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CHRONICLE AND COMMENT
They are as good men as ever, but they are not the subjects they once were; they are not even the jokes they were.
It has been observed of the literary commentator, as of the blue-bottle fly, that he buzzes loudest just before he drops, and so while we read and listen to what is now being said of Mr. Shaw we may look for a sudden and somewhat pitiful extinction. Not that the Shaw plays will necessarily lose their present interest, but the Shaw commentator is certainly doomed. Excesses of this sort have of late years been invariably followed by periods of severe repressionof silence almost proportionate to the degree of garrulity when the talking fit was on. The hush that settled upon Trilby and Robert Elsmere endures to this day. The reader of The Man with the Hoe, if there be one, is as the owl in the desert; and upon the lips of the Omarian the spider builds its web. Men still find pleasure in the writings of Stevenson, but where are the Stevensonians? Where are the Smithites, Brownists and Robinsonians of yester-year? Let a subject once fall to the cult or the claque, let the lavish tongues of small expounders have their way, and the waters soon close over it. Let a man's name be the signal for lengthy and witless argument, like that now occasioned by Mr. Shaw's, and people soon learn to omit it. Observe the almost vindictive silence in the newspapers following Mr. Hall Caine's recent announcement of his winter's plans; observe also the deep oblivion of our own Professor Triggs.
The time-honoured retort of our newspapers to Mr. Shaw's recent rebuke of America because a subordinate official in a New York public library had placed his books on the restricted list was that he was advertising himself. The matter seemed to many too trivial to deserve his notice. To drag the country in and accuse it of publicly insulting him seemed disproportionate to the nature of the affair. The charge of American prudery (a terrible charge, if true) as contrasted with British open-mindedness towards Mr. Shaw's "ideas" seemed oddly inconsistent with the actual facts as known to Mr. Shaw and to every one else-New York flocking to see him in two theatres, London literally freezing him out of the theatre in which he was played some months ago (with such slight returns that there was no money to pay for coal); Mr. Shaw presented here without protest, prohibited there by the Lord Chamberlain as too licentious for the London stage. But of all possible retorts the weakest and most meaningless was to call him a self-advertiser - a term that applies as well to the prophet as to the fool. What has Mr. Shaw been doing these many years but advertising his "ideas"? The Shaw of the letter is the Shaw of the plays. He comes as near reality in the letter as he
does in Man and Superman. It is not a whit more unreasonable to pick out the country that has given him the warmest welcome as the country most likely to throw him into gaol than it is to see Woman as always the pursuer of Man at the behest of the "Life-force." The letter was carelessly written and the "ideas" are not so interesting when seen in déshabille, but they are quite as convincing as this view of Woman, and as many other "ideas" in the plays and the prefaces. No further information concerning Mr. Shaw could be gathered from the letter, but the discussion to which it gave rise served mainly to show that, unlike Falstaff, he is not the cause that wit is in others. People seldom appear to so great disadvantage as when discussing him, and it is probable that they will realise it before long and give up trying to think about him.
Longman's Magazine, the inheritor of Fraser's (1830-1882), discontinues publication with its current number. Its fate has been laid at the door of its cheap, illustrated competitors and taken as a sign of declining standards in literary journalism. Its contributors have certainly included many of the most distinguished writers of the day; its pages have been widely quoted, and it has earned for itself an honourable name. There was about it a certain agreeable air of abundant leisure and of freedom from the petty cares of timeliness. The passing of the seasons might be inferred from its contents, but there was little in them that could identify it with the month or even the year. The editor had the enviable privilege of choosing the articles he liked best, without regard to what other people were thinking or doing at the time. Mr. Andrew Lang, to be sure, who contributed regularly under the title "At the Sign of the Ship," showed that he now and then read the newspapers, but he was for the most part busy in other centuries. Taking it all in all it was a pleasantly meandering, dégagé sort of magazine, and contained much that its pragmatical and pictorial com
The Death of a Magazine.
