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Title: London Films

Author: W.D. Howells

Release Date: December, 2004 [EBook #7130]
[Yes, we are more than one year ahead of schedule]
[This file was first posted on March 14, 2003]

Edition: 10

Language: English

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*** START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK LONDON FILMS ***




Produced by Eric Eldred, Charles Franks
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.




LONDON FILMS

BY W. D. HOWELLS



[Illustration: HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT]



CONTENTS


I. METEOROLOGICAL EMOTIONS

II. CIVIC AND SOCIAL COMPARISONS, MOSTLY ODIOUS

III. SHOWS AND SIDE-SHOWS OF STATE

IV. THE DUN YEAR'S BRILLIANT FLOWER

V. THE SIGHTS AND SOUNDS OF THE STREETS

VI. SOME MISGIVINGS AS TO THE AMERICAN INVASION

VII. IN THE GALLERY OF THE COMMONS

VIII. THE MEANS OF SOJOURN

IX. CERTAIN TRAITS OF THE LONDON SPRINGTIME

X. SOME VOLUNTARY AND INVOLUNTARY SIGHTSEEING

XI. GLIMPSES OF THE LOWLY AND THE LOWLIER

XII. TWICE-SEEN SIGHTS AND HALF-FANCIED FACTS

XIII. AN AFTERNOON AT HAMPTON COURT

XIV. A SUNDAY MORNING IN THE COUNTRY

XV. FISHING FOR WHITEBAIT

XVI. HENLEY DAY

XVII. AMERICAN ORIGINS--MOSTLY NORTHERN

XVIII. AMERICAN ORIGINS--MOSTLY SOUTHERN

XIX. ASPECTS AND INTIMATIONS

XX. PARTING GUESTS




ILLUSTRATIONS


HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT

FLEET STREET AND ST. DUNSTAN'S CHURCH

THE CARRIAGES DRAWN UP BESIDE THE SACRED CLOSE

SUNDAY AFTERNOON, HYDE PARK

ROTTEN ROW

A BLOCK IN THE STRAND

ST. PAUL'S CATHEDRAL

WESTMINSTER ABBEY

THE HORSE GUARDS, WHITEHALL

WESTMINSTER BRIDGE AND CLOCK TOWER

A HOUSE-BOAT ON THE THAMES AT HENLEY

THE CROWD OF SIGHT-SEERS AT HENLEY

THE TOWER OF LONDON

ST. OLAVE'S, TOOLEY STREET

LONDON BRIDGE

THE ANCIENT CHURCH OF ST. MAGNUS

THE EAST INDIA HOUSE OF CHARLES LAMB'S TIME

CHURCH OF THE DUTCH REFUGEES

BOW-BELLS (ST. MARY-LE-BOW, CHEAPSIDE)

STAPLE INN, HOLBORN

CLIFFORD'S INN HALL

ANCIENT CHURCH OF ST. MARTINS-IN-THE-FIELDS

HYDE PARK IN OCTOBER

THAMES EMBANKMENT




I

METEOROLOGICAL EMOTIONS


Whoever carries a mental kodak with him (as I suspect I was in the
habit of doing long before I knew it) must be aware of the uncertain
value of the different exposures. This can be determined only by the
process of developing, which requires a dark room and other apparatus
not always at hand; and so much depends upon the process that it might
be well if it could always be left to some one who makes a specialty of
it, as in the case of the real amateur photographer. Then one's faulty
impressions might be so treated as to yield a pictorial result of
interest, or frankly thrown away if they showed hopeless to the
instructed eye. Otherwise, one must do one's own developing, and trust
the result, whatever it is, to the imaginative kindness of the reader,
who will surely, if he is the right sort of reader, be able to sharpen
the blurred details, to soften the harsh lights, and blend the shadows
in a subordination giving due relief to the best meaning of the print.
This is what I fancy myself to be doing now, and if any one shall say
that my little pictures are superficial, I shall not be able to gainsay
him. I can only answer that most pictures represent the surfaces of
things; but at the same time I can fully share the disappointment of
those who would prefer some such result as the employment of the
Roentgen rays would have given, if applied to certain aspects of the
London world.

Of a world so vast, only small parts can be known to a life-long
dweller. To the sojourner scarcely more will vouchsafe itself than to
the passing stranger, and it is chiefly to home-keeping folk who have
never broken their ignorance of London that one can venture to speak
with confidence from the cumulative misgiving which seems to sum the
impressions of many sojourns of differing lengths and dates. One could
have used the authority of a profound observer after the first few days
in 1861 and 1865, but the experience of weeks stretching to months in
1882 and 1883, clouded rather than cleared the air through which one
earliest saw one's London; and the successive pauses in 1894 and 1897,
with the longest and latest stays in 1904, have but served to confirm
one in the diffident inconclusion on all important points to which I
hope the pages following will bear witness.

What appears to be a fact, fixed and absolute amid a shimmer of self-
question, is that any one coming to London in the beginning of April,
after devious delays in the South and West of England, is destined to
have printed upon his mental films a succession of meteorological
changes quite past computation. Yet if one were as willing to be honest
as one is willing to be graphic, one would allow that probably the
weather on the other side of the Atlantic was then behaving with quite
as swift and reckless caprice. The difference is that at home, having
one's proper business, one leaves the weather to look after its own
affairs in its own way; but being cast upon the necessary idleness of
sojourn abroad, one becomes critical, becomes censorious. If I were to
be a little honester still, I should confess that I do not know of any
place where the month of April can be meaner, more _poison_, upon
occasion, than in New York. Of course it has its moments of relenting,
of showing that warm, soft, winning phase which is the reverse of its
obverse shrewishness, when the heart melts to it in a grateful
tenderness for the wide, high, blue sky, the flood of white light, the
joy of the flocking birds, and the transport of the buds which you can
all but hear bursting in an eager rapture. It is a sudden glut of
delight, a great, wholesale emotion of pure joy, filling the soul to
overflowing, which the more scrupulously adjusted meteorology of England
is incapable of at least so instantly imparting. Our weather is of
public largeness and universal application, and is perhaps rather for
the greatest good of the greatest number; admirable for the seed-time
and harvest, and for the growing crops in the seasons between. The
English weather is of a more private quality, and apportioned to the
personal preference, or the personal endurance. It is as if it were
influenced by the same genius which operates the whole of English life,
and allows each to identify himself as the object of specific care,
irrespective of the interests of the mass. This may be a little too
fanciful, and I do not insist that it is scientific or even
sociological. Yet I think the reader who rejects it might do worse than
agree with me that the first impression of a foreign country visited or
revisited is stamped in a sense of the weather and the season.

Nothing made me so much at home in England as reading, one day, that
there was a lower or a higher pressure in a part of Scotland, just as I
might have read of a lower or a higher pressure in the region of the
lakes. "Now," I said to myself, "we shall have something like real
weather, the weather that is worth telegraphing ahead, and is going to
be decisively this or that." But I could not see that the weather
following differed from the weather we had been having. It was the same
small, individual weather, offered as it were in samples of warm, cold,
damp and dry, but mostly cold and damp, especially in-doors. The day
often opened gray and cloudy, but by-and-by you found that the sun was
unobtrusively shining; then it rained, and there was rather a bitter
wind; but presently it was sunny again, and you felt secure of the
spring, for the birds were singing: the birds of literature, the lark,
the golden-billed blackbird, the true robin, and the various finches;
and round and over all the rooks were calling like voices in a dream.
Full of this certainty of spring you went in-doors, and found it winter.

If you can keep out-of-doors in England you are very well, and that is
why the English, who have been philosophizing their climate for a
thousand and some odd years, keep out-of-doors so much. When they go
indoors they take all the outer air they can with them, instinctively
realizing that they will be more comfortable with it than in the
atmosphere awaiting them. If their houses could be built reversible, so
as to be turned inside out in some weathers, one would be very
comfortable in them. Lowell used whimsically to hold that the English
rain did not wet you, and he might have argued that the English cold
would not chill you if only you stayed out-of-doors in it.

Why will not travellers be honest with foreign countries? Is it because
they think they may some day come back? For my part, I am going to be
heroic, and say that the in-doors cold in England is constant suffering
to the American born. It is not that there is no sizzling or crackling
radiator, no tropic-breathing register; but that the grate in most of
the houses that the traveler sees, the public-houses namely, seems to
have shrunken to a most sordid meanness of size. In Exeter, for example,
where there is such a beautiful cathedral, one found a bedroom grate of
the capacity of a quart pot, and the heating capabilities of a glowworm.
I might say the same of the Plymouth grate, but not quite the same of
the grates of Bath or Southampton; if I pause before arriving at the
grate of London, it is because daring must stop somewhere. I think it is
probable that the American, if he stayed long enough, would heed the
injunction to suffer and be strong from the cold, as the Englishman has
so largely done, but I am not sure. At one point of my devious progress
to the capital I met an Englishman who had spent ten years in Canada,
and who constrained me to a mild deprecation by the wrath with which he
denounced the in-doors cold he had found everywhere at home. He said
that England was a hundred, five hundred, years behind in such matters;
and I could not deny that, even when cowering over the quart pot to warm
the hands and face, one was aware of a gelid mediaeval back behind one.
To be warm all round in an English house is a thing impossible, at least
to the traveller, who finds the natives living in what seems to him a
whorl of draughts. In entering his own room he is apt to find the window
has been put down, but this is not merely to let in some of the outside
warmth; it is also to make a current of air to the open door. Even if
the window has not been put down, it has always so much play in its
frame, to allow for swelling from the damp, that in anything like dry
weather the cold whistles round it, and you do not know which way to
turn your mediaeval back.

In the corridors of one of the provincial hotels there were radiators,
but not hot ones, and in a dining-room where they were hot the natives
found them oppressive, while the foreigners were warming their fingers
on the bottoms of their plates. Yet it is useless for these to pretend
that the suffering they experience has not apparently resulted in the
strength they see. Our contemporary ancestors are a splendid-looking
race, in the higher average, and if in the lower average they often look
pinched and stunted, why, we are not ourselves giants without exception.
The ancestral race does often look stunted and poor; persons of small
build and stature abound; and nature is

    "So careful of the single type"

of beefy Briton as to show it very rarely. But in the matter of
complexion, if we count that a proof of health, we are quite out of it
in comparison with the English, and beside them must look like a nation
of invalids. There are few English so poor as not, in youth at least, to
afford cheeks of a redness which all our money could not buy with us. I
do not say the color does not look a little overdone in cases, or that
the violent explosion of pinks and roses, especially in the cheeks of
small children, does not make one pause in question whether paste or
putty might not be more tasteful. But it is best not to be too critical.
Putty and paste, apart from association, are not pretty tints, and pinks
and roses are; and the English children look not only fresher but
sturdier and healthier than ours. Whether they are really so I do not
know; but I doubt if the English live longer than we for living less
comfortably. The lower classes seem always to have colds; the middle
classes, rheumatism; and the upper, gout, by what one sees or hears.
Rheumatism one might almost say (or quite, if one did not mind what one
said) is universal in England, and all ranks of society have the
facilities for it in the in-doors cold in which they otherwise often
undeniably flourish. At the end, it is a question of whether you would
rather be warm and well, or cold and well; we choose the first course
and they choose the last.

If we leave this question apart, I think it will be the experience of
the careful observer that there is a summit of healthful looks in
England, which we do not touch in America, whatever the large table-land
or foot-hill average we reach; and in like manner there is an
exceptional distinction of presence as one encounters it, rarely enough,
in the London streets, which one never encounters with us. I am not
envying the one, or at least not regretting the other. Distinction is
the one thing for which I think humanity certainly pays too much; only,
in America, we pay too much for too many other things to take any great
comfort in our want of distinction. I own the truth without grief or
shame, while I enjoy the sight of distinction in England as I enjoy
other spectacles for which I cannot help letting the English pay too
much. I was not appreciably the poorer myself, perhaps I was actually
the richer, in seeing, one fine chill Sunday afternoon, in the
aristocratic region where I was taking my walk, the encounter of an
elderly gentleman and lady who bowed to each other on the pavement
before me, and then went and came their several ways. In him I saw that
his distinction was passive and resided largely in his drab spats, but
hers I beheld active, positive, as she marched my way with the tall cane
that helped her steps, herself tall in proportion, with a head, ashen
gray, held high, and a straight well-fitted figure dressed in such
keeping that there was nothing for the eye to dwell on in her various
black. She looked not only authoritative; people often do that with us;
she looked authorized; she had been empowered by the vested rights and
interests to look so her whole life; one could not be mistaken in her,
any more than in the black trees and their electric-green buds in the
high-fenced square, or in the vast, high, heavy, handsome houses where,
in the cellary or sepulchral cold, she would presently resume the
rheumatic pangs of which the comparative warmth of the outer air had
momentarily relieved her stately bulk.

But what is this? While I am noting the terrors of the English clime,
they have all turned themselves into allures and delights. There have
come three or four days, since I arrived in London, of so fine and
mellow a warmth, of skies so tenderly blue, and so heaped with such soft
masses of white clouds, that one wonders what there was ever to complain
of. In the parks and in the gardened spaces which so abound, the leaves
have grown perceptibly, and the grass thickened so that you can smell
it, if you cannot hear it, growing. The birds insist, and in the air is
that miraculous lift, as if nature, having had this banquet of the year
long simmering, had suddenly taken the lid off, to let you perceive with
every gladdening sense what a feast you were going to have presently in
the way of summer. From the delectable vision rises a subtile haze,
which veils the day just a little from its own loveliness, and lies upon
the sighing and expectant city like the substance of a dream made
visible. It has the magic to transmute you to this substance yourself,
so that while you dawdle afoot, or whisk by in your hansom, or rumble
earthquakingly aloft on your omnibus-top, you are aware of being a part,
very dim, very subtile, of the passer's blissful consciousness. It is
flattering, but you feel like warning him not to go in-doors, or he will
lose you and all the rest of it; for having tried it yourself you know
that it is still winter within the house walls, and will not be April
there till well into June.




II

CIVIC AND SOCIAL COMPARISONS, MOSTLY ODIOUS


It might be, somewhat overhardily, advanced that there is no such thing
as positive fact, but only relative fact. The mind, in an instinctive
perception of this hazardous truth, clings to contrast as the only basis
of inference, and in now taking my tenth or twentieth look at London I
have been careful to keep about me a pocket vision of New York, so as to
see what London is like by making constantly sure what it is not like. A
pocket vision, say, of Paris, would not serve the same purpose. That is
a city of a legal loveliness, of a beauty obedient to a just municipal
control, of a grandeur studied and authorized in proportion and relation
to the design of a magnificent entirety; it is a capital nobly realized
on lines nobly imagined. But New York and London may always be
intelligibly compared because they are both the effect of an indefinite
succession of anarchistic impulses, sometimes correcting and sometimes
promoting, or at best sometimes annulling one another. Each has been
mainly built at the pleasure of the private person, with the community
now and then swooping down upon him, and turning him out of house and
home to the common advantage. Nothing but our racial illogicality has
saved us from the effect of our racial anarchy in the social structure
as well as the material structure, but if we could see London and New
York as lawless in the one way as in the other, we should perhaps see
how ugly they collectively are.

The sum of such involuntary reflection with me has been the perception
that London was and is and shall be, and New York is and shall be, but
has hardly yet been. New York is therefore one-third less morally, as
she is one-third less numerically, than London. In her future she has no
past, but only a present to retrieve; though perhaps a present like hers
is enough. She is also one less architecturally than London; she is two-
thirds as splendid, as grand, as impressive. In fact, if I more closely
examine my pocket vision, I am afraid that I must hedge from this modest
claim, for we have as yet nothing to compare with at least a half of
London magnificence, whatever we may have in the seventeen or eighteen
hundred years that shall bring us of her actual age. As we go fast in
all things, we may then surpass her; but this is not certain, for in her
more deliberate way she goes fast, too. In the mean time the materials
of comparison, as they lie dispersed in the pocket vision, seem few. The
sky-scrapers, Brooklyn Bridge, Madison Square Garden, and some vast
rocketing hotels offer themselves rather shrinkingly for the contrast
with those miles of imperial and municipal architecture which in London
make you forget the leagues of mean little houses, and remember the
palaces, the law-courts, the great private mansions, the dignified and
shapely flats, the large department stores, the immense hotels, the
bridges, the monuments of every kind.

One reason, I think, why London is so much more striking is in the
unbroken line which the irregularly divided streets often present to the
passer. Here is a chance for architecture to extend, while with us it
has only a chance to tower, on the short up-town block which is the
extreme dimension of our proudest edifice, public or private. Another
reason is in the London atmosphere, which deepens and heightens all the
effects, while the lunar bareness of our perspectives mercilessly
reveals the facts. After you leave the last cliff behind on lower
Broadway the only incident of the long, straight avenue which distracts
you from the varied commonplace of the commercial structures on either
hand is the loveliness of Grace Church; but in the Strand and Fleet
Street you have a succession of edifices which overwhelm you with the
sense of a life in which trade is only one of the incidents. If the day
is such as a lover of the picturesque would choose, or may rather often
have without choosing, when the scene is rolled in vaporous smoke, and a
lurid gloom hovers from the hidden sky, you have an effect of majesty
and grandeur that no other city can offer. As the shadow momently
thickens or thins in the absence or the presence of the yellowish-green
light, the massive structures are shown or hid, and the meaner houses
render the rifts between more impressively chasmal. The tremendous
volume of life that flows through the narrow and winding channels past
the dim cliffs and pinnacles, and the lower banks which the lesser
buildings form, is such that the highest tide of Broadway or Fifth
Avenue seems a scanty ebb beside it. The swelling and towering
omnibuses, the huge trucks and wagons and carriages, the impetuous
hansoms and the more sobered four-wheelers, the pony-carts,
donkey-carts, handcarts, and bicycles which fearlessly find their way
amid the turmoil, with foot-passengers winding in and out, and covering
the sidewalks with their multitude, give the effect of a single
monstrous organism, which writhes swiftly along the channel where it had
run in the figure of a flood till you were tired of that metaphor. You
are now a molecule of that vast organism, as you sit under your umbrella
on your omnibus-top, with the public waterproof apron across your knees,
and feel in supreme degree the insensate exultation of being part of the
largest thing of its kind in the world, or perhaps the universe.

[Illustration: FLEET STREET AND ST. DUNSTAN'S CHURCH]

It is an emotion which supports the American visitor even against the
immensity he shares, and he is able to reflect that New York would not
look so relatively little, so comparatively thin, if New York were a
capital on the same lines as London. If New York were, like London, a
political as well as a commercial capital, she would have the national
edifices of Washington added to the sky-scrapers in which she is now
unrivalled, and her competition would be architecturally much more
formidable than it is. She would be the legislative centre of the
different States of the Union, as London is of the different counties of
the United Kingdom; she would have collected in her borders all their
capitols and public buildings; and their variety, if not dignity, would
valiantly abet her in the rivalry from which one must now recoil on her
behalf. She could not, of course, except on such rare days of fog as
seem to greet Englishmen in New York on purpose to vex us, have the
adventitious aid which the London atmosphere renders; her air is of such
a helpless sincerity that nothing in it shows larger than it is; no mist
clothes the sky-scraper in gigantic vagueness, the hideous tops soar
into the clear heaven distinct in their naked ugliness; and the low
buildings cower unrelieved about their bases. Nothing could be done in
palliation of the comparative want of antiquity in New York, for the
present, at least; but it is altogether probable that in the fulfilment
of her destiny she will be one day as old as London now is.

If one thinks, however, how old London now is, it is rather crazing;
much more crazing than the same sort of thought in the cities of lands
more exclusively associated with antiquity. In Italy you forget the
present; there seems nothing above the past, or only so thin a layer of
actuality that you have scarcely the sense of it. In England you
remember with an effort Briton, and Roman, and Saxon, and Norman, and
the long centuries of the mediaeval and modern English; the living
interests, ambitions, motives, are so dense that you cannot penetrate
them and consort quietly with the dead alone. Men whose names are in the
directory as well as men whose names are in history, keep you company,
and push the shades of heroes, martyrs, saints, poets, and princes to
the wall. They do not shoulder them willingly out of the way, but
helplessly; there is no place in the world where the material present is
so reverently, so tenderly mindful of the material past. Perhaps,
therefore, I felt safe in so largely leaving the English past to the
English present, and, having in London long ago satisfied that hunger
for the old which the new American brings with him to Europe, I now went
about enjoying the modern in its manifold aspects and possibly fancying
characteristic traits where I did not find them. I did not care how
trivial some of these were, but I hesitate to confide to the more
serious reader that I was at one moment much interested in what seemed
the growing informality of Englishmen in dress, as I noted it in the
streets and parks, or thought I noted it.

To my vision, or any illusion, they wore every sort of careless cap,
slouch felt hat, and straw hat; any sort of tunic, jacket, and cutaway.
The top-hat and frock-coat still appear, but their combination is
evidently no longer imperative, as it formerly was at all daytime
functions. I do not mean to say that you do not often see that stately
garment on persons of authority, but only that it is apparently not of
the supremacy expressed in the drawings of Du Maurier in the eighties
and nineties of the last century. Certainly, when it comes to the artist
at Truefitt's wearing a frock-coat while cutting your hair, you cannot
help asking yourself whether its hour has not struck. Yet, when one has
said this, one must hedge from a conjecture so extreme. The king wears a
frock-coat, a long, gray one, with a white top-hat and lavender gloves,
and those who like to be like a king conform to his taste. No one, upon
his life, may yet wear a frock and a derby, but many people now wear
top-hats, though black ones, with sack-coats, with any sort of coats;
and, above all, the Londoner affects in summer a straw hat either of a
flat top and a pasteboard stiffness, or of the operatically picturesque
Alpine pattern, or of a slouching Panama shapelessness. What was often
the derision, the abhorrence of the English in the dress of other
nations has now become their pleasure, and, with the English genius of
doing what they like, it may be that they overdo their pleasure. But at
the worst the effect is more interesting than our uniformity. The
conventional evening dress alone remains inviolate, but how long this
will remain, who can say? The simple-hearted American, arriving with his
scrupulous dress suit in London, may yet find himself going out to
dinner with a company of Englishmen in white linen jackets or tennis
flannels.

If, however, the men's dress in England is informal, impatient, I think
one will be well within the lines of safety in saying that above
everything the English women's dress expresses _sentiment_, though
I suppose it is no more expressive of personal sentiment than the chic
of our women's dress is expressive of personal chic; in either case the
dressmaker, male or female, has impersonally much to do with it. Under
correction of those countrywomen of ours who will not allow that the
Englishwomen know how to dress, I will venture to say that their
expression of sentiment in dress is charming, but how charming it
comparatively is I shall be far from saying. I will only make so bold as
to affirm that it seems more adapted to the slender fluency of youth
than some realizations of the American ideal; and that after the azaleas
and rhododendrons in the Park there is nothing in nature more suggestive
of girlish sweetness and loveliness than the costumes in which the
wearers flow by the flowery expanses in carriage or on foot. The colors
worn are often as courageous as the vegetable tints; the vaporous air
softens and subdues crimsons and yellows that I am told would shriek
aloud in our arid atmosphere; but mostly the shades worn tend to soft
pallors, lavender, and pink, and creamy white. A group of girlish shapes
in these colors, seen newly lighted at a doorway from a passing
carriage, gave as they pressed eagerly forward a supreme effect of that
sentiment in English dress which I hope I am not recreant in liking.
Occasionally, also, there was a scarf, lightly escaping, lightly caught,
which, with an endearing sash, renewed for a fleeting moment a bygone
age of Sensibility, as we find it recorded in many a graceful page, on
many a glowing canvas.

Pictorial, rather than picturesque, might be the word for the present
dress of Englishwomen. It forms in itself a lovely picture to the eye,
and is not merely the material or the inspiration of a picture. It is
therefore the more difficult of transference to the imagination of the
reader who has not also been a spectator, and before such a scene as one
may witness in a certain space of the Park on a fair Sunday after church
in the morning, or before dinner in the early evening, the boldest kodak
may well close its single eye in despair. As yet even the mental
photograph cannot impart the tints of nature, and the reader who wishes
to assist at this scene must do his best to fancy them for himself. At
the right moment of the ripening London season the foliage of the trees
is densely yet freshly green and flatteringly soft to the eye; the grass
below has that closeness of texture which only English grass has the
secret of. At fit distances the wide beds of rhododendrons and azaleas
are glowing; the sky is tenderly blue, and the drifted clouds in it are
washed clean of their London grime. If it is in the afternoon, these
beautiful women begin to appear about the time when you may have bidden
yourself abandon the hope of them for that day. Some drift from the
carriages that draw up on the drive beside the sacred close where they
are to sit on penny chairs, spreading far over the green; others glide
on foot from elect neighborhoods, or from vehicles left afar, perhaps
that they may give themselves the effect of coming informally. They
arrive in twos and threes, young girls commonly with their mothers, but
sometimes together, in varied raptures of millinery, and with the
rainbow range in their delicately floating, delicately clinging
draperies. But their hats, their gowns, always express sentiment, even
when they cannot always express simplicity; and the just observer is
obliged to own that their calm faces often express, if not simplicity,
sentiment. Their beauty is very, very great, not a beauty of coloring
alone, but a beauty of feature which is able to be patrician without
being unkind; and if, as some American women say, they do not carry
themselves well, it takes an American woman to see it. They move
naturally and lightly--that is, the young girls do; mothers in England,
as elsewhere, are apt to put on weight; but many of the mothers are as
handsome in their well-wearing English way as their daughters.

Several irregular spaces are enclosed by low iron barriers, and in one
of these the arriving groups of authorized people found other people of
their kind, where the unauthorized people seemed by common consent to
leave them. There was especially one enclosure which seemed consecrated
to the highest comers; it was not necessary that they should make the
others feel they were not wanted there; the others felt it of
themselves, and did not attempt to enter that especial fairy ring, or
fairy triangle. Those within looked as much at home as if in their own
drawing-rooms, and after the usual greetings of friends sat down in
their penny chairs for the talk which the present kodak would not have
overheard if it could.

If any one were to ask me how I knew that these beautiful creatures were
of supreme social value, I should be obliged to own that it was largely
an assumption based upon hearsay. For all I can avouch personally in the
matter they might have been women come to see the women who had not
come. Still, if the effects of high breeding are visible, then they were
the sort they looked. Not only the women, but the men, old and young,
had the aristocratic air which is not aggressive, the patrician bearing
which is passive and not active, and which in the English seems
consistent with so much that is human and kindly. There is always the
question whether this sort of game is worth the candle; but that is a
moral consideration which would take me too far from the little scene I
am trying to suggest; it is sufficient for the present purpose that the
English think it is worth it. A main fact of the scene was the constant
movement of distinguished figures within the sacred close, and up and
down the paths past the rows of on-lookers on their penny chairs. The
distinguished figures were apparently not the least molested by the
multiplied and concentrated gazes of the on-lookers, who were, as it
were, outside the window, and of the street. What struck one accustomed
to the heterogeneous Sunday crowds of Central Park, where any such scene
would be so inexpressibly impossible, was the almost wholly English
personnel of the crowd within and without the sacred close. Here and
there a Continental presence, French or German or Italian, pronounced
its nationality in dress and bearing; one of the many dark subject races
of Great Britain was represented in the swarthy skin and lustrous black
hair and eyes of a solitary individual; there were doubtless various
colonials among the spectators, and in one's nerves one was aware of
some other Americans. But these exceptions only accented the absolutely
English dominance of the spectacle. The alien elements were less evident
in the observed than in the observers, where, beyond the barrier, which
there was nothing to prevent their passing, they sat in passive rows, in
passive pairs, in passive ones, and stared and stared. The observers
were mostly men, and largely men of the age when the hands folded on the
top of the stick express a pause in the emotions and the energies which
has its pathos. There were women among them, of course, but the women
were also of the age when the keener sensibilities are taking a rest;
and such aliens of their sex as qualified the purely English nature of
the affair lost whatever was aggressive in their difference.

[Illustration: THE CARRIAGES DRAWN UP BESIDE THE SACRED CLOSE]

It was necessary to the transaction of the drama that from time to time
the agents of the penny-chair company should go about in the close and
collect money for the chairs; and it became a question, never rightly
solved, how the ladies who had come unattended managed, with their
pocketless dresses, to carry coins unequalled in bulk since the iron
currency of Sparta; or whether they held the pennies frankly in their
hands till they paid them away. In England the situation, if it is
really the situation, is always accepted with implicit confidence, and
if it had been the custom to bring pennies in their hands, these ladies
would have no more minded doing it than they minded being looked at by
people whose gaze dedicated them to an inviolate superiority.

With us the public affirmation of class, if it were imaginable, could
not be imaginable except upon the terms of a mutinous protest in the
spectators which would not have been less real for being silent. But
again I say the thing would not have been possible with us in New York;
though in Newport, where the aristocratic tradition is said to have been
successfully transplanted to our plutocratic soil, something analogous
might at least be dramatized. Elsewhere that tradition does not come to
flower in the open American air; it is potted and grown under glass; and
can be carried out-doors only under special conditions. The American
must still come to England for the realization of certain social ideals
towards which we may be now straining, but which do not yet enjoy
general acceptance. The reader who knows New York has but to try and
fancy its best, or even its better, society dispersing itself on certain
grassy limits of Central Park on a Sunday noon or afternoon; or, on some
week-day evening, leaving its equipages along the drives and strolling
out over the herbage; or receiving in its carriages the greetings of
acquaintance who make their way in and out among the wheels. Police and
populace would join forces in their several sorts to spoil a spectacle
which in Hyde Park appeals, in high degree, to the aesthetic sense, and
which might stimulate the historic imagination to feats of agreeable
invention if one had that sort of imagination.

The spectacle is a condition of that old, secure society which we have
not yet lived long enough to have known, and which we very probably
never shall know. Such civilization as we have will continue to be
public and impersonal, like our politics, and our society in its
specific events will remain within walls. It could not manifest itself
outside without being questioned, challenged, denied; and upon
reflection there might appear reasons why it is well so.




III

SHOWS AND SIDE-SHOWS OF STATE


We are quite as domestic as the English, but with us the family is of
the personal life, while with them it is of the general life, so that
when their domesticity imparts itself to their out-door pleasures no one
feels it strange. One has read of something like this without the sense
of it which constantly penetrates one in London. One must come to
England in order to realize from countless little occasions, little
experiences, how entirely English life, public as well as private, is an
affair of family. We know from our reading how a comparatively few
families administer, if they do not govern, but we have still to learn
how the other families are apparently content to share the form in which
authority resides, since they cannot share the authority. At the very
top I offer the conjecture towards the solution of that mystery which
constantly bewilders the republican witness, the mystery of loyalty--is,
of course, the royal family; and the rash conclusion of the American is
that it is revered because it is the _royal_ family. But possibly a
truer interpretation of the fact would be that it is dear and sacred to
the vaster British public because it is the royal _family_. A
bachelor king could hardly dominate the English imagination like a royal
husband and father, even if his being a husband and father were not one
of the implications of that tacit Constitution in whose silence English
power resides. With us, family has less and less to do with society,
even; but with the English it has more and more to do, since the royal
family is practically without political power, and not only may, but
almost must, devote itself to society. It goes and comes on visits to
other principalities and powers; it opens parliaments; it lays corner-
stones and presides at the dedication of edifices of varied purpose; it
receives deputations and listens to addresses; it holds courts and
levees; it reviews regiments and fleets, and assists at charity
entertainments and at plays and shows of divers sorts; it plays races;
it is in constant demand for occasions requiring exalted presences for
their prosperity. These events seem public, and if they were imaginable
of a democracy like ours they would be so; but in the close-linked order
of English things they are social, they are domestic, they are from one
family to every other family directly or indirectly; the king is for
these ends not more a royalty than the rest of his family, and for the
most part he acts as a family man; his purely official acts are few.
Things that in a republic are entirely personal, as marriages, births,
christenings, deaths, and burials, whether of high or low, in a monarchy
are, if they affect royalty, of public and national concern, and it
would not be easy to show how one royal act differed from another in
greater or less publicity.

If you were of a very bold conjecture, or of a willingness to generalize
from wholly insufficient grounds, and take the chances of hitting or
missing, you might affirm a domestic simplicity of feeling in some
phases of functions exalted far beyond the range of republican
experiences or means of comparison. In the polite intelligence which we
sometimes have cabled to our press at home, by more than usually ardent
enterprise, one may have read that the king held a levee at St. James's;
and one conceived of it as something dramatic, something historic,
something, on the grand scale, civic. But if one happened to be walking
in Pall Mall on the morning of that levee, one saw merely a sort of
irregular coming and going in almost every kind of vehicle, or, as
regarded the spiritual and temporal armies, sometimes on foot. A thin
fringe of rather incurious but not unfriendly bystanders lined the
curbstone, and looked at the people arriving in the carriages,
victorias, hansoms, and four-wheelers; behind the bystanders loitered
dignitaries of the church; and military and naval officers made their
way through the fringe and crossed the street among the wheels and
horses. No one concerned seemed to feel anything odd in the effect,
though to the unwonted American the sight of a dignitary in full
canonicals or regimentals going to a royal levee in a cab or on foot is
not a vision which realizes the ideal inspired by romance. At one moment
a middle-aged lady in the line of vehicles put her person well out of
the window of her four-wheeler, and craned her head up to instruct her
driver in something. She may not have been going to the levee, but one
felt that if she had been she would still have done what it abashed the
alien to see.

We are, in fact, much more exacting than the English in matters of
English state; we, who have no state at all require them to live up to
theirs, just as quite plain, elderly observers expect every woman to be
young and pretty, and take it hard when she is not. But possibly the
secret of enduring so much state as the English have lies in knowing how
and when to shirk it, to drop it. No doubt, the alien who counted upon
this fact, if it is a fact, would find his knuckles warningly rapped
when he reached too confidingly through air that seemed empty of
etiquette. But the rapping would be very gentle, very kindly, for this
is the genius of English rule where it is not concerned with criminal
offence. You must keep off wellnigh all the grass on the island, but you
are "requested" to keep off it, and not forbidden in the harsh
imperatives of our brief authorities. It is again the difference between
the social and the public, which is perhaps the main difference between
an oligarchy and a democracy. The sensibilities are more spared in the
one and the self-respect in the other, though this is saying it too
loosely, and may not be saying it truly; it is only a conjecture with
which I am parleying while I am getting round to add that such part of
the levee as I saw in plain day, though there was vastly more of it, was
much less filling to the imagination than a glimpse which I had of a
court one night. I am rather proud of being able to explain that the
late queen held court in the early afternoon and the present king holds
court at night; but, lest any envious reader suspect me of knowing the
fact at first-hand, I hasten to say that the glimpse I had of the
function that night only revealed to me in my cab a royal coach driving
out of a palace gate, and showing larger than human, through a thin
rain, the blood-red figures of the coachmen and footmen gowned from head
to foot in their ensanguined colors, with the black-gleaming body of the
coach between them, and the horses trampling heraldically before out of
the legendary past. The want of definition in the fact, which I beheld
in softly blurred outline, enhanced its value, which was so supreme that
I could not perhaps do justice to the vague splendors of inferior
courtward equipages, as my cab flashed by them, moving in a slow line
towards the front of Buckingham Palace.

[Illustration: SUNDAY AFTERNOON, HYDE PARK]

The carriages were doubtless full of titles, any one of which would
enrich my page beyond the dreams of fiction, and it is said that in the
time of the one-o'clock court they used to receive a full share of the
attention which I could only so scantily and fleetingly bestow. They
were often halted, as that night I saw them halting, in their progress,
and this favored the plebeian witnesses, who ranged along their course
and invited themselves and one another to a study of the looks and
dresses of the titles, and to open comment on both. The study and the
comment must have had their limits; the observed knew how much to bear
if the observers did not know how little to forbear; and it is not
probable that the London spectators went the lengths which our outsiders
go in trying to verify an English duke who is about to marry an American
heiress. The London vulgar, if not better bred than our vulgar, are
better fed on the sight of social grandeur, and have not a lifelong
famine to satisfy, as ours have. Besides, whatever gulf birth and wealth
have fixed between the English classes, it is mystically bridged by that
sentiment of family which I have imagined the ruling influence in
England. In a country where equality has been glorified as it has been
in ours, the contrast of conditions must breed a bitterness in those of
a lower condition which is not in their hearts there; or if it is, the
alien does not know it.

What seems certain is the interest with which every outward
manifestation of royal and social state is followed, and the leisure
which the poor have for a vicarious indulgence in its luxuries and
splendors. One would say that there was a large leisure class entirely
devoted to these pleasures, which cost it nothing, but which may have
palled on the taste of those who pay for them. Of course, something like
this is the case in every great city; but in London, where society is
enlarged to the bounds of the national interests, the demand of such a
leisure class might very well be supposed to have created the supply.
Throughout the London season, and measurably throughout the London year,
there is an incessant appeal to the curiosity of the common people which
is never made in vain. Somewhere a drum is throbbing or a bugle sounding
from dawn till dusk; the red coat is always passing singly or in
battalions, afoot or on horseback; the tall bear-skin cap weighs upon
the grenadier's brow,

    "And the hapless soldier's sigh,"

if it does not "run in blood down palace walls," must often exhale from
lips tremulous with hushed profanity. One bright, hot morning of
mid-July the suffering from that cruel folly in the men of a regiment
marching from their barracks to Buckingham Palace and sweltering under
those shaggy cliffs was evident in their distorted eyes, streaming
cheeks, and panting mouths. But why do I select the bear-skin cap as
peculiarly cruel and foolish, merely because it is archaic? All war and
all the images of it are cruel and foolish.

The April morning, however, when I first carried out my sensitized
surfaces for the impression which I hoped to receive from a certain
historic spectacle was very different. There was even a suggestion of
comfort in the archaic bear-skins; they were worn, and they had been
worn, every day for nearly two hundred years, as part of the ceremonial
of changing the regimental colors before Buckingham Palace. I will not
be asked why this is imperative; it has always been done and probably
always will be done, and to most civilian onlookers will remain as
unintelligible in detail as it was to me. When the regiment was drawn up
under the palace windows, a part detached itself from the main body and
went off to a gate of the palace, and continued mysteriously stationary
there. In the mean time the ranks left behind closed or separated amid
the shouting of sergeants or corporals, and the men relieved themselves
of the strain from their knapsacks, or satisfied an exacting military
ideal, by hopping at will into the air and bouncing their knapsacks,
dragging lower down, up to the napes of their necks, where they rested
under the very fringe of their bear-skin caps. A couple of officers,
with swords drawn, walked up and down behind the ranks, but, though they
were tall, fine fellows, and expressed in the nonchalant fulfilment of
their part a high sense of boredom, they did not give the scene any such
poignant interest as it had from the men in performing a duty, or
indulging a privilege, by hopping into the air and bouncing their
knapsacks up to their necks. After what seemed an unreasonable delay,
but was doubtless requisite for the transaction, the detachment sent for
the change of colors returned with the proper standards. The historic
rite was then completed, the troops formed in order, and marched back to
their barracks to the exultant strains of their band.

The crowd outside the palace yard, which this daily sight attracts,
dispersed reluctantly, its particles doubtless holding themselves ready
to reassemble at the slightest notice. It formed a small portion only of
the population of London which has volunteer charge of the goings and
comings at Buckingham Palace. Certain of its members are on guard there
from morning till night, and probably no detail of ceremony escapes
their vigilance. If asked what they are expecting to see, they are not
able to say; they only know that they are there to see what happens.
They make the most of any carriage entering or issuing from the yard;
they note the rare civilians who leave or approach the palace door on
foot, the half-dozen plain policemen who stand at their appointed
places within the barrier which none of the crowd ever dreams of passing
must share its interest. Neither these policemen nor the sentries who
pace their beat before the high iron fence are apparently willing to
molest the representatives of the public interest. On the April morning
in case, during the momentary absence of the policeman who should have
restrained the crowd, the sentry found himself embarrassed by a
spectator who had intruded on his beat. He faltered, blushing as well as
he could through his high English color, and then said, gently, "A
little back, please," and the intruder begged pardon and retired.

