THE TRAIN WENT THROUGH A COUNTRYSIDE DARK WITH floods; and then there was no countryside, but something like an abstract state of ill-being, a mist that made the land invisible but was not visible itself. Then we pulled up to mountains that were deep under new snow. Here trees became curious geometrical erections ; white triangles joined each branch-tip to the trunk. I saw one branch break under its burden and fall in a scattery powder of what had wrecked it. Valleys that I had seen in summer-time and knew to be rocky deserts strewn with boulders the size of automobiles were level as lakes and swansdown white. I grumbled at it, for I had wanted my husband to see the crocuses that I had seen the year before lying under the trees like dapples of mauve sunshine, and all the red anemones springing among the lion-coloured stones. I kept on saying, ‘It will be all right when we get to Dalmatia, when we come to the coast.’ But in the early afternoon we caught sight of the Adriatic across barren, snow-streaked hills, and it looked like one of the bleaker Scottish lochs. Sky and islands and sea alike were bruise-coloured.

Well, I will own it. The grimness of the day was not all to blame. No weather can make the Northern Dalmatian coast look anything but drear. The dreariness is so extreme that it astounds like luxuriance, it gluts the mind with excess of deprivation. The hills are naked. That exclusion of everything but rock that we English see only in a quarry face is here general. It is the landscape. Tracks lead over this naked rock, but it is hard to believe that they lead anywhere; it seems probable that they are traced by desperate men fleeing from barrenness, and doomed to die in barrenness. And indeed these bald hills mean a great deal of desperation. The rainfall sweeps down their slopes in torrents and carries away the soil instead of seeping into it and fertilizing it. The peasants collect what soil they can from the base of the hills and carry it up again and pack it in terraces; but there is not enough soil and the terraces are often swept away by the torrents.

The human animal is not competent. That is the meaning of the naked Dalmatian hills. For once they were clothed with woods. These the earliest inhabitants of Dalmatia, the Illyrians and Romans, axed with an innocent carelessness; and the first Slav settlers were reckless too, for they came from the inexhaustible primeval forest of the Balkan Peninsula. Then for three hundred years, from about the time of the Norman Conquest to 1420, the Hungarians struggled with the Venetians for the mastery of this coast, and the nations got no further with their husbandry. Finally the Venetian Republic established its claim, and thereafter showed the carelessness that egotistic people show in dealing with other people’s property.

They cut down what was left of the Dalmatian forests to get timbers for their fleet and piles for their palaces; and they wasted far more than they used. Venetian administration was extremely inefficient, and we know not only from Slav complaints but from the furious accusation of the Republic against its own people that vast quantities of timber were purloined by minor officials and put on the market, and that again and again supplies were delivered at the dockyard so far beyond all naval needs that they had to be let rot where they lay. After this wholesale denudation it was not easy to grow the trees again. The north wind, which blows great guns here in winter, is hard on young plantations; and the peasant as he got poorer relied more and more on his goat, a vivacious animal insensible to the importance of afforestation. The poor peasant is also sometimes a thief, and it is easier to steal a young tree than a fully grown one. So, for all the Yugoslavian Government can do, the mainland and the islands gleam like monstrous worked flints.

Bare hills, and young men that shout, both the product of human incompetence, of misgovernment. That is the immediate impression given by North Dalmatia. We met our first young man very soon after we got to Sushak. We strolled for a time round the port, which has a brown matter-of-fact handsomeness, and then we drove off to Trsat, a village two or three miles up on the heights behind Sushak, which is visited by countless thousands every year, for the sake of the church.

This is not interesting in itself, or even pleasing, except for a charming triangular piazza in front of it, which is edged by horse-chestnuts. But it has the supreme claim on the attention of marking the site where the Holy House, in which the Virgin Mary and Jesus and St. Joseph lived at Nazareth, rested for three years and seven months, from the year 1291 to 1294, on its way to Loretto, where it now is.

This is a story that enchants me. It gives a new meaning to the phrase ‘God moves in a mysterious way’; and the picture of the little house floating through space is a lovely example of the nonsensical function of religion, of its power to cheer the soul by propounding that the universe is sometimes freed from the burden of necessity, which inspires all the best miracles. It has often grieved the matter-of-fact. One English priest named Eustace who visited Loretto at the beginning of the nineteenth century wrote that many of the more sensible of his faith were extremely distressed by the story, and ‘suppose the holy house to have been a cottage or log building long buried in a pathless forest, and unnoticed in a country turned almost into a desert by a succession of civil wars, invasions and revolutions, during the space of ten or twelve centuries.’ It won’t do. The place where the Holy House rested at Trsat is a very short distance indeed from the castle where the Frankopan family were living at the time. We must admit that sometimes human beings quite simply lie, and indeed it is necessary that they should, for only so can poets who do not know what poetry is compose their works.

We pushed on to the Frankopan castle, which is the historical equivalent of a stall in the Caledonian Market. It is a huddle of round and square towers, temples and dungeons and dwelling-houses packed within battlements under an excess of plants and creepers due to neglect rather than luxuriousness. The earliest masonry that has been found is Illyrian, and much is Roman, of the time of Julius Cæsar. We climbed a Roman tower to see Sushak lying brown by the blue sea, and the dark ravine that runs up from the town to split a mountain range on the high skyline.

We numbered seven, the little party that was exploring the castle: ourselves, a middle-aged Frenchman and his blonde sopranoish wife, a German honeymoon couple, aggrieved and agonized, as Germans often are nowadays, at contact with foreigners, and a darkly handsome young man, a Dalmatian on holiday from some town further down the coast, who had early detached himself, and was seen only occasionally in the distance, a silhouette on the edge of the round tower after we had left it, or a shadow treading down the brambles at the entrance to the dungeons. We forgot him totally in a great wonder that came upon us when we were looking at the dwelling-house made in the castle by an early nineteenth-century Austrian general of Irish birth, Marshal Nugent. The Nugents had the custom, like the English who live in the West Indies and the early settlers in the southern states, of burying their dead on their premises. But whereas those other exiles buried their dead in their gardens, the Nugents set theirs in niches of the house, above ground, their coffins set upright behind slabs of marble.

That I found puzzling. The only people I have ever heard of as being buried upright are the ancient Irish, whose monotony of mind made them wish to be discovered at the Day of Judgment ready to face their enemies; but the Nugents are English by origin, and never saw Ireland till the days of Queen Elizabeth. But we soon forgot that bewilderment in another. The gardener was telling us that there was buried among the Nugents a stranger, a something that he described in a rapid phrase which we could not at first grasp. Incredulously we repeated his phrase: ‘La zia del Signore Bernard Shawa?’ ‘Si, signore.’ We still felt a need for verification, and repeated it in other languages: ‘La tante de Monsieur Bernard Shaw?’ ‘Die Tante von Herrn Bernard Shaw?’ ‘Tetka od Gospodina Bernarda Shaw?’ This was the hour for which Olendorff has waited a hundred years. Always the gardener nodded; and there, on the tomb, which indeed had a blue-veined elegance not inappropriate to Bernard Shaw himself, there was carved ‘Jane Shaw.’ But before we could find out how she came to be there, the dark young man was suddenly amongst us again, shouting at the top of his voice.

He had found, it seemed, a notice behind some creepers, on a wall, stating that the price of admission to the castle was five dinars, and we had all been charged ten. A dinar is about a penny; and I fancy that there was some reasonable explanation of the incident, the tariff had changed. But the young man was terribly enraged. All the resentment that most people feel in their whole lives is not greater than what he felt on this one point. ‘Zehn dinar!’ he cried, speaking in German so that we might understand and collaborate with him in fury. ‘Zehn dinar ist viel, zehn dinar ist zu teuer, ist viel zu teuer!’ He switched back to Serbo-Croat, so that he could make his accusations against the gardener with the unhampered vigour of a man using his native tongue. ‘You are an Austrian!’ he screamed at him. ‘You are an Italian!’ Rage ran through his whole body and out of his tongue. It was plainly an exercised gift, a precious function proudly developed. His gift mastered him, he could not endure the iniquity of this place; he had to leave us. Shouting protests to an invisible person, leaping higher and higher as if to keep in contact with his own soaring cries, he rushed away from us away from the castle of the Frankopans, towards the place where the house of innocence had rested for what appears to have been the insufficient period of three years and seven months.

‘Maniac,’ said the Frenchman. ‘Frightful!’ said his wife. ‘Savages!’ said the German couple. They were wrong. He was simply the product of Dalmatian history: the conquest of Illyria by Rome, of Rome by the barbarians; then three hundred years of conflict between Hungary and Venice; then four hundred years of oppression by Venice, with the war against Turkey running concurrently for most of that time; a few years of hope under France, frustrated by the decay of Napoleon; a hundred years of muddling misgovernment by Austria. In such a shambles a man had to shout and rage to survive.

Let me try to understand the plight of this people. Because this is a story that no Westerner can know of himself, no Englishman, no American. Let us consider what the Frankopans were. They are said to have been of Italian origin, to be affiliated with the Frangipani family of Rome; but that is almost certainly a late invention. They were typical Dalmatian nobles: of unknown origin, probably aliens who had come down on the Slavs when these were exhausted by barbarian invasions, and were themselves of barbarian blood. Certainly they owed their ascendancy not to virtue nor to superior culture, but to unusual steadfastness in seeing that it was always the other man who was beheaded or tossed from the window or smothered. They lived therefore in an agony of fear. They were liable to armed attack by Vienna or Hungary if ever they seemed to be favouring one rather than the other. Their properties were temptations to pirates. Their followers, and even their own families, were themselves living in continual fear, and were therefore apt to buy their safety by betraying their overlord to his strongest enemy; so overlords could trust nobody. We know a great deal about one Count Ivan Frankopan, in the fifteenth century. He was the eldest of nine sons: the other eight all conspired against him. To protect himself he used a device common in that age of legalist division: he made the Venetian Republic his heir. Thus it was not to the advantage of his brothers, or any other private person, to assassinate him. But when he seized the fortresses of two of his brothers he found that they were protected by a similar testamentary precaution; they had made the Count of Hungary their heir. He fled across the sea to an island named Krk, which was his. Then he went mad. He conceived the idea that he must have an infinite amount of money to save him from disaster. He robbed his peasants of their last coins. He murdered refugees who landed on his island in flight from the Turk, for the sake of their little stores. The Venetian Commissioner was ceded the island by its horrified inhabitants on condition that he take the poor lunatic away.

The bare hills around the castle told us what followed that: four centuries of selfish exploitation. Then, with the French occupation, there was hope. The gardener showed us with pride a neat nineteenth-century neo-classical temple, built with the fidelity to antique classicism that does not deceive the eye for an instant, so obvious is it that the builders belonged to a later civilization that had learned to listen to orchestral music and to drink tea from fine cups. There is a cross at the apex of the pediment and two well-bosomed matrons sit on its slopes, one decapitated by an idiot bomb dropped by one of d‘Annunzio’s planes when he was holding Sushak’s neighbour, Fiume. Across the frieze of this temple is written ’Mir Yunaka,‘ which I translated to my husband perhaps more often than was absolutely necessary, for I am delighted with my minute knowledge of the Serbian language. Peace to the Heroes, it means. This temple was erected during the French occupation which gave Dalmatia a peace for eight years. Eight years out of all time. No longer.

For in 1806 Napoleon had still much of his youthful genius. It made him take over this territory after he had defeated Austria, and found the two provinces of High and Low Illyria that comprised Croatia, and Dalmatia, and Slovenia, as well as the Slav districts behind Trieste that are now Italian. He had the idea of forming a civilized Slav state, to include in time the Christian provinces of Turkey, which should make South-Eastern Europe stable, pacific, and pro-French. He made Marshal Marmont the Governor of these Illyrian provinces, and it was an excellent appointment. Though Marmont was a self-satisfied prig, he was an extremely competent and honourable man, and he loved Dalmatia. His passion for it was so great that in his memoirs, his style, which was by nature dropsically pompous, romps along like a boy when he writes of his Illyria. He fell in love with the Slavs; he defended them against their Western critics. They were not lazy, he said indignantly, they were hungry. He fed them, and set them to build magnificent roads along the Adriatic, and crowed like a cock over the accomplishment. They were not savages, either, he claimed: they had had no schools, and he built them plenty. When he saw they were fervent in piety, he fostered their religious institutions, though he himself conceived faith as buckram to stiffen the Army Regulations.

Marmont would have spent all his life in paternal service of Dalmatia had his been the will that determined this phase of history. But he could achieve less and less as time went on, and when he resigned in 1811 the commerce of the country was in ruins, the law courts were paralysed by corruption, the people were stripped to the skin by tax-collectors, and there was no sort of civil liberty. For he was only Marmont, a good and just and sensible man whom no one would call great. But none denied the greatness of Napoleon, who was neither good, nor just, nor sensible.

There is a school of historians today who claim with semi-erotic ardour that Napoleon’s benevolence and wisdom never failed. It is hard to know how this view can survive a reading of his correspondence with Marmont on the subject of the Illyrian provinces. The style of his letters is curiously frivolous and disagreeable. He addresses Marmont with the provocative mock insolence of a homosexual queen; and there is nothing in the content to redeem this impression. By this time he had forgotten everything about his empire except the crown. He showed complete indifference to the welfare of the French troops he had left in Dalmatia, and refused to sanction the expenditure Marmont insisted was necessary to keep them healthy in this barren coast of extreme weather, and he was completely unresponsive to Marmont’s desire to build up a virile and loyal population and bring it into the fold of civilization. As time went on, he ignored Marmont’s letters altogether, and his exchequer grudged every halfpenny sent to Dalmatia. Finally, for no other purpose than pure offensiveness, he re-drafted the constitution of the provinces and reduced the post of Governor to a mere prefectship. Marmont could do nothing but resign and go back to the Army. Yet he was a born colonial administrator, and this is one of the rarest forms of genius.

The men Napoleon sent to Dalmatia to replace Marmont prove his odd sluttishness. First was General Bertrand, who was later to share his Emperor’s captivity on St. Helena. He deserved it for his treatment of the Dalmatians. To a race of mystics, who had been granted a special revelation of Christianity, because they had had to defend it against Islam, he applied the petty and shallow proscriptions of French eighteenth-century anti-clericalism. On these same mystics, who were also, though the West lacked the scholarship to know it, accomplished jurists, dowered with laws and customs springing from ancient tradition and beautifully adapted to local necessities, he forced the new legislative cure-all, the Code Napoleon. But Bertrand was far better than his successor. Junot, the Duke of Abrantès, brought his career to its only possible climax at the Governor’s palace in the delicious Slovenian town of Lyublyana. He gave a state ball, and came down the great marble staircase, under the blazing chandeliers, stark naked and raving mad. But there was yet to come Fouché, the Duke of Otranto: a renegade priest, one of the most pitiless butchers of the Revolution, and in his capacity as the Minister of Police the worst of all traitors, Judas only excepted. He loathed Napoleon yet loved him, was never loyal to him, yet could never bring himself to betray him finally. There was here some nasty coquetry of spirit, some purulent corruption of love. Because his master was by then a beaten man, Fouché came out to Dalmatia in a yeast of loyalty, and indeed was inspired to glorious courage. In this far country, while Napoleon’s future crumbled in the West, Fouché acted all day the secure administrator and dawdled through the routine of governorship, and by night worked with frenzy on the plans for evacuation. ‘Step by step, therefore, without losses,’ writes one of his biographers, ‘he withdraws to Venice, bringing away intact or almost intact from the short-lived Illyria, its officials, its funds, and much valuable material.’ All very marvellous; but not by any accountancy could it be judged honest to withdraw ‘funds and much valuable material’ from that hungry country, which had beggared itself saving the West from the Turkish invasion.

I did not wonder that the young man shouted as he ran down the road, shouted as if he must go mad, did not the world at last abandon its bad habit and resolve into mercy, justice, and truth.


The next morning we woke early, prodigiously early, so that before we embarked on our little steamer we could cross the bridge over the river that leads from Sushak to Fiume. There we found a town that has the quality of a dream, a bad headachy dream. Its original character is rotund and sunburnt and solid, like any pompous southern port, but it has been hacked by treaties into a surrealist form. On a ground plan laid out plainly by sensible architects for sensible people, there is imposed another, quite imbecile, which drives high walls across streets and thereby sets contiguous houses half an hour apart by detour and formality. And at places where no frontiers could possibly be, in the middle of a square, or on a bridge linking the parts of a quay, men in uniform step forward and demand passports, minatory as figures projected into sleep by an uneasy conscience.

‘This has meant,’ said my husband as we wandered through the impeded city, ‘infinite suffering to a lot of people,’ and it is true. Because of it many old men have said to their sons, ‘We are ruined,’ many lawyers have said to widows, ‘I am afraid there will be nothing, nothing at all.’ All this suffering is due, to a large part, to English inefficiency. The Treaty of London, signed by the Allies and Italy in 1915, was intended as a bribe to induce the Italians to come into the war on the Allied side, and it promised them practically the whole Adriatic seaboard of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and all but one of the Adriatic islands. It was made by Lord Oxford and Lord Grey, and it reflected the greatest discredit on them and on the officials of the Foreign Office. For it handed over to a new foreign yoke the Slav inhabitants of this territory, who were longing to rise in revolt against the Central Powers in support of the Allies; and an Italian occupation of the Adriatic coast was a threat to the safety of Serbia, who of all the Allies had made the most sacrifices. These were good reasons why the Italians should not have Dalmatia, and there were no reasons why they should, for the Italian population was negligible.

Mercifully the Treaty of London was annulled at Versailles, largely through the efforts of Lloyd George and President Wilson. But it had done its work. It had given Italian greed a cue for inordinacy; it started her wheedling and demanding and snatching. So she claimed Fiume on the ground that the inhabitants were Italian, and proved it by taking a census of the town, excluding one part which housed twenty-five per cent of the population. The Italian Government was discouraged by European opinion from acting on that peculiar proof, but thereafter d‘Annunzio marched his volunteers into Fiume, in an adventure which, in mindlessness, violence, and futility exactly matched his deplorable literary works, and plunged it into anarchy and bloodshed. He was made to leave it, but the blackmail had been started. Yugoslavia had to buy peace, and in 1920 she conceded Italy the capital of Dalmatia, Zara, three Dalmatian islands, and the hinterland behind Trieste, and she entered into arrangements concerning Fiume which, in the end, left the port as it is.

All this is embittering history for a woman to contemplate. I will believe that the battle of feminism is over, and that the female has reached a position of equality with the male, when I hear that a country has allowed itself to be turned upside-down and led to the brink of war by its passion for a totally bald woman writer. Years ago, in Florence, I had marvelled over the singular example of male privilege afforded by d‘Annunzio. Leaning from a balcony in the Lung’ arno I had looked down on a triumphal procession. Bells rang, flags were waved; flowers were thrown, voices swelled in ecstasy; and far below an egg reflected the rays of the May sunshine. Here in Fiume the bald author had been allowed to ruin a city: a bald-headed authoress would never be allowed to build one. Scowling, I went on the little steamer that was taking us and twenty other passengers and as many cattle and sheep southwards to the island of Rab, and we set off in a cold dither of spray.

The bare hills shone like picked bones. I fell asleep, for we had risen at six. Then my husband shook me by the shoulder and said, ‘You must come up on deck. This is Senj.’ I followed him and stared at the port, which was like many others in Spain and Italy: from the quayside high buttoned-up houses washed in warm colours and two or three campaniles struggled up a hill towards a ruined fortress, the climbing mass girt in by city walls. I groaned, remembering that the climbing mass certified man to be not only incompetent but beastly, that here the great powers had mocked out of their own fullness at another’s misery and had shown neither gratitude nor mercy.

Senj was the home of the Uskoks. These are not animals invented by Edward Lear. They were refugees. They were refugees like the Jews and Roman Catholics and liberals driven out by Hitler. They found, as these have done, that when one door closed on them others that should have been open suddenly were not. These were driven out of their homes, out of the fellowship of Christendom, out of the world of virtue, into an accursed microcosm where there was only sin. They were originally Slavs of blameless character who fled before the Turks as they swept over Bulgaria and Serbia and Bosnia, and formed a strange domestic army, consisting of men, women, and children, that fought many effective rearguard actions over a period of many years. Finally they halted at the pass over the Dalmatian mountains, behind the great port of Split, and for five years from 1532 they held back the Turks single-handed. Then suddenly they were told by their Christian neighbours to abandon the position. Venice, which had just signed a pact with Turkey, and was a better friend to her than Christian historians like to remember, convinced Austria that it would be wise to let Turkey have the pass as a measure of appeasement.

Then the Uskoks came down to the coast and settled in this little town of Senj, and performed a remarkable feat. Up till then they had displayed courage and resolution of an unusual order. But they now showed signs of genius. Some of them were from the southern coast of Dalmatia, down by Albania, but most of them were inland men. In any case they can have had few marine officers. But in a short time they had raised themselves to the position of a naval power.

This was not a simple matter of savage daring. The Uskoks had unusual talent for boat-building. They devised special craft to suit the special needs of the Dalmatian coast, which resembled those with which the ancient Illyrians used to vex the Roman fleet: light boats that could navigate the creeks and be drawn up on the beach where there was no harbour. They also developed extraordinary powers of seamanship which enabled them to take advantage of the situation of Senj. Just here the channel between the mainland and the island of Krk widens to ten miles or so, which makes a fairway for the north wind, and it meets another channel that runs past the tail of the island to the open sea, so the seas roar rougher here than elsewhere on the coast. It was so when we came into Senj; a wave larger than any we had met before slapped against the quay. The Uskoks developed a technique of using this hard weather as a shield against their enemies, while they ran through it unperturbed. Therefore they chased the Turkish ships up and down the Adriatic, stripped them, and sank them; and year by year they grew cleverer at the game. This success was amazing, considering they numbered at most two thousand souls. If the Venetian fleet had been directed by men of the quality of the Uskoks the Turks might have been driven out of European waters, which would have meant out of Europe, in the middle of the sixteenth century.

Venice, however, was in her decline, which was really more spiritual than economic. Her tragedies were due to maladministration and indecisive politics rather than to actual lack of means.

She tried to placate Turkey in another way. She stopped attacking her at sea. To the Uskoks this capitulation of the great Christian powers must have seemed the last word in treachery. They had, within the memory of all those among them who were middle-aged or over, been driven from their homes by the Turks in atrocious circumstances; and they had believed that in harrying the Turks they were not only avenging their wrongs but were serving God and His Son. They had often been blessed by the Church for their labours, and Gregory XIII had even given them a large subsidy. But now they were treated as enemies of Christendom, for no other crime than attacking its enemies. And not only were they betrayed in the spirit, they were betrayed in the body. How were they to live? Till then they had provided for themselves, quite legitimately, since the Turks had dispossessed them of all their homes, by booty from Turkish ships. But now all that was over. The Christian powers had no suggestions to make. The plight of a refugee, then as now, provoked the feeling that surely he could get along somehow. There was nothing for the Uskoks to do except defy Venice and Austria, and attack their ships and the Turks’ alike.

It seems certain that to see the story of the Uskoks thus is not to flatter them. For nearly thirty years they lived in such a state of legitimate and disciplined warfare that they attacked only Turkish ships. It is not until 1566 that there is the first record of an Uskok attack on a Christian ship. Thereafter, of course, the story is very different. They became gangsters of the sea. They developed all the characteristics of gunmen: a loyalty that went unbroken to the death, unsurpassable courage, brutality, greed, and, oddly enough, thriftlessness. Just as a Chicago racketeer who has made an income of five figures for many years will leave his widow penniless, so the Uskoks, who helped themselves to the richest loot the sea ever carried, always fell into penury if they survived to old age. Also they were looted, as thieves often are, by the honest. It is said that they bribed the very highest Austrian officials, even in the seat of government itself at Graz; and that a Jewish merchant might recognize there on a great lady’s breast a jewel which he had seen snatched by a robber’s hand on the Adriatic. Because of this traffic, it is alleged, the Austrians did little to restrain the Uskoks after they had become pirates. In any case it is certain that Venetian officials often bought the Uskoks’ prizes from them and marketed them at a profit in Venice.

In a very short time the moral confusion of these people was complete. At Christmas and Easter every year there were expeditions financed by the whole of Senj. Everybody, the officials, the soldiers, the private families, the priests and monks, paid their share of the expenses and drew a proportionate share of the booty. The Church received its tithe. This would be funny if murder had not been a necessary part of such expeditions, and if barbarity did not spread from heart to heart as fire runs from tree to tree in a forest in summer. Some of the later exploits of the Uskoks turn the stomach; they would knife a living enemy, tear out his heart, and eat it. Not only did the perpetrators of these acts lose their own souls, but the whole level of Slav morality was debased, for the Dalmatian peasant knew the Uskok’s origin and could not blame him. And the infection spread more widely. All the villains of Europe heard that there was good sport to be had in the Adriatic, and the hardier hurried to Senj. It testifies to the unwholesomeness of Renaissance Europe that some of these belonged to the moneyed classes. When a party of Uskoks were hanged in Venice in 1618 nine of them were Englishmen, of whom five were gentlemen in the heraldic sense of the word, and another was a member of one of the noblest families in Great Britain.

It is sometimes very hard to tell the difference between history and the smell of skunk. Both Venice and Austria used the degradation of these men as extra aces in their cheating game. The Austrians pretended to want to suppress them, but rather liked to have them harrying Venice. Venice sacrificed them to her friendship with Turkey, but that friendship was a sham; she never really wept over those Turkish ships. Also she liked to have a legitimate source of grievance against Austria. The insincerity of both parties was proven by their refusal to grant the Uskoks’ demand, which was constantly presented during a period of fifty years, that they should be transported to some inland place and given a chance to maintain themselves either by tilling the soil or by performing military duties. Again and again the poor wretches explained that they had no means of living except by piracy, and that they would abandon it at once if they were shown any other way of getting food. But Venice and Austria, though one was still wealthy and the other was becoming wealthier every day, haggled over the terms of each settlement and let it go. Once there was put forward a scheme of selling the forests of pine and beech that in those days still grew round Senj, and using the proceeds to build fortresses on the Austrian frontiers which would be manned by Uskoks. It fell through because neither power would agree to make an initial payment amounting to something like fifty pounds. At the same time the Uskoks were not allowed to go to any country which was prepared to make room for them. They were strictly forbidden to enlist in foreign service. They were shut up in piracy as in jail by powers that affected to feel horror at their crimes.

In the end their problem was settled in the course of an odd war between Austria and Venice, in which the Uskoks were used as a pretext by several people who wanted a fight. This war, which was almost nothing and led to nothing, lasted three years and must have brought an infinity of suffering to the wretched Dalmatian peasant. But, mercifully, as it was supposed to be about the Uskoks, the Peace Treaty had to deal with them. A good many were hanged and beheaded and the rest were transported, as they themselves had requested for fifty years, to the interior. But the method of their transport was apparently unkind. There were no stout fortresses built for them, or hopeful villages, for no certain trace of them can be found. Some say their descendants are to be found on the Alps at the very southern end of Austria; others have thought to recognize them on the slopes of a mountain in North Italy. It is to be feared that their seed was scattered on stony ground. That is sad, for the seed was precious.

We went down to the little dining-saloon and had a good, simple, coarse, well-flavoured luncheon. Opposite us sat a young man, handsome and angry, the very spit and image of the one at Trsat who had cried out to his God about the ten dinars; and indeed they were of the same breed. For this one thrust away his plate as soon as it was brought to him with a gesture of fury. ‘This soup is cold!’ he shouted, his brows a thick straight line. ‘This soup is as cold as the sea!’ But he was not shouting at the soup. He was shouting at the Turks, at the Venetians, at the Austrians, at the French, and at the Serbs (if he was a Croat) or at the Croats (if he was a Serb). It was good that he shouted. I respected him for it. In a world where during all time giants had clustered to cheat his race out of all their goods, his forefathers had survived because they had the power to shout, to reject cold soup, death, sentence to piracy, exile on far mountain slopes.


The sea was green and hard as glass; the crests of the waves were chevaux de frise between us and a horizon of pure, very pale-green light, and dark-bronze islands. Our destination, the isle of Rab, lay before us, its mountains bare as Krk, its shores green as spring itself. As we came closer to it my husband said, ‘It is only scrub, of course, low woods and scrub.’ But a little later he exclaimed, ‘Only scrub, indeed! Just smell it! Well, I have heard of this but I never quite believed it.’ It was still distant by half a mile or so, but the scent of myrtle and rosemary and thyme was as strong and soothing a delight as sunshine. Through this lovely invisible cloud we rode slowly into the harbour of Rab, and found ourselves in one of the most beautiful cities of the world. It is very little. One can see it all at once, as if it were a single building; and that sight gives a unique pleasure. Imagine finding a place where one heard perpetually a musical phrase which was different every time one moved a few steps, and was always exquisite. At Rab something comparable happens to the sight. The city covers a ridge overlooking the harbour. It is built of stone which is sometimes silver, sometimes at high noon and sunset, rose and golden, and in the shadow sometimes blue and lilac, but is always fixed in restraint by its underlying whiteness. It is dominated by four campaniles, set at irregular intervals along the crest of the ridge. From whatever point one sees it these campaniles fall into a perfect relationship with each other and the city. We sat under a pine tree on the shore and ate oranges, and the city lay before us, making a statement that was not meaningless because it was not made in words. There we undressed and swam out fifty yards, and we stopped and trod water, because the town was making another lovely statement. From every yard of the channel that divides it from its neighbour islands, from every yard of the roads that wind among the inland farms and olive terraces to the bald mountains in the centre of the island, the city can be seen making one of an infinite series of statements. Yet it achieves this expressiveness with the simplest of means: a grey horizontal oblong with four smaller vertical oblongs rising from it. Euclid never spoke more simply.

This island is within sight of the barbarized home of the Frankopans, is set in a sea polluted by the abominations of the Turks and the Uskoks. It is therefore astonishing that there is nothing accidental about the beauty of Rab; that in the fissure of this bare land there should be art and elegance of the most refined and conscious sort. Though Rab is no larger than many villages, it is a city, a focus of culture, a fantasy made by man when he could do more with his head and hands than is absolutely necessary for survival. There is a noble white square by the harbour, where balconies are supported by tiers of three lions set one upon another, pride upon pride, and façades are aristocratic in their very proportions, being broad enough to be impressive yet not too broad for respect towards neighbouring properties. From this square streets run up to the ridge of the town or along its base; and the richness of the doorways and windows and columns makes each seem a passage in some private magnificence. In one doorway stone grows as fern fronds above the pilasters, enwreaths with flowers a coat of arms, and edges the shield above with forms delicate as wheat-ears. Above another doorway, opening into a cloistered garden, cupids hold ropes of laurel flowing from a shield and helmet on which an eagle broods. One cupid holds forth his rope of laurel with a gesture that expresses the ambition of the Renaissance. ‘To humanity be the kingdom, the power, and the glory.’ Each of these doorways has begun to feel the weight of five centuries; in the first the columns are straddling apart, in the second a stone has fallen and left a gap through which a flower pokes a scarlet head. But this shabbiness, which is not at all tainted by dirt, is very much what a great emperor might permit in the homelier parts of his palace.

There is the same sense of private magnificence about the Cathedral of Rab. On the ridge there is a little square, with bastions and cliffs falling deeply to the shore on the further side; between the tall soldierly flowers of the aloes and the swords of their leaves the eyes fall on the sea and its scattered islands. Here stands the cathedral built of rose and white marble in alternate courses, ornamented with blind arches of a lovely span. It is no bigger than many a private chapel; and it has an air of not knowing what strangers are. That was the theory. Without, the horror, the pirate, the Turk; within, an enclosed community within an enclosed community, a small city upon an island. One arranges one’s house with a certain lavishness and confidence when one believes that it is going to be visited only by familiars, and this Cathedral is therefore at once domestic and elegant. It is Venetian in spirit, which is not to say that it is actually the work of Venetian hands: our English Norman and Gothic churches derive from France but were not built by Frenchmen. It recalls the bone-white architectural backgrounds of Carpaccio and Bellini, that delicate frame of a world which is at once pious and playful, luxurious and simple-minded. Its interior might have been designed by a maker of masks, who with infinite reverence conceived the high mass as the supreme mask. The stage is set high above the onlookers: six high steps lead up to the choir, where stalls of heraldic pomp indicate that those who sit there are the servants of a great lord, and another flight mounts to the altar, which is sheltered and magnified by a tall baldacchino.

This is a part of an older church, a thousand years old, built in the time of Slav independence. It is one of the utmost elegance imaginable. Its six supporting columns are of fine cipollino marble, and its canopy is carved from one great block of stone, but it is weightless as a candle-flame because of the exquisiteness of its design and execution. Round its six arches are garlands carved more finely than the emblems on the patricians’ doorways in the town below, which is as it should be, since this is the palace of the patrician above all patricians. The pyramided roof of the baldacchino is painted a tender red, the vault above it is painted a tender blue, just such colours as grace the festivities of a much later Venice in the paintings of Paolo Veronese. The community that built this Cathedral was so civilized that it could conceive a God who would be pleased not by the howlings of His worshippers and the beating of their breasts, but by their gaiety, by their accomplishment, by their restraint and dignity. At one time the island of Rab paid an annual tribute to the Doge of ten pounds of silk. In this building it paid a tribute of silken elegance to the Doge of Doges.

