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Title:      Not Under Forty
Author:     Willa Cather
eBook No.:  0500441.txt
Edition:    1
Language:   English
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Date first posted:          May 2005
Date most recently updated: May 2005

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Title:      Not Under Forty
Author:     Willa Cather










It happened at Aix-les-Bains, one of the pleasantest places in the
world.  I was staying at the Grand-Htel d'Aix, which opens on the
sloping little square with the bronze head of Queen Victoria,
commemorating her visits to that old watering-place in Savoie.  The
Casino and the Opera are next door, just across the gardens.  The
hotel was built for the travellers of forty years ago, who liked
large rooms and large baths, and quiet.  It is not at all smart,
but very comfortable.  Long ago I used to hear old Pittsburghers
and Philadelphians talk of it.  The newer hotels, set on the steep
hills above the town, have the fashionable trade; the noise and
jazz and dancing.

In the dining-room I often noticed, at a table not far from mine,
an old lady, a Frenchwoman, who usually lunched and dined alone.
She seemed very old indeed, well over eighty, and somewhat infirm,
though not at all withered or shrunken.  She was not stout, but her
body had that rather shapeless heaviness which for some detestable
reason often settles upon people in old age.  The thing one
especially noticed was her fine head, so well set upon her
shoulders and beautiful in shape, recalling some of the portrait
busts of Roman ladies.  Her forehead was low and straight, her nose
made just the right angle with it, and there was something quite
lovely about her temples, something one very rarely sees.

As I watched her entering and leaving the dining-room I observed
that she was slightly lame, and that she utterly disregarded it--
walked with a quick, short step and great impatience, holding her
shoulders well back.  One saw that she was contemptuously
intolerant of the limitations of old age.  As she passed my table
she often gave me a keen look and a half-smile (her eyes were
extremely bright and clear), as if she were about to speak.  But I
remained blank.  I am a poor linguist, and there would be no point
in uttering commonplaces to this old lady; one knew that much about
her, at a glance.  If one spoke to her at all, one must be at ease.

Several times in the early morning I happened to see her leave the
hotel in her motor, and each time her chauffeur brought down and
placed in the car a camp chair, an easel, and canvases and colour
boxes strapped together.  Then they drove off toward the mountains.
A plucky old lady, certainly, to go sketching in that very hot
weather--for this was in the latter part of August 1930, one of the
hottest seasons Aix-les-Bains had ever known.  Every evening after
dinner the old lady disappeared into the lift and went to her own
rooms.  But often she reappeared later, dressed for the opera, and
went out, attended by her maid.

One evening, when there was no opera, I found her smoking a
cigarette in the lounge, where I had gone to write letters.  It was
a very hot night, and all the windows were open; seeing her pull
her lace shawl closer about her shoulders, I went to shut one of
them.  Then she spoke to me in excellent English:--

"I think that draught blows out from the dining-room.  If you will
ask the boy to close the doors, we shall not feel the air."

I found the boy and had the doors closed.  When I returned, the old
lady thanked me, motioned to a chair at her side, and asked if I
had time for a cigarette.

"You are stopping at Aix for some time, I judge?" she asked as I
sat down.

I replied that I was.

"You like it, then?  You are taking a cure?  You have been here

No, I was not taking a cure.  I had been here before, and had come
back merely because I liked the place.

"It has changed less than most places, I think," she remarked.  "I
have been coming here for thirty-five years; I have old
associations with Aix-les-Bains.  Besides, I enjoy the music here.
I live in the South, at Antibes.  You attend the Grand-Cercle?  You
heard the performance of Tristan and Iseult last night?"

I had not heard it.  I told her I had thought the evening too
frightfully hot to sit in a theatre.

"But it was no hotter there than anywhere else.  I was not

There was a reprimand in her tone, and I added the further excuse
that I had thought the principals would probably not be very good,
and that I liked to hear that opera well sung.

"They were well enough," she declared.  "With Wagner I do not so
much care about the voices.  It is the orchestra I go to hear.
The conductor last night was Albert Wolff, one of our best

I said I was sorry I had missed the opera.

"Are you going to his classical concert tomorrow afternoon?  He
will give a superb rendering of Ravel's La Valse--if you care for
modern music."

I hastily said that I meant to go.

"But have you reserved your places?  No?  Then I would advise you
to do so at once.  The best way here is to have places for the
entire chain of performances.  One need not go to all, of course;
but it is the best way.  There is little else to do here in the
evening, unless one plays at the gaming tables.  Besides, it is
almost September; the days are lowering now, and one needs the
theatre."  The old lady stopped, frowned, and made an impatient
gesture with her very interesting hand.  "What should I have said
then?  Lowering is not the word, but I seldom have opportunity to
speak English."

"You might say the days are growing shorter, but I think lowering a
very good word."

"Mais un peu potique, n'est-ce pas?"

"Perhaps; but it is the right kind of poetic."

"And by that you mean?"

"That it's not altogether bookish or literary.  The country people
use it in some parts of England, I think.  I have heard old-
fashioned farmers use it in America, in the South."

The old lady gave a dry little laugh.  "So if the farmers use a
word it is quite safe, eh?"

Yes, I told her, that was exactly what I meant; safe.

We talked a little longer on that first occasion.  She asked if I
had been to Chamonix, and strongly advised me to go to a place near
Sallanches, where she had lately been visiting friends, on her way
to Aix-les-Bains.  In replying to her questions I fell into the
stupid way one sometimes adopts when speaking to people of another
language; tried to explain something in very simple words.  She
frowned and checked me with:  "Speak idiomatically, please.  I knew
English quite well at one time.  If I speak it badly, it is because
now I have no practice."

I said good-night and sat down at a desk to write letters.  But on
the way to my room I stopped to tell the friend with whom I was
travelling that the old French lady we had so often admired spoke
very good English, and spoke it easily; that she seemed, indeed, to
have a rather special feeling for language.


The next day was intensely hot.  In the morning the beautiful
mountain ridges which surround Aix stood out sharp and clear, but
the vineyards looked wilted.  Toward noon the hills grew misty, and
the sun poured down through a slightly milky atmosphere.  I rather
dreaded the heat of a concert hall, but at two o'clock I went to
Albert Wolff's concert, and heard such a rendition of Ravel's La
Valse as I do not expect to hear again; a small orchestra,
wonderfully trained, and a masterly conductor.

The program was long, with two intermissions.  The last group did
not seem to be especially interesting, and the concert was quite
long enough, and fine enough, without those numbers.  I decided
that I could miss them.  I would go up to the Square and have tea
beside the Roman arch.  As I left the hall by the garden entrance,
I saw the old French lady seated on the veranda with her maid,
wearing a white dress and a white lace garden hat, fanning herself
vigorously, the beads of moisture on her face making dark streaks
in the powder.  She beckoned to me and asked whether I had enjoyed
the music.  I told her that I had, very much indeed; but now my
capacity for enjoying, or even listening, was quite spent, and I
was going up to the Square for tea.

"Oh, no," said she, "that is not necessary.  You can have your tea
here at the Maison des Fleurs quite well, and still have time to go
back for the last group."

I thanked her and went across the garden, but I did not mean to see
the concert through.  Seeing things through was evidently a habit
with this old lady: witness the way she was seeing life through,
going to concerts and operas in this wilting heat; being concerned
that other people should go, moreover, and caring about the way in
which Ravel was played, when in the course of nature her interest
in new music should have stopped with Csar Franck, surely.

I left the Casino gardens through a grotto that gave into the
street, went up to the Square, and had tea with some nice English
people I had met on Mont Revard, a young business man and his wife
come over for their holiday.  I felt a little as if I had escaped
from an exacting preceptress.  The old lady took it for granted
that one wished to accomplish as much as possible in a given space
of time.  I soon found that, to her, life meant just that--
accomplishing things; "doing them always a little better and
better," as she once remarked after I came to know her.

While I was dressing for dinner I decided to go away for a few
days, up into the high mountains of Haute-Savoie, under Mont Blanc.
That evening, when the old lady stopped me to discuss the concert,
I asked her for some suggestions about the hotels there, since at
our first meeting she had said I must certainly go to some of the
mountain places easily reached from Sallanches.

She at once recommended a hotel that was very high and cool, and
then told me of all the excursions I must make from that place,
outlining a full program which I knew I should not follow.  I was
going away merely to escape the heat and to regard Mont Blanc from
an advantageous point--not to become acquainted with the country.


My trip into the mountains was wholly successful.  All the
suggestions the old lady had given me proved excellent, and I felt
very grateful to her.  I stayed away longer than I had intended.  I
returned to Aix-les-Bains late one night, got up early the next
morning, and went to the bank, feeling that Aix is always a good
place to come back to.  When I returned to the hotel for lunch,
there was the old lady, sitting in a chair just outside the door,
looking worn and faded.  Why, since she had her car and her driver
there, she had not run away from the heat, I do not know.  But she
had stayed through it, and gone out sketching every morning.  She
greeted me very cordially, asked whether I had an engagement for
the evening, and suggested that we should meet in the salon after

I was dining with my friend, and after dinner we both went into the
writing-room where the old lady was awaiting us.  Our acquaintance
seemed to have progressed measurably in my absence, though neither
of us as yet knew the other's name.  Her name, I thought, would
mean very little; she was what she was.  No one could fail to
recognize her distinction and authority; it was in the carriage of
her head, in her fine hands, in her voice, in every word she
uttered in any language, in her brilliant, very piercing eyes.  I
had no curiosity about her name; that would be an accident and
could scarcely matter.

We talked very comfortably for a time.  The old lady made some
comment on the Soviet experiment in Russia.  My friend remarked
that it was fortunate for the great group of Russian writers that
none of them had lived to see the Revolution; Gogol, Tolstoi,

"Ah, yes," said the old lady with a sigh, "for Turgeniev,
especially, all this would have been very terrible.  I knew him
well at one time."

I looked at her in astonishment.  Yes, of course, it was possible.
She was very old.  I told her I had never met anyone who had known

She smiled.  "No?  I saw him very often when I was a young girl.  I
was much interested in German, in the great works.  I was making a
translation of Faust, for my own pleasure, merely, and Turgeniev
used to go over my translation and correct it from time to time.
He was a great friend of my uncle.  I was brought up in my uncle's
house."  She was becoming excited as she spoke, her face grew more
animated, her voice warmer, something flashed in her eyes, some
strong feeling awoke in her.  As she went on, her voice shook a
little.  "My mother died at my birth, and I was brought up in my
uncle's house.  He was more than father to me.  My uncle also was a
man of letters, Gustave Flaubert, you may perhaps know . . ."  She
murmured the last phrase in a curious tone, as if she had said
something indiscreet and were evasively dismissing it.

The meaning of her words came through to me slowly; so this must be
the "Caro" of the Lettres  sa Nice Caroline.  There was nothing
to say, certainly.  The room was absolutely quiet, but there was
nothing to say to this disclosure.  It was like being suddenly
brought up against a mountain of memories.  One could not see round
it; one could only stupidly realize that in this mountain which the
old lady had conjured up by a phrase and a name or two lay most of
one's mental past.  Some moments went by.  There was no word with
which one could greet such a revelation.  I took one of her lovely
hands and kissed it, in homage to a great period, to the names that
made her voice tremble.

She laughed an embarrassed laugh, and spoke hurriedly.  "Oh, that
is not necessary!  That is not at all necessary."  But the tone of
distrust, the faint challenge in that "you may perhaps know . . ."
had disappeared.  "Vous connaissez bien les oeuvres de mon oncle?"

Who did not know them? I asked her.

Again the dry tone, with a shrug.  "Oh, I almost never meet anyone
who really knows them.  The name, of course, its place in our
literature, but not the works themselves.  I never meet anyone now
who cares much about them."

Great names are awkward things in conversation, when one is a
chance acquaintance.  One cannot be too free with them; they have
too much value.  The right course, I thought, was to volunteer
nothing, above all to ask no questions; to let the old lady say
what she would, ask what she would.  She wished, it seemed, to talk
about les oeuvres de mon oncle.  Her attack was uncertain; she
touched here and there.  It was a large subject.  She told me she
had edited the incomplete Bouvard et Pcuchet after his death, that
La Tentation de Saint Antoine had been his own favourite among his
works; she supposed I would scarcely agree with his choice?

No, I was sorry, but I could not.

"I suppose you care most for Madame Bovary?"

One can hardly discuss that book; it is a fact in history.  One
knows it too well to know it well.

"And yet," she murmured, "my uncle got only five hundred francs for
it from the publisher.  Of course, he did not write for money.
Still, he would have been pleased . . .  Which one, then, do you

I told her that a few years ago I had reread L'ducation
sentimentale, and felt that I had never risen to its greatness

She shook her head.  "Ah, too long, prolix, trop de conversation.
And Frdric is very weak."

But there was an eagerness in her face, and I knew by something in
her voice that this was like Garibaldi's proclamation to his
soldiers on the retreat from Rome, when he told them he could offer
them cold and hunger and sickness and misery.  He offered something
else, too, but the listeners must know that for themselves.

It had seemed to me when I last read L'ducation sentimentale that
its very faults were of a noble kind.  It is too cold, certainly,
to justify the subtitle, Roman d'un jeune homme; for youth, even
when it has not generous enthusiasm, has at least fierce egotism.
But I had wondered whether this cool, dispassionate, almost
contemptuous presentation of Frdric were not a protest against
the overly sympathetic manner of Balzac in his stories of young
men: Eugne de Rastignac, Lucien de Rubempr, Horace Bianchon, and
all the others.  Certainly Balzac's habit of playing up his
characters, of getting into the ring and struggling and sweating
with them, backing them with all his animal heat, must have been
very distasteful to Flaubert.  It was perhaps this quality of
salesmanship in Balzac which made Flaubert say of him in a letter
to this same niece Caroline:  "He is as ignorant as a pot, and
bourgeois to the marrow."

Of course, a story of youth, which altogether lacks that gustatory
zest, that exaggerated concern for trivialities, is scarcely
successful.  In L'ducation the trivialities are there (for life is
made up of them), but not the voracious appetite which drives young
people through silly and vulgar experiences.  The story of Frdric
is a story of youth with the heart of youth left out; and of course
it is often dull.  But the latter chapters of the book justify
one's journey through it.  Then all the hero's young life becomes
more real than it was as one followed it from year to year, and the
story ends on a high plateau.  From that great and quiet last
scene, seated by the fire with the two middle-aged friends (who
were never really friends, but who had been young together), one
looks back over Frdric's life and finds that one has it all, even
the dull stretches.  It is something one has lived through, not a
story one has read; less diverting than a story, perhaps, but more
inevitable.  One is "left with it," in the same way that one is
left with a weak heart after certain illnesses.  A shadow has come
into one's consciousness that will not go out again.

The old French lady and I talked for some time about L'ducation
sentimentale.  She spoke with warm affection, with tenderness, of
Madame Arnoux.

