Copyright
Owen Seaman.

Borrowed plumes online

. (page 1 of 9)
Online LibraryOwen SeamanBorrowed plumes → online text (page 1 of 9)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Ai
Ai

0!
0!

1 \

4;

2


2

7



it






«V-






Borrowed Plumes



By Owen Seaman

THE BATTLE OF THE BAYS

Fourth Edition. i6mo. $i.oo net.

" Mr. Owen Seaman is one of the very few followers of Calverley
who are really worthy of that matchk-ss master. ... A brilliant
parodist. . . . There is not a dull page in this book, we had
almost said not a dull line. . . . There is much more which it is
tempting- to transfer to this place, but we will merely point out the
penetrating satire of the lines ' I'o a Boy-Poet of the Decadence,'
the excruciating bombast of the epistles to and from Kaiser Wil-
helm, the delicious fun of ' The Rhyme of the Kipperling,' and
the fresh, elastic style of every < ne of the rhymes from the first
page to the last. In its field, ' The Battle of the Bays ' will be a
classic." — New York Tribune.

" The best of all living parodists is Owen Seaman. Some of its
practitioners, like Calverley, brought it to a high state of perfec-
tion. But there are judicious critics who accord the contempo-
rary parodist a higher place than the man who was apparently his
master." — Fh Hadelphia Fress.

" A volume of cleverer poetic parodies or of more humorous
verse in general than Mr. Owen Seaman's ' Battle of the Bays '
has not come my way for many a day. . . . They positively bub-
ble with the most unexpected fun." — Mr. //. D. TraiU i?t The
Graph ic,

IN CAP AND BELLS

Fourth Edition. i6mo. §i.oo net.

" Clean laughter and scholarly wit ; polished metre and humor-
ous phrase. He who will look elsewhere for the combination of
these qualities in modern contemporary verse must look far ere he
find them. . . . Books that no melancholy man should be with-
out." — li[r. Theodore Cook in Literature.

" Here is no shouting, no banging of the bauble. The form of
phrase, the inflexion of voice, the dancing light of humor, make
up the motley which is the true ester's "only wear"; and under
his flashes of merriment is a sober, sound philosophy. This, after
all, is the only kind of humor that lasts ... it is easy to appreci-
ate, difficult to acquire ; and Mr. Owen Seaman, having acquired
it with all the felicity of good humor and art, stands practically
alone among the humorists of the hour. . . . His technical quality
seems to strengthen with every new volume." — IMr. Arthur
IVaugh in The St. James Gazette.

JOHN LANE, LONDON AND NEW YORK



.Borrowed Plumes



By

Owen Seaman

Author of " The Battle of the Bays'' ; "In Cap
and Bells" I ^^ Horace at Cambridge," etc.






















New York

Henry Holt and Company

1902



Copyright, 1902,

BY

HENRY HOLT AND CO.
Published September, igo2.



TO

THE AUTHORS,

MANY OF THEM MY FRIENDS,

WHOSE METHODS I HAVE HERE ATTEMPTED

TO IMITATE;

AND, IN PARTICULAR, TO

PEARL MARY-TERESA CRAIGIE.



CONTENTS



PAGE

I. THE TWO ELIZABETHS 1

II. " JOHN OLIVER HOBBES " (MRS. CRAIGIE). . 17

III. MISS ELLEN THORNEYCROPT FOWLER 32

IV. AN ENGLISHWOMAN'S LOVE-LETTERS 43

V. MR. HALL CAINE 59

VI. MISS MARIE CORELLI 82

Vn. MR. DOOLEY 89

VIII. MR. HENRY HARLAND 95

IX. MR. MAURICE HEWLETT 106

X. MR. GEORGE MEREDITH 117

XI. SIR JOHN LUBBOCK (LORD AVEBURY) 126

XII. MRS. HUMPHRY WARD 132

XIII. MR. W. E. HENLEY 145

XIV. MR. HENRY JAMES 153



vi Contents



PAGE

XV. M. MAURICE MAETERLINCK 172

XVI. MR. G. BERNARD SHAW 179

XVII. MR. STEPHEN PHILLIPS 189

XVUI, MR. HENRY SETON MERRIMAN 192

XrX. MR. ANDREW LANG 195

XX. MR. GEORGE MOORE 197

XXI. MRS. MEYNELL 201

XXII. MR. WILLIAM WATSON 203



BORROWED PLUMES.
I.

