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The Adventure of Living : a Subjective Autobiography By John St. Loe Strachey Characters: 34130

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


MY LIFE IN LONDON IN THE 'NINETIES (Continued)

I am afraid that throughout these memoirs I have talked too much about the volumes which I might fill, but am not filling. Yet I must do so once more in this chapter. My mother-in-law, Mrs. Simpson, was an admirable talker and full of clear and interesting memories. I had no sooner entered the Simpson house and family than I found that there were a hundred points of sympathy between us. She had known everybody in London, who was worth knowing, through her father, Mr. Nassau-Senior, and had visited with him-she acted for some twenty years as his social companion owing to her mother's ill-health-most of the political country-houses in England, and had known in London everyone worth knowing on the Whig side, and most of the neutrals. Macaulay was one of her father's closest friends; so was the third Lord Lansdowne, the Lord Henry Petty of the Cabinets of the'thirties and 'forties-Lord Aberdeen, Lord John Russell, and Lord Palmerston, and, earlier, Lord Melbourne, Lord St. Leonards, Lord Denman, and Lord Campbell, to mention only a few names and at random. It was her father's habit to ride every day in the Park for reasons hygienic and social, and she rode with him. There they were sure to be joined by the Whig statesmen who sought Senior's advice on economic points. She saw little of the Tories,-except perhaps Mr. Gladstone, soon to become a Liberal, and Sir Robert Peel. Disraeli was of course, in those days, considered by the strict Whigs as "impossible"-a "charlatan," and "adventurer," almost "impostor."

In the world of letters she saw much of Sydney Smith, who was early a friend of her father's. She actually had the good fortune, while Miss Minnie Senior, to stop at the Combe Florey Rectory, and to discover that the eminent wit took as much trouble to amuse his own family when alone as to set the tables of Mayfair upon a roar. He liked to tease his girl guest by telling her that her father, then a Master in Chancery, did not care a straw for his daughter "Minnie." "De Minimis non curat Lex"-"the Master does not care for Minnie"-was a favourite travesty of the well-known maxim.

Rogers was also a friend, and as a girl she remembered going to his "very small" breakfast-parties, in the celebrated dining-room in which hung his famous pictures.

They were hung high, so as to get the light which was at the top of the room. It was this arrangement, by the way, that made Sydney Smith say that Rogers' dining-room was like Heaven and its opposite. There were gods and angels in the upper part, but below was "gnashing of teeth." While Rogers talked about his pictures, he would have them taken down by his man-servant, Edmond, and placed upon a chair at his side, or almost upon the lap of his guest, so that he might lecture about them at his ease. Mrs. Simpson often told me of the horror she felt as a girl lest she should throw a spoonful of soup over a Raphael or by an accident run a knife or a fork into the immortal canvas! She had not learnt that pictures are about the most indestructible things in the world.

[Illustration: J St. Loe Strachey. ?tat 32]

Through her father Mrs. Simpson also knew the great French statesmen of her day, i.e., the middle period of the century, 1840 to 1870. He was the friend of Alexis de Tocqueville, and of Thiers and Guizot, and of most of the statesmen and men of letters who were their contemporaries. The leading Italian statesmen, such as Cavour, were also his friends. In fact, there were few people in Europe worth knowing whom he did not know. What was more, he had a most astonishing personal gift- the gift for photographing in words the talk of the statesmen whom he encountered, not, remember, as a mere recorder but on terms of mutual benefit. Though he liked to draw their opinions, in both senses, they sought his wisdom and advice with equal assiduity. He was quite as much Johnson as he was Boswell, or rather, almost as much Socrates as he was Plato, for that is the best analogy.

