19 OCTOBER 1929, Page 17


[To the Editor of the SPECTATOR.]

SIR,—Will you allow space to an old friend of Harold Begbie to supplement by a few personal impressions your apprecia- tion of his work ? It is, alas, an acknowledged fact that, with all his brilliancy of style, his depth of feeling and his

Love for mankind, he did not play that role in his generation 4 • to whicb apparently he was entitled. The cause of this partial failure may be found, as you say, in his versatility, but also in his impatience. The desire for reform burnt in his heart. In order to find a way out of the wilderness and darkness he tried many roads.

His deep love for his wife and children, his anxiety for their welfare after he had gone, caused a division of his powers between the spiritual and the material. He had many friends ; he had no foes. He began as a Radical and ended as a Tory, but he was a Tory because he believed that relief in taxation would come from that quarter. He begrudged taxation, not because the State was not entitled to it, but because it made an inroad on his savings which he wished to accumulate for his wife and children. He knew that the end was near, and his industry, his lust for work, did not abate until the end. On his deathbed he continued to work, prompted to superhuman exertions by hil desire to leave a further source of income behind for those whom he loved so dearly.

You say that Mr. Begbie had an evangelical fervour. Here, again, his thought was not directed by the rules and observations of the Church in which he was brought up. flis mind was free of prejudice. The teachings of Christ and man's observance of them were the fundamental source of his creed. He groped in darkness in order to find light. At one time, not very long before the end, he imagined he had found the truth in Jehovah, the God of the Jews. Thus he found temporary happiness, as he mentioned to me once, but only once. Undoubtedly he was in that state of mind when he wrote the historical sketch which you mention, in which " he completely secularized the figure of Christ."

With Mr. Begbie has departed one of the outstanding figures of the literary world. He has written much that will be preserved as a source of knowledge for those who Will live aftei us. His contemporaries will always remember him as the most loving, the most generous, most merciful of