Ernest Belfort Bax

Reminiscences and Reflexions of a mid and late Victorian

Chapter X
Variorum Reminiscences and Reflexions

It may not be amiss to say a few words on some of the more noteworthy men I have known otherwise than in connexion with the Socialist movement. Let us begin with Philosophy. Foremost amongst the Englishmen who took an active part in what was known as the “Young” or Neo-Hegelian movement in this country was Richard Burdon Haldane (now Lord Haldane), I first met Haldane in 1882, when this movement in Philosophy was at its height, having driven back the old English empirical or associational school (to employ a military metaphor) to its second and third line of defences. In a word, the British empirical school, whose doctrines had long been thought the final word in Philosophy, was already regarded by the up-to-date men as old-fashioned and commonplace. I saw Haldane for the first time at a meeting of the old Aristotelian Society, at which he spoke in favour of the Neo-Hegelian position. Our acquaintance ripened, and he used sometimes to come down to Croydon, where I was then living, on a Sunday, and many a walk I have had with him on the Surrey hills. Among the smaller incidents of these walks I remember, while we were crossing a field, Haldane’s impressing upon me the legal point that should any question of trespass arise in such a case, the correct thing was to tender a small coin for technical damage to the owner or his agent, with the words “I claim no right,” which should stop all further proceedings.

I can well recall a Sunday in 1885 when he arrived and informed me that he was about to devote himself to a political career, and had entered as Liberal candidate for Haddingtonshire. He proceeded to argue that the principles of Gladstonian Liberalism represented the political outcome or reflex of the Hegelian thought-movement of the “Idée.” A discussion ensued, in which I traversed his main position alike in Philosophy and in politics. Later on the champion of Woman Suffrage Bills, Haldane at this time and for some years after was opposed to the movement, remarking to me on one occasion that the main object many of these women had in desiring the suffrage was to force rascally and unjust laws against men onto the Statute-book. It is to be regretted, from the point of view of consistency, that Haldane subsequently undertook the ministerial piloting through the House of Lords of that most infamous piece of anti-male legislation, the so-called “White Slavery Act” of 1912.

Throughout his career Haldane has never abandoned his devotion to Hegel, and always has a portrait of the great German thinker near him in the room where he is working. This, together with his well-known appreciation of German thought and German literature generally, has undoubtedly been the cause of some of the attacks with which he has been assailed, with insinuations as to his being a “pro-German,” during the present war. Whatever view we may take of Haldane’s career as a politician, or of his theoretical opinions, political or otherwise, there is no doubt that he has been subjected to most unfair criticism, which is really based on the fact of his interest in the intellectual side of German life. As regards another of the accusations against him, we must never forget that a man who has not the point of view of Socialist criticism as regards all existing Capitalist governments, and hence who does not distrust them ab initio, is very likely, with the best intentions, to be befouled in his diplomatic intercourse. Besides, even apart from this, a thinker is not necessarily the best judge of character or a good reader of the intentions of men, and I for one can see nothing remarkable in the fact that Haldane, in the Spring of 1912, acting in perfect good faith, allowed himself to be, partly at least, beguiled by the Kaiser and the clever and unscrupulous politicians of the Wilhelmstrasse. After all, Haldane’s real interests have always lain in Philosophy. The real Haldane is Haldane the metaphysician. Haldane the politician is merely the ordinary, intriguing manipulator of one of the traditional parties in the State.

Of the rest of my philosophical friends and acquaintances, with the exception of Eduard von Hartmann, already referred to on a previous page, I can recall no name that would interest the general reader save that of Henri Bergson. I met Bergson for the first time at a dinner given in his honour by Mr. Wildon Carr at the Savile Club, when he was in England some few years ago. This dinner was an interesting one from many points of view. We all made afterdinner speeches I remember – Shaw, Zangwill, Graham Wallas, myself, and others, besides the guest of the evening, all contributing their quota. As may be expected, the “élan vital” and the “durée” figured largely in many of these discourses. Bergson, as he told me afterwards, was much gratified with the evening’s entertainment, and with the sociableness and informality that characterized the proceedings. I subsequently saw Bergson on different occasions in Paris, and had some interesting conversations with him. On my questioning Bergson as to why he had not dealt with certain of what are usually- regarded as the fundamental problems of Metaphysics, he replied that as yet he had not done so, as he had had his special work to do, which was to emphasize Reality as an interpenetrative movement of which Time was the essential element, in opposition to the older Metaphysics, for which the arrested moment of consciousness, reproduced in reflexion, on the analogy of spacial relation, was regarded as the prius of the world of living reality. He said further that he doubted whether the time was ripe as yet for a complete philosophic synthesis. The evolution of philosophic thought, he was of opinion, should follow a course similar to the evolution of physical science. Each worker in the field of Philosophy should, like the scientific investigator, work at his own special problem as far as possible, without attempting to spread himself over the whole field and reduce all problems equally under his purview. The time would then eventually come, each separate problem being thoroughly worked out, for the elaboration of a complete and systematic philosophic synthesis.

