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" Come, my Hermes, Come ! 'Tis time to fetch me " Facing page 7 1
" Who used to run along a sunny gust " . 72

" It is the time of tender, opening things " . . 74

" Over the head of Jesus the whole sky Of pain began

to drive " . . . . 76

" In silence stood the Dead Gazing, only was heard

that River steal The listless ripple of Oblivion " 77
" Not happier than these melancholy kings ? " . 78

" As out of some great battle " . . . So

" Dreadful suspended business, and vast life Pausing,

dismantled piers, and naked frames. And further,

shapes from obscure troubles loosed, Like mist

descended" . . . . . 82

" To see these nations burning run through Hell.

Magnificently anguished, by the grave Untired ;

and this last March against the Powers " . 86
" The storm carried his voice and Veiled with rushing

hail his face " . . . 90

" Before them hung Still unredeemed Prometheus

from his crag" . . . 91

" Half in the shining sun upright, and half Reposing

in the shadow " . . . 94

"Then to despair slowly dispersed, as men Return

with morning to the accustomed task . 96

" The vault closed back " . . . . 97








Formerly Editor of " The Academy "

BEFORE me are two neat, slim books, green in
colour and gilt-tooled. The legend on the
title pages is virtually the same " Poems "
by Stephen Phillips. Each volume contains
eighteen poems, including " Marpessa " and " Christ in
Hades." The latter poem was first issued in April 1896
by Mr. Elkin Mathews, No. 3, in his Shilling Garland

The imprint of " Poems " by Stephen Phillips is
John Lane : The Bodley Head ; but the dates of the
two volumes are different. One, the first edition, was
issued in 1897, and was immediately sold out : the
second edition was published in January 1898.

The cover of the 1897 volume bears a geometrical,



decorative stamp ; on the cover of the other is a laurel
wreath. This small but significant change, a laurel-
wreath instead of a geometrical design testimony to
Mr. John Lane's sensitive alertness in publishing
denotes an interesting episode of literary history, the
curtain of which I have been invited to lift. I could
tell it all, and more, from memory, without opening a

But first I must quote a statement from a distant
issue of " The Academy," of which at that time I was
editor. The date is January I5th, 1898 : the statement
(it seemed momentous then : it has a thrill even after the
lapse of nearly nineteen years) was this :

" In accordance with our intention to crown two books
of signal merit published in 1897, we have made the
following awards :

One Hundred Guineas to Mr. Stephen Phillips, for his
volume of Poems. Fifty Guineas to Mr. William Ernest
Henley, for his Essay on the Life, Genius, and Achievement
of Burns, contained in the fourth volume of the Centenary
Edition of the Poetry of Robert Burns"

That statement is the text of this chronicle essay which
introduces a reprint of " Christ in Hades," with under-
standing illustrations by Miss Stella Langdale. They
show real imaginative power, and every reader must



regret that the poet did not live to see this child of his
brain and heart interpreted by an artist whose vision
fuses with her technique. Re-reading " Christ in Hades "
and that statement in " The Academy," I desire, after
the manner of garrulous chroniclers, even at the risk
of seeming egotistical, to investigate memory and explain
how it was that we of " The Academy," youngish and
lean-pursed men, dared to expend one hundred and
fifty guineas in crowning two books of signal merit of
the year 1897.

The eighteen- nineties in literature, art and journal-
ism have already had their historians Mrs. Pennell's
"Nights," Mr. Holbrook Jackson's "The Eighteen-
Nineties," Katharine Tynan Hinkson's "The Middle
Years," to name but three. Also Max Beerbohm,
whose nineties story in " The Cornhill " for last June
called " Enoch Soames " was one of the most delightful
things he has ever written. Life capered in the
nineties. I suppose we were used to being Jin de siecle,
and waved our flags to show that we were not scared.

Perhaps I, following these historians, knowing them,
and having been fervent and happy in that bustling
decade, may as well begin with the year 1890 when I
first met that great personality, great influence, and
great friend William Ernest Henley. Poet, man of
letters, editor, he was the protagonist of the nineties,



and the literary father, kind but firm, of many of the
young lions ; but he was always the noblest roarer.