In the simple incident there was nothing of the nervousness observable
in either the official or the officious repositories of the nationality
which one sees in Continental countries, and especially in Germany. It
was plain that England, though a military power, is not militarized. The
English shows of force are civil. Nowhere but in England does the
European hand of iron wear the glove of velvet. There is always an
English war going on somewhere, but one does not relate to it the
kindly-looking young fellows whom one sees suffering under their
bear-skin caps in the ranks, or loitering at liberty in the parks, and
courting the flattered girls who flutter like moths about the flame of
their red jackets, up and down the paths and on the public benches. The
soldiers are under the law of military obedience, and are so far in
slavery, as all soldiers are, but nothing of their slavery is visible,
and they are the idols of an unstinted devotion, which adds to the
picturesqueness and, no doubt, the pathos of the great London spectacle.
It is said that they sometimes abuse their apparent supremacy, and that
their uniform generally bars them from places of amusement; but one sees
nothing of their insubordination or exclusion in the public ways, where
one sometimes sees them pushing baby-carriages to free the nurse-maids
to more unrestricted flirtation, or straying over the grass and under
the trees with maids who are not burdened by any sort of present duty.

After all, as compared with the civilians, they are few even in that
game of love which is always playing itself wherever youth meets youth,
and which in London is only evident in proportion to the vastness of the
city. Their individual life is, like that of the royalty which they
decorate, public more than private, and one can scarcely dissociate
them, with all their personal humility, from the exalted figures whose
eminence they directly or indirectly contribute to throw into relief. I
do not mean that they are seen much or little in the king's company. The
English king, though he wears many land and sea uniforms, is essentially
civilian, and though vast numbers of soldiers exist for his state in
London, they do not obviously attend him, except on occasions of the
very highest state. I make this observation rather hazardously, for the
fact, which I feel bound to share with the reader, is that I never saw
in London any of the royalties who so abound there.

I did, indeed, see the king before I left England, but it was in a place
far from his capital, and the king was the only one of his large family
I saw anywhere. I hope this will not greatly disappoint my readers,
especially such as have scruples against royalties; but it is best to be
honest. I can be quite as honest in adding that I had always a vague,
underlying curiosity concerning royalty, and a hope that it would
somehow come my way, but it never did, to my knowledge, and somehow,
with the best will towards it; I never went its way. This I now think
rather stupid, for every day the morning papers predicted the movements
of royalty, which seemed to be in perpetual movement, so that it must
have been by chance that I never saw it arriving or departing at the
stations where I was often doing the same.

Of course, no private person, not even the greatest nobleman, let alone
the passing stranger, can possibly arrive and depart so much as the king
and queen, and their many children, grandchildren, nephews, and nieces,
and cousins of every remove. For the sovereigns themselves this
incessant motion, though mitigated by every device of loyal affection
and devotion on the part of their subjects, must be a great hardship,
and greater as they get into years. The king's formal office is simply
to reign, but one wonders when he finds the time for reigning. He seems
to be always setting out for Germany or Denmark or France, when he is
not coming from Wales or Scotland or Ireland; and, when quietly at home
in England, he is constantly away on visits to the houses of favored
subjects, shooting pheasants or grouse or deer; or he is going from one
horse-race to another or to some yacht-race or garden-party or whatever
corresponds in England to a church sociable. It is impossible to
enumerate the pleasures which must poison his life, as if the cares were
not enough. In the case of the present king, who is so much liked and is
so amiable and active, the perpetual movement affects the plebeian
foreigner as something terrible. Never to be quiet; never to have a
stretch of those long days and weeks of unbroken continuity dear to
later life; ever to sit at strange tables and sample strange cookeries;
to sleep under a different preacher every Sunday, and in a different bed
every night; to wear all sorts of uniforms for all sorts of occasions,
three or four times a day; to receive every manner of deputation, and
try to show an interest in every manner of object--who would reign on
such terms as these, if there were any choice of not reigning?

Evidently such a career cannot be managed without the help, the pretty
constant help, of armed men; and the movement of troops in London from
one point to another is one of the evidences of state which is so little
static, so largely dynamic. It is a pretty sight, and makes one wish one
were a child that one might fully enjoy it, whether it is the movement
of a great mass of blood-red backs of men, or here and there a flaming
squad, or a single vidette spurring on some swift errand, with his
pennoned lance erect from his toe and his horse-hair crest streaming
behind him. The soldiers always lend a brilliancy to the dull hue of
civil life, and there is a never-failing sensation in the spectator as
they pass afar or near. Of course, the supreme attraction in their sort
for the newly arrived American is the pair of statuesque warriors who
motionlessly sit their motionless steeds at the gates of the Horse-
Guards, and express an archaic uselessness as perfectly as if they were
Highlanders taking snuff before a tobacconist's shop. When I first
arrived in London in the earliest of those sad eighteen-sixties when our
English brethren were equipping our Confederate brethren to sweep our
commerce from the seas, I think I must have gone to see those images at
the Horse-Guards even before I visited the monuments in Westminster
Abbey, and they then perfectly filled my vast expectation; they might
have been Gog and Magog, for their gigantic stature. In after visits,
though I had a sneaking desire to see them again, I somehow could not
find their place, being ashamed to ask for it, in my hope of happening
on it, and I had formed the notion, which I confidently urged, that they
had been taken down, like the Wellington statue from the arch. But the
other day (or month, rather), when I was looking for Whitehall, suddenly
there they were again, sitting their horses in the gateways as of yore,
and as woodenly as if they had never stirred since 1861. They were
unchanged in attitude, but how changed they were in person: so dwarfed,
so shrunken, as if the intervening years had sapped the juices of their
joints and let their bones fall together, like those of withered old
men!

This was, of course, the unjust effect of my original exaggeration of
their length and breadth. The troops that I saw marching through the
streets where we first lodged were fine, large men. I myself saw no
choice in the different bodies, but the little housemaid much preferred
the grenadier guards to the Scotch guards; perhaps there was one
grenadier guard who lent beauty and grandeur to the rest. I think Scotch
caps are much gayer than those busbies which the grenadiers wear, but
that, again, is a matter of taste; I certainly did not think the plaid
pantaloons with which the Scotch guards hid the knees that ought to have
been naked were as good as the plain trousers of their rivals. But they
were all well enough, and the officers who sauntered along out of step
on the sidewalk, or stoop-shoulderedly, as the English military fashion
now is, followed the troops on horseback, were splendid fellows, who
would go to battle as simply as to afternoon tea, and get themselves
shot in some imperial cause as impersonally as their men.

There were large barracks in our neighborhood where one might have
glimpses of the intimate life of the troops, such as shirt-sleeved
figures smoking short pipes at the windows, or red coats hanging from
the sills, or sometimes a stately bear-skin dangling from a shutter by
its throat-latch. We were also near to the Chelsea Hospital, where
soldiering had come to its last word in the old pensioners pottering
about the garden-paths or sitting in the shade or sun. Wherever a red
coat appeared it had its honorable obsequy in the popular interest, and
if I might venture to sum up my impression of what I saw of soldiering
in London I should say that it keeps its romance for the spectator far
more than soldiering does in the Continental capitals, where it seems a
slavery consciously sad and clearly discerned. It may be that a glamour
clings to the English soldier because he has voluntarily enslaved
himself as a recruit, and has not been torn an unwilling captive from
his home and work, like the conscripts of other countries. On the same
terms our own military are romantic.




IV

THE DUN YEAR'S BRILLIANT FLOWER


I had thought--rather cheaply, as I now realize--of offering, as a
pendant for the scene of Fashion Meeting Itself in the Park on the
Sunday noons and afternoons which I have tried to photograph, some
picture of open-air life in the slums. But upon reflection I have
decided that the true counterpart of that scene is to be found any
week-day evening, when the weather is fair, on the grassy stretches
which the Park rises into somewhat beyond the sacred close of high life.
This space is also enclosed, but the iron fence which bounds it is
higher and firmer, and there is nothing of such seclusion as embowering
foliage gives. There are no trees on any side for many acres, and the
golden-red sunset glow hovers with an Indian-summer mellowness in the
low English heaven; or at least it did so at the end of one sultry day
which I have in mind. From all the paths leading up out of Piccadilly
there was a streaming tendency to the pleasant level, thickly and softly
turfed, and already strewn with sitting and reclining shapes which a
more impassioned imagination than mine might figure as the dead and
wounded in some field of the incessant struggle of life. But, besides
having no use for such a figure, I am withheld from it by a conscience
against its unreality. Those people, mostly young people, are either
sitting there in gossiping groups, or whispering pairs, or singly
breathing a mute rapture of release from the day's work. A young fellow
lies stretched upon his stomach, propped by his elbows above the
newspaper which the lingering light allows him to read; another has an
open book under his eyes; but commonly each has the companionship of
some fearless girl in the abandonment of the conventionalities which
with us is a convention of summer ease on the sands beside the sea, but
which is here without that extreme effect which the bathing-costume
imparts on our beaches. These young people stretched side by side on the
grass in Hyde Park added a pastoral charm to the scene, a suggestion of
the

    "Bella eta, dell' oro"

not to be had elsewhere in our iron civilization. One might accuse their
taste, but certainly they were more interesting than the rows of young
men perched on the top course of the fence, in a wide variety of straw
hats, or even than the red-coated soldiers who boldly occupied the penny
chairs along the walks and enjoyed each the vigorous rivalry of girls
worshipping him on either hand.

They boldly occupied the penny chairs, for the danger that they would be
made to pay was small. The sole collector, a man well in years and of a
benevolent reluctance, passed casually among the rows of seats, and took
pennies only from those who could most clearly afford it. There was a
fence round a pavilion where a band was playing, and within there were
spendthrifts who paid fourpence for their chairs, when the music could
be perfectly well heard without charge outside. It was, in fact, heard
there by a large audience of bicyclers of both sexes, who stood by their
wheels in numbers unknown in New York since the fad of bicycling began
to pass several years ago. The lamps shed a pleasant light upon the
crowd, after the long afterglow of the sunset had passed and the first
stars began to pierce the clear heavens. But there was always enough
kindly obscurity to hide emotions that did not mind being seen, and to
soften the details which could not be called beautiful. As the dark
deepened, the prone shapes scattered by hundreds over the grass looked
like peaceful flocks whose repose was not disturbed by the human voices
or by the human feet that incessantly went and came on the paths. It was
a touch, however illusory, of the rusticity which lingers in so many
sorts at the heart of the immense city, and renders it at unexpected
moments simple and homelike above all other cities.

The evening when this London pastoral offered itself was the close of a
day of almost American heat. The mercury never went above eighty-three
degrees, but the blood mounted ten degrees higher; though I think a good
deal of the heat imparted itself through the eye from the lurid horizons
paling upward into the dull, unbroken blue of the heavens, ordinarily
overcast or heaped with masses of white cloud. A good deal came also
from the thronged streets, in which the season had scarcely begun to
waver, and the pulses of the plethoric town throbbed with a sense of
choking fulness. The feverish activity of the cabs contributed to the
effect of the currents and counter-currents, as they insinuated
themselves into every crevice of the frequent "blocks," where the
populations of the bus-tops, deprived in their arrest of the artificial
movement of air, sweltered in the sun, and the classes in private
carriages of every order and degree suffered in a helpless equality with
the perspiring masses.

Suddenly all London had burst into a passion of straw hats; and where
one lately saw only the variance from silken cylinders to the different
types of derbies and fedoras, there was now the glisten of every shape
of panama, tuscan, and chip head-gear, with a prevalence of the low,
flat-topped hard-brimmed things that mocked with the rigidity of
sheet-iron the conception of straw as a light and yielding material. Men
with as yet only one foot in the grave can easily remember when the
American picked himself out in the London crowd by his summer hat, but
now, in his belated conformity to an extinct ideal, his head is apt to
be one of the few cylindered or derbied heads in the swarming
processions of Piccadilly or the paths in the Park. No shape of straw
hat is peculiar to any class, but the slouching panama is for pecuniary
reasons more the wear of rank and wealth. With a brim flared up in front
and scooped down behind, it justifies its greater acceptance with youth;
age and middle-age wear its weave and the tuscan braid in the fedora
form; and now and then one saw the venerable convention of the cockaded
footman's and coachman's silk hat mocked in straw. No concession more
extreme could be made to the heat, and these strange cylinders, together
with the linen liveries which accompanied them, accented the excesses in
which the English are apt to indulge their common-sense when they decide
to give way to it. They have apparently decided to give way to it in the
dress of both sexes on the bridle-paths of the Park, where individual
caprice is the sole law that obtains amid a general anarchy.

[Illustration: ROTTEN ROW.]

The effect, upon the whole, is exhilarating, and suggests the daring
thought that, if ever their race decides to get on without government of
any sort, they will rid themselves of it with a thoroughness and
swiftness past the energy of dynamite, and cast church and state, with
all their dignities, to the winds as lightly as they have discarded the
traditional costumes of Rotten Row. The young girls and young men in
flapping panamas, in tunics and jackets of every kind and color, gave
certainly an agreeable liveliness to the spectacle, which their elders
emulated by expressions of taste as personal and unconventional. A lady
in the old-fashioned riding-habit and a black top-hat with a floating
veil recalled a former day, but she was obviously riding to lose weight,
in a brief emergence from the past to which she belonged. One man
similarly hatted, but frock-coated and not veiled, is scarcely worthy
of note; but no doubt he was gratifying an individual preference as
distinct as that of the rest. He did not contribute so much to the sense
of liberation from the heat as the others who, when it reached its
height, frankly confessed its power by riding in greatly diminished
numbers. By twelve o'clock scarcely one left of all those joyous youths,
those jolly sires and grandsires, those happy children, matched in size
with their ponies, as the elders were in their different mounts, remains
to distract the eye from the occupants of the two rows of penny chairs
and the promenaders between them.

It was a less formidable but possibly more interesting show of what
seemed society at home than the Sunday-afternoon reception in the
consecrated closes on the grass. People who knew one another stopped and
gossiped, and people who knew nobody passed on and tried to ignore them.
But that could not have been easy. The women whom those handsome,
aristocratic men bowed over, or dropped into chairs beside, or saluted
as they went by, were very beautiful women, and dressed with that
sentiment which has already been celebrated. Their draperies fluttered
in the gay breeze which vied with the brilliant sun in dappling them
with tremulous leaf-shadows, and in making them the life of a picture to
be seen nowhere else. It was not necessary to know just who, or just of
what quality they were, in order to realize their loveliness.

Behind the walks and under the trees the grass had still something of
its early summer freshness; but in its farther stretches it was of our
August brown, and in certain spaces looked burned to the roots. The
trees themselves had begun to relax their earlier vigor, and the wind
blew showers of yellowing leaves from their drooping boughs. Towards the
close of the season, on the withered grass, quite in the vicinity of
those consecrated social closes, to which I am always returning with a
snobbish fondness, I saw signs of the advance of the great weary army
which would possess the pleasure-grounds of the town when the pleasurers
had left it. Already the dead-tired, or possibly the dead-drunk, had
cast themselves, as if they had been shot down there, with their faces
in the lifeless grass, and lay in greasy heaps and coils where the
delicate foot of fashion had pressed the green herbage. As among the
spectators I thought I noted an increasing number of my countrymen and
women, so in the passing vehicles I fancied more and more of them in the
hired turnouts which cannot long keep their secret from the critical
eye. These were as obvious to conjecture as some other turnouts, which I
fancied of a decayed ancestrality: cumbrous landaus and victorias, with
rubberless tires, which grumbled and grieved in their course for the
_passati tempi_, and expressed a rheumatic scorn for the parvenu
carriages, and for all the types of motors which more and more invade
the drives of the Park. They had a literary quality, and were out of
Thackeray and Trollope, in the dearth of any modern society novelists
great enough for them to be out of.

If such novelists had not been wanting I am sure I should not be left
with the problem of an extremely pretty and charming woman whose scarf
one morning so much engaged the eye of the gentleman sitting beside
another extremely pretty and charming woman, that he left her and came
and sat down by the new-comer, who let him play with the fringe of her
scarf. Was she in a manner playing _him_ with it? A thoroughly
equipped society fiction, such as the English now lack, would have
instructed me, and taught me the mystic meaning of the young girls who
fluttered up and down the paths by twos and threes, exquisite
complexions, exquisite shapes, exquisite profiles, exquisite costumes,
in a glad momentary freedom from chaperonage. It would fix even the
exact social value of that companion of a lady stopped in chat by that
other lady, who was always hopping up and stopping people of her
acquaintance. The companion was not of her acquaintance, nor was she now
made of it; she stood statue-still and sphinx-patient in the walk, and
only an eye ever avid of story could be aware of the impassioned tapping
of the little foot whose mute drama faintly agitated the hem of her
drapery. Was she poor and proud, or was she rich and scornful in her
relation to the encounter from which she remained excluded? The lady who
had left her standing rejoined her and they drifted off together into
the vast of the unfathomed, but not, I like to believe, the
unfathomable.

When the heat broke at last, after a fortnight, of course it did not
break. That would have been a violence of which English weather would
not have been capable. There was no abrupt drop of the mercury, as if a
trap were sprung under it, after the fashion with us. It softly gave way
in a gradual, delicious coolness, which again mellowed at the edges, as
it were, and dissolved in a gentle, tentative rain. But how far the rain
might finally go, we did not stay to see: we had fled from the "anguish
of the solstice," as we had felt it in London, and by the time the first
shower insinuated itself we were in the heart of the Malvern Hills.

Of course, this heated term was not as the heated terms of New York are;
but it excelled them in length, if not in breadth and thickness. The
nights were always cool, and that was a saving grace which our nights do
not know; with nights like ours so long a heat would have been
unendurable, but in London one woke each morning with renewed hope and
renewed strength. Very likely there were parts of London where people
despaired and weakened through the night, but in these polite
perspectives I am trying to exclude such places; and whenever I say
"one" in this relation, I am imagining one of the many Americans who
witness the London season perhaps oftener from the outside than the
inside, but who still can appreciate and revere its facts.

The season was said to begin very late, and it was said to be a very
"bad" season, throughout May, when the charges of those who live by it
ordinarily feel an expansive rise; when rooms at hotels become
difficult, become impossible; when the rents of apartments double
themselves, and apartments are often not to be had at any price; when
the face of the cabman clouds if you say you want him by the hour, and
clears if you add that you will make it all right with him; when every
form of service begins to have the courage of its dependence; and the
manifold fees which ease the social machine seem to lubricate it so much
less than the same fees in April; when the whole vast body of London
groans with a sense of repletion such as no American city knows except
in the rare congestion produced by a universal exposition or a national
convention. Such a congestion is of annual occurrence in London, and is
the symptomatic expression of the season; but the symptoms ordinarily
recognizable in May were absent until June in the actual year. They were
said to have been suppressed by the reluctance of the tardy spring, and
again by the king's visit to Ireland. As the king is the fountain of
social prosperity it is probable that he had more to do with delaying
the season than the weather had; but by what one hears said of him he
would not have willingly delayed it. He is not only a well-meaning and
well-doing prince, one hears from people of every opinion, but a
promoter of peace and international concord (especially with France,
where his good offices are believed to have been peculiarly effective),
and he is, rather more expectedly, a cheerful sovereign, loving the
gayety as well as the splendor of state, and fond of seeing the world
enjoy itself.

It is no betrayal of the national confidence to repeat what every one
says concerning the present outburst of fashion, that it is a glad
compliance with the king's liking; the more eager because of its long
suppression during the late queen's reign and the more anxious because
of a pathetic apprehension inspired by the well-known serious
temperament of the heir-apparent to the throne. No doubt the joyful
rebound from the depression of the Boer war is also still felt; but for
whatever reason London life is gay and glad, it is certainly making its
hay while the sun shines, and it mixes as many poppies and daisies with
the crop as possible against the time when only grass may be acceptable.
In other terms the prevailing passion for pretty clothes in the masses
as well as the classes is the inspiration of the court, while the free
personal preferences expressed are probably the effect of that strong,
that headstrong, instinct of being like one's self, whether one is like
others or not, which has always moulded precedence and tradition to
individual convenience with the English. One would not have said that a
frock-coat of lustrous black alpaca was just the wear for a tall
middle-aged gentleman in a silk hat and other scrupulous appointments;
but when he appeared in it one hottest Sunday afternoon in that
consecrated close of Hyde Park, and was welcomed by the inmost
flower-group of the gorgeous parterre, one had to own a force of logic
in it. If a frock-coat was the proper thing for the occasion in general,
then the lightest and coolest fabric was the thing for that occasion in
particular. So the wearer had reasoned in sublime self-reliance, and so,
probably, the others reasoned in intelligent acquiescence.

Just what quality he had the courage of one could not have guessed at a
distance, and he must remain part of the immense question which London
continues for the inquirer to the last; but it is safe to say that he
looked distinguished. Out of season, the London type of man looked
undistinguished, but when the season began to make London over, the
pavement of Piccadilly sprouted in a race of giants who were as trees
walking. They were mostly young giants, who had great beauty of
complexion, of course, and as great beauty of feature. They were
doubtless the result of a natural selection, to which money for buying
perfect conditions had contributed as much as the time necessary for
growing a type. Mostly their faces were gentle and kind, and only now
and then hard or cruel; but one need not be especially averse to the
English classification of our species to feel that they had cost more
than they were worth. The very handsomest man I saw, with the most
perfectly patrician profile (if we imagine something delicately aquiline
to be particularly patrician), was a groom who sat his horse beside
Rotten Row, waiting till his master should come to command the services
of both. He too had the look of long descent, but if it could not be
said that he had cost the nation too much time and money, it might still
be conjectured that he had cost some one too much of something better.

Next after these beautiful people I think that in the multitudinously
varied crowd of London I saw no men so splendidly, so brilliantly, so
lustrously handsome as three of those imperial British whose lives are
safer, but whose social status is scarcely better than that of our
negroes. They were three tall young Hindoos, in native dress, and white-
turbaned to their swarthy foreheads, who suddenly filed out of the
crowd, looking more mystery from their liquid eyes than they could well
have corroborated in word or thought, and bringing to the metropolis of
the West the gorgeous and foolish magnificence of the sensuous East.
What did they make of the metropolis? Were they conscious, with or
without rebellion, of their subjection, their absolute inferiority in
the imperial scheme? If looks went for what looks rarely do, except in
women, they should have been the lords of those they met; but as it was
they were simply the representatives of one of the suppressed races
which, if they joined hands, could girdle the globe under British rule.
Somehow they brought the sense of this home to the beholder, as none of
the monuments or memorials of England's imperial glory had done, and
then, having fulfilled their office, lost themselves in the crowd.




V

THE SIGHTS AND SOUNDS OF THE STREETS


The specialization of those fatuous Orientals, transient as it was, was
of far greater duration than that of most individual impressions from
the London crowd. London is a flood of life, from which in a powerful
light you may catch the shimmering facet of a specific wavelet; but
these fleeting glimpses leave only a blurred record with the most
instantaneous apparatus. What remains of the vision of that long
succession of streets called by successive names from Knightsbridge to
Ludgate Hill is the rush of a human torrent, in which you are scarcely
more aware of the single life than of any given ripple in a river. Men,
women, children form the torrent, but each has been lost to himself in
order to give it the collective immensity which abides in your mind's
eye.

To the American city-dweller the London omnibus is archaic. Except for
the few slow stages that lumber up and down Fifth Avenue, we have hardly
anything of the omnibus kind in the whole length and breadth of our
continent, and it is with perpetual astonishment and amusement that one
finds it still prevailing in London, quite as if it were not as gross an
anachronism as the war-chariot or the sedan-chair. It is ugly, and
bewilderingly painted over with the names of its destinations, and clad
with signs of patent medicines and new plays and breakfast foods in
every color but the colors of the rainbow. It is ponderous and it
rumbles forward with a sound of thunder, and the motion of a steamer
when they put the table-racks on. Seen from the pavement, or from the
top of another omnibus, it is of barbaric majesty; not, indeed, in the
single example, but as part of the interminable line of omnibuses coming
towards you. Then its clumsiness is lost in the collective uncouthness
which becomes of a tremendous grandeur. The procession bears onward
whole populations lifted high in the air, and swaying and lurching with
the elephantine gait of things which can no more capsize than they can
keep an even pace. Of all the sights of London streets, this procession
of the omnibuses is the most impressive, and the common herd of
Londoners of both sexes which it bears aloft seems to suffer a change
into something almost as rich as strange. They are no longer ordinary or
less than ordinary men and women bent on the shabby businesses that
preoccupy the most of us; they are conquering princes, making a progress
in a long triumph, and looking down upon a lower order of human beings
from their wobbling steeps. It enhances their apparent dignity that they
whom they look down upon are not merely the drivers of trucks and wagons
of low degree, but often ladies of title in their family carriages,
under the care of the august family coachman and footman, or gentlemen
driving in their own traps or carts, or fares in the hansoms that steal
their swift course through and by these ranks; the omnibuses are always
the most monumental fact of the scene. They dominate it in bulk and
height; they form the chief impulse of the tremendous movement, and it
is they that choke from time to time the channel of the mighty torrent,
and helplessly hold it in the arrest of a _block_.

[Illustration: A BLOCK IN THE STRAND.]

No one can forecast the moment when, or the place where, a block may
happen; but mostly it occurs in mid-afternoon, at the intersection of
some street where a line of vehicles is crossing the channel of the
torrent. Suddenly all is at a stand-still, and one of those wonderful
English policemen, who look so slight and young after the vast blue
bulks of our Irish force, shows himself in the middle of the channel,
and holds back its rapids with the quiet gesture of extended hands. The
currents and counter-currents gather and press from the rear and
solidify, but in the narrow fissure the policeman stands motionless,
with only some such slight stir of his extended hands as a cat imparts
to her "conscious tail" when she waits to spring upon her prey.

The mute language of his hands, down to the lightest accent of the
fingers, is intelligible to the dullest of those concerned in its
interpretation, and is telepathically despatched from the nearest to the
farthest driver in the block. While the policeman stands there in the
open space, no wheel or hoof stirs, and it does not seem as if the
particles of the mass could detach themselves for such separate movement
as they have at the best. Softly, almost imperceptibly, he drops his
arms, and lets fall the viewless barrier which he had raised with them;
he remains where he was, but the immense bodies he had stayed liquefy
and move in their opposite courses, and for that time the block is over.

If ever London has her epic poet, I think he will sing the omnibus; but
the poet who sings the hansom must be of a lyrical note. I do not see
how he could be too lyrical, for anything more like song does not move
on wheels, and its rapid rhythm suggests the quick play of fancy in that
impetuous form. We have the hansom with us, but it does not perform the
essential part in New York life that it does in London life. In New York
you _may_ take a hansom; in London you _must_. You serve
yourself of it as at home you serve yourself of the electric car; but
not by any means at the same rate. Nothing is more deceitful than the
cheapness of the hansom, for it is of such an immediate and constant
convenience that the unwary stranger's shilling has slipped from him in
a sovereign before he knows, with the swift succession of occasions when
the hansom seems imperative. A 'bus is inexpensive, but it is stolid and
bewildering; a hansom is always cheerfully intelligent. It will set you
down at the very place you seek; you need walk neither to it nor from
it; a nod, a glance, summons it or dismisses. The 'bus may be kind, but
it is not flattering, and the hansom is flattering as well as kind;
flattering to one's pride, one's doubt, one's timid hope. It takes all
the responsibility for your prompt and unerring arrival; and you may
trust it almost implicitly. At any point in London you can bid it go to
any other with a confidence that I rarely found abused. Once, indeed, my
cabman carried me a long way about at midnight, and when he finally left
me at my door, he was disposed to be critical of its remoteness, while
he apologized for the delay. I suggested that in a difficulty like his a
map of London would be a good thing; but though he was so far in drink
as to be able to take the joke in good part, he denied that a map would
be of the least use to a cabman. Probably he was right; my map was not
of the least use to me; and his craft seemed to feel their way about
through the maze of streets and squares and circles by the same instinct
that serves a pilot on a river in the dark. Their knowledge is a thing
of the nerves, not of the brains, if there is a difference; or if there
is none, then it is an affair of the subliminal consciousness, it is
inspiration, it is genius. It could not well be overpaid, and the cabmen
are careful that it is not underpaid. I heard, indeed, of two American
ladies who succeeded in underpaying their cabman; this was their belief
resting upon his solemn declaration; but I myself failed in every
attempt of the kind. My cabman always said that it was not enough; and
then I compromised by giving him too much. Many stories are told of the
abusiveness of the class, but a simple and effective rule is to overpay
them at once and be done with it. I have sometimes had one cast a
sorrowing glance at the just fare pressed into his down-stretched palm,
and drive off in thankless silence; but any excess of payment was met
with eager gratitude. I preferred to buy the cabman's good-will, because
I find this is a world in which I am constantly buying the good-will of
people whom I do not care the least for, and I did not see why I should
make an exception of cabmen. Only once did I hold out against an
extortionate demand of theirs. That was with a cabman who drove me to
the station, and said: "I'll have to get another sixpence for this,
sir." "Well," I returned, with a hardihood which astonished me, "you
won't get it of me." But I was then leaving London, and was no longer
afraid. Now, such is the perversity of the human spirit, I am sorry he
did not get the other sixpence of me. One always regrets these acts of
justice, especially towards any class of fellow-beings whose habits of
prey are a sort of vested rights. It is even in your own interest to
suffer yourself to be plundered a little; it stimulates the imagination
of the plunderer to high conceptions of equity, of generosity, which
eventuate in deeds of exemplary honesty. Once, one of the party left a
shawl in the hansom of a cabman whom I had, after my custom and
principle, overpaid, and who had left us at a restaurant upon our second
thought against a gallery where we had first proposed to be put down. We
duly despaired, but we went and saw the pictures, and when we came out
of the gallery there was our good cabman lying in wait to identify us as
the losers of the shawl which he had found in his cab. Is it credible
that if he had been paid only his legal fare he would have been at such
virtuous pains? It may, indeed, be surmised that if the shawl was not
worth more than an imaginable reward for its restoration he was actuated
by self-interest, but this is a view of our common nature which I will
not take.

One hears a good deal of the greater quiet of London after New York. I
think that what you notice is a difference in the quality of the noise
in London. What is with us mainly a harsh, metallic shriek, a grind of
trolley wheels upon trolley tracks, and a wild battering of their
polygonized circles upon the rails, is in London the dull, tormented
roar of the omnibuses and the incessant cloop-cloop of the cab-horses'
hoofs. Between the two sorts of noise there is little choice for one who
abhors both. The real difference is that in many neighborhoods you can
more or less get away from the specialized noises in London, but you
never can do this in New York. You hear people saying that in these
refuges the London noise is mellowed to a soft pour of sound, like the
steady fall of a cataract, which effectively is silence; but that is not
accurate. The noise is broken and crushed in a huge rumble without a
specialized sound, except when, after midnight, the headlong clatter of
a cab-horse distinguishes itself from the prevailing bulk. But the New
York noise is never broken and crushed into a rumble; it bristles with
specific accents, night and day, which agonizingly assort themselves one
from another, and there is no nook or corner where you can be safe from
them, as you can measurably be in London.

London is, if anything, rather more infested than New York with motors,
as the English more simply and briefly call automobiles. The perspective
is seldom free of them, and from time to time the air is tainted with
their breath, which is now one of the most characteristic stenches of
civilization. They share equally with other vehicles the drives in the
parks, though their speed is tempered there to the prevalent pace. They
add to the general noise the shuddering bursts of their swift
percussions, and make the soul shrink from a forecast of what the
aeroplane may be when it shall come hurtling overhead with some peculiar
screech as yet unimagined. The motor plays an even more prominent part
in the country than in London, especially in those remnants of time
which the English call weekends, and which stretch from Friday afternoon
to the next Monday morning. It is within these limits that people are
ordinarily "asked down," and as the host usually lives from five to ten
miles from the nearest station, the guest is met there by a motor which
hurls him over the intervening ground at the speed of the train he has
just left. The motor is still the rich man's pleasure, as the week-end
is his holiday; and it will be long before the one will be the poor
man's use, or the other his leisure. For the present he must content
himself, in England, at least, with his own legs, and with the
bank-holiday which now comes so often as to be dreaded by his betters
when it lets him loose upon their travel and sojourn in excursional
multitude. This is not likely ever to come under question of affecting
the London season, as one heard the week-end accused of doing. It was
theorized that people went out of town so much, in order to be at home
in the country for their friends, that with two afternoons and three
nights lost to the festivities of London, the season was sensibly if not
vitally affected. But that was in the early weeks of it. As it grew and
prospered through the latter half of June and the whole of July, the
week-end, as an inimical factor, was no longer mentioned. It even began
to be recognized as an essential element of the season. Like the king's
visits to Denmark, to Ireland, to Germany, it really served to intensify
the season.

At this point, I find it no longer possible to continue celebrating that
great moment in the social life of a vast empire without accusing myself
of triviality and hypocrisy. I have become aware that I really care
nothing about it, and know almost as little. I fancy that with most
English people who have passed the heyday of their youth, perhaps
without having drunk deeply, or at all, of the delirious fountain of
fashion, it is much the same. The purpose that the season clearly serves
is annually gathering into the capital great numbers of the people best
worth meeting from all parts of the world-wide English dominion, with
many aliens of distinction, not counting Americans, who are held a kind
of middle species by the natives. It is a time of perpetual breakfasts,
lunches, teas, and dinners, receptions, concerts, and for those who can
bear it, balls till the day of twenty-four hours' pleasure begins again,
with the early rites of Rotten Row. Those who have a superfluity of
invitations go on at night from one house to another till they fall
lifeless into bed at their own. One may fancy, if one likes, that they
show the effects of their pleasure the next day, that many a soft cheek
pales its English rose under the flapping panama hats among the riders
in the Park, and that, lively as they still are, they tend rather to be
phantoms of delight. But perhaps this is not so. What is certain is that
for those who do not abuse the season it is a time of fine as well as
high enjoyment, when the alien, or the middle species, if he is known,
or even tolerably imagined, may taste a cup of social kindness, of
hospitality, deeper if not richer than any in the world. I do not say
that one of the middle species will find in it the delicate, the wild,
the piquant flavors of certain remembered cups of kindness at home; and
I should not say this even if it were true; but he will be an ungrateful
and ungracious guest if he criticises. He will more wisely and justly
accuse himself of having lost his earlier zest, if he does not come away
always thinking, "What interesting people I have met!"




VI

SOME MISGIVINGS AS TO THE AMERICAN INVASION


It is perhaps more than possible that among the interesting people one
meets at luncheons and teas and dinners, there will be, or have been,
other Americans; and this suggests the perilous question whether the
English like the Americans better than formerly. An Englishman might
counter by asking whether the Americans like the English better than
formerly; but that would not be answering the question, which I hope to
leave very much where I found it. Yet Americans have heard and read so
much of their increasing national favor with their contemporary
ancestors that they may be excused if not satisfied in a curiosity as to
the fact. Is the universal favor which an emotional and imaginative
press like ours has portrayed them as presently enjoying in England a
reality, or is it one of the dreams which our press now and then
indulges, and of which the best that can be said is that they do no
harm?

One not only hears of this favor at home, but when one goes to England
one still hears of it. To be sure one hears of it mainly from Americans,
but they have the best means of knowing the fact; they are chiefly
concerned, and they are supported in their belief by the almost unvaried
amenity of the English journals, which now very rarely take the tone
towards Americans formerly habitual with them. Their change of tone is
the most obvious change which I think Americans can count upon noting
when they come to England, and I am far from reckoning it insignificant.
It did not happen of the newspapers themselves; it must be the
expression of a prevalent mood, if not a very deeply rooted feeling in
their readers. One hears of their interest, their kindness, not from the
Americans alone; the English themselves sometimes profess it, and if
they overestimate us, the generous error is in the right direction. At
the end it must cease to be an error, for, as we Americans all know, we
need only to be better understood in order to be more highly prized.
Besides, liking is much oftener the effect of willing than has been
supposed.

But if the case were quite the contrary, if it were obvious to the
casual experience of the American traveller or sojourner in England,
that his nationality was now liked less rather than more there, I should
still be sorry to disturb what is at the worst no worse than a fond
illusion. The case is by no means the contrary, and yet in consenting to
some reason in the iridescence which the situation wears in the American
fancy I should wish to distinguish. For a beginning I should not wish to
go farther than to say that the sort of Englishmen who have always liked
Americans, because they have liked the American ideal and the kind of
character realized from it, now probably like them better than ever.
They are indeed less critical of our departure from our old ideal than
some Americans, perhaps because they have not foreseen, as such
Americans have foreseen, the necessary effect in American character.
They can still allow themselves the pleasure which comes from being
confirmed in an impression by events, and in that pleasure they may
somewhat romance us; but even such Englishmen are not blindly fond of
us. The other sort of Englishmen, the sort that never liked our ideal or
our character, probably now like us as little as ever, except as they
have noted our change of ideal, and expect a change of character. To
them we may very well have seemed a sort of civic dissenters, with the
implication of some such quality of offence as the notion of dissent
suggests to minds like theirs. We had a political religion like their
own, with a hierarchy, a ritual, an establishment all complete, and we
violently broke with it. But it is safe to conjecture that this sort of
Englishman is too old or too old-fashioned to live much longer; he
suffers with the decay of certain English interests which the American
prosperity imperilled before it began to imperil English ideals, if it
has indeed done so. His dying out counts for an increase of favor for
us; we enjoy through it a sort of promotion by seniority.

But a new kind of Englishman has come up of late years, and so far as he
is friendly to us his friendliness should be more gratifying than that
even of our older friends. He has been in America, either much or
little, and has come to like us because he has seen us at home. If such
an Englishman is rich and noble, he has seen our plutocracy, and has
liked it because it is lively and inventive in its amusements and
profusely original in its splendors; but he need not be poor and
plebeian to have seen something of our better life, and divined
something of our real meaning from it. He will not be to blame if he has
not divined our whole meaning; for we are at present rather in the dark
as to that ourselves, and certainly no American who met him in England
could wish to blame him, for his cordiality forms the warmest welcome
that the American can have there. If he has been in America and not
liked us, or our order or ideal, he has still the English good-nature,
and if you do not insist upon being taken nationally, there are many
chances that he will take you personally, and if he finds you not at all
like an American, he will like you, as he liked others in America whom
he found not at all like Americans.

It is the foible, however, of many Americans, both at home and abroad,
that they want to be taken nationally, and not personally, by
foreigners. Beyond any other people we wish to be loved by other
peoples, even by others whom we do not love, and we wish to be loved in
the lump. We would like to believe that somehow our sheer Americanism
rouses the honor and evokes the veneration of the alien, and as we have
long had a grudge against the English, we would be particularly glad to
forget it in a sense of English respect and affection. We would fain
believe that the English have essentially changed towards us, but we
might easily deceive ourselves, as we could realize if we asked
ourselves the reasons for such a change.

The English are very polite, far politer than they have been
represented, and they will not wittingly wound the American visitor,
unless for just cause, like business, or the truth. Still, I should say
that the American will fare best with them if he allows himself to be
taken individually, rather than typically. One's nationality is to
others, after a first moment of surprise, a bore and a nuisance, which
cannot be got out of the way too soon. I cannot keep my interest in a
German or an Italian because he is such; and why should not it be the
same with an Englishman in regard to Americans? If he thinks about our
nationality at all, in its historical character, it is rather a pill,
which he may be supposed to take unwillingly, whether he believes we
were historically right or not. He may say just things about it, but he
will say them more for the profit of Englishmen than for the pleasure of
Americans. With our pleasure nationally an Englishman is very little
concerned, and either he thinks it out of taste to show any curiosity
concerning us, in the bulk, or else he feels none. He has lately read
and heard a good deal of talk about us; but I doubt if it has indelibly
impressed him. If we have lately done things which in their way could
not be ignored, they could certainly be forgotten, and many Englishmen,
in spite of them, still remain immensely incurious about us. The
American who wishes to be taken nationally by them must often inspire
them with a curiosity about us, before he can gratify it, and that is a
species of self-indulgence which leaves a pang.

The English have, or they often express, an amiable notion of us as
enormously rich, and perhaps they think we are vain of our millionaires,
and would be flattered by an implication of wealth as common to us all
as our varying accent. But it is as hard for some of us to live up to a
full pocket as for others to live up to a full brain. It is hard even to
meet the expectation that you will know, or know about, our tremendously
moneyed people; but here is a curiosity which you do not have to inspire
before you gratify it, for it exists already, while as to our political
affairs, or even our military or naval affairs, not to speak of our
scientific or literary affairs, the curiosity that you gratify you must
first have inspired.

