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By Sir Arthur Quitter-Couch

On the Art of Writing
On the Art of Reading
Studies in Literature

(first series)

Studies in Literature

(second series)

Studies in Literature


Sir Arthur Quiller-Gouch, M.A.

Fellow of Jesus College

King Edward VII Professor of English Literature
in the University of Cambridge

First Series

New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons
Cambridge, England: University Press

First Printing, December 1918
Second Printing, December 1922

Made in the United States of America


'"PHE first of these ' studies, ' The Commerce of Thought,
^ was originally read before an audience at the
Royal Institution of London. Coleridge and Matthew
Arnold have appeared as Introductions in 'The World's
Classics' series, and I thank the Oxford University
Press for allowing me to reprint them. Swinburne was
written for 'The Edinburgh Review,' and Charles
Reade for 'The Times Literary Supplement' on the
centenary of Reade's birth.

I cannot quarrel with any critic who may find the
word 'studies' too important for a volume which con-
sists, in the main, of familiar discourses: and will only
plead that it was chosen to cover not this book alone
but a successor of which some part of the contents may
better justify the general title. For example, in the lec-
ture here printed On the Terms 'Classical' and 'Ro-
mantic' I purposely contented myself with discussing
some elementary and (as I believe) mistaken notions,
reserving some interesting modern theories for later

I must here, however, avow my belief that before
starting to lay down principles of literature or aesthetic
a man should offer some evidence of his capacity to
enjoy the better and eschew the worse. The claim,
for the moment fashionable, that a general philoso-
phy of aesthetic can be constructed by a thinker who,



iv Preface

in practice, cannot distinguish Virgil from Bavius, or
Rodin from William Dent Pitman, seems to me to pre-
sume a credulity almost beyond the dreams of illicit
therapeutics. By 'poetry, ' in these pages, I mean
what has been written by Homer, Dante, Shakespeare
and some others.


May 10, 1918.














MATTHEW ARNOLD . . . . . 231

SWINBURNE ........ 246




A MONG the fascinating books that have never been
** written (and they are still the most fascinating of
all) I think my favourite is Professor So-and-So's History
of Trade-Routes from the Earliest Times, a magnificent
treatise, incomplete in three volumes. The title may
not allure you ; possibly you suspect it of promising as
much dullness as the title of this lecture, and it is even
conceivable that you secretly extend your mistrust to
professors as a class. Well, concerning us, as men, you
may be right: the accusation has been levelled: but I
shall try to persuade you that you are mistaken about
this book.

For a few examples Who, hearing that British
oysters, from Richborough, were served at Roman
dinner-parties under the Empire, does not want to know
how that long journey was contrived for them and how
they were kept alive on the road? Or take the secret
of the famous purple that was used to dye the Emper-
or's robe. As Browning asked, "Who fished the murex
up?" How did it reach the dyeing-vat? What was
the process? Was the trade a monopoly? Again, you
remember that navy of Tarshish, which came once in
three years bringing Solomon gold and silver, ivory and
apes and peacocks. Who would not wish to read one

2 Studies in Literature

of its bills of lading, to construct a picture of the quays
as the vessels freighted or discharged their cargo? As
who would not eagerly read a description of that
lumberer's camp on Lebanon to which Solomon sent
ten thousand men a month by courses: "a month they
were in Lebanon and two months at home, and Adoni-
ram was over the levy"? The conditions, you see,
must have been hard, as the corvee was enormous. What
truth, if any, underlies the legend that when Solomon
died they embalmed and robed him and stood the corpse
high on the unfinished wall that, under their great task-
master's eye, the workmen should work and not ' ' slack "
(as we say) ? What a clerk-of-the-works !

Yet again Where lay the famous tin-islands, the
Cassiterides? How were the great ingots of Cornish
tin delivered down to the coast and shipped on to Mar-
seilles, Carthage, Tyre? We know that they were
shaped pannier-wise, and carried by ponies. But
where was the island of Ictis, where the ships received
them? Our latest theorists will not allow it to have
been St. Michael's Mount the nearest of all, and the
most obviously correspondent with the historian's
description. They tell us hardily it was the Isle of
Wight or the Isle of Thanet. Ah, if these professors
did not suffer from sea-sickness, how much simpler
their hypotheses would be! Image the old Cornish
merchant taking whole trains of ponies, laden with
valuable ore, along the entire south of England, through
dense forests and marauding tribes, to ship his ware at
Thanet, when he had half a dozen better ports at his
door! Imagine a skipper from Marseilles But the
absurdities are endless, and I will not here pursue them.

