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    Chapter 14

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    Chapter 14
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    I attempted to restore one old friend of my father's to the
    practice of his youth, but failed though he, unlike my father, had
    not changed his belief. My father brought me to dine with Jack
    Nettleship at Wigmore Street, once inventor of imaginative designs
    and now a painter of melodramatic lions. At dinner I had talked a
    great deal--too much, I imagine, for so young a man, or may be for
    any man--and on the way home my father, who had been plainly
    anxious that I should make a good impression, was very angry. He
    said I had talked for effect and that talking for effect was
    precisely what one must never do; he had always hated rhetoric and
    emphasis and had made me hate it; and his anger plunged me into
    great dejection. I called at Nettleship's studio the next day to
    apologise and Nettleship opened the door himself and received me
    with enthusiasm. He had explained to some woman guest that I would
    probably talk well, being an Irishman, but the reality had
    surpassed, etc., etc. I was not flattered, though relieved at not
    having to apologise, for I soon discovered that what he really
    admired was my volubility, for he himself was very silent. He
    seemed about sixty, had a bald head, a grey beard, and a nose, as
    one of my father's friends used to say, like an opera glass, and
    sipped cocoa all the afternoon and evening from an enormous tea
    cup that must have been designed for him alone, not caring how
    cold the cocoa grew. Years before he had been thrown from his
    horse while hunting and broken his arm and, because it had been
    badly set, suffered great pain for along time. A little whiskey
    would always stop the pain, and soon a little became a great deal
    and he found himself a drunkard, but having signed his liberty
    away for certain months he was completely cured. He had acquired,
    however, the need of some liquid which he could sip constantly. I
    brought him an admiration settled in early boyhood, for my father
    had always said, 'George Wilson was our born painter but
    Nettleship our genius,' and even had he shown me nothing I could
    care for, I had admired him still because my admiration was in my
    bones. He showed me his early designs and they, though often badly
    drawn, fulfilled my hopes. Something of Blake they certainly did
    show, but had in place of Blake's joyous intellectual energy a
    Saturnian passion and melancholy. 'God creating evil' the death-
    like head with a woman and a tiger coming from the forehead, which
    Rossetti--or was it Browning?--had described 'as the most sublime
    design of ancient or modern art' had been lost, but there was
    another version of the same thought and other designs never
    published or exhibited. They rise before me even now in
    meditation, especially a blind Titan-like ghost floating with
    groping hands above the treetops. I wrote a criticism, and
    arranged for reproductions with the editor of an art magazine, but
    after it was written and accepted the proprietor, lifting what I
    considered an obsequious caw in the Huxley, Tyndall, Carolus
    Duran, Bastien-Lepage rookery, insisted upon its rejection.
    Nettleship did not mind its rejection, saying, 'Who cares for such
    things now? Not ten people,' but he did mind my refusal to show
    him what I had written. Though what I had written was all eulogy,
    I dreaded his judgment for it was my first art criticism. I hated
    his big lion pictures, where he attempted an art too much
    concerned with the sense of touch, with the softness or roughness,
    the minutely observed irregularity of surfaces, for his genius;
    and I think he knew it. 'Rossetti used to call my pictures 'pot-
    boilers,' he said, 'but they are all--all,' and he waved his arms
    to the canvases, 'symbols.' When I wanted him to design gods and
    angels and lost spirits once more, he always came back to the
    point, 'Nobody would be pleased.' 'Everybody should have a
    _raison d'etre_' was one of his phrases. 'Mrs--'s articles
    are not good but they are her _raison d'etre_.' I had but
    little knowledge of art, for there was little scholarship in the
    Dublin Art School, so I overrated the quality of anything that
    could be connected with my general beliefs about the world. If I
    had been able to give angelical, or diabolical names to his lions
    I might have liked them also and I think that Nettleship himself
    would have liked them better, and liking them better have become a
    better painter. We had the same kind of religious feeling, but I
    could give a crude philosophical expression to mine while he could
    only express his in action or with brush and pencil. He often told
    me of certain ascetic ambitions, very much like my own, for he had
    kept all the moral ambition of youth with a moral courage peculiar
    to himself, as for instance--'Yeats, the other night I was
    arrested by a policeman--was walking round Regent's Park
    barefooted to keep the flesh under--good sort of thing to do--I
    was carrying my boots in my hand and he thought I was a burglar;
    and even when I explained and gave him half a crown, he would not
    let me go till I had promised to put on my boots before I met the
    next policeman.'

    He was very proud and shy, and I could not imagine anybody asking
    him questions, and so I was content to take these stories as they
    came, confirmations of stories I had heard in boyhood. One story
    in particular had stirred my imagination, for, ashamed all my
    boyhood of my lack of physical courage, I admired what was beyond
    my imitation. He thought that any weakness, even a weakness of
    body, had the character of sin, and while at breakfast with his
    brother, with whom he shared a room on the third floor of a corner
    house, he said that his nerves were out of order. Presently he
    left the table, and got out through the window and on to a stone
    ledge that ran along the wall under the windowsills. He sidled
    along the ledge, and turning the corner with it, got in at a
    different window and returned to the table. 'My nerves,' he said,
    'are better than I thought.'
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