Because it was noon they came to close the Cathedral. We went out blinking into the sunlight, which for a moment was falling strong between thunderclouds; and a group of women smiled at us and gave us some greetings in Italian, though they were visibly not Italian. For they were completely lacking in Latin facility. They had that flat, unfeigned, obstinate look about the cheekbones, which is the mark of the Slav, and their bodies were unpliable. But they were not of a harsh race that had usurped the home of gentler beings perished through gentleness. These people, and none other, had made Rab. Over the Cathedral doorway the builders had set a Pietà, a Madonna holding her dead son in her arms, and she was as these women. With a stiff spine, with her chin high, she sits and holds a Christ that is dead, truly dead—for if he were not, where would be the occasion for all the excitement?—dead as mutton, dead as the skinned lamb which one of the women was holding like a baby. This Madonna is as sorrowful as sorrow; her son is dead as death. There is here the fullest acceptance of tragedy, there is no refusal to recognize the essence of life, there is no attempt to pretend that the bitter is the sweet. One must not pull wool over the eyes if one is in danger; for it goes badly with one when the sword falls unless one has a philosophy which has contemplated the fact of death.

Above our heads a bell gave out the hour, and I jumped with surprise. The women laughed indulgently, sleepily; there was a semblance of noon heat settling down on the city. It was the Campanile of St. Christopher, the most beautiful of the four towers of Rab. It is said of the big bell, as it is said of many old ones, that when it was being cast the citizens came to the foundry and dropped their gold and silver ornaments into the melting-pot; and certainly its tone is much mollified for metal; it might be the voice of a dove that had grown old and great and wise. Leaning back against the wall of a palace and looking up at the campanile my husband said: ‘Look at the thing. It is made on a Euclidean recipe. There are four stories. On the lowest is a doorway. On the next are on each wall two windows, each divided by a shaft. On the next there are two windows, each divided by two columns; on the highest there is one window divided by three columns; above that is a balustrade of seventeen columns, every fifth one somewhat stouter. Above is the spire. How did that man who built this tower seven hundred years ago know that these severe shapes would affect my eyes as a chime of joy-bells would affect my ear? He must have been a man of incredible cunning to make this stony promise of a fluid world, this geometric revelation of a universe in which there is not an angle.’

Out in the country round the city of Rab there are no revelations. There is a mystery. It is formulated also in stone, but not in worked stone, in the terrible naked stone of Dalmatia, in the terrible earth that here lies shallow and infirm of purpose as dust, and in the terrible faces of the people, who are all like crucified Christs. Everywhere there are terraces. High up on the bare mountains there are olive terraces; in the valleys there are olive terraces; in the trough of the valleys there are walled fields where an ordinary crop of springing corn or grass strikes one as an abnormal profusion like a flood. On these enclosures black figures work frenetically. From a grey sky reflected light pours down and makes of every terrace and field a stage on which these black figures play each their special drama of toil, of frustration, of anguish. As we passed by on the stony causeway, women looked up at us, from the fields, their faces furrowed with all known distresses. By their sides lambs skipped in gaiety and innocence, and goats skipped in gaiety but without innocence, and at their feet the cyclamens shone mauve; the beasts and flowers seemed fortunate because they are not human, as those who have passed within the breath of a plague and have escaped it. From the olive terraces the men looked down with faces contracted by the greatest effort conceivable; and the trees they stood upon, though the droughts of summer and the salt hurricanes of winter had twisted them to monstrous corkscrews, also seemed fortunate by comparison. Sometimes we met people on these causeways who begged from us without abjectness, without anything but hunger. Their lean hands came straight out before them. Their clothes asked alms louder than they did, making it plain that here were the poorest of creatures, peasants who had not the means to make a peasant costume, to proclaim that in their village they had skill and taste and their own way of looking at things. They wore undifferentiated black rags.

Here, out in the country, the islanders spoke Serbo-Croat; half an hour from the city gates we found peasants who knew only a few words of Italian. These are true, gaunt Slavs, wholly without facility, with that Slav look of being intuitionally aware of the opposite of the state in which they found themselves at the moment, and therefore being more painfully affected by it if it were disagreeable. The poor have at the back of their sunken eyes a shining picture of wealth, the sick know what it is to be sound, and as the unhappy weep the scent of happiness dilates their nostrils. This unfamiliar way of bearing misery gave them a certain unity in our eyes; but there were also marked differences between them, which were terrible because they depended to such a startling degree on the geographical variations, necessarily not very great, which can be observed here within a few hundred yards of each other. That we noticed on our first walk in the island. We followed a stony causeway along the barren lower slopes of a ridge that ran towards an estuary, and there the people who were working on the fields and who begged from us were thin and slow-moving, glaring in misery. Then we came to a village set on firm ground above the estuary, which could draw on the wealth of both the sea and the rich earth among the river’s mouth; and here the people were stouter and brisker.

And so it was throughout our walk, rich, poor, rich, poor. Once we found ourselves on the shore of a land-locked bay, broken with a magnificent cliff, round which there was plainly no road at all. We came on an old man in patched clothes sitting under a pine tree watching some goats, on a little headland made into a harbour by a few blocks of stone. He concerned himself in our plight as if he were our host. It was inconceivable that he could have begged from us. There came presently a young fisherman in a rowing-boat, who rowed us across waters that were swimming with the first sunset colours to the village on the other side of the bay, and took his just fare, and would not have taken money for any other cause.

But when we had walked half a mile or so from where we landed we were on barren and wind-swept lands again, and we met an old man, who was like the old man on the headland as one pea and another, and he was begging shamelessly and very pitifully. He had gathered some flowers from the hedgerows and stood there in the dusk on the chance of some tourist coming along, which might justly be called an off-chance, as all the tourists on the island were middle-aged Germans who never moved a mile from the city. All this part was very poor. We met ragged and listless men and women hurrying through the twilight without zest, leaden-footed with hunger. Nevertheless there bloomed suddenly before us the lovely gallant human quality of fantasy, which when necessity binds it down with cords leaps up and exercises its choice where it would have seemed there was nothing to choose, which in destitution dares to prefer this to that and likes its colours bright. We came on a group that was standing lapped in pleasure all across the causeway in front of a young man who was showing off his new suit. They were peering at it and fingering it and exclaiming over it, as well they might, for though it was conventionally tailored in Western fashion it was cut from emerald velveteen. It was the time of dusk when colours liquefy and clot, when in a garden the flowers become at once more solid and more glowing; the suit was a pyre of green flame, about which the black figures pressed insubstantially, yet with ecstatic joy.

The poverty of the island was made plainer still to us the next day. Our first expedition had been over the northern part of the island, which is more or less protected from the north wind by high ground; but this time we walked to the south, where there is no shelter from the blast that rakes the channel between Rab and its neighbour island. Here is a land and a people that are not only grim but desperate. Most of the houses are very large; some of them are almost fortress size, for the customs of land tenure make it convenient for a whole family to live under the same roof, even to several degrees of cousinship. There is something specially terrifying about a house that is very big and very poor, a Knole or Blenheim of misery. At the dark open door of one such home, that seemed to let out blackness rather than let in light, there waited a boy of seven or eight with flowers in his hand for the tourist. My husband thrust down into his pocket, brought up three dinars and one half-dinar, and peered to see what they were. The child shuddered with suspense, broke down, put out his little hand and snatched, and ran into the house. But he had not snatched the four coins. He had snatched just one dinar; his fear had been lest my husband should give him the half-dinar. Later we passed a blind beggar, crouched on a bank with a little girl beside him. To him we gave ten dinars, that is tenpence. The little girl shook him and shouted into his ear and gave him the coin to feel, and then shook him again, furious that he could not realize the miraculous good fortune that had befallen him; but he went on muttering in complaint.

The most heartrending figure we saw was not mendicant. It was a woman, middle-aged and of dignified physique, who was sitting on a stone wall, some distance from the road, in an attitude of despair. When we passed the place on our return, half an hour later, she was still sitting there. And there was here too an outbreak of fantasy, of the human capacity for laughter and wonder and invention. At a fork in the path near by we found a knot of men pausing for gossip, and turning aside from their talk to laugh at the antics of the lambs they were leading to market. They dropped an amused eye on the pale butter-coloured waves in the white lambs’ fleeces, the nigger-brown waves in the black lambs’ fleeces, on the nearly closed curves the lambs described when they leaped clear off the ground and silly fore-paws dangling from a young and flexible backbone almost met silly hind-paws. These people have not been anesthetized by loutishness.

The day we left the island we climbed its highest peak. We were led by a well-mannered and intelligent man, whose rags were wretched, though he lived in a huge house and was evidently co-heir to a property of some extent. At the top there was a glory of clean salt air, and intense but unwounding light; for here we are not so far from Greece, where the light is a benediction, and one can go out at noon till near high summer without wearing glasses. Below us lion-coloured islands lay in a dark-blue sea. To the east the mainland raised violet-grey mountains to a dense superior continent of white clouds; to the west the long outer islands lay like the scrolls angels hold up in holy pictures. We leaned on a gate. It was necessary; for the first time I was on a hill where it was impossible to find a place to sit down without inflicting on oneself innumerable sharp wounds. As we rested we tried to account for the state of the island. There is no apparent reason why it should be so poor. There is plenty of fish in this part of the Adriatic, including very good mackerel; there are many parts of the island where oil and wine and corn can be produced, and sheep and swine can be raised. It is said that the population is too lazy to work. There was in the city of Rab a Viennese Jew who managed a photographic store, and he told us that. ‘They would rather beg than put their hands to a plough,’ he had said, but his spectacles gleamed with smug pleasure as he spoke, and he was expressing nothing but adherence to the disposition of the German subjects of the Austrian Empire to hate and despise all subjects of other races. A Serb doctor who was working in Rab told us that the islanders could not be expected to work on the food they got; and I remembered that Marmont wrote in his memoirs that the laziness of the Dalmatians was notorious, but entirely disappeared when he set them down to build roads on regular and adequate rations.

The reason for the island’s melancholy lies not in its present but in its past. It is only now, since the war, since Dalmatia became a part of a Slav state, that it has had a chance to enjoy the proper benefits of its economic endowment; and since then there have been such overwhelming catastrophes in the world market that no community could live without tragic discomfort unless it could fall back on accumulations which it had stored in earlier days. That Rab has never been able to do. Some of the factors which have hindered her have been real acts of God, not to be circumvented by man. She has been ravaged by plague. But for the most part what took the bread out of Rab’s mouth was empire. The carelessness and cruelty that infects any power when it governs a people not its own without safeguarding itself by giving the subjects the largest possible amount of autonomy, afflicted this island with hunger and thirst. Venice made it difficult for Dalmatian fishermen to make their profit in the only way it could be made before the day of refrigeration; the poor wretches could not salt their fish, because salt was a state monopoly and was not only extremely expensive but badly distributed. Moreover Venice restricted the building of ships in Dalmatia. It was her definite policy to keep the country poor and dependent. She admitted this very frankly, on one occasion, by ordering the destruction of all the mulberry trees which were grown for feeding silk-worms and all the olive trees. This law she annulled, because the Dalmatians threatened an insurrection, but not until a great many of the mulberry trees had been cut down; and indeed she found herself able to attend to the matter by indirect methods. Almost all Dalmatian goods, except corn, which paid an export duty of ten per cent, had to be sold in Venice at prices fixed by the Venetians; but any power that Venice wanted to propitiate, Austria, Ancona, Naples, Sicily, or Malta, could come and sell its goods on the Dalmatian coast, an unbalanced arrangement which ultimately led to grave currency difficulties. All these malevolent fiscal interferences created an unproductive army of douaniers, which in turn created an unproductive army of smugglers.

This was cause enough that Rab should be poor; but there was a further cause which made her poorer still. It is not at all inappropriate that the men and women on these Dalmatian islands should have faces which recall the crucified Christ. The Venetian Republic did not always fight the Turks with arms. For a very long time they contented themselves with taking the edge off the invaders’ attack by the payment of immense bribes to the officials and military staff of the occupied territories. The money for these was not supplied by Venice. It was drawn from the people of Dalmatia. After the fish had rotted, some remained sound; after the corn had paid its ten per cent, and the wool and the wine and the oil had been haggled down in the Venetian market, some of its price returned to the vender. Of this residue the last ducat was extracted to pay the tribute to the Turks. These people of Dalmatia gave the bread out of their mouths to save us of Western Europe from Islam; and it is ironical that so successfully did they protect us that those among us who would be broad-minded, who will in pursuit of that end stretch their minds till they fall apart in idiocy, would blithely tell us that perhaps the Dalmatians need not have gone to that trouble, that an Islamized West could not have been worse than what we are today. Their folly is certified for what it is by the mere sound of the word ‘Balkan’ with its suggestion of a disorder that defies human virtue and intelligence to accomplish its complete correction. I could confirm that certificate by my own memories: I had only to shut my eyes to smell the dust, the lethargy, the rage and hopelessness of a Macedonian town, once a glory to Europe, that had too long been Turkish. The West has done much that is ill, it is vulgar and superficial and economically sadist; but it has not known that death in life which was suffered by the Christian provinces under the Ottoman Empire. From this the people of Rab had saved me: I should say, are saving me. The woman who sat on the stone wall was in want because the gold which should have been handed down to her had bought my safety from the Turks. Impotent and embarrassed, I stood on the high mountain and looked down on the terraced island where my saviours, small and black as ants, ran here and there, attempting to repair their destiny.

Split I

Split, alone of all cities in Dalmatia, has a Neapolitan air. Except for a few courtyards in its private houses, it does not exhibit the spirit of Venice, which is at once so stately and so materialist, like a proud ghost that has come back to remind men that he failed for a million. It recalls Naples, because it also is a tragic and architecturally magnificent sausage-machine, where a harried people of mixed race have been forced by history to run for centuries through the walls and cellars and sewers of ruined palaces, and have now been evicted by a turn of events into the open day, neat and slick and uniform, taking to modern clothes and manners with the adaptability of oil, though at the same time they are set apart for ever from the rest of the world by the arcana of language and thoughts they learned to share while they scurried for generations close-pressed through the darkness.

Split presents its peculiar circumstances to the traveller the minute he steps ashore. We left the great white liner, the King Alexander, that had brought us through the night from Rab, and the history of the place was on our right and our left. On the left was the marine market, where fishing-boats are used for stalls; men who must be a mixture of sailor and retailer bring goods over from the islands, take their boats head-on to the quay, and lay out their wares in little heaps on the prows. Pitiful little heaps they often are, of blemished apples, rags of vegetables, yellowish boards of dried fish, but the men who sell them are not pitiful. They look tough as their own dried fish, and stand by with an air of power and pride. This coast feeds people with other things than food; it grudges them the means of life, but lets them live. On our right was a row of shops, the cafés and rubbisheries which face any port: the houses that rise above them were squeezed between the great Corinthian columns in the outer gallery of Diocletian’s palace.

For Split is Diocletian’s palace: the palace he built himself in 305, when, after twenty years of imperial office, he abdicated. The town has spread beyond the palace walls, but the core of it still lies within the four gates. Diocletian built it to be within suburban reach of the Roman town of Salonæ, which lies near by on the gentle slopes between the mountains and the coastal plain. The site had already been occupied by a Greek settlement, which was called Aspalaton, from a fragrant shrub still specially abundant here. In the seventh century the Avars, that tribe of barbarian marauders who were to provoke a currency crisis in the Middle Ages because they looted so much gold from Eastern and Central Europe and hoarded it, came down on Dalmatia. They swept down on Salonæ and destroyed it by fire and sword. The greater part of the population was killed, but some had time to flee out to the islands, which gave them the barest refuge. What they suffered in those days from cold and hunger and thirst is still remembered in common legend. In time they crept back to the mainland, and found nothing left more habitable than the ruins of Diocletian’s palace. There they made shelters for themselves against the day when there should be peace. They are still there. Peace never came. They were assailed by the Huns, the Hungarians, the Venetians, the Austrians, and some of them would say that with the overcoming of those last enemies they still did not win peace; and during these centuries of strife the palace and the fugitives have established a perfect case of symbiosis. It has housed them, they are now its props. After the war there was a movement to evacuate Split and restore the palace to its ancient magnificence by pulling down the houses that had been wedged in between its walls and columns; but surveyors very soon found out that if they went all Diocletian’s work would fall to the ground. The people that go quickly and darkly about the streets have given the stone the help it gave them.

‘I would like to go into the palace at once,’ said my husband, ‘and I greatly wish we could have brought Robert Adam’s book of engravings with us.’ That thought must occur to many people who go to Split. Adam’s book on Diocletian’s palace is one of the most entertaining revelations of the origins of our day, pretty in itself and an honour to its author. He came here from Venice in 1757, and made a series of drawings which aimed at showing what the palace had been like at the time of its building, in order to obtain some idea of ‘the private edifices of the ancients.’ The enterprise took a great deal of perseverance and courage, for all idea of the original plan had been lost centuries before. He had to trace the old walls through the modern buildings, and was often hindered by the suspicions of both the inhabitants and the authorities. The Venetian Governor of the town was quite sure he was a spy and wanted to deport him, but the Commander-in-chief of the Venetian garrison, who happened to be a Scotsman, and one of his Croat officers were sufficiently cultured to recognize Adam for what he was, and they got him permission to carry on his work under the supervision of a soldier.

The indirect results were the best of Georgian architecture, with its emphasis on space and variety and graceful pomp; often when we look at a façade in Portman Square or a doorway in Portland Place, we are looking at Roman Dalmatia. The direct result was this book of enchanting drawings—some of them engraved by Bartolozzi—which, though serviceably accurate, are beautiful examples of the romantic convention’s opinion that an artist should be allowed as much latitude in describing a landscape as an angler is allowed in describing a fish. The peaks of Dalmatia are shown as monstrous fencers lunging at the black enemy of the sky; the Roman cupolas and columns have the supernatural roundness of a god’s attack of mumps; vegetation advances on ruins like infantry; and peasants in fluent costumes ornament the foreground with fluent gestures, one poor woman, whom I specially remember bringing every part of her person into play, including her bust, in order to sell a fowl to two turbaned Jews, who like herself are plainly Veronese characters in reduced circumstances. In the corner of certain drawings are to be seen Adam himself and his French assistant, Clérisseau, sketching away in their dashing tricornes and redingotes, very much as one might imagine the two young men in Così fan tutte. It is delightful to find a book that is a pretty book in the lightest sense, that pleases like a flower or a sweetmeat, and that is also the foundation for a grave and noble art which has sheltered and nourished us all our days.

‘Yes,’ I said to my husband, ‘it is disgusting that one cannot remember pictures and drawings exactly. It would have been wonderful to have the book by us, and see exactly how the palace struck a man of two centuries ago, and how it strikes us, who owe our eye for architecture largely to that man,’ ‘Then why did we not bring the book?’ asked my husband. ‘Well, it weighs just over a stone,’ I said. ‘I weighed it once on the bathroom scales.’ ‘Why did you do that?’ asked my husband. ‘Because it occurred to me one day that I knew the weight of nothing except myself and joints of meat,’ I said, ‘and I just picked that up to give me an idea of something else.’ ‘Well, well!’ said my husband. ‘It makes me distrust Fabre and all other writers on insect life when I realize how mysterious your proceedings would often seem to a superior being watching them through a microscope. But tell me, why didn’t we bring it, even if it does weigh a little over a stone? We have a little money to spare for its transport. It would have given us pleasure. Why didn’t we do it?’ ‘Well, it would have been no use,’ I said; ‘we couldn’t have carried anything so heavy as that about the streets.’ ‘Yes, we could,’ said my husband; ‘we could have hired a wheelbarrow and pushed it about from point to point.’ ‘But people would have thought we were mad!’ I exclaimed. ‘Well, would they?’ countered my husband. ‘That’s just what I’m wondering. In fact, it’s what made me pursue the subject. These Slavs think all sorts of things natural that we think odd; nothing seems to worry them so long as it satisfies a real desire. I was wondering if they could take a thing like this in their stride; because after all we feel a real desire to look at Adam’s book here.’ ‘I don’t know,’ I said, ‘but there is Philip Thomson standing in the doorway of our hotel, and we can ask him.’

Philip Thomson teaches English to such inhabitants of Split as wish to learn it. He is a fine-boned, fastidious, observant being, very detached except in his preference for Dalmatia over all other parts of the world, and for Split over all other parts of Dalmatia. We had morning coffee with him, good unnecessary elevenses, in the square outside our hotel, a red stucco copy of a Venetian piazza, with palm trees in it, which is quite a happy effort, and we put the question to him. ‘Oh, but they’d think it very odd here, if you went about the streets trundling a book in a wheelbarrow and stopping to look at the pictures in it, very odd indeed,’ said Philip. ‘You evidently don’t understand that here in Split we are very much on parade. We’re not a bit like the Serbs, who don’t care what they do, who laugh and cry when they feel like it, and turn cartwheels in the street if they want exercise. That’s one of the reasons we don’t like the Serbs. To us it seems self-evident that a proud man must guard himself from criticism every moment of the day. That’s what accounts for the most salient characteristic of the Splitchani, which is a self-flaying satirical humour; better laugh at yourself before anybody else has time to do it. But formality is another result. I suppose it comes of being watched all the time by people who thought they were better than you, the Dalmatians, the Hungarians and the Venetians and the Austrians.’

‘But all this,’ Philip continued, ‘brings to light one very strange thing about Split. Did you notice how I answered you off-hand, as if Split had a perfectly definite character, and I could speak for the whole of its inhabitants? Well, so I could. Yet that’s funny, for the old town of Split was a tiny place, really not much more than the palace and a small overflow round its walls, and all this town you see stretching over the surrounding hills and along the coast is new. A very large percentage of the population came here after the war, some to work, some as refugees from the Slav territories which have been given to Italy. Do you see that pretty dark woman who is just crossing the square? She is one of my star pupils and she belongs to a family that left Zara as soon as it was handed over to the Italians, like all the best families of the town. Now Zara has quite a different history, and, from all I hear, quite a different atmosphere. But this woman and her family, and all the others who migrated with her, have been completely absorbed by Split. They are indistinguishable from all the natives, and I have seen them in the process of conversion. It’s happened gradually but surely. It’s a curious victory for a system of manners that, so far as I can see, has nothing to do with economics. For people here are not rich, yet there is considerable elegance.’

This is, indeed, not a rich city. Later we lunched with Philip in a restaurant which though small was not a mere bistro, which was patronized by handsome and dignified people who were either professional or commercial men. For the sweet course we were given two apiece of palatschinken, those pancakes stuffed with jam which one eats all over Central Europe. The Balkans inherited the recipe from the Byzantines, who ate them under the name of palacountas. We could eat no more than one, for the meal, as almost always in these parts, had been good and abundant. ‘Shall I put the palatschinken in paper for the Herrschaft to take home with them?’ asked the waiter. We thought not. But the waiter doubted our sincerity. ‘Is it because they are strangers,’ he asked Philip, ‘and do not know that we are always delighted to do this sort of thing for our clients? Down in the new hotels, I fully understand, they would be disagreeable about it, such institutions being, as we know, founded on extravagance and ostentation. But here we are not like that, we know that what God gave us for food was not meant to be wasted, so the Herrschaft need not be shy.’ ‘I do not think that they are refusing your kind offer because they are shy,’ said Philip resourcefully, ‘you see they are staying at one of the big hotels, and they will have to dine there anyway, so really the palatschinken would be of very little use to them.’

The waiter accepted this, and went away, but soon came back. ‘But if the Herrschaft took them away with them,’ he insisted, ‘then they would not order a whole dinner. They could just take the soup and a meat dish, and afterwards they could go upstairs and have these instead of dessert.’ ‘Thank you very much for your kind thought,’ said Philip, still not at a loss. ‘I think, however, that my friends are en pension.’ ‘But it would be nice,’ said the waiter, ‘if the lady felt hungry in the night, for her to be able to put out her hand and find a piece of cold palatschinken by her bed.’ I shall never think he was right; but his kindly courtesy was something to be remembered, and his sense, not hysterical but quietly passionate, of economy as a prime necessity. In Diocletian’s palace, throughout the ages, a great many very well-mannered people must have learned to draw in their belts very tight upon occasion; and certainly they would be encouraged to be mannerly by their surroundings, which, even today, speak of magnificent decorum.

It is not, of course, remarkable as an example of Roman architecture. It cannot hold a candle to the Baths of Caracalla, or the Forum, or the Palatine. But it makes an extraordinary revelation of the continuity of history. One passes through the gate that is squeezed between the rubbisheries on the quayside straight into antiquity. One stands in the colonnaded courtyard of a fourth-century Roman palace; in front is the entrance to the imperial apartments, to the left is the temple which was Diocletian’s mausoleum, now the Cathedral, and to the right is the Temple of Æsculapius, just as a schoolboy learning Latin and as old ladies who used to go to the Royal Academy in the days of Alma Tadema would imagine it. Only the vistas have been filled in with people. Rather less than one-fifth of the population of Split, which numbers forty-four thousand, lives in the nine acres of the palace precincts; but the remaining four-fifths stream through it all day long, because the passages which pierce it from north to south and from east to west are the most convenient ways to the new parts of the town from the harbour. The fifth that lives within the palace packs the sides of these crowded thoroughfares with houses set as closely as cells in a honeycomb, filling every vacant space that was left by Diocletian’s architects. One cannot, for example, see the Temple of Æsculapius as one stands in the fine open courtyard as it was intended one should do; the interstices on that side of the peristyle have been blocked by Venetian Gothic buildings, which project balconies on a line with the entablatures of neighbouring columns and open doorways just beside their bases.

Yet there is no sense of disorder or vandalism. It would be as frivolous to object to the adaptations the children of the palace have made to live as it would be to regret that a woman who had reared a large and glorious family had lost her girlish appearance. That is because these adaptations have always been made respectfully. So far as the walls stood they have been allowed to stand; there has been no destruction for the sake of pilfering material for new buildings. It is, therefore, as real an architectural entity, as evident to the eye of the beholder, as the Temple or Gray’s Inn. There is only one blot on it, and that is not the work of necessity. In the middle of the peristyle of the imperial apartments, this superb but small open space, there has been placed a statue by Mestrovitch of a fourth-century bishop who won the Slavs the right to use the liturgy in their own tongue. Nobody can say whether it is a good statue or not. The only fact that is observable about it in this position is that it is twenty-four feet high. A more ungodly misfit was never seen. It reduces the architectural proportions of the palace to chaos, for its head is on a level with the colonnades, and the passage in which it stands is only forty feet wide. This is hard on it, for on a low wall near by there lies a black granite sphinx from Egypt, part of the original decorations of the palace, but far older, seventeen hundred years older, of the great age of Egyptian sculpture; and though this is not five feet long its compact perfection makes the statue of the bishop gangling and flimsy, lacking in true mass, like one of those marionettes one may sometimes see through the open door of a warehouse in Nice, kept against next year’s carnival.

It cannot be conceived by the traveller why Mestrovitch wanted this statue to be put here, or why the authorities humoured him. If the step was inspired by nationalist sentiment, if it is supposed to represent the triumph of the Slav over Roman domination, nobody present can have known much history. For Diocletian’s palace commemorates a time when the Illyrians, the native stock of Dalmatia, whose blood assuredly runs in the veins of most modern Dalmatians, had effective control of the Roman Empire; it commemorates one of the prettiest of time’s revenges. Rome destroyed, for perhaps no better reason than that she was an empire and could do it, the ancient civilization of Illyria. But when she later needed sound governors to defend her from barbarian invaders, Illyria gave her thirteen rulers and defenders, of whom only one was a failure. All the others deserved the title they were given, restitutores orbis; even though it turned out that the earth as they knew it was not restorable. Of these the two greatest were Diocletian and Constantine; and some would say that Diocletian was the greater of the two.

His mausoleum is exquisitely appropriate to him. It is a domed building, octagonal outside and circular within. It is naughtily designed. Its interior is surrounded by a double row of columns, one on top of the other, which have no functional purpose at all; they do nothing except support their own overelaborate entablatures and capitals, and eat up much valuable space in doing so. Diocletian came to Rome when the rose of the world was overblown, and style forgotten. It must originally have been pitchy dark, for all the windows were made when it was centuries old. Because of this blackness and something flat-footed and Oriental in the design, some have thought that Diocletian did not build it as a temple or as a mausoleum. They have suspected that he, who was first and foremost a soldier and turned by preference to the East, was a follower of the bloody and unspiritual but dramatic religion of Mithraism, the Persian cult which had been adopted by the legionaries, and that here he tried to make a mock cavern, an imitation of the grottoes in which his fellow-soldiers worshipped the god that came out of the Sun. But not only is the building otiose and dank, it is oddly executed. It is full of incongruities such as a lack of accord between capitals and entablatures, which were committed because the architects were using the remains of older buildings as their material, and had to join the pieces as best they could. Diocletian had done much the same for the Roman Empire. He took the remains of a social and political structure and built them into a new and impressive-looking edifice.

In this palace of old oddments put together to look like new, this imperial expert in makeshifts must have had some better moments. His edicts show that he was far too intelligent not to realize that he had not made a very good job of his cobbling. He was a great man wholly worsted by his age. He probably wanted real power, the power to direct one’s environment towards a harmonious end, and not fictitious power, the power to order and be obeyed; and he must have known that he had not been able to exercise real power over Rome. It would have been easier for him if what we were told when we were young was true, and that the decay of Rome was due to immorality. Life, however, is never as simple as that, and human beings rarely so potent. There is so little difference between the extent to which any large number of people indulge in sexual intercourse, when they indulge in it without inhibitions and when they indulge in it with inhibitions, that it cannot often be a determining factor in history. The exceptional person may be an ascetic or a debauchee, but the average man finds celibacy and sexual excess equally difficult. All we know of Roman immorality teaches us that absolute power is a poison, and that the Romans, being fundamentally an inartistic people, had a taste for pornography which they often gratified in the description of individuals and families on which that poison had worked.

Had general immorality been the cause of the decay of the Empire, Diocletian could have settled it; he was a good bullying soldier. But the trouble was pervasive and deep-rooted as couch-grass. Rome had been a peasant state, it had passed on to feudal capitalism, the landowners and the great industrialists became tyrants; against this tyranny the bourgeoisie and the proletariat revolted. Then the bourgeoisie became the tyrants. They could bribe the town proletariat with their leavings, but the peasants became their enemies. The army was peasant, for country stock is healthier. Therefore, in the third century, there was bitter strife between the Army and the bourgeoisie. Then came the Illyrian emperors, restitutores orbis. Order, it was said, was restored.

But this, the greatest of the Illyrian emperors, must have known that this was not true: that, on the contrary, disorder had been stabilized. His edicts had commanded in the peremptory tone of the parade-ground that every man in the Empire should stay by his post and do his duty, fulfilling this and that public obligation and drawing this and that private reward. There was genius in his plan. But it was a juggler’s feat of balancing, no more. It corrected none of the fundamental evils of Roman society. This could hardly be expected, for Diocletian had been born too late to profit by the discussion of first principles which Roman culture had practised in its securer days; he had spent his whole life in struggles against violence which led him to a preoccupation with compulsion. He maintained the Empire in a state of apparent equilibrium for twenty-one years. But the rot went on. The roads fell into ruin. The land was vexed with brigands and the sea with pirates. Agriculture was harried out of existence by demands for taxation in kind and forced labour, and good soil became desert. Prices rose and currency fell; and to keep up the still enormously costly machinery of the central administration the remnants of the moneyed class were skinned by the tax-collector. The invasion of the barbarians was an immediate danger, but only because the Empire was so internally weakened by its economic problems. Of these nobody knew the solution at the beginning of the fourth century, and indeed they have not been solved now, in the middle of the twentieth century.

For some strange reason many have written of Diocletian’s resignation of imperial power and retirement to his native Illyria as if it were an unnatural step which required a special explanation. Some of the pious have thought that he was consumed by remorse for his persecution of the Christians, but nothing could be less likely. Immediately after his election as Emperor he had chosen to share his power with an equal and two slightly inferior colleagues, in a system which was known as the Tetrarchy; and it was one of his colleagues, Galerius, who was responsible for what are falsely known as the persecutions of Diocletian. But nothing could be more comprehensible than that he should, just then, have wanted rest and his own country. He was fifty-nine, and had been exceedingly ill for a year; and he had twenty-one years of office behind him. He had had a hard life. He had come from a peasant home to enlist in one of the two Dalmatian legions, and since then he had borne an increasing burden of military and legislative responsibility. Violence must have disgusted such an intelligent man, but he had had to avail himself of it very often. In order to be chosen Cæsar by the military council he had had to whip out his sword and drive it into the breast of a fellow-officer who might have been a rival. So often, indeed, had he had to avail himself of violence that he must have feared he would himself become its victim at the end. A society which is ruled by the sword can never be stable, if only because the sword is always passing from hand to hand, from the ageing to the young.

In the halls of his palace, which must have been extremely cold and sunless, as they were lit only by holes in the roof, he cannot have found the peace he sought. The disorder of the world increased. The members of the Tetrarchy wrangled; some died and were replaced by others not less contentious. They split the Empire between their greeds, and suddenly, improbably, they dipped their fingers into Diocletian’s blood. He had a wife called Prisca and a daughter called Valeria, who were very dear to him. Both had become Christians. We know of no protest against this on the part of Diocletian. Valeria’s hand he had disposed of in circumstances that bring home the psychological differences between antiquity and the modern world. When he had been chosen as Emperor he had elected to share his power first with Maximian alone, then with two other generals, Galerius and Constantius Chlorus. When these two last were admitted to the sovereign authority, Diocletian adopted Galerius and Maximian adopted Constantius Chlorus, and each adopted father gave his daughter to his adopted son, though this meant that each had to repudiate his existing wife.

The marriage of Valeria must have been sufficiently horrible; for Galerius was a brute whose violence precipitated him from disaster to disaster, and he was bitterly anti-Christian. But she found solace in caring for his illegitimate son, Candidianus, and at last Galerius died, issuing on his deathbed an edict which put an end to the persecution of the Christians. She might have then enjoyed some happiness had she not been left a very rich woman. This made Galerius’s successor, Maximin Daia, want to marry her, although he had a wife. When she refused he brought fraudulent legal proceedings against her. All her goods were confiscated, her household was broken up, some of her women friends were killed, and she and the boy Candidianus were sent into exile in the deserts of Syria. It is only in some special and esoteric sense that women are the protected sex.

