Chapter XIII

The Year 1905

In January 1905 there appeared in the Quarterly Review an appreciative article on my edition of the Correspondence of William Cowper,360 and Payne, on 23 January,361 wrote to congratulate me. He urged me to study North’s Plutarch, and afterwards lent me his copy of the edition issued in 1603. “Langhorne’s,” he added, “is poor flat stuff.” Among those to whom I applied for information respecting Burton was Swinburne, from whom I heard on 31 January, 1905, and whose personal acquaintance I subsequently made.

In a letter of 8 February362 Payne gives his opinion of portions of my Life of Sir Richard Burton, the MS. of which I had submitted to him. He says: “I am much pleased with the general style and manner of them. They are soberly and pleasantly written, interesting without strain, and will, I think, be acceptable to the (literary) just and unjust. Your condemnation of Burton’s and Lady Burton’s looseness of statement (to use a mild phrase) is sure to raise a storm.”363

On 21 February Payne returned some later chapters of the MS. and observed364: “I quite approve of your treatment of The Scented Garden and do not see how it can reasonably give offence. In these matters est modus in rebus.365 Anything can be said by him who knows the value of words. The great secret is to avoid the use of ‘unpopular words,’ such, for instance, as ‘bawdy,’ a word which I detest, and which always seems to leave an offensive smell behind it.”

In the meantime I had been endeavouring with the assistance of Mr. John Casey and other admirers of Payne’s poetry and prose works to found a John Payne Society. When I communicated my project to Payne he wrote, 10 March, 1905,366: “As to the J. P. Society idea, it is, as you suggest, somewhat of a shock to me, to whom loneliness and retirement have become a second nature, but believe me, nevertheless, I appreciate and admire, as fully as can be, your energetic sympathy and kindness, and cannot allow my own nervous horror of publicity to stand in your way. Indeed, I think the idea is a thoroughly good one so long as I am not personally called upon to take any part in carrying it out, and shall be pleased to discuss it with you when I see you next month.” He mentioned that he had been busy with a volume of French verse translations, of which “perhaps a fifth is done.” This is the work which was published the following year with the title Flowers of France, Romantic Period.

On 31 March, 1905, he wrote to me concerning Burton’s use of the word “egromancy.” He says: “As I imagined, the word is a corruption of a corruption, and I should not myself think of using it. Negromancy is itself an ignorant corruption (by some one who knew no Greek) of the correct necromancy. . . . Altogether the corrupted word is not fit for decent (etymological) society.”

In a letter of 6 April, 1905,367 he says, after referring to the special scheme upon which I was just then embarking in his interests: “I am quite willing to make any reasonable modifications in the terms [offered to a publisher] if you should think them too exacting. Of course, you know, were my personal feelings to be the only criterion, they would lead me to let the whole thing slide, in the assurance that no measure of justice will fall to my share till death has removed the crucial obstacle​—​my personal existence. But I will not raise any obstacle to your doing as you so kindly wish in my interest.” Later, in conversation, he said, “You know you made me do it” [that is, induced him to consent to the scheme] “but I know it is my duty.”

On 7 April I replied to Payne as follows (and this and two others are the only letters of mine to him of which I kept copies):

“I received your welcome letter and shall now be able to go forward armed cap-à-pie. But with the latter half of it I entirely disagree. Complete justice will be done to you in a little while. Edward FitzGerald did splendid work, but to this day nobody would have known anything about it but for the clamour of a few men who were in deadly earnest. The public has no animus against you. It is simply incapable of seeing merit anywhere until the thing is in season and out of season drummed into it. Now this is the task that I have set myself respecting you. All I say is wait and see what devoted love and untiring energy can do for you. When we meet I want to hear your opinion about Stendhal​—​if you are interested in him​—​and also about Ariosto, Tasso and other French and Italian classics. You are not old. I look upon myself as a boy yet; and if you and I were to be photographed together people would say that you look the younger of the two. In May I shall be forty-six.”

