The LIFE STORY of MRS. ASQUITH
The Wife of the Former British Prime Minister in a Fearless and Brilliant Narrative
FIRST CHAPTERS My Friends “The Souls”
NO ONE ever knew how it came about that I and my particular friends were called “The Souls.” Arthur Balfour once told me that before I and my particular group of friends, generally known as the Souls, appeared in London, prominent politicians never met each other. He added.:
“No history of our time will be complete unless the influence of the Souls upon society is dispassionately ajad accurately recorded.”
The same question of Home Rule that threw London back in 1914 to the old parochialisms was at its height in 1886 and 18â7; but in our house in Grosvenor Square and, later, in those of my intimate friends—everyone met; Randolph Churchill, Gladstone, Asquith, Morley, Chamberlain, Balfour, Roseberry, Salisbury, Harrington, Harcourt, and I might have added jockeys, actors, the Prince of Wales, and every ambassador in Europe; we never cut anybody—not even our friends—or thought it amusing or distinguished to make people feel uncomfortable; and our decision not to sacrifice private friendship to public politics was envied in every capital in Europe; it made London the centre of the most interesting society in the world and gave men of different tempers and opposite beliefs an opportunity of discussing them without heat and without reporters. There is no individual or group powerful enough among us now to attempt a salon of this kind.
The daring of that change in London society cannot be overestimated. The unconscious and accidental grouping of brilliant, sincere and loyal friends like ourselves gave rise to considerable jealousy.
The fashionable—or what was called “smart set” of those days—centred round the Prince of Wales, afterwards King Edward VII, and had Newmarket for its headquarters. As far as I could see, there was more exclusiveness in the racing world than I had ever observed among the Souls, and the only time I ever went to Newmarket the welcome extended to me by the shrewd and select company there made me feel exactly like an alien.
We did not play bridge or baccarat and our rather
•Earl Curzon of Kedleston, present Secretary for Foreign Affairs.
intellectual and literary after-dinner games were looked upon as pretentious.
Arthur Balfour—the most distinguished of the Souls and idolized by every set in society—was the person who drew the enemy’s fire. He had been well known before he came among us and it was considered an impertinence on our part to make him play pencil games or be our intellectual guide and critic. All the young men in my circle were clever and became famous and the women, although not more intelligent, were less wordly than their fashionable contemporaries and many of them both good to be with and distinguished to look at.
What strikes me most on looking back at those ten years is the loyalty, devotion and fidelity which we showed one another and the pleasure which we derived from friendships that could not have survived a week had they been accompanied by gossip, mocking, or any personal pettiness. Most of us had a depth of feeling and moral and religious ambition that I miss in the clever young men and women of to-day. Our afterdinner games were healthier and more inspiring than theirs. “Breaking the news,” for instance, was an entertainment that had a certain vogue among the younger generation before the
war. It consisted of two peo ple acting together and convey ing to their audience varioua
ways in which they would receive the news of the sudden death of a friend or a re'ation, and was considered extraordinarily funny; it would never have amused any of the Souls. The modern habit of pursuing, detecting and exposing what was ridiculous in simple people and the unkind and irreverent manner in which slips were made material for epigram was unbearable to me. The school of thought—which this group called “anticant”—encouraged hard sayings and light doings which would have profoundly shocked the most frivolous of us. Brilliance of a certain kind may bring people together for amusement, but it will not keep them together
together for long; and the young, hard, pre-war group that I am thinking of was scattered and shcrt-lived.
The present Lord Curzon .of Kedleston* also drew the en« my’s fire and was probably more directly responsible for the name of the Souls than anyone.
