/ Language: English / Genre:prose_classic


H. Wells

H. G. Wells
































Since I came to this place I have been very restless, wasting my

energies in the futile beginning of ill-conceived books. One does

not settle down very readily at two and forty to a new way of

living, and I have found myself with the teeming interests of the

life I have abandoned still buzzing like a swarm of homeless bees in

my head. My mind has been full of confused protests and

justifications. In any case I should have found difficulties enough

in expressing the complex thing I have to tell, but it has added

greatly to my trouble that I have a great analogue, that a certain

Niccolo Machiavelli chanced to fall out of politics at very much the

age I have reached, and wrote a book to engage the restlessness of

his mind, very much as I have wanted to do. He wrote about the

relation of the great constructive spirit in politics to individual

character and weaknesses, and so far his achievement lies like a

deep rut in the road of my intention. It has taken me far astray.

It is a matter of many weeks now-diversified indeed by some long

drives into the mountains behind us and a memorable sail to Genoa

across the blue and purple waters that drowned Shelley-since I

began a laboured and futile imitation of "The Prince." I sat up

late last night with the jumbled accumulation; and at last made a

little fire of olive twigs and burnt it all, sheet by sheet-to

begin again clear this morning.

But incidentally I have re-read most of Machiavelli, not excepting

those scandalous letters of his to Vettori, and it seems to me, now

that I have released myself altogether from his literary precedent,

that he still has his use for me. In spite of his vast prestige I

claim kindred with him and set his name upon my title-page, in

partial intimation of the matter of my story. He takes me with

sympathy not only by reason of the dream he pursued and the humanity

of his politics, but by the mixture of his nature. His vices come

in, essential to my issue. He is dead and gone, all his immediate

correlations to party and faction have faded to insignificance,

leaving only on the one hand his broad method and conceptions, and

upon the other his intimate living personality, exposed down to its

salacious corners as the soul of no contemporary can ever be

exposed. Of those double strands it is I have to write, of the

subtle protesting perplexing play of instinctive passion and desire

against too abstract a dream of statesmanship. But things that

seemed to lie very far apart in Machiavelli's time have come near to

one another; it is no simple story of white passions struggling

against the red that I have to tell.

The state-making dream is a very old dream indeed in the world's

history. It plays too small a part in novels. Plato and Confucius

are but the highest of a great host of minds that have had a kindred

aspiration, have dreamt of a world of men better ordered, happier,

finer, securer. They imagined cities grown more powerful and

peoples made rich and multitudinous by their efforts, they thought

in terms of harbours and shining navies, great roads engineered

marvellously, jungles cleared and deserts conquered, the ending of

muddle and diseases and dirt and misery; the ending of confusions

that waste human possibilities; they thought of these things with

passion and desire as other men think of the soft lines and tender

beauty of women. Thousands of men there are to-day almost mastered

by this white passion of statecraft, and in nearly every one who

reads and thinks you could find, I suspect, some sort of answering

response. But in every one it presents itself extraordinarily

entangled and mixed up with other, more intimate things.

It was so with Machiavelli. I picture him at San Casciano as he

lived in retirement upon his property after the fall of the

Republic, perhaps with a twinge of the torture that punished his

conspiracy still lurking in his limbs. Such twinges could not stop

his dreaming. Then it was "The Prince" was written. All day he

went about his personal affairs, saw homely neighbours, dealt with

his family, gave vent to everyday passions. He would sit in the

shop of Donato del Corno gossiping curiously among vicious company,

or pace the lonely woods of his estate, book in hand, full of bitter

meditations. In the evening he returned home and went to his study.

At the entrance, he says, he pulled off his peasant clothes covered

with the dust and dirt of that immediate life, washed himself, put

on his "noble court dress," closed the door on the world of toiling

and getting, private loving, private hating and personal regrets,

sat down with a sigh of contentment to those wider dreams.

I like to think of him so, with brown books before him lit by the

light of candles in silver candlesticks, or heading some new chapter

of "The Prince," with a grey quill in his clean fine hand.

So writing, he becomes a symbol for me, and the less none because of

his animal humour, his queer indecent side, and because of such

lapses into utter meanness as that which made him sound the note of

the begging-letter writer even in his "Dedication," reminding His

Magnificence very urgently, as if it were the gist of his matter, of

the continued malignity of fortune in his affairs. These flaws

complete him. They are my reason for preferring him as a symbol to

Plato, of whose indelicate side we know nothing, and whose

correspondence with Dionysius of Syracuse has perished; or to

Confucius who travelled China in search of a Prince he might

instruct, with lapses and indignities now lost in the mists of ages.

They have achieved the apotheosis of individual forgetfulness, and

Plato has the added glory of that acquired beauty, that bust of the

Indian Bacchus which is now indissolubly mingled with his tradition.

They have passed into the world of the ideal, and every humbug takes

his freedoms with their names. But Machiavelli, more recent and

less popular, is still all human and earthly, a fallen brother-and

at the same time that nobly dressed and noblydreaming writer at the


That vision of the strengthened and perfected state is protagonist

in my story. But as I re-read "The Prince" and thought out the

manner of my now abandoned project, I came to perceive how that stir

and whirl of human thought one calls by way of embodiment the French

Revolution, has altered absolutely the approach to such a question.

Machiavelli, like Plato and Pythagoras and Confucius two hundred odd

decades before him, saw only one method by which a thinking man,

himself not powerful, might do the work of state building, and that

was by seizing the imagination of a Prince. Directly these men

turned their thoughts towards realisation, their attitudes became-

what shall I call it?-secretarial. Machiavelli, it is true, had

some little doubts about the particular Prince he wanted, whether it

was Caesar Borgia of Giuliano or Lorenzo, but a Prince it had to be.

Before I saw clearly the differences of our own time I searched my

mind for the modern equivalent of a Prince. At various times I

redrafted a parallel dedication to the Prince of Wales, to the

Emperor William, to Mr. Evesham, to a certain newspaper proprietor

who was once my schoolfellow at City Merchants', to Mr. J. D.

Rockefeller-all of them men in their several ways and circumstances

and possibilities, princely. Yet in every case my pen bent of its

own accord towards irony because-because, although at first I did

not realise it, I myself am just as free to be a prince. The appeal

was unfair. The old sort of Prince, the old little principality has

vanished from the world. The commonweal is one man's absolute

estate and responsibility no more. In Machiavelli's time it was

indeed to an extreme degree one man's affair. But the days of the

Prince who planned and directed and was the source and centre of all

power are ended. We are in a condition of affairs infinitely more

complex, in which every prince and statesman is something of a

servant and every intelligent human being something of a Prince. No

magnificent pensive Lorenzos remain any more in this world for

secretarial hopes.

In a sense it is wonderful how power has vanished, in a sense

wonderful how it has increased. I sit here, an unarmed discredited

man, at a small writing-table in a little defenceless dwelling among

the vines, and no human being can stop my pen except by the

deliberate self-immolation of murdering me, nor destroy its fruits

except by theft and crime. No King, no council, can seize and

torture me; no Church, no nation silence me. Such powers of

ruthless and complete suppression have vanished. But that is not

because power has diminished, but because it has increased and

become multitudinous, because it has dispersed itself and

specialised. It is no longer a negative power we have, but

positive; we cannot prevent, but we can do. This age, far beyond

all previous ages, is full of powerful men, men who might, if they

had the will for it, achieve stupendous things.

The things that might be done to-day! The things indeed that are

being done! It is the latter that give one so vast a sense of the

former. When I think of the progress of physical and mechanical

science, of medicine and sanitation during the last century, when I

measure the increase in general education and average efficiency,

the power now available for human service, the merely physical

increment, and compare it with anything that has ever been at man's

disposal before, and when I think of what a little straggling,

incidental, undisciplined and uncoordinated minority of inventors,

experimenters, educators, writers and organisers has achieved this

development of human possibilities, achieved it in spite of the

disregard and aimlessness of the huge majority, and the passionate

resistance of the active dull, my imagination grows giddy with

dazzling intimations of the human splendours the justly organised

state may yet attain. I glimpse for a bewildering instant the

heights that may be scaled, the splendid enterprises made possible.

But the appeal goes out now in other forms, in a book that catches

at thousands of readers for the eye of a Prince diffused. It is the

old appeal indeed for the unification of human effort, the ending of

confusions, but instead of the Machiavellian deference to a

flattered lord, a man cries out of his heart to the unseen

fellowship about him. The last written dedication of all those I

burnt last night, was to no single man, but to the socially

constructive passion-in any man…

There is, moreover, a second great difference in kind between my

world and Machiavelli's. We are discovering women. It is as if

they had come across a vast interval since his time, into the very

chamber of the statesman.


In Machiavelli's outlook the interest of womanhood was in a region

of life almost infinitely remote from his statecraft. They were the

vehicle of children, but only Imperial Rome and the new world of to-

day have ever had an inkling of the significance that might give

them in the state. They did their work, he thought, as the ploughed

earth bears its crops. Apart from their function of fertility they

gave a humorous twist to life, stimulated worthy men to toil, and

wasted the hours of Princes. He left the thought of women outside

with his other dusty things when he went into his study to write,

dismissed them from his mind. But our modern world is burthened

with its sense of the immense, now half articulate, significance of

women. They stand now, as it were, close beside the silver

candlesticks, speaking as Machiavelli writes, until he stays his pen

and turns to discuss his writing with them.

It is this gradual discovery of sex as a thing collectively

portentous that I have to mingle with my statecraft if my picture is

to be true which has turned me at length from a treatise to the

telling of my own story. In my life I have paralleled very closely

the slow realisations that are going on in the world about me. I

began life ignoring women, they came to me at first perplexing and

dishonouring; only very slowly and very late in my life and after

misadventure, did I gauge the power and beauty of the love of man

and woman and learnt how it must needs frame a justifiable vision of

the ordered world. Love has brought me to disaster, because my

career had been planned regardless of its possibility and value.

But Machiavelli, it seems to me, when he went into his study, left

not only the earth of life outside but its unsuspected soul.


Like Machiavelli at San Casciano, if I may take this analogy one

step further, I too am an exile. Office and leading are closed to

me. The political career that promised so much for me is shattered

and ended for ever.

I look out from this vine-wreathed veranda under the branches of a

stone pine; I see wide and far across a purple valley whose sides

are terraced and set with houses of pine and ivory, the Gulf of

Liguria gleaming sapphire blue, and cloud-like baseless mountains

hanging in the sky, and I think of lank and coaly steamships heaving

on the grey rollers of the English Channel and darkling streets wet

with rain, I recall as if I were back there the busy exit from

Charing Cross, the cross and the money-changers' offices, the

splendid grime of giant London and the crowds going perpetually to

and fro, the lights by night and the urgency and eventfulness of

that great rain-swept heart of the modern world.

It is difficult to think we have left that-for many years if not

for ever. In thought I walk once more in Palace Yard and hear the

clink and clatter of hansoms and the quick quiet whirr of motors; I

go in vivid recent memories through the stir in the lobbies, I sit

again at eventful dinners in those old dining-rooms like cellars

below the House-dinners that ended with shrill division bells, I

think of huge clubs swarming and excited by the bulletins of that

electoral battle that was for me the opening opportunity. I see the

stencilled names and numbers go up on the green baize, constituency

after constituency, amidst murmurs or loud shouting…

It is over for me now and vanished. That opportunity will come no

more. Very probably you have heard already some crude inaccurate

version of our story and why I did not take office, and have formed

your partial judgement on me. And so it is I sit now at my stone

table, half out of life already, in a warm, large, shadowy leisure,

splashed with sunlight and hung with vine tendrils, with paper

before me to distil such wisdom as I can, as Machiavelli in his

exile sought to do, from the things I have learnt and felt during

the career that has ended now in my divorce.

I climbed high and fast from small beginnings. I had the mind of my

party. I do not know where I might not have ended, but for this red

blaze that came out of my unguarded nature and closed my career for





I dreamt first of states and cities and political things when I was

a little boy in knickerbockers.

When I think of how such things began in my mind, there comes back

to me the memory of an enormous bleak room with its ceiling going up

to heaven and its floor covered irregularly with patched and

defective oilcloth and a dingy mat or so and a "surround" as they

call it, of dark stained wood. Here and there against the wall are

trunks and boxes. There are cupboards on either side of the

fireplace and bookshelves with books above them, and on the wall and

rather tattered is a large yellow-varnished geological map of the

South of England. Over the mantel is a huge lump of white coral

rock and several big fossil bones, and above that hangs the portrait

of a brainy gentleman, sliced in half and displaying an interior of

intricate detail and much vigour of coloring. It is the floor I

think of chiefly; over the oilcloth of which, assumed to be land,

spread towns and villages and forts of wooden bricks; there are

steep square hills (geologically, volumes of Orr's CYCLOPAEDIA OF

THE SCIENCES) and the cracks and spaces of the floor and the bare

brown surround were the water channels and open sea of that

continent of mine.

I still remember with infinite gratitude the great-uncle to whom I

owe my bricks. He must have been one of those rare adults who have

not forgotten the chagrins and dreams of childhood. He was a

prosperous west of England builder; including my father he had three

nephews, and for each of them he caused a box of bricks to be made

by an out-of-work carpenter, not the insufficient supply of the

toyshop, you understand, but a really adequate quantity of bricks

made out of oak and shaped and smoothed, bricks about five inches by

two and a half by one, and half-bricks and quarter-bricks to

correspond. There were hundreds of them, many hundreds. I could

build six towers as high as myself with them, and there seemed quite

enough for every engineering project I could undertake. I could

build whole towns with streets and houses and churches and citadels;

I could bridge every gap in the oilcloth and make causeways over

crumpled spaces (which I feigned to be morasses), and on a keel of

whole bricks it was possible to construct ships to push over the

high seas to the remotest port in the room. And a disciplined

population, that rose at last by sedulous begging on birthdays and

all convenient occasions to well over two hundred, of lead sailors

and soldiers, horse, foot and artillery, inhabited this world.

Justice has never been done to bricks and soldiers by those who

write about toys. The praises of the toy theatre have been a common

theme for essayists, the planning of the scenes, the painting and

cutting out of the caste, penny plain twopence coloured, the stink

and glory of the performance and the final conflagration. I had

such a theatre once, but I never loved it nor hoped for much from

it; my bricks and soldiers were my perpetual drama. I recall an

incessant variety of interests. There was the mystery and charm of

the complicated buildings one could make, with long passages and

steps and windows through which one peeped into their intricacies,

and by means of slips of card one could make slanting ways in them,

and send marbles rolling from top to base and thence out into the

hold of a waiting ship. Then there were the fortresses and gun

emplacements and covered ways in which one's soldiers went. And

there was commerce; the shops and markets and store-rooms full of

nasturtium seed, thrift seed, lupin beans and suchlike provender

from the garden; such stuff one stored in match-boxes and pill-

boxes, or packed in sacks of old glove fingers tied up with thread

and sent off by waggons along the great military road to the

beleaguered fortress on the Indian frontier beyond the worn places

that were dismal swamps. And there were battles on the way.

That great road is still clear in my memory. I was given, I forget

by what benefactor, certain particularly fierce red Indians of lead-

I have never seen such soldiers since-and for these my father

helped me to make tepees of brown paper, and I settled them in a

hitherto desolate country under the frowning nail-studded cliffs of

an ancient trunk. Then I conquered them and garrisoned their land.

(Alas! they died, no doubt through contact with civilisation-one my

mother trod on-and their land became a wilderness again and was

ravaged for a time by a clockwork crocodile of vast proportions.)

And out towards the coal-scuttle was a region near the impassable

thickets of the ragged hearthrug where lived certain china Zulus

brandishing spears, and a mountain country of rudely piled bricks

concealing the most devious and enchanting caves and several mines

of gold and silver paper. Among these rocks a number of survivors

from a Noah's Ark made a various, dangerous, albeit frequently

invalid and crippled fauna, and I was wont to increase the

uncultivated wildness of this region further by trees of privet-

twigs from the garden hedge and box from the garden borders. By

these territories went my Imperial Road carrying produce to and fro,

bridging gaps in the oilcloth, tunnelling through Encyclopaedic

hills-one tunnel was three volumes long-defended as occasion

required by camps of paper tents or brick blockhouses, and ending at

last in a magnificently engineered ascent to a fortress on the

cliffs commanding the Indian reservation.

My games upon the floor must have spread over several years and

developed from small beginnings, incorporating now this suggestion

and now that. They stretch, I suppose, from seven to eleven or

twelve. I played them intermittently, and they bulk now in the

retrospect far more significantly than they did at the time. I

played them in bursts, and then forgot them for long periods;

through the spring and summer I was mostly out of doors, and school

and classes caught me early. And in the retrospect I see them all

not only magnified and transfigured, but fore-shortened and confused

together. A clockwork railway, I seem to remember, came and went;

one or two clockwork boats, toy sailing ships that, being keeled,

would do nothing but lie on their beam ends on the floor; a

detestable lot of cavalrymen, undersized and gilt all over, given me

by a maiden aunt, and very much what one might expect from an aunt,

that I used as Nero used his Christians to ornament my public

buildings; and I finally melted some into fratricidal bullets, and

therewith blew the rest to flat splashes of lead by means of a brass

cannon in the garden.

I find this empire of the floor much more vivid and detailed in my

memory now than many of the owners of the skirts and legs and boots

that went gingerly across its territories. Occasionally, alas! they

stooped to scrub, abolishing in one universal destruction the slow

growth of whole days of civilised development. I still remember the

hatred and disgust of these catastrophes. Like Noah I was given

warnings. Did I disregard them, coarse red hands would descend,

plucking garrisons from fortresses and sailors from ships, jumbling

them up in their wrong boxes, clumsily so that their rifles and

swords were broken, sweeping the splendid curves of the Imperial

Road into heaps of ruins, casting the jungle growth of Zululand into

the fire.

Well, Master Dick," the voice of this cosmic calamity would say,

"you ought to have put them away last night. No! I can't wait until

you've sailed them all away in ships. I got my work to do, and do

it I will."

And in no time all my continents and lands were swirling water and

swiping strokes of house-flannel.

That was the worst of my giant visitants, but my mother too, dear

lady, was something of a terror to this microcosm. She wore spring-

sided boots, a kind of boot now vanished, I believe, from the world,

with dull bodies and shiny toes, and a silk dress with flounces that

were very destructive to the more hazardous viaducts of the Imperial

Road. She was always, I seem to remember, fetching me; fetching me

for a meal, fetching me for a walk or, detestable absurdity!

fetching me for a wash and brush up, and she never seemed to

understand anything whatever of the political Systems across which

she came to me. Also she forbade all toys on Sundays except the

bricks for church-building and the soldiers for church parade, or a

Scriptural use of the remains of the Noah's Ark mixed up with a

wooden Swiss dairy farm. But she really did not know whether a

thing was a church or not unless it positively bristled with cannon,

and many a Sunday afternoon have I played Chicago (with the fear of

God in my heart) under an infidel pretence that it was a new sort of

ark rather elaborately done.

Chicago, I must explain, was based upon my father's description of

the pig slaughterings in that city and certain pictures I had seen.

You made your beasts-which were all the ark lot really,

provisionally conceived as pigs-go up elaborate approaches to a

central pen, from which they went down a cardboard slide four at a

time, and dropped most satisfyingly down a brick shaft, and pitter-

litter over some steep steps to where a head slaughterman (ne Noah)

strung a cotton loop round their legs and sent them by pin hooks

along a wire to a second slaughterman with a chipped foot (formerly

Mrs. Noah) who, if I remember rightly, converted them into Army

sausage by means of a portion of the inside of an old alarum clock.

My mother did not understand my games, but my father did. He wore

bright-coloured socks and carpet slippers when he was indoors-my

mother disliked boots in the house-and he would sit down on my

little chair and survey the microcosm on the floor with admirable

understanding and sympathy.

It was he gave me most of my toys and, I more than suspect, most of

my ideas. "Here's some corrugated iron," he would say, "suitable

for roofs and fencing," and hand me a lump of that stiff crinkled

paper that is used for packing medicine bottles. Or, "Dick, do you

see the tiger loose near the Imperial Road?-won't do for your

cattle ranch." And I would find a bright new lead tiger like a

special creation at large in the world, and demanding a hunting

expedition and much elaborate effort to get him safely housed in the

city menagerie beside the captured dragon crocodile, tamed now, and

his key lost and the heart and spring gone out of him.

And to the various irregular reading of my father I owe the

inestimable blessing of never having a boy's book in my boyhood

except those of Jules Verne. But my father used to get books for

himself and me from the Bromstead Institute, Fenimore Cooper and

Mayne Reid and illustrated histories; one of the Russo-Turkish war

and one of Napier's expedition to Abyssinia I read from end to end;

Stanley and Livingstone, lives of Wellington, Napoleon and

Garibaldi, and back volumes of PUNCH, from which I derived

conceptions of foreign and domestic politics it has taken years of

adult reflection to correct. And at home permanently we had Wood's

NATURAL HISTORY, a brand-new illustrated Green's HISTORY OF THE


unbound parts of some geographical work, a VOYAGE ROUND THE WORLD I

think it was called, with pictures of foreign places, and Clarke's

NEW TESTAMENT with a map of Palestine, and a variety of other

informing books bought at sales. There was a Sowerby's BOTANY also,

with thousands of carefully tinted pictures of British plants, and

one or two other important works in the sitting-room. I was allowed

to turn these over and even lie on the floor with them on Sundays

and other occasions of exceptional cleanliness.

And in the attic I found one day a very old forgotten map after the

fashion of a bird's-eye view, representing the Crimea, that

fascinated me and kept me for hours navigating its waters with a



My father was a lank-limbed man in easy shabby tweed clothes and

with his hands in his trouser pockets. He was a science teacher,

taking a number of classes at the Bromstead Institute in Kent under

the old Science and Art Department, and "visiting" various schools;

and our resources were eked out by my mother's income of nearly a

hundred pounds a year, and by his inheritance of a terrace of three

palatial but structurally unsound stucco houses near Bromstead


They were big clumsy residences in the earliest Victorian style,

interminably high and with deep damp basements and downstairs

coal-cellars and kitchens that suggested an architect

vindictively devoted to the discomfort of the servant class. If so,

he had overreached himself and defeated his end, for no servant

would stay in them unless for exceptional wages or exceptional

tolerance of inefficiency or exceptional freedom in repartee. Every

storey in the house was from twelve to fifteen feet high (which

would have been cool and pleasant in a hot climate), and the stairs

went steeply up, to end at last in attics too inaccessible for

occupation. The ceilings had vast plaster cornices of classical

design, fragments of which would sometimes fall unexpectedly, and

the wall-papers were bold and gigantic in pattern and much

variegated by damp and ill-mended rents.

As my father was quite unable to let more than one of these houses

at a time, and that for the most part to eccentric and undesirable

tenants, he thought it politic to live in one of the two others, and

devote the rent he received from the let one, when it was let, to

the incessant necessary repairing of all three. He also did some of

the repairing himself and, smoking a bull-dog pipe the while, which

my mother would not allow him to do in the house, he cultivated

vegetables in a sketchy, unpunctual and not always successful manner

in the unoccupied gardens. The three houses faced north, and the

back of the one we occupied was covered by a grape-vine that

yielded, I remember, small green grapes for pies in the spring, and

imperfectly ripe black grapes in favourable autumns for the purposes

of dessert. The grape-vine played an important part in my life, for

my father broke his neck while he was pruning it, when I was


My father was what is called a man of ideas, but they were not

always good ideas. My grandfather had been a private schoolmaster

and one of the founders of the College of Preceptors, and my father

had assisted him in his school until increasing competition and

diminishing attendance had made it evident that the days of small

private schools kept by unqualified persons were numbered.

Thereupon my father had roused himself and had qualified as a

science teacher under the Science and Art Department, which in these

days had charge of the scientific and artistic education of the mass

of the English population, and had thrown himself into science

teaching and the earning of government grants therefor with great if

transitory zeal and success.

I do not remember anything of my father's earlier and more energetic

time. I was the child of my parents' middle years; they married

when my father was thirty-five and my mother past forty, and I saw

only the last decadent phase of his educational career.

The Science and Art Department has vanished altogether from the

world, and people are forgetting it now with the utmost readiness

and generosity. Part of its substance and staff and spirit survive,

more or less completely digested into the Board of Education.

The world does move on, even in its government. It is wonderful how

many of the clumsy and limited governing bodies of my youth and

early manhood have given place now to more scientific and efficient

machinery. When I was a boy, Bromstead, which is now a borough, was

ruled by a strange body called a Local Board-it was the Age of

Boards-and I still remember indistinctly my father rejoicing at the

breakfast-table over the liberation of London from the corrupt and

devastating control of a Metropolitan Board of Works. Then there

were also School Boards; I was already practically in politics

before the London School Board was absorbed by the spreading

tentacles of the London County Council.