Their curiosity as to our riches does not judge the English, as might be
supposed. They are very romantic, with a young, lusty appetite for the
bizarre and the marvellous, as their taste in fiction evinces; and they
need not be contemned as sordid admirers of money because they wish to
know the lengths it can go to with the people who seem to be just now
making the most money. Their interest in a phenomenon which we ourselves
have not every reason to be proud of, is not without justification, as
we must allow if we consider a little, for if we consider, we must own
that our greatest achievement in the last twenty or thirty years has
been in the heaping up of riches. Our magnificent success in that sort
really eclipses our successes in every other, and the average American
who comes abroad must be content to shine in the reflected glory of
those Americans who have recently, more than any others, rendered our
name illustrious. If we do not like the fact all that we have to do is
to set about doing commensurate things in art, in science, in letters,
or even in arms.

It will not quite do to say that the non-millionaire American enjoys in
England the interest mixed with commiseration which is the lot of a poor
relation of the great among kindly people. That would not be true, and
possibly the fact is merely that the name American first awakens in the
English some such associations with riches as the name South African
awakened before it awakened others more poignant and more personal.
Already the South African had begun to rival the American in the popular
imagination; as the Boer war fades more and more into the past, the time
may come when we shall be confusedly welcomed as Africanders or South
Americans.

If I were to offer what I have been saying as my opinions, or my
conclusions from sufficient observations I should be unfair, if not
uncandid. The sum of what one sees and hears in a foreign country is as
nothing to the sum of what one does not see and hear; and the immense
balance may be so far against the foregoing inferences that it is the
part of mere prudence to declare that they are not my opinions or
conclusions, but are only impressions, vague and hurried, guesses from
cursory observations, deductions from slight casual incidents. They are
mere gleams from social facets, sparks struck out by chance encounter,
and never glancing lights from the rarefied atmosphere in which the two
nations have their formal reciprocities. For all that I have really the
right to say from substantial evidence to the contrary, I might very
well say that the English value us for those things of the mind and soul
which we are somewhat neglectful of ourselves, and I insist the more,
therefore, that it is only their love of fairy-tales which is taken with
the notion of an opulence so widespread among us as to constitute us a
nation of potential, if not actual, millionaires.

They would hasten to reproach me, I am afraid, for speaking of England,
though merely for purposes of illustration, as a foreign country. One is
promptly told that Americans are not regarded as foreigners in England,
and is left to conjecture one's self a sort of compromise between
English and alien, a little less kin than Canadian and more kind than
Australian. The idea has its quaintness; but the American in England has
been singularly unfortunate if he has had reason to believe that the
kindness done him is not felt. What has always been true of the English
is true now. They do not say or do the thing which is not, out of
politeness; their hypocrisies, if they have any, are for their God, and
not for their fellow-man. When they talk of their American brethren,
they mean it; just as when they do not talk of them so they mean
something less, or nothing at all. The American who wishes to be taken
nationally, may trust any expression friendly to our nation that he
hears; but still I think he will have a better time if he prefers being
taken personally. That is really making one's self at home in a
different, I will no longer say a foreign, country; the English are
eager hosts, and wish you to make yourself at home--if they like you.
Nationally we cannot make ourselves, or be made at home, except in the
United States. To any other people, to people sometimes claiming to be
nearer than the first degree of cousinship, our nationality, taking it
in bulk, is necessarily a mystery. We are so very like them; why should
we be so very unlike them? The difference puzzles them, annoys them; why
seek points of it, and turn them to the light? The same mystery
distresses the American when the points of their difference are turned
to the light. A man's nationality is something he is justly proud of,
but not till it is put aside can the man of another nation have any joy
of him humanly, spiritually. If you insist upon talking to the English
about American things, you have them in an unknown world, a really
unknowable world, as you yourself know it; and you bewilder and weary
them, unless they are studying Americanism, and then they still do not
understand you. You are speaking English, but the meaning is a strange
tongue.

I say again that I do not know why any one should wish to be caressed
for his nationality. I think one might more self-respectfully wish to be
liked for one's self than joined with a hundred million compatriots, and
loved in the lump. If the English, however, are now trying to love us
nationally we should be careful not to tax their affections too heavily,
or demand too much of them. We must remember that they are more apt to
be deceived by our likeness to themselves than by our unlikeness. When
an Englishman and an American meet on common ground they have arrived
from opposite poles. The Englishman, though he knows the road the
American has come, cannot really imagine it. His whole experience of
life has taught him that if you have come that road, you are not the
kind of man you seem; therefore, you have not come that road, or else
you are another kind of man. He revolves in a maze of hopeless
conjecture; he gives up trying to guess your conundrum, and reads into
you the character of some Englishman of parallel tradition. If he likes
you after that, you may be sure it is for yourself and not for your
nation. All the same he may not know it, and may think he likes you
because you are an agreeable American.

My line of reasoning, or I had better say of fancying (that, on such
dangerous ground, is safest), is forcing an inference from which I
shrink a little; it seems so very bold, so very contrary to recent
prepossessions. But the candor which I would be so glad not to practise,
obliges me to say that I think the American who is himself interesting,
would have been as welcome in England twenty-five years ago as at this
day, and he would not have been expected to be rich, or to have the
acquaintance of rich Americans. Already, at that remote period, certain
fellow-countrymen of ours had satisfied the English taste for wildness
in us. There had been Buffalo Bill, with his show, and there had been
other Buffalo Bills, literary ones, who were themselves shows. There had
then arisen a conjecture, a tardy surmise, of an American fineness,
which might be as well in its way as the American wildness, and the
American who had any imaginable touch of this found as warm a liking
ready for him then as the wild American found earlier, or the rich
American finds later.

In fact, interesting Americans have always been personally liked in
England, if I must really go to the extreme of saying it. What the
English now join in owning, if the question of greater kindness between
the two countries comes up, is that their ruling class made a vast
mistake in choosing, officiously though not officially, the side of the
South in our Civil War. They own it frankly, eagerly. But they owned the
same thing frankly, if not so eagerly, twenty-five years ago. Even
during the Civil War, I doubt if an acceptable American would have
suffered personally among them. He would have suffered nationally, but
he has now and then to suffer so still, for they cannot have the same
measure of his nationality as he, and they necessarily tread upon its
subtile circumferences here and there.

From the very beginning of Americanism the case has been the same. The
American in England during the Civil War was strangely unfortunate if he
did not meet many and great Englishmen who thought and felt with him;
and if there were now any American so stricken in years as to be able to
testify from his own experience of the English attitude towards us in
the War of Independence, he could tell us of the outspoken and constant
sympathy of Chatham, Burke, Fox, Walpole, and their like, with the
American cause--which they counted the English cause. He could tell of
the deep undercurrent of favor among the English people, which the
superficial course of power belied and at last ceased to control, in our
earlier vital war as well as in our later.

So much for that consideration of us nationally, which I do not think
England, in her quality of hostess, is bound to show her several
American guests. I do not blame her that the sympathy of her greatest
sons, so far as it has been shown us nationally, has been shown in her
interest, which they believed the supreme interest of mankind, rather
than in our interest, which it is for us to believe the supreme interest
of mankind. Even when they are talking America they are thinking
England; they cannot otherwise; they must; it is imperative; it is
essential that they should. We talk of England on the same terms, with
our own inner version.

There is another point in this inquiry which I hesitate to touch, and
which if I were better advised I should not touch--that is, the English
interest in the beauty and brilliancy of our women. Their charm is now
magnanimously conceded and now violently confuted in their public
prints; now and then an Englishman lets himself go--over his own
signature even, at times--and denounces our women, their loveliness,
their liveliness, their goodness, in terms which if I repeated them
would make some timider spirits pause in their resolution to marry
English dukes and run English society. But his hot words are hardly cold
before another Englishman comes to the rescue of our countrywomen, and
lifts them again to that pinnacle where their merits quite as much as
the imagination of their novelists have placed them. Almost as much as
our millionaires they are the object of a curiosity which one has not
had to inspire. Where, in what part, in which favored city, do they most
abound? What is the secret of their dazzling wit and beauty, the heart
of their mystery? The most ardent of their votaries must flush in
generous deprecation when those orphic inquiries flow from lips quite as
divine as their own.

For the rest, if there is really that present liking for Americans in
England, which we must wish to touch with all delicacy as the precious
bloom of a century-plant at last coming to flower, the explanation may
be sought perhaps in an effect of the English nature to which I shall
not be the one to limit it. They have not substantially so much as
phenomenally changed towards us. They are, like ourselves, always taking
stock, examining themselves to see what they have on hand. From time to
time they will, say, accuse themselves of being insular, and then,
suddenly, they invite themselves to be continental, to be French, to be
German, to be Italian, to be Bulgarian, or whatever; and for a while
they believe that they have become so. All this time they remain
immutably English. It is not that they are insensible of their defects;
they tell themselves of them in clamorous tones; and of late, possibly,
they have asked themselves why they are not what they think the
Americans are in certain things. If the logic of their emotions in this
direction were a resolution to like all the Americans with a universal
affection, I should admire their spirit, but I should feel a difficulty
in its operation for a reason which I hesitate to confess; I do not like
_all_ the Americans myself.




VII

IN THE GALLERY OF THE COMMONS


In speaking of any specific social experience it is always a question
of how far one may pardonably err on the side of indiscretion; and if I
remember here a dinner in the basement of the House of Commons--in a
small room of the architectural effect of a chapel in a cathedral
crypt--it is with the sufficiently meek hope of keeping well within
bounds which only the nerves can ascertain.

The quaintness of the place may have contributed to an uncommon charm in
the occasion; but its charm was perhaps a happy accident which would
have tried in vain to repeat itself even there. It ended in a visit to
the House, where the strangers were admitted on the rigid terms and in
the strict limits to which non-members must submit themselves. But one
might well undergo much more in order to hear John Burns speak in the
place to which he has fought his right under a system of things as
averse as can be imagined to a working-man's sharing in the legislation
for working-men. The matter in hand that night chanced to be one
peculiarly interesting to a believer in the people's doing as many
things as possible for themselves, as the body politic, instead of
leaving them to a variety of bodies corporate. The steamboat service on
the Thames had grown so insufficient and so inconvenient that it was now
a question of having it performed by the London County Council, which
should be authorized to run lines of boats solely in the public
interest, and not merely for the pleasure and profit of directors and
stockholders. The monstrous proposition did not alarm those fears of
socialism which anything of the kind would have roused with us; nobody
seemed to expect that blowing up the Parliament buildings with dynamite
would be the next step towards anarchy. There was a good deal of
hear-hearing from Mr. Burns's friends, with some friendly chaffing from
his enemies as he went on, steadily and quietly, with his statement of
the case; but there was no serious opposition to the measure which was
afterwards carried in due course of legislation.

I was left to think two or three things about the matter which, though
not strictly photographic, are yet so superficial that they will not be
out of place here. Several members spoke besides Mr. Burns, but the
labor leader was easily first, not only in the business quality of what
he said, but in his business fashion of saying it. As much as any of
them, as the oldest-familied and longest-leisured of them, his manners
had

    "that repose
    Which marks the caste of Vere de Vere,"

and is supposed to distinguish them from those of the castes of Smith
and Brown. But I quickly forgot this in considering how far socialism
had got itself realized in London through the activities of the County
Council, which are so largely in the direction of municipal control. One
hears and reads as little of socialism now in London as in New York, but
that is because it has so effectually passed from the debated principle
to the accomplished fact. It has been embodied in so many admirable
works that the presumption is rather in favor of it as something truly
conservative. It is not, as with us, still under the ban of a prejudice
too ignorant to know in how many things it is already effective; but
this is, of course, mainly because English administration is so much
honester than ours. It can be safely taken for granted that a thing
ostensibly done for the greatest good of the greatest number is not
really done for the profit of a few on the inside. The English can let
the County Council put municipal boats on the Thames with the full
assurance that the County Council will never be in case to retire on a
cumulative income from them.

But apparently the English can do this only by laying the duty and
responsibility upon the imperial legislature. It was droll to sit there
and hear a body, ultimately if not immediately charged with the welfare
of a state conscious in every continent and the islands of every sea,
debating whether the municipal steamboats would not be too solely for
the behoof of the London suburb of West Ham. England, Scotland, Ireland,
Canada, India, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, with any of their
tremendous interests, must rest in abeyance while that question
concerning West Ham was pending. We, in our way, would have settled it
by the vote of a Board of Aldermen, subject to the veto of a mayor; but
we might not have settled it so justly as the British Parliament did in
concentrating the collective wisdom of a world-empire upon it.

The House of Commons took its tremendous responsibility lightly, even
gayly. Except for the dramatic division into government and opposition
benches, the spectacle was in no wise impressive. There was a restless
going and coming of members, as if they could not stand being bored by
their duties any longer, and then, after a brief absence, found strength
for them. Some sat with their hats on, some with their hats off; some
with their legs stretched out, some with their legs pulled in. One could
easily distinguish the well-known faces of ministers, who paid no more
heed, apparently, to what was going on than the least recognizable
members unknown to caricature. The reporters, in their gallery, alone
seemed to give any attention to the proceedings, but doubtless the
speaker, under his official wig, concerned himself with them. The people
apparently most interested were, like myself, in the visitors' gallery.
From time to time one of them asked the nearest usher who it was that
was speaking; in his eagerness to see and hear, one of them would rise
up and crane forward, and then the nearest usher would make him sit
down; but the ushers were generally very lenient, and upon the whole
looked quite up to the level of the average visitor in intelligence.

I am speaking of the men visitors; the intellectual light of the women
visitors, whatever it was, was much dispersed and intercepted by the
screen behind which they were placed. I do not know why the women should
be thus obscured, for, if the minds of members were in danger of being
distracted by their presence, I should think they would be still more
distracted when the element of mystery was added to it by the grille.
Seen across the whole length of the House from the men's gallery the
women looked as if tightly pressed against the grille, and had a
curiously thin, phantasmal effect, or the effect of frescoed figures
done very flat. To the imaginative spectator their state might have
symbolized the relation of women to Parliamentary politics, of which we
read much in English novels, and even English newspapers. Women take
much more interest in political affairs in England than with us; that is
well known; but it may not be so well known that they are in much
greater enjoyment of the franchise, if the franchise is indeed a
pleasure. I do not know whether they vote for school-committeemen, or
whether there are school-committeemen for them to vote for; but they may
vote for guardians of the poor, and may themselves be voted for to that
office; and they may vote for members of the Urban Councils and the
County Councils if they have property to be taxed by those bodies. This
is the right for which our Revolution was made, though we continue, with
regard to women, the Georgian heresy of taxation without representation;
but it is doubtful to the barbarian whether good can come of women's
mixing in parliamentary elections at which they have no vote. Of course,
with us a like interference would be taken jocosely, ironically; it
would, at the bottom, be a good joke, amusing from the tendency of the
feminine temperament to acts of circus in moments of high excitement;
but whether the Englishmen regard it so, the English, alone know. They
are much more serious than we, and perhaps they take it as a fit
manifestation of the family principle which is the underlying force of
the British Constitution. One heard of ladies who were stumping (or
whatever is the English equivalent of stumping) the country on the
preferential tariff question and the other questions which divide
Conservatives and Liberals; but in spite of these examples of their
proficiency the doubt remained whether those who have not the suffrage
can profitably attempt to influence it. Till women can make up their
minds to demand and accept its responsibilities, possibly they will do
best to let it alone.

When they want it they will have it; but until they do, it may not be
for nothing, or even for the control of the members' wandering fancies,
that the House of Commons interposes between them and itself the grille
through which they show like beauteous wraiths or frescoes in the flat.
That screen is emblematic of their real exclusion from the higher
government which their social participation in parliamentary elections,
and the men's habit of talking politics with them, flatter them into a
delusive sense of sharing. A woman may be the queen of England, but she
may not be one of its legislators. That must be because women like being
queens and do not really care for being legislators.




VIII

THE MEANS OF SOJOURN


The secular intensification of the family life makes it possible for
the English to abandon their secular domesticity, when they will,
without apparent detriment to the family life. Formerly the English
family which came up to London for the season or a part of it went into
a house of its own, or, in default of that, went into lodgings, or into
a hotel of a kind happily obsolescent. Such a family now frankly goes
into one of the hotels which abound in London, of a type combining more
of the Continental and American features than the traits of the old
English hotel, which was dark, cold, grim, and silently rapacious, heavy
In appointments and unwholesome in refection. The new sort of hotel is apt
to be large, but it is of all sizes, and it offers a home reasonably
cheerful on inclusive terms not at all ruinous. It has a table-d'hote
dinner at separate tables and a fair version of the French cuisine. If
it is one of the more expensive, it will not be dearer than our dearest,
and if one of the cheaper, it will be better in every way than our
cheaper. The supply has created a demand which apparently did not exist
before, and the Englishman has become a hotel-dweller, or at least a
hotel-sojourner, such as he had long reproached the American with
being.

In like manner, with the supply of good restaurants in great number and
variety, he has become a diner and luncher at restaurants. Whether he
has been able to exact as much as he really wanted of the privacy once
supposed so dear to him, a stranger, even of the middle species, cannot
say, but it is evident that at his hotel or his restaurant he dines or
lunches as publicly as ever the American did or does; and he has his
friends to dinner or lunch without pretence of a private dining-room.
One hears that this sort of open conviviality tempts by its facility to
those excesses of hospitality which are such a drain on English incomes;
but again that is something of which an outsider can hardly venture to
have an opinion. What is probably certain is that the modern hotel and
restaurant, with their cheerful ease, are pushing the old-fashioned
lodging as well as the old-fashioned hotel out of the general favor, and
have already driven them to combine their attractions or repulsions on a
level where they are scarcely distinguishable as separate species.

In the streets neighboring on Piccadilly there are many apartments which
are effectively small hotels, where you pay a certain price for your
rooms, and a certain fixed price for your meals. You must leave this
neighborhood if you want the true lodging where you pay for your
apartment, and order the provisions which are cooked for you, and which
are apportioned to your daily needs. This is the ideal, and it is not
seriously affected by the reality that your provisions are also
apportioned to the needs of your landlord's family. Even then, the ideal
remains beautiful, and you have an image, somewhat blurred and battered,
of home, such as money cannot elsewhere buy you. If your landlord is the
butler who has married the cook, your valeting and cooking approach as
nearly perfection as you can hopefully demand.

It will be well not to scan too closely the infirmities of the
appointments over which an air of decent reticence is cast, and it will
have been quite useless to try guarding all the points at which you
might be plundered. The result is more vexatious than ruinous, and
perhaps in a hotel also you would be plundered. In a lodging you are
promptly and respectfully personalized; your tastes are consulted, if
not gratified; your minor wants, in which your comfort lies, are
interpreted, and possibly there grows up round you the semblance, which
is not altogether deceitful, of your own house.

The theory is admirable, but I think the system is in decay, though to
say this is something like accusing the stability of the Constitution.
Very likely if some American ghost were to revisit a well-known London
street a hundred years from now, he would find it still with the legend
of "Apartments" in every transom; and it must not be supposed that
lodgings have by any means fallen wholly to the middle, much less the
lower middle, classes. In one place there was a marquis overhead; in
another there was a lordship of unascertained degree, who was heard on a
court night being got ready by his valet and the landlord's whole force,
and then marking his descent to his cab by the clanking of his sword
upon the stairs, after which the joint service spent a good part of the
night in celebrating the event at a banquet in the basement. At two
lodgings in a most unpretentious street, it was the landlords' boast
that a royal princess had taken tea with their tenants, who were of the
quality to be rightfully taken tea with by a royal princess; and at
certain hours of the afternoon during the season it was not uncommon to
see noble equipages standing at the doors of certain apartments with a
full equipment of coachmen and footmen, and ladies of unmistakable
fashion ascending and descending by the carriage-steps like the angels
on Jacob's ladder. It could be surmised that they were visiting poor
relations, or modest merit of some sort, but it was not necessary to
suppose this, and upon the whole I prefer not.

The search for lodgings, which began before the season was conscious of
itself, was its own reward in the pleasures it yielded to the student of
human nature and the lover of mild adventure. The belief in lodgings was
a survival from an age of faith, when in the early eighteen-eighties
they seemed the most commodious and desirable refuge to the outwandering
American family which then first proved them. The fragmentary
outwanderers who now visited London, after an absence of twenty-two
years, did not take into account the fact that their apartment of long
ago was the fine event of the search, prolonged for weeks, of two
friends, singularly intelligent and rarely versed in London; they took
it as a type, and expected to drive directly to its fellow. They drove
indirectly to unnumbered lodgings unlike it and unworthy of its memory,
and it was not until after three days that they were able to fix upon a
lodging that appeared the least remote from their ideal. Then, in a
street not too far from Mayfair, and of the quality of a self-respectful
dependant of Belgravia, they set up their breathless Lares and panting
Penates, and settled down with a sense of comfort that grew upon them
day by day. The place undeniably had its charm, if not its merit. The
drawing-room chairs were in a proper pattern of brocade, and, though
abraded at their edges and corners, were of a tasteful frame; the
armchairs, covered like the sofa in a cheerful cretonne, lent the
parting guest the help of an outward incline; the sofa, heaped with
cushions, could not conceal a broken spring, though it braved it out
with the consciousness of having been sat upon by a royal princess who
had once taken tea in that lodging. But the other appointments,
including a pretty writing-desk and a multitude of china plates almost
hiding the wall-paper, were unfractured, and the little dining-room was
very cosey. After breakfast it had the habit of turning itself into a
study, where one of the outwanderers used to set himself down and ask
himself with pen and ink what he honestly thought and felt about this
England which he had always been more or less bothering about. The
inquiry took time which he might better have spent in day-dreaming
before the prospect of the gray March heaven, with the combs of the
roofs and the chimney-pots mezzotinted against it. He might have more
profitably wasted his time even on the smoke-blackened yellow-brick
house-walls, with their juts and angles, and their clambering pipes of
unknown employ, in the middle distance; or, in the foreground, the
skylights of cluttered outbuildings, and the copings of the walls of
grimy backyards, where the sooty trees were making a fight with the
spring, and putting forth a rash of buds like green points of electric
light: the same sort of light that showed in the eyes of a black cat
seasonably appearing under them. Inquiries into English civilization can
always wait, but such passing effects stay for no man, and I put them
down roughly in behalf of a futile philosopher who ought to have studied
them in their inexhaustible detail.

He could not be reproached with insensibility to his domestic
circumstance, from the combination of cook and butler which took him
into its ideal keeping to the unknown, unheard, and unseen German baron
who had the dining-room floor, and was represented through his open door
by his breakfast-trays and his perfectly valeted clothes. The valeting
in that house was unexceptionable, and the service at table was of a
dress-coated decorum worthy of finer dinners than were ever eaten
there. The service throughout was of a gravity never relaxed, except in
the intimate moments of bringing the bath in the morning, when the news
of the day before and the coming events of the present day were
suggestively yet respectfully discussed.

The tenants of the drawing-room floor owed some of their most fortunate
inspirations in sight-seeing to the suggestions of the landlord, whose
apartments I would in no wise leave to depreciatory conjecture. There
was, indeed, always a jagged wound in the entry wall made by some
envious trunk; but there was nothing of the frowziness, the shabbiness
of many of those houses in the streets neighboring Mayfair where many
Americans are eager to pay twice the fee demanded in this house on the
borders of Belgravia.

The Americans I am imagining had first carried on their search in those
genteel regions, which could hardly have looked their best in the last
moments of preparation before the season began. The house-cleaning which
went on in all of them was no more hurried than the advance of the slow
English spring outside, where the buds appeared after weeks of
hesitation, and the leaves unfolded themselves at long leisure, and the
blossoms deliberated in dreamy doubt whether they had not better stay in
than come out. Day after day found the lodging-houses with their carpets
up, and their furniture inverted, and their hallways and stairways
reeking from slop-pails or smelling from paint-pots, and with no visible
promise of readiness for lodgers. They were pretty nearly all of one
type. A young German or Swiss--there for the language--came to the door
in the coat he had not always got quite into, and then summoned from the
depths below a landlord or landlady to be specific about times and
terms, to show the rooms, and conceal the extras. The entry was oftenest
dim and narrow, with a mat sunk into the floor at the threshold and worn
to the quick by the cleansing of numberless feet; and an indescribable
frowziness prevailed which imparted itself to the condition of widowhood
dug up by the young foreigner from the basement. Sometimes there
responded to his summons a clerical, an almost episcopal presence, which
was clearly that of a former butler, unctuous in manner and person from
long serving. Or sometimes there would be something much more modern, of
an alert middle-age or wary youth; in every case the lodging-keeper was
skilled far beyond the lodging-seeker in the coils of bargaining, and of
holding in the background unsurmised charges for electric lights, for
candles, for washing, for baths, for boots, and for what-know-I, after
the most explicit declaration that the first demand included everything.
Nothing definite could be evolved but the fact that when the season
began, or after the first of May the rent would be doubled.

The treaty usually took place in the dishevelled drawing-room, after a
round of the widely parted chambers, where frowzy beds, covered with
frowzy white counterpanes, stood on frowzy carpets or yet frowzier
mattings, and dusty windows peered into purblind courts. A vulgar
modernity coexisted with a shabby antiquity in the appointments; a
mouldering wall showed its damp through the smart tastelessness of
recent paper; the floor reeled under a combination of pseudo-aesthetic
rugs. The drawing-room expected to be the dining-room also, and faintly
breathed the staleness of the meals served in it. If the front windows
often opened on a cheerful street, the back windows had no air but that
of the sunless spaces which successive architectural exigencies had
crowded with projecting cupboards, closets, and lattices, above basement
skylights which the sky seldom lighted. The passages and the stairs were
never visible except after dark; even then the foot rather than the eye
found the way. Yet, once settled in such a place, it developed
possibilities of comfort, of quiet, of seclusion, which the hardiest
hopefulness could not have forecast. The meals came up and could be
eaten; the coffee, which nearly all English hotels have good and nearly
all English lodgings bad, could be exchanged for tea; the service was
always well-intentioned, and often more, and except that you paid twice
as much as it all seemed worth, you were not so ill-used as you might
have been.

It is said that the whole system, if not on its last legs, is unsteady
on its feet from the competition of the great numbers of those large,
new, reasonably cheap, and admirably managed hotels. Yet the
lodging-houses remain by hundreds of thousands, almost by millions,
throughout the land, and if the English are giving them up they are
renouncing them with national deliberation. The most mysterious fact
concerning them is that they are, with all their multitude, so difficult
to get, and are so very bad when you have got them. Having said this, I
remember with fond regret particular advantages in every lodging of my
acquaintance.

[Illustration: ST. PAUL'S CATHEDRAL.]




IX

CERTAIN TRAITS OF THE LONDON SPRINGTIME


The painting-up which the apartments, as they always call themselves,
undergo inside and out, in preparation for the season, is a rite to
which all London bows during April as far as it can afford it. The
lodging-house may restrict itself to picking out in fresh green its
front door and window-frames, or perhaps reddening its area railing; but
private houses pretending to be smart clothe themselves from eave to
basement in coats of creamy white, or other blond tints susceptible of
the soonest harm from the natural and artificial climates of London.
While the paint is fresh, or "wet," the word by which you are warned
from its contact everywhere, it is undeniably pleasing; it gives the
gray town an air of girlish innocence, and, with the boxes of brilliant
flowers at every window-sill, promises a gayety which the season
realizes in rather unusual measure. It is said that the flowers at the
windows must be renewed every month, against the blight of the London
smoke and damp, and, if the paint cannot be renewed so often, it is of
perhaps a little more durable beauty. For a month of preparation, while
the house-fronts in the fashionable streets are escaladed by painters
emulous of the perils of the samphire-gatherer's dreadful trade, the air
is filled with the clean, turpentiny odor, and the eye is pleased with
the soft colors in which the grimy walls remember the hopes of another
spring, of another London season.

If the American's business or pleasure takes him out of town on the edge
of the season and brings him back well over its border, he will have an
agreeable effect from his temporary absence. He will find the throngs he
left visibly greater and notably smarter. Fashion will have got in its
work, and the streets, the pavements, the parks will have responded with
a splendor, a gayety earlier unknown. The passing vehicles will be more
those of pleasure and not so much those of business; the passing feet
will be oftener those going to luncheon and afternoon tea, and not so
solely those hurrying to or lagging from the toils of the day. Even the
morning trains that bring the customary surburbans seem to arrive with
multitudes fresher and brighter than those which arrived before the
season began. I do not know whether it was in tribute to the joyful time
that a housemaid, whom I one morning noted scrubbing down and whitening
up the front steps of a stately mansion, wore a long, black train and a
bolero hat and jacket, and I do not say that this is the usual dress of
the London housemaid, poor thing, in the London season, when putting on
them the scrupulous effect of cleanliness which all the London steps
wear in the morning. One might as well pretend that the may is
consciously white and red on all the hawthorns of the parks and squares
in honor of the season. The English call this lovely blossom so with no
apparent literary association, but the American must always feel as if
he were quoting the name from an old ballad. It gives the mighty town a
peculiarly appealing rustic charm, and it remains in bloom almost as
long as its namesake month endures. But that is no great wonder: when a
tree has worked as hard as a tree must in England to get its blossoms
out, it is naturally in no hurry to drop them; it likes to keep them on
for weeks.

The leaves, by the beginning of June, were in their silken fulness; the
trees stood densely, softly, darkly rounded in the dim air, and they did
not begin to shed their foliage till almost two months later. But I
think I had never so exquisite a sense of the loveliness of the London
trees as one evening in the grounds of a country club not so far out of
London as not to have London trees in its grounds. They were mostly
oaks, beeches, and sycamores; they frequented the banks of a wide, slow
water, which could not be called a stream, and they hung like a palpable
sort of clouds in the gathering mists. The mists, in fact, seemed of
much the same density as the trees, and I should be bolder than I like
if I declared which the birds were singing their vespers in. There was
one thrush imitating a nightingale, which I think must have been singing
in the heart of the mist, and which probably mistook it for a tree of
like substance. It was having, apparently, the time of its life; and
really the place was enchanting, with its close-cropped, daisy-starred
lawns, and the gay figures of polo-players coming home from a distant
field in the pale dusk of a brilliant day of early June.

The birds are heard everywhere in London through that glowing month, and
their singing would drown the roar of the omnibuses and the clatter of
the cab-horses' hoofs if anything could. The little gardens of the
houses back together and form innumerable shelters and pleasaunces for
them. The simple beauty of these umbrageous places is unimaginable to
the American city-dweller, who never sees anything but clothes-lines in
blossom from his back windows; but they exist nearly everywhere in
London, and a more spacious privacy can always be secured where two
houses throw their gardens together, as sometimes happens.

The humblest, or at least the next to the humblest, London house has
some leafy breathing-place behind it where the birds may nest and sing,
and our lodging in the street which was almost Belgravian was not
without its tree and its feathered inmates. When the first really warm
days came (and they came at the time appointed by the poets), the
feathered hostess of the birds, in a coop under the tree, laid an egg in
honor of her friends building overhead. This was a high moment of
triumph for the landlord's whole family. He happened to be making some
very gravelly garden-beds along the wall when the hen proclaimed her
achievement, and he called his children and their mother to rejoice with
him. His oldest boy ran up a flag in honor of the event, and his lodgers
came to the window to enjoy the scene, as I am sure the royal princess
would have done if she had been taking tea there that afternoon.

He was a good man, that landlord, and a kind man, and though his
aspirates were dislocated, his heart, however he miscalled it, was in
the right place. We had many improving conversations, by which I
profited more than he; and he impressed me, like Englishmen of every
class, as standing steadfastly but unaggressively upon the rights of his
station. In England you feel that you cannot trespass upon the social
demesne of the lowliest without being unmistakably warned off the
premises. The social inferiors have a convention of profound respect for
the social superiors, but it sometimes seemed provisional only, a mask
which they expected one day to drop; yet this may have been one of those
errors which foreigners easily make. What is certain is that the
superior had better keep to his place, as the inferior keeps to his.
Across the barrier the classes can and do exchange much more kindness
than we at a distance imagine; and I do not see why this is not a good
time to say that the English manner to dependants is beyond criticism.
The consideration for them seems unfailing; they are asked to do things
if they please, and they are invariably and distinctly thanked for the
smallest service. There are no doubt exceptions to the kindness which
one sees, but I did not see the exceptions. The social machinery has so
little play that but for the lubrication of these civilities the grind
of class upon class might be intolerable. With us in America there is no
love lost between rich and poor; unless the poor are directly and
obviously dependent on the rich our classes can be frankly brutal with
one another, as they never seem in England. Very possibly that perfect
English manner from superiors is also a convention, like the respect of
the inferiors, but it is a becoming one.

This is getting rather far away from the birds, not to say my landlord,
who told me that when he first took that house a flock of starlings used
to visit him in the spring. He did not tell me that his little house
stood in the region of Nell Gwynne's mulberry-gardens; his knowledge was
of observation, not of reading; and he was a gossip only about
impersonal things. Concerning his lodgers he was as a grave for silence,
and I fancy this is the strict etiquette of his calling, enforced by the
national demand for privacy. He did, indeed, speak once of a young
German lodger whom he had kept from going to a garden-party in full
evening-dress, but the incident was of a remoteness which excused its
mention. What had impressed him in it was the foreigner's almost tearful
gratitude when he came home and acknowledged that he had found everybody
in the sort of frock-coat which the landlord had conjured him to wear.

[Illustration: WESTMINSTER ABBEY.]

While the may was still hesitating on the hawthorns whether to come out,
there were plum and peach trees in the gardens which emulated the
earlier daring of the almonds. Plums do ripen in England, of course; the
greengages that come there after they have ceased to come from France
are as good as our own when the curculio does not get them; but the
efflorescence of the peaches and almonds is purely gratuitous; they
never fruit in the London air unless against some exceptionally
sun-warmed wall, and even then I fancy the chances are against them.
Perhaps the fruits of the fields and orchards, if not of the streets,
would do better in England if the nights were warmer. The days are often
quite hot, but after dusk the temperature falls so decidedly that even
in that heated fortnight in July a blanket or two were never too much.
In the spring a day often began mellowly enough, but by the end of the
afternoon it had grown pinched and acrid.




X

SOME VOLUNTARY AND INVOLUNTARY SIGHT-SEEING


I had a very good will towards all the historic temples in London, and
I hope that this, with the fact that I had seen them before, will pass
for my excuse in not going promptly to revere them. I indeed had some
self-reproaches with regard to St. Paul's, of which I said to myself I
ought to see it again; there might be an emotion in it. I passed and
repassed it, till I could bear it no longer, and late one afternoon I
entered just in time to be turned out with half a score of other tardy
visitors who had come at the closing hour. After this unavailing visit,
the necessity of going again established itself in me, and I went
repeatedly, choosing, indeed, rainy days when I could not well go
elsewhere, and vengefully rejoicing, when I went, in the inadequacy of
its hugeness and the ugliness of its monuments.

Some sense of my mood I may impart, if I say that St. Paul's always
seemed a dispersed and interrupted St. Peter's in its structure and
decoration, and a very hard, unsympathetic, unappealing Westminster
Abbey in its mortuary records. The monuments of the Abbey are often
grotesque enough, but where they are so they are in the taste of times
far enough back to have become rococo and charming. I do not mind a
bronze Death starting out of a marble tomb and threatening me with his
dart, if he is a Death of the seventeenth century; but I do very much
mind the heavy presence of the Fames or Britannias of the earlier
nineteenth century celebrating in dull allegory the national bereavement
in the loss of military and naval heroes who fell when the national type
was least able to inspire grief with an artistic expression. The
statesmen, the ecclesiastics, the jurists, look all of a like period,
and stand about in stone with no more interest for the spectator than
the Fames or the Britannias.

The imagination stirs at nothing in St. Paul's so much as at that list
of London bishops, which, if you are so lucky as to come on it by chance
where it is inscribed beside certain windows, thrills you with a sense
of the long, long youth of that still unaging England. Bishops of the
Roman and Briton times, with their scholarly Latin names; bishops of the
Saxon and Danish times remembered in rough, Northern syllables; bishops
of the Norman time, with appellations that again flow upon the tongue;
bishops of the English time, with designations as familiar as those in
the directory: what a record! It moves you more than any of those
uniformed or cloaked images of warriors and statesmen, and it speaks
more eloquently of the infrangible continuity, the unbroken greatness of
England.

My last visit was paid after I had seen so many other English cathedrals
that I had begun to say, if not to think, that England was
overgothicized, and that I should be glad, or at least relieved, by
something classicistic. But I found that I was mistaken. That
architecture is alien to the English sky and alien to the English faith,
which continues the ancient tradition in terms not ceremonially very
distinct from those of Rome; and coming freshly from the minster in York
to the cathedral in London, I was aware of differences which were all in
favor of the elder fane. The minster now asserted its superior majesty,
and its mere magnitude, the sweep of its mighty nave, the bulk of its
clustered columns, the splendor of its vast and lofty windows, as they
held their own in my memory, dwarfed St. Paul's as much physically as
spiritually.

A great congregation lost itself in the broken spaces of the London
temple, dimmed rather than illumined by the electric blaze in the choir;
a monotonous chanting filled the air as with a Rome of the worldliest
period of the church, and the sense of something pagan that had arisen
again in the Renaissance was, I perceived, the emotion that had long
lain in wait for me. St. Paul's, like St. Peter's, testifies of the
genius of a man, not the spirit of humanity awed before the divine.
Neither grew as the Gothic churches grew; both were ordered to be built
after the plans of the most skilful architects of their time and race,
and both are monuments to civilizations which had outlived mystery.

I no more escaped a return to Westminster Abbey than to St. Paul's, but
I had from the first so profoundly and thoroughly naturalized myself to
the place that it was like going back to a home of my youth. It was,
indeed, the earliest home of my youthful love of the old; and if I might
advise any reader who still has his first visit to Westminster Abbey
before him, I would counsel him not to go there much past his
twenty-fourth year. If possible, let him repair to the venerable fane in
the year 1861, and choose a chill, fair day of the English December, so
short as to be red all through with a sense of the late sunrise and a
prescience of the early sunset. Then he will know better than I could
otherwise tell him how I felt in that august and beautiful place, and
how my heart rose in my throat when I first looked up in the Poets'
Corner and read the words, "Oh, rare Ben Jonson!" The good Ben was never
so constantly rare in life as he has been in death, and that I knew well
enough from having tried to read him in days when I was willing to try
reading any one. But I was meaning then to be rare every moment myself,
and out of the riches of my poetic potentiality I dowered him with a
wealth of poetry which he had not actually enjoyed; and in this generous
emotion the tears came.

I am not sensible of having been grouped with others in charge of a
verger, but a verger there must have been, and at my next visit there
must equally have been one; he only entered, rigid, authoritative,
unsparing, into my consciousness at the third or fourth visit, widely
separated by time, when he marshalled me the way that he was going with
a flock of other docile tourists. I suppose it would be possible to see
Westminster Abbey without a verger, but I do not know; and would it be
safe? I imagine he was there at my first and second visits, but that my
memory rejected him as unfit for association with fames and names made
so much of in death that it seemed better than life in all dignified
particulars, though I was then eagerly taking my chances of getting
along for a few centuries on earth.

I hope I am not being severe upon the verger, for he is a very necessary
evil, if evil at all, in a place of such manifold and recondite
interest; and in my next-to-last visit I found him most intelligibly
accessible to my curiosity concerning those waxen effigies of royalty
which used to be carried in the funeral processions of the English kings
and queens. He bade us wait till he had dismissed all his flock but
ourselves, and then, for a very little gratuitous money, he took us into
some upper places where, suddenly, we stood in the presence of Queen
Elizabeth and of William and Mary, as they had looked and dressed in
life, and very startlingly lifelike in the way they showed unconscious
of us. Doubtless there were others, but those are the ones I recall, and
with their identity I felt the power that glared from the fierce, vain,
shrewd, masterful face of Elizabeth, and the obstinate good sense and
ability that dwelt in William's. Possibly I read their natures into
them, but I do not think so; and one could well wish that art had so
preserved all the great embodiments of history.

