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coach with the portmanteau safely stowed away in the boot? Historically speaking, the journey is a blank. But whether he walked, or spanked along behind four lively horses to the tune of jingling harness and the guard's busy horn, even supposing that it rained cats and dogs and the drops trickled down his neck, we know very well that his spirits were bubbling over with excitement, that he felt exactly like a knight of romance starting forth in quest of high adventure in the green forest."
Even more characteristic of Miss Lowell's method than this passage is still another descriptive of a journey:
On Monday, April fourteenth, he booked an outside seat for Southampton on the Lymington and Poole Mail, leaving the Bull and Crown Inn, Holborn, at half-past seven on that very evening. Shortly after three in the morning, the mail clattered through the little village of Chawton, past a small cottage standing directly beside the road. In this cottage lived a widow lady, Mrs. George Austen, and her two daughters, Cassandra and Jane. Did Jane Austen wake just as day was breaking on that Tuesday morning and listen to the mail going by? I wonder.
I should like to quote passages in which she discloses the boy's developing love for the best in his poetry, his companionship with his brothers, his delight in the Elgin Marbles; but it would be unfair to the reader to take these jewels from their setting. Surely Professor Chauncey Brewster Tinker in a review of the biography is unjust when he says, "Miss Lowell's book is, in a sense, new in kind. It is preeminently the work of a book-collector." Is it not already apparent to you that it is preeminently the work of a poet, and a student of mankind?
Professor Tinker's review is a tempered and kindly one; but he errs again, it seems to me, and vigorously, when he says: "There are, to be sure, moments when the reader feels that Keats is be
ing somewhat overcharged with praise. He is defended against every conceivable criticism. There was no indecision or vulgarity, no bumptiousness despite his treatment of Shelley sensuality, no commonplace thinking.” This is not fair to a book which is courageously aware of its hero's faults. True, his ancestry is defended, the vulgarisms of the Fanny Brawne letters condoned, the truth of the hint by some biographers that he contracted syphilis at Oxford doubted, many of the legends about this "moon-struck boy" dispelled; but Miss Lowell is too good a New Englander, too experienced in advising young poets, to let John Keats escape. She is definite and harsh in her criticism of his early verses - yes, of some of his later work. She calls four of his poems "four great failures" punctuating his life: "Sleep and Poetry", "Endymion", "Otho the Great", and "Hyperion". One of her chapter headings reads, "A Pet Lamb in a Sentimental Farce", Keats's own estimate of himself taken up by literary society and behaving a trifle like a spoiled child. spoiled child. That he escaped is Miss Lowell's concern and pride in him. She is horrified by his inability to face financial difficulties, and does not conceal the fact that she considers his softness in lending money to friends, when he could ill afford it, unmoral. She even feels that he should have made some attempt to fill his pocketbook by accepting an offered job as salesman, no matter how distasteful it might have been. Moreover, in her amazing account of his love affair she finds him at times thoroughly selfish, and although she understands the reasons behind this selfishness, she is too much the woman quite to forgive it. No, Miss Lowell has not worshiped blindly at her shrine. She has remained her usual clearminded self.
As a study of creative genius and the working out of the life of a man of letters, the book is unexcelled. The chapter on "Endymion", technical though it is, has enough of that keen exploratory sense which is the mark of the fine critic to make it worthwhile, even entertaining, reading. Miss Lowell's studies of the poet's sources, of his selection of material, of the effect of environment and circumstance on the development of certain poems, of the maturing of his genius to its full fruit in the composition of the odes, "The Eve of St. Agnes", the fragment of "The Eve of St. Mark", are little short of masterly. Here her detective as well as her critical faculties come into play. To one who knows little of the actual details of Keats's literary history, the dating of a poem, the tracing of copies of Drayton's "Endymion and Phoebe", the new complexion placed on the composition of "Hyperion", are actually of slight importance. Yet Miss Lowell makes them vital. You rejoice with her at some meaty discovery or wise conjecture. You hope that she is right and Sir Sidney wrong. She persuades you subtly into her lists in these matters.