He was a conspicuous young man of ability, with a ready pen, a ready tongue, an excellent sense of humour in private life, and intrepid
boldness. He had
EDITOR’S NOTE. — For the fast year and a half Mrs. Asquith, wife of the former Premier of Great Britain, has been engaged in writing her autobiography. She approached it reluctantly but, once started, gained an ever-increasing zest with the result that she has produced a most remarkable story. All Britain has awaited the appearance of the material with great interest and impatience, for Mrs. Asquith is one of the most brilliant and daring, as well as one of the most talked-of women of her time. MACLEAN’S has purchased the exclusive magazine rights for Canada, and will run the narrative in regular and long instalments. No reader can afford to miss a single instalment of this remarkable narrative.
appearance more than looks, a keen, lively face and a sanguine self-confidence that was almost vulgar. Like every young man of exceptional promise, he was called a prig. The word was so misapplied in those days that, had I been a clever young man, I should not have felt any self-confidence till the world had called me a prig. He was a remarkably brilliant person in an exceptional generation. He had persistent ambition and what he claimed for himself “middle-class method.” Some of my friends thought George Wyndham more original—just as Cust was a better scholar. They may have been right, but I always said— and have a record of it in my early diaries—that George Curzon would easily outstrip his rivals. He had two incalculable advantages over the others: he was chronically industrious and self-sufficing and though he was Oriental in his ideas of color and ceremony and had a childish love of grandeur and fine people and a moderate sense of proportion, he was never self-indulgent; he took infinite trouble about everything, leaving nothing to chance. He was a fir.=A-rate host and boon-companion; he neither ate, nor drank, nor smoked too much.
No one could turn with more elasticity from work to play than George Curzon and he showed me and mine a steady and sympathetic love over a long period of years; even now, if I died—although he belongs to the more conventional and does not mix with people of the opposite political parties—he would write my obituary notice.
At the time of which I am telling he was threatened with lung-trouble and was ordered abroad by his doctors. We were very unhappy and assembled at a farewell banquet to which he entertained us in the Bachelors’ Club on the 10th July, 1889. We found a poem welcoming us on our chairs when we sat down to dinner, in which we were all honorably and^ categorically mentioned. Some of our critics called us the Gang”—to which allusion is here made—but this name developed permanently into the Souls.
THE repetition of this dinner two years later was more than the West-end of London could stand, and I was the object of much obloquy. I remember dining with Sir Stanley and Lady Clarke to meet King Edwardthen Prince of Wales—when my hostess said to me, in a loud voice, across the table.
“There were some clever people in the world before you were born, Miss Tennant!”
Feeling rather nettled, I replied:
Please don’t pick me out, Lady Clarke, as if I alone were responsible for the stupid ones among whom we find ourselves to-day.”
I was young and intolerant, and did not mean to be rude. Being perfectly free from suspicion I was seldom on the defensive, but when attacked was quite equal to the situation.
I here quote some of the verses of George Curzon’s 10th July, 1889.
Ho! list to a lay Of that company gay,
Compounded of gallants and graces,
Who gathered to dine,
In the year ’89
In a haunt that in Hamilton Place is.
There, there, were they met,
And the banquet was set
At the bidding of Georgious Curzon ;
Brave youth!’tis his pride,
When he errs, that the side
Of respectable license he errs on.
Around him that night—
Was there e’er such a sight? —
Souls sparkled and spirits expanded For of them critics sang,
That, tho’ christened the Gang,
By a spiritual link they were banded.
Souls and spirits, no doubt,
But neither without Fair visible temples to dwell in;
E’en your image divine Must be girt with a shrine,
For the pious to linger a spell in.
There was seen at that feast Of this band the high-priest,
The heart that to all hearts is nearest;
Him that nobody steal From the true Commonweal,
Tho’ to each is dear Arthur the dearest.
This refers to Arthur Balfour; I skip and come to his description of my two sisters and myself :
Here a trio we meet Whom you never will beat Tho’ wide you may wander and far go; From that wonderful art Of that gallant old Bart.
Sprang Charty and Lucy and Margot.
To Lucy he gave The wiles that enslave;
Heart and tongue of an angel to Charty; To Margot the wit And the wielding of it,
That make her the joy of the party.
nine more verses it ends with the following: Now this is the sum Of all those who had come Or ought to have come to that banquet. Then call for the bowl Flow spirit and soul;
Till midnight not one of you can quit!
