that sense. ‘Mugwump,’ writes an American specimen (who, like the Living Skeleton, according to Sam Waller, is ‘proud of the title’), comes from the Algonkin ‘Mugquomp,’ a great man, a leader. In Eliot’s translation of the Bible for the Red Men, ‘Mugquomp’ is used when Centurion, Duke, Leader, occur in our Authorised Version. . . . The nearest word I find to Mugwump in Brinton’s Lenâpé glossary is Mukum=a grandfather. But in hunting for it I came across one of those coincidences, so common in language, and apparently of so little significance. The Hindu word for snake is Naga, the Lenâpé word for the priest of the serpant is Nakapowa, Nako answering to Naga, and powa being the pow-wow, or conjuror of Cooper and the other novelists.” (448)

March 1886

“Matters [regarding International Copyright] cannot be much worse than they are. The Americans can get our books, and do get them, and republish them and give us nothing—that awful minus quantity, ‘nuppence’! And then a critic in the Nation (a very good New York paper, though somewhat harsh and crabbed) accuses many of our novelists of ‘getting money under false pretences.’ He does not care for our recent romances, this courteous reviewer in the Nation, and he cries out that he is being defrauded. I make him my compliments, and am reminded of the fable of the Wolf and the Lamb. ‘You trouble the stream from which I drink!’ says the Wolf; and the Lamb in vain replied that he himself drank lower down the water.

“Conceive a buccaneer of the old sort, Captain Kidd, or honest John Silver, making prize of a British barque and then finding the cargo, cottons or cutlery, not to his taste; he calls the luckless skipper to the quarter-deck, and preaches him a sermon on his commercial dishonesty, and gives him a dozen, and makes him walk the plank, and then sails away with his disappointing prize. The critic’s conduct is like that of Captain Kidd, we may reply, ‘Sir, if we obtain money on false pretences it is British specie, none of your dollars.’ The American author, too, does not enjoy the easy strategem by which our books are pilfered (by the Western or Eastern robber) ready made. Not many of his countrymen will buy his expensive novel, ‘The Philadelphians,’ when they can get Mr. Besant’s books, or Mr. Stevenson’s, for next to nothing. So the American authors have published a Round Robin, denouncing the pirates’ industry, in the most feeling and masculine language, as a national and personal disgrace. The Round Robin is signed with facsimiles of their autographs, and it is pleasant to learn that our brethren of the pen over-seas are of our mind, and give a piece of that mind, with the frankest generosity, to their country’s Legislature. We don’t steal their books ‘—much,’ as the Russian Prince says in the ‘Great Pink Pearl,’ and it neither suits the British nor the American author that our books should be stolen. How it suits the American consumer is another question. Perhaps he does not feel the national and personal disgrace quite so keenly. ” (551–52)

“Probably the most diverting of the comments by American authors on copyright were Mark Twain’s endeavours to prove that cheap foreign books are bad for American manners and American morals. Our novels establish a false ideal in the American imagination, and the result is that mysterious being ‘The Dude.’ Yet our books must have taught Americans a good deal, too, for it can nver be well for a great people to remain in ignorance of the rest of the civilised world. Dickens’s ‘American Notes’ must have been quite educational (as, perhaps, Mr. W. D. Howells would allow), but there is no reason why free education should be extended by the transfer of England’s books, for nothing, to America. That arrangement has always been, on our side, as Aristotle says about robbery, ‘an involuntary exchange.’ (553)

“Many of the readers of LONGMAN’S MAGAZINE have been good enough to interest themselves in supplying the hungry dockyard labourers with pennyworths of cheap food. It is a miserable thing that those men, so well equipped with thews and muscles and much-enduring hearts as they are, so well fitted for a full if laborious life, should be reduced to starvation. And yet all the world is open to them, or rather the pick of the world—the countries under our flag which Mr. Froude describes so pleasantly as ‘Oceana.’ There the sun (though he shines there, which he fails to do here) sees no discontented nor pinched faces, but all men work and thrive. There the day is happily divided in a threefold fashion—eight hours for sleep, eight for work, eight for play; and there, too, as in the United States, the benevolent wish of Henry IV. is fulfilled, and each man has his sufficient roast chicken and pot-au-feu. In the States, to be sure, or at least in the Eastern States, population is levelling up, or down, to the old European starvation level; but the Colonies, Australian and New Zealand, have still abundance of room for men whose capital is their strength. Yet, while we have societies to encourage and facilitate emigration, a sort of lecturers goes about denouncing emigration as cruel exile. It is not easy to understand the people who take this line. In all robust countries, from the first ver sacrum or popular migration downwards, persons of energy have gone, like the Spartan king, ‘for the lands not yet meted out,’ in our case for the fertile lands of Oceana. All ranks and classes of Englishmen go into this kind of voluntary exile, and are building an empire which will endure, whatever ills may befall the weary mother-country. Only an exceedingly ignorant or malevolent mind would seek to keep hungry men, idle perforce, from food and not exhaustive work for the mere purpose of irritating more and more the social trouble, already in a feverish condition. But any scheme of emigration which throws men on unfamiliar shores without knowledge, implements, or money, is, perhaps, worse than leaving them to linger, rather than live, outside the Docks. Alas, after all, it is said that ‘meetings of the unemployed’ are common in Australian towns!” (553–54)

April 1886

“BALLADE OF THE SOUTHERN CROSS.”

Fair islands of the silver fleece,
Hoards of unsunned, uncounted gold,
Whose havens are the haunts of Peace,
Whose boys are in our quarrel bold,
Our bolt is shot, our tale is told,
Our ship of State in storms may toss,
But we are young if we be old,
Ye Islands of the Southern Cross!

Ay, we must dwindle and decrease,
Such fates the ruthless years unfold,
And yet we shall not wholly cease,
We shall not perish unconsoled;
Nay, still shall Freedom keep her hold
Within the Sea’s inviolate fosse,
And boast her sons of English mould,
In Islands of the Southern Cross!

All empires tumble—Rome and Greece—
Their swords are rust, their altars cold!
For us, the Children of the Seas
Who rules where’er the waves have rolled,
For us, in Fortune’s books enscrolled
I read no runes of hopeless loss;
Not—while ye last—our knell is tolled,
Ye Islands of the Southern Cross!

