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In Memoriam.

by Charles W. Wood

**Part Three**

from Argosy, vol. XLIII, 1887-jun


IT has been the fate of many great works to be rejected in the first instance by the publishers. Not until one amongst them has discerned the vein of gold beneath the new and unknown surface have they been brought to light.

  An old saying tells us that we can only understand Shakespeare by the Shakespeare that is within us. Genius must be original, and for this reason is often slowly recognised. The tendency of the human mind is conservative. A new departure is looked upon with suspicion. The unfamiliar seldom pleases. The new and the strange can never charm as did the old. We love our old haunts and associations. Man returns to the scenes and loves of his boyhood with more delight and longing the farther this period of life recedes into the past. For those were the days of first and vivid impressions. The mere delight of existence was sufficient; the full warmth of sunshine that as yet cast no shadow; the looking out upon a world, and behold everything was beautiful and good.

  This dislike to the new and the unfamiliar has no doubt been a reason why many a work of genius has been so slowly recognised. Sometimes, indeed, only after death has its author received due appreciation. It has been the case in all branches of art: literature, painting, music, science, all have equally suffered at times.

  The saddest thought is that of a great genius, with all its cravings for recognition, singing its song to soulless ears and going out of the world unhonoured and unknown. The tardy recognition can never make atonement; the pain of a past silence, deep as the soul within, can never be lifted.

  How often one has longed to bring them back to earth, crown their brow with laurels, heap the glories of the world upon them and its riches; for want of which they have sometimes perished; raise them on a pedestal far above all ordinary humanity. But in vain.


"Can honour's name provoke the silent dust,
  Or flattery soothe the dull cold ear of death?---



EVERYONE knows the story of Jane Eyre, which went the round of the publishers and met only with rejection until it fell into the hands of Mr. Williams, who sat up all night to read it. East Lynne did not go the same round as Jane Eyre, yet it might have done so but for the late Mr. Richard Bentley's judgment in the matter.

  It was first offered to Messrs. Chapman and Hall, as the publishers of the. magazine in which East Lynne first appeared: and also because Mrs. Henry Wood had a slight and pleasant acquaintance with Mr. Frederick Chapman.

  They rejected it on the report of their reader. Yet they were themselves so convinced of the merits of the work, that Mr. Chapman told Mrs. Henry Wood they did what they had never done before: returned the work to their reader for reconsideration.

  A second time the report was unfavourable, and East Lynne was finally declined.

  "I think you are making a mistake," my mother remarked to Mr. Chapman. "I am sure the book will be a success."

  "I think so, too," he replied. "But we have made it a rule never to publish upon an unfavourable verdict, and it is a rule, we have never yet broken."

  That they did not break it in this instance, he afterwards admitted how great was their regret.

  East Lynne was then offered to Messrs. Smith, and Elder. Perhaps it did not fall into the hands of Mr. Williams, who had appreciated Jane Eyre. Or perhaps it did so, and found no favour with him. However this may have been, Messrs. Smith and Elder also very politely declined the work. When it was returned, it had every appearance of never having been opened.

  It next came under the consideration of Mr. Bentley, who at once accepted it.

  "I should not publish it," he said to my mother, "but I believe it will be successful."

  I remember her repeating the remark to my father, and his reply. "I suppose that may be taken for granted," he laughed.

  Mr. Bentley asked for a motto, and my mother chose one out of Longfellow:


Truly the heart is deceitful, and out of its depths of corruption
Rise like an exhalation the misty phantoms of passion:
Angels of light they seem, but are only delusions of Satan.

* * * * * *

This is the cross I must bear; the sin and the swift retribution."

  A more fitting motto could not have been taken. It so adjusted itself to the book that it might have been written for it. With Mr. Bentley it found so much favour that he said he should advertise it with the title, and did so.



LONGFELLOW was one of Mrs. Henry Wood's favourite poets. She was in perfect sympathy with his feeling and sentiment. The pure and elevated tone of his writings was in exact accordance with her own mind and nature. Nearly all her mottoes are taken from him. She saw in him more thought than is generally admitted, and always said it was easier to find a motto in Longfellow than in any other poet. Perhaps this was partly because their minds ran, as it were, in the same groove. They both took the same high standard of life, its end and aims and responsibilities, and the necessity for making it upwardly progressive.

  But my mother did not read all the poets. Shakespeare, Longfellow, Byron, parts of Tennyson and Mrs. Browning, and some of the very old song writers: these were nearly all she cared for. Yet her mind was stored with poetry. There was hardly an old and famous song that she could not repeat by heart the moment it was referred to her. Longer poems she equally remembered, and stores of Shakespeare. Of Goldsmith she never tired, and she also knew by heart very much of his poetry and prose. These things had never been learned, but simply acquired by the power of a strangely retentive memory. Shakespeare, it has already been remarked, she began to be familiar with from the time she was ten years old.

  If asked to do so, she would sometimes recite to us in the twilight, by the hour together, poem after poem, with a power that was quite remarkable; an intonation and emphasis that seemed to bring out new meanings and hidden charms, and revealed all her depth of feeling; whilst her soft and silvery voice, clear and distinct, sweet and low, at all times held us under a spell.

  With the modern Æsthetic School, it is perhaps unnecessary to say she had no sympathy, and did not attempt to read it. The mind's poetical bias is formed in early life, and in my mother's earlier days the Æsthetic School was a thing. of the future. Independently of this, her mind could never have accepted it. With all her love for poetry, she took too clear and earnest a view of the seriousness of life; and in spite of the extreme romance of her nature, she had not a spark of strained or unhealthy sentiment within her.

  Some of Christina Rossetti's writings pleased her very much; especially a short poem of four or five verses, called Amor Mundi, which she thought particularly beautiful and true.

  Another of her favourite poems, for its simplicity and truthfulness to life, came out some years ago anonymously: The Twin Genii, written by Mrs. Plarr. The genii in this instance are Pleasure and Pain. This poem she introduced into one of her Johnny Ludlow stories, not then knowing who had written it.

