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America To-day, Observations and Reflections by William Archer

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AMERICA TO-DAY

_OBSERVATIONS AND REFLECTIONS_

BY
WILLIAM ARCHER

NEW YORK
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
1899

CONTENTS

_PART I--OBSERVATIONS_

I. The Straits of New York--When is a Ship not a Ship?--Nationality of
Passengers--A Dream Realized

II. Fog in New York Harbor--The Customs--The Note-Taker's
Hyperaesthesia--A Literary Car-Conductor--Mr. Kipling and the American
Public--The City of Elevators

III. New York a much-maligned City--Its Charm--Mr. Steevens'
Antithesis--New York compared with Other Cities--Its
Slums--Advertisements--Architecture in New York and Philadelphia

IV. Absence of Red Tape--"Rapid Transit" in New York--The Problem and
its Solution--The Whirl of Life--New York by Night--The "White Magic" of
the Future

V. Character and Culture--American Universities--Is the American
"Electric" or Phlegmatic?--Alleged Laxity of the Family Tie--Postscript:
The University System

VI. Washington in April--A Metropolis in the Making--The White House,
the Capitol, and the Library of Congress--The Symbolism of Washington

VII. American Hospitality--Instances--Conversation and
Story-Telling--Overprofusion In Hospitality--Expensiveness of Life in
America--The American Barber--Postscript: An Anglo-American Club

VIII. Boston--Its Resemblance to Edinburgh--Concord, Walden Pond, and
Sleepy Hollow--Is the "Yankee" Dying Out?--America for the
Americans--Detroit and Buffalo--The "Middle West"

IX. Chicago--Its Splendour and Squalour--Mammoth Buildings--Wind, Dust,
and Smoke--Culture--Chicago's Self-Criticism--Postscript: Social Service
in America

X. New York in Spring--Central Park--New York not an Ill-Governed
City--The United States Post Office--The Express System--Valedictory

_PART II--REFLECTIONS_

North and South, I

North and South, II

North and South, III

North and South, IV

The Republic and The Empire, I

The Republic and The Empire, II

The Republic and The Empire, III

The Republic and The Empire, IV

American Literature

The American Language, I

The American Language, II

The American Language, III

The American Language, IV

The letters and essays which make up this volume appeared in the
London _Pall Mall Gazette_ and _Pall Mall Magazine_ respectively, and
are reprinted by kind permission of the editors of these periodicals.
The ten letters which were sent to the _Pall Mall Gazette_ appeared also
in the _New York Times_.

PART I

OBSERVATIONS

LETTER I

The Straits of New York--When is a Ship not a Ship?--Nationality of
Passengers--A Dream Realized.

R.M.S. _Lucania_.

The Atlantic Ocean is geographically a misnomer, socially and
politically a dwindling superstition. That is the chief lesson one
learns--and one has barely time to take it in--between Queenstown and
Sandy Hook. Ocean forsooth! this little belt of blue water that we cross
before we know where we are, at a single hop-skip-and-jump! From north
to south, perhaps, it may still count as an ocean; from east to west we
have narrowed it into a strait. Why, even for the seasick (and on this
point I speak with melancholy authority) the Atlantic has not half the
terrors of the Straits of Dover; comfort at sea being a question, not of
the size of the waves, but of the proportion between the size of the
waves and the size of the ship. Our imagination is still beguiled by the
fuss the world made over Columbus, whose exploit was intellectually and
morally rather than physically great. The map-makers, too, throw dust
in our eyes by their absurd figment of two "hemispheres," as though
Nature had sliced her orange in two, and held one half in either hand.
We are slow to realise, in fact, that time is the only true measure of
space, and that London to-day is nearer to New York than it was to
Edinburgh a hundred and fifty years ago. The essential facts of the
case, as they at present stand, would come home much more closely to the
popular mind of both continents if we called this strip of sea the
Straits of New York, and classed our liners, not as the successors of
Columbus's caravels, but simply as what they are: giant ferry-boats
plying with clockwork punctuality between the twin landing-stages of the
English-speaking world.

To-morrow we shall be in New York harbour; it seems but yesterday that
we slipped out of the Cove of Cork. As I look at the chart on the
companion staircase, where our daily runs are marked off, I feel the
abject poverty of our verbs of speed. We have not rushed, or dashed, or
hurtled along--these words do grave injustice to the majesty of our
progress. I can think of nothing but the strides of some Titan, so vast
as to beggar even the myth-making imagination. It is not seven-league,
no, nor hundred-league boots that we wear--we do our 520, 509, 518, 530
knots at a stride. Nor is it to be imagined that we are anywhere near
the limit of speed. Already the _Lucania's_ record is threatened by the
_Oceanic_; and the _Oceanic_, if she fulfils her promises, will only
spur on some still swifter Titan to the emprise.[A] Then, again, it is
hard to believe that the difficulties are insuperable which as yet
prevent us from utilising, as a point of arrival and departure, that
almost mid-Atlantic outpost of the younger world, Newfoundland--or at
the least Nova Scotia. By this means the actual waterway between the two
continents will be shortened by something like a third. What with the
acceleration of the ferry-boats and the narrowing of the ferry, it is
surely no visionary Jules-Vernism to look forward to the time when one
may set foot on American soil, within, say, sixty-five hours of leaving
the Liverpool landing-stage; supposing, that is to say, that steam
navigation be not in the meantime superseded.

As yet, to be sure, the Atlantic possesses a certain strategic
importance as a coal-consuming force. To contract its time-width we have
to expand our coal-bunkers; and the ship which has crossed it in six
days, be she ferryboat or cruiser, is apt to arrive, as it were, a
little out of breath. But even this drawback can scarcely be permanent.
Science must presently achieve the storage of motive-power in some less
bulky form than that of crude coal. Then the Atlantic will be as
extinct, politically, as the Great Wall of China; or, rather, it will
retain for America the abiding significance which the "silver streak"
possesses for England--an effectual bulwark against aggression, but a
highway to influence and world-moulding power.

Think of the time when the _Lucania_ shall have fallen behind in the
race, and shall be plying to Boston or Philadelphia, while larger and
swifter hotel-ships shall put forth almost daily from Liverpool,
Southampton, and New York! Think of the growth of intercourse which even
the next ten years will probably bring, and the increase of mutual
comprehension involved in it! Is it an illusion of mine, or do we not
already observe in England, during the past year, a new interest and
pride in our trans-Atlantic service, which now ranks close to the Navy
in the popular affections? It dates, I think, from those first days of
the late war, when the _Paris_ was vainly supposed to be in danger of
capture by Spanish cruisers, and when all England was wishing her
god-speed.

For my own taste, this sumptuous hotel-ship is rather too much of a
hotel and too little of a ship. I resent the absolute exclusion of the
passengers from even the most distant view of the propelling and guiding
forces. Practically, the _Lucania_ is a ship without a deck; and the
deck is to the ship what the face is to the human being. The so-called
promenade-deck is simply a long roofed balcony on either side of the
hotel building. It is roofed by the "shade deck," which is rigidly
reserved "for navigators only." There the true life of the ship goes on,
and we are vouchsafed no glimpse of it. One is reminded of the
Chinaman's description of a three-masted screw steamer with two funnels:
"Thlee piecee bamboo, two piecee puff-puff, walk-along inside, no can
see." Here the "walk-along," the motive power, is "inside" with a
vengeance. I have not at this moment the remotest conception where the
engine-room is, or where lies the descent to that Avernus. Not even the
communicator-gong can be heard in the hotel. I have not set eyes on an
engineer or a stoker, scarcely on a sailor. The captain I do not even
know by sight. Occasionally an officer flits past, on his way up to or
down from the "shade deck"; I regard him with awe, and guess reverently
at his rank. The ship's company, as I know it, consists of the purser,
the doctor, and the army of stewards and stewardesses. The roof of the
promenade-deck weighs upon my brain. It shuts off the better half of the
sky, the zenith. In order even to see the masts and funnels of the ship
one has to go far forward or far aft and crane one's neck upward. Not a
single human being have I ever descried on the "shade-deck" or on the
towering bridge. The genii of the hundred-league boots remain not only
inaccessible but invisible. The effect is inhuman, uncanny. All the
luxury of the saloons and staterooms does not compensate for the lack of
a frank, straightforward deck. The _Lucania_, in my eyes, has no
individuality as a ship. It--I instinctively say "it," not "she"--is
merely a rather low-roofed hotel, with sea-sickness superadded to all
the comforts of home. But a first-class hotel it is: the living good
and plentiful, if not superfine, the service excellent, and the charges,
all things considered, remarkably moderate.

What chiefly strikes one about the passengers is their homogeneity of
race. Apart from a small (but influential) Semitic contingent, the whole
body is thoroughly Anglo-Saxon in type. About half are British, I take
it, and half American; but in most cases the nationality is to be
distinguished only by accent, not by any characteristic of appearance or
of demeanour. The strongly-marked Semites always excepted, there is not
a man or woman among the saloon passengers who strikes me as a
foreigner, a person of alien race. I do not feel my sympathies chill
toward my very agreeable table-companion because he drinks ice-water at
breakfast; and he views my tea with an eye of equal tolerance. It is not
till one looks at the second-class passengers that one sees signs of the
heterogeneity of the American people; and then one remembers with
misgivings the emigrants who crowded on board at Queenstown, with their
household goods done up in bundles and gaping, ill-roped boxes. The
thought of them recalls an anecdote which was new to me the other day,
and may be fresh to some of my readers. In any case it will bear
repetition. An Irishman coming to America for the first time, found New
York gay with bunting as he sailed up the harbour. He asked an American
fellow-passenger the reason of the display, and was told it was in
honour of Evacuation Day. "And what's that?" he inquired. "Why, the day
the British troops evacuated New York." Presently an Englishman came up
to the Irishman and asked him if he knew what the flags were for. "For
Evacuation Day, to be sure!" was the reply. "What is Evacuation Day?"
asked the Sassenach. "The day we drove you blackguards out of the
country, bedad!" was the immediate reply. If not literally true, the
story is at least profoundly typical.

