Richard Middleton, the man and his work


Cornell University Library 
PR 6025.1 18Z7 

Richard Middleton, the man and his work. 

3 1924 013 650 027 

Cornell University 

The original of this book is in 
the Cornell University Library. 

There are no known copyright restrictions in 
the United States on the use of the text. 




Camera Portrait by E. 0. Hofpe. 






"Well I loved, but they who knew 
What my laughing heart could be. 
What my singing lips could do. 
Lie a-dreaming here with me. 
I can feel their finger-tips 

Stroke the darkness from my face. . . ." 
Pagan Epitaph. 







19 2 2 


". . . He" (Carlyle) "did not fall into the vulgar error of 
despising hero -worshippers hecause they are content not to be 
heroes. Yet as I -write it seems to me that the very name ' hero- 
worshipper ' has been spoilt by sneering lips ; we are asked to 
believe that they are only weak-minded enthusiasts with a turn 
for undiscriminating praise, and that they swaUow their heroes, as 
a snake swallows a rabbit, bones and all. 

" Personally I think this is a bad way in which to eat rabbits, 
but the best possible way in which to take a great man. I detest 
the cheese-paring enthusiasm that accepts the Olympian head and 
rejects the feet of human clay. Until Frank Harris taught me 
better I thought Shakespeare's sonnets were capable of but one 
probable interpretation ; but I did not wag my head with the 
moralist Browning and cry, ' The less Shakespeare he ! ' To-day 
I do not find Shakespeare less great because he loved Mary Fitton ; 
it seems impossible that anyone should. Yet Moore burnt 
Byron's autobiography, Buskin would not write a Life of Turner 
because of the nature of his relationship with women, Stevenson 
abandoned an essay on Hazlitt because of the ' Liber Amoris ' — 
Stevenson whose essay on Burns ' swells to heaven ' ! In the face 
of such spectacles as these it is surely permissible to pine for the 
blind generosity of the enthusiast, that incautious fullness of 
appreciation that lifts great men with their due complement of 
vices and follies on to a higher plane where the ordinary con- 
ventions of human conduct no longer apply." — Monologues, p. 224. 


A brief Preface is needed to acknowledge 
indebtedness to three of my friends— Herbert 
Garland, Louis J. McQuilland and Arthur Machen 
—all of whom knew Middleton in the flesh, and 
who have been good enough to advise me in the 
preparation of this memoir. McQuilland, who 
read the memoir in proof, tells me I should have 
dealt more fully with Middleton as a writer of 
fiction. I have to some small extent remedied 
the deficiency by making additions to the biblio- 
graphical notes. Much with me, in writing the 
book, was the desire to make more widely known 
Middleton's excellence as a poet. His prose 
fantasy. The Ghost Ship, is now generally acknow- 
ledged to be one of the best short stories in the 
English language, but it seems to me that he is 
too much considered as the author of that story 
and at the expense of his poetry. I hope I have 
done a little towards arousing a wider interest in 
Poems and Songs, though very conscious that 
the expression has fallen short of the dream. 

H. S. 














XII. THE END .... 



INDEX ...... 



















Richard Middleton . , . Frontispiece 

Camera Portrait by E. O. Hoppe. 

Facing page 

Richard Middleton at the Age of 7 . . 10 

Richard Middleton in Fancy Dress . . 28 

A Bohemian Gathering .... 36 
Sketch by Herbert Garland. 

Richard Middleton at the Age of 20 . . 64 

Richard Middleton ..... 74 
Caricature by Herbert Garland. 

Holograph MS. Reproduction of a hitherto 

unpublished Poem . . . .98 

Richard Middleton 130 

Caricature by H. B. Millar. 

Richard Middleton 164 

Caricature by David Wilson. 

The House in the Rue de Joncker . . 192 



Richard Middleton . , . Frontispiece 

Camera Portrait by E. O. Hoppe. 

Facing page 

Richard Middleton at the Age of 7 . . 10 

Richard Middleton in Fancy Dress , . 28 

A Bohemian Gathering .... 36 
Sketch by Herbert Garland. 

Richard Middleton at the Age of 20 . . 64 

Richard Middleton ..... 74 
Caricature by Herbert Garland. 

Holograph MS. Reproduction of a hitherto 

unpublished Poem . . . .98 

Richard Middleton 130 

Caricature by H. B. Millar. 

Richard Middleton . . . . .164 

Caricature by David Wilson. 

The House in the Rue de Joncker . . 192 





Richard Barham Middleton was born of 
English parentage at Staines, in Middlesex, on 
the 28th of October, 1882. In a letter referring 
to money earned in his early days as a journalist 
he makes jocose mention of a Scottish ancestry, 
but whether or no he had Scots blood in his veins 
is not within my knowledge. While we were 
acquainted I had not only no inclination to gather 
facts relating to him, but an excessive contempt for 
facts in general. This memoir may suffer accord- 
ingly, as, again, it may suffer from my having 
made no effort to obtain information from his 
family since he died. As to that, however, I 
must leave others to judge. Middleton himself 
was no fact-lover. He preferred fancies, such as 
that he may have descended from an Elizabethan 
pirate. " I have an ancestor," he says {Mono- 
logues, p. 210), " so runs the dearest of my family 


Richard Middleton 

traditions, who was hanged as a pirate at Port 
Royal. How much of that priceless piratical 
blood the centuries may have transmitted to me 
I do not know, but if I were his very reincarna- 
tion I could hardly hoist the Jolly Roger in an 
age that may believe in fairies but certainly does 
not believe in pirates." Fancy apart, his more 
immediate ancestors, like Stevenson's, were engi- 
neers. " My father's firm shuts up for good in a 
fortnight after going for about 100 years," he 
writes under date August 16th, 1907. " My 
great-grandfather founded it. This day will be 
published a new volume entitled The Fall of the 
House of Middleton." And he ends jauntily, 
" but we shall always be true to our Tory tradi- 

On his mother's side he was a distant relative 
of the Rev. Thomas -Barham, the author of The 
Ingoldsby Legends, a blood-tie of which he was 
proud, but less so, I think, than of the buccaneer 
legend. Noteworthy also is the fact that, accord- 
ing to his own statement to me, there was some 
insanity in the family, an aunt being thus 
afflicted. How far this taint affected his mind, if 
at all, it would be difficult to determine. He does 
not seem to have struck any of his acquaintance 
as being insane, and certainly he never struck me 


Childhood and Early Days 

as being so. Louis J. McQuilland, the poet and 
critic, who knew him well and has a serene wisdom 
of his own, in reply to some scurrility published 
after he died, stated that he was " one of the 
sanest men I have ever encountered. In cha- 
racter he was reserved, and in judgment accurate 
and well-balanced." It is safe to say that never 
at any time in his life, except, perhaps, during his 
last few days, would a mental specialist have 
certified him as insane. I dwell upon this point 
because of the manner of his end. In Brussels, on 
the 1st of December, 1911, soon after his twenty- 
ninth birthday, he committed suicide by taking 

His childhood, always allowing for his having 
been an abnormal youngster, as will be seen 
presently, seems to have been outwardly much 
akin to that of most children with brothers and 
sisters and a comfortable home. " A simple up- 
and-down April existence," he calls it in The Day 
before Yesterday, where appear most of his recol- 
lections of the period ; recollections, however, 
in all probability less of its rain than its sunshine, 
for, as he tells us : 

It is to be supposed that there are few men 
and women who do not occasionally look 
back on the days of their childhood with 

a B 2 

Richard Middleton 

regret. The responsibilities of age are some- 
times so pressing, its duties so irksome, that 
the most contented mind must travel back 
with envy to a period when responsibilities 
were not, and duties were merely the simple 
rules of a pleasing game, the due keeping of 
which was sure to entail proportionate reward. 
And this being so, and the delights of the 
Golden Age always being kept in the back of 
our mind, as a favourable contrast to the 
present state of things, it is hardly surprising 
that in course of time the memory of the 
earlier days of our life is apt to become 
gilded and resplendent, and very unlike the 
simple up-and-down April existence that was 
really ours. The dull, wet days, the lessons and 
the tears are all forgotten ; it is the sunshine 
and the laughter and the play that remain. 

Elsewhere, in an unpublished fragment of 
autobiography, the time is painted in darker 

My own childhood I do not lament, and I 
hope I shall never have to endure that state 
of aggrieved helplessness again. I had some 
good games and some good dreams. But on 
the whole the atmosphere was charged with 
ugly mysteries like an Ibsen play, and I was 
too introspective to be a happy child. 

When writing that passage he perhaps had less 
his boyhood in mind than the earlier period. In 
any case the distinction is of no great consequence. 


Childhood and Early Days 

What may chiefly impress the reader of The Day 
before Yesterday is the extraordinary imagination 
its youthful hero must have possessed. Most of 
us who are grown up have presumably forgotten 
how we thought and felt when we were children. 
If we saw 

a world in a grain of sand 
And a heaven in a wild flower 

we cannot tell what sort of world it was or what 
sort of heaven. But Middleton could vividly 
remember his early dreaniings. The young brain 
would people an empty cupboard or send its 
fortunate possessor voyaging from China to Peru 
on a drawing-room rug. That " enchanted place 
which our elders contemptuously called the 
' mouse-cupboard,' " a favourite refuge where 
could be found " solitude and darkness in which 
to scheme deeds of revenge and actions of a 
wonderful magnanimity turn by turn," was not 
long in becoming a smuggler's cave, the haunt, 
successively, of such heroes as Aladdin, Robinson 
Crusoe, Ben Gunn and Tom Sawyer, and ulti- 
mately — some one having discovered what it really 
resembled— the cabin of a ship. 

The fact that our cabin lacked portholes 
and was of an unusual shape did not trouble 
us. We could hear the water bubbling 


Richard Middleton 

against the ship's side in a neighbouring 
cistern, and often enough the wind moaned 
and whistled. , . . Beneath us the waters 
chuckled restlessly, and sometimes we heard 
the feet of the watch overhead, and now and 
again the clanging of the great bell. In such 
an hour it was not difficult to picture the 
luminous tropic seas through which the 
Black Margaret was making her way. The 
skies of irradiant stars, the desert islands 
like baskets of glowing flowers, and the 
thousand marvels of the enchanted ocean — 
we saw them one and all. 

The Day Before Yesterday is of the Kenneth 
Grahame order of books — books such as Dream 
Days and The Golden Age, which have faithfully 
recaptured the thoughts and feelings of child- 
hood. Few other modern writers can give such 
vivid glimpses of their " trailing clouds of glory," 
though Stevenson, with his A Child's Garden of 
Verses, may be said to be of the company. Their 
books should be known not only to lovers of 
belles-lettres, but to those " Olympians " who, as 
Middleton puts it, " always seemed so sensible 
and yet could not understand." And of the three, 
he, perhaps, is the least sophisticated. He was 
childlike himself in many ways — one reason 
why he is so difficult to visualise. " How plainly 
you must see him, your Villon ! " said Pierre 


Childhood and Early Days 

Champion, admiringly, to Marcel Schwob, after 
the latter had devoted years to the study of the 
erratic French poet ; and " See him ? " replied 
Schwob ; "I see but his little finger ! " So is 
it with me. A fascinating and baffling personality 
Middleton had, and has been a puzzle to me since 
I first met him in 1905. Childlike, I said. That 
is the chief clue to him. " Children," he remarks 
in one of his essays, " sometimes flatter me by 
treating me as an equal." Edgar Jepson, another 
writer who knew him in the flesh, wrote after he 
died : " I cannot possibly tell the children. We 
all had a real affection for him, and here he was 
always at his best." " What struck me about 
Middleton," says yet another friend, a lady, 
" was that he always did the nice thing — that 
and his great sympathy. . . . He never grew up, 
knew about everything and told you in a baby 
way." The view has points in common with 
that of Frank Harris : " There was in him a 
curious mixture of widest comprehension with a 
child's acceptance of vice and suffering arid 
abnormalities. I say a child's because it was 
purely curious and without any tinge of ethical 
judgment." That Harris's portrait, however, is 
not too reliable is proved if only by his finding 
" curious " the mixture to which he alludes. 


Richard Middleton 

" Shaggy Peter Pan with a briar pipe " that 
Middleton was — it is McQuilland's phrase, and 
McQuilland of all his acquaintance has perhaps 
written the most illuminative accoimt of him — 
he might have toughly exercised the wits of a 
Blake or a Swinburne. What he saw of himself 
in this connection may be gleaned from his own 

In age to wish for youth is full as vain 
As for a youth to turn a child again, 

he quotes from Denham in The Day Before 
Yesterday ; and in the same book we find : 

I see the children go trooping by with 
their calm eyes, not, as is sometimes said, 
curious,* but rather tolerant of life, and I 
know that for them the universe is merely 
an aggregate of details, some agreeable and 
some stupid, while I must needs depress 
myself by regarding it as a whole. And this 
is the proved distinction between juvenile 
and adult philosophies, if we may be allowed 
to regard a child's very definite point of 
view as the effect of a philosophy. 

Again, in his unpublished The Autobiography 
of a Poet, he says : 

Of all my shadows these are the least 
substantial ; at a touch they fade one into 

* This conception of children invites comparison with that of 
Frank Harria : " I say a child's because it was purely curious." 


Childhood and Early Days 

the other and axe recreated with a discon- 
certing interchange of features, so that 
George will wear Manxie's eyes and Melanie 
will have Arthur's twisted smile. But never- 
theless, through all these whimsical meta- 
morphoses they remain my very loyal and 
affectionate friends. . . . Looking back on 
my days I can say that I do not regret a single 
hour that I have passed in the company of 
children. It was not that their wayward 
hands spared my always vulnerable vanity ; 
but they struck without malice, and their 
blows were as welcome as the rebukes of 

So, as in a glass darkly, certain glimpses of 
him. Look at his photograph. What may be 
gathered from that ? The eyes haunt me. 
Thoughtful eyes they are, proud, sad and 
watchful. The mouth shows just a little resent- 
ment. He has a striking phrase for his mouth in 
A Monologue on Love Songs : " His thick lower 
lip gleams like a wet cherry between his moustache 
and his beard." That beard I never quite under- 
stood why he grew, so young a man as he was. 
He had an illness, I believe, at about the time 
when most men begin to shave. He may have 
let it grow, partly to eyater le bourgeois, partly 
not liking that " thick lower lip." What the 
photograph does not bring out are the deep folds 


Richard Middleton 

which furrowed the massive forehead. They 
are apparently whitened over. He must have 
been born with them. A Hfetime of thinking 
would not have made them so deep. 

One more quotation may serve to complete this 
sketch of his childhood : 

One sunny afternoon [he says in an un- 
published fragment of MS.] my little sister 
and I foimd two long slender poles in the 
garden, and passed a pleasant hour or two 
carving the bark in beautiful spiral patterns. 
When we had finished I realised that we had 
there two magnificent lances, and that all we 
lacked was a foeman worthy of our steel. So 
when one of my brothers came out into the 
garden, I picked up my lance, and tilted at 
him gallantly. For some reason or other — 
perhaps governesses had been scolding him 
— he was in no mood for romance, so he caught 
my lance in his hands and broke it across his 
knee. Lost in my dream of chivalry, I could 
not recover from my illusion in a moment. I 
seized my sister's lance, and as my brother 
stood there with the broken pieces of mine 
in his hands, I bore at him again. Alas ! it 
went the same way as my own, and this time 
he crowned my ignominy by boxing my ears. 
I retreated to the shrubbery, followed by my 
sister, and gave way to my passionate 
sorrow. She tried to comfort me, patting my 
back with her little hands, but she could not 
know that my grief was founded on more 


Childhood and Early Days 

than the destruction of our lances or a few 
paltry cuffs. Poor Don Quixote ! How long 
will the world continue to find the history of 
your sufferings amusing, how long must we 
laugh at anyone because he [" thinks," 
" hopes," both crossed out in MS.] too nobly 
of mankind ? Since that afternoon it has 
often been my lot to attack the brutalities of 
life with the slender weapons of my dreams, 
and I have always been defeated. Can it be 
wondered at that at the last I have become 
a cynic ? 

That fragment gives us as memorable a picture, 
and tells us as much of him, of a brother, and of 
a loving sister, as any passage from his prose in 
general. Miss Middleton I remember as goodness 
itself. Doubtless at many another time besides 
that recorded she, figuratively speaking, " patted 
him on his back with her little hands." 

The story of his boyhood is to be found chiefly 
in A Drama of Youth and The New Boy, two auto- 
biographical studies in The Ghost Ship. He was 
sent to a day school,* there to become more than 

* I have no exact knowledge of the names of the various schools 
at which Middleton was educated. In London he seems to have 
gone both to St. Paul's and Merchant Taylors', the former of 
which was probably the scene of A Drama of Youth. Among the 
records in my possession are four certificates. One, dated Mid- 
summer, 1893, from the College of Preceptors, mentions him as 
being a pupil at Quernmore House, Bromley, Kent. Some part 
of his school life he certainly spent at Cranbrook Grammar 


Richard Middleton 

ever the slave of the ugliness he hated. Farring- 
don Meat Market, through which he had to pass 
on his way, seems particularly to have nauseated 
him : 

Esthetic butchers made the market hideous 
with mosaics of the intestines of animals, as 
if the horrors of suety pavements and 
bloody sawdust did not suffice. ... I saw the 
greasy, red-faced men with their hands and 
aprons stained with blood . . . the masses 
of entrails, the heaps of repulsive hides ; but 
most clearly of all I saw an ugly sad little boy 
with a satchel of books on his back set down 
in the midst of an enormous and hostile 

Such unpleasant realism from the pen of, say, 
Bernard Shaw, who eschews flesh, would create 
no surprise, but from one who liked nothing better 
than a rich juicy steak it seems something of an 
inconsistency. Middleton was no nut- eater. 
Dreamers with the fond notion that poets live 
delicately like butterflies would have viewed with 
mixed feelings the way in which he could attack 
a good dinner. In Baudelaire's Lettres there is a 

School. He matriculated as a student in the University of London, 
and was placed in the first division on July 19th, 1899 ; and in 
July, 1900, passed the Oxford and Cambridge Higher Certificate 
Examination, the suhjects including elementary and additional 
mathematics (trigonometry and dynamics), English, and natural 


Childhood and Early Days 

passage referring to Proudhon which bears a 
remarkable resemblance to his manner at table : 

II jasa beaucoup, violemment, amplement 
. . . et lachant involontairement, pour ainsi 
dire, une foule de bons mots. J'observai 
que ce polemiste mangeait ^normmdment. 
. . . Pour un homme de lettres, lui dis-je, vous 
mangez ^tonnement. — C'est que fai de grandes 
chases d faire, me repondit-il, avec une telle 
simplicite que je ne pus diviner s'il parlait 
serieusement ou s'il voulait bouffonner. 

That was Middleton all over. Though not what 
could be called Gargantuan of appetite, he ate with 
relish, with gusto. And it may be added, that to 
a curious inquirer he would have returned just 
such another reply as that of Proudhon's. But, 
with mischief twinkling in those fine eyes of his, 
no question of his simplicity could have arisen. 

Forcibly realistic, again, is the description of 
his life at school : 

The weariness of inventing lies that no one 
believed to account for my lateness and neg- 
lected homework, and the monotonous lessons 
that held me from my dreams without ever 
for a single instant capturing my interest- 
all these things made me ill with repulsion. 
Worst of all was the society of my cheerful, 
contented comrades, to avoid which I was 
compelled to mope in deserted corridors, the 

Richard Middleton 

prey of a sorrow that could not be enjoyed, a 
hatred that was in no way stimulating. At 
the best of times the atmosphere of the place 
disgusted me. Desks, windows, and floors, 
and even the grass in the quadrangle, were 
greasy with London soot, and there was 
nowhere any clean air to breathe or smell. I 
hated the gritty asphalt that gave no peace to 
my feet and cut my knees when my clumsiness 
made me fall. I hated the long stone corri- 
dors whose echoes seemed to me to mock my 
hesitating footsteps when I passed from one 
dull class to another. I hated the stuffy 
malodorous class-rooms, with their whistling 
gas-jets and noise of inharmonious life. I 
would have hated the yellow fogs had they not 
sometimes shortened the hours of my bon- 
dage. That five hundred boys shared this 
horrible environment did not abate my 
sufferings a jot ; for it was clear that they 
did not find it distasteful, and they therefore 
became as unsympathetic for me as the smell 
and noise and rotting stones of the school 

He is to be found next at a boarding school, his 
first introduction to which was marked by an 
event startlingly unexpected to one whose experi- 
ences had developed in him a stubborn hatred of 
all life outside his beloved dreams. A boy came 
up to him and broke down his carefully-prepared 
defences with words of sympathy. " You'll be all 


Childhood and Early Days 

right, you know," the stranger concluded after a 
few preliminary inquiries : " They're not a bad lot 
of chaps." And says our astonished Ishmael : 

I think it was the first time in my life a boy 
had spoken kindly to me. The revulsion 
nearly brought on a catastrophe, for the tears 
rose to my eyes and I gazed after him with a 
swimming head. I had prepared myself to 
receive blows and insults, but I had no 
armour with which to oppose the noble 
weapons of sympathy and good fellowship. 

Further surprises of the kind were in store. 
His grim philosophy was to be pleasantly dis- 
turbed and altered. A master and one of the head 
boys both evinced a sympathetic understanding 
of his difficulties, the former leading him to see 
that he was unfortunate rather than criminal, and 
the latter that it was " a jolly good thing to be 
different." He began now to take pleasure in 
certain phases of school life. Football he already 
liked well enough, and the sensuous beauty of the 
church services on Sunday and the reading of the 
Scriptures each night in the school chapel also 
vastly appealed to him. Incidentally, his last 
message before death has a very significant quota- 
tion from the Psalms. But of that later. The 
new school-day view of things does not appear to 
have abated his habit of introspection. With the 


Richard Middleton 

approach of the holidays we find him speculating 
upon their disadvantages. 

It seemed to me that a younger brother's 
portion of freedom would compare but poorly 
with the measure of intellectual liberty that 
I had secured for myself at school. My 
brothers were all very well in their way, but 
I would be expected to take my place in the 
background and do what I was told. . . . 
I should miss my sense of being superior to 
my environment, and my intensely emotional 
Sundays would no longer divide time into 
weeks. The more I thought of it the more 
I realised that I did not want to go home. 

On the last night of the term, when the 
dormitory had at length become quiet, I con- 
sidered the whole case dispassionately in my 
bed. The labour of packing my playbox and 
writing labels for my luggage had given me a 
momentary thrill, but for the rest I moved 
amongst my insurgent comrades with a 
chilled heart. I knew now that I was too 
greedy of life, that I had always thought of 
the pleasant side of things when they were 
no longer within my grasp ; but at the same 
time my discontent was not wholly unreason- 
able. I had learnt more of myself in three 
months than I had in all my life before, and 
from being a nervous, hysterical boy I had 
arrived at a complete understanding of my 
emotions, which I studied with an almost adult 
calmness of mind. I knew that in returning to 
the society of my healthy, boyish brothers, I 

Childhood and Early Days 

was going back to a kind of life for which I was 
no longer fitted. I had changed, but I had the 
sense to see that it was a change that would 
not appeal to them, and that in consequence 
I would have another and harder battle to 
fight before I was allowed to go my own way. 

I saw further still. I saw that after a 
month at home I would not want to come 
back to school, and that I should have to 
endure another period of despondency. I 
saw that my whole school life would be 
punctuated by these violent uprootings,* 
and that the alternatives of term time and 
holidays would make it impossible for me to 
change life into a comfortable habit, and that 
even to the end of my schooldays it would 
be necessary for me to preserve my new- 
found courage. 

As I lay thinking in the dark I was proud 
of the clarity of my mind, and glad that I 
had at last outwitted the tears that had made 
my childhood so unhappy. . . . All that I 
had to do was to watch myself ceaselessly, 
and to be able to explain to myself every- 
thing that I felt and did. In that way I 
should always be strong enough to guard my 
weaknesses from the eyes of the jealous 
world in which I moved. 

* " Do you remember the end of my New Boy where he 
realised that all his life he would be uprooted and flung back and 
so would find no peace ? It's awful true of my life. Up and 
down, up and down. Only when I seem to be going up I am 
falling, and when I seem to faU I climb into my kingdom of 
heaven. . . ." — Letter, November 5th, 1911. 

17 ° 

Richard Middleton 

Well ! there is the boy depicted largely by him- 
self, and a remarkable picture it must be admitted 
it is. His years when he had arrived at this 
" complete understanding of his emotions " and 
" almost adult calmness of mind " I do not know 
with exactitude, but should judge, from the 
record of his various schools already noted, that 
he was no more than between ten and eleven. 
Most of the later extracts already given in this 
chapter are taken from The Drama of Youth and 
The New Boy, both of which essays are now to be 
found in The Ghost Ship. He contemplated a 
book of studies on the same lines as these, but it 
was never completed. Writing from Brussels 
under date April 28th, 1911, "The Book," he 

is quite simply The Autobiography of a Young 
Man. Sections 1, 2, 3 : My childhood com- 
piled from articles already written for diffe- 
rent papers. Section 4 : The Drama of Youth. 
Section 5 : The New Boy (half written) ; and 
Section 6 : The Choice of a Career, wholly 
conceived, will deal with my life and develop- 
ment at school. Section 7 : The Office, which 
nobody has done properly before. After that 
there are a few sections of Blackfriars, 
Raynes Park, St. Albans, doing the life of an 
artist from within, and a final section at 
Brussels, with philosophies on the whole 

Childhood and Early Days 

business and a prophecy of my new birth. 
And of course, there will be a Preface ! 

Here's a book I think I can write, and I 
mean to take my time over it, and make it as 
good as The Drama of Youth, which is good 
whatever the damned critics are saying. 
Two or three at least of the sections should 
do for Harrison, if he cares to have them, as 
they will all be more or less complete in them- 
selves, but the artist business done frankly 
will be great fun anyhow. . . . 

The Harrison alluded to was Austin Harrison, 
of the English Review, who published a deal of 
his work in that periodical. His quarrel with the 
critics arose out of some disparaging remarks 
regarding his fine poem. The Last Serenade, which 
had been described as " not rising above the level 
of magazine verse." * Exception had also been 
taken to one or other of the prose pieces. When 

* This drew the retort On a Critic in one of his note-books : 

" How shall the little breath 

Of man suffice to vex me. 
Having the thought of death 

Eternally to perplex me ; 
Knowing my best endeavour 
Shall not endure for ever ? 

" I do but live my days — 

And though my song be lonely 
I need no critic's bays. 

Being a poet, only. 
The dog may eat his vomit, 
I get no sorrow from it." 

19 ''^ 

Richard Middleton 

it came to editing his work it was clear that 
sections 1, 2 and 3 (the childhood studies) were not 
so realistic in tone as the others. They were, 
therefore, made into the separate volume The Day 
before Yesterday. I have not quoted much from 
this last, because it seems to bear less upon his 
character than does his realism. But aesthetically 
considered, there are two passages to mind, both 
from the one essay, Children and the Sea, to detach 
which may give some impression of its charm and 
send the reader desirous of further pleasure to the 
volume itself.* One reader at least the following 
has always pleased : 

A child would take a sample of it [the sea] 
in a bucket, and consider that in all its 
aspects ; and then it would know that the 
sea is a great many bucketfuls of water, and 

* " Your article, The Magic Pool " [originally published in 
the Academy under Cecil Cowper's editorship and now included 
in The Bay before Yesterday'^ " as I have told Cowper, is simply 
divine. Why don't you do a book of these things, man ? They 
would give you a higher reputation than Grahame's and higher 
than Barrie's. I call for a book, and as soon as the brute public 
read it they will call for more too. . . . You must write a book of 
these prose fancies. Why not A Poet's Boyhood or some such 
title ? You might put that divine poem of the Naked Boy " 
[The Bathing Boy : Poems and Songs] " at the beginning of it. 
Come man, work ! I want to read more of these things. They 
are simply beautiful. Harrison complains that you do not send 
him any stuff. Why don't you t I have just sent him the 
Academy with your article." — Letter, Frank Harris to B. M., 
February 6th, 1911. 


Childhood and Early Days 

further that by an odd freak of destiny this 
water is not fit to drink. Storms and ships 
and sand-castles and lighthouses and all the 
other side-shows would follow later ; but in 
the meantime the child would have seen the 
sea in a bucket, as it had previously seen the 
moon in a looking-glass, so would know all 
about it. The moon is a variable and 
interesting kind of lamp ; the sea is buckets 
and buckets and buckets full of water. I 
think the stars are holes in a sort of black 
curtain or ceiling, and the sun is a piece of 
brightness, except at sunset or in a mist, 
when it is a whole Dutch cheese. The 
world is streets and fields and the seaside and 
our house. 

Now, is that not delightful ? For myself, I 
may be wrong, but I see no reason why it should 
not please in the dim future as now it pleases to- 
day. And take the other passage : 

A seaside child is no creature to be petted 
and laughed over ; it were as easy to pet the 
tireless waters, and to laugh over the grave 
of a little cat ; children whom one has known 
very well indeed in town will find new playing 
fields by the sea into which it is impossible to 
follow them. Dorothy weighs five stone four 
pounds at Maida Vale ; at Littlehampton 
the sea wind blows her along like a feather ; 
she is become a wispy, spiritual thing, a faint, 
fair creature a-dance on light feet that would 
make a fairy-girl of a poet's dream seem 


Richard Middleton 

clumsy by comparison. She is nearer to us 
when she paddles. The warm sand creeping 
up through her toes, the silver thread of cool- 
ness about her legs, these things are within 
our comprehension though they fall no more 
within our experience. But when she flings 
herself along the beach with the wild hair and 
loose limbs and the song of an innocent 
Bacchante, when she bids the gold sands 
heave up and support her body, tired with 
play, when she stoops to gather diamonds and 
pearls from the shore made wet and smooth by 
the retreating waves, she is as far from us and 
our human qualities as a new-awakened 
butterfly. There have been sea-washed 
moments when I should not have been 
astonished if she had flung out a pair of 
mother-of-pearl wings and stood in the blue 
sky, like a child saint in a stained-glass 

The style, good as it is, is not impeccable, not 
quite so rhythmical or balanced as it might be, 
but how moving, how human, is the matter ! I 
give the two passages because they have impressed 
themselves upon me, but conscious of an imper- 
fect interpretation and that they may not reveal 
the best essential qualities of the whole volume. 
These are likely to be found in essays under titles 
such as The Magic Carpet, On Going to Bed, On 
Digging Holes, On Children's Gardens, and the like. 


