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Full text of "Confessions of a young man"

Presented to the 

UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO 
LIBRARY 

by the 



ONTARIO LEGISLATIVE 
LIBRARY 



1980 



CONFESSIONS OF 
A YOUNG MAN 









WORKS BY GEORGE MOORE 

LEWIS SEYMOUR AND SOME WOMEN 

A MUMMER'S WIFE. 

A DRAMA IN MUSLIN. 

SPRING DAYS. 

CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN. 

ESTHER WATERS. 

ESTHER WATERS (PLAY). 

CELIBATES. 

EVELYN INNES. 

SISTER TERESA. 

MODERN PAINTING. 

IMPRESSIONS AND OPINIONS. 

THE LAKE. 

THE STRIKE AT ARLINGFORD. 
MEMOIRS OF MY DEAD LIFE. 
HAIL AND FAREWELL. 

I II III 

AVE. SALVE. VALE. 

MUSLIN. 
THE BROOK KERITH. 



56818 

CONFESSIONS OF 
A YOUNG MAN 



BY 



GEORGE MOORE. 1886 
EDITED AND ANNOTATED BY GEORGE MOORE, 1904 

AND AGAIN IN 191 6 



56818 




LONDON 
WILLIAM HEINEMANN 



LIBRARY 




^ 



LONDON : WILLIAM HEINEMANN 



A JACQUES BLANCHE 

L'AME de 1'ancieu Egyptian s'eveillait en moi quaud mourut 
ma jeunesse, et j'ai eu 1'id^e de conserver mon passe, son 
esprit et sa forme, dans Tart. 

Alors trempant le pinceau dans ma memoire, j'ai peint 
ses joues pour qu'elles prissent 1'exacte ressemblance de la 
vie, et j'ai enveloppe le mort dans les plus fins linceuls. 
Rhameses le second n'a pas reu des soins plus pieux ! 
Que ce livre soit aussi durable que sa pyramide ! 

Votre nom, cher ami, je voudrais 1'inscrire ici comme 
epitaphe, car vous etes mon plus jeune et mon plus cher 
ami ; et il se trouve en vous tout ce qui est gracieux et 
subtil dans ces mornes anne'es qui s'e"gouttent dans le vase 
du vingtieme siecle. 

G. M. 



PREFACE 

IF I say that the end of the Nineteenth Century 
cannot brag of a more original book than The Con- 
fessions of a Young Man, I shall be deemed boastful 
and arrogant, but if the reader does not lay the book 
aside, he will probably discover me to be a man who 
would speak truthfully on all occasions, even about 
his own writings, a subject which lends itself to the 
exposition of a great deal of hypocrisy and insin- 
cerity, vices peculiarly disagreeable to me, and which 
I would avoid in the preface as I have avoided them 
in the book. Therefore, I relate, that the adjectives 
that came up in my mind on looking through these 
Confessions were * original ' and c incomplete.' No 
one will object to my applying the word ' incomplete ' 
to my own book, but the word ' original,' how is that 
to be justified ? By a simple statement that the 
book owes its originality to the circumstances out of 
which it came rather than to any special talent in 
the writer. Gaiety, liveliness in plenty . . . talent ? 
I am not sure that the word ' talent ' is applicable to 
these Confessions. 

At the time of writing them I knew nothing of 
Jean Jacques Rousseau. It is barely credible that I 
could have lived into early manhood without having 



viii PREFACE 

heard of him, but The Confessions of a Young Man 
testifies that I never read him; a page of Jean 
Jacques would have made the book I am prefacing 
an impossibility ; another book more complete but 
less original might have been written. I wrote 
without a model, Jean Jacques, too, wrote without a 
model, but he wrote at the end of his life, between 
sixty and sixty-five. His book is life seen in long 
mysterious perspectives, whereas mine is merely the 
evanescent haze by the edge of the wood, the 
enchantment of a May morning. Youth goes forth 
singing ; the song is often crude and superficial ; 
youth cannot be else than superficial ; but the book 
babbles spontaneously and truthfully, and this is 
why Pater liked it, and why it drew from him the 
letter that I print. 

' BRASENOSE COLLEGE. 
' March 4 

' MY DEAR, AUDACIOUS MoORE , 

' Many thanks for the ' ' Confessions," which I 
have read with great interest, and admiration for 
your originality your delightful criticisms your 
Aristophanic joy, or at least enjoyment, in life 
your unfailing liveliness. Of course, there are many 
things in the book I don't agree with. But then, in 
the case of so satiric a book, I suppose one is hardly 
expected to agree or disagree. What I cannot 
doubt is the literary faculty displayed. "Thou 
com'st in such a questionable shape !" I feel inclined 
to say, on finishing your book ; " shape," morally I 
mean, not in reference to style. 

' You speak of my own work very pleasantly ; but 



PREFACE ix 

my enjoyment has been independent of that. And 
still I wonder how much you may be losing, both for 
yourself and for your writings, by what, in spite of 
its gaiety and good-nature and genuine sense of the 
beauty of many things, I must still call a cynical, and 
therefore exclusive, way of looking at the world. 
You call it only "realistic." Still ! 

'With sincere wishes for the future success of 
your most entertaining pen, 

' Very sincerely yours, 

' WALTER PATER.' 

A delightful letter, but Pater could not do else 
than write ^almost' delightfully. Delightful is his 
word, perhaps, more than any other. It reveals him, 
and I would continue the revelation with other 
letters if I had managed to preserve them. His 
invitations to dinner, had I kept them, would have 
enabled me to reveal him still more plainly, and in the 
light in which it pleases me to place him before the 
reader as one that held himself forbidden to put pen 
to paper without getting some of his art on to the 
paper though the subject matter was merely : ' Will 
you dine with me on Thursday?' We have lost a 
great artist in Pater, for he could do this without 
suspicion of that priggishness which begins as soon 
as the artist lays his mind to the consideration of 
means rather than of ends ; Pater always held the 
end in view ; and his rule of life never to separate 
himself wholly from his art came out of an instinct ; 
his art was to him what the nest is to the sitting 
bird; were he to remain away for long, he might 
find the nest disarrayed or himself might be changed. 



x PREFACE 

The sights and sounds of the outer world might have 
rendered his own original aim less desirable to 
raise literature to the condition of music. To do 
other things and not to have achieved this would 
have been, in his view, to have done nothing, and to 
do this, I repeat, he felt that he must never separate 
himself wholly from his art. He was, therefore, 
always at composition ; comma, semi-colon, colon, 
dash, note of exclamation and interrogation always 
before his eyes. But Pater was also the most 
courteous of men, and as he would not have us think 
that he was composing whilst in our midst, he trained 
his face to wear a formal impassive expression behind 
which he could pursue his rhythms undisturbed. 
Pater's mask was the subject of many a debate as 
we turned out of Earl's Terrace into the High Street, 
but I doubt if anybody ever avouched the true 
reason for Pater's reservations of himself. We 
noticed, however, that he did not care for his 
disciples to accost him when he was out walking ; a 
rapid sign of recognition was enough, and he hastened 
away composing his slowly moving rhythms. We 
guessed that he was composing, but the natural 
conclusion that his rule of life was never to separate 
himself wholly from his art escaped us. ... Now 
it all comes back to me. I can see Pater at Andre 
Raffalowich's dinner-table, two very full-blown roses 
on either side of him, composing always. I doubt if 
he ever ceased composing except when he was 
asleep. 

From talk of Pater I drag myself with almost the 
same difficulty as I drag myself from talk of Manet, 
both having such deep roots in my mind, but perforce 



PREFACE xi 

I must abandon Pater now for the Confessions of a 
Young Man. The book is a sort of genesis ; the seed 
of everything I have written since will be found 
herein. A friend once said to me, ' you always had 
Esther Waters in your mind/ and when I asked him 
what he meant he said, ' well she is in the Confes- 
sions of a Young Man, and for some time his mean- 
ing eluded me ; then I understood that the servant 
girl, Emma, must have given rise to the story. It is 
also a book that may be described as a declaration of 
ideas and tastes, my love of the best things in 
modern literature and my love of the best things in 
modern painting, and my whilom weakness for subtle, 
passionate women. The one that writes a letter 
describing the sale of my furniture in the Rue de la 
Tour des Dames is an example. She, a ray of eroticism, 
falls across the pages but to disappear a moment 
afterwards, the book being more concerned with art 
than with the relaxations of the artist ; and I am 
pleased to find that my tastes are to-day what they 
were in the early eighties. 

The first eulogies written in England, I might 
almost say in any language, of Manet, Degas, Whistler, 
Monet, Pissaro, are in this book of Confessions, and 
whosoever reads will find himself unable to deny that 
time has vindicated all of them splendidly. 

To the present edition I have added some French 
poems, but the reader will not think because I 
have done this that I attach any literary importance 
to these trifles ; I know that any writing done in a 
foreign language is worthless, but the poems were 
written in or about the time of the Confessions, they 
belong to that period. The sonnet in which I 



xii PREFACE 

dedicate Martin Luther, a drama, to Swinburne, is 
remarkable for a mistake in French that Mallarme 
detected at once but which no one else has been able 
to discover, though it has been submitted to many 
poets. I have also added a third translation from 
Mallarm6, the original edition containing translations 
of two prose poems, but there are three, the third 
was omitted from laziness I suppose, or it may be it 
did not please me as much as the first two. It seems 
to me now singularly beautiful even in the transla- 
tion, and I think readers will probably thank me for 
having included it. 

A third addition is some verses inspired by 
Rubens' picture of his second wife, Helen Fromont, 
and the fourth is a ballade in the manner of Master 
Fran9ois Villon, somewhat weak in versification and 
containing, I think, a fault in prosody the counting 
of ' louts ' as one syllable, it surely should have been 
counted as two. . . . This mistake in versification 
has been corrected on the proof, and the ballade is 
now free from false prosody unless it be deemed 
false prosody to neglect the hemistich in verses often 
syllables ; in verses of twelve (the real French line) 
the hemistich has been abolished as antiquated ever 
since Banville wrote the famous line, ' Elle Jilait pen- 
sivement la blanche laine,' a line that Richepin imitated, 
f Elle tirait nonchalamment les bas de sole.' It is, how- 
ever, for the subject rather than for the versification 
that I print this ballade of old time ; for I would tell 
how at the end of the seventies we who spent our 
evenings in the Nouvelle Athenes used to look to the 
brothel for our literary inspirations. Every age has 
its favourite subject. Byron and Shelley looked to 



PREFACE xiii 

incest for theirs, and the brothel that had been 
neglected by poets since Villon wrote his celebrated 
ballade La Grosse Mar got began to show aloft 
again, on the lower slopes, perhaps, but still it was 
on the slopes of Parnassus that Richepin wrote Les 
Chansons des Gueux ; Maupassant came later with his 
Maison Tellier. My old friend, Paul Alexis, con- 
tributed something, and my ballade is the last 
example of a literature about which professors of 
literature like to write, or rather to which they like 
to allude, never failing to add, ' now happily extinct.' 






CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG 



ERRATA 

Page 15, last line.) 

Page 1 6, line 23. For 'Engin' read 'Enghien.' 

Page 17, line 16. } 

Pale It line W.} F r 'DurantV read 'Durand's. 
Page 53, line n. For 'Majeure ' read ' Majeur.' 
Page 57, line 9. For 'une ' read Ma.' 



Page 65, line 2. For 'speciaux' read 'specieux.' 
Page 93, line 14. For ' releve' read ' relcve.' 
Page 130, line 25. For 'le' read 'la.' 
Page 130, line 29. For 'la* read 'le.' 
Page 152, line 31. For t a t read 'All /' 



fervour of a reasoned conviction. Sometimes, it is 
true, there came moments of weariness, of despon- 
dency, but they were not enduring : a word spoken, 
a book read, or yielding to the attraction of environ- 
A 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG 

MAN 



MY soul, so far as I understand it, has very kindly 
taken colour and form from the many various modes 
of life that self-will and an impetuous temperament 
have forced me to indulge in. Therefore I may say 
that I am free from original qualities, defects, tastes, 
etc. What is mine I have acquired, or, to speak 
more exactly, chance bestowed, and still bestows, 
upon me. I came into the world apparently with a 
nature like a smooth sheet of wax, bearing no im- 
press, but capable of receiving any ; of being moulded 
into all shapes. Nor am I exaggerating when I say 
I think that I might equally have been a Pharaoh, an 
ostler, a pimp, an archbishop, and that in the fulfil- 
ment of the duties of each a certain measure of 
success would have been mine. I have felt the goad 
of many impulses, I have hunted many a trail ; when 
one scent failed another was taken up, and pursued 
with the pertinacity of instinct, rather than the 
fervour of a reasoned conviction. Sometimes, it is 
true, there came moments of weariness, of despon- 
dency, but they were not enduring : a word spoken, 
a book read, or yielding to the attraction of environ- 
A 



2 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

merit, I was soon off in another direction, forgetful of 
past failures. Intricate, indeed, was the labyrinth of 
my desires ; all lights were followed with the same 
ardour, all cries were eagerly responded to : they 
came from the right, they came from the left, from 
every side. But one cry was more persistent, and as 
the years passed I learned to follow it with increasing 
vigour, and my strayings grew fewer and the way 
wider. 

I was eleven years old when I first heard and 
obeyed this cry, or, shall I say, echo-augury ? 

Scene : A great family coach, drawn by two 
powerful country horses, lumbers along a narrow 
Irish road. The ever-recurrent signs long ranges 
of blue mountains, the streak of bog, the rotting 
cabin, the flock of plover rising from the desolate 
water. Inside the coach there are two children. 
They wear new jackets and neckties ; their faces 
are pale with sleep, and the rolling of the coach 
makes them feel a little sick. It is seven o'clock 
in the morning. Opposite the children are their 
parents, and they are talking of a novel the world 
is reading. Did Lady Audley murder her husband ? 
Lady Audley ! What a beautiful name ! and she, 
who is a slender, pale, fairy-like woman, killed her 
husband. Such thoughts flash through the boy's 
mind ; his imagination is stirred and quickened, and 
he begs for an explanation. The coach lumbers 
along, it arrives at its destination, and Lady Audley 
is forgotten in the delight of tearing down fruit 
trees and killing a cat. 

But when we returned home I took the first 
opportunity of stealing the novel in question. I 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 3 

read it eagerly, passionately, vehemently. I read 
its successor and its successor. I read until I came 
to a book called The Doctor s Wife a lady who 
loved Shelley and Byron. There was magic, there 
was revelation in the name, and Shelley became my 
soul's divinity. Why did I love Shelley ? Why not 
attracted to Byron ? Shelley ! That crystal name, 
and his poetry also crystalline. I must see it, I must 
know him. Escaping from the schoolroom, I ran- 
sacked the library, and at last my ardour was re- 
warded. The book a small pocket edition in red 
boards, no doubt long out of print opened at the 
' Sensitive Plant. ' Was I disappointed ? I think I 
had expected to understand better ; but I had no 
difficulty in assuming that I was satisfied and de- 
lighted. And henceforth the little volume never 
left 'my pocket, and I read the dazzling stanzas by 
the shores of a pale green Irish lake, comprehending 
little, and loving a great deal. Byron, too, was often 
with me, and these poets were the ripening influence 
of years otherwise merely nervous and boisterous. 

And my poets were taken to school, because it 
pleased me to read ' Queen Mab ' and ' Cain/ amid 
the priests and ignorance of a hateful Roman Catholic 
college. And there my poets saved me from in- 
tellectual savagery ; for I was incapable at that time 
of learning anything. What determined and in- 
corrigible idleness ! I used to gaze fondly on a 
book, holding my head between my hands, and 
allow my thoughts to wander far into dreams and 
thin imaginings. Neither Latin, nor Greek, nor 
French, nor History, nor English composition could 
I learn, unless, indeed, my curiosity or personal 



4 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

interest was excited then I made rapid strides in 
that branch of knowledge to which my attention was 
directed. A mind hitherto dark seemed suddenly to 
grow clear, and it remained clear and bright as long 
as passion was in me ; but as soon as passion died 
the mind began to cloud, and it remained fixed in 
an almost immovable obtuseness till roused again by 
the goad of some new impulse. 

I was a boy that no schoolmaster wants, and the 
natural end to so wayward a temperament as mine 
was expulsion. I was expelled when I was sixteen, 
for idleness and general worthlessness, and returned 
to a wild country home, where I found my father 
engaged in training racehorses. For a nature of 
such intense vitality as mine, an ambition, an aspira- 
tion of some sort was necessary ; and I now, as I 
have often done since, accepted the first ideal to 
hand. In this instance it was the stable. I was 
given a hunter, I rode to hounds every week, I rode 
gallops every morning, I read the racing calendar, 
stud-book, latest betting, and looked forward with 
enthusiasm to the day when I should be known as a 
successful steeplechase rider. To ride the winner of 
the Liverpool seemed to me a final achievement and 
glory ; and had not accident intervened, it is very 
possible that I might have succeeded in carrying off, 
if not the meditated honour, something scarcely 

inferior, such as Alas ! I cannot now recall the 

name of a race of the necessary value and import- 
ance. About this time my father was elected 
Member of Parliament ; our home was broken up, 
and we went to London. But an ideal set up on its 
pedestal is not easily displaced, and I persevered in 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 5 

my love, despite the poor promises London life held 
out for its ultimate attainment ; and surreptitiously I 
continued to nourish it with small bets made in a small 
tobacconist's. Well do I remember that shop, the 
oily-faced, sandy-whiskered proprietor, his betting- 
book, the cheap cigars along the counter, the one- 
eyed nondescript who leaned his evening away against 
the counter, and was supposed to know someone 

who knew Lord 's footman, and the great man 

often spoken of, but rarely seen he who made ' a 
two-'undred pound book on the Derby ' ; and the 
constant coming and going of the cabmen ' Half 
an ounce of shag, sir.' I was then at a military 
tutor's in the Euston Road ; for, in answer to my 
father's question as to what occupation I intended 
to pursue, I had consented to enter the army. In 
my heart I knew that when it came to the point I 
should refuse the idea of military discipline was 
very repugnant, and the possibility of an anonymous 
death on a battle-field could not be accepted by so 
self-conscious a youth, by one so full of his own 
personality. I said Yes to my father, because the 
moral courage to say No was lacking, and I put my 
trust in the future, as well I might, for a fair prospect 
of idleness lay before me, and the chance of my 
passing any examination was, indeed, remote. 

In London I made the acquaintance of a great 
blond man, who talke^ incessantly about beautiful 
women, and painted them sometimes larger than 
life, in somnolent attitudes, and luxurious tints. 
His studio was a welcome contrast to the spitting 
and betting of the tobacco shop. His pictures 
Dore-like improvisations, devoid of skill, and, indeed, 



6 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

of artistic perception, save a certain sentiment for 
the grand and noble filled me with wonderment 
and awe. ' How jolly it would be to be a painter !' 
I once said, quite involuntarily. 'Why, would you 
like to be a painter ?' he asked abruptly. I laughed, 
not suspecting that I had the slightest gift, as 
indeed was the case, but the idea remained in my 
mind, and soon after I began to make sketches in 
the streets and theatres. My attempts were not 
very successful, but they encouraged me to tell my 
father that I would go to the military tutor no more, 
and he allowed me to enter the Kensington Museum 
as an Art student. There, of course, I learned 
nothing, and, from the point of view of art merely, I 
had much better have continued my sketches in the 
streets ; but the museum was a beautiful and benefi- 
cent influence, and one that applied marvellously 
well to the besetting danger of the moment ; for in 
the galleries I met young men who spoke of other 
things than betting and steeplechase riding, who, I 
remember, it was clear to me then, looked to a 
higher ideal than mine, breathed a purer atmosphere 
of thought than I. And then the sweet, white 
peace of antiquity ! The great, calm gaze that is 
not sadness nor joy, but something that we know 
not of which is lost to the world for ever. 

' But if you want to be a painter you must go to 
France France is the only school of Art.' I must 
again call attention to the phenomenon of echo- 
augury, that is to say, words heard in an unlooked- 
for quarter, that, without any appeal to our reason, 
impel belief. France ! The word rang in my ears 
and gleamed in my eyes. France ! All my senses 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 7 

sprang from sleep like a crew when the man on the 
look-out cries, ' Land ahead !' Instantly I knew that 
I should, that I must, go to France, that I would live 
there, that I would become as a Frenchman. I 
knew not when nor how, but I knew I should go to 
France. . . . 

So my youth ran into manhood, finding its way 
from rock to rock like a rivulet, gathering strength 
at each leap. One day my father was suddenly 
called to Ireland. A few days after a telegram 
came, and my mother read that we were required at 
his bedside. We journeyed over land and sea ; and 
on a bleak country road, one winter's evening, a 
man approached us, and I heard him say that all was 
over, that my father was dead. I loved my father ; 
and yet my soul said, ' I am glad.' The thought came 
unbidden, undesired, and I turned aside, shocked at 
the sight it afforded of my soul. 

O my father, I, who love and reverence nothing 
else, love and reverence thee ; thou art the one pure 
image in my mind, the one true affection that life 
has not broken or soiled ; I remember thy voice and 
thy kind, happy ways. All I have of worldly goods 
and native wit I received from thee and was it I 
who was glad ? No, it was not I ; I had no concern 
in the thought that then fell upon me unbidden and 
undesired ; my individual voice can give you but 
praise and loving words ; and the voice that said ' I 
am glad ' was not my voice, but that of the will to 
live which we inherit from elemental dust through 
countless generations. Terrible and imperative is 
the voice of the will to live : let him who is innocent 
cast the first stone. 




i -i : ,, 



8 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

Terrible is the day when each sees his soul naked . 
stripped of all veil ; that dear soul which he cannot 
change or discard, and which is so irreparably his. 

My father's death freed me, and I sprang like 
a loosened bough up to the light. His death gave 
me power to create myself that is to say, to create 
a complete and absolute self out of the partial self 
which was all that the restraint of home had per- 
mitted ; this future self, this ideal George Moore, 
beckoned me, lured like a ghost ; and as I 
followed the funeral the question, Would I sacrifice 
this ghostly self, if by so doing I should bring my 
father back ? presented itself without intermission, 
and I shrank horrified at the answer which I could 
not crush out of mind. 

Now my life was like a garden in the emotive 
torpor of spring ; now my life was like a flower 
conscious of the light. Money was placed in my 
hands, and I divined all it represented. Before me 
the crystal lake, the distant mountains, the swaying 
woods, said but one word, and that word was self; 
not the self that was then mine, but the self on 
whose creation I was enthusiastically determined. 
But I felt like a murderer when I turned to leave 
the place which I had so suddenly, and I could 
not but think unjustly, become possessed of. As 
I probe this poignant psychological moment, I find 
that, although I perfectly well realized that all 
pleasures were then in my reach women, elegant 
dress, theatres, and supper-rooms I hardly thought 
at all of them, but much more of certain drawings 
from the plaster cast. I would be an artist. More 
than ever I was determined to be an artist, and my 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 9 

brain was made of this desire as I journeyed as fast 
as railway and steamboat could take me to London. 
No further trammels, no further need of being a 
soldier, of being anything but eighteen, with life 
and France before me ! I would feel the pulse of 
life at home before I felt it abroad, and a studio 
rose up in my imagination tapestries, models, 
and preparations for France. 

It is difficult to tell the whole truth, and to avoid 
conveying a false impression ; and I fain would show 
my soul in these pages, like a face in a pool of clear 
water. Looked at from one side my studio was in 
truth no more than an amusement, a means of 
effectually throwing over all restraint; but I did 
not view it from this side. My studio was my 
adventure; a certain Botticelli in the National 
Gallery held me ; and when I look back and consider 
this past, I am forced to admit that I might have 
grown up in less fortunate circumstances, for even 
the studio, with its dissipations and they were 
many was not unserviceable ; it developed the 
natural man, who educates himself, who allows his 
mind to grow and ripen under the sun and wind 
of modern life, in contradistinction to the University 
man, who is fed upon the dust of ages, and after a 
formula which has been composed to suit the require- 
ments of the average human being. 

Nor was my reading at this time so limited as 
might be expected from the foregoing. The study 
of Shelley's poetry had led me to read very nearly 
all the English lyric poets; Shelley's atheism had 
led me to read Kant, Spinoza, Godwin, Darwin, and 
Mill. So it will be understood that Shelley not only 



10 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

gave me my first soul, but led all its first flights. 
But I do not think that if Shelley had been no more 
than a poet, notwithstanding my very genuine love 
of verse, he would have gained such influence in my 
youthful sympathies ; but Shelley dreamed in meta- 
physics very thin dreaming if you will ; but just 
such thin dreaming as I could follow. Was there 
or was there not a God? And for many years I 
could not dismiss as parcel of the world's folly this 
question, and sought a solution, inclining towards 
atheism, for it was natural in me to oppose the 
routine of daily thought. I think it was in my 
early teens, soon after my expulsion from Oscott 
for refusing to confess, that I resolved to tell my 
mother that I believed no longer in a God. She 
was leaning against the chimney-piece in the 
drawing-room ; but although a religious woman, my 
mother did not seem in the least frightened, she 
only said, ' I am very sorry, George, it is so/ and I 
was deeply shocked at her indifference. 

Finding music and atheism in poetry, I cared little 
for novels. Scott seemed to me on a par with 
Burke's speeches ; that is to say, too impersonal for 
my very personal taste. Dickens I knew by heart, 
and Bleak House I thought his greatest achievement. 
Thackeray left no deep impression on my mind ; in 
no way did he hold my thoughts. He was not 
picturesque, like Dickens, and his social satire seemed 
very small beer to me eager for some adequate 
philosophy of life. Adequate ! a word of my youth 
when I hungered after great truths : Middlemarch, 
Adam Bede, The Rise and Influence of Rationalism, 
The History of Civilization, were momentous events 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 11 

in my life. But life was loved better than books, 
and very curiously my studies and my pleasures kept 
pace, stepping together like a pair of well-trained 
carriage horses : while waiting for my coach to take 
a party of tarts and mashers to the Derby, I would 
read a chapter of Kant, and put the book into my 
pocket in the hope of finding a few spare moments 
to devote to it on the race- course. I liked to 
spend on scent and toilette knick-knacks as much 
as would keep a poor man's family in affluence 
for ten months ; I liked the fashionable sunlight 
in the Park, the dusty cavalcades and to shock 
my friends by bowing to those to whom I should 
not bow. I cultivated with care the acquaintance 
of a neighbour who had taken the Globe Theatre 
for the purpose of producing Offenbach's operas. 
Bouquets, stalls, rings, delighted me ; and of all, 
the life of the theatre that life of raw gaslight, 
whitewashed walls, of doggerel verse, slangy polkas 
and waltzes interested me beyond legitimate 
measure, so curious and unreal did it seem. I 
lived at home, but dined daily at a fashionable 
restaurant : at half-past eight I was at the theatre. 
Nodding familiarly to the door-keeper, I passed 
up the long passage to the stage. Afterwards 
supper. Cremorne and the Argyle Rooms were my 
favourite haunts. My mother suffered, and expected 
ruin, for I took no trouble to conceal anything ; I 
boasted of dissipations. But there was no need to 
fear, for I was naturally endowed with a very clear 
sense of self-preservation ; I neither betted nor 
drank, nor contracted debts, nor a secret marriage ; 
from a worldly point of view, I was a model 



12 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

young man indeed ; and when I returned home 
about four in the morning, I watched the pale 
moon setting, and, repeating some verses of Shelley, 
I thought how I should go to Paris when I was of 
age and study painting. 



II 

AT last the day came, and with several trunks and 
boxes full of clothes, books, and pictures, I started, 
accompanied by an Irish valet, for Paris and Art. 

We all know the great grey and melancholy 
Gare du Nord at half-past six in the morning ; and 
the miserable carriages, and the tall, haggard city. 
Pale, sloppy, yellow houses; an oppressive absence 
of colour ; a peculiar bleakness in the streets. The 
mdnagere hurries down the asphalte to market ; a 
dreadful gar$on de caft, with a napkin tied round 
his throat, moves about some chairs, so decrepit and 
so solitary that it seems impossible to imagine a 
human being sitting there. Where are the Boule- 
vards? where are the Champs Elysees? I asked 
myself; and feeling bound to apologize for the 
appearance of the city, I explained to my valet that 
we were passing through some by-streets, and re- 
turned to the study of a French vocabulary. Never- 
theless, when the time came to formulate a demand 
for rooms, hot water, and a fire, I broke down, and 
the proprietress of the hotel, who spoke English, 
had to be sent for. My plans, so far as I had any, 
were to study painting in Cabanel's studio. A 
satyr breaking through some branches carrying a 
woman in his arms had inspired an endless admir- 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 13 

ation, and his picture of Dante sitting on a bench 
under a wall reading to a frightened audience, 
increased my desire to identify myself with his 
vision ; to feel the thrill of the girl's shoulder, as 
no doubt he had when she shrank back into her 
lover's protection, frightened by the poet's relation 
of what he had seen in hell. But to go to Cabanel 
before I could speak French were useless, and at the 
end of three weeks my patience was exhausted ; and 
three weeks are a short time to master a sufficient 
number of French phrases to explain my mission. 

The man that received me with unaffected courtesy 
was of medium height, with square and rather high 
shoulders, and his square-cut beard and a certain 
nobility of countenance, like that of a lion, are 
among my remembrances of the great painter who 
listened in March, 1873, with patience to my praise 
of The Florentine Poet. He gave attentive ear to my 
jargon, and discovering in it a very genuine admira- 
tion of his beautiful decoration for the Louvre hanging 
on the end wall of his studio, he looked at my draw- 
ings, and tried to make plain that he could not take 
me as a private pupil, having no studio except the one 
we stood in. It seemed to me that a distant corner 
would suit me very well, but feeling that I should be 
in the way of his models and his patrons, I was about 
to retire apologetically. He stopped me, however, 
and once more I applied myself to the task of under- 
standing the instruction he seemed bent upon giving : 
he was one of the professors of the Beaux Arts, and the 
best thing for me to do would be to make application 
at the Embassy ; no doubt my Ambassador would be 
able to obtain for me the right of entrance without 



14 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

examination. ' He thinks that my drawings are not 
good enough to get me through/ I said to myself as 
I hastened away in a cab to tell my story to Lord 
Lyons, an elegant old gentleman, who promised to 
intercede on my behalf with Le Ministre des Beaux 
Arts. A few days later an official letter was handed 
to me, and the morning after I introduced myself to 
many turbulent fellows whose aspects and manners 
soon convinced me that I would not be able to 
endure the life of the Beaux Arts, and that the 
facilities the schools afforded were not those that I 
sought for. 

The model sits only three times a week: the 
other days we worked from the plaster cast ; and 
to be there by seven o'clock in the morning re- 
quired so painful an effort of will, that I glanced 
in terror down the dim and grey perspective of early 
risings that awaited me ; then, demoralized by the 
lassitude of Sunday, I told my valet on Monday 
morning to leave the room, that I would return to 
the Beaux Arts no more. He tried to persuade me 
to rise, and on my refusal to do so, his orders being 
explicit, he snatched the bedclothes from me and 
ran away with them and locked them up in another 
room, leaving me naked and humiliated at my own 
weakness, for much hope had been centred in 
Cabanel's influence and example. To abandon the 
Beaux Arts was to abandon Cabanel, and day after 
day I walked up and down the Boulevards studying 
the photographs of the salon pictures, trying to find 
a painter to whom I might address myself with con- 
fidence. I had never forgotten my father showing 
me, one day when he was shaving, three photographs 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 15 

from pictures. They were by an artist called Sevres. 
My father liked the slenderer figure, but I liked the 
corpulent the Venus standing at the corner of a 
wood, pouring wine into a goblet, while Cupid, from 
behind her satin-enveloped knees, drew his bow and 
shot the doves that flew from glistening poplar- trees. 
The beauty of this woman, and what her beauty must 
be in the life of the painter, had inspired many a 
reverie, and I had concluded this conclusion being 
of all others most sympathetic to me that she was 
his very beautiful mistress, that they lived in a 
picturesque happiness in the midst of a shady garden 
full of birds and tall flowers. She had haunted my 
imagination in white muslin with wide sleeves open 
to the elbow, scattering grain from a silver plate to 
the proud pigeons that strutted about her slippered 
feet and fluttered to her dove-like hand ; and these 
dreams of her had accompanied me in my rides 
over the plains of Mayo, and in London I conceived 
a project of becoming Sevres's pupil and being loved 
by her ! 

What coming and going, what inquiries, what 
difficulties, arose ! At last I was advised to go to 
the Exposition aux Champs Elysees and seek his 
ajddress in the catalogue ; and while the concierge 
copied out the address for me, I chased his tame 
magpie that hopped about one of the angles of the 
great building, for I was a childish boy of one-and- 
twenty who knew nothing, and to whom the world 
was astonishingly new. I have often thought that 
before my soul was given to me it had been plunged 
deep in Lethe, and as an almost virgin man I stood 
in front of Engin a suburb not far from Paris, the 



16 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

pretty French country seeming to me like a fairy- 
book. There were tall green poplars, and a little 
lake reflected the foliage and the stems of sapling 
oak and pine, just as in the pictures. The driver 
pointed with his whip, and I saw a high garden wall 
shadowed with young trees, and a loose iron gate, 
and passing through the gate I walked up the 
gravelled path, looking around for the beautiful 
mistress who I felt should feed pigeons from a silver 
plate, asking myself if Monsieur Sevres would invite 
me to breakfast. A maid-servant opened the door. 
She showed me into the studio, and before I had 
time to make examination of the few sketches on 
the walls Monsieur Sevres came in, a tall, reedy- 
looking man, who did not wear the appearance ot 
genius like Cabanel. But as the object of my visit 
was his mistress as much as himself, I prolonged the 
conversation as far as my knowledge of the French 
language allowed me. His pictures were all in the 
Salon, he said, but he drew forth a few sketches, and 
told me, as Cabanel had done, that he had no room 
for a pupil in his house. Whereupon I proposed to 
him that I should take a house in Engin. ' Were 
there houses to let ?' He said there were many, and 
that if I took one he would have much pleasure in 
walking over and instructing me. But being by no 
means sure that Monsieur Sevres had a mistress, I 
avoided a direct answer, saying that 1 would write 
and let him know as soon as I had found a house ; 
and answering that he hoped that I would find one 
that suited me, he conducted me down the green 
garden. ' I've seen these trees before in your 
pictures/ I said, scanning every nook, hoping that I 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 17 

should see her reading, and that she would raise her 
eyes as I passed. 

It seems to me that I did catch sight of a white 
dress behind a trellis, but the dress that I saw or 
imagined may have been worn by his daughter or by 
his wife. However this may be, Sevres's mistress, if 
he had one, was not discovered by me that day 
nor any other day. I never saw him again. He had 
proven somewhat of a disappointment, and the 
woman, I reflected, who had sat for the pictures that 
had stirred my childish imaginations in Mayo may 
have been painted long ago. ' The woman is perhaps 
an old woman now,' I said to myself as the train 
entered Paris. 'But even so, I shall have to learn 
painting from somebody ;' and next day I returned 
to Engin with my taciturn valet, who showed no 
enthusiasm on the subject of Engin, and was at no 
pains to disguise from me the fact that he was but 
little disposed to settle in this French suburb. 

We were both very much alone in Paris. In the 
evenings I allowed him to smoke his clay in my 
room, and in an astounding brogue he counselled me 
to return to my mother. But I would not listen, and 
one day on the Boulevards I was stricken with the 
art of Jules Lefebvre. True it is that I saw it was 
wanting in that tender grace which I am forced to 
admit even now, saturated though I now am with 
the aesthetics of different schools, is inherent in 
Cabanel's work ; but at the time I am writing of 
my nature was too young and mobile to resist the 
conventional attractiveness of nude figures, indolent 
attitudes, long hair, slender hips and hands, and I 
accepted Jules Lefebvre wholly and unconditionally. 



18 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

He hesitated, however, when I asked to be taken as 
a private pupil ; but he wrote out the address of 
a studio where he gave instruction every Tuesday 
morning, and as no one seemed anxious to have me 
in his studio I fell to thinking that perhaps a public 
studio would suit me better, for in it I would meet 
all kinds and conditions of Frenchmen, and in their 
society I would have a better chance of learning the 
language and assimilating the spirit of France. 

The studio to which I had been recommended was 
perched high up in the Passage des Panormas, and in 
it I found M. Julien, a typical meridional : dark 
eyes, crafty and watchful, a seductively mendacious 
manner, and a sensual mind. We made friends at 
once he consciously making use of me, I uncon- 
sciously making use of him. To him my forty francs, 
a month's subscription, were a godsend, nor were 
my invitations to dinner and to the theatre to be 
disdained, though to be sure it was a little tiresome 
to have to put up with a talkative person, whose 
knowledge of the French language had been acquired 
in three months ; but the dinners were good, and I 
was quaint. No doubt Julien reasoned so ; I did not 
reason at all, but I felt this crafty, clever man of the 
world was necessary to me. I had never met such 
a man before, and all my curiosity was awake. He 
spoke of art and literature, of the world and the 
flesh ; he told me of the books he had read, he 
narrated thrilling incidents in his own life ; and the 
moral reflections with which he sprinkled his con- 
versation I thought very striking. Like every young 
man of twenty, I was on the look-out for something 
to set up that would do duty for an ideal. The 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 19 

world was to me, at this time, what a toy-shop had 
been fifteen years before : everything was spick and 
span, and every illusion was set out straight and 
smart in new paint and gilding. Julien threw open 
a door of Parisian life to me ; all open doors were 
welcome to me at that time, and his society served 
to prepare my mind for the friendship which awaited 
me, and which was destined to absorb some years of 
my life. 

In the studio there were some eighteen or twenty 
young men, and among these there were some four 
or five from whom I could learn ; there were also 
some eight or nine young English girls. We sat 
round in a circle and drew from the model. And 
this reversal of all the world's opinions and prejudices 
was to me singularly delightful ; I loved the sense of 
unreality that the exceptional nature of our life in 
this studio conveyed. Besides, the women them- 
selves were young and interesting, and were, there- 
fore, one of the charms of the place, giving, as they 
did, that sense of sex which is so subtle a mental 
pleasure, and which is, in its outward aspect, so 
interesting to the eye the gowns, the hair lifted, 
showing the neck ; the earrings, the sleeves open at 
the elbow. Though all this was very dear to me, 
I did not fall in love : but he who escapes a woman's 
dominion generally comes under the sway of some 
friend who ever exerts a strange attractiveness, and 
fosters a sort of dependency that is not healthful or 
valid : and although I look back with undiminished 
delight on the friendship I contracted about this 
time a friendship which permeated and added to 
my life I am nevertheless forced to recognize that, 



so CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

however suitable it may have been in my special 
case, in the majority of instances it would have 
proved but a shipwrecking reef, on which a young 
man's life would have gone to pieces. What saved 
me was the intensity of my passion for Art, and 
a moral revolt against any action that I thought 
could or would definitely compromise me in that 
direction. I was willing to stray a little from my 
path, but never further than a single step, which 
I could retrace when I pleased. 

One day I raised my eyes, and saw a new-comer in 
the studio; and painting very well indeed, to my 
surprise, my experience not having led me to believe 
in the marriage of genius and well-cut clothes. His 
shoulders showed beautiful and broad ; and above 
them were a long neck, a tiny head, a narrow, thin 
face, and large eyes, full of intelligence and fascina- 
tion. Although he could not have been working 
more than an hour, he had already sketched in his 
figure, with all the surroundings screens, lamps, 
stoves, his facility interesting me deeply. I asked 
the young lady next me if she knew who he was. 
She could not tell me. At four o'clock there was a 
general exodus from the studio ; we adjourned to a 
neighbouring cafe to drink beer ; and as we stooped 
under an archway, the young man (Marshall was his 
name) spoke to me in English. Was my name 
Moore, and had we not exchanged a few words in 
So-and-So's studio So-and-So was the great blond 
man whose Dore-like improvisations had awakened 
aspiration in me. 

The usual reflections on the chances of life were 
of course made, and then followed the inevitable 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 21 

Will you dine with me to-night ?' Marshall thought 
the following day would suit him better, but I was 
very pressing. He offered to meet me at my hotel ; 
or would I come with him to his rooms ; he would 
show me some pictures some trifles he had brought 
up from the country? Nothing would please me 
better. We got into a cab. Then every moment 
revealed new qualities, new superiorities, in my 
friend. Tall, strong, handsome, beautifully dressed, 
and talking French like a native, he continued to 
invade and capture my imagination. He said it was 
only natural that he should speak French, for he was 
born in Brussels and had lived there all his life, but 
the accident of birth rather stimulated than calmed 
my pride in being seen in his company. He spoke of 
the fashionable restaurants and actresses ; he stopped 
at a hairdresser's to have his hair curled, and I was 
on the tiptoe of expectation to see his apartments. 

His apartments were not so grand as I expected ; 
but when he explained that he had just spent ten 
thousand pounds in two years, and was now living 
on six or seven hundred francs a month, which his 
mother would allow him until he had painted and 
had sold a certain series of pictures, which he con- 
templated beginning at once, my admiration increased 
to wonder, and I examined with awe the great fire- 
place which had been constructed at his orders, and 
admired the iron pot which hung by a chain above 
an artificial bivouac fire. This detail will suggest 
the rest of the studio the Turkey carpet, the brass 
harem lamps, the Japanese screen, the pieces of 
drapery, the oak chairs covered with red Utrecht 
velvet, the oak wardrobe that had been picked up 



22 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

somewhere a ridiculous bargain and the inevitable 
bed with spiral columns. There were vases filled with 
foreign grasses, and palms stood in the corners of the 
rooms. Marshall pulled out a few pictures ; but he 
paid very little heed to my compliments ; and sitting 
down at the piano, with a great deal of splashing and 
dashing about the keys, he rattled off a waltz. 

