Algernon Charles Swinburne.

Love's cross-currents; a year's letters, by Algernon Charles Swinburne online

. (page 1 of 13)
Online LibraryAlgernon Charles SwinburneLove's cross-currents; a year's letters, by Algernon Charles Swinburne → online text (page 1 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


RB




Love's Cross-currents



A Year's Letters



By



Algernon Charles Swinburne




New York and London

Harper r Brothers Publishers
1905



Copyright, 1905, by HARPBR & BROTHERS.

All riffiti rtttntd.

Published July, 1905.



1LF.
URt



TO THEODORE WATTS-DUNTON



As it has pleased you to disinter this buried bant-
ling of your friend's literary youth, and to find it
worth resurrection, I must inscribe it to you as the
person responsible for its revival. Were it not that
a friend's judgment may always seem liable to
be coloured by the unconscious influence of friend-
ship, I should be reassured as to its deserts by the
approval of a master from whose verdict on a
stranger's attempt in the creative art of fiction
there could be no reasonable appeal and who,
I feel bound to acknowledge with gratitude and
satisfaction, has honoured it by the sponsorial
suggestion of a new and a happier name. As it
is, I can only hope that you may not be for once
mistaken in your favourable opinion of a study
thrown into the old epistolary form which even
the giant genius of Balzac could not restore to the
favour it enjoyed in the days of Richardson and
of Laclos. However that may be, I am content
to know that you agree with me in thinking

iii



Love's Cross-currents

that in the world of literary creation there is a
legitimate place for that apparent compromise be-
tween a story and a play by which the alternate
agents and patients of the tale are made to ex-
press what befalls them by word of mouth or of
pen. I do not forget that the king of men to whose
hand we owe the glorious history of Redgauntlet
began it in epistolary form, and changed the
fashion of his tale to direct and forthright narra-
tive when the story became too strong for him, and
would no longer be confined within the limits of
conceivable correspondence: but his was in its
ultimate upshot a historic and heroic story. And
I have always regretted that we have but one speci-
men of the uncompleted series of letters out of
which an earlier novel, the admirable Fortunes of
Nigel, had grown up into immortality. The
single sample which Lockhart saw fit to vouch-
safe us is so great a masterpiece of dramatic
humour and living imagination that the remainder
of a fragment which might well suffice for the fame
of any lesser man ought surely to have been long
since made public. We could not dispense with
the doubtless more generally amusing and inter-
esting narrative which superseded it : but the true
and thankful and understanding lover of Scott
must and will readily allow or affirm that there are
signs of even rarer and finer genius in the can-
celled fragment of the rejected study. But these

iv



Dedication

are perhaps too high and serious matters to be
touched upon in a note of acknowledgment pre-
fixed to so early an attempt in the great art of
fiction or creation that it would never have re-
visited the light or rather the twilight of publicity
under honest and legitimate auspices, if it had
not found in you a sponsor and a friend.