There is a light on our starboard bow: my first glimpse, for two and
twenty years, of America. It has been literally the dream of my life to
revisit the United States. Not once, but fifty times, have I dreamed
that the ocean (which loomed absurdly large even in my waking thoughts)
was comfortably crossed, and I was landing in New York. I can clearly
recall at this moment some of the fantastic shapes the city put on in
my dreams--utterly different, of course, from my actual recollections of
it. Well, that dream is now realised; the gates of the Western world are
opening to me. What experience awaits me I know not; but this I do know,
that the emotion with which I confront it is not one of idle curiosity,
or even of calmly sympathetic interest. It is not primarily to my
intelligence, but to my imagination, that the word "America" appeals. To
many people that word conveys none but prosaic associations; to me it is
electric with romance. Only one other word in existence can give me a
comparable thrill; the word one sees graven on a roadside pillar as one
walks down the southern slope of an Alpine pass: ITALIA. But that word
carries the imagination backward only, whereas AMERICA stands for the
meeting-place of the past and the future. What the land of Cooper and
Mayne Reid was to my boyish fancy, the land of Washington and Lincoln,
Hawthorne and Emerson, is to my adult thoughts. Does this mean that I
approach America in the temper of a romantic schoolboy? Perhaps; but,
bias for bias, I would rather own to that of the romantic schoolboy than
to that of the cynical Old-Worldling.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote A: The _Oceanic_, it appears, is designed to break the record
in punctuality, not in speed. Nevertheless there are several indications
that our engineers are not resting on their oars, but will presently put
on another spurt. The very shortest Atlantic passage, I understand, has
been made by a German ship. Surely England and America cannot long be
content to leave the record for speed, of all things, in the hands of
Germany.]

LETTER II

Fog in New York Harbour--The Customs--The Note-Taker's Hyperaesthesia--a
Literary Car-Conductor--Mr. Kipling and the American Public--The City of
Elevators.

NEW YORK.

By way of making us feel quite at home, New-York receives us with a dank
Scotch mist. On the shores of Staten Island the leafless trees stand out
grey and gaunt against the whity-grey snow, a legacy, no doubt, from the
great blizzard. Though I keep a sharp look-out, I can descry no Liberty
Enlightening the World. Liberty (_absit omen!_) is wrapped away in grimy
cotton-wool. There, however, are the "sky-scraper" buildings, looming
out through the mist, like the Jotuns in Niflheim of Scandinavian
mythology. They are grandiose, certainly, and not, to my thinking, ugly.
That word has no application in this context. "Pretty" and "ugly"--why
should we for ever carry about these aesthetic labels in our pockets, and
insist on dabbing them down on everything that comes in our way? If we
cannot get, with Nietzsche, _Jenseits von Gut und Boese_, we might at
least allow our souls an occasional breathing-space in a region "Back of
the Beautiful and the Ugly," as they say in President's English. While I
am trying to formulate my feelings with regard to this deputation of
giants which the giant Republic sends down to the waterside to welcome
us, behold, we have crept up abreast of the Cunard wharf, and there
stands a little crowd of human welcomers, waving handkerchiefs and
American flags. An energetic tug-boat butts her head gallantly into the
flank of the huge liner, in order to help her round. She glides up to
her berth, the gangway is run out, and at last I set foot upon
American--lumber.

What are my emotions? I have only one; single, simple, easily-expressed:
dread of the United States Custom House. Its terrors and its tyrannies
have been depicted in such lurid colours on the other side that I am
almost surprised to observe no manifest ogres in uniform caps, but only,
it would seem, ordinary human beings. And, on closer acquaintanceship,
they prove to be civil and even helpful human beings, with none of the
lazy superciliousness which so often characterises the European
toll-taker. At first the scene is chaotic enough, but, by aid of an
arrangement in alphabetical groups, cosmos soon emerges. The system by
which you declare your dutiable goods and are assigned an examiner, and
if necessary an appraiser, is admirably simple and free from red-tape. I
shall not describe it, for it would be more tedious in description than
in act. Enough that the whole thing is conducted, so far as I could see,
promptly, efficiently, and with perfect good temper. One brief
discussion I heard, between an official and an American citizen, who was
heavily assessed on some article or articles which he declared to have
been manufactured in America and taken out of the country by himself
only a few months before. The official insisted that there was no proof
of this; but just as the discussion threatened to become an altercation
(a "scrap" they would call it here) some one found a way out. The goods
were forwarded in bond to the traveller's place of residence (Hartford,
I think) where he declared that he could produce proof of their American
origin. For myself, I had to pay two dollars and a half on some
magic-lantern slides. I could have imported the lantern, had I owned
one, free of charge, as a philosophical instrument used in my
profession; but the courts have held, it appears, that though the
lantern comes under that rubric, the slides do not. I cannot pretend to
grasp the distinction, or to admire the system which necessitates it.
But whatever the economic merits or demerits of the tariff, I take
pleasure in bearing testimony to the civility with which I found it
enforced.

My companion and I express our baggage to our hotel and jump on the
platform of a horse-car on West-street, skirting the wharves. The
roadway is ill paved, certainly, and the clammy atmosphere has congealed
on its surface into an oily black mud; while in the middle of the side
streets one can see relics of the blizzard in the shape of little grubby
glaciers slowly oozing away. The prospect is not enlivening; nor do the
low brick houses, given up to nondescript longshore traffic, and freely
punctuated with gilt-lettered saloons, add to its impressiveness.
Squalid it is without doubt, this particular aspect of New York; but
what is the squalor of West-street to that of Limehouse or Poplar? Are
our own dock thoroughfares always paved to perfection? And if we had a
blizzard like that of three weeks ago, how long would its vestiges
linger in the side-streets of Millwall? Even as I mark the grimness of
the scene, I am conscious of a sort of hyperaesthesia against which one
ought to be on guard. The note-taking traveller is very apt to forget
that the mere act of note-taking upsets his normal perceptivity. He
becomes feverishly observant, morbidly critical. He compares
incommensurables, and flies to ideal standpoints. He is so eager to
descry differences, that he overlooks similarities--nay, identities.
Thus only can I account for many statements about New York, occurring in
the pages of recent and reputable travellers, both French and English,
which I find to be exaggerated almost to the point of monstrosity. What
should we say of an American who should criticise the Commercial Road
from the point of view of Fifth Avenue? After a week's experience of New
York, I cannot but fancy that certain travellers I could mention have
been guilty of similar errors of proportion.

To return to our street-car platform. The conductor gathers from our
conversation that we have just landed from the English steamer, and he
at once overflows upon the one great topic of all classes in New York.
"I s'pose you've heard," he says, "that Kipling has been very ill?" Yes,
we had heard of his illness before we left England. "He's pulling
through now, though," says the conductor with heartfelt satisfaction.
That, too, we had ascertained on board. "He ought to be the next
poet-laureate," our friend continues eagerly; "_he_ don't follow no
beaten tracks. He cuts a road for himself, every time, right through;
and a mighty good road, too." He then proceeded to make some remarks,
which in the rattle of the street I did not quite catch, about
"carpet-bag knights." I gathered that he held a low opinion of the
present wearer of the bays, and confounded him (not inexcusably) with
one or other of his titled compeers. My companion and I were too much
taken aback to pursue the theme and ascertain our friend's opinions on
Mr. Ruskin, Mr. Meredith, Mrs. Humphry Ward, and Miss Marie Corelli.
Think of it! We have travelled three thousand miles to find a
tram-conductor whose eyes glisten as he tells us that Kipling is better,
and who discusses with a great deal of sense and acuteness the question
of the English poet-laureateship! Could anything be more marvellous or
more significant? Said I not well when I declared the Atlantic Ocean of
less account than the Straits of Dover?

This was indeed a welcome to the New World. Fate could not have devised
a more ingenious and at the same time tactful way of making us feel at
home; though at home, indeed, a Mile End 'bus conductor is scarcely the
authority one would turn to for enlightened views upon the Laureateship.
The mere fact of our friend's having heard of Mr. Kipling's existence
struck us as surprising enough, until we learned that the poet of Tommy
Atkins is at the present moment quite the most famous person in the
United States. When his illness was at its height, hourly bulletins were
posted in factories and workshops, and people meeting in the streets
asked each other, "How is he?" without deeming it necessary to supply an
antecedent to the pronoun. It was grammatically as well as spiritually a
case of "Kipling understood."

At a low music-hall into which I strayed one evening, one of the nigger
corner-men sang a song of which the nature may be sufficiently divined
from the refrain, "And the tom-cat was the cause of it all." This lyric
being loudly encored, the performer came forward, and, to my
astonishment, began to recite a long series of doggerel verses upon Mr.
Kipling's illness, setting forth how

"His strong will made him famous, and his strong will pulled him
through."

They were imbecile, they were maudlin, they were in the worst possible
taste. So far as the reciter was concerned, they were absolutely
insincere clap-trap. But the crowded audience received them with
rapture; and the very fact that an astute caterer should serve up this
particular form of clap-trap showed how the sympathy with Mr. Kipling
had permeated even the most un-literary stratum of the public. To an
Englishman, nothing can be more touching than to find on every hand this
enthusiastic affection for the poet of the Seven Seas--a writer, too,
who has not dealt over-tenderly with American susceptibilities, and has,
by sheer force of genius, lived down a good deal of unpopularity.

For the moment, neither President McKinley nor Mr. Fitzsimmons can vie
with him in notoriety. His sole rival as a popular hero is Admiral
Dewey, whose name is in every mouth and on every boarding. He is the one
living celebrity whom the Italian image-vendors admit to their pantheon,
where he rubs shoulders with Shakespeare, Dante, Beethoven, and the
Venus of Milo. It is related that, at a Camp of Exercise last year,
President McKinley chanced to stray beyond bounds, and on returning was
confronted by a sentry, who dropped his rifle and bade him halt. "I have
forgotten the pass-word," said Mr. McKinley, "but if you will look at
me you will see that I am the President." "If you were George Dewey
himself," was the reply, "you shouldn't get by here without the
pass-word." This anecdote has a flavour of ancient history, but it is
aptly brought up to date.[B]

We bid adieu to our poetical conductor, take a cross-town car, and are
presently pushing at the revolving doors--a draught-excluding
plate-glass turn-stile--of a vast red-brick hotel, luxurious and
labyrinthine. A short colloquy with the clerk at the bureau, and we find
ourselves in a gorgeously upholstered elevator, whizzing aloft to the
thirteenth floor. Not the top floor--far from it. If you could slice off
the stories above the thirteenth, as you slice off the top of an egg,
and plant them down in Europe, they would of themselves make a biggish
hotel according to our standards. This first elevator voyage is the
prelude to how many others! For the past week I seem to have spent the
best part of my time in elevators. I must have travelled miles on miles
at right angles to the earth's surface. If all my ascensions could be
put together, they would out-top Olympus and make Ossa a wart.

