|About the Book|
It was my privilege, many years ago, to make the acquaintance of the obscure literary hermit, whose talk I have tried to reproduce in the pages that follow. Our first meeting was one of those chance affairs that now and then mitigate the lonelinessMoreIt was my privilege, many years ago, to make the acquaintance of the obscure literary hermit, whose talk I have tried to reproduce in the pages that follow. Our first meeting was one of those chance affairs that now and then mitigate the loneliness of the London streets, and a second hazard led to the discovery that we had many interests in common. I think that the Hermit (as I shall call him) had begun to find the perpetual solitude of his years a growing terror, and he was not sorry to have a listener- at first, indeed, he talked almost with the joy of a child, or rather of a prisoner who has escaped from the house of silence, but as he chose subjects which have always interested me intensely, he gave as much pleasure as he received, and I became an assiduous visitor of his cell. He had found an odd retreat. He avoided personalities, and had a happy knack of forgetting any that I vouchsafed on my side, (he forgot my name three times on the first evening that we spent together, and succeeded in repeating this feat over and over again since then), and I never gathered much of his past history. But I believe that something had happened many years before, in the prehistoric age of the seventies. There had been a break of some sort in the mans life when he was quite young- and so he had left the world and gone to Barnsbury, an almost mythical region lying between Pentonville and the Caledonian Road. Here, in the most retired street of that retired quarter, he occupied two rooms on the ground floor of a big, mouldy house, standing apart from the street and sheltered by gaunt grown trees and ancient shrubs- and just beside the dim and dusty window of the sitting-room a laburnum had cast a green stain on the decaying wall. The laburnum had grown wild, like all the trees and shrubs, and some of its black, straggling boughs brushed the pane, and of dark, windy nights while we sat together and talked of art and life we would be startled by the sudden violence with which those branches beat angrily upon the glass.