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didactic work. And poetry openly didactic,

E 65

Books in General

written first and foremost with the end of
inculcating a lesson, is seldom very good
poetry. Most of Mr. Glasier's selections come
within this category and it cannot be helped.

But there are several surprising things
about his collection. One is that he has got
very little out of the " pietists," who are
usually much too preoccupied about God and
their souls to write about either war or peace.
" From Donne, Herbert, Vaughan, Herrick
[scarcely a pietist], Crashaw, Dr. Watts, the
Wesleys, Keble," he says, " I have got not
a line." The second is that with those
exceptions almost every prominent English
poet has been impelled, once or twice or
oftener, to write (usually in very bald verse)
a protest against the beastliness and injustice
of war. He starts very early, with Gower,
who wrote :

For peace, beseech peace for all men !
Amen, amen, amen, amen.

and in words that many people have echoed
during recent years

There is no thing whereof mischief may grow
Which is not caused by the war, I trow.

Sir David Lyndsay of the Mount, Lord Lyon
King-at-Arms wrote :
66 '

Pacifism in Poetry

War generates murder and mischief,
Sore lamenting without relief.
War sheddeth muckle guiltless blood.
Since I can say of war no good,
Declare to me, sir, if ye can,
Who first this misery began.

Spenser and Sackville, in many grave stanzas,
depicted the foul face of war ; and Fulke
Greville, Lord Brooke (whose ingenious and
difficult poems are too generally neglected)
spoke of :

This spirit which stirs mankind with man to war,
Which devils do not, wherein worse we are.

Southwell, the martyred Jesuit, struck a finer
note than any of his predecessors :

/ wrestle not with rage

When fury's flame doth burn ;

It is vain to stop the stream
Until the tide return.

But when the flame is out,
And ebbing wrath doth end ;

I turn a late enraged foe
Into a quiet friend.

To rise by others' 9 fall

I deem a losing-gain ;
All States, with others 9 ruin built,

To ruin, run amain.

Books in General

Had that lesson been learnt by the parti-
tioners of Poland and the robbers of Alsace-
Lorraine we should not have had the war ;
but history repeats herself in vain nobody
listens. Samuel Daniel went too far ; in an
apothegm which might have been taken for
a motto by the Pharisees who have stood
aside while the future of the world was being
decided, he said :

Wise men ever have preferred far

IV injustest peace before the justest war.

But he may not have meant quite all that he
appears to mean.

A very pertinent quotation is Henry V.'s
threat of " frightfulness " at Harfleur. This
is well known ; but less attention has been
given to Henry IV.'s disgusting advice to his
son (frequently acted on by European mon-
archs) to distract his people from home affairs
by getting up foreign quarrels. He had, he
says, had the intention of going on a Crusade
with this object :

Therefore, my Harry,
Be it thy course to busy giddy minds
With foreign quarrels : that action, hence borne out,
May waste the memory of the former days.

Campion, Drummond, Beaumont, and Milton

Pacifism in Poetry

are all drawn on. The extracts from the
latter include the passage about war breeding
war, and the necessity of distinguishing between
might and right, which concludes with :

In vain doth Falour bleed
When Avarice and Rapine share the land.

Edward Young, of the Night Thoughts, put
a common gibe into metre when he wrote :

One to destroy is murder by the law

And gibbets keep the lifted hand in awe ;

To murder thousands takes a specious name

War's glorious art and gives immortal fame.

And Robert Burns had a remark for the
militarists who call down Gott's blessing on
their work :

Ye hypocrites ! are these your pranks ?
To murder men and give God thanks.
Desist for shame ! Proceed no further !
God won't accept your thanks for murder !

Whatever the merits of the argument, even
a Scotsman must admit this to be about as
bad poetry as any man ever wrote. Desist
for shame !

Shelley and Hardy are very largely quoted ;
but the most forcible extracts come from
Byron, who used to make much the same
sort of points as Mr. Siegfried Sassoon.


