"The critic can but register his impressions, coldly impartial by his very function. Did he abstain from the blame he thought just, because (for example) of the writer's sex, it would be equivalent to abdicating criticism where women are concerned, extending the privileges of the drawing-room to the reviewing-column. But women of literary power would be the first to protest against the insincerity of 'letting them off' because of their sex."
But it may be judged that reviewing is not always so strict a business :-
" 16 Elgin Avenue, W. Saturday.
" My Dear Hind,-I have been very unwell for the last two or three weeks, or your urgent requests should have been better attended to. The Dunlop article was finished on Monday week, when I got your letter from
Friends and ^Opinions
Henley, and consequently had partly to re-write it. And unluckily an attack of sickness which confined me to bed prevented my getting it in yesterday, although it was actually done. But I trust I am now much better all round, and shall be able to give the Academy proper attention. It is cutting my own throat for me to neglect it, and you may be sure I should not wilfully keep you waiting as I have done the last two or three weeks. I trust I have met Henley's wishes in the article as it now stands. I had no notion, to begin with, that there was so much to do over the book; and so I had treated it slightly. I will call in on Monday, in case you have anything you might wish to say in regard to it.
" With much regrets for my delay (but really I have been having a pretty beastly time of it)-Yours sincerely,
This was no longer the Henley of the great time, when every issue of the Scots Observer contained a poem or essay fit to make a beginning of fame for one of the "young men"; when this week the new cadences of Mr. Kipling's " Barrack-Room Ballads" sent city readers swinging and chanting back from their offices towards suburban sunset and supper. Those contributors fronted a famous future, their organ observed of all observers, their editor the instantaneous boisterous welcomer of the talent that served his turn. All the precious persons of his choice made the bluff figure of the chief the more defined. " I am the Captain of my Soul" was his boast, but others knew him as the captain of a newspaper staff. Famous for the young men he made his own, he is here recalled for the young man he rejected. My father sent him a poem by Francis Thompson which, consistently enough, he refused. Indocile, he would probably still have resolution to refuse verses "reeking of Shelley, whom I detest." It is proof of his perception that from the first he knew the newcomer was no shipmate for the Captain Silver of the literary weeklies. In the description of the lame pirate of Treasure Island the likening of his face to a ham suggests that the image of the editor, more massive than those of any two contributors, was before Stevenson as he wrote; pirate and editor had each a crutch, and each threw it at an intruder. Thompson's words of Henley and his last book impute to him, too, a Silver's grip :-
"... We know exactly the best he has done, and resent instinctively the slightest deflection from it. Well, here there are such deflections-that is all which can be said; and we feel them in exact proportion to our love of the Henley who took us masterfully by the throat of old. He still takes us by the throat, but his grip is not compulsive. Yet now and again the old mastery thrills us, and we remember. It is good to remember."
And Henley on his side learnt to admire. Where the poet had failed, the journalist writing about The Centenary Burns had his strong approval:-
" March 7, 1897.
"Dear Hind,-Thompson's article, which came in this morning, is quite masterly throughout. The worst I can say against it is, indeed, that it anticipates some parts of my own terminal essay, so that I shall have to quote it instead of writing out of my own stomach. All manner of compliments to him, and a thousand thanks. I know not which to admire the more : his critical intelligence or his intellectual courage.
" To one point only must I take exception. The book is referred to throughout as ' Mr. Henley's.' This it is not; so, in justice to Henderson (who feels the slight the more keenly because of the uncommon brilliancy of the work) I must ask you to find room for the protest herewith enclosed. . . .-Sincerely yours,
W. E. H."
Henley's half-capitulation shows a streak of unsuspected tolerance. F. T. reeked of so many things, besides Shelley, that Henley detested. The Burns article itself, to which Henley makes allusion, says uncompromising things of Burns :-
" Imagination and tenderness demand either the refinement of education or the refinement of pure and sweet life. These things might be in peasant song. They are in the songs of the Dimbovitza, which are higher as absolute poetry than anything within Burns' compass. Not because these songs are the outcome of greater genius, but because they are the outcome of a healthier and sweeter rustic state; a state in which the women were chaste and tender, the men brave and sober. Burns could well have sung it had he known it."
Writing a year later, Henley, on the defensive, said :-
" My dear Hind,-What a jackass is your F. Thompson ! I have never babbled the Art for Arts Sake babble. If I have, I'll eat the passage publicly. What I've said is, the better the writer the better the poet: that, in fact, good writing's better than bad. That is my only formula, and that I'm no more likely to swallow than F. T. is to write invariably well.-Yours ever sincerely,
W. E. Henley."
But Henley and Thompson were to make friends :-
" My dear Thompson,-I saw Henley on Saturday. He wants us to call on him next Friday afternoon. Will you be here at three sharp 1 Henley said some very nice things about you, and is quite anxious to meet you. He also bids me say that he is looking forward to your excursions on the Prophets. So do hurry them up. He tells me that many of the lyrics in his Anthology are from the Old Testament. This is entre nous.-Sincerely yours,