The most natural question concerning Yoshio Markino would be this: "Is Markino more a writer than an artist? or is he more artist than writer? Busho Hara, Markino's dearest friend, on whose memory he has a very sympathetic paper in "My Recollections and Reflections" (Markino used to call Hara playfully "Kansho Oyaji" or "saucy father") had, as it seems to me, an opinion that Markino could write better than he could paint. Needless to say, Hara was quite a critic, although I cannot wholly agree with Markino in calling him a great artist. Markino seemed to be made somewhat uncomfortable by such an opinion, and wrote Hara that, when he painted, he had to think much, while he could write more freely, even carelessly, particularly in his personal correspondence. Markino writes: "Hara disagreed with me. 'Oh, no, what you call careless of yourself is not really careless, but very natural to your own nature. Your writing has life in it. But when you begin to paint, you immediately get too nervous and stiff.'" I always had the same opinion of Markino, although I often wished that he would return to his art or sacrifice all his writing for the development of his art only. (He has promised me to devote himself hereafter to his own art.) Putting aside the question of Markino as an artist, I am perfectly pleased to have him as a writer, just for that freedom of expression which Hara always prized in Markino's writing, and again for his simplicity of character. I see sometimes, however, that he confesses most innocently too much, and he perfectly lacks in reserve; but it is on the other hand, a point charming, rather jolly than sad. Once Hara said to him on his picture: "There are thousands of artists who can use their brushes better than you. Then why do all your English friends admire your work so much? Because of your own personality You are very faithful to everybody and everything. This nature of yours appears quite unconsciously in every picture of yours. Indeed, some of your pictures are full of faults—but very innocent and delightful faults, which make me smile. Don't be discouraged when I tell you that. In fact, I envy you."
Vindicates HimselfIt seems that he is now pleased to take such an attitude even himself; he now vindicates himself here and there, in spite of himself, in the paper called "Emotion and Etymology." He says: "I do not find the poverty of English words, even though the stock of English vocabularies in my head is much poorer than the English people's. And why/ Because I can put my own feeling in them. I think words are just like pictures. If you draw a line without any idea, it is no more than a simple line; but if you draw a line with the feeling of a tree, it will look like a tree; and if you draw it with the feeling of water, it will look like water. With our own emotions we can make that single word 'I' into modesty, haughtiness[,] madness, or anything." And further he says: "Then the resources of conveying our emotion to each other does not depend on the wealth of words only. It is our imagination and our sympathy which communicates our emotion." As a writer, he has advanced much from the former day when he published "A Japanese Artist in London[.]" His latest book has such a delightful bit of writing, for instance, as this: "How very amusing to watch the pot boiling: (Markino tells about coffee making in the paper called "My New Studio.") First, for a minute or two after the lamp is lit I hear a sound like the gentle breeze over a vast forest, then the tide coming up on the shore, then the tide coming up on the shore, then the trains pass over a railway bridge in the distance. These tender musics do not last long. Then it begins to sound like a mouse nibbling the floor; next, as if someone is knocking at my door. Then it goes on with much more prolonged reports, as if the military maneuvers are taking place in a distant field, and the pot itself swings to and fro. At the same time volumes of the steam are puffing out at the mouthpiece. And it makes the whole room scented with the delicious flavour." What a delightful exaggeration in writing[.]
Suppose you go to Wedhampton and take a walk with him under the moonlight; Markino writes in the paper called "Wedhampton": "The pale blue veil was descending from the azure to come down every small detail. It looked to me as if it did no longer belong to this world. Just nearer to my own feet, all the green grasses were bearing abundant dews, and each of hem reflected teh beam of the moon as if millions of stars had come down upon the earth. The moon alone was getting clearer and clearer on the spotless blue sky. She was just like a large crystal ball. I was no longer a poor mania-stricken artist. I forgot about painting, I forgot where I had my sketch-[book], and I forgot my newly bought shoes were wet through with the dews. That little Jap called Yoshio Markino was no longer there as far as I remember." Markino?—but not Markino as we Japanese spell at home. Many people asked me in Japan: "Is some Englishman masquerading as a Japanese? No real Japanese spells himself Markino."