' What waltz is that ?' I asked. 

' Oh, nothing ; something I composed the other 
evening. I had a fit of the blues, and didn't go out. 
What do you think of it ?' 

' I think it beautiful ; did you really compose that 
the other evening ?' 

At this moment a knock was heard at the door, 
and Marshall introduced me to a beautiful English 
girl. With looks that see nothing, and words that 
mean nothing, an amorous woman receives the man 
she finds with her sweetheart. But it subsequently 
transpired that Alice had an appointment ; she 
was dining out ; but would, however, call in the 
morning and give him a sitting for the portrait he 
was painting of her. 

I had hitherto worked very regularly at the studio, 
but Marshall's society was an attraction that could 
not be resisted. A long truancy began, and while re- 
gretting my own inconstancy, I deplored my friend's 
idleness, and besought him to return to work for the 
sake of his talent, which I believed in. But Alice's 
beauty held him ; a winning dissipation it was, and 
his delight in her was thorough, and his gay, dashing 
manner made me feel happy, and his experience 
opened to me new avenues for enjoyment and know- 
ledge of life. 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 23 

On my arrival in Paris I had visited, in the com- 
pany of my taciturn valet, the Mabille and the 
Valentino, and had dined at the Maison d'Or by my- 
self ; but Marshall took me to strange students' cafes, 
where dinners were paid for in pictures ; to a 
mysterious place, where a table d'hote was held under 
a tent in a back garden, frequented by the lights of 
love of Montmartre, with whom we went to walk in 
the gardens of Bullier, the Chateau Rottge, or the Ely see 
Montmartre. 

It often seemed to me that Marshall was not 
conscious of the fantastic greenness of the foliage 
under the gas-lights, or of the unreality of the life we 
were leading in the company of women, known only 
to us by their Christian names. He took it all for 
granted, whereas I lived it in my imagination, exalted 
by the clangour of the band, the thronging of the 
dancers, and of all by the returning home in open 
carriages through the close, warm night, the darkness 
chequered by an ostrich-feather hanging over the 
hood of the carriage in front of us, an edge of skirt 
passing beyond the foot-board. c She is in his arms,' 
I said. ' Does she love him ?' I asked, and watched 
the moon and compared it to a magic-lantern hanging 
out of the sky. 

Now we seemed to live in fiacres and restaurants, 
and the afternoons were filled with febrile im- 
pressions. Marshall had a friend in this street, and 
another in that. It was only necessary for him to 
cry ' Stop ' to the coachman, and to run up two or 
three flights of stairs. . . . 

' Madame , est-elle chez elle f 



24 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

c Oui, Monsieur ; si Monsieur veut se donner la peint 
d'entrer.' And we were shown into a handsomely 
furnished apartment. A lady would enter hurriedly, 
and an animated discussion was begun. I did not 
know French sufficiently well to follow the conversa- 
tion, but I remember it always commenced mon cher 
ami, and was plentifully sprinkled with the phrase 
vous avez tort. The ladies themselves had only just 
returned from Constantinople or Japan, and they 
were generally involved in mysterious lawsuits, or 
were busily engaged in prosecuting claims for 
several millions of francs against different foreign 
Governments. 

And just as I had watched the chorus girls and 
mummers, three years ago, at the Globe Theatre, 
now, excited by a nervous curiosity, I watched this 
world of Parisian adventurers and lights -o'- love. 
And this craving for observation of manners, this 
instinct for the rapid notation of gestures and words 
that epitomize a state of feeling, of attitudes that 
mirror forth the soul, declared itself a main passion ; 
and it grew and strengthened, to the detriment of 
the other Art still so dear to me. With the patience 
of a cat before a mouse-hole, I watched and listened, 
picking one characteristic phrase out of hours of vain 
chatter, interested and amused by an angry or loving 
glance. These men and women seemed to me like 
the midges that fret the surface of a shadowy stream, 
and though I laughed and danced, and made merry 
with them, I was not of them. But with Marshall it 
was different : they were my amusement, they were 
his necessary pleasure. And I knew of this dis- 
tinction that made twain our lives ; and I reflected 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 25 

deeply upon it. Why could I not live without an 
ever-present and acute consciousness of life ? Why 
could I not love, forgetful of the ticking of the clock 
in the perfumed silence of the chamber ? 

And so my friend became to me a study, a subject 
for dissection. The general attitude of his mind and 
its various turns, all the apparent contradictions, and 
how they could be explained, classified, and reduced 
to one primary law, were to me a constant source of 
thought. Our confidences knew no reserve. I say 
our confidences, because to obtain confidences it is 
often necessary to confide. All we saw, heard, read 
or felt was the subject of mutual confidences : the 
transitory emotion that a flush of colour and a bit of 
perspective awakens, the blue tints that the summer 
sunset lends to a white dress, or the eternal verities, 
death and love. But, although I tested every fibre 
of thought and analyzed every motive, I was very 
sincere in my friendship and very loyal in my 
admiration. Nor did my admiration wane when I 
discovered that Marshall was shallow in his apprecia- 
tions, superficial in his judgments, that his talents 
did not pierce below the surface ; il avail si grand air, 
there was fascination in his very bearing, in his large, 
soft, colourful eyes, and a go and dash in his dis- 
sipations that carried me away. 

To anyone observing us at this time it would 
have seemed that I was but a hanger-on, and a 
feeble imitator of Marshall. I took him to my 
tailor's, and he advised me on the cut of my coats ; 
he showed me how to arrange my rooms, and I 
strove to copy his manner of speech and his general 
bearing ; and yet I think that I always suspected 



26 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

that Marshall's brilliancy was owing to the super- 
ficiality of his talent, and that my nature was a deeper 
one than his, and would become deeper as the years 
went by. I think I was conscious that I was growing, 
and that Marshall, already arrived at maturity, could 
teach me. And I used him without shame or stint, 
as I have used all those with whom I have been 
brought into close contact. I cannot recall a case of 
man or woman who ever occupied any considerable 
part of my thoughts that did not contribute towards 
my moral or physical welfare. In other words, and 
in very colloquial language, I never had useless 
friends hanging about me. I am afraid the thought- 
less reader will at once judge me rapacious, 
egoistical, false, fawning, mendacious. Well, I may 
be all this and more, but not because all who have 
known me have rendered me eminent services. I 
can say that no one ever formed relationships in life 
with less design than myself. I never gave a 
thought to the advantage that might accrue from 
being on terms of friendship with this man and 
avoiding that one. 'Then how do you explain,' cries 
the angry reader, ' that you have never had a friend 
by whom you did not profit ? You must have had 
very few friends.' On the contrary, I have had 
many friends, and of all sorts and kinds men and 
women : and, I repeat, none took part in my life 
who did not contribute something towards my well- 
being. It must, of course, be understood that I 
make no distinction between mental and material 
help ; and in my case the one has at all times been 
adjuvant to the other. ' Pooh, pooh !' again exclaims 
the reader : ' I for one will not believe that chance 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 27 

has sent across your way only the people who were 
required to assist you.' Chance ! Dear reader, is 
there such a thing as chance ? Do you believe in 
chance ? Do you attach any precise meaning to the 
word ? Do you employ it at haphazard, allowing it 
to mean what it may ? Chance ! What a field for 
psychical investigation is at once opened up ; how 
we may tear to shreds our past lives in search of 
what ? Of the Chance that made us. I think, 
reader, I can throw some light on the general ques- 
tion, by replying to your taunt : Chance, or the con- 
ditions of life under which we live, sent, of course, 
thousands of creatures across my way who were 
powerless to benefit me ; but then an instinct of 
which I knew nothing, of which I was not even con- 
scious, withdrew me from them, and I was attracted 
to others. Have you not seen a horse suddenly 
leave a corner of a field to seek pasturage further 
away ? 

Never could I interest myself in a book if it were 
not the exact diet my mind required at the time, or 
in the very immediate future. The mind asked, 
received, and digested. So much was assimilated, 
so much expelled ; then, after a season, similar 
demands were made, the same processes were 
repeated out of sight, below consciousness, as is the 
case in a well-ordered stomach. Shelley, who fired 
my youth with passion, and purified and upbore it 
for so long, is now to me as nothing : not a dead or 
faded thing, but a thing out of which I personally 
have drawn all the sustenance I can draw from him ; 
and, therefore, it (that part which I did not absorb) 
concerns me no more. And the same with Gautier. 



28 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

Mile, de Maupin, that desire not 'of the moth for 
the star/ but for such perfection of arm and thigh as 
leaves passion breathless and fain of tears, is now, if I 
take up the book and read, weary and ragged as a 
spider's web, that has hung the winter through in 
the dusty, forgotten corner of a forgotten room. My 
old rapture and my youth's delight I can regain only 
when I think of that part of Gautier which is now 
incarnate in me. 

As I picked up books, so I picked up my friends. 
I read friends and books with the same passion, 
with the same avidity ; and as I discarded my books 
when I had assimilated as much of them as my 
system required, so I discarded my friends when 
they ceased to be of use to me. I employ the word 
'use' in its fullest, not in its limited and twenty - 
shilling sense. This parallel of the intellect to the 
blind unconsciousness of the lower organs will strike 
some as a violation of man's best beliefs, and as 
saying very little for the particular intellect that can 
be so reduced. But I am not sure these people are 
right. I am inclined to think that as you ascend 
the scale of thought to the great minds, these 
unaccountable impulses, mysterious resolutions, 
sudden, but certain knowings, falling whence or 
how it is impossible to say, but falling somehow into 
the brain, instead of growing rarer, become more 
and more frequent ; indeed, I think that if the really 
great man were to confess to the working of his 
mind, we should see him constantly besieged by 
inspirations . . . inspirations ! Ah ! how human 
thought only turns in a circle, and how, when we 
think we are on the verge of a new thought, we slip 
into the enunciation of some time-worn truth. But 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 29 

let general principles be waived ; for it will suffice 
for the interest of these pages if it be understood 
that brain instincts have always been, and still are, 
the initial and the determining powers of my being. 



Ill 

BUT the studio, to which I had returned and where I 
had been working for the last three or four months so 
diligently, became wearisome to me, for two reasons. 
It deprived me of many hours of Marshall's company. 
The second reason is the graver, because I was 
beginning to regard the delineation of a nymph, or 
youth bathing, as a very narrow channel to carry off 
the strong, full tide of a man's thought. Thoughts 
of love and death, and the hopelessness of life, were 
active within me, and I yearned to give direct 
expression to my pain. In youth all thoughts seem 
new, and we are ridiculously subjective ; our eyes 
are always turned inwards ; and the creatures whom 
I met in the ways and by-ways of Parisian life, 
whose gestures and attitudes I devoured with my 
eyes, and whose souls I hungered to know, awoke in 
me a tense, irresponsible curiosity, but that was all ; 
I despised, I hated them, thought them contemptible, 
and to select them as subjects of artistic treatment 
could not then, might never, have occurred to me 
had the suggestion to do so not come direct to me 
from the outside. 

At the time of which I am writing I lived in an 
old-fashioned hotel on the Boulevard, which an 
enterprising Belgian had lately bought and was 
endeavouring to modernize ; an old-fashioned hotel, 
that still clung to its ancient character in the presence 



30 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

of half a dozen old people, who, from habit, con- 
tinued to dine on certain well-specified days at the 
table (Thdte. Fifteen years have passed away, and 
these old people, no doubt, are among the gone ; 
but I can see them still sitting in that salle a manger, 
the buffets en meux ckcne, the opulent candelabra en 
style d'empire, the waiter lighting the gas in the pale 
Parisian evening. The tall, thin, hatchet - faced 
American has dined at this table d'hdte for the 
last thirty years, and he is talkative, vain, foolish, and 
authoritative. The clean, neatly dressed old gentle- 
man who sits by him, looking so much like a French 
gentleman, has spent a great part of his life in Spain. 
With that piece of news, and its subsequent develop- 
ments, our acquaintance with him begins and ends ; 
the eyes, the fan, the mantilla, how it began, how it 
was broken off, and how it began again. Opposite 
sits another French gentleman, with beard and bristly 
hair. He spent twenty years of his life in India, 
and he talks of his son who has been out there for 
the last ten, and who has just returned home. There 
is the Italian comtesse of sixty summers, who dresses 
like a girl of sixteen and smokes a cigar after dinner 
if there are not too many strangers in the room. 
A stranger she calls anyone whom she has not seen 
at least once before. The little fat, neckless man, 
with the great bald head, fringed below the ears 
with hair, is M. Duval. He is a dramatic author, 
the author of a hundred and sixty plays. He does 
not obtrude himself on your notice, but when you 
speak to him on literary matters he fixes a pair of 
tiny, sloe-like eyes on you, and talks affably of his 
collaborate urs. 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 31 

1 was soon deeply interested in M. Duval, and 
one day ventured to invite him to come to the caft 
after dinner, where after paying for his coffee and 
liqueurs I offered him a choice cigar. He did not 
smoke ; I did, and we fell to talking of the drama. 
It was, of course, inevitable that I should find out 
in this or some subsequent conversation that he 
had not had a play produced for the last twenty 
years, but then the aureole of the hundred and 
sixty was about his poor bald head. I thought 
of the chances of life, he alluded to the war ; 
and so this unpleasantness was passed over, and we 
entered on more pleasing subjects of conversa- 
tion. He had written plays with everybody ; his 
list of collaborateurs was longer than any list of 
lady patronesses for an English county ball ; there 
was no literary kitchen in which he had not helped 
to dish up. I was at once amazed and delighted. 
Had M. Duval written his hundred and sixty plays 
in the seclusion of his own rooms, I should have 
been less surprised ; it was the mystery of the 
seances of collaboration, the trysts, the discussion, 
the illustrious company, that overwhelmed me in 
a rapture of wonder and respectful admiration. 
Then came the anecdotes. They were of all sorts. 
Here are a few specimens : He, Duval, had written 
a one-act piece with Dumas pere ; it had been refused 
at the Fran9ais, and then it had been about, here, 
there, and everywhere ; finally the Vari&tts had asked 
for some alterations, and cetait une affaire entendne. 
' I made the alterations one afternoon, and wrote to 
Dumas, and what do you think by return of post 
I had a letter from him saying he could not consent 



32 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

to the production of a one-act piece, signed by him, 
at the Vari6tts, because his son was then giving a 
five-act piece at the Gymnase.' Then came a string 
of indecent witticisms by Suzanne Lagier and Dejazet. 
They were as old as the world, but they were new 
to me, and I was amused and astonished. These 
bons-mots were followed by an account of how Gautier 
wrote his Sunday feuilleton, and how he and Balzac 
had once nearly come to blows. They had agreed to 
collaborate. Balzac was to contribute the scenario, 
Gautier the dialogue. One morning Balzac came 
with the scenario of the first act. 'Here it is, 
Gautier ! I suppose you can let me have it back 
finished by to-morrow afternoon ?' And the old 
gentleman would chirp along in this fashion till 
midnight. I would then accompany him to his 
rooms in the Quartier Montmartre rooms high up 
on the fifth floor where, between two pictures, 
supposed to be by Angelica Kauffmann, M. Duval 
had written unactable plays for the last twenty 
years, and where he would continue to write un- 
actable plays until God called him to a world, 
perhaps, of eternal cantatas, but where, by all 
accounts, I 'exposition de la pikce selon la formule de 
M. Scribe is still unknown. 

How I used to enjoy these conversations ! I 
remember how I used to stand on the pavement 
after having bidden the old gentleman good-night, 
regretting I had not asked for some further explana- 
tion regarding le mouvement romantique, or la faqon 
de M. Scribe de manager la situation. 

Why not write a comedy? For the plot take 
Marshall for hero and Alice for heroine, and 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 33 

surround them with the old gentlemen who dine at 
the table d'hote, and the Italian countess who smokes 
cigars when there are not too many strangers present ; 
they will supply the needed satiric or comic element. 
After some stirring, these ingredients began to sim- 
mer into something resembling a plot. But to put 
it upon paper was the rub. ' Cain,' ' Manfred/ and 
' The Cenci,' had been read as poems without think- 
ing how the dialogue looked upon paper ; besides, 
they were in blank verse, and prose dialogue would 
look quite different. As no instinctive want had urged 
me to read Shakespeare, he remained unread, and 
1 did not turn to him now because of the excessive 
popularity of his name, but went instead to the Gym- 
nase, and gave an attentive hearing to the play, which, 
however, did not enable me to see the dialogue upon 
paper. A corner of the prompter's copy was visible 
from the stall I sat in ; a peep into it would reveal 
the secret of play- writing to me, but to seek out the 
prompter's acquaintance would mean a long delay, 
and being in a hurry, I betook myself to Galignani's 
library in quest of a book that would assist me, and 
after a month's study of Congreve, Wycherley, Van- 
borough, and Farquhar, Marshall's attempt to marry 
his mistress to one of his friends was related in three 
acts. The title given to the comedy was ( Worldliness.' 
My valet liked it, seeing in it the means whereby he 
might get back to London; and we returned to 
London, my valet thinking of the happy evenings 
that awaited him in the Sun Music Hall at Knights- 
bridge, myself of the rehearsals at the Olympic, 
the Globe, or the Gaiety. It did not matter 
which ; my comedy would suit any West End theatre. 



34 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 



IV 

IT is always difficult to get past a stage-door keeper, 
and it is disappointing to find in him a rival dramatist, 
which I did at the Olympic. A copyist of plays, 
mine was, as well as a writer, and while waiting I 
learnt among other things that it would be well to 
have my play copied and the stage directions in- 
scribed in red ink. These things he undertook to 
do for the play that I hoped Mr. Nevill would read ; 
and he performed the same good offices for another 
play which my friend, Dick Mansell, would have 
produced if he had not just taken the St. James's 
for the production of Offenbach's ' Bridge of Sighs.' 

We had good times behind the scenes of the 
St. James's, and it was not till the backers refused 
to supply any more money and the theatre had to 
be closed that I was seized with a longing for Paris, 
and returned there hurriedly, hardly able to bear 
with the hours that separated me from Marshall. 

<M. Marshall, is he at home ?' ' M. Marshall left 
here some months ago.' 'Do you know his address?' 
' I'll ask my husband.' ' Do you know M. Marshall's 
address ?' ' Yes, he's gone to live in the Rue de 
Douai.' 'What number?' 'I think it is fifty-four.' 
' Thanks.' ' Coachman, wake up ; drive me to the 
Rue de Douai.' 

But Marshall was not to be found at the Rue de 
Douai; and he had left no address. There was 
nothing for it but to go to the studio ; I should be 
able to obtain news of him there perhaps find him. 
But when I pulled aside the curtain, the accustomed 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 35 

piece of slim nakedness did not greet my eyes, only 
the blue apron of an old woman enveloped in a cloud 
of dust. ' The gentlemen are not here to-day, the 
studio is closed, I am sweeping up/ 'Oh, and where 
is M. Julien ?' ' I cannot say, sir : perhaps at the 
cfl/V, or perhaps he is gone to the country.' This 
was not very encouraging, and now, my enthusiasm 
thoroughly damped, I strolled along le Passage, look- 
ing at the fans, the bangles and the litter of cheap 
trinkets that each window was filled with. On the 
left at the corner of the Boulevard was our cafl. As 
I came forward the waiter moved one of the tin 
tables, and then I saw the fat Proven9al. But just 
as if he had seen me yesterday he said, ' Tiens ! cest 
vous; une demi-tasse? out . . . gar gon, une demi-tasse.' 
Presently the conversation turned on Marshall ; they 
had not seen much of him lately. ' II parait qu'il est 
plus amoureux quejamais,' Julien replied sardonically. 
And I learnt from him that Alice Howard had 
become one of the celebrated lights of love in Paris, 
Cora Pearl's rival, and was now living in the Rue 
Duphot. 

'Number 14-,' Julien cried after me; and a few 
minutes after I found Marshall in a vast apartment, 
cumbered with sofas, armchairs, mirrors, and great 
gilt cornices, wallowing in the finest of fine linen in 
a great Louis XV. bed, and there were cupids above 
him. ' Holloa ! what, you back again, George Moore ? 
we thought we weren't going to see you again.' 

' It's nearly one o'clock ; get up. What's the 
news ?' 

'To-day is the opening of the exhibition of the 
Impressionists. We'll breakfast round the corner, at 



36 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

/ fa, Durant's, and go on there. I hear that Bedlam is 
nothing to it ; at one end of the room there is a 
canvas twenty feet square and in three tints : pale 
yellow for the sunlight, brown for the shadows, and 
all the rest is sky-blue. A lady walks, I'm told, in 
the foreground with a ring-tailed monkey, and the 
tail is said to be three yards long.' 

We went to jeer a group of enthusiasts that 
willingly forfeit all delights of the world in the hope 
of realizing a new aestheticism ; we went insolent 
with patent leather shoes and bright kid gloves and 
armed with all the jargon of the school. < Cette jambe 
ne porte pas ' ; l la nature ne se fait pas comme $a ' ; 
1 on dessine par les masses; combien de teles?' 'Sept 
et demi.' ' Si j' avals un morceau de craie je mettrais 
celle-la dans un bocal; c'est un Jbetus' ; in a word, all 
that the journals of culture are pleased to term an 
artistic education. We indulged in boisterous 
laughter, exaggerated in the hope of giving as much 
pain as possible, and deep down in our souls we 
knew that we were lying at least I did. 

In the beginning of this century the tradition of 
French art the tradition of Boucher, Fragonard, 
and Watteau had been completely lost; having 
produced genius, their art died. Ingres is the 
sublime flower of the classic art which succeeded 
the art of the palace and the boudoir : further than 
Ingres it was impossible to go, and his art died. 
Then the Turners and Constables came to France, 
and they begot Troy on, and Troy on begot Millet, 
Courbet, Corot, and Rousseau, and these in turn 
begot Degas, Pissarro, Madame Morizot and Guil- 
laumin. Degas is a pupil of Ingres, but he applies 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 37 

the marvellous acuteness of drawing he learned from 
his master to delineating the humblest aspects of 
modern life. Degas draws not by the masses, but 
by the character ; his subjects are shop-girls, ballet- 
girls, and washer- women, but the qualities that 
endow them with immortality are precisely those 
which eternalize the virgins and saints of Leonardo 
da Vinci in the minds of men. You see the fat, 
vulgar woman in the long cloak trying on a hat in 
front of the pier-glass. So marvellously well are the 
lines of her face observed and rendered that you can 
tell exactly what her position in life is ; you know 
what the furniture of her rooms is like ; you know 
what she would say to you if she were to speak. She 
is as typical of the nineteenth century as Fragoiiard's 
ladies are of the Court of Louis XV. To the right 
you see a picture of two shop-girls with bonnets in 
their hands. So accurately are the habitual move- 
ments of the heads and the hands observed that you 
at once realize the years of bonnet-showing and 
servile words that these women have lived through. 
We have seen Degas do this before it is a welcome 
repetition of a familiar note, but it is not until we 
turn to the set of nude figures that we find the great 
artist revealing any new phase of his talent. The 
first, in an attitude which suggests the kneeling 
Venus, washes her thighs in a tin bath. The second, 
a back view, full of the malformations of forty years, 
of children, of hard work, stands gripping her flanks 
with both hands. The naked woman has become 
impossible in modern art ; it required Degas' genius 
to infuse new life into the worn-out theme. Cynicism 
was the great means of eloquence of the middle ages , 



38 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

and with cynicism Degas has rendered the nude again 
an artistic possibility. What Mr. Horsley or the 
British matron would say it is difficult to guess. 
Perhaps the hideousness depicted by M. Degas 
would frighten them more than the sensuality which 
they condemn in Sir Frederick Leighton. But, be 
this as it may, it is certain that the great, fat, short- 
legged creature, who in her humble and touching 
ugliness passes a chemise over her lumpy shoulders, 
is a triumph of art. Ugliness is trivial, the monstrous 
is terrible ; Velasquez knew this when he painted his 
dwarfs. 

Pissarro exhibited a group of girls gathering 
apples in a garden sad greys and violets harmonized. 
The figures seem to move as in a dream : we are on 
the thither side of life, in a world of quiet colour 
and happy aspiration. Those apples will never fall 
from the branches, those baskets that the stooping 
girls are filling will never be filled : that garden is 
the garden of the peace that life has not for giving, 
but which the painter has set in an eternal dream of 
violet and grey. 

Madame Morizot exhibited a series of delicate 
fancies. Here are two young girls, the sweet 
atmosphere folds them as with a veil, they are all 
summer, their dreams are limitless, their days are 
fading, and their ideas follow the flight of the' 
white butterflies through the standard roses. Take 
note, too, of the stand of fans : what delicious 
fancies are there willows, balconies, gardens, and 
terraces. 

Then, contrasting with these distant tendernesses, 
there was the vigorous painting of Guillaumin. 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 39 

There life is rendered in violent and colourful 
brutality. The ladies fishing in the park, with the 
violet of the skies and the green of the trees 
descending upon them, is a chef d'ceuvre. Nature 
seems to be closing about them like a tomb ; and 
that hillside sunset flooding the skies with yellow 
and the earth with blue shadow is another piece 
of painting that will one day find a place in one of 
the public galleries ; and the same can be said of 
the portrait of the woman on a background of chintz 
flowers. 

We could but utter coarse gibes and exclaim, 
' What could have induced him to paint such things ? 
surely he must have seen that it was absurd. I 
wonder if the Impressionists are in earnest or if it is 
only une blague qu'on nous fait ?' Then we stood 
and screamed at Monet, that most exquisite painter 
of blonde light. We stood before the 'Turkeys/ and 
fell to wondering seriously if * it were serious work,' 
that chef d'ceuvre ! the high grass that the turkeys 
are gobbling is flooded with sunlight so swift and 
intense that for a moment the illusion is complete. 
' Just look at the house ! why, the turkeys couldn't 
walk in at the door. The perspective is all wrong.' 
Then followed other remarks of an educational kind ; 
and when we came to those piercingly personal 
visions of railway-stations by the same painter 
those rapid sensations of steel and vapour our 
laughter knew no bounds. ' I say, Marshall, just 
look at this wheel ; he dipped his brush into cadmium 
yellow and whisked it round, that's all.' Nor had 
we any more understanding for Renoir's rich sensu- 
alities of tone ; nor did the mastery with which he 



40 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

achieves an absence of shadow appeal to us. You 
see colour and light in his pictures as you do in 
nature, and the child's criticism of a portrait s Why 
is one side of the face black ?' is answered. There 
was a half-length nude figure of a girl. How the 
round fresh breasts palpitate in the light ! such a 
glorious glow of whiteness was attained never before. 
But we saw nothing except that the eyes were out 
of drawing. 

For art was not for us then as it is now a mere 
emotion, right or wrong only in proportion to its 
intensity : we believed then in the grammar of art, 
perspective, anatomy, and la jambe qui porte ; and 
we found all this in Julien's studio. 

A year passed ; a year of art and dissipation one 
part art, two parts dissipation. We mounted and 
descended at pleasure the rounds of society's ladder. 
One evening we would spend at Constant's, Rue de 
la Gaiete", in the company of thieves and house- 
breakers ; on the following evening we were dining 
with a duchess or a princess in the Champs Elysees. 
We prided ourselves vastly on our versatility in 
using with equal facility the language of the 'fence's' 
parlour, and that of the literary salon ; on being 
able to appear as much at home in one as in the 
other. Delighted at our prowess, we often whis- 
pered, ' The princess, I swear, would not believe her 
eyes if she saw us now ;' and then in terrible slang 
we shouted a benediction on some ' crib ' that was 
going to be broken into that evening. We thought 
there was something very thrilling in leaving the 
Rue de la Gaiete, returning home to dress, and pre- 
senting our spotless selves to the tlite, in being at 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 41 

home in all company, in being able to waltz perfectly 
in different styles, and to avoid making love to the 
wrong woman. 

But the excitement of climbing up and down the 
social ladder did not stave off our craving for art : 
and about this time there came a very decisive event 
in our lives. Marshall's last and really grande 
passion had come to a violent termination, and 
monetary difficulties forced him to turn his thoughts 
to painting on china as a means of livelihood. And 
as this young man always sought extremes, he went 
to Belleville, donned a blouse, ate garlic with his 
food, and settled down to live there as a workman. 
I had been to see him, and had found him building a 
wall. And with sorrow I related his state that even- 
ing to Julien in the Cafe Veron. He said, after a 
pause : 

' Since you profess so much friendship for him, 
why do you not do him a service that cannot be 
forgotten since the result will always continue ? 
Why don't you save him from the life you describe ? 
If you are not actually rich you are at least in easy 
circumstances, and can afford to give him a pension 
of three hundred francs a month. I will give him 
the use of my studio, which means, as you know, 
models and teaching ; Marshall has plenty of talent, 
all he wants is a year's education : in a year or a 
year-and-a-half, certainly at the end of two years, 
he will begin to make money.' 

It is rather a shock to one who is at all concerned 
with his own genius to be asked to act as foster- 
mother to another's. Then three hundred francs 
meant a great deal, plainly it meant deprivation of 



42 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

those superfluities which are so intensely necessary 
to the delicate and refined. Julien watched me. 
This large crafty Southerner knew what was passing 
in me; he knew I was realizing all the manifold 
inconveniences the duty of looking after Marshall's 
wants for two years, and to make the pill easier he 
said : 

' If three hundred francs a month are too heavy 
for your purse, you might take an apartment and 
ask Marshall to come and live with you. You told 
me the other day you were tired of hotel life. It 
would be an advantage to you to live with him. 
You want to do something yourself; and the fact 
of his being obliged to attend the studio (for I should 
advise you to have a strict agreement with him re- 
garding the work he is to do) would be an extra 
inducement to you to work hard/ 

I always decide at once, reflection does not help 
me, and a moment after I said, ' Very well, Julien, 
I will.' 

And next day I went with the news to Belleville. 
Marshall protested he had no real talent. I protested 
he had, and amid our different protests an agree- 
ment was drawn up and signed. He was to work in 
the studio eight hours a day ; he was to draw until 
such time as M. Lefebvre set him to paint ; and in 
proof of his industry he was to bring me at the end 
of each week a study from life and a composition, 
the subject of which the master gave at the beginning 
of each week ; in return I was to take an apartment 
near the studio, give him an abode, food, blanckissage. 
As if to convince himself of his earnestness, he 
began to manifest prodigious energy, telling me 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 43 

three days after that he had found an apartment in 
Le Passage des Panoramas which would suit us 
perfectly. The news was not altogether pleasant, 
but the plunge had been taken. I paid my hotel 
bill, and sent my taciturn valet to happy evenings in 
the Sun Music Hall. 

It was disagreeable to have a window opening not 
to the sky, but to an unclean prospect of glass 
roofing ; and it was not agreeable to get up at seven in 
the morning ; and ten hours of work daily are trying 
to the resolution even of the best intentioned. But 
we had sworn to forgo all pleasures for the sake of 
art table d'hotes in the Rue Maubeuge, French and 
foreign duchesses in the Champs Elysees, thieves in 
the Rue de la Gaiete. 

I was entering on a duel with Marshall for 
supremacy in an art for which, as has already been 
said, I possessed few qualifications, certainly no 
facilities. It will be understood how a mind like 
mine, intensely alive to all impulses, and unsup- 
ported by any moral convictions, would suffer in 
a contest waged under such unequal and cruel con- 
ditions. It was in truth a year of great passion and 
great despair. Defeat is bitter when it comes swiftly 
and conclusively, but when defeat falls by inches 
like the pendulum in the pit, the agony is a little 
beyond verbal expression. I remember the first day 
of my martyrdom. The clocks were striking eight ; 
we chose our places, got into position. After the 
first hour, I compared my drawing with Marshall's. 
He had, it is true, caught the movement of the 
figure better than I, but the character and the 
quality of his work was miserable. That of mine 



44 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

was not. I have said I possessed no artistic facility, 
but I did not say faculty ; my drawing was never 
common ; it was individual in feeling, it was refined. 
I possessed all the rarer qualities, but not that 
primary power without which all is valueless 1 
mean the talent of the boy who can knock off a 
clever caricature of his schoolmaster or make a life- 
like sketch of his favourite horse on the barn-door 
with a piece of chalk. 

The following week Marshall made a great deal 
of progress; I thought the model did not suit me, 
and hoped for better luck next time. That time 
never came, and at the end of the first month 1 was 
left toiling hopelessly in the distance. Marshall's 
mind, though shallow, was bright, and he understood 
with strange ease all that was told him, and was 
able to put into immediate practice the methods of 
work inculcated by the professors. In fact, he 
showed himself singularly capable of education ; 
little could be drawn out, but a great deal could 
be put in (using the word in its modern, not in its 
original sense). He showed himself intensely anxious 
to learn and to accept all that was said : the ideas 
and feelings of others ran into him like water into 
a bottle whose neck is suddenly stooped below the 
surface of the stream. He was an ideal pupil. It 
was Marshall here, it was Marshall there, and soon 
the studio was little but an agitation in praise of 
him and his work, and anxious speculation arose as 
to the medals he would obtain. I continued the 
struggle for nine months. I was in the studio at 
eight in the morning, I measured my drawing, I 
plumbed it throughout, I sketched in, having regard 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 45 

to la jambe qui porte, I modelled par les masses. 
During breakfast I considered how I should work 
during the afternoon, at night I lay awake thinking 
of what I might do to obtain a better result. But 
my efforts availed me nothing, it was like one who, 
falling, stretches his arms for help and grasps the 
yielding air. How terrible are the languors and 
yearnings of impotence ! how wearing ! what an 
aching void they leave in the heart ! And all this 
I suffered until the burden of unachieved desire 
grew intolerable. 

I laid down my charcoal and said, ' I will never 
draw or paint again.' That vow I have kept. 

Surrender brought relief, but my life seemed like 
a sea without a sail upon it, and as desolate. ( To 
what shall I turn ?' I asked myself, and my heart 
did not answer the question at once. I strove to 
read : but it was impossible to sit at home almost 
within earshot of the studio, and with all the 
memories of defeat still ringing their knells in my 
heart. Marshall's success clamoured loudly from 
without ; every day, almost every hour of the day, 
I heard of the medals which he would carry off, of 
what Lefebvre thought of his drawing this week, 
of Boulanger's opinion of his talent. I do not 
wish to excuse my conduct, but I cannot help say- 
ing that Marshall showed me neither consideration 
nor pity, he did not even seem to understand that 
I was suffering, that my nerves had been terribly 
shaken, and he flaunted his superiority relentlessly 
in my face his good looks, his talents, his popu- 
larity. I did not know then how little these studio 
successes really meant. 



46 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

Vanity ? no, it was not his vanity that maddened 
me ; to me vanity is rarely displeasing, sometimes it 
is singularly attractive ; but by a certain insistence 
and aggressiveness in the details of life he allowed 
me to feel that I was only a means for the moment, 
a serviceable thing enough, but one that would be 
very soon discarded and passed over. This was 
intolerable. I packed up my portmanteau and left, 
after having kept my promise for only ten months. 
By so doing I involved my friend in grave and cruel 
difficulties ; by this action I imperilled his future 
prospects. It was a dastardly action, but his presence 
had grown unbearable ; yes, unbearable in the fullest 
acceptation of the word, and in ridding myself of 
him I felt as if a world of misery were being lifted 
from me. 



AFTER three months spent in a sweet seaside resort, 
where unoccupied men and ladies whose husbands 
are abroad happily congregate, I returned to Paris 
refreshed. 

Marshall and I were no longer on speaking terms, 
but I saw him daily, in a new overcoat, of a cut 
admirably adapted to his figure, sweeping past the 
fans and the jet ornaments of the Passage des 
Panoramas. The coat interested me, and I remem- 
bered that if I had not broken with him I should 
have been able to ask him some essential questions 
concerning it. Of such trifles as this the sincerest 
friendships are made ; he was as necessary to me as 
I to him, and after some demur on his part a recon- 
ciliation was effected. 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 47 

Then I took an appartement in one of the old houses 
in Rue de la Tour des Dames, for windows there 
overlooked a bit of tangled garden with a dilapidated 
statue. It was Marshall, of course, who undertook 
the task of furnishing, and he lavished on the rooms 
the fancies of an imagination that suggested the 
collaboration of a courtesan of high degree and a 
fifth-rate artist. Nevertheless, our salon was a pretty 
resort English cretonne of a very happy design 
vine leaves, dark green and golden, broken up by 
many fluttering jays. The walls were stretched with 
this colourful cloth, and the arm-chairs and the 
couches were to match. The drawing-room was in 
cardinal red, hung from the middle of the ceiling 
and looped up to give the appearance of a tent ; a 
faun, in terra- cotta, laughed in the red gloom, and 
there were Turkish couches and lamps. In another 
room you faced an altar, a Buddhist temple, a statue 
of Apollo, and a bust of Shelley. The bedrooms 
were made unconventional with cushioned seats and 
rich canopies ; and in picturesque corners there were 
censers, great church candlesticks, and palms ; then 
think of the smell of burning incense and wax and 
you will have imagined the sentiment of our apart- 
ment in Rue de la Tour des Dames. I bought a 
Persian cat, and a python that made a monthly meal 
off guinea-pigs ; Marshall, who did not care for pets, 
filled his rooms with flowers he used to sleep 
beneath a tree of gardenias in full bloom. We 
were so, Henry Marshall and George Moore, when 
we went to live in 76, Rue de la Tour des Dames, 
we hoped for the rest of our lives. He was to paint, 
I was to write. 



48 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

Before leaving for the seaside I had bought 
some volumes of Hugo and Musset ; but in pleasant, 
sunny Boulogne poetry went flat, and it was not 
until I got into my new rooms that I began to read 
seriously. Books are like individuals ; you know at 
once if they are going to create a sense within the 
sense, to fever, to madden you in blood and brain, 
or if they will merely leave you indifferent, or irrit- 
able, having unpleasantly disturbed sweet intimate 
musings as might a draught from an open window. 
Many are the reasons for love, but I confess I only 
love woman or book, when it is as a voice of conscience, 
never heard before, heard suddenly, a voice I am at 
once endearingly intimate with. This announces 
feminine depravities in my affections. I am feminine, 
morbid, perverse. But above all perverse ; almost 
everything perverse interests, fascinates me. Words- 
worth is the only simple-minded man I ever loved, 
if that great austere mind, chill even as the. Cumber- 
land year, can be called simple. But Hugo is not 
perverse, nor even personal. Reading him was like 
being in church with a strident -voiced preacher 
shouting from out of a terribly sonorous pulpit. 
' Les Orientales . . .' An East of painted cardboard, 
tin daggers, and a military band playing the Turkish 
patrol in the Palais Royal. . . . The verse is grand, 
noble, tremendous ; I liked it, I admired it, but it 
did not I repeat the phrase awake a voice of 
conscience within me ; and even the structure of the 
verse was too much in the style of public buildings 
to please me. Of 'Les Feuilles d'Automne' and 
'Les Chants du Crepuscule' I remember nothing. 
Ten lines, fifty lines of 'La Legende des Siecles,' 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 49 

and I always think that it is the greatest poetry I 
have ever read, but after a few pages the book is 
laid down and forgotten. Having composed more 
verses than any man that ever lived, Hugo can only 
be taken in the smallest doses ; if you repeat any 
passage to a friend across a cafe table, you are both 
appalled by the splendour of the imagery, by the 
thunder of the syllables. 

' Quel dieu, quel moissonneur de 1'eternel etc 
Avait en s'en allant riegligemment jete 
Cette faucille d'or dans les champs des etoiles.' 

But I never read through a volume without feeling 
that Hugo's genius is more German than French ; 
and perhaps that is why the poem is better than the 
volume, the stanza better than the poem, and the 
single line best of all : 

' Le clair de lune bleu qui baigne 1'horizou.' 

Without a ' like or an ' as/ by a mere statement of 
fact, the picture, nay more, the impression, is pro- 
duced. The poem which this line concludes 'La 
fete chez Therese ' is an admirable picture of 
mediaeval life, but we never really enjoy it except 
when the newspapers quote it. His humanitarianism 
is especially German, and of all his treatment of 
God ; arm in arm he romps Him round the 
universe two immortalities, it is true, but of the 
twain Hugo prefers his own. His delight in little 
children is perhaps still more unbearable, for while 
telling their innocence, he watches them curiously ; 
and as soon as the song is over and the crowd 
disperses, he entices them down a by-way. 



50 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

The first time I read ot une bouche d'ombre I was 
astonished, nor did the second or third repetition 
produce a change in my mood of mind ; but sooner 
or later it was impossible to avoid conviction, that 
of the two 'the rosy fingers of the dawn/ although 
some three thousand years older, is younger, truer, 
and more beautiful. Homer's similes can never grow 
old ; une bouche d'ombre was old the first time it was 
said, and may be looked upon as the birthplace and 
the grave of Hugo's genius. 