Childhood and Early Days 

In the book is the wonder of childhood and its 
dreams, its simple joys and sorrows ; all that 
country, in short, so remote and mysterious — a 
Lost Atlantis — to those of us who have settled in 
other and perhaps less desirable lands, or are still 
afloat, drifting we know not whither, but with the 
conviction that, evil notwithstanding, a Wisdom, 
fathomable or unfathomable, is behind this veil of 




There is some slight evidence of the boy's 
precocity as a writer. A humorsome essay in 
The Day before Yesterday begins : 

I cannot remember how old I was when I 
wrote the thrilling poem about the tiger who 
swallowed the horse, nor am I quite certain 
that it was my first literary effort, but I know 
that I was still at the tight knickerbocker 
stage, and that my previous poems, if there 
had been any, had remained secrets of my 

Whilst at school he also contributed to The 
Cranhrookian, and extant, too, is a poem in MS. of 
no merit, marked " My first poem, in my brother's 
handwriting," and beginning, characteristically : 

As I was walking upon the plain, 
Alone, because I liked it . . . 

As the appended editorial letter proves, at an early 
age he even bearded the lions of the periodical 
press. The letter should be inserted here if only 
as exhibiting a rare sympathy with literary 


Life in a City Office 

I am afraid we can't use your story [it 
runs] though thank you very much for sub- 
mitting it. The faults are perhaps that it is 
a Uttle crude in conception, that the tragedies 
follow each other in bewildering sequence 
without any apparent reason except the 
exigencies of the story, and that there is all 
through a tendency to strain after effect. 
These are the faults of every young writer, 
and as I judge from the fact of your being at 
school that you are not far up in years you 
will perhaps pardon my putting it in this 
way. You have evidently some gift with the 
pen, and if you want to persevere as a story 
writer, may I suggest to you that you give 
yourself a little longer to gain experience of 
life, in the meantime setting your thoughts 
on more cheerful happenings than death, 
debauchery, and broken hearts ? 

But evident as it is that he must have indulged 
dreams of becoming an author, he does not seem 
to have opposed parental wishes in the adoption 
of a " commonsense " profession. Early in 1901 
he was engaged as a temporary clerk in the offices 
of the Royal Exchange Assurance Corporation, 
and nine months later was appointed to the staff. 
With this company he served some five years 
before taking to journalism. Clerking was not 
congenial employment. He was a conscientious 
worker and considered a valuable servant, but the 


Richard Middleton 

vocation could not be other than obnoxious to a 
young poet and dreamer. Under date May 14th, 
1907, soon after resigning his post, he writes that 
he " never thought that life could be so unre- 
deemedly good as it has been for the last six weeks — 
and after the hell of the office." His leisure while 
with the Corporation was mainly spent in book- 
shops or underground cafes, or in entertaining 
parties of children, references to whom are fre- 
quent in a journal he kept at this period. With 
his customary introspectiveness he reasons that 
his is not a character likely to be generally 
popular. " The world is liable rather to judge a 
man by his bad humours than by striking a happy 
mean between those and his happier moments." 
Consequently, " I must be content to choose my 
friends amongst children, who always see me at 
my best. And what better friends could I 
want ? " In the same journal we hear of him, at 
the age of twenty-one, as " always thinking a 
great deal too much about my own mind and 
doings. In others I dislike chiefly the defects 
that are most prominent in my own character. 
I have an unsatisfactory habit of thinking the 
right thing and doing the wrong one. I am 
always watching myself, and consequently am 
inclined to behave as though I was always 


Life in a City Office 

walking the stage." An earlier entry, dated 1901, 
bears witness to his having been to the theatre 
ninety-seven times in one year ! He seems, 
nevertheless, to have worked hard at his writing. 
Contributions flowed into Fleet Street and flowed 
back again. Not until 1905, when the Morning 
Leader awarded him a prize of five guineas for a 
short story, did he first taste the joy of acceptance. 
It seems hardly necessary to add that he read 
omnivorously. A passage in the journal for 1903 
somewhat remorsefully records that " the only 
books I take much delight in nowadays are those 
which treat of the lives and letters of authors. . . . 
Last night I read a Life of Heine which affected 
me greatly." Other intimate companions were 
the Elizabethans and — of the moderns — chiefly 
Stevenson, Barrie and Andrew Lang. In a 
letter written in 1907, " I think I like reading the 
works of artists better than those of men of 
genius," he observes. " That is why Browning is 
my favourite poet, that is why I love my Steven- 
son." The classification is careless, but will serve 
to indicate earlier influences. That of Stevenson 
was to some extent ethical. " We are not damned 
for doing wrong but for not doing right," was an 
aphorism frequently on his lips. And again : 
" In moments of effort we learn to do the easy 


Richard Middleton 

things that people Uke." As to the " favourite 
poet," there is a Browningesque terminology in 
some of his immature verse. But, with the 
possible exception of The Coffin Merchant, one of 
the stories in The Ghost Ship with a Stevensonian 
flavour, it would be hard to detect the influence 
of other authors in his published work. 

Some account of his office life is given in The 
Autobiography of a Poet already mentioned. I 
select the following passage : — 

At the time when I first took my desire to 
express myself seriously I was nominally 
employed in the city during the day. When I 
got home at night with a fresh mind and a 
body none the better for consuming innumer- 
able cups of coffee, I would sit at a little 
table inconveniently heaped with books and 
write blank verse plays after the manner of 
the minor Elizabethan dramatists, while 
Sylvia [his sister Margaret] played the piano 
to me, Grieg and Mendelssohn and Chopin, 
such music as my emotions could under- 
stand. Save that they were quite as out- 
spoken as their models these compositions 
had no particle of original merit, but as they 
provided really valuable practice in the 
handling of words, I am sure those evenings 
were not wasted. Also they were amongst 
the most enjoyable that I have spent in my 
life. The aesthetic charm of music when 
heard by lamplight, the atmosphere of high 



Life in a City Office 

endeavour, and, since youth derives certain 
advantages from its birthright of folly, the 
proud fever of great accomplishment sent me 
to bed pulsing with happiness. I would 
stand before the mirror looking with an 
interest beyond vanity at the face of the man 
who had wrought such miracles. . . . And 
if my days were hardly worthy of their 
evenings they had their charm nevertheless. 
All the money that I did not lose backing 
horses I spent on books, and I passed many 
delightful hours browsing in the shop of 
Messrs. Jones and Evans of Queen St., the 
best bookshop I have ever known, where 
one might discover all sorts of queer little 
publications that never seemed to see the 
light anywhere else. Then there were lan- 
guourous afternoons spent in underground 
cafes where the sun never shone, and there 
was a rapturous welcome for the rare cus- 
tomer. Of the city as a place wherein busi- 
ness was transacted I knew nothing then and 
know but little now. Sometimes I used to 
write some figures in a great book, add them 
up and rule a double line underneath to prove 
that some task of infinitesimal significance 
had been completed. It may surprise the 
reader to learn that I did this to the satis- 
faction of those I served, and was considered 
to have a reasonably bright future before me, 
until on a fine spring morning I put leaves in 
my hair and walked out to return no more. 
As offices go we were rather cultured. We all 
belonged to Mudie's and we all liked to look 

Richard Middleton 

at the pictures in the " Studio," yet I believe 
my fellow-clerks were astonished at my folly 
in leaving the city on ray raad quest for 
Parnassus. Personally, I think it was prob- 
ably the only sensible thing I have ever 
done in my life, for if I did not reach the 
blessed mountain, I have been privileged to 
behold it close at hand, and it was worth 
going to see. 

My only contribution to the practical side 
of business was the proposal that instead of 
starting clerks at a low salary and raising it 
by slow degrees with more regard to their age 
than to their ability, their salary should com- 
mence at the maximum and be subject to an 
annual reduction. This would enable them 
to marry before they were senile, and would 
encourage them to beget children to earn 
handsome salaries when that of their fathers 
was reduced to a pittance. Also they would 
have money when they were young enough 
to enjoy it as money should be enjoyed. This 
proposal was welcomed by the clerks of my 
own age, but only met with a cold reception 
from the older men. . . . 

The pleasing humour of that last paragraph 
serves to reraind me that even his most despondent 
letters were seldom without some witty or 
humorous observation. It was not so much 
that, like Figaro, he made haste to laugh from 
fear of being compelled to weep, but because he 


Life in a City Office 

was naturally a man of wit and humour. This 
will be seen presently in his correspondence rather 
than in particular conversational mots I can 
remember. " His brilliancies," as McQuilland 
says happily, " were scattered as the little jewels 
of Buckingham." 




Towards the close of the year 1905 the follow- 
ing advertisement appeared in that literary 
review of many vicissitudes, the Academy * : 

The New Bohemians, an unexpected 
society, mainly devoted to the encourage- 
ment of intelligent conversation among 
journalists, bookmen, critics, artists, and 
others, is prepared to consider the admis- 
sion of aspirants. The curious may make 
written application to the secretary, Academy 
ofl&ce (Advt. Dept.), 12, Southampton St., 
Strand. University men are not necessarily 
disqualified. Acquaintanceship with Omar, 
Rabelais, Pepys, Lamb, Stevenson and 

* The Academy was founded in 1869 by John Mnrray, its first 
editor being Dr. Appleton. I do not know if it passed out of 
Murray's hands between that time and 1896, when it was acquired 
by John Morgan Richards, the father of John Oliver Hobbes. 
Sidney Colvin edited it for a time, I believe. Under Richards, 
Lewis Hind held the editorship until the days of Alfred Douglas 
and Crosland. Douglas sold it for £2,500 to Earl Fitzwilliam and 
Lord Howard de Walden, but when, in 1915, it had fallen on evil 
days, I secured it for a five-pound note. Crosland and I then ran 
it for some, six months, though how we ran it, with Europe ablaze 
and no money behind us, heaven alone knows. Its full history 
would make entertaining reading, and may be told in another 


'Bohemian Days and Nights 

Whistler will be regarded as an asset, but 
literary heresies are not considered un- 

A more tempting appeal to a young man with 
literary ambitions and hungry for the society of 
his kind would be difficiJt to conceive. It 
aroused the curiosity of only some half a dozen 
persons, Middleton and I being of the company. 
The story of his application will be best told in the 
words of his sister, who, with faith in her brother's 
" future," took upon herself at times the role of a 
loving Boswell. One extract has been preserved 
of what must have been an excellent excursion 
into biography : 

He saw an advertisement of a club that 
sounded as if it would be congenial to him. 
He wrote a lively letter ..." owing to the 
folly of editors I am one of the ' others ' ; for 
the rest I can claim acquaintanceship with 
all the gentlemen mentioned, and especially 
do I delight in R. L. S., who is my little tin 
god. I am twenty-three years of age and 
have grown a beard. If this tempts you I 
shall be glad to have further particulars of 
your esteemed society. If not, I shall have 
wasted my penny stamp." 

The letter did tempt them, and he had a 

letter in reply that left him with mingled 

feelings. The names of the former members 

(Mr. Chesterton, Mr. Hilaire Belloc) filled 

33 ^ 

Richard Middleton 

him with terror, a terror half assumed. In- 
deed, under a somewhat conceited manner he 
concealed great modesty as to his intellectual 
attainments. In the letter from the secre- 
tary inviting him to The Prince's Head (to 
be initiated into the mysteries !) there was a 
split infinitive. He wrote accepting, point- 
ing out the split infinitive and using one him- 
self. He noticed it, however. I" was very 
anxious on the night of his trial and left a 
note on his supper table imploring him to 
write a line telling me how he enjoyed it. 
He did. " If they don't kick me out I shall 
be late every Thurdsay." 

I have not written this at all as I meant to. 
I have not shown his tremors, his " Lord, I 
am such an ignorant man," his " when I 
think of all those chaps they'll all know more 
than I do," his "I feel like an impostor " ; 
and then, " if they don't accept me I'll write 
them such letters they'll be bound to have 
me. I will tell them that to be unexpected 
they ought to kick out all the eligible men." 

There was no occasion for tremors. As the 
then secretary, McQuilland, observes : " He made 
an instantaneous appeal by his youth and charm 
of intellect to a group of men not too jaded to 
appreciate a fresh new gift." I myself sat next 
to him on that first evening, and, not knowing 
that he had a talent for blague, was mystified by 
his undertaking a defence of a famous newspaper 


"Bohemian Days and Nights 

magnate. On the whole, however, he said but 
Httle ; was reserved rather than loquacious. After 
the party broke up we discovered that our respec- 
tive homes were reached by the same railway — a 
chance which had much to do with the develop- 
ment of our friendship — and, as in due course we 
were accepted as members of the society, we were 
both of us for a long time " late every Thursday." 
The process by which undesirable applicants 
were eliminated was very simple. An invitation 
was posted twice, and if it was not thought politic 
to issue a third the would-be member had to 
swallow his mortification as best he could. There 
was no subscription, and the expenses other than 
those incurred for liquor were nil, the room 
allotted us being rent free. We sat around a 
large table on which was a slitted cigar-box for the 
reception of moneys towards a common fund for 
the evening's drink bill. In the rare event of a 
deficit when the proceedings ended, the balance 
was made up by the wealthier members, a super- 
fluity at any time being the perquisite of the Hebe 
who waited on us. At their leisure members 
signed their names in the minute book, sketched 
in it, or took it home to record impressions of the 
evening or anything in verse or prose that the 
whim dictated. The " first fine careless rapture " 

35 ^^ 

Richard Middleton 

of those early days of bohemian company recalls 
Beaumont's lines : 

What things have we seen 
Done at the Mermaid ! 

Around the tavern table we drank and smoked 
and upheld the Society's motto, " Talk for talk's 
sake " ; laughing, lunging and parrying with all 
the good-wiU imaginable. Verses were read, 
sketches and caricatures were drawn and passed 
round ; anecdotes, quotations, views of the last 
new book or play, all served to swell the evening's 
enjoyment. At closing time (half-past twelve in 
those days) members reluctant to cry " Enough ! " 
wandered about the streets, talking, joking, 
chanting verses, enlivening the moments of home- 
less folk at coffee stalls. Or we would seek out 
the lodgings of some boon companion and there 
carouse till dawn. " Oh God, night and day, 
night and day ! " as somebody's poor servant 
girl moaned once when called up at three o'clock 
in the morning to be asked where the beer had 
been put. 

I sometimes think, when I get out of bed 
On Friday morning, that the Prince's 
Is not so big as mine— but let it pass ! 
The soul of me was greatly comforted. 


"Bohemian Days and Nights 

There were days, too, other than Thursdays, 
when some of us would meet to walk together. 
Hampstead was a favourite objective. What a 
night was that on which Christopher Wilson, the 
composer, tore down the moonlit hill with me, 
both of us chanting Swinburne's A Ballad of 
Life and wholly at one in our ecstasy ! Good, 
life-loving Wilson is dead now, but for me at least 
he lives in the spirit for those rapturous moments. 
" Where's your Socialism now ? " he exclaimed 
exultantly one early morning in his rooms after 
reading a long passage from the Eikon Basilike. 
I didn't know where it was, being no Socialist, but 
there was no doubt about Wilson's enthusiasm — 
that was the thing that mattered. Once we 
played a cricket match at Raynes Park, thereafter 
in the cool of evening to drink beer out of quart 
pewter pots in a garden. On another night, after 
closing time, a troop invaded the sacred precincts 
of the National Liberal Club, led there by an 
intrepid young man who took us in as his guests. 
When a polite attendant, our drinks being con- 
sumed, said, " I beg your pardon. Sir Charles, but 
your name does not appear to be on our list of 
members," we retired with what dignity we covdd 
muster while our host " carried it off " with the 
somewhat perturbed officials. I think he ex- 


Richard Middleton 

plained that he had entered the premises under 
the impression that they were those of the 

It was a time when, as Stevenson puts it, 
" Youth, taking fortune by the beard, demands 
joy as a right." Middleton, also, has something 
to say on the matter. In his essay. The Tnie 
Bohemia {Monologues) he speaks of 

that effort to obtain from every moment of 
existence a perfect expression of life, which 
stirs the Bohemian to a constant sense of his 
own vitality, and lends his most trivial actions 
an air of unconsciousness so manifest that 
they must needs be interpreted by the 
sleepers and the half-dead as fragments of an 
indecently scornful pose. Fall of a flense 
that he is making history for his old age, he 
tastes life as a man tastes wine, and he 
mixes his drinks ; so that if you see him 
roystering in a tavern to-day you may depend 
upon it he will be reading fairy stories to a 
nurseryful of babies to-morow. 

At the next meeting he produced verses 
inspired by his first evening with the Society. 
They have not been published, and, with other 
work of the kind to follow, are included in 
these earlier pages, not because they are of much 
account as poetry but as being characteristic of 


'Bohemian Days and Nights 

It was a Friday, halfway down the Strand, 

I saw a maiden selling pretty posies, 
And, loveliest of all, was in her hand 

A bunch of crimson roses. 
" Where gather you these lovely flowers," I 
" Sweet maid, these blossoms thus your 
hand adorning ? " 
She smiled, " I get them from the Prince's 

Sir, every Friday morning. 

" For there they tell me of a Thursday night 
They hear brave laughter set the windows 
Or with a gentler fullness of delight, 

Voices of poets singing. 
And in the room where these great hearts 
have passed. 
Under the stars they capture with their 
Forth from the fullness of their riches cast 
Are found these blossoms after." 

I took the buds, and from the jealous sky. 
Lest the gods smote me, bore them closely 
Glad to my home, and now the roses lie 

Sweet in my heart unfaded. 
Then pardon me that I a man alone. 

No god to whom the sky its song discloses. 
Am come to-night to see these flowers grown. 
Having no crimson roses. 

There was no danger that the author of the 


Richard Middleton 

above lines would not receive his third invitation. 
They have, as I say, no great poetic merit, but 
their flattering appeal was not to be resisted. I 
see the men now as they bent over the MS. after 
he had read them. " Under the stars they capture 
with their laughter," murmured one of the party ; 
" that's a fine line." And so, it must be owned, 
it is. 

Two of his poems we were never tired of calling 
for at our gatherings ; both of them, truth to tell, 
received with an interest which in after days was 
not always accorded his more beautiful efforts. 
One runs as follows : 

In the brave year nineteen fifty 

When the snow has kissed our locks, 
And our books in milky vellum 

Nestle in the penny box ; 
And our lives are in the papers 

With our photographs aged two — 
May I wander to this tavern 

And renew my youth with you. 

Not for fame we worked and waited, 

Not for guineas sang our song, 
But because the nights were starry 

And because the world was wrong. 
Though we sometimes sighed for roses 

And the kingcups on the lawn. 
Yet we bore and suffered Harmsworth 

With our eyes towards the dawn. 


Bohemian Days and Nights 

In the brave year nineteen fifty 

Though our sun is down the sky, 
May we show the world together 

That Bohemia does not die. 
Though our songs are sung by pirates 

And our names are in Who's Who — 
May I wander to this tavern 

And renew my youth with you. 

Worse ditties have been written. The other, a 
piece of gay cynicism he called The Rubdiydt, was 
even more popular : 

The soft white hand of a woman 

Set with little pink nails. 

The curling handle of a clean pint pot 

And beer in pails. 

The soft red lips of a woman 

To kiss and say Amen, 

The cold round edge of a clean pint pot 

To kiss and kiss again. 

The soft bright eyes of a woman, 

The salt salt tears that set 'em, 

And once again a clean pint pot 

In which one may forget 'em. 

Always sure of appreciation was this morsel. 
That a spirit of originality breathes in it and in the 
other verses must be granted by the least amiably 
disposed critic of his work. It did not occur to 
me, however, to think of him primarily as a poet 
until, some months after our first meeting, he sent 


Richard Middleton 

me a copy of his The Last Cruise, since published 
in Poems and Songs. Before then his personaUty 
only had impressed me ; it impressed, indeed, 
everybody with whom he came into contact. To 
quote McQuilland again : 

How can one describe him but as a Person- 
ality, as a man who convinced without effort ? 
It can be said with absolute certainty that 
no one ever met Richard Middleton, even in 
in the most casual and fugitive measure, 
without being impressed by his force. His 
effects were obtained not by mere outward 
eccentricity or mannerisms, though he was, 
indeed, the most unconventional of men, but 
by sheer flashing originality. 

The Last Cruise thrilled me. A new planet had 
swam into my ken, and I remember writing to him 
with prophecies of a great future. My heart, 
how young we were ! Later, in the days of his 
disillusionment, he was to confess : 

Those were great nights when we used to 
read each other's verses and congratulate the 
world on its possession of our united genius. 
That is really the poet's hour, his rich reward 
for years of unprofitable labour, when the 
poets of his own unripe age receive his work 
with enthusiasm — an enthusiasm which in all 
honesty and all modesty he shares himself. 
Unhappily he is paid in advance ; sooner or 
later he wakes to find that he is worshipping 


^Bohemian Days and Nights 

before the shrine of his own genius, and the 
shrine is empty. That is why I am half 
pleased and half melancholy when young 
men tell me that Antony Starbright, aged 
twenty, is the greatest poet since Keats. If 
they only knew that I too in my hour was one 
of a group of greatest poets who all wrote 
poems to Pan and Hylas, when on summer 
nights that sometimes stretched far into ' 
summer mornings we were all hero-wor- 
shippers together and we ourselves were the 

They were good days, truly ; " le bon temps," 
as Anatole France puts it, " quand nous n'avions 
pas le sens commun." But here is the poem : 

The stars were out overhead and " Lo ! " I 
cried, " nevermore. 
Nevermore shall the palace know me," and 
high on the masts 
The white sails trembled as skyward the good 
good ship bore 

Her cargo of shadows. 
Never a word of regret as I stood on her 
moonlit poop 
And sang not of old past things but of 
wonders to be ; 
And saw great birds with a glory of plumage 

Down the sea's meadows. 

* Monologues, p. 230. The same thought is expressed in that 
fine essay The Great Mam, {The Qhost Ship). 


Richard Middleton 

Ah ! the wind on my forehead that might not 
blow on the earth, 
Surely the gates were open and I might 
The quiet eyes of the past that seemed life's 

That were but seeming. 
I saw the lights of a ship march slowly over 
the sea. 
And the land fell away behind me, and into 
the night 
That covereth all things and passeth no more 
for me. 

My heart went dreaming. 

Good poetry is that. Who that has seen ships 
at sea by night but must recognise the truth of 
the image, 

I saw the lights of a ship march slowly over 
the sea. 

The word " march " — the mot juste — ^makes 
poetry of the line where with " pass " or some 
other word it would be mere verse. What colour, 
again, is suggested by those great birds with their 
glory of plumage ! And how quietly the poem 
ends, or, rather, fades out. Dreamer and dream- 
ship pass like the gentlest of airs, merged in what 
calm of the spirit. That Middleton could write 
like this I had not for one moment imagined. He 
was a man to be with, and I had long lived among 


^Bohemian Days and Nights 

people who cared nothing for Uterature and whose 
humanity did not at that time compensate for 
their philistinism. With no faith or philosophy 
of life of my own, I must needs look up to one who 
apparently knew his own mind. I was a snob, 
too, where men who could " do things " were 
concerned. Above all, perhaps, I admired him 
in that he had no petty meannesses, he was not 
little of soul. Here, then, was a hero made to my 
hand. We quarrelled of course ; bitterly at times ; 
but long letters would follow on the subject of 
such eruptions, and they would end in our being 
better friends than ever. " Man, if you only 
knew my pride ! " he exclaimed one day, friendly 
relations having been resumed after a difference. 
We had sat for some two hours in the same room 
in mutual hatred. It was perhaps the only 
occasion on which I ever felt deep resentment 
against him. For once I gave up probing for 
causes, and relieved myself by writing a sonnet 
while he raged silently at another table. In the 
main, however, his " nonsense suited my non- 
sense." We got on very well together; were 
attracted to the same ideals and pleasures ; were 
good friends in short. 

There are many references to the New Bohe- 
mians in our earlier letters. His were seldom 


Richard Middleton 

dated, but while I was still being addressed by my 
surname I find him writing : 

I dined with a select assemblage of 
Bohemians last night and had a jolly time. 
But, oh, Savage, I was talkative ; talkative. 
Savage. No longer the shy retreating 
Middleton of McQuilland's delightful 
romances, but a new Middleton, a base 
Middleton, a thing blatant. In the golden 
light of mom I can remember saying fifty 
sUly things last night. An' I said a wise one 
I recall it not. I hereby take a vow of 
silence. Henceforth I shall wander on my 
wild lone in solitary places like Kipling's 

These blushes express what most of us have felt 
after a night in good company, but they must not 
be allowed to distort other views of the assertive- 
ness of which he speaks. Yet again to quote 
McQuilland : 

There are a number of good talkers in 
London, but Richard Middleton had a quality 
of tingling unexpectedness in his talk whicjti 
distinguished him from all other varieties of 
good talkers whatsoever. His mind was a 
remarkably sane, lucid and logical one, but 
his imagination was whimsically and delight- 
fully freakish, giving continual expositions 
of realism in fairyland, of flashes of joy 
shooting through forests of nightmare. He 


'Bohemian Days and Nights 

was a genuine talker, not an expert mono- 
loguist with a prepared text. His inspira- 
tions were often minted from the remarks of 
others, a process in which small change was 
transmuted into bright gold. . . . 

Another portrait illustrating his capacity as a 
talker is to be found in Arthur Ransome's 
Bohemia in London. Ransome, describing his 
first meeting with him in the Cafe de I'Europe, 
says : 

A huge felt hat banged freely down over 
a wealth of thick black hair, bright blue eyes,* 
an enormous black beard, a magnificent 
manner (now and again he would rise and 
bow profoundly, with his hat upon his heart, 
to some girls on the other side of the room), 
a way of throwing his head back when he 
drank, of thrusting it forward when he spoke, 
an air of complete abandonment to the 
moment and the moment's thought ; he took 
me tremendously. He seemed to be delight- 
ing his friends with extempore poetry. I 
carried my pot of beer to a table just beside 
him, where I could see him better and also 
hear his conversation. It was twaddle, but 
such downright, spirited splendid twaddle, 
flung out from the heart of him in a grand, 
careless way that made me think of largesse 
scattered royally on a mob. 

* " Bansome lies about the colour of my eyes, damn him. Blue 
forsooth, as if my name were Albert ! " — Letter, 1906. 

47 = 

Richard Middleton 

The letter referring to his talkativeness has a 
not uninteresting comment on Walter Scott : 

I am making an almost honest effort to 
read a book called Quentin Durward by one 
Walter Scott. But Lord ! what bags of 
clothes his puppets are. He gives you their 
characteristics but none of the little human 
touches that would make them live. At 
least for me. A faint suggestion of a poor 
historical drama played by a fourth-rate 
touring company. But his notes and intro- 
duction are blooming interesting and reproach 

Thus the critic. In another letter of the period 
the artist peeps out. After delivering himself of a 
squib expressive of his distaste for Philistia and 
his appreciation of our beloved Bohemian Society, 
he goes on to say : 

I fancy we have all tried to do this at times 
—felt that we would sacrifice everything to 
obtain perfect expression of one thing. . . . 
As a matter of fact, I can't. I haven't got 
the big thing to sacrifice. But my wish is 
" Oh to love something desperately so that I 
could smash it and write great things about 
it." This is quite immoral but natural enough 
I suppose. StUl, I looks to you to condemn 
it for me in nice stalwart English fiill of 
damns Mister Savage but don't damn my 
werses because I rather likes 'em man. 


'Bohemian Days and Nights 

In yet another letter he replies to one of mine, 
evidently written in a mood de profundis. The 
following extract throws light on his view of other 
people's philosophies : 

• . . after all, as you know well enough, 
the word that will help you can only come 
from yourself. So the futility of philoso- 
phers. They can only give you their own 
philosophy, they cannot help you to yours, 
and thus the problem of finding oneself 
becomes more complex as one reads. . . . 
As far as I see it there are only two philoso- 
phies to build upon. The one consists in 
taking the way of least resistance, and this, 
the poor weak way, is mine. Optimism. 
Yours is the better way. Of course, no one 
really wishes to find himself. But we want 
to see the way lying clearly ahead, so that 
our ideals may appear possible. And this is 
where other people's philosophies are so 
hurtful. They make us doubt, and that way 
lies madness. I shut my eyes to my doubts. 
You, with your fighting mind, should be able 
to overcome yours. Throw Nietzsche out 
of window and go forth by yourself and 
believe me 

Yours very sincerely, 

Richard Middleton. 

(I fear I have a small soul. I love writing 
my name.) 

My shelves at that time certainly curved imder 

49 "2 

Richard Middleton 

the weight of philosophical treatises. Being 
much impressed once by a passage from Schopen- 
hauer's The World as Will and Idea, I read it aloud 
to him, challenging him to reject its truth. He 
listened attentively, not wholly from politeness, 
but as who should think, "Well, there may be 
something in this after all." Exactly what was 
going on in his mind the while, however, only a 
full knowledge of him could determine. It is 
perhaps worthy of note that I forget his reply on 
that occasion, remembering only his attitude. 
But though he had but small use for philosophers, 
he was attracted by gloomy views of life more or 
less disguised in works of art.* Ulle des Pin- 
gouins, with its pessimistic last chapter, he 
jestingly called his Bible. Its author's joie de 
vivre and profound humanity as expressed in 
La Rotisserie de la Beine Pedauque, impressed him 
less deeply than that Solomonic spirit in the great 
Frenchman which emphasises the futility of 
human endeavour. But Anatole France keeps on 

• Middleton's critical viBion was undoubtedly o'bscured by his 
temperament. Though he did not bother to read Walter Pater, 
his SBsthetio was akin to that of the great Victorian critic. In 
studying Pater we should ask ourselves the value of a realised 
impression which excludes a realisation of the object impressing. 
Thus might art and morality be seen as two sides of a coin as 
it were. 


'Bohemian Days and Nights 

endeavouring, just as Housman is still alive, who 

advises us to 

Play the man, stand up and end you 
When your sickness is your soul. 

Housman, by the way, is the hero — if hero he can 
be called— of the essay. The Poet who was.* Harris, 
Austin Harrison and Middleton, admirers all of 
his poetry, asked him to lunch with them, but 
from the essay in question he does not seem to 
have created a favourable impression. They 
realised that gods have feet of clay, and in their 
disillusionment were perhaps not sympathetic 
enough with the clay. Middleton's copy of The 
Shropshire Lad is pencilled mainly at morbid and 
dark passages. The only strictly aesthetic judg- 
ment is that upon the poem The New Mistress, 
against which he has written : " Better than 
Kipling." Zola's VCEuvre, Gissing's New Gruh 
Street, and what he called " that depressing master- 
piece," Theodore Dreiser's Sister Came— these also 
appealed to him. In one of his notebooks is a 
fragment of criticism on VCEuvre and La Debacle 
which throws light not only on those two novels : 

Zola's women are as sentimental, as tear- 
fully false as Dickens's heroines. It is extra- 

* Monologues. It appeared originally in the Academy, its 
publication there being followed by an appreciative letter from a 
German author asking permission to translate it. 


Richard Middleton 

ordinary that so clever a man should have 
known so little about them. La Debacle is 
an astonishing failure. The tragedy, per- 
haps, was too real for him. UCEuvre — 
admirable book that no artist ought to read. 
Claude is Manet. Sandoz is Zola himself. 
The real moral seems to me to be that genius 
produces nothing, because the expression 
must always fall short of the dream. Art 
is an imperfect thing, and genius cannot 
tolerate imperfection. But the human man 
says, " Oh well, perhaps it's good enough." 
And so it is, sometimes. 