Contents



PAGE

PROLOGUE i

I. LADY MIDHURST TO MRS. RADWORTH . . 39

II. MRS. RADWORTH TO FRANCIS CHEYNE . 49

III. LADY MIDHURST TO LADY CHEYNE . . 53

IV. FRANCIS CHEYNE TO MRS. RADWORTH . 62
V. LADY CHEYNE TO FRANCIS CHEYNE . . 65

VI. LADY MIDHURST TO REGINALD HAREWOOD 68

VII. REGINALD HAREWOOD TO EDWARD AUDLEY 79

VIII. FRANCIS CHEYNE TO MRS. RADWORTH . 82

IX. LADY MIDHURST TO LADY CHEYNE . . 85

X. LADY MIDHURST TO LADY CHEYNE . . 93

XI. REGINALD HAREWOOD TO MRS. RADWORTH 103

XII. MRS. RADWORTH TO REGINALD HAREWOOD 107

XIII. FRANCIS CHEYNE TO LADY CHEYNE . . 11$

XIV. LADY MIDHURST TO REGINALD HAREWOOD Il8
XV. LADY CHEYNE TO FRANCIS 132

XVI. MRS. RADWORTH TO LADY MIDHURST . . 135

XVII. LADY MIDHURST TO LADY CHEYNE . . 139

XVIII. LADY MIDHURST TO FRANCIS CHEYNE . 150

XIX. FRANCIS CHEYNE TO MRS. RADWORTH . 155

XX. REGINALD HAREWOOD TO LADY CHEYNE 159

XXI. LADY MIDHURST TO MRS. RADWORTH , . l6g

vii



Contents

PACK

XXII. CAPTAIN HAREWOOD TO REGINALD . . 179

XXIII. FRANCIS CHEYNE TO MRS. RADWORTH . l86

XXIV. LADY CHEYNE TO MRS. RADWORTH . 192
XXV. REGINALD HAREWOOD TO EDWARD AUD-

LEY 196

XXVI. LADY CHEYNE TO REGINALD HAREWOOD 206

XXVII. REGINALD HAREWOOD TO MRS. RAD-

WORTH 211

XXVIII. LADY MIDHURST TO MRS. RADWORTH . 217

XXIX. FRANCIS CHEYNE TO LADY MIDHURST . 232

XXX. LADY MIDHURST TO LADY CHEYNE . . 236



Love's Cross-currents



Love's Cross-currents



PROLOGUE



IN the spring of 1849, old Lord Cheyne, the
noted philanthropist, was, it will be remem-
bered by all those interested in social reform,
still alive and energetic. Indeed, he had
some nine years of active life before him
public baths, institutes, reading - rooms,
schools, lecture-halls, all manner of improve-
ments, were yet to bear witness to his ardour
in the cause of humanity. The equable eye of
philosophy has long since observed that the
appetite of doing good, unlike those baser
appetites which time effaces and enjoyment
allays, gains in depth and vigour with advanc-
ing years a cheering truth, attested alike by
the life and death of this excellent man. Re-
ciprocal amelioration, he was wont to -say,



Love's Cross-currents

was the aim of every acquaintance he made
of every act of benevolence he allowed him-
self. Religion alone was^wanting to complete
a character almost painfully perfect. The
mutual moral friction of benefits bestowed and
blessings received had, as it were, rubbed off
the edge of those qualities which go to make
up the religious sentiment. The spiritual
cuticle of this truly good man was so hardened
by the incessant titillations of charity, and of
that complacency with which virtuous people
look back on days well spent, that the contem-
plative emotions of faith and piety had no ef-
fect on it; no stimulants of doctrine or pro-
vocatives of devotion could excite his fancy
or his faith at least, no clearer reason than
this has yet been assigned in explanation of a
fact so lamentable.

His son Edmund, the late lord, was nine-
teen at the above date. Educated in the lap
of philanthropy, suckled at the breasts of all
the virtues in turn,, he was even then the
worthy associate of his father in all schemes of
improvement; only, in the younger man, this
inherited appetite for goodness took a some-
what singular turn. Mr. Cheyne was a Social-
ist a Democrat of the most advanced kind.
The father was quite happy in the construction
of a model cottage; the son was busied with

2



Prologue .

plans for the equalization of society. The
wrongs of women gave him many a sleepless
night ; their cause excited in him an interest all
the more commendable when we consider that
he never enjoyed their company in the least,
and was, in fact, rather obnoxious to them than
otherwise. The fact of this mutual repulsion
had nothing to do with philanthropy. It was
undeniable ; but, on the other hand, the moral-
sublime of this young man's character was
something incredible. Unlike his father, he
was much worried by religious speculations
certain phases of belief and disbelief he saw fit
to embody in a series of sonnets, which were
privately printed under the title of "Aspira-
tions, by a Wayfarer." Very flabby sonnets
they were, leaving in the mouth a taste of
chaff and dust; but the genuine stamp of a
sincere and single mind was visible throughout ;
which was no small comfort.

