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Personal Sketches of Some French Litterateurs by Arthur Venner

 

Paris, any Frenchman will tell you, is the capital of intellect; and though this is but one of a hundred things equally flattering to their country which all Frenchmen believe, yet it happens to be true. In some societies it is social rank, in others wealth and fine houses, in others, still, capacity to render service to the state, which makes old men courted and opens doors to the novice. But in Paris it is brains. If you have written a book or painted a picture or discovered a scientific theory, you have at once a reserved seat, as it were, in the social world, and nobody thinks of asking who your father was, or where you live, or what your income may be. With the literary society the political is so closely allied that the two may be said to coincide. There are coteries of course, but there are also neutral grounds on which members of all sets meet in peace and separate in harmony; and especially since the Republic has become firmly established the barriers based upon party differences have tended steadily to disappear. During the Empire some of the cleverest writers, such as Sainte-Beuve and Mérimée and About, were imperialists: now they are all dead or have changed their politics. During this period, too, the intelligent and literary opposition was mostly Orleanistic, but the last seven years have clearly shown not only that the bourgeois monarchy had no roots in the heart of the people, but also that the conservative Republic possesses all its advantages, combined with few of its objectionable qualities. To men like Renan and Laugel, who have been Orleanists all their lives, and who cherish a personal affection for the party, the situation appears melancholy, and the wail of Renan in his last book is sad enough. He is French to the core; supports openly the doctrine, "My country—right or wrong;" finds the centralization of the French system, carried to its logical extreme, the ideal government; and hates, above all things, "Americanism." What strikes an Anglo-Saxon as the merest commonplace of healthy politics or intellectual life is in his eyes the most pernicious heresy. We believe that freedom to teach and to write is the only way to discover the truth, and are confident that in the struggle of life which opposing systems must pass through the truth is sure in the end to win. Not so Renan. "The idea that there is a true knowledge, which must be taught, protected, patronized by the state, to the exclusion of false knowledge, is losing ground—one of the results of the general enfeeblement of notions of government." This is bad enough, but the political situation is even worse than the moral and intellectual; for M. Renan finds that France has "preferred the democratic programme, according to which the state, composed of the agglomeration of individuals, having no other object than the happiness of these individuals as they themselves understand it, gives up all notion of initiative above their feelings and ideas. The consequence of such a state of things is the pursuit of prosperity and liberty, the destruction of whatever remains of the spirit of class, weakening of the power of the state. Individuals and the subordinate groups of the state, such as the county and the township, will prosper under such a régime; but it is to be feared that the nation, the country—France—will lose every day something of its authority and its strong cohesion. The period which we are entering upon will be one of liberty à l'Américaine."

All this seems mournful to men of Renan's type, and to young men of fashion who sigh for the "elegance" of the Empire or the Restoration, and pose consequently as imperialists or as adherents of Henri V. But the mass of the nation is supremely contented. The peasants say that the Republic is the only government which does not go to war; the middle classes, richer and more numerous in France than in any other country, are happy in having the care of their material interests in their own hands, and especially in the consciousness that they are now the ruling class, and that bourgeois intelligence and respectability, rather than imperial frivolity or royal pietism, is the prevailing idea. Even Renan admits that "the present hour is sweet:" what troubles him is the thought of the future. But the republicans are not troubled at all. They don't intend to carry out any great reforms; they wish to avoid all foreign complications until the yearned-for hour arrives when Germany will be forced to disgorge what they are pleased to term its ill-gotten booty; they have in their ranks almost all the administrative and oratorical powers of the country; and they tell you that M. Grévy, the present president of the Chamber of Deputies, will succeed to the presidency, when the "stupid" MacMahon goes out, with just as little difficulty as the latter had in coming in, and that he, in turn, will in all probability be succeeded by Gambetta. These two men are bourgeois to the tips of their fingers, as was Thiers—modest, leading a regular life; well-informed on all local matters, and naïvely ignorant of the rest of the world; not strong believers in political economy; prudent and anti-clerical. Only, Gambetta, being twenty years younger than Grévy, is by twenty years more fiery and radical.

