Mr. Gosse has written Swinburne’s life with distinction and understanding; but it was so eventless a life that the biographer’s is not an easy task. The book contains plenty of entertainment, however. It is amusing to read of the author of Anactoria as a child going about with Bowdler’s Shakespeare under his arm and, in later years, assisting Jowett in the preparation of a Child’s Bible.
THE WORK OF T.M. KETTLE
To have written books and to have died in battle has been a common enough fate in the last few years. But not many of the young men who have fallen in the war have left us with such a sense of perished genius as Lieutenant T.M. Kettle, who was killed at Ginchy. He was one of those men who have almost too many gifts to succeed. He had the gift of letters and the gift of politics; he was a mathematician, an economist, a barrister, and a philosopher; he was a Bohemian as well as a scholar; as one listened to him, one suspected at times that he must be one of the most brilliant conversationalists of the age. He lived in a blaze of adoration as a student, and, though this adoration was tempered by the abuse of opponents in his later years, he still had a way of going about as a conqueror with his charm. Had he only had a little ordinariness in his composition to harden him, he would almost certainly have ended as the leading Irish statesman of his day. He was undoubtedly ambitious of success in the grand style. But with his ambition went the mood of Ecclesiastes, which reminded him of the vanity of ambition. In his youth he adhered to Herbert Spencer’s much-quoted saying: “What I need to realize is how infinitesimal is the importance of anything I can do, and how infinitely important it is that I should do it.” But, while with Spencer this was a call to action, with Kettle it was rather a call to meditation, to discussion. He was the Hamlet of modern Ireland. And it is interesting to remember that in one of his early essays he defended Hamlet against the common charge of “inability to act,” and protested that he was the victim,