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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
An Evening’s Table-Talk at the Villa
By William Hurrell Mallock (1849–1923)
 
From ‘The New Republic’

NO proposal could have been happier than Lady Grace’s, of the garden banquet in the pavilion. It seemed to the guests, when they were all assembled there, that the lovely summer’s day was going to close with a scene from fairy-land. The table itself, with its flowers and glowing fruit, and its many-colored Venetian glass, shone and gleamed and sparkled in the evening light, that was turning outside to a cool mellow amber; and above, from the roof, in which the dusk was already darkness, hung china lamps in the shape of green and purple grape clusters, looking like luminous fruit stolen from Aladdin’s garden. The pavilion, open on all sides, was supported on marble pillars that were almost hidden in red and white roses. Behind, the eye rested on great tree trunks and glades of rich foliage; and before, it would pass over turf and flowers, till it reached the sea beyond, on which in another hour the faint silver of the moonlight would begin to tremble.  1
  There was something in the whole scene that was at once calming and exhilarating; and nearly all present seemed to feel in some measure this double effect of it. Dr. Jenkinson had been quite restored by an afternoon’s nap; and his face was now all a-twinkle with a fresh benignity,—that had, however, like an early spring morning, just a faint suspicion of frost in it. Mr. Storks even was less severe than usual; and as he raised his champagne to his lips, he would at times look very nearly conversational.  2
  “My dear Laurence,” exclaimed Mr. Herbert, “it really almost seems as if your visions of the afternoon had come true, and that we actually were in your New Republic already. I can only say that if it is at all like this, it will be an entirely charming place—too charming, perhaps. But now remember this: you have but half got through the business to which you first addressed yourselves,—that of forming a picture of a perfect aristocracy, an aristocracy in the true and genuine sense of the word. You are all to have culture, or taste. Very good: you have talked a great deal about that, and you have seen what you mean by it; and you have recognized, above all, that it includes a discrimination between right and wrong. But now you, with all this taste and culture,—you gifted men and women of the nineteenth century,—what sort of things does your taste teach you to reach out towards? In what actions and aims, in what affections and emotions, would you place your happiness? That is what I want to hear,—the practical manifestations of this culture.”  3
  “Ah,” said Mr. Rose, “I have at this moment a series of essays in the press, which would go far towards answering these questions of yours. They do indeed deal with just this: the effect of the choicer culture of this century on the soul of man; the ways in which it endows him with new perceptions; how it has made him, in fact, a being altogether more highly organized. All I regret is that these choicer souls, these [Greek], are as yet like flowers that have not found a climate in which they can thrive properly. That mental climate will doubtless come with time. What we have been trying to do this afternoon is, I imagine, nothing more than to anticipate it in imagination.”  4
  “Well,” said Mr. Herbert, with a little the tone of an Inquisitor, “that is just what I have been asking. What will this climate be like, and what will these flowers be like in this climate? How would your culture alter and better the present, if its powers were equal to its wishes?”  5
  Mr. Rose’s soft lulling tone harmonized well with the scene and hour, and the whole party seemed willing to listen to him; or at any rate, no one felt any prompting to interrupt him.  6
  “I can show you an example, Mr. Herbert,” he said, “of culture demanding a finer climate, in—if you will excuse my seeming egoism—in myself. For instance (to take the widest matter I can fix upon, the general outward surroundings of our lives),—often, when I walk about London, and see how hideous its whole external aspect is, and what a dissonant population throng it, a chill feeling of despair comes over me. Consider how the human eye delights in form and color, and the ear in tempered and harmonious sounds; and then think for a moment of a London street! Think of the shapeless houses, the forest of ghastly chimney-pots, of the hell of distracting noises made by the carts, the cabs, the carriages; think of the bustling, commonplace, careworn crowds that jostle you; think of an omnibus, think of a four-wheeler—”  7
  “I often ride in an omnibus,” said Lord Allen, with a slight smile, to Miss Merton.  8
  “It is true,” replied Mr. Rose, only overhearing the tone in which these words were said, “that one may ever and again catch some touch of sunlight that will for a moment make the meanest object beautiful with its furtive alchemy. But that is Nature’s work, not man’s; and we must never confound the accidental beauty that Nature will bestow on man’s work, even at its worst, with the rational and designed beauty of man’s work at its best. It is this rational human beauty that I say our modern city life is so completely wanting in; nay, the look of out-of-door London seems literally to stifle the very power of imagining such beauty possible. Indeed, as I wander along our streets, pushing my way among the throngs of faces,—faces puckered with misdirected thought or expressionless with none; barbarous faces set towards Parliament, or church, or scientific lecture-rooms, or government offices, or counting-houses,—I say, as I push my way amongst all the sights and sounds of the streets of our great city, only one thing ever catches my eye that breaks in upon my mood and warns me I need not despair.”  9
  “And what is that?” asked Allen with some curiosity.  10