In 1890 I was sub-editor of " The Art Journal," having
in 1887 relinquished lace, the old family business, for the
pen. I had joined " The Art Journal " staff in the un-
premeditated way, sans plan, sans ceremony, that it has
always been my good fortune to follow. John Latey,
then editor of " The Illustrated London News " (his son,
John Latey, Junr., followed him as editor), an old
friend of my father's, had given me, while I was still in
my father's business, little things to do for " The News."
One day I said to him casually, " I want to leave the city.
I want to write." It was instinct, such as a cat has for
valerian, for there was absolutely nothing that I really
wanted to write about. Greater psychological knowledge
tells me now that I really wanted to Enjoy and Ex-
perience, and that I postulated writing as the right road.
But I began wisely. " The Daily News " in those days
liked romantic business articles on such subjects as
parchment, jet, bananas. I sent them an article on lace.
They printed it and paid me handsomely my first
literary earnings. It was wise to send them the article
on lace, not the one- act tragedy called " The Unpardon-
able Sin," which I also had in stock. John Latey,
when I told him that I desired to leave the city and
" go in for writing," laughed in his beard and uttered



in his courteous, old-fashioned manner well chosen
words which meant " Don't be a fool." However, in
less than two days he sent me a note saying that the
sub-editorship of " The Art Journal " was vacant. He
gave me a letter to Lionel Robinson, who in turn pre-
sented me with one to the editor of " The Art Journal."
I admit that I had to hustle, and make the best of my
poor credentials ; but the end was that in July 1887 I
left Watling Street at two p.m. on a Saturday and entered
" The Art Journal " office at nine a.m. on the following

My chief was Mr. Marcus B. Huish, a well-known figure
and author in the art world, and one of the early collectors
of Japanese objets d'art. Came a day when he informed
me that a consulting editor, W. E. Henley, had been ap-
pointed, and one noon, a memorable noon for me, a big,
burly lame man with a shock of red hair, a tangle of red
beard, and quizzical blue eyes, came stumping into our
weekly committee assembly. Imagine a Viking suddenly
blown by a storm into a Dorcas meeting, and you may
visualise the advent of W. E. H. into the precise and
venerable " Art Journal " parlour which was still slightly
stifled by the aura of that notable nonentity, S. C. Hall.

Henley's laugh fogged the S. C. Hall aura, his big out-
look on life confused our grave faces, and his knowledge of
French art opened for me the gate to Corot, Rousseau



and Daumier. His personality pervaded those Tuesday
assemblies ; he incited us into actuality, and injected
joy into our solemn conclaves. S. C. Hall's aura went
like the smoke of a spent match. To Henley I owe my
real awakening to art and literature, and the injunction
that, whatever the reward, the best is worth doing for its
own sake. One night comes back to me. He had asked
me down to Chiswick. " Some men are coming," he
said, as he stumped out of the " Art Journal " office
and my heart glowed. Many men were gathered in the
cheerful room at Chiswick, whose names I had long
venerated, and of all the splendid talk I heard that night,
the most splendid was a duel, poetry the subject, between
Henley and Oscar Wilde. It was broad-sword against
rapier, and I knew not which won : the give and take, the
hammer and dart were too dazzling. I suppose Wilde
won, because a time came when Henley ceased, and
Wilde delivered a melodious monologue on Shelley, one
of the most beautiful excursions into appreciative
criticism that I have ever heard or read. The dark, dire
days came and Oscar Wilde was drowned in his own
poisoned shallows. I shut out those latter years and think
only of his tender and loving understanding of the most
ethereal of poets. How strange it will be if, when we
awake from the dream of death, we find that we are
judged only by the good we have done.



Henley, " dear and great friend," as Rodin called him,
remained my friend to the end. The red hair turned
white, the labouring limbs grew frailer, but the big
heart, and the dauntless spirit of the author of

" What have I done for you,

England, my England ?
What is there I would not do,
England, my own ? "

were never vanquished. He was warrior and influence
to the last. W. E. H. can never be replaced.

