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ised Land. He can only survey it from afar, and
his account of it is of hearsay and not of direct
vision; it is that of a stranger, and not that of one
of God's spies.

But perhaps in suggesting this qualification we are
asking too much of the artist: it is certain that Mae-
terlinck is at his best when creating and not criti-
cizing or reporting. His play of the Magdalene
touches a higher note than he has reached in any
essay. The story as he tells it is of the simplest.
The "Magdalene" is pursued by a Roman general,
who proposes to her the usual bargain of the
French stage : "If you will give yourself to me," he
says roundly, "your prophet, Jesus, shall be set at
liberty." The woman hesitates for a while; but at
length tells her importunate suitor that what he sug-
gests is out of the question. "It is the Prophet him-
self," she declares, "who has made all such bargains
for ever impossible and shameful." By virtue of
this one beautiful word, the "Magdalene" of Mae-
terlinck lifts us to reconciliation and a serener air.

With the exception of recent photographs, the
best likeness of Maeterlinck, I think, is that carica-


ture by Max Beerbohm which appeared some years
ago, if I am not mistaken, in Vanity Fair. Every
one knows the presentment of the big stout man in
Norfolk jacket, knickerbockers and gaiters, with a
lighted cigar in his hand and an air of infantile as-
tonishment on the chubby face with the embryonic
moustache and bulging forehead. There is some-
thing ineffective, childlike, yet lumbering, in the ex-
pression, and a something truculent as well, and this
truculence is rendered subtly enough by the left hand
thrust deep in the pocket of the knickers, and by the
heavy thumb which holds aloft the lighted cigar.

Maeterlinck's writings do not prepare one for
fumbling ineffectiveness, and still less for truculence :
the tone of them is uniformly persuasive. Ingratia-
ting, poetic, so much so Indeed that when you meet
the man you are apt to be a little surprised by his
self-assured manner, which Is prone to become a
trifle aggressive as of on£ not sure of his high place.
I shall now tell of my meetings with Maeterlinck and
try to render the Impression his personality made
upon me.

Maeterlinck Is easily described: a broad Fleming
of about five feet nine in height, inclined to be stout;
silver hair lends distinction to the large round head
and boyish fresh complexion; blue-grey eyes, now
thoughtful, now merry, and an unaffected off-hand
manner. The features are not cut, left rather "in
the rough," as sculptors say, even the heavy jaw and


chin are drowned in fat; the forehead bulges and
the eyes lose color in the light and seem hard; still,
an interesting and attractive personality.

Maeterlinck's qualities show themselves quickly.
He is very ingenuous and sincere not to say simple,
and quite content to dismiss this subject or that with
the ordinary ready-made conclusion:

"All translations are bad, and resemble the orig-
inal as monkeys resemble men. When you trans-
late Bernard Shaw into French he loses all spice;
when I see something of mine in English I hardly
recognize it. You think my translation of Macbeth
poor," he went on; "I only did It because that of
Frangois Victor Hugo seemed to me wretched; but
then, you know, no Frenchman can understand
Shakespeare, just as no Englishman understands

I ventured to remark that worse had been said
about Racine by French judges than by English:
Joubert, for Instance, dismissed him contemptuously
as "the Virgil of vulgar people"; but Maeterlinck
would not have It: "A great poet . . . exquisite
verses . . . unforgettable melodies." Such com-
placent platitudes did away with even the wish to

In the first half-hour's talk I noticed two pecu-
liarly French traits In Maeterlinck which both have
their root, I imagine, In a certain uneasy vanity.
He loves to pick holes In his most famous contem-


poraries and to make fun of their weak points. We
were talking of the success of his wife (Georgette
Leblanc) In Ibsen's Masterhuilder: some one hap-
pened to remark that It was a great play.

"A great playwright, I should prefer to say,"
corrected Maeterlinck, "on the strength of a single
fine play, Ghosts. The Masterhuilder seemed to me
a little ridiculous; that 'higher,' 'higher,' Is really ir-
resistibly comic. During the rehearsals we all held
our sides, aching with laughter; but it went all right,
I confess."

"Yes; It went all right," and the grotesque ele-
ment in it was only visible to envious eyes. But
Maeterlinck loves to hlaguer, though he ought to
know that the gods veil themselves from the pro-
fane and are not to be seen by those who would hold
them up to ridicule.