About this time I used to hear of Musset from 
Marshall and the Marquise, who were in the habit of 
reading him ; and in moments of relaxation, they 
marked their favourite passages, so he came to me 
highly recommended. But little progress was made 
in his poetry. His modernisms were out of tune 
with the spring of my aspirations, and instead of the 
unexpected word and the eccentricities of expression 
which were, and are still, so dear to me, I discovered 
only the clumsy versification of the man that nature 
designed for a prose-writer. An error of diction is 
pardonable if it does not err on the side of the 
commonplace; but the commonplace, the natural, 
is constitutionally abhorrent ; and I have never 
been able to read with any very unashamed sense 
of pleasure even the opening lines of ' Rolla,' 
a splendid lyrical outburst in a way. What I re- 
member of it now are those two odious chevilles 
marckait et respirait, and Astarte fille de Vonde amere ; 
nor does the fact that amkre rhymes with mere con- 
done the offence, although it proves that even 
Musset felt that perhaps the richness of the rhyme 
might render tolerable the intolerable. It is, how- 
ever, to my credit that the Spanish love songs moved 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 5i 

me not at all ; and it was not until I read that 
magnificently grotesque poem ' La Ballade & la 
Lune,' that I could be induced to bend the knee and 
acknowledge Musset a poet. 

I still read and spoke of Shelley with a rapture of 
joy he was still my 'pinnace.' But this craft, 
fashioned of mother-o'-pearl, with starlight at the 
helm and moonbeams for sails, suddenly ran on a 
reef and went down, not out of sight, but out of the 
agitation of actual life. The reef was Gautier ; I read 
' Mile, de Maupin ' at a moment when I was weary 
of spiritual passion, and this great exaltation of the 
visible above the invisible at once conquered and led 
me captive. This plain scorn of a world exempli- 
fied in lacerated saints and a crucified Redeemer 
opened up a prospect of new beliefs and new joys in 
things and new revolts against all that had come to 
form part and parcel of the commonalty of mankind. 
Shelley's teaching had been, while accepting the 
body, to dream of the soul as a star, and so preserve 
our ideal ; but now I saw suddenly, with delightful 
clearness and with intoxicating conviction, that bj 
looking without shame and accepting with love the 
flesh, I might raise it to as high a place within as 
divine a light as even the soul had been set in. The 
ages were as an aureole, and I stood as if enchanted 
before the noble nakedness of the elder gods : not 
the middle nudity that sex has preserved in this 
modern world, but the clean pagan nude a love of 
life and beauty, the broad fair breast of a boy, the 
long flanks, the head thrown back. I cried out with 
my master : the bold fearless gaze of Venus is lovelier 
than the lowered glance of the Virgin, and the 
blood that flowed upon Mount Calvary ' ne rria 



52 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

jamais baignd dans ses fots. 1 A sublime vindication of 
one born into a world that was not his. 

I will not turn to the book to find the exact words 
for ten years I have not read the Word that has 
become so inexpressibly a part of me but will 
refrain, as Mile, de Maupin refrained, knowing well 
that the face of love may not be seen twice. 

None more than I had cherished mystery and 
dream : my life until now had been but a mist which 
revealed, as each cloud wreathed and went out, the 
red of some strange flower or some tall peak, blue and 
snowy and fairy like in lonely moonlight ; and now 
so great was my conversion that the more brutal the 
outrage offered to my ancient ideal, the rarer and 
keener was my delight. I read almost without fear : 
* My dreams are of naked youths riding white horses 
through mountain passes; there are no clouds in 
my dreams, or if there are any, they are cut with 
the chisel from blocks fallen from the statue of 
Jupiter/ 

J had shaken off all belief in Christianity early in 
life with Shelley's help. He had replaced faith by 
reason ; I still suffered, but need suffer no more. 
Here was a new creed proclaiming the divinity of the 
body ; and for a long time the reconstruction of all 
my theories of life on a purely pagan basis occupied 
my attention. The outlines of the castle showing 
through the romantic woods, and the lovers leaning 
over the horses' necks to each other's faces, enchanted 
me ; and equally the description of the performance 
of As You Like It; in it Rodolph sees Mile, de 
Maupin for the first time in woman's attire, and if 
she were dangerously beautiful as a man, that beauty 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 53 

is forgotten in the rapture and praise of her un- 
matchable woman's loveliness. 

But if ' Mile, de Maupin ' was the highest peak, 
it was not the entire mountain. The range was long, 
and each summit offered to the eye a new and 
delightful prospect. There were the numerous 
tales tales as perfect as the world has ever seen ; 
'La Morte Amoureuse,' 'Jettatura,' 'Une Nuit 
de Cleop&tre,' etc., and then the very diamonds of 
the crown, ' Les Emaux et Camees,' ' La Symphonic 
en Blanc Majeur^,' in which the adjective blanc and 
blanche is repeated with miraculous felicity in each 
stanza. And then Contralto 

4 Mais seulement il se transpose, 

Et, passant de la forme au son, 
Trouve dans sa metamorphose 
La jeurie fille et le garcon.' 

Transpose a word never before used except in 
musical application, and now for the first time 
applied to material form, and with a beauty-giving 
touch that Phidias might be proud of. It may be that 
I do not quote correctly ; such is my best memory of 
the stanza, and here, that is more important than the 
stanza itself. That other, ' The Chatelaine and the 
Page ' ; and that other, < The Doves ' ; and that 
other, * Romeo and Juliet,' and the exquisite cadence 
of the line ending ' balcon.' Novelists have often 
shown how a love passion brings misery, despair, 
death and ruin upon a life, but I know of no story 
of the good or evil influence awakened by the 
chance reading of a book, the chain of consequences 
so far-reaching, so intensely dramatic. Never shall 



54, CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

I open these books again, but were I to live for a 
thousand years, their power in my soul would remain 
unshaken. I am what they made me. Belief in 
humanity, pity for the poor, hatred of injustice, all 
that Shelley gave may never have been very deep or 
earnest ; but I did love, I did believe. Gautier 
destroyed these illusions. He taught me that our 
boasted progress is but a pitfall into which the race 
is falling, and I learned that the correction of form 
is the highest ideal, and I accepted the plain, simple 
conscience of the pagan world as the perfect solution 
of the problem that had vexed me so long! I cried, 
' ave ' to it all : lust, cruelty, slavery, and I would 
have held down my thumbs in the Colosseum that a 
hundred gladiators might die and wash me free of 
my Christian soul with their blood. 

The study of Baudelaire hurried the course of the 
disease.* No longer is it the grand barbaric face of 
Gautier ; now it is the clean-shaven face of the mock 
priest, the slow, cold eyes and the sharp, cunning 
sneer of the cynical libertine who will be tempted 
that he may better know the worthlessness of temp- 
tation. ' Les Fleurs du Mai !' beautiful flowers, 
beautiful in sublime decay. What a great record is 
yours, and were Hell a reality how many souls would 
we find wreathed with your poisonous blossoms ! The 
village maiden goes to her Faust ; the children of 
the nineteenth century go to you, O Baudelaire, and 
having tasted of your deadly delight all hope of 
repentance is vain. Flowers, beautiful in your 
sublime decay, I press you to my lips ; these northern 

* Surely the phrase is ill considered, hurried e my con- 
valescence ' would express the author's meaning better. 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 55 

solitudes, far from the rank Parisian garden where I 
gathered you, are full of you, even as the sea- shell 
of the sea, and the sun that sets on this wild moor- 
land evokes the magical verse : 

' Un soir fait de rose et de bleu mystique 
Nous echangerons un eclair unique 
Comme un long sanglot tout charge d'adieux.' 

For months I fed on the mad and morbid litera- 
ture that the enthusiasm of 1830 called into existence. 
The gloomy and sterile little pictures of ' Gaspard de 
la Nuit/ or the elaborate criminality of ' Les Contes 
Immoraux,' laboriously invented lifeless things with 
creaky joints, pitiful lay figures that fall to dust as 
soon as the book is closed, and in the dust only the 
figures of the terrible ferryman and the unfortunate 
Dora remain. ' Madame Potiphar ' cost me forty 
francs, and I never read more than a few pages. 

Like a pike after minnows I pursued the works of 
Les Jeune France along the quays and through every 
arcade in Paris. One man's solitary work (he died 
very young, but he is known to have excelled all in 
the length of his hair and the redness of his waist- 
coats) resisted my efforts to capture it. At last I 
caught sight of the precious volume in a shop on the 
Quai Voltaire, and trembling, asked the price. The 
man fixed his eyes on me and answered : 

' A hundred and fifty francs.' 

A great sum, no doubt, but I paid it and hurried 
home to read, hoping it would not prove as disap- 
pointing as many that had gone before : I had read 
many books without profit, but this one (of which I 
had heard so much) was empty. * Not a queer 



56 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

phrase, not an outrage of any sort or kind, not even 
a new blasphemy ; ' it means nothing to me/ I said, 
'nothing but a hundred and fifty francs.' 

Having thus rudely, and very pikelike, knocked 
my nose against the bottom this book was, most 
certainly, the bottom of the literature of 1830 I 
came up to the surface and began to look around my 
contemporaries for something to read. 

I have remarked before on the instinctiveness of 
my likes and dislikes, on my susceptibility to the 
sound of and even to the appearance of a name upon 
paper. His name, Leconte de Lisle, repelled me from 
the first, and it was only by a very deliberate outrage 
to my feelings that I bought and read ' Les Poemes 
Antiques/ and ' Les Poemes Barbares ' ; I was 
deceived in nothing, all I had anticipated I found 
antiquated nothingness. Leconte de Lisle produces 
on me the effect of a walk through the new Law 
Courts, with a steady but not violent draught sweeping 
from end to end. And when I saw him the last time 
I was in Paris, his head a declaration of righteous- 
ness, a cross between a Caesar by Gerome, and an 
archbishop of a provincial town, set all my natural 
antipathy on edge instantly. Hugo is often pompous, 
shallow, empty, unreal, but he is at least an artist, 
and when he thinks of the artist and forgets the 
prophet, as in ' Les Chansons des Rues et des Bois/ 
his juggling with the verse is magnificent, superb. 
Hallo, listen to this : 

( Comme un geai sur 1'arbre 

Le roi se tient fier ; 
Son cceur est de marbre, 
Son ventre est de chair. 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 57 

' On a pour sa nuque 

Et son front vermeil 
Fait une perruque 
Avec le soleil. 

f II regne, il vegete 
Effrayant zero ; 
Sur lui se projette 
L' ombre du bourreau. 

( Sou tr6ne est m*e tombe, 

Et sur le pave 
Quelque chose en tombe 
Qu'oii n'a point lave/ 

But how to get the first line of the last stanza into 
five syllables I cannot think. If ever I meet with 
the volume again I will look it out and see how that 
rude dompteur de syllabes managed it. But stay, son 
trone est la tombe brings the line right, and the 
generalization would be in the ' line ' of Hugo. 
Hugo how impossible it is to speak of French 
literature without referring to him ! Let these, how- 
ever, be concluding words, that he thought he could 
by saying everything, and, saying everything twenty 
times over, for ever render impossible the rehearsal 
of another great poet. And the iiett result of 
Hugo's ambition is that nobody reads him except 
when the journalists quote him in the newspapers, 
which is more reasonable than appears at first sight, 
for an essential condition of a work of art is that it 
should be rare ; another condition is that it should 
be brief. Of an entire poem, as has been said, it is 
seldom that we remember more than a stanza, and 
very often of the stanza only a single line remains in 
the memory : 

' Le clair de lune bleu qui baigne Phorizon ' 



58 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

is all that I remember of < La fete chez Therese.' 
Villiers always used to contend that no poem should 
be extended beyond a single line : 

' O pasteur, Hesperus al'occident s'allume.' 

The sweet, sad serenity of the evening air is con- 
tained in this verse. The star shines in the west, the 
lambs run to the ewes, and the shepherd leads the 
flock foldwards. Why add to the line ? 

I remember Villiers one morning, not long before 
Venus kindles in the east, telling a group that had 
been following him from cafi to cafe listening to his 
stories that he had composed a drama on the subject 
of the Cenci, and that according to his poetic principle, 
he had suppressed the entire drama into one line. 
Throwing back his hair, he said ; ' Beatrice, not con- 
tent with merely murdering her father, has had him 
made into soup.' The soup is served and is handed 
round to the guests at a great banquet given in 
honour of the assassination. It is at this point of 
the tragedy que je place mon ver : 

c Et les yeux du bouillon etaient ceux de son pere.' 

Sometimes Villiers would add a morality to his 
single-line poems. Here is an example : 

( Pepin le bref est mort depuis onze cents ans.' 
Morality : 

' Quand on est mort c'est pour longtemps. ' 

But to return to Leconte de Lisle. See his ' Dis- 
cours de Reception.' Is it possible to imagine any- 
thing more arid ? Rhetoric of this sort, ' des vers 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 59 

d'or sur unc tclume d'airain,' and such sententious 
platitudes as this (speaking of the realists), ' Les 
tpidtmies de cette nature passent, et le gfnie demeure.' 

Theodore de Banville seemed to me to freeze into 
icicles,, a beautiful cold glitter. He had no new 
creed to proclaim nor old creed to denounce ; the 
inherent miseries of human life did not seem to 
touch him, nor did he sing the languors and ardours 
of animal or spiritual passion. And it was a long 
time before I began to understand that it is enough 
if the poet sings like the lark for love of the song. 
Banville sings of the white lily and the red rose ; 
such knowledge of, such observation of nature is 
enough for the poet, and he sings and he trills ; there 
is magic trilling in every song, and the song as it 
ascends rings, and all the air quivers with the ever- 
widening circle of the echoes, sighing and dying out 
of the ear until the last faintness is reached. Out 
of the sky the poet descends singing, and the glad 
rhymes clash and dash forth again. Banville is not 
the poet, he is the bard. The great questions that 
agitate the mind of man have not troubled him : life, 
death, and love he perceives only as pretexts. 
Only the song is real, and he is lyrical always ; 
even in conversation his wit flies out on clear-cut, 
swallow-like wings. In speaking to Paul Alexis 
of his book ' Le Besoin d'aimer/ he said : f Vous avez 
trouvd un litre asses laid pour faire reculer les divines 
Hoiles' 

It is now well known that French verse is not 
seventy years old. If it was Hugo who invented 
French rhyme, it was Banville who broke up the 
couplet. Hugo had perhaps ventured to place the 



60 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

pause between the adjective and its noun, but it was 
not until Banville wrote the line, ' Elle Jllait pensive- 
ment la blanche laine,' that the caesura received its 
final coup de grdce. This verse has been probably 
more imitated than any other verse in the French 
language. Pensivement was replaced by some similar 
four- syllable adverb, Elle tirait nonchalamment les has 
de soi, etc. 

I read the French poets of the modern school 
Coppee, Mendes, Leon Diex, Verlaine, Jose Maria 
Heredia, Mallarme, Richepin, Villiers de 1' Isle Adam. 
Coppee, as may be imagined, I was only capable of 
appreciating in his first manner, when he wrote those 
exquisite but purely artistic sonnets 'La Tulipe,' 
and ' Le Lys.' In the latter a room decorated with 
daggers, armour, jewellery, and china, is beautifully 
described, and it is only in the last line that the lily, 
which animates and gives life to the whole, is intro- 
duced. Noble et pur un grand lys se meurt dans une 
coupe. But the exquisite poetic perceptivity Coppee 
showed in his modern poems, the certainty with 
which he raised the commonest subject, investing it 
with sufficient dignity for his purpose, escaped me 
wholly, and I could not but turn with horror from 
such poems as ' La Nourrice ' and ' Le Petit Epi- 
cier.' I could not understand how anybody could 
bring himself to acknowledge the vulgar details of 
our vulgar age. The fiery glory of Jose Maria de 
Heredia, on the contrary, filled me with enthusicasm 
ruins and sand, shadow and silhouette of palms 
and pillars, negroes, crimson, swords, silence, and 
arabesques. Like great copper pans goes the clangour 
of the rhymes. 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 61 

* Entre le ciel qui brule et la mer qui moutonne, 
An somnolent soleil d'uu midi monotone, 
Tu songes, O guerriere, aux vieux conquistadors ; 
Et dans Penerveinent des nuits chaudes et calmes, 
Ber^ant ta gloire eteinte, O cite, tu t'endors 
Sous les palmier?, au long fremissement des palmes. 3 

Catulle Mendes, a perfect realization of his name, 
with his pale hair, and his fragile face illuminated 
with the idealism of a depraved woman. He takes 
you by the arm, by the hand, he leans towards you, 
his words are caresses, his fervour is delightful, and 
to hear him is as sweet as drinking a smooth per- 
fumed yellow wine. All he says is false the book 
he has just read, the play he is writing, the woman 
who loves him. . . . He buys a packet of bonbons in 
the streets and eats them, and it is false. An ex- 
quisite artist ; physically and spiritually he is art ; 
he is the muse herself, or rather, he is one of 
the minions of the muse. Passing from flower to 
flower he goes, his whole nature pulsing with 
butterfly voluptuousness. He has written poems 
as good as Hugo, as good as Leconte de Lisle, as 
good as Banville, as good as Baudelaire, as good as 
Gautier, as good as Coppee ; he never wrote an ugly 
line in his life, but he never wrote a line that some 
one of his brilliant contemporaries might not have 
written. He has produced good work of all kinds 
'et voila tout.' Every generation, every country, 
has its Catulle Mendes. Robert Buchanan is ours, 
only in the adaptation Scotch gruel has been substi- 
tuted for perfumed yellow wine. No more delightful 
talker than Mendes, no more accomplished litterateur, 
no more fluent and translucid critic. I remember 
the great moonlights of the Place Pigale, when, on 



62 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

leaving the cafe, he would take me by the arm, and 
expound Hugo's or Zola's last book, thinking as he 
spoke of the Greek sophists. There were for con- 
trast Mallarme's Tuesday evenings, a few friends 
sitting round the hearth, the lamp on the table. I 
have met none whose conversation was more fruitful, 
but I never enjoyed his poetry, his early verses of 
course excepted. When I knew him he had pub- 
lished the celebrated ' L'Apres-Midi d'un Faune ' : 
the first poem written in accordance with the theory 
of symbolism. But when it was given to me (this 
marvellous brochure furnished with strange illustra- 
tions and wonderful tassels), I thought it absurdly 
obscure. Since then, however, it has been rendered 
by force of contrast with the enigmas the author has 
since published a marvel of lucidity ; I am sure if I 
were to read it now I should appreciate its many 
beauties. It bears the same relation to the author's 
later work as Rienzi to The Walkyrie. But what is 
symbolism ? Vulgarly speaking, saying the opposite 
to what you mean. For example, you want to say 
that music, which is the new art, is replacing the old 
art, which is poetry. First symbol : a house in which 
there is a funeral, the pall extends over the furniture. 
The house is poetry, poetry is dead. Second symbol : 
f noire meux grimoire,' grimoire is the parchment, 
parchment is used for writing, therefore grimoire is 
the symbol for literature, ' d'ou s'exaltent les milliers,' 
thousands of what ? of letters of course. We have 
heard a great deal in England of Browning obscurity. 
The ' Red Cotton Nightcap Country ' is a child at 
play compared to a sonnet by such a determined 
symbolist as Mallarme, or better still his disciple 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 63 

Ghil who has added to the infirmities of symbolism 
those of poetic instrumentation. For according to 
M. Ghil and his organ Les Ecrits pour I' Art, it would 
appear that the syllables of the French language 
evoke in us the sensations of different colours ; con- 
sequently the timbre of the different instruments. 
The vowel u corresponds to the colour yellow, and 
therefore to the sound of flutes. 

Arthur Rimbaud was, it is true, first in the field 
with these pleasant and genial theories ; but M. Ghil 
informs us that Rimbaud was mistaken in many 
things, particularly in coupling the sound of the 
vowel u with the colour green instead of with the 
colour yellow. M. Ghil has corrected this very 
stupid blunder and many others ; and his instrumen- 
tation in his last volume, ' Le Geste Ingenu,' may 
be considered as complete and definitive. The work 
is dedicated to Mallarme, ' Pere et seigneur des ors, 
des pierreries, et des poisons/ and other works are 
to follow : the six tomes of ' Legendes de Reves et 
de Sang,' the innumerable tomes of ' La Glose,' and 
the single tome of ' La Loi.' 

And that man Gustave Kahn, who takes the 
French language as a violin and lets the bow of his 
emotion run at wild will upon it, producing strange 
acute strains, unpremeditated harmonies comparable 
to nothing that I know of but some Hungarian rhap- 
sody ; verses of seventeen syllables interwoven with 
verses of eight, and even nine masculine rhymes, 
seeking strange union with feminine rhymes in the 
middle of the line a music sweet, subtil, and 
epicene ; the half-note, the inflexion, but not the full 
tone as ( se fondre, 6 souvenir, des lys acres ddlices.' 



64 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

Se penchant vers les dahlias, 
Des paons cabrient des rosaces lunaires 
L'assoupissement des branches venerey 
Son pale visage aux mourants dahlias. 

Elle ecoute au loin les breves musiques 
Nui claire aux ramures d'accords, 
Et la lassitude a berce son corps 
Au rythme odorant des pures musiques. 

Les paons ont dresse la rampe occellee 
Pour la descente de ses yeux vers le tapis 

De choses et de sens 
Qui va vers 1'horizon, parure vermiculee 

De son corps alangui 

En Fame se tapit 
Le flou desir molli de recits et d'encens. 

I laughed at these verbal eccentricities, but they 
were not without their effect, and that a demoralizing 
one ; for in me they aggravated the fever of the 
unknown, and whetted my appetite for the strange, 
abnormal and unhealthy in art. Hence all pallidi- 
ties of thought and desire were eagerly welcomed ; 
Verlaine became my poet, and the terraces and 
colonnades of ' Les Fetes Galantes ' became the 
chapel of my meditations, with the lady there who 
descends her castle stairs unmindful that her page, 
a little nigger, is lifting her train higher than is 
necessary, sharing thereby with her monkey a view 
of her thighs. ' Les Fetes Galantes ' is lit with dresses, 
white, blue, yellow, green, mauve, and undecided 
purple ; the voices ? strange contraltos ; the forms ? 
not those of men or women, but mystic, hybrid 
creatures, with hands nervous and pale, and eyes 
charged with eager and fitful light . . . * un 
soir Equivoque d'automne,' . . . 'les belles pendent 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 65 

reveuses a nos bras ' and they whisper ( les 

mots specfyux et tout has.' 

Gautier sang to his antique lyre praise of the flesh 
and contempt of the soul ; Baudelaire on a mediaeval 
organ chanted his unbelief in goodness and truth 
and his hatred of life. But Verlaine advances one 
step further : hate is to him as commonplace as love, 
unfaith as vulgar as faith. The world is merely a doll 
to be attired to-day in eighteenth-century hoops, to- 
morrow in aureoles and stars. The Virgin is a pretty 
thing, worth a poem, but it would be quite too silly 
to talk about belief or unbelief; Christ in wood or 
plaster we have heard too much of, but Christ in 
painted glass amid crosiers and Latin terminations, 
is an amusing subject for poetry. And strangely 
enough, a withdrawing from all commerce with virtue 
and vice is, it would seem, a licentiousness more 
curiously subtle and penetrating than any other; 
and the licentiousness of the verse is equal to that 
of the emotion ; every natural instinct of the 
language is violated, and the simple music native in 
French metre is replaced by falsetto notes sharp and 
intense. The charm is that of an odour of iris 
exhaled by some ideal tissues, or of a missal in a gold 
case, a precious relic of the pomp and ritual of an 
archbishop of Persepolis. 

Parsifal a vaincu les filles, leur gentil 
Babil et la luxure amusaute et sa pente 
Vers la chair de gar^on vierge que cela tente 
D'aimer des seins legers et ce gentil babil. 

II a vaincu la femme belle au coeur subtil 
Etalant ces bras frais et sa gorge excitante ; 
11 a vaincu 1'enfer, il rentre sous la tente 
Avec un lourd trophee a son bras pueril. 
E 



66 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

Avec la lance qui per^a le flanc supreme 
II a gueri le roi, le voici roi lui-meme. 
Et pretre du tres-saint tresor essentiel ; 

En robe d'or il adore, gloire et symbole, 

Le vase pur ou resplendit le sang reel, 

Et, 6 ces voix d'enfants chantant dans la coupole. 

No English sonnet lingers in the ear like this 
one, and its beauty is as inexhaustible as a 
Greek marble. The hiatus in the last line was at 
first a little trying, but I have learnt to love it. 
Not in Baudelaire nor even in Poe is there more 
beautiful poetry to be found. Poe, unread and ill- 
understood in America and England, here, thou art 
an integral part of our artistic life. 

The Island o' Fay, Silence, Eleonore, were the 
familiar spirits of an apartment beautiful with Manets 
and tapestry ; Swinburne and Rossetti were the 
English poets I read there ; and I, a unit in the 
generation they have enslaved, clanked fetters and 
trailed a golden chain, in a set of stories in many 
various metres, to be called ' Roses of Midnight.' 
One of the characteristics of the volume was 
banishment of daylight: from its pages terraces, 
gardens and orchards were held forbidden ; and my 
fantastics lived out their loves in the lamplight of 
yellow boudoirs, and died with the dawn which 
was supposed to be an awakening to consciousness 
of reality. 

VI 

A LAST hour of vivid blue and gold glare ; but now 
the twilight sheds softly upon the darting jays, and 
only the little oval frames catch the fleeting beams. 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 67 

I go to the miniatures. Amid the parliamentary 
faces, all strictly garrotted with many-folded hand- 
kerchiefs, there is a metal frame enchased with rubies 
and a few emeralds. And this chef d'osuvre of an- 
tique workmanship surrounds a sharp, shrewdish, 
modern face, withal pretty. 

She is a woman of thirty no, she is the woman 
of thirty. Balzac has written some admirable pages 
on this subject ; my memory of them is vague and un- 
certain, although durable, as all memories of him must 
be. But that marvellous story, or rather study, has 
been blunted in my knowledge of this tiny face with 
the fine masses of hair drawn up from the neck and 
arranged elaborately on the crown. There is no fear 
of plagiary ; he cannot have said all ; he cannot have 
said what I want to say. 

Looking at this face so mundane, so intellectually 
mundane, I see why a young man of refined mind a 
bachelor who spends at least a pound a day on his plea- 
sures, and in whose library are found some few volumes 
of modern poetry seeks his ideal in a woman of thirty. 

It is clear that, by the very essence of her being, 
the young girl may evoke no ideal but that of home ; 
and home is in his eyes the antithesis of freedom, de- 
sire, aspiration. He longs for mystery, deep and end- 
less, and he is tempted with a foolish little illusion 
white dresses, water-colour drawings and popular 
music. He dreams of Pleasure, and he is offered 
Duty ; for do not think that that sylph-like waist 
does not suggest to him a yard of apron string, cries 
of children, and that most odious word 'Papa.' A 
young man of refined mind can look through the 
glass of the years. 



68 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

He has sat in the stalls, opera-glass in hand ; he 
has met women of thirty at balls, and has sat with 
them beneath shadowy curtains ; he knows that the 
world is full of beautiful women, all waiting to be 
loved and amused, the circles of his immediate years 
are filled with feminine faces, they cluster like flowers 
on this side and that, and they fade into garden-like 
spaces of colour. How many may love him ? The 
loveliest may one day smile upon his knee ! and shall 
he renounce all for that little creature who has just 
finished singing and is handing round cups of tea ? 
Every bachelor contemplating marriage says, ' I 
shall have to give up all for one, one.' 

The young girl is often pretty, but her prettiness 
is vague and uncertain, it inspires a sort of pitying 
admiration, but it suggests nothing ; the very essence 
of the young girl's being is that she should have 
nothing to suggest, therefore the beauty of the young 
face fails to touch the imagination. No past lies 
hidden in those translucent eyes, no story of hate, dis- 
appointment, or sin. Nor is there in nine hundred 
and ninety-nine cases in a thousand any doubt that the 
hand, that spends at least a pound a day in restaurants 
and cabs, will succeed in gathering the muslin flower 
if he so wills it, and by doing so he will delight every- 
one. Where, then, is the struggle ? where, then, is 
the triumph ? Therefore, I say that if a young man's 
heart is not set on children, and tiresome dinner- 
parties, the young girl presents to him no possible 
ideal. But the woman of thirty presents from the 
outset all that is necessary to ensnare the heart of a 
young man. I see her sitting in her beautiful drawing- 
room, all designed by, and all belonging to her. Her 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN b'9 

chair is placed beneath an evergreen plant, and the 
long leaves lean out as if to touch her neck. The 
great white and red roses of the Aubusson carpet are 
spread enigmatically about her feline feet ; a grand 
piano leans its melodious mouth to her ; and there 
she sits when her visitors have left her, playing 
Beethoven's sonatas in the dreamy firelight. The 
spring-tide shows but a bloom of unvarying freshness ; 
August has languished and loved in the strength of 
the sun. She is stately, she is tall. What sins, what 
disappointments, what aspirations lie in those grey 
eyes, mysteriously still, and mysteriously revealed. 
These a young man longs to know of, they are his 
life. He imagines himself sitting by her, when the 
others have gone, holding her hand, calling on her 
name ; sometimes she moves away and plays the 
Moonlight Sonata. Letting her hands droop upon 
the keys she talks sadly, maybe affectionately ; she 
speaks of the tedium of life, of its disenchantments. 
He knows well what she means, he has suffered as 
she has ; but could he tell her, could she understand, 
that in his love reality would dissolve into a dream, 
all limitations would open into boundless infinity. 

The husband he rarely sees. Sometimes a latch-key 
is heard about half past six. The man is thick, strong, 
common, his jaws are heavy, his eyes are expressionless, 
there is about him the loud swagger of the caserne, 
and he suggests the inevitable question, Why did she 
marry him ? a question that every young man of 
refined mind asks a thousand times by day and ten 
thousand times by night, asks till he is five-and- thirty, 
and sees that his generation has passed into middle 
age. 



70 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

Why did she marry him ? Not the sea, nor the 
sky, nor the great mysterious midnight, when he opens 
his casement and gazes into starry space will give 
him answer ; no CEdipus will ever come to unravel 
this riddle ; this sphinx will never throw herself from 
the rock into the clangour of the sea-gulls and waves ; 
she will never divulge her secret ; and if she is the 
woman and not a woman of thirty, she has forgotten. 

The young man shakes hands with the husband ; 
he strives not to look embarrassed, and he talks of 
indifferent things of how well he (the husband) is 
looking, of his amusements, his projects ; and then 
he (the young man of refined mind) tastes of that 
keen and highly seasoned delight happiness in 
crime. He knows not the details of her home life, 
the husband is merely a dark cloud that fills one side 
of the picture, sometimes obliterating the sunlight ; 
a shadowy shape that in certain moments solidifies and 
assumes the likeness of a rock-sculptured, imminent 
monster, but the shadow and the shape and the threat 
are magnetic, and in a sense of danger the fascination 
is sealed. 

The young man of refined mind is in a ballroom ! 
He leans against the woodwork in a distant doorway ; 
hardly knowing what to do with himself, he strives 
to interest himself in the conversation of a group of 
men twice his age. I will not say he is shunned ; 
but neither the matrons nor the young girls make 
any advances towards him. The young girls so sweet 
in the oneness of their fresh hair, flowers, dresses, 
and glances are being introduced, are getting up to 
dance, and the hostess is looking round for partners. 
She sees the young man in the doorway, but she 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 71 

hesitates and goes to someone else, and if you asked 
her why, she could not tell you why she avoided him. 
Presently the woman of thirty enters. She is in white 
satin and diamonds. She looks for him a circular 
glance. Calm with possession she passes to a seat, 
extending her hand here and there. She dances the 
eighth, twelfth and fifteenth waltz with him. 

Will he induce her to visit his rooms ? Will they 
be like Marshall's strange debauches of colour and 
Turkish lamps or mine, an old cabinet, a faded 
pastel which embalms the memory of a pastoral cen- 
tury, my taste ; or will it be a library, two leather 
library chairs, a large escritoire, and a bust of Homer ? 
Be this as it may, whether the apartments be the ruth- 
less extravagance of artistic impulse, or the subdued 
taste of the student, she, the woman of thirty, shall 
be there by night and day : her altar is there, and even 
when she is sleeping safe in her husband's arms, with 
fevered brow, he, the young man of refined mind, 
alone and lonely shall kneel and adore her. 

And should she not visit his rooms ? If the com- 
plex and various accidents of existence should have 
ruled out her life virtuously ; if the many inflections 
of sentiment have decided against this last consum- 
mation, then she will wax to the complete, the 
unfathomable temptress the Lilith of old she will 
never set him free, and in the end will be found 
about his heart ( one strangling golden hair.' She shall 
haunt his wife's face and words (should he seek to 
rid himself of her by marriage), a bitter sweet, a 
half-welcome enchantment ; she shall consume and 
destroy the strength and spirit of his life, leaving it 
desolation, a barren landscape, burnt and faintly 



72 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

scented with the sea. Fame and wealth shall slip 
like sand from him. She may be set aside for the 
cadence of a rhyme, for the flowing line of a limb, 
but when the passion of art has raged itself out, she 
shall return to blight the peace of the worker. 

A terrible malady is she, a malady the ancients 
knew of and called nympholepsy a beautiful name 
evocative and symbolic of its ideal aspect, f the 
breast of the nymph in the brake.' And the 
disease is not extinct in these modern days, nor will 
it ever be so long as men shall yearn for the unattain- 
able ; and the prosy bachelors who trail their ill-fated 
lives from their chambers to their clubs know their 
malady, and they call it the woman of thirty. 



VII 

A JAPANESE dressing-gown, the ideality of whose 
tissue delights me, some fresh honey and milk set by 
this couch hung with royal fringes ; and having par- 
taken of this odorous refreshment, I call to Jack, my 
great python crawling about after a two months' fast. 
1 tie up a guinea-pig to the tabouret, pure Louis XV., 
the little beast struggles and squeaks, the snake, his 
black, bead-like eyes are fixed, how superb are the 
oscillations . . . now he strikes : and with what ex- 
quisite gourmandise he lubricates and swallows ! 

Marshall is at the organ in the hall, he is playing 
a Gregorian chant, that beautiful hymn, the ' Vexilla 
Regis/ by Saint Fortunatus, the great poet of the 
Middle Ages. And, having turned over the leaves 
of ' Les Fetes Galantes/ I sit down to write. 

My original intention was to write some thirty or 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 73 

forty stories varying from thirty to three hundred 
lines in length. The nature of these stories is easy 
to imagine : there was the youth who wandered by 
night into a witches' sabbath, and was disputed for 
by the witches, young and old. There was the light 
o' love who went into the desert to tempt the holy 
man ; but he died as he yielded, his arms stiffening by 
some miracle about her, and she, unable to free her- 
self, died while her bondage was loosening in decay. 
My difficulties were increased by adopting as part of 
my task the introduction of all sorts of elaborate, and 
in many cases extravagantly composed metres, and 
I began to feel that I was working in sand ; the 
house I was raising crumbled and fell away on every 
side. My stories had one merit : they were all, as 
far as I can remember, perfectly constructed. The 
art of telling a story clearly and dramatically, selon 
les precedes de M. Scribe, had been learnt from 
M. Duval, the author of a hundred and sixty plays, 
written in collaboration with more than a hun- 
dred of the best writers of his day, including the 
master himself, Gautier. We used to meet at 
breakfast at a neighbouring cafe, and our conver- 
sation turned on I' exposition de la pi&oe, prdparer la 
situation, nous aurons des larmes, etc. One day, as I 
sat waiting for him, I took up the Voltaire. It 
contained an article by M. Zola. Naturalisme, la 
v6rite, la science, were repeated some half-a-dozen 
times. Hardly able to believe my eyes, I read that 
one should write with as little imagination as possible, 
that plot in a novel or in a play was illiterate and 
puerile, and that the art of M. Scribe was an art of 
strings and wires, etc. I rose up from breakfast 



74 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

ordered my coffee, and stirred the sugar, a little dizzy, 
like one who has received a violent blow on the 
head. 

Echo-augury ! Words heard in an unexpected 
quarter, but applying marvellously well to the 
besetting difficulty of the moment. The reader who 
has followed me so far will remember the instant 
effect the word ' Shelley ' had upon me in childhood, 
and how it called into existence a train of feeling 
that illuminated the vicissitudes and passions of many 
years, until it was finally assimilated and became 
part of my being; the reader will also remember 
how the mere mention, at a certain moment, of the 
word ' France ' awoke a vital impulse, even a sense 
of final ordination, and how the irrevocable message 
was obeyed, and how it led to the creation of a 
mental existence. 

And now for a third time I experienced the pain 
and joy of a sudden and inward light. Naturalism, 
truth, the new art, above all the phrase, ' The new 
art,' impressed me as with a sudden sense of light. 
I was dazzled, and I vaguely understood that my 
' Roses of Midnight ' were sterile eccentricities, dead 
flowers that could not be galvanized into any sem- 
blance of life, passionless in all their passion. 

I had read a few chapters of the ' Assommoir/ as 
it appeared in La lUpublique des Lettres ; I had cried, 
' ridiculous, abominable/ only because it is character- 
istic of me to instantly form an opinion and assume 
at once a violent attitude. But now I bought up 
the back numbers of the Voltaire, and I look forward 
to the weekly exposition of the new faith with febrile 
eagerness. The great zeal with which the new 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 75 

master continued his propaganda, and the marvellous 
way in which subjects the most diverse, passing events, 
political, social, religious, were caught up and turned 
into arguments for, or proof of the truth of naturalism 
astonished me wholly. The idea of a new art based 
upon science, in opposition to the art of the old world 
that was based on imagination, an art that should 
explain all things and embrace modern life in its 
entirety, in its endless ramifications, be, as it were, a 
new creed in a new civilization, filled me with wonder, 
and I stood dumb before the vastness of the concep- 
tion, and the towering height of the ambition. In 
my fevered fancy I saw a new race of writers that 
would arise, and with the aid of the novel would 
continue to a more glorious and legitimate conclusion 
the work that the prophets had begun ; and at each 
development of the theory of the new art and its 
universal applicability, my wonder increased and my 
admiration choked me. If any one should be tempted 
to turn to the books themselves to seek an explana- 
tion of this wild ecstasy, he would find nothing as 
well drink the dregs of yesterday's champagne. One 
is lying before me now, and as I glance through the 
pages listlessly I say, ' Only the simple crude state- 
ments of a man of powerful mind, but singularly 
narrow vision.' 

Still, although eager and anxious for the fray, I 
did not see how I was to participate in it. I was 
not a novelist, not yet a dramatic author, and the 
possibility of a naturalistic poet seemed to me not a 
little doubtful. I had clearly understood that the 
lyrical quality was to be for ever banished ; there 
were to be no harps and lutes in our heaven, only 



76 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

drums ; and the preservation of all the essentials of 
poetry, by the simple enumeration of the utensils to 
be found in a back kitchen, sounded, I could not 
help thinking (here it becomes necessary to whisper), 
not unlike rigmarole. I waited for the master to 
speak. He had declared that the Republic would 
fall if it did not become instantly naturalistic ; he 
would not, he could not pass over in silence so impor- 
tant a branch of literature as poetry, no matter how 
contemptible he might think it. If he could find 
nothing to praise, he must at least condemn. At 
last the expected article came. It was all that could 
be desired by one in my fever of mind. Hugo's 
claims had been previously disproven, but now 
Banville and Gautier were declared to be warmed-up 
dishes of the ancient world ; Baudelaire was a 
naturalist, but he had been spoilt by the romantic 
influence of his generation. Cependant there were 
indications of the naturalistic movement even in 
poetry. I trembled with excitement, I could not 
read fast enough. Coppee had striven to simplify 
language, he had versified the street cries, Achetez 
la France, le Soir, le Rappel ; he had sought to give 
utterence to humble sentiments as in ' Le Petit 
Epicier de Montrouge,' the little grocer qui cassait 
le sucre avec melancolie ; Richepin had boldly and 
frankly adopted the language of the people in all 
its superb crudity. All this was, however, preparatory 
and tentative. We are waiting for our poet, he who 
will sing to us fearlessly of the rude industry of dust- 
men and the comestible glories of the market-places. 
The subjects are to hand, the formula alone is wanting. 
The prospect dazzled me ; I tried to calm myself 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 77 

Had I the stuff in me to win and to wear these bays, 
this stupendous laurel crown ? bays, laurel crown, a 
distinct souvenir of Parnassus, but there is no modern 
equivalent, I must strive to invent a new one, in the 
meantime let me think. True it is that Swinburne 
was before me with the ' Romantiques.' The ' Hymn 
to Proserpine ' and ' Dolores ' are wonderful lyrical 
versions of Mile, de Maupin. In form ' The Leper ' 
is old English, the colouring is Baudelaire, but the 
rude industry of the dustmen and the comestible 
glories of the market-place shall be mine. A bos 
1 Les Roses de Minuit ' / 

But I felt the ' naturalization ' of the ' Roses of 
Midnight' would prove a difficult task, and soon 
found it an impossible one ; the poems were laid 
aside and a volume begun steeped in the delights of 
Bougival and Ville d'Avray. And this book was to 
be entitled ' Poems of " Flesh and Blood !" ' 

' Elle mit son phis beau chapeau, son chapeau bleu' . . . 
and then ? Why, then picking up her skirt, she 
threads her way through the crowded streets, reads 
the advertisements on the walls, hails the omnibus, 
inquires at the concierge's loge, murmurs as she goes 
upstairs, ' Que c'est haul le cinquiemej and then ? Why, 
the door opens, and she cries, ' Je t'aime.' 