"The Art Journal," as representing the older traditions,
was still a force, but a newer art was beginning to awaken.
The Chantrey Trustees had become almost popular
among les jeunes through buying Sargent's " Carnation,
Lily, Lily, Rose," and the knowing were beginning to
talk knowingly about the Newlyn School, although
elderly Professors of Art hinted that it was not quite
nice for young men to treat Light so familiarly, as if it
really existed. It was Mrs. Meynell, in a series of
sympathetic and subtle articles in "The Art Journal,"
who gave the Newlyn School its imprimatur. Art was
upon the town and stepped out boldly. I, being young
and bold, wrote to the editor of " The Globe " suggesting
that I should interview the members of the Royal
Academy. He, supposing, I imagine, that I was a person



of importance on " The Art Journal," consented. The
Royal Academicians did not desire to see me, and I dreaded
seeing them ; but all went merrily. Burne-Jones, I
remember, apologised, with a twinkle in his eye, for not
asking me to stay to luncheon because his meal was a
hunk of bread and cheese strewn over a bench ; Sir
John Millais (it was Sunday morning ; he was playing
patience, and he made me promise that I would not tell)
made a sketch for me to illustrate the difference between
a seal and a sea-lion (I forgot why) ; and Sir Frederic
Leighton mistaking me for a Spaniard, who was also
awaiting an audience, addressed me in the language
of Castile. These interviews must have been successful,
as the editor of " The Globe " acceded to my second
request to write a weekly column under the heading
" Art and Artists," the first of the go-as-you-please
columns which became a feature of the evening press in
the nineties. Editorially I was able to offer an early
commission, if not his first, to my old friend Pett Ridge,
an article on the poetical side of Paris (I did not know
that he was a humorist then, except in conversation)
for "The Art Journal" Paris Exhibition number. Pett
Ridge and I also collaborated (he did most of the work)
in digging out Andrew Lang leaders from back files of
" The Daily News." Andrew Lang was our idol. A
leader by him was sunshine to my morning. The book


was published under the title " Lost Leaders," and some
silly reviewers said they couldn't be lost because we had
found them. Richard Whiteing, who came into his king-
dom later with " No. 5 John Street," was also writing
delightful anonymous leading articles for " The Daily
News." Often it required a keen sense to distinguish a
Lang from a Whiteing.

It was very easy to make a living by the pen in those
days. There was " Tit Bits," the advance guard of
democratic popular journalism, and I found that I had
the knack of writing about anything I met in the way of
adventure, such as descending a Cornish tin mine,
ascending in a captive balloon, or spending an hour in an
actor's dressing room during the performance. And
there was always an extra guinea when your article was
chosen for the contents bill.

Not long afterwards " Answers " broke into the new
journalism, and Alfred Harmsworth quickly became
our romantic figure, eclipsing Stead, who was galvanis-
ing the old " Pall Mall Gazette " into life. It was
Arthur Pearson, not Alfred Harmsworth, who began
his career by winning the " Tit Bits " General Informa-
tion Prize. Alfred Harmsworth (Lord Northcliffe) was
then writing for Henderson's publications, of which
the best known was " The Young Folks Budget."
Henderson kept open table at one o'clock each day, and



among the " writing folk " on his staff were Robert
Louis Stevenson and Alfred Harmsworth. Stevenson's
" Treasure Island " was first published in " The Young
Folks Budget." Stevenson had called it " The Sea Cock."
Henderson persuaded him to change the title to " Treasure
Island." Later Alfred Harmsworth edited " Youth "
for Sir William Ingram, and so on, step by step, to the
new " Evening News " in 1894, and the newer " Daily
Mail " in 1896. The nineties " new journalism " then
began to swing freely and to bump heavily against the
old. Writers were glad. Their markets widened every

Journalism was bustling and successful in the nineties.
I was making easily a much larger income than I had
received in the city. Open to every ambitious young
writer was " The St. James's Gazette," best of evening
journals, under the able editorship of Sidney Low, where
Barrie rose at a bound into recognition, and where Pett
Ridge first published his humorous dialogues. In later
years " The St. James's Gazette " had a bewildering
number of editors who followed one another in quick
succession. One summer I had to take a Salisbury diet
rest cure. It was not for overworked nerves as I pre-
tended ; the trouble was really due to the number of
dinners I attended to welcome new editors of " The St.
James's Gazette." It was not difficult to have a " Globe "



turnover accepted, but it was hard to get an article into
" The St. James's," and still harder to creep into the
columns of "The Scots Observer" (later "The National
Observer ") where Henley reigned supported by Charles
Whibley. I had articles accepted, but they went in,
mine : they came out, Henley's. I am quite prepared to
admit they were ten times better, but . Even an
article that Henley returned would be minutely corrected.
I have one still, the W. E. H. tiny, cramped handwriting
meandering emendations between every line.

