Mr Hall and Louis Moore were on their walking-tour in the Lake District. It was the summer vacation, and so Henry Sympson's lessons were put to a standstill till September: and Louis had availed himself of the opportunity to accept Mr Hall's invitation to accompany him to that scenic place. He would ordinarily have taken hi sister Margaret with ihm, but her rheumatism dissuaded her: besides, an intimacy had sprung up between her and Hortense Moore, and she had promised to accompany Miss Moore and Miss Mann to Wormwood Wells, a watering-place. Henry would fain have gone on the walking trip, but then he had to go to Bath with his family.
They had brought little cash with them but it sufficed to make their stay comfortable. Mr Moore was still young, and Mr Hall was a hardy Yorkshireman, and rough living did not perturb their sleep. They stayed at inns along the way, and during the day, would wander to rocks high and magnificent, flowing streams and admire the milder beds of daffodils. Mr Hall professed himself to be an admirer of botany, which flowers contented him, but Louis was of the sublime school. He would move up the most unusual spots in order to sketch a particular view, which was more often than not grand or forbidding. To no avail did MR Hall protest against this strange habit. Several times they were caught in the rain, but the younger man seemed to be unaffected.
"Ah! I am not as young as I was," said Mr Hall, "when rain did not impede my steps. How is that poem coming along, Louis?"
"I have not the inspiration to finish it, Hall."
"Pity! It was quite promising."
"I cannot compose unless the mood seizes me."
"Still, many of our finest poets write infrequently," mused Mr Hall. "I supposed you intend on a poetic career in your leisure?"
"I doubt it."
"You ought not to underrate your abilities, Louis. You may not earn your bread in verse, but then you might have a reputation." Louis smiled at his friend's earnestness: his eyes widened behind his round spectacles, not unlike a child's.
"Perhaps we shall see you reviewed in the Spectator or the Edinburgh Review, or the Quarterly."
"The fire for poetry does not come as quick and powerful as it ought to. I am past the age of poetic fire - that is for men in their twenties. If I am to pursue a career in literature, it would be as an essayist."
"Indeed!" and Mr Hall pushed his spectacles further up his nose. "It does not earn very much does it?"
"It does not," Louis admitted, "though my present employment is not exceedingly profitable."
"Beside, how would you go about getting employment in a periodical? I should not think it easy - for you are not within a London circle. Mind you, I am not disparaging your talents - I only wish a roof over your head."
"I must own an ulterior motive in coming with you here," said Louis, smiling. "I had written to Southey before we left Yorkshire."
"Robert Southey?" enquired Mr Hall.
"The very same. I showed him a cutting of my poem and he was encouraging about it. He has invited me to his residence should I come to the Lake District."
"He must think highly of your abilities, then. To be sure, I did not think he was one of your heroes. He is more of a Gothic poet, is he not? - vampires and emirs and such?"
"So far his major works have, unfortunately, encompassed those sensational subjects," said Louis, grimacing, "though he is known too for his nature poems."
Notes: Robert Southey was poet Laureate from 1813-1843 (I think). He was one of the Lake Poets consisting of him, wordsworth and Coleridge, but poor Southey never made it past the Victorians. Probably because as one of his contemporary reviewers shrewdly said, he lacked power, though in harmony he was better off than Wordsworth. In the 1830s, Charlotte Brontë wrote to Southey asking for advice as she wanted to become a poet. Southey was generous with advice to women and working-class poets, which shows you he is not the sexist that Brontë fans would have you believe. But in his time, he did better than Wordsworth and Coleridge. One of his famous works is the Gothic Thalaba the Destroyer. Not only was he a well-known poet, he was a biographer and man of letters. He wrote the life of Nelson, still in print to this day.
Unfortuantely I don't know much about his life and character which is why I'm slow at continuing this piece. But apparently he was a helpful person. He did invite Charlotte Brontë to come and visit him if ever she was in his district. So I thought it would be in character for him to invite Louis Moore as well. I didn't put in Wordsworth, because Wordsworth was not known for being hospitable. He would charge his guests money for their keep (this was taboo in those generous 19th century days) and was very economical. Coleridge was a bit of a wanderer and an opium addict. He reached a wider audience with his lectures than his poetry. So Southey was actually the most reputable, established poet, so to speak.
