Algernon Charles Swinburne.

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

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asks after you always, and seems rather to cling
to company. All the legal work is over; and
I hope you will not be bothered with any more
letters. If you care to hear, I may tell you
there is some chance of my getting to work
after all. They want to diplomatize me: I am
to have some secretaryship or other under
Lord Fotherington. If anything comes of it
I shall leave England next month. I shall have
Arthur Lunsford for a colleague, and one or
two other fellows I know about me. A. L.
was a great swell in our school-days, and used
to ride over the heads of us lower boys with



Love's Cross-currents

spurs on. I wonder if Frank remembers what a
tremendous licking he got once for doing Luns-
ford's verses for him without a false quantity, so
that when they were shown up he was caught
out and came to awful grief. I don't know if I
ever believed in anything as I did once in the
get-up of that fellow. To have him over one
again will be very comic ; he never could get on
without fags. Do you think the service admits
of his licking them ? I suspect he might thrash
me still if he tried: you know what a splendid
big fellow he is. Audley says he is attache" to
Lady F., not to the embassy ; and makes his way
by dint of his songs and his shoulders. People
adore a huge musical man. Muscles and music
matched will help one to bestride the world.
Aime ! I wish I could buy either of them, cheap.
Do you remember an old Madame de Roche-
laurier, who used to claim alliance with you
through some last-century Cheyne, and was
great on old histories ? a lank old lady, with a
half -shaved chin and eyes that our grandmother
called vulturine old hard eyes, that turned on
springs in her head without appearing to look ?
She has turned up again this year in England,
and means to marry her daughter to Frank, the
Radworths say. I have seen the daughter, and
she is admirable; the most perfect figure, and
hair like the purple of a heartsease ; her features
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A Year's Letters

are rather too like a little cat's for me; she is
white and supple and soft, and I suppose could
sparkle and scratch if one rubbed up her fur
when the weather was getting electric. Clara
thinks her figure must be an English inheri-
tance: she is hardly over seventeen. They do
not think Frank will take up with her, though
C. would push the match if she could on his ac-
count. You would have heard of this from her
if I had not written. Madame de Rochelaurier
is one-third English, you know, and avows her
wishes in the plainest way. She is immense
fun, and very bland towards me. She gave me
one bit of family history which I must send you :
it seems she had it from the great-uncle
"homme impayable, et dont mon cceur porte
toujours le deuil rapiece"." (She really said
it unprovoked; Frank is a faded replica of his
father, in her eyes; "mais Claire! c'est son por-
trait vivant fait d'apres Courbet." Which I
could not make out; why Courbet? and she
would not expound.) Here is the story:
The Lady Cheyne of James I.'s time was a great
beauty, as we know by that portrait the one
with heaps of full deep-yellow hair, you re-
member, and opals under the throat. It seems
also she was a proverb for goodness, in spite of
having to husband that unbeautiful " William,
tenth Baron," with the gaunt beard and grisly
161



Love's Cross-currents

collar that bony -cheeked head we always
thought the ugly one of the lot. That was why
they gave her the motto "sans reproche" on
the frame. She had two fellows in love with
her the one a Sir Edmund Brackley, and the
other, one regrets to say, the old Reginald Hare-
wood I was christened after, who wrote those
poems my father keeps under key, and will not
let the Herbert Society have to print. I knew
he had a story, and that the old miniature of
him, with long curls, once had some inscription,
which my grandfather got rubbed out. He was
a fastish sort of fellow evidently, and rather a
trump; he had some tremendous duel at nine-
teen with a Scot of the King's household, and
killed his man; never could show his face at
Court afterwards. The old account was that
he lost heart after six months' suit, and killed
himself for love of her : but the truth seems to be
this; that our perfect Lady Margaret lost her
own head, and fell seriously in love with his
rhymes and his sword-hand; and one time
(this is the Rochelaurier version) let him in at
a wrong hour. Then, in the late night, she
went to Lord Cheyne and roused him out of
sleep, bidding him come now and be judge be-
tween her and all the world. So he got up and
followed (in no end of a maze one would think),
and she brought him to a room where her lover
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A Year's Letters