"Ah yes, Madame Arnoux, she is beautiful!"  The moisture in her
bright eyes, the flush on her cheeks, and the general softening of
her face said much more.  That charming and good woman of the
middle classes, the wife who holds the story together (as she held
Frdric himself together), passed through the old lady's mind so
vividly that it was as if she had entered the room.  Madame Arnoux
was there with us, in that hotel at Aix, on the evening of
September 5, 1930, a physical presence, in the charming costume of
her time, as on the night when Frdric first dined at 24 rue de
Choiseul.  The niece had a very special feeling for this one of her
uncle's characters.  She lingered over the memory, recalling her as
she first appears, sitting on the bench of a passenger boat on the
Seine, in her muslin gown sprigged with green and her wide straw
hat with red ribbons.  Whenever the old lady mentioned Madame
Arnoux it was with some mark of affection; she smiled, or sighed,
or shook her head as we do when we speak of something that is quite
unaccountably fine:  "Ah yes, she is lovely, Madame Arnoux!  She is
very complete."

The old lady told me that she had at home the corrected manuscript
of L'ducation sentimentale.  "Of course I have many others.  But
this he gave me long before his death.  You shall see it when you
come to my place at Antibes.  I call my place the Villa Tanit, pour
la desse," she added with a smile.

The name of the goddess took us back to Salammb, which is the book
of Flaubert I like best.  I like him in those great reconstructions
of the remote and cruel past.  When I happened to speak of the
splendid final sentence of Hrodias, where the fall of the
syllables is so suggestive of the hurrying footsteps of John's
disciples, carrying away with them their prophet's severed head,
she repeated that sentence softly:  "Comme elle tait trs lourde,
ils la portaient al-ter-na-tiv-e-ment."

The hour grew late.  The maid had been standing in the corridor a
long while, waiting for her mistress.  At last the old lady rose
and drew her wrap about her.

"Good night, madame.  May you have pleasant dreams.  As for me, I
shall not sleep; you have recalled too much."  She went toward the
lift with the energetic, unconquered step with which she always
crossed the dining-room, carrying with hardihood a body no longer
perfectly under her control.

When I reached my room and opened my windows I, too, felt that
sleep was far from me.  The full moon (like the moon in Salammb)
stood over the little square and flooded the gardens and quiet
streets and the misty mountains with light.  The old lady had
brought that great period of French letters very near; a period
which has meant so much in the personal life of everyone to whom
French literature has meant anything at all.


Probably all those of us who had the good fortune to come upon the
French masters accidentally, and not under the chilling guidance of
an instructor, went through very much the same experience.  We all
began, of course, with Balzac.  And to young people, for very good
reasons, he seems the final word.  They read and reread him, and
live in his world; to inexperience, that world is neither
overpeopled nor overfurnished.  When they begin to read Flaubert--
usually Madame Bovary is the introduction--they resent the change
of tone; they miss the glow, the ardour, the temperament.  (It is
scarcely exaggeration to say that if one is not a little mad about
Balzac at twenty, one will never live; and if at forty one can
still take Rastignac and Lucien de Rubempr at Balzac's own
estimate, one has lived in vain.)  We first read Bovary with a
certain hostility; the wine is too dry for us.  We try, perhaps,
another work of Flaubert, and with a shrug go back to Balzac.  But
young people who are at all sensitive to certain qualities in
writing will not find the Balzac they left.  Something has happened
to them which dampens their enjoyment.  For a time it looks as if
they had lost both Balzac and Flaubert.  They recover both,
eventually, and read each for what he is, having learned that an
artist's limitations are quite as important as his powers; that
they are a definite asset, not a deficiency, and that both go to
form his flavour, his personality, the thing by which the ear can
immediately recognize Flaubert, Stendhal, Mrime, Thomas Hardy,
Conrad, Brahms, Csar Franck.

The fact remains that Balzac, like Dickens and Scott, has a strong
appeal for the great multitudes of humanity who have no feeling for
any form of art, and who read him only in poor translations.  This
is overwhelming evidence of the vital force in him, which no rough
handling can diminish.  Also it implies the lack in him of certain
qualities which matter to only a few people, but matter very much.
The time in one's life when one first began to sense the things
which Flaubert stood for, to admire (almost against one's will)
that peculiar integrity of language and vision, that coldness
which, in him, is somehow noble--that is a pleasant chapter of
one's life to remember, and Madame Franklin Grout had brought it
back within arm's length of me that night.


For that was her name.  Next morning the valet de chambre brought
me a visiting card on which was engraved:

                    MADAME FRANKLIN GROUT


In one corner Villa Tanit was written in purple ink.

In the evening we sat in the writing-room again, and Madame Grout's
talk touched upon many things.  On the Franco-Prussian War, for
instance, and its effect upon her uncle.  He had seen to it that
she herself was comfortably settled in England through most of that
troubled time.  And during the late war of 1914 she had been in
Italy a great deal.  She loved Italian best of all the languages
she spoke so well.  (She spoke Swedish, even; she had lived for a
time in Sweden during the life of her first husband, who had
business interests there.)

She talked of Turgeniev, of her uncle's affection for him and great
admiration for him as an artist.*  She liked to recall his pleasant
visits to Croisset, which were the reward of long anticipation on
the part of the hosts.  Turgeniev usually fixed the date by letter,
changed it by another letter, then again by telegram--and sometimes
he did not come at all.  Flaubert's mother prepared for these
visits by inspecting all the beds in the house, but she never found
one long enough to hold "le Moscove" comfortably.

*  Madame Grout's regard for Turgeniev seems to have been warmly
returned.  In a letter written to her in 1873, immediately after
one of Turgeniev's visits to Croisset, Flaubert says:  "Mon Moscove
m'a quitt ce matin. . . .  Tu l'as tout  fait sduit, mon loulou!
car  plusieurs reprises il m'a parl de 'mon adorable nice,' de
'ma charmante nice,' 'ravissante femme,' etc., etc.  Enfin le
Moscove t'adore! ce qui me fait bien plaisir, car c'est un homme
exquis.  Tu ne t'imagines pas ce qu'il sait!  Il m'a rpt, par
coeur, des morceaux des tragdies de Voltaire, et de Luce de
Lancival!  Il connat, je crois, toutes les littratures jusque
dans leurs bas-fonds!  Et si modeste avec tout cela! si bonhomme!
si vache!"

Madame Grout seemed to remember with especial pleasure the evenings
when he used to sit at the table with her, going over her
translation of Faust:  "That noble man, to give his time to my
childish efforts!"  She well remembered the period during which he
was writing Les Eaux printanires, and her own excitement when she
first read that work.  Like Henry James, she seemed to resent
Turgeniev's position in the Viardot household; recalling it, even
after such a long stretch of time, with vexation.  "And when they
gave a hunt, he looked after the dogs!" she murmured under her
breath.  She talked one evening of his sad latter years: of his
disappointment in his daughter, of his long and painful illness, of
the way in which the death of his friends, going one after another,
contracted his life and made it bleak.  But these were very
personal memories, and if Madame Grout had wished to make them
public, she would have written them herself.

Madame Viardot she had known very well, and for many years after
Turgeniev's death.  "Pauline Viardot was a superb artist, very
intelligent and engaging as a woman, with a great charm--and, au
fond, very Spanish!" she said.  Of Monsieur Louis Viardot she did
not think highly.  I gathered that he was agreeable, but not much
more than that.  When I asked her whether Monsieur Viardot had not
translated some of Turgeniev's books into French, the old lady
lifted her brows and there was a mocking glint in her eyes.

"Turgeniev himself translated them; Viardot may have looked over
his shoulder!"

George Sand she did not like.  Yes, she readily admitted, her men
friends were very loyal to her, had a great regard for her; mon
oncle valued her comradeship; but Madame Grout found the lady's
personality distasteful.

I gathered that, for Madame Grout, George Sand did not really fill
any of the great rles she assigned herself: the devoted mistress,
the staunch comrade and "good fellow," the self-sacrificing mother.
George Sand's men friends believed her to be all these things; and
certainly she herself believed that she was.  But Madame Grout
seemed to feel that in these various relations Madame Dudevant was
self-satisfied rather than self-forgetful; always self-admiring and
a trifle unctuous.  Madame Grout's distaste for this baffling kind
of falseness was immediate and instinctive--it put her teeth on
edge.  Turgeniev, that penetrating reader of women, seems never to
have felt this shallowness in his friend.  But in Chopin's later
letters one finds that he, to his bitter cost, had become aware of
it--curiously enough, through Madame Dudevant's behaviour toward
her own children!  It is clear that he had come upon something so
subtly false, so excruciatingly aslant, that when he briefly refers
to it his sentences seem to shudder.

Though I tried to let Madame Grout direct our conversations without
suggestion from me, and never to question her, I did ask her
whether she read Marcel Proust with pleasure.

"Trop dur et trop fatigant," she murmured, and dismissed the
greatest French writer of his time with a wave of her hand.

When I made some reference to Anatole France she said quickly:
"Oh, I like him very much!  But I like him most where he is most
indebted to my uncle!"

When she was tired, or deeply moved, Madame Grout usually spoke
French; but when she spoke English it was as flexible as it was
correct.  She spoke like an Englishwoman, with no French accent at

What astonished me in her was her keen and sympathetic interest in
modern music; in Ravel, Scriabin, Albniz, Stravinsky, De Falla.
Only a few days before I quitted Aix I found her at the box office
in person, getting exactly the seats she wanted for a performance
of Boris Godounov.  She must change her habitual seat, as she had
asked some friends to come over from Sallanches to hear the opera
with her.  "You will certainly hear it?  Albert Wolff is conducting
for the last time this season, and he does it very well," she

It was interesting to observe Madame Grout at the opera that night,
to watch the changes that went over her face as she listened with
an attention that never wandered, looking younger and stronger than
she ever did by day, as if the music were some very potent
stimulant.  Any form of pleasure, I had noticed, made her keener,
more direct and positive, more authoritative, revived in her the
stamp of a period which had achieved a great style in art.  In a
letter which Flaubert wrote her when she was a young woman, he

"C'est une joie profonde pour moi, mon pauvre loulou, que de
t'avoir donn le got des occupations intellectuelles.  Que
d'ennuis et de sottises il vous pargne!"

Certainly those interests had stood her in good stead, and for many
more years than the uncle himself lived through.  She had still, at
eighty-four, a capacity for pleasure such as very few people in
this world ever know at all.


The next morning I told Madame Grout that, because of the illness
of a friend, I must start at once for Paris.

And when, she asked, could I return and go south to Antibes and the
Villa Tanit, to see her Flaubert collection, and the interior of
his study, which she had brought down there thirty-five years ago?

I told her I was afraid that visit must be put off until next

She gave a very charming laugh.  "At my age, of course, the future
is somewhat uncertain!"  Then she asked whether, on her return to
Antibes, she could send me some souvenir of our meeting; would I
like to have something that had belonged to her uncle, or some
letter written by him?

I told her that I was not a collector; that manuscripts and
autographed letters meant very little to me.  The things of her
uncle that were valuable to me I already had, and had had for
years.  It rather hurt me that she should think I wanted any
material reminder of her or of Flaubert.  It was the Flaubert in
her mind and heart that was to give me a beautiful memory.

On the following day, at djeuner, I said goodbye to Madame Grout;
I was leaving on the two o'clock train.  It was a hurried and
mournful parting, but there was real feeling on both sides.  She
had counted upon my staying longer, she said.  But she did not for
a moment take on a slightly aggrieved tone, as many privileged old
ladies would have done.  There was nothing "wayward" or self-
indulgent about Madame Grout; the whole discipline of her life had
been to the contrary.  One had one's objective, and one went toward
it; one had one's duty, and one did it as best one could.

The last glimpse I had of her was as she stood in the dining-room,
the powder on her face quite destroyed by tears, her features
agitated, but her head erect and her eyes flashing.  And the last
words I heard from her expressed a hope that I would always
remember the pleasure we had had together in talking unreservedly
about les oeuvres de mon oncle.  Standing there, she seemed holding
to that name as to a staff.  A great memory and a great devotion
were the things she lived upon, certainly; they were her armour
against a world concerned with insignificant matters.


When I got back to Paris and began to re-read the Lettres de
Flaubert  sa Nice Caroline, I found that the personality of
Madame Grout sent a wonderful glow over the pages.  I was now
almost startled (in those letters written her when she was still a
child) by his solicitude about her progress in her English lessons--
those lessons by which I was to profit seventy-three years

The five hundred pages of that book were now peopled for me with
familiar figures, like the chronicles of a family I myself had
known.  It will always be for me one of the most delightful of
books; and in none of his letters to other correspondents does
Gustave Flaubert himself seem so attractive.

In reading over those letters, covering a stretch of twenty-four
years, with the figure of Madame Grout in one's mind, one feels a
kind of happiness and contentment about the whole situation--yes,
and gratitude to Fate!  The great man might have written very
charming and tender and warmly confidential letters to a niece who
was selfish, vain, intelligent merely in a conventional way--
because she was the best he had!  One can never be sure about such
things; a heartless and stupid woman may be so well educated, after

But having known Madame Grout, I know that she had the root of the
matter in her; that no one could be more sensitive than she to all
that was finest in Flaubert's work, or more quick to admit the
qualities he did not have--which is quite as important.

During all his best working years he had in his house beside him,
or within convenient distance for correspondence, one of his own
blood, younger and more ardent than he, who absolutely understood
what he was doing; who could feel the great qualities of his
failures, even.  Could any situation be happier for a man of
letters?  How many writers have found one understanding ear among
their sons or daughters?

Moreover, Caroline was the daughter of a sister whom Flaubert had
devotedly loved.  He took her when she was an infant into his house
at Croisset, where he lived alone with his old mother.  What
delight for a solitary man of letters and an old lady to have a
baby to take care of, the little daughter of a beloved daughter!
They had all the pleasure of her little girlhood--and she must have
been an irresistible little girl!  Flaubert spent a great deal of
time attending to her early education, and when he was seated at
his big writing-table, or working in bed, he liked to have her in
the room, lying on a rug in the corner with her book.  For hours
she would not speak, she told me; she was so passionately proud of
the fact that he wanted her to be there.  When she was just
beginning to read, she liked to think, as she lay in her corner,
that she was shut in a cage with some powerful wild animal, a tiger
or a lion or a bear, who had devoured his keeper and would spring
upon anyone else who opened his door, but with whom she was "quite
safe and conceited," as she said with a chuckle.

During his short stays in Paris, Flaubert writes to Caroline about
her favourite rabbit, and the imaginary characters with whom she
had peopled the garden at Croisset.  He sends his greetings to
Caroline's doll, Madame Robert:--

"Remercie de ma part Mme. Robert qui a bien voulu se rappeler de
moi.  Prsente-lui mes respects et conseille-lui un rgime
fortifiant, car elle me parat un peu pale, et je ne suis pas sans
inquitude sur sa sant."

