Skip to main content

A Visit to the Villa Edouard Sept

What follows is an article by Julian Maclaren-Ross, originally published in the London Magazine for June 1955: an account of the young Maclaren-Ross's encounter with Frank Harris in the year before he died. Although Maclaren-Ross is said by his biographer Paul Willetts to be a generally reliable source, it is questionable whether it is accurate in every detail: would Harris, for example, have described his own autobiography as 'filth'? - but the image of his subsequent regret at having published it is entirely credible, given the trouble it brought him. In any case, this is a fine piece of writing, hilarious and touching by turns, notable for a unique anecdote about Oscar Wilde as well as its splendid picture of an ailing Harris still lavishly entertaining when - as we now know - he was desperately short of funds.

(You might, once you have read the article, be interested in some speculation about the mysterious Mr Kalnay).

The text of this article is reproduced here by kind permission of the copyright holder, Alex Maclaren-Ross.

A Visit to the Villa Edouard Sept

Julian Maclaren-Ross

My father, a contemporary of Oscar Wilde, was actually better acquainted with his brother, the journalist Willie Wilde; on the other hand, Robert Ross (though not a relative of ours) was a frequent visitor at my grandmother's house and had given her a copy, flatteringly inscribed, of a book entitled Masques and Phases, which later passed into my possession, while his elder brother Alec was a close friend of Father's and may even have been at school with him, though I am not certain of this.

'But Oscar?' I would persist: for, ever since I had read The Picture of Dorian Grey a year before, at the age of seventeen, I'd taken a passionate interest in everything pertaining to its author, about whom I planned, one day, to write a novel called Paradox; 'You must have known Oscar too?'

'Oscar Wilde,' my father said, 'was his own worst enemy, poor fellow' - it was a description which, in his view, could equally apply to me - 'Great charm when he chose to use it, of course, but arrogant, incurably arrogant. . . .' here my father, never conspicuous, himself, for abject humility, still less when young, shook his head reproachfully and sighed. 'Everybody shouting "Author" and he'd come out in front of the curtain smoking a cigarette. Gold-tipped, too, like one of those things you smoke. Couldn't expect the public to like that, but damned if Wilde didn't seem to take a deliberate pride in antagonizing everybody. I remember for example the first time I met him. . . .'

This initial encounter had taken place in a London club with literary and theatrical associations, where my father was entertaining a visiting French comedian, known as Marius, to dinner. The meal was half-way through when Oscar Wilde entered the dining room. ('Great big hulking man, six feet two and seventeen stone at least' - my father was some inches taller and more than a stone heavier - 'Effeminate? Far from it. He'd hands like a butcher.1 Affected, yes. Very overbearing manner. Damson velvet dinner coat, wouldn't swear he wasn't wearing a frilled shirt as well.') Wilde recognised Marius and came over to greet him with great cordiality. Pulling up a chair without invitation, he sat down at the table as if unaware of my father's presence, and at once initiated a conversation in fluent French; Marius made several embarassed attempts to interrupt the flow and introduce his host, but in face of Father's evident annoyance and Wilde's determination to ignore these tentative overtures, he soon desisted and pecked at the food on his place, answering Oscar only in monosyllables. In defiance of the club regulations, Wilde list a gold-tipped cigarette and continued his monologue; Father, swallowing his anger, tried to concentrate on the next course; Marius, by now completely silent, had given up eating altogether.

At last, as the savoury was served, Wilde turned to my father with a start of apology, and addressing him in English: 'I do hope you'll forgive me, sir, and you too, my dear Marius - the pleasure of seeing you again must be my excuse - it is really unpardonable to intrude at your table and to speak a language perhaps unfamiliar to your friend. . . .'

Father interrupted, speaking for the first time, and with his suave smile: 'Ne vous gênez pas, monsieur Wilde, je vous en prie. J'ai fait mes études en France, et j'ai pu, par conséquent, suivre votre discourse sans trop de difficulté,' and in English: 'If I may be allowed to say so, sir, you speak French very well - for an Irishman.'