The reader must not complain that he has been entrapped into reading a leader on French politics when he desired nothing of the sort; for, without bearing in mind these preliminary facts, it is quite impossible to understand the relations of French literary men among themselves. Party passion has ever run high in France, and now that everybody can freely speak his mind, it has become more difficult than ever for even the oldest friendship to stand the strain of daily discussion. Take the instance of M. About and M. Taine. They were schoolboys together, and it would be hard to say which of the two most distinguished himself at this period of his career. They were both prodigies, but, though rivals, the fastest friends. After they had emerged from the École Normale they went and set up housekeeping together in an old house in the Quartier Latin; and as they were both poor as rats, the difficulties they had in keeping soul and body together recall the most picturesque and thrilling scenes in Murger's Vie de Bohème. One day they discovered that they had neither money nor anything to eat, and About started out to scare up some nutriment for the inner man. After a while he returned laden with a basket containing a dozen bottles of wine and various packets of provisions, and followed by an organ-grinder. Taine was of course no less pleased than astonished, but he demanded an explanation. "Oh," said About, "I stumbled across a wine-dealer who wanted a first-class advertisement done in the highest style of art, so I sat down and wrote it for him, and he gave me fifty francs and this wine."—"But the organ-grinder?" pursued Taine.—"Heavens!" exclaimed his friend, "you don't think one can enjoy a banquet without music, do you? Come, fall to; and you, old buffer, go to work on that divine instrument of yours;" which the old buffer proceeded to do, probably more to the satisfaction of his employer than to that of Taine.

Nor was lively companionship and assistance of this sort all that the future philosopher and critic owed to the friend of his youth: he probably owes him his life also, and hence the world is, in a sense, indebted to M. About for the History of English Literature and Les Origines de la France contemporaine. While they were living in the style above described Taine was taken suddenly ill, and, as the common purse was not sufficiently full to enable him to consult a physician, the two went to see a clever medical student of the quartier and requested his advice. The budding doctor examined Taine carefully, and finally pronounced that there was but one thing for him to do, and that thing was to go to the Pyrenees. "You might as well tell me to go to the moon," said the poor fellow. "Ah, well," replied the student, "you asked my opinion, and I have given it; and I may add that if you don't do what I tell you, you are a dead man." It may be imagined that the two friends did not pass a particularly pleasant evening; but after much cogitation About hit upon a possible means of relief; which, however, he kept to himself.

About's youthful talent was as precocious as his matured abilities are brilliant, and he had at this time published a book. One evening during the last season the present writer formed one of a group of three to whom he narrated, in a most charming manner, how he had made the acquaintance of the great publisher Hachette, a granddaughter of whom was another of the trio. He had left his manuscript at the publishing-house, and after some time was informed that the firm would be happy to publish it, and to pay him in cash for the copyright eight hundred francs—an offer with which he closed immediately. A week or so later he was visited, to his astonishment, by the great publisher in person. "Sir," began the latter, "it is often said that publishers don't know how to read, and I myself know some who drive a thriving trade on that principle. But I read occasionally the books which I publish, and I have read yours. I am unable to approve the contract which my agent has made with you. You have parted with your copyright for eight hundred francs: I return to you the contract, you retain the copyright, and I give you for the edition fifteen hundred francs." About was even more touched by the publisher's kindness than he was gratified by his generosity, and the two men mutually pleased each other—a fact which the younger now proposed to turn to account in aid of his friend Taine. So he went to M. Hachette with the following proposition: "I have a friend named Taine, who is very ill, and I want you to send him to the Pyrenees."—"But, M. About, I don't know your friend, and why, in Heaven's name, should I send him to the Pyrenees?"—"But he is a genius, he will be famous one day, and he will make your fortune. Your fortune is already made, I know, but he will increase it." The publisher then remarked that the name Taine was familiar to him, and finally dismissed his enthusiastic author with a promise to consider the matter. In a few days Taine received a note requesting him to come and dine with M. Hachette at his country-place just outside of Paris. The two young men were again in the depths of financial need, and all the money they could scrape together was barely sufficient to pay for a railway-ticket. Taine was quite nonplussed by the invitation—did not know what to make of it; but About persuaded him to accept, saying that he would at least have a good dinner, which was more than he could expect at home. And so he went. The publisher was politeness and cordiality itself, complimented his guest on his successes at the École Normale, and after dinner took him aside and said: "M. Taine, we want a book written on the Pyrenees, and we think you are the best man we can get to do it. If you accept our offer you will start at once for that region, you will deliver us the manuscript in six months, and we will pay you for it six thousand francs; of which I have the pleasure of offering you half to-day." This, the first of Taine's books, duly appeared, and was a great commercial as well as literary success, so that the publisher had no cause to regret his generosity.