It gives a measure of the newness of our modern ideas of the State

to remember that the very beginnings of public education lie within

my father's lifetime, and that many most intelligent and patriotic

people were shocked beyond measure at the State doing anything of

the sort. When he was born, totally illiterate people who could

neither read a book nor write more than perhaps a clumsy signature,

were to be found everywhere in England; and great masses of the

population were getting no instruction at all. Only a few schools

flourished upon the patronage of exceptional parents; all over the

country the old endowed grammar schools were to be found sinking and

dwindling; many of them had closed altogether. In the new great

centres of population multitudes of children were sweated in the

factories, darkly ignorant and wretched and the under-equipped and

under-staffed National and British schools, supported by voluntary

contributions and sectarian rivalries, made an ineffectual fight

against this festering darkness. It was a condition of affairs

clamouring for remedies, but there was an immense amount of

indifference and prejudice to be overcome before any remedies were

possible. Perhaps some day some industrious and lucid historian

will disentangle all the muddle of impulses and antagonisms, the

commercialism, utilitarianism, obstinate conservatism, humanitarian

enthusiasm, out of which our present educational organisation arose.

I have long since come to believe it necessary that all new social

institutions should be born in confusion, and that at first they

should present chiefly crude and ridiculous aspects. The distrust

of government in the Victorian days was far too great, and the

general intelligence far too low, to permit the State to go about

the new business it was taking up in a businesslike way, to train

teachers, build and equip schools, endow pedagogic research, and

provide properly written school-books. These things it was felt

MUST be provided by individual and local effort, and since it was

manifest that it was individual and local effort that were in

default, it was reluctantly agreed to stimulate them by money

payments. The State set up a machinery of examination both in

Science and Art and for the elementary schools; and payments, known

technically as grants, were made in accordance with the examination

results attained, to such schools as Providence might see fit to

send into the world. In this way it was felt the Demand would be

established that would, according to the beliefs of that time,

inevitably ensure the Supply. An industry of "Grant earning" was

created, and this would give education as a necessary by-product.

In the end this belief was found to need qualification, but Grant-

earning was still in full activity when I was a small boy. So far

as the Science and Art Department and my father are concerned, the

task of examination was entrusted to eminent scientific men, for the

most part quite unaccustomed to teaching. You see, if they also

were teaching similar classes to those they examined, it was feared

that injustice might be done. Year after year these eminent persons

set questions and employed subordinates to read and mark the

increasing thousands of answers that ensued, and having no doubt the

national ideal of fairness well developed in their minds, they were

careful each year to re-read the preceding papers before composing

the current one, in order to see what it was usual to ask. As a

result of this, in the course of a few years the recurrence and

permutation of questions became almost calculable, and since the

practical object of the teaching was to teach people not science,

but how to write answers to these questions, the industry of Grant-

earning assumed a form easily distinguished from any kind of genuine

education whatever.

Other remarkable compromises had also to be made with the spirit of

the age. The unfortunate conflict between Religion and Science

prevalent at this time was mitigated, if I remember rightly, by

making graduates in arts and priests in the established church

Science Teachers EX OFFICIO, and leaving local and private

enterprise to provide schools, diagrams, books, material, according

to the conceptions of efficiency prevalent in the district. Private

enterprise made a particularly good thing of the books. A number of

competing firms of publishers sprang into existence specialising in

Science and Art Department work; they set themselves to produce

text-books that should supply exactly the quantity and quality of

knowledge necessary for every stage of each of five and twenty

subjects into which desirable science was divided, and copies and

models and instructions that should give precisely the method and

gestures esteemed as proficiency in art. Every section of each book

was written in the idiom found to be most satisfactory to the

examiners, and test questions extracted from papers set in former

years were appended to every chapter. By means of these last the

teacher was able to train his class to the very highest level of

grant-earning efficiency, and very naturally he cast all other

methods of exposition aside. First he posed his pupils with

questions and then dictated model replies.

That was my father's method of instruction. I attended his classes

as an elementary grant-earner from the age of ten until his death,

and it is so I remember him, sitting on the edge of a table,

smothering a yawn occasionally and giving out the infallible

formulae to the industriously scribbling class sitting in rows of

desks before him. Occasionally be would slide to his feet and go to

a blackboard on an easel and draw on that very slowly and

deliberately in coloured chalks a diagram for the class to copy in

coloured pencils, and sometimes he would display a specimen or

arrange an experiment for them to see. The room in the Institute in

which he taught was equipped with a certain amount of apparatus

prescribed as necessary for subject this and subject that by the

Science and Art Department, and this my father would supplement with

maps and diagrams and drawings of his own.

But he never really did experiments, except that in the class in

systematic botany he sometimes made us tease common flowers to

pieces. He did not do experiments if he could possibly help it,

because in the first place they used up time and gas for the Bunsen

burner and good material in a ruinous fashion, and in the second

they were, in his rather careless and sketchy hands, apt to endanger

the apparatus of the Institute and even the lives of his students.

Then thirdly, real experiments involved washing up. And moreover

they always turned out wrong, and sometimes misled the too observant

learner very seriously and opened demoralising controversies. Quite

early in life I acquired an almost ineradicable sense of the

unscientific perversity of Nature and the impassable gulf that is

fixed between systematic science and elusive fact. I knew, for

example, that in science, whether it be subject XII., Organic

Chemistry, or subject XVII., Animal Physiology, when you blow into a

glass of lime water it instantly becomes cloudy, and if you continue

to blow it clears again, whereas in truth you may blow into the

stuff from the lime-water bottle until you are crimson in the face

and painful under the ears, and it never becomes cloudy at all. And

I knew, too, that in science if you put potassium chlorate into a

retort and heat it over a Bunsen burner, oxygen is disengaged and

may be collected over water, whereas in real life if you do anything

of the sort the vessel cracks with a loud report, the potassium

chlorate descends sizzling upon the flame, the experimenter says

"Oh! Damn!" with astonishing heartiness and distinctness, and a lady

student in the back seats gets up and leaves the room.

Science is the organised conquest of Nature, and I can quite

understand that ancient libertine refusing to cooperate in her own

undoing. And I can quite understand, too, my father's preference

for what he called an illustrative experiment, which was simply an

arrangement of the apparatus in front of the class with nothing

whatever by way of material, and the Bunsen burner clean and cool,

and then a slow luminous description of just what you did put in it

when you were so ill-advised as to carry the affair beyond

illustration, and just exactly what ought anyhow to happen when you

did. He had considerable powers of vivid expression, so that in

this way he could make us see all he described. The class, freed

from any unpleasant nervous tension, could draw this still life

without flinching, and if any part was too difficult to draw, then

my father would produce a simplified version on the blackboard to be

copied instead. And he would also write on the blackboard any

exceptionally difficult but grant-earning words, such as

"empyreumatic" or "botryoidal."

Some words in constant use he rarely explained. I remember once

sticking up my hand and asking him in the full flow of description,

"Please, sir, what is flocculent?"

"The precipitate is."

"Yes, sir, but what does it mean?"

"Oh! flocculent! " said my father, "flocculent! Why-" he extended

his hand and arm and twiddled his fingers for a second in the air.

"Like that," he said.

I thought the explanation sufficient, but he paused for a moment

after giving it. "As in a flock bed, you know," he added and

resumed his discourse.


My father, Iam afraid, carried a natural incompetence in practical

affairs to an exceptionally high level. He combined practical

incompetence, practical enterprise and a thoroughly sanguine

temperament, in a manner that I have never seen paralleled in any

human being. He was always trying to do new things in the briskest

manner, under the suggestion of books or papers or his own

spontaneous imagination, and as he had never been trained to do

anything whatever in his life properly, his futilities were

extensive and thorough. At one time he nearly gave up his classes

for intensive culture, so enamoured was he of its possibilities; the

peculiar pungency of the manure he got, in pursuit of a chemical

theory of his own, has scarred my olfactory memories for a lifetime.

The intensive culture phase is very clear in my memory; it came near

the end of his career and when I was between eleven and twelve. I

was mobilised to gather caterpillars on several occasions, and

assisted in nocturnal raids upon the slugs by lantern-light that

wrecked my preparation work for school next day. My father dug up

both lawns, and trenched and manured in spasms of immense vigour

alternating with periods of paralysing distaste for the garden. And

for weeks he talked about eight hundred pounds an acre at every


A garden, even when it is not exasperated by intensive methods, is a

thing as exacting as a baby, its moods have to he watched; it does

not wait upon the cultivator's convenience, but has times of its

own. Intensive culture greatly increases this disposition to

trouble mankind; it makes a garden touchy and hysterical, a drugged

and demoralised and over-irritated garden. My father got at cross

purposes with our two patches at an early stage. Everything grew

wrong from the first to last, and if my father's manures intensified

nothing else, they certainly intensified the Primordial Curse. The

peas were eaten in the night before they were three inches high, the

beans bore nothing but blight, the only apparent result of a

spraying of the potatoes was to develop a PENCHANT in the cat for

being ill indoors, the cucumber frames were damaged by the

catapulting of boys going down the lane at the back, and all your

cucumbers were mysteriously embittered. That lane with its

occasional passers-by did much to wreck the intensive scheme,

because my father always stopped work and went indoors if any one

watched him. His special manure was apt to arouse a troublesome

spirit of inquiry in hardy natures.

In digging his rows and shaping his patches he neglected the guiding

string and trusted to his eye altogether too much, and the

consequent obliquity and the various wind-breaks and scare-crows he

erected, and particularly an irrigation contrivance he began and

never finished by which everything was to be watered at once by

means of pieces of gutter from the roof and outhouses of Number 2,

and a large and particularly obstinate clump of elder-bushes in the

abolished hedge that he had failed to destroy entirely either by axe

or by fire, combined to give the gardens under intensive culture a

singularly desolate and disorderly appearance. He took steps

towards the diversion of our house drain under the influence of the

Sewage Utilisation Society; but happily he stopped in time. He

hardly completed any of the operations he began; something else

became more urgent or simply he tired; a considerable area of the

Number 2 territory was never even dug up.

In the end the affair irritated him beyond endurance. Never was a

man less horticulturally-minded. The clamour of these vegetables he

had launched into the world for his service and assistance, wore out

his patience. He would walk into the garden the happiest of men

after a day or so of disregard, talking to me of history perhaps or

social organisation, or summarising some book he had read. He

talked to me of anything that interested him, regardless of my

limitations. Then he would begin to note the growth of the weeds.

"This won't do," he would say and pull up a handful.

More weeding would follow and the talk would become fragmentary.

His hands would become earthy, his nails black, weeds would snap off

in his careless grip, leaving the roots behind. The world would

darken. He would look at his fingers with disgusted astonishment.

"CURSE these weeds!" he would say from his heart. His discourse was

at an end.

I have memories, too, of his sudden unexpected charges into the

tranquillity of the house, his hands and clothes intensively

enriched. He would come in like a whirlwind. "This damned stuff

all over me and the Agricultural Chemistry Class at six! Bah!


My mother would never learn not to attempt to break him of swearing

on such occasions. She would remain standing a little stiffly in

the scullery refusing to assist him to the adjectival towel he


"If you say such things-"

He would dance with rage and hurl the soap about. "The towel!" he

would cry, flicking suds from big fingers in every direction; "the

towel! I'll let the blithering class slide if you don't give me the

towel! I'll give up everything, I tell you-everything!"…

At last with the failure of the lettuces came the breaking point. I

was in the little arbour learning Latin irregular verbs when it

happened. I can see him still, his peculiar tenor voice still

echoes in my brain, shouting his opinion of intensive culture for

all the world to hear, and slashing away at that abominable mockery

of a crop with a hoe. We had tied them up with bast only a week or

so before, and now half were rotten and half had shot up into tall

slender growths. He had the hoe in both hands and slogged. Great

wipes he made, and at each stroke he said, "Take that!"

The air was thick with flying fragments of abortive salad. It was a

fantastic massacre. It was the French Revolution of that cold

tyranny, the vindictive overthrow of the pampered vegetable

aristocrats. After he had assuaged his passion upon them, he turned

for other prey; he kicked holes in two of our noblest marrows,

flicked off the heads of half a row of artichokes, and shied the hoe

with a splendid smash into the cucumber frame. Something of the awe

of that moment returns to me as I write of it.

Well, my boy," he said, approaching with an expression of beneficent

happiness, "I've done with gardening. Let's go for a walk like

reasonable beings. I've had enough of this"-his face was convulsed

for an instant with bitter resentment-" Pandering to cabbages."


That afternoon's walk sticks in my memory for many reasons. One is

that we went further than I had ever been before; far beyond Keston

and nearly to Seven-oaks, coming back by train from Dunton Green,

and the other is that my father as he went along talked about

himself, not so much to me as to himself, and about life and what he

had done with it. He monologued so that at times he produced an

effect of weird world-forgetfulness. I listened puzzled, and at

that time not upderstanding many things that afterwards became plain

to me. It is only in recent years that I have discovered the pathos

of that monologue; how friendless my father was and uncompanioned in

his thoughts and feelings, and what a hunger he may have felt for

the sympathy of the undeveloped youngster who trotted by his side.

"I'm no gardener," he said, "I'm no anything. Why the devil did I

start gardening?

"I suppose man was created to mind a garden… But the Fall let

us out of that! What was I created for? God! what was I created


"Slaves to matter! Minding inanimate things! It doesn't suit me,

you know. I've got no hands and no patience. I've mucked about

with life. Mucked about with life." He suddenly addressed himself

to me, and for an instant I started like an eavesdropper discovered.

"Whatever you do, boy, whatever you do, make a Plan. Make a good

Plan and stick to it. Find out what life is about-I never have-

and set yourself to do whatever you ought to do. I admit it's a


"Those damned houses have been the curse of my life. Stucco white

elephants! Beastly cracked stucco with stains of green-black and

green. Conferva and soot… Property, they are!… Beware

of Things, Dick, beware of Things! Before you know where you are

you are waiting on them and minding them. They'll eat your life up.

Eat up your hours and your blood and energy! When those houses came

to me, I ought to have sold them-or fled the country. I ought to

have cleared out. Sarcophagi-eaters of men! Oh! the hours and

days of work, the nights of anxiety those vile houses have cost me!

The painting! It worked up my arms; it got all over me. I stank of

it. It made me ill. It isn't living-it's minding

"Property's the curse of life. Property! Ugh! Look at this

country all cut up into silly little parallelograms, look at all

those villas we passed just now and those potato patches and that

tarred shanty and the hedge! Somebody's minding every bit of it

like a dog tied to a cart's tail. Patching it and bothering about

it. Bothering! Yapping at every passer-by. Look at that notice-

board! One rotten worried little beast wants to keep us other

rotten little beasts off HIS patch,-God knows why! Look at the

weeds in it. Look at the mended fence!… There's no property

worth having, Dick, but money. That's only good to spend. All

these things. Human souls buried under a cartload of blithering


"I'm not a fool, Dick. I have qualities, imagination, a sort of go.

I ought to have made a better thing of life.

"I'm sure I could have done things. Only the old people pulled my

leg. They started me wrong. They never started me at all. I only

began to find out what life was like when I was nearly forty.

"If I'd gone to a university; if I'd had any sort of sound training,

if I hadn't slipped into the haphazard places that came easiest…

"Nobody warned me. Nobody. It isn't a world we live in, Dick; it's

a cascade of accidents; it's a chaos exasperated by policemen! YOU

be warned in time, Dick. You stick to a plan. Don't wait for any

one to show you the way. Nobody will. There isn't a way till you

make one. Get education, get a good education. Fight your way to

the top. It's your only chance. I've watched you. You'll do no

good at digging and property minding. There isn't a neighbour in

Bromstead won't be able to skin you at suchlike games. You and I

are the brainy unstable kind, topside or nothing. And if ever those

blithering houses come to you-don't have 'em. Give them away!

Dynamite 'em-and off! LIVE, Dick! I'll get rid of them for you if

I can, Dick, but remember what I say."…

So it was my father discoursed, if not in those particular words,

yet exactly in that manner, as he slouched along the southward road,

with resentful eyes becoming less resentful as he talked, and

flinging out clumsy illustrative motions at the outskirts of

Bromstead as we passed along them. That afternoon he hated

Bromstead, from its foot-tiring pebbles up. He had no illusions

about Bromstead or himself. I have the clearest impression of him

in his garden-stained tweeds with a deer-stalker hat on the back of

his head and presently a pipe sometimes between his teeth and

sometimes in his gesticulating hand, as he became diverted by his

talk from his original exasperation…

This particular afternoon is no doubt mixed up in my memory with

many other afternoons; all sorts of things my father said and did at

different times have got themselves referred to it; it filled me at

the time with a great unprecedented sense of fellowship and it has

become the symbol now for all our intercourse together. If I didn't

understand the things he said, I did the mood he was in. He gave me

two very broad ideas in that talk and the talks I have mingled with

it; he gave them to me very clearly and they have remained

fundamental in my mind; one a sense of the extraordinary confusion

and waste and planlessness of the human life that went on all about

us; and the other of a great ideal of order and economy which he

called variously Science and Civilisation, and which, though I do

not remember that he ever used that word, I suppose many people

nowadays would identify with Socialism,-as the Fabians expound it.

He was not very definite about this Science, you must understand,

but he seemed always to be waving his hand towards it,-just as his

contemporary Tennyson seems always to be doing-he belonged to his

age and mostly his talk was destructive of the limited beliefs of

his time, he led me to infer rather than actually told me that this

Science was coming, a spirit of light and order, to the rescue of a

world groaning and travailing in muddle for the want of it…


When I think of Bromstead nowadays I find it inseparably bound up

with the disorders of my father's gardening, and the odd patchings

and paintings that disfigured his houses. It was all of a piece

with that.

Let me try and give something of the quality of Bromstead and

something of its history. It is the quality and history of a

thousand places round and about London, and round and about the

other great centres of population in the world. Indeed it is in a

measure the quality of the whole of this modern world from which we

who have the statesman's passion struggle to evolve, and dream still

of evolving order.

First, then, you must think of Bromstead a hundred and fifty years

ago, as a narrow irregular little street of thatched houses strung

out on the London and Dover Road, a little mellow sample unit of a

social order that had a kind of completeness, at its level, of its

own. At that time its population numbered a little under two

thousand people, mostly engaged in agricultural work or in trades

serving agriculture. There was a blacksmith, a saddler, a chemist,

a doctor, a barber, a linen-draper (who brewed his own beer); a

veterinary surgeon, a hardware shop, and two capacious inns. Round

and about it were a number of pleasant gentlemen's seats, whose

owners went frequently to London town in their coaches along the

very tolerable high-road. The church was big enough to hold the

whole population, were people minded to go to church, and indeed a

large proportion did go, and all who married were married in it, and

everybody, to begin with, was christened at its font and buried at

last in its yew-shaded graveyard. Everybody knew everybody in the

place. It was, in fact, a definite place and a real human community

in those days. There was a pleasant old market-house in the middle

of the town with a weekly market, and an annual fair at which much

cheerful merry making and homely intoxication occurred; there was a

pack of hounds which hunted within five miles of London Bridge, and

the local gentry would occasionally enliven the place with valiant

cricket matches for a hundred guineas a side, to the vast excitement

of the entire population. It was very much the same sort of place

that it had been for three or four centuries. A Bromstead Rip van

Winkle from 1550 returning in 1750 would have found most of the old

houses still as he had known them, the same trades a little improved

and differentiated one from the other, the same roads rather more

carefully tended, the Inns not very much altered, the ancient

familiar market-house. The occasional wheeled traffic would have

struck him as the most remarkable difference, next perhaps to the

swaggering painted stone monuments instead of brasses and the

protestant severity of the communion-table in the parish church,-

both from the material point of view very little things. A Rip van

Winkle from 1350, again, would have noticed scarcely greater

changes; fewer clergy, more people, and particularly more people of

the middling sort; the glass in the windows of many of the houses,

the stylish chimneys springing up everywhere would have impressed

him, and suchlike details. The place would have had the same

boundaries, the same broad essential features, would have been still

itself in the way that a man is still himself after he has "filled

out" a little and grown a longer beard and changed his clothes.

But after 1750 something got hold of the world, something that was

destined to alter the scale of every human affair.

That something was machinery and a vague energetic disposition to

improve material things. In another part of England ingenious

people were beginning to use coal in smelting iron, and were

producing metal in abundance and metal castings in sizes that had

hitherto been unattainable. Without warning or preparation,

increment involving countless possibilities of further increment was

coming to the strength of horses and men. "Power," all

unsuspected, was flowing like a drug into the veins of the social


Nobody seems to have perceived this coming of power, and nobody had

calculated its probable consequences. Suddenly, almost

inadvertently, people found themselves doing things that would have

amazed their ancestors. They began to construct wheeled vehicles

much more easily and cheaply than they had ever done before, to make

up roads and move things about that had formerly been esteemed too

heavy for locomotion, to join woodwork with iron nails instead of

wooden pegs, to achieve all sorts of mechanical possibilities, to

trade more freely and manufacture on a larger scale, to send goods

abroad in a wholesale and systematic way, to bring back commodities

from overseas, not simply spices and fine commodities, but goods in

bulk. The new influence spread to agriculture, iron appliances

replaced wooden, breeding of stock became systematic, paper-making

and printing increased and cheapened. Roofs of slate and tile

appeared amidst and presently prevailed over the original Bromstead

thatch, the huge space of Common to the south was extensively

enclosed, and what had been an ill-defined horse-track to Dover,

only passable by adventurous coaches in dry weather, became the

Dover Road, and was presently the route first of one and then of

several daily coaches. The High Street was discovered to be too

tortuous for these awakening energies, and a new road cut off its

worst contortions. Residential villas appeared occupied by retired

tradesmen and widows, who esteemed the place healthy, and by others

of a strange new unoccupied class of people who had money invested

in joint-stock enterprises. First one and then several boys'

boarding-schools came, drawing their pupils from London,-my

grandfather's was one of these. London, twelve miles to the north-

west, was making itself felt more and more.

But this was only the beginning of the growth period, the first

trickle of the coming flood of mechanical power. Away in the north

they were casting iron in bigger and bigger forms, working their way

to the production of steel on a large scale, applying power in

factories. Bromstead had almost doubted in size again long before

the railway came; there was hardly any thatch left in the High

Street, but instead were houses with handsome brass-knockered front

doors and several windows, and shops with shop-fronts all of square

glass panes, and the place was lighted publicly now by oil lamps-

previously only one flickering lamp outside each of the coaching

inns had broken the nocturnal darkness. And there was talk, it long

remained talk,-of gas. The gasworks came in 1834, and about that

date my father's three houses must have been built convenient for

the London Road. They mark nearly the beginning of the real

suburban quality; they were let at first to City people still

engaged in business.

And then hard on the gasworks had come the railway and cheap coal;

there was a wild outbreak of brickfields upon the claylands to the

east, and the Great Growth had begun in earnest. The agricultural

placidities that had formerly come to the very borders of the High

Street were broken up north, west and south, by new roads. This

enterprising person and then that began to "run up" houses,

irrespective of every other enterprising person who was doing the

same thing. A Local Board came into existence, and with much

hesitation and penny-wise economy inaugurated drainage works. Rates

became a common topic, a fact of accumulating importance. Several

chapels of zinc and iron appeared, and also a white new church in

commercial Gothic upon the common, and another of red brick in the

residential district out beyond the brickfields towards Chessington.

The population doubled again and doubled again, and became

particularly teeming in the prolific "working-class" district about

the deep-rutted, muddy, coal-blackened roads between the gasworks,

Blodgett's laundries, and the railway goods-yard. Weekly

properties, that is to say small houses built by small property

owners and let by the week, sprang up also in the Cage Fields, and

presently extended right up the London Road. A single national

school in an inconvenient situation set itself inadequately to

collect subscriptions and teach the swarming, sniffing, grimy

offspring of this dingy new population to read. The villages of

Beckington, which used to be three miles to the west, and Blamely

four miles to the east of Bromstead, were experiencing similar

distensions and proliferations, and grew out to meet us. All effect

of locality or community had gone from these places long before I

was born; hardly any one knew any one; there was no general meeting

place any more, the old fairs were just common nuisances haunted by

gypsies, van showmen, Cheap Jacks and London roughs, the churches

were incapable of a quarter of the population. One or two local

papers of shameless veniality reported the proceedings of the local

Bench and the local Board, compelled tradesmen who were interested

in these affairs to advertise, used the epithet "Bromstedian" as one

expressing peculiar virtues, and so maintained in the general mind a

weak tradition of some local quality that embraced us all. Then the

parish graveyard filled up and became a scandal, and an ambitious

area with an air of appetite was walled in by a Bromstead Cemetery

Company, and planted with suitably high-minded and sorrowful

varieties of conifer. A stonemason took one of the earlier villas

with a front garden at the end of the High Street, and displayed a

supply of urns on pillars and headstones and crosses in stone,

marble, and granite, that would have sufficed to commemorate in

elaborate detail the entire population of Bromstead as one found it

in 1750.

The cemetery was made when I was a little boy of five or six; I was

in the full tide of building and growth from the first; the second

railway with its station at Bromstead North and the drainage

followed when I was ten or eleven, and all my childish memories are

of digging and wheeling, of woods invaded by building, roads gashed

open and littered with iron pipes amidst a fearfulsmell of gas, of

men peeped at and seen toiling away deep down in excavations, of

hedges broken down and replaced by planks, of wheelbarrows and

builders' sheds, of rivulets overtaken and swallowed up by drain-

pipes. Big trees, and especially elms, cleared of undergrowth and

left standing amid such things, acquired a peculiar tattered

dinginess rather in the quality of needy widow women who have seen

happier days.

