[From Letters of T. E. Brown, 1900]
THESE volumes need no apology. ' Request of friends' is indeed the occasion of their being published, but not the justification. Everything in literature that can be called sui genera's deserves to see the light; and of the most characteristic of these letters it may at least be said that they do not resemble any others to be found in literature. This does not of necessity imply an attempt to place the writer in the highest class of letter-writers, or indeed to place him at all. Comparative estimates in this kind are seldom satisfactory. It is enough to claim for these letters, what cannot be claimed for the letters of every man of genius, that their individuality and variety are a perpetual surprise-were a perpetual surprise even to those who knew the writer best. As one of his friends put it, ' You never come to the end of Brown.' There has been much talk of late about the art of letter-writing. Mr. John Morley, I think, produced a class-list of the masters of the craft; and a brilliant article in the Nineteenth Century of July, 1898, discussed with delightful copiousness their different fascinations. An examination of the styles there passed in review would support what I have said of the novelty of this contribution to epistolary literature. Gray, Cowper, Byron, Lamb, Fitzgerald, not one of these has a manner of which Brown's could be called a reproduction, or to which his manner could really be compared. If there is in it something of the allusiveness of Lamb, it is still not Lamb's allusiveness but his own. Cowper and Fitzgerald-separated as they are by something like a century-have that in common which is emphatically not a characteristic of these letters. Cowper wrote, he said, ' nothing above the pitch of everyday scribble': and no admirer of Brown could contend that his slightest fragment could be so described; while the ' carelessness' which so charms us in Fitzgerald is no less absent. Brown knew he was not careless. ' I like,' he said, ' to please my friends.' But in Pope's phrase, ' There's a happiness as well as care'; and the best things in these letters, like the best things in the writer's conversation, came with a rush of spontaneity, and were lavished indifferently on the simple and the cultivated.
This introduction is not intended to anticipate the reader's judgment on the letters. That the man who wrote them was rarely gifted is a fact sufficiently obvious to the small public who know his poems; and the conviction that a similar verdict would be passed upon his letters has made his friends desire their publication.
Brown acquired his manner early, and it is noticeable even in his undergraduate letters. A week or so before his death he spoke to me of some of them with satisfaction, having read them over again at his sister's house, after the lapse of nearly half a century. He contrasted them, I remember, with others only a little earlier, which seemed to him hopelessly crude. In the earliest letters I have been shown there is nothing to call for so harsh a judgment, but they are wholly unlike those with which all his friends are familiar; and while the religious sentiment in them is unquestionably sincere, it employs a language more conventional than can be anywhere discovered in his later manner. On the other hand, it should be said that the letters to which I am referring were written by a youth-at most by a very young man-to a revered senior to whom he was under great obligations. I am justified in using the phrase 'wholly unlike his later manner,' but there is in them at times a startling precocity of phrase that prepares us for that penetrating vigour which is perhaps the most obvious characteristic of the letters taken as a whole.
Moreover, these earliest letters show a force of character and a determination remarkable in a boy of eighteen, a fixed resolve to do the best for himself and for his mind. They show, too, something which was true of him all through his life-that he would carry out no resolve, however cherished, at the expense of gratitude, or courtesy, or consideration for others. I have drawn freely on them for the purposes of this memoir, though I have not inserted them among the other letters, for the man is there unquestionably, even if the letter-writer is less recognizable.
It is much hoped that the friend to whom is inscribed the ' Epistle,' which some at least would rank first among Brown's poems, may be induced to give the world an adequate biography. For the purpose of this work a mere outline of his life, enough to serve as commentary to the letters, is all that is required.
Even to the biographer proper his life will be found curiously devoid of incident. It was by deliberate choice the vita fallens. Reading and writing poetry, seeing or writing to his friends, taking long solitary walks, were to him satisfying pursuits; for common ambitions he had no use.
In distinguished company he was not unfrequently silent, and never claimed position or recognition for himself. 'Recognition,' says a lady who knew him well, 'he never seemed to expect.' Yet he was quite alive to his own powers (as may be seen in more than one notable passage in the letters), though content, like Goldsmith, to draw his bills on posterity. Once when I remarked on the omission of his name in an article on 'Minor Poets' in one of the magazines, he said with a smile, 'Perhaps I am among the major! '
The friend who spoke of his indifference to recognition also dwelt on the singular combination in him of extreme modesty with a certain proud reserve. There were, in truth, two selves in him-one which mixed with his fellows on terms of perfect equality, and another which inhabited a land of dreams: he was never tired of insisting on the value of dreams. Yet his dreams were not dreamy but rather open visions, great-perhaps his greatest-realities. And here too he conversed on terms of equality with somebody or something; one may surmise with the Muses. ' I never am, and never can be alone,' is a phrase in one of the letters. An old pupil, who had been much with him, once said to me when I thought I was beginning to know him well, ' You must not think you know all about Brown because you see so much of him. However intimate he may be with his friends, there is quite another Brown who takes long solitary walks on the Downs.'
I have been often reminded, when I reflected on the scant public recognition his rare gifts had received, of a story in Valerius Maximus. I fancied he must often in those dreams of his have heard Apollo saying to him what the disappointed musician said to his favourite pupil when the theatre refused to applaud-cane mihi el musis!
A life so full of interest, and so barren of incident, is not an easy one to record; but it is one of the blessings conferred by great letter-writers that they tell the most difficult part of their story-the part which needs no external stimulus to heighten its interest-with a fullness impossible to the biographer. Still any biographical comment is some help, and I will put down here what I have been able to gather about Brown's early days and the home from which he came.
Thomas Edward Brown was born in the Isle of Man on May 5, 1830. He was the sixth of ten children. His father, the Rev. Robert Brown, was then living in Douglas, and was Incumbent of St. Matthew's Church. Brown's last verses, written some two months before his death (a new 1 church was to be erected on the site of the old one), showed how deeply he was thrilled by the associations of that early time, though too remote for reminiscence: for he was only two years old when his father was made Vicar of Kirk Braddan, near Douglas.
The verses on 'Kirk Braddan Vicarage,' as well as the poem called ' Old John,' crowded as they are with reminiscence, illustrate with a more searching force and a greater fullness what associations meant to him. Life 'rooted in the past' was a favourite theme, and what he would have called a back-seeking note was never absent from thought and speech. He was often saddened with the haunting consciousness of how little would survive him of that past to which he clung so tenderly.
The Vicarage was a low white house, with an upper floor that sloped as in old inns. The garden was in squares of fruit and vegetables, and bordered by flower-beds. The flowers were chiefly moss and cabbage roses, narcissus and wallflowers. It is not unimportant to mention these things, as flowers had an extraordinary fascination for him, and his letters are full of them-of his delight in his first crocuses, of the melancholy suggested by snowdrops, of the delicate bog-bean in the marshes, and the hopeful honeysuckle so early in leaf. I remember bringing him yellow flags (wild iris) at Clifton, and his telling me at once of the one place in his island where he had found them. He thought too he could remember when the fuchsia, now so abundant there, was comparatively rare in gardens. Again, when I was staying at Clevedon in 1897, he told me to notice how the smell of the sea mingled with the smell of the wallflower on the walls above it.
To the east the view from Braddan Vicarage included a strip of sea. The house looked south-east, and that view was bounded by Douglas Head. There were fields beyond the garden-the scene of the potato-picking and hay-carrying described in 'Old John'-and the house was sheltered by trees, ash and sycamore.
No phrases of a meagre memoir can tell how Brown's boyhood nourished itself in the uneventful life at the Vicarage, but it can be guessed from the two poems I have mentioned, and from the letters.