One might suppose that a friendship founded and sustained in this fashion would be tolerably secure against the wear and tear of life, especially if no personal difficulties intervened. And so it might in any other land; but literary Frenchmen are too much sentimentalists and doctrinaires to allow friendship or anything else to stand in the way of the expression of their opinion, in season or out of season, in regard to what, from their individual standpoint, constitutes the public weal. Love me, love my dog; subscribe to all my opinions; follow all my political changes or I disown you,—when people guide their conduct by this principle all pairs of friends, except such a one as Boswell and Dr. Johnson's, sooner or later must separate. Taine is an observer, an investigator, a critic; and having devoted himself in turn to travel and to the study of metaphysics, of art and of literature, he has now turned his attention to recent French history; and the book he has written is not at all to the taste of sentimental politicians of the About type. The reader will not need to be reminded that there is no country in the world so favorable to the growth of "legend" as France: the petite bourgeoisie of Paris, as I found by personal experience, has already fabricated a complete legendary history of the Commune, and there is no subject on which the average Frenchman is so ignorant, and on which his ignorance is so precious to him, as the real character of the Great Revolution. As France is the guide of nations; as it represents, and always has represented, the summit of civilization; as it has ever possessed the greatest hearts, the purest spirits, as well as the most brilliant intellects of the time,—why, it is nothing less than high treason for a Frenchman to turn round and begin to show up the weakness or wickedness of, say, Robespierre. This sort of thing is pardonable only when the exposure of some historical character is offensive to the reigning government, as was the case with the early volumes of Lanfrey's Napoléon. About probably knows the truth about the men of '92 and '93 as well as anybody, but he thinks it desirable that the illusions respecting them should continue. They are, he says, an important political factor. Whereas Taine, like the late MM. Lanfrey and De Tocqueville, loving truth for its own sake, slashes away without caring for the practical result. I was told by an intimate and lifelong friend of both men that it had required the most persistent efforts of persons situated like himself to prevent About's sharply attacking Taine in his paper (since the appearance of La Révolution the radicals have favored its author with the epithet of "réactionnaire"); in which case a rupture would have been unavoidable.

Taine does not like German historians nor German methods of working up history, and he absolutely denies what, to my mind, is their greatest and most unrivalled excellence—their relative impartiality. Mommsen was the subject of unsparing denunciation, as having used Roman history as a mannikin by which he could illustrate certain views on contemporary German politics. Mommsen is an author of whom I know little, but there is another German historian, Von Sybel, who seems to me the most admirable writer in this department with whom I am acquainted; and as his great work partially covers the same period to which Taine has recently devoted himself, I ventured to mention his name in this connection. But I might as well have stirred up a hornet's nest. "Von Sybel," said Taine, "wrote his book to prove that Prussia was perfectly right in taking part in the partition of Poland, and some other things of like nature." He seemed to think this assertion (admitting its truth) settled Von Sybel's place in literature as definitely as if he had said he had written a book to prove Friedrich II. to have been the son of Jupiter or that the Prussians were God's chosen people. One would have supposed that the fact of a man's holding such an opinion in regard to the partition of Poland sufficient evidence for sending him to a lunatic asylum, although most people believe it to be a perfectly established historic truth. Taine would not even admit the excellence of Von Sybel's style—well enough, he said, and clear, but the style of a leader-writer in the —— (naming an old, soberly, but far from stupidly written Paris daily—one of the most readable papers in Paris, and the favorite of the petite bourgeoisie). I mentioned the reputation Von Sybel enjoyed in Germany as having an excellent style, and the response was, "Very likely: where all the rest are blind a one-eyed man sees very well"—a remark true enough as regards the mass of German writers, but very unjust to the person under discussion. Taine's models are Macaulay and Froude, but one would hardly think so from reading his France contemporaine. Be their demerits what they may—and they are no doubt great—the two English historians certainly have the faculty of presenting a sharply-outlined and vivid picture, while Taine heaps up hundreds of little facts, so that the reader, as the French say, can hardly see the wood for the trees. I may add that the French scholar's opinion of Prescott and Motley and Bancroft is still lower than that which he cherishes for their German contemporaries.

