Page images
[ocr errors]


them. What I rebel against is the hope to me of the sort spoken of by Amiel
less feeling of inferiority begotten in me when, describing some delight, he says,
by these minor nature-lovers in connec “when once the taste for it is set up the
tion with the very things which I hoped mind takes a special and keen delight
would make me feel equal and open and in it, for one finds in it
genial. A little crabbed by nature, I
had looked toward gardens and garden

Son bien premièrement, puis le dédain d'autrui,
books as a freeing influence, perhaps the and it is pleasant to one's vanity not to
last one left to me, and I am disap- be of the same opinion as the common
pointed. I do not carry a chip on my herd.”
shoulder in this world, but have been But


assumption comes back willing to be inferior in a hundred dif to me. The lovers of gardens ought to ferent ways. The capitalist does but be lovely, and perhaps there is a way, represent to me the doctrine of election after all. In spite of the fact that on in a way to which I am accustomed, and those evenings when we as a family feel I never complain of unequal wealth. particularly superior to the rest of the The four hundred rather interest me world we always select for reading aloud than otherwise. But when any one tries one of the recent volumes on gardens, I to make me feel inferior by means of say to myself that the soul of man — and mignonette and roses and lilacs, I rise

has a long time to run, and up in indignation. There's Elizabeth, may yet grow so accustomed to the glory to wit, and her German Garden. When of the plant as to dare to become more have I ever felt so much like a worm agreeable about it. Then, with a new and no man, so scornfully rejected as tenderness running through my soul I unfit for the fellowship of flowers, -and say also, “ Who knows what has driven pretty nearly everything else, as after these people to horticulture? If we knew reading that? I could readily believe all we might forgive all.” Mr. Birrell that part of her story in which her gar- has told us how despair of ever settling dener himself appeared one day on the such difficult matters as Apostolical Sucscene, gone stark mad, and I thought of cession and the influence of Newman have what a well-known historical scholar had driven some men to collecting butterflies told me of the French Revolution, that and beetles. If we but knew what unit was not so much poverty and taxes as kindlier and more difficult issues they had it was scorn which brought on the final fled from we might forgive all to these disaster. A thousand minor French caustic brothers and sisters who own Revolutions burned in my breast. Sup- gardens and have had success with small posing, in a general way, that I had some fruits. Let us lift up our heads, then, all affinity for flowers, here was my right of us who have for the past five years called in question by the One Only felt so inferior just because we could Lover of Plants and Gardens. Between boast of nothing but an old-fashioned, the temptation to assert my rights and easy-going love for plants, or could say the inclination to turn a floral anarchist, nothing of Wild Animals Who Have and never again to believe in any one Helped Us. Let us be grateful that who loved plants, my being was divided life has been so normal with us that we against itself. For sheer supercilious- have never been driven to such devices ness, the kind that brought on the French

as these. Revolution, commend me not to the plu The tribulations of the woman lecturer tocrat, nor the critic, nor the four hun Confessions

are many; and the first is dred, but to the lover of plants.

her pursuit. Why should she Much of this ardor for flowers seems speak in public, if she dislikes the occu

of a Woman


pation? asks the Sensible Reader. Sen- tension meeting, this Auditor is there. sible Reader, the answer would carry us He is a burly man, of not ungenial aspect, far afield into psychological mysteries. in brown coat of antiquated cut, and a Suffice it to say that even a woman may snuffy, crooked wig. At one point or be so interested in the subjects of her love another of the address she catches sight that she cannot refrain from telling other of him; terribly often it is when an people about them. Moreover, so extraor emotional climax has been reached, and dinarily prevalent in this queer country the flushed lecturer, pausing in her flow of ours is the desire of being lectured of words, feels a little tingle return upon to, that the many women beset by appeals her from the hushed, vibrating audience. to speak may



in the immortal At such a sweet moment as this — for words of Lady Laura Etchingham, “It that the Woman Lecturer has her sweet is expected of us." Be these things as moments I attempt not to deny — that they may, one may shudder, yet accept; Auditor rises ; his gruff if ghostly tones one may long for the Ingle and the break in familiar words upon the silence : Stocking, yet be fated to the Platform, “Sir," — he always remarks, - though the Glass of Water, the Floral Tribute, sometimes no Sirs are present, and the Attentive Throng.