The wife of Lord Cheyne, not unnaturally,
had died in giving birth to such a meritorious
portent. Malignant persons, incapable of ap-
preciating the moral-sublime, said that she died
of a plethora of conjugal virtue on the part of
her husband. It is certain that less sublime
samples of humanity did find the society of Lord
Cheyne a grievous infliction. Reform, emanci-
pation, manure, the right of voting, the national

3



Love's Cross-currents

burden, the adulteration of food, mechanics,
farming, sewerage, beet-root sugar, and the loft-
iest morality, formed each in turn the staple of
that excellent man's discourse. If an exhausted
visitor sought refuge in the son's society, Mr.
Cheyne would hold forth by the hour on divorce,
Church questions, pantheism, socialism (Chris-
tian or simple), the equilibrium of society, the
duties of each class, the mission of man, the bal-
ance of ranks, education, development, the
stages of faith, the meaning of the age, the rela-
tion of parties, the regeneration of the priest-
hood, the reformation of criminals, and the des-
tiny of woman. Had fate or date allowed it,
but stern chronology forbade, he would assur-
edly have figured as president, as member, or
at least as correspondent of the Society for the
Suppression of Anatomy, the Society for the
Suppression of Sex, or the Ladies' Society for
the Propagation of Contagious Disease (Un-
limited). But these remarkable associations,
with all their potential benefits to be conferred
on purblind and perverse humanity, were as yet
unprofitably dormant in the sluggish womb
of time. Nevertheless, the house decidedly
might have been livelier than it was.

Not that virtue wanted its reward. Lord
Cheyne was in daily correspondence with some
dozen of societies for the propagation and sup-



Prologue

pression of Heaven knows what; Professor
Swallow, Dr. Chubbins, and Mr. Jonathan Bio-
man were among his friends. His son enjoyed
the intimacy of M. Adrien Laboissiere, secretary
of the committee of a minor democratic society ;
and Mdlle. Cle"mence de Massigny, the too-cele-
brated authoress of "Rosine et Rosette," "Con-
fidences d'un Fauteuil," and other dangerous
books, had, when in the full glow of her brief
political career, written to the young son of pale
and brumous Albion, "pays des libertes tron-
qu6es et des passions chatrees," an epistle of
some twenty pages, in which she desired him, not
once or twice, to kiss the paper where she had
left a kiss for him "baiser chaste et fre'mis-
sant," she averred, " e"treinte altiere et douce de
1'esprit d6gag6 des pieges hideux de la matiere,
te'moin et sceau d'un amour ide"al. ' ' " O poete !"
she exclaimed elsewhere, "versons sur cette
triste humanit6 la rose"e rafraichissante de nos
pleurs ; melons sur nos levres le soupir qui con-
sole au sourire qui rayonne. Chaque larme qui
tombe peut rouler dans une plaie qu'elle soula-
gera. Les volupt6s acres et seVeres de 1'atten-
drissement valent bien le plaisir orageux des
sens allume's." All this was astonishing, but
satisfactory to the recipient, and worth at least
any two of his father's letters. Chubbins, Bio-
man, and the rest, practical men enough in their

5



Love's Cross-currents

way, held in some contempt the infinite and the
ideal, and were incapable of appreciating the
absolute republic and the forces of the future.