From these dark halls Diocletian appealed for mercy to the man whom his own invention of the Tetrarchy had raised to power. He entreated Maximin Daia to allow Valeria to come back to Aspalaton. He was refused. But later it seemed that Valeria was safe, for Maximin Daia died, and she and Candidianus were able to take refuge with another of the four Cæsars, Licinius, who first received them with a kindliness that was natural enough, since he owed his advancement to the dead Galerius. It looked as if they would find permanent safety with him. But suddenly he turned against them and murdered the boy for no other reason than that he was a cruel and stupid man and bloodshed was fashionable just then. Valeria managed to escape in the dress of a plebeian, and disappeared. To Diocletian, fond father though he was, this may have brought no special shattering shock. It may have seemed but one shadow in the progress of a night that was engulfing all. For Diocletian was receiving letters that were pressing him to visit Licinius and his ally, the Cæsar Constantine. He excused himself, pleading illness and old age. The invitations became ominously insistent. He was in danger of being involved in a dispute among the Tetrarchs. Sooner or later one side or other would have his blood. He died, it is thought by self-administered poison, some time between 313 and 316. The earlier date is to be hoped for; in that case he would not have heard that in 314 his daughter was found in hiding at Salonika and there beheaded and thrown into the sea.

What did Diocletian feel when all this was happening to him? Agony, of course. It is an emotion that human beings feel far more often than is admitted; and it is not their fault. History imposes it on us. There is no use denying the horrible nature of our human destiny. Diocletian must have felt one kind of agony because he was a healthy peasant, and his bowels must have slid backwards and forwards like a snake when he doubted the safety of his daughter; another because though he had been born a peasant he had been born a peasant into a civilized world, and faculties developed in civilization are revolted when they have to apprehend experiences provided by barbarism; and another because it is always terrible to advance from particular success to particular success and be faced at last with general defeat, and he had passed from achievement to achievement only to see the negation of all his achievements decreed by impersonal forces which, if he had been truly imperial and the right object of worship by the common man, he should have anticipated and forestalled. How did he endure all these agonies? If he went for comfort into the building which was afterwards his mausoleum, and if it was, as some think, the Temple of Jupiter, he can have found little enough. Paganism, when it was not rural and naively animist, or urban and a brake applied to the high spirits of success, must have been an empty form, claiming at its most ambitious to provide just that stoicism which an exceptional man might find for himself and recognize as inadequate. If the building was a Mithraic grotto, then he must have looked at the governing sculpture of the god slitting the throat of the bull and he must have said to himself, ‘Yes, the world is exactly like that. I know it. Blood flows, and life goes on. But what of it? Is the process not disgusting?’ And Mithras would give no answer.

It is possible that Diocletian found his comfort in the secular side of his palace, in its splendour. Some have thought that he built it for the same reason that he had built his baths in Rome, to give work to the vast number of proletarians that were hungry and idle. But these grandiose public works would not have come into Diocletian’s mind had he not been in love with magnificence, and indeed he had demonstrated such an infatuation while he was Emperor by his elaboration of court ceremonial. It had grown more and more spectacular during the last century or so, and he gave its gorgeousness a fixed and extreme character. There was more and more difficulty in gaining access to the sacred person of the Emperor, and those who were given this privilege had to bow before him in an act of adoration as due to the holy of holies. The Emperor, who was by then a focus of unresolvable perplexities, stood providing a strongly contrary appearance in vestments stiff with richness and insignia glittering with the known world’s finest precious stones and goldsmith’s work; and his visitor, even if the same blood ran in his veins, had to kneel down and touch a corner of the robe with his lips.

Diocletian, who had prescribed this ritual, must certainly have derived some consolation from the grandeur of Aspalaton, the great arcaded wall it turned to the Adriatic, its four separate wards, each town size, and its seventeen watch-towers, its plenitude of marble, its colonnades that wait for proud processions, its passages that drive portentously through darkness to the withdrawn abode of greatness. Robes stiff with embroidery help the encased body to ignore its flimsiness; a diadem makes the head forget that it has not yet evolved the needed plan of action. In a palace that lifts the hard core out of the mountains to make a countryside impregnable by wind and rain, it would seem untrue that we can build ourselves no refuge against certain large movements of destiny. But there was a consideration which may have disturbed Diocletian as he tried to sustain himself on Aspalaton. It was not Rome, which he had visited only once, that had given him his conception of magnificence as an aid to the invincibility of government. He had drawn it from Persia, where he had been immensely impressed by the vast palaces and their subtle and evocative ceremonial. But he had visited Persia as an invader, to destroy the Sassanian kings. The symbol that he depended upon he had himself proved invalid.

After his death he remained corporeally in possession of the palace, his tomb resting in the centre of the mausoleum. Thirty years or so later, a woman was put to death for stealing the purple pall from his sarcophagus, a strange, crazy crime, desperate and imaginative, a criticism in which he would by now have concurred, for the walls of the Empire which he had failed to repair had fallen and let a sea of catastrophe wash over his people. The Adriatic was ravaged by Vandal pirates, and Rome had been sacked by the barbarians three times in sixty years; the Huns had devastated the Danube, and Salonae was crowded with refugees. But this was for the meantime a little ledge of safety, and ordinary life went on and seemed to prove that there was some sense in the idea of building a palace for shelter. Illyria had always been noted for its textiles. There is a statue of the Emperor Augustus in the Capitoline Museum at Rome, which has on its shield the figure of an Illyrian; he is wearing a knee-length tunic, beltless but with sleeves, and ornamented by bands running from the shoulders to the lower hem. This is our first knowledge of the dalmatic. In the third century the Pope ordered that all martyrs should be buried in it, and it is still worn by all deacons and officiating bishops in the Western church, and by English kings at their coronation. No matter what bestial tricks history might be playing, there were always looms at work in Illyria. A considerable corner of Aspalaton was taken up by a large factory, operated by female labour, which turned out uniforms for the Roman Army as well as civilian material.

But other events proved that a palace is no shelter at all. In the middle of the fifth century there arose a Dalmatian of genius, Marcellinus, who served the army loyally on condition that he was allowed to rule Dalmatia as an independent kingdom owing allegiance to the Emperor. It is possible that the Empire might have survived as a federation of such states, modest in extent and governed by men of local ambitions on the old Roman principles of efficiency and public spirit. Marcellinus took up his residence in Diocletian’s palace, and with his courage and wisdom and energy in the defence of his people filled it again with recognizable majesty. But after thirteen years of benign brilliance he went in the service of the Emperor to Sicily, for the purpose of leading an expedition against the Vandals in Africa; and there he was murdered by order of Ricimer, a German general who was one of the barbarians who were destroying Rome from within. They had no use for local potentates who would build up the Empire by raising their territories to military and economic strength; they wanted it as a defenceless field of exploitation for an international army. The last of the restitutores orbis had not found safety where he might accomplish his work.

A few years later his nephew, who was called by that name, Julius Nepos, Julius the Nephew, and had ruled Dalmatia in his uncle’s place, was called to be Emperor of the West. It was not an encouraging invitation. ‘Cocky, cocky, come and be killed.’ But since it was issued by the Emperor of the East he did not dare to refuse. He had at once to oust a competitor, whom he consoled for his defeat by making him Bishop of Salonæ; chroniclers with a sense of the picturesque describe him tearing off his rival’s imperial insignia and delivering him over to a barber who cut his tonsure and a priest who gave him the episcopal consecration. It was a practical step, since it prevented his rival avenging himself. Julius the Nephew had no chance to show his quality, for he was faced by an infinity of hostile barbarians, within and without the Empire, and he made a fatal error by summoning his Dalmatian Commander-in-chief, Orestes, to govern Gaul. This Orestes was an Illyrian adventurer who had at one time been secretary to Attila the Hun. It can never have been a satisfactory reference. But he had established himself in the Roman order by marrying a patrician’s daughter, and he was able to turn on his master and declare his own son Romulus Emperor.

Julius the Nephew went back to Aspalaton and there lived for five years. Meanwhile Orestes was murdered by a barbarian general, Odoacer, who formed a curious plan of supporting the cause of Romulus, whose youth and beauty he much admired, and acting as the power behind the throne. In 480 two Dalmatian counts, Victor and Ovida, one a Romanized Illyrian and the other a barbarian, made their way into Diocletian’s palace and treacherously killed Julius. He was the last legitimately elected Emperor of the West. His assassins had been moved by the hope of pleasing Odoacer; the barbarian Ovida wished to make himself King of Dalmatia, and he needed imperial support. But Odoacer was as hostile to regional rulers as the other murderer, Ricimer, and at the end of a punitive war on Dalmatia he killed Ovida with his own hand. Later he himself was killed by Theodoric, King of the Ostrogoths, who after signing a treaty with him invited him to a banquet and then ran him through with a sword, and massacred all his men. Murder. Murder. Murder. Murder.

It was about this time that the sarcophagus of Diocletian disappeared. For about a hundred and seventy years it was visible, firmly planted in the middle of the mausoleum, described by intelligent visitors. Then it suddenly is not there any more. It is suggested that a party of revengeful Christians threw it into the sea; but that is an action comprehensible only in a smouldering minority, and Christianity had been the official religion of the Roman Empire since the time of the Emperor’s death. Nor can it be supposed that the sarcophagus was destroyed by the Avar invaders, for they did not reach the coast until a couple of centuries later. Probably the occasion of its disappearance was far less dramatic. The everyday routine of life persisted in Aspalaton, however many barbarians committed murder; in the textile factory the shuttles crossed and recrossed the loom. Without doubt it continued to be necessary that Diocletian’s mausoleum should be cleaned and repaired, and it may well have happened that one day the owner of a yard near by said, ‘Yes, you can put it down there,’ watching it reverently, and wondering that he should be the guardian of such a holy thing. It may be also that the workmen who laid it down did not come back, that there was a threat to the city from land or sea which called them and the authorities who employed them and the owner of the yard himself to the defence. Soon it might be that people would say of the sarcophagus, ‘I wonder when they will come and take it back’; but continued unrest may have made it advisable that the treasures of the temples should be kept dispersed. Later it might be that a break in a chain of family confidences, due to violent death or flight or even sudden natural death, would leave the sarcophagus unidentified and only vaguely important. Some day a woman would say of it, ‘I really do not know what that is. It is just something that has always been here; and it is full of old things.’ She spoke the truth. It was full of old things: the bones of Diocletian the man, the robes of Diocletian the Emperor, the idea of a world order imposed on the peoples by superior people, who were assumed to know because they could act. Aspalaton, the palace of the great Restorer of the Earth, had passed away. It had become Split, a city lived in by common people, who could establish order within the limits of a kitchen or a workshop or a textile factory, but had been monstrously hindered in the exercise of that capacity by the efforts of the superior people who establish world order.

I have no doubt that one day Diocletian’s sarcophagus will turn up in the cellars of some old and absent-minded family of Split; and in the cellars of the Dalmatian mind, the foundation on which its present philosophy is built, the old Emperor is to be found also. We in England have an unhistoric attitude to our lives, because every generation has felt excitement over a clear-cut historical novelty, which has given it enough to tell its children and grandchildren without drawing on its father’s and grandfather’s tales. In all these impressive events the central government has played a part which was, at any rate, not tragically disgraceful, at least so far as our own country is concerned, and was often very creditable. We think of the national organization that controls the public services throughout the country as ambitious on the whole to give the common man every opportunity to exercise his ability for keeping order in his own sphere.

It would not be so, however, if the last clear-cut event in English history had been the departure of the Roman legionaries in 420; and if there had followed a period of internal disorder which the battle of Hastings had perpetuated to our own day, by inaugurating a series of attempts at invasion and settlement by imperialistic Continental powers. Then the idea of the state would seem to us like wine, a delight that must be enjoyed only in moderation lest it lead to drunkenness and violence, uproar and want. We would know that some degree of national organization is necessary, and that dominance is the most exquisite of luxuries, but we would think of kings and statesmen as mischiefmakers whose failure drove us from time to time out of our houses into ditches, to feed on roots and berries. The difference in our attitude can be computed if we try to imagine what our reaction to the word ‘queen’ would be if we had had no Victoria or Elizabeth, or even Anne, and that Boadicea had had a determining effect on English history.

So it is with the Splitchani, and indeed with all Dalmatians. They are aware of Diocletian’s failure to restore the earth, and what it cost them. Therefore their instinct is to brace themselves against any central authority as if it were their enemy. The angry young men run about shouting. But they have Illyrian blood as well as Slav; they are of the same race that produced Diocletian and the other restitutores orbis. They are profoundly sensitive to the temptation of power. Therefore they cannot break their preoccupation with the central authority. The young men cannot sit down and get angry about something else. The stranger will be vastly mistaken if he regards this attitude as petulant barbarism. It is an extremely sensible reaction to his experience, and it has helped him to protect his rights under the rule of empires which were indifferent or hostile to him. It might yet be of enormous service to humanity if the world were threatened by an evil domination.

Split II

Diocletian’s mausoleum was transformed into a cathedral during the eighth century. It is still obviously a pagan edifice, though the Christians fitted it in the thirteenth century with a good bell-tower, and with fine carved doors that show twenty-eight scenes from the life of Christ, and have gone on filling it with pious objects till it has something of a box-room air. There is a superb pulpit of the same date as the tower and the doors, splendid with winged beasts, and two good fifteenth-century tombs, one showing a Flagellation of Christ, the work of George the Dalmatian, who is alluded to as Georgio Orsini by those who want to show this coast as a Slav wilderness redeemed by Venetian culture, with no other justification than that a son or nephew of his called himself by that name. One can look at nothing in Dalmatia, not even a Flagellation of Christ, without being driven back to the struggle of Slav nationalism. The history of the Cathedral is dominated by it; here was the centre of the movement, which has been for the most part successful, for the use of the Slav liturgy.

There were, however, two ecclesiastics of Split who were of importance to the rest of the world. There was the Archdeacon Thomas of Spalato, in the thirteenth century, who wrote an excellent history of his own times and was the only contemporary foreigner known to have seen St. Francis of Assisi, and heard him preach; and there was the seventeenth-century Archbishop Mark Antony de Dominis, who was typically Slav in being at once an intellectual and incredibly naive. He came from the city of Rab, from one of its exquisite Gothic palaces. Though he was an archbishop, and added to the mausoleum its present choir, his main interest lay in scientific studies; and he hit on the discovery. of the solar spectrum one day while he was saying mass, more than half a century before Newton. Much of Descartes’s work is founded on his, and Goethe writes of him in his book on the theory of colour. Unfortunately he became interested in matters of religion, which was a fatal mistake for a Renaissance prelate of his kind. Soon he became convinced of the truth of Protestantism, and through the influence of his friend, Sir Henry Wotton, the author of ‘You meaner beauties of the night,’ who was then the English Ambassador to Venice, he was appointed Dean of Windsor and Master of the Savoy and Vicar of West Ilsley, up on the Berkshire downs. He then published a tremendous attack on the Roman Catholic Church under the title of De republica ecclesiastica. But doubts vexed him, and he came to the conclusion that he was wrong. In touching abandonment to the Slav belief that people are not really unreasonable, he went to Rome to talk about it to the Pope. That Pope died and was succeeded by one less tolerant. Dominis was thrown into the Castle of St. Angelo and died in its dungeons. Later the Inquisition tried him for heresy and found him guilty, so dug up his corpse and burned it together with his writings.

But though the religious life of Split is obscured by its nationalism in the historical annals, we must remember that much of human activity goes unrecorded. There is great piety among the Splitchani. We noted it that night when the Professor came to dine with us. The Professor is a great Latinist and was the pupil, assistant, and close friend of Bulitch, the famous scholar who spent his life working on the antiquities of Split and Salonæ. He is in his late sixties, but has the charm of extreme youth, for he comes to a pleasure and hails it happily for what it is without any bitterness accumulated from past disappointments, and he believes that any moment the whole process of life may make a slight switch-over and that everything will be agreeable for ever. His manners would satisfy the standards of any capital in the world, but at the same time he is exquisitely, pungently local. ‘Thank you, I will have no lobster,’ he said to us. ‘I am sure it is excellent, but, like many of my kind, who have had to renounce robust health along with the life of action, I have a weak digestion.’ He then emptied his pepper-pot into his soup till its surface became completely black. ‘See,’ he said, ‘how carefully I eat. I never neglect to take plenty of pepper, since it is excellent for the health. What, did you not know that? But I assure you, one can hardly live long unless one eats a great deal of pepper.’ I was enchanted; the Abbé Fortis, who made a tour of the coast in the eighteenth century, expressed amazement at the enormous quantities of pepper eaten by the Dalmatians, and their faith in it as a medicament.

Being so much a child of his country, he had of course to speak of nationalism, and indeed what he said brought home to me more than anything else the extreme unsuitability, the irksomeness of the last subjection which the Dalmatians had had to yield to an external authority. Here was a man who was the exact Adriatic equivalent of an Oxford don; he would by nature have found all his satisfaction in the pursuit of learning. But from his youth and through all his adult years he had been an active member of a party that existed to organize revolt against the Austrian Government; and there was none of his large and respectable family who had not been as deeply engaged in rebellion as himself. ‘One of my brothers,’ he told us, ‘was very well known as a Dalmatian patriot, for he had trouble that was reported in the newspapers all over Europe. For he was a priest, and the Austrians expelled him from Dalmatia though he had a parish. Still he did not suffer very much from that, for the great Bishop Strossmayer took him under his protection and gave him a parish near Zagreb.

‘How fortunate for me all that trouble was!’ he exclaimed, beaming. ‘For when I was going to the University at Vienna to make my studies Bishop Strossmayer invited me to see him. And that is the most wonderful thing that happened to me in my whole life. It was a very long time ago, for I was then only nineteen years old, but I have forgotten nothing of it. The room seemed bright as an altar at Easter when I went in, but that was not so much because of the chandeliers, which were indeed superb, but because of the company. There was Bishop Strossmayer himself, who was amazing in his handsomeness and elegance, and also there were at least twenty other people, who were all notable, great aristocrats of our race, or scholars, or artists, or foreigners of eminence, or women of superb beauty and great distinction. It is well known that Bishop Strossmayer was deeply respectful to the beauty of women, as to all the beauties of creation.

‘But do not think that this was a mere worldly dinner-party. The great man imposed on it his own superiority. First we stood at the table, and he himself said grace in his exquisite Latin, which was Latin as no one else has spoken it, as the angels may speak it. Then we sat down, and as we ate a young priest read us a passage from the Gospel of St John, and then a fable from Æsop. Then the Bishop started the conversation, which, though the party was so large, was nevertheless general and brilliant beyond imagination. It was his own doing, of course, yet it did not seem so. It all appeared to happen quite naturally. It was as if the birds in a wood should start singing and their notes should combine to form utterances of a wisdom unsurpassed by the philosophers. Alas! It is terrible that such a perfect thing should have been, and should be no longer. I suppose all the people who were there are dead, except some of the women; for I was much the youngest man there. But that feeling over what is gone the ancients knew well, and expressed better than we can.’ He murmured scraps of Latin verse. It was very characteristically Slav that he said nothing of having been troubled by social embarrassment at this dinner-party. In any other country, a boy of nineteen, not rich, from a provincial town, would have felt timid at a dinner-party given in a capital by one of the most famous men of the time. But Serbs and Croats alike are an intensely democratic people. There are few class distinctions, and Split, being a free and ancient city, would not feel inferior to Zagreb, for all its size and comparative wealth. Nevertheless, perhaps Bishop Strossmayer had his part in the boy’s ease.

‘I speak foolishly,’ said the Professor, when he started to talk again, ‘if I imply that the Bishop Strossmayer was an inspiration to me, for, to tell the truth, I have never been inspired. I have committed no great action, nor have I needed to. For the Austrian Government never persecuted us in the grand manner, it never called on us to be heroes, it merely pricked us with pins, and all we had to do was to be gentlemen and philosophers. My worst time was during the war, and that was not so bad.’ It appeared that as soon as Austria declared war on Serbia all the men in Split who had shown signs of hostility to the Austrian Government, which is to say all prominent or even respectable citizens, were arrested and sent on tour through Austria and Hungary to be shown off publicly as Serbian prisoners of war. ‘I who know German as my own tongue,’ said the Professor, ‘had to stand there while they described me as an Orthodox priest—that was because of my beard. Certain circumstances concerning that imprisonment were indeed very disagreeable. But let us not remember that, but the good things the war brought us. It brought us our freedom and it brought us many friends. Yes, many English friends. For many English sailors and soldiers came here after the war, and we liked them very much. I suppose you do not know Admiral William Fisher?’ ‘No,’ said my husband, ‘but I know his brother, H. A. L. Fisher, the Warden of New College, who is a great historian and one of the most charming people in the world.’ ‘So is this man! So is this man!’ cried the Professor. ‘He came here with the fleet several times, and I grew to love him like a brother. I tell you, he is like a hero of old!’

His eyes were glowing. Here, as in Serbia, there is very little effeminacy, and no man puts himself under suspicion by praising another; so one is sometimes aware of a strong current of love running from man to man, from comrade to comrade, from hero to hero. The Professor spoke long of Admiral Fisher, of his solid qualities, his wisdom and patience, and of his lovely lightnesses, his capacity for a gay Homeric cunning, and his tremendous laughter. ‘Ah!’ he sighed at last, ‘I have spoken so much of my friend that without noticing it I have drunk a great deal of red wine. This will not be healthy, unless I drink a lot of black coffee. Is this coffee strong?’ ‘I am afraid it is,’ I said, ‘terribly strong.’ ‘Why are you afraid?’ asked the Professor. ‘The stronger it is the healthier it is. Did you not know that?’

After the Professor and my husband had talked for a while of their favourite editions of the classics they fell silent; and I said, ‘I have asked Philip Thomson to come in afterwards. He could not come to dinner as he had a lesson, but he is coming in at ten. I hope you will like him.’ ‘I have not met him,’ said the Professor, ‘but I know him by sight, and I am sure I will like him.’ ‘Yes, he has a charming, sensitive appearance,’ I said. ‘It is not that I mean,’ said the Professor. ‘I am sure I will like him because he is a very pious Catholic. I have noticed that he is most pious in his observances, and during Lent I have gone into my church several times and found him praying like a little child.’ And when Philip Thomson came in he greeted him with a special confidential and yet reticent friendliness, as if he knew they had in common certain experiences which, however, cannot be shared.

To start the conversation we talked of what we meant to do in Split before we set off southwards down the coast. ‘You really must go up to the park on Mount Marian, that hill below the town,’ said Philip; ‘it is most beautiful up there among the pines, looking over the sea and the islands.’ ‘Yes, indeed,’ I said. ‘I was there last year, and I want to go again. It interested me to see that in Robert Adam’s drawings there isn’t a tree on the hill, it is just bare rock. I suppose the Austrians planted it.’ ‘They did not!’ cried the Professor, leaping from his chair. ‘And shall I tell you who did? I myself, I did it. I found in the archives uncontestable proof that there were once trees on that hill, which were cut down to make Venetian galleys. So I formed the idea that there could be trees there again, and I started a society to do it. Many people thought it was madness and my poor wife received anonymous letters saying that I should be put into a lunatic asylum. But I collected the money, and, believe me, it was Dalmatians who gave it. No, the Austrians did nothing for us, nor the Venetians either. We took the Venetian style of architecture, that is all; and I should not even say that if I were striving to be accurate. It would be more truthful to say that the Venetians and the Dalmatians both drew from the same sources inspiration towards a new movement....’

We were back again at Slav nationalism; but we left it for that permanent and mystical preoccupation which lies deeper in the Dalmatian mind. ‘I do not think that the Venetians have left any permanent mark on the life of the people,’ said the Professor, ‘except perhaps the Venetian habit of blasphemy. Do you not find it dreadful, Mr Thomson, the oaths that one must hear as one walks in the streets of Split?’ ‘I find it most terrible,’ said Philip; ‘they use the holy names in a way that makes one clap one’s hands over one’s ears.’ They shook their heads gravely; and I saw the unusual spectacle of a foreigner born to the Catholic faith matching in fervour an English convert. In the Professor I recognized the same Slavic religious passion that had made dark and glowing the voices of the men and women singing mass at Shestine; but it seemed to me that in him it was not only sweetened by the great sweetness of his personality, but also that it was given a special intensity by the long dolorous life of his town, and its reflections upon its tragedy, its refusal to take the sorrow and waste of it at their face value.

It is not to be doubted, as one goes about Split, that this walled city has such a life, far more concentrated than the life of our diffuse Western towns; and that it has been engaged in a continuous effort to find a noble interpretation of its experience through piety. The Professor took us the next morning to the Golden Gate of the palace, which is most recognizably what it was in the days of Diocletian, a very handsome, creeper-hung matter of niches and pillarets and a narrow door, which modern times have pierced with an unending thread of neat and supple Splitchani hurrying down to the harbour. Near this Gate we climbed a stairway, and a door was opened by a nun, who led us up more stairs into a little church built in the thickness of the palace walls. It is about eleven hundred years old, and though it is defaced by hideous bondieuseries of the modern Roman Catholic Church, it remains infinitely touching because of its slender stone screen, because of the carvings on that screen which write in shapes as fresh as dew the faith of a people that they have found a beneficent magic to banish the horrors of life. Beside us the nun spoke on and on to the Professor, her voice stilled with amazement, in words that also were as fresh as dew. She was telling him that the Mother Superior of that tiny order which guards this Church of St Martin was growing very old and very sick, but was showing great fortitude. Though she spoke calmly she took nothing for granted; this might have been the first time that pain and fortitude had shown themselves on earth. She was among those who will not suffer any event merely to happen, who must examine it with all the force of the soul and trace its consequences, and seek, against all probability, an explanation of the universe that is as kind as human kindness.

We went, later in the morning, to another church, built in honour of the Virgin Mary actually within one of the gates, over an archway. It is not specially interesting; one has seen its like all over Southern Europe, grey and pliant in its line, a gentle boast that if one has but faith it needs no more than the strength of a lily to withstand life. This, like many of the smaller churches in the Dalmatian towns, belongs to a confraternity; about twenty townsmen sustained it, used it as the centre of their devotions and the means of their charity, and there married their wives and christened their children and were buried. It was shown to us by one of this confraternity, a plasterer, who had left his work to do the Professor this courtesy. Wearing his working clothes, which were streaked with white plaster, he stood still and stiff like a page in a more than royal household, showing subjects the throne-room, the plain transmitter of a tradition which we had recognized earlier that day.

We had recognized it in the Temple of Æsculapius, which lies on the other side of the courtyard from Diocletian’s mausoleum and is now the baptistery. This change would not have surprised Diocletian, for the last glimpse that we have of his personal life is his irritation at the refusal of his Christian stone-masons to make him a statue of Æsculapius. There we saw a tenth-century stone slab, roughly carved, which is said by some to represent the adoration of Christ and by others the homage paid to a Croatian king by his subjects. It does not matter which it is. What is important is that the sculptor, wishing to depict magnificence, whether earthly or supernatural, saw it in Byzantine terms. After the Western Roman Empire had collapsed Dalmatia had thirty years of dangerous independence and then fell under the Eastern Empire, under Byzantium. That Empire was a real fusion of Church and State; the Emperor was given absolute power over his subjects only because he professed absolute subjection to God, and the ceremonial of his court was a religious ritual. That slab exists to show that this conception of government by holy ballet deeply impressed the imagination of the governed people, even on its furthermost frontiers.

The devout grace of the workman, which, though it had an instinctive basis, had been borne as far from that by art and discipline as the Guards have been removed in their drill from the primitive emotion of ferocity, proved that the Byzantine tradition had made other signs of vitality than mere diffusion. This man was a Slav. The fair hair, the high cheek-bones, the sea-blue eyes showed it. Byzantium had struck new roots in the race that had come into the Balkans from the mid-Russian plains as pure barbarians, untouched by anything that had happened during the first centuries of the Christian era, and apparently as inaccessible to Christian influence as any race on earth. Without pity, they killed and tortured; without purpose, they burned and laid waste. They came down to the Dalmatian coast on a mission of ruin, in the company of the Huns and Avars. But it happened that the Huns and the Avars turned on and reduced them to slaves, and they rose in revolt. Angry young men ran about shouting. They were heard by the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius, who promised that if they drove the Huns and Avars out of Illyria they might settle the land as vassals of the Empire. He imposed a further condition: that they must adopt Christianity. Who could have foretold that out of this marriage of convenience between the Slav people and the Church would flower a great passion? Who could have foretold that a horde of murderers and marauders would be also addicts to spiritual pursuits and the use of the intellect, believers in magic and the existence of a reality behind appearances, who would perform any ritual and carry on any argument that promised a revelation of the truth? History sometimes acts as madly as heredity, and her most unpredictable performances are often her most glorious.


This was the grimmest Easter; and when the Professor took us up to the remains of the great Roman city, Salonæ, which should be one of the prettiest sights in the whole world, it was nothing of the sort. Its pillars and steps and sarcophagi lie among rich grass and many flowers under the high olive terraces overlooking the sea and its many islands, the very spot which Horace would have liked to visit with a footman carrying a lunch basket behind him. It is one of the disharmonies of history that there is nothing that a Roman poet would have enjoyed more than a Roman ruin, with its obvious picturesqueness and the cue it gives for moralizing. But we could not enjoy it at all, for sharp rain scratched our faces all the four miles we drove from Split, and at Salonæ it grew brutal and we were forced into a little house, all maps and inscriptions, built by the great Bulitch to live in while he was superintending the diggings, and since his death converted into a museum.

We were not alone. The house was packed with little girls, aged from twelve to sixteen, in the care of two or three nuns. They were, like any gathering of their kind in any part of the world, more comfortable to look at than an English girls’ school. They were apparently waiting quite calmly to grow up. They expected it, and so did the people looking after them. There was no panic on anybody’s part. There were none of the unhappy results which follow the English attempt to make all children look insipid and docile, and show no signs whatsoever that they will ever develop into adults. There were no little girls with poked chins and straight hair, aggressively proud of being plain, nor were there pretty girls making a desperate precocious proclamation of their femininity. But, of course, in a country where there is very little homosexuality it is easy for girls to grow up into womanhood.

But I wondered what the little dears were learning up at Salonæ. I suspected that they were receiving an education with a masculine bias. Indeed, I knew it, for they were being educated by nuns, who are women who have accepted the masculine view of themselves and the universe, who show it by being the only members of their sex who go into fancy dress and wear uniforms as men love to do. I feared that in this particular background they might be instil-ling into their charges some monstrous male rubbish. It was even possible that they were teaching them the same sort of stuff about the Romans which I learned when I was at school: panegyrics of dubious moral value, unsupported by evidence. There is, Heaven knows, enough to be said in their favour without any sacrifice of honesty. I can bear witness to it. I was at school in Scotland, and therefore, owing to the strange dispensations of that country in regard to the female, learned Latin and no Greek, a silly, lopsided way of being educated. But even for this one-eyed stance on the classics I am grateful, though I was slow-witted at learning that and all other languages, and have forgotten most of what I knew. It gave me the power to find my way about the Romance languages; it gave me a sense of the past, a realization that social institutions such as the law do not happen but are made; it gave, and gives, me considerable literary rapture. I like a crib, indeed some might say that I need a crib; but once I have it I enjoy my Latin verse enormously. To this day I am excited as I read that neatest possible expression of the wildest possible grief:

Floribus Austrum 

Perditus et liquidis immisi fontibus apros.

It also seems to me that the modern mind cannot be fully understood until one has gone back to Latin literature and seen what European culture was like before it was injected with the ideas of St. Augustine.

But I regret that to give me this pleasure and information my teachers should have found it necessary to instruct me, with far more emphasis than was justified by the facts in their or anybody else’s possession, that the Roman Empire was a vast civilizing force which spread material and moral well-being all over the ancient world by its rule. I was taught that this was no mere accident: that the power to extend their rule by military means sprang from an intellectual and moral genius that made them able to lay down the best way of living for the races they subdued. I find these assumptions firmly embedded in the mass of literature written by people who received a classical education, especially if it had the same Latin bias as mine, and expressed even more passionately in literature written by people who have not had any education at all. Every year I grow more critical of them. We have no real evidence that the peoples on which the Roman Empire imposed its civilization had not pretty good civilizations of their own, better adapted to local conditions. The Romans said they had not; but posterity might doubt the existence of our contemporary French and English culture if the Nazis destroyed all records of them. We may at least suspect from the geniuses of African stock who appear within the Roman Empire that when Rome destroyed Carthage, dragging the plough three times through the land, she destroyed her equal or even her superior. The great work by Monsieur Camille Julian on the history of Gaul suggests that when Rome came to France she frustrated the development of a civilization of the first order; and Strzygowski doubts whether she did not bring disorganization to the Germanic tribes. It appears probable from the researches of the last few years, which have discovered codes of law, far from rudimentary, among all the contemporaries of the Romans, even to the nomads, that they might have got on with their social institutions very satisfactorily if they had not been obliged to fight against the external efforts at their betterment. And it seems very probable that Rome was able to conquer foreign territories because she had developed her military genius at the expense of precisely those qualities which would have made her able to rule them. Certainly she lacked them to such an extent that she was unable to work out a satisfactory political and economic policy for Rome itself and perished of that failure.

