The Death of a Lion

The Death of the Lion

By

Henry James

I

I HAD simply, I suppose, a change of heart, and it must have
begun when I received my manuscript back from Mr. Pinhorn.
Mr. Pinhornwas my chief, as he was called in the office: he
had accepted the high mission of bringing the paper up. This
was a weekly periodical, and had been supposed to be almost past
redemption when he took hold of it. It was Mr. Deedywho had
let it down so dreadfully — he was never mentioned in the office
now save in connection with that misdemeanour. Young as I
was I had been in a manner taken over from Mr. Deedy, who
had been owner as well as editor; forming part of a promiscuous
lot, mainly plant and office-furniture, which poor Mrs. Deedy, in
her bereavement and depression, parted with at a rough valuation.
I could account for my continuity only on the supposition that
I had been cheap. I rather resented the practice of fathering
all flatness on my late protector, who was in his unhonoured
grave; but as I had my way to make I found matter enough for
complacency in being on a "staff." At the same time I was
aware that I was exposed to suspicion as a product of the old
lowering system. This made me feel that I was doubly bound to

have

8

The Death of the Lion

have ideas, and had doubtless been at the bottom of my proposing
to Mr. Pinhornthat I should lay my lean hands on Neil Paraday.
I remember that he looked at me first as if he had never heard of
this celebrity, who indeed at that moment was by no means in the
middle of the heavens; and even when I had knowingly explained
he expressed but little confidence in the demand for any such
matter. When I had reminded him that the great principle on
which we were supposed to work was just to create the demand
we required, he considered a moment and then rejoined: "I see;
you want to write him up."

"Call it that if you like."

"And what's your inducement?"

"Bless my soul — my admiration!"

Mr. Pinhornpursed up his mouth. "Is there much to be done
with him?"

"Whatever there is, we should have it all to ourselves for he
hasn't been touched."

This argument was effective, and Mr. Pinhornresponded:

"Very well, touch him." Then he added: "But where can you
do it?"

"Under the fifth rib!" I laughed.

Mr. Pinhornstared. "Where's that?"

"You want me to go down and see him?" I inquired, when I
had enjoyed his visible search for this obscure suburb.

"I don't "want" anything — the proposal's your own. But you
must remember that that's the way we do things now," said Mr.
Pinhorn, with another dig at Mr. Deedy.

Unregenerate as I was, I could read the queer implicationsoof
this speech. The present owner's superior virtue as well as his
deeper craft spoke in his reference to the late editor as one of
that baser sort who deal in false representations. Mr. Deedy

would

By Henry James

9
would as soon have sent me to call on Neil Paradayas he would
have published a holiday-number; but such scruples presented
themselves as mere ignoble thrift to his successor, whose own
sincerity took the form of ringing door-bells and whose definition
of genius was the art of finding people at home. It was as if Mr.
Deedyhad published reports without his young men's having, as
Mr. Pinhornwould have said, really been there. I was unre-
generate, as I have hinted, and I was not concerned to straighten
out the journalistic morals of my chief, feeling them indeed to be
an abyss over the edge of which it was better not to peer. Really
to be there this time moreover was a vision that made the idea of
writing something subtle about Neil Paraday only the more
inspiring. I would be as considerate as even Mr. Deedy could
have wished, and yet I should be as present as only Mr. Pinhorn
could conceive. My allusion to the sequestered manner in which
Mr. Paraday lived (which had formed part of my explanation,
though I knew of it only by hearsay) was, I could divine, very
much what had made Mr. Pinhorn bite. It struck him as in-
consistent with the success of his paper that any one should be so
sequestered as that. Moreover, was not an immediate exposure of
everything just what the public wanted? Mr. Pinhorn effectually
called me to order by reminding me of the promptness with which
I had met Miss Braby at Liverpool, on her return from her fiasco in
the States. Hadn't we published, while its freshness and flavour
were unimpaired, Miss Braby's own version of that great inter-
national episode? I felt somewhat uneasy at this coupling of the
actress and the author, and I confess that after having enlisted Mr.
Pinhorn's sympathies I procrastinated a little. I had succeeded
better than I wished, and I had, as it happened, work nearer at
hand. A few days later I called on Lord Crouchley and carried
off in triumph the most unintelligible statement that had yet

appeared

10

The Death of the Lion

appeared of his lordship's reasons for his change of front. I thus
set in motion in the daily papers columns of virtuous verbiage.
The following week I ran down to Brighton for a chat, as Mr.
Pinhorn called it, with Mrs. Bounder, who gave me, on the
subject of her divorce, many curious particulars that had not been
articulated in court. If ever an article flowed from the primal
fount it was that article on Mrs. Bounder. By this rime, however,
I became aware that Neil Paraday's new book was on the point of
appearing, and that its approach had been the ground of my
original appeal to Mr. Pinhorn, who was now annoyed with me
for having lost so many days. He bundled me off—we would at
least not lose another. I have always thought his sudden alertness a
remarkable example of the journalistic instinct. Nothing had
occurred, since I first spoke to him, to create a visible urgency,
and no enlightenment could possibly have reached him. It was a
pure case of professional flair—he had smelt the coming glory as
an animal smells its distant prey.

II

I may as well say at once that this little record pretends in no
degree to be a picture either of my introduction to Mr. Paraday
or of certain proximate steps and stages. The scheme of my
narrative allows no space for these things and in any case a pro-
hibitory sentiment would be attached to my recollection of so rare
an hour. These meagre notes are essentially private, and if they
see the light the insidious forces that, as my story itself shows,
make at present for publicity will simply have overmastered my
precautions. The curtain fell lately enough on the lamentable

drama

By Henry James

11

drama. My memory of the day I alighted at Mr. Paraday's door
is a fresh memory of kindness, hospitality, compassion, and of the
wonderful illuminating talk in which the welcome was conveyed.
Some voice of the air had taught me the right moment, the
moment of his life at which an act of unexpected young allegiance
might most come home. He had recently recovered from a long,
grave illness. I had gone to the neighbouring inn for the night,
but I spent the evening in his company, and he insisted the next
day on my sleeping under his roof. I had not an indefinite leave:
Mr. Pinhorn supposed us to put out victims through on the
gallop. It was later, in the office, that the step was elaborated
and regulated. I fortified myself however, as my training had
taught me to do, by the conviction that nothing could be more
advantageous for my article than to be written in the very atmo-
sphere. I said nothing to Mr. Paraday about it, but in the
morning, after my removal from the inn, while he was occupied in
his study, as he had notified me that he should need to be, I com-
mitted to paper the quintessence of my impressions. Then
thinking to commend myself to Mr. Pinhorn by my celerity, I
walked out and posted my little packet before luncheon. Once
my paper was written I was free to stay on, and if it was designed
to divert attention from my frivolity in so doing I could reflect
with satisfaction that I had never been so clever I don't mean to
deny of course that I was aware it was much too good for Mr.
Pinhorn; but I was equally conscious that Mr. Pinhorn had the
supreme shrewdness of recognising from time to time the cases in
which an article was not too bad only because it was too good,
There was nothing he loved so much as to print on the right
occasion a thing he hated. I had begun my visit to Mr. Paraday
on a Monday, and on the Wednesday his book came out. A copy
of it arrived by the first post, and he let me go out into the garden

with

12

The Death of the Lion

with it immediately after breakfast. I read it from beginning to
end that day, and in the evening he asked me to remain with him
the rest of the week and over the Sunday.

That night my manuscript came back from Mr. Pinhorn,
accompanied with a letter, of which the gist was the desire to
know what I meant by sending him such stuff. That was the
meaning of the question, if not exactly its form, and it made my
mistake immense to me. Such as this mistake was I could now
only look it in the face and accept it. I knew where I had failed,
but it was exactly where I couldn't have succeeded. I had been
sent down there to be personal, and in point of fact I hadn't been
personal at all; what I had sent up to London was merely a little
finicking, feverish study of my author's talent. Anything less
relevant to Mr. Pinhorn's purpose couldn't well be imagined, and
he was visibly angry at my having (at his expense, with a second-
class ticket) approached the object of our arrangement only to be
so deucedly distant. For myself, I knew but too well what had
happened, and how a miracle — as pretty as some old miracle of
legend — had been wrought on the spot to save me. There had
been a big brush of wings, the flash of an opaline robe, and then,
with a great cool stir of the air, the sense of an angel's having
swooped down and caught me to his bosom. He held me only
till the danger was over, and it all took place in a minute. With
my manuscript back on my hands I understood the phenomenon
better, and the reflections I made on it are what I meant, at the
beginning of this anecdote, by my change of heart. Mr. Pinhorn's
note was hot only a rebuke decidedly stern, but an invitation
immediately to send him (it was the case to say so) the genuine
article, the revealing and reverberating sketch to the promise of
which — and of which alone — I owed my squandered privilege. A
week or two later I recast my peccant paper, and giving it a

particular

By Henry James

13

particular application to Mr. Paraday's new book, obtained for it
the hospitality of another journal, where, I must admit, Mr. Pin-
horn was so far justified that it attracted not the least attention.

