Page images

are rather isolated in the world, and we must hold together as long as we can.

'Farewell I shall not intrude upon you again in this way.'

The Summer Term of 1880 was rendered memorable at Balliol by the performance of the Agamemnon of Aeschylus in the College Hall. The idea did not spring up in Balliol, and only one or two of the actors were Balliol undergraduates, but the success of the play was in a great measure due to the interest which Jowett took in it. He brought a number of his friends-among them Robert Browning-to see the performance, which, if it was not so elaborate and finished as those that came after, had at least the charm of novelty, and certainly produced a very striking impression. Among the Balliol men who took part in it, the leader was the Honourable W. N. Bruce, from whom I have the following account:

'The idea of acting the Agamemnon was not in its inception a Balliol affair. It originated in New College, but Benson' and I agreed that we were more likely to get Balliol Hall than any other, so I went off to see the Master, half afraid that he might ask me if I could construe the Agamemnon.

'I told him very shortly that we had a notion that a Greek play could be made quite as interesting on the stage as an English one, and that we wanted to try it in Balliol Hall. He chuckled a good deal at some of my dramatic opinions, asked who was going to take part, said, if I remember right, that he wished it should be done by Oxford undergraduates only, and then promised to ask the College. He continued to show great interest in our proceedings and preparations, and often talked to me about them. I remember his coming to one of the rehearsals with John Farmer, who was staying with him, I think. We got a good many snubs from other distinguished University magnates, but never anything but encouragement from him. we thought all the more of it, because we were none of us good

1 Mr. F. R. Benson, the well-known Shakespearian actor.

scholars and were often rather scared at our own audacity, and quite prepared to be told we were "fools rushing in where angels fear to tread!" The morning after the first performance he sent for all of us to see Browning, who was one of his guests for the occasion. We were all delighted of course, and heard the great man defend his own translation, especially from the charge of crudity. He seemed to think the chief objection made to it was its literal plainness!

'But what I remember best about our relations with the Master was the very earnest remonstrance he made both to Benson and myself, when he heard that we meant to act the play elsewhere. He wrote to Benson on the subject, and also to me, besides sending for me more than once to talk about it. We had decided to give a performance at Eton, Winchester, and Harrow, and afterwards in London. I think I was able to reconcile him to the performances at the schools, but never to the London one, and about the latter I felt at the time he was in the right, and feel so still more strongly now. He expressed the pleasure it had given him that it should have been done at Oxford, and his satisfaction and pride that Balliol had been so closely connected with the performance, but he pointed out that its great success under the conditions of the Oxford performance ought to make us careful of repeating it under different conditions, which he thought were to be dreaded for their possible effect on our own characters and for the risk which they involved of that very impertinence towards Aeschylus which our Oxford critics had resented, and of which under Oxford conditions he had declared us so innocent. I was much impressed at the time and have always remembered vividly how very earnest he was about it, though he never said an unkind or a hard word either to us or of us.

The Long Vacation was spent in weeks of quiet work at West Malvern, and in visiting his friends. Of his conversations brief notes remain, indicating the subjects in which he was interested. With Lady Martin he talked about Shakespeare, and was much impressed by a remark which she made, wondering at the prescience of Shake

speare, who could paint such noble female characters to be acted by boys. With General Strachey there was much conversation about India-the age of the candidates for the Service-the future of the country-the best mode of administration; for Jowett was never tired of talking about India, and adding to his information about the country. With Bowen and Marshall he discussed questions of moral philosophy. Was morality relative? So Bowen maintained, and he was supported by Strachey; but Jowett argued for the idealist view, as he always did'. In the autumn he once more devoted a few days to visiting cathedrals: Southwell Minster, Lincoln, York, Durham. At Southwell he noticed the 'most lovely Chapter House, about 1280 in date, with wonderful carving from nature. Never saw anything equal to it for complexity,' he observes: 'like a Chinese puzzle, with vine leaves, oak leaves, roses, &c., far superior to Roslyn Chapel.' Lincoln, he thought, had the finest exterior in England, perhaps in the world, but internally it was less beautiful than York.