  Upon this, Mrs. Plarr wrote to me and said how much flattered she had felt at seeing her poem quoted in Johnny Ludlow. For, like many others, she had given me undeserved credit, and placed me on a pedestal of fame to which I had no claim. It was difficult to contradict at the time the rumour that I was the author of Johnny Ludlow without running the danger of betraying the secret.

  I remember Mary Cecil Hay -- whose death last year was so sad and touching -- saying that the first time she ever saw me she said very emphatically to herself: "That is Johnny Ludlow." When the author's name was declared, she was puzzled and confused about it, and for long after found it incomprehensible.

  So also with Miss Emily Leith, herself a poetess, and niece to Mrs. Plarr. The authorship of Johnny Ludlow had just been declared, when I happened to meet her at a reception at Miss Dickens's.

  "I am bewildered," she said. "I thought you were the author of Johnny Ludlow and wrote all those stories. I cannot tell what to make of it."

  There was an ammense amount of condemnation in her tone, as if I had injured society at large and committed an unpardonable sin.

  "I know the rumour has gone abroad, and regret it," I answered. "People chose to take up the idea, and you must see how difficult it was to contradict it. Nevertheless, the mistake is puzzling. Johnny Ludlow treats of a time, and circumstances, and people, and a condition of society, all belonging to a period before I was born: all described with a realism which, it is easily seen, is the result of personal observation and familiarity. All this crowd of people were part of my mother's life and experience. The old Squire and Tod and Johnny were her personal friends. They existed, and were not mere creations of fancy. The stories betray, too, an intimate acquaintance with almost all the highways and byways of Worcestershire, a county of which I scarcely know anything. No one could write Johnny Ludlow who had not spent many years in Worcestershire."

  "For all that, I cannot understand it," was the retort. "How can Mrs. Henry Wood be the author of Johnny Ludlow? Surely only a man could write these stories?"

  And here was unconsciously given a reason for the long and well-keeping of the secret. The Times, in reviewing East Lynne, remarked that they had never met with any lady author who had been equally successful in portraying the characters of men. This masculine element and atmosphere are especially evident in Johnny Ludlow. The spirit of boyhood and manhood so runs through every page, that no one, friend, stranger or critic, ever guessed the truth. Johnny himself is so real and lifelike, that no one would suspect his being the creation of a feminine hand.

  Beyond ourselves, the printers alone knew who wrote Johnny Ludlow. I have had many a moment's amusement with my mother about this confusion of authorship. Many entertaining anecdotes and incidents have arisen from it; but to me they were also attended with a certain sense of discomfort. The burden of a praise and credit to which you have no right is a hard one to bear, and at last becomes intolerable.

  It was the effect of the ever-increasing rumour which at last caused the secret to be given up. Continual dropping will wear away a stone, and, after many a request on my part, my mother at length yielded to my wish that the authorship of Johnny Ludlow should be declared.

  So when the Second Series of Johnny Ludlow appeared under Mrs. Henry Wood's name, the world was astonished and incredulous. Even then some refused to believe their eye-sight, whilst others seemed, to go so far as to doubt the statement.

  And how true is it that--


"You may break, you may shatter the vase if you will,
But the scent of the roses will hang round it still."

  Many still seem unaware that I never wrote a line of Johnny Ludlow, and that to Mrs. Henry Wood alone all credit is due. Even Mary Howitt writes to me from her home in the Tyrol, and says: "Will you tell me of yourself? Are you still working at the Johnny Ludlow Series, of which I believe you are the author?"

  And what could I reply, except that: "Your question proves how very much you must have withdrawn from the world. My mother wrote every line that ever appeared under the name of Johnny Ludlow. She was Johnny Ludlow, and not I."

  "A mystery as well kept as the author of Junius," remarked, another writer not long ago.



TO return to the earlier days: and to beg the reader's indulgence if for a moment I speak of myself.

  From the time that I was nine years old, I began to take the deepest interest in my mother's writings: as vivid then, I believe, as in any subsequent year of my life. Her short stories ever bore for me the greatest charm. I counted the days when the magazines, were due in France; and when they arrived, read them with eagerness and excitement. Whilst my mother, seated in an inner drawing-room of her house, wrote her stories for the following month, I, near the fire in winter, or amongst her beautifully-arranged flowers in summer, read those that had just appeared.

  Like Mr. Francis Ainsworth in maturity, my childish mind would, wonder where and where it all came from: these inexhaustible stories, of which each seemed to me more beautiful than the last. I have spent many an hour gazing in such passionate rapture and adoration: as surely boy never yet gave to mother, marvelling even then at the strange beauty and refinement of the face -- "that delicacy and refinement of, features and complexion," as Mary Howitt now writes of her--bending over her manuscript; every now and then looking up with her marvellous eyes, to pause a moment for a particular word or expression: and I have watched, until I could watch no longer, the delicate and exquisite hand tracing its course over the paper.

  In her dress -- to bring her more vividly before the reader -- she was ever the same; so that we ever had one distinct and unvarying impression of her. She never wore anything but the plainest but richest, black silk, trimmed with costly and drooping laces that so wonderfully set off all her beauty and refinement. Only in the heat of summer would the heavier material be discarded for light and flowing substances, which seemed almost more fitted to her delicate and fragile frame. She was at all times dressed in the perfection of taste. And she possessed another and a very great virtue: at any moment of her life, had the most exalted personage in the country, called upon her, she would have been found ready to receive them. She always left her room soon after eight o'clock in the morning, perfectly and completely dressed. There was no exception to this in, any day of her life.

  Even in those early days of which I have been speaking, I felt: as a child feels, that, unable to analyse its thoughts, yet often unconsciously stumbles upon the truth: even then I felt how different was that wonderful face and spirit from all others all whom I ever knew or saw or conversed with.

  Few, no doubt happily for them, can have had so impressionable a childhood: so painfully sensitive that all my young thoughts and emotions were buried fathoms deep and remained for ever unsuspected; and up to the age of twelve, I was so self-contained and undemonstrative that I was considered -- to use a homely but expressive phrase -- the fool of the family.