This is the first sensation of life in New York--you feel that the
Americans have practically added a new dimension to space. They move
almost as much on the perpendicular as on the horizontal plane. When
they find themselves a little crowded, they simply tilt a street on end
and call it a sky scraper. This hotel, for example (the
Waldorf-Astoria), is nothing but a couple of populous streets soaring up
into the air instead of crawling along the ground. When I was here in
1877, I remember looking with wonder at the _Tribune_ building, hard by
the Post Office, which was then considered a marvel of architectural
daring. Now it is dwarfed into absolute insignificance by a dozen
Cyclopean structures on every hand. It looks as diminutive as the
Adelphi Terrace in contrast with the Hotel Cecil. I am credibly informed
that in some of the huge down-town buildings they run "express"
elevators, which do not stop before the fifteenth, eighteenth, twentieth
floor, as the case may be. Some such arrangement seems very necessary,
for the elevator _Bummelzugs_, which stop at every floor, take quite an
appreciable slice out of the average New York day. I wonder that
American ingenuity has not provided a system of pneumatic
passenger-tubes for lightning communication with these aerial suburbs,
these "mansions in the sky."

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote B: A similar story is told of the Confederate President.
Challenged by a sentinel, he said, "Look at me and you will see that I
am President Davis." "Well," said the soldier, "you _do_ look like a
used postage-stamp. Pass, President Davis!"]

LETTER III

New York a much-maligned City--Its Charm--Mr. Steevens' Antitheses--New
York compared with Other Cities--Its Slums--Advertisements--Architecture
in New York and Philadelphia.

NEW YORK.

Many superlatives have been applied to New York by her own children, by
the stranger within her gates, and by the stranger without her gates, at
a safe distance. I, a newcomer, venture to apply what I believe to be a
new superlative, and to call her the most maligned city in the world.
Even sympathetic observers have exaggerated all that is uncouth,
unbeautiful, unhealthy in her life, and overlooked, as it seems to me,
her all-pervading charm. One must be a pessimist indeed to feel no
exhilaration on coming in contact with such intensity of upward-striving
life as meets one on every hand in this league-long island city,
stretching oceanward between her eastern Sound and her western estuary,
and roofed by a radiant dome of smokeless sky. "Upward-striving life," I
say, for everywhere and in every branch of artistic effort the desire
for beauty is apparent, while at many points the achievement is
remarkable and inspiriting. I speak, of course, mainly of material
beauty; but it is hard to believe that so marked an impulse toward the
good as one notes in architecture, painting, sculpture, and literature,
can be unaccompanied by a cognate impulse toward moral beauty, even in
relation to civic life. The New Yorker's pride in New York is much more
alert and active than the Londoner's pride in London; and this feeling
must ere long make itself effective and dominant. For the great
advantage, it seems to me, that America possesses over the Old World is
its material and moral plasticity. Even among the giant structures of
this city, one feels that there is nothing rigid, nothing oppressive,
nothing inaccessible to the influence of changing conditions. If the
buildings are Cyclopean, so is the race that reared them. The material
world seems as clay on the potter's wheel, visibly taking on the impress
of the human spirit; and the human spirit, as embodied in this superbly
vital people, seems to be visibly thrilling to all the forces of
civilisation.

One of the latest, and certainly one of the most keen-sighted, of
English travellers in America is Mr. G.W. Steevens, a master journalist
if ever there was one. I turn to his _Land of the Dollar_ and I find New
York writ down "uncouth, formless, piebald, chaotic." "Never have I
seen," says Mr. Steevens, "a city more hideous.... Nothing is given to
beauty; everything centres in hard utility." Mr. Steevens must forgive
me for saying that this is simply libellous. It is true, I do not quote
him fairly: I omit his laudatory antitheses. The truncated phrase in the
above passage reads in the original "more hideous or more splendid," and
after averring that "nothing is given to beauty," Mr. Steevens
immediately proceeds to celebrate the beauty of many New York buildings.
Are we to understand, then, that the architects thought of nothing but
"hard utility," and that it was some aesthetic divinity that shaped their
blocks, rough-hew them how they might? For my part, I cannot see how
truth is to result from the clash of contradictory falsehoods. There are
a few cities more splendid than New York; many more hideous. In point of
concentrated architectural magnificence, there is nothing in New York to
compare with the Vienna Ringstrasse, from the Opera House to the Votive
Church.

In the splendour which proceeds from ordered uniformity and
spaciousness, Paris is, of course, incomparable; while a Scotchman may
perhaps be excused for holding that, as regards splendour of situation,
Edinburgh is hard to beat. Nor is there any single prospect in New York
so impressive as the panorama of London from Waterloo Bridge, when it
happens to be visible--that imperial sweep of river frontage from the
Houses of Parliament to the Tower. Except in the new region, far up the
Hudson, New York shares with Dublin the disadvantage of turning her
meaner aspects to her river fronts, though the majesty of the rivers
themselves, and the grandiose outlines of the Brooklyn Bridge, largely
compensate for this defect. In the main, then, the splendour of New York
is as yet sporadic. It is emerging on every hand from comparative
meanness and commonplace. At no point can one as yet say, "This prospect
is finer than anything Europe can show." But everywhere there are purple
patches of architectural splendour; and one can easily foresee the time
when Fifth Avenue, the whole circuit of Central Park, and the up-town
riverside region will be magnificent beyond compare.

As for the superlative hideousness attributed by Mr. Steevens to New
York, I can only inquire, in the local idiom: "What is the matter with
Glasgow?" Or, indeed, with Hull? or Newcastle? or the north-east regions
of London? No doubt New York contains some of the very worst slums in
the world. That melancholy distinction must be conceded her. But simply
to the outward eye the slums of New York have not the monotonous
hideousness of our English "warrens of the poor." In spite of her hard
winter, New York cannot quite forget that her latitude is that of Madrid
and Naples, not of London, or even of Paris. Her slums have a Southern
air about them, a variety of contour and colour--in some aspects one
might almost say a gaiety--unknown to Whitechapel or Bethnal Green. For
one thing, the ubiquitous balconies and fire escapes serve of themselves
to break the monotony of line, and lend, as it were, a peculiar texture
to the scene; to say nothing of the oportunities they afford for the
display of multifarious shreds and patches of colour. Then the houses
themselves are often brightly, not to say loudly, painted; so that in
the clear, sparkling atmosphere characteristic of New York, the most
squalid slum puts on a many-coloured Southern aspect, which suggests
Naples or Marseilles rather than the back streets of any English city.
Add to this that the inhabitants are largely of Southern origin, and are
apt, whenever the temperature will permit, to carry on the main part of
their daily lives out of doors; and you can understand that, appalling
as poverty may be in New York, the average slum is not so dank, dismal,
and suicidally monotonous as a street of a similar status in London.

"The whole city," says Mr. Steevens, "is plastered, and papered, and
painted with advertisements;" and he instances the huge "H-O" (whatever
that may mean) which confronts one as one sails up the harbour, and the
omnipresent "Castoria" placards. Here Mr. Steevens shows symptoms of the
note-taker's hyperaesthesia. The facts he states are undeniable, but the
implication that advertisement is carried to greater excess in New York
than in London and other European cities seems to me utterly groundless.
The "H-O" advertisement is not one whit more monstrous than, for
instance, the huge announcements of cheap clothing-shops, &c., painted
all over the ends of houses, that deface the railway approaches to
Paris; nor is it so flagrant and aggressive as the illuminated
advertisements of whisky and California wines that vulgarise the august
spectacle of the Thames by night. It is true that the proprietors of
"Castoria" have occupied nearly every blank wall that is visible from
Brooklyn Bridge; but their advertisements are so far from garish that I
should scarcely have noticed them had not Mr. Steevens called my
attention to them. Sky-signs, as Mr. Steevens admits, are unknown in New
York; so are the flashing out-and-in electric advertisements which make
night hideous in London. One or two large steady-burning advertisements
irradiate Madison Square of an evening; but being steady they are
comparatively inoffensive. Twenty years ago, when I crossed the
continent from San Francisco, I noticed with disgust the advertisements
stencilled on every second rock in the canyons of Nevada, and defacing
every coign of vantage around Niagara. Whether this abuse continues I
know not; but I know that the pill placards and sauce puffs which
blossom in our English meadows along every main line of railway are
quite as offensive. Far be it from me to deny that advertising is
carried to deplorable excesses in America; but in picking this out as a
differentia, Mr. Steevens shows that his intentness of observation in
New York has for the moment dimmed his mental vision of London. It is a
case, I fancy, in which the expectation was father to the thought.

Similarly, Mr. Steevens notes, "No chiropodist worthy of the name but
keeps at his door a modelled human foot the size of a cab-horse; and
other trades go and do likewise." The "cab-horse" is a monumental
exaggeration; but it is true that some chiropodists use as a sign a foot
of colossal proportions--the size of a small sheep, let us say, if we
must adopt a zoological standard. So far good; but the implication that
the streets of New York swarm, like a scene in a harlequinade, with
similarly Brobdingnagian signs is quite unfounded. Thus it is, I think,
that travellers are apt to seize on isolated eccentricities or
extravagances (have we no monstrous signs in England?) and treat them as
typical. Mr. Steevens came to America prepared to find everything
gigantic, and the chiropodist's foot so agreeably fulfilled his
expectation that he thought it unnecessary to look any further--"ex pede
Herculem."[C]

The architecture of New York, according to Mr. Steevens, is "the
outward expression of the freest, fiercest individualism.... Seeing it,
you can well understand the admiration of an American for something
ordered and proportioned--for the Rue de Rivoli or Regent Street." I
heard this admiration emphatically expressed the other day by one of the
foremost and most justly famous of American authors; but, unlike Mr.
Steevens, I could not understand it. "What!" I said, "you would
Haussmannise New York! You would reduce the glorious variety of Fifth
Avenue to the deadly uniformity of the Avenue de l'Opera, where each
block of buildings reproduces its neighbour, as though they had all been
stamped by one gigantic die!" Such an architectural ideal is
inconceivable to me. It is all very well for a few short streets, for a
square or two, for a quadrant like that of Regent Street, or a crescent
or circus like those of Bath or Edinburgh. But to apply it throughout a
whole quarter of a city, or even throughout the endless vistas of a
great American street, would be simply maddening. Better the most
heaven-storming or sky-scraping audacity of individualism than any
attempt to transform New York into a Fourierist phalanstery or a model
prison. I do not doubt that there will one day be some legal restriction
on Towers of Babel, and that the hygienic disadvantages of the
microbe-breeding "well" or air-shaft will be more fully recognised than
they are at present. A time may come, too, when the ideal of an unforced
harmony in architectural groupings may replace the now dominant instinct
of aggressive diversity. But whatever developments the future may have
in store, I must own my gratitude to the "fierce individualism" of the
present for a new realisation of the possibilities of architectural
beauty in modern life. At almost every turn in New York, one comes
across some building that gives one a little shock of pleasure.
Sometimes, indeed, it is the pleasure of recognising an old friend in a
new place--a patch of Venice or a chunk of Florence transported bodily
to the New World. The exquisite tower of the Madison Square Garden, for
instance, is modelled on that of the Giralda, at Seville; while the new
University Club, on Fifth Avenue, is simply a Florentine fortress-palace
of somewhat disproportionate height. But along with a good deal of sheer
reproduction of European models, one finds a great deal of ingenious
and inventive adaptation, to say nothing of a very delicate taste in the
treatment of detail. New York abounds, it is true, with monuments of
more than one bygone and detestable period of architectural fashion; but
they are as distinctly survivals from a dead past as is the wooden
shanty which occupies one of the best sites on Fifth Avenue, in the very
shadow of the new Delmonico's. I wish tasteless, conventional, and
machine-made architecture were as much of a "back-number" in England as
it is here. A practised observer could confidently date any prominent
building in New York, to within a year or two, by its architectural
merit; and the greater the merit the later the year.