Bergson has told me that he was a contemporary of Jaurès as an undergraduate at the University of Paris, and, if I remember rightly, also of Sorel, the well-known writer on Syndicalism and Anarchism. Speaking of the feminist question, he expressed himself as opposed to female suffrage at the present time, but as regards the question of comparative intellectual power as between the sexes, he stated that, in looking over the exercises of his pupils, he was often unable to pronounce upon the sex of the writer until he saw the signature at the end. Respecting this point, however, I may recall to mind the remark made to me by Professor Sinzheimer, of Munich, as the result of his observation, to the effect that while in the first year or two of their university career he found that female students, as a rule, showed little or no inferiority in their work to men, yet that after this they rapidly “tailed off,” and that at the conclusion of their course of studies, the difference between the male and female students who were contemporaries, i.e. who had entered the university at the same time, was often very considerable indeed. To return to Bergson. He is one of the marvels of the age, not so much on account of his undoubted genius and literary gift of presenting the special philosophic problem or problems with which he concerns himself, as for his power of attracting the extra-philosophic popular mind. Bergson’s reputation outside the philosophic world, properly so-called, is not only greater than that of any other contemporary thinker, but there are probably few metaphysicians in the past who have enjoyed a popular fame while living anything like equal to that of the amiable and brilliant professor at the Collège de France.

Of my friend Boulting, whose excellent work on Giordano Bruno has lately been published, I have already spoken on an earlier page. Hitherto the only writings of his before the public have related to Italian history.

The International Congresses of Philosophy, to the institution of which Mr. Wildon Carr, who retired from the City to give his whole time to the interests of Philosophy, has devoted himself, were abruptly interrupted by the outbreak of the European War, just when arrangements had been made for holding the fifth Congress in London in 1915. Of the usefulness of such gatherings in the furtherance of investigation and discussion of the leading problems in the various departments of Philosophy there can be no question.

While on the subject of Philosophy, I cannot refrain from protesting against a practice dear to many academic exponents of the subject. It is a practice which may, I suppose, in the modern world be regarded as dating from Spinoza. I refer to the habit of giving to the Absolute the appellation God. This seems to me to be utterly unjustifiable from every point of view. The temptation to court popularity by using a popular theological term, nevertheless, seems to be irresistible to some thinkers. But it is a fraud and a deception, notwithstanding. The Absolute of which the philosopher speaks is not only not identical with God as ordinarily understood, but has hardly any analogy therewith. Not only the man in the street, but all persons, educated or uneducated, outside the special ranks of philosophical students, know roughly what they mean by God, and this meaning is not that of the Absolute of the metaphysician. The word God, outside Spinoza and later thinkers who have followed him, has always had a theological connotation. It has always stood for a personal or quasi-personal Being over against the world, who has created and who orders the world, as a despot orders his government, or, if you prefer it, as a loving father of patriarchal days ordered his household. Now, the Absolute of Philosophy has nothing whatever to do with this. By the Absolute is meant simply the ultimate principle which the analysis of conscious experience discloses as its own ultimate ground. It lies altogether outside the Theistic assumption. And it is, I submit, a gross deception to attempt by juggling with a word to befool the man who is seeking what Professor Gilbert Murray terms the “friend behind phenomena,” with something totally different. I know that many intrinsically honest thinkers have been guilty of this subterfuge (as it seems to me). Even such a straightforward man as the late Jean Jaurès, in his otherwise excellent and acute treatise, De la realité du monde sensible, has not been above resorting to it, a circumstance, by the way, which necessitated an explanation on his part when challenged as to his real meaning on one occasion in the French Chamber. Verily, Spinoza’s Deus sine natura has much to answer for! The example of the great Jewish philosopher has been only too largely followed by a host of epigoni up to the present day. To my thinking, as above said, to cheat the unfortunate creature hankering after the “friend behind phenomena” with the Absolute of Metaphysics is grossly unfair. What he wants is a personality over against himself, and not a metaphysical postulate embracing himself, no matter how “spiritual” the terms in which it may be interpreted.