III

I was frankly, at the end of three days, a very prejudiced critic,
so that one morning when, in the garden, Neil Paraday had
offered to read me something I quite held my breath as I listened.
It was the written scheme of another book—something he had
put aside long ago, before his illness, and lately taken out again to
reconsider. He had been turning it round when I came down
upon him, and it had grown magnificently under this second
hand. Loose, liberal, confident, it might have passed for a great
gossiping, eloquent letter—the overflow into talk of an artist's
amorous plan. The subject I thought singularly rich, quite the
strongest he had yet treated; and this familiar statement of it, full
too of fine maturities, was really, in summarised splendour, a mine
of gold, a precious, independent work. I remember rather pro-
fanely wondering whether the ultimate production could possibly
be so happy. His reading of the epistle, at any rate, made me
feel as if I were, for the advantage of posterity, in close corre-
spondence with him — were the distinguished person to whom it had
been affectionately addressed. It was high distinction simply to
be told such things. The idea he now communicated had all the
freshness, the flushed fairness of the conception untouched and
untried: it was Venus rising from the sea, before the airs had
blown upon her. I had never been so throbbingly present at such
an unveiling. But when he had tossed the last bright word after

the

14

The Death of the Lion

the others, as I had seen cashiers in banks, weighing mounds of
coin, drop a final sovereign into the tray, I became conscious of a
sudden prudent alarm.

"My dear toaster, how, after all, are you going to do it?" I
asked. "It's infinitely noble, but what rime it will take, what
patience and independence, what assured, what perfect conditions
it will demand! Oh for a lone isle in a tepid sea!"
"Isn't this practically a lone isle, and aren't you, as an encircling
medium, tepid enough?" he replied; alluding with a laugh to the
wonder of my young admiration and the narrow limits of his little
provincial home. "Time isn't what I’ve lacked hitherto: the
question hasn't been to find it, but to use it. Of course my
illness made a great hole, but I daresay there would have been a
hole at any rate. The earth we tread bas more pockets than a
billiard-table. The great thing is now to keep on my feet."

"That's exactly what I mean."

Neil Paraday looked at me with eyes — such pleasant eyes as he
had — in which, as I now recall their expression, I seem to have
seen a dim imagination of his fate. He was fifty years old, and
his illness had been cruel, his convalescence slow. "It isn't as if
I weren't all right."

"Oh, if you weren't all right I wouldn't look at you!" I
tenderly said.

We had both got up, quickened by the full sound of it all, and
he had lighted a cigarette. I had taken a fresh one, and, with an
intenser smile, by way of answer to my exclamation, he touched it
with the flame of his match. "If I weren't better I shouldn't have
thought of that!" He flourished his epistle in his hand.

"I don't want to be discouraging, but that's not true," I re-
turned. " I'm sure that during the months you lay here in pain
You had visitations sublime. You thought of a thousand things.

You

By Henry James

15
You think of more and more all the while. That's what makes
you, if you will pardon my familiarity, so respectable. At a time
when so many people are spent you come into your second wind.
But, thank God, all the same, you're better! Thank God, too,
you're not, as you were telling me yesterday, 'successful.' If you
weren't a failure, what would be the use of trying? That's my
one reserve on the subject of your recovery — that it makes you
"score," as the newspapers say. It looks well in the newspapers,
and almost anything that does that is horrible. 'We are happy
to announce that Mr. Paraday, the celebrated author, is again in
the enjoyment of excellent health.' Somehow I shouldn't like to
see it."

"You won't see it; I'm not in the least celebrated — my
obscurity protects me. But couldn't you bear even to see I was
dying or dead?" my companion asked.

"Dead — passe encore; there's nothing so safe. One never
knows what a living artist may do — one has mourned so many.
However, one must make the worst of it; you must be as dead as
you can."

"Don't I meet that condition in having just published a book?"

"Adequately, let us hope; for the book is verily a master- piece."

At this moment the parlour-maid appeared in the door that
opened into the garden: Paraday lived at no great cost, and the
frisk of petticoats, with a timorous "Sherry, sir?" was about his
modest mahogany. He allowed hall his income to his wife, from
whom he had succeeded in separating without redundancy of legend.
I had a general faith in his having behaved well, and I had once, in
London, taken Mrs. Paraday down to dinner. He now turned to
speak to the maid, who offered him, on a trait, some card or note,

while

16

The Death of the Lion

while agitated, excited, I wandered to the end of the garden.
The idea of his security became supremely dear to me, and I asked
myself if I were the same young man who had come down a few
days before to scatter him to the four winds. When I retraced
my steps he had gone into the house and the woman (the second
London post had come in) had placed my letters and a newspaper
on a bench. I sat down there to the letters, which were a brief
business, and then, without heeding the address, took the paper
from its envelope. It was the journal of highest renown, The
Empire of that morning. It regularly camee to Paraday, but I
remembered that neither of us had yet looked at the copy already
delivered. This one had a great mark on the editorial page,
and, uncrumpling the wrapper, I saw it to be directed to my host
and stamped with the name of his publishers. I instantly divined
that The Empire had spoken of him, and I have not forgotten the
odd little shock of the circumstance. It checked all eagerness and
made me drop the paper a moment. As I sat there, conscious of
a palpitation, I think I had a vision of what was to be. I had
also a vision of the letter I would presently address to Mr. Pinhorn,
breaking as it were with Mr. Pinhorn. Of course, however,
the next minute the voice of The Empire was in my ears.

The article was not, I thanked Heaven, a review; it was a
leader, the last of three, presenting Neil Paraday to the human
race. His new book, the fifth from his hand, had been but a day
or two out, and The Empire, already aware of it, fired, as if on the
birth of a prince, a salure of a whole column. The guns had been
booming these three hours in the house without out suspecting
them. The big blundering newspaper had discovered him, and
now he was proclaimed and anointed and crowned. His place was
assigned him as publicly as if a fat usher with a wand had pointed
to the topmost chair; he was to pass up and still up, higher and

higher,

By Henry James

17

higher, between the watching faces and the envious sounds — away
up to the daïs and the throne. The article was a date; he had
taken rank at a bound — waked up a national glory. A national
glory was needed, and it was an immense convenience he was there.
What all this meant rolled over me, and I fear I grew a little faint
—it meant so much more than I could say "yea" to on the spot.
land a flash, somehow, all was different; the tremendous wave I
speak of had swept something away. It had knocked down, I
suppose, my little customary altar, my twinkling tapers and my
flowers, and had reared itself into the likeness of a temple vast and
bare. When Neil Paraday should come out of the house he would
come out a contemporary. That was what had happened — the
poor man was to be squeezed into his horrible age. I felt as if
he had been overtaken on the crest of the hill and brought back
to the city. A little more and he would have dipped down to
posterity and escaped.

IV

When he came out it was exactly as if he had been in custody,
for beside him walked a stout man with a big black beard, who,
save that he wore spectacles, might have been a policeman, and
in whom at a second glance I recognised the highest contemporary
enterprise.

"This is Mr. Morrow," said Paraday, looking, I thought,
rather white; "he wants to publish heaven knows what about
me."

I winced as I remembered that this was exactly what I myself
had wanted. "Already?" I exclaimed, with a sort of sense that
my friend had fled to me for protection.

The Yellow Book--Vol. I. B

Mr. Morrow

18

The Death of the Lion

Mr. Morrow glared, agreeably, through his glasses: they
suggested the electric headlights of some monstrous modern ship,
and I felt as if Paraday and I were tossing terrified under his
bows. I saw that his momentum was irresistible, "I was
confident that I should be the first in the field," he declared.

"A great interest is naturally felt in Mr. Paraday's surroundings."

"I hadn't the least idea of it," said Paraday, as if he had been
told he had been snoring.

"I find he has not read the article in The Empire,"Mr. Morrow
remarked to me. "That's so very interesting — something to
start with," he smiled. He had begun to pull off his gloves,
which were violently new, and to look encouragingly round the
little garden. As a "surrounding" I felt that I myself had
already been taken in; I was a little fish in the stomach of a
bigger one. "I represent," our visitor continued, "a syndicate of
influential journals, no less than thirty-seven, whose public —
whose publics, I may say — are in peculiar sympathy with Mr.
Paraday's line of thought. They would greatly appreciate any
expression of his views on the subject of the art he so brilliantly
practises. Besides my connection with the syndicate just men-
tioned, I hold a particular commission from The Tatler, whose
most prominent department, Smatter and Chatter — I daresay
you've often enjoyed it — attracts such attention. I was honoured
only last week, as a representative of The Tatler, with the confi-
dence of Guy Walsingham, the author of 'Obsessions.' She
expressed herself thoroughly pleased with my sketch of her
method; she went so far as to say that I had made her genius
more comprehensible even to herself."