In short, architecture is here a living art. Go where you will in these
up-town regions, you can see imagination and cultured intelligence in
the act, as it were, of impressing beauty of proportion and detail upon
brick and terra-cotta, granite and marble. And domestic or middle-class
architecture is not neglected. The American "master builders" do not
confine themselves to towers and palaces, but give infinite thought and
loving care to "homes for human beings." The average old-fashioned New
York house, so far as I have seen it, is externally unattractive (the
characteristic material, a sort of coffee-coloured stone, being truly
hideous), and internally dark, cramped, and stuffy. But modern houses,
even of no special pretensions, are generally delightful, with their
polished wood floors and fittings, and their airy suites of rooms. The
American architect has a great advantage over his English colleague in
the fact that in furnace-heated houses only the bedrooms require to be
shut off with doors. The halls and public rooms can be grouped so that,
when the curtains hung in their wide doorways are drawn back, two,
three, or four rooms are open to the eye at once, and charming effects
of space and light-and-shade can be obtained. Of this advantage the
modern house-planner makes excellent use, and I have seen more than one
quite modest family house which, without any sacrifice of comfort, gives
one a sense of almost palatial spaciousness. An architectural exhibition
which I saw the other day proved that equal or even greater care and
attention is being bestowed upon the country house, in which a
characteristically American style is being developed, mainly founded, I
take it, upon the suave and graceful classicism of Colonial
architecture. The wide "piazza" is its most noteworthy feature, and the
opportunity it offers for beautiful cloister-work is being utilised to
the full. Furthermore, the large attendance at the exhibition showed
what a keen interest the public takes in the art--a symptom of high
vitality.

In Philadelphia, too, where I spent some time last week, there is a good
deal of exquisite architecture to be seen. The old Philadelphia dwelling
house, "simplex munditiis," with its plain red-brick front and white
marble steps, has a peculiar charm for me; but it, of course, is not a
product of the present movement. I do not know the date of some lovely
white marble palazzetti scattered about the Rittenhouse Square region;
but the Art Club on Broad Street, and the Houston Club for Students of
the University of Pennsylvania, are both quite recent buildings, and
both very beautiful. I could mention several other buildings that are,
as they say here, "pretty good" (a phrase of high commendation); but I
had better get safely out of New York before I enlarge on the merits of
Philadelphia. There is only one city the New Yorker despises more than
Philadelphia, and that is Brooklyn. The New York schoolboy speaks of
Philadelphia as "the place the chestnuts go to when they die;" and to
the most popular wit in New York at this moment (an Americanised
Englishman, by the way) is attributed the saying, "Mr. So-and-so has
three daughters--two alive, and one in Philadelphia." Six different
people have related this gibe to me; it is only less admired than the
same gentleman's observation as he alighted from an electric car at the
further end of the Suspension Bridge, when he heaved a deep sigh, and
remarked, "In the midst of life we are in Brooklyn." Another favourite
anecdote in New York is that of the Philadelphian who went to a doctor
and complained of insomnia. The doctor gave him a great deal of sage
advice as to diet, exercise, and so forth, concluding, "If after that
you haven't better nights, let me see you again." "But you mistake,
doctor," the patient replied; "I sleep all right at night--it's in the
daytime I can't sleep!"

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote C: One method of advertisement which I observed in Chicago has
not yet, so far as I know, been introduced into England. One of the
windows of a vast dry-goods store on State Street was fitted up as a
dentists parlour; and when I passed a young lady was reclining in the
operating-chair and having her teeth stopped, to the no small
delectation of a little crowd which blocked the side-walk.]

LETTER IV

Absence of Red Tape--"Rapid Transit" in New York--The Problem and its
Solution--The Whirl of Life--New York by Night--The "White Magic" of the
Future.

NEW YORK.

Whatever turn her fiscal policy may take in the future, I hope America
will keep an absolutely prohibitive duty upon the import of red tape,
while at the same time discouraging the home manufacture of the article.
The absence of red tape is, to me, one of the charms of life in this
country. One gathers, indeed, that the art of running a Circumlocution
Office is carried to a high pitch in the political sphere. But there it
is exercised with a definite object; it is a means to an end, cunningly
devised and skillfully applied; it is not a mere matter of instinct,
inertia, and routine. The Tite Barnacles of Dickens's satire were
perfectly honest people according to their lights. They were sincerely
convinced that the British Empire would crumble to pieces the moment
its ligaments of red tape were in the slightest degree relaxed. Their
strength lay in the fact that they represented an innate tendency in the
nation, or at any rate in the dominant class at the period of which
Dickens wrote. In America there is no such innate tendency. The Tite
Barnacles do not imagine or pretend that they are saving the Republic;
they simply make use of a convenient political machinery to serve their
private ends. Therefore their position, however strong it may seem for
the moment, is insecurely founded. It rests upon no moral basis, it
finds no stronghold in the national character. Outsiders may think the
average American citizen strangely tolerant of abuses, and indeed I find
him smiling with placid amusement at things which, were I in his place,
would make my blood boil. But he is under no illusion as to the real
nature of these things. An abuse remains an abuse in his eyes, though he
may not for the moment see his way to rectifying it. The red tape which
is used to embarrass justice or "tie up" reform commands no reverence
even from the party that employs it. Cynicism may endure for the night,
but indignation ariseth in the morning.

The American character, in a word, does not naturally run to red tape.
Observe, for instance, the system of transit in New York: it is
admirably successful in grappling with a very difficult problem, and its
success proceeds from the absence of by-laws and restrictions, the
omnipresence of good-nature and common-sense. The problem is rendered
difficult, not only by the enormous numbers to be conveyed, but by the
stocking-like configuration of Manhattan Island. The business quarter of
New York is in the foot, the residential quarters in the calf and knee.
Therefore there is a great rush of people down to the foot in the
morning and up to the knee in the afternoon. The business quarter of
London is like the hub of a wheel, from which the railway and omnibus
lines radiate like spokes. In New York there is very little radiation or
dispersion of the multitude. Practically the whole tide sets down a
narrow channel in the morning, and up again in the evening. At the time,
then, of these tidal waves, it is a flat impossibility that transit can
be altogether comfortable. The "elevated" trains and electric trolleys
are overcrowded, certainly; but you can always find a place in them, and
they carry you so rapidly that the discomfort is rendered as little
irksome as possible. A society has been formed, I see, to agitate
against this overcrowding; but it seems to me it will only waste its
pains. Let it agitate for an underground railway, by all means; and if,
as I gather, the underground railway scheme is obstructed by
self-seeking vested interests, let it do its best to break down the
obstruction. Until some altogether new means of transport are provided,
the attempt to restrict the number of passengers which a car or trolley
may carry is, I think, antisocial, and must prove futile. The force of
public convenience would break the red-tape barrier like a cobweb. The
trains and trolleys follow each other at the very briefest intervals; it
does not seem possible that a greater number should be run on the
existing lines; and, that being so, there is no alternative between
overcrowding and the far greater inconvenience of indefinite delay.
Fancy having to "take a number," as they do in Paris, and await your
turn for a seat! New York would be simply paralysed. It is needless to
point out, of course, that where steam or electricity is the motive
power there is no cruelty to animals in overcrowding.

The American people, rightly and admirably as it seems to me, choose the
lesser of two evils, and minimise it by good temper and mutual civility.
At a certain hour of every morning, the "L" railroad trains are as
densely packed as our Metropolitan trains on Boat-Race Day. There are
people clinging in clusters to each of the straps, and even the
platforms between the cars are crowded to the very couplings. It often
appears hopelessly impossible for any new-comer to squeeze in, or for
those who are wedged in the middle of a long car to force their way out.
Yet when the necessity arises, no force has to be applied. People manage
somehow or other to "welcome the coming, speed the parting guest." Every
one recognises that cantankerous obstructiveness would only make matters
worse, nay, absolutely intolerable. The first comer makes no attempt to
insist upon his position of advantage, because he knows that to-morrow
he may be the last comer. The sense of individual inconvenience is
swamped in the sense of general convenience. People laugh and rather
enjoy the joke when a too sudden start or an abrupt curve sends a whole
group of them cannoning up against one another. It must be remembered
that the transit is rapid, so that there is no irritating sense of
wasted time: and that the cars are brilliantly lighted, and, on the
whole, well ventilated, so that there is no fog, smoke, or sulphurous
air to get on the nerves and strain the temper. The scene as a whole,
even on a wet, disagreeable evening, is not depressing, but rather
cheerful. For my part, I regard it with positive pleasure, as a
manifestation of the national character. Less admirable, to be sure, is
the public acquiescence in the political manoeuvring, which blocks the
proposed underground railway. Yet the opponents of the scheme have
doubtless something to say on their side. It appears, at any rate, that
the profits of the "L" road are not exorbitant. It is said to be only
through overcrowding that it pays at all. The passengers it seats barely
suffice to cover expenses, and "the profits hang on to the straps."

Idealists hope that when the underground comes, the elevated will go;
but I, as an outsider, cannot share his hope. In the first place, I
don't see how the mere substitution of one line for another is to
relieve the congestion of traffic; in the second place, the elevated
seems to me an admirable institution, which it would be a great pity to
abolish. Even aesthetically there is much to be said for it. The road,
itself, to be sure, does not add to the beauty of the avenues along
which it runs, but it is not by any means the eyesore one might imagine;
and the trains, with their light, graceful, and elegantly-proportioned
cars, so different from our squat and formless railway carriages, seem
to me a positively beautiful feature of the city life. They are not very
noisy, they are not very smoky, and they will be smokeless and almost
noiseless when they are run by electricity. The discomfort they cause,
to dwellers on the avenues is, I am sure, greatly exaggerated. People
who do not live on the avenues suffer in their sympathetic imagination
much more than the actual martyrs to the "L" road suffer in fact.
Imagination makes cowards of us all. For my part, I endured agonies from
the rush, whirl and clatter of New York before I left London; but here I
find nothing that, to healthy nerves, is not rather enjoyable than
otherwise. Neither up town nor down town is the traffic so dense, the
roar and bustle so continuous, as that of London; while the service of
trains and cars is so excellent and so simply arranged that it costs
much less thought, effort, and worry to "get about" in Manhattan than in
Middlesex. In saying this I may perhaps offend American
susceptibilities. There is nothing we moderns are more apt to brag of
than the nervous overstrain of our life. But sincerity comes before
courtesy, and I must gently but firmly decline to allow New York a
monopoly of neurasthenia, or of the conditions that produce it.