For what other hidden port of trade was that Phoe-
nician skipper bound who, held in chase off the Land's

The Commerce of Thought 3

End by a Roman galley and desperate of cheating her,
deliberately (tradition tells) drove his ship ashore to
save his merchant's secret? Through what phases, be-
fore this, had run and shifted the commercial struggle
between young Greece and ancient Phoenicia imaged
for us in Matthew Arnold's famous simile:

As some grave Tyrian trader, from the sea,

Descried at sunrise an emerging prow
Lifting the cool-hair'd creepers stealthily,

The fringes of a southward-facing brow

Among the ^Egean isles:
And saw the merry Grecian coaster come,

Freighted with amber grapes, and Chian wine,

Green bursting figs, and tunnies steep'd in brine;
And knew the intruders on his ancient home,

The young light-hearted masters of the waves;

And snatch'd his rudder, and shook out more sail,

And day and night held on indignantly
O'er the blue Midland waters with the gale,
Betwixt the Syrtes and soft Sicily,

To where the Atlantic raves
Outside the Western Straits, and unbent sails

There, where down cloudy cliffs, through sheets of foam,
Shy traffickers, the dark Iberians come;
And on the beach undid his corded bales.

What commerce followed the cutting of Rome's great
military roads? that tremendous one, for instance,
hewn along the cliffs close over the rapids that swirl
through the Iron Gates of Danube. By what caravan
tracks, through what depots, did the great slave traffic
wind up out of Africa and reach the mart at Constanti-
nople ? WTiat sort of men worked goods down the Rhone

4 Studies in Literature

valley; and, if by water, by what contrivances? To
come a little later, how did the Crusaders handle trans-
port and commissariat? Through and along what line
of entrepots did Venice, Genoa, Seville ply their immense
ventures? Who planted the vineyards of Bordeaux,
Madeira, the Rhine-land, and from what stocks?
Who, and what sort of man, opened an aloe market
in Socotra? Why, and on what instance, and how,
did England and Flanders come to supply Europe,
the one with wool, the other with fine linen and

Now of these and like questions for of course I might
multiply them by the hundred I wish, first of all, to
impress on you that they are of first importance if you
would understand history; by which I mean, if you
would take hold, in imagination, of the human motives
which make history. Roughly (but, of course, very
roughly) you may say of man that his wars and main
migrations on this planet are ruled by the two great
appetites which rule the strifes and migrations of the
lower animals love, and hunger. If under love we
include the parental instinct in man to do his best for his
mate and children (which includes feeding them, and
later includes patrimonies and marriage portions) you
get love and hunger combined, and doubled in driving
power. Man, unlike the brutes, will also war for
religion (I do not forget the Moslem invasion or the
Crusades) and emigrate for religion (I do not forget the
Pilgrim Fathers) : but, here again, when a man expatri-
ates himself for religion the old motives at least "come
in. " The immediate cause of his sailing for America
is that authority, finding him obnoxious at home,
makes the satisfaction of hunger, love and the
parental instincts impossible for him save on con-

The Commerce of Thought 5

dition of renouncing his faith, which he will not do.

Neither do I forget indeed it will be my business,
before I have done, to remind you that hundreds of
thousands of men have left home and country for the
sake of learning. There lies the origin of the great
universities. But here again you will find it hard to
separate at all events from the thirteenth century
onward the pure ardour of scholarship from the
worldly advancement to which it led. Further, while
men may migrate for the sake of learning I do not
remember to have heard of their making war for it.
On this point they content themselves with calling one
another names.

