S. M. (Stewart Marsh) Ellis.

George Meredith; his life and friends in relation to his work online

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The Daily News and The Daily Mail on the subject
of Kritzinger's case, in which he pleaded for more
humane treatment of the Boers.

In September, 1903, Meredith was very ill, and
near to dying. Later, he stayed for several months
with his daughter at Givons, and did not return to
Flint Cottage until March. During this illness, a
newspaper having stated that so critical was his
condition that he only had " periods of partial
consciousness," the veteran was roused to voice one


of his mordant claims to unimportance in England.
He wired that the difficulty with him was to obtain

This year (1904) Meredith's seventy-sixth birth-
day was marked by the fine sonnet addressed to him
by Watts-Dunton :

This time, dear friend — this time my birthday greeting
Comes heavy of funeral tears — I think of you,
And say, 'Tis evening with him — that is true —

But evening bright as noon, if faster fleeting ;

Still he is spared — while Spring and Winter, meeting.
Clasp hands around the roots 'neath frozen dew —
To see the "Joy of Earth " break forth anew.

And hear it on the hillside warbling, bleating.

Love's remnant melts and melts ; but if our days
Are swifter than a weaver's shuttle, still.

Still Winter has a sun — a sun whose rays
Can set the young lamb dancing on the hill,

And set the daisy, in the woodland ways.
Dreaming of her who brings the daffodil.

In 1905, the Order of Merit was bestowed upon
Meredith by King Edward VII. He could, of course,
have had an hereditary title if he had so desired,
but, as he said, he wished for no distinction. A title
would have sunk him. A special concession excused
him from attending at Buckingham Palace, although
the King offered to receive him and bestow the
decoration privately. Sir Arthur Ellis came down
to Flint Cottage as the King's representative, and
invested Meredith with the Order of Merit there in
December, 1905.^

In July and August of this year Meredith had
rented Alma Cottage, Aldeburgh, for the sake of

1 Subsequently a portrait of Meredith by William Strang was
executed, by order of the King, for the library at Windsor Castle,
where it finds a place vdth the portraits of the other members of
the Order of Merit.


Gkok(;k Mhkkdith at Ai.dkiuugii

Photogj-aph by Mr. C. K. Shoiter, rcproducdi by his permission ami bv
courtesy of " The Bookman "


sea air and the society of his friend, Edward Clodd.
He found the little town and flat Suffolk scenery as
dull as Seaford had been fifty years agone, and wrote
amusingly to his daughter about the unattractions of
the place. Nevertheless, he returned to Aldeburgh
the following summer, for the air was good and
probably he had grown to like the drear yet fascin-
ating marshlands of Suffolk which offer such vast
expanse of sky, beautiful atmospheric effects, and
splendid sunsets. But at Aldeburgh itself he still
continued to gird, for his amusements were few.
Mr Clodd notes :

" When Meredith was last at Aldeburgh it was
his delight to be wheeled to the ancient quay along
which Crabbe had rolled the barrels of salt which
were under his father's charge as collector of duties.
. . . With a bunch of bladder- weed, plucked from
the sodden timbers, and held to his nose as if fragrant
as the choicest attar, he would watch John, the old
ferryman, plying oars which he averred were dipped
twice in the same water. ' I am certain,' he said,
' that there are Nereids under the keel to help the
boat across.' " ^

A pathetic contrast, this restricted, inactive life
with the old days of great walks over the hills, and
the soaring " beetle." But he still found pleasure
in studying human nature, particularly as repre-
sented by elemental toilers, and John of Aldeburgh
Ferry was to Meredith as the tinkers of Copsham
Common he had delighted to converse with nearly
half-a-century before, and the " Friendly Tramps "
of A Stave oj Roving Tim.