a woman speaking in public is like a dog Dim reports I have indeed heard from standing upon its hind legs; the thing regions afar of “platform women ” who is very badly done, but the wonder is gloried in their shame. There are other that it is done at all.” Shall I confess women, perhaps a number of them, who further ? I am tormented on the platyearn toward platform and publicity as form doubtless from the hypnotic sugtoward an unattained Paradise. One gestion conveyed in these words - by such I met once,

a large lady, of so the phantom presence of the little dog to norous voice. “I know," she said to whom my Auditor refers. He is always me, with resonant emphasis, “that my a black and tan, with one yellow ear. proper sphere would be the Platform. The inevitable desk and frequent floral Why else did the Lord give me such an decorations conceal him from the audiorgan? I could fill a hall of ten thousand ence; but I see him. He presses close people with this organ. The only trouble to my skirts, he rears his tiny figure with me is " she sighed with deep re with mincing grace, he dances precarigret —“I think and I think, and I can ously about, accenting my periods, and not seem to find anything in particular occasionally when my eloquence flags I that I could say.” “Would that all pub- behold him with horror dropping crestlic speakers, men and women, were so fallen


his hind feet. Worst of all, dowered with self - knowledge !” I ex miserable and disconcerting fact, his claimed inwardly; but I mused in sadness little red jaws follow the motions of my on the perversity of the little imps who


my sister lecturers, are withheld the longed - for joy from this you similarly afflicted? Tell me, O Sendeep-throated lady, while they forced sible Reader, may not this be called a my shrinking self before the footlights ! tribulation?

Tell me,

One, at least, of these feminine vic In the presence of this ghostly accomtims or tyrants — of the public, paniment all minor inconveniences fade whichever you choose to consider them, away. Yet they are many. — suffers unspeakable things when she learn to know human nature, 0 ye who lectures, from the constant presence of do not lecture, put yourselves as speakers a certain Auditor. Whether she face a at the disposal of a Cause. Not that the Woman's Club or a College audience, a knowledge you acquire will be wholly Charity Conference, or a University Ex- unpleasant. Kindly arrangements will


Would you

often be made for your comfort; you the speaker with comment and question. will even, I admit, gain as lecturer a The circle opened before her; with large hidden joy in a singularly happy sense gesture she clasped my hand, and gazed of fellowship with your brother men. Yet, on me in silence. A tear welled up in if I mistake not, you will have occasion her eye. I returned her gaze, spellgreatly to marvel at the expectations of bound; the others waited; would she the public. Hold yourself ready to at never speak? At last the words came, tend a Federation five hundred miles slow and loud :away, - expenses paid one way, no other “In the name of your suffering sisperquisites, — for the privilege of occu- ters of Nebraska, I give you thanks,” pying fifteen minutes in presenting your she said. world-wide theme, - I have even known I gasped. I know now that I might the limit to be ten. “In order to secure have said, “Thank Shelley,” but at the variety," says the note of invitation, “the time this did not occur to me. Beside, other addresses of the evening will be she was going on. upon the Theory of Mental Healing, and “And now," she continued with ferthe Best Novels of the Past Six Weeks.” vor, “still in the name of your sisters, - Or, it may be, you will be asked to I ask you a further favor. I ask you betake yourself in midwinter to a distant for data." village on the Northern seacoast, where The lecturer is accustomed to be a Woman's Club has just been formed: asked for anything and everything in “ The Club is not able to offer any fees, the way of intellectual wares: “I shall but the ladies do so much want to hear be happy if I have any that can be of you. They wonder if the offer of a service," I replied obligingly. “ Data week's board at Mrs. Brown's would on what?” not be acceptable to you? That would My Disciple paused, glancing at the be a very nice arrangement for them, as listening group: the lecture has sometimes to be deferred “Data on any subject which you can two or three days, since the Club does give will be a boon, indeed, to your sisnot try to meet in stormy weather.” ters in Nebraska.”

