Page:Dictionary of National Biography, Second Supplement, volume 2.djvu/629

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Meredith
Meredith
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upon several occasions with Mr. Robinson, and began to store up material for his marvellous Alpine effects, making a study of passes and visiting more than once the villa of friends on Lake Como. In January and again in October 1863 he went on a cruise in Cotter Morison's yacht, Irene, on the second occasion to the Channel Islands. The acquaintance with Morison was begun some three years earlier, when Morison was fresh from Oxford, where he had formed an intimacy with Mr. John Morley. In 1862 Morison sought Meredith's counsel in correcting the proofs of his 'Life of St. Bernard' (Meredith always called him 'St. Bernard' afterwards). Meredith denounced him for writing in Carlylese, 'a wind-in-the-orchard style,' and Morison was eventually induced to re-write and simplify much of it. Through Morison, Meredith grew rapidly more intimate with Mr. John Morley, and this friendship proved of material importance to him. He meanwhile resisted pressing invitations to leave Copsham to settle in London with Rossetti and Swinburne at their 'phalanstery,' the Queen's House (Tudor House), Cheyne Walk, Chelsea. Meredith went so far as to take a room in their house in 1861–2. But Rossetti's Bohemianisms were distasteful to him; he seldom went to the house, and after three months paid no more rent. About this time he joined the Garrick Club (elected 23 April 1864, resigned 1899), where he was soon to meet Frederick Greenwood and others, who admired and helped him much.

Of his personal appearance at this period Meredith's friends have recorded ample impressions. Sir F. Burnand, who first saw him at Esher talking to his publisher, 'Pater' Evans (of Bradbury & Evans), and was introduced by Maurice FitzGerald, nephew of Edward FitzGerald [q. v.], wrote: 'George strode towards us ... he never merely walked, never lounged; he strode, he took giant strides. He had on a soft, shapeless wide-awake, a sad-coloured flannel shirt, with low open collar turned over a brilliant scarlet neckerchief tied in a loose sailor's knot; no waistcoat; knickerbockers, grey stockings, and the most serviceable laced boots which evidently meant business in pedestrianism; crisp curly brownish hair, ignorant of parting; a fine brow, quick observant eyes, greyish, if I remember; beard and moustache a trifle lighter than the hair. A splendid head, a memorable personality. Then his sense of humour, his cynicism, and his absolutely boyish enjoyment of mere fun, of any pure and simple absurdity. His laugh was something to hear; it was of short duration, but it was a roar.' A portrait of the same date exists in the pen-drawing of 'Mary Magdalen at the Gate of Simon the Pharisee' by D. G. Rossetti, in which the figure of Christ was George Meredith drawn from tho life. According to another friend, H. M. Hyndman, Meredith's physical strength in early manhood was great. 'He was all wire and whipcord. ... I shall never forget a playful struggle I had with him in the Dolphin Hotel at Chichester, where we were staying with a party for Goodwood races. I was then strong and active and thought I was pretty good at a rough tumble, but he wore me down by all endurance' (Justice, May 1910). He was addicted to throwing up and catching a heavy iron weight at the end of a wooden shaft — which he called his 'beetle exercise.' Over-indulgence in this, it is thought, sowed the seeds of future spinal trouble. His robustness, never so great in reality as in appearance, was also impaired for a time about 1862 and (later) by a fanatical but generally short-lived ardour for vegetarianism, with which his friend Maxse infected him. From Hardman he imbibed a faith in homoeopathy. He was habitually fastidious and often difficult (to the utmost acerbity) about the quality and dressing of his food.

In 1863, while still at Copsham, Meredith reconcentrated upon fiction, and submitted to the gradual intensification of labour which the completion of a novel always involved. In April 1864 he brought out 'Emilia in England' (afterwards rechristened 'Sandra Belloni'), the only story which he furnished with a sequel (in 'Vittoria,' 1866). Emilia's passion for Italy forms the central theme of the whole. Her figure, the most beautiful and elaborate he had yet portrayed, dominates the two novels. Nowhere are the gems of his insight more lavishly scattered. There are admirable woodland scenes. At the same time he first formulates his anti-sentimental philosophy and his growing belief in the purifying flame of the Comic Spirit. The reception of the book was, however, meagre.

In September 1864 Meredith married Marie, fourth daughter of Justin Vulliamy (d. 1870), of the Old House, Mickleham; her mother Elizabeth Bull came of an old Cheshire family. Meredith got to know the Vulliamys through his friend N. E. S. A. Hamilton of the British Museum, and first met his future wife in Norfolk. The