He meant, not that genius produces nothing, 
but nothing satisfactory to itself. It must be 
remembered that many writers have the habit 
of jotting down thoughts which on reflection are 
polished or destroyed. The extract is quoted less 
for its opinions than as an aid towards under- 
standing the man. What are we to make of one 
who could write of a book that " no artist ought 
to read " it ? That he was easily influenced ? 
That he had some fear of being ultimately found 
wanting ? "Of course, no one really wishes to 
find himself," he says in the letter just quoted. 
I sometimes wish he were here now, if only that 
I might say to him, " I have thrown Nietzsche 
out of window. When you told me to do so, 
did you know that you were harbouring such 


"Bohemian Days and Nights 

skeletons as Zola, Housman and Company in 
your own cupboard ? " And we would laugh, 
remembering poetry, and the South Downs of 
England, and forgetful of any dream that was 
ever dreamed. 




In 1906 Middleton left the house of his parents 
at Hampton Court for two rooms at No. 7, Black- 
friars Road. The house has since been converted 
into a Lyons tea-shop. Contact with " Journa- 
lists, Bookmen, Critics, Artists, and others " had 
doubtless much to do with the decision to take up 
bachelor quarters. And proud of them he was, 
too. The living-room was furnished chiefly with 
bookshelves, the bed-room with but one bed, and 
as there was no sofa we dozed about in deck chairs 
or lay curled up on rugs if any of us spent the 
night there. The few letters sent me during this 
year reflect his usual moods of high elation or 
black depression. Here is one — in verse — of the 
former variety : 

My name is Richard Middleton, I'm living at 

Two stories up, above the street, to chasten 

my desires ; 
I have no purple heather here, no field, nor 

living tree — 
But every night when I look out God lights 

the stars for me. 


The Adventure of Journalism 

My name is Richard Middleton and once upon 

a day 
I read a story in a book and once I learnt to 

And once I learnt to sing a song to charm the 

weary whiles — 
And now I read and pray and sing, and God 

looks down and smiles. 

For we are happy people here, a-living in 

Blackfriars ; 
St. Paul's lies through the window-panes and 

half a hundred spires ; 
And all the world goes laughing by, and we 

have found it true 
That everywhere above the grey brave eyes 

may see the blue. 

I am not rich nor hope to be, but mine are 

day and night. 
And all the world to look upon, and laughter, 

and the light. 
Where I can set my torch ablaze to make the 

beacon burn. 
And show to God that in Blackfriars, two 

stories up, I yearn. 

And God looks down from heaven and he sees 

my beacon fires. 
And says, " That's Richard Middleton a-living 

in Blackfriars." 
He does not grant me roses here, nor sunny 

field nor tree. 
But every night when I look out he lights the 

stars for me. 


Richard Middleton 

When this light-hearted jingle was written he 
was still employed in the city and still dividing 
his leisure between life and literature. But not 
so many penny stamps were now being wasted 
on editors : he was beginning to see the unwisdom 
of that practice if carried on without influence. 
His first published poem appeared, through the 
good offices of George Francis Wilson, the poet, 
in the Gentleman's Magazine, but the innocent 
cause of his getting any considerable body of work 
accepted was myself. An unsigned article on 
Rossetti in the Academy had roused my youthful 
enthusiasm to the extent of wishing to meet its 
author, who, to my surprise, turned out to be 
Lord Alfred Douglas, then editor of the paper. 
Douglas accepted an invitation to meet the 
New Bohemians, and it was not long before 
Middleton, Arthur Machen, Randal Charlton, and 
T. Michael Pope, of our membership, became 
regular contributors. This accident, which 
occurred in 1907, must have determined to some 
extent his departure from the insurance world. 
He took the plunge in April, though not with- 
out some private misgivings and much opposition 
from his family. A rough draft of a letter to 
some one in authority at the office expresses the 
fear that his — 


The Adventure of Journalism 

absence without leave or explanation will 
have appeared somewhat discourteous, but 
it is only my natural hesitation to take so 
decisive a step as the resignation of my post 
that has prevented me from writing before. 
I may say briefly that recently my work has 
become so distasteful to me that I fear I have 
to a considerable extent neglected it. . . . 

The outlook, in point of fact, was not too un- 
promising. His articles were appearing fairly 
regularly in the Academy, and in addition he 
was given a deal of review work. Under date 
May 14th, 1907, he writes : " Oh, but the review- 
ing is great fun, an' the man Douglas is a peach 
with a stone in it to let me do it." That this kind 
of work, however, grew after a while somewhat 
stale with him is not surprising. " Nowadays," 
he writes later, " I have exchanged the brilliant 
make-belief of the amateur for the stolid insin- 
cerity of the professional " ; and, more signifi- 
cantly, " They have sent me a book by one Synge 
— ^thank heavens not a novel ! " * Later still, in 
October, came an invitation from Edgar Jepson 

* The book was Tlie Aran Isles. As a reviewer he did his best 
towards popularising Synge, and, among others, De Vere Stac- 
poole (The Blue Lagoon — though a better book of Stacpoole's, we 
agreed, was that comely novel The Street of the Fhite-Player), 
Harris (The Man Shakespeare), Kenneth Grahame (The Wind m 
the Willows), and D. H. Lawrence {The White Peacock): 


Richard Middleton 

to do " some sort of secretarial work for me " on 
Vanity Fair; and presently he is to be found 
writing : " I saw Jepson again at the V.F. offices. 
He was very decent and desires of my verses for 
that journal and commissions another article." 
Thus, with two papers throwing open their 
columns to him, the adventure of literature might 
have had less auspicious beginnings. Not that he 
shone as a journalist. In the sense in which that 
term is understood in Fleet Street in these days he 
was never a journalist at all, nor could ever have 
been. " Casual and cheerfully unpunctual " is 
how Harris, then editing Vanity Fair, describes 
him. Jepson, too, had occasion sometimes mildly 
to reprove him ; and Douglas's secretary " would 
be glad if you woidd send in your reviews of the 
books recently sent to you, or if you have not time 
to do them, will you please return the books. It 
is a long while since we had any copy from you." 
In the meantime, the meetings of the New 
Bohemian Society were becoming less attractive. 
New members crept in whom the motto " Talk 
for talk's sake" did not wholly charm. In the 
camp was an argumentative spirit impatient of 
poetry and epigram. We were divided into 
groups discussing different subjects. At one part 
of the table sat urbane Arthur Machen and his 


The Adventure of Journalism 

little band of followers in quiet consideration of 
the forms and ceremonies of the Anglican Church. 
Iram, indeed, had gone and all his rose. In grave, 
devout, enraptured tones they talked now of copes 
and stoles and the like. Others, with feelings 
akin to those of Monk's army on Blackheath at 
the Restoration, gloomily saw the end of all 
things in the Machen heresies, the argumentative 
warring of the Socialists and the gradual dissolu- 
tion of the communal spirit which at one time had 
kept the whole table united. Purple nights, such 
as that on which we sallied forth into the streets 
clad in Cavalier costumes as a protest against 
Puritanism, were few and far between. Some of 
us on Thursday evenings took to meeting at alien 
taverns or prolonging dinner to a late hour in Soho 
restaurants, arriving at the club premises only 
when the proceedings were nearly over. " Eat, 
drink, and be merry," wrote Middleton ruefully, 
" for to-morrow we shall be Fabians." And in 
another letter : 

I also go not to the N.B.'s for a month or 
so. The more I see of them the more I see 
that it is the old members who count. . . . 
What a gang of ripping chaps every one of 
them ! Thinking of the old meetings makes 
me sad so many of them are combat horses 
now. The rest of us may be mighty fine 


Richard Middleton 

fellows but we ain't clubable. We're not 
willing to make the little sacrifices to the 
german silver gods of our neighbours that 
make for fine evenings. We are damned 
individualists and ashamed of oxu'selves at 
that. . . . 

For all its drooping spirit, however, the Society 
was " an unconscionable time a-dying " ; and 
indeed, it is not dead yet. Out of the flame of 
those early days came the friendships of a life- 
time. Some of the members still meet occasion- 
ally to while a pleasant hour away with pipe and 
glass, to talk of things temporal and eternal, and 
to revive memories of that full Mermaid wine of 
which of old we drank so deeply. And if, in days 
to come, long after we who now remain are gone, 
there is no club of a like nature somewhere about 
this world of ours, what better club, it may be 
well asked, is to take its place ? 

The letter with Middleton's lament for the 
Society's decadence introduces yet another of his 
recreations. He goes on to say : 

I think my heaven wotdd be a judicious 
combination of a Thursday night at the 
Prince's Head and a fine afternoon at the 
Oval (Hayward and Hayes batting), with a 
library in one corner and a playground full 
of children in the other. . . . The perfect 

The Adventure of Journalism 

state of happiness in this world would be to 
be a professional cricketer attached to the 
Surrey club, with a gift for writing minor 
verse. What a life ! And people would buy 
your verses because you were a cricketer. . . . 
I see that I have forgotten the picture gallery 
and the string band in my heaven, but these 
are details. Oh and calm days, and better 
still, calm nights at sea, and woods of pines 
and Simpson's saddle of mutton. There are 
such a lot of good things in life, though we 
do not always attain to the kinglike happiness. 

Cricket was no game of mine, but I did allow 
myself to be lured to Lord's on one occasion. We 
were accompanied by William Owen Summers, the 
founder of the Gallery Firstnighters' Club, whom 
many must remember as a prominent figure in the 
theatrical and Bohemian London of his day. But 
only Middleton saw the match. Summers and I 
were so hypnotised by the enormous boots of a 
horse drawing a roller on the adjoining practice 
pitch, we lay watching that performance till it 
finally sent us to sleep. A very human, humorous, 
and lovable little man was "Willy" Summers, 
the most popular member of our circle, and 
nothing if not communal. He was one of a 
somewhat vinous party I had invited along to my 
house one night to carry on a convivial gathering 
interrupted by closing time at the public-house 


Richard Middleton 

we then frequented. On our arrival, Willy, in all 
probability, neither knew where he was nor why 
he was there ; it was enough to be among friends. 
As I fumbled with the key of the door the discreet 
silence was broken by his hoarse and earnest re- 
minder, " If it's a burglary I'm in it ! " He died 
under moving circumstances in 1915, penniless and 
worn out by aphasia of the brain. With what 
was probably some instinctive premonition of the 
end, he set out to walk to the home of his friend, 
Edwin Pugh, the novelist, a distance of about 
forty miles from London ; was found lying ex- 
hausted within a mile or so of the town he sought, 
and died in the infirmary. 

Willy had lived precariously as a journeyman 
tailor, with no gift for making money and no desire 
to earn more than sufficed for the passing day. 
Well-intentioned friends once subscribed to start 
him in business, but the attempt to make a good 
bourgeois of a pronounced Bohemian was one at 
which Sisyphus would have stared blankly. And 
yet, in spite of the last phase of his life when, 
owing to physical infirmity, he was largely depen- 
dent upon the charity of his friends, it is hard to 
believe that his life was altogether a failure. Our 
standards of success are measured by what we 
most want to achieve. Difficult as it is to convey 


The Adventure of Journalism 

the impression, Willy is chiefly associated in my 
mind with the idea of genius. He created nothing 
but a memory which must pass, but his wit and 
humour were so spontaneous, it was so certain he 
rehearsed nothing, the spirit flashed and darted 
from him naturally. A great domed forehead he 
had for so little a man. " He looks like Shake- 
speare," said Randal Charlton quietly, as we 
stood gazing at him in the mortuary. And with 
everything unifying for a moment at that remark, 
it had all the force of a truth. 

Middleton's fondness for cricket never found 
expression in song as did Francis Thompson's. 
The game was more of a nerves-drug to him than 
a live source of inspiration. Not that it could be 
said to have been much more than that to the 
other poet. " It. induces a proper state of peace- 
fulness," wrote Middleton, probably in answer to 
some rallying remark of mine. 

Watching cricket matches is a very happy 
way of passing an afternoon and restful to 
the mind. To-day I am virtuous and work. 
... I lost my temper on Thursday and 

ended by calling a liar and getting 

dnmk; a fine end to my good resolutions. 
But a day at the Oval yesterday restored me 
to my senses, so there is something in county 
cricket after all you will perceive. 

63 ' 

Richard Middleton 

A word here to correct any impression that he 
was a drunkard— that is to say, an habitual and 
excessive drinker, as Verlaine was, for example. 
In this comparison, being not qualified to under- 
take the delicate work of separating sheep from 
goats, I do not speak ethically ; I mean simply 
that, with Verlaine, drunkenness was a habit and 
that with Middleton it was not.* In general, 
Verlaine's, from all accounts, was the weaker 
character, which does not necessarily mean the 
worser.f Only twice did I see Middleton more 
advanced in liquor than was usual with him. 
The first time was when, having all of us overdone 
the honours to St. Patrick, and fearing he might 
lose his money, we very carefully relieved him of 
it befoTe seeing him into a cab for Waterloo. It 
nearly came to a fight with the driver— so he told 
us afterwards— before that worthy could be 
persuaded of his innocence in the matter. The 

* For his views on this subject see his essay The Virtues of 
Getting Drunk (Monologues). 

t " He is the carol -boy of English poetry ; he is our Verlaine," 
said Austin Harrison arrestingly. There is some truth in the view. 
Not altogether apropos de bottes, Middleton was only very lightly 
versed in French poetry. " You and your Bawdylaire ! " he 
mocked once, knowing my admiration for Baudelaire. A joke, 
of course, but he had never read that poet, probably only some- 
thing about him. Had he done so he would have known that the 
" damned soul " was anything but bawdy. Better for him if he 
had been. 




The Adventure of Journalism 

other story is against myself alone. On arriving 
home with me one wet night he insisted on going 
to sleep on a flower-bed in the back garden ; in 
much the same penitent spirit, I suspect — save 
that the selection of the flower-bed was a subtle 
tribute to beauty — ^that prompted Dr. Johnson to 
stand bareheaded in the rain before his father's 
statue at Lichfield. As he would not be con- 
vinced that it was by no means an ideal night for 
sleeping out, I covered him with a rug and — 
took his boots oft ! 

Another story relates to this period. With 
others of the society we attended the ceremony in 
the crypt of St. Paul's Cathedral when Rodin's 
bust of Henley was unveiled there. Present also 
were several literary notables, one of whom 
recognising, " Look, Richard," I whispered snob- 
bishly, " there's Austin Dobson." He liked the 
work of that poet, but, deeply interested in the 
proceedings and resenting the interruption, drew 
back with a gesture of mingled pride, dignity and 
annoyance, and retorted, " And here's Richard 
Middleton ! " The snub was deserved, but I am 
uncertain whether at the moment I was most 
quenched or amused. Yet another story is illus- 
trative of his practicality. " He was that very 
practical person the artist," as a reviewer said of 

65 '2 

Richard Middleton 

him. Sitting up late one windy night together, 
I cursed the rattling of the windows. He rose 
quietly, secured the catches, and remarked dryly 
the while : " These things, Henry, are meant for 
other purposes than keeping out burglars." There 
is a certain practicality, too, in his comment on 
that familiar tablet " No hawkers, no canvassers " 
at the gates of many suburban residences. " What 
fools people are," he exclaimed on seeing one of 
these. " They might be refusing the door to 
happiness ! " 

So went the Bohemian days along. Wine and 
song— there was as yet no woman in his life— to 
say nothing of high endeavour ; such was his life 
in the Blackfriars Road, where " God lit the stars " 
for him. Two letters from a bundle of corre- 
spondence of the year 1907 are so characteristic 
they should be included here. One runs as 
follows : 

You must have condemned me as the 
worst of correspondents, but I have a good 
excuse, or rather two. I have been working 
and I have been gazing on the faces of my 
friends. To-night, however, I can't work, so 
very properly I write letters. . . . And you, 
you, oh philosopher, ask why children grow 
up ! This is abhorrent, brutish pessimism on 
your part, and demands rebuke. I have been 

The Adventure of Journalism 

asking myself, more healthily, why we start 
by being young. If we ended by being 
children, everybody would believe in God ; 
but the present deterioration seems so wanton. 
It is as if every man started life with a little 
shining fish like a jewel on his breast, and 
spent three-quarters of his existence hating 
the inevitable stink of the finny denizens of 
the deep if kept too long out of water. This 

is a fine figure of speech. R , whose books 

I saw the other day, has an autograph copy 
of one of Swinburne's books, presented by 
that poet to Oscar Wilde. I gazed upon it 
with awe and thought of you. . . . 

I fear you will find the old country greatly 
changed when you return. There is a vague 
unrest in certain quarters with regard to the 

coaxing seriousness of the N.B.'s, and M 

and I dined last night with P instead of 

going to the club. I foresee alarums and 
excursions anon. Meanwhile I confess that 
I am happy without quite knowing what I 
have done to earn that feeling. It would be 
frightful to become used to one's own little 
way, wouldn't it ? And yet I don't know. 
I don't think either my sins or my asceticisms 
move me as much as they used to. Perhaps 
one morning there will come one running to 
say that Peter Pan is dead, and that Richard 
Middleton has just been born, aged twenty- 
five. I shall hear the news with the chaste 
resignation of an Ophelia who has been 
rescued from the deep by a super-gallant 
policeman. I looks towards yer. 


Richard Middleton 

The mood of the other letter is darker. His 
judgment : " Up and down, up and down — it's 
awful true of my life," has already been quoted. 
Or as he puts it elsewhere : " You see I am 
cheerful and I rejoice that it takes as little to 
make me happy as it does to make me suicidal." 
But here is the extract : 

Life is such a simple business to me that I 
sometimes feel afraid of it. I walk along the 
streets and I understand everything, the sky 
and the stones and the people on the pave- 
ments, and my very knowledge affects me 
with a horror of it all. I want miracles, 
bloody red miracles, not to support my faith 
but to upset it. I have sometimes thought 
that I had a certain belief in possibilities — 
but all my possibilities are possible and I am 
lost. If John the Baptist stood on my door- 
step and preached the simple life I would 
watch his transference to a lunatic asylum 
unmoved. I want something to happen that 
has never happened before, something beyond 
my imagining, something new. That is an 
old cry, I think, and it will survive me. 

There are, perhaps, readers to whom that 
extract is not puzzling. But what does it all 
mean ? What sort of knowledge (if knowledge 
it was) was that which affected him " with a 
horror of it all ? " Even if Middleton had not 
made a name for himself his life would yet be 


The Adventure of Journalism 

worth studying. For that matter, any person's 
life is worth studying, but as obviously we cannot 
as individuals give attention to everybody, we must 
seek to realise what has most deeply impressed us 
in our own experience. In trying to do so is there 
not a chance that we may hit upon a way of 
ridding ourselves the more easily of the black moods 
we have in common with those persons who have 
impressed us — moods which they themselves did 
not, or do not, know how to conquer ? 

The darkness is all about, 

It hides the blue ; 
But I conquer it with my shout. 

And pierce it through. 

He did not conquer it with his shout, probably 
because it is not to be so conquered. 

But the sound of my shouting dies, 

And the shadows fall. 
For Death is upon the skies 

And upon us all. 

The shadows fall and the still, 

I am loath to sing, 
I have wondered and kissed my fill 

On the lips of spring. 

But the golden cities are gone 

And the stars are fled, 
And I know that I am alone. 

And I am dead. 

Richard Middleton 

No more than a dream that sings 

In the streets of space ; 
Ah, would that my soul had wings, 

Or a resting-place ! 

The reader may thrill to that lyricism as I have 
thrilled, but, poetry apart, here is a case of a man 
often crying from the depths and eventually 
flinging his life away. 

Brother ! yet something must be wrong 
That you should read a dead man's song ! 

he exclaims elsewhere perplexedly. It seems 
incredible that he could have understood every- 
thing as he says he did. How far his trouble 
penetrated my obtuseness, selfishness, or what- 
ever it was, in the old days I cannot say. I was 
moved to action at times, but that I had no power 
to alter his fate (if any of us have power to alter 
the fate of another person) is proved by the event. 
In a letter of 1909, " of course what is the matter 
with both you and myself," he says, 

is that we are selfish almost to genius 
(that's why we get on so well together) and 
therefore when our tragic moments come, we 
feel that both their causes and their mani- 
festations are annoyingly disproportionate 
to life as a whole. . . . And the drawback of 
being selfish, individual is a prettier word, 
lies in this : that the person of individuality 

The Adventure of Journalism 

(= selfishness) derives no pleasure from his 
own defeats because he realises that after all 
they are only trumpery affairs. Christ could 
endure his crucifixion because all humanity 
was crucified with him. You and I must 
suffer alone ; it is the price of our super- 

There seems to be more cleverness than truth 
in that passage, true to fact though it was that 
we were selfish. One of us was at least. What 
is certain is that he was in no enviable state of 
mind wanting " bloody red miracles." In a lame 
way, Job's-comforter-like, I used to remind him 
of the miracle of life, the overwhelming fact of 
existence, the wonder and mystery of it, but he 
would retort angrily and not without some reason 
that it would be just as wonderful if nothing 
existed at all. True it is that if we are wondering 
we are not worrying, and to be able to recall the 
sense of wonder when perturbed is not without 
some calming effect on the mind, but, living as we 
must do to some extent in a material world, we 
are obviously here for other purposes as well as 
the contemplation of mystery. 

Wonder is all that my dim spirit knows. 
Wonder, and strange disquiet, 

he says in one of his poems. As a poet he prob- 
ably wondered more than most people and knew 


Richard Middleton 

something of the value of it. I need scarcely have 
reminded him of what efficacies it has. 

Another view of him at this period may fitly 
be inserted here. I am indebted for it to my 
friend, Herbert Garland, a later New Bohemians' 
secretary and an essayist of imagination whose 
work is well known in bibliographical circles and 
should be better known outside of them, 

I first met Middleton [he writes] in 1906 on 
my introduction to the tavern club known as 
the New Bohemians. He sat opposite me 
at the large table, his fingers playing ner- 
vously with a long row of spent matches, talk- 
ing continuously in that strident voice of his 
with which others in a large company were 
apt to find themselves " talked down." 
Then, as at any time, however, there were 
few who were not content to listen to his talk. 
As a controversialist he was both ingenious 
and obstinate, taking a delight in defending 
unpopular positions ; as an extemporist on 
themes suggested by personal experiences he 
can have had but few equals. There was in 
him a mixture of introspection and exuber- 
ance, qualities which sometimes did not 
blend but more often were productive of talk 
of an unusual and most fascinating kind. I 
do not remember what he talked about on 
this first meeting, neither do I remember the 
words of kindly welcome he went out of his 
way at the end of an exacting evening to 

The Adventure of Journalism 

address to me, a younger man and exceed- 
ingly shy. Later on, when I knew him better, 
I was always puzzled at the contrast between 
his brusque indifference to the feelings of 
quite inoffensive people and his considera- 
tion of the feelings of others who were no 
less vulnerable, but of whom he thought 
apparently that they were defenceless. At 
one moment he would unreasonably refuse to 
move an inch, and at another he would at a 
minute's notice journey to Scotland in the 
dismal company of a friend stricken with a 
sudden grief. 

For a season during the period Middleton 
was in lodgings in the Blackfriars Road I saw 
him almost daily. He partook of a late and 
enormous breakfast at the very hour when 
the exigencies of an office compelled me to 
make an early lunch in an underground tea- 
shop at Westminster. There, amid the dis- 
gruntled chess-players and rattlers of domi- 
noes incidental to such places, was gathered 
a small company who contrived to anticipate 
or continue nocturnal festivals. I remember 
him here in irresponsible moods of gaiety, 
moods in which the originality of his mind 
was displayed at its best. His appearance 
was then at its most fantastic stage, with hair 
and beard untrimmed and garments that grew 
tattered. This negligence of attire, subse- 
quently reformed, was born of a quartier latin 
of his imagination and took even little street 
boys by surprise. 

Middleton had by then contributed to The 


Richard Middleton 

Academy and The English Review, and was 
writing for Vanity Fair stories which would 
be brandished in their proof state for our 
delectation. These, however, were but a 
part of his invention, for he would discuss 
projects for poems and detail plots of stories 
which he purposed writing, some of them 
more remarkable than those actually written. 
We in our small circle were privately con- 
vinced of his brilliant future. What he him- 
self thought I do not know. Once he said to 
me with sudden earnestness : " There will be 
no second-rate for me. I have either a first- 
class brain or a tenth-rate brain " ; while at 
other times, usually when he was alone with 
you, a simplicity and even humility was ex- 
pressed which contrasted oddly with the 
notion of him prevalent among those who 
knew him only in larger assemblies. His 
aim in life, as we knew it, was a serious one of 
accomplishing creative literature, but he was 
far from being merely " literary " or assuming 
characteristics proverbial to the minor poet. 
His interests were wide and his roundabout 
knowledge of the world was precocious and 
extensive. It was always amusing to watch 
the transformation in the all sorts and condi- 
tions of men who on encountering Middleton 
were first startled and inclined to be derisive 
at his appearance, gestures and voice, and 
then grew unaffectedly entertained by his 
whimsical geniality and shrewdness. Of his 
fascination for children I had no experience, 
but I remember his descriptions of them, 


The Adventure of Journalism 

which, to my mind, were less studied and 
more successful than his written stories and 
essays about them. 

Looking back with a knowledge after the 
event it is easy to discern a quality in him 
which connects itself with his ultimate 
failure. The introspective side of his men- 
tality was abnormally developed, but was 
apparently balanced by a frank and youthful 
gusto in living which later gave place to a too 
patient benignity. So successful was this 
side of him dissembled that in the earjier 
days I am sure there were people who were 
unaware of its existence. The truth is that 
his introspection was irreconcilable with 
either the mysticism of an inner or the 
brutality of an outer world. Emotions 
were probed and tested in a way that in 
company was made by his dexterous hand- 
ling conversationally amusing, but alone 
it must have become neurasthenic and 

Even those to whom he was personally 
inimical never denied his wit, and his memory 
invokes recollections of mirth, of quarrels 
conceived in that youthful seriousness which 
becomes merely droll on maturer reflection, 
and of a real capacity for friendship. Dur- 
ing the period I knew him best the demands 
he made on friendship were not always easy 
to meet by those whose lives were regulated 
to some extent by home or office ties. He 
once complained of a mutual friend that there 
were times when he must be passed in the 


Richard Middleton 

street with a " how do you do " nod, 
and he commended another for making-up 
long absences by a cheerful readiness to 
spend a week with you when he put in a 
casual appearance, while of a third who was 
lately married he complained apropos of all 
Benedicts : " When you call you find his 
wife is having a baby and there is no tea 

On his rare visits to England after he had 
gone to live in Brussels the change in him was 
marked. His wit was unimpaired, but his 
vivacity was gone and his boisterous pug- 
nacity was daunted by a sensitiveness fully 
revealed. He was capable now of being 
wounded in a way that made one more 
cautious in speech. He met shafts that 
deserved his previous indifference or bright 
retorts with a gentleness born of no settled 
philosophy apparently, but of weariness. 
In place of the old whimsicality there crept 
into his conversation a cynicism that was not 
youthful. Lesser and luckier men then, as 
now, were being published. He, already a 
practised writer, was seriously speaking un- 
published. He was not a man to write for 
posterity and eat oatmeal. His notion of a 
meal was a seven-course dinner, and he was 
never at pains to disguise a frank desire for 
immediate applause. I knew nothing of his 
relations with editors and publishers, but I 
conjectured that a competent clerk in an 
insurance office by all accounts became an 
indifferent business man in literary life. 

The Adventure of Journalism 

In the above excellent account of him the 
following passage particularly impresses me : 

Usually when he was alone with you, sim- 
plicity and even humility was expressed 
which contrasted oddly with the notion of 
him prevalent among those who knew him 
only in larger assemblies. 

True it is of him that he was never quite at ease 
in the society of more or less sophisticated people, 
and would sometimes adopt a mask of boisterous- 
ness and even aggressiveness to hide what was 
perhaps a shyness he could not overcome. With 
simple folk and children, however, it was different. 
I once happened upon him accidentally when a 
little girl was tip-toeing up to him to kiss good- 
bye, her arms about his neck. It was worth 
seeing. And the saying of Jepson may be re- 
called — Jepson who knew him at the Bohemian 
meetings, as a journalist, and in the intimacy of 
home. " I do not know how I can possibly tell 
the children . . . and here he was always at his 




The journalistic career which had opened not 
without promise was soon to prove an uncertain 
means of livelihood. Middleton's independent 
spirit rebelled against much that others accept as 
part of the business of getting a living. In his 
correspondence with Frank Harris, that pugna- 
cious counsellor frequently warns him not to 
neglect his material interests. " Keep in with 

X ," he advises ; " You must not drop stitches. 

. . . These editors need perpetual teaching." 

And again : " You should have cultivated Y 

a little more. There is nothing like competition 
for keeping editors informed of your value. The 
worst of you dreamers is that you know all these 
things as well as we do, but you will not represent 
to yourselves the virtue of practising them." But 
all aglow at a Shakespeare theory though he could 
be, this worldy wisdom had probably little or no 
effect upon him. Again to quote Harris : " His 
characteristic attitude was a dignified, somewhat 
disdainful acceptance of life's perverse iniquity." 


The "Poet as Lover 

Introduced once to an editor amiable enough at 
dinner, he was invited to call at the editorial 
office in the morning. " I went there," he related 
afterwards, " and overheard him saying to the 
office boy that he was not in and I was to call 
another day. I told the boy to tell him to go to 

To avoid hunger he began to sell his books — a 
sacrifice painful even to those of us who suspect 
truth in the advice to lay up for ourselves only 
treasures in heaven. And now began a new phase 
of his life, which more than ever taxed his financial 
resources. The year 1908 was to see him for the 
first time in love. 

Randal Charlton, acquainted only superficially 
with his love affairs, in reviewing his posthumous 
work surprised me by stating that he was never 
really in love at all, and that his poems were the 
" metrical exercises " of an artist who selected 
love as his subject and wrote accordingly. This 
Poe-like theory lends to speculation upon possible 
differences between the love affairs of artists and 
others than artists, but if it has any truth in it 
there is not much. He was most powerfully 
attracted towards the young girl who first in- 
spired him, and later, and yet more powerfully, 
towards that other — the Christine of his poems — 

79 «»2 

Richard Middleton 

through whom the greater part of his poetic work 
was accomphshed. 

What may I give thee then ? these sunht 
These blossoms of the night to thee belong, 
And thine is all the merit of my song. 