was lying asleep with his sword unfastened.
Then she said, if he believed her good and
honest, let him strike a stroke for her and kill
this fellow. And the man held off (you should
have heard your uncle tell it, Madame de
Rochelaurier said ; her own old eyes caught fire,
and her hand beat up and down) ; he stood back
and had pity on him, for he was so noble to
look at, and had such a boy's face as he lay
sleeping along. But she bade him do her right,
and that did he, though it were with tears. For
the lover had hired that night a gentlewoman
of hers to betray her into his hands before it was
yet day; and she had just got wind of the
device. (But really she had let him in herself
in the maid's dress, and just then left him.
"Quelle te"te!" Madame de Rochelaurier ob-
served.) Then her husband struck him and
roused him, and made him stand up there and
fight, and before the poor boy had got his
tackling ready, ran him through at the first
pass under the heart. Then he took his wife's
hand and made her dip it into the wound and
sprinkle the blood over his face. And the fellow
just threw up his eyes and winced as she wetted
her hand, and said "Farewell, the most sweet
and bitter thing upon earth," and so died. After
that she was held in great honour, and most of
all by her old suitor, Sir Edmund, who became
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Love's Cross-currents

friends with her husband till the civil war,
when they took up separate sides, and people
believed that Brackley (who was of the Parlia-
ment party) killed Lord Cheyne at Naseby
with his own hand. His troopers, at all events,
did, if he missed. The story goes, too, that
Cheyne lived to get at the truth about his wife
by means of her servant, and "never had any
great joy of his life afterwards." Madame de
Rochelaurier gave me a little copy of verses
sent from my namesake " To his most excellent
and perfect lady, the Lady Margaret Cheyne";
she got them from our uncle, who had looked up
the story in some old papers once, on a rainy
visit at Lidcombe. I copied them for you, think-
ing it might amuse you when you have time on
hand to look them over.

I
Fair face, fair head, and goodly gentle brows,

Sweet beyond speech and bitter beyond measure;
A thing to make all vile things virtuous,

Fill fear with force and pain's heart's blood with

pleasure ;

Unto thy love my love takes flight, and flying
Between thy lips alights and falls to sighing.

II
Breathe, and my soul spreads wing upon thy breath;

Withhold it, in thy breath's restraint I perish;
Sith life indeed is life, and death is death,

As thou shalt choose to chasten them or cherish;
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A Year's Letters

As thou shalt please; for what is good in these
Except they fall and flower as thoti shalt please?

Ill
Day's eye, spring's forehead, pearl above pearls' price,

Hide me in thee where sweeter things are hidden,
Between the rose-roots and the roots of spice,

Where no man walks but holds his foot forbidden ;
Where summer snow, in August apple-closes,
Nor frays the fruit nor ravishes the roses.

IV
Yea, life is life, for thou hast life in sight;

And death is death, for thou and death are parted.
I love thee not for love of my delight,

But for thy praise, to make thee holy-hearted;
Praise is love's raiment, love the body of praise,
The topmost leaf and chaplet of his days.

V
I love thee not for love's sake, nor for mine,

Nor for thy soul's sake merely, nor thy beauty's;
But for that honour in me which is thine,

To make men praise me for my loving duties;
Seeing neither death nor earth nor time shall cover
The soul that lived on love of such a lover.

VI

So shall thy praise be more than all it is,
As thou art tender and of piteous fashion.

Not that I bid thee stoop to pluck my kiss,

Too pale a fruit for thy red mouth's compassion;

But till love turn my soul's pale cheeks to red,

Let it not go down to the dusty dead.

R. H.

FINIS



Love's Cross-currents

The thing is dated 1625, and he was killed next
year, being just my age at the time. I do call it
a shame; but Madame de Rochelaurier says it
was worth her while, and would make a good
story, which one might call "The Cost of a
Reputation." "C'etait decide'ment une femme
forte," she said placidly. That is true, I should
say, but the presence of mind was rather
horribly admirable; she must have had great
pluck of a certain sort to go straight off to her
husband and put the thing into his head;
no wonder they called her "sans reproche." I
should put " sans merci" on the frame if it were
mine. Those verses of his read oddly by the
light of the story ; I have rather a weakness for
that pink and perfumed sort of poem that smells
of dead spice and preserved leaves ; it reads like
opening an old jar of pot-pourri, with its stiff
scented turns of verse and tags of gold em-
broidery gone tawny in the dust and rust. And
in spite of all the old court-stuff about apples
and roses and the rest, there is a kind of serious
twang in it here and there, as if the man did care
to mean something. I suppose he didn't mind,
and liked his life the better on account of her;
would have gone on all the same if he had known ;
fellows do get to be such fools. I don't think I
should have cared much either. Conceive
Ernest not liking his wife to talk about it. He