Smoenoe at fanfiction.net suggested I should include Mr Sweeting and Dora Sykes and the minor characters. I'd love to, only I know so little about these characters, and they are not (I feel) as fascinating as the major ones. Still, I might give it a try.
Caroline braved herself to Fieldhead to see Shirley. She did not like the Sympsons much, but at least they did not disapprove of the presence of the Rector's niece, being a pious family. Miss Helstone would not be talked down to, or if she was talked down to, it was due to her age and inexperience rather than her position in society. This she could bear.
The first persons she saw on entering the drawing-room were the Sympsons, but no Shirley.
"Where can Shirley be?" she thought, as the housekeeper, Mrs Gill, said that she would inform Miss Keeldar of her arrival. "Surely she ought to be here, entertaining her guest?" For she had espied a newcomer, Mr Sam Wynne, seated beside Mr Sympson and engaged in conversation with the older gentleman.
Mr Sam Wynne liked to think himself of the dashing sort - as dashing as one could get in Briarfield and Whinbury, at least - he was talkative, and apt to be impatient with those who shied away. That Shirley, who was by nature quieter than you would have supposed, had engaged his affections, was a mystery to Caroline.
"I suppose he sees in her some sort of ideal," she mused. "She is higher than him - no doubt a prize, or a 'good catch,' as matrons say."
Mr Sympson gave a half-bow, Mrs Sympson and their daughters greeted her, and Mr Wynne continued to neglect her. If he greeted her by name it was insincere. She did not care for Mr Wynne's approbation, however, but cast her eyes to the old carpet.
"I suppose you are acquainted with Mr Wynne, Miss Helstone," said Mrs Sympson.
Caroline raised her eyes from the carpet. "We are slightly acquainted, ma'am, though we have scarcely met."
"Oh what shall I say?" she thought, wishing this was all over.
To do Mrs Sympson justice she made some effort to speak to Caroline, seeing that this young lady was by nature modest, unassuming and (presumably) pious. "Your uncle came over the other day to visit my niece. He has been telling us about the Methodist preachers in the parish."
"Oh, yes. I fear they are drawing away our congregationists."
"One does not wish to speak ill of fellow-Christians - but I cannot say I trust these preachers. Their intention seems to be to rouse dissent among the working-classes against the gentry. One ought to be contented with one's position."
Caroline murmured assent, though her heart rebelled. "Against the gentry?" she thought. "What a poor reason for disliking the Methodists! Now, if I were to give a reason for detesting those hypocritical lay-preachers, who only seek to take away money from their labouring congregation, it would be that they stir up trouble for the manufacturers. I daresay Robert has a hard time dealing with them." But what would Mrs Sympson know of manufacturers? She was of the gentry.
A light step tread in the doorway: it was Shirley.
"My dear," said Mrs Sympson, "Miss Helstone has been waiting for you all this while."
Mr Wynne rose to his feet at the sight of this vision, his intended bride. "Very good to see you again, Miss Keeldar." Shirley was courteous but unbending: she did not bestow to him the smiles she often wore with her friend Caroline. If Shirley Keeldar had been less privy to the concerns of her tenants and the poor, less cordial to her Rector and to her middle-class neighbours, she might have been reckoned proud. To Mr Wynne she chose to curb her liveliness, and so he stopped, lost for words, for deep within he had a conviction that Miss Keeldar was superior to him.
Shirley knew her friend felt weak in the drawing-room; she took her arm in hers and led her away from that more modern room. "How have you been gettting along with my aunt. I did not expect it of you - you, who are so quiet in company."
"I did not say much, Shirley."
"But still you held on firmly. Usually you tremble."
"I think it is because they are your relations, Shirley, and with you as a mutual friend how could I not feel better?"
"That is very good of you."
"Besides, Mr and Mrs Sympson are not proud."
"You think so? I have always suspected my uncle of his share of pompousness."
"Perhaps he is pompous in his opinions, but not in his manner to me. His manners are more gentlemanlike than Mr Sam Wynne's. I do not feel the sense of inferiority in his presence as I do with the Sykes, though is above them."
"I expect it is because you feel the Sykes ought to see you as an equal - and that Mr Sympson ought to be proud."
Caroline shook her head. "He makes no effort to talk to me, Shirley: the Sykes neglect me when I am not disposed to talk."
