To my father, on his settlement in Oxford, Jowett had been a kind and helpful friend; he had a very quick sympathy with my mother; and as I grew up he became my friend, too, so that as I look back upon my Oxford years both before and after my marriage, the dear Master—he became Master in 1870—plays a very marked part in the Oxford scene as I shall ever remember it.
It was not, however, till two years later that I left school, and slipped into the Oxford life as a fish into water. I was sixteen, beginning to be conscious of all sorts of rising needs and ambitions, keenly alive to the spell of Oxford and to the good fortune which had brought me to live in her streets. There was in me, I think, a real hunger to learn, and a very quick sense of romance in things or people. But after sixteen, except in music, I had no definite teaching, and everything I learned came to me from persons—and books—sporadically, without any general guidance or plan. It was all a great voyage of discovery, organized mainly by myself, on the advice of a few men and women very much older, who took an interest in me and were endlessly kind to the shy and shapeless creature I must have been.
It was in 1868 or 1869—I think I was seventeen—that I remember my first sight of a college garden lying cool and shaded between gray college walls, and on the grass a figure that held me fascinated—a lady in a green brocade dress, with a belt and chatelaine of Russian silver, who was playing croquet, then a novelty in Oxford, and seemed to me, as I watched her, a perfect model of grace and vivacity. A man nearly thirty years older than herself, whom I knew to be her husband, was standing near her, and a handful of undergraduates made an amused and admiring court round the lady. The elderly man—he was then fifty- three—was Mark Pattison, Rector of Lincoln College, and the croquet- player had been his wife about seven years. After the Rector's death in 1884, Mrs. Pattison married Sir Charles Dilke in the very midst of the divorce proceedings which were to wreck in full stream a brilliant political career; and she showed him a proud devotion till her death in 1904. None of her early friends who remember her later history can ever think of the "Frances Pattison" of Oxford days without a strange stirring of heart. I was much at Lincoln in the years before I married, and derived an impression from the life lived there that has never left me. Afterward I saw much less of Mrs. Pattison, who was generally on the Riviera in the winter; but from 1868 to 1872, the Rector, learned, critical, bitter, fastidious, and "Mrs. Pat," with her gaiety, her picturesqueness, her impatience of the Oxford solemnities and decorums, her sharp, restless wit, her determination not to be academic, to hold on to the greater world of affairs outside—mattered more to me perhaps than anybody else. They were very good to me, and I was never tired of going there; though I was much puzzled by their ways, and—while my Evangelical phase lasted—much scandalized often by the speculative freedom of the talk I heard. Sometimes my rather uneasy conscience protested in ways which I think must have amused my hosts, though they never said a word. They were fond of asking me to come to supper at Lincoln on Sundays. It was a gay, unceremonious meal, at which Mrs. Pattison appeared in the kind of gown which at a much later date began to be called a tea-gown. It was generally white or gray, with various ornaments and accessories which always seemed to me, accustomed for so long to the rough-and-tumble of school life, marvels of delicacy and prettiness; so that I was sharply conscious, on these occasions, of the graceful figure made by the young mistress of the old house. But some last stubborn trace in me of the Evangelical view of Sunday declared that while one might talk—and one must eat!—on Sunday, one mustn't put on evening dress, or behave as though it were just like a week-day. So while every one else was in evening dress, I more than once—at seventeen—came to these Sunday gatherings on a winter evening, purposely, in a high woolen frock, sternly but uncomfortably conscious of being sublime—if only one were not ridiculous! The Rector, "Mrs. Pat," Mr. Bywater, myself, and perhaps a couple of undergraduates—often a bewildered and silent couple—I see that little vanished company in the far past so plainly! Three of them are dead—and for me the gray walls of Lincoln must always be haunted by their ghosts.
The historian of French painting and French decorative art was already in those days unfolding in Mrs. Pattison. Her drawing-room was French, sparely furnished with a few old girandoles and mirrors on its white paneled walls, and a Persian carpet with a black center, on which both the French furniture and the living inmates of the room looked their best. And up-stairs, in "Mrs. Pat's" own working-room, there were innumerable things that stirred my curiosity—old French drawings and engravings, masses of foreign books that showed the young and brilliant owner of the room to be already a scholar, even as her husband counted scholarship; together with the tools and materials for etching, a mysterious process in which I was occasionally allowed to lend a hand, and which, as often as not, during the application of the acid to the plate, ended in dire misfortune to the etcher's fingers or dress, and in the helpless laughter of both artist and assistant.
The Rector himself was an endless study to me—he and his frequent companion, Ingram Bywater, afterward the distinguished Greek Professor. To listen to these two friends as they talked of foreign scholars in Paris or Germany, of Renan, or Ranke, or Curtius; as they poured scorn on Oxford scholarship, or the lack of it, and on the ideals of Balliol, which aimed at turning out public officials, as compared with the researching ideals of the German universities, which seemed to the Rector the only ideals worth calling academic; or as they flung gibes at Christ Church, whence Pusey and Liddon still directed the powerful Church party of the University—was to watch the doors of new worlds gradually opening before a girl's questioning intelligence. The Rector would walk up and down, occasionally taking a book from his crowded shelves, while Mr. By water and Mrs. Pattison smoked, with the after- luncheon coffee—and in those days a woman with a cigarette was a rarity in England—and sometimes, at a caustic mot of the former's there would break out the Rector's cackling laugh, which was ugly, no doubt, but, when he was amused and at ease, extraordinarily full of mirth. To me he was from the beginning the kindest friend. He saw that I came of a literary stock and had literary ambitions; and he tried to direct me. "Get to the bottom of something," he would say. "Choose a subject, and know everything about it!" I eagerly followed his advice, and began to work at early Spanish in the Bodleian. But I think he was wrong—I venture to think so!—though, as his half-melancholy, half-satirical look comes back to me, I realize how easily he would defend himself, if one could tell him so now. I think I ought to have been told to take a history examination and learn Latin properly. But if I had, half the exploring joy of those early years would, no doubt, have been cut away.
Later on, in the winters when Mrs. Pattison, threatened with rheumatic gout, disappeared to the Riviera, I came to know a sadder and lonelier Rector. I used to go to tea with him then in his own book-lined sanctum, and we mended the blazing fire between us and talked endlessly. Presently I married, and his interest in me changed; though our friendship never lessened, and I shall always remember with emotion my last sight of him lying, a white and dying man, on his sofa in London— the clasp of the wasted hand, the sad, haunting eyes. When his Memoirs appeared, after his death, a book of which Mr. Gladstone once said to me that he reckoned it as among the most tragic and the most memorable books of the nineteenth century, I understood him more clearly and more tenderly than I could have done as a girl. Particularly, I understood why in that skeptical and agnostic talk which never spared the Anglican ecclesiastics of the moment, or such a later Catholic convert as Manning, I cannot remember that I ever heard him mention the great name of John Henry Newman with the slightest touch of disrespect. On the other hand, I once saw him receive a message that some friend brought him from Newman with an eager look and a start of pleasure. He had been a follower of Newman's in the Tractarian days, and no one who ever came near to Newman could afterward lightly speak ill of him. It was Stanley, and not the Rector, indeed, who said of the famous Oratorian that the whole course of English religious history might have been different if Newman had known German. But Pattison might have said it, and if he had it would have been without the smallest bitterness as the mere expression of a sober and indisputable truth. Alas!—merely to quote it, nowadays, carries one back to a Germany before the Flood—a Germany of small States, a land of scholars and thinkers; a Germany that would surely have recoiled in horror from any prevision of that deep and hideous abyss which her descendants, maddened by wealth and success, were one day to dig between themselves and the rest of Europe.
One of my clearest memories connected with the Pattisons and Lincoln is that of meeting George Eliot and Mr. Lewes there, in the spring of 1870, when I was eighteen. It was at one of the Sunday suppers. George Eliot sat at the Rector's right hand. I was opposite her; on my left was George Henry Lewes, to whom I took a prompt and active dislike. He and Mrs. Pattison kept up a lively conversation in which Mr. Bywater, on the other side of the table, played full part. George Eliot talked very little, and I not at all. The Rector was shy or tired, and George Eliot was in truth entirely occupied in watching or listening to Mrs. Lewes. I was disappointed that she was so silent, and perhaps her quick eye may have divined it, for, after supper, as we were going up the interesting old staircase, made in the thickness of the wall, which led direct from the dining-room to the drawing-room above, she said to me: "The Rector tells me that you have been reading a good deal about Spain. Would you care to hear something of our Spanish journey?"—the journey which had preceded the appearance of The Spanish Gypsy, then newly published. My reply is easily imagined. The rest of the party passed through the dimly lit drawing-room to talk and smoke in the gallery beyond, George Eliot sat down in the darkness, and I beside her. Then she talked for about twenty minutes, with perfect ease and finish, without misplacing a word or dropping a sentence, and I realized at last that I was in the presence of a great writer. Not a great talker. It is clear that George Eliot never was that. Impossible for her to "talk" her books, or evolve her books from conversation, like Madame de Stael. She was too self-conscious, too desperately reflective, too rich in second-thoughts for that. But in tete-a-tete, and with time to choose her words, she could—in monologue, with just enough stimulus from a companion to keep it going—produce on a listener exactly the impression of some of her best work. As the low, clear voice flowed on in Mrs. Pattison's drawing- room, I saw Saragossa, Granada, the Escorial, and that survival of the old Europe in the new, which one must go to Spain to find. Not that the description was particularly vivid—in talking of famous places John Richard Green could make words tell and paint with far greater success; but it was singularly complete and accomplished. When it was done the effect was there—the effect she had meant to produce. I shut my eyes, and it all comes back—the darkened room, the long, pallid face, set in black lace, the evident wish to be kind to a young girl.