The Ravensbrook of my earlier memories was a beautiful stream. It

came into my world out of a mysterious Beyond, out of a garden,

splashing brightly down a weir which had once been the weir of a

mill. (Above the weir and inaccessible there were bulrushes growing

in splendid clumps, and beyond that, pampas grass, yellow and

crimson spikes of hollyhock, and blue suggestions of wonderland.)

From the pool at the foot of this initial cascade it flowed in a

leisurely fashion beside a footpath,-there were two pretty thatchcd

cottages on the left, and here were ducks, and there were willows on

the right,-and so came to where great trees grew on high banks on

either hand and bowed closer, and at last met overhead. This part

was difficult to reach because of an old fence, but a little boy

might glimpse that long cavern of greenery by wading. Either I have

actually seen kingfishers there, or my father has described them so

accurately to me that he inserted them into my memory. I remember

them there anyhow. Most of that overhung part I never penetrated at

all, but followed the field path with my mother and met the stream

again, where beyond there were flat meadows, Roper's meadows. The

Ravensbrook went meandering across the middle of these, now between

steep banks, and now with wide shallows at the bends where the

cattle waded and drank. Yellow and purple loose-strife and ordinary

rushes grew in clumps along the bank, and now and then a willow. On

rare occasions of rapture one might see a rat cleaning his whiskers

at the water's edge. The deep places were rich with tangled weeds,

and in them fishes lurked-to me they were big fishes-water-boatmen

and water-beetles traversed the calm surface of these still deeps;

in one pool were yellow lilies and water-soldiers, and in the shoaly

places hovering fleets of small fry basked in the sunshine-to

vanish in a flash at one's shadow. In one place, too, were Rapids,

where the stream woke with a start from a dreamless brooding into

foaming panic and babbled and hastened. Well do I remember that

half-mile of rivulet; all other rivers and cascades have their

reference to it for me. And after I was eleven, and before we left

Bromstead, all the delight and beauty of it was destroyed.

The volume of its water decreased abruptly-I suppose the new

drainage works that linked us up with Beckington, and made me first

acquainted with the geological quality of the London clay, had to do

with that-until only a weak uncleansing trickle remained. That at

first did not strike me as a misfortune. An adventurous small boy

might walk dryshod in places hitherto inaccessible. But hard upon

that came the pegs, the planks and carts and devastation. Roper's

meadows, being no longer in fear of floods, were now to be slashed

out into parallelograms of untidy road, and built upon with rows of

working-class cottages. The roads came,-horribly; the houses

followed. They seemed to rise in the night. People moved into them

as soon as the roofs were on, mostly workmen and their young wives,

and already in a year some of these raw houses stood empty again

from defaulting tenants, with windows broken and wood-work warping

and rotting. The Ravensbrook became a dump for old iron, rusty

cans, abandoned boots and the like, and was a river only when

unusual rains filled it for a day or so with an inky flood of

surface water…

That indeed was my most striking perception in the growth of

Bromstead. The Ravensbrook had been important to my imaginative

life; that way had always been my first choice in all my walks with

my mother, and its rapid swamping by the new urban growth made it

indicative of all the other things that had happened just before my

time, or were still, at a less dramatic pace, happening. I realised

that building was the enemy. I began to understand why in every

direction out of Bromstead one walked past scaffold-poles into

litter, why fragments of broken brick and cinder mingled in every

path, and the significance of the universal notice-boards, either

white and new or a year old and torn and battered, promising sites,

proffering houses to be sold or let, abusing and intimidating

passers-by for fancied trespass, and protecting rights of way.

It is difficult to disentangle now what I understood at this time

and what I have since come to understand, but it seems to me that

even in those childish days I was acutely aware of an invading and

growing disorder. The serene rhythms of the old established

agriculture, I see now, were everywhere being replaced by

cultivation under notice and snatch crops; hedges ceased to be

repaired, and were replaced by cheap iron railings or chunks of

corrugated iron; more and more hoardings sprang up, and contributed

more and more to the nomad tribes of filthy paper scraps that flew

before the wind and overspread the country. The outskirts of

Bromstead were a maze of exploitation roads that led nowhere, that

ended in tarred fences studded with nails (I don't remember barbed

wire in those days; I think the Zeitgeist did not produce that until

later), and in trespass boards that used vehement language. Broken

glass, tin cans, and ashes and paper abounded. Cheap glass, cheap

tin, abundant fuel, and a free untaxed Press had rushed upon a world

quite unprepared to dispose of these blessings when the fulness of

enjoyment was past.

I suppose one might have persuaded oneself that all this was but the

replacement of an ancient tranquillity, or at least an ancient

balance, by a new order. Only to my eyes, quickened by my father's

intimations, it was manifestly no order at all. It was a multitude

of incoordinated fresh starts, each more sweeping and destructive

than the last, and none of them ever really worked out to a ripe and

satisfactory completion. Each left a legacy of products, houses,

humanity, or what not, in its wake. It was a sort of progress that

had bolted; it was change out of hand, and going at an unprecedented

pace nowhere in particular.

No, the Victorian epoch was not the dawn of a new era; it was a

hasty, trial experiment, a gigantic experiment of the most slovenly

and wasteful kind. I suppose it was necessary; I suppose all things

are necessary. I suppose that before men will discipline themselves

to learn and plan, they must first see in a hundred convincing forms

the folly and muddle that come from headlong, aimless and haphazard

methods. The nineteenth century was an age of demonstrations, some

of them very impressive demonstrations, of the powers that have come

to mankind, but of permanent achievement, what will our descendants

cherish? It is hard to estimate what grains of precious metal may

not be found in a mud torrent of human production on so large a

scale, but will any one, a hundred years from now, consent to live

in the houses the Victorians built, travel by their roads or

railways, value the furnishings they made to live among or esteem,

except for curious or historical reasons, their prevalent art and

the clipped and limited literature that satisfied their souls?

That age which bore me was indeed a world full of restricted and

undisciplined people, overtaken by power, by possessions and great

new freedoms, and unable to make any civilised use of them whatever;

stricken now by this idea and now by that, tempted first by one

possession and then another to ill-considered attempts; it was my

father's exploitahon of his villa gardens on the wholesale level.

The whole of Bromstead as I remember it, and as I saw it last-it is

a year ago now-is a dull useless boiling-up of human activities, an

immense clustering of futilities. It is as unfinished as ever; the

builders' roads still run out and end in mid-field in their old

fashion; the various enterprises jumble in the same hopeless

contradiction, if anything intensified. Pretentious villas jostle

slums, and public-house and tin tabernacle glower at one another

across the cat-haunted lot that intervenes. Roper's meadows are now

quite frankly a slum; back doors and sculleries gape towards the

railway, their yards are hung with tattered washing unashamed; and

there seem to be more boards by the railway every time I pass,

advertising pills and pickles, tonics and condiments, and suchlike

solicitudes of a people with no natural health nor appetite left in


Well, we have to do better. Failure is not failure nor waste wasted

if it sweeps away illusion and lights the road to a plan.


Chaotic indiscipline, ill-adjusted effort, spasmodic aims, these

give the quality of all my Bromstead memories. The crowning one of

them all rises to desolating tragedy. I remember now the wan spring

sunshine of that Sunday morning, the stiff feeling of best clothes

and aggressive cleanliness and formality, when I and my mother

returned from church to find my father dead. He had been pruning

the grape vine. He had never had a ladder long enough to reach the

sill of the third-floor windows-at house-painting times he had

borrowed one from the plumber who mixed his paint-and he had in his

own happy-go-lucky way contrived a combination of the garden fruit

ladder with a battered kitchen table that served all sorts of odd

purposes in an outhouse. He had stayed up this arrangement by means

of the garden roller, and the roller had at the critical moment-

rolled. He was lying close by the garden door with his head queerly

bent back against a broken and twisted rainwater pipe, an expression

of pacific contentment on his face, a bamboo curtain rod with a

tableknife tied to end of it, still gripped in his hand. We had

been rapping for some time at the front door unable to make him

hear, and then we came round by the door in the side trellis into

the garden and so discovered him.

"Arthur!" I remember my mother crying with the strangest break in

her voice, "What are you doing there? Arthur! And-SUNDAY!"

I was coming behind her, musing remotely, when the quality of her

voice roused me. She stood as if she could not go near him. He had

always puzzled her so, he and his ways, and this seemed only another

enigma. Then the truth dawned on her, she shrieked as if afraid of

him, ran a dozen steps back towards the trellis door and stopped and

clasped her ineffectual gloved hands, leaving me staring blankly,

too astonished for feeling, at the carelessly flung limbs.

The same idea came to me also. I ran to her. "Mother!" I cried,

pale to the depths of my spirit, "IS HE DEAD?"

I had been thinking two minutes before of the cold fruit pie that

glorified our Sunday dinner-table, and how I might perhaps get into

the tree at the end of the garden to read in the afternoon. Now an

immense fact had come down like a curtain and blotted out all my

childish world. My father was lying dead before my eyes… I

perceived that my mother was helpless and that things must he done.

"Mother!" I said, "we must get Doctor Beaseley,-and carry him





My formal education began in a small preparatory school in

Bromstead. I went there as a day boy. The charge for my

instruction was mainly set off by the periodic visits of my father

with a large bag of battered fossils to lecture to us upon geology.

I was one of those fortunate youngsters who take readily to school

work, I had a goodmemory, versatile interests and a considerable

appetite for commendation, and when I was barely twelve I got a

scholarship at the City Merchants School and was entrusted with a

scholar's railway season ticket to Victoria. After my father's

death a large and very animated and solidly built uncle in tweeds

from Staffordshire, Uncle Minter, my mother's sister's husband, with

a remarkable accent and remarkable vowel sounds, who had plunged

into the Bromstead home once or twice for the night but who was

otherwise unknown to me, came on the scene, sold off the three gaunt

houses with the utmost gusto, invested the proceeds and my father's

life insurance money, and got us into a small villa at Penge within

sight of that immense facade of glass and iron, the Crystal Palace.

Then he retired in a mood of good-natured contempt to his native

habitat again. We stayed at Penge until my mother's death.

School became a large part of the world to me, absorbing my time and

interest, and I never acquired that detailed and intimate knowledge

of Penge and the hilly villadom round about, that I have of the town

and outskirts of Bromstead.

It was a district of very much the same character, but it was more

completely urbanised and nearer to the centre of things; there were

the same unfinished roads, the same occasional disconcerted hedges

and trees, the same butcher's horse grazing under a builder's

notice-board, the same incidental lapses into slum. The Crystal

Palace grounds cut off a large part of my walking radius to the west

with impassable fences and forbiddingly expensive turnstiles, but it

added to the ordinary spectacle of meteorology a great variety of

gratuitous fireworks which banged and flared away of a night after

supper and drew me abroad to see them better. Such walks as I took,

to Croydon, Wembledon, West Wickham and Greenwich, impressed upon me

the interminable extent of London's residential suburbs; mile after

mile one went, between houses, villas, rows of cottages, streets of

shops, under railway arches, over railway bridges. I have forgotten

the detailed local characteristics-if there were any-of much of

that region altogether. I was only there two years, and half my

perambulations occurred at dusk or after dark. But with Penge I

associate my first realisations of the wonder and beauty of twilight

and night, the effect of dark walls reflecting lamplight, and the

mystery of blue haze-veiled hillsides of houses, the glare of shops

by night, the glowing steam and streaming sparks of railway trains

and railway signals lit up in the darkness. My first rambles in the

evening occurred at Penge-I was becoming a big and independent-

spirited boy-and I began my experience of smoking during these

twilight prowls with the threepenny packets of American cigarettes

then just appearing in the world.

My life centred upon the City Merchants School. Usually I caught

the eight-eighteen for Victoria, I had a midday meal and tea; four

nights a week I stayed for preparation, and often I was not back

home again until within an hour of my bedtime. I spent my half

holidays at school in order to play cricket and football. This, and

a pretty voracious appetite for miscellaneous reading which was

fostered by the Penge Middleton Library, did not leave me much

leisure for local topography. On Sundays also I sang in the choir

at St. Martin 's Church, and my mother did not like me to walk out

alone on the Sabbath afternoon, she herself slumbered, so that I

wrote or read at home. I must confess I was at home as little as I

could contrive.

Home, after my father's death, had become a very quiet and

uneventful place indeed. My mother had either an unimaginative

temperament or her mind was greatly occupied with private religious

solicitudes, and I remember her talking to me but little, and that

usually upon topics I was anxious to evade. I had developed my own

view about low-Church theology long before my father's death, and my

meditation upon that event had finished my secret estrangement from

my mother's faith. My reason would not permit even a remote chance

of his being in hell, he was so manifestly not evil, and this

religion would not permit him a remote chance of being out yet.

When I was a little boy my mother had taught me to read and write

and pray and had done many things for me, indeed she persisted in

washing me and even in making my clothes until I rebelled against

these things as indignities. But our minds parted very soon. She

never began to understand the mental processes of my play, she never

interested herself in my school life and work, she could not

understand things I said; and she came, I think, quite insensibly to

regard me with something of the same hopeless perplexity she had

felt towards my father.

Him she must have wedded under considerable delusions. I do not

think he deceived her, indeed, nor do I suspect him of mercenariness

in their union; but no doubt he played up to her requirements in the

half ingenuous way that was and still is the quality of most wooing,

and presented himself as a very brisk and orthodox young man. I

wonder why nearly all lovemaking has to be fraudulent. Afterwards

he must have disappointed her cruelly by letting one aspect after

another of his careless, sceptical, experimental temperament appear.

Her mind was fixed and definite, she embodied all that confidence in

church and decorum and the assurances of the pulpit which was

characteristic of the large mass of the English people-for after

all, the rather low-Church section WAS the largest single mass-in

early Victorian times. She had dreams, I suspect, of going to

church with him side by side; she in a little poke bonnet and a

large flounced crinoline, all mauve and magenta and starched under a

little lace-trimmed parasol, and he in a tall silk hat and peg-top

trousers and a roll-collar coat, and looking rather like the Prince

Consort,-white angels almost visibly raining benedictions on their

amiable progress. Perhaps she dreamt gently of much-belaced babies

and an interestingly pious (but not too dissenting or fanatical)

little girl or boy or so, also angel-haunted. And I think, too, she

must have seenherself ruling a seemly "home of taste," with a

vivarium in the conservatory that opened out of the drawing-room, or

again, making preserves in the kitchen. My father's science-

teaching, his diagrams of disembowelled humanity, his pictures of

prehistoric beasts that contradicted the Flood, his disposition

towards soft shirts and loose tweed suits, his inability to use a

clothes brush, his spasmodic reading fits and his bulldog pipes,

must have jarred cruelly with her rather unintelligent

anticipations. His wild moments of violent temper when he would

swear and smash things, absurd almost lovable storms that passed

like summer thunder, must have been starkly dreadful to her. She

was constitutionally inadaptable, and certainly made no attempt to

understand or tolerate these outbreaks. She tried them by her

standards, and by her standards they were wrong. Her standards hid

him from her. The blazing things he said rankled in her mind


As I remember them together they chafed constantly. Her attitude to

nearly all his moods and all his enterprises was a sceptical

disapproval. She treated him as something that belonged to me and

not to her. "YOUR father," she used to call him, as though I had

got him for her.

She had married late and she had, I think, become mentally self-

subsisting before her marriage. Even in those Herne Hill days I

used to wonder what was going on in her mind, and I find that old

speculative curiosity return as I write this. She took a

considerable interest in the housework that our generally

servantless condition put upon her-she used to have a charwoman in

two or three times a week-but she did not do it with any great

skill. She covered most of our furniture with flouncey ill-fitting

covers, and she cooked plainly and without very much judgment. The

Penge house, as it contained nearly all our Bromstead things, was

crowded with furniture, and is chiefly associated in my mind with

the smell of turpentine, a condiment she used very freely upon the

veneered mahogany pieces. My mother had an equal dread of "blacks"

by day and the "night air," so that our brightly clean windows were

rarely open.

She took a morning paper, and she would open it and glance at the

headlines, but she did not read it until the afternoon and then, I

think, she was interested only in the more violent crimes, and in

railway and mine disasters and in the minutest domesticities of the

Royal Family. Most of the books at home were my father's, and I do

not think she opened any of them. She had one or two volumes that

dated from her own youth, and she tried in vain to interest me in

them; there was Miss Strickland's QUEENS OF ENGLAND, a book I

remember with particular animosity, and QUEECHY and the WIDE WIDE

WORLD. She made these books of hers into a class apart by sewing

outer covers upon them of calico and figured muslin. To me in these

habiliments they seemed not so much books as confederated old


My mother was also very punctual with her religious duties, and

rejoiced to watch me in the choir.

On winter evenings she occupied an armchair on the other side of the

table at which I sat, head on hand reading, and she would be darning

stockings or socks or the like. We achieved an effect of rather

stuffy comfortableness that was soporific, and in a passive way I

think she found these among her happy times. On such occasions she

was wont to put her work down on her knees and fall into a sort of

thoughtless musing that would last for long intervals and rouse my

curiosity. For like most young people I could not imagine mental

states without definite forms.

She carried on a correspondence with a number of cousins and

friends, writing letters in a slanting Italian hand and dealing

mainly with births, marriages and deaths, business starts (in the

vaguest terms) and the distresses of bankruptcy.

And yet, you know, she did have a curious intimate life of her own

that I suspected nothing of at the time, that only now becomes

credible to me. She kept a diary that is still in my possession, a

diary of fragmentary entries in a miscellaneous collection of pocket

books. She put down the texts of the sermons she heard, and queer

stiff little comments on casual visitors,-" Miss G. and much noisy

shrieking talk about games and such frivolities and CROQUAY. A.

delighted and VERY ATTENTIVE." Such little human entries abound.

She had an odd way of never writing a name, only an initial; my

father is always "A.," and Iam always "D." It is manifest she

followed the domestic events in the life of the Princess of Wales,

who is now Queen Mother, with peculiar interest and sympathy. "Pray

G. all may be well," she writes in one such crisis.

But there are things about myself that I still find too poignant to

tell easily, certain painful and clumsy circumstances of my birth in

very great detail, the distresses of my infantile ailments. Then

later I find such things as this: "Heard D. s--." The "s" is

evidently "swear "-" G. bless and keep my boy from evil." And

again, with the thin handwriting shaken by distress: "D. would not

go to church, and hardened his heart and said wicked infidel things,

much disrespect of the clergy. The anthem is tiresome!!! That men

should set up to be wiser than their maker!!!" Then trebly

underlined: "I FEAR HIS FATHER'S TEACHING." Dreadful little tangle

of misapprehensions and false judgments! More comforting for me to

read, "D. very kind and good. He grows more thoughtful every day."

I suspect myself of forgotten hypocrisies.

At just one point my mother's papers seem to dip deeper. I think

the death of my father must have stirred her for the first time for

many years to think for herself. Even she could not go on living in

any peace at all, believing that he had indeed been flung headlong

into hell. Of this gnawing solicitude she never spoke to me, never,

and for her diary also she could find no phrases. But on a loose

half-sheet of notepaper between its pages I find this passage that

follows, written very carefully. I do not know whose lines they are

nor how she came upon them. They run:-

"And if there be no meeting past the grave;

If all is darkness, silence, yet 'tis rest.

Be not afraid ye waiting hearts that weep,

For God still giveth His beloved sleep,

And if an endless sleep He wills, so best."

That scrap of verse amazed me when I read it. I could even wonder

if my mother really grasped the import of what she had copied out.

It affected me as if a stone-deaf person had suddenly turned and

joined in a whispered conversation. It set me thinking how far a

mind in its general effect quite hopelessly limited, might range.

After that I went through all her diaries, trying to find something

more than a conventional term of tenderness for my father. But I

found nothing. And yet somehow there grew upon me the realisation

that there had been love… Her love for me, on the other hand,

was abundantly expressed.

I knew nothing of that secret life of feeling at the time; such

expression as it found was all beyond my schoolboy range. I did not

know when I pleased her and I did not know when I distressed her.

Chiefly I was aware of my mother as rather dull company, as a mind

thorny with irrational conclusions and incapable of explication, as

one believing quite wilfully and irritatingly in impossible things.

So I suppose it had to be; life was coming to me in new forms and

with new requirements. It was essential to our situation that we

should fail to understand. After this space of years I have come to

realisations and attitudes that dissolve my estrangement from her, I

can pierce these barriers, I can see her and feel her as a loving

and feeling and desiring and muddle-headed person. There are times

when I would have her alive again, if only that I might be kind to

her for a little while and give her some return for the narrow

intense affection, the tender desires, she evidently lavished so

abundantly on me. But then again I ask how I could make that

return? And I realise the futility of such dreaming. Her demand

was rigid, and to meet it I should need to act and lie.

So she whose blood fed me, whose body made me, lies in my memory as

I saw her last, fixed, still, infinitely intimate, infinitely


My own case with my mother, however, does not awaken the same regret

I feel when I think of how she misjudged and irked my father, and

turned his weaknesses into thorns for her own tormenting. I wish I

could look back without that little twinge to two people who were

both in their different quality so good. But goodness that is

narrow is a pedestrian and ineffectual goodness. Her attitude to my

father seems to me one of the essentially tragic things that have

come to me personally, one of those things that nothing can

transfigure, that REMAIN sorrowful, that I cannot soothe with any

explanation, for as I remember him he was indeed the most lovable of

weak spasmodic men. But my mother had been trained in a hard and

narrow system that made evil out of many things not in the least

evil, and inculcated neither kindliness nor charity. All their

estrangement followed from that.

These cramping cults do indeed take an enormous toll of human love

and happiness, and not only that but what we Machiavellians must

needs consider, they make frightful breaches in human solidarity. I

suppose Iam a deeply religious man, as men of my quality go, but I

hate more and more, as I grow older, the shadow of intolerance cast

by religious organisations. All my life has been darkened by

irrational intolerance, by arbitrary irrational prohibitions and

exclusions. Mahometanism with its fierce proselytism, has, I

suppose, the blackest record of uncharitableness, but most of the

Christian sects are tainted, tainted to a degree beyond any of the

anterior paganisms, with this same hateful quality. It is their

exclusive claim that sends them wrong, the vain ambition that

inspires them all to teach a uniform one-sided God and be the one

and only gateway to salvation. Deprecation of all outside the

household of faith, an organised undervaluation of heretical

goodness and lovableness, follows, necessarily. Every petty

difference is exaggerated to the quality of a saving grace or a

damning defect. Elaborate precautions are taken to shield the

believer's mind against broad or amiable suggestions; the faithful

are deterred by dark allusions, by sinister warnings, from books,

from theatres, from worldly conversation, from all the kindly

instruments that mingle human sympathy. For only by isolating its

flock can the organisation survive.

Every month there came to my mother a little magazine called, if I

remember rightly, the HOME CHURCHMAN, with the combined authority of

print and clerical commendation. It was the most evil thing that

ever came into the house, a very devil, a thin little pamphlet with

one woodcut illustration on the front page of each number; now the

uninviting visage of some exponent of the real and only doctrine and

attitudes, now some coral strand in act of welcoming the

missionaries of God's mysterious preferences, now a new church in

the Victorian Gothic. The vile rag it was! A score of vices that

shun the policeman have nothing of its subtle wickedness. It was an

outrage upon the natural kindliness of men. The contents were all

admirably adjusted to keep a spirit in prison. Their force of

sustained suggestion was tremendous. There would be dreadful

intimations of the swift retribution that fell upon individuals for

Sabbath-breaking, and upon nations for weakening towards Ritualism,

or treating Roman Catholics as tolerable human beings; there would

be great rejoicings over the conversion of alleged Jews, and

terrible descriptions of the death-beds of prominent infidels with

boldly invented last words,-the most unscrupulous lying; there

would be the appallingly edifying careers of "early piety"

lusciously described, or stories of condemned criminals who traced

their final ruin unerringly to early laxities of the kind that leads

people to give up subscribing to the HOME CHURCHMAN.

Every month that evil spirit brought about a slump in our mutual

love. My mother used to read the thing and become depressed and

anxious for my spiritual welfare, used to be stirred to

unintelligent pestering…


A few years ago I met the editor of this same HOME CHURCHMAN. It

was at one of the weekly dinners of that Fleet Street dining club,

the Blackfriars.

I heard the paper's name with a queer little shock and surveyed the

man with interest. No doubt he was only a successor of the purveyor

of discords who darkened my boyhood. It was amazing to find an

influence so terrible embodied in a creature so palpably petty. He

was seated some way down a table at right angles to the one at which

I sat, a man of mean appearance with a greyish complexion, thin,

with a square nose, a heavy wiry moustache and a big Adam's apple

sticking out between the wings of his collar. He ate with

considerable appetite and unconcealed relish, and as his jaw was

underhung, he chummed and made the moustache wave like reeds in the

swell of a steamer. It gave him a conscientious look. After dinner

he a little forced himself upon me. At that time, though the shadow

of my scandal was already upon me, I still seemed to be shaping for

great successes, and he was glad to be in conversation with me and

anxious to intimate political sympathy and support. I tried to make

him talk of the HOME CHURCHMAN and the kindred publications he ran,

but he was manifestly ashamed of his job so far as I was concerned.

"One wants," he said, pitching himself as he supposed in my key, "to

put constructive ideas into our readers, but they are narrow, you

know, very narrow. Very." He made his moustache and lips express

judicious regret. "One has to consider them carefully, one has to

respect their attitudes. One dare not go too far with them. One

has to feel one's way."

