Algernon Charles Swinburne.

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and fearfully foolish for such a clever cold in-
tellect as she had. I fancy our friend has more
of the Elizabeth in her; quite as dangerous a
variety. If she ever does get an impulse, God
help her friends ; but there will be no fear even
then for herself: not the least. Only do you
'take care; you have not the stuff to make a
Leicester ; and I don't want you to play Essex
to a silver-gilt Elizabeth. Silver? she is just
pinchbeck all through. As to heart, that is,
and style ; her wits are well enough.

Now, if you have got thus far (but I am con-
vinced you will not), you ought to understand
(but I would lay any wager you don't) what my
judgment of her is, and what yours ought to be.
She is admirable, I repeat again and again, but
she ought not to be adorable to you; the great
points about her are just those which appeal to
the experience of an old woman. The side of
her that a boy like you can see of himself is just
the side he ought not to care about. Of course
he will like it if he is not warned; but I have
warned you: quite in vain, I am fully prepared
to hear. If you are in effect allured and fas-
cinated by the bad weak side of her I can't help
it: liber am animam me am; I suppose even my
dunce of the lower fifth (at twenty-three) can
construe that. My hand aches, and you may


Love's Cross-currents

thank Heaven it does, or you would get a fresh
dressing (as people call it) on paper. Do, my
dear, try to make sense of this long dawdling
wandering scrawl: I meant to be of some use
when I began. I don't want to have my nice
old Redgie made into a burnt-offering on the
twopenny tinselled side-altar of St. Agnes of

I send no message to the Lidcombe people,
as I wrote to Amicia yesterday. Give my com-
pliments to your father if you dare. I must
really be very good to waste my time and
trouble on a set of girls and boys who are far
above caring to understand what an old woman
means by her advice. You seem to me, all of
you, even younger than your ages; I wish you
would stick to dolls and cricket. Cependant,
as to you, my dear boy, I am always

Your affectionate grandmother,


P.S. You can show this letter to dear Clara
if you like.



Lidcombe, March ist.

DID you see last year in the Exhibition a por-
trait by Fairfax of my cousin Mrs. Rad worth?
You know of course I am perfectly well aware
the man is an exquisite painter, with no end of
genius and great qualities in his work; but I
declare he made a mull of that picture. It was
what fellows call a fiasco complete. Imagine
sticking her into a little crib of a room with a
window and some flowers and things behind her,
and all that splendid hair of hers done up in
some beastly way. And then people say the
geraniums and the wainscot were stunning pieces
of colour, or some such rot ; when the fellow ought
to have painted her out-of-doors, or on horse-
back, or something. I wish I could sit a horse
half as well; she is the most graceful and the
pluckiest rider you ever saw. I rode with her
yesterday to Hadleigh, down by the sea, and we
had a gallop over the sands; three miles good,
and all hard sand; the finest ground possible;

Love's Cross-currents

when I was staying here as a boy I used to go
out with the grooms before breakfast, and ex-
ercise the horses there instead of taking them
up to the downs. She had been out of spirits in
the morning, and wanted the excitement to set
her up. I never saw her look so magnificent;
her hair was blown down and fell in heavy un-
curling heaps to her waist ; her face looked out
of the frame of it, hot and bright, with the eyes
lighted, expanding under the lift of those royal
wide eyelids of hers. I could hardly speak to
her for pleasure, I confess; don't show my
avowals. I rode between her and the sea, a
thought behind ; a gust of wind blowing off land
drove a wave of her hair across my face, upon
my lips ; she felt it somehow, I suppose, for she
turned and laughed. When we came to ride
back, and had to go slower (that Nourmahal of
hers is not my notion of what her horse should
be I wish one could get her a real good one),
she changed somehow, and began to talk serious-
ly at last ; I knew she was not really over happy.
Fancy that incredible fool Ernest Radworth
never letting her see any one when they are at
home, except some of his scientific acquaintances
not a lady in the whole country-side for her to
speak to. You should have heard her account
of the entertainments in that awful house of
theirs, about as much life as there used to be