Conversations with the Statesmen of the Third Empire, in two volumes, crown octavo, sounds a pretty dull title, and yet anyone who takes the trouble to read these conversations will find that they are some of the most vivacious dialogues in all literature. Senior's system of recording conversations throws a curious light, by the way, upon the mechanism of the Platonic Dialogues. For some twenty-four centuries the world has wondered how much of these Dramas of the Soul is to be attributed to Socrates and how much to Plato, and the general verdict has been that in most of them there is very much more Plato than Socrates. In a word, they have been judged to be works of art in which certain very general ideas and principles derived from Socrates are expanded, put into shape, and often greatly altered by the alleged recorder, or rather dramatic recounter.

Mrs. Simpson told me something of her father's method of putting down his conversations which bears closely upon the value of this theory of the Dialogues. But first I must note that Senior's reports of conversations were famous for their extraordinary accuracy. Mrs. Simpson well remembered an incident in proof of this statement. Her father had written out a very important talk with Thiers in which by far the greater part of the talk was sustained as usual by the great Frenchman. When Senior had written it out, that is about a couple of days after the conversation, he sent it, as was his habit, to Thiers for correction. Thiers sent it back, saying that he could not find a word to alter, adding that he was astonished to find that Senior had not only put down his views and ideas, but had given his actual words. Yet, as a matter of fact, Senior had done nothing of the kind. He had not even tried to do so. What he had aimed at was something very different. His aim was to give the spirit of the conversation, to produce the extreme characteristic impression made on his mind by the talk of his interlocutor, not the words themselves.

To show in a still more convincing way that I am making no exaggerated deduction from my premises, I may call the further testimony given me directly by Senior's daughter. It is this testimony which convinces me that in the Platonic dialogues there is less Plato and more Socrates than is generally imagined. Mrs. Simpson, or Miss Senior, as she then was, once said to her father that she would like to listen to one of his conversations and try to see whether she could not write it down as he did. Her father, delighted that she should make the experiment, explained to her the art as he practised it and gave her the following directions.

To begin with, you must never try to remember the actual words that you hear Thiers, or Guizot, or Lord Aberdeen, or Mr. Bright, or whoever else it may be, use. If you begin to rack your brains and your memory you will spoil the whole thing. You must simply sit down and write the conversation out as you, knowing their views, think they must have spoken or ought to have spoken. Then you will get the right result. If you consciously rely on your memory, your report will lose all life and interest.

While the conversation was going on Senior attended very accurately to the ideas expressed and got a thorough understanding of them. When he took up his pen he put himself in the position of a dramatist and wrote what he felt sure his interlocutor would have said on the particular theme. He put himself, that is, in his interlocutor's place. The thoughts got clothed with the right words, though, no doubt, under great compression.

That is interesting and curious, not solely from the point of view of Plato, but of a great many of the speeches in classical history. People have often wondered whether the men who speak so wisely and so well in Thucydides or Tacitus really talked like that. Judging from Senior's case, they very probably did. Thucydides, indeed, when describing his method, uses expressions by no means at variance with the Senior system of reporting, the system which, though aiming only at the spirit, often, if we are to believe Thiers, hits the words also. It is quite possible then that the British chieftain really made the speech recorded as his in Tacitus, the speech which contains what is perhaps the greatest of all political epigrams, "I know these Romans. They are the people who make a desert and call it Peace."

There is another point in regard to the secret of Senior's power of recording conversations which is worth noting by modern psychologists. I cannot help thinking that what Senior did, unconsciously of course, was to trust to his subconsciousness. That amiable and highly impressionable, if dumb, spirit which sits within us all, got busy when Thiers or Guizot was talking. The difficulty was to get out of him what he had heard, and had at once transferred to the files in the Memory cupboard. Senior, without knowing it, had, I doubt not, some little trick which enabled him to get easily en rapport with his subconsciousness, and so tap the rich and recently stored vintage. His writing was probably half automatic. It certainly was vivid and dramatic in a high degree.