In a letter from Paris, dated just a year later, when Caroline was
eleven, he tells her that he is sending her Thierry's Rcits des
temps mrovingiens, and adds:--

"Je suis bien aise que les Rcits mrovingiens t'amusent; relis-les
quand tu auras fini; apprends des dates, tu as tes programmes, et
passe tous les jours quelque temps  regarder une carte de

One sees from the letters with what satisfaction Flaubert followed
every step of Caroline's development.  Her facility in languages
was a matter of the greatest pride to him, though even after she is
married and living abroad he occasionally finds fault with her

"Un peu d'orthographe ne te nuirait pas, mon bibi! car tu cris
aplomb par deux p:  'Moral et physique sont d'applomb,' trois p
marqueraient encore plus d'nergie!  a m'a amus, parce que a te

Yes, it was like her, certainly; like her as she walked across the
floor of that hotel dining-room in Aix-les-Bains, so many years

Though she had been married twice, Madame Grout, in our
conversations, did not talk of either of her husbands.  Her uncle
had always been the great figure in her life, and even a short
acquaintance with her made me feel that she possessed every quality
for comradeship with him.  Besides her devotion to him, her many
gifts, her very unusual intelligence and intuition in art, she had
moral qualities which he must have loved: poise, great good sense,
and a love of fairness and justice.  She had the habit of searching
out facts and weighing evidence, for her own satisfaction.  Her
speech, when she was explaining something, had the qualities of
good Latin prose: economy, elegance, and exactness.  She was not an
idealist; she had lived through two wars.  She was one of the least
visionary and sentimental persons I have ever met.  She knew that
conditions and circumstances, not their own wishes, dictate the
actions of men.  In her mind there was a kind of large enlightenment,
like that of the many-windowed workroom at Croisset, with the cool,
tempered northern light pouring into it.  In her, Flaubert had not
only a companion, but a "daughter of the house" to cherish and
protect.  And he had her all his life, until the short seizure
which took him off in an hour.  And she, all her life, kept the
handkerchief with which they had wiped the moisture from his brow a
few moments before he died.


I sailed for Quebec in October.  In November, while I was at
Jaffrey, New Hampshire, a letter came from Madame Grout; the
envelope had been opened and almost destroyed.  I have received
letters from Borneo and Java that looked much less travel-worn.
She had addressed it to me in care of an obscure bookseller, on a
small street in Paris, from whom she had got one of my books.  (I
suppose, in her day, all booksellers were publishers.)  The letter
had been forwarded through three publishing houses, and a part of
its contents had got lost.  In her letter Madame Grout writes that
she is sending me "ci-joint une lettre de mon oncle Gustave
Flaubert adresse  George Sand--elle doit tre, je crois, de 1866.
Il me semble qu'elle vous fera plaisir et j'ai plaisir  vous

This enclosure had been removed.  I regretted its loss chiefly
because I feared it would distress Madame Grout.  But I wrote her,
quite truthfully, that her wish that I should have one of her
uncle's letters meant a great deal more to me than the actual
possession of it could mean.  Nevertheless, it was an awkward
explanation to make, and I delayed writing it until late in
December.  I did not hear from her again.

In February my friends in Paris sent me a clipping from the Journal
des Dbats which read:--

                 MORT DE MME. FRANKLIN-GROUT

Nous apprenons avec tristesse la mort de Mme. Franklin-Grout, qui
s'est teinte  Antibes,  la suite d'une courte maladie.

Nice de Gustave Flaubert, Mme. Franklin-Grout a jou un rle
important dans la diffusion et le succs des uvres de son oncle.
Excutrice testamentaire du grand romancier, qui l'avait leve et
instruite, Mme. Franklin-Grout a publi la correspondance de son
oncle, si prcieuse pour sa psychologie littraire, et qui nous a
rvl les doctrines de Flaubert et sa vie de travail acharn.
Mme. Franklin-Grout publia aussi Bouvard et Pcuchet. . . .  Mme.
Franklin-Grout tait une personne charmante et distingue, trs
attache  ses amis et qui, jusqu' la plus extrme vieillesse,
avait conserv l'intelligence et la bont souriante d'une
spirituelle femme du monde.


The novel, for a long while, has been over-furnished.  The property-
man has been so busy on its pages, the importance of material
objects and their vivid presentation have been so stressed, that we
take it for granted whoever can observe, and can write the English
language, can write a novel.  Often the latter qualification is
considered unnecessary.

In any discussion of the novel, one must make it clear whether one
is talking about the novel as a form of amusement, or as a form of
art; since they serve very different purposes and in very different
ways.  One does not wish the egg one eats for breakfast, or the
morning paper, to be made of the stuff of immortality.  The novel
manufactured to entertain great multitudes of people must be
considered exactly like a cheap soap or a cheap perfume, or cheap
furniture.  Fine quality is a distinct disadvantage in articles
made for great numbers of people who do not want quality but
quantity, who do not want a thing that "wears," but who want
change,--a succession of new things that are quickly threadbare and
can be lightly thrown away.  Does anyone pretend that if the
Woolworth store windows were piled high with Tanagra figurines at
ten cents, they could for a moment compete with Kewpie brides in
the popular esteem?  Amusement is one thing; enjoyment of art is

Every writer who is an artist knows that his "power of observation,"
and his "power of description," form but a low part of his
equipment.  He must have both, to be sure; but he knows that the
most trivial of writers often have a very good observation. Mrime
said in his remarkable essay on Gogol:  "L'art de choisir parmi les
innombrable traits que nous offre la nature est, aprs tout, bien
plus difficile que celui de les observer avec attention et de les
rendre avec exactitude."

There is a popular superstition that "realism" asserts itself in
the cataloguing of a great number of material objects, in
explaining mechanical processes, the methods of operating
manufactories and trades, and in minutely and unsparingly
describing physical sensations.  But is not realism, more than it
is anything else, an attitude of mind on the part of the writer
toward his material, a vague indication of the sympathy and candour
with which he accepts, rather than chooses, his theme?  Is the
story of a banker who is unfaithful to his wife and who ruins
himself by speculation in trying to gratify the caprices of his
mistresses, at all reinforced by a masterly exposition of banking,
our whole system of credits, the methods of the Stock Exchange?  Of
course, if the story is thin, these things do reinforce it in a
sense,--any amount of red meat thrown into the scale to make the
beam dip.  But are the banking system and the Stock Exchange worth
being written about at all?  Have such things any proper place in
imaginative art?

The automatic reply to this question is the name of Balzac.  Yes,
certainly, Balzac tried out the value of literalness in the novel,
tried it out to the uttermost, as Wagner did the value of scenic
literalness in the music drama.  He tried it, too, with the passion
of discovery, with the inflamed zest of an unexampled curiosity.
If the heat of that furnace could not give hardness and sharpness
to material accessories, no other brain will ever do it.  To
reproduce on paper the actual city of Paris; the houses, the
upholstery, the food, the wines, the game of pleasure, the game of
business, the game of finance: a stupendous ambition--but, after
all, unworthy of an artist.  In exactly so far as he succeeded in
pouring out on his pages that mass of brick and mortar and
furniture and proceedings in bankruptcy, in exactly so far he
defeated his end.  The things by which he still lives, the types of
greed and avarice and ambition and vanity and lost innocence of
heart which he created--are as vital today as they were then.  But
their material surroundings, upon which he expended such labour and
pains . . . the eye glides over them.  We have had too much of the
interior decorator and the "romance of business" since his day.
The city he built on paper is already crumbling.  Stevenson said he
wanted to blue-pencil a great deal of Balzac's "presentation"--and
he loved him beyond all modern novelists.  But where is the man who
could cut one sentence from the stories of Mrime?  And who wants
any more detail as to how Carmencita and her fellow factory-girls
made cigars?  Another sort of novel?  Truly.  Isn't it a better

In this discussion another great name naturally occurs.  Tolstoi
was almost as great a lover of material things as Balzac, almost as
much interested in the way dishes were cooked, and people were
dressed, and houses were furnished.  But there is this determining
difference: the clothes, the dishes, the haunting interiors of
those old Moscow houses, are always so much a part of the emotions
of the people that they are perfectly synthesized; they seem to
exist, not so much in the author's mind, as in the emotional
penumbra of the characters themselves.  When it is fused like this,
literalness ceases to be literalness--it is merely part of the

If the novel is a form of imaginative art, it cannot be at the same
time a vivid and brilliant form of journalism.  Out of the teeming,
gleaming stream of the present it must select the eternal material
of art.  There are hopeful signs that some of the younger writers
are trying to break away from mere verisimilitude, and, following
the development of modern painting, to interpret imaginatively the
material and social investiture of their characters; to present
their scene by suggestion rather than by enumeration.  The higher
processes of art are all processes of simplification.  The novelist
must learn to write, and then he must unlearn it; just as the
modern painter learns to draw, and then learns when utterly to
disregard his accomplishment, when to subordinate it to a higher
and truer effect.  In this direction only, it seems to me, can the
novel develop into anything more varied and perfect than all the
many novels that have gone before.

One of the very earliest American romances might well serve as a
suggestion to later writers.  In The Scarlet Letter how truly in
the spirit of art is the mise-en-scne presented.  That drudge, the
theme-writing high-school student, could scarcely be sent there for
information regarding the manners and dress and interiors of
Puritan society.  The material investiture of the story is
presented as if unconsciously; by the reserved, fastidious hand of
an artist, not by the gaudy fingers of a showman or the mechanical
industry of a department-store window-dresser.  As I remember it,
in the twilight melancholy of that book, in its consistent mood,
one can scarcely ever see the actual surroundings of the people;
one feels them, rather, in the dusk.

Whatever is felt upon the page without being specifically named
there--that, one might say, is created.  It is the inexplicable
presence of the thing not named, of the overtone divined by the ear
but not heard by it, the verbal mood, the emotional aura of the
fact or the thing or the deed, that gives high quality to the novel
or the drama, as well as to poetry itself.

Literalness, when applied to the presenting of mental reactions and
of physical sensations, seems to be no more effective than when it
is applied to material things.  A novel crowded with physical
sensations is no less a catalogue than one crowded with furniture.
A book like The Rainbow by D. H. Lawrence sharply reminds one how
vast a distance lies between emotion and mere sensory reactions.
Characters can be almost dehumanized by a laboratory study of the
behaviour of their bodily organs under sensory stimuli--can be
reduced, indeed, to mere animal pulp.  Can one imagine anything
more terrible than the story of Romeo and Juliet rewritten in prose
by D. H. Lawrence?

How wonderful it would be if we could throw all the furniture out
of the window; and along with it, all the meaningless reiterations
concerning physical sensations, all the tiresome old patterns, and
leave the room as bare as the stage of a Greek theatre, or as that
house into which the glory of Pentecost descended; leave the scene
bare for the play of emotions, great and little--for the nursery
tale, no less than the tragedy, is killed by tasteless amplitude.
The elder Dumas enunciated a great principle when he said that to
make a drama, a man needed one passion, and four walls.


Late in the winter of 1908 Mrs. Louis Brandeis conducted me along a
noisy street in Boston and rang at a door hitherto unknown to me.
Sometimes entering a new door can make a great change in one's
life.  That afternoon I had set out from the Parker House (the old,
the real Parker House, before it was "modernized") to make a call
on Mrs. Brandeis.  When I reached her house in Otis Place she told
me that we would go farther: she thought I would enjoy meeting a
very charming old lady who was a near neighbour of hers, the widow
of James T. Fields, of the publishing firm of Ticknor and Fields.
The name of that firm meant something to me.  In my father's
bookcase there were little volumes of Longfellow and Hawthorne with
that imprint.  I wondered how the widow of one of the partners
could still be living.  Mrs. Brandeis explained that when James T.
Fields was a man in middle life, a publisher of international
reputation and a widower, he married Annie Adams, then a girl of
nineteen.  She had naturally survived him by many years.

When the door at 148 Charles Street was opened we waited a few
moments in a small reception-room just off the hall, then went up a
steep, thickly carpeted stairway and entered the "long drawing-
room," where Mrs. Fields and Miss Jewett sat at tea.  That room ran
the depth of the house, its front windows, heavily curtained, on
Charles Street, its back windows looking down on a deep garden.
Directly above the garden wall lay the Charles River and, beyond,
the Cambridge shore.  At five o'clock in the afternoon the river
was silvery from a half-hidden sun; over the great open space of
water the western sky was dove-coloured with little ripples of
rose.  The air was full of soft moisture and the hint of
approaching spring.  Against this screen of pale winter light were
the two ladies: Mrs. Fields reclining on a green sofa, directly
under the youthful portrait of Charles Dickens (now in the Boston
Art Museum), Miss Jewett seated, the low tea-table between them.

Mrs. Fields wore the widow's lavender which she never abandoned
except for black velvet, with a scarf of Venetian lace on her hair.
She was very slight and fragile in figure, with a great play of
animation in her face and a delicate flush of pink on her cheeks.
Like her friend Mrs. John Gardner, she had a skin which defied age.
As for Miss Jewett--she looked very like the youthful picture of
herself in the game of "Authors" I had played as a child, except
that she was fuller in figure and a little grey.  I do not at all
remember what we talked about.  Mrs. Brandeis asked that I be shown
some of the treasures of the house, but I had no eyes for the
treasures, I was too intent upon the ladies.

That winter afternoon began a friendship, impoverished by Miss
Jewett's death sixteen months later, but enduring until Mrs. Fields
herself died, in February 1915.

In 1922 M. A. De Wolfe Howe, Mrs. Fields' literary executor,
published a book of extracts from her diaries under the title
Memories of a Hostess, a book which delighted all who had known her
and many who had not, because of its vivid pictures of the
Cambridge and Concord groups in the '60s and '70s, not as
"celebrities" but as friends and fellow citizens.  When Mr. Howe's
book appeared, I wrote for The Literary Review an appreciation of
it, very sketchy, but done with genuine enthusiasm, which I here
incorporate without quotation marks.

In his book made up from the diaries of Mrs. James T. Fields, Mr.
De Wolfe Howe presents a record of beautiful memories and, as its
subtitle declares, "a chronicle of eminent friendships."  For a
period of sixty years Mrs. Fields' Boston house, at 148 Charles
Street, extended its hospitality to the aristocracy of letters and
art.  During that long stretch of time there was scarcely an
American of distinction in art or public life who was not a guest
in that house; scarcely a visiting foreigner of renown who did not
pay his tribute there.