I am sure of it, those little girls were being taught that they should be proud because Split was the heir to a Roman city. Yet neither I nor anybody else knows whether or not the conquest of Illyria by the Romans was not a major disaster, the very contrary to an extension of civilization. Illyria had its past. It was linked with Greek history, and had a double tie with Macedonia of alternate enmity and alliance. Alexander the Great had Illyrian princesses for his mother and grandmother, and he and his father both fought great campaigns against their country. In the Roman period we know little about Illyria save from Roman sources, but even they suggest a considerable culture. They had an extremely able and heroic queen, Teüta, who was not the sort of monarch that can be raised from a tribe in skins; and while she and her subjects are accused of piracy, examination proves this a reference to efforts, which history would regard as creditable if they had been undertaken by the Romans, to conquer the Adriatic archipelago. It is also brought up against Teüta that she murdered two of three Roman ambassadors who were sent to accuse her people of unmannerly ways at sea. But it is said that these were murdered by brigands outside the Illyrian frontiers; and some heed had better be given to Polybius, a Roman of the Romans, when he explains why the Senate once made war on the Illyrians:

Since the Romans had expelled Demetrios of Pharos from Illyria they had completely neglected the Adriatic seaboard; and on another hand the Senate wished to avoid at all costs that the Italians became effeminate during a longstanding peace because it was more than eleven years since the Persian war and the Macedonian Expedition had ended. In undertaking a campaign against the Dalmatians they would reawaken the fighting spirit of the people at the same time that they would give the Illyrians a lesson and would force them to submit to the domination of Rome. Such were the reasons why Rome declared war on the Dalmatians; but the excuse which was given to the other nations was the insolence with which they had treated the ambassadors.

Little girls of Salonæ, try to work out this sum on your fingers. It took Rome two hundred and fifty years of war to bring peace to the Illyrians. Then they had fifty years or so of disturbance, and a hundred years of peace, which I cannot but think they could have procured for themselves, since they had then to take over the government of Rome and provide the long line of Illyrian emperors. They were then precipitated into an abyss of unrest and catastrophe, of which the worst feature, the barbarian invasions, owed its horror largely to Roman expansion. If Italy had been content with herself as a unit and had developed on a solid economic basis, and if Illyria had been allowed to look after her own affairs, they might have put up a far more effective resistance to the invaders. No, the sum does not work out. Remember, when the nuns tell you to beware of the deceptions of men who make love to you, that the mind of man is on the whole less tortuous when he is love-making than at any other time. It is when he speaks of governments and armies that he utters strange and dangerous nonsense to please the bats at the back of his soul. This is all to your disadvantage, for in love-making you might meet him with lies of equal force, but there are few repartees that the female governed can make to the male governors.

Nevertheless, it was sweet for all of us, nuns and the little dears, the Professor and my husband and me, to go out when the rain had stopped and walk among the Roman ruins of Salonæ. Grey and silver were the olive leaves shining in the timid sunlight, dark grey the wet ruins, silver-grey the tall spiked aloes, and blacker than green the cypresses, black the mountains behind us, silver the sea that lay before us, and grey the islands that streaked it; and at our feet storm-battered flowers looked like scraps of magenta paper. The Professor was gay, as birds are after rain. He read us inscriptions, lending them a sweetness that was not in their meaning from the enjoyment of Latinism which had been mellowing in his soul since his youth, and guiding us to the stony stubs and plinths and stairways of temples, baths, churches, the city walls, the city gate, that had been battered less by time than by wars. Again and again this place had been taken and retaken by the Goths and the Huns before the Avars finally smashed it in 639. It is for this reason that the churches in this city have the majesty of a famous battle-field. Here Christianity’s austere message that it is better not to be a barbarian, even if victory lies with barbarism, was tested in the actual moment of impact with barbarians, in face of a complete certainty that victory was to be with barbarism. In the baptistery of the Cathedral the chamber round the font still stands. There can still be seen the steps down which the naked men, glistening with the holy oil and reeling with the three days’ fast, descended to the holy waters, to be immersed in them three times and lifted out, glorious in the belief that the death that was closing in on them was magically changed to joy and salvation. From the most coldly rationalist point of view it must be pronounced that they were not mistaken. Complete victory was given here to the barbarians; on this spot they followed their nature in all its purity of destructiveness, its zeal of cruelty. But the gentle virtue of the Professor, the dedicated fineness of the plasterer in the confraternity chapel, showed that the stock of the christened men lived still and had not been brutalized.

It was right that the nuns should be trailing the little dears round the site of this miracle of which they formed a part. But I passed one of the nuns and remarked, as I had done before, that the rank and file of the female religious order present an unpleasing appearance because they have assumed the expression of credulity natural and inevitable to men, who find it difficult to live without the help of philosophical systems which far outrun ascertained facts, but wholly unsuitable to women, who are born with a faith in the unrevealed mystery of life and can therefore afford to be sceptics. I feared very much that the nuns’ charges would be fed a deal of nonsense along with the bread of truth. They would be taught, for example, to honour those claims of the Church which reflect no reality and spring from certain masculine obsessions of its ecclesiastics : such as its pretension to be unchanging, to have attained in its first years a wisdom about all matters, eternal and temporal, of which it has made a progressive disclosure, never contradicting itself. We are, of course, at liberty to imagine that the Church would be a nobler institution if it knew no alteration; even so it does no harm if we dream that we could all be much happier if our bodies remained for ever young and fair. But these are day-dreams and nothing else, for the Church changes, and we grow old. There was evidence of it, written here on the wet grey stone.

‘Look,’ said the Professor, ‘this is one of our most interesting tombs which is also very touching.’ Here a husband had laid to rest his beloved wife; and in the inscription he boasted that he had brought her to his home when she was eighteen and had lived beside her in chastity for thirty-three years. His very grief itself must have been made serene by his consciousness that by their abstinence they had followed the approved Christian course. These were the days when Theodore the Conscript was enraged against paganism because Juno had twelve children. To some this multiplication of divinities might seem as beautiful as the birth of a new constellation, but this Christian it made cry shame on ‘a goddess who littered like a sow’; and he died for his opinion, frustrating the intended moderation of the authorities by firing her temple. About this time St. Jerome declared that he valued marriage only because it produced virgins, and advised a widow against remarriage in terms which remind us that he was Dalmatian, and that the inhabitants of this coast have never been noted for understatement. ‘The trials of marriage,’ he told the Lady Furia, ‘you have learned in the married state; you have been surfeited to nausea as though with the flesh of quails. Your mouth has tasted the bitterest of gall, you have voided the sour unwholesome food, you have relieved a heaving stomach. Why would you put into it again something which has already proved harmful to you? The dog is turned to his own vomit again and the washed sow to her wallowing in the mire.’ This married pair of Salonæ, eager for salvation, must have believed that they could not be denied some measure of it, since they had allowed themselves to be groomed in barrenness by the Church.

They would have felt amazement had they known that, some few centuries later, the Church would have persecuted them, even to death, for such wedded chastity. For over this coast there was to spread from the hinterland of the Balkan Peninsula the Puritan heresy known as Paulicianism or Patarenism or Bogomilism or Catharism, knowing certain local and temporal variations under these names, but all impassioned over the necessity of disentangling the human spirit from the evilness of matter and convinced that this was immensely facilitated by the practice of virginity. It had the advantage of appealing to that love of the disagreeable which is one of the most unpleasant characteristics of humanity, and it became a serious rival to the orthodox churches, which attacked it not only by reason but by fire and sword. Since it laid such emphasis on virginity, the ecclesiastical authorities came down like wolves on any married pairs whom gossip reported as not availing themselves of their marital privileges. So far was this recognized as a test that a man accused of heresy is said to have brought forward as proof of his orthodoxy that he drank wine and ate meat and swore and lay with his wife. Therefore this couple of Salonæ, had they practised this wedded chastity on the same spot five or six hundred years later, would not have been granted thirty-three years to do it in. They would have had a fate indistinguishable from that of the Christian martyrs whom they revered, but they would have ranked as pagans or lower. Yet even that change in the Church’s attitude they might have felt as less confounding than the later change, which would have regarded it as a matter of indifference whether they lived in abstinence or not, provided that they did not prevent the begetting of children in any intercourse they might have. That yawn in the face of their thirty-three years might have seemed worse than martyrdom.

It might have been sad to watch the little dears in their blue coats and straw hats being inducted into male superstition among the sarcophagi on a dampish day; but the Professor took us to a tomb that gave reason for hope that they would suffer no harm, being protected by their own female nature. The Latin of the inscription was so bad that it must have been erected at a time when the ancient world was suffering its last agony. In that hour, when the earth trembled and the columns were falling, a good creature set up this stone in honour of her departed husband. He was so strong, she said, that she had twins some months after he had died, and she had loved him very much. Finally, with a tremendous gesture she put out her arm and drew together two conceptions of the universe to shield him from all dangers, and commended him to the mercy of both Jesus Christ and the Parcae. She did what she could before the darkness came, acting out of sound sense and good feeling, though with a tendency to idealize virility; and we may suppose that the little dears would do as much, whatever they were taught.


The steamer which makes the hour’s journey from Split to Trogir was full of Germans, and I wondered more and more at the impossibility of learning the truth. I have been given to understand, partly by what I have read and heard, and partly by parades I have seen in Germany, that Germans are a race of beautiful athletes tense with will, glossy with efficiency, sinister with aggressiveness. The German tourists who had surrounded us in every hotel and on every steamer since we got to Dalmatia were either pear-shaped fat or gangling thin, and in any case wore too much flesh packed on the nape of the neck, and were diffident, confused, highly incompetent as travellers, and not at all unkindly. There was, I suppose, no contradiction here, only proof that Germany has been divided into two nations, a pampered young prætorian guard and the badgered, undernourished, unregarded others. These were the others. But they also were of Hitler’s Germany; for the steamer dawdled along the coast from portlet to portlet, and on each landing-stage there were standing a crowd of Dalmatians, tall, lean, upright in pride of body. The tourists stared at them and spoke of them as if they were odd and dangerous animals. The German hatred of the Slav had been revived and reinforced.

Across a milk-white sea, with two silver hydroplanes soaring and dipping to our right and left, we came to the town of Trogir, which covers a minute island, lying close to the coast, in the lee of a larger island. It is one of those golden-brown cities: the colour of rich crumbling shortbread, of butterscotch, of the best pastry, sometimes of good undarkened gravy. It stands naked and leggy, for it is a walled city deprived of its walls. The Saracens levelled them, and the Venetians and the Hungarians would never let them be rebuilt. Now it looks like a plant grown in a flower-pot when the pot is broken but the earth and roots still hang together. On the quay stand Slavized Venetian palaces with haremish lattice-work fixed to screen the stone balconies, to show that here West meets East, brought thus far by Byzantine influence and perpetuated by the proximity of the Turks. Behind them lies a proof that life is often at once mad and consistent, in the manner of dreams. Petronius Arbiter’s Satyricon lives in the mind long after reading as a fevered progression of flights through a cityful of twisting alleys. Trogir’s alleys turn and writhe like entrails. It was in Trogir that the codex of the Satyricon was found in 1650. It was not written there, of course. If it had been there would be nothing startling in the resemblance between the work and the town. But it came to light here, after centuries of loss. The appropriateness is as exquisite as the colour of the town, as its spires.

The appropriateness went further still: for Petronius Arbiter was by nature a Puritan, who had he been born in due time would have found himself at home as a Paulician or Patarene or Bogomil or Catharist, or in any other of those heresies which were based on the Persian faith of Manichaeism, which held that matter was evil, and sex a particularly evil manifestation of it.

Fœda in coitu et brevis voluptas est 

Et tædet Veneris statim peractæ.

Gross and brief is the pleasure of love-making, he says, and consummated passion a shocking bore. He goes on to beg his beloved therefore that they should not mate like mere cattle, but should lie lip to lip and do nothing more, to avoid toil and shame. The meaning of this exhortation lies in Trimalchio’s Supper, which shows Petronius to have been homosexual and fearful of impotence with women; and perhaps the same explanation lay behind most followers of these heresies. But he rationalized his motives, and so did Trogir. This was an inveterately heretic city.

In its beginning it was a Greek settlement and later a Roman town, and then it was taken over in the Dark Ages by wandering Paulicians. In the twelfth century the town was sacked by the Saracens, and the inhabitants were dispersed among the villages on the mainland. That, however, did not break the tradition of heresy, for when the King of Hungary collected them and resettled them on their island they soon fell under the influence of Catharism, which was sweeping across the Balkan Peninsula from Bulgaria to Bosnia and Herzegovina and the coast. This recurrence is natural enough. Manichæism—for these heresies might as well be grouped together under the name of their parent—represents the natural reaction of the earnest mind to a religion that has aged and hardened and committed the sin against the Holy Ghost, which is to pretend that all is now known, and there can now be laid down a system of rules to guarantee salvation. In its origin it was a reaction against the extreme fatalism of Zoroastrianism, which held that man’s destiny was decided by the stars, and that his only duty was to accomplish it in decorum. Passionately Mani created a myth that would show the universe as a field for moral effort: inspired by Christianity as it had passed through the filter of many Oriental minds and by a cosmology invented by an Aramaic astronomer, he imagined that there had been in the beginning of time a kingdom of light and a kingdom of darkness, existing side by side without any commixture, and that these had later been confused, as the result of aggression on the part of the darkness. This was the origin of the present world, which Mani very aptly called The Smudge. It became the duty of all men who were on the side of the light, which was identified with virtue and reason, to recover the particles of light that have become imprisoned in the substance of darkness, which was identified with vice and brutishness.

This is actually an extremely useful conception of life. But Manichaeism was handicapped by the strictly literal mind of the founder and his followers, who believed that they were not speaking in allegory but were describing the hard material facts of the universe. When they spoke of the signs of the zodiac as dredges bringing up rescued particles of light to store them in the sun and moon, they meant quite squarely that that is what they thought the constellations were. This literalness turned the daily routine of the faithful into a treasure-hunt, sometimes of an indecorous nature. Excrement was obviously part of the kingdom of darkness, if ever anything was. Hence it became the duty of the Manichæan priests, the ‘elect,’ to take large doses of purgatives, not furtively. This routine became not only ridiculous but dangerous, as the centuries passed and the ingenious medieval European began to use it to serve that love of the disagreeable which is our most hateful quality. Natural man, uncorrected by education, does not love beauty or pleasure or peace; he does not want to eat and drink and be merry; he is on the whole averse from wine, women, and song. He prefers to fast, to groan in melancholy, and to be sterile. This is easy enough to understand. To feast one must form friendships and spend money, to be merry one must cultivate fortitude and forbearance and wit, to have a wife and children one must assume the heavy obligation of keeping them and the still heavier obligation of loving them. All these are kinds of generosity, and natural man is mean. His meanness seized on the Manichaean routine and exploited it till the whole of an infatuated Europe seemed likely to adopt it, and would doubtless have done so if the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches had not hardened their hearts against it and counted no instrument too merciless for use, not even mass murder.

It is our tendency to sympathize with the hunted hare, but much that we read of Western European heretics makes us suspect that here the quarry was less of a hare than a priggish skunk. In Languedoc there seems to have been some sort of pleasant transmutation of the faith, but for the most part heretical Europe presents us with the horrifying spectacle of countless human beings gladly facing martyrdom for the right to perform cantrips that might have been invented by a mad undertaker. There was a particularly horrible travesty of extreme unction called the ‘endura.’ Every dying person was asked by the priest whether he wanted to be a confessor or a martyr; if he wanted to be a confessor he remained without food or drink, except for a little water, for three days, and if he wanted to be a martyr a pillow was held over his mouth while certain prayers were recited. If he survived in either case he ranked as a priest. This horrid piece of idiocy was often used as a means of suicide, a practice to which these heretics were much addicted; but as they believed that to suffer torture in dying would relieve them from it in the next world, the real enthusiasts preferred for this purpose to swallow broken glass. The faith also gave encouragement to certain passive methods of murder. The guardians of the sick were urged to extinguish life when death was near; and how this worked out may be deduced from a case in France where a woman subjected her infant grandchild to the endura and then prevented its mother from suckling it till it died. By this necrophily, and a pervasive nastiness about sex, which went so far as to forbid a father to be touched by his own daughter, even if he were very old and she were his nurse, millions were raised to a state of rapture. The whole of modern history could be deduced from the popularity of this heresy in Western Europe: its inner sourness, its preference for hate over love and for war over peace, its courage about dying, its cowardice about living.

This cannot have been the whole truth about these heresies. So inherently noble a vision must have produced some nobility, its own particles of light cannot all have been dissolved. But its achievements were trodden into the dirt by its enemies along with its failures; the Huns and the Avars never made a cleaner job of devastation than the orthodox armies who were sent against the Albigenses and the Catharists, and the heretics in the Balkans were spared such demolition only because of the Turkish occupation, which laid waste their institutions just as thoroughly for quite other reasons. It happens that here in Trogir there is preserved a specimen of Manichæan culture. In the centre of the town a cathedral stands in a flagged square. They began building it in the thirteenth century to replace a cathedral, six hundred years old, which had been burned by the Saracens, and went on for a couple more centuries. It was for long one of the homes of the Patarene heresy. Its congregation were solidly adepts of the hidden faith, and so too, at least once in its history, was the bishop who officiated at its altar. In the porch to the bell-tower of this cathedral there is a carved portal which is the most massive and pure work of art produced by Manichæism that I have ever seen. There are, of course, specimens of heretic architecture in France, but those were modified by an existing and flourishing French culture. Here a fresh and vigorous Manichaeism has been grafted on a dying and remote offshoot of Roman and Byzantine culture.

It is the work of a thirteenth-century sculptor called Radovan, or the Joyous One, and it instantly recalls the novels of Dostoievsky. There is the same sense of rich, contending disorder changing oozily from form to form, each one of which the mind strives to grasp, because if it can but realize its significance there will be not order, but a hint of coming order. Above the door are many scenes from the life of Christ, arranged not according to the order of time; in the beginning He is baptized, in the middle He is crucified, in the end He is adored by the Wise Men. These scenes are depicted with a primitive curiosity, but also make a highly cultured admission that that curiosity cannot be wholly gratified. It is as if the child in the artist asked, ‘What are those funny men doing?’ and the subtle man in him answered, ‘I do not know, but I think ...’ On the outer edge of the door, one to the right and one to the left, stand Adam and Eve, opinions about our deprived and distorting destiny; and they stand on a lion and a lioness, which are opinions about the animal world, and the nature we share with it. In the next column, in a twined confusion, the sculptor put on record the essence of the sheep and the stag, the hippopotamus and the centaur, the mermaid and the apostles; and in the next he shows us the common man of his time, cutting wood, working leather, making sausages, killing a pig, bearing arms. But of these earthly types and scenes the child in the artist asked as eagerly as before, ‘What are those funny men doing?’ and the man answered as hesitantly, ‘I do not know, but I think ...’

There we have an attitude which differentiates Manichaeism sharply from orthodox Christianity. If the common man was actually interpenetrated with particles of light, or divinity, as the heretics believed, and if this could be made more or less difficult to recover by his activities, then each individual and his calling had to be subjected to the severest analysis possible. But if the common man has a soul, a recognizable part of himself, as orthodox Christians believe, which is infected with sin through the fall of man and can be cleansed again by faith and participation in the sacraments and adherence to certain ethical standards, then it is necessary not to analyze the individual but to make him follow a programme. This difference corresponds with the difference between Western Europeans and the Slavs, of which many of us receive our first intimations from Dostoievsky. In the West conversation is regarded as a means of either passing the time agreeably or exchanging useful information; among Slavs it is thought to be disgraceful, when a number of people are together, that they should not pool their experience and thus travel further towards the redemption of the world. In the West conduct follows an approved pattern which is departed from by people of weak or headstrong will; but among Slavs a man will try out all kinds of conduct simply to see whether they are of the darkness or of the light. The Slavs, in fact, are given to debate and experiment which to the West seem unnecessary and therefore, since they must involve much that is painful, morbid. This spirit can be recognized also in the curious pressing, exploratory nature of Radovan’s imagination.

But there are other resemblances also between Manichaeism and Slavism, between Radovan and Dostoievsky. For one, the lack of climax. The orthodox Christian thinks that the story of the universe has revealed itself in a design that would be recognized as pleasing in a work of finite proportions; a number of people, not too great to be remembered, and all easily distinguishable, enact a drama which begins with the Creation, rises to its peak in the Incarnation, is proceeding to its consummation in the Day of Judgment and the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven. The Manichæan believed that an immense crowd of people, often very difficult to distinguish from one another, are engaged in recovering the strayed particles of light, a process which can come to a climax only when it is finished. This is reflected in Radovan’s work by a curious levelness of inspiration, a lack of light and shade in his response to his subject; in the Slav’s readiness to carry on a conversation for ever, to stay up all night; in Dostoievsky’s continuous, unremitting spiritual excitement.

For another resemblance, there is the seeming paradox of a fierce campaign against evil combined with a tolerance of its nature. We cannot understand this in the West, where we assume that sincere hostility to sin must be accompanied by a reluctance to contemplate it and a desire to annihilate it. But according to the Manichæan faith there was no need to take action against darkness except when it enmeshed the light. When the kingdom of darkness was existing side by side with the kingdom of light without any commixture, then it was committing no offence. That attitude can be traced in Radovan’s faithful reproduction of life’s imperfect forms, in Dostoievsky’s choice of abnormality as a subject. And there is yet another resemblance which is particularly apparent in the work of Radovan. The columns he carved with the representations of The Smudge are borne on the shoulders of those who are wholly of the darkness, Jews and Turks and pagans. It is put forward solidly and without sense of any embarrassment that there are those who are predestined to pain, contrary to the principles of human justice. Calvin admitted this with agony, but there is none here; and Dostoievsky never complains against the God who created the disordered universe he describes. This is perhaps because the Manichaeans, like the Greeks, did not regard God as the Creator, but as the Arranger, or even as the Divine Substance which had to be arranged.

That the West should be wholly orthodox and not at all Manichaean in its outlook on these matters is the consequence of the zeal of the Roman Catholic Church. Quite simply it physically exterminated all communities who would not abandon the heretic philosophy. But the South-East of Europe was so continuously disturbed, first by civil war and Asiatic invasion and then by the Turkish occupation, that the Eastern Church could not set up an effective machine for the persecution of heretics, even if it had had the temperament to do so. There the outward forms of Manichæism eventually perished, as they were bound to do in time, partly because of the complicated and fantastic nature of its legend and the indecorous and cruel perversions of its ritual; but its philosophy remained, rooted in the popular mind before the Turkish gate closed down between the Balkans and the rest of the world, to travel northwards and influence the new land of Russia, where after several centuries it inspired a generation of giants, to the astonishment of Europe. The Russian novelists of the nineteenth century represented the latest recrudescence of a philosophy that had too much nobility in it ever to perish utterly.

But one wishes one knew how this heresy compared with orthodoxy as a consolation in time of danger: whether the Manichaeans of Trogir were as firmly upheld by their faith as the Christians of Salonæ. The Manichæans might claim that it served them better, so far as barbarian invasion was concerned, for they had one of the narrowest escapes from annihilation that is written in all history. The Professor took us on from the Cathedral to see the scene of it. We walked out of the city onto the quay through a gate which still keeps the handsome stone lion of St. Mark that was the sign of Venetian possession, surmounted by the patron saint of Trogir, St. Giovanni Orsini, who was its bishop about the time of the Norman Conquest; he was a remarkable engineer, who was made a saint because he aided the Papacy in its efforts to suppress the Slav liturgy. A bridge crossed a channel hemmed with marble and glazed with the reflection of many cypresses, and joined Trogir to a mainland that showed us a little level paradise under the harsh, bare, limestone hills, where the pepper trees dropped their long green hair over the red walls of villa gardens, and Judas trees showed their stained, uneasy purple flowers through wrought-iron gates. ‘You see, it came very near, so near that it could not have come any nearer,’ said the Professor.

He spoke of the time in 1241, just after Radovan had started his portal, when the Mongols, seeking to expand the empire made for them by Genghis Khan, conquered Russia and swept across Europe to Hungary, putting King Bela and his nobles to flight. While he vainly petitioned the other Christian powers to help, the invaders swept on towards Vienna and then swung down to Croatia, burning, looting, killing. King Bela tried to stand firm at Zagreb, and sent his Greek wife and their three children to seek safety on the coast. These were ranging in panic between Split and the fortress of Klish, just behind it in the mountains, when the King joined them, frantic with fear. It is doubtful if even our own times can provide anything as hideous as the Mongol invasion, as this dispensing of horrible death by yellow people made terrible as demons by their own unfamiliarity. It is true that the establishment of the Mongol Empire was ultimately an excellent thing for the human spirit, since it made Asiatic culture available to Europe; but as Peer Gynt said, ‘Though God is thoughtful for His people, economical, no, that He isn’t!‘

The King and a tattered, gibbering multitude of nobles and soldiers and priests, bearing with them the body of the saint King Stephen of Hungary, and many holy objects from their churches, trailed up and down the coast. Split received them magnificently, but the King struck away the townsmen’s greetings with the fury of a terrified child. The shelter they offered him was useless. They might not know it, but he did. He had seen the Mongols. He demanded a ship to take him out to the islands. Yellow horsemen could not ride the sea. But there was none ready. He shouted his anger and went with his Queen and his train to Trogir, which is within a short distance of many islands. He fled to a neighbouring island, which is still called ‘The King’s Shelter.’ Some of his followers went with him, but enough stayed in Trogir to carpet the place with sleeping men and women when night fell. Worn out by fatigue, by hunger, by fear, they threw themselves down wherever they could: on the floors of all rooms, in every palace and hovel, all over every church, under Radovan’s portal, on the flags of the piazza and the alleys, on the quays. Their treasures cast down beside them, they slept. Every boat too was covered with sleeping bodies and upturned faces, and the rocks of every island.

The Mongols came down on the coast. Nothing could stop them. But at the sea they met a check. They had thought the King must be at Klish or Split, and they were repulsed at both. The shelter offered by the Splitchani was not as negligible as the King had thought. The Mongols were used to unlimited space for their operations, and to attack fortifications from a terrain bounded by the sea or sharply broken ground presented them with a new problem. But they found their way to Trogir; and on to this bridge across the channel they sent a herald who cried out in a loud voice the minatory moral nonsense talked by the aggressor in any age: ‘Here is the commandment of the Kaidan, the unconquerable chief of the army: do not uphold the crimes of others, but hand over to us our enemies, lest you be involved in those crimes and perish when you need not.’ For the herald himself the delivery of this message must have been the supreme moment of his life, either for perverse joy or for pain. For those who heard him tell us that he spoke in Slav as a Slav. He must have been either a traitor or a prisoner. Either he was dooming his own people, whom he loathed, to their ruin, and his words were sweet as honey in his mouth, or he loved his people, and he found his words bitter as gall.

The guards of Trogir made no answer, for they had been ordered by the King to keep silent. Then we find, which is not common, history following a line to which we are accustomed in our private lives. We have all heard spoken tremendous words which must unchain tragedy, we have all recognized the phrase after which there can be nothing but love and happiness; and afterwards nothing has happened, life goes on precisely the same, there is the vacuum of the anticlimax. But in history the pushed boulder usually falls. In Trogir, however, it was not so. After this tremendous moment, nothing happened. The herald cried out his tremendous message, the guards kept silent; and presently the Mongols went home. It is thought that they were considering whether they should ford or bridge the channel, when they received news that their supreme chief, Ogodai, the son of Genghis Khan, had died in Asia, and that the succession was in dispute. They went back at a trot, just taking time to sack and kill on their way, through Southern Dalmatia, where they burned the lovely city of Kotor, and through Bosnia, Serbia, and Bulgaria. Trogir breathed again. The King returned from his islet, and took his nobles and his armies and his priests and the dead St. Stephen and the holy jewels back to Hungary. But the Queen had to stay in Dalmatia for some time, till her two little daughters, Catarina and Margareta, died of a sickness they had contracted during their flight. Their tombs can be seen in Diocletian’s mausoleum at Split.

It is the kind of secret that time takes with it: whether the heretics of Trogir leaned on their faith and found it bore them, in those hours when the Mongol sword hung over their heads. But it can be deduced that in a general way it did them no harm, for they came out of the Middle Ages into the Renaissance strong in art and gallant. The interior of the Cathedral, which is two hundred years later than Radovan’s work, has a fine form under its immensely rich vault, cut out of stone that has a warm grey bloom; and there is a baptistery, naughtily overdecorated, but with an exquisite series of panels, in each of which a cherub bearing a torch thrusts his way through ponderous closing doors, ostensibly to illustrate some notion concerning immortality, but more probably because the Renaissance had a liking for fine little boys. And everywhere are small but delicious palaces in the Venetian Gothic style, sweetly compact, covered by elegance as by a creeper, with balconies and trellised windows. There is one such, most lovely, facing the Cathedral, the residence of the Chippitch family. It is the very house where there was found the codex of The Satyricon. Here in Trogir it is as if events were caught in the rich architecture like wasps in syrup.

When you go into the courtyard of the Chippitch Palace you will find the figureheads of two old ships, one a delicate victory woman, the other a huge cock. Each was made on a long iron stalk, held in a long iron hand. They are violent in character, as if they were made by desperate men. One was the figurehead of the ship manned and financed by Trogir and commanded by Louis Chippitch at the battle of Lepanto in 1571 and the other belonged to the Turkish ship he captured. He put them there when he came home and they have remained there ever since. Again we were made to realize the debt the West owes the people of this coast. The naval power of the Turks was broken at Lepanto and never was reconstituted. What broke it was a fleet composed of one hundred and fourteen Venetian galleys, a hundred and three Spanish galleys, twelve supplied by the Pope, four supplied by the Duke of Savoy, three from Malta, and seven from the seven Dalmatian towns, although by that time the coast was ravaged and poverty-stricken. Even devastated Rab and Krk sent one apiece. And Trogir’s contribution also was a magnificent offering from poverty; for the town was perpetually forced by the Venetians to give money and supplies as bribes to the Turkish military and civil officials on the mainland, and it often knew real need. Not only Rab but Trogir, and indeed every community on this coast, paid in their gold and then blood for the security of the West.

Since Trogir created such beauty and achieved such courage under Venice, the visitor is tempted to believe that foreign dominance was good for Dalmatia. But to think that is to be as superficial as visitors to an orphanage, who at sight of children with washed faces doing neat handwork forget the inevitable wrongs of institutional life. The inhabitants of this coast were looted of their money and their morals by their alien masters. ‘Come into the Dominican church,’ said the Professor, ‘and you will see how savage we were here, how horribly and beautifully savage.’ In that fine church there is a tomb erected by a noble widow to her murdered husband. Carved as carefully and reverently as any Madonna in a Pietà, an enraged lioness lifts to Heaven a muzzle soft and humid with the hope of vengeance. ‘It is the vendetta put into stone,’ said the Professor. ‘Here the vendetta was a curse as it was in Corsica, because God has made us a very quarrelsome people, and the Hungarians and the Venetians encouraged all our dissensions, so that we should not be a united people and would therefore be more easy for them to subdue.’

This policy became more formidable in the fifteenth century, after Trogir had finally become Venetian. Refugees have always presented a grave problem to the countries that have received them. The culture they bring with them must clash with the culture they find established in their new homes. When the Turks overran the Balkan Peninsula some Bosnian and Herzegovinian landowners became Moslems and were left in possession of their lands, but those who clung to their faith fled to Dalmatia. They were pure feudal lords, of a type that had long disappeared from Western Europe, and they could not understand the constitution of the Dalmatian cities, which gave different rights to nobles and citizens, but on that basis defended them with equal justice. The refugees could not understand that they must treat with courtesy lawless men of admittedly inferior social status, and that the nobles also would be against them if they failed to obey this convention; and indeed some of the nobles, who were undemocratic and hated the citizens, were willing to side with the refugees in this. Thus there arose a great deal of civil strife which time would have corrected if the Venetians had not seen in it an opportunity to obey that evil precept, Divide et impera. They secretly backed each party against the others, and refrained from any legislative reform that would have sweetened the situation.

But they went in for simpler misconduct. In the seventeenth century Trogir produced a superb example of the learned gentleman of the Renaissance, Giovanni Lucius, or Yovan Lutchitch, a descendant of one of the same Bosnian refugees. He had studied in Rome and devoted his life to research into Croatian and Dalmatian history. His great work De Regno Dalmaliæ et Croatiæ is still a classic: he collected a great many original documents, for though he wrote with patriotic passion he was governed by the love of truth. But one of the feuds that Venice encouraged struck him down. A member of a noble family that had long been political enemies of the Lutchitches, Paolo de Andreis, was himself a historian and was himself engaged on a rival work. Dons will be dons, so he informed the authorities that Lutchitch was searching the archives to prove that the Venetians had violated the ancient constitutions of the Dalmatian cities. Later, when the Venetian Governor-general came to visit Trogir and proposed to quarter himself in the Lutchitch Palace, Yovan Lutchitch excused himself on the ground that his sister was gravely ill; and again Andreis went to the authorities, this time to denounce his rival as a liar. Immediately Lutchitch was thrown into prison among common criminals, while a squad of galley slaves cleared his family out of their palace and the Governor-general took possession of it. Lutchitch himself was about to be bastinadoed, but the Bishop of Trogir saved him by appealing to the power of the Church, and got him permission to take refuge in Rome, where he died after thirty-four years of exile, an extravagant punishment for a patriot.

‘We have so greatly needed peace, a little peace,’ said the Professor, ‘but we have had hardly any. And I will take you now to see a relic of the regime that gave us the fairest promise of it. But I warn you, you will laugh at it, it is not as impressive as it should be.’ He took us round the wide hem of the city, the space on its quays where the walls used to stand, to the north end of the island. It did not take us long to get there, for this town is incredibly small: one could walk round it in less than ten minutes. ‘Look at it well!’ said the Professor, and we gaped, for what we saw was surprising in this land which is precious about its architecture, which will have nothing that is not superb or ethereal or noble. On a patch of waste ground, beside a medieval tower, there stands a little roofless temple raised on a platform of rough-hewn stones, not at all antique, not at all suggestive of sacrifices to the gods, strongly evocative of an afternoon in the park. Almost it is a bandstand. ‘Is it not French?’ said the Professor. ‘So neat, so irreverent to the tragic solemnity of the place and its past, so fundamentally admirable. You see the sea used to wash all round it. It is only since we had a Yugoslavia that there have been drained the marshes along the coast which gave the city malaria, and that has involved deepening the main channel and drawing the sea away from this shore. But when Marshal Marmont built this belvedere it was right out among the waves, and he used to sit there with his officers and play cards when it was very hot. That we find very amusing: it is such a light-minded, pleasure-loving thing to do. And yet Marmont was a hero, a great hero, and the only foreign ruler that was truly good for us. Though we find it hard to forgive our conquerors, we could even find it in our hearts to admit that it would have been a good thing if the French had stayed here longer.’

