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At another theatre I caught sight of a woman that I once liked,
the widow of some friend of my father's youth, and tried to attract her
attention, but she had no eyes for anything but the stage curtain; and at
some house where I met no hostility to myself, a popular novelist snatched
out of my hand a copy of _The Savoy_, and opening it at Beardsley's
drawing, called _The Barber_, began to expound its bad drawing and wound
up with, "Now if you want to admire really great black and white art,
admire the Punch Cartoons of Mr Lindley Sambourne," and our hostess, after
making peace between us, said, "O, Mr Yeats, why do you not send your
poems to _The Spectator_ instead of to _The Savoy_." The answer, "My
friends read the _Savoy_ and they do not read _The Spectator_," brought a
look of deeper disapproval.

Yet, even apart from Beardsley, we were a sufficiently distinguished body:
Max Beerbohm, Bernard Shaw, Ernest Dowson, Lionel Johnson, Arthur Symons,
Charles Conder, Charles Shannon, Havelock Ellis, Selwyn Image, Joseph
Conrad; but nothing counted but the one hated name. I think that had we
been challenged we might have argued something after this
fashion:--"Science through much ridicule and some persecution has won its
right to explore whatever passes before its corporeal eye, and merely
because it passes: to set as it were upon an equality the beetle and the
whale though Ben Jonson could find no justification for the entomologist
in _The New Inn_, but that he had been crossed in love. Literature now
demands the same right of exploration of all that passes before the mind's
eyes, and merely because it passes." Not a complete defence, for it
substitutes a spiritual for a physical objective, but sufficient it may be
for the moment, and to settle our place in the historical process.

The critic might well reply that certain of my generation delighted in
writing with an unscientific partiality for subjects long forbidden. Yet
is it not most important to explore especially what has been long
forbidden, and to do this not only "with the highest moral purpose," like
the followers of Ibsen, but gaily, out of sheer mischief, or sheer delight
in that play of the mind. Donne could be as metaphysical as he pleased,
and yet never seemed unhuman and hysterical as Shelley often does, because
he could be as physical as he pleased; and besides who will thirst for the
metaphysical, who have a parched tongue, if we cannot recover the Vision
of Evil?

I have felt in certain early works of my own which I have long abandoned,
and here and there in the work of others of my generation, a slight,
sentimental sensuality which is disagreeable, and doesn't exist in the
work of Donne, let us say, because he, being permitted to say what he
pleased, was never tempted to linger, or rather to pretend that we can
linger, between spirit and sense. How often had I heard men of my time
talk of the meeting of spirit and sense, yet there is no meeting but only
change upon the instant, and it is by the perception of a change like the
sudden "blacking out" of the lights of the stage, that passion creates its
most violent sensation.


XIV

Dowson was now at Dieppe, now at a Normandy village. Wilde, too, was at
Dieppe; and Symons, Beardsley, and others would cross and recross,
returning with many tales, and there were letters and telegrams. Dowson
wrote a protest against some friend's too vivid essay upon the disorder of
his life, and explained that in reality he was living a life of industry
in a little country village; but before the letter arrived that friend
received a wire, "arrested, sell watch and send proceeds." Dowson's watch
had been left in London--and then another wire, "Am free." Dowson, ran the
tale as I heard it ten years after, had got drunk and fought the baker,
and a deputation of villagers had gone to the magistrate and pointed out
that Monsieur Dowson was one of the most illustrious of English poets.
"Quite right to remind me," said the magistrate, "I will imprison the
baker."

A Rhymer had seen Dowson at some cafe in Dieppe with a particularly common
harlot, and as he passed, Dowson, who was half drunk, caught him by the
sleeve and whispered, "She writes poetry--it is like Browning and Mrs
Browning." Then there came a wonderful tale, repeated by Dowson himself,
whether by word of mouth or by letter I do not remember. Wilde has arrived
in Dieppe, and Dowson presses upon him the necessity of acquiring "a more
wholesome taste." They empty their pockets on to the café table, and
though there is not much, there is enough if both heaps are put into one.
Meanwhile the news has spread, and they set out accompanied by a cheering
crowd. Arrived at their destination, Dowson and the crowd remain outside,
and presently Wilde returns. He says in a low voice to Dowson, "The first
these ten years, and it will be the last. It was like cold
mutton"--always, as Henley had said, "a scholar and a gentleman," he no
doubt remembered the sense in which the Elizabethan dramatists used the
words "Cold mutton"--and then aloud so that the crowd may hear him, "But
tell it in England, for it will entirely restore my character."


