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An Interrupted Conversation
by [?]

“It’s a subject for Anatole France,” said Sitgreaves. “Moore, in my opinion, is not a novelist. His great achievements are his memoirs. I was interested in ‘Evelyn Innes’ and ‘Esther Waters,’ but something was lacking. There is nothing lacking in the three volumes of ‘Hail and Farewell.’ They grow in interest. Moore has found his metier.”

“But he insists,” I explained, before the door of the little hotel, “that ‘Hail and Farewell’ is a novel. He is infuriated when some one suggests that it is a book after the manner of, say, ‘The Reminiscences of Lady Randolph Churchill.’…”

We entered and walked up the little staircase.

“Do you mean that the incidents are untrue?”

We were at the door of the concierge and there stood Marcel, his apron spread neatly over his ample paunch. It was early in the afternoon and the room beyond him, sometimes filled with possibilities for customers, was empty.

Ah, monsieur est revenu! ” he exclaimed in his piping voice. ” C’est pour la petite Polonaise sans doute que monsieur revient?

Oui,” answered Sitgreaves, ” faut-il attendre longtemps?

Mais non, monsieur, un petit moment. Elle habite en face. Je vais envoyer le garcon la chercher tout de suite. Et pour monsieur, votre ami?

Je ne desire rien,” I replied.

Marcel bowed humbly…. ” Comme monsieur voudra. ” Then a doubt assailed him. ” Peut-etre que la petite Polonaise vous suffira a tous les deux?

Jamais de la vie! ” I shouted, ” Flute, Mercure, allez! Je suis puceau!

Marcel was equal to this. ” Et ta soeur? ” he demanded as he disappeared down the staircase.

He had put us meanwhile in the very chamber with the red curtains and the picture of Cupid and Psyche that Sitgreaves had described. Perhaps all the rooms were similarly decorated. I lounged on the bed while Sitgreaves sat on a chair and smoked….

I answered his last question, “No, they are true, but there is selection and form.”

“While other memoirs have neither selection nor form and usually are not altogether accurate in the bargain….”

“Especially Madame Melba’s….”

“Especially,” agreed Sitgreaves delightedly, “Madame Melba’s.”

“Moore is really right,” I went on. “He says that some people insist that Balzac was greater than Turgeniev, because the Frenchman took his characters from imagination, the Russian his from life. You will remember, however, that Edgar Saltus says, ‘The manufacture of fiction from facts was begun by Balzac.’ Moore’s point is that all great writers write from observation. There is no other way. A character may have more or less resemblance to the original; it may be derived and bear a different name; still there must have been something…. In a letter which Moore once wrote me stands the phrase, ‘Memory is the mother of the Muses.’ ‘Hail and Farewell’ is just as much a work of imagination, according to Moore, as ‘A Nest of Noblemen’ or ‘Les Illusions Perdues.'”

“Of course,” admitted Sitgreaves. “No writer but what has suffered from the recognition of his characters. Dickens got into trouble. Oscar Wilde is said to have done himself in ‘Dorian Gray,’ and Meredith’s models for ‘The Tragic Comedians’ and ‘Diana of the Crossways’ are well known.”

“All Moore has done is to call his characters by their real names and he has reported their conversations as he remembered them, but, mind you, he has not put into the book all their conversations, or even all the people he knew at that period. Arthur Symons, for instance, a great friend of Moore’s at that time, is scarcely mentioned, and with reason: he has no part in the form of the book; its plot is not concerned with him.

“All artists create only in the image of the things they have seen, reduced to terms of art through their imagination. The paintings of Mina Loy seem to the beholder the strange creations of a vagrant fancy. I remember one picture of hers in which an Indian girl stands poised before an oriental palace, the most fantastic of palaces, it would seem. But the artist explained to me that it was simply the facade of Hagenbeck’s menagerie in Hamburg, seen with an imaginative eye. The girl was a model…. One day on the beach at the Lido she saw a young man in a bathing suit lying stretched on the sand with his head in the lap of a beautiful woman. Other women surrounded the two. The group immediately suggested a composition to her. She went home and painted. She took the young man’s bathing suit off and gave him wings; the women she dressed in lovely floating robes, and she called the picture, l’Amour Dorlote par les Belles Dames.