For the rest, the increasing interest in the higher issues of speculative thought, even though its growth may be slow, is nevertheless an undoubted fact and an encouraging one. The number of people, outside purely academic circles, who take an interest in these problems is unquestionably greater than ever before. This is, of course, partly one side merely of the general spread of intellectual activity and intellectual interests among ever widening sections of the population. There is perhaps, as a consequence of the above, too much tendency to regard Philosophy as no more than a branch of general literature. But while duly discounting this fact, we are justified, I think, nevertheless, in concluding that there is far greater genuine interest and intellectual alertness, with the average intelligent man of to-day, as regards these subjects, than was the case with a similar man of (say) a couple of generations ago. At that time, the theological interest was uppermost with the serious-minded. To-day, the metaphysical interest has at least partially entered into its inheritance, the major part of human interest being necessarily and justly occupied by the problems of the physical sciences, and still more of the human sciences.

The popularity of Bergson, though partly literary and partly mere fashion, nevertheless helps to confirm the above remarks. The British interest in Kant or Hegel, or, so far as France is concerned, in Victor Cousin, was in its day not a tithe of that shown to-day in the case of Bergson. One thing is also of prime importance, and that is the general consensus of conviction that no subject of human knowledge can be treated adequately in an isolated manner, but that, in the last resort, all derive from the subject-matter of the problems with which Philosophy deals. The old theory that metaphysics is vanity has given way before a sense of the fact that the problems raised by metaphysics cannot be finally ignored or explained away, but that the human mind is doomed to seek some solution of them; if not a final solution, at least one which shall satisfy it for the present, while awaiting the more adequate one that time must inevitably bring with it. As to whether a final, in the sense of a fully adequate, solution will ever be reached, is a question the discussion of which would lie outside a book of reminiscences and more or less cursory reflexions.

Reverting from this digression into the regions of the “higher thought” to the reminiscence side of my present labours, the late poet, William Sharp, I may take as a specimen of the purely literary man. Sharp had no real interests outside pure literature. He had no special convictions on political or social matters, or on speculative questions, save insofar as they presented themselves in the guise of literary form and style. During the years 1879-80 I saw a good deal of Sharp and had many walks with him. I invariably found that all other interests with him were superficial, and contributory to the “stylistic” interest which was always the dominant one. His ambitions were purely literary, and one felt in his case what Morris used to say of Swinburne, that he ought to have been born between two calf covers. My general impression of Sharp was that while his literary faculty was obvious, he was an inconstant, uncertain, and whimsical person, liable to moods and affectations of moods, that often made themselves apparent alike socially and in his literary efforts. If I am not mistaken, Shaw, on more than one occasion, in reviewing him, trounced him somewhat severely for the artificiality of his literary emotions. He and I drifted asunder in the early eighties, and I rarely met him subsequently. In fact, I do not think I saw him at all after he had begun to publish under the name of “Fiona Macleod”. It seems undoubted that the whole “Fiona Macleod” business was a pure mystification of Sharp himself, but yet there appear to have been people who profess to have seen the original “Fiona Macleod” in the flesh, at her home in the Highlands. A friend of the present writer relates that in the year 1900, in a Paris salon – of which the hostess, it may be mentioned, was the sister of an eminent French writer – he heard a Scotchman “of credit and renown” relate a circumstantial story of a visit he paid to “Fiona Macleod,” and of her personal appearance as being that of a young and attractive woman – little more than a girl, in fact. Pressed to give details, the gentleman in question excused himself on the ground that to do so would be a breach of confidence, inasmuch as the lady wished to remain in strict seclusion until she deemed that the time had come to carry out a long-cherished plan of initiating a revival in Scottish life and literature. The statements of the guest referred to appeared to be accepted without question by the rest of the company, which included several Scotchmen. I give the fact of the party and of the reputable Scot’s story for what it is worth. It should be observed that certain crankisms of the time, notably the pose of Jacobitism then fashionable, were represented amongst the circle assembled on the occasion, the soi-disant acquaintance of “Fiona Macleod” boasting himself an ardent Jacobite The whole history of Sharp and his double shows the facility of successfully faking a quasi-myth, even in the present day.