petitors could not supply. Its decease is matter for regret. Still it does not offer a text for a sermon on declining standards, nor is it in any wise an exception to the law of magazine mortality—that what magazines die of is lack of wit. It might have quickened its pace without loss of dignity and it might have conceded some points to the calendar without detriment to any literary quality. Worse things succeed, but that does not prove that the better ones were too good. In the small degrees of goodness the public is not discerning, and the interval between Longman's and some others was not so great as to justify any very dolorous conclusion in regard to degenerate
Two recent deaths, one that of a great poet, vividly call to mind the power possessed by France of absorbing the foreign elements that mingle with its native population and of thus enriching the capabilities and productiveness of the French nationality. To Paul Savorgnan de Brazza, the explorer, who was born in 1852, in Rome, where his family was known by the name of Brazza Savorgnani, she owes an increase of her African empire, the whole significance of which will not fully appear until she has managed to fulfil the dream of her colonial party and to stretch a double line of steel across the desert of Sahara. To José Maria de Hérédia, born near Santiago de Cuba in 1842, she is indebted for one of the most nearly perfect collections of poems written in the French language. Hérédia was already fifty-one years of age when he published Les Trophées, the only one of his works which is not a translation. But he was known already as a great poet by the whole literary public of France. In the early sixties he was a member of a literary debating society, the "Conférence la Bruyère," in which he read to his colleagues his first Parnassian verses; one at least of these colleagues, the intellectual élite of the French jeunesse of that time, could fully appreciate the perfect workmanship of these literary gems and realise the
The Death of Hérédia.
amount of painstaking toil represented by every line on rhyme. It was his rival in Parnassian ambition, now his lifelong friend, Sully Prudhomme, who read before the same society the instantaneously famous Vase Brisé. Literature counted for so much among these brilliant young men, whom the oppressive and unintelligent policy of Napoleon III. kept away from political life! The more quickly, therefore, did the names of those whom some artistic achievement suddenly carried to the front spread among their contemporaries. Hérédia enjoyed a modest competence, and not being harassed by the problem of making his living, was in no hurry to take the public into his confidence. He kept on, laboriously carving his finished sonnets, and, a few at a time, they appeared in various literary magazines. In 1893 he collected them in book form, every one almost faultless. There are one hundred and sixteen of them, and Boileau says that a faultless sonnet is the same thing as a great poem! Certainly no one but a great poet could write the sonnet on the "Conquistadores" or the sonnet on Antony and Cleopatra, or the Romancero in terze rime which is found in the same volume.
Maria was perfectly unknown to the staff of most of the American newspapers when the cable announced his election to the Academy. They, therefore, quite naturally took down from their shelves their French Who's Who, and therefrom copied the biography of the tan-coloured politician. The story much amused the poet when related to him a few years later in his beautiful apartment of the Rue Balzac, where he has just died. He seems, moreover, to have been condemned by fate to have inaccuracies in his biographies. His obituaries almost without exception make him the son of his namesake, the great Spanish poet of the Pearl of the Antilles. Unfortunately, José Maria I. died in 1839, three years before the birth of José Maria II., whose relationship to him was comparatively remote. He gave to literature not only his life and activity, but even his own daughters, who survive him; one of them, herself a poet of no small merit, is married to the poet Henri de Régnier; the other two are the wives respectively of Maurice Maindron, the novelist, and Pierre Louys, the author of Aphrodite.
