29 JUNE 1918, Page 12


(To THE EDITOR OF THE " SPECTATOR."] flit,—In the third instalment of Mrs. Humphry Ward's " A Writer's Recollections," in the May tumber of Cornhill, she writes of Browning:— " I was told a striking story by a common friend of his and mine—oho was present at a literary house. Browning was of the Nifty. The discussion turned on the divinity of Christ. After listening a while, Browning said, with some passion= Was He no more than Man? You think so? Ask yourselves what you would do if any of the great men of the world were to come into the room at this moment—Shakespeare? Dante? Plato? You would rise. But if Christ came into the room? You would kneel! "

It is true that Mrs. Humphry Ward was not herself present, but it is odd that she places the story on record without comment. We might have been told more. Is it at all likely that Browning introduced the subject without making mention of Charles Lamb? Towards the close of Hazlitt's essay " Of persons one would wish to have seen." there occurs this passage : " ` There is only one other person I can even think of after this,' continued Lamb, but without mentioning a name that once put on a semblance of mortality. ' If Shakespeare was to come into the room, we should an rise to meet him; but if that person was to come into it, we should all fall down and try to kiss the hem of his garment.' " Doubtless Browning, having read Hazlitt's essay, quoted the passage from memory, varying it after his own passionate and