He was earnest and eager to-night in his praise of Waymark’s book, which he had just read in manuscript.
“It is horrible,” he exclaimed; “often hideous and revolting to me; but I feel its absolute truth. Such a book will do more good than half a dozen religious societies.”
“If only people can be got to read it. Yet I care nothing for that aspect of the thing. Is it artistically strong? Is it good as a picture? There was a time when I might have written in this way with a declared social object. That is all gone by. I have no longer a spark of social enthusiasm. Art is all I now care for, and as art I wish my work to be judged.”
“One would have thought,” said Julian, “that increased knowledge of these fearful things would have had just the opposite effect.”
“Yes,” exclaimed the other, with the smile which always prefaced some piece of self-dissection, “and so it would in the case of a man born to be a radical. I often amuse myself with taking to pieces my former self. I was not a conscious hypocrite in those days of violent radicalism, working-man’s-club lecturing, and the like; the fault was that I understood myself as yet so imperfectly. That zeal on behalf of the suffering masses was nothing more nor less than disguised zeal on behalf of my own starved passions. I was poor and desperate, life had no pleasures, the future seemed hopeless, yet I was overflowing with vehement desires, every nerve in me was a hunger which cried to be appeased. I identified myself with the poor and ignorant; I did not make their cause my own, but my own cause theirs. I raved for freedom because I was myself in the bondage of unsatisfiable longing.”
“Well,” he went on, after regarding his listener with still the same smile, “I have come out of all that, in proportion as my artistic self-consciousness has developed. For one thing, I am not so miserable as I was then, personally; then again, I have found my vocation. You know pretty well the phases I have passed through. Upon ranting radicalism followed a period of philosophical study. My philosophy, I have come to see, was worth nothing; what philosophy is worth anything? It had its use for myself, however; it made me by degrees self-conscious, and brought me to see that in art alone I could find full satisfaction.”