On 2 May the John Payne Society was founded, its first president being Sir Edward Charles Ross, who was succeeded by the present president, Sir John Cockburn.

On 11 May Payne presented me with a copy of his Collected Poems and made suggestions respecting a volume of selections​—​to be entitled Sir Winfrith and other Poems, which the Society proposed to issue.

On one occasion when I called on Payne I. pointed out to him that his poems suffered owing to the scarcity of footnotes.

He said, “I do not write for the ‘uncooked.’”368

T. W. But it is to this same “uncooked” that I am endeavouring to introduce you. I want to lift them above themselves, just as you have lifted me above myself. You won’t mind my putting footnotes​—​giving, for example, the meaning of such unusual words as “wandesire,”369 “lurdane,”370 etc.

P. Do as you like, by all means.

He sometimes referred to the public as “the unthinking multitude,”371 “the bisson multitude”372 (a Shakespearean expression, e.g. Cor. ii. 1), “the rude vulgar,” “the canaille,” those who are incapable of conceiving an abstract idea, the rohen Leute373 of Schopenhauer. When particularly angry with the public he bludgeoned them with Horatian term servum pecus.374

I once said to him “Perhaps it’s as well you did not use footnotes. The probability is that if you had to explain the meaning of ‘zibiline’ or ‘wandesire’ you would have felt yourself justified in using the opportunity to give a passing cut at Mr. Gladstone or Mr. *****.”

“Which of your poems,” I then asked, “are most likely to please the public?”

“I don’t know,” he replied, “choose what you like.”

In his Autobiography he observes: “Too much by far has been made by the critics of my use of archaic words. The question, however, is that of the mot propre, and the test is, Can a better word be substituted?” He contends that in his poems the word used “whether old or new is in general the only one apt to give the exact shade of meaning under the existing circumstances of rhyme and rhythm.”375 He concludes with the observation: “But the whole thing is only the eternal, wearisome iteration of the old grievance of the routine-loving dullard against the man of imagination and invention.”

He sometimes spoke of the “Ten Intellects,”376 and he always put Imagination and Intuition first.

In a letter to Payne written early in May, I had observed in respect to my endeavours to increase the membership of the Society, that few persons seemed to have heard of him; and I expressed my amazement. He observed, 11 May, 1905377:

“I am not surprised at your finding me unknown to most people. Most of my acquaintance and even friends are unaware of my writings and (if they do know them) they manage to dissemble the fact with marvellous skill​—​and, as you may imagine, I am the last person in the world to take any steps to enlighten them. ‘I’d rather be a dog and bay the moon,’ than endeavour in any way to buy the ‘voices, the most sweet voices’ of the profane. ‘You banish me!​—​I banish you,’ say I with Coriolanus to the servum pecus. But I need not say all that does not affect, nay, it strengthens my love and gratitude to such elect few as yourself whatever the issue.”

A little later Sir Winfrith was in the hands of the members. The Society gave Payne great pleasure, though his shyness prevented him from being present at any of the meetings, and he was often cheered by the enthusiastic messages which were from time to time sent to him by its members.

On 27 May378 he wrote in order to answer many questions which I asked him in respect to passages in Burton’s letters.

In a postscript he refers to some of the difficulties which had presented themselves in my endeavours to popularize his poetry. He said: “Why worry yourself about it? You know my ideas upon the subject. I am quite content to leave it till after my death, when, as usual, the world will discover the dead dog to have been a lion. Dicunt. Quid dicunt? Dicunto.

After the word “lion” is an asterisk, and on the other way of the paper he wrote, an asterisk preceding: “At least I think so. I may be mistaken. Anyhow I don’t care now. It’s too late. Let them have it as they will.”

“No,” I said to him afterwards, “they shan’t have it as they will.”

It was now decided by the John Payne Society to issue another volume, assuming Payne’s consent could be obtained​—​a volume of selections from the shorter tales of the Nights. He readily gave the required permission and made the selection himself​—​sending the list to me in a letter of 17 July, 1905.379

My next step was to write to Watts-Dunton in order to ask him to take the chair at the forthcoming first meeting of the Society. I regarded him as the first literary critic of the day, and for his essays, especially that on Congreve, I had and still have a profound admiration.

