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Fort Amity By Arthur Quiller-Couch Characters: 3027

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

This etext prepared from a reprint of a version published in 1904


My dear Newbolt,

Two schoolfellows, who had sat together in the Sixth at Clifton, met at Paddington some twenty years later and travelled down to enter their two sons at one school. On their way, while the boys shyly became acquainted, the fathers discussed the project of this story; a small matter in comparison with the real business of that day-but that it happened so gives me the opportunity of dedicating Fort Amity to you, its editor in The Monthly Review, as a reminder to outlast the short life granted in these days to novels.

Yet if either of our sons shall turn its pages some years hence, though but to remind himself of his first journey to school, I hope he will not lay it down too contemptuously. The tale has, for its own purposes, so seriously confused the geography of Fort Amitié, that he may search the map and end by doubting if any such fortress ever existed and stood a siege: but I trust it will leave him in no doubt of what his elders understood by honour and friendship.

Of these two themes, at any rate, I have composed it, and dedicate it to a poet who has sung nobly of both. "Like to the generations of leaves are those of men"-but while we last, let these deciduous pages commemorate the day when we two went back to school four strong. May they also contain nothing unworthy to survive us in our two fellow-travellers!


The Haven, April 20th, 1904.



More than once, attempting a story of high and passionate love-in this book, for example, and still more recklessly in my tale of Sir John Constantine-I have had to pause and ask myself the elementary question: Can such a story, if at once true and exemplary, conclude otherwise than in sorrow?

The great artists in poetry and prose fiction seem to consent that it cannot: and this, I think, not because-understanding love as they do, with all its wonder and wild desire-they would conduct it to life-long bliss if they could, but simply because they cannot fit it into this muddy vesture of decay. They may dismiss us in the end with peace and consolation:

And calm of mind, all passion spent.

And we know or have known that of its impulse among us lesser folk it holifies and populates this world. But our own transience qualifies it. Only when love here claims to be above the world-"All for Love, and the World well Lost"-we feel that its exorbitance must wreck it here and now, however it may shine hereafter. That is why all the great legends of love-the tale of Tristan and Iseult, for instance- are unhappy legends: as that is why they still tease us.

I hope these remarks will not be deemed too pompous for the preface to a story in which true love is crossed by a soldier's sense of honour. The theme is a variant on a great commonplace: and, following my habit, I let the incidents and characters have their own way without the author's comment or interference.



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