No doubt, again, he saw in them what would 
not be seen by men not their lovers. All human 
beings have that in them which is mystical and 
miraculous, but we deem ordinary those who in 
no extraordinary way move us individually. " I 
don't know what he could see in her " is a familiar 
but foolish saying. In this sense, then, these 
girls of his were ordinary, unintellectual, pleasure- 
loving young persons, charming enough with 
their good looks and freshness of youth, but in 
whom only their lovers would find any sustained 
interest. He himself did not know quite what to 
make of his feelings in regard to them. Nobody 
having read his letters of the period but would 
recognise that he was swept off his feet by forces 
beyond him, but there are intervening letters 
when, with his intellect asserting itself, he cannot 
find the word for his heightened condition of being : 

My garland of Lily's [he says, referring to 
the poems inspired by the girl of that name] 
proceeds apace and contains, I know, some 


The "Poet as Lover 

good lines. But I wonder whether I love 
Lily or youth, or is it only compassion for the 
little boy I never was that moves me ? The 
doubt does not prevent my writing good 
verses. I want to love something or other 
anyhow : love kills the ego with a surfeit of 
egoism, and I appreciate but do not like mine. 
Elegy on an ego, dead of the springtime. Yet 
I was sorry when I sought to bury it kitten- 
wise under the vine. It is no use muddling 
our egos — we must try and hatch them into 
little bare-bottomed Cupids by means of the 
incubator of love. Columbus cracked his at 
one end and so they named America after 
somebody else, a circumstance which on 
reflection seems fortunate for Columbus. 

On the other hand, in another letter he speaks 
of having " fallen into love as I fell into life, 
headlong," and, the year following, of the girls 
being the " whole object and aim of my existence." 
He must have been greatly fascinated by some- 
thing. How else could the poetry have poured 
out of him as it did at this time ? In seeking to 
understand what it was possessed him and the 
extent to which he was possessed, I am reminded 
now of Francis Thompson's dubious " Uranian " 
exaltations,* now of the pallid love of Ernest 

* "While I own to loving Francis Thompson for his poems 
about children, it is a poem called Memorat Memoria that takes 
my breath away, because I am one of the very unfortunate persons 
who really know what it means." — Monologues. 


Richard Middleton 

Dowson for the incarnate Cynara who accepted 

that poet's homage and verses but ultimately 

married the waiter of the restaurant where she 

served in a like capacity.* The passion perhaps 

affects poets in a way different from that in which 

it affects other men. Not only in their dreaming 

and singing — 

it must ever be 
That we dwell, in our dreaming and singing, 
A little apart from ye 

—but in their loving may they differ. Rupert 
Brooke's fine sonnet has also some bearing on the 
matter : 

Love soars from earth to ecstasies unwist, 
Love is flung Lucifer-like from heaven to 
But there are wanderers in the middle mist, 
Who cry for shadows, clutch, and cannot 
Whether they love at all, or, loving, whom : 

An old song's lady, a fool in fancy dress. 
Or phantoms, or their own face in the gloom ; 
For love of Love, or from heart's loneliness. 
Pleasvire's not theirs, nor pain. They doubt, 

and sigh, 
And do not love at all. Of these am I. 

Middleton was a man of strong passions, but 
what of natural desire was in him seems, so far 

* Cf. Arthur Symons's Introduotion to the Collected Po&mt of 
Ernest Dowson. 


The Poet as Lover 

at least as these girls were concerned, to have 
turned inward to be expressed in song. It need 
scarcely be added that his love was not returned. 
Lily was probably no more than flattered by his 
attentions, and Christine grew to care for him 
only when he had cooled towards her.* He has 

* " Have received your sad letter, which has upset me more than 
you will ever know ! You asked me to be brave, but so eager was 
I to read your letter, thinking I should hear some news of my 
dearest friend, and being too proud again to write him, having 
written and not received an answer ! I opened your letter and 
fell in a dead faint. Yes, I wiU try to be brave ! but as much 
as I loved him if you had written and told me he had married 
I could have endured the shock ; but to think he is dead ! and 
I will never see him again, it is terrible, I cannot believe it ! 
If you could only write again and say that it is aU a joke it would 
make me the happiest girl on earth. I suppose it will surprise 
you to hear me speak like this, but I can assure you it is true ; 
that I have oared for him for over twelve months now, but he 
never knew, I did not intend that he should ! that was my secret ; 
as I knew that he had grown to dislike me very much lately, and I 
was very much h\irt. Do please write to me soon and teU me if it 
is really true ; tell me what was the cause of his death and aU 
about it. You have said in your last letter that death was not 
terrible but a calm friend ! Why should it be like that ? Had 
he been suffering very much with his illness ? I cannot imagine 
any one being glad to die who had everything he wanted in life ! 
and was getting on successfully in his station and would one day 
be very famous. I shall never forget him ; it is impossible. You 
see, I am not so brave as you thought ! and I pray to God to take 
me soon to be with him ! I am bo sad and miserable, I am making 
my confession to you now, but I should never have told whUe he 
lived, for one reason because I feared that he disliked me ! and 
another because I expected one day he would be very famous, and 
then we should have parted for ever. I have all his dear letters, 
which I shall always keep, they were so nice, but then I did not 
appreciate them. Please forgive me for writing like this to you ! 


Richard Middleton 

her mind on the subject in that good little poem, 
The Lass that loved a Poet : 

But oh ! what shall I do ? 

His looks affright me, 

His ways delight me. 
My heart is torn in two. 

Had he had a settled position he could have 
persuaded her to marry him, but as he said : " She 
is not of the type that would starve prettily." 
And then again, he was to some extent satisfied 
with the glow the girls afforded him and the 
poems they occasioned. A character in Shake- 
speare has it that " the lunatic, the lover, and the 
poet, are of imagination all compact," but the 
poet differs in that he has the satisfaction of being 
able to express himself in terms of art. It was 
much to him that he was moved extraordinarily. 
They inspired him even when his intellect saw in 
them, a year or so later, " a lower order of thing 
than I had imagined, and quite incapable of 

You must think me a silly girl, but you were his dearest friend, 
and I am writing as my heart bids me. I shall be ever so pleased 
if you will kindly send me the names of the publishers where his 
books are to be published that I may buy them. I cannot write 
more now because I am too upset. Kindly write soon and give 
me all the details, for which I shall be most obliged to you. I was 
always froud to have known Mr. Middleton." 

It will be seen that these two were kept apart by a fine pride. 
" Pluck out the eyes of pride ! thy mouth to mine ! 
Never ! though I die thirsting. Go thy ways ! " 


The Poet as Lover 

appreciating dispassionate friendliness," That 
was not altogether true of them, and especially of 
Christine. His feelings towards her were not 
wholly dispassionate. The matter is summed up, 
without being explained, in the poem To Althea, 
who loves me not, where after singing of his lady's 
many imperfections, her " mean, ignoble mind," 
and the rest of it, he ends vehemently with : 

Damn you, in some queer way I love you 
still ! 

Queer enough it always was to him, even when 

the glow had gone and the ashes were cold. In 

writing, under date April 28th, 1911, seven 

months before he died, of a book he was then 

planning, he says : 

Love I mean to leave out altogether if I 
possibly can because I won't accept their 
damned convention. It has helped me to 
make a mess of things sometimes but I don't 
know that it has had any great spiritual 
influence on my life. I shall find out as I go 
if it is possible to ignore it. It will make the 
book stronger if I can. 

That he would have been able to ignore it 
seems unlikely. The feelings which had been 
expressed in such work as he had then achieved 
would apparently have had to be considered when 
it came to the task of trying to realise his past. 


Richard Middleton 

As to the spiritual influence of love on his life, in 
one poem at least, The Welcome,* is a suggestion 
of intense spiritual conflict. This poem— the 
theme of which recalls that remarkable chapter 
in Kenneth Grahame's prose masterpiece. The 
Wind in the Willows, where the awed animals are 
given their vision of the god Pan — hurries along a 
little too quickly, but it has some fine lines indica- 
tive of struggle going on deep within him : 

And where Pan squanders with his court. 

Love shall not spare the horned King, 
With red lips drawn to wanton sport 

And teeth to bite and hands to cling. 
And where the wood-boys bathe and fling 

Across the world their limbs made cool. 
Love tarries with his alms-giving, 

And there is' trouble by the pool. 

As poetry the first half of that stanza is so-so, 
but the latter part soars on wings of inspiration 
towards the heavens. But my point is concerned 
with the love of which it sings. Here surely is 
evidence of conflict between the Christian idea 
and paganism. How deeply he was impressed by 

* In this poem, by the way, a line reads : 

" And moonlit dew begem the brake." 
It read originally : 

" And moonlit dew enjewel the brake," 
which, personally, in spite of the assonance, I prefer. Frank 
Harris induced him to alter it. A small point, but perhaps worth 


The "Poet as Lover 

that idea, how often he pondered it, is hard now 
to say. I remember no confidences on the subject, 
and take it that as a rule things really spiritual are 
fought out alone. Harris's view of him, I think, 
in this connection does not go very deep. 

At twenty-five Middleton had come to his 
full growth and was extraordinarily ripe. In 
every respect a typical artist, he had no 
religious belief, death seemed to him the 
proper and only climax to the fleeting show, 
but he delighted in the pageantry of life, and 
the melody of words entranced him. This 
visible world and the passions of men and 
women were all his care. 

Well ! there is much danger that a biographer, 
all of whose care is not for this visible world, may 
fall into the error of reading too much of his own 
mind into that of his subject, but, on the other 
hand, one whose chief care is apparently for " the 
fleeting show " is likely to err in the other direc- 
tion. That Middleton at twenty-five was extra- 
ordinarily ripe is credible, and it is possible that 
in a sense he had come to his full growth. But, 
granted that he had no religious belief (and query- 
ing, incidentally, if all artists are without one), and 
that death may have seemed to him " the proper 
and fitting climax to the fleeting show," it is 
certain that he did not so regard it in respect of 


Richard Middleton 

life in general. In his poems he not only welcomes 
the idea of death, he frequently expresses his 
dislike of it. 

Death is upon the skies 
And upon us all. 

And again : 

Having the thought of death 
Eternally to perplex me. 

A man eternally perplexed by death cannot be 
said to regard it as a proper and fitting climax. 
However, it is with a valuation of Middleton's love 
affairs that this chapter is chiefly concerned, and 
on these further light may be thrown by a con- 
sideration of the poem. To Althea, who loves me 
not. As poetry it is to be ranked among his best, 
though, personally, I am somewhat out of sym- 
pathy with its spirit. There seems to be much 
fine ado about nothing in it. He does not realise 
that it was not the poor girl's fault that he had 
become disillusioned. Why vent your wrath 
upon your inamorata because " the name of love " 
has been " dishonoured " in her " guise " ? "I 
can forgive your pride," he cries : 

the decent veil 
That guards serene vacuity from shame ; 

—a fine phrase that, by the way,— 


The 'Poet as Lover 

And that my passion's eloquence should 
To move you, irks me not ; but that the 
Of love should be dishonoured in your 
That to this hateful and contaminate end 
I should have brought my faith, my spirit 
Pardon of love and makes this harsh 

It is conceivable that he should be angry with 
her for not loving him, but only a child would 
blame her for the other reason. The poem— in 
its present form, at any rate — but for this childish- 
ness woidd, of course, not have been written, but 
there is no getting away from the flaw in it — a flaw 
all the more regrettable because otherwise it is a 
good piece of work ; one of those containing good 
passages although the whole is not greater than 
any part. A mark of the true poet is the more or 
less memorable, magical line or passage in which 
is some thought or image enshrined in beauty, 
greatest, of course, in Keats and Shakespeare. 
Take, for example, the following : 

even while I sing. 
Worlds die and are created, still you move 
Sole mistress of your imperturbable hour 
As though that hour held all. . . . 


Richard Middleton 

And here is one better still : 

from out the hopeless fight 
The souls of men seek forlorn burial 

And eyes that praised you range the eternal 

Passion it has, too ; and this is another quality 
in which Middleton excels. Keats, Browning, 
Tennyson * even — to name three poets to mind — 
have this quality, but it is anything but conspi- 
cuous in modem poetry. Where, in this century's 
literature, is such passion to be found as in The 
Silent Lover ? f The poem should be quoted in 
full : 

I cannot sing, I have no words 

To love you, hate you, make you mine — 
To win your ear like mating birds. 

To brim your veins with wanton wine ; 
But all my longing senses cry 
Their faltering, broken oratory. 

* Tennysoa's Fatima, in Artlmr Machen's good judgment, is 
one of tbe most passionate poems in our language. 

■f Poems and Songs, I. Another good example of passion in 
Ms work is the poem Serenade in the same volume. Here is the 
final stanza : 

" Beloved, can you hear ? They sing 
Words that no mortal lips can sound ; 
Love through the world has taken wing. 

My passions are unbound. 
And now, and now, my Hps, my eyes. 

Are stricken dumb with hope and fear, 
It is my burning soul that cries, 
Belovftd, can you hear t " 


The "Poet as Lover 

My words rehearsed, my songs new sung, 

Are lost beneath this fierce suspense, 
I cannot sound with human tongue 
My heart's insurgent eloquence, 
Now of your lips, now of your eyes. 
Now of your falling melodies ! 

I have no words, but Time shall prove 

This song of mine the best of all. 
My lips shall be as Love's, for love 
Shall make their silence musical ; 
And on some rapt, enchanted night. 
They shall reveal my heart's delight. 

I have myself no words to do justice to this 
poem. Such passion is beyond me. I can only 
feel its intense fervour enough to be sure that many 
lovers will appreciate it more fully and believe 
with the poet that this strain of his will be " the 
best of all." Incidentally, it should be noted 
here that in this poem, as elsewhere, following the 
tradition of the great singers, he prophesies his 
future fame. Mere versifiers, for all their vanity, 
dare not thus challenge posterity in their lucubra- 

Harking back to his love affairs, that he re- 
mained puzzled by them, never saw them as they 
really were — if anything can be seen as it really 
is — is certain. Almost one of his last articles was 
A Monologue on Love-Songs, in which, in the 


Richard Middleton 

person of an imaginary cafe acquaintance, he 

says : 

Yes, I have read your poems, and I thought 
they were very pretty. Some of them seem 
to have been felt ; I think you must have 
been in love with something or other when 
you wrote them. But what you were in love 
with— whether it was a girl or the idea of a 
girl, or yourself, or something that you had 
found in a book — I really don't know ; and 
that is my criticism of nearly all the love- 
poems that have ever been written. 

That was as much as he knew of the matter. 
But whatever the degree of his love — whether he 
approximated most to the great lovers of the 
world or " the lap-dog lovers who whine as they 
chew " — a category in which he could not be 
placed — his poems at any rate were no more 
" metrical exercises " than are the Sonnets of 
Shakespeare or the Booh of Airs of Campion. 

He left a word-portrait of Lily throwing further 

light on his attitude towards his " dear, dreamy 

creatures," as he called them. It is a fragment, 

the beginning of an article meant for publication 

I fancy, but abandoned, probably, as being too 

intimate : 

I have her picture here [it runs], a photo- 
graph where she leans forward gracefully in 
her pretty fancy dress and raises her finger 


The Toet as Lover 

daintily like a girl on a fan. Yet when I 
meet her she does not strike me as fragile ; 
I am rather impressed with a sense that 
behind her childish face there is something 
strong and primitive. Her pouting mouth 
is wonderful of course and her eyes — ^her 
eyelashes are longer than any I have ever 
seen ; but I believe it is her strength or per- 
haps concentration of character that enchants 
and torments and bewilders me. The child 
Lily I have met often enough. She is rather 
troublesome as children go ; lacking in sym- 
pathy and generosity and very difficult to 
persuade ; but there is another Lilian whom 
I have never met, and whom I want most 
passionately to meet. The child Lily has a 
lover, a decent enough youth I imagine, but 
I am so little jealous of him that I think I 
could watch him kissing her with a calm 
mind if she did not enjoy it too much. But 
the other Lilian has, I am sure, no lover, nor 
has she kissed the lips of anyone yet. I have 
not met her but I have seen her in dreams. 
She is the girl for whom those eyes were made 
and screened with lovely lashes. She is the 
girl whose leaping blood has thickened those 
lips and set them apart as if entreating God 
to be good to her and make her life passion- 
ately amusing. One spring day or perhaps 
on one of those languourous nights of summer 
when girls cannot sleep, I think she will rise 
and murder the other Lily without a pang. 
If I am allowed to know her after that, I hope 
she will understand me better than she does 

93 = 

Richard Middletm 

now. I wish her so well and she is such a 
baby that I am always trying to impose my 
will on her, and under the child the real 
Lily hates me for it. . . . 

A very human piece of writing is this. For my- 
self, I saw very little in Lily but an agreeable smile 
and an unusual capacity for oblivious detachment 
when on the stage with others of the theatrical 
company to which she belonged. She was cer- 
tainly individual. When it was not her turn to be 
singing something, she stood immobile, wrapped 
in a dream which was probably very practical. 
She married the lover above-mentioned — a news- 
boy — and when last I heard of her was the stout 
mother of very many children. As for Christine, 
poor, pretty, sentimental Christine, like an old- 
fashioned figure strayed from grandmother days 
of antimacassars and croquet — she also married. 
Not long after the war broke out her husband fell 
ill with influenza ; she nursed him, caught it her- 
self, and died. I have sometimes thought that 
had Middleton married her he might have made a 
success of his appearance on this temporary stage 
ofthe eternal journey. But who can tell ? Does the 
mere being married or remaining single — or, for 
that matter, the being bom or dying— make any 
change in us essentially ? There are deeper dreams. 




Of what may be called their author's pre-love 
poems, several are not without merit. The Last 
Cruise has been already commented upon. The 
Ballad of the Bacchanals, though to the ear running 
too quickly, is not a bad piece of work, and, of 
others, his Dream Song has a certain effective 
elvish imagery : 

Twisted and lank and hairy, 
With wanton eyes and wary, 

They stretch and chuckle in the wind . . . 

The picture is vivid enough. A stanza from 
The Glad Nights of Spring should also be quoted : 

Her voice is like the song of hidden streams 

Laughing at dusk, her feet are wet with 

Her eyes are set with God's eternal blue. 
She is the perfect lady of our dreams. 

And far across the night and far and far. 

We seek her like a star. 

There may be only an echo of what is perhaps 
the supreme quality in poetry, magic, in that 
passage — charm only — ^but it has at least some 

95 =2 

Richard Middleton 

power of enchantment, and, whatever its value, 
a singer wrote it. 

This, again, from The Blind Cripple, is not 
unworthy of note : 

And they have said that even as the blood 
Of this blind cripple is the crimson wine 
That greets the seasons in this heart of mine 
And wakes my body with its passionate flood. 
Calling " Oh joy, my joy, thou art in vain. 
The spring is come again ! " 

With the coming of love his poetry was to 
increase greatly in strength. Following The Last 
Cruise, the next poem to take me aback was 
Lament for Lilian. Who loves rhythm and 
melody knows how, quickened by inspiration, 
words will sometimes gather force and flow 
serenely onward like a deep, clear stream. Some 
of Swinburne's poems have this quality pre- 
eminently : 

O smitten lips where through this voice of 

Came softer with her praise. 
Abide a little for our lady's love. 
The kisses of her mouth were more than wine 
And more than peace the passage of her days. 

The last two lines of that passage flow per- 
fectly. And now, in Lament for Lilian, was a 
stronger, deeper flowing with, in it, a magic such 


Poems and Songs 

as he had never yet achieved. Take the followingj 
for example : 

My love was more than any life of mine 
And more than me, before its sudden gleam 
The years that knew me faded like a 

I was as one who drinks enchanted wine 

To sport with gods ; and yet there shone 
for me 
Across my madness, Lily, laughingwise, 
A human blossom glad for human eyes 

Made pagan by a child's serenity. 

A poet-critic could reconstruct, almost with 
exactitude, the state of mind and feeling in which 
that stanza was composed. Its author had just 
written : 

Beneath her feet the green earth rolled away 
From sea to sea, and I might understand 
The water's song, the music of the land. 

The lingering choruses of night and day. 

That gave me with a dole of childish tears, 
The knowledge of my blood's supreme 

The yearning of the morning for the night, 

The timeless passion of the hemispheres. 

Which is good poetry, by the way, and the last 
two lines rise to greatness. He had just written 
the stanza, I say, and for a moment would pause 
now on the tide of inspiration to pick up the 


Richard Middleton 

thought and begin anew. And so forward again 
until suddenly the full tide would take him : 

I was as one who drinks enchanted wine 
To sport with gods ; and yet there shone for me 
Across my madness, Lily, laughingwise, 
A human blossom glad for human eyes 
Made pagan by a child's serenity. 

Great, again, are the last two lines of that 
passage. . . . There had been no need to think 
while the tide was upon him. He would be borne 
away on it, carried along with hardly a pause 
before the next stanza : 

Ah ! Lord of Love, these are my eyes that 
These are my lips that do lament her so, 

and so on to the poem's end with its reflective 

Song is no tribute to a singing girl 

For whom the wanton earth makes madri- 

and the final and somewhat self-pitiful shrug of 
the shoulders : 

Dear God, what means a poet more or less ? 
These few extracts are doubtless inadequate to 
convey the full beauty of Lament for Lilian, which 
must be read as it stands in Poems and Songs. 
How Professor Saintsbury, whose judgment is so 
respectable, with this poem and so many others 


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Toems and Songs 

before him, could see in them " only the outward 
character of poetry," was staggering to me until 
I reflected that the worthy professor, a great critic, 
was yet himself no poet. Poets, we know, are 
not always good critics, but they will sometimes 
see what eludes the critical eye. Swinburne has 
amazingly bad judgment at times, but than his 
book on Blake there are few better in our language. 
I must risk the charge of arrogance and deny the 
professor's judgment in this instance ; and, of 
course, further attempt to substantiate my own 
faith. There was a time when, with this poetry 
coming new and hot to me from the pen, I was too 
enthusiastic, but I am curious now only of seeing 
it as in itself it really is. The years, at any rate, 
will decide, and, after all, there are more impor- 
tant things to discover in life than the proper 
niches in which to place poets. 

A few more specimens may tempt lovers of 
poetry themselves to search for others. The first 
I detach from the poem ¥or He had Great 
Possessions : 

Ah, who shall hearten when the music stops. 
For joy of silence ? While they dreamed 

She showed me love upon the mountain tops 
And in the valleys, love. 


Richard Middleton 

And while the wise found heaven with their 
And lore of souls, she made an earth for me 
More sweet than all, and from our beating 
She called the pulsing sea. 

Really, that is very beautiful ! Beauty, indeed, 
is spread about the two volumes of Poems and 
Songs like wild-flowers in a field. Turn over the 
pages anywhere : 

Shaped like a flower new-moulded out of 
I see your body, marvellously slim. 
Gleam in the dusk ; I hear the murmurous 
Of drowsy childhood charm the listening 

And with an all-dispassionate delight 
My heart takes rest. . . . 

What feelings are evoked, what images are 
suggested by the following from To Dorothy : 

And far upon the silent hills there roll 

Strange shapes of mist, and soft bewildered 

Beat on my shrinking face with noisome 
wings. . . . 

How beautiful is At the Gates, with its lovely 
imagery woven about the dawn ! 


'Poems and Songs 

The delicate fabric of the stars is frayed 
Where dawn lets in the light ; 

And in the scented glade 
The thrushes thread day's lattices. . . . 

Beautiful, again, are these lines from Lament for 

Lilian : 

the moon a-stir, 
Binds the wet flowers in garlands with her 

To deck the brows of sleep. . . . 

And he can do that most difficult of things in 

this form of literature — ^he can make poetry of 

proper noims, so using them that they do not 


The nightingale across the crimson bowl 

Gave you to Omar ; by the forsaken waves 

Ulysses found you dreaming ; Shakespeare's 


Drew its clear song from yours ; and sullen 


Peered on your beauty through their 

heavy lids 
And with their hearts' blood built the 

In reflective poetry, moreover, epigrammatic or 
otherwise, embodying some opinion or belief, he 
challenges its masters : 

Love is no victim for a wanton's kiss. 
Nor shall he be imprisoned by her hand. 


Richard Middleton 

Or take his best longer passage of this order : 

For though man only lives his sombre days 
To sicken at his task of life and die, 
Dreading the silent and unfriendly sky 
That has not heard his message, still he plays 
His part in God's great pageant, and obeys 
His soul's command, albeit grudgingly ; 
And where his hesitant feet have wandered 


His footprints scar the world, and by his ways 
A hundred ages tread ; his heedless phrase 
Rings in their ears like an angelic cry 
Heard before birth and treasured time- 
And all his timid hopes and quick dismays 
Thrill in their hearts and build their 
heavens on high. 

It challenges the masters, I say. Leaving aside 
the value of the passage as a whole, there is surely 
the memorable, the great, line in 

where his hesitant feet have wandered by 
His footprints scar the world . . . 

They can be detached, it will be seen, from their 
context, these passages, unities in themselves. 
And moth and rust will be long in disposing of 

Many of the poems, of course, fine as they are, 
do not permit of justice being done to them unless 
quoted entire. I would gladly deal at length 


'Poems and Songs 

with the greater part of them, analysing and 
appraising, but here, obviously, is a case where 
the plea that space forbids is genuine. Christine, 
the best of the few sonnets he wrote in that form, 
should be included in any sonnet anthology. 
Any Lover, any Lass, in the Elizabethan tradition, 
is as fresh, and more tender, than anything by 
W. H. Davis. And in that same tradition 
Love's Logic and Mad Maid's Song must be 
mentioned. Walter de la Mare, who of modern 
poets nearest approaches magic, specially quoted 
A. C. M. when reviewing Poems and Songs on its 
first appearance. Not that the poem has magic, 
and de la Mare may have picked it out rather as 
being characteristic of the man than of his work, 
or because it met some mood of his own at the 
time, but it is good, nevertheless ; light, simple, 
and inspired. More the product of the enchanter 
is Queen Melanie and the Wood-Boy, which, with 
another, The Last Serenade, probably his best for 
its compactness of form and its yearning restrained 
passion, sets me thinking of qualities character- 
istic of the work of the master-artist among poets 
and the master-craftsman, Keats. It has beauty, 
certainly, has this Queen Melanie. There is 
colour in it and deep natural feeling; art's 
" lordly pleasure-house " and the world of nature 


Richard Middleton 

are here and finely contrasted. More objective 
than most of its author's work, its theme is the 
woman weary of all sensual enjoyment and crav- 
ing the motherhood she has not experienced : 

Ah ! were that tongue unknown that nightly 
My cruel dreams, I should not stretch in 
Across the world my unassuaged arms. 

That crave so light a burden ; not again 
Should I awake at dawn and grieve for 
Slipped forth between my heart's most 
jealous bars. 
The child who all night long in meadows dim 
Peeps through my fingers babewise at the 

With the coming of the wood-boy to her tired 

palace, where 

languour measureless 
Troubled the earth beneath the brooding sky, 

her heart is swiftly with him and her dream half 


Through his drooping eyes 
I saw the wonder of the untrodden woods. 
When roused by night the savage creatures 
Pan piping to his moonlit solitudes. 

And all the forest stays its breath for 


Toems and Songs 

I saw the seasons ; spring in the windy eaves 
Calling the birds to song and summer's 
Now autumn flung largesse of golden leaves 
For beggared earth to clutch, the autumn 
And winter lit the leafless woods with frost 
And every shivering twig bediamonded, 
But best I loved the spring, when brown 
earth tossed 
Exultant in labour on her starry bed. 

No other poem in the collection is quite like 
Queen Melanie.* And that, again, is remarkable 
about Middleton's poetry. So few of the poems 
can be put into groups ; most of them have an 
individual note of their own. I have been 

* This poem, though apparently complete, waB really unfinished . 
In the MS., after the line : 

" And down the silent galleiies crept night," 
the last in the printed version, are another stanza and a line, as 
follows : 

" Jealous of joys that were not hers she came. 
And scornful of our mortal happiness. 
Less constant than her dreams that bring no shame ; 

She loosed her hair's abundance, tress by tress. 
Staining the marble pavements, tiU her grace 

Conquered my world and stole away my prize, 
I could not smooth the shadows from his face 
Or keep her knowledge from his waking eyes. 
" Oh sweet, not twice beheld of mortal eyes." 
Middleton crossed these out and himself passed the poem as it 
stands in the English Review, and when editing Poem» and Songs 
I, of course, followed his reading. 


Richard Middleton 

thrilled, too, and puzzled— as any one in the 
circumstances would be puzzled— by a new beauty 
in two or three of them ; a new beauty of cadence, 
a sort of rapture of lyricism or bird-like liquidity, 
as in 

The shadows fall and the still, 

or more pronouncedly and concretely — if that is 
the word— in his exquisite To Melisande : 

Now is the morning very fair. 

On every leaf the dew is lit. 
Oh heart of mine, let down yovir hair 

And all the winds shall play with it. 

Across my face, across mine eyes. 
The wind shall blow for my delight 

The curtain of your hair, the skies 
Shall win the pomp of night. 

And all about my head shall wreathe 

New winds and blossoms new. 
And yours shall be the air I breathe 

And all my darkness, you. 

The tears the sunlit roses weep 

May not assuage my pain. 
Mine are the broken stars of sleep 

And the cool night again. 

Within the shadow of our dreams 

I draw my little breath. 
And I heed not the sunbeams, 

I have no care for death. 


*Poems and Songs 

Nay, though the mocker everywhere 
Echoes his jest and stales his wit, 

Let down your hair, let down your hair, 
I'll make my shroud of it. 

There is lyricism pure and bird-like. No need 
to define the word ! Listen again to the fourth 
stanza : 

Mine are the broken stars of sleep 
And the cool night again. 

If that has only the " outward character of 
poetry," then are some of us indeed damned — ^in 
one world, at least — damned even as Touchstone 
says : " like an ill-roasted egg, all on one side." 
And take, again, a song to my mind even more 
exquisite ; a light air ; a breath you might say ; 
one of those lyrics of the kind which moved Pater 
to some good prose when writing of Du Bellay's 
delicate masterpiece. Song, Middleton called it, 
simply : 

What is a lover worth 
Who may not win his flower ? 
I was born of earth 
All in a sunless hour. 
My father was a wind. 
My mother a rose tree. 
But I was deaf and blind 
Till love discovered me. 


Richard Middleton 

Last night I kissed her eyes, 
Her hair, her Uttle ears ; 
She praised me with soft cries, 
Her tears were all my tears ; 
And all her body's red 
Leapt to her cheek to see 
The moon hang down her head 
When love discovered me. 

That is placed away in my treasury of dreams — 
laid up in lavender with Uun Vanneur de Ble aux 
Vents and Shelley's Lines to an Indian Air and 
his perfect little song beginning " A widow bird 
sat mourning for her love." Nor is there any need 
to broaden the " i " in the word " wind " that it 
may rhyme better with " blind." The final " nd " 
is quite sufficient and, indeed, more effective. 

The biography of some of these poems may be 
not uninteresting. On the MS. of the song above 
given is scribbled : " Richard Middleton, poet, 
smoking broken cigars in a pipe and drinking 
sweet port ' to keep his heart from breaking,' " 
his own quotation being from the first stanza of 
Ashe's poem Weaknesses : 

Stealing away from home. 
All human things forsaking. 

Unto the grave I come. 