He replied on 1 June: “I am delighted to learn that there is a John Payne Society, for I have often railed in a very savage way against a ‘literary world’ like ours at the present time which seems scarcely conscious of the existence of one of our finest poets.”

After expressing his regret that he was unable to take the chair he was good enough to continue: “Let me say in conclusion that it gives me great pleasure to be brought into communication with you who have written so admirably upon subjects that interest me deeply. Should you when next in London be able to call upon me you will give me great pleasure.”380

On 28 June I duly presented myself at the Pines, stayed to tea, and spent the evening with him. I need not describe the Rossetti and gypsy atmosphere of Watts-Dunton’s room, the Chinese cabinets bright with lacquer work, the portraits of Madox Brown and others of the Fitzroy Square circle, the pictures illustrative of Watts-Dunton’s novel Aylwyn, the bewilderingly carved chairs or the garden with a statue in the distance​—​for others have minutely described them before me. The conversation presently drifted to the subject of Payne.

Watts-Dunton said: “Young men come here and talk about this poet and that poet, and I say to them, ‘Why the devil don’t you talk about Payne!’

“‘Payne! Payne!’ they say.

“‘Yes, Payne, he’s a jolly sight better poet than you are.’”

Sir Richard Burton’s name being introduced Watts-Dunton said: “Burton’s book on the Gypsies is full of errors, and that’s a subject I do know something about. Burton’s conversation was so Rabelaisian that servants did not like to wait upon him. Lady Burton was vulgar. She was always talking in a patronizing way about the ‘middle classes.’ She lowered Burton.”

“But,” I said, “Swinburne has praised Burton, even extravagantly.”

“Swinburne is a good fellow,” replied Watts-Dunton, “but he is no judge of character.”

Watts-Dunton agreed with me that Burton, distinguished as he was as a traveller and linguist, has no standing whatever as a writer.

The rest of the conversation I omit, as it had no connection with Payne or Payne’s circle. Watts-Dunton invited me to go to see him whenever I was in town, consequently from time to time I gave myself the pleasure of calling and spending an hour or two with him, and many letters passed between us.

On 30 June, when I was again at 10 Oxford Road​—​Parsley, as usual, admitting me​—​I told Payne how Watts-Dunton had eulogized him. He said: “If Watts [he never would, out of detestation of double-barrelled names, say Watts-Dunton] is so ardent an admirer of my poetry why does he not say so in the literary periodicals?”

The subject of double-barrelled names having come up, I said: “What does it matter? If I had one I should not alter it, but I do not covet one.” Then seeing that this was merely holding up a red rag to a bull, I deftly changed the conversation by asking a question about Gautier, which I knew was a very safe venture.

“Gautier,” he said, “was the greatest man of letters that France has produced. “Goethe wrote a great deal of poor stuff. Everything that Gautier wrote is good. His Histoire de l’Art Dramatique, a very great work, is full of purple passages.381 Captain Fracasse and La Morte Amoureuse are also very great works. In short, only tap Gautier and the pure wine of art and philosophy will come from him. How rich is his vocabulary! The French have never given him his due.”

I said that Gibbon’s idea of history​—​a series of tableaux​—​seemed to me the most acceptable one, although I was also an ardent admirer of Carlyle, who gives us smaller pictures​—​vignettes.”

“They are flash-light pictures,” said Payne. “Carlyle was a giant, but too conceited. Ruskin, who has nothing like the elemental greatness of Carlyle, is to be praised on account of his general poetic excitation of the imagination. He, too, worked for righteousness.”

I expressed my admiration for Oscar Wilde’s Essays, mentioning in particular The True Function and Value of Criticism382 which first appeared in the Nineteenth Century for 1890, but Payne, who was most unjust to Wilde, would not hear a word in his favour either as a writer or as a wit.