Two more impressions of her let me record. The following day, the Pattisons took their guests to see the "eights" races from Christ Church meadow. A young Fellow of Merton, Mandell Creighton, afterward the beloved and famous Bishop of London, was among those entertaining her on the barge, and on the way home he took her and Mr. Lewes through Merton garden. I was of the party, and I remember what a carnival of early summer it was in that enchanting place. The chestnuts were all out, one splendor from top to toe; the laburnums; the lilacs; the hawthorns, red and white; the new-mown grass spreading its smooth and silky carpet round the college walls; a May sky overhead, and through the trees glimpses of towers and spires, silver gray, in the sparkling summer air—the picture was one of those that Oxford throws before the spectator at every turn, like the careless beauty that knows she has only to show herself, to move, to breathe, to give delight. George Eliot stood on the grass, in the bright sun, looking at the flower-laden chestnuts, at the distant glimpses on all sides, of the surrounding city, saying little—that she left to Mr. Lewes!—but drinking it in, storing it in that rich, absorbent mind of hers. And afterward when Mr. Lewes, Mr. Creighton, she, and I walked back to Lincoln, I remember another little incident throwing light on the ever-ready instinct of the novelist. As we turned into the quadrangle of Lincoln—suddenly, at one of the upper windows of the Rector's lodgings, which occupied the far right-hand corner of the quad, there appeared the head and shoulders of Mrs. Pattison, as she looked out and beckoned, smiling, to Mrs. Lewes. It was a brilliant apparition, as though a French portrait by Greuze or Perronneau had suddenly slipped into a vacant space in the old college wall. The pale, pretty head, blond-cendree; the delicate, smiling features and white throat; a touch of black, a touch of blue; a white dress; a general eighteenth-century impression as though of powder and patches—Mrs. Lewes perceived it in a flash, and I saw her run eagerly to Mr. Lewes and draw his attention to the window and its occupant. She took his arm, while she looked and waved. If she had lived longer, some day, and somewhere in her books, that vision at the window and that flower-laden garden would have reappeared. I seemed to see her consciously and deliberately committing them both to memory.
But I do not believe that she ever meant to describe the Rector in "Mr. Casaubon." She was far too good a scholar herself to have perpetrated a caricature so flagrantly untrue. She knew Mark Pattison's quality, and could never have meant to draw the writer of some of the most fruitful and illuminating of English essays, and one of the most brilliant pieces of European biography, in the dreary and foolish pedant who overshadows Middlemarch. But the fact that Mark Pattison was an elderly scholar with a young wife, and that George Eliot knew him, led later on to a legend which was, I am sure, unwelcome to the writer of Middlemarch, while her supposed victim passed it by with amused indifference.
As to the relation between the Rector and the Squire of Robert Elsmere which has been often assumed, it was confined, as I have already said (in the introduction to the library edition of Robert Elsmere published in 1909), to a likeness in outward aspect—"a few personal traits, and the two main facts of great learning and a general impatience of fools." If one could imagine Mark Pattison a landowner, he would certainly never have neglected his estates, or tolerated an inefficient agent.
Only three years intervened between my leaving school and my engagement to Mr. T. Humphry Ward, Fellow and Tutor of Brasenose College, Oxford. But those three years seem to me now to have been extraordinarily full. Lincoln and the Pattisons, Balliol and Mr. Jowett, and the Bodleian Library, outside the influences and affections of my own home, stand in the forefront of what memory looks back on as a broad and animated scene. The great Library, in particular, became to me a living and inspiring presence. When I think of it as it then was, I am, aware of a medley of beautiful things—pale sunlight on book-lined walls, or streaming through old armorial bearings on Tudor windows; spaces and distances, all books, beneath a painted roof from which gleamed the motto of the University—Dominus illuminatio mea; gowned figures moving silently about the spaces; the faint scents of old leather and polished wood; and fusing it all, a stately dignity and benignant charm, through which the voices of the bells outside, as they struck each successive quarter from Oxford's many towers, seemed to breathe a certain eternal reminder of the past and the dead.
But regions of the Bodleian were open to me then that no ordinary reader sees now. Mr. Coxe—the well-known, much-loved Bodley's Librarian of those days—took kindly notice of the girl reader, and very soon, probably on the recommendation of Mark Pattison, who was a Curator, made me free of the lower floors, where was the "Spanish room," with its shelves of seventeenth and eighteenth century volumes in sheepskin or vellum, with their turned-in edges and leathern strings. Here I might wander at will, absolutely alone, save for the visit of an occasional librarian from the upper floor, seeking a book. To get to the Spanish Room one had to pass through the Douce Library, the home of treasures beyond price; on one side half the precious things of Renaissance printing, French or Italian or Elizabethan; on the other, stands of illuminated Missals and Hour Books, many of them rich in pictures and flower-work, that shone like jewels in the golden light of the room. That light was to me something tangible and friendly. It seemed to be the mingled product of all the delicate browns and yellows and golds in the bindings of the books, of the brass lattice-work that covered them, and of reflections from the beautiful stone-work of the Schools Quadrangle outside. It was in these noble surroundings that, with far too little, I fear, of positive reading, and with much undisciplined wandering from shelf to shelf and subject to subject, there yet sank deep into me the sense of history, and of that vast ocean of the recorded past from which the generations rise and into which they fall back. And that in itself was a great boon—almost, one might say, a training, of a kind.
But a girl of seventeen is not always thinking of books, especially in the Oxford summer term.
In Miss Bretherton, my earliest novel, and in Lady Connie, so far my latest, will be found, by those who care to look for it, the reflection of that other life of Oxford, the life which takes its shape, not from age, but from youth, not from the past which created Oxford, but from the lively, laughing present which every day renews it. For six months of the year Oxford is a city of young men, for the most part between the ages of eighteen and twenty-two. In my maiden days it was not also a city of young women, as it is to-day. Women—girls especially—were comparatively on sufferance. The Heads of Houses were married; the Professors were mostly married; but married tutors had scarcely begun to be. Only at two seasons of the year was Oxford invaded by women—by bevies of maidens who came, in early May and middle June, to be made much of by their brothers and their brothers' friends, to be danced with and flirted with, to know the joys of coming back on a summer night from Nuneham up the long, fragrant reaches of the lower river, or of "sitting out" in historic gardens where Philip Sidney or Charles I had passed.
[Footnote 1: These chapters were written before the appearance of Missing in the autumn of 1917.]
At the "eights" and "Commem." the old, old place became a mere background for pretty dresses and college luncheons and river picnics. The seniors groaned often, as well they might; for there was little work done in my day in the summer term. But it is perhaps worth while for any nation to possess such harmless festivals in so beautiful a setting as these Oxford gatherings. How many of our national festivals are spoiled by ugly and sordid things—betting and drink, greed and display! Here, all there is to see is a competition of boats, manned by England's best youth, upon a noble river, flowing, in Virgilian phrase, "under ancient walls"; a city of romance, given up for a few days to the pleasure of the young, and breathing into that pleasure her own refining, exalting note; a stately ceremony—the Encaenia—going back to the infancy of English learning; and the dancing of young men and maidens in Gothic or classical halls built long ago by the "fathers who begat us." My own recollection of the Oxford summer, the Oxford river and hay-fields, the dawn on Oxford streets, as one came out from a Commemoration ball, or the evening under Nuneham woods where the swans on that still water, now, as always, "float double, swan and shadow"—these things I hope will be with me to the end. To have lived through them is to have tasted youth and pleasure from a cup as pure, as little alloyed with baser things, as the high gods allow to mortals.
Let me recall one more experience before I come to the married life which began in 1872—my first sight of Taine, the great French historian, in the spring of 1871. He had come over at the invitation of the Curators of the Taylorian Institution to give a series of lectures on Corneille and Racine. The lectures were arranged immediately after the surrender of Paris to the German troops, when it might have been hoped that the worst calamities of France were over. But before M. Taine crossed to England the insurrection of the Commune had broken out, and while he was actually in Oxford, delivering his six lectures, the terrible news of the last days of May, the burning of the Tuileries, the Hotel de Ville, and the Cour des Comptes, all the savagery of the beaten revolution, let loose on Paris itself, came crashing, day by day and hour by hour, like so many horrible explosions in the heavy air of Europe, still tremulous with the memories and agonies of recent war.
How well I remember the effect in Oxford!—the newspaper cries in the streets, the fear each morning as to what new calamities might have fallen on civilization, the intense fellow-feeling in a community of students and scholars for the students and scholars of France!
When M. Taine arrived, he himself bears witness (see his published Correspondence, Vol. II) that Oxford could not do enough to show her sympathy with a distinguished Frenchman. He writes from Oxford on May 25th:
I have no courage for a letter to-day. I have just heard of the horrors of Paris, the burning of the Louvre, the Tuileries, the Hotel de Ville, etc. My heart is wrung. I have energy for nothing. I cannot go out and see people. I was in the Bodleian when the Librarian told me this and showed me the newspapers. In presence of such madness and such disasters, they treat a Frenchman here with a kind of pitying sympathy.