And blest by the gang Be the rhymster who sang Their praises in doggerel appalling More now were a sin—
No, waiters begin!
Each soul for consomme is calling!
LpHE Earl of Midleton*—better known as St. John 1 Brodrick— I knew before I met Arthur Balfour or any of the Souls. He was the first friend of interest that I made
•Right Hon. Earl of Midleton, Piper Harm, Godaiming.
when I was a girl. He came over to Glen while he was
staying with Lord and Lady Reay—who were our neigh-
I wired to him the other day to congratulate him on
being made an Earl. I asked him in what year it was that
he first came to Glen, and this is his answer:
“Jan. 12th, 1920.
“I valued your telegram of congratulation the more that I know you and Henry (who has given so many and refused all) attach little value to titular distinctions. Indeed it is the only truly democratic trait about you, except a general love of Humanity, which has always put you on the side of the feeble. I am relieved to hear you have chosen such a reliable man as Crewe—with his literary gifts—to be the only person to read your autobiography.
“My visit to Glen in Reay’s company was October, 1880, when you were sixteen. You and Laura flashed like meteors on to a dreary scene of empty seats at the luncheon table (the shooting party didn’t come in) and filled the room with light, electrified the conversation and made old R—y falter over his marriage vows within ten minutes. From then onwards you have always been the most loyal and indulgent of friends, forgetting no one as you rapidly climbed to fame and were raffled for by all parties—from Sandringham to the crossing-sweeper.
“ Y our early years will sell the book.
jLJ E was one of the rare people who tell the truth. Some "*■ people do not lie but have no truth to tell; others are j too agreeable—or too frightened—and lie; but the majority are indifferent; they are the spectators of life and feel no responsibility towards their neighbor.
St. John Midleton is fundamentally humble and truthful; he is one of the few people I know who would risk telling me or anyone he loved, before confiding to an inner circle, faults which both he and I think might be corrected. I have had a long experience of inner circles and am constantly reminded of the Spanish proverb, “Remember your friend has a friend.” I think you should either leave the room when your friends are abused or be prepared to warn them of what people are saying. This is an unpopular view of friendship but neither St. John nor I would think it loyal to join in the laughter or censure of a friend’s folly.
Arthur Balfour, himself the most persistent of friends, said laughingly: “St. John pursues us with his malignant fidelity”; this was only a colored way of saying that he had none of the detachment common to friends; but as long as we are not merely responsible for our actions to the police so must I believe in trying to help those we love,
C*T. JOHN has found a better place in the hearts of men v-' than in the fame of newspapers. His first marriage was into a family who were incapable of appreciating his particular quality and flavor; even his mother-in-law—a dear friend of mine—never understood him, and was amazed when I told her that although I was in love with one of her children her son-in-law was worth all of them put together, because he had more nature and enterprise. I have tested St. John now for many years and never found him wanting.
The young man I referred to—with whom I was in love— was handsome, charming and intelligent, but I told him that I was not in a matrimonial mood and as I was fonder of him than he was of me I felt it might be a bad opening f or my career. He wrote this poem to me :
“To turn the dark to light, the gloom to gay,
To laugh, to kiss, to cling, then flee away;
To shake the curls that dance about her brow And, nestling, whisper I may love her now;
To be now near, now far, yet ever there,
A swallow glancing through the summer air. . . . Such is her wayward way, her childish charm;
And with all this, to speak the depths of love,
And then at even creep and bend her head Upon my heart—a flower closed when day is dead.”
Written New Year’s Day, 189S Other Prominent Souls
Y~)*EORGE PEMBROKE and George Wyndham were the handsomest of the Souls. Pembroke was the son of Sidney Herbert, famous as Secretary of State for War during the Crimea. There is no one left to-day at all like George Pembroke. His combination of intellectual temperament, social gregariousness, variety of tastes—yachting, art, sport and literature—his beauty of person and hospitality to foreigners and new-comers made him the distinguished centre of any company that he joined. His first present to me was Butcher and Lang’s translation of the Odyssey in which he wrote on the frontispiece:
“To Margot who most reminds me of Homeric days, 1884,” and his last was há wedding present—a diamond dagger which I always wear next to my heart.
