When the secret of the identity of Fiona Macleod—so loyally guarded by a number of friends for twelve years—was finally made known, much speculation arose as to the nature of the dual element that had found expression in the collective work of William Sharp. Many suggestions, wide of the mark, were advanced; among others, that the writer had assumed the pseudonym as a joke, and having assumed it found himself constrained to continue its use. A few of the critics understood. Prof. Patrick Geddes realised that the discussion was productive of further misunderstanding, and wrote to me: “Should you not explain that F. M. was not simply W. S., but that W. S. in his deepest moods became F. M., a sort of dual personality in short, not a mere nom-de-guerre?” It was not expedient for me at that moment to do so. I preferred to wait till I could prepare as adequate an explanation as possible. My chief aim, therefore, in writing about my husband and in giving a sketch of his life, has been to indicate, to the best of my ability, the growth and development in his work of the dual literary expression of himself.
The most carefully compiled record of a life can be but partially true, since much of necessity must be left unsaid. A biographer, moreover, can delineate another human being only to the extent of his understanding of that fellow being. In so far as he lacks, not only knowledge of facts, but also the illumination of intuition and sympathy, to that extent will he fail to present a finished study of his subject. And because no one can wholly know another: because one of necessity interprets another through the colour of his or her mind, I am very conscious of my own limitations in this respect. As, however, I have known William Sharp for more consecutive years than any other of his intimate friends, I perhaps am able therefore to offer the fullest survey of the unfolding of his life; though I realise that others may have known him better than I on some sides of his nature: in particular as he impressed those who had not discovered, or were not in sympathy with, the “F. M.” phase in him.
The life of William Sharp divides itself naturally into two halves: the first ends with the publication by W. S. of Vistas, and the second begins with Pharais, the first book signed Fiona Macleod. It has been my endeavour to tell his story by means of letters and diaries; of letters written by him, and of others written to him, concerning his work and interests. To quote his own words: “A group of intimate letters, written with no foreseen or suspected secondary intention, will probably give us more insight into the inner nature of a man than any number of hypothetical pros and cons on the part of a biographer, or than reams of autobiography.... I know Keats for instance far better through his letters than by even the ablest and most intimate memoirs that have been written of him: the real man is revealed in them and is brought near to us till we seem to hear his voice and clasp his hand.”
The diaries are fragmentary. They were usually begun at each New Year, but were speedily discontinued; or noted down intermittently, during a sojourn abroad, as a record of work. He was a good correspondent, both as W. S. and F. M. I have thus tried to make the book as autobiographic as possible, by means of these letters and diaries, and I have added only what has seemed to me necessary to make the narrative sequent. Unfortunately, letters have not been available from several valuable sources; and I regret the absence of any written by him to Walter Pater, George Meredith, Theodore Watts-Dunton, Arthur Symons, and to one or two of his most intimate friends.
To be continue in this ebook