  “The shops,” Mr. Rose answered, “of certain of our upholsterers and dealers in works of art. Their windows, as I look into them, act like a sudden charm on me; like a splash of cold water dashed on my forehead when I am fainting. For I seem there to have got a glimpse of the real heart of things; and as my eyes rest on the perfect pattern (many of which are really quite delicious; indeed, when I go to ugly houses, I often take a scrap of some artistic crétonne with me in my pocket as a kind of æsthetic smelling-salts),—I say, when I look in at their windows, and my eyes rest on the perfect pattern of some new fabric for a chair or for a window curtain, or on some new design for a wall paper, or on some old china vase, I become at once sharply conscious, Mr. Herbert, that despite the ungenial mental climate of the present age, strange yearnings for and knowledge of true beauty are beginning to show themselves like flowers above the weedy soil; and I remember, amidst the roar and clatter of our streets, and the mad noises of our own times, that there is amongst us a growing number who have deliberately turned their backs on all these things, and have thrown their whole souls and sympathies into the happier art ages of the past. They have gone back,” said Mr. Rose, raising his voice a little, “to Athens and to Italy; to the Italy of Leo and to the Athens of Pericles. To such men the clamor, the interests, the struggles of our own times become as meaningless as they really are. To them the boyhood of Bathyllus is of more moment than the manhood of Napoleon. Borgia is a more familiar name than Bismarck. I know, indeed,—and I really do not blame them,—several distinguished artists who, resolving to make their whole lives consistently perfect, will on principle never admit a newspaper into their houses that is of later date than the times of Addison: and I have good trust that the number of such men is on the increase; men, I mean,” said Mr. Rose, toying tenderly with an exquisite wine-glass of Salviati’s, “who with a steady and set purpose follow art for the sake of art, beauty for the sake of beauty, love for the sake of love, life for the sake of life.”  11
  Mr. Rose’s slow gentle voice, which was apt at certain times to become peculiarly irritating, sounded now like the evening air grown articulate; and had secured him hitherto a tranquil hearing, as if by a kind of spell. This, however, seemed here in sudden danger of snapping.  12
  “What, Mr. Rose!” exclaimed Lady Ambrose, “do you mean to say, then, that the number of people is on the increase who won’t read the newspapers?”  13
  “Why, the men must be absolute idiots!” said Lady Grace, shaking her gray curls, and putting on her spectacles to look at Mr. Rose.  14
  Mr. Rose, however, was imperturbable.  15
  “Of course,” he said, “you may have newspapers if you will; I myself always have them: though in general they are too full of public events to be of much interest. I was merely speaking just now of the spirit of the movement. And of that we must all of us here have some knowledge. We must all of us have friends whose houses more or less embody it. And even if we had not, we could not help seeing signs of it—signs of how true and earnest it is, in the enormous sums that are now given for really good objects.”  16
  “That,” said Lady Grace, with some tartness, “is true enough, thank God!”  17
  “But I can’t see,” said Lady Ambrose, whose name often figured in the Times, in the subscription lists of advertised charities,—“I can’t see, Mr. Rose, any reason in that why we should not read the newspapers.”  18
  “The other day, for instance,” said Mr. Rose reflectively, “I heard of eight Chelsea shepherdesses picked up by a dealer. I really forget where,—in some common cottage, if I recollect aright, covered with dirt, giving no pleasure to any one,—and these were all sold in a single day, and not one of them fetched less than two hundred and twenty pounds.”  19
  “I can’t help thinking they must have come from Cremorne,” said Mrs. Sinclair softly.  20
  “But why,” said Mr. Rose, “should I speak of particular instances? We must all of us have friends whose houses are full of priceless treasures such as these; the whole atmosphere of whose rooms really seems impregnated with art,—seems, in fact, Mr. Herbert, such an atmosphere as we should dream of for our New Republic.”  21
  “To be sure,” exclaimed Lady Ambrose, feeling that she had at last got upon solid ground. “By the way, Mr. Rose,” she said with her most gracious of smiles, “I suppose you have hardly seen Lady Julia Hayman’s new house in Belgrave Square? I’m sure that would delight you. I should like to take you there some day and show it to you.”  22
  “I have seen it,” said Mr. Rose with languid condescension. “It was very pretty, I thought,—some of it really quite nice.”  23
  This, and the slight rudeness of manner it was said with, raised Mr. Rose greatly in Lady Ambrose’s estimation, and she began to think with respect of his late utterances.  24
  “Well, Mr. Herbert,” Mr. Rose went on, “what I want to say is this: We have here in the present age, as it is, fragments of the right thing. We have a number of isolated right interiors; we have a few, very few, right exteriors. But in our ideal State, our entire city—our London, the metropolis of our society—would be as a whole perfect as these fragments. Taste would not there be merely an indoor thing. It would be written visibly for all to look upon, in our streets, our squares, our gardens. Could we only mold England to our wishes, the thing to do, I am persuaded, would be to remove London to some kindlier site, that it might there be altogether born anew. I myself would have it taken to the southwest, and to the sea-coast, where the waves are blue, and where the air is calm and fine, and there—”  25
  “Ah me!” sighed Mr. Luke with a lofty sadness, “cœlum non animam mutant.”  26
