Algernon Charles Swinburne.

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degradation. Those that under such an in-
fluence cannot kindle into the superhuman must,
it seems, harden into the animal. This, Redgie
averred, was his deliberate belief. Experience
of character, study of life, the evidence of com-
mon-sense, combined to lead him unwilling to
this awful inference. But then, how splendid
was her conduct, how laudable her endurance of
him, how admirable in every way her conjugal
position! I suggested children. The boy went
off into absolute incoherence. I could not quite
gather his reasons, but it seems the absence of
children is an additional jewel in her crown. He
is capable of finding moral beauty in a hump,
and angelic meaning in a twisted foot. And all


Love's Cross-currents

the time it is too ludicrously evident that the
one point of attraction is physical. Her good
looks, such as they are, lie at the bottom of all
this rant and clatter. We have our own silly
sides, no doubt; but I do think we should be
thankful we were not born males.

After this specimen of the prevalent state of
things I felt of course bound to get hold of her
and hear what she had to say. She had a good
deal. I always said she could talk well; this
time she talked admirably. She went into
moral anatomy with the appetite of sixty ; and
she is under thirty that I admit. She handled
the question in an abstract indifferent way won-
derful to see. The whole thing was taken up on
high grounds, and treated in a grand spirit of
research worthy of her husband. She did not
even profess to regard Redgie as a brother or
friend. In effect she did not profess anything:
a touch of real genius, as I thought at once. He
amused her; she liked him, believed in him,
admired his best points ; altogether appreciated
the value of such a follower by way of change
in a life which was none of the liveliest. Not
that she made any complaint; she is far too
sharp to poser & Vincomprise. I told her the
sort of thing was not a game permitted by the
social authorities of the time and country; the
cards would burn her fingers after another deal


A Year's Letters

or two. She took the hint exquisitely: was
evidently not certain she understood, but had
a vague apprehension of the thing meant; fell
back finally upon a noble self-reliance, and took
the pure English tone. The suggestion of any
harm resulting was of course left untouched:
such a chance as that we were neither of us
called upon to face. The whole situation was
harmless, creditable even; which is perfectly
true, and that is the worst of it. As in most
cases of Platonism, there is something to ad-
mire on each hand. And the existence of this
single grain of sense and goodness makes the
entire affair more dangerous and difficult to deal
with. She is very clever to manage what she
does manage, and Reginald is some way above
the run of boys. At his age they are usually
made of soft mud or stiff clay.

When we had got to this I knew it was hope-
less dissecting the matter any further, and began
talking of things at large, and so in time of her
brother and his outlooks. She was affectionate
and hopeful. It seems he has told her of an
idea which I encouraged ; that of travelling for
some months at least. How tenderly we went
over the ground I need not tell you. Clara does
not think him likely to be carried off his feet for
long. Console yourself, if you want the com-
fort ; we have no thought of marrying him. He is


Love's Cross-currents

best unattached. At the present writing he no
doubt thinks more of you than she would admit.
I regret it ; but he does. Do you, my dear child,
take care and keep out of the way just now. I
hear (from Ernest Radworth; his wife said
nothing of it; in fact, when he began speaking
the corners of her mouth and eyelids flinched
with vexation just for a breath of time) that
there is some talk now of a summer seaside ex-
pedition. Redgie of course ; Frank of course ; the
Radworths, and you two. I beg you not to
think of it. Why on earth should you all lounge
and toss about together in that heavy way?
You are off to London at last, or will be in ten
days' time, you say ; at least, before May begins.
Stay there till it breaks up; and then go either
north or abroad. Yachts are ridiculous, and I
know you will upset yourself. To be sure sen-
timent can hardly get mixed into the situation
if you do. The soupir entrecoup de spasmes is
not telling in a cabin ; you sob the wrong way.
Think for a second of too literal heart-sickness.
Cheyne is fond of the plan, it seems ; break him
of that leaning. He and Redgie devised it at
Lidcombe, Ernest says (he has left off saying
Harewood ; not the best of signs ; fcenum habet
never mind how tied on ; if he does go mad we
will adjust it ; but I forgot I never let you play
at Latin. Rub out this for me ; I never erase, as


A Year's Letters

you know, it whets and frets curiosity; and I
can't begin again).