I hope it was some better motive than the sightseer's that at least
partly caused me to make myself part of the congregation listening to a
sermon in the Abbey on the Sunday afternoon of my last visit. But the
stir of the place's literary associations began with the sight of
Longfellow's bust, which looks so much like him, in the grand simplicity
of his looks, as he was when he lived; and then presently the effigies
of all the "dear sons of memory" began to reveal themselves, medallion
and bust and figure, with many a remembered allegory and inscription. We
went and sat, for the choral service, under the bust of Macaulay, and,
looking down, we found with a shock that we had our feet upon his grave.
It might have been the wounded sense of reverence, it might have been
the dread of a longer sermon than we had time for, but we left before
the sermon began, and went out into the rather unkempt little public
garden which lies by the Thames in the shadow of the Parliament Houses;
and who has said the Houses are not fine? They are not a thousand years
old, but some day they will be, and then those who cavilled at them when
they were only fifty will be sorry. For my part I think them as
Gothically noble and majestic as need be. They are inevitably Gothic,
too, and they spring from the river-side as if they grew from the ground
there far into the gray sky to which their architecture is native. It
was a pale, resigned afternoon, with the languor of the long, unwonted
heat in it, which a recent rain had slightly abated, and we were glad of
a memoriferous property which it seemed to exhale. Suddenly in the midst
of that most alien environment we confronted a pair of friends from whom
we had last parted twenty years before in the woods beside Lake George,
and whose apparition at once implied the sylvan scene. So improbable, so
sensational is life even to the most bigoted realist! But if it is so,
why go outside of it? Our friends passed, and we were in the shadow of
the Parliament Houses again, and no longer in that of the forest which
did not know it was Gothic.

We were going to hang upon the parapet of Westminster Bridge for the
view it offers of the Houses, to which the spacious river makes itself a
foreground such as few pictures or subjects of pictures enjoy in this
cluttered world; but first we gave ourselves the pleasure of realizing
the statue of Cromwell which has somehow found place where it belongs in
those stately precincts, after long, vain endeavors to ignore his
sovereign mightiness. He was not much more a friend of Parliaments than
Charles whom he slew, but he was such a massive piece of English history
that the void his effigy now fills under the windows of the Commons must
have ached for it before.

When we had done our hanging upon the parapet of the bridge we found a
somewhat reluctant cab and drove homeward through the muted Sunday
streets. The roar of the city was still there, but it was subdued; the
crowd was still abroad, but it was an aimless, idle, shuffling crowd.
The air itself seemed more vacant than on week-days, and there was a
silencing suspense everywhere. The poor were out in their poor best, and
the children strayed along the streets without playing, or lagged
homeward behind their parents. There were no vehicles except those of
pleasure or convenience; the omnibuses sent up their thunder from afar;
our cab-horse, clapping down the wooden pavement, was the noisiest thing
we heard. The trees in the squares and places hung dull and tired in the
coolish, dusty atmosphere, and through the heart of the summer afternoon
passed a presentiment of autumn. These are subtilties of experience
which, after all, one does not impart. Those who like, as I do, the
innocence which companions the sophistication of London will frequent
Kensington Gardens in the earlier spring before the season has set the
seal of supreme interest on Hyde Park. It then seems peculiarly the
playground of little children in the care of their nurses, if they are
well-to-do people's children, and in one another's care if they are poor
people's. All over England the tenderness of the little children for the
less is delightful. I remember to have seen scarcely any squabbling, and
I saw abundance of caressing. Small girls, even small boys, lug babies
of almost their own weight and size, and fondle them as if it were a
privilege and a pleasure to lug them. This goes on in spite of a
reciprocal untidiness which is indescribable; for the English poor
children have the very dirtiest faces in the world, unless the Scotch
have dirtier ones; but nothing, no spotting or thick plastering of
filth, can obscure their inborn sweetness. I think, perhaps, they wash
up a little when they come to play in Kensington Gardens, to sail their
ships on its placid waters and tumble on its grass. When they enter the
palace, to look at the late queen's dolls and toys, as they do in
troops, they are commonly in charge of their teachers; and their
raptures of loyalty in the presence of those reminders that queens, too,
must have once been little girls are beautiful to behold, and are
doubtless as genuine as those of their elders in the historical and
political associations. Since William III. built the palace and laid out
the gardens that he might dwell within easy reach of his capital, but
out of its smoke and din, the place has not lost the character which his
homely wish impressed upon it, and it is especially sweet and
commendable because of its relation to the good Victoria's childhood.
One does not forget "great Anna's" drinking tea there in the Orangery so
nobly designed for her by Wren, but the plain old palace is dearest
because Victoria spent so many of her early days in it, and received
there the awful summons literally to rise from her dreams and come and
be queen of the mightiest realm under the sun. No such stroke of poetry
is possible to our system; we have not yet provided even for the
election of young girls to the presidency; and though we may prefer our
prosaical republican conditions, we must still feel the charm of such an
incident in the mother monarchy.

The Temple was another of the places that I did not think I should visit
again, because I had so pleasant and perfect a memory of it, which I
feared to impair. More than a score of years before I had drunk tea in
the chambers of some young leader-writing barrister, and then went out
and wandered about in the wet, for it was raining very diligently. I
cannot say, now, just where my wanderings took me; but, of course, it
was down into the gardens sloping towards the river. In a way the first
images of places always remain, however blurred and broken, and the
Temple gardens were a dim and fractured memory in the retrospect as I
next saw them. It needed all the sunshine of my September day to
unsadden them, not from the rainy gloom in which I had left them then,
but from the pensive associations of the years between. Yet such
sunshine as that can do much, and I found it restoring me to my wonted
gayety as soon as we got out of our four-wheeler after our drive from
the Thames Embankment and began to walk up towards the Temple Church. I
will not ask the reader to go over the church with us; I will merely
have him note a curious fact regarding those effigies of the crusaders
lying cross-legged in the pavement of the circle to which one enters.
According to the strong, the irresistible conviction of one of our
party, these crusaders had distinctly changed their posture since she
saw them first. It was not merely that they had uncrossed their legs and
crossed them another way, or some such small matter; but that now they
lay side by side, whereas formerly they had better accommodated
themselves to the architectural design, and lain in a ring with their
long-pointed toes pointing inward to the centre. Why they should have
changed, we could not understand; the verger said they had not; but he
was a dim, discouraged intelligence, bent chiefly in a limp sort on
keeping the door locked so that people could not get away without his
help, and must either fee him, or indecently deny him. The Temple
Church, indeed, is by no means the best of the Temple. Cunningham says
that the two edifices most worth visiting are the church and the Middle
Temple Hall, which I now preferred luxuriously to leave in my
remembrances of 1882, and to idle about the grounds with my party,
straying through the quiet thoroughfares and into the empty courts, and
envying, not very actively, the lodgers in the delightfully dull-looking
old brick dwellings. I do not know just what Templars are, in this day,
but I am told they are practically of both sexes, and that when married
they are allowed to domesticate themselves in these buildings in
apartments sublet to them by Templars of one sex. It is against the law,
but conformable to usage, and the wedded pairs are subject only to a
semicentennial ejection, so that I do not know where a young literary
couple could more charmingly begin their married life. Perhaps children
would be a scandal; but they would be very safe in the Temple paths and
on the Temple lawns. At one house, a girl was vaguely arriving with a
band-box and parcels, and everything in the Temple seemed of a faint,
remote date; in the heart of a former century, the loud crash of our
period came to us through the Strand gate softened to a mellow roar. The
noise was not great enough, we noted, to interrupt the marble gentleman
in court dress and full-bottomed wig, elegantly reclining on the top of
his tomb in a niche of the wall near Goldsmith's grave, and leaning
forward with one hand extended as if, in the spirit of the present
_entente cordiale_, he was calling our attention to the fact that
the garlands and streamers of the Virginian-creeper dangling from the
walls about him were in the mother-clime of a real American redness.

It is proof of the manifold interest of London, or else of our own
inadequacy to our opportunities, that in all our sojourns we had never
yet visited what is left of that famous Whitehall, so tragically
memorable of the death of Charles I. The existing edifice is only the
noble remnant of that ancient palace of the English kings which the fire
of 1697 spared, as if such a masterpiece of Inigo Jones would be the
fittest witness of its highest, saddest event. Few, if any, of the
tremendous issues of history are so nearly within seeing and touching as
that on which the windows of Whitehall still look, and I must count that
last day of our September in London as spent in such sort as to be of
unsurpassed if not unrivalled impression, because of the visit which we
then so tardily paid to the place, and so casually that we had almost
not paid it at all.

The Banquetting House is now a sort of military and naval museum; with
the swords and saddles and uniforms and other equipments of divers
English heroes in glass cases, and models of battle-ships, and of the
two most famous English battles, likewise under glass. I was not so vain
of my reading about battles as not to be glad of seeing how the
men-of-war deployed at Trafalgar; or how the French and English troops
were engaged at Waterloo (with the smoke coming out of the cannons'
mouths in puffs of cotton-wool), when Blucher modestly appeared at one
corner of the plan in time to save the day. "But we should 'ave 'ad it,
without 'im?" a fellow sight-seer of local birth anxiously inquired of
the custodian. "Oh, we should 'ave 'ad the victory, anyway," the
custodian reassured him, and they looked together at some trophies of
the Boer war with a patriotic interest which we could not share. I do
not know whether they shared my psychological interest in that
apposition of Napoleon and of Nelson which, in this place, as in several
others in England, invests the spiritual squalor of war-memories with
the glamour of two so supremely poetic, yet so different personalities.
Whatever other heroes may have been, these dreamers in their ideals shed
such a light upon the sad business of their lives as almost to ennoble
it. One feels that with a little more qualification on the creative side
they could have been literary men, not of the first order, perhaps, but,
say, historical novelists.

There is some question among other authorities which window of the
Banquetting House the doomed king passed through upon the scaffold to
the block; but the custodian had no doubts. He would not allow a choice
of windows, and as to a space broken through the wall, he had never
heard of it. But we were so well satisfied with his window as to shrink
involuntarily from it, and from the scene without whose eternal
substance showed through the shadowy illusion of passing hansoms and
omnibuses, like the sole fact of the street, the king's voice rising
above the noises in tender caution to a heedless witness, "Have a care
of the axe; have a care," and then gravely to the headsman: "When I
stretch out my hands so, then--" The drums were ordered beaten, so that
we could not hear more; and we went out, and crossed among the cabs and
'busses to the horse-guards sitting shrunken on their steeds, and passed
between them into the park beyond where the beds of flowers spread their
soft autumnal bloom in the low sun of the September day.

[Illustration: THE HORSE GUARDS, WHITEHALL]




XI

GLIMPSES OF THE LOWLY AND THE LOWLIER


I liked walking through St. James's and through Green Park, especially
in the late afternoon when the tired poor began to droop upon the
benches, and, long before the spring damp was out of the ground, to
strew themselves on the grass, and sleep, face downward, among its
odorous roots. There was often the music of military bands to which
wide-spreading audiences of the less pretentious sort listened; in St.
James's there were seats along the borders of the ponds where, while the
chill evening breeze crisped the water, a good deal of energetic
courting went on. Besides, both were in the immediate neighborhood of
certain barracks where there was always a chance of military, and were
hard by Buckingham Palace with its chances of royalty. But the resort of
the poorer sort of pleasure-seekers is eminently Battersea Park, to
which we drove one hot, hot Sunday afternoon in late July,
conscience-stricken that we had left it so long out of our desultory
doing and seeing. It was full of the sort of people we had expected to
find in it, but these people though poor were not tattered. The
Londoner, of whatever class is apt to be better dressed than the
New-Yorker of the same class, and the women especially make a bolder
attempt than ours, if not so well advised, at gayety. They had put on
the best and finest they had, in Battersea Park, and if it was not the
most fitting still they wore it. The afternoon was sultry to
breathlessness; yet a young mother with a heavy baby in her arms
sweltered along in the splendor of a purple sack of thick plush; she was
hot, yes; but she had it on. The young girls emulated as well as they
could the airy muslins and silks in which the great world was flitting
and flirting at the same hour in the closes of Hyde Park, and if the
young fellows with these poor girls had not the distinction of the
swells in the prouder parade they at least equalled them in their
aberrations from formality.

There was not much shade in Battersea Park for the people to sit under,
but there was almost a superabundance of flowers in glaring beds, and
there were pieces of water, where the amateur boatman could have the
admiration of watchers, two or three deep, completely encircling the
ponds. To watch them and to walk up and down the shadeless aisles of
shrubbery, to sit on the too sunny benches, and to resort in extreme
cases to the tea-house which offered them ices as well as tea, seemed to
be the most that the frequenters of Battersea Park could do. We
ourselves ordered tea, knowing the quality and quantity of the public
English ice, which is so very minute that you think it will not be
enough, but which when you taste it is apt to be more than you want. The
spectacle of our simple refection was irresistible, and a crowd of
envious small boys thronged the railing that parted us from the general
public, till the spectacle of their hungry interest became intolerable.
We consulted with the waiter, who entered seriously into our question as
to the moral and social effect of sixpence worth of buns on those boys;
he decided that it would at least not form an example ruinous to the
peace of his tea-house; and he presently appeared with a paper bag that
seemed to hold half a bushel of buns. Yet even half a bushel of buns
will not go round the boys in Battersea Park, and we had to choose as
honest a looking boy as there was in the foremost rank, and pledge him
to a just division of the buns intrusted him in bulk, and hope, as he
ran off down an aisle of the shrubbery with the whole troop at his
heels, that he would be faithful to the trust.

       *       *       *       *       *

So very mild are the excitements, so slight the incidents, so safe and
tame the adventures of modern travel! I am almost ashamed when I think
what a swashing time a romantic novelist, or a person of real
imagination would have been having in London when so little was
happening to me. There was, indeed, one night after dinner when for a
salient moment I had hopes of something different. The maid had whistled
for a hansom, and a hansom had started for the door where we stood
waiting, when out of the shadows across the way two figures sprang,
boarded the cab, and bade the cabman drive them away under our very
eyes. Such a thing, occurring at almost eleven o'clock, promised a
series of stirring experiences; and an American lady, long resident in
England, encouragingly said, on hearing of the outrage, "Ah, that's
_London!_" as if I might look to be often mishandled by bandits of
the sort; but nothing like it ever befell me again. In fact the security
and gentleness with which life is operated in the capital of the world
is one of the kind things makes you forget its immensity. Your personal
comfort and safety are so perfectly assured that you might well mistake
yourself for one of very few people instead of so many.

London is like nature in its vastness, simplicity, and deliberation, and
if it hurried or worried, it would be like the precession of the
equinoxes getting a move on, and would shake the earth. The street
events are few. In my nine or ten weeks' sojourn, so largely spent in
the streets, I saw the body of only one accident worse than a cab-horse
falling; but that was early in my stay when I expected to see many more.
We were going to the old church of St. Bartholomew, and were walking by
the hospital of the same name just as a cab drove up to its gate bearing
the body of the accident. It was a young man whose bleeding face hung
upon his breast and whose limp arm another young man of the same station
in life held round his own neck, to stay the sufferer on the seat beside
him. A crowd was already following, and it gathered so quickly at the
high iron fence that the most censorious witness could hardly see with
what clumsiness the wounded man was half-dragged, half-lifted from the
cab by the hospital assistants, and stretched upon the ground till he
could be duly carried into the hospital. It may have been a casualty of
the many incident to alcoholism; at the best it was a result of single
combat, which, though it prepared us in a sort for the mediaeval
atmosphere of the church, was yet not of the tragic dignity which would
have come in the way of a more heroical imagination.

It was indeed so little worthy of the place, however characteristic of
the observer, that I made haste to forget it as I entered the
church-yard under the Norman arch which has been for some years
gradually finding itself in an adjoining shop-wall. The whole church,
indeed, as now seen, is largely the effect (and it was one of the first
effects I saw) of that rescue of the past from the present which is
perpetually going on all over England. Till lately the Lady Chapel and
the crypt of St. Bartholomew had been used as an ironworker's shop; and
modern life still pressed close upon it in the houses looking on the
graves of the grassless church-yard. With women at the windows that
opened on its mouldy level, peeling potatoes, picking chickens, and
doing other household offices, the place was like something out of
Dickens, but something that yet had been cleaned up in sympathy with the
restoration of the church, going on bit by bit, stone by stone, arch by
arch, till the good monk Rahere (he was gay rather than good before he
turned monk) who founded the Cistercian monastery there in the twelfth
century would hardly have missed anything if he had returned to examine
the church. He would have had the advantage, which he could not have
enjoyed in his life-time, of his own effigy stretched upon his tomb, and
he might have been interested to note, as we did, that the painter
Hogarth had been baptized in his church six hundred years after his own
time. His satisfaction in the still prevalent Norman architecture might
have been less; it is possible he would have preferred the Gothic which
was coming in when he went out.

The interior was all beautifully sad and quiet, gray, dim, twilighted as
with the closes of the days of a thousand years; and in the pale ray an
artist sat sketching a stretch of the clerestory. I shall always feel a
loss in not having looked to see how he was making out, but the image of
the pew-opener remains compensatively with me. She was the first of her
sort to confront me in England with the question whether her very
intelligent comment was conscious knowledge, or mere parrotry. She was a
little morsel of a woman, in a black alpaca dress, and a world-old black
bonnet, who spared us no detail of the church, and took us last into the
crypt, not long rescued from the invasive iron-worker, but now used as a
mortuary chapel for the poor of the parish, which is still full of the
poor. The chapel was equipped with a large bier and tall candles,
frankly ready for any of the dead who might drop in. The old countries
do not affect to deny death a part of experience, as younger countries
do.

We came out into the imperfect circle before the gateway of the church,
and realized that it was Smithfield, where all those martyrs had
perished by fire that the faith of the world might live free. There can
be no place where the past is more august, more pathetic, more
appealing, and none I suppose, where the activities of the present, in
view of it, are more offensive. It is all undermined with the railways
that bring the day's meat-provision to London for distribution
throughout the city, and the streets that centre upon it swarm with
butchers' wagons laden with every kind and color of carnage, prevalently
the pallor of calves' heads, which seem so to abound in England that it
is wonderful any calves have them on still. The wholesale market covers
I know not what acreage, and if you enter at some central point, you
find yourself amid endless prospectives of sides, flitches, quarters,
and whole carcasses, and fantastic vistas of sausages, blood-puddings,
and the like artistic fashionings of the raw material, so that you come
away wishing to live a vegetarian ever after.

The emotions are not at one's bidding, and if one calls upon them, they
are very apt not to come. I promised myself some very signal ones, of a
certain type, from going to the Sunday market of the Jews in what was
once Petticoat Lane, but now, with the general cleaning up and clearing
out of the slums, has got itself called by some much finer and worthier
name. But, really, I had seen much Jewisher things in Hester Street, on
our own East Side. The market did not begin so early as I had been led
to expect it would. The blazing forenoon of my visit was more than half
gone, and yet there was no clothes' auction, which was said to be the
great thing to see. But by nine o'clock there seemed to be everything
else for sale under that torrid July sun, in the long booths and
shelters of the street and sidewalks: meat, fish, fruit, vegetables,
glassware, ironware, boots and shoes, china and crockery, women's tawdry
finery, children's toys, furniture, pictures, succeeding one another
indiscriminately, old and new, and cried off with an incessant jargon of
bargaining, pierced with shrill screams of extortion and expostulation.
A few mild, slim, young London policemen sauntered, apparently unseeing,
unhearing, among the fevered, nervous Semitic crowd, in which the
Oriental types were by no means so marked as in New York, though there
was a greater number of red Jews than I had noted before. The most
monumental features of the scene were the gorgeous scales of wrought
brass, standing at intervals along the street, and arranged with seats,
like swings, for the weighing of such Hebrews as wished to know their
tonnage; apparently they have a passion for knowing it.

The friend who had invited me to this spectacle felt its inadequacy so
keenly, in spite of my protests, that he questioned the policemen for
some very squalid or depraved purlieu that he might show me, for we were
in the very heart of Whitechapel, but failing that, because the region
had been so very much reformed and cleaned up since the dreadful murders
there, he had no recourse but to take me on top of a tram-car and show
me how very thoroughly it had been reformed and cleaned up. In a ride
the whole length of Whitechapel Road to where the once iniquitous region
ceased from troubling and rose in a most respectable resurrection as
Stepney, with old-fashioned houses which looked happy, harmless homes, I
could only be bidden imagine avenues of iniquity branching off on either
hand. But I actually saw nothing slumlike; indeed, with a current of
cool east wind in our faces, which the motion of the tram reinforced,
the ride was an experience delightful to every sense. It was significant
also of the endlessness of London that as far as the tram-car took us we
seemed as far as ever from the bounds of the city; whatever point we
reached there was still as much or more London beyond.

Perhaps poverty has everywhere become shyer than it used to be in the
days before slumming (now itself of the past) began to exploit it. At
any rate, I thought that in my present London sojourn I found less
unblushing destitution than in the more hopeless or more shameless days
of 1882-3. In those days I remember being taken by a friend, much
concerned for my knowledge of that side of London, to some dreadful
purlieu where I saw and heard and smelled things quite as bad as any
that I did long afterwards in the over-tenanted regions of New York. My
memory is still haunted by the vision of certain hapless creatures who
fled blinking from one hole in the wall to another, with little or
nothing on, and of other creatures much in liquor and loudly scolding
and quarrelling, with squalid bits of childhood scattered about
underfoot, and vague shapes of sickness and mutilation, and all the time
a buying and selling of loathsome second-hand rags.

In the midst of it there stood, like figures of a monument erected to
the local genius of misery and disorder, two burly figures of
half-drunken men, threatening each other with loud curses and shaken
fists under the chin of a policeman, perfectly impassive, with eyes
dropped upon the fists which all but stirred the throat-latch of his
helmet. When the men should strike, I was aware that it would be his
instant duty, as the guardian of the public peace, to seize them both
and hale them away to prison. But it was not till many years afterwards
that I read in his well-remembered effigy the allegory of civilization
which lets the man-made suffering of men come to the worst before it
touches it, and acts upon the axiom that a pound of prevention is worth
less than an ounce of cure.

I would very willingly have seen something of this kind again, but, as I
say, I happened not to see it. I think that I did not see or hear even
so much simple drunkenness in London as formerly, but again this may
have been merely chance. I fancied that formerly I had passed more gin-
palaces, flaring through their hell-litten windows into the night; but
this may have been because I had become hardened to gin-palaces and did
not notice them. Women seemed to be going in and coming out of such
places in draggle-tailed processions in those wicked days; but now I
only once saw women drinking in a public house. It was a Saturday night,
when, if ever, it may be excusable to anticipate the thirst of the
morrow, for all through the Sunday idleness it cannot be slaked enough.
It was a hot night, and the bar-room door stood open, and within,
fronted by a crowd of their loudly talking, deeply drinking men-kind,
those poor silly things stood drooping against the wall with their
beer-pots dangling limply from their hands, and their mouths fallen open
as if to catch the morsels of wit and wisdom that dropped from the
tongues of their admired male companions. They did not look very bad;
bad people never do look as bad as they are, and perhaps they are
sometimes not so bad as they look. Perhaps these were kind, but not very
wise, mothers of families, who were merely relieving in that moment of
liquored leisure the long weariness of the week's work. I may have
passed and repassed in the street some of the families that they were
the mothers of; it was in that fortnight of the great heat, whose
oppressiveness I am aware of having vainly attempted to share with the
reader, and the street children seemed to have been roused to uncommon
vigilance by it. They played about far into the night, unrebuked by
their mothers, and the large babies, whom the little girls were always
lugging, shared their untimely wakefulness if not their activity. There
was seldom any crying among them then, though by day the voice of grief
and rage was often lifted above the shout of joy. If their mothers did
not call them in-doors, their fathers were still less exacting. After
the marketing, which took place in the neighboring avenue, where there
began to be a tremendous preparation for it in the afternoon, father and
mother alike seemed to have renounced their domestic cares and to have
liberated their offspring to the unrestricted enjoyment of the street.

As for drunkenness, I say again that I did not see much of it, and I
heard less, though that might have been because I did not look or listen
in the right places. With that, as with everything else in London, I
took my chance. Once I overheard the unseen transports of a lady in
Mayfair imaginably kept by the offices of mutual friends from assaulting
another lady. She, however, though she excelled in violence, did not
equal in persistence the injured gentleman who for a long, long hour
threatened an invisible bicyclist under our windows in that humbler
quarter already described as a poor relation of Belgravia. He had
apparently been almost run down by the hapless wheelman, who, in a
moment of fatuous truth, seemed to have owned that he had not sounded
the warning bell. In making this confession he had evidently apologized
with his forehead in the dust, and his victim had then evidently
forgiven him, though with a severe admonition for the future.
Imaginably, then, the bicyclist had remounted his wheel and attempted to
ride off, when he was stopped and brought back to the miserable error of
his confession. The whole ground was then gone over again, and again
pardon with warning was given. Even a glad good-night was exchanged, the
wheelman's voice rising in a quaver of grateful affection. Then he
seemed to try riding off again, and then he was stayed as before by the
victim, whose sense of public duty flamed up at the prospect of his
escape. I do not know how the affair ended; perhaps it never ended; but
exhausted nature sank in sleep, and I at least was saved from its
continuance. I suppose now that the almost injured person was, if not
drunk, at that stage of tipsiness when the sensibilities are keenest and
self-respect is most alert. An American could not, at least, have been
so tedious in his sober senses, and I will not believe that an
Englishman could.

It is to be considered, in any view of the comparative drunkenness of
the great Anglo-Saxon race, which is the hope and example of the human
race in so many things, that much if not most of our American
drunkenness is alien, while English drunkenness is almost entirely
native. If the inebriety of the spirited Celt, which in the early years
of his adoption with us is sometimes conspicuous, were added to the sum
of our home-born intoxication, there could be no doubt which was the
greater. As it is, I am afraid that I cannot claim to have seen more
drunken men in London than in New York; and when I think of the Family
Entrance, indicated at the side-door of every one of our thousands of
saloons, I am not sure I can plume myself on the superior sobriety of
our drinking men's wives. As for poverty--if I am still partially on
that subject--as for open misery, the misery that indecently obtrudes
itself upon prosperity and begs of it, I am bound to say that I have met
more of it in New York than ever I met during my sojourns in London.
Such misery may be more rigidly policed in the English capital, more
kept out of sight, more quelled from asking mercy, but I am sure that in
Fifth Avenue, and to and fro in the millionaire blocks between that
avenue and the last possible avenue eastward, more deserving or
undeserving poverty has made itself seen and heard to my personal
knowledge than in Piccadilly, or the streets of Mayfair or Park Lane, or
the squares and places which are the London analogues of our best
residential quarters.

Of course, the statistics will probably be against me--I have often felt
an enmity in statistics--and I offer my observations as possibly
inexact. One can only be sure of one's own experience (even if one can
be sure of that), and I can do no more than urge a fact or two further
in behalf of my observations. After we returned to London, in September,
I used to stroll much among the recumbent figures of the unemployed on
the grass of Green Park, where, lulled by the ocean roar of the
omnibuses on Piccadilly, they drowsed away the hours of the autumnal
day. These fellow-men looked more interesting than they probably were,
either asleep or awake, and if I could really have got inside their
minds I dare say I should have been no more amused than if I had
penetrated the consciousness of as many people of fashion in the height
of the season. But what I wish to say is that, whether sleeping or
waking, they never, any of them, asked me for a penny, or in any wise
intimated a wish to divide my wealth with me. If I offered it myself, it
was another thing, and it was not refused to the extent of a shilling by
the good fellow whose conversation I bought one afternoon when I found
him, sitting up in his turfy bed, and mending his coat with needle and
thread. I asked him of the times and their badness, and I hope I left
him with the conviction that I believed him an artisan out of work,
taking his misfortune bravely. He was certainly cheerful, and we had
some agreeable moments, which I could not prolong, because I did not
like waking the others, or such of them as might be sleeping.

I did not object to his cheerfulness, though for misery to be cheerful
seemed to be rather trivial, and I was better pleased with the
impassioned bearing of a pair who passed me another day as I sat on one
of the benches beside the path where the trees were dropping their
listless leaves. The pair were a father and mother, if I might judge
from their having each a babe in their arms and two or three other babes
at their heels. They were not actually in tatters, but anything more
intensely threadbare than their thin clothes could not be imagined; they
were worse than ragged. They looked neither to the right nor to the
left, but stared straight on and pressed straight on rather rapidly,
with such desperate tragedy in their looks as moved me to that noble
terror which the old-fashioned critics used to inculcate as the best
effect of tragedy on the stage. I followed them a little way before I
gained courage to speak to the man, who seemed to have been sick, and
looked more miserable, if there was a choice, than the woman. Then I
asked him, superfluously enough (it might have seemed in a ghastly
pleasantry, to him) if he was down on his luck. He owned that he was,
and in guarantee of his good faith took the shilling I offered him. If
his need had apparently been less dire I might have made it a sovereign;
but one must not fly in the face of the Providence, which is probably
not ill-advised in choosing certain of us to be reduced to absolute
destitution. The man smiled a sick, thin-lipped smile which showed his
teeth in a sort of pinched way, but did not speak more; his wife,
gloomily unmoved, passed me without a look, and I rather slunk back to
my seat, feeling that I had represented, if I had not embodied, society
to her.

I contribute this instance of poverty as the extremest that came to my
knowledge in London; but I do not insist that it was genuine, and if any
more scientific student of civilization wishes to insinuate that my
tragedy was a masquerade got up by that pair to victimize the
sentimental American stranger, and do him out of one of his ill-got
shillings, I will not gainsay him. I merely maintain, as I have always
done, that the conditions are alike in the Old World and the New, and
that the only difference is in the circumstances, which may be better
now in New York, and now in London, while the conditions are always bad
everywhere for the poor. That is a point on which I shall not yield to
any more scientific student of civilization. But in the mean time my
light mind was taken from that dolorous pair to another pair on the
grass of the slope not far off in front of me.

Hard by the scene of this pathetic passage a pair of quite well-dressed
young people had thrown themselves, side by side, on the September grass
as if it had been the sand at any American seashore, or the embrowned
herbage of Hyde Park in July. Perhaps the shelving ground was dryer than
the moist levels where the professional unemployed lay in scores; but I
do not think it would have mattered to that tender pair if it had been
very damp; so warmly were they lapped in love's dream, they could not
have taken cold. The exile could only note the likeness of their
open-air love-making to that in public places at home, and contrast it
with the decorum of Latin countries where nothing of the kind is known.
If anything, English lovers of this type are franker than with us,
doubtless because of the greater simplicity of the English nature; and
they seem to be of a better class. One day when I was sitting in a penny
chair in Green Park, the agent of the company came and collected the
rent of me. I thought it a hardship, for I had purposely chosen an
inconspicuous situation where I should not be found, and it was long
past the end of the season, when no company should have had the heart to
collect rent for its chairs. But I met my fate without murmuring, and as
the young man who sold me a ticket good for the whole day at a penny,
was obviously not pressed with business, I tried to recoup myself by a
little conversation.

"I suppose your job is pretty well over now? I don't see many of your
chairs occupied."

"Well, no sir, not by day, sir. But there's quite a few taken at night,
sir--over there in the hollow." I looked a leading question, and he went
on: "Young people come to sit there in the evening, sir. It's a quiet
place and out of the way."

"Oh, yes. Where they're not molested by the unemployed?" I cast a
generalizing glance over the dead and wounded of the battle of life
strewn about the grass of an adjacent space.

"Well, that's just where it is, sir. Those fellows do nothing but sleep
all day, and then after dark they get up and begin to prowl. They spy,
some of 'em, on the young people courting, and follow 'em 'ome and
blackmail 'em. They're a bad lot, sir. They wouldn't work if they could
get it."

I perceived that my friend was a capitalist, and I suspected him of
being one of the directors of the penny-chair company. But perhaps he
thought me a capitalist, too, and fancied that I would like to have him
decry the unemployed. Still he may have been right about the
blackmailing; one must live, and the innocent courage of open-air
courtship in London offers occasions of wilful misconstruction. In a
great city, the sense of being probably unnoted and unknown among its
myriads must eventuate in much indifference to one's surroundings. How
should a young couple on an omnibus-top imagine that a stranger in the
seat opposite could not help overhearing the tender dialogue in which
they renewed their love after some previous falling out?

"But I was hurt, Will, dear."

"Oh, I'm so sorry, dear."

"I know, Will, dear."

"But it's all right now, dear?"

"Oh yes, Will, dear."

Could anything be sweeter? I am ashamed to set it down; it ought to be
sacred; and nothing but my zeal in these social studies could make me
profane it. Who would not have been the careless brute this young man
must have been, if only one might have tasted the sweetness of such
forgiving? His pardon set a premium on misbehavior. He was a
nice-looking young fellow, but she was nicer, and in her tender eyes
there seemed more wisdom. Probably she knew just at what moment to
temper justice with mercy.

Sometimes women do not know when to temper mercy with justice. I fancied
this the error of the fond nursemaid whom I one day saw pushing her
perambulator at almost an illegal motor-pace along the sidewalk in order
to keep up with the tall grenadier who marched with his head in the air,
and let her make this show of being in his company, but not once looking
at her, or speaking to her. The hearts of such poor girls are always
with the military, so that it is said to be comparatively easy to keep
servants in the neighborhood of the barracks, or even in those streets
that the troops habitually pass through, and may be conveniently gloated
upon from attic-windows or basement areas. Probably much of the natural
supremacy of the male of our species has been lost in all ranks of
society through the unimpressive simplicity of modern dress. If men in
civil life still wore ruffles at their wrists, and gold-lace on their
coats, and feathers in their hats, very likely they could still knock
women about as they used, and be all the more admired. It is a point
worth considering in the final adjustment of their mutual relations.

A pair of lovers who match themselves in my memory with those I
eavesdropped so eagerly on the omnibus-top, was a silent pair I noted
one day in St. Paul's. They were imaginably a bridal pair, who had
apparently lost heart among the hard banalities of the place, where
every monument is more forbidding than another, and had sunk down on a
seat by themselves, and were trying to get back a little courage by
furtively holding each other's hands. It was a touching sight, and of a
human interest larger than any London characteristic. So, in a little
different sort, was the rapture of a couple behind a tree on whom a
friend of mine came suddenly in St. James's Park at the very moment when
the eager he was pressing the coy she to be his. My friend, who had not
the courage of an ever-present literary mission, fled abashed from the
place, and I think he was right; but surely it was no harm to overhear
the affianced of a 'bus-driver talking tender nothings to him all the
way from Knightsbridge to Kensington, bending over from the seat she had
taken next him. The witness was going up to a dentist in that region,
and professed that in his preoccupation with the lovers he forgot the
furies of a raging tooth, and decided not to have it out, after all.




XII

TWICE-SEEN SIGHTS AND HALF-FANCIED FACTS


London is so manifold (as I have all along been saying) that it would
be advisable, if one could, to see it in a sort of severalty, and take
it in the successive strata of its unfathomable interest. Perhaps it
could best be visited by a syndicate of cultivated Americans; then one
could give himself to its political or civic interest, another to its
religious memories and associations, another to its literary and
artistic records; no one American, however cultivated, could do justice
to all these claims, even with life and health of an expectation beyond
that of the most uncultivated American. Besides this suggestion I should
like to offer a warning, and this is, that no matter with what devoted
passion the American lover of London approaches her he must not hope for
an exclusive possession of her heart. If she is insurpassably the most
interesting, the most fascinating of all the cities that ever were, let
him be sure that he is not the first to find it out. He may not like it,
but he must reconcile himself to seeing some English rival before him in
devotion to any aspect of her divinity. It is not for nothing that
poets, novelists, historians, antiquarians have been born in England for
so many ages; and not a palm's breadth of her sky, not a foot of her
earth, not a stone or brick of her myriad wallspaces but has been fondly
noted, studied, and described in prose, or celebrated in verse. English
books are full of England, and she is full of Englishmen, whom the
American, come he never so numerously, will find outnumbering him in the
pursuit of any specific charm of hers. In my wanderings otherwhere in
their islands I had occasion to observe how fond the English were of
English travel and English objects of interest, and wherever I went in
London there were Englishmen elbowing me from the front rank, not
rudely, not unkindly, but insensibly to my rights of priority as an
alien. In the old days of my Italian travels I had been used as a
foreigner to carrying it with a high hand at shrines of the beautiful or
memorable. I do not know how it is now, but in those days there was
nothing in the presence of an Italian church, gallery, palace, piazza,
or ruin that you expected less than an Italian. As for Rome, there was
no such thing as doing as the Romans do in such places, because there
were apparently no Romans to set you the example. But there are plenty
of Londoners in London, and of a curiosity about London far greater than
you can ever inspire them with for New York.

Even at such a place as the Zoological Gardens, which they must have
been visiting all their lives, there were, at least, a thousand
Englishmen for every cultivated American we could make sure of when we
went there; and as it was a Sunday, when the gardens are closed to the
general public, this overwhelming majority of natives must have come on
orders from Fellows of the Society such as we had supposed would admit
us much more selectly, if not solely. Still, the place was not crowded,
and if it had been, still it would have been delightful on a summer
afternoon, of that hovering softness, half-cloud, half-sun, which the
London sky has the patent of. The hawthorn-trees, white and pink with
their may, were like cloudlets dropped from that sky, as it then was and
would be at sunset; and there was a density of grass underfoot and
foliage overhead in which one's own childhood found itself again, so
that one felt as free for the simple pleasure of consorting with strange
beasts and birds as if one were still ten or eleven years old. But I
cannot hope to rejuvenate my readers in the same degree, and so had
better not insist upon the animals; the herds of elephants, the troops
of lions and tigers, the schools of hippopotamuses, and the
mass-meetings of anthropoid apes. Above and beyond these in their
strangeness were the figures of humanity representative of the
globe-girdling British empire, in their drawers and turbans and their
swarthy skins, who could urge a patriotic interest, impossible for me,
in the place. One is, of course, used to all sorts of alien shapes in
Central Park, but there they are somehow at once less surprising and
less significant than these Asian and African forms; they will presently
be Americans, and like the rest of us; but those dark imperialings were
already British and eternally un-English. They frequented the tea-tables
spread in pleasant shades and shelters, and ate buns and
bread-and-butter, like their fellow-subjects, but their dark liquid eyes
roamed over the blue and gold and pink of the English complexions with
an effect of mystery irreconcilable forever with the matter-of-fact mind
behind their bland masks. We called them Burmese, Eurasians, Hindoos,
Malays, and fatigued ourselves with guessing at them so that we were
faint for the tea from which they kept us at the crowded tables in the
gardens or on the verandas of the tea-houses. But we were not so
insatiable of them as of their fellow-subjects, the native British whom
one sees at a Sunday of the Zoo to perhaps special advantage. Our Sunday
was in the season, and the season had conjecturably qualified it, so
that one could sometimes feel oneself in company better than one's own.
The children were well-dressed and admirably well-behaved; they justly
outnumbered their elders, and it was obviously their day. But it was
also the day of their elders, who had made excuse of the children's
pleasure in coming to the Zoo for their own. Some indeed were not so
much their elders, and the young aunts and uncles, who were naturally
cousins, lost themselves at times a little way from the children and
maids, in the quieter walks or nooks, or took boat to be alone on the
tranquil waters with one another. They were then more interesting than
the strangest Malays and Hindoos, and I wonder what these made of them,
as they contemplated their segregation with the other thronging
spectators.

We had not pledged ourselves not to go to the Zoo; we were there quite
voluntarily; but among the places which we promised ourselves not to
visit again were the South Kensington Museum and the National Gallery;
and I shall always be glad that we did not keep faith with ourselves in
regard to the last. We went to it again not once, but several times, and
always with an increasing sense of its transcendent representativity. It
is not merely that for all the schools of painting it is almost as good
as going to the continental countries where they flourished, and is much
easier. It is not only that for English history, as it lives in the
portraiture of kings and queens, and their courtiers and courtesans and
heroes and statesmen, it is the past made personal to the beholder and
forever related to himself, as if he had seen those people in the flesh.
It is, above everything else, for those rooms upon rooms crowded with
the pictures and statues and busts of the Englishmen who have made
England England in every field of achievement that is oppressively,
almost crushingly wonderful. Before that swarming population of poets,
novelists, historians, essayists, dramatists; of painters, sculptors,
architects; of astronomers, mathematicians, geologists, physicians; of
philosophers, theologians, divines; of statesmen, politicians,
inventors, actors; of philanthropists, reformers, economists, the great
of our own history need not, indeed, shrink in form, but must dwindle in
number till our past seems as thinly peopled as our continent. It is in
these rooms that the grandeur of England, historically, resides. You
may, if you are so envious, consider it in that point and this, and at
some point find her less great than the greatest of her overgrown or
overgrowing daughters, but from the presence of that tremendous
collectivity, that populous commonwealth of famous citizens whose census
can hardly be taken, you must come away and own, in the welcome
obscurity to which you plunge among the millions of her capital, that in
all-round greatness we have hardly even the imagination of her
transcendence.