  “Pardon me,” said Mr. Rose: “few paradoxes—and most paradoxes are false—are, I think, so false as that. This much at least of sea-like man’s mind has: that scarcely anything so distinctly gives a tone to it as the color of the skies he lives under. And I was going to say,” he went on, looking out dreamily towards the evening waves, “that as the imagination is a quick workman, I can at this moment see our metropolis already transplanted and rebuilt. I seem to see it now as it were from a distance, with its palaces, its museums, its churches, its convents, its gardens, its picture galleries,—a cluster of domed and pillared marble, sparkling on a gray headland. It is Rome, it is Athens, it is Florence, arisen and come to life again, in these modern days. The aloe-tree of beauty again blossoms there, under the azure stainless sky.”  27
  “Do you know, Mr. Rose,” said Lady Ambrose in her most cordial manner, “all this is very beautiful; and certainly no one can think London as it is more ugly than I do. That’s natural in me, isn’t it, being a denizen of poor prosaic South Audley Street as I am? But don’t you think that your notion is—it’s very beautiful, I quite feel that—but don’t you think it is perhaps a little too dream-like—too unreal, if you know what I mean?”  28
  “Such a city,” said Mr. Rose earnestly, “is indeed a dream; but it is a dream which we might make a reality, would circumstances only permit of it. We have many amongst us who know what is beautiful, and who passionately desire it; and would others only be led by these, it is quite conceivable that we might some day have a capital, the entire aspect of which should be the visible embodiment of our finest and most varied culture, our most sensitive taste, and our deepest æsthetic measure of things. This is what this capital of our New Republic must be, this dwelling-place of our ideal society. We shall have houses, galleries, streets, theatres, such as Giulio Romano or Giorgio Vasari or Giulio Campi would have rejoiced to look at; we shall have metal-work worthy of the hand of Ghiberti and the praise of Michaelangelo; we shall rival Domenico Beccafumi with our pavements. As you wander through our thoroughfares and our gardens, your feelings will not be jarred by the presence of human vulgarity, or the desolating noise of traffic; nor in every spare space will your eyes be caught by abominable advertisements of excursion trains to Brighton, or of Horniman’s cheap tea. They will rest instead, here on an exquisite fountain, here on a statue, here on a bust of Zeus or Hermes or Aphrodite, glimmering in a laureled nook; or on a Mater Dolorosa looking down on you from her holy shrine; or on the carved marble gate-posts of our palace gardens, or on their wrought-iron or wrought-bronze gates; or perhaps on such triumphal arches as that which Antonio San Gallo constructed in honor of Charles V., and of which you must all remember the description given by Vasari. Such a city,” said Mr. Rose, “would be the externalization of the human spirit in the highest state of development that we can conceive for it. We should there see expressed openly all our appreciations of all the beauty that we can detect in the world’s whole history. The wind of the spirit that breathed there would blow to us from all the places of the past, and be charged with infinite odors. Every frieze on our walls, every clustered capital of a marble column, would be a garland or nosegay of associations. Indeed, our whole city, as compared with the London that is now, would be itself a nosegay as compared with a faggot; and as related to the life that I would see lived in it, it would be like a shell murmuring with all the world’s memories, and held to the ear of the two twins Life and Love.”  29
  Mr. Rose had got so dreamy by this time that he felt himself the necessity of turning a little more matter-of-fact again.  30
  “You will see what I mean, plainly enough,” he said, “if you will just think of our architecture, and consider how that naturally will be—”  31
  “Yes,” said Mr. Luke, “I should be glad to hear about our architecture.”  32
  “—how that naturally will be,” Mr. Rose went on, “of no style in particular.”  33
  “The deuce it won’t!” exclaimed Mr. Luke.  34
  “No,” continued Mr. Rose unmoved; “no style in particular, but a renaissance of all styles. It will matter nothing to us whether they be pagan or Catholic, classical or mediæval. We shall be quite without prejudice or bigotry. To the eye of true taste, an Aquinas in his cell before a crucifix, or a Narcissus gazing at himself in a still fountain, are—in their own ways, you know—equally beautiful.”  35
  “Well, really,” said Miss Merton, “I can not fancy St. Thomas being a very taking object to people who don’t believe in him either as a saint or a philosopher. I always think that except from a Christian point of view, a saint can be hardly better described than by Newman’s lines, as—
  ‘A bundle of bones, whose breath
Infects the world before his death.’” 1
  36
  “I remember the lines well,” said Mr. Rose calmly, “and the writer you mention puts them in the mouth of a yelping devil. But devils, as far as I know, are not generally—except perhaps Milton’s—conspicuous for taste; indeed, if we may trust Goethe, the very touch of a flower is torture to them.”  37
  “Dante’s biggest devil,” cried Mr. Saunders, to every one’s amazement, “chewed Judas Iscariot like a quid of tobacco, to all eternity. He, at any rate, knew what he liked.”  38
  Mr. Rose started, and visited Mr. Saunders with a rapid frown. He then proceeded, turning again to Miss Merton as if nothing had happened.  39
  “Let me rather,” he said, “read a nice sonnet to you, which I had sent to me this morning, and which was in my mind just now. These lines” (Mr. Rose here produced a paper from his pocket) “were written by a boy of eighteen,—a youth of extraordinary promise, I think,—whose education I may myself claim to have had some share in directing. Listen,” he said, laying the verses before him on a clean plate.
