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THERE never was a time in George Wyndham's life when he did not take delight in books. Neither the army nor politics availed to kill the student that was born within him. A subaltern in barracks, he taught himself Italian, and filled his leisure with the reading of history and poetry. The two worlds of dreams and books' were always very real to him. The present adventure most vividly recalled to his mind the glory of the past. When, in 1885, he set sail for Egypt, 'I do not suppose,' he wrote, 'that any expedition since the days of Roman governors of provinces, has started with such magnificence; we might have been Antony going to Egypt in a purple-sailed galley.' A sojourn in Alexandria after the campaign and the prospect of Cyprus awoke in his mind visions of St. Louis and of the Turks' assault upon Famagusta. When he went to South Africa, Virgil was in his haversack, and he found in the Heims Kringla a means of escape from the tedium of speech-making. His taste in literature was catholic, his enthusiasms were tireless. The joy he took in Gil Blas did not disturb his sincere appreciation of Chaucer. And though he never lost the faculty of looking back to the remote past, as if he were a part of it, or of welcoming the bravery of a new experiment, he was gradually finding out where his true sympathies lay. At the age of twenty-five he was deep in the study of
Ronsard and the Pléiade, eagerly seeking the best editions of their works, and making the translations which he presently gathered together in a memorable book. Meanwhile he had found out for himself the fierce and haunting beauty of Villon. Villon's "Villon's "Rondeau to Death," he wrote, 'is colossal in ten lines. . . . Death strides about inside those ten lines, as if he had all the world to live in. If you know where to put the candle you can throw a large shadow on the sheet.'
Thus, in a spirit of banter, he described himself as an archaistic barbarian, wallowing in the sixteenth century, hankering after the thirteenth, and with a still ruder relish for the pagan horseflesh of the Sagas.' Living in the stress of politics, he wrote verses to his friends, and took refuge in a remote period of the past from the havoc of warring parties. In his mind action and reflection were always mingled, and were all the stronger and clearer for their close companionship. He at any
rate had no need to echo Coleridge's lament that 'we judge of books by books, instead of referring what we read to our own experience.' Experience was for George Wyndham always the touchstone of literature. He did many things, and he did them well, and he took joy in them all. With the same zest that he read and discoursed upon A Winter's Tale or Troilus and Cressida, he rode to hounds, or threw himself with a kind of fury into a 'pointto-point,' or made a speech at the hustings, or sat late in the night talking with a friend. For him one enterprise helped another. He had a better understanding of books, because he was doing a man's work in the world. He served his country with greater wisdom, because he had learned from
books the sane and sound lessons which history has to teach, because he had let his fancy drink deep at the pure well of poetry.
His speeches, delivered within and outside the House of Commons, are eloquent witnesses of the value of a literary training. He preserved even on the platform a respect for English words and phrases, to which our legislators are unaccustomed, and he won a tribute from Hansard, which, I believe, is unique. The index to the Parliamentary Reports does not err on the side of humanity, and yet you may find under the date of 1st February 1900, when George Wyndham defended the army in South Africa with a fine energy and in a noble style, this solemn entry: Wyndham's, Mr., "Brilliant" Defence of the War Office.' And when he sat him down to write, nothing that he had learned in the field or the House of Commons came amiss to him. Gibbon once made confession that the Captain of the Hampshire Grenadiers had not been useless to the historian of the Roman Empire.' In all humility George Wyndham might have boasted that the panegyrist of Plutarch owed not a little to the subaltern of the Coldstream Guards. Nevertheless he knew well that life was the substance, not the art, of literature. To do what is worth the doing does not ask the same qualities as to tell the news. And in reviewing Stephen Crane's Red Badge of Courage, George Wyndham admitted the general failure of gallant soldiers to reproduce in words the effect of war. 'Man the potential Combatant,' he wrote, 'is fascinated by the picturesque and emotional aspects of battle, and the experts tell him little of either. To gratify that curiosity you must turn from the Soldier to the