A Year's Letters

at my father's. Don't I remember the holiday
dinners there! a parson, a stray military man
of the stodgier kind, my tutor, and the pater;
I kept after dinner to be chaffed, or lectured, or
examined a jolly time that was. Well, I
imagine her life is about as pleasant ; or worse,
for she can hardly get out to go about at all.
People come there with cases of objects, curiosi-
ties, stones and bones and books, and lumber
the whole place. She had to receive three
scientific professors last month; two of them
noted osteologists, she said, and one a com-
parative ichthyologist, or something a man
with pink eyes and a mouth all on one side,
who was always blinking and talking a friend
of my great-uncle's, it seems, who presented
him years ago to that insane ass Radworth.
Think of the pair of them, and of Clara obliged
to sit and be civil. She became quite sad
towards the end of our ride; said how nice it
had been here, and that sort of thing, till I was
three-quarters mad. She goes in three or four
days. I should like to follow her everywhere,
and be her footman or her groom, and see her
constantly. I would clean knives and black
boots for her. If I had no fellow to speak or
write to, I can't think how I should stand things
at all.



London. March j$th

You don't suppose I want you to quarrel with
me, my dear Clara ? It is folly to tax me with
trying (as you say) to brouiller you with the
Stanfords or with Redgie Harewood. As to the
latter, you know we are on good enough terms
together ; I never was hand and glove with him
that I recollect. Do as you like about Ports-
mouth. I will join you if I can after some time.

But about my extra fortnight at Lidcombe
I must write to you. Lord Cheyne is quite
gracious, with a faint flavour of impertinence ; I
never saw one side of him before. (Since I left
I have heard twice once from him and once
from Amicia. They talk of coming up. Cheyne
thinks of beginning to speak again. I believe
myself he never got over your cruel handling of
his eloquence six years ago. I remember quite
well once during the Easter holidays hearing you
and Lady Midhurst laugh about it by the hour.)
Amicia is, I more than suspect, touched more


A Year's Letters

deeply than we fancied by the things that were
said this winter. Her manner is often queer and
nervous, with a way of catching herself up she
has lately taken to breaking off her sentences
and fretting her lip or hand. I wish at times
I had never come back. If I had stayed up last
Christmas to read, as I thought of doing, there
would have been nothing for people to talk of.
Now I certainly shall not think of reading for a
degree. Perhaps I may go abroad, with Hare-
wood if I can get no one else. He is the sort of
fellow to go anywhere, and make himself rather
available than otherwise, in case of worry.

Tenez, I suppose I may as well say what I
meant to begin upon at once, without shirking
or fidgeting. Well, you were right enough
about my staying after you left ; it did lead to
scenes. In a quiet way, of course; subdued
muffled-up scenes. I was reading to her once,
and Cheyne came in; she grew hot, not very
red, but hot and nervous, and I caught the
feeling of her; he wanted us to go on, and, as
we began talking of other things, left us rather
suddenly. We sat quiet for a little, and then
somehow or other found ourselves talking about
you I think b, propos of Cheyne 's preferences;
and she laughed over some old letter of Lady
Midhurst's begging her to take care of Redgie
Harewood, and prevent his getting desperately

Love's Cross-currents

in love with you. I said Lady M. always seem-
ed to me to live and think in a yellow-paper
French novel cover, with some of the pages
loose in sewing; then A. said there was a true
side to that way of looking at things. So you
see we were in the thick of sentiment before
we knew it. And she is so very beautiful to
my thinking; that clear pale face and full eye-
brows, well apart, making the eyes so effective
and soft, and her cheeks so perfect in cutting.
I cannot see the great likeness of feature to her
brother that people talk of; but I believe you
are an admirer of his. It was after this that the
dim soft patronizing manner of Cheyne's which
I was referring to began to show itself, or I
began to fancy it. We used to get on perfectly
together, and he was never at all gracious to
me till just now, when he decidedly is.

Make Radworth come up to London before
you go to Portsmouth or Ryde, or wherever it
is. And do something or other in the Ashton
Hildred direction, for I am certain by things I
heard Amicia say, that Lady Midhurst " means
venom." So lay in a stock of antidotes. I wish
there was a penal colony for women who outlive
a certain age, unless they could produce a cer-
tificate of innocuous imbecility.



Ashton Hildred, March i8th.