One great difference is, I take it, that while New York exhausts it also
stimulates, whereas the days of the year when there is any positive
stimulus in the air of London may be counted on the ten fingers. Muggy
and misty days do occur here, it is true; but though the natives tell me
that this month of March has been exceptionally unpleasant, the
prevailing impression I have received is that of a lofty and radiant
vault of sky, with keen, sweet, limpid air that one drank in eagerly,
like sparkling wine. More than once, after a slight snowfall, I have
seen the air full of dancing particles of light, like the gold leaf in
Dantzic brandy. One of the most impressive things I ever saw, though I
did not then realise its tragic significance, was the huge column of
smoke that rose into the clear blue air from the Windsor Hotel fire. I
happened to come out on Fifth Avenue, close to the Manhattan Club, just
as the tail of the St. Patrick's Day procession was passing; and,
looking up the avenue after it, I was ware of a gigantic white pillar
standing motionless, as it seemed to me, and cleaving the limitless blue
dome almost to the zenith. The procession moved quietly on; no one
appeared to take any notice; and as fires are ineffective in the
daylight, I turned down the avenue instead, of up, and saw no more of
the spectacle. But I shall never forget that "pillar of cloud by day,"
standing out in the sunshine, white as marble or sea foam.

At night, again, under the purple, star-lit sky, street life in the
central region of New York is indescribably exhilarating. From Union
Square to Herald Square, and even further up, Broadway and many of the
cross streets flash out at dusk into the most brilliant illumination.
Theatres, restaurants, stores, are outlined in incandescent lamps; the
huge electric trolleys come sailing along in an endless stream,
profusely jewelled with electricity; and down the thickly-gemmed vista
of every cross street one can see the elevated trains, like luminous
winged serpents, skimming through the air.[D] The great restaurants are
crowded with gaily-dressed merry-makers; and altogether there is a
sense of festivity in the air, without any flagrantly meretricious
element in it, which I plead guilty to finding very enjoyable. From the
moral, and even from the loftily aesthetic point of view, this gaudy,
glittering Vanity Fair is no doubt open to criticism. What reconciles me
to it aesthetically is the gemlike transparency of its colouring. Garish
it is, no doubt, but not in the least stifling, smoky, or lurid. The
application of electricity--light divorced from smoke and heat--to the
beautifying of city life is as yet in its infancy. Even the Americans
have scarcely got beyond the point of making lavish use of the raw
material. But the raw material is beautiful in itself, and in this
pellucid air (the point to which one always returns) it produces magical
effects.

The other night, at a restaurant, I sat at the next table to Mr. Edison,
and could not but look with interest and admiration at his furrowed,
anxious, typically American and truly beautiful face. Here, if you like,
was an example of nervous overstrain; but the soft and yet brilliant
light of the restaurant was in itself a sufficient reminder that the
overstrain had not been incurred for nothing. Electricity is the true
"white magic" of the future; and here, with his pallid face and silver
hair, sat the master magician--one of the great light-givers of the
world. A light-giver, I think, in more than a merely material sense. The
moral influence of the electric lamp, its effect upon the hygiene of the
soul, has not yet been duly estimated. But even in a merely material
sense, what has not the Edison movement, as it may be called, done for
this city of New York! Its influence is felt on every hand, in comfort,
convenience, and beauty. The lavish use of electricity, both as an
illuminant and as a motive power, combines with its climate, its
situation, and its architecture to make New York one of the most
fascinating cities in the world. Why, good Americans, when they die,
should go to Paris, is a theological enigma which more and more puzzles
me.

POSTSCRIPT.--Since my return to England, I have carefully reconsidered
my impression that the rush, whirl, and clamour of street life is
greater in London than in New York. Every day confirms it. On our main
thoroughfares, the stream of omnibuses is quite as unbroken as the
stream of electric and cable cars in New York; our van traffic is at
least as heavy; and we have in addition the host of creeping "growlers"
and darting hansoms, which is almost without counterpart in New York. I
know of no crossing in New York so trying to the nerves as Piccadilly
Circus or Charing Cross (Trafalgar Square). The intersection of
Broadway, Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street, at Madison Square, is the
nearest approach to these bewildering ganglia of traffic. It must be
owned, too, that the Bowery, with its two "elevated" tracks and four
lines of trolley-cars, is a place where one cannot safely let one's wits
go wool-gathering, especially on a rainy evening when the roadway is
under repair. Let me add that there is one place in New York where the
whirl of traffic ("whirl" in a literal sense) is unique and amazing. I
mean the covered area at the New York end of Brooklyn Bridge where the
transpontine electric cars, in an incessant stream, swoop down the
curves of the bridge and sweep round on their return journey. The scene
at night is indescribable. The air seems supersaturated with
electricity, flashing and crackling on every hand. One has a sense of
having strayed unwittingly into the midst of a miniature planetary
system in full swing, with the boom of the trolleys, in their mazy
courses, to represent the music of the spheres.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote D: I find the same idea (a sufficiently obvious one) finely
expressed by Mr. Richard Hovey in his book of poems entitled _Along the
Trail_:

Look, how the overhead train at the Morningside curve
Loops like a sea-born dragon its sinuous flight.
Loops in the night in and out, high up in the air,
Like a serpent of stars with the coil and undulant reach of waves.]

LETTER V

Character and Culture--American Universities--Is the American "Electric"
or Phlegmatic?--Alleged Laxity of the Family Tie--Postscript; the
University System.

NEW YORK.

It is four weeks to-day since I landed in New York, and, save for forty
hours in Philadelphia and four hours in Brooklyn, I have spent all that
time in Manhattan Island. Yet, to my shame be it spoken, I am not
prepared with any generalisation as to the American character. It has
been my good fortune to see a great deal of literary and artistic New
York, and, comparing it with literary and artistic London, I am inclined
to say "Pompey and Caesar berry much alike--specially Pompey!" The New
Yorker is far more cosmopolitan than the Londoner; of that there is no
doubt. He knows all that we know about current English literature. He
knows all that we do _not_ know about current American literature. He is
much more interested in and influenced by French literature and art
than the average educated Englishman--so much so that the leading French
critics, such as M. Brunetiere and M. Rod, lecture here to crowded and
appreciative audiences. Moreover an excellent German theatre permanently
established in the city keeps the literary world well abreast of
cosmopolitanism of the educated New Yorker the dramatic movement in
Germany. But the merely means that he has everything in common with the
educated Londoner--and a little over. His traditions are ours, his
standards are ours, his ideals are ours. He is busied with the same
problems of ethics, of aesthetics, of style, even of grammar. I had not
been three days in New York when I found myself plunged in a hot
discussion of the "split infinitive," in which I was ranged with two
Americans against a recreant Briton who defended the collocation. "It is
a mistake to regard it is an Americanism," said one of the Americans.
"It is as old as the English language, or at least as old as Wickliff.
But it is unnecessary, and the best modern practice discountenances it."
I felt like falling on the neck of an ally of half an hour's standing,
and swearing eternal friendship. What matters Alaska, or Venezuela, or
Nicaragua, "or all the stones of stumbling in the world," so long as we
have a common interest in (and some of us a common distaste for) the
split infinitive? To put the matter briefly, while the outlook of the
New Yorker is wider than ours, his standpoint is the same. We gather
from a well-known anecdote that some, at least, of the cultivated
Americans of Thackeray's time were inclined to "think of Tupper." To-day
they do not "think of Tupper" any more than we do--and by Tupper I mean,
of course, not the veritable Martin Farquhar, but the Tuppers of the
passing hour. In America as in England, no doubt, there is a huge
half-educated public, ravenous for doughnuts of romance served up with
syrup of sentiment. The enthusiasms of the American shopgirl, I take it,
are very much the same as those of her English sister. But the line of
demarkation between the educated and the half-educated is just as clear
in New York as in London. For the cultivated American of to-day, the
Boomster booms and the Sibyl sibyllates in vain. I find no
justification, in this city at any rate, for the old saying which
described America as the most common-schooled and least educated country
in the world. If we must draw distinctions, I should say that the effect
of the American system of university education was to raise the level
of general culture, while lowering the standard of special scholarship.
I believe that the general American tendency is to insist less than we
do on sheer mental discipline for its own sake, whether in classics or
mathematics, to allow the student a wider latitude of choice, and to
enable him to specialise at an earlier point in his curriculum upon the
studies he most affects, or which are most likely to be directly useful
to him in practical life. Thus the American universities, probably, do
not turn out many men who can "read Plato with their feet on the hob,"
but many who can, and do, read and understand him as Colonel Newcome
read Caesar--"with a translation, sir, with a translation." The width of
outlook which I have noted as characteristic of literary New York is
deliberately aimed at in the university system, and most successfully
attained. The average young man of parts turned out by an American
university has a many-sided interest in, and comprehension of, European
literature and the intellectual movement of the world, which may go far
to compensate for his possible or even probable inexpertness in Greek
aorists and Latin elegiacs.

The academic and literary New Yorker, I am well aware, is not "the
American." But who is "the American?" I turn to Mr. G.W. Steevens, and
find that "the American is a highly electric Anglo-Saxon. His
temperament is of quicksilver. There is as much difference in vivacity
and emotion between him and an Englishman as there is between an
Englishman and an Italian." Well, Mr. Steevens is a keener observer than
I; when he wrote this, he had been two months in America to my one; and
he had travelled far and wide over the continent. I am not rash enough,
then, to contradict him; but I must own that I have not met this
"American," or anything like him, in the streets, clubs, theatres,
restaurants, or public conveyances of New York. On the contrary, as I
take my walks abroad between Union Square and Central Park, or hang on
to the straps of an Elevated train or cable car, I am all the time
occupied in trying--and failing--to find marked differences of
appearance and manners between the people I see here and the people I
should expect to see under similar circumstances in London. Differences
of dress and feature there are, of course--but how trifling! Difference
of manners there is none, unless it lie in the general good-nature and
unobtrusive politeness of the American crowd, upon which I have already
remarked. We all know that there is a distinctively American physical
type, recognisable especially in the sex which aims at self-development,
instead of self-suppression, in its attire. When one meets her in
Bloomsbury (where she abounds in the tourist season) one readily
distinguishes the American lady; but here specific distinctions are
obsorbed in generic identity, and the only difference between American
and English ladies of which I am habitually conscious lies in the added
touch of Parisian elegance which one notes in the costumes on Fifth
Avenue. The average of beauty is certainly very high in New York. I will
not say higher than in London, for there too it is remarkable; but this
I will say, that night after night I have looked round the audiences in
New York theatres, and found a clear majority of notably good-looking
women. There are few European cities where one could hope to make the
same observation. It is especially to be noted, I think, that the
American lady has the art of growing old with comely dignity. She loses
her complexion, indeed, but only to put on a new beauty in the contrast
between her olive skin and her silvering or silver hair. This contrast
may almost be called the characteristic feature of the specially
American type, which is much more clearly discernible in middle-aged and
old than in young women.