ENVOY.

Britannia, when they hearth’s acold,
When o’er thy grave has grown the moss,
Still Rule Australia shall be tolled
In Islands of the Southern Cross. (659–60)

“An impious undergraduate once asserted, in an Essay for Professor T. H. Green, that ‘nobody was ever converted except prizefighters and captains in the Army.’ This sweeping statement was inaccurate, and I would fain invite the Society [for Psychical Research] to examine the psychical condition of converts. We all know, though not perhaps from original sources, that the early Christian catechumens suffered terribly from visions. The instance of St. Anthony is familiar. Most persons have seen pictures in which St. Anthony is being ‘tempted’ by various fiends, some masquerading as three-headed lions, others as alligators with two tails, and one, the most fatal, as a pretty young lady. St. Anthony’s virtue was too strong for the two-tailed alligator; indeed, I cannot see how that animal, with his companions, could be other than a little unenticing. Was St. Anthony tempted to return to the world, in the character of a moral showman, with a menagerie of interesting zoological novelties?” (660–61)

“[T]he Zulu catechumens were disturbed in their prayers by threatening apparitions of wild beasts and of armed men, which tried to drive them from their devotions. They fared, in fact, like Christian, through the Valley of the Shadow, sore buffeted by Apollyon. In that strange passage, Bunyan, describing his own psychical adventures, describes literally the struggle of the Zulu baptised. Bishop Callaway especially notices the resemblance between the complaints of his flock and what we read of in ‘Lives of the Saints.’ It is to be presumed, therefore, that there is some peculiar psychical condition which produces the same effects in people so widely severed as St. Anthony and the people of Cetewayo.

“All this appears purely subjective; but what are we to say when the temptations, or rather disturbances, that vex the convert make themselves manifest to other observers? Here is the real puzzle for our psychical masters. There is a very good example of what I mean in a book by an old Sapnish voyager, ‘The Travels of Cieza de Leon’ (Hakluyt Society, 1864). . . . Of course Cieza de Leon was a most credulous person where devils were concerned; but the interesting point is that his devils behaved so much like those which vexed St. Anthony and the Zulus and the Wesleys. The advantages of historical psychical research over the research for mesmeric housemaids and young female thought-readers are obvious. History is more amusing and scholarly” (661–62).

“When shall we have a metorologico-literary Bureau?’ Mr. Howells asks, in Harper’s Magazine. When, that is, shall we have literary ‘forecasts,’ like weather forecasts, prophesying, not depression, but expression, moving from east, west, north, or south? When will man’s knowledge of human nature be minute enough to enable him to predict the advent of a new novelist or poet? The Spectator has made a good many ‘shots,’ mostly wrong, in its time. We certainly need a new poet extremely; the old are excellent, but we cannot expect them to write for ever. Even versifiers are rare; at least, happy and pleasant versifiers, for the gloomy sort we count by myriads.” (663)

May 1886

“Now it is obvious to every student of the subject, that the classes which most desire to limit property are most active, where population is concerned, in unlimited addition” (105).

“To Comrade Karl Marx, and Comrade Champion, and all the Comrades, one may say what Aristotle said to Comrade Plato, ‘Such legislation’ (for equality in property) ‘may have a specious appearance of benevolence; men readily listen to it, and are easily induced to believe that in some wonderful manner everybody will become everybody’s friend, especially when someone’ (Comrade Plato, I fear) ‘is heard denouncing the evils now existing in States . . . which are said to arise out of the possession of private property. These evils, however, are due to a very different cause—the wickedness of human nature.’ Or, let us say, to Human Nature without the wickedness. Nor can the ideal Republic, the industrial New Jerusalem of one of the characters in Mr. Besant’s ‘Children of Gibeon,’ come down from heaven like a bride, till Human nature is altered. To be sure the starving Fuegians are all equally badly off, and if one man gets a blanket the tribe divides it into equal rags on the spot, and on First Principles. But then that communistic condition is not ideally delightful, and implies equality of starvation. To such a state, however, a system of equal and common property would necessarily reduce the boasted Aryan race, and thus our descendants would struggle out of it into civilisation again, and so on, da capo. But probably Human Nature will be too strong for this return to Fuegian economics. ‘How immeasurably greater,’ says Aristotle, ‘is the pleasure when a man feels a thing to be his own, for the love of Self is a feeling implanted by Nature, and not given in vain.’ (106)

“[T]he Border angler of scanty means must soon make his choice between a limited protection, in his own interests, or no fishing at all. His liberal instincts make him detest even limited preserving; his love of honest sport should draw him the other way. But, as I read in that excellent journal the Fishing Gazette, there is an agitation on the Border against all preserving of trout streams. It is in vain pointed out that the preserved portions (like the three miles of Ettrick which flow near the Duke of Buccleuch’s house of Bowhill) are a kind of sanctuary for the almost extinct trout, whence, if over-populated, he may emigrate into the open water. ‘Remove these feeders, and throw Tweed and Teviot open from source to mouth, and I am certain that in twenty-five years the fishing would be at an end.’ So writes Mr. Tod in the Fishing Gazette, and his contention is literally true. Twenty years ago it was easy to catch a noble dish of trout within two miles of most Border towns. Now it is exceedingly difficult to do so, even in waters twenty miles from any town, and the change is mainly produced by unfair fishing with nets and poisons” (111)

“But what are our big trout to those of New Zealand, running from 5 lb. to 24 lb.? Who would not emigrate?” (111)

June 1886

“‘What does the People think?’ It is a question of the very highest importance in our new Democracy, though perhaps ‘What ought the People to think?’ and ‘How are they to be brought to think it?’ are questions more important still. Far be it from me to try to solve any of these problems; but the best, way, perhaps to find out what the People is thinking is not to go round on the box-seats of omnibuses, and ‘pump’ the drivers. This, however, is not an uncommon plan among gentry whose minds are inquiring, and whose leisure is considerable. One of these inquisitors lately met a rebuff; for, when he had carefully led up to his favourite topics; the honest driver of the frugal ‘bus observed: ‘Well, sir, there’s two subjects that are too many for me. I just leave them alone—that’s Politics and Religion.’ We leave them alone, like the driver, in these disjointed chats, and are more concerned to know ‘what the People think’ about the pictures of the year. Politics apart (would that they could be sent to Saturn with Political Economy, or that they would go where the Services are going!)—politics aside, it is Art that we prattle of mostly in May” (218)