It was not only men of letters, Dickens, Thackeray, and Matthew
Arnold, who met Mrs. Fields' friends there; Salvini and Modjeska
and Edwin Booth and Christine Nilsson and Joseph Jefferson and Ole
Bull, Winslow Homer and Sargent, came and went, against the
background of closely united friends who were a part of the very
Charles Street scene.  Longfellow, Emerson, Whittier, Hawthorne,
Lowell, Sumner, Norton, Oliver Wendell Holmes--the list sounds like
something in a school-book; but in Mrs. Fields' house one came to
believe that they had been very living people--to feel that they
had not been long absent from the rooms so full of their thoughts,
of their letters, their talk, their remembrances sent at Christmas
to the hostess, or brought to her from foreign lands.  Even in the
garden flourished guelder roses and flowering shrubs which some of
these bearers of school-book names had brought in from Cambridge or
Concord and set out there.  At 148 Charles Street an American of
the Apache period and territory could come to inherit a Colonial

Although Mrs. Fields was past seventy when I was first conducted
into the long drawing-room, she did not seem old to me.  Frail,
diminished in force, yes; but, emphatically, not old.  "The
personal beauty of her younger years, long retained, and even at
the end of such a stretch of life not quite lost," to quote Henry
James, may have had something to do with the impression she gave;
but I think it was even more because, as he also said of her, "all
her implications were gay."  I had seldom heard so young, so merry,
so musical a laugh; a laugh with countless shades of relish and
appreciation and kindness in it.  And, on occasion, a short laugh
from that same fragile source could positively do police duty!  It
could put an end to a conversation that had taken an unfortunate
turn, absolutely dismiss and silence impertinence or presumption.
No woman could have been so great a hostess, could have made so
many highly developed personalities happy under her roof, could
have blended so many strongly specialized and keenly sensitive
people in her drawing-room, without having a great power to control
and organize.  It was a power so sufficient that one seldom felt it
as one lived in the harmonious atmosphere it created--an atmosphere
in which one seemed absolutely safe from everything ugly.  Nobody
can cherish the flower of social intercourse, can give it sun and
sustenance and a tempered clime, without also being able very
completely to dispose of anything that threatens it--not only the
slug, but even the cold draught that ruffles its petals.

Mrs. Fields was in her own person flower-like; the remarkable
fineness of her skin and pinkness of her cheeks gave one the
comparison--and the natural ruby of her lips she never lost.  It
always struck one afresh (along with her clear eyes and their quick
flashes of humour), that large, generous, mobile mouth, with its
rich freshness of colour.  "A WOMAN'S mouth," I used to think as I
watched her talking to someone who pleased her; "not an old
woman's!"  One rejoiced in her little triumphs over colour-
destroying age and its infirmities, as at the play one rejoices in
the escape of the beautiful and frail from the pursuit of things
powerful and evil.  It was a drama in which the heroine must be
sacrificed in the end: but for how long did she make the outward
voyage delightful, with how many a divertissement and bright scene
did she illumine the respite and the long wait at Aulis!

Sixty years of hospitality, so smooth and unruffled for the
recipients, cost the hostess something--cost her a great deal.  The
Fieldses were never people of liberal means, and the Charles Street
house was not a convenient house to entertain in.  The basement
kitchen was a difficulty.  On the first floor were the reception-
room and the dining-room, on the second floor was the "long drawing-
room," running the depth of the house.  Mrs. Fields' own apartments
were on the third floor, and the guest-rooms on the fourth.  A
house so constructed took a great deal of managing.  Yet there was
never an hour in the day when the order and calm of the drawing-
room were not such that one might have sat down to write a sonnet
or a sonata.  The sweeping and dusting were done very early in the
morning, the flowers arranged before the guests were awake.

Besides being distinctly young on the one hand, on the other Mrs.
Fields seemed to me to reach back to Waterloo.  As Mr. Howe reminds
us, she had talked to Leigh Hunt about Shelley and his starlike
beauty of face--and it is now more than a century since Shelley was
drowned.  She had known Severn well, and it was he who gave her a
lock of Keats' hair, which, under glass with a drawing of Keats by
the same artist, was one of the innumerable treasures of that
house.  With so much to tell, Mrs. Fields never became a set story-
teller.  She had no favourite stories--there were too many.
Stories were told from time to time, but only as things of today
reminded her of things of yesterday.  When we came home from the
opera, she could tell one what Chorley had said on such and such an
occasion.  And then if one did not "go at" her, but talked of
Chorley just as if he were Philip Hale or W. J. Henderson, one
might hear a great deal about him.

When one was staying at that house the past lay in wait for one in
all the corners; it exuded from the furniture, from the pictures,
the rare editions, and the cabinets of manuscript--the beautiful,
clear manuscripts of a typewriterless age, which even the printers
had respected and kept clean.  The unique charm of Mrs. Fields'
house was not that it was a place where one could hear about the
past, but that it was a place where the past lived on--where it was
protected and cherished, had sanctuary from the noisy push of the
present.  In casual conversation, at breakfast or tea, you might at
any time unconsciously press a spring which liberated recollection,
and one of the great shades seemed quietly to enter the room and to
take the chair or the corner he had preferred in life.

One afternoon I showed her an interesting picture of Pauline
Viardot I had brought from Paris, and my hostess gave me such an
account of hearing Viardot sing Gluck's Orpheus that I felt I had
heard it myself.  Then she told me how, when she saw Dickens in
London, just after he had returned from giving a reading in Paris,
he said:  "Oh, yes, the house was sold out.  But the important
thing is that Viardot came, and sat in a front seat and never took
her glorious eyes off me.  So, of course," with a flourish of his
hand, "nothing else mattered!"  A little-known Russian gentleman,
Mr. Turgeniev, must have been staying at Madame Viardot's country
house at that time.  Did he accompany her to the reading, one
wonders?  If he had, it would probably have meant very little to
"Mr. Dickens."

It was at tea-time, I used to think, that the great shades were
most likely to appear; sometimes they seemed to come up the deeply
carpeted stairs, along with living friends.  At that hour the long
room was dimly lighted, the fire bright, and through the wide
windows the sunset was flaming, or softly brooding, upon the
Charles River and the Cambridge shore beyond.  The ugliness of the
world, all possibility of wrenches and jars and wounding contacts,
seemed securely shut out.  It was indeed the peace of the past,
where the tawdry and cheap have been eliminated and the enduring
things have taken their proper, happy places.

Mrs. Fields read aloud beautifully, especially Shakespeare and
Milton, for whom she had, even in age, a wonderful depth of voice.
I loved to hear her read Richard II, or the great, melancholy
speeches of Henry IV in the Palace at Westminster:

     "And changes fill the cup of altera-ti-on
     With divers liquors."

Many of those lines I can only remember with the colour, the slight
unsteadiness, of that fine old voice.

Once I was sitting on the sofa beside her, helping her to hold a
very heavy, very old, calf-bound Milton, while she read:

     "In courts and palaces he also reigns,
     And in luxurious cities, where the noise
     Of riot ascends above their loftiest towers,
     And injury and outrage."

When she paused in the solemn evocation for breath, I tried to fill
in the interval by saying something about such lines calling up the
tumult of Rome and Babylon.

"Or New York," she said slyly, glancing side-wise, and then at once
again attacked the mighty page.

Naturally, she was rich in reference and quotation.  I recall how
she once looked up from a long reverie and said:  "You know, my
dear, I think we sometimes forget how much we owe to Dryden's
prefaces."  To my shame, I have not to this day discovered the full
extent of my indebtedness.  On another occasion Mrs. Fields
murmured something about "A bracelet of bright hair about the
bone."  "That's very nice," said I, "but I don't recognize it."

"Surely," she said, "that would be Dr. Donne."

I never pretended to Mrs. Fields--I would have had to pretend too
much.  "And who," I brazenly asked, "was Dr. Donne?"

I knew before morning.  She had a beautiful patience with Boeotian
ignorance, but I was strongly encouraged to take two fat volumes of
Dr. Donne to bed with me that night.

I love to remember one charming visit in her summer house at
Manchester-by-the-Sea, when Sarah Orne Jewett was there.  I had
just come from Italy bringing word of the places they most loved
and about which they had often written me, entreating, nay,
commanding me to visit them.  Had I gone riding on the Pincian
Hill? Mrs. Fields asked.  No, I hadn't; I didn't think many people
rode there now.  Well, said Mrs. Fields, the Brownings' little boy
used to ride there, in his velvets.  When he complained to her that
the Pincio was the same every day, no variety, she suggested that
he might ride out into the Campagna.  But he sighed and shook his
head.  "Oh, no!  My pony and I have to go there.  We are one of the
sights of Rome, you know!"  As this was the son of a friend, one
didn't comment upon the child's speech or the future it suggested.

The second evening after my arrival happened to be a rainy one--no
visitors.  After dinner Mrs. Fields began to read a little--warmed
to her work, and read all of Matthew Arnold's Scholar Gypsy and
Tristan and Iseult.  Miss Jewett said she didn't believe the latter
poem had been read aloud in that house since Matthew Arnold himself
read it there.

At Manchester, when there were no guests, Mrs. Fields had tea on
the back veranda, overlooking a wild stretch of woodland.  Down in
this wood, directly beneath us, were a tea-table and seats built
under the trees, where they used to have tea when the hostess was
younger--now the climb was too steep for her.  It was a little sad,
perhaps, to sit and look out over a shrinking kingdom; but if she
felt it, she never showed it.  Miss Jewett and I went down into the
wood, and she told me she hated to go there now, as it reminded her
that much was already lost, and what was left was so at the mercy
of chance!  It seemed as if a strong wind might blow away that
beloved friend of many years.  We talked in low voices.  Who could
have believed that Mrs. Fields was to outlive Miss Jewett, so much
the younger, by nearly six years, as she outlived Mr. Fields by
thirty-four!  She had the very genius of survival.  She was not, as
she once laughingly told me, "to escape anything, not even free
verse or the Cubists!"  She was not in the least dashed by either.
Oh, no, she said, the Cubists weren't any queerer than Manet and
the Impressionists were when they first came to Boston, and people
used to run in for tea and ask her whether she had ever heard of
such a thing as "blue snow," or a man's black hat being purple in
the sun!

As in Boston tea was the most happy time for reminiscences, in
Manchester it was at the breakfast hour that they were most likely
to throng.  Breakfasts were long, as country breakfasts have a
right to be.  We had always been out of doors first and were very

One morning when the cantaloupes were particularly fine Mrs. Fields
began to tell me of Henry James' father,--apropos of the melons,
though I forget whether it was that he liked them very much or
couldn't abide them.  She told me a great deal about him; but I was
most interested in what she said regarding his faith in his son.
When the young man's first essays and stories began to come back
across the Atlantic from Rome and Paris they did not meet with
approval in Boston; they were thought self-conscious, artificial,
shallow.  His father's friends feared the young man had mistaken
his calling.  Mr. James the elder, however, was altogether pleased.
He came down to Manchester one summer to have a talk with the great
publisher about Henry, and expressed his satisfaction and
confidence.  "Believe me," he said, sitting at this very table,
"the boy will make his mark in letters, Fields."

The next summer I was visiting Mrs. Fields at Manchester in a
season of intense heat.  We were daily expecting the arrival of
Henry James, Jr., himself.  One morning came a spluttery letter
from the awaited friend, containing bitter references to the "Great
American summer," and saying that he was "lying at Nahant,"
prostrated by the weather.  I was very much disappointed, but Mrs.
Fields said wisely:  "My dear, it is just as well.  Mr. James is
always greatly put about by the heat, and at Nahant there is the
chance of a breeze."

The house at Manchester was called Thunderbolt Hill.  Mr. Howe
thinks the name incongruous, but that depends on what associations
you choose to give it.  When I went a-calling with Mrs. Fields and
left her card with Thunderbolt Hill engraved in the corner, I felt
that I was paying calls with the lady Juno herself.  Why shouldn't
such a name befit a hill of high decisions and judgments?
Moreover, Mrs. Fields was not at all responsible for that name; it
came, as she and Miss Jewett liked proverbs and place-names to
come, from the native folk.  Long years before James T. Fields
bought the hill to build a summer cottage, some fine trees at the
top of it had been destroyed by lightning; the country people
thereabouts had ever afterward called it Thunderbolt Hill.

Mrs. Fields' Journal tells us how in her young married days she
always moved from Boston to Manchester-by-the-Sea in early summer,
just as she still did when I knew her.  I remember one characteristic
passage in the Journal, written at Manchester and dated July 16,

It is a perfect summer day, she says.  Mr. Fields does not go up to
town but stays at home with a bag full of MSS.  He and his wife go
to a favourite spot in a pasture by the sea, and she reads him a
new story which has just come in from Henry James, Jr., then a very
young man--Compagnons de Voyage, in "execrable" handwriting.  They
find the quality good.  "I do not know," Mrs. Fields wrote in her
diary that evening, "why success in work should affect one so
powerfully, but I could have wept as I finished reading, not from
the sweet, low pathos of the tale, but from the knowledge of the
writer's success.  It is so difficult to do anything well in this
mysterious world."

Yes, one says to oneself, that is Mrs. Fields, at her best.  She
rose to meet a fine performance, always--to the end.  At eighty she
could still entertain new people, new ideas, new forms of art.  And
she brought to her greeting of the new all the richness of her rich
past: a long, unbroken chain of splendid contacts, beautiful

As one follows the diary down through the years, the reader must
feel a certain pride in the determined way in which the New England
group refused to be patronized by glittering foreign celebrities--
by any celebrities!  At dinner Dr. Holmes holds himself a little
apart from the actor guests, Jefferson and Warren, and addresses
them as "you gentlemen of the stage" in a way that quite disturbed
Longfellow and, one may judge, the hostess.  They all come to dine
with Dickens in his long stays with the Fieldses, come repeatedly,
but they seem ever a little on their guard.  Emerson cannot be got
to believe him altogether genuine and sincere.  He insists to Mrs.
Fields that Dickens has "too much talent for his genius," and that
he is "too consummate an artist to have a thread of nature left"!
Thackeray made a long visit at 148 Charles Street.  (It is said
that he finished Henry Esmond there.)  In the guest-room which he
occupied, with an alcove study, hung a little drawing he had made
of himself, framed with the note he had written the hostess telling
her that, happy as he was here, he must go home to England for

When Mrs. Fields was still a young woman, she noted in her diary
that Aristotle says:  "Virtue is concerned with action; art with
production."  "The problem in life," she adds, "is to harmonize
these two."  In a long life she went far toward working out this
problem.  She knew how to appreciate the noble in behaviour and the
noble in art.  In the patriot, the philanthropist, the statesman,
she could forgive abominable taste.  In the artist, the true
artist, she could forgive vanity, sensitiveness, selfishness,
indecision, and vacillation of will.  She was generous and just in
her judgment of men and women because she understood Aristotle's
axiom.  "With a great gift," I once heard her murmur thoughtfully,
"we must be willing to bear greatly, because it has already greatly

Today, in 1936, a garage stands on the site of 148 Charles Street.
Only in memory exists the long, green-carpeted, softly lighted
drawing-room, and the dining-table where Learning and Talent met,
enjoying good food and good wit and rare vintages, looking
confidently forward to the growth of their country in the finer
amenities of life.  Perhaps the garage and all it stands for
represent the only real development, and have altogether taken the
place of things formerly cherished on that spot.  If we try to
imagine those dinner-parties which Mrs. Fields describes, the scene
is certainly not to us what it was to her: the lighting has
changed, and the guests seem hundreds of years away from us.  Their
portraits no longer hang on the walls of our academies, nor are
their "works" much discussed there.  The English classes, we are
told, can be "interested" only in contemporary writers, the newer
the better.  A letter from a prep-school boy puts it tersely:  "D.
H. Lawrence is rather rated a back-number here, but Faulkner keeps
his end up."