He chummed and the moustache bristled.

A hireling, beyond question, catering for a demand. I gathered

there was a home in Tufnell Park, and three boys to be fed and

clothed and educated…

I had the curiosity to buy a copy of his magazine afterwards, and it

seemed much the same sort of thing that had worried my mother in my

boyhood. There was the usual Christian hero, this time with mutton-

chop whiskers and a long bare upper lip. The Jesuits, it seemed,

were still hard at it, and Heaven frightfully upset about the Sunday

opening of museums and the falling birth-rate, and as touchy and

vindictive as ever. There were two vigorous paragraphs upon the

utter damnableness of the Rev. R. J. Campbell, a contagious

damnableness I gathered, one wasn't safe within a mile of Holborn

Viaduct, and a foul-mouthed attack on poor little Wilkins the

novelist-who was being baited by the moralists at that time for

making one of his big women characters, not being in holy wedlock,

desire a baby and say so…

The broadening of human thought is a slow and complex process. We

do go on, we do get on. But when one thinks that people are living

and dying now, quarrelling and sulking, misled and misunderstanding,

vaguely fearful, condemning and thwarting one another in the close

darknesses of these narrow cults-Oh, God! one wants a gale out of

Heaven, one wants a great wind from the sea!


While I lived at Penge two little things happened to me, trivial in

themselves and yet in their quality profoundly significant. They

had this in common, that they pierced the texture of the life I was

quietly taking for granted and let me see through it into realities-

realities I had indeed known about before but never realised. Each

of these experiences left me with a sense of shock, with all the

values in my life perplexingly altered, attempting readjustment.

One of these disturbing and illuminating events was that I was

robbed of a new pocket-knife and the other that I fell in love. It

was altogether surprising to me to be robbed. You see, as an only

child I had always been fairly well looked after and protected, and

the result was an amazing confidence in the practical goodness of

the people one met in the world. I knew there were robbers in the

world, just as I knew there were tigers; that I was ever likely to

meet robber or tiger face to face seemed equally impossible.

The knife as I remember it was a particularly jolly one with all

sorts of instruments in it, tweezers and a thing for getting a stone

out of the hoof of a horse, and a corkscrew; it had cost me a

carefuly accumulated half-crown, and amounted indeed to a new

experience in knives. I had had it for two or three days, and then

one afternoon I dropped it through a hole in my pocket on a footpath

crossing a field between Penge and Anerley. I heard it fall in the

way one does without at the time appreciating what had happened,

then, later, before I got home, when my hand wandered into my pocket

to embrace the still dear new possession I found it gone, and

instantly that memory of something hitting the ground sprang up into

consciousness. I went back and commenced a search. Almost

immediately I was accosted by the leader of a little gang of four or

five extremely dirty and ragged boys of assorted sizes and slouching

carriage who were coming from the Anerley direction.

"Lost anythink, Matey?" said he.

I explained.

"'E's dropped 'is knife," said my interlocutor, and joined in the


"What sort of 'andle was it, Matey?" said a small white-faced

sniffing boy in a big bowler hat.

I supplied the information. His sharp little face scrutinised the

ground about us.

"GOT it," he said, and pounced.

"Give it 'ere," said the big boy hoarsely, and secured it.

I walked towards him serenely confident that he would hand it over

to me, and that all was for the best in the best of all possible


"No bloomin' fear!" he said, regarding me obliquely. "Oo said it

was your knife?"

Remarkable doubts assailed me. "Of course it's my knife," I said.

The other boys gathered round me.

"This ain't your knife," said the big boy, and spat casually.

"I dropped it just now."

"Findin's keepin's, I believe," said the big boy.

"Nonsense," I said. "Give me my knife."

"'Ow many blades it got?"


"And what sort of 'andle?"


"Got a corkscrew like?"


"Ah! This ain't your knife no'ow. See?"

He made no offer to show it to me. My breath went.

"Look here!" I said. "I saw that kid pick it up. It IS my knife."

"Rot!" said the big boy, and slowly, deliberately put my knife into

his trouser pocket.

I braced my soul for battle. All civilisation was behind me, but I

doubt if it kept the colour in my face. I buttoned my jacket and

clenched my fists and advanced on my antagonist-he had, I suppose,

the advantage of two years of age and three inches of height. "Hand

over that knife," I said.

Then one of the smallest of the band assailed me with extraordinary

vigour and swiftness from behind, had an arm round my neck and a

knee in my back before I had the slightest intimation of attack, and

so got me down. "I got 'im, Bill," squeaked this amazing little

ruffian. My nose was flattened by a dirty hand, and as I struck out

and hit something like sacking, some one kicked my elbow. Two or

three seemed to be at me at the same time. Then I rolled over and

sat up to discover them all making off, a ragged flight, footballing

my cap, my City Merchants' cap, amongst them. I leapt to my feet in

a passion of indignation and pursued them.

But I did not overtake them. We are beings of mixed composition,

and I doubt if mine was a single-minded pursuit. I knew that honour

required me to pursue, and I had a vivid impression of having just

been down in the dust with a very wiry and active and dirty little

antagonist of disagreeable odour and incredible and incalculable

unscrupulousness, kneeling on me and gripping my arm and neck. I

wanted of course to be even with him, but also I doubted if catching

him would necessarily involve that. They kicked my cap into the

ditch at the end of the field, and made off compactly along a cinder

lane while I turned aside to recover my dishonoured headdress. As I

knocked the dust out of that and out of my jacket, and brushed my

knees and readjusted my very crumpled collar, I tried to focus this

startling occurrence in my mind.

I had vague ideas of going to a policeman or of complaining at a

police station, but some boyish instinct against informing prevented

that. No doubt I entertained ideas of vindictive pursuit and

murderous reprisals. And I was acutely enraged whenever I thought

of my knife. The thing indeed rankled in my mind for weeks and

weeks, and altered all the flavour of my world for me. It was the

first time I glimpsed the simple brute violence that lurks and peeps

beneath our civilisation. A certain kindly complacency of attitude

towards the palpably lower classes was qualified for ever


But the other experience was still more cardinal. It was the first

clear intimation of a new motif in life, the sex motif, that was to

rise and increase and accumulate power and enrichment and interweave

with and at last dominate all my life.

It was when I was nearly fifteen this happened. It is inseparably

connected in my mind with the dusk of warm September evenings. I

never met the girl I loved by daylight, and I have forgotten her

name. It was some insignificant name.

Yet the peculiar quality of the adventure keeps it shining darkly

like some deep coloured gem in the common setting of my memories.

It came as something new and strange, something that did not join on

to anything else in my life or connect with any of my thoughts or

beliefs or habits; it was a wonder, a mystery, a discovery about

myself, a discovery about the whole world. Only in after years did

sexual feeling lose that isolation and spread itself out to

illuminate and pervade and at last possess the whole broad vision of


It was in that phase of an urban youth's development, the phase of

the cheap cigarette, that this thing happened. One evening I came

by chance on a number of young people promenading by the light of a

row of shops towards Beckington, and, with all the glory of a

glowing cigarette between my lips, I joined their strolling number.

These twilight parades of young people, youngsters chiefly of the

lower middle-class, are one of the odd social developments of the

great suburban growths-unkindly critics, blind to the inner

meanings of things, call them, I believe, Monkeys' Parades-the shop

apprentices, the young work girls, the boy clerks and so forth,

stirred by mysterious intimations, spend their first-earned money

upon collars and ties, chiffon hats, smart lace collars, walking-

sticks, sunshades or cigarettes, and come valiantly into the vague

transfiguring mingling of gaslight and evening, to walk up and down,

to eye meaningly, even to accost and make friends. It is a queer

instinctive revolt from the narrow limited friendless homes in which

so many find themselves, a going out towards something, romance if

you will, beauty, that has suddenly become a need-a need that

hitherto has lain dormant and unsuspected. They promenade.

Vulgar!-it is as vulgar as the spirit that calls the moth abroad in

the evening and lights the body of the glow-worm in the night. I

made my way through the throng, a little contemptuously as became a

public schoolboy, my hands in my pockets-none of your cheap canes

for me!-and very careful of the lie of my cigarette upon my lips.

And two girls passed me, one a little taller than the other, with

dim warm-tinted faces under clouds of dark hair and with dark eyes

like pools reflecting stars.

I half turned, and the shorter one glanced back at me over her

shoulder-I could draw you now the pose of her cheek and neck and

shoulder-and instantly I was as passionately in love with the girl

as I have ever been before or since, as any man ever was with any

woman. I turned about and followed them, I flung away my cigarette

ostentatiously and lifted my school cap and spoke to them.

The girl answered shyly with her dark eyes on my face. What I said

and what she said I cannot remember, but I have little doubt it was

something absolutely vapid. It really did not matter; the thing was

we had met. I felt as I think a new-hatched moth must feel when

suddenly its urgent headlong searching brings it in tremulous

amazement upon its mate.

We met, covered from each other, with all the nets of civilisation

keeping us apart. We walked side by side.

It led to scarcely more than that. I think we met four or five

times altogether, and always with her nearly silent elder sister on

the other side of her. We walked on the last two occasions arm in

arm, furtively caressing each other's hands, we went away from the

glare of the shops into the quiet roads of villadom, and there we

whispered instead of talking and looked closely into one another's

warm and shaded face. "Dear," I whispered very daringly, and she

answered, "Dear!" We had a vague sense that we wanted more of that

quality of intimacy and more. We wanted each other as one wants

beautiful music again or to breathe again the scent of flowers.

And that is all there was between us. The events are nothing, the

thing that matters is the way in which this experience stabbed

through the common stuff of life and left it pierced, with a light,

with a huge new interest shining through the rent.

When I think of it I can recall even now the warm mystery of her

face, her lips a little apart, lips that I never kissed, her soft

shadowed throat, and I feel again the sensuous stir of her


Those two girls never told me their surname nor let me approach

their house. They made me leave them at the corner of a road of

small houses near Penge Station. And quite abruptly, without any

intimation, they vanished and came to the meeting place no more,

they vanished as a moth goes out of a window into the night, and

left me possessed of an intolerable want…

The affair pervaded my existence for many weeks. I could not do my

work and I could not rest at home. Night after night I promenaded

up and down that Monkeys' Parade full of an unappeasable desire,

with a thwarted sense of something just begun that ought to have

gone on. I went backwards and forwards on the way to the vanishing

place, and at last explored the forbidden road that had swallowed

them up. But I never saw her again, except that later she came to

me, my symbol of womanhood, in dreams. How my blood was stirred! I

lay awake of nights whispering in the darkness for her. I prayed

for her.

Indeed that girl, who probably forgot the last vestiges of me when

her first real kiss came to her, ruled and haunted me, gave a Queen

to my imagination and a texture to all my desires until I became a


I generalised her at last. I suddenly discovered that poetry was

about her and that she was the key to all that had hitherto seemed

nonsense about love. I took to reading novels, and if the heroine

could not possibly be like her, dusky and warm and starlike, I put

the book aside…

I hesitate and add here one other confession. I want to tell this

thing because it seems to me we are altogether too restrained and

secretive about such matters. The cardinal thing in life sneaks in

to us darkly and shamefully like a thief in the night.

One day during my Cambridge days-it must have been in my first year

before I knew Hatherleigh-I saw in a print-shop window near the

Strand an engraving of a girl that reminded me sharply of Penge and

its dusky encounter. It was just a half length of a bare-

shouldered, bare-breasted Oriental with arms akimbo, smiling

faintly. I looked at it, went my way, then turned back and bought

it. I felt I must have it. The odd thing is that I was more than a

little shamefaced about it. I did not have it framed and hung in my

room open to the criticism of my friends, but I kept it in the

drawer of my writing-table. And I kept that drawer locked for a

year. It speedily merged with and became identified with the dark

girl of Penge. That engraving became in a way my mistress. Often

when I had sported my oak and was supposed to be reading, I was

sitting with it before me.

Obeying some instinct I kept the thing very secret indeed. For a

time nobody suspected what was locked in my drawer nor what was

locked in me. I seemed as sexless as my world required.


These things stabbed through my life, intimations of things above

and below and before me. They had an air of being no more than

incidents, interruptions.

The broad substance of my existence at this time was the City

Merchants School. Home was a place where I slept and read, and the

mooning explorations of the south-eastern postal district which

occupied the restless evenings and spare days of my vacations mere

interstices, giving glimpses of enigmatical lights and distant

spaces between the woven threads of a school-boy's career. School

life began for me every morning at Herne Hill, for there I was

joined by three or four other boys and the rest of the way we went

together. Most of the streets and roads we traversed in our

morning's walk from Victoria are still intact, the storms of

rebuilding that have submerged so much of my boyhood's London have

passed and left them, and I have revived the impression of them

again and again in recent years as I have clattered dinnerward in a

hansom or hummed along in a motor cab to some engagement. The main

gate still looks out with the same expression of ancient well-

proportioned kindliness upon St. Margaret's Close. There are

imposing new science laboratories in Chambers Street indeed, but the

old playing fields are unaltered except for the big electric trams

that go droning and spitting blue flashes along the western

boundary. I know Ratten, the new Head, very well, but I have not

been inside the school to see if it has changed at all since I went

up to Cambridge.

I took all they put before us very readily as a boy, for I had a

mind of vigorous appetite, but since I have grown mentally to man's

estate and developed a more and more comprehensive view of our

national process and our national needs, Iam more and more struck

by the oddity of the educational methods pursued, their aimless

disconnectedness from the constructive forces in the community. I

suppose if we are to view the public school as anything more than an

institution that has just chanced to happen, we must treat it as

having a definite function towards the general scheme of the nation,

as being in a sense designed to take the crude young male of the

more or less responsible class, to correct his harsh egotisms,

broaden his outlook, give him a grasp of the contemporary

developments he will presently be called upon to influence and

control, and send him on to the university to be made a leading and

ruling social man. It is easy enough to carp at schoolmasters and

set up for an Educational Reformer, I know, but still it is

impossible not to feel how infinitely more effectually-given

certain impossibilities perhaps-the job might be done.

My memory of school has indeed no hint whatever of that quality of

elucidation it seems reasonable to demand from it. Here all about

me was London, a vast inexplicable being, a vortex of gigantic

forces, that filled and overwhelmed me with impressions, that

stirred my imagination to a perpetual vague enquiry; and my school

not only offered no key to it, but had practically no comment to

make upon it at all. We were within three miles of Westminster and

Charing Cross, the government offices of a fifth of mankind were all

within an hour's stroll, great economic changes were going on under

our eyes, now the hoardings flamed with election placards, now the

Salvation Army and now the unemployed came trailing in procession

through the winter-grey streets, now the newspaper placards outside

news-shops told of battles in strange places, now of amazing

discoveries, now of sinister crimes, abject squalor and poverty,

imperial splendour and luxury, Buckingham Palace, Rotten Row,

Mayfair, the slums of Pimlico, garbage-littered streets of bawling

costermongers, the inky silver of the barge-laden Thames-such was

the background of our days. We went across St. Margaret's Close and

through the school gate into a quiet puerile world apart from all

these things. We joined in the earnest acquirement of all that was

necessary for Greek epigrams and Latin verse, and for the rest

played games. We dipped down into something clear and elegantly

proportioned and time-worn and for all its high resolve of stalwart

virility a little feeble, like our blackened and decayed portals by

Inigo Jones.

Within, we were taught as the chief subjects of instruction, Latin

and Greek. We were taught very badly because the men who taught us

did not habitually use either of these languages, nobody uses them

any more now except perhaps for the Latin of a few Levantine

monasteries. At the utmost our men read them. We were taught these

languages because long ago Latin had been the language of

civilisation; the one way of escape from the narrow and localised

life had lain in those days through Latin, and afterwards Greek had

come in as the vehicle of a flood of new and amazing ideas. Once

these two languages had been the sole means of initiation to the

detached criticism and partial comprehension of the world. I can

imagine the fierce zeal of our first Heads, Gardener and Roper,

teaching Greek like passionate missionaries, as a progressive

Chinaman might teach English to the boys of Pekin, clumsily,

impatiently, with rod and harsh urgency, but sincerely,

patriotically, because they felt that behind it lay revelations, the

irresistible stimulus to a new phase of history. That was long ago.

A new great world, a vaster Imperialism had arisen about the school,

had assimilated all these amazing and incredible ideas, had gone on

to new and yet more amazing developments of its own. But the City

Merchants School still made the substance of its teaching Latin and

Greek, still, with no thought of rotating crops, sowed in a dream

amidst the harvesting.

There is no fierceness left in the teaching now. Just after I went

up to Trinity, Gates, our Head, wrote a review article in defence of

our curriculum. In this, among other indiscretions, he asserted

that it was impossible to write good English without an illuminating

knowledge of the classic tongues, and he split an infinitive and

failed to button up a sentence in saying so. His main argument

conceded every objection a reasonable person could make to the City

Merchants' curriculum. He admitted that translation had now placed

all the wisdom of the past at a common man's disposal, that scarcely

a field of endeavour remained in which modern work had not long

since passed beyond the ancient achievement. He disclaimed any

utility. But there was, he said, a peculiar magic in these

grammatical exercises no other subjects of instruction possessed.

Nothing else provided the same strengthening and orderly discipline

for the mind.

He said that, knowing the Senior Classics he did, himself a Senior


Yet in a dim confused way I think be was making out a case. In

schools as we knew them, and with the sort of assistant available,

the sort of assistant who has been trained entirely on the old

lines, he could see no other teaching so effectual in developing

attention, restraint, sustained constructive effort and various yet

systematic adjustment. And that was as far as his imagination could


It is infinitely easier to begin organised human affairs than end

them; the curriculum and the social organisation of the English

public school are the crowning instances of that. They go on

because they have begun. Schools are not only immortal institutions

but reproductive ones. Our founder, Jabez Arvon, knew nothing, Iam

sure, of Gates' pedagogic values and would, I feel certain, have

dealt with them disrespectfully. But public schools and university

colleges sprang into existence correlated, the scholars went on to

the universities and came back to teach the schools, to teach as

they themselves had been taught, before they had ever made any real

use of the teaching; the crowd of boys herded together, a crowd

perpetually renewed and unbrokenly the same, adjusted itself by

means of spontaneously developed institutions. In a century, by its

very success, this revolutionary innovation of Renascence public

schools had become an immense tradition woven closely into the

fabric of the national life. Intelligent and powerful people ceased

to talk Latin or read Greek, they had got what was wanted, but that

only left the schoolmaster the freer to elaborate his point. Since

most men of any importance or influence in the country had been

through the mill, it was naturally a little difficult to persuade

them that it was not quite the best and most ennobling mill the wit

of man could devise. And, moreover, they did not want their

children made strange to them. There was all the machinery and all

the men needed to teach the old subjects, and none to teach whatever

new the critic might propose. Such science instruction as my father

gave seemed indeed the uninviting alternative to the classical

grind. It was certainly an altogether inferior instrument at that


So it was I occupied my mind with the exact study of dead languages

for seven long years. It was the strangest of detachments. We

would sit under the desk of such a master as Topham like creatures

who had fallen into an enchanted pit, and he would do his

considerable best to work us up to enthusiasm for, let us say, a

Greek play. If we flagged he would lash himself to revive us. He

would walk about the class-room mouthing great lines in a rich roar,

and asking us with a flushed face and shining eyes if it was not

"GLORIOUS." The very sight of Greek letters brings back to me the

dingy, faded, ink-splashed quality of our class-room, the banging of

books, Topham's disordered hair, the sheen of his alpaca gown, his

deep unmusical intonations and the wide striding of his creaking

boots. Glorious! And being plastic human beings we would consent

that it was glorious, and some of us even achieved an answering

reverberation and a sympathetic flush. I at times responded freely.

We all accepted from him unquestioningly that these melodies, these

strange sounds, exceeded any possibility of beauty that lay in the

Gothic intricacy, the splash and glitter, the jar and recovery, the

stabbing lights, the heights and broad distances of our English

tongue. That indeed was the chief sin of him. It was not that he

was for Greek and Latin, but that he was fiercely against every

beauty that was neither classic nor deferred to classical canons.

And what exactly did we make of it, we seniors who understood it

best? We visualised dimly through that dust and the grammatical

difficulties, the spectacle of the chorus chanting grotesquely,

helping out protagonist and antagonist, masked and buskined, with

the telling of incomprehensible parricides, of inexplicable incest,

of gods faded beyond symbolism, of that Relentless Law we did not

believe in for a moment, that no modern western European can believe

in. We thought of the characters in the unconvincing wigs and

costumes of our school performance. No Gilbert Murray had come as

yet to touch these things to life again. It was like the ghost of

an antiquarian's toy theatre, a ghost that crumbled and condensed

into a gritty dust of construing as one looked at it.

Marks, shindies, prayers and punishments, all flavoured with the

leathery stuffiness of time-worn Big Hall…

And then out one would come through our grey old gate into the

evening light and the spectacle of London hurrying like a cataract,

London in black and brown and blue and gleaming silver, roaring like

the very loom of Time. We came out into the new world no teacher

has yet had the power and courage to grasp and expound. Life and

death sang all about one, joys and fears on such a scale, in such an

intricacy as never Greek nor Roman knew. The interminable

procession of horse omnibuses went lumbering past, bearing countless

people we knew not whence, we knew not whither. Hansoms clattered,

foot passengers jostled one, a thousand appeals of shop and boarding

caught the eye. The multi-coloured lights of window and street

mingled with the warm glow of the declining day under the softly

flushing London skies; the ever-changing placards, the shouting

news-vendors, told of a kaleidoscopic drama all about the globe.

One did not realise what had happened to us, but the voice of Topham

was suddenly drowned and lost, he and his minute, remote


That submerged and isolated curriculum did not even join on to

living interests where it might have done so. We were left

absolutely to the hints of the newspapers, to casual political

speeches, to the cartoons of the comic papers or a chance reading of

some Socialist pamphlet for any general ideas whatever about the

huge swirling world process in which we found ourselves. I always

look back with particular exasperation to the cessation of our

modern history at the year 1815. There it pulled up abruptly, as

though it had come upon something indelicate…

But, after all, what would Topham or Flack have made of the huge

adjustments of the nineteenth century? Flack was the chief

cricketer on the staff; he belonged to that great cult which

pretends that the place of this or that county in the struggle for

the championship is a matter of supreme importance to boys. He

obliged us to affect a passionate interest in the progress of county

matches, to work up unnatural enthusiasms. What a fuss there would

be when some well-trained boy, panting as if from Marathon, appeared

with an evening paper! "I say, you chaps, Middlesex all out for a

hundred and five!"

Under Flack's pressure I became, I confess, a cricket humbug of the

first class. I applied myself industriously year by year to

mastering scores and averages; I pretended that Lords or the Oval

were the places nearest Paradise for me. (I never went to either.)

Through a slight mistake about the county boundary I adopted Surrey

for my loyalty, though as a matter of fact we were by some five

hundred yards or so in Kent. It did quite as well for my purposes.

I bowled rather straight and fast, and spent endless hours acquiring

the skill to bowl Flack out. He was a bat in the Corinthian style,

rich and voluminous, and succumbed very easily to a low shooter or

an unexpected Yorker, hut usually he was caught early by long leg.

The difficulty was to bowl him before he got caught. He loved to

lift a ball to leg. After one had clean bowled him at the practice

nets one deliberately gave him a ball to leg just to make him feel

nice again.

Flack went about a world of marvels dreaming of leg hits. He has

been observed, going across the Park on his way to his highly

respectable club in Piccadilly, to break from profound musings into

a strange brief dance that ended with an imaginary swipe with his

umbrella, a roofer, over the trees towards Buckingham Palace. The

hit accomplished, Flack resumed his way.

Inadequately instructed foreigners would pass him in terror,

needlessly alert.


These schoolmasters move through my memory as always a little

distant and more than a little incomprehensible. Except when they

wore flannels, I saw them almost always in old college caps and

gowns, a uniform which greatly increased their detachment from the

world of actual men. Gates, the head, was a lean loose-limbed man,

rather stupid I discovered when I reached the Sixth and came into

contact with him, but honest, simple and very eager to be liberal-

minded. He was bald, with an almost conical baldness, with a

grizzled pointed beard, small featured and, under the stresses of a

Zeitgeist that demanded liberality, with an expression of puzzled

but resolute resistance to his own unalterable opinions. He made a

tall dignified figure in his gown. In my junior days he spoke to me

only three or four times, and then he annoyed me by giving me a

wrong surname; it was a sore point because I was an outsider and not

one of the old school families, the Shoesmiths, the Naylors, the

Marklows, the Tophams, the Pevises and suchlike, who came generation

after generation. I recall him most vividly against the background

of faded brown book-backs in the old library in which we less

destructive seniors were trusted to work, with the light from the

stained-glass window falling in coloured patches on his face. It

gave him the appearance of having no colour of his own. He had a

habit of scratching the beard on his cheek as he talked, and he used

to come and consult us about things and invariably do as we said.

That, in his phraseology, was "maintaining the traditions of the


He had indeed an effect not of a man directing a school, but of a

man captured and directed by a school. Dead and gone Elizabethans

had begotten a monster that could carry him about in its mouth.