“To do Painting justice, she is much more flourishing than Poetry, though that is not saying very much.” (218)

“How happy it would be if Literature displayed equal vitality! But we look in vain for such a cluster of young men of talent and promise in literature. As to Poetry, who can name a bard under thirty-five (we might put it higher) who is even readable? Eagerly, with the undying gift of hope, we look throught he crowds and multitudes of new volumes of poetry. All the land is barren, from Dan even to Beersheba. Feebleness, platitude, imitation, these things are the main of our staple verse:—of the work that answers in rank to the essays in painting of our least famous artists” (219)

“These little things [Pinkerton’s poems] are very good in their way. The right thing, the usual thing, for criticism to do now, is to ask the author for something grand, and moral, and passionate, and human. When he has done his best to please criticism, it is then customary to ask why he does not give us his little Venetian barcarolles, in which he is really accomplished? Every writer in verse who is heart at all is treated in this divertingly consistent manner. Nor is the versifier alone in his misfortune. The notable recipe for all critical writing is to complain of the work under review, because it is not something else, in which case, ah then, it would be excellent.

*          *

*

“‘Enough, said Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia, ‘thou hast convinced me that no human being can ever be a poet.’” (220–21)

“Now it is my private sorrow that I possess ‘The Angler’s Delight,’ with the title-page of the Hackney River, and the title-page of the Hackney River without the treatise on that subject. . . . Has any reader of LONGMAN’S MAGAZINE got the Hackney River tract, with the title-page of ‘The Angler’s Delight’? If so, a perfect copy may be made out of these scattered fragments, and we can toss for its possession. My copy is marked ‘Unique with this title. £8 15.’ Unique indeed, but none the more desirable.” (222)

“The spiritual destitution of the Osages in the Far West is really lamentable. According to Pawnee Bill, who knows them well, they think their dead cannot rest quietly unless a scalp is laid on the grave. When an Osage chief dies, ten or twelve young braves go out ‘to get him hair,’ and (like the Jews who wanted to kill St. Paul) they take a vow not to eat till they get hair. But the United States has set its fiat against scalping, so these poor Osages are driven to bribe people to let their hair be shorn, without the full and uncomfortable operation of scalping. Here the difficulty begins. People don’t mind selling their hair for two or three ponies (not 25l., but actual ponies), but they do object to entrusting their head and a sharp knife to a hungry Osage. He might be carried away by his religious emotions, and do the old-fashioned scalp, instead of the ritual survival, the mere hair-cutting business. John M’Laskey lately met Osages who had fasted for five days, and offered three ponies for his hair, but holders were firm, and would not part at the quoted price. They soon pounced on a Pawnee, and shore off his black braids without paying anything. This nearly led to a war between the Osages and the Pawnees. The religious condition of the Osages and their endeavour to do the best they can for the ghosts of their kinsfolk are extremely touching. Would that in our more enlightened sphere we were as conscientious and devoted as the benighted Osages!” (222)

“Is it a fact that bookworms (the reptile, not the student) prefer dark-coloured ‘end papers’? A correspondent in Lima, Peru, writes that he lately overhauled some modern books, long shut up, and found, almost in Edgar Poe’s words, that ‘the play is the tragedy, book, and the hero—the Conqueror Worm.’ The worm begins his attack close to the binding (attracted, doubtless, by the paste, and eats his way through. He prefers dark to light, and unglazed to glazed, papers; yellow glazed papers your worm detests, and books in these end papers had entirely escaped. Unluckily, dark papers are much more agreeable for the eye; yellow glazed papers are unpleasant to see or touch, and the worm is likely to benefit by the coincidence between his tastes and those of men and women.” (224)

July 1886

“Not many novels ‘with a purpose’ do anything toward achieving their unæstethic aim, but Mr. Besant’s novel has already gone very near to endowing East London with a Palace of Pleasure. That was what his heroine succeeded in doing in the romance; that, we hope, is what will be accomplished in reality. . . . For almost the first time, if not the very first, it has been recognised that man needs something more than bread to make life worth living, something more than elementary education to make a mind a thing worth having. Into the sordid and monotonous life of the East-end, this scheme of the People’s Palace of Pleasure hopes to introduce a little enjoyment. Our dreadful modern habit of herding in huge cities deprives existence of all that used to be enjoyable. In our great-grandfather’s time the fields, and air, and nature were close at hand. Keats’s Ode to the Nightingale was written where the barrel-organ now brings the only ‘wood-notes wild.’ . . . . The pleasures of the urban poor must be urban, and should be something better than beer, gin, betting, pigeon-fancying, and personal violence. In the Palace of Pleasure they will find swimming baths—which the poorest Parisian can enjoy, and for want of which we have lost the right to sneer at the dingy foreigner. He is a man who often bathes, and where are most of our labouring classes to bathe in the present state of London? If nothing but baths were provided by this new endowment, it would already be in the way to make a a healthy little social revolution. But it will also give people a better club than the pot-house; it will give them reading-rooms, and books, and papers, and society, and music, and pictures, and instruction in the arts, and the handicrafts which border on art. All these things, even if hey were carried to an ideal perfection, would not make the East-end, nor the West-end, a place where a man would willingly live in who had been ‘breathed on by the rural Pan.’ But Pan seems only to breathe on a few people now, and the rest will be made sensibly happier, gentler, kinder, and wiser, by finding some relief from the monotonies of toil and dissipation. The Palace should be, and let us hope will be, a little island of light in the ‘City of Dreadful Night,’ as the pessimist poet Thomson . . . called the metropolis. . . .Miss Tennant, in her explorations of the life of the London street boy, found that he could not play games: he had forgotten the rules, and his character lacked the necessary discipline. Think of the state of a nation whose populace have not the good temper and fairness to play games—games which the Lydians invented to distract their minds from the lack of dinner during a famine! The People’s Palace, one trusts, will supply a little of this neglected kind of education. I hope its grounds will have room for football. It will not settle the Social Question; it will not have any effect on Politics; but it takes a step in the direction of recognising, with Aristotle, that not life, but an enjoyable life, is the thing to be aimed at in every community of Men.” (330–31)