But whatever personal distaste for Wilde he may have felt, and whatever verbal skirmishes they may have had, my father had nonetheless registered a violent protest when, after the sentence, Oscar's plays were presented in London without acknowledgement to the author, and had incurred much unpopularity by arguing that figures more prominent in the social register should also have stood trial of homosexuality were indeed to be treated as a criminal offence (a measure to which he declared himself rigorously opposed): this led to the suggestion, from a man named Cope-Frazer that my father was himself, in the current phrase, 'addicted to unnatural practices'. Father, having recently got married, was not unreasonably annoyed; he replied first by throwing Cope-Frazer through the glass of a french window and then bringing a suit against him for slander: despite a counter threat of proceedings for assault, the case was settled out of court in my father's favour, after which no further allegations of this sort were made, though Father continued for long afterwards to defend Wilde in public whenever the occasion arose.

'What about Frank Harris?' I asked.

'The Fortnightly Review man? Not above a bit of blackmail now and again, when it suited him - or so they used to say. Only knew him by sight myself, so I've no right to talk. Used to live here in Nice, too. . . . he and your Uncle Bertie were as thick as . . . .' Just in time he bit back a simile which might have been only too apt in both cases: 'Well, intimate anyway. Better ask Bertie if you want to know anything about Harris.'

'I'm lunching with him tomorrow.'

'Are you now? Funny, I thought he was in Algiers.'

'Not Uncle Bertie, Father - Frank Harris.'

The effect of this deliberately casual statement was all I could have wished: 'Lunching with Harris? Don't mean to say he's still alive? Why he must be older than I am.' At the age of seventy-two, my father had come to believe that if not actually immortal, he was destined to survive all other members of his generation: it disturbed him to find that any of these existed contemporaneously.

'He's not only alive, but still in Nice,' I said: 'Working on a Life of Shaw. I haven't met him yet, but apparently he may help to get my novel printed.'

'But surely,' my father said, 'Harris no longer has a magazine or any other means of publication at his disposal?'

'No, but he might arrange it somehow.'

'God bless my soul. Well, be sure you don't give him any money.'

The friend responsible for my invitation to luncheon at the Villa Edouard Sept, in Cimiez, a suburb in the hills overlooking Nice, where Frank Harris lived during the last years of his life, was called Amberly. He was in his middle thirties, an explorer and archaeologist of private means, who, while of conspicuously English origin, had become, in some manner not easy to elucidate, a Belgian marquis, though he never made use of this title. Amberly had known Frank Harris for many years, and once showed me a volume of his short stories, with an affectionate inscription and a coloured frontispiece depicting a large young man bathing naked, with his back turned, in a rock-pool, for which Amberly, some time before, had posed as a model.

Amberly had often urged me, as an admirer of Oscar Wilde, to meet Harris, who, as he pointed out, 'was practically our last link with the Great Man': there was also the chance that he might find a publisher for the novel that I'd just written: and though, at eighteen, I was apt to scorn the idea that an author should attempt to succeed by any means other than the exercise of literary talent, an actual possibility - however remote - of getting one's work published was not of course to be neglected.

As I set out with Amberly, one torrid noonday in June 1930, for lunch at Harris's home, I was assailed, however, in the open taxi by the nervous tremor inseparable, in those days, from the prospect of any social occasion among strangers; I braced myself to meet the onslaught of welcome: felt, already, the bones of my hand grate together in Harris's iron grip; my ears rang in advance with the rich, deep, booming voice that I'd read about so often in memoirs of the Eighteen-Nineties but never actually heard.

What, I wondered, would be the best way to behave? It must be remembered that this was to be my first meeting with a real author: that Harris had, moreover, the reputation of being a formidable and even forbidding personality; this was the man, I recalled with a sinking stomach, who had talked Moore and Meredith to a standstill: to whom even Wilde had listed, on occasion, in respectful silence. A policy of modest self-effacement seemed the wisest to adopt in his presence: on the other hand Harris might then dismiss me with contempt as a mediocrity, and wonder - perhaps aloud - why the hell I had been brought to see him; if, however, I attempted to assert myself and talked too much, he might consider me a presumptuous young man who needed taking down a peg or two. Suppose he proved to be in one of his ferocious, bullying moods: drowning the conversation with salvoes of scornful mirth, picking on me as a ready-made butt for sallies of sardonic wit? One might, of course, appease him by a flattering evaluation of his own work; I'd been told that nine authors out of every ten were susceptible to such an approach (an estimate which later experience abundantly confirmed), and to this purpose I had re-read, the previous night, two volumes of stories, The Bomb, and the Life of Oscar Wilde; I began now to make a hurried mental précis of those portions of the autobiography - mainly of a pornographic nature - which I'd managed to assimilate, years before, at my uncle's hotel on an afternoon when he was out.