Books in General

The Treaty of Versailles

SIR ERIC GEDDES, at the time of the
1918 Election, pleasantly canvassed
the possibility of stripping Germany
of all her old books and works of art in part
payment of the indemnity. The Federation
of British Industries favoured similar measures
and gave as an instance of the sort of thing
that might be had for the asking, or the
demanding the Dresden Madonna. We have
not recently heard much of proposals of this
sort ; and, although I have pronounced
opinions about them, this is not the page
on which readers would be entitled to expect
a discussion of how we shall Make Germany
Pay. I should think, however, that the one
related clause which does appear in the Peace
Terms is beyond controversy : that which
enacts that Germany shall replace art-treasures
in kind. Writing from a summary of the
Treaty (which itself appears to be about as
long as the Pickwick Papers) I do not know
precisely what is to come within this schedule :
it is not proposed, I take it, to import a
German cathedral to replace that of Rheims.
Nor do I know how much damage the Germans
have done to books and pictures. Certainly
not as much as they might have done : a
friend recently back from Bruges tells me

The Treaty of Versailles

that all the old pictures are in all the old
places where, indeed, the Germans insisted
on them being put after the Belgians had buried
them. There are probably things gone from
Liege and Namur ; but the greatest losses
sustained in the war resulted from the burning
of the Library of Louvain, the greatest library
in a wantonly invaded neutral country.

The finest treasures of a great library are
in their nature irreplaceable. There were at
Louvain, for instance, a unique collection of
Irish manuscripts. But there should be little
difficulty in getting for Louvain a collection
of equivalent value. Germany, where printing
was born, where Fust, Schoeffler, Koberer,
Sensenchmidt, Menthelin and other illustrious
men were printing in the fourteen-seventies,
the great centre of primitive book illustration,
is rich in early-printed books as she has been
in the bibliographers of incunabula. There
are many German States and many German
Universities : every one has a library. There
are nearly a hundred libraries of some import-
ance in Berlin. The royal library is nearly
three hundred years old, and has had, since
the late seventeenth century, the right to a
copy of every book printed in the dominions
of Prussia not that that, as to quality or
quantity, can have amounted to much in
those days. About 5,000 a year is spent in
purchases for it, and it contains upwards of

Books in General

a million and-a-half books. The Munich
Library dates from the middle of the sixteenth
century, and contains one of the finest collec-
tion of incunabula in Europe. There are over
a million books in it and nearly thirty thous-
and manuscripts, from among which some
may certainly be selected which will grace
the Library at Louvain. The Royal Library
at Dresden for the Germans started their
big libraries early is equally old and con-
tains half-a-million books. There are another
half-a-million at Stuttgart, which is rich in
manuscripts, half-a-million more at Darmstadt,
and half-a-million more at Leipzig University.
There are about ten other University Libraries
containing between 200,000 and 500,000 books ;
and the range of selection of prints and pictures
to replace whatever was at Louvain is almost
equally wide. The one thing it would be
cruel to demand would be the " Leonardo
Bust," which could only be got over the
dead body of Dr. Bode. It will be remembered
that this rather charming effigy was irrefrag-
ably proved to be by one R. Lucas, of Hamp-
shire ; I think that a pair of his Victorian
trousers or some such thing was found inside
it. But it would take a whole wardrobe
to make Dr. Bode abandon a judgment formed
on what is called stylistic grounds ; and when
I was in Berlin, in 1914, the bust was still
proudly displayed and labelled as Leonardo's
without so much as an interrogation mark.

Notes on Shakespeare

I have seen as yet no particulars as to the
method by which Louvain's compensations
are to be selected. However they are taken
and I cannot help sympathising with biblio-
philes even when they are Germans I fear
that there will be a good many spectacled
old librarians in Germany, men probably
who find it hard to take an interest in any
wars later than those of Charles V., who will
(whatever is rapt from them) feel that the
things they lose are the things that, above
all, they value. A million four hundred
thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine books
may be left ; but the one that has been trans-
ported to Belgium will, if the German book-
worm is true to type, be just the one that
was needed to make the collection complete.

Notes on Shakespeare

TWO documents about Shakespeare
reach me simultaneously. One is
Dean Beeching's lecture to the British
Academy, and the other Sheet i of " A
Chronological Table Showing What is Proved
and Not Proved about Shakespeare's Life
and Work," prepared for the London Shake-
speare League by Mr. William Poel. This
sheet covers the years up to 1603, from April
26th, 1564, the date of Shakespeare's baptism


Books in General

for, though this is not always remembered,
the date of his birth is unknown. I shall
insert Mr. Poel's leaflet in the covers of Sir
Sidney Lee's Life of Shakespeare as a constant
reminder of the relative proportions of proven
facts and cunning speculations in that vast
and most admirable work. Mr. Poel's table
contains four columns. In the first we get
"Facts" (a) Stratford - on - Avon, and (b)
London ; in the second " Traditions " ; in
the third " Contemporary Events and Allu-
sions " ; and in the fourth " Unproved,"
with a subsection " Unknown." Unknown
are the following :

" Date of birth ; what he did before he
was eighteen ; whether he saw the Queen at
Kenilworth ; date and place of marriage ;
where he lived afterwards ; when he left
Stratford ; which year he reached London ;
when he first joined a company of players ;
when he returned to Stratford."