I mentioned several of Wilde’s repartees​—​his reply, for example, to Pater, who, after lecturing in a very low voice, said to Wilde: “Could you hear me?” “We overheard you,” said Wilde. “That bon mot” insisted Payne, “was taken from somebody else.” “I met Wilde several times,” Payne went on, “and I remember observing after one of his witticisms, ‘That’s a scorcher!’ meaning that although uttered as original it was a well-known joke. However, he was a good conversationalist. Hichens’ story The Green Carnation is an exact transcript of his (Esmé Amarinth’s) talk. It is a most brilliant crystallization of his affectations and personality generally. Wilde never attitudinized with me. I saw the better side of him. He was a coarse, tall, Chadband-looking man with great flabby cheeks. With his long hair and tallowy complexion he looked like a ranter. He and Gladstone are the two arch nuisances of the nineteenth century. Such men are temporary gods in temporary niches.”383

“Wilde,” said I, “never walked. He would hire a cab to cross the road.”

“I once,” commented Payne, “walked with him five miles near Walton-on-Thames when I was visiting Lewis [afterwards Sir George Lewis], so he did sometimes use his legs.”

Among Payne’s books was a copy of Dorian Gray, inscribed: “To John Payne, an artist in Literature, from the Author, in admiration and regard. May ’91.”

Payne was even more severe on Whistler, who, he said, “would soon be forgotten”​—​adding: “He was a man who had possibilities in certain directions. He doesn’t rely on his work for success, but on his tricks. That I detest. Everything with him is a matter of extravagances.”

I asked him whence he had chiefly drawn his own inspiration, and he said: “From the Authorized Version of the Bible, Edmund Spenser and North’s Plutarch, I am never weary of reading the Dictionary, and I should like my epitaph to be Linguam Anglicam Amavit​—​‘He loved the English tongue.’”

We then talked of beautiful words. “It is curious,” he remarked, “what delightful words​—​names of flowers, for instance​—​have been formed from ugly originals​—​generally the names of persons who introduced the plants into this country​—​as, for example, fuchsia, dahlia, zinnia​—​from the hideous Fuchs, Dahl, and Zinn.” Curious to say, though he himself was so great a lover of flowers, he would never have them in the room. No one ever saw a cut-flower in his house.

He praised Cassell’s Encyclopædic Dictionary, and I told him I was glad, for I should like my own copy all the better. He then urged me to get the Supplement as well. I found, however, that he was constantly hankering after Murray’s great Oxford Dictionary, and a few years later he procured all the volumes that had appeared.

He then spoke of his friendship with Burne-Jones,384 and expressed surprise, considering the closeness of that friendship, that his own name was only casually mentioned in the biography385 which had appeared in the preceding December (1904).

Payne was no adept at putting his wares before the public in an attractive form (I refer to his original works), and when other persons showed themselves equally wanting under this head he never noticed it. For example, the chapters in the Memorials of Ed. Burne-Jones are headed thus: “Chapter 1, 1833–1844. Chapter 2, 1844–1848,” and so on. “What a bald appearance,” I said, “what a lazy way of issuing a book! Every chapter could easily have had an attractive heading!”

“I don’t see that it could be bettered,” said Payne. “It’s sufficient.”

Being neurasthenic Payne avoided anything that might cause undue excitement. At first I did not understand this characteristic (not being, myself, over-sensitive), and on one occasion having mentioned a recent attack made upon him, I proceeded to read it aloud. He begged me to desist. “I don’t want to hear it,” he said, “I never read such things. The Press has treated me shamefully.”

T. W. How can a man know that he is a prophet if he is not stoned?

In a letter of 21 July, 1905,386 he calls Leconte de Lisle “the greatest poet of the century,” and he speaks of still being busy with his Flowers of France.