Neil Paraday had dropped upon the garden-bench and sat there,
at once detached and confused; he looked hard at a bare spot in
the lawn, as if with an anxiety that had suddenly made him grave.

His

By Henry James

19
His movement had been interpreted by his visitor as an invitation
to sink sympathetically into a wicker chair that stood hard by,
and as Mr. Morrow so settled himself I felt that he had taken
official possession and that there was no undoing it. One had
heard of unfortunate people's having a man in the house, and
this was just what we had. There was a silence of a moment,
during which we seemed to acknowledge in the only way that
was possible the presence of universal fate; the sunny stillness
took no pity, and my thought, as I was sure Paraday's was doing,
performed within the minute a great distant revolution. I saw
just how emphatic I should make my rejoinder to Mr. Pinhorn,
and that having come, like Mr. Morrow, to betray, I must
remain as long as possible to save. Not because I had brought
my mind back, but because our visitor's last words were in my
ear, I presently inquired with gloomy irrelevance if Guy Wals-
ingham were a woman.

"Oh yes, a mere pseudonym; but convenient, you know, for
a lady who goes in for the larger latitude. Obsessions, by Miss
So-and-So would look a little odd, but men are more naturally
indelicate. Have you peeped into Obsessions?"Mr. Morrow
continued sociably to our companion.

Paraday, still absent, remote, made no answer, as if he had not
heard the question: a manifestation that appeared to suit the
cheerful Mr. Morrow as well as any other. Imperturbably bland,
he was a man of resources — he only needed to be on the spot.
He had pocketed the whole poor place while Paraday and I were
woolgathering, and I could imagine that he had already got his
heads. His system, at any rate, was justified by the in-
evitability with which I replied, to save my friend the trouble:
"Dear, no; he hasn't read it. He doesn't read such things!" I
unwarily added.

Things

20

The Death of the Lion

"Things that are too far over the fence, eh?" I was indeed a
godsend to Mr. Morrow. It was the psychological moment; it
determined the appearance of his notebook, which, however, he at
first kept slightly behind him, as the dentist, approaching his
victim, keeps his horrible forceps. "Mr. Paraday holds with the
good old proprieties — I see!" And, thinking of the thirty-seven
influential journals, I found myself, as I found poor Paraday, help-
lessly gazing at the promulgation of this ineptitude. "There's
no point on which distinguished views are so acceptable as on this
question — raised perhaps more strikingly than ever by Guy Wals-
ingham— of the permissibility of the larger latitude. I have an
appointment, precisely in connection with it, next week, with
Dora Forbes, the author of 'The Other Way Round,' which
everybody is talking about. Has Mr. Paraday glanced at 'The
Other Way Round'?"Mr. Morrow now frankly appealed to
me. I took upon myself to repudiate the supposition, while our
companion, still silent, got up nervously and walked away. His
visitor paid no heed to his withdrawal; he only opened out the
notebook with a more motherly pat. "Dora Forbes, I gather, takes
the ground, the same as Guy Walsingham's, that the larger
latitude has simply got to come. He holds that it bas got to
squarely faced. Of course his sex makes him a less prejudiced
witness. But an authoritative word from Mr. Paraday— from the
point of view of his sex, you know — would go right round the
globe. He takes the line that we haven't got to face it?"

I was bewildered; it sounded somehow as if there were three
sexes. My interlocutor's pencil was poised, my private responsi-
bility great. I simply sat staring, however, and only, found
presence of mind to say: "Is this Miss Forbes a gentleman?"

Mr. Morrow hesitated an instant, smiling: "It wouldn't be
"Miss" — there's a wife!"

I

By Henry James

21

"I mean is she a man?"

"The wife?" — Mr. Morrow, for a moment, was as confused
as myself. But when I explained that I alluded to Dora Forbes
in person he informed me, with visible amusement at my being
so out of it, that this was the pen-name of an indubitable male
— he had a big red moustache. "He only assumes a feminine
personality because the ladies are such popular favourites. A great
deal of interest is felt in this assumption, and there's every pro-
spect of its being widely imitated." Our host at this moment
joined us again, and Mr. Morrow remarked invitingly that he
should be happy to make a note of any observation the movement
in question, the bid for success under a lady’s name, might suggest
to Mr. Paraday. But the poor man, without catching the allu-
tion, excused himself, pleading that, though he was greatly
honoured by his visitor's interest, he suddenly felt unwell and
should have to take leave of him — have to go and lie down and
keep quiet. His young friend might be trusted to answer for
him, but he hoped Mr. Morrow didn't expect great things even
of his young friend. His young friend, at this moment, looked
at Neil Paraday with an anxious eye, greatly wondering if he were
doomed to be ill again; but Paraday's own kind face met his ques-
tion reassuringly, seemed to say in a glance intelligible enough:
"Oh, I'm not ill, but I'm scared: get him out of the house as
quietly as possible." Getting newspaper-men out of the house was
odd business for an emissary of Mr. Pinhorn, and I was so exhila-
rated by the idea of it that I called after him as he left us:

"Read the article in The Empire, and you'll soon be all
right!"

22

The Death of the Lion

V

"Delicious my having come down to tell him of it!"Mr.
Morrow ejaculated. "My cab was at the door twenty minutes
after The Empire had been laid upon my breakfast-table. Now
what have you got for me?" he continued, dropping again into
his chair, from which, however, the next moment he quickly
rose. "I was shown into the drawing-room, but there must be
more to see—his study, his literary sanctum, the little things he
has about, or other domestic objects or features. He wouldn't be
lying down on his study-table? There's a great interest always
felt in the scene of an author's labours. Sometimes we're favoured
with very delightful peeps. Dora Forbes showed me all his table-
drawers, and almost jammed my hand into one into which I made
a dash! I don't ask that of you, but if we could talk things
over right there where he sits I feel as if I should get the
keynote."

I had no wish whatever to be rude to Mr. Morrow, I was
much too initiated not to prefer the safety of other ways; but I
had a quick inspiration and I entertained an insurmountable, an
almost superstitious objection to his crossing the threshold of my
friend's little lonely, shabby, consecrated workshop. "No,
we sha'n't get at his lire that way," I said. "The way to get at
his lire is to — But wait a moment!" I broke off and went
quickly into the house; then, in three minutes, I reappeared before
Mr. Morrow with the two volumes of Paraday's new book.
"His life's here" I went on, "and I'm so full of this admirable
thing that I can't talk of anything else. The artist's life's his
work, and this is the place to observe him. What he has to tell

us

By Henry James

23
us he tells us with this perfection. My dear sir, the best inter-
viewer's the best reader."

Mr. Morrow good-humouredly protested. "Do you mean to
say that no other source of information should be opened to us?"

"None other till this particular one — by far the most copious —
has been quite exhausted. Have you exhausted it, my dear sir
Had you exhausted it when you came down here? It seems to
me in our time almost wholly neglected, and something should
surely be done to restore its ruined credit. It's the course to
which the artist himself at every step, and with such pathetic
confidence, refers us. This last book of Mr. Paraday's is full of
revelations."

"Revelations." panted Mr. Morrow, whom I had forced
again into his chair.

"The only kind that count. It tells you with a perfection that
seems to me quite final all the author thinks, for instance, about the
advent of the larger latitude."

"Where does it do that?" asked Mr. Morrow, who had picked
up the second volume and was insincerely thumbing it.

"Everywhere — in the whole treatment of his case. Extract the
opinion, disengage the answer — those are the real acts of homage."

Mr. Morrow, after a minute, tossed the book away. "Ah, but
you mustn't take me for a reviewer."

"Heaven forbid I should take you for anything so dreadful!
You came down to perform a little act of sympathy, and so, I
may confide to you, did I. Let us perform our little act together.
These pages overflow with the testimony we want: let us read
them and taste them and interpret them. You will of course
have perceived for yourself that one scarcely does read Neil
Paraday till one reads him aloud; he gives out to the ear an extra-
Ordinary quality, and it's only when you expose it confidently to

that

24

The Death of the Lion

that test that you really get near his style. Take up your book
again and let me listen, while you pay it out, to that wonderful
fifteenth chapter. If you feel that you can't do it justice, compose
yourself to attention while I produce for you — I think I can! —
this scarcely less admirable ninth."