It is just as well to bear these things in mind.

Mr. Poel has had the rather grim notion of
inserting under each " fact " about Shake-
speare the contemporary facts about Shake-
speare's father, and the contrast between
the careers of the two is most painful. When
Shakespeare was four, his father was Mayor
of Stratford; when he was seven his father


Notes on Shakespeare

was chief Alderman ; when he was fourteen
" father's money troubles begin. Mother
pawns her estate, ' Ashbies,' and her lands at
Snitterfield." When he was sixteen his father
failed to redeem this pawned property. So
at eighteen Shakespeare marries, and by the
time he is twenty-one he has three children.
" Father's debts increase. A writ served,
but no goods to distrain. He forfeits his
Alderman's gown."

" Father, fearing arrest, fined for not going
to church, 1592." Four years after this
Shakespeare fils make his first application
to the Heralds' College for a coat of arms.
And in 1597, when only 33, he buys New Place
and an acre of land for a sum equivalent to
nearly 500 of our money. But the old people
in that year are described as " of small wealth
and very few friends." At thirty-four Shake-
speare is called " gentleman " in civic docu-
ments, and the Corporation wants to sell him
tithes. Next year the mother who would
scarcely have bothered about this had not the
son relieved his parents' situation claims
the arms of Arden of Park Hall. In 1601,
" Father dies intestate," and in 1602 Shake-
speare buys a hundred and seven acres of
land for 2,560 (modern money), as well as
a cottage and a quarter-acre at the back of
New Place. The Globe Playhouse was not
built until Shakespeare was thirty-five. He


Books in General

must either have been a prodigiously well-

C* 1 actor, or his publishers must have paid
royalties which our publishers do not pay
us, or he got money without earning it. The
tradition that Southampton gave him 1,000
dates only from 1709. He was thirty when
Spenser and Drayton praised him, and thirty-
four when Meres said he was the best English
dramatist for comedy and tragedy. It is
worth while remembering that he was a success-
ful, prosperous, and admired young man in
spite of all the disadvantages of upbringing
which have been so much exaggerated no
one would think, " for instance," that the
" drunken, illiterate clown " of the Baconians
was the son of His Worship the Mayor of
Stratford-on-Avon. I recommend this leaflet
as a useful memorandum.

Dean Beeching's lecture is slight and reason-
able. It is largely a refutation of current
heresies which are themselves partly the result
of natural reaction against the traditional
worship of Shakespeare, and partly the product
of a perverse desire to say something new and
an even more unpleasant desire to blacken
a character generally assumed to be good.
He disposes of the current assumption that
Shakespeare was strongly anti-Puritan (though
he omits the " cakes and ale " passage, which
is much more to the point than the drunken
slobberings of Sir A. Aguecheek), and that

Notes on Shakespeare

he was conspicuously anti-democratic, though
he agrees that the poet was devoted to " law
and order " in other words, that he was not
a Bolshevik and knew why he was not one.
But the chief theories with which he deals
are : (i) that under which Shakespeare's
thought had no connection whatever with
his life, and his drama " is like a magnificent
orchid, which has no organic connection with
that which carries it " ; and (2) that which
maintains that no attitude towards life or
morals can be deduced from his plays, which
are merely the most remarkable cinemato-
graph films ever made. The first doctrine
could only be held by a man who had a com-
plete misunderstanding of the nature of imagi-
native art ; as Dean Beechmg says : " Would
it be possible for a dramatist to draw what
we call a noble character, and to represent
him, throughout a whole play, speaking and
acting always from high motives, if he were
himself vulgar-minded and high-spirited ? We
should require a clear instance of such a
phenomenon before we could believe it."
The second has been held by men apparently
intelligent, but seems to me equally incom-
prehensible. There is in these plays, and has
been almost unconsciously felt and honoured
in them by generations of English people,
a passion for generous and honourable living,
and a belief in Christian morals which simply
could not exist without a continual effort


