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- Through the Magic Door - 23/23 -

the eagerness, the delight with which I read those early tales in "Cornhill" away back in the late seventies and early eighties. They were unsigned, after the old unfair fashion, but no man with any sense of prose could fail to know that they were all by the same author. Only years afterwards did I learn who that author was.

I have Stevenson's collected poems over yonder in the small cabinet. Would that he had given us more! Most of them are the merest playful sallies of a freakish mind. But one should, indeed, be a classic, for it is in my judgment by all odds the best narrative ballad of the last century--that is if I am right in supposing that "The Ancient Mariner" appeared at the very end of the eighteenth. I would put Coleridge's tour de force of grim fancy first, but I know none other to compare in glamour and phrase and easy power with "Ticonderoga." Then there is his immortal epitaph. The two pieces alone give him a niche of his own in our poetical literature, just as his character gives him a niche of his own in our affections. No, I never met him. But among my most prized possessions are several letters which I received from Samoa. From that distant tower he kept a surprisingly close watch upon what was doing among the bookmen, and it was his hand which was among the first held out to the striver, for he had quick appreciation and keen sympathies which met another man's work half-way, and wove into it a beauty from his own mind.

And now, my very patient friend, the time has come for us to part, and I hope my little sermons have not bored you over-much. If I have put you on the track of anything which you did not know before, then verify it and pass it on. If I have not, there is no harm done, save that my breath and your time have been wasted. There may be a score of mistakes in what I have said--is it not the privilege of the conversationalist to misquote? My judgments may differ very far from yours, and my likings may be your abhorrence; but the mere thinking and talking of books is in itself good, be the upshot what it may. For the time the magic door is still shut. You are still in the land of faerie. But, alas, though you shut that door, you cannot seal it. Still come the ring of bell, the call of telephone, the summons back to the sordid world of work and men and daily strife. Well, that's the real life after all--this only the imitation. And yet, now that the portal is wide open and we stride out together, do we not face our fate with a braver heart for all the rest and quiet and comradeship that we found behind the Magic Door?

Through the Magic Door - 23/23

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