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James Pethel by Sir Max Beerbohm
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James Pethel


I WAS shocked this morning when I saw in my newspaper a paragraph
announcing his sudden death. I do not say that the shock was very
disagreeable. One reads a newspaper for the sake of news. Had I never
met James Pethel, belike I should never have heard of him: and my
knowledge of his death, coincident with my knowledge that he had
existed, would have meant nothing at all to me. If you learn suddenly
that one of your friends is dead, you are wholly distressed. If the death is
that of a mere acquaintance whom you have recently seen, you are
disconcerted, pricked is your sense of mortality; but you do find great
solace in telling other people that you met "the poor fellow" only the
other day, and that he was "so full of life and spirits," and that you
remember he said--whatever you may remember of his sayings. If the
death is that of a mere acquaintance whom you have not seen for years,
you are touched so lightly as to find solace enough in even such faded
reminiscence as is yours to offer. Seven years have passed since the day
when last I saw James Pethel, and that day was the morrow of my first
meeting with him.

I had formed the habit of spending August in Dieppe. The place
was then less overrun by trippers than it is now. Some pleasant English
people shared it with some pleasant French people. We used rather to
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