'Old John,' the old Scotch man-servant, was, I have been told, a rather crabbed specimen of humanity; but it is clear that the strength of his character and affections were of a kind to make a deep impression on an imaginative temper, and to such a temper his companionship would be both enlarging and enlightening.
Brown was fifteen 2 before he went to King William's College. Till that age he was taught arithmetic and book-keeping by the parish schoolmaster, and English and the elements of Latin by his father.
The vicar's eyesight was weak, and he made his boys read to him, sometimes four hours at a stretch. The historical English classics were read over and over. In one of the letters speaking of the value of the Waverley Novels, and how they supplied the historical impulse, Brown mentions that he and one of his brothers lined their bedroom with a series of historical portraits. With these readings and the company of the Waverleys there would seem to have been no lack of education in the most real sense during this early period.
The Vicar of Braddan was no ordinary man. Of this his published sermons, some of which I have read, are sufficient evidence. His son loved to tell of an occasion when he noticed a distinguished stranger in the congregation arrested and surprised into earnest attention by a preacher so uncommon.
He was so fastidious about composition that he would make his son read some fragment of an English classic to him before answering an invitation There were those who could not understand how a man so conspicuous for Evangelical piety could attach so much importance to a question of style and manner. But his son was not one of them. ' To my father,' he said, ' style was like the instinct of personal cleanliness.'
He wrote verse as well as prose; and the family were proud to remember that one of his published poems had brought him an appreciative letter from Wordsworth. Though Brown did not rate very high his father's poetical powers, he was much moved by his verses; and once sent me a hymn of his father's, for which, from its associations, the bygone manner being one of them, he had a feeling that could not be described as mere filial tenderness. He described his father's manner as stern and undemonstrative; if he liked his son's reading, or approved of verses which he had set him to write, I think the eulogistic phrase was, ' That will do, sir'; or surprising him at the piano and evidently pleased, he would merely say, ' Go on, sir.' But it seems he had much potential emotion, and this appeared from time to time, though characteristically enough in the pulpit and not in the Vicarage. It is recorded of ' Old John ' that he liked his master's sermons best ' when he was crying'! When Brown spoke of himself as ' a born sobber,' perhaps he was conscious of deriving some small part of his emotional inheritance even from this severely reticent and self-contained father.
Mr. Brown was never at a University, and his scholarly habit of mind was therefore a very striking proof of originality-such habits being rarely formed without more encouragement.
I may seem to have written of Brown's father at disproportionate length for so slight a memoir. There is, however, one very interesting letter which may be the clearer for this commentary; and to me, at least, there was in all that Brown told of his father (and he spoke to me constantly of him) that which shed an uncommon light on his own pieties and sympathies.
Brown's mother was of Scotch extraction, though born in the Island: and her son would often say how much of the latent Scotchman in him rushed to the surface when he was in Scotland, or taking part in some Burns commemoration.
Mrs. Brown 3 was a diligent reader all her life, and a great reader of poetry. Besides literary feeling, she had a keen wit-a more daring and masculine wit, her son has told me, than is common in women-and strong practical common sense. Of her son's affection for her, of his consciousness of all he owed to her and had inherited from her, of his self-denying efforts to help her, there is testimony of every kind.
As he became older, I at least noticed a growing likeness to her portrait.
Brown was shy and timid, his sister says, as a boy, with a shyness that never quite left him; but he none the less lived by choice in the very centre of the family, and could do his lessons, sitting with them and joining in the talk.
It would seem that the beginnings of his life, like his life as a whole, never needed the stimulus of events. Mind and character, imagination and observation, fostered as they were by his mother's force and brightness and his father's high standards in study and in taste, grew and throve on a smaller experience, on fewer aids to reflection, than would suffice for natures less happily constituted and conditioned.
Of Brown's school-days I have some reminiscences from three of his oldest friends-from Archdeacon Gill, Rector of Kirk Andreas in the Isle of Man, from the Archdeacon of Manchester, the Rev. J. M. Wilson, and from the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford, Dr. Fowler, President of Corpus. Archdeacon Gill was his class-fellow and close friend during the whole of his time at King William's College' (1846-1849), He recalls how Brown's ' easy translations from the classics excited the admiration of the Form, and how our head master, Dr. Dixon, with whom he was a special favourite, praised them.' He distinguished himself too in verse composition, Greek, Latin, and English; the last-'a regular week-day exercise with us in those days-gave promise of the remarkable poetic power which he afterwards developed.' Archdeacon Gill wishes, as all Brown's friends must wish, that these early efforts had been preserved.
At school, apparently, ' he would not attempt to study mathematics, for which he had a decided distaste,' but at Oxford he laboured at them painfully, and in a letter to Archdeacon Moore 4 he not only speaks of mathematics ' taking up much of his time in the vacation and puzzling him unmercifully,' but also refers in most grateful terms to the mathematical Tutor of Christ Church 5 , ' the kindest and most diligent of men,' who was then leaving Oxford for the living of Sheering in Essex. ' His kindness to me was very great, and the patience with which he sat down to the investigation of my somewhat puerile difficulties, admirable. I could not have experienced a greater loss. There was a kind of emulation between us; he worked, and I worked, and his example had greater influence with me than his precepts. He likes a steady workman in preference, I fancy, to a man of very brilliant parts, so that I suited him pretty well.'
I have thought it worth while to insert this reference to college days, as showing that the consciousness of easy power which came to him at school was not enough for him when largely by his own force of will he had secured an entrance into the University, and had resolved it should yield to him all it had to give. So strong was this resolve that in the same letter he confesses to over-working, ' reading sometimes twelve hours a day and even more, and rising from his labour with his brain almost on fire.'
Archdeacon Gill speaks of him as ' emphatically a manly, vigorous boy,' but ' being a day-boy he was seldom at school during the hours of play, and I do not remember ever to have seen him taking part in any school game.'
These reminiscences conclude with a sentence on which perhaps the only comment needed is that suggested by the writer, that only Brown's friends knew Brown, and not all of them. 'He had then, as throughout his life, a strong sense of humour, with a keen eye for any little peculiarity of voice, or accent, or manner, and it is to be feared that his rather indiscreet use of his great power of mimicry sometimes gave offence to those who did not know (as his more intimate friends did) how incapable his kindly, gentle soul was of willingly hurting any one's feelings.'
Dr. Fowler, who was Brown's junior by a year and a half, mentions that among his school-fellows were Dean Farrar and Professor Beesly. He himself, he says, did not become acquainted with Brown till August, 1848 (he entered the school in January), when he was promoted into the head Form. 'As soon,' he goes on, ' as we began to have our lessons together, we seemed drawn to each other by some natural affinity: We were both day-boys, and, as our roads lay in the same direction, frequently walked home or to school together. Our intimacy matured, and these casual walks were soon developed into afternoon walks on half-holidays. On these occasions, our conversation was not about athletics, as it might have been in these days, but about literature, history, politics, theology, and, perhaps above all, about the beautiful scenery amidst which we rambled. To those who know the southern portion of the Isle of Man, the attraction of this last topic will not seem strange when I mention the rocks at Scarlet, South Barrule, Langness Point, Derby Haven, Balla Salla, Kirk Malew, Kirk Santon, &c. Brown was already an enthusiast about the scenery of his native island, and it was not long after our acquaintance began before I detected the touch of genius which was characteristic of him throughout life.'
Archdeacon Wilson was too much Brown's junior to know him at school, but his reminiscences seem almost the more vivid for that fact.