Then there were stories . I wrote several for * ' Belgravia, ' '
published by Chatto and Windus, and one of them was
noticed by " The Spectator " (I can quote it now because
I knew the criticism by heart the moment my astonished
eyes fell upon it) " * Parson Sal ' (said " The Spectator")
" deserves to be singled out from the crowd of stories
in the current * Belgravia,' not for the plot, which is
commonplace enough, but for a distinct although un-
disciplined power of characterisation it exhibits. The
name of the writer, C. Lewis Hind, is new to us."

Had I been Arnold Bennett, I suppose I should have
exploited fiction and played my " power of characterisa-
tion " for all it was worth, but I took the line of lesser
resistance editing, and writing articles which invited
my eyes every walk I took. And such stories as I wrote
later, " The Academy of Intentions " for " The Art
B 17


Journal " ; " The Duke Who Came Into His Kingdom "
for " The Pall Mall Budget," and " The Enchanted
Stone " (a chapter from a novel published later by
Messrs. A. and C. Black) for " The Yellow Book," etc.,
were really written to amuse myself, not because I thought
I could write fiction. Towards the end of 1892 I began
scheming out a new art magazine. That meant seeing
people, and bustling around. Action was life. Fiction
was reflective ; I wanted to do, not to reflect.

I left " The Art Journal " in 1893 to become the first
editor of " The Studio." Unknown to me, Mr. John
Lane, while I was planning my new art magazine, had
been spending week ends with Mr. Charles Holme at
The Red House, Bexley Heath, also engaged in planning
a new art magazine. When at the old Hogarth Club,
which I had joined, I told John Lane of my scheme (it
has always been my way to babble my plans to sympathetic
souls) that slow knowing smile spread over his face, which
always means that he has something nice up his sleeve.
" I must bring you and Charles Holme together," he
said. " Holme wants an editor."

John Lane and I first met at the house of our friends
Mr. and Mrs. Graham R. Tomson in St. John's Wood.
There, on Sunday afternoons, I met many others
whom it has been a privilege to know, including William
Watson, a poet who has held his trust sacred, and who



has shown that one can be classical and human at the
same time. As I write, his latest volume " Pencraft "
lies before me classical and human. To the Tomsons
I journeyed often with the dear friend of those early
days, gone too soon, Vernon Blackburn. Under the
inspiration of " Graham R. Tomson's " dark eyes and
winning manner I heard Oscar Wilde make one of his
best impromptus. It was the time of the Japanese fan
craze, and Madame was engaged in decorating the wall
of the drawing-room with them. Oscar was announced.
" Oh, Mr. Wilde," she said, " you are just in time to
help me arrange these fans." " Madame," he replied,
his vast smile broadening, " they should not be
arranged ; they should occur." There I heard Harold
Frederic perform, with astonishing success, the feat of
singing folk-songs and eating bread and butter at the same
moment ; there I actually saw my idol, Andrew Lang,
write the best part of an article, standing, or rather
lolling against the window sash, chattering languidly
as he wrote, the paper, when it suited him, resting on the
window-pane ; there brilliant and unfortunate Lady
Colin Campbell electrified us by her singing of "The
Wearin' o' the Green." There I met my friend Clement
K. Shorter, who had lately followed John Latey, Jun.,
as editor of "The Illustrated London News." It was
in an article by Shorter that I first saw public reference



to another of our idols greater than " Andrew of the
Brindled Hair " Robert Louis Stevenson. I never saw
R. L. S. Wilfrid Meynell told me that he had met him
at the Savile Club, a fantastic sprite, who balanced him-
self on the arm of a chair, and made witty nonsense
verses as fast as his tongue could utter them. Clement
Shorter's eulogy of the author of " Travels with a
Donkey " had been published in " The Star," the
dazzling bomb that T. P. O'Connor had just launched
into journalism. Bernard Shaw did the music, Walkley
the drama, and Shorter the literary column. " The Star "
was what we were beginning to call " alive." One after-
noon, when things were very quiet, it appeared with
this poster, in enormous letters " Nothing Of Im-
portance To-Day."