In the same letter he speaks of what he called the “Laneites” passage in my Life of Sir Richard Burton. “No one,” he said, “can object to it, least of all myself, whose first object is, as you know, to be just even to those who despitefully use me, and in whose disposition there is no place for hate or permanent rancour. Still, for the sake of future genius, in its struggle against interested jealousy and stupidity, the meanness of the motives by which the clique was actuated should be plainly put before the public. Judex, as you know, damnatur cum nocens absolvitur.387

“The only other thing I could suggest is that I should like you, if you find it possible, to add a paragraph or two emphasizing my original reluctance, when first approached by you, in any way to enter the lists as against Burton. You might quote the words of my first letters to you. But do just as you like. It does not matter greatly.”

Early in July I asked him to let me write a short account of him for Who’s Who; for as secretary of the John Payne Society it was an inconvenience to me to keep coming upon educated persons who had never heard of him.

He wrote on 7 July, 1905388: “I will think over your suggestion re Who’s Who. At present I don’t like it, but we will see what consideration brings forth. If you refer to Men of the Times for 1884 you will find a paragraph about me”; and then he says amusingly: “But Washington Moon,389 the Baby-linen man (Mme. Elise) coming into the editorship, struck my name out, and it has not appeared in any subsequent editions. One, I suppose, of the many (unknown) enemies whom my mere existence seems to raise up against me on every hand!”

Finally he decided against my request, consequently his name has never appeared in Who’s Who. He used also to say that he had never been interviewed.

On 10 August Swinburne390 gave me permission to use in my Life of Burton his verses on the Death of Richard Burton.

On 12 August (1905) was held at Margery Hall, Forest Gate, the first meeting of the John Payne Society. Messages sympathizing with its objects were read from the Earl of Crewe, Swinburne, Watts-Dunton and Dr. Garnett; papers were read by Mr. John Casey and Mr. W. F. Kirby, and some of Payne’s poems were recited.

On Tuesday, 15 August, I spent another pleasant evening with Payne. We had tea in the garden under the bay-trees, and he gave me some notes for the present work, for I had already commenced, with his approval, to write a biography of him. A little later he sent me a very large amount of material for the same purpose, including the Autobiography in his own handwriting, already several times cited in these pages.

Along the north side of his garden the zinnias were in bloom, and their crimson, rose, buff, orange, fawn coloured and vivid yellow discs made a gay scene. The small circular beds were bright with the lilium auratum and the speciosum rubrum.

“You love zinnias,” I said.

“Yes,” he replied. “They are the flowers of surprises.”

The conversation then drifted to literature.

“John Addington Symonds,” he said, “was one of the greatest sciolists who ever lived. He had only a smattering of anything.”

As I was at this time collecting materials for a biography of Walter Pater, I naturally wanted Payne’s opinion of that writer.

“Pater,” he said, “compares unfavourably with Schopenhauer. Schopenhauer says in a few words what Pater takes a whole book to say.”

With some hesitation I asked him to write for my book a sonnet on Pater, but he excused himself. The truth is he despised Pater, just as he despised FitzGerald. He had no patience with “niggling writers” and workers in mosaic. I think he was unfair to them. Every man must work as God permits. Certainly there is no spontaneity in such writers as Gray, Rossetti, Pater and FitzGerald, but there is in each a virtue, a bouquet​—​a formula (as Pater would have said) the loss of which would have rendered literature the poorer.

In Vol. 1, Chapter 28, of my Life of Pater which I submitted to Payne, I observe: “Pater, following Sainte Beuve, finds that the virtue or active principle in Du Bellay is his proclivity to portray ‘his own most intimate moods.’”

Payne pencilled in the margin, “Is not this the active virtue of every lyrical poet? It seems to me a very shallow characterization.”

I said further in this chapter: “Pater’s article gives an entirely erroneous impression of its subject, for we might judge from it that Du Bellay’s verses (and he calls Du Bellay ‘almost the poet of one poem’) are little more than thistle-down​—​light, pretty, silvery things that blow about.” In the margin Payne pencilled, “Pater’s acquaintance with Du Bellay was (like that of most people) probably confined to the reading of the ‘Winnower’s Song’ as quoted in Sainte Beuve’s well-known Tableau de la Poésie Française au Seizième Siècle. Du Bellay was doubtless for Pater, as for others who have not really studied the subject, ‘the poet of one poem!’”