THE TWO ELIZABETHS.

[With acknozvledgments to the respective
Authors of those popular ivorks, " Eliz-
abeth and her German Garden " and
" The Visits of Elisabeth." It zvill be
seen that extracts from the former's
Diary and from the latter's Letters are
given alternately, the younger Elisa-
beth being supposed to arrive on a visit
to the elder Elisabeth about the /th of
the month.]

March ist. — I am writing* this in my
dear garden with the thermometer at fifteen
below zero Centig'rade. A tumultuous
North-wind, with a kiss of East in it, is
blowing straight off the Baltic, bringing up
faint delicious odours of sea-icicles and



t Borrowed Plumes

frozen Finn. I like these better than the
smell of hyacinths, which seems to me too
assertive. I often ask myself what order of
mind it is that prefers new spring dresses
and a town-flat to precious solitude and com-
munion with a botanical dictionary. I open
my treasure at random and read : Galan-
thus, Gale, Galeobdoloti, Galcopsis, Galin-
gale, Gardenia, Garlic, Gastridiuni. I shall
send for whole trucks of these and have
them planted in masses all over the carriage-
drive. I W'ish I were less ignorant about
their symptoms, but I cannot trust to the
gardener, whose imagination does not rise
above artichokes, which he talks of training
up the sun-dial.

What a lovely solitary February it has
been, with the virgin snow^ up to the bed-
room windows and the crocuses waiting
their time, all snug and warm under their
eider-down quilt. As I look back to the day
when I married the Man of War, with a
cheerful carelessness of consequences, and
no guarantee of a garden at all, and the pros-
pect of his constant company, I wonder at
my temerity. But it has worked out admira-



The Two Elizabeths 3

bly; and surely there are few women who
can enjoy their husband's absence with such
pure dehght, and yet tolerate his presence
with such equanimity.

And now Eleanor Lovelace must needs
ask for her girl Elizabeth to pay me a visit
for the sake of her German. I do hope she
will not be too exacting and want society
and tea-parties. The only rule of hospitality
which I really understand is the one about
speeding the parting guest. However, I
hear she is very innocent and ingenue and
so she ought to be fond of flowers. She
may even have a soul, and be able to talk
about the easier poets.

5TH. — Chateau Cliasse-Bebe. Dearest
Mamma, — I leave here to-morrow. I wish
I hadn't got to stay with Grafin Elizabeth,
I know they won't any of them have waists,
except the men, and they eat their food even
worse than the French, and can't say nice
things to make up for it. Still, it's time I
left here anyway. Some of the men are so
absent-minded, and keep on proposing to me
in the billiard-room (not the English kind.



4 Borrowed Plumes

you know), and whole heaps of the 99th
Chasseurs have pinched me in corridors and
places, and I don't think this is quite respect-
ful, do you, Mamma? And it is so awk-
ward, because Celestine notices the marks on
my arms when she is drying me after my
tub, and this makes her very patronising and
hinty, and the stuffing I put into my bed-
room key-hole because of the draught keeps
falling out, I can't think why. Two duels
have been fought for some reason or other, I
don't know what, in the deer-park and one in
the middle of a steeplechase. Nobody was
hurt, of course, but it makes people look
awfully sheepish, and I'm sure it's time I
left. I am picking up some new gowns
from Rosalie's to astonish the Fatherland,
though I don't know what the nearest gar-
rison town is or whether they have fleets
and things on the sea there, and goodnight,
dear Mamma,

Your affectionate daughter,

Elizabeth.