If anyone wants proof of my eulogy of Nassau-Senior's powers as a conversationalist, let him go to the London Library and get down Senior's works. Perhaps the best volume to begin with is Conversations and Journals in Egypt-a book which Lord Cromer used to declare was the best thing ever written about Egypt. I remember also Sir Mountstuart Grant-Duff saying that one of the conversations with Hekekyan Bey, describing how he-the Bey-on a certain occasion saw Mehemet sitting alone in his Palace by the Sea, deserted by all his followers, was as poignant as anything in Tacitus. It will be remembered that in 1840 we sent a fleet to Egypt under Sir Charles Napier, to enforce our Syrian policy. The private instructions given by Lord Palmerston to his admiral were as pointed as they were concise: "Tell Mehemet Ali that if he does not change his policy and do what I wish, I will chuck him into the Nile." In due course our fleet appeared at Alexandria. The Pasha was at first recalcitrant, but when our ships took up position opposite the town and palace and cleared for action he gave way and agreed to the British terms. During the crisis and when it looked as if the old tyrant was either bent upon political and personal suicide, or else had lost all sense of proportion, the courtiers and the people of Alexandria generally fled from their doomed Lord and Master. As if by magic his palace was utterly deserted. No Monarch falls so utterly as an Oriental Despot. Hekekyan Bey described the scene of which he was a witness in words which could hardly be bettered:

I was then the engineer charged with the defences of the coast. We were expecting an attack from Sir Charles Napier, and I had been to Rosetta to inspect the batteries. It was on a tempestuous night that I returned to Alexandria, and went to the palace on the shore of the former Island of Pharos, to make my report to Mehemet Ali.

The halls and passages, which I used to find full of Mamelukes and officers strutting about in the fullness of their contempt for a Christian, were empty. Without encountering a single attendant, I reached his room overlooking the sea; it was dimly lighted by a few candles of bad Egyptian wax, with enormous untrimmed wicks. Here, at the end of his divan, I found him rolled up in a sort of ball,-solitary, motionless, apparently absorbed in thought. The waves were breaking heavily on the mole, and I expected every instant the casements to be blown in. The roar of wind and sea was almost awful, but he did not seem conscious of it.

I stood before him silent. Suddenly he said, as if speaking to himself, "I think I can trust Ibrahim." Again he was silent for some time, and then desired me to fetch Motus Bey, his admiral. I found him, and brought him to the Viceroy. Neither of them spoke, until the Viceroy, after looking at him steadily for some minutes, said to me, "He is drunk; take him away." I did so, and so ended my visit without making any report.

That heart-cry of the deserted tyrant, "I think I can trust

Ibrahim"-his own son, in all probability, though called his stepson

(Ibrahim's mother was a widow)-is comparable to the cry of Augustus:

"Varus, Varus, give me back my legions!"

Wonderfully Tacitean is a later comment of the Pasha-an Armenian by birth. He told Senior that the Pasha could never forget or forgive that he had seen his master in the day of his humiliation. So intolerable was the thought that Mehemet Ali made two secret attempts to kill his faithful servant. "He wished me to die, but he did not wish to be suspected of having killed me." In my recollections of Lord Cromer, in an earlier chapter, I have told a story of one of Mehemet Ali's removals of inconvenient servants which is well worth recalling in this context.

If I say much more about Mr. Nassau-Senior I shall fill a book. I admit that it would be a very curious and attractive work, for he was in the truest sense a man of note, but I cannot put a book inside a book. Therefore this must be, not merely one of my unwritten chapters, but one of my unwritten books.

In the same way, I cannot dwell upon dozens of delightful men and women with whom I became acquainted through my wife and her people, and who remained fast and good friends, though, alas! many of them have long since joined the majority,-for example, Lecky, Leslie Stephen, and Mr. Justice Stephen, and Mr. Henry Reeve of the Edinburgh. The last- named, very soon after our acquaintanceship, invited me to write for him, and thus I was able to add the Edinburgh as well as the Quarterly to the trophies of my pen. My wife and I used often to dine at his house-always a place of good company even if the aura was markedly Victorian. Reeve was full of stories of how Wordsworth used to stop with him when he came up to London in his later years. He lent his Court suit to Wordsworth in order that the Poet-Laureate should present himself at a Levee in proper form. But again these remembrances must be repressed for reasons of space.