The arid virtue of the two chiefs was not com-
mon to the whole of the family. Mr. John
Cheyne, younger brother to the noted philan-
thropist, had lived at a great rate for years;
born in the regency period, he had grasped the
receding skirt of its fashions ; he had made friends
with his time, and sucked his orange to some
purpose before he came to the rind. He married
well, not before it was high time; his finances,
inherited from his mother, and originally not
bad for a younger son, were shaken to the last
screw that kept both ends together; he was
turned of forty, and his wife had a decent fort-
une: she was a Miss Banks, rather handsome,
sharp and quick in a good-natured way. She
brought him a daughter in 1836, and a son in
1840 ; then, feeling, no doubt, that she had done
all that could be looked for from a model wife,
completed her good work by dying in 1841.
John Cheyne consoled himself with the reflection
that she might have done worse ; his own niece,
the wife of a neighbour and friend, had eloped
the year before, leaving a boy of two on her hus-
band's hands. For the reasons of this we must
go some way back and bring up a fresh set of
characters, so as to get things clear at starting.

6



Prologue

A reference to the Peerage will give us, third
on the Cheyne family list of a past generation,
the name of "Helena, born 1800, married in
1819 Sir Thomas Midhurst, Bart., by whom
(deceased) she had one daughter, Amicia, born
1820, married in May, 1837, to Captain Philip
Hare wood, by whom she had issue Reginald-
Edward, born April 7, 1838. This marriage was
dissolved in 1840 by Act of Parliament." And
we may add, Mrs. Harewood was married in the
same year to Frederick Stanford, Esq., of Ash-
ton Hildred, co. Bucks, to whom, in 1841, she
presented a daughter, named after herself at the
father's desire, who in 1859 married the late
Lord Cheyne, just ten months after his father's
lamented decease. Lady Midhurst, then already
widowed, took up her daughter's cause energeti-
cally at the time of the divorce. Her first son-
in-law was her favourite abhorrence ; with her
second she had always been on the best of terms,
residing, indeed, now for many years past with
him and his wife, an honoured inmate for the
term of her natural life, and in a quiet though
effectual way mistress of the whole household.
It was appalling to hear her hold forth on the
topic of the unhappy Captain Harewood. She
had known him intimately before he married
her daughter ; at that time he thought fit to be
delightful. After the marriage he unmasked at

7



Love's Cross-currents

once, and became detestable. (Fan and foot,
clapping down together, used to keep time to this
keen- voiced declaration.) He had used his wife
dreadfully ; at this day his treatment of the poor
boy left in his hands was horrible, disgraceful
for its stupidity and cruelty such a nice little
fellow the child was, too, not the least like him,
but the image of his mother and of her (Lady
Midhurst), which of course was reason enough
for that ruffian to ill-use his own son. There
was one comfort, she had leave to write to the
boy, and go now and then to see him ; and she
took care to encourage him in his revolt against
his father's style of training. In effect, as far
as she could, Lady Midhurst tried to instil into
her grandson her own views of his father's
character ; it was not difficult, seeing that father
and son were utterly unlike and discordant. Old
Lord Cheyne (who took decidedly the Harewood
side, and used sometimes to have the boy over
to Lidcombe, where he revelled about the
stables all day long) once remonstrated with his
sister on this course of tactics. "My dear
Cheyne," she replied, in quite a surprised voice,
"you forget Captain Harewood's estate is en-
tailed." He was an ex -captain; his elder
brother had died before he paid court to Miss
Midhurst, and, when he married, the captain
had land to settle on. As a younger brother,

8



Prologue

Lady Midhurst had liked him extremely; as a
man of marriageable income, she gave him her
daughter, and fell at once to hating him.

Capricious or not, she was a beautiful old
woman to look at; something like her brother
John, who had been one of the handsomest men
of his day; her daughter and granddaughter,
both women of singular beauty and personal
grace, inherited their looks and carriage from
her. Clear-skinned, with pure regular features,
and abundant bright white hair (it turned sud-
denly some ten years after this date, in the
sixtieth of her age), she was a study for old
ladies. People liked to hear her talk; she was
not unwilling to gratify them. At one time of
her life, she had been known to say, her tongue
got her into some trouble, and her style of sar-
casm involved her in various unpleasant little
differences and difficulties. All that was ever
said against her she managed somehow to out-
live, and at fifty and upwards she was general-
ly popular, except, indeed, with religious and
philanthropic persons. These, with the natu-
ral instinct of race, smelt out at once an enemy
in her. At sight of her acute attentive smile
and reserved eyes a curate would become hot
and incoherent, finally dumb; a lecturer ner-
vous, and voluble to the last.