Among the Souls, Milly Sutherland,* Lady Windsor,! and Lady Granby!! were the women whose looks I admired most. Lady Brownlow** was Lady Pembroke’s handsome sister. Lady Granby, Gladys Ripon and Lady Windsor were all women of great beauty—Lady Brownlow a Roman coin, Violet Rutland a Burne-Jones Medusa, Gladys Ripon a court lady, Gay Windsor an Italian Primitif and Milly Sutherland an English lyric. Betty Montgomery, my first and last girl friend, was a brilliant woman and a distinguished member of the Souls. She came of a clever family, her father was Queen Victoria’s famous private secretary—Sir Henry Ponsonby—and one of the strongest Liberals I ever knew.
Her sister Maggie, though socially uncouth, had a touch of her father’s genius. She said of a court prelate one day at Windsor Castle,
“There goes God’s butler!”
The Souá were subjected to searching criticism and were not popular.
I had a conversational scrap which caused some talk among our social critics.
Lady Londonderry, the mother of the present Marquis, was a beautiful woman a little before my day; she was happy, courageous and violent, and her mind held a firm grip on the obvious. She wasnot of a forgiving nature, though she was impulsive and kind; she said to me once with much energy:
“I am a good friend and a goodhater ; nokiss-and-makefriends about me, my dear!”
I have often wondered since, as I did then, what the difference between a good and a bad enemy is. She was not so well endowed intellectually as her rival and enemy Lady de Grey, but she had a stronger will and sounder temptations.
There was nothing wistful, reflective, or retiring about
Lady Londonderry: she was keen and vivid, but crude and impenitent.
I have mentioned Lady Londonderry—who was not of the Souls because it was1 with her that I crossed swords.
My Friendship With Symonds A\/"E were accused entre autres of being conceited, and of talking about books which we had not read—-a habit which I have never had the temerity to acquire. John Addington Symonds, an intimate friend of mine, had brought out a book of essays. They were not very good and caused no sensation, but were read in small literary coteries.
One night, after dinner, I was sitting in a circle of fashionable men and women—none of them particularly intimate with me—when Lady Londonderry opened the talk about books. Hardly knowing her I entered with an innocent zest into the conversation; I was taken in by her mention of Symonds’ “Studies in Italy.” Launching out upon style, I said that there was a good deal of rubbish written about it, but it was essential that you should write simply. At thá, some one twitted me with our pencilgame of Styles, and asked me if I thought I should know the author from hearing a casual passage read out loud from one of há books. I said that some writers would be easy to recognize—such as Meredith, Carlyle, De Quincey, or Browning but that, when it came to others—men like Scott or Froude for instance—I should not be so sure of myself. At this there was an outcry: Froude, having the finest style in the world ought surely to be easily recognized by everyone! I was quite ready to believe that some of the company had made a complete study of Froude’s style, but I had not; I said that I could not be sure, because his writing was too smooth and perfect, and that, when I read him, I felt rather as if I was swallowing down arrowroot—this shocked them profoundly. I added that, unless I were to stumble across a horseman coming over a hill, or something equally fascinating, I should not even be sure of recognizing Scott’s style. This scandalized the company. Lady Londonderry then asked me if I admired Symonds’ writing. I told her I did not, although I liked some of his books. She seemed to think this was a piece
1J* Duchess of Sutherland. î£ûe Present Countess of Plymouth. itThe present Duchess of Rutland. Countess of Brownlow, who died ;
of swagger on my part, and, after disagreeing with a lofty shake of the head, she said, in a challenging manner:
“I should be curious to know what you have read by Symonds!”
Feeling I was being taken on, I replied, rather chillily: “Oh, the usual sort of thing!”