Quite a different man from Sharp was another well-known author I used to meet sometimes in the early eighties, to wit, Havelock Ellis. An able essayist, the interests of Havelock Ellis lay in the human sciences rather than in literature. His interesting and valuable researches into the psychology of sex were subsequently enshrined in a work of five volumes, which, in spite of its strictly scientific character, was, to the shame of those concerned, prohibited in this country, and had to seek a publisher in America. Besides this monumental work on the subject, Havelock Ellis, as is well known, is the author of various books and articles dealing with the interpretation and analysis of the sexual impulse in Man, in the protean forms in which it manifests itself. Ellis is in appearance and manner the type of the quiet and laborious student. He was, I believe, at one time engaged to be married to Olive Schreiner, now Mrs. Cronwright Schreiner, of South African fame, but the engagement was broken off.

As regards Ellis’s special subject of investigation, nothing can surely well be more absurd or anachronistic in the modern world than the notion held by many persons, who ought to know better, that a ring fence should be drawn round this subject, not only as regards the freedom of its treatment in imaginative literature, but as to the publication of the results of purely scientific investigation. To ignore or exclude an important branch of practical human psychology from the research of the scientist, merely on the ground that the bare recital of the facts connected therewith may possibly offend the morbid delicacy of certain unwholesome people, is to head back progress just as much as it would be to discourage or prohibit (in the manner of the Church and Galileo) the publication of the results of scientific research in any other depart ment of knowledge. Yet this is precisely the attitude that certain members of the English judiciary took up as regards the researches of Havelock Ellis – thereby affording one more instance of the essentially obscurantist and reactionary role played by the High Court Bench in the national life.

In respect to the reactionary character of the wearers of ermine, and of the sort of quasi-divinity that doth hedge a judge in the estimation of that stolid and patient ox the British public, the national intelligence does not seem to have changed so very much within the last two or three generations. But that the national character as well as the national physiognomy within the last fifty years of the nineteenth century has altered considerably, I have the evidence of an aged American gentleman who came over to England in 1901, and shortly after his arrival paid me a visit. This gentleman, whose name was Hinton, had been one of the friends and companions of John Brown in the Harper’s Ferry incident of 1857. He wrote a history of the whole affair in an interesting book with which he presented me. What, however, especially struck me in his conversation was not so much his American reminiscences, as the astonishment he repeatedly expressed at the total change he found as between the English people of 1901 and the English people of 1848, fifty-three years before, which was the date of his last visit to this country. He had lived, it should be said, in the meantime, in a part of the United States where he had had little opportunity of meeting Britishers, either emigrants or casual visitors. According to his statement, the change was not confined merely to obvious things, such as dress, outward customs, etc., but extended to the physiognomy of the people and their natural ways and manners. The first walk, he said, that he took down the Strand on revisiting England, looking into the faces of the crowds he met, was a revelation to him. The men and women he saw appeared to him like another race from the men and women he had cast his eyes upon in a similar walk down the Strand a little more than half a century before. This was to me very interesting, as illustrating the impressions of one who had not had his perception of the difference of two generations blunted by passing through the observation of the intervening stage: leading up to the change he found.

Among the random reminiscences and reflexions in which I am taking the liberty of expanding myself in this chapter, I should not forget one or two amusing incidents in connexion with the London correspondent of a certain Italian newspaper, when he was in England. My Italian friend was one of the jolly-goodfellow sort, but possessed withal of a guileless disposition, which was taken advantage of at times by friends for the purpose of practical jokes, and by others for more sordid objects. One night, after having just cashed a cheque for five pounds in the club to which I belonged, and of which he was also a temporary member, he bought some evening journals at the corner of the Strand, handing, as he thought, five halfpennies to the newspaper boy. No sooner had he boarded his omnibus, however, than it occurred to him that he had had no money, and had for that reason cashed a cheque, with the conclusion that he had paid five pounds for his evening papers. Springing hastily from the omnibus, and rushing wildly back to the newspaper-selling corner, he found to his intense surprise that the boy was gone! On another occasion, after a convivial evening with some friends in the neighbourhood of Fleet Street, one of them kindly offered to put him in a cab to take him home to Bloomsbury. Our guileless one, who, as may be supposed, had partaken of a few whiskies in the course of the evening, fell off to sleep, and awoke anon to the consciousness of the fact that the cab-drive was an unusually long one for his destination. His attempted remonstrances with the cabman brought no result beyond the assertion that it was all right. Finally the cab drew up at the entrance to Finchley cemetery! The consternation of our journalist may be better imagined than described on the cabman’s asseveration that he had been instructed to drive there by the gentleman who had hired him.