To cut this part of the argument short Of all the
men you have known who went out to the Colonies,
did not nine out of ten go to make money? Of all
the women, did not nine out of ten go to marry,
or to "better themselves" by some less ambiguous

We are used to think of Marathon as a great victory
won by a small enlightened Greek race over dense
hordes of the obscurantist East; of Thermopylae as a
pass held by the free mind of man against its would-be
enslavers. But Herodotus does not see it so. Herodo-
tus handles the whole quarrel as started and balanced
on a trade dispute. Which was it first East or West
that, coming in the way of trade, broke the rules of the
game by stealing away a woman ? Was lo that woman ?
Or was Europa? Jason sails to Colchis and carries off
Medea, with the gold : Paris sails to Sparta and abducts
Helen both ladies consenting. Always at the root
of the story, as Herodotus tells it, we find commerce,
coast-wise trading, the game of marriage by capture:
no silly notions about liberty, nationality, religion or

6 Studies in Literature

the human intellect. It is open to us, of course, to
believe that Troy was besieged for ten years for the sake
of a woman, as it is pleasant to read in Homer of Helen
watching the battlefield from the tower above the
Skaian gates, while the old men of the city marvel at her
beauty, saying one to another, "Small blame is it that
for such a woman the Trojans and Achaeans should
long suffer hardships." But if you ask me, do I believe
that the Trojan War happened so, I am constrained to
answer that I do not : I suspect there was money in it
somewhere. There is a legend I think in Suetonius,
who to be sure had a nasty mind that Caesar first
invaded Britain for the sake of its pearls; a disease
of which our oysters have creditably rid themselves.
And even nowadays, when we happen to be fighting
far abroad and our statesmen assure us that "we seek
no goldfields, " one murmurs the advice of Tennyson's
Northern Farmer

Doant them marry for mutiny, but goa wheer munny is.

Money? Yes: but let your imagination play on
these old trade-routes, and you will not only enhance
your hold on the true springs of history; you will
wonderfully seize the romance of it. You will see, as
this little planet revolves back out of the shadow of
night to meet the day, little threads pushing out over
its black spaces dotted ships on wide seas, crawling
trains of emigrant waggons, pioneers, tribes on the
trek, men extinguishing their camp-fires and shoulder-
ing their baggage for another day's march or piling it
into canoes by untracked river sides, families loading
their camels with figs and dates for Smyrna, villagers
treading wine-vats, fishermen hauling nets, olive-

The Commerce of Thought 7

gatherers, packers, waggoners, long trains of African
porters, desert caravans with armed outriders, daha-
beeyahs pushing up the Nile, busy rice-fields, puffs of
smoke where the expresses run across Siberia, Canada,
or northward from Capetown, Greenland whalers,
Newfoundland codfishers, trappers around Hudson's
Bay. . . .

The main puzzle with these trade-routes is that while
seas and rivers and river valleys last for ever, and roads
for long, and even a railroad long enough to be called a
"permanent way," the traffic along them is often
curiously evanescent. Let me give you a couple of
instances, one in quite recent times, the other of today,
passing under our eyes.

A man invents a steam-engine. It promptly makes
obsolete the stage-coaches, whose pace was the glory
of England. Famous hostelries along the Great North
Road put up their shutters; weeds begin to choke the
canals; a whole nexus of national traffic is torn in shreds,
dissipated. A few years pass, and somebody invents
the motor-car locomotion by petrol. Forthwith pro-
sperity flows back along the old highways. County
Councils start re-metalling, tar-spraying; inns revive
under new custom: and your rich man is swept past
a queer wayside building, without ever a thought that
here stood a turnpike gate which Dick Turpin had to

For a second change, which I have watched for a year
or two as it has passed under my own eyes at the foot
of my garden at home. As you know, the trade of
Europe from the West Coast of America around the
Horn is carried by large sailing-vessels (the passage
being too long for steamships without coaling stations).
One day America starts in earnest to cut the Panama

8 Studies in Literature

canal. Forthwith the provident British shipowner
begins to get quit of these sailing-vessels: noble three-
and four-masters, almost all Clyde-built. He sells
them to Italian firms. Why to Italian firms ? Because
these ships have considerable draught and are built of
iron. Their draught unfits them for general coasting
trade; they could not begin to navigate the Baltic, for
instance. Now Italy has deep-water harbours. But
the Genoese firms (I am told) buy these ships for the
second reason, that they are of iron : because while the
Italian Government lays a crippling duty on ordinary
iron, broken-up ship-iron may enter free. So, after a
coastwise voyage or two, it pays to rip their plates out,
pass them under the rollers and re-issue them for new
iron; and thus for a few months these beautiful things
that used to wing it home, five months without sighting
land, and anchor under my garden, eke out a new brief
traffic until the last of them shall be towed to the
breakers' yard. Even in such unnoted ways grew,
thrived, passed, died, the commercial glories of Venice,
Spain, Holland.


