Imatges de pÓgina


WITH the death of Sir James Knowles there has passed away from our midst not merely the successful editor of a great Review, but a man who quietly and unostentatiously exercised a peculiarly stimulating influence upon many minds of our time. Like all great editors, he was not content merely to receive and read articles that were sent to him, he went out to seek them. Choosing his contributors with a genuine flair either for a name that would attract his readers, or for personal gifts and special knowledge, which he was frequently one of the earliest to discern, he would suggest subjects to them, overcome their reluctance to write by a happy combination of persuasiveness and persistence, and would never leave them till he had infected them with his own vivid and eager interest in the particular question he was asking them to write about. In such interviews between editor and contributor Sir James Knowles always showed a remarkable suggestiveness. He possessed in an unusual degree the power of stimulating and rousing other minds-of causing ideas to flow. A man would go into his sanctum without any intention of writing for him. He would come out with the plan of one or more articles clearly outlined in his mind. At the outset Sir James might himself have no idea what he was going to ask of his contributor. The request came of itself in course of talk, when mind had acted and reacted on mind. The one thing certain and irresistible was that mind would act on mind, that the request would come and a promise be given. He used to relate with a certain pride as well as amusement that Mr. Gladstone always protested that a conversation with the editor of the Nineteenth Century inevitably ended in an article.

It is generally admitted that Sir James Knowles had an admirable judgment of the right moment to present a subject to his public. He frequently kept articles for months before publishing them, waiting and carefully watching for his opportunity in order that they might appeal most powerfully to the living interest of his readers.

He was at all times unwilling to make his Review a party organ. His desire was that it should be and remain a platform for the expression of all shades of opinion. Not that his was a cross-bench mind or that he held no decided views of his own; but he, considered it important that there should always be a Review of the first rank, which permitted within its covers free discussion, the unfettered statement of both sides, upon all public questions. This was why any important article was so often followed by a reply in the next month's issue. As a matter of fact, Sir James Knowles held very definite opinions of his own upon most questions of public interest, but he was very chary of intruding them upon the readers of this Review, and only on two or three occasions published them in his own name.

Although my own intimacy with him began somewhat late, I had perhaps better opportunities than most of his friends of knowing the eager interest, the acute criticism, and the balanced judgment of public affairs which lay hidden behind his editorial silence. He was above all things an ardent patriot and a sane Imperialist. He wrote to me on one occasion: To contribute to the safety and splendour of the Empire, in however humble a degree, makes life worth living.' These words sum up the ideal of his editorial life. Although, as I have already stated, he attached his Review to no party, he always kept steadily in view, and consistently supported, National and Imperial interests. When in 1882 he considered the safety of the country was threatened by the Channel Tunnel scheme, he led the Press campaign against it. In like manner in 1900 he threw the influence of his Review upon the side of Administrative Reform, when the inefficiency of our military organisation revealed itself as a national danger. It would be easy to trace in the index of the Nineteenth Century his interest in all questions of National and Imperial Defence. His keen sense and ripe judgment enabled him to anticipate the trend of public opinion, and to suggest articles which stimulated and moulded its growth. Long before Preference became a fashionable policy he realised its importance as an element in the development of Imperial unity, although he was fully conscious of the practical difficulties that beset its path. It was indeed upon the Imperial side that commercial and economic questions interested him. I have often heard him express the ardent wish that he might live to see, at all events, the beginnings of genuine Imperial organisation. Few men I have known kept to the end so fresh an interest in the future, so complete a readiness to accept the work of the new generation, so willing an agreement with the pregnant saying 'il ne faut jamais bouder l'avenir.' HENRY BIRCHENOUGH.


THE Editor, like the poet, is born, not made, and Sir James Knowles was a born Editor, for he combined extraordinary alertness of intelligence and promptitude in decision with an artistic temperament which received impressions in vivid flashes. His own personality was charged with the indefinable quality which we call 'charm,' and though typically English his characteristics may perhaps be best summed up in the German word genial. He had the magnetic quality with its power of attraction. The outward and visible signs of this inward and spiritual grace were the grey-blue eyes, that could kindle instantaneously in sympathy or become steely in antipathy, according

to the moving causes of the moment; and there was always, too, the iron hand underneath the velvet glove. Parenthetically it may be observed that the Editor without a steely side must be a very unhappy mortal, and without a sympathetic side he must be a very impossible


My own first contribution to this Review was an essay on Dante, nearly twenty years ago, and in the following years I contributed various other articles from time to time, but during the last ten years. I have written pretty constantly on the one ungrateful subject of Finance, and it was periodically a matter of very agreeable surprise to me that I met with unfailing sympathy and encouragement, always most cordially expressed. For although Sir James Knowles did not pretend to anything more than a general knowledge of financial questions he was very much impressed, as every man of common sense must be, with the conviction that a sound financial position is of absolutely vital consequence to the country-that Finance is, in fact, our first line of defence-and he was therefore always most ready to publish anything that in his opinion would drive the reading public into thinking on the subject.

