Masques & Phases eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 208 pages of information about Masques & Phases.
or myth.  Some of the greatest poets—­Ruskin and Pater for example—­have chosen prose for their instrument of expression.  If that theory is true of literature—­and I ask you to accept it as true—­how much truer is it of journalism, at least such journalism as mine; though I see a great gulf between literature and journalism far greater than that between fiction and essay-writing.  The line, too, dividing the poetry of Keats from the prose of Sir Thomas Browne is far narrower, in my opinion, than the line dividing Pope from Tennyson.  And I say this mindful of Byron’s scornful couplet and the recent animadversions of Lord Morley.

There are essays in my book cast in the form of fiction; criticism cast in the form of parody; and a vein of high seriousness sufficiently obvious, I hope, behind the masques and phases of my jesting.  The psychological effects produced by works of art and archaeology, by drama and books, on men and situations—­such are the themes of these passing observations.

And though you find them like an old patchwork quilt I hope you will laugh, in token of your acceptance, if not of the book at least of my lasting regard and friendship for yourself.

Ever yours,
Robert Ross.

5 Hertford Street, Mayfair, W.


It is a common error to confuse the archaeologist with the mere collector of ignoble trifles, equally pleased with an unusual postage stamp or a scarce example of an Italian primitive.  Nor should the impertinent curiosity of local antiquaries, which sees in every disused chalk-pit traces of Roman civilisation, be compared with the rare predilection requisite for a nobler pursuit.  The archaeologist preserves for us those objects which time has forgotten and passing fashion rejected; in the museums he buries our ancient eikons, where they become impervious to neglect, praise, or criticism; while the collector—­a malicious atavist unless he possess accidental perceptions—­merely rescues the mistakes of his forefathers, to crowd public galleries with an inconsequent lumber which a better taste has taught as to despise.

In the magic of escaped conventions surely none is more powerful than the Greek, and even now, though we yawn over the enthusiasm of the Renaissance mirrored in our more cadenced prose, there are some who can still catch the delightful contagion which seized the princes and philosophers of Europe in that Martin’s Summer of Middle Age.

Of the New Learning already become old, Professor Lachsyrma is reputed a master.  Scarcely any one in England holds a like position.  He is sixty, and, though his youth is said to have been eventful, he hardly looks his age.  He speaks English with a delightful accent, and there always hangs about his presence a melancholy halo of mystery and Italy.  His quiet unassumed familiarity with every museum

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Masques & Phases from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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