Just as I have taken the Arthur Russell group as a type of the people with whom my marriage made me friends, so I shall take as typical two men of high distinction who were friends of my mother-in-law, and whom I saw either at her house or at houses of friends to whom we were bidden through the kindly, old-fashioned institution of wedding-parties. These were Matthew Arnold and Robert Browning. I met Matthew Arnold at a dinner at Mrs. Simpson's, given largely, I think, because I expressed my desire to see a man for whose poetry and prose I had come to have an intense admiration. When quite young I was a little inclined to turn up my nose at Matthew Arnold's verse, though I admit I had a good deal of it by heart. By the time, however, that I had got to my twenty-seventh year, I bent my knee in reverent adoration at the shrine, and realised what the two Obermann poems and The Grande Chartreuse stanzas meant, not only to the world but to me.

I was captivated in advance by Matthew Arnold's literary charm. I delighted also in the stories about him of which London and Oxford were full. I had only to watch him and listen to his talk across the dinner- table to realise the truth of his own witty self-criticism. When he married, he is said to have described his wife thus: "Ah! you must see my Fanny. You are sure to like her. She has all my graces and none of my airs." The said airs and graces were, of course, only a gentle and pleasant pose. They winged with humour Matthew Arnold's essential, I had almost said sublime, seriousness. Truly he was like one of the men for whom he longed:

Who without sadness shall be sage,

And gay without frivolity.

Though, of course, Socrates had more fire, more of the demon in him, one can well believe that at times, and when his circumambient irony was at its gentlest, it must have been like that of Matthew Arnold. Matthew Arnold has been called over fastidious, but I do not think that is fair. Fastidious he no doubt was. Also he thought it his duty to rub in our national want of fastidiousness, and our proneness to mistake nickel for silver. It must not be supposed, however, that Matthew Arnold could not endure to look upon the world as it is because of the high standard he had set up in Literature and in the Arts. In reality his was a wise and comprehensive view. He could enjoy men and things in practice even when he disapproved of them in theory. His inimitably delicate distinctions were drawn quite as much in favour of the weak as in support of the strong. Take, for example, his famous mot, "I would not say he was not a gentleman, but if you said so, I should understand what you meant." For example, Matthew Arnold would not have said that Shelley was not a poet. If, however, you had said so, he would have very

nearly agreed with you, and would have given all sorts of reasons to support your view. Yet, in all probability, he would at the same time have urged you not to forget that all the same he had a claim to a good place, if not a front place, in the glorious choir of Apollo.

I cannot remember any particular thing said on that occasion by Matthew Arnold, but I do remember very well how pleased and touched I was when after dinner he crossed over from his side of the table, and sitting down by me, began talking about the members of his family, whom he seemed to know that I knew. I knew Mrs. Ward; I knew his niece, Miss Arnold, Mrs. Ward's sister, soon to become Mrs. Leonard Huxley, and, last but not least, I was on the closest terms of intimacy with that most admirable of journalists, Willie Arnold of the Manchester Guardian. Probably because I was acting as a sort of aide-de-camp and son of the house to my father-in-law, Mr. Simpson, I did not get a connected literary talk. Besides, I felt sure that from his friendliness I should later have plenty of opportunities to ask a hundred things of his spiritual home. Little did I know how soon he was to be cut off. These were the years which saw the deaths of Barnes, Browning, Tennyson, and Matthew Arnold-years of which one was tempted to say with Wordsworth:

Like clouds that rake the mountain-summits, Or waves that own no curbing hand, How fast has brother followed brother From sunshine to the sunless land.