Lady Londonderry, visibly irritated and with the confident air of one who has a little surprise in store for the company, said:
“Have you by any chance looked at ‘Essays Suggestive and Speculative,’ Miss Tennant?”
Margot: “Yes, I've read them all.”
Lady Londonderry: “Really! Do you not approve of them?”
Margot: “Approve? I don’t know what you mean.’
don’t know what you mean.’ Lady Londonderry: “Do you not think the writing beautiful
-the style, I mean?" Margot: "I think they are all very `.ad, but then I don't ad mire Symonds' style." Lady Londonderry: "I am afraid you have not read the book." This annoyed me. I saw the ccmpanywerede
their spokeswoman. I thought it unnecessarily rude and more than foolish. I looked at her calmly and said :
“I am afraid, Lady Londonderry, you have not read the preface. The book is dedicated to me: Symonds was a friend of mine; I was staying at Davos at the time he was writing these essays; he was rash enough to ask me to read one of them in manuscript, and write whatever I thought upon the margin.
This I did; he was rather offended by something I scribbled; I was so surprised at há minding that I told him he was never to show me any of his work before publication again, at which he forgave me and dedicated the book to me.”
One of the less fashionable Souls was my friend Lionel Tennyson. He was the second son of the poet and was
an official in the India Office. He had an untidy appearance, a black beard and no manners; he sang German beer songs in a lusty voice and wrote good verses.
_ He once asked me what I would like him to give me for a birthday present and I said:
“If you want to give me pleasure, take me down to your father’s country house for a Saturday to Monday.”
This Lionel arranged; and he and I went down to Aidworth Haslemere together.
While we were talking in the train a distinguished old lady got in. She wore an ample black satin skirt, small black satin slippers in goloshes, a sable tippet, and a large picturesque lace bonnet. She did not appear to be listening to our conversation, because she was reading with an air of concentration, but on looking at her, I observed lier eyes fixed on me. I wore a scarlet cloak trimmed with cock’s feathers and a black three-cornered hat. When we arrived at our station the old lady tipped a porter to find
out from my luggage who I was and when she died—several years later—she left me in her will one of my most valuable jewels. Her name was Lady Margaret Beaumont, and I made both her acquaintance and friendship before her
Lady Tennyson was more or less an invalid, so we were received on our arrival by the poet. Tennyson was a magnificent creature to look at. He had everything: height, figure, carriage, features, and expression. Added to this he had what George Meredith said to me about him “the feminine hint. . . .to perfection.”
He greeted me by saying: “Well, are you as clever and as spurty as your sister Laura?”
“I had never heard the word ‘spurty’ before nor indeed have I since; to answer this kind of frontal attack one has to be either saucy or servile—I rather think I was neither, but just stupid. We sat down to tea; he asked me if I wanted him to dress for dinner:
“Your sister said to me that I was untidy, if not dirty.” Margot: “Did you mind this?”
Tennyson: “I wondered if it was true; do you think I’m
Margot: “You are very handsome.”
Tennyson: “I can see by that remark that you think I am. Very well then, I will dress for dinner. Have you read Jane Welsh Carlyle’s letters?”
Margot: “Yes, I have; and I think them excellent. It seems a pity,” I added with the commonplace that is apt to overcome one in a first conversation with a man of eminence, “that they ever married. With anyone but each other they might have been perfectly happy.”
Tennyson: “I totally disagree with you. By any other arrangement four people would have been unhappy in stead of two.”
After this I went up to my room. The hours kept at Aldworth were peculiar. We dined early and after dinner the poet went to bed. At ten o’clock at night he came downstairs, and, if asked, would read há ]poetry to the company till past midnight.
J I dressed with great care that first night and, placing myself next to him when he came down after dinner, I asked him to read out loud to us.
Tennyson: “What do you want me to read?” Margot: “Maud."
Tennyson: “That was the poem I was cursed for writing. When it came out no word was bad enough for me ? I was a blackguard, a ruffian and an
atheist! You will live to have as great a contempt for literary critics and the public as I have, my child!” While he was speaking, I found on the floor among piles of books a small copy of Maud, a shilling volume bound in blue paper; put it into his hands and, pulling the lamp nearer him, he began to read.