'I can well remember,' he says, ' as a small boy of eleven just placed in the fifth class at King William's College, having Brown pointed out to me, not without awe. He was said " to know more than any master " and "to have written the best Latin prose that the University examiners had ever seen"! F. W. Farrar had just left the school, and was remembered. T. Fowler was there still; and other giants, whom we looked at with reverence. But Brown we thought was more than they. Wherever he was, there was life at its fullest. Of course he never saw or spoke to a youngster like me.
He lived somewhere on " The Green," and walked up, about half a mile, to school. It was only then that I saw him, coming to school or leaving it, with his friends. But I remember the shouts of joyous laughter; the pause in the walk; the head thrown back; the grave listening, lips tightly closed; the explosion into words, and the talk endless, varied, brilliant.'
'This was from August, 1848, to March, 1849, during which months his school-days and mine overlapped. If I had never seen him again, he would live as a distinct figure in my memory.
Five years afterwards he was there at a prize-day, when my twin-brother and I carried off a good many prizes. The great Oxford scholar spoke to the promising schoolboy, and a life-long friendship began.
'His memory was always fresh in the College. A year or two later, but before he came back as a master, I was present at a prize-day, and proposed cheers for some distinguished old members of the school. Major Anderson was present, who so gallantly defended Lucknow, and Captain Griffiths, my own contemporary, another hero of the Mutiny. But I let myself go about Brown also; and the school showed that they had not forgotten him, and that he was among their demigods.'
I may mention that Mrs. Williamson, Brown's sister, well remembered this occasion-the eulogy and its reception.
Brown left school in March, 1849, and read by himself at home till he went up to Oxford in October. The interval seems to have been an anxious one, and even before he left school he was considering his future and writing about it to his revered friend Archdeacon Moore. His gratitude to this friend was warmly expressed at the time, but he has left a more enduring record of it in some reminiscences 6 written for another friend long afterwards.
In these letters he discusses ways and means most earnestly, asks about the societies which help those who require assistance to go to the University, and discusses his claim on the fund which had been established in aid of the widows and children of clergy in the Manx diocese. In speaking of this he is most careful to provide against any infringement of his mother's claim. ' I cannot long remain 7 dependent upon her, and if I cannot procure, by some means or other, maintenance at the University, I must enter upon some other employment less congenial to my tastes, but more satisfactory to my finances than literature.'
'My hopes may be, and indeed I fear are, too sanguine, but they can never be realized as a matter of course without making a trial. . . . With regard to my age, I was eighteen last May.'
'Literature '-'sanguine hopes.' The schoolboy of eighteen may have thought of another and more ambitious fulfilment even than a brilliant University career, but assuredly the man had his share of the ' employment most congenial to him,' however impeded by others less congenial.
Some of his friends had suggested a Dublin degree, it being possible to stand for examinations for a degree there without residence. In common with all who have any sentiment about a University, and not least with all who have a sentiment about Trinity College, Dublin, this ' hocus-pocus fashion of going to Dublin' was 'repugnant' to the boy of eighteen;, his object was----' not a degree at any price to cover my nakedness, but the acquisition of academical learning.'
Eventually, through the efforts of Archdeacon Moore and the Bishop of St. Asaph (Dr. Short), he was admitted by Dean Gaisford to a servitorship at Christ Church. ' The opening is made,' he writes. ' I trust I shall never forget to whom I owe the first application of the wedge.'
What the position of a servitor was between 1850 and 1852 he himself told the public in an article in Macmillan's Magazine ; and though I have heard that there is exaggeration in this article, there is no doubt he did not exaggerate what the position was to him. I have heard him refer to it over and over again with a dispassionate bitterness which there was no mistaking. There were, however, escapes. He must be thought, he fears, ' a very discontented restless being. . . . After all, the lines have fallen unto me in comparatively pleasant places.' One of his letters to his mother gives an account of a great walk to Cumnor full of literary and other interest, and Dr. Fowler ' retains a vivid recollection of many pleasant rambles with him through Bagley Wood, Stow Wood (both of which were then unenclosed), over Shotover, Boar's Hill, and specially through the Happy Valley, which was his favourite walk.' He speaks, too, of Brown's 'racy anecdotes picked up in the vacations'; of literary conversation; how he luxuriated in English poetry, and how fond he was of , such quaint books as Wood's Athenae Oxonienses.'
Going on the river up Godstow way,' as well as other pleasant things, are recorded in the letters. Not the least is the kindness and appreciation of Dean Gaisford ' in all his dealings with me.' Yet that excellent man and famous scholar, for whom Brown had an unbounded admiration, absolutely refused to nominate him, after his two First Classes, to a Studentship, though urged to do so by all the resident Students (Tutors and Censors included). "' A servitor," he says, " never has been elected Student-ergo he never shall be "-an interesting specimen of ratiocination'!! After this, the bitterness about the servitorship is hardly to be wondered at. At any rate, he records that the first night after his double First was ' one of the most intensely miserable I was ever called to endure.'
Besides the Dean, Dr. Jacobson, Regius Professor of Divinity, was very kind and appreciative, sending him a present of books on account of his excellent examination in the Craven Scholarship. It is also very pleasant to hear of ' the delight, the sincere and unaffected heartiness with which the men (both Tutors and undergrads (sic)) congratulated' him on his First.
There was another kind of ' escape' on which he lays characteristic emphasis-music; perhaps at all times the greatest solace of his life. ' R. possesses an excellent piano, and was agreeably surprised to find that I was more than a match for him on that instrument. I do not know of anything that gave me more pleasure during the whole Term than that pleasant ramble over the keys, after my two months' fast.'
There is an allusion in one of his early letters to his pleasure in Aristophanes ; and I have heard him describe how the lecturer would leave the construing to him and another undergraduate of similar vivacity, and how it was a sort of έπίδειξις of emulation in reproducing the spirit of the original-even to the giving of Scotch or Irish equivalents for the dialect passages.
I have already mentioned his close reading in his early Oxford days, but from this he desisted in vacation, at least latterly, even confessing to ' a reactionary fit of laziness ' ; but it is characteristic that the next sentence speaks of the helpfulness of the school library; ' a library, by-the-bye, which seems to exist for my special use and benefit, for I don't know of any one besides myself who troubles it much.'
His feeling about libraries was always the same. Within the last ten years I remember his speaking to me of some eminent person who had asked him to lunch. ' I shall think quite differently of him now,' he said. ' After lunch he took me to his library, and left me there alone, for two hours.' The humanity of this greatly impressed him.
His academical career,' says Dr. Fowler, 'may be truly described as a peculiarly brilliant one.' He not only obtained a double First Class in 1853, but 'found himself in April, 1854, in the proud position of a Fellow of Oriel.' Bishop Fraser was one of the examiners, and long afterwards spoke to one of Brown's friends of his English Essay in the Fellowship examination.
One of the things I remember which he referred to with genuine gratification was an evening at Oriel not long after his election, when he sat next Dean Church, who consulted him, with a most complimentary deference, on some literary point.
' He never took kindly,' Dr. Fowler thinks, ' to the life of an Oxford Fellow.' ' He had no wish,' he wrote as an undergraduate to Archdeacon Moore, 'to fatten on a Fellowship,'' an Oxford Tutorship did not attract him'; and after a few terms of private pupils he returned to his native island, and presently accepted the office of Vice-Principal of King William's College 8.
In the following year (1857) Dr. Fowler ' had the pleasure of making a journey to the Isle of Man for the purpose of marrying him, at the quaint little church of Kirk Maughold, to his cousin Miss Stowell, the daughter of Dr. Stowell of Ramsey.'