Mr. Morrow gave me a straight glance which was as hard as a
blow between the eyes; he had turned rather red and a question had
formed itselfin his mind which reached my sense as distinctly as if
he had uttered it: "What sort of a damned fool are you?" Then
he got up, gathering together his hat and gloves, buttoning his
coat, projecting hungrily all over the place the big transparency of
his mask. It seemed to flare over Fleet Street and somehow
made the actual spot distressingly humble: there was so little for
it to feed on unless he counted the blisters of our stucco or saw
his way to do something with the roses. Even the poor roses
were common kinds. Presently his eyes fell upon the manuscript
from which Paraday had been reading to me and which still lay on
the bench. As my own followed them I saw that it looked
promising, looked pregnant, as if it gently throbbed with the lire
the reader had given it. Mr. Morrow indulged in a nod toward
it and a vague thrust of his umbrella. "What's that?"

"Oh, it's a plan — a secret."

"A secret!" There was an instant's silence, and then Mr.
Morrow made another movement. I may have been mistaken,
but it affected me as the translated impulse of the desire to lay
hands on the manuscript, and this led me to indulge in a quick
anticipatory grab which may very well have seemed ungraceful, or
even impertinent, and which at any rate left Mr. Paraday's two
admirers very erect, glaring at each other while one of them held
a bundle of papers well behind him. An instant later Mr.
Morrow quitted me abruptly, as if he had really carried some-

thing

By Henry James

25
thing away. To reassure myself, watching his broad back recede,
I only grasped my manuscript the tighter. He went to the
back-door of the house, the one he had come out from, but on
trying the handle he appeared to find it fastened. So he passed
round into the front garden, and, by listening intently enough, I
could presently hear the outer gate close behind him with a bang.
I thought again of the thirty-seven influential journals and
wondered what would be his revenge. I hasten to add that he was
rnagnanimous: which was just the most dreadful thing he could
have been. The Tatler published a charming, chatty, familiar
account of Mr. Paraday's "Home-life," and on the wings of the
thirty-seven influential journals it went, to use Mr. Morrow's own
expression, right round the globe.

VI

A week later, early in May, my glorified friend came up to
town, where, it may be veraciously recorded, he was the king of
the beasts of the year. No advancement was ever more rapid, no
exaltation more complete, no bewilderment more teachable. His
book sold but moderately, though the article in The Empire had
done unwonted wonders for it; but he circulated in person in a
manner that the libraries might well have envied. His formula
had been found — he was a revelation. His momentary terror
had been real, just as mine had been — the overclouding of his
passionate desire to be left to finish his work. He was far from
unsociable, but he had the finest conception of being let alone
that I have ever met. For the time, however, he took his profit
where it seemed most to crowd upon him, having in his pocket

the

26

The Death of the Lion

the portable sophistries about the nature of the artist's task.
Observation too was a kind of work and experience a kind of
success; London dinners were all material and London ladies
were fruitful toil. "No one has the faintest conception of what
I'm trying for," he said to me, "and not many have read three
pages that I've written; but they're all enthusiastic, enchanted,
devoted." He found himself in truth equally amused and fatigued;
but the fatigue had the merit of being a new sort, and the phantas-
magoric town was perhaps after all less of a battlefield than the
haunted study. He once told me that he had had no personal life
to speak of since his fortieth year, but had had more than was
good for him before. London closed the parenthesis and exhibited
him in relations; one of the most inevitable of these being that in
which he found himself to Mrs. Weeks Wimbush, wife of the
boundless brewer and proprietress of the universal menagerie.
In this establishment, as everybody knows, on occasions when the
crush is great, the animais rub shoulders freely with the spectators
and the lions sit down for whole evenings with the lambs.

It had been ominously clear to me from the first that in Neil
Paraday this lady, who, as all the world agreed, was tremendous
fun, considered that she had secured a prime attraction, a creature
of almost heraldic oddity. Nothing could exceed ber enthusiasm
over ber capture, and nothing could exceed the confused apprehen-
sions it excited in me. I had an instinctive fear of her which I
tried without effect to conceal from her victim, but which I let
her perceive with perfect impunity. Paraday heeded it, but she
never did, for her conscience was that of a romping child. She was
a blind, violent force, to which I could attach no more idea of
responsibility than to the hum of a spinning-top. It was difficult
to say what she conduced to but to circulation. She was constructed
of sted and leather, and all I asked of her for our tractable friend

was

By Henry James

27
was not to do him to death. He had consented for a time to be
of indiarubber, but my thoughts were fixed on the day he should
resume his shape or at least get back into his box. It was evi-
dently all right, but I should be glad when it was well over. I
was simply nervous — the impression was ineffaceable of the hour
when, after Mr. Morrow's departure, I had found him on the sofa
in his study. That pretext of indisposition had not in the least
been meant as a snub to the envoy of The Tatler — he had gone
to lie down in very truth. He had felt a pang of his old pain, the \
result of the agitation wrought in him by this forcing open of a
new period. His old programme, his old ideal even had to be
changed. Say what one would, success was a complication and
recognition had to be reciprocal. The monastic life, the pious
illumination of the missal in the convent cell were things of the
gathered past. It didn't engender despair, but it at least required
adjustment. Before I left him on that occasion we had passed a
bargain, my part of which was that I should make it my business
to take care of him. Let whoever would represent the interest in
his presence (I had a mystical prevision of Mrs. Weeks Wimbush),
I should represent the interest in his work — in other words, in his
absence. These two interests were in their essence opposed; and
I doubt, as youth is fleeting, if I shall ever again know the
intensity of joy with which I felt that in so good a cause I was
willing to make myself odious.

One day, in Sloane Street, I found myself questioning Paraday's
landlord, who had come to the door in answer to my knock. Two
vehicles, a barouche and a smart hansom, were drawn up before
the house.

"In the drawing-room, sir? Mrs. Weeks Wimbush."

"And in the dining-room?"

"A young lady, sir — waiting: I think a foreigner."

It

28

The Death of the Lion

It was three o'clock, and on days when Paraday didn't lunch
out he attached a value to these subjugated hours. On which
days, however, didn't the dear man lunch out? Mrs. Wimbush,
at such a crisis, would have rushed round immediately after her
own repast. I went into the dining-room first, postponing the
pleasure of seeing how, upstairs, the lady of the barouche would,
on my arrival, point the moral of my sweet solicitude. No one
took such an interest as herself in his doing only what was good
for him, and she was always on the spot to see that he did it.
She made appointments with him to discuss the best means of
economising his time and protecting his privacy. She further
made his health her special business, and had so much sympathy
with my own zeal for it that she was the author of pleasing
fictions on the subject of what my devotion had led me to give
up. I gave up nothing (I don't count Mr. Pinhorn) because I
had nothing, and all I had as yet achieved was to find myself
also in the menagerie. I had dashed in to save my friend, but I
had only got domesticated and wedged; so that I could do nothing
for him but exchange with him over people's heads looks of
intense but futile intelligence.

VII

The young lady in the dining-room had a brave face, black
hair, blue eyes, and in her lap a big volume. "I've come for his
autograph," she said, when I had explained to her that I was
under bonds to see people for him when he was occupied. "I've
been waiting half an bout, but I'm prepared to wait all day." I
don't know whether it was this that told me she was American,

for

By Henry James

29
for the propensity to wait all day is not in general characteristic
of her race. I was enlightened probably not so much by the
spirit of the utterance as by some quality of its sound. At an
y rate I saw she had an individual patience and a lovely frock, to-
gether with an expression that played among her pretty features
as a breeze among flowers. Putting her book upon the table, she
showed me a massive album, showily bound and full of autographs
of price. The collection of faded notes, of still more faded
"thoughts," of quotations, platitudes, signatures, represented a
formidable purpose.

"Most people apply to Mr. Paraday by letter, you know," I said.

"Yes, but he doesn't answer, I’ve written three times."

"Very true," I reflected; "the sort of letter you mean goes
straight into the fire."

"How do you know the sort I mean?" my interlocutress
asked. She had blushed and smiled and in a moment she added:
"I don't believe he gets many like them!"

"I'm sure they're beautiful, but he burns without reading." I
didn't add that I had told him he ought to.

"Isn't he then in danger of burning things of importance?"

"He would be, if distinguished men hadn't an infallible nose for
a petition." She looked at me a moment — her face was sweet and gay.

"Do you burn without reading, too?" she asked; in answer to
which I assured her that if she would trust me with her repository
I would see that Mr. Paraday should write his name in it.
She considered a little. "That's very well, but it wouldn't
make me see him."

"Do you want very much to see him?" It seemed ungracious
to catechise so charming a creature, but somehow I had never yet
taken my duty to the great author so seriously.

Enough

30

The Death of the Lion

"Enough to have come from America for the purpose."
I stared. "All alone?"

