William Ernest Henley; a Study in the "Counter-Decadence" of the 'Nineties

By Jerome Hamilton Buckley | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 15.
EPILOGUE. ST. PAUL'S: JULY 11, 1907

IN THE Crypt of St. Paul's, on the fourth anniversary of Henley's death, Lord Plymouth unveiled a bronze replica of the bust sculptured by Rodin some twenty years earlier. Austin Dobson, Frederick Greenwood, Thomas Hardy, George Saintsbury, G. S. Street, H. G. Wells, teachers, admirers, disciples, these had come to honor the poet's memory. Plymouth read the warm tribute of George Meredith who was himself unable to attend the ceremony; Henley, he said, "was one of the main supports of good literature in our time," a man whose "inspiriting heartiness and inciting counsels gathered about him a troop of young writers who are proud in acknowledging their debt to him."1George Wyndham then delivered an éloge which Rodin had written from Paris; and to this he added a personal appreciation of his master's work. The service concluded with a benediction pronounced by the Archdeacon of London.

Late in the autumn of 1910 Wyndham made plans for a reunion of "five or six or seven who belonged to W. E. H.,"2 a final gathering of all who were left of the worshipful Regatta. Henley's best "lines," he told Whibley, were fast "becoming parts of English speech"; the world at last had accepted a poet who once could find no publisher; and it was very fitting that the Young Men, no longer young, should exchange recollections of a great man whom the common reader had never known. Wyndham's respect for the Chief's character may possibly have led him to overestimate the poet's capacity for survival. Assuredly with the coming of the "modernists," Henley's name suffered total eclipse; and no bronze memorial could preserve the luster of his reputation. In

____________________
1
Meredith, Letters, II, 600; see also "Memorial to W. E. Henley," The Times, July 12, 1907, p. 8.
2
Wyndham, quoted by Mackail and Wyndham, George Wyndham, II, 677.

-209-

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