"You are a good listener, and of a gentle disposition. Now I am of a rebellious disposition, which is against his temperament."
They had reached the top of the oak staircase, where Malone had stumbled and fallen a few months ago, and entered Shirley's sitting-room. But the chair which usually held Mrs Pryoy was empty, and so was teh box where she kept her knittting.
"Is Mrs Pryor gone visiting?" asked Caroline, bewildered.
"She has gone to pay a call on Miss Mann"
"Miss Mann! It will not be easy on Mrs Pryor's ear."
"I think, Caroline, Mrs Pryor might enjoy her visits far more than you anticipate. Miss Mann is censorious, but she is an excellent provider of gossip. How do you think Mrs Pryor knows of everyone's doings? Now let us sit and have a good talk."
Caroline espied the corner of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage from Shirley's work-basket, and remembered what she had come for. "There is something I have been meaning to tell you, Shirley. I met my cousin Louis at Hortense's cottage. You know how very cool and reserved he is. Well, he was frank and open that day."
"Very good. I suppose he is naturally more open with his sister."
"It was different this time, Shirley. He is extremely well-read, original and an excellent conversationalist. I did not expect it at all. Why, he knows a great deal of modern poetry - far more than you."
"I don't pretend to be a scholar, Cary."And she picked up her book and began to read.
"Oh, do listen! We were discussing poetry, and he recommended me to read more Wordsworth. Though I am afraid he doesn't care for Byron." She described their conversation, but Shirley's response was to smile. "And he says he will lend me the Edinburgh review next time he gets it from Mr Hall."
"I see you have become a favourite with Mr Moore."
"Because we both enjoy poetry - so do you, Shirley. You ought to listen to him. If I, who am nervous with people can speak quite easily with him, so can you. You should not be so reserved with him."
"Perhaps Mr Moore doesn't care for the conversation of one as woefully ignorant as I am."
"Nonsense!" But here Mrs Pryor came in. "Oh, are you back from Miss Mann's, Mrs Pryor? How did you enjoy her company?"
"She was in excellent spirits today."
"A most uncommon circumstance, to be sure," muttered Shirley, repressing a smile.
"My dear, that was not very nice of you," chided her former governess, though she, too, was amused.
"Tell us, what was the source of her spirits?"
"She has had a visit from Mr Hall and Mr Moore - that is, Mr Louis Moore," seeing that Caroline had suddenly become alert.
"Poor Louis," Caroline murmured, nudging Shirley. "I am sure he has caught the sharp end of her tongue."
"On the contrary, Cary," said Mrs Pryor, "she is at present most pleased with him. Apparently he has written a poem and it was published in one of the magazines."
"I did not think she was of a poetical inclination."
"She is not, but this time it is an exception. You see, she was the subject of Mr Moore's poem."
Both girls looked up at once. "The subject of Mr Moore's poem!" they exclaimed.
"In that case," said Shirley, "she could not have read it, or else she would not have been pleased."
"You are mistaken on that, my dear," said Mrs Pryor, triumphantly, "she has read it, and I trust will read it again and again."
"What is poetical about Miss Mann?" cried Caroline.
"You have echoed my thoughts," said Shirley.
"It is not one of Byron's exoticisms, my dears. The present style for enlightened poetry, I understand, is to describe the real and the rural - which is what Mr Moore has done. Though he did cast Miss Mann as a tragic heroine, I thought."
"I never expected it of Louis - did you, Shirley? We were speaking of him before you came in, ma'am. I was telling Shirley how interesting his conversation is. You have lived in the same house as him for some time, ma'am. What is your opinion on him?"
"It is hard to say."
"There is only one other person whom you refuse to pronounce an opinion on - and that is his brother," said Shirley. "I wonder what is so curious in both of them?"
Mrs Pryor only smiled.
"Surely your reticence on that point cannot be because you dislike them," cried Caroline, "for Louis is not one of those whom you dislike. What attention he gets is little, that is true, but it is not bad."
"My dears, Louis Moore is one of those characters whose nature is hidden from us. Were I to pronounce an opinion on his character I would be proven wrong."
"And what about Robert?"
"I hardly see Mr Robert Moore - it would hardly be seemly for me to judge him."
"Oh, you have judged others whom you have seen little of!" Shirley exclaimed. "Mrs Pryor is incorrigible, Caroline."