An incident recalls itself that occurred to me in connexion with this same Italian friend, which serves to illustrate the part imagination may play in an apparently plain and obvious matter. I had arranged with the friend in question to leave the club and walk up the Strand with him, but as I was detained in the club later than I expected, he proposed I should meet him in a quarter of an hour’s time at the Strand telegraph office, where he was about, according to his custom, to dispatch his evening wire to Italy. Having finished what I was doing, I accordingly walked straight to the Strand telegraph office and inquired by name for our friend, who was known there, but was told to my surprise that he had not as yet called in that evening. The reason, I subsequently learnt, was that he had been taken aside by an acquaintance as he was about to leave the club, and had been detained by him in conversation some minutes, during which I, unknown to him, had left. But the sequel is interesting. I learnt the next day from him that a few minutes later than myself on the previous evening he had duly been at the telegraph office, and inquired whether any one had called there asking for him. The clerk replied that there had been only one gentleman, and that a few minutes previously. The gentleman in question, he said, was Italian in appearance, and spoke very broken English! A promising illustration this of auto-suggestion for the psychologist!

Many frequenters of the Athenaeum will recall the figure of old Stuart Glennie, author of sundry books on anthropology and the philosophy of history. Glennie was an old member of that distinguished literary centre. A typical old Highlander, this side-line relic of the Stuarts was not an unattractive personality, albeit intellectually he was not specially strong. In intention he was excellent, in general a good Socialist, and a keen student of history and the origin of institutions; but the ideas which he elaborated in a some what heavy and laborious style were not in themselves very original. Their main purport had been expressed before, and in many cases better expressed. Nevertheless, there are to be found in his writings, here and there, aperçus and suggestions on the subject of the general movement of history that are not altogether to be despised, His was an active mind, though of indifferent quality. In appearance and style, Glennie gave the impression of the old gaillard. Shaw has related to me how he met him in Trafalgar Square at the proclaimed meeting of November 21, 1887, and how in the middle of a conversation he, suddenly pointing with his umbrella to a movement in the crowd in another part of the square, charged off in that direction, as Shaw expressed it, “just as one of his ancestors might have done at Culloden.”

Among the recruits to Socialism in England which the new century brought with it, a prominent figure was the Countess of Warwick. Lady Warwick had always taken a keen interest in the Education question, the feeding of the children at school, etc., but it was not, I believe, before the opening of the twentieth century that she definitely declared herself a Socialist, and joined the Social Democratic Federation. Her entry into the movement was followed by a fête she gave to the London members of the body one Sunday in the Summer of 1905 at Easton Lodge, Essex, of which all present, I have no doubt, retain most agreeable recollections. I can well remember the occasion, and the democratic spirit in which this and a similar entertainment given a few years later were carried out as regards all the arrangements. Still more interesting personally are my remembrances of a week-end houseparty at Easton Lodge, at which myself and my wife were guests, in company with Hyndman, the late Walter Crane, Hunter Watts, and their wives, and of the discussions on matters political and social which took place during our stay. Lady Warwick’s generosity towards individual members of the party is too well known to need enlarging upon here. Her genuine enthusiasm in all she undertakes sometimes leads her to underrate the difficulties in the carrying out of her intentions, but the disinterestedness which she has shown in attaching herself publicly to movements from which she has nothing personal, in the shape of material advantage or social or political kudos, to gain, must always entitle her to the esteem of all democrats.