Singing sweet sad songs 
To keep my heart from breaking. 


Poems and Songs 

Ashe, by the way, who wrote that lovely thing 
Meet we no angels, Pansie ? is a true poet long 
neglected.* Middleton was much taken by his 
work on first coming across it. The MS. of the 
poem Pain, too, has a scrawl across it : " Neural- 
gia wrote this " ; and on that of yet another — 
Slave of Dreams, which, complete as it seems 
in print, is unfinished — is scribbled : "At this 
moment a little boy passes the window whistling 
' Put me among the girls.' " The interruption 
evidently started a new train of thought and put an 
end to the poem, the unpublished further stanza he 
had started being crossed out. I seldom saw him 
at work on any poem, but as to The Poet and his 
Dead, which in MS. is unusually illegible, he came 
bursting into my room one day with the MS., 
exclaiming, " I've done the big thing at last ! " 
His excitement was so extraordinary I was both 
amused and startled. It is a curious poem, 
inspired by no human being, with varying musics 
not always to be apprehended at once of the ear, 
and ending with an unpleasant douche of ugly 
actualism : 

* He deserved neglect ; careless of art, lazily trusting nearly 
always to inspiration. But now and again poetry came out of 
him which, "while word shall chime with word," must Hve. 
Pansie, for example, and throughout his large output are many 
good isolated passages. 

109 ^ 

Richard Middleton 

She was so beautiful, she is beautiful, with 

her face like snow ; 
White wax whiter than the bees know 
In the quiet room ; I killed all the blue- 
bottles hours ago 

Dirty creatures 

What he thought he had achieved, I fancy, was 
a reconciliation of the ideal and the actual, but 
in some way vague to me it seems that the poem, 
good as it is, doesn't quite " come off," as we used 
to say.* 

Again, The Bathing Boy, also good, but which 
Frank Harris overpraises (" finer than Herrick, 
nearly as beautiful, indeed, as The Grecian Urn " 
— which is nonsense) — this poem was inspired by 
a picture-postcard. Other biographical details to 
mind include a laughing discussion between us 
upon the poem Epithalamium, which reveals him 
in one of his petulant, ironical moods occasioned 
by the coyness of Christine. Having imagined a 
future lover for her, 

* This poem was contemptuously read out in court during the 
hearing of a Kbel action following the publication of an article on 
Middleton in the Engliah Beview. " Did I think it was poetry ! " 
Nettled by counsel's ignorance, I retorted that I did think it was 
poetry, that he knew nothing about poetry, and that, in any 
event, questions of poetic values had nothing to do with the case. 
The action is worth a note because in the course of it Mr. Justice 
Horridge, following tradition but in all kindly innocence, inquired, 
" Who was Verlaine ? " 


Poems and Songs 

Granting you for your heart's delight, 
The love that you can understand, 

he goes on to observe bitterly : 

The love that made you mine shall bear 
Harsh fruit before the end of this, 

For in the darkness you shall hear 
An echo that is none of his. 

And you will droop with sudden fear 
Beneath his fond, adulterous kiss. 

I thought it a good idea, though not gravid chose 
as poetry, and queried the word " adulterous " as 
the mot juste. On his insisting that it was : 
" Well, you may be right," I admitted, " but 
good Lord, you do think that that young woman 
belongs to you ! " 

Some of the feminine names heading his poems 
are pure inventions— Dorothy, Marjorie, Mar- 
guerite, Diana, and the like, inspired, some by 
Christine, others by just an idea arriving har- 
moniously. " Give me a name for this," he asked 
one day as to the poem To Diana, which he had 
just written. " If they " (meaning the Vanity 
Fair staff of that time) " think it's written to a 
woman they're sure to see something dirty in it." 
So as the poem suggested that it might have been 
written to the moon, in it went under its present 
title. To Irene and two or three other poems — 

111 12 

Richard Middleton 

Under the Whip, Love's Freedom, and perhaps 
Irene — not to be confused with To Irene — ^have a 
more personal history. They were inspired by 
a young harlot of our acquaintance whose vine 
leaves were too much for the police one evening ; 
she was taken in hand by a Rescue Home. An 
odd girl was Irene. There was something not only 
wild and untamed in her, Msenad-like, but some- 
thing, too, must have been quenched or numbed in 
her early youth. She unfolded only to Middleton, 
and that, judging by the poem To Irene, in a way 
that must have amazed him. 

And then you thrilled with some supreme 
That was not of my dreams, your pulses 

Time to the world, and with rebellious feet 
Your triumphing passions scaled the gates of 

fire ; 
And lo, I was as dust ! in some far place 
My soul paid tribute to tremendous kings, 
Who bowed their heads before your gleam- 
ing wings 
And praised your beauty with averted face. 

LoVe is too great for me, from this dead 
Wherein I hold a child's uncertainties, 
I may not dare the glamour of his skies 
Scatheless, nor see his magic wings un- 
furled. . . . 


'Poems and Songs 

Good poetry is that. In Love's Freedom he 
moralises a trifle about her and distinguishes 
between forms of love : 

This is not all of love, for more than this, 
The purer breezes of this gentler land 
Bless me and make me glad, where heaven is 
I see the palace of my mistress stand ; 
Love is no victim for a wanton's kiss. 
Nor shall he be imprisoned by her hand. 

I myself knew but little of the girl ; her soul, I 
mean, being a mysterious locked garden to me. 
Something of what she revealed to Middleton he 
expresses in Under the Whip : 

It well may be that death is God's last boon, 
For with the hours life's tapestry is blurred 
To strange, unshapen nothings ; I have 

Eve in the twilight singing to the moon 

The passionate song that has no human tune, 
And some fierce echo in my bosom stirred, 
Greeting the cry, as an imprisoned bird 

The piping of the day. Oh Death, be soon ! 

For there is nothing left in life but this. 
And to this scarlet shrine is beauty fled 
Since Paradise grew earth and men were 
wise ; 
But who can breathe beneath your final kiss. 
Love ! and who would not rather be well 

Than feed the torment in your laughing 
eyes ! 


Richard Middleton 

As poetry that is not a bad sonnet, but its chief 
interest, I think, is in its feminine psychology— as 
with To Irene— and in the thought occasioned 
that " death is God's last boon." He has a 
thought of like nature in the poem beginning " I 
am not god, or devil, or wholly man " : 

For now I gathered roses one by one. 
And now I sought grey heavens in the mire 
That folds about our hearts, till my desire 
Lay a dead thing and cold beneath the sun. 

And suddenly death seemed the final 
boon . . . 

It must have come to him often, more often 
than was good for him. " I shut my eyes to my 
doubts," he is recorded as having said in a 
previous chapter. But he didn't, or else accepted 
too readily the belief, pessimistic, certainly, in a 
young man, that death is a boon ; though this 
conflicts with the earlier quoted : 

Having the thought of death, 
Eternally to perplex me. 

However, let us return to his poetry. 

A copy of Dust of Dreams he sent me has the 
comment " Good verse ! " at foot, and good verse 
it is, and more than that. This poem was pub- 
lished originally in that long defunct quarterly, 
The Neolith, the creation of Mrs. Bland, copies of 


"Poems and Songs 

which fetch high prices in Charing Cross Road. 
The quarterly was edited, I believe, from Dym- 
church — that " flower that smells of honey and the 
sea " — westward of Hythe by the marshlands, 
where Conrad, Perceval Gibbon, Jepson and other 
literary people were at times wont to foregather. 
Middleton looked after my house while I was 
holidaying there one August, a result of his care- 
takership being the whimsical essay A Distin- 
guished Guest in The Day before Yesterday. The 
guest was the family cat.* 

Another poem. To Baie, is worth noting for a 
stanza good and revelatory of his state of mind 
when Christine was most indifferent : 

Kiss me and ease this passionate unrest. 
There are so many voices in my breast 
Singing, " Oh eyes that shine ! Oh lips that 

part ! " 
I cannot hear my heart. 

* To these scraps of biography may he added two others -within 
my recollection. We were in a public-house one day when a 
young man — a sort of strayed child — professing to tell character 
by handwriting, remarked upon the shape of his thoughts. They 
were sometimes oblong, he said. Hence 

" All my black and oblong thoughts " 

in Mad Ea/rry's Vision {Poems and Songs). 

There is another poem — and a very fine poem, too — A Oatechism, 
TinpubUshed before it appeared in Poems and Songs, which in 
MS. is called The Harlot's Oatechism. This was the only con- 
cession I made, as editor, to Fisher TJnwin's excessive respect for 


Richard Middleton 

Good also is Irene, with its pagan spirit, for 
such concluding stanzas as 

Love played with us beneath the laughing 
trees ; 
We praised him for his eyes and silver 

And for the little teeth that shone within 
His ruddy lips ; the bracken touched his 

Earth wrapped his body in her softest breeze, 
And through the hours that held no count 

of sin 
We kept his court, until above our din. 
Night westward drove her glittering argosies. 

Oh, lovely days long dead ! There falls on 
In this dim world I may not understand. 
An echo of yoiu* sweetness ; in my hand 

One frail, sad rose inspires eternity 

With dreams that are no more, and from the 
That beats upon this grey perplexed land. 
Blows rumour of some merry drunken band 

That keeps your revels still in Arcady. 

He must have felt much pleasure on laying 
down the pen after finishing poetry of that high 
order. And the pleasure a poet gets in expression, 
even if but of the moment, I must not forget, lest 
this picture of him be painted in too sombre 
colours. Rose-coloured moods, too, as expressed 


'Poems and Songs 

here and there in Poems and Songs, must be 
remembered : 

Well I loved, but they who knew 
What my laughing heart could be, 

What my singing lips could do, 
Lie a-dreaming here with me. . . . 

So his Pagan Epitaph ; and we have the same 
note again in A. C. M. : 

Heart, the winds that blow 

Lightly o'er my leisure. 
Haply they shall measure 

My glad life-time here ; 
Laughing, " Well we know 

Love was all his treasure. 

Pain and pride and pleasure, 
Hope and fear." 

Leaving personal characteristics awhile, how- 
ever, the poem which may come to be recognised 
as the crown of his achievement is The Last 
Serenade. A remarkable quality of this poem is 
its restrained fervour of passion. It must be 
given here from its first deliberate ascent towards 
the heights of song to its final passionate exulta- 
tion : 

Courage, my song, and like a lover climb 
To her high balcony ; this is the night 

When in a star-lit valley where old Time 
Pauses to latch his way-worn shoe, delight 


Richard Middleton 

Shall blossom like a flower ; though she rest 
Within her highest turret, this my song 

Shall bring her down to my insurgent breast 
Where the blood burns that has been cool 
too long. 

Be silent now, oh moon, and be you dumb, 

Oh too importunate stars ! I will not hear 
Your dulcet tales that make my senses numb 

With easeless longing, for the hour is near 
When I will go, who with my love abide. 

Dreaming across your luminous seas no 
To the far gate of heaven, where the tide 

Flings wrack of worlds upon the rever- 
berate shore. 

Nay, though my eyes grieve for the way we 
Peace shall attend my heart and love shall 
My passionate soul in waters of content ; 
No more enamoured of my lady Sleep 
I shall explore in tranquil wakefvdness 

My love's own universe ; her little hands, 
Her eyes, her lips, are all my loveliness. 
And these are all my heritable lands. 

This is the end of all things, thou shalt 
Oh heart, thy timeless journey followed far, 
For all thy days shall be inviolate peace 
And all thy starry nights shall know one 


'Poems and Songs 

Irradiant and serene ; and thou, oh mind. 
Weary of thy long questionings, shalt prove 

Servant of my enchanted Ufe and find 
In all thy ways the wisdom that is love. 

The world is drunk with night, there gather 
From some remoter heaven to tempt my 
The mutable stars processional, and lo ! 

On all the hills the moonlight is in flood ; 
But I am wakeful yet. Oh song, ascend 

Swift to her ears and bid her dreams depart. 
To-night the sombre years shall have an end. 
To-night, to-night shall bring her to my 
heart ! 

If that is not nearly perfect, I must stand 
rebuked in my judgment. Doubts will come to 
us at times. The verdict of a Saintsbury ; Cole- 
ridge aglow for Bowles ; Byron too flamingly 
white-hot for Pope ; even the foolish utterance of 
the reviewer who said the poem did " not rise 
above the level of magazine verse " — these shades 
rise with warning fingers to remind us of glitter 
that is not gold. On the other hand, let us be 
quite sure we are not Giffords or Crokers, or the 
thousand others who have mistaken gold for lead. 
" Nothing in verse or out of verse is more weari- 
some than the delivery of reluctant doubt, of half- 
hearted hope and half-incredulous faith," says the 


Richard Middleton 

dogmatic and fiery Swinburne as critic. " Weari- 
some," it should be noted, is the word he uses. 
Doubt was wearisome to him as it is to all of us, 
but the threat— for it is a threat— should not set 
us trying to dispose of doubt and weariness by 
any method which involves our being untrue to 
ourselves. How much of vanity, again, is in our 
judgments we must consider. I was vain and 
proud of knowing Middleton, and so exaggerated, 
and perhaps to some extent still exaggerate, the 
value of his work. But all doubts notwithstand- 
ing, I yet feel that there is that in it which 
analysis cannot dissolve into nothingness. El pur 
si muove ! And if this feeling is indeed " such stuff 
as dreams are made on," it will nevertheless yet 
do its little towards making order in the house of 
literature. Could knowledge be without opinion, 
truth without error, good without evil, substance 
without shadow ? The blackguardism of Croker 
hastened the crowning of Keats. Even unsoimd 
judgments have their value. They excite in us a 
desire, which might else stagnate, for what is sound. 

The active spirit of man soon sleeps, and soon 
He seeks imbroken quiet ; therefore I 
Have given him the Devil for a companion. 
Who may provoke him to some sort of work. 
And must create for ever . . . 


Poems and Songs 

If we believe that " wisdom excelleth folly as 
far as light excelleth darkness," we are not likely 
to " go about the country stealing ducks," in- 
fluenced by that idea of the wise — and worldly- 
wise — Goethe. 




Middleton's letters for the years 1908 and 1909 
tell a story chiefly of love, poverty and neuralgia. 
Jepson once said that a new set of teeth might 
have saved him, and the view, despite its 
materialism, must be considered in any attempt 
towards a portrait. At least three of his poems 
were inspired by neuralgia, one of these being 
The Ascetic's Love Song, in which some eyes have 
professed to see a perversity it may, or may not, 
contain. It was rejected by the friendly editor of 
an annual magazine, who probably thought that it 
masochistically glorified physical suffering, * Such 
lines as the following may have lent to the opinion : 

For at her kiss my senses wake, mine eyes 
Win braver colours than our sunsets hold. 

My ears achieve the deathless melodies 
Our songs but faintly echo. . . . 

At Pain's kiss is meant, of course. If, however, 
we come to look into the poem as a whole, and 

♦ Editors are Bometimes curious beings. In an article, I once 
described as " perverse " Hedda Gabler's mirthless appreciation 
of the symbolism represented by Lovborg " with vine-leaves in 
his hair." The offending word — the right one, surely ! — ^was 
altered to " contrary " ! 


Love, Toverty and Neuralgia 

more deeply, it may perhaps be justified. Let 
further passages bear witness : 

Cleansing the mortal part of me with fire 
Of her consuming love, I am made pure. . . . 

I droop with life's excess, who once would 

That at the last I might be more than man.* 

But serving her, our souls seem nothing worth 

Fashioned by idle apes for apes to wear ; 

There's never a weeping thing upon the earth 

That knows itself immortal, but we dare 

To make our frail humanity our pride, 

And by our senses we are crucified. 

In those lines is decidedly no eulogy of the 
senses — a valuation of them indeed very different 
from that of the out-and-out sensualist who makes 
no effort to conquer his appetites. " I feel the 
anguish of my rotting clay," he says elsewhere in 
the poem, and of his cruel mistress : 

I bid her reign 
Empress of my aspiring dust, and kill 
My rebel soul that would be master still. 

Further light on this matter is afforded by 

another poem of which it will be as well to give 

the whole : 

* Compare with the sentiment expressed in his Pagcm Epifofph : 
" When I lived I sought no wings, 

Schemed no heaven, planned no heU, 
But, content with little things, 
Made an earth, and it was well." 


Richard Middleton 

I looked upon the face of Pain 
Until I found her charmings vain. 
Her drooping mouth, her dewy eyes, 
Her strange insistent melodies. 
Her subtle feet that dance with death. 
Her sinuous hands that muffle breath. 
Her pallid breasts, her lackless hair ; 
I saw and found no sweetness there. 

" Now in the days to come," I said, 

" Fate's hand shall pass me as one dead. 

For I have learned all misery. 

And in my life there cannot be 

Or torturing rains or tedious suns 

Or riotous companions 

'Twixt life and death, 'twixt love and hate — 

Surely I have outwitted fate." 

Beneath some grey unbroken sky 
The days might blossom quietly. 
Wither and pass in empty nights 
Undarkened by God's twittering lights. 
And I might always dream, nor feel 
The roughness of the human wheel 
That stops and starts and blunders on 
The high road to oblivion. 

I cannot, though my mind may crave. 
While yet my body has no grave, 
A twUit peace, accomplish this ; 
And though Pain had all bitterness 
Long since, yet crave I for her grace, 
The ancient beauty of her face. 
While wearily I tread my measure 
Beneath the silken whip of Pleasure. 


Love, Toverty and Neuralgia 

What now do these two poems mean but that 
their author, racked by pain, tried to make it 
more endurable with some small hope that it 
might be one means of attaining spiritual peace ? 
Are we foolish, unbalanced, in craving peace and 
in the expression of our craving in terms of art ? 
It may be so : I ask the question. Who knows 
why we are here and the whole duty of man ? who, 
nicely, how much should be rendered to the spirit 
and how much to the senses ? " It is only in 
denying my flesh that I win any battles," he says 
in one of his last letters, " and as I am not 
naturally ascetic the denial must be compulsory."* 
Plentifully endowed as he was with thick lips, his 
mind yet must have warred to weariness against 

* In one of the books he presented to me — Eobert Boss's 
Masques and Phases — a fly-leaf inscription contains the following 
sly twin portrait : 

" To Henry Savage 
Sensualist, poet and dreamer 
Eichard Middleton 
Dreamer, poet and sensualist," 
Characteristic of him also are the words he wrote in my copy of 
the plays of Thomas Middleton : 

" Harry Savage from Eichard Middleton, who endeavours 
to support, not unworthily, the great traditions of his name." 
And a presentation copy of Chesterton's Tremendous Trifles 
bears the Browning quotation : 

" Speech half asleep or song half awake ? " 
Not a bad criticism of G. K. 

125 ^ 

Richard Middleton 

the creed which Walter Pater failed to refine to 
heaven. Nor did he masochistically seek pain 
with a view to sensual pleasure. He hated it. 
His long bouts of physical torture were borne with 
a fortitude which seemed wholly admirable to me. 
Pasty-faced and dumbly-enduring— that is how 
I remember him under the despotic sway of 

But weakened as his powers of endurance must 
have been by this malady, other and more subtle 
forces were at work on him than those merely 
physical. He had now " fallen in love with a 
touring company," as he puts it in a letter. His 
thrills were intense, ecstatic ; his heavens high, 
and his hells, presumably, correspondingly deep. 
He was experiencing, in short, the life that Pater 
recommends : 

A counted number of pulses only is given 
to us of a variegated dramatic life. How 
may we see in them all that is to be seen in 
them by the finest senses ? How shall we 
pass most swiftly from point to point, and be 
present always at the focus where the greater 
number of vital forces unite in their purest 
energy ? 

To burn always with this hard, gem-like 

flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in 

life. ... While all melts under our feet, we 

may well grasp at any exquisite passion, or 


Love, "Poverty and Neuralgia 

any contribution to knowledge that seems by 
a lifted horizon to set the spirit free for a 
moment, or any stirring of the senses, strange 
dyes, strange colours, and curious odours, or 
work of the artist's hands, or the face of one's 
friend. . . . 

I need not quote further. It is a doctrine the 
wisdom of which is dubious. That Pater had 
doubts about it is proved by his omission of the 
conclusion to his The Renaissance from the second 
edition of that book ; he " conceived it might 
possibly mislead some of those young men into 
whose hands it might fall." We know that the 
doctrine was accepted unquestionably by Wilde 
and the weaker spirits of the 'nineties. They were 
perhaps predisposed by nature so as to absorb it, 
but to try to justify it on that account is to accept 
a fatalism as dubious as the doctrine itself. We 
cannot be sure that " to burn always with this 
hard gem-like flame " is " success in life." Pater 
says that " all melts under our feet." We cannot 
be sure that that is so. The phrase recalls the 
parable of the man who built his house upon the 
sands. He talks of exquisite passions and con- 
tributions to knowledge that " seem " to set the 
spirit free. So much for three points only in the 
brief passage quoted. We may at least suspect 
that that way does not lie true success. That 

127 ^2 

Richard Middleton 

Middleton ever read The Renaissance is doubtful. 
It would be absurd to suggest, subtly and in- 
directly pervasive as are ideas, that the book had 
anything but the remotest responsibility for his 
" passionate search for enjoyment " and the 
desire for "violent emotional stimulants" of 
which he speaks elsewhere. But he was sensual — 
" not naturally ascetic," as he says — and so not too 
distantly related to the spirit of the 'nineties. It 
is indeed difficult to know where to place him, so 
very much himself as he was. He would have 
strongly objected to Pater, I believe, and he was 
highly dubious of, and antipathetic to, WUde. 
His love of Stevenson may be recalled — Stevenson, 
between whom and Wilde was little in common— 
and, too, his admiration for Kenneth Grahame 
and the attraction that the pessimistic Housman 
and the gentle, melancholy Ashe had for him. 
Browning, again, was his " favourite poet," 
probably, leaving aside purely poetical qualities, 
for his virility and passion. Nor must his admira- 
tion for Harris's work be forgotten. The chief 
characteristics of all these writers differ distinctly, 
but all of them come to mind when I try clearly to 
visualise him. 

Here, perhaps, is the place to discredit rumours 
current after his death as to his having been at 


Love, Toverty and Neuralgia 

heart in favour of, or having actually practised, 
homo-sexuality. I believe now that my own 
slight impression that he had leanings towards 
this form of perversity was due mainly to his 
habit, in the earlier days of our acquaintance, of 
making himself out to be other than he was, 
acting after the fashion of Barrie's Sentimental 
Tommy : "I am inclined to behave as though 
I was always walking the stage." From my 
intimate knowledge the rumours were not true 
of him ; I should say so if they were ; nor would 
he have hidden anything of the kind from me. 
In editing Poems and Songs, I was not without 
hesitation in including the poem Hylas, fearing 
that some people might see dirt in it. Soon after 
it first appeared in Vanity Fair, Aleister Crowley 
came bounding towards its author with mingled 
exultation and irony exclaiming, " I've read," 
or " I liked your poem " — I'm not sure which ; it 
was his attitude which impressed me — " and I've 

just written one about " a subject too gross 

to mention. I let the poem stand because, 
aesthetically considered, it passes muster. There 
is no more and no less in it than there is in 
Whitman's Calamus. 

In the spring of 1908 he was so far behind with 
his rent at Blackfriars Road, and so weary of 


Richard Middleton 

avoiding an importunate landlord that he decided 
to put his faith in " the unexpected " to the test. 
Characteristically, he spent his last few shillings 
on a seat at a play and then walked out into the 
night towards Brighton. But no material good 
came of the adventure. It gave him only an 
illness and a short story.* " The great scheme 
failed somehow," he wrote soon afterwards, 

I starved for four days and walked back 
from Brighton on my uppers. I had some 
adventures however. Have you ever lived 
for four days on £0 — — ? It can be done. 
I shall tell you about these things when I see 
you. At present I am a wreck stopping with 
my people for a day or two. They think I 
have been on an ordinary walking tour and 
rather overdone it. I have seen dawns and 
sunsets I — I really have. And tramps and 
policemen and servants' halls. I borrowed a 
shilling from a policeman at Norbury to help 
me back to town ! I was half-arrested at 
Brighton for being homeless and destitute. 
Oh Great Larks for short stories and 
things, . . . 

He repeated this experiment in the summer, 
but with no greater success. What he learnt from 

* TTie Brighton Boad, in The Ghost Ship and Other Stories. 
t He was thinking of Masefleld's poem Beauty : 

" I have seen dawns and sunsets on moors and windy hills." 


Caricature by H. B. Millar. 


Love, Toverty and Neuralgia 

his trampings was expressed in one of his Academy 
articles for the year 1911. " The man who is hard 
ridden by his desires," he says therein, " will find 
peace no easier to win in the midst of the desert 
than by his own fireside. His body may travel 
ceaselessly between the two Poles ; his mind and 
his heart are imprisoned still in their lifelong 
cells." One advantage only he saw in moving 
from one place to another : " We shall never 
discover Arcadia or escape the anguish of existence, 
but in a fresh environment we may succeed in 
exploring some untrodden byway of our own 

The trouble with the landlord was patched up 
for a time and settled finally towards the end of 
the year, when it was arranged that he should 
take up his residence with myself. But this 
arrangement, after some three months, also fell 
through. There is a parallel in the triangular 
difficulty presented by Dr. Johnson and the 
Boswell menage. In the meantime he was still 
contributing verse and short stories to Vanity 
Fair (a new influence had appeared at the Academy 
which excluded him) and assisting Frank Harris 
in the preparation of The Man Shakespeare. 

Very ingenious your commentary on Tyler 
[wrote Harris], and absolutely what I have 


Richard Middleton 

taken and done in my play called " Shakes- 
peare and his love " ; but still, Tyler's theory 
that Pembroke was a knave, Mary Fitton a 
loose woman and Shakespeare a kind of 
sycophant stands. 

I have done my chapters on the Sonnets 
which are to follow yours ; in fact, I am 
waiting for yours before finally correcting 
mine. Please let me have it as soon as possible. 

Middleton accepted in toto the Harris portrait 
of Shakespeare, but in this, influenced by Harris's 
personality, he was not at his best as a critic. 
The Man Shakespeare makes good reading, but 
the portrait, though it has a shadowy inchoate 
Shakespearean aura or atmosphere, as it were, 
is less that of the master dramatist than of the 
redoubtable Frank himself. This criticism, of 
course, is outside of Harris's relations with 
Middleton, whom he helped financially, and but 
for the latter's pride would have helped more, 
I believe. But about his circumstances generally 
Middleton was ever reticent, except perhaps with 
myself. " You must not think that I afflict 
humanity with these sombre visions," a letter 
says. " You are the only person to whom I write. 

I have left letters unanswered from and 

and because they all expect me to be cheerful 

and I have not the energy to send them fictions." 


Love, Toverty and Neuralgia 

The remark : " Man, if you only knew my pride ! " 
constantly recurs to my mind as one of the chief 
clues to him. 

Following the failure of our menage a trois (to 
which, by the way, he had looked forward 
optimistically, only to be sorely disillusioned later) 
and a short holiday at Hastings, he settled, early 
in 1909, in. lodgings at 3, Alexandra Road, 
Wimbledon, not far from where I was then living. 
A fragment of MS., under date April 6th, 1909, 
gives us something of his inner life there. 

So [it runs] with a strange sense of having 
wandered a long way, I have come at last 
to this little room. It has that iUusionary 
suggestion of finality that haunts all the 
resting-places of men who like myself are 
emotional wayfarers, travellers from sensa- 
tion to sensation. As I am still young, at 
least as far as mere physical age is reckoned, 
I suppose there are further deaths and 
further births before me. Troubled by other 
environments no more real than that which 
troubles me now, I shall make further testa- 
ments, disposing as an artist may, of the 
love I may not lose, the world I do not 
believe in and the dreams that are no longer 
mine. I shall look out of my window as I 
may now, and see the green buds breaking 
on the trees, and marvel because there is no 
spring in my heart. One of the old tailors 

Richard Middleton 

who work in the Uttle tin shed below my 
window came out a minute ago and stood for 
a while, blinking pleasantly at the sun. It 
was plain that for him the spring brought a 
definite and welcome message : perhaps it 
promised him warm hands and feet, or 
merely congratulated him on having con- 
quered another winter. But to me this blue 
sky and these buds and these happy birds 
are inharmonious. I saw the first butter- 
cups of the year in a railway cutting yester- 
day and they annoyed me like a misprint in 
a favourite poem. For in my emotional 
year we are now deep in autumn, and the 
faded petals of old desires rustle pityfuUy 
beneath my feet. I know that my autumn 
is as transitory as this human spring, and 
that when these buds are forgotten and the 
old tailor has perhaps finished with his 
needle and thread, I may well b6 gathering 
my roses and my nectarines with Dorothy 
and Irene and all the dream-girls once more 
by my side. But now I am dying or dead. 
It is the price I pay for my dreams. 

In moments of emotional depression my 
concrete environment becomes intolerably 
artificial to me. The houses, the trees, the 
little boy in a blue pinafore who teases a 
patient, black cat, everything in short that 
I can see from my window, are like the care- 
less productions of an uninspired stage- 
carpenter. Even my landlady's washing 
flaps on the line in an unconvincing manner, 
as though it were cut out of paper. Perhaps 


Love, Toverty and Neuralgia 

after all the existence of these things depends 
on my whim, and my spirit paints a careless 
landscape when there is no probability of 
emotional ecstasy. 

Yesterday afternoon I walked across 
Wimbledon Common like a ghost who takes 
no pride in his supernatural mummeries. 
In the evening there was a problem. As 
things are, is anything to be gained by seeking 
the company of Lily and Christine and 
Louise and the others ? 

This somewhat melancholy document sets me 
wondering if, as some have said, egoism was part 
of his burden— if, again, egoism is a burden. 
" Indeed," he wrote, not long before his death and 
with a flash of his old wit, " it is not hard to put a 
name to my disease : but one man is an egoist 
just as another is a negro, and the Ethiopian 
changes his skin more easily than the egoist gets 
rid of his heavy bundle of eggs. We shall con- 
tinue our cackling till the day of judgment. But 
it is in revulsion from this task that I have lately 
developed the Dickensian sentimentality that 
you refer to in your letter. I feel drawn to young 

children, and girls like Annie [Christine] and 

who are simple and kindly and not too clever. 
They give me a glimpse of the life that I have 
missed in my passionate search for enjoyment. 


Richard Middleton 

In an earlier letter, writing of Meredith's book 
on the subject, he offers the following shrewd 
piece of criticism : 

I re-read "The Egoist" and find Wil- 
loughby overdone not in what he thinks but 
in what he says. And he is lacking in those 
frantic moments common to all egoists, when 
they lose or rather mislay their faith in them- 
selves, and flutter with timorous wings above 
the bottomless pit. 

