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SIR WALTER BESANT.
After a Recent Photograph by Ellivit and Fry, London.
IR WALTER BESANT's studies of the French humorists and of the yen times of Thackeray, Dickens, and Macaulay have placed him in
the first rank of living English essayists. His portrait suggests the most striking characteristics of his style as an essayist - intellectual strength and good nature. His novels are read wherever Euglish is spoken.
SIR WALTER BESANT
TE O METIMES we tire of being subjugated by our intellectual su
periors and coerced by those who set up their moral excel
lencies in overwhelming array against us. As the schoolboy, when the woods are green with the first fresh tints of June, longs to escape from the majesty of his teacher to the company of vagrant boys whom, through the solid walls of the schoolroom and a mile of intervening fields, he can see splashing in the forbidden stream, so do we long for the delight of freedom in the company of minds of our likeness. And this longing, necessary for our growth, deserves indulgence at all times and gratification as often as possible. After we have been disciplined and instructed, taught with all necessary birching or the threat of it,
« To do the thing we never like,
Which is the thing we ought,”
the time ought to come in the natural order of a well-conducted universe when we can do what we like. That, when it does come, is of all others the time for reading Sir Walter Besant's essays, novels, tales, or anything else he has written. For whatever it is, whether essay, tale, or novel, we shall find it the same thing in the end - to wit: what we like! If fifteen years ago it happened that, without waiting for the suggestions of eminent critics, we read by chance either « The Golden Butterfly,” or “All Sorts and Conditions of Men,” there is hardly a chance but that it alone of all the novels we read that year will stand the severest test to which any book can be putthat of whether or not the reader really liked it. For what a man really likes he assimilates — and in the nature of language and of things he can assimilate nothing else. To know Besant and not to like him is impossible. Hence, when the whole generation of unlikable people is forgotten, Besant will be remembered. «From the beginning,” says Charles Dudley Warner, "he was one of those who come with a tale which holdeth children from play and old men from the chimney corner.” If we ask how, we do not have far to seek for the answer. It is because he likes what we like. His mind holds easily all we have tried to hold in vain. Our impressions, which faded out before we could fix them, he fixed and held in trust