Oxford residents, indeed, inside and outside the colleges, crowded the first lecture to show our feeling not only for M. Taine, but for a France wounded and trampled on by her own children. The few dignified and touching words with which he opened his course, his fine, dark head, the attractiveness of his subject, the lucidity of his handling of it, made the lecture a great success; and a few nights afterward at dinner at Balliol I found myself sitting next the great man. In his published Correspondence there is a letter describing this dinner which shows that I must have confided in him not a little—as to my Bodleian reading, and the article on the "Poema del Cid" that I was writing. He confesses, however, that he did his best to draw me—examining the English girl as a new specimen for his psychological collection. As for me, I can only perversely remember a passing phrase of his to the effect that there was too much magenta in the dress of Englishwomen, and too much pepper in the English cuisine. From English cooking—which showed ill in the Oxford of those days—he suffered, indeed, a good deal. Nor, in spite of his great literary knowledge of England and English, was his spoken English clear enough to enable him to grapple with the lodging-house cook. Professor Max Mueller, who had induced him to give the lectures, and watched over him during his stay, told me that on his first visit to the historian in his Beaumont Street rooms he found him sitting bewildered before the strangest of meals. It consisted entirely of a huge beefsteak, served in the unappetizing, slovenly English way, and—a large plate of buttered toast. Nothing else. "But I ordered bif-tek and pott-a-toes!" cried the puzzled historian to his visitor!
Another guest of the Master's on that night was Mr. Swinburne, and of him, too, I have a vivid recollection as he sat opposite to me on the side next the fire, his small lower features and slender neck overweighted by his thick reddish hair and capacious brow. I could not think why he seemed so cross and uncomfortable. He was perpetually beckoning to the waiters; then, when they came, holding peremptory conversation with them; while I from my side of the table could see them going away, with a whisper or a shrug to each other, like men asked for the impossible. At last, with a kind of bound, Swinburne leaped from his chair and seized a copy of the Times which he seemed to have persuaded one of the men to bring him. As he got up I saw that the fire behind him, and very close to him, must indeed have been burning the very marrow out of a long-suffering poet. And, alack! in that house without a mistress the small conveniences of life, such as fire-screens, were often overlooked. The Master did not possess any. In a pale exasperation Swinburne folded the Times over the back of his chair and sat down again. Vain was the effort! The room was narrow, the party large, and the servants, pushing by, had soon dislodged the Times. Again and again did Swinburne in a fury replace it; and was soon reduced to sitting silent and wild-eyed, his back firmly pressed against the chair and the newspaper, in a concentrated struggle with fate.
Matthew Arnold was another of the party, and I have a vision of my uncle standing talking with M. Taine, with whom he then and there made a lasting friendship. The Frenchman was not, I trust, aware at that moment of the heresies of the English critic who had ventured only a few years before to speak of "the exaggerated French estimate of Racine," and even to indorse the judgment of Joubert—"Racine est le Virgile des ignorants"! Otherwise M. Taine might have given an even sharper edge than he actually did to his remarks, in his letters home, on the critical faculty of the English. "In all that I read and hear," he says to Madame Taine, "I see nowhere the fine literary sense which means the gift—or the art—of understanding the souls and passions of the past." And again, "I have had infinite trouble to-day to make my audience appreciate some finesses of Racine." There is a note of resigned exasperation in these comments which reminds me of the passionate feeling of another French critic—Edmond Scherer, Sainte-Beuve's best successor—ten years later. A propos of some judgment of Matthew Arnold—whom Scherer delighted in—on Racine, of the same kind as those I have already quoted, the French man of letters once broke out to me, almost with fury, as we walked together at Versailles. But, after all, was the Oxford which contained Pater, Pattison, and Bywater, which had nurtured Matthew Arnold and Swinburne—Swinburne with his wonderful knowledge of the intricacies and subtleties of the French tongue and the French literature—merely "solide and positif," as Taine declares? The judgment is, I think, a characteristic judgment of that man of formulas—often so brilliant and often so mistaken—who, in the famous History of English Literature, taught his English readers as much by his blunders as by his merits. He provoked us into thinking. And what critic does more? Is not the whole fraternity like so many successive Penelopes, each unraveling the web of the one before? The point is that the web should be eternally remade and eternally unraveled.
I married Mr. Thomas Humphry Ward, Fellow and Tutor of Brasenose College, on April 6, 1872, the knot being tied by my father's friend, my grandfather's pupil and biographer, Dean Stanley. For nine years, till the spring of 1881, we lived in Oxford, in a little house north of the Parks, in what was then the newest quarter of the University town. They were years, for both of us, of great happiness and incessant activity. Our children, two daughters and a son, were born in 1874, 1876, and 1879. We had many friends, all pursuing the same kind of life as ourselves, and interested in the same kind of things. Nobody under the rank of a Head of a College, except a very few privileged Professors, possessed as much as a thousand a year. The average income of the new race of married tutors was not much more than half that sum. Yet we all gave dinner-parties and furnished our houses with Morris papers, old chests and cabinets, and blue pots. The dinner-parties were simple and short. At our own early efforts of the kind there certainly was not enough to eat. But we all improved with time; and on the whole I think we were very fair housekeepers and competent mothers. Most of us were very anxious to be up-to-date and in the fashion, whether in esthetics, in housekeeping, or in education. But our fashion was not that of Belgravia or Mayfair, which, indeed, we scorned! It was the fashion of the movement which sprang from Morris and Burne-Jones. Liberty stuffs very plain in line, but elaborately "smocked," were greatly in vogue, and evening dresses, "cut square," or with "Watteau pleats," were generally worn, and often in conscious protest against the London "low dress," which Oxford—young married Oxford—thought both ugly and "fast." And when we had donned our Liberty gowns we went out to dinner, the husband walking, the wife in a bath chair, drawn by an ancient member of an ancient and close fraternity—the "chairmen" of old Oxford.
Almost immediately opposite to us in the Bradmore Road lived Walter Pater and his sisters. The exquisiteness of their small house, and the charm of the three people who lived in it, will never be forgotten by those who knew them well in those days when by the publication of the Studies in the Renaissance (1873) their author had just become famous. I recall very clearly the effect of that book, and of the strange and poignant sense of beauty expressed in it; of its entire aloofness also from the Christian tradition of Oxford, its glorification of the higher and intenser forms of esthetic pleasure, of "passion" in the intellectual sense—as against the Christian doctrine of self-denial and renunciation. It was a gospel that both stirred and scandalized Oxford. The bishop of the diocese thought it worth while to protest. There was a cry of "Neo-paganism," and various attempts at persecution. The author of the book was quite unmoved. In those days Walter Pater's mind was still full of revolutionary ferments which were just as sincere, just as much himself, as that later hesitating and wistful return toward Christianity, and Christianity of the Catholic type, which is embodied in Marius the Epicurean, the most beautiful of the spiritual romances of Europe since the Confessions. I can remember a dinner-party at his house, where a great tumult arose over some abrupt statement of his made to the High Church wife of a well-known Professor. Pater had been in some way pressed controversially beyond the point of wisdom, and had said suddenly that no reasonable person could govern his life by the opinions or actions of a man who died eighteen centuries ago. The Professor and his wife—I look back to them both with the warmest affection—departed hurriedly, in agitation; and the rest of us only gradually found out what had happened.
But before we left Oxford in 1881 this attitude of mind had, I think, greatly changed. Mr. Gosse, in the memoir of Walter Pater contributed to the Dictionary of National Biography, says that before 1870 he had gradually relinquished all belief in the Christian religion—and leaves it there. But the interesting and touching thing to watch was the gentle and almost imperceptible flowing back of the tide over the sands it had left bare. It may be said, I think, that he never returned to Christianity in the orthodox or intellectual sense. But his heart returned to it. He became once more endlessly interested in it, and haunted by the "something" in it which he thought inexplicable. A remembrance of my own shows this. In my ardent years of exploration and revolt, conditioned by the historical work that occupied me during the later 'seventies, I once said to him in tete-a-tete, reckoning confidently on his sympathy, and with the intolerance and certainty of youth, that orthodoxy could not possibly maintain itself long against its assailants, especially from the historical and literary camps, and that we should live to see it break down. He shook his head and looked rather troubled.
"I don't think so," he said. Then, with hesitation: "And we don't altogether agree. You think it's all plain. But I can't. There are such mysterious things. Take that saying, 'Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy-laden.' How can you explain that? There is a mystery in it—something supernatural."
A few years later, I should very likely have replied that the answer of the modern critic would be, "The words you quote are in all probability from a lost Wisdom book; there are very close analogies in Proverbs and in the Apocrypha. They are a fragment without a context, and may represent on the Lord's lips either a quotation or the text of a discourse. Wisdom is speaking—the Wisdom 'which is justified of her children.'" But if any one had made such a reply, it would not have affected the mood in Pater, of which this conversation gave me my first glimpse, and which is expressed again and again in the most exquisite passages of Marius. Turn to the first time when Marius—under Marcus Aurelius—is present at a Christian ceremony, and sees, for the first time, the "wonderful spectacle of those who believed."
The people here collected might have figured as the earliest handsel or pattern of a new world, from the very face of which discontent had passed away.... They had faced life and were glad, by some science or light of knowledge they had, to which there was certainly no parallel in the older world. Was some credible message from beyond "the flaming rampart of the world"—a message of hope ... already molding their very bodies and looks and voices, now and here?
