Beerbohm’s essay, readable and wisely sympathetic as it is, contains a touch of the kind of caricature found in the drawings of his Pre-Raphaelite Circle, as well as a bias traceable in part to opinion fostered by Gosse. It is nevertheless an engaging picture of Swinburne and of Watts-Dunton in their later years (see Introduction, section VI).
From And Even Now (1920) by special permission of William Heinemann and E. P. Dutton, owners of the copyright.
[Early in the year 1914 Mr. Edmund Gosse told me he was asking certain of his friends to write for him a few words apiece in description of Swinburne as they had known or seen him at one time or another; and he was so good as to wish to include in this gathering a few words by myself. I found it hard to be brief without seeming irreverent. I failed in the attempt to make of my subject a snapshot that was not a grotesque. So I took refuge in an ampler scope. I wrote a reminiscential essay. From that essay I made an extract, which I gave to Mr. Gosse. From that extract he made a quotation in his enchanting biography. The words quoted by him reappear here in the midst of the whole essay as I wrote it. I dare not hope they are unashamed of their humble surroundings. —M. B.]
In my youth the suburbs were rather looked down on—I never quite knew why. It was held anomalous, and a matter for merriment, that Swinburne lived in one of them. For my part, had I known as a fact that Catullus was still alive, I should have been as ready to imagine him living in Putney as elsewhere. The marvel would have been merely that he lived. And Swinburne’s survival struck as surely as could his have struck in me the chord of wonder.
Not, of course, that he had achieved a feat of longevity. He was far from the Psalmist’s limit. Nor was he one of those men whom one associates with the era in which they happened to be young. Indeed, if