Frank, when I saw him, pleased me more than
I had hoped. I made talk to him for some time ;
he is unusually reticent and rational; a rest
and refreshment after that insane boy whom we
can neither of us drive or hold as yet (but I shall
get him well in hand soon, et puis gare aux
ruades ! Kick he will, but his mouth shall ache
and his flanks bleed for it). No display or
flutter of any kind ; a laudable, peaceable youth,
it seems to me. Very shy and wary ; would not
open up in the least at the mention of you : talk-
ed of his sister very well indeed. I see the
points of resemblance now perfectly, and the
sides of character where the likeness breaks
down. He is clever as well as she, but less rapid
and loud ; the notes of his voice pleasant and of
a good compass, not various. I should say a
far better nature; more liberal, fresher, clearer
altogether, and capable of far more hard work.
Miss Banks comes out in both their faces alike,
though corrected of course by John, which
makes her very passable.

Is there much more to say ? As you must be
getting tired again, I will suppose there is not.
Will you understand if I suggest that in case of
any silent gradual breach beginning between
Cheyne and Frank, you ought to help it to

8 101

Love's Cross-currents

widen and harden in a quiet wise way ? I think
you ought. I don't mean a coolness; but just
that sort of relation which swings safe in full
midway between intimacy and enmity. We
all trtist, you know, that he is never to be the
heir; you must allow us to look for the reverse
of that. Then, don't you see for yourself, it
must be best for him to get a good standing for
himself on his own ground, and not hover and
flicker about Lidcombe too much ? I know my
dear child will see the sense of what I say. Not,
I hope and suppose, that she needs to see it on
her own account. Good-night, dearest ; be wise
and happy: but I don't bid you trouble your
head overmuch with the heavy hoary counsels
of Your most affectionate,

H. M.



London, April ijth.

You promised me a letter twice; none has
come yet. I want the sight of your handwriting
more than you know. Sometimes I lie all night
thinking where you are, and sometimes I dare
not lie down for the horror of the fancy. If I
could but entreat and pray you to come away
knowing what I do. Even if I dared hope
the worst of all was what it cannot be a
hideous false fear of mine I could hardly bear
it. As it is I am certain of one thing only in the
world, that this year cannot leave us where the
last did. If I must be away from you, and if
you must remain with him, I cannot pretend to
live in the way of other men. It is too mon-
strous and shameful to see things as they are
and let them go on. ' Old men may play with
such things if they dare. We cannot live and
lie. You are brave enough for any act of noble
justice. You told me once I knew you to the
heart, and ought to give up dreaming and hop-

Love's Cross-currents

ing but I might be sure, you said, of what I
had. I do know you perfectly, as I love you:
but I hope all the more. If hope meant any-
thing ignoble, could I let it touch on you for a
moment ? I look to you to be as great as it is
your nature to be. It is not for myself I am
ashamed to write even the denial that I sum-
mon you to break off this hideous sort of com-
promise you are living in. What you are doing
insults God, and maddens men who see it. Think
what it is to endure and to act as you do! I
ask you what right you have to let him play at
husband with you ? You know he has no right ;
why should you have ? Would you let him try
force to detain you if your mind were made up ?
You are doing as great a wrong as that would be,
if you stay of your own accord. Who could
blame you if you went ? Who can help blaming
you now? I say you cannot live with him
always. If I thought you could, could I think
you incapable of baseness ? and you know, I am
certain you do in your inmost heart know, that
you have shown me by clear proof how infinitely
you are the noblest of all women. Do all prefer
a brave and blameless sorrow, with the veil close
over it, to a shameful sneaking happiness under
the mask? There was a time when I thought
I could have worn it if I had picked it up at your
feet. The recollection makes me half mad