Or again to the thoughts of Marius at the approach of death:
At this moment, his unclouded receptivity of soul, grown so steadily through all those years, from experience to experience, was at its height; the house was ready for the possible guest, the tablet of the mind white and smooth, for whatever divine fingers might choose to write there.
Marius was published twelve years after the Studies in the Renaissance, and there is a world between the two books. Some further light will be thrown on this later phase of Mr. Pater's thought by a letter he wrote to me in 1885 on my translation of Amiel's From Journal Intime. Here it is rather the middle days of his life that concern me, and the years of happy friendship with him and his sisters, when we were all young together. Mr. Pater and my husband were both fellows and tutors of Brasenose, though my husband was much the younger, a fact which naturally brought us into frequent contact. And the beautiful little house across the road, with its two dear mistresses, drew me perpetually, both before and after my marriage. The drawing-room, which runs the whole breadth of the house from the road to the garden behind, was "Paterian" in every line and ornament. There were a Morris paper; spindle-legged tables and chairs; a sparing allowance of blue plates and pots, bought, I think, in Holland, where Oxford residents in my day were always foraging, to return, often, with treasures of which the very memory now stirs a half-amused envy of one's own past self, that had such chances and lost them; framed embroidery of the most delicate design and color, the work of Mr. Pater's elder sister; engravings, if I remember right, from Botticelli, or Luini, or Mantegna; a few mirrors, and a very few flowers, chosen and arranged with a simple yet conscious art. I see that room always with the sun in it, touching the polished surfaces of wood and brass and china, and bringing out its pure, bright color. I see it too pervaded by the presence of the younger sister, Clara—a personality never to be forgotten by those who loved her. Clara Pater, whose grave and noble beauty in youth has been preserved in a drawing by Mr. Wirgman, was indeed a "rare and dedicated spirit." When I first knew her she was four or five and twenty, intelligent, alive, sympathetic, with a delightful humor and a strong judgment, but without much positive acquirement. Then after some years she began to learn Latin and Greek with a view to teaching; and after we left Oxford she became Vice-President of the new Somerville College for Women. Several generations of girl-students must still preserve the tenderest and most grateful memories of all that she was there, as woman, teacher, and friend. Her point of view, her opinion, had always the crispness, the savor that goes with perfect sincerity. She feared no one, and she loved many, as they loved her. She loved animals, too, as all the household did. How well I remember the devoted nursing given by the brother and sisters to a poor little paralytic cat, whose life they tried to save— in vain! When, later, I came across in Marius the account of Marcus Aurelius carrying away the dead child Annius Verus—"pressed closely to his bosom, as if yearning just then for one thing only, to be united, to be absolutely one with it, in its obscure distress"—I remembered the absorption of the writer of those lines, and of his sisters, in the suffering of that poor little creature, long years before. I feel tolerably certain that in writing the words Walter Pater had that past experience in mind.
After Walter Pater's death, Clara, with her elder sister, became the vigilant and joint guardians of their brother's books and fame, till, four years ago, a terrible illness cut short her life, and set free, in her brother's words, the "unclouded and receptive soul."
BALLIOL AND LINCOLN
When the Oxford historian of the future comes across the name and influence of Benjamin Jowett, the famous Master of Balliol, and Greek professor, in the mid-current of the nineteenth century, he will not be without full means of finding out what made that slight figure (whereof he will be able to study the outward and visible presence in some excellent portraits, and in many caricatures) so significant and so representative. The Life of the Master, by Evelyn Abbott and Lewis Campbell, is to me one of the most interesting biographies of our generation. It is long—for those who have no Oxford ties, no doubt, too long; and it is cumbered with the echoes of old controversies, theological and academic, which have mostly, though by no means wholly, passed into a dusty limbo. But it is one of the rare attempts that English biography has seen to paint a man as he really was; and to paint him not with the sub-malicious strokes of a Purcell, but in love, although in truth.
The Master, as he fought his many fights, with his abnormally strong will and his dominating personality; the Master, as he appeared, on the one hand, to the upholders of "research," of learning, that is, as an end in itself apart from teaching, and, on the other, to the High- Churchmen encamped in Christ Church, to Pusey, Liddon, and all their clan—pugnacious, formidable, and generally successful—here he is to the life. This is the Master whose personality could never be forgotten in any room he chose to enter; who brought restraint rather than ease to the gatherings of his friends, mainly because, according to his own account, of a shyness he could never overcome; whose company on a walk was too often more of a torture than an honor to the undergraduate selected for it; whose lightest words were feared, quoted, chuckled over, or resented, like those of no one else.
Of this Master I have many remembrances. I see, for instance, a drawing- room full of rather tongue-tied, embarrassed guests, some Oxford residents, some Londoners; and the Master among them, as a stimulating— but disintegrating!—force, of whom every one was uneasily conscious. The circle was wide, the room bare, and the Balliol arm-chairs were not placed for conversation. On a high chair against the wall sat a small boy of ten—we will call him Arthur—oppressed by his surroundings. The talk languished and dropped. From one side of the large room, the Master, raising his voice, addressed the small boy on the other side.
"Well, Arthur, so I hear you've begun Greek. How are you getting on?"
To the small boy looking round the room it seemed as though twenty awful grownups were waiting in a dead silence to eat him up. He rushed upon his answer.
"I—I'm reading the Anabasis," he said, desperately.
The false quantity sent a shock through the room. Nobody laughed, out of sympathy with the boy, who already knew that something dreadful had happened. The boy's miserable parents, Londoners, who were among the twenty, wished themselves under the floor. The Master smiled.
"The Anabasis, Arthur," he said, cheerfully. "You'll get it right next time."
And he went across to the boy, evidently feeling for him and wishing to put him at ease. But after thirty years the boy and his parents still remember the incident with a shiver. It could not have produced such an effect except in an atmosphere of tension; and that, alas! too often, was the atmosphere which surrounded the Master.
I can remember, too, many proud yet anxious half-hours in the Master's study—such a privilege, yet such an ordeal!—when, after our migration to London, we became, at regular intervals, the Master's week-end visitors. "Come and talk to me a little in my study," the Master would say, pleasantly. And there in the room where he worked for so many years, as the interpreter of Greek thought to the English world, one would take a chair beside the fire, with the Master opposite. I have described my fireside tete-a-tetes, as a girl, with another head of a College—the Rector of Lincoln, Mark Pattison. But the Master was a far more strenuous companion. With him, there were no diversions, none!—no relief from the breathless adventure of trying to please him and doing one's best. The Rector once, being a little invalidish, allowed me to make up the fire, and, after watching the process sharply, said: "Good! Does it drive you distracted, too, when people put on coals the wrong way?" An interruption which made for human sympathy! The Master, as far as I can remember, had no "nerves"; and "nerves" are a bond between many. But he occasionally had sudden returns upon himself. I remember once after we had been discussing a religious book which had interested us both, he abruptly drew himself up, in the full tide of talk, and said, with a curious impatience, "But one can't be always thinking of these things!" and changed the subject.
So much for the Master, the stimulus of whose mere presence was, according to his biographers, "often painful." But there were at least two other Masters in the "Mr. Jowett" we reverenced. And they, too, are fully shown in this biography. The Master who loved his friends and thought no pains too great to take for them, including the very rare pains of trying to mend their characters by faithfulness and plain speaking, whenever he thought they wanted it. The Master, again, whose sympathies were always with social reform and with the poor, whose hidden life was full of deeds of kindness and charity, who, in spite of his difficulties of manner, was loved by all sorts and conditions of men—and women—in all circles of life, by politicians and great ladies, by diplomats and scholars and poets, by his secretary and his servants— there are many traits of this good man and useful citizen recorded by his biographers.
And, finally, there was the Master who reminded his most intimate friends of a sentence of his about Greek literature, which occurs in the Introduction to the Phoedrus: "Under the marble exterior of Greek literature was concealed a soul thrilling with spiritual emotion," says the Master. His own was not exactly a marble exterior; but the placid and yet shrewd cheerfulness of his delicately rounded face, with its small mouth and chin, its great brow and frame of snowy hair, gave but little clue to the sensitive and mystical soul within. If ever a man was Gottbetrunken, it was the Master, many of whose meditations and passing thoughts, withdrawn, while he lived, from all human ken, yet written down—in thirty or forty volumes!—for his own discipline and remembrance, can now be read, thanks to his biographers, in the pages of the Life, They are extraordinarily frank and simple; startling, often, in their bareness and truth. But they are, above all, the thoughts of a mystic, moving in a Divine presence. An old and intimate friend of the Master's once said to me that he believed "Jowett's inner mind, especially toward the end of his life, was always in an attitude of Prayer. One would go and talk to him on University or College business in his study, and suddenly see his lips moving, slightly and silently, and know what it meant." The records of him which his death revealed— and his closest friends realized it in life—show a man perpetually conscious of a mysterious and blessed companionship; which is the mark of the religious man, in all faiths and all churches. Yet this was the man who, for the High Church party at Oxford, with its headquarters at Christ Church, under the flag of Doctor Pusey and Canon Liddon, was the symbol and embodiment of all heresy; whose University salary as Greek professor, which depended on a Christ Church subsidy, was withheld for years by the same High-Churchmen, because of their inextinguishable wrath against the Liberal leader who had contributed so largely to the test-abolishing legislation of 1870—legislation by which Oxford, in Liddon's words, was "logically lost to the Church of England."