Well towards fifty years had passed between my first and last visits to
London, but I think I had kept for it throughout that long interval much
more of the earlier sentiment than for any other city that I have known.
I do not wish to be mystical, and I hesitate to say that this sentiment
was continuous through the smell of the coal-smoke, or that the smoke
formed a solution in which all associations were held, and from which
they were, from time to time, precipitated in specific memories. The
peculiar odor had at once made me at home in London, for it had probably
so saturated my first consciousness in the little black, smoky town on
the Ohio River, where I was born, that I found myself in a most intimate
element when I now inhaled it. But apart from this personal magic, the
London smoke has always seemed to me full of charm. Of course it is
mostly the smoke which gives "atmosphere," softens outlines, tenderly
blurs forms, makes near and far the same, and _intenerisce il
cuore_, for any him whose infant sense it bathed. No doubt it
thickens the constant damp, and lends mass and viscosity to the fog; but
it is over-blamed and under-praised. It is chiefly objectionable, it is
wholly deplorable, indeed, when it descends in those sooty particles,
the _blacks;_ but in all my London sojourns I have had but one
experience of the blacks, and I will not condemn the smoke because of
them. It gives a wild pathetic glamour to the late winter sunrises and
the early winter sunsets, the beauty of which dwells still in my mind
from my first London sojourn. In my most recent autumn, it mellowed the
noons to the softest effulgence; in the summer it was a veil in the air
which kept the flame of the heated term from doing its worst. It hung,
diaphonous, in the dusty perspectives, but it gathered and thickened
about the squares and places, and subdued all edges, so that nothing cut
or hurt the vision.

I was glad of that, because I found one of my greatest pleasures in
looking at the massed tree-forms in those gardened-groves, which I never
penetrated. The greater parks are open to the public, but the squares
are enclosed by tall iron fences, and locked against the general with
keys of which the particular have the keeping in the houses about them.
It gave one a fine shiver of exclusion as populace, or mob, to look
through their barriers at children playing on the lawns within, while
their nurses sat reading, or pushed perambulators over the trim walks.
Sometimes it was even young ladies who sat reading, or, at the worst,
governesses. But commonly the squares were empty, though the grass so
invited the foot, and the benches in the border of the shade, or round
the great beds of bloom, extended their arms and spread their welcoming
laps for any of the particular who would lounge in them.

I remember only one of these neighborhood gardens which was open to the
public, and that was in the poor neighborhood which we lodged on the
edge of, equally with the edge of Belgravia. It was opened, by the great
nobleman who owned nearly the whole of that part of London, on all but
certain days of the week, with restrictions lettered on a board nearly
as big as the garden itself; but I never saw it much frequented, perhaps
because I usually happened upon it when it was locked against its
beneficiaries. Upon the whole, these London squares, though they
flattered the eye, did not console the spirit so much as the far uglier
places in New York, or the pretty places in Paris, which are free to
all. It can be said for the English way that when such places are free
to all they are not so free to some, and that is true. In this world you
have to exclude either the many or the few, and in England it is rather
the many who are excluded. Being one of those shut out, I did not like
the English way so well as ours, but if I had had keys to those locks, I
should not now dare ask myself which principle I should have preferred.
It would have been something like choosing between popular government
and family government after having been created one of the governing
families.

Life, I felt, would be sensibly dignified if one could spend some months
of every year of it in a mansion looking down into the leafy tops of
those squares. One's mansion might not always have the company of the
most historical or patrician mansions; sometimes these are to be found
in very unexpected and even inconspicuous places; but commonly the
associated dwellings would be ample, if not noble. They would rarely be
elbowed by those structures, not yet quite so frequent in London as in
New York, which lift themselves in an outer grandeur unsupported by the
successive levels of the social pretence within. I should say that with
the English, more than with us, the perpendicular is still socially
superior to the horizontal domestication. Yet the London flats are of
more comfortable and tasteful arrangement than ours. They are better
lighted always, never having (as far as I know) dark rooms blindly
staring into airless pits; and if they are not so well heated, that is
because the English do not wish, or at least expect, to be heated at
all. The elevator is not so universal as with us, but the stairways are
easier and statelier. The public presence of the edifice is statelier,
too; but if you come to state, the grandest of these buildings must deny
its denizens the splendor of flunkeys standing before its door, on a day
or night of social function, as one sees them standing by the steps or
portals of some mansion that houses a single family. To which of the
flat-dwellers would they be supposed to belong, if they grouped
themselves at the common entrance? For anything specific in their
attendance they might almost as well be at the next street-corner.

Time and again, in these pages, I have paid my duty, which has been my
grateful pleasure, to the birds which haunt the squares, and sing there.
You are not obliged to have a householder's key in order to hear them;
and when the hawthorns and the horse-chestnuts blossomed you required a
proprietorial right as little. Somehow, my eye and ear always
disappointed themselves in the absence of rooks from such places. My
senses ought to have been better instructed than to expect rooks in
London, but they had been so educated to the sight and sound of rooks
everywhere else in England that they mechanically demanded them in town.
I do not even know what birds they were that sang in the spaces; but I
was aware of a fringe of sparrow-chirpings sharply edging their song
next the street; and where the squares were reduced to crescents, or
narrow parallelograms, or mere strips or parings of groves, I suspect
that this edging was all there was of the mesh of bird-notes so densely
interwoven in the squares.

I have spoken hitherto of that passion for dress to which all the
womanhood of England has so bewitchingly abandoned itself, and which
seemed to have reached an undue excess in the housemaid in a bolero hat
and a trained skirt, putting that white on the front steps which is so
universal in England that if the sun missed it after rising he might
instantly go down again in the supposition that it was still night. It
must always be a woman who whitens the steps; if a man-servant were to
do it any such dreadful thing might happen as would follow his blacking
the boots, which is alienably a female function. Under the circumstances
one hears much of the general decay of excellence in woman-servants in
London. They are far less amiable, patient, respectful, and faithful
than when their mistresses were young. This may be from the fact that so
many more employments besides domestic service seem to be open to girls.
Apparently very young girls are preferred in the innumerable postal-
stations, if one may judge from the children of tender years who sell
you stamps, and take your telegrams and register your letters. I used at
first to tremble for a defective experience, if not a defective
intelligence in them, but I did not find them inadequate to their duties
through either. Still their employment was so phenomenal that I could
not help remarking upon it. None of my English friends seemed to have
noticed it, till at last one, who _had_ noticed it, said he
believed it was because the government found them cheap, and was in that
way helping repay itself for the enormous expenses of the Boer War.

In the London shops I did not think women were so generally employed as
in our own, or those of the Continent. But this may have been a
conclusion from careless observation. In the book-stores to which I most
resorted, and which I did not think so good as ours, I remember to have
seen but one saleswoman. Of course saleswomen prevail in all the large
stores where women's goods, personal and household, are sold, and which
I again did not think comparable to ours. Seldom in any small shop, or
even book-stall or newspaper-stand, did women seem to be in charge. But
at the street-markets, especially those for the poorer customers,
market-women were the rule. I should say, in fine, that woman was a far
more domestic animal in London than in Paris, and never quite the beast
of burden that she is in Berlin, or other German cities great or small;
but I am not going to sentimentalize her lot in England. Probably it is
only comparatively ideal in the highest classes. In the lower and lowest
its hardship is attested by the stunted stature, and the stunted figure
of the ordinary English lower-class woman. Even among the elect of the
afternoon parade in the Park, I do not think there was so great an
average of tall young girls as in any fashionable show with us, where
they form the patriciate which our plutocracy has already flowered into.
But there was a far greater average of tall young men than with us;
which may mean that, with the English, nobility is a masculine
distinction.

As for those great department stores with which the question of women
relates itself inevitably, I have cursorily assumed our priority in
them, and the more I think of them, the more I am inclined to believe
myself right. But that is a matter in which women only may be decisive;
the nice psychology involved cannot be convincingly studied by the other
sex. I will venture, again, however, so far into this strange realm as
to say that the subordinate shops did not seem so many or so good in
London as in New York, though when one remembers the two Bond Streets,
and Oxford, and lower Piccadilly, one might feel the absurdity of
claiming superiority for Broadway, or Fourteenth and Twenty-third
streets, or Union and Madison squares, or the parts of Third and Sixth
avenues to which ladies' shopping has spread. After all, perhaps there
is but one London, in this as in some other things.

Among the other things are hardly the restaurants which abound with us,
good, bad, and indifferent. In the affair of public feeding, of the
costliest, as well as the cheapest sorts, we may, with our polyglot
menus, safely challenge the competition of any metropolis in the world,
not to say the universe. It is not only that we make the openest show of
this feeding, and parade it at windows, whereas the English retire it to
curtained depths within, but that, in reality, we transact it
ubiquitously, perpetually. In both London and New York it is exotic for
the most part, or, at least, on the higher levels, and the
administration is in the hands of those foreigners who take our money
for learning English of us. But there is no such range of Italian and
French and German restaurants in London as in New York, and of what
there are none are at once so cheap and so good as ours. The cheaper
restaurants are apt to be English, sincere in material, but heavy and
unattractive in expression; in everything culinary the island touch
seems hopelessly inartistic. One Sunday morning, far from home, when the
lunch came prematurely, we found all the English eating-houses devoutly
shut, and our wicked hope was in a little Italian _trattoria_ which
opened its doors to the alien air with some such artificial effect as an
orange-tree in a tub might expand its blossoms. There was a strictly
English company within, and the lunch was to the English taste, but the
touch was as Latin as it could have been by the Arno or the Tiber or on
the Riva degli Schiavoni.

At the great restaurants, where one may see fashion lunching, the
kitchen seemed of an equal inspiration with Sherry's or Delmonico's, but
the _entourage_ was less oppressively glaring, and the service had
more moments of effacing itself, and allowing one to feel oneself a
principal part of the drama. That is often the case with us in the
simpler sort of eating-houses, where it is the neat hand of Phyllis that
serves rather than that of the white-aproned or dress-coated Strephon of
either color or any nationality. My profoundest and distinctest
impression of Phyllidian service is from a delightful lunch which I had
one golden noonday in that famous and beautiful house, Crosby Place,
Bishopsgate, which remains of much the perpendicular Gothic state in
which Sir John Crosby proudly built it from his grocer's and woolman's
gains in 1466. It had afterwards added to it the glory of lodging
Richard III., who, both as protector and as sovereign-prince made
appointments there, in Shakespeare's tragedy of him, for the Lady Anne,
for Catesby, and for the "First Murderer," whom he praises for his
thoughtfulness in coming for the "warrant," that he might be admitted to
their victim.

    "Well thought upon; I have it here about me.
    When you have done, repair to Crosby place."

Probably the First Murderer lunched there, four hundred years ago, "when
he had done as I did now"; but, in the mean time, Henry VIII. had given
Crosby Place to a rich Italian merchant, one Anthony Bonvice; later,
ambassadors had been received in it; the first Earl of Northampton had
enlarged it, and dwelt in it as lord mayor; in 1638 the East India
Company had owned it, and later yet, in 1673, it was used for a
Presbyterian meeting-house; but in 1836 it was restored to its ancient
form and function. I do not know how long it has been an eating-house,
but I hope it may long remain so, for the sensation and refreshment of
Americans who love a simple and good refection in a mediaeval setting,
at a cost so moderate that they must ever afterwards blush for it. You
penetrate to its innermost perpendicularity through a passage that
enclosed a "quick-lunch" counter, and climb from a most noble banquet-
hall crammed with hundreds of mercantile gentlemen "feeding like one" at
innumerable little tables, to a gallery where the musicians must have
sat of old. There it was that Phyllis found and neat-handedly served my
friend and me, gently experiencing a certain difficulty in our combined
addition, but mastering the arithmetical problem presently, and taking
our tip with an air of surprise which it never created in any of the
English-learning Swiss, French, or Italian Strephons who elsewhere
ministered to us.

The waitresses at Crosby Place were of a girlish dignity which never
expected and was never visibly offered the familiar pleasantries which
are the portion of that strange, sad, English creation, the barmaid. In
tens of thousands of London public-houses she stands with her hand on
beer-pumps, and exchanges jocose banalities with persons beyond the
counter in whose dim regard she must show a mere blur of hardened
loveliness against her background of bottles and decanters; but the
waitress at Crosby Place is of an ideal of behavior as fine as that of
any Phyllis in a White Mountain hotel; and I thought it to the honor of
the lunchers that they seemed all to know it. The gentle influence of
her presence had spread to a restaurant in the neighborhood where,
another day, in trying for Crosby Place, I was misled by the mediaeval
aspect of the entrance, and where I found waitresses again instead of
waiters. But nowhere else do I remember them, always excepting the
manifold tea-houses of the metropolis, and those repeated A. B. C.
cold-lunch places of the Aerated Bread Company, where a chill has
apparently been imparted to their bearing by the temperature of the food
they serve. It is very wholesome, however, and it may be rather that a
New England severity in them is the effect of the impersonal relation of
served and server which no gratuity humanizes.

It would not be easy to fathom the reason for the employment of girls as
ushers in the London theatres. Perhaps it is to heighten the glamour of
a place whose glamour hardly needs heightening, or more probably it is
to soften the asperity of the play-goer who finds himself asked sixpence
for that necessary evil, the programme. But, now I come to think of it,
most of the play-goers in London are Englishmen who have been always
used to paying, ancestrally and personally, sixpence for their
programmes and feel no asperity at being so plundered. The true
explanation may be found, after all, in the discovery, akin to the
government's, that their service is cheaper than men ushers' would be.
Children of as tender years as those who manage the postal-stations, go
round with tea and coffee between the acts, as with us the
myriad-buttoned ice-water boy passes; but whereas this boy returns
always with a tray of empty glasses, I never saw a human being drink
either the tea or coffee offered by those female infants in any London
theatre.

Let it be not supposed, however, that I went much to London theatres. I
went perhaps half a dozen times in as many weeks. Once settled in my
chair, I might well have fancied myself at home in a New York theatre,
except that the playing seemed rather better, and the English intonation
not quite so scrupulously English as that which our actors have produced
after a conscientious study of the original. I heard that the English
actors had studied the American accent for a play imported from us; but
I did not see this play, and I am now very sorry. The American accent,
at least, must have been worth hearing, if one might judge from the
reproductions of our parlance which I heard in private life by people
who had sojourned, or merely travelled, among us. These were so
unfailingly delightful, that one could not have wished them more like.

The arriving and departing of theatre-goers by night adds sensibly to
the brilliancy of the complexion of London. The flare of electricity in
the region of the theatres made a midnight summer in the empty heart of
September, and recalled the gayety of the season for the moment to the
desolate metropolis. But this splendor was always so massed and so vivid
that even in the height of the season it was one of the things that
distinguished itself among the various immense impressions. The
impressions were all, if I may so try to characterize them, transitory;
they were effects of adventitious circumstances; they were not
structural in their origin. The most memorable aspect of the Strand or
Fleet Street would not be its moments of stately architecture, but its
moments of fog or mist, when its meanest architecture would show
stately. The city won its moving grandeur from the throng of people
astir on its pavements, or the streams of vehicles solidifying or
liquefying in its streets. The august groups of Westminster and
Parliament did not seem in themselves spectacular; they needed the
desertedness of night, and the pour of the moon into the comparative
emptiness of the neighborhood, to fill them out to the proportions of
their keeping in the memory. Is Trafalgar Square as imposing as it has
the chance of being? It is rather scattered and spotty, and wants
somehow the magic by which Paris moves the spirit in the Place de la
Concorde, or Edinburgh stirs the soul with its suggestions of old
steel-engravings of Athens. Of course St. Paul's has a prodigious
opportunity, as the multitudinous omnibuses roll their tide towards its
facade, but it is not equal to its opportunity. Bit for bit, there is
not quite any bit in London like that edifice of smutted Greek on which
the newly arrived American looks from his breakfast-table in his
Liverpool hotel, and realizes that he is in England. I am far from
thinking the black of the coal-smoke a disadvantage to the London
architecture. Pure white marble is all very well, and the faint rose
that the stone takes from a thousand years of Italian sunsets is not
bad; but the black blur on the surfaces of St. Paul's lends wall and
dome and pillar a depth of shadow which only the electric glare of
tropic suns can cast. The smoke enriches the columns which rise, more or
less casually as it seems, from the London streets and squares, and one
almost hates to have it cleaned off or painted under on the fronts of
the aristocratic mansions. It is like having an old picture restored;
perhaps it has to be done, but it is a pity.

The aristocratic mansions themselves, the hundreds of large houses of
the proudest nobility in the world, are by no means overwhelming. They
hold their primacy among the other pieces of domestic architecture, as
their owners hold their primacy in society, very quietly, if very
stolidly, and one would have, I fancy, to come much harder against them
than one would be allowed to do, in order to feel their quality
intimately. There they are, in Park Lane, and the park neighborhood of
Piccadilly, and the larger and lesser streets of Mayfair, and the
different squares and gardens and places; and certain of them may be
visited at certain times on application by the tourist. But that is a
barren pleasure which one easily denies oneself in behalf of the simpler
and more real satisfactions of London. The charm of the vast friendly
old place is not in such great houses, as its grandeur is not in its
monuments. Now and then such a house gave evidence of high social
preparation during the season in flinging out curtained galleries or
pavilions towards the street, if it stood back; if it stood flush upon
the sidewalk a group of fifteen or twenty flunkeys, and the continual
arrest of carriages would attest its inward state; but the genius of the
race is to keep its own to itself, even its own splendors and grandeurs,
except on public occasions when it shines forth in incomparable
magnificence.

If London, then, is not habitually grandiose, or monumental, or
beautiful, what is it? I should say, with much fear of contradiction and
scornful laughter, that it was pretty, that it was endearingly nooky,
cornery, curvy, with the enchantment of trees and flowers everywhere
mixed with its civic turmoil, and the song of birds heard through the
staccato of cabs, and the muffled bellow of omnibuses. You may not like
London, but you cannot help loving it. The monuments, if I may keep
coming back to them, are plain things, often, with no attempt upon the
beholder's emotions. In the process of time, I suspect that the Albert
Memorial will not be the most despised among them, for it expresses,
even if it over-expresses, a not ignoble idea, and if it somewhat
stutters and stammers, it does at last get it out; it does not stand
mum, like the different shy, bashful columns stuck here and there, and
not able to say what they would be at.

If one comes to the statues there are, of course, none so good as the
Farragut in Madison Square, or the Logan on the Lake front at Chicago,
and, on the whole, I remember those at Washington as better. There are
not so many English kings standing or riding about as one would expect;
the English kings have, indeed, not been much to brag of in bronze or
marble, though in that I do not say they are worse than other kings. I
think, but I am not sure, that there are rather more public men of
inferior grade than kings, though this may be that they were more
impressive. Most noticeable was the statue of Disraeli, which, on
Primrose Day, I saw much garlanded and banked up with the favorite
flower of that peculiarly rustic and English statesman. He had the air
of looking at the simple blossoms and forbearing an ironical smile, or
was this merely the fancy of the spectator? Among the royal statues is
that of the Charles whom they put to death, and who was so unequal in
character though not in spirit to his dread fate. It was stolen away,
and somewhere long hid by his friends or foes, but it is now to be seen
in the collection of Trafalgar Square, so surely the least imposing of
equestrian figures that it is a pity it should ever have been found. For
a strikingly handsome man, all his statues attest how little he lent
himself to sculpture.

Not far away is another equestrian statue, which never failed to give me
a start, when I suddenly came upon it in a cab. It looked for an instant
quite like many statues of George Washington, as it swept the air with
its doffed hat, but a second glance always showed it the effigy of
George the Third, bowing to posterity with a gracious eighteenth-century
majesty. If it were possible, one would like to think that the
resemblance mentioned had grown upon it, and that it in the case of
Americans was the poor king's ultimate concession to the good-feeling
which seems to be reuniting the people he divided.




XIII

AN AFTERNOON AT HAMPTON COURT


The amiable afternoon of late April which we chose for going to Hampton
Court, made my return to the place after an interval of twenty odd
years, a sort of triumphal progress by embowering the course of our
train with plum and pear and cherry trees in a white mist of bloom. Long
before we reached the country these lovely apparitions abounded in the
back-yards of the little city and suburban dwellings which we ran
between, and the bits of gardens were full of homely flowers; when we
got to open expanses where nature could find room to spread in lawns
that green English turf of hers, the grass was starry with daisies and
sunny with dandelions. The poets used to call that sort of thing
enamelling, and it was not distasteful, in our approach to such a
kindly, artificial old place as Hampton Court, to suppose that we were
passing through enamelled meads. Under the circumstances we might have
expected our train to purl, in default of a stream to perform the part,
and I can truly say of it that it arrived with us in a mood so pastoral
that I still cannot understand why we did not ask for a fly at the
station in a couplet out of Pope. We got the fly easily enough in our
prose vernacular, and the driver hid his surprise at our taking it for
the little distance to the palace, which it would have been so much
pleasanter to walk.

Yet, I do not know but we were instinctively wise in coming to the
entrance of the fine old paved courtyard with a certain suddenness: if
we had left it much more time the grass between the bricks might have
overgrown them, and given an air of ruin to precincts that for centuries
have been held from decay, in the keeping of life at once simple and
elegant. Though Hampton Court has never been the residence of the
English kings since the second George gave the third George an enduring
disgust for it by boxing the ears of the boy there in a fit of
grandfatherly impatience, it has been and is the home of many English
gentlefolk, rarely privileged, in a land of rare privileges, to live in
apartments granted them by royal favor. In former times the privilege
was now and then abused by tenants who sublet their rooms in lodgings;
but the abuse has long been broken up, and now there cannot be, in the
whole earth, a more dignified dwelling for the dowager of a
distinguished or merely favored family than such as the royal pleasure
freely grants at Hampton Court. Doubtless the crumpled rose-leaf is
there, as it is everywhere, but unless it is there to lend a faint
old-fashioned odor as of _pot-pourri_ to life in those apartments,
I do not believe that it abounds in any of them.

The things I had chiefly in mind from my former visit were the beauties
of the Stuarts' time, and of Sir Peter Lely's pencil, in the galleries
of the palace, and the secular grape-vine which I found in its familiar
place in a corner of the conservatories. I will not say which I paid my
devoirs to first, but if it was the vine, I can truly declare that I did
not find it looking a day older since I had seen it last in 1882. It
could hardly have said as much for me, but I reflected that I had not
been two hundred years old to begin with, and consoled myself as I could
in my consciousness that I was really not so young by twenty odd years
as I once was. Yet I think it must be a dull and churlish nature which
would wish to refuse the gentle contemporaneity offered by the unaging
antiquity at Hampton Court. I should at this moment be glad to share the
youthful spirit of the sunken garden which I passed on my way to the
famous vine, and in which with certain shapes of sculpture and blossom,
I admired the cockerels snipped out of arbor-vitae in the taste of a
world more childlike than ours, and at the same time so much older. The
Dutch taste of it all, once removed from a French taste, or twice from
the Italian, and mostly naturalized to the English air by the good
William and Mary (who were perhaps chiefly good in comparison with all
their predecessors from Henry VIII. down to the second and worst of the
Jameses), comes to its most endearing expression in that long arbor of
clipped wych-elms, near the sunken garden, called Mary's bower, which,
on our April afternoon, was woolly with the first effort of its boughs
to break into leaf.

We did not penetrate its perspective, for it seems one of the few things
at Hampton Court barred to the public. Everywhere else the place is free
to the visitor, who may walk as he pleases on its garden-paths, or over
its close-woven turf, or sit out of the sun under its dense black yews,
or stroll beneath the oaks by the banks of the Long Canal. If the canal
is Dutch, the burly trees which lounge about at their pleasure in the
park, impart the true English sentiment to the scene; but, for my part,
I did not care to go far from the borders of the beds of hyacinths and
tulips and daffodils. The grass sighed with secret tears under the foot,
and it was better to let the fancy, which would not feel the need of
goloshes, rove disembodied to the bosky depths into which the oaks
thickened afar, dim amid the vapor-laden air. From the garden-plots one
could look, dry-shod, down upon the Thames, along which the pretty town
of Hampton stretches, and in whose lively current great numbers of
house-boats tug at their moorings. The Thames beside the palace is not
only swift but wide, and from the little flowery height on which we
surveyed these very modernest of pleasure-craft they had a remove at
which they were lost in an agreeable mystery. Even one which we were
told belonged to a rich American could not alienate itself from the past
when there were no United States, and very few united colonies. The
poorest American, if he could not have a lodgement in the palace (and I
do not see how the royal bounty could extend to one of our disinherited
condition), or one of the pleasant Hampton houses overlooking the river,
might be glad to pass the long, mild English summer, made fast to the
willowy bank of the Thames, without mosquitoes or malaria to molest him
or make him afraid in his dreamful sojourn.

By all the laws of picturesque dealing with other times the people whose
portraits we had seen in the galleries ought to have been in the garden
or about the lawns in hospitable response to the interest of their
trans-Atlantic visitors; but in mere common honesty, I must own they
were not. They may have become tired of leaving their frames at the
summons of the imaginations which have so often sought to steal their
color for a dull page, and to give the charm of their tragedy or comedy
to a passage which otherwise would not move. I do not blame them, and I
advise the reader not to expect a greater complaisance of them than we
experienced. But in all that densely-storied England, where every scene
has memories accumulated one upon another till the sense aches under
them, I think there is none that surpasses, if any vies with this.

What makes the charm of Hampton Court is that from first to last it lies
in an air clearer of fable or tradition than that which involves most
other seats of power. For we do like to know what we are dealing with,
in the past as in the present, and in proportion as we are ourselves
real, we love reality in other people, whether they still live or
whether they died long ago. If they were people of eminence, we gratify
in supreme degree the inextinguishable passion for good society innate
in every one by consorting with royalties and titles whom we may here
know as we know our contemporary equals, through facts and traits even
better ascertained. At Hampton Court we are really at home with the
great parvenu who began the palace in such magnificence that none of the
successive princes have excelled it in design, and who when his fear of
the jealous tyrant compelled him to offer it to his king, could make
such a gift as no subject ever before laid at the feet of a sovereign.
The grandeur of Cardinal Wolsey, and the meanness of Henry VIII., in the
sufferance and the performance of that extortion are as sensible in the
local air as if they were qualities of some event in our own day, and
the details of the tyrant's life in the palace remain matters of as
clear knowledge as those of some such tragedy as the recent taking off
of the Servian king and queen. The annals are so explicit that no veil
of uncertainty hangs between us and the lapse of Anne Boleyn from the
throne to the scaffold; we see Catherine Howard as in an instantaneous
photograph escaping from her prison-chamber and running through the
gallery to implore the mercy of Henry at mass in the chapel, and, as if
a phonograph were reporting them, we hear the wretched woman's screams
when she is pursued and seized and carried back, while the king
continues devoutly in the chapel at prayer. The little life of Edward
VI. relates itself as distinctly to the palace where he was born; and
one is all but personally witness there to the strange episode of
Elizabeth's semi-imprisonment while Bloody Mary, now sister and now
sovereign, balanced her fate as from hand to hand, and hesitated whether
to make her heiress to a throne or to a crown of martyrdom. She chose
wisely in the end, for Elizabeth was fitter for mortal than immortal
glory, and for the earthly fame of Mary Queen of Scots Elizabeth in her
turn did not choose unwisely, however unwittingly, when amid her
coquetting and counselling with her statesmen and lovers at Hampton
Court she drew the toils closer and closer about her victim. But here I
ought to own that all this is a reflected light from after-reading, and
not from my previous knowledge of the local history. In making my
confession, however, I am not sure that the sort of general ignorance I
brought to it was not a favorable medium through which to view Hampton
Court. If you come prepared with the facts, you are hampered by them and
hindered in the enjoyment of the moment's chances. You are obliged to
verify them, from point to point, but if you learn them afterwards you
can arrange them in your memories of the scene, where you have wandered
vaguely about in a liberal and expansive sense of unlimited historical
possibilities. I am able now to realize, without having missed one charm
of our spring afternoon in those entrancing bounds that the son of Mary
Stuart was as fond of Hampton Court, when he came there king, as
Elizabeth herself.

It was there that James I. confronted and confuted the Puritan divines
whom he invited to lay their complaints before him, and there in his
pedantic brow-beating so hammered their hard metal that he tempered it
to the sword soon to be unsheathed against his son; it was there that
Charles began the famous quarrel with his queen which ended in his
deporting Henrietta Maria's French adherents, or, as he wrote
Buckingham, "dryving them away, lyke so many wylde beastes ... and soe
the Devill goe with them"; it was there that more importantly when an
honorable captive of Parliament, he played fast and loose, after the
fashion he was born to, with Cromwell and the other generals who would
have favored his escape, and even his restoration to the throne, if they
could have found any truth in him to rest a treaty on. It was at Hampton
that Cromwell, when the palace became his home, first put on something
of royal state, always with lapses through his _bonhomie_ into
good-fellowship with his officers, and never with any help from his
simple-hearted wife; that the death of his daughter, amid these fitful
glories, broke his heart, and he drooped and sickened to his own end,
which a change to the different air of Whitehall did not delay; that
after the little time of Richard Cromwell's protectorate, Hampton Court
had another royal lord in the second Charles, who repeated history in a
quarrel with his queen, for none of the good reasons which the first
Charles had in the like contention. The father's tergiversations with
Cromwell may be supposed to have given a glamour of kingcraft to his
sojourn later, but the bad part which the son took against his wife was
without one dignifying circumstance. One reads with indignation still
hot how he brought the plain little Portuguese woman there for their
honeymoon, and brightened it for her by thrusting upon her the intimacy
of his mistress Lady Castlemaine; how he was firm for once in his
yielding life, when he compelled Clarendon to the base office of coaxing
and frightening the queen who had trusted the old man as a father; how,
like the godless blackguard he was, the "merry monarch," swore "before
Almighty God," in his letter to the chancellor, that he was "resolved to
go through with this matter" of forcing his paramour upon his wife, with
the added threat, "and whomsoever I find my Lady Castlemaine's enemy" in
it, "I do promise upon my word to be his enemy as long as I live." It is
less wonderful that the unhappy creature whose spirit he broke should
have been crushed, than that the English people, to whom the king's bad
life was an open book, should have suffered him. But perhaps, even this
was less wonderful than their patience with the harsh virtue of the
Puritans. It is not well to be good, or make others be good at the cost
of every ease and grace of life, and though it seems strange and sad to
us republicans that the mighty English commonwealth should have been
supplanted by such a monarchy as that restored in Charles, it may not be
so strange as it was sad. The life which attests itself in the beauties
of Lely and of Kneller on the walls of Hampton Court, when it began to
have its free course was doubtless none the purer for having been frozen
at its source. The world is a long time being saved from itself, and it
has had to go back for many fresh starts. If the beautiful women whose
wickedness is recorded by the court painters in a convention of wanton
looks, rather than by a severally faithful portraiture, can be regarded
simply as a part of the inevitable reaction from a period when men had
allowed women to be better, we shall not have so much difficulty in
showing them mercy. If only after a lapse of twenty years they would not
look so much like old acquaintances who had kept their youth too well,
one need certainly not be shy of them. Even if all the beauties were as
bad as they were painted, there are many other women not ostensibly bad
whose pictures fill Hampton Court; but, knowing what galleries are, how
mortally fatiguing to every fibre, I should not think of making the
reader follow me through the long rooms of the palace, and I will now
own that I even spared myself many details in this second visit of mine.

Historically, as I retrospectively perceived, it never ceases to be most
intimately interesting down to the day of that third George who had his
ears boxed there. The second James had almost as little to do with it as
our last king; he was in such haste to go wrong everywhere else that he
had no time for the place where other sovereigns before and after him
took their pleasure. But William and Mary seemed to give it most of
their leisure; to the great little Dutchman it was almost as dear as if
it were a bit of Holland, and even more to his mind than Kensington. His
queen planted it and kept it to his fancy while he was away fighting the
Stuarts in Ireland; and when she was dead, he continued to pull down and
build up at Hampton Court as long as he lived, laying the sort of
ruthless hand upon its antiquity with which the unsparing present always
touches the past. He sickened towards his end there, and one day his
horse stepping into a mole-hill when the king was hunting (in the park
where the kings from Henry VIII. down had chased the deer), fell with
him and hurt him past surgery; but it was at Kensington that he shortly
afterwards died. Few indeed, if any of the royal dwellers at Hampton
Court breathed their last in air supposed so life-giving by Wolsey when
he made it his seat. They loved it and enjoyed it, and in Queen Anne's
time, when under a dull sovereign the civility of England brightened to
Augustan splendor, the deep-rooted stem of English poetry burst there
into the most exquisite artificial flower which it ever bore; for it was
at Hampton Court that the fact occurred, which the fancy of the poet
fanned to a bloom, as lasting as if it were rouge, in the matchless
numbers of _The Rape of the Lock_.

Such pleasure-parties as that in which the lovely Arabella Fermor lost
her curl under the scissors of Lord Petre, must have had the best of the
gayety, in the time of the first and second Georges, for Pope himself,
writing of it in one of his visits in 1717, described the court life as
one of dull and laborious etiquette. Yet what was fairest and brightest
and wittiest, if not wisest in England graced it, and the names of
Bellenden and Lepell and Montagu, of Harvey and Chesterfield, of Gay and
Pope and Walpole, flash and fade through the air that must have been so
heavy even at Hampton Court in these reigns. After all, it is the common
people who get the best of it when some lordly pleasure-house for which
they have paid comes back to them, as palaces are not unapt finally to
do; and it is not unimaginable that collectively they bring as much
brilliancy and beauty to its free enjoyment as the kings and courtiers
did in their mutually hampered pleasures.

Though the Georges began to divide the palace up into the apartments for
the kind of permanent guests of the state who now inhabit them, it was
not until well into the time of the late queen that the galleries and
gardens were thrown open, without price or restriction, to the public.
Whosever the instinct or inspiration was, the graciousness of it may
probably be attributed to the mother-hearted sovereign whose goodness
gave English monarchy a new lease of life in the affections of her
subjects, and raised loyalty to a part of their religion. I suppose that
actual rags and dirt would not be admitted to Hampton Court, but I doubt
if any misery short of them would be excluded. Our fellow-visitors were
of all types, chiefly of the humbler English, and there were not many
obvious aliens among them. With that passion and pride in their own
which sends them holidaying over the island to every point of historic
or legendary interest, and every scene famous for its beauty, they
strayed about the grounds and garden-paths of Hampton Court and through
the halls of state, and revered the couches and thrones of the dead
kings and queens in their bed-chambers and council-chambers, and perused
the pictures on the walls, and the frescoes in the roofs. Oftenest they
did not seem persons who could bring a cultivated taste to their
enjoyment, but fortunately that was not essential to it, and possibly it
was even greater without that. They could not have got so much hurt from
the baleful beauties of Charles's court without their history as with
it, and where they might not have been protected by their ignorance,
they were saved by their preoccupation with one another, for they mostly
hunted the objects of interest in courting couples.

We were going, after we had shared their sight-seeing, to enjoy the
special privilege of visiting one of the private apartments into which
the palace has been so comfortably divided up. But here, I am sorry to
say, I must close the door in the reader's face, and leave him to cool
his heels (I regret the offensiveness of the expression, but I cannot
help it) on the threshold of the apartment, at the top of the historic
staircase which he will have climbed with us, until we come out again. I
do not mind telling him that nothing could be more charmingly homelike,
and less like the proud discomfort of a palace, than the series of rooms
we saw. For a moment, also, I will allow him to come round into the
little picturesque court, gay with the window-gardens of its quaint
casements, where we can look down upon him from the leads of our
apartment. He ought to feel like a figure in an uncommonly pretty water-
color, for he certainly looks like one, under the clustering gables and
the jutting lattices. But if he prefers coming to life as a sight-seer
he may join us at the door of Cardinal Wolsey's great kitchen, now
forming part of our hostess's domain. The vast hearth is there yet, with
its crane and spit, and if the cardinal could come back he might have a
dinner cooked at it for Edward VII. with very little more trouble than
for Henry VIII. three or four hundred years ago. "But what in the
world," the reader may ask me, putting his hand on an old sedan-chair,
which is somewhere in the same basement, if not in the kitchen itself,
"is this?" I answer him, quite easily: "Oh, that is the Push," and
explain that though now mounted on wheels instead of poles, the
sedan-chair is still in actual use, and any lady-dweller in the
apartments has the right of going to a dinner, or for what I know a
"rout" in it, wherever it can be propelled within the precincts of the
palace.

I suppose it is not taken out into the town, and I do not know that the
ladies of the apartments ever visit there. In spite of this misgiving,
Hampton remains one of the innumerable places in England where I should
like to live always. Its streets follow the Thames, or come and go from
the shores so pleasantly, that there is a sense of the river in it
everywhere; and though I suppose people do not now resort to the place
so much by water as they used, one is quite free to do so if one likes.
We had not thought, however, to hire a waterman with his barge in
coming, and so we poorly went back by the train. I say poorly in a
comparative sense only, for there are many worse things in the world
than running up to London in the cool, the very cool, of an April
evening from Hampton Court. At such an hour you see the glad young
suburban husbands, who have got home for the day, digging in the gardens
at the backs of the pretty houses which your train passes, and the glad
young wives, keeping round after them, and seeing they do not make play
of their work. A neat maid in a cap pushes a garden-roller over the
path, or a perambulator with a never-failing baby in it. The glimpse of
domestic bliss is charming; and then it is such a comfort to get back to
London, which seems to have been waiting, like a great plain, kind
metropolis-mother, to welcome you home again, and ask what you would
rather have for dinner.




XIV

A SUNDAY MORNING IN THE COUNTRY


The invention of Week-Ends is a feat of the English social genius
dating since long after my stay of twenty-odd years ago. Like so many
other English mysteries it is very simple, and consists of dedicating
the waste space of time between Friday afternoon and Monday forenoon to
visits out of town. It is the time when, if you have friends within
reasonable, or even unreasonable reach of London, you are asked down.
Science has ascertained that in this interval of fifty or sixty hours no
one can do anything, and that the time had better be frankly given up to
pleasure.

Yet, for the alien sojourner in London, there are no such intervals
between sights, or perhaps between engagements, and we found a whole
week-end beyond our grasp, though ever so temptingly entreated to spend
it here or there in the country. That was why we were going down to the
place of a friend one Sunday morning instead of a Friday evening and
coming back the same day instead of the next. But we were glad of our
piece of a week-end, and we had reason to be especially grateful for the
Sunday when we had it, for it was one of the most perfect of its kind.
There used to be such Sundays in America when people were young, and I
suppose there are such Sundays there yet for children; but if you are no
longer so very young you will be more apt to find them in England, where
Sunday has been studying, ever since the Romans began to observe it, in
just what proportion to blend the blue and white in its welkin, and to
unite warmth and coolness in its air.

I have no doubt there were multitudes going to church that morning, but
our third-class compartment was filled with people going into the
country for the day; fathers and grandfathers taking the little ones for
an endless time in the fields and woods, which are often free in that
much-owned England, while the may was yet freshly red and white on the
hawthorns in the first week in June. Among our fellow-passengers that
morning a young mother, not much older than her five children, sat with
her youngest in her arms, while the other four perched at the edge of
the seat, two on each side of her, all one stare of blue eyes, one flare
of red cheeks: very still, very good, very sweet; when it came to
lifting them out of the car after her, the public had to help. One's
heart must go with these holiday-makers as they began to leave the train
after the last suburban stations, where they could feel themselves
fairly in the country, and really enter upon their joy. It was such
motherly looking country, and yet young with springtime, and of a breath
that came balmily in at the open car-windows; and the trees stood about
in the meadows near the hedge-rows as if they knew what a good thing it
was to be meadow-trees in England, where not being much good for fuel
or lumber they could stand for ages and ages, and shelter the sheep and
cattle without danger of the axe.