“M. Zola is not a sporting character. In one of his novels, however, which I prefer not to introduce more particularly to a British audience, he brings in the game of crosse, which is not the same as our la crosse. . . .What a pity that M. Zola, instead of wasting his talents on novels, does not give us a volume on la crosse, with the rules and directions for playing! (332, 333)

from GHOSTS IN THE LIBRARY

“The great Napoleon lays his hand
Upon this eagle-headed N,
That marks for his a pamphlet banned
By all but scandal-loving men,—
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Another shade—he does not see
‘Boney,’ the foeman of his race—
The great Sir Walter, this is he
With that grave homely Border face.
He claims his poem of the chase
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Ah, and with those, a hundred more,
Whose names, whose deeds, are quite forgot:
Brave ‘Smiths’ and ‘Thompsons’ by the score,
Scrawled upon many a shabby ‘lot.’
This playbook was the joy of Pott[1]
Pott, for whom now no mortal grieves.
Our names, like his, remembered not,
Like his, shall flutter on fly-leaves! (333, 334, 335)

“If ever a note may be made of a good old book revived, and brought within reach of men, Dr. Brinsley Nicholson’s new edition of Reginald Scot’s ‘Discovery of Witchcraft’ deserves that note. The book is a portly small quarto, beautifully printed on excellent paper, and as there are only 250 copies, buyers should be ready with their brace of guineas. Writing in 1584, Reginald Scot dedicated his work to his kinsman, Sir Thomas Scot, knight, ‘I being of your house, of your name, and of your bloud; my foot being under your table, my hand in your dish, or rather in your purrse.’ Scot saw ‘manie poor old women convented before you for working of miracles,’ and it is for these poor old women that he had the courage to speak, under that Christian Cetewayo, James I. The author no more believes in witchcraft than the author of that delightful essay in the Spectator about Sir Roger de Coverly and the Coverly witch. Scot notes the absurdity of the charages on which the old ladies were condemned and the ease with which ludicrous confessions were extorted. ‘She said she would be even with me; and soon after my child, my son, my sow, and my pullet died, or was strangely taken.’ ‘Writers are not ashamed to say, that it is not absurd to affirm that there were no witches in Job’s time.’ The proof is that, if there had been witches, ‘Job would have said he had beene bewitched.’ . . . . These are only the beginnings of good Reginald’s argument, and, except for rural voters in some southern counties) we all agree with him. Where he is still invaluable is for his mass of learning, his stories of ghosts, were-wolves, warlocks, his myths, his great hortus siccus, gathered in a thousand queer nooks, of nightshade and the witch’s belladonna. Here is matter for every curious reader, and I would as lief pass a month with Reginald Scot of the ‘Discovery,’ as with Burton of the ‘Anatomy.’ He has wisdom, wit, and such a stock of bogies as might keep the Psychical Society happy and in funds for a century” (336).

[1] “‘The little old foxed Molière,’ once the property of William Pott, unknown to fame.” [Lang wrote this and nine other footnotes in which he traces the ownership of famous old books.]

August 1886

“Mr. Stevenson’s new book [Kidnapped]—which these eyes have been privileged to see in proof—is in some ways his best. The material is inferior to that of ‘Treasure Island’—is not that common yet eternal stuff of romance which counts for so much in the interest and charm of the older story; nor have the adventures of David Balfour that element of plot which attaches us so closely to the study of Jim Hawkins and Long John. But the whole thing is full of delightful invention, and is touched, besides, with a humanity which I do not think that Mr. Stevenson has ever realised before.” (454)

“After a month nearly vitrified by the heat of the weather and the ardour of politics, an inconsecutive writer naturally looks about for some questions that are not blazing. . . . A cool unexciting topic, especially in August, seemed to be the future of the British Novel. Mr. Shand has been discoursing of this in the Fortnightly Review. One need not accept all his facts and all his conclusions: for example, there is not a definite, certain twopence of profit on a shilling novel. One shilling novel differs from another in magnitude. One may contain a hundred and seventy widely printed pages, another may hold two hundred and thirty pages of closely printed matter. It is evident that the expenses of the former will be much smaller, and the profits, supposing sales equal, proportionately greater.” (455)

“Without accepting all Mr. Shand’s views, then, it may be granted that ‘the novel business’ is not in the best possible condition. To the young gentleman or lady about to commence novelist one would whisper ‘Beware!’ and counsel some attention to statistics. . . . without going into figures too invidiously, contrast the probable income of the most successful living novelist with the income of a dull, plodding man who is in good practice at the Bar. The money balance is all against the bright romanticist, even at his best. The chances that any beginner will ever reach the foremost rank are almost incalculably adverse. And even in the foremost rank the profits are scanty, in comparison with the rewards of other professions. Why, in fiction, there are not half a dozen such good things as a county court judgeship or an inspectorship of schools.” (455, 456)

“We hear of fortunes made in France by novelists like M. Zola and M. Daudet. Why is similar luck so very, very rare in England? Why do M. Zola and M. Daudet do so much better than our Englishman of letters, like Mr. Trollope, who was also a man of business. This is a mystery. No economist has fathomed it. Certainly the French system of publishing novels is infinitely more simple than the English system. Novels are usually sold in one volume, at a price rather over half-a-crown, say three-and-sixpence, adding the expense for a plain binding. Of this half-crown the author receives a royalty–fourpence, or fivepence, or only twopence, according to his popularity and the demand for his books. . . . on the whole, it will appear that a successful French novelist has rather a profitable business. . . . But though the facts are patent, no one has yet discovered who buy the eighty thousand or one hundred and twenty thousand copies of ‘Sappho’ or ‘Serge Panine.’ I never saw a Frenchman buy a novel at a railway station, or read anything but a newspaper. This, then, is the great mystery. But it is certain that their half-crown books do sell, somehow, and it is certain that the British novel’s sale is limited to the brief and accidental demand of the circulating libraries. Mr. Mudie is at the bottom of our English woes–Mr. Mudie and the conventional price of thirty-one shillings and sixpence for the conventional three volumes. Mr. Shand thinks that, if publishers could agree and combine, and, above all, if fictitious trash were not published at the author’s expense, then we might have a system of cheap novels like the French, of novels with a large sale. I doubt it. . . .” (456–57)