8th. — I have hardly had time to discover
whether Elizabeth has a soul, but her dinner-



The Two Elizabeths 5

gown and general attitude do not encourage
this hope. I am a Httle afraid that she ex-
pected a house-party, or at least an officer or
two to take her in. I may be obliged to send
for the Man of War to amuse her. It sounds
improbable, but in his heavy negative way
he likes a young girl without ideas or yearn-
ing intelligence.

One thing that struck me as a deplorable
revelation of her character was a remark
that she made about some women who bored
her ("stuffy people," she called them) on
one of her visits; "nothing," she said,
" rustled nicely when they walked, and they
had no scent on.'' Unfortunately she allows
no such defect in her own toilette, and the
scent she " has on " quite overpowers the
pure fragrance of my snowdrops, besides
being a detestable thing in itself. I even sigh
for the Man of War's tobacco, and look for-
ward to an afternoon with my artificial
manures as a corrective.

I asked her the usual question at night —
"You are not afraid of sleeping alone?"
"Oh, no," she said, "I'm used to ghosts;
there were whole stacks of them at Norman



6 Borrowed Plumes

Tower in the passages, and a funny old
thing asked me to join them and he would
take care of me, but I thought it would be
such shivery work in the middle of the
night." I am afraid Elizabeth's mother is
not careful enough in her choice of houses
for this young person to stay in. Girls with
such beautifully childlike minds are often
too unsuspecting of evil.

iiTH. — Schloss Bliimendam. Dearest
Mamma, — I can't imagine why you sent me
here. It's been the stuffiest time I ever
had. I'm the whole house-party in myself,
and not a man of any kind in the place
except the coachman who's married and the
gardener who's engaged to the cook. It's
so depressing, and I think Celestine means
to go out of her mind. The Grafin only has
tzuo dresses, and talks all day of nothing but
flowers and guano, and have I read any good
books lately, and of course I haven't, and I
can't even think of any names to pretend
with.

Once I thought something was really
going to happen, when the Grafin said that



The Two Elizabeths 7

she was looking forward excitedly to a
whole heap of teas. I should have chosen
dances myself, but teas are better than noth-
ing, and sometimes you get a stray man to
look in; and then it turned out that it was
short for tea-roses. Such dull things to look
forward to!

And then, again, I never get really
shocked here. Oh, yes, once I was when
the Grafin said that she hoped that a lot of
Rubenses wouldn't get into Madame Joseph
Schwarz's bed by mistake again as they did
last year. Of course I guessed that " Ru-
benses " were only pictures, but it did seem
rather muddly for Madame Schwarz having
them actually in her bed, and so many of
them too, besides being very valuable, I
should think, and easily damaged, especially
if she is stout like most German women are.
And I wondered if Madame Schwarz was a
visitor or just the housekeeper ; and when I
asked if they weren't taken out at once, the
Grafin said that no, it was too late and they
had to keep them there all the summer as it
wasn't safe to move them. And then T
asked wasn't it very uncomfortable for her



8 Borrowed Plumes

having to sleep on a crowd of old oils, or
were they only very little ones, and was
there room for her in the other half of the
bed ; and it turned out that it wasn't pictures,
or a visitor, or a housekeeper at all, but just
the names of different dwarf-roses !

Always roses and things ! I thought I
liked flowers till I came here, though I was
never good at their names and used to mix
up verbenas with scarlet-runners; but after
this I know it will take away my appetite
just seeing them on a dinner-table, and when
I die, which I shall do pretty soon if things
go on like this, I hope they'll have a notice
put in the paper, saying, " No flowers,
please/'

I don't wonder the Graf himself keeps
away from his wife. I suppose her parents
made him marry her like the poor Marquis
at Chasse-Bebe. I really miss him and the
Vicomte, and if Lord Valkop was here now
I don't believe I should smack him so hard
again, however he behaved, though they
were rather forward, all of them, weren't
they. Mamma?