The old school of Radicals of the Cobden-Bright period, the advanced men of the sixties and seventies, formed a well marked type, intellectually and otherwise. The very advanced ones were to be found during these decades in the Dialectical Society, a London Debating Club founded in the sixties for independent discussion of all questions. Although this rule was fairly well adhered to, there were certain sets of opinions which came specially to flourish among the members of the Society, and which were characteristic of the extreme Radicalism of the period, of which Neo-Malthusianism, as the movement for the limitation of families was called, was a conspicuous instance. The late Dr. Charles Drysdale was the chief protagonist of the view that poverty sprang from large families, and that the reduction of offspring, universally practised, would, if not precisely usher in the millennium, at least bring us halfway towards it. The notion sounds funny today, but at that time it was almost an article of faith amongst advanced Radicals, and was accepted as a self-evident proposition by almost all the member of the Dialectical Society. Secularism, in the cruder form which obtained in the ranks of popular freethought at the time, was also largely represented in the Society, of which Charles Bradlaugh and Annie Besant were prominent members. Shaw also was a frequent attendant at the bi-monthly meeting, which took place in the later period of its existence at Langham Hall, Great Portland Street. The Society was rather an odd mixture. While it was not infrequently addressed by men of eminence in their several department, and in its membership were to be found some persons of good intellectual standing, it was largely composed of intelligent self-educated, middle-class men and women. I believe it finally ceased to exist somewhere at the end of the eighties, though I do not know the precise date or circumstances of its ultimate fate. The last meeting I attended must have been somewhere about 1887. It was held in a hall off Holborn, if I remember rightly. I was the lecturer of the evening, and delivered an address traversing the pretensions of Feminism, Shaw being in the chair. This was the last I knew of it directly, though I believe it dragged on an existence for some time longer.

Talking of the Dialectical Society and the old school of Radicals reminds me of a prominent member of the Society referred to in an earlier chapter – of a man who was of some mark in journalism and the journalistic side of literature in his day, Fox Bourne. He was at one time editor of the Examiner, in which capacity, it should be said, he was strenuous in carrying out those principles of free discussion and just judgment of unpopular causes which he had advocated all his life. He was also the author of a Life of John Locke in two volumes, which, as he himself admitted, was open to adverse criticism, and in fact was not altogether a literary success. But the work for which Fox Bourne will be best remembered was as the founder and secretary and the leading spirit of the Aborigines’ Protection Society. He was untiring in his advocacy of the claims of native races against the European exploiter and the military martinet acting in the service of the exploiter. Fox Bourne’s intentions in this matter were admirable, and if he failed in some cases to do all he might have done, it was often owing to his not understanding the true nature of the Capitalism whose interest it is to exploit backward races and seize their land. For though, as I incidentally mentioned in a former chapter, he was at one time a frequent visitor at Karl Marx’s house, he never understood the meaning of modern scientific Socialism. I knew him well, especially in his later years, and, agreeable as he was, I always found him hidebound in the ideas of the old individualistic middle-class Radicals of the mid-Victorian period. Not long before his death, I dined with him and the late Roger Casement at a West End London Club. The unfortunate Roger Casement, it should be said, was at that time doing good work in connexion with the Congo. My impression of Fox Bourne will remain as that of an eminently sincere, just, and consistent man, but one whose mind was unadaptable to new ideas, and whose outlook consequently remained throughout his later life extremely limited

Another man who was one of the founders of the Dialectical Society, and a constant and prominent figure there in its halcyon days, was J.H. Levy, who used to pride himself on being an ultra-individualist. While holding in the main most of the planks of the old political Radicalism, his gospel always remained Mill’s Essay on Liberty. His hatred of all State action, other than that of the barest and most necessary police regulation, was an obsession with him. His political faith might be summed lip in the phrase laisser faire à outrance. Yet, like Fox Bourne, Levy was a scrupulously tolerant person, always ready to give his opponents a fair hearing, who regarded free discussion as the first of the rights of man. He was prepared, indeed, to press this point against all comers, and on one occasion, as he told me, he got into hotwater with some of his political friends by inviting a prominent Socialist to state his case, at one of a series of meetings organized by a well-known Liberal club, against the wishes of some of the members of the organizing committee, of which he acted as secretary. Levy, it may be said, left the impression upon all who knew him, friends and foes alike, of a man of thorough sincerity in word and deed. As a matter of fact, he devoted his life, without fee or reward, to the promulgation of the theories he believed in.