But it was the idea of the new sestheticism the 
new art corresponding to modern, as ancient art 
corresponded to ancient life that captivated me, 
that led me away, and not a substantial knowledge 
of the work done by the naturalists. I had read the 
' Assommoir,' and had been much impressed by its 
pyramid size, strength, height, and decorative 
grandeur, and also by the immense harmonic develop- 



78 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

ment of the idea; and the fugal treatment of the 
different scenes had seemed to me astonishingly new 
the washhouse, for example : the fight motive is 
indicated, then follows the development of side issues, 
then comes the fight motive explained ; it is broken 
off short, it flutters through a web of progressive 
detail, the fight motive is again taken up, and now it 
is worked out in all its fulness ; it is worked up to 
crescendo, another side issue is introduced, and again 
the theme is given forth. And I marvelled greatly 
at the lordly, river-like roll of the narrative, some- 
times widening out into lakes and shallowing meres, 
but never stagnating in fen or marshlands. The 
language, too, which I did not then recognize as the 
weak point, being little more than a boiling down of 
Chateaubriand and Flaubert, spiced with Goncourt, 
delighted me with its novelty, its richness, its force. 
Nor did I then even roughly suspect that the very 
qualities which set my admiration in a blaze wilder 
than wildfire, being precisely those that had won the 
victory for the romantic school forty years before, 
were very antagonistic to those claimed for the new 
art. I was deceived, as was all my generation, by 
a certain externality, an outer skin, a nearness, un 
approchement ; in a word, by a substitution of Paris 
for the distant and exotic backgrounds so beloved of 
the romantic school. I did not know then, as I do 
now, that art is eternal, that it is only the artist that 
changes, and that the two great divisions the only 
possible divisions are : those who have talent, and 
those who have no talent. But I do not regret my 
errors, my follies ; it is not well to know at once of 
the limitations of life and things. I should be less 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 79 

than nothing had it not been for my enthusiasms ; 
they were the saving clause in my life. 

But although I am apt to love too dearly the art of 
my day, and to the disparagement of that of other 
days, I did not fall into the stupid mistake of placing 
the realistic writers of 1877 side by side with and on 
the same plane of intellectual vision as the great 
Balzac ; I felt that that vast immemorial mind rose 
above them all, like a mountain above the highest 
tower. 

And, strange to say, it was Gautier that introduced 
me to Balzac ; for mention is made in the wonderful 
preface to ' Les Fleurs du Mai ' of Seraphita : 
Seraphita, Seraphitus ; which is it ? woman or man ? 
Should Wilfred or Mona be the possessor ? A new 
Mile, de Maupin, with royal lily and aureole, cloud- 
capped mountains, great gulfs of sea- water flowing up 
and reflecting as in a mirror the steep cliffs' side ; 
the straight white feet are set thereon, the obscuring 
weft of flesh is torn, and the pure, strange soul con- 
tinues its mystical exhortations. Then the radiant 
vision, a white glory, the last outburst and manifesta- 
tion/ the trumpets of the apocalypse, the colour of 
heaven, the closing of this stupendous allegory 
Seraphita lying dead in the rays of the first sun of 
the nineteenth century. 

I, therefore, had begun, as it were, to read Balzac 
backwards ; instead of beginning with the plain, 
simple, earthly tragedy of the Pere Goriot, I first knelt 
in a beautiful but distant coigne of the great world 
of his genius Seraphita. Certain nuances of soul 
are characteristic of certain latitudes, and what subtle 
instinct led him to Norway in quest of this fervent 



80 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

soul ? The instincts of genius are unfathomable ? 
but he who has known the white northern women 
with their pure spiritual eyes, will aver that instinct 
led him aright. I have known one, one whom I used 
to call Seraphita ; Coppee knew her too, and that 
exquisite volume, ( L' Exile,' so Seraphita-like in the 
keen blonde passion of its verse, was written to her, 
and each poem was sent to her as it was written. 
Where is she now, that flower of northern snow, once 
seen for a season in Paris ? Has she returned to her 
native northern solitudes, great gulfs of sea-water, 
mountain rock, and pine ? 

Balzac's genius is in his titles as heaven is in its stars : 
' Melmoth Reconcili6,' 'Jesus-Christ en Flandres,' 
' Le Revers d'un Grand Homme/ ' La Cousine Bette.' 
I read somewhere not very long ago, that Balzac was 
the greatest thinker that had appeared in France 
since Pascal. Of Pascal's claim to be a great thinker 
I confess I cannot judge. No man is greater than 
the age he lives in, and, therefore, to talk to us, the 
legitimate children of the nineteenth century, of 
proofs that we ought to believe in the Catholic God 
strikes us in just the same light as a proof that we 
ought to believe in Jupiter Ammon. { Les Pensees ' 
could appear to me only as childish ; the form is 
no doubt superb, but tiresome and sterile to one of 
such modern and exotic taste as myself. Still, I 
accept thankfully, in its sense of two hundred years, 
the compliment paid to Balzac ; but I would add 
that he seems to me to have shown greater wings 
of mind than any writer that ever lived. I am 
aware that this last statement will make many cry 
* fool ' and hiss ' Shakespeare* ! But I am not putting 






CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 81 

forward these criticisms axiomatically, but only as the 
expressions of an individual taste, and interesting so 
far as they reveal to the reader the different develop- 
ments and the progress of my mind. It might prove 
a little tiresome, but it would no doubt ' look well/ in 
the sense that going to church * looks well/ if I were 
to write in here ten pages of praise of our national 
bard. I must, however, resist the temptation to { look 
well ' ; a confession is interesting in proportion to the 
amount of truth it contains, and I will, therefore, state 
that I never derived any profit whatsoever, and very 
little pleasure from the reading of the great plays. 
The beauty of the verse ! Yes ; he who loved Shelley 
as well as I could not fail to hear the melody of 

( Music to hear, why hearest thou music sadly ? 
Sweets with sweets war not, joy delights in joy.' 

Is not such music as this enough ? Of course, but I 
am a sensualist in literature. I may see perfectly well 
that this or that book is a work of genius, but if it 
doesn't ' fetch me/ it doesn't concern me, and I for- 
get its very existence. What leaves me cold to-day 
will madden me to-morrow. With me literature is a 
question of sense, intellectual sense if you will, but 
sense all the same, and ruled by the same caprices 
those of the flesh ? Now we enter on very subtle 
distinctions. No doubt that there is the brain-judg- 
ment and the sense-judgment of a work of art. 
And it will be noticed that these two forces of discrimi- 
nation exist sometimes almost independently of each 
other, in rare and radiant instances confounded and 
blended in one immense and unique love. Who has 
not been, unless perhaps some dusty old pedant, 
thrilled and driven to pleasure by the action of a 



82 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

book that penetrates to and speaks to you of your 
most present and most intimate emotions. This is 
of course pure sensualism ; but to take a less marked 
stage. Why should Marlowe enchant me ? why 
should he delight and awake enthusiasm in me, 
while Shakespeare leaves me cold ? The mind that 
can understand one can understand the other, but 
there are affinities in literature corresponding to, and 
very analogous to, sexual affinities the same un- 
reasoned attractions, the same pleasures, the same 
lassitudes. Those we have loved most we are most 
indifferent to. Shelley, Gautier, Zola, Flaubert, 
Goncourt ! how I have loved you all ; and now I 
could not, would not, read you again. How womanly, 
how capricious ; but even a light of love is con- 
stant, if not faithful, to her amant de cceur. So with 
me ; of those I have loved deeply there is but one 
that still may thrill me with the old passion, 
with the first ecstacy it is Balzac. Upon that rock 
I built my church, and his great and valid talent 
saved me often from destruction, saved me from the 
shoaling waters of new aestheticisms, the putrid mud 
of naturalism, and the faint and sickly surf of the 
symbolists. Thinking of him, I could not forget 
that it is the spirit and not the flesh that is eternal ; 
that, as it was thought that in the first instance gave 
man speech, so to the end it shall still be thought that 
shall make speech beautiful and rememberable. The 
grandeur and sublimity of Balzac's thoughts seem to 
me to rise to the loftiest heights, and his range is 
limitless ; there is no passion he has not touched, 
and what is more marvellous, he has given to each 
in art a place equivalent to the place it occupies in 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 83 

nature ; his intense and penetrating sympathy for 
human life and all that concerns it enabled him to 
surround the humblest subjects with awe and crown 
them with the light of tragedy. There are some, 
particularly those who can understand neither and 
can read but one, who will object to any comparison 
being drawn between the Dramatist and the Novelist ; 
but I confess that I if the inherent superiority of 
verse over prose, which I admit unhesitatingly, be 
waived that I fail, utterly fail, to see in what 
Shakespeare is greater than Balzac. The range of 
the poet's thought is of necessity not so wide, and 
his concessions must needs be greater than the novel- 
ist's. On these points we will cry quits, and come 
at once to the vital question the creation. Is Lucien 
inferior to Hamlet ? Is Eugenie Grandet inferior to 
Desdemona ? Is her father inferior to Shylock ? 
Is Macbeth inferior to Vautrin ? Can it be said that 
the apothecary in the ' Cousine Bette,' or the Baron 
Hulot, or the Cousine Bette herself is inferior to 
anything the brain of man has ever conceived ? 
And it must not be forgotten that Shakespeare has 
had three hundred years and the advantage of stage 
representation to impress his characters on the 
sluggish mind of the world ; and as mental impres- 
sions are governed by the same laws of gravitation 
as atoms, our realization of Falstaff must of necessity 
be more vivid than of any character in contemporary 
literature, although it were equally great. And so 
far as epigram and aphorism are concerned, and here 
I speak with absolute sincerity and conviction, the 
work of the novelist seems to me richer than that of 
the dramatist. Who shall forget those terrible words 




84 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

of the poor life -weary orphan in the boarding-house ? 
Speaking of Vautrin she says, ' His look frightens me 
as if he put his hand on my dress ' ; and another 
epigram from the same book, ' Woman's virtue is 
man's greatest invention.' Find me anything in La 
Rochefoucauld that goes more incisively to the truth 
of things. One more ; here I can give the exact 
words : ' La gloire est le soleil des worts.' It would be 
easy to compile a book of sayings from Balzac that 
would make all ' Maximes' and ' Pensees,' even those 
of La Rochefoucauld or Joubert, seem trivial and 
shallow. 

Balzac was the great moral influence of my life, 
and my reading culminated in the ' Comedie 
Humaine/ I no doubt fluttered through some 
scores of other books, of prose and verse, sipping a 
little honey, but he alone left any important or last- 
ing impression upon my mind. The rest was like 
walnuts and wine, an agreeable after-taste. 

But notwithstanding all this reading I can lay no 
claim to scholarship of any kind ; for save life I 
could never learn anything correctly. I am a 
student only of ballrooms, bar-rooms, streets, and 
alcoves. I have read very little ; but all I read I 
can turn to account, and all I read I remember. To 
read freely, extensively, has always been my ambi- 
tion, and my utter inability to study has always been 
to me a subject of grave inquietude study as con- 
trasted with a general and haphazard gathering of 
ideas taken in flight. But in me the impulse is so 
original to frequent the haunts of men that it is 
irresistible, conversation is the breath of my nostrils, 
I watch the movement of life, and my ideas spring 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 85 

from it uncalled for, as buds from branches. Contact 
with the world is in me the generating force ; with- 
out this what invention I have is thin and sterile, 
and it grows thinner rapidly, until it dies away utterly, 
as it did in the composition of my unfortunate ' Roses 
of Midnight.' 

Men and women, oh the strength of the living 
faces ! conversation, oh the magic of it ! It is a 
fabulous river of gold where the precious metal is 
washed up without stint for all to take, to take as 
much as he can carry. Two old ladies discussing 
the peerage? Much may be learned, it is gold; 
poets and wits, then it is fountains whose spray 
solidifies into jewels, and every herb and plant is 
begemmed with the sparkle of the diamond and the 
glow of the ruby. 

I did not go to either Oxford or Cambridge, but I 
went to the Nouvelle Athenes.' What is the 
Nouvelle Athenes ' ? He who would know any- 
thing of my life must know something of the 
academy of the fine arts. Not the official stupidity 
you read of in the daily papers, but the real French 
academy, the cafe. The 'Nouvelle Athenes' is a 
caft on the Place Pigale. Ah ! the morning idle- 
nesses and the long evenings when life was but a 
summer illusion, the grey moonlights on the Place 
where we used to stand on the pavements, the 
shutters clanging up behind us, loath to separate, 
thinking of what we had left unsaid, and how much 
better we might have enforced our arguments. Dead 
and scattered are all those who used to assemble 
there, and those years and our home, for it was our 
home, live only in a few pictures and a few pages of 



86 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

prose. The same old story, the vanquished only are 
victorious; and though unacknowledged, though 
unknown, the influence of the * Nouvelle Athenes ' 
is inveterate in the artistic thought of the nineteenth 
century. 

How magnetic, intense, and vivid are these 
memories of youth ! With what strange, almost un- 
natural clearness do I see and hear see the white 
face of that cafo, the white nose of that block of 
houses, stretching up to the Place, between two streets. 
I can see down the incline of those two streets, and 
I know what shops are there ; I can hear the glass 
door of the cafe grate on the sand as I open it. I 
can recall the smell of every hour. In the morning 
that of eggs frizzling in butter, the pungent cigarette, 
coffee and bad cognac ; at five o'clock the fragrant 
odour of absinthe ; and soon after the steaming soup 
ascends from the kitchen ; and as the evening 
advances, the mingled smells of cigarettes, coffee, 
and weak beer. A partition, rising a few feet or 
more over the hats, separates the glass front from 
the main body of the cafe. The usual marble tables 
are there, and it is there we sat and aestheticized till 
two o'clock in the morning. But who is that man ? 
he whose prominent eyes flash with excitement. 
That is Villiers de 1'Isle Adam. The 'last or the 
supposed last of the great family. He is telling that 
girl a story that fair girl with heavy eyelids, stupid 
and sensual. She is, however, genuinely astonished 
and interested, and he is striving to play upon her 
ignorance. Listen to him. ' Spain the night is 
fragrant with the sea and the perfume of the orange 
trees, you know a midnight of stars and dreams. 






CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 87 

Now and then the silence is broken by the sentries 
challenging that is all. But not in Spanish, but in 
French are the challenges given ; the town is in the 
hands of the French ; it is under martial law. But 
now an officer passes down a certain garden, a Span- 
iard disguised as a French officer ; from the balcony 
the family one of the most noble and oldest families 
Spain can boast of, a thousand years, long before the 
conquest of the Moors watches him. Well then ' 
Villiers sweeps with a white feminine hand the 
long hair that is falling over his face he has half 
forgotten, he is a little mixed in the opening of the 
story, and he is striving in English to ' scamp,' in 
French to escamoter. ( The family are watching, 
death if he is caught, if he fails to kill the French 
sentry. The cry of a bird, some vague sound attracts 
the sentry, he turns ; all is lost. The Spaniard is 
seized. Martial law, Spanish conspiracy must be put 
down. The French General is a man of iron' 
(Villiers laughs, a short, hesitating laugh that is 
characteristic of him, and continues in his abrupt, 
uncertain way), c man of iron ; not only he declares 
that the spy must be beheaded, but also the entire 
family a man of iron that, ha, ha ! and then, no 
you cannot, it is impossible for you to understand 
the enormity of the calamity a thousand years before 
the conquest by the Moors, a Spaniard alone could 
there is no one here, ha, ha ! I was forgetting the 
utter extinction of a great family of the name, the 
oldest and noblest of all the families in Spain, it is 
not easy to understand that, no, not easy here in the 
" Nouvelle Athenes" ha, ha, one must belong to a 
great family to understand, ha, ha ! 



88 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

' The father beseeches, he begs that one member 
may be spared to continue the name the youngest 
son that is all ; if he could be saved, the rest what 
matter ? death is nothing to a Spaniard ; the family, 
the name, a thousand years of name is everything, 
The General is, you know, a " man of iron." " Yes, 
one member of your family shall be respited, but on 
one condition." To the agonized family conditions 
are as nothing. But they don't know the man of 
iron is determined to make a terrible example, and 
they cry, " Any conditions." " He who is respited 
must serve as executioner to the others." Great is 
the doom : you understand ; but after all the name 
must be saved. Then in the family council the 
father goes to his youngest son and says, " I have 
been a good father to you, my son ; I have always 
been a kind father, have I not ? answer me ; I have 
never refused you anything. Now you will not fail 
us, you will prove yourself worthy of the great name 
you bear. Remember your great ancestor who 
defeated the Moors, remember." ' (Villiers strives 
to get in a little local colour, but his knowledge of 
Spanish names and history is limited, and he in a 
certain sense fails.) ' Then the mother comes to her 
son and says, " My son, I have been a good mother, 
I have always loved you ; say you will not desert us 
in this hour of our great need." Then the little sister 
comes, and the whole family kneels down and appeals 
to the horror-stricken boy. . . . 

' " He will not prove himself unworthy of our 
name," cries the father. " Now, my son, courage, 
take the axe firmly, do what I ask you, courage, 
strike straight." The father's head falls into the 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 89 

sawdust, the blood all over the white beard ; then 
comes the elder brother, and then another brother ; 
and then, oh, the little sister was almost more than 
he could bear, and the mother had to whisper, 
u Remember your promise to your father, to your 
dead father." The mother laid her head on the 
block, but he could not strike. " Be not the first 
coward of our name, strike ; remember your promise 
to us all," and her head was struck off.' 

( And the son/ the girl asks, { what became of him ?' 

' He never was seen, save at night, walking, a 
solitary man, beneath the walls of his castle in 
Granada.' 

* And who did he marry ?' 

' He never married.' 

Then after a long silence some one said 

' Whose story is that ?' 

'Balzac's.' 

At that moment the glass door of the cafe grated 
upon the sanded floor, and Manet entered. Although 
by birth and by art essentially a Parisian, there was 
something in his appearance and manner of speaking 
that often suggested an Englishman. Perhaps it was 
his dress his clean-cut clothes and figure. That 
figure ! those square shoulders that swaggered as he 
went across a room, and the thin waist ; and that 
face, the beard and nose, satyr-like shall I say ? No, 
for I would evoke an idea of beauty of line united to 
that of intellectual expression frank words, frank 
passion in his convictions, loyal and simple phrases, 
clear as well-water, sometimes a little hard, some- 
times, as they flowed away, bitter, but at the 
fountain-head sweet and full of light. He sits next 



90 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

to Degas, that round-shouldered man in suit of 
pepper-and-salt. There is nothing very trenchantly 
French about him either, except the large necktie ; 
his eyes are small, and his words are sharp, ironical, 
cynical. These two men are the leaders of the 
impressionist school. Their friendship has been 
jarred by inevitable rivalry. ' Degas was painting 
" Semiramis '' when I was painting " Modern Paris," ' 
says Manet. ' Manet is in despair because he cannot 
paint atrocious pictures like Duran^, and be feted 
and decorated ; he is an artist, not by inclination, 
but by force. He is as a galley slave chained to the 
oar,' says Degas. Different, too, are their methods 
of work. Manet paints his whole picture from nature, 
trusting his instinct to lead him aright through the 
devious labyrinth of selection. Nor does his instinct 
ever fail him, there is a vision in his eyes which he 
calls nature, and which he paints unconsciously as he 
digests his food, thinking and declaring vehemently 
that the artist should not seek a synthesis, but should 
paint merely what he sees. This extraordinary one- 
ness of nature and artistic vision does not exist in 
Degas, and even his portraits are composed from 
drawings and notes. About midnight Catulle Mendes 
will drop in, when he has corrected his proofs. He will 
come with his fine paradoxes and his strained eloquence. 
He will lean towards you, he will take you by the arm, 
and his presence is a nervous pleasure. And when 
the cafd is closed, when the last bock has been drunk, 
we shall walk about the great moonlight of the Place 
Pigale, and through the dark shadows of the streets, 
talking of the last book published, he hanging on to 
my arm, speaking in that high febrile voice of his, 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 91 

every phrase luminous, aerial, even as the soaring 
moon and the fitful clouds. Duranty, an unknown 
Stendhal, will come in for an hour or so ; he will 
talk little and go away quietly ; he knows, and his 
whole manner shows that he knows, that he is a 
defeated man ; and if you ask him why he does not 
write another novel, he will say, ' What's the good ? 
it would not be read ; no one read the others, and I 
mightn't do even as well if I tried again.' Paul 
Alexis, Leon Diex, Pissarro, Cabaner, are also fre- 
quently seen in the ' Nouvelle Athenes.' 

Cabaner ! the world knows not the names of those 
who scorn the world : somewhere in one of the great 
populous churchyards of Paris there is a forgotten 
grave, and there lies Cabaner. Cabaner ! since the 
beginning there have been, to the end of time there 
shall be, Cabaners ; and they shall live miserably, 
and they shall die miserable, and shall be forgotten ; 
and there shall never arise a novelist great enough 
to make live in art that eternal spirit of devotion, 
disinterestedness, and aspiration, which in each gener- 
ation incarnates itself in one heroic soul. Better wast 
thou than those who stepped to opulence and fame 
upon thee fallen ; better, loftier-minded, purer ; thy 
destiny was to fall that others might rise upon thee, 
thou wert one of the noble legion of the con- 
quered ; let praise be given to the conquered, for 
with them lies the brunt of victory. Child of the 
pavement, of strange sonnets and stranger music, I 
remember thee ; I remember the silk shirts, the four 
sous of Italian cheese, the roll of bread, and the glass 
of milk, the streets were thy dining room. And the 
five-mile walk daily to the suburban music hall where 



92 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

five francs were earned by playing the accompani- 
ments of comic songs. And the wonderful room on 
the fifth floor, which was furnished when that cele- 
brated heritage of two thousand francs was paid. I 
remember the fountain that was bought for a ward- 
robe, and the American organ with all the instru- 
ments of the orchestra, and the plaster casts under 
which the homeless ones that were never denied a 
refuge and a crust by thee slept. I remember all, 
and the buying of the life-size ' Venus de Milo.' 
Something extraordinary would be done with it, I 
knew, but the result exceeded my wildest expecta- 
tion. The head must needs be struck off, so that the 
rapture of thy admiration should be secure from all 
jarring reminiscence of the streets. 

Then the wonderful story of the tenor, the pork 
butcher, who was heard giving out such a volume of 
sound that the sausages were set in motion above 
him ; he was fed, clothed and educated on the five 
francs a day earned in the music hall in the Avenue 
de la Motte Piquet ; and when he made his debut at 
the Theatre Lyrique, thou wast in the last stage of 
consumption and too ill to go to hear thy pupil's 
success. He was immediately engaged by Maple- 
son and taken to America. 

I remember thy face, Cabaner ; I can see it now 
that long, sallow face ending in a brown beard, 
and the hollow eyes, the meagre arms covered with 
a silk shirt, contrasting strangely with the rest of 
the dress. In all thy privation and poverty, thou 
didst never forego thy silk shirt. I remember the 
paradoxes and the aphorisms, if not the exact words, 
the glamour and the sentiment of a humour that was 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 93 

all thy own. Never didst thou laugh ; no, not even 
when in discussing how silence might be rendered 
in music, thou didst say, with thy extraordinary 
Pyrenean accent, ' Pour rendre le silence en musique il 
me faudrait trois orchestres militaires.' And when I 
did show thee some poor verses of mine, French 
verses, for at this time I hated and had partly for- 
gotten my native language 

f My dear George Moore, you always write about 
love, the subject is nauseating.' 

' So it is, so it is ; but after all Baudelaire wrote 
about love and lovers ; his best poem. . . .' 

f C'est vrai, metis il s'agissait d'une charogne et cela 
relive beaucoup la chose S 

I remember, too, a few stray snatches of thy 
extraordinary music, r music that might be considered 
by Wagner as a little too advanced, but which Liszt 
would not fail to understand ;' also thy settings of 
sonnets where the melody was continued uninter- 
ruptedly from the first line to the last ; and that 
still more marvellous feat, thy setting, likewise with 
unbroken melody, of Villon's ballade ' Les Dames du 
Temps Jadis ;' and that out-Cabanering of Cabaner, 
the putting to music of Cros's ' Hareng Saur/ 

And why didst thou remain ever poor and 
unknown ? Because of something too much, or 
something too little ? Because of something too 
much ! so I think, at least ; thy heart was too full of 
too pure an ideal, too far removed from all possible 
contagion with the base crowd. 

But, Cabaner, thou didst not labour in vain ; thy 
destiny, though obscure, was a valiant and fruitful 
one ; and, as in life thou didst live for others, so now 



94 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

in death thou dost live in others. Thou wast in an 
hour of wonder and strange splendour when the last 
tints and lovelinesses of romance lingered in the 
deepening west ; when out of the clear east rose with 
a mighty effulgence of colour and lawless light 
Realism ; when showing aloft in the dead pallor of 
the zenith, like a white flag fluttering faintly, 
Symbolists and Decadents appeared. Never before 
was there so sudden a flux and conflux of artistic 
desire, such aspiration in the soul of man, such rage 
of passion, such fainting fever, such cerebral erethism. 
The roar and dust of the daily battle of the Realists 
was continued under the flush of the sunset, the arms 
of the Romantics glittered, the pale spiritual 
Symbolists watched and waited, none knowing yet of 
their presence. In such an hour of artistic convulsion 
and renewal of thought thou wast, and thou wast a 
magnificent rallying point for all comers ; it was thou 
who didst theorize our confused aspirations, and by 
thy holy example didst save us from all base 
commercialism, from all hateful prostitution; thou 
wast ever our high priest, and from thy high altar 
turned to us the white host, the ideal, the true and 
living God of all men. 

Cabaner, I see you now entering the ' Nouvelle 
Athenes ;' you are a little tired after your long weary 
walk, but you lament not and you never cry out 
against the public that will accept neither your 
music nor your poetry. But though you are tired 
and footsore, you are ready to aestheticize till the 
cafe closes ; for you the homeless ones are waiting : 
there they are, some three or four, and you will take 
them to your strange room, furnished with the 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 95 

American organ, the fountain, and the decapitated 
Venus, and you will give them a crust each and 
cover them with what clothes you have ; and, when 
clothes are lacking, with plaster casts, and though 
you will take but a glass of milk yourself, you will 
find a few sous to give them lager to cool their thirsty 
throats. So you have ever lived a blameless life is 
yours, no base thought has ever entered there, not 
even a woman's love ; art and friends, that is all. 

Reader, do you know of anything more angelic ? 
If you do you are more fortunate than I have been. 



VIII 

. THE SYNTHESIS OF THE NOUVELLE ATHENES 

Two dominant notes in my character an original 
hatred of my native country, and a brutal loathing of 
the religion I was brought up in. All the aspects of 
my native country are violently disagreeable to me, 
and I cannot think of the place I was born in with- 
out a sensation akin to nausea. These feelings are 
inherent and inveterate in me. I am instinctively 
averse from my own countrymen ; they are at once 
remote and repulsive ; but with Frenchmen I am 
conscious of a sense of nearness ; I am one with them 
in their ideas and aspirations, and when I am with 
them, I am alive with a keen and penetrating sense 
of intimacy. Shall I explain this by atavism ? Was 
there a French man or woman in my family some 
half-dozen generations ago? I have not inquired. 
The English I love, and with a love that is foolish 
mad, for it is limitless ; I love them better than the 



96 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

French, but I am not so near to them. Dear, sweet, 
Protestant England claims me. Every aspect of it 
raises me above myself, and there is perhaps no 
moment in my life more intense than when I stand 
and gaze admiring the red tiles of the farmhouse, 
the elms, the great hedgerows and all the rich fields 
adorned with spreading trees and smock frocks. 
My soul is cheered by the sight of a windmill or a 
smock, we find neither in the north the north is 
Celtic and I am by ancestry a South Saxon. The 
county of my instinctive aspiration would be Sussex, 
the most Saxon of all. Its every aspect awakens 
antenatal sympathies in me. The villages clustered 
round the greens with spires of the churches point- 
ing between the elms were never new to me. When 
I saw them for the first time they were familiar; 
and the church bells calling the folk to prayer, to 
sweet-smelling churches, without candles, without 
incense, drew my feet instinctively. I followed, and 
learnt to love God in Protestantism and to under- 
stand that when England ceases to be Protestant she 
will decline into the equivalent of the poor Celt who 
worships his priest and shoots his landlord. France 
never was Catholic, no nation is, and nowhere in 
France does the Catholic banner hang so limp as in 
the Nouvelle Athenes. 

Gar$on, un bock ! I write to please myself, just as 
I order my dinner ; if my books sell I cannot help it 
it is an accident. 

But you live by writing. 

Yes, but life is only an accident art is eternal. 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 97 

What I reproach Zola with is that he has no style ; 
there is nothing you won't find in Zola from Chateau- 
briand to the reporting in the Figaro. 

He seeks immortality in an exact description of a 
linendraper's shop ; if the shop conferred immortality 
it should be upon the linendraper who created the 
shop, and not on the novelist who described it. 

And his last novel ' 1'GEuvre/ how spun out, and 
for a franc a line in the * Gil Bias/ Not a single 
new or even exact observation. And that terrible 
phrase repeated over and over again ' La Conquete 
de Paris.' What does it mean ? I never knew any- 
one who thought of conquering Paris : no one ever 
spoke of conquering Paris except, perhaps, two or 
three provincials. 

You must have rules in poetry, if it is only for the 
pleasure of breaking them, just as you must have 
women dressed, if it is only [for the pleasure of 
undressing them. 



Fancy, a banquet was given to Julien by his pupils ! 
He made a speech in favour of Lefebvre, and hoped 
that every one there would vote for Lefebvre. 
Julien was very eloquent. He spoke of Le grand art, 
le nu, and Lefebvre's unswerving fidelity to le nu . . . 
elegance, refinement, an echo of ancient Greece: 
and then what do you think ? when he had 
exhausted all the reasons why the medal of honour 
should be given to Lefebvre, he said, ' I ask you to 
remember, gentlemen, that he has a wife and eight 
children.' Is it not monstrous ? 



98 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

But it is you who are monstrous, you who expect 
to fashion the whole world in conformity with your 
aestheticisms ... a vain dream, and if realized it 
would result in an impossible world. A wife and 
children are the bases of existence, and it is folly to 
cry out because an appeal to such interests as these 
meets with response ... it will be so till the end of 
time. 

And these great interests that are to continue to 
the end of time began two years ago, when your 
pictures were not praised in the Figaro as much as 
you thought they should be. 

Love but not marriage. Marriage means a four- 
post bed and papa and mamma between eleven and 
twelve. Love is aspiration : transparencies, colour, 
light, a sense of the unreal. But a wife you know 
all about her who her father was, who her mother 
was, what she thinks of you and her opinion of the 
neighbours over the way. Where, then, is the dream, 
the au delh ? But the women one has never seen 
before, that one will never see again ! The choice ! 
the enervation of burning odours, the baptismal 
whiteness of women, light, ideal tissues, eyes strangely 
dark with kohl, names that evoke palm treeg and 
ruins, Spanish moonlight or maybe Persepolis ! The 
nightingale-harmony of an eternal yes the whisper 
of a sweet unending yes. The unknown, the unreal. 
This is love. There is delusion, an au dela. 

Good heavens ! and the world still believes in 
education, in teaching people the ' grammar of art.' 
Education should be confined to clerks, and it drives 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 99 

even them to drink. Will the world learn that we 
never learn anything that we did not know before ? 
The artist, the poet, painter, musician, and novelist 
go straight to the food they want, guided by an 
unerring and ineffable instinct ; to teach them is to 
destroy the nerve of the artistic instinct. Art flees 
before the art school . . . 'correct drawing/ 'solid 
painting.' Is it impossible to teach people, to force 
it into their heads that there is no such thing as 
correct drawing, and that if drawing were correct it 
would be wrong ? Solid painting ; good heavens ! 
Do they suppose that there is one sort of painting 
that is better than all others, and that there is a 
receipt for making it as for making chocolate ? Art 
is not mathematics, it is individuality. It does not 
matter how badly you paint, so long as you don't 
paint badly like other people. Education destroys 
individuality. That great studio of Julien's is a 
sphinx, and all the poor folk that go there for artistic 
education are devoured. After two years they all 
paint and draw alike, every one ; that vile execu- 
tion they call it execution la pate, la peinture au 
premier coup. I was over in England last year, and 
I saw some portraits by a man called Richmond. 
They were horrible, but I liked them because they 
weren't like painting. Stott and Sargent are clever 
fellows enough ; I like Stott the best. If they had 
remained at home and hadn't been taught, they 
might have developed a personal art, but the trail of 
the serpent is over all they do that vile French 
painting, le morceau, etc. Stott is getting over it by 
degrees. He exhibited a nymph this year. I know 
what he meant ; it was an interesting intention. I 



100 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

liked his little landscapes better . . . simplified into 
nothing, into a couple of primitive tints, wonderful 
clearness, light. But I doubt if he will find a public 
to understand all that. 

Democratic art ! Art is the direct antithesis to 
democracy. . . . Athens ! a few thousand citizens 
who owned many thousand slaves, call that demo- 
cracy ! No ! what I am speaking of is modern 
democracy the mass. The mass can only appreciate 
simple and naive emotions, puerile prettiness, above 
all conventionalities. See the Americans that come 
over here ; what do they admire ? Is it Degas or 
Manet they admire ? No, Bouguereau and Lefebvre. 
What was most admired at the International 
Exhibition ? The Dirty Boy. And if the medal of 
honour had been decided by a plebiscite, The Dirty 
Boy would have had an overwhelming majority. 
What is the literature of the people ? The idiotic 
stories of the Petit Journal. Don't talk of Shakes- 
peare, Moliere and the masters ; they are accepted 
on the authority of the centuries. If the people 
could understand Hamlet, the people would not read 
the Petit Journal; if the people could understand 
Michel Angelo, they would not look at our 
Bouguereau or your Bouguereau, Sir F. Leighton. 
For the last hundred years we have been going 
rapidly towards democracy, and what is the result ? 
The destruction of the handicrafts. That there are 
still good pictures painted and good poems written 
proves nothing, there will always be found men to 
sacrifice their lives for a picture or a poem. But the 
decorative arts which are executed in collaboration, 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 101 

and depend for support on the general taste of a large 
number, have ceased to exist. Explain that if you 
can. I'll give you five thousand, ten thousand francs 
to buy a beautiful clock that is not a copy and is not 
ancient, and you can't do it. Such a thing does not 
exist. Look here, I was going up the staircase of the 
Louvre the other day. They were putting up a 
mosaic ; it was horrible ; every one knows it is 
horrible. Well, I asked who had given the order for 
this mosaic, and I could not find out ; no one knew. 
An order is passed from bureau to bureau, and no 
one is responsible ; and it will be always so in a 
republic, and the more republican you are the worse 
it will be. 

The world is dying of machinery ; that is the great 
disease, that is the plague that will sweep away and 
destroy civilization ; man will have to rise against it 
sooner or later. . . . Capital, unpaid labour, wage- 
slaves, and all the rest stuff. . . . Look at these plates; 
they were painted by machinery ; they are abomin- 
able. Look at them. In old times plates were 
painted by the hand, and the supply was necessarily 
limited to the demand, and a china in which there 
was always something more or less pretty, was turned 
out ; but now thousands, millions of plates are made 
more than we want, and there is a commercial crisis ; 
the thing is inevitable. I say the great and the 
reasonable revolution will be when mankind rises in 
revolt, and smashes the machinery and restores the 
handicrafts. 

Goncourt is not an artist, notwithstanding all his 
affectation and outcries ; he is not an artist. // me 



102 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

fait Veffet of an old woman shrieking after immor- 
tality and striving to beat down some fragment of it 
with a broom. Once it was a duet, now it is a solo. 
They wrote novels, history, plays, they collected bric- 
a-brac they wrote about their bric-a-brac; they 
painted in water-colours, they etched they wrote 
about their water-colours and etchings ; they have 
made a will settling that the bric-a-brac is to be sold 
at their death, and the proceeds applied to founding 
a prize for the best essay or novel, I forget which it 
is. They wrote about the prize they are going to 
found ; they kept a diary, they wrote down every- 
thing they heard, felt, or saw, radotage de vieille femme ; 
nothing must escape, not the slightest word ; it 
might be that very word that might confer on them 
immortality ; everything they heard, or said, must be 
of value, of inestimable value. A real artist does 
not trouble himself about immortality, about every- 
thing he hears, feels and says ; he treats ideas and 
sensations as so much clay wherewith to create. 

And then the famous collaboration ; how it was 
talked about, written about, prayed about ; and when 
Jules died, what a subject for talk for articles : it all 
went into pot. Hugo's vanity was titanic, Gon- 
eourt's is puerile. 

And Daudet ? 

Oh, Daudet, c'est de la bouillabaisse. 

Whistler, of all artists, is the least impressionist ; 
the idea people have of his being an impressionist 
only proves once again the absolute inability of the 
public to understand the merits or the demerits of 
artistic work. Whistler's art is classical ; he thinks 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 103 

of nature, but he does not see nature ; he is guided 
by his mind, and not by his eyes ; and the best of it 
is he says so. He knows it well enough ! Any one 
who knows him must have heard him say, ' Painting 
is absolutely scientific ; it is an exact science.' And 
his work is in accord with his theory ; he risks 
nothing, all is brought down, arranged, balanced, and 
made one ; his pictures are thought out beforehand, 
they are mental conceptions. I admire his work ; I 
am showing how he is misunderstood, even by those 
who think they understand. Does he ever seek a 
pose that is characteristic of the model, a pose that 
the model repeats oftener than any other ? Never. 
He advances the foot, puts the hand on the hip, etc., 
with a view to rendering his idea. Take his portrait 
of Duret. Did he ever see Duret in dress clothes ? 
Probably not. Did he ever see Duret with a lady's 
opera cloak ? I am sure he never did. Is Duret in 
the habit of going to the theatre with ladies ? No, 
he is a litterateur who is always in men's society, 
rarely in ladies'. But these facts mattered nothing 
to Whistler as they matter to Degas, or to Manet. 
Whistler took Duret out of his environment, dressed 
him up, thought out a scheme in a word, painted 
his idea without concerning himself in the least with 
the model. Mark you, I deny that I am urging any 
fault or flaw ; I am merely contending that Whistler's 
art is not modern art, but classic art yes, and 
severely classical, far more classical than Titian's or 
Velasquez' ; from an opposite pole as classical as 
Ingres'. No Greek dramatist ever sought the syn- 
thesis of things more uncompromisingly than Whistler. 
And he is right. Art is not nature. Art is nature 



104- CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

digested. Zola and Goncourt cannot, or will not, 
understand that the artistic stomach must be allowed 
to do its work in its own mysterious fashion. If a 
man is really an artist he will remember what is 
necessary, forget what is useless ; but if he takes 
notes he will interrupt his artistic digestion, and the 
result will be a lot of little touches, inchoate and 
wanting in the elegant rhythm of the synthesis. 

I am sick of synthetical art ; we want observation 
direct and unreasoned. What I reproach Millet with 
is that it is always the same thing, the same peasant, 
the same sabot, the same sentiment. You must admit 
that it is somewhat stereotyped. 

What does that matter ; what is more stereotyped 
than Japanese art? But that does not prevent it 
from being always beautiful. 

People talk of Manet's originality; that is just 
what I can't see. What he has got, and what you 
can't take away from him, is a magnificent execution. 
A piece of still life by Manet is the most wonderful 
thing in the world; vividness of colour, breadth, 
simplicity, and directness of touch marvellous ! 

French translation is the only translation ; in 
England you still continue to translate poetry into 
poetry, instead of into prose. We used to do the 
same, but we have long ago renounced such follies. 
Either of two things if the translator is a good poet, 
he substitutes his verse for that of the original I 
don't want his verse, I want the original if he is a 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 105 

bad poet, he gives us bad verse, which is intolerable. 
Where the original poet put an effect of caesura, the 
translator puts an effect of rhyme ; where the original 
poet puts an effect of rhyme, the translator puts an 
effect of caesura. Take Longfellow's ' Dante.' Does 
it give as good an idea of the original as our prose 
translation ? Is it as interesting reading ? Take 
Bayard Taylor's translation of < Goethe.' Is it read- 
able ? Not to any one with an ear for verse. Will any 
one say that Taylor's would be read if the original did 
not exist? The fragment translated by Shelley is 
beautiful, but then it is Shelley. Look at Swinburne's 
translations of Villon. They are beautiful poems by 
Swinburne, that is all ; he makes Villon speak of a 
' splendid kissing mouth.' Villon could not have 
done this unless he had read Swinburne. * Heine/ 
translated by James Thomson, is not different from 
Thomson's original poems ; ' Heine,' translated by 
Sir Theodore Martin, is doggerel. 

But in English blank verse you can translate quite 
as literally as you could into prose ? 

I doubt it, but even so, the rhythm of the blank 
line would carry your mind away from that of the 
original. 

But if you don't know the original ? 

The rhythm of the original can be suggested in prose 
judiciously used ; even if it isn't, your mind is at 
least free, whereas the English rhythm must destroy 
the sensation of something foreign. There is no 
translation except a word-for-word translation. 



106 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

Baudelaire's translation of Poe, and Hugo's transla- 
tion of Shakespeare, are marvellous in this respect ; 
a pun or joke that is untranslatable is explained in 
a note. 