Books in General

on the part of the writer to live up to his
standards, though an occasional failure must
be expected of the best of men. The con-
ception of Shakespeare the neurotic slave of
his passions simply does not square with the
voice one hears speaking when one reads him.
Nor does it square with the facts of his early
career ; and still less does it square with the
testimonials of his friends, the importance
and uniformity of which is still too often
ignored. Candour, gentleness, fertility of idea,
humour in conversation : these are the stock
attributes imputed to him. The one com-
plaint made is that his high-spirited talk was
sometimes too profuse ; but this complaint
comes from Ben Jonson, who, when sitting
in a tavern or elsewhere with a number of
friends, cannot be imagined in any other
place than the head of the table or in any other
role than that of conversational Pope. Shake-
speare, one imagines, was different : full of
admiration for the peculiar graces of other
people, and satisfied occasionally to keep his
smiles and his retorts up his sleeve. But
what am I doing ? Beginning to formulate
my own ideas about Shakespeare ? By heaven,
nothing on earth is going to persuade me to
do that. So I hurriedly take down an en-
graving of the Stratford Bust and a copy
of the Droeshout portrait ; they put the
extinguisher on at once.




AS one looks back upon the early plays
of Maeterlinck the plays with which
he made his reputation, and upon
which his reputation still chiefly stands
what memory is evoked in the mind ? It is
the memory of a single mood and a single
character. There were three-act plays and
one-act plays ; there were old men, young
men, women, and children. But, even whilst
one was reading them in succession, there
seemed little difference of persons or of plots ;
and in retrospect all these plays melt into one.
In desolate and forlorn places, primeval woods,
or old castles crumbling between the marshes
and the sea, where daylight is wan and hope-
less and darkness full of horror, vague pale
forms grope like somnambulists hither and
thither. They stray under the great trees
and in and out of the heavily-studded doors.
The sea moans. The trees shake. Small
winds arise and are still. Doors open and shut ;
footsteps echo along lonely corridors ; ancestral
voices prophesy doom. In monotonous accents
the forms talk to each other or mutter to
themselves ; the presence of impending Death
is palpable on all sides ; and their every word
and act is accompanied by a single gesture
of the soul, the gesture of despair.


Books in General

There are loves, hates, jealousies, and mur-
ders in these plays. But nothing really counts
except the fears. Where, after several acts,
the puppets get fidgety and try to come to
life, and you have a burst of self-assertive
violence (like Golaud's Othello-like passion),
it is out of atmosphere, and juts forth like a
rock out of flat sand. The diversities of sex
and age do not matter ; the persons are all
lost, hopeless, vainly throwing up their arms
to screen their heads from the blows of Death
or Destiny the same thing to Maeterlinck.
They speak in fragmentary moans : " Elle
pleure . . ." " On frappe ^ . ." " J'ai ^ peur
. . ." and the silences which heavily inter-
sperse these Ollendorfian laments are more
eloquent of terror than the words. " Men
fear death as children fear to go into the
dark " ; and in Maeterlinck both these fears
are omnipresent. The characters hover pre-
cariously on a tiny island of half-light sur-
rounded by awful darkness, and the darkness
throws in long clutching arms full of cruelty,
disaster, and death. The " menace of the
invisible " is omnipresent ; " the will " (as
Miss Taylor x remarks), " the brain, all facul-
ties of action, succumb as if blunted under a
spell. They become spellbound as the will,
as the thoughts and deeds of a trance." And
the appeal of these spectacles of the domina-
tion of fear is " mainly to the nerves." Take

1 Maurice Maeterlinck. By Una Taylor. Seeker.


Les Aveugles perhaps the most effective of
all the plays. In a dark avenue of funereal
trees six blind men and six blind women talk
in broken quavering phrases as they await the
wakening of their sleeping guide, the old
priest. But he is dead ; it was Death's step
that they had faintly heard ; and as they
pass their weak hands over the dead man's
face the snow begins to fall. Neither they,
nor the people in the other plays, are human
enough to stir the sentiment of pity. They
are merely types, automata, whose very in-
humanity is a part of the general scheme for
making the watcher's flesh creep and his
blood run cold. And it is Maeterlinck's
faculty for doing this that for a time made
his plays, at any rate in book-form, as popular
as Pepper's Ghost.