A Year's Letters

with shame. To have conceived of a possible
falsehood in your face is degradation enough for
me. Now that you have set me right (and I
would give my life to show you how much more
I have loved you ever since) I come to ask you
to be quite brave. Only that. I implore you
now to go without disguise at all. You can-
not speak falsely, I know ; but to be silent is of
itself a sort of pretence. Speak, for Heaven's
sake, that all who ever hear of you may adore
you as I shall. Think of the divine appeal
against wrong and all falsehood that you will
be making! a protest that the very meanest
must be moved and transformed by. It is so
easy to do, and so noble. Say why you go, and
then go at once. Put it before your brother.
Go straight to him when you leave the hateful
house you are in. He is very young, I know,
but he must see the greatness of what you do.
Perhaps one never sees how grand such things
are never appreciates the reality of their
greatness better than one does at his age. I
think boys see right and wrong as keenly as men
do ; he will exult that you are compelled to turn
to him and choose him to serve you. As for
me, I must be glad enough if you let me think
I have taken any part in bringing about that
which will make all men look upon you as I do
with a perfect devotion of reverence and love.

Love's Cross-currents

I believe you will let me see you sometimes. I
would devote my whole life to Radworth give
up all I have in the world to him. Even him I
suppose nothing could comfort for the loss of
you ; but if it ought to be ? At least we would
find something to do. I entreat you to read
this, and answer me. There can be but one
answer. I wish to God I knew what to do that
you would like done, or how to say what I do
know that I love you as no woman ever has
been loved by any man. What to call you or
how to sign this, I cannot think. I am afraid
to write more.

R. E. H.



Blocksham, April 28th.


ONE word at starting. I must not have you
think I feel obliged to answer you at all. I
do write, as you see ; but not because I am afraid
of you. And I am not going to pretend you put
me out. You shall not see me crane at the gaps.
Your fences are pretty full of them. Seriously,
what can you mean ? What you want, I know.
But how can you hope I am to listen to such
talk? Run away from nothing? I see no
sort of reason for changing. You take things
one says in the oddest way. I no more mean
to leave home because Ernest and I might have
more in common, than I should have thought
of marrying a man for his beaux yeux or for a
title. I hate hypocrisy. You are quite wrong
about me. Because I am simple and frank,
because I like (for a change) things and people
with some movement in them, you take me for
a sort of tied-up tigress, a woman of the Sand

Love's Cross-currents

breed, a prophetess with some dreadful mission
of revolt in her, a trunk packed to the lid with
combustibles, and labelled with the proof-mark
of a new morality: not at all. I am neither
oppressed nor passionate. I don't want de-
livering in the least. One would think I was
in the way of being food for a dragon. Even if
I were, how could you get me off ? We are born
to what we bear ; I read that and liked it, a day
since, in de Blamont's last book. I mean to
bear things. We all make good pack-horses in
time : I shall see you at the work yet. Suppose I
have to drudge and drag. Suppose I am fast to
the rock with a beast coming up " out of the sad
unmerciful sea." Better women live so, and so
they die. Can you kill my beast for me ? I sus-
pect not. It is not cruel. It means me no great
harm: but you it will be the ruin of. It feeds
on the knight rather than his lady. Do you
pass by. Be my friend in a quiet way, and
always. I shall be gratefuller for a kind thought
of yours than for a sheer blow. The first you
can afford ; the last hardly. All good-will and
kindly feeling does give comfort and a pleasure
to natural people who are not of a bad make to
begin with. I am glad of any, for my part : and
take it when I can. What more could you do
for me ? What better could I want ? Can you
change me my life from the opening of it ? It
1 08

A Year's Letters

began before yours was thought of ; you know I
am older ; have been told how much, no doubt ;
something perhaps a thought over the truth
what matter?

I will tell you what I would have done, and
would do, if I could. I would begin better; I
would be richer, handsomer, braver, nicer to
look at and stay near, pleasanter to myself. I
would be the first woman alive, and marry the
first man: not an Eve though, nor Joan of Arc
or Cleopatra, but something new and great. I
would live more grandly than great men think.
I should have all the virtues then, no doubt.
I would have all I wanted, and the right and
the power to feel reverence and love and honour
of myself into the bargain. And my life and
death should make up "a kingly poem in two
perfect books." That would be something bet-
ter than I can make my life now. I dare say
I might have had a grander sort of man for my
companion than I have (a better I think hardly) ;
but then I might have been born a grander sort
of woman. There is no end to all that, you see.
I am very well as I am ; all the better that I have
good friends.