It is really a very pretty belvedere; and it has the sacred French air of dealing respectfully and moderately with the little things of life that are not sacred. It is better, yes, it is definitely better, than the muzzle of the lioness wetly throbbing towards the scent of blood. That it knows and has put behind it. The sword was declared superseded in the delicious contentment which was housed here between the columns, above the rippling Adriatic. For indeed Marmont must have been extraordinarily happy here, for a time. For one thing, he very greatly disliked his wife, and here he was able to treat her extremely well from a very great distance. For another, he adored the place itself, and he was one of those who like the Slav flavour, who find all other peoples insipid by contrast. And he liked the exercise of independent power, as a colonial governor far from home. ‘He was, of course, a very vain man,’ said the Professor in a deprecating tone. I wondered why: I have never been able to see why people object to vanity, unless it is associated with blindness to the qualities of others, and it often is not.

But if Marmont was not vain, he was a prig. He must have been very well pleased with himself as he played cards in the belvedere. He was living in accordance with reason and virtue. He might have been very hot, but thanks to this intelligent device he was less hot. He was building up a career, and while many men have had to resort to violence and rapacity to serve their ambition he was at once earning success and disseminating peaceful manners, learning, and hygiene in a land previously barbarian. He did not even compromise his integrity, for he faced quite honestly the moral problem inherent in empire. In his memoirs, which he wrote well for a man of action, he admits that a nation cannot hold alien territories without disingenuous handling of subject populations; he sets down without disguise the plain facts of certain occasions when he found it necessary to play politics and foment misunderstandings among friends in order to establish French authority. It may have happened that, while he waited for a partner to put down a card, he set his eyes on the dancing glass of the Adriatic, or the lion-coloured mountains, trembling like the sea in the heat, and hypnosis made him aware of the question the inner self perpetually asks itself: ‘What am I doing, and is it good?’ The answer he would have overheard would certainly not have been boastful: it might have been proud of the process in which it was engaged, but it would have been modest regarding the extent of its engagement. The universe was in disorder; its sole offensiveness lay in its disorder. Man having been given, whether by a personal or an impersonal force it hardly mattered, a vision of order, he could correct the universe and regiment it into shining harmony. Marmont had pointed his sword at a bulging plinth and bidden it be straight; he had raised his schoolmaster’s rod and a fallen column was again erect. He would have claimed no less, but no more, and would have been happy in an exact accountancy of his limited effort.

But the place held a vaster, darker wisdom. On the edge of the city stands this belvedere with its six frail pillars. In the centre of Trogir stands the Cathedral with its portico sombre with the prophecies of Radovan, with his announcement that there is no hope within man, since he is a fusion of light and darkness, like the universe itself; and that he must work for the liberation of the light and not for the reform of the universe, because the universe is evil, by reason of this fusion, and must pass. This is a hard word, hard with the intolerable hardness of mysticism. It is far harder, far more mystical, than the message of orthodox Christianity. It places on man a tremendous obligation to regard his life as a redemptory act, but at the same time it informs him that he is tainted through and through with the substance of damnation, and that the medium through which alone he can perform this act is equally tainted; and it assumes that this obligation is worth accepting and will in fact be crowned with success, simply because of the nature of the abstractions involved, simply because light is light and therefore to be loved.

That it might be as Radovan thought was confirmed by the experience of Marmont; his later card games in the belvedere cannot have been happy at all. Napoleon was called by many The Man, and in his manhood he agreed with the Manichaean conception. He was at first a soldier of the light. Marmont must have felt that in working with him he was driving the darkness engendered by the collapsed Revolution out of France, and out of disturbed Europe. He had, indeed, almost no other grounds for liking the association. It is one of the oddest examples of human irrationality that while most of the people who really knew Napoleon well found him unlovable and something of a bore, innumerable people who were not born until long after his death, and have nothing to go upon except the accounts of these familiars, obstinately adore him; and these have blamed Marmont for coldness and ingratitude to him. But as Marmont explains in his memoirs, he had known Napoleon since his early youth and had never really liked him, and he had no reason to feel gratitude to him, for he had earned every step of his military promotion by concrete achievements that would have been similarly rewarded in any army. He worked with him because they both stood for the same ideal of national order.

The darkness suddenly streamed out of Napoleon’s soul; the ray had been white, it was black. There was manifest in his relations with his subordinates the same enjoyment of the exciting discord irrelevant to the theme which is familiar enough as a symptom of sexual degeneration, of incapacity for love. Marmont has recorded in his memoirs, with the exquisite accuracy of a perceptive but unimaginative man, the moment when Napoleon sought to slake his appetite on him, to his perturbation and disgust. During the 1809 campaign Marmont returned to headquarters to report after fighting a brilliant and fatiguing engagement and was received by a scowling and soured Napoleon, who grumbled at him for nearly two and a half hours. When he went back to the hovel where he was billeted he flung himself down in an agony of weariness and humiliation, and was reduced to the extreme of bewildered misery because the room began to fill up with more and more people. Suddenly he found that they had come to congratulate him. The two and a half hours of nagging had been Napoleon’s way of adding spice to the promotion of Marmont to the rank of marshal: so might a lover, of the sillier sort, pick a quarrel with the beloved before making her or him a present. But Marmont was interested in the art of war, in France, and in the establishment of the international order he thought most favourable to France; and he could not imagine why his promotion from one rank of the army to another, about which there was nothing unnatural, which was according to routine, should be attended by discourtesy and gross disregard for his feelings. He records it with restraint. Napoleon had long been fallen when he wrote. But behind the well-mannered writing sounds a perplexity. If Napoleon thought I was good enough to be marshal, which was pleasant, why couldn’t he have been pleasant about it? Marmont would have liked pleasantness everywhere. The light was in him, seeking to establish its kingdom.

When he first went to Dalmatia it must have seemed that the light in him and in Napoleon was working to free itself from the long captivity it had endured in these darkened lands. A strong and peaceful Illyria emerging from the state of war and anarchy that had lasted since nearly the beginning of recorded time would have shone like the moon coming out of a black cloud. There was a time in Napoleon’s life when the whole of Europe appeared to be suffering defeat before France only in order to rise again and put on an immortal brightness. But in a few months the prospect changed. It was as if there had been an eclipse; the Manichæans would have recognized its nature. In Napoleon there seemed now to be nothing but darkness. In Marmont’s letters he held up to Napoleon his own conception of a radiant Illyria, part of a transfigured Europe, and asked for support in realizing it, in men, in money, in words. But Napoleon turned away, shutting his eyes as if he could no longer bear the light. He ignored all Marmont’s requests and replied in letters hot and sticky with roguishness, or did not reply at all.

In the belvedere Marmont must have found it difficult to keep his mind on his cards. In the end, we know, he threw them in and pushed back his chair and strolled away, to leave Dalmatia for ever. There was fault in him too. He was man also, he was a fusion of good and evil, of light and darkness. Therefore he did not want with his wholeness that there should be a victory of light; he preferred that darkness should continue to exist, and this universe, The Smudge, should not pass away. He showed it, and so did all his reasonable kind, by leaving power in the hands of Napoleon, who had long ceased to be reasonable, who was now seeking disgrace as he had earlier sought glory. He went to Spain, he went to Russia, against the advice of his counsellors, for no other purpose than to make a long journey and be benighted at its end. But the change in him excited no horror in the people; rather their passion for him rose to an orgasm, as if this were the climax to which his glory had been but the preparation. The great men for whom humanity feels ecstatic love need not be good, nor even gifted; but they must display this fusion of light and darkness which is the essential human character; they must even promise, by a predominance of darkness, that the universe shall for ever persist in its imperfection.

After Napoleon had safely led back Europe to the limits of frustration it preferred to paradise, nothing happened in Dalmatia for a hundred years. Austrian rule was sheer negativism. The Slavs were raised up in enmity against the Italian-speaking sections, who were either such descendants of the Roman settlers as had never amalgamated with the Slavs, or Venetian immigrants. There was no coherence; very little trade, since the Austrian railway system was designed to encourage the prosperity of Austria and Hungary and leave the Slav territories isolated from the rest of Europe. In Trogir grass grew in the streets and piazzas. But the tradition of its rich civic life was not broken. After the war this town, like many another on the Dalmatian coast, was coveted by the Italians, who one September night in 1919 sent a small party of soldiers to seize it. It should have been defended by eight Yugoslav soldiers, but these had too ingenuously accepted hospitality of some pro-Italians on the previous evening and were all unconscious. So when the inhabitants woke up in the morning they found their town in possession of Italian soldiers. There were, however, only five families that were pro-Italian; and the rest of the population rushed at the invaders and disarmed them with their bare hands. One woman ran at four men in charge of a machine-gun and took it away from them, and many others chased out runaway Italians who had taken refuge in the courtyards of the houses, beating them with their fists and tearing away their helmets and belts. ‘I do not tell you their names,’ said the Professor, ‘because it is a very disagreeable thing for a lady to have to commit such violent acts, and these were not viragoes, they were ladies. But I can assure you that they bore names which have been distinguished in the annals of Trogir for many centuries, and that they were none of them ignorant of their ancestors’ achievements.’

It is a very quiet city now: an empty city, for it suffered like Rab from a terrible visitation of the plague, and the population has never replenished itself, because the malaria that raged here till recently caused sterility. But it exists. That is to be noted, for there is a legend all over Europe which leaves not one of its stones standing upon another. Close by the Cathedral there is a loggia which was the ancient hall of justice, undatable because it was built of bits and pieces from the old town which was destroyed by the Saracens and from near-by Roman settlements. It was in ruins during the Austrian occupation, and it was roofed and made decent by the Yugoslav Government. Nevertheless in all anti-Slav circles it has become a symbol of the barbarity of the Yugoslavs, because of a very small defacement. It happened that on the wall behind the stone table at which the judges used to sit there was placed during the late fifteenth century a winged lion of St Mark, surrounded by saints and emblems of justice. Every Dalmatian town bears such a symbol at one place or more, on a wall or a gate, or a public building, and always it is beautiful. The lion is always waved and opulent, and reminds one that it was Bronzino and Paris Bordone who first celebrated the type which we know now, in brass instead of gold, as Mae West. To judge from photographs the lion in the loggia was a specially glorious example of its kind, a lilium auratum in stone. While the Austrians were in Dalmatia the wind and the rain beat on this lion, but it was properly sheltered after the Yugoslavs had done their repairs.

It unfortunately happened, however, that about Christmastime in 1932 some young men of Trogir got drunk, and their larger, simpler emotions were liberated. They then remembered that the Italians had tried to steal their city, and had not given up the hope of doing so some day; and they inflicted severe damage on this lion and another at the port gate of the town. They were not utterly destroyed. They still exist, in a quite recognizable form, on the walls of a museum. This was one of those incidents which prove it to be a matter of sheer luck that man does not go on all fours, but it obviously had no other significance. Italy, however, took the opportunity to give an extraordinary exhibition of her intentions towards Dalmatia. There took place all over the country demonstrations against the Yugoslavian Government, organized by two societies which exist for the purpose of such mischief-making, Dalmatia Irredenta and Pro-Dalmatia. Mussolini himself declared that in the mild hooliganism of the intoxicated young men he saw ‘the clear expression of a mentality of hate that made no secret of its opposition to Italy.... It is a carefully premeditated plan.... The responsible parties are to be found among elements of the ruling classes.... The lions of Trogir are destroyed, but in their destruction they stand stronger than ever as a living symbol and a certain promise.’ To keep the peace the Yugoslavian Government had to eat dirt and, what is worse, harden its tradition of mercilessness towards its own people by suppressing the counter-demonstrations against Italy which naturally took place all over Yugoslavia.

The wickedness and absurdity of Mussolini’s proceedings can be estimated if one imagines Great Britain making hostile demonstrations against Ireland because some drunken boys in Cork had destroyed a couple of Union Jacks that had been left there during the English occupation. But that does not quite express the perversity of the Italian attitude, for it must further be remembered that Trogir had not belonged to Venice for a hundred and forty years, at which time it would have been impossible for a Roman or the inhabitant of any other Italian city except Venice to feel any emotion whatsoever regarding an insult to the lion of St Mark, except perhaps a lively sympathy. This immense forgery of feeling led on to a forgery of fact. There spread all over Italy and into Central Europe, and thence all over the world, a belief that the inhabitants of Trogir had destroyed all the historic beauties of their town, and even their entire town. ‘What, you went to Trogir?’ a refugee German professor said to me in London, after my first visit to Dalmatia. ‘But it cannot have been worth your while, now that these barbarous Yugoslavs have levelled everything worth looking at to the ground. Ah, if you had only visited it, when I did, two years before the war! You can have no idea how beautiful it was then!’ Medieval Europe was ignorant, it believed in unicorns and mermaids, it debated how many angels could dance on the point of a needle. The folly of modern Europe provides us with no agreeable decorative symbols, it does not lead us to debate on the real fact of the different planes of existence. It pretends for mean motives that a city which stands steadily among the moving waters, its old buildings and its old families as they have been for seven hundred years, is not.

Split III

My husband was reading to me from Count Voinovitch’s Histoire de Dalmatie a fairy story that they tell about the Emperor Diocletian all over this coast and Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro. It is a variant of the story we all know about Midas. It seems that he had a ridiculous physical secret which he could keep from all the world except his barber, a little matter of ears like an ass and horns like a ram. So his barbers shaved him but once, and were never heard of again. At last a barber who was the only son of a widow was told that the next day he must shave the Emperor’s beard. He was overcome with horror, but his mother told him not to despair, and made him a little cake moistened with her own milk, and said to him, ‘While you are shaving the Emperor take a bit of this cake.’ When he did so, Diocletian smelt the curious odour of the paste, and asked for a piece of it. He liked it, but found the taste peculiar, and felt he knew it yet could not name it. ‘What did your mother use to moisten this cake?’ he asked. ‘Her own milk,’ answered the barber. ‘Then we are brothers and I cannot kill you,’ said the Emperor. Thereafter the story follows familiar lines: the barber’s life is spared, but he is sworn to silence, and he is so inconvenienced by the secret that he murmurs it to a reed, which is made into a flute by the village children and repeats it whenever it is played.

‘How characteristic it is of the Slavs to keep on telling this story,’ said my husband; ‘it is so packed with criticism of the idea of power. The folk imagination that invented it is responsible to the majesty of the Emperor and his usefulness to the community, and it recognizes that he can exercise power and that his subjects can obey him only if there is a convention that he is superhuman, that he has none of the subhuman characteristics which compose humanity. The Emperor must therefore be permitted to commit acts in defence of this convention which would be repulsive if an individual committed them for his private ends. But here nature speaks, through the mother, who is a superb example of the hatefulness of women as Strindberg sees it. She pulls down what men have built up by an appeal to the primitive facts of life which men have agreed to disregard in order that they may transcend them. She proves to the Emperor that after all he is an individual, that the murder he commits for the sake of maintaining a useful convention may be a social act but is also fratricide on a basis of reality. But the story does not give her the victory either, for it gives a warning that, once a breach is made in that convention, it must fall; what the barber knows the village children must know before long, and then there must be anarchy. The story is perfectly balanced; but it shows bias to have preserved it, and that bias would make it very difficult for Slavs ever to settle down under a government, and lead a rangé political life.’

‘I wonder what the woman really put in the cake,’ I said, ‘for it requires a great deal of explanation if the widowed mother of a grown-up son should have any milk. But what on earth are our friends doing? It is half-past eight.’ For we were in our bedroom, waiting for a lady and her husband, Mr and Mrs X., who were to take us to a charity festival in the town, where there was to be a dance and a cabaret supper, and there we were to meet other friends of ours, Mr and Mrs A., and spend the evening with the four of them. ‘Yes, something must have gone wrong,’ said my husband, ‘for they said they would come at seven.’ ‘Then let us go downstairs and have dinner,’ I demanded. ‘No,’ said my husband, ‘if we do that we will eat a lot at dinner because it is so good, and then we will have to eat more food at the dance, and we are effete Westerners. If you are hungry, it is your own fault for rejecting the waiter’s advice, and not keeping that nice cold palatschinken by you.’ And indeed it was only a few minutes later that Mr and Mrs X. sent up a message to say that they were in the hall of the hotel, but would be glad if we did not come down but received them in our room, as they wished to speak to us on a private matter.

As soon as they entered, Mrs X., who was an exquisite creature made of moonlight and soot-black shadows, cast from her slimness her heavy coat, which fell from her like a declaration in recitative. Both she and her husband, who was himself exceedingly handsome, were in a state of excitement that recalled Italian opera. It was tragic yet not painful, it was accomplished and controlled, and yet perfectly sincere. What it was putting forward as important, it in fact felt to be important. They both began by apologizing to us deeply, for having kept us waiting, for not being able to offer us the most intense and comprehensive hospitality possible. But they had found themselves unable to carry out Mr A.’s plan for the evening. Absolutely unable; and it was astonishing that Mr A. could have conceived that it should be otherwise. He would never have put forward such a proposal had he not been exposed to alien influences, had he not just returned from several years in the United States and had his wife not been a Czech. This had, naturally enough, no doubt, made him insensitive to the state of public opinion in Split.

When the X.’s had first received Mr A.’s letter two hours before, they said, warming up nicely, they had looked at each other in horror. For it had presented them with a dilemma. Mr A. would not have put forward his proposal had it not suited our convenience. Was it therefore their duty to overlook the affront it offered to the public opinion of Split in order to fulfil the Dalmatian ideal of hospitality? To decide this they had visited a friend, a judge ninety years old, of a very ancient Splitchani family, who was a connexion of Mr X.’s mother. He had told them that he considered the question immensely delicate, but that he understood we had shown signs of sensibility and it was therefore unlikely we would wish them to violate the feeling of their birthplace. The judge had added that as we were travelling abroad instead of being in England at the time of the Coronation, we were probably members of some party which was in opposition to the Government, and would be the more ready to understand their point of view. So Mr and Mrs X. had gone to see Mr and Mrs A., who had seen their point of view when it was explained to them, and had instantly apologized, but had had to go to the festival all the same, as they had promised to act as judges in some competition; and they had, indeed, framed an alternative plan for the evening which we might perhaps consider, if we were not incensed against hosts who altered their programme of hospitality for the sake of their own honour.

We felt unworthy subject-matter for this excitement, and we realized that there had been some monstrous over-estimation of the delicacy of our sentiments. So might two comfortable toads feel if the later Henry James and Edith Wharton at her subtlest insisted on treating them as equals. ‘Let me give you some of the brandy I have brought from London,’ said my husband, and I could see that the poor creature was trying to make a claim to some sort of fineness, even though it were other than that which they were ascribing to us. We all sipped brandy with an air of sustaining ourselves during a crisis. Then they went on to explain that Mr A. had forgotten that whereas the charitable festival was being held for the benefit of some fund for supplying the poor with medical attention, it was organized by Dr and Mrs Y., emigrated Jews from Zara, the Dalmatian town which has been handed over to the Italians, who were almost the only prominent pro-Yugoslavians in the town, and who might use this fund in co-operation with institutions which ought to be ignored, because they had been founded by the Government. The charity festival was therefore being boycotted by all the considerable families in Split, of the social level of Mr and Mrs X., or Mr and Mrs A. Other people could take us, if we cared to go. But it was impossible, the X.’s assured us in something like a duet by the early Verdi, impossible that they should do so.

We refrained from warning them that some day they might have something really worth worrying about; and we intimated that, as we had promised a very civil shopkeeper friend of ours to go to this festival, we should prefer to keep our promise. This we did, and enjoyed a spectacle of nice-looking young people performing with graceful awkwardness under the eyes of adoring parents, of which we had seen the like in Exeter, in Edinburgh, and in Cleveland, Ohio. There are a few institutions which are universal, and it is pleasant when one proves to be pretty and innocent. But the organizers, the doctor and his wife, were interesting and pathetic. They seemed outside the Splitchani tradition, not because they were Jews, but because they belonged to that warm and idealistic and intelligent breed of Jew that puts its trust in synthesis and centralization. Always they would assume that hatred and stupidity were peculiar local conditions, which any general government would make its business to correct; and this optimism would be reinformed by their knowledge that there does in fact exist a unifying force, which on the whole is benevolent, in science. They were both learning English, and they beamed as they spoke of it. It appeared to them, much more clearly than it did to me, that they were associating themselves with liberalism. But that was only part of their buoyant Utopianism, which believed that if a large enough number of charity festivals of this kind were held, if enough people studied a language other than their own, if enough vows of tolerance were taken by the state, there would be an end to poverty, war, and misery. I could only hope that, holding such inoffensive views in our offensive age, they might be permitted to die in their beds.

Our four friends, the X.’s and the A.‘s, met us in the principal café of the town after the entertainment, and we took an early opportunity to ask them why they and their world were against the Yugoslav state. Their first reply was simply to look very handsome. Their eyes widened, their nostrils dilated. The natural exception was Mrs A., the Czech, who seemed, like ourselves, a little gross by contrast. We were in effect watching racehorses racing, beautiful specialized animals demonstrating their speciality, which was opposition. I had to remind myself that this concentration on opposition had substantially contributed to the saving of Western Europe from Islam. Few of us have as much reason to be thankful to the plainer and blunter virtues as to this cloak-and-sword romanticism that I saw before me; and they themselves owed their very existence to it. Only that had saved them from Rome, from the barbarian invaders, from the Hungarians and Venetians, from the Turks, from the Austrians. But all the same a government which was not seeking to destroy them but to co-operate with them must find this attitude so maddening that it would be not unnatural did it sometimes behave as if it were seeking their destruction.

‘Tell me,’ said my husband, ‘some specific things that you find objectionable about Yugoslavia.’ ‘Belgrade!’ exclaimed Mr and Mrs X. in one voice. ‘This country,’ Mr X. explained, ‘is fantastically and extraordinarily poor. You would not believe how poor the poor people in our city are, how poor nearly all the people in the country outside are. The Government does nothing for us, but they take our taxes and they spend them in Belgrade. They are putting up whole new streets of offices, there is not a Ministry that hasn’t a palace for its home. Is that fair, when down here we lack bread?’ ‘It was a wretched little village before the war,’ said Mrs X. , ‘a pig-town. It made one laugh to see it, particularly if one had been to Zagreb. But now they are turning it into a place like Geneva, with public buildings six and seven stories high, all at our expense.’ ‘But do you not think that is necessary?’ asked my husband. ‘For it was because Serbia had such a capital as Belgrade was before the war that the Austrian Foreign Office used to treat the Serb diplomats as if they were farm labourers come up to the great house with an impertinent demand.’ ‘But the Serbs are not like us,’ said Mrs X. vaguely. ‘They are not like us, they have not the tradition that we have here in Split. And how can Belgrade ever be such a beautiful town as our Split?’

‘I see the problem from a different aspect,’ said Mr A., ‘because I have been in America for a very long time. It does not shock me so much that Dalmatia should be governed from Belgrade, for I have lived in Milwaukee for many years, and things went very well there, though we were governed from Washington, which was far further away from us than Belgrade is from Split. And I have been to Washington, which is a fine city, and I know it is right that the government of a great country should have impressive buildings. But my case against Belgrade is that it governs badly. Oh, I know there is corruption and graft in American politics, but you have no idea what it is like here. The trouble is not only that, as X. says, the money goes to Belgrade, it’s what happens to it when it gets there. It sticks to people’s palms in the most disgusting way. There are ever so many people in Belgrade who have made fortunes, huge fortunes, by peculation. And that’s the only activity in which they ever show any efficiency. For the idiotic muddle of the administration is beyond belief.’

‘It is worse, then, than it was under the Austrians?’ asked my husband. They looked at him in astonishment. ‘Not at all,’ said Mr A.; ‘the Austrians were not inefficient at all. They were assassins. Look what they did here with the railways!’ They all broke out into cries of anger and disgust. ‘Why, think of it,’ said Mr X., ‘the railway stopped outside Split, so as to make sure we should be nothing of a port.’ ‘And we could not go to Austria except through Budapest,’ said Mrs X. ‘That was the Hungarian influence, of course,’ said Mr A. ‘But Austria permitted it,’ said Mr X. ‘Permitted it!’ cried Mrs A., the Czech. ‘Tell me when those who speak German have not rejoiced in humiliating the Slavs. And there are people in your country,’ she said to us, ‘who are sorry for the German-speaking minorities in Czechoslovakia. There are beings so charitable that they would get up funds to provide feeding-bottles for baby alligators.’

But my husband persisted. ‘Then you found the Austrians efficient in what? Assassination only?’ ‘In that certainly,’ said Mr A., ‘but they were also far more efficient than our present Government in the everyday routine of administration. Take the case of my family. Several of them have been university professors. Now, the old ones, who retired under the Austrians, never had any difficulty in getting their pensions. They drew their pay, they retired, they filled in papers, they drew the appointed sum. Nothing could have been simpler. But now there is terrible disorder. I have an uncle, a professor of mathematics, who retired months ago. He fulfilled all the requisite formalities, but he has not yet touched a penny of his pension. The papers have not come through from Belgrade, for no other reason than sheer muddle.’ ‘And it is so, too, in my profession,’ said Mr X. ‘I am a lawyer, it is the calling of my family, and some of my older relatives are judges. It is the same with pensions, and appointments, and even dates for trials, everything that comes from Belgrade. There is endless bother and muddle. And we are not accustomed to such things in Split, for here we manage our affairs simply, it may be, but with a certain distinction.’ ‘Ah, yes,’ said Mrs A., ‘if they would leave us Splitchani to manage our own affairs, that would be all we ask.’

‘But there are affairs which are certainly your own, but which equally you cannot manage,’ said my husband. ‘You could not yourselves have got rid of Austria, and you cannot yourselves protect yourselves if she comes back, or if Italy wants to establish the same domination over you.’ They looked at him with preoccupied bright eyes, and said, ‘Of course, of course.’ ‘And though some money must vanish in Belgrade in peculation, since that inevitably happens in every new country,’ said my husband, ‘a great deal must be spent in legitimate enterprises. There is, after all, Macedonia and Old Serbia. I have not yet been there, but my wife tells me it has been revolutionized since the days when it was Turkish, that she has seen with her own eyes hundreds of miles of good military roads, whole districts of marshes that have been drained and now are no longer malarial, and many schools and hospitals. All that costs money.’ ‘Yes, there was nothing down there in those parts,’ said Mr A. without enthusiasm. ‘They are nearly barbarians,’ said Mrs X., wrinkling her nose with distaste. ‘Have you ever been there?’ asked my husband. They shook their heads. Split is two days’ easy journey from Old Serbia, three days from the heart of Macedonia. ‘It is not easy for us to go to such places,’ said Mrs X.; ‘here in Split we have a certain tradition, we would not be at home there.’

When we got back to our room in the hotel, my husband said, ‘All this is very sad. Men and women have died and lived for the ideal of Yugoslavia, the South Slav state; and here are these very charming people chafing with discontent at the realization of it. And so far as I can see, however bad Belgrade may be, they give it no chance to prove its merits. These people are born and trained rebels. They cry out when they see a government as if it were a poisonous snake, and seize a stick to kill it with, and in that they are not being fanciful. All the governments they have known till now have been, so far as they are concerned, poisonous snakes. But all the same that attitude would be a pity, if they happened to meet a government for once who was not a poisonous snake.

‘Moreover, I cannot see how these people can ever fit into a modern state. They are essentially the children of free cities. Because all these towns, even while they were exploited and oppressed so far as their external relations were concerned, possessed charters that gave them great freedom to manage their internal affairs. Under the Hungarian crown the towns enjoyed the same sort of freedom, as of a state within a state, that the City of London enjoyed under Henry the First. Their rights were ceaselessly attacked by Venice, but they managed to defend most of them. They were forced to provide men for the Venetian Army and Navies, and their trade was ruined by the restrictions laid upon it; but they were always to some extent masters at their own firesides. They really cannot conceive of a centralized government at all as otherwise than an evil: and when they got rid of Austria there must have been a childish idea at the back of their minds that they had also got rid of a centralized government, and would return to medieval conditions. Alas! Alas!’

‘Look,’ I said, ‘I am watching three people talking in the square. They are so very picturesque; come and see them.’ My husband turned out the light and came and sat beside me on the window-seat. The square was whitewashed with moonlight; the dark shadows took the nineteenth-century Venetian Gothic architecture and by obscuring the detail and emphasizing the general design made it early, authentic, exquisite. On the quay ships slept, as alone among inanimate objects ships can sleep; their lights were dim and dreaming. Between the flaked trunk of a palm tree and the wild-haired shadow of the leaves stood three men of the quick and whippy and secret kind we had seen when we first entered Split, descendants of those who had lived through the angry centuries the lives of rats and mice in the walls of Diocletian’s palace. Sometimes we could hear their voices raised in lyrical mockery, and sometimes they made gestures that united them on a platform of heroism and loaded some absent person with ridicule and chains. ‘Yes, they are wonderful,’ said my husband. ‘Though they probably have no noble ideas, they are noble in the intensity of their being, and in the persistency with which they try to identify their standards and the ultimate values of right and wrong. See how they are pretending that behind them, had one but the proper eyesight, could be seen the wings of the hierarchy of angels and the throne itself, and that behind the man they are despising is primeval ooze and chaos. These people are profoundly different from us. They are not at all sentimental, but they are extremely poetic. How they examine everything, and analyse it, and form a judgement on it that engenders a supply of the passion which is their motive power! How I should hate to govern these people who would not accept the idea of government and would insist on examining it, but only as a poet does, from the point of view of his own experience, which is to say that they would reject all sorts of information about it which they ought to consider if they are going to form a just opinion about it.’

We watched the three men till a languor showed in their vehemence. They had laughed so much at the fourth man who was not there that any further mockery would seem an anticlimax. The night was left to the sleeping ships, to the temporary romantic perfection of the Venetian arcades. ‘Get into bed,’ my husband said, ‘and I will read you the other story which Voinovitch says the Dalmatian peasantry tell about the Emperor Diocletian.’ It was the prettier of the two. It represents Diocletian’s daughter, Valeria, as the victim of her father; not, as in fact she was, as the subject of a good worldly marriage that went maniacally wrong, but with a destiny cut fairy-tale fashion. She had, according to this story, a crowd of suitors, and of these her father chose a prince whom she could not tolerate. So she refused obedience, and upon this her father cast her into one of the dungeons in his palace. But God was on her side. Once a year invisible hands opened the door of her prison, and she travelled through the city clad in cloth of gold, in a shining chariot drawn by winged horses. Her presence was a benediction, and anybody who could stop the chariot and embrace her would be happy all the rest of his life. When Diocletian heard of these visits he sent soldiers to clear the streets, but it could not be done. The people worshipped Valeria and would not be driven away. Then Diocletian decided to kill her. But the walls of her prison melted, and not all his power could discover her. According to this legend, she still lives, and once every hundred years she comes back to her worshippers. It is not known what year of the century she chooses for her visit, but be that as it may, her visit always falls at Christmastide. When they are saying the midnight mass in the Cathedral, a procession of ghosts starts from Salonæ and winds up the road to Split; and at the end the lovely young Valeria rides in her golden coach, still able to give lifelong happiness to all that embrace her. She still, it must be observed, carries on her quarrel with authority. She was at odds with her pagan father, but she does not attend the Christian mass.

‘See, this story cuts at the root of the idea of power,’ said my husband; ‘it denies all necessary sanctions to authority. For power claims to know what life is going to be about and what prescription to offer, and authority claims to be able to enforce that prescription. But the Slav knows, as this story proves, that life, which is to say Valeria, is in essence unpredictable, that she often produces events for which there is no apt prescription, and that she can be as slippery as an eel when wise men attempt to control her; and they know that it is life, not power or authority, that gives us joy, and this often when she is least predictable. Knowing Valeria, they cannot respect Diocletian; yet they produce Diocletian, they are Diocletian, they know perfectly well that power and authority are necessary.’


On another great white steamer we glided down the coast to Korchula, and received at one port, and put ashore at another, the older of the two German couples with whom we had travelled from Salzburg to Zagreb. They hastened towards us uttering cries of welcome, excessively glad to see us because their holiday had made them excessively glad about everything. The man no longer looked ill; he seemed bound to his wife by a common novel satisfaction, as if they had been on their honeymoon. ‘It is so good here,’ they laughed, ‘one forgets all one’s worries.’ There seemed fresh evidence for the malignity of the universe in the sight of these Aryans, blossoming in their temporary exile from Germany, when all over England and France and America so many Jews were mourning for the fatherland in a grief visible as jaundice. Another of Dalmatia’s angry young men watched them coldly as they disembarked. ‘I am a hotel manager at Hvar,’ he said. Hvar is a beautiful town, which lies on an island of the same name. It is noted for the extraordinary sweetness of its air, which is indeed such as might be inhaled over a bed of blossoming roses, and by a perversity rare in the Serbo-Croat tongue it is pronounced ‘Whar.’ ‘Your friends will presently come to me and demand impossible terms. They are a curious people, the Germans. They seem content to travel when we would prefer to stay at home. Where is the pleasure of travelling if you cannot spend freely? Yet these Germans come here and have to count every penny and do not seem at all embarrassed. Now, that is all right if one is a poor student at Zagreb or Vienna, or is ill and has to go to a spa. But for a tourist it seems very undignified.’ It had struck me before that there are many resemblances between the Slavs and the Spanish, and this spoke with the very voice of Spain, in its expression of the purse-pride which comes not from wealth but from poverty, in its conception of handsome spending as an inherently good thing, to be indulged in, like truthfulness, even against one’s economic interest.