Yet being a man, as I say, with his hair a little stirred by a

Zeitgeist that made for change, Gates did at times display a

disposition towards developments. City Merchants had no modern

side, and utilitarian spirits were carping in the PALL MALL GAZETTE

and elsewhere at the omissions from our curriculum, and particularly

at our want of German. Moreover, four classes still worked

together with much clashing and uproar in the old Big Hall that had

once held in a common tumult the entire school. Gates used to come

and talk to us older fellows about these things.

"I don't wish to innovate unduly," he used to say. But we ought to

get in some German, you know,-for those who like it. The army men

will be wanting it some of these days."

He referred to the organisation of regular evening preparation for

the lower boys in Big Hall as a "revolutionary change," but he

achieved it, and he declared he began the replacement of the hacked

wooden tables, at which the boys had worked since Tudor days, by

sloping desks with safety inkpots and scientifically adjustable

seats, "with grave misgivings." And though he never birched a boy

in his life, and was, Iam convinced, morally incapable of such a

scuffle, he retained the block and birch in the school through all

his term of office, and spoke at the Headmasters' Conference in

temperate approval of corporal chastisement, comparing it, dear

soul! to the power of the sword…

I wish I could, in some measure and without tediousness, convey the

effect of his discourses to General Assembly in Big Hall. But that

is like trying to draw the obverse and reverse of a sixpence worn to

complete illegibility. His tall fine figure stood high on the days,

his thoughtful tenor filled the air as he steered his hazardous way

through sentences that dragged inconclusive tails and dropped

redundant prepositions. And he pleaded ever so urgently, ever so

finely, that what we all knew for Sin was sinful, and on the whole

best avoided altogether, and so went on with deepening notes and

even with short arresting gestures of the right arm and hand, to

stir and exhort us towards goodness, towards that modern,

unsectarian goodness, goodness in general and nothing in particular,

which the Zeitgeist seemed to indicate in those transitional years.


The school never quite got hold of me. Partly I think that was

because I was a day-boy and so freer than most of the boys, partly

because of a temperamental disposition to see things in my own way

and have my private dreams, partly because I was a little

antagonised by the family traditions that ran through the school. I

was made to feel at first that I was a rank outsider, and I never

quite forgot it. I suffered very little bullying, and I never had a

fight-in all my time there were only three fights-but I followed

my own curiosities. I was already a very keen theologian and

politician before I was fifteen. I was also intensely interested in

modern warfare. I read the morning papers in the Reading Room

during the midday recess, never missed the illustrated weeklies, and

often when I could afford it I bought a PALL MALL GAZETTE on my way


I do not think that I was very exceptional in that; most intelligent

boys, I believe, want naturally to be men, and are keenly interested

in men's affairs. There is not the universal passion for a

magnified puerility among them it is customary to assume. I was

indeed a voracious reader of everything but boys' books-which I

detested-and fiction. I read histories, travel, popular science

and controversy with particular zest, and I loved maps. School work

and school games were quite subordinate affairs for me. I worked

well and made a passable figure at games, and I do not think I was

abnormally insensitive to the fine quality of our school, to the

charm of its mediaeval nucleus, its Gothic cloisters, its scraps of

Palladian and its dignified Georgian extensions; the contrast of the

old quiet, that in spite of our presence pervaded it everywhere,

with the rushing and impending London all about it, was indeed a

continualpleasure to me. But these things were certainly not the

living and central interests of my life.

I had to conceal my wider outlook to a certain extent-from the

masters even more than from the boys. Indeed I only let myself go

freely with one boy, Britten, my especial chum, the son of the

Agent-General for East Australia. We two discovered in a chance

conversation A PROPOS of a map in the library that we were both of

us curious why there were Malays in Madagascar, and how the Mecca

pilgrims came from the East Indies before steamships were available.

Neither of us had suspected that there was any one at all in the

school who knew or cared a rap about the Indian Ocean, except as

water on the way to India. But Britten had come up through the Suez

Canal, and his ship had spoken a pilgrim ship on the way. It gave

him a startling quality of living knowledge. From these pilgrims we

got to a comparative treatment of religions, and from that, by a

sudden plunge, to entirely sceptical and disrespectful confessions

concerning Gates' last outbreak of simple piety in School Assembly.

We became congenial intimates from that hour.

The discovery of Britten happened to me when we were both in the

Lower Fifth. Previously there had been a watertight compartment

between the books I read and the thoughts they begot on the one hand

and human intercourse on the other. Now I really began my higher

education, and aired and examined and developed in conversation the

doubts, the ideas, the interpretations that had been forming in my

mind. As we were both day-boys with a good deal of control over our

time we organised walks and expeditions together, and my habit of

solitary and rather vague prowling gave way to much more definite

joint enterprises. I went several times to his house, he was the

youngest of several brothers, one of whom was a medical student and

let us assist at the dissection of a cat, and once or twice in

vacation time he came to Penge, and we went with parcels of

provisions to do a thorough day in the grounds and galleries of the

Crystal Palace, ending with the fireworks at close quarters. We

went in a river steamboat down to Greenwich, and fired by that made

an excursion to Margate and back; we explored London docks and

Bethnal Green Museum, Petticoat Lane and all sorts of out-of-the-way

places together.

We confessed shyly to one another a common secret vice, "Phantom

warfare." When we walked alone, especially in the country, we had

both developed the same practice of fighting an imaginary battle

about us as we walked. As we went along we were generals, and our

attacks pushed along on either side, crouching and gathering behind

hedges, cresting ridges, occupying copses, rushing open spaces,

fighting from house to house. The hillsides about Penge were

honeycombed in my imagination with the pits and trenches I had

created to cheek a victorious invader coming out of Surrey. For him

West Kensington was chiefly important as the scene of a desperate

and successful last stand of insurrectionary troops (who had seized

the Navy, the Bank and other advantages) against a royalist army-

reinforced by Germans-advancing for reasons best known to

themselves by way of Harrow and Ealing. It is a secret and solitary

game, as we found when we tried to play it together. We made a

success of that only once. All the way down to Margate we schemed

defences and assailed and fought them as we came back against the

sunset. Afterwards we recapitulated all that conflict by means of a

large scale map of the Thames and little paper ironclads in plan cut

out of paper.

A subsequent revival of these imaginings was brought about by

Britten's luck in getting, through a friend of his father's,

admission for us both to the spectacle of volunteer officers

fighting the war game in Caxton Hall. We developed a war game of

our own at Britten's home with nearly a couple of hundred lead

soldiers, some excellent spring cannons that shot hard and true at

six yards, hills of books and a constantly elaborated set of rules.

For some months that occupied an immense proportion of our leisure.

Some of our battles lasted several days. We kept the game a

profound secret from the other fellows. They would not have


And we also began, it was certainly before we were sixteen, to

write, for the sake of writing. We liked writing. We had

discovered Lamb and the best of the middle articles in such weeklies

as the SATURDAY GAZETTE, and we imitated them. Our minds were full

of dim uncertain things we wanted to drag out into the light of

expression. Britten had got hold of IN MEMORIAM, and I had

disinterred Pope's ESSAY ON MAN and RABBI BEN EZRA, and these things

had set our theological and cosmic solicitudes talking. I was

somewhere between sixteen and eighteen, I know, when he and I walked

along the Thames Embankment confessing shamefully to one another

that we had never read Lucretius. We thought every one who mattered

had read Lucretius.

When I was nearly sixteen my mother was taken ill very suddenly, and

died of some perplexing complaint that involved a post-mortem

examination; it was, I think, the trouble that has since those days

been recognised as appendicitis. This led to a considerable change

in my circumstances; the house at Penge was given up, and my

Staffordshire uncle arranged for me to lodge during school terms

with a needy solicitor and his wife in Vicars Street, S. W., about a

mile and a half from the school. So it was I came right into

London; I had almost two years of London before I went to Cambridge.

Tehose were our great days together. Afterwards we were torn apart;

Britten went to Oxford, and our circumstances never afterwards threw

us continuously together until the days of the BLUE WEEKLY.

As boys, we walked together, read and discussed the same books,

pursued the same enquiries. We got a reputation as inseparables and

the nickname of the Rose and the Lily, for Britten was short and

thick-set with dark close curling hair and a ruddy Irish type of

face; I was lean and fair-haired and some inches taller than he.

Our talk ranged widely and yet had certain very definite

limitations. We were amazingly free with politics and religion, we

went to that little meeting-house of William Morris's at Hammersmith

and worked out the principles of Socialism pretty thoroughly, and we

got up the Darwinian theory with the help of Britten's medical-

student brother and the galleries of the Natural History Museum in

Cromwell Road. Those wonderful cases on the ground floor

illustrating mimicry, dimorphism and so forth, were new in our

times, and we went through them with earnest industry and tried over

our Darwinism in the light of that. Such topics we did

exhaustively. But on the other hand I do not remember any

discussion whatever of human sex or sexual relationships. There, in

spite of intense secret curiosities, our lips were sealed by a

peculiar shyness. And I do not believe we ever had occasion either

of us to use the word "love." It was not only that we were

instinctively shy of the subject, but that we were mightily ashamed

of the extent of our ignorance and uncertainty in these matters. We

evaded them elaborately with an assumption of exhaustive knowledge.

We certainly had no shyness about theology. We marked the

emancipation of our spirits from the frightful teachings that had

oppressed our boyhood, by much indulgence in blasphemous wit. We

had a secret literature of irreverent rhymes, and a secret art of

theological caricature. Britten's father had delighted his family

by reading aloud from Dr. Richard Garnett's TWILIGHT OF THE GODS,

and Britten conveyed the precious volume to me. That and the BAB

BALLADS were the inspiration of some of our earliest lucubrations.

For an imaginative boy the first experience of writing is like a

tiger's first taste of blood, and our literary flowerings led very

directly to the revival of the school magazine, which had been

comatose for some years. But there we came upon a disappointment.


In that revival we associated certain other of the Sixth Form boys,

and notably one for whom our enterprise was to lay the foundations

of a career that has ended in the House of Lords, Arthur Cossington,

now Lord Paddockhurst. Cossington was at that time a rather heavy,

rather good-looking boy who was chiefly eminent in cricket, an

outsider even as we were and preoccupied no doubt, had we been

sufficiently detached to observe him, with private imaginings very

much of the same quality and spirit as our own. He was, we were

inclined to think, rather a sentimentalist, rather a poseur, he

affected a concise emphatic styl, played chess very well, betrayed

a belief in will-power, and earned Britten's secret hostility,

Britten being a sloven, by the invariable neatness of his collars

and ties. He came into our magazine with a vigour that we found

extremely surprising and unwelcome.

Britten and I had wanted to write. We had indeed figured our

project modestly as a manuscript magazine of satirical, liberal and

brilliant literature by which in some rather inexplicable way the

vague tumult of ideas that teemed within us was to find form and

expression; Cossington, it was manifest from the outset, wanted

neither to write nor writing, but a magazine. I remember the

inaugural meeting in Shoesmith major's study-we had had great

trouble in getting it together-and how effectually Cossington

bolted with the proposal.

"I think we fellows ought to run a magazine," said Cossington. "The

school used to have one. A school like this ought to have a


"The last one died in '84," said Shoesmith from the hearthrug.

"Called the OBSERVER. Rot rather."

"Bad title," said Cossington.

"There was a TATLER before that," said Britten, sitting on the

writing table at the window that was closed to deaden the cries of

the Lower School at play, and clashing his boots together.

"We want something suggestive of City Merchants."

"CITY MERCHANDIZE," said Britten.

"Too fanciful. What of ARVONIAN? Richard Arvon was our founder,

and it seems almost a duty-"

"They call them all -usians or -onians," said Britten.

"I like CITY MERCHANDIZE," I said. "We could probably find a

quotation to suggest-oh! mixed good things."

Cossington regarded me abstractedly.

Don't want to put the accent on the City, do we?" said Shoesmith,

who had a feeling for county families, and Naylor supported him by a

murmur of approval.

"We ought to call it the ARVONIAN," decided Cossington, "and we

might very well have underneath, 'With which is incorporated the

OBSERVER.' That picks up the old traditions, makes an appeal to old

boys and all that, and it gives us something to print under the


I still held out for CITY MERCHANDIZE, which had taken my fancy.

"Some of the chaps' people won't like it," said Naylor, "certain not

to. And it sounds Rum."

"Sounds Weird," said a boy who had not hitherto spoken.

"We aren't going to do anything Queer," said Shoesmith, pointedly

not looking at Britten.

The question of the title had manifestly gone against us. "Oh! HAVE

it ARVONIAN," I said.

"And next, what size shall we have?" said Cossington.


better because it has a whole page, not columns. It makes no end of

difference to one's effects."

"What effects?" asked Shoesmith abruptly.

"Oh! a pause or a white line or anything. You've got to write

closer for a double column. It's nuggetty. You can't get a swing

on your prose." I had discussed this thoroughly with Britten.

"If the fellows are going to write-" began Britten.

"We ought to keep off fine writing," said Shoesmith. "It's cheek.

I vote we don't have any."

"We sha'n't get any," said Cossington, and then as an olive branch

to me, "unless Remington does a bit. Or Britten. But it's no good

making too much space for it."

"We ought to be very careful about the writing," said Shoesmith.

"We don't want to give ourselves away."

"I vote we ask old Topham to see us through," said Naylor.

Britten groaned aloud and every one regarded him. "Greek epigrams

on the fellows' names," he said. " Small beer in ancient bottles.

Let's get a stuffed broody hen to SIT on the magazine."

"We might do worse than a Greek epigram," said Cossington. "One in

each number. It-it impresses parents and keeps up our classieal

tradition. And the masters CAN help. We don't want to antagonise

them. Of course-we've got to dcpartmentalise. Writing is only one

section of the thing. The ARVONIAN has to stand for the school.

There's questions of space and questions of expense. We can't turn

out a great chunk of printed prose like-like wet cold toast and

call it a magazine."

Britten writhed, appreciating the image.

"There's to be a section of sports. YOU must do that."

"I'm not going to do any fine writing," said Shoesmith.

"What you've got to do is just to list all the chaps and put a note

to their play:-'Naylor minor must pass more. Football isn't the

place for extreme individualism.' 'Ammersham shapes well as half-

back.' Things like that."

"I could do that all right," said Shoesmith, brightening and

manifestly hecoming pregnant with judgments.

"One great thing about a magazine of this sort," said Cossington,

"is to mention just as many names as you can in each number. It

keeps the interest alive. Chaps will turn it over looking for their

own little bit. Then it all lights up for them."

"Do you want any reports of matches?" Shoesmith broke from his


"Rather. With comments."

"Naylor surpassed himself and negotiated the lemon safely home,"

said Shoesmith.

"Shut it," said Naylor modestly.

"Exactly," said Cossington. "That gives us three features,"

touching them off on his fingers, "Epigram, Literary Section,

Sports. Then we want a section to shove anything into, a joke, a

notice of anything that's going on. So on. Our Note Book."

"Oh, Hell!" said Britten, and clashed his boots, to the silent

disapproval of every one.

"Then we want an editorial."

"A WHAT?" cried Britten, with a note of real terror in his voice.

"Well, don't we? Unless we have our Note Book to begin on the front

page. It gives a scrappy effect to do that. We want something

manly and straightforward and a bit thoughtful, about Patriotism,

say, or ESPRIT DE CORPS, or After-Life."

I looked at Britten. Hitherto we had not considered Cossington

mattered very much in the world.

He went over us as a motor-car goes over a dog. There was a sort of

energy about him, a new sort of energy to us; we had never realised

that anything of the sort existed in the world. We were hopelessly

at a disadvantage. Almost instantly we had developed a clear and

detailed vision of a magazine made up of everything that was most

acceptable in the magazines that flourished in the adult world about

us, and had determined to make it a success. He had by a kind of

instinct, as it were, synthetically plagiarised every successful

magazine and breathed into this dusty mixture the breath of life.

He was elected at his own suggestion managing director, with the

earnest support of Shoesmith and Naylor, and conducted the magazine

so successfully and brilliantly that he even got a whole back page

of advertisements from the big sports shop in Holborn, and made the

printers pay at the same rate for a notice of certain books of their

own which they said they had inserted by inadvertency to fill up

space. The only literary contribution in the first number was a

column by Topham in faultless stereotyped English in depreciation of

some fancied evil called Utilitarian Studies and ending with that

noble old quotation:-

"To the glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome."

And Flack crowded us out of number two with a bright little paper on

the "Humours of Cricket," and the Head himself was profusely

thoughtful all over the editorial under the heading of "The School

Chapel; and How it Seems to an Old Boy."

Britten and I found it difficult to express to each other with any

grace or precision what we felt about that magazine.




I find it very difficult to trace how form was added to form and

interpretation followed interpretation in my ever-spreading, ever-

deepening, ever-multiplying and enriching vision of this world into

which I had been born. Every day added its impressions, its hints,

its subtle explications to the growingunderstanding. Day after day

the living interlacing threads of a mind weave together. Every

morning now for three weeks and more (for to-day is Thursday and I

started on a Tuesday) I have been trying to convey some idea of the

factors and early influences by which my particular scrap of

subjective tapestry was shaped, to show the child playing on the

nursery floor, the son perplexed by his mother, gazing aghast at his

dead father, exploring interminable suburbs, touched by first

intimations of the sexual mystery, coming in with a sort of confused

avidity towards the centres of the life of London. It is only by

such an effort to write it down that one realises how marvellously

crowded, how marvellously analytical and synthetic those ears must

be. One begins with the little child to whom the sky is a roof of

blue, the world a screen of opaque and disconnected facts, the home

a thing eternal, and "beinggood" just simple obedience to

unquestioned authority; and one comes at last to the vast world of

one's adult perception, pierced deep by flaring searchlights of

partial understanding, here masked by mists, here refracted and

distorted through half translucent veils, here showing broad

prospects and limitless vistas and here impenetrably dark.

I recall phases of deep speculation, doubts and even prayers by

night, and strange occasions when by a sort of hypnotic

contemplation of nothingness I sought to pierce the web of

appearances about me. It is hard to measure these things in

receding perspective, and now I cannot trace, so closely has mood

succeeded and overlaid and obliterated mood, the phases by which an

utter horror of death was replaced by the growing realisation of its

necessity and dignity. Difficulty of the imagination with infinite

space, infinite time, entangled my mind; and moral distress for the

pain and suffering of bygone ages that made all thought of

reformation in the future seem but the grimmest irony upon now

irreparable wrongs. Many an intricate perplexity of these

broadening years did not so much get settled as cease to matter.

Life crowded me away from it.

I have confessed myself a temerarious theologian, and in that

passage from boyhood to manhood I ranged widely in my search for

some permanently satisfyingTruth. That, too, ceased after a time

to be urgently interesting. I came at last into a phase that

endures to this day, of absolutetranquillity, of absolute

confidence in whatever that Incomprehensible Comprehensive which

must needs be the substratum of all things, may be. Feeling OF IT,

feeling BY IT, I cannot feel afraid of it. I think I had got quite

clearly and finally to that adjustment long before my Cambridge days

were done. Iam sure that the evil in life is transitory and finite

like an accident or distress in the nursery; that God is my Father

and that I may trust Him, even though life hurts so that one must

needs cry out at it, even though it shows no consequence but

failure, no promise but pain

But while I was fearless of theology I must confess it was

comparatively late before I faced and dared to probe the secrecies

of sex. I was afraid of sex. I had an instinctive perception that

it would be a large and difficult thing in my life, but my early

training was all in the direction of regarding it as an irrelevant

thing, as something disconnected from all the broad significances of

life, as hostile and disgraceful in its quality. The world was

never so emasculated in thought, I suppose, as it was in the

Victorian time…

I was afraid to think either of sex or (what I have always found

inseparable from a kind of sexual emotion) beauty. Even as a boy I

knew the thing as a haunting and alluring mystery that I tried to

keep away from. Its dim presence obsessed me none the less for

all the extravagant decency, the stimulating silences of my


The plaster Venuses and Apollos that used to adorn the vast aisle

and huge grey terraces of the Crystal Palace were the first

intimations of the beauty of the body that ever came into my life.

As I write of it I feel again the shameful attraction of those

gracious forms. I used to look at them not simply, but curiously

and askance. Once at least in my later days at Penge, I spent a

shilling in admission chiefly for the sake of them…

The strangest thing of all my odd and solitary upbringing seems to

me now that swathing up of all the splendours of the flesh, that

strange combination of fanatical terrorism and shyness that fenced

me about with prohibitions. It caused me to grow up, I will not say

blankly ignorant, but with an ignorance blurred and dishonoured by

shame, by enigmatical warnings, by cultivated aversions, an

ignorance in which a fascinated curiosity and desire struggled like

a thing in a net. I knew so little and I felt so much. There was

indeed no Aphrodite at all in my youthful Pantheon, but instead

there was a mysterious and minatory gap. I have told how at last a

new Venus was born in my imagination out of gas lamps and the

twilight, a Venus with a cockney accent and dark eyes shining out of

the dusk, a Venus who was a warm, passion-stirring atmosphere rather

than incarnate in a body. And I have told, too, how I bought a


All this was a thing apart from the rest of my life, a locked

avoided chamber…

It was not until my last year at Trinity that I really broke down

the barriers of this unwholesome silence and brought my secret

broodings to the light of day. Then a little set of us plunged

suddenly into what we called at first sociological discussion. I

can still recall even the physical feeling of those first tentative

talks. I remember them mostly as occurring in the rooms of Ted

Hatherleigh, who kept at the corner by the Trinity great gate, but

we also used to talk a good deal at a man's in King's, a man named,

if I remember rightly, Redmayne. The atmosphere of Hatherleigh's

rooms was a haze of tobacco smoke against a background brown and

deep. He professed himself a socialist with anarchistic leanings-

he had suffered the martyrdom of ducking for it-and a huge French

May-day poster displaying a splendid proletarian in red and black on

a barricade against a flaring orange sky, dominated his decorations.

Hatherleigh affected a fine untidiness, and all the place, even the

floor, was littered with books, for the most part open and face

downward; deeper darknesses were supplied by a discarded gown and

our caps, all conscientiously battered, Hatherleigh's flopped like

an elephant's ear and inserted quill pens supported the corners of

mine; the highlights of the picture came chiefly as reflections from

his chequered blue mugs full of audit ale. We sat on oak chairs,

except the four or five who crowded on a capacious settle, we drank

a lot of beer and were often fuddled, and occasionally quite drunk,

and we all smoked reckless-looking pipes,-there was a transient

fashion among us for corn cobs for which Mark Twain, I think, was

responsible. Our little excesses with liquor were due far more to

conscience than appetite, indicated chiefly a resolve to break away

from restraints that we suspected were keeping us off the

instructive knife-edges of life. Hatherleigh was a good Englishman

of the premature type with a red face, a lot of hair, a deep voice

and an explosive plunging manner, and it was he who said one

evening-Heaven knows how we got to it-" Look here, you know, it's

all Rot, this Shutting Up about Women. We OUGHT to talk about them.

What are we going to do about them? It's got to come. We're all

festering inside about it. Let's out with it. There's too much

Decency altogether about this Infernal University!"

We rose to his challenge a little awkwardly and our first talk was

clumsy, there were flushed faces and red ears, and I remember

Hatherleigh broke out into a monologue on decency. "Modesty and

Decency," said Hatherleigh, "are Oriental vices. The Jews brought

them to Europe. They're Semitic, just like our monasticism here and

the seclusion of women and mutilating the dead on a battlefield.

And all that sort of thing."

Hatherleigh's mind progressed by huge leaps, leaps that were usually

wildly inaccurate, and for a time we engaged hotly upon the topic of

those alleged mutilations and the Semitic responsibility for

decency. Hatherleigh tried hard to saddle the Semitic race with the

less elegant war customs of the Soudan and the northwest frontier of

India, and quoted Doughty, at that time a little-known author, and

Cunninghame Graham to show that the Arab was worse than a county-

town spinster in his regard for respectability. But his case was

too preposterous, and Esmeer, with his shrill penetrating voice and

his way of pointing with all four long fingers flat together,

carried the point against him. He quoted Cato and Roman law and the

monasteries of Thibet.

"Well, anyway," said Hatherleigh, escaping from our hands like an

intellectual frog, "Semitic or not, I've got no use for decency."

We argued points and Hatherleigh professed an unusually balanced and

tolerating attitude. "I don't mind a certain refinement and

dignity," he admitted generously. "What I object to is this

spreading out of decency until it darkens the whole sky, until it

makes a man's father afraid to speak of the most important things,

until it makes a man afraid to look a frank book in the face or

think-even think! until it leads to our coming to-to the business

at last with nothing but a few prohibitions, a few hints, a lot of

dirty jokes and, and "-he waved a hand and seemed to seek and catch

his image in the air-" oh, a confounded buttered slide of

sentiment, to guide us. I tell you I'm going to think about it and

talk about it until I see a little more daylight than I do at

present. I'm twenty-two. Things might happen to me anywhen. You

men can go out into the world if you like, to sin like fools and

marry like fools, not knowing what you are doing and ashamed to ask.

You'll take the consequences, too, I expect, pretty meekly,

sniggering a bit, sentimentalising a bit, like-like Cambridge

humorists… I mean to know what I'm doing."