Holding very strong views of his own on most of the political questions of the day, he was nevertheless one of the most openminded of men, ready to admit that another argument was the stronger the moment his intellect recognised it. As an instance perhaps I may venture to give one of my own experiences. In the early spring of 1902, shortly before the close of the war, speeches were made in South Africa and letters were written from there to the London newspapers by very highly placed English authorities predicting an immediate boom of prosperity. As I had been in the United States during the Civil War I was convinced, from what I had seen there, that recuperation in any country that has been ravaged and devastated must necessarily be a very slow process, and that it was extremely mischievous to set these booming ideas buzzing in people's heads in England. I therefore called on Sir James Knowles, to ascertain if he would care to have a short paper setting out the other side of the subject. He did not at all like the idea at first, as he thought that these people of importance' on the spot must know what they were talking about, and as a staunch Imperialist he himself longed for the boom-the wish was father to the thought-but after ten minutes' conversation he asked me to put my ideas on paper, which I did, and by return of post I had his flatteringly expressed acceptance of an article that appeared in April 1902.

[ocr errors]

But over and above these business relations, as between Editor and contributor, I had the pleasure also of participating in many of the charming hospitalities at Queen Anne's Lodge. Our host possessed in pre-eminent degree the rare social talent of amalgamating guests; he had been a very intimate friend of Tennyson,

Gladstone, and many other illustrious contemporaries, and he was desirous to have direct personal relations with contributors not yet illustrious, so that the elements of good entertainment were always there in abundance, and the parties were amongst the pleasantest in London. Living, too, within a stone's-throw of the Lodge, I met Sir James very frequently in the Park, and I vividly remember one exquisite morning in early summer overtaking him on the bridge, where he was looking rather worried and thoughtladen, and I, feeling the gladness of the May, pointed to the young leaves in their fresh green rustling in the wind, breathing out fragrance, and I quoted

Summer woods about them blowing

Made a murmur in the land.

In an instant a beautiful light leapt into the grey-blue eyes, the worried look vanished, and he went on with the next line

From deep thought himself he rouses.

We 'lived light in the spring' for the remainder of our walk, talking at large about Tennyson and Matthew Arnold on one of those rare English perfect days when St. James's Park is a poem.

Our last meeting was in December, shortly after he had happened to publish a little paper of mine on the American panic. I noticed that he looked thin, but there was still the old vigour of mind, the many-sidedness, the keenness, and the quick sympathy. These are the qualities which make a great Review Editor, and they inspire affection as well as respect.

In these very few inadequate words I have attempted to indicate, rather than to present, the artistic aspect of a winning personality, because in my view this quality was the secret of his success. His own little poem, published in the March number, is a felicitous manifestation of this side of his nature: through these verses one sees right into the heart of the man. Everyone has two soul sides,' and Art was the refuge of our late Editor from the fever and the fret of this workaday world.

[ocr errors]

Fortunate in his family life and surroundings, he was fortunate too in the occasion of his death, for the flame still burning brightly was quenched in a moment, so that he suffered no loss of faculty and no pain. The loss is to those who are left. We shall not look upon his like again.

As an architect he planned many buildings, but the edifice erected by his own hands, which crowned his life's work and by which he will be best remembered, is this Review, and viewing it through the vista of thirty years, the familiar ending of the fine old epitaph recurs to the mind, 'Si monumentum requiris, circumspice.'



THAT certain commentators in the daily Press, whose knowledge was superficial and whose point of view was remote, should have expressed of James Knowles, on the morrow of his death, an impression of him strangely unlike that made on those of us who were accustomed to be in his society, and who from time to time were in his confidence, was perhaps not a matter to provoke surprise; though, if I may speak for myself only, it did occasion disappointment. The conception that such commentators-if may be that there were but one or two of them-put forth, tended to belittle our friend, inasmuch as, in the view presented, we were invited to attribute his place in the world, and the success that attended his career, less to high individuality, comprehensiveness of mind, and strength of character than to a quick scent for the thing that was acceptable and popular-with that more thoughtful section of the public, of course, which alone, presumably, his Review was intended to address. To have a keen scent, and be alert in tracking it; to know what the better public was asking for, or wishing for, and to provide it in abundance, as a capable man of business-that, it appeared, was his essential characteristic. That it was-was it ?—that caused James Knowles not only to be motioned during thirty years in every social thing to what Robert Browning described graphically as 'the velvet of the sward,' but to be, in a sense, the intimate of illustrious and exalted personages; very much the intimate of statesmen, poets, and withdrawn philosophers. One would have thought that a little reflection would have persuaded such a commentator as I have indicated that the possession of gifts useful, creditable, but withal a little vulgar-having nothing of rare or fine-would not have enabled any man to compass those better ends which confessedly James Knowles, during a long and influential life, attained.

But there was not time for reflection. Some mischief was quite innocently done; and hence, in part with the idea of repairing it (small as it may be), in part, too, from the natural instinct to express that which one strongly feels, many a friend-many a person much better qualified than I am by rank or intimacy, talent or place-will ask to be allowed to bear his testimony as to what it is that has been lost.

The comprehensiveness of James Knowles's mind and, in these later years, its sustained freshness, his prolonged youthful enthusiasm —that and his kindliness of purpose-were what most impressed me. Even one like myself, condemned by other studies and interests (while yet they are the interests and studies of his choice) to hopeless ignorance of Politics, Philosophy, Physical Science-who knows, indeed, what else ?-may have an inkling, when these things, any of

« AnteriorContinua »