Taine has more the air of a scholar, and less that of a man of the world, than any other littérateur whom I met at Paris. During the winter his wife receives once a fortnight, and he regularly attends the famous weekly dinners of the Princess Mathilde, and occasionally dines informally with some intimate friend; but beyond this he goes but little into society, and takes his opinions of it at second hand; with regard to which fact Sainte-Beuve once kindly remonstrated with him in an admirable letter printed in the second volume of the Correspondance. He is fifty years old, and made, some sixteen years ago, what, in respect to the rank and wealth and amiable and intellectual qualities of his wife, was a very brilliant marriage. The story of the wooing is a "romance in real life." They have two children, the usual size of French families, though About has seven—"toute une famille anglaise," as Madame About remarked to me—whether with pride or in a half-ashamed happiness I did not discover. The Taines live handsomely in the midst of the Faubourg St. Germain, in a house whose windows have a clear view of the Hôtel des Invalides across the gardens of the Sacre-Cœur. I would say that I found Taine particularly courteous and cordial, were it not that I met no French gentleman who in any other society would not be distinguished for perfection of manner and winning kindness.

Taine has often been urged by friends who have been in America to visit the United States, both with a view to repair his somewhat shattered health and to write a book about us after the manner of his Notes on England. He always says he will do so; and it is probable that upon the completion of the great work, of which the third and last volume is now nearly finished, he and Madame Taine will set sail for our shores.

One of the peculiarities of Paris, regarded as a weltstadt, is, that it contains no socially disreputable quarters: there is no part of the city where men of wealth and position do not live. Thus, Theuriet and Cherbuliez reside in the Quartier du Luxembourg (between the Latin Quarter and the Faubourg St. Germain), as did Sainte-Beuve, About and Tourgueneff in the Rue de Douai (toward Montmartre), Girardin and Dumas in the Champs Élysées, Feuillet in the Rue de Rivoli, etc. Feuillet's name is, I think, as well known in the United States as that of any French man of letters except Taine, and if his biography were written he would be as famous for his eccentricities as was Balzac. An old friend of his once told me that one day, in calling upon Madame Feuillet, he expressed his regret that she had no regular reception-day, as in that case he would be able to see her more frequently. "Well," she answered, "I should like to have one, but, you see, it is quite impossible. One can't light the candles till after four o'clock, and before that time it is so dark here in the entresol that you can't see anybody." (I should have prefaced this anecdote by saying, for the benefit of those readers who have never been in Paris, that the entresol is a low story just over the shops, and that the Rue de Rivoli is one of the noisiest streets in the city.)—"But Feuillet has leased the third and fourth floors: why don't you receive up there?" responded the visitor.—"Oh, Octave would never hear of such a thing. Why, when I merely asked leave to hang some of my dresses up stairs, he would not let me: 'I have leased this whole story in order to have silence about me when I write, and the story overhead to have quiet above me. If you should hang your dresses up here, your maid would all the time be rummaging round, and that would derange my thoughts.'" Another of Feuillet's oddities is his hatred of railways. He has a country-place on the coast in Normandy, and every summer sends down his wife and children and servant by rail; after which, like a Russian grand seigneur, he goes down himself with post-horses. I am inclined to think Feuillet has greater genius than any other living writer of French fiction, with one exception. His Monsieur de Camors, for instance, is a masterpiece, though one of the most painful and unhealthy books ever written. But his talent is essentially dramatic talent, and when he writes a novel his inner consciousness, in spite of himself, is centred upon the stage effect. Thus, in his last story, Les Amours de Philippe, there is no unity whatever, the book consisting of three distinct and independent episodes, precisely corresponding to the three acts of a play. The first of these parts is one of the most agreeable pieces of writing in French literature, a really charming little idyl—a Parisian idyl, to be sure, and not precisely the most suitable reading for young girls. Nothing is more peculiar than a Frenchman's ideas of morality in literature; for, strange as it may appear, several of Feuillet's books are considered highly edifying, and the secretary of the Academy, upon his entrance into that august body, was able to greet him with the, in France, by no means negative praise that it was not his fault if there still existed mauvaises ménages. Feuillet, rather by sentiment than by conviction, it would appear, is an ardent Catholic, and, like Dumas, owes no small portion of his worldly success to the appreciation of this fact in high quarters. Another of his peculiarities is, that almost alone among the writers of the day he cherishes a lingering regret for the pleasant days of the Empire, when for a long period he was not only a favorite at the Tuileries and Compiègne, but almost the only man of talent who found it possible to write.