While he was a bachelor master at King William's College, Mr. Wilson used to ' spend short portions of Cambridge vacations with him' in his lodgings at Derby Haven. ' What do I recall? First, the little fishing-boat or skiff. In glorious early mornings or half-holiday afternoons, out we would go into the " Race " that runs off Fort Island and Langness, with a long line to catch mackerel, in a breeze that brought the gunwale far nearer to the water than I liked.
And he'd sit in the starn and he'd tuck his tails,
And well he knew how to handle the sails.
And then there were the evenings in his lodgings, or elsewhere, with Van Laun or others. O noctes cenaeque deum ! the cenae simple enough. But such stories and conversations, and involuntary mimicry-every story told so as to reproduce the very man of whom the story was told. Then he went to the Crypt School 9, Gloucester, and I went to Rugby.' The time at Gloucester he greatly disliked, though he tells his mother he is gradually become very thick-skinned in presence of annoyances; but he does not deny his longing for his island, and is ' one of the most patriotic exiles it can boast,' quite thrilled by the associations of heather and gorse when he finds them in the Forest of Dean.
He still corresponded with Mr. Wilson; and when the Bishop of Hereford (Dr. Percival) was appointed to Clifton College, he asked Mr. Wilson if he knew of some one to take the Modern Side. ' I named Brown; and he came over (to Rugby) to be interviewed. He spent an evening at my lodgings. About half a dozen of us dined there. I warned Brown that he must be on his good behaviour. He did not take my advice. Never was Brown so great. I still remember the Manx songs with their odd discordant pianoforte accompaniment and final shriek; the paradoxes; the torrent of fun and talk; and the stories :-
Stories, stories, nothing but stories,
Spinnin' away to the height of your glories.
Percival, I think, was the first to leave, his usual gravity having been completely shattered 10. Next morning I asked him, not without anxiety, what he thought of Brown. " Oh, he'll do," said Percival. And so he came to Clifton 11.'
But this was not the only interview. The Bishop of Hereford recalls another, and a characteristically different one. The varium et mutabile in Brown was called out by nothing so much as by places, and the mood in Rugby was not the mood in Oxford.
'You ask me,' the Bishop writes, 'about T. E. Brown's coming to Clifton, and I can only reply that I have no story to tell about it. The events of thirty-six years have overlaid the memory of our first acquaintance. It will, however, interest all Cliftonians to know that it is to our friend Archdeacon Wilson, himself destined afterwards to contribute so much to the life of the school, that Clifton owes T. E. B. and all the wealth of associations that cluster round his name and his memory.
' By some strange mischance he had become Head Master of the Crypt School, Gloucester. How he got there I do not know. The explanation may possibly be the very simple one that the brilliant young Fellow of Oriel, characteristically disregarding all thoughts of worldly prospects, and yielding to the impulse of his romantic Manx temperament, had married his cousin and turned his back on Oxford; and so, like many another poor man, had to take up such work as came to hand.
'Mr. Wilson having told me about him, I made an appointment to see him in Oxford, and there, as chance would have it, I met him standing at the corner of St. Mary's Entry, in a somewhat Johnsonian attitude, four-square, his hands deep in his pockets to keep himself still, and looking decidedly volcanic 12.
We very soon came to terms, and I left him there under promise to come to Clifton as my colleague at the beginning of the following Term; and, needless to say, St. Mary's Entry has had an additional interest to me ever since.
Sometimes I have wondered, and it would be worth a good deal to know, what thoughts were coursing through that richly furnished, teeming brain as he stood there by St. Mary's Church, with Oriel College in front of him-thoughts of his own struggles and triumphs, and of all the great souls that had passed to and fro over the pavement around him ; and all set in the lurid background of the undergraduate life to which he had been condemned as a servitor at Christ Church.
' His father's well-intentioned friend the Archdeacon of Man, knowing the scanty resources of the Manx parsonage and the need of economy, but apparently not knowing either the temperament or the genius of the boy, had advised his going as a servitor to Christ Church; and purblind teachers let him go, instead of sending him to some such place as Balliol, where he might worthily have been enrolled as one of the most highly gifted of her scholars. However, I need not trouble you with these reflections, for they are neither a relevant nor an adequate answer to your inquiry, and yet they are all I have to send.'
With Brown's coming to Clifton 13 this memoir, as memoir, may end. I have been able to procure some reminiscences of a colleague older than myself who saw much of Brown in the earlier days of the school, and also those of a distinguished pupil. The first are important, not merely from the point of view of friendship,but because the writer speaks with authority on a subject most vital to Brown's happiness and closely bound up with his personality-that of music. The second are not less important, as giving the judg- ment of a man of letters on Brown as a teacher. It was known that Brown rather resented his calling, and it was generally believed that he was ineffective and indifferent as a teacher. Boys, I think, in this matter were more discerning than some of their elders. They were quite aware that some lessons did not interest him, and that he gave himself little trouble over them; but where the literature or the history was great they recognized-quite undistinguished pupils recognized- the difference, and spoke of those lessons as things they could never forget. Moreover, some of this testimony was quite recent and did not belong to his earlier time. The boys, however, knew of him in other aspects than that of a teacher-for he both preached and lectured (on Sunday evenings). Of one of the most impressive sermons I shall give some extracts later. The element of surprise awaited us here as elsewhere. I shall never forget his inculcating on the school the duty of leading the common life: and how without emphasis, but with quiet irony, he met the supposed objection-that the child of genius could not be fettered by the requirements of a system -I Be content, my friends; he has not come to us yet'
His lectures or addresses-sometimes written, sometimes 'inimitable brilliant talk'-were equally unforgettable. I wish I could give a list of his subjects- sometimes he talked of music, sometimes of literature. (Three were on Hooker, Crabbe, and Quarles.) Once he told us the story of the Peel life-boat, another time he lectured on 'Manners.' Archdeacon Wilson reminds me of its most characteristic passage: ' I am certain God made fools for us to enjoy, but there must be an economy of joy in the presence of a fool; you must not betray your enjoyment.'
It did not matter whether he was reading or talking; what was seen and heard was an individuality by which the least interesting, least interested part of his audience must have been arrested as no presence had ever arrested them before.
What else there is to tell of his uneventful life at Clifton, so full of interest to himself and others, and of the last five years in his island, must be left to the letters to tell.
It must not however be forgotten that Betsy Lee and all his published poetry were written, and all except his last volume published, while he was at Clifton. Whatever name and fame they brought him came to him here: and the pleasure and solace of writing verse helped more than most things to fill his life with content.
'Name and fame' are words one has a right to use, in spite of the fact that the poems cannot be called well known. Betsy Lee, when it appeared in Macmillan's Magazine (May and April, 1873), drew from 'George Eliot' a notable tribute, and that was far from being the only recognition of a new poet by those who spoke with authority. Betsy Lee was published separately in 1873 by Messrs. Macmillan, and F'o'c's'le Yarns (including Betsy Lee) in 1881 (a second edition appeared in 1889). Messrs. Swan Sonnenschein & Co. published in 1887 The Doctor and other Poems. This volume bore his name, as did also The Manx Witch and other Poems, in 1889, and Old John and other Poems, in 1893. The two last-named volumes were published by Messrs. Macmillan.
In the Quarterly Review of April, 1898, appeared a notice at once discriminating and informing of his poetry as a whole.
I may be allowed perhaps to say something from my own experience of the rarest personality that, it has been my fortune to be acquainted with. In some respects I was disqualified for the fullest intimacy. For one thing I was, in his own phrase, in partibus immusicorum, and that was the gentlest of his phrases about this deficiency. Then his poems in dialect, though I enjoyed them, never appealed to me as his last volume did, and this should have been, to a less generous man, another disqualification.
