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child secretly visits him; but this I cannot quote here, for to isolate would be to spoil it. That the evil metempsychosis is defeated is the least significant fact in the story; the significance lies in the struggle, the lonely courage, the beauty springing up in the bleakness of a narrow and material neighbourhood. To speak in an image of The Return’ is to say that in the cold, owlish darkness of the mind a light shines, making that darkness suddenly crystal with beamy reflexions--every wet spray beaded with tiny mirrors yet with no clear light anywhere. Oddly enough, where the story is apparently autobiographical, it diminishes the impression of the rest; but perhaps it is not odd that voluble characters should be a distraction, even if one of them speaks with the roving and restless curiosity which so exactly suggests the author's talk. But even when these incessant verticulations are most bewildering, deep and simple things are said–The more one thinks about life the worse it becomes'-and that of poor Sabathier, 'What peace did he find who couldn't, perhaps, like you, face the last good-bye ?'
In looking at Mr de la Mare's most recent work in verse and prose, I cannot evade an impression that the change which was lightly apparent in 'Motley' has been strongly developed in the brief intervening years. In • The Veil' he is seen often painfully far from his imaginative sphere, reverting to it in desire but bitterly alienated: treading the harsher ways of the common sphere, unable to accept it, unable to escape from it, seeing it as a moral enormity and that other as a spiritual sweetness, but no longer passing as it were at will from this to that. The simplicities and the ingenuities of joy have alike waned ; doubts rise and do not sink again, but are met by affirmations, or softened by consolatory whispers. The heart of furious fancies has been startled by a vision that is no cloudy fancythe callous, rude-carven image of time, with change and sorrow in tributary posture at his feet. Enchantment is forgone or forgotten, and interpretation begins.
The publication of The Memoirs of a Midget' had already prompted such misgivings as these, when The Veil' following showed that the new attitude was not a
casual one, or a dramatic assumption, but an inward change or growth. Had the author wanted to prove the unkindness of fate or circumstance towards the tenderest of sensitive things, the natural cruelty of human hearts, the sadder cruelty of egoism, his choice of theme and his treatment of character would have made the new novel an exhaustive proof. But he did not want to prove any. thing, certainly not anything desperate, bitter, relaxing; and hence it seems that the melancholy frustrations of • The Memoirs of a Midget,' and the mere insistent painfulness, are but an involuntary utterance of the unhappiness with which Mr de la Mare, stung by a sense of the irreconcilable, has contemplated life in its ruins-life of which all the beauty and energy have dwindled into the simple making the best of a bad job.' A midgetary Jude the Obscure' might hardly breathe an air of crueller sorrow than the poor nymph of our author's imagination; the parable of life is moralised to a purpose as sombre as that of Mr Hardy himself, whose spiritual influence, indeed, is the only one to which the younger writer has made obeisance.
All this may be read more clearly in the novel than in the latest verse, because the novel presents its theme with a fuller consistency than is possible in a collection of lyrics. And, too, it is more conspicuous by reason of the great contrast between the earlier chapters of the novel, with their beauty of reminiscence, and the extravagance of invention in the later chapters. Almost anywhere you may find passages which recall Mr Doughty's serene fairy landscapes, or tempt you to cry, "A new Nymphidia !' so bright, so precise, so minute are the passionate beauties of Mr de la Mare's prose. But the surviving impression is the moral; the crystal, imaginative kingdom is far off when the last page of the book is turned; it is in a world of cold dun light that the reader wakes with the haunting evil of Fanny Bowater, the futility of Mr Anon, the worldliness of all the worldly, the weakness of all the unworldly, echoing or darkening around him.
• The Veil' is less completely dominated by the new spirit and offers more frequent contrasts. To speak of some poems as being poems of disillusion is to suggest that the others, in the more familiar mode, are poems
of illusion, and that would be false to poet and critic alike; but nevertheless there are not only signs of change, there is also, as I have said before, an evident consciousness of change. Mr de la Mare still writes out of the old enchantment:
• Dim-berried is the mistletoe
This Christmas Day. ..
