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from the errand; complains of 'splenetical vapours,' and doses, bleeds, and diets himself as was the custom then, concocting strange prescriptions; such as my preparation of the Lignum Sanctum, with addition likewise of the root of China, Inula Campana and a sprig of Tamarisque, all in the decoction of barley-water and quickened with a little 'sprinkling of a Limon, a rare receipt to corroborate the Viscera and keep the stomach in tono.'
Here, then, we leave him, a retired and cloistered man,' 'freed from servile bands
Of hope to rise, or fear to fall;'
and if, as we hinted above, Walton's picture of him is too much that of a philosopher and a saint (though he was both one and the other) and too little that of a man of the world, we may reflect that the man of the world made the philosopher, and that Wotton was probably happier in the use and knowledge of affairs, the plentiful friendships and the elegant and varied tastes which he brought to Eton with him, than if, like Hales, he had lived among books and inkpots and played a part in the angry controversies which in those days vexed the hearts and soured the blood of learned men. The atmosphere of Baronius and Casaubon, Scaliger and Scioppius, Milton and Salmasius, was little akin to the saintly and philosophical temper which charms us in a thousand happy touches in the letters of friendship which are preserved in the Reliquiæ.' Not among books only, but in converse with busy men of all countries, was learnt the lesson in which he summed up his experience of life :
'Animas fieri sapientiores quiescendo.'
ART. VI.-The Letters of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Barrett: 1845-1846. With Portraits and Facsimiles. 2 vols. London: 1899.
WHAT should be put into print? What withheld? There you have the question which besets periodically almost every person concerned with literature. The problem presents itself in an infinite variety of ways; but it is plain that we are rapidly arriving at a sort of general imprimatur. Specious arguments for publicity are always forthcoming. Nearly every publisher maintains a stringent view of the duty towards historical truth incumbent upon those who hold documents which it will pay to print, and sets as all but paramount the claim of the public to know and judge men's lives in full possession of every possible fact. How many are there nowadays in that distinguished corporation who would emulate the heroism of Murray when he burnt the Byron papers? Some, we hope, but certainly not many. 'Est et fideli tuta silentio merces.' At present it is indiscretion that has its assured reward, whatever Horace may say. In the same stanza he adds, it will be remembered, a malediction by way of counterpoise; let us quote it, to help us over an ugly aspect of the subject:'Vetabo, qui Cereris sacrum
Vulgarit arcanæ, sub isdem
Sit trabibus fragilemve mecum
It may have been a bad thing to blab out of doors the mystic rites of Ceres, but the damnation to be incurred thereby was slight compared with that deserved by the man or woman who prints letters written in the confidence of friendship, which the writer would have desired to be kept secret, and prints them for the sake of money. That is the person with whom one would not wish to share the shelter of any possible roof. There is no need to discuss here such an expedient for converting paper into cash.
But the motive for indiscreet publication, or for publication which at least to our rude fathers would have seemed indiscreet, is not often so simple, as it presents itself to any of the people concerned, whether poet, novelist, biographer, or simple depositary of papers. They are indiscreet, whether with their own secrets or those of others, from the loftiest motives; they plead the interests of art, the interests of truth, the interests of morality. And when one considers
what is published it is hard not to wonder what can possibly be withheld. As a witty woman said the other day in some discourse upon the possibilities of a cupboard, 'there is no 'skeleton in any cupboard nowadays; we all wear our 'skeletons on our sleeves.' Rousseau's Confessions' sink into a modest shade, and Rabelais is put to rebuke for prudery, beside the religious indecencies or indecent religiosities for which M. Huysmans is applauded, not by the public which purchased M. Zola's early works wholesale, but especially by the people who describe themselves as cultured. It is the over-educated who clamour for slices cut from life'-who desire the photographic record of morbid emotions--and whose taste finds a logical outcome in the last Parisian form of entertainment, kinetographic representations of the dissecting-room. If an artist chooses to gratify this desire for the frisson-the morbid thrill-by revealing the secret processes of his own mindif he chooses to feel and make others feel the fascination of ugliness--that is his affair, but he should remember that the kinetograph can beat him at his business, and that he will never approach the attractions of a bull fight. Only, there is this to be said for the artist: in gratifying the morbid curiosity of the public to see what is properly hidden he may offend against human decency, but he does not betray confidence. He sins against reticence; he does not sin against discretion. And in one way the public, at least in this country, is stupid in its judgement of the artist. A man, the public says, experiences a sorrow; the greater the sorrow the less likely he is to talk about it. But the artist not only expresses his sorrow in public, but sells the expression of it; he cultivates his emotions for the benefit of his pocket. That is, in substance, what one hears said even by intelligent people about such a book, let us say, as Mr. Barrie's 'Margaret Ogilvie,' and it shows a total misapprehension of the conditions under which artists work. An artist writes, or paints, or composes, not in the first instance to get money; that is not why he becomes an artist; but having embarked on an art, and having to live by it, he may, and does, legitimately choose to do such things as will bring him in the means of livelihood-the more the better. He will deliberately put aside, as, for instance, Stevenson did, subjects which tempt him, because the finished result would be unsaleable. But now and then, under a definite stimulus, he will and must write the thoughts that are uppermost in him. Thackeray wrote