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found the verses in a book of hers, and wanted
to burn them : then sat down and read Prodgers
on Pantology, or something in that way, for two
hours instead, till Madame de Rochelaurier call-
ed, Clara told me that evening. A treatise on
the use of fish-bones as manure I think it was.
She will not take the Rochelaurier view at all,
and says Lady Margaret ought to have been
hanged or burnt. As for my forefather, she
calls him the perfectest knight and fool on
record: the sort of man one could have risked
being burnt for with pleasure. She would have
been a noble chatelaine in the castle days. One
would have taken the chance for her sake;
rather. And if ever anything were said about
her all such natures do get ill-used I think
and trust you for one would stand by her and
speak up for her. She is too good to let the
world be very good to her. Tears and brilliant
light mixed in her eyes when she talked of that
bit of story: the beautifullest pity and anger
and passionate compassion. She might have
kept sans reproche on her shield, and never
written sans merci on her heart. I believe she
could do anything great. She wanted to be at
Naples last year; would have outdone Madame
Mario in that splendid labour of hers. She
says if she were not in mourning already she
would put on deeper black for Cavour now; I
167



Love's Cross-currents

told her not. If she had been born an Italian,
and had the chance given her, she would have
gone into battle as gladly as the best men. That
Venice visit last year set the stamp on it. I
never saw her so nearly letting tears really fall
as when she quoted that about the "piteous
ruinous beauty of all sights in the fair-faced city
that death and love fought for when it was alive,
and love was beaten, but comes back always to
look at the sweet killed body left there adrift
between sea and sunset." I am certain Ernest
wears her out; the miserable day's work does
tell upon her, and the nerves and head will fail
bit by bit if it goes on. Men would trust in her
and honour her if she were a man ; why cannot
women as it is ? Whatever comes, she ought to
look to us at least ; to you and me.



XXI

LADY MIDHURST TO MRS. RADWORTH

Ashton Hildred, Sept. loth.

I WISH my news were of a better sort ; but I
can only say, in answer to your nice kind letter,
that Amicia is in a very bad way indeed. At
least, I think so ; she has not held up her head
for weeks, and her face seems to me changing, as
some unusually absurd poet of your generation
has observed, "from the lily-leaf to the lily-
stem." Stalk he might at least have said, but
he wanted a sort of villainous rhyme to " flame."
A letter from Reginald the other day put some
light and colour into her for a minute, but seemed
to leave her worse than ever when the warmth
was taken off. Next day she could not come
down: I, with some conventional brutality,
forced a way into her room and found her just
asleep, her face crushed into the wet pillow, with
the fever of tears on the one cheek uppermost
leaden and bluish with crying and watching.
I tell her that to weep herself green is no widow's
duty, and no sign of ripeness; but she keeps
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Love's Cross-currents

wearing down; is not visibly thinner yet, but
must be soon. Her eyelids will get limp and
her eyelashes ragged at this rate; she speaks
with a sort of hard low choke in the notes of her
voice which is perfectly ruinous. Very few
things seem to excite her for a second ; she can
hardly read at all: sits with her chin down and
eyes half drawn over like a sleepy sick child. I
should not wonder to see her hair beginning to
go: she actually looks sharp: one might expect
her brows and chin to become obtrusive in six
months' time. Even the rumour we hear (not
at first hand you know) about a Rochelaurier
revival did not seem to rouse or amuse her. If
there is anything in the chatter, one can only
be glad of such an improvement in the second
generation; for I cannot well conceive Frank's
marrying, or your approving, a new edition of
Mademoiselle Armande de Castigny. Fabien
de Rochelaurier was the most victimized, un-
happiest specimen of a husband I ever saw:
a Prudhomme-Coquardeau of good company, if
you can take and will tolerate the Gavarni
metaphor. The life she led him is unknown;
half her exploits, I believe devoutly, never
reached the light many I suspect never would
bear the air. You must know what people say
of that young M. de Saverny, who goes about
with them the man you used to get on so well
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A Year's Letters

with two years ago ? He never turned up dur-
ing Madame de Saverny's life anywhere and
months after the poor wretched lady's death
his father produces this child of four, and takes
him about as his orphaned heir, and presents
him notamment to the Rochelauriers, who
make an infinite ado about the child ever
after. Why, at one time he wanted to marry
the girl himself had played with her in child-
hood plighted troth among budding roses
chased butterflies together Paul et Virginie,
nothing less. This was a year ago, just after
he went back to France, she being barely out of
her convent. Do you want to know why, and
how, it was broken off? Look in the table of
affinities.

