The Times/1917/Obituary/Charles Francis Keary
Mr. C. F. Keary
Mr. Charles Francis Keary, the novelist, died yesterday of heart failure at the age of 55. He was educated at Marlborough and Trinity College, Cambridge, and was for some years in the Department of Coins at the British Museum.
In 1890, while he was still in the British Museum, he published "The Vikings in Western Christendom," still a standard book on the subject. It was intended that it should be followed by a second volume, which was never written. He also wrote books on religious origins, "The Outlines of Primitive Belief" (1882), "The Mythology of the Eddas" (1882), which, of course, have now been rendered out of date by the great body of research on this subject—Frazer, Marett, &c.— produced since that date.
In middle life he turned from historical writing to velles lettres. His first novel, "A Mariage de Convenance," appeared in 1889. This was followed by a series of other novels, "The Two Lancrofts" (1893). "Herbert Vanlennart" (embodying the experiences of a tour in India made in the winter of 1894-5), "The Journalist" (1898), "High Policy" (1902), "Bloomsbury" (1905), "The Mount" (1909). Keary's novels, aiming at depicting life, after the manner of the great Russian writers, in its chaotic reality and avoiding conventional selection and arrangement, never had a large popular circulation. They were, however, very highly though of witin the limited literary set. Besides his novels proper two little books of Keary's call for notice. One was a small volume "The Wanderer" (1888), published under the pseudonym H. Ogram Matuce (δ γραμμαгεύς), in which Keary strings together a number of disconnected thoughts and criticisms under the assumed person of a retired man of letters, somewhat in the manner of Gissing's "Papers of Henry Rycroft." This is perhaps the most perfect and charming of Keary's prose works. The other little book is a series of short sketches in the the weird and macabre, "Twixt Dog and Wolf" (1901), excellently done. He also struck a note of his own as a poet. He published "The Brothers: a Masque" in 1902; "Rigel: a Mystery" in 1904; and finally his book "Religious Musings" this year. His work as a poet was characterized by a quiet, restrained, delicacy; it was from the Latin classical poets, from the Elizabethans and Milton, that he mainly derived suggestion; he disliked what he called the "panting" style of Swinburne, everything that was clamant and boisterous; and his verse owed a great deal of its charm to subtle affinities with older poetry.
In 1911 he published a work of philosophy, "The Pursuit of Reason," written with a literary ability which made it more pleasant to read than most works of philosophy. In this, too, Keary, while not reaching a large public, interested those who had already a special interest in philosophy. The chief contribution his book made was in its exhibition of the difference between reason and demonstration. He showed how many mental processes reckoned intuitive were really acts of reason, although they did not admit of formal demonstration. Keary sought in this book to give a general statement of his philosophy of life, including his own religion. He felt that in it he was delivering his testimony to the world, and it was some disappointment to him that the book did not have a wider effect.
During the last years of his life, Keary suffered greatly from asthma and bronchitis, which continuously enfeebled him. Before the war he lived a good deal abroad, at Barbizon, near Paris, or in the Pyrenees. Since 1916 he had occupied rooms in Cambridge-terrace, W., where he died.
His sensitive and gentle personality, which had more and more the suggestion of something frail and delicate about it, like a finely-pencilled drawing which might not at first assert itself among more richly coloured pictures, but which revealed more and more of its rare individual beauty and charm, as one became familiar with it, had endeared him to a large number of friends, who will find the world poorer for his departure.