An elderly Frank Harris

My clothes, too, presented an additional source of worry; Harris might, for all I knew, be wearing cowboy chaps and a ten-gallon hat: in any case he was certain to regard me as a ridiculous fop. The white mess-jacket and clove carnation, even the crêpe-de-chine shirt, might pass muster: but why, for Heaven's sake, had I chosen to gird my white drill trousers with a crimson sash instead of an ordinary belt, and why co-respondent shoes? The sash, it's true, could not be seen unless I removed my jacket; the shoes, would, with luck, be hidden below the table, and my gold-topped malacca cane could be given up swiftly to a servant before the host had a chance to see it.

I turned towards Amberly - dressed, I noticed, much less obtrusively in a dark blue blazer and white flannels - and was about to ask his opinion on these sartorial questions, when he forestalled me by saying: 'Now, about Harris. You know he was very sick last year - had hiccups for over a week, something to do with his stomach, they all thought he'd peg out but in the end he foiled them once again - and then of course he's been short of cash lately, though his new book ought to remedy that: he's pushing on with it all he can but it seems GBS is being bloody difficult about the whole affair; I wish to God he'd die, don't you? So you see Frank's got a lot to try him at the moment, and I hope you won't take offence if he seems a bit abrupt at first: take my word for it, his bark's much worse than his bite and, after all, you're not the easiest person to get on with, yourself: God knows what you'll be like at his age.'

I listened to this homily with increasing dismay. 'Just one more thing, dear boy,' Amberly went on. 'Frank's getting on in years now, of course, but he's always been pretty outspoken whatever company he's in, so you mustn't be shocked at anything he says - his language is still picturesque at times, to put it mildly.'

I choked, too furious to answer at first; the idea that I, at my age, with more than twelve months of Côte d'Azur café-society behind me, could be shocked at all, let alone by strong language, was intolerable: what did Amberly take me for, all of a sudden? 'Really!' I began, but our taxi had pulled up short and the driver had already jerked open the door for us to alight: it was plainly impossible to initiate a quarrel at this stage; nonetheless, as I followed Amberly towards what was evidently the Villa Edouard Sept, my annoyance was still so acute that I can remember nothing of my surroundings until confronted with a swarthy majordome in a striped waistcoat, who stood back smiling from an inner doorway, one hand outstretched to take my stick.

A confused impression of marble busts on pedestals remains with me, but these may have been in the hall outside; Amberly had already passed the butler and his voice was raised heartily in the room beyond: long and low-ceilinged, with French windows open wide: so cool and dark after the meridien glare that I peered about dim-sightedly; I'd not been wearing sun-glasses in the cab and now green bilious blots swam before my eyes: an iridescent dazzle out of which emerged, chimerically, the figure of my host.

A first glimpse of Frank Harris, at any time of his life, seems invariably to have afforded the beholder some surprise, according to the period reminiscences in which he has so often figured, and I proved no exception to the general rule; this unexpected quality in his appearance may have been exaggerated by his advancing years at the time I met him: yet, though he must have been seventy-five, his face, while craggy and lividly mottled, especially about the curve of the nose, was no more ravaged than seemed consistent with his state of health and the pace at which he'd lived; the centre-parted hair, still fairly thick, plastered down low on his temples with the effect of a wig on a villain in melodrama, and the equally transpontine moustaches with their ascendant curve, showed little sign of grey: on the other hand, these may quite likely have been dyed: age itself was apparent mainly in the moist and vitreous stare, the broad shoulders shrunk in a forward stoop, the rapid shuffling step with which he moved.

All these things I had been led to anticipate; nevertheless the general ensemble, plus his lack of height, took me aback: I had been told he was not tall, but had not imagined him to be so short: no one, moreover, had prepared me for the final shock, which was reserved for when he spoke. Instead of the resonant bass, the rumbling minatory bellow I had expected, his voice was now a muffled whisper wheezing in his larynx: a sound so eerily unforeseen that for a second I was too disconcerted to answer his greeting or to take the knobbly hand extended to me.

When rehearsing this moment in the car, I had decided upon the firmest handshake I could manage as a defensive measure against Frank Harris's fabled strength, even though my fingers be ground to powder in the process; now Harris gave a start and examined his hand in surprise as I released it with a mutter of apology; he seemed, however, to be baffled rather than annoyed, for, having cocked up his head to scrutinize me more closely, he emitted the echo of a rasping chuckle.

