" I had a commission (through Mr. Meynell) to write an article for the jubilee number of the Tablet; but the editor would have nothing to do with it when it was written. I had said that Cardinal Wiseman too often wrote like a brilliant schoolboy (I might have said that, as regards his style, he seldom wrote like anyone else); and I had been guilty of other sins of omission and commission which were likely to bristle the hair of the Canon T-s."
And later, to the same correspondent:- " August.-I have been re-reading what I said regarding my rejected Shelley article, and I see that you might possibly interpret my language as referring to its merit. This would make my words read arrogantly in the extreme. When I said that I knew nothing just like it in the language, I was speaking of its kind, its style. As to the merit of that style, I have ventured no opinion of my own, but simply given you my friends' opinion. I am so poor a judge of my own work, that they never pay any attention to what I think about it. Please always bear this in mind. You may be sure that in speaking about my own work I always follow the same rule, to tell you merely what my friends say as to its merit."
What little more remains to be told of the writing and the posthumous publication of the Shelley article comes from W. M.:-
" It happened that Bishop (afterwards Cardinal) Vaughan, who knew the poet's family well in Lancashire, and had known Francis himself at Ushaw, met him in London at our house, and out of this meeting and the Bishop's wish to serve him, came the suggestion that he should contribute a paper to the Dublin Review. That venerable quarterly, founded by Cardinal Wiseman half a century before, Bishop Vaughan now owned but did not edit. It inherited ecclesiastical rather than literary traditions; and a due consideration for these dictated the opening passages of the Essay, since somewhat curtailed. Hence proceeded the plea that Theology and Literature might be reconciled-just such another reconciliation as Art had been adjured to seal with Nature at the end of the eighteenth century:
Go find her, kiss her, and be friends again !
And Thompson's plea had this added relevance-that the choice of a subject, left to himself, had fallen upon Shelley; perhaps a dubious choice. At any rate the article was returned to him from the Dublin-one more of those memorable rejections that go into the treasury of all neglected writers' consolations, perhaps their illusions. Thrown aside by its discouraged author, the Essay1 was found among his papers after his death. His literary executor thought it right that the Review for which it was originally designed should again have the offer of it, since a new generation of readers had arisen, and another editor, in days otherwise regenerate. Thus it happened that this orphan among Essays entered at last on a full inheritance of fame."
It appeared in the Dublin dated July 1908, and for the first time in a long life of seventy-two years the Review passed into a second edition. Its reissue in separate form has for preface Mr. George Wyndham's estimate of it as the most important contribution made to English literature for twenty years.
From F. T. to W. M :-
" The Dublin article having been sent, I write to ask you for more work, or directions as to work. I am afraid, however, that even if there is room for it the article will hardly be in time, and that through my own
1 Also a Shelley " Selection," not published, fault. I miscalculated the date from Father Driffield's letter, and seeing no newspapers, did not discover my error till I came to post it. This is something like a confession of failure, and I am naturally chagrined about it. But I have one comfort from the affair: I not only hope but think (though until I see how I proceed with my next book I will not speak decidedly) that it has broken me to harness. You ask me to write frankly, and so I will tell you just how I have found myself get on with my work. At first I could not get on at all. I tried regularly enough to settle myself to writing ; but my brain would not work. During the last four days I wrote at a pretty uniform rate, and wrote so continuously as I have never been able to write before-in fact, more continuously than I mean to write again, except in an emergency like this-I began to feel very shaken at the end of it. But the valuable thing is that I was able to make myself write when and for as long as I pleased. I want some more work now, but if left to myself I may lose a habit scarcely acquired. . . . The only two ideas in my head both require books. The one is for an article on Dryden, the other an old idea for an article on ' Idylls of the King.' Very likely my idea with regard to the latter has long been anticipated: so that to prevent any possible waste of labour let me briefly explain it. I have seen it objected to them that there are only the slightest and most arbitrary narrative links between them, and that they form no real sequence. My idea is to show that they have not a narrative, but a moral, sequence. (I have nothing to do with the allegory.) Tennyson's idea has been to show the gradual disruption of Arthur's court and realm through the ' little pitted speck in garnered fruit' of Guinevere's sin, which 'rotting inward slowly moulders all.' This he does by a series of separate pictures each exhibiting in a progressive style the disintegrating process. Each exhibits some definite development of decaying virtue in court or kingdom. Viewed in this light, they have a real relation to each other which is that of their common relation to the central idea. It is a crescendo of moral laxity; and throughout, by constant little side touches, he keeps before my mind how all this is sprung from the daily visible sin of the Queen's life. That is the idea: judge for yourself if it is worth anything. If you have any work ready for me, I should prefer to do that; I think I could now do work not originated by myself."