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`Savonarola' Brown
I like to remember that I was the first to call him so, for, though he always
deprecated the nickname, in his heart he was pleased by it, I know, and
encouraged to go on.
Quite apart from its significance, he had reason to welcome it. He had been
unfortunate at the font. His parents, at the time of his birth, lived in Ladbroke
Crescent, XV. They must have been an extraordinarily unimaginative couple, for
they could think of no better name for their child than Ladbroke. This was all very
well for him till he went to school. But you can fancy the indignation and delight of
us boys at finding among us a newcomer who, on his own confession, had been
named after a Crescent. I don't know how it is nowadays, but thirty-five years
ago, certainly, schoolboys regarded the possession of ANY Christian name as
rather unmanly. As we all had these encumbrances, we had to wreak our scorn
on any one who was cumbered in a queer fashion. I myself, bearer of a Christian
name adjudged eccentric though brief, had had much to put up with in my first
term. Brown's arrival, therefore, at the beginning of my second term, was a good
thing for me, and I am afraid I was very prominent among his persecutors.
Trafalgar Brown, Tottenham Court Brown, Bond Brown--what names did we little
brutes NOT cull for him from the London Directory? Except how miserable we
made his life, I do not remember much about him as he was at that time, and the
only important part of the little else that I do recall is that already he showed a
strong sense for literature. For the majority of us Carthusians, literature was
bounded on the north by Whyte Melville, on the south by Hawley Smart, on the
east by the former, and on the west by the latter. Little Brown used to read
Harrison Ainsworth, Wilkie Collins, and other writers whom we, had we assayed
them, would have dismissed as `deep.' It has been said by Mr. Arthur Symons
that `all art is a mode of escape.' The art of letters did not, however, enable
Brown to escape so far from us as he would have wished. In my third term he did
not reappear among us. His parents had in some sort atoned. Unimaginative
though they were, it seems they could understand a tale of woe laid before them
circumstantially, and had engaged a private tutor for their boy. Fifteen years
elapsed before I saw him again.
This was at the second night of some play. I was dramatic critic for the Saturday
Review, and, weary of meeting the same lot of people over and over again at first
nights, had recently sent a circular to the managers asking that I might have
seats for second nights instead. I found that there existed as distinct and
invariable a lot of second- nighters as of first-nighters. The second-nighters were
less `showy'; but then, they came rather to see than to be seen, and there was
an air, that I liked, of earnestness and hopefulness about them. I used to write a
great deal about the future of the British drama, and they, for their part, used to
think and talk a great deal about it. People who care about books and pictures
find much to interest and please them in the present. It is only the students of the
theatre who always fall back, or rather forward, on the future. Though second-
nighters do come to see, they remain rather to hope and pray. I should have