But that is the way young ladies translate word 
for word ! 



No ; 'tis just what they don't do ; they think they 
are translating word for word, but they aren't. All 
the proper names, no matter how unpronounceable, 
must be rigidly adhered to ; you must never transpose 
versts into kilometres, or roubles into francs ; I 
don't know what a verst is or what a rouble is, but 
when I see the words I am in Russia. Every proverb 
must be rendered literally, even if it doesn't make 
very good sense : if it doesn't make sense at all, it 
must be explained in a note. For example, there is 
a proverb in German : ' Quand le cheval est selle il 
faut le monter ;' in French there is a proverb : ' Quand 
le vin est tir6 il faut le boire.' Well, a translator 
who would translate quand le cheval, etc., by quand le 
vin, etc., is an ass, and does not know his business. 
In translation only a strictly classical language should 
be used ; no word of slang, or even word of modern 
origin should be employed ; the translator's aim 
should be never to dissipate the illusion of an exotic. 
If I were translating the ' Assommoir' into English, 
I should strive after a strong, flexible, but colourless 
language, something what shall I say ? the style 
of a modern Addison. 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 107 

What, don't you know the story about Mendes ? 
when Chose wanted to marry his sister ? Chose s 
mother, it appears, went to live with a priest. The 
poor fellow was dreadfully cut up ; he was broken- 
hearted ; and he went to Mendes, his heart swollen 
with grief, determined to make a clean breast of it, 
let the worst come to the worst. After a great deal 
of beating about the bush, and apologizing, he got it 
out. You know Mendes, you can see him smiling a 
little ; and looking at Chose with that white cameo 
face of his he said, ' Avec quel meilleur homme voulez- 
vous que votre mere se mit ? vous n'avez done, jeune 
homme, aucun sentiment religieux.' 

Victor Hugo, he is a painter on porcelain ; his verse 
is mere decoration, long tendrils and flowers ; and 
the same thing over and over again. 

How to be happy ! not to read Baudelaire and 
Verlaine, not to enter the Nouvelle Athknes, unless 
perhaps to play dominoes like the bourgeois over 
there, not to do anything that would awake a too 
intense consciousness of life to live in a sleepy 
country-side, to have a garden to work in, to have a 
wife and children, to chatter quietly every evening 
over the details of existence. We must have the 
azaleas out to-morrow and thoroughly cleansed, they 
are devoured by insects ; the tame rook has flown 
away ; mother lost her prayer-book coming from 
church, she thinks it was stolen. A good, honest, 
well-to-do peasant, who knows nothing of politics, 
must be very nearly happy and to think there are 
people who would educate, who would draw these 



108 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

people out of the calm satisfaction of their instincts, 
and give them passions ! The philanthropist is the 
Nero of modern times. 



IX 

EXTRACT FROM A LETTER 

1 WHY did you not send a letter? We have all been 
writing to you for the last six months, but no answer 
none. Had you written one word I would have 
saved all. The poor concierge was in despair ; she 
said the proprietaire would wait if you had only said 
when you were coming back, or if you had only let 
us know what you wished to be done. Three quarters' 
rent was due, and no news could be obtained of you, 
so an auction had to be called. It nearly broke my 
heart to see those horrid men tramping over the 
delicate carpets, their coarse faces set against the 
sweet colour of that beautiful English cretonne. . . . 
And all the while the pastel by Manet, the great hat 
set like an aureole about the face ' the eyes deep 
set in crimson shadow,' ' the fan widespread across 
the bosom ' (you see I am quoting your own words), 
looking down, the mistress of that little paradise of 
tapestry. She seemed to resent the intrusion. I 
looked once or twice half expecting those eyes ' deep 
set in crimson shadow ' to fill with tears. But nothing 
altered her great dignity ; she seemed to see all, but 
as a Buddha she remained impenetrable. . . . 

' I was there the night before the sale. I looked 
through the books, taking notes of those I intended 
to buy those which we used to read together when 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 109 

the snow lay high about the legs of the poor faun in 
terre cuite, that laughed amid the frosty boulingrins. 
I found a large packet of letters which I instantly 
destroyed. You should not be so careless ; I wonder 
how it is that men are always careless about their 
letters. 

' The sale was announced for one o'clock. I wore 
a thick veil, for I did not wish to be recognized ; the 
concierge of course knew me, but she can be depended 
upon. The poor old woman was in tears, so sorry 
was she to see all your pretty things sold up. You 
left owing her a hundred francs, but I have paid her ; 
and talking of you we waited till the auctioneer 
arrived. Everything had been pulled down ; the 
tapestry from the walls, the picture, the two vases I 
gave you were on the table waiting for the stroke of 
the hammer. And then the men, all the marchands 
de meubles in the quartier, came upstairs, spitting and 
talking coarsely their foul voices went through me. 
They stamped, spat, pulled the things about, nothing 
escaped them. One of them held up the Japanese 
dressing-gown and made some horrible jokes ; and 
the auctioneer, who was a humorist, answered, 'If 
there are any ladies' men present, we shall have 
some spirited bidding. ' The pastel I bought, and I 
shall keep it and try to find some excuse to satisfy my 
husband, but I send you the miniature, and I hope 
you will not let it be sold again. There were many 
other things I should have liked to buy, but I did 
not dare the organ that you used to play hymns on 
and I waltzes on, the Turkish lamp which we could 
never agree about . . . but when I saw the satin 
shoes which I gave you to carry the night of that 



110 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

adorable ball, and which you would not give back, 
but nailed up on the wall on either side of your bed 
and put matches in, I was seized with an almost 
invincible desire to steal them. I don't know why, 
un caprice de femme. No one but you would have 
ever thought of converting satin shoes into match 
boxes. I wore them at that delicious ball ; we 
danced all night together, and you had an explanation 
with my husband (I was a little afraid for a moment, 
but it came out alright), and we went and sat on the 
balcony in the soft warm moonlight ; we watched 
the glitter of epaulets and gas, the satin of the 
bodices, the whiteness of passing shoulders : we 
dreamed the massy darkness of the park, the fairy 
light along the lawny spaces, the heavy perfume of 
the flowers, the pink of the camellias ; and you quoted 
something : ' les camelias du bakon ressemblent a des 
desirs mourants.' It was horrid of you : but you 
always had a knack of rubbing one up the wrong way. 
Then do you not remember how we danced in one 
room, while the servants set the other out with little 
tables ? That supper was fascinating ! I suppose it 
was these pleasant remembrances which made me 
wish for the shoes, but I could not summon up courage 
enough to buy them, and the horrid people were 
comparing me with the pastel ; I suppose 1 did look 
a little mysterious with a double veil bound across 
my face. The shoes went with a lot of other things 
and oh, to whom ? 

* So now that pretty little retreat in the Rue de la 
Tour des Dames is ended for ever for you and me. 
We shall not see the faun in terre cuite again ; I was 
thinking of going to see him the other day, but the 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 111 

street is so steep ; my coachman advised me to spare 
the horse's hind legs. I believe it is the steepest 
street in Paris. And your luncheon parties, how I 
did enjoy them, and how Fay did enjoy them too ; 
and what I risked, short-sighted as I am, picking my 
way from the tramcar down to that out-of-the-way 
little street ! Men never appreciate the risks women 
run for them. But to leave my letters lying about 
I cannot forgive that. When I told Fay she said, 
" What can you expect ? I warned you against 
flirting with boys." I never did before never. 

' Paris is now just as it was when you used to sit 
on the balcony and I read you Browning. You 
never liked his poetry, and I cannot understand why. 
I have found a new poem which I am sure would 
convert you ; you should be here. There are lilacs 
in the room and the Mont Valerien is beautiful upon 
a great lemon sky, and the long avenue is merging 
into violet vapour. 

'We have already begun to think of where we 

shall go to this year. Last year we went to P , 

an enchanting place, quite rustic, but within easy 
distance of a casino. I had vowed not to dance, for 
I had been out every night during the season, but 
the temptation proved irresistible, and I gave way. 
There were two young men here, one the Count of 

B , the other the Marquis of G , one of the 

best families in France, a distant cousin of my 
husband. He has written a book which every one 
says is one of the most amusing things that have 
appeared for years, cest surtout trh Parisien. He 
paid me great attentions, and made my husband 
wildly jealous, I used to go out and sit with him 




112 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

amid the rocks, and it was perhaps very lucky for me 
that he went away. We may return there this year ; 
if so, I wish you would come and spend a month ; 
there is an excellent hotel where you would be very 
comfortable. We have decided nothing as yet. The 

Duchesse de is giving a costume ball ; they say 

it is going to be a most wonderful affair. I don't 
know what money is not going to be spent upon the 
cotillion. I have just got home a fascinating toilette. 
I am going as a Pierrette ; you know, a short skirt and 
a little cap. The Marquise gave a ball some few 

days ago. I danced the cotillion with L , who, 

as you know, dances divinely ; il m a fait la cour, but 
it is of course no use, you know that. 

The other night we went to see the Mattre-de- 
Forges, a fascinating play, and I am reading the 
book ; I don't know which I like the best. I think 
the play, but the book is very good too. Now that 
is what I call a novel ; and I am a judge, for I have 
read all novels. But I must not talk literature, or 
you will say something stupid. I wish you would 
not make foolish remarks about men that tout-Paris 
considers the cleverest. It does not matter so much 
with me, I know you, but then people laugh at you 
behind your back, and that is not nice for me. The 
marquise was here the other day, and she said she 
almost wished you would not come on her "days," 
so extraordinary were the remarks you made. And 
by the way, the marquise has written a book. I have 
not seen it, but I hear that it is really too decollete. 
She is une femme d 'esprit, but the way she affiche's 
herself is too much for any one. She never goes 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN US 

anywhere now without le petit D . It is a great 

pity. 

' And now, my dear friend, write me a nice letter, 
and tell me when you are coming back to Paris. I 
am sure you cannot amuse yourself in that hateful 
London ; the nicest thing about you was that you 
were really tres Parisien. Come back and take a nice 
apartment on the Champs Elysees. You might come 
back for the Duchesse's ball. I will get an invitation 
for you, and will keep the cotillion for you. The 
idea of running away as you did, and never telling 
any one where you were going to. I always said 
you were a little cracked. And letting all your 
things be sold ! If you had only told me ! I should 
like so much to have had that Turkish lamp. 
Yours ' 

How like her that letter is egotistical, vain, 
foolish ; no, not foolish narrow, limited, but not 
foolish ; worldly, oh, how worldly ! and yet not 
repulsively so, for there always was in her a certain 
intensity of feeling that saved her from the common 
place, and gave her charm. She can feel, and she 
has lived her life and felt it acutely, and sincerely . . . 
like a moth caught in a gauze curtain ! Would that 
preclude sincerity ? Sincerity seems to convey an 
idea of depth, and she was not very deep, that is 
quite certain a little brain that span rapidly and 
hummed a pretty humming tune. But no, there 
was something more in her than that. She often 
said things that I thought clever, things that I did 
not forget, things that I should like to put into 
books. But it was not brain power; it was only 
H 



114 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

intensity of feeling nervous feeling. I don't 
know . . . perhaps. . . . She has lived her life ; 
within certain limits she has lived her life. None of 
us do more than that. True. I remember the first 
time I saw her. Sharp, little, and merry a change- 
able little sprite. I thought she had ugly hands ; so 
she has, and yet I forgot all about her hands before 
I had known her a month. It is now seven years 
ago. How time passes ! I was very young then. 
What battles we have had, what quarrels ! Still we 
had good times together. She never lost sight of 
me, but no intrusion; far too clever for that. I 
never got the better of her but once . . . once I 
did, enfin / She soon made up for lost ground. I 
wonder what the charm was. I did not think her 
pretty, I did not think her clever ; but I could not 
get her out of my head. I never knew if she cared 
for me, never, but there were moments when . . . 
Curious, febrile, subtle little creature, oh, infinitely 
subtle, subtle in everything, in her sensations subtle ; 
I suppose that was her charm, subtleness. I never 
knew if she cared for me, I never knew if she hated 
her husband one never knew her I never knew 
how she would receive me. The last time I saw 
her . . . that stupid American would take her 
downstairs, no getting rid of him, and I was hiding 
behind one of the pillars in the Rue de Rivoli, my 
hand on the cab door. However, she could not 
blame me that time and all the stories she used to 
invent of my indiscretions ; I believe she used to get 
them up for the sake of the excitement. She was 
awfully silly in some ways, once you got her into a 
certain line ; that marriage, that title, and she used 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 115 

to think of it night and day. I shall never forget 
when she went into mourning for the Count de 
Chambord. And her tastes, oh, how bourgeois they 
were ! That salon ; the flagrantly modern clock, 
brass work, eight hundred francs on the Boulevard 
St. Germain, the cabinets, brass work, the rich brown 
carpet, and the furniture set all round the room 
geometrically, the great gilt mirror, the ancestral 
portrait, the arms and crest everywhere, and the 
stuffy bourgeois sense of comfort; a little grotesque 
no doubt the mechanical admiration for all that is 
about her, for the general atmosphere ; the Figaro, 
that is to say Albert Wolf, Vhomrne le plus spirituel 
de Paris, cest-d-dire, dans le monde, the success of 
Georges Ohnet and the talent of Gustave Dore: 
But with all this vulgarity of taste certain apprecia- 
tions, certain ebullitions of sentiment, within the 
radius of sentiment certain elevations and de- 
pravities depravities in the legitimate sense of the 
word, that is to say, a revolt against the common- 
place. . . . 

Ha, ha, ha ! how I have been dreaming ! I wish I 
had not been awoke from my reverie, it was pleasant. 

The letter just read indicates, if it does not clearly 
tell, the changes that have taken place in my life; 
and it is only necessary to say that one morning, a few 
months ago, when my servant brought me some 
summer honey and a glass of milk to my bedside, 
she handed me an unpleasant letter. My agent's 
handwriting, even when I knew the envelope con- 
tained a cheque, has never quite failed to produce a 
sensation of repugnance in me so hateful is any 



116 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

sort of account, that I avoid as much as possible even 
knowing how I stand at my banker's. Therefore the 
odour of honey and milk, so evocative of fresh flowers 
and fields, was spoilt that morning for me ; and it 
was some time before I slipped on that beautiful 
Japanese dressing-gown, which I shall never see 
again, and read the odious epistle. 

That some wretched farmers and miners should 
refuse to starve, that I may not be deprived of my 
demi-tasse at Tortoni's, that I may not be forced to 
leave this beautiful retreat, my cat and my python 
monstrous. And these wretched creatures will find 
moral support in England ; they will find pity ! 

Pity, that most vile of all vile virtues, has never 
been known to me. The great pagan world I love 
knew it not. Now the world proposes to interrupt 
the terrible austere laws of nature which ordain that 
the weak shall be trampled upon, shall be ground 
into death and dust, that the strong shall be really 
strong that the strong shall be glorious, sublime. 
A little bourgeois comfort, a little bourgeois sense of 
right, cry the moderns. 

Hither the world has been drifting since the com- 
ing of the pale socialist of Galilee ; and this is why I 
hate Him, and deny His divinity. His divinity is 
falling, it is evanescent in sight of the goal He 
dreamed ; again He is denied by His disciples. Poor 
fallen God! I, who hold nought else pitiful, pity 
Thee, Thy bleeding face and hands and feet, Thy 
hanging body ; Thou at least art picturesque, and in 
a way beautiful in the midst of the sombre mediocrity, 
towards which Thou hast drifted for two thousand 
years, a flag; and in which Thou shalt find Thy 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 117 

doom as I mine, I, who will not adore Thee and can- 
not curse Thee now. For verily Thy life and Thy 
fate has been greater, stranger and more Divine than 
any man's has been. The chosen people, the garden, 
the betrayal, the crucifixion, and the beautiful story, 
not of Mary, but of Magdalen. The God descend- 
ing to the Magdalen ! Even the great pagan world 
of marble and pomp and lust and cruelty, that my 
soul goes out to and hails as the grandest, has not so 
sublime a contrast to show us as this. 

Come to me, ye who are weak. The Word went 
forth, the terrible disastrous Word, and before it fell 
the ancient gods, and the vices that they represent, 
and which I revere, are outcast now in the world of 
men ; the Word went forth, and the world inter- 
preted the Word, blindly, ignorantly, savagely, for 
two thousand years, but nevertheless nearing every 
day the end the end that Thou in Thy divine 
intelligence foresaw, that finds its voice to-day 
(enormous though the antithesis may be, I will say 
it) in the Pall Mall Gazette. What fate has been 
like Thine? Betrayed by Judas in the garden, 
denied by Peter before the cock crew, crucified 
between thieves, and mourned for by a Magdalen, 
and then sent bound and bare, nothing changed, 
nothing altered, in Thy ignominious plight, forth- 
ward in the world's van the glory and symbol of 
man's new idea Pity. Thy day is closing in, but 
the heavens are now wider aflame with Thy light 
than ever before Thy light, which I, a pagan, 
standing on the last verge of the old world, declare 
to be darkness, the coming night of pity and justice 
which is imminent, which is the twentieth century, 



118 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

The bearers have relinquished Thy cross, they leave 
Thee in the hour of Thy universal triumph, Thy 
crown of thorns is falling, Thy face is buffeted with 
blows, and not even a reed is placed in Thy hand for 
sceptre ; only I and mine are by Thee, we who shall 
perish with Thee, in the ruin Thou hast created. 

Injustice we worship ; all that lifts us out of the 
miseries of life is the sublime fruit of injustice. 
Every immortal deed was an act of fearful injustice; 
the world of grandeur, of triumph, of courage, of 
lofty aspiration, was built up on injustice. Man 
would not be man but for injustice. Hail, therefore, 
to the thrice glorious virtue injustice ! What care I 
that some millions of wretched Israelites died under 
Pharaoh's lash or Egypt's sun? It was well that 
they died that I might have the pyramids to look on, 
or to fill a musing hour with wonderment. Is there 
one amongst us who would exchange them for the 
lives of the ignominious slaves that died ? What care 
I that the virtue of some sixteen-year-old maiden 
was the price paid for Ingres' La Source ? That the 
model died of drink and disease in the hospital, is 
nothing when compared with the essential that I 
should have La Source, that exquisite dream of 
innocence, to think of till my soul is sick with delight 
of the painter's holy vision. Nay more, the knowledge 
that a wrong was done that millions of Israelites 
died in torments, that a girl, or a thousand girls, died 
in the hospital for that one virginal thing, is an 
added pleasure which I could not afford to spare. 
Oh, for the silence of marble courts, for the shadow 
of great pillars, for gold, for reticulated canopies of 
lilies ; to see the great gladiators pass, to hear them 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 119 

cry the famous * Ave Caesar,' to hold the thumb down, 
to see the blood flow, to fill the languid hours with 
the agonies of poisoned slaves ! Oh, for excess, for 
crime ! I would give many lives to save one sonnet 
by Baudelaire ; for the hymn, ' A la trks-chere, A la 
trks-belle, qui remplit mon cceur de clartt,' let the first- 
born in every house in Europe be slain ; and in all 
sincerity I profess my readiness to decapitate all the 
Japanese in Japan and elsewhere, to save from 
destruction one drawing by Hokusai. Again I say 
that all we deem sublime in the world's history are 
acts of injustice ; and it is certain that if mankind 
does not relinquish at once, and for ever, its vain, 
mad, and fatal dream of justice, the world will lapse 
into barbarism. England was great and glorious, 
because England was unjust, and England's greatest 
son was the personification of injustice Cromwell. 

But the old world of heroes is over now. The 
skies above us are dark with sentimentalism, the sand 
beneath us is shoaling fast, we are running with 
streaming canvas upon ruin ; all ideals have gone ; 
nothing remains to us for worship but the Mass, the 
blind, inchoate, insatiate Mass ; fog and fen land 
before us, we shall founder in putrefying mud, 
creatures of the ooze and rushes about us we, the 
great ship that has floated up from the antique 
world. Oh, for the antique world, its plain passion, 
its plain joys in the sea, where the Triton blew a 
plaintive blast, and the forest where the whiteness 
of the nymph was seen escaping ! We are weary of 
pity, we are weary of being good ; we are weary of 
tears and effusion, and our refuge the British 
Museum is the wide sea shore and the wind of the 



120 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

ocean. There, there is real joy in the flesh ; our 
statues are naked, but we are ashamed, and our 
nakedness is indecency : a fair, frank soul is mirrored 
in those fauns and nymphs ; and how strangely 
enigmatic is the soul of the antique world, the bare, 
barbarous soul of beauty and of might ! 



BUT neither Apollo nor Buddha could help or save 
me. One in his exquisite balance of body, a skylark- 
like song of eternal beauty, stood lightly advancing ; 
the other sat in sombre contemplation, calm as a 
beautiful evening. I looked for sorrow in the eyes 
of the pastel the beautiful pastel that seemed to 
fill with a real presence the rich autumnal leaves 
where the jays darted and screamed. The twisted 
columns of the bed rose, burdened with great weight 
of fringes and curtains, the python devoured a 
guinea-pig, the last I gave him ; the great white cat 
came to me. I said all this must go, must henceforth 
be to me an abandoned dream, a something, not 
more real than a summer meditation. So be it, and, 
as was characteristic of me, I broke with Paris 
suddenly, without warning anyone. I knew in my 
heart of hearts that I should never return, but no 
word was spoken, and I continued a pleasant 
delusion with myself; I told my concierge that I 
would return in a month, and I left all to be sold, 
brutally sold by auction, as the letter I read in the 
last chapter charmingly and touchingly describes. 
Not even to Marshall did I confide my foreboding 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 121 

that Paris would pass out of my life, that it would 
henceforth be with me a beautiful memory, but 
never more a practical delight. He and I were no 
longer living together ; we had parted a second time, 
but this time without bitterness of any kind ; he had 
learnt to feel that I wanted to live alone, and had 
moved away into the Latin quarter, whither I made 
occasional expeditions. I accompanied him once to 
the old haunts, but various terms of penal servitude 
had scattered our friends, and I could not interest 
myself in the new. Nor did Marshall himself 
interest me as he had once done. To my eager taste, 
he had grown just a little trite. My affection for him 
was as deep and sincere as ever ; were I to meet him 
now I would grasp his hand and hail him with firm, 
loyal friendship ; but I had made friends in the 
Nouvelle Athenes who interested me passionately, 
and my thoughts were absorbed by and set on new 
ideals, which Marshall had failed to find sympathy 
for, or even to understand. I had introduced him to 
Degas and Manet, but he had spoken of Jules 
Lefebvre and Bouguereau, and generally shown 
himself incapable of any higher education ; he could 
not enter where I had entered, and this was aliena- 
tion. We could no longer even talk of the same 
people ; when I spoke of a certain marquise he 
answered with an indifferent ' Do you really think 
so ?' and proceeded to drag me away from my glitter 
of satin to the dinginess of print dresses. It was 
more than alienation, it was almost separation ; but 
he was still my friend, he was the man, and he 
always will be, to whom my youth, with all its 
aspirations, was most closely united. So I turned to 



122 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

say good-bye to him and to my past life. Rap rap 
rap! 

' Who's there ?' 

' I George Moore.' 
I've got a model.' 

1 Never mind your model. Open the door. How 
are you ? what are you painting ?' 

' This ; what do you think of it ?' 

' It is prettily composed. I think it will come out 
all right. I am going to England ; come to say 
good-bye.' 

' Going to England ! What will you do in 
England ? 

' I have to go about money matters, very tiresome. 
I had really begun to forget there was such a place.' 

' But you are not going to stay there ?' 

< Oh, no !' 

' You will be just in time to see the Academy.' 

The conversation turned on art, and we aestheticized 
for an hour. At last Marshall said, ' I am really 
sorry, old chap, but I must send you away ; there's 
that model.' 

The girl sat waiting, her pale hair hanging down 
her back, a very picture of discontent. 

' Send her away/ 

' I asked her to come out to dinner.' 

' D n her. . . . Well, never mind, I must spend 
this last evening with you ; you shall both dine with 
me. Je quitte Paris demain matin, peut-$tre pour 
longtemps ; je voudrais passer ma dernikre soiree avec 
mon ami; alors si vous voulez bien me permettre, 
mademoiselle, je vous invite tons les deux a diner; nous 
passerons la soiree ensemble si cela vous est agreable ?' 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 125 

' Je veux bien, monsieur.' 

Poor Marie! Marshall and I were absorbed in 
each other and art. It was always so. We dined in 
a gargote, and afterwards we went to a students' ball ; 
and it seems like yesterday. I can see the moon 
sailing through a clear sky, and on the pavement's 
edge Marshall's beautiful, slim, manly figure, and 
Marie's exquisite gracefulness. She was Lefebvre's 
Chloe ; so every one sees her now. Her end was a 
tragic one. She invited her friends to dinner, and 
with the few pence that remained she bought some 
boxes of matches, boiled them, and drank the water. 
No one knew why ; some said it was love. 

I went to London in an exuberant necktie, a tiny 
hat ; I wore large trousers and a Capoul beard ; 
looking, I believe, as unlike an Englishman as a 
drawing by Grevin. In the smoking-room of Morley's 
Hotel I met my agent, an immense nose, and a wisp 
of hair drawn over a bald skull. He explained, after 
some hesitation, that I owed him a few thousands, and 
that the accounts were in his portmanteau. I suggested 
taking them to a solicitor to have them examined. 
The solicitor advised me strongly to contest them. I 
did not take the advice, but raised some money 
instead, and so the matter ended so far as the imme- 
diate future was concerned. The years that are most 
impressionable, from twenty to thirty, when the senses 
and the mind are the widest awake, I, the most 
impressionable of human beings, had spent in France, 
not among English residents, but among that which 
is the quintessence of the nation, not an indifferent 
spectator, but an enthusiast, striving heart and soul 
to identify himself with his environment, to shake 



124 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

himself free from race and language and to recreate 
himself as it were in the womb of a new nationality, as- 
suming its ideals, its morals, and its modes of thought, 
and I had succeeded so well, that when I returned 
home every aspect of street and suburban garden 
was new to me ; of the manner of life of Londoners 
I knew nothing. I went into a drawing-room, but 
everything seemed far away a dream, a presentment, 
nothing more ; I was in touch with nothing ; of the 
thoughts and feelings of those I met I could under- 
stand nothing, nor could I sympathize with them : 
an Englishman was at that time as much out of my 
mental reach as an Esquimaux would be now. Women 
were nearer to me than men, and I will take this 
opportunity to note my observation, for I am not 
aware that any one else has observed that the 
difference between the two races is found in the men, 
not in the women. French and English women are 
psychologically very similar; the standpoint from 
which they see life is the same, the same thoughts 
interest and amuse them ; but the attitude of a 
Frenchman's mind is opposed to that of an English- 
man' ; they stand on either side of a vast abyss, two 
animals different in colour, form, and temperament ; 
two ideas destined to remain separate and distinct. 
I have heard of writing and speaking two languages 
equally well, but if I had remained two more years 
in France I should never have been able to identify 
my thoughts with the language I am now writing in, 
and I should have written it as an alien. It was in 
the last two years that I began to lose my English, 
and I remember very well indeed how one day, while 
arranging an act of a play I was writing with a friend, 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 125 

I found to my surprise that I could think more easily 
and rapidly in French than in English ; but with all 
this I did not learn French. I could write a sonnet 
or a ballade almost without a slip, but my prose 
required a good deal of alteration, and when I returned 
to London I could write English verse, but even 
ordinary newspaper prose was beyond my reach, and 
an attempt I made to write a novel drifted into 
failure. 

Of my knowledge, or lack of knowledge, of the two 
languages I will give examples. Here is a poem that 
I translated aloud to Cabaner one night in the 
Nouvelle Athenes : 

We are alone ! Listen, a little while. 
And hear the reason why your weary smile 
And lute-toned speaking is so very sweet. 
And how my love of you is more complete 
Than any love of any lover. They 
Have only been attracted by the grey 
Delicious softness of your eyes, your slim 
And delicate form, or some such other whim, 
The simple pretexts of all lovers I 
For other reason. Listen whilst I try 
To say. I joy to see the sunset slope 
Beyond the weak hours' hopeless horoscope, 
Leaving the heavens a melancholy calm 
Of quiet colour chanted like a psalm, 
In mildly modulated phrases ; thus 
Your life shall fade like a voluptuous 
yision beyond the sight, and you shall die 
Like some soft evening's sad serenity . . . 
I would possess your dying hours ; indeed 
My love is worthy of the gift, I plead 
For them. Although I never loved as yet, 
Methinks that I might love you ; I would get 
From out the knowledge that the time was brief 
That tenderness, whose pity grows to grief, 
And grief that sanctifies, a joy, a charm 
Beyond all other loves, for now the arm 



126 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

Of Death is stretched to you- ward, and he claims 

You as his bride. Mayhe my soul misnames 

Its passion ; love perhaps it is not, yet 

To see you fading like a violet, 

Or some sweet thought away, would he a strange 

And costly pleasure, far beyond the range 

Of formal man's emotion. Listen, I 

Will chose a country spot where fields of rye 

And wheat extend in rustling yellow plains, 

Broken with wooded hills and leafy lanes, 

To pass our honeymoon ; a cottage where, 

The porch and windows are festooned with fair 

Green wreaths of eglantine, and look upon 

A shady garden where we'll walk alone 

In the autumn sunny evenings ; each will see 

Our walks grow shorter, till the orange tree, 

The garden s length, is far, and you will rest 

From time to time, leaning upon my breast 

Your languid lily face. Then later still 

Unto the sofa by the window-sill 

Your wasted body I shall carry, so 

That you may drink the last left lingering glow 

Of evening, when the air is filled with scent 

Of blossoms ; and my spirit shall be rent 

The while with many griefs. Like some blue day 

That grows more lovely as it fades away, 

Gaining that calm serenity and height 

Of colour wanted, as the solemn night 

Steals forward you will sweetly fall asleep 

For ever and for ever ; I shall weep 

A day and night large tears upon your face, 

Laying you then beneath a rose-red place 

Where I may muse and dedicate and dream 

Volumes of poesy of you ; and deem 

It happiness to know that you are far 

From any base desires as that fair star 

Set in the evening magnitude of heaven. 

Death takes but little, yea, your death has given 

Me that deep peace, and that secure possession 

Which man may never find in earthly passion. 

The poem entitled < Une Nuit de Septembre ' tells 
of a very unplatonic encounter in the forests of 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 127 

Fontainebleau and, perhaps, readers will be interested 
to hear that the lady still retains in face and figure 
many pleasant remembrances of her springtime, 
though, alas ! her whilom lover has fallen into the 
sere and yellow leaf. 

NUIT DE SEPTEMBRE 

La nuit est pleine de silence, 
Et dans une etrange lueur, 
Et dans une douce indolence 
La lune dort comme une fleur 

Parmi les rochers, dans le sable, 
Sous les grands pins d'un calme amer 
Surgit mon amour perissable, 
Faim de tes yeux, soif de ta chair. 

Je suis ton amant, et ta blonde 
Gorge tremble sous mon baiser, 
Et le feu de 1'amour inonde 
Nos deux coaurs sans les apaiser. 

Rien ne peut durer, mais ta bouche 
Est telle qu'un fruit fait de sang ; 
Tout passe, mais ta main me touche 
Et je me donne en fremissant. 

Tes yeux verts me regardent : j'aime 
Le clair de lurie de tes yeux, 
Et je ne vois dans le ciel meme 
Que tori corps rare et radieux. 

POUR UN TABLEAU DE LORD LEIGHTON 

De quoi revent-elles ? de fleurs, 
D'ombres, d'etoiles ou do pleurs ? 
De quoi revent ces douces femmes ? 
De leurs amours ou de leurs ames ? 



12S CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

Pareilles aux lis abattus 
Elles dorment les reves tus 
Dans la grande fentre ovale 
Ou s'ouvre la nuit estivale. 

POUR UN TABLEAU DE RUBENS 

( Dans sa gracieuse paleur 
Elle vit ainsi qu'une fleur, 
Evoquant une fraiclie odeur 
Par la transparente couleur. 

' Loin de 1' emotion charnelle, 
Rubens, oubliant son modele, 
Pressentit la vie eternelle 
Qui s'incarne un moment en elle. 

' Sa pense"e est dans cette main, 
Dans sa pose et dans son dessiu 
Et dans ses yeux pleins du chemin 
Que traverse le cceur humain. 

5 Neanmoius pour toute ame en peine 
Que son calme altier rasserene, 
Elle est 1' image souveraine 
De la vie ephemere et vaine. ' 

THE SWEETNESS OF THE PAST 

As sailors watch from their prison 
For the faint grey line of the coasts, 

I look to the past re-arisen, 
And joys come over in hosts 

Like the white sea birds from their roosts. 

I love not the indelicate present, 
The future's unknown to our quest, 

To-day is the life of the peasant, 
But the past is a haven of rest 

The things of the past are the best. 

The rose of the past is better 
Than the rose we ravish to-day, 

'Tis holier, purer, and fitter 
To place on the shrine where we pray 

For the secret thoughts we obey. 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 129 

In the past nothing dies, nothing changes, 

In the past all is sacred and still ; 
No grief nor fate that estranges, 

Nor hope that no life can fulfil, 
But ethereal shelter from ill. 

The coarser delights of the hour 
Tempt, and debauch, and deprave, 

And we joy in a fugitive flower, 
Knowing that nothing can save 

Our flesh from the fate of the grave. 

But sooner or later returning 

In grief to the well-loved nest, 
Filled with an infinite yearning, 

We cry, there is rest, there is rest 
In the past, its joys are the best. 



NOSTALGIA 

Fair were the dreamful days of old, 

When in the summer's sleepy shade, 
Beneath the beeches on the wold, 

The shepherds lay and gently played 
Music to maidens, who, afraid, 

Drew all together rapturously, 
Their white soft hands like white leaves laid,, 1 

In the old dear days of Arcady. 

Men were not then as they are now 

Haunted and terrified by creeds, 
They sought not then, nor cared to know 

The end that as a magnet leads, 
Nor told with austere fingers beads, 

Nor reasoned with their grief and glee, 
But rioted in pleasant meads 

In the old dear days of Arcady. 

The future may be wrong or right, 
The present is a hopeless wrong, 

For life and love have lost delight, 
And bitter even is our song ; 



130 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

And year by year grey doubt grows strong, 
And death is all that seems to dree. 

Wherefore with weary hearts we long 
For the old dear days of Arcady. 

ENVOI. 

Glories and triumphs ne'er shall cease, 
But men may sound the heavens and sea, 

One thing is lost for aye the peace 
Of the old dear days of Arcady. 

It would be easy for me to produce more poems in 
English and in French, for in youth I believed myself 
to be a poet ; my only doubt was whether my muse 
was French or English. But of what avail to print 
any more, since I have not written verse for many 
and many a year, and shall probably never write 
again in verse ? But as I write these lines a poem of 
old time starts up in my memory, and it is one that 
there is more reason for printing here than any 
other. I'm thinking of the sonnet in which I 
dedicate Luther, a five-act drama, to Swinburne. 

Je t'apporte mom drame, 6 poete sublime, 

Ainsi qu'un ecolier au maitre sa lecon : 

Ce livre avec fiert porte comme ecusson 

Le sceau 4 u'en nos esprits ta jeune gloire imprime. 

j Accepte, tu verras 1^ foi melee au crime 

/ \-&" Se souiller dans le sang sacre de la raison, 

Quand surgit, redempteur du vieux peuple saxon, 
Luther & Wittemberg comme Christ a Solime. 

Jamais de la cite' 1^ mal entier ne fuit, 
Helas ! et son autel y fume dans la nuit ; 
Mais iiotre age a ceci de pareil a 1'aurore, 

Que c'est un divin cri du chanteur eternel, 
Le tien, qui pour forcer le jour tardif d'eclore 
Dechire avec splendeur le voile e"pars du ciel. 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 



XI 

AND so it was that I came to settle down in a Strand 
lodging-house, prepared to accept the hardships of a 
literary life, convinced that play -time was over, and 
anxious for proof (peremptory proof) of my capacity 
or incapacity. A book ! No. An immediate 
answer was required : journalism could give it ; 
therefore to journalism I would go. So did I try to 
come to terms with myself in the Strand lodging- 
house. But what led me to that house ? Chance, 
or a friend's recommendation ? It was uncomfort- 
able, ugly, and not very clean ; but curious, as all 
things are curious when examined closely. Let me 
tell about my rooms. The sitting-room, a good deal 
longer than it was wide, was panelled with deal, and 
the deal was painted a light brown ; behind it there 
was a large bedroom, and a big bed stood in the 
middle of the floor. Next to the sitting-room was a 
small bedroom which was let for ten shillings a 
week ; and the partition wall was so thin that I 
could hear every movement, and this nearness proved 
so intolerable that I eventually decided to add ten 
shillings to my rent and possess myself of the entire 
flat. In the room above me a pretty young woman 
lived, an actress at the Savoy Theatre. She had 
a piano, and she used to play and sing in the mornings, 
and in the afternoon, friends girls from the theatre 
used to come and see her ; and Emma, the maid- 
of-all-work, used to take them up their tea ; and, oh ! 

the chattering and the laughter. Poor Miss L ; 

she had only two pounds a week to live on, but she 



132 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

was always in high spirits except when she could not 
pay the hire of her piano ; and I am sure that she 
now looks back with pleasure and thinks of those 
days as very happy ones. 

She was a tall girl, with a thin figure, and her eyes 
were large and brown a Jewess who liked young 
men, and hoped that Mr. Gilbert would give her a 
line or two in his next opera. On her return from 
the theatre we used to sit on the stairs talking, 
long after midnight, of what ? of our landlady, of 
the theatre, of the most suitable ways of enjoying 
ourselves in life. One night she told me she was 
married ; and in a sympathetic voice I asked why she 
was not living with her husband, and heard the 
reasons of the separation; valid reasons enough, 
forgotten, however, lost in the many similar reasons 
for separations and partings which have since been 
confided to me. The landlady resented our intimacy, 

and I believe Miss L was charged indirectly for 

her conversations with me in the bill. 

On the first floor there was a large sitting-room 
and bedroom, solitary rooms nearly always unlet. 
The landlady's parlour was on the ground floor, with 
her bedroom next to it, and further on was the 
entrance to the kitchen stairs, whence ascended Mrs. 

S 's brood of children and many various smells, 

that of ham and eggs predominating. 

Emma, I remember you you are not to be forgot- 
ten up at five o'clock every morning, scouring, 
washing, cooking, dressing the children ; seventeen 
hours at least out of the twenty-four at the beck and 
call of landlady and lodgers ; seventeen hours at least 
out of the twenty-four drudging in and out of the 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 133 

kitchen, running upstairs with coals and breakfasts 
and cans of hot water, or down on your knees before 
a grate, pulling out the cinders with those hands 
can I call them hands? The lodgers sometimes 
threw you a kind word, but never one that recognized 
you as of our kin, only the pity that might be ex- 
tended to a dog. 