Another writer whom I used to meet in Paris, at About's and at his own house, was André Theuriet, favorably known in America by his lovely little story of Gérard's Marriage. I had read that and other almost equally charming tales of its author, and felt a strong desire to see him. Of some literary men one creates in his mind's eye a picture of which the colors are the impressions produced by their books, and I had imagined Theuriet either a youngish man with a pretty wife or a gray-haired paterfamilias with two or three grown-up sons and daughters. Theuriet's hair is partially gray, to be sure, but he is unmarried, and by no means bon enfant as regards personal appearance. He was born in 1833 at Marly-le-Roi, near Paris, but educated in a little town in Lorraine, where his mother's family lived, and whither he still returns two or three times a year, as he said to me, "to run in the woods." He early entered the civil service, and was long stationed at Auberive, a place situated in the forest-region on the edge of Burgundy, and about which is laid the scene of his novels Gerard and Raymonde. For the last eight years his official duties have caused him to live at Paris, and it is during this period that his works of fiction have been produced. Theuriet is a poet as well as a novelist, and his poetry is said by competent critics to be very good; but the public looks with a more kindly eye upon his novels, and as their author cannot afford to disdain contemporary profit and reputation, he has been obliged rather to show the cold shoulder to the Muse. Theuriet's appearance in letters and his popularity are, I think, to be taken as a sign that a healthy change is going on in the taste of French readers. His books, consciously or unconsciously, are a protest against the system in which young girls are brought up in France, and which most intelligent Frenchmen deplore. It is less from an innate tendency to that sort of thing than because young girls of their own rank must not only always be under the eye of a chaperone, but also are intentionally afflicted with a deadly ignorance, incapacity to talk or to make themselves agreeable, that the young men leave them for the society of cocottes. Now, Theuriet has been a good deal in the society of English people, and while he stoutly maintains that his girl-characters are thoroughly French, he yet admits that the idea of describing a kind of young girl that in France is always assumed to be hoydenish and ill-brought-up, came to him from observing the family-life of his neighbors from across the Channel. Theuriet is not a great writer: he has none of that power of analyzing physical and mental emotions in which Balzac and Stendhal are the great adepts, though their descriptions, while unquestionably implying great knowledge of the human heart, produce upon the Anglo-Saxon reader a feeling of pain, of offence, and often of disgust. I once asked him if he thought France, under the present bourgeois régime, likely to return to a healthier taste in literature, and received as answer the assurance that since coarse and sordid realism could go no further than L'Assommoir, a reaction must set in. From the filthiness of low life, I dare say, but how about the elegant fleshliness of the previous school? France will have to undergo a complete turning inside out before this loses its hold upon the national mind; as a proof of which I may mention the fact that a man who knew as much of the world and of books as Taine does, one day said to me that the best advice he could offer to a foreigner who thought of devoting himself to letters was to carry back with him, to his own country, Balzac, Stendhal and Mérimée.

Of all the men of letters at Paris, there was no one for whose works I cherished so hearty an admiration as I did for those of Ivan Tourgueneff, and none in whose personality I felt so profound an interest. Tourgueneff is far from being a model novelist, but his tales are written with wonderful power, and yet are neither indecent nor melodramatic nor rasping to the nerves. That the burden of strong natures is in proportion to their strength, that human nature in general is weak, and that the Devil still sometimes appears incarnate in the person of lovely woman, seem to form his theory of life. Hence his stories are ever sad, but they are not depressing; for his weak characters we sympathize with and do not despise, his strong and generous ones we sorrow for, his lovely women we reverence. And, however great one's admiration of Tourgueneff's books may be, the man Tourgueneff will not appear unworthy of them. What storms may, in earlier years, have passed over the heart of the now sixty-year-old man I do not know, but now his rather aged face, fringed with perfectly white hair and beard, bears an expression of perfect peace. Much of his time is constantly employed in helping others, and, from all I heard, Madame Gréville hardly exaggerated when she said to me, "He is a saint, a nineteenth-century saint!" And withal he is one of the most guileless of men: whatever he may think of men in general, he never can bring himself to think ill of any man in particular.

