The friends he found for distraction in London were few, his acquaintances still fewer; thus his biographer, in falling back on such slight records as would go unnoticed in a life more thickly peopled, believes that they have at any rate the value of rarity.

But in any case the chapter of his meetings could be more than matched with the chapter of his evasions. Thus ran the excuses :-

"Dear Wilfrid, I could not come in to tea with Blunt and Yeats, for I had to go down to the Academy, and was back much too late. Had I known on Thursday I would have altered my arrangements so as to accept your invitation. I am very sorry to have missed this chance of meeting Yeats, as I have long desired to do. You know I heartily admire his work."

Meredith's invitations he could not permanently resist. At Box Hill he spent a night in June 1896. Meredith had written to A. M., " You and the poet will have Heaven's welcome to the elect. But the cottage will be wounded if you desire not to sleep in it after having tried its poor resources. Be kind." To dine and sleep and wake in that small cottage was to be at very close quarters with nature and a man. With birds at the window, trees bowing and rustling at the back door, and at the front the vivid grass ready for his feet, Francis was thrust into the presence of a showy bit of nature, and was hardly more easy than if he had been thrust at the theatre into a box directly adjoining a crowded stage. He would pull at his necktie, and smooth his coat, and be most warily conscious of his companion's eye, microscopic, like a husband's, for defect. The singing of Meredith's blackbirds would be no less confusing than the stream of Meredith's talk; the nodding flowers and the thousand shadows, the sunshine and the talker, were too strange to him. For years he had evaded nature and an eye ; here he was forced to be seen and to see in the unclouded atmosphere of this garden on a hill, and during a long drive. Talk and caviare for breakfast were alike foreign to him, who never breakfasted even on toast. To be on tremendously good terms with Nature for her own sake, with talk for its own sake, with French literature, with the Celt, was Meredith's triumph; Thompson was shy of all these.

Meredith's method was one of acceptance, of bird's song and of Burgundy. Thompson's method was of refusal because he was not hardy enough for one or the other. With that mixture of precision and involved evasion that was his habit, Meredith praised " Love in Dian's Lap," quoting the lines-

And on this lady's heart, looked you so deep, Poor Poetry has rocked himself to sleep ; Upon the heavy blossom of her lips Hangs the bee Musing; nigh her lids eclipse Each half-occulted star beneath that lies ; And in the contemplation of those eyes, Passionless passion, wild tranquillities.

The lady, too, was in the garden to hear.

In his written comments on Poems, Meredith had fastened on the misprinted passages as if they were evidences of the wilfulness of the poet, and he recalled these in talk, slow to relinquish an opportunity for his golden chaff. With the Edinburgh praise of Thompson he proclaimed himself in agreement, writing (July 19, 1896) "I subscribe to the words on Francis Thompson's verse." But he also called Thompson turgid, on the eve of passing to the writing of his own ode on the French Revolution;. Sister Songs he had called at first sight a " voluntary."

He discovered no consecutive argument in Sister Songs; but for his banter he found an immediate opening; he invented a landlady for Thompson-Amelia Applejohn-to whom imaginary sonnets were addressed. He told how Amelia was summoned to Thompson's room to listen to the latest, rolling down her sleeves the while, and brushing the flour from her elbows.

After Thompson's death, Meredith wrote to W. M.:-

"Box Hill, February 3, 1909.

" Dear Mr. Meynell,-The love of all the Meynells, let all the Meynells know, is precious to me. And the book of the poems {Selected Poems) was very welcome, though a thought of the poet's broken life gives pain. What he might further have done hangs at the closing page. Your part in his history should help to comfort you. What we have of him is mainly due to the Meynell family.

Our Portia I may suppose to be now in Italy, and Italy seems to me her natural home. For me, I drag on, counting more years and not knowing why. I have to have an arm when I would walk. I am humiliated by requiring at times a repetition of sentences. This is my state of old age. But my religion of life is always to be cheerful; though I see little of my friends, I live with them.-Ever to be counted yours,

George Meredith."

One of the few occasions on which Francis entered a friend's house (always excepting W. M.'s) in London was when, in December 1896, he spent some weeks with Mr. and Mrs. Doubleday. Like a little boy, he posted word to W. M., as to a father, across the few intervening miles of London, of his safe arrival there, of his friend's kindness, and of his admiration of Mrs. Doubleday's music making :-" Mrs. Doubleday is very kind, and she is a simply exquisite pianist. Doubleday and I have fraternised over music."

"My friend Alfred Hayes," he used to say, almost with ostentation. And the phrase remains because he so rarely proclaimed or could proclaim a relationship of the sort. That he paid a visit and wrote letters and verses to Mr. Hayes were, even if he forgot to despatch one of the letters, unusual marks of consideration. The visit planned, it followed that he did not turn up in the expected way, so that his host, in his anxiety, asked W. M. for news, and later wrote:-

"20 Carpenter Road, Edgbaston, October 13, 1896.

" Dear Mr. Meynell,-I am very sorry that, as all turned out well, I wrote to you in some apprehension as to Thompson. He turned up at the wrong railway-station and performed some other singular feats, but those were mere details, and we enjoyed his visit very much. I hope it did him good in spite of the fact that owing to its happening to be a very busy week for me at the office, I was obliged to leave him a good deal to his own devices, which consisted mainly in smoking innumerable pipes over the books he found in my study. The weather was so forbidding that we were only able to make two excursions afield. I hope he will come again in the summer when no infant daughter must again bar the way.-Yours, Alfred Hayes."