As for the men, what strikes one in New York is the total absence of the
traditional "Yankee" type. It must have a foundation in fact, since the
Americans themselves have accepted it in political caricature. No doubt
I shall find it in its original habitat--New England. It has certainly
not penetrated into New York. On close examination, the average
man-in-the-street is distinguishable from his fellow in London by
certain trifling differences in "the cut of his jib"--his fashion in
hats, in moustaches, in neckties. But the intense electricity that Mr.
Steevens discovers in him has totally eluded my observation. The fault
may be mine, but assuredly I have failed to "faire jaillir l'etincelle."
I have looked in vain for any symptom of the "temperament of
quicksilver." Mr. Steevens, it is true, made his observations during the
last Presidential election. Perhaps the quicksilver is generated in the
American citizen by political excitement, and when that is over "runs
out at the heels of his boots."

But, surely, it is a monstrous exaggeration to state in general terms
that the difference in "vivacity and emotion" between the average
American and the average Englishman is as great as the difference
between an Englishman and an Italian. By what inconceivable error, does
it happen, then, that the American of fiction and drama--English,
Continental, and American to boot--is always represented as outdoing
John Bull himself in Anglo-Saxon phlegm? In the courts of ethnology, I
shall be told, "what the caricaturist says is not evidence;" but no
caricature could ever have gained such world-wide acceptance without a
substratum of truth to support it. The probabilities of the case are
greatly against the development of any special "vivacity" of
temperament, for though there has no doubt been a large Keltic admixture
in the Anglo-Saxon stock, there has been a large Teutonic infusion
(German and Scandinavian) to counterbalance it. Simply as a matter of
observation, the differences between English and Italian manners hit you
in the eye, while the differences between American and English manners
are really microscopic; and manners, I take it, are the outward and
visible signs of temperament. A Scotchman by birth, a Londoner by habit,
I walk the streets of New York undetected, to the best of my belief,
until I begin to speak; in Rome, on the contrary, every one recognises
me at a glance as an "Inglese," unless they mistake me for an
"Americano." To me it is amazing how inessential is the change produced
by the Anglo-Saxon type and temperament by influences of climate and
admixture of foreign blood. There are great foreign cities in New
York--German, Italian, Yiddish, Bohemian, Hungarian, Chinese--but the
New York of the New Yorker is scarcely, to the Englishman, a foreign
city.

The other day I heard an Englishman, who has lived for twenty-five years
in America, maintaining very emphatically that the chief difference
between England and America lay in the greater laxity of the family bond
on this side of the Atlantic. He declared that, in the main, "home"
meant less to the American than to the Englishman, and especially that
the American boy between thirteen and twenty was habitually insurgent
against home influences. It would be ludicrous, of course, to set up the
observations of a month against the experience of a quarter of a
century; yet I cannot but feel that either I have been miraculously
fortunate in the glimpses I have obtained of American home life, or else
there is something amiss with my friend's generalisation. Perhaps he
brought away with him from England in the early seventies a conception
of the "patria potestas" which he would now find out of date there as
well as here. No doubt the migratory habit is stronger in America than
in England, and family life is not apt to flourish in hotels or
boarding-houses. The Saratoga trunk is not the best cornerstone for the
home: so much we may take for granted. But the American families who are
content to go through life without a threshold and hearthstone of their
own must, after all, be in a vanishing minority. They very naturally cut
a larger figure in fiction than in fact. It has been my privilege to see
something of the daily life of a good many families living under their
own roof-tree, and in every case without exception I have been struck
with the beauty and intimacy of the relation between parents and
children. When my friend laid down his theory of the intractable
American boy, I could not but think of a youth of twenty whom I had seen
only two days before, whose manner towards his father struck me as an
ideal blending of affectionate comradeship with old-fashioned
respect.[E] True, this was in Philadelphia, "the City of Homes," and
even there it may have been an exceptional case. I am not so illogical
as to pit a single observation against (presumably) a wide induction; I
merely offer for what it is worth one item of evidence.

Again, it has been my good fortune here in New York to spend an evening
in a household which suggested a chapter of Dickens in his tenderest and
most idyllic mood. It was the home of an actor and actress. Two
daughters, of about eighteen and twenty, respectively, are on the stage,
acting in their father's company; but the master of the house is a
bright little boy of seven or eight, known as "the Commodore." As it
happened, the mother of the family was away for the day; yet in the
hundred affectionate references made to her by the father and daughters,
not to me, but to each other, I read her character and influence more
clearly, perhaps, than if she had been present in the flesh. A more
simple, natural, unaffectedly beautiful "interior" no novelist could
conceive. If the family tie is seriously relaxed in America, it seems an
odd coincidence that I should in a single month have chanced upon two
households where it is seen in notable perfection, to say nothing of
many others in which it is at least as binding as in the average English
home.

POSTSCRIPT.--The American university system is a very large subject, to
which none but a specialist could do justice, and that in a volume, not
a postscript. Nevertheless I should like slightly to supplement the
above allusion to it. In the first place, let me quote from the
_Spectator_ (February 12, 1898) the following passage:--

"Some of the American Universities, in our judgment, come nearer to
the ideal of a true University than any of the other types.
Beginning on the old English collegiate system, they have broadened
out into vast and splendidly endowed institutions of universal
learning, have assimilated some German features, and have combined
successfully college routine and discipline with mature and
advanced work. Harvard and Princeton were originally English
colleges; now, without entirely abandoning the college system,
they are great semi-German seats of learning. Johns Hopkins at
Baltimore is purely of the German type, with no residence and only
a few plain lecture rooms, library, and museums. Columbia,
originally an old English college (its name was King's, changed to
Columbia at the Revolution), is now perhaps the first University in
America, magnificently endowed, with stately buildings, and with a
school of political and legal science second only to that of Paris.
Cornell, intended by its generous founder to be a sort of cheap
glorified technical institute, has grown into a great seat of
culture. The quadrangles and lawns of Harvard, Yale, and Princeton
almost recall Oxford and Cambridge; their lecture-rooms,
laboratories, and post-graduate studies hint of Germany, where
nearly all American teachers of the present generation have been
educated."

Some authorities, however, deplore the Germanising of American
education. A Professor of Greek, himself trained in Germany, and
recognised as one of the foremost of American scholars, confessed to me
his deep dissatisfaction with the results achieved in his own teaching.
His students did good work on the scientific and philological side, but
their relation to Greek literature as literature was not at all what he
could desire. This bears out the remark which I heard another authority
make, to the effect that American scholarship was entirely absorbed in
the counting of accents, and the like mechanical details; while it seems
to run counter to the above suggestion that the university system tends
to raise the level of culture while lowering the standard of erudition.
At the same time there can be no doubt that the immense width of the
field covered by university teaching in America must, in some measure,
make for "superficial omniscience" rather than for concentration and
research. The truth probably is that the system cuts both ways. The
average student seeks and finds general culture in his university
course, while the born specialist is enabled to go straight to the study
he most affects and concentrate upon it.

To exemplify the latitude of choice offered to the American student, let
me give a list of the "course" in English and Literature at Columbia
University, New York, extracted from the Calendar for 1898-99:

RHETORIC AND ENGLISH COMPOSITION

COURSES

1. English Composition. Lectures, daily themes, and fortnightly
essays. Professor G.R. CARPENTER. Three hours[F] first half-year.

2. English Composition. Essays, lectures, and discussions in regard
to style. Professor G.R. CARPENTER. Three hours, second half-year.

3. English Composition, Advanced Course. Essays, lectures and
consultations. Dr. ODELL. Two hours.

4. Elocution. Lectures and Exercises. Mr. PUTNAM. Two hours.

[5. The Art of English Versification. Professor BRANDER MATTHEWS.
_Not given in 1898-9_.]

6. Argumentative Composition. Lectures, briefs, essays, and oral
discussions. Mr. BRODT. Three hours.

7. Seminar. The topics discussed in 1898-9 will be: Canons of
rhetorical propriety (first half-year); the teaching of formal
rhetoric in the secondary school (second half-year). Professor
G.R. CARPENTER.

ENGLISH AND LITERATURE

COURSES

1 and 2. Anglo-Saxon Language and Historical English Grammar. Mr.
SEWARD. Two hours.

3. Anglo-Saxon Literature: Poetry and Prose. Professor JACKSON. Two
hours.

4. Chaucer's Language, Versification, and Method of Narrative
Poetry. Professor JACKSON. Two hours.

[5. English Language and Literature of the Eleventh, Twelfth, and
Thirteenth Centuries. Professor PRICE. _Not given in 1898-9._]

[6. English Language and Literature of the Fourteenth Century,
exclusive of Chaucer, and of the Fifteenth Century; Reading of
authors, with investigation of special questions and writing of
essays. Professor Price. _Not given in 1898-9._]

7. English Language and Literature of the Sixteenth Century;
Reading of authors, with investigation of special questions and
writing of essays. Professor Jackson. Two hours.

Courses 5, 6, and 7 are designed for the careful study of the
language and literature of Early and Middle English periods: Course
6 was given in 1897-8.

[8. Anglo-Saxon Prose and Historical English Syntax. Investigation
of special questions and writing of essays. Professor Price. _Not
given in 1898-9. To be given in 1899-1900._]

[10. English Verse-Forms: Study of their historical development.
Professor Price. _Not given in 1898-9._]

11. History of English Literature from 1789 to the death of
Tennyson: Lectures. Professor Woodberry. Three hours.

12. History of English Literature from 1660 to 1789: Lectures. Mr.
Kroeber. Three hours.

[13. History of English Literature from the birth of Shakespeare to
1660, with special attention to the origin of the drama in England
and to the poems of Spenser and Milton. Professor Woodberry. _Not
given in 1898-9._]

Courses 12 and 13 are given in alternate years.

[14. Pope: Language, Versification, and Poetical Method. Professor
Price. _Not given in 1898-9._]

15. Shakespeare: Language, Versification, and Method of Dramatic
Poetry. Text: Cambridge Text of Shakespeare. Professor JACKSON. Two
hours.

