The Story of a Confession Album
Of all the minor nuisances of life, I think none
surpass the Confession Album. It is a miserable sort of private
publicity, a new inquisition, though no doubt it is as well-meant
as the old one.
I know not which is the more trying ordeal;
to write your own confession or to read those of other
people. The general opinion appears to be that it is very funny
to make yourself out as fast or as foolish as possible; though even
worse than this is the painful orthodoxy of those individuals who
claim Shakespeare for their favourite poet, Beethoven for their
favourite composer, and Raphael for their favourite painter.
My aversion to the Confession Album was
strengthened a hundred-fold some little time back. It is now six
months since I pledged my heart and hand to Miss . The
match was in every respect what is usually termed desirable,
and I looked forward with no little satisfaction to a union which
appeared so conducive to my future happiness.
It was Wednesday evening, a week before
our marriage was to take place.
My fiancée was spending a few days
in the country with an old school-fellow, a mutual friend at whose
house we had first met. I was sitting smoking in my study in the
most complaisant frame of mind, thinking what a happy individual
I was, when my nerves were suddenly jarred by the sharp report of
a postmans knock. A minute after, the servant entered the
room and handed me a letter.
My pleasure was great when I perceived
that it was from my intended. I broke the seal, and drawing the
lamp nearer, began reading with the greatest eagerness. What was
my astonishment when I read the following:
Dear Mr. H,
After the discovery I made this morning,
all is at an end between us. I leave England to-morrow.
p.s. Your presents shall be returned
by Parcel Post.
A month elapsed. Being a bit of a philosopher,
I sustained the blow better than might have been expected. At first
I had to put up with a considerable amount of chaff from my old
chums. I nearly lost the friendship of a maiden aunt for having
omitted to send her a piece of the wedding-cake, and I had some
difficulty in making her understand that the ceremony had never
My grandfather wrote me a long letter,
telling me that I had acted disgracefully in jilting Miss ,
and that he considered she had shown the greatest delicacy and good
feeling in not bringing a breach-of-promise against
But what worried me most was the desire
with which I was consumed to find out what on earth I had done to
merit such treatment at her hands. Was it a previous love? That
was out of the question. I had never had one. No scandal about me
could possibly have come to her ears, for my life had been a very
model for other young men. How was it, then, that I was still a
lonely bachelor, when by rights I should have been gaily advancing
on my honeymoon. The mystery, however, was soon to be unravelled.
I received an invitation to stay at the house of that mutual friend
of whom I have already spoken. On my arrival I was greeted most
kindly by all the members of the family, who expressed in the most
feeling manner their sorrow at the upshot of my love affair. But
nothing they said afforded me the slightest clue to the mystery,
while I, always bashful, was far too timid to speak on the subject
One day, however, I came across a Confession
Album that was lying on the drawing-room table. I fancied that I
recognised the book. Yes; certainly I had seen it before. I turned
over a few leaves, when my friend, looking over my shoulder, remarked:
Ah! Theres that unfortunate
I looked round at her inquiringly, and
said: Why, whats the matter with it?
Matter with it? she replied.
Look at it again.
I did so. It was my own handwriting. Ah,
I scarcely remembered that I wrote that; but, I added, what
How can you ask such a question?
she said. I suppose it was the cause of the most unfortunate
event in your life.
Then, at last, came the long-sought-for
explanation. It appeared that my fiancée, in looking through
this very book, while she was spending those few days in the country
previous to our intended marriage, had come across this, my confession.
She read it with interest until she came to the question Your
beau idéal of happiness? I had tried to be very funny
and had written without a particle of truth, Sitting beside
Now, unfortunately, Emily was
not the name of my intended. Well, she shut the book with a bang,
went off into a violent fit of hysterics, and on coming to, said
that she hated and despised the man who, on the very verge of matrimony
with one deluded female could still carry on an intrigue with another.
Let that Emily marry him, she cried, he sees me
no more. Argument was useless, she was deaf to persuasion.
She took her departure immediately after writing me that cruel note,
and the following day started off with Mrs. for the
The sight of a Confession Album fairly
makes me feel queer now. My friends seem to know this, so I am spared
the aggravation of having to give my opinions succinctly on subjects
of which I am perfectly ignorant.
¶ 1889. Written aet. 17, and published in Tit
Bits, no.429, 4 January 1890. The original manuscript draft of the
article is now preserved in the Gallatin Collection at Princeton,
having been in the possession of Mrs. Belloc-Lowndes. In 1947 she
recorded that it was given to me by Beardsley because I was
at the time writing something about him. I did not ask him for it,
he sent it to me. I knew him rather well and liked him very much.