  Where this temperament exists in childhood, it is a misfortune, for it is generally followed in after life by much mental and physical suffering. I was particularly susceptible to the influence of people: was intensely and fearfully happy or miserable with them, according to the impression they made upon me. By some mysterious instinct, I read people's characters in a manner that I cannot even now account for. It was no effort of thought or intelligence, but a something borne in upon me whether I would or no. I was constantly attracted or repelled towards those I met by this strange and uncomfortable power: and it often brought me into trouble. In all troubles, however, I ever had a strong rock of defence in my mother.

  Where this unusual instinct exists in childhood, it generally disappears in maturity. Reason takes its place; and reason is proud and despises instinct. But whereas instinct never errs, reason very often does so. In my own case, perhaps the less said about reason the better -- for the instinct remains.

  On one occasion, when I was only eight years old, this strange instinct was so strongly upon me that had my father only followed its guidance (who would do anything but laugh at the instinct of a child of eight?) he would have been spared an almost life-long trouble.

  With my father, indeed, this very thing brought me into constant hot water, though his amiable nature never went beyond a word of reproof. But I have said that there never existed a less imaginative nature than his, and he had no sympathy with anything outside the region of fact: certainly neither sympathy nor toleration with what he considered the fancies of a child.

  My elder brother, who was many years my senior, took advantage of my timid nature, and was, the torment of my life. He was the incarnation of mischief, spirited and daring to the last degree; getting into trouble wherever he went but with his singular good fortune always getting out of it again. Fortunately for me he was seldom at home. Perhaps this is the reason why, in after life, we have become not only brothers but friends.

  My father also strongly disapproved of my devotion to fiction, and even my mother would sometimes endeavour to restrain my ardour. But looking back upon those days, I am convinced that this early reading did me not harm but good. The mind was unconsciously preparing itself for the work of life.

  In those early days a very diflerent career had been planned out for me. My father and mother both destined me for the Church; and to my mother, with her old cathedral life and associations, the idea was peculiarly agreeable. With my father, I am sorry to have to record -- unflattering as it is to myself -- that he was chiefly influenced by the persuasion that nature had endowed me with so small a share of brains that I should never be fitted for anything else.

  This destiny for the Church was never to be fulfilled; and I went on reading stories until, at a more serious age, a tutor's authority stepped in, and fiction had to become little more than a recreation and relief from harder reading and study.

  But those quiet hours and years of childhood, passed almost absolutely and solely in the company of that calm, lovely and gentle spirit, have been of use to me in many other ways. Their recollection has clung to me through life down to the present hour: a remembrance of intense, undying happiness, full of an atmosphere of perfect sympathy, love, and beauty; of absolute and very rare refinement. An influence that was henceforth to be a loadstar: a remembrance that has served me in good stead in many of the dark and clouded hours of my life.



I HAVE said that the stories in the magazines were succeeded by East Lynne.

  When the work was appearing in Colburn's New Monthly, it was a very sad time to us all. For my mother was seriously ill, and as the months went on and brought no relief, it seemed as it she were destined not to recover. Her illness puzzled and baffled all the physicians who attended her, and not one of them could do anything for her.

  In the previous years, she had been a martyr to indigestion. I have seen her, day after day, for months at a time, when the attack was upon her, lying upon the floor in most terrible and acute agony. Neither couch nor reclining chair would do; nothing but the hard, carpeted floor. The pain would last from one to two hours, and would then leave her, well, but exhausted.

  This would last for months, recurring day after day. Then suddenly, without warning, apparently for no cause, it would leave her for months with a perfect freedom from suffering that only so sensitive a nature as hers could appreciate.

  About the time that East Lynne was appearing, all this culminated in a strange and serious and mysterious illness, causing at times the most intense suffering, and which lasted for eighteen months. No doctor could give relief. One doctor thought one thing, one another; but none could cure. My mother travelled from one place to another, tried all kinds of different airs, all sorts of remedies. Everything failed.

  I remember one special day on which she was unusually depressed, yet, as ever, calm and resigned. She had taken up one of my father's medical books, and referring to maladies, apparently found one that exactly described her case. "This disease is incurable and ends in death," declared the book; and my mother felt that all hope for her was over.

  When her doctor called that same afternoon, she pointed this out to him, expressing her sad conviction.

  We most of us know that in reading a medical work, it is quite possible to imagine that we have every symptom it contains. The doctor acknowledged the apparent similarity of cases, but assured his patient that the most important symptom of all was certainly absent, and that she was therefore mistaken. He added that though her illness completely puzzled him, he saw no present reason why she should not recover.

  I can never forget the sadness and sorrow of that time: the sickness of hope deferred; day after day, month after month, hoping against hope; until at last we almost gave up in despair. Through all, my mother was calm, resigned and cheerful, dreading the worst for our sakes more than for her own. At the end of eighteen months, her powers of endurance seemed drawing to a close.

  It was through this illness that she wrote a great portion of East Lynne, between the paroxysms of pain and suffering; sending her MS. now from one place, now from another, wherever she might happen to be.

  At length she was cured in a very singular way: and the old saying that desperate diseases require desperate remedies was reversed in her case. The doctors had declared they could do nothing more.

  She was reduced to the utmost. Yet the beauty of her face had never been so dazzling, so ethereal. Then, indeed, one almost saw the spirit shining through the frail tenement.

  One day an old woman, hearing of her illness, called and asked to see her. She was admitted.

  "Madam," she said, in quaint, old-fashioned speech, "I can cure you, if you will allow me to do so."

  I happened to be in the room at the time, and the determined tones of the visitor sent conviction to the brain and the blood coursing through the heart. It was like restoring life from the dead, changing despair to hope.

  But the patient thought it very unlikely that an old woman could succeed where some of the cleverest doctors in England had failed. Yet she listened to this new and singular authority.

  The visit was not an interested one. The woman, though in humble life, was quite above the need of charity. For her station, she was in very comfortable circumstances. Her motive, therefore, could not be mistaken.

  My mother listened to the prescription, which was so simple that she promised to give it a trial.

  The new "doctor" was a woman of singular intelligence, and I afterwards had many a deep argument with her, in which I was not seldom defeated. She was so positive of her case, so certain that cure would follow, that it was impossible not to be affected by her confidence. Moreover, when all else has failed and hope is abandoned, who does not turn to the smallest promise of relief?