Now I will ask you to consider something more
transient, more secret in operation, than ways of trade
and barter the ways in which plants disseminate them-
selves or are spread and acclimatised. For my pupils in
Cambridge, the other day, I drew, as well as I could, in
the New Lecture Theatre, the picture of an old Roman
colonist in his villa in Britain, let us say in the fourth
century and you must remember that these Roman
colonists inhabited Britain for a good four hundred
years. Let me quote one short passage from that

The Commerce of Thought 9

The owner of the villa (you may conceive) is the grand-
son or even great-great-grandson of the colonist who first
built it, following in the wake of the legionaries. The
family has prospered, and our man is now a considerable
landowner. He was born in Britain ; his children have been
born here; and here he lives a comfortable, well-to-do, out-
of-door life, in its essentials I fancy not so very unlike the
life of an English country squire today. Instead of chasing
hares and foxes he hunts the wolf and the wild boar; but the
sport is good, and he returns with an appetite. He has
added a summer parlour to the house, with a northern aspect
and no heating flues ; for the old parlour he has enlarged the
praefurnium, and through the long winter evenings sits
far better warmed than many a master of a modern country
house. A belt of trees on the brow of the rise protects him
from the worst winds, and to the south his daughters have
planted violet-beds which will breathe odorously in the
spring. He has rebuilt and enlarged the slave quarters and
some of the outhouses, replaced the stucco pillars around
the atrium with a colonnade of polished stone, and, where
stucco remains, has repainted it in fresh colours. He knows
that there are no gaps or weak spots in his stockade fence
wood is always cheap. In a word, he has improved his estate,
is modestly proud of it; and will be content, like the old
Athenian, to leave his patrimony not worse but something
better than he found it.

Such a family it was part of my picture would get
many parcels from the land they still called "home,"
from the adored City urbe quam dicunt Romam The
City; parcels fetched from the near military station on
the great road where the imperial writ ran ; parcels for-
warded by those trade-routes of which I have spoken;
parcels of books scrolls, rather, or tablets; parcels of
seeds useful vegetables or pot-herbs, garden flowers,
fruit -plants for the orchard, for the colonnade even roses

io Studies in Literature

with real Italian earth damp about their roots. For the
Romans here were great acclimatisers, and upon Italy
they could draw as a nursery into which the best fruits,
trees, flowers of the world had been gathered after con-
quest and domesticated.

For beasts, it seems probable that they introduced the
ass with the mule as a consequence, the goat, certain
new breeds of oxen; for birds, the peacock from India or
Persia, the pheasant from Colchis, the Numidian guinea-
fowl (as we call it), the duck, the goose (defender of the
Capitol), possibly the dove and the falcon. But we talk
of plants. Britain swarmed with oak and beech, as with
most of the trees of Gaul ; but the Roman brought the
small-leaved elm, ilex, cypress, laurel, myrtle, oriental
plane, walnut ; of fruits (among others) peach, apricot,
cherry, probably the filbert; of vegetables, green peas
(bless him!), cucumbers, onions, leeks; of flowers, some
species of the rose (the China-rose, as we call it, for
one), lilies, hyacinths, sweet-williams, lilacs, tulips.

But these were plants deliberately imported and
tended. What of wild-flowers the common blue
speedwell, for instance? I am not botanist enough to
say if the speedwell was indigenous in Britain : but, as a
gardener in a small way, I know how it can travel!
If the speedwell will not do, take some other seed that
has lodged on his long tramp northward in the boot-
sole of a common soldier in Vespasian's legion. The
boot reaches Dover, plods on, wears out, is cast by the
way, rots in a ditch. From it, next spring, Britain has
gained a new flower.