I began as lightly as I could, and said nothing

of your tone of address and advice being wrong

or out of place ; but now you will let me say it

was a little absurd. Your desire seems to be that,

/ 109

Love's Cross-currents

because I have not all I might have (whereas I
also am not all I might be), I should leave my
husband and live alone, in the cultivation of
noble sentiments and in vindication of female
freedom and universal justice. How does it
sound to you now ? I do not ask you if such a
proposal ever was made before. I do not even
ask you if it ought ever to be listened to. I
make no appeal to the opinions of the world. I
say nothing of the immediate unavoidable con-
sequences. Suppose I can go, and (on some
grounds) ought to go. Are there not also
reasons why I ought to stay? Reflect for a
minute on results. Think, and decide for your-
self whether I could leave Ernest. For no
cause. Just because I can leave him, and like
to show that I know I can. I ask you, is that
base or not ? I should be disgracing him, spoil-
ing his life and his pleasure in it, and using my
freedom to comfort my vanity at the cost of his
just self-esteem and quiet content ; both of which
I should have robbed him of at once. I will do
no such thing. I will not throw over the man
who trusted and respected me loved me in a
way gave me the care of his life. When he
married me he reserved nothing. I have been
used generously ; I have received, at all events,
more than I have given. I wish, for my own
sake chiefly, that I had had more to give him.


A Year's Letters

But what I have given, at least I will not take

No, we must bear with the realities of things.
We are not the only creditors. Something is due
to all men that live. How much of their due do
you suppose the greater part of them ever get ?
Was it not you who showed me long ago that
passage in Chalfont's " Essays " where he says
I have just looked it out again ; my copy has a
slip of paper at the page with your initials on it.

"You are aware the gods owe you some-
thing, which they have not paid you as yet
all you have received at their hands being hither-
to insufficient? It appears also that you can
help yourself to the lacking portion of happiness.
Cut into the world's loaf, then, with sharp bread-
knife, with steady hand; but at what cost?
Living flesh as sensitive of pain as yours, living
hearts as precious as your heart, as capable of
feeling wrong, must be carved and cloven
through. Their blood, if you dare spill it for
your own sake, doubtless it shall make you fat.
They, too, want something ; take from them all
they have, and you shall want nothing. At this
price only shall a man become rich even to the
uttermost fulness of his desire, that he shall
likewise become content to rob the poor."

Ah, after the reading of such words as those,
can we turn back to think of our own will and

Love's Cross-currents

pleasure? Dare we remember our own poor
wants and likings? I might be happier away
from here ; what then, my dear cousin ? I might
even respect myself more, feel more honourable ;
and this, no doubt, is the greatest personal good
one can enjoy or desire : but can I take from the
man who relies on me the very gift that I covet
for myself ? A gift, too, this one, which all may
win and keep who are resolved not to lose it
by their own fault. I, for one, Reginald, will
not throw it away ; but I will not rob others to
heighten my relish of it with the stolen salt of
their life. Do you remember that next bit ?

"And suppose now that you have eaten and
are full ; digesting gravely and gladly the succu-
lence and savour of your life. Is this happiness
that you have laid hold of? Look at it; one
day you will have to look at it again ; and other
eyes than yours will. The terror of a just judg-
ment is this that it is a just one. The sting of
the sentence is that you, your own soul and
spirit, must recognize and allow that it is rightly
given against you. Fear not the other eyes, not
God's nor man's, if what is done remain right
for ever in your own. Few, even among cow-
ards, are really afraid of injustice. The mean-
est of them are afraid mainly of that which does
at first sight look just. But is this right in your
eyes, to have cut your own share out of the

A Year's Letters

world in this fashion? But what sort of hap-
piness, then, is this that you have caught hold
of? The fairest, joyfullest, needfullest thing
created is fire ; and the fist that closes on it burns.
Let go, I counsel you, the bread of cunning and
violence, the sweet sources of treason and self-
seeking ; there are worse ends than the death of
want. A soul poisoned is worse off than a
starved soul."