The angry young man scowled down at the marbled blue and white water that rushed by our ship. ‘I have read in Jackson’s great book on Dalmatia,’ said my husband, to soothe him, ‘that the inhabitants of the island of Hvar added to their income by making a sweet wine called prosecco, by distilling rosemary water, and by making an insecticide from the wild chrysanthemum. Do they still do all those pleasant things?’ ‘Not to any extent,’ answered the young man, his brows enraged. ‘Now they cultivate the tourist traffic all summer, and talk politics all winter. Politics and politics and politics, I am sick of politics. Why can we never have any peace? Why must there always be all this conflict?’ He was as angry as the young man who had been angry with the gardener at Trsat, or the other who had been angry with the cold soup on the boat to Rab, and it was with them that he felt angry. My husband attempted to comfort him by telling him that in England we were suffering from marked deterioration of political life, and even of national character, because we have no effectual opposition. ‘But here there is nothing but disputes and disputes and disputes!’ cried the young man.

There had been standing beside us a middle-aged man in expensive clothes, who was holding up his hand to hide the left side of his face. He now pressed forward and made what was evidently a sharp remark to the angry young hotel manager, who turned to us and said gloomily, ‘This man, who is a native of Hvar, says that I do wrong to speak to you like this, for it might discourage you from visiting Hvar, and it is certainly the most beautiful place in the world. I hope I have not done that?’ The middle-aged man interrupted in German, ‘Yes, you must not take what he says too seriously, for though we in Hvar are quarrelsome, as all Slavs are (it is the curse that has been laid upon us), that does not alter its extraordinary beauty. You must not miss visiting us, indeed you must not.’ ‘We cannot do so now,’ said my husband, ‘for we have made definite plans to go to Korchula today. But we will try to stop at Hvar on our way back.’ ‘Yes, that you must do! For, though I do not want to be discourteous to a sister island, and indeed all Dalmatia is glorious country, Korchula has little to show compared to Hvar.’ He began to speak of their main street, which is broad and paved with marble and lined with fifteenth-century palaces weathered to warm gold; of the old Venetian arsenal, that had a dry dock for the galleys below and above a theatre, the first theatre to be built in the Balkans, which is still just as it was in the seventeenth century, though the curtains in the boxes are thin as paper; of the Franciscan monastery that stands on a piny headland, with its picture of the Last Supper which is so marvellous that a Rothschild who had been made an English duke had tried to buy it from the monks for as many sovereigns as would cover the canvas; and of the lovely garden that had been made on the hill above the town, by a pupil of our dear Professor at Split, who had wished to emulate his teacher’s achievement in planting the woods on Mount Marian, which is as pretty a testimony to the value of humanist education as I know. During his story there sometimes came to him living phrases which made actual the beauty of his home, and then his hand dropped, no longer feeling it urgent to hide the port-wine stain that ravaged the left side of his face from temple to chin; and when the steamer entered Hvar harbour, and it was as he had said, he let his hand drop by his side.

When these new friends had left us and we were out in midchannel, I picked up a guide-book, but soon laid it down again, saying to my husband peevishly, ‘This guide-book is written by a member of my sex who is not only imbecile but bedridden. She is wrong about every place we have been to, so wildly wrong that it seems probable that not only can she never have visited any of these particular cities, but that she can have seen no scenery at all, urban or rural.’ ‘I think,’ said my husband, ‘that that is perhaps something of an over-statement. In any case there is no need for you to keep your eyes down on any guide-book, you might just as well be looking at the islands, which are really becoming very beautiful now that they support some trees. But I rather suspect that you are nervous about coming to Korchula and do not want to face it until the last moment.’ ‘Well, neither I do,’ I admitted. ‘I must own that I am seriously nervous about it, because I can’t believe that it had quite the revelatory quality I thought it had last year. You see, I passed it on my way from Split to Dubrovnik last year. I had been asleep on one of the benches on deck, and I woke suddenly to find that we were lying beside the quay of a little walled town which was the same creamy-fawn colour as some mushrooms and some puppies. It covered a low, rounded peninsula and was surmounted by a church tower, rising from it like a pistil from a flower; and its walls girt it so massively that they might have been thought natural cliffs if a specially beautiful lion of St. Mark had not certified them as works of art.

‘Standing on the quayside was a crowd which was more male in quantity and in quality than we are accustomed to in Western Europe. There were very few women, and the men were very handsome with broad shoulders and long legs and straight hair, and an air of unashamed satisfaction with their own good looks which one finds only where there is very little homosexuality. The faces of the crowd were turned away from the steamer. They were all staring up a street that ran down the steepness of the town to the quay. Presently there was a hush, all the window-sashes of the quayside houses were thrown up, and the crowd shuffled apart to make a clear avenue to the gangway. Then there came out of the street and along this alley four men carrying a stretcher on which there lay a girl of about sixteen. The air was so still that there could be heard the quick padding of the stretcher-bearers’ feet on the dust, and as they left the street its mouth filled up with people who stood gaping after them. This must have been a notorious tragedy in the town, for the girl was extravagantly beautiful, as beautiful as Korchula itself, and she was very ill. The shadows on her face were blue. She was being taken, a sailor said, to a hospital at Dubrovnik, but I am sure not by her own consent. It was evident that she had wholly lost the will to live. Her hands lay lax and open on the magenta coverlet; and as they turned her stretcher round to manoeuvre it onto the gangway, she opened her eyes and looked up at the tall ship in hostility, loathing it because it was something and she wanted nothingness. Behind her the alley closed, the crowd formed into a solid block and stared at us as if we were taking with us a sign and a wonder.

‘But the crowd divided again. Another four men hurried along, bearing this time a chair to which there was strapped an old woman, so immensely old that she had nothing to do with the substance of flesh; she seemed to be compounded of glittering intelligence and a substance more than bony, resembling the hard parts of a very aged and gnarled lobster. She looked towards the steamer with an air of unconquerable appetite. It was something, and therefore better than nothingness, which was what she feared. When the stretcher-bearers halted in manoeuvring her up the gangway she rose up in her chair, a twisted hieroglyphic expressing the love of life, and uttered an angry sound she might have used to a mule that was stopping in midstream.

‘Now that was something worth while seeing for itself. But it also seemed typical of life in Yugoslavia, in the Balkans, because I had been able to see it. In Western Europe or in America it would have been highly unlikely that I would see an old woman or a young girl who were desperately ill, unless they were my relatives or close friends, and then my interest in them as individuals would distract my attention from their general characteristics. I might have guessed, and indeed had done so, from a great many subtle indications, that the appetite for life comes in eating, though not by any simple process of taste. Experience often causes people to pass an adverse judgment on life, and if they fall ill when they still hold this opinion with the violence of youth they may die of it, should their personalities be vehement enough. But if they live long enough they seem to be governed by a kind of second strength, a secret core of vitality. There is a Finnish word, ’sisu,‘ which expresses this ultimate hidden resource in man which will not be worsted, which takes charge when courage goes and consciousness is blackened, which insists on continuing to live no matter what life is worth. This may mean only that the skeleton wishes to keep its accustomed garment of flesh, that the eyeball fears to feel naked without the many-coloured protection of sight; but it might mean that the whole of us knows some argument in favour of life which the mind has not yet apprehended. But the point is that here in Yugoslavia I did not have to poke about among the detritus of commonplace life to find allusions to this process: an old woman and a young girl came out into the street and gave a dramatic rendering of it in the presence of the people. It is that quality of visibility that makes the Balkans so specially enchanting, and it was at Korchula that I had the first intimations of it. So naturally I am alarmed lest I find the town not so beautiful as I had supposed, and life in the Balkans precisely the same as everywhere else.’

Korchula I

We found, however, that I was perfectly right about Korchula. ‘And let that be enough for you,’ said my husband. ‘As for your other demands that from now on every day will be an apocalyptic revelation, I should drop that, if I were you. You might not like it even if you got it.’ We were talking as we unpacked in the room we had taken in the hotel on the quay, which is either a converted Venetian palace or built by one accustomed to palaces from birth. A good hotel, it showed that expiatory cleanliness which is found sometimes in southern countries; from early in the morning till late at night, women were on their knees in the corridors as if in prayer, scrubbing and scrubbing, and murmuring to themselves through compressed lips. It was scented with the classic kitchen smell of the Mare Internum, repellent only to the effete, since it asserts that precious plants can live in waterless and soilless country, that even after centuries of strife and misery woman still keeps the spirit to put a pinch of strong flavour in the cook-pot, and that it takes the supreme assault of urban conditions to bring on humanity the curse of a craving for insipidity. Our fellow-guests were a couple of men as floridly grave as wreathed Cæsars, and their two ladies, both in cloaks, who might have been travelling for the same romantic and detective reasons as Donna Anna and Donna Elvira: ornaments of the Sushak wine trade and their wives.

‘I will lie down and sleep for half an hour,’ I said, looking at the clean coarse sheets, bluish and radiant with prodigious laundering. ‘I will sit here and look at the maps,’ said my husband, who is much given to that masculine form of auto-hypnosis. But we did neither of these things, for there was a knock at the door and an announcement that two gentlemen of the town, who had received a letter about us from a friend at Split, were waiting for us downstairs. We had no idea who these people might be. My husband imagined mild antiquaries living among the ruins of Korchula like ageing doves; I thought of mildewed Irish squires. We went downstairs and found two handsome men in early middle age telling the hotel-keeper’s wife to be sure to cook us a good fish for dinner that night, and give us a certain red wine grown on the island, and it was as if we looked on a Venetian picture come to life, for the heads of all were bowed intently towards the argument, the men’s gestures were wide and made from expanded chests, the woman promised them obedience with the droop of her whole body. Of the men one had the great head and full body of a Renaissance cardinal, the other had the rejecting crystal gaze of a Sitwell. They dismissed the hotel-keeper’s wife with a National Gallery gesture and turned to welcome us. They told us that they would be pleased to act as our guides in the town, and would start now, if we wished, with any destination we pleased. We expressed our gratitude, and said that we would leave it to them where we should go. The gentleman with the Sitwell gaze then said: ‘Perhaps you would like to see our new steam bakery.’

Neither myself nor my husband replied. We both sank into a despondent reverie, wondering why he should think we wanted to see a new steam bakery. We could only suppose that to him we were representatives of a Western civilization that was obsessed with machinery, and perhaps he suspected us of thinking for that reason that in Dalmatia they ate no bread, or only bread prepared in a filthy way. Fortunately the one who looked like a cardinal blanketed the topic by saying, not accurately, ‘Ah, but you will have seen many, many steam bakeries; you would like better to see our old churches and palaces.’

We walked along the quay that runs round the point of the little peninsula, following the walls, and then went up a steep little street, close-packed with palaces, which thrust out balconies to one another or were joined by bridges, into the town. We found it like a honeycomb; it was dripping with architectural richness, and it was laid out in an order such as mathematicians admire. But its spirit was riotous, the honey had fermented and turned to mead. The men who accompanied us had fine manners, and only by a phrase or two did they let us gather that they appreciated how beautiful Korchula must seem to us because they had known the great towns of the West, Berlin and Paris, and found them filthy; but they were not exquisites, they were robust. They climbed the steep streets at a great rate, telling us the historic jokes of the town with gusts of laughter, and apologizing for the silence that they shattered by owning that the city had never repopulated itself after the attack of plague in the sixteenth century, that had taken five thousand citizens out of seven thousand. The one that looked like a Renaissance cardinal had a peculiarly rich and rolling laugh, in which there seemed to join amusement at a particular fact with extreme satisfaction with life in general. Bringing us to a small square in front of the Cathedral, which was smoothly paved and therefore had that air of being within the confines of some noble household, he said, ‘Here we have always walked and talked, and often we have talked too loud. That is one thing that never changes, our archives are full of the priests’ complaints that we talked so loud out here that they could not hear themselves saying mass in the Cathedral.’ His laughter rolled. ‘Also we played ball,’ said the Sitwell; ‘they complained of that also.’ ‘That leads to the story of Jacopo Faganeo,’ said the Cardinal. ‘He was a seventeenth-century Tuscan priest who was a very great preacher, but a very good companion too. The Admiral in command of the Venetian fleet in the Adriatic got him to take a cruise with him, and when they got here the sailors came ashore, even to the Admiral and his friends, and we townsmen challenged them to a game of ball. Nobody was such a good ballplayer as this priest, so he tucked up his gown and gave a wonderful display, and we all cheered him. But this scandalized our local priests, and when Lent came along they refused to let Father Jacopo preach in the Cathedral, though he was still here with the fleet. However, soon after our Bishop died, and the Admiral, who had the Pope’s ear, paid out our priests by getting Father Jacopo appointed to fill his place. And a very good Bishop he was, too.’

Then the square must have rung with laughter, with the laughter of strong men; but it always knew that there was darkness as well as light. Above the ballplayers rose the Cathedral, which is giraffish because of the architect’s consciousness that he must work on a minute site, but which owes its strangeness of appearance to the troubled intricacy of the ornamentation, loaded with tragic speculations of the Slav mind. For Korchula, like Trogir, is an intensely Slav town. The degree of the oddity of this ornament can be measured by the sculpture which projects from the gable above the central door and rose window. It is a powerfully realistic bust of a richly decked old woman, not a grotesque, but far too passionate to be, as some suppose, merely the representation of a fourteenth-century Queen of Hungary who gave money to the Church. It has the same Dostoievsky quality as Radovan’s work at Trogir. Perhaps it was to exercise this note of metaphysical fantasy that a nineteenth-century bishop made a jigsaw puzzle of the inside of the Cathedral, interchanging the parts and putting in a horrid but matter-of-fact pulpit. But the outside remains enigmatic in its beauty, partly because it looks across the square to the roofless ruin of the palace, wild-eyed with windows whose marble traceries are outlined against the sky, wild-haired with the foliage of trees that had taken root in the angles of the upper story and grew slantwise out of balconies.

‘What is that?’ said the Cardinal. ‘Regrettably enough, it is the home of my family. We burned it to disinfect it, in the sixteenth century, after many of our household had died in the plague, and we have never had the money to rebuild it. But now I will show you another church which you ought to see.’ It was at the foot of one of the steep streets, a church where the Gothic was melting into the Renaissance, where the architectural spring was over and the summer was warm and drowsy. These people could look on this summer-time with much more satisfaction than we could, for they knew nothing of the winter-time that had followed it with us, they were unaware of Regent Street. But they were specially pleased with this church for another reason which had nothing to do with architecture. They told us that this church was in the care of a confraternity and began to explain to us what these confraternities were; but when they found out that we already knew, they stopped and said no more. They did not tell us that they themselves belonged to this confraternity; but that was evident. With the ease of men who were showing strangers round their own house they took us up a staircase and over a bridge across an alley into the room where the confraternity kept its records and its treasures. There we all sat down, and they smiled about them, gentle and secret smiles. Here they came for the benefit of magic, and enjoyed a mystical, uplifting version of the pleasures of brotherhood. The room was itself an astonishment. It was hung with a score or so of Byzantine icons, in the true colours of icons, that is to say of flame and smoke; with the true message of icons, that is to say of spirit rising from matter with the precise yet immaterial form of a flame. Of these they said, smiling at their own history, ‘You see, we are a very pious people—all of us—even our sailors.’ These had, in fact, been looted by good Catholic Korchulans on expeditions that may sometimes have been certified as naval, but were sometimes plainly piratical, from Orthodox shrines. ‘People come here and try to buy them,’ said the Cardinal lazily, and laughed into his hand, while his awed eye raked them and found them valid magic.

‘But some day there will be no question of our being poor people who can be tempted by foreigners to part with their goods,’ said the Sitwell. ‘Nor will we need the tourist traffic though the money will come in welcome,’ said the Cardinal; ‘we shall be able to live exactly like other people, on our production, when we have repaired the wrongs that the Venetians and Austrians have done to us. We are not only sailors, we are shipbuilders. But of course we need more wood. We have a lot for Dalmatia, more than you will find on the other islands you have seen, but we still have not enough. Come and see what we are doing about that.’ We went from a gate on the landward side of the town, down a superb stone staircase, and we found ourselves in a motor bus full of people who knew our guides and were known by them, who by some miraculous adjustment deferred to them and yet behaved as their equals. It was going to a village on the top of the mountain lying south of Korchula, and we left it as it got to the foothills, to take a path into a pinewood. Soon the Cardinal stopped and laid his hand on the thick trunk of a tall pine and said, ‘These trees were planted by my grandfather when he was mayor.’ And later, in a further valley he stopped by a slenderer trunk in a lower, thinner wood, and said, ‘These trees were planted by my father when he was mayor.’ And later still, in the crease of a spur that stretched towards an unmedicined barrenness, dull ochre rock save for the slightly different monotone of the scrub, we came to a plantation of pine saplings, hardly hip-high. ‘These are the trees I have planted, now I am mayor,’ he said. He stood among them spreading his arms wide above them, laughing lazily. ‘Have I not poor spindly children? But they will grow.’

On our way back through the denser pinewoods we came to a terrace, where there were tables and benches for people to sit and eat on their Sunday walks, and because we were tired, having started on our journey in the early morning, we asked if we might rest there for a little. So we sat down on one side of the table, and they on the other, and they told us what they hoped to do for the reafforestation of the island and how the Government had helped them. Then they spoke of how the Venetians had cut down the woods, and how little the Austrians had done to replace them; and as they talked these men, who were essentially aristocrats, assumed the sullenness and shabbiness of conspirators. They muttered bitterly into their fingers, their underlips came forward. Then the Cardinal, suddenly noble once more, looked up at the sky through the trees and cried, ‘It is better now, it is still difficult, but the chief offence has been removed; we are free, and the work goes well. Are you rested? Shall we return?’

We went all the way back on foot, first by an inlet edged with prosperous modern villas, belonging to rich Croats, and then by a road that would have seemed dusty if it had not passed a monument that flattered my pride. By a very pretty semicircle of stone seats, conceived in the neo-classical tradition, was a tablet giving thanks to the English troops who occupied the island when the French were driven out, and governed it for two years till the Peace of 1815 handed it over with the rest of Dalmatia to Austria. We English were then a different breed. We could build. We could administer. We gave these islands a democratic institution which they thoroughly enjoyed and followed the French tradition of efficient public works by making good roads and harbours. Now we would build tin huts all over the place, would have been compelled from Downing Street to kick the natives in the face for fear of encouraging revolutionary movements which did not in fact exist, and would have ended up with the evil reputation of oppressors without any of the fruits of oppression.

Something has changed us. The life we lead does not suit us. I knew it a few minutes later when we were back in Korchula, and our guides took us into one of the shipyards on the shore. We went through a yard stacked with wood, that clean, moral substance, and carpeted with shavings, into a shed where three men stood contemplating the unfinished hull of a motor boat. The overlapping timbers were as neat as the feathers on a bird’s wing, the shape was neat as a bird in flight. It was a pity that so much beauty should be hidden under the water. Of the three men in front of it, one held up a blueprint very steadily; another held a rule to the boat and made measurements; the other watched and spoke with authority. They were all three beautiful, with thick, straight, fair hair and bronze skins and high cheekbones pulling the flesh up from their large mouths, with broad chests and long legs springing from arched feet. These were men, they could beget children on women, they could shape certain kinds of materials for purposes that made them masters of their worlds. I thought of two kinds of men that the West produces: the cityish kind who wears spectacles without shame, as if they were the sign of quality and not a defect, who is overweight and puffy, who can drive a car but knows no other mastery over material, who presses buttons and turns switches without comprehending the result, who makes money when the market goes up and loses it when the market goes down; the high-nosed young man, who is somebody’s secretary or is in the Foreign Office, who has a peevishly amusing voice and is very delicate, who knows a great deal but far from all there is to be known about French pictures. I understand why we cannot build, why we cannot govern, why we bear ourselves without pride in our international relations. It is not that all Englishmen are like that, but that too many of them are like that in our most favoured classes.

It is strange, it is heartrending, to stray into a world where men are still men and women still women. I felt apprehensive many times in Korchula, since I can see no indications that the culture of Dalmatia is going to sweep over the Western world, and I can see many reasons to fear that Western culture will in the long run overwhelm Dalmatia. We crossed the road from the shipyard to call on an elderly woman who lived in a house which, a bourgeois kind of palace, had belonged to her husband’s family for four hundred years. We were taken through a finely vaulted passage to the garden, where we stood under a pergola of wistaria and looked up at the tracery of the windows, which were greatly enriched by the salty weathering of the stone to an infinity of fine amber and umber tones; for we had been asked to wait till she had finished some pious business she was performing in the private chapel, which stood, an arched and pointed outhouse, among the crowded flowers, close to a niched wall that sheltered a Triton and a nymph. On the steps of the chapel there lay some candles and a match-box and a packet of washing soda on a sheet of newspaper. For a second I took this as an indication that the family fortunes were in decline, but on reflection I wondered what evidence I had that palaces had ever been neat. All historical memoirs portray a union between the superb and the sluttish; and probably tidiness is a creation of the middle classes, who have had their tendency to bare and purging Protestantism reinforced by their panic-stricken acceptance of the germ theory. Boucher’s famous portrait of Madame Pompadour reveals that even she, who was the ideal civil servant, kept her personal possessions lying about on the floor. The homely disorder on the chapel steps was therefore simply a proof that this establishment was not yet a museum.

At length the lady of the house came out of the private chapel, followed by the kitchen smells of piety, not less powerful and classic than the kitchen smells of our hotel. She was elderly, though not old; and it could be seen that she had been very lovely; and immediately she began to flirt with my husband. She knew with absolute realism, and had known it, I am sure, from the first moment when the knowledge became necessary to her, that she was too old for love. But she knew that a repetition of the methods by which she had charmed the hearts and intelligences of the men of her time would give him the same pleasure an enthusiastic theatre-goer would feel if a famous old actress rehearsed for him her celebrated performance of Juliet. Therefore we enjoyed again the gaieties in which her voice and face and body had combined to promise her admirers that not only she but all her life was infinitely and unpredictably agreeable. After there had been a long rally of teasing compliment and mockery, a bell tolled somewhere in the town, and we all stopped to listen.

When it ceased there was a silence. My husband breathed deeply, warmed and satisfied by her aged and now sexless charm as one might be by a wine so old that all the alcohol had disappeared, and said, ‘It is wonderfully quiet.’ She abandoned her performance and said to him not sentimentally but with an almost peevish recollection of past enjoyment, as one might say that in one’s youth one had cared greatly for racing but could no longer get about to the meetings, ‘It’s too quiet. I liked it when there were children about, laughing, and then crying, and then laughing again. That’s how it ought to be in a house.’ She spoke with complete confidence, as one who expresses an opinion held by all the world. A house with children is better than a house without children. That she assumed to be an axiom, on that she had founded all her life and pride. It was as if she were a child herself, a fragile child who had escaped death by a miracle and was boasting of its invulnerability to all ills. Her life had for the most part been secure because in her world men had been proud to be fathers, and had marvelled gratefully at women for being fine-wrought enough to make the begetting of children an excitement and sturdy enough to bear them and rear them, and had thought of the mother of many children as the female equivalent of a rich man. Because these masculine attitudes had favoured her feminine activities, her unbroken pride was lovely as the trumpet of a lily. It might have been different for her if she had been born into a society where men have either lost their desire for children, or are prevented from gratifying it by poverty or the fear of war. There she would have been half hated, and perhaps more than half, for her sex. Her womb, which here was her talisman, would have been a source of danger, which might even strike at the very root of her primal value, and one day make her husband feel that the delight he had known with her was not worth the price he must pay for it. It was terrible that this fate, even if it had failed to engulf her, was certain to annihilate many of her blood, of her kind, and that the threat was implicit in many statements that she made without a shadow of apprehension, as when she told us that her husband and all his forebears had been sea captains, and that her sons were still of the tradition and not of it, for they were agents for great steamship lines.

The Cardinal said to me, ‘You are looking very tired. Before I take you to our house to meet my parents, we will go to a café on the quay, and you can rest.’ This seemed to me a peculiar programme, but it was agreeable enough. As we drank very good strong coffee the two men talked again of trees: of the possibility of making many motor boats for the new tourist traffic, of the fishing fleets, of the wrong Italians had done by seizing the southward island, Lagosta, where the fish are specially plentiful. ‘The Slavs all left it when the treaty was known,’ said the Sitwell. ‘And they have not been able to repopulate it with Italians,’ said the Cardinal, ‘for they are idiots, worse than the Austrians. Think of it, they wanted to colonize the island with Italian fishermen and they renamed it after an Italian airman who had been killed. Think of doing a silly thing like that, when you’re dealing with peasants. It’s such a silly townsman’s trick.’ His great laughter rolled up out of him. ‘You’re accustomed to deal politically with people in person,’ said my husband. ‘That is a funny idea, for us. Not by the million, through newspapers and the radio, or by the thousand or hundred in halls, but just in person.’ The Cardinal answered modestly, ‘One does what one can, in order not to be destroyed. But come and see my father, who is cleverer at it than I am.’

We went back into the town, and had but one more digression. The Cardinal whisked us into a courtyard gorgeous with two balustraded galleries. Because it was an orphanage there projected between the pillarets the grave puppy-snouts of interested infant Slavs, while above them were the draperies and blandness of young nuns. The presence of the Cardinal produced a squealing babble of homage from the orphans, and the wheeling and bowing courtesies of the nuns recalled the evolutions of angels. The institution wailed its disappointment as we left, and the Cardinal hurried us round a corner up another street, into the medievalism of his home.

The courtyard was dark with its own shadows as well as the dusk, and ghostly with the pale light filtering down from the still sunlit upper air, through the gutted palace, burned because of the plague, which formed its fourth side. It looked even more fantastic than we had thought it in the Cathedral square. At a window on its ground floor a tree stood like a woman looking into the courtyard, and on the floors above trees, some of them clothed with blossom which in this uncertain light was the colour of a grey Persian cat, shot forth from the empty sockets of vanished rafters in the attitudes of acrobats seeking the trapeze. The courtyard itself spoke of something even older than this palace, for it was full of carved stone; slabs bearing inscriptions or low reliefs had been let into its walls, and there were set about many statues and fragments of statues, some of which were Roman. It held as well an infinity of growing things, of flowers bursting from a lead cistern and a sarcophagus, full-fleshed leafy plants and bronze-backed ferns, a great many of them in little pots hung on lines of string secured to details of sculpture. We were reminded of what he had sometimes forgotten during this water-logged spring, that this was the far South, accustomed to seasons when grass is a recollected miracle and everything that can be coaxed to grow in a flowerpot is a token and a comfort. On the other side of the courtyard, facing the ruin, was another palace, also Venetian Gothic and of the fifteenth century, but intact. Its great door was open, and showed a dark room and another beyond it that was lit by the soft white light of a chandelier. Towards this reserved and even defensive interior the Cardinal now led us. But I delayed to admire the richness of a design impressed on the lead cistern, and he told me, ‘Those are the arms of my family. But now we do not use such cisterns. We have modern methods. See, there is a great cistern under this courtyard.’ He brought down his heel on the pavement, making a sharp ringing noise that sent a little bird whirring out of one of the plants back to its home in the ruined palace. ‘Trees and water,’ said the Sitwell, ‘they are more precious to us on the island than gold.’ ‘We will have all we want of them under Yugoslavia,’ said the Cardinal.

We paused again at the door to handle the great knocker, which was perhaps by Giovanni Bologna: it was a Neptune between two rear-uplifted dolphins, magnificent whatever hand had made it. Inside we found the same vein of magnificence, though the proportions here, as everywhere else in the city, were constrained by a want of space; and the furniture showed the influence of nineteenth-century Italy and Austria, which was not without a chignoned and crinolined elegance, but was coarsened by the thick materials it employed, the chenille and rep, the plush and horsehair. In the second room, at a table under the chandelier, sat a white-haired lady, in her sixties, dressed in a black velvet gown. From the stateliness of her greeting we understood why her son had taken us to rest at a café before he brought us into her house. The social life in this palace was extremely formal, that is to say we were expected to play our part in a display of the social art in its highest sense, the art of meeting people with whom one may have little or nothing in common and distilling the greatest possible pleasantness out of the contact without forcing an unreal intimacy. But it was light as air, weightless swordsmanship. The old lady first addressed herself to me with a maternal air that was flattering yet not indecently so, as if the gulf of years between us were greater than it actually was, but not impossibly great. Then, like the lady in the sea captain’s palace, she began to address herself to my husband for the excellent reason that she was a woman and he was a man. The performance she gave, however, was probably not modified by time: for the difference in their social status meant that though all her life she must have taken for granted that her beauty was a beacon before the eyes of men, it must have also been her faith that all its sexual implications, to the remotest, must be private to her immediate family. The sea captain’s widow was certainly chaste as snow, but it was probable that many men had looked on her and thought it a pity that she was not their wife; but this lady was to such an extreme degree the wife of her husband, the queen of this palace, that she was withdrawn from even such innocent and respectful forms of desire. She made, therefore, since her career was to be a wife and a mother, an exclusively feminine appeal, but it was remote, ethereal, almost abstract.

When her husband came he proved to be as noble-looking as she was; a slender bearded man, with a wolfish alertness odd in a man of his type. It was like seeing Lord Cecil with the springy gait of a matador. He apologized at once, in Italian, for having spoken to his son in Serbo-Croat as he entered the room. ‘I am afraid,’ he said, ‘we had better converse in Italian, but I hope you will not take it as a proof of the truth of the Italian lie that we are Italian on this coast by race and in language. That is propaganda, and mendacious for that. They have the impudence to deny us our blood and our speech, and they have never minded what lies they told. One of them has even inconvenienced us to the point of having to change our name. It happened that though we are pure Slavs our name originally ended in -i, which is not a Slav but an Italian termination, for a surname, for the reason that in the sixteenth century we chose to be known by the Christian name of a member of our family who was a great hero and was killed by the Turks while he was defending Candia. This circumstance, which was to our glory, the Italians attempted to turn to our shame, by pretending that our name proved that we, one of the leading patrician families of Korchula, were of Italian origin. There is no infamy to which they will not stoop.’

At that point a decanter of wine and some little cakes were brought in, and we drank to one another’s health. My husband explained what a pleasure it was for us to meet them and to see their historic home. It was strange that when they answered they seemed not more proud of the stone glories of their palace than of the little ferns in the pots on the string lines. ‘Once,’ said the old gentleman, a gleam coming into his eye, ‘I had birds as well as plants in my courtyard.’ His son began to laugh, the old lady held her handkerchief to her lips and pouted and shook her head from side to side. ‘Very beautiful they looked in their cages, and they sang like angels,’ went on the old gentleman severely. ‘But my wife did not like having them there. She did not like it at all. And that is why they are not there now. Shall I tell the story, Yelitsa? Shall I tell the story? Yes, I had better tell the story. It is something the like of which they will never have heard; never will they have heard of a woman behaving so wickedly.’

We were evidently being admitted to a favourite family joke. ‘Think of it,’ he told us with much mock horror, ‘we were entertaining a large company of friends in the courtyard on Easter morning, as is our custom. Suddenly my wife rose and began to walk from cage to cage, opening all the doors and saying, “Christ is risen, the whole world is rejoicing, rejoice thou also, bird, and fly away home!” And as it was an assembly, I could not jump up and chastise her, and our friends sat and smiled, thinking this was some graceful pious comedy, suitable for Easter. Did ever a woman play such a trick on her husband? I ask you, sir, did your wife ever play such a trick on you?’ Her husband, and indeed all of us, gazed at her in adoration through our laughter, and she shrugged her shoulders and said comfortably, ‘Well, birds in cages, that is something I do not like.’

But in no time we were back in the conflict of Dalmatia with history. The old gentleman said to us, ‘I think you will enjoy your travels amongst us. But you must make allowances. We are in some respects still barbarous simply because we spent so much of our time defending the West. We fought the Turk, and then we fought the Turk, and then we fought the Turk. For that reason we could not throw off the tyranny of Venice, so that it was able to use us as a deathbed, to use our life as a mattress for its decay. The French were better, but they brought with them their taint of revolution. There were some sad scenes, here and in Trogir especially, where the doctrines of Jacobinism caused revolt. But of your countrymen we have only the happiest recollections. Alas, that the peace treaty of 1815 should have made the mistake of handing us over to the Austrian Empire, that unnecessary organization, which should have ceased to exist after the destruction of the Turks, and which survived only to cultivate grossness and frivolity at the expense of her superior subject races.’ ‘The Austrians were the worst oppressors of all that we have known,’ said his son, ‘for Venice was a dying power during much of her reign over us, and had not the energy to conquer our spirit. But Austria felt in excellent health till the beginning of the Great War, and when she kicked us there was plenty of force in the boot.’ ‘Four generations of us were under Austria,’ said his father, ‘and always we rebelled against them for that very reason. Not out of their poverty but out of their wealth the Austrians would not plant our ruined forests, would not give us water, and taxed salt, so that our fisheries could not preserve their fish; and they hated those of us who were fortunate but defended the cause of our less fortunate fellow-Slavs.’ ‘But it is excessively hard on women,’ said his wife, addressing me, ‘when the men are for ever busying themselves with politics.’