The second characteristic which Maeterlinck
shares with most Frenchmen, and, indeed, with
nearly all the Latins, is a habit more easily forgiven.
We were all talking of boxing; the French cham-
pion, Carpentier, had just beaten the English mid-
dle-weight champion, Sullivan, In a fight at Monte
Carlo, and beaten him with the utmost ease. To
my astonishment Maeterlinck proclaimed himself a
devotee of the art — "a splendid exercise," he said,
"which I practise three or four times a week." And
incited, perhaps, by a desire to rebuke my in-
credulity, he announced his intention, after lunch, of


going "to box hard for an hour or so." The idea
of a stout man of fifty, after a copious lunch, going
out to box struck me as somewhat ludicrous, though
I should not like to say it was impossible if the pro-
fessional antagonist were well "tipped" and gifted
with a sense of humor.

When not engaged in keeping up his reputation
for strength of body and biting wit, Maeterlinck
was very interesting. When one asked him which
of his works he liked the best, he replied that he
never looked at any of them after publication.
"Only a dog goes back to his vomit," he said.
"Once the thing Is done, it has no further interest
for me."

The question, "What are you working at now?"
brought the answer that at fifty it was very hard to
begin any "really important work. Though I feel
as well as ever I did," he went on, "I know that In
the nature of things I cannot expect a much longer
lease of health: the blow may fall at any time, or
may be delayed for ten years; but It is pretty sure
to fall soon, and why should one begin to build a
ship which may never reach the sea?"

"Cervantes," I replied, "did his best work after
sixty, and some of Goethe's finest lyrics were writ-
ten when he was over seventy; why should you wish
to close the book at fifty?"

"Those were giants," he Interjected, "and excep-
tions. Besides, I have no wish whatever to close the


book: I love life, and I go on working steadily: I
only say that I'd find it very difficult now to begin
any important book. I mean by that," he added
hastily, "a book which would need a considerable
time to complete."

"As a matter of fact," he went on, "I am even
now working at a sort of faery tale, trying to ex-
press the inexpressible, to realize the immaterial
and give form to pure fantasy, and so suggest at
least meanings beyond the reach of words."

The Maeterlinck who spoke in that way is the
same man who wrote in youth the early mystical
dramas, and in maturity Le Tresor des Humbles
and La Magdalena, the man who, in spite of many
weaknesses, has always at command the seduction of
the poet and a breath, at least of the prophet's in-

And how infinitely sincerer this simple confes-
sion of his purpose is than the habit practised by
most English writers of depreciating their art, and
the ardor with which they give themselves to its

We have only to compare this confession of Mae-
terlinck with a characteristic utterance of one of the
standard-bearers of the preceding generation to
realize at once the distance we have travelled in the
last twenty years. In an interesting article on La
Voyante and Lourdes, which appeared in 1896,
Zola suddenly exclaimed impatiently:


"Ah! cette soif de I'Au-dela, ce hesoin du dhin."
(Ah, this thirst for the Beyond, this need of the

But instead of studying this extraordinary phe-
nomenon; instead of asking himself whether this
need in human nature, this perpetual desire for the
divine is not as essential as the need of food (for
man does not live by bread alone) the great realist
concluded simply that the hope was a mirage, the
thirst imaginary, the longing a delusion.

And now towards the end of his life Maurice
Maeterlinck is tormented by the obsession just to
give artistic form to this obscure and persistent de-
sire which Is stronger than the reason and more en-
during, the thirst for something beyond ourselves
and above — the sons of men dimly realising at
length that they are in very sooth, the sons, too,
of God.


A BOOK has just been published about Rodin
and his work by a M. Gsell. It is an admi-
rable piece of work, and shows us the very soul of
the great sculptor in spite of the fact that Rodin
is not very articulate, words not being his medium.
M. Gsell has drawn him out and interpreted him
with singular sympathy and understanding. As I
have known Rodin for twenty-five years, and regard
him as one in the line of great French sculptors — a
worthy successor to Houdon and Rude and Barye —
and certainly the greatest of living sculptors, I shall
use M. Gsell's book as a sort of outline sketch for
my portrait of the master.