Not the prep-school boys only are blithe to leave the past
untroubled: their instructors pretty generally agree with them.
And the retired professors who taught these instructors do not see
Shelley plain as they once did.  The faith of the elders has been

Just how did this change come about, one wonders.  When and where
were the Arnolds overthrown and the Brownings devaluated?  Was it
at the Marne?  At Versailles, when a new geography was being made
on paper?  Certainly the literary world which emerged from the war
used a new coinage.  In England and America the "masters" of the
last century diminished in stature and pertinence, became remote
and shadowy.

But Mrs. Fields never entered this strange twilight.  She rounded
out her period, from Dickens and Thackeray and Tennyson, through
Hardy and Meredith to the Great War, with her standards unshaken.
For her there was no revaluation.  She died with her world (the
world of "letters" which mattered most to her) unchallenged.
Marcel Proust somewhere said that when he came to die he would take
all his great men with him: since his Beethoven and his Wagner
could never be at all the same to anyone else, they would go with
him like the captives who were slain at the funeral pyres of
Eastern potentates.  It was thus Mrs. Fields died, in that house of
memories, with the material keepsakes of the past about her.



In reading over a package of letters from Sarah Orne Jewett, I find
this observation:  "The thing that teases the mind over and over
for years, and at last gets itself put down lightly on paper--
whether little or great, it belongs to Literature."  Miss Jewett
was very conscious of the fact that when a writer makes anything
that belongs to Literature (limiting the term here to imaginative
literature, which she of course meant), his material goes through a
process very different from that by which he makes merely a good
story.  No one can define this process exactly; but certainly
persistence, survival, recurrence in the writer's mind, are highly
characteristic of it.  The shapes and scenes that have "teased" the
mind for years, when they do at last get themselves rightly put
down, make a much higher order of writing, and a much more costly,
than the most vivid and vigorous transfer of immediate impressions.

* Much of Part I of this sketch was originally written as a preface
to a two-volume collection of Miss Jewett's stories published by
Houghton Mifflin in 1925.

In some of Miss Jewett's earlier books, Deephaven, Country Byways,
Old Friends and New, one can find first sketches, first
impressions, which later crystallized into almost flawless examples
of literary art.  One can, as it were, watch in process the two
kinds of making: the first, which is full of perception and feeling
but rather fluid and formless; the second, which is tightly built
and significant in design.  The design is, indeed, so happy, so
right, that it seems inevitable; the design is the story and the
story is the design.  The "Pointed Fir" sketches are living things
caught in the open, with light and freedom and airspaces about
them.  They melt into the land and the life of the land until they
are not stories at all, but life itself.

A great many stories were being written upon New England themes at
the same time that Miss Jewett was writing; stories that to many
contemporary readers may have seemed more interesting than hers,
because they dealt with more definite "situations" and were more
heavily accented.  But they are not very interesting to reread
today; they have not the one thing that survives all arresting
situations, all good writing and clever story-making--inherent,
individual beauty.

Walter Pater said that every truly great drama must, in the end,
linger in the reader's mind as a sort of ballad.  One might say
that every fine story must leave in the mind of the sensitive
reader an intangible residuum of pleasure; a cadence, a quality of
voice that is exclusively the writer's own, individual, unique.  A
quality which one can remember without the volume at hand, can
experience over and over again in the mind but can never absolutely
define, as one can experience in memory a melody, or the summer
perfume of a garden.  The magnitude of the subject-matter is not of
primary importance, seemingly.  An idyll of Theocritus, concerned
with sheep and goats and shade and pastures, is today as much alive
as the most dramatic passages of the Iliad--stirs the reader's
feeling quite as much, perhaps.

It is a common fallacy that a writer, if he is talented enough, can
achieve this poignant quality by improving upon his subject-matter,
by using his "imagination" upon it and twisting it to suit his
purpose.  The truth is that by such a process (which is not
imaginative at all!) he can at best produce only a brilliant sham,
which, like a badly built and pretentious house, looks poor and
shabby after a few years.  If he achieves anything noble, anything
enduring, it must be by giving himself absolutely to his material.
And this gift of sympathy is his great gift; is the fine thing in
him that alone can make his work fine.

The artist spends a lifetime in pursuing the things that haunt him,
in having his mind "teased" by them, in trying to get these
conceptions down on paper exactly as they are to him and not in
conventional poses supposed to reveal their character; trying this
method and that, as a painter tries different lightings and
different attitudes with his subject to catch the one that presents
it more suggestively than any other.  And at the end of a lifetime
he emerges with much that is more or less happy experimenting, and
comparatively little that is the very flower of himself and his

The best of Miss Jewett's work, read by a student fifty years from
now, will give him the characteristic flavour, the spirit, the
cadence, of an American writer of the first order,--and of a New
England which will then be a thing of the past.

Even in the stories which fall short of being Miss Jewett's best,
one has the pleasure of her society and companionship--if one likes
that sort of companionship.  I remember she herself had a fondness
for "The Hiltons' Holiday,"--the slightest of stories: a hard-
worked New England farmer takes his two little girls to town, some
seventeen miles away (a long drive by wagon), for a treat.  That is
all, yet the story is a little miracle.  It simply IS THE LOOK--
shy, kind, a little wistful--which shines out at one from good
country faces on remote farms; it is the look ITSELF.  To have got
it down upon the printed page is like bringing the tenderest of
early spring flowers from the deep wood into the hot light of noon
without bruising its petals.

To note an artist's limitations is but to define his talent.  A
reporter can write equally well about everything that is presented
to his view, but a creative writer can do his best only with what
lies within the range and character of his deepest sympathies.
These stories of Miss Jewett's have much to do with fisher-folk and
seaside villages; with juniper pastures and lonely farms, neat grey
country houses and delightful, well-seasoned old men and women.
That, when one thinks of it in a flash, is New England.  I remember
hearing an English actor say that until he made a motor trip
through the New England country he had supposed that the Americans
killed their aged in some merciful fashion, for he saw none in the
cities where he played.

There are many kinds of people in the State of Maine, and
neighbouring States, who are not found in Miss Jewett's books.
There may be Othellos and Iagos and Don Juans; but they are not
highly characteristic of the country, they do not come up
spontaneously in the juniper pastures as the everlasting does.
Miss Jewett wrote of everyday people who grew out of the soil, not
about exceptional individuals at war with their environment.  This
was not a creed with her, but an instinctive preference.

Born within the scent of the sea but not within sight of it, in a
beautiful old house full of strange and lovely things brought home
from all over the globe by seafaring ancestors, she spent much of
her childhood driving about the country with her doctor father on
his professional rounds among the farms.  She early learned to love
her country for what it was.  What is quite as important, she saw
it as it was.  She happened to have the right nature, the right
temperament, to see it so--and to understand by intuition the
deeper meaning of what she saw.

She had not only the eye, she had the ear.  From her early years
she must have treasured up those pithy bits of local speech, of
native idiom, which enrich and enliven her pages.  The language her
people speak to each other is a native tongue.  No writer can
invent it.  It is made in the hard school of experience, in
communities where language has been undisturbed long enough to take
on colour and character from the nature and experiences of the
people.  The "sayings" of a community, its proverbs, are its
characteristic comment upon life; they imply its history, suggest
its attitude toward the world and its way of accepting life.  Such
an idiom makes the finest language any writer can have; and he can
never get it with a notebook.  He himself must be able to think and
feel in that speech--it is a gift from heart to heart.

Much of Miss Jewett's delightful humour comes from her delicate and
tactful handling of this native language of the waterside and
countryside, never overdone, never pushed a shade too far; from
this, and from her own fine attitude toward her subject-matter.
This attitude in itself, though unspoken, is everywhere felt, and
constitutes one of the most potent elements of grace and charm in
her stories.  She had with her own stories and her own characters a
very charming relation; spirited, gay, tactful, noble in its
essence and a little arch in its expression.  In this particular
relationship many of our most gifted writers are unfortunate.  If a
writer's attitude toward his characters and his scene is as vulgar
as a showman's, as mercenary as an auctioneer's, vulgar and
meretricious will his product for ever remain.


"The distinguished outward stamp"--it was that one felt immediately
upon meeting Miss Jewett: a lady, in the old high sense.  It was in
her face and figure, in her carriage, her smile, her voice, her way
of greeting one.  There was an ease, a graciousness, a light touch
in conversation, a delicate unobtrusive wit.  You quickly
recognized that her gift with the pen was one of many charming
personal attributes.  In the short period when I knew her, 1908 and
1909, she was not writing at all, and found life full enough
without it.  Some six years before, she had been thrown from a
carriage on a country road (sad fate for an enthusiastic
horsewoman) and suffered a slight concussion.  She recovered, after
a long illness, but she did not write again--felt that her best
working power was spent.

She had never been one of those who "live to write."  She lived for
a great many things, and the stories by which we know her were one
of many preoccupations.  After the carriage accident she was not
strong enough to go out into the world a great deal; before that
occurred her friendships occupied perhaps the first place in her
life.  She had friends among the most interesting and gifted people
of her time, and scores of friends among the village and country
people of her own State--people who knew her as Doctor Jewett's
daughter and regarded "Sarah's writing" as a ladylike accomplishment.
These country friends, she used to say, were the wisest of all,
because they could never be fooled about fundamentals.  Even after
her long illness she was at home to a few visitors almost every
afternoon; friends from England and France were always coming and
going.  Small dinner-parties and luncheons were part of the regular
routine when she was with Mrs. Fields on Charles Street or at
Manchester-by-the-Sea.  When she was at home, in South Berwick,
there were the old friends of her childhood to whom she must be
always accessible.  At the time I knew her she had, as she said,
forgone all customary exercises--except a little gardening in
spring and summer.  But as a young woman she devoted her mornings
to horseback riding in fine weather, and was skilful with a
sailboat.  Every day, in every season of the year, she enjoyed the
beautiful country in which she had the good fortune to be born.
Her love of the Maine country and seacoast was the supreme happiness
of her life.  Her stories were but reflections, quite incidental,
of that peculiar and intensely personal pleasure.  Take, for
instance, that clear, daybreak paragraph which begins "By the
Morning Boat":

"On the coast of Maine, where many green islands and salt inlets
fringe the deep-cut shore line; where balsam firs and bayberry
bushes send their fragrance far seaward, and song-sparrows sing all
day, and the tide runs plashing in and out among the weedy ledges;
where cowbells tinkle on the hills and herons stand in the shady
coves--on the lonely coast of Maine stood a small gray house facing
the morning light."

Wherever Miss Jewett might be in the world, in the Alps, the
Pyrenees, the Apennines, she carried the Maine shore-country with
her.  She loved it by instinct, and in the light of wide
experience, from near and from afar.

"You must know the world before you can know the village," she once
said to me.  Quoted out of its context this remark sounds like a
wise pronouncement, but Miss Jewett never made wise pronouncements.
Her personal opinions she voiced lightly, half-humorously; any
expression of them was spontaneous, the outgrowth of the immediate
conversation.  This remark was a supplementary comment, apropos of
a story we had both happened to read: a story about a mule,
introduced by the magazine which published it with an editorial
note to the effect that (besides being "fresh" and "promising") it
was authentic, as the young man who wrote it was a mule-driver and
had never been anything else.  When I asked Miss Jewett if she had
seen it, she gave no affirmative but a soft laugh, rather
characteristic of her, something between amusement and forbearance,
and exclaimed:

"Poor lad!  But his mule could have done better!  A mule, by God's
grace, is a mule, with the mettle of his kind.  Besides, the mule
would be grammatical.  It's not in his sure-footed nature to slight
syntax.  A horse might tangle himself up in his sentences or his
picket rope, but never a mule."


Miss Jewett had read too widely, and had too fine a literary sense,
to overestimate her own performance.  Every Sunday book section of
the New York dailies announces half a dozen "great" books, and
calls our attention to more great writers than the Elizabethan age
and the nineteenth century put together could muster.  Miss Jewett
applied that adjective very seldom (to Tolstoi, Flaubert, and a few
others), certainly never to herself or to anything of her own.  She
spoke of "the Pointed Fir papers" or "the Pointed Fir sketches"; I
never heard her call them stories.  She had, as Henry James said of
her, "a sort of elegance of humility, or fine flame of modesty."
She was content to be slight, if she could be true.  The closing
sentences of "Marsh Rosemary" might stand as an unconscious piece
of self-criticism,--or perhaps as a gentle apology for the art of
all new countries, which must grow out of a thin soil and bear its

"Who can laugh at my Marsh Rosemary, or who can cry, for that
matter?  The gray primness of the plant is made up from a hundred
colors if you look close enough to find them.  This Marsh Rosemary
stands in her own place, and holds her dry leaves and tiny blossoms
steadily toward the same sun that the pink lotus blooms for, and
the white rose."

For contemporary writers of much greater range than her own, she
had the most reverent and rejoicing admiration.  She was one of the
first Americans to see the importance of Joseph Conrad.  Indeed,
she was reading a new volume of Conrad, late in the night, when the
slight cerebral hmorrhage occurred from which she died some months

At a time when machine-made historical novels were the literary
fashion in the United States, when the magazines were full of
dreary dialect stories, and the works of John Fox, Jr., were
considered profound merely because they were very dull and heavy as
clay, Miss Jewett quietly developed her own medium and confined
herself to it.  At that time Henry James was the commanding figure
in American letters, and his was surely the keenest mind any
American ever devoted to the art of fiction.  But it was devoted
almost exclusively to the study of other and older societies than
ours.  He was interested in his countrymen chiefly as they appeared
in relation to the European scene.  As an American writer he seems
to claim, and richly to deserve, a sort of personal exemption.
Stephen Crane came upon the scene, a young man of definite talent,
brilliant and brittle,--dealing altogether with the surfaces of
things, but in a manner all his own.  He died young, but he had
done something real.  One can read him today.  If we glance back
over the many novels which have challenged our attention since
Crane's time, it is like taking a stroll through a World's Fair
grounds some years after the show is over.  Palaces with the stucco
peeling off, oriental villages stripped to beaver-board and cement,
broken fountains, lakes gone to mud and weeds.  We realize that
whatever it is that makes a book hold together, most of these
hadn't it.