Of course, if the girl is nice, tant mieux. Re-
membering my dear mother, it is not for me
to object to a French Lady Cheyne. But a
Rochelaurier if Rochelaurier it is to be you
will allow is rather startling. Old M. de Saverny
is dead, certainly, which is one safeguard, and
really a thing to be thankful for. He was awful.
Valfons, Lauzun, Richelieu's own self, hardly
more compromising. And here the mother tells.
Unluckily, but so it is. Taking one thing with
another into account, though, Philomene might
get over this well enough. Ce nom tramontain
et deVot m'a toujours crispe" les nerfs. But if
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Love's Cross-currents

Frank likes her, well and good. People do not
always inherit things. Your friend, for instance,
the amiable Octave, is not very like that ex-
quisite and infamous old father. Only I should
be inclined to take time, and look well about me.
Here, again, you may be invaluable to the boy.
By what I remember, I should hardly have
thought Philomene de Rochelaurier would turn
out the sort of girl to attract him. Pretty I
have no doubt she is. Octave I always thought
unbearable; that complexion of singed white
always gives me the notion of a sheet of note-
paper flung on the fire by mistake, and snatched
off with the edges charred. Et puis ces yeux de
lapin. Et cette voix de serin. The blood is
running out, evidently. M. de Saverny pere
was great in his best days. They used to say
last year that Count Sindrakoff had supplanted
his ghost aupres de la Rochelaurier. She is
nearly my age. But I believe the Russian was
a young man of the Directory or thereabouts. I
am getting horridly scandalous, but Armande
was always too much for my poor patience. She
thinks herself one of Balzac's women, and gets
up affairs to order. Besides, she always fell
short of diplomacy through pure natural lack
of brain; and yet was always drawing blunt
arrows to the head, and taking shaky aim at
some shifting public bull's-eye. I wrote a
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A Year's Letters

little thing about her some years since, and
labelled it, "La Femme de Cinquante Ans,
Etude"; it got sent to Jules de Versac, who
touched it up, and put it in the Timon it was
the best sketch I ever made. I dare say she
knows I wrote it. It amuses me ineffably to
find her taking up with Redgie Harewood; I
suppose by way of paying indirect court to us.
I know he has more than the usual boy's weak-
ness for women twice his age, but surely there
can be nothing of the sort here? They seem
exquisitely confidential by his own innocent
account. She always did like lamb and veal.
The daughter must be too young for him. A
woman with natural red and without natural
grey is no doubt not yet worth his looking at
that is, unless there were circumstances which
made it wrong and unsafe but I speak of
serious things. I thought at one time he was
sure to upset all kinds of women with that cu-
rious personal beauty of his, as his poor sister
used to upset men ; he is such a splendid boy to
look at, as to face ; but now I see his lot in life
lies the other way, and he will always be the
footstool and spindle of any woman who may
choose to have him. Less mischief will come of
him that way, which is consoling to remember.
Indeed, I doubt now if he ever will do any ; but
if he gets over thirty without some damage to



Love's Cross-currents

himself I shall be only too thankful. Really,
I think, in default of better, I would rather see
him than Frank married to Mademoiselle de
Rochelaurier. Lord Cheyne has time and room
to beat about in, and choose from right or left.
Now Redgie, I begin to believe, will have to
marry before long. It would be something to
keep him out of absurdities. We know too
well what a head it is when any windmill is
et spinning inside it. And, without irony,
I am convinced Madame de Rochelaurier must
have a real kindly feeling about him. She was
out of her depth in love with your father in
1825, and Redgie now and then reminds me a
little of him; Frank is placider, and not quite
such a handsome fellow as my brother used to
be. It is so like her to come out with old family
histories and relics as the best means of as-
tonishing the boy's weak mind; but I did not
know she had still any actual and tangible
memorials of the time by her. I have been
trying to recollect the date of her daughter's
birth; she was extant in '46, for I saw her in
Paris, a lean child in the rose blonde line. Three,
I should think, at the time, or perhaps five a
good ten years younger than Octave de Saverny.
Redgie's three or four years over would just tell
in the right way Frank I should call too young.
I want you to tell me honestly how you look at