"I don't see that that's exactly your business; but if it will
make me more appealing I will confess that I am quite by myself.
I had to come alone or not at all."

She was interesting; I could imagine that she had lost parents,
natural protectors — could conceive even that she had inherited
money. I was in a phase of my own fortunes when keeping
hansoms at doors seemed to me pure swagger. As a trick of
this frank and delicate girl, however, it became romantic — a part
of the general romance of her freedom, her errand, her innocence.
The confidence of young Americans was notorious, and I speedily
arrived at a conviction that no impulse could have been more
generous than the impulse that had operated here. I foresaw at
that moment that it would make her my peculiar charge, just as cir-
cumstances had made Neil Paraday. She would be another person
to look after, and one's honour would be concerned in guiding
her straight. These things became clearer to me later; at the
instant I had scepticism enough to observe to her, as I turned the
pages of her volume, that her net had, all the same, caught many a
big fish. She appeared to have had fruitful access to the great
ones of the earth; there were people moreover whose signatures
she had presumably secured without a personal interview. She
couldn't have waylaid George Washington and Friedrich Schiller
and Hannah More. She met this argument, to my surprise, by
throwing up the album without a pang. It wasn't even her own;
she was responsible for none of its treasures. It belonged to a
girl-friend in America, a young lady in a western city. This
young lady had insisted on her bringing it, to pick up more auto-
graphs: she thought they might like to see, in Europe, in what
company they would be. The girlfriend, the western city,

the

By Henry James

31
the immortal names, the curious errand, the idyllic faith, all made
a story as strange to me, and as beguiling, as some tale in the
Arabian Nights. Thus it was that my informant had encum-
bered herself with the ponderous tome; but she hastened to as
sure me that this was the first time she had brought it out. For her
visit to Mr. Paraday it had simply been a pretext. She didn't
really care a straw that he should write his name; what she did
want was to look straight into his face.

I demurred a little. "And why do you require to do that?"

"Because I just love him!" Before I could recover from the
agitating effect of this crystal ring my companion had continued:
"Hasn't there ever been any face that you've wanted to look
into?"

How could I tell her so soon how much I appreciated the
opportunity of looking into hers? I could only assent in general
to the proposition that there were certainly for every one such
faces; and I felt that the crisis demanded all my lucidity, all my
wisdom. "Oh, yes, I'm a student of physiognomy. Do you
mean," I pursued, "that you've a passion for Mr. Paraday's
books?"

"They've been everything to me — I know them by heart.
They've completely taken hold of me. There's no author about
whom I feel as I do about Neil Paraday."

"Permit me to remark then," I presently rejoined, "that
you're one of the right sort."

"One of the enthusiasts? Of course I am!"

"Oh, there are enthusiasts who are quite of the wrong. I
mean you're one of those to whom an appeal can be made."

"An appeal?" Her face lighted as if with the chance of some
great sacrifice.

If she was ready for one it was only waiting for her, and in a

moment

32

The Death of the Lion

moment I mentioned it. "Give up this rigid purpose of seeing
him. Go away without it. That will be far better."
She looked mystified; then she turned visibly pale. "Why,
hasn't he any personal charm?" The girl was terrible and laugh-
able in her bright directness.

"Ah, that dreadful word personal!" I exclaimed; "we're
dying of it, and you women bring it out with murderous effect.
When you encounter a genius as fine as this idol of ours, let him
off the dreary duty of being a personality as well. Know him
only by what's best in him, and spare him for the same sweet
sake."

My young lady continued to look at me in confusion and mis-
trust, and the result of her reflection on what I had just said
was to make her suddenly break out: "Look here, sir — what's the
matter with him?"

"The matter with him is that, if he doesn't look out, people
will eat a great hole in his life."

She considered a moment. "He hasn't any disfigurement?"

"Nothing to speak of!"

"Do you mean that social engagements interfere with his occu-
pations?"

"That but feebly expresses it."

"So that he can't give himself up to his beautiful imagin-
ation?"

"He's badgered, bothered, overwhelmed, on the pretext of
being applauded. People expect him to give them his time, his
golden time, who wouldn't themselves give five shillings for one of
his books."

"Five? I'd give five thousand!"

"Give your sympathy — give your forbearance. Two-thirds of
those who approach him only do it to advertise themselves."

Why

By Henry James

33

"Why, it’s too bad!" the girl exclaimed, with the face of an
angel.

I followed up my advantage. "There's a lady with him now
who's a terrible complication, and who yet hasn't read, I am sure,
ten pages that he ever wrote."

My visitor's wide eyes grew tenderer. "Then how does she
talk?"

"Without ceasing. I only mention her as a single case. Do
you want to know how to show a superlative consideration?
Simply, avoid him."

"Avoid him?" she softly wailed.

"Don't force him to have to take account of you; admire him
in silence, cultivate him at a distance and secretly, appropriate his
message. Do you want to know," I continued, warming to
my idea, "how to perform an act of homage really sublime?"
Then as she hung on mg words: "Succeed in never seeing
him!"

"Never?" she pathetically gasped.

"The more you get into his writings the less you'll want to;
and you'll be immensely sustained by the thought of the good
you're doing him."

She looked at me without resentment or spite, and at the truth
I had put before her with candour, credulity and pity. I was
afterwards happy to remember that she must have recognised in
my face the liveliness of my interest in herself. "I think I see
what you mean."

"Oh, I express it badly; but I should be delighted if you would
let me come to see you — to explain it better."
She made no response to this, and her thoughtful eyes fell on
the big album, on which she presently laid her hands as if to take
it away. "I did use to say out West that they might write a little

The Yellow Book — Vol. I. C

less

34
less for autographs (to all the great poets, you know) and study
the thoughts and style a little more."

"What do they care for the thoughts and style? They didn't
even understand you. I'm not sure," I added, "that I do myself,
and I daresay that you by no means make me out." She had got
up to go, and though I wanted her to succeed in not seeing Neil
Paraday I wanted her also, inconsequently, to remain in the house.
I was at any rate far from desiring to hustle her off. As Mrs.
Weeks Wimbush, upstairs, was still saving our friend in her own
way, I asked my young lady to let me briefly relate, in illustration
of my point, the little incident of my having gone clown into the
country for a profane purpose and been converted on the spot to
holiness. Sinking again into her chair to listen, she showed a deep
interest in the anecdote. Then, thinking it over gravely she ex-
claimed with her odd intonation:

"Yes, but you do see him!" I had to admit that this was the
case; and I was not so prepared with an effective attenuation as I
could have wished. She eased the situation off, however, by the
charming quaintness with which she finally said: "Well, I
wouldn't want him to be lonely!" This time she rose in earnest,
but I persuaded her to let me keep the album to show to Mr.
Paraday. I assured her I would bring it back to her myself.

"Well, you'll find my address somewhere in it, on a paper!" she
sighed resignedly, as she took leave.

VIII

I blush to confess it, but I invited Mr. Paraday that very day
to transcribe into the album one of his most characteristic passages.

I

By Henry James

35
I told him how I had got rid of the strange girl who had brought
it — her ominous name was Miss Hurter and she lived at an hotel;
quite agreeing with him moreover as to the wisdom of getting
rid with equal promptitude of the book itself. This was why I
carried it to Albemarle Street no later than on the morrow. I
failed to find her at home, but she wrote to me and I went again:
she wanted so much to hear more about Neil Paraday. I returned
repeatedly, I may briefly declare, to supply her with this informa-
tion. She had been immensely taken, the more she thought of it,
with that idea of mine about the act of homage: it had ended by
filling her with a generous rapture. She positively desired to do
something sublime for him, though indeed I could see that, as this
particular flight was difficult, she appreciated the fact that my visits
kept her up. I had it on my conscience to keep her up; I
neglected nothing that would contribute to it, and her conception
of our cherished author's independence became at last as fine as his
own conception. "Read him, read him," I constantly repeated;
while, seeking him in his works, she represented herself as con-
vinced that, according to my assurance, this was the system that
had, as she expressed it, weaned her. We read him together when
I could find time, and the generous creature's sacrifice was fed by
our conversation. There were twenty selfish women, about whom
I told her, who stirred her with a beautiful rage. Immediately
after my first visit her sister, Mrs. Milsom, came over from Paris,
and the two ladies began to present, as they called it, their letters.
I thanked our stars that none had been presented to Mr. Paraday.
They received invitations and dined out, and some of these occa-
sions enabled Fanny Hurter to perform, for consistency's sake,
touching feats of submission. Nothing indeed would now have
induced her even to look at the object of her admiration. Once,
hearing his name announced at a party, she instantly left the room

by

36

The Death of the Lion

by another door and then straightway quitted the house. At
another time, when I was at the opera with them (Mrs. Milsom
had invited me to their box) I attempted to point Mr. Paraday
out to her in the stalls. On this she asked her sister to change
places with her, and, while that lady devoured the great man
through a powerful glass, presented, all the rest of the evening,
her inspired back to the house. To torment her tenderly I pressed
the glass upon her, telling her how wonderfully near it brought our
friend's handsome head. By way of answer she simply looked at me
in grave silence; on which I saw that tears had gathered in her eyes.
These tears, I may remark, produced an effect on me of which
the end is not yet. There was a moment when I felt it my
duty to mention them to Neil Paraday; but I was deterred
by the reflection that there were questions more relevant to his
happiness.