  “Three visions in the watches of one night
  Made sweet my sleep—almost too sweet to tell.
  One was Narcissus by a woodside well,
And on the moss his limbs and feet were white;
And one, Queen Venus, blown for my delight
  Across the blue sea in a rosy shell;
  And one, a lean Aquinas in his cell,
Kneeling, his pen in hand, with aching sight
Strained towards a carven Christ: and of these three
  I knew not which was fairest. First I turned
Towards that soft boy, who laughed and fled from me;
Towards Venus then, and she smiled once, and she
  Fled also. Then with teeming heart I yearned,
O Angel of the Schools, towards Christ with thee!”
  40
  “Yes,” murmured Mr. Rose to himself, folding up the paper, “they are dear lines. Now there,” he said, “we have a true and tender expression of the really catholic spirit of modern æstheticism, which holds nothing common or unclean. It is in this spirit, I say, that the architects of our State will set to work. And thus for our houses, for our picture galleries, for our churches,—I trust we shall have many churches,—they will select and combine—”  41
  “Do you seriously mean,” broke in Allen a little impatiently, “that it is a thing to wish for and to look forward to, that we should abandon all attempts at original architecture, and content ourselves with simply sponging on the past?”  42
  “I do,” replied Mr. Rose suavely; “and for this reason, if for no other,—that the world can now successfully do nothing else. Nor indeed is it to be expected, or even wished, that it should.”  43
  “You say we have no good architecture now!” exclaimed Lady Ambrose; “but, Mr. Rose, have you forgotten our modern churches? Don’t you think them beautiful? Perhaps you never go to All Saints’?”  44
  “I every now and then,” said Mr. Rose, “when I am in the weary mood for it, attend the services of our English Ritualists, and I admire their churches very much indeed. In some places the whole thing is really managed with surprising skill. The dim religious twilight, fragrant with the smoke of incense; the tangled roofs that the music seems to cling to; the tapers, the high altar, and the strange intonation of the priests,—all produce a curious old-world effect, and seem to unite one with things that have been long dead. Indeed, it all seems to me far more a part of the past than the services of the Catholics.”  45
  Lady Ambrose did not express her approbation of the last part of this sentiment, out of regard for Miss Merton; but she gave a smile and a nod of pleased intelligence to Mr. Rose.  46
  “Yes,” Mr. Rose went on, “there is a regretful insincerity about it all, that is very nice, and that at once appeals to me, ‘Gleich einer alten halbverklungnen Sage.’ 2 The priests are only half in earnest; the congregations even—”  47
  “Then I am quite sure,” interrupted Lady Ambrose with vigor, “that you can never have heard Mr. Cope preach.”  48
  “I don’t know,” said Mr. Rose languidly. “I never inquired, nor have I ever heard any one so much as mention, the names of any of them. Now all that, Lady Ambrose, were life really in the state it should be, you would be able to keep.”  49
  “Do you seriously, and in sober earnest, mean,” Allen again broke in, “that you think it a good thing that all our art and architecture should be borrowed and insincere, and that our very religion should be nothing but a dilettante memory?”  50
  “The opinion,” said Mr. Rose,—“which by the way you slightly misrepresent,—is not mine only, but that of all those of our own day who are really devoting themselves to art for its own sake. I will try to explain the reason of this. In the world’s life, just as in the life of a man, there are certain periods of eager and all-absorbing action, and these are followed by periods of memory and reflection. We then look back upon our past and become for the first time conscious of what we are, and of what we have done. We then see the dignity of toil, and the grand results of it; the beauty and the strength of faith, and the fervent power of patriotism: which whilst we labored, and believed, and loved, we were quite blind to. Upon such a reflective period has the world now entered. It has acted and believed already: its task now is to learn to value action and belief, to feel and to be thrilled at the beauty of them. And the chief means by which it can learn this is art; the art of a renaissance. For by the power of such art, all that was beautiful, strong, heroic, or tender in the past,—all the actions, passions, faiths, aspirations of the world, that lie so many fathom deep in the years,—float upward to the tranquil surface of the present, and make our lives like what seems to me one of the loveliest things in nature, the iridescent film on the face of a stagnant water. Yes; the past is not dead unless we choose that it shall be so. Christianity itself is not dead. There is ‘nothing of it that doth fade,’ but turns ‘into something rich and strange,’ for us to give a new tone to our lives with. And believe me,” Mr. Rose went on, gathering earnestness, “that the happiness possible in such conscious periods is the only true happiness. Indeed, the active periods of the world were not really happy at all. We only fancy them to have been so by a pathetic fallacy. Is the hero happy during his heroism? No, but after it, when he sees what his heroism was, and reads the glory of it in the eyes of youth or maiden.”  51