The old gentleman regarded her tenderly. ‘My wife pretends to be frivolous,’ he said, ‘but she is really true to the courageous tradition of Dalmatian womanhood, which indeed has been carried on with peculiar glory in Korchula. In 1571, when we had been abandoned by our cur of a Venetian governor, who ran away to Zara, and all our men were fighting at sea, a garrison of women and children successfully defended the town against the infamous Turkish corsair, Uliz Ali, who by the way was no Turk, but a renegade, simply another of those Italians. I can say that my wife has been a worthy successor to those women, for I have never known her to flinch before danger.’ ‘Perhaps I do not,’ she said, ‘but all the same it has sometimes been very boring.’ Nevertheless, I could see his view of her was the truth. Her standard expression was one I had seen before, on the faces of women whose husbands had been prewar Russian revolutionaries, or Spanish liberals under Alfonso. The eyebrows were slightly raised, so that the space between them was fairly smooth, and the eyelids were lowered: so people look when they expect at any moment to receive a heavy blow in the face. But her chin was tilted forward, her lips were resolutely curved in a smile: she mocked the giver of the blow before he gave it, and removed her soul to a place where he could not touch it. ‘Were you ever frightened?’ I asked. ‘Again and again I had reason to be, on account of the way my husband behaved,’ she replied. ‘But I thank God that by the time my sons were men we were safe under Yugoslavia.’

‘You hear in her words what Yugoslavia means to us Dalmatians,’ said the old gentleman. Then he paused. I felt he was searching for words to say something that had been in his mind since he set eyes on us, and that he found intensely disagreeable. ‘I am glad,’ he continued, ‘that you have come to see our Yugoslavia. But I think you have come to see it too soon. It is what I have fought for all my life, and it is what must be, and, as my wife tells you, it already means a security such as we have never known before, not since the beginning of time. But you must remember what Cavour said: “Now there is an Italy, but we have not yet got Italians.” It is so with us. We have the machinery of the state in Yugoslavia, but we have not yet learned how to work it. We have many amongst us who do not understand its possibilities, who are unaware of ...’-his hands moved in distress-‘of what it should be to us Slavs.’ He began to speak in a slow, braked tone, of the Croatian discontent, and of the Matchek movement; and it was clear from his son’s uneasiness and the muting of his wife’s gaiety that this household felt itself still girt by enemies, and that this last encirclement was harder to bear than any of the others, since these enemies were of their own blood. These people had remembered they were Slavs for a thousand years, in spite of the threats of empire, and had believed they could not hate their fellow-Slavs. But now they saw their fellow-Slavs conspiring against Yugoslavia and giving Italy its opportunity to impose itself again as their oppressor, it seemed to them that they must hate them, must exterminate them without pity, as in the past they had exterminated renegades of their race who went over to the Turks.

The old gentleman was saying, ‘You will find it hard to believe, but there are those amongst us who are so misguided as to wish to alienate the Croats from our fellow-Slavs, the Serbs; and indeed there are very great differences between us and the Serbs, differences of manners due to the unfortunate circumstance that they suffered what we did not, centuries of enslavement by the Turks. But they are not only brothers, they have given us enormous gifts. I remember that many years ago your admirable Professor Seton-Watson came to stay with me here, and he said to me, “You are insane to think of complete Slav independence, all you can hope for is full rights for the Slavs as citizens within the Austro-Hungarian Empire; it is far too strong for any of the Slav powers.” But then he came back early in 1914, just after Serbia had beaten Turkey in the Balkan War, and he said, “Now it is different. When I see what the Serbs have done against Turkey, I am not at all sure that the Serbs and the Czechs and you Croats will not beat the Austro-Hungarian Army.” He spoke truly. It was the triumph of the Serbs that gave us hope. I find it therefore disgusting that over a slight affair of manners people should disdain their liberators.’ He spoke as a clear-cut man of action, used to making clear-cut decisions, used to arriving at clear-cut computations which are necessary before a compromise can be arranged. Not in a thousand years would he understand the Croatian world, which had been diluted by the German poison, which was a platform of clouds for drifting personalities, Slav in essence but vague in substance, unclimactic in process.

‘And this Matchek movement,’ cried the old gentleman, ‘is Bolshevist! It is Communist! What is all this nonsense about the necessity for a social revolution? If there is work the people earn wages and benefit. What other economic problem is there beyond this? If we can build up our fisheries and our shipbuilding on Korchula, then our islanders will have plenty of money and have all they want. What more is there to say about it?’ He looked at us with the eyes of an old eagle that is keeping up its authority, yet fears that he may be wrong. He knew that what he was saying was not quite right, but he did not know in what it was wrong. We thought that his predicament was due to his age, but when we looked at his son we found precisely the same expression on his face. He said, without his usual authority, ‘This is all the work of agitators, such as Mussolini used to be.’ He probably alluded to the fact that when Mussolini was a Socialist he once organized a dock strike at Split. The experience of these people was very rich.

But in one respect it was very poor. They laboured, I saw, under many advantages—innate gifts, a traditional discipline which had been so ferociously applied through the centuries to cowards and traitors that courage and loyalty now seemed theirs of birthright, a devotion to public interest which made them almost as sacred as priests. But they laboured under one disadvantage. The ideas of the French Revolution had never been talked out in this part of the world. A touch of the Jacobin fever had reached Dalmatia when it was still under Venice, and had been drastically cured, first by the Venetians and later by the French. The year 1848 had brought a revival of revolutionary ideas to all Europe, but not to Dalmatia and Croatia, because the Hungarian uprising had taken an anti-Slav turn under Kossuth, and the Croats were obliged to offend their racial interests by fighting for the Habsburgs and reaction. Nobody in these parts, therefore, had ever discussed the possibility that the doctrine of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity might be an admirable prescription to maintain the peace in an expanding industrial civilization. They had no means of understanding those believers in their doctrine who have discovered that it is impossible to guarantee liberty, equality, or fraternity to every member of a community while some members hold economic power over others, and who now demand a redistribution of wealth. This family took all the pother for a modern version of something which as Korchulan patricians they understood quite well: a plebeian revolt. Without a qualm they would resist it, for they knew what the people really wanted, and were doing their best to get it for them as fast as possible. Water, that was what they needed, and trees. Innocent in their misapprehension, bright with charity and public spirit, but puzzled by the noise of some distant riot for which their intimate knowledge of the civic affairs had not prepared them, the father and mother and son sat in the white circle under the chandelier, the darkness in the courtyard beyond now entirely night.

Korchula II

I woke early next morning, and heard Ellen Terry speaking as she had spoken at the Theatre Royal, Edinburgh, when I was a little girl. Her voice had lifted imperiously to cry, ‘Kill Claudio!’—a behest not at all offensive since it was essentially just, yet raising certain problems. It was good that somebody should speak up for simple dealing with evil, although no one who knew all, who had comprehended the whole mystery of good and evil, would say it like that. There was perhaps something about the family I had visited last night which had recalled the speaking of those words. I fell asleep again, and was reawakened by the sound of singing, a little rough and wolfish for mere gaiety. When I went to the window there was a crowd of young men standing on the quay, each carrying a bundle. ‘They must be conscripts,’ said my husband, ‘waiting for a steamer to take them to the mainland.’ ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘this is the time of year when they start their training. And look, they all look oddly shabby for such clean young men. They are all brisked up to look their best, but at the same time they’ve all come in their old clothes and left their new ones at home.’ ‘Let us wash and dress very quickly, and go down and have a look at them as they go on board.’

As we came out of the front door of the hotel, our cups of coffee in our hands, a white steamer came round the peninsula, lovely as a lady and drunk as a lord. She listed deeply landwards, because she already carried a freight of young men, and they had all run to the side to have a look at Korchula. ‘It is the steamer come to take the conscripts away,’ said a man standing beside us, in English which had been learned in America. ‘Yes,’ we said. ‘They go to do their military service now on the mainland,’ he continued. ‘Yes,’ we said. ‘They go now to do their military service for Yugoslavia,’ he said, ‘but they are good Dalmatians, they are good Croats. Those songs you have heard them singing are all against the Government.’ He wore a fixed, almost absent-minded smile that represented derision grown second-nature, having long forgotten its first or any other reason. I remembered something Constantine once told me. ‘We Slavs love the terrible,’ he said, ‘and it happens that when we feel deeply terrible expressions come on our faces. As we love the terrible we keep them there, and they become grins, grimaces, masks that mean nothing. That is one of the things that has happened among the Bolsheviks. Revolution has become a rictus.’ It has perhaps gone wrong here also.

As the ship drew nearer we heard that the young men leaning over the rail were singing just these same angrily hopeful songs as the young men on the quay, and by the time she came alongside the quay they were joined in one song. Some of those on the ship could not wait to land until the gang-plank was lowered, and, after shouting for the crowd below to fall back, they jumped from the rails to the quay, their bodies full of a goatish vigour, their faces calm and stubborn and withdrawn. They ran past us and came back in an instant carrying yard-long loaves under their arms, and stood quietly, rapt in the exaltation of having started on a new adventure, behind the young men of Korchula, who were standing more restlessly, the new adventure not having begun for them, and the distress of their families being a disagreeable distraction. Unifying these two groups was this dark overhanging cloud of discontented song. We went inside the hotel and buttered ourselves second rolls, and when we returned the boat had taken aboard its load and started out to sea. She was some hundreds of yards from the shore, more drunken than ever, listing still deeper with her increased freight, which was singing now very loudly and crowding to the rails to wave to the residue of their grieving kin, who were now moving along the quay to the round towers at the end of the peninsula so that they would be able to see her again as she left the bay and went out into the main channel; they walked crabwise, with their heads turned sideways, so that they should not miss one second’s sight of their beloveds. They were obviously much moved by that obscure agony of the viscera rather than of the mind, or even of the heart, which afflicts the human being when its young goes from it over water, which St. Augustine described for ever in his Confessions, in his description of how his mother Monica grieved when he took sail from Africa to Italy. Presently the ship was gone, and the crowd came back, all walking very quickly and looking downwards and wiping their noses.

We found standing beside us the Cardinal, the Sitwell, and a handsome lady who was the Sitwell’s wife. It was a pity so far as we were concerned, but it threw an interesting light on the claims of Italy to Dalmatia, and the real orientation of Dalmatia, that this lady spoke no languages but Serbo-Croatian and Russian, which she had acquired from a teacher who had been at the Tsarina’s boarding school in Montenegro. They took us down to a motor boat by the quay, and we went out through a blue and white and windy morning for a trip about the island. Now the city of Korchula was a goldsmith’s toy, a tortoise made of precious metals, sitting on its peninsula as on a show-stand, and we were chugging past a suburb of villas, pink and white like sugar almonds. We passed a headland or two and came to a bay wide enough to be noble, and narrow enough to be owned. On its lip were moor and rock, and behind them olive terraces and almond orchards rose to scrub and bleakness. A track ran up to a high village in a crevice of this bleakness, and the Cardinal, laughing, told us that its inhabitants plagued the central and the local authorities for a better road down to this bay. ‘And we say, “But why? You have a perfectly good road down to Korchula!” And they say, “But Korchula is not our port. This bay should be our port.” So you see the little world is the same as the big world, and both are silly.’

In that, and a further bay, we made the boat linger. The green water glittered clean as ice, but gentle. ‘Could we buy some land?’ we asked. ‘Could we build a villa?’ It would be a folly. To get there from London would take two nights and two days by rail and steamer, and I do not suppose that either of us would ever be on easy terms with a language we had learned so late. But the sweet wildness of these bays, and the air rich with sun-baked salt and the scent of the scrub, and the view of the small perfect city, made this one of the places where the setting for the drama is drama enough. ‘Yes, you could buy it, yes, you could build,’ they said. ‘But one thing,’ said the Cardinal, rather than deceive a stranger, ‘one thing you will not have in abundance. That is water. But then you could afford to build yourself a big cistern, and it always rains here in winter. That is the trouble, things work in a circle. People here need water if they are to make money. But because they have no money they cannot build cisterns to store water. So they cannot make any more money. All that, however, we shall settle in time.’

As we set off to the opposite coast, which looked like an island but was the peninsula of Pelyesatch, the Korchulans still talked of water. ‘We had a great disappointment,’ said the Sitwell. ‘Over at Pelyesatch there is a spring of which the inhabitants have no very great need, and it was thought that we could raise enough money to build a pipe-line across this channel to our island. But alas! we discovered at the last moment that from time to time, and especially during droughts, when we would need it most, the spring ran salt.’ ‘You from England,’ said the Cardinal, ‘can have no notion of how disappointed we were. Still, we must not complain. When the worst comes to the worst, they send us a ship with a cargo of water down from Split.’

As we drew nearer the shore the water under the keel was pale emerald, where the diving sunlight had found sand. We landed on a little stone quay, where fishermen in a boat with a rust-coloured sail called greetings to our friends, as in the Middle Ages plebeians who were yet free men would have greeted nobles, when the dispensation was working well. We stepped out and walked along the coast by a line of small houses and gardens, and the Cardinal said, ‘This is the village where all retired sea captains come to live if they can possibly manage it.’ Sea captains are sensible. There was nothing that was not right in this village. There was nothing there which was not quietly guided to perfection by a powerful tradition. Every house was beautiful, and every garden. And they were small, they were not the results of lavish expenditure; and most of them were new, they were not legacies from a deceased perfection.

Even the quite businesslike post-office had an air of lovely decorum. Its path led through a garden which practised a modest and miniature kind of formality, to a small house built of this Dalmatian stone which is homely as cheese and splendid as marble. Within, a cool and clean passage, finely vaulted, was blocked by a high stand of painted iron, proper in every twist of its design, in which were posed flowers that needed special gentleness. A woman, well-mannered and remote, came from the back of the house and talked gravely of some local matter with the Cardinal, while she plucked me a nosegay with precise taste. The people who went by on the road looked like her, the houses we had passed had all been like this. Here man was at ease, he had mastered one part of the business of living so well that it was second nature to him. If we bought that bay over on Korchula we would not know what kind of house to build, we would have to take an infinite amount of thought, and our success would be a matter of hit and miss; and we would have to think of what we wanted our garden to look like. But these people’s culture instructed them exactly how best they might live where they must live.

We went next into the garden of a larger and a grander house, which was empty, and from an orange tree the Cardinal broke me a branch laden with both fruit and blossom. ‘It belongs,’ he said, looking up at its desolation, ‘to some Croats, who, poor people, bought it to turn into a hotel without reflecting that they had no money to rebuild it or run it.’ Though he was so practical, he spoke of this not unimportant negligence as if it were not blameworthy, as if they had just been afflicted with this lapse of memory as they might with measles or loss of sight. I carried my sceptre of oranges along till we came to a church, a little church, the least of churches, that was dwarfed by a cypress which was a third of its breadth and a quarter taller, and itself was no king of trees. Small as it was, this church was recognizably of a superb tradition, and had big brothers that were cathedrals. We stood on the lawn admiring its tiny grandeur, while the Cardinal, who knew that all things were permitted to him everywhere, went to the bell-tower, which stood separate, and pulled the rope. While its deep note still was a pulse in the air, the Cardinal pointed to the road behind us and said, ‘Look! There is something you will not often see nowadays.’

An old gentleman was having his walk, neat and clean, with white mutton-chop whiskers joining the moustaches that ran right across his shining pink face, wearing a short coat and sailorly trousers. He had the air of being a forthright and sensible person, but time was disguising him, for he had checked himself on seeing us from carrying on a conversation with certain phantoms, and age forced him to walk drunkenly. ‘Zdravo!’ said the Cardinal, as is the way of Slavs when they meet. ‘Flourish!’ it means. ‘Zdravo,‘ the old man answered, as from the other side of an abyss. ’I told you that all retired sea captains wanted to live here. There is one of them; and you may see from his Franz Josef whiskers that he was in the Austrian Navy. I think those side-whiskers on such an old man are the only things coming from Vienna that I really like.‘ We watched the old man totter on his way, and as he forgot us, he resummoned his phantom friends and continued their argument. ’God pity us,‘ said the Cardinal. ’Yugoslavia must be, but it is almost certain that because of it there is here and there a good soul who feels like a lost dog.‘

The boat took us for a time round the pale emerald waters close to the beach within a stone’s throw of these houses and gardens that would have been theatrical in their perfection if they had not been austere. Then we drew further out and saw how above this hem of fertility round the shore olive groves and almond orchards rose in terraces to bluffs naked except for a little scrub, on which rested a plateau with more olives and almonds and a scattered blackness of cypresses and some villages and churches; and above this were the naked peaks, reflecting the noonlight like a mirror. Then fertility died out. Under the bluffs there was now a slope of scrub that sent out a perfume which I could smell in spite of the flowering orange branch upon my knee; and then a thick forest of cypresses, which for all their darkness and chastity of form presented that extravagant appearance that belongs to a profusion of anything that is usually scarce. Then the mountains dropped to a bay, a shoulder of sheer rock, and on the flat shore lay a pleasant town. ‘This is Orebitch,’ said the Cardinal. ‘Look, there is painted all along the pier, ’Hail and welcome to the Adriatic.‘ It is the greeting the town made to our poor King Alexander when he sailed up this coast on his way to his death at Marseille. He had no time to stop there, so they paid their respects in this way.’ We murmured our interest and kept our eyes on that inscription, and not on the other which some daring young man had scratched giant-high on the shoulder of rock above. ‘Zhive Matchek,‘ it read. Long live Matchek, the enemy of Yugoslavia, the emblem of the economic struggle which awakened no sympathy among our friends, though they could feel kindly for Croats who bought hotels without the money to run them, and for old Austrian naval officers, simply because nothing in their experience had prepared them for it.

Across the channel Korchula’s lovely form was minute and mellow gold. We started towards it over a sea that was now brighter emerald, among islets which were scattered pieces of Scotland, rugged points of rock and moor with the large air of the Grampians though hardly paddock-wide. Our boat could slip within a foot or two of them, so deep and calm were the waters. Here was one much visited for the seagulls’ eggs. As we chugged past the gulls rose and crossed and recrossed the sky above us, wailing against us who were their Turks, their pirates. At another islet a boat was hauled up on a yard of shingle and three fishermen lay sleeping among the scrub, bottles and empty baskets beside them. One heard our boat and lifted his head. His preoccupied eyes, blinking before the noon, found and recognized us; he raised his hand and said ‘Zdravo!‘ in an absent voice, and sank back with an air of returning to a more real world. The other two did not wake, but stirred defensively, as if guarding their own sleep.

‘They will have been fishing since dawn, the good lads,’ said the Sitwell. We passed another and more barren islet which rose to a flat top, not broad. Perhaps five fishermen might have taken their midday rest there. ‘Here a famous treaty in our history was signed,’ said the Cardinal. Men had scrambled out of boats on to this stony turret, barbarian and jewelled, for this coast was as much addicted to precious stones as to violence. Merchants went from island to island, hawking pearls and emeralds among the nobles, and the number of jewellers in the towns was extraordinary. In Korchula there were at one time thirty-two. After a few more such islets we came on a larger island, Badia, which illustrated the enigmatic quality of Dalmatian life. A monastery stands among its pinewoods, where there had been one for nearly a thousand years, though not the same one. Again and again men have gone there to live the contemplative life, and because it lies by the shore on a flatness hard to defend, and is distant from both Korchula and the mainland, pirates have murdered and looted their altars; and always other monks have come in their stead, to be murdered and looted in their turn. This series of pious tragedies continued until the middle of the nineteenth century. This might be comprehensible, were the place the site of some holy event, or were it some desert supremely appropriate to renunciation of the world and union with the supernatural. But Badia has no story other than this curious mutual persistence of monks and pirates, and the monastery lies as comfortably and unspiritually among its gardens as a Sussex manor-house. The history presents an exactly matched sadism and masochism, equally insane in the pursuit of what it finds its perverse pleasure, and nothing more.

Nuns, finding themselves as unwholesomely situated, would have gone home. That I thought before we landed, and I knew it afterwards. For we walked through the well-husbanded gardens, and round the cloisters, which are a mixture of Venetian Gothic and early Renaissance and conventional classic, yet are handled with such genius that they please as if they were of the purest style, and into the church, where the golden stone of the country makes splendour out of a planish design. There, though this was a Franciscan monastery and a boys’ school, a very pretty nun was scrubbing the floor in front of the altar. She sat back on her pleasing little haunches and smiled with proprietary pride while we were shown a wooden cross, brought to Korchula by refugees who had fled here after the Turks had beaten Balkan Christendom at the battle of Kossovo, which showed on each side a realistic Christ in agony, the one manifestly dead, the other manifestly still living. So might a farmer’s daughter smile when strangers came to her father’s byres to marvel at a two-headed calf. Had she been in charge of the religious establishment when pirates threatened, this and all other holy objects would have been gathered up and stuffed with simple cunning into loads of hay or cabbages and rowed back to safety.

She was sensible. There is nothing precious about this Dalmatian civilization. It rests on a basis of good peasant sense. We left Badia and chugged back to the island of Korchula, to a bay of hills terraced with vineyards and set with fortress-like farms, stocky among their fig and mulberry trees. The roads that joined them ran between thick walls, up great ramps and steps that not all the armies of the world and marching a year could tread down; wine always converts those who deal in it to the belief that all should be made for time to gather up into an ultimate perfection. ‘On that headland yonder,’ said the Cardinal, pointing to a moory headland, ‘was found the tablet which told us who we Korchulans are. An archaeologist working there last century found an inscription which gave the names of five hundred Greek colonists who settled there in the third century before Christ.’ ‘Was it not a hundred?’ asked the Sitwell. ‘That is not important,’ said the Cardinal, ‘what matters is that they were Greek. It means that here is a part of ancient Greece which never was conquered by the Turk, which was never conquered at all in any way that could conquer ancient Greece. For in spite of Hungary and Venice and Austria we have, as you may have noticed, kept ourselves to ourselves.’ I listened, smiling as at a boast, and then forgot to smile. What was ancient Greece that all the swains adore her? A morning freshness of the body and soul, that will have none of the dust; so it might be said. That was not incongruous with much we had seen since we first took to the water that morning. The claim was perhaps relevant to the extreme propriety of the sea captain’s village, the gracefulness of the olive orchards and the almond orchards that had been forced on the mountains, the town of Orebitch and its clear, virile inscription and counter-inscription, the fisherman on the islet, the peasant nun scrubbing the golden stone in front of the altar at Badia, the vineyards and their sturdy forts and redoubts. It was certainly completely in harmony, that claim, with this last island that we visited.

‘This you must see,’ the Sitwell had said; ‘there is a great quarry there, which has given the stone for some of the most beautiful buildings on our coast. They say the Rector’s palace at Dubrovnik came from here.’ We slid by so near that we could see the weed floating from its rocks, and looked at something that surely could not be a quarry town. There are certain ugly paradoxes that hold good in almost every society; for example, the people who satisfy humanity’s most urgent need and grow its food are ill-paid and enjoy little honour. Another is the scurvy treatment of those who hew from the earth its stone, which not only gives shelter but compels those who use it towards decorum; for even the worst architect finds difficulty in committing certain meannesses of design when he is working with stone, and it will help him to fulfil whatever magnificent intentions he may conceive. But in most quarry villages privation can be seen gaining on man like a hungry shark; and in France I have visited one where the workers lived in lightless and waterless holes their hands had broken in the walls of a medieval castle. But here it was not so. The island was like a temple, the village we saw before us was like an altar in a temple.

The village lay on the shore under a long low hill, riven with quarries and planted with some cypresses. The houses were built in proper shapes that would resist the winter gales but were not grim, that did not deny the existence of spring and summer, in stone that was the colour of edible things, of pale honey, of pie-crust, of certain kinds of melon. Flowers did not merely grow here, they were grown. Nasturtiums printed a gold and scarlet pattern on a wall under a window, vine leaves made an awning over a table outside a house where an open door showed a symmetry of stacked barrels. Some men walked down the street, two and then another group of three. Because they knew our friends and thought them worthy, they raised their hands in salutation, then thought no more of us, receding into their own lives as the fisherman had receded into his sleep. Four children, playing with a goat and its kid, looked backwards over their shoulders for a second, and went back to their play. A woman scrubbing a table in her garden straightened her arm and rested on it, wondering who we might be, and when she had rested enough put aside her curiosity and went on with her work. The houses and the people made a picture of a way of life different from what we know in the West, and not inferior.

My power to convey it is limited; a man cannot describe the life of a fish, a fish cannot describe the life of a man. It would be some guide to ask myself what I would have found on the island if we had not been water-strolling past it on our way back to familiarity but had been cast on it for ever. I would not find literacy, God knows. Nearly one-half the population in Yugoslavia cannot read or write, and I think I know in which half these men and women would find themselves. From the extreme æsthetic sensibility shown in the simple architecture of their houses and the planting of their flowers it could be seen that they had not blunted their eyes on print. Nor would I find clemency. This was no sugar-sweet island of the blest; the eyes of these men and women could be cold as stone if they found one not to be valuable, if they felt the need to be cruel they would give way to it, as they would give way to the need to eat or drink or evacuate. Against what I should lack on this island I should count great pleasure at seeing human beings move about with the propriety of animals, with their muscular ease and their lack of compunction. There was to be included in the propriety the gift, found in the lovelier animals, of keeping clean the pelt and the lair. At a close gaze it could be seen that not in this quarry village either had the damnably incongruous poverty been abolished, but all was clean, all was neat. But not animal was the tranquillity of these people. They had found some way to moderate the flow of life so that it did not run to waste, and there was neither excess nor famine, but a prolongation of delight. At the end of the village a fisherman sat on a rock with his nets and a lobster-pot at his feet, his head bent as he worked with a knife on one of his tools. From the deftness of his movements it could be seen that he must have performed this action hundreds of times, yet his body was happy and elastic with interest, as if this were the first time. It was so with all things on this island. The place had been a quarry for over a thousand years: it was as if new-built. The hour was past noon; it was as undimmed as dawn. Some of the men, and a woman who was sitting between her flowers on the doorstep, were far gone in years, but there was no staleness in them.

On the last rock of the island, a yard or so from the shore, stood a boy, the reflected ripple of the water a bright trembling line across his naked chest. He raised his eyes to us, smiled, waved his hand, and receded, receded as they all did, to their inner riches. There passed through my mind a sentence from Humfry Payne’s book on Archaic Marble Sculpture in the Acropolis, which, when I verified it, I found to run: ‘Most archaic Attic heads, however their personality, have the same vivid look—a look expressive of nothing so much as the plain fact of their own animate existence. Of an animate existence lifted up, freed from grossness and decay, by some action taken by the mind, which the rest of the world cannot practice.’ I said to the Cardinal, ‘You have a way of living here that is special, that is particular to you, that must be defended at all costs.’ He answered in a deprecating tone, ‘I think so.’ I persisted. ‘I do not mean just your architecture and your tradition of letters, I mean the way the people live.’ He answered, ‘It is just that. It is our people, the way we live.’ We were running quicker now, past the monastery among its pinewoods, past the headland where the Greek tablet was found, and could see the town of Korchula before us. ‘I should like,’ said the Cardinal, ‘you to come back and learn to know our peasants. This business of politics spoils us in the towns, but somebody has to do it.’

It was at this point, when the town had become a matter of identifiable streets, that the motor boat stopped and began to spin round. The Sitwell said, ‘We in Korchula are the descendants of a hundred or perhaps of five hundred Greeks, and we have defended the West against the Turks, and maybe Marco Polo was one of our fellow-countrymen, but all the same our motor boats sometimes break down.’ The boatman made tinkering sounds in the bowels of the boat, while the green waters showed their strength and drew us out to the wind-crisped channel. ‘They will miss the steamer to Dubrovnik,’ said the Sitwell. ‘Is it of importance,’ asked the Cardinal, ‘that you should be at Dubrovnik today?’ ‘Yes,’ said my husband. The Cardinal stood up and made a funnel of his hands and hallooed to a rowing-boat that was dawdling in the bright light on the water to our south. Nothing happened, and the Cardinal clicked his tongue against his teeth, and said, ‘That family has always been slow in the uptake. Always.’ It would have been amusing to ascertain what he meant by always: probably several centuries. But he continued to halloo, and presently the boat moved towards us. It proved to contain two young persons evidently but lately preoccupied with their own emotions: a girl whose hair was some shades lighter than her bronze skin but of the same tint, and a boy who seemed to have been brought back a thousand miles by the Cardinal’s cry, though once he knew what was wanted and we had stepped from our boat to his, he bent to his oars with steady vigour, his brows joined in resolution. The girl, who was sucking the stem of a flower, derived a still contentment from the sight of his prowess, which indeed did not seem to surprise her. Behind us, across a widening space of shining milk-white water, the motor boat we had just left had now become a stately national monument, because the Cardinal remained standing upright, looking down on the boatman. He was quite at ease, since he had got us off to our boat, but he was watching this man, not to reprove him for any fault but to judge his quality. From a distance he resembled one of those stout marble columns in the squares of medieval cities from which the city standard used to be flown.

Dubrovnik (Ragusa) I

‘Let us wire to Constantine and ask him to meet us earlier in Sarajevo,’ I said, lying on the bed in our hotel room. ‘I can’t bear Dubrovnik.’ ‘Perhaps you would have liked it better if we had been able to get into one of the hotels nearer the town,’ said my husband. ‘Indeed I would not,’ I said. ‘I stayed in one of those hotels for a night last year. They are filled with people who either are on their honeymoon or never had one. And at dinner I looked about me at the tables and saw everywhere half-empty bottles of wine with room-numbers scrawled on the labels, which I think one of the dreariest sights in the world.’ ‘Yes, indeed,’ said my husband, ‘it seems to me always when I see them that there has been disobedience of Gottfried Keller’s injunction, “Lass die Augen fassen, was die Wimper hält von dem goldnen Ueberfluss der Welt,” “Let the eyes hold what the eyelids can contain from the golden overflow of the world.” But you might have liked it better if we were nearer the town.’ ‘No,’ I said, ‘nothing could be lovelier than this.’

We were staying in a hotel down by the harbour of Gruzh, which is two or three miles out of Dubrovnik, or Ragusa as it used to be called until it became part of Yugoslavia. The name was changed, although it is pure Illyrian, because it sounded Italian: not, perhaps, a very good reason. Under the windows were the rigging and funnels of the harbour, and beyond the crowded waters was a hillside covered with villas, which lie among their gardens with an effect of richness not quite explicable by their architecture. The landscape is in fact a palimpsest. This was a suburb of Dubrovnik where the nobles had their summer palaces, buildings in the Venetian Gothic style furnished with treasures from the West and the East, surrounded by terraced flower-gardens and groves and orchards, as lovely as Fiesole or Vallombrosa, for here the Dalmatian coast utterly loses the barrenness which the traveller from the North might have thought its essential quality. These palaces were destroyed in the Napoleonic wars, looted and then burned; and on their foundations, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, have been built agreeable but undistinguished villas. But that is not the only confusion left by history on the view. The rounded slope immediately above the harbour is covered by an immense honey-coloured villa, with arcades and terraces and balconies hung with wistaria, and tier upon tier of orange trees and cypresses and chestnuts and olives and palms rising to the crest. It makes the claim of solidity that all Austrian architecture made, but it should have been put up in stucco, like our follies at Bath and Twickenham; for it was built for the Empress Elizabeth, who, of course, in her restlessness and Habsburg terror of the Slavs, went there only once or twice for a few days.

‘I like this,’ I said, ‘as well as anything in Dubrovnik.’ ‘That can’t be true,’ said my husband, ‘for Dubrovnik is exquisite, perhaps the most exquisite town I have ever seen.’ ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘but all the same I don’t like it, I find it a unique experiment on the part of the Slav, unique in its nature and unique in its success, and I do not like it. It reminds me of the worst of England.’ ‘Yes,’ said my husband, ‘I see that, when one thinks of its history. But let us give it credit for what it looks like, and that too is unique.’ He was right indeed, for it is as precious as Venice, and deserves comparison with the Venice of Carpaccio and Bellini, though not of Titian and Tintoretto. It should be visited for the first time when the twilight is about to fall, when it is already dusk under the tall trees that make an avenue to the city walls, though the day is only blanched in the open spaces, on the bridge that runs across the moat to the gate. There, on the threshold, one is arrested by another example of the complexity of history. Over the gate is a bas-relief by Mestrovitch, a figure of a king on a horse, which is a memorial to and a stylized representation of King Peter of Serbia, the father of the assassinated King Alexander, he who succeeded to the throne after the assassination of Draga and her husband. It is an admirable piece of work. It would surprise those who knew Mestrovitch’s work only from international exhibitions to see how good it can be when it is produced under nationalist inspiration for a local setting. This relief expresses to perfection the ideal ruler of a peasant state. Its stylization makes, indeed, some reference to the legendary King Marko, who is the hero of all Serbian peasants. This king could groom the horse he rides on, and had bought it for himself at a fair, making no bad bargain; yet he is a true king, for no man would daunt him from doing his duty to his people, either by strength or by riches. It is enormously ironic that this should be set on the walls of a city that was the antithesis of the peasant state, that maintained for centuries the most rigid system of aristocracy and the most narrowly bourgeois ethos imaginable. The incongruity will account for a certain coldness shown towards the Yugoslavian ideal in Dubrovnik; which itself appears ironical when it is considered that after Dubrovnik was destroyed by the great powers no force on earth could have come to its rescue except the peasant state of Serbia.