A certain amount of egoism — if the quality can 
be measured — he had undoubtedly. But how 
much ? Some people are more egotistical than 
others ; some may be more so than others who, 
less cautious or wise, are more publicly expressive 
of themselves ; and all who are in any way 
egotistical are more so at one time than another. 
The label is attached to those in whom egoism is 
marked, and to me it did not seem that he was 
so marked.* On the other hand, McQuilland 

* " I am inclined to think that you make a mistake in essajring 
such personal forms of art. Naturally, every time you happen to 
write that difficult pronoun ' I,' you are dragged back on your 
pluloBophical, metaphysical, introspective prayer -mat. I think 
you ought to drop your task of self-expression and try to create. 
Write impersonally, write like Walter Pater, write like the gifted 
author of Genesis. If you wish you can begin by creating an 
imaginary author to write your books for you ; a foolish person 
who accepts the arbitrary meanings of words because he knows no 
better. Let him be as the serpent that stops her ears, if only he 


Love, 'Poverty and Neuralgia 

said of him that he was " a supreme egotist — all 
fine artists are — but he could joke of his Ego with 
unfailing good humour, which the dull little prigs 
of literature never can." The attempt to. value 
him in this respect is made, of course, with a view 
to seeing the cure for what, if not a disease, is at 
any rate a limitation. Are we to take Flaubert's 
advice as proffered in L'Education Sentimentale ? 
" Peu a peu," he says, " la serenite du travail 
I'apaisa. En plongeant dans la personalite des 
autres, il oublia la sienne, ce qui est la seule 
maniere peutetre de n'en pas souffrir." The 
" peutetre " should be noted. It makes the 

gets on with his work. These be counsels of wisdom, and hot- 
tempered youth — ^you have that priceless boon — is impatient of 
sich, so for the moment I forbear. . . ." — Letter, December 9th, 

" I now approach a quality, or rather the lack of a quality, that 
is in itseK of so debatable a character, that were it not of the 
utmost importance in considering the life of Charles Stephen 
Dale " (George Bernard Shaw), " I should prefer not to mention it. 
I refer to his complete lack of a sense of humour, the consciousness 
of which deficiency went so far to detract from his importance as 
an artist and a man. The difficulty which I mentioned above 
lies in the fact that, while every one has a clear conception of what 
they mean by the phrase, no one has yet succeeded in defining it 
satisfactorily. Here I would venture to suggest that it is a kind 
of magnificent sense of proportion, a sense that relates the infinite 
greatness of the universe to the finite smaUness of man, and draws 
the inevitable conclusion as to the importance of our joys and 
sorrows and labours. I am aware that this definition errs on the 
side of vagueness ; but possibly it may be found to include the 
truth. . . ." TJie Biogra^phy of a Supernum {The Ghost Ship). 


Richard Middleton 

passage read more than ever like a pessimistic 
stoic's counsel to make the best of a bad job. 
There's no more hope in it than in Middleton's 
opinion that egoism is ineradicable, or in Pater's 
vision of " the individual in his isolation, each 
mind keeping as a solitary prisoner its own dream 
of a world " ; and less, indeed, than in the thought 
that we know nothing. Perhaps never shall we be 
rid of it until we realise that we may see ourselves 
in anything but a mirror. Middleton had his 
moments of freedom. In one of his note-books, 
under the title On Richmond Park, he wrote : 

Here the sun takes his ease, 

Here the stars shine ; 
These trees are my trees. 

This earth is mine ! 

Why then could he not wait ? We grow tired, I 
suppose, some of us. We forget the promise of 
the moments of freedom, the flashes of vision 
when we are at one with all existence. The body 
weighs us down, and, as the years go by, the 
moments with their truth become more rare. We 
do not all win through to that serenity which is 
the crown of life. 

There are other trifles in that same note-book 
worthy of record in these pages. A cheeky fling 
at Tennyson, for instance : 


Love, Toverty and Neuralgia 

Tennyson said — ^you know the man — 
" I do but sing because I must." 
Mine is a better way I trust : 

I do but sing because I can. 

And here is a gay triolet : 

Ah ! let the women chatter : 

It is their only joy 
To gossip and to flatter. 
Ah ! let the women chatter. 
It really doesn't matter. 

You needn't listen, boy. 
But let the women chatter, 

It is their only joy. 

In the same book is a record of moneys received 
from 13 Oct. '10 to 21 Oct. '11, amounting to 
£148 185. Sd. — a year's earnings — and headed 
" My total income from my pen ! " For a free- 
lance journalist in pre-war days it was not to be 
exclaimed against, but, if we think of the uncer- 
tainty in connection with its getting, we are hardly 
likely to conclude with satisfaction that at least 
he had enough to live upon. In his last year, 
writing from Brussels, " If I had £150 a year of 
my own," he says, " I could write great works." 
He knew something, not only of the true value of 
money, but of the compensations not to be 
reckoned in terms of money which are at times the 
lot of the poet. "We knight the throwers of 


Richard Middleton 

brickbats," he tells us in Monologues, " and starve 
the majority of the poets, but I would be the last 
to deny the justice of this arrangement, for if the 
former class has taken the daylight earth to itself, 
the poets hold in their treasuries the title deeds 
of the fertile pastures and purple mountains of 
sleep. I know who is the richer." 

He may have known, but the knowledge was of 
no great value to him, apparently. 

What was the grief sat gnawing at his heart ? 

What love's betrayal turned his heart to 
What bodily anguish tore his soiil apart ? 

The grave-mound covers all. 

So our friend W. R. Titterton on him. " The 
poor chap must have carried a hell of a weight," 
said some one else, discussing him with me after 
he died. 




Let us turn to brighter memories. Hitherto I 
have dwelt a little too much, perhaps, on the grey 
side of Middleton's world. He was not always 
suffering, and when the gods did present the cup 
of enjoyment he drained it, dregs and all when 
there were any. No one ever appreciated the 
theatre more than he did. I forget how many 
times we saw Miss Hook of Holland performed. 
That excellent musical comedy, with its harmo- 
nious tunes by Paul Rubens — " jingles " their 
composer modestly called them — was played by 
children at matinees, and only undiscriminating 
playgoers could have preferred the evening per- 
formance of their sophisticated elders. Duncan, 
again — the incomparable Isadora — was delighting 
tasteful Londoners at that time with her dancing. 
She was Terpsichore herself. Nearly every night 
in the gallery of the Duke of York's Theatre we 
sat entranced to ecstasy. Had we been rich men 
we would have heaped the alley leading to the 
stage-door with flowers that our divinity might 

141 ^ 

Richard Middleton 

walk knee-deep amongst them. I recall also that 
laughable function, the dinner given to Robert 
Ross at the Ritz Hotel, in recognition of his 
services to Wilde. It was rendered laughable by 
the plain speaking of Frank Harris. All fashion- 
able literary London was there from Duchesses 
downwards. The dinner was good, but the 
speeches — ^the speeches lent such an atmosphere 
of portentousness and solemnity to the occasion 
one would have thought that all humour had gone 
out of the world. Following some academic 
oratory by H. G, Wells came, to wind up the pro- 
ceedings, a douche of candidnei^s by Harris, the 
effect of which on that highly-charged atmosphere 
was amazing. In forthright fashion, without 
fal-de-lals of speech or exaggerating the importance 
of Wilde or of Letters in general, he told the truth 
as he saw it about his ill-fated friend, sat down 
again, and the polite assemblage melted away in 
shocked silence. We wanted to finish the night 
somewhere. Robert Sherard, another friend of 
Wilde, enormous of bulk, the very picture of 
dignity, stood on the steps of the plutocratic 
hotel, looking as though he owned it. " Are you 
coming along ? " I queried. " We're going off 
to a club." He gazed at me with overwhelming 
hautevu". " I live here," he said crushingly. It 


'Brighter Memories 

was a fitting climax to a good night's entertain- 

Yet again, there was that time at Bedford with 
the girls (they were performing there) and the Red 
Lion burgundy. He paid tribute to the visit in 
the poem, One Summer's Day : * 

If I have choice of all that seems 

Most precious here, this boon I choose, 
To see once more on merry Ouse 

Ophelia steer her bark of dreams. 

In prose, too, that happy time was celebrated. 
I often used to wonder what the staid supporters 
of Vanity Fair — joyously anarchic as it was in 
those days under Harris — ^used to make of that 
journal. " I can promise you," wrote Middleton, 
sending me the proof of one of my own articles, 
" that it will not disturb the prevailing intellectual 
gloom of our fashionable readers." But to the 
extract. It is from a review of some book or 
other, by the way. 

There is another reason why this book 
failed to impress me. I had something better 
to think about. Last week I spent two very 
happy days, and though the fact can be of 
no importance to anyone save myself, I wish 
to chronicle them before the Germans come. 
I spent them at Bedford, a pleasant town 

* Poems and Songs, I. 

143 "-^ 

Richard Middleton 

where the sun shines and the bells play tunes, 
and there is a very proper river called the 
Ouse. To do justice to those two days would 
involve the composition of many books, and 
masterpieces at that. On the other hand, to 
pick a thread or two from life's tapestry, and 
say, "This was enjoyment, and this," is a 
task that demands either the intuition of a 
great poet or the complacency of a successful 
philosopher. Still, it is always possible in 
loving the past to concentrate one's affec- 
tions on one or two emotional moments, as 
when we elect to crown a day for a look or a 
kiss or the tone of a good-night, . . . 

There are five young people with me in the 
punt, and they are arranged — remember I 
write for posterity !— two girls immediately 
in front of me, so that I can see nothing but 
their hair, then another girl lying facing in 
my direction, and beyond, at the other end 
of the punt, there sprawl two boys, dabbling 
their hands in the water and crying occasional 
news of the fish. The sky is very blue ; 
there is a hot sun, and on each side of the 
river there are meadows full of flowers, cow- 
slips and daisies and kingcups, " triumphing " 
as Mr. Gosse says.* It is the girl in the 
middle of the boat on whom I would concen- 
trate your attention. She is a pretty English 
girl of eighteen years of age, with a fair skin 

* " Thou hast the colours of the spring. 
The gold of king-cups triumphing." 
The lines begin the poem To my Daughter Teresa, which Steven- 
Bon was not alone in thinking <■ blooming good." 


'Brighter Memories 

and dark hair and rounded features. She is 
dressed in white, and one of the boys has just 
sprinkled a great handful of cuckoo-flowers 
all over her, and for a dainty moment she lets 
them stay on her dress and her hands and her 
hair, and lies still as if she were asleep. She 
is like the Ophelia of Millais in the Tate 
Gallery. Soon she sits up with a little laugh, 
and as I paddle on the flowers slip by on the 
water. Presently we shall come to the 
Fortunate Islands. . . . 

That is worthy of preservation, I think ; and 
not only as evidence of his having had moments of 
happiness. It was at this period, too, that he was 
writing the best of his poetry and beginning to 
look forward to its being published in book-form. 
Austin Harrison, through the good offices of 
Harris, printed anything he sent in to the English 
Review. The Evening Standard, the Saturday 
Review and T.P.^s Weekly accepted occasional 
articles ; and when Vanity Fair passed out of 
Harris's hands and was no longer open to him, he 
succeeded in getting in again with the Academy, 
which had now become the property of Lord 
Howard de Walden. Not that he was ever quite 
free of the harassing problem of ways and means. 
Free-lance work at the best provides an uncertain 
income. It was a financial crisis, I believe, which 
caused his departure from the lodgings at Wimble- 


Richard Middleton 

don. In the summer of 1910 he returned to the 
parental roof, now at St. Albans, remaining there 
until he went to live at Brussels early in 1911. 
This surrender doubtless somewhat troubled his 
independent spirit, but by this time his family 
had grown more to accept his choice of a career, 
and there was no great friction. It was not a good 
environment for effort, however. " I live in the 
haunts of ancient peace," he writes under date 
June 4th, 1910, " and hazard the theory that 
peace, while agreeable to the bodies, is not good 
for the souls of poets. . . . We see nothing in the 
country, and feel but little more. We eats and 

we no we don't sleeps because of the neuralgy 

which is grossly over-estimating the amount of 
inspiration necessary for one poem." 

An extract from another letter, written late in 
July, will also serve to give an idea of his life at 
this time : 

Yours with its philosophies duly to hand. 
I dree my weird without much aid from 
philosophy, whether among the flesh-pots of 
Frank Harris, or the domestic tyrannies of 
St. Albans. I am looking forward to my 
holiday at 45 * . . . this place has got on 
my nerves lately and smitten my singing lips 

* It had been arranged that he was to take charge of my house 
while I was away for a few weeks. 


'Brighter Memories 

to shamed silence. I want to play the 
hermit among your books, and forget things 
for a little. Nowadays I am doing neither 
wrong nor right, and my heart is choked with 
the sands of mere existence. I must pay a 
visit to the Celestial Surgeon. 

Austin Harrison has written a decent letter 
to me demanding articles and stories for the 
E.R., so I'm trying to work, but Lord ! my 
spirit has wings of lead. I shall do an article 
on the Criticism of Poetry that should annoy 
a few people, however. I have meant to 
write it for a long time. 

I had a reproachful but amiable letter 
from Christine. I must try to see her again 
soon. I am still in her debt I think. . . . 

So the year ran — and a good year on the whole 
it was for him in spite of the ever-persistent worm 
that dieth not. I myself was as much mouthed 
by that same worm as he was, perhaps. " You're 
a man with an uneasy mind," he once remarked 
to me with conviction.* I began now to think 
seriously of breaking away from my environment, 
and proposed a sort of Verlaine-and-Rimbaud 
excursion abroad. Why should we not together 
undertake the adventure of literature in Brussels ? 
I suggested. Living was cheap in that capital. 

* Ib it true that when we are impressed by something in another 
person we are seeing, as through a veil, what is really in ourselves ? 
It must be, I think, 


Richard Middleton 

We had friends there— Georges Eekhoud, Abel 
Torgy and others. He was on good terms with 
the Academy people— that meant a fairly regular 
income. " Dropping from the veils of the morn- 
ing " might come the peace we sought. 

He was dubious about it at first ; not on his own 
account but on mine. 

If I were in your place [he wrote] I should 
postpone the practical exploitation of the 
dream called Brussels as long as possible, 
because the world, i.e. life, has a rough way 
with dreamers when they change their fairy 
gold for earthly coppers. I know that your 
mind likes to take refuge in this particular 
dream, but in truth I think that's all it's fit 
for. I am game for Brussels whenever you 
like, but I hope for your sake that you will 
never wish it. . . . 

When it was settled that we should go his 
readiness was still tempered with caution. A 
letter dated February 9th, 1911, has it that : 

your judicious poet always has his barque 
on the shore and his mooring-ropes are but 
cobwebs. If I may make a suggestion it is 
that you should secure all the money possible 
to give the firm a good send off. I have not 
had my cheque yet, but it should amount to 
£10 when it comes— this week-end for sure. 
. . . Personally I think such a scheme if 

'Brighter Memories 

soberly carried out may save your soul alive. 
Mine I have doubts about, but anyhow it 
can't do either of us any harm. But above 
all things we have got to be practical. 

There was a brief delay. On receiving his 
money he was soon rid of it. " There is still 
a certain Richard Middleton to be reckoned 
with," he explains in a by no means apologetic 
letter : 

In this connection I recall a sound aphorism 
of Heine's. The acts of a genius like those 
of a drunkard lie outside all reckoning. You 
may call me which you will, I have my own 
ideas on the point. But when you bade me 
keep my money for a possible trip to Brussels 
you under-rated the strength of my desires. 
... In some subtle way your letter contri- 
buted to my mood, because you were not 
just to me when you accused me of wanting 
to go on the bust in Brussels — I never thought 
of or suggested such a thing. Were you 
not rather expressing a secret fear as to a 
possible calamity that might wreck our enter- 
prise ? . . . Then there was a phrase of 
Stevenson's as to the virtues of action. You 
know how these things help us to do what we 
want. . . . 

A few weeks later we crossed the water. We 
had been in Belgium together for a few days some 
eighteen months before. It was a holiday on that 


Richard Middleton 

occasion, a friend connected with a shipping 
agency having arranged a passage for us in one 
of those narrow-gutted little cargo-boats built 
for canal navigation between Antwerp and 
Brussels. An incident of that trip impressed me 
deeply. In Ostend— from which port we returned 
by the ordinary mail-service packet-boat — seated 
outside a cafe we were joined by a couple of cosmo- 
politan ladies whose questions we answered with a 
polite negative. Could they drink with us, then ? 
— the season was at an end : they were less con- 
cerned with les affaires than with distraction. 
Yes, they could drink with us, but it was to be 
clearly understood that we were not in the mood 
for les affaires. With this hien entendu, as they 
proved to be entertaining companions, we moved 
on with them to another cafe, where in course of 
time others attached themselves to our party. 
My impression is of about a dozen laughing 
women seated in a semicircle while Middleton, a 
bottle of brandied cherries in one hand and a spoon 
in the other, gravely passed along feeding each 
expectant mouth in turn. They were like a crowd 
of happy children together. It was one of those 
rare occasions when the gay life is not wholly 
independent of true gaiety. 

Traffic on the Belgian canals may have sug- 


'Brighter Memories 

gested his fantastic story The Ghost Ship, in which 
a pirate vessel is blown inland by the wind and 
anchors in a field of turnips. Barges and other 
canal craft, seen from a distance, give the illusion 
that they are moving over, or stationary on, the 
meadows. The Ghost Ship, by general consent, 
is his best short story. " I declare," says Machen, 
in an Introduction to the book of which it forms 
part, " I would not exchange this short, crazy, 
enchanting fantasy for a whole wilderness of 
seemly novels, proclaiming in decorous accents 
the undoubted truth that there are milestones on 
the Portsmouth Road." The Times, again, 
eulogised it and the other stories. " It is the 
atmosphere of these stories that gives them their 
intensity as well as their beauty. They are 
reality in amber. They charm the mind back to 
life of the strangest solitude and silence, of wisdom 
as opposed to knowledge, and to a reality whose 
only coimterpart in after life is the world .of 
dreams. ... Of all Middleton's stories. The Ghost 
Ship for its fantasticalness— which is imagination 
masked and at the carnival— is the rarest treasure 
trove. ... It is a crazy, delicious, magic story 
told for the sheer joy of the telling." The passage 
is well worth resuscitating if only for its finely- 
phrased definition of fantasticalness. For myself, 


Richard Middleton 

who am less at ease with prose than poetry, I like 
The Ghost Ship mainly for the following : 

we both raised our glasses to our mouths, 
only to stop half-way and look at each other 
in amaze. For the wind that had been 
howling outside like an outrageous dog had all 
of a sudden turned as melodious as the carol- 
boys of a Christmas Eve. . . . 

We went to the door, and the wind burst 
it open so that the handle was driven clean 
into the plaster of the wall. But we didn't 
think about that at the time ; for over our 
heads, sailing very comfortably through the 
windy stars, was the ship that had passed 
the summer in landlord's field. Her portholes 
and her bay-window were blazing with lights, 
and there was a noise of singing and fiddling 
on her decks. " He's gone," shouted landlord 
above the storm, " and he's taken half the 
village with him ! " I could only nod in answer, 
not having lungs like bellows of leather. 

The story, rejected by an English magazine, was 
taken eventually by the New York The Century. 
But Middleton never knew of this. A cable 
accepting it came a week after he died. With the 
money— £25 — at his disposal he would not have 
committed suicide when he did — that is fairly 
certain. But short of other good luck cropping 
up while it lasted, it is hard to believe it would 
have done more than delay the manner of his end. 




One of our Brussels friends had arranged 
lodgings for us at 10, Rue de Joncker. This was 
the house in which Middleton was to die a few 
months later. He describes it in a fragment of 
MS., evidently the beginning of an abandoned 
article : 

I am living in a large house of a type very 
common in Brussels, with rooms of an exag- 
gerated loftiness and doors twelve feet high 
which make me feel like Lemuel Gulliver in 
Brobdignag. But although the house is 
large I never cease to wonder at the number 
of people who seem to live in it, for whenever 
I leave my rooms I find the staircases and 
halls full of men and women whom I have 
never seen before and will never see again. 
Just now in one of the corridors I came across 
a small girl of four years old who invited me 
to play with her. It seemed a simple game ; 
we stood at opposite ends of a tiled hall and 
threw marbles at each other, but presently it 
appeared that some subtlety of the sport had 
escaped my notice, for I was accused of 
cheating, and had to beat a retreat with a 


Richard Middleton 

shrill voice calling " Monsieur le tricheur " 
after me up the stairs. At intervals while I 
write, the door of my sitting room opens a 
little, and my late playfellow cries " Mauvais 
sujet ! " reprovingly through the crack. 

Board and lodging were cheap. Brussels, in- 
deed, was a cheap city in which to live in those 
days, and as we had resolved to keep a sharp eye 
on our expenses there seemed no reason — ^unless 
the English Review and the Academy closed down 
— ^why Middleton should not get ahead without 
the worry of financial embarrassment. While 
he worked at his articles I sought tranquillity of 
mind in the Mtisde, dreaming over the pictures 
there, or browsed among the bookstalls in the 
arcades. It was a quiet, uneventful time. In the 
evenings we talked and drank Geuze Lambec — the 
strong ale of Belgium— at cafes with such men as 
we knew ; or were invited to their homes. One 
incident of the partnership was not without 
humour. Arriving back once for the mid-day 
meal I found him pacing angrily up and down the 
room with a copy of Wilde's Intentions in his hand. 
" It's all lies, lies ! " he exclaimed on becoming 
aware of me. "And you believe in him." I 
didn't " believe in him " so much as all that, but 
I had certainly been much impressed by Wilde's 


Early Days in 'Brussels 

work. Whether it has truth in it or not is another 
matter, and the book that will give us its value 
has yet to be written, but victory over it will not 
be achieved by calling it lies and leaving it at that, 
or by denunciation after the manner of Crosland's 
The First Stone — remarkable as that book is as a 
piece of invective. Later on, after my return to 
England, he wrote : " I have been reading Be 
Profundis again and still think he made of 
humility a last rampart to protect his arrogance." 
To me it seems that Wilde was an idealist who, 
following his hard experience, saw clearly that 
humility was indeed a virtue and expressed his 
vision with no great illusion that he himself was 
humble. To see virtue does not make us virtuous, 
but it does at least make vice uncomfortable and 
sets us wondering how our natures can be altered. 
Wilde sank back into fatalism. Apropos, Middle- 
ton in his penultimate letter to me, a fortnight 
before the end, wrote of certain cafe acquaint- 
ances with whom he had been arguing against 
Socialism : " They drive me to arrogance just 
when I want to feel humble." 

Another incident occurred in time of carnival. 
We were seated outside a cafe one evening, in- 
terested in the various processions passing along 
the boulevards, when it became obvious that 


Richard Middleton 

something unusual was taking place. A couple 
of lighthearted and lightly-clad young girls— 
Liegeoises we found out they were afterwards — 
were dancing along at the head of an angry crowd 
and turning now and again to spit laughter and 
insults at it. As they were passing our table, 
urged by I know not what mingled spirit of 
English sportsmanship, romance and the moment, 
we offered our protection, which was accepted, the 
girls sitting the while on the marble-topped 
tables, volubly explaining the situation between 
further insults at the sullen populace now standing 
aU around in a ring. They were a dirty lot of 
Puritans, the Flemish, we gathered, and knew 
nothing of the true spirit of carnival as expressed 
in the Wallon cities of the south. Eventually, 
the crowd became so threatening that we thought 
it as well to seek refuge in a neighbouring cafe, and 
later still, fearing the gendarmes, we had to fly the 
fair damsels themselves, they having taken it into 
their heads to quarrel and start fighting like cats 
in the crowded Place de la Monnaie. It is curious 
what trifles will impress us on such occasions. 
During the fiery discussion in patois preceding the 
battle proper, one of the little spitfires passion- 
ately tore in pieces the huge bouquet of violets 
she had been carrying about all the evening. I 


Early Days in 'Brussels 

remember reflecting that the action seemed to be 
in some way symbolical of the triumph of passion 
over beauty. 

After I left Brussels to " dree my weird " 
in England once more correspondence naturally 
started again between us. Under date April 28th, 
1911, he is to be found writing : 

Many thanks for the letter. . . . For fl.50 
I buy half a kilogramme, or eighteen ounces 
of Appleterre, which is a Belgian tobacco 
much better for pipes than Semois. I store 
this up in Waverley Mixture tins and regard 
the result with simple pride. I still live in 
our palatial room, and as I think a change of 
environment is good for artists, I write at 
all the different tables in turn. On the same 
principle I try experiments with different 
kinds of paper and penholders, and if I only 
had the necessary dexterity I believe I could 
write a fine article with my toes. . . . 

Don't forget to look out for notices of the 
English Review. Send me bad ones as well 
as good ones, for they may be useful to me in 
the preface of the book, in dealing with 
possible criticisms. . . . 

The " book " was the contemplated The Auto- 
biography of a Young Man, referred to in an 
earlier chapter. His book of poems under title 
Dust of Dreams was at this time going the rounds 
of the publishers. Late in 1910 he had written : 

157 " 

Richard Middleton 

" I have sent the book to Wilson * who purports 
sending it to John Lane, who is a friend of his. I 
shouldn't think the canny John would care for 
such perilous stuff." The " canny John " didn't. 
It was refused, and was now with another pub- 
lisher concerning whose later rejection of it he 
observes only— May 18th, 1911 — " the great work 
duly returned by Foulis," In September, Harris 
was busying himself on behalf of it. " He has 
been working hard trying to find a publisher for 
the poems. He seems confident of success in that 
onerous venture. Well, well. It would have 
given me more pleasure two years ago." 

Harris did not succeed. No book of Middle- 
ton's was published during his lifetime. But some 
philosophy was behind temporary disappoint- 
ments occasioned by the failure to achieve book 
form for his poetry. " The commercial side of 
literature," he says in the fourth article of a series 
entitled The Poet's Holiday, which was now 
appearing in the Academy, " is an unpleasing 
business that no longer concerns poets — ^they, at 
least, are free from any harassing doubts as to the 
pecuniary consequences of their work ; and this 

* J. Gr. Wilson, formerly of Jones and Evans's, now of Bumpue's, 
and a bookseller of the old-fashioned type with a fine taste in 


Early Days in 'Brussels 

is as it should be, for love is the only wage that 
can command the noblest labour. That it will 
not pay hotel bills is the fault of society and not 
of the publishers." Some pleasure he had from 
appreciation of individual poems or essays. One 
of his letters begins : 

" But altho' the subject and the author 
are obscure, the poem [Qweew Melanie and the 
Wood-hoy, which had just appeared in the 
English Review] is rather exceptional. It is 
held in a suspension of music and reverie, 
and has an outline in vagueness that is flung 
out to be apprehended, not dissected." Thus 
the " Literary Digest " of New York and 
thereafter prints Melanie from one end to the 
other. I don't know what it means, but it 
tremendously impressed some Americans who 
are stopping here for three days. They look 
at me now with wide eyes as being a real poet 
approved by the Literary Digest. (Avec telle 
nomme. . . .) 

This same letter is full of high spirits and 
humour. His humour, by the way, was some- 
times too free for quotation, but the following 
passages should be given, if only that this memoir 
of him may not appear too one-sided. " And yet, 
they might well reflect," he goes on to say : 

this celebrity is sad . . . sad as a man may 
well be who has worked hard for a week 



Richard Middleton 

and produced nothing ... I am sad, yes 
even though a French menage is breaking up 
with some violence the other side of the 
folding doors, behind your empty bed. Every 
now and then the lady strikes the gentleman 
a sounding smack in the face, and somebody 
is packing, though I don't know which. The 
gentleman has just expressed the opinion that 
it is abominable to have to pay for one's 
kisses. . . . The youthful Adolphine, the 
child of the house I discovered yesterday deep 
in the fifth volume of Casanova his memoirs. 
I was so surprised that I told her it was not a 
suitable book for a little girl of fourteen. 
Woe is me, I half believe that it isn't. 

Ending the letter three days later, he is, how- 
ever, in one of his moods of depression again. 

I have had a bad attack of the hump and 
have forebome to trouble you with the 
history of my melancholies. . . . The Aca- 
demy cheque is late again which worries me a 
good deal more than it ought to. I shall 
never have any material tranquillity in this 
world never. To-day Madame asked me the 
second time for the rent. ... If it were not 
for the little GUberte who plays sedately with 
me nearly every morning I should lay down 
and die these sweltering airless days. . . . 

Many of his letters between the above (which is 
undated, but written in May or June, I fancy) and 
the next in my collection with envelopes bearing 


Early Days in "Brussels 

September postmarks, must have been lost, but 
some guide to his movements (at least) is provided 
by a notebook entry which runs as follows : 

Came to Brussels, Feb. 19th, 1911. 
Went to Montjoie, June 22nd, 

Brussels, June 30th. 

— - London, July 2nd. 

Brussels, July 15th. 

Heyst S/Mer, July 28th. 

St. Albans, Aug. 16th. 

Brussels, Oct. 10th. 

The trip to Montjoie he made use of in the essay 
Montjoie, now to be found in Monologues. He 
fell in love with the place, the result being as 
good a piece of prose as any to be found elsewhere 
in his writings. Here are two passages justifying 
this praise, I imagine : 

Between the wide chimneys the slates are 
spread like butter on a new loaf, in ambitious 
and tumultuous waves. They are local slates 
of a delicate colour, so that from the hills 
Montjoie resembles a colony of brooding 
doves, and it is easy to fancy that if one 
threw a stone into their midst the sky would 
be darkened by flapping wings and the 
valley wotdd be left untenanted and deso- 

IoivCb • • • 

Like all men, I am a thousand men, and 
one man of me wanders still in those steep, 
uneven streets, looking at the faces of the 


Richard Middleton 

houses, and waiting for the hour when they 
shall disclose their secret. Once in a dream 
I found Time sitting in a garden, and with a 
dreamer's courage I raised his shaggy eye- 
brows to peer into his eyes. They were as 
gentle and kind as a dog's. Perhaps the 
magic charm of old houses preserves the love 
and comradeship of the men and women who 
have lived in them. Perhaps when my 
spirit wanders by night in Montjoie it is 
cleansed and quickened by the fellowship of 
the immortal dead. 

It was nearly all prose that he was writing in 
these days ; in this, his last year, indeed, he was 
moved to express himself in verse hardly at all. 
When rallied upon this neglect of Euterpe he 
retorted that he couldn't afford to waste time on 
her, which was to some extent true ; but it must 
be remembered that he was not now in love with 
Christine. For the first two or three months of 
his exile he was chiefly occupied with the series 
of articles just mentioned— TAe Poet's Holiday.* 

• They lie buried still in the Academy. I disinterred one of the 
articles — A Cheat Man — for The Ohost Ship cmd Other Stories. 
With careful editing, a volume of miscellanea from his work 
unpublished in book form might be compiled and would be worth 
reading. There are, for instance, reviews which would give a 
better idea of his critical judgment of contemporaries ; a few 
passable poems ; The Autobiography of a Poet, which is not bad 
reading; and his one-act play. The District Visitor, a satire on 
Maeterlinck's The Blue Bird, and performed at the Court Theatre 
by Edith Olive in 1915. 