Among those glittering novelties which have now become old-
fashioned Miss Jewett's little volumes made a small showing.  A
taste for them must always remain a special taste,--but it will
remain.  She wrote for a limited audience, and she still has it,
both here and abroad.  To enjoy her the reader must have a
sympathetic relation with the subject-matter and a sensitive ear;
especially must he have a sense of "pitch" in writing.  He must
recognize when the quality of feeling comes inevitably out of the
theme itself; when the language, the stresses, the very structure
of the sentences are imposed upon the writer by the special mood of
the piece.

It is easy to understand why some of the young students who have
turned back from the present to glance at Miss Jewett find very
little on her pages.  Imagine a young man, or woman, born in New
York City, educated at a New York university, violently inoculated
with Freud, hurried into journalism, knowing no more about New
England country people (or country folk anywhere) than he has
caught from motor trips or observed from summer hotels: what is
there for him in The Country of the Pointed Firs?

This hypothetical young man is perhaps of foreign descent: German,
Jewish, Scandinavian.  To him English is merely a means of making
himself understood, of communicating his ideas.  He may write and
speak American English correctly, but only as an American may learn
to speak French correctly.  It is a surface speech: he clicks the
words out as a bank clerk clicks out silver when you ask for
change.  For him the language has no emotional roots.  How could he
find the talk of the Maine country people anything but "dialect"?
Moreover, the temper of the people which lies behind the language
is incomprehensible to him.  He can see what these Yankees HAVE NOT
(hence an epidemic of "suppressed desire" plays and novels), but
what they HAVE, their actual preferences and their fixed scale of
values, are absolutely dark to him.  When he tries to put himself
in the Yankee's place, he attempts an impossible substitution.

But the adopted American is not alone in being cut off from an
instinctive understanding of "the old moral harmonies."  There is
the new American, whom Mr. Santayana describes as "the untrained,
pushing, cosmopolitan orphan, cocksure in manner but none too sure
in his morality, to whom the old Yankee, with his sour integrity,
is almost a foreigner."*

* George Santayana: Character and Opinion in the United States.
New York: Charles Scribner's Sons; 1920.

When we find ourselves on shipboard, among hundreds of strangers,
we very soon recognize those who are sympathetic to us.  We find
our own books in the same way.  We like a writer much as we like
individuals; for what he is, simply, underneath his accomplishments.
Oftener than we realize, it is for some moral quality, some ideal
which he himself cherishes, though it may be little discernible in
his behaviour in the world.  It is the light behind his books and is
the living quality in his sentences.

It is this very personal quality of perception, a vivid and
intensely personal experience of life, which make a "style"; Mark
Twain had it, at his best, and Hawthorne.  But among fifty thousand
books you will find very few writers who ever achieved a style at
all.  The distinctive thing about Miss Jewett is that she had an
individual voice; "a sense for the finest kind of truthful
rendering, the sober, tender note, the temperately touched, whether
in the ironic or pathetic," as Henry James said of her.  During the
twenty-odd clamorous years since her death "masterpieces" have been
bumping down upon us like trunks pouring down the baggage chutes
from an overcrowded ocean steamer.  But if you can get out from
under them and go to a quiet spot and take up a volume of Miss
Jewett, you will find the voice still there, with a quality which
any ear trained in literature must recognize.


In the Prologue of his great work Thomas Mann says of it:  "Its
theme is the first and last of all our questioning and speaking and
all our necessity; the nature of man."  But it is not the nature of
man as the Behaviourists or the biologists see it.  This is a
double nature, struggling with itself, and the struggle is not to
keep the physical machine running smoothly.  These ancient people
know very little about their physical structure.  Their attention
is fixed upon something within themselves which they feel to be
their real life, consciousness; where it came from and what becomes
of it.  In this book men ask themselves the questions they asked
ons ago when they found themselves in an unconscious world.  From
the Old Testament, that greatest record of the orphan soul trying
to find its kin somewhere in the universe, and from the cruder
superstitions of the neighbouring Semitic peoples, Mann has made
something like an orchestral arrangement of all the Semitic
religions and philosophies.

There are two ways in which a story-teller can approach a theme set
in the distant past.  The way most familiar to us is that which
Flaubert took in Salammb.  The writer stands in present time, his
own time, and looks backward.  He works and thinks in a long-
vanished society.  His mind is naturally fixed upon contrasting
that world with our own; upon religions, institutions, manners,
ways of thinking, all very unlike ours.  The reader sees the
horrors and splendours of Salammb from a distance; partly because
it was a point of ethics with Flaubert to encourage no familiarity
at any time, but particularly because in this book he himself was
engaged with the feeling of distance, strangeness, difference.

Mann approaches an even more distant past by another route; he gets
behind the epoch of his story and looks forward.  He begins with a
Prologue which is informed by all the discoveries science has
lately made about the beginnings of human existence on this globe;
the beginnings long before the known beginning, the long ages when
men "did battle with the flying newts" and life was little more
than a misery which persisted.  From the depths without a history
he comes up through the ages of orally transmitted legend; every
legend, he believes, having a fact behind it, an occurrence of
critical importance to the breed of man.

After the tremendous preparation of the Prologue (a marvel of
imaginative power), he rises out of the bottomless depths to the
period of his story; not much more than three thousand years ago,
he says, when men were very much like ourselves, "aside from a
measure of dreamy indefiniteness in their habits of thought."

This same dreamy indefiniteness, belonging to a people without any
of the relentless mechanical gear which directs every moment of
modern life toward accuracy, this indefiniteness is one of the most
effective elements of verity in this great work.  We are among a
shepherd people; the story has almost the movement of grazing
sheep.  The characters live at that pace.  Perhaps no one who has
not lived among sheep can realize the rightness of the rhythm.  A
shepherd people is not driving toward anything.  With them, truly,
as Michelet said of quite another form of journeying, the end is
nothing, the road is all.  In fact, the road and the end are
literally one.

There is nothing in Joseph and His Brothers more admirable than the
tempo, the deliberate, sustained pace.  (In this age of blinding
speed and shattering sound!)  Never was there a happier conjunction
of writer and subject-matter.  Thomas Mann's natural tempo is
deliberate; his sentences come out of reflection, not out of an
impulse.  It is possible for him to write the story of a shepherd
people at the right pace and with the right kind of development,--
continual circling and digression--which here is not digression
since it is his purpose.  He can listen to the herdsmen telling
their stories over and over, go backward and forward with their
"dreamily indefinite" habits of thought.  He has all the time there
is; Mediterranean time, 1700 B.C.

When I refer to a passage in the book to refresh my memory, I find
myself reading on and on, largely from pleasure in this rich
deliberateness which is never without intensity and deep vibration.
It is not a kind of writing adapted to all subjects, certainly, but
here it is in the very nature of the theme; it gives, along with
this distinctive rhythm, a warm homeliness, communicates a brooding
tenderness which is in the author's mind.  For in this book Herr
Mann is enamoured of his theme, wholly given to it, and this
favouritism, held in check by his native temperateness, is itself a
source of pleasure; the strong feeling under the strong hand.

At the end of his Prologue the author declares that he is glad to
come up from the bottomless pit of prehistoric struggle, and the
undecipherable riddle of the old legends, to something relatively
near, rather like a home-coming.  We, too, are glad.  With a sense
of escape we approach something already known to us; not glacier
ages or a submerged Atlantis, but the very human Mediterranean
shore, on a moonlight night in the season of spring.

We have all been there before, even if we have never crossed salt
water.  (Perhaps this is not strictly accurate, but even the
Agnostic and the Behaviourist would have to admit that his great-
grandfather had been there.)  The Bible countries along the
Mediterranean shore were very familiar to most of us in our
childhood.  Whether we were born in New Hampshire or Virginia or
California, Palestine lay behind us.  We took it in unconsciously
and unthinkingly perhaps, but we could not escape it.  It was all
about us, in the pictures on the walls, in the songs we sang in
Sunday school, in the "opening exercises" at day school, in the
talk of the old people, wherever we lived.  And it was in our
language--fixedly, indelibly.  The effect of the King James
translation of the Bible upon English prose has been repeated down
through the generations, leaving its mark on the minds of all
children who had any but the most sluggish emotional nature.

We emerge from Mann's Prologue to find ourselves not only in a
familiar land, but among people we have always known, Joseph and
Jacob: and they are talking about their remote ancestors, whom we
also know.  The Book of Genesis lies like a faded tapestry deep in
the consciousness of almost every individual who is more than forty
years of age.  Moreover, as it is the background of nearly all the
art of Western Europe, even today's college Senior must have come
upon it, if only by the cheerless road of reference reading.  We
are familiar with Mann's characters and their history, not only
through Moses and the Prophets, but through Milton and Dante and
Racine, Bach and Hayden and Handel, through painters and architects
and stone-cutters innumerable.  We begin the book with the great
imaginings and the great imaginators already in our minds--we are
dyed through and through with them.  That is the take-off of the


The first volume of the work is the book of Jacob,--of Jacob and
his forbears.  In a family which held itself so much apart from
other tribes and sects, the connection between each man and a long
line of grandfathers was very close.  There were external features
common to all the Semitic religions; hence the shallow and light-
minded of the descendants of Abraham were often backsliders,
marrying with women of other tribes and troubling themselves very
little about the one great idea that had brought Abraham out of
Chaldea and isolated him from his own and all other peoples.
Whenever that conception of God was very strong in one of Abraham's
descendants (was indeed the burning purpose of his inner life, as
it was of Jacob's), that man was virtually Abraham's grandson, no
matter how many physical generations had gone between, and he was
the true and direct inheritor of the "blessing," aside from any
accident of primogeniture.

Throughout this first volume one gradually becomes aware that
Abraham's seed were not so much the "chosen people" as they were
THE people WHO chose.  They chose to renounce not only sacred
images, "idols," but all the spells and incantations and rites to
which men resorted for comfort of mind, and to wander forth
searching for a God of whom no image could be made by mortal hand.
A God who was not a form, but a force, an essence; felt, but not
imprisoned in matter.  "The God of the ages," Mann puts it, "for
whom he [Abraham] sought a name and found none sufficient,
wherefore he gave Him the plural, calling Him, provisionally,
Elohim, the Godhead."

Herr Mann accounts for Abraham's quest in this wise:

"What had set him in motion was unrest of the spirit, a need of
God, and if--as there can be no doubt--dispensations were
vouchsafed him, they had reference to the irradiations of his
personal experience of God, which was of a new kind altogether; and
his whole concern from the beginning had been to win for it
sympathy and adherence.  He suffered; and when he compared the
measure of his inward distress with that of the great majority, he
drew the conclusion that it was pregnant with the future.  Not in
vain, so he heard from the newly beheld God, shall have been thy
torment and thine unrest; for it shall fructify many souls and make
proselytes in numbers like to the sands of the seas; and it shall
give impulse to great expansions of life hidden in it as in a seed;
and in one word, thou shalt be a blessing.  A blessing?  It is
unlikely that the word gives the true meaning of that which
happened to him in his very sight and which corresponded to his
temperament and to his experience of himself.  For the word
'blessing' carries with it an idea which but ill describes men of
his sort: men, that is, of roving spirit and discomfortable mind,
whose novel conception of the deity is destined to make its mark
upon the future.  The life of men with whom new histories begin can
seldom or never be a sheer unclouded blessing; not this it is which
their consciousness of self whispers in their ears.  'And thou
shalt be a destiny': such is the purer and more precise meaning of
the promise, in whatever language it may have been spoken."

The idea was a leap centuries ahead into the dark.  Yet it must
have been born in the mind of one man: such revelations never come
to committees or bureaus of research.  Abraham's descendants could
not always live up to it, but tradition held them together, and the
rite of circumcision set them apart.  The rite and the form can be
continued even in the sluggish generations when the significance is
lost.  But Mann's work begins when the quest which drove Abraham
out of a stupefied materialistic world is burning bright again in
Jacob, who, by stratagems outwardly crooked but inwardly
inevitable, "had saved his life, his precious, covenanted life, for
God and the future."  Jacob, apparently, was the first of Abraham's
descendants who had the power of realizing and experiencing God
more and more sharply through all the variations of a life
incredibly eventful and long.  He experienced Him in meditation, in
the unforeseeable but strangely logical working-out of events in
his own life--and in dreams.  Dreams so full of meaning that they
were to him promises.  After Abraham's people had cut themselves
off from the comfortableness and commonplaceness of anthropomorphic
gods, there still remained the ladder of dreams, by which the
orphan soul could mount and the ministers of grace descend.

Jacob the constant lover, who served seven years for Rachel: the
trickery of Laban: the rivalry between the sisters: these are great
stories which have lived through the centuries.  But the greatest,
the most moving story is what the author terms "Jacob's labouring
upon the Godhead."  Jacob is a many-sided man,--but the painting of
his contradictions must be left to Thomas Mann himself.  He has
done it as no one else could.  The creation of Jacob, in the flesh
and in the spirit, is the great achievement of his work.  The man
who knows that he bears the "blessing" and who sees further into
destiny than any of his tribe or time, must, sometimes by purposed
indirection, sometimes by stepping aside and shutting his eyes,
"save his precious, covenanted life for God and the future."  For
the aim of the law is worth more than any letter of it, and a
trivial transaction or a question of family government must not be
allowed to interfere with those fruitful seasons of thought which
are well called "labour upon the Godhead."

For every lapse in conduct and shirking of responsibility Jacob
paid, of course.  But the payment, however cruel, seems always to
set him a long way forward in his incommunicable spiritual quest,--
which certainly proves that his way was for him the right way.
With every sorrow he brought upon himself for failing in a plain
duty, the immortal jewel he carried within became brighter, and his
faith in the way his fathers had chosen more sure.  His shirking in
the matter of restraining Leah's sons from their revenge for Dinah
cost him Rachel, who died because she was forced to travel by mule-
back when she was close upon her confinement.  (Another
contributing cause comes in here, very characteristic of Jacob,
and, one might say, of the author's mind as well.)  Rachel died by
the roadside, giving birth to Benjamin.  It was as Jacob sat beside
her under the mulberry tree, aware that she was dying, that there
came over him the greatest of his understandings, loftier than all
his visions:

"And then it was that he directed upwards into the silvery light of
those worlds above their heads, almost as a confession that he
understood, his question:  'Lord, what dost Thou?'

"To such questions there is no answer.  Yet it is the glory of the
human spirit that in this silence it does not depart from God, but
rather learns to grasp the majesty of the ungraspable and to thrive
thereon.  Beside him the Chaldan women and slaves chanted their
litanies and invocations, thinking to bind to human wishes the
unreasoning powers.  But Jacob had never yet so clearly understood
as in this hour, why all that was false, and why Abram had left Ur
to escape it.  The vision vouchsafed him into this immensity was
full of horror but also of power; his labour upon the godhead,
which always betrayed itself in his care-worn mien, made in this
awful night a progress not unconnected with Rachel's agonies."