Les Trophées carried their author to the French Academy, which a months after their publication elected him against Zola. His election was the occasion of an amusing blunder on the part of a number of American newspapers. There was at that time in Paris a wealthy Cuban mulatto, French by naturalisation, who claimed relationship to José Maria, a claim never recognised by the poet, who shared the race pride of the white creoles of his native island. His name was Severiano de Hérédia. He had gone into politics, been elected to the Paris Municipal Council, then to the Chamber of Deputies, and finally, in 1887, he held for six months the portfolio of Public Works in one of the numerous short-lived cabinets of the Third Republic. All this political activity quickly got him into all the biographical dictionaries, which, of course, kept completely silent about the author of the then unpublished Trophées, so that José
Another Frenchman of note, recently dead, may be claimed to a certain extent as a bookman; we mean Godefroy Cavaignac, the former War Minister, the author of a very fair historical work, La Formation de la Prusse Contemporaine. With his political life, with his strange vagaries in regard to the revision of Captain Dreyfus's trial, with the acts of his which made him one of the leaders of the Nationalist Party and estranged him from his former political friends, the American public is fairly well acquainted. We shall recall here only one incident of his life which has not been always accurately reported. He was only in his sixteenth year, in 1868, when he won a Greek prize in the great intercollegiate contest between all the Paris lycées, the Concours Général. The Minister of Public Instruction, Victor Duruy, considered it a happy idea to have the son of General Cavaignac receive his prize from the hands of the son of General Cavaignac's old enemy, the young Prince Imperial, then a boy of
twelve. On realising what was to be done, young Cavaignac, who was watched by his mother, seated in one of the galleries, returned to his seat, which he had just left, amid the deafening cheers of his college friends and especially of the public. It was an act for which, needless to say, he was never forgiven by the Bonapartists, and which marked him out as one of the future Republican leaders.
We have been interested in reading the comments of the American press upon the Treaty of Portsmouth, for the press partly reflects and partly creates popular opinion. The Treaty of Portsmouth is undoubtedly a great historical event. In viewing it we have all stood by and watched history in the making. But whether we all understand it is quite another question. Judging by the newspaper comment just mentioned, it seems probable that very few persons, even very intelligent persons, understand it at all. Indeed, here is an example of the immediate and initial divergence of popular history and real history. The dénouement at Portsmouth was not yet twenty-four hours old before it had become crystallised into a myth; and the purely legendary account of what really happened is most likely the only account of which the average American school history will hereafter preserve any record. For all time to come, certain things will be implicitly believed by millions, although a moment's reflection ought to show their absolute absurdity. According to the mythical narrative, the story of the Portsmouth Peace will run briefly somewhat as follows: Japan and Russia being at war, President Roosevelt, a very forceful person, insisted that a peace be made, and "intervened" in such a manner that the Czar and the Mikado felt obliged to send envoys to a New Hampshire summer hotel, where they conferred regarding the terms upon which the war should cease. But the Japanese asked for the very large indemnity of $600,000,000, which the Russians were unwilling to pay. The nego
Two Kinds of History.
tiations were, therefore, in danger of miscarrying. At once, President Roosevelt sent for Baron Komura and for M. Witte and insisted that they come to an agreement. As M. Witte was a rather obdurate person, while Baron Komura was "easy," the President told the latter that it was he who must give way, and he also cabled the Mikado to that effect. Thereupon, all of a sudden, the Japanese, though victorious, hastily withdrew their demand for an indemnity, and the peace was then made hot-foot. It would not do to disoblige President Roosevelt. And so it was really he who forced the final agreement. As that marvellously facile rhapsode, Mr. Wallace Irwin, has poetically summed it up in Life:
And now when ancient grandsires sit Within the evening grey,
And oysters frolic noisilee
The greybeard tells his little niece
To drag the gentle Bird of Peace To Portsmouth-by the neck.
Such is the legend. The actual history of the affair is, of course, very different. To President Roosevelt belongs the great credit of arranging the Peace Conference and of carrying through the difficult and delicate preliminaries with extraordinary tact. The American President was, indeed, as physicians say, "indicated" as the only ruler who could successfully make the formal suggestion of a conference to Russia and Japan. The European States whose chiefs might have considered such a move were either too insignificant or too interested to make an initiative on their part acceptable. The man in the street, however, knows nothing of all the preliminaries which must have gone before the actual issuance of the President's suggestionthe discreet pourparlers, the interchange of little semi-official notes, the conferences between between the Continental and British Foreign Offices, and all the diplomatic finesse of which few ever hear, but which are absolutely indispensable. And then when the Conference had met and appeared to have met in vain-why did