'Bertie' he seemed to say; and then more audibly: 'Aren't - you - Bertie's nephew?'

'Yes, sir.'

'Ha! Strongest man - in the hands - I ever knew, except myself when younger, of course. . . . And how is he, the rascal? Abroad again, eh - more of his schemes I suppose! Listen me boy. . . .' He leaned forward confidentially; the breath whistled in his throat: 'They used to talk about me, but Bertie. . . .' He made a sweeping gesture with his hand, implying that any competition was out of the question: 'Biggest rascal unhung!'

The thought of my uncle's iniquity and his skill in cheating, so far, the hangman's rope caused Harris to bring one hand down hard on his thigh and to become convulsed with a spasm of strangled mirth, which merged almost at once into an explosive fit of coughing; his face flushed purple, his eyes, already protuberant, seemed about to burst from their sockets; alarmed, I moved towards him and was waved irritably back; I glanced around for help and realized we were alone in the room: Amberly was out of earshot on the verandah, engaged in greeting our hostess; I became aware, also, that I was still clutching the parcel containing the MS of my first novel, which Amberly had insisted I should bring along, and there seemed nowhere handy to put it down. By this time, Harris had partly recovered, and when he had withdrawn from the folds of a large bandanna and was able to speak again, his voice seemed, paradoxically, stronger for the paroxysm through which he'd passed.

'Blasted bronchitis,' he wheezed. 'Won't let a man bloody well laugh. Bah! Look here, me boy!' He reeled off rapidly, fixing me with a glaucous eye: 'Phlebitis, neuralgia, rheumatism, bronchial asthma,' an impressive pause to let this list of ailments sink in before the punch line: 'Ulcers. Here - in the belly! How's that, eh? But I'll beat 'em yet, you wait and see, the bloody lot,' and sharply, before I could express my faith in his eventual victory over his infirmities: 'Oxford?'

I shook my head, just managing to follow his swift transition from ulcers to education: 'No. Over here, in France.'

'Good boy! Splendid! Educated on the continent meself - and in the States, of course. Much the best way. These English universities...' He made again the conclusive gesture that had previously served to demonstrate my Uncle Bertie's unique position in the sphere of unpunished villainy: 'Effete!' He glared up, suddenly caught sight of the majordome who had hurried in at the close of the coughing fit, and banished him - before I could hand over my parcel of MS - with the terse command: 'Drinks!'

Frank and Nellie outside a restaurant in New York

With Harris's hand on my elbow, I was now led on to the verandah and presented to his wife as Bertie's nephew; an illusory physical resemblance was commented on with the comparison rather in my favour and 'taller, of course,' from Harris; Mrs Harris, herself of a fair height and handsome, with burnished hair, aged about forty to my eighteen year old eyes, relieved me at last of the MS, elicited my actual surname - which had become confused with that of my maternal uncle - and introduced me by it to a rather dim English couple (possibly neighbours invited for reasons of reciprocal hospitality), and to a man tanned the colour of chocolate, whom Harris said, with his gusty whistling laugh, was 'a fellow-Scotchman' though he spoke English in a manner scarcely compatible with a countryman of Burns: I soon discovered he was a Hungarian named Kalnay who had written a book about Jews under the pseudonym of Jim McKay.

'McKay's not merely a writer,' Harris told me. 'He's something much more important,' he drew a deep breath and hissed with extraordinary venom: 'A publisher!' But his animosity seemed directed at this profession in general rather its present representative, for he simultaneously clapped Mr Kalnay on the shoulder: 'And President of the International Writers' League! Do you belong to the International Writers' League, Ross? No? Well, we'll have to make you a member - right, McKay? This young man has written a book,' he continued, pointing to me: to my horror I felt a deep flush overspreading my face, and threw a baleful glance at Amberly, who smiled imperturbably back: 'But we'll talk about that later, see what we can do.' Harris picked up a glass and drained it at a gulp: 'Now for some lunch.'

The verandah ran the whole width of the villa and was, I think, roofed-in: or else an awning was placed over the long table at which we ate, for I cannot remember any encroachment of the sun until well towards the end of the meal.

I sat with my back to the view and on the right hand of Harris himself: an arrangement for which Amberly was perhaps responsible, as his conspiratorial glances down the table, from a similar position next to the hostess (with Mr Kalnay opposite and the dim English distributed along the centre) seemed to confirm. My annoyance with him evaporated in face of this kindness and goodwill; I hoped, however, that the subject of my book would not again be brought up, since I believed quite rightly that no good could come of rushing into anything: even membership of the International Writers' League.