I never pass " Graham R. Tomson's " garden in St.
John's Wood, now so changed, without thinking of a
love-song she wrote. One stanza runs :

" The dim grass stirs with your footstep,
The blue dusk throbs with your smile.
I and the world of glory
Are one for a little while."

During the early weeks of work on " The Studio "
a delightful venture (so venturesome after " The Art
Journal") I was able to introduce the drawings of Aubrey



Beardsley to Mr. Charles Holme, the proprietor, and
to suggest that Joseph Pennell should write the article.

It was one Sunday afternoon, at the house in Palace
Court of my life-long friends, Alice and Wilfrid
Meynell, that I first met Aubrey Beardsley. He was then
a clerk in an insurance office. Aymer Vallance had
brought him to call upon Mrs. Meynell, and Beardsley,
watchful but composed, modest, but quite cognisant of
his uncanny power, hatchet featured, with hair cut in a
fringe like Phil May's, backed by Vallance's enthusiasm,
suggested that he should show me his drawings. They
were in a black portfolio tucked under his arm, that
wonderful early series, his highest achievement. I turned
them over, conscious of considerable inward excitement,
and said to myself, " This looks like genius."

I requisitioned them for " The Studio." It was just
the gilt-edged novelty that our new art magazine
wanted ; but when they appeared in the first number,
dated April 1 893, 1 was no longer editor of " The Studio."

It happened thus : Mr. Charles Holme and I were
deep in preparations for the initial issue, planning and re-
planning the contents in a ground floor in Henrietta
Street, Strand, when H. B. Marriott Watson (we were
living in the same house : he had already written those
splendidly imaginative articles in " The Scots Observer "
since published under the title " Diogenes in London ")



whispered to me one evening that something surprising
was imminent in journalism : that someone, whose
identity was a secret, had purchased " The Pall Mall
Gazette " and " The Pall Mall Budget," and was about to
found a magazine. Not until many weeks later, when
the staff had crowded into the old offices in Northumber-
land Street, did we learn that this fairy godfather (the
whole thing now, in sedate recollection, is irradiant like a
fairy tale) was The Hon. William Waldorf Astor (Lord
Astor of Hever).

It happened in the swift, unpremeditated way
in which things happened in the nineties. Without
preamble, I received a curt note asking me to call upon
Mr. H. C. Cust at Lord Brownlow's house in Carlton
House Terrace. Harry Cust, that prince of editors, and
most stimulating of Chiefs, who made "The Pall Mall
Gazette " the brightest and bravest of evening journals,
having first delivered himself of a few witty remarks,
which I attempted to understand, and to increase, asked
me to edit "The Pall Mall Budget." His enthusiasm, the
princeliness of the offer, and the vista of possibilities
unfolded, captured me. I returned to Mr. Holme and
explained matters ; he generously consented to release
me from my agreement. Then he said rather dolorously,
" But whom shall I get to edit ' The Studio ' ? " " Try
Gleeson White," I cried, on the spur of the moment (in



the nineties we always acted on the spur of the moment).
" You try," said Mr. Holme.

I walked round to Messrs. Bell and Son's offices near by,
found Gleeson White in his den, surrounded by a zareba
of boob, and popped the question to him. He was
charmed. He suggested that it was the chance of his
life. There was no time to be astonished at the prompt
transference of an editorship. We were too gaily busy
to be astonished in the nineties, and even, if I had been
capable of astonishment, those delirious and delightful
three years in " The Pall Mall " office would have cured

I conveyed Aubrey Beardsley with me to " The Pall
Mall Budget " and he at once began to caper through its
pages. His work depressed the manager, and I am afraid
did not wholly please Mr. Astor, but he was a sympathetic
proprietor : we liked him even if we were a little fearful
of his pungent criticism ; but he allowed us our heads.
Beardsley did some wonderful theatrical drawings ; and
he made a few failures, because there was a radium streak
of Puck in his genius. One day I commissioned him to
make drawings from the plaster designs for the new
coinage. He did them with spirit, but he made them
comic. Beardsley was of course more at home (indeed,
there he was entirely at home) in " The Yellow Book," of
which the first number was published in April 1894.



" The Fire " and " The Question " by Stephen Phillips saw
the light in that most original of magazines, so expressive
of the nineties : there too John Davidson's " Ballad of

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Online LibraryStephen PhillipsChrist in Hades → online text (page 1 of 5)