After Christmas, he was again at West Malvern, toiling at the notes on Thucydides. While there a new and unexpected sorrow fell upon him in the death of Mrs. Cross ('George Eliot'), who died after a week's illness on December 22. Jowett felt the loss deeply, both on general and personal grounds. He wrote to Morier:

'January 15, 1881.

'You will have seen in the newspapers the death of Mrs. Cross. It grieves me, for she was a friend to whom I was greatly attached. Those who know her only from her books have but a faint idea of her character. Elle était plus femme, and had more feminine qualities, than almost anybody whom I have ever known. She was so kind and good, and so free from vanity and jealousy of all sorts. Very religious without

1 See below, p. 188.

[ocr errors]

definite beliefs, and with a sad humour and sense of humour, which was very singular and attractive. It would have been a great pleasure to me to introduce you to her. . . She intended to write one more great novel, and if her life had been spared would, I think, have gone on writing to the end. There was a time when she greatly desired to write some. thing for the good of women. But she thought that there were circumstances in her own life which unfitted her for this task. The accident of poverty about twenty years ago led her, at Mr. Lewes' suggestion, to try and write a story. This story was Amos Barton. She told me that if it had not been for the kindness of her husband she would never have written anything. She also told me that she was never a Comtist, but as they were a poor and unfortunate sect, she would never finally renounce them. She was a regular student, and had a great knowledge of numerous subjects about which she felt as well as thought, without in any degree losing her power of judgement.

'I do not know whether you are too far off to be interested in this sad loss to the world and to her friends, which deeply affects us in England. I never heard this remarkable woman say a word against others, or a word which I should wish unsaid.

'You must be tired of politics: therefore I shall not enter upon them. Write to me when you feel disposed, for I am always pleased to have a letter from you'.'

In the following May the Thucydides was at last published, but without the essays. 'I have docked him of a very ambitious addition in the shape of a third volume, consisting of essays, &c.,' so Jowett writes to Mr. Harrison; 'I did not feel equal to the completion of it at present, and did not like to wait 2.'

1 Cf. Dean Stanley's Letters, p. 445.

2 Of the subjects of these essays I find the following sketch in his notes:

1. The text of Thucydides. 2. The ungrammatical age.

3. Simplicity and complexity of the language.

4. The structure of the speeches. 5. The earlier Greek Historians. 6. The later Greek Historians. 7. The place of Thucydides in Greek History.

He was glad to shake off the burden which had oppressed him so long. On April 17 he writes to Mrs. Ilbert:-'I have just been sending off the last sheets of Thucydides to the press, and I assure you that the birth of a book, whether good or bad, is a very serious and absorbing business.' And as he was now at leisure to think of other things, he passes on in the same letter to another subject:-'My curtains have worn out, and the upholsterer pronounces them useless and impossible to dye. I am going to put up some "slight drollery," such as Falstaff recommends to Mrs. Quickly, of muslin curtains for the summer, and during the next six months shall consider in my mind what is best permanently.'

In the Summer Term Jowett had a very successful lecture'-which 'surprised him'-and this, with the completion of his difficult task, brought back the sunshine for a time. The entertainments at Commemoration were as bright and gay as ever, but only a few weeks elapsed before the death of Dean Stanley threw a lasting shadow on his life (July 18, 1881).

He was staying with me at the time, at Clifton. On his way he had called at the Deanery, but Stanley was too ill to see him; still Jowett-who was always most sanguine about illness-was not without hope. It happened that the tidings of the Dean's death were brought to me early in the morning, and when we met at breakfast I inquired whether he had any news of Stanley. He had none, and I then told him that his friend had passed away. For some time he remained silent, then

8. The geography of Thucydides.

9. The inscriptions bearing on Thucydides.

10. The sources of the history of Thucydides.

Nos. 8 and 9, on the geography and the inscriptions, were published in the volume of notes; but of the rest only a few pages were written, in a first draft.

« PreviousContinue »