Of the sea again, the object of his passionate devotion, I knew nothing as I ought to know. This egotism 14 is, I hope, pardonable, for it is necessary if I am to explain how his many-sided nature could so support an unequal friendship that the inequality was hardly felt.
I had been some two years at Clifton before I got to know Brown: but after our intimacy began I found fresh occasion for wonder every year at some new revelation of character and capacity. The first thing that not unnaturally invited friendship was his extraordinary gift of sympathy. The small things which interested his friends--the small pleasures and the small pains-were never below his reach. The merest fragment of ' coterie speech' was worth explaining to him. You were so certain of his gauging its significance to you. Humani nihil a me alienum puto was the motto of his talk as of his letters; but humani is not enough to say, for the personal interest went far beyond that, and this is one reason why so many of the letters to friends can only be represented by extracts. He gave himself without stint, his time, his thought, his powers; but the self was the greatest gift of all. That best self-its humour, its brilliance, its infinite variety-was all poured out for the single friend. Indeed the single friend was more likely to get that best than a large company, for he said of himself, as Cowper did, that he had a large stock of silence always at.command, and this silence was more commonly seen in large companies.
He was just the man for unequal friendships. Nothing that he ever said or did would hint to one that he thought of himself as a shade better than his fellows. Only when one had time to reflect on an evening with him or a walk with him in which he had flashed into phrase after phrase or fancy after fancy, did it suddenly strike one that these novelties were all individual, that they were all different expressions of one and the same personality, and that neither your optimism nor your experience had prepared you for meeting such a man in ordinary life-, a man that would be incredible had one not known him,' as Fitzgerald said of Spedding. One can be grateful now, one could not then, for the illusion of equality was never disturbed.
One is conscious now of much self-reproach, thinking of all the chances of enlargement, and the scant use made of them: then one only thought of enjoyment. They were times of refreshing to look back to all one's life:-
Or other worlds they seemed, or happy isles.
But apart from the courtesy and generosity, the affection and consideration, which drew from all who called him friend the tribute of admiring love, there was that which made the merest acquaintance stand at gaze; something 'elemental, absolute, infallible'- to use three of his favourite adjectives about great men and great things. When he thus ' let himself go,' he would characterize things and persons with truthfulness so vivid or paradox so grotesque that delight was almost smothered in gasping astonish ment. His humour was then at the top of its bent, and his mimicry simply indescribable. I have watched him while he altered his face almost, and his voice wholly beyond recognition, when he was personating some one in a story he was telling. Mimicry is indeed possible to very common natures; but theirs is 'the mirth without images' of which Rasselas speaks. Brown's mimicry was often caricature, but it was the caricature of an overflowing imagination, not the caricature of a photograph. He could be Rabelaisian too at times, though always with a reservation very characteristic of him. ' There are,' he said, 'nice Rabelaisians, and there are nasty Rabelaisians ; but the latter are not Rabelaisians.'
Here, as elsewhere, nothing human, no one phase of human nature's many moods, was alien to him. There was something too which seemed to separate him from other men in the kind and degree of his sympathy with external nature. He was himself conscious of this to some extent, and has expressed it in his letters (I think he is speaking of a late spring day in his beloved marsh country, the Curragh). 'These are the times,' he said, ' when my highest power comes to me.'
Nor shall I ever forget his ecstasy over Fair Head in the County Antrim when we visited it together in 1895. It was worth going many miles to see.
This feeling of intimacy with external nature was one he cherished very carefully. ' I like,' he said, ' to stay in a country till I know it in and out. That is far more to me than seeing many places.'
But whatever this intimacy was, it was not like his other gifts. One felt oneself outside; one looked on, one could not share. As one friend said, ' He seemed in possession of some great secret of nature which he was not free to impart to us.'
Another thing that was quite unlike anything I have known in others was the universal quality of his literary sympathy, and its intensity. This did more than anything else to establish our friend- ship; for though vast tracts of literature where he could 'rest and expatiate' were unknown to me, my own meagre domain seemed larger and richer when he expounded our common affection for it.
'Expounded' is a very poor word--though it is something to have the best reasons given for the faith that is in you, even when you feel your instinct beyond and above criticism.
But really it was nothing that could be called exposition. It was the spontaneous outflow of feeling deeper than one's own because the whole nature was deeper:-
And while we others sip the obvious sweet,
..... Lo! this man hath made haste
And pressed the sting that holds the central seat.
It was no creed to be recited, it was an atmosphere in which he lived and breathed, that highest of all literary atmospheres, where the ingredients are all the humanities-love, respect, admiration, all clinging to the most sacred tradition of civilized man. ' Suffer no chasm,' he once said to the school in a sermon, to interrupt this glorious tradition. . . . Continuous life . . . that is what we want-to feel the pulses of hearts that are now dust.'
' I could cry,' he once said to me,' over those old classical hymns of Addison.' The classical conven- tions moved him even while they amused him. He smiled, but the water stood in his eyes.
I do not think I have ever known a pleasure greater than finding some great or good thing in literature that he did not happen to know. Such occasions were few, as might be expected, but the pleasure was hardly less when one revived an old affection for him-a forgotten favourite.
And his analysis of beauties-when he would stoop to analysis, for he did not love ' to reason about beauties rather than to taste them'-never failed to satisfy.
I once drew his attention to the beautiful phrase of Steele, in the Tatler, about Favonius, the good clergyman, leaving the house of mourning 'with such a glow of grief and of humanity upon his countenance.' ' Ah, yes!' he said, land it's the hendiadys that does it!' and one feels at once how poor humane grief would sound beside it!
But independently of literature all associations moved him, and not his own merely. That is why 'coterie speech' had such a value for him. And he loved to have the fact or the legend out of which it sprang recovered for him with all its details. There was something specially delightful in the ease with which he could transplant, from another's experience, a story or a saying, and regrow it in his own more fertilizing soil. It is no wonder that he had friends, for such common possessions rivet an intimacy as nothing else can.
His own associations were, it need hardly be said, all deep-rooted. His favourite Virgilian saw was Antiquam exquirite matrem, and he seemed to think the chief value of his poems was ' the cairn of memories' he had built in them. Even quite local and temporary associations were sacred to him. He saw his past steadily, and saw it whole, and the historical past he saw in the same way. ' In reading,' he once said, 'let heart reach to heart across all obstacles of time, and manners, and ideas.'
I cannot but think that this was a great part of the meaning he assigned to his favourite text: ' Keep thy heart with all diligence.' He knew that the bent of intellect might shift with reading or experience; temper might be liable to moods, and disappoint either himself or others; but this other thing-the τό κυριώτασυ, the heart, the proper self-
That imperial murex grain
No carrack ever bore to Thames or Tiber
this must be cherished for what it was, must be still in a sense what it was-a self that vicissitude could not invade.-
It was naturally not a thing he spoke of, but there were hints of it, to those who knew him, even in his talk; and in some of the letters, and in many of the poems in his last volume, it needs little interpretation to discover it. From the heart in this sense it is an easy transition to the ' kind of enthusiasm' with which uncommon men ' mingle their ideas.' In family affection, in friendship, in patriotism local or national, the sentiment is the same. It is not only quorum pars magna fui ; it is also, 'what these things have made of me nothing can unmake.'
Under the impelling force of these associations he unshrinkingly confessed himself emotional, even using the half-humorous phrase I have already quoted- I am a born sobber.'
His fine curiosity was insatiable, but this was some- thing related in no way to advances in knowledge or new refinements in feeling. It was somethingpermanent and central to himself and yet universal in its range.