“Successes are very rare indeed, and we all envy them, but Bre’r Fox, in a modern literary fable, might ‘allow’ with some truth that the grapes are often sour. It would be easy to write a lament on the Sorrows of a Success. A young man makes a hit in literature, and his name, yesterday unknown, is to-day in every one’s moth, and in the Morning Post among those who attend the banquets and participate in the caresses of the Great. How very jolly we think; all we toilers and spinners, hewers of wood and drawers of water, the Children of Gibeon of Literature! But it is not all jollity. To be envied, and begrudged, and censured, to have a hundred people declaring that you went up like a rocket and will come down like the stick, is exceedingly irksome. I can conceive no position more anxious than that of the author who, having once scaled the peaks of success, is attempting a second flight. He knows very well what is being prophesied about him by his rivals, and he knows that those predictions, like the threats and ill words of witches, have a trick of seeming their own fulfilment. This consciousness interferes with the freedom of his powers in working. In an amusing little tract, ‘Hints on Golf,’ Mr. Horace Hutchinson mentions that you can put a player offf his play by remarking, ‘How very unusually well you are making your iron strokes just now! Can you account for it in any way?’ . . . . Now, the consciousness of unfriendly, jealous watchers may, or must, affect the writing of a successful beginner, still all in a flutter at the march of his own triumph. He knows what people are saying. They say that his book was a ‘fluke,’ that he hit on a happy thought and cannot recover such another, that he just happened to seize a topic which was coming into fashion; they say he is overrated, they speak about a tour de force, and forget that ne faict ce tour que veult. They also insinuate that the whole story, or the best of it, was old, and has been stolen, or borrowed, and they imply that they could do as well were they not too honest to borrow. I hardly remember a recent success which has not been denounced as a tissue of borrowings. It is odd that when borrowing is so easy and profitable we do not all convert ourselves from jays to peacocks.” (458)*

*Commentary: This seems to be a comment on Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines. It is also interesting to note that Lang was reading She in July, according to a July 22 letter cited by D. S. Higgins in Rider Haggard: A Biography (New York: Stein and Day, 1981), p. 101. On the same page, Higgins writes a short summary of some of the comments on Haggard in the popular press in the summer of 1886, mentioning C. Welsh and F. Faithfull Begg’s source hunting in regards to King Solomon’s Mines, and Haggard’s July 10 response in the Athenaeum. Higgins does not mention the Ella Hepworth Dixon’s continuation of the plagiarism debate on July 19 (Hepworth Dixon claimed that Haggard, who had used publication dates as proof that he could have borrowed from “The Kilima-Njaro Expedition,” did not have strong evidence since “The Kilima-Njaro Expedition” first came out serially in the Daily Telegraph, not in book form. Haggard was incensed, writing, “I distinctly said that I had not read the [Kilimanjaro Expedition], and that I had not taken the incident of the white legs therefrom. Miss Hepworth Dixon, however, with great vigour and directness pointedly traverses my statement. Now this is a very strong step, and one which would not be taken by one gentleman towards another without the clearest proof and the strongest and most convincing reasons.” It is indeed unlikely that some of the charges of plagiarism regarding King Solomon’s Mines and She were accurate. Haggard got into more trouble over Jess and Allen Quatermain. See Higgins, pp. 111–12, 116–17. See also Lang’s later “Literary Plagiarism” in the June 1887 Contemporary Review and James Runciman’s “King Plagiarism and his Court” in the March 1890 Fortnightly Review.)

September 1886

“Everyone has noticed that where we say ‘to take French leave’ the French say s’en aller à l’anglaise, while both mean ‘to go off without taking leave at all.’ This is only one example of the traits which nations attribute to their neighbors out of mere prejudice. Thus the Eskimo are so called because, in the tongue of the Indian tribes hard by, the word means ‘eaters of raw flesh.’ Probably those disdainful Indians have not themselves at all times been very particular about cooking, and probably the Eskimo are no worse cooks than their censors” (566).

“Here is a good Polish proverb: ‘The Italian invents a thing, the Frenchman makes it, the German sells it, the fool of a Pole buys it, and the Russian takes it from him by force.’ In settling a new country, ‘the Spaniard builds a church, the Frenchman, a barrack, the Dutchman a factory, the Briton a public-house,’ and, one may add, the Yankee a newspaper office” (567)

“The stage, like every other department of human activity, has its folklores and its traditional superstitions. I dare say even Cabinet Ministers have their little mystic observances and apprehensions of doing or saying unlucky things. Probably the folklore of the stage is very rich. The following examples are curious: I hope they are accurate; if not probably they will be corrected:—

  1. The Ghost. ‘The ghost walks,’ according to some writers, when salaries are paid regularly, according to others, when they are not. Whose ghost is this, and why?
  2. ‘It is unlucky to put up an umbrella on the stage.’ . . . .
  3. It is unlucky, in rehearsal, to pronounce the ‘tag,’ or final remark to the house. . . .”
  4. A black cat running across the stage is lucky.
  5. There are ‘mascottes’—people who cannot act, but who bring good luck to a company. There are also Jonahs, excellent actors, but conductors of bad luck; with them no artist will act.” (571–72)