But why continue? Many a tribula- I caught a twinkle in the eye of a tion turns into joy when one has a sense friend, and was lost. Hastily composing of humor. And then, there are the my features, I gave the lady from Necompensating Tributes ! Space forbids braska an appointment, — she would n't me to cull from my choice collection go without one, — and escaped. more than two: “I don't know how to The next morning, when she was anthank you for your lecture,” said an ef. nounced, I went down to find her standfusive hearer to me once. “It was ing, arms on hips, gravely scrutinizing simply the most eloquent mosaic I ever an engraving of Mona Lisa. She turned listened to.” Better than this, best and to me, the light of appreciation in her most heartening of all, was my experi eyes. ence with a Lady who lives forever in “I call her plain,” she remarked, the family annals as my Disciple from with cheery accent. “Now, how about Nebraska. She was portly and of ma- those data ?” jestic mien, and throughout my talk she I gave them to her. I do not rememfixed me with her eye. The lecture ber what they were, but I recall that over, — I remember that it was a lec- she went away in deep content, the dusty ture on Shelley, — she made her im- reports of fifteen reform movements pressive way through the circle of sym- clasped ardently, among other matter, pathetic people who always press up to to her capacious bosom. I have not


heard from her since, and she sent me The great dramatists have turned to the no copy of the paper, which, as I dis- past for their materials, not of choice, covered, she was proposing to edit for but of necessity. Here and there in the the benefit of the women of her native dark backward and abysm of time, some te.

human figure, some human episode, is Even chemistry, I am told, is not so seen to have weathered the years, and to Contempora

exact a science as to exclude have taken on certain mysterious attri

mystery. Does it not teach butes of truth; and upon this foundation that certain widely different compounds the massive structure of heroic poetry are products, in the last analysis, of the is builded.” same elements, combined in the same But surely the contemporaneousness of proportions ? The process of combina- all great art is a truth too important to be tion, — the electric affinities of atoms, at the mercy of any one's experiments. there is the riddle !

The masterpieces of every art — I venI was reminded of these strange con ture to generalize even more broadly tradictions by reading, in a recent At

than the reviewer - have been the comlantic, a review of certain books of verse; plete, the ultimate expression of the age or, rather, by reading certain generaliz- which produced them, never in any sense ations to which the critic's subject leads an echo of any other. They express the him. With all the world's masterpieces universal truth through the medium of of poetry to work with, that reviewer's the thought, the feeling of their own time, mind evolves a conclusion which satisfies and they owe nothing to the past except him as logical and just; and here is my the basic materials, the stones and humbly anonymous intellect producing, mortar, the words and the singing voice, with exactly the same materials, a dia- the vast background of nature and humetrically opposite result.

man nature, the dreams, the faith, the He has been dealing with certain“ aspirations, which belong to all the ages, trasting experiments in poetic drama.” though they take widely varying forms The theme of one of these dramas, he in their progress through the centuries. says,

“ has the inestimable advantage of Of course, his protest is obvious : possessing already a hold upon the im “ However expressive of its age the masagination of the general; an advantage terpiece may be,” he will say, "it turns which great dramatic poets from Æschy- to the past for its themes.” I answer lus to Shakespeare have sedulously pur that in a restricted and superficial sense sued, and which the best of their suc it does sometimes, and sometimes not, cessors down to Mr. Stephen Phillips but that in a larger and deeper sense it have continued to pursue ;