  “All this is very poor stuff—very poor stuff,” murmured Dr. Jenkinson, whose face had become gradually the very picture of crossness.  52
  “Do you mean, Mr. Rose,” said Miss Merton, with a half humorous, half incredulous smile, “that we never value religion till we have come to think it nonsense?”  53
  “Not nonsense—no,” exclaimed Mr. Rose in gentle horror; “I only mean that it never lights our lives so beautifully as when it is leaving them like the evening sun. It is in such periods of the world’s life that art springs into being in its greatest splendor. Your Raphael, Miss Merton, who painted you your ‘dear Madonnas,’ was a luminous cloud in the sunset sky of the Renaissance,—a cloud that took its fire from a faith that was sunk or sinking.”  54
  “I’m afraid that the faith is not quite sunk yet,” said Miss Merton, with a slight sudden flush in her cheeks, and with just the faintest touch of suppressed anger.  55
  Mr. Saunders, Mr. Stockton, Mr. Storks, and Mr. Luke all raised their eyebrows.  56
  “No,” said Mr. Rose, “such cyclic sunsets are happily apt to linger.”  57
  “Mr. Rose,” exclaimed Lady Ambrose, with her most gracious of smiles, “of course every one who has ears must know that all this is very beautiful; but I am positively so stupid that I haven’t been quite able to follow it all.”  58
  “I will try to make my meaning clearer,” he said, in a brisker tone. “I often figure to myself an unconscious period and a conscious one, as two women: one an untamed creature with embrowned limbs, native to the air and the sea; the other marble-white and swan-soft, couched delicately on cushions before a mirror, and watching her own supple reflection gleaming in the depths of it. On the one is the sunshine and the sea spray. The wind of heaven and her unbound hair are playmates. The light of the sky is in her eyes; on her lips is a free laughter. We look at her, and we know that she is happy. We know it, mark me; but she knows it not. Turn, however, to the other, and all is changed. Outwardly, there is no gladness there. Her dark, gleaming eyes open depth within depth upon us, like the circles of a new Inferno. There is a clear, shadowy pallor on her cheek. Only her lips are scarlet. There is a sadness, a languor,—even in the grave tendrils of her heavy hair, and in each changing curve of her bosom as she breathes or sighs.”  59
  “What a very odd man Mr. Rose is!” said Lady Ambrose in a loud whisper. “He always seems to talk of everybody as if they had no clothes on. And does he mean by this that we ought to be always in the dumps?”  60
  “Yes,” Mr. Rose was meanwhile proceeding, his voice again growing visionary, “there is no eagerness, no action there: and yet all eagerness, all action is known to her as the writing on an open scroll; only, as she reads, even in the reading of it, action turns into emotion and eagerness into a sighing memory. Yet such a woman really may stand symbolically for us as the patroness and the lady of all gladness, who makes us glad in the only way now left us. And not only in the only way, but in the best way—the way of ways. Her secret is self-consciousness. She knows that she is fair; she knows, too, that she is sad: but she sees that sadness is lovely, and so sadness turns to joy. Such a woman may be taken as a symbol, not of our architecture only, but of all the æsthetic surroundings with which we shall shelter and express our life. Such a woman do I see whenever I enter a ritualistic church—”  61
  “I know,” said Mrs. Sinclair, “that very peculiar people do go to such places; but, Mr. Rose,” she said with a look of appealing inquiry, “I thought they were generally rather overdressed than otherwise?”  62
  “The imagination,” said Mr. Rose, opening his eyes in grave wonder at Mrs. Sinclair, “may give her what garb it chooses. Our whole city, then—the city of our New Republic—will be in keeping with this spirit. It will be the architectural and decorative embodiment of the most educated longings of our own times after order and loveliness and delight, whether of the senses or the imagination. It will be, as it were, a resurrection of the past, in response to the longing and the passionate regret of the present. It will be such a resurrection as took place in Italy during its greatest epoch, only with this difference—”  63
  “You seem to have forgotten trade and business altogether,” said Dr. Jenkinson. “I think, however rich you intend to be, you will find that they are necessary.”  64
  “Yes, Mr. Rose, you’re not going to deprive us of all our shops, I hope?” said Lady Ambrose.  65