Yet no doubt they had their excuses! For this, too, was the man who, in a city haunted by Tractarian shades, once said to his chief biographer that "Voltaire had done more good than all the Fathers of the Church put together!"—who scornfully asks himself in his diary, a propos of the Bishops' condemnation of Essays and Reviews, "What is Truth against an esprit de corps?"—and drops out the quiet dictum, "Half the books that are published are religious books, and what trash this religious literature is!" Nor did the Evangelicals escape. The Master's dislike for many well-known hymns specially dear to that persuasion was never concealed. "How cocky they are!" he would say, contemptuously. "'When upward I fly—Quite justified I'—who can repeat a thing like that?"
How the old war-cries ring again in one's ears as one looks back! Those who have only known the Oxford of the last twenty years can never, I think, feel toward that "august place" as we did, in the seventies of the last century; we who were still within sight and hearing of the great fighting years of an earlier generation, and still scorched by their dying fires. Balliol, Christ Church, Lincoln—the Liberal and utilitarian camp, the Church camp, the researching and pure scholarship camp—with Science and the Museum hovering in the background, as the growing aggressive powers of the future seeking whom they might devour— they were the signs and symbols of mighty hosts, of great forces still visibly incarnate, and in marching array. Balliol versus Christ Church—Jowett versus Pusey and Liddon—while Lincoln despised both, and the new scientific forces watched and waited—that was how we saw the field of battle, and the various alarms and excursions it was always providing.
But Balliol meant more to me than the Master. Professor Thomas Hill Green—"Green of Balliol"—was no less representative in our days of the spiritual and liberating forces of the great college; and the time which has now elapsed since his death has clearly shown that his philosophic work and influence hold a lasting and conspicuous place in the history of nineteenth-century thought. He and his wife became our intimate friends, and in the Grey of Robert Elsmere I tried to reproduce a few of those traits—traits of a great thinker and teacher, who was also one of the simplest, sincerest, and most practical of men—which Oxford will never forget, so long as high culture and noble character are dear to her. His wife—so his friend and biographer, Lewis Nettleship, tells us—once compared him to Sir Bors in "The Holy Grail":
A square-set man and honest; and his eyes, An outdoor sign of all the wealth within, Smiled with his lips—a smile beneath a cloud, But Heaven had meant it for a sunny one!
A quotation in which the mingling of a cheerful, practical, humorous temper, the temper of the active citizen and politician, with the heavy tasks of philosophic thought, is very happily suggested. As we knew him, indeed, and before the publication of the Prolegomena to Ethics and the Introduction to the Clarendon Press edition of Hume had led to his appointment as Whyte's Professor of Moral Philosophy, Mr. Green was not only a leading Balliol tutor, but an energetic Liberal, a member both of the Oxford Town Council and of various University bodies; a helper in all the great steps taken for the higher education of women at Oxford, and keenly attracted by the project of a High School for the town boys of Oxford—a man, in other words, preoccupied, just as the Master was, and, for all his philosophic genius, with the need of leading "a useful life."
Let me pause to think how much that phrase meant in the mouths of the best men whom Balliol produced, in the days when I knew Oxford. The Master, Green, Toynbee—their minds were full, half a century ago, of the "condition of the people" question, of temperance, housing, wages, electoral reform; and within the University, and by the help of the weapons of thought and teaching, they regarded themselves as the natural allies of the Liberal party which was striving for these things through politics and Parliament. "Usefulness," "social reform," the bettering of daily life for the many—these ideas are stamped on all their work and on all the biographies of them that remain to us.
And the significance of it is only to be realized when we turn to the rival group, to Christ Church, and the religious party which that name stood for. Read the lives of Liddon, of Pusey, or—to go farther back— of the great Newman himself. Nobody will question the personal goodness and charity of any of the three. But how little the leading ideas of that seething time of social and industrial reform, from the appearance of Sybil in 1843 to the Education Bill of 1870, mattered either to Pusey or to Liddon, compared with the date of the Book of Daniel or the retention of the Athanasian Creed? Newman, at a time when national drunkenness was an overshadowing terror in the minds of all reformers, confesses with a pathetic frankness that he had never considered "whether there were too many public-houses in England or no"; and in all his religious controversies of the 'thirties and the 'forties, you will look in vain for any word of industrial or political reform. So also in the Life of that great rhetorician and beautiful personality, Canon Liddon, you will scarcely find a single letter that touches on any question of social betterment. How to safeguard the "principle of authority," how to uphold the traditional authorship of the Pentateuch, and of the Book of Daniel, against "infidel" criticism; how to stifle among the younger High-Churchmen like Mr. (now Bishop) Gore, then head of the Pusey House, the first advances toward a reasonable freedom of thought; how to maintain the doctrine of Eternal Punishment against the protest of the religious consciousness itself—it is on these matters that Canon Liddon's correspondence turns, it was to them his life was devoted.
How vainly! Who can doubt now which type of life and thought had in it the seeds of growth and permanence—the Balliol type, or the Christ Church type? There are many High-Churchmen, it is true, at the present day, and many Ritualist Churches. But they are alive to-day, just in so far as they have learned the lesson of social pity, and the lesson of a reasonable criticism, from the men whom Pusey and Liddon and half the bishops condemned and persecuted in the middle years of the nineteenth century.
When we were living in Oxford, however, this was not exactly the point of view from which the great figure of Liddon presented itself, to us of the Liberal camp. We were constantly aware of him, no doubt, as the rival figure to the Master of Balliol, as the arch wire-puller and ecclesiastical intriguer in University affairs, leading the Church forces with a more than Roman astuteness. But his great mark was made, of course, by his preaching, and that not so much by the things said as by the man saying them. Who now would go to Liddon's famous Bamptons, for all their learning, for a still valid defense of the orthodox doctrine of the Incarnation? Those wonderful paragraphs of subtle argumentation from which the great preacher emerged, as triumphantly as Mr. Gladstone from a Gladstonian sentence in a House of Commons debate— what remains of them? Liddon wrote of Stanley that he—Stanley—was "more entirely destitute of the logical faculty" than any educated man he knew. In a sense it was true. But Stanley, if he had been aware of the criticism, might have replied that, if he lacked logic, Liddon lacked something much more vital—i.e., the sense of history—and of the relative value of testimony!
Newman, Pusey, Liddon—all three, great schoolmen, arguing from an accepted brief; the man of genius, the man of a vast industry, intense but futile, the man of captivating presence and a perfect rhetoric— history, with its patient burrowings, has surely undermined the work of all three, sparing only that element in the work of one of them— Newman—which is the preserving salt of all literature—i.e., the magic of personality. And some of the most efficacious burrowers have been their own spiritual children. As was fitting! For the Tractarian movement, with its appeal to the primitive Church, was in truth, and quite unconsciously, one of the agencies in a great process of historical inquiry which is still going on, and of which the end is not yet.
But to me, in my twenties, these great names were not merely names or symbols, as they are to the men and women of the present generation. Newman I had seen in my childhood, walking about the streets of Edgbaston, and had shrunk from him in a dumb, childish resentment as from some one whom I understood to be the author of our family misfortunes. In those days, as I have already recalled in an earlier chapter, the daughters of a "mixed marriage" were brought up in the mother's faith, and the sons in the father's. I, therefore, as a schoolgirl under Evangelical influence, was not allowed to make friends with any of my father's Catholic colleagues. Then, in 1880, twenty years later, Newman came to Oxford, and on Trinity Monday there was a great gathering at Trinity College, where the Cardinal in his red, a blanched and spiritual presence, received the homage of a new generation who saw in him a great soul and a great master of English, and cared little or nothing for the controversies in which he had spent his prime. As my turn came to shake hands, I recalled my father to him and the Edgbaston days. His face lit up—almost mischievously. "Are you the little girl I remember seeing sometimes—in the distance?" he said to me, with a smile and a look that only he and I understood.
On the Sunday preceding that gathering I went to hear his last sermon in the city he had loved so well, preached at the new Jesuit church in the suburbs; while little more than a mile away, Bidding Prayer and sermon were going on as usual in the University Church where in his youth, week by week, he had so deeply stirred the hearts and consciences of men. The sermon in St. Aloysius's was preached with great difficulty, and was almost incoherent from the physical weakness of the speaker. Yet who that was present on that Sunday will ever forget the great ghost that fronted them, the faltering accents, the words from which the life-blood had departed, yet not the charm?
Then—Pusey! There comes back to me a bowed and uncouth figure, whom one used to see both in the Cathedral procession on a Sunday, and—rarely— in the University pulpit. One sermon on Darwinism, which was preached, if I remember right, in the early 'seventies, remains with me, as the appearance of some modern Elijah, returning after long silence and exile to protest against an unbelieving world. Sara Coleridge had years before described Pusey in the pulpit with a few vivid strokes.
He has not one of the graces of oratory [she says]. His discourse is generally a rhapsody describing with infinite repetition the wickedness of sin, the worthlessness of earth, and the blessedness of Heaven. He is as still as a statue all the time he is uttering it, looks as white as a sheet, and is as monotonous in delivery as possible.
Nevertheless, Pusey wielded a spell which is worth much oratory—the spell of a soul dwelling spiritually on the heights; and a prophet, moreover, may be as monotonous or as incoherent as he pleases, while the world is still in tune with his message. But in the 'seventies, Oxford, at least, was no longer in tune with Pusey's message, and the effect of the veteran leader, trying to come to terms with Darwinism, struggling, that is, with new and stubborn forces he had no further power to bind, was tragic, or pathetic, as such things must always be. New Puseys arise in every century. The "sons of authority" will never perish out of the earth. But the language changes and the argument changes; and perhaps there are none more secretly impatient with the old prophet than those younger spirits of his own kind who are already stepping into his shoes.