You used to praise this man to me, saying
there was no grander lover of justice in the
world. Surely to such a writer liberty and
truth are as clear as to you or me: and this is
what he admires. An American too, as he says
himself, fed with freedom, full of the love of his.
own right; but all great men would say as he
says, and all good men would do so. I shall try
at least. " There is an end of time, and an end
of the evil thereof: and when joy is gone out of
thee, then shall not thy sorrow endure for long.
Nevertheless thou sayest, grief shall remain
with me now that I have made an end of my
pleasure ; but grief likewise shall not abide with
thee. For before the beginning a little sorrow
was ordained for thee, and also a very little
pleasure; but there is nothing of thine that
endureth for ever."

Do you know where I found that ? In a book
of my husband's, the " Sayings of Aboulfadir,"

Love's Cross-currents

in a collection of translations headed " The Wise
Men of the East." You see I am growing as
philosophic as need be, and as literary. We
know better than that last sentence, but is
not the rest most true? You will forgive my
preacher's tone; it was hopeless trying to an-
swer such a letter as you wrote me in a sus-
tained light manner.

I hope you are not put out with me; I may
say, in ending, how sorry I should be for that.
You must find other things to think of, with-
out forgetting and throwing over old friendship.
"Plenty of good work feasible in the world
somehow, ' ' says your friend . For my poor little
part, I have just to hold fast to what I have,
and at least forbear doing harm. Again I ask
you to forgive me if this letter has hurt you
anywhere. Of course you can never show it.



London, May 7*k-

I HAVE read your letter twice over carefully,
and cannot see why we should alter our plans.
My sister, I know, counts upon you. But I can
imagine from what quarter the objection comes :
and I hardly like to think you will let it act upon
you in this way. Indeed, I for one have prom-
ised your brother to meet him half-way, on
the understanding that we were all to be at
Portsmouth or Ryde together. He for one
would be completely thrown out, if our project
were to break up. Is Lord Cheyne tired of the
plan, do you think? If so, I suppose there is
no more to say. You speak so uncertainly of
"having to give it up," and "not being sure of
the summer," that I have perhaps missed out
some such hint. Of course a word must be
enough for us ; but I fear it will not be easy to
get over Reginald. He is hot on the notion;
I think he must have a touch of the sea-
fever. In our school-days he used to bewail

Love's Cross-currents

his fate in being cut off from the sea as a

May 8th.

I left off yesterday because I wanted to go on
differently. Now, as I mean to finish this and
send it off at all hazards, I must speak out
once for all. I do not think you can mean to
break with all our hopes and recollections, and
change the whole look of life for me. I do not
suppose you have more regard for me than for
any other kinsman or chance friend. And I do
not appeal to you on the score of my own feel-
ing. You are no coward to be afraid of words,
or of harmless things I can say safely, that if
I could die to save you trouble or suffering I
should thank God. I love nothing seriously
that does not somehow belong to you ; all that
does not seems done in play, or to get the time
through. But I am not going to plead with you
on this ground. I ask nothing of you; if you
were to die to-night I should still have had more
than my fair share of luck in life. If I am to see
you again, I can only be as glad of it as I am
now, when I think of you. I cannot under-
stand why I should not have this too to be glad
of. What can people say, as things are? un-
less, indeed, there were to be a change of ap-
pearances. Then they might get vicious, and
talk idiocy. But you know what I shall do.

A Year's Letters

It is not I who have to set you right : we neither
of us want stupid words or anything like the
professional clack of love.

I think sometimes you might come to care for
me a little more. I know you detest that. Per-
haps the last word above had no business where
it came in. I remember your way of saying
what things you hated.

I see Reginald often now ; I suppose he is all
right. I am fond of him, but don't envy his
way of taking things. I like to look at him and
make out why he is thought so like you: and, I
think, when he is with me he talks more of you
than he used. I can hardly think he is older
than I am when I see how much less he knows
or feels of one thing.

May gth.

I have let this lie over another day. I have
nothing to say but that I can say nothing.
When I begin to write, I seem to hear you
speaking. I believe at times I can tell, by the
sensation, what you are doing at Lidcombe. I
have heard you speak twice since I sat down,
and I know the dress you have on. Do not
write unless you want. I can see how you will
take this. I cannot help it, you understand.

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