Early Days in 'Brussels 

He wrote these from the principle that " our 
tourists would be far more sincere, and therefore 
far more amusing, if they would write about the 
things that excite them, though it be only the queer 
little gooseberry tartlets they have for lunch." 
Wherefore, under such headings as The Philosophy 
of Travel, Little Paris, The Failure of the Crowd, 
and others, we have Brussels viewed in these 
papers from his own individual and delightful 
angle : 

To my eyes [he writes] the Palais de 
Justice lacks dignity [he once told me he 
thought it looked like a monster wedding 
cake — thereby destroying what beauty it had 
for me for ever] and Wiertz was an artist 
with a touch of that madness that is not 
akin to genius ; but I doubt whether my 
principal impression of Brussels is at all 
more dignified than that of the average 
tourist. Brussels, having wide streets and 
being moreover hilly, is a windy city, and if 
I had to make an allegorical drawing of the 
city and its inhabitants I think I should 
draw a picture of a cynic running after his 
hat. Everybody one meets here who is at 
all intelligent is proportionately cynical ; 
but their splendid phrases of disillusionment 
are always spoilt by the malevolent genius of 
the place, which sends them running after 
their hats like children after butterflies. It 
is only indoors that they can bring their 


Richard Middleton 

witty condemnation of life to a joyous 

In another article, vainly seeking inspiration 
for a purposed learned examination of the 
" Flamandisation of the University of Ghent," 
it occurred to him, he says, 

to speculate as to the sensations of a tree in 
the Spring. First, it seemed to me, it is 
woken from its winter sleep by a spirit of 
restlessness that by degrees takes the form 
of an intense irritation throughout the bark 
of the tree. I realised this stage so vividly 
that I know that old trees tell the young ones 
not to scratch. Afterwards the tree feels 
little threads of pain running through its 
channels, and these become more and more 
frequent, till the tree aches in every branch, 
and the image of each remotest twig is etched 
on the consciousness of the tree by suffering. 
Then, slowly at first, but afterwards quicker 
and quicker, each breaking bud brings relief, 
till long before the last bud has popped the 
whole tree is singing with pride of its great 
achievement. Some trees look upon their 
leaves as umbrellas, some as hats, and some 
as wearing apparel. It seemed to me that 
it would be a breach of manners to mention 
the Winter in the hearing of this last kind of 

He must have thoroughly enjoyed writing thus 
fancifully, but although the series improved 



Caricature by David Wilson. 

Early Days in 'Brussels 

rather than deteriorated in quality, Cowper, the 
editor, more matter-of-fact than imaginative, 
closed it down at the tenth article. A Miss 
Gouldsmith was secretary, or assisting in some 
other way, on the paper at this period and would 
sometimes give him its news. One of her letters 
serves humorously to remind us that it is not 
always literary " chiels amangst us " who are 
" takin' notes." 

Herewith please find a proof of your fourth 
article. I still like them very much indeed. 
How do you think our paper is progressing ? 
Mr. Belloc on Political Economy is not in his 
best humour, is he ? . . . Frank Harris, too, 
is using up some of the back-of-the-drawer 
papers on us I think. . . . But there they go. 
They all of them try to write too much and 
have their chief eye on the loaves and fishes 
I'm thinking. 

Following his London holiday in July and soon 
after his return to Brussels, I was surprised to 
hear of him from Heyst S/Mer, to which watering- 
place he had fled, it appeared, in disgust with a 
sordid amour in which he had become entangled. 
While at Heyst he wrote such glowing accounts 
of that resort it was arranged that my mother and 
sister should spend a holiday there. I mention 
this visit because my mother, an old lady with 


Richard Middleton 

whom he had not hitherto been on understanding 
terms, there grew to like him and ever afterwards 
spoke of him with affection. When his post- 
humous volumes were published she read them 
without any remembered comment, but some 
time later, " Give me those books, boy," she said 
unexpectedly. "When I'm reading them it's 
just as if he were sitting opposite talking to me." 
A finer tribute was never paid him. 




From Heyst he moved back to St. Albans. 
But for the notebook record, before-mentioned I 
should not have remembered that he spent so long 
a period there as two months before returning for 
the last time to Brussels. Two letters addressed 
respectively from " At the Sign of the Crimson 
Pig or The Idle Poet " and " At the Sign of the 
Ineffective Journalist over against St. Albans," 
have escaped destruction and show him in a fairly 
cheery humour. In the first he says : 

I owe you seven letters, three postcards 
and a newspaper cutting, the latter concern- 
ing life. These are debts that a softening of 
the brain due to sterile effort (for guineas 
not for fame) will not permit me to pay. But 
here is a piece of paper with words on it. 
From certain points of view you might — if 
charitably dispoged — take it for a letter. Yes 
indeed, indeed ! A letter. To that end I 
will disguise it in a real envelope adorned 
with your name and address and a caricature 
of the King, God bless him. May it fare well 
and meet with a decent reception at its 


Richard Middleton 

journey's end. Poor thing, poor thing, poor 
thing ; but mine own. Dagont ! . . . 

(Interlude with a savage kitten who likes 
playing with dynamic pen-holders.) 

On Wednesday I lunch with the immortal 
Frank who is finishing another book on 
Shakespeare (called I beUeve, but it's private, 
the Woman Shakespeare !). On Thursday I 
shall likely seek the Bohemians in search of 
inspiration. The quiet life though pleasant 
for the fleshly individual is hell for the 
imaginative artist. . . . Some mad young 
men would do me good at present. 

It's fairly certain that I shall not go back 
to Brussels till the beginning of October. 
Then for the masterpieces damn my eyes. Is 
Richard Middleton played out ? No, by 
thunder ! Then why does the kitten spit 
on this my letter ? Answer me that Herr 

Monday. Another blue day busted idle 
away. And Sister Carrie for which blessed 
minx I thank you. My mind continues to 
soften. I thread beads on strings and admire 
my own handiwork. The sea hath its pearls 
and R. M. threads beads like stars. 'Tis a 
work that charms, that stealeth over the 
spirit of decayed poets. I have beads as big 
as O and as small as . ! Rubies and male- 
sapphires and trebizonds as large as bowler 
hats. Speak me kindly and I wUl make thee 
an eloquent necklace or a bracelet perilously 
remote. Beads 1 

How goes the book ? I hope it fares 


The Descent of Avernus 

better with you than it does with me. Every 
page done is an argument in favour of our 
existence. Proceed, continue, and after- 
wards go on. I am not the first saint 
excluded from the heavenly Marathon. 

No I will babble no more. Let us be 
optimists, writers of books, pleasant fellows. 
Even the weariest sea climbs some way up the 
river. The water of the Thames, I have 
heard, is noticeably salt at London Bridge. 
And, till Phillipi unites us 
I am 

Yours ever 

A Teller of Beads. 

The postscript to this effusion is a sketch with 

legend : " Design for a necklace. Original. 

Richard Middleton (aged 3|^)." The other letter, 

after telling of a " great night " at the New 

Bohemians, goes on to say : 

No, I'm not a pessimist though I have a 
headache to-day. Pessimism is a disease 
of the liver. When you feel like that you 
ought to go for a six miles walk on the 
Common. Next day your mind would return 
to work. Verb. sap. . . . 

I want to do a lot of work and spend no 
money ; these are my desires. My Heyst 
article * was nearly damned good and in 
effect was damned bad. A touch one way 
or the other makes the difference. But I 

* A Summer Holiday {Monologues). 

Richard Middleton 

sweated over it a bit. This next week I am 
on safer and less ambitious ground. To say 
the truth I am a rotten journalist. 

Saturday. Dear, oh dear ! Boy Bertrand 
was in the right of it,* but we who have not 
his chance must endure our staying here even 
as our coming hither. I find Sister Carrie too 
utterly depressing, I will read it no more. I 
must read the joyous humbugging books that 
aid the illusion of happiness, the books where 
lovers and dreamers inherit fortunes at the 
right hour. . . . 

A vivid, closely-analysed and fragmentary study 
of an acquaintance (now deceased), written at or 
about this period, is revelatory not only of the 
person studied but of the author of it. From my 
own knowledge of the other man I think the 
portrait, just as it tries to be, misses that quality 
in him which made for a real respect in his own 
circle. But here it is for its light on Middleton : 

I looked at this man, and marvelled that 
our mutual distaste for each other's society 
should spring from nothing more than a 
difference of creed. I found beauty in art and 
in nature as reahsed by my senses ; he found 
it in respectability, in success and in an un- 
hesitating acceptance of all conventions good 
and bad. For every trait in his character 
that aroused my dislike, there was a parallel 
trait in my own that aroused his hatred, and 

• The cMld of a friend of ours had just died. 

The Descent of Avernus 

I could not admit the justice of my attitude 
without in some way granting the reasonable 
nature of his. I thought his air of the success- 
ful tradesman, self-satisfaction with a gold 
watch-chain and a motor-car, repellant ; he 
thought my Bohemian aspect, my careless 
clothes, my shock of hair, indecent. I found 
his wealth ignoble ; he found my poverty 
dishonest. I despised the vulgarity of his 
ignorance ; he was affronted by the arrogance 
of my culture. I found his life as useless 
with its pre-occupation of money-getting, as 
he found mine with its energies that kept no 
office hours. The parallel could be extended 
endlessly. It held even in our vices. He 
sometimes drank too much while condemning 
inebriety on morial grounds ; I sometimes 
drank too much while condemning it because 
it interfered with the work that was the only 
justification for my existence. In measuring 
our characters side by side there was only 
one small superiority that I could claim with 
any certainty. I was generous enough to 
allow that he might possibly be right in his 
attitude towards life, while I felt absolutely 
convinced that he had never wavered in his 
conviction that I was wrong. I was clear- 
sighted enough to see the logical force of his 
point of view ; I doubted whether he would 
admit that I had a point of view at all. 

At one time circumstances forced me to 
see a good deal of this man who typified for 
me the narrowest kind of success, and I was 
brought to realise how heavily we pay for the 


Richard Middleton 

hospitality of those we do not like. When 
I fed at his table he made me feel that I was 
stealing my victuals, and when I rode in his 
motor-car I could not help considering him 
as a taxi-cab driver whom I was dishonestly 
depriving of a fare. For it seemed to me 
that from everyone in his environment who 
was not rich he expected homage, and that in 
accepting his company without paying for it, 
I was robbing him of his due. Yet during the 
many hours that friendship for others induced 
me to spend in his company, we never 
exchanged an unfriendly word. Only we 
looked at each other with covert hatred. . . . 

On October 10th he returned to Brussels. 
What chiefly determined this last fatal journey is 
hard to say ; perhaps because he had heard that 
some of the girls were going on tour there — 
Christine amongst them — and they now repre- 
sented for him at least congenial company. I 
remember, too, his writing earlier in the year— 
though the letter is not extant — ^that he was 
likely in the future to be able to say that some of 
his happiest days had been spent in the Belgian 
capital. Back, at any rate, he went, and the next 
news of him is that he was once more in the old 
room " with three francs in my pocket and feeling 

as though I had never been away at all." 

The girls are here [he goes on to say]. I 
saw at what they call a concert aperitif 


The Descent of Avernus 

yesterday but I had no chance to speak to her. 
She was looking extremely pretty I thought. 
Christine I haven't seen yet, and I shall not 
if I can help it before the Academy cheque 
arrives. In this, of course, I wrong her '. 

I am going to try and write some good short 
stories between now and Christmas, for I 
believe that that way lies the lazy kind of 
prosperity that I desire. Within the last 
twelve months I have received a hundred and 
twelve pounds for the sweat of my brow. 
Next year it must be two hundred and will 
be, I think. These are my literary ambitions ! 

From this letter, written less than three months 
before the end, we may conclude that he had then 
no intention of killing himself. What happened 
within that brief period his later correspondence 
will partly reveal. A cheque for £18 18s. from 
the English Review on October 13th, a further 
£10 from that magazine the week following, and 
the Academy cheque for £7 13s. 9d. on October 21st 
had doubtless much to do with the period of idle- 
ness which followed. His next letter reads : 

As life colours art, so creme de menthe 
mixed with hot milk maketh the hand of the 
correspondent to tremble in the mornings. 
Never mind. One day I shall discover a 
drink. Naturally I have no news. I have 
been eaten by mosquitoes (when I was a little 
boy we used to call them gnats) I have had 
173 " 

Richard Middleton 

some toothache. . . . Last night a woman 
said to me : " You are a real philosopher, 
you are a philosopher in your soul " which is a 
good idea, though not flattering from a 
woman. I have been reading George Moore's 
Confessions which should be called the auda- 
cities of a commonplace mind. He is a man 
who cheapens the immortal with his praise 
and flatters the negligible with his censure. 
. . . Fisher Unwin the publisher wrote me a 
letter about the stories in the English Review, 
saying that of course they were not the mak- 
ings of a book but that perhaps I had some- 
thing else by me he could publish. ... I 
wrote him a civil letter with an eye on 
potential cakes and ale. Nothing happens 
but perhaps to-morrow I shall be singing a 
great song. . . . 

With money to spend, the girls to take about, 
the ever-gnawing worm, and no light in the dark- 
ness, the descent of Avernus was easy. On 
October 24th he writes : 

Thank you for your cheerful letter. I am 
sorry that I cannot reply in the same blythe 
key. My body is devoured by mosquitoes 
and my heart is gnawed of rats. ... I have 
done no work since I have been here, 'tis a 
fortnight to-day, but I have just started a 
short story that may bring me somewhere. 
I am doing my best to quarrel with the 
Academy because they haven't been putting 
in my articles, and I don't intend to send 

The Descent of Avernus 

them anything more. The EngUsh Review 
reheved Mafeking by sending me eighteen 
guineas for my stories. When I wrote and 
grumbled Harrison bunged me another tenner 
with a charming note, so you see hke you and 

I have had the wherewithal to bust. 

Well I've spent some of it carousing mildly 
and it gives me no satisfaction. Toothache 
and a bad attack of nerves complete the tale 
of my woes. I must aim at a nobler mark 
though Lord knows my disillusionment is 
not complete enough to be desirable. I cry 
like the lady in the song " J'aurais mieux fait 
de Tester tranquille." . . . 

Wednesday. This morning my story * 
returned by the London Magazine which is a 
nasty smack in the eye as I thought they were 
going to take it. The Academy preserves a 
dignified silence and does not answer my 
letters. ... It is a pity I don't know any 
decent people here ; all the English people 
I have spotted have been impossible . . . 

why shouldn't you and go to Paris for a 

week (Polaire is there now)t and I will come 

* T'he Ghost 8Mp. 

t The French actress. A rhymed impression of her in Le 
Tisiteur from one of his note-books may be worth giving : 
" Eose-pink is her reticent nose 
With an ivory spot on the tip ; 
Her mouth is an overblown rose, 

There's a little moustache on her lip ; 
She has never a tint or a speck 

On her cheek where the colour should be, 
But a dimple far down on her neck 
Like a flower in a rippleless sea." 

175 ^2 

Richard Middleton 

and join you there ? Only make up your 
minds before I bust my money. Personally 
I have the hump as you may detect in this 
letter and I should like a little holiday. 
Yours ever 


Lord luv 'im. 

My motter : " J'aurais mieux fait de rester 
tranquille." Your motter : " Fetch aft the 
rum. Darby ! " 

Either among the papers found in his room or 
enclosed in a letter to me was a squib probably 
written at this time which, in the light of after 
events, is significant and should find its place here. 
In a grimly humorous way it is his life's history : 

Life put a hair brush in my bed, 
A water-jug upon my door, 
A lizard down my back, and said, 
" What are you wanting more, 
Now that your flesh is sore ? " 

Love brought a pretty girl to me. 

But when she saw that I was fat 

She cried, " My heart, can such things be ! " 

And then she laid me flat 

And used me as a mat. 

My flesh is worn, my heart is bruised, 
The thing I had to say is said. 
And all my senses are confused. 
They'll soon put me in bed 
And say " Hullo ! he's dead ! " 

The Descent of Avernus 

It will be seen that he was still somewhat sorry 
for himself. Dazzled by his poetic gift, I no doubt 
thought him wiser than he was, more capable of 
dealing with life, of knowing what to do. I should 
have remembered Shelley. His last few letters, 
however, would have awakened apprehension in 
the most obtuse intellect. The next to follow is 
dated November 5th and endorsed " Guy Fawkes 
Day. The Dawn of the 47th Vita Nuova 
After replying to my own news it goes on to say 


I myself am so much in the deeps that I 
grow more hopeful. This is no paradox, but 
a plain statement of my attitude towards 
existence. To-morrow I shall have been 
here four weeks, four weeks of drunkenness 
and riggishness and unbroken idleness. Dur- 
ing the whole of that period I have been dis- 
tinctly ill and very unhappy. I have no 
nerves left and my stomach is completely 
disordered, " more like a whore's than a 
man's." * And it was not till eleven o'clock 
last night that my spirit was enlightened as 
to the causes of my sorrows. At that hour I 
put my hand in my pocket and found with a 
delicate astonishment that I had three francs 
left out of something over forty pounds I have 
received since I've been here. " Drink and 
the devil had done for the rest." t And 

* Kipling's The Mary Gloucester : 

" And your rooms at college were beastly," etc. 
t Stevenson, Treasure Island. 


Richard Middleton 

forthwith the stone was rolled away from the 
sepulchre and Richard M rose again from the 
dead. I spent two of the francs on a book 
and walked home feeling lighthearted for the 
first time since I've been here. Poverty is 
my mother and my sister and my brother ; 
Prosperity the most evil of all my dreams. I 
can't stand the bitch. She makes me an 
eater of ordures, a lover of strabysmic worms. 
I have lost four weeks of njy life and now I 
am going back to work. ... It is only in 
denying my flesh that I win any battles and 
as I am not naturally ascetic the denial must 
be compulsory. . . . The sheer monotony of 
penury is a spur to work. 

The girls and Christine, who prob- 
ably move on in a week's time, I shall see 
no more. They will think me unkind, but I 
have realised that the truest kindness I can 
do them is to let them go their own way. I 
am no man for women, least of all for two 
such decent little things, for whom the whole 
of the darker side of human nature is an un- 
fathomed mystery. I live in an emotional 
world, which, if they are fortunate, they will 
never even hear of. They are good girls, and 
goodness is a kind of ignorance, I think. 

I am still rather ill, but doubtless high- 
thinking will make me well in a day or two. 
I am in for a very rough time . . . but my 
bloated and over-crammed soul will be the 
better for the whip. Meanwhile I shall be 
glad to hear of the further progress of you 
and the enamelled ; it seems to me you 


The Descent of Avernus 

have both recovered your lost youth which 
you never had. 

I have met an American fiddler here 
whom you would love. He tells stories of 
his amours . . . with a blend of smut and 
sentiment that strikes me dumb. A queer 
company of us sat down in an underground 
kitchen and talked politics and women for 
hours. This new society will help me to 
endure my punishment perhaps. 
Yours ever 


Man of Letters. 

So alarmed was I by this letter that I wrote to 
him at once advising him to come back to England. 
This reply was among the other papers previously 
mentioned as having been found in his room, and 
I may be permitted to quote an extract : 

Your letter startled me. ... I wish you 
were in Eiigland . . . and I don't see many 
difficulties in the way of alternative sojourn- 
ings between St. Albans and Lambton Rd.* 
Brussels from your letter seems quite im- 
possible — even allowing for the idiosyncrasies 
of the imaginative. Nor do I want you to 
think that I am too shocked— don't get writ- 
ing optimistically if you don't feel it. I 
mean by this last that you think too much of 
the feelings of others {vide your treatment of 
Christine and ). When will you admit 

* I.e., Ms parents' house and mine. 

Richard Middleton 

the possibility that it does people good to be 
hurt— that is, to know the truth ? But 
what's the good of talking. Whichever way 
we look at it— convention or unconvention, 
code or no code, truth or humbug— you are 
bound to suffer. I wander. Think about 
the England scheme. I will write later on. 
And try and buck up. I will do anything 
you like and don't see why not. 

His reply to this advice was that he had 
" better hang on here for another month and see 
how things go." Other extracts from the same 
reply reveal his still unenviable frame of mind. 

I think I lack money more than I need it, 
at least I hope such a philosophy is within my 
reach. ... I wish you could wire me a new 
soul. How eagerly I would rush to the post- 
office and over-rule their absurd demands 
for identity papers. " Dear God " I would 
cry " can't you see that in all Brussels there 
is no one who needs it so much as I." 
Alas ! No. One is the allowance and if we 
mislay it we must go hunt for it again. . . . 
I can't think or write or even pray. Only 
■" I grow a little warmer towards men and 
women in general, now that I am no longer 
clever. . . . 

The reason I write you these long drivels 
is because I can't do anything else, and it 
comforts me to keep writing. You will know 
what I mean, because you have been there 
yourself. You needn't answer 'em. The 

The Descent of Avernus 

weather is a little warmer and I'm glad, 
because I hate the cold. Nowadays it seems 
to go deeper than the flesh with me, and I 
feel as if my spirit had been sitting in a 
draught. I am thinking of going to church 
next Sunday night to see whether evening 
services have anything of the old charm. No, 
I am not going over to Rome or even to 
England. I believe nothing. That is, I 
can't accept any of the inventions of our 
ancestors. When I feel the need I shall 
create God for myself, and I shall certainly 
not make him in my own image. That is a 
very primitive idea, isn't it ? Perhaps he is 
a force like electricity or a rare chemical like 
radium. Perhaps the Christians are right and 

he really is a bit like [the man of whom 

the portrait was given in the earlier part of 
this chapter]. Anyhow it's only guess-work, 
and we moderns are precisians though I can't 
spell it. . . . Intellectual liberty, the kind I 
have, is not to be borne. I would give all my 
poems for a good dream or two. What's 
become of them all ? I see things so clearly 
now, and they are black as soot. My chief 
pleasure is walking, and looking at people's 
faces. It's wonderful what a lot of nice faces 
there are to be seen. I suppose my real mis- 
take has been cutting myself off so from life 
and human companionship. I don't mean 
in coming to Brussels, but in rejecting all the 
conventions of my kind, and not making a 

thousand acquaintances. But like I 

would not suffer fools gladly and nothing 


Richard Middleton 

leads quicker to loneliness than that kind of 
intolerance. Of course the craving for the 
society of others is bom of the dread of one's 
own company. 

Friday morning. And now here's your 
letter inviting me over to England and I don't 
quite know what to say. You see what I lack 
at present is the will to work and perhaps a 
little the will to struggle with or to obey 
Destiny, i.e. the will to live. For the moment 
I have lost faith in myself and it appears that 
that was all the faith I had. I must get it 
back or go under wherever I am. . . . Per- 
haps I stood in need of a spiritual purge. I 
am having it. . . . As for the money, now 
that the girls are going, I am not likely to be 
embarrassed by the lack of it. . . . Madame 
must wait for the rent . . . my recent abun- 
dance has left me with a faint golden halo, as 
of one who rides freely in taxi-cabs and misses 
all his meals. Some time or other I will have 
a cheque for six or seven pounds from the 
Academy so that sooner or later I can square 
things up for the month. The crash will 
come after that when I shall have nothing to 
look forward to, but a month's a month. 

I'm sorry to trouble your Arcadia (?) with 
such cheerless letters but I grow very old and 
tired and I don't think I shall go dancing 
with the children any more. And you ? I 
always have the fancy that you are about 
three years yoimger than I am while as a 
matter of fact you are older. But you seem 
to be continually renewing your youth while 


The Descent of Avernus 

I decay. Oh fortunate young man, what is 
your secret ? 

Yours ever, 

Emmanuel Burden. 

This letter scarcely needs comment, it reveals 
his mind so clearly. I may mention, however, as 
evidence of his boyish reckless gaiety, that on 
many of the envelopes addressed to me during 
this last Brussels period were such added Christian 
names as Henry Hildebrand, Henry Narcissus, 
Henry Harland and the like. It did not occur to 
me then that a man who is too apathetic or 
desperate to pray must be in a very bad way 




I COME now to his last three letters— two long 
ones written respectively a fortnight and ten days 
before the end, and the last a brief farewell 
message found by his bedside : 

Thanks for your letter [runs the first, under 
date November 15th] which was a good one. 
I liked Ellis's poem too, though after all I 
wish he would tidy up his metres.* You are 
quite right to dance in the sun while it lasts ; 
that is the only philosophy for a rational 
hedonist. " No Arcadia is ever wholly lost " 
I wrote in the hours of my pride and I believe 
it still. But mine has suffered a sea-change 
and I can no longer recognise it as being an 
Arcadia. I am busy seeing my life in per- 
spective and I don't like it ; the moments 
may have sometimes been good, but the years 
are so many crimes. I have waited too much 
and acted too little. I have not the pluck to 
start work when I think how little I have 
done. But this is no new mood, it is only a 
recurrence, and it seems to be part of the 
mockery of life that our very moments of 

* Vivian Locke-Ellis, whose eaxlier poetry we had both much 


The Last Fortnight 

despair are only echoes of other moments that 
have gone before and that we have almost 
forgotten. When I think of these things I 
do not wish that I were dead : I wish that I 
had never lived. . . . 

Follows the passage on his egoism quoted in a 
previous chapter. The letter continues : 

Incidentally they [the girls] leave Brussels 
early to-morrow morning for Bordeaux. To 
avoid embarrassments I wrote to them two 
days ago to say I was called away on business, 
and how sorry I was not to be able to say 
good-bye. I feel intuitively that I shall 
never see them again, but in my letter I said 
I would come to Bordeaux. I suppose it is a 
mean kind of vanity that dictates such lies, 
but it is none the less certain that the truth 
would hurt them more. And if I started 
telling them the truth now it would only be 
vanity over again. Anyhow I follow the 
line of least resistance. And now they have 
gone out of my life and taken nearly every- 
thing that blesses me and makes me sad with 
them. It is strange how my sorrows have 
always been more creditable than my joys. 
And now I will not or perhaps cannot move 
my little finger to rise above the mud that 
chokes me. Poor Christine had better marry 
her Swiss boy. ... I met L6on the other 
day * . . . He has moved but I have not 

* My cousin L6on BochomB — the "mad Belgian architect" 
mentioned in Montjoie. I include this passage because of the 
" new philosophy " to which M. refers. He wrote once from 


Richard Middleton 

been to his new house yet — I don't want to go 
but I suppose my new philosophy of loving 
humanity imperfect though it is at present, 
will ultimately bring me to the sacrifice. 

As for England, I don't know what to say. 
I daren't look a day a-head for everything 
seems absolutely hopeless unless I can get 
back to work. I have a story in my head 
called " The Flapper " for Austin Harrison — 
it's about Lily — but when shall I be able to 
write it ? And what shall I do meanwhile 
if I can't get back the trick of writing articles ? 
The Noise of Life isn't it ? * When the 
Academy sends their cheque I can struggle 
on somehow to the tenth of next month, if 
nothing terrible happens in the meanwhile. 
After that all is a blank like the mind of 
Yours ever 
Silas Taylor Comberbatch. 

A postscript added the following morning gives 
me a few scraps of news and reveals him in a some- 

Blackfriais Road, I being in Belgium at the time : " Commend 
me to your cousin L6on (with an accent oh purist !) and tell him 
that the art of a nation is in inverse ratio to its artistic conceit. 
In England we believe that we are successful shopkeepers and 
therefore we have artists. In Belgium they believe they are 
artists and therefore they have shopkeepers. ..." Incon- 
sistently, in the matter of minor pedantry, when at St. Albans in 
1910, he sent from there a postcard request having regard to the 
poem Mdlisande he had just written : " Let me know if there is 
an accent over the first ' e ' in M61isande." 

* A reference to de Musset's aphorism — something to the effect 
that it is not life itself, but the noise of life with which most of us 
are concerned. 


The Last Fortnight 

what more cheerful humour. But that the 
thought in his mind, whether he was conscious 
of it or not, was taking stronger possession of him 
is evident from what he calls the intuition that he 
would never see the girls again, and from the 
ominous " if nothing terrible happens in the mean- 
while." Curiously enough, like a kind of false 
dawn, the next letter, dated November 20th, is 
not only devoid of gloom but full of gaiety, 
humorous shrewdness and good resolutions : 

In the last three days [it runs] I have 
written two articles, The Wet Day and The 
Flute-Player.* I give you the titles so that 
you will spot them when they come out in the 
Academy, and know that they were produced 
after a period of uncommon drouth. But I 
believe they are good nevertheless. Also I 
finished an idiot article on Belgium which will 
pay a washing-bill and that's all it's good for. 
But now I have started work again there's 
hope for the far future. Presently when all 
is well again, I shall try to do something big 
for the E.R. Work, work, work, in poverty, 
hunger and dirk. That's me. . . . Madame 
has just collared the petty cash for sundry 
trifles that I had forgotten. But she says 
she is in no hurry for the rent which is good 

* A Wet Bay is in The Ghost Ship and Other Stories ; The Flute 
Player and The Wool Gatherer (mentioned later in the same letter) 
are in The Day before Yesterday. 


Richard Middleton 

news. ... I have two pounds and a quarter 
of Appleterre. I am a great man of letters. 
My next article is to be The Wool-Gatherer. 
Voila un titre. 

And now . . . you propose to start work. 
That is the kind of resolution which wakes an 
echo in my bosom, because it's the kind of 
resolution that I form myself. If I may drop 
a suggestion, I should try to do the Eton boys 
gambling at Windsor if I were you. 'Tis a 
good picture, and if done simply one of the 
Liberal dailies would take it as like as not. 
The Conservative papers would suspect a 
criticism of their glorious institutions. Unless 
the Mail wanted to start a correspondence. 
. . . It's only an idea of mine. We might 
discuss these things seriously if I appear at 

Christmas. If were anything but an 

agreeable butterfly he would have lured you 
into work a long time ago. He works hard 
enough himself, the dog, when no-one's 

The girls have gone and I hope I have done 
with love for a long, long time. The truth is 
I have had a sort of nervous breakdown (? a 
neurasthenic rag-time) and at the present 
moment women make me feel sick, prostitutes 
and the like I mean. . . . The story of the 
last month and the exhaustion that follows 
the effort to love Cynara, the Hottentot 
Venus and half a dozen Jennies at one and the 
same time, would make a great moral romance 
if England were not such a desperately 
immoral country. There was one fine 


The Last Fortnight 

moment in the sorry story. When on my 
fourth consecutive sleepless night at an alien 
hotel I got out of bed and looked out of win- 
dow and saw some ducks swimming on a 
pond by the sad light of dawn. I felt then 
just the one thing about Nature that Words- 
worth couldn't feel because he never got far 
enough away from the complex bitch. I 
shall do some of these things yet when I find 
the right form. . . . 