He paused to drink, and I think I cut in with ideas of my own. But

one is apt to forget one's own share in a talk, I find, more than

one does the clear-cut objectivity of other people's, and I do not

know how far I contributed to this discussion that followed. Iam,

however, pretty certain that it was then that ideal that we were

pleased to call aristocracy and which soon became the common

property of our set was developed. It was Esmeer, I know, who laid

down and maintained the proposition that so far as minds went there

were really only two sorts of man in the world, the aristocrat and

the man who subdues his mind to other people's.

"'I couldn't THINK of it, Sir,'" said Esmeer in his elucidatory

tones; "that's what a servant says. His mind even is broken in to

run between fences, and he admits it. WE'VE got to he able to think

of anything. And 'such things aren't for the Likes of Us!' That's

another servant's saying. Well, everything IS for the Likes of Us.

If we see fit, that is."

A small fresh-coloured man in grey objected.

"Well," exploded Hatherleigh, "if that isn't so what the deuce are

we up here for? Instead of working in mines? If some things aren't

to be thought about ever! We've got the privilege of all these

extra years for getting things straight in our heads, and then we

won't use 'em. Good God! what do you think a university's for?"…

Esmeer's idea came with an effect of real emancipation to several of

us. We were not going to be afraid of ideas any longer, we were

going to throw down every barrier of prohibition and take them in

and see what came of it. We became for a time even intemperately

experimental, and one of us, at the bare suggestion of an eminent

psychic investigator, took hashish and very nearly died of it within

a fortnight of our great elucidation.

The chief matter of our interchanges was of course the discussion of

sex. Once the theme had been opened it became a sore place in our

intercourse; none of us seemed able to keep away from it. Our

imaginations got astir with it. We made up for lost time and went

round it and through it and over it exhaustively. I recall

prolonged discussion of polygamy on the way to Royston, muddy

November tramps to Madingley, when amidst much profanity from

Hatherleigh at the serious treatment of so obsolete a matter, we

weighed the reasons, if any, for the institution of marriage. The

fine dim night-time spaces of the Great Court are bound up with the

inconclusive finales of mighty hot-eared wrangles; the narrows of

Trinity Street and Petty Cury and Market Hill have their particular

associations for me with that spate of confession and free speech,

that almost painfulgoal delivery of long pent and crappled and

sometimes crippled ideas.

And we went on a reading party that Easter to a place called

Pulborough in Sussex, where there is a fishing inn and a river that

goes under a bridge. It was a late Easter and a blazing one, and we

boated and bathed and talked of being Hellenic and the beauty of the

body until at moments it seemed to us that we were destined to

restore the Golden Age, by the simple abolition of tailors and


Those undergraduate talks! how rich and glorious they seemed, how

splendidly new the ideas that grew and multiplied in our seething

minds! We made long afternoon and evening raids over the Downs

towards Arundel, and would come tramping back through the still keen

moonlight singing and shouting. We formed romantic friendships with

one another, and grieved more or less convincingly that there were

no splendid women fit to be our companions in the world. But

Hatherleigh, it seemed, had once known a girl whose hair was

gloriously red. "My God!" said Hatherleigh to convey the quality of

her; just simply and with projectile violence: "My God!

Benton had heard of a woman who lived with a man refusing to be

married to him-we thought that splendid beyond measure,-I cannot

now imagine why. She was "like a tender goddess," Benton said. A

sort of shame came upon us in the dark in spite of our liberal

intentions when Benton committed himself to that. And after such

talk we would fall upon great pauses of emotionaldreaming, and if

by chance we passed a girl in a governess cart, or some farmer's

daughter walking to the station, we became alertly silent or

obstreperously indifferent to her. For might she not be just that

one exception to the banal decency, the sickly pointless

conventionality, the sham modesty of the times in which we lived?

We felt we stood for a new movement, not realising how perennially

this same emancipation returns to those ancient courts beside the

Cam. We were the anti-decency party, we discovered a catch phrase

that we flourished about in the Union and made our watchword,

namely, "stark fact." We hung nude pictures in our rooms much as if

they had been flags, to the earnest concern of our bedders, and I

disinterred my long-kept engraving and had it framed in fumed oak,

and found for it a completer and less restrained companion, a

companion I never cared for in the slightest degree…

This efflorescence did not prevent, I think indeed it rather helped,

our more formal university work, for most of us took firsts, and

three of us got Fellowships in one year or another. There was

Benton who had a Research Fellowship and went to Tubingen, there was

Esmeer and myself who both became Residential Fellows. I had taken

the Mental and Moral Science Tripos (as it was then), and three

years later I got a lectureship in political science. In those days

it was disguised in the cloak of Political Economy.


It was our affectation to be a little detached from the main stream

of undergraduate life. We worked pretty hard, but by virtue of our

beer, our socialism and suchlike heterodoxy, held ourselves to be

differentiated from the swatting reading man. None of us, except

Baxter, who was a rowing blue, a rather abnormal blue with an

appetite for ideas, took games seriously enough to train, and on the

other hand we intimated contempt for the rather mediocre,

deliberately humorous, consciously gentlemanly and consciously wild

undergraduate men who made up the mass of Cambridge life. After the

manner of youth we were altogether too hard on our contemporaries.

We battered our caps and tore our gowns lest they should seem new,

and we despised these others extremely for doing exactly the same

things; we had an idea of ourselves and resented beyond measure a

similar weakness in these our brothers.

There was a type, or at least there seemed to us to be a type-I'm a

little doubtful at times now whether after all we didn't create it-

for which Hatherleigh invented the nickname the "Pinky Dinkys,"

intending thereby both contempt and abhorrence in almost equal

measure. The Pinky Dinky summarised all that we particularly did

not want to be, and also, I now perceive, much of what we were and

all that we secretly dreaded becoming.

But it is hard to convey the Pinky Dinky idea, for all that it meant

so much to us. We spent one evening at least during that reading

party upon the Pinky Dinky; we sat about our one fire after a walk

in the rain-it was our only wet day-smoked our excessively virile

pipes, and elaborated the natural history of the Pinky Dinky. We

improvised a sort of Pinky Dinky litany, and Hatherleigh supplied

deep notes for the responses.

"The Pinky Dinky extracts a good deal of amusement from life," said

some one.

"Damned prig! " said Hatherleigh.

"The Pinky Dinky arises in the Union and treats the question with a

light gay touch. He makes the weird ones mad. But sometimes he

cannot go on because of the amusement he extracts."

"I want to shy books at the giggling swine," said Hatherleigh.

"The Pinky Dinky says suddenly while he is making the tea, 'We're

all being frightfully funny. It's time for you to say something


"The Pinky Dinky shakes his head and says: 'I'm afraid I shall never

be a responsiblebeing.' And he really IS frivolous."

"Frivolous but not vulgar," said Esmeer.

"Pinky Dinkys are chaps who've had their buds nipped," said

Hatherleigh. "They're Plebs and they know it. They haven't the

Guts to get hold of things. And so they worry up all those silly

little jokes of theirs to carry it off."…

We tried bad ones for a time, viciously flavoured.

Pinky Dinkys are due to over-production of the type that ought to

keep outfitters' shops. Pinky Dinkys would like to keep outfitters'

shops with whimsy 'scriptions on the boxes and make your bill out

funny, and not be snobs to customers, no!-not even if they had


"Every Pinky Dinky's people are rather good people, and better than

most Pinky Dinky's people. But he does not put on side."

"Pinky Dinkys become playful at the sight of women."

"'Croquet's my game,' said the Pinky Dinky, and felt a man


"But what the devil do they think they're up to, anyhow?" roared old

Hatherleigh suddenly, dropping plump into bottomless despair.

We felt we had still failed to get at the core of the mystery of the

Pinky Dinky.

We tried over things about his religion. "The Pinky Dinky goes to

King's Chapel, and sits and feels in the dusk. Solemn things! Oh

HUSH! He wouldn't tell you-"

"He COULDN'T tell you."

"Religion is so sacred to him he never talks about it, never reads

about it, never thinks about it. Just feels!"

"But in his heart of hearts, oh! ever so deep, the Pinky Dinky has a


Some one protested.

"Not a vulgar doubt," Esmeer went on, "but a kind of hesitation

whether the Ancient of Days is really exactly what one would call

goodform… There's a lot of horrid coarseness got into the

world somehow. SOMEBODY put it there… And anyhow there's no

particular reason why a man should be seen about with Him. He's

jolly Awful of course and all that-"

"The Pinky Dinky for all his fun and levity has a clean mind."

"A thoroughly clean mind. Not like Esmeer's-the Pig!"

"If once he began to think about sex, how could he be comfortable at


"It's their Damned Modesty," said Hatherleigh suddenly, "that's

what's the matter with the Pinky Dinky. It's Mental Cowardice

dressed up as a virtue and taking the poor dears in. Cambridge is

soaked with it; it's some confounded local bacillus. Like the thing

that gives a flavour to Havana cigars. He comes up here to be made

into a man and a ruler of the people, and he thinks it shows a nice

disposition not to take on the job! How the Devil is a great Empire

to be run with men like him?"

"All his little jokes and things," said Esmeer regarding his feet on

the fender, "it's just a nervous sniggering-because he's afraid…

Oxford's no better."

"What's he afraid of?" said I.

"God knows!" exploded Hatherleigh and stared at the fire.

"LIFE!" said Esmeer. "And so in a way are we," he added, and made a

thoughtful silence for a time.

"I say," began Carter, who was doing the Natural Science Tripos,

"what is the adult form of the Pinky Dinky?"

But there we were checked by our ignorance of the world.

"What is the adult form of any of us?" asked Benton, voicing the

thought that had arrested our flow.


I do not remember that we ever lifted our criticism to the dons and

the organisation of the University. I think we took them for

granted. When I look back at my youth Iam always astonished by the

multitude of things that we took for granted. It seemed to us that

Cambridge was in the order of things, for all the world like having

eyebrows or a vermiform appendix. Now with the larger scepticism of

middle age I can entertain very fundamental doubts about these old

universities. Indeed I had a scheme-

I do not see what harm I can do now by laying bare the purpose of

the political combinations I was trying to effect.

My educational scheme was indeed the starting-point of all the big

project of conscious public reconstruction at which I aimed. I

wanted to build up a new educational machine altogether for the

governing class out of a consolidated system of special public

service schools. I meant to get to work upon this whatever office I

was given in the new government. I could have begun my plan from

the Admiralty or the War Office quite as easily as from the

Education Office. Iam firmly convinced it is hopeless to think of

reforming the old public schools and universities to meet the needs

of a modern state, they send their roots too deep and far, the cost

would exceed any good that could possibly be effected, and so I have

sought a way round this invincible obstacle. I do think it would be

quite practicable to side-track, as the Americans say, the whole

system by creating hardworking, hard-living, modern and scientific

boys' schools, first for the Royal Navy and then for the public

service generally, and as they grew, opening them to the public

without any absolute obligation to subsequent service.

Simultaneously with this it would not be impossible to develop a new

college system with strong faculties in modern philosophy, modern

history, European literature and criticism, physical and biological

science, education and sociology.

We could in fact create a new liberal education in this way, and cut

the umbilicus of the classical languages for good and all. I should

have set this going, and trusted it to correct or kill the old

public schools and the Oxford and Cambridge tradition altogether. I

had men in my mind to begin the work, and I should have found

others. I should have aimed at making a hard-trained, capable,

intellectually active, proud type of man. Everything else would

have been made subservient to that. I should have kept my grip on

the men through their vacation, and somehow or other I would have

contrived a young woman to match them. I think I could have seen to

it effectually enough that they didn't get at croquet and tennis

with the vicarage daughters and discover sex in the Peeping Tom

fashion I did, and that they realised quite early in life that it

isn't really virile to reek of tobacco. I should have had military

manoeuvres, training ships, aeroplane work, mountaineering and so

forth, in the place of the solemn trivialities of games, and I

should have fed and housed my men clean and very hard-where there

wasn't any audit ale, no credit tradesmen, and plenty of high

pressure douches…

I have revisited Cambridge and Oxford time after time since I came

down, and so far as the Empire goes, I want to get clear of those

two places…

Always I renew my old feelings, a physical oppression, a sense of

lowness and dampness almost exactly like the feeling of an

underground room where paper moulders and leaves the wall, a feeling

of ineradicable contagion in the Gothic buildings, in the narrow

ditch-like rivers, in those roads and roads of stuffy little villas.

Those little villas have destroyed all the good of the old monastic

system and none of its evil…

Some of the most charming people in the world live in them, but

their collective effect is below the quality of any individual among

them. Cambridge is a world of subdued tones, of excessively subtle

humours, of prim conduct and free thinking; it fears the Parent, but

it has no fear of God; it offers amidst surroundings that vary

between disguises and antiquarian charm the inflammation of

literature's purple draught; one hears there a peculiar thin scandal

like no other scandal in the world-a covetous scandal-so that Iam

always reminded of Ibsen in Cambridge. In Cambridge and the plays

of Ibsen alone does it seem appropriate for the heroine before the

great crisis of life to "enter, take off her overshoes, and put her

wet umbrella upon the writing desk."…

We have to make a new Academic mind for modern needs, and the last

thing to make it out of, Iam convinced, is the old Academic mind.

One might as soon try to fake the old VICTORY at Portsmouth into a

line of battleship again. Besides which the old Academic mind, like

those old bathless, damp Gothic colleges, is much too delightful in

its peculiar and distinctive way to damage by futile patching.

My heart warms to a sense of affectionate absurdity as I recall dear

old Codger, surely the most "unleaderly" of men. No more than from

the old Schoolmen, his kindred, could one get from him a School for

Princes. Yet apart from his teaching he was as curious and adorable

as a good Netsuke. Until quite recently he was a power in

Cambridge, he could make and bar and destroy, and in a way he has

become the quintessence of Cambridge in my thoughts.

I see him on his way to the morning's lecture, with his plump

childish face, his round innocent eyes, his absurdly non-prehensile

fat hand carrying his cap, his grey trousers braced up much too

high, his feet a trifle inturned, and going across the great court

with a queer tripping pace that seemed cultivated even to my naive

undergraduate eye. Or I see him lecturing. He lectured walking up

and down between the desks, talking in a fluting rapid voice, and

with the utmost lucidity. If he could not walk up and down he could

not lecture. His mind and voice had precisely the fluid quality of

some clear subtle liquid; one felt it could flow round anything and

overcome nothing. And its nimble eddies were wonderful! Or again I

recall him drinking port with little muscular movements in his neck

and cheek and chin and his brows knit-very judicial, very

concentrated, preparing to say the apt just thing; it was the last

thing he would have told a lie about.

When I think of Codger Iam reminded of an inscription I saw on some

occasion in Regent's Park above two eyes scarcely more limpidly

innocent than his-"Born in the Menagerie." Never once since Codger

began to display the early promise of scholarship at the age of

eight or more, had he been outside the bars. His utmost travel had

been to lecture here and lecture there. His student phase had

culminated in papers of quite exceptional brilliance, and he had

gone on to lecture with a cheerful combination of wit and mannerism

that had made him a success from the beginning. He has lectured

ever since. He lectures still. Year by year he has become plumper,

more rubicund and more and more of an item for the intelligent

visitor to see. Even in my time he was pointed out to people as

part of our innumerable enrichments, and obviously he knew it. He

has become now almost the leading Character in a little donnish

world of much too intensely appreciated Characters.

He boasted he took no exercise, and also of his knowledge of port

wine. Of other wines he confessed quite frankly he had no "special

knowledge." Beyond these things he had little pride except that he

claimed to have read every novel by a woman writer that had ever

entered the Union Library. This, however, he held to be remarkable

rather than ennobling, and such boasts as he made of it were tinged

with playfulness. Certainly he had a scholar's knowledge of the

works of Miss Marie Corelli, Miss Braddon, Miss Elizabeth Glyn and

Madame Sarah Grand that would have astonished and flattered those

ladies enormously, and he loved nothing so much in his hours of

relaxation as to propound and answer difficult questions upon their

books. Tusher of King's was his ineffectual rival in this field,

their bouts were memorable and rarely other than glorious for

Codger; but then Tusher spread himself too much, he also undertook

to rehearse whole pages out of Bradshaw, and tell you with all the

changes how to get from any station to any station in Great Britain

by the nearest and cheapest routes…

Codger lodged with a little deaf innocent old lady, Mrs. Araminta

Mergle, who was understood to be herself a very redoubtable

Character in the Gyp-Bedder class; about her he relatedquietly

absurd anecdotes. He displayed a marvellous invention in ascribing

to her plausible expressions of opinion entirely identical in import

with those of the Oxford and Harvard Pragmatists, against whom he

waged a fierce obscure war…

It was Codger's function to teach me philosophy, philosophy! the

intimate wisdom of things. He dealt in a variety of Hegelian stuff

like nothing else in the world, but marvellously consistent with

itself. It was a wonderful web he spun out of that queer big active

childish brain that had never lusted nor hated nor grieved nor

feared nor passionately loved,-a web of iridescent threads. He had

luminous final theories about Love and Death and Immortality, odd

matters they seemed for him to think about! and all his woven

thoughts lay across my perception of the realities of things, as

flimsy and irrelevant and clever and beautiful, oh!-as a dew-wet

spider's web slung in the morning sunshine across the black mouth of

a gun…


All through those years of development I perceive now there must

have been growing in me, slowly, irregularly, assimilating to itself

all the phrases and forms of patriotism, diverting my religious

impulses, utilising my esthetic tendencies, my dominating idea, the

statesman's idea, that idea of social service which is the

protagonist of my story, that real though complex passion for

Making, making widely and greatly, cities, national order,

civilisation, whose interplay with all those other factors in life I

have set out to present. It was growing in me-as one's bones grow,

no man intending it.

I have tried to show how, quite early in my life, the fact of

disorderliness, the conception of social life as being a

multitudinous confusion out of hand, came to me. One always of

course simplifies these things in the telling, but I do not think I

ever saw the world at large in any other terms. I never at any

stage entertamed the idea which sustained my mother, and which

sustains so many people in the world,-the idea that the universe,

whatever superficial discords it may present, is as a matter of fact

"all right," is being steered to definite ends by a serene and

unquestionable God. My mother thought that Order prevailed, and

that disorder was just incidental and foredoomed rebellion; I feel

and have always felt that order rebels against and struggles against

disorder, that order has an up-hill job, in gardens, experiments,

suburbs, everything alike; from the very beginnings of my experience

I discovered hostility to order, a constant escaping from control.

The current of living and contemporary ideas in which my mind was

presently swimming made all in the same direction; in place of my

mother's attentive, meticulous but occasionally extremely irascible

Providence, the talk was all of the Struggle for Existenc and the

survival not of the Best-that was nonsense, but of the fittest to


The attempts to rehabilitate Faith in the form of the

Individualist's LAISSEZ FAIRE never won upon me. I disliked Herbert

Spencer all my life until I read his autobiography, and then I

laughed a little and loved him. I remember as early as the City

Merchants' days how Britten and I scoffed at that pompous question-

begging word "Evolution," having, so to speak, found it out.

Evolution, some illuminating talker had remarked at the Britten

lunch table, had led not only to man, but to the liver-fluke and

skunk, obviously it might lead anywhere; order came into things only

through the struggling mind of man. That lit things wonderfully for

us. When I went up to Cambridge I was perfectly clear that life was

a various and splendid disorder of forces that the spirit of man

sets itself to tame. I have never since fallen away from that


I do not think I was exceptionally precocious in reaching these

conclusions and a sort of religious finality for myself by eighteen

or nineteen. I know men and women vary very much in these matters,

just as children do in learning to talk. Some will chatter at

eighteen months and some will hardly speak until three, and the

thing has very little to do with their subsequent mental quality.

So it is with young people; some will begin their religious, their

social, their sexual interests at fourteen, some not until far on in

the twenties. Britten and I belonged to one of the precocious

types, and Cossington very probably to another. It wasn't that

there was anything priggish about any of us; we should have been

prigs to have concealed our spontaneous interests and ape the

theoretical boy.

The world of man centred for my imagination in London, it still

centres there; the real and present world, that is to say, as

distinguished from the wonder-lands of atomic and microscopic

science and the stars and future time. I had travelled scarcely at

all, I had never crossed the Channel, but I had read copiously and I

had formed a very good working idea of this round globe with its

mountains and wildernesses and forests and all the sorts and

conditions of human life that were scattered over its surface. It

was all alive, I felt, and changing every day; how it was changing,

and the changes men might bring about, fascinated my mind beyond


I used to find a charm in old maps that showed The World as Known to

the Ancients, and I wish I could now without any suspicion of self-

deception write down compactly the world as it was known to me at

nineteen. So far as extension went it was, I fancy, very like the

world I know now at forty-two; I had practically all the mountains

and seas, boundaries and races, products and possibilities that I

have now. But its intension was very different. All the interval

has been increasing and deepening my social knowledge, replacing

crude and second-hand impressions by felt and realised distinctions.

In 1895-that was my last year with Britten, for I went up to

Cambridge in September-my vision of the world had much the same

relation to the vision I have to-day that an ill-drawn daub of a

mask has to the direct vision of a human face. Britten and I looked

at our world and saw-what did we see? Forms and colours side by

side that we had no suspicion were interdependent. We had no

conception of the roots of things nor of the reaction of things. It

did not seem to us, for example, that business had anything to do

with government, or that money and means affected the heroic issues

of war. There were no wagons in our war game, and where there were

guns, there it was assumed the ammunition was gathered together.

Finance again was a sealed book to us; we did not so much connect it

with the broad aspects of human affairs as regard it as a sort of

intrusive nuisance to be earnestly ignored by all right-minded men.

We had no conception of the quality of politics, nor how "interests"

came into such affairs; we believed men were swayed by purely

intellectual convictions and were either right or wrong, honest or

dishonest (in which ease they deserved to be shot), good or bad. We

knew nothing of mental inertia, and could imagine the opinion of a

whole nation changed by one lucid and convincing exposition. We

were capable of the most incongruous transfers from the scroll of

history to our own times, we could suppose Brixton ravaged and

Hampstead burnt in civil wars for the succession to the throne, or

Cheapside a lane of death and the front of the Mansion House set

about with guillotines in the course of an accurately transposed

French Revolution. We rebuilt London by Act of Parliament, and once

in a mood of hygienic enterprise we transferred its population EN

MASSE to the North Downs by an order of the Local Government Board.

We thought nothing of throwing religious organisations out of

employment or superseding all the newspapers by freely distributed

bulletins. We could contemplate the possibility of laws abolishing

whole classes; we were equal to such a dream as the peaceful and

orderly proclamation of Communism from the steps of St. Paul's

Cathedral, after the passing of a simply worded bill,-a close and

not unnaturally an exciting division carrying the third reading. I

remember quite distinctly evolving that vision. We were then fully

fifteen and we were perfectly serious about it. We were not fools;

it was simply that as yet we had gathered no experience at all of

the limits and powers of legislation and conscious collective


I think this statement does my boyhood justice, and yet I have my

doubts. It is so hard now to say what one understood and what one

did not understand. It isn't only that every day changed one's

general outlook, but also that a boy fluctuates between phases of

quite adult understanding and phases of tawdrily magnificent

puerility. Sometimes I myself was in those tumbrils that went along

Cheapside to the Mansion House, a Sydney Cartonesque figure, a white

defeated Mirabean; sometimes it was I who sat judging and condemning

and ruling (sleeping in my clothes and feeding very simply) the soul

and autocrat of the Provisional Government, which occupied, of all

inconvenient places! the General Post Office at St. Martin's-le-


I cannot trace the development of my ideas at Cambridge, but I

believe the mere physical fact of going two hours' journey away from

London gave that place for the first time an effect of unity in my

imagination. I got outside London. It became tangible instead of

being a frame almost as universal as sea and sky.

At Cambridge my ideas ceased to live in a duologue; in exchange for

Britten, with whom, however, I corresponded lengthily, stylishly and

self-consciously for some years, I had now a set of congenial

friends. I got talk with some of the younger dons, I learnt to

speak in the Union, and in my little set we were all pretty busily

sharpening each other's wits and correcting each other's

interpretations. Cambridge made politics personal and actual. At

City Merchants' we had had no sense of effective contact; we

boasted, it is true, an under secretary and a colonial governor

among our old boys, but they were never real to us; such

distinguished sons as returned to visit the old school were allusive

and pleasant in the best Pinky Dinky style, and pretended to be in

earnest about nothing but our football and cricket, to mourn the

abolition of "water," and find a shuddering personal interest in the

ancient swishing block. At Cambridge I felt for the first time that

I touched the thing that was going on. Real living statesmen came

down to debate in the Union, the older dons had been their college

intimates, their sons and nephews expounded them to us and made them

real to us. They invited us to entertain ideas; I found myself for

the first time in my life expected to read and think and discuss, my

secret vice had become a virtue.

That combination-room world is at last larger and more populous and

various than the world of schoolmasters. The Shoesmiths and Naylors

who had been the aristocracy of City Merchants' fell into their

place in my mind; they became an undistinguished mass on the more

athletic side of Pinky Dinkyism, and their hostility to ideas and to

the expression of ideas ceased to limit and trouble me. The

brighter men of each generation stay up; these others go down to

propagate their tradition, as the fathers of families, as mediocre

professional men, as assistant masters in schools. Cambridge which

perfects them is by the nature of things least oppressed by them,-

except when it comes to a vote in Convocation.