A Year's Letters

it. To me it seems he might brush about the
world a little more before he begins marrying.
Only this instant come of age, you know. The
attachment might be a good thing enough for
him. Mademoiselle Philomene I suppose must
be clever ; there is no reason to presume she can
have inherited the poor old vicomte's flaccidity
of head and tongue. Very spiritually Catholic,
and excitable on general matters, the girl ought
to be by this time ; Armande, I remember, was a.
tremendous legitimist (curious for her) of late
years, and has doubtless undertaken to con-
vert Reginald to sane views, and weed out his
heresies and democracies. I should like to see
and hear the process. Since the empire came in
I believe she has put lilies on her carpets, and
rallied her crew round the old standard with a
will. Henri V. must be truly thankful for her.
Desloches, the religious journalist, was one of
her converts the man whom Sindrakoff, with
hyperborean breadth of speech, once indicated
to me as a cochon manqu6. Ever since the
Ltgende des Sibcles came out / have called him
Sultan Mourad's pig. One might suggest as a
motto for his paper that line,

Le pourceau miserable et Dieu se regard&rent.

Edmond Ramel made me a delicious sketch of
the subject, with Armande de Rochelaurier, in



Love's Cross-currents

sultanic apparel and with a beard beyond all
price or praise, flapping the flies off, her victims
(social and otherwise) strewing the background.
On apercevait en haut, parmi des e"toiles, le bon
Dieu qui larmoyait, tout en s'essuyant 1'ceil
gauche d'un mouchoir azure", au coin duquel on
voyait brod6 le chiffre du journal de Desloches,
nume'ro cent. Cette figure be"ate avait les traits
devinez du pauvre vieux vicomte Fabien.
Je n'ai jamais ri de si bon cceur. Que Victor
Hugo me pardonne!

As I suppose nobody thinks just yet of be-
trothals or such like, I want to hear what you
think of doing for the next month or so. It is
a pity to leave Lidcombe bare and void all the
autumn weeks. The place is splendid then,
with a sad and noble sort of beauty in all the
corners of it. Such hills and fields, as Redgie
neatly expressed himself in that last remarkable
lyric of his, " shaken and sounded through by
the trumpets of the sea." The Hadleigh sands
are worth seeing about the equinox; only,
Heaven knows, we have all had sight enough of
the sea for one year. Still, Frank ought to be
about the place now and then, or they will never
grow together properly. Why can you not go
down together, and set up house in a quiet sis-
terly fashion for a little ? he has hardly stayed
there ten days in all since the spring. After liv-
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A Year's Letters

ing more than six weeks with you, except that
little Lidcombe interlude at the end of July and
those few days in London, it is his turn to play
host. Or, if any sort of feeling stands in the way
of it, why not go to Lord Charnworth's, as you
did last year ? If there is anything sound in the
Rochelaurier business, it will grow all the bet-
ter for a little separation I am sure I for one
would not for worlds mettre des batons dans les
roues. But if it is a mere bit of intrigue on the
mother's part (and I can hardly believe Ar-
mande a trustworthy person), surely it is better
cut loose at once, and let drift. I shall try and
see Philomene this winter, whether they return
or stay. The Charnworths are perfect people,
and will be only too glad of you all. A cousin's
death is no absolute reason for going into a
modern Thebaid, nice as he was. And I hardly
suppose you still retain your old preference of
Octave de Saverny to Lord Charnworth in the
days before the latter poor man married en-
tirely, I have always believed, a result of your
early cruelty. Now, if you stay at home and
keep up, in or out of London, the intimacy that
seems to be getting renewed, I predict you will
have the whole maison Rochelaurier et C ie upon
your hands at Blocksham before you know
where to turn. Science will be blown up heav-
en-high, and Mr. Radworth will commit suicide.

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Love's Cross-currents

I am getting too terrible in my anticipations,
and must come to a halt before all my colours
have run to black. Besides, our doctor has just
left, and the post begins to clamour for its prey.
He gives us very singular auguries about his
patient. For my own part, I must say I had
begun to have a certain dim prevision in the
quarter to which he seems to point. At all
events, it appears she is in no present danger,
and we must not press the doubt. I trust you
not to intimate the least hope or fear of such a
thing happening, and only refer to it here to


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