Burns faintly, Lo!'
He returns to the lost world :
Coral and clear emerald,
But now it is a revisitation and no longer inhabitation. Many of the poems in the volume called The Veil' suggest that the veil has been rent, and within is a fireless altar, an empty shrine. Empty with loveliness, is his own phrase, which may be transferred to the world in which he is moving; for whatever of exquisite he reveals in these poems brings the sorrowful persuasion of emptiness and forlornness. • Is it to Vacancy I these tidings tell ?' is his question in a lyric curiously entitled · The Monologue'; and he even deplores an answer, and would only cling to Faith" for sanity's sake. One of the most beautiful of all his beautiful things is Not That
· Way,' and yet even here is the reiterating lament:
* Alas, that beauty hangs her flowers
His most piercing cry is a question, heard in the haunting shriek of the owl; or if he answers his own riddle of the universe, it is to say of man:
• Oh, rather, idly breaks he in
Forgets his Maker in the made.' The image that he sees is not the old sweet beckoning image; it is named Despair; and he no longer speaks quietly to a friendly Familiar but calls loudly, unavailingly, O Master, thick cloud shuts thee out!' It is to this solemn effect that Mr de la Mare has turned from creation to interpretation, and the mere fact that a fine mind should reveal this great change in such a discouragement and misgiving betrays the modern philosophy in its clearest direction.
A careful reader will look for a development in style when the change of spirit is so conspicuous ; and here also the prose and verse bear witness. The prose of •The Memoirs of a Midget' is highly concentrated, and takes small heed to the weakness of mortality ; it is so tense, so packed, so vividly and restlessly pictorial, that you rise from a prolonged reading with eyes smarting as though you had peered too closely at a pattern which a midget only might study with ease. In this minute agility the mind sees no point of rest; and while the prose thus matches the extravagant consciousness, the very ecstasy of self-consciousness, of the star-crossed Midget, it fatigues or bewilders the grosser reader. And in considering the style' of the book in more than a restricted technical sense, the humblest admirer may be disconcerted by the incessant moralisation of the Midget's world; a moralisation to which not herself alone but most of the characters—that is, most of the women-contribute. Might not the disease of thought have been soothed a little ? Might not the moral impression have been silently presented in circumstance and character, instead of in explicit challenge and pleading? To utter such doubts is to say again that the first part of this novel triumphs in its silence, and the second fails because of its too obstinate questioning. Memorably beautiful, nevertheless, are a hundred
passages in which Mr de la Mare writes as he has never written before:
. But think! There may never come another hour like this. Know, know now, that you have made me happy. I can never be so alone again. I share my secretest thoughts-my imagination, with you; isn't that a kind of love ? I assure you that it is. Once I heard my mother talking, and sometimes I have wondered myself, if I am quite like-oh, you know what they say: a freak of Nature. Tell me: if by some enchantment I were really and indeed come from those snow mountains of yours, and that sea, would you recognise me? Would you ? No, no; it's only a story-why, even all this green and loveliness is only skin deep. If the Old World were just to shrug its shoulders, Mr Anon, we should all, big and little, be clean gone.'
In the verse, again, the evidence of technical change following the spiritual change is clear. It is already perceptible in the poems written for the drawings of Miss Pamela Bianco. In those lovely illustrative verses there are the signs of perfection over-perfected, the main delight being that of style rather than conception, a technical more than an imaginative astonishment:
" As I did rove in blinded night,
A 'wildered bird.' In many poems in The Veil' this technical innovation has become a little wilful, a little perverse even. The beauty achieved is beauty self-conscious, wrought with hands and not breathed up from the sod. Mr de la Mare's early uncertainty of style slowly passed away in the growth of a rare sureness and originality; he made his own idiom, by which all his verse may be instantly Vol. 238.–No. 472.