So you have made a clear house of them all,
my dear child, and expect my applause in con-
sequence ? Well, I am not sure you could have
done much better. And Cheyne is perfect
towards you, is he? That is gratifying for me
(who made the match) to hear of, but I never
doubted him. As for the two boys, I should like
to have them in hand for ten minutes; they
seem to have gone on too infamously. I retire
from the field for my part; I give up Redgie;
he must and will be eaten up alive, and I respect
the woman's persistence. Bon appgtit! I bow
to her, and retire. She has splendid teeth. I
suppose she will let him go some day? She
can hardly think of marrying him when Ernest
Radworth is killed off. If I thought she did, I
would write straight to Captain Harewood. Do
you think the Radworth has two years' vitality
left him?

I am too old to appreciate your state of mind


Love's Cross-currents

as to your cousin. You know, too, that I have
a weakness for clear accurate accounts, and your
style is of the vaguest. It is impossible you can
be so very foolish as to become amourachte of a
man in any serious sense. Remember, when
you write in future, that I shall not for a second
admit that idea. Married ladies, in modern
English society, cannot fail in their duties to
the conjugal relation. Recollect that you are
devoted to your husband, and he to you. I
assume this when I address you, and you must
write accordingly. The other hypothesis is im-
possible to take into account. As to being in
love, frankly, I don't believe in it. I believe
that stimulant drinks will intoxicate, and rain
drench, and fire singe ; but not in any way that
one person will fascinate another. Avoid all
folly; accept no traditions; take no sentiment
on trust. Here is a bit of social comedy in
which you happen to have a part to play ; act as
well as you can, and in the style now received
on the English boards. Above all, don't indulge
in tragedy out of season. Resolve, once for all,
in any little difficulty of life, that there shall be
nothing serious in it ; you will find it depends on
you whether there is to be or not. Keep your
head clear, and don't confuse things; use your
reason determine that, come what may, noth-
ing shall happen of a nature to involve or em-


A Year's Letters

barrass you. As surely as you make this resolve
and act on it, you will find it pay.

I must say I wish you had been more attentive
to my hint with regard to your brother. Study
of the Radworth interior, and the excitement
(suppose) of a little counterplot, would have
kept you amused and left you sensible. I see
too clearly that that affair is going all wrong I
wish I saw as clearly how to bring it all right.
Reginald is a hopeless specimen I never saw
a boy so fairly ensorceU. These are the little
pointless endless things that people get ruined
by. Now if you would but have taken notice
of things you might have righted the whole
matter at once. If I could have seen you good
friends with Clara I should have been content.
But as soon as you saw there was no fear of her
making an affair with your husband (or, if you
prefer it, of his being tolerably courteous to her)
you threw up your cards at once. At least you
might have kept an eye on the remaining play-
ers; a little interest in their game would have
given you something better to think about than
Frank. As it is, you seem to have worked your-
self into a sort of vague irritable moral nervous-
ness which is not wholesome by any means.

I want you to go up to London for some lit-
tle time, and see the season out. Encourage
Cheyne's idea of public life; it is an admirable


Love's Cross-currents

one for both of you. The worst thing you
could do would be to stay down at Lidcombe,
and then (as you seem to think of doing) join
your cousins again in some foolish provincial
or continental expedition. I had hoped to
have seen you and Clara pull together, as they
say now, better than you do; I have failed in
the attempt to make you; but at least, as it
seems you two can have no real mutual in-
fluence or rational amicable apprehension of
each other, I do trust you will not of your own
accord put yourself in her way for no mortal
purpose. Is it worth while meeting on the
ground of mutual indifference? I recommend
you on all accounts to keep away from both
brother and sister.