Meredith was now a confirmed invalid, and since

' The Fortnightly Review, July, 1909.


an accident in the autumn of 1905, when he slipped
and broke his right leg, he could only move abroad
in his bath-chair. The little procession of the author
drawn by his donkey " Picnic," led by Cole, and Miss
Nicholls (his faithful attendant) bringing up the
rear, became a familiar sight at Box Hill. The
favourite route was ever up the zigzag path to the
summit of " our green hill," whence he could see
the view which had delighted and inspired him for
two-thirds of a long life. Owing to his difficulty of
movement, it was found necessary to convert the
dining-room at Flint Cottage into a bedroom for
him after the accident in 1905. This put an end
to entertaining his friends to luncheon or dinner,
which hospitalities he had always warmly extended :
but he was glad to see those who came. He often
had visitors ; earlier this year (1905) they included
Haldane and Lloyd George. Rarely now was he
able to enter the chalet where so much great work
had been achieved, and during the last year of his
life he did not do so at all. But he faced all his
deprivations and losses, the sadness of old age, and
approaching Death itself with calm resignation and
unflinching bravery.

And yet, inevitably, there must have been some
regret, as for him darker grew the valley, at parting
with the fair glory and joys of earth and sky which
he had loved and hymned all his life. Mountain
and valley, sunset and starlit eve, the moon on a
forest pool, woods aflame with autumn glory, the
eternal miracle of the loveliness of spring, the song
of birds, distant lightning quivering behind a cloud-
rack on a hot summer's night, the threnody of the
winds of winter sighing around the house firelit and
warm, friends, a faithful dog, a kitten at play, wine


and books and flowers — no imaginative artist and
lover of beauty can resign all these without a sigh
of regret.

Two consolations were granted to Meredith in
old age. His mind did not fail him and his heart
remained young. His sympathies were ever with
new movements for freedom and progress both in
nations and individuals. The Franchise for Women
was a cause that had his warm approval, though he,
of course, like all other sane people, reprobated the
absurd activities of the enthusiasts termed " Suffra-
gettes," who injured and retarded their movement
some years ago. Meredith addressed a long letter
on the subject to the editor of The Times, dated 1st
November, 1906 ; and a year before his death he fur-
ther expressed his views to a well-known authoress,
pointing out the error of the militant policy, with
which he did not agree.^ Quite in his last years,
he, who had loved the motion of legs and the sweep
of the winds in the days of active health, now found
some compensation in the rapid motion and oppos-
ing wind of motoring, which he found conducive to
good appetite and sleep. In the autumn of 1908,
he motored in Sussex a good deal ; and in his last
letter but one, written a month before his death,
he spoke of motoring over to Putney to see Watts-
Dunton : but that was not to be.

Meredith's eightieth birthday, on 12th February,
1908, was celebrated by his fi'iends and admirers
with every demonstration of affection and respect.
In the morning, after his usual pilgrimage up Box
Hill, drawn in his chair by " Picnic," and accom-
panied on this occasion by Lady Edward Cecil (the
daughter of his old friend, Maxse), Meredith re-

* As far back as 1876 he wrote his Ballad of Fair Ladies in Revolt.


ceived Mr and Mrs C. K. Shorter and Mr Edward
Clodd, who came to present the congratulatory
address signed by some two hundred and fifty
representative names. It was worded :

" Many of your fellow-countrymen will join in
felicitating you upon the health and happiness that
are yours upon this your eightieth birthday. We
desire on our own behalf to thank you for the
splendid work in prose and poetry that we owe to
your pen — to say how much we rejoice in the grow-
ing recognition of this work — and to thank you for
the example you have set to the world of lofty ideals
embodied not only in books but in life. Most
heartily do we wish you a continuance of health
and happiness."

The signatories included Thomas Hardy, A. C.
Swinburne, Rudyard Kipling, John Morley, A. J.
Balfour, Sir Edward Grey, Professor J. B. Bury,
Holman Hunt, H. Beerbohm Tree, and Miss Ellen

In the afternoon, Mr Anthony Hope, Mr Herbert
Trench, and Mr I. Zangwill arrived to present an
address from the Society of Authors to their
President. Meredith also received the representa-
tives of various newspapers, and seems to have
talked in an animated manner :

" He was sitting in an armchair between the fire
and a window that looks on to his beloved Downs,
surrounded by his books. On every table were
dozens of telegrams of felicitation. In each corner
of the room and out in the little hall were bouquets
of flowers. A wonderful old leonine man, with a
face like Hermes grown old, the long white hair


lying loosely about his ears, with a rug round his
knees and his hand to his ear. ... In repose the
face took on an almost feminine grace of expression.
When he spoke the deep, rich, resonant voice, and
the animation of the countenance, seemed to give
added stature to the aged frame. ... In every-
thing that concerned himself and the homage being
paid to him on his birthday, Mr Meredith was
characteristically modest. ' I have been climbing
the stairs for eighty years,' he exclaimed, ' and I
have done with the pulpit.' " '

But nevertheless he proceeded to express his
views on the Suffrage for Women and universal
military service. More interesting was his char-
acteristic badinage about an imaginary novel to be
called The Benefactor of the Race.

