George Moore (1852-1933)
From Literary Anecdotes About 19th Century Authors Born After 1829

With Esther Waters, the epic of a housemaid and a stable boy, Moore sprang into sudden fame. An Irish landowner with a country seat, he knew nothing of the backstairs, though by birth and upbringing horses and racing were part of his life. The painful details of Esther Waters—most tragic of stories, with far more humanity and tenderness in it than a wilderness of French Realists could produce—had to be laboriously gathered from the person who `did for him' in Dane's Inn, hired by the hour, it was said, to reveal the psychology of the toiling classes. Such situations should be immortalized, yet no one was ever present during these momentous interviews between George Moore and his cook, which resulted in Esther Waters and fame.

Ella Hepworth Dixon, As I Knew Them (1930), p. 55.

SOMETIMES Moore, instead of asking us to accept for true some monstrous invention, would press a spontaneous act into a deliberate comedy; starting in bad blood or blind passion, he would all in a moment see himself as others saw him. When he arrived in Dublin, all the doors in Upper Ely Place had been painted white by an agreement between the landlord and the tenants. Moore had his door painted green, and three Miss Beams — no, I have not got the name quite right — who lived next door protested to the landlord. Then began a correspondence between Moore and the landlord wherein Moore insisted on his position as an art critic, that the whole decoration of his house required a green door — I imagine that he had but wrapped the green flag around him — then the indignant young women bought a copy of Esther Waters, tore it up, put the fragments into a large envelope, wrote thereon: `Too filthy to keep in the house,' dropped it into his letter-box. I was staying with Moore. I let myself in with a latch-key some night after twelve, and found a note on the hall-table asking me to put the door on the chain. As I was undressing, I heard Moore trying to get in; when I had opened the door and pointed to the note he said: `Oh, I forgot. Every night I go out at eleven, at twelve, at one, and rattle my stick on the railing to make the Miss Beams' dogs bark.' Then I saw in the newspaper that the Miss Beams had hired organ-grinders to play under Moore's window when he was writing, that he had prosecuted the organ-grinders. Moore had a large garden on the other side of the street, a blackbird sang there; he received his friends upon Saturday evening and made a moving speech upon the bird. `I enjoy its song. If I were the bad man people say I am, could I enjoy its song?' He wrote every morning at an open window on the ground floor, and one morning saw the Miss Beams' cat cross the street, and thought, `That cat will get my bird.' He went out and filled his pocket with stones, and whenever he saw the cat, threw a stone. Somebody, perhaps the typist, must have laughed, for the rest of the tale fills me with doubt. I was passing through Dublin just on my way to Coole; he came to my hotel. — `I remembered how early that cat got up. I thought it might get the blackbird if I was not there to protect it, so I set a trap. The Miss Beams wrote to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and I am carrying on a correspondence with its secretary, cat versus bird.' (Perhaps, after all, the archives of the Society do contain that correspondence. The tale is not yet incredible.) I passed through Dublin again, perhaps on my way back. Moore came to see me in seeming great depression. `Remember that trap?'—'Yes'—'Remember that bird?'—'Yes.'—'I have caught the bird.'

W. B. Yeats, Dramatis Personae, 1896-1902 (1936), pp. 66-8.

A RELATIVE of the Somervilles told me [Roger McHugh] that his aunt had the unpleasant duty of announcing to George Moore that his friend Violet Martin, the `Martin Ross' of `Somerville and Ross' fame, was dead. As she entered Moore's study to break the sad news to him, Moore looked up from his writing.

`I have sad news for your, Mr. Moore,' she said. `I regret to inform you that your friend Martin Ross is dead.'

Moore clasped his head.

`How sad,' he said, `how very sad.' He rose and paced his study agitatedly. `How sad,' he repeated. `Here am I in the midst of this,' and he waved his hand dramatically at the books around him, 'alive and my friend, my dear friend, Edmund Gosse, dead.'

The lady interrupted gently:

`I beg your pardon, Mr. Moore,' she said, `it is Martin Ross who is dead, not Edmund Gosse.'

Moore drew himself up and looked at her in an indignant fashion:

`My dear woman,' he said, `surely you don't expect me to go through all that again?'

Irish Literary Portraits, pp. 89-90.

Oliver St. John Gogarty: Moore had sloping shoulders and pegtop trousers—he always dressed in dark blue. He had a heavy moustache, the top of which looked as if it had been stained with strong tea. He had an under-lip that stuck out and a large white forehead, and the whole complexion was like porcelain—he had the most wonderful skin. He had white podgy hands —like a gourd or some vegetable divided in two. Yeats described the countenance of Moore as if it were carved out of a turnip, but it was only because Moore had described Yeats, who was addicted to wearing silk ties of the Latin Quarter and dressing in black with poetical inclinations, as an umbrella that somebody had forgotten at a picnic....

Frank O'Connor: AE told the story of Philip Francis Little to Moore and Yeats, and he said he noticed the eyes of the pair of them beginning to expand and Moore said in a hushed voice, `What a wonderful subject for a religious novel.' And Yeats said, `What a wonder subject for a poetic tragedy.' Then they proceeded to quarrel about that. First of all they agreed to a collaboration; finally there was a legal action.

[The breach was never healed. Years later Gogarty, in London, used to go to see Moore.]

Gogarty: He'd beat about the bush for a good while and he'd say, `Did you meet anyone of interest, any common friend?' I said, `Oh, yes, in fact I met Yeats.' So he pointed to a book, Eckermann's Life of Goethe. `Gogarty,' he said, `that book contains any erudition that Yeats possesses, nothing else; he's never read anything else.' So when I went back to Dublin, Yeats said, `I suppose you met nobody that I know in London, while you were over there?' I waited awhile and said, `Oh yes, I met Moore.'—`Oh, you met Moore. You met that fellow. Well, what is he doing? I said, `He's going to write a book called Perfect Poetry.'—'But he knows nothing whatsoever about poetry. I don't want to tax your memory, but can you tell me what are the perfect poems he's including?' Yeats was waiting in vain for one of his own. `Well,' I said, `he put his thumb into his waistcoat; he leaned against his black marble mantlepiece, and he recited "Goldilocks, Goldilocks, over all the wheaten shocks"; And that was one of his perfect poems.' `Now I'll tell you something,' said Yeats. `When I was down with William Morris at Kelmscott, in came the printer's devil and said, "Excuse me, Mr. Morris, but there are two blank pages at the end of your book of poems which we'd like filled in." And Morris said, "Excuse me, Yeats!" and with his left hand he scratched in that nonsense about Goldilocks, and that's what Moore gave you as perfect poetry.'

Irish Literary Portraits, pp. 87-88.

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