XV

When the first few numbers of _The Savoy_ had been published, the
contributors and the publisher gave themselves a supper, and Symons
explained that certain among us were invited afterwards to the
publisher's house, and if I went there that once I need never go again. I
considered the publisher a scandalous person, and had refused to meet him;
we were all agreed as to his character, and only differed as to the
distance that should lie between him and us. I had just received two
letters, one from T. W. Rolleston protesting with all the conventional
moral earnestness of an article in _The Spectator_ newspaper, against my
writing for such a magazine; and one from A. E. denouncing that magazine,
which he called the "Organ of the Incubi and the Succubi," with the
intensity of a personal conviction. I had forgotten that Arthur Symons had
borrowed the letters until as we stood about the supper table waiting for
the signal to be seated, I heard the infuriated voice of the publisher
shouting, "Give me the letter, give me the letter, I will prosecute that
man," and I saw Symons waving Rolleston's letter just out of reach. Then
Symons folded it up and put it in his pocket, and began to read out A. E.
and the publisher was silent, and I saw Beardsley listening. Presently
Beardsley came to me and said, "Yeats, I am going to surprise you very
much. I think your friend is right. All my life I have been fascinated by
the spiritual life--when a child I saw a vision of a Bleeding Christ over
the mantelpiece--but after all to do one's work when there are other
things one wants to do so much more, is a kind of religion."

Something, I forget what, delayed me a few minutes after the supper was
over, and when I arrived at our publisher's I found Beardsley propped up
on a chair in the middle of the room, grey and exhausted, and as I came in
he left the chair and went into another room to spit blood, but returned
immediately. Our publisher, perspiration pouring from his face, was
turning the handle of a hurdy gurdy piano--it worked by electricity, I was
told, when the company did not cut off the supply--and very plainly had
had enough of it, but Beardsley pressed him to labour on, "The tone is so
beautiful," "It gives me such deep pleasure," etc., etc. It was his method
of keeping our publisher at a distance.

Another image competes with that image in my memory. Beardsley has arrived
at Fountain Court a little after breakfast with a young woman who belongs
to our publisher's circle and certainly not to ours, and is called
"twopence coloured," or is it "penny plain." He is a little drunk and his
mind has been running upon his dismissal from _The Yellow Book_, for he
puts his hand upon the wall and stares into a mirror. He mutters, "Yes,
yes. I look like a Sodomite," which he certainly did not. "But no, I am
not that," and then begins railing, against his ancestors, accusing them
of that and this, back to and including the great Pitt, from whom he
declares himself descended.


XVI

I can no more justify my convictions in these brief chapters, where I
touch on fundamental things, than Shakespeare could justify within the
limits of a sonnet, his conviction that the soul of the wide world dreams
of things to come; and yet as I have set out to describe nature as I see
it, I must not only describe events but those patterns into which they
fall, when I am the looker-on. A French miracle-working priest once said
to Maud Gonne and myself and to an English Catholic who had come with us,
that a certain holy woman had been the "victim" for his village, and that
another holy woman who had been "victim" for all France, had given him her
Crucifix, because he, too, was doomed to become a "victim."

French psychical research has offered evidence to support the historical
proofs that such saints as Lydwine of Schiedam, whose life suggested to
Paul Claudel his _L'Annonce faite à Marie_, did really cure disease by
taking it upon themselves. As disease was considered the consequence of
sin, to take it upon themselves was to copy Christ. All my proof that mind
flows into mind, and that we cannot separate mind and body, drives me to
accept the thought of victimage in many complex forms, and I ask myself if
I cannot so explain the strange, precocious genius of Beardsley. He was in
my Lunar metaphor a man of the thirteenth Phase, his nature on the edge of
Unity of Being, the understanding of that Unity by the intellect his one
overmastering purpose; whereas Lydwine de Schiedam and her like, being of
the saints, are at the seven and twentieth Phase, and seek a unity with a
life beyond individual being; and so being all subjective he would take
upon himself not the consequences, but the knowledge of sin. I surrender
myself to the wild thought that by so doing he enabled persons who had
never heard his name, to recover innocence. I have so often, too,
practised meditations, or experienced dreams, where the meditations or
dreams of two or three persons contrast and complement one another, in so
far as those persons are in themselves complementary or contrasting, that
I am convinced that it is precisely from the saint or potential saint that
he would gather this knowledge.



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