I have just been pointing out to two 
Socialists, a Bulgarian and an Armenian that 
you cannot achieve liberty by suppressing 
other people, even if they are priests or rich 
men. They called me an idealist, with which 
triumph I was satisfied. When people tell 
me that England is the country of freedom I 
can't help being annoyed. Why they won't 
even let you wear your hair long there ! The 
whole world is raving mad. I alone am sane, 
I and Ricquette.* 

The Tragic Comedians is the only book of 
Meredith's that I have never been able to 
finish, though I confess that I have not tried 
it for some years. So I won't write about it 
because I can't. Max f was enormously im- 
pressed by Sister Carrie. Also by the Man 
of Property. I have given him the Patricians. 
God knows what he'll make of it. If you see 

• This may be an allasion either to a domestic animal at hia 
lodgings or to the dog in the Anatole France Bergeret series. 

t Abel Torcy, author of A L'Ombre des Saules, Le Ocmard 
Bomestique, and other works. A refugee in England and maker of 
shells, he died broken-hearted during the war. 

189 ° 

Richard Middleton 

the White Peacock * for a shiUing you might 
buy it for him. 

Yours ever 


This optimistic epistle probably allayed my 
fears, but, eleven days later, no further word 
from him having arrived, I wrote, on the day he 
died, a letter which I myself opened later in 
Brussels. It contains the following extract : 

I am getting rather anxious about you, 
Richard— not having heard from you such a 
while. If you are ill please get one of the 
youngsters to send a postcard or something. 
I don't mean by this to ask you for letters if 
you are not inclined to write. Perhaps some 
of our post has miscarried. Your last enve- 
lope is post-marked the 20th Nov. My last 
letter, with an enclosure, was sent, I think, a 
week ago. 

I have no heart to prattle to-day. You 
are not in the Academy again and I do think 
you had better get back by or before Christ- 
mas and be on the spot. Harris ought to be 
doing something about your poems. I feel 
sometimes like a reincarnation of Swift. 

This last sentence is uncanny. I had in mind 
the fact that Swift had written an essay on Stella 
on the night of her death, and as a matter of fact, 

* D. H. Lawrence's first book, which M. had eulogistically 
reviewed on its appearance. 


The Last Fortnight 

my letter being posted, I did ease myself that 
same night in similar fashion. On returning 
home at midnight there was a telegram awaiting 
me from Mme. Grey, his landlady. " Richard 
Middleton died to-day in Brussels," it said. 





Randal Charlton was staying with me at the 
time and accompanied me by the nine o'clock 
boat in the morning. We found at the house one 
Charles Palmer, an English cafe acquaintance of 
Middleton's, who had been called in by Madame 
Grey, and who, with my name and address on the 
dead poet's last message as a guide, had for- 
warded the telegram. The gendarmes had sealed 
the door of the death chamber, the English consul 
had not yet arrived, and none seemed to know 
what was to be done. While Charlton went up- 
stairs, broke the door in and filled a bag with 
papers, I sat below hearing Palmer's news of the 
tragedy. This will be best told in a letter he had 
posted the day before to me, not anticipating our 
speedy arrival : 

As I had not seen him at the cafi since 
Monday last [the letter is dated Saturday, 
December 2nd, 1911] I daily inquiring if he 
had visited same concluded he was ill so I 
called this morn at 10 Rue Joncker to ask if 
I could see him. This was about 1 p.m. and 













The End 

Mme. Grey informed me he would not answer 
to repeated knocking at his bedroom door, 
I then said I would speak to him from outside, 
but failed to receive a reply. I told Madame 
I would return at 6 p.m. to-night and in the 
event of his not then answering I would take 
the liberty of bursting open his bedroom 
door, as I should consider he had fainted ! 
During my absence, Mme. Grey informs me, 
she was not satisfied, so called in the police 
and they found him dead. . . . 

Middleton's message was written on a print- 
stamped and addressed post-card. He had prob- 
ably intended to send it. I have hesitated to 
give its contents wholly, but not to do so would 
perhaps be as unwise as the suppression of any 
part. It may be that, after all, most, if not all, 
of our actions are not deserving of thanks. For 
myself, at any rate, I have never felt that 
Middleton owed me anything : 

Good-bye ! Harry [the message runs] I'm 
going adventuring again, and thanks to you 
I shall have some pleasant memories in my 
knapsack. As for the many bitter ones, 
perhaps they will not weigh so heavy now as 
they did before. " A broken and a contrite 
heart, oh Lord, thou shalt not despise." 


A child to the last, it might almost be observed, 


Richard Middleton 

from his mention of adventure and knapsacks. 
A curious feature is that he probably penned the 
note on November 26th. That date is crossed 
out and December 1st added in lighter inking than 
that in which the message itself is written. We 
are left to infer that he fought for five days after 
coming to his decision. On the other hand, in 
his anguish of mind he may have been at first not 
clear as to the date, but that, from the difference 
of shading in the ink, is less likely it seems. What 
happened, after his optimistic letter of Novem- 
ber 20th, that led to the fatal change of course ; 
what was the last straw ; will probably never be 
known. The Academy cheque had not arrived 
— he died penniless. But such misadventures 
are perhaps less causes than occasions, and com- 
paratively unimportant. He could have bor- 
rowed money and did not.* " Man, if you only 
knew my pride ! " Another bout of neuralgia 
may have turned the scale. And always that 
brooding ; always the temptation to end it all ; 
always the absence of light. 

• " The bitterness of the unhonoured prophet is cumulative, 
and in the end his message smashed John Davidson ... it may 
well be that the prophet Davidson grew weary of waiting for the 
taidy ravens ; but it is certain that the poet, the man who wrote 
TJie Ballad of a Nwn and The BunncMe Stag, did not kill himself 
for lack of an extra hundred a year. Nor, indeed, is he dead." — 
Monologues, p. 67. 


The End 

There was another message. On an envelope 
received at Brussels on November 25th, addressed 
to him from Christine, with no evidence to show 
when they were written, were the brief words : 

Poor little girl. Someone must write to 
her nicely to break the news. 

His last action had been very deliberate, so 
Charlton said afterwards. In order to make more 
sure of the effect of the chloroform he had stuffed 
cotton-wool in his nostrils. The air of the room 
was unbearable. Charlton opened the windows. 
" Desolation," he murmured, " desolation," 

The next day we made arrangements for the 
burial. Sisters of Charity did their gracious work 
and, when I went up to take a last look at him, 
were watching by the bedside. We called on the 
consvd, who agreed to satisfy the police as to our 
illegality in breaking into the room. It had been 
decided that we would spare the Middleton family 
the news until our return to England, but the 
consul, the meantime, had wired Middleton pere, 
and the dead man's father and mother arrived on 
the eve of the funeral. 

He was buried, with the rites of the Church of 
England, at Calvoet, a hilly, wind-swept cemetery 
on the outskirts of Brussels. 


Richard Middleton 

There must he lie, though it be high broad 

Or Venus glister in the darkling firs, 
The roses and the music are forgot. , . . 

He made boast that he would not forget them. 

With the word my story closes. 

For I died, and on that day 
High they covered me with roses, 

And I smelt them as I lay. 

Who knows ? We are flashed on the screen a 
moment to play our parts and are gone. The 
terrible thought has to be conquered that some of 
us must go, as did Richard Middleton, to the very 
end without light. But all the hosts of pessimism 
cannot prevail against the one faint gleam in the 
darkness. Swiftly as brother follows brother it is 
not certain that we go " from sunshine to the sun- 
less land." The sunless land it may be. But 
none knows if we may not awaken from this life, 
so mysterious, so miraculous, to a dawn lovelier 
than any yet imagined and the morning stars 
singing together and all the sons of God shouting 
for joy. 




Middleton's work in prose and poetry is pub- 
lished by T. Fisher Unwin, of Adelphi Terrace, 
London, W.C. There are five volumes, all of 
which appeared after their author's death. The 
first editions are uniformly bound in blue buck- 
ram, cr. 8vo, and lettered on back and front in 

The Ghost Ship and other Stories (1912 : pp. 270) 
has an Introduction by Arthur Machen. Most 
of the stories, twenty in number, originally 
appeared either in the English Review, the 
Academy or Vanity Fair. Some critics have 
valued this book more highly than the poems. 
Arthur Machen says of it in his Introduction : 
" It is an extraordinary book, and all the work in 
it is full of a quite curious and distinctive quality. 
In my opinion it is very fine work indeed." On 
publication (simultaneously with Poems and Songs) 
the Daily News review had it that " there can be 
not the least doubt of the high and lasting work 
contained in the present volumes ; it has every- 
where the grand manner, a complete mastery 
of expression, and an implicit philosophy of 

Two of the stories are less stories than studies, 
as, for instance, A Wet Day and The Biography of 


Richard Middleton 

a Superman, which gives Middleton's view of 
George Bernard Shaw. The Foetus Allegory was 
written as a retort to a pessimistic article by John 
Galsworthy, and, as originally printed in Vanity 
Fair, ended with the sentence : " Oh Mr. Gals- 
worthy, do you smoke my allegory ? " This was 
omitted on publication in book form. 

Under title Le Foisson sur le toit et autres contes 
sensibles, the book has been recently translated 
into French by Maurice Beerblock. 

Poems and Songs (1912 : pp. 144) has an 
Introduction by Henry Savage and is dedicated 
to Frank Harris. Five of the poems were first 
printed in the English Review, one in the Neolith, 
and the bulk of the remainder in Vanity Fair 
under Harris's editorship. 

The Day before Yesterday (1912 : pp. 246) 
is a book of essays of childhood, most of them 
reprinted from the pages of the Academy, Vanity 
Fair and the Fall Mall Gazette. 

Poems and Songs : Second Series (1912 : pp. 134) 
has a Preface by Henry Savage. Many of these 
poems did not appear previous to publication 
in book form ; the others were taken from 
the English Review, the Academy and Vanity 

Monologues (1913: pp. 287) is a book of 
general essays reflecting the spirit of their period, 
1906-11. It contains for the most part its author's 
more " journalistic " work for Vanity Fair and 
the Academy, and was freely edited on publica- 
tion in book form, occasional local and topical 
allusions being excised. 



Articles on Middleton have appeared in : — 

The Gypsy and Folk Lore Gazette : No. 3. 
Louis J. McQuilland. 

The English Review. July, 1912. Henry 

Rhythm. August, 1912. Frank Harris. This 
article was afterwards enlarged and included 
in the same author's Contemporary Portraits 

The Academy. September 18th, 1915. Henry 

Tf^ Fortnightly Review. October, 1916. S. P. B. 

The Bookman's Journal. November 28th, 1919. 
Louis J. McQuilland. 

The Bookman^s Journal. November 5th, 1920. 
Henry Savage. 

• ■ • • • 

Nos. 1 and 2 of The Gypsy, a quarterly, con- 
tained Some Letters of Richard Middleton. 

Vincent Starrett, of Chicago, in 1920 published 
in America Two Suicides, a study of Middleton 
and Hubert Crackanthorpe. 

Critical references appear in The Cambridge 
History of English Literature, Vol. XIII. (Professor 
Saintsbury), and The Influence of Baudelaire (L. 

Three poems are included in The Victorian 
Anthology, edited by Professor A. T. Quiller- 

• ■ ■ • ■ 

Poems by Middleton not yet published in book 
form appeared in The Gypsy (Nos. 1 and 2) under 


Richard Middleton 

titles To a Daughter of Joy and Nocturne. A few 
not deemed worthy of inclusion in Poems and 
Songs (1 and 2) are scattered about the pages 
of Vanity Fair, 1907-9. Middleton's output 
includes a large quantity of immature and 
unfinished verse, with which some editor of the 
future may deal as he thinks fit. But he would 
get little or nothing of value out of it. Enough 
interesting miscellanea to form a volume is, how- 
ever, available. And a selection of the best 
poetrjr of the two series of Poems and Songs, with 
a critical Introduction, would make a pleasant 



The following tributes in verse are reprinted by 
kind permission of their authors : the poem by 
W. R. Titterton, from his book Guns and Guitars 
(Cecil Palmer), the two sonnets by William Kean 
Seymour and Arthur Coles Armstrong, respec- 
tively, from Swords and Flutes and the Pall Mall 
Gazette of December 6th, 1913. 

A Dead Poet 

There is a gap within our ranks to-night ; 
The chairs are filled, and yet I miss his face 
Whose singing was a fragrance and a light 
About our meeting-place ; 

Whose petulant rough gesture and wild hair 
Were as a frame for his shy, tender eyes— 
Dream-slept from out his much tormented chair. 
Calm in the earth he lies. 

Calmly he rests whose soul was like a sea 
Vexed by desires unsatisfied, unnamed ; 
Was like a trapped god struggling to be free, 
A hidden fire that flamed. 

The golden cities that his verses piled 

Rise on the mountain-tops serene and strong ; 


Richard Middleton 

Part woman, part swashbuckler and part child, 
He was a lord of song. 

You know the man — square-seated at the board, 
Rapping your knuckles with a bludgeon phrase, 
Turning your counter on a happy word 
Gentler than woman's ways. 

You know that glumness with a bitter gang. 
That wild, gay humom- lurking in his curls. 
That shy, reluctant, reckless voice that sang 
Of all his golden girls ! 

Ah, golden girls ! you watch for him in vain ; 
'Tis but a stranger tapping at the door. 
Your burly play-boy of a Western lane 
Comes to you never more. 

Ah, golden girls ! leave your fair locks undone. 
Your dainty shapes unlaced, your tears undried ! 
Weep that of all of you not one, not one 
Was with him when he died ! 

Bah ! let the sentimental tosh go hang ! 
The lamp is out— and life and love have end. 
Better than all the kisses that he sang. 
They say he left a friend. 

A friend ! that's much !— some verses, and a clod— 
A clod that yesterday drew glorious breath ; 
But not one word to tell us why he trod 
The backstairs way to death. 


Poetical Tributes 

What was the grief set gnawing at his heart ? 
What love's betrayal turned his blood to gall ? 
What bodily anguish tore his soul apart ? 
The grave-mound covers all. 

But, whether the devil of dearth, grown insolent, 
Stamped on his naked brain with feet gold-shod, 
Or life went when desire of dreaming went. 
This murder cries to God. 

W. B. TitUrton. 

Richard Middleton : 

In Memoriam 

O Dreamee with Love's roses on thy brow 
Entwined with bitter sprays of mournful yew ; 
O singer with the faery voice and view 
Of insubstantial realms of Beauty ; thou 
Whom ignorance and scorn condemned to bow 
Too soon before the careless Scythe ; who knew 
A dreamer's anguish and a dreamer's due 
From those who dream not — ^art thou dreamless 
now ? 

Or dost thou pace, with sudden princely tread, 
Triumphantly among the immortal dead, 
Trailing thy earthly dreams like flowers along 
Dim labyrinths, and with thy lyric tongue 
Starting remembrance in each classic head 
And troubling dusty centuries with song ? 

William Kean Seymour. 


Richard Middleton 

With Richard Middleton along the 
Dover Road. 

He of the straggled beard, the Vulcan frame. 
The tender voice, the ego undefiled, 
To whom the stars were fairies, coyly wild, 
That lived in purple woods whence dragons came ; 
Lover of ships, and strange full moons aflame 
With pirates' blood — oh ! shaggy, man-grown 

What talk was ours, as league on league we piled. 
And list'ning hedgerows fancy-struck became ! 

Embroidered sails on blue Pacific seas ; 
Sad violets and laughter ; lilies pale ; 
Fair gabled Cloisterham ; performing fleas ; 
The dead astream before a Lethean gale ; 
The flaming soul of Dickens— preludes these 
To bread and cheese, and gallant Kentish ale ! 

Arthur Coles Armstrong. 



Titles of Middleton'a books, poems or essays are in italics j 
those of work by other authors are also italicised and have the 
author's names in parentheses. Keviews, magazines and news- 
papers are set between inverted commas. Brussels is indexed 
only so far as mention is made of that city before Middleton 
went to live there. 

"Academy, The," 20, 32, 51, 

66, 57, 74, 131, 145, 148, 154, 

158, 162, 173, 174, 175, 186, 

187, 190, 194 
A. O. M., 103, 117 
Aladdin (Arabicm Nights), 5 
Alexandra Koad, Wimbledon, 

No. 3.. 133 
A I'ombre des saules (Abel 

Tor^y), 189 
Anglican Church, The, 59 
Antwerp, 150 
Am/ Lover any Lass, 103 
Appleton, Dr., 32 
Aran Isles, The (J. M. Synge), 

Aseetie's Love Song, The, 122 
Ashe, Thomas, 108, 109, 128 
At the Gates, 100 
Athenaeum Club, The, 37 
Autobiography of a Poet, The, 8, 

28, 162 
Aut6biogra(phy of a Yowng Mam, 

The, 157 


Ballad of Life, A (Swinburne), 

Ballad of a Nun, The (John 

Davidson), 194 

Ballad of the Bacchanals, The, 

Barham, Eev. Thos., 2 
Barrie, Sir James, 20, 27, 129 
Bathing Boy, The, 110 
Baudelaire, 12, 64 
Beaumont and Fletcher, 36 
BeoMty (John Masefield), 130 
Bedford, 143 
Belgian tobacco, 157 
Belloc, Hilaire, 33, 165 
Ben Gunn, 5 
Biography of a Swpermwn, The, 

Blackfriars, 18, 54, 55, 66, 73, 

129, 186 
Blake, William, 8, 99 
Bland, Mrs., 114 
BWnd Cripple, The, 96 
Blue Bird, The (Maeterlinck), 

Blue Lagoon, The (de Vere 

Stacpoole), 57 
Bochoms, L6on, 185, 186 
Bohemia in London (Arthur 

Ransome), 47 
Bohemians' Society, The New, 

32, 38, 45, 48, 56, 58, 69, 67, 

72, 168, 169 
Book of Airs, The (Campion), 92 
Bordeaux, 185 
Boswell, 33, 131 


Richard Middleton 

Bowles, 119 
Brighton, 130 
Brighton Boad, The, 130 
Brooke, Eupert, 82 
Browning, Eobert, 27, 90, 125, 

Brussels, 3, 18, 76, 139, 146, 

147, 148, 149 
Bumpus's (booksellers), 158 
Byron, 119 


Caf6 de I'Europe, 47 
Calamus (Walt Whitman), 129 
Calvoet Cemetery, 195 
Campion, Thomas, 92 
Casanova, 160 
Catechism, 4, 115 
" Century Magazine, The," 152 
Champion, Pierre, 7 
Charing Cross Road, 115 
Charlton, Eandal, 66, 63, 79, 

192, 195 
Chesterton, G. K., 33, 125 
Children and the Sea, 20 
Child's Garden of Verses, A 

(Stevenson), 6 
Chopin, 28 
Christine, 79, 83, 85, 94, 110, 

111, 115, 135, 147. 162, 172, 

173, 178, 179, 185, 195 
Christine, 103 
Coffin Merchant, The, 28 
Coleridge, 119 
Columbus, 81 
Colvin, Sir Sidney, 32 
Confessions of a Young Mam, 

The (Greorge Moore), 174 
Conrad, Joseph, 115 
Court Theatre, The, 162 
Cowper, Cecil, 20, 165 
Cranbrook Grammar School, 11 
" Cranbrookian, The," 24 
Croker, 119 

Crosland, T. W. H., 32, 155 
Crowley, Aleister, 129 

" DaUy MaU," The, 188 

Date of birth, 1 

Date of death, 3 

Davidson, John, 194 

Day before Yesterday, The, S, 6, 

6, 8, 20, 24, 115, 187 
de la Mare, Walter, 103 
De Musset, 186 
Denham, 8 

De Profimdis (Wilde), 155 
de Vere Stacpoole, 57 
Dickens. 61, 135 
DisHngmshed Quest, ^,115 
District Visitor, The, 162 
Dobson, Austin, 65 
Don Quixote (Cervantes), 11 
Douglas, Lord Alfred, 32, 56, 

Dowson, Ernest, 81, 82 
Drama of Youth, A, 11, 18, 19 
Dream Days (Kenneth G-ra- 

hame), 6 
Dream Song, 95 
Dreiser, Theodore, 51 
Du Bellay, 107 
Duke of York's Theatre, The, 

141 I 
D'vM Vanneur de Ble aux Vents 

(Du Bellay), 108 
Dust of Dreams, 114. 157 
Dymohurch. 115 


Editorial sympathy, 25 

Eekhoud. Georges, 148 

Egoism, 136 

Egoist, The (Meredith), 136 

Eikon BasiUke (Charles I.), 37 

Elizabethans, Tbe, 27, 28 

" English Eeview, The," 19, 74, 

105, 110, 146, 146, 154, 157. 

159, 173, 174, 175, 187 
Epithalamium, 110 



Eton boys, 188 

" Evening Standard, The," 145 


Fabian Society, The, 59 
Failure oj the Crowd, The, 163 
Farringdon Market, 12 
Fatima (Tennyson), 90 
Favourite Poet, M.'b, 27 
Figaro, 30 

First good poem, M.'s, 45 
First Stone, The (T. W. H. 

Crosland), 155 
FitzwUliam, Earl, 32 
Flaubert, 137 
Fleet Street, 27, 58 
Flmte-Player, The, 187 
For He had Great Possessions, 

Foulis (publisher), 158 
France, Anatole, 43, 60, 189 


Gallery Firstnighters' Club, 

The, 61 
Galsworthy, John, 189 
Garland, Herbert, 72 
" Grentleman's Magazine, The," 

Ohost Ship, The, 11, 18, 28, 43, 

130, 137, 151, 152, 162, 175, 

Gibbon, Perceval, 115 
GifEord, 119 
Gissing, George, 51 
Glad Nights o/ Spring, The, 95 
Goethe, 121 
Golden Age, The (Kenneth 

Grahame), 6 
Gosse, Edmund, 144 
Gouldsmith, Miss, 165 
Grahame, Kenneth, 6, 20, 57, 


Great Man, A, 43, 162 
Greciem Urn, The (Keat»), UO 
Greig, 28 

Hampstead, 37 

Hampton Court, 54 

Harris, Frank, 7, 8, 20, 51, 57, 

58, 78, 86, 87, 110, 128, 131, 

132, 142, 143. 145, 146, 158, 

165, 168, 190 
Harrison, Austin, 19, 51, 64, 

145, 147. 175, 186 
Hastings-on-Sea, 133 
Hedda Gahler (Ibsen), 122 
Heine, Heinrich, 27. 149 
Henley. W. E., 65 
Herrick. 110 

Heyst S/Mer. 161, 165, 167 
Hind, Lewis, 32 
Hobbes, John Oliver, 32 
Horridge, Mr. Justice, 110 
Housman, A. E., 51, 63, 128 
Howard de Walden, Lord, 32, 

Hylas, 129 
Hythe, 115 

Ibsen, 4 

Ingoldsby Legends (Barham), 2 

Insanity, 2 

Intentions (Wilde), 154 

Irene, 112 

Irene, 112. 116 

Isadora Duncan, 141 

Jepson, Edgar, 7, 57, 58, 77, 

115, 122 
Johnson, Dr., 65. 131 
Jones and Evans (booksellers), 

29, 158 


Richard Middleton 

Keats, 43, 89, 90, 103, 120 
Kipling, 46, 51, 177 

La Bibaele (Zola), 51, 52 

Lamb, Charles, 32 

Lambton Road,WimbIedon, 179 

Lament for LiUan, 96, 98, 101 

Lane, John, 158 

Lang, Andrew, 27 

La BSUsserie de la Beine PS- 
dauque (Anatole France), 50 

Lass that Loved a Poet, The, 84 

Last Ormse, The, 42, 95, 96 

Last Serenade, The, 19, 103, 107 

Lawrence, D. H., 57, 190 

Le Canard Domestique (Abel 
Torgy), 189 

L'Edmiation Sent/i/mentale (Flau- 
bert), 137 

LetVree (Baudelaire), 12 

L'lle des Pingomns (Anatole 
France), 50 

LUy, 80, 81, 83, 92, 94, 135 

Lines to an Indian Air (Shelley), 

" Literary Digest, The," 159 

Little Paris, 163 

Locke-Ellis, Vivian, 184 

L'CEuvre (Zola), 51, 52 

" London Magazine, The," 175 

Lord's Cricket Ground, 61 

Love's Freedom, 113 

Love's Logic, 103 


Machen, Arthur, 56, 68, 69, 90, 

Mad Harry's Vision, 115 
Mad Madd's Song, 103 
Maeterlinck, Maurice, 162 
Magic Carpet, The, 22 

Manet, 52 

Man of Property. The (John 

Galsworthy), 189 
Mam, Shakespeare, The (Prank 

Harris), 57, 131, 132 
Mary Fitton, 132 
Ma/ry Gloucester, The (Kipling), 

Masefield, John, 130 
Masques and Phases (Robert 

Boss), 125 
McQuiUand, Louis J., 3, 8, 31, 

34, 42. 46, 136 
Meet we no Angels, Pamsie f 

(Thos. Ashe), 109 
MiUsamde, 106, 186 
Memorat Memoria (Francis 

Thompson), 81 
Mendelssohn, 28 
Merchant Taylors' School, 11 
Meredith, George, 136, 189 
Middleton, Miss Margaret, 10, 

11, 33 
Middleton, Thomas (Eliza- 
bethan dramatist), 125 
MiUais, 145 
Miss Hook of Holland (Musical 

Comedy), 141 
Monologues, 1, 43, 51, 64, 81, 

140, 161, 169, 194 
Monologue on Love Songs, A, 91 
Montjoie, 161 
Montjoie, 161, 185 
Moore, George, 174 
" Morning Leader, The," 27 
Mudie's Library, 29 
Murray, John, 32 


National Liberal Club, The, 37 
New Boy, The, 11, 17, 18 
" NeoHtli, The," 114 
New Mistress, The (A. E. 

Housman), 51 
Nietzsche, 49, 52 
'Nineties, The, 127 




OUve, Edyth, 162 
Omar, 32 

On Children's Gardens, 22 
On Digging Holes, 22 
One Summer's Day, 143 
On Going to Bed, 22 
On Bichmond Park, 138 
Ostend, 160 
Oval, The, 60, 63 

Pagan Epitaph, 117, 123 

Padn, 109 

Palais de Justice, Brussels, 163 

Palmer, Charles, 192 

Pater, Walter, 107, 126, 127, 
128, 136, 138 

Patridcm, The (John Gals- 
worthy), 189 

Pembroke, Earl of, 132 

Pepys, 32 

Philosophy of Trmel, The, 163 

Poe, Edgar Allan, 79 

Poems and Songs, 20, 42, 90, 98, 
100, 103, 105, 115, 117, 129 

Poet and Ms Dead, The, 109 

Poet's EoUdoA), The, 158, 162 

Poet who was. The, 51 

Polaire, 175 

Pope, 119 

Pope, T. Michael, 56 

Prince's Head, The, 34, 36, 60 

Proudhon, 13 

Psalms, The, 15 

Pugh, Edwin, 62 

Queen MHa/nie emd the Wood- 
hoy, 103, 105. 159 
Queen Street, E.G., 29 
Quenti/n Durward (Scott), 48 
Quernmore House School, 11 


Babelaia, 32 

Kansome, Arthur, 47 

Eaynes Park, 18, 37 

Benaissanoe, The (Pater), 127, 

Bichards, John Morgan, 32 

Bimbaud, Arthur, 147 

Eitz Hotel, The, 142 

Bobinson Orusoe (De Toe), 5 

Bodin, 65 

Bossetti, D. G., 56 

Boss, Eobert, 125, 142 

Eoyal Exchange Assurance 
Corporation, 25, 26 

Bubens, Paul, 141 

Bue de Joncker, No. 10, Brus- 
sels, 153, 192 

Bunnable Stag, A (John David- 
son), 194 

Saintsbury, Professor, 98, 119 
St. Albans, 18, 146, 161, 167, 

179, 186 
St. Paul's Cathedral, 55, 65 
St. Paul's School, 11 
" Saturday Beview, The," 146 
Savage, Henry, 48, 125, 168 
Schools, M.'s, 11 
Schopenhauer, 50 
Schwob, Marcel, 7 
Scottish ancestry (t), M.'s, 1 
Scott, Walter, 47 
SenUmental Tommy (Barrie), 

Serenade, 90 
Shakespeare. 78, 84, 89, 92, 132. 

ShaTcespewre amd his Love (Frank 

Harris). 132 
Shaw, George Bernard, 12. 137 
Shelley, 108 
Sherard, Bobert, 142 
Shropshire Lad, The (A. E. 

Housman), 51 


Richard Middleton 

Silent Lover, The, 90 

Sister Carrie (Theodore Dreiser), 

51, 168, 170, 189 
SUvBe of Dreams, 109 
Socialism, 37, 166 
Soho restaurants, 69 
Song, 107 

South Downs, The, 53 
Stevenson, E. L., 2, 6, 27, 32, 

33, 38, 128, 144, 149, 177 
Street of the Fhtte-Player, The 

(de Vere Stacpoole), 57 
" Studio, The," 30 
Summer Holiday, J., 169 
Summers, W. 0., 61 
Surrey Cricket Club, The, 61 
Swift, 190 
Swinburne, 8, 37, 67, 96, 99, 

Symons, Arthur, 82 
Synge, J. M., 57 

Tate Gallery, The, 145 

Tennyson, 90, 138, 139 

Thompson, Francis, 63, 81 

" Times, The," 158 

Titterton, W. E., 140 

To Althea who loves me not, 85, 

To Diana, 111 

To Dorothy, 100 

To Irene, 111, 112, 114 

To my daughter Teresa (Ed- 
mund Grosse), 144 

Tom Sawyer (Mark Twain), 6 

ToBaie, 115 

Tor^y, Abel, 148, 189 

Touchstone, 107 

" T. P.'s Weekly," 145 

Tragic Comedians, The (Mere- 
dith). 189 

Treasitre Island (Stevenson), 

Tremendous Trifles (G. K. Ches- 
terton), 125 
True Bohemia, The, 38 
Tyler, Professor, 131, 132 

Under the Whip, 112, 113 
University of London, The, 12 
Unwin, T. Fisher, 115, 174 

"Vanity Fair," 58, 74, 111. 

129, 131, 143, 145 
Verlaine, 64. 110, 147 
ViUon, 6 
Virtues of Getting Drv/nk, The, 



Weaknesses (Thos. Ashe), 108 

Welcome, The, 86 

WeUs, H. G., 142 

Wet Day, A, 187 

Whistler, 33 

White Peacock, The (D. H. 

Lawrence), 57, 190 
Whitman, 129 
Wiertz, 163 
Wilde, Oscar, 67, 127, 128, 142, 

Wilson, Christopher, 37 
Wilson, George Francis, 56 
Wilson, J. G., 158 
Wimbledon, 133, 145 
Wind in the WiUows, The 

(Kenneth Grahame), 57, 86 
WoolgcOherer, The, 187, 188 
Word-portrait of Lily, 92 
Wordsworth, 189 
World as Will and Idea, The 

(Schopenhauer), 50 


Zola, 51, 52, 53 


Price 6/- net. 





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From the Spoon River 

The Property of Edgar Lee Masters 

Poached by 






Oakley House, Blootnsbury Street, 

LONDON, w.c. i, 

" It is one of the most beautiful little Tolumes we have seen since ths old 
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" ' Escapes and Escapades ' contains much that is exquisitely beautiful." 

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