I come now to something more volatile, more fuga-
cious yet more secret and subtle and mysterious in

The Commerce of Thought n

operation even than the vagaries of seeds; I come
to the wanderings, alightings, fertilisings of man's

Will you forgive my starting off with a small personal
experience which (since we have just been talking of a
very common weed) may here come in not inappropri-
ately? I received a message the other day from an
acquaintance, a young engineer in Vancouver. He
had been constructing a large dam on the edge of a
forest, himself the only European, with a gang of
Japanese labourers. But the rains proved so torrential,
washing down the sides of the dam as fast as they were
heaped, and half drowning the diggers, that at length
the whole party sought shelter in the woods. There, as
he searched about, my young engineer came upon a
log-shanty, doorless, abandoned, empty, save for two
pathetic objects left on the mud floor the one a burst
kettle, the other a "soiled copy" (as the booksellers
say) of one of my most unpopular novels. You see,
there is no room for vanity in the narrative a burst
kettle and this book the only two things not worth
taking away ! Yet I who can neither make nor mend
kettles own to a thrill of pride to belong to a call-
ing that can fling the other thing so far; and nurse a
hope that the book did, in its hour, cheer rather than
dispirit that unknown dweller in the wilderness.

But indeed to come to more serious and less dead,
though more ancient, authors you never can tell how
long this or that of theirs will lie dormant, then sud-
denly spring to life. Someone copies down a little poem
on reed paper, on the back of a washing bill : the paper
goes to wrap a mummy ; long centuries pass ; a tomb is
laid bare of the covering sand, and from its dead ribs
they unwind a passionate lyric of Sappho:

12 Studies in Literature

01 ^xev (xxiQtov <rrp<kov, o
of Be vawv <pa!a' 1x1 y2v [xeXatvav
xdtXXtcrroV eyw Bs XYJV' OT-

Troops of horse-soldiers, regiments of footmen,
Fleets in full sail "What sight on earth so lovely?"
Say you : but my heart ah ! above them prizes
Thee, my Beloved.

I believe that this one was actually recovered from a
rubbish-heap : but another such is unwrapped from the
ribs of a mummy, of a woman thousands of years dead.
Was it bound about them because her heart within them
perchance had beaten to it? wrapped by her desire
by the hands of a lover or just by chance? As
Sir Thomas Browne says

What song the syrens sang, or what name Achilles
assumed when he hid himself among women, though puz-
zling questions, are not beyond all conjecture. What time
the persons of these ossuaries entered the famous nations of
the dead, and slept with princes and counsellors, might
admit a wide solution. But who were the proprietaries of
these bones, or what bodies these ashes made up, were a
question above antiquarism.


But these travels and resuscitations of the written or
the printed word, though they may amuse our curiosity,
are nothing to marvel at; we can account for them. I
am coming to something far more mysterious.

A friend of mine, a far traveller, once assured me that
if you wanted to find yourself in a real "gossip shop"
as he put it you should go to the Sahara. That desert,

The Commerce of Thought 13

he informed me solemnly, "is one great sounding-board.
You scarcely dare to whisper a secret there. You can-
not kill a man in the Algerian Sahara even so far south
as Fort Mirabel but the news of it will be muttered
abroad somewhere in the Libyan desert, say at Ain-el-
Sheb, almost as soon as a telephone (if there were one,
which there is not) could carry it. "

Well, doubtless my friend overstated it. But how do
you account for the folk-stories ? Take any of the fairy-
tales you know best. Take Cinderella, or Red Riding
Hood or Hop o' my Thumb. How can you explain that
these are common not only to widely scattered nations
of the race we call Aryan, from Asia to Iceland, but
common also to savages in Borneo and Zululand, the
South Sea Islander, the American Indian? The mis-
sionaries did not bring them, but found them. There
are tribal and local variations, but the tale itself cannot
be mistaken. Shall we choose Beauty and the Beast?
That is not only and plainly, as soon as you start to
examine it, the Greek tale of Cupid and Psyche, pre-
served in Apuleius; not only a tale told by nurses in
Norway and Hungary; not only a tale recognisable in
the Rig- Veda: but a tale told by Bornuese and by
Algonquin Indians. Shall we choose The Wolf who ate
the Six Kids while the Seventh was hidden in the Clock-
case? That again is negro as well as European: you
may find it among the exploits of Brer Rabbit. Or
shall we choose the story of the adventurous youth who
lands on a shore commanded by a wizard, is made spell-
bound and set to do heavy tasks, is helped by the
wizard's pretty daughter and escapes with her aid.

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