"What did you think of his poem, ma'am?" asked Caroline.
"I only saw a short part of it, but what I saw was commendable and in taste."
"Do you hear that, Shirley? Mrs Pryor likes Louis' poetry, and she is not easy to please, are you not, Mrs Pryor? You ought to give him a chance. Mrs Pryor, Shirley will not listen to me - she will not unbend to my cousin Louis."
Mrs Pryor studied her ex-pupil shrewdly. "Mr Louis Moore is not of a temperament one easily unbends to," she observed."True," mused Caroline, "and I could only get him to talk when we discussed poetry. Though to be sure, he is so grave - do you know, Mrs Pryor, he dislikes Byron?"
"Did he speak thus? It is well he did, for I had thought he was a man much given to his feelings. You do not know the consequences of passion, my child - do not be deluded."
Caroline would have protested, but the distress on her interlocutor's face stopped her tongue. She asked, instead, "So you think Louis is given much to his feelings, ma'am?"
"It was a mere notion, Cary." Caroline looked at Shirley to see if she had heard this, but Shirley was still bent at her sample, unconscious.
"I would not have thought so: he is against the notion of passion." Then she recollected the way he had spoken of Wordsworth and the solitary wanderer. "Perhaps, being a passionate person, he is disposed to regard it as a weakness."
"Well," exclaimed Caroline, "let us have a celebration. I am part of a literary family and I am proud of Louis."
Mrs Pryor smiled indulgently. "My dear, Mr Moore will not desire the fuss over him."
Caroline's face clouded. She had looked forward to meeting a real poet (not in the same class as Cowper, of course), having had in her imagination conversed with Cowper or Burns. The visions were always unreal and fragmentary, and ultimately unsatisfactory. Were poets always the men they seemed in their poems? She felt Cowper was, and yet though she would have liked to have spoken to that man, she knew that had she lived in his time she would not have warmed up to him. Strange! that souls of a kindred should be repelled. She had also an unfulfilled desire for the society of clever people - not merely well-read, like Robert, but actually took an interest in deeper matters.
"I once cherished literary ambitions," Shirley mused, "when I was still a schoolgirl."
"And what happened?" asked Caroline.
"I gave up. My efforts were never clear delineations of what I intended to convey, and so it was of no use."
Caroline would have asked more, but Shirley did not seem receptive.
Louis Moore was certainly a different sort of man from what one generally saw in the district. Apart from his foreignness (he was born and bred in Belgium, and though he had spent some years at school in England he was still distinctly foreign even if his speech was pure and correct), he had the air of one who was not typical - not particularly attached to any group. You could not see the Belgian merchant, no, not even the Belgian schoolmaster in his countenance, but neither had he the bluff ease or that unusual sort of reserve you saw in the educated Englishman. He seemed distant often: to think rather than say was his habit. Caroline saw a fellow-creature of silence and was encouraged. With voluble, assured persons she felt constrained: with a shy person she was at her most confident. Gradually she sought his company and conversation.
But he was reserved. He did not seem eager for her smiles - she was disappointed. Robert no longer being hers, befriending one who was dear to him would have been a consolence for his absence. Hortense was a very good woman undoubtedly, but Louis had intellect - some of the mental hardness she esteemed in his brother
Thus it came as a surprise to her when Mr Hall enumerated the virtues of Louis Moore: namely, his excellent conversation.
"But he scarcely says a word," Caroline protested.
"I have found him witty and well-spoken. Louis is well-read - well-thought too. I have not seen the likes of such a man in Briarfield. Mind you," said Mr Hall, musing, "he is not the man to shine in company: he is better for personal conversations. You take after him, Caroline. Now Robert Moore is different altogether. He is more practical; Louis more bookish. I say nothing against Robert but one can't converse with him on books and reviews."
"Ah! you do not know him,' thought Caroline, recollecting the time they had read Shakespeare together. "Since you say so, Mr Hall, I must have done my cousin an injustice."
"You have, Caroline, you have."
"Only it is strange: Shirley Keeldar has taken effort to include him, and she has always failed. I don't think she likes him much - and you know how kind she is."
"She doesn't know him, otherwise she would not do him an injustice."