At our own station we found our host's motor waiting for us, and after
waiting for some one else, who did not come by the next train, it
whisked us much sooner than we could have wished over the nine miles of
smooth road stretching to his house. The English are always telling you,
if you are an American, how the Americans think nothing of distances,
and they apparently derive their belief from the fact that it is a
thousand miles from New York to Chicago, and again some two thousand to
San Francisco. In vain you try to explain that we do not step casually
aboard a train for either of those places, or, indeed, without much
moral and material preparation. But perhaps if you did not mind being
shorn of the sort of fairy glamour which you are aware attaches to you
from our supposed contempt of space, you could make out a very pretty
case against them, in convicting them of an even greater indifference to
distances. The lengths to which they will go in giving and accepting
invitations for week-ends are amazing; and a run from London down to
Ultima Thule for a week is thought nothing of, or much less of than a
journey from New York to Bar Harbor. But the one is much more in the
English social scheme than the other is in ours; and perhaps the
distance at which a gentleman will live from his railroad-station in the
country is still more impressive. The American commuter who drives night
and morning two or three miles after leaving and before getting his
train, thinks he is having quite drive enough; if he drives six miles
the late and early guest feels himself badly used; but apparently such
distances are not minded in England. The motor, indeed, has now come to
devour them; but even when they had to be nibbled away by a public fly,
they seem not to have been regarded as evils.

For the stranger they certainly could not be an evil. Every foot, every
inch of the way was delightful, and we only wished that our motor could
have conceived of our pleasure in the wayside things to which custom had
made it indifferent. There were some villages in the course of that
swift flight where we could have willingly spent a week of such Sundays:
villages with gables and thatches and tiles, and flowery door-yards and
kitchen-gardens, such as could not be had for millionaire money with us,
and villagers in their church-going best, whom, as they lived in the
precious scene, our lightning progress suffered us to behold in a sort
of cinematographic shimmer. Clean white shirt-sleeves are the symbol of
our race's rustic Sunday leisure everywhere; and the main difference
that I could note between our own farmer-folk and these was that at home
they would be sitting on the top of rail-fences or stone-walls, and here
they were hanging over gates; you cannot very well sit on the tops of
hedges.

If one part of England can be said to be more charming than another, and
I suppose that there are odds in its loveliness, I think there can be no
doubt but we were that day in one of the most beautiful regions within
an hour's reach of London. We were pretty constantly mounting in our
motor-flight from the station; the uplands opened round us, and began
to roll far away towards the liberal horizon, in undulations that were
very stately. There is something, indeed, in the sufficiency of English
downs which satisfies without surfeiting, and this we had from the
windows and gardened levels of our friends' house even more than from
the highroad, which we suddenly left to approach the place by a way of
its own. Mountains would have been out of key with the landscape; downs
were just right.

I do not know why the house was the more agreeable for being new, and
for being the effect of our friends' immediate and not their ancestral
fancy, quite as it would have been with most of our friends'
country-houses at home. We certainly had not come to England for newness
of any kind, but we liked the gardens and the shrubberies being new; and
my content was absolute when I heard from our friends that they had at
one time thought of building their house of wood: the fact seemed to
restore me from a homesick exile to the wood-built continent which I had
so willingly forsaken only a few weeks before.

But what better do we ever ask of a strange land than that it shall
render us some fleeting image of the nearest and dearest things of home?
What I had reasonably or logically come to England for was nature tamed
to the hand of man; but whenever I came upon a bit of something wild,
something savage-looking, gaunt, huge, rugged, I rejoiced with an
insensate pleasure in its likeness to the roughest aspect of America
that association could conjure up. I dare say that was very stupid, but
it is best to be honest in such matters as well as in some others, and I
will own that when our friends took us the walk over the downs which
they had promised us, nothing could have gladdened me so much as to
enter a secret and solemn wood of immemorial yews by a cart-track
growing fainter and fainter as it left the fields, and finally
forgetting itself altogether in the sombre depths of shade. Then I said
to my soul that it might have been a wood-road in the White Mountains,
mouldering out of memory of the clearing where the young pines and
birches had grown into good-sized trees since the giants of the primeval
forest were slain and dragged out over its snows and mosses.

The masses of the red may and the white may which stood here and there
in the border of the yews, might have been the blossom of the wilding
apple-trees which often guard the approaches to our woods; the parent
hawthorns were as large and of the same lovely tints, but I could recall
nothing that was quite American when once we had plunged into the shadow
of these great yews, and I could not even find their like in the English
literature which is the companion of American nature. I could think only
of the weird tree-shapes which an artist once greatly acclaimed, and
then so mocked that I am almost ashamed to say Gustave Dore, used to
draw; but that is the truth, and I felt as if we were walking through
any of the loneliest of his illustrations. He knew how to be true to
such mediaeval moods of the great mother, and we owe it to his fame to
bear what witness we can to the fact.

The yew-tree's shade in Gray's Elegy had not prepared me for a whole
forest of yews, and I had never imagined them of the vastness I beheld.
The place had its peculiar gloom through the church-yard associations of
the trees, but there was a rich, Thomas Hardyish flavor in the lawless
fact that in times when it was less protected than now, or when its wood
was more employed in furniture-making, predatory emissaries from London
used to come out to the forest by night and lop away great limbs of the
yews, to be sold to the shyer sort of timber-merchants. From time to
time my host put his hand on a broad sawn or chopped surface where a
tree had been so mutilated and had remained in a dry decay without that
endeavor some other trees make to cover the stump with a new growth. The
down, he told us, was a common, and any one might pasture his horse or
his cow or his goose on its grass, and I do not know whose forest
rights, if any one's, were especially violated in these cruel midnight
outrages on the yews; but some one must have had the interest to stop
it.

I would not try to say how far the common extended, or how far its
privileges; but the land about is mostly held in great estates, like
most of the land in England, and no doubt there are signorial rights
which overlie the popular privileges. I fancied a symbol of these in the
game keeper--whom we met coming out of the wood, brown-clad, with a
scarcely touched hat, silently sweeping through the gorse, furtive as
one of the pheasants or hares to which he must have grown akin in his
custody of them. He was the first game-keeper I met in England, and, as
it happened, the last, but he now seems to me to have been so perfect in
his way that I would not for the sake of the books where I have known so
many of his sort, have him the least different from what he was.

The English sun, if you do not walk much in it, is usually cool and
pleasant, but you must not take liberties. By the time we got back to
lunch we could have believed, with no homesick yearning, that we had
been in an American heat. But after lunch, and after the talk filling
the afternoon till afternoon tea-time, which we were to take at a famous
house in the neighborhood, the temperature was all right again; it was
more than all right in the cold current of air which the motor created.
In the course of that post-luncheon talk our host brought out a small
porcelain bust of Washington, in very Continental blue, which he said
was one of great numbers made in that neighborhood at the time of our
Revolution to express the feeling of our English sympathizers in the
struggle which gave English liberty a new lease. One reads of this
sympathy, how wide and high it was, and one knows of it in a way, but
till then, with that witness, I had to own I had not realized it. The
miniature father-of-his-country smiled at our ignorance with his
accustomed blandness, and I hope he will never regret being given to one
of us as a testimony of the amity which had largely endured for our
nation from and through the most difficult times. The gift lent our day
a unique grace, and I could only hope that it might be without a
surprise too painful that our English Washington would look upon the
American Republic of his creation when we got home with him; I doubted
if he would find it altogether his ideal.

The motor-spin was over the high crest of the down to the house where we
were going, I do not know how many miles, for our afternoon tea. The
house was famous, for being the most perfect Tudor house in existence;
but I am not going to transfer the burden of my slight knowledge of its
past to the mind of the reader. I will only say that it came into the
hands of the jovial Henry VIII. through the loss of several of its
owners' heads, a means of acquisition not so distasteful to him as to
them, and after its restitution to the much decapitated family it
continued in their possession till a few years ago. It remains with me a
vision of turrets and gables, perfect in their Tudor kind, rising upon a
gentle level of fields and meadows, with nothing dramatically
picturesque in the view from its straight-browed windows. The present
owner, who showed me through its rooms and gardens hurriedly in
consideration of our early train, has the generous passion of leaving
the old place as nearly as he can in the keeping of its past; and I was
glad to have him to agree with me that the Tudor period was that in
which English domestic comfort had been most effectually studied. But my
satisfaction in this was much heightened by my approval of what he was
simultaneously saying about the prevalent newspaper unwisdom of not
publishing serial fiction: in his own newspaper, he said, he had a story
running all the time.

The old and the new kiss each other constantly in England, and I
perceived that this vividly modern possessor of the most perfect Tudor
house existing was, with the intense actuality of his interests and
ambitions, as English as the most feudal presence in the kingdom. When
we came out of the house and walked towards the group we had left under
a spreading oak (or it might have been an elm; the two are much of the
same habit in England) on the long, wide lawn, one might have fancied
one's self in any most picturesque period of the past, if it had not
been for the informality of the men's dress. Women are always of the
past in the beauty of their attire, and those whom the low sun, striking
across the velvet of the grass, now lighted up in their pretty gowns of
our day, could easily have stepped out of an old picture, or continued
in it as they sat in their wicker chairs around the afternoon tea-table.




XV

FISHING FOR WHITEBAIT


An incident of the great midsummer heat, was an excursion down the
Thames which took us far from the society atmosphere so relaxing to the
moral fibre of the mere witness of the London season. The change was not
to the cooler air which had been imagined, but it immersed us for the
space of the boat's voyage to and from Greenwich among those social
inferiors who are probably the moral betters of their superiors, but
whose company does not always seem the spiritual baptism it doubtless
is. Our fellow-passengers were distinctly of the classes which are lower
as well as middle, and the sole worldly advantage they had of us was
that they were going where they wished, and we were going where we must.
We had started for Richmond, but as there proved to be no boat for
Richmond, we decided to take the boat which was for Greenwich, and
consoled ourselves with visions of whitebait, in memory and honor of
many parliamentary and literary feasts which that fish has furnished. A
whitebait dinner, what would not one suffer of human contiguity for it,
even though it could be only a whitebait lunch, owing to the early hour?

It was the flaming heart of the forenoon when the Greenwich boat puffed
up to her landing at Westminster Bridge, and the lower middle classes
streamed aboard.

She looked very lower middle class herself, poor boat, and she was of a
failing line which the London County Council is about to replace by a
line of municipal boats, without apparently alarming, in the English,
the sensibilities so apprehensive of anarchy with us when there is any
talk of government transportation. The official who sold me tickets
might have been training himself for a position on the municipal line,
he was so civilly explanatory as to my voyage; so far from treating my
inquiries with the sardonic irony which meets question in American
ticket-offices, he all but caressed me aboard. He had scarcely ceased
reassuring me when the boat struck out on the thin solution of dark mud
which passes for water in the Thames, and scuttled down the tide towards
Greenwich.

Her course lay between the shabbiness of Southwark and the grandeur of
the Westminster shore, which is probably the noblest water-front in the
world. Near and far the great imperial and municipal and palatial masses
of architecture lifted themselves, and, as we passed, varied their
grouping with one another, and with the leafy domes and spires which
everywhere enrich and soften the London outlook. Their great succession
ought to culminate in the Tower, and so it does to the mind's eye, but
to the body's eye, the Tower is rather histrionic than historic. It is
like a scenic reproduction of itself, like a London Tower on the stage;
and if ever, in a moment of Anglo-Saxon expansion, the County Council
should think of selling it to Chicago, to be set up somewhere between
the Illinois Central and the Lake, New York need not hopelessly envy her
the purchase: New York could easily build a London Tower that would look
worthier of its memories than the real one, without even making it a
sky-scraper.

[Illustration: WESTMINSTER BRIDGE AND CLOCK TOWER.]

So it seems at the moment, but I am not sure that it is so true as it is
that after passing the Tower the one shore of the Thames begins to lose
its dignity and beauty, and to be of like effect with the other, which
is the Southwark side, and like all the American river-sides that I
remember. Grimy business piles, sagging sheds, and frowsy wharves and
docks grieve the eye, which the shipping in the stream does little to
console. That is mostly of dingy tramp-steamers, or inferior Dutch
liners, clumsy barges, and here and there a stately brig or shapely
schooner; but it gathers nowhere into the forest of masts and chimneys
that fringe the North River and East River. The foul tide rises and
falls between low shores where, when it ebbs, are seen oozy shoals of
slime, and every keel or paddle that stirs the surface of the river
brings up the loathsomeness of the bottom.

Coming back we saw a gang of half-grown boys bathing from the slimy
shoals, running down to the water on planks laid over them, and
splashing joyously into the filthy solution with the inextinguishable
gladness of their years. They looked like boys out of the purlieus of
Dickens's poverty-world, and all London waterside apparitions are more
or less from his pages. The elderly waiter of the forlorn out-dated
hotel to which we went for our whitebait lunch at Greenwich was as much
of his invention as if he had created him from the dust of the place,
and breathed his elderly-waiter-soul into him. He had a queer
pseudo-respectful shuffle and a sidelong approach, with a dawning
baldness at the back of his head, which seemed of one quality with these
characteristics: his dress-coat was lustrous with the greasiness of long
serving. Asked for whitebait, he destroyed the illusion in which we had
come at a blow. He said he could send out and get us some whitebait if
we could wait twenty minutes, but they never had any call for it now,
and they did not keep it. Then he smiled down upon us out of an
apparently humorous face in which there was no real fun, and added that
we could have salmon mayonnaise at once. Salmon mayonnaise was therefore
what we had, and except that it was not whitebait, it was not very
disappointing; we had not expected much of it. After we had eaten it, we
were put in relations with the landlord, regarding a fly which we wished
to take for a drive, in the absence of whitebait. But a fly required, in
Greenwich, an interview with a stableman and a negotiation which, though
we were assured it would be fairly conducted, we decided to forego, and
contented ourselves with exploring the old hostelry, close and faint of
atmosphere and of a smell at once mouldy and dusty. The room that was
called Nelson's, for no very definite reason, and the room in which the
ministry used to have their whitebait dinners in the halcyon days before
whitebait was extinct in Greenwich, pretended to some state but no
beauty, and some smaller dining-rooms that overhung the river had the
merit of commanding a full view of the Isle of Dogs, and in the
immediate foreground--it was as much earth as water that lapped the
shore--a small boy wading out to a small boat and providing himself a
sorrowful evening at home with his mother, by soaking his ragged sleeves
and trousers in the solution. Some young men in rowing costume were
vigorously pulling in a heavy row-boat by way of filling in their
outing; a Dutch steamer, whose acquaintance we had made in coming, was
hurrying to get out of the river into the freshness of the sea, and this
was all of Greenwich as a watering-place which we cared to see.

But that was a pleasant landlord, and he told us of balls and parties,
which, though not imaginably of the first social quality, must have
given his middle-aging hostelry a gayety in winter that it lacked in
summer. He applauded our resolution to see the pictures in the gallery
of the old naval college on the way back to our boat, and saw us to the
door, and fairly out into the blazing sun. It was truly a grilling heat,
and we utilized every scrap of shade as one does in Italy, running from
tree to tree and wall to wall, and escaping into every available portico
and colonnade. But once inside the great hall where England honors her
naval heroes and their battles, it was deliriously cool. It could not
have been that so many marine pieces tempered the torrid air, for they
all represented the heat of battle, with fire and smoke, and the work of
coming to close quarters, with

    "hot gun-lip kissing gun."

The gallery was altogether better in the old admirals and other sea-dogs
of England whose portraits relieved the intolerable spread of the battle
scenes; and it was best of all in the many pictures and effigies and
relics of Nelson, who, next to Napoleon, was the wonder of his great
time. He looked the hero as little as Napoleon; everywhere his face
showed the impassioned dreamer, the poet; and once more gave the lie to
the silly notion that there is a type of this or that kind of great men.
When we had fairly settled the fact to our minds, we perceived that the
whole place we were in was a temple to Nelson, and that whatever minor
marine deities had their shrines there, it was in strict subordination
to him. England had done what she could for them, who had done so much
for her; but they seem consecrated in rather an out-of-the-way place,
now that there is no longer whitebait to allure the traveller to their
worship; and, upon the whole, one might well think twice before choosing
just their apotheosis.

By the time I reached this conclusion, or inconclusion, it was time to
grill forth to our boat, and we escaped from shade to shade, as before,
until we reached the first-class shelter of the awning at her stern.
Even there it was crowded in agonizing disproportion to the small breeze
that was crisping the surface of the solution; and fifteen or twenty
babies developed themselves to testify of the English abhorrence of
race-suicide among the lower middle classes. They were mostly good, poor
things, and evoked no sentiment harsher than pity even when they were
not good. Still it was not just the sort of day when one could have
wished them given the pleasure of an outing to Greenwich. Perhaps they
were only incidentally given it, but it must have been from a specific
generosity that several children in arms were fed by their indulgent
mothers with large slices of sausage. To be sure they had probably had
no whitebait.




XVI

HENLEY DAY


Our invitation to the regatta at Henley, included luncheon in the tent
of an Oxford college, and a view of the races from the college barge,
which, with the barges of other Oxford colleges, had been towed down the
Thames to the scene of the annual rivalry between the crews of the two
great English universities. There may also have been Cambridge barges,
spirited through the air in default of water for towing them to Henley,
but I make sure only of a gay variety of houseboats stretching up and
down the grassy margin of the stream, along the course the rowers were
to take. As their contest was the least important fact of the occasion
for me, and as I had not then, and have not now, a clear notion which
came off winner in any of the events, I will try not to trouble the
reader with my impressions of them, except as they lent a vivid action
and formed a dramatic motive for one of the loveliest spectacles under
the sun. I have hitherto contended that class-day at Harvard was the
fairest flower of civilization, but, having seen the regatta at Henley,
I am no longer so sure of it.

Henley is no great way from London, and the quick pulse of its
excitement could be sensibly felt at the station, where we took train
for it. Our train was one of many special trains leaving at
quarter-hourly intervals, and there was already an anxious crowd
hurrying to it, with tickets entitling them to go by that train and no
other. It was by no means the youthful crowd it would have been at home,
and not even the overwhelmingly feminine crowd. The chaperon, who now
politely prevails with us in almost her European numbers, was here in no
greater evident force; but gray-haired fathers and uncles and elderly
friends much more abounded; and they looked as if they were not
altogether bent upon a vicarious day's pleasure. The male of the English
race is of much more striking presence than the American; he keeps more
of the native priority of his sex in his costume, so that in this crowd,
I should say, the outward shows were rather on his part than that of his
demurely cloaked females, though the hats into which these flowered at
top gave some hint of the summer loveliness of dress to be later
revealed. They were, much more largely than most railway-station crowds,
of the rank which goes first class, and in these special Henley trains
it was well to have booked so, if one wished to go in comfort, or arrive
uncrumpled, for the second-class and third-class carriages were packed
with people.

There seemed so many of our fellow-passengers, that reaching Henley in
the condition of greed and grudge of all travellers on errands of
pleasure, we made haste to anticipate any rush for the carriages outside
the station which were to take us to the scene of the races. Oddly
enough there was no great pressure for these vehicles, or for the more
public brakes and char-a-bancs and omnibuses plying to the same
destination; and so far from falling victims to covert extortion in the
matter of fares, we found the flys conscientiously placarded with the
price of the drive. This was about double the ordinary price, and so
soon does human nature adjust itself to conditions that I promptly
complained to an English friend for having had to pay four shillings for
a drive I should have had to pay four dollars for at home. In my
resentment I tried to part foes with my driver, who mildly urged that he
had but a few days in the year for doubling his fares, but I succeeded
so ill that when I found him waiting for me at the end of the day, I
amicably took him again for the return to the station.

Of the coming and going through the town of Henley I keep the sort of
impression which small English towns give the passing stranger, of a
sufficiently busy commercial life, doing business in excellent shops of
the modern pattern, but often housed in dwellings of such a familiar
picturesqueness that you wonder what old-fashioned annual or stage-
setting or illustrated Christmas-story they are out of. I never could
pass through such a town without longing to stop in it and know all
about it; and I wish I could believe that Henley reciprocated my
longing, on its bright holiday morning, that we could have had each
other to ourselves in the interest of an intimate acquaintance. It
looked most worthy to be known, and I have no doubt that it is full of
history and tradition of the sort which small towns have been growing
for centuries throughout England.

But we had only that one day there, and in our haste to give it to the
regatta we could only make sure of driving over a beautiful picture-
postal bridge on our way to the meadows by whose brink our college barge
was moored, and making believe to tug at its chain. It was really doing
nothing of the kind, for it was familiar with boat-racing in the Thames
where the Thames is still the Isis at Oxford, and was as wholly without
the motive as without the fact of impatience. Like many other barges and
house-boats set broadside to the shore for a mile up and down as closely
as they could be lined, it was of a comfortable cabin below and of a
pleasant gallery above, with an awning to keep off the sun or rain,
whichever it might be the whim of the weather to send. But that day the
weather had no whims; it was its pleasure to be neither wet nor hot, but
of a delicious average warmth, informed with a cool freshness which had
the days of the years of youth in it. In fact, youth came back in all
the holiday sights and scents to the elderly witness who ought to have
known better than to be glad of such things as the white tents in the
green meadows, the gypsy fires burning pale in the sunlight by the gypsy
camps, the traps and carriages thronging up and down the road, or
standing detached from the horses in the wayside shadow, where the
trodden grass, not less nor more than the wandering cigar-whiff, exhaled
the memories of far-off circus-days and Fourths of July. But such things
lift the heart in spite of philosophy and experience, and bid it rejoice
in the relish of novelty which a scene everywhere elementally the same
offers in slight idiosyncrasies of time and place. Certain of these
might well touch the American half-brother with a sense of difference,
but there was none that perhaps more suggested it than the frank English
proclamation by sign-board that these or those grounds in the meadows
were this or that lady's, who might be supposed waiting in proprietory
state for her guests within the pavilion of her roped-off enclosure.
Together with this assertion of private right, and the warning it
implied, was the expression of yet elder privilege in the presence of
the immemorial wanderers who had their shabby camps by the open wayside
and offered the passer fortune at so low a rate that the poorest
pleasurer could afford to buy a prophecy of prosperity from them; I do
not know why they proposed to sell with these favorable destinies small
brushes and brooms of their own make.

[Illustration: A HOUSE-BOAT OX THE THAMES AT HENLEY.]

These swarthy aliens, whom no conditions can naturalize, are a fact of
every English holiday without which it would not be so native, as the
English themselves may hereafter be the more peculiarly and intensely
insular through the prevalence of more and more Americans among them.
Most of our fellow-guests on that Oxford barge were our fellow-
countrymen, and I think now that without their difference there would
have been wanting an ultimately penetrating sense of the entirely
English keeping of the affair. The ardor of our fresh interest lent, I
hope, a novel zest to our English hosts for the spectacle which began to
offer itself so gradually to our delight, and which seemed to grow and
open flower-like from the water, until it was a blossom which covered
the surface with its petals.

The course for the races was marked off midway from either shore by long
timbers fastened end to end and forming a complete barrier to the
intrusion of any of the mere pleasure-craft. Our own shore was sacred to
barges and house-boats; the thither margin, if I remember rightly, was
devoted to the noisy and muscular expansion of undergraduate emotion,
but, it seems to me, that farther up on the grounds which rose from it
were some such tents and pavilions as whitened our own side. Still the
impression of something rather more official in the arrangements of that
shore persists with me.

There was a long waiting, of course, before the rowing began, but as
this throughout was the least interest of the affair for any one but the
undergraduates, and the nearest or fairest friends of the crews, I will
keep my promise not to dwell on it. Each event was announced some
minutes beforehand by the ringing of a rather unimpressive hand-bell.
Then a pistol-shot was fired; and then, after the start far up the
course, the shells came sweeping swiftly down towards us. I noticed that
the men rowed in their undershirts, and not naked from their waists up
as our university crews do, or used to do, and I missed the Greek joy I
have experienced at New London, when the fine Yale and Harvard fellows
slipped their tunics over their heads, and sat sculpturesque in their
bronze nudity, motionlessly waiting for the signal to come to eager
life. I think that American moment was more thrilling than any given
moment at Henley; and though there is more comfort in a college barge,
and more gentle seclusion for the favored spectator, I am not going to
own that it equals as a view-point the observation-train, with its
successive banks of shouting and glowing girls, all a flutter of
handkerchiefs and parasols, which used to keep abreast of the racing
crews beside the stately course of the Connecticut Thames. Otherwise I
think it best to withhold comparisons, lest the impartial judge should
decide in favor of Henley.

There was already a multitude of small boats within the barriers keeping
the race-course open, and now and then one of these crossed from shore
to shore. They were of all types: skiffs and wherries and canoes and
snub-nosed punts, with a great number of short, sharply rounded craft,
new to my American observance, and called cockles, very precisely
adapted to contain one girl, who had to sit with her eyes firmly fixed
on the young man with the oars, lest a glance to this side or that
should oversee the ticklishly balanced shell. She might assist her eyes
in trimming the boat with a red or yellow parasol, or a large fan, but
it appeared that her gown, a long flow as she reclined on the low seat,
must be of one white or pale lavender or cowslip or soft pink, lest any
turmoil of colors in it should be too much for the balance she sought to
keep. The like precaution seemed to have been taken in the other boats,
so that while all the more delicate hues of the rainbow were afloat on
the stream, there was nothing of the kaleidoscope's vulgar variety in
the respective costumes. As the numbers of the boats momentarily
increased, it was more and more as if the church-parade of Hyde Park had
taken water, and though in such a scene as that which spread its soft
allure before us, it was not quite imaginable that all the loveliness
one saw was of the quality of that in the consecrated paddocks near
Stanhope Gate, neither was it imaginable that much of the beauty was not
as well-born as it was well-dressed. Those house-boats up and down the
shore must mainly have been peopled by persons of worldly worth, and of
those who had come from the four quarters to Henley for the day, not
every one could have been an actress with her friends, though each
contributed to the effect of a spectacle not yet approached in any
pantomime. There was a good deal of friendly visiting back and forth
among the house-boat people; and I was told that it was even more than
correct for a young man to ask a house-boat girl to go out with him in
one of the small boats on the water, but how much this contributed to
keep the scene elect I do not know.

If one looked steadily at the pretty sight, it lost reality as things do
when too closely scrutinized, and became a visionary confluence of lines
and colors, a soft stir of bloom like a flowery expanse moved by the
air. This ecstatic effect was not exclusive of facts which kept one's
feet well on the earth, or on the roof of one's college barge. Out of
that "giddy pleasure of the eyes" business lifted a practical front from
time to time, and extended a kind of butterfly net at the end of a pole
so long that it would reach anywhere, and collected pennies for the
people in boats who had been singing or playing banjos or guitars or
even upright pianos. For, it must be explained, there were many in that
aquatic crowd who were there to be heard as well as seen, and this gave
the affair its pathos. Not that negro minstrelsy as the English have
interpreted the sole American contribution to histrionic art, is in
itself pathetic, except as it is so lamentably far from the original;
but that any obvious labor which adds to our gayety is sorrowful; and
there were many different artists there who were working hard. Sometimes
it was the man who sang and the woman who played; but it was always the
woman who took up the collection: she seemed to have the greater
enterprise and perseverance. Of course in the case of the blackened
minstrels, some man appealed to the love of humor rather than the love
of beauty for the bounty of the spectators. In the case of an old-time
plantation darkey who sang the familiar melodies with the slurring
vowels and wandering aspirates of East London, and then lifted a face
one-half blackened, the appeal to the love of humor was more effective
than the other could have been. A company of young men in masks with a
piano in their boat, which one played while another led the singing in
an amazing falsetto, were peculiarly successful in collecting their
reward, and were all the more amusingly eager because they were, as our
English friends believed, undergraduates on a lark.

They were no better-natured than the rest of the constantly increasing
multitude. The boats thickened upon the water as if they had risen
softly from the bottom to which any panic might have sent them; but the
people in them took every chance with the amiability which seems to be
finally the thing that holds England together. The English have got a
bad name abroad which certainly they do not deserve at home; but perhaps
they do not think foreigners worthy the consideration they show one
another on any occasion that masses them. One lady, from her vantage in
the stern of her boat, was seen to hit the gentleman in the bow a
tremendous whack with her paddle; but he merely looked round and smiled,
as if it had been a caress, which it probably was, in disguise. But they
were all kind and patient with one another whether in the same boat or
not. Some had clearly not the faintest notion how a boat should be
managed; they bumped and punched one another wildly; but the occupants
of the boat assailed simply pushed off the attacking party with a
smiling acceptance of its apology, and passed on the incident to another
boat before or beside them. From the whole multitude there came not one
loud or angry note, and, for any appearance of authority on the scene it
was altogether unpoliced, and kept safe solely by the universal
good-humor. The women were there to show themselves in and at their
prettiest, and to see one another as they lounged on the cushions or lay
in the bottoms of the boats, or sat up and displayed their hats and
parasols; the men were there to make the women have a good time. Neither
the one nor the other seemed in the least concerned in the races, which
duly followed one another with the ringing of bells and firing of
pistols, unheeded. By the time the signal came to clear the course for
the crews, the pleasure-craft pushed within the barriers formed a vast,
softly undulating raft covering the whole surface of the water, so that
you could have walked from the barrier to the shore without dipping foot
in the flood. I have suggested that the situation might have had its
perils. Any panic must have caused a commotion that would have
overturned hundreds of the crazy craft, and plunged their freight to
helpless death. But the spectacle smiled securely to the sun, which
smiled back upon it from a cloud-islanded blue with a rather more than
English ardor; and we left it without anxiety, to take our luncheon in
the pavilion pitched beside our barge on the grassy shore.

To this honest meal we sat comfortably down at long tables, and served
one another from the dishes put before us. There was not the ambitious
variety of salads and sweets and fruits and ices, which I have seen at
Harvard Class-Day spreads, but there were the things that stay one more
wholesomely and substantially, and one was not obliged to eat standing
and hold one's plate. Everything in England that can be is adjusted to
the private and personal scale; everything with us is generalized and
fitted to the convenience of the greatest number. Later, we all sat down
together at afternoon tea, a rite of as inviolable observance as
breakfast itself in that island of fixed habits.

I believe some races were rowed while we were eating and drinking, but
we did not mind. We were not there for the races, but for the people who
were there for the races; or who were apparently so. In the mean time,
the multitude of them seemed to have increased, and where I had fancied
that not one boat more could have been pressed in, half a dozen had
found room. The feat must have been accomplished by main strength and
awkwardness, as the old phrase is. It was no place indeed for skill to
evince itself; but people pushed about in the most incredible way when
they tried to move, though mostly they did not try; they let their boats
lie still, and sway with the common movement when the water rose and
sank, or fluctuated unseen beneath them. There were more and more people
of the sort that there can never be enough of, such as young girls
beautifully dressed in airy muslins and light silks, sheltered but not
hidden by gay parasols floating above their summer hats. It was the
fairy multitude of Harvard Class-Day in English terms, and though Henley
never came at any moment to that prodigiously picturesque expression
which Class-Day used to reach when all its youthful loveliness banked
itself on the pine-plank gradines enclosing the Class-Day elm, and
waited the struggle for its garlands, yet you felt at Henley somehow in
the presence of inexhaustible numbers, drawing themselves from a society
ultimately, if not immediately, vaster. It was rather dreadful perhaps
to reflect that if all that brilliant expanse of fashion and beauty had
been engulfed in the hidden Thames it could have been instantly replaced
by as much more, not once but a score of times.

[Illustration: THE CROWD OF SIGHT-SEERS AT HENLEY]

I will not pretend that this thought finally drove me from the scene,
for I am of a very hardy make when it comes to the most frightful sort
of suppositions. But the afternoon was wearing away, and we must go
sometime. It seemed better also to leave the gayety at its height: the
river covered with soft colors, and the barges and house-boats by the
brink, with their companies responsive in harmonies of muslin and gauze
and lace to those afloat; the crowds on the opposite shore in constant
movement, and in vivid agitation when the bell and the pistol announced
a racing event. We parted with our friends on the barge, and found our
way through the gypsy crones squatted on the grass, weaving the web of
fate and selling brooms and brushes in the intervals of their mystical
employ, or cosily gossiping together; and then we took for the station
the harmless fly which we had forever renounced as predatory in the
morning.

It was not yet the rush-hour for the run back to London, and we easily
got an empty compartment, in which we were presently joined by a group
of extremely handsome people, all of a southern type, but differing in
age and sex. There were a mother and a daughter, and a father evidently
soon to become a father-in-law, and the young man who was to make him
so. The women were alike in their white gowns, and alike in their dark
beauty, but the charms of the mother had expanded in a bulk incredible
of the slender daughter. She and her father were rather silent, and the
talk was mainly between the mother and the future of the girl. They
first counted up the day's expenses, and the cost of each dish they had
had at luncheon. "Then there was the champagne," the lady insisted. "It
isn't so much when you count that out; and you know we chose to have
it." They all discussed the sum, and agreed that if they had not wanted
the champagne their holiday would not have cost inordinately. "And now,"
the mother continued to the young man, "you must order that box for the
opera as soon as ever you reach the hotel. Order it by telephone. Give
the girl your boutonniere; that will jolly her. Get a four-guinea box
opposite the royal box."

As she sat deeply sunk in the luxurious first-class seat, her little
feet could not reach the floor, and the effort with which she bent
forward was heroic. The very pretty girl in the corner at her elbow was
almost eclipsed by her breadth and thickness; and the old gentleman in
the opposite corner spoke a word now and then, but for the most part
silently smelled of tobacco. The talk which the mother and future
son-in-law had to themselves, though it was so intimately of their own
affairs, we fancied more or less carried on at us. I do not know why
they should have wished to crush us with their opulence since they would
not have chosen to enrich us; but I have never had so great a sense of
opulence. They were all, as I said, singularly handsome people, in the
dark, liquid, lustrous fashion which I am afraid our own race can never
achieve. Yet with all this evident opulence, with their resolute
spirits, with their satisfaction in having spent so much on a luncheon
which they could have made less expensive if they had not chosen to
gratify themselves in it, with their prospect of a four-guinea box,
opposite the box of royalty, at the opera, it seemed to me they were
rather pathetic than otherwise. But I am sure they would have never
imagined themselves so, and that in their own eyes they were a radiantly
enviable party returning from a brilliant day at Henley.




XVII

AMERICAN ORIGINS--MOSTLY NORTHERN


The return in mid-September to the London which we left at the end of
July, implicates a dramatic effect more striking than any possible in
the mere tourist's experience. In the difference between this London and
that you fully realize the moral and physical magnitude of the season.
The earlier London throbbed to bursting with the tide of manifold life,
the later London lies gaunt, hollow, flaccid, and as if spent by the
mere sense of what it has been through. The change is almost incredible,
and the like of it is nowhere to be witnessed with us. It seems a sort
of bluff to say that a city which still holds all its six millions
except a few hundred thousands, is empty, but that is the look a certain
part of London has in September, for the brilliant and perpetual
movement of those hundred thousands was what gave it repletion.

The fashion that fluttered and glittered along Piccadilly and the
streets of shops is all away at country-houses or at the sea-side or in
the mountains of the island or the continent. The comely young giants
who stalked along the pavement of Pall Mall or in the paths of the Park
are off killing grouse; scarcely a livery shows itself; even the
omnibus-tops are depopulated; long rows of idle cabs are on the ranks;
the stately procession of diners-out flashing their white shirt-fronts
at nightfall in interminable hansoms has vanished; the tormented
regiments of soldiers are at peace in their barracks; a strange quiet
has fallen on that better quarter of the town which is really, or
unreally, the town. With this there is an increase of the homelike
feeling which is always present, with at least the happy alien, in
London; and what gayety is left is cumulative at night and centralized
in the electric-blazing neighborhoods of the theatres. There, indeed,
the season seems to have returned, and in the boxes of the playhouses
and the stalls fashion phantasmally revisits one of the scenes of its
summer joy.

One day in Piccadilly, in a pause of the thin rain, I met a solitary
apparition in the diaphanous silks and the snowy plumes of hat and boa
which the sylphs of the church parade wore in life through those halcyon
days when the tide of fashion was highest. The apparition put on a bold
front of not being strange and sad, but upon the whole it failed. It may
have been an impulse from this vision that carried me as far as Hyde
Park, where I saw not a soul, either of the quick or the dead, in the
chilly drizzle, save a keeper cleaning up the edges of the road. In the
consecrated closes, where the vanished children of smartness used to
stand or sit, to go and come like bright birds, or flowers walking, the
inverted chairs lay massed together or scattered, with their legs in the
air, on the wet grass, and the dripping leaves smote damply together
overhead. Another close, in Green Park the afternoon before, however, I
saw devoted to frequenters of another sort. It had showered over-night,
and the ground must still have been wet where a score of the bodies of
the unemployed, or at least the unoccupied, lay as if dead in the sun.
They were having their holiday, but they did not make me feel as if I
were still enjoying my outing so much as some other things: for
instance, the colored minstrelsy, which I had heard so often at the
sea-side in August, and which reported itself one night in the Mayfair
street which we seemed to have wholly to ourselves, and touched our
hearts with the concord of our native airs and banjos. We were sure they
were American darkies, from their voices and accents, but perhaps they
were not as certainly so as the poor little mother was English who came
down the place at high noon with her large baby in her arms, swaying it
from side to side as she sang a plaintive ballad to the skies, and
scanned the windows for some relenting to her want.

The clubs and the great houses of Mayfair, which the season had used so
hard, were many of them putting themselves in repair against the next
time of festivity, and testifying to the absence of their world. One day
I found the solitude rather more than I could bear without appeal to
that vastly more multitudinous world of the six millions who never leave
London except on business. I said in my heart that this was the hour to
go and look up that emotion which I had suspected of lying in wait for
me in St. Paul's, and I had no sooner mounted an omnibus-top for the
journey through Piccadilly, the Strand, and Fleet Street, than I found
the other omnibus-tops by no means so depopulated as I had fancied. To
be sure, the straw hats which six weeks before had formed the almost
universal head-covering of the 'bus-top throngs were now in a
melancholy minority, but they had not so wholly vanished as they vanish
with us when September begins. They had never so much reason to be here
as with us, and they might have had almost as much reason for lingering
as they had for coming. I still saw some of them among the pedestrians
as well as among the omnibus-toppers, and the pedestrians abashed me by
their undiminished myriads. As they streamed along the sidewalks, in a
torrent of eager life, and crossed and recrossed among the hoofs and
wheels as thickly as in mid-July, they put me to shame for my theory of
a decimated London. It was not the tenth man who was gone, nor the
hundredth, if even it was the thousandth. The tremendous metropolis
mocked with its millions the notion of nobody left in town because a few
pleasurers had gone to the moors or the mountains or the shores.

Yet the season being so dead as it was in the middle of September, the
trivial kodak could not bear to dwell on the mortuary aspects which the
fashionable quarters of London presented. It turned itself in pursuance
of a plan much cherished and often renounced, to seek those springs or
sources of the American nation which may be traced all over England, and
which rather abound in London, trusting chances for the involuntary
glimpses which are so much better than any others, when you can get
them. In different terms, and leaving apart the strained figure which I
cannot ask the reader to help me carry farther, I went one breezy, cool,
sunny, and rainy morning to meet the friend who was to guide my steps,
and philosophize my reflections in the researches before us. Our
rendezvous was at the church of All Hallows Barking, conveniently
founded just opposite the Mark Lane District Railway Station, some seven
or eight hundred years before I arrived there, and successively
destroyed and rebuilt, but left finally in such good repair that I could
safely lean against it while waiting for my friend, and taking note of
its very sordid neighborhood. The street before it might have been a
second-rate New York, or, preferably, Boston, business street, except
for a peculiarly London commonness in the smutted yellow brick and harsh
red brick shops and public-houses. There was a continual coming and
going of trucks, wagons, and cabs, and a periodical appearing of hurried
passengers from the depths of the station, all heedless, if not
unconscious, of the Tower of London close at hand, whose dead were so
often brought from the scaffold to be buried in that church.

Our own mission was to revere its interior because William Penn was
baptized in it, but when we had got inside we found it so full of
scaffolding and the litter of masonry, and the cool fresh smell of
mortar from the restorations going on that we had no room for the
emotions we had come prepared with. With the compassion of a kindly man
in a plasterer's spattered suit of white, we did what we could, but it
was very little. I at least was not yet armed with the facts that, among
others, the headless form of Archbishop Laud had been carried from the
block on Tower Hill and laid in All Hallows; and if I had known it, I
must have felt that though Laud could be related to our beginnings
through his persecution of the Puritans, whom he harried into exile, his
interment in All Hallows was only of remote American interest. Besides,
we had set out with the intention of keeping to the origins of colonies
which had not been so much studied as those of New England, and we had
first chosen Penn as sufficiently removed from the forbidden ground. But
we had no sooner left the church where he was baptized, to follow him in
the much later interest of his imprisonment in the Tower, than we found
ourselves in New England territory again. For there, round the first
corner, under the foliage of the trees and shrubs that I had been
ignorantly watching from the church, as they stiffly stirred in the
September wind, was that Calvary of so many martyr-souls, Tower Hill.

