My drawing-room in Bedford Court, that night on which the violent drama of my life recommenced, indicated fairly the sorts of success which I had achieved, and the direction of my tastes. The victim of Diaz had gradually passed away, and a new creature had replaced her—a creature rapidly developed, and somewhat brazened in the process under the sun of an extraordinary double prosperity in London. I had soon learnt that my face had a magic to win for me what wealth cannot buy. My books had given me fame and money. And I could not prevent the world from worshipping the woman whom it deemed the gods had greatly favoured. I could not have prevented it, even had I wished, and I did not wish, I knew well that no merit and no virtue, but merely the accident of facial curves, and the accident of a convolution of the brain, had brought me this ascendancy, and at first I reminded myself of the duty of humility. But when homage is reiterated, when the pleasure of obeying a command and satisfying a caprice is begged for, when roses are strewn, and even necks put down in the path, one forgets to be humble; one forgets that in meekness alone lies the sole good; one confuses deserts with the hazards of heredity.
However, in the end fate has no favourites. A woman who has beauty wants to frame it in beauty. The eye is a sensualist, and its appetites, once aroused, grow. A beautiful woman takes the same pleasure in the sight of another beautiful woman as a man does; only jealousy or fear prevents her from admitting the pleasure. I collected beautiful women.... Elegance is a form of beauty. It not only enhances beauty, but it is the one thing which will console the eye for the absence of beauty. The first rule which I made for my home was that in it my eye should not be offended. I lost much, doubtless, by adhering to it, but not more than I gained. And since elegance is impossible without good manners, and good manners are a convention, though a supremely good one, the society by which I surrounded myself was conventional; superficially, of course, for it is the business of a convention to be not more than superficial. Some persons after knowing my drawing-room were astounded by my books, others after reading my books were astounded by my drawing-room; but these persons lacked perception. Given elegance, with or without beauty itself, I had naturally sought, in my friends, intellectual courage, honest thinking, kindness of heart, creative talent, distinction, wit. My search had not been unfortunate.... You see Heaven had been so kind to me!
That night in my drawing-room (far too full of bric-a-brac of all climes and ages), beneath the blaze of the two Empire chandeliers, which Vicary, the musical composer, had found for me in Chartres, there were perhaps a dozen guests assembled.