These questions indeed, by the end of the season, were reduced
to a single one — the question of reconstituting, so far as might be
possible, the conditions under which he had produced his best
work. Such conditions could never all come back, for there was
a new one that took up too much place; but some perhaps were
not beyond recall. I wanted above all things to see him sit down
to the subject of which, on my making his acquaintance, he had
read me that admirable sketch. Something told me there was no
security but in his doing so before the new factor, as we used to say
at Mr. Pinhorn's, should render the problem incalculable. It only
half reassured me that the sketch itself was so copious and so eloquent
that even at the worst there would be the making of a small but com-
plete book, a tiny volume which, for the faithful, might well become
an object of adoration. There would even not be wanting critics
to declare, I foresaw, that the plan was a thing to be more thankful
for than the structure to have been reared on it. My impatience

for

By Henry James

37
for the structure, none the less, grew and grew with the interrup-
tions. He had, on coming up to town, begun to sit for his portrait
to a young painter, Mr. Rumble, whose little game, as we used to
say at Mr. Pinhorn's, was to be the first to perch on the shoulders
of renown. Mr. Rumble's studio was a circus in which the man
of the hour, and still more the woman, leaped through the hoops
of his showy frames almost as electrically as they burst into tele-
grams and "specials." He pranced into the exhibitions on their
back; he was the reporter on canvas, the Vandyke up to date,
and there was one roaring year in which Mrs. Bounder and Miss
Braby, Guy Walsingham and Dora Forbes proclaimed in chorus
from the same pictured walls that no one had yet got ahead of
him.

Paraday had been promptly caught and saddled, accepting with
characteristic good-humour his confidential hint that to figure in
his show was not so much a consequence as a cause of immortality.
From Mrs. Wimbush to the last "representative" who called to
ascertain his twelve favourite dishes, it was the same ingenuous
assumption that he would rejoice in the repercussion. There
were moments when I fancied I might have had more patience
with them if they had not been so fatally benevolent. I hated,
at all events, Mr. Rumble's picture, and had my bottled resent-
ment ready when, later on, I found my distracted friend had
been stuffed by Mrs. Wimbush into the mouth of another cannon.
A young artist in whom she was intensely interested, and who
had no connection with Mr. Rumble, was to show how far he
could shoot him. Poor Paraday, in return, was naturally to write
something somewhere about the young artist. She played her
victims against each other with admirable ingenuity, and her
establishment was a huge machine in which the tiniest and the
biggest wheels went round to the same treadle. I had a scene

with

38

The Death of the Lion

with her in which I tried to express that the function of such a
man was to exercise his genius — not to serve as a hoarding for
pictorial posters. The people I was perhaps angriest with were
the editors of magazines who had introduced what they called new
features, so aware were they that the newest feature of all would
be to make him grind their axes by contributing his views on
vital topics and taking part in the periodical prattle about the
future of fiction. I made sure that before I should have done
with him there would scarcely be a current form of words left
me to be sick of; but meanwhile I could make surer still of my
animosity to bustling ladies for whom he drew the water that
irrigated their social flower-beds.

I had a battle with Mrs. Wimbush over the artist she protected,
and another over the question of a certain week, at the end of
July, that Mr. Paraday appeared to have contracted to spend with
her in the country. I protested against this visit; I intimated
that he was too unwell for hospitality without a nuance, for caresses
without imagination; I begged he might rather take the time in
some restorative way. A sultry air of promises, of reminders hung
over his August, and he would great]y profit by the interval of
test. He had not told me he was ill again — that he had a
warning; but I had not needed this, and I found his reticence
his worst symptom. The only thing he said to me was that he
believed a comfortable attack of something or other would set him
up: it would put out of the question everything but the exemp-
tions he prized. I am afraid I shall have presented him as a
martyr in a very small cause if I fail to explain that he surren-
dered himself much more liberally than I surrendered him. He
filled his lungs, for the most part, with the comedy of his queer
fate: the tragedy was in the spectacles through which I chose to
look. He was conscious of inconvenience, and above all of a

great

By Henry James

39
great renouncement; but how could he have heard a mere dirge
in the bells of his accession? The sagacity and the jealousy were
mine, and his the impressions and the anecdotes. Of course, as
regards Mrs. Wimbush; I was worsted in my encounters, for was
not the state of his health the very reason for his coming to her
at Prestidge? Wasn't it precisely at Prestidge that he was to
be coddled, and wasn't the dear Princess coming to help her to
coddle him? The dear Princess, now on a visit to England, was
of a famous foreign house, and, in her gilded cage, with her retinue
of keepers and feeders, was the most expensive specimen in the
good lady's collection. I don't think her august presence had had
to do with Paraday's consenting to go, but it is not impossible
that he had operated as a bait to the illustrious stranger. The
party had been made up for him, Mrs. Wimbush averred, and
every one was counting on it, the dear Princess most of all. If he
was well enough he was to read them something absolutely fresh,
and it was on that particular prospect the Princess had set her
heart. She was so fond of genius, in any walk of life, and she was
so used to it, and understood it so well; she was the greatest of
Mr. Paraday's admirers, she devoured everything he wrote. And
then he read like an angel. Mrs. Wimbush reminded me that he
had again and again given her, Mrs. Wimbush, the privilege of
listening to him.

I looked at her a moment. "What has he read to you" I
crudely inquired.

For a moment too she met my eyes, and for the fraction of a
moment she hesitated and coloured, "Oh, all sorts of things!"

I wondered whether this were a perfect fib or only an imperfect
Recollection, and she quite understood my unuttered comment on
her perception of such things. But if she could forget Neil
Paraday's beauties she could of course forget my rudeness, and

three

40

The Death of the Lion

three days later she invited me, by telegraph, to join the party at
Prestidge. This time she might indeed have had a story about
what I had given up to be near the toaster. I addressed from
that fine residence several communications to a young lady in
London, a young lady whom, I confess, I quitted with reluctance
and whom the reminder of what she herself could give up was
required to make me quit at all. It adds to the gratitude I owe
her on other grounds that she kindly allows me to transcribe from
my letters a few of the passages in which that hateful sojourn is
candidly commemorated.

IX

"I suppose I ought to enjoy the joke," I wrote, "of what's
going on here, but somehow it doesn't amuse me. Pessimism on
the contrary possesses me and cynicism solicits. I positively feel
my own flesh sore from the brass nails in Neil Paraday's social
harness. The house is full of people who like him, as they
mention, awfully, and with whom his talent for talking nonsense
has prodigious success. I delight in his nonsense myself; why is
it therefore that I grudge these happy folk their artless satisfac-
tion? Mystery of the human heart — abyss of the critical spirit!
Mrs. Wimbush thinks she can answer that question, and as my
want of gaiety has at last worn out her patience she has given me
a glimpse of her shrewd guess. I am made restless by the selfish-
ness of the insincere friend — I want to monopolise Paraday in
order that he may push me on. To be intimate with him is a
feather in my cap; it gives me an importance that I couldn't
naturally pretend to, and I seek to deprive him of social refresh-
ment because I fear that meeting more disinterested people may

enlighten

By Henry James

41
enlighten him as to my real spirit. All the disinterested people
here are his particular admirers and have been carefully selected as
such. There is supposed to be a copy of his last book in the
house, and in the hall I come upon ladies, in attitudes, bending
gracefully over the first volume. I discreetly avert my eyes, and
when I next look round the precarious joy has been superseded by
the book of life. There is a sociable circle or a confidential
couple, and the relinquished volume lies open on its face, as if it
had been dropped under extreme coercion. Somebody else pre-
sently finds it and transfers it, with its air of momentary deso-
lation, to another piece of furniture. Every one is asking every
one about it all day, and every one is telling every one where they
put it last. I'm sure it's rather smudgy about the twentieth page.
I have a strong impression too that the second volume is lost —
has been packed in the bag of some departing guest; and yet
everybody has the impression that somebody else has read to the
end. You see therefore that the beautiful book plays a great
part in our conversation. Why should I take the occasion of
such distinguished honours to say that I begin to see deeper into
Gustave Flaubert's doleful refrain about the hatred of literature?
I refer you again to the perverse constitution of man.