It is no longer, if it ever was, a hill, or even a perceptible rise of
ground, but a pleasant gardened and planted space, not distinguishable
from a hundred others in London, with public offices related to the navy
closing it mostly in, but not without unofficial public and private
houses on some sides. It was perhaps because of its convenience for his
professional affairs that Admiral Penn had fixed such land-going
residence as an admiral may have, in All Hallows Barking parish, where
his great son was born. "Your late honored father," his friend Gibson
wrote the founder of Pennsylvania, "dwelt upon Great Tower Hill, on the
east side, within a court adjoining to London Wall." But the memories of
honored father and more honored son must yield in that air to such
tragic fames as those of Sir Thomas More, of Strafford, and above these
and the many others in immediate interest for us, of Sir Harry Vane,
once governor of Massachusetts, who died here among those whom the
perjured second Charles played false when he came back to the throne of
the perjured first Charles. In fact you can get away from New England no
more in London than in America; and if in the Tower itself the long
captivity of Sir Walter Raleigh somewhat dressed the balance, we were
close upon other associations which outweighed the discovery of the
middle south and of tobacco, a thousandfold.

Perhaps Tower Hill has been cut down nearer the common level than it
once was, as often happens with rises of ground in cities, or perhaps it
owed its distinction of being called a hill to a slight elevation from
the general London flatness. Standing upon it you do not now seem lifted
from that grade, but if you come away, Tower Hill looms lofty and large,
as before you approached, with its head hid in the cloud of sombre
memories which always hangs upon it. The look of the Tower towards it is
much more dignified than the theatrical river-front, but worse than this
even is the histrionic modern bridge which spans the Thames there as at
the bottom of a stage. We took an omnibus to cross it, and yet before we
were half-way over the bridge, we had reason to forget the turrets and
arches which look as if designed and built of pasteboard. There, in the
stretch of the good, dirty, humble Thames, between Tower Bridge and
London Bridge, was the scene of the fatally mistaken arrest of Cromwell,
Hampden, and their friends, by Charles I., when they were embarking for
New England, if indeed the thing really happened. Everybody used to
think so, and the historians even said so, but now they begin to doubt:
it is an age of doubt. This questionably memorable expanse of muddy
water was crowded, the morning I saw it, with barges resting in the
iridescent slime of the Southwark shoals, and with various craft of
steam and sail in the tide which danced in the sun and wind along the
shore we were leaving. It is tradition, if not history, that just in
front of the present custom-house those mighty heirs of destiny were
forced to leave their ship and abide in the land they were to ennoble
with the first great republican experiment of our race, after the
commonwealth failed to perpetuate itself in England, perhaps, because of
a want of imagination in both people and protector, who could not
conceive of a state without an hereditary ruler. The son of Cromwell
must follow his father, till another son of another father came back to
urge his prior claim to a primacy that no one has ever a right to except
the direct and still renewed choice of the citizens. It is all very
droll at this distance of time and place; but we ourselves who grew up
where there had never been kings to craze the popular fancy, could not
conceive of a state without one for yet a hundred years and more, and
even then some of us thought of having one. The lesson which the English
Commonwealth now had set itself, though lost upon England, was at last
read in its full meaning elsewhere, and the greatest of American
beginnings was made when Cromwell was forced ashore from his ship in
front of the Custom-house, if he was. There is a very personable edifice
now on the site of whatever building then stood there, and it marks the
spot with sufficiently classical grace, whether you look down at it from
the Tower Bridge, as I did, first, or up at it from London Bridge, as I
did, last.

[Illustration: THE TOWER OF LONDON.]

We were crossing into Southwark at the end of Tower Bridge that we might
walk through Tooley Street, once a hot-bed of sedition and dissent,
which many of its inhabitants made too hot to hold them, and so fled
away to cool themselves in different parts of the American wilderness.
It was much later that the place became famous for the declaration of
the three tailors of Tooley Street who began, or were fabled to have
begun, a public appeal with the words: "We, the people of England," and
perhaps the actuality of Tooley Street is more suggestive of them than
of those who went into exile for their religious and political faith. In
the former time the region was, no doubt, picturesque and poetic, like
all of that old London which is so nearly gone, but now it is almost the
most prosaic and commonplace thoroughfare of the newer London. It is
wholly mean as to the ordinary structures which line its course, and
which are mainly the dwellings of the simple sort of plebeian folks who
have always dwelt in Tooley Street, and who so largely form the ancestry
of the American people. No grace of antiquity remains to it, but there
is the beauty of that good-will to men which I should be glad to think
characteristic of our nation in one of the Peabody tenements that the
large-hearted American bequeathed to the city of his adoption for better
homes than the London poor could otherwise have known.

Possibly Baptists and Independents like those whom Tooley Street sent
out to enlarge the area of freedom beyond seas still people it; but I
cannot say, and for the rest it is much crossed and recrossed by the
viaducts of the London and South Eastern Railway, under which we walked
the length of the long, dull, noisy thoroughfare. We were going to the
church of St. Olave, or Olaus, a hallowed Danish king from whose name
that of Tooley was most ingeniously corrupted, for the sake of knowing
that we were in the parish that sweet Priscilla Mullins, and others of
the Plymouth colony came from. The church is an uninteresting structure
of Wrennish renaissance; but it was better with us when, for the sake of
the Puritan ministers who failed to repent in the Clink prison, after
their silencing by Laud, came out to air their opinions in the
boundlessness of our continent. My friend strongly believed that some
part of the Clink was still to be detected in the walls of certain
water-side warehouses, and we plunged into their labyrinth after leaving
St. Olave's or St. Tooley's, and wandered on through their shades, among
trucks and carts in alleys that were dirty and damp, but somehow
whitened with flour as if all those dull and sullen piles were
grist-mills. I do not know whether we found traces of the Clink or not,
but the place had a not ungrateful human interest in certain floury
laborers who had cleared a space among the wheels and hoofs, and in the
hour of their nooning were pitching pennies, and mildly squabbling over
the events of their game. We somehow came out at Bankside, of infamous
memory, and yet of glorious memory, for if it was once the home of all
the vices, it was also the home of one of the greatest arts. The present
filthy quay figuratively remembers the moral squalor of its past in the
material dirt that litters it; but you have to help it recall the fact
that here stood such theatres as the Paris Garden, the Rose, the Hope,
the Swan, and, above all, the Globe.

[Illustration: ST. OLAVE'S, TOOLEY STREET.]

Here, Shakespeare rose up and stood massively blocking the perspective
of our patriotic researches, and blotting out all minor memories. But if
this was a hardship it was one which constantly waits upon the
sympathetic American in England. It is really easier to stay at home,
and make your inquiries in that large air where the objects of your
interest are placed at ample intervals, than to visit the actual scene
where you will find them crowding and elbowing one another, and perhaps
treading down and pushing back others of equal import which you had not
in mind. England has so long been breeding greatness of all kinds, and
her visionary children press so thick about her knees, that you cannot
well single one specially out when you come close; it is only at a
distance that you can train your equatorial upon any certain star, and
study it at your ease. This tremendous old woman who lives in a shoe so
many sizes too small more than halves with her guests her despair in the
multitude of her offspring, and it is best to visit her in fancy if you
wish their several acquaintance. There at Bankside was not only
Shakespeare suddenly filling that place and extending his vast shadow
over the region we had so troublesomely passed through, but now another
embarrassment of riches attended us. We were going to visit St.
Saviour's Church, because John Harvard, the son of a butcher in that
parish was baptized in it, long before he could have dreamed of Emanuel
College at Cambridge, or its outwandering scholars could have dreamed of
naming after him another college in another Cambridge in another world.
Our way lay through the Borough Market, which is for Southwark in fruits
and vegetables, and much more in refuse and offal, what Covent Garden
Market is for the London beyond Thames; and then through a wide troubled
street, loud with coming and going at some railway station. Here we
suddenly dropped into a silent and secluded place, and found ourselves
at the door of St. Saviour's. Outside it has been pitilessly restored in
a later English version of the Early English in which it was built, and
it has that peculiarly offensive hardness which such feats of masonry
seem to put on defiantly; but within much of the original architectural
beauty lingers, especially in the choir and Lady Chapel. We were not
there for that beauty, however, but for John Harvard's sake; yet no
sooner were we fairly inside the church than our thoughts were rapt from
him to such clearer fames as those of Philip Massinger, the dramatist;
Edmund Shakespeare, the great Shakespeare's younger brother; John
Fletcher, of the poetic firm of Beaumont and Fletcher; the poet Edward
Dyer; and yet again the poet John Gower, the "moral Gower" who so
insufficiently filled the long gap between Chaucer and Spencer, and who
rests here with a monument and a painted effigy over him. Besides these
there are so many actors buried in it that the church is full of the
theatre, and it might well dispute with our own Little Church Round the
Corner, the honor of mothering the outcast of other sanctuaries; though
it rather more welcomes them in their funeral than their nuptial rites.
Among the tablets and effigies there was none of John Harvard in St.
Saviour's, and we were almost a year too early for the painted window
which now commemorates him.

[Illustration: LONDON BRIDGE.]

One might leave Southwark rather glad to be out of it, for in spite of
its patriotic and poetic associations it is a quarter where the
scrupulous house-keeping of London seems for once to fail. In such
streets as we passed through, and I dare say they were not the best, the
broom and the brush and the dust-pan strive in vain against the dirt
that seems to rise out of the ground and fall from the clouds. But many
people live there, and London Bridge, by which we crossed, was full of
clerks and shop-girls going home to Southwark; for it was one o'clock on
a Saturday, and they were profiting by the early closing which shuts the
stores of London so inexorably at that hour on that day. We made our way
through them to the parapet for a final look at that stretch of the
Thames where Cromwell as unwillingly as unwittingly perhaps stepped
ashore to come into a kingdom.

[Footnote: While the reader is sharing our emotion in the scene of the
problematical event, I think it a good time to tell him that the
knowledge of which I have been and expect to be so profuse in these
researches, is none of mine, except as I have cheaply possessed myself
of it from the wonderful hand-book of Peter Cunningham, which Murray
used to publish as his guide to London, and which unhappily no one
publishes now. It is a bulky volume of near six hundred pages, crammed
with facts more delightful than any fancies, and its riches were
supplemented for me by the specific erudition of my friend, the
genealogist, Mr. Lothrop Withington, who accompanied my wanderings, and
who endorses all my statements. The reader who doubts them (as I
sometimes do) may recur to him at the British Museum with the proper
reproaches if they prove mistaken.]

We were going from St. Saviour's in Southwark where Harvard was baptized
to St. Catherine Cree in the city where Sir Nicholas Throgmorton's
effigy lies in the chancel, and somewhat distantly relates itself to our
history through his daughter's elopement with Sir Walter Raleigh. But
now for a mere pleasure, whose wantonness I shall not know how to excuse
to the duteous reader, we turned aside to the church of St. Magnus at
the end of the bridge, and I shall always rejoice that we did so, for
there I made the acquaintance of three of the most admirable cats in
London. One curled herself round the base of a pillar of the portico,
which was formerly the public thoroughfare to London Bridge; another
basked in the pretty garden which now encloses the portico, and let the
shifting shadows of the young sycamores flicker over her velvet flank;
the third arched a majestic back and rubbed against our legs in
accompanying us into the church. There was not much for us to see there,
and perhaps the cat was tired of knowing that the church was built by
Wren, after the great fire, and has a cupola and lantern thought to be
uncommonly fine. Certainly it did not seem to share my interest in the
tablet to Miles Coverdale, once rector of St. Magnus and bishop of
Exeter, at which I started, not so much because he had directed the
publication of the first complete version of the English Bible, as
because he had borne the name of a chief character in _The Blithedale
Romance_. I am afraid that if the cat could have supposed me to be
occupied with such a trivial matter it would not have purred so civilly
at parting, and I should not have known how to justify myself by
explaining that the church of St. Magnus was more illustriously
connected with America through that coincidence than many more
historical scenes.

[Illustration: THE ANCIENT CHURCH OF ST. MAGNUS.]

The early closing had already prevailed so largely in the city, that
most of the churches were shut, and we were not aware of having got into
St. Catherine Cree's at the time we actually did so. We were grateful
for getting into any church, but we looked about us too carelessly to
identify the effigy of Sir Nicholas, who was, after all, only a sort of
involuntary father-in-law of Virginia. That was what we said to console
ourselves afterwards; but now, since we were, however unwittingly,
there, I feel that I have some right to remind the reader that our enemy
(so far as we are of Puritan descent) Archbishop Laud consecrated the
church with ceremonies of such high ecclesiastical character that his
part in them was alleged against him, and did something to bring him to
the block. That Inigo Jones is said to have helped in designing the
church, and that the great Holbein is believed to be buried in it, and
would have had a monument there if the Earl of Arundel could have found
his bones to put it over, are sufficiently irrelevant details.

The reader sees how honest I am trying to be with him, and I will not
conceal from him that Duke Street, down a stretch of which I looked,
because the wife of Elder Brewster of Plymouth Colony was born and bred
there, was as dull a perspective of mean modern houses as any in London.
It was distinctly a relief, after paying this duty, to pass, in
Leadenhall Street, the stately bulk of India House, and think of the
former occupying the site, from which Charles Lamb used to go early in
compensation for coming so late to his work there. It was still better
when, by an accident happier than that which befell us at St. Catherine
Cree's, we unexpectedly entered by a quaint nook from Bishopsgate Street
to the church of St. Ethelburga, which has a claim to the New-Yorker's
interest from the picturesque fact that Henry Hudson and his ship's
company made their communion in it the night before he sailed away to
give his name to the lordliest, if not the longest of our rivers, and to
help the Dutch found the Tammany regime, which still flourishes at the
Hudson's mouth. The comprehensive Cunningham makes no mention of the
fact, but I do not know why my genealogist should have had the misgiving
which he expressed within the overhearing of the eager pew-opener
attending us. She promptly set him right. "Oh, 'e did _mike_ it
'ere, sir. They've been and searched the records," she said, so that the
reader now has it on the best authority.

I wish I could share with him, as easily as this assurance, the
sentiment of the quaint place, with its traces of Early English
architecture, and its look of being chopped in two; its intense quiet
and remoteness in the heart of the city, with the slop-pail of its
pew-opener mingling a cleansing odor with the ancient smells which
pervade all old churches. But these things are of the nerves and may not
be imparted, though they may be intimated. As rich in its way as the
sentiment of St. Ethelburga was that of the quiescing streets of the
city, that pleasant afternoon, with their shops closed or closing, and
the crowds thinned or thinning in their footways and wheelways, so that
we got from point to point in our desultory progress, incommoded only by
other associations that rivalled those we had more specifically in mind.
History, of people and of princes, finance, literature, the arts of
every kind, were the phantoms that started up from the stones and the
blocks of the wood-pavement and followed or fled before us at every
step. As I have already tried to express, it is always the same story.
London is too full of interest, and when I thought how I could have gone
over as much ground in New York without anything to distract me from
what I had in view, I felt the pressure of those thick London facts
almost to suffocation. Nothing but my denser ignorance saved me from
their density, as I hurried with my friend through air that any
ignorance less dense would have found impassable with memories.

[Illustration: THE EAST INDIA HOUSE OF CHARLES LAMB'S TIME.]

As it was I could draw a full breath unmolested only when we dropped
down a narrow way from Bishopsgate Street to the sequestered place
before the church of the Dutch refugees from papal persecutions in
France and the Netherlands. Here was formerly the church of the
Augustine Friars, whose community Henry VIII. dissolved, and whose
church his son Edward VI. gave to the "Germans" as he calls the
Hollanders in his boyish diary. It was to our purpose as one of the
beginnings of New York, for it is said that New Amsterdam was first
imagined by the exiles who worshipped in it, and who planned the
expedition of Henry Hudson from it. Besides this historic or mythic
claim, it had for me the more strictly human interest of the sign-board
in Dutch, renewed from the earliest time, at both its doorways,
notifying its expatriated congregation that all letters and parcels
would be received there for them; this somehow intimated that the
refugees could not have found it spiritually much farther to extend
their exile half round the world. Cunningham says that "the church
contains some very good decorated windows, and will repay examination,"
but, like the early-closing shops all round it, the Dutch church was
shut that Saturday afternoon, and we had to come away contenting
ourselves as we could with the Gothic, fair if rather too freshly
restored, of the outside. I can therefore impartially commend the
exterior to our Knickerbocker travellers, but they will readily find the
church in the rear of the Bank of England, after cashing their drafts
there, and judge for themselves.

Philadelphians of Quaker descent will like better to follow my friend
with me up Cheapside, past the Bowbells which ring so sweet and clear in
literature, and through Holborn to Newgate which was one of the several
prisons of William Penn. He did not go to it without making it so hard
for the magistrates trying him and his fellow-Quakers for street-
preaching that they were forced to over-ride his law and logic, and send
him to jail in spite of the jury's verdict of acquittal; such things
could then be easily done. In self-justification they committed the jury
along with the prisoners; that made a very perfect case for their
worships, as the reader can find edifyingly and a little amusingly set
forth in Maria Webb's story of _The Penns and the Penningtons_. As
is known, the persecution of Penn wellnigh converted his father, the
stiff old admiral, who now wrote to him in Newgate: "Son William, if you
and your friends keep to your plain way of preaching, and your plain way
of living, you will make an end of the priests to the end of the world
... Live in love. Shun all manner of evil, and I pray God to bless you
all; and He will bless you."

Little of the old Newgate where Penn lay imprisoned is left; a spic-and-
span new Newgate, still in process of building, replaces it, but there
is enough left for a monument to him who was brave in such a different
way from his brave father, and was great far beyond the worldly
greatness which the admiral hoped his comely, courtly son would achieve.
It was in Newgate, when he was cast there the second time in three
months, that he wrote _The Great Case of Liberty of Conscience_,
and three minor treatises. He addressed from the same prison a letter to
Parliament explaining the principles of Quakerism, and he protested to
the sheriff of London against the cruelties practised by the jailors of
Newgate on prisoners too poor to buy their favor. He who was rich and
well-born preferred to suffer with these humble victims; and probably
his oppressors were as glad to be rid of him in the end as he of them.

[Illustration: CHURCH OF THE DUTCH REFUGEES.]

One may follow Penn (though we did not always follow him to all, that
Saturday afternoon), to many other places in London: to the Tower, where
he was imprisoned on the droll charge of "blasphemy," within stone's
throw of All Hallow's Barking, where he was christened; to Grace Church
Street, where he was arrested for preaching; to Lincoln's Inn, where he
had chambers in his worldlier days; to Tower Street, where he went to
school; to the Fleet, where he once lived within the "rules" of the
prison; to Norfolk Street, where he dwelt awhile almost in hiding from
the creditors who were pressing him, probably for the public debt of
Pennsylvania.

We followed him only to Newgate, whence we visited the church of St.
Sepulchre hard by, and vainly attempted to enter, because Roger Williams
was christened there, and so connected it with the coming of toleration
into the world, as well as with the history of the minute province of
Rhode Island, which his spirit so boundlessly enlarged. We failed
equally of any satisfactory effect from Little St. Helen's, Bishopsgate,
possibly because the Place was demolished a hundred and five years
before, and because my friend could not quite make out which neighboring
street it was where the mother of the Wesleys was born. But we did what
we could with the shield of the United States Consulate-General in the
Place, and in an adjoining court we had occasion for seriousness in the
capers of a tipsy Frenchman, who had found some boys playing at
soldiers, and was teaching them in his own tongue from apparently vague
recollections of the manual of arms. I do not insist that we profited by
the occasion; I only say that life likes a motley wear, and that he who
rejects the antic aspects it so often inappropriately puts on is no true
photographer.

After all, we did not find just the street, much less the house, in
which Susannah Annesley had lived before she was Mrs. Wesley, and long
before her sons had imagined Methodism, and the greater of them had
borne its message to General Oglethorpe's new colony of Georgia. She
lies in Bunhill Fields near Finsbury Square, that place sacred to so
many varying memories, but chiefly those of the Dissenters who leased
it, because they would not have the service from the book of Common
Prayer read over them. There her dust mingles with that of John Bunyan,
of Daniel de Foe, of Isaac Watts, of William Blake, of Thomas Stothard,
and a multitude of nameless or of most namable others. The English crowd
one another no less under than above the ground, and their island is as
historically as actually over-populated. As I have expressed before, you
can scarcely venture into the past anywhere for a certain association
without being importuned by a score of others as interesting or more so.
I have, for instance, been hesitating to say that the ancestor of
Susannah was the Reverend Samuel Annesley who was silenced for his
Puritanism in his church of St. Giles Cripplegate, because I should have
to confess that when I visited his church my thoughts were rapt from the
Reverend Samuel and from Susannah Annesley, and John Wesley, and the
Georgian Methodists to the far mightier fame of Milton, who lies
interred there, with his father before him, with John Fox, author of
_The Book of Martyrs_, with Sir Martin Frobisher, who sailed the
western seas when they were yet mysteries, with Margaret Lucy, the
daughter of Shakespeare's Sir Thomas. There, too, Cromwell was married,
when a youth of twenty-one, to Elizabeth Bowchier. Again, I have had to
ask myself, what is the use of painfully following up the slender
threads afterwards woven into the web of American nationality, when at
any moment the clews may drop from your heedless hands in your wonder at
some which are the woof of the history of the world? I have to own even
here that the more storied dead in Bunhill Fields made me forget that
there lay among them Nathaniel Mather of the kindred of Increase and
Cotton.

[Illustration: BOW-BELLS (ST. MARY-LE-BOW, CHEAPSIDE).]

That is a place which one must wish to visit not once, but often, and I
hope that if I send any reader of mine to it he will fare better than we
did, and not find it shut to the public on a Sunday morning when it
ought to have been open. But the Sabbatarian observances of England are
quite past the comprehension of even such semi-aliens as the Americans,
and must baffle entire foreigners all but to madness. I had already seen
the Sunday auctions of the poor Jews in Petticoat Lane, which are licit,
if not legal, and that Sunday morning before we found Bunhill Fields
fast closed, we had found a market for poor Christians wide open in
Whitecross Street near by. It was one of several markets of the kind
which begin early Saturday evening, and are suffered by a much-winking
police to carry on their traffic through the night and till noon the
next day. Then, at the hour when the Continental Sunday changes from a
holy day to a holiday, the guardians of the public morals in London
begin to urge the hucksters and their customers to have done with their
bargaining, and get about remembering the Sabbath-day. If neither
persuasions nor imperatives will prevail, it is said that the police
sometimes call in the firemen and rake the marketplace with volleys from
the engine-hose. This is doubtless effective, but at the hour when we
passed through as much of Whitecross Street as eyes and nose could bear,
it was still far from the time for such an extreme measure, and the
market was flourishing as if it were there to stay indefinitely.

Everything immediately imaginable for the outside or inside of man
seemed on sale: clothing of all kinds, boots and shoes, hats and caps,
glassware, iron-ware; fruits and vegetables, heaps of unripe English
hazelnuts, and heaps of Spanish grapes which had failed to ripen on the
way; fish, salt and fresh, and equally smelling to heaven; but, above
all, flesh meats of every beast of the field and every bird of the barn-
yard, with great girls hewing and hacking at the carnage, and strewing
the ground under their stands with hoofs and hides and claws and
feathers and other less namable refuse. There was a notable absence
among the hucksters of that coster class which I used to see in London
twenty odd years before, or at least an absence of the swarming buttons
on jackets and trousers which used to distinguish the coster. But among
the customers, whose number all but forbade our passage through the
street, with the noise of their feet and voices, there were, far beyond
counting, those short, stubbed girls and women as typically cockney
still as the costers ever were. They were of a plinth-like bigness up
and down, and their kind, plain, common faces were all topped with
narrow-brimmed sailor-hats, mostly black. In their jargoning hardly an
aspirate was in its right place, but they looked as if their hearts
were, and if no word came from their lips with its true quality, but
with that curious soft London slur or twist, they doubtless spoke a
sound business dialect.

When we traversed the dense body of the market and entered Roscoe Street
from Whitecross, we were surprisingly soon out of its hubbub in a quiet
befitting the silent sectaries, who once made so great a spiritual
clamor in the world. We were going to look at the grave of George Fox,
because of his relation to our colonial history in Pennsylvania and
Rhode Island, and we thought it well to look into the Friends'
Meeting-house on the way, for a more fitting frame of mind than we might
have brought with us from Whitecross Street. A mute sexton welcomed us
at the door, and held back for us the curtain of the homely quadrangular
interior, where we found twoscore or more of such simple folk as Fox
might have preached to in just such a place. The only difference was
that they now wore artless versions of the world's present fashions in
dress, and not the drabs of out-dated cut which we associate with
Quakerism. But this was right, for that dress is only the antiquated
simplicity of the time when Quakerism began; and the people we now saw
were more fitly dressed than if they had worn it. We sat with them a
quarter of an hour in the stillness which no one broke, the elders on
the platform, with their brows bowed on their hands, apparently more
deeply lost in it than the rest. Then we had freedom (to use their
gentle Quaker parlance) to depart, and I hope we did so without offence.

Cunningham says that Fox was buried in Bunhill Fields, but he owns there
is no memorial of him there; and there is a stone to mark his grave in
the grassy space just beyond the meeting-house in Roscoe Street. If that
is really his last resting-place, he lies under the shadow of a certain
lofty warehouse walls, and in the shelter of some trees which on that
sunny First Day morning stirred in the breeze with the stiffness by
which the English foliage confesses before the fall it drops sere and
colorless to the ground. Some leaves had already fallen about the simple
monumental stone, and now they moved inertly, and now again lay still.

I will own here that I had more heart in the researches which concerned
the ancestral Friends of all mankind, including so much American
citizenship, than in following up some other origins of ours. The reader
will perhaps have noticed long before that our origins were nearly all
religious, and that though some of the American plantations were at
first the effect of commercial enterprise, they were afterwards by far
the greater part undertaken by people who desired for themselves, if not
for others, freedom for the forms of worship forbidden them at home. Our
colonial beginnings were illustrated by sacrifices and martyrdoms even
among the lowliest, and their leaders passed in sad vicissitude from
pulpit to prison, back and forth, until exile became their refuge from
oppression. No nation could have a nobler source than ours had in such
heroic fidelity to ideals; but it cannot be forgotten that the religious
freedom, which they all sought, some of them were not willing to impart
when they had found it; and it is known how, in New England especially,
they practised the lessons of persecution they had learned in Old
England. Two provinces stood conspicuously for toleration, Rhode Island,
for which Roger Williams imagined it the first time in history, and
Pennsylvania, where, for the first time, William Penn embodied in the
polity of a state the gospel of peace and good-will to men. Neither of
these colonies has become the most exemplary of our commonwealths; both
are perhaps, for some reasons, the least so in their sections; but,
above all the rest, their earlier memories appeal to the believer in the
universal right to religious liberty and in the ideal of peaceful
democracy which the Quakers alone have realized. The Quakers are no
longer sensibly a moral force; but the creed of honest work for daily
bread, and of the equalization of every man with another which they
lived, can never perish. Their testimony against bloodshed was
practical, as such a testimony can still be, when men will; their
principle of equality, as well as their practise of it was their legacy
to our people, and it remains now all that differences us from other
nations. It was not Thomas Jefferson who first imagined the first of the
self-evident truths of the Declaration, but George Fox.

We went, inappropriately enough, from where George Fox lay in his grave,
level with the common earth, to where, in Finsbury Pavement, the
castellated armory of the Honourable Artillery Company of London recalls
the origin of the like formidable body in Boston. These gallant men were
archers before they were gunners, being established in that quality
first when the fear of Spanish invasion was rife in 1585. They did
yeoman service against their own king in the Civil War, but later fell
into despite and were mocked by poets no more warlike than themselves.
Fletcher's "Knight of the Burning Pestle" was of their company, and
Cowper's "John Gilpin" was "a train-band captain." Now, however, they
are so far restored to their earlier standing that when they are called
out to celebrate, say, the Fourth of July, or on any of the high
military occasions demanding the presence of royalty, the King appears
in their uniform.




XVIII

AMERICAN ORIGINS--MOSTLY SOUTHERN


Outside the high gate of Bunhill Fields, we could do no more than read
the great names lettered on the gate-posts, and peer through the iron
barriers at the thickly clustered headstones within. But over against
the cemetery we had access to the chapel where John Wesley preached for
thirty years, and behind which he is buried. He laid the corner-stone in
1777 amid such a multitude of spectators that he could scarcely get
through to the foundation, Cunningham says. Before the chapel is an
excellent statue of the great preacher, and the glance at the interior
which we suffered ourselves showed a large congregation listening to the
doctrine which he preached there so long, and which he carried beyond
seas himself to ourselves, to found among us the great spiritual
commonwealth which is still more populous than any of those dividing our
country.

The scene of his labors here was related for me by an obscure
association to such a doctrinally different place as Finsbury Chapel,
hard by, where my old friend, Dr. Moncure D. Conway preached for twenty
years. Whatever manner of metaphysician he has ended, he began
Methodist, and as a Virginian he had a right to a share of my interest
in that home of Wesleyism, for it was in Virginia, so much vaster then
than now, that Wesleyism spread widest and deepest. If any part of
Wesley's mission tended to modify or abolish slavery, then a devotion to
freedom so constant and generous as Conway's should link their names by
an irrefragable, however subtle, filament of common piety. I wished to
look into Finsbury Chapel for my old friend's sake, but it seemed to me
that we had intruded on worshippers enough that morning, and I satisfied
my longing by a glimpse of the interior through the pane of glass let
into the inner door. It was past the time for singing the poem of
Tennyson which "Tom Brown" Hughes used to say they always gave out
instead of a hymn in Finsbury Chapel; and some one else was preaching in
Conway's pulpit, or at his desk. I do not know what weird influence of
sermonizing seen but not heard took the sense of reality from the
experience, but I came away feeling as if I had looked upon something
visionary.

It was no bad preparation for coming presently to the church of All
Hallows in the Wall, where a bit of the old Roman masonry shows in the
foundations of the later defences, of which indeed, no much greater
length remains. The church, which is so uninterestingly ugly as not to
compete with the relic of Roman wall, stands at the base of a little
triangle planted with young elms that made a green quiet, and murmured
to the silence with their stiffening leaves. It was an effect possible
only to that wonderful London which towers so massively into the present
that you are dumb before the evidences of its vast antiquity. There must
have been a time when there was no London, but you cannot think it any
more than you can think the time when there shall be none. I make so
sure of these reflections that I hope there was no mistake about those
modest breadths of Roman masonry; its rubble laid in concrete, was
strong enough to support the weightiest consideration.

I am the more anxious about this because my friend, the genealogist,
here differed with the great Cunningham, and was leading me by that
morsel of Roman London to St. Peter's Lane, where he said Fox died, and
not to White Hart Court, where my other authority declares that he made
an end two days after preaching in the Friends' Meeting-house there. The
ignorant disciple of both may have his choice; perhaps in the process of
time the two places may have become one and the same. At any rate we
were able that morning to repair our error concerning St. Catherine
Cree's, which we had unwittingly seen before, and now consciously saw,
for Sir Nicholas Throgmorton's sake. It had the look of very high church
in the service which was celebrating, and I am afraid my mind was taken
less by the monument of Sir Nicholas than by the black-robed figure of
the young man who knelt with bowed head at the back of the church and
rapt me with the memory of the many sacerdotal shapes which I used to
see doing the like in Latin sanctuaries. It is one of the few advantages
of living long that all experiences become more or less contemporaneous,
and that at certain moments you cannot be distinctly aware just when and
where you are.

There was little of this mystical question when our mission took us to
Whitechapel, for there was nothing there to suggest former times or
other places. I did, indeed, recall the thick-breathed sweltering Sunday
morning when I had visited the region in July; but it is all now so
absolutely and sordidly modern that one has no difficulty in believing
that it was altogether different when so many Southern and especially
Virginian emigrations began there. How many settlers in New Jersey, New
York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland also were recruited from it, I know
not; but the reader may have it at second-hand from me, as I had it at
firsthand from my genealogist, that some Virginian names of the first
quality originated in Whitechapel, which, in the colonizing times, was a
region of high respectability, and not for generations afterwards the
perlieu it became, and has now again somewhat ceased to be.

The first exiles from it were not self-banished for conscience' sake,
like those at a later date when the Puritans went both to Massachusetts
where they revolted further, and to Virginia where they ultimately
conformed. The earlier out-goers, though they might be come-outers, were
part of the commercial enterprise which began to plant colonies north
and south. The Plymouth Company which had the right to the country as
far northward as Nova Scotia and westward as far as the Pacific, and the
London Company which had as great scope westward and southward as far as
Cape Fear, had the region between them in common, and they both drew
upon Whitechapel, and upon Stepney beyond, where I had formerly fancied
the present Whitechapel resuming somewhat of its ancient respectability.
It is then a "spacious fair street," as one of Cunningham's early
authorities describes it, and it is still "somewhat long," so long
indeed that our tram was a half-hour in carrying us through it into
Stepney. About the time of the emigrations De Foe saw it, or says he saw
it (you never can be sure with De Foe) thronged "with the richer sort of
people, especially the nobility and gentry from the west part of the
town, ... with their families and servants," escaping into the country
from the plague.

The "offscourings" of London, which the companies carried rather more to
the southward than the northward with us, were hardly scoured off in
Whitechapel, which was a decent enough ancestral source for any American
strain. As for Stepney, then as now the great centre of the London
shipping, she has never shared the ill-repute of Whitechapel, at least
in name. Cunningham declares the region once "well-inhabited," and the
sailors still believe that all children born at sea belong to Stepney
Parish. By an easy extension of this superstition she is supposed to
have had a motherly interest in all children born beyond seas,
including, of course, the American colonies, and she is of a presence
that her foster-folk's descendants need not be ashamed of. Our tram
took us now and then by an old mansion of almost manor-house dignity,
set in pleasant gardens; and it followed the shore of the Thames in
sight of the masts of ships whose multitude brought me to disgrace for
having, on my way to Greenwich, thought poorly of London as a port, and
which, because of her riparian situation, made Stepney the scene of the
great strike of the London dockers, when they won their fight under the
lead of John Burns.

Our lovely weather cooled slightly as the afternoon wore away, but it
was bright and mild again when we came another day towards Stepney as
far as the old church of St. Dunstan. It is an edifice of good
perpendicular Gothic, with traces of early English and even of later
Norman, standing serene in a place of quiet graves amid the surrounding
turmoil of life. The churchyard was full of rustling shrubs and bright
with beds of autumnal flowers, from which the old square tower rose in
the mellow air. Divers of our early emigrants were baptized in St.
Dunstan's, namely, the wife of Governor Bradford of Plymouth, with many
of our ship-men, notably that Master Willoughby, who established the
ship-yard at Charlestown, Massachusetts. I like better to associate with
it our beginnings, because here I first saw those decorations for the
Thanksgiving festival which the English have lately borrowed from us,
and which I found again and again at various points in my September
wanderings. The pillars were wreathed with the flowers and leaves of the
fall; the altar was decked with apples and grapes, and the pews trimmed
with yellow heads of ripe wheat. The English Thanksgiving comes earlier
than ours, but it remembers its American source in its name, and the
autumn comes so much sooner than with us that although the "parting
summer lingering blooms delayed" in St. Dunstan's church-yard, the
fallen leaves danced and whirled about our feet in the paths.

There is witness of the often return of the exiles to their old home in
the quaint epitaph which a writer in _The Spectator_ (it might have
been Addison himself) read from one of the flat tombstones:

    "Here Thomas Taffin lyes interred, ah why?
    Born in New England, did in London die."

"I do not wonder at this," Dr. Johnson said of the epitaph to Boswell.
"It would have been strange if born in London he had died in New
England."

The good doctor did indeed despise the American colonies with a contempt
which we can almost reverence; but the thing which he found so strange
happened to many Londoners before his time. One of the least worthy and
less known of these was that George Downing, who came back from Boston,
where he was graduated at Harvard, and took the title of baronet from
Charles II., in return, apparently, for giving his name to that famous
Downing Street, ever since synonymous with English administration. If he
has no other claim to our interest, that is perhaps enough; and the
American who is too often abashed by the humility of our London origins
may well feel a rise of worldly pride in the London celebrity of this
quandam fellow-citizen. His personality is indeed lost in it, but his
achievement in laying out a street, and getting it called after him, was
prophetic of so much economic enterprise of ours that it may be fairly
claimed as a national honor.

Of those who preferred not to risk the fate Dr. Johnson held in scorn,
multitudes perished at Whitechapel of the plague which it was one of the
poor compensations of life in New England to escape. They would all have
been dead by now, whether they went or whether they stayed, though it
was hard not to attribute their present decease solely to their staying,
as we turned over the leaves of the old register in St. Mary Matfelon's,
Whitechapel. The church has been more than once rebuilt out of
recollection of its original self, and there were workman still doing
something to the interior; but the sexton led us into the vestry, and
while the sunlight played through the waving trees without and softly
illumined the record, we turned page after page, where the names were
entered in a fair clear hand, with the given cause of death shortened to
the letters, _pl_., after each. They were such names as abounded in
the colonies, and those who had borne them must have been of the kindred
of the emigrants. But my patriotic interest in them was lost in a sense
of the strong nerve of the clerk who had written their names and that
"pl." with such an unshaken hand. One of the earlier dead, in the
church-yard without, was a certain ragman, Richard Brandon, of whom the
register says: "This R. Brandon is supposed to have cut off the head of
Charles the First."

From the parish of St. Botolph by Aldgate, on the road from Houndsditch
to Whitechapel, came many of those who settled in Salem and the
neighboring towns of Massachusetts. It is now very low church, as it
probably was in their day, with a plain interior, and with the crimson
foliage of the Virginia-creeper staining the light like painted glass at
one of its windows. The bare triangular space in front of the church was
once a pit where the dead of the plague were thrown, and in the sacristy
is a thing of yet grislier interest. My friend made favor with some
outlying authority, and an old, dim, silent servitor of some sort came
back with him and took from a sort of cupboard, where it was kept in a
glass box, the embalmed head of the Duke of Suffolk, which he lost for
his part in the short-lived usurpation of his daughter, Lady Jane Grey.
Little was left to suggest the mighty noble in the mummy-face, but the
tragedy of his death was all there. It seemed as if the thoughts of the
hideous last moment might still be haunting the withered brain, and the
agony of which none of the dead have yet been able to impart a sense to
the living, was present in it. As he who was showing us the head, turned
it obligingly round in view of the expected shilling, and tilted it
forward that we might see the mark of the axe in the severed neck, one
seemed to see also the things which those sunken eyes had looked on
last: the swarming visages of the crowd, the inner fringe of
halberdiers, the black-visored figure waiting beside the block. As the
doomed man dragged himself to the scaffold, how pale that face in the
glass box must have been, for any courage that kept him above his fate.
It was all very vivid, and the more incredible therefore that such a
devilish thing as the death-punishment should still be, and that
governments should keep on surpassing in the anguish they inflict the
atrocity of the cruelest murderers. If the Salem-born Hawthorne ever
visited that church in remembrance of the fact that his people came from
the same parish; if he saw the mortal relic which held me in such
fascination that I could scarcely leave the place even when the glass
box had been locked back to its cupboard, and if the spirits of the dead
sometimes haunt their dust, there must have been a reciprocal
intelligence between the dead and the living that left no emotion of the
supreme hour unimparted.