There is a beautiful passage in George Eliot's Middlemarch, where 15 Dorothea, asked what she is thinking of, says, 'All the troubles of all the people in the world.' Now it might be thought that, with Brown's high spirits and recklessly gay humour, this is a singularly inapposite quotation. But really it is very relevant. I have never known a man with so wide an intellectual range, or of such infinite bright- ness, who could be so deeply saddened by his own sympathies-sympathies reaching far back into his own far past, or extended to present trouble, ever so remote from himself.
This, I think, is the heart which he tried to keep with all diligence-the depth which he suffered no excursions of fancy to explore, no exuberance of spirits to disturb.
Of his life in this region-of the life of his lonelier self-not many, if any, of his friends were permitted to see much, yet it interfered in no way with his readiness to render all kinds of services. Those services rendered in abundant measure were much but to possess a sense of security, a recognized claim to divide pleasures and pains without misgiving, was a thing beyond all price in friendship. That this should be possible to one who had so full a life of his own unshared, and not to be shared by others, means a very rare unselfishness. Nor did he suffer such claims to be weakened by absence. For the five years that remained to him after he returned to his island his letters never failed. He was never oppressed by the labour of keeping friendships in repair, but rather exhilarated; at any rate he left his friends exhilarated and something more. Those who received his letters found in them such a store of help, such a heightening of the interest of life, that to others-to those who had not enjoyed his personal talk-it might have seemed that little could have been added by actual intercourse.
Brown was a keen critic of all his friends, and did not deny himself amusement at the weaknesses and limitations of those he cared for most. But there was one thing about him not often found in men who indulge in the mood of Democritus. I mean the willingness to take trouble for those whose failings amused him, even when he thought there was some connexion between their unwisdom and their need. I don't think he could for the life of him help giving free play to his humour, but it never weakened his friendship. He was even so anxious in their behalf as to transform himself on occasion into what he once called ' Machiavelli Brown,' and draw on his experience to play the diplomatist in their interest. His courtesy would never suffer him to be the candid friend. In these matters he contended for what he called ' the finest Keltic make-believe,' and was indignant at its being confounded with ' humbug.' (' Oh, those English!' he would say.) To him this ' finest make-believe' was a part of the code of good manners, and if he criticized his friends to others, they knew better than those others how little it impaired his power to love and his eagerness to serve.
To manners he always attached a value which is less common in these days. ' If I lose my manners,' he said once over some trivial forgetfulness, ' what is to become of me?'
But the thing that will stay longest with his friends was the amount and variety of positive pleasure that he gave them. Five minutes in his company was a more exhilarating tonic than any that could be devised. Tonic is the right word, for more than one reason, when his talk was of literature: for his sanity was as steadying to the judgment as his enthusiasm was lifting to the spirit. If there was a side of literature that appealed less to him than to others, I can find no word less inclusive than catholic to do justice to his range of sympathy. And his catholicity of taste was especially remarkable in one whose strength of imagination might be supposed to have made him somewhat impatient of the ancient ways and the less ambitious ages when writers were content ' to dwell quiet and secure.' While he welcomed power in every new direction, his faith in the old teachers, the pauvi quos aequus amavit Iuppiter, never swerved.
In the sermon from which I have already quoted he preached his own practice. ' Those,' he said, ' who have been and are great amongst us are those who have dwelt most reverently, or at least most habitually, under the shadow of the sky-pointing pyramids of the past.'
But I must not go on. I have already, perhaps, said too much, though in another sense too much could not be said.
'Tis true; but all too weakly said ;
'Twas more significant, he's dead.
There is a simple sentence in another letter-writer, not often so simple, who very occasionally recalls Brown, though with a difference; and this sentence- it is Charles Lamb's-tells Brown's friends better than any words of their own what their individual loss is, and why they can never see his place filled for them.
' One sees a picture, reads an anecdote, starts a casual fancy, and thinks to tell of it to this person in preference to every other. The person is gone whom it would peculiarly have suited-it won't do for another.'
1 There was a bazaar in aid of the fund raised for a new St. Matthew's; and T. E. B. was asked to contribute verses.
2 He was not seventeen when his father died-very suddenly.
3 Cf. p. 118. His brother Hugh, there spoken of as 'his mother's own child, was the eminent Baptist clergyman, Minister of Myrtle Street Chapel, Liverpool. T. E. B. always spoke not only of his brother being far better known than himself, but as though he deserved to be.
4 July 16, 1850.
5 The late Canon Hill.
6 Vide infra, Appendix. I am indebted for them to the kindness of the Rev. E. Kissack, then Curate of Kirk Andreas. The occasion was the dedication of a memorial in the church to the Archdeacon.
7 Letter to Archdeacon Moore, November 24, 1848.
8 He was ordained deacon before leaving Oxford: he did not proceed to priest's orders till near the end of his time at Clifton.
9 There is but one thing of importance to chronicle about what he called 'the Gloucester episode.' The letters that survive are not many, and not specially characteristic. I only remember one phrase (besides those in the letters printed) that could be so described. It is about the Great Exhibition of 1862-'this bewildering madhouse of the arts'! The one thing of importance is the fact that his friend Mr. W. E. Henley was his pupil at Gloucester. I believe they did not meet for more than thirty years. Young as Mr. Henley was at the time, Brown had made an indelible impression, and they corresponded for years before they met.
10 A description of another such evening may be quoted from some reminiscences communicated by Canon Rawnsley to Mr. J. R. Mozley. He recalls 'specially a long after-supper-time at the Head at Kes- wick,when onewent right through a great part of " ' The Doctor" before one thought of the stars and the rising moon, and the weary landlady and the locked house-door, and the work of the morrow. And one stole back home a guilty and ashamed thing to find the light above Skiddaw, which had never quite died, was moving towards Helvellyn, and one felt that bed was almost an impossibility; one had been so wakened all over by Brown's wild spirits, his loud peals of laughter, his merry wit, his boisterous almost schoolboy fun.'
11 In the year 1863.
12 The Bishop of Hereford has elsewhere given a larger meaning to this epithet. ' To compare Brown with the average run of even the most distinguished men who are all around us is like trying to compare the Bay of Naples with an English bay or Scotch loch. We can find plenty of beauty in the familiar northern scenes ; but we miss the pent-up forces, the volcanic outbursts, the tropic glow, and all the surprisingly manifold and tender and sweet-scented out- pourings of soil and sunshine, so spontaneous, so inexhaustibly rich, and with the great heat of fire burning and palpitating underneath all the time.
13 He resigned his mastership in July, 1892, and made his home for the last five years of his life in the Isle of Man (Ramsey).
14 Mr. Oakeley apologizing for himself may apologize for others also : ' One divines of one so rich and bounteous that to each of his friends he gave a different fortune. . . . Thus I seek to prepare the way for the otherwise crude remark, " None knew him as I did"' (Letter on hearing of Brown's death).
15 1 Quoted from memory. The ipsissima verba run thus: 'Dodo, how bright your eyes are! ... I wonder what (has happened). . . . Oh, all the troubles of all people on the face of the earth.'
Looking back on my friendship with Mr. Brown, which began a very few days after I became a Clifton master in 1867, and knew no break till the great break in October, 1897, I realize only too keenly, now that he is gone, ' the difference to me.' Many, of course, are feeling the same; yet not quite the same, for it may easily be guessed that a nature so rich and so bounteous as his showed a different side to each friend, so that many can without arrogance say, ' No one knew him as I did.' Of late I had seen him but seldom, but I continued to hear from him pretty often till very near his end; and for the rest, as he once wrote to me, 'there are people with whom to coexist is life : no need to see them or talk to them. All that is needed is just to think-say in your bath at 7 a.m.- " Hugh also is."'