Browning was the other poet for whom I felt a very strong admiration and whom I had often wanted to meet. Though a friend of the Simpsons, and a visitor and diner at their house, I met him not at 14 Cornwall Gardens but at a very small dinner-party in the house of a common friend. After dinner Browning, Sir Sidney Colvin, another man, and I were left drinking our coffee and our port and smoking our cigarettes. Browning was, I believe, often inclined to talk like a man of the world about people or stocks and shares rather than about literature. But I was determined to do what I could to prevent him pushing that foible too far. Therefore I did my very best to lead the conversation on to better pastures. I had always loved Landor, and something or other gave me an opportunity to ask a question about him. Mr. Browning, I felt sure, must have known him in his last years at Florence.

I was happy in my venture and struck a vein of reminiscence of a very poignant kind. Browning told us that he did not know Landor very well, but that he saw him in the last years of his life under circumstances of a terribly pathetic kind. Landor played almost exactly the part of King Lear-though from a different reason-and got almost exactly King Lear's reward. Landor, it will be remembered, was originally a rich man. It will also be remembered that he was possessed of a very arbitrary and turbulent nature and quarrelled with many members of his family, and especially with his own children. However, they lived in a villa at Fiesole for some time, in a kind of turbulent domesticity. Landor, on leaving England, had unwisely given away his property to his children, thinking that he could rely upon them to be kind to him. But he had not trained them in the ways of kindness. He had been hot, brutal, and tyrannical to them when he had the power. When they got it they were equally brutal to him. At last his daughter determined to bear the old man's ill-temper-ill-temper, apparently, approaching to madness-no longer. He was told by Miss Landor that if he could not control himself better she would not tolerate him any longer in the villa, and would, in fact, turn him out of doors. He disobeyed her injunctions, or, as she probably put it, failed to keep his promise of better behaviour, and then, incredible as it sounds from anyone who had ever read Lear, she actually barred the doors of what had once been his home against the unhappy old man and drove him out to wander whither he could. If she did not physically put him out of doors, she put humiliations so unendurable upon him that, like Lear, he left the house in an agony of broken- heartedness and despair. The once-proud poet had very few friends in Florence, little or no money, and literally nowhere to go. The result was that he wandered, half-distracted, like Lear, bewailing the wound at his heart which a daughter's hand had given. Somehow, like an old, stray, and starving dog, he wandered to the Brownings' house. There, needless to say, he found rest for the body and comfort for the soul. Mrs. Browning did everything she could for Landor-took him in, fed him, put him to bed, and strove to quiet and soften his fierce and pitiful and outraged heart. Browning went on to tell how as soon as the old man was a little composed, he drove up to Fiesole to see Miss Landor-thinking that perhaps, after all, it was only a family quarrel which could be tactfully adjusted. That supposition proved entirely mistaken.

I found [said Browning] an almost exact reincarnation of the daughters of Lear in Miss Landor. She was perfectly hard and perfectly cold. She told me of her father's troublesome ways, nay, misdeeds, of how she had borne them for a long time, of how he had promised better behaviour, and of how he had broken his word again and again. At last the limit had been passed. She could endure him in her house no longer. I argued with her [he went on] as well as I could, urged that she evidently did not realise her father's mental condition, and pointed out that whatever his past faults he was now lying in my house a dying man, and dying of a broken heart. I hoped and believed that my description of his anguish and his distraction would melt her.

Then came the most terrible part of the story. Miss Landor must, I suppose, have accompanied Browning through the garden to the gate of the villa, and there spoke her final words. Browning said something about the remorse which she would inevitably feel. Her father had, no doubt, given her great provocation, but if the end came before she had forgiven him and helped him, she would never be able to forgive herself. His words were of no avail. She had Goneril's heart. Pointing to a ditch at the side of the road, she answered, "I tell you, Mr. Browning, that if my father lay dying in that ditch, I would not lift a finger to save him."

And so Browning went back to Casa Guido. He had looked into the awful depths which Shakespeare had explored-an agony of the mind beyond words, and beyond solution. The sense of pity and terror had been raised for which even the poet's art could find no purgation.