I used to ask you all sorts of cruel questions; I was 
curious to know the depth of animalism you had sunk 
to, or rather out of which you had never been raised. 
And generally you answered innocently and naively 
enough. But sometimes my words were too crude, 
and they struck through the thick hide into the quick, 
into the human, and you winced a little ; but this 
was rarely, for you were very nearly, oh, very nearly 
an animal, your temperament and intelligence were 
just those of a dog that has picked up a master, not 
a real master, but a makeshift master who may turn 
it out at any moment. Dickens would sentimentalize 
or laugh over you ; I do neither, but recognize you 
as one of the facts of civilization. You looked 
well, to be candid, you looked neither young nor 
Id ; hard work had obliterated the delicate markings 
of the years,and left you in round numbers something 
over thirty. Your hair was reddish-brown, and your 
face wore that plain honest look that is so essentially 
English. The rest of you was a mass of stuffy clothes, 
and when you rushed upstairs I saw something that did 
not look like legs ; a horrible rush that was of yours, 
a sort of carthorse-like bound. I have spoken angrily 
to you ; I have heard others speak angrily to you, but 
aever did that sweet face of yours, for it was a sweet 
face that sweet, natural goodness that is so sublime 



134 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

lose its expression of perfect and unfailing 
kindness. Words convey little sense of the real 
horrors of the reality. Life in your case meant this : 
to be born in a slum, and to leave it to work seven- 
teen hours a day in a lodging-house ; to be a 
Londoner, but to know only the slum in which you 
were born and the few shops in the Strand at which 
the landlady dealt. To know nothing of London 
meant in your case not to know that it was not 
England ; England and London ! you could not 
distinguish between them. Was England an island 
or a mountain ? you had no notion. I remember 

when you heard that Miss L was going to 

America, you asked me, and the question was sublime : 
' Is she going to travel all night ? ' You had heard 
people speak of travelling all night, and that was all 
you knew of travel or any place that was not the 
Strand. I asked you if you went to church, and you 
said ' No, it makes my eyes bad.' I said, ' But you 
don't read; you can't read.' ' No, but I have to look 
at the book.' I asked you if you had heard of God 
you hadn't, but when I pressed you on the point 
you suspected I was laughing at you, and you would 
not answer, and when I tried you again on the subject 
I could see that the landlady had been telling you 
what to say. But you had not understood, and your 
conscious ignorance, grown conscious within the last 
couple of days, was even more pitiful than your 
unconscious ignorance when you answered that you 
couldn't go to church because it made your eyes bad. 
It is a strange thing to know nothing ; for instance, 
to live in London and to have no notion of the 
House of Commons, nor indeed of the Queen, except 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 135 

perhaps that she is a rich lady ; the police yes, you 
knew what a policeman was because you used to be 
sent to fetch one to make an organ-man or a Christy 
minstrel move on. To know of nothing but a dark 
kitchen, grates, eggs and bacon, dirty children ; to 
work seventeen hours a day and to get cheated out 
of your wages ; to answer, when asked, why you did 
not get your wages or leave if you weren't paid, that 

you ' didn't know how Mrs. S would get on 

without me ' 

This woman owed you forty pounds, 1 think, so I 
calculated it from what you told me ; and yet you 
did not like to leave her because you did not know 
how she would get on without you. Sublime stupid- 
ity ! At this point your intelligence stopped. I 
remember you once spoke of a half-holiday ; I ques- 
tioned you, and I found your idea of a half-holiday 
was to take the children for a walk and buy them 
some sweets. I told my brother of this and he said 
Emma out for a half-holiday ! why you might as 
well give a mule a holiday. The phrase was brutal, 
but it was admirably descriptive of you. Yes, you are 
a mule, there is no sense in you ; you are a beast of 
burden, a drudge too horrible for anything but work ; 
and I suppose, all things considered, that the fat 
landlady with a dozen children did well to work you 
seventeen hours a day, and cheat you out of your 
miserable wages. You had no friends ; you could not 
have a friend unless it were some forlorn cat or dog ; 
but you once spoke to me of your brother, who 
worked in a potato store, and I was astonished, and 
I wondered if he were as awful as you. Poor Emma ! 
I shall never forget your kind heart and your unfailing 



136 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

good humour ; you were born beautifully good as a 
rose is born with perfect perfume ; you were as 
unconscious of your goodness as the rose of its 
perfume. And you were taken by this fat landlady 
as 'Arry takes a rose and sticks it in his tobacco- 
reeking coat ; and you will be thrown away, shut out 
of doors when health fails you, or when, overcome 
by base usage, you take to drink. There is no hope 
for you ; even if you were treated better and paid 
your wages there would be no hope. Those forty 
pounds even, if they were given to you, would bring 
you no good fortune. They would bring the idle 
loafer, who scorns you now as something too low for 
even his kisses, hanging about your heels and 
whispering in your ears. And his whispering would 
drive you mad, for your kind heart longs for kind 
words ; and then when he had spent your money and 
cast you off in despair, the gin shop and the river 
would do the rest. Providence is very wise after all, 
and your best destiny is your present one. We can- 
not add a pain, nor can we take away a pain ; we 
may alter, but we cannot subtract nor even alleviate. 
But what truisms are these ; who believes in philan- 
thropy nowadays ? 

'Come in.' 

' Oh, it is you, Emma ! ' 

' Are you going to dine at home to-day, sir ? ' 

' What can I have ?' 

'Well, yer can 'ave a chop or a steak.' 

' Anything else ? ' 

' Yes, yer can 'ave a steak, or a chop, or ' 

' Oh, yes, I know ; well then, I'll hare a chop. 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 137 

And now tell me, Emma, how is your young man ? 
I hear you have got one, you went out with him the 
other night.' 

< Who told yer that ?' 

' Ah, never mind ; I hear everything/ 

' I know, from Miss L ' 

'Well, tell me, how did you meet him, who intro- 
duced him ?' 

' I met 'im as I was a-coming from the public 'ouse 
with the beer for missus' dinner.' 

' And what did he say ?' 

' He asked me if I was engaged ; I said no. And 
he come round down the lane that evening.' 

* And he took you out ?' 

'Yes.' 

' And where did you go?' 

' We went for a walk on the Embankment.' 

' And when is he coming for you again ?' 

' He said he was coming last evening, but he 
didn't.' 

'Why didn't he?' 

' I dunno ; I suppose because I haven't time to go 

out with him. So it was Miss L that told you ; 

well, you do 'ave chats on the stairs. I suppose you 
likes talking to 'er/ 

' I like talking to everybody, Emma ; I like talk- 
ing to you.' 

1 Yes, but not as you talks to 'er ; I 'ears you jes 
do 'ave fine times. She said this morning that she 
had not seen you for this last two nights that you 
had forgotten 'er, and I was to tell yer.' 

' Very well, I'll come out to-night and speak to 
her.' 



188 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

' And missus is so wild about it, and she daren't 
say nothing 'cause she thinks yer might go.' 

A young man in a house full of women must be 
almost supernatu rally unpleasant if he does not 
occupy a great deal of their attention. Certain at 
least it is that I was the point of interest in that 
house ; and J found there that the practice of virtue 
is not so disagreeable as many young men think it. 
The fat landlady hovered round my doors, and I 
obtained perfectly fresh eggs by merely keeping her 
at a distance ; the pretty actress, with whom I used 
to sympathize on the stairs at midnight, loved 
me better, and our intimacy was more strange and 
subtle, because it was pure, and it was not very 
unpleasant to know that the servant dreamed of 
me as she might of a star, or something equally 
unattainable ; the landlady's daughter, a nasty girl 
of fifteen, annoyed me with her ogling : the house 
was not aristocratic, it is true, but, I repeat, it was 
not unpleasant, nor do I believe that any young man, 
however refined, would have found it unpleasant. 

My days in Cecil Street are only a few years 
behind me, and already I have begun to regret them, 
or, to speak more exactly, to regret that chance mis- 
fortune did not plunge me deeper into what is 
known as low life, but which is really the only life. 
Cecil Street is remembered with a certain pride, for 
I went there to live on two pounds a week, de- 
termined to make my way in literature, for my Irish 
properties seemed at that time to be vanishing 
away, and to make one's bread at literature requires 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 159 

hard training, especially in my case, for I could not 
write printable English at that time only a jargon 
that was neither French nor English. It was in 
that house in Cecil Street that I began 'The 
Modern Lover/ and wrote it out in copybooks from 
daylight till dark, and then went out to learn 
London, to assimilate, to become part of the vast 
incoherent mass which is London. To write about 
London I should have to begin by forgetting Paris, 
blotting out of my mind the Boulevards with their 
trees and the kiosque. Ah ! the kiosque ! Nothing 
is so evocative of Paris as the kiosque. The old 
women sitting before their trestles covered with 
newspapers ; the men buying and turning into their 
cafe or sitting down in the chairs under the awning, 
an absinthe or vermuth in front of them. 

These were the scenes that I saw in my mind's 
eye when I walked out of grubby Cecil Street into 
the Strand, and turned eastward and mooched about 
in many various purlieus, wondering at the sordid 
public-house at the corner. It reminded me how 
far I was from the Nouvelle Athenes and the Boule 
Noire. It was the cafe that I missed, the brilliant 
life of the caf&, the casual life of the cafe, so 
different from the life of the bars into which I turned 
in search of a companion and the eating-houses 
where I fed between seven and eight on roast saddle 
of mutton, wheeled round the different pens and 
cut to the liking of the customer, with potatoes and 
vegetables. ' Potatoes and vegetables ' was the cry 
of the second waiter, and often I pondered the 
phrase. Why ' potatoes ' and vegetables ? Are 
potatoes not vegetables? Strictly, I suppose they 



140 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

are tubers. These eating-houses were well enough 
from seven till eight ; one met somebody connected 
with a newspaper or some shadowy rhymer willing to 
talk; but after nine o'clock London was a desolate 
place for me, and I walked thinking of the cafes 
that I had abandoned, and thinking, too, of the 
Mermaid Tavern in which the Elizabethan poets 
used to foregather very much as we did in Paris in 
the Nouvelle Athenes. But London has lost her 
taverns. 

Some seventy years ago the Club superseded the 
Tavern, and since then all literary intercourse has 
ceased in London. Literary clubs have been founded, 
and their leather arm-chairs have begotten Mr. 
Gosse ; but the tavern gave the world Villon and 
Marlowe. Nor is this to be wondered at. What is 
wanted is enthusiasm and devil- may-careism ; and the 
very aspect of a tavern is a snort of defiance at the 
hearth, but the leather arm-chairs are so many salaams 
to it. I ask, Did anyone ever see a gay club-room ? 
Can anyone imagine such a thing ? You can't have 
a club-room without mahogany tables, you can't have 
mahogany tables without magazines Longman s y 
with a serial by Rider Haggard, the Nineteenth Century, 
with an article, ' The Rehabilitation of the Pimp in 
Modern Society,' by W. E. Gladstone a dulness 
that's a purge to good spirits, an aperient to enthus- 
iasm ; in a word, a dulness that's worth a thousand a 
year. You can't have a club without a waiter in red 
plush arid silver salver in his hand ; then you can't 
bring a lady to a club, and you have to get into a 
corner to talk about them. Therefore I say a club 
is dull 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 141 

As the hearth and home grew all-powerful it 
became impossible for the husband to tell his wife 
that he was going to the tavern ; everyone can go 
to the tavern, and no place is considered respectable 
where everyone can go. 

The genesis of the Club is out of the Housewife by 
Respectability. 

Nowadays everyone is respectable jockeys, bet- 
ting men, actors, and even actresses. Mrs. Kendal 
takes her children to visit a duchess, and has naughty 
chorus girls to tea, and tells them of the joy of 
respectability. Only one class left unrespectable, 
and that one will succumb before long; how the 
transformation will be effected I can't say, but I 
know an editor or two who would be glad of an 
article on the subject. 

Respectability ! a suburban villa, a piano in the 
drawing-room, and going home to dinner. Such 
things are no doubt very excellent, but they do not 
promote intensity of feeling, fervour of mind ; and as 
art is in itself an outcry against the animality of 
human existence, it would be well that the life of 
the artist should be a practical protest against the so- 
called decencies of life ; and he can best protest by 
frequenting a tavern and cutting his club. In the 
past the artist has always been an outcast ; it is only 
latterly he has become domesticated, and judging by 
results, it is clear that if Bohemianism is not a 
necessity it is at least an adjuvant. For if long locks 
and general dissoluteness were not an aid and a way 
to pure thought, why have they been so long his 
characteristics ? If lovers were not necessary for the 
development of poet, novelist, and actress, why have 



142 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

they always had lovers Sappho, George Eliot, 
George Sand, Rachel, Sara ? But good Mrs. Kendal 
suckles her child by day and plays Rosalind at night. 
Truly a ridiculous endeavour ! for to realize the 
transformation, a woman must have sinned ; only 
through sin may we learn the charm of innocence. 
A woman must have had more than one lover to 
play Rosalind, and if she has been made to wait in 
the rain and been beaten she will have suffered 
enough, and through suffering qualified herself for 
the part, Sara makes no pretence to virtue, but she 
introduces her son to an English duchess, and throws 
over a nation for the love of Richepin. She can, 
therefore, say as none other 

' Ce n'est plus qu'une ardeur dans mes reines cachee, 
C'est Venus tout entiere a sa proie attachee.' 

Swinburne, when he dodged about London, a lively 
young dog, wrote ' Poems and Ballads ' and 
' Chastelard '; since he has gone to live at Putney, he 
has contributed to the Nineteenth Century, and 
published an interesting little volume entitled, ' A 
Century of Rondels/ in which he continued his 
plaint about his mother the sea. 

Respectability is sweeping the picturesque out of 
life ; national costumes are disappearing. The kilt 
is going or gone in the highlands, and the smock in 
the southlands, even the Japanese are becoming 
Christian and respectable ; in another quarter of a 
century silk hats and pianos will be found in every 
house in Yeddo. Too true that universal uniformity 
is the future of the world ; and when Mr. Morris 
speaks of the democratic art to be when the world 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 143 

is socialistic, I ask, whence will the unfortunates 
draw their inspiration ? To-day our plight is pitiable 
enough the duke, the jockey-boy, and the artist 
are exactly alike; they are dressed by the same 
tailor, they dine at the same clubs, they swear the 
same oaths, they speak equally bad English, they 
love the same women. Such a state of things is 
dreary enough, but what unimaginable dreariness 
there will be when there are neither rich nor poor, 
when all have been educated, when self-education 
has ceased. A terrible world to dream of, worse, 
far worse, in darkness and hopelessness than Dante's 
lowest circle of hell. The spectres of famine, of the 
plague, of war, etc., are mild and gracious symbols 
compared with that menacing figure, Universal 
Education, with which we are threatened, which has 
already eunuched the genius of the last five-and- 
twenty years of the nineteenth century, and produced 
a limitless abortion in that of future time. Education, 
I tremble before thy dreaded name. The cruelties 
of Nero, of Caligula, what were they ? a few 
crunched limbs in the amphitheatre ; but thine, 
O Education, are the yearning of souls sick of 
life, maddening discontent, all the fearsome and 
fathomless sufferings of the mind. When Goethe 
said * More light,' he said the wickedest and most 
infamous words that human lips ever spoke. In old 
days, when a people became too highly civilized the 
barbarians came down from the north and regenerated 
that nation with darkness ; but now there are no 
more barbarians, and sooner or later I am convinced 
that we shall have to end the evil by summary edicts 
the obstruction no doubt will be severe, the 



144 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

equivalents of Gladstone and Morley will stop at 
nothing to defeat the Bill ; but it will nevertheless 
be carried by patriotic Conservative and Unionist 
majorities, and it will be written in the Statute Book 
that not more than one child in a hundred shall be 
taught to read, and no more than one in ten thousand 
shall learn the piano. 

Such will be the end of Respectability, but the 
end is still far distant. We are now in a period of 
decadence growing steadily more and more acute. 
The old gods are falling about us, there is little left 
to raise our hearts and minds to, and amid the wreck 
and ruin of things only a snobbery is left to us, 
thank heaven, deeply graven in the English heart ; 
the snob is now the ark that floats triumphant over 
the democratic wave ; the faith of the old world 
reposes in his breast, and he shall proclaim it when 
the waters have subsided. 

In the meanwhile Respectability, having destroyed 
the Tavern, and created the Club, continues to 
exercise a meretricious and enervating influence on 
literature. All audacity of thought and expression 
has been stamped out, and the conventionalities are 
rigorously respected. It has been said a thousand 
times that an art is only a reflection of a certain age ; 
quite so, only certain ages are more interesting than 
others, and consequently produce better art, just as 
certain seasons produce better crops. We heard in 
the Nouvelle Athenes how the Democratic move- 
ment, in other words, Respectability, in other words, 
Education, has extinguished the handicrafts ; it was 
admitted that in the more individua arts painting 
and poetry men would be always found to sacrifice 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 145' 

their lives for a picture or a poem : but no man is, 
after all, so immeasurably superior to the age he 
lives in as to be able to resist it wholly ; he must 
draw sustenance from some quarter, and the con- 
templation of the past will not suffice. The pressure 
on him from without is as water upon the diver ; and 
sooner or later he grows fatigued and comes to the 
surface to breathe ; he is as a flying-fish pursued by 
sharks below and birds above ; and he neither dives 
as deep nor flies as high as his freer and stronger 
ancestry. A daring spirit in the nineteenth century 
would have been but a timid nursery soul indeed in 
the sixteenth. We want tumult and war to give us 
forgetfulness, sublime moments of peace to enjoy a 
kiss in ; but we are expected to be home to dinner 
at seven, and to say and do nothing that might 
shock the neighbours. Respectability has wound 
itself about society, a sort of octopus, and nowhere 
are you quite free from one of its suckers. The 
power of the villa residence is great : art, science, 
politics, religion, it has transformed to suit its 
requirements. The villa goes to the Academy, the 
villa goes to the theatre, and therefore the art of 
to-day is mildly realistic; not the great realism of 
idea, but the puny reality of materialism ; not the 
deep poetry of a Pieter de Hooch, but the meanness 
of a Frith not the winged realism of Balzac, but the 
degrading naturalism of a coloured photograph. 

There is no sadder spectacle of artistic decadence 
than a London theatre ; the overfed inhabitants of 
the villa in the stalls hoping for gross excitement to 
assist them through their hesitating digestions ; an 
ignorant mob in the pit and gallery forgetting the 



146 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

miseries of life in imbecile stories reeking of the 
sentimentality of the back stairs. Were other ages 
as coarse and common as ours ? It is difficult to 
imagine Elizabethan audiences as not more intelligent 
than those that applaud Mr. Pettit's plays ; and we 
find it hard indeed to believe that an audience that 
could sit out Edward II. could find any pleasure in 
such literary infamy as In the Ranks and Harbour 
Lights. Artistic atrophy is benumbing us, we are 
losing our finer feeling for beauty, the rose is going 
back to the*briar. I will not speak of the fine old 
crusted stories, ever the same, on which every drama 
is based, nor yet of the musty characters with which 
they are peopled the miser in the old castle count- 
ing his gold by night, the dishevelled woman whom 
he keeps for ambiguous reasons confined in a cellar. 
Let all this be waived. We must not quarrel with 
the ingredients. The miser and the old castle are 
as true, and not one jot more true, than the million 
events which go to make up the spectacle of human 
existence. Not at these things considered separately 
do I take umbrage, but at the miserable use that is 
made of them, the vulgarity of the complications 
evolved from them, and the poverty of beauty in the 
dialogue. 

Not the thing itself, but the idea of the thing 
evokes the idea. Schopenhauer was right; we do 
not want the thing, but the idea of the thing. The 
thing itself is worthless ; and the moral writers who 
embellish it with pious ornamentation are just as 
reprehensible as Zola, who embellishes it with erotic 
arabesques. We want the idea drawn out of obscuring 
matter, and this can best be done by the symbol 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 147 

The symbol, or the thing itself, that is the great 
artistic question. In earlier ages it was the symbol ; 
a name, a plume, sufficed to evoke the idea ; now we 
evoke nothing, for we give everything, the imagina- 
tion of the spectator is no longer called into play. 
In Shakespeare's days to create wealth in a theatre 
it was only necessary to write upon a board, 'A 
magnificent apartment in a palace.' This was no 
doubt primitive and not a little barbarous, but it was 
better by far than by dint of anxious archaeology to 
construct the Doge's palace upon the stage. By one 
rich pillar, by some projecting balustrade taken in 
conjunction with a moored gondola, we should strive 
to evoke the soul of the city of Veronese : by the 
magical and unequalled selection of a subtle and 
unexpected feature of a thought or aspect of a land- 
scape, and not by the up-piling of extraneous detail, 
are all great poetic effects achieved. 

f By the tideless dolorous midland sea, 
In a land of sand and ruin and gold. ' 

And, better example still, 

c Dieu que le son du cor est triste au fond des bois/ 

that impeccable, that only line of real poetry Alfred 
de Vigny ever wrote. Being a great poet Shake- 
speare consciously or unconsciously observed more 
faithfully than any other poet these principles of 
art ; and, as is characteristic of the present day, no- 
where do we find these principles so grossly violated 
as in the representation of his plays. I had proof ot 
this some few nights after my arrival in London. I 
had never seen Shakespeare acted, and I went to the 
Lyceum and there I saw that exquisite love-song 



148 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

for Romeo and Juliet is no more than a love-song in 
dialogue tricked out in silks and carpets and 
illuminated buildings, a vulgar bawd suited to the 
gross passion of an ignorant public ; and hating it all, 
I longed for a few scenical indications, and the reci- 
tation of the two white souls sacrificed for the 
reconciliation of two great families. My hatred did 
not reach to the age of the man who played the boy- 
lover, but was concerned only with the offensiveness 
with which he thrust his individuality upon me, 
prone to realize the poet's divine imagination. The 
woman, too, I wished with my whole soul away, 
subtle and strange though she was ; and I yearned 
for the youth as of old time in the part : a youth 
cunningly disguised, I said, would be a symbol ; and 
my mind would be free to imagine the divine Juliet 
of the poet, whereas I can but dream of the bright 
eyes and delicate mien and motion of the woman 
who had thrust herself between me and it. 

But not witn symbol and subtle suggestion has the 
villa to do, but with such stolid intellectual fare as 
corresponds to its material wants. The villa has not 
time to think, the villa is the working bee. The 
tavern is the drone. It has no boys to put to school, 
no neighbours to study, and is therefore a little more 
refined or, should I say depraved? in its taste. 
The villa in one form or other has always existed, 
and always will exist so long as our present social 
system holds together. It is the basis of life, and 
more important than the tavern. Agreed : but does 
that mean that the tavern should be abolished ? 
The tavern is an excellent corrective influence to 
the villa, and its disappearance has had a vulgarizing 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 149 

effect on artistic work of all kinds ; the club cannot 
replace the tavern : the club is no more than the 
correlative of the villa ; and that much being granted 
to me, I will pass on to the circulating library, at 
once the symbol and glory of villaism. 

The subject is not unfamiliar to me ; I come to it 
like the son to his father, like the bird to its nest. 
(Singularly inappropriate comparison, but I am in 
such excellent humour to-day ; a man's humour is 
half the game. It is said that the tiger will some- 
times play with the lamb ! Let us play.) We have 
the villa well in our mind. The father who goes to 
the city in the morning, the grown-up girls waiting 
to be married, the big drawing-room where they play 
waltz music, and talk of dancing parties. But waltzes 
will not entirely suffice, nor even tennis ; the girls 
must read. Mother cannot keep a censor (it is as 
much as she can do to keep a cook, housemaid and 
page-boy), besides the expense would be enormous, 
even if nothing but shilling and two-shilling novels 
were purchased. Out of such circumstances the cir- 
culating library was hatched. 

The villa made known its want, and art fell on its 
knees. Pressure was put on the publishers ; books 
were published at 31s. 6d. ; the villa paid its yearly 
subscription, and had nice large handsome books 
that none but the elite could obtain, and with them 
a sense of being put on a footing of equality with 
my Lady This and Lady That, and certainty that 
nothing would come into the hands of dear Kate and 
Mary and Maggie that they might not read, and all 
for two guineas a year. English fiction became pure, 
and the garlic and assafoetida with which Byron, 



150 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

Fielding and Ben Jonson so liberally seasoned their 
works, and in spite of which, as critics say, they were 
geniuses, have disappeared from our literature. 
English fiction became pure, smutty stories were % 
be heard no more, were no longer procurable. But 
at this point human nature intervened ; poor human 
nature ! when you pinch it in one place it bulges 
out in another, after the fashion of a lady's figure. 
Human nature has from the earliest time shown a 
liking for smutty stories ; smutty stories have formed 
a substantial part of every literature. Call it a 
disease if you will an incurable disease which, if 
it is driven inwards, will break out in an unexpected 
quarter in a new form and with redoubled virulence. 
This is exactly what has happened. Actuated by 
the most laudable motives, Mudie cut off our 
rations of stories, and for forty years we were ap- 
parently the most moral people on the face of the 
earth. It was confidently asserted that an English 
woman of sixty would not read what would bring the 
blush of shame to the cheeks of a maiden of any 
other nation. But humiliation and sorrow were 
awaiting Mudie. True it is that we still continued 
to subscribe to his library, true it is that we still con- 
tinued to go to church, true it is that we turned our 
faces away when Mile, de Maupin or the Assommair 
was spoken of ; to all appearance we were as good and 
chaste as even Mudie might wish us ; and no doubt 
he looked back upon his forty years of effort with 
pride ; no doubt he beat his manly breast and said, 
' I have scorched the evil one out of the villa ; the 
head of the serpent is crushed for evermore ;' but lo ! 
suddenly, with all the horror of an earthquake, the 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 151 

slumbrous Jaw courts awoke, and the burning cinders 
of fornication and the blinding and suffocating smoke 
of adultery were poured upon and hung over the 
land. Through the mighty columns of our news- 
papers the terrible lava rolled unceasing, and in the 
black stream the villa, with all its beautiful illusions, 
tumbled and disappeared. 

It is strange that it should have come into any- 
body's head to think that our morality is dependent 
upon the books we read, and we begin to wonder 
how it is that Nature should have implanted so 
strange an idea into our minds rather than in the 
mind of some other race. But there it is, a perennial 
in the Anglo-Saxon mind, bursting into bloom at un- 
expected intervals, out of sheer lightheartedness, it 
would seem, for even the little children in the 
streets must know by this time that the morality of 
the world will always be the same, despite good and 
bad books. A strange belief it is, truly, that our 
morality depends upon the books we read, especially 
modern books, and harmful in more ways than one ; 
for without it the three- volume system would secure 
a certain market to the writer for his first work and 
give him valuable leisure to consider and revise his 
subsequent works. But all the advantages that 
literature might have derived from the circulating 
libraries have been frittered away by a vain and 
vexatious censorship. 

There is one thing in England that reminds me 
of the blithe humanities of the Continent, yet it 
is wholly and essentially English ; its communal 
enjoyment and its spontaneity sets us thinking of 



152 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

Elizabethan England I mean the music-hall ; the 
French music-hall lacks the vulgarity of the English 
hall not the Pavillion, that is too cosmopolitan 
(dreary French comics are heard there) let us say 
the Royal. I shall not easily forget my first evening 
at the Royal, when I saw for the time a living house 
the dissolute paragraphists, the elegant mashers 
(mark the imaginativeness of the slang), the stolid, 
good-humoured costers, the cheerful lights o' love, 
the extraordinary comics. What delightful unison 
of enjoyment, what unanimity of soul, what com- 
munality of wit ; all knew each other, all enjoyed 
each other's presence ; in a word, there was life. 
Then there were no cascades of real water, nor 
London docks, nor offensively rich furniture, with 
hotel lifts down which somebody will certainly be 
thrown, but one scene representing a street ; a man 
comes on not, mind you, in a real smock-frock, but 
in something that suggests one and sings of how he 
came up to London, and was ' cleaned out ' by 
thieves. Simple, you will say ; yes, but better than 
a fricassee of Faust, garnished with hags, imps, and 
blue flame ; better, far better than a drawing-room 
set at the St. James's, with an exhibition of passion 
by Mrs. and Mr. Kendal ; better, a million times 
better than the cheap popularity of Wilson Barrett 
an elderly man posturing in a low-necked dress to 
some poor trull in the gallery ; nor is there in the 
hall any affectation of language, nor that worn-out 
rhetoric which reminds us of a broken-winded 
barrel-organ playing ^ che la morte, bad enough in 
prose, but when set up in blank verse shocking in its 
more than natural deformity but bright quips and 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 153 

cranks fresh from the back-yard of the slum where the 
linen is drying, or the 'pub ' where the unfortunate 
wife has just received a black eye that will last her a 
week. That inimitable artist, Bessie Bellwood, whose 
native wit is so curiously accentuated that it is no 
longer repellent vulgarity but art, choice and rare 
see, here she comes with 'What cheer, Rea ! Rea's on 
the job.' The sketch is slight, but is welcome and 
refreshing after the eternal drawing-room and Mrs. 
Kendal's cumbrous domesticity; it is curious, quaint, 
perverted, and are not these the aions and the 
attributes of art ? Now see that perfect comedian, 
Arthur Roberts, superior to Irving because he is 
working with living material ; how trim and saucy 
he is ! and how he evokes the soul, the brandy-and- 
soda soul, of the young men, delightful and elegant 
in black and white, who are so vociferously cheering 
him, ' Will you stand me a cab-fare, ducky, I am feel- 
ing so awfully queer ?' The soul, the spirit, the 
entity of Piccadilly Circus is in the words, and the 
scene the comedian's eyes each look is full of 
suggestion ; it is irritating, it is magnetic, it is 
symbolic, it is art. 

Not art, but a sign, a presentiment of an art, that 
may grow from the present seeds, that may rise into 
some stately and unpremeditated efflorescence, as 
the rhapsodist rose to Sophocles, as the miracle play 
rose through Peele and Nash to Marlowe, hence to 
the wondrous summer of Shakespeare, to die later on 
in the mist and yellow and brown of the autumn of 
Crowes and Davenants. I have seen music-hall 
sketches, comic interludes that in their unexpected- 
ness and naive naturalness remind me of the comic 



154 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

passages in Marlowe's Faustus, 1 waited (I admit in 
vain) for some beautiful phantom to appear, and te 
hear an enthusiastic worshipper cry out in his 
agony : 

Was this the face that launched a thousand ships 
And hurnt the topless towers of Ilium ? 
Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss. 
Her lips suck forth my soul ; see where it flies ! 
Come, Helen, come ; give me my soul again. 
Here will I dwell, for heaven is in these lips, 
And all is dross that is not Helena.' 

And then the astonishing change of key : 

' I will he Paris, and for love of thee, 
Instead of Troy shall Wittenberg be sacked,' etc. 

The hall is at least a protest against the wearisome 
stories concerning wills, misers in old castles, lost 
heirs, and the woeful solutions of such things she 
who has been kept in the castle cellar for twenty 
years restored to the delights of hair-pins and a 
mauve dress, the ingenue to the protecting arm, etc. 
The music-hall is a protest against Mrs. Kendal's 
marital tenderness and the abortive platitudes of 
Messrs. Pettit and Sims ; the music-hall is a protest 
against Sardou and the immense drawing-room sets, 
rich hangings, velvet sofas, etc., so different from the 
movement of the English comedy with its constant 
change of scene. The music-hall is a protest against 
the villa, the circulating library, the club, and for 
this the ' 'all ' is inexpressibly dear to me. 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 155 



XII 



THE actress, when she returned home from the theatre, 
suggested I had an enemy, a vindictive enemy, who 
dogged my steps ; but her stage experience led her 
astray. I had no enemy except myself; or to put 
it scientifically, no enemy except the logical conse- 
quences of my past life and education, and these 
caused me a great and real inconvenience. French 
wit was in my brain, French sentiment was in my 
heart ; of the English soul I knew nothing, and I 
could not remember old sympathies, it was like 
seeking forgotten words, and if I were writing a short 
story, I had to return in thought to Montmartre or 
the Champs Elysees for my characters. Some will 
not be able to believe this because few are aware of 
how little they know of the details of life, even of 
their own, and are incapable of appreciating the 
influence of their past upon their present. The visible 
world is visible only to a few, the moral world is a 
closed book to nearly all. I was full of France, and 
France had to be got rid of, or pushed out of sight, 
before I could understand England ; I was handi- 
capped with dangerous ideas, and an impossible style^ 
and before long the leading journal that had printed 
two poems and some seven or eight critical articles, 
ceased to send me books for review. I fell back 
upon obscure society papers. But it was not incum- 
bent on me to live by my pen ; so I talked, and 
watched, and waited till I grew akin to those around 



156 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

me, and my thoughts blended with, and took root 
in my environment. 

I wrote a play or two, I translated a French opera, 
which had a run of six nights, I dramatized a novel, 
I wrote short stories, and I read a good deal of 
contemporary fiction. 

The first book that came under my hand was 
' A Portrait of a Lady,' by Henry James. I will 
admit that an artist may be great and limited ; by 
one word he may light up an abyss of soul ; but there 
must be this one magical and unique word. Shake- 
speare gives us the word, Balzac, sometimes, after 
pages of vain striving, gives us the word, Tourgueneff 
gives it always ; but Henry James only flutters about 
it ; his whole book is one long flutter near to the one 
magical and unique word, but the word is not spoken ; 
and for want of the word his characters are never 
resolved out of the haze of nebulae. We are on a 
bowing acquaintance with them ; they pass us in the 
street, they stop and speak ; we know how they are 
dressed, and we watch the colour of their eyes. The 
crowd of well-dressed people, in ' A Portrait of a 
Lady,' comes back to me precisely as an accurate 
memory of a fashionable soiree the staircase with 
its ascending figures, the hostess smiling, the host at 
a little distance with his back turned ; some one 
calls him. He wheels round, and I see his white kid 
gloves. The air is sugar-sweet with the odour of the 
gardenias; there is brilliant light here, there is shadow 
in the further rooms, the women's feet pass to and 
fro beneath the stiff skirts, I call for my hat and 
coat, I light a cigar, I stroll up Piccadilly . . . saying 
to myself, ' a very pleasant evening, I have seen a 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 157 

good many people I knew, I have observed an atti- 
tude, and an earnestness of manner that proved that 
a heart was beating . . . somewhere.' 

Mr. James might say, c If I have done this, I have 
done a great deal/ and I would answer, ' No doubt 
you're a man of talent, cultivation, and not at all 
of the common herd, and to please you I'll place you 
in the very front rank, not only of novelists but of 
men of letters.' But a man of genius, Oh, no ! 

I've read nothing of Henry James's that didn't 
suggest a scholar ; so there shall be none of the old 
taunts why does he not write complicated stories ? 
Why does he always avoid decisive action ? In his 
stories a woman never leaves the house with her 
lover, nor does a man ever kill another man or him- 
self. Why is nothing ever accomplished ? In real 
life murder, adultery, and suicide are of common 
occurrence ; but Mr. James's people live in a calm, 
sad, and very polite twilight of volition. Suicide 
or adultery has happened before the story begins, 
suicide or adultery happens some years after the 
characters have left the stage, but in front of 
the reader nothing happens. The suppression or 
maintenance of story in a novel is a matter of 
personal taste; some prefer character-drawing to 
adventures, some adventures to character-drawing ; 
that we cannot have both at once I take to be a 
self-evident proposition ; so when Mr. Lang says, 
' I like adventures,' I say, ' Oh, do you ? ' as I might 
to a man who says ' I like sherry,' and no doubt when 
I say I like character-drawing, Mr. Lang says, ' Oh, do 
you ? ' as he might to a man who says, ' I like port/ 
But Mr. James and I are agreed on essentials ; we 



158 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

are more interested in human portraiture than with 
searches made for buried treasure according to scripts 
left behind by ancient mariners. But for human 
portraiture models are necessary, and the drawing- 
room presents few accents and angles, conformity to 
its prejudices and conventions having worn all away. 
Ladies and gentlemen are as round as the pebbles 
on the beach, presenting only smooth surfaces. Is 
there really much to say about people who live in 
stately houses and eat and drink their fill every day 
of the year ? The lady, it is true, may have a lover, 
but the pen finds scanty pasturage in the fact ; and 
in James's novels the lady only considers the 
question on the last page, and the gentleman looks 
at her questioningly. 

In connection with Henry James the name of W. D. 
Ho wells is often mentioned, and I bought some three 
or four of his novels and finding them overflowing 
with girls in white dresses, languid mammas, mild 
witticisms, and young men, some cynical, some a 
little over-shadowed by love (in a word, a Tom 
Robertson comedy faintly spiced with American), 
I said : ' Henry James went to France and read 
TourgueneiF. W. D. Howells stayed at home and 
read Henry James." 

Henry James's mind is of a higher cast and 
temper; I have no doubt at one time of his life 
Henry James said, I will write the moral history of 
America, as Tourgueneff wrote the moral history of 
Russia he borrowed at first hand, understanding 
what he was borrowing. W. D. Howells borrowed 
at second hand, and without understanding what he 
was borrowing. Altogether Mr. James's instincts 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 159 

are more scholarly, and I often regret his concessions 
to the prudery of the age, and cannot but feel that 
his concessions, for I suppose I must call them 
concessions, are to a certain extent self-imposed. 
He would answer me somewhat in this fashion 
regretfully, perhaps : ' It is true that I live in an age 
not very favourable to artistic production, but the art 
f an age is the spirit of that age ; if I violate the 
prejudices of the age I shall miss its spirit, and an 
art that is not redolent of the spirit of its age is an 
artificial flower, perfumeless, or perfumed with the 
scent of flowers that bloomed three hundred years 
ago.' To carry the analysis one step further, we will 
answer the apology that we conceive Mr. James would 
make to us were we to address him in a question of 
this sort : ' Why don't you turn your hand to a 
girl who gets thirty shillings a week and thinks she 
would be very happy if she could get thirty-five/ 
' The woman of leisure/ he would answer, ' lives in 
a deeper intellectual mood than the work-girl whose 
ambition is an extra five shillings a week.' The inter- 
viewer in us would like to ask Henry James why he 
never married ; but it would be vain to ask, so much 
does he write like a man to whom all action is 
repugnant. He confesses himself on every page, as 
we all do. On every page James is a prude and 
Howells is the happy father of a numerous family ; 
the sun is shining, the girls and boys are playing 
on the lawn, they come trooping in to high tea, and 
there is dancing in the evening. 

It was about this time that my landlady lent me 
George Meredith's 'Tragic Comedians/ and after 
reading a few pages I fell to wondering how she had 
become possessed of the volume, and if it were true 



160 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

that she had enjoyed reading it ; a sufficient matter 
for my wonderment surely, for myself, who I supposed 
to be more literary than the landlady, was not able 
to come to any sort of terms with the book : or could 
it be that she had been told that George Meredith 
was ' the thing ' to admire by some lodger that had 
taken her fancy ? Her admiration of the book I felt 
to be derivative, and this opinion was enforced by the 
discovery that she had not read any other book by 
George Meredith, and did not know that he was 
primarily a poet. She had never heard of ' Love in 
a Valley ' nor the ' Nuptials of Attila/ and I men- 
tioned to her the lordly refrain ' Make the bed for 
Attila/ forgetful for the moment that she sometimes 
made my bed. 

In Balzac, that I know by heart, in Shakespeare, 
that I have just begun to love, there are phrases 
deeply impregnated with the savour of life ; but in 
George Meredith only sterile nuts, phrases that 
people call epigrams, and it is impossible for me to 
call to mind a book more like a cockatoo than 
' The Tragic Comedians '; it struts and screams just 
like one ; but in ' Rhoda Flemming ' there is some 
wit. One, Antony by name, describes how he is 
interrupted at his tea in a paragraph of seven or ten 
lines with ' I am having my tea, I am at my tea/ 
running through it for refrain. Then a description 
of a lodging-house dinner : ' a block of bread on a 
lonely place, and potatoes that looked as if they 
had committed suicide in their own steam.' A 
little ponderous and stilted, but withal good, and 
I read on until I came to a young man who 
fell from his horse, or had been thrown from 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN l6l 

his horse, I never knew which, nor did I feel 
enough interest in the matter to make research ; 
the young man was put to bed by his mother, and 
once in bed he began to talk ! . . . four, five, 
six, ten pages of talk, arid and useless, surprisingly 
commonplace. 

' Diana of the Crossways ' I liked better, and were 
there nothing to do I might have crawled through 
it. A scene with a rustic amused me a rustic who 
could eat 'og a solid hour and there is an excellent 
sloppy road with vague outlines of the South Downs 
seen in starlight and mist. But when we look round 
for a human being we see and hear none : Diana has 
faded into starlight and mist, and it is by the power 
to call souls out of the abyss into life that time 
judges us. If this page comes under the eyes of a 
reader of Tourgueneff, he will remember the un- 
veiling of the woman's affections for Bazaroff, and 
the relation at the same time of the reasons why she 
will never marry him. ... I wish I had the book by 
me ; I have not seen it for ten years. 

My memory of Balzac must help me now. After 
striving through many pages to describe Lucien, 
he allows Lucien to create himself. In answer to 
an impatient question by Vautrin, who asks him 
what he wants, what he is sighing for, Lucien answers, 
' D'etre celkbre et d'etre aime' On these words, and 
not before, he starts into being. The tale-teller 
creates easily, if he create. Tourgueneff is never 
at pains to tell us that this woman is good and that 
woman bad ; his women are good or bad ; but 
Meredith insists insistence conveys no idea of his 
style ; he puts a trumpet to his lips and yells that 



162 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

Diana is beautiful, divine ; that she is brilliant, that 
her conversation is like a display of fireworks, and 
that the company is dazzled and overcome. 

' When we have translated half of Mr. Meredith's 
utterances into possible human speech, then we 
can enjoy him/ says the Pall Mall Gazette. We take 
eur pleasures differently ; mine are spontaneous, and 
I know nothing about translating the rank smell 
of a nettle into the fragrance of a rose, and then 
enjoying it. 

He puts on his style so thickly that we can barely 
see his people, and have to peer through the dazzling 
page to catch sight of them. They seem to be doing 
a great deal, but in truth the most that can be said 
is that they are dancing to literary rhythms a 
thing which, however, cannot be said of any other 
novelist. His habit is not slattern ; there is no trace 
of the crowd about him ; he is one whose love of art 
is pure and untainted with commercialism, and if I 
may praise it for nought else, I can praise it for this. 

I have noticed that if I buy a book because I am 
advised, or because I think I ought, my reading is 
sure to prove sterile. A quotation, a chance word 
heard in an unexpected quarter, puts me on the trail 
of the book destined to achieve some intellectual 
advancement in me, and I read Mr. Hardy despite 
his name. It prejudiced me against him from the 
first ; a name so trivial as Thomas Hardy cannot, I 
said, foreshadow a great talent ; and * Far from the 
Madding Crowd ' discovered the fact to me that Mr. 
Hardy was but one of George Eliot's miscarriages. 

The critic is no doubt right when he insists on the 
difficulty of telling a story. A sequence of events 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 163 

it does not matter how simple or how complicated 
working up to a logical close, or shall I say, 
a close in which there is a sense of rhythm and in- 
evitableness is always indicative of genius. Shake- 
speare affords some fine examples, likewise Balzac, 
likewise Tourgueneff ; the s (Edipus ' is, of course, 
the crowning and final achievement in the music 
f sequence and the massy harmonies of fate. But 
in contemporary English fiction I am often struck by 
the inability of writers, even of the first class, to 
make an organic whole of their stories. Here, I 
say, the course is clear, the way is obvious, but no 
sooner do we enter on the last chapters than the 
story begins to show incipient shiftiness, and soon it 
doubles back and turns, growing with every turn 
weaker like a hare before the hounds. The opening 
chapters of ' Far from the Madding Crowd ' promised 
well, and there was no reason to suspect that the 
story would run hare-hearted in its close, but the 
moment Troy told his wife that he never cared for 
her, I knew something was wrong ; when he went 
down to bathe and was carried out by the current 
I said ' the game was up,' and was prepared for any- 
thing, even for the final shooting by the rich farmer, 
and the marriage with Oak, a conclusion which of 
course does not come within the range of literary 
criticism. 