Meanwhile I began to put my original plan into action and talk to Harris about his own work: since his involuntary sotto voce precluded him from taking part in any general conversation, I had him more or less to myself, and lost no time in asking after the book in progress, as this seemed the most promising gambit: how was it getting on? Would it soon be finished? Amberly had told me that Bernard Shaw. . . .

Harris laid down his knife and fork. 'Don't talk to me about Bernard bloody Shaw,' he said in a voice that sudden fury, luckily, made more stifled than ever: fortunately, again the sight of the butler bringing in the wine at this point diverted his attention elsewhere and seemed to quench his wrath. Though the food was excellent, I cannot recall any dish we ate: the memory of this wine, however - and not only because of its providential appearance - remains with me to this day; it was golden in colour and called Camp Romain: soon the whole table was united in its praise: Amberly showing himself especially eager to discover the secret of its origin. This, Harris refused to divulge: an incongruously coy smile puckered his lips as he pointed to the picture of the Roman camp on the label (a litre bottle in an ice-bucket had been placed before each guest) and his vague gesture towards the surrounding hills implied that it was home-grown, or that a private vineyard was concealed among the Roman ruins which - apart from Frank Harris's selection of this locality as his home - were Cimiez's main claim to fame.2

This extremely pleasant and potent vintage had, not only the immediate effect of mellowing Harris and causing all signs irascibility, thenceforward, to disappear, but of removing my remaining inhibitions: reckless of further snubs, I plunged on, taking My Life and Loves as the next topic; Harris looked up from his plate in consternation: 'How'd you get hold of that? You surely can't have bought the set?'

'My Uncle Bertie has one.'

'Yes. I know, gave it to him myself, but he ought never to have lent it to you. Pure filth - not fit to be in the hands of any decent person...' He called croakingly up the table to his wife: 'Isn't it, my dear? Pure filth?'

'What's that, my dear?'

'My autobiography, of course. Pure filth!'

'Well, not all of it, Frank,' his wife said soothingly: the faces of the English couple were fixed in feeble apprehensive smiles: they obviously hoped this subject would soon be changed. 'The parts about the Wild West....' Mrs Harris continued; 'Ah yes - those,' wheezed her husband and turning back to me: 'The rest's just dirt, that's all. I'd give my right arm not to have written that first volume - the pornographic stuff, I mean.'

'Why did you, then?' This question slipped out before I could prevent it; I stopped aghast: but Harris seemed unaware of my impertinence: his blurred eyes became focussed abstractedly on the distant horizon.

'Money,' he answered simply, and pouring himself another glass of wine: 'I needed money. You can't understand what that means, me boy - hope you never do,' it was a hope, alas, unrealized. Harris continued histrionically: 'And did I make any? No! That book did me more harm than the pox - banned everywhere, threats of prosecution, pirated in the States: nothing but trouble came of it all round, I deserved what I got! "Whatsoever a man shall sow, that also shall he reap" ... a bloody black harvest, me boy. Never, however much you may be tempted ...' He gulped at the Camp Romain, which seemed to have a restorative effect on his voice: 'Never prostitute the gifts you were given at birth. For an artist' - the characteristic peremptory sweep of his broad blunt hand - 'it's fatal! Ruin for sure! And I'll tell you something else. When you become a literary figure - and trying to look modest won't help to make you one - if you happen to get hard up,' he glared portentously: 'Never borrow any money! Nobody in the literary ramp'll put up with a borrower! Even if you pay 'em back,' he screwed up his eyes as if in pain at the thought of this contingency; 'Even then, the seeds of mistrust are sown. Word gets about; feller's always after a touch; they'll turn their backs, editors won't look at your work, everyone's against you once they smell you're broke. Mark my words - I'm speaking from experience!'

This wise and truthful precept seemed inapplicable at the time (though it came back to me years after when - having been forced by economic necessity to disregard it - I was passing through a phase identical with that so trenchantly described by Harris): besides, I was impatiently waiting to question him about Oscar Wilde; here, however, I drew blank ('It's all there, in my book'), with the exception of a brief and pungent comment on the character of Lord Alfred Douglas, which was certainly not in his book, and which Mrs Harris was called on to confirm from the head of the table.