  "I will try your remedy," said my mother. "I see that it can do no harm if it does no good. And if I am cured," she added laughingly, "it will be by your remedy and not by faith; for I cannot think that anything so simple can cure anything so serious."

  "Try it, madam," replied the old woman, as she got up to leave. "Try it, madam; and in three months I will answer for your recovery."

  It was tried, and was successful.

  Up to this time, the illness had not shown the slightest symptom of yielding. At the end of three months, during which time the remedy was faithfully pursued, health had perfectly returned, and she ceased to suffer. The sun shone again in our sky, we were happy once more.

  In the beginning, my mother had mentioned the visit to her doctor, announcing his rival and describing the remedy. Instead of ridiculing it, as she had expected, he advised her to give it a trial, though laughing at the idea of its doing any good. He was astonished and converted by the result, and declared he should prescribe it, for some of his patients.



I WELL remember following East Lynne month by month as it came out in the magazine, and being absorbed in the sorrows of the heroine. Her troubles touched me as if she had been a reality: as only boys in the first freshness of youth and feeling can be affected. The unhappy fate of Lady Isabel was my constant theme whenever I could find a sympathising ear, or one who was in the secret of the story and its author.

  The same kind of feeling was shown in Norway in connection with Lord Oakburn's Daughters: as a friend, holding there a distinguished position under Government, not long ago informed me.

  The book was translated into Norwegian, and appeared in the chief paper in Christiania. It created so much interest and sensation, that in that part of the story where Lord Oakburn dies, friends meeting each other that day in the street, shook hands and greeted each other with the words: "The old lord is dead!"

  Amongst those who were in the confidence of the author of East Lynne was Mary Howitt, and I remember a letter she wrote to my mother when the story was nearing its close.

  "My dear Mrs. Wood," it began:

  "I cannot tell you how high an opinion I have of East Lynne, but this I will say: that you have only to publish it with your name attached to it, and you will at once become famous."

  The work appeared in due time, and I do not think Mrs. Howitt proved an untrue prophet.



WHEN East Lynne came out, my mother's constitution had rallied from the shock of her late illness. Henceforth she was never again prevented from taking her seat day after day in her reclining chair and writing.

  Some authors can only write when they are in what they call the mood. Days and weeks will sometimes pass, and, like a silent Quakers' Assembly, "the spirit does not move them." I believe that it was so with Charlotte Brontë, and that sometimes for months together her power completely left her. And I remember. Mrs. S.C. Hall telling me that she could not write continuously: after a certain amount of work done, the brain, grew tired, and sometimes needed days and weeks of rest.

  It was never so with Mrs. Henry.Wood. She never knew what it was not to be in a humour for writing. It was not only that she could write, but that she always felt a positive desire to do so. She could not have lived without writing. As Julia Kavanagh once said to me: "It becomes as necessary to us as food or sleep, and cannot be laid aside." With Charles Dickens, the feeling of a gradual loss of power, the fear of losing it altogether, was, I believe, one of the greatest troubles of his later days.

  In my mother's case, work was never laid aside, and it never would have been most probably, even had she lived much longer. But in the last two or three years of her life, she found that whilst on some days she could write very rapidly, there were other days when she wrote very slowly indeed. It took her much longer to write her stories, and cost her much more labour, but it was always a labour of love.

  "I feel quite vexed with myself," she remarked to me one day last autumn. "I write so slowly compared with what I once wrote. It now takes me four months to accomplish the amount of work that I could once have done in as many weeks."



I HAVE said that East Lynne and many succeeding works were written in a reclining chair; yet I have known my mother begin at nine o'clock in the morning and write until six in the evening. Only for a very short time in the day would her work be put down for a very light luncheon. All through her life, it may be said that she took only one meal a day; the lightest possible breakfast and luncheon, but a late and substantial dinner.

  After working from nine until six, she has been as mentally bright and animated as when the day began. But this close work was only done during a time of extreme pressure. When East Lynne had appeared, she undertook engagements without realising the amount of labour they would entail upon her. But she was so conscientious, that an engagement made or a promise given was sacred and binding. She never kept anyone waiting an hour for any manuscript.

  But the pressure of these particular engagements once over, she never again undertook anything it would be difficult to accomplish. She returned to her original manner and time of writing: from half past eight until half past twelve in the morning, a rule henceforth very strictly followed. It is also singular that whilst in the earlier days she could only write in a reclining chair, in later days, and with the aid of a very simple support for the spine, she was able to sit and write at a table.

  This support undoubtedly prolonged her life many years. Without it she could scarcely have sat up for an hour in the day, certainly could not have written for ten minutes at any table. Had this support been sooner thought of and employed, no doubt the serious mischief arising from the curvature of the spine might have been at least delayed, and life very much prolonged.

  Her mind was so fresh and vigorous and active; her face so young and lovely; her energy so unabated; her interest in everything and everyone around her so vivid, so earnest; her sympathies were so unexhausted, so inexhaustible, that we shall ever feel she has left us before her time.

  With most people living to a certain age, there is a gradual decay of the bodily and mental faculties: a loosening of the hold on life. Memory fails; feelings grow blunted; the world is waxing dim; the silver thread is relaxing; the golden bowl is breaking. Death comes at last, naturally, without violence, as a happy release. With the sorrow of parting, there is the consolation of a life completely lived.

  With my mother, it was the opposite. Very singularly, as the body weakened, the mind grew brighter and more vigorous the brain more active and brilliant, the face more youthful and lovely, the eyes more soft and sparkling. In every way she seemed to grow younger. This, in one sense, has made her loss so terrible, so much harder to bear, so absolutely impossible to realise. Time in no way softens the indescribable pain of this impression. It never will. It is the sudden and appalling silence of death, in a moment rending asunder the fulness of life in all its beauty and freshness.

  A friend who saw her last year, whilst on a short visit to England from Florence, writes me word that she was more than ever struck with her wonderfully transparent beauty: so much so that she said to herself she feared Mrs. Henry Wood was not long for this world. "It is ever thus," she adds in her letter. "These beautiful natures are always more beautiful as the end approaches."



I HAVE slightly touched above upon the commonplace subject of meals, and this brings to my mind that I have, often heard it remarked that the author of Danesbury House, a temperance story, ought to have been an abstainer from wine.