the Hoggarty Diamond' when he had just lost his child. Was his sorrow any the less real because he described it in a fictitious form and was paid so much a page? Suppose that, instead of being a novelist, Thackeray had been a poet, and had written a poem explicitly on his loss, ought he not to have published the poem? Behind all art there is life; yet when the art is greatest it does not appeal to us as the record of a single definite emotion. The life is not limited; the experience is for all to feel with. Just because the artist has in him the power to waken sympathy with his own emotions, not as his, but as those of a human being, he is moved to publish no less strongly than he is moved to write. He will not strip his heart bare to a friend in talk, any more than any other man, but he will to a world of people whose faces he does not know; to whom he is, and ought to be an impersonal voice. What withholds a man from throwing into print the record of his inmost feelings is not the thought of thousands of people who may read, it is the thought of a score or so, to whom this is not simply a human voice but the voice of their friend. As for the money that comes of it, the writer takes that as an accident; but of all the work of artists such work as this, which is the record of a definite and personal emotion, is done with the least thought of money.
It is just for this reason that we are particularly inclined to deprecate biographies of artists. Their writings that they publish are addressed to an impersonal audience by a man speaking from behind the veil; and the less the public. associates the works with a definite personality the more likely are they to produce their proper effect. There is, of course, a laudable curiosity, which is almost gratitude, to know something about the men and women to whom we are indebted for pleasures, and more than pleasures-to know their faces and something of the story of their lives. But it is hard to see how, for instance, a biography of Thackeray would help us to any new profit or pleasure from Vanity Fair; and a life of Turner might almost stand between us. and the delight his pictures give. Coleridge has said somewhere-and the saying comes strangely from Coleridge-that the man is always more than his works; and that is, no doubt, true; yet enough is known of Coleridge to make us unduly underrate every one of his utterances. No human being can lose, perhaps, by knowing the truth; but public curiosity is apt to disinter fragments of it, and there is no such liar as an isolated fact. The biography of Coleridge
could only have been written by himself, and would be essentially a spiritual history; and, indeed, a spiritual history can hardly be written at all. Any biography of him that can be written is worse than indiscreet; it is misleading: it can only show you the squalid accidents that may encumber a great soul.
Yet biographies there must be, and if they are not written well they will be ill written; we may make up our minds to that; and the fact justifies a great deal that at first sight might seem an indiscretion. Any notable person will provide, if he be a prudent man, against posthumous terrors by such a bequest of his papers and literary remains as shall make it at least difficult for the irresponsible and uninvited person to mangle him. Yet even so he cannot protect himself. By naming a biographer, when it is decided that his life is to be written, he has done all in his power to make his wishes clear, but he must not suppose that they will be respected. The law protects his correspondence, but the facts of his life, his habits of dress and speech, are at the will of every chance acquaintance to make a little money or credit out of, and the mine is unsparingly worked. Stevenson's case is instructive. He left the charge of writing his biography to a friend, with the full disposal of his correspondence; but that has not hindered two young ladies within the past year from constructing volumes, and very silly volumes, out of their slight acquaintance with him in his youth and out of floating gossip. There is a ready market for every kind of personal chatter about distinguished people, even if it is simply silly, as in these two instances, and if it should be damaging, why, so much the readier. Consequently the biographer nowadays need never be tempted to suppress awkward facts in the story, or ridiculous or unloveable traits. If he does not face them, some one else will bring them out with such emphasis that a mole on the cheek becomes the chief feature in the face. Suppose the life of an eminent divine has to be written, and it appears that once or twice in his undergraduate days he got drunk. It may be thought, very reasonably, that the fact has not the smallest significance; that, if it is stated, it will certainly be misunderstood by stupid readers; and consequently that, by a literal accuracy of record, the truth of impression which should be the writer's aim will be destroyed. But, as a matter of prudence, it may be wise to state the fact and to set it in its proper value, disregarding the foolish; otherwise it may be so