In Black & White


Title Page
Under the Hill

The Art of the Hoarding
Letters to his Critics
   Pall Mall Budget
   Daily Chronicle
   St. Paul’s
Table Talk
Lines upon Pictures
   St Rose of Lima

The Three Musicians
The Ballad of a Barber
Ave Atque Vale
The Celestial Lover
The Ivory Piece
Prospectus for Volpone

Appendix : Juvenilia
The Valiant
A Ride in an Omnibus
The Confession Album
The Courts of Love
Dante in Exile
Written in Uncertainty
The Morte Darthur

Enoch Soames

Under the Hill

The Story of a Confession Album

Of all the minor nuisances of life, I think none surpass the Confession Album. It is a miserable sort of private publicity, a new inquisition, though no doubt it is as well-meant as the old one.
     I know not which is the more trying ordeal; to write your own “confession” or to read those of other people. The general opinion appears to be that it is very funny to make yourself out as fast or as foolish as possible; though even worse than this is the painful orthodoxy of those individuals who claim Shakespeare for their favourite poet, Beethoven for their favourite composer, and Raphael for their favourite painter.
     My aversion to the Confession Album was strengthened a hundred-fold some little time back. It is now six months since I pledged my heart and hand to Miss ——. The match was in every respect what is usually termed “desirable”, and I looked forward with no little satisfaction to a union which appeared so conducive to my future happiness.
     It was Wednesday evening, a week before our marriage was to take place.
     My fiancée was spending a few days in the country with an old school-fellow, a mutual friend at whose house we had first met. I was sitting smoking in my study in the most complaisant frame of mind, thinking what a happy individual I was, when my nerves were suddenly jarred by the sharp report of a postman’s knock. A minute after, the servant entered the room and handed me a letter.
     My pleasure was great when I perceived that it was from my intended. I broke the seal, and drawing the lamp nearer, began reading with the greatest eagerness. What was my astonishment when I read the following:
     “Dear Mr. H——,
     “After the discovery I made this morning, all is at an end between us. I leave England to-morrow.
     “p.s. Your presents shall be returned by Parcel Post.”
     A month elapsed. Being a bit of a philosopher, I sustained the blow better than might have been expected. At first I had to put up with a considerable amount of chaff from my old chums. I nearly lost the friendship of a maiden aunt for having omitted to send her a piece of the wedding-cake, and I had some difficulty in making her understand that the ceremony had never taken place.
     My grandfather wrote me a long letter, telling me that I had acted disgracefully in jilting Miss ——, and that he considered she had shown the greatest delicacy and good feeling in not bringing a “breach-of-promise” against me.
     But what worried me most was the desire with which I was consumed to find out what on earth I had done to merit such treatment at her hands. Was it a previous love? That was out of the question. I had never had one. No scandal about me could possibly have come to her ears, for my life had been a very model for other young men. How was it, then, that I was still a lonely bachelor, when by rights I should have been gaily advancing on my honeymoon. The mystery, however, was soon to be unravelled. I received an invitation to stay at the house of that mutual friend of whom I have already spoken. On my arrival I was greeted most kindly by all the members of the family, who expressed in the most feeling manner their sorrow at the upshot of my love affair. But nothing they said afforded me the slightest clue to the mystery, while I, always bashful, was far too timid to speak on the subject myself.
     One day, however, I came across a Confession Album that was lying on the drawing-room table. I fancied that I recognised the book. Yes; certainly I had seen it before. I turned over a few leaves, when my friend, looking over my shoulder, remarked:
     “Ah! There’s that unfortunate page.”
     I looked round at her inquiringly, and said: “Why, what’s the matter with it?”
     “Matter with it?” she replied. “Look at it again.”
     I did so. It was my own handwriting. “Ah, I scarcely remembered that I wrote that; but,” I added, “what of it?”
     “How can you ask such a question?” she said. “I suppose it was the cause of the most unfortunate event in your life.”
     Then, at last, came the long-sought-for explanation. It appeared that my fiancée, in looking through this very book, while she was spending those few days in the country previous to our intended marriage, had come across this, my “confession”. She read it with interest until she came to the question “Your beau idéal of happiness?” I had tried to be very funny and had written without a particle of truth, “Sitting beside Emily”.
     Now, unfortunately, “Emily” was not the name of my intended. Well, she shut the book with a bang, went off into a violent fit of hysterics, and on coming to, said that she hated and despised the man who, on the very verge of matrimony with one deluded female could still carry on an intrigue with another. “Let that Emily marry him,” she cried, “he sees me no more”. Argument was useless, she was deaf to persuasion. She took her departure immediately after writing me that cruel note, and the following day started off with Mrs. —— for the Engadine.
     The sight of a Confession Album fairly makes me feel queer now. My friends seem to know this, so I am spared the aggravation of having to give my opinions succinctly on subjects of which I am perfectly ignorant.

¶ 1889. Written aet. 17, and published in Tit Bits, no.429, 4 January 1890. The original manuscript draft of the article is now preserved in the Gallatin Collection at Princeton, having been in the possession of Mrs. Belloc-Lowndes. In 1947 she recorded that “it was given to me by Beardsley because I was at the time writing something about him. I did not ask him for it, he sent it to me. I knew him rather well and liked him very much.”