Far different was the effect of Liddon, in those days, upon us younger folk! The grace and charm of Liddon's personal presence were as valuable to his party in the 'seventies as that of Dean Stanley had been to Liberalism at an earlier stage. There was indeed much in common between the aspect and manner of the two men, though no likeness, in the strict sense, whatever. But the exquisite delicacy of feature, the brightness of eye, the sensitive play of expression, were alike in both. Saint Simon says of Fenelon:
He was well made, pale, with eyes that showered intelligence and fire—and with a physiognomy that no one who had seen it once could forget. It had both gravity and polish, seriousness and gaiety; it spoke equally of the scholar, the bishop, and the grand seigneur, and the final impression was one of intelligence, subtlety, grace, charm; above all, of dignity. One had to tear oneself from looking at him.
Many of those who knew Liddon best could, I think, have adapted this language to him; and there is much in it that fitted Arthur Stanley.
But the love and gift for managing men was of course a secondary thing in the case of our great preacher. The University politics of Liddon and his followers are dead and gone; and as I have ventured to think, the intellectual force of Liddon's thoughts and arguments, as they are presented to us now on the printed page, is also a thing of the past. But the vision of the preacher in those who saw it is imperishable. The scene in St. Paul's has been often described, by none better than by Doctor Liddon's colleague, Canon Scott Holland. But the Oxford scene, with all its Old World setting, was more touching, more interesting. As I think of it, I seem to be looking out from those dark seats under the undergraduates' gallery—where sat the wives of the Masters of Arts—at the crowded church, as it waited for the preacher. First came the stir of the procession; the long line of Heads of Houses, in their scarlet robes as Doctors of Divinity—all but the two heretics, Pattison and Jowett, who walked in their plain black, and warmed my heart always thereby! And then the Vice-Chancellor, with the "pokers" and the preacher. All eyes were fixed on the slender, willowy figure, and the dark head touched with silver. The bow to the Vice-Chancellor as they parted at the foot of the pulpit stairs, the mounting of the pulpit, the quiet look out over the Church, the Bidding Prayer, the voice—it was all part of an incomparable performance which cannot be paralleled to- day.
The voice was high and penetrating, without much variety, as I remember it; but of beautiful quality, and at times wonderfully moving. And what was still more appealing was the evident strain upon the speaker of his message. It wore him out visibly as he delivered it. He came down from the pulpit white and shaken, dripping with perspiration. Virtue had gone out of him. Yet his effort had never for a moment weakened his perfect self-control, the flow and finish of the long sentences, or the subtle interconnection of the whole! One Sunday I remember in particular. Oxford had been saddened the day before by the somewhat sudden death of a woman whom everybody loved and respected—Mrs. Acland, the wife of the well-known doctor and professor. And Liddon, with a wonderfully happy instinct, had added to his sermon a paragraph dealing with Mrs. Acland's death, which held us all spellbound till the beautiful words died into silence. It was done with a fastidious literary taste that is rather French than English; and yet it came from the very heart of the speaker. Looking back through my many memories of Doctor Liddon as a preacher, that tribute to a noble woman in death remains with me as the finest and most lasting of them all.
EARLY MARRIED LIFE
How many other figures in that vanished Oxford world I should like to draw!—Mandell or "Max" Creighton, our lifelong friend, then just married to the wife who was his best comrade while he lived, and since his death has made herself an independent force in English life. I first remember the future Bishop of London when I was fifteen, and he was reading history with my father on a Devonshire reading-party. The tall, slight figure in blue serge, the red-gold hair, the spectacles, the keen features and quiet, commanding eye—I see them first against a background of rocks on the Lynton shore. Then again, a few years later, in his beautiful Merton rooms, with the vine tendrils curling round the windows, the Morris paper, and the blue willow-pattern plates upon it, that he was surely the first to collect in Oxford. A luncheon-party returns upon me—in Brasenose—where the brilliant Merton Fellow and tutor, already a power in Oxford, first met his future wife; afterward, their earliest married home in Oxford so near to ours, in the new region of the Parks; then the Vicarage on the Northumberland coast where Creighton wrestled with the north-country folk, with their virtues and their vices, drinking deep draughts thereby from the sources of human nature; where he read and wrote history, preparing for his magnum opus, the history of the Renaissance Popes; where he entertained his friends, brought up his children, and took mighty walks—always the same restless, energetic, practical, pondering spirit, his mind set upon the Kingdom of God, and convinced that in and through the English Church a man might strive for the Kingdom as faithfully and honestly as anywhere else. The intellectual doubts and misgivings on the subject of taking orders, so common in the Oxford of his day, Creighton had never felt. His life had ripened to a rich maturity without, apparently, any of those fundamental conflicts which had scarred the lives of other men.
The fact set him in strong contrast with another historian who was also our intimate friend—John Richard Green. When I first knew him, during my engagement to my husband, and seven years before the Short History was published, he had just practically—though not formally—given up his orders. He had been originally curate to my husband's father, who held a London living, and the bond between him and his Vicar's family was singularly close and affectionate. After the death of the dear mother of the flock, a saintly and tender spirit, to whom Mr. Green was much attached, he remained the faithful friend of all her children. How much I had heard of him before I saw him! The expectation of our first meeting filled me with trepidation. Should I be admitted, too, into that large and generous heart? Would he "pass" the girl who had dared to be his "boy's" fiancee? But after ten minutes all was well, and he was my friend no less than my husband's, to the last hour of his fruitful, suffering life.
And how much it meant, his friendship! It became plain very soon after our marriage that ours was to be a literary partnership. My first published story, written when I was eighteen, had appeared in the Churchman's Magazine in 1870, and an article on the "Poema del Cid," the first-fruits of my Spanish browsings in the Bodleian, appeared in Macmillan early in 1872. My husband was already writing in the Saturday Review and other quarters, and had won his literary spurs as one of the three authors of that jeu d'esprit of no small fame in its day, the Oxford Spectator. Our three children arrived in 1874, 1876, and 1879, and all the time I was reading, listening, talking, and beginning to write in earnest—mostly for the Saturday Review. "J.R.G.," as we loved to call him, took up my efforts with the warmest encouragement, tempered, indeed, by constant fears that I should become a hopeless bookworm and dryasdust, yielding day after day to the mere luxury of reading, and putting nothing into shape!
Against this supposed tendency in me he railed perpetually. "Any one can read!" he would say; "anybody of decent wits can accumulate notes and references; the difficulty is to write—to make something!" And later on, when I was deep in Spanish chronicles and thinking vaguely of a History of Spain—early Spain, at any rate—he wrote, almost impatiently: "Begin—and begin your book. Don't do 'studies' and that sort of thing—one's book teaches one everything as one writes it." I was reminded of that letter years later when I came across, in Amiel's Journal, a passage almost to the same effect: "It is by writing that one learns—it is by pumping that one draws water into one's well." But in J.R.G.'s case the advice he gave his friend was carried out by himself through every hour of his short, concentrated life. "He died learning," as the inscription on his grave testifies; but he also died making. In other words, the shaping, creative instinct wrestled in him with the powers of death through long years, and never deserted him to the very end. Who that has ever known the passion of the writer and the student can read without tears the record of his last months? He was already doomed when I first saw him in 1871, for signs of tuberculosis had been discovered in 1869, and all through the 'seventies and till he died, in 1883, while he was writing the Short History, the expanded Library Edition in four volumes, and the two brilliant monographs on The Making of England and The Conquest of England, the last of which was put together from his notes, and finished by his devoted wife and secretary after his death, he was fighting for his life, in order that he might finish his work. He was a dying man from January, 1881, but he finished and published The Making of England in 1882, and began The Conquest of England. On February 25th, ten days before his death, his wife told him that the end was near. He thought a little, and said that he had still something to say in his book "which is worth saying. I will make a fight for it. I will do what I can, and I must have sleeping-draughts for a week. After that it will not matter if they lose their effect." He worked on a little longer—-but on March 7th all was over. My husband had gone out to see him in February, and came home marveling at the miracle of such life in death.
I have spoken of the wonderful stimulus and encouragement he could give to the young student. But he was no flatterer. No one could strike harder or swifter than he, when he chose.
It was to me—in his eager friendship for "Humphry's" young wife—he first intrusted the task of that primer of English literature which afterward Mr. Stopford Brooke carried out with such astonishing success. But I was far too young for such a piece of work, and knew far too little. I wrote a beginning, however, and took it up to him when he was in rooms in Beaumont Street. He was entirely dissatisfied with it, and as gently and kindly as possible told me it wouldn't do and that I must give it up. Then throwing it aside, he began to walk up and down his room, sketching out how such a general outline of English literature might be written and should be written. I sat by enchanted, all my natural disappointment charmed away. The knowledge, the enthusiasm, the shaping power of the frail human being moving there before me—with the slight, emaciated figure, the great brow, the bright eyes; all the physical presence instinct, aflame, with the intellectual and poetic passion which grew upon him as he traced the mighty stream of England's thought and song—it was an experience never forgotten, one of those by which mind teaches mind, and the endless succession is carried on.
