from the natural and the expected. Doubts and fears emerge, and the whole train of consciousness, lapsing in a new direction, gathers pace and becomes distress and bewilderment, without the necessity for one violent stroke or emphasised effect. Here, then, is yet another and a new attainment of Mrs Wharton's fiction. She so rounds and fuses her subject, she throws over it the light of so receptive and intent a mood, that when once the development is started it carries itself through to the end, moving as one mass and needing no further impulsion.

The part played, in maintaining this equable flow, by Mrs Wharton's use of striking and picturesque imagery, is too remarkable to be passed over. Imagery is commonly regarded as a kind of applied ornament, giving variety and relief to plain narrative; but it has a better justification than this when it is used as a structural part of the narrative itself. Mrs Wharton has the rare gift of thinking naturally in images; they are not to her an added grace, but an immediate dramatisation of a simple statement; and since a line of drama will always carry more weight than many lines of mere description, a pictorial symbol, so employed, economises time and effort, supports and advances the narrative as well as adorns it. The Reef' would give very many examples of this treatment of imagery, its impressment into the service of story-telling; though of course its practical belp in any particular case cannot be measured without the full context. An isolated quotation only illustrates the vivid aptness of the picture, but it is worth illustrating : After that she no longer tried to laugh or argue her husband out of his convictions. They were convictions, and therefore unassailable. Nor was any insincerity implied in the fact that they sometimes seemed to coincide with hers. There were occasions when he really did look at things as she did; but for reasons so different as to make the difference between them all the greater. Life, to Mr Leath, was like a walk through a carefully classified museum, where, in moments of doubt, one had only to look at the number and refer to one's catalogue; to his wife it was like groping about in a huge dark lumber-room, where the exploring ray of curiosity lit up now some shape of breathing beauty and nor a mummy's grin.'


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In the English-speaking world there are always plenty of voices ready to explain to a deliberately trained and practised artist like Mrs Wharton the certain risks and likely failures of her method of work. Such a writer will be well-accustomed to hear that imagination is chilled by excessive attention to finish and design, that many of the greatest novelists have been careless of technical niceties, and that imperfect life is, at any rate, better than dead perfection. These assertions, undeniable and undenied, are not in themselves a great contribution to criticism, but they do, of course, point to a general truth of more interest. A writer ideally needs both a certain detachment from his material, so that he may grasp it as a whole, and also complete immersion in it, so that he may be aware of it with every nerve, never consciously using his powers of divination and deduction. Without the ability to stand over and away from his structure he can neither knit it firmly nor expose it squarely; but he cannot give it expressive value, the flush of life which is its very reason for existence, unless he has the affinity of long habit with the stuff he is working in. Of these two sides of the novelist's task it is obviously the first on which Mrs Wharton is most at home; her books are the books of an imagination far more easily stimulated to work than induced to ruminate. Their curious lack of anything that could be disengaged as a philosophy of life, a characteristic synthesis of belief, is no doubt their weakness from one point of view, just as their fine clear-cut outline is their strength from another. The mind that has never, so to say, promised itself with life, that has kept its critical integrity entirely out of the way of imaginable superstition, must naturally pay for its fastidiousness in some sort; and it may well pay by the loss of the fullest possible intimacy with the stuff of character - especially of social character as opposed to individual-an intimacy more lightly won by the uncritical mind which does not know how to use it. There is accordingly a certain amount of Mrs Wharton's work which shows the general defect of the tour de force—a defect, not of sinew or bone, but of vein and marrow. Such are the penalties of a talent whose leading qualities are swiftness and acuteness. But it is precisely in the case of a talent like this that summary inferences are most misleading, for its future can never be predicted. As time goes on its power is revealed by the fact that it begins to add to itself, right and left, the very virtues which appeared furthest from its reach, and to produce work which has gained in every respect, in freshness and vigour as in controlled flexibility, over its earlier experiments. This has been the history of the work of Mrs Wharton; and, because it has not only had a history but is constantly making one, always attacking new positions and never repeating either a failure or a success, it is work of the kind most of all interesting to criticism, work of which, in the middle of its course, nothing can be foretold but that its best is yet to come.




1. Naval Administration. By Admiral Sir R. Vesey

Hamilton. London: Bell, 1896. 2. Naval Policy, A Plea for the Study of War. By

• Barfleur.' Edinburgh and London : Blackwood, 1907. 3. Letters of Lord Barham. Vols. II and III. London:

Navy Records Society, 1911. 4. The Spencer Papers. Vol. I. London : Navy Records

Society, 1913.


In the first part of this article it was shown from evidence tendered to a Select Committee of the House of Commons (1861), that there has always been inherent in the First Lord of the Admiralty an elastic power which enables him to undertake any duties which the public welfare may require. In other words, the First Lord may in any grave emergency act on his own initiative without waiting to consult the Board. Further, this inherent power of initiative extends so far that, if the First Lord comes to any decision which normally requires the assent of the Board, he can either call on the members of the Board to acquiesce in it or insist on their resigning their places if their assent is withheld. The exercise of this power is, of course, quite inconsistent with the letter of the Patent by which the Board is appointed. But the usage which sanctions it is probably quite as old as the Patent itself. It may be conjectured that it had its origin in the high personal prestige and commanding professional authority of the First Lord first appointed under the Patent of Queen Anne-an instrument, it will be remembered, which has come down without material alteration, save in one particular, to the present day. This was Admiral Edward Russell, Earl of Orford, the victor of La Hogue. The spirit of naval discipline is embedded in the very marrow of the British naval officer, and runs from top to bottom throughout the whole hierarchy of the sea service. A great seaman like Russell would easily establish his ascendancy over his professional colleagues, and would probably make short work of their opposition if ever they ventured to oppose him.

Be this as it may, it is easy to show that the usage recognised by the enquiry of 1861 was in full force nearly three-quarters of a century earlier. In 1795 the second Earl Spencer was First Lord of the Admiralty, the First Sea Lord being Admiral Sir Charles Middleton, the great strategist who afterwards, as Lord Barham and First Lord of the Admiralty himself, directed the final stages of the campaign of Trafalgar with such masterly sagacity. It was decided by Ministers, Spencer concurring, to recall Admiral Sir John Laforey, then commanding a fleet in the West Indies. On the Board being called upon to ratify this decision, Middleton declined to affix his signature to the order of recall. Spencer at once treated this refusal as an indication of Middleton's determination 'to withdraw from office' and defined the position thus:

*The idea I entertain of the constitution of this Board and of the manner in which the business of it should be carried on, is, that in every measure determined upon and officially proposed to the Board by the First Lord, every member of the Board is considered as ready to take an active part by his signature; and, though the responsibility unquestionably rests on the First Lord, the other Lords are always understood to concur in his measures. I must therefore desire in the present instance (one of too much importance to be passed over lightly), that you will declare your concurrence in the recall of Sir John Laforey by signing the order which has been prepared.'


Middleton forthwith replied by resigning his seat at the Board, and his resignation was accepted. In truth Spencer had virtually demanded it. There had been a good deal of friction between the two, and probably neither was reluctant to part company from the other.

any case Spencer's letter clearly shows how he regarded his position and its prerogatives. His responsibility was undiluted and his authority supreme. But, presumably in deference to the letter of the Patent, it would seem to have been the usage in his time for his decisions to be ratified by the signatures of at least two other members of the Board, and in all important cases by that of the First Sea Lord. Further, he held that no member of the Board could withhold his signature when called upon by the First Lord to affix it.

That was

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