john masefield could not have been, William Morris could not have been, Burne Jones could not have been.’ He went out to fetch Mrs Masefield whom I shall describe presently, then continued, ‘Without Rossetti they would all have been clergymen – Swinburne would have been a curate.’ Mrs M. laughed – a high cackle as is the laugh of the deaf, sometimes – and said, ‘Imagine Swinburne a curate.’ Masefield then spoke of Rossetti’s discovery of Fitzgerald and the enormous success of Rubaiyat. Every copy was sold and they were selling at a pound a-piece (originally the book was a farthing) until the day the copyright was released when about six publishers brought out Omar and once again they went into edition after edition. Mrs Masefield left the study to go and finish her letter and about ten minutes before lunch we joined her in a smaller room which had a smaller fire, burning logs and peat. She, too, preferred a low hard chair as she said she always wanted to fall asleep in a soft chair. She was a small, kindly person, very weird-looking, with an ear-apparatus and glasses that looked as if they covered one glass eye – at least one eye had a special lens that magnified the eye to look like a marble. She was dressed in an antique black hat trimmed with velvet, a red jersey and shortish old-fashioned grey skirt. Her voice was rather appalling, being due no doubt to some deafness. I liked her; and Masefield behaved with natural courtesy towards her. I should think she has been a true companion to him. They talked of their travels, from time to time, speaking of the lion farm at Hollywood, which Masefield said was kept specially for film use. He had seen one shot of a film introducing lions and Christians in the Roman arena. The lions were trained not to eat people, only to look fierce, but, he said, the Christians in this particular film would have put any healthy lion off.
We went into lunch – had some fricassee, very well cooked, accompanied by vegetables and ‘delights’ as Masefield called them. These ‘delights’ were pecan nuts and raisins. During lunch Masefield told me how he had hung round Swinburne’s door at Putney as a young man to see the poet – a queer figure with an auriole of red hair, tripping up Putney Hill. He asked, what did I think of Swinburne! I said I appreciated his technique but could not really extend my enjoyment beyond the words. He said, to the young poets at the end of the last century, Swinburne seemed to have released the language – he could do anything with language.
Meanwhile, I was feeling rather cold. We were all three provided with a black shiny round oil stove, reaching about 2 ft. But the other