Later. — Great news! The Grafin says



The Two Elizabeths 9

vaguely that the Man-of-War is coming
before the month is out. So perhaps there
will be a dance on board, and anyway we
ought to see something of the officers.
Celestine is quite perking up at the thought
of bosuns or whatever they call them here.
The Grafin speaks of the Man-of-War; so I
suppose there isn't more than one in the Ger-
man Navy. I do hope there's no mistake
this time, and that it won't turn out to be a
new bulb, or something of that sort.

Your affectionate daughter,

Elizabeth.

15TH. — I remember reading in a wise
book that a fresh acquaintance coming
among close friends is always a bore. V/ell,
Elizabeth is the fresh acquaintance, and the
close friends are myself and I, which in-
cludes my garden and my books. I really
believe the babies dimly understand, and are
doing their best to act as buffers. The
Michaelmas Goose baby, whose equilibrium
is still unstable, drags Elizabeth about by
her skirts, singing lustily her favourite Sun-
day hymn — " Some day my earthly house



lo Borrowed Plumes

zvill fall! " Yesterday, the March Hare
baby tried to distract our visitor by an invi-
tation to a game of Adam and Eve in the
garden. " And you shall pwetend to be Eva,
if you like, Fraulein Else," she said, encour-
agingly.

"But wouldn't it be rather cold?" pro-
tested Elizabeth.

The March Hare baby, who is much less
ingenuous than Elizabeth, grew red in the
cheeks and said, " You keeps your fings on,
naturlich. It looks properlier."

"And how will you do for a serpent?"
asked Elizabeth, whose nature is sadly reli-
ant on the concrete, and cannot realise the
unseen world.

" We'se got a weal live snake," said the
May Meeting baby, " but it's gestuft, so you
won't be bited."

"And I will be the Apfel," added the
March Hare baby, " and when you eats me I
will unagree wiv you insides."

" But there isn't anybody to be Adam,''
said Elizabeth, thinking to raise an insur-
mountable difficulty.

The March Hare baby dealt with it



The Two Elizabeths 1 1

promptly and conclusively, not without some
show of pity for Elizabeth's limited ima-
gination. " The Gartner, he will be Adam,"
she said : " Adam, in Mummy's story, was a
Gartner, auch."

The principal roles being thus distributed,
with the other babies as mute supers repre-
senting the lion pensive beside the lamb,
symbols of the peace of Eden about to be so
rudely disturbed, I was able to retire to what
the play-bill would call " Another glade in
Paradise," and talk in solitude with my
larches. But that remark of Elizabeth's kept
preying on my mind — " There isn't anybody
to he Adam! " Such a want of imagination ;
and such a confession of a woman's standard
of desire as popularly accepted ! I shall cer-
tainly have to telegraph for the Man of War.
For either he would consent to be amused by
a kind of humour that differs essentially
from mine, or else, if she failed to win him
from his iron mood, he would direct her
attention, with paralysing frankness, to the
limited purpose served by all women in any
decently ordered scheme of society.



12 Borrowed Plumes

19TH. — Dearest Mamma, — You can't
think what a dismal time I am having.
Some stodgy Fraus have called, but nothing
in the shape of a man. And even then I
didn't count because I wasn't married ; as
if one could possibly marry a German, any-
how. What an awful price to pay for being
allowed into their cackling old hen yards !
One of the frumps was talking of a French
girl, in Berlin, whose engagement with a
German officer was broken off because he
saw her trying to climb on to the top of a
tram-car. " Wasn't it real lace," I asked,
" or was her ankle t(30 bulgy ? " All the
three Fraus turned round with a jerk and
put up their glasses at me, and then
looked at the Grafin, as much as to say,
" What is this thing ? " So the Grafin ex-
plained to me that the French girl, being
a foreigner like me, didn't know that the law
wouldn't let women ride on the top of trams,
because it was bad for morals. Aren't they
funny, Mamma ? I know I should always
be in prison or somewhere if I lived here ;
not that it w^ould make much difference,
after beinsf in this house.