His eightieth birthday placed Meredith, for the
first time in his career, in the centre of the public
stage with a profusion of unwelcome limelight illum-
inating the privacy of his life and home. The news-
papers seemed to be possessed by a belated epidemic
of hero-worship for " The Sage of Box Hill." Lead-
ing articles and memoirs and " appreciations " of
his work, written up by people quite unacquainted
hitherto with their subject, appeared in bewildering
confusion. " Interviews " with the great man were
urgently desired, and so, as Mr J. A. Hammerton
excellently put it :

" A motley crowd of reporters haunted the pre-
cincts of Box Hill, as keen as if a murder had been
committed at Flint Cottage. . . . Photographers
had been busy ' snapping ' him when he came forth

' The Daily Telegraph, 13th February, 1908, which gives an excellent
account of the day's proceedings.


in his donkey-chaise ; pages of illustrations — most
of them deplorable— were given in the papers . . .
never, in sooth, was so much written and printed
in the space of one week about any man who had
not achieved the distinction of committing a
singularly revolting crime. So magnificent a tribute
to mere literary genius and intellectual greatness
made one feel that the British press had taken leave
of its senses."

Meredith, no doubt, regarded his week of fame in
its right proportions ; and despite the fact that he
had lived to see himself described in flaring head-
lines as " The King of Novelists " and " The Last
of the Great Victorians " and " Our Greatest
Author," and so forth, he still continued to speak of
himself as an unappreciated and unpopular writer.
When M. Photiades visited him at Box Hill in
September, 1908, seven months after the clash of
the birthday cymbals, Meredith said :

" The press has often treated me as a clown or
a harlequin— yes, with the less deference, since my
fellow-countrymen were not over-fond of me. . . .
Certainly at this late hour they accord me a little
glory ; my name is famous, but no one reads my
books. As for Englishmen, I put them to flight
because I bore them to death. With regard to
foreigners, I am but an illustrious unknown. . . .
No one has bought my books — my novels or my

And eight months before his death he said he had
no claim to popularity in England. ^ These were

1 See also letter of 19th February, 1909, to Herr Frey, in the
published Letters.


certainly controvertible statements ; but, as I have
said, he chose to preserve this little illusion to the

He, of course, felt the fatigue and boredom of the
vast correspondence the birthday celebration had

In his replies to tried and trusty friends his mind
travelled back to old days in their company. To
Sir Francis Burnand he wrote of those good times
gone, and recalled the walks at Esher nearly fifty
years back. And to Hyndman, too, he wrote of
old times at Cambridge and musical evenings long

The aftermath of the birthday celebrations took
the form of the Press seeking Meredith's views on
every conceivable public question, which were duly
published ; it did not matter whether the subject
was one on which he was qualified to speak or the

His last and eighty-first birthday, in 1909, was
spent quietly. In the morning he took his usual
drive up Box Hill, drawn by " Picnic," and attended
by Miss Nicholls, and Cole, with his favourite dog
" Sandie " barking a joyous accompaniment. In
the afternoon the numerous congratulatory letters
and telegrams received were read to him. In the
evening his daughter and son and daughter in-law,
together with Mr and Mrs J. M. Barric, and Dr and
Mrs Plimmer, dined with him. Mr Haldane had
visited Flint Cottage the previous Sunday, and Lord
Morley also came at this time. To him, almost the
last survivor of his early intimate friends, Meredith
said laughingly : " Going quickly down, no belief
in future existence." But perhaps that negation
of the future was his final mordant paradox, for


about this date, when another friend asked him
what was his favourite extract from his own works,
he quoted the lines from The Thrush in February
telling that though the singer may pass there is the
rapture of the forward view.