” whereas the never does. He will confront me then author of the other play “is actually try- with instances: What of Hamlet, Macing to interpret the present moment in beth, Lear? What of (Edipus, the Problank verse,” an effort which compels metheus Bound, Faust? What of Parthe bewildered critic “to think there is adise Lost, yea, of the Iliad itself, whose a real incongruity between their sub- heroes lived and fought centuries before stance and their form.” And at last we

Homer sang ? find him laying down the law thus : But in every one of these instances, I

“No great dramatic poetry, no great contend, the theme was strictly contemepical poetry, has ever dealt with con poraneous, and the characters were the temporary conditions. Only the austere imaginative embodiments of the feeling processes of time can precipitate the of the poet's time. Milton's theme was multitude of immediate facts into the the Puritan faith, and his God, Satan, priceless residuum of universal truth. Adam and Eve were most wonderfully


his neighbors. Homer was the creator and all that has been said about them
of Achilles, Agamemnon, Hector, - yes, since — even to the well-meaning efforts
of the Trojan war itself; he made the of Mr. Stephen Phillips himself - bas
whole epic history out of a contest less been but echoes of echoes.
poetically promising than the present Never, with any great poet, was his
Russo-Japanese campaign, and in doing theme “ remote ” and “aloof” from his
it he made use of all the religious im own time. Never has he dealt with any-
agery and significance with which his thing else but "contemporary condi-
high-reaching imagination, and that of tions.” It is only the minor poet who
his compatriots, enriched the bareness of declares himself “the idle singer of an
the theme; in short, he “dealt with con empty day," who finds his age prosaic,
temporary conditions.” Would the re and delves forever in the past of old ro-
viewer contend that Shakespeare found mance, and so necessarily becomes more
in Hamlet or in Lear a human figure and more remote, more and more atten-
which had “weathered the years and uated, in his art. Many a clever and
taken on certain mysterious attributes promising poet has gone that way: Mr.
of truth”? If he does, let him strip his Yeats is rapidly taking it; even Mr.
mind completely of these great tragedies, Moody is in danger, — may the kind
and look up the childish old wives' tales fates turn him back into higher, if
which served as the poet's point of de- rougher, paths! Mr. Phillips has never
parture. Shakespeare took a hint from given evidence of an original or modern
some foolish ditty; from that point he mind, but he does not keep his gait along
changed plot and characters to suit the the flowery, artificial path of his choice,
convenience of his strictly modern pur - his strut becomes more and more
pose, to make his work express his own stilted, and his instrument gets qut of
feeling, his own time.

I might ask him about certain other The academic temperament which
masterpieces of art in which the mate- speaks in this reviewer and in many
rials, as well as the general theme and another critic strikes at the vitality of
spirit, are of the most absolute contem modern art. True, such strokes cannot
poraneousness. What, for example, of quite be fatal, because no great poet will
the Book of Job and the Hebrew proph- stop for any critic. But the poet may
ecies ? What of the Parthenon, of the be cruelly hampered, heavily impeded,
Hermes of Praxiteles? What of the by such misdirected efforts of his con-
Gothic cathedrals, of Don Quixote, of temporaries; he may be compelled to
Molière's comedies, of Velasquez' por- spend much of his time and energy in
traits ? What of Dante, whose Beatrice warding off blows. His joyousness may
and Francesca he did not find in that be baffled and whipped into melancholy;
“dark backward and abysm of time" his clear vision may be clouded with bit-
where our critic — and so many others, terness. It is much easier for an artist
alas! — would locate the treasury of art? to pluck flowers along the wayside than
For us, but not for the mighty Floren to labor in the vineyard, especially when
tine, these ladies, and other people, his a thousand voices are pleading for the
contemporaries, have “ weathered the flowers. But the flowers wither in his
years and taken on certain mysterious hands, and only the grapes produce the
attributes of truth.” But it was Dante wine of life. Where should our poets
who gave them to time and men's hearts, be?

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »