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thrilling in leaving the Rue de la Gaieté, returning home to dress, and
presenting our spotless selves to the _élite_. And we succeeded very
well, as indeed all young men do who waltz perfectly and avoid making
love to the wrong woman.

But the excitement of climbing up and down the social ladder did not
stave off our craving for art; and about this time there came a very
decisive event in our lives. Marshall's last and really _grande passion_
had come to a violent termination, and monetary difficulties forced him
to turn his thoughts to painting on china as a means of livelihood. And
as this young man always sought extremes he went to Belleville, donned
a blouse, ate garlic with his food, and settled down to live there as a
workman. I had been to see him, and had found him building a wall. And
with sorrow I related his state that evening to Julien in the Café
Veron. He said, after a pause: -

"Since you profess so much friendship for him, why do you not do him a
service that cannot be forgotten since the result will always continue?
why don't you save him from the life you describe? If you are not
actually rich you are at least in easy circumstances, and can afford to
give him a _pension_ of three hundred francs a month. I will give him
the use of my studio, which means, as you know, models and teaching;
Marshall has plenty of talent, all he wants is a year's education: in a
year or a year-and-a-half, certainly at the end of two years, he will
begin to make money."

It is rather a shock to one who is at all concerned with his own genius
to be asked to act as foster-mother to another's. Then three hundred
francs meant a great deal, plainly it meant deprivation of those
superfluities which are so intensely necessary to the delicate and
refined. Julien watched me. This large crafty Southerner knew what was
passing in me; he knew I was realising all the manifold
inconveniences - the duty of looking after Marshall's wants for two
years, and to make the pill easier he said: -

"If three hundred francs a month are too heavy for your purse, you might
take an apartment and ask Marshall to come and live with you. You told
me the other day you were tired of hotel life. It would be an advantage
to you to live with him. You want to do something yourself; and the fact
of his being obliged to attend the studio (for I should advise you to
have a strict agreement with him regarding the work he is to do) would
be an extra inducement to you to work hard."

I always decide at once, reflection does not help me, and a moment after
I said, "Very well, Julien, I will."

And next day I went with the news to Belleville. Marshall protested he
had no real talent. I protested he had. The agreement was drawn up and
signed. He was to work in the studio eight hours a day; he was to draw
until such time as M. Lefebvre set him to paint; and in proof of his
industry he was to bring me at the end of each week a study from life
and a composition, the subject of which the master gave at the
beginning of each week, and in return I was to take an apartment near
the studio, give him an abode, food, _blanchissage_, etc. Once the
matter was decided, Marshall manifested prodigious energy, and three
days after he told me he had found an apartment in Le Passage des
Panoramas which would suit us perfectly. The plunge had to be taken. I
paid my hotel bill, and sent my taciturn valet to beef, beer and a wife.

It was unpleasant to have a window opening not to the sky, but to an
unclean prospect of glass roofing; nor was it agreeable to get up at
seven in the morning; and ten hours of work daily are trying to the
resolution even of the best intentioned. But we had sworn to forego all
pleasures for the sake of art - _table d'hôtes_ in the Rue Maubeuge,
French and foreign duchesses in the Champs Elysées, thieves in the Rue
de la Gaieté.

I was entering therefore on a duel with Marshall for supremacy in an art
for which, as has already been said, I possessed no qualifications. It
will readily be understood how a mind like mine, so intensely alive to
all impulses, and so unsupported by any moral convictions, would suffer
in so keen a contest waged under such unequal and cruel conditions. It
was in truth a year of great passion and great despair. Defeat is bitter
when it comes swiftly and conclusively, but when defeat falls by inches
like the pendulum in the pit, the agony is a little beyond verbal
expression. I remember the first day of my martyrdom. The clocks were
striking eight; we chose our places, got into position. After the first
hour, I compared my drawing with Marshall's. He had, it is true, caught
the movement of the figure better than I, but the character and the
quality of his work was miserable. That of mine was not. I have said I
possessed no artistic facility, but I did not say faculty; my drawing
was never common; it was individual in feeling, it was refined. I
possessed all the rarer qualities, but not that primary power without
which all is valueless; - I mean the talent of the boy who can knock off
a clever caricature of his school-master or make a _lifelike_ sketch of
his favourite horse on the barn door with a piece of chalk.

The following week Marshall made a great deal of progress; I thought the
model did not suit me, and hoped for better luck next time. That time
never came, and at the end of the first month I was left toiling
hopelessly in the distance. Marshall's mind, though shallow, was
bright, and he understood with strange ease all that was told him, and
was able to put into immediate practice the methods of work inculcated
by the professors. In fact, he showed himself singularly capable of
education; little could be drawn out, but a great deal could be put in
(using the word in its modern, not in its original sense). He showed
himself intensely anxious to learn and to accept all that was said: the
ideas and feelings of others ran into him like water into a bottle whose
neck is suddenly stooped below the surface of the stream. He was an
ideal pupil. It was Marshall here, it was Marshall there, and soon the
studio was little but an agitation in praise of him, and his work, and
anxious speculation arose as to the medals he would obtain. I continued
the struggle for nine months. I was in the studio at eight in the
morning, I measured my drawing, I plumbed it throughout, I sketched in,
having regard to _la jambe qui porte_, I modelled _par les masses_.
During breakfast I considered how I should work during the afternoon, at
night I lay awake thinking of what I might do to obtain a better result.
But my efforts availed me nothing, it was like one who, falling,
stretches his arms for help and grasps the yielding air. How terrible
are the languors and yearnings of impotence! how wearing! what an aching
void they leave in the heart! And all this I suffered until the burden
of unachieved desire grew intolerable.

I laid down my charcoal and said, "I will never draw or paint again."
That vow I have kept.

Surrender brought relief, but my life seemed at an end. I looked upon a
blank space of years desolate as a grey and sailless sea. "What shall I
do?" I asked myself, and my heart was weary and hopeless. Literature? my
heart did not answer the question at once. I was too broken and overcome
by the shock of failure; failure precise and stern, admitting of no
equivocation. I strove to read: but it was impossible to sit at home
almost within earshot of the studio, and with all the memories of defeat
still ringing their knells in my heart. Marshall's success clamoured
loudly from without; every day, almost every hour of the day, I heard of
the medals which he would carry off, of what Lefebvre thought of his
drawing this week, of Boulanger's opinion of his talent. I do not wish
to excuse my conduct, but I cannot help saying that Marshall showed me
neither consideration nor pity, he did not even seem to understand that
I was suffering, that my nerves had been terribly shaken, and he
flaunted his superiority relentlessly in my face - his good looks, his
talents, his popularity. I did not know then how little these studio
successes really meant.

Vanity? no, it was not his vanity that maddened me; to me vanity is
rarely displeasing, sometimes it is singularly attractive; but by a
certain insistence and aggressiveness in the details of life he allowed
me to feel that I was only a means for the moment, a serviceable thing
enough, but one that would be very soon discarded and passed over. This
was intolerable. I packed up my portmanteau and left, after having kept
my promise for only ten months. By so doing I involved my friend in
grave and cruel difficulties; by this action I imperilled his future
prospects. It was a dastardly action, but his presence had grown
unbearable; yes, unbearable in the fullest acceptation of the word, and
in ridding myself of him I felt as if a world of misery were being
lifted from me.


VI


After three months spent in a sweet seaside resort, where unoccupied men
and ladies whose husbands are abroad happily congregate, I returned to
Paris refreshed.

Marshall and I were no longer on speaking terms, but I saw him daily, in
a new overcoat, of a cut admirably adapted to his figure, sweeping past
the fans and the jet ornaments of the Passage des Panoramas. The coat
interested me, and I remembered that if I had not broken with him I
should have been able to ask him some essential questions concerning it.
Of such trifles as this the sincerest friendships are made; he was as
necessary to me as I to him, and after some demur on his part a
reconciliation was effected.

Then I took an _appartement_ in one of the old houses in Rue de la Tour
des Dames, for windows there overlooked a bit of tangled garden with a
dilapidated statue. It was Marshall of course who undertook the task of
furnishing, and he lavished on the rooms the fancies of an imagination
that suggested the collaboration of a courtesan of high degree and a
fifth-rate artist. Nevertheless, our _salon_ was a pretty
resort - English cretonne of a very happy design - vine leaves, dark green
and golden, broken up by many fluttering jays. The walls were stretched
with this colourful cloth, and the arm-chairs and the couches were to
match. The drawing-room was in cardinal red, hung from the middle of the
ceiling and looped up to give the appearance of a tent; a faun, in
terra-cotta, laughed in the red gloom, and there were Turkish couches
and lamps. In another room you faced an altar, a Buddhist temple, a
statue of the Apollo, and a bust of Shelley. The bedrooms were made
unconventual with cushioned seats and rich canopies; and in picturesque
corners there were censers, great church candlesticks, and palms; then
think of the smell of burning incense and wax and you will have imagined
the sentiment of our apartment in Rue de la Tour des Dames. I bought a
Persian cat, and a python that made a monthly meal off guinea pigs;
Marshall, who did not care for pets, filled his rooms with flowers - he
used to sleep beneath a tree of gardenias in full bloom. We were so,
Henry Marshall and George Moore, when we went to live in 76 Rue de la
Tour des Dames, we hoped for the rest of our lives. He was to paint, I
was to write.

Before leaving for the seaside I had bought some volumes of Hugo and De
Musset; but in pleasant, sunny Boulogne poetry went flat, and it was not
until I got into my new rooms that I began to read seriously. Books are
like individuals; you know at once if they are going to create a sense
within the sense, to fever, to madden you in blood and brain, or if they
will merely leave you indifferent, or irritable, having unpleasantly
disturbed sweet intimate musings as might a draught from an open window.
Many are the reasons for love, but I confess I only love woman or book,
when it is as a voice of conscience, never heard before, heard suddenly,
a voice I am at once endearingly intimate with. This announces feminine
depravities in my affections. I am feminine, morbid, perverse. But above
all perverse, almost everything perverse interests, fascinates me.
Wordsworth is the only simple-minded man I ever loved, if that great
austere mind, chill even as the Cumberland year, can be called simple.
But Hugo is not perverse, nor even personal. Reading him was like being
in church with a strident-voiced preacher shouting from out of a
terribly sonorous pulpit. "Les Orientales...." An East of painted
cardboard, tin daggers, and a military band playing the Turkish patrol
in the Palais Royal.... The verse is grand, noble, tremendous; I liked
it, I admired it, but it did not - I repeat the phrase - awake a voice of
conscience within me; and even the structure of the verse was too much
in the style of public buildings to please me. Of "Les Feuilles
d'Automne" and "Les Chants du Crépuscule" I remember nothing. Ten lines,
fifty lines of "Les Légendes des Siècles," and I always think that it is
the greatest poetry I have ever read, but after a few pages the book is
laid down and forgotten. Having composed more verses than any man that
ever lived, Hugo can only be taken in the smallest doses; if you repeat
any passage to a friend across a _café_ table, you are both appalled by
the splendour of the imagery, by the thunder of the syllables.

"Quel dieu, quel moissonneur de l'éternel été
Avait en s'en allant négligemment jeté
Cette faucille d'or dans les champs des étoiles."

But if I read an entire poem I never escape that sensation of the
_ennui_ which is inherent in the gaud and the glitter of the Italian or
Spanish improvisatore. There never was anything French about Hugo's
genius. Hugo was a cross between an Italian improvisatore and a
metaphysical German student. Take another verse -

"Le clair de lune bleu qui baigne l'horizon."

Without a "like" or an "as," by a mere statement of fact, the picture,
nay more, the impression, is produced. I confess I have a weakness for
the poem which this line concludes - "La fête chez Thérèse"; but
admirable as it is with its picture of mediæval life, there is in it, as
in all Hugo's work, a sense of fabrication that dries up emotion in my
heart. He shouts and raves over poor humanity, while he is gathering
coppers for himself; he goes in for an all-round patronage of the
Almighty in a last stanza; but of the two immortalities he evidently
considers his own the most durable; he does not, however, become really
intolerable until he gets on the subject of little children, he sings
their innocence in great bombast, but he is watching them; the poetry
over, the crowd dispersed, he will entice one of them down a byway.

The first time I read of _une bouche d'ombre_ I was astonished, nor did
the second or third repetition produce a change in my mood of mind; but
sooner or later it was impossible to avoid conviction, that of the two
"the rosy fingers of the dawn," although some three thousand years older
is younger, truer, and more beautiful. Homer's similes can never grow
old; _une bouche d'ombre_ was old the first time it was said. It is the
birthplace and the grave of Hugo's genius.

Of Alfred de Musset I had heard a great deal. Marshall and the Marquise
were in the habit of reading him in moments of relaxation, they had
marked their favourite passages, so he came to me highly recommended.
Nevertheless, I made but little progress in his poetry. His modernisms
were out of tune with the strain of my aspirations at that moment, and I
did not find the unexpected word and the eccentricities of expression
which were, and are still, so dear to me. I am not a purist; an error of
diction is very pardonable if it does not err on the side of the
commonplace; the commonplace, the natural, is constitutionally abhorrent
to me; and I have never been able to read with any very thorough sense
of pleasure even the opening lines of "Rolla," that splendid lyrical
outburst. What I remember of it now are those two odious
_chevilles - marchait et respirait_, and _Astarté fille de l'onde amère_;
nor does the fact that _amère_ rhymes with _mère_ condone the offence,
although it proves that even Musset felt that perhaps the richness of
the rhyme might render tolerable the intolerable. And it is to my credit
that the Spanish love songs moved me not at all; and it was not until I
read that magnificently grotesque poem "La Ballade à la Lune," that I
could be induced to bend the knee and acknowledge Musset a poet.

I still read and spoke of Shelley with a rapture of joy, - he was still
my soul. But this craft, fashioned of mother-o'-pearl, with starlight at
the helm and moonbeams for sails, suddenly ran on a reef and went down,
not out of sight, but out of the agitation of actual life. The reef was
Gautier; I read "Mdlle. de Maupin." The reaction was as violent as it
was sudden. I was weary of spiritual passion, and this great exaltation
of the body above the soul at once conquered and led me captive; this
plain scorn of a world as exemplified in lacerated saints and a
crucified Redeemer opened up to me illimitable prospects of fresh
beliefs, and therefore new joys in things and new revolts against all
that had come to form part and parcel of the commonalty of mankind. Till
now I had not even remotely suspected that a deification of flesh and
fleshly desire was possible, Shelley's teaching had been, while
accepting the body, to dream of the soul as a star, and so preserve our
ideal; but now suddenly I saw, with delightful clearness and with
intoxicating conviction, that by looking without shame and accepting
with love the flesh, I might raise it to as high a place within as
divine a light as even the soul had been set in. The ages were as an
aureole, and I stood as if enchanted before the noble nakedness of the
elder gods: not the infamous nudity that sex has preserved in this
modern world, but the clean pagan nude, - a love of life and beauty, the
broad fair breast of a boy, the long flanks, the head thrown back; the
bold fearless gaze of Venus is lovelier than the lowered glance of the
Virgin, and I cried with my master that the blood that flowed upon Mount
Calvary "_ne m'a jamais baigné dans ses flots_."

I will not turn to the book to find the exact words of this sublime
vindication, for ten years I have not read the Word that has become so
inexpressibly a part of me; and shall I not refrain as Mdlle. de Maupin
refrained, knowing well that the face of love may not be twice seen?
Great was my conversion. None more than I had cherished mystery and
dream: my life until now had been but a mist which revealed as each
cloud wreathed and went out, the red of some strange flower or some tall
peak, blue and snowy and fairylike in lonely moonlight; and now so great
was my conversion that the more brutal the outrage offered to my ancient
ideal, the rarer and keener was my delight. I read almost without fear:
"My dreams were of naked youths riding white horses through mountain
passes, there were no clouds in my dreams, or if there were any, they
were clouds that had been cut out as if in cardboard with scissors."

I had shaken off all belief in Christianity early in life and had
suffered much. Shelley had replaced faith by reason, but I still
suffered: but here was a new creed which proclaimed the divinity of the
body, and for a long time the reconstruction of all my theories of life
on a purely pagan basis occupied my whole attention. The exquisite
outlines of the marvellous castle, the romantic woods, the horses
moving, the lovers leaning to each other's faces enchanted me; and then
the indescribably beautiful description of the performance of _As You
Like It_, and the supreme relief and perfect assuagement it brings to
Rodolph, who then sees Mdlle. de Maupin for the first time in woman's
attire. If she were dangerously beautiful as a man, that beauty is
forgotten in the rapture and praise of her unmatchable woman's
loveliness.

But if "Mdlle. de Maupin" was the highest peak, it was not the entire
mountain. The range was long, and each summit offered to the eye a new
and delightful prospect. There were the numerous tales, - tales as
perfect as the world has ever seen; "La Morte Amoureuse," "Jettatura,"
"Une Nuit de Cléopâtre," etc., and then the very diamonds of the crown,
"Les Emaux et Camées," "La Symphonie en Blanc Majeure," in which the
adjective _blanc_ and _blanche_ is repeated with miraculous felicity in
each stanza. And then Contralto, -

"Mais seulement il se transpose
Et passant de la forme au son,
Trouve dans la métamorphose
La jeune fille et le garçon."

_Transpose_, - a word never before used except in musical application,
and now for the first time applied to material form, and with a
beauty-giving touch that Phidias might be proud of. I know not how I
quote; such is my best memory of the stanza, and here, that is more
important than the stanza itself. And that other stanza, "The
Châtelaine and the Page"; and that other, "The Doves"; and that other,
"Romeo and Juliet," and the exquisite cadence of the line ending
"_balcon_." Novelists have often shown how a love passion brings misery,
despair, death and ruin upon a life, but I know of no story of the good
or evil influence awakened by the chance reading of a book, the chain of
consequences so far-reaching, so intensely dramatic. Never shall I open
these books again, but were I to live for a thousand years, their power
in my soul would remain unshaken. I am what they made me. Belief in
humanity, pity for the poor, hatred of injustice, all that Shelley gave
may never have been very deep or earnest; but I did love, I did believe.
Gautier destroyed these illusions. He taught me that our boasted
progress is but a pitfall into which the race is falling, and I learned
that the correction of form is the highest ideal, and I accepted the
plain, simple conscience of the pagan world as the perfect solution of
the problem that had vexed me so long; I cried, "ave" to it all: lust,
cruelty, slavery, and I would have held down my thumbs in the Colosseum
that a hundred gladiators might die and wash me free of my Christian
soul with their blood.

The study of Baudelaire hurried the course of the disease.[1] No longer
is it the grand barbaric face of Gautier; now it is the clean shaven
face of the mock priest, the slow, cold eyes and the sharp, cunning
sneer of the cynical libertine who will be tempted that he may better
know the worthlessness of temptation. "Les Fleurs du Mal!" beautiful
flowers, beautiful in sublime decay. What a great record is yours, and
were Hell a reality how many souls would we find wreathed with your
poisonous blossoms. The village maiden goes to her Faust; the children
of the nineteenth century go to you, O Baudelaire, and having tasted of
your deadly delight all hope of repentance is vain. Flowers, beautiful
in your sublime decay, I press you to my lips; these northern solitudes,
far from the rank Parisian garden where I gathered you, are full of you,
even as the sea-shell of the sea, and the sun that sets on this wild
moorland evokes the magical verse: -

"Un soir fait de rose et de bleu mystique
Nous échangerons un éclair unique
Comme un long sanglot tout chargé d'adieux."

For months I fed on the mad and morbid literature that the enthusiasm
of 1830 called into existence. The gloomy and sterile little pictures of
"Gaspard de la Nuit," or the elaborate criminality, "Les Contes
Immoraux," laboriously invented lifeless things with creaky joints,
pitiful lay figures that fall to dust as soon as the book is closed, and
in the dust only the figures of the terrible ferryman and the
unfortunate Dora remain. "Madame Potiphar" cost me forty francs, and I
never read more than a few pages.

Like a pike after minnows I pursued the works of Les Jeune France along
the quays and through every _passage_ in Paris. The money spent was
considerable, the waste of time vexatious. One man's solitary work (he
died very young, but he is known to have excelled all in length of his
hair and the redness of his waistcoats) resisted my efforts to capture
it. At last I caught sight of the precious volume in a shop on the Quai
Voltaire. Trembling I asked the price. The man looked at me earnestly
and answered, "A hundred and fifty francs." No doubt it was a great deal
of money, but I paid it and rushed home to read. Many that had gone
before had proved disappointing, and I was obliged to admit had
contributed little towards my intellectual advancement; but this - this
that I had heard about so long - not a queer phrase, not an outrage of


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