Tourgueneff has now for a long period passed at least six months of the year in Paris, and only three or four in Russia. He used to spend the summer at Baden, but since the war he has exchanged Baden for Carlsbad—whether or not on account of sympathy with France, and hence hatred of the peacefully-disposed nation which it is pleased to consider its deadly enemy, I do not know. It might well be, for he feels almost as strongly as a Frenchman as he does as a Russian, and I met no one in France who was so enthusiastic a republican as he. The present French Republic (which he insists is fundamentally and thoroughly different from the Republics of '93 and '48, as well as from that of the United States) seems to be his ideal government. In a century, he says, there won't be a king in Europe, except perhaps in England, and there he will be nothing but a pageant—a political mummy shown to the populace at so much a head.

In writing of the great Russian novelist it naturally suggests itself to say a word upon Madame Émile Durand, or "Henri Gréville," who has lately achieved so universal a reputation. One of her slightest efforts has just been crowned by the Academy, and one or more of her tales has been translated into all the tongues of Europe, including Dutch and Spanish. The Durands, who are childless, reside in a little pavillon, or house with garden behind the main structure which fronts the street, in the not very inviting region of Montmartre. Madame Gréville is a comfortable-looking lady of thirty-five with the air of forty, and is a most agreeable talker. In her varied experience she has seen a good deal of the up and downs of life, but has now settled down, as she told me, "to making her three novels a year." I hardly think she will ever again reach the level of the Expiation de Savéli. Her husband is the Paris correspondent of a St. Petersburg paper, and incidentally a painter.

No sketch of French literary society, however short, should omit mention of that most famous of all periodicals, the Revue des Deux Mondes. It is forty-eight years old, and during its long life it has seen perhaps a hundred rivals rise and fall, while it has itself gone on constantly increasing in importance, so that it is now become an institution, like the Academy or the Comédie Française. Its offices are located in a fine old hôtel not far from the noble faubourg, where M. Charles Buloz (son of the founder of the Revue) and his wife give during the winter fortnightly receptions to the contributors and their friends, as well as literary dinner-parties which form, I suppose, the most catholic reunions in Paris; and for the excellent reason that all opinions except blatant radicalism and the dogmatic idiocy of Bishop Dupanloup and his friends are represented by its contributors. By admitting him to its columns the Revue gives a French author a stamp of approval which suffices to make him known and respected (at least as regards talent) in all quarters of the globe. As was the late, so is the present, manager fully conscious of his power, and feels as independent with regard to his authors as does the director of the Théâtre Français toward his. A short time since the most famous of those literary Frenchmen who are not novelists, and a man who rarely writes for periodical publications, sent an important contribution to the Revue, but neither the name of the author nor the fact that the contribution was of a character to attract great attention among the public induced M. Buloz to print what seemed to him, from a literary point of view, unworthy of a place in the columns of this journal. The pecuniary rewards of writing for the latter are but slight: a writer receives nothing at all for his first article, and afterward the prices vary—not in proportion to the merit of the production, but in relation to the reputation of the author. Henri Gréville, for instance, obtained for her L'Expiation de Savéli—a novel which, I am inclined to think, will not only always remain her masterpiece, but will ever be considered a most perfect work of art—but one hundred and fifty dollars; and the ordinary price for articles upon historical or philosophical or art topics is but one dollar to two dollars per page. It is odd, too, considering the artistic eye and touch possessed by Frenchmen, and their sensitiveness in regard to such matters, that the Revue, in spite of its large circulation and high subscription-price, is the worst printed magazine in the world. To American readers, who have doubtless noticed with pleasure the attention paid of late years by the Revue to American literature, it will perhaps be interesting to learn that "Thomas Bentzon," who has discovered for the French public so many of our authors, is a Madame Blanc. She was described to me as a woman of great intelligence and the highest character, the daughter of an old but poor noble family, and early married to a wealthy banker. This person not proving to be a model husband, his wife sought a separation; and the fault being obviously on his side, he was ordered by the court to make Madame Blanc a handsome allowance. She, however, refused to take the money of a man whom she could not respect, and having consented to accept only the small annual sum necessary for their child's education, set bravely but quietly to work to earn her own living—a task in which she has slowly succeeded.

Arthur Venner.