The smiles of the English couple became more constrained than ever at this; the mousy wife almost spilled her glass, whereupon Mr Kalnay, gallantly springing to his feet, sought to create a diversion by asking Mrs Harris for permission to remove his jacket. To my dismay, not only was this granted, but Amberly and even the dim English husband proceeded to follow Kalnay's example. 'What about you, Mr Maclaren-Ross?' Mrs Harris cried; 'I'm sure you must be very hot!' There seemed no way out: I looked desperately at my host, but he nodded too, excusing himself from doing likewise by reason of his malady; slowly I stood up and unbuttoned my mess-jacket, and the crimson sash was manifestly revealed.

My worst fears were realized: Harris's attention was caught immediately by the flash of colour: with bottle and glass suspended in his hand, he blinked and peered across the table at the sash, at the crépe-de-chine shirt: a dawning suspicion gathered like a cloud behind his glassy eyes.

'Are you a sodomite?' he shot out suddenly.

'I beg your pardon?' I stammered, seeing out of the corner of my eye Mr Kalnay suddenly pause with some witticism balanced, it seemed, on his bunched fingertips, and lean forward in his chair to listen.

'Are you a B--r?' This time it came loud enough for all to hear: Mrs Harris called 'Frank!' sharply down the table.

Harris turned slightly in his seat: 'It's all right, my dear,' he said testily; 'I'm just asking Ross a civil question - nothin to be alarmed about. . . . Not offended, are you, me boy - don't mind me asking, eh?'

'No,' I said: 'No, not at all.'

'And you're not a sodomite, now are you?'

'As a matter of fact, no.'

'You see, Nellie,' Harris called triumphantly up to his wife, 'He isn't one at all, what'd I tell you? And now,' glancing for approval at his guests, 'Let's have something more to drink!'

But the English couple, in every sense, had had enough: they were getting up to leave: 'Extraordinary thing,' Harris said, blowing out an audible breath of relief when they'd departed; 'Anybody'd think I'd done something to offend 'em. . . . Well, well - people have no manners nowadays. Now then, boy,' turning to me, 'We must hear all about this book of yours. What kind of book is it? A novel? Poetry? Or what?'

There's not much more to tell. Before we left, and after another bottle apiece of Camp Romain, plus some cognac, had been drunk, Harris had promised to read every word of my novel and to find a publisher for it; Kalnay might do, of course; we'd have to see. Meanwhile I was to come and lunch without fail on Monday week, when he'd have a full plan of campaign outlined for me.

I went home walking, as they say, on air: though luckily in view of the sequel, I made no mention to my father of Harris's promise or my buoyant hopes. But on the Monday morning, just as I was dressing to go out, a packet arrived by messenger containing my MS - in its original parcel which, I could tell, had never been opened - and a letter from Harris saying, quite politely, that owing to his state of health and the fact that he'd promised to deliver the biography of Shaw by a certain date, and was obliged therefore to work on it at redoubled speed, he would be unable to find a publisher for my book - which, however, he had greatly enjoyed.

This letter, which I tore into little pieces and thrust forthwith into the kitchen stove (an act I now regret), made, needless to say, no mention of the invitation to lunch; the rest of my mail that morning consisted of a postcard from Amberly announcing that he'd been compelled to return to London on urgent family business and would not be in Nice again until the following season.

I saw Frank Harris only once more: about six months later, hunched up over an aperitif at a table outside the Casino de la Mediterranée. His wife was with him; she caught sight of me and smiled, plucking at her husband's sleeve to attract his attention: Harris swivelled round in his chair and stared glassily about in search of a familiar face, but before his gaze could light on me, I had bowed frigidly - to Mrs Harris- and passed on.

Not long after, I heard that he had died, having first completed his Life of Shaw; but I felt no emotion and never read the book: to me, for many years, the name of Frank Harris stood for treachery, humbug, and - worst of all - humiliation; I wanted to put him wholly out of my mind. Now, as a middleaged man, I can view the situation from a different angle: more than understand the stringent force that drove him on, leaving no leisure to help others or concentrate on anything save the task in hand; but at eighteen I had not yet felt the pressure of poverty or the annual erosions of time: sickness and anxiety sapping the body: the buzz of fatigue in the brain.

1 This detail is confirmed in some descriptions, though not by photographs of Wilde.

2 Many years later in London, Douglas Goldring told me that it was he who discovered Camp Romain and recommended it to Harris.