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    Chapter 7

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    Chapter 7
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    It became the custom, both at Henley's and at Bedford Park, to say
    that R. A. M. Stevenson, who frequented both circles, was the
    better talker. Wilde had been trussed up like a turkey by
    undergraduates, dragged up and down a hill, his champagne emptied
    into the ice tub, hooted in the streets of various towns and I
    think stoned, and no newspaper named him but in scorn; his manner
    had hardened to meet opposition and at times he allowed one to see
    an unpardonable insolence. His charm was acquired and systematised,
    a mask which he wore only when it pleased him, while the charm
    of Stevenson belonged to him like the colour of his hair. If
    Stevenson's talk became monologue we did not know it, because
    our one object was to show by our attention that he need never
    leave off. If thought failed him we would not combat what he
    had said, or start some new theme, but would encourage him with a
    question; and one felt that it had been always so from childhood
    up. His mind was full of phantasy for phantasy's sake and he gave
    as good entertainment in monologue as his cousin Robert Louis in
    poem or story. He was always 'supposing:' 'Suppose you had two
    millions what would you do with it?' and 'Suppose you were in
    Spain and in love how would you propose?' I recall him one
    afternoon at our house at Bedford Park, surrounded by my brother
    and sisters and a little group of my father's friends, describing
    proposals in half a dozen countries. There your father did it,
    dressed in such and such a way with such and such words, and there
    a friend must wait for the lady outside the chapel door, sprinkle
    her with holy water and say 'My friend Jones is dying for love of
    you.' But when it was over, those quaint descriptions, so full of
    laughter and sympathy, faded or remained in the memory as
    something alien from one's own life like a dance I once saw in a
    great house, where beautifully dressed children wound a long
    ribbon in and out as they danced. I was not of Stevenson's party
    and mainly I think because he had written a book in praise of
    Velasquez, praise at that time universal wherever Pre-Raphaelitism
    was accurst, and to my mind, that had to pick its symbols where
    its ignorance permitted, Velasquez seemed the first bored
    celebrant of boredom. I was convinced, from some obscure
    meditation, that Stevenson's conversational method had joined him
    to my elders and to the indifferent world, as though it were right
    for old men, and unambitious men and all women, to be content with
    charm and humour. It was the prerogative of youth to take sides
    and when Wilde said: 'Mr. Bernard Shaw has no enemies but is
    intensely disliked by all his friends,' I knew it to be a phrase I
    should never forget, and felt revenged upon a notorious hater of
    romance, whose generosity and courage I could not fathom.
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