' Lorna Doone ' struck me as childishly garrulous, 
stupidly prolix, swollen with comments not interest- 
ing in themselves and leading to nothing. Mr. 
Hardy starts out with an idea, and it is a pity that 
ke cannot mould his idea, shape it, breathe into it 
the breath of life ; but he is better than Mr. Black- 



164 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

more, who seems just to have happened once on a 
subject that interested people at the time ; and if I 
speak of these writers, who certainly are inferior, it 
is because they are links in the chain whereby I 
returned from French into English literature, and 
having to speak of them, I relate jny impressions. 

The reading of ' Lorna Doone ' calls to my mind, 
and very vividly, an original artistic principle of 
which English romance writers are either strangely 
ignorant or neglectful, viz., that the sublimation of 
the drfrmatis personce and the deeds in which they 
are involved must correspond, and their relationship 
should remain unimpaired. Turner's ' Carthage ' is 
Nature transposed and modified. Some of the 
passages of light and shade those of the balustrade 
are fugues, and there his art is allied to Bach in 
sonority and beautiful combination. Turner knew 
that a branch hung across the sun looked at separ- 
ately was black, but he painted it light to maintain 
the equipoise of atmosphere. In the novel the 
characters are the voice, the deeds are the orchestra. 
But the English novelist takes 'Arry and 'Arriet, and 
allows them to achieve deeds manifestly above their 
statue, thereby violating first principles. The deed 
should always be a symbol of the man, and in the 
elder writers the man and the deed are cognate and 
co-equal. Achilles stands as tall as Troy. Helen 
represents every man's desire, old or young, and it 
is this sense, shall I say, of the chord, that separates 
Homer from the fabricators of singular adventures. 
And it is this sense of harmony that separates us 
from circulating literature ; our melody may lay 
itself open to criticism, but the chord is beautiful 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 165 

always. Even poor old Scott was not without some 
sense of ' Without some sense of what ?' I asked 
myself, rousing suddenly from my meditation. Who 
was talking of Scott ? I answer myself that Scott was 
succeeded by Lytton, and that a professor of literature 
would know enough about Landor to enable him to 
speak of stiff brocades, woven in Athens, somebody 
has written that, somebody must have written that, 
and I fall to dreaming of the great and beautiful 
men and women (exalted melodies) that rise out 
of Lander's pages a writer as great as Shake- 
speare, surely ? The last heir of a noble family. All 
that follows Landor is decadent an admixture of 
romance and realism, the exaggerations of Hugo 
and the homeliness of Trollope ; a litter of ancient 
elements in a state of decomposition. 

The spiritual analysis of Balzac equals Shake- 
speare's evocations ; by different roads they reach 
the same height of tragic awe, but when improba- 
bility, which in these days does duty for imagination, 
is mixed with the familiar aspects of life I mean the 
combination of Ma and Pa and dear Annie who 
live in Clapham with the mountains of the moon 
and the secret of eternal life, the result is art for the 
villa. The villa must take part in the heroic deeds 
that fall out in the mountains of the moon ; it will 
have heroism in its own teapot, and Achilles and 
Merlin must be replaced by Uncle Jim and an under- 
graduate. The Villa is the only begotten of Rider 
Haggard, Hugh Con way, Robert Buchanan, and the 
author of ' The House on the Marsh.' 

In this wise I used to talk in the Gaiety bar to 
the great amazement of its litterati, always con- 



166 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

scious that David Christie Murray, Byron Webber, 
and Richard Dowling were poor substitutes for 
Manet, Degas, Pissaro, Renoir, Cabaner, Villiers de 
PIsle Adam, Catulle Mendez, and Duranty. But so 
long as men talked about art, I did not mind very 
much how they talked. That they were willing U 
listen was enough, and in pursuit of English literature 
I read what they wrote ' Joseph's Coat,' by David 
Christie Murray ; ' In Luck's Way/ by Byron Webber ; 
and a Celtic romance, the name of which I hare for- 
gotten, by Richard Dowling. 

These men used to arrive at the Gaiety bar about 
four o'clock, and at five the bar was in session, 
deference being paid to David Christie Murray, a 
clear-eyed, tall, blunt Northerner whose resonant 
voice bespoke his success with publishers. Byron 
Webber, the editor of a ' weekly/ a thick-set maa, 
waddled into the bar with a black bag in his hand, 
and a red flush in the small portion of his face that 
was not covered with a black beard. His first question 
was, if Murray had concluded the arrangements with 
Chatto and Windus to write the serial for Belgravi*. 
Murray answered that he had. Soon after Richard 
Dowling entered, a tall Irishman of flabby face and 
hands, without distinctive feature except, perhaps, 
weak eyes. His voice, too, was weak and pathetic 
from disappointment ; for he had once imagined 
himself on the threshold of success, and now he 
spoke only of having been quill-driving all day, 
trying to earn food for the little family he had 
brought over from Waterford. 

At half-past five we were all sitting in the semi- 
circular nooks under the cathedral windows, and at 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 167 

six, Tinsley, the publisher from Catherine Street, 
would come in, room being made for him in- 
stantly. He used to carry a bag containing fish for 
the family and a manuscript novel ; and until seven 
whisky was drunk, and before dinner-time somebody 
was gleefully drunk, and a scowl began to appear on 
my face, for I was always annoyed by drunkenness. 
But there was nowhere else I could talk literature, 
and it was essential to drive the French language 
and French ideas out of my mind ; till that was done 
a novel of English life could not be written. The 
Gaiety bar could do this, and I was impatient to be 
an Englishman again, and persevered day after day, 
month after month, till at the end of a couple of 
years I began to weary of the English language, an 
awkward, blunt instrument, unfitted for delicate 
work it seemed to me to be in the works of David 
Christie Murray and Robert Buchanan. And one 
night in Cecil Street, I threw ' The Seamy Side ' 
across the room with a cry of despair. 'All this 
is pure commerce/ I groaned, and fell to thinking of 
Miss Braddon, remembering her with kindliness, for 
it was she who had put Shelley into my hand long 
ago, when I lived by the side of an Irish lake, and 
thought it would be a good thing to ride in the 
Liverpool Steeplechase. Ouida had inflamed me in 
my teens. At last I met Mrs. Lynn Linton, and liked 
her ; but she was elderly, her style vehement and 
arid ; and every night I went up to the Cafe Monico 
to buy a French paper which was publishing 
Goncourt's ' La Fille Eliza,' a story that enchanted 
me in my lonely lodging and awakened new dreams 
of the conquest of London. I read with disappro- 



168 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

bation the ' Story of an African Farm ' : descriptions 
of sandhills and ostriches sandwiched with doubts 
concerning a future state, and convictions regarding 
the moral and physical superiority of women in 
plenty, but of art nothing ; that is to say, art as I 
understand it rhythmical sequence of events de- 
scribed with rhythmical sequence of phrase. After 
the ' African Farm,' the ' Story of Elizabeth/ by Miss 
Thackeray, came upon me with all the fresh and fair 
naturalness of a garden full of lilacs and blue sky. 
' Only a water-colour,' I said, ' but what a beautiful 
water-colour !' and I continued her exquisite little 
descriptions, full of air, colour, lightness, grace, 
the French life seen with sweet English eyes, the 
dear little descriptions gently evocative. * What a 
tranquil little kitchen it was, with a glimpse of the 
courtyard outside, and the cocks and hens, and the 
poplar trees waving in the sunshine, and the old 
woman sitting in her white cap busy at her homely 
work !' Into many wearisome pages these simple 
lines have since been expanded, but without affect- 
ing the beauty of the original. 'Will Dampier 
turned his broad back and looked out of the window. 
There was a moment's silence. They could hear the 
tinkling of bells, the whistling of the sea, the voices 
of the men calling to each other in the port. The 
sunshine streamed in ; Elly was standing in it, and 
seemed gilt with a golden background. She ought 
to have held a palm in her hand, poor little martyr !' 
There is sweet wisdom in this book, wisdom that 
is eternal, being simple ; and I do not rail against 
dainty water-colour indications of balconies, vases, 
gardens, fields, and harvesters because they have not 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 169 

the fervid glow and passionate force of Titian's 
Ariadne. Miss Thackeray knew the limits of her 
talent, which is more than can be said for George 
Eliot, despite the many profound modulations of that 
Beethoven-like countryside : the pine wood and the 
cripple ; this aunt's linen presses, and that one's 
economies ; the boy going forth to conquer the world, 
the girl remaining at home to conquer herself; the 
mighty river holding the fate of all, playing and 
dallying with its people for a while, and bearing 
them on at last to extinction. She had the sense of 
rhythmical progression : but a woman cannot become 
a man, and it is not certain that, if pleasure be a 
condition of artistic performance, we do not get 
more from contemplating Elly than Maggie. Her 
golden head is sketched with a flowing water-colour 
brush on a background of austere French Protestants. 
We do not know whether the picture is true to 
nature; but we know that it is true to art; our 
objections do not begin till her marriage, which 
seems to us a jarring dissonance, the true end being 
the ruin of Elly and the remorse of her mother. 

It was Margaret Veley who spoke to me first about 
* The Story of Elizabeth/ when I was introduced to 
her in a Kensington drawing-room, a tall, shy 
woman, declining wittily, without regret, into middle 
age, and who I preferred to the showy women 
scattered about the sofas and chairs on the look out 
for a young man. In a few minutes she admitted 
to me that what I had heard was true ; she had 
published a novel in the Cornhill Magazine. Such a 
success as that was the blue ribbon of literature in 
those days, and for it she became admirable in my 



170 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

eyes, and I took pleasure in her intelligence whick 
I learnt in many visits. On her side she was beguiled 
by a certain alertness of mind, a curious absence of 
education, and it became her pleasure to correct my 
proofs, and with erery correction she helped me out 
of the French into the English language. 

All the world over there are women willing to 
sacrifice themselves, and Margaret Veley would have 
come into great literary honours, I am convinced, if 
she had not laid down her life for her sister, a 
woman stricken with consumption. One day I 
called to ask for some proofs, and received this 
note : ' I am too ill to correct them ; you know 
I would if I were able/ And next day a soul passed 
out of life always associated in my memory with 
her beautiful novel 'Damocles.' Rachel Conway is 
to me none other than Margaret Veley herself, a 
victim chosen for her beauty and crowned with the 
flowers of sacrifice. She has not forgotten the face 
of the maniac, and it comes back to her when she 
finds herself rich and loved by the man whom she 
loves. The catastrophe is a double one. Now 
she knows she is accursed, and that her duty is te 
trample out her love, unborn generations cry to her ; 
but Rachel Conway puts her dreams away, and 
will henceforth walk in a sad path, her interests 
centred in the child of the man she loves, and as 
she looks for a last time on the cloud of trees, 
glorious and waving green in the sunset, her sorrow 
swells once again to passion, and, we know, for the 
last time. 

I aver that Mr. R. L. Stevenson never wrote a line 
that failed to delight me ; but he never wrote a book. 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 171 

We arrive at a strangely just estimate of a writer's 
worth by the mere question : ' What is he the author 
of? ' for every writer whose work is destined to live 
is the author of one book that outshines the others, 
and, in popular imagination, epitomizes his talent and 
position. Ask the same question about Milton, 
Fielding, Byron, Carlyle, Thackeray, Zola, Mr. Swin- 
burne. 

I think of Mr. Stevenson as a consumptive youth 
wearing garlands of sad flowers with pale, weak hands, 
or leaning to a large plate-glass window, and scratching 
thereon exquisite profiles with a diamond pencil. 
His periods are fresh and bright, rhythmical in sound, 
and perfect realizations of their sense ; in reading him 
one often thinks that never before was such definite- 
hess united to such poetry of expression ; every page 
and every sentence rings of its individuality. But Mr. 
Stevenson's style is over-smart, well-dressed, shall I 
say, like a young man walking in the Burlington 
Arcade ? Yes, I will say so, but I will add, the most 
gentlemanly young man that ever walked in the 
Burlington. Mr. Stevenson is competent to under- 
stand any thought that might be presented to him, 
but if he were to use it, it would instantly become neat, 
sharp, ornamental, light, and graceful, and it would 
lose all its original richness and harmony. It is not 
Mr. Stevenson's brain that prevents him from being 
a thinker, but his style. 

Another thing that strikes me in thinking of 
Stevenson (I pass over his direct indebtedness to 
Edgar Poe, and his constant appropriation of his 
methods) is the unsuitableness of the special character- 
sties of his talent to the age he lives in. He wastes 



172 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

in his limitations, and his talent is vented in pretti- 
ness of style. In speaking of Mr. Henry James, I 
said that, although he had conceded much to the 
foolish, false, and hypocritical taste of the time, the 
concessions he made had in little or nothing impaired 
his talent. The very opposite seems to me the case 
with Mr. Stevenson. For if any man living in this 
end of the century needed freedom of expression for 
the distinct development of his genius, that man is 
R. I/. Stevenson. He who runs may read, and he 
with any knowledge of literature will, before I have 
written the words, have imagined Mr. Stevenson 
writing in the age of Elizabeth or Anne. 

Turn your platitudes prettily, but write no word 
that could offend the chaste mind of the young girl 
who has spent her morning reading the Colin Campbell 
divorce case ; so says the age we live in. The penny 
paper that may be bought everywhere, that is 
allowed to lie on every table, prints seven or eight 
columns of filth, for no reason except that the public 
likes to read filth ; the poet and novelist must emas- 
culate and destroy their work because. . . . Who 
shall come forward and make answer? Oh, vile, 
filthy, and hypocritical century, I at least scorn you. 

But this book is not a course of literature, and 
I will tarry no longer with mere criticism, but go 
direct to the book to which I owe the last temple in 
my soul ' Marius the Epicurean.' Well I remember 
when I read the opening lines, and how they came 
upon me sweetly as the flowing breath of a bright 
spring. I knew that I was awakened a fourth time, 
that a fourth vision of life was to be given to me. 
Shelley had revealed to me the unimagined skies 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 173 

where the spirit sings of light and grace ; Gautier had 
shown me how extravagantly beautiful is the visible 
world and how divine is the rage of the flesh ; and 
with Balzac I had descended circle by circle into the 
nether world of the soul, and watched its afflictions. 
Then there were minor awakenings. Zola had en- 
chanted me with decoration and inebriated me with 
theory ; Flaubert had astonished with the wonderful 
delicacy and subtlety of his workmanship ; Goncourt's 
brilliant adjectival effects had captivated me for a 
time, but all these impulses were crumbling into 
dust, these aspirations were etiolated, sickly as faces 
grown old in gaslight. 

I had not thought of the simple and unaffected 
joy of the heart of natural things ; the colour of the 
open air, the many forms of the country, the birds 
flying that one making for the sea ; the abandoned 
boat, the dwarf roses and the wild lavender ; nor had 
I thought of the beauty of mildness in life, and how 
by a certain avoidance of the wilfully passionate, and 
the surely ugly,we may secure an aspect of temporal 
life which is abiding and soul-sufficing. A new dawn 
was in my brain, fresh and fair, full of wide temples 
and studious hours, and the lurking fragrance of 
incense ; that such a vision of life was possible I had 
no suspicion, and it came upon me almost with the 
same strength, almost as intensely, as that divine 
song of the flesh, Mademoiselle de Maupin. 

In my mind, these books will be always inti- 
mately associated ; and when a few adventitious 
points of difference are forgotten, it is interesting to 
note how firm is the alliance, and how cognate and 
co-equal the sympathies on which it is based ; the 



174 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

same glad worship of the visible world, and the same 
incurable belief that the beauty of material things is 
sufficient for all the needs of life. Mr. Pater can 
join hands with Gautier in saying -je trouve la terre 
aussi belle que le del, et je pense que la correction de la 
forme est la vertu. And I too am of their company 
in this at least I too love the great pagan world, its 
bloodshed, its slaves, its injustice, its loathing of all 
that is feeble. 

But ' Marius the Epicurean ' was more to me than 
a mere emotional influence, precious and rare though 
that may be, for this book was the first in English 
prose I had come across that procured for me any 
genuine pleasure in the language itself, in the 
combination of words for silver or gold chime, and 
unconventional cadence, and for all those lurking 
half-meanings, and that evanescent suggestion, like 
the odour of dead roses, that words retain to the last 
of other times and elder usage. Until I read ' Marius ' 
the English language (English prose) was to me what 
French must be to the majority of English readers. 
I read for the sense and that was all ; the language 
itself seemed to me coarse and plain, and awoke in 
me neither aesthetic emotion nor even interest. 
' Marius ' was the stepping-stone that carried me 
across the channel into the genius of my own tongue. 
The translation was not too abrupt; I found a 
constant and careful invocation of meaning that was 
a little aside of the common comprehension, and also 
a sweet depravity of ear for unexpected falls of 
phrase, and of eye for the less observed depths of 
colours, which although new was a sort of sequel to 
the education I had chosen, and a continuance of it 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 175 

in a foreign, but not wholly unfamiliar medium ; and 
having saturated myself with Pater, the passage 
to De Quincey was easy. He, too, was a Latin in 
manner and in temper of mind ; but he was truly 
English, and through him I passed to the study of 
the Elizabethan dramatists, the real literature of my 
race, and washed myself clean of France. 



XIII 

THOUGHTS IN A STRAND LODGING 

EMMA has undressed and put the last child away 
stowed the last child away in some mysterious and 
unapproachable corner that none knows of but she ; 
the fat landlady has ceased to loiter about my door, 
has ceased to tempt me with offers of brandy and 
water, tea and toast, the inducements that occur to 
ker landlady's mind ; the actress from the Savoy has 
ceased to walk up and down the street with the 
young man who accompanies her home from the 
theatre; she has ceased to linger on the doorstep 
talking to him, her key has grated in the lock, she 
has come upstairs, we have had our usual midnight 
conversation on the landing, she has told me her 
latest hopes of obtaining a part, she has told me of 
the husband whom she was obliged to leave; we 
have bidden each other good-night ; she has gone up 
the creaky staircase, and I have returned to my room, 
littered with MSS. and queer publications ! . .. . the 
night is hot and heavy, but now a wind is blowing 
from the river, and listless and lonely I open a book, 



176 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

the first book that comes to hand. It is Le Journal 
des Goncourts, p. 358, the end of a chapter : 

'It is really curious that it should be the four men the 
most free from all taint of handicraft and all base 
commercialism, the four pens the most entirely devoted to 
art, that were arraigned before the public prosecutor : 
Baudelaire, Flaubert, and ourselves? 

Goncourt's statement is suggestive, and I leave it 
uncommented on ; but I would put by its side 
another naked simple truth. That if in England the 
public prosecutor does not seek to over-ride literature 
the means of tyranny are not wanting, whether they 
be the tittle-tattle of the nursery or the lady's 
drawing-room, or the shameless combinations entered 
into by librarians. ... In England as in France 
those who loved literature the most purely, who were 
the least mercenary in their love, were marked out 
for persecution, and all three were driven into exile. 
Byron and Shelley, and Swinburne, he, too, who 
loved literature for its own sake, was forced, amid 
cries of indgination and horror, to withdraw his book 
from the reach of a public that was rooting then amid 
the garbage of the Yelverton divorce case. I think 
of these facts and turn to the prose poem, in which 
Baudelaire tells how a dog will run away howling 
~!f~you hold to him a bottle of choice scent, but 
if you offer him some putrid morsel picked out 
of some gutter hole, he will sniff round it joyfully, 
and will seek to lick your hand for gratitude. 
Baudelaire compared that dog to the public. 

When I read Balzac's stories of Vautrin and Lucien 
de Rubempre, I often think of Hadrian and Antinous. 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 177 

I wonder if Balzac thought of transposing the Roman 
Emperor and his favourite into modern life. It is 
the kind of thing that Balzac would think of. No 
critic has ever noticed this. 

Sometimes, at night, when all is still, and I look 
out on that desolate river, I think I shall go mad 
with grief, with wild regret for my beautiful 
appartement in Rue de la Tour des Dames. How 
different the present from the past ! I hate with my 
whole soul this London lodging, ancl all that concerns 
it Emma, and eggs and bacon, the lascivious land- 
lady and her smutty daughter ; I am weary of the 
sentimental actress who lives upstairs, I swear I will 
never go out to talk to her on the landing again. 
Then there is failure I can do nothing, nothing ; 
my novel I know is worthless ; my life is a leaf, it will 
flutter out of sight. I am weary of everything, and 
wish I were back in Paris. I am weary of reading, 
there is nothing to read, Flaubert bores me. What 
nonsense has been talked about him ! Impersonal ! 
He is the most personal writer. But his odious pessi- 
mism ! How weary I am of it, it never ceases, it is 
lugged in a tout propos and the little lyrical phrase 
with which he winds up every paragraph, how boring it 
is ! Happily, I have ' A Rebours ' to read, that pro- 
digious book, that beautiful mosaic. Huysmans is 
quite right, ideas are well enough until you are twenty, 
afterwards only words are bearable ... a new idea, 
what can be more insipid fit for Members of Parlia- 
ment. Shall I go to bed ? No. I would that I had 
a volume of Verlaine, or something of Mallarme's to 
read Mallarme for preference. Huysmans speaks 
of Mallarme in * A Rebours,' and in hours like 

M 



178 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

these a page of Huysmans is as a dose of opium, a 
glass of something exquisite and spirituous. 

' The decadence of a literature irreparably attacked 
in its organism, weakened by the age of ideas, over- 
worn by the excess of syntax, sensible only of the 
curiosity which fevers sick people, but nevertheless 
hastening to explain everything in its decline, 
desirous of repairing all the omissions of its youth, to 
bequeath all the most subtle memories of its suffer- 
ing on its deathbed, is incarnate in Mallarm in most 
consummate and absolute fashion. . . . 

' The poem in prose is the form, above all others 
they prefer ; handled by an alchemist of genius, it 
should contain in a state of meat the entire strength 
of the novel, the long analysis and the superfluous 
description of which it suppresses . . . the adjective 
placed in such an ingenious and definite way, that it 
could not be legally dispossessed of its place, would 
open up such perspectives, that the reader would 
dream for whole weeks together on its meaning at 
once precise and multiple, affirm the present, recon- 
struct the past, divine the future of the souls of the 
characters revealed by the light of the unique 
epithet. The novel thus understood, thus condensed 
into one or two pages, would be a communion ot 
thought between a magical writer and an ideal 
reader, a spiritual collaboration by consent between 
ten superior persons scattered through the universe, 
a delectation offered to the most refined, and acces- 
sible only to them.' 

Huysmans goes to my soul like a gold ornament 
of Byzantine workmanship : there is in his style the 
yearning charm of arches, a sense of ritual, the 
passion of the Gothic, of the window. Ah ! in this 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 179 

hour of weariness for one of Mallarrae's prose poems ! 
Stay, I remember I have some numbers of La Vogue. 
One of the numbers contains, I know, ' Forgotten 
Pages ; ' I will translate word for word, preserving 
the very rhythm, one or two of these miniature 
marvels of diction : 

i 
FORGOTTEN PAGES. 

' Since Maria left me to go to another star which ? 
Orion, Altair, or thou, green Venus ? I have always 
cherished solitude. What long days I have passed 
alone with my cat. By alone, I mean without a 
material being, and my cat is a mystical companion 
a spirit. I can, therefore, say that I have passed 
whole days alone with my cat, and alone with one of 
the last authors of the Latin decadence ; for since 
that white creature is no more, strangely and singu- 
larly I have loved all that the word fall expresses. 
In such wise that my favourite season of the year is 
the last weary days of summer, which immediately 
precede autumn, and the hour I choose to walk in is 
when the sun rests before disappearing, with rays of 
yellow copper on the grey walls and red copper on 
the tiles. In the same way the literature that my 
soul demands a sad voluptuousness is the dying 
poetry of the last moments of Rome, but before it 
has breathed at all the rejuvenating approach of the 
barbarians, or has begun to stammer the infantile 
Latin of the first Christian poetry. 

' I was reading, therefore, one of those dear poems 
(whose paint has more charm for me than the blush 
of youth), had plunged one hand into the fur of the 



180 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

pure animal, when a barrel organ sang languidly and 
melancholy beneath my window. It played in the 
great alley of poplars, whose leaves appear to me 
yellow, even in the spring-tide, since Maria passed 
there with the tall candles for the last time. The 
instrument is the saddest, yes, truly; the piano 
scintillates, the violin opens the torn soul to the 
light, but the barrel-organ, in the twilight of remem- 
brance, made me dream despairingly. Now it 
murmurs an air joyously vulgar which awakens joy 
in the heart of the suburbs, an air old-fashioned and 
commonplace. Why do its nourishes go to my soul, 
and make me weep like a romantic ballad ? I listen, 
imbibing it slowly, and I do not throw a penny out 
of the window for fear of moving from my place, and 
seeing that the instrument is not singing itself. 



'The old Saxony clock, which is slow, and which 
strikes thirteen amid its flowers and gods, to whom 
did it belong ? Thinkest that it came from Saxony 
by the mail coaches of old time ? 

' (Singular shadows hang about the worn-out 
panes.) 

' And thy Venetian mirror, deep as a cold fountain 
in its banks of gilt work ; what is reflected there ? 
Ah ! I am sure that more than one woman bathed 
there in her beauty's sin ; and, perhaps, if I looked 
long enough, I should see a naked phantom. 

' Wicked one, thou often sayest wicked things. 

4 (I see the spider's webs above the lofty windows.) 

'Our wardrobe is very old; see how the fire 
reddens its sad panels ! the weary curtains are as old, 
and the tapestry on the arm-chairs stripped of paint, 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 181 

and the old engravings, and all these old things. 
Does it not seem to thee that even these blue birds 
are discoloured by time ? 

'(Dream not of the spiders' webs that tremble 
above the lofty windows.) 

'Thou lovest all that, and that is why I live by 
thee. When one of my poems appeared, didst thou 
not desire, my sister, whose looks are full of 
yesterdays, the words, the grace of faded things? 
New objects displease thee; thee also do they 
frighten with their loud boldness, and thou feelest as 
if thou shouldst use them a difficult thing indeed to 
do, for thou hast no taste for action. 

' Come, close thy old German almanack that thou 
readest with attention, though it appeared more than 
a hundred years ago, and the Kings it announces are 
all dead, and, lying on this antique carpet, my head 
leaned upon thy charitable knees, on the pale robe, 
oh ! calm child, I will speak with thee for hours ; 
there are no fields, and the streets are empty, I will 
speak to thee of our furniture. 

' Thou art abstracted ? 

' (The spiders' webs are shivering above the lofty 
windows.)' 

We, the 'ten superior persons scattered through 
the universe ' think these prose poems the concrete 
essence, the osmazome of literature, the essential oil 
of art, others, those in the stalls, will judge them to 
be the aberrations of a refined mind, distorted with 
hatred of the commonplace ; the pit will immediately 
declare them to be nonsense, and will return with 
satisfaction to the last leading article in the daily 
paper. 



1812 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 



HI 

The pale sky that lies above a world ending in 
decrepitude will perhaps pass away with the clouds : 
the tattered purple of the sunset is fading in a river 
sleeping on the horizon submerged in sunlight and in 
water. The trees are tired ; and beneath their 
whitened leaves (whitened by the dust of time rather 
than by that of the roads) rises the canvas house of 
the Interpreter of Past Things : many a lamp awaits 
the twilight and lightens the faces of an unhappy 
crowd, conquered by the immortal malady and the 
sin of the centuries, of men standing by their 
wretched accomplices quick with the miserable fruit 
with which the world shall perish. In the unquiet 
silence of every eye supplicating yonder sun, which, 
beneath the water, sinks with the despair of a cry, 
listen to the simple patter of the showman : c No 
sign regales you of the spectacle within, for there is 
not now a painter capable of presenting any sad 
shadow of it. I bring alive (and preserved through 
the years by sovereign science) a woman of old time. 
Some folly, original and simple, an ecstasy of gold, I 
know not what she names it, her hair falls with the 
grace of rich stuffs about her face, and contrasts with 
the bloodlike nudity of her lips. In place of the 
vain gown, she has a body ; and the eyes, though 
like rare stones, are not worth the look that leaps 
from the happy flash : the breasts, raised as if filled 
with an eternal milk, are pointed to the sky, and the 
smooth limbs still keep the salt of the primal sea.' 
Remembering their poor wives, bald, morbid, and 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 183 

full of horror, the husbands press forward : and the 
wives, too, impelled by melancholy curiosity, wish to 
see. 

When all have looked upon the noble creature, 
vestige of an epoch already accursed, some, in- 
different, have not the power to comprehend, but 
others, whelmed in grief and their eyelids wet with 
tears of resignation, gaze at each other ; whilst the 
poets of these times, feeling their dead eyes brighten, 
drag themselves to their lamps, their brains drunk 
for a moment with a vague glory, haunted with 
Rhythm, and forgetful that they live in an age that 
has outlived beauty. 

1 J'ai fait mes adieux a ma mkre etje viens pour vous 
faire les miens, and other absurdities by Ponson du 
Terrail amused us many a year in France, and in 
later days similar bad grammar by Georges Ohnet 
has not been lost upon us, but neither Ponson du 
Terrail nor Georges Ohnet sought literary suffrage ; 
such a thing could not be in France, but in England, 
Rider Haggard, whose literary atrocities are more 
atrocious than his accounts of slaughter, receives the 
attention of leading journals and writes about the 
revival of Romance. As it is as difficult to write the 
worst as the best conceivable sentence, I take this 
one and place it for its greater glory in my less 
remarkable prose : 

' As we gazed on the beauties thus revealed by Good, 
a spirit of emulation Jilled our breasts, and we set to 
work to get ourselves up as well as we could.' 

A return to romance ! a return to the animal, 
say I. 



184 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

One thing that cannot be denied to the realists : 
a constant and intense desire to write well, to write 
artistically. When I think of what they have done 
in the matter of the use of words, of the myriad 
verbal effects they have discovered, of the thousand 
forms of composition they have created, how they 
have remodelled and refashioned the language in 
their untiring striving for intensity of expression, for 
the very osmazome of art, I am lost in ultimate 
wonder and admiration. What Hugo did for French 
verse, Flaubert, Goncourt, Zola, and Huysmans have 
done for French prose. No more literary school than 
the realists has ever existed, and I do not except 
even the Elizabethans. And for this reason our 
failures are more interesting than the vulgar successes 
of our opponents ; for when we fall into the sterile 
and distorted, it is through our noble and incur- 
able hatred of the common-place, of all that is 
popular. 

The healthy school is played out in England ; all 
that could be said has been said. The successors of 
Dickens, Thackeray, and George Eliot have no ideal, 
and consequently no language, nothing new to say, 
and the reason of this heaviness of expression is that 
the avenues are closed, no new subject-matter is 
introduced, the language of English fiction is 
stagnant. But if the realists should catch favour in 
England the English tongue may be saved, for with 
the new subjects they would introduce new forms 
of language would arise. 

' Carmen Sylva ! ' How easy it is to divine the 
aestheticism of any one signing, ' Carmen Sylva. ' 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 185 

In youth the genius of Shelley astonished me ; but 
now I find the stupidity of the ordinary person 
infinitely more surprising. 

That I may die childless that when my hour 
comes I may turn my face to the wall saying, I have 
not increased the great evil of human life then, 
though I were a murderer, fornicator, thief, and liar, 
my sins shall melt even as a cloud. But he who dies 
with children about him, though his life were in all 
else an excellent deed, shall be held accursed by the 
truly wise, and the stain upon him shall endure for 
ever. 

I realize that this is truth, the one truth, and 
the whole truth ; and yet the vainest woman that 
ever looked in a glass never regretted her youth more 
than I, or felt the disgrace of middle-age more keenly. 
She has her portrait painted, I write these confessions ; 
each hopes to save something of the past, and escape 
somehow the ravening waves of time and float into 
some haven of remembrance. St. Augustine's Confes- 
sions are the story of a God-tortured, mine of an 
art- tortured, soul. Which subject is the most living ? 
The first ! for man is stupid and still loves his con- 
science as a child loves a toy. Now the world plays 
with ' Robert Elsmere.' This book seems to me 
like a suite of spacious, well distributed, and well 
proportioned rooms. Looking round, I say, 'tis a 
pity these rooms are only in plaster of Paris. 

* Les Palais Nomades ' is a really beautiful book, 
and it is free from all the faults that make an abso- 
lute and supreme enjoyment of great poetry an 



186 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

impossibility. For it is in the first place free from 
those pests and parasites of artistic work ideas. 
Of all literary qualities the creation of ideas is the 
most fugitive. Think of the fate of an author 
who puts forward a new idea to-morrow in a book, in 
a play, in a poem. The new idea is seized upon, it 
becomes common property, it is dragged through 
newspaper articles, magazine articles, through books, 
it is repeated in clubs, drawing-rooms ; it is bandied 
about the corners of streets ; in a week it is weari- 
some, in a month it is an abomination. Who has not 
felt a sickening feeling come over him when he hears 
such phrases as ' To be or not to be, that is the ques- 
tion ' ? Shakespeare was really great when he wrote 
* Music to hear, why hearest thou music sadly ? ' not 
when he wrote, ' The apparel oft proclaims the man.' 
Could he be freed from his ideas, what a poet we 
should have ! Therefore, let those who have taken 
firsts at Oxford devote their trite souls 'to preparing 
an edition from which everything resembling an idea 
shall be excluded. We might then shut up our 
Marlowes and our Beaumonts and resume our reading 
of the bard, and the witless foists would confer happi- 
ness on many, and crown themselves with truly 
immortal bays. 

Gustave Kahntook counsel of the past, and he has 
successfully avoided everything that even a hostile 
critic might be tempted to term an idea ; and for 
this I am grateful. Nor is his volume a collection of 
miscellaneous verses bound together. He has chosen 
a certain sequence of emotions ; the circumstances 
out of which these emotions have sprung are given 
in a short prose note. Les Palais Nomades ' is 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 187 

therefore a novel in essence ; description and analysis 
are eliminated, and only the moments when life 
grows lyrical with suffering are recorded ; recorded 
in many varying metres conforming only to the play 
of the emotion, for, unlike many who, having once 
discovered a tune, apply it promiscuously to every 
subject they treat, Kahn adapts his melody to the 
emotion he is expressing, with the same propriety 
and grace as Nature distributes perfume to her 
flowers. For an example of magical transition of 
tone I turn to Intermede. 

' Chere apparence, viens aux couchants illumines. 

Veux-tu mieux des matins albes et calmes ? 
Les soirs et les matins ont des calmes rosatres, 
Les eaux ont des manteaux de cristal irise 

Et des rythmes de calmes palmes 
Et Fair eVoque de calmes musiques de patres. 



Viens sous des tendelets aux fleuves souriants 
Aux lilas palis des nuits d'Orient 

Aux glauques e'tendues a falbalas d'argent 
A 1' oasis des baisers urgents 

Settlement vit le voile aux seuls Orients. 



Quel que soit le spectacle et quelle que soit la rame 
Et quelle que soit la voix qui s'affame et brame, 
L'oubli du lointain des jours chatouille et serre, 
Le lotos de 1'oubli s'est fane dans mes serres, 
Cependaut tu m'aimais a jamais ? 
Adieu pour jamais.' 

The repetitions of Edgar Poe seem hard and 
mechanical after this, so exquisite and evanescent is 
the rhythm, and the intonations come as sweetly and 
suddenly as a gust of perfume ; it is as the vibration 
of a fairy orchestra, flute and violin disappearing in a 



188 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

silver mist ; but the clouds break, and all the 
enchantment of a spring garden appears in a shaft of 
sudden sunlight. 

( L'^phemere idole, au frisson du printemps, 

Sentant des renouveaux clorent, 
Se guepa de satins si lointains et d'antan : 
Rose exile des flores ! 

Le jardin rima ses branches de lilas ; 

Aux murs, les roses tremieres ; 
La terre etala, pour feter les las, 

Des divans vert lumiere ; 

Des rires ailes peuplerent le jardin ; 

Souriants des caresses breves, 
Des oiseaux joyaux, jaunes, incarnadine 

Vibrerent aux ciels de reve.' 

But to the devil with literature ! Who cares if 
Gustave Kahn writes well or badly ? I met a chappie 
yesterday whose views of life coincide with mine. 
1 A ripping good dinner,' he says ; c get a skinful of 
champagne inside you, go to bed when it is light, and 
get up when you are rested.' 

Each century has its special ideal, the ideal of the 
nineteenth is the young man. The eighteenth 
century is only woman see the tapestries, the 
delightful goddesses who have discarded their hoops 
and heels to appear in still more delightful nakedness, 
the noble woods, the tall castles, with the hunters 
looking round ; no servile archaeology chills the 
fancy ; and this treatment of antiquity is the highest 
proof of the genius of the eighteenth century. See 
the Fragonards the ladies in high-peaked bodices, 
their little ankles showing amid the snow of the 
petticoats. Up they go ; you can hear their light 
false voices amid the summer of the leaves, where 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 189 

Loves are garlanded even as roses. Masks and 
arrows are everywhere, all the machinery of light and 
gracious days. In the Watteaus the note is more 
pensive ; there is satin and sunset, plausive gestures 
and reluctance false reluctance ; the guitar is 
tinkling, and exquisite are the notes in the languid 
evening ; and there is the Pierrot, that marvellous 
white animal, sensual and witty and glad, the soul of 
the century ankles and epigrams everywhere, for 
love was not then sentimental, it was false and a 
little cruel ; see the furniture and the polished floor, 
and the tapestries with whose delicate tints and 
decorations the high hair blends, the foot-stool and 
the heel and the calf of the leg that is withdrawn, 
showing in the shadows of the lace ; see the satin of 
the bodices, the fan outspread, the wigs so adorably 
false, the knee-breeches, the buckles on the shoes, 
how false ; adorable little comedy, adorably men- 
dacious ; and how winsome it is to feast on these 
sweet lies, it is indeed delight to us, wearied with 
the bland sincerity of newspapers. In the 
eighteenth century it was the man who knelt at the 
woman's feet, it was the man who pleaded and the 
woman who acceded ; but in our century the place 
of the man is changed, it is he who holds the fan, it 
is he who is besought ; and if one were to dream of 
continuing the tradition of Watteau and Fragonard 
in the nineteenth century, he would have to take 
note of and meditate deeply and profoundly on this, 
as he sought to formulate and synthesize the erotic 
spirit of our age. 

The position of a young man in the nineteenth 
century is the most enviable that has ever fallen to 



> 



I 

190 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

the lot of any human creature. He is the rare bird, 
and is fted, flattered, adored. The sweetest words 
are addressed to him, the most loving looks are 
poured upon him. T]he young man can do no wrong. 
Every house is open to him, and the best of every- 
thing is laid before him ; girls dispute ther right to 
serve him ; they come to him with cake and wine, 
they sit circlewise and listen to him, and when one 
is fortunate to get him alone she will hang upon his 
neck, she will propose to him, and will take his 
refusal kindly and without resentment. They will 
not let him stoop to tie up his shoe-lace, but will 
rush and simultaneously claim the right to attend on 
him. To represent in a novel a girl proposing 
marriage to a man would be deemed unnatural, but 
nothing is more common ; there are few young men 
who have not received at least a dozen offers, nay, 
more ; it is characteristic, it has become instinctive 
for girls to choose, and they prefer men not to make 
love to them ; and every young man who knows his 
business avoids making advances, knowing well that 
it will only put the girl off. 

In a society so constituted, what a delightful open- 
ing there is for a young man. He would have to 
waltz perfectly, play tennis fairly, the latest novel 
would suffice for literary attainments ; billiards, 
shooting, and hunting, would not come in amiss, 
for he must not be considered a useless being by 
men ; not that women are much influenced by the 
opinion of men in their choice of favourites, but the 
reflex action of the heart, although not so marked as 
that of the stomach, exists and must be kept in view ; 
besides a man who would succeed with women, must 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 191 

succeed with men ; the real Lovelace is loved by all. 
Like gravitation, love draws all things. Our young 
man would have to be five feet eleven, or six feet, 
broad shoulders, light brown hair, deep eyes, soft 
and suggestive, a thin neck, long delicate hands, a 
high instep. His nose should be straight, his face 
oval and small, he must be clean' about the hips, 
and his movements must be naturally caressing. He 
comes into the ballroom, his shoulders well back, he 
stretches his hand to the hostess, he looks at her 
earnestly (it is characteristic of him to think of 
the hostess first, he is in her house, the house is 
well furnished, and is suggestive of excellent meats 
and wines). He can read through the slim woman 
whose black hair, a-glitter with diamonds, contrasts 
with her white satin ; an old man is talking to 
her, she dances with him, and she refused a young 
man a moment before. This is a bad sign ; our 
Lovelace knows it ; there is a stout woman of thirty- 
five, who is looking at him, red satin bodice, doubtful 
taste. He looks away ; a little blonde woman fixes 
her eyes on him, she looks as innocent as a child ; 
instinctively our Lovelace turns to his host. ' Who 
is that little blonde woman over there, the right 

hand corner ?' he asks. ' Ah, that is Lady .' 