16. American Literature. Professor BRANDER MATTHEWS. Two hours.

[17. The Poetry, Lyrical, Narrative, and Dramatic, of Tennyson,
Browning, and Arnold. Professor PRICE. _Not given in 1898-9._]

LITERATURE.

COURSES.

1. The History of Modern Fiction. Professor BRANDER MATTHEWS. Two
hours.

2. The Theory, History, and Practice of Criticism, with special
attention to Aristotle, Boileau, Lessing, and English and later
French writers, and a study of the great works of imagination.
Professor WOODBERRY. Three hours.

[3. Epochs of the Drama. Professor BRANDER MATTHEWS. _Not given in
1898-9._]

4. Dramatists of the Nineteenth Century. Professor BRANDER
MATTHEWS. Two hours.

[5. Moliere and Modern Comedy. Professor BRANDER MATTHEWS. _Not
given in 1898-9._]

[6. The Evolution of the Essay. Professor BRANDER MATTHEWS. _Not
given in 1898-9._]

7. Studies in Literature, mainly Critical: Selected Works, in Prose
and Verse, illustrating the Character and Development of Natural
Literature. Lectures. Professor WOODBERRY. Three hours.

8. Studies in Literature, mainly Historical: Narrative Poetry of
the Middle Ages. Lectures and Conferences. Mr. TAYLOR. Two hours.

[9. The Lyrical Poetry of the Middle Ages. Professor G.R.
CARPENTER. _Not given in 1898-9._]

10. Hellenism: Its Origin, Development, and Diffusion with some
account of the Civilisations that preceded it. Lectures and
Conferences. Mr. TAYLOR Three hours.

11. Literary Phases of the Transition from Paganism to
Christianity, with illustrations from the other Arts of Expression.
Lectures and Conferences. Mr. TAYLOR. One hour.

Seminar in Literature. Professor WOODBERRY. Seminar in the History
of the Drama. Professor BRANDER MATTHEWS.

A "seminar" is an institution borrowed from Germany. The professor and a
small number of students (six or eight at the outside) sit together
round a table, with their books at hand, and pass an hour in
co-operative study and discussion. In going through the noble library of
Columbia University, I came upon an alcove devoted to Scandinavian
literature, with a table on which lay some Danish books. The gentleman
who was guiding me round happened to be an instructor in the
Scandinavian languages. He pointed to the books and said, "I have just
been having a seminar here, in Danish literature." Seeing on the shelves
an edition of Holberg, I asked him if he had ever considered the
question why Holberg's comedies, so delightful in the original,
appeared to be totally untranslatable into English. "One of my
students," he said, "put the same question to me only to-day." One could
scarcely desire a better example of the all-embracing range of the
studies which an American University provides for and encourages. I have
heard it said, with a sneer, that "You can take an honours degree in
Marie Corelli." If you can graduate with honours in Holberg, your time,
in so far, has certainly not been misemployed.

Whatever the drawbacks of the German influence which is so marked in
America, I cannot doubt that in one thing, at any rate, the Americans
are far ahead of us--in the careful study they devote to the science of
education. No fewer than twenty courses of lectures on the theory and
practice of education were given in Columbia College during 1898-99.
Teaching, I take it, is an art founded upon, and intimately associated
with, the science of psychology. Why should we be content with
antiquated and rule-of-thumb methods, instead of going to the root of
the thing, studying its principles, and learning to apply them to the
best advantage?

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote E: "Affectionate comradeship" rather than "old-fashioned
respect" is exemplified in the following anecdote of young America. A
Professor of Pedagogy in a Western university brings up his children on
the most advanced principles. Among other things, they are encouraged to
sink the antiquated terms "father" and "mother," and call their parents
by their Christian names. On one occasion, the children, playing in the
bathroom, turned on the water and omitted to turn it off again.
Observing it percolating through the ceiling of his study, their father
rushed upstairs to see what was the matter, flung open the bathroom
door, and was greeted by the prime mover in the mischief, a boy of six,
with the remark, "Don't say a word, John--bring the mop!"]

[Footnote F: That is, three hours a week; so, too, in all subsequent
instances.]

LETTER VI

Washington in April--A Metropolis in the Making--The White House, the
Capitol, and the Library of Congress--The Symbolism of Washington.

WASHINGTON.

To profess oneself disappointed with Washington in this first week of
April, 1899, would be like complaining of the gauntness of a rosebush in
December. What would you have? It is not the season, either politically
or atmospherically. Congress is gone, and spring has not come. In the
city of leafy avenues there is not a leaf to be seen, and, except the
irrepressible crocus, not a flower. A fortnight hence, as I am assured,
the capital of the Great Republic will have put on a regal robe of
magnolia and other blossoms, that will "knock spots out of" Solomon in
all his glory. In the meantime, the trees line the avenues in skeleton
rows, like a pyrotechnic set-piece before it is ignited. It is useless
to pretend, then, that I have seen Washington. The trumpet of March has
blown, the pennon of May is not yet unfurled; and even the cloudless
sunshine of the past two days has only reduplicated the skeleton trees
in skeleton shadows. Washington is not responsible for the tardiness of
the spring. It would be unjust to take umbrage at the city because one
finds none in its avenues.

Yet I cannot but feel that I have, so to speak, found Washington out. I
have chanced upon her without her make-up, and seen the real face of the
city divested of its wig of leafage and rouge of blossoms. Here, for the
first time, at any rate, I am impressed by that sense of rawness and
incompleteness which is said to be characteristic of America. Washington
will one day be a magnificent city, of that there is no doubt; but for
the present it is distinctly unfinished. The very breadth of its
avenues, contrasted with the comparative lowness of the buildings which
line them, gives it the air rather of a magnified and glorified frontier
township than of a great capital on the European scale. Here, for the
first time, I am really conscious of the newness of things. The eastern
cities--Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore--are, in effect, not a
whit newer than most English towns. Oxford and Cambridge, no doubt, and
a few cathedral cities, give one a habitual consciousness of dwelling
among the relics of the past. They are our Nuremburg or Prague, Siena or
Perugia. In most English cities, on the other hand, as in London itself,
one has no habitual sense of the antiquity of one's surroundings. Apart
from a few tourist-haunted monuments, which the resident passes with
scarcely a glance, the general run of buildings and streets, if not
palpably modern, can at most lay claim to a respectable, or
disreputable, middle-age. Now, an eminently respectable middle-age is
precisely the characteristic of the central regions of Philadelphia and
Baltimore; while in New York both reputable and disreputable middle-age
are amply represented. One may almost say that these Eastern cities are
fundamentally old-fashioned, and that all their modern mechanism of
electric cars, telephone wires, and what not, is but a thin and
transparent outer network, through which the older order of things is
everywhere peering. And from this very contrast between the old and the
new, this sense of visible time-strata in the structure of a city, there
results a very real effect of age.

Here, in Washington, one instinctively craves for something of that
uniformity which one instinctively deprecates as an ideal for New York.
The buildings on the main streets are too haphazard, like the books on
an ill-arranged shelf: folios, quartos, and duodecimos huddled pell-mell
together. But when some approach to a definite style is achieved, how
noble will be the radiating vistas of this spacious city! The plan of
the avenues and streets, as has been aptly said, suggests a cartwheel
superimposed upon a gridiron--an arrangement, by the way, which may be
studied on a small scale in Carlsruhe. The result is dire bewilderment
to the traveller; my bump of locality, usually not ill-developed, seems
to shrink into a positive indentation before the problems presented in
such formulas as "K Street, corner of 13th Street, N.E." But from the
Capitol, whence most of the avenues spread fanwise, the views they offer
are superb; and Pennsylvania Avenue, leading to the Government offices
and the White House, will one day, undoubtedly, be one of the great
streets of the world. For the present its beauty is not heightened by
the new Postal Department, a massive but somewhat forbidding structure
in grey granite, which dominates and frowns upon the whole street. From
certain points of view, it seems almost to dwarf the Washington Obelisk,
the loftiest stone structure in the world. It is a pity that this fine
monument should be placed in such a low situation, on the very shore of
the Potomac. From the central parts of the city it loses much of its
effect, but seen from the distance it stands forth impressively.

People are discontented, it would seem, with the White House, and talk
of replacing it with a larger and showier edifice. The latter change, at
any rate, would be a change for the worse. There could not be a more
appropriate and dignified residence for the Chief Magistrate of a
republic. On the other hand, one cannot but foresee a gradual enrichment
and ennoblement of the interior of the Capitol. Externally it is
magnificent, especially now that the side towards the city has been
terraced and balustraded; but internally its decorations are quite
unworthy of modern America. The floors, the doors, the cornices and
mouldings are cheap in material, dingily garish in colour. Especially
painful are the crude blue-and-yellow mosaic tiles of the corridors. The
mural decorations belong to several artistic periods, all equally
debased. On the whole, it is inconceivable that Congress should for long
content itself with an abode which, without being venerable, is simply
out of date. The main architectural proportions of the interior are
dignified enough. What is wanted is merely the transmutation of stucco
into marble, painted pine into oak, and pseudo-Italian arabesques into
American frescoes and mosaics. Why should Congress itself be more meanly
housed than its Library?

This new Library of Congress is certainly the crown and glory of the
Washington of to-day. It is an edifice and an institution of which any
nation might justly boast. It is simple in design, rich in material,
elaborate, and for the most part beautiful, in decoration. The general
effect of the entrance hall and galleries is at first garish, and some
details of the decoration will scarcely bear looking into. Yet the
building is, on the whole, in fresco, mosaic, and sculpture, a veritable
treasure-house of contemporary American art. Even in this clear Southern
climate, the effect of gaudiness will in time pass off. Fifty years
hence, perhaps, when there are no living susceptibilities to be hurt,
some of the less successful panels and medallions may be "hatched over
again, and hatched different." But many of the decorations, I am
convinced, will prove possessions for ever to the American people. As
for the Rotunda Reading Room, it is, I think, almost above criticism in
its combination of dignity with splendour. Far be it from me to
belittle that great and liberal institution, the British Museum Reading
Room. It is considerably larger than this one; it is no less imposing in
its severe simplicity; and it offers the serious student a vaster quarry
of books to draw upon, together with wider elbow-room and completer
accommodations. But the Library of Congress is still more liberal, for
it admits all the world without even the formality of applying for a
ticket; and it substitutes for the impressiveness of simplicity the
allurements of splendour. It is impossible to conceive a more brilliant
spectacle than this Rotunda when it is lighted at night by nearly
fifteen-hundred incandescent lamps. Nor is it possible for me to
describe in this place the mechanical marvels of the institution--the
huge underground boiler-house, with its sixteen boilers; the
electrician's room, clean and bright as a new dollar, with its "purring
dynamos" and its immense switch-board; the tunnel through which books
are delivered by electric trolley to the legislators in the Capitol,
within eight minutes of the time they are applied for; and, most
wonderful of all, the endless chain, with its series of baskets, whereby
books are not only brought down to the reading room, but re-delivered,
at the mere touch of a button on whatever "deck" of the nine-storied
"book-stacks" they happen to belong to. So ingenious is this triumph of
mechanism that the baskets seem positively to go through complex
processes of thought and selection. Talking of thought and selection, by
the way, every one connected with the library speaks with enthusiasm of
President McKinley's wise and public-spirited choice of the new chief
librarian. Mr. Herbert Putnam, late of the Boston Public Library, is the
ideal man for the post, and his appointment was made, not only without
suspicion of jobbery, but in the teeth of strong political influence.
Mr. McKinley's action in this matter is considered to be not only right
in itself, but an invaluable precedent.