  This is where the world misjudges. Danesbury House was certainly a temperance story, but not one of total abstinence. Mrs. Henry Wood never advocated this doctrine or thought it necessary, except in cases of excess. I do not believe a single page of Danesbury House advises total and universal abstinence except in extreme cases. But she was equally firm in insisting that for those who had no self-control, the only right and possible course to pursue was that of absolute and complete denial.

  For others, on the contrary, she saw virtue in moderation. It is a greater merit to be moderate than to abstain. Even Dr. johnson found this. "I can abstain," he said, "but I cannot be moderate." And in these cases, to abstain is the one remedy and refuge, and this is the lesson that Danesbury House teaches.

  Mrs. Henry Wood's creed was Temperance, not Total Abstinence. Whilst laying down strict and very conscientious rules of duty and conduct for herself, which she kept as faithfully and earnestly as the sun keeps its course, she was of those who think that all things are given us richly to enjoy. It was better to show forth our gratitude to the Giver of all Good by a moderate use of earth's bounties and blessings than by rejecting them altogether.

  Narrow-mindedness was a state of being with which she had no sympathy: nothing could be more antagonistic to her wide and generous nature. She had not the pointed forehead of the ascetic, but the broad brow of the philanthropist. With her the state of the heart was everything. Without interfering with the religious views of others, she herself did not hold with fastings and widened phylacteries. The advanced views of the present day: forms and ceremonies, postures and genuflections, candlesticks and processions, priestly garments and incense: with these she had nothing in common. Of the confessional she had the greatest horror. She considered that the great danger of forms and ceremonies was that whilst in the first place they could never avail, there was yet further the almost inevitable risk of substituting the ceremonial for the spiritual.

  As a girl, she had attended the good old-fashioned, high-church services of the cathedral, and in such services she joined, heart and soul; she had mixed with the old-fashioned, high-church dignitaries. Her love for them never changed. But the high-church services of those days would be considered moderate, if not evangelical, in these. In her opinion, religion was not found in forms and dogmas and a special ritual, but in the condition of the heart and the spirit. If these were true and right in the sight of Heaven, all else must be right also.

  Her own convictions were as sound as convictions can be that are based absolutely upon the Bible; they were profound and unchangeable; she would most certainly have died for her faith; but she seldom spoke of these matters, and never argued about them. She was a law unto herself, but not a law unto others; but the strict lines of her life were founded upon the scriptures -- she set before her the one MODEL -- and upon these she rested. Better than arguments, more forcible than dogmas, more convincing than ceremonials, she led others by the strongest of all powers, the force of example: the absolute and unfailing consistency of a singularly pure and beautiful life.



AS soon as the proof sheets of East Lynne had been corrected and the book was out, my father and mother went abroad, their first destination being Dieppe.

  France had ceased to be their home. But every year they went back for a certain period to the land where so much of their lives had been passed, enjoying once more the society of old friends, the blue skies and balmy airs of France. No visits ever gave them so much pleasure. My mother's face was never more radiant, my father's sunny temperament never more conspicuous than at these times.

  On the occasion of this especial visit, after the appearance of East Lynne, my mother had regained her health, her beauty, the brilliancy and softness of her complexion, the even flow of her bright and gentle spirits. Though now some years past forty, she looked less than thirty. A more sympathetic and sparkling companion could not have existed: and I remember even now that in those days, in any public assembly in which she might chance to find herself, where she was unknown, the loveliness of her face as she entered the room would attract universal attention.

  Dieppe was then the most fashionable sea-port town in France, and many an after-season of gaiety and pleasure we spent there.

  Now it would be picnic parties to the Château d'Arques; now mixing in all the rank and fashion assembled in the Casino -- or on the terrace overlooking the plage, where all was fun and merriment, and that delicious, unceremonious refinement, of which Dieppe was then essentially the type.

  Now it was ambassadors' balls, where one found as much enjoyment, but more state and ceremony. And sometimes it would be quiet, social evenings, where not infrequently mesmerism and spiritualism, then so much talked about, would cause the hours to pass in bewilderment and mystery, and a wonder as to how these things were done.

  Amongst all this fashionable and aristocratic crowd, to me the dignified figure and the brilliant conversation of Mrs. Milner-Gibson stand out most conspicuously. She was one of my mother's great friends. So witty and charming and sympathetic -- the second most perfect hostess in the world, as the greatest man of his day said of her -- that with her and my mother most of my time was spent: a very happy trio. My father was no longer living.

  But on their visit to Dieppe after East Lynne had appeared, I was not with them. After settling down at their hotel, my mother took up by chance the Daily News, and the first thing that caught her attention was a review of East Lynne the first she had seen, one of the first to appear.

  "This is a work of remarkable power, it began. It is concerned with the passions; and exhibits that delicacy of touch and knowledge of the emotional part of our mental structure, which would reveal the sex of the author even without the help of the title page. The great merit of the work consists in an artistic juxtaposition of characters strongly contrasted with one another."

  Then followed an analysis of the plot, concluding with:

  "The story displays a force of description and dramatic completeness we have seldom seen surpassed. The interest of the narrative intensifies itself to the deepest pathos, and shakes the feelings. The closing scene, where the dying penitent, under the impulse of strong human affection, reveals herself to her lost husband and is at length forgiven, is in the highest degree tragic, and the whole management of the story exhibits unquestionable genius and originality."

  One can imagine the pleasure with which the author read these first words of recognition. Their influence must have sweetened all the days of her stay abroad. The beauties of earth, the sparkling sea -- that sea which to her was ever the greatest delight; the grandest and, loveliest object in nature -- the blue skies, the sunshine, the fields and flowers, must have gained an additional charm as she began to dream of a day when she would be known and appreciated.

  A dream long delayed. For my mother wrote East Lynne and really commenced her literary career at a time when many writers have begun to think of giving up work. Scott was forty-five when his, first book was written, and my mother was more than forty-five when East Lynne appeared.

  Other reviews followed quickly upon the Daily News.