"The Princess is a massive lady with the organisation of an
athlete and the confusion of tongues of a valet de place. She
contrives to commit herself extraordinarily little in a great many
languages, and is entertained and conversed with in detachments
and relays, like an institution which goes on from generation to
generation or a big building contracted for under a forfeit. She
can't have a personal taste, any more than, when her husband
succeeds, she can have a personal crown, and her opinion on any
matter is rusty and heavy and plain — made, in the night of ages,
to last and be transmitted. I feel as if I ought to pay some one a

fee

42

The Death of the Lion

fee for my glimpse of it. She has been told everything in the
world and has never perceived anything, and the echoes of her
education respond awfully to the rash footfall — I mean the casual
remark — in the cold Valhalla of her memory. Mrs. Wimbush
delights in her wit and says there is nothing so charming as to
hear Mr. Paraday draw it out. He is perpetually detailed for this
job, and he tells me it has a peculiarly exhausting effect. Every
one is beginning — at the end of two days — to sidle obsequiously
away from her, and Mrs. Wimbush pushes him again and again into
the breach: None of the uses I have yet seen him put to irritate
me quite so much. He looks very fagged, and has at last confessed
to me that his condition makes him uneasy — has even promised
me that he will go straight home instead of returning to his final
engagements in town. Last night I had some talk with him
about going to-day, cutting his visit short; so sure am I that he
will be better as soon as he is shut up in his lighthouse. He told
me that this is what he would like to do; reminding me, how-
ever, that the first lesson of his greatness has been precisely that
he can't do what he likes. Mrs. Wimbush would never forgive
him if he should leave her before the Princess has received the
last hand. When I say that a violent rupture with our hostess
would be the best thing in the world for him he gives me to
understand that if his reason assents to the proposition his courage
hangs wofully back. He makes no secret of being mortally afraid
of her, and when I ask what harm she can do him that she hasn't
already done he simply repeats: "I'm afraid, I'm afraid! Don't
inquire too closely," he said last night; "only believe that I feel
a sort of terror. It's strange, when she's so kind! At any rate,
I would as soon overturn that piece of priceless Sèvres as tell her
that I must go before my date." It sounds dreadfully weak, but
he has some reason, and he pays for his imagination, which puts

him

By Henry James

43
him (I should hate it) in the place of others and makes him feel,
even against himself, their feelings, their appetites, their motives.
He's so beastly intelligent. Besides, the famous reading is still to
come off, and it has been postponed a day, to allow Guy Walsing-
ham to arrive. It appears that this eminent lady is staying at a
house a few miles off, which means of course that Mrs. Wimbush
has forcibly annexed her. She's to come over in a day or two —
Mrs. Wimbush wants her to hear Mr. Paraday.

"To-day's wet and cold, and several of the company, at the
invitation of the Duke, have driven over to luncheon at Bigwood.
I saw poor Paraday wedge himself, by command, into the little
supplementary seat of a brougham in which the Princess and our
hostess were already ensconced. If the front glass isn't open on
his dear old back perhaps he'll survive. Bigwood, I believe, is very
grand and frigid, all marble and precedence, and I wish him well
out of the adventure. I can't tell you how much more and more
your attitude to him, in the midst of all this, shines out by contrast.
I never willingly talk to these people about him, but see what a
comfort I find it to scribble to you! I appreciate it; it keeps me
warm; there are no fires in the house. Mrs. Wimbush goes by
the calendar, the temperature goes by the weather, the weather
goes by God knows what, and the Princess is easily heated. I
have nothing but my acrimony to warm me, and have been out
under an umbrella to restore my circulation. Coming in an hour
ago, I found Lady Augusta Minch rummaging about the hall.
When I asked her what she was looking for she said she had
mislaid something that Mr. Paraday had lent her. I ascertained
in a moment that the article in question is a manuscript and I
have a foreboding that it's the noble morsel he read me six weeks
ago. When I expressed my surprise that he should have passed
about anything so precious (I happen to know it's his only copy —

in

44

The Death of the Lion

in the most beautiful hand in all the world) Lady Augusta confessed
to me that she had not had it from himself, but from Mrs.
Wimbush, who had wished to give her a glimpse of it as a salve
for her not being able to stay and hear it read.

""Is that the piece he's to read," I asked, "when Guy Wals-
ingham arrives?"

""It's not for Guy Walsingham they're waiting now, it's for
Dora Forbes,"Lady Augusta said. "She's coming, I believe, early
to-morrow. Meanwhile Mrs. Wimbush has found out about him,
and is actively wiring to him. She says he also must hear him."

""You bewilder me a little," I replied; "in the age we live in
one gets lost among the genders and the pronouns. The clear
thing is that Mrs. Wimbush doesn't guard such a treasure as
jealously as she might."

""Poor dear, she has the Princess to guard! Mr. Paraday lent
her the manuscript to look over."

""Did she speak as if it were the morning paper?"

"Lady Augusta stared — my irony was lost upon her. "She
didn't have time, so she gave me a chance first; because unfor-
tunately I go to-morrow to Bigwood."

""And your chance has only proved a chance to lose it?"

""I haven't lost it. I remember now — it was very stupid of
me to have forgotten. I told my maid to give it to Lord Dori-
mont — or at least to his man."

""And Lord Dorimont went away directly after luncheon."

""Of course he gave it back to my maid — or else his man did,"
said Lady Augusta. "I daresay it's all right."

"The conscience of these people is like a summer sea. They
haven't time to look over a priceless composition; they've only
time to kick it about the house. I suggested that the man, fired
with a noble emulation, had perhaps kept the work for his own

perusal;

By Henry James

45
perusal; and her ladyship wanted to know whether, if the thing
didn't turn up again in time for the session appointed by out
hostess, the author wouldn't have something else to read that would
do just as well. Their questions are too delightful! I declared
to Lady Augusta briefly that nothing in the world can ever do as
well as the thing that does best; and at this she looked a little
confused and scared. But I added that if the manuscript had gone
astray our little circle would have the less of an effort of attention
to make. The piece in question was very long — it would keep
them three hours.

""Three hours! Oh, the Princess will get up!" said Lady
Augusta.

""I thought she was Mr. Paraday's greatest admirer."

"'I daresay she is — she's so awfully clever. But what's the
use of being a Princess—"

""If you can't dissemble your love?" I asked, as Lady Augusta
was vague. She said, at any rate, that she would question her
maid; and I am hoping that when I go down to dinner I shall
find the manuscript has been recovered.""

X

"It has not been recovered," I wrote early the next day, "and
I am moreover much troubled about out friend. He came back
from Bigwood with a chill and, being allowed to have a tire in his
room, lay down a while before dinner. I tried to send him to
bed and indeed thought I had put him in the way of it; but after
I had gone to dress Mrs. Wimbush came up to see him, with the
inevitable result that when I returned I found him under arms and

flushed

46

The Death of the Lion

flushed and feverish, though decorated with the rare flower she
had brought him for his button-hole. He came down to dinner,
but Lady Augusta Minch was very shy of him. To-day he's in
great pain, and the advent of those ladies — I mean of Guy
Walsingham and Dora Forbes— doesn't at all console me. It
does Mrs. Wimbush, however, for she has consented to his re-
maining in bed, so that he may be all right to-morrow for the
séance. Guy Walsingham is already on the scene, and the doctor,
for Paraday, also arrived early. I haven't yet seen the author of
'Obsessions,' but of course I’ve had a moment by myself with
the doctor. I tried to get him to say that out invalid must go
straight home — I mean to-morrow or next day; but he quite
refuses to talk about the future. Absolute quiet and warmth and
the regular administration of an important remedy are the points
he mainly insists on. He returns this afternoon, and I'm to go
back to see the patient at one o'clock, when he next takes his
medicine. It consoles me a little that he certainly won't be able
to read — an exertion he was already more than unfit for. Lady
Augusta went off after breakfast: assuring me that her first care
would be to follow up the lost manuscript. I can see she thinks
me a shocking busybody and doesn't understand my alarm, but
she will do what she can, for she's a good-natured woman. "So
are they all honourable men." That was precisely what made her
give the thing to Lord Dorimont and made Lord Dorimont bag
it. What use he has for it God only knows. I have the worst
forebodings, but somehow I'm strangely without passion — des-
perately calm. As I consider the unconscious, the well-meaning
ravages of our appreciative circle I bow my head in submission to
some great natural, some universal accident; I'm rendered almost
indifferent, in fact quite gay (ha-ha!) by the sense of immitigable
rate. Lady Augusta promises me to trace the precious object and