What he said to the unhappy old man when he returned to Florence he did not tell us. Mercifully, Landor's memory was failing, and so one may hope that the waters of the Lethe brought him like Lear their blessed relief.

Strangely enough, no poet ever sang their healing virtues more poignantly than did Landor. When Agamemnon, in Landor's poem, red from Clytemnestra's axe, reaches the Shades, the Hours bring him their golden goblet. He drinks and forgets. He is no more maddened by the thought that his daughter will learn his fate. Till then he had felt:

the first woman coming from Mycenae Will pine to pour the poison in her ear.

I have set down, I believe correctly, what I heard Browning tell, but I am bound to add that it does not quite correspond with the facts given in the Dictionary of National Biography. Leslie Stephen in the life of Landor mentions the quarrel and the kind intervention of the Brownings, but does not make the incident nearly so tragic. Very probably indignation made Browning emphasise the bad side of the story. Also he was telling of something which had taken place thirty years before. Finally, it is thirty-five years since I heard the conversation here recorded and indignation has also, no doubt, played its part in deepening the colours of my narration. But, though for these reasons I do not suggest that the details I have given are of biographical importance, I feel absolutely certain on two essential points: (1) Browning unquestionably compared the scene he witnessed to Lear and compared it in the most striking and poignant way. (2) The words put into the mouth of Miss Landor are not any invention or addition of mine. They made a profound impression upon me and I am sure they are the actual words I heard Browning use. He spoke them with passion and dramatic intent, and they still ring in my ears. My memory for many things is as treacherous as that of most people, but when a certain degree of dramatic intensity is reached the record on the tablets of my mind is almost always correct and remains unchanged.

Before I leave the subject of my wife's family and friends and of the warm-hearted kindness with which they received me, I ought to say something about my father-in-law, Mr. Simpson. Though he had not his wife's charm of manner and delight in all the amenities of life and of social intercourse on its best side, he was to me a very attractive man, as well as one of very great ability. Through his shyness he made all but his intimates regard him as dull. There was in truth no dullness about him. His mind was one of great acuteness within its own very special limits. Either by nature or training, I can hardly tell which, he was exactly fitted to be what he was, that is, first a Second Wrangler at Cambridge, then a Conveyancer, and Standing Counsel to the Post Office. Though he never took silk, he was in the most exact sense a counsel learned in the law, and received the singular honour of being made a Bencher of Lincoln's Inn, although he was not a Queen's Counsel. His special gift in the study and practice of the law was his skilful draftsmanship whether in wills, conveyances, or clauses in Acts of Parliament. His vast knowledge and his judgment as to what was the proper interpretation of the Statutes, of the rules of Equity, of the principles of the Common Law, and of the practice of the Courts, was unrivalled.

Mr. Simpson was, in private life, one of the most honourable and high- minded men that I have ever known. Most honourable men are content to be careful of other people's rights and conscious of their own duties in big things, but do not bother themselves to ask whether they have done exactly right in little things. Mr. Simpson was as particular in the minutiae of conduct as he was in great affairs. Take, for example, the way in which he regarded the duty of silence in regard to any knowledge of clients' private affairs which he had derived in the course of his professional work. He never yielded to the temptation to gossip, even about cases which were thirty or forty years old, cases which it might have been argued had become historical. This care extended not only to his own cases, but to matters which he had heard discussed in his chambers in Lincoln's Inn or in those of his brother barristers.

You could not move him by saying that everybody was dead in the case concerned, or that it would be to the credit of particular people to tell what really happened and what were the true causes and motives of the action. Nothing of this kind would affect him. He gave for his silence reasons similar to those which Dr. Lushington gave when, on his death-bed as a very old man, his family asked him to leave for historical purposes a record of the truth about Byron's quarrel with his wife. Dr. Lushington replied that even if he could do so without a breach of faith with any living person, he would not. He had a higher duty, and that was to help men and women to feel that they could unburden themselves fully to their professional advisers, and that there was no risk of those advisers in the future constituting themselves the judges of whether this or that thing should become known to the world at large.