  "East Lynne is so interesting," said the Saturday Review, "that the interest begins with the beginning of the first volume and ends with the end of the third. The faults on which criticism fastens most naturally, are all, or almost all, avoided. It is not spun out. It is not affected, or vulgar, or silly. It is full of a variety of characters, all touched off with point, finish and felicity. It bears unmistakable signs of being written by a woman, but it has many more of the excellencies than of the weaknesses of women's writing."

  In speaking of the legal portion of East Lynne, the Saturday Review remarked:

  "What is more wonderful is that the legal proceedings taken when the murder is finally discovered are all, or almost all, right. There is a trial, with its preliminary proceedings, and a real summing up, and a lively cross-examination. Mrs. Wood has an accuracy and method of legal knowledge about her which would do credit to many famous male novelists."

  I may here remark that her legal knowledge was really extensive and accurate. She had known several great lawyers intimately, and one of them used to say that her knowledge of law was quite equal to his. She took the keenest interest in all great trials. She followed out the threads and points of an intricate case with the greatest clearness and insight. In all important trials where mystery or complications were involved, or doubt and indecision as to right and wrong, guilty or not guilty, she quickly made up her mind at an early stage, saw the strong and the weak points, and was scarcely ever wrong in the opinion she formed. She often said that had she been a man, she would have made a first-rate lawyer, with a passionate love for her work.

  The Saturday Review continued:

  "The murder is not the main incident of the story. The chief place is reserved for the sorrows of an erring wife. The method of dealing with this theme is entirely Mrs. Wood's own, and shows very remarkable and unusual skill. . . . Evidently such a plot affords much scope for fine drawing of character and for powerful and effective scenes. In every one of the three parts of the story, Mrs. Wood has been successful. She places before us a distinct picture of Lady Isabel as a young, ignorant, kind-hearted, charming girl, with a gentle spirit, although with ill-disciplined feelings and an utter want of worldly wisdom. In the second part, Lady Isabel is not made either too bad or too good. We cannot bring ourselves to condemn her very harshly, and yet the authoress never for a moment allows us to doubt of her abhorrence of such a crime. But the gem of this part is the character of Barbara Hare, who presents exactly the qualities which Lady Isabel wanted; who has strong sense and, a right judgment, and an adoring love for her husband, very different from the gentle, flickering liking which Lady Isabel bestowed on the hero. The third part, however, must have been the most difficult to write, for it is all necessarily pathetic, and to sustain pathetic writing is a great tax on the powers of a story teller. Considering the very great difficulty of the task, the success is undeniable. Few persons could read with dry eyes the scenes that pass between the despairing mother and the little dying boy to whom she may not reveal her love. And an achievement quite as great is the contrast that is preserved between the characters of the two wives brought into daily contact under such singular circumstances. Mrs. Wood has quite avoided the fault of making Barbara too good. Although, at the close of the story, the whole of the attorney's affections are most properly concentrated on his living wife, the reader is not sorry to be permitted to have a slight preference for the dead one."

  "East Lynne," said The Observer, "is so full of incident, so exciting in every page, and so admirably written, that one hardly knows how to go to bed without reading to the very last page. . . . The trial scene is well depicted. There are no inconsistences of time and place to shock the intelligent reader, such as most novels are full of; and you rise from its perusal with satisfaction, feeling that the same events might reasonably have been expected to rise under similar circumstances."

  "East Lynne," said the Morning Post, "is touching, well-intentioned, and written in the highest tone of morality and earnestness. It is a strong appeal to women by a woman, who would urge upon her fellows the invincible truth that only the ways of wisdom are those of pleasantness, and only her paths are those of peace. . . . Mrs. Wood has selected a difficult subject for a novelist whose aim is higher than that of merely providing amusement and producing excitement. To create compassion for the sinner and to avoid sympathy with the sin; to strip the abandonment of rectitude and the dereliction from principle of all their romance; to invest them with their harshest reality, and to enforce the lesson of the hopelessly inevitable punishment which is in and by, and through the breach of the most sacred law of God and the most binding obligations of society; are responsible and onerous tasks which the writer of East Lynne has executed well and faithfully."

  "Miss Cornelia Carlyle," said the Press, "is one of the most laughable elderly ladies in the whole realm of fiction."

  "Nothing strikes the reader of East Lynne more than the extraordinary manner in which the mystery of each part of the plot is preserved," said the Conservative. "As the reader feels that he is moving in the different parts of the drama, and unconsciously feels himself deeply interested in its several characters, he almost trembles as each dangerous turning-point of the story is passed. East Lynne, we may truly say, is no ordinary novel. A high tone of morality, a remarkable discrimination of human character, and a keen perception of the manners and customs of the age, are marks by which it is especially distinguished, and form some clue to solve the mystery of its warm and greedy reception at the hands of the reading public. . . . Mrs. Henry Wood has served the interests of morality in holding up to society a mirror in which it may see itself exactly reflected. She probes deep, and does not, through any false prudery, gloss over its evils and only depict its brightest colours. The healthy sentiment and pure morality of Mrs. Henry Wood's work renders it particularly valuable at the present time. Now, when it is fashionable to live fast and loose; now, when those who take the lead in the most select circles do not frown down, but rather encourage, those little excesses which a former generatioa might gravely term sins; now, when the sanctities of domestic life are threatened, and associations hallowed by time are endangered; it is a matter of no small importance that the follies, the inanities, the vices of society should be so ably portrayed and so thrillingly denounced as we see them in East Lynne."

  These are a few extracts out of a few of the many reviews that appeared at the time, almost every one of them written in the same spirit of appreciation. I will only give one more, an extract from the Times. It was one of the last to appear, but its effect was more powerful than the joint influence of all the others.