October 1886

“I have always envied the writers who begin their essays by telling the public where, and in what circumstances, they are writing. One moralist, for example, was sitting on a corncrib, using his horse’s head for a desk, or was he sitting on his horse’s head, using a corncrib for a desk? Another author, vir doctissimus et amicus meus, as the old commentators say, generally starts thus: ‘I am reclining on my back on an ancient British barrow, witha palæolithic axe in my hand. Who shaped, in what dim ages, this venerable weapon, which I have just rescued from the road-mender?’ And then off he goes into the days ‘when wild in woods the noble Marquis ran,’ or the ancestor, at least, of the noble Marquis. If such anecdotes interest the public, it may be pleased to hear that I am lying, in a very uncomfortable attitude, on a pebbly seashore, surrounded by flints which would have been of untold value to Mr. Grant Allen’s palæolithic acquaintances. The British public, in costumes of astonishing exiguity, is marching past me into the embraces of the deep. Enthusiasts are playing tennis on the sands with balls which do not bound. Children are building sand-houses, just as Homer says they did on the Ægean, and the tide comes up and swallows them as lightly as Apollo swept down the rampart of the Achæans. The newspapers, the only literature of ‘the littoral,’ are full of wars and roomers of war. MM. Porthos, Athos, and Aramis, disguised as Bulgarians, have spirited away Prince Alexander from his uncomfortable throne, and he has disappeared into space. All this is actual, to-day; when these lines are published all will be ancient history, like that of Mr. Grant Allen’s flint-chippers ” (672).

“A person of the highest eminence in letters and learning once observed to me that he considered Art Criticism the lowest depth to which civilised man is capable of sinking. I would not go that length, but, on the other hand, I cannot regard the inditing of remarks on the picture galleries as a mission of unusual sanctity. ‘Who sweeps a room’ in the proper spirit ‘makes that and the labour fine,’ and, of course, a writer on modern pictures, in the newspapers, ought to be conscientious, careful, and very modest. Not being a painter himself, the critic should at least remember, in Turner’s words, ‘how difficult it is,’ and how much earnest attention and patient labour go to the picture which he judges at a glance” (673)

“I don’t think it would be a good thing if all art critics were artists. It is not found to work well, in some other branches of art. For example, many authors of plays are critics of plays, and yet this state of things causes dissatisfaction. . . . A dramatic critic who is also a dramatic writer has temptations to please managers and actors on whose favour his fortune hangs, and to help or hinder rivals in his own art, which do not beset the critic who is not a dramatic writer. Of course these temptations may be and doubtless are overcome, but it would be better if they did not exist. This is a peculiar case, but I don’t know that we like poetry to be criticised by contemporary poets. It is not always agreeable (though always instructive) to read Mr. Swinburne on Lord Tennyson. We do not expect to read Lord Tennyson or Mr. Browning on Mr. Swinburne, and it is better that they should be silent. The mere versifier, of course, who does not even dream of being an equal or a rival of these great men, may review them as he pleases.

“The emulousness of the artist cannot enter into his estimate. The versifier is merely an amateur. In the same way the amateur in painting may very well play the critic. He has had the education, or some of the education, of the painter. He does not write ‘in blind and naked ignorance.’ . . . . But the professional painter, surely, should abstain from publicly judging the work of his contemporaries. If he be successful, he has as little time as inclination to air his ideas in the papers. If he is unsuccessful, why, then he justifies the epigram of Balzac and Lord Beaconsfield, the saying that the critics are ‘the fellows who have failed.’ He will certainly be thought to carery the bitterness of failure into his verdicts. I know not, for example, whether Mr. Quilter (whose critical remarks are always original and genuine, even when unconciliatory) is a successful painter, or not so successful. In the former case we must admire the disinterested self-denial which impels him to devote to criticism his valuable hours. In the latter case—but it would ungracious to inspect the horn of this dilemma.” (674)

“The truth about ordinary art criticism as practiced in the newspapers is that it scarcely pretends to be criticism at all. The very conditions of its existence make genuine criticism impossible. Two thousand works of art cannot be appraised in ten columns of a newspaper. They can only be ‘noticed.’ No human being would call similar notice of two thousand poems, novels, and histories ‘criticism.’ A column or more is devoted to a new book of merit, but half the Grosvenor Gallery is disposed of in the same space. . . . the art critic of the newspapers is really rather busy with description than with solemn verdicts. His modest function is to supply news, to impress the public as to what they will find in the galleries. He may also offer a causerie suggested by the subjects and treatment of the paintings and sculptures. But he does not, or should not, pretend much to dogmatise. He is not, as a rule, the oice of professional opinion. He merely expresses the views of the educated public, of the public which cares for literature and art, and which is tolerably well versed in what men have done with colour, and clay, and marble. This may be a humble function, but if honourably discharged it is harmless, and may be even amusing. Spectators may be led to smile at the pictures most worthy of their attention in the vast crowd of the galleries” (674)

“It is certain that art critics, like reviewers of novels and poetry, reach a queer diversity of conclusions. but the diversity would not be less bewildering if no man was allowed to write on art who was not an artist.” (675)

November 1886

“Is there, or was there ever, any such thing as genius? This question has provoked a comfortable little discussion among American men of letters. Mr. W. D. Howells appears to think that there is no such thing as genus, or at least that there is none at present. Mr. Artemus Ward himself once remarked that nobody was going around wearing the mantle of Shakespeare ‘to any extent,’ and, so far, we may perhaps all agree with him and Mr. Howells. But on the general topic, as to the existence of genius (literary genius especially) there is room for doubt. Mr. E.C. Stedman, the American critic, does believe in the existence of genius. In the New Princeton Review he argues against a doctrine which Mr. Howells seems to think grateful and comforting. As far as I understand the controversy, I am on the side of Mr. Steman. Mr. Howells’ doctrine appears to be that what we commonly call genius (as in the case of Thackeray, Coleridge, and so far—the examples are my own) is merely a higher degree of industrious intelligence, such as we admire in various men of letters. Perhaps this may be an impregnable position, but it defends too wide a space of ground. . . . ordinary men do make a distinction of kind between . . . genius and intelligent application.