Not that I underrate him, whatever you may
think. I see he is a nice boy; very faithful,
brave, and candid ; with more of a clear natural
stamp on him than I thought. The mother has
left him enough of her quick blood and wit, and
it has got well mixed into the graver affection
and sense of honour that he inherits from our
side. I like and approve him; but you must
observe that all this does not excuse absurdities
on either hand. Of course he is very silly; at
his age a man must be a fool or nothing: by the
nothing I mean a pedant either of the head or
the heart species \avoid pedants of the heart


A Year's Letters

kind, by-the-way), or a coquin manque. I have
met the latter ; Alfred Wandesford, your father's
friend, was one of that sort at Frank's age;
you know his book had made a certain false
noise gone off with a blank report flashed
powder in people's eyes for a minute; and,
being by nature lymphatic and malleable at
once, he assumed a whole sham suit of vices, cut
out after other men's proportions, that hung
flapping on him in the flabbiest pitiable fashion ;
but he meant as badly as possible ; I always did
him the justice, when he was accused of mere
pasteboard sins and scene-painters' profligacy,
to say that his wickedness was sincere but
clumsy. It was something more than wicked-
ness made to order. Such a man is none the
less a rascal because he has not yet found out
the right way to be a rascal, or even because he
never does find it out, and dies a baffled longing
scoundrel with clean hands. Wandesford did
neither, but turned rational and became a
virtuous and really fortunate man of letters,
whom one was never sorry to see about : and I
don't know that he ever did any harm, though
he was rather venomous and vulgar. One or
two of his things are still worth your read-

Now, because Frank is neither a man of this
sort nor of the pedant sort, but one with just the

Love's Cross-currents

dose of folly proper to his age, and that folly of
rather a good kind, I want him not to get en-
tangled in the way that would be more danger-
ous for him than for any other sort of young
man. I wish to Heaven there were some sur-
gical process discoverable by which one could
annihilate or amputate sentiment. Passion,
impulse, vice of appetite or conformation, noth-
ing you can define in words is so dangerous.
Without sentiment one would do all the good
one did either by principle or by instinct, and in
either case the good deed would be genuine and
valuable. Sinning in the same way, one's very
errors would be comprehensible, respectable,
reducible to rule. But to act on feeling is
ruinous. Feeling is neither impulse nor prin-
ciple a sickly, deadly, mongrel breed between
the two I hate the very word sentiment. The
animalist and the moralist I can appreciate,
but what, on any ground, am I to make of the
sentimentalist ?

Decide what you will do. Look things and
people in the face. Give up what has to be
given up ; bear with what has to be borne with ;
do what has to be done. Remember that I am
addressing you now with twenty years of the
truest care and affection behind me to back up
my advice. Remember that I do truly and
deeply care about the least thing that touches


A Year's Letters

you. To me you are two; you carry your
mother about you.

Let us see what your last letter really amounts
to. You have seen a good deal of your cousin
for the last six weeks, and are vaguely unhappy
at his going. (Once or twice, I am to infer, there
has been a touch of softer sentiment in your
relations to each other.) Not, I presume, that
either has dreamt of falling in love: but you
live in a bad time for intimacies ; a time seasoned
with sentiment to that extent that you can
never taste the natural flavour of a sensation.
You were afraid of Clara too, a little ; disliked
her; left her to Cheyne or to Reginald, as the
case might be (one result of which, by-the-by,
is that I shall have to extricate your brother,
half eaten, from under her very teeth) ; and let
yourself be drawn, by a sort of dull impulse,
without a purpose under it, towards her brother.
Purpose I am, of course, convinced there was
none on either side. I should like to have some
incidents to lay hold of; but I am quite aware
that incidents never do happen. I wish they
did; anything rather than this gradual steady
slide of monotonous sentiment down a groove of
uneventful days. The recollection that you
have not given me a single incident nothing
by way of news but a frightened analysis of
feeling and record of sentimental experience

Love's Cross-currents

makes me seriously uneasy. Write again and
tell me your plans : but for Heaven's sake begin
moving; get something done; engage yourself
in some active way of amusement. Have done
with the country and its little charities and
civilities at least for the present. London is
a wholesomer and more reasonable home for
you just now.



Ashton Hildred, April 6th.