A reference to Pater’s “Apollo in Picardy” led Payne to say: “I object to his method. You should never give the reasons for your judgments. Pater’s roots do not strike deep enough. He was a sciolist to an extent. It is true he had a genuine love for delicate perfection, but he was too lazy to go into the tremendous work of making himself perfect in any way​—​of getting to the foundation of the whole thing. There is an Arab saying ‘The confession of ignorance is the beginning of knowledge.’ In order to grow beautiful flowers you must dig up the ground. Pater had neither the patience nor the energy. However, he had a genuine sense of the magic of Plato.”

T. W. The great secret is intuition.

P. Intuition is everything. Keats had very little knowledge. What does it matter? There is more Greek feeling in Keats than in Landor, who was a great scholar. There is a stiffness and coldness about Landor. Tennyson is a pure materialist. All that is good in Clough is developed in Arnold.

Something then led him to speak of the church bell-ringing nuisance. Like most students he hated bells.

T. W. We are worse off in the country, for we have the change ringers. They come to a town and pull for their very lives for five hours on end, and then boast in the local press how many million bob majors, or whatever they call them, they have inflicted upon us. The sounds of nature, on the other hand, are delightful. Cowper said he liked to hear a goose on a common, though he would not care to listen to one kept in a cage. There is, however, one jarring note in nature​—​the monotonous cry of the storm-thrush​—​but it is the only one.

P. You forget the corn-crake.

T. W. To return to literature. How were your own works written?

P. Among crowds. I like to segregate myself among people. All the Arabian Nights was done in the street during walks about Kilburn and Hampstead, or on the top of omnibuses. My favourite haunts are Fitzjohn Avenue, Cricklewood, and Hampstead Heath. My motto is Schopenhauer’s Unendliche Verachtung, Unendliches Mitleid391​—​Infinite contempt, infinite pity​—​that is, contempt and pity for the world.

“I have just been reading,” I said, “The Principles of Success in Literature, by G. H. Lewis.”

“You did not get much help there,” commented Payne.

Just before I left he put into my hands for use in my Life of Pater an unpublished article of his entitled “The Poet.” It is quoted in my work Vol. 1, p. 231.

Besides being engaged upon The Flowers of France Payne had in view another volume of original poetry. He proposed giving it the title of Dream Voices, but I told him I was sure we could find something better; and as the opening poem was to be the autobiographical Anima cum Animo​—​a Dialogue between the natural soul and the spiritual soul​—​I suggested The Mirror of the Soul. Eventually, however, he decided upon Carol and Cadence, but the work was not published till 1908, when Anima cum Animo was removed from the beginning to the middle392 of the book. He read to me at different times the whole of these poems, while they were still in manuscript. When I admired a poem I said so, and if I disliked it (as I certainly did dislike some of the passages that related to the Deity) I was silent. Then he would say: “You don’t like it,” and I would reply, “I like others better.” He knew what I meant, and when the book came out I could see that he had modified them, though I was sorry that some passages had not been altogether removed.

I was just then planning a little work on the Victorian writers, and I said to Payne: “The most important, in my opinion, are eight, namely, Carlyle, Thackeray, Dickens, Macaulay, FitzGerald, Swinburne and you.”

He made some remark acknowledging the compliment, but added, “It will not meet with my approval, unless you place me below Swinburne.”

“That,” I said, “I cannot do. In the first place I do not admit that you, as a poet, are below Swinburne, and in the second, even if I did admit it, the additional string which you have to your bow​—​that of being our leading translator​—​puts you in a higher plane.”

“But you have forgotten Ruskin,” he said, and he mentioned a passage which he considered one of the very finest in Ruskin’s works, namely that in Political Economy of Art, “On the Withdrawing of Timely Appreciation.”

“Ruskin,” I said, “belongs to the next plane. He is more a book than a man. There is no soul in him.”

“But,” followed Payne, “he is very beautiful.”

“So,” I said, “is a billiard ball.”

