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Derrick Vaughan, Novelist   By: (1857-1903)

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DERRICK VAUGHAN NOVELIST

By Edna Lyall

'It is only through deep sympathy that a man can become a great artist.' Lewes's Life of Goethe.

'Sympathy is feeling related to an object, whilst sentiment is the same feeling seeking itself alone.' Arnold Toynbee.

Chapter I.

'Nothing fills a child's mind like a large old mansion; better if un or partially occupied; peopled with the spirits of deceased members of the county and Justices of the Quorum. Would I were buried in the peopled solitude of one, with my feelings at seven years old!' From Letters of Charles Lamb.

To attempt a formal biography of Derrick Vaughan would be out of the question, even though he and I have been more or less thrown together since we were both in the nursery. But I have an odd sort of wish to note down roughly just a few of my recollections of him, and to show how his fortunes gradually developed, being perhaps stimulated to make the attempt by certain irritating remarks which one overhears now often enough at clubs or in drawing rooms, or indeed wherever one goes. "Derrick Vaughan," say these authorities of the world of small talk, with that delightful air of omniscience which invariably characterises them, "why, he simply leapt into fame. He is one of the favourites of fortune. Like Byron, he woke one morning and found himself famous."

Now this sounds well enough, but it is a long way from the truth, and I Sydney Wharncliffe, of the Inner Temple, Barrister at law desire, while the past few years are fresh in my mind, to write a true version of my friend's career.

Everyone knows his face. Has it not appeared in 'Noted Men,' and gradually deteriorating according to the price of the paper and the quality of the engraving in many another illustrated journal? Yet somehow these works of art don't satisfy me, and, as I write, I see before me something very different from the latest photograph by Messrs. Paul and Reynard.

I see a large featured, broad browed English face, a trifle heavy looking when in repose, yet a thorough, honest, manly face, with a complexion neither dark nor fair, with brown hair and moustache, and with light hazel eyes that look out on the world quietly enough. You might talk to him for long in an ordinary way and never suspect that he was a genius; but when you have him to yourself, when some consciousness of sympathy rouses him, he all at once becomes a different being. His quiet eyes kindle, his face becomes full of life you wonder that you ever thought it heavy or commonplace. Then the world interrupts in some way, and, just as a hermit crab draws down its shell with a comically rapid movement, so Derrick suddenly retires into himself.

Thus much for his outer man.

For the rest, there are of course the neat little accounts of his birthplace, his parentage, his education, etc., etc., published with the list of his works in due order, with the engravings in the illustrated papers. But these tell us little of the real life of the man.

Carlyle, in one of his finest passages, says that 'A true delineation of the smallest man and his scene of pilgrimage through life is capable of interesting the greatest men; that all men are to an unspeakable degree brothers, each man's life a strange emblem of every man's; and that human portraits faithfully drawn are of all pictures the welcomest on human walls.' And though I don't profess to give a portrait, but merely a sketch, I will endeavour to sketch faithfully, and possibly in the future my work may fall into the hands of some of those worthy people who imagine that my friend leapt into fame at a bound, or of those comfortable mortals who seem to think that a novel is turned out as easily as water from a tap.

There is, however, one thing I can never do: I am quite unable to put into words my friend's intensely strong feeling with regard to the sacredness of his profession... Continue reading book >>




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