Name Practically Spelt[He] tells somewhere an amusing story of how hard people found it to remember and even pronounce the name when he used to spell himself as Makino; he put "r" in the name to make it sound plainer, and exclaimed: "So you see I am spelling my name for the practical purpose of my daily life in England." Oh, if I could quote stories, sometimes humorous, and always pleasing, from his books to people who are not yet acquainted with him. In the preface to "My Recollections and Reflections" he remarks that life is just like the anglers. And the fishes which he caught will be found in the book and a few sketches. He says: "Especially the sketches are quite inferior to what I have been imagining. This is my sincere confession." Now, again, as it seems to me, he is justifying what his friend Hara used to say to him. He exclaims: "But don't you see how poor is my art: Who am I after all? Proper name for me is an art lover."
But such language is, I am sure, from placing the highest ideal upon his own art. The other day after spending an hour or two at the Tate Gallery where the pictures, for instance, "Il-y-en a toujours un autre" by Marcus S[?]one, or "Cupid's Spell" by Henry Wood, made me feel at least ten years older, I exclaimed: Certainly I will choose Markino's London sketches in preference to W. Lgsdail's "St. Martin's in the Field" [sic] in the gallery. See Markino's very best in the way of London scenery, as "The Alhambra: Leicester Square at Night" and tell me where else you have seen any picture which gives you the same artistic impression. There are may other delightful things in The Colour of London, for instance, "Electric Power works, Chelsea" or "View Across the River: Hungerford Bridge"; an artist who could create such a work has a sure claim to the name of a real artist.
People who have ever read "A Japanese Artist in London" would perhaps know how I lived with Markino some ten years ago on my former first English visit at the poor lodgings on Brixton Road; of one pound a week, cold and fireless, where I was only a little better off than my dar friend, not in money but in the fact that I had letters of praise on my poems from Hardy and Meredith. When I left London after a half year's stay, I assured Markino of my immediate return; but already ten long years passed before I was able to write him about my coming to London. I wrote him from Marseilles on a certain day of early December: "You must be very much changed. At least I am. Will you be as good a friend to me as ten years ago? Oh, Markino, ten years ago at Brixton! Have you ever thought of our Brixton days? I have very often."
Ten Years Like Ten MinutesThe first letter I received on my arrival in London was from him, saying: "Yes, ten years ago! I cannot help thinking that we two are taking a part in a play. Our Brixton days were ou[r] first act. Now the curtain of the second act is rising. Indeed, these ten years seem only ten minutes interval between the two acts."
It was late Saturday night that I arrived here; and on the Sunday morning I already found myself in Markino's Studio at No. 39 Redcliffe Road, South Kensington. Let Markino tell how we met:
"I took out my field glasses and went on the balcony and looked toward Fulham Road. In about half an hour (it was a very long half an hour, I can tell you) a taxi turned the corner of the street and stopped in front of my door. Immediately a man in the Japanese native costume came out. I said, 'O-i, Noguchi I am here; can't you see?'
"When we met each other he embraced me with tears. He stepped up the staircase slowly and heavily, saying, 'O, Markino, I am tired.' I pulled him into my room. We looked into each other's eyes and laughed without any words for quite one minute. He told me I had not changed at all: I said, 'Look, I have got a few gray hairs.' He laughed and replied, 'But look at my head.' [A]nd he put his hand on his head, which has begun to be bald. Then we laughed still more.
"Indeed, Noguchi was Noguchi after all; and I suppose Markino was Markino to him, too. I said, 'If this is all our charge, we two actors had very little to do about our make-up between the two acts, although there are supposed to be ten years' difference."
It might be true to say that we never changed at all from the reason that we changed quite equally. His studio, fifteen feet square; with a little bedroom attached, for which he spent as he told me exactly two hundred and sixty three pounds for the furniture (his love of things beautiful is truly feminine) was my refuge during my visit whither I at once escaped when I was bored by people. He lifted up his large face and looked into my face with a little smile, and often said: "Well, I cannot believe you were living in far-away Japan, away from me for ten long years. I feel you have been always with me."