  “Because, you know,” said Mrs. Sinclair with a soft maliciousness, “we can’t go without dresses altogether, Mr. Rose. And if I were there,” she continued plaintively, “I should want a bookseller to publish the scraps of verse—poetry, as I am pleased to call it—that I am always writing.”  66
  “Pooh!” said Mr. Rose, a little annoyed, “we shall have all that somewhere, of course; but it will be out of the way, in a sort of Piræus, where the necessary [Greek]—”  67
  “A sort of what?” said Lady Ambrose.  68
  “Mr. Rose merely means,” said Donald Gordon, “that there must be good folding-doors between the offices and the house of life, and that the servants are not to be seen walking about in the pleasure-grounds.”  69
  “Yes,” said Mr. Rose, “exactly so.”  70
  “Well, then,” said Lady Ambrose, “I quite agree with you, Mr. Rose; and if wishing were only having, I’ve not the least doubt that we should all of us be going back to Mr. Rose’s city to-morrow, instead of to London, with its carts, and cabs, and smoke, and all its thousand-and-one drawbacks. I’m sure,” she said, turning to Miss Merton, “you would, my dear, with all your taste.”  71
  “It certainly,” said Miss Merton smiling, “all sounds very beautiful. All that I am afraid of is, that we should not be quite worthy of it.”  72
  “Nay,” said Mr. Rose, “but the very point is that we shall be worthy of it, and that it will be worthy of us. I said, if you recollect, just now, that the world’s ideal of the future must resemble in many ways its memory of the Italian Renaissance. But don’t let that mislead you. It may resemble that, but it will be something far in advance of it. During the last three hundred years—in fact, during the last sixty or seventy years—the soul of man has developed strangely in its sentiments and its powers of feeling; in its powers, in fact, of enjoying life. As I said, I have a work in the press devoted entirely to a description of this growth. I have some of the proof-sheets with me; and if you will let me, I should like to read you one or two passages.”  73
  “I don’t think much can be made out of that,” said Dr. Jenkinson, with a vindictive sweetness. “Human sentiment dresses itself in different fashions, as human ladies do; but I think beneath the surface it is much the same. I mean,” he added, suddenly recollecting that he might thus seem to be rooting up the wheat of his own opinions along with the tares of Mr. Rose’s, “I mean that I don’t think in seventy years, or even in three hundred, you will be able to show that human nature has very much changed. I don’t think so.”  74
  Unfortunately, however, the Doctor found that instead of putting down Mr. Rose by this, he had only raised up Mr. Luke.  75
  “Ah, Jenkinson, I think you are wrong there,” said Mr. Luke. “As long as we recognize that this growth is at present confined to a very small minority, the fact of such growth is the most important, the most significant of all facts. Indeed, our friend Mr. Rose is quite right thus far, in the stress he lays on our appreciation of the past: that we have certainly in these modern times acquired a new sense, by which alone the past can be appreciated truly,—the sense which, if I may invent a phrase for it, I should call that of Historical Perspective; so that now really for the first time the landscape of history is beginning to have some intelligible charm for us. And this, you know, is not all. Our whole views of things (you, Jenkinson, must know this as well as I do)—the Zeitgeist breathes upon them, and they do not die; but they are changed, they are enlightened.”  76
  The Doctor was too much annoyed to make any audible answer to this; but he murmured with some emphasis to himself, “That’s not what Mr. Rose was saying; that’s not what I was contradicting.”  77
  “You take, Luke, a rather more rose-colored view of things than you did last night,” said Mr. Storks.  78
  “No,” said Mr. Luke with a sigh, “far from it. I am not denying (pray, Jenkinson, remember this) that the majority of us are at present either Barbarians or Philistines; and the ugliness of these is more glaring now than at any former time. But that any of us are able to see them thus distinctly in their true colors itself shows that there must be a deal of light somewhere. Even to make darkness visible some light is needed. We should always recollect that. We are only discontented with ourselves when we are struggling to be better than ourselves.”  79
  “And in many ways,” said Laurence, “I think the struggle has been successful. Take for instance the pleasure we get now from the aspects of external nature, and the way in which these seem to mix themselves with our lives. This certainly is something distinctly modern. And nearly all our other feelings, it seems to me, have changed just like this one, and have become more sensitive and more highly organized. If we may judge by its expression in literature, love has, certainly; and that, I suppose, is the most important and comprehensive feeling in life.”  80