Rodin is to me the creature of his works: the
bodily presentment even is a true symbol of his
soul: a French peasant in figure — a short, broad
man with heavy shoulders, thick thighs, and great,
powerful hands. There is realistic likeness in
Tweed's bust. The neck is short and thick, the nose
large and fleshy, the forehead high but retreating,
the eyes grey, by turns reflective and observant.
There is an air of transparent sincerity about the
sturdy little man, with his careless grey beard and





worn clothes. Always I see the large, strong hands,
the short neck and lumpy shoulders — a master
craftsman with a tremendous sensual endowment.

The first chapters of this book are weak, but
when Rodin talks of "the science of modelling" he
begins to hold us. He learnt it when a young man,
it appears, from a fellow-workman who taught him
to model the human figure as if the surface were
pushed out from the inside. There is no flat part
of a body; it is all hills and valleys: this to him is
the secret of modelling, and he declares that this
was the practice of the Greeks, the only method
which makes every statue a picture In black and
white. No etching, he asserts, has such a boldness
of light or such a velvety depth of shadow, as a
well-modelled statue: "By such modelling the mas-
terpieces of sculpture take on the radiant aspect of
living flesh."

The fourth chapter is still more interesting, be-
cause it brings out a modern phase of the eternal
conflict in art between what is beautiful and what is
true. Gsell asks him about his "L'Homme qui
Marche." Rodin begins by declaring that he want-
ed to render life, and life is movement. "I have
hardly ever," he adds, "represented complete re-
pose. . . . Fine modelling and mov^ement are the
two master qualities of good sculpture." But the
moment the pair begin to study Rodin's "L'Homme
qui Marche" they both notice that the movement is


not true, that the man has both feet on the ground
at the same time, whereas In walking one foot Is
always just leaving the ground as the other reaches
It. A better Illustration still occurs to Rodin. He
takes the picture of Gerlcault In the Louvre, the
famous "Racing at Epsom." Gerlcault represents
the horses galloping, according to the French ex-
pression, ventre a terre — the front legs outstretched
In front and the hind legs outstretched behind.
Now instantaneous photography teaches us that this
Is not in accordance with fact. Before the front
legs touch the ground the hind legs have already
been drawn up in preparation for the next spring;
so that If you picture a galloping horse properly you
picture it with all four legs bunched together, the
hind ones unnaturally drawn up underneath the
stomach, almost overtaking the front ones, which
are just leaving the ground. In fact, the animal
seems to be caught In the act of jumping with Its
legs all hobbled together. Rodin immediately puts
the matter properly: our eyes do not give us the
truth of things. When we see a man walking we
see both his feet on the ground; when we see a horse
galloping we first see his fore legs thrown out in
front and then his hind legs stretched out behind;
and thus we represent him to ourselves. The expres-
sion ventre a terre Is true to our vision though false
to fact. And the apparent truth is all that matters
to the artist.


The two collaborators discuss other interesting
problems. Rodin insists that both painting and
sculpture can represent action to a much greater ex-
tent than is commonly supposed, and he takes for
example his own figures the "Bourgeois of Calais"
and the masterpiece of Watteau, "L'Embarquement
pour Cythere." His criticism of Watteau's master-
piece is an exercise in eulogistic analysis. The
painter begins, he says, on the right, by showing a
lover kneeling to his mistress and trying to persuade
her to accompany him. A little more towards the
centre another gallant is helping his mistress to her
feet, as if they were just about to start; and so on.
Below these figures on the knoll, and nearer the
water's edge, a crowd of people are going towards
the boat, the women as eager as the men. Rodin
has nothing but praise for this conception, declares
that the picture is a masterpiece — "un ravissement
qii'on ne pent oublier."

This praise is fairly deserved if we look only at
the painting or even at the drawing of the various
figures and groups; but, architecturally considered,
"L'Embarquement pour Cythere" is anything but a
wonder-work. The whole movement takes place
from right to left of the picture, whereas it should
proceed from left to right. It is probably our habit
of writing and reading which makes it much easier
for us to follow motion from left to right than from
right to left. I have always felt a certain incon-


venience in regarding this masterpiece of Watteau.
The action of the picture should have begun on the
left, and the eye would then have passed naturally
towards the right from group to group instead of
unnaturally and with a certain effort as it does now.