The Two Elizabeths i 3

I don't so much mind the plain Hving, and
I could easily do without stupid damsons
and things with my beef ; but it's what she
calls the " high thinking " that is so difficult.
Of course, I don't say aloud what I'm think-
ing about, but I know, by the Grafin's eye,
that she can always tell that it isn't high
enough. Don't be surprised, will you.
Mamma, if I telegraph some day for you to
write and tell me to come home ? The only
thing that consoles me here is looking for-
ward to the Man-of-War coming. Mean-
time I'm wearing to a thread, and Celestine
talks of taking in my waists, and I really
ought to be as fat as possible to please the
Man-of-War, because they must be used to
the natives being podgy. So I shall go in
for what they call Swine-cutlets and Munich
Beer, which are very developing.

Your affectionate daughter,

Elizabeth.

27TH. — I cannot pretend to be very sorry
that Elizabeth has suddenly announced that
she has to leave the day after to-morrow ;
besides, I can now wire to the Man of War



14 Borrowed Plumes

to say that he need not come ; and so I shall
have the pink silence of the pines all to
myself. I really had tried to improve her by
simple processes like the sight of a sunset
through woods ; and when I saw^ a far-away
look in her eyes I thought I w'as having a
certain success, till she said, " I do like that ;
I simply must have a gown of that shade."
Failing here I was not likely to succeed on
subtler points, such as the alertness of tulips
or the stooping divinity of nasturtiums.

I think myself fortunate to have ^ot rid of
Elizabeth so easily. For a big girl, she is
much too aggressively innocent. I always
suspect people of that kind ; they seem like
Persian Yellows, very plausible to the care-
less eye, but with strange crawling things
inside them when you look closer.

And now to go and dance with my daffo-
dils !

28th. — Dearest Mamma, thank you for
answering my telegram so quickly, and tell-
ing me I may come home at once. I will
explain why. Such a funny thing happened
four days ago. It came out as quite the



The Two Elizabeths 1 5

most natural thing in the world that the
Grafin is married to the Man-of-War ! You
can guess how staggered I was, and nearly
choked over my Swine-cutlet, because it
sounded just like a harem, or something of
that sort, only the other way about. I had
hardly breath enough to ask if this was the
same Man-of-War that she was expecting
to-morrow, and the Grafin looked quite sur-
prised and said how could there be more
than one Man-of-War, and I didn't know
whether she meant that the German fleet was
so small, but anyhow I agreed with her that
one Man-of-War was quite enough to be
married to at once, though I didn't say so.
And then it struck me that if they were all
married to her, all the officers I mean, there
would be nobody left over for me, besides it
not being quite nice for me to stay in a
house with a hostess married to so many
people, though Celestine says it wouldn''t
include the warrant-officers ; but then she
is so selfish and only thinks about herself.
And that's why I sent you the telegram, and
please expect me soon after this arrives. Of
course, I always said the Grafin was a stufify



1 6 Borrowed Plumes

old bore, but I never should have thought she
was quite so wicked. I ahnost wonder you
let me come here at all, don't you, Mamma ?
And fancy me being afraid that the Man-of-
War might turn out to be an innocent bulb,
and I remain,

Your affectionate daughter,

Elizabeth.



II.

"JOHN OLIVER HOBBES"
(Mrs. Craigie.)

[Robert Orange]

Robert was passing through that crisis
which is inevitable with those in whom the
ideals of childhood survive an ordered
scheme of ambition. His head was his
Party's ; but his heart was in the " King-
dom under the sea," Lyonesse or another,
not in the maps. He spent long hours of
vigil over Jules Verne's Tzventy Thousand
Leagues, in the original. He almost per-
suaded himself to join the French navy and
invent another Nautilus. It was at this
period of his career that Disraeli spoke of
him as " the submarine incorruptible."