We visited St. Sepulchre's where the truly sainted Roger Williams was
baptized, and found entrance one day after two failures to penetrate to
its very unattractive interior. We were lighted by stained-glass windows
of geometrical pattern and a sort of calico or gingham effect in their
coloring, to the tablet to Captain John Smith, whose life Pocahontas, in
Virginia, with other ladies in diverse parts of the world, saved, that
we might have one of the most delightful, if not one of the most
credible, of autobiographies. He was of prime colonial interest, of
course, and we were not taken from the thought of him by any charm of
the place; but when we had identified his time-dimmed tablet there was
no more to do at St. Sepulchre's. The church is at the western end of
Old Bailey, and in the dreadful old times when every Friday brought its
batch of doomed men forth from the cells, it was the duty of the bellman
of St. Sepulchre's to pass under the prison walls the night before and
ring his bell, and chant the dismal lines:

    "All you that in the condemned hold do lie,
    Prepare you, for to-morrow you shall die;
    Watch all, and pray, the hour is drawing near,
    That you before the Almighty must appear;
    Examine well yourselves, in time repent,
    That you may not to eternal flames be sent,
    And when St. Sepulchre's bell to-morrow tolls,
    The Lord above have mercy on your souls.
                        Past twelve o'clock."

When we consider what piety was in the past, we need not be so horrified
by justice. Sentiment sometimes came in to heighten the effect of both,
and it used to present each criminal in passing St. Sepulchre's on the
way to Tyburn with a nosegay, and a little farther on with a glass of
beer. The gardened strip of what once must have been a graveyard beside
the church could hardly have afforded flowers enough for the pious rite.
It was frequented, the day of our visit, by some old men of a very
vacant-looking leisure, who sat on the benches in the path; and the
smallest girl in proportion to the baby she carried that I ever saw in
that England where small girls seem always to carry such very large
babies, tilted back and forth with it in her slender arms, and tried to
make-believe it was going to sleep.

The reader who prefers to develop these films for himself must not fail
to bring out the surroundings of the places visited, if he would have
the right effect. Otherwise he might suppose the several sanctuaries
which we visited standing in a dignified space and hallowed quiet,
whereas, all but a few were crowded close upon crowded streets, with the
busy and noisy indifference of modern life passing before them and round
them. St. Giles-in-the-Fields, which we visited after leaving St.
Sepulchre, was the church in which Calvert, the founder of Maryland, was
baptized, of course before he turned Catholic, since it could not very
well have been afterwards. At the moment, however, I did not think of
this. I had enough to do with the fact that Chapman, the translator of
Homer, was buried in that church, and Andrew Marvell, the poet, and that
very wicked Countess of Shrewsbury, the terrible she who held the Duke
of Buckingham's horse while he was killing her husband in a duel. I
should, no doubt, have seen this memorable interior if it had still
existed, but it was the interior of a church which was taken down more
than a hundred years before the present church was built.

We visited the church on the way to Lincoln's Inn Fields, turning out of
Holborn round the corner of the house, now a bookseller's shop, where
Garrick died. I mention this merely as an instance of how the famous
dead started out of the over-populated London past and tried at every
step to keep me from my proper search for our meaner American origins. I
was going to look at certain mansions, in which the Lords Baltimore used
to live, and the patriotic Marylander, if he have faith enough, may
identify them by their arches of gray stone at the first corner on his
right in coming into the place from Holborn. But if he have not faith
enough for this, then he may respond with a throb of sympathy to the
more universal appeal of the undoubted fact that Lord Russell was
beheaded in the centre of the square, which now waves so pleasantly with
its elms and poplars. The cruel second James, afterwards king, wanted
him beheaded before his own house, but the cynical second Charles was
not quite so cruel as that, and rejected the proposed dramatic fancy "as
indecent," Burnet says. So Lord Russell, after Tillotson had prayed with
him, "laid his head on the block at a spot which the elms and poplars
now hide, and it was cut off at two strokes."

Cunningham is certainly very temperate in calling Lincoln's Inn Fields
"a noble square." I should myself call it one of the noblest and most
beautiful in London, and if the Calverts did not dwell in one of the
stately mansions of Arch Row, which is "all that Inigo Jones lived to
build" after his design for the whole square, then they might very well
have been proud to do so. They are not among the great whom Cunningham
names as having dwelt there, and I do not know what foundation the
tradition of their residence rests upon. What seems more certain is that
one of the Calverts, the first or the second Lord Baltimore, was buried
in that church of St. Dunstan's in the West, or St. Dunstan's Fleet
Street, which was replaced by the actual edifice in 1833.

The reader, now being got so near, may as well go on with me to Charing
Cross, where in the present scene of cabs, both hansoms and four-
wheelers, perpetually coming and going at the portals of the great
station and hotel, and beside the torrent of omnibuses in the Strand,
the Reverend Hugh Peters suffered death through the often broken faith
of Charles II. In one of the most delightful of his essays, Lowell
humorously portrays the character of the man who met this tragic fate: a
restless and somewhat fatuous Puritan divine, who, having once got
safely away from persecution to Boston, came back to London in the Civil
War, and took part in the trial of Charles I. If not one of the
regicides, he was very near one, and he shared the doom from which the
treacherous pardon of Charles II was never intended to save them. I
suppose his fatuity was not incompatible with tragedy, though somehow we
think that absurd people are not the stuff of serious experience.

[Illustration: STAPLE INN, HOLBORN.]

Leigh Hunt, in that most delightful of all books about London, _The
Town_, tells us that No. 7 Craven Street, Strand, was once the
dwelling of Benjamin Franklin, and he adds, with the manliness which is
always such a curious element of his unmanliness: "What a change along
the shore of the Thames in a few years (for two centuries are less than
a few in the lapse of time) from the residence of a set of haughty
nobles, who never dreamt that a tradesman could be anything but a
tradesman, to that of a yeoman's son, and a printer, who was one of the
founders of a great state!"

Not far away in one of the houses of Essex Street, Strand, a state which
led in the attempted dismemberment of that great state, and nearly
wrought its ruin, had a formal beginning, for it is said that it was
there John Locke wrote the constitution of South Carolina, which still,
I believe, remains its organic law. One has one's choice among the
entirely commonplace yellow brick buildings, which give the street the
aspect of an old-fashioned _place_ in Boston. The street was
seriously quiet the afternoon of our visit, with only a few
foot-passengers sauntering through it, and certain clerklike youth
entering and issuing from the doors of the buildings which had the air
of being law-offices.

We used as a pretext for visiting the Temple the very attenuated
colonial fact that some Mortons akin to him of Merrymount in
Massachusetts, have their tombs and tablets in the triforium of the
Temple Church. But when we had climbed to the triforium by the corkscrew
stairs leading to it, did we find there tombs and tablets? I am not
sure, but I am sure we found the tomb of that Edward Gibbon who wrote a
_History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire_, and who
while in Parliament strongly favored "distressing the Americans," as the
king wished, and made a speech in support of the government measure for
closing the port of Boston. I did not bear him any great grudge for
that, but I could not give myself to his monument with such cordial
affection as I felt for that of the versatile and volatile old
letter-writer James Howell, which also I found in that triforium,
half-hidden behind a small organ, with an epitaph too undecipherable in
the dimness for my patience. It was so satisfactory to find this, after
looking in vain for any record of him at Jesus College in Oxford, where
he studied the humanities that enabled him to be so many things to so
many masters, that I took all his chiselled praises for granted.

I made what amends I could for my slight of the Mortons in the Temple
Church, by crossing presently to Clifford's Inn, Strand, where the very
founder of Merrymount, the redoubtable Thomas Morton himself was
sometime student of the law and a dweller in these precincts. It is now
the hall of the Art Workers' Guild, and anywhere but in London would be
incredibly quiet and quaint in that noisy, commonplace, modern
neighborhood. It in nowise remembers the disreputable and roistering
antipuritan, who set up his May-pole at Wollaston, and danced about it
with his debauched aboriginies, in defiance of the saints, till Miles
Standish marched up from Plymouth and made an end of such ungodly doings
at the muzzles of his matchlocks.

[Illustration: CLIFFORD'S INN HALL.]

It must have been another day that we went to view the church of St.
Botolph without Aldersgate, because some of the patrician families
emigrating to Massachusetts were from that parish, which was the home of
many patrician families of the Commonwealth. In St. Andrew's Holborn,
the Vanes, father and son, worshipped, together with the kindred of many
that had gone to dwell beyond seas. It is a large impressive interior,
after the manner of Wren, and at the moment of our visit was smelling of
varnish; most London churches smell of mortar, when in course of their
pretty constant reparation, and this was at least a change. St.
Stephen's Coleman-Street, may draw the Connecticut exile, as the
spiritual home of that Reverend Mr. Davenport, who was the founder of
New Haven, but it will attract the unlocalized lover of liberty because
it was also the parish church of the Five Members of Parliament whom
Charles I. tried to arrest when he began looking for trouble. It had a
certain sentiment of low-churchness, being very plain without and within
not unlike an Orthodox church in some old-fashioned New England town.
One entered to it by a very neatly-paved, clean court, out of a business
neighborhood, jostled by commercial figures in sack-coats and top-hats
who were expressive in their way of a non-conformity in sympathy with
the past if not with the present of St. Andrew's.

St. Martins-in-the-Fields, where General Oglethorpe, the founder of
Georgia, was baptized, was, in his time, one of the proudest parishes of
the city, and the actual church is thought to be the masterpiece of the
architect Gibbs, who produced in the portico what Cunningham calls "one
of the finest pieces of architecture in London." Many famous people were
buried in the earlier edifice, including Nell Gwynne, Lord Mohun, who
fell in a duel with the Duke of Hamilton, as the readers of _Henry
Esmond_ well know, and Farquhar the dramatist. Lord Bacon was
baptized there; and the interior of the church is very noble and worthy
of him and of the parish history. Whether General Oglethorpe drew upon
his native parish in promoting the settlement of Georgia, I am not so
sure as I am of some other things, as, for instance, that he asked the
king for a grant of land, "in trust for the poor," and that his plan was
to people his colony largely from the captives in the debtors' prisons.
I love his memory for that, and I would gladly have visited the debtors'
prisons which his humanity vacated if I could have found them, or if
they had still existed.

The reader who has had the patience to accompany me on these somewhat
futile errands must have been aware of making them largely on the lordly
omnibus-tops which I always found so much to my proud taste. Often,
however, we whisked together from point to point in hansoms; often we
made our way on foot, with those quick transitions from the present to
the past, from the rush and roar of business thoroughfares to the deep
tranquillity of religious interiors, or the noise-bound quiet of ancient
church-yards, where the autumn flowers blazed under the withering autumn
leaves, and the peaceful occupants of the public benches were scarcely
more agitated by our coming than the tenants of the graves beside them.

The weather was for the most part divinely beautiful, so tenderly and
evenly cool and warm, with a sort of lingering fondness in the sunshine,
as if it were prescient of the fogs so soon to blot it. The first of
these came on the last day of our research, when suddenly we dropped
from the clouded surfaces of the earth to depths where the tube-line
trains carry their passengers from one brilliantly lighted station to
another. We took three of the different lines, experimentally, rather
than necessarily, in going from St. Mary Woolnoth, in Lombard Street,
hard by the Bank of England, to the far neighborhood of Stoke Newington;
and at each descent by the company's lift, we left the dark above
ground, and found the light fifty feet below. While this sort of transit
is novel, it is delightful; the air is good, or seems so, and there is a
faint earthy smell, somewhat like that of stale incense in Italian
churches, which I found agreeable from association at least; besides, I
liked to think of passing so far beneath all the superincumbent death
and all the superambulant life of the immense immemorial town.

[Illustration: ANCIENT CHURCH OF ST. MARTINS-IN-THE-FIELDS.]

We found St. Mary Woolnoth closed, being too early for the Sunday
service, and had to content ourselves with the extremely ugly outside of
the church which is reputed the masterpiece of Wren's pupil Hawksmoor;
while we took for granted the tablet or monument of Sir William Phipps,
the governor of Massachusetts, who went back to be buried there after
the failure of his premature expedition against Quebec. My friend had
provided me something as remote from Massachusetts as South Carolina in
colonial interest, and we were presently speeding to New River, which
Sir Hugh Myddleton taught to flow through the meadows of Stoke Newington
to all the streets of London, and so originated her modern water-supply.
This knight, or baronet, he declared, upon the faith of a genealogist,
to be of the ancestry of that family of Middletons who were of the first
South Carolinians then and since. It is at least certain that he was a
Welshman, and that the gift of his engineering genius to London was so
ungratefully received that he was left wellnigh ruined by his
enterprise. The king claimed a half-interest in the profits, but the
losses remained undivided to Myddleton. The fact, such as it is, proves
perhaps the weakest link in a chain of patriotic associations which, I
am afraid the reader must agree with me, has no great strength anywhere.
The New River itself, when you come to it, is a plain straightforward,
canal-like water-course through a grassy and shady level, but it is
interesting for the garden of Charles Lamb's first house backing upon
it, and for the incident of some of his friends walking into it one
night when they left him after an evening that might have been rather
unusually "smoky and drinky." Apart from this I cared for it less than
for the neighborhoods through which I got to it, and which were looking
their best in the blur of the fog. This was softest and richest among
the low trees of Highbury Fields, where, when we ascended to them from
our tubular station, the lawns were of an electric green in their
vividness. In fact, when it is not blindingly thick, a London fog lends
itself to the most charming effects. It caresses the prevailing
commonness and ugliness, and coaxes it into a semblance of beauty in
spite of itself. The rows upon rows of humble brick dwellings in the
streets we passed through were flattered into cottage homes where one
would have liked to live in one's quieter moods, and some rather stately
eighteenth-century mansions in Stoke Newington housed one's pride the
more fittingly, because of the mystery which the fog added to their
antiquity. It hung tenderly and reverently about that old, old parish
church of Stoke Newington where, it is story or fable, they that bore
the body of the dead King Harold from the field of Hastings made one of
their stations on the way to Waltham Abbey; and it was much in the
maundering mind of the kindly spectator who could not leave off pitying
us because we could not get into the church, the sexton having just
before gone down the street to the baker's. It followed us more and more
vaguely into the business quarter where we took our omnibus, and where
we noted that business London, like business New York, was always of the
same complexion and temperament in its shops and saloons, from centre to
circumference. Amid the commonplaceness of Islington where we changed
omnibuses, the fog abandoned us in despair, and rising aloof, dissolved
into the bitterness of a small cold rain.




XIX

ASPECTS AND INTIMATIONS


The fog, through that golden month of September (September is so
silvern in America), was more or less a fact of the daily weather. The
morning began in a mellow mistiness, which the sun burned through by
noon; or if sometimes there was positive rain, it would clear for a warm
sunset, which had moments of a very pretty pensiveness in the hollows of
Green Park, or by the lakes of St. James's. There were always the bright
beds of autumn flowers, and in Hyde Park something of the season's flush
came back in the driving. The town began to be visibly fuller, and I was
aware of many Americans, in carriages and on foot, whom I fancied
alighting after a continental summer, and poising for another flight to
their respective steamers. The sentiment of London was quite different
at the end of September from the sentiment of London at the beginning,
and one could imagine the sort of secondary season which it revisits in
the winter. There was indeed no hint of the great primary season in the
sacred paddock of beauty and fashion in Hyde Park, where the inverted
penny chairs lay with their foreheads in the earth; and the shrivelled
leaves, loosened from their boughs in the windless air, dropped
listlessly round them.

[Illustration: HYDE PARK IN OCTOBER.]

At night our little Mayfair Street was the haunt of much voluntary
minstrelsy. Bands of cockney darkeys came down it, tuning their voices
to our native ragtime. Or a balladist, man or woman, took the centre,
and sang towards our compassionate windows. Or a musical husband and
wife placed their portable melodeon on the opposite sidewalk, and
trained their vocal and instrumental attack upon the same weak defences.

It was all in keeping with the simple kindliness of the great town whose
homelikeness arises from its immense habitability. This always strikes
the New-Yorker, whether native or adoptive, if he be a thoughtful New-
Yorker, and goes about the different regions of the ampler metropolis
with an abiding sense of the restricted spaces where man may peacefully
dwell, or quietly lodge over-night, in his own city. In assimilating
each of the smaller towns or villages which it has made itself up of
London has left them so much of their original character that though
merged, they are not lost; and in cases where they have been so long
merged as to have experienced a severance of consciousness, or where
they are only nominally different sections of the vast whole, they have
each its own temperament. It would be quite impossible for one finding
one's self in Bloomsbury to suppose one's self in Belgravia, or in any
of the Kensingtons to fancy one's self in Mayfair. Chelsea is as
temperamentally different from Pimlico as the City from Southwark, and
Islington, again, though it speaks the same language as Whitechapel,
might well be of another tongue, so differently does it think and feel.
The names, and a hundred others, call to the stranger from the sides and
fronts and backs of omnibuses, until he has a weird sense that they
personally knew him long before he knew them. But when once domesticated
in any quarter he is so quickly at home in it that it will be the centre
of London for him, coming to and going from it in a local acceptance
which he cannot help feeling a reciprocal kindliness. He might do this
as a mere hotel-dweller, but if he has given hostages to fortune by
going into lodgings, and forming even indirect relations with the
tradesmen round the corners, the little stationers and newsmen, the
nearest bookseller, the intelligent female infants in the post-office
(which is always within a minute's walk), and perhaps conversed with the
neighboring policeman, or has taken cabs so often from the neighboring
rank as to be recognizable to the cabmen, then he is more quickly and
thoroughly naturalized in the chosen region. He will be unworthy of many
little friendlinesses from his fellow-citizens if he does not like them,
and he will miss, in refusing the image of home which is offered him,
one of the rarest consolations of exile.

At a distance from London (say as small a distance, in time if not
space, as Bath), you will hear it said that everybody is well in London,
but in London you will find that the hygienic critics or authorities
distinguish. All England, indeed, is divided into parts that are
relaxing, and parts that are bracing, and it is not so strange then that
London should be likewise subdivided. Mayfair, you will hear, is very
bracing, but Belgravia, and more particularly Pimlico, on which it
borders, is terribly relaxing. Beyond Pimlico, Chelsea again is bracing,
and as for South Kensington it stands to reason that it is bracing
because it is very high, almost as high as Mayfair. If you pass from
your Pimlico borderland of Belgravia to either of those regions you are
certainly not sensible of any sharp accent, but there is no telling what
a gradual rise of eight or ten feet may make in the quality of the air.
To the stranger all London seems a vast level, with perhaps here and
there the sort of ground-swell you may note from your car-window in the
passage of a Western plain. Ludgate Hill is truly a rise of ground, but
Tower Hill is only such a bad eminence as may gloomily lift itself in
history irrespective of the actual topography. Such an elevation as our
own Murray Hill would be a noticeable height in London, and there are no
such noble inequalities as in our up-town streets along the Hudson. All
great modern cities love the plain surfaces, and London is not different
from Chicago, or Philadelphia, or Paris, or Berlin, or Vienna, or St.
Petersburg, or Milan in this; New York is much more mountainous, and
Boston is a Sierra Nevada in comparison.

Yet, I suppose there must be something in the superstition that one part
of London is more bracing or more relaxing than another, and that there
is really, however insensibly, a difference of levels. That difference
of temperaments which I have mentioned, seems mostly intimated in the
size and age of the houses. They are larger and older in Bloomsbury,
where they express a citizen substance and comfort; they are statelier
about the parks and squares of Belgravia, which is comparatively a new
settlement; but there are more little houses among the grandeurs of
Mayfair which is of the same social quality, though many of its streets
crossing from Piccadilly have quite gone to shops and family hotels and
lodgings. It is more irregular and ancient than Belgravia, and its
grandeurs have a more casual air. The historic mansions crowded by the
clubs towards Hyde Park Corner, and grouped about the open space into
which Piccadilly falters there, or following the park in the flat curve
of Park Lane, have not the effect of withdrawal and exclusion of the
Belgravian mansions; beyond which again there is a world of small
dwellings of fainter and fainter self-assertion till they fade into the
hopeless plebeian unconsciousness of Pimlico, whose endless streets are
without beauty or dignity. Yet beyond this lost realm Chelsea redeems
itself in a grace of domestic architecture and an atmosphere of esthetic
associations which make it a favorite abode of the tastes as well as the
means. Kensington, where you arrive after what seems hopeless straggling
through the roaring thoroughfare prolonging the Fleet-and-Strand-derived
Piccadilly, is of almost equal artistic and literary appeal, but is
older and perhaps less actual in its claims upon the cultivated
sympathies. In either of these regions the polite American of definite
resources might, if banished from the republic, dwell in great material
and spiritual comfort; but if he chose Chelsea for his exile, I do not
know that I should blame his preference. There he would have the
neighborhood of many charming people whom to know for neighbors would
add a certain grace to existence, although he might not otherwise know
them. Besides he would have, beyond the Thames, the wooded stretch of
Battersea Park, if his dwelling, as it very well might, looked out upon
the river and across it; and in the distance he would have the roofs and
chimneys of that far Southwark, which no one seems anxious to have
nearer than, say, the seventeenth century, and yet which being a part of
London must be full of perfectly delightful people.

[Illustration: THAMES EMBANKMENT.]

Even if you make-believe that Southwark bears some such relation to
London as Jersey City bears to New York (but the image is very
imperfect) still New York, you are aware, can never domesticate the
Hudson as London has domesticated the Thames. Our river is too vast, too
grand, if you will, ever to be redeemed from its primitive wildness,
much less made an intimate part of the city's life. It may be laced with
ferries and bound with all the meshes that commerce can weave with its
swift-flying shuttles; it shall be tunnelled and bridged hereafter,
again and again, but its mere size will keep it savage, just as a giant,
though ever so amiable and good-natured, could not imaginably be
civilized as a man of the usual five-foot-six may be. Among rivers the
Thames is strictly of the five-foot-six average, and is therefore
perfectly proportioned to the little continent of which it is the Amazon
or the Mississippi. If it were larger it would make England ridiculous,
as Denmark, for instance, is made ridiculous by the sounds and estuaries
that sunder it. But the Thames is of just the right size to be held in
London's arms, and if it is not for her the graceful plaything that the
Seine is for Paris, it is more suited to the practical nature of London.
There are, so far as I noted, no whispering poplars planted by the brink
of the Thames, but I feel sure that if there were, and there were
citizens fishing their years away in their shade, they would sometimes
catch a fish, which the life-long anglers in the Seine never do. That
forms a great difference, expressive of a lasting difference of
character in the two capitals. Along the Thames the trees are planted on
the successive Embankments, in a beautiful leafy parkway following its
course, broken here and there by public edifices, like the Parliament
buildings, but forming a screen mostly uninterrupted, behind which a
parade of grandiose hotels does not altogether hide itself from the
river. Then the national quality of the English stream is expressed in
the succession of bridges which span it. These are uglier than any that
cross the Seine; each one, in fact, is uglier than the other, till you
come to the Tower Bridge, which is the ugliest of all. They have a
strange fascination, and quickly endear themselves to the stranger who
lounges on their parapets and looks down upon the grimy little steamers
scuttling under them, or the uncouth barges pushed and pulled over the
opacity of the swift puddle. They form also an admirable point for
viewing the clumsy craft of all types which the falling tide leaves
wallowing in the iridescent slime of the shoals, showing their huge
flanks, and resting their blunt snouts on the mud-banks in a slumberous
content.

It is seldom that the prospect reveals a vessel of more dignified
proportions or presence, though in my drives along one of the
Embankments I came upon a steamer of the modest size which we used to
think large when we crossed the Atlantic in it, but which might be swung
among the small boats from the davits of a latter-day liner. This vessel
always had an admiring crowd about it, and I suppose it had some
peculiar interest for the public which did not translate itself to me.
As far as the more visible commerce of the more sight-seen parts of the
Thames is concerned, it is as unimpressive as may be. It has nothing of
the dramatic presence of the shipping in the Hudson or the East River,
with its light operatic touches in the gayly painted Sound and North
River steamboats. You must go as far at least as Stepney on the Thames
before you begin to realize that London is the largest port, as well as
the largest city, in the world.

There are certain characteristics, qualities, of London which I am aware
of not calling aright, but which I will call _sentiments_ for want
of some better word. One of them was the feel of the night-air,
especially late in the season, when there was a waste and weariness in
it as if the vast human endeavor for pleasure and success had exhaled
its despair upon it. Whatever there was of disappointment in one's past,
of apprehension in one's future, came to the surface of the spirit, and
asserted its unity with the collective melancholy. It was not exactly a
_Weltschmerz_; that is as out-dated as the romantic movement; but
it was a sort of scientific relinquishment, which was by no means
scornful of others, or too appreciative of one's own unrecognized worth.
Through the senses it related itself to the noises of the quiescing
city, to the smell of its tormented dust, to the whiff of a casual
cigar, or the odor of the herbage and foliage in the park or square that
one was passing, one may not be more definite about what was perhaps
nothing at all. But I fancy that relinquishment of any sort would be
easier in London than in cities of simpler interest or smaller
population. For my own part I was content to deny many knowledges that I
would have liked to believe myself possessed of, and to go about clothed
in my ignorance as in a garment, or defended by it as by armor. There
was a sort of luxury in passing through streets memorable for a thousand
things and as dense with associations as Long Island with mosquitoes
when the winds are low, and in reflecting that I need not be ashamed for
neglecting in part what no man could know in whole. I really suppose
that upon any other terms the life of the cultivated American would be
hardly safe from his own violence in London. If one did not shut one's
self out from the complex appeal to one's higher self one could hardly
go to one's tailor or one's hatter or one's shoemaker, on those missions
which, it is a national superstition with us, may be more inexpensively
fulfilled there than at home. The best way is to begin by giving up
everything, by frankly saying to yourself that you will not be bothered,
that man's days of travel are full of trouble, and that you are going to
get what little joy you can out of them as you go along. Then, perhaps,
on some errand of quite ignoble purport, you will be seized with the
knowledge that in the very spot where you stand one of the most
significant things in history happened. It will be quite enough for you,
as you inhale a breath of the London mixture of smoke, dust, and fog,
that it is something like the air which Shakespeare and Milton breathed
when they were meditating the works which have given so many
international after-dinner orators the assurance of a bond of amity in
our common language. Once, in driving through one of the dullest streets
imaginable, I chanced to look out of the side-window of my hansom, and
saw on a flying house-wall a tablet reading: "Here lived John Dryden,"
and though Dryden is a poet to move one to tenderness as little as may
be, the tears came into my eyes.

It is but one of a thousand names, great in some sort or other, which
make sojourn in London impossible, if one takes them to heart as an
obligation to consciousness of her constant and instant claim. They show
you Johnson's house in Bolt Court, but it only avails to vex you with
the thought of the many and many houses of better and greater men which
they will never show you. As for the scenes of events in fiction you
have a plain duty to shun them, for in a city where the great facts of
the past are written so deep upon the walls and pavement one over
another, it is folly which can be forgiven only to the vacancy of youth
to go looking for the places where this imaginary thing happened. Yet
this claim of folly has been recognized, and if you wish to indulge it,
you can do so at little trouble. Where the real localities are not
available they have fictitious ones, and they show you an Old Curiosity
Shop, for instance, which serves every purpose of having been the home
of Little Nell. There are at least three Cock Taverns, and several
Mitres, all genuine; and so on. Forty odd years ago I myself, on first
arriving in London, lodged at the Golden Cross, because it was there
that David Copperfield stopped; and I was insensately pleased the other
day that there was still a hotel of that name at the old stand. Whether
it was the old inn, I did not challenge the ghost within me to say. I
doubt if you now dine there "off the joint" in the "coffee-room"; more
probably you have a _table d'hote_ meal served you "at separate
tables," by a German lad just beginning to ignore English. The shambling
elderly waiter who was part of the furniture in 1861 is very likely
dead; and for the credit of our country I hope that the recreant
American whom I heard telling an Englishman there in those disheartening
days, of our civic corruptions, may have also passed away. He said that
he himself had bought votes, as many as he wanted, in the city of
Providence; and though I could deny the general prevalence of such
venality at least in my own stainless state of Ohio, I did not think to
suggest that in such a case the corruption was in the buyer rather than
the seller of the votes, and that if he had now come to live, as he
implied, in a purer country, he had not taken the right way to be worthy
of it. But at twenty-four you cannot think of everything at once, and a
recreant American is so uncommon that you need hardly, at any age,
provide for him.




XX

PARTING GUESTS


However the Golden Cross Inn may have inwardly or outwardly changed,
the Golden Cross Hotel keeps its old place hard by the Charing Cross
station, which is now so different from the station of the earlier day.
I do not think it is one of the most sympathetic of the London stations.
I myself prefer rather the sentiment of the good old Euston station,
which continues for you the feeling of arrival in England, and keeps you
in the glow of landing that you have, or had in the days when you always
landed in Liverpool, and the constant Cunarders and Inmans ignored the
upstart pretensions of Southampton and Plymouth to be ports of entry
from the United States. But among the stations of minor autobiographical
interest, Charing Cross is undoubtedly the first, and you may have your
tenderness for it as the place where you took the train for the
nightboat at Folkestone in first crossing to the continent. How strange
it all was, and yet how not unfriendly; for there is always a great deal
of human nature in England. She is very motherly, even with us children
who ran away from home, and only come back now and then to make sure
that we are glad of having done so. In the lamp-broken obscurity of the
second-class carriage I am aware still of a youthful exile being asked
his destination, and then his derivation, by a gentle old lady in the
seat opposite (she might have been Mother England in person), who,
hearing that he was from America where the civil war was then very
unpromising, could only say, comfortingly: "And very glad to be out of
it, _I_ dare say!" He must protest, but if he failed to convince,
how could he explain that part of his high mission to the ports of the
Lombardo-Venetian Kingdom was to sweep from the Adriatic the
Confederate privateers which Great Britain was then fitting out to prey
upon our sparse commerce there? As a matter of fact he had eventually to
do little or no sweeping of that sort; for no privateers came to
interrupt the calm in which he devoted himself, unofficially, to writing
a book about the chief of those ports.

It was the first of many departures from London, where you are always
more or less arriving or departing as long as you remain in England. It
is indeed an axiom with the natives that if you want to go from any one
point to any other in the island it is easier to come to London and
start afresh for it, than to reach the point across country. The trains
to and from the capital are swifter and more frequent, and you are not
likely to lose your way in the mazes of Bradshaw if you consult the
indefinitely simplified A B C tables which instruct you how to launch
yourself direct from London upon any objective, or to recoil from it. My
impression is that you habitually drive to a London station as nearly in
time to take your train as may be, and that there is very little use for
waiting-rooms. This may be why the waiting-room seems so small and
unattractive a part of the general equipment. It never bears any such
proportion to the rest as the waiting-rooms in the great Boston
stations, or even that of the Grand Central in New York, and is by no
chance so really fine as that of the Atchison and Topeka at Omaha, or
that of the Lake Shore at Pittsburg. Neither the management nor the
climate is so unkind as to keep intending passengers from the platforms,
where they stand talking, or walk up and down, or lean from their
carriage-doors and take leave of attendant friends with repeated pathos.
With us it is either too cold or too hot to do that, and at all the
great stations we are now fenced off from the tracks, as on the
Continent, and unless we can make favor with the gateman, must despatch
our farewells before our parting dear ones press forward to have their
tickets punched. But at no London station, and far less at any
provincial station in England, are you subjected to these formalities;
and the English seem to linger out their farewells almost abusively,
especially if they are young and have much of life before them.

Charing Cross has the distinction, sole among her sister stations, of a
royal entrance. There is no doubt a reason for this; but as royalty is
always coming and going in every direction, it is not easy to know why
the other stations do not provide themselves with like facilities. One
cannot imagine just how the king and queen get in and out of the common
gateway, but it has to be managed everywhere but at Charing Cross, no
matter what hardship to royalty it involves. Neither has any other
station a modern copy of a Queen Eleanor's Cross, but this is doubtless
because no other station was the last of these points where her coffin
was set down on its way from Lincoln to its final restingplace in
Westminster. You cannot altogether regret their lack after you have seen
such an original cross as that of Northampton, for though the Victorian
piety which replaced the monument at Charing Cross was faithful and
earnest, it was not somehow the art of 1291. One feels no greater
hardness in the Parliamentary zeal which razed the cross in 1647 than in
the stony fidelity of detail which hurts the eye in the modern work, and
refuses to be softened by any effect of the mellowing London air. It
looks out over the scurry of cabs, the ponderous tread of omnibuses, the
rainfall patter of human feet, as inexorably latter-day as anything in
the Strand. It is only an instance of the constant futility of the
restoration which, in a world so violent or merely wearing as ours, must
still go on, and give us dead corpses of the past instead of living
images. Fortunately it cannot take from Charing Cross its preeminence
among the London railway stations, which is chiefly due to its place in
the busy heart of the town, and to that certain openness of aspect,
which sometimes, as with the space at Hyde Park Corner, does the effect
of sunniness in London. It may be nearer or farther, as related to one's
own abode, but it has not the positive remoteness from the great
centres, by force of which, for instance, Waterloo seems in a peripheral
whirl of non-arrival, and Vauxhall lost somewhere in a rude borderland,
and King's Cross bewildered in a roar of tormented streets beyond
darkest Bloomsbury. Even Paddington, which is of a politer situation,
and is the gate of the beautiful West-of-England country, has not the
allure of Charing Cross; even Euston which so sweetly prolongs the
old-fashioned Liverpool voyage from New York, and keeps one to the last
moment in a sense of home, really stays one from London by its kind
reluctance. It is at Charing Cross alone that you are immediately and
unmistakably in the London of your dreams.

I think that sooner or later we had arrived at or departed from all the
great stations, but I will not make so sure of St. Pancras. I am afraid
that I was, more strictly speaking, only at a small church hard by, of
so marked a ritualistic temperament that it had pictures in it, and gave
me an illusion of Italy, though I was explicitly there because of an
American origin in the baptism of Junius Brutus Booth. I am sorry I do
not remember the name of that little church, but it stood among autumn
flowers, in the heart of a still, sunny morning, where the reader will
easily find it. Of Victoria station I am many times certain, for it was
from it that we at last left London, and that at the time of an earlier
sojourn we arrived in a fog of a type which stamped our sense of the
world's metropolis with a completeness which it had hitherto
disappointingly wanted.

It had been a dull evening on the way up from Dover, but not uncommonly
dull for an evening of the English November, and we did not notice that
we had emerged from the train into an intensified obscurity. In the
corridors of the station-hotel hung wreaths of what a confident spirit
of our party declared to be smoke, in expression of the alarming
conviction that the house was on fire. Nobody but ourselves seemed
troubled by the smoke, however, and with a prompt recurrence to the
reading which makes the American an intimate of the English circumstance
though he has never personally known it, we realized that what seemed
smoke must be a very marked phase of London fog. It did not perceptibly
thicken in-doors that night, but the next day no day dawned, nor, for
that matter, the day after the next. All the same the town was invisibly
astir everywhere in a world which hesitated at moments between total and
partial blindness. The usual motives and incentives were at work in the
business of men, more like the mental operations of sleep than of
waking. From the height of an upper window one could look down and feel
the city's efforts to break the mesh of its weird captivity, with an
invisible stir in all directions, as of groping. Of course, life had to
go on, upon such terms as it could, and if you descended from your
window that showed nothing, and went into the street, and joined the
groping, you could make out something of its objects. With a cabman who
knew his way, as a pilot knows his way on a river in a black night, you
could depart and even arrive. In the course of your journey you would
find the thoroughfare thick with hesitating or arrested traffic. At one
place you would be aware of a dull, red light, brightening into a veiled
glare, and you would have come upon a group of horses, detached from
several omnibuses, and standing head to head till they might hopefully
be put to and driven on again. The same light, with the torches carried
by boys, would reveal trucks and carts stopped, or slowly creeping
forward. Cab-horses between the blotches of flame made by the cab-lamps
were craning their necks forward, or twitching them from side to side.
Through the press foot-passengers found their way across the street, and
imaginably in the dark that swallowed up the sidewalks, they were going
and coming on errands that could brook no stay. The wonder was that they
could know which way they were going, or how they could expect to reach
any given point.

Where the buildings were densest the fog was thinnest, and there it was
a greenish-yellow, like water when you open your eyes and look at it far
below the surface. Where the houses fell away, and you found yourself in
a square, or with a park on one side, the vapor thickened into blackness
and seemed to swell, a turbid tide, overhead and underfoot. It hurt your
straining eyes, and got into your throat, and burned it like a sullen
steam. If your cab stopped, miraculously enough, at the address given,
you got out incredulous and fearful of abandonment. When you emerged
again, and found your cab waiting, you mutely mounted to your place and
resumed your strange quality of something in a dream.

So, all that day the pall hung upon the town, and all the next. The
third day the travellers were to sail from Liverpool, and there was some
imperative last-shopping on the eve. Two of them took a courageous cab,
and started for Bond Street. In a few moments the cab was in the thick
of the fog and its consequences, a tangle of stationary vehicles with
horses detached, or marking time, without advancing either way. A
trembling hand lifted the little trap in the cab-roof, and a trembling
voice asked the cabman: "Do you think you can go on?" "I think so, sir."
The horse's head had already vanished; now his haunches faded away.
Towards the dashboard the shafts of another cab came yawing, and again
the eager voice quavered: "Do you think you can get back?" "Oh yes,
sir," the answer came more cheerfully, and the shopping was done a week
later in Twenty-third Street.

There is an insensate wish in the human witness to have nature when she
begins misbehaving do her worst. One longs to have her go all lengths,
and this perhaps is why an earthquake, or a volcanic eruption, of
violent type is so satisfactory to those it spares. It formed the secret
joy of the great blizzard of 1888, and it must form the mystical delight
of such a London fog as we had experienced. But you see the blizzard
once in a generation or a century, while if you are good, or good enough
to live in London, you may see a characteristic fog almost any year. It
is another case in which the metropolis of the New World must yield to
the metropolis of the whole world. Fog for fog, I do not say but the fog
in which we left New York, on March 3, 1904, was not as perfect as our
great London fog. But the New York fog was only blindingly white and the
London fog blindingly black, and that is a main difference.

The tender and hesitating mist with which each day of our final
September in London began, must not be confused in the reader's mind
with a true London fog. The mist grew a little heavier, day by day,
perhaps; but only once the sun failed to burn through it before noon,
and that was one of the first days of October, as if in September it had
not yet lost the last of its summer force. Even then, though it rained
all the forenoon, and well into the afternoon, the weather cleared for a
mild, warm sunset, and we could take the last of our pleasant walks from
Half-Moon Street into St. James's Park.

When the last day of our London sojourn came, it was fitly tearful, and
we had our misgivings of the Channel crossing. The crossing of the day
before had been so bad that _Pretty Polly_, who had won the St.
Leger, held all England in approving suspense, while her owners decided
that she should not venture to the defeat that awaited her in France,
till the sea was smoother. But in the morning the papers prophesied fair
weather, and it was promised that _Pretty Polly_ should cross. Her
courage confirmed our own, and we took our initial departure in the
London fashion which is so different from the New York fashion. Not with
the struggle, personally and telephonically, in an exchange of bitter
sarcasms prolonged with the haughty agents of the express monopoly, did
we get our baggage expensively before us to the station and follow in a
costly coupe, but with all our trunks piled upon two reasonable four-
wheelers, we set out contemporaneously with them. In New York we paid
six dollars for our entire transportation to the steamer; in London we
paid six shillings to reach the Victoria station with our belongings.
The right fare would have been five; the imagination of our cabman rose
to three and six each, and feebly fluttered there, but sank to three,
and did not rise again. At our admirable lodging the landlady, the
butler and the chambermaid had descended with us to the outer door in a
smiling convention of regret, the kindly Swiss boots allowed the street
porter to help him up with our trunks, and we drove away in the
tradition of personal acceptability which bathes the stranger in a
gentle self-satisfaction, and which prolonged itself through all the
formalities of registering our baggage for the continent at the station,
of bribing the guard in the hope of an entire first-class compartment to
ourselves and then sharing it with four others similarly promised its
sole use, and of telegraphing to secure seats in the _rapide_ from
Calais to Paris.

Then we were off in a fine chill, small English rain through a landscape
in which all the forms showed like figures in blotting-paper, as Taine
said, once for all. After we had run out of the wet ranks of yellowish-
black city houses, and passed the sullen suburbs,

    "All in a death-doing autumn-dripping gloom,"

we found ourselves in a world which was the dim ghost of the English
country we had so loved in the summer. On some of the trees and
hedgerows the leaves hung dull yellow or dull red, but on most they were
a blackening green. The raw green of the cold flat meadows, the purplish
green of the interminable ranks of cabbages, and the harsh green of the
turnip-fields, blurred with the reeking yellow of mustard bloom,
together with the gleaming brown of ploughed fields, formed a prospect
from which the eye turned with the heart, in a rapturous vision of the
South towards which we were now swiftly pulsing.

THE END






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