We were still in those days under the shadow of the great

Victorians. I never saw Gladstone (as I never set eyes on the old

Queen), but he had resigned office only a year before I went up to

Trinity, and the Combination Rooms were full of personal gossip

about him and Disraeli and the other big figures of the gladiatorial

stage of Parlimentary history, talk that leaked copiously into such

sets as mine. The ceiling of our guest chamber at Trinity was

glorious with the arms of Sir William Harcourt, whose Death Duties

had seemed at first like a socialist dawn. Mr. Evesham we asked to

come to the Union every year, Masters, Chamberlain and the old Duke

of Devonshire; they did not come indeed, but their polite refusals

brought us all, as it were, within personal touch of them. One

heard of cabinet councils and meetings at country houses. Some of

us, pursuing such interests, went so far as to read political

memoirs and the novels of Disraeli and Mrs. Humphry Ward. From

gossip, example and the illustrated newspapers one learnt something

of the way in which parties were split, coalitions formed, how

permanent officials worked and controlled their ministers, how

measures were brought forward and projects modified.

And while I was getting the great leading figures on the political

stage, who had been presented to me in my schooldays not so much as

men as the pantomimic monsters of political caricature, while I was

getting them reduced in my imagination to the stature of humanity,

and their motives to the quality of impulses like my own, I was also

acquiring in my Tripos work a constantly developing and enriching

conception of the world of men as a complex of economic,

intellectual and moral processes…


Socialism is an intellectual Proteus, but to the men of my

generation it came as the revolt of the workers. Rodbertus we never

heard of and the Fabian Society we did not understand; Marx and

Morris, the Chicago Anarchists, JUSTICE and Social Democratic

Federation (as it was then) presented socialism to our minds.

Hatherleigh was the leading exponent of the new doctrines in

Trinity, and the figure upon his wall of a huge-muscled, black-

haired toiler swaggering sledgehammer in hand across a revolutionary

barricade, seemed the quintessence of what he had to expound.

Landlord and capitalist had robbed and enslaved the workers, and

were driving them quite automatically to inevitable insurrection.

They would arise and the capitalist system would flee and vanish

like the mists before the morning, like the dews before the sunrise,

giving place in the most simple and obvious manner to an era of

Right and Justice and Virtue and Well Being, and in short a

Perfectly Splendid Time.

I had already discussed this sort of socialism under the guidance of

Britten, before I went up to Cambridge. It was all mixed up with

ideas about freedom and natural virtue and a great scorn for kings,

titles, wealth and officials, and it was symbolised by the red ties

we wore. Our simple verdict on existing arrangements was that they

were "all wrong." The rich were robbers and knew it, kings and

princes were usurpers and knew it, religious teachers were impostors

in league with power, the economic system was an elaborate plot on

the part of the few to expropriate the many. We went about feeling

scornful of all the current forms of life, forms that esteemed

themselves solid, that were, we knew, no more than shapes painted on

a curtain that was presently to be torn aside…

It was Hatherleigh's poster and his capacity for overstating things,

I think, that first qualified my simple revolutionary enthusiasm.

Perhaps also I had met with Fabian publications, but if I did I

forget the circumstances. And no doubt my innate constructiveness

with its practical corollary of an analytical treatment of the

material supplied, was bound to push me on beyond this melodramatic

interpretation of human affairs.

I compared that Working Man of the poster with any sort of working

man I knew. I perceived that the latter was not going to change,

and indeed could not under any stimulus whatever be expected to

change, into the former. It crept into my mind as slowly and surely

as the dawn creeps into a room that the former was not, as I had at

first rather glibly assumed, an "ideal," but a complete

misrepresentation of the quality and possibilities of things.

I do not know now whether it was during my school-days or at

Cambridge that I first began not merely to see the world as a great

contrast of rich and poor, but to feel the massive effect of that

multitudinous majority of people who toil continually, who are for

ever anxious about ways and means, who are restricted, ill clothed,

ill fed and ill housed, who have limited outlooks and continually

suffer misadventures, hardships and distresses through the want of

money. My lot had fallen upon the fringe of the possessing

minority; if I did not know the want of necessities I knew

shabbiness, and the world that let me go on to a university

education intimated very plainly that there was not a thing beyond

the primary needs that my stimulated imagination might demand that

it would not be an effort for me to secure. A certain aggressive

radicalism against the ruling and propertied classes followed almost

naturally from my circumstances. It did not at first connect itself

at all with the perception of a planless disorder in human affairs

that had been forced upon me by the atmosphere of my upbringing, nor

did it link me in sympathy with any of the profounder realities of

poverty. It was a personal independent thing. The dingier people

one saw in the back streets and lower quarters of Bromstead and

Penge, the drift of dirty children, ragged old women, street

loafers, grimy workers that made the social background of London,

the stories one heard of privation and sweating, only joined up very

slowly with the general propositions I was making about life. We

could become splendidly eloquent about the social revolution and the

triumph of the Proletariat after the Class war, and it was only by a

sort of inspiration that it came to me that my bedder, a garrulous

old thing with a dusty black bonnet over one eye and an

ostentatiously clean apron outside the dark mysteries that clothed

her, or the cheeky little ruffians who yelled papers about the

streets, were really material to such questions.

Directly any of us young socialists of Trinity found ourselves in

immediate contact with servants or cadgers or gyps or bedders or

plumbers or navvies or cabmen or railway porters we became

unconsciously and unthinkingly aristocrats. Our voices altered, our

gestures altered. We behaved just as all the other men, rich or

poor, swatters or sportsmen or Pinky Dinkys, behaved, and exactly as

we were expected to behave. On the whole it is a population of poor

quality round about Cambridge, rather stunted and spiritless and

very difficult to idealise. That theoretical Working Man of ours!-

if we felt the clash at all we explained it, I suppose, by assuming

that he came from another part of the country; Esmeer, I remember,

who lived somewhere in the Fens, was very eloquent about the Cornish

fishermen, and Hatherleigh, who was a Hampshire man, assured us we

ought to know the Scottish miner. My private fancy was for the

Lancashire operative because of his co-operative societies, and

because what Lancashire thinks to-day England thinks to-morrow…

And also I had never been in Lancashire.

By little increments of realisation it was that the profounder

verities of the problem of socialism came to me. It helped me very

much that I had to go down to the Potteries several times to discuss

my future with my uncle and guardian; I walked about and saw Bursley

Wakes and much of the human aspects of organised industrialism at

close quarters for the first time. The picture of a splendid

Working Man cheated out of his innate glorious possibilities, and

presently to arise and dash this scoundrelly and scandalous system

of private ownership to fragments, began to give place to a

limitless spectacle of inefficiency, to a conception of millions of

people not organised as they should be, not educated as they should

be, not simply prevented from but incapable of nearly every sort of

beauty, mostly kindly and well meaning, mostly incompetent, mostly

obstinate, and easily humbugged and easily diverted. Even the

tragic and inspiring idea of Marx, that the poor were nearing a

limit of painfulexperience, and awakening to a sense of intolerable

wrongs, began to develop into the more appalling conception that the

poor were simply in a witless uncomfortable inconclusive way-

"muddling along"; that they wanted nothing very definitely nor very

urgently, that mean fears enslaved them and mean satisfactions

decoyed them, that they took the very gift of life itself with a

spiritless lassitude, hoarding it, being rather anxious not to lose

it than to use it in any way whatever.

The complete development of that realisation was the work of many

years. I had only the first intimations at Cambridge. But I did

have intimations. Most acutely do I remember the doubts that

followed the visit of Chris Robinson. Chris Robinson was heralded

by such heroic anticipations, and he was so entirely what we had not


Hatherleigh got him to come, arranged a sort of meeting for him at

Redmayne's rooms in King's, and was very proud and proprietorial.

It failed to stir Cambridge at all profoundly. Beyond a futile

attempt to screw up Hatherleigh made by some inexpert duffers who

used nails instead of screws and gimlets, there was no attempt to

rag. Next day Chris Robinson went and spoke at Bennett Hall in

Newnham College, and left Cambridge in the evening amidst the cheers

of twenty men or so. Socialism was at such a low ebb politically in

those days that it didn't even rouse men to opposition.

And there sat Chris under that flamboyant and heroic Worker of the

poster, a little wrinkled grey-bearded apologetic man in ready-made

clothes, with watchful innocent brown eyes and a persistent and

invincible air of being out of his element. He sat with his stout

boots tucked up under his chair, and clung to a teacup and saucer

and looked away from us into the fire, and we all sat about on

tables and chair-arms and windowsills and boxes and anywhere except

upon chairs after the manner of young men. The only other chair

whose seat was occupied was the one containing his knitted woollen

comforter and his picturesque old beach-photographer's hat. We were

all shy and didn't know how to take hold of him now we had got him,

and, which was disconcertingly unanticipated, he was manifestly

having the same difficulty with us. We had expected to be gripped.

"I'll not be knowing what to say to these Chaps," he repeated with a

north-country quality in his speech.

We made reassuring noises.

The Ambassador of the Workers stirred his tea earnestly through an

uncomfortable pause.

"I'd best tell 'em something of how things are in Lancashire, what

with the new machines and all that," he speculated at last with red

reflections in his thoughtful eyes.

We had an inexcusable dread that perhaps he would make a mess of the


But when he was no longer in the unaccustomed meshes of refined

conversation, but speaking with an audience before him, he became a

different man. He declared he would explain to us just exactly what

socialism was, and went on at once to an impassioned contrast of

social conditions. "You young men," he said "come from homes of

luxury; every need you feel is supplied-"

We sat and stood and sprawled about him, occupying every inch of

Redmayne's floor space except the hearthrug-platform, and we

listened to him and thought him over. He was the voice of wrongs

that made us indignant and eager. We forgot for a time that he had

been shy and seemed not a little incompetent, his provincial accent

became a beauty of his earnest speech, we were carried away by his

indignations. We looked with shining eyes at one another and at the

various dons who had dropped in and were striving to maintain a

front of judicious severity. We felt more and more that social

injustice must cease, and cease forthwith. We felt we could not

sleep upon it. At the end we clapped and murmured our applause and

wanted badly to cheer.

Then like a lancet stuck into a bladder came the heckling. Denson,

that indolent, liberal-minded sceptic, did most of the questioning.

He lay contorted in a chair, with his ugly head very low, his legs

crossed and his left boot very high, and he pointed his remarks with

a long thin hand and occasionally adjusted the unstable glasses that

hid his watery eyes. "I don't want to carp," he began. "The

present system, I admit, stands condemned. Every present system

always HAS stood condemned in the minds of intelligent men. But

where it seems to me you get thin, is just where everybody has been

thin, and that's when you come to the remedy."

"Socialism," said Chris Robinson, as if it answered everything, and

Hatherleigh said "Hear! Hear!" very resolutely.

"I suppose I OUGHT to take that as an answer," said Denson, getting

his shoulder-blades well down to the seat of his chair; "but I

don't. I don't, you know. It's rather a shame to cross-examine you

after this fine address of yours"-Chris Robinson on the hearthrug

made acquiescent and inviting noises-"but the real question

remains how exactly are you going to end all these wrongs? There

are the admimstrative questions. If you abolish the private owner,

I admit you abolish a very complex and clumsy way of getting

businesses run, land controlled and things in general administered,

but you don't get rid of the need of administration, you know."

"Democracy," said Chris Robinson.

"Organised somehow," said Denson. "And it's just the How perplexes

me. I can quite easily imagine a socialist state administered in a

sort of scrambling tumult that would be worse than anything we have

got now.

"Nothing could be worse than things are now," said Chris Robinson.

"I have seen little children-"

"I submit life on an ill-provisioned raft, for example, could easily

be worse-or life in a beleagured town."


They wrangled for some time, and it had the effect upon me of coming

out from the glow of a good matinee performance into the cold

daylight of late afternoon. Chris Robinson did not shine in

conflict with Denson; he was an orator and not a dialectician, and

he missed Denson's points and displayed a disposition to plunge into

untimely pathos and indignation. And Denson hit me curiously hard

with one of his shafts. "Suppose," he said, "you found yourself

prime minister-"

I looked at Chris Robinson, bright-eyed and his hair a little

ruffled and his whole being rhetorical, and measured him against the

huge machine of government muddled and mysterious. Oh! but I was


And then we took him back to Hatherleigh's rooms and drank beer and

smoked about him while he nursed his knee with hairy wristed hands

that protruded from his flannel shirt, and drank lemonade under the

cartoon of that emancipated Worker, and we had a great discursive

talk with him.

"Eh! you should see our big meetings up north?" he said.

Denson had ruffled him and worried him a good deal, and ever and

again he came back to that discussion. "It's all very easy for your

learned men to sit and pick holes," he said, "while the children

suffer and die. They don't pick holes up north. They mean


He talked, and that was the most interesting part of it all, of his

going to work in a factory when he was twelve-" when you Chaps were

all with your mammies "-and how he had educated himself of nights

until he would fall asleep at his reading.

"It's made many of us keen for all our lives," he remarked, "all

that clemming for education. Why! I longed all through one winter

to read a bit of Darwin. I must know about this Darwin if I die for

it, I said. And I couldno' get the book."

Hatherleigh made an enthusiastic noise and drank beer at him with

round eyes over the mug.

"Well, anyhow I wasted no time on Greek and Latin," said Chris

Robinson. "And one learns to go straight at a thing without

splitting straws. One gets hold of the Elementals."

(Well, did they? That was the gist of my perplexity.)

"One doesn't quibble," he said, returning to his rankling memory of

Denson, "while men decay and starve."

"But suppose," I said, suddenly dropping into opposition, "the

alternatve is to risk a worse disaster-or do something patently


"I don't follow that," said Chris Robinson. "We don't propose

anything futile, so far as I can see."


The prevailing force in my undergraduate days was not Socialism but

Kiplingism. Our set was quite exceptional in its socialistic

professions. And we were all, you must understand, very distinctly

Imperialists also, and professed a vivid sense of the "White Man's


It is a little difficult now to get back to the feelings of that

period; Kipling has since been so mercilessly and exhaustively

mocked, criticised and torn to shreds;-never was a man so violently

exalted and then, himself assisting, so relentlessly called down.

But in the middle nineties this spectacled and moustached little

figure with its heavy chin and its general effect of vehement

gesticulation, its wild shouts of boyish enthusiasm for effective

force, its lyric delight in the sounds and colours, in the very

odours of empire, its wonderful discovery of machinery and cotton

waste and the under officer and the engineer, and "shop" as a poetic

dialect, became almost a national symbol. He got hold of us

wonderfully, he filled us with tinkling and haunting quotations, he

stirred Britten and myself to futile imitations, he coloured the

very idiom of our conversation. He rose to his climax with his

"Recessional," while I was still an undergraduate.

What did he give me exactly?

He helped to broaden my geographical sense immensely, and he

provided phrases for just that desire for discipline and devotion

and organised effort the Socialism of our time failed to express,

that the current socialist movement still fails, I think, to

express. The sort of thing that follows, for example, tore

something out of my inmost nature and gave it a shape, and I took it

back from him shaped and let much of the rest of him, the tumult and

the bullying, the hysteria and the impatience, the incoherence and

inconsistency, go uncriticised for the sake of it:-

"Keep ye the Law-be swift in all obedience-

Clear the land of evil, drive the road and bridge the ford,

Make ye sure to each his own

That he reap where he hath sown;

By the peace among Our peoples let men know we serve the Lord!"

And then again, and for all our later criticism, this sticks in my

mind, sticks there now as quintessential wisdom:

The 'eathen in 'is blindness bows down to wood an' stone;

'E don't obey no orders unless they is 'is own;

'E keeps 'is side-arms awful: 'e leaves 'em all about

An' then comes up the regiment an' pokes the 'eathen out.

All along o' dirtiness, all along o' mess,

All along o' doin' things rather-more-or-less,

All along of abby-nay, kul, an' hazar-ho,

Mind you keep your rifle an' yourself jus' so!"

It is after all a secondary matter that Kipling, not having been

born and brought up in Bromstead and Penge, and the war in South

Africa being yet in the womb of time, could quite honestly entertain

the now remarkable delusion that England had her side-arms at that

time kept anything but "awful." He learnt better, and we all learnt

with him in the dark years of exasperating and humiliating struggle

that followed, and I do not see that we fellow learners are

justified in turning resentfully upon him for a common ignorance and


South Africa seems always painted on the back cloth of my Cambridge

memories. How immense those disasters seemed at the time, disasters

our facile English world has long since contrived in any edifying or

profitable sense to forget! How we thrilled to the shouting

newspaper sellers as the first false flush of victory gave place to

the realisation of defeat. Far away there our army showed itself

human, mortal and human in the sight of all the world, the pleasant

officers we had imagined would change to wonderful heroes at the

first crackling of rifles, remained the pleasant, rather incompetent

men they had always been, failing to imagine, failing to plan and

co-operate, failing to grip. And the common soldiers, too, they

were just what our streets and country-side had made them, no sudden

magic came out of the war bugles for them. Neither splendid nor

disgraceful were they,-just ill-trained and fairly plucky and

wonderfully good-tempered men-paying for it. And how it lowered

our vitality all that first winter to hear of Nicholson's Nek, and

then presently close upon one another, to realise the bloody waste

of Magersfontein, the shattering retreat from Stormberg, Colenso-

Colenso, that blundering battle, with White, as it seemed, in

Ladysmith near the point of surrender! and so through the long

unfolding catalogue of bleak disillusionments, of aching,

unconcealed anxiety lest worse should follow. To advance upon your

enemy singing about his lack of cleanliness and method went out of

fashion altogether! The dirty retrogressive Boer vanished from our

scheme of illusion.

All through my middle Cambridge period, the guns boomed and the

rifles crackled away there on the veldt, and the horsemen rode and

the tale of accidents and blundering went on. Men, mules, horses,

stores and money poured into South Africa, and the convalescent

wounded streamed home. I see it in my memory as if I had looked at

it through a window instead of through the pages of the illustrated

papers; I recall as if I had been there the wide open spaces, the

ragged hillsides, the open order attacks of helmeted men in khaki,

the scarce visible smoke of the guns, the wrecked trains in great

lonely places, the burnt isolated farms, and at last the blockhouses

and the fences of barbed wire uncoiling and spreading for endless

miles across the desert, netting the elusive enemy until at last,

though he broke the meshes again and again, we had him in the toils.

If one's attention strayed in the lecture-room it wandered to those


And that imagined panorama of war unfolds to an accompaniment of

yelling newsboys in the narrow old Cambridge streets, of the flicker

of papers hastily bought and torn open in the twilight, of the

doubtful reception of doubtful victories, and the insensate

rejoicings at last that seemed to some of us more shameful than



A book that stands out among these memories, that stimulated me

immensely so that I forced it upon my companions, half in the spirit

of propaganda and half to test it by their comments, was Meredith's

ONE OF OUR CONQUERORS. It is one of the books that have made me.

In that I got a supplement and corrective of Kipling. It was the

first detached and adverse criticism of the Englishman I had ever

encountered. It must have been published already nine or ten years

when I read it. The country had paid no heed to it, had gone on to

the expensive lessons of the War because of the dull aversion our

people feel for all such intimations, and so I could read it as a

book justified. The war endorsed its every word for me, underlined

each warning indication of the gigantic dangers that gathered

against our system across the narrow seas. It discovered Europe to

me, as watching and critical.

But while I could respond to all its criticisms of my country's

intellectual indolence, of my country's want of training and

discipline and moral courage, I remember that the idea that on the

continent there were other peoples going ahead of us, mentally alert

while we fumbled, disciplined while we slouched, aggressive and

preparing to bring our Imperial pride to a reckoning, was extremely

novel and distasteful to me. It set me worrying of nights. It put

all my projects for social and political reconstruction upon a new

uncomfortable footing. It made them no longer merely desirable but

urgent. Instead of pride and the love of making one might own to a

baser motive. Under Kipling's sway I had a little forgotten the

continent of Europe, treated it as a mere envious echo to our own

world-wide display. I began now to have a disturbing sense as it

were of busy searchlights over the horizon…

One consequence of the patriotic chagrin Meredith produced in me was

an attempt to belittle his merit. "It isn't a good novel, anyhow,"

I said.

The charge I brought against it was, I remember, a lack of unity.

It professed to be a study of the English situation in the early

nineties, but it was all deflected, I said, and all the interest was

confused by the story of Victor Radnor's fight with society to

vindicate the woman he had loved and never married. Now in the

retrospect and with a mind full of bitter enlightenment, I can do

Meredith justice, and admit the conflict was not only essential but

cardinal in his picture, that the terrible inflexibility of the rich

aunts and the still more terrible claim of Mrs. Burman Radnor, the

"infernal punctilio," and Dudley Sowerby's limitations, were the

central substance of that inalertness the book set itself to assail.

So many things have been brought together in my mind that were once

remotely separated. A people that will not valiantly face and

understand and admit love and passion can understand nothing

whatever. But in those days what is now just obvious truth to me

was altogether outside my range of comprehension…


As I seek to recapitulate the interlacing growth of my apprehension

of the world, as I flounder among the half-remembered developments

that found me a crude schoolboy and left me a man, there comes out,

as if it stood for all the rest, my first holiday abroad. That did

not happen until I was twenty-two. I was a fellow of Trinity, and

the Peace of Vereeniging had just been signed.

I went with a man named Willersley, a man some years senior to

myself, who had just missed a fellowship and the higher division of

the Civil Service, and who had become an enthusiastic member of the

London School Board, upon which the cumulative vote and the support

of the "advanced" people had placed him. He had, like myself, a

small independent income that relieved him of any necessity to earn

a living, and he had a kindred craving for social theorising and

some form of social service. He had sought my acquaintance after

reading a paper of mine (begotten by the visit of Chris Robinson) on

the limits of pure democracy. It had marched with some thoughts of

his own.

We went by train to Spiez on the Lake of Thun, then up the Gemmi,

and thence with one or two halts and digressions and a little modest

climbing we crossed over by the Antrona pass (on which we were

benighted) into Italy, and by way of Domo D'ossola and the Santa

Maria Maggiore valley to Cannobio, and thence up the lake to Locarno

(where, as I shall tell, we stayed some eventful days) and so up the

Val Maggia and over to Airolo and home.

As I write of that long tramp of ours, something of its freshness

and enlargement returns to me. I feel again the faint pleasant

excitement of the boat train, the trampling procession of people

with hand baggage and laden porters along the platform of the

Folkestone pier, the scarcely perceptible swaying of the moored boat

beneath our feet. Then, very obvious and simple, the little emotion

of standing out from the homeland and seeing the long white Kentish

cliffs recede. One walked about the boat doing one's best not to

feel absurdly adventurous, and presently a movement of people

directed one's attention to a white lighthouse on a cliff to the

east of us, coming up suddenly; and then one turned to scan the

little different French coast villages, and then, sliding by in a

pale sunshine came a long wooden pier with oddly dressed children

upon it, and the clustering town of Boulogne.

One took it all with the outward calm that became a young man of

nearly three and twenty, but one was alive to one's finger-tips with

pleasing little stimulations. The custom house examination excited

one, the strangeness of a babble in a foreign tongue; one found the

French of City Merchants' and Cambridge a shy and viscous flow, and

then one was standing in the train as it went slowly through the

rail-laid street to Boulogne Ville, and one looked out at the world

in French, porters in blouses, workmen in enormous purple trousers,

police officers in peaked caps instead of helmets and romantically

cloaked, big carts, all on two wheels instead of four, green

shuttered casements instead of sash windows, and great numbers of

neatly dressed women in economical mourning.

"Oh! there's a priest!" one said, and was betrayed into suchlike

artless cries.

It was a real other world, with different government and different

methods, and in the night one was roused from uneasy slumbers and

sat blinking and surly, wrapped up in one's couverture and with

one's oreiller all awry, to encounter a new social phenomenon, the

German official, so different in manner from the British; and when

one woke again after that one had come to Bale, and out one tumbled

to get coffee in Switzerland…

I have been over that route dozens of times since, but it still

revives a certain lingering youthfulness, a certain sense of

cheerful release in me.

I remember that I and Willersley became very sociological as we ran

on to Spiez, and made all sorts of generalisations from the steeply

sloping fields on the hillsides, and from the people we saw on

platforms and from little differences in the way things were done.

The clean prosperity of Bale and Switzerland, the big clean

stations, filled me with patriotic misgivings, as I thought of the

vast dirtiness of London, the mean dirtiness of Cambridgeshire. It

came to me that perhaps my scheme of international values was all

wrong, that quite stupendous possibilities and challenges for us and

our empire might be developing here-and I recalled Meredith's

Skepsey in France with a new understanding.

Willersley had dressed himself in a world-worn Norfolk suit of

greenish grey tweeds that ended unfamiliarly at his rather

impending, spectacled, intellectual visage. I didn't, I remember,

like the contrast of him with the drilled Swiss and Germans about

us. Convict coloured stockings and vast hobnail boots finished him

below, and all his luggage was a borrowed rucksac that he had tied

askew. He did not want to shave in the train, but I made him at one

of the Swiss stations-I dislike these Oxford slovenlinesses-and

then confound him! he cut himself and bled…

Next morning we were breathing a thin exhilarating air that seemed

to have washed our very veins to an incredible cleanliness, and

eating hard-boiled eggs in a vast clear space of rime-edged rocks,

snow-mottled, above a blue-gashed glacier. All about us the

monstrous rock surfaces rose towards the shining peaks above, and

there were winding moraines from which the ice had receded, and then

dark clustering fir trees far below.