Later it became evident that the Church
would claim her own, Depayse by arbi-
trary choice, his adopted name of Porridge

2 17



1 8 Borrowed Plumes

stood merely for the cooked article, the raw
material being represented by his family
name of Hautemille, a stock unrivalled in
antiquity save by the Confucii and the Tubal-
Cains; and to the last, even in intervals
of the most exalted abstraction, he was a
prey to poignant irritation when the comic
journals (ever ready to play upon proper
names) anglicized it phonetically as Hoat-
meal. He repeated the CJiaiisoii de Roland
verbatim every night in bed. But the no-
blest portion of him was wrought of bronze
(or else putty) Latinity. His brain reeled
to the lilt of the rhyming Fathers. He
would himself compose even secular verse In
this medium. A post-mortem examination
of his portfolios brought to light the follow-
ing brochure :

Da me, Carole * infugam ;
Te sequente, prcscedam
Usque ad ecclesiani

^ ;>; jjs 4:

" I will never believe," said Poubaba
(speaking in fluent Dutch, but with a
Siberian accent which betrayed his Trans-

* Dare we trace in this the original of that justly popular song,
" Chase me, Charlie " i



** John Oliver Hobbes" 19

Ural habit of thought — his parentage was
Levantine, with a Maltese cross on the
mother's side, and he himself a reputed
traveller in Swedisli liqueurs), " I will never
believe the Anglo-Teuton theory that the
Latin races are doomed to perish, remaining
extant in Alsace and the Channel Islands
only. Solferino was a shock to that phan-
tasy, and Fashoda will be its death-blow."
(It will be remembered that Major Mar-
chand was still a mere child at the date of
this prophecy.)

" And Spain," he cried, " romantic home
of lost Carloses, and odorous onions, and
impossible Armadas — shall she suffer her
colonies to bow to the brutal invader ?
Never, while a breath is left in the swelling
chests of her toreadors ! " (This remark,
again, is supposed to be made in 1869, prior
to the late Cuban war, for which J. O. H.,
though American, was in no sort of way
responsible.)

2f7 ^ 3fC «|C

For a growing girl, Midget's knowledge
of the world showed a precocity which is
only explicable by reference to her careful



20 Borrowed Plumes

traininj;^ in the seclusion of a convent. Of
her hfe with Lady Fitz-Blouse she wrote : — ■
" Consolatory platitudes exude from her
brain with the facile fluency of her own
saucy ringlets. Artlessness, in her case,
has grown into an accomplishment so close
to nature that it borders on sincerity. For
ansW'Cr, I fall back upon the history of the
Bourbons. Really, the contemptuous atti-
tude of these English toward uncrowned
royalties is something appalling. Yester-
day, in company of some pompous locals, to
whom a foreign title is a thing pour rire, I
was compelled, against my dearest princi-
ples, to play croquet. I stuck all the after-
noon in the first hoop, wondering why I w^as
an Archduchess. But I have not lived all
these years without learning the value of
self-repression. Remember me in your
orisons."

ijc ^ 5j« ^

Opposition, with Robert, had been the
very food and drink from w'hich he had
wrung the cud of a brooding personality.
Chew thyself was his habitual rule of life.
Mastered now- by an indefinable sensation,



*' John Oliver Hobbes '* 21

made up of the elements of passion and
brotherly love, and yet not strictly to be
analysed as either, he found his occupa-
tion gone. The rarefied atmosphere of his
new environment was too strong for him.
No prig could hope to live in it — not

comfortably.

* * * *

It will be convenient here to give a short
extract of the very full notes taken by the
deck-steward of the St. Malo packet during
the extended prelude of Robert's abortive
honeymoon. (In 1869 the progress of these
vessels was marked by a much greater
deliberation.) " ' My experience of human
nature,' I overheard the lady say, ' allows
me to read your thoughts. Taught to
indulge yourself in the gratification derived
from self-sacrifice, you are suspicious of a
Paradise which offers no useful scope for
renunciation. You suffer the chagrin of not
being a martyr to anything in particular.'

" ' Midget,' replied the gentleman, * you
intrude upon the sanctity of my private
soul. I am engaged just now over the
enigma of a submerged identity.'



22 Borrowed Plumes

" ' I knew it,' said the lady. ' There are
obscure penetralia in your ethical system of


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Online LibraryOwen SeamanBorrowed plumes → online text (page 1 of 9)