  "In East Lynne," remarked the Times, "we admit the authoress to have achieved a considerable success, which has brought her into the very foremost rank of her class. The authoress," it went on to say in the course of its very long review, "is really what the novelist now prefers to, call himself -- a moralist; and there is moral purpose in her portraits as well as vivacity. There is great breadth and clearness in her delineations of character, and her range is extensive, including many types. There is one point on which we may speak with special emphasis, and that is her capacity to portray men, an accomplishment so rare on the part of lady novelists that we do not at this moment recall any one who has exhibited it in equal degree. The two characters of Mr. Carlyle and the second Lord Mount Severn are the principal examples of this rare capacity. Mount Severn is indicated with very few touches, and yet we have a portrait worthy the best of his class, like the faces which look upon us from the canvas of Vandyke. Carlyle's is a more elaborated performance, and its harmony is preserved, in spite of its elaboration and of the many trying tests to which it is put in the progress of the story. His character is consistent with the serious pre-occupations which render him so unobservant of the love of Barbara on the one hand, and on the other of the jealousy and suffering of his wife. He errs, but it is the error of a manly nature assailed by difficulties which a more frivolous person would have anticipated. But in dealing with his difficulties, when they do come, his conduct is admirable. It is rarely that we find a hero so consistently heroic, so sensible and just, and yet so lovable. There is a strength in his character, as presented to the reader, which makes him forget the balance of qualities required for its conception on the part of the author. Let us add that it is not only a masterly portrait, but a conception of which even a moralist may be proud: a brave, noble and truthful gentleman, without the pretence of being a paragon for the humiliation of his species.

  On the other hand, if we take the circle of characters in which authoresses, generally most excel, we shall find the authoress here is equally skilful: that is to say, in analysing the motives and emotions of her own sex. She presents us to a little group of interesting women, each well-defined and judiciously contrasted in their relations to the story, its course and conclusion. Miss Corny is remarkably good, and so is Barbara Hare. So also are Afy Hallijohn and her sister Joyce. Isabel is less marked; but then she is the instrument on which the pathos of the story is strung, she is tossed hither and thither, and is but a frail reed for such a weight of woe and misadventure. The reader cannot fail to take an interest in her fate, nor to be satisfied with the demeanour of her husband on her death-bed. The feelings of the latter are just indicated to the point to which analysis may fairly go, and then the authoress retires with a wise and decorous reticence. Balzac would have gone further, and would have handled and squeezed each throbbing heartstring, as his manner was in making his morbid preparations. But our authoress has better taste and a chaster purpose; nor does she effect to fathom the very gulf of human frailty. In short, she evinces the tact of a gentlewoman even in the passages where less equable and chastened temperaments have a natural tendency to literary hysterics. The death-bed of Lady Isabel's child is an example of this self-command, where the child is represented as asking a child's questions under circumstances where others would have made him a precocious angel, and where the announcement is also made to the mother in her agony; that her secret is known to the faithful Joyce."

  The Times then proceeded to give a long extract from the work, concluding with the words:

  "We have no occasion to say more on behalf of a story from which we are able to quote such a passage as the above. East Lynne is a first rate novel."

  The passage alluded to is the death-bed scene between Willie, Carlyle and his mother, and the recognition of Lady Isabel by Joyce.



AND so East Lynne became not only the great success of the season, but one of the successes of the century.

  No one accepted it so calmly and quietly as the author herself; no one could have worn her laurels more modestly. To say that she was not gratified by all the praise and recognition she received would be to make her more than human. Genius is ever sensitive, and the slightest unsympathetic touch will cause it to shrink within itself with a pain those less gifted natures who inflict it cannot possibly realise.

  For this reason, my mother soon discovered that to read reviews, whether favourable or unfavourable, was an unsatisfactory experience that bore no good fruit; and in a very short time she never had them brought under her notice and never even knew when they appeared.

  The only exception she made was in the case of the first series of Johnny Ludlow. The book appeared anonymously. The whole press was full of praise for this unknown writer, and she much enjoyed reading about herself from, as it were, an outside point of view.

  And it may be remarked that in Johnny Ludlow, Mrs. Henry Wood achieved what so many had attempted and so few realised -- a second and distinct reputation. It has been said that life is too short to make this possible, and it is certain that it has seldom been accomplished.

  When my mother was on what proved to be her death-bed, though we knew it not, she told me one evening that for many years she had had it in her mind to write a series of stories, after the fashion of Johnny Ludlow, but to make them the experiences of a governess. "I am certain that they would have been very popular," she said "But," she added sadly, "I shall never write them now. It is all over."

  They were exactly the sort of papers that she would have done so well; revealing intimate interiors of English homes; the dramas and tragedies, mysteries and complications that life itself is so full of, and that her imagination seemed able to create without end and with the greatest ease. No doubt their popularity would have equalled, or almost equalled, that of Johnny Ludlow.

  Mrs. Henry Wood possessed the very rare gift of excelling equally in long or short stories. The two powers are not often combined. I do not say that a novelist will not succeed in writing a few good short tales besides his longer works; but my mother, in addition to between thirty and forty long novels, must have written not less than from four to five hundred short stories, every one of them possessing a distinct plot carefully thought out.

  Her powers of work and her imagination were, indeed, almost miraculous, and led one to believe in the Vicar's remark, that there is such a thing as secular inspiration. It is impossible for the reader to realise the amount of mere manual labour that her work from first to last entailed upon her. And all accomplished by a fragile form, absolutely devoid of all physical and muscular power, tender and sensitive and delicate as a lily, and to be as carefully tended. A small child had greater strength than she, and could easily have mastered her.

  And all this done by one living a quiet life, much in the retirement of her study: leaving those about, her to take their part in the world, and hearing much of the world and of friends through their experience. Before East Lynne appeared, my mother had mixed much with the world and gone much into society abroad; but when she seriously entered upon a literary career, she felt it would be impossible to do much work and also to satisfy the claims of the world; and to a very great extent she gave up the latter, confining herself chiefly to the pleasure of receiving her friends at home.



East Lynne was not destined to enjoy a mere passing popularity. It has been out more than a quarter of a century, and it is even more popular to-day than when it first appeared, and the demand is ever increasing. It has already been stated that an edition is never less than ten thousand copies, and that in most years a reprint is required. It has been translated into every known tongue -- even into Parsee and Hindustanee; and the readers will gather a large circle of Hindoos, around them and read East Lynne to them in their own tongue, and they will rock themselves to and fro and laugh and sob by turns.

  A short time ago, the chief Spanish bookseller in Madrid wrote up my mother through Messrs. Bentley and Son, and said that the most popular book on his shelves, original or translated, was East Lynne. His only motive for writing, he.added, was that he thought it would please the author to know this.

  Not very long ago it was translated into Welsh, and brought out in a Welsh newspaper.