' Will you introduce me ?' ' Certainly.' Lovelace has 
made up his mind. Then there is a young oldish 
girl, richly dressed ; ' I hear her people have a nice 
house in a hunting country, I will dance with her, 
and take the mother in to supper, and, if I can get a 
moment, will have a pleasant talk with the father in 
the evening.' 

In manner Lovelace is facile and easy ; he never 



192 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

says no, it is always yes, ask him what you will ; but 
he only does what he has made up his mind it is his 
advantage to do. Apparently he is an embodiment 
of all that is unselfish, for he knows that after he has 
helped himself, it is advisable to help someone else, 
and thereby make a friend who, on a future occasion, 
will be useful to him. Put a violinist into a room 
filled with violins, and he will try every one. Love- 
lace will put each woman aside so quietly that she is 
often only half aware that she has been put aside. 
Her life is broken ; she is content that it should be 
broken. The real genius for love lies not in getting 
into, but getting out of love. 

I have noticed that there are times when every 
second woman likes us. Is love, then, a magnetism 
which we sometimes possess and exercise uncon- 
sciously, and sometimes do not possess ? 



XIV 

Now I am full of eager impulses that mourn and 
howl by turns, striving for utterance like wind in 
turret chambers. I hate this infernal lodging. I 
feel like a fowl in a coop that landlady, those 
children, Emma. . . . The actress will be coming 
upstairs presently ; shall I ask her into my room ? 
Better let things remain as they are. 

Conscience. 

Why intrude a new vexation on her already vexed 
life? 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 195 

7. 

Hallo, you startled me ! Well, I am surprised. 
We have not talked together for a long time. Since 
when ? 

Conscience. 

I will spare your feelings. I merely thought I 
would remind you that you have passed the Rubicon 
your thirtieth year. 



It is terrible to think of. My youth gone ! 

Conscience. 
Then you are ashamed you repent ? 



I am ashamed of nothing I am a writer ; 'tis 
my profession to be ashamed of nothing but to be 
ashamed. 

Conscience. 
I had forgotten. 

1. 

But I will chat with you when you please ; even 
now, at this hour, about all things about any of 
my sins. 

Conscience. 

Since we lost sight of each other you have devoted 
your time to the gratification of your senses, 

N 



194 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 



Pardon me, I have devoted quite as much of my 
time to art. 

Conscience. 

You were glad, I remember, when your father 
died, because his death gave you unlimited facilities 
for moulding the partial self which the restraining 
influence of home had only permitted, into that 
complete and ideal George Moore which you had in 
mind. I think I quote you correctly. 



You don't ; but never mind. Proceed. 

Conscience. 

Then, if you have no objection, we will examine 
how far you have turned your opportunities to 
account. 



You will not deny that I have educated myself 
and made many friends. 

Conscience. 

Friends ! your nature is very adaptable you 
interest yourself in their pursuits, and so deceive 
them into a false estimate of your worth. Your 
education speak not of it ; it is but flimsy stuff. 

7. 

There I join issue with you. Have I not drawn 
the intense ego out of the clouds of semi-conscious- 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 195 

ness, and realized it ? And surely, the rescue and 
the individualization ot the ego is the first step. 

Conscience, 

To what end ? You have nothing to teach, nothing 
to reveal. I have often thought of asking you this : 
since death is the only good, why do you not embrace 
death ? Of all the world's goods it is the cheapest, 
and the most easily obtained. 

7. 

We must live since nature has willed it so. My 
poor conscience, are you still struggling in the fallacy 
of free will ? 

For at least a hundred thousand years man has 
rendered this planet abominable and ridiculous with 
what he is pleased to call his intelligence, without, 
however, having learned that his life is merely the 
breaking of the peace of unconsciousness, the drowsy 
uplifting of tired eyelids of somnolent nature. How 
glibly this loquacious ape chatters of his religion 
and his moral sense, always failing to see that both 
are but allurements and inveiglements ! With religion 
he is induced to bear his misery, and his sexual 
appetite is preserved, ignorant, and vigorous, by means 
of morals. A scorpion, surrounded by a ring of fire, 
will sting itself to death, and man would turn upon 
life and deny it, if his reason were complete. 
Religion and morals are the poker and tongs with 
which nature intervenes and scatters the ring of 
reason. 



196 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

X 

Conscience (after a long pause). 

I believe forgive my ignorance, but I have seen 
so little of you this long while that your boast is 
that no woman influenced, changed, or modified 
your views of life. 



None j my mind is a blank on the subject. Stay ! 
my mother said once, when I was a boy, ' You must 
not believe them ; all their smiles and pretty ways 
are only put on. Women like men only for what 
they can get out of them.' And to these simple 
words I attribute all the suspicion of woman's truth 
which hung over my youth. For years it seemed to 
me impossible that women could love men. Women 
seemed to me so beautiful and desirable men so 
ugly, almost revolting. Could they touch us without 
revulsion of feeling, could they really desire us? I 
was absorbed in the life of woman the mystery of 
petticoats, so different from the staidness of trousers ! 
the rolls of hair entwined with so much art, and 
suggesting so much colour and perfume, so different 
from the bare crop ; the unnaturalness of the waist in 
stays ! plenitude and slenderness of silk, so different 
from the stupidity of a black tail-coat ; rose feet 
passing under the triple ruches of rose, so different 
from the broad foot of the male. My love for the 
life of women was a life within my life ; and oh, how 
strangely secluded and veiled ! A world of calm 
colour with phantoms moving, floating past and 
changing in dim light an averted face with abundant 
hair, the gleam of a perfect bust or the poise of a 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 197 

neck turning slowly round, the gaze of deep translucid 
eyes. I loved women too much to give myself wholly 
to one. 

Conscience. 

Yes, yes ; but what real success have you had with 
women ? 

/. 

Damn it ! you would not seek to draw me into 
long-winded stories about women how it began, how 
it was broken off, how it began again? I'm not 
Casanova. I love women as I love champagne I 
drink it and enjoy it ; but an exact account of every 
bottle drunk would prove flat narrative. 

Conscience. 

You have never consulted me about your cham- 
pagne loves : but you have asked me if you have ever 
inspired a real affection, and I told you that we can- 
not inspire in others what does not exist in ourselves. 
You have never known a nice woman who would have 
married you ? 



Why should I undertake to keep a woman by me 
for the entire space of her life, watching her grow 
fat, grey, wrinkled, and foolish? Think of the 
annoyance of perpetually looking after any one, 
especially a woman ! Besides, marriage is antago- 
nistic to my ideal. You say that no ideal illumines 
the pessimist's life, that if you ask him why he exists, 
he cannot answer, and that Schopenhauer's arguments 
against suicide are not even plausible casuistry. True, 
on this point his reasoning is feeble and ineffective. 



19 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

But we may easily confute our sensual opponents. 
We must say that we do not commit suicide, although 
we admit it is a certain anodyne to the poison of life, 
an absolute erasure of the wrong inflicted on us by 
our parents because we hope by noble example 
and precept to induce others to refrain from love. 
We are the saviours of souls. Other crimes are finite ; 
love alone is infinite. We punish a man with death 
for killing his fellow ; but a little reflection should 
make the dullest understand that the crime of bring- 
ing a being into the world exceeds by a thousand, a 
millionfold that of putting one out of it. 

Men are to-day as thick as flies in a confectioner's 
shop; in fifty years there will be less to eat, but 
certainly some millions more mouths. I laugh, I 
rub my hands ! I shall be dead before the red time 
comes. I laugh at the religionists who say that God 
provides for those He brings into the world. The 
French Revolution will compare with the revolution 
that is to come, that must come, that is inevitable, 
as a puddle on the road-side compares with the sea. 
Men will hang like pears on every lamp-post, in 
every great quarter of London, there will be an 
electric guillotine that will decapitate the rich like 
hogs in Chicago. Christ, who with his white feet 
trod out the blood of the ancient world, and promised 
Universal Peace, shall go out in a cataclysm of blood. 
The neck of mankind shall be opened, and blood 
shall cover the face of the earth. 

Conscience. 

Your philosophy is on a par with your painting 
and your poetry ; but, then, I am a conscience, and 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 199 

conscience is never philosophic you go in for ' The 
Philosophy of the Unconscious '? 



No, no, 'tis but a silly vulgarization. But Schopen- 
hauer, oh, my Schopenhauer ! Say, shall I go about 
preaching hatred of women ? Were I to call them a 
short-legged race that was admitted into society only 
a hundred and fifty years ago ? 

Conscience. 

You cannot speak the truth even to me ; no, not 
even at half-past twelve at night. 



Surely of all hours this is the one in which it is 
advisable to play you false ? 

Conscience. 
You are getting humorous. 

7. 

I am getting sleepy. You are a tiresome old 
thing, a relic of the ancient world I mean the 
mediaeval world. You know that I now affect 

antiquity ? 

Conscience. 

You wander helplessly in the road of life until you 
stumble against a battery; nerved with the shock 
you are frantic, and rush along wildly until the 
current received is exhausted, and you lapse into 
disorganization. 



200 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 



If I am sensitive to and absorb the various potenti- 
alities of my age, am I not of necessity a power ? 

Conscience. 

To be the receptacle of and the medium through 
which unexplained forces work, is a very petty office 
to fulfil. Can you think of nothing higher ? Can 
you feel nothing original in you, a something that is 
cognizant of the end ? 



You are surely not going to drop into talking to 
me of God ? 

Conscience. 

You will not deny that I at least exist ? I am 

with you now, and intensely, far more than the dear 

, friend with whom you love to walk in the quiet 

evening; the women you have held to your bosom 

in the perfumed darkness of the chamber 



Pray don't. 'The perfumed darkness of the 
chamber' is very common. I was suckled on that 
kind of literature. 

Conscience. 

You are rotten to the root. Nothing but a very 
severe attack of indigestion would bring you to your 
senses or a long lingering illness. 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 201 

7. 

'Pon my faith, you are growing melodramatic. 
Neither indigestion nor illness long drawn out can 
change me. I have torn you all to pieces long ago, 
and you have not now sufficient rags on your back to 
scare the rooks in seed-time. 

Conscience. 
In destroying me you have destroyed yourself. 



Edgar Poe, pure and simple. Don't pick holes in 
my originality until you have mended those in your 
own. 

Conscience. 

1 was Poe's inspiration ; he is eternal, being of me 
But your inspiration springs from the flesh, and 
therefore ephemeral even as the flesh. 



If you had read Schopenhauer you would know 
that the flesh is not ephemeral, but the eternal 
objectification of the will to live. Siva is represented, 
not only with the necklace of skulls, but with the 
lingam. 

Conscience. 

You have failed in all you have attempted, and 
the figure you have raised on your father's tomb is 
merely a sensitive and sensuous art-cultured being 
who lives in a dirty lodging and plays in desperate 
desperation his last card. You are now writing a 



202 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

novel. The hero is a wretched creature, something 
like yourself. Do you think there is a public in 
England for that kind of thing ? 

1. 

Just the great Philistine that you always were ! 
What do you mean by a ' public ' ? 

Conscience. 

I have not a word to say on that account, your 
one virtue is sobriety. 

/. 

A wretched pun. . . . The mass of mankind run 
much after the fashion of the sheep of Panurge, but 
there are always a few that 

Conscience. 
A fw that are like the Gadarene swine. 

1. 

Ah ... were I the precipice, were I the sea in 
which the pigs might drown ! 

Conscience. 

The same old desire of admiration, admiration in 
its original sense of wonderment (miratio) ; you are 
a true child of the century ; you do not desire 
admiration, you would avoid it, fearing it might 
lessen that sense which only you care to stimulate 
wonderment. And persecuted by the desire to 
astonish, you are now exhibiting yourself in the most 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 203 

hideous light you can devise. The man whose 
biography you are writing is no better than a pimp. 



Then he is not like me ; I have never been a pimp, 
and I don't think I would be if I could. 

Conscience. 

The whole of your moral nature is reflected in 
Lewis Seymour, even to the ' And I don't think I 
would be if I could.' You would put me behind 
you if you could and return to the mending of the 
shameful little ballade, ' La Ballade d' Alfred, Alfred 
aux Belles Dents/ whose light of love you enticed 
down here out of vanity, it being your vanity to 
destroy what remained in her of morality: it was 
her morality to give herself to no man but one 
except for money, and now she is really among the 
fallen. . . . What are you laughing at ? 



I am thinking of her trouble of conscience, of the 
qualms she must suffer, for she is a Fleming to whose 
bedside a priest would be called if she were dying ; 
and the poor man, how would he shrive her, so 
strange would her point of view seem to him to be ; 
so different from his other penitents. 

Conscience. 

A shameful play of fancy. Let us be serious 
together; you surely can be serious, if only for a 
moment. Try to recall to your mind the disgraceful 
scene that occurred a few months ago in your bd- 



204 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

room, the landlady at the foot of the bed ordering 
the woman whose conscience affords you so much 
amusement out of the house. But no, it will be 
better to avoid recollections of that scene, forget it, 
and tell me if you do not think that you did Alfred 
an injustice by writing the ballade. 



But he is represented as ruling the roost ! 

Conscience. 

The distribution of that shameful ballade in 
manuscript has caused great inconvenience to 
Anatole Pellissier, the painter, whose safest way 
home now is the longest way round. You have 
heard that he doesn't dare to enter his street before 
three in the morning lest he receive an ill blow. 



And all because he is suspected of having written 
my little ballade. 

Conscietice. 

Your wretched little ballade, wretched verses, if 
they are verses ; the opening lines of your second 
stanza zigzags out of all possible prosody. Moreover, 
the ballade-maker who respects his art chooses a 
difficult rhyming word, and the choice of a word 
like ' verre/ to which a hundred rhymes might easily 
be found, is in itself a condemnation. Art is difficulty 
overcome. 



Banville's poetic principle, I know it, but in the 
most famous ballade of all, the ballade that made 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 205 

the ballade itself famous, the rhyming is not more 
complex than mine. 

' La belle romaine 
Qui fut sa cousine germaine. . . .' 

' Ou sont ils vierge souveraine ?' Why ( ils ' ? Were 
' ils ' and ' elles ' interchangeable in the fifteenth 
century ? I can't see that ' peine ' is a more difficult 
word to rhyme to than 'verre.' My ballade goes 
very smoothly. Listen : 



LA BALLADE D' ALFRED, ALFRED AUX 
BELLES DENTS 

Je suis Alfred, 1' Alfred aux belles dents, 
Un tres grand macq'illustre dans le square. 
J'ai du poignon et de beaux vetements, 
Fins escarpins, gants, bague a grosse pierre, 
Car, sur le true ma femme est la plus chere. 
Toujours de Tor trois guineas, au moins deux, 
Pour le plaisir d'un petit ordinaire . . . 
II en faut bien des messieurs serieux. 

Je m'absente du billard par moments 

Pour voir si la putain travaille. . . . Un verre ! 

Bah la tournee et plus d'enmerdements. 

Copains, trinquons a la sante d'un pere 

Qui vient chez nous dans la nuit solitaire. 

II fait 1'amour, il n'est pas de ces gueux 

Qui casquent mal et sont si durs a plaire . . . 

II en faut bien des messieurs serieux. 

Le maquereau seul parmi les amante 
Plane au-dessus de tout amour vulgaire. 
11 met la main sur les petits romans 
Qui troublent Tame et font manquer 1'affaire. 
Les temps sont durs sans le miche que faire ? 
Et nom de dieu pourquoi se ficher d'eux ? 
Je gueule au nez du roussin, ce faux frere : 
II en faut bien des messieurs serieux. 



206 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

ENVOI 

Roi du trottoir je le suis, et tres fiere 
Elle m'attend la voix pleine d'aveux. 
Je prends la braise et je la fous par terre. 
II en faut bien des messieurs serieux. 

Conscience. 

Your ballade does not appear to me on second 
hearing any better than it did on the first. I cannot 
abide your ballade, so there's an end of it. 

1. 
Now you're talking just like Gosse. 

Conscience. 

One word more. You have failed in everything 
you have attempted, and you will continue to fail 
until you consider those moral principles those rules 
of conduct which the race has built up, guided by an 
unerring instinct of self-preservation. Humanity 
defends herself against those who attempt to subvert 
her ; and none, neither Napoleon nor the wretched 
scribbler such as you are, has escaped her vengeance. 

1. 

You would have me pull down the black flag and 
turn myself into an honest merchantman, with 
children in the hold and a wife at the helm. 
You would remind me that grey hairs begin to 
show, that health falls into rags, that high spirits 
split like canvas, and that in the end the bright 
buccaneer drifts, an old derelict, tossed by the waves 
of ill fortune, and buffeted by the winds into those 
dismal bays and dangerous offings housekeepers, 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 207 

nurses, and uncomfortable chambers. Such will be 
my fate ; and since none may avert his fate, none 
can do better than to run pluckily the course which 
he must pursue. 

Conscience. 

You might devise a moral ending ; one that would 
conciliate all classes. 



It is easy to see that you are a nineteenth-century 
conscience. 

Conscience. 

I do not hope to find a Saint Augustine in you. 



An idea ; one of these days I will write my con- 
fessions ! Again I tell you that nothing really 
matters to me but art. And, knowing this, you 
chatter of the unwisdom of my not concluding my 
novel with some foolish moral. . . . Nothing 
matters to me but art. 

Conscience. 

Would you seduce the wretched servant girl if by 
so doing you could pluck out the mystery of her 
being and set it down on paper ! 



XV 

AND now, hypocritical reader, I will answer the 
questions which have been agitating you this long 



208 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

while, which you have asked at every stage of this 
long narrative of a sinful life. 1 Shake not your head, 
lift not your finger, exquisitely hypocritical reader : 
you can deceive me in nothing. I know the base 
and unworthy soul. This is a magical tete-d-tete, such 
a one as will never happen in your life again ; there- 
fore I say let us put off all customary disguise, let us 
be frank : you have been angrily asking, exquisitely 
hypocritical reader, why you have been forced to read 
this record of sinful life ; in your exquisite hypocrisy, 
you have said over and over again, what good purpose 
can it serve for a man to tell us of his unworthiness 
unless, indeed, it is to show us how he may rise, as if 
on stepping stones of his dead self, to higher things, 
etc. ? You sighed, O hypocritical friend, and you 
threw the magazine on the wicker table, where such 
things lie, and you murmured something about 
leaving the world a little better than you found it, 
and you went down to dinner and lost consciousness 
of the world 2 in the animal enjoyment of your 
stomach. I hold out my hand to you, I embrace 
you, you are my brother, and I say, undeceive your- 
self, you will leave the world no better than you 
found it. The pig that is being slaughtered as I 
write this line will leave the world better than it 
found it, but you will leave only a putrid carcase fit 
for nothing but worms. Look back upon your life, 
examine it, probe it, weigh it, philosophize on it, 
aud then say, if you dare, that it has not been a very 

lr The use of the word sinful here seems liable to mis- 
interpretation. The phrase should run : ' Of a virtuous 
life, for remember that my virtues are your vices. ' 

2 This should run : ' Forgot your hypocrisy.' 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 209 

futile and foolish affair. Soldier, robber, priest, 
atheist, courtesan, virgin, I care not what you are, if 
you have not brought children into the world to 
suffer your life has been as vain and as harmless as 
mine has been. I hold out my hand to you, we are 
brothers ; but in my heart of hearts I think myself a 
cut above you, because I do not believe in leaving 
the world better than I found it ; and you, exquisitely 
hypocritical reader, think that you are a cut above 
me because you say you would leave the world better 
than you found it. The one eternal and immutable 
delight of life is to think, for one reason or another, 
that we are better than our neighbours. This is why 
I wrote this book, and this is why it is affording you 
so much pleasure, O exquisitely hypocritical reader, 
my friend, my brother, because it helps you to the 
belief that you are not so bad after all. Now to 
resume. 

The knell of my thirtieth year has sounded, in 
three or four years my youth will be as a faint haze 
on the sea, an illusive recollection ; so now while 
standing on the last verge of the hill, I will look 
back on the valley I lingered in. Do I regret ? I 
neither repent nor do I regret; and a fool and a 
weakling I should be if I did. I know the worth 
and the rarity of more than ten years of systematic 
enjoyment. Nature provided me with as perfect a 
digestive apparatus, mental and physical, as she ever 
turned out of her workshop ; my stomach and brain 
are set in the most perfect equipoise possible to con- 
ceive, and up and down they went and still go with 
measured movement, absorbing and assimilating all 
that is poured into them without friction or stoppage. 



210 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

This book is a record of ray mental digestions ; but 
it would take another series of confessions to tell of 
the dinners I have eaten, the champagne I have 
drunk ! and the suppers ! seven dozen of oysters, 
pate-de-foie-gras, heaps of truffles, salad, and then a 
walk home in the early morning, a few philosophical 
reflections suggested by the appearance of a belated 
street-sweeper, then sleep, quiet and gentle sleep. 

I have had the rarest, the finest friends. I have 
loved my friends ; the rarest wits of my generation 
were my boon companions ; everything conspired to 
enable me to gratify my body and my brain ; and do 
you think this would have been so if I had been a 
good man ? If you do you are a fool, good inten- 
tions and bald greed go to the wall, but subtle 
selfishness with a dash of unscrupuloumess pulls 
more plums out of life's pie than the seven deadly 
virtues. 1 If you are a good man you want a bad one 
to convert ; if you are a bad man you want a bad 
one to go out on the spree with. And you, my dear, 
my exquisite reader, place your hand upon your heart, 
tell the truth, remember this is a magical tete-a-tete 
which will happen never again in your life, admit 
that you feel just a little interested in my wicked- 
ness, 2 admit that if you ever thought you would 
like to know me it is because I know a good deal 
that you probably don't; admit that your mouth 
waters when you think of rich and various pleasures 
that fell to my share in happy Paris ; admit that if 
this book had been an account of the pious books I 
had read, the churches I had been to, and the good 
works 1 had done, you would not have bought 
1 Vices, surely. See note, p, 205. * Virtue? 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 211 

it or borrowed it. Hypocritical reader, think, had 
you had courage, health, and money, to lead a fast 
life, would you not have done so ? You don't know, 
no more do I ; I have done so, and I regret nothing 
except that some farmers and miners will not pay 
me what they owe me and enable me to continue 
the life that was once mine, and of which I was 
so bright an ornament. How I hate this atrocious 
Strand lodging-house, how I long for my apart- 
ment in Rue de la Tour des Dames, with all its 
charming adjuncts, palms and pastels, my cat, my 
python, my friends, blond hair and dark. 

The daily article soon grows monotonous, even 
when you know it will be printed, and this I did not 
know ; my prose was very faulty, and my ideas were 
unsettled, I could not go to the tap and draw them 
off, the liquor was still fermenting ; and partly 
because my articles were not very easily disposed 
of, and partly because I was weary of writing on 
different subjects, I turned my attention to short 
stories. But short stories did not represent my 
ambition. 

There was the publisher in Catherine Street, 
who used to frequent a certain bar, and this 
worthy man conducted his business as he dressed 
himself, sloppily ; a dear kind soul, quite witless and 
quite A-less. From long habit he would make a 
feeble attempt to drive a bargain, but he was duped 
generally. If a fashionable author asked two hun- 
dred pounds for a book out of which he would be 
certain to make three, it was ten to one that he 
would allow the chance to drift away from him ; but 



212 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

after having refused a dozen times the work of a 
Strand loafer whom he was in the habit of ' treating/ 
he would say, ' Send it in, my boy, send it in, I'll see 
what can be done with it.' There was a long counter, 
and the way to be published by Mr. Tinsley was to 
straddle on the counter and play with a black cat. 
There was an Irishman behind this counter who, for 
three pounds a week, edited the magazine, read the 
MSS., looked after the printer and binder, kept the 
accounts and entertained the visitors ; and instead of 
troubling Messrs. Macmillan and Messrs. Longman 
with polite requests to look at my MS., I straddled, 
played with the cat, joked with the Irishman, drank 
with Mr. Tinsley, and in the natural order of things 
my stories went into the magazine and were paid for. 
Strange were the ways of this office ; Shakespeare 
might have sent in prose and poetry, but he would have 
gone into the waste-paper basket had he not straddled. 
For those who were in the 'know ' this was a matter for 
congratulation ; straddling we would cry, ' We want 
no blooming outsiders coming along interfering with 
our magazine. And you, Smith, you devil, you had 
a twenty-page story in last month and cut me out. 
O' Flanagan, do you mind if I send you in a couple 
of poems as well as my regular stuff, that will make 
it all square ?' ' I'll try to manage it ; here's the 
governor.' And looking exactly like the unfortunate 
Mr. Sedley, Mr. Tinsley used to slouch in and fall 
into his leather armchair, the one in which he wrote 
the cheques the last time I saw that chair it was 
standing in the street in the hands of the brokers. 

But conservative though we were in matters 
concerning ' copy,' though all means were taken to 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 213 

protect ourselves against interlopers, one who had 
not passed the preliminary stage of straddling would 
occasionally slip through our defences. One hot 
summer's day, we were all on the counter, our legs 
swinging, when an enormous young man entered. 
He must have been six feet three in height. He was 
shown into Mr. Tinsley's room, he asked him to read 
a MS., and he fled, looking very frightened. 'Waste- 
paper basket, wastepaper basket/ we shouted. 
' What an odd-looking fish he is like a pike !' said 
O'Flanagan ; 'I wonder what his MSS. is like.' ' Very 
like a pike/ we cried. But O'Flanagan took the 
MS. home to read, and returned next morning 
convinced he had discovered an embryo Dickens. 
The young man was asked to call, his book was 
accepted, and we adjourned to the bar. 

This young man took rooms in the house next to 
me on the ground floor. He had been to Oxford, 
and to Heidelberg, he drank beer and smoked long 
pipes, he talked of nothing but tobacco. Soon, very 
soon, I began to see that he thought me a simpleton ; 
he pooh-poohed my belief in Naturalism and declined 
to discuss the symbolist question. He curled his 
long legs upon the rickety sofa and spoke of the 
British public as the ' B. P./ and of the magazine as 
the ' mag/ and in the office which I had marked 
down as my own I saw him installed as a genius. 
He brought a little man about five feet three to live 
with him, and when the two, the long and the short, 
went out together, it was like Don Quixote and 
Sancho Panza setting forth in quest of adventures in 
the land of Strand. The short man indulged in 
none of the loud, rasping affectation of humour that 



214 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

was so maddening in the long; he was dry, hard, 
and sterile, and when he did join in the conversation 
it was like a rotten nut between the teeth dusty 
and bitter. He kept a pocket-book, in which he 
held an account of his reading. Holding the pocket- 
book between finger and thumb, he would say, 
' Last year I read ten plays by Nash, twelve by 
Peele, six by Greene, fifteen by Beaumont and 
Fletcher, and eleven anonymous plays fifty- four 
in all.' 



XVI 

FORTUNATELY for my life and my sanity, my interests 
were, about this time, attracted into other ways 
ways that led into London life, and were suitable for 
me to tread. In a restaurant where low-necked 
dresses and evening clothes crushed with loud 
exclamations, where there was ever an odour of 
cigarette and brandy and soda, I was introduced to a 
Jew of whom I had heard much, a man who had 
newspapers and racehorses. The bright witty 
glances of his brown eyes at once prejudiced me in 
his favour, and it was not long before I knew that I 
had found another friend. His house was what was 
wanted, for it was so trenchant in character, so 
different from all I knew of, that I was forced to 
accept it, without likening it to any French memory 
and thereby weakening the impression. It was a 
house of champagne, late hours, and evening clothes, 
of literature and art, of passionate discussions. So 
this house was not so alien to me as all else I had 
seen in London ; and perhaps the cosmopolitanism 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 215 

of this charming Jew, his Hellenism, in fact, was a 
sort of plank whereon I might pass and enter again 
into English life. I found in Curzon Street another 
' Nouvelle Athenes/ a Bohemianism of titles that 
went back to the Conquest, a Bohemianism of the 
ten sovereigns always a-jingle in the trousers pocket, 
of scrupulous cleanliness, of hansom cabs, of ladies' 
pet names ; of triumphant champagne, of debts, 
gaslight, supper-parties, morning light, coaching : a 
fabulous Bohemianism ; a Bohemianism of eternal 
hardupishness and eternal squandering of money 
money that rose at no discoverable well-head and 
flowed into a sea of boudoirs and restaurants, a sort of 
whirlpool of sovereigns in which we were caught, and 
sent eddying through music-halls, bright shoulders, 
tresses of hair, and slang ; and I joined in the adorable 
game of Bohemianism that was played round and 
about Piccadilly Circus, with Curzon Street for a 
magnificent rallying point. 

After dinner a general ( clear' was made in the 
directions of halls and theatres, a few friends would 
drop in about twelve, and continue their drinking till 
three or four; but Saturday night was gala night 
at half-past eleven the lords drove up in their hansoms, 
then a genius or two would arrive, and supper and 
singing went merrily until the chimney sweeps began 
to go by. Then we took chairs and bottles into the 
street and entered into discussion with the policeman. 
Twelve hours later we struggled out of our beds, and 
to the sound of church bells we commenced writing. 
The paper appeared on Tuesday. Our host sat in a 
small room off the dining-room from which he 
occasionally emerged to stimulate our lagging pens. 



216 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

But I could not learn to see life paragraphically. 
I longed to give a personal shape to something, and 
personal shape could not be achieved in a paragraph 
nor in an article. True it is that I longed for art, 
but I longed also for fame, or was it notoriety ? 
Both. I longed for fame, brutal and glaring. 

Out with you, liars that you are, tell the truth, say 
you would sell the souls you don't believe in, or do 
believe in, for notoriety. I have known you attend 
funerals for the sake of seeing your miserable names 
in the paper ! You, hypocritical reader, who are now 
turning up your eyes and murmuring ' dreadful young 
man' examine your weakly heart, and see what 
divides us ; I am not ashamed of my appetites, I pro- 
claim them, what is more I gratify them ; you're 
silent, you refrain, and you dress up natural sins in 
garments of shame, you would sell your wretched 
souls for what I would not give the parings of my 
finger-nails for paragraphs in a society paper. I am 
ashamed of nothing I have done, especially my sins, 
and always boldly confess that I desired to make a 
noise in the world. 

1 Am I going to fail again as I have failed before ?' 
I asked myself. ' Will my novel prove as abortive 
as my paintings, my poetry, my journalism ? ' We all 
want notoriety, our desire for notoriety is ugly, but 
it is less hideous when it is proclaimed from a brazen 
trumpet than when it lisps the cant of humani- 
tarianism. Self, and after self a friend ; the rest 
may go to the devil ; and be sure that when any man 
is more vain and egotistic than his fellows, he will 
hide his head in humanitarianism. Victor Hugo 
was the stench and worms of humanitarianism : 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 217 

Mr. Swinburne holds his nose with one hand while 
he waves the censer with the other. All men of 
inferior genius, Victor Hugo and Mr. Gladstone, 
take refuge in humanitarianism. Humanitarianism 
is a pigsty, where liars, hypocrites, and the obscene 
in spirit congregate ; it has been so since the 
great Jew conceived it, and it will be so till the end. 
Far better the blithe modern pagan in his white tie 
and evening clothes, and his facile philosophy. He 
says, ' I don't care how the poor live ; my only regret 
is that they live at all ;' and he gives the beggar 
a shilling. 

We all want notoriety ; our desires on this point, 
as upon others, are not noble, but the human is very 
despicable vermin and only tolerable when it tends 
to the brute, and away from the evangelical. I will 
tell you an anecdote which is in itself an admirable 
illustration of my craving for notoriety ; and my 
anecdote will serve a double purpose it will bring 
me some of the notoriety of which I am so desirous, 
for you, dear, exquisitely hypocritical reader, will at 
once cry, ' Shame ! Could a man be so wicked as to 
attempt to force on a duel, so that he might make 
himself known through the medium of a legal 
murder ? ' You will tell your friends of this horrible 
unprincipled young man, and they will, of course, 
instantly want to know more about him. 

It was a gala night in Curzon Street, the lords 
were driving up in hansoms ; some seated on the 
roofs with their legs swinging inside ; the comics 
had arrived from the halls ; there were ladies, many 
ladies ; choruses were going merrily in the drawing- 



818 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

room ; one man was attempting to kick the chandelier, 
another stood on his head on the sofa. There was a 
beautiful young lord there, that sort of figure that 
no woman can resist. There was a delightful youth 
who seemed inclined to empty the mustard-pot down 
my neck ; him I could keep in order, but the beauti- 
ful lord was attempting to make a butt of me. With 
his impertinences I did not for a moment intend to 
put up ; I did not know him, he was not then, as he 
is now, if he will allow me to say so, a friend. The 
ladies retired about then; and the festivities continued. 
We had passed through various stages of jubilation, 
no one was drunk, but we had been jocose and rowdy, 
we had told stories of all kinds. The young lord and 
I did not ' pull well together,' but nothing decidedly 
unpleasant occurred until someone proposed to drink 
to the downfall of Gladstone. The beautiful lord 
got on his legs and began a speech. Politically it 
was sound enough, but much of it was plainly intended 
to turn me into ridicule. I answered sharply, working 
gradually up crescendo, until at last, to bring matters 
to a head, I said, 

' I don't agree with you ; the Land Act of '81 was 
a necessity.' 

' Anyone who thinks so must be a fool.' 

' Very possibly, but I don't allow people to address 
such language to me, and you must be aware that to 
call anyone a fool, sitting with you at table in the 
house of a friend, is the act of a cad.' 

There was a lull, then a moment after he said, 

' I only meant politically/ 

' And I only meant socially.' 

He advanced a step or two and struck me across 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 219 

the face with his finger tips ; I took up a champagne 
bottle, and struck him across the head and shoulders. 
Different parties of revellers kept us apart, and we 
walked up and down on either side of the table 
swearing at each other. Although I was very wroth, 
I had had a certain consciousness from the first that 
if I played my cards well I might come very well out 
of the quarrel ; and as I walked down the street I 
determined to make every effort to force on a 
meeting. If the quarrel had been with one of the 
music-hall singers I should have backed out of it, 
but I had everything to gain by pressing it. I 
grasped the situation at once. All the Liberal Press 
would be on my side, the Conservative Press would 
have nothing to say against me, no woman in it and 
a duel with a lord would be nuts and apples for the 
journalists. 

I did not go to bed at once, but sat in the arm- 
chair thinking, calculating my chances. A cab came 
rattling up to the door, and one of the revellers came 
upstairs. He told me that everything had been 
arranged ; I told him that I was not in the habit of 
allowing others to arrange my affairs for me, and 
went to bed. 

Among my old friends I could think of some half- 
dozen that would suit me perfectly, but where were 
they ? Ten years' absence scatters friends as October 
scatters swallows. 

The first one said, ' it was about one or two in the 
morning ?' 

' Later than that, it was about seven.' 

' He struck you, and not very hard, I should 
imagine ; you hit him with a champagne bottle, and 
now you want to have him out.' 



220 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

' I did not come here to listen to moral reflections ; 
if you don't like to act for me, say so/ 

I telegraphed to Warwickshire to an old friend : 
' Can I count on you to act for me in an affair of 
honour ?' Two or three hours after the reply came : 
' Come down here and stay with me for a few days, 
we'll talk it over.' English people, I said, will have 
nothing to do with serious duelling ^ I must tele- 
graph to Marshall. ' Of all importance. Come over 
at once and act for me in an affair of honour. Bring 
the Count with you ; leave him at Boulogne ; he 

knows the colonel of the .' The next day I 

received the following. ' Am burying my father ; as 
soon as he is underground will come/ Was there 
ever such ill-luck? . . . He won't be here before 
the end of the week. These things demand the 
utmost promptitude. Three or four days afterwards 
Emma told me a gentleman was upstairs taking a 
bath. * Hollo, Marshall, how are you ? Had a good 
crossing ? The poor old gentleman went off quite 
suddenly, I suppose ?' 

'Yes; found dead in his bed. He must have 
known he was dying, for he lay quite straight as 
the dead lie, his hands by his side . . . wonderful 
presence of mind/ 

' He left no money ?' 

' Not a penny ; but I could manage it all right. 
Since my success at the Salon, I have been able 
to sell my things. I am only beginning to find out 
now what a success that picture was. Je t' assure, je 
fais dcole ' . . . 

* Tu crois fa ... on fait faole aprts vingt ans de 
travail ' 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 221 

When we were excited Marshall and I always 
dropped into French. 

' And now tell me/ he said, ' about this duel.' 
No sooner had I begun to tell the story than it 
dawned upon me that it was impossible to tell it 
seriously ; it was fundamentally an absurd story ; and 
I lacked courage to tell Marshall that I looked upon 
the duel as a way to notoriety. The most courageous 
will shrink from admitting such a weakness, and, 
moreover, if it were admitted, Marshall might refuse 
to act for me ; nor were my fears altogether ground- 
less, for I had not related the whole story when 
Marshall interrupted me with the suggestion that he 
did not think the matter serious enough to neces- 
sitate a journey to Flanders. On seeing my face 
change expression, he added, to propitiate me, that 

if he saw any reluctance on the part of Lord 's 

seconds to apologize he would, of course, insist that 
reparation was due to me. He had no sooner spoken 
than I began to doubt the possibility of a bloody 
issue to my quarrel, and somewhat helplessly asked 
Marshall if he would care to go to the theatre. 
After the theatre we went home and aestheticized 
till the duel became the least important event and 
Marshall's new picture the greatest At break- 
fast next day the duel seemed more tiresome than 
ever, but the gentlemen were coming to meet 
Marshall. He showed his usual tact in arranging 
my affair of honour ; a letter was drawn up in which 
my friend withdrew the blow of his hand, I withdrew 
the blow of the bottle, etc. really now I lack energy 
to explain it any further. 



222 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 



XVII 

HYPOCRITICAL reader, you draw your purity garments 
round you, you say, ' How very base ' ; but I say unto 
you, remember how often you have longed, if you are 
a soldier in Her Majesty's army, for war war that 
would bring every form of sorrow to a million fellow- 
creatures, and you longed for all this to happen, 
because it might bring your name into the Gazette. 
Hypocritical reader, think not too hardly of me ; 
hypocritical reader, think what you like of me, your 
hypocrisy will alter nothing; in telling you of my 
vices I am only telling you of your own ; hypocritical 
reader, in showing you my soul I am showing you 
your own ; hypocritical reader, exquisitely hypo- 
critical reader, you are my brother, I salute you. 

Day passed over day, and my novel seemed an 
impossible task defeat glared at me from every 
corner of the room. My English was so bad, so 
thin stupid colloquialisms out of joint with French 
idiom. I learnt unusual words and stuck them up 
here and there ; they did not mend the style. Self- 
reliance had been lost in past failures ; I was 
weighed down on every side, but I struggled to 
bring the book somehow to a close. Nothing 
mattered to me, but this one thing. To put an end 
to the landlady's cheating, and to bind myself to 
remain at home, I entered into an arrangement with 
her that she was to supply me with board arid 
lodgings for three pounds a week, and henceforth 
resisting all Curzon Street temptations, I trudged 
home to oat a chop. I studied tht servant as out 



CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 223 

might an insect under a microscope. ' What an 
admirable book she would make, but what will the 
end be ? if I only knew the end !' 

I saw poor Miss L. nightly on the stairs, and I 
never wearied of talking to her of her hopes and 
ambitions, of the young man she admired, and she 
used to ask me about my novel. 

When my troubles lay too heavily upon me, I let 
her go up to her garret without a word, and remained 
at the window wondering if I should ever escape 
from Cecil Street, if I should ever be a light in that 
London, long, low, misshapen, that dark monumented 
stream flowing through the lean bridges. What if I 
were a light in this umber-coloured mass ? Happi- 
ness abides only in the natural affections in a home 
and a sweet wife. Would she whom I saw to-night 
marry me? How sweet she was in her simple 
naturalness, the joys she has known have been slight 
and pure, not violent and complex as mine. Ah, 
she is not for me, I am not fit for her, I am too sullied 
for her lips. Were I to win her could I be dutiful, 
true? . . . 

XVIII 

' YOUNG men, young men whom I love, dear ones 
who have rejoiced with me, not the least of our 
pleasures is the virtuous woman ; after excesses there 
is reaction, all things are good in nature, and they 
are foolish young men who think that sin alone should 
be sought for. The feast is over for me, I have 
eaten and drunk : I yield my place, do you eat and 
drink as I have ; do you be young as I was. I have 
written it ! The word is not worth erasure, if it is not 



224 CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG MAN 

true to-day it will be two years ; hence farewell ! I 
yield my place, do you be young as I was, do you 
love youth as I did ; you are the most interest- 
ing beings under heaven, for you all sacrifices will be 
made, you will be feted and adored upon the condi- 
tion of remaining young men. The feast is over for 
me, I yield my place, but I will not make this leave- 
taking more sorrowful than it is already by afflicting 
you with advice and instruction how to obtain what 
I have obtained. I have spoken against education, 
and will not strive to educate you, you will educate 
yourselves. Dear ones, dear ones, the world is your 
pleasure ; use it at your will. Dear ones, I see you 
all about me still, I yield my place ; but one more 
glass I will drink with you ; and while drinking I 
would say my last word were it possible I would be 
remembered by you as a young man : but I know 
too well that the young never realize that the old 
were not born old. Farewell.' 

The cold air of morning blew in my face, forcing 
me to close the window ; and sitting at the table, 
overworn and not a little haggard, I continued my 
novel. 



THE END 



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Moore , George 

Confessions of a young 
man