WELL, I have been to London and back, my
dear child, with an eye to the family complica-
tions/ and have come to some understanding of
them. When I wrote to you last month I was
out of spirits, and no doubt very stupid and
obscure. I had a dim impression of things
being wrong, and no means of guessing how to
get them right. Now, I must say I see no real
chance of anything unfortunate or unpleasant.
You must be cautious, though, of letting people
begin to talk of it again. I have a project for
getting both the boys well out of the way on
some good long summer tour. Frank is very
nice and sensible ; I would undertake to manage
him for life by the mere use of reasoning. As
to Reginald, c'est une tete fUe ; it may get
soldered up in ten years' time, but wants beat-
ing about first ; I should like to break it myself.
Actually, I had to encourage his verse-making


Love's Cross-.currents

pat that rampant young Muse of his on the
back and stroke him down with talk of pub-
lication till he purred under my fingers. It is
a mercy there is that escape- valve of verse. I
think between that and his sudden engouement
for foreign politics and liberation campaigns, and
all that sort of thing, he may be kept out of the
worst sort of mess: though I know one never
can count upon that kind of boy. I should quite
like to enrol him in real earnest in some absurd
legion of volunteers, and set him at the Quadri-
lateral with some scores of horrid disreputable
picciotti to back him. I dare say he would fight
decently enough if he were taken into training.
Imagine the poor child in a red rag of a shirt,
and shoeless, marching au pas over the fallen
dynasties to the tune of a new and noisier Mar-
seillaise ! It would serve him right to get rubbed
against the sharp edges of his theory; and if
he were killed we should have a mad martyr in
the family, and when the red republic comes in
we might appeal to the Committees of Public
Safety to spare us for the sake of his memory.
His father would die of it, for one thing; I do
think Redgie is fated to make him crever with
rage and shame and horror; so you see I shall
always have a weak side in the boy's favour. But
if you knew how absurd all this recandescence
of revolution in the young people of the day


A Year's Letters

seems to me! My dear Amy, I have known
men who had been dipped in the old revolution :

J'ai connu des vivants a qui Danton parlait.

You remember that great verse of Hugo's; I
showed it to Reginald the last time he was
declaiming to me on Italy, and confuted him
out of the master's mouth. It is true of me,
really; both my own father and my dear old
friend, Mr. Chetwood, had been in Paris at
dangerous times. They had seen the great
people of the period, and the strange sights of it.
I have run off into all this talk about old
recollections, and forgotten, as usual, my start-
ing-point ; I was thinking of the last interview I
had with Reginald. But I suppose you want
some account of my stay in London. You
know I had your house to myself (it was ex-
cellent on Cheyne's part to renew his offer of
lending it, and spare an ancient relative the
trouble of asking you to get her the loan of it
from him) ; and, as your father came up with me,
I travelled pleasantly enough, though we had
fearful companions. I rested for a day or two,
and then called upon the Radworths. Ernest
looks fifty; if he had the wit to think of it, I
should say he must always have understated
his real age. I have no doubt, though, he will

Love's Cross-currents

live for ages (I don't mean his reputation, but
his bodily frame); unless, indeed, she poisons
him I am certain she would, if she durst. She
herself looks older; I trust, in a year or two,
she will have ceased to be at all dangerous, even
for boys. We had a curious interview ; not that
day, but a week after. I saw Reginald next day ;
he is mad on that score, quite. I like to see such
a capacity for craziness ; it looks as if a man had
some corresponding capacity for being reason-
able when his time came. He never saw such
noble beauty and perfection of grace, it appears ;
there is an incomparable manner about the
least thing she does. She is gloriously good,
too has a power of sublime patience, a sense of
pity, a royal forbearance, a divine defiance of
evil, and various qualities which must ennoble
any man she speaks to. To look at her is to be
made brave and just; to hear her talk is a lay
baptism, out of which the spirit of the auditor
comes forth purged, with invulnerable armour
on; to sit at her side is to become fit for the
grandest things ; to shake hands with her makes
one feel incapable of a mean wish. Base things
die of her; she is poisonous to them. All the
best part of one, all that makes a man fit to live,
comes out in flower at the sight of her eyes.
Accepting these assertions as facts (remarkable
perhaps, but indisputable), I desired to know


A Year's Letters


whether Ernest Radworth was my friend's ideal
of the glorified man? heroic as a martyr he
certainly was, I allowed, in a passive way. If
a passing acquaintance becomes half deified by
the touch of her, I put it to him frankly, what
must not her husband have grown into by this
time, after six years of marriage? Reginald
was of opinion that on him the divine influence
must have acted the wrong way. The man
being irredeemably bad, abject, stupid, there
was nothing noble to be called out and respond
to her. The only result, therefore, of being
always close to the noblest nature created was,
in men like him, a justly ordained increase of

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