Mr. Brown's love of music was a side of him often turned to the present writer, and music was a chief corner-stone of our friendship. In early Clifton days I induced him to go up with me to hear Clara Schumann play; a memorable experience in many ways, not least from our accidentally sitting next to Madame Jenny Lind-Goldschmidt, to whom, as he reminded me as lately as October, 1897, I took the opportunity to introduce him. At about the same date, by the way, we went, with Dr. Percival, to see the Clifton match at Lord's, the chief hero of which was just then the pride of Brown's House at Clifton, as afterwards of his College and University 1. T. E. B. was in great force, and lit up the dingy dining-room of our hotel-quite innocent then of to-day's Asiatic splendours-with many a flash of that ' lightning of the brain, lambent but innocuous,' that one associates with his conversation.
It must have been in that same summer that I used to sit with him in the Fifth Form room of his house, in the holidays an uncommonly secluded sanctum, in order to discuss words and tunes for the School Hymn Book, on which a committee of masters and boys had been for some time at work. It was then and there that Wesley's fine hymn, with the recurring line ' Give me thy only love,' was re-edited to make it fit Bach's soaring music, which seems to yearn to bear on its wings some such refrain as Wesley's. To the same symposia the hymn book owes Mr. Brown's noble Ascension-tide hymn. It was agreed that the tune of 'Es ist das Heil' must be secured for the book; but the ponderous unwieldiness of the German original, which refused on almost any terms to be carried over or coaxed into English, suggested the fortunate alternative-that ' some one' should write a new hymn, suitable to the peculiar sentiment, and especially to the pathetic closing cadence, of the music. No other hymn-tune was so dear to him, except perhaps the well-known Passion Chorale, of which-in a blue- pencilled note one Monday morning during first lesson-he sent me the following ' appreciation ' :-
'Ωκλείω Βρούνος.. . .
(Yesterday, when you were playing the miraculous ' Haupt 2.')
Chance-child of some lone sorrow on the hills,
Bach finds a babe ; instant the great heart fills
With love of that fair innocence,
Conveys it thence,
Clothes it with all divinest harmonies,
Gives it sure foot to tread the dim degrees
Of Pilate's stair. Hush! Hush! Its last sweet breath
Wails far along the passages of death.
I quote this as a specimen of the writer's method of musical criticism; a method equally remote from the usual style of describers of music, the ' piling of honey on sugar and sugar on honey' (as Lamb writes in a slightly different connexion), as from the heresy of the Leit-Motif fanatics who used to pester Mendelssohn to tell them ' the meaning' of his Songs without Words. So far was Brown from desiring to trace ' meanings' in instrumental music, that even in the vocal works of the great composers he held that the so-called setting was distinctly ' the predominant partner,' and that, except as a crib for the un- learned, the words would often be better away. Thus, for instance, he writes of his own beautiful translation of those lines of Eichendorff which Schumann has im- mortalized by linking them to his Frühlingsnacht:-
' Here is the Frühlingsnacht--might be better, though I think it is not exactly bad....
'Wandervögel is a lovely word. I suppose he does not mean birds in his garden, but birds passing over it, invisible, though audible to him. "Birds of passage" is not altogether prosaic-incline thine ear, perpend, what thinkest ? In the second verse I have imported a little wild-fire. The tune seems to comport it; but "reappears" is an old rhyme famulus, and it does not either comport or support the ritardando as well as Mondes Glanz herein. In fact I feel the German even to be rather lacking . . . and taking it altogether, don't you regard this song of Schumann's as transcending words- Über Wörte?-Procul, O Procul ! The poets are not in it. I warn them off the ground. When Schumann is in this mood, they had better retire. The mysteries are too sacred, the pudicitia of the absolute ought not to be violated. It is divine-divine! Look at those wretched words as they sidle up in their smugness to the heavenly creature! What earthly right have they there ? She does not want them. " A parcel of the purest sky," -that is the Frühlingsnacht. And this libretto to think of holding his vulgar umbrella over her- faugh The translation follows :-
A NIGHT OF SPRING.
O'er the garden, northward yearning,
Birds of passage on the wing
Give the rote of Spring's returning,
And the odours of the Spring.
Shall I shout for very gladness,
Shall I drown my eyes in tears,
Is it mirth, or is it madness,
When the spring-tide reappears?
Moon and stars proclaim her willing,
Whisp'ring groves their vows combine,
And the nightingales are thrilling-
' She is thine, ah, she is thine ! '
Here is his translation of Meine Rose, another of Schumann's loveliest songs
When Summer's sun is glowing,
And roses still are blowing,
If but I note one drooping,
Its lovely head down stooping,
I bring with timely shower
Refreshment to my flower.
Blest Rose, that art the dearest!
Heart's Rose, the sweetest, nearest,
O'erwhelm'd with care and sadness,
Ah me! the joy, the gladness
If at thy feet outpouring
My soul, I lay adoring
Life's self I would surrender
To see thee rise in splendour 3.
Brown's method of musical criticism, in which (naturally!) the seemingly 'far-fetched' fancies of the poet convey an impression far more adequate than the usual attempt to describe the indescribable by mere inventory, or mere superlatives, may be further illustrated by the following description of a Crystal Palace concert:-
, . . . I have said nothing about the choral annexe to the ninth symphony. No circumstances could be more unfavourable to a choir; when your ears have been stung for upwards of an hour by the most delicious string poison, ' the human voice divine' is simply grotesque. There is one passage where the tenors lead off. Well, it sounded almost like a poor melancholy laugh, as of idiots. And indeed they had not even their note quite true. Then you remember a chorus takes off suddenly, and leaves a quartet exposed in mid-field. This is a most exquisite machine, to my mind. It is as if a thunderstorm suddenly cleared away, and four stars shone out in a sweet quaternion of solitude. It ought to be that. A calm soft kiss on the forehead of retreating turbulence. But what did these people do? It was Winkle torn from Weller. They seemed so frightened: quite ghastly. Nothing to sit down on! And in such impari materia ! Another stuff; not four threads spun finely, deftly forth from the big choral web, and streaming on a summer sigh Of balm-but dingy floccy alien tatters tossed up obscenely from a dust-heap. Yet Alversleben seemed not inadequate; the others, so help me sweet Cecilia, did not know " wherefore they were come together " ! '
And of another performance of the same symphony:-
'The absolutely celestial coda was now and then as unerring as I could desire ; but once, if I mistake not, nearly fell to pieces. It was a fearful moment; as if your dearest and loveliest on earth were suddenly to totter on the verge of madness, and say wicked and impure words. . . . Ophelia . . . I felt quite giddy. But it was soon over, and the darling shone out bright and calm and peerless as ever.
What heavenly peace! What healing of all wounds! Binding of all broken hearts! Everlasting remedium amoris ! I certainly found myself pray ing, and that fervently. With such a Christ to clasp to her withered breast, what need the poor old world care for Strauss and all his angels ? '
At the rehearsal of this concert:-
'It was even more interesting than the concert. Manns unfettered by the proprieties, mad, springing to his feet, hurling himself at the band like a tiger, like a thunderbolt, like a conical bullet, like a little black devil! A splendid and never-to-be-forgotten sight. I saw his dodges, and more or less compre- hended them.'
At a Crystal Palace organ recital:-
'There was Mr. X. pounding away at some screaming indecency. I waited for his second piece, though much dejected, but as it was only some sugary or rather rum-and-sugary Operatic rifacimento, I came away, and left him up to his ears in Organ treacle.'. . .