The singer was passing, but to the end his vigour
of mind and love of Nature remained in full force —
till the last long sigh. If he looked backward he
had a long vista of years to retrace, marked by
many regrets but many joys. He had spanned the
whole of the Victorian Era. Born nine years before
it commenced, he lived for eight years beyond its

Quietly the last months passed, and he saw and
heard for the last time the magic of Spring. On
Friday, 14th May, 1909, he went in his usual health
for his customary drive. He contracted a chill,
which was aggravated by going out again the next
day — the last time he was to traverse Box Hill.
He was taken seriously ill on the Sunday and,
despite every attention, the action of the heart
failed, though he was conscious almost to the end.
His son and daughter, and his faithful attendant.
Miss Nicholls, were with him. And he remembered
his dog " Sandie " almost to the last.

With face to the dawn, George Meredith died on
18th May, 1909, at that early hour of the morning
near dawn he had so exquisitely pictured in Love
in the Valley.

He died in " green- winged spring," when the
lovely surroundings of his home were clothed in
their most beautiful vestments. There was an ex-
ceptional ecstasy of blossom that year in the Surrey
gardens and lanes, lilac and laburnum and horse-
chestnut and hawthorn blending with the glorious




Pi o >i




r 'i i^




sunshine in harmonious blaze of colour to light the
last journey of him whose credo was Nature, and who
had been Nature's supreme Singer for sixty years.

It is needless to discuss here the illogical decision
which denied to George Meredith's cremated ashes
a resting-place in Westminster Abbey while at the
same time it provided a memorial service there
for this Naturist whose views were unorthodox to
clerics of the Higher Criticism. Far better was
it to bury him, as he wished, beside his second wife
in Dorking Cemetery. " Sweeter the green grass
turf than Abbey pavements," he said.

He rests in his own loved valley, guarded by
Ranmore, Leith Hill, Norbury, and Box Hill.
Rightly, Surrey holds Meredith in death as in life.

The following sonnet was one of the last things written by Watts-
Dunton, and it is published for the first time here by the kind
permission of Mrs Watts-Dunton and the executor.

To George Meredith on his Last Birthday

The Earth shines richer for each birthday, friend,
That dawns for you who sang The Joy of Earth
From that dear chalet which to her is worth

More than a lord of XavaSu dare spend.

And many a song where Wisdom's teachings blend
With smiles and tears of human sorrow and mirth ;
And from this wintry couch of Spring's new birth

She bids her messenger, the lark, ascend.

" He found a fountain of immortal youth,"
She says, "when drinking at my well of Truth ;

His Autumn days are rich in life's fine pith
That triumphs in the azure heaven of Art :
I send from chalices of my deep heart

Earth's blessing on her rare George Meredith."


Adventures of Harry Richmond, The,

48, 224-230, 240
Ainsworth, W. Harrison, 202-203,

Aldeburgh, Meredith at, 310-31 1
Allen, Grant, 251, 283
Allen, Mrs Grant, 273, 283
Amazing Marriage, The, 298-304
Arnold, Edwin, 207
Asquith, H. H., 217, 219, 284
Autumn Even-Song, 112

Balfour, A. J., 284, 314

Ballad of Fair Ladies in Revolt, A,

Ballad of Past Meridian, A, 248

Ballads and Poems of Tragic Life,

Barrie, J. M., 146, 250, 308, 317
Barwell, F. B., 7, 94
Battersea, Lord, 225, 308
Beauchamp's Career, 236-244
Beauty Rohtra'd, 74
Beggar's Soliloquy, The, 96
Berkeley, Craven, 240
Berkeley, Grantley, 239
Besant, Walter, 16
Bettany, F. T., 252
Black, William, 207
Blunt, W. S., 7, 14, 153, 165, 207,

281, 305
Bovill, Mrs (now the Hon. Mrs

Richard Grosvenor), 82
Box Hill, 194, 221-224, 245, 246, 255,

280, 312, 313, 315, 317, 319
Brandreth, Alice (now Lady

Butcher), 239
Breath of the Briar, 282
Brown, Madox, 154
Browne, < ; . Buckston, 7, 297-298
Browning Mrs, 159
Browning, Robert, 273, 285
Buckett, Matilda (Mrs Augustus