[Footnote 1: Since writing these lines, I have been amused to discover the following reference in the brilliant biography of Stopford Brooke, by his son-in-law, Principal Jacks, to my unlucky attempt. "The only advantage," says Mr. Brooke in his diary for May 8, 1899, "the older writer has over the younger is that he knows what to leave out and has a juster sense of proportion. I remember that when Green wanted the Primer of English Literature to be done, Mrs. —— asked if she might try her hand at it. He said 'Yes,' and she set to work. She took a fancy to Beowulf, and wrote twenty pages on it! At this rate the book would have run to more than a thousand pages."]
There is another memory from the early time, which comes back to me—of J.R.G. in Notre Dame. We were on our honeymoon journey, and we came across him in Paris. We went together to Notre Dame, and there, as we all lingered at the western end, looking up to the gleaming color of the distant apse, the spirit came upon him. He began to describe what the Church had seen, coming down through the generations, from vision to vision. He spoke in a low voice, but without a pause or break, standing in deep shadow close to the western door. One scarcely saw him, and I almost lost the sense of his individuality. It seemed to be the very voice of History—Life telling of itself.
Liberty and the passion for liberty were the very breath of his being. In 1871, just after the Commune, I wrote him a cry of pity and horror about the execution of Rossel, the "heroic young Protestant who had fought the Versaillais because they had made peace, and prevented him from fighting the Prussians." J.R.G. replied that the only defense of a man who fought for the Commune was that he believed in it, while Rossel, by his own statement, did not.
People like old Delescluze are more to my mind, men who believe, rightly or wrongly (in the ideas of '93), and cling to their faith through thirteen years of the hulks and of Cayenne, who get their chance at last, fight, work, and then when all is over know how to die—as Delescluze, with that gray head bared and the old threadbare coat thrown open, walked quietly and without a word up to the fatal barricade.
His place in the ranks of history is high and safe. That was abundantly shown by the testimony of the large gathering of English scholars and historians at the memorial meeting held in his own college some years ago. He remains as one of the leaders of that school (there is, of course, another and a strong one!) which holds that without imagination and personality a man had better not write history at all; since no recreation of the past is really possible without the kindling and welding force that a man draws from his own spirit.
But it is as a friend that I desire—with undying love and gratitude—to commemorate him here. To my husband, to all the motherless family he had taken to his heart, he was affection and constancy itself. And as for me, just before the last visit that we paid him at Mentone in 1882, a year before he died, he was actually thinking out schemes for that history of early Spain which it seemed, both to him and me, I must at last begin, and was inquiring what help I could get from libraries on the Riviera during our stay with him. Then, when we came, I remember our talks in the little Villa St. Nicholas—his sympathy, his enthusiasm, his unselfish help; while all the time he was wrestling with death for just a few more months in which to finish his own work. Both Lord Bryce and Sir Leslie Stephen have paid their tribute to this wonderful talk of his later years. "No such talk," says Lord Bryce, "has been heard in our generation." Of Madame de Stael it was said that she wrote her books out of the talk of the distinguished men who frequented her salon. Her own conversation was directed to evoking from the brains of others what she afterward, as an artist, knew how to use better than they. Her talk— small blame to her!—was plundering and acquisitive. But J.R.G.'s talk gave perpetually, admirable listener though he was. All that he had he gave; so that our final thought of him is not that of the suffering invalid, the thwarted workman, the life cut short, but rather that of one who had richly done his part and left in his friends' memories no mere pathetic appeal, but much more a bracing message for their own easier and longer lives.
Of the two other historians with whom my youth threw me into contact, Mr. Freeman and Bishop Stubbs, I have some lively memories. Mr. Freeman was first known to me, I think, through "Johnny," as he was wont to call J.R.G., whom he adored. Both he and J.R.G. were admirable letter- writers, and a volume of their correspondence—much of it already published separately—if it could be put together—like that of Flaubert and George Sand—would make excellent reading for a future generation. In 1877 and 1878, when I was plunged in the history of West-Gothic Kings, I had many letters from Mr. Freeman, and never were letters about grave matters less grave. Take this outburst about a lady who had sent him some historical work to look at. He greatly liked and admired the lady; but her work drove him wild. "I never saw anything like it for missing the point of everything.... Then she has no notion of putting a sentence together, so that she said some things which I fancy she did not mean to say—as that 'the beloved Queen Louisa of Prussia' was the mother of M. Thiers. When she said that the Duke of Orleans's horses ran away, 'leaving two infant sons,' it may have been so: I have no evidence either way."
Again, "I am going to send you the Spanish part of my Historical Geography. It will be very bad, but—when I don't know a thing I believe I generally know that I don't know it, and so manage to wrap it up in some vague phrase which, if not right, may at least not be wrong. Thus I have always held that the nursery account of Henry VIII—
"'And Henry the Eighth was as fat as a pig—'
"is to be preferred to Froude's version. For, though certainly an inadequate account of the reign, it is true as far as it goes."
Once, certainly, we stayed at Somerleaze, and I retain the impression of a very busy, human, energetic man of letters, a good Churchman, and a good citizen, brimful of likes and dislikes, and waving his red beard often as a flag of battle in many a hot skirmish, especially with J.R.G., but always warm-hearted and generally placable—except in the case of James Anthony Froude. The feud between Freeman and Froude was, of course, a standing dish in the educated world of half a century ago. It may be argued that the Muse of History has not decided the quarrel quite according to justice; that Clio has shown herself something of a jade in the matter, as easily influenced by fair externals as a certain Helen was long ago. How many people now read the Norman Conquest— except the few scholars who devote themselves to the same period? Whereas Froude's History, with all its sins, lives, and in my belief will long live, because the man who wrote it was a writer and understood his art.
Of Bishop Stubbs, the greatest historical name surely in the England of the last half of the nineteenth century, I did not personally see much while we lived in Oxford and he was Regius Professor. He had no gifts— it was his chief weakness as a teacher—for creating a young school around him, setting one man to work on this job, and another on that, as has been done with great success in many instances abroad. He was too reserved, too critical, perhaps too sensitive. But he stood as a great influence in the background, felt if not seen. A word of praise from him meant everything; a word of condemnation, in his own subjects, settled the matter. I remember well, after I had written a number of articles on early Spanish Kings and Bishops, for a historical Dictionary, and they were already in proof, how on my daily visits to the Bodleian I began to be puzzled by the fact that some of the very obscure books I had been using were "out" when I wanted them, or had been abstracted from my table by one of the sub-librarians. Joannes Biclarensis—he was missing! Who in the world could want that obscure chronicle of an obscure period but myself? I began to envisage some hungry German Privatdozent, on his holiday, raiding my poor little subject, and my books, with a view to his Doctor's thesis. Then one morning, as I went in, I came across Doctor Stubbs, with an ancient and portly volume under his arm. Joannes Biclarensis himself!—I knew it at once. The Professor gave me a friendly nod, and I saw a twinkle in his eye as we passed. Going to my desk, I found another volume gone—this time the Acts of the Councils of Toledo. So far as I knew, not the most ardent Churchman in Oxford felt at that time any absorbing interest in the Councils of Toledo. At any rate, I had been left in undisturbed possession of them for months. Evidently something was happening, and I sat down to my work in bewilderment.
Then, on my way home, I ran into a fellow-worker for the Dictionary—a well-known don and history tutor. "Do you know what's happened?" he said, in excitement. "Stubbs has been going through our work! The Editor wanted his imprimatur before the final printing. Can't expect anybody but Stubbs to know all these things! My books are gone, too." We walked up to the Parks together in a common anxiety, like a couple of school-boys in for Smalls. Then in a few days the tension was over; my books were on my desk again; the Professor stopped me in the Broad with a smile, and the remark that Joannes Biclarensis was really quite an interesting fellow, and I received a very friendly letter from the Editor of the Dictionary.
And perhaps I may be allowed, after these forty years, one more recollection, though I am afraid a proper reticence would suppress it! A little later "Mr. Creighton" came to visit us, after his immigration to Embleton and the north; and I timidly gave him some lives of West-Gothic Kings and Bishops to read. He read them—they were very long and terribly minute—and put down the proofs, without saying much. Then he walked down to Oxford with my husband, and sent me back a message by him: "Tell M. to go on. There is nobody but Stubbs doing such work in Oxford now." The thrill of pride and delight such words gave me may be imagined. But there were already causes at work why I should not "go on."
I shall have more to say presently about the work on the origins of modern Spain. It was the only thorough "discipline" I ever had; it lasted about two years—years of incessant, arduous work, and it led directly to the writing of Robert Elsmere. But before and after, how full life was of other things! The joys of one's new home, of the children that began to patter about it, of every bit of furniture and blue pot it contained, each representing some happy chasse or special earning—of its garden of half an acre, where I used to feel as Hawthorne felt in the garden of the Concord Manse—amazement that Nature should take the trouble to produce things as big as vegetable marrows, or as surprising as scarlet runners that topped one's head, just that we might own and eat them. Then the life of the University town, with all those marked antagonisms I have described, those intellectual and religious movements, that were like the meeting currents of rivers in a lake; and the pleasure of new friendships, where everybody was equal, nobody was rich, and the intellectual average was naturally high. In those days, too, a small group of women of whom I was one were laying the foundations of the whole system of women's education in Oxford. Mrs. Creighton and I, with Mrs. Max Mueller, were the secretaries and founders of the first organized series of lectures for women in the University town; I was the first secretary of Somerville Hall, and it fell to me, by chance, to suggest the name of the future college. My friends and I were all on fire for women's education, including women's medical education, and very emulous of Cambridge, where the movement was already far advanced.