(He returned, however; for--)
' Smart's Andante in D is a pretty thing enough, not so much crisp as mincing. In our poor friend's hands it assumed an air of the fatuously dissolute.'
On British musical taste, circa 1870, he writes:-
' We have been getting fonder of music, and of good music. In some fashion-rather haphazard, perhaps-we have been learning to know good music when we hear it. No doubt the middle-class drawing-room, that last fortress of error, is much where it was. Time-honoured shrine of die-away, sigh- away adolescence, it still resounds to the strains of the Valërie Whites and the Molloys. But the Teu- tonic invasion has told; Mendelssohn has almost obtained the Britannic civitas, and even Schumann stands-uncertain, it is true-upon the threshold. And if we pass from the drawing-room to the concert hall, the state of affairs is positively encouraging. Here are great organs magnificently played; here is Bach ; here is a band; here are Beethoven, Berlioz, Wagner, all the gods.' . . .
In 1894 Brown made a much-looked-forward-to pilgrimage to Bayreuth ; of which he writes (before starting) :-
' I am to hear Lohengrin, Tannhäuser, and Parsifal (the last, twice). This will be a good βάπτειυ in the Wagnerian Siloam.'
(From Bayreuth :-)
I am waiting here for a noch einmal of Parsifal. But you may depend on it that the cultus is a little unsound. Talk is big, and make-believe bigger; but they don't do the business so superlatively well by any means.' . . .
(After the noch einmal:-)
Won't do! Parsifal is an impossibility, and I am hugely disappointed. . . . Set to your seal that the musical drama is a tremendous but hopeless aspiration. Fall back upon Beethoven and the symphonic form, and take courage. I don't wonder at men thinking that this is a path that no one can tread after Beethoven. But this is wrong. The world is open: we can yet gather the flowers of Heaven. Not, however, in this field of combination and complication will they ever be gathered. . . . Wagner's Wahn- exactly so, a noble Wahn, but brings me no Friede as Wagner says it did to him-will bring Friede to no child of man who is born with wings, however imperfectly developed 3.'
' Have you heard that there are to be orchestral Wagner concerts in London next November, the first to be conducted by Siegfried Wagner? That is just what I should like. The man Curtius is trying to arrange with Madame Wagner for the production of substantial portions of Parsifal. Orchestral, re member! That's the point. As to their lewdness and superfluity of scenic naughtiness, may I never again come within a hundred miles of them!'
From Music to Mimicry, even if the two gifts be not wholly unrelated, may perhaps seem an abrupt transition. But however that may be, one cannot long think of Brown without recalling his mimicry. (His own abrupt transitions by the way- say from Bach to Balzac-used to be sufficiently amusing!) Was there one of his acquaintances whom he could not reproduce to the very life? Nay, his portraiture was in a sense more vivid than life, because it gave the type and idea of the man, and not merely the man himself, who might well (if modest) feel himself but a poor pale counterfeit of Brown's revised version of him, and say on being told of it (as I once heard him say), ' Well, I did not say quite that, but I would have said so if I had thought of it.' Quite so; in aword, of most people Brown's rendering was better far than their own! What portraits one's memory retains of Clifton masters, boys, servants-not so much printed there from life, as due to some of those almost proverbial 'five minutes with Brown in the masters' room!'
And no account of his mimicry would be complete, without adding that, 'irrespective of sex or age,' he could to a wonderful degree even look like his subject of the moment.
How utterly without malice it all was, may be divined from the following:-
'. . . Truest and dearest of friends! My foster-father! Source of perennial joy, of laughter inextinguishable. I have mimicked him all my life, and shall I forbear now! Nay, verily, and by God's help so I won't. I did love that old man; a delicious old man: Silenus trimmed with Socrates, and turned up with . . . well . . . I don't mind, say Newman.'
Often in reading his letters over, one longs to hear that delightful mimicry again.
' Mr. W. was present, an invaluable grotesque. He preached the sermon-I will venture to say the most ludicrous performance of modern times. Anything like the hodge-podge of imbecility, except its author, I have never seen. This phenomenon has awaked my long-dormant faculty of mimicry; I can't refrain. Such a heaven-sent subject is not to be lighted upon every day.'
And sometimes one does all but hear it:-
, chief pastor, good man, is -well, he is, and that is about all that can be said. They are good worthy people; probably never open a book, a piano, or-yes, he has opened a bazaar-two bazaars, I think. Oh yes! we can do that-yes " yess, indeet, however."
1 Cecil William Boyle, the ' dear hero' of the lines in a recent
Spectator by his school-fellow, T. Herbert Warren, the President of Magdalen.
He fell at Boshof, April 5, 1900,
' Captaining men as once he captained boys.'
2 The version played was No. 27, vol. v, of Bach's organ works. This is mentioned out of kindness prepense, that Bach-lovers may turn to it again. They will have their reward! The melody originally belonged to a popular sixteenth century love song.
3 To somewhat the same effect Philipp Spitta writes: 'In Schumann's songs the function of the pianoforte is to reveal some deep and secret meaning which is beyond the power of words to express.'
4 The original seems to express despair of this result. I have not made it so strong. Any man, reducing himself to a watering-pot, has a right to expect success, or something of the kind.-T. E. B.
5 Cf. letter from Bayreuth, Aug. 7, 1894, vol. ii, p. 51.
BY MR. HORATIO F. BROWN.
The circumstances in which I came to be taught by T. E. Brown were exceptional. I and some other boys were going in for History Scholarships at Oxford. The Head Master allowed us to attend a special history class under T. E. Brown.
My recollection is that his was the most vivid teaching I ever received: great width of view and poetical, almost passionate, power of presentment. For example, we were reading Froude's History, and I shall never forget how it was Brown's words, Brown's voice, not the historian's, that made me feel the great democratic function which the monasteries performed in England; the view became alive in his mouth. Again the same thing happened when we came to the Reformation as it showed itself at Oxford; the vivid presentment of the passions moving both sides in the controversy, and the lively picturing of details (e.g. the Gloucester Hall scholar escaping over heavy ploughed fields), all set forth with such dramatic force, and aided by a splendid voice, left an indelible impression on my mind.
He had such an appreciation of style too. I remember that we were reading what was then thought to be an exceptionally dry and tough work, Hallam's Constitutional History. The way in which he delivered the passage beginning, ' But lest the spectre of indefeasible right should stand once more in arms on the tomb of the house of York,' not only fixed for ever the historical importance of the event that Hallam was discussing, but, as it were, let me into Hallam himself, put one on terms of intelligence with the historian. Of course it was all there before, in the book itself, and other people had said it all, time and time again; but for me it was Brown's voice, Brown's perception, that made it real. I think he got at me through the imagination.
How he struck other boys I don't know, nor yet what effect he had on his class, in which I never was. No doubt, in my case, he was dealing with things he liked to teach, and I liked to learn. He certainly had the power of making me want to please him. I have kept all the essays and question papers I did for him, with their quaint hieroglyphic scribbles on the back. He never spoke to me out of school, and I never knew him at all privately or socially at that time, but his personality made a great impression; his slow sort of urgent walk, like Leviathan, his thick massive figure, above all his voice. I used to see him in the distance on his lonely strolls about the downs, and his figure seemed to belong to, and to explain the downs, the river, the woods, the Severn, and the far Welsh hills. I remember him walking in the rain, and looking as if he liked it, as I did. Personally, at that time I was afraid of him; but he stirred fancy, curiosity, imaginttion. I should say that his educational function lay in 'widening.' He was a ' widener.' He made one feel that there was something beyond the school, beyond successful performance at lessons or at games; there was a whiff of the great world brought in by him.