Volume two is the Book of Young Joseph, but it is also still the
book of Jacob, though there is a lull in the vicissitudes of his
life.  The beauty and promise of Rachel's son fill his days,--until
there occurs the great shock which arouses him again to the old
struggle to comprehend, in some measure, the dealings of God with
man; to justify God, as it were, and find some benign purpose
behind the brutality of accident and mischance.

The character of the relation between father and son we have known
ever since the long conversation between them on that spring night
beside the well.  There all Jacob's anxieties were at once
revealed; his fear that the nature of the boy's gifts may lead him
astray to admire the softer graces of other peoples,--their arts
and sciences, which were irrelevant to a life for the Godhead, and
should not concern the boy to whom he would undoubtedly give the
"blessing."  In short, the lad was already worldly, and with scant
opportunity had managed to learn a great deal about other languages
and other manners than those of his shepherd people.  In this
precocity Jacob sensed a danger.  But he feared other dangers,--
love can always see many.  He is troubled to find the boy abroad at
night, where a wild beast might fall upon him; a lion has been seen
in the neighbourhood.  And he is always ill at ease when the boy is
near a well, a hole in the earth.  Before Joseph's birth his
grandfather, Laban, had consulted a heathen seer who foretold of
the child Rachel carried that he should go down into a pit.

As for Joseph's attitude toward his father, it is what the good
son's always will be.  He loves Jacob because it is easy for him to
love, respects him for all he has been and is, and pities him
because his mind is shut against whatever is new and delightfully
strange; against interesting languages and religions, against the
clamour of founded cities and the customs of foreign peoples.  He
himself already knows a great deal more than Jacob, although he
admits he is not so wise and has not been through so much.

When the second volume opens, Joseph is seventeen.  He has learned
many things since that night when he talked with Jacob by the well,
but he is scarcely more mature.  To pick up a new language easily,
to astonish his father by his knowledge of tradition and the
spiritual meaning of natural phenomena, to be the ornament and,
indeed, the intellect, of his family; all this is quite enough to
fill the days pleasantly at seventeen.

Very seldom does the personal charm of a character mysteriously
reach out to one from the printed page.  All authors claim it for
their favourite creations, but their failure to make good their
claim is so usual that we seldom stop to say to the writer:  "But
this is mere writing, I get no feeling of this person."  For me, at
least, Herr Mann wholly succeeds in communicating Joseph's highly
individual charm.  Mann's own consciousness of it is very strong,
with something paternal in it, since he so often feels Joseph
through Jacob's senses.  When, only a few hours after its birth,
Jacob first sees this baby which had seemed so unwilling to be born
at all, when he regards the unusual shape and firmness of the head
and the "strangely complete little hand," he knows that here is
something different from all the other sturdy little animals which
have been born to him.  From that moment the reader also is able to
believe in the special loveliness and equability and fine fibre of
this child; here is no shepherd clod, but something that can take a
high finish.

The misfortune of young Joseph is that he never meets with anything
difficult enough to challenge his very unusual mind.  What there is
to be learned from his old teacher, and from the routine of a
shepherds' camp, is mere child's play.  Nothing very interesting
ever happens now in Jacob's great family; so Joseph decorates the
trivial events: he exaggerates, gossips, talks too much, and is
extravagantly given to dreams.  These are not the dreams of
lassitude, nor are they sensual.  They are violent, dizzy,--
nightmares of grandeur.  The qualities which are to make his great
future are in him, potential realities, just as they were in
Napoleon at seventeen; and they have nothing to grapple with.

It was this "something," this innate superiority in the boy
himself, which the brothers hated even more than they hated the
father's favourite: a deeper and more galling kind of jealousy.
The story of Joseph and his brothers is not only forever repeated
in literature, it forever repeats itself in life.  The natural
antagonism between the sane and commonplace, and the exceptional
and inventive, is never so bitter as when it occurs in a family:
and Joseph certainly did nothing to conciliate his stolid brethren.
He insisted upon believing (he had to insist, for he was not vain
to the point of stupidity) that all his family rejoiced in his good
looks and brilliancy and general superiority.  Was he not an
ornament to them?  It did not occur to him that families which lead
self-respecting, simple, industrious lives are not pleased with or
benefited by ornaments of this kind--which put them in a false
position, indeed.  The richness of his own fancy and vitality was
quite enough for the youth.  Upon this limitation in Joseph the
author comments as follows:

"Indifference to the inner life of other human beings, ignorance of
their feelings, display an entirely warped attitude toward real
life, they give rise to a certain blindness.  Since the days of
Adam and Eve, since the time when one became two, nobody has been
able to live without wanting to put himself in his neighbour's
place and explore his situation, even while trying to see it
objectively.  Imagination, the art of divining the emotional life
of others--in other words, sympathy--is not only commendable
inasmuch as it breaks down the limitations of the ego; it is always
an indispensable means of self-preservation.  But of these rules
Joseph knew nothing.  His blissful self-confidence was like that of
a spoilt child; it persuaded him, despite all evidence to the
contrary, that everyone loved him, even more than themselves."

Joseph heeded no preliminary warnings; he was awakened from his
agreeable self-satisfaction only by a shock so terrible that he
barely survived it at all, and this awakening was followed by a
long and hazardous servitude among a hostile people.  Life put him
to the test, to many tests, and proved him; he was one of those
whom mischances enlighten and refine.  Behind the bright promise in
him there was the sound seed which would grow to its full measure
under any circumstances and could not be circumvented.  The world
is always full of brilliant youth which fades into grey and
embittered middle age: the first flowering takes everything.  The
great men are those who have developed slowly, or who have been
able to survive the glamour of their early florescence and to go on
learning from life.  If we could

                          look into the seeds of time,
     And say which grain will grow and which will not,

our hopes for young talent would be disappointed less often.  Yet
in that very mystery lies much of the fascination which gifted
young people have for their elders.  Kindly effort to shelter them
from struggle with the hard facts of existence is often to take
away the bread (or the lack of it) by which they grow, if the power
of growth is in them.  Perhaps if young Joseph had been sent into
Egypt on a pension fund or a travelling scholarship the end might
have been very different.

The manner in which he actually sets out for Egypt is a challenge
to fate, certainly: disinherited, bruised in body, rocking on the
camel of Ishmaelite merchants who have bought him as a slave.  Thus
he vanishes from the story.  We do not know at what point in his
adventures we are first to see him again in Mann's third volume,
but we know that his father is not to see him again until there has
been such a reversal of fortune as seldom happens--even in old
legends, with the direct intervention of the gods.  Though he is
brought so low when he leaves us, his state is not utterly
hopeless.  The brothers have beaten the conceit and joy out of him;
all his sunny youth he has left behind him in the pit, and he has
come out into the world naked as when he was born, without father
or family or friends, owning not even his own body.  But he is
going toward a country where, if he really possesses the lively
intelligence Jacob and old Eliezer imputed to him, it will find
plenty to work upon.

The book ends with Jacob, for however much the story is Joseph's,
it is always Jacob's.  He is the compass, the north star, the
seeking mind behind events; he divines their hidden causes.  He
knows that even external accidents often have their roots, their
true beginnings, in personal feeling.  He accepts the evidence of
the bloody coat and believes that Joseph was devoured by a boar or
a lion, yet his glance at the brothers is always accusing.  But for
their hatred, the wild beast might not have come down upon Joseph.

Jacob is the understanding witness of the whole play, and we know,
when we close the second volume, that he will live to behold the
unimaginable conclusion in Egypt.  This is one of the advantages of
making a new story out of an old one which is a very part of the
readers' consciousness.  The course of destiny is already known and
fixed for us, it is not some story-teller's make-believe (though
for strangeness no reckless improviser could surpass this one).
What we most love is not bizarre invention, but to have the old
story brought home to us closer than ever before, enriched by all
that the right man could draw from it and, by sympathetic insight,
put into it.  Shakespeare knew this fact very well, and the Greek
dramatists long before him.

Herr Mann stresses Joseph's charm of person and address with good
reason.  They are stressed even in the highly condensed account in
the Book of Genesis.  They are, indeed, the subject of Joseph's
story.  Had the Ishmaelites not recognized very exceptional values
in him, they would have sold him in any slave market.  Being sure
of special qualities in this piece of merchandise, they held him
for a high purchaser and disposed of him to the Captain of
Pharaoh's guard.  He charmed Potiphar and, to his misfortune,
Potiphar's wife.  When he was thrown into a dungeon, his jailor
gave him the management of the prison.  When he was brought before
Pharaoh, he was given the management of the kingdom.

He had come into Egypt a slave, born of a half-savage people whom
the cultivated Egyptians despised, and he had been trained to an
occupation they despised.  We are told in Genesis that "every
shepherd was an abomination to the Egyptians."  (We are not told
why: perhaps because the Egyptian cotton market was already an
important thing in the world?)  It is not easy to find a parallel
situation: suppose that a Navajo Indian shepherd boy had been
gathered up by the Spanish explorers and sold to one of the world-
roving merchant ships from Saint-Malo.  Suppose, further, that we
find this red Indian boy at the age of thirty become the virtual
ruler of France, a Richelieu or a Mazarin.

How much of his remarkable career Herr Mann will accredit to
Joseph's aptness in worldly affairs (that quality of which old
Jacob was so distrustful), and how much to his direct inheritance
from Jacob, that "blessing" (never formally given) which he carried
with him into a land of subtleties and highly organized social
life, I wait with impatience to learn.  I suspect that I shall
still find the father mightier than the son, and more remarkable as
an imaginative creation.

Jacob is the rod of measure.  He saw the beginning, the new-born
creature, and believed even then that this was the child of
destiny.  He knew Joseph before Joseph knew himself.  When the
"true son" disappeared into darkness at the dawn of his promise, it
was Jacob, not Joseph, who bore the full weight of the catastrophe
and tasted the bitterness of death.  And he lived to see the
beautiful conclusion; not the worldly triumph only, but the
greatness of heart which could forgive wrongs so shameful and
cruel.  Had not Jacob been there to recognize and to foresee, to be
destroyed by grief and raised up again, the story of Joseph would
lose its highest value.  Joseph is the brilliant actor in the
scene, but Jacob is the mind which created the piece itself.  His
brooding spirit wraps the legend in a loftiness and grandeur which
actual events can never, in themselves, possess.  Take Jacob out of
the history of Joseph, and it becomes simply the story of young
genius; its cruel discipline, its ultimate triumph and worldly
success.  A story ever new and always gratifying, but one which
never wakens the deep vibrations of the soul.



Late in the autumn of 1920, on my way home from Naples, I had a
glimpse of Katherine Mansfield through the eyes of a fellow
passenger.  As I have quite forgotten his real name, I shall call
him Mr. J--.  He was a New Englander, about sixty-five years of
age, I conjectured; long, lean, bronzed, clear blue eyes, not very
talkative.  His face, however, had a way of talking to itself.
When he sat reading, or merely looking at the water, changes went
over his thin lips and brown cheeks which betokened silent
soliloquy; amusement, doubtful deliberation, very often a good-
humoured kind of scorn, accompanied by an audible sniff which was
not the result of a cold.  His profession was the law, I gathered,
though he seemed to know a great deal about mines and mining
engineering.  Early American history was his personal passion,
Francis Parkman and Sir George Otto Trevelyan.  Though in both
writers he found inconsistencies, he referred to these not
superciliously but rather affectionately.

The voyage was very rough (we were delayed three days by bad
weather), the cabin passengers were few and the wind and cold kept
most of them in their staterooms.  I found Mr. J-- good company.
He wore well.  Though I have forgotten his name, I have not
forgotten him.  He was an original, a queer stick, intelligent but
whimsical and crochety, quickly prejudiced for or against people by
trifling mannerisms.  He dined alone at a small table and always
dressed for dinner though no one else did.

He was an agreeable companion chiefly because he was so unexpected.
For example: one morning when he was muttering dry witticisms about
the boat's having lost so much time, he threw off carelessly that
he was trying to get home for his mother's NINETIETH birthday
celebration, "though we are not on good terms, by any means," he

I said I had supposed that family differences were outlawed at

"Not in our family," he brought out with relish.

He was a true chip, and proud of the old block.  He was bringing a
present home to her--a great bundle of leopard skins, which he
showed to me.  (He had lately been in Africa.)

He was a bachelor, of course, but when we were filling out
declarations for customs, he had a number of expensive toys to
declare (besides the leopard skins) and sport clothes for young
men.  Nephews, I asked?  Not altogether, with a twist of the face.
Some of his old friends had done him the compliment of naming sons
after him.  Yes, I thought, a bachelor of this kidney was just the
man who would be welcome in other men's homes; he would be a
cheerful interruption in the domestic monotony of correct, sound
people like himself.  Possibly he would have friends among people
very unlike himself.

One afternoon as he sat down in his deck chair he picked up a
volume of Synge's plays lying on my rug.  He looked at it and

"Trevelyan is the one English writer I would really like to meet.
The old man."

He glanced through my book for a few moments, then put it back on
my knee and asked abruptly:  "What do you think of Katherine

I told him I had read her very little (English friends had sent me
over a story of hers from time to time), but I thought her very

"You think so, do you."  It was not a question, but a verdict,
delivered in his driest manner, with a slight sniff.  After a
moment he said he had letters to write and went away.  Why a
specialist in the American Revolution and the French and Indian
wars should ask me about a girl then scarcely heard of in America,
and why he should be displeased at my answer--

The next morning I saw him doing his usual half-hour on the deck.
"Climbing the deck," he called it, because now, in addition to the
inconveniences of rough weather, we had a very bad list.  Mr. J--
explained that it came about because the coal hadn't been properly
trimmed and had shifted.  Very dangerous with a heavy sea every
day . . . disgrace to seamanship . . . couldn't have happened on
a British steamer . . . Italians and French in the engine room.
After climbing and descending the deck until he had satisfied his
conscience, he sat down beside me and flapped his rug over his

"The young lady we were speaking of yesterday: she writes under a
nom de plume.  Her true name is not Mansfield, but Beauchamp."

"That I didn't know.  I know nothing about her, really."

He relapsed into one of his long silences, and I went on reading.

"May I send the deck steward to my cabin for some sherry, instead
of that logwood he would bring us from the bar?"