  “Does Mr. Laurence only suppose that?” sighed Mrs. Sinclair, casting down her eyes.  81
  “Well,” said Dr. Jenkinson, “our feelings about these two things—about love and external nature—perhaps have changed somewhat. Yes, I think they have. I think you might make an interesting magazine article out of that—but hardly more.”  82
  “I rather,” said Laurence apologetically, “agree with Mr. Luke and Mr. Rose, that all our feelings have developed just as these two have. And I think this is partly owing to the fusion in our minds of our sacred and secular ideas; which indeed you were speaking of this morning in your sermon. Thus, to find some rational purpose in life was once merely enjoined as a supernatural duty. In our times it has taken our common nature upon it, and become a natural longing—though I fear,” he added softly, “a fruitless one.”  83
  “Yes,” suddenly exclaimed Lady Grace, who had been listening intently to her nephew’s words; “and if you are speaking of modern progress, Otho, you should not leave out the diffusion of those grand ideas of justice and right and freedom and humanity which are at work in the great heart of the nation. We are growing cultivated in Mr. Luke’s noble sense of the word; and our whole hearts revolt against the way in which women have hitherto been treated, and against the cruelties which dogma asserts the good God can practice, and the cruelties on the poor animals which wicked men do practice. And war too,” Lady Grace went on, a glow mounting into her soft faded cheek: “think how fast we are outgrowing that! England at any rate will never watch the outbreak of another war, with all its inevitable cruelties, without giving at least one sob that shall make all Europe pause and listen. Indeed, we must not forget how the entire substance of religion is ceasing to be a mass of dogmas, and is becoming embodied instead in practice and in action.”  84
  “Quite true, Lady Grace,” said Mr. Luke. Lady Grace was just about to have given a sign for rising; but Mr. Luke’s assent detained her. “As to war,” he went on, “there may of course be different opinions,—questions of policy may arise:” (“As if any policy,” murmured Lady Grace, “could justify us in such a thing!”) “but religion—yes, that, as I have been trying to teach the world, is the great and important point on which culture is beginning to cast its light; and with just the effect which you describe. It is true that culture is at present but a little leaven hid in a barrel of meal: but still it is doing its work slowly; and in the matter of religion,—indeed, in all matters, for religion rightly understood embraces all,—” (“I do like to hear Mr. Luke talk sometimes,” murmured Lady Grace,) “its effect is just this: to show us that religion in any civilized, any reasonable, any sweet sense, can never be found except embodied in action; that it is in fact nothing but right action, pointed—winged, as it were—by right emotion, by a glow, an aspiration, an aspiration toward God—” (Lady Grace sighed with feeling) “not, of course,” Mr. Luke went on confidentially, “that petulant Pedant of the theologians, that irritable angry Father with the very uncertain temper, but toward—”  85
  “An infinite, inscrutable, loving Being,” began Lady Grace, with a slight moisture in her eyes.  86
  “Quite so,” said Mr. Luke, not waiting to listen: “towards that great Law, that great verifiable tendency of things, that great stream whose flowing such of us as are able are now so anxiously trying to accelerate. There is no vain speculation about creation and first causes and consciousness here; which are matters we can never verify, and which matter nothing to us.”  87
  “But,” stammered Lady Grace aghast, “Mr. Luke, do you mean to say that? But it surely must matter something whether God can hear our prayers, and will help us, and whether we owe him any duty, and whether he is conscious of what we do, and will judge us: it must matter.”  88
  Mr. Luke leaned forward towards Lady Grace and spoke to her in a confidential whisper.  89
  “Not two straws—not that,” he said, with a smile, and a very slight fillip of his finger and thumb.  90
  Lady Grace was thunderstruck.  91
  “But,” again she stammered softly and eagerly, “unless you say there is no personal—”  92
  Mr. Luke hated the word personal: it was so much mixed up in his mind with theology, that he even winced if he had to speak of personal talk.  93
  “My dear Lady Grace,” he said in a tone of surprised remonstrance, “you are talking like a bishop.”  94
  “Well, certainly,” said Lady Grace, rising, and struggling she hardly knew how into a smile, “nolo episcopari. You see I do know a little Latin, Mr. Luke.”  95
  “Yes,” said Mr. Luke with a bow, as he pushed back a chair for her, “and a bit that has more wisdom in it than all other ecclesiastical Latin put together.”  96
  “We’re going to leave you gentlemen to smoke your cigarettes,” said Lady Grace. “We think of going down on the beach for a little, and looking at the sea, which is getting silvery; and by-and-by, I daresay you will not expel us if we come back for a little tea and coffee.”  97