What the client wants is the seal of the confessional. If he cannot have that, he will often refuse to speak the whole truth. But this may mean not only personal injury to those who would speak out if they could feel sure of secrecy, but might inflict injury on others, and indeed on the community as a whole. There is, I feel, no rational denial of this point of view. At any rate, this was the principle which Mr. Simpson carried out in the most meticulous way. He would only talk about the law in the abstract or upon points made in open court. He would not even go so far as to say, "I drew up that marriage settlement, or made that will, or advised this or that man to take action."

He carried his reticence beyond even professional knowledge. For example, he regarded what was said in a club smoking-room as said under the seal of secrecy, and nothing would induce him to repeat what he had heard. Strangely enough, he was a member of the Garrick Club, and I remember him once mentioning that Thackeray used to hold forth in the smoking-room to all present. Naturally I thought that he would be willing to describe some of these talks, for they had obviously made a great impression on him. He, however, was adamant in this matter. When people talked in club-rooms, he argued, they ought to have the feeling that it was like talking in their own house and to their own family. For him Clubs were "tiled" houses.

I think, myself, that he went too far here; but certainly he was erring on the right side. At the present moment the habit of certain lawyers, doctors, and businessmen, to discuss the private affairs of their clients and customers in public is much too common. No doubt most of them are careful to use a good deal of camouflage and to tell their stories as "A" "B" cases, without mentioning names. But that is not always successful. Chance and the impishness of coincidence will very often enable one to discover the most carefully camouflaged secret. I remember, as a young man, coming across an instance of this kind which very much struck me. It happened that the barrister in whose chambers I was a pupil said, very properly, to me on the first day that he supposed I understood that whatever I saw in papers in chambers must be regarded as strictly confidential. It might, he said, happen that I should see things of a highly confidential nature about someone whom I knew in Society; and he went on to tell a story of how, when he was young, two young barristers or students came across a set of papers in which two young ladies, sisters, who happened to be acquaintances of these young men, were mentioned as having a reversionary interest in a very large sum of money with only one old life between it and them. Though apparently only daughters of a struggling professional man, they would soon, it appeared, be great heiresses. The result was two proposals and two marriages! Whether they lived happily ever afterwards is not stated, but they lived, at any rate, "wealthily."

I did not condemn the principle as unsportsmanlike but I remember thinking that there must be a million chances against a barrister ever seeing papers relating to someone he knows. Yet, within two or three days, I was told to help in drafting a marriage settlement which dealt with people at whose house I was going to dance on the very night in question. To my surprise I found that my host and hostess were very rich people. Though I lived for nearly two years in Mr. Simpson's house, and for the next fourteen years, that is, till his death, I saw him constantly, I neither exchanged a bitter word with him, nor felt the slightest indignation or annoyance at anything he did or said. He was at heart one of the kindliest as well as one of the shyest and apparently most austere of men. Mathematics and law may have dried up his intellect, but they never dried up his heart.

Though he was a man of fine intellect, and had a great and deep knowledge of many subjects, I think I never saw a man who was so absolutely devoid of any interest in poetry or Belles-Lettres. I believe indeed that he was quite without any understanding of what poetry meant. If I had been told that he was the Wrangler who said that he could not see "what Paradise Lost proved," I should not have been the least surprised. And yet the style of his writing was often remarkable for its perfect clarity and perfect avoidance of anything in the shape of ambiguity. He could say what he wanted to say in the fewest number of words and in a way in which the most ingenious person could not twist into meaning something which they were not intended to mean. He was indeed a super-draftsman. But that is a gift which every man of letters who is worthy of his salt ought to salute with reverence.

My treatment of many things in this book has been inadequate owing to want of space, but in no case has it been so inadequate as that of London of the 'nineties. But my complaint here is, of course, a complaint common to every biography.

Biographers, I am told, always write in this strain. They begin by declaring that they have nothing to say and end by wailing over the insufficiency of the space allowed them.

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