I find a similar want of thought in the much-
bepraised French coinage of today: the medal of
the woman sowing is effective and well modelled;
but the artist presents her with her hair flowing out
straight behind as if she were sowing against a gale
— a feat always avoided in actual life.

In the fifth chapter Rodin's gift as a draughtsman
is discussed. It is not sufficiently known that Rodin
makes hundreds of sketches both with pencil and
with wash of color. Some of these drawings are
among his boldest and most characteristic work.
"Ordinary people don't understand them," he says;
"but ordinary people can never know anything about
Art. ... In all crafts truth and simplicity are the
master qualities." And then he goes deeper: "Col-
or and drawing — style at its best — is nothing but
a means to display the soul of the artist. It is the
soul one ought to try to know; artists should be
classed according to the soul."

The seventh chapter is taken up with a superb
criticism of the great French sculptor Houdon, to
whom we owe a number of busts of celebrated men,
such as Voltaire, Rousseau, Franklin, Mirabeau,
and Napoleon — heads which might really be con-


sidered Memoirs of the time. Nothing on Vol-
taire, nothing on MIrabeau (not even Carlyle's
study) , nothing on Napoleon has yet been written
more soul-revealing than the busts of Houdon.
Rodin, too, In this field has done memorable things;
his Rochefort, Hugo, Berthelot, Puvis de Cha-
vannes and Balzac are all superb, worthy to rank
with the best. Just here, however, a certain bitter-
ness comes to show In him :

There is no work (he says) so ungrateful as this: the
truer your portrait, the more like it is, the more it reveals
character, the less your sitter will appreciate it. Men and
women both want to have insignificant, regular features;
masterpieces of expression are usually regarded as insults.
One has simply to do one's best and pay no attention to the
remonstrances of puerile conceit.

Like all the great moderns, Rodin Is often pre-
occupied not with the subject, but the symbol. He
has fashioned the head of a young woman Impris-
oned to the very neck In a rough block of marble.
"Thought" he christens It — thought struggling for
expression, without hands to help Itself, thwarted
and imprisoned as one without feet. Or take "Illu-
sion, the Daughter of Icarus" — a young angel's fig-
ure with broken wing and face crushed against the
hard ground of fact. No one of these attempts. In
my opinion, can be called successful, simply because
the striving Itself, being purely Intellectual, tran-


scends the sculptor's art. Two lines of Goethe are

more expressive:

All things transitory but as symbols are sent;
Earth's insufficiency leads to event. . . .

Rodin is more successful when he asserts that all
artists are necessarily religious, "believers by na-
ture" :

No good sculptor (he says) can model a human figure
without dwelling on the mystery of life; this individual
and that in fleeting variation only remind him of the
immanent type; he is led perpetually from the creature to
the creator. . . . All the best work of any artist must be
bathed, so to speak, in mystery. That is why many of my
figures have a hand or foot still imprisoned in the marble-
block; life is everywhere, but rarely indeed does it come
to complete expression or the individual to perfect free-
dom. . . .

Then Rodin goes on to tell how as a youth he
fell in love with the serene and typical beauty of
the works of Phidias, and only later, after his first
visit to Italy, came to appreciate the tortured striv-
ings of Michelangelo. The great Florentine, he
exclaims, was the last and greatest of Gothic sculp-
tors. Like all great creators, Rodin is one of the
most stimulating of critics, and in especial he finds
deathless words to describe the Greeks, his masters.
It is the accepted idea that the Greeks of the best


period treated their subjects with reverence as gods
and goddesses, and showed their piety by only un-
veiling part of the human figure. While admitting
that there is some little truth in this, Rodin insists
that the spirit informing all their best work is an
intense sensuality. "The human form," he says,
"never moved any people to such sensual tenderness.
The very ecstasy of sensual delight seems to be shed
over every part of the figures they modelled." And
any one who has ever studied the little women's fig-
ures with clinging draperies on the balustrade of the
Temple of Nike Apteros must agree with him.
Passionate desire is the very soul of Greek plastic