“Old philosophers recognised the distinction. We are all familiar with Plato’s theory of a’a divine madness’ or inspiration. This was but another word for that surprising power of rising above everything familiar and expected into the realm of new creations, which we call genius in literature. Thackeray felt it when he astonished himself by the scene between Becky, Rawdon, and Lord Steyne, in Curzon Street. Wordsworth shoed the same inspiration (probably without astonishing himself in the least) in the moments ‘when Nature seems to take the pen out of his hand, and to write for him.’ Genius, in Wordsworth’s case, was emphatically a wind that bloweth where it listeth. It is easy to discriminate the inspired passages of Tintern Abbey from the passages which are mere flat moralising of William Wordsworth, deeply and undesirably self-conscious of his own peculiar moral merits as a lover of Nature. But all these examples of genius, and any otehrs which might be given, are not, after all, arguments. They are only statements of personal impressions. What are we to say to a disputant who sees nothing in the Becky scene that any ordinary novelist might not have written, or who thinks that Tintern Abbey is all on one level of excellence? There is really no standard but ‘as the man of taste may determine,’ and how are we to take a plébiscite of men of taste? One may have an impression that, on this topic, they agree with Mr. Stedman, and think the opinions of Mr. Howells an interesting paradox. But we cannot decide the cause, and can only console ourselves with the old comfortable saw, Securus judicat orbis terrarum.” (105–106)*

*Commentary: The whole world judges right. Lang is quoting John Henry Newman (who is quoting Augustine) in Apologia pro vita sua, Newman wrote of the Latin sentence: “Who can account for the impressions which are made on him? For a mere sentence, the words of St. Augustine, struck me with a power which I had never felt from any words before” (“History of my Religious Opinions from 1839 to 1841”). 

“It is not uncomplimentary to the Celtic spirit, I hope, to say that the Celtic spirit is a little impracticable. ‘They don’t know what they want, and they won’t be satisfied till they get it,’ said an Irish orator of his countrymen. This is the aspiring temper, incapable of yielding to circumstances, which Mr. Matthew Arnold calls ‘Titanic’ when it exhibits itself in literature. . . . Land cultivated in a certain fashion, that is in small lots, does not pay in some places. A Teuton would therefore give up his farm. But the Celt won’t; he just stops there.

“A few weeks ago I had the chance to see a very wretched sight, a Highland eviction, which illustrated these Titanic Celtic qualities.

“It was a very wet afternoon, and I was walking along Strathwhacket (let us call it), in conversation with a charming old Highlander. He carried my rod and creel (empty), but his conversation was as good as any one is likely to find anywhere. . . .

“An Englishman would have perhaps thought it as well to leave a farm which he could not make profitable, when he had money and stock. But the Celtic tenant simply declined to leave, in spite of many requests and warnings. The burning of his house, it was said, was an example of trop de zèle on the part of the Messenger at Arms, who exceeded his instructions. It was certainly a miserable and ill-advised action. But,  as we slowly climbed the hill, and saw the smoke clinging to the valley, and saw the blackened beams of an old family home, we seemed to discern the differences between our races and the Celtic peoples. We have lost the old poetical beliefs, the Taishtaragh [second sight] and the rest of it. No English beater nor under-keeper (except Kingsley’s poet of gamekeeping life) could have talked as that old gillie talked, an unschooled man, to whom English was a foreign tongue, half learned. History was tradition to him, a living oral legend. But we can recognise the nature and pressure of facts, without which sad knowledge society would revert into barbarism in a fortnight.” (107–109)

December 1886

“Lately we have heard enough from people of ‘a delicate morality, stap me,’ about the mystery of Log-Rolling. This meaningless term seems merely to denote the Puff Mutual. A man puffs his friend’s or accomplice’s books on the understood condition that they shall puff his. The people who do this belong to Mutual Admiration Societies. They also combine to denounce the books of persons who are not of their set. This appears to be a fair description of the vice of Log-Rolling. As one not unacquainted with the handicraft of reviewing, I may humbly remark that I don’t believe in the conspiracy. I do not believe that there are three men in England so mean as to praise a book for the purpose of being praised themselves. On the other hand it is perfectly true, and long may it be so, that men of similar literary tastes and knowledge of the same topics will drift together and become friends in Apollo, and praise each other’s work when they think it deserves praise. It has always been so, and always will be so. Virgil and Horace were members of a Mutual Admiration Society of this kind, and were reviled by Messrs. Vavius and Maevius.” (216–217)

“In all literary times it has been the same. Swift, Arbuthnot, and Pope were a Mutual Admiration Society, and Grub Street did not like them; so were Johnson, and Goldsmith, and Bozzy, and Reynolds; so were Ronsard, and Joachim du Belly, and Remy Belleau; so were Moliére, and Boileau, and Racine, at one time, and Boursault and De Visé, and Cotin and Chapelain compained. A Mutual Admiration Society was the famed Romantic cénacle, and, if they all praised Hugo, they did not ‘log roll’—it was not mutual—Hugo never said a word for George Sand, she remarks, though George Sand said so many for him. If young Mr. Tennyson, if young Mr. Keats were favourably reviewed in their early time, who reviewed them? Mr. Arthur Hallam and Mr. Leigh Hunt, their familiar friends. Among little people as well as great the rule will hold, and comrades in literature will praise each other to-day as much more famous people have done before. But if the praise they give is undeserved and conferred in ignorance, then they are indeed to blame. For what business has any man to comment on a matter in which he is not competent? Away with him, even if his motive be mere ignorant kindness of heart.

*       *

*

“It seems a hard thing to me, then, if one man of letters may not criticise another favourably because that other is his friend. As a rule, he does not admire him because he is his friend; on the other hand, he sought his friendship because he admired him. As an aged reviewer, I can say, for one, that the most enthusiastic , not to say gushing, reviews I have ever written, were notices of the work of men whom I had never seen nor corresponded with, and who never wrote a review in their lives. If the writers became my friends later, am I therefore bound to be silent when I think their new performances demand admiration? (217)