But hardly any of us were at all on fire for woman suffrage, wherein the Oxford educational movement differed greatly from the Cambridge movement. The majority, certainly, of the group to which I belonged at Oxford were at that time persuaded that the development of women's power in the State—or rather, in such a state as England, with its far- reaching and Imperial obligations, resting ultimately on the sanction of war—should be on lines of its own. We believed that growth through Local Government, and perhaps through some special machinery for bringing the wishes and influence of women of all classes to bear on Parliament, other than the Parliamentary vote, was the real line of progress. However, I shall return to this subject on some future occasion, in connection with the intensified suffragist campaign which began about ten years ago (1907-08) and in which I took some part. I will only note here my first acquaintance with Mrs. Fawcett. I see her so clearly as a fresh, picturesque figure—in a green silk dress and a necklace of amber beads, when she came down to Oxford in the mid-'seventies to give a course of lectures in the series that Mrs. Creighton and I were organizing, and I remember well the atmosphere of sympathy and admiration which surrounded her as she spoke to an audience in which many of us were well acquainted with the heroic story of Mr. Fawcett's blindness, and of the part played by his wife in enabling him to continue his economic and Parliamentary work.
But life then was not all lectures!—nor was it all Oxford. There were vacations, and vacations generally meant for us some weeks, at least, of travel, even when pence were fewest. The Christmas vacation of 1874 we were in Paris. The weather was bitter, and we were lodged, for cheapness' sake, in an old-fashioned hotel, where the high canopied beds with their mountainous duvets were very difficult to wake up in on a cold morning. But in spite of snow and sleet we filled our days to the brim. We took with us some introductions from Oxford—to Madame Mohl, the Renans, the Gaston Parises, the Boutmys, the Ribots, and, from my Uncle Matthew, to the Scherers at Versailles. Monsieur Taine was already known to us, and it was at their house, on one of Madame Taine's Thursdays, that I first heard French conversation at its best. There was a young man there, dark-eyed, dark-haired, to whom I listened—not always able to follow the rapid French in which he and two other men were discussing some literary matter of the moment, but conscious, for the first time, of what the conversation of intellectual equals might be, if it were always practised as the French are trained to practise it from their mother's milk, by the influence of a long tradition. The young man was M. Paul Bourget, who had not yet begun to write novels, while his literary and philosophical essays seemed rather to mark him out as the disciple of M. Taine than as the Catholic protagonist he was soon to become. M. Bourget did not then speak English, and my French conversation, which had been wholly learned from books, had a way at that time—and, alack! has still—of breaking down under me, just as one reached the thing one really wanted to say. So that I did not attempt to do more than listen. But I seem to remember that those with whom he talked were M. Francis Charmes, then a writer on the staff of the Debats, and afterward the editor of the Revue des deux Mondes in succession to M. Brunetiere; and M. Gaston Paris, the brilliant head of French philology at the College de France. What struck me then, and through all the new experiences and new acquaintanceships of our Christmas fortnight, was that strenuous and passionate intensity of the French temper, which foreign nations so easily lose sight of, but which, in truth, is as much part of the French nature as their gaiety, or as what seems to us their frivolity. The war of 1870, the Commune, were but three years behind them. Germany had torn from them Alsace-Lorraine; she had occupied Paris; and their own Jacobins had ruined and burned what even Germany had spared. In the minds of the intellectual class there lay deep, on the one hand, a determination to rebuild France; on the other, to avenge her defeat. The blackened ruins of the Tuileries and of the Cour des Comptes still disfigured a city which grimly kept them there as a warning against anarchy; while the statue of the Ville de Strasbourg in the Place de la Concorde had worn for three years the funeral garlands, which, as France confidently hopes, the peace that will end this war will, after nearly half a century, give way once more to the rejoicing tricolor. At the same time reconstruction was everywhere beginning—especially in the field of education. The corrupt, political influence of the Empire, which had used the whole educational system of the country for the purpose of keeping itself and its supporters in power, was at an end. The recognized "Ecole Normale" was becoming a source of moral and mental strength among thousands of young men and women; and the "Ecole des Sciences politiques," the joint work of Taine, Renan, and M. Boutmy, its first director, was laying foundations whereof the results are to be seen conspicuously to-day, in French character, French resource, French patience, French science, as this hideous war has revealed them.
I remember an illuminating talk with M. Renan himself on this subject during our visit. We had never yet seen him, and we carried an introduction to him from Max Mueller, our neighbor and friend in Oxford. We found him alone, in a small working-room crowded with books, at the College de France. Madame Renan was away, and he had abandoned his large library for something more easily warmed. My first sight of him was something of a shock—of the large, ungainly figure, the genial face with its spreading cheeks and humorous eyes, the big head with its scanty locks of hair. I think he felt an amused and kindly interest in the two young folk from Oxford who had come as pilgrims to his shrine, and, realizing that our French was not fluent and our shyness great, he filled up the time—and the gaps—by a monologue, lit up by many touches of Renanesque humor, on the situation in France.
First, as to literature—"No, we have no genius, no poets or writers of the first rank just now—at least so it seems to me. But we work—nous travaillons beaucoup! Ce sera noire salut." It was the same as to politics. He had no illusions and few admirations. "The Chamber is full of mediocrities. We are governed by avocats and pharmaciens. But at least Ils ne feront pas la guerre!"
He smiled, but there was that in the smile and the gesture which showed the smart within; from which not even his scholar's philosophy, with its ideal of a world of cosmopolitan science, could protect him. At that moment he was inclined to despair of his country. The mad adventure of the Commune had gone deep into his soul, and there were still a good many pacifying years to run, before he could talk of his life as "cette charmante promenade a travers la realite"—for which, with all it had contained of bad and good, he yet thanked the Gods. At that time he was fifty-one; he had just published L'Antichrist, the most brilliant of all the volumes of the "Origines"; and he was not yet a member of the French Academy.
I turn to a few other impressions from that distant time. One night we were in the Theatre Francais, and Racine's "Phedre" was to be given. I at least had never been in the Maison de Moliere before, and in such matters as acting I possessed, at twenty-three, only a very raw and country-cousinish judgment. There had been a certain amount of talk in Oxford of a new and remarkable French actress, but neither of us had really any idea of what was before us. Then the play began. And before the first act was over we were sitting, bent forward, gazing at the stage in an intense and concentrated excitement such as I can scarcely remember ever feeling again, except perhaps when the same actress played "Hernani" in London for the first time in 1884. Sarah Bernhardt was then—December, 1874—in the first full tide of her success. She was of a ghostly and willowy slenderness. Each of the great speeches seemed actually to rend the delicate frame. When she fell back after one of them you felt an actual physical terror lest there should not be enough life left in the slight, dying woman to let her speak again. And you craved for yet more and more of the voix d'or which rang in one's ears as the frail yet exquisite instrument of a mighty music. Never before had it been brought home to me what dramatic art might be, or the power of the French Alexandrine. And never did I come so near quarreling with "Uncle Matt" as when, on our return, after having heard my say about the genius of Sarah Bernhardt, he patted my hand indulgently with the remark, "But, my dear child, you see, you never saw Rachel!"
As we listened to Sarah Bernhardt we were watching the outset of a great career which had still some forty years to run. On another evening we made acquaintance with a little old woman who had been born in the first year of the Terror, who had spent her first youth in the salon of Madame Recamier, valued there, above all, for her difficult success in drawing a smile from that old and melancholy genius, Chateaubriand; and had since held a salon of her own, which deserves a special place in the history of salons. For it was held, according to the French tradition, and in Paris, by an Englishwoman. It was, I think, Max Mueller who gave us an introduction to Madame Mohl. She sent us an invitation to one of her Friday evenings, and we duly mounted to the top of the old house in the Rue du Bac which she made famous for so long. As we entered the room I saw a small disheveled figure, gray-headed, crouching beside a grate, with a kettle in her hand. It was Madame Mohl—then eighty- one—who was trying to make the fire burn. She just raised herself to greet us, with a swift investigating glance; and then returned to her task of making the tea, in which I endeavored to help her. But she did not like to be helped, and I soon subsided into my usual listening and watching, which, perhaps, for one who at that time was singularly immature in all social respects, was the best policy. I seem still to see the tall, substantial form of Julius Mohl standing behind her, with various other elderly men who were no doubt famous folk, if one had known their names. And in the corner was the Spartan tea-table, with its few biscuits, which stood for the plain living whereon was nourished the high thinking and high talking which had passed through these rooms. Guizot, Cousin, Ampere, Fauriel, Mignet, Lamartine, all the great men of the middle century had talked there; not, in general, the poets and the artists, but the politicians, the historians, and the savants. The little Fairy Blackstick, incredibly old, kneeling on the floor, with the shabby dress and tousled gray hair, had made a part of the central scene in France, through the Revolution, the reign of the Citizen king, and the Second Empire—playing the role, through it all, of a good friend of freedom. If only one had heard her talk! But there were few people in the room, and we were none of us inspired. I must sadly put down that Friday evening among the lost opportunities of life. For Mrs. Simpson's biography of Madame Mohl shows what a wealth of wit and memory there was in that small head! Her social sense, her humor, never deserted her, though she lived to be ninety. When she was dying, her favorite cat, a tom, leaped on her bed. Her eyes lit up as she feebly stroked him. "He is so distinguished!" she whispered. "But his wife is not distinguished at all. He doesn't know it. But many men are like that." It was one of the last sayings of an expert in the human scene.