  “Damn it!”  98
  Scarcely had the last trailing skirt swept glimmering out of the pavilion into the mellow slowly brightening moonlight, than the gentlemen were astounded by this sudden and terrible exclamation. It was soon found to have issued from Mr. Saunders, who had hardly spoken more than a few sentences during the whole of dinner.  99
  “What can be the matter?” was inquired by several voices.  100
  “My fool of a servant,” said Mr. Saunders sullenly, “has, I find, in packing, wrapped up a small sponge of mine in my disproof of God’s existence.”  101
  “H’f,” shuddered Mr. Rose, shrinking from Mr. Saunders’s somewhat piercing tones, and resting his forehead on his hand; “my head aches sadly. I think I will go down to the sea, and join the ladies.”  102
  “I,” said Mr. Saunders, “if you will excuse me, must go and see in what state the document is, as I left it drying, hung on the handle of my jug.”  103
  No sooner had Mr. Saunders and Mr. Rose departed than Dr. Jenkinson began to recover his equanimity somewhat. Seeing this, Mr. Storks, who had himself during dinner been first soothed and then ruffled into silence, found suddenly the strings of his tongue loosed.  104
  “Now, those are the sort of young fellows,” he said, looking after the retreating form of Mr. Saunders, “that really do a good deal to bring all solid knowledge into contempt in the minds of the half-educated. There’s a certain hall in London, not far from the top of Regent Street, where I’m told he gives Sunday lectures.”  105
  “Yes,” said Dr. Jenkinson, sipping his claret, “it’s all very bad taste—very bad taste.”  106
  “And the worst of it is,” said Mr. Storks, “that these young men really get hold of a fact or two, and then push them on to their own coarse and insane conclusions,—which have, I admit, to the vulgar eye, the look of being obvious.”  107
  “Yes,” said Dr. Jenkinson with a seraphic sweetness, “we should always suspect everything that seems very obvious. Glaring inconsistencies and glaring consistencies are both sure to vanish if you look closely into them.”  108
  “Now, all that about God, for instance,” Mr. Storks went on, “is utterly uncalled for; and as young Saunders puts it, is utterly misleading.”  109
  “Yes,” said Dr. Jenkinson, “it all depends upon the way you say it.”  110
  “I hardly think,” said Mr. Stockton with a sublime weariness, “that we need waste much thought upon his way. It is a very common one,—that of the puppy that barks at the heels of the master whose meat it steals.”  111
  “May I,” said Mr. Herbert gently, after a moment’s pause, “ask this—for I am a little puzzled here: Do I understand that Mr. Saunders’s arguments may be held, on the face of the thing, to disprove the existence of God?”  112
  Mr. Storks and Mr. Stockton both stared gravely on Mr. Herbert, and said nothing. Dr. Jenkinson stared at him too; but the Doctor’s eye lit up into a little sharp twinkle of benign content and amusement, and he said:—  113
  “No, Mr. Herbert, I don’t think Mr. Saunders can disprove that, nor any one else either. For the world has at present no adequate definition of God; and I think we should be able to define a thing before we can satisfactorily disprove it. I think so. I have no doubt Mr. Saunders can disprove the existence of God as he would define him. All atheists can do that.”  114
  “Ah,” murmured Mr. Stockton, “nobly said!”  115
  “But that’s not the way,” the Doctor went on, “to set to work,—this kind of rude denial. We must be loyal to nature. We must do nothing per saltum. We must be patient. We mustn’t leap at Utopias, either religious or irreligious. Let us be content with the knowledge that all dogmas will expand in proportion as we feel they need expansion; for all mere forms are transitory, and even the personality of—”  116
  Fatal word! It was like a match to a cannon.  117
  “Ah, Jenkinson,” exclaimed Mr. Luke, and Dr. Jenkinson stopped instantly, “we see what you mean; and capital sense it is too. But you do yourself as much as any one else a great injustice, in not seeing that the age is composed of two parts, and that the cultured minority is infinitely in advance of the Philistine majority—which alone is, properly speaking, the present; the minority being really the soul of the future waiting for its body, which at present can exist only as a Utopia. It is the wants of this soul that we have been talking over this afternoon. When the ladies come back to us, there are several things that I should like to say; and then you will see what we mean, Jenkinson, and that even poor Rose has really some right on his side.”  118
  At the mention of Mr. Rose’s name the Doctor’s face again curdled into frost.  119
  “I don’t think so.” That was all he said.  120
 
Note 1. Vide J. H. Newman’s ‘Dream of Gerontius.’ [back]
Note 2. “Like some old half-forgotten legend.” [back]
 
 
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