let

By Henry James

47
let me have it, through the post, by the time Paraday is well
enough to play his part with it. The last evidence is that her
maid did give it to his lordship's valet. One would think it was
some thrilling number of The Family Budget. Mrs. Wimbush,
who is aware of the accident, is much less agitated by it than she
would doubtless be were she not for the hour inevitably engrossed
with Guy Walsingham."
Later in the day I informed my correspondent, for whom
indeed I kept a sort of diary of the situation, that I had made the
acquaintance of this celebrity and that she was a pretty little girl
who wore her hair in what used to be called a crop. She looked
so juvenile and so innocent that if, as Mr. Morrow had announced,
she was resigned to the larger latitude, her fortitude must have
come to her early. I spent most of the day hovering about Neil
Paraday's room, but it was communicated to me from below that
Guy Walsingham, at Prestidge, was a success. Towards evening
I became conscious somehow that her resignation was contagious
and by the time the company separated for the night I was sure
that the larger latitude had been generally accepted. I thought of
Dora Forbes and felt that he had no time to lose. Before dinner
I received a telegram from Lady Augusta Minch. "Lord
Dorimont thinks he must have left bundle in train — inquire."
How could I inquire — if I was to take the word as a command?
I was too worried and now too alarmed about Neil Paraday.
The doctor came back, and it was an immense satisfaction to me
to feel that he was wise and interested. He was proud of being
called to so distinguished a patient, but he admitted to me that
night that my friend was gravely iii. It was really a relapse, a
recrudescence of his old malady. There could be no question of
moving him: we must at any rate see first, on the spot, what
turn his condition would take. Meanwhile, on the morrow, he

was

48

The Death of the Lion

was to have a nurse. On the morrow the dear man was easier,
and my spirits rose to such cheerfulness that I could almost laugh
over Lady Augusta's second telegram: "Lord Dorimont's servant
been to station — nothing found. Push inquiries." I did laugh, I
am sure, as I remembered this was the mystic scroll I had scarcely
allowed poor Mr. Morrow to point his umbrella at. Fool that
I had been: the thirty-seven influential journals wouldn't have
destroyed it, they would only have printed it. Of course I said
nothing to Paraday.
When the nurse arrived she turned me out of the room, on
which I went downstairs. I should premise that at breakfast the
news that our brilliant friend was doing well excited universal
complacency, and the Princess graciously remarked that he was
only to be commiserated for missing the society of Miss Collop.
Mrs. Wimbush, whose social gift never shone brighter than in the
dry decorum with which she accepted this blemish on her perfec-
tion, mentioned to me that Guy Walsingham had made a very
favourable impression on her Imperial Highness. Indeed I think
every one did so and that, like the money-market or the national
honour, her Imperial Highness was constitutionally sensitive.
There was a certain gladness, a perceptible bustle in the air, how-
ever, which I thought slightly anomalous in a house where a great
author lay critically ill. "Le roy est mort — vive le roy": I was
reminded that another great author had already stepped into his
shoes. When I came down again after the nurse had taken
possession I found a strange gentleman hanging about the hall
and pacing to and fro by the closed door of the drawing-room.
This personage was florid and bald, he had a big red moustache
and wore showy knickerbockers — characteristics all that fitted into
my conception of the identity of Dora Forbes. In a moment I
saw what had happened: the author of 'The Other Way Round'

had

By Henry James

49
had just alighted at the portals of Prestidge, but had suffered a
scruple to restrain him from penetrating further. I recognised his
scruple when, pausing to listen at his gesture of caution, I heard a
shrill voice lifted in a prolonged monotonous quaver. The famous
reading had begun, only it was the author of 'Obsessions' who
now furnished the sacrifice. The new visitor whispered to me
that he judged something was going on that he oughtn't to
interrupt.

"Miss Collop arrived last night" I smiled, "and the Princess
has a thirst for the inédit."
Dora Forbes lifted his bushy brows. "Miss Collop?"

"Guy Walsingham, your distinguished confrère — or shall I say
your formidable rival?"

"Oh!" growled Dora Forbes. Then he added: "Shall I
spoil it if I go in?"

"I should think nothing could spoil it!" I ambiguously
laughed.

Dora Forbes evidently felt the dilemma; he gave an irritated
crook to his moustache. "ShallI go in?" he presently asked.
We looked at each other hard a moment; then I expressed
something bitter that was in me, expressed it in an infernal
"Yes!" After this I got out into the air, but not so quickly as
not to hear, as the door of the drawing-room opened, the dis-
concerted drop of Miss Collop's public manner: she must have
been in the midst of the larger latitude. Producing with extreme
rapidity, Guy Walsingham has just published a work in which
amiable people who are not initiated have been pained to see the
genius of a sister-novelist held up to unmistakable ridicule; so
fresh an exhibition does it seem to them of the dreadful way men
have always treated women. Dora Forbes, it is true, at the
present hour, is immensely pushed by Mrs. Wimbush, and has sat

The Yellow Book—Vol. I, D

for

50

The Death of the Lion

for his portrait to the young artists she protects, sat for it not
only in oils but in monumental alabaster.

What happened at Prestidge later in the day is of course con-
temporary history. If the interruption I had whimsically sanc-
tioned was almost a scandal, what is to be said of that general
dispersal of the company which, under the doctor's rule, began to
take place in the evening? His rule was soothing to behold, small
comfort as I was to have at the end. He decreed in the interest
of his patient an absolutely soundless house and a consequent
break-up of the party. Little country practitioner as he was, he
literally packed off the Princess. She departed as promptly as if
a revolution had broken out, and Guy Walsingham emigrated with
her. I was kindly permitted to remain, and this was not denied
even to Mrs. Wimbush. The privilege was withheld indeed
from Dora Forbes; so Mrs. Wimbush kept her latest capture
temporarily concealed. This was so little, however, her usual way
of dealing with her eminent friends that a couple of days of it
exhausted her patience, and she went up to town with him in
great publicity. The sudden turn for the worse her afflicted
guest had, after a brief improvement, taken on the third night
raised an obstacle to her seeing him before her retreat; a fortunate
circumstance doubtless, for she was fundamentally disappointed in
him. This was not the kind of performance for which she had
invited him to Prestidge, or invited the Princess. Let me hasten
to add that none of the generous acts which have characterised her
patronage of intellectual and other merit have done so much for
her reputation as her lending Neil Paraday the most beautiful of
her numerous homes to die in. He took advantage to the utmost
of the singular favour. Day by day I saw him sink, and I roamed
alone about the empty terraces and gardens. His wife never came
near him, but I scarcely noticed it: as I paced there with rage in

my

By Henry James

51
my heart I was too full of another wrong. In the event of his
death it would fall to me perhaps to bring out in some charming
form, with notes, with the tenderest editorial care, that precious
heritage of his written project. But where wasthat precious
heritage, and were both the author and the book to have been
snatched from us? Lady Augusta wrote me that she had done
all she could and that poor Lord Dorimont, who had really been
worried to death, was extremely sorry. I couldn't have the matter
out with Mrs. Wimbush, for I didn't want to be taunted by her
with desiring to aggrandise myself by a public connection with
Mr. Paraday's sweepings. She had signified her willingness to
meet the expense of all advertising, as indeed she was always ready
to do. The last night of the horrible series, the night before
he died, I put my ear closer to his pillow.

"That thing I read you that morning, you know."

"In your garden — that dreadful day? Yes!"

"Won't it do as it is?"

"It would have been a glorious book."

"It is a glorious book,"Neil Paraday murmured. "Print it as
it stands — beautifully."

"Beautifully!" I passionately promised.
It may be imagined whether, now that he has gone, the promise
seems to me less sacred. I am convinced that if such pages had
appeared in his lifetime the Abbey would hold him to-day. I
have kept the advertising in my own hands, but the manuscript
has not been recovered. It's impossible, and at any rate intoler-
able, to suppose it can have been wantonly destroyed. Perhaps
some chance blundering hand, some brutal ignorance has lighted
kitchen-fires with it. Every stupid and hideous accident haunts
my meditations. My undiscouragable search for the lost treasure
would make a long chapter. Fortunately I have a devoted

associate

52

The Death of the Lion

associate in the person of a young lady who has every day a fresh
indignation and a fresh idea and who maintains with intensity
that the prize will still turn up. Sometimes I believe her, but I
have quite ceased to believe myself. The only thing for us, at
all events, is to go on seeking and hoping together; and we should
be closely united by this firm tie even were we not at present by
another.





MLA citation: James, Henry. "The Death of a Lion." The Yellow Book 1 (Apr. 1894): 7-52. The Yellow Nineties Online. Ed. Dennis Denisoff and Lorraine Janzen Kooistra. Ryerson University, 2010. Web. [Date of access]. http://www.1890s.ca/HTML.aspx?s=YBV1_james_death.html