  It has been dramatised and played countless times. Sometime it has appeared on the same night at three different London theatres. It is always being played in the provinces throughout Great Britain. A short time ago, in one of the large Scotch towns, it was being advertised by means of a balloon, which, high in the air, announced that East Lynne was being performed at the Royal Theatre.

  In America, for many years it has been the most popular of their plays, just as East Lynne, the work, has been the most popular of their books, and has sold very far over a million copies. In the English Colonies, the sale of Mrs. Henry Wood's works increases steadily year by year, and there, of all writers present or past she is said to be the most popular.

  In France, the story has been dramatised, and is constantly being played in Paris and the provinces. Mr. North-Peat translated the work into French; and only a few days ago, in a letter received from his widow, Mrs. North-Peat tells me that when it was appearing in La Patrie, night after night the sellers of the newspaper went up and ,down the boulevards shouting out, La Patrie: Suite de Lady Isabel!" a distinction by way of announcement never accorded to any other work. So great was its popularity as a translation.

  Lady Isabel was the title given to the French translation, as East Lynne was thought too English to gain favour with a people who are not celebrated for their skill in pronouncing any language but their own.

  It has recently been translated a second time; and now appears also under the singular title of Le Château Tragique.

  "I think East Lynne almost the most interesting book I ever read," said Lord Lyttelton to a mutual friend. "And I consider the chapter headed Alone for Evermore one of the finest and most pathetic chapters in the whole realm of English Fiction."

  This, from one who was admitted to be one of the cleverest men in England, who had taken honours at Cambridge and been bracketed with Dean Vaughan, was no slight praise.

  "I am amazed at the power and interest of East Lynne," wrote Harriet Martineau to another friend. "I do not care how many murders or other crimes form the foundations of plots, if they are to give us such stories as this. I wish I possessed a hundredth part of the author's imagination."

  She wrote much to the same effect of Verner's Pride, a work which found very great favour with her.

  And when you came to the author of all this work and labour, you found her the quietest and gentlest, loveliest and most modest of women, so fragile and delicate that this alone caused one to treat her with unconscious reverence and veneration. A loud tone would immediately become hushed and subdued in her presence. Her face, it is true, sparkled with intellect, which, at a first glance, lifted her out of comparison with others; for it was as exceptional as her talent, as singular as her perfect nature. Success never made the slightest change in her, except that as the years went on, she grew, if possible, more modest, more lovely, lovable and gentle. Yet hers was a tangible success as well as an intellectual, for her income resulting from her brain work for many of the later years of her life amounted to between five and six thousand a-year.

  But, in her own words, it is all over now. After so much toil has come rest. Man goeth forth until the evening. Happy they who have had such a day and such an evening as hers. Everything that is lovely and chaste, everything that is gentle and graceful, reminds us of her. The sweetest chime ever heard, the softest silver bell ever cast, could never have equalled the clear and liquid tones of her matchless voice. The stars shining down night after night from the dark blue heavens, with their steadfast light, are not more pure and beautiful than was she. To gaze at them in their far away infinite repose brings some peace to the soul. Between them and earth there ever comes to us the image of her perfect face and spirit But oh, this mystery of life, this silence of death, this necessity for separation!

  Who can tell whither our BELOVED go? Are they near us or afar off? Hovering about our right hand, guarding our footsteps, or yet further than the stars, at whose very distance we shudder and recoil? Are they far away in that Heaven of Heavens, reserved for the spirits of the just made perfect?

  I know not. But this I know. Where every spirit may be that is beautiful and holy, there she has entered, though her influence remains and her presence seems ever near. Nothing delighted her more than Martin's Plains of Heaven, it was so like the realms that ever haunted her dreams: and there, where flows the pure water of the River of Life, her spirit has taken its flight. And there she must be sought for, and will be found again by those to whom in life she was most precious and most priceless, and for whom her great heart ever beat with the pulses of the most intense though silent thought and affection.

  I have been asked to say a few words about Johnny Ludlow, with which stories this magazine is so intimately associated. I scarcely know if this will be possible. The effort to write these papers has indeed been a bitter-sweet, but almost too great a strain. If it is to be done, it must be in a short and concluding notice, and perhaps after somewhat more than a month's interval.



And on the following page of the Argosy:



IF, o'er the silent river of sweet rest
  We had outsailed all earthly woe;
If, from the shriven soul within our breast
  The countless sins of long ago
Had all been blotted out by God's own Hand;
  If then with choruses sublime
There gladly hailed us from the shining strand
  The souls of bygone time --
      Would we return again?

If we, though having reached the rest which waits
  Brave hearts, all weary and footsore,
Got glimpses from the open jasper gates
  Of those sweet souls we loved of yore,
And who were walking now in ways of sin
  With tired feet, bleeding and unshod --
With eager hope that we might lead them in
  Across the golden hills of God --
      Would we return again?

If love no longer held our heart in, thrall,
  If we had waked from out its dream;
If of life's cup our lips had drained the gall,
  And joy had passed from grove and stream;
If then, from out the gloom of buried years,
  A voice came o'er the lone, hushed land;
And if, amidst deep penitential tears,
  One reached to us a tender hand --
      Would we return again?

If we had passed the gates of easeful death,
  And left behind all woe and moan,
Would we resume again our mortal breath,
  And tread our way back all alone?
Would it be well that what high wisdom brought
  Should from our soul again be riven,
With many a shining, pure, celestial thought
  Within our waning dream of heaven? --
      Would we return again?

If, mingling with the shining seraph throng,
  Cleaving our way from star to star,
We heard, mid cymbal, dulcimer and song,
  One lonesome, deep waif from afar;
A cry from out a heart that only we
  Could fill, as in the days gone by;
Would we drop down from such high ecstasy,
  Our soul unshadowed with a sigh? --
      Would we return again?

Oh, weary world of care and stings and scorn,
  Oh, kindly, sweet rest-giving grave,
We would not leave again the Better Morn,
  Nor swim Death's stream of cold, dark wave
Safe haven for the spirit tossed so long,
  Eternal home which quenchless love has brought,
Save longing that our loved might join our song,
  Our souls on sombre wings of earthly thought,
      Would ne'er return again!