There is only one man— a poet also—who reads as my host did; and that á my beloved friend Professor Gilbert Murray. When I first heard him at Oxford I closed my eyes and felt as if the old poet were with me again.
T SAT very still. TennyA son’s reading had the lilt, the tenderness, and the rhythm that make music in the soul. It was neither singing, nor chanting, nor speaking, but a subtle mixture of the three; the effect was one of haunting harmonies that left me profoundly moved.
He began :
“Birds in the high Hall-garden” and, skipping the next five stanzas, went on to:
“I have led her home, my love, my only friend,” and ended with:
“There has fallen a splendid tear
From the passion-flower at the gate.
She is coming, my dove, my dear;
She is coming, my life, my fate;
The red rose cries, 'She is near, she is near':
And the white rose weeps, ‘She is late’;
The larkspur listens, '1 hear, I hear’;
And the lily whispers, 'I wait.’
“She is coming, my own, my sweet;
Were it ever so airy a tread,
My heart would hear her and beat,
Were it earth in an earthy bed;
My dust would hear her and beat,
Continued on Page 50
Continued from page 9
Had I lain for a century dead;
Would start and tremble under her feet, And blossom in purple and red.” When he had finished he pulled me on his knee and said :
“Many may have written as well as that, but nothing that ever sounded so
I could not speak.
He then said that he had had an unfortunate experience with a young lady to whom he had read Maud.
Tennyson: “She was sitting on my knee as you are doing now, and after reading, ‘Birds in the high Hall-garden When twilight was falling,
Maud, Maud, Maud, Maud They were crying and calling,’
I asked her what bird she thought I meant—she said ‘a nightingale.’ This made me so angry that I nearly flung her to the ground. I said:
“No, fool! ROOKl”
I felt rather sorry for the young lady, but was so afraid he was going to stop reading that I quickly opened The Princess and put it into his hands.
I have got the little Maud bound in its blue paper cover with my name written in it by Tennyson.
My Friendship With Stephen
I HAD another friend: James Kenneth Stephen—too pagan, wayward, and lonely to be available for the Souls, but exceptionally brilliant—he wrote under the initials J. K. S. One afternoon he came to see me in Grosvenor Square, and, being told by the footman that I was riding in the Row, he asked for tea, and while he was waiting for me, wrote the following parody of Kipling and left it on my writingtable with his card:
“P.S. The Man who wrote It.
“We all called him The Man who wrote It. And we called it what the man wrote, or It for short—all of us, that is, except The Girl who Read It. She never called anything ‘It.’ She wasn’t that sort of girl, but she read It, which was a pity from the point of view of The Man who wrote It.
“The man is dead now.
“Dropped down a cud out beyond Karachi, and was brought home more like broken meat in a basket than a man who wrote. But that’s another story.
“The girl read It, and told It, and forgot all about It, and in a week It
was all over the station. Í héàrd from old Bill Buffles at the club while we were smoking between a peg and hot weather dawn.”
I was delighted with this. Another time he wrote a parody of Myers’s Paul for me. I will only quote verse out of eight:
“Lo! what the deuce I’m always saying
God is aware and leaves me uninformed. Lo! there is nothing left for me to go for; Lo! there is naught inadequately formed. He ended by signing his name and writing:
“Souvenez-vous si les vers que je trace Fussent parfois (je l’avoue!) l’argot, Si vous me trouvez un peu trop d’audace On ose tout quand on se dit ‘Margot’.”
My dear friend J. K. S. was responsible for the aspiration now frequently quoted: “When the Rudyards cease from Kipling And the Haggards Ride no more.”
A Word as to Symonds
A LTHOUGH I can hardly claim ■GL monds as a Soul, he was so much terested in all of us that I must write a short account of him.
I was nursing my sister Pauline Gordon Duff when I first met John Addington Symonds, in 1885, at Davos.
