The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 83
Recollections of Yates
Recollections of Yates.
"If this should meet the eye of the Emperor of Russia, we warn that potentate—"so runs the opening sentence of a leader penned by Mr. Fiatt, editor of the Little Pedlington Independent. page 33 The same journal declared that the poems of Miss Cripps were "superior to Milton, but not quite equal to those of the Rev. Joshua Jubb."
As members of the profession made up of those who have failed in literature and art, as—ahem!—critics, we ladle out fame in full tureens, but are not always satisfied as to the consistency of the soup. A cynical disposition may lead us at times to take liberties, as the Pianketank Corporation did when they entertained the French naval officers at a banquet. Admiral Badaud operated on the turtle soup tureen with a richly-chased silver ladle, gold-lined. The first dive brought up a frog. "Sacre! what is dis?" "Oh, we thought you liked them. There are forty in the bowl."
Denmark is a prison. We are all enveloped in our Little Pedlingtons. In our Mutual Admiration Society we talk of a Browning, a Carlyle, a Tupper, a Tracy Turnerelli. The literary world is the biggest Mutual Admiration Society. It creates blowflies, which buzz loudly in the bottle. When a John Stuart Mill goes to the Westminster constituency, or a Fawcett to that of Hackney, he is amazed to find how he is discounted.
Denmark is a prison. But Mr. Edmund Yates does not visit Denmark for three months for Lady Stradbroke's paragraph on Lady Lonsdale. He knows very well that the world—the real world—has been inquiring," Who is he?" Edmund is too wise a bird and too old a journalist to stand on his dignity and say, "Not to know me argues yourself unknown." He knows how slow is the permeation of a reputation through all the strata of the community, and outside one's own coterie, be that the whole Pedlington of the literary and artistic world. It is said that even Mr. Gladstone did not become universally known till within the last ten years.
So Mr. Yates tells the World who he is in an Autobiography, which he is bound to follow up with an amusing chronicle of Three Months in Denmark, Clerkenwell, Newgate, or somewhere. There will be fresh material opened up for those little weekly passages at arms between "Edmund" and "Henry." "No, Edmund, Wales does not wear magenta socks." "No, Henry, the diet is not unmitigated hominy and burgoo."
It is time that we waltzed a little round the Autobiography. The grand achievement of Edmund's life has been the creation of the World, which revolves on its Atlas every week, subject to Lord Chief Justice Coleridge. And oh, how Yates did whip it into the L.C.J. over that Mildred affair. What a delicious morsel to roll under the tongue. The L.C.J. scarified Edmund, and Edmund peeled and ate the L.C.J. altogether.
The World comes naturally on top in our mail budget. The endless series of Celebrities has interested us for years, and contributes a portrait gallery which is as indispensable to our page 34 mental furniture as the immense theatrical gallery of portraits is to the London Garrick Club. The Garrick—that reminds us of Yates on Thackeray and vice versa. But, Edmund, "Thack." was a generous man. Notice his generous reference to Dickens in the "Newcomes" and the "English Humourists." On the other hand, we find nothing about Thackeray in Dickens—before the kindly-written obituary.
Yet, Edmund, we do share with you in that unconquerable love for Charles Dickens. He is the greatest of novelists, far and away, the next fictitionist to Shakespeare. He is immortal. The green wreaths are still laid on his grave. "Lord, keep my memory green." That of the author of "David Copperfield" shall not perish, even although smart Mrs. Carlyle said it was "poor stuff," and grim old Tom found "Pickwick" to be rubbish.
There is no man on earth with the journalistic instinct stronger than Yates, who has the points of the Bennetts, Ville-messant, Delane, and all those accomplished creamskimmers. A World may come out with nothing from his pen—it may—and yet the impression of one pen will appear throughout. Even "Atlas" is a contributor's emporium. Yates keeps a marked copy of the World with a mysterious number on every article and paragraph. Each contributor has a number, which is registered. Therefore he knows exactly what each writer can do, and what the speciality of each practitioner in the very difficult trade of—well, we won't say Jenkins.
Cardinal Manning—well, never mind, we will dip into Edmund's first vol., and the luscious reminiscences of the old Adelphi. Yates is not unreasonable in the extent of his devotion to the palmy days of the drama. We lately took up a book written when Edmund Kean was in his prime, and it said the palmy days of the drama were gone for ever.
Yates' father was manager of the Adelphi, and as versatile an actor as ever lived. He would piece out the parts among O. Smith, Bedford, Wright, and so on, and take whatever he could not fit anybody else with, whether juvenile lead, heavy, old man, light comedy, low comedy, eccentric, tragical, comical, or tragical-comical—historical, pastoral. Mrs. Y ates, Edmund's mother, was a superb actress. Ask a very old stager about the "Green Bushes," with Mrs. Yates as Geraldine, Mrs. Fitzwilliam as Nelly, and Madame Celeste as Miami.
We recollect that when Mr. and Mrs. Bracy (Clara Thompson), the popular Opera-bouffe artistes, were acting in Melbourne, they would not allow their children to go to the theatre at all, and it was the same with Mr. and Mrs. Yates and their little Edmund. But Teddy found out quite accidentally that his father was an actor, for an old gardener said to him, "Ah, didn't your pa do 'Robspery' fine." Alas, alas! we have been there.page 35
Some must watch—for woman's bile,
And some must weep—in Durance Vile.
So runs the World away.