Meredith), 47, 139
Burbey, George, 42

Burbey, Mar>'^ Meredith (Mrs Pratt

Wills), 31, 39
Burbey, Thomas, Mr and Mrs, 22,

Bumand, F. C, 105-109, 143, 162-

163, 270-271. 317
Bursledon, 171, 187
Bury, J. B., 314

Butler, Samuel (" Erewhon "), 207
By the Rosanna, 144, 146

Cabral family, The, 24-26
Caine, Hall, 151, 154
Call, The, 234

Cardigan, The Countess of, 295
Cardigan, The Earl of, 294-295
Carlyle, Mrs, loi, 149, 211
Carlyle, Thomas, 101-102, 211
Carr ,Comyns, 80-81, 166, 236, 238,

Case of General Ople and Lady

Camper, The, -Zi^g
Cassandra, 65

Cedars, The, Esher, 103, 172, 183
Celt and Saxon, 233, 304
Chambers's Journal, 55-57
Change in Recurrence, 281
Chapman and Hall, 104, 184, 201-

203, 206, 279
Chapman, Edward, 94, 106, 158
Chapman, Frederic, 114, 203
Charnock, R. S., 54-55, 99, 276-277
Chelsea, Meredith in Cheyne Walk,

Chillianwallah, 55-56
Cleopatra, 171
Clodd, Edward, 13, 34, 53, 70, 76,

81, 94. 167, 197, 240, 281, 283,

307. 3<^9, 3". 313
Cole, Frank, 299, 312, 317
Comedy, An Essay on, 248
Conscription, Meredith on, 234, 289
Conway, Moncure D., 237
Cook, Herbert, 7, m
Copsham Cottage, no- 114, 117,

129, 172, 182
Cornhill Magazine, The, 224, 236,





Cornwall, Meredith's visit to, 284
Courtney, W. L., 229, 24T
Crisis, The, 234
Croome, Mrs Arthur, 7
Crosse, Mrs Andrew, 98
Crowe, Eyre, A.R.A., 61, 88
Crown of Love, The, 109


Dale family, The, 34, 39

Diana of the Crossways, 273-280,

286-287, 299
Dickens, Charles, 16-17, 62, 81, 97,

132, 186, 261, 296
Dirge in Woods, 223
Dobson, Austin, 308
Dolman, Frederick, 197
Donniges, Helene von, 267-270
Duff-Gordon, Sir Alexander, 61, 140,

Duff-Gordon, Janet (Mrs Ross), 7,

62 84, 104-105, no, 112, 140-

142, 179, 227, 276-277
Duff-Gordon, Lady, 61, 105, 108,

140-141, 276
Dufferin and Ava, Marquis of, 277-

Duncombe, Lady Ulrica, 274


East Lynne, Meredith's rejection of,

Eastbourne, Meredith at, 224, 280
Ebury Street, Meredith in, 56-59
Edward VII., King, 310
Egoist, The, 94. 255-263, 266
EUot, George, 79-81, 89
Ellis, Colonel Arthur, 30, 35, 78
Ellis, George Hasted, R.N., 30, 137,

ElUs, Sir Alfred Burdon, 215-220
Ellis, Sir Samuel Burdon, 26-28,

32. 41, 134-136. 215, 262
Empty Purse, The. 282
English, Meredith and the, 232-233,

235. 289, 296
Esher. 103-108, 172, 317
Evan Harrington, 14, i6-ig, 22-23,

49, 103, III, 131-141, 220
Evans, Mullet, 106-108

Faith on Trial, A,
Farina, 88-90


FitzGerald, Edward, 129
FitzGerald, Maurice, 86, 98-99, 105-

108, 162
FUnt Cottage, 194, 221-223, 250,

Foakes, Thomas Eyre, 196-197
Fortnightly Review, The, 188. 195,

237 248, 267, 289
Franco-Prussian War, Meredith and

the, 230-232
Eraser's Magazine, 64-65, 239
Freeman, J. J., 7.