II

THE two children of Mr. John Cheyne enjoyed
somewhat less of their aunt's acquaintance and
care than did her grandchildren, or even her
other nephew, Lord Cheyne's politico-philan-
thropic son and successor. They were brought
up in the quietest way possible; Clara with a
governess, who took her well in hand at an early
age, and kept her apart from all influence but
her own; Frank under the lazy kind incurious
eyes of his father, who coaxed him into a little
shaky Latin at his spare hours, with a dim vision
before him of Eton as soon as the boy should be
fit. Lord Cheyne now and then exchanged
visits with his brother, but not often ; and the
children not unnaturally were quite incapable of
appreciating the earnest single-minded philan-
thropy of the excellent man their father hard-
ly relished it more than they did. But there
was one man, or boy, whom John Cheyne held
in deeper and sincerer abhorrence than he did
his brother ; and this was his brother's son. Mr.
Cheyne called between whiles at his uncle's, but

10



Prologue

was hardly received with a decent welcome. A
clearer-sighted or more speculative man than
John Cheyne would have scented a nascent in-
clination on his nephew's part towards his
daughter. There was a sort of weakly weary
gentleness of manner in the young philanthro-
pist which the girl soon began to appreciate.
Clara showed early enough a certain acuteness,
and a relish of older company, which gave
promise of some practical ability. At thirteen
she had good ideas of management, and was a
match for her father in most things. But she
could not make him tolerate his nephew; she
could only turn his antipathy to profit by letting
it throw forward into relief her own childish
friendliness. There was the composition of a
good intriguer in the girl from the first ; she had
a desirable power of making all that could be
made out of every chance of enjoyment. She
was never one to let the present slip. Few
children have such a keen sense as she how in-
finitely preferable is the smallest limping skinny
half-moulted sparrow in the hand to the fattest
ortolan in the bush. She was handsome too,
darker than her father's family ; her brother had
more of the Cheyne points about him. Frank
was not a bad sort of boy, quiet, idle, somewhat
excitable and changeable, with a good deal of
floating affection in him, and a fund of respect



Love's Cross-currents

for his sister. Lady Midhurst, after one of her
visits (exploring cruises in search of character,
she called them), set him down in a decisive
way as "flat, fade, wanting in spice and salt;
the sort of boy always to do decently well under
any circumstances, to get creditably through
any work he might have to do; a fellow who
would never tumble because he never jumped ;
well enough disposed, no doubt, and not a
milksop exactly certain to get on comfortably
with most people, if there were not more of his
father latent in the boy than she saw yet;
whereas, if he really had inherited anything of
her brother John's headstrong irresolute nature,
she was sure he had no strong qualities to
counterbalance or modify it."

Lady Midhurst rather piqued herself on this
exhaustive elaborate style of summary; and
had, indeed, a good share of insight and analytic
ability. Her character of Frank was mainly
unfair; but that quality of "always doing well
enough under any circumstances " the boy really
had in some degree: a rather valuable quality
too. His aunt would have admitted the value
of it at once ; but he was not her sort, she would
have added; she liked people who made their
own scrapes for themselves before they fell into
them, and then got out without being fished
for. Frank would get into trouble sometimes,