I had an extraordinary feeling of having come out of things, of

being outside.

"But this is the round world!" I said, with a sense of never having

perceived it before; "this is the round world!"


That holiday was full of big comprehensive effects; the first view

of the Rhone valley and the distant Valaisian Alps, for example,

which we saw from the shoulder of the mountain above the Gemmi, and

the early summer dawn breaking over Italy as we moved from our

night's crouching and munched bread and chocolate and stretched our

stiff limbs among the tumbled and precipitous rocks that hung over

Lake Cingolo, and surveyed the winding tiring rocky track going down

and down to Antronapiano.

And our thoughts were as comprehensive as our impressions.

Willersley's mind abounded in historical matter; he had an

inaccurate abundant habit of topographical reference; he made me see

and trace and see again the Roman Empire sweep up these winding

valleys, and the coming of the first great Peace among the warring

tribes of men…

In the retrospect each of us seems to have been talking about our

outlook almost continually. Each of us, you see, was full of the

same question, very near and altogether predominant to us, the

question: "What am I going to do with my life?" He saw it almost as

importantly as I, but from a different angle, because his choice was

largely made and mine still hung in the balance.

"I feel we might do so many things," I said, "and everything that

calls one, calls one away from something else."

Willersley agreed without any modest disavowals.

"We have got to think out," he said, "just what we are and what we

are up to. We've got to do that now. And then-it's one of those

questions it is inadvisable to reopen subsequently."

He beamed at me through his glasses. The sententious use of long

words was a playful habit with him, that and a slight deliberate

humour, habits occasional Extension Lecturing was doing very much to


"You've made your decision?"

He nodded with a peculiar forward movement of his head.

"How would you put it?"

"Social Service-education. Whatever else matters or doesn't

matter, it seems to me there is one thing we MUST have and increase,

and that is the number of people who can think a little-and have "-

he beamed again-" an adequate sense of causation."

"You're sure it's worth while."

"For me-certainly. I don't discuss that any more."

"I don't limitmyself too narrowly," he added. "After all, the work

is all one. We who know, we who feel, are building the great modern

state, joining wall to wall and way to way, the new great England

rising out of the decaying old… we are the real statesmen-I

like that use of 'statesmen.'…"

"Yes," I said with many doubts. "Yes, of course…"

Willersley is middle-aged now, with silver in his hair and a

deepening benevolence in his always amiable face, and he has very

fairly kept his word. He has lived for social service and to do

vast masses of useful, undistinguished, fertilising work. Think of

the days of arid administrative plodding and of contention still

more arid and unrewarded, that he must have spent! His little

affectations of gesture and manner, imitative affectations for the

most part, have increased, and the humorous beam and the humorous

intonations have become a thing he puts on every morning like an old

coat. His devotion is mingled with a considerable whimsicality, and

they say he is easily flattered by subordinates and easily offended

into opposition by colleagues; he has made mistakes at times and

followed wrong courses, still there he is, a flat contradiction to

all the ordinary doctrine of motives, a man who has foregone any

chances of wealth and profit, foregone any easier paths to

distinction, foregone marriage and parentage, in order to serve the

community. He does it without any fee or reward except his personal

self-satisfaction in doing this work, and he does it without any

hope of future joys and punishments, for he is an implacable

Rationalist. No doubt he idealises himself a little, and dreams of

recognition. No doubt he gets his pleasure from a sense of power,

from the spending and husbanding of large sums of public money, and

from the inevitable proprietorship he must feel in the fair, fine,

well-ordered schools he has done so much to develop. "But for me,"

he can say, "there would have been a Job about those diagrams, and

that subject or this would have been less ably taught."…

The fact remains that for him the rewards have been adequate, if not

to content at any rate to keep him working. Of course he covets the

notice of the world he has served, as a lover covets the notice of

his mistress. Of course he thinks somewhere, somewhen, he will get

credit. Only last year I heard some men talking of him, and they

were noting, with little mean smiles, how he had shown himself self-

conscious while there was talk of some honorary degree-giving or

other; it would, I have no doubt, please him greatly if his work

were to flower into a crimson gown in some Academic parterre. Why

shouldn't it? But that is incidental vanity at the worst; he goes

on anyhow. Most men don't.

But we had our walk twenty years and more ago now. He was oldish

even then as a young man, just as he is oldish still in middle age.

Long may his industrious elderliness flourish for the good of the

world! He lectured a little in conversation then; he lectures more

now and listens less, toilsomely disentangling what you already

understand, giving you in detail the data you know; these are things

like callosities that come from a man's work.

Our long three weeks' talk comes back to me as a memory of ideas and

determinations slowly growing, all mixed up with a smell of wood

smoke and pine woods and huge precipices and remote gleams of snow-

fields and the sound of cascading torrents rushing through deep

gorges far below. It is mixed, too, with gossips with waitresses

and fellow travellers, with my first essays in colloquial German and

Italian, with disputes about the way to take, and other things that

I will tell of in another section. But the white passion of human

service was our dominant theme. Not simply perhaps nor altogether

unselfishly, but quite honestly, and with at least a frequent self-

forgetfulness, did we want to do fine and noble things, to help in

their developing, to lessen misery, to broaden and exalt life. It

is very hard-perhaps it is impossible-to present in a page or two

the substance and quality of nearly a month's conversation,

conversation that is casual and discursive in form, that ranges

carelessly from triviality to immensity, and yet is constantly

resuming a constructive process, as workmen on a wall loiter and

jest and go and come back, and all the while build.

We got it more and more definite that the core of our purpose

beneath all its varied aspects must needs be order and discipline.

"Muddle," said I, "is the enemy." That remains my belief to this

day. Clearness and order, light and foresight, these things I know

for Good. It was muddle had just given us all the still freshly

painful disasters and humiliations of the war, muddle that gives us

the visibly sprawling disorder of our cities and industrial country-

side, muddle that gives us the waste of life, the limitations,

wretchedness and unemployment of the poor. Muddle! I remember

myself quoting Kipling-

"All along o' dirtiness, all along o' mess,

All along o' doin' things rather-more-or-less."

"We build the state," we said over and over again. "That is what we

are for-servants of the new reorganisation!"

We planned half in earnest and half Utopianising, a League of Social


We talked of the splendid world of men that might grow out of such

unpaid and ill-paid work as we were setting our faces to do. We

spoke of the intricate difficulties, the monstrous passive

resistances, the hostilities to such a development as we conceived

our work subserved, and we spoke with that underlying confidence in

the invincibility of the causes we adopted that is natural to young

and scarcely tried men.

We talked much of the detailed life of politics so far as it was

known to us, and there Willersley was more experienced and far

better informed than I; we discussed possible combinations and

possible developments, and the chances of some great constructive

movement coming from the heart-searchings the Boer war had

occasioned. We would sink to gossip-even at the Suetonius level.

Willersley would decline towards illuminating anecdotes that I

capped more or less loosely from my private reading. We were

particularly wise, I remember, upon the management of newspapers,

because about that we knew nothing whatever. We perceived that

great things were to be done through newspapers. We talked of

swaying opinion and moving great classes to massive action.

Men are egotistical even in devotion. All our splendid projects

were thickset with the first personal pronoun. We both could write,

and all that we said in general terms was reflected in the

particular in our minds; it was ourselves we saw, and no others,

writing and speaking that moving word. We had already produced

manuscript and passed the initiations of proof reading; I had been a

frequent speaker in the Union, and Willersley was an active man on

the School Board. Our feet were already on the lower rungs that led

up and up. He was six and twenty, and I twenty-two. We intimated

our individual careers in terms of bold expectation. I had

prophetic glimpses of walls and hoardings clamorous with "Vote for

Remington," and Willersley no doubtsawhimself chairman of this

committee and that, saying a few slightly ironical words after the

declaration of the poll, and then sitting friendly beside me on the

government benches. There was nothing impossible in such dreams.

Why not the Board of Education for him? My preference at that time

wavered between the Local Government Board-I had great ideas about

town-planning, about revisions of municipal areas and re-organised

internal transit-and the War Office. I swayed strongly towards the

latter as the journey progressed. My educational bias came later.

The swelling ambitions that have tramped over Alpine passes! How

many of them, like mine, have come almost within sight of

realisation before they failed?

There were times when we posed like young gods (of unassuming

exterior), and times when we were full of the absurdest little

solicitudes about our prospects. There were times when one surveyed

the whole world of men as if it was a little thing at one's feet,

and by way of contrast I remember once lying in bed-it must have

been during this holiday, though I cannot for the life of me fix

where-and speculating whether perhaps some day I might not be a

K. C. B., Sir Richard Remington, K. C. B., M. P.

But the big style prevailed…

We could not tell from minute to minute whether we were planning for

a world of solid reality, or telling ourselves fairy tales about

this prospect of life. So much seemed possible, and everything we

could think of so improbable. There were lapses when it seemed to

me I could never be anything but just the entirely unimportant and

undistinguished young man I was for ever and ever. I couldn't even

think of myself as five and thirty.

Once I remember Willersley going over a list of failures, and why

they had failed-but young men in the twenties do not know much

about failures.


Willersley and I professed ourselves Socialists, but by this time I

knew my Rodbertus as well as my Marx, and there was much in our

socialism that would have shocked Chris Robinson as much as anything

in life could have shocked him. Socialism as a simple democratic

cry we had done with for ever. We were socialists because

Individualism for us meant muddle, meant a crowd of separated,

undisciplined little people all obstinately and ignorantly doing

things jarringly, each one in his own way. "Each," I said quoting

words of my father's that rose apt in my memory, "snarling from his

own little bit of property, like a dog tied to a cart's tail."

"Essentially," said Willersley, "essentially we're for conscription,

in peace and war alike. The man who owns property is a public

official and has to behave as such. That's the gist of socialism as

I understand it."

"Or be dismissed from his post," I said, " and replaced by some

better sort of official. A man's none the less an official because

he's irresponsible. What he does with his property affects people

just the same. Private! No one is really private but an outlaw…

Order and devotion were the very essence of our socialism, and a

splendid collective vigour and happiness its end. We projected an

ideal state, an organised state as confident and powerful as modern

science, as balanced and beautiful as a body, as beneficent as

sunshine, the organised state that should end muddle for ever; it

ruled all our ideals and gave form to all our ambitions.

Every man was to be definitely related to that, to have his

predominant duty to that. Such was the England renewed we had in

mind, and how to serve that end, to subdue undisciplined worker and

undisciplined wealth to it, and make the Scientific Commonweal,

King, was the continuing substance of our intercourse.


Every day the wine of the mountains was stronger in our blood, and

the flush of our youth deeper. We would go in the morning sunlight

along some narrow Alpine mule-path shouting large suggestions for

national re-organisation, and weighing considerations as lightly as

though the world was wax in our hands. "Great England," we said in

effect, over and over again, "and we will be among the makers!

England renewed! The country has been warned; it has learnt its

lesson. The disasters and anxieties of the war have sunk in.

England has become serious… Oh! there are big things before

us to do; big enduring things!"

One evening we walked up to the loggia of a little pilgrimage

church, I forget its name, that stands out on a conical hill at the

head of a winding stair above the town of Locarno. Down below the

houses clustered amidst a confusion of heat-bitten greenery. I had

been sitting silently on the parapet, looking across to the purple

mountain masses where Switzerland passes into Italy, and the drift

of our talk seemed suddenly to gather to a head.

I broke into speech, giving form to the thoughts that had been

accumulating. My words have long since passed out of my memory, the

phrases of familiar expression have altered for me, but the

substance remains as clear as ever. I said how we were in our

measure emperors and kings, men undriven, free to do as we pleased

with life; we classed among the happy ones, our bread and common

necessities were given us for nothing, we had abilities,-it wasn't

modesty but cowardice to behave as if we hadn't-and Fortune watched

us to see what we might do with opportunity and the world.

"There are so many things to do, you see," began Willersley, in his

judicial lecturer's voice.

"So many things we may do," I interrupted, "with all these years

before us… We're exceptional men. It's our place, our duty,

to do things."

"Here anyhow," I said, answering the faint amusement of his face;

"I've got no modesty. Everything conspires to set me up. Why

should I run about like all those grubby little beasts down there,

seeking nothing but mean little vanities and indulgencies-and then

take credit for modesty? I KNOW Iam capable. I KNOW I have

imagination. Modesty! I know if I don't attempt the very biggest

things in life Iam a damned shirk. The very biggest! Somebody has

to attempt them. I feel like a loaded gun that is only a little

perplexed because it has to find out just where to aim itself…"

The lake and the frontier villages, a white puff of steam on the

distant railway to Luino, the busy boats and steamers trailing

triangular wakes of foam, the long vista eastward towards

battlemented Bellinzona, the vast mountain distances, now tinged

with sunset light, behind this nearer landscape, and the southward

waters with remote coast towns shining dimly, waters that merged at

last in a luminous golden haze, made a broad panoramic spectacle.

It was as if one surveyed the world,-and it was like the games I

used to set out upon my nursery floor. I was exalted by it; I felt

larger than men. So kings should feel.

That sense of largness came to me then, and it has come to me since,

again and again, a splendid intimation or a splendid vanity. Once,

I remember, when I looked at Genoa from the mountain crest behind

the town and saw that multitudinous place in all its beauty of width

and abundance and clustering human effort, and once as I was

steaming past the brown low hills of Staten Island towards the

towering vigour and clamorous vitality of New York City, that mood

rose to its quintessence. And once it came to me, as I shall tell,

on Dover cliffs. And a hundred times when I have thought of England

as our country might be, with no wretched poor, no wretched rich, a

nation armed and ordered, trained and purposeful amidst its vales

and rivers, that emotion of collective ends and collective purposes

has returned to me. I felt as great as humanity. For a brief

moment I was humanity, looking at the world I had made and had still

to make…


And mingled with these dreams of power and patriotic service there

was another series of a different quality and a different colour,

like the antagonistic colour of a shot silk. The white life and the

red life, contrasted and interchanged, passing swiftly at a turn

from one to another, and refusing ever to mingle peacefully one with

the other. I was asking myself openly and distinctly: what are you

going to do for the world? What are you going to do with yourself?

and with an increasing strength and persistence Nature in spite of

my averted attention was asking me in penetrating undertones: what

are you going to do about this other fundamental matter, the beauty

of girls and women and your desire for them?

I have told of my sisterless youth and the narrow circumstances of

my upbringing. It made all women-kind mysterious to me. If it had

not been for my Staffordshire cousins I do not think I should have

known any girls at all until I was twenty. Of Staffordshire I will

tell a little later. But I can remember still how through all those

ripening years, the thought of women's beauty, their magic presence

in the world beside me and the unknown, untried reactions of their

intercourse, grew upon me and grew, as a strange presence grows in a

room when one is occupied by other things. I busied myself and

pretended to be wholly occupied, and there the woman stood, full

half of life neglected, and it seemed to my averted mind sometimes

that she was there clad and dignified and divine, and sometimes

Aphrodite shining and commanding, and sometimes that Venus who

stoops and allures.

This travel abroad seemed to have released a multitude of things in

my mind; the clear air, the beauty of the sunshine, the very blue of

the glaciers made me feel my body and quickened all those

disregarded dreams. I saw the sheathed beauty of women's forms all

about me, in the cheerful waitresses at the inns, in the pedestrians

one encountered in the tracks, in the chance fellow travellers at

the hotel tables. "Confound it!" said I, and talked all the more

zealously of that greater England that was calling us.

I remember that we passed two Germans, an old man and a tall fair

girl, father and daughter, who were walking down from Saas. She

came swinging and shining towards us, easy and strong. I worshipped

her as she approached.

"Gut Tag!" said Willersley, removing his hat.

"Morgen!" said the old man, saluting.

I stared stockishly at the girl, who passed with an indifferent


That sticks in my mind as a picture remains in a room, it has kept

there bright and fresh as a thing seen yesterday, for twenty


I flirted hesitatingly once or twice with comely serving girls, and

was a little ashamed lest Willersley should detect the keen interest

I took in them, and then as we came over the pass from Santa Maria

Maggiore to Cannobio, my secret preoccupation took me by surprise

and flooded me and broke down my pretences.

The women in that valley are very beautiful-women vary from valley

to valley in the Alps and are plain and squat here and divinities

five miles away-and as we came down we passed a group of five or

six of them resting by the wayside. Their burthens were beside

them, and one like Ceres held a reaping hook in her brown hand. She

watched us approaching and smiled faintly, her eyes at mine.

There was some greeting, and two of them laughed together.

We passed.

"Glorious girls they were," said Willersley, and suddenly an immense

sense of boredom enveloped me. I sawmyself striding on down that

winding road, talking of politics and parties and bills of

parliament and all sorts of dessicated things. That road seemed to

me to wind on for ever down to dust and infinite dreariness. I knew

it for a way of death. Reality was behind us.

Willersley set himself to draw a sociological moral. "I'm not so

sure," he said in a voice of intense discriminations, "after all,

that agricultural work isn't good for women."

"Damn agricultural work!" I said, and broke out into a vigorous

cursing of all I held dear. "Fettered things we are!" I cried. "I

wonder why I stand it!"

"Stand what?"

"Why don't I go back and make love to those girls and let the world

and you and everything go hang? Deep breasts and rounded limbs-and

we poor emasculated devils go tramping by with the blood of youth in


"I'm not quite sure, Remington," said Willersley, looking at me with

a deliberately quaint expression over his glasses, "that picturesque

scenery is altogether good for your morals."

That fever was still in my blood when we came to Locarno.


Along the hot and dusty lower road between the Orrido of Traffiume

and Cannobio Willersley had developed his first blister. And partly

because of that and partly because there was a bag at the station

that gave us the refreshment of clean linen and partly because of

the lazy lower air into which we had come, we decided upon three or

four days' sojourn in the Empress Hotel.

We dined that night at a table-d'hote, and I found myself next to an

Englishwoman who began a conversation that was resumed presently in

the hotel lounge. She was a woman of perhaps thirty-three or

thirty-four, slenderly built, with a warm reddish skin and very

abundant fair golden hair, the wife of a petulant-looking heavy-

faced man of perhaps fifty-three, who smoked a cigar and dozed over

his coffee and presently went to bed. "He always goes to bed like

that," she confided startlingly. "He sleeps after all his meals. I

never knew such a man to sleep."

Then she returned to our talk, whatever it was.

We had begun at the dinner table with itineraries and the usual

topographical talk, and she had envied our pedestrian travel. "My

husband doesn't walk," she said. "His heart is weak and he cannot

manage the hills."

There was something friendly and adventurous in her manner; she

conveyed she liked me, and when presently Willersley drifted off to

write letters our talk sank at once to easy confidential undertones.

I felt enterprising, and indeed it is easy to be daring with people

one has never seen before and may never see again. I said I loved

beautiful scenery and all beautiful things, and the pointing note in

my voice made her laugh. She told me I had bold eyes, and so far as

I can remember I said she made them bold. "Blue they are," she

remarked, smiling archly. "I like blue eyes." Then I think we

compared ages, and she said she was the Woman of Thirty, "George

Moore's Woman of Thirty."

I had not read George Moore at the time, but I pretended to


That, I think, was our limit that evening. She went to bed, smiling

good-night quite prettily down the big staircase, and I and

Willersley went out to smoke in the garden. My head was full of

her, and I found it necessary to talk about her. So I made her a

problem in sociology. "Who the deuce are these people?" I said, and

how do they get a living? They seem to have plenty of money. He

strikes me as being-Willersley, what is a drysalter? I think he's

a retired drysalter."

Willersley theorised while I thought of the woman and that

provocative quality of dash she had displayed. The next day at

lunch she and I met like old friends. A huge mass of private

thinking during the interval had been added to our effect upon one

another. We talked for a time of insignificant things.

"What do you do," she asked rather quickly, "after lunch? Take a


"Sometimes," I said, and hung for a moment eye to eye.

We hadn't a doubt of each other, but my heart was beating like a

steamer propeller when it lifts out of the water.

"Do you get a view from your room?" she asked after a pause.

"It's on the third floor, Number seventeen, near the staircase. My

friend's next door."

She began to talk of books. She was interested in Christian

Science, she said, and spoke of a book. I forget altogether what

that book was called, though I remember to this day with the utmost

exactness the purplish magenta of its cover. She said she would

lend it to me and hesitated.

Wlllersley wanted to go for an expedition across the lake that

afternoon, but I refused. He made some other proposals that I

rejected abruptly. " I shall write in my room," I said.

"Why not write down here?"

"I shall write in my room," I snarled like a thwarted animal, and he

looked at me curiously. "Very well," he said; "then I'll make some

notes and think about that order of ours out under the magnolias."

I hovered about the lounge for a time buying postcards and

feverishly restless, watching the movements of the other people.

Finally I went up to my room and sat down by the windows, staring

out. There came a little tap at the unlocked door and in an

instant, like the go of a taut bowstring, I was up and had it open.

"Here is that book," she said, and we hesitated.

"COME IN!" I whispered, trembling from head to foot.

"You're just a boy," she said in a low tone.

I did not feel a bit like a lover, I felt like a burglar with the

safe-door nearly opened. "Come in," I said almost impatiently, for

anyone might be in the passage, and I gripped her wrist and drew her

towards me.

"What do you mean?" she answered with a faint smile on her lips, and

awkward and yielding.

I shut the door behind her, still holding her with one hand, then

turned upon her-she was laughing nervously-and without a word drew

her to me and kissed her. And I remember that as I kissed her she

made a little noise almost like the purring miaow with which a cat

will greet one and her face, close to mine, became solemn and


She was suddenly a different being from the discontented wife who

had tapped a moment since on my door, a woman transfigured…

That evening I came down to dinner a monster of pride, for behold! I

was a man. I feltmyself the most wonderful and unprecedented of

adventurers. It was hard to believe that any one in the world

before had done as much. My mistress and I met smiling, we carried

things off admirably, and it seemed to me that Willersley was the

dullest old dog in the world. I wanted to give him advice. I

wanted to give him derisive pokes. After dinner and coffee in the

lounge I was too excited and hilarious to go to bed, I made him come

with me down to the cafe under the arches by the pier, and there

drank beer and talked extravagant nonsense about everything under

the sun, in order not to talk about the happenings of the afternoon.

All the time something shouted within me: "Iam a man! Iam a


"What shall we do to-morrow?" said he.

"I'm for loafing," I said. "Let's row in the morning and spend to-

morrow afternoon just as we did to-day."

"They say the church behind the town is worth seeing."

"We'll go up about sunset; that's the best time for it. We can

start about five."

We heard music, and went further along the arcade to discover a

place where girls in operatic Swiss peasant costume were singing and

dancing on a creaking, protesting little stage. I eyed their

generous display of pink neck and arm with the seasoned eye of a man

who has lived in the world. Life was perfectly simple and easy, I

felt, if one took it the right way.

Next day Willersley wanted to go on, but I delayed. Altogether I

kept him back four days. Then abruptly my mood changed, and we

decided to start early the following morning. I remember, though a

little indistinctly, the feeling of my last talk with that woman

whose surname, odd as it may seem, either I never learnt or I have

forgotten. (Her christian name was Milly.) She was tired and

rather low-spirited, and disposed to be sentimental, and for the

first time in our intercourse I found myself liking her for the sake

of her own personality. There was something kindly and generous

appearing behind the veil of naive and uncontrolled sensuality she

had worn. There was a curious quality of motherliness in her

attitude to me that something in my nature answered and approved.

She didn't pretend to keep it up that she had yielded to my

initiative. "I've done you no harm," she said a little doubtfully,

an odd note for a man's victim! And, "we've had a good time. You

have liked me, haven't you?"

She interested me in her lonely dissatisfied life; she was childless

and had no hope of children, and her husband was the only son of a

rich meat salesman, very mean, a mighty smoker-"he reeks of it,"

she said, "always"-and interested in nothing but golf, billiards

(which he played very badly), pigeon shooting, convivial Free

Masonry and Stock Exchange punting. Mostly they drifted about the

Riviera. Her mother had contrived her marriage when she was

eighteen. They were the first samples I ever encountered of the

great multitude of functionless property owners which encumbers

modern civilisation-but at the time I didn't think much of that

aspect of them…

I tell all this business as it happened without comment, because I

have no comment to make. It was all strange to me, strange rather

than wonderful, and, it may be, some dream of beauty died for ever

in those furtive meetings; it happened to me, and I could scarcely

have been more irresponsible in the matter or controlled events less

if I had been suddenly pushed over a cliff into water. I swam, of

course-finding myself in it. Things tested me, and I reacted, as I

have told. The bloom of my innocence, if ever there had been such a

thing, was gone. And here is the remarkable thing about it; at the

time and for some days I was over-weeningly proud; I have never been

so proud before or since; I felt I had been promoted to virility; I

was unable to conceal my exultation from Willersley. It was a mood

of shining shameless ungracious self-approval. As he and I went

along in the cool morning sunshine by the rice fields in the throat

of the Val Maggia a silence fell between us.

"You know?" I said abruptly,-"about that woman?"

Willersley did not answer for a moment. He looked at me over the

corner of his spectacles.

"Things went pretty far?" he asked.

"Oh! all the way!" and I had a twinge of fatuous pride in my

unpremeditated achievement.

"She came to your room?"

I nodded.

"I heard her. I