About the year 1886, R.B. Cunninghame Graham began to come prominently before the British public as an advanced democratic leader. Unlike Stuart Glennie, who sprang from a side branch of the Stuarts, Cunninghame Graham, I believe, as the great-grandson of the Earl of Monteith who took part in the Jacobite Rebellion of ’15, can claim descent from the direct line of Stuart ancestry. His picturesque appearance, recalling as some say Vandyke’s Charles the First, and others a Spanish hidalgo of the sixteenth century, contributed undoubtedly to spread his fame. A fluent speaker, though hardly a brilliant orator, Graham soon found himself in the forefront of the democratic and Socialist movement of the latter years of the nineteenth century, but somehow or other, after his first few years of public life, he never made any further headway as a popular leader or as a political influence. Defeated at the General Election of 1892, he largely gave up active political work and devoted himself to literature. He mainly excels in shorter sketches of men and countries, in which his light touch and characteristic style have given him a well-earned success. Socially, Cunninghame Graham is the most charming of men, but there is one point in his character which has been adversely animadverted upon by some of his best friend, and that is his passion for fashionable dress. He never appears, or at least I and others have never seen him, either in public or in private, save in the latest most superb Bond street cut, with material to match, and this has given the profane cause to make allusions to the “tailor’s block.” This passion for playing the part of the sartorial figure is perhaps less excusable, seeing that our friend Graham is the happy possessor of a striking face and figure, such as would assert itself in any costume, even the simplest, to the advantage of the wearer.

Speaking of Cunninghame Graham leads me to recall a friend of his, a strange Scotchman, whose name, if I remember rightly, was Stirling, who wrote a weird book, published anonymously, entitled The Canon, which I can best describe as a quasi-mystical interpretation of certain principles the author found running through the history of architecture. The book I reviewed at some length at the time in the Daily Chronicle. This man, who led a lonely life in lodgings off the south side of the Strand, appeared suddenly to take on illusions as to being persecuted by certain females on the ground of his alleged attentions to some girl or other. Not having seen him for some time after the interview in which he had disclosed his fears in this connexion, myself and a friend, who also knew him decided to call at his address and inquire if he were away or ill. The servant who opened the door at first gave somewhat evasive replies to our inquiries. She subsequently admitted, however, that Stirling was no longer living, going on to tell us that his letters had accumulated for fully a week before his closed and locked bedroom door; and when at last an entrance was forcibly effected, poor Stirling was found stretched out on the bed, dead, with his throat cut.

I will conclude the present chapter with the name of a man whose personality has a double interest. His life-long championship, through good report and through evil report, of Internationalism and anti-patriotism, as patriotism is understood to-day, is well known. The name of Felix Moscheles is familiar in connexion with the International Peace and Arbitration Association. A special interest also attaches to Felix Moscheles as the son of the eminent pianist and composer of pianoforte music, Ignaz Moscheles, and as the godson of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, whose forename he bears. The aged and refined face and figure of Felix Moscheles (he is eighty-four at the time of writing) is one to impress itself on the memory. Age has certainly not staled his enthusiasm in the cause to which he has devoted his life. The journal Concord, which he edits and largely writes, in conjunction with the secretary of the Peace Association, Mr. J.F. Green, is evidence of this. Many are the anecdotes Moscheles has to tell of the music and musicians of the first half of the nineteenth century, especially of his father’s closest friend, Mendelssohn; but as these are mostly recorded in his own autobiographical memoirs, it would be superfluous to reproduce them here. He has taken great interest in collecting and preserving mementoes of the older classical composers, possessing autograph scores, besides numbers of letters from the great German masters of the, early nineteenth century. A particularly precious relic is a curl from the head of Beethoven, with whom his father as a young man was acquainted. Felix Moscheles’s pleasantest recollections of his days as an art student in Paris connect themselves with Rossini, at whose house at Passy he was a frequent visitor. Meyerbeer, I believe, he also knew. He speaks of Auber as a somewhat disagreeable man socially, and says that this was also the opinion of his father and Mendelssohn. I should not forget to mention Moscheles’s gifts as an artist. While his “genre” painting is sufficiently striking, it will be probably on his skill as a portrait-painter that his future fame will rest. He has in tnis branch a singular faculty of reproducing the finest shades of expression in his sitters. His portraits of Mazzini, of George Jacob Holyoake, of the late William Clarke, the journalist, and many more, afford evidence of what is said.


Last updated on 28.3.2004