She has so visualized John Keats that, at last, the smallest new sentence from his pen becomes magnified, the discovery of the source of his black eye, of paramount interest. "Now here is my bomb-shell!" she writes, and goes on to make you believe that her conclusions concerning "Hyperion" constitute an explosive.
In reading of the circle of friends that surrounded this young poet, it is impossible not to make comparisons with today. What of log rollers in literary history? How would poor Keats have managed, had it not been for his friends who wrote him sonnets and reviewed his books, who succored him and encouraged him and defended him?
Of these friends, Miss Lowell finds Richard Woodhouse, although not the closest, certainly the most consistently helpful. How wise she is, too, in knowing that it was seldom the actual criticism of these friends that helped, but simply that so-frowned-on log rolling, back patting-in other words, encouragement that kept Keats going in the face of criticism often both personal and bitter. She knows, too, how ridiculous are most charges of literary plagiarism. Did not Keats borrow freely, do not most great poets borrow freely, or great novelists or playwrights or what not? Can any jury in any land say what has really been stolen, and what imaginative idea is native to any man? "Improvement is the only justification needed for a literary theft", says Miss Lowell. What a treat it would be to hear a court deliberating as to whether Keats had improved over Drayton, or whether he had secured the background for his great "St. Agnes" from "The Mysteries of Udolpho". What a difference there is between one of the great poems of all time and a forgotten popular novel!
The last part of Miss Lowell's narrative is told with skill and tenderness. Fanny Brawne becomes no less real than Keats. The wasting body and fevered mind of the young poet, the lessening vitality, combined with his ripening poetic gift, make a tragic picture. Into the hopelessness of his health Miss Lowell brings the brilliant light of his poetry as relief. Nor must we forget the clear, beautiful picture of his love for his brother Tom, and his unreasoning loyalty to the coarser grained George, demanding money from his newfound home in America. Trouble piles on trouble. Through it all he writes, feverishly sometimes, lingeringly at others, and always his biographer tells us what he writes,
under what strains, with what intent. Now it is the misconceived "Otho", now the melancholy measures of "To Autumn", now the jingling vagaries of "The Cap and Bells". Throughout the two volumes Miss Lowell has used letters gracefully and with telling effect. Some of them have hitherto been unpublished; but all of them seem fresh by their clever placement. Good letters they are, especially the poet's own: letters that are like diaries, or notes filled with zest and humanity, or blazing with strained and tormented love, silly jealousy, or oversweet emotion.
A rich book this, in more ways than one, flashing with beautiful sentences,
profound in human emotion, always intelligent. Seldom has a story of a literary man been so carefully planned, so brilliantly executed. Having secured her facts at great pains, Miss Lowell made them a part of herself and gave us Keats as she sees him, as we can scarcely fail to see him, having read her book. Her publishers have not failed in their part; binding, type, illustration, are in accord with the text. In every way it is a great piece of work, one in which we may take both pride and pleasure.
By Josephine Pinckney
HE Buzzard and the Butterfly playing in the field,
Nobody home but the baby
Butterfly shivers in his red-speckled wings,
Butterfly giggles, "How sweet the fields taste!
I'll eat and I'll eat
not a honey drop will waste; Death can't catch me till there's nothing left to eat!" Long eyed Buzzard sleeks his feathers with his beak "Death will be a-coming either this week or next week Go to sleep my little baby
Go to sleep, go to sleep
A YOUNG AMERICAN'S FRIENDSHIP WITH
By Edward Wassermann
HEN I left America during the war I hoped, being a pacifistic young American, to meet Anatole France in preference to the Kaiser. Through a lucky chain of events I became attached to an organization that was transferred to Tours where Anatole France was residing. He had started to remodel his house in Paris, but at the outbreak of the war had found it impossible to have the work completed. Thereupon he had gone to his country seat. So one bleak March day, with an acquaintance who had a letter of introduction to France, I motored through the narrow streets of Tours over the Loire bridge and up the steep hill at Saint Cyr. The whole drive took about a quarter of an hour. We reached the iron grill gate of La Bechellerie. We rang a bell that clanked stridently though not altogether unmusically. The door opened and we came into a courtyard with a graceful Louis XIII manor house at its end. On entering the hall, dimly lighted by a lamp, we saw our host come shambling out in easy gait from the next room.