Caroline would have liked to see Shirley more often, but the presence of the Sympsons cooled her nerve, constrained her tongue. The Miss Sympsons were of the sort to awe her: elegant and cultivated, they could have nothing in common with the shy, unworldly Rector's daughter. So she stayed away from Fieldhead, to the disappointment of Shirley and Mrs Pryor. perhaps the latter understood Caroline's better than most, being of a taciturn nature herself, but did not venture to remark.
Her days being lonely, she would spend her time at Hollow's Cottage. Though Robert could not grace the house with his presence, at least she could talk - Hortense being more voluble than her uncle. Not seldom did Louis come over, his afternoon duties being done. Mr and Mrs Sympspson were no tyrants, though they might not be sympathetic.
Usually both ladies would be sewing for Miss Ainley's charity - mittens, scarves and hats. Caroline was not fond of sewing but sedentary hanits had given her a powerful conscience. Had she been lively and social she would not have thought of it, being too absorbed in pleasure. Now, any pain was easier to bear than the pain of loneliness and heartbreak.
Today, however, Hortense had decided that Caroline's progress in her studies was too slow to be neglected, and so assigned her to study Corneille and Racine. Oh, those dreary dramatists! Caroline suppressed a ywan,. and assumed an air of attention, while Hortense went to the kitchen to supervise the cooking.
"Mon Dieu!" cried Hortense Moore, with more effect to drama than fury, "what have you done, you stupid girl?" The stupid girl being Sarah, who had overboiled the harricot beans.
"Come, Hortense, what is the matter?" said a voice at the door. Caroline looked up: it was Louis Moore. He carried a nosegay with him - brilliant, rather like the heiress of Fieldhead. Hortense lunged into a passion against Sarah's unrefined notions of cooking, but tthen the sight of the flowers recalled her to the present. "Are they from Fieldhead, brother?"
"They are - Miss Keeldar has kindly requested me to give them to you personally."
"Ah!" said Hortense, knowingly, "are they for me, or for someone else?" the someone else, it was implied, being Robert. The whole of Briarfield parish was rife with the rumours that Miss Keeldar was in love with her tenant mill-owner. Caroline hid her face, not wishing them to discern the anguish that filled her every time someone mentioned the possibility of a match between Shirley and Robert.
Louis had caught sight of Caroline's work on the table, and bent over her. "What are you reading, Caroline?"
"I have been teaching Caroline Corneille and Racine, brother," answered Hortense, eager that her contribution should not go unnoticed.
"It is heavy reading, is it not?" he said to Caroline, who could not suppress a smile. "Never mind, they are all very well in their way. What does Hortense usually teach you?"
"French, sewing and arithmetic."
"Is that all?" When she nodded, he said, "Why, you must learn something more contemporary = French dramatists are good in their way, but there is so much in out time to see and read about."
"Do you think so. Louis?"
"I do. Why we are singularly fortunate that out time is a golden age for poetry."
"Oh, I do agree! I am fond of Cowper and Burns."
"The poets you speak of are fairly old, cousin - of the last century."
"But does their antiquity matter? When they are true, sincere, and express their thoughts simply - I would rather read them than any artificial turner of verse."
"We now have Wordsworth, and Coleridge, and Scott. You must try Wordsworth - particularly his Prelude. You have not read the Lyrical Ballads?"
"I have not."
"I am sure you will like them, Caroline - he depicts the countryside as it is - true and unfurnished by style."
"What about Coleridge?"
"He is mystical, fathomless - but considered a genius - far more so than Wordsworth. He is not so realistic as Wordsworth, however - he tends to envision strange scenes in strange lands, amidst witchcraft and sorcery."
"Oh! That would suit Shirley," cried Caroline, "she is fond of talking about mermaids and such. By the way, Louis, was she so whimsical as a child?"
"She was." Caroline hoped that he would say more, but he did not. Perhaps he did not care for Shirley. How could it be so, when that girl charmed nearly every sympathetic soul she met? Someone of Louis' intelligence and penetration, she felt, would appreciate Shirley's qualities.
"It is strange Shirley never told me what a great reader of modern poetry you are," she went on.
"I am not accustomed to discussing our literary preferences in the schoolroom," said Louis. "The schoolroom, you know, is an entirely different atmosphere from a parlour."
"Still," thought Caroline, "Shirley is frank and informal. Is this what they speak of - elective affinities?" Aloud, she said, "What do you say of Byron? Shirley has read part of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, and she raves over it. I have yet to procure a copy, however."