And here comes naturally that chapter on "The
Beauty of Women," which should be at the end of
this book, and not in the middle, if the true cres-
cendo of interest is to be observed, for this is
Rodin's special kingdom. No decadent artist of
them all, no master of the Renaissance, has equalled
him in this field either as craftsman or lover,
whether in skill of workmanship or in passionate
appreciation of the loveliness of every curve and
every round. His best girl-figures are the best ever

Rodin has now several studios, both at his home
in Meudon and in Paris, but the one he prefers is
in the old and famous Hotel de Biron, which for
ages was used as the Couvent du Sacre-Coeur. Here


generations of lovely and charming girls were edu-
cated, and from this retreat sent forth into the sin-
ful world. Behind the hotel is an old, neglected
garden, with trees and arbors and winding walks.
In the shade here one still seems to hear the ripple of
girl laughter, or sees hot cheeks flushing with whis-
pered confidences. Looking out over this garden
is the great room which Rodin keeps for his draw-
ings and modellings of women. Let us listen to him
on his own subject. Gsell asks him: "Is it easy
to find beautiful models?" Rodin answers: "Yes."
"Does the figure keep its beauty for long?" The
master replies :

"It changes incessantly, as a landscape changes with
the sun. The perfect bloom of youth, the flower-time when
the slight figure is as graceful as the stem of a lily, only
lasts for a few short months. . . . The young girl becomes
a woman and her beauty changes its character — admirable
still, it is perhaps not quite so lovely pure."

"Do you think the Greeks were more beautiful than mod-
ern women, or have you as fine models as posed for Phi-

"Just as fine. Modern Italian girls have all the pecu-
liarities of the best Greek type: the essential character of
it is that the shoulders are practically as broad as the hips."

"But our French women?"

"Generally, like the Germanic races and the Russians,
they have narrow shoulders and large hips: this is the
characteristic of the nymphs of Goujon, the Venus of W»t-
tcau, the Diana of Houdon."


"WTiich is the most beautiful type ?"

"Who shall say? There are hundreds of beautiful types.
I have modelled little Eastern dancers whose finger-slim
ankles and soft round outlines had an infinite and perverse
seduction. On the other hand, the Japanese actress Ha-
nako seemed to have no fat on her body; her muscles were
all outlined and firm like those of a little fox-terrier. She
was so strong that she could stand on one foot and hold
the other leg at right angles with her body for ever so
long; she seemed to take root in the ground like a tree;
but there was a rare beauty in her singular vigour. There
is nothing commoner than beauty for those who have eyes
to see. ... I often get a girl to sit on the ground just to
study the adorable vase-like outlines of her torso, the sacred
amphora which holds in it the promise of future life. Look
at that shoulder: I have modelled the curve of it a dozen
times and yet it could be improved. Often and often
beauty overpowers me so that I feel like going on my
knees to it. His art is a religion to the artist."

And here is Rodin's contribution to social sci-

"Ah, they pretend that Art has not utility: It has
the greatest; everything that makes for happiness is of
the highest usefulness. And it must never be forgotten that
we artists are the only moderns who take joy in our work
and find delight in labour. Every workman ought to be
an artist, and take pleasure in his toil; every mason and
carpenter and house-painter should have joy in his en-
deavour; but with our wretched modern wage-system we


have almost banished joy out of life. It will come back;
we artists will brins: it back."

A memorable book, which sends me to have a
look at that "Satyr and Nymph," which is one of
the high-water marks, so to speak, of Rodin's
achievement: a masterwork in which desire finds
supreme expression and bronze takes on the satin-
softness of woman's flesh.

I should like to connect whatever intimate facts
I have gleaned about Rodin during our long friend-
ship with these words of his on the utility of art, for
they are curiously self-revealing. He told me that
his beginnings were terribly difficult; for years he
had to work as a stone-cutter for makers of figures
to stand over graves. This practice made him ca-
pable of cutting a statue out of a block of marble like
the sculptors of the renascence; "not many modern
artists can do that," he used to say. The long ap-
prenticeship had made him a great craftsman.

Even after he had produced his "Man With the
Broken Nose," which was hailed as a masterpiece
by all the critics in Paris, he had to go back to jour-
neyman's work for months at a time in order to
earn money to buy marble. "The worst of it Is,"
he exclaimed, "that in those years I was full of
ideas, pregnant with a thousand conceptions which

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