’What an excellent character he would make in a novel! A drama of sterility,’ said Phillips.
‘Or the dramas which they bring about,’ said Harding.
’Yes, or the dramas they bring about. But what drama can Price bring about—he shuts himself up in a room and tries to write a play,’ said Phillips. ‘I don’t see how he can dramatise any life but his own.’
‘All deviations from the normal tend to bring about drama,’ said Harding.
’Then, why don’t you do a Hubert Price in a book? It would be most interesting. Do you think you ever will?’
‘I don’t think so.’
‘Why not? Because he is a friend of yours, and you would not like——’
’I never allow my private life to interfere with my literature. No; for quite other reasons. I admit that he represents physically and mentally a great deal of the intellectual impotence current in our time. But it would be difficult, I think, to bring vividly before the reader that tall, thin, blonde man, with his pale gentle eyes and his insipid mind. I should take quite a different kind of man as my model.’
‘What kind of man?’ said Phillips, and the five or six writers and painters leaned forward to listen to Harding.
’I think I should imagine a man about the medium height. A nice figure, light, trim, neat. Good-looking, straight nose, eyes bright and intelligent. I think he would have beard, a very close-cut beard. The turn of his mind would be metaphysical and poetic—an intense subtility of mind combined with much order. He would be full of little habits. He would have note-books of a special kind in which to enter his ideas. The tendency of his mind would be towards concision, and he would by degrees extend his desire for concision into the twilight and the night of symbolism.’
‘A sort of constipated Browning,’ said Phillips.
‘Exactly,’ said Harding.
‘And would you have him married?’ asked John Norton.
’Certainly. I imagine him living in a tiny little house somewhere near the river—Westminster or Chelsea. His wife would be a dreadful person, thin, withered, herring-gutted—a sort of red herring with a cap. But his daughter would be charming, she would have inherited her father’s features. I can imagine these women living in admiration of this man, tending on him, speaking very little, removed from worldly influences, seeing only the young men who come every Tuesday evening to listen to the poet’s conversation—I don’t hear them saying much—I can see them sitting in a corner listening for the ten thousandth time to aestheticisms not one word of which they understand, and about ten o’clock stealing away to some mysterious chamber. Something of the poet’s sterility would have descended upon them.’