The sherry appeared.  After we had drunk a few glasses, Mr. J--
began:  "The young lady we were speaking of; I happen to have seen
her several times, though I certainly don't move in literary

I expressed surprise and interest, but he did not go on at once.
He sent the steward for more biscuit, and got up to test the
lashings of his deck chair and mine.  We were on the port side
where the wind was milder but the list was worse.  At last he made
himself comfortable and began to tell me that he had once gone out
to Australia and New Zealand on business matters.  He was very
specific as to dates, geography, boat and railway connections.  He
elaborated upon these details.  I suppose because they were safe
and sane, things you could check up on, while the real subject of
his communication proved to be very vague.  I did not listen
attentively; I had only the dimmest conception of those distant
British colonies.  He was telling me about a boat trip he had made
from New Zealand to some Australian port, when gradually his manner
changed; he rambled and was more wary.  As he became more cautious
I became more interested.  I wish I could repeat his story exactly
as he told it, but his way of talking was peculiar to himself and I
can only give the outline:

Among the people who were coming on board his steamer when he left
New Zealand, Mr. J-- noticed a family party: several children, a
man who was evidently their father, and an old lady who seemed of
quite a different class than the other passengers.  She was quiet,
gentle, had the children perfectly under control.  She conducted
them below as soon as the boat took off.  When they reappeared on
deck they had changed their shore things for play clothes.  Mr. J--
remembered very little about the father, "the usual pushing
colonial type," but he distinctly remembered the old lady, and a
little girl with thin legs and large eyes who wandered away from
the family and apparently wished to explore the steamer for
herself.  Presently she came and sat down next Mr. J--, which
pleased him.  She was shy, but so happy to be going on a journey
that she answered his questions and talked to him as if he were not
a stranger.  She was delighted with everything; the boat, the
water, the weather, the gulls which followed the steamer.  "But
have you ever seen them eat?" she asked.  "That is terrible!"

The next morning Mr. J-- was up and out very early; found the deck
washed down and empty.  But up in the bow he saw his little friend
of yesterday, doing some sort of gymnastic exercises, "quick as a
bird."  He joined her and asked if she had breakfasted.  No, she
was waiting for the others.

"Mustn't exercise too much before breakfast," he told her.  "Come
and sit down with me."  As they walked toward his chair he noticed
that she had put on a fresh dress for the morning.  Mr. J-- said it
was "embroidered" (probably cross-stitched) with yellow ducks, all
in a row round the hem.  He complimented her upon the ducks.

"I thought they would astonish you," she said complacently.

As they sat and talked she kept smoothing her skirt and settling
her sleeves, which had a duck on each cuff.  Something pleased Mr.
J-- very much as he recalled the little girl, and her satisfaction
with her fresh dress on that fresh morning aboard a little coasting
steamer.  His eyes twinkled and he chuckled.  "She adopted me for
the rest of the voyage," he concluded.

No, he couldn't say exactly what the charm of the child was.  She
struck him as intensely alert, with a deep curiosity altogether
different from the flighty, excited curiosity usual in children.
She turned things over in her head and asked him questions which
surprised him.  She was sometimes with her grandmother and the
other children, but oftener alone, going about the boat, looking
the world over with quiet satisfaction.  When she was with him, he
did not talk to her a great deal, because he liked better to watch
her "taking it all in."  It was on her account he had always
remembered that short trip, out of many boat trips.  She told him
her name, and he easily remembered it "because of Beauchamp's
Career, you see."

"And now do you want chapter two?" Mr. J-- asked me.  He twisted
his face and rubbed his chin.

A few years ago he had been in London on a confidential mission for
a client who was also an old friend.  The nature of his business
took him more or less among people not of his kind and not
especially to his liking.  (He paused here as if taking counsel
with his discretion, and I wondered whether we were to have another
version of Henry James' The Ambassadors.)  In the places frequented
by this uncongenial "circle" he heard talk of a girl from New
Zealand who "could knock the standard British authors into a cocked
hat," though she didn't very easily find a publisher.  She scorned
conventions, and had got herself talked about.  He heard her name
spoken.  There could be no doubt; from the same part of the world,
and the name he had never forgotten.  The young lady herself was
pointed out to him once in a restaurant, by the young man whose
affairs he had come over to manage.  She was just back from the
Continent, and her friends were giving a dinner for her.  As he
expected; the same face, the same eyes.  She did not fit the gossip
he had been hearing; quite the contrary.  She looked to him almost
demure,--except for something challenging in her eyes, perhaps.
And she seemed very frail.  He felt a strong inclination to look
her up.  He decided to write to her, but he thought he had better
inform himself a little first.  He asked his client whether he had
anything Miss Mansfield had written.  The young man, doubtless with
humorous intent, produced a pamphlet which had been privately
printed: Je ne parle pas franais.  After reading it, Mr. J-- felt
there would be no point in meeting the young writer.  He saw her
once afterward, at the theatre.  When the play was on and the
lights were down, she looked, he thought, ill and unhappy.  He
heartily wished he had never seen or heard of her since that boat

Mr. J-- turned to me sharply:  "Je ne parle pas franais--and what
do you think of that story, may I ask?"

I had not read it.

"Well, I have.  I didn't dismiss it lightly; artificial, and
unpleasantly hysterical, full of affectations; she had none as a
child."  He spoke rather bitterly: his disappointment was genuine.


Every writer and critic of discernment who looked into Katherine
Mansfield's first volume of short stories must have felt that here
was a very individual talent.  At this particular time few writers
care much about their medium except as a means for expressing
ideas.  But in Katherine Mansfield one recognized virtuosity, a
love for the medium she had chosen.

The qualities of a second-rate writer can easily be defined, but a
first-rate writer can only be experienced.  It is just the thing in
him which escapes analysis that makes him first-rate.  One can
catalogue all the qualities that he shares with other writers, but
the thing that is his very own, his timbre, this cannot be defined
or explained any more than the quality of a beautiful speaking
voice can be.

It was usually Miss Mansfield's way to approach the major forces of
life through comparatively trivial incidents.  She chose a small
reflector to throw a luminous streak out into the shadowy realm of
personal relationships.  I feel that personal relationships,
especially the uncatalogued ones, the seemingly unimportant ones,
interested her most.  To my thinking, she never measured herself up
so fully as in the two remarkable stories about an English family
in New Zealand, "Prelude" and "At the Bay."

I doubt whether any contemporary writer has made one feel more
keenly the many kinds of personal relations which exist in an
everyday "happy family" who are merely going on living their daily
lives, with no crises or shocks or bewildering complications to try
them.  Yet every individual in that household (even the children)
is clinging passionately to his individual soul, is in terror of
losing it in the general family flavour.  As in most families, the
mere struggle to have anything of one's own, to be one's self at
all, creates an element of strain which keeps everybody almost at
the breaking-point.

One realizes that even in harmonious families there is this double
life: the group life, which is the one we can observe in our
neighbour's household, and, underneath, another--secret and
passionate and intense--which is the real life that stamps the
faces and gives character to the voices of our friends.  Always in
his mind each member of these social units is escaping, running
away, trying to break the net which circumstances and his own
affections have woven about him.  One realizes that human
relationships are the tragic necessity of human life; that they can
never be wholly satisfactory, that every ego is half the time
greedily seeking them, and half the time pulling away from them.
In those simple relationships of loving husband and wife,
affectionate sisters, children and grandmother, there are
innumerable shades of sweetness and anguish which make up the
pattern of our lives day by day, though they are not down in the
list of subjects from which the conventional novelist works.

Katherine Mansfield's peculiar gift lay in her interpretation of
these secret accords and antipathies which lie hidden under our
everyday behaviour, and which more than any outward events make our
lives happy or unhappy.  Had she lived, her development would have
gone on in this direction more than in any other.  When she touches
this New Zealand family and those faraway memories ever so lightly,
as in "The Doll's House," there is a magic one does not find in the
other stories, fine as some of them are.  With this theme the very
letters on the page become alive.  She communicates vastly more
than she actually writes.  One goes back and runs through the pages
to find the text which made one know certain things about Linda or
Burnell or Beryl, and the text is not there--but something was
there, all the same--is there, though no typesetter will ever set
it.  It is this overtone, which is too fine for the printing press
and comes through without it, that makes one know that this writer
had something of the gift which is one of the rarest things in
writing, and quite the most precious.  That she had not the
happiness of developing her powers to the full, is sad enough.  She
wrote the truth from Fontainebleau a few weeks before she died:
"The old mechanism isn't mine any longer, and I can't control the
new."  She had lived through the first stage, had outgrown her
young art, so that it seemed false to her in comparison with the
new light that was breaking within.  The "new mechanism," big
enough to convey the new knowledge, she had not the bodily strength
to set in motion.


Katherine Mansfield's published Journal begins in 1914 and ends in
1922, some months before her death.  It is the record of a long
struggle with illness, made more cruel by lack of money and by the
physical hardships that war conditions brought about in England and
France.  At the age of twenty-two (when most young people have a
secret conviction that they are immortal), she was already ill in a
Bavarian pension.  From the time when she left New Zealand and came
back to England to make her own way, there was never an interval in
which she did not have to drive herself beyond her strength.  She
never reached the stage when she could work with a relaxed elbow.
In her story "Prelude," when the family are moving, and the
storeman lifts the little girl into the dray and tucks her up, he
says:  "Easy does it."  She knew this, long afterward, but she
never had a chance to put that method into practice.  In all her
earlier stories there is something fierce about her attack, as if
she took up a new tale in the spirit of overcoming it.  "Do or die"
is the mood,--indeed, she must have faced that alternative more
than once: a girl come back to make her living in London, without
health or money or influential friends,--with no assets but talent
and pride.

In her volume of stories entitled Bliss, published in 1920 (most of
them had been written some years before and had appeared in
periodicals), she throws down her glove, utters her little
challenge in the high language which she knew better than did most
of her readers:

But I tell you, my lord fool, out of this nettle, danger, we pluck
this flower, safety.

A fine attitude, youthful and fiery: out of all the difficulties of
life and art we will snatch SOMETHING.  No one was ever less afraid
of the nettle; she was defrauded unfairly of the physical vigour
which seems the natural accompaniment of a high and daring spirit.

At thirteen Katherine Mansfield made the long voyage to England
with her grandmother, to go to school in London.  At eighteen she
returned to her own family in Wellington, New Zealand.  It was then
the struggle against circumstances began.  She afterward burned all
her early diaries, but it is those I should have liked to read.
Exile may be easy to bear for those who have lived their lives.
But at eighteen, after four years of London, to be thrown back into
a prosperous commercial colony at the end of the world, was
starvation.  There is no homesickness and no hunger so unbearable.
Many a young artist would sell his future, all his chances, simply
to get back to the world where other people are doing the only
things that, to his inexperience, seem worth doing at all.

Years afterward, when Katherine Mansfield had begun to do her best
work but was rapidly sinking in vitality, her homesickness
stretched all the other way--backwards, for New Zealand and that
same crude Wellington.  Unpromising as it was for her purpose, she
felt that it was the only territory she could claim, in the deepest
sense, as her own.  The Journal tells us how often she went back to
it in her sleep.  She recounts these dreams at some length: but the
entry which makes one realize that homesickness most keenly is a
short one, made in Cornwall in 1918:

"June 20th, The twentieth of June 1918.

C'est de la misre.

Non, pas a exactement.  Il y a quelque chose--une profonde malaise
me suive comme un ombre.

Oh, why write bad French?  Why write at all?  11,500 miles are so
many--too many by 11,499 3/4 for me."

Eleven thousand five hundred miles is the distance from England to
New Zealand.

By this, 1918, she had served her apprenticeship.  She had gone
through a succession of enthusiasms for this master and that,
formed friendships with some of the young writers of her own time.
But the person who had freed her from the self-consciousness and
affectations of the experimenting young writer, and had brought her
to her realest self, was not one of her literary friends but, quite
simply, her own brother.

He came over in 1915 to serve as an officer.  He was younger than
she, and she had not seen him for six years.  After a short visit
with her in London he went to the front, and a few weeks later was
killed in action.  But he had brought to his sister the New Zealand
of their childhood, and out of those memories her best stories were
to grow.  For the remaining seven years of her life (she died just
under thirty-five) her brother seems to have been almost constantly
in her mind.  A great change comes over her feelings about art;
what it is, and why it is.  When she prays to become "humble," it
is probably the slightly showy quality in the early stories that
she begs to be delivered from--and forgiven for.  The Journal from
1918 on is a record of a readjustment to life, a changing sense of
its deepest realities.  One of the entries in 1919 recounts a dream
in which her brother, "Chummie," came back to her:

"I hear his hat and stick thrown on to the hall-table.  He runs up
the stairs, three at a time.  'Hullo, darling!'  But I can't move--
I can't move.  He puts his arm round me, holding me tightly, and we
kiss--a long, firm, family kiss.  And the kiss means:  We are of
the same blood; we have absolute confidence in each other; we love;
all is well; nothing can ever come between us."

In the same year she writes:

"Now it is May 1919.  Six o'clock.  I am sitting in my own room
thinking of Mother: I want to cry.  But my thoughts are beautiful
and full of gaiety.  I think of our house, our garden, us children--
the lawn, the gate, and Mother coming in.  'Children!  Children!'
I really only ask for time to write it all."

But she did not find too late the things she cared for most.  She
could not have written that group of New Zealand stories when she
first came to London.  There had to be a long period of writing for
writing's sake.  The spontaneous untutored outpouring of personal
feeling does not go very far in art.  It is only the practised hand
that can make the natural gesture,--and the practised hand has
often to grope its way.  She tells us that she made four false
starts on "At the Bay," and when she finished the story it took her
nearly a month to recover.

The Journal, painful though it is to read, is not the story of
utter defeat.  She had not, as she said, the physical strength to
write what she now knew were, to her, the most important things in
life.  But she had found them, she possessed them, her mind fed on
them.  On them, and on the language of her greatest poet.  (She
read Shakespeare continually, when she was too ill to leave her
bed.)  The inexhaustible richness of that language seems to have
been like a powerful cordial, warmed her when bodily nourishment
failed her.

Among the stories she left unfinished there is one of singular
beauty, written in the autumn of 1922, a few months before her
death, the last piece of work she did.  She called it "Six Years
After": Linda and Burnell grown old, and the boy six years dead.
It has the same powerful slightness which distinguishes the other
New Zealand stories, and an even deeper tenderness.

Of the first of the New Zealand stories, "Prelude," Miss Mansfield
wrote in answer to the inquiries of an intimate friend:

"This is about as much as I can say about it.  You know, if the
truth were known, I have a perfect passion for the island where I
was born.  Well, in the early morning there I always remember
feeling that this little island has dipped back into the dark blue
sea during the night only to rise again at gleam of day, all hung
with bright spangles and glittering drops.  (When you ran over the
dewy grass you positively felt that your feet tasted salt.)  I
tried to catch that moment--with something of its sparkle and its
flavour.  And just as on those mornings white milky mists rise and
uncover some beauty, then smother it again and then again disclose
it, I tried to lift that mist from my people and let them be seen
and then to hide them again. . . .  It's so difficult to describe
all this and it sounds perhaps over-ambitious and vain."

An unpretentious but very suggestive statement of how an artist
sets to work, and of the hazy sort of thing that almost surely lies
behind and directs interesting or beautiful design.  And not with
the slighter talents only.  Tolstoi himself, one knows from the
different Lives and letters, went to work in very much the same
way.  The long novels, as well as the short tales, grew out of
little family dramas, personal intolerances and predilections,--
promptings not apparent to the casual reader and incomprehensible
to the commercial novel-maker.

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