12



Prologue

no doubt, but he would just slip in. Now it was
always better to fall than to slip. You got less
dirty, and were less time about it; besides, an
honest tumble was less likely to give you a bad
sprain. This philosophic lady had a deep belief
in the discipline of circumstances, and was dis-
posed to be somewhat more than lenient towards
any one passing (not unsoiled) through his time
of probation and training. Personally, at this
time, Frank was a fair, rather short boy, with
light hair and grey eyes, usually peaceable and
amiable in his behaviour ; his sister, tall, brown,
thin, with clear features, and something of an
abrupt decisive air about her. They had few
friends, and saw little company ; Captain Hare-
.wood, who in former days had been rather an
intimate of John Cheyne's, hardly ever now rode
over to see his ex-friend; not that he had any
quarrel with the uncle of his divorced wife, but
he now scarcely ever stirred out or sought any
company beyond a few professional men of his
own stamp and a clergyman or two, having
lately taken up with a rather acrid and dolorous
kind of religion. Lady Midhurst, one regrets to
say, asserted that her enemy made a mere pre-
tence of austerity in principle, and spent his
time, under cover of seclusion, in the voluptuous
pastime of torturing his unlucky boy and all his
miserable subordinates. " The man was always

13



Love's Cross-currents

one of those horrid people who cannot live with-
out giving pain ; she remembered he was famous
for cruelty in his profession, and certainly he
had always been the most naturally cruel and
spiteful man she ever knew; she had not an
atom of doubt he really had some physical
pleasure in the idea of others' sufferings; that
was the only way to explain the whole course of
his life and conduct." Once launched on the
philosophy of this subject, Lady Midhurst went
on to quote instances of a like taste from history
and tradition. As to the unfortunate Captain
Harewood, nothing could be falser than such an
imputation; he was merely a grave, dry, shy,
soured man, severe and sincere in his sorrowful
distaste for company. Perhaps he did enjoy
his own severity and moroseness, and had some
occult pleasure in the sense that his son was
being trained up sharply and warily ; but did not
a boy with such blood in his veins need it ?

Thus there was one source of company cut
off, for the first years of their life, from the
young Cheynes. The only companion they were
usually sure of was not much to count on in the
way of amusement, being a large, heavy, soli-
tary boy of sixteen or more, a son of their neigh-
bour on the left Mr. Rad worth, of Blocksham.
These Radworths were allies of old Lord
Cheyne's, who had a great belief in the youth's

14



Prologue

genius and promise. He had developed, when
quite young, a singular taste and aptitude for
science, abstract and mechanical; had carried
on this study at school in the teeth of his tutors
and in defiance of his school-fellows, keeping
well aloof from all other learning and taking
little or no rest or relaxation. His knowledge
and working power were wonderful ; but he was
a slow, unlovely, weighty, dumb, grim sort of
fellow, and had already overtasked his brain
and nerves, besides ruining his eyes. He never
went anywhere but to the Cheynes', and there
used to pay a dull puzzled homage to the girl,
who set very light by him. There was always a
strong flavour of the pedant and the philistin
about Ernest Radworth, which his juniors were
of course quick enough to appreciate.

Mr. John Cheyne, though on very fair terms
with his sister, did not visit the Stanfords ; he
had never seen his niece since the time of the
divorce; Lady Midhurst was the only member
of the household at Ashton Hildred who ever
came across to his place. The two children
hardly knew the name of their small second
cousin, Amicia Stanford ; she was a year younger
than Frank Cheyne, and the petted pupil of her
grandmother. Mrs. Stanford, a gentle hand-
some woman, placid and rather shy in her
manner, gave the child up wholly to the elder



Love's Cross-currents

lady's care, and spent her days chiefly in a
soft sleepy kind of housekeeping. A moral ob-
server would have deplored the evident quiet
happiness of her life. She never thought at all
about her first husband, or the three years of
her life which Lady Midhurst used to call her
pre-Stanford period, except on those occasions
when her mother broke out with some fierce
reference to Captain Harewood, or some angry
expression of fondness for his son. Then Mrs.
Stanford would cry a little, in a dispassionate
graceful manner ; no doubt she felt at times some
bitter tender desire and regret towards the first


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Online LibraryAlgernon Charles SwinburneLove's cross-currents; a year's letters, by Algernon Charles Swinburne → online text (page 1 of 13)