He looked at me over his glasses​—​a way he had when any remark of mine took him aback, and then putting two fingers to the bridge of the glasses, in order (another habit) to press them more closely to his nose, he waited for me to go on.

I then asked his opinion of the Heptameron. He had not a word of praise for it, and he called the 23rd story “one of the dreariest productions of that Empress of Prigs and Bores, Marguerite of Angoulême.”

Writing to Mr. Tracy Robinson 22 August, 1905,393 he says: “You will see by the little book (Sir Winfrith) which accompanies this that a movement in my favour has begun in England. You would probably like to be in communication with the Secretary, Mr. Thomas Wright, who is the heart and soul of the movement, and who shares your enthusiasm for my work. He is writing my life, and will be delighted to hear from you.

“I have inserted another photo of myself in the little book [Sir Winfrith]. It is another position, but taken at the same time. It will replace the one taken for the selections as requested by you. Both photos are considered by my friends excellent, with the one exception (on which point all that I know seem unanimous) that they make me look too old, showing my hair white instead of gray. I am sixty-three to-morrow (23rd). I had an enthusiastic letter a little while ago from an Argentine lady, Susana Torres de Castex, of Buenos Aires.”

On 5 September Payne presented me with the proofs of his translation of Hafiz.394

In the course of this work I have given an account of a number of my visits to Oxford Road, but I went so often that I became known on the route. One day I boarded a horse-bus and settled myself on one of the front seats at the top. The driver, who happened to turn his head, recognized me, and to my astonishment (for it did not occur to me that anybody in London could possibly know where I was going, said to me: “This bus doesn’t go to Kilburn to-day.”

During the months of November and December Payne read the concluding portion of the proofs of my Life of Sir Richard Burton. He wrote on 16 December, 1905: “I send you the last portion of the proofs, and heartily congratulate you upon a most interesting and delightful work, which I think must be a great success,395 although, of course, there will be plenty of abuse for you (and me also) from the interested scallawags.”

In one of the last chapters I had made some facetious remarks respecting Lady Burton’s declaration that her husband’s spirit had appeared to her. He continues: “What I say about Burton’s religion omit if you think well, but I should like you to reconsider those girds at the ghost.396 I have (perhaps an exaggerated) horror of anything like cruelty. The poor soul (Lady Burton) meant well and believed in her visions. She was, of course, a hysterian; and that explains everything. Women in all ages have mistaken vox uteri for vox Dei, and not without reason it (v. u.) being the voice of ‘The will-to-be’ which is the nearest approach to the concept of Deity recognized by reason.” In order to please him I omitted the passage.

His devotion to cats was as pronounced as ever. “The cat,” he once said to me, “is the poet’s animal.” To unmusical, strange cats who sometimes on his garden wall made night hideous, he gave the names of Gladstone, Harcourt and other Liberal leaders. He said they were holding political meetings, and endeavouring to disseminate opinions that were calculated to unhinge the minds of the well-conducted of their species. Still, with all their faults, they were cats.

With his humour his friends would sometimes gladly have dispensed. Thus one day he sent to a friend who was staying at one of the principal hotels at Brighton a letter addressed “——, —— Hotel, Pork Haters’ Paradise, Sussex.” Oddly enough, and to the annoyance of the addressee, the letter reached its destination.

To General Byam,397 Ted, as he called him, Payne was much attached, and in 1905 he visited his sister and her husband at their home, the picturesque Old Rectory, Bisley, Surrey. At that time there was some danger of war with Russia, and General Byam and Payne talked over the situation. “I never knew any man,” General Byam used to say, “who is John’s equal in the theory of strategy and the movement of troops. He is really a great strategist.”