I climbed up to Am Hof* one afternoon with a letter of introduction, which was taken to the family while I was shown into a wooden room full of charming things. As no one came near me, I presumed every one was out, so I settled down peacefully among the books, prepared to wait. In a little time I heard shuffle of slippered feet and someone pausing at the open door.
“Has she gone?” was the querulous question that came from behind the screen; and in a moment the thin, curious face of John Addington Symonds was peering at me round the corner.
There was nothing for it but to answer:
“No! I am afraid she is still here!”
I Being the most courteous of men, he smiled and took my hand, and went up to his library together and had talk. He smoked a very small cigar, size of a cigarette, and we discussed friend, Robert Louis Stevenson. He said that Mrs. Symonds suffered a great deal from the long visits which this distinguished man and his wife paid them Davos ; that Louis slept with his back to light and Mrs. Louis in the same bed with her face to it; that they wrote opposite each other till after lunch; that they were not particular, and that, what with hemorrhages, ink and cold mutton gravy, her beautiful sheets were much spoiled.
Symonds and I became very great friends.
After putting my sister to bed at 9.30, I climbed every night by starlight up Am Hof, where we talked and read loud till one, and often two, in the morning. I learned more in those winter nights Davos than I had ever learned in my life. We read 'Plato’s Dialogues and The Republic together; Swift, Voltaire, Browning, Walt Whitman, Edgar Poe and his own Renaissance, besides passages from every author and poet, which he turned feverishly to illustrate what he wanted to understand.
Symonds’s conversation is described in Stevenson’s essay on Talks and Talkers; but no one could ever really give the fancy, the epigram, the swiftness and earnestness with which he not only expressed himself but engaged you in conversation. This and his affection combined to make him an enchanting companion.
The Swiss postmen and foresters sometimes joined us at midnight and drank Italian wines out of beautiful glass which our host had brought from Venice. These were our only visitors when Mrs. Symonds and the handsome girls went to bed. We would see our peasants off from the front door and stand side by side in the dark, listening as they cracked their whips and yelled their yodels far down the snow roads into the starry nights.
WHEN I first left him and returned to England, Mrs. Symonds told me he sat up all night filling a little blank book with his own poems and translations, which he posted to me the early morning. We corresponded till he died, and I kept every letter that
•The country house of J. A. Symonds.
he ever wrote to me and loved him much. He was the first person who besought me to write.
“You have l’oreille juste” he would say, “and I value your literary judgment.”
If only he were alive now I would show him this manuscript; and if any one could make anything of it by his counsel, appreciation, sympathy and encouragement, my autobiography would become famous.
I shall always think John Morley the best talker I ever heard, and after him Symonds and Birrell; George Meredith was too much of a prima donna, and was very deaf and uninterruptable when I knew him, but he was amazingly good even then. Alfred Austin was a friend of his, and had just been made Poet Laureate by Lord Salisbury when my beloved friend Admiral Maxse took me to see him for the first time. Feeling more than usually stupid, I said to him:
“Well, Mr. Meredith, I wonder what your friend Alfred Austin thinks of his appointment.”
Shaking his beautiful head, he replied:
“It is very hard to say what a bantam is thinking when it is crowing.”
I will end this chapter of triumphant youth with a note which my friend Lady Frances Balfour—one of the few intellectual women I have met—sent me from her father, the late Duke of Argyll, the wonderful orator of whom it was said that he was like a cannon being fired off by a canary.
Frances asked me to meet him at dinner, and I sat next to him. In the course of our conversation he quoted these words that he had heard in a sermon by Dr. Caird: “Oh! for the time when Church and State shall no longer be the watchword of opposing hosts, when every man shall be a priest, and every priest shall be a king, as priest clothed with righteousness, as king with power!”
I made him write it down for me, and we discussed preachers and politics at some length before I left the house.
The next morning he wrote to his daugh-
“How dare you ask me to meet a syren?
“Your affectionate, “A.”
To be Continued