Paid Many VisitsHow often I assaulted, since early morning, his citadel, as he could say with much glee of his own home at last, with many pictures of his own which he flattered himself were not so bad, and above all, with his beloved coffee machine which, as I quoted before, makes such a gentle music, besides filling the room with the delicious scent: I most obediently listened to his frequent lecture how to buy and prepare the coffee. On such an occasion of my early assault, I would find him still in his dressing gown, sitting by a little table where the ruin of breakfast was not yet cleared; I would sit on his bed, sometimes in the style of a cross-legged Buddha, and as in the old days, see him engaged in shaving, or rubbing his rather fat body with cold water. He would explain to me how he diminished his fat by Sandow's system. Presently a simple luncheon, a beefsteak and potatoes affair, prepared by a good-hearted housekeeper ("By one glance I bestowed much confidence upon her. I have been mixed with this class of English woman in Greenwich, Kensal Rise, and elsewhere," he wrote when he saw her first) would be brought in; and by and by we would smoke the common Virginia cigarettes to remind us of our old Brixton days. It goes without saying that Markino's proud coffee would be made at my special request before we touched our cigarettes. Then I would exclaim: "Markino, what a life you have been through!"
Why He Stayed"When I was dismissed by the Naval office where I had been engaged as a temporary secretary—it's an old story now—people advised me to return home as it was almost impossible to make a way in London as an artist. I could not decide my mind till one day when I was walking meditatively as usual through Hyde Park and noticed the trees there which looked at me with such a friendly smile. I tell you that all the trees smiled most friendly and even talked to me in such language noby else would understand. They said to me that I should never depart from London. I became determined at once from that moment, having a great trust in the English sympathy never to leave me in starvation; as you know I was almost starved for many many years, but the trees in the park still kept smiling as if saying that I could count on London as my friend. So I stayed and worked; I am glad now that the trees did not disappoint me after all."
"I have often such an occasion," Markino continued, "you might say of spiritual communication in a language clearly to be read. I am a spiritualist in some sense of the word. The other day when I visited Paris with my friends, I turned to my old friend's on the Rue le Causide (a dress-maker by the way); it was my custom to call on her as she was kind to me when I stayed hat her flat during my former stay. When we came very near her place, I began to tremble mysteriously, and I could not dare ring the bell of her door as I was afraid something was wrong. I was pale and weak. I begged my friends to turn back, and hurry away from the place. What happened in the house, do you suppose, when we were almost ringing the bell? At my home where I returned a few days later a letter with a Parisian mark was waiting for my return, reporting the death of my dear old friend. I can tell you many such an example which happened to me during the last ten years. But I also have another instance in which I was an actor of an almost inexcusable stupidity in not recognizing the real person even when I sat by her face to face."
Markino puffed his beloved Gold Flake, let me say again, to remind him of his Brixton days, once or twice, and then continued:
A Good Story"I had an appointment with Adeline Genée to meet her by the stage entrance of the Empire some years ago; my friend was with me when I went there. I was going to interview her by some paper's request. I was sitting by the stage entrance when I soon found a lady no longer young nor beautiful; she was, however, a most delightful person to talk with. How anxious I was to get rid of her as I had an important work of seeing Adeline Genée. Strangely enough she was quite composed, with no visible intention of leaving me alone; my friend who saw me slightly tired and disinterested, asked me loudly if I wished to leave the place. I jumped up and explained; "Why, I must see Madame Genée!" My friend began to laugh almost wildly and exclaimed again: "Markino, you have been talking there with Madame Genée more than half an hour. What are you talking about? How stupid!"
Markino is perfectly full of such stories now laughable, then serious, all the same highly pleasing; oh, to spend half a day or one whole day if possible with him, and listen to his endless stories! And if ever he should write them himself in his own amusing sort of way. As many people might say I will say to him also that he should write them as if telling them in his studio.