What was there novel about these plays
that gave them such a vogue ? There is
certainly nothing novel about pessimism,
melancholy, or horror, and there is a great
deal of these in the world's finest literature.
Maeterlinck himself is the progeny of a whole
school of writers whose thought ranged from
a tender tristesse to the blackest pessimism.
His plays have been frequency referred to as
the work of " the great Belgian mystic."
Certainly he has written about Ruysbroek,
and was born in Belgium. He may be a
mystic ; if so, he is a mystic without a God.

F ' 81

Books in General

He may be a Belgian ; but if so, he is a Belgian
emigre. His most characteristic plays are
not the work of a Belgian mystic, but of a
French decadent. He himself has admitted
his great debt to Villiers de 1'Isle Adam ; his
artistic relation to Baudelaire and to the
Symbolists is quite as apparent. For a whole
generation the mass of good French verse and
prose was obsessed with gloom ; with the
inscrutability of Destiny, the vanity of Life,
the tyranny of Death, with vague hankerings
and inassuageable regrets. Maeterlinck's first
book Serres Chaudes was quite in the most
morbid tradition ; a volume of lyrics in
which, as Miss Taylor says, " poem follows
poem, the outcome of a melancholy as vaguely
sterile as it is incurable," and " sorrow has
no source as it has no anodyne." There was
skill in them, chaotic as they were, but verses
to the tune of

Mon dme en est triste a la fin ;
Elle est triste d'etre lasse,
Elle est lasse enfin d'etre en vain,
Elle est triste et lasse d la fin,

would never have given anybody a European
reputation. Montparnasse was full of gentle-
men who were as triste and las as they could
possibly be. But Maeterlinck's great inspira-
tion came when he thought of putting the
mood of decadent lyric upon the stage, and


when he thought also of staging the dots
(...) as well as the words. The enormous
utility of these dots one need not labour.
Scores of modern writers have used them,
and when they are wisely used they are very
effective. Maeterlinck scatters them, or their
equivalent, promiscuously. The eternal silence
not only envelopes his characters, but sticks
continually in their throats. If, as Mr. Everard
Meynell has remarked, " chunks out of the
abyss make his scenes," for his most effective
dialogue he borrows from silence. To a
great degree Maeterlinck may be said to
supply the framework of his plays and the
audience to fill in the words. The thought of
Death, the down-turned lights, and the pro-
perties would do the rest.

He had, in fact, hit upon a " stunt " a
" stunt " so good as to entitle him to the name
of genius, but, nevertheless, a " stunt." And
he worked it for all it was worth. I do not
suggest for a moment that Maeterlinck's
pessimism was insincere. Even his last book
of moralisings was a cheerless brochure upon
Death, and no man who was not naturally
prone to melancholy could have written so
continually on Death. In fact, he has almost
done Death to death, as anyone looking through
Miss Taylor's book can see. But his pessimism
was, in the first place, not really so thorough-
going as it appears in his plays ; and in the


Books in General

second place it was utterly flabby. Let the
point of absolute sincerity go ; a man is at
liberty to make a work of art out of any one
of his moods or anyone else's moods though,
in the case of works so subjective as these,
it is surely true that lack of conviction is
bound to result in literary weakness. But
about the flabbiness there can be no two
opinions. There is flabbiness both in the
feeling of the plays and in their writing.
The great melancholiacs of literature have, at
least, had force, courage, virility, and, often,
profound humanity. But Maeterlinck is spirit-
ually bloodless. " He has raised the standard
of the Unseen," says Miss Taylor though
" hoisted the black flag of the Unseen "
would be a better phrase. That is so, but
he has never greeted the Unseen with a cheer.
He has not even been able, like that great
and courageous artist Baudelaire, to greet it
with a sneer. All he has been able to give it
is a shudder. In the mouths of his characters
the " wail for the world's wrong " is a dismal
bleat ; and when, in Villiers' phrase

le Destin taciturne
Dans V ombre dit " Assez "

to its victims one feels that they have been
waiting for this moment all their lives. It
is a slack enervating atmosphere ; and ultim-
ately it is a monotonous and boring one. A


pessimist of any resource, of any ardour,
would have swept the dark ray of his pessimism
over territory after territory of the varied

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