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never saw the light. This stupid modern competi-
tive wage-system is a dreadful handicap to the real


artist. I could have done twice as much good work
as I have done had I received as a young man a
tenth part of the prices which are pressed upon me
now when I have few ideas and can only work slowly.
I don't believe I should ever have got through and
done anything worth doing if it hadn't been for
English amateurs; they bought my works long be-
fore they were saleable in Paris. 'A prophet,' you
know, 'is not without honor save in his own coun-

"There's another point of general interest, It
seems to me. i\s soon as I became known I was
tempted to do portrait-busts and nothing but por-
traits, by the enormous sums offered me by iVmerican
millionaires and their wives. I wanted to do ideal
works, my work; but I was taken away very often
by this meaningless portraiture that's only another
form of journeyman's work. How can you refuse
a man who offers you a blank cheque? It's the most
devilish age for the artist, that has ever been."

Before beginning this pen-portrait I said that
Rodin was inarticulate, words not being his medium,
harder, indeed, for him to control than bronze or
marble. He has often brought me groups of fig-
ures and asked me to name them : he had put a couple
of figures together because of some emotional or
passionate connection and he wanted a name for
them: "Could they stand for any myth?" I re-
member one group, a woman's figure embracing a


man which I called La Succiihe and bought. He
liked the name, but when I spoke of it at another
time as "The Temptation of St. Antony," he was
still more delighted and declared that he would
make a large replica of it.

He spoke only French and even in French was not
widely read, yet like all big men, he knew a great
deal about masterpieces in other arts of which he
didn't know even the grammar. When looking at
his "Gate of Hell" he would be a bold man who
would say that he knew Dante better than Rodin
and yet Rodin had never read a word of the In-

Rodin's life in the villa perched on the side of
the hill at Meudon was that of the ordinary French
bourgeois: his wife, who was about his own age,
looked after the house and kitchen while he received
some of the greatest people in the world in the little
parlor. It seemed to me that though proud of his
work, she was more concerned with his health.

In his later life Rodin was cruelly disappointed
by the rejection of his "Balzac," ordered but not
accepted by the French Society of Gens des lettres.
That Frenchmen of letters were unable to under-
stand his work filled him with foreboding; but the
appreciation of English and German and Russian
connoisseurs soon atoned for the absurd slight. His
"Balzac" is an impressionist work and not a mere re-


production of reality and I am sure it will yet be re-
garded as one of his finest pieces of portraiture.

The last time I saw Rodin was two or three win-
ters ago on the Riviera: he had aged greatly; he
found it difficult to remember even friends and al-
most impossible to think of future plans. The
sturdy workman's body seemed likely to outlive the

As an artist Rodin's place is secure: he is unques-
tionably the greatest of the long line of notable
French sculptors : indeed I am inclined to believe
that he will stand with Donatello, Michelangelo and
Phidias among the greatest of all time. And I am
glad to believe that he knew this. I went with him
some years ago to the British Museum. Though he
had often talked of the splendid Assyrian lions, he
went by preference to the works of the primitive
artists of all countries, even to the wooden idols of
the South-sea savages : here and there he picked one
out for special praise: no excellence could escape
him: again and again he would shake his head and
mutter tin chef-d' ceiivre — a masterpiece. But be-
fore leaving he led the way to the so-called Elgin
marbles, to the figures stolen from the Parthenon.
Never shall I forget the emotion they called forth
in him: with reverent fingers he touched the marble
limbs; "every part, sheer perfection" he said again
and again with trembling voice; "no one has ever
equalled them, no one."


"Not Michelangelo, nor you?" I asked.

"No, no," he replied; adding quickly, "our work
is different. . . . One must just be content with
having done the best in one."

Rodin may indeed be content: for more than once
he has experienced the truth of Burns's couplet:

Who does the utmost that he can
Will whiles dae mair.


BY universal consent Anatole France is the fore-
most man of letters In France today, the
wisest and most articulate, if not the strongest or
noblest of living Frenchmen.

Before I try to give a personal impression of him
let us look at him for a moment as he appears to
the casual acquaintance in the mirror of his writings.

As every one knows, his real name is Thibaut, he
is the son of a Paris bookseller, and has led the
most uneventful of lives. He had an excellent
classical education, took to reading as a child, and
was a writer before he was out of his teens. Al-
most at once he showed himself master of a style
as simple and supple as Congreve's, but even more
cunningly cadenced, and set off with flashes of ironic
insight which delight the intellect. He has written
a score of so-called novels in which the story Is usu-
ally shght, and the characters, with one exception,
are mere lay-figures — marionettes or abstractions.
Yet all these books are interesting for the sake of
the hero and of his reflections on life — the thoughts
and feelings of a tolerant, cynical, unworldly wise
observer filled to the lips with the milk of human



kindness. The hero is always the same character:
Sylvestre Bonnard is blood brother to M. Bergeret,
and Doctor Trublet only differs from them in name,
and these are all studies for the famous Maitre
Jerome Coignard, who is at once scholar, priest,
epicurean philosopher, and scoundrel. He drinks
and cheats, plays pandar and libertine, borrows
wine from an inn and runs off with his employer's
diamonds, and yet when blessed with the curious
learning, the philosophic thought, the tolerance and
humor of dear M. Bonnard, he becomes the most
lovable of scapegraces, and the finest portrait ex-
tant of Anatole France himself. We enjoy his
company almost as much as we should enjoy Ham-
let speaking in person. The lessons France teaches
are those Renan taught, and Montaigne: he is as
typical a Frenchman as Odysseus was a typical
Greek — a convinced sceptic, disbelieving in any so-
lution of life's mystery, and boldly preaching epi-
curean enjoyment of all life's pleasures, whether of
sense, or soul, of taste or intellect, with widest tol-
erance of others' faults and follies, crimes and mad-
nesses. All readers have come to love the Abbe
Coignard as among the most notable and most lov-
able creations in all French literary art: the one or-
ganic figure given to literature since the Bazarof of
Turgenief. A comparison between the Abbe
Coignard and Hamlet would teach us a great deal
about the differences between the French and the


English genius, and would at the same time show
how widely the French Revolution with its realistic
striving separates the modern world from the ro-
mantic past.

Now let us see how M. France in real life com-
pares with his own most famous portrait.

Not a notable appearance, a man of sixty or sixty-
five, silver-grey hair bristling up like a brush over
his forehead, grey moustache and imperial. At first
sight he looks like Napoleon the Third; his face an
even longer oval; his eyes, the color of coffee
beans, have heavy gummy bags under them; the
flesh of cheeks and neck is discolored and sags a
little — the stigmata of sense indulgence. Nearer
seen the eyes are vivid, bright; no trace of exhaus-
tion; eyes like his mind, eager and quick, perhaps
even too quick; their vitaHty bearing witness to a
certain moderation in his pursuit of pleasure.

A man of five feet seven or eight when standing
upright, now bowed habitually, chin on chest, neck
bent forward; carelessly dressed, brown camel-hair
pajamas, silk-faced over a white knitted vest with
black border; feet thrust in morocco slippers,
whitish woollen socks — no affectation, no showing
off, nothing but a desire of comfort.

He meets one with cordial courtesy, unaffected
kindliness, one might call it. He was written to, but
didn't answer. We called on him about ten o'clock
one morning. He was not at home, had gone out


before nine, according to the pleasant manservant.
My friend told me that when some men of letters a
little while ago formed a literary club and wanted
Anatole France to be president they wrote to him
and called on him seven times before they found
him. When at length they ran him to earth, he was
charming to them, perfect in courtesy, and as kind
as possible.

"He simply cannot be bothered to answer letters
or to make appointments; you must take him as
he is."

My experience confirmed this statement in detail.
We were shown into a double dining-room, or
rather into a continuation of the dining-room;
primitive paintings on the walls, drawings of Corot,
a woman's head in sanguin by Vanloo, and about
the room old hahiits of Henry II. The window
looked out on an oblong patch of greenery smaller
than the room, ivy masking high walls at the back.

The master came in and drew us across the pas-
sage to his sitting-room — a middle-class double sit-
ting-room with a seventeenth-century plan of Paris
as a decoration for the whole ceiling. He asked us
to forgive him for presenting us to a musician who
happened to be with him. Two busts, one in marble
and one in plaster, side by side on the chimney-
piece caught my eye.

"Rousseau, is it not?" I asked.

"Rousseau," he replied, "the plaster is a cast of


the one in the Louvre, very good: the other in Car-
rara marble, author unknown, is interesting to me
because of its similarity and its differences."

"I'm glad you like Primitives," I said at hazard.
He caught me up quickly.

"I detest them now. I used to like them, but
now they weary me, mean little to me."

"But they suit the old oak furniture of Henry
II that I saw in your dining-room."

"I hate that, too," he cried. "I made every mis-
take a man could make ; I loved old oak, old furni-
ture, bought quantities of it, too big for my rooms,
suitable only to a castle or great hall; at length
stifled with it I got rid of it all, threw it all out. I
have passed through all the fads in furniture and
pictures and books."

"Outlived your Corot drawings?" I asked.

"Sucked theni dry," he parried, smiling.

It was the morning after Carpentier's victory
over Wells in the prize-ring, and I couldn't help ask-
ing the master what he thought of the way athletics
are being taken up in France.

"Carpentier gives our youth self-esteem," he said,
"his victory atones in some sort for Alsace-Lor-
raine" — he smiled with a pitying shrug.

"I always thought the next generation, the gen-
eration that didn't know '70 would show a new
spirit," I said.

"It was to be foreseen," he agreed, "Bismarck


felt it. The old French conquering temper was sure
to assert itself in time," and then the interest of the
moment ran away with him, the proposal of the
Ministry and President that men should serve three
years in the French army instead of two excited his
indignation, and he fell tooth and nail on the po-
litical leaders of the moment. No Englishman
would have dreamed of talking of his chief poli-
ticians, the Asquiths and Balfours, Greys and
Georges with the same contempt and disgust.

"Perfectly stupid, these politicians," he exclaimed,
"incredibly stupid; no good even at their own game.
They pretend to trim their sail to every breath of
popular feeling and they can't even tell how the
wind blows. They do not see that France will not
have the service of three years. ^ We all know it
only takes a year to make a soldier; they keep them
for two years as it is, and now they want to increase
the two to three. France won't have it, it's absurd.

"If they declared openly that they were going to
shake off the German menace once for all and re-
gain Alsace-Lorraine, France would march like one
man, but this absurd and meaningless extension of
service is merely showing off, and we won't have it."

A moment later he began to give instances of the
crass stupidity of French politicians, and notably of

"F is one of the best: yet he is stupid to

* This was written in the Summer of 1913.


a degree; his blunders are legendary: his dense-
ness proverbial. An example: he had to go once
to visit Rodin: I forget the occasion. Rodin, he
was told by his official prompter, is a great sculptor,
the greatest since Angelo, a master craftsman: he
was advised — 'it would be nice of you to say a com-
plimentary word to him.'

''At his wit's end the Minister looked round the
studio; on every hand statues, as he thought, de-
faced and broken, torsos of women, vase-like with-
out limbs, here a head and there a plaster outhne of
hips or breast.

"Wishing to be sympathetic, the President at
length found the kindly phrase :

" 'One sees that you, too, have suffered in your
removals, M. Rodin.'

"It is perhaps too eminently stupid to be true, but
the stupidity is characteristic of them all. . . .

"Another time a Minister of Public Instruction
had to make a speech about the Ecole de Medicine.
Some doctor had written it for him, and in order to
vary the phrase had spoken also of the Faculte de
Medicine. The good bourgeois Minister, loving
sounding phrases, talked of the Ecole de la Faculte
de Medicine. Next day the papers made fun of
him, and an editor came to correct the mistake in the
Journal Officiel.

" 'They made fun enough of me,' said the Min-
ister, 'leave it alone — don't rub it in.'


"A certain common sense in the man chastening

Fearing lest I should feel no Interest In these
French household affairs, so to speak, Anatole
France tried courteously to draw me Into the con-

"But youVe politicians In England," he remarked,
"and must know what they're like."

"Unfortunately Englishmen," I replied, "still re-
gard their politicians as great men and Important."

"Your conditions are different," he rejoined po-
litely, "politics are not matters of life and death to
you, but here in France the politicians have our
lives In their hands. They should know their metier
at least, but they don't. It isn't much to ask a man
that he should know his trade, but they haven't even
reached that level; they're inferior, I Imagine, even
to yours In England."

"They may be a little," I replied dubiously,
"more especially In foreign politics. The aristo-
cratic tradition In England gives the politician an
inkling of his business. Sir Edward Grey is a poli-
tician who knows his metier by instinct, so to speak,
the instinct of a governing class. It Isn't much, that
Instinct, but he has it, and its effect Is sometimes, as
In this Balkan business, extraordinary."

"Our politicians haven't got It," replied France,
"and don't seem able to get It. They're not capable
and never will be ; they're not even honest. I remem-


ber Panama, you see: they were all in it, of course:
if they hadn't touched (and he made the significant
gesture with finger and thumb) c'etait tout comme:
they had allowed others to steal. A word of one
of them occurs to me. Speaking of a rival, he said,
'Poor fellow, he is so naive, though he has had three
Ministerial posts, he's still poor — stupid of him.'

"Your politicians are honest, at least: are they

"Indifferent honest," I replied, "though this Mar-
coni scandal shows that they find it increasingly dif-
ficult to keep their hands clean. As democracy ad-
vances. Ministers diminish in ability, and even more
markedly in honesty, I imagine ; but with us the pro-
fessors are even a worse plague than the poli-

"In France they're much better," cried France,
"they know their business such as it is, and they're
harmless, they've no power, whereas the politicians
have power, even now they're leading France to a
disaster. We can't rival Germany in numbers!"

Suddenly a new thought suggested itself and he
was off on the fresh trail headlong.

"Numbers don't win battles : victory depends on
the spirit of the troops, and to tell the truth a good
deal on chance. You have a conquering army to-
day, today week it'll be beaten. The more one
studies the early victories of Napoleon, the more
one sees that time and again his army was about to


run away when the Austrians turned tail first, ils
foutaient le camp plus tot et tout etait dit. . . .
(Another quick transition.)

"At this moment the spirit of France Is excellent,
couldn't be better Indeed; but our politicians are
dreadful . . . the Church In France Is another
bad Influence, a reactionary Influence and irra-
tional. . . ."

Determined to bring him back to literature and
enduring things I ventured to interrupt:

"Yet Renan always had an affection for it," I re-
marked, "and I always think of Renan and you as
connected In some way, probably by the magic of
an exquisite rhythmic prose."

Lightning-quick he flashed into the new field.

"And in a certain Ironic acceptance of the facts
and chances of life," he cried. "Renan was always
a liberating influence; but I don't care for his
dramas," and the eyebrows went up expressively.

"That's where one sees his kinship to Gounod," I
added, "a sort of sister-soul in frank sensuality."

The young musician took this up eagerly:

"True indeed," he broke in, "and Gounod, too,
was Interesting. I was an organist at St. Cloud.
Gounod used to come to the church often, he must
have been seventy-five years of age then : yet il ser-
vait la 7nesse, and did it with rare unction and dig-


"Really," exclaimed France, hugely Interested.
"I thought he didn't believe in Christianity."

"He didn't," replied the musician, "but he loved
to officiate at Mass; he was an actor born, and he
acted that part with majesty."

"All artists are naturally actors," commented
France; "but did old Gounod really take Com-

"No, no," replied the musician, "religion to
Gounod was merely a subject of his art, as he
shows in Faust, for example. But he used to love
to serve the Mass surrounded by pretty women."

"I can see him at it," cried France, smihng; "le
beau sexe always his weakness, wasn't it?"

"Surely," said the musician, "he was a lover even
with one foot in the grave."

"Old men have a certain attraction for some
women," France remarked, with a smile of ineffable
complacent satisfaction.

"MaUre," I broke in, again to bring the talk back
to literature, "please tell me about your writing;
Renan used to declare that his prose came to him
easily, flowed from him, so to speak. Is that true of
you? Or do you agree with Tolstoy that even sim-
ple prose is a matter of labor and pains?"

"To me writing's horribly difficult," replied
France frankly, "horribly."

And then the qualification :

"But let's distinguish : Ulle des Pingouins cost


me Infinite labor because I wanted to make each
small side issue as important as the main theme: it
was chiefly embroidery, so to speak, and embroid-
ery takes time and thought.

"Les Dieus ont Soif was comparatively easy be-
cause the main theme which I had in my head at the
beginning was enough to fill the book. This was the
theme; that ordinary men in extraordinary circum-
stances themselves become extraordinary. Gamelin
was nothing much, an ordinary man, but in the great
Revolution he became great, because the current
about him was irresistible and gave him enormous
force. One other idea : the political fanatic is very
like the religious fanatic. Gamelin was by nature
a Dominic as Dominic might have been a Gamelin.
The two themes were really one and the same, and
I therefore found it easy to write the book."

"And the new book Les Anges?" I asked.

"Oh, harder than ever," he cried, mimicking dis-
tress, "it's full of new ideas, and new ideas are ex-
traordinarily difficult to express. My new book is
about the revolt of the angels, and it is giving me in-
finite pains. I want to put into it more ideas than
Dante or Milton ever had. That may sound con-
ceited, but not when one's talking to intelligent peo-
ple. One can then talk freely, sincerely. Neither
Milton nor Dante had many new ideas on any sub-
ject, and I want to stuff this book full of new ideas,
and that makes it hard, hard, every page an effort.


The better work one wishes to do," he added, "thf
harder it is."

"But doesn't the mere power of expression grow
with use and become easier?"

"Not to me," he replied, "it all depends on the
ideas. You can make your art as hard as you like,
even in old age, especially in old age," he went on,
"when you want to do your uttermost and the time
is growing short."

There was a pathetic dignity, I thought, in the
unconscious acceptance of the high task.

"Yet you found time to preside the other night
at the Zola dinner," I remarked, "though one would
have thought that you and Zola were poles apart."

"Quite true," he agreed, "I don't care much for
his books except L'Assommoir. There are not
enough ideas in them to interest me, and the qual-
ity of thought all through his work seems to me
rather poor, but still he was always a Liberal, a
Dreyfusard, too, never reactionary, and so when
they came and asked me to preside at his dinner
I could not refuse, though he always seemed to me
a great mason rather than a great architect or
artist. He took small interest in things of the spirit.
A crowd was more to him than a thought."

"You once said, cher maitre, that religion no lon-
ger existed in France: did you mean that literally?"

"Religion is dead in France," he repeated; "it
can never be revived, nobody cares for it or pays


any attention to It; we have done for ever with
monks and monkery. Even the Church Is only a
means of political action, or rather of reaction," he
laughed, "but in England religion Is still alive: is
it not?"

"In England one can still find the corpse by one's
nose," I remarked.

France laughed. "That's the very word: here
the carcass Is desseche: but in England still malo-
dorous; we're a hundred years then ahead of you."

The assumption seemed to me daring.

"But is religion done with altogether, in your
opinion?" I asked In some wonder.

"Certainly," he replied, apparently surprised even
by the question, "the whole paraphernalia of mira-
cles and belief in a life after death and an anthro-
pomorphic God — all gone for ever, swept clean
away — and a good thing too."

"Religion, then, is rather like measles, a childish
complaint?" I probed.

"That's it, just that," he continued; "and we've
got rid not only of the Christian religion, but also
of the morality as well. Of course. Christian moral-
ity was absolutely childish and contradictory: we
had to get quit of it all."

"But surely," I insisted, "one of these days we
shall have a scientific morality. The laws of health
both of body and spirit will be ascertained and
taught. And when once the canon is accepted and


established, it will excite emotion and gradually be-
come sacred, and so religion will again be brought
back into life."

"I see no need of it," he retorted. "0« est sage
en France," he went on earnestly: "we have the race
morality of moderation in our bones: it's rather
an EEsthetical than an ethical ideal, if you will; but
we are moderate and prudent by nature in every-
thing, and that's all one wants in life."

"Men always need guidance," I replied tenta-
tively, "the example of the nobler spirits as to how
far individual selfishness should go, and how the
need of self-sacrifice and devotion should be ful-
filled. In these matters the man of genius will al-
ways come to be regarded as sacred, if not divine.
Humanity will always need teachers."

"I don't agree with you," he retorted, smiling,
"we'll learn to walk by frequent fallings. We

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