Galland, RENfe, 69

Gait, Joseph, 31, 47

Gamett, Richard, 178

Gentleman of Fifty, The, 304-305

George IV., King, 16

George, Lloyd, 312

Germany, Meredith and, 49-50, 230-

Gissing, George, 210, 308
Gladstone, W. E., 284
Gosse, Edmund, 148, 149, 155
Gould, F. C, 284
Grand, Sarah, 210-21 1
Grandfather Bridgeman, 118
Grange, Miss, 134
Graphic, Meredith's Dialogues in

The, 236
Greenwood, Frederick, 234-235, 304


Haldane, Lord, 264, 284, 312, 317
Halhford, Meredith at Lower, 76-79
Hammerton, J. A., 7, 51, 225, 315
Hard man, Mrs (later Lady), 116, 121
Hardman, Wilham, 69, 73, 98, 115-

127, 160, 164-165, 168, 176-177,

182, 240, 284
Hardy, Admiral Sir Thomas, 21
Hardy, Thomas, O.M., 7, 21, 186,

208-210, 307, 308, 314
Harris, Frank, 254, 305
Haxthausen, M. de, 84
Head of Bran, The, 109
Hellyer, John, 26
Henderson, Mrs Sturge, 72, 282
Henley, W. E., 185, 251, 256, 280
Hill, R. M., 53
Hobbes, John Oliver, 210
Hobury Street, Meredith in, 94
Hope, Anthony, 314
Home, R. H., 61, 62, 65, 248
House on the Beach, The, 87-88, 249



Household Words, 62
Humphreys, Jennett, 204-206
Hunt, Holman, 314
Hymn to Colour, 281
Hyndman, H. M., 7, 162-164, 190,
212, 234, 246, 309, 317

Ipswich Journal, The, 104, 196-200
Italy, Meredith in, 144-145, 189-190


Jackson, Rev. F. J. Foakes, 7, 197,

James, Henry, 307, 308
Jameson, Frederick, 299
Jessopp, Augustus, 113-114, 158-

159, 171
Jessopp, Mrs, 159

John Street, Adelphi, Meredith in, 60
Jones, Mr and Mrs Frederick, 7, 194,

JournaHsm, Meredith and, 196-201
Juggling Jerry, 109, 112
Jump-to-Glory Jane, 282-283


Kaomi, 224-225

Keene, Charles, 109, 1 31-132

Kemahan, Coulson, 34

Kilne, Robert, 31

Kingsley, Charles, 68-69

Kingston Lodge, 183-184, 194, 249

Kipling, Rudyard, 314

Lark Ascending, The, 272

I-assalle, Ferdinand, 267-269

Laurence, Samuel, 162

Lawrence, The Misses, 308

Lecky, W. E. H., 308

Lewes, G. H., 188

Linton, Mrs Lynn, 203, 206

London by Lamplight, 74

Lord Ormont and his Aminta, 291-

298, 299
Love in the Valley, 67-72, 272, 293,

Lucas, Samuel, 61, 109, 203
Lynch, Miss Hannah, 261
Lynmouth, Meredith at, 94
Lysaght, Sidney R., 300
Lytton, Bulwer, i6, 59, Oi, 90, 244

Lytton, Earl of (" Owen Meredith"),

16, 205-206, 215
Lytton, Rosina, Lady, 59, 90, 92


McCarthy, Justin, 100, 178, 241
Macirone, Colonel and Mrs, 61
Macirone, Emilia (Lady Hornby), 61,

Macirone, Giulia (Mrs Vaillant), 61,

McKechnie, Rev. James, 82-83
Macnamara, Jane (Mrs Augustus

Meredith), 33-34, 37-39
Macnamara, Michael, 33-34
Marriage, Meredith and " Lease-
hold," 290
Marryat, Captain Frederick, 20
Matz, B. W., 62, 201
Maxse, Frederick, 102, 124, 144,

146, 148, 223, 237-240
Maxse, L. J., 7, 148, 295
Maxse, Lady Caroline, 102, 295
Maxse, Mrs CeciHa, 148, 239
Maxse, Violet (Lady Edward Cecil),

148. 313

Mazzini, 188, 191

Meeting, The, 109, 112

Meredith, Anne (Mrs Melchizedek),
20, 33-35

Meredith, Anne Elizabeth (Mrs
Burbey), 22, 31

Meredith, Arthur, 77-78, 91, 94,
104-105, no, 142-145, 158-162,
169, 170, 172-175, 223, 273, 285

Meredith, Augustus Urmston, 32-
35, 42-44, 47-48, 54, 56, 60, 137-139

Meredith, Caroline Melchizedek
(Mrs W. P. Read), 22, 31

Meredith, Catherine Matilda (Mrs

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Online LibraryS. M. (Stewart Marsh) EllisGeorge Meredith; his life and friends in relation to his work → online text (page 22 of 23)