ROUND ABOUT RYE 77
James, the novelist, lived from 1898 to 1916. It is a house of great dignity and retirement, and turns its back with all its secrets to the passer-by and faces a high walled garden. We know it is a house of crowded shadows and memories, for local history whispers that here once lived a " flame " of the " First Gentleman of Europe." It is just such a time-softened house that one would have expected Henry James, the artist in subtleties, to have picked out for his home. Henry James came very little before the public notice, but he was a great man and a great artist. He had a horror of publicity, and perhaps avoided the outside world a little too much. His books, as it may be guessed, are anything but popular in this age which despises quietude and beauty. Just before his death, he quoted Shelley with pathetic humour : " ' Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair! ' " and, "I am . . . after my long career, utterly, insurmountably, unsaleable."
The heart of Rye is the quaintly attractive Mermaid Street, so steep and narrow, with the grass growing between its irregular cobble stones. It takes its name from the Mermaid Inn :
" An old-world, quaint, begabled hostelry—
Nay haunted if you will. These oaken beams
Saw the midsummer night of Shakespeare's dreams.