A smile formed on Louis Moore's lips. "I see you are initiated into the Byromania craze, cousin."
"Oh no," said Caroline, "I have not read his poetry yet. But he seems to be exceedingly popular."
"I often think popularity is not a guarantee of the worth of work." Caroline had often echoed these sentiments, and heartily agreed with her cousin.
"That is true, but what is your personal opinion of Byron?"
"He is overrated."
"Overrated!" cried Caroline, surprised, because she trusted Shirley's taste in poetry, which was akin to hers.
"It relies on sensation rather than reflection," said Louis, "not at all intellectual or tasteful. Besides, the author is clearly an egotist. Every page of that work is stamped with the author's personality in the form of the hero - and everyone else is unrealistic and undeveloped. No doubt Byron has an ear for rhythm, but rhythm is not everything. "
Caroline would have spoken, but in came Hortense with a dish of cherries which had a curious smell around it. This owed its existence to Sarah's insistence on cooking it in sugar instead of treacle, according to Mademoiselle Moore's grandmother. Ordinarily she would have criticised the maid to the others, but seeing that Caroline instead of paying attention to her book was rapt in interest by Louis' conversation, stopped. "What are you talking about?"
"We were speaking of Byron's poetry, Hortense," said Louis.
"Oh, do not speak to me of that name, brother! His works are positively wicked - not at all the sort of thing I would like a young girl to read," she added, looking at Caroline. "One would think, judging from his poetry, that all the author is interested in is passion."
"There is nothing wrong in feeling passion," Caroline protested.
"You have yet to see the world, Cary. Believe me, passion is overrated."
"And that is your real objection to Byron, cousin. If you don't like passion in poetry, Louis, I am afraid I will not think very well of Wordsworth whom you heartily recommend."
"On the contrary: my main objection to Byron is that he is merely passion. There is no solid intellect, no philosophy to admire, not even ordinary realism - which you will find in Wordsworth. And he is far from dispassionate: I would gladly trade the entirety of Childe Harold for one passage of Wordsworth. His passion, I think, is more restrained - harder to appreciate, but more satisfying. Wordsworth is not an author to be read aloud to ardent youths - he must be read in the silence of a room."
"The introspective wanderer seems to appeal to you," observed Caroline. She could not help thinking that Louis himself was one too.
"That is the spirit of our age, Caroline."
"Ours must be a dreary age, then."
"I beg to differ. The introspective wanderer is no dull subject for poetry. The public tends to commemorate authors of sensational adventures - but what is neglected is the mental aspect. The introspective wanderer affords the opportunity to dwell on deeper thoughts, particularly as they pertain to the author's own experiences. Why, Cowper's Castaway is clearly a case of the lone wanderer."
"That is true - and I am fond of that poem - but don't you think that this subject is painful and narrow? When there is but one person how many sides can we see? Does it not exclude the views of others?"
"There is an advantage, however. You cannot underrate the benefits of solitude. Only when there is solitude can there be democracy." Caroline raised her eyes at this: still he held his gaze at some unfathomable distance - he spoke more to himself than to her at that moment. "Does not the majority often shun the individual? Within a crowd, he dies unheard. But when he speaks alone, to please no audience but himself - then you have originality. That is how I would describe Wordsworth - his books do not sell well, but he remain true to his instincts."
"I agree with all you say, Louis, but then you underrate passion I think."
"And why is not Byron a visionary? He may not express all your high ideals, but then is it not visionary to imagine strange lands, rife with adventure and passion? And why is not passion visionary? It is so uncommon and so often mocked, its eccentricity is certain to become something exalted."
Further attempts to argue failed to dissuade Caroline or Louis. They parted, however, on good terms, and Louis promised to show Caroline a copy of the Edinburgh Review when it was next due.
"Do the Sympsons subscribe to it?" she asked, surprised, for she doubted he could afford it, and the Sympsons did not appear to be intellectually inclined.
"No, but Mr Hall does."
So he knew something of Mr Hall she never did. When she was alone in her room at the Rectory, she said to herself, "Strange! To think that I could never discuss passion with Robert without embarrassment - and yet I am at ease discussing this with Louis. Yet I like Robert more, and feel easier in his presence."