All went well until one autumn evening when, after dinner, the company adjourned to the drawing-room, a fine apartment with soft pink carpets and hangings, in order to converse and to hear Payne read some poems (subsequently included in Carol and Cadence) which he had recently written. Besides the family there were present Monica, daughter of Canon Stephenson, and Gertrude Chapman, a young lady398 of sweet disposition who had the misfortune to be crippled, between whom and Payne there was a warm attachment. When the time came for reading the poems every one was expected to be as quiet as the Byam family portraits which looked down upon them from the walls, and not only to listen but to listen intently. General Byam, who had been shooting399 all day, was dead tired, but he seated himself on the sofa and, in spite of weariness (and the effects of a good dinner), did his best to attend (though even at normal times poetry was apt to pall upon him); but at last, overcome by fatigue and the monotonous swing of the verse, he fell asleep. Which particular poem sent him off is not handed down, but it is not without interest that a stanza in one of the new poems, “Wanderers,”400 runs:

Marineres, shake out your sails! This is the Land of Dreams,

Here strife for ever is, ’twixt that which is and that which seems.

An unmistakable snore interrupted the flow of poetry, and Payne, torn with anger, called his unhappy brother-in-law “nothing but a Philistine”​—​a Philistine being, in the words of Matthew Arnold, “a strong, dogged, unenlightened opponent of the chosen people​—​of the children of light.”401

“Ted,” by this time broad awake and overwhelmed by the enormity of his offence, apologized profusely, but Payne was not to be appeased, and next morning he took the first train back to London.

He was offended once even with his favourite sister because she did not grasp, at the first reading, the meaning of one of his poems. He said she was “nothing but a mollusc.” The Czar of Russia was less an autocrat than the author of Carol and Cadence.

[360] Four vols. 1904.

[361] Letters to T. W., No. 13.

[362] Letters to T. W., No. 14.

[363] Which it did.

[364] Letters to T. W., No. 16.

[365] Horace: “There is a mean in morals.”

[366] Letters to T. W., No. 19.

[367] Letters to T. W., No. 21.

[368] An Omar Kheyyam expression. It means the ordinary people. Cf. Quatrain No. 624, Payne’s version. See also “Pars Poetæ,” Vigil and Vision, p. 57.

[369] Despair.

[370] A dull fellow.

[371] Vigil and Vision, p. 66.

[372] See Omar Kheyyam, p. xxxvi.

[373] Raw people.

[374] “A slavish body” of imitators, worshippers of rank and fashion. Ep. i. 19. See also his Omar Kheyyam, p. 97 and p. 200 and 823 note.

[375] Autobiography, p. 8.

[376] See his Omar Kheyyam, p. 38.

[377] Letters to T. W., No. 22.

[378] Letters to T. W., No. 24.

[379] Letters to T. W., No. 27.

[380] Letters of Watts-Dunton to T. W., No. 1.

[381] There is a long citation from this work in Payne’s Introduction to Omar Kheyyam, p. lvii.

[382] The Critic as Artist.

[383] Cf. Carol and Cadence, p. 214.

[384] Five letters of Burne-Jones to Payne (1896–8) were sold at Sotheby’s, 29 June, 1916.

[385] Memorials of Edward Burne-Jones, by G. B. J. (Lady Burne-Jones).

[386] Letters to T. W., No. 28.

[387] “When a guilty man is acquitted, the judge is convicted.”

[388] Letters to T. W., No. 29.

[389] Washington Moon, the grammarian. As a young man I had a good deal of correspondence with him, and I was much indebted to him.

[390] Letters of Watts-Dunton to T. W., No. 3.

[391] See also Payne’s Carol and Cadence, p. 177.

[392] Page 327.

[393] Robinson Letters, No. 12. These letters were sent to me from America by Mr. Robinson’s second wife.

[394] Referred to in Letters to T. W., No. 32.

[395] It was. It went through three editions the first year. A quite satisfactory result for a 24s. work.

[396] On the galley (No. 69) he wrote: “I think I should alter this paragraph. It seems a bit cruel to poke fun at the poor ghost.”

[397] He died in 1906.

[398] She died shortly afterwards at the age of twenty.

[399] For Payne’s views on Sport see Vigil and Vision, p. 86, where he joins hands with Cowper.

[400] Carol and Cadence, p. 127.

[401] Article on Heine.