everything pertaining to art, he had an unending interest in politics and in the war. He was rather worried about the outcome of it — thought that the end of the world was drawing near. He was disgusted that humanity, which he had always hoped might improve, was continuing on its old road of stupidity. "Indeed," he said, "war and love are the two things that men do best." From time to time he would pace the floor, his sharp eyes darting out glances in a most searching yet kindly way. He was dressed in his usual home garb of a suit minus the coat, an old colorless woolen dressing gown, and a red velvet skull cap whose color contrasted vividly with his white hair. When engaged in some discussion, he would move his cap at various angles. At this time I met Mlle. Laprévotte. France informed me that she was the only bright spot in his life and that I would find her a kindred soul since she also was an American. Not wishing to presume on France's good nature, I did not prolong this first visit, from which I carried away in addition to the bewilderment of an accomplished ambition that had no regret at its accomplishment - a charming souvenir of his delightful hospitality. He had been kind enough to ask me to call again. I did so and then, gradually forgetting that I was in the presence of a genius and remembering only his simplicity and kindliness, I formed a friendship with him which
grew until I saw him practically every day.
Mademoiselle had been born in St. Louis of fairly humble parentage and had spent most of her life in France. With Anatole France she occupied a peculiar position which was a blending of companion and housekeeper. She was very timid, very bashful, deeply appreciative of any attention. Though most people rather looked down on her and considered her boresome and bothersome, I had the impression that her simplicity and goodheartedness really fitted her for the exalted position she was finally to attain. France adored her, treated her almost as a child, and took his moods from hers.
In May, 1917, I was ordered to Paris. Before I left Tours I went to pay my respects to France. Mademoiselle was ill and I feared that France would be in no mood to see me; but he did, and presented me with his photograph, an amicable kiss on my forehead, and his paternal blessing. In August of that year I returned to Tours and immediately went up to see France, who welcomed me as a long lost friend. From then on I went up every Sunday for lunch, and generally once a week in the afternoon, for luckily I was a tin soldier who was usually free at sundown. It was interesting to notice the various well known people who would go up to see France. Among them I met such celebrities as Michel Corday, Kermit Roosevelt, Steinlen, Moutet the deputy Socialist who defended Caillaux, Louis Barthou, Pierre Mille, and Mlle. Maille. At that time Mlle. Maille was in the Comédie Française, and I was fortunate enough to go with her and France to a celebration in memory of Paul Louis Courier. He had been born at Véretz, a tiny town near Tours. Mlle. Maill
after which France made a speech in honor of the celebrated pamphletist. France never had been a good public speaker and he read his discourse somewhat haltingly; but for all that its beautiful language was obvious.
About this time I decided to try for a commission in the United States Army, and France, always interested in even the slightest details of the life of a fellow human being, was good enough to give me this letter of recommendation: "I can conscientiously affirm that having known Sergeant Edward Wassermann since his arrival in France I am able to appreciate his remarkable intelligence, his excellent mind, his exemplary morals, and his thorough knowledge of the French language which he speaks perfectly. Consequently I suppose that you will judge Sergeant Wassermann to be capable of rendering great service as an officer. Receive, gentlemen, the expression of my highest esteem. (Signed) Anatole France of the French Academy." France had always treated rather slightingly the French Academy, and he told me that in order to be more helpful to me he had signed "of the French Academy" for the first time, since he never cared to use this title. I omit discussion of France's other eulogistic phrases this article is no confession but as to my "remarkable intelligence", unfortunately I was not to pass my examination. Whereupon France, as true philosopher and friend, said that he considered examinations the proof of the world's idiocy, since they were invented by idiots to fool wise men. In one of his books he relates his own failure to pass an examination because he was so intimidated that he said "yes" to everything, even when the examiner asked him if the River Seine were in Africa. His geniality was truly remarkable.