“Let us take another case. What is a Reviewer to do when his friend has written a bad book, or a book that seems bad to the critic? Apparently the moralists who think the Reviewer is never to praise his friends when they do well, hold that he is bound in honour to censure them when they do ill. This friendship is too like the conduct of the typical Roman Father, who was always sending his sons to the Lictors. If a Reviwer finds that his friend’s book desrves censure, I think his conduct will be guided, in Aristotelian phrase, by the ‘how much’ and the ‘how.’ If he knows that his friend can stand it, he may publish a courteous and temperate critical remonstrance. But if the case calls for more than tha, he will not set up a bawl of ‘impostor,’ ‘charlatan,’ ‘ignoramus,’ and so forth, he will merely be silent. All ill-doing does not deserve ‘exposure,’ still less exposure by a friend. . . . If exposure must needs come, let it come from an indifferent person. There is no lack of critics in the world; let them do their duty. Magna est veritas, to be sure, but let other people, not friends of the sinner, serve her cause in such an instance. A friend is not greater than the Truth, but all truths are not good to tell by all persons. There is nothing false nor perjured in a disapproving silence.” (217–18)

“The converse of this rule in the Ethics of Reviewing is, that one should never criticise a personal enemy, in the field of the arts or letters. Who is so certain of his literary virtue that he can promise himself to be wholly free from a hostile personal animus? You persuade yourself that you are only discharging a public duty. Some day, perchance, your conscience will till you that hatred, not fair indignation, was your motive. Or perhaps your conscience will never tell you so, and yet the charge may be true.” (218)

“These rules may seem too lenient, but we do not live in a world where every man is bound to execute abstract justice. There is a certain scriptural caution against judging—a critic’s profession is to judge, but no necessity is laid on him to judge everybody. I cannot see why he should not praise a friend, above all in cases where, perhaps, he is one of the very few practised and competent judges of that friend’s special knowledge and performances. I see many reasons why he should no more trounce a friend than an enemy. Is it not plain that if all reviews were signed, this talk of ‘log-rolling’ would be deprived of any justification? I do not mean to say that there is no such thing as a tempered log-rolling. If I want a thoroughly fair estimate of the work of Jones, who writes statedly in the Lounger, and who is always reviewed in the Lounger the week that his new book is published, why, I go to some other organ of criticism. In the same way, if I wish to know what is a just estimate of Tomkins’s work, I don’t consult the Street (a journal of the Market and the State), to which Tomkins was once dear, but which now dislikes him for some reason. If all reviews were signed these little exhibitions of human nature could hardly be offered to an amused public. When the public saw Jones signing a number of articles in the Lounger, they would smile at the friendly punctuality with which his books are studied in that periodical. When they observed that, as soon as Tompkins’s signature disappeared from the Street, his name was never mentioned without insult in the Street’s columns, they would draw their conclusions. Moreover, they would inevitably detect any mutual puffery, and Bavius and Maevius would not dear to ‘ladle butter from their mutual tubs.’ If reviews were signed, too, many literary squabbles would be prevented. How often one is blamed for a review written by someone else, of a  book that one never even saw! But the wise world objects to signed reviews, and prefers all these misconceptions, and the possibility of all sorts of underground arts, to the opportunity of knowing whether any criticism is written by a reviewer worthy of attention. In no paper, probably, are its own contributors so severely handled as in the only English literary journal which makes a rule that all reviews shall be signed.” (219–20).

“Here is ‘the Gent’s’ conversation with his servant [in ‘Familiar Dialogues. For the insturction of them that be desirous to learne to speake English, and perfectly to pronounce the same]:
The Gent. Nedd, bring my sword,
My dagge,
My harkebuse,
Bring heather our horses,
My maule,
Mine asse,
Mine oxe,
My hogge,
My dogge,
My grayhunde.

A gent who traveled with an ox, a hog, and a dog, had forestalled the ingenious Ollendorf.“ (221)

“That Poets should select themselves is a new principle in a volume of Elegant Extracts. It is the principle of Miss Gilder, the editor (is editress English?) of a curious interesting volume, Representative Poems of Living Poets, English and American (Messrs. Cassell). Miss Gilder wrote to the Singers and asked them to select themselves, and some coyly did, and some didn’t. This, at least, is what one conjectures from the absence of Mr. Swinburne, Mr. William Morris, Mr. Lewis Morris, both Mr. Frederick and Mr. Ernest Myers, Mr. George Meredith, and several others, not unknown as English bards. There are eighteen British Minstrels and sixty-two (62) American poets. Sixty-two is a great many! I have reckoned all the names I do not know as American, and that leaves England in the minority of forty-two. In the eighteen, however, are the names of Lord Tennyson, Mr. Browning, and Mr. Matthew Arnold. Lord Tennyson did not make his own selection, but it was generally known in the Family that certain ones . . . were Lord Tennyson’s favourites.’ Which are your favourite short poems in the Laurete’s works? If I had to choose, I would take The Lotus-Eaters, Ulysses, Mariana, the lines to Virgil, the lines to Catullus, Rizpah, Tears, idle Tears, and all the other songs in the Princess, Sir Galahad—but one must stop somewhere, if there is to be room for all the other poets. In this volume we have the Ballad of the Revenge, Boadicea, Come down, oh Maid, and the Daisy. It is an unexpected selection, and occupies fourteen pages. Mr. Boker, on the other hand, has forty pages all to himself. I have still to make his acquaintance as a poet. Mr. Arnold only selects the Forsaken Merman. One misses—what does one not miss? All his lyrics! Mr. Browning chooses Saul, Clive, A Forgiveness, Abt Vogler, Caliban upon Setebos. Surely Andrea del Sarto, Garden Fancies, How they brought the Good News, Two in Campagna, and Childe Roland, and Prospice, and Rabbi Ben Ezra, and the Grammarian’s Funeral could only have been omitted by their author. But when poets are so rich it must be very difficult for them to choose. Their admirers would have chosen more, and otherwise. Of Englishmen Mr. Locker and Mr. Dobson are very happy in their self-criticisms, but how could Mr. Dobson omit the Song of Four Seasons? In the American poetry one is most struck by the number, and sometimes by the energy and spirt of the narrative poems of action.” (222–23)

“Is it a very bad habit to write one’s name on the fly-leaf or even the title-page of one’s books? M. Longpérier Grimoard says it is, and blames M. Payen de Fercourt for writing, in 1687, on a book given him by the great Bossuet, ‘Ce livre a été donné par Monsieur Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet à moi, Payen de Fercourt.” What harm is there in that? Surely the inscription is now the chief merit of the book. Racine had this vile habit, and who would not like to pick up a volume on which he had indulged it?” (224)