For an ideal first visit the traveller should go into the city and find the light just faintly blue with dusk in the open space that lies inside the gate, and has for its centre the famous fountain by the fifteenth-century Neapolitan architect Onofrio de la Cava. This is a masterpiece, the size of a small chapel, a domed piece of masonry with fourteen jets of water, each leaping from a sculptured plaque set in the middle of a panel divided by two slender pilasters, into a continuous trough that runs all round the fountain: as useful as any horse-trough, and as lovely and elevating as an altar. On the two steps that raise it from the pavement there always lie some carpets with their sellers gossiping beside them. At this hour all cats are grey and all carpets are beautiful; the colours, fused by the evening, acquire richness. On one side of this square is another of the bland little churches which Dalmatians built so often and so well, a town sister of that we had seen in the village where the retired sea captains lived. At this hour its golden stone gives it an air of enjoying its own private sunset, prolonged after the common one. It has a pretty and secular rose-window which might be the brooch for a bride’s bosom. Beside it is a Franciscan convent, with a most definite and sensible Pietà over a late Gothic portal. The Madonna looks as if, had it been in her hands, she would have stopped the whole affair; she is in no degree gloating over the spectacular fate of her son. She is not peasant, she is noble; it is hardly possible to consider her as seducible by the most exalted destiny. Facing these across the square is the old arsenal, its façade pierced by an arch; people walk through it to a garden beyond, where lamps shine among trees, and there is a sound of music. For background there are the huge city walls, good as strength, good as honesty.

Ahead runs the main street of the town, a paved fairway, forbidden to wheeled traffic, lined with comely seventeenth-century houses that have shops on their ground floor. At this time it is the scene of the Corso, an institution which is the heart of social life in every Yugoslavian town, and indeed of nearly all towns and villages in the Balkans. All of the population who have clothing up to the general standard-I have never seen a person in rags and patches join a Corso in a town where good homespun or manufactured textiles are the usual wear, though in poverty-stricken districts I have seen an entire Corso bearing itself with dignity in tatters-join in a procession which walks up and down the main street for an hour or so about sunset. At one moment there is nobody there, just a few people going about the shops or sitting outside cafés; at the next the street is full of all the human beings in the town that feel able to take part in the life of their kind, each one holding up the head and bearing the body so that it may be seen, each one chattering and being a little gayer than in private, each one attempting to establish its individuality. Yet the attempt defeats itself, for this mass of people, moving up and down the length of the street and slowly becoming more and more like each other because of the settling darkness, makes a human being seem no more than a drop of water in a stream. In a stream, moreover, that does not run for ever. The Corso ends as suddenly as it begins. At one instant the vital essence of the town chokes the street with its coursing; the next, the empty pavement is left to the night.

But while it lasts the Corso is life, for what that is worth in this particular corner of the earth; and here, in Dubrovnik, life still has something of the value it must have had in Venice when she was young. A city that had made good bread had learned to make good cake also. A city that had built itself up by good sense and industry had formed a powerful secondary intention of elegance. It is a hundred and thirty years ago that Dubrovnik ceased to exist as a republic, but its buildings are the unaltered cast of its magnificence, its people have still the vivacity of those who possess and can enjoy. Here the urbanity of the Dalmatian cities becomes metropolitan. Follow this Corso and you will find yourself in the same dream that is dreamed by London and Paris and New York; the dream that there is no limit to the distance which man can travel from his base, the cabbage-patch, that there is no pleasure too delicate to be bought by all of us, if the world will but go on getting richer. This is not a dream to be despised; it comes from man’s more amiable parts, it is untainted by cruelty, it springs simply from a desire to escape from the horror that is indeed implicit in all man’s simpler relationships with the earth. It cannot be realized in a city so great as London or Paris or New York, or even the later Venice; it was perhaps possible to realize it in a city no larger than Dubrovnik, which indeed neither was nor is very far from the cabbage-patches. For on any fine night there are some peasants from the countryside outside the walls who have come to walk in the Corso.

To taste the flavour of this Corso and this city, it is good to turn for a minute from the main street into one of the side streets. They mount steep and narrow to the walls which outline the squarish peninsula on which the city stands; close-pressed lines of houses—left at this hour to sleeping children, the old, and servant-maids-which are rich in carved portals and balconies, and perfumed with the spring. For it took the Industrial Revolution to make man conceive the obscene idea of a town as nothing but houses. These carved portals and balconies are twined with flowers that are black because of the evening but would be scarlet by day, and behind high walls countless little gardens send out their sweetness. Back in the main street the people from these houses and gardens sweep down towards their piazza, past a certain statue which you may have seen in other towns, perhaps in front of the Rathaus at Bremen. Such statues are said to represent the hero Orlando or Roland, who defeated the Saracens: they are the sign that a city is part of liberal and lawful Christendom. To the left of the crowd is the Custom House and Mint, in which the history of their forebears for three centuries is written in three stories. In the fourteenth century the citizens of the Republic built themselves a Custom House, just somewhere to take in the parcels; in that age the hand of man worked right, and the courtyard is perfection. A hundred years later so many parcels had come in that the citizens were refined folk and could build a second story for literary gatherings and social assemblies, as lovely as Venetian Gothic could make it. Prosperity became complicated and lush, the next hundred years brought the necessity of establishing a handsome Mint on the top floor, in the Renaissance style; and for sheer lavishness they faced the Custom House with a loggia. Because the people who did this were of the same blood, working in a civilization that their blood and none other had made, these different styles are made one by an inner coherence. The building has a light, fresh, simple charm.

They mill there darkly, the people of Dubrovnik, the buildings running up above them into that whiteness which hangs above the earth the instant before the fall of the night, which is disturbed and dispersed by the coarser whiteness of the electric standards. The Custom House is faced by the Church of St. Blaise, a great baroque mass standing on a balustraded platform, like a captive balloon filled with infinity. In front is an old tower with a huge toy clock: at the hour, two giant bronze figures of men come out and beat a bell. The crowd will lift their heads to see them, as their fathers have done for some hundreds of years. Next to that is the town café, a noble building, where one eats well, looking on to the harbour; for we have reached the other side of the peninsula now, the wind that blows in through the archways is salt. Then to the right is the Rector’s palace, that incomparable building, the special glory of Dubrovnik, and even of Dalmatia, the work of Michelozzo Michelozzi the Florentine and George the Dalmatian, known as Orsini. Simply it consists of a two-storied building, the ground floor shielded by a loggia of six arches, the upper floor showing eight Gothic windows. It is imperfect: it once had a tower at each end, and these have gone. Nevertheless, its effect is complete and delightful, and, like all masterpieces of architecture, it expresses an opinion about the activities which are going to be carried on under its roof. Chartres is a speculation concerning the nature of God and of holiness. The Belvedere in Vienna is a speculation concerning political power. With its balanced treatment of its masses and the suggestion of fecundity in its springing arches and proliferating capitals, the Rector’s palace puts forward an ideal of an ordered and creative society. It is the most explicit building in an amazingly explicit town, that has also an explicit history, with a beginning and an end. It is another example of the visibility of life which is the special character of Yugoslavia, at least so far as those territories which have not been affected by the Teutonic confusion are concerned.

The Corso says, ‘This is the city our fathers made.’ The city says, ‘These are the men and women we have made.’ If you should turn aside and go into the café to eat an evening meal, which here should be preferably the Englische Platte, an anthology of cold meats chosen by a real scholar of the subject, the implications of this display will keep you busy for the night. There is, of course, the obvious meaning of Dubrovnik. It was quite truly a republic: not a protectorate, but an independent power, the only patch of territory on the whole Dalmatian coast, save for a few unimportant acres near Split, that never fell under the rule of either Hungary or Venice. It was a republic that was a miracle: on this tiny peninsula, which is perhaps half a mile across, was based a great economic empire. From Dubrovnik the caravans started for the overland journey to Constantinople. This was the gateway to the East; and it exploited its position with such commercial and financial and naval genius that its ships were familiar all over the known world, while it owned factories and warehouses in every considerable port of Southern Europe and in some ports of the North, and held huge investments such as mines and quarries in the Balkans. Its history is illuminated by our word ‘argosy,’ which means nothing more than a vessel from Ragusa. It is as extraordinary as if the city of London were to have carried out the major part of the commercial achievements of the British Empire up to, say, the reign of Henry VII, with no more territory than itself and about three or four hundred square miles in the home counties which it had gradually acquired by conquest and purchase. That is the primary miracle of Dubrovnik; that and its resistance to Turkey, which for century after century coveted the port as the key to the Adriatic and the invasion of Italy, yet could never dare to seize it because of the diplomatic genius of its defenders.

But as one contemplates the town other issues crowd on the mind. First, the appalling lack of accumulation observable in history, the perpetual cancellation of human achievement, which is the work of careless and violent nature. This place owes its foundation to the ferocity of mankind towards its own kind. For Dubrovnik was first settled by fugitives from the Greek city of Epidaurus, which is ten miles further south down the coast, and from the Roman city of Salonæ, when these were destroyed by the barbarians, and was later augmented by Slavs who had come to these parts as members of the barbarian forces. It was then monstrously harried by the still greater ferocity of fire and earthquake. Some of the fires might be ascribed to human agency, for the prosperity of the group-which was due to its fusion of Greek and Roman culture with Slav virility—meant that they were well worth attacking and therefore they had to make their rocky peninsula into a fortress with abundant stores of munitions. They were, therefore, peculiarly subject to fires arising out of gunpowder explosions. The Rector’s palace was twice burned down for this reason during twenty-seven years. But such damage was trifling compared to the devastation wrought by earthquakes.

The bland little church beside the domed fountain at the City Gate was built in the sixteenth century as a thanksgiving by those who had been spared from an earthquake which, in a first convulsion, shook down houses that were then valued at five thousand pounds, and then continued as a series of shocks for over eighteen months; and there was apparently an earthquake of some degree in this district every twenty years. But the worst was the catastrophe of 1667. The sea was tilted back from the harbour four times, each time leaving it bone dry, and each time rushing back in a flood-wave which pounded many vessels to pieces against the docks and cliffs. The greater part of the public buildings and many private houses were in ruins, and the Rector of the Republic and five thousand citizens were buried underneath them. Then fire broke out; and later still bands of wolfish peasants from the mountain areas devastated by Venetian misrule and Turkish warfare came down and plundered what was left.

We know, by a curious chance, exactly what we lost in the way of architecture on that occasion. In the baroque church opposite the Rector’s palace there is a two-foot-high silver statuette of St. Blaise, who is the patron saint of the city, and he holds in his hand a silver model of Dubrovnik as it was before the earthquake. It shows us the setting for a fairy-tale. In particular it shows the Cathedral, which was built by Richard Cœur de Lion as a thanksgiving for his escape from shipwreck on this coast, as a thirteenth-century building of great beauty and idiosyncrasy, and the main street as a unique expression of commercial pride, a line of houses that were true palaces in their upper parts and shops and offices below. We can deduce also that there was an immense loss of pictures, sculptures, textiles, jewels, and books, which had been drawn by the Republic from West and East during her centuries of successful trading. Indeed, we know of one irreparable loss, so great that we cannot imagine what its marvellous content may have been. There existed in Bosnia a society that was at once barbarous and civilized, an indirect heir to Byzantine civilization and able to fight Rome on doctrinal points as a logic-chopping equal, but savage and murderous. This society was destroyed by the Turk. At the end of the fifteenth century, Catherine, the widow of the last King of Bosnia, murdered by his illegitimate son, who was later himself flayed alive by Mahomet I, fled to Dubrovnik and lived there till she went to Rome to die. Before she left she gave some choral books, richly illustrated and bound, to the monks of the Franciscan monastery, who had a famous library. If these books had survived they would have been a glimpse of a world about which we can now only guess: but the whole library perished.

What is the use of ascribing any catastrophe to nature? Nearly always man’s inherent malignity comes in and uses the opportunities it offers to create a graver catastrophe. At this moment the Turks came down on the Republic to plunder its helplessness, though their relationship had till then been friendly. Kara Mustapha, the Turkish Grand Vizier, a demented alcoholic, pretended that the armed resistance the citizens had been forced to put up against the wretched looters from the mountains was in some obscure way an offence against Turkish nationals, and on this pretext and on confused allegations of breach of tariff agreements he demanded the payment of a million ducats, or nearly half a million pounds. He also demanded that the goods of every citizen who had been killed in the earthquake should be handed to the Sublime Porte, the Republic being (he suddenly claimed) a Turkish possession. For fifteen years the Republic had to fight for its rights and keep the aggressors at bay, which it was able to do by using its commercial potency and its diplomatic genius against the Turks when they were already rocking on their feet under the blows of Austria and Hungary. Those were its sole weapons. France, as professed defender of Christianity and order in Europe, should have aided the Republic. But Louis XIV would not lift his little finger to help her, partly because she had been an ally of Spain, partly because the dreary piece of death-in-life, Madame de Maintenon, supreme type of the she-alligator whom men often like and admire, had so inflamed him with pro-Jesuit passion that a mere rumour that the Republican envoy was a Jansenist was enough to make him cancel his mission.

The story of what happened to the four ambassadors who left to plead with the Turkish Government is one of the classic justifications of the human race: almost a promise that there is something to balance its malignity. Caboga and Bucchia were sent to Constantinople to state the independence of the Republic. They were, by a technique familiar to us today, faced with documents admitting that the Republic was a Turkish possession and told with threats and curses that they must sign them. They refused. Dazed and wearied from hours of bullying they still refused, and were thrown into a plague-stricken prison. There they lay for years, sometimes smuggling home dispatches written in their excrement on packing paper. Their colleagues, Bona and Gozzi, went to Sarajevo to make the same statement of independence to the Pasha of Bosnia, and were likewise thrown into captivity. They were dragged behind the Turkish Army on a war it was conducting with Russia on the Danube, and there thrown in irons into the dungeons of a fortress in a malarial district, and told they must remain prisoners until they had signed the documents which Caboga and Bucchia had refused to sign in Constantinople. There Bona died. A Ragusan priest who had settled in the district stood by to give him the last sacrament, but was prevented by the jailers. There is no knowing how many such martyrs might have been demanded of Dubrovnik and furnished by her, had not the Turks then been defeated outside Vienna by John Sobieski, King of Poland. Kara Mustapha was executed, and there was lifted from the Republic a fear as black as any we have felt today.

It is a glorious story, yet a sad one. What humanity could do if it could but have a fair course to run, if fire and pestilence did not gird our steps and earthquakes engulf them, if man did not match his creativeness with evil that casts down and destroys! It can at least be said that Dubrovnik ran well in this obstacle race. But there is not such exaltation in the spectacle when it is considered how she had to train for that victory, both so far as it was commercial and diplomatic in origin. Everywhere in the Dalmatian cities the. class struggle was intense. The constitution of the cities provided for the impartial administration of justice, legal and economic, to persons arranged in castes and made to remain there, irrespective of their merits, with the utmost rigid injustice. This was at first due to historical necessity. The first-comers in a settlement, who had the pick of the economic findings and whatever culture was going, might really be acting in the public interest as well as defending their own private ends, when they insisted on reserving to themselves all possible social power and not sharing it with later-comers, who might be barbarians or refugees demoralized by years of savage warfare. But it led to abuses which can be measured by the continual rebellions and the horrible massacres which happened in every city on the coast. In Hvar, for instance, the island where the air is so sweet, the plebeians took oath on a crucifix held by a priest that they would slaughter all the nobles. The Christ on the crucifix bled at the nose, the priest fell dead. Nevertheless the plebeians carried out their plans, and massacred many of the nobles in the Hall of Justice in the presence of the Rector, but were overcome by a punitive expedition of the Venetian fleet and themselves put to death or mutilated.

This caste system never led to such rebellions in Dubrovnik, partly because the economic well-being of the community choked all discontent with cream, partly because they had little chance of succeeding; but it existed in a more stringent form than anywhere else. The population was divided into three classes: the nobles, the commoners, and the workers. The last were utterly without say in the government. They did not vote and they could hold no office. The commoners also had no votes, but might hold certain unimportant offices, though only if appointed by the nobles. The actual power of government was entirely in the hands of the nobles. The body in which sovereignty finally rested was the Grand Council, which consisted of all males over eighteen belonging to families confirmed as noble in the register known as the Golden Book. This Council deputed its executive powers to a Senate of forty-five members who met four times a week and at times of emergency; and they again deputed their powers to a Council of Seven (this had numbered eleven until the earthquake) who exercised judicial power and performed all diplomatic functions, a Council of Three, who acted as a tribune of constitutional law, and a Council of Six, who administered the Exchequer. There were other executive bodies, but this is a rough idea of the anatomy of the Republic. It must be remembered that these classes were separated in all departments of their lives as rigidly as the Hindu castes. No member of any class was permitted to marry into either of the other two classes; if he did so he lost his position in his own class and his children had to take the rank of the inferior parent. Social relations between the classes were unthinkable.

It is interesting that this system should have survived when all real differences in the quality of classes had been levelled by general prosperity, when there might be commoners and even workers who were as rich and as cultured as any noble. It is interesting, too, that it should have survived even when the classes were cleft from within by disputes. When Marmont went to Dubrovnik in 1808 he found that the nobles were divided into two parties, one called the Salamancans and the other the Sorbonnais. These names referred to some controversy arising out of the wars between Charles V of Spain and Francis I of France, a mere matter of two hundred and fifty years before. It had happened that in the earthquake of 1667 a very large proportion of the noble class was destroyed, and it was necessary to restore it to strength by including a number of commoners. These the Salamancans, sympathizers with Spanish absolutism, would not treat as equals; but the Sorbonnais, Francophil and inclined to a comparative liberalism, accepted them fully. It is also a possible factor in the situation that the Sorbonnais had been specially depleted by the earthquake casualties and wanted to keep up their numbers. Be that as it may, the two parties were exactly equal in status and sat together on the Councils, but they had no social relations and did not even greet each other on the streets; and a misalliance between members of the two parties was as serious in its consequences as a misalliance between classes.

But this was far from being the only sop offered by the Republic to that disagreeable appetite, the desire of a human being to feel contempt for another not in fact very different from himself. The commoners in their turn were divided into the confraternities of St Anthony and St Lazarus, who were as rancorous in their relationship as the Salamancans and the Sorbonnais. The survival of this three-class system in spite of these dissensions suggests that it was actually a fusion of long-standing customs, native to the different races which composed the Republic: say a variation of the classical system of aristocracy grafted on some ancient Illyrian organization of which we now know nothing, which pleased the Slav late-comers, though themselves democratic in tendency, because of the solid framework it gave to internal bickerings. ‘Whether they agree or do not agree,’ an exasperated Roman emperor wrote of the first Slav tribes to appear within the Empire’s ken, ‘very soon they fall into disturbances among themselves, because they feel a mutual loathing and cannot bear to accommodate one another.’

The system, of course, was far from being merely silly. One may wonder how it survived; one cannot question the benefits it conferred by surviving. The Republic was surrounded by greedy empires whom she had to keep at arm’s length by negotiation lest she perish: first Hungary, then Venice, then Turkey. Foreign affairs were her domestic affairs; and it was necessary that they should be conducted in complete secrecy with enormous discretion. It must never be learned by one empire what had been promised by or to another empire, and none of the greedy pack could be allowed to know the precise amount of the Republic’s resources. There was therefore every reason to found a class of governors who were so highly privileged that they would protect the status quo of the community at all costs, who could hand on training in the art of diplomacy from father to son, and who were so few in number that it would be easy to detect a case of blabbing. They were very few indeed. In the fifteenth century, when the whole population was certainly to be counted by tens of thousands, there were only thirty-three noble families. These could easily be supervised in all their goings and comings by those who lived in the same confined area.

But it is curious that this ultra-conservative aristocratic government should develop a tendency which is often held to be a characteristic vice of democracy. Dubrovnik dreaded above all things the emergence of dominant personalities. The provisions by which this dread is expressed in the constitution are the chief differences which distinguish it from its obvious Venetian model. The Senate was elected for life, and there you had your small group of hereditary diplomats. But these elections had to be confirmed annually, and infinite precautions were taken lest any Senator should seize excessive power and attempt dictatorship. The Rector wore a superb toga of red silk with a stole of black velvet over the left shoulder, and was preceded in his comings and goings by musicians and twenty palace guards; but he held his office for just one month, and could be re-elected only after intervals of two years; and this brevity of tenure was the result of ever-anxious revision, for the term had originally been three months, had been reduced to two, and was finally brought down to the single month. He was also held prisoner within the palace while he held office, and could leave it only for state appearances, such as his obligatory solemn visit to the Cathedral.

The lesser offices were as subject to restriction. The judiciary and diplomatic Council of Seven was elected afresh every year, and could not be re-elected for another year. The Council of Three, who settled all questions of constitutional law, was also elected for but one year. The Council of Six, who administered the state finances, was elected for three years. There were also certain regulations which prevented the dominance of people of any particular age. The Council of Seven might be of any adult age, but the youngest had to act as Foreign Secretary; but the Council of Three had all to be over fifty. These devices were entirely justified by their success. Only once, and that very early in the history of Dubrovnik, did a noble try to become a dictator; and then he received no support, save from the wholly unrepresented workers, and was forced to suicide. Later, in the seventeenth century, some nobles were seduced by the Duke of Savoy into a conspiracy to seize power, but they were arrested at a masked ball on the last day of Carnival, and executed by general consent of the community.

That terror of the emergent personality is not the only trait of this aristocratic society which recalls its contrary. There is a great deal in the history of Dubrovnik which had its counterpart among our Puritan capitalists. The nobles believed in education even more seriously than was the custom of their kind in other Dalmatian towns, though even there the standard was high: the Venetian Governor of Split is found complaining of young men who came back from their studies at Oxford filled with subversive notions. But they did not, as might have been expected, try to keep learning as a class prerogative. As well as sending their own sons to universities in Italy and France and Spain and England, they built public schools which were open to the children of all three classes. They also created a hospital system which included the first foundling hospital in the whole civilized world, and they were as advanced in their treatment of housing problems. After one of the earlier earthquakes they put in hand a town-planning scheme which considered the interests of the whole community, and their arrangements for a water supply were not only ahead of the time as an engineering project but made an attempt to serve every home.

They also anticipated philanthropists of a much later date and a wholly different social setting in their attitude to the slave-trade. In 1417 they passed what was the first anti-slavery legislation except for our own English laws discouraging the export of human cargo from Bristol. This was no case of damning a sin for which they had no mind, since a great deal of money could be made in the Mediterranean slave-trade, a considerable amount of which had come to certain Republican merchants living further north on the coast; and it must be remembered that, owing to the survival of the feudal system in the Balkans long after it had passed away from the rest of Europe, the state of serfdom was taken for granted by many of the peoples under the Republic’s rule or in relationship with her. But the Grand Council passed a law providing that anybody selling a slave should be liable to a heavy fine and six months’ imprisonment, ‘since it must be held to be base, wicked, and abominable, and contrary to all humanity, and to redound to the great disgrace of our city, that the human form, made after the image and similitude of our Creator, should be turned to mercenary profit, and sold as if it were brute beast.’ Fifty years later they tightened up this law and made the punishment harsher, adding the proviso that if a slave-trader could not recover his victims from captivity within a certain period after he had been directed to do so by the authorities, he was to be hanged. All through the next three centuries, until the Mediterranean slave-trade became wholly extinct, it was a favourite form of philanthropy among the wealthy Republicans to buy slaves their freedom.

There were other Whig preferences in Dubrovnik: the right of asylum, for instance, was strictly maintained. When the Turks beat the Serbs at Kossovo in 1389 one of the defeated princes, the despot George Brankovitch, took refuge in Dubrovnik and was hospitably received, though the Republic was an ally of Turkey. When the Sultan Murad II protested and demanded that he should be delivered up, the Senate answered, ‘We, men of Ragusa, live only by our faith, and according to that faith we would have sheltered you also, had you fled hither.’ But there is a quality familiar to us Westerners not only in the political but in the social life of the Republic. The citizens kept extremely comfortable establishments, with the best of food and drink and furniture, but their luxury was strictly curbed in certain directions. There was never any theatre in Dubrovnik till fifty years after the destruction of the Republic, when one was built by the Austrians. In the fifteenth century, which was a gay enough season for the rest of Europe, Palladius writes: ‘To make manifest how great is the severity and diligence of the Ragusans in the bringing up of their children, one thing I will not pass over, that they suffer no artistic exercises to exist in the city but those of literature. And if jousters or acrobats approach they are forthwith cast out lest the youth (which they would keep open for letters or for merchandising) be corrupted by such low exhibitions.’

There must have been many an English family of wealthy bankers and manufacturers in Victorian days who ate vast meals and slept in the best Irish linen and were surrounded by the finest mahogany and the most distinguished works of Mr Leader and Mr Sidney Cooper (and, perhaps, thanks to John Ruskin, some really good Italian pictures), but who never set foot in a theatre or music-hall or circus. But an even more significant parallel between the Republic and England is to be found in the hobbies of the wealthier citizens. English science owes a great deal to the discoveries of business men, particularly among the Quakers, who took to some form of research as an amusement to fill in their spare time. So was it also in Dubrovnik. The citizens had a certain taste for letters, though chiefly for those exercises which are to literature as topiary is to gardening, such as the composition of classical or Italian verses in an extremely formal style; but their real passion was for mathematics and the physical sciences. They produced many amateurs of these, and some professionals, of whom the most notable was Roger Joseph Boscovitch, a wild Slav version of the French encyclopaedists, a mystic, a mathematician and physicist, a poet and diplomat. In his writings and those of his compatriots who followed the same passion, there are pæans to science as the illuminator of the works of God, which have countless analogues in the writings of Englishmen of the same class in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

But the resemblance does not stop there. There is a certain case to be made against the bourgeois class of Englishmen that developed into the nonconformist liberals who followed Mr Gladstone through his triumphs, and reared their sons to follow Lord Oxford and Mr Lloyd George to the twilight hour of their faith. It might be charged against them that their philanthropy consisted of giving sops to the populace which would make it forget that their masters had seized all the means of production and distribution, and therefore held them in a state of complete economic subjection. It might be charged against them also that they were virtuous only when it suited their pockets, and that while they would welcome Kossuth or Mazzini or any other defender of oppressed people outside the British Empire, they were indifferent to what happened inside it. It might be charged against them that they cared little how much truth there was in the bitter description of our exports to the coloured races, ‘Bibles, rum, and rifles,’ so long as there was truth in the other saying, ‘Trade follows the flag.’ There is enough testimony to the virtue of this class to make such charges not worth discussing with any heat of spirit; but there was enough truth in them to make it impossible to regard the accused as an ideal group, and the society which produced them as paradisaical. It is even so with Dubrovnik.

The Republic was extremely pious. She spoke of her Christianity at all times, and in her Golden Book there is a prayer for the magistrates of the Republic which runs: ‘0 Lord, Father Almighty, who hast chosen this Republic to serve Thee, choose, we beseech Thee, our governors, according to Thy Will and our necessity: that so, fearing Thee and keeping Thy Holy Commandments, they may cherish and direct us in true charity. Amen.’ Never was there a city so full of churches and chapels, never was there a people who submitted more loyally to the discipline of the Church. But there was a certain incongruity with this in their foreign policy. Had Dubrovnik the right to pose as a proud and fastidious Catholic power considering her relations with the Ottoman Empire, the devouring enemy of Christendom? The other Dalmatian towns were less complaisant than Venice in their attitude to the Turks, the Republic far more. She never fought the Turk. She paid him tribute, and tribute, and again tribute.

Every year two envoys left the city for Constantinople with their load of golden ducats, which amounted, after several increases, to fifteen thousand. They wore a special dress, known as the uniform of the divan, and had their beards well grown. They placed their affairs in order, embraced their families, attended mass at the Cathedral, and were bidden godspeed by the Rector under the arches of his palace. Then, with their cashier, their barber, numerous secretaries and interpreters, a troop of armed guards, and a priest with a portable altar, they set forth on the fifteen days’ journey to the Bosporus. It was not a very dangerous journey, for the caravans of the Republic made it an established trade route. But the envoys had to stay there for twelve months, till the next two envoys arrived and took their place, and the negotiation of subtle business with tyrants of an alien and undecipherable race, while physically at their mercy, was a dangerous task, which was usually performed competently and heroically. This was not, however, the only business they transacted with the Turks. The envoys to Constantinople had also to do a great deal of bribery, for there was a sliding scale of tips which covered every official at the Porte from the lowest to the highest. This burden increased yearly as the Turkish Empire increased in size to the point of unwieldiness, and the local officials became more and more important. As time went on it was almost as necessary to bribe the Sandjakbeg of Herzegovina and the Pasha of Bosnia and their staffs as it was to make the proper payments to the Sublime Porte.

All this would be very well, if Dubrovnik had avowed that she was an independent commercial power in a disadvantageous military and naval position, and that she valued her commerce and independence so highly that she would pay the Turks a great ransom for them. But it is not so pleasing in a power that boasts of being fervent and fastidious in its Christianity. Of course it can be claimed that Dubrovnik was enabled by her relations with the Porte to render enormous services to the Christians within the territories conquered by the Turks; that wherever her mercantile colonies were established—and that included towns all over Bosnia and Serbia and Bulgaria and Wallachia and even Turkey itself-the Christians enjoyed a certain degree of legal protection and religious freedom. But on the other hand the Republic won for herself the right to pay only two or sometimes one and a half per cent on her imports and exports into and out of the Ottoman Empire, while all the rest of the world had to pay five per cent. It is no use. Nothing can make this situation smell quite like the rose. If Dickens had known the facts he might have felt about Dubrovnik as he felt about Mr Chadband; and if Chesterton had attended to them he might have loathed it as much as he loathed cocoa.

Especially is this readiness to rub along with the Turks displeasing in a power which professed to be so fervent and fastidious in its Christianity that it could not let the Orthodox Church set foot within its gates. Theoretically, the Republic upheld religious tolerance. But in practice she treated it as a fair flower that was more admirable if it blossomed on foreign soil. Though Dubrovnik had many visitors, and even some natives, who were members of the Orthodox Church, they were not allowed to have any place of worship within the Republic. It curiously happened that in the eighteenth century this led to serious difficulties with Catherine the Great, when her fleet came to the Mediterranean and Adriatic to tidy up the remains of Turkish sea-power. Her lover Orloff was the Admiral in charge, and he presented the Republic with an agreement defining her neutrality, which included demands for the opening of an Orthodox church for public use in Dubrovnik, and the establishment of a Russian consulate in the city, to protect not only Russians but all members of the Orthodox Church. The second request was granted, the first refused. Jesuit influence, and the Pope himself, were again illustrating the unfailing disposition of the Roman Catholic Church to fight the Orthodox Church with a vehemence which could not have been exceeded if the enemy had represented paganism instead of schism, whatever suffering this campaign might bring to the unhappy peoples of the Balkan Peninsula.

The agreement Russia offered the Republic was in every other regard satisfactory; but for three years an envoy from Dubrovnik argued the point in St Petersburg, and in the end won it, by using the influence of Austria and Poland, and the personal affection that the Prussian Ambassador to Russia happened to feel for the beauty of the city. It is pathetic how these Northerners love the South. In the end, after two more years, Orloff had to sign a treaty with Dubrovnik, by which she exchanged the right to trade in Russian waters for her sanction of the appointment of a Russian consul, who was to protect only Russian subjects, and who might build in his house a private chapel at which his own nationals might worship according to the Orthodox rite. History is looked at through the wrong end of the opera-glasses when it is recorded that the Republican envoy signed the treaty, went straight to Rome, and was given the warmest thanks for the services he and the Republic had rendered the Holy Catholic religion by ‘forbidding the construction of a Greek chapel.’ Such pettiness is almost grand. Owing to a change in Russia’s foreign policy the consul was never appointed, and the Republic permitted instead the building of a tiny chapel in a deserted spot over a mile from the city walls. When, in 1804, the Republic was again asked to grant its Orthodox citizens the free practice of their religion it absolutely refused.

This intolerance led ultimately to the extinction of the Republic. At the Congress of Vienna the Tsar Alexander could have saved it, and the cause of this small defenceless state might well have appealed to his mystic liberalism; but he remembered that the Republic had obstinately affronted his grandmother, and that in order to persecute his own religion, and he withheld his protection. But it would be a mistake to suppose that in the defence of the Papacy the Republic acted out of fidelity to its religious principles and contempt for its worldly interests. It found-and here we find it achieving a feat of economy that has brought on its English prototypes many a reproach-that in serving the one it served the other. When an Austrian commissioner was taking over Dubrovnik after it had been abandoned by the French, he remarked to one of the nobles that he was amazed by the number of religious establishments in the city. The answer was given, ‘There is no cause for amazement there. Every one of them was as much good to us as a round-house.’ And indeed this was true. The Roman Catholic fervour of this state that lay on the very border of the Orthodox territory guaranteed her the protection of two great powers, Spain and the Papacy. Again there is a smell not of the rose.

This equivocal character of the Republic is worth considering, because it affects an argument frequently used in the course of that soft modern propaganda in favour of Roman Catholicism which gives testimony, not to the merits or demerits of that faith, but to the woolliness of modern education. It is sometimes put forward that it is right to join the Roman Catholic Church because it produces pleasanter and more mellow characters than Protestantism. This, of course, is a claim that the Church itself would regard with contempt. The state of mind demanded from a Roman Catholic is belief that certain historic events occurred in fact as they are stated to have occurred by the teachers of the Church, and that the interpretation of life contained in their teachings is literally and invariably true. If membership in the Church inevitably produced personalities intolerable to all other human beings, that would have no bearing on the validity of the faith. But those who do not understand this make their bad argument worse by an allegation that Roman Catholicism discourages two undesirable types, the Puritan and his complicated brother, the hypocritical reformist capitalist, and that Protestantism encourages them. Yet the Puritan appears throughout the ages under any form of religion or none, under paganism and Christianity, orthodox and heretical alike, under Catholicism and Protestantism, under deism and rationalism, and in each case the authorities have sometimes encouraged and sometimes discouraged him. There is indeed some excuse for the pretence that Protestantism has had,a special affection for the reformist capitalist, because geographical rather than psychological conditions have made him a conspicuous figure in the Northern countries which resisted the Counter-Reformation. But here in Dubrovnik, here in the Republic of Ragusa, is a complete chapter of history, with a beginning and an end, which shows that this type can spring up in a soil completely free from any contamination of Protestantism, and can enjoy century after century the unqualified approbation of Rome.

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