Let me not be understood, I beg, to make light of the National Capital.
I merely say that to the outward eye it is not yet the city it is
manifestly destined to become. Its splendid potentialities do some wrong
to its eminently spacious and seemly actuality. But to the mind's eye,
to the ideal sense, it has the imperishable beauty of absolute fitness.
Omniscient Baedeker informs us that when it was founded there was some
thought of calling it "Federal City." How much finer, in its heroic and
yet human associations, is the name it bears! Since Alfred the Great,
the Anglo-Saxon race has produced no loftier or purer personality than
George Washington, and his country could not blazon on her shield a more
inspiring name. Carlyle's treatment of Washington is, perhaps, the most
unpardonable of his many similar offences. One almost wonders at the
forgiving spirit in which the decorators of the Library of Congress have
inscribed upon the walls of the new building certain maxims from the
splenetic Sage. And if the city is named with exquisite fitness, so are
its radiating avenues. Each of them takes its name from one of the
States of the Union--names which, as Stevenson long ago pointed out,
form an unrivalled array of "sweet and sonorous vocables." In its whole
conception, Washington is an ideal capital for the United States--not
least typical, perhaps, in its factitiousness, since this Republic is
not so much a product of natural development as a deliberate creation of
will and intelligence. It represents the struggle of an Idea against the
crude forces of nature and human nature. The Capitol, with its clear and
logical design, is as aptly symbolic of its history and function as are
our Houses of Parliament, with their bewildering but grandiose
agglomeration of shafts and turrets, spires and pinnacles; and the two
buildings should rank side by side in the esteem of the English-speaking
peoples, as the twin foci of our civilisation.

LETTER VII

American Hospitality--Instances--Conversation and
Story-Telling--Over-Profusion in Hospitality--Expensiveness of Life in
America--The American Barber--Postscript: An Anglo-American Club.

BOSTON.

Much has been said of American hospitality; too much cannot possibly be
said. Here am I in Boston, the guest of one of the foremost clubs of the
city. I sit, as I write, at my bedroom window, with a view over the
whole of Boston Common, and the beautiful spires of the Back-Bay region
beyond. I step out on my balcony, and the gilded dome of the State
House--"the Hub of the Universe"--is but a stone's-throw off. Through
the leafless branches of the trees I can see the back of St. Gaudens'
beautiful Shaw Monument, and beyond it the graceful dip of upper
Beacon-street. My room is as spacious and luxurious as heart can desire,
lighted by half a dozen electric lamps, and with a private bath-room
attached, which is itself nearly as large as the bedroom assigned me in
the "swagger" hotel of New York--an establishment, by the way, of which
it has been wittily said that its purpose is "to provide exclusiveness
for the masses." All the comforts of the club are at my command; the
rooms are delightful, the food and service excellent. In short, I could
not be more conveniently or agreeably situated. Of course I pay the club
charges for my room and meals, but it is mere hospitality to allow me to
do so. And how do I come to be established in these quarters? The little
story is absolutely commonplace, but all the more typical.

In Washington I made the acquaintance of a gentleman who invited me to
lunch at the leading diplomatic and social club. I had no claim upon him
of any sort, beyond the most casual introduction. He regaled me with
little-neck clams, terrapin, and all the delicacies of the season, and
invited to meet me half a dozen of the most interesting men in the city,
all of them strangers to me until that moment. I found myself seated
next an exceedingly amiable man, whose name I had not caught when we
were introduced. One of the first things he asked me was--not "What did
I think of America?" no one ever asked me that--but "Where was I going
next?" To Boston.

"Where was I going to put up?" I thought of going to the T---- Hotel.
"Much better go to the U---- Club," he replied; "I've no doubt they will
be able to give you a room. As soon as lunch is over, I shall telegraph
to the club and make sure that everything is ready for you." I, of
course, thanked him warmly. "But what credentials shall I present?" "You
don't require any--just present your card. I shall make it all right for
you." This was a man whom I had met ten minutes before, whose name I did
not know, and to whom I had been introduced by a man whom I barely knew!
It did not appear that he, on his side, knew or cared about anything I
had said or done in the world. He simply obeyed the national instinct of
courtesy and helpfulness. And he was as good as his word. Arriving in
Boston at a somewhat unearthly hour in the morning, I found my room
allotted me and the club servants ready to receive me with every
attention. I felt like the Prince in the fairy tale, only that I had
done nothing whatever to oblige the good fairy.

Another example. I had a letter of introduction to the Governor of one
of the States of the Union, probably (what does not always happen) the
most universally respected man in the State, and a member of one of its
oldest and most distinguished families. I left the letter, with my card,
at this gentleman's house, and in the course of a few hours received a
note from his wife, telling me that, owing to a death in the family,
they were not then entertaining at all, but saying that the Governor
would call upon me to offer me any courtesy or assistance in his power.
And so he did. He called, not once, but twice. He presented me with a
card for one of the leading clubs of the city, and if my time had
allowed me to avail myself of his courtesy, he would have put me in the
way of seeing any or all of the State institutions to the best
advantage. The governorship of an American State, let me add, is no
ornamental sinecure. This was not only a man in high position, but a
very busy man. Is there any other country where a mere letter of
introduction is so generously honoured? If so, it is to me an
undiscovered country.

These are but two cases out of a hundred. The Americans are said to be
the busiest people in the world (I have my doubts on that point), but
they have always leisure to give a stranger "a good time." Even, be it
noted, during the working hours of the day. My evenings being occupied
with theatre-going, I could not accept invitations to dinner; wherefore
those who were hospitably inclined towards me had to invite me to lunch;
and a luncheon party in America invariably absorbs the best part of an
afternoon. A score of these delightful gatherings will always remain in
my memory. The "bright" American is, to my thinking, the best talker in
the world--certainly the best talker in the English language. A light
and facile humour, a power of giving a pleasant little sparkle even to
sufficiently commonplace sayings, is in this country the rule and not
the exception. I must have met at these luncheon parties, and actually
conversed with, at least a hundred different men of all ages and
occupations, and I do not remember among them a single dull, pompous,
morose, or pedantic person. The parties did not usually exceed six or
eight in number, so that there was no necessity for breaking up into
groups. The shuttlecock of conversation was lightly bandied to and fro
across the round table. Each took his share and none took more. All
topics--even the, burning question of "expansion"--were touched upon
gaily, humorously, and in perfect good temper.

It is said that American conversation among men tends to degenerate into
a mere exchange of anecdotes. I can remember only one party which was
in the least degree open to this reproach; and there the anecdotes were
without exception so good, and so admirably told, that I, for one,
should have been sorry to exchange them for even the loftiest discourse
on Shakespeare and the musical glasses. Here, for instance, is an
example of the American gift of picturesque exaggeration. On board one
of the Florida steamboats, which have to be built with exceedingly light
draught to get over the frequent shallows of the rivers, an Englishman
accosted the captain with the remark, "I understand, captain, that you
think nothing of steaming across a meadow where there's been a heavy
fall of dew." "Well, I don't know about that," replied the captain, "but
it's true we have sometimes to send a man ahead with a watering-pot!" Or
take, again, the story of the Southern colonel who was conducted to the
theatre to see Salvini's Othello. He witnessed the performance gravely,
and remarked at the close, "That was a mighty good show, and I don't see
but the coon did as well as any of 'em." A third anecdote that charmed
me on this occasion was that of the man who, being invited to take a
drink, replied, "No, no, I solemnly promised my dear dead mother never
to touch a drop; besides, boys, it's too early in the morning; besides,
I've just had one!"

Furthermore, as I recall the party in question, I feel that I am wrong
in implying that the conversation was mainly composed of anecdotes. It
was mainly composed of narratives; but that is a different matter. There
is a clear distinction between the mere story-teller and the narrator.
Two or three of the party were brilliant narrators, and delighted us
with accounts of personal experiences, quaint character-sketches, novels
in a nutshell. One of the guests was, without exception, the most
ready-witted man I ever met. His inexhaustible gift of lightning
repartee I saw illustrated on another occasion, when he presided at the
midnight "gambol" of a Bohemian club, at which it needed the utmost tact
and presence of mind to "ride the whirlwind and direct the storm." At
the luncheon party, he related several episodes from his chequered
journalistic career in a style so easy and yet so graphic that one felt,
if they could have been taken down in shorthand, they would have been
literature ready-made. It is a clear injustice to confound such talk as
this with a mere bandying of Joe-Millers.

The one drawback to American hospitality is that it is apt to be too
profuse. I have more than once had to offer a mild protest against being
entertained by a hard-working brother journalist on a scale that would
have befitted a millionaire. The possibility of returning the compliment
in kind affords the canny Scot but poor consolation. A dinner three
times more lavish and expensive than you want is not sweetened by the
thought that you may, in turn, give your host a dinner three times more
expensive and lavish than _he_ wants. Both parties, on this system,
suffer in digestion and in pocket, while only Delmonico is the gainer.
It seems to me, on the whole, that in this country the millionaire is
too commonly allowed to fix the standard of expenditure. Society would
not be less, but more, agreeable if, instead of always emulating the
splendours of Lucullus, people now and then studied the art of Horatian
frugality. And I note that in club life, if the plutocrat sets the
standard of expenditure, the aristocrat looks to the training of the
servants. Their obsequiousness is almost painful. There is not the
slightest trace of democratic equality in their dress, their manners, or
their speech.

Take it all and all, America is a trying place of sojourn for the
aforesaid canny Scot--the man who without being stingy (oh, dear, no!)
has "all his generous impulses under perfect control." The sixpences do
not "bang" in this country: they crepitate, they crackle, as though shot
from a Maxim quick-firer. For instance, the lowest electric-trolley fare
is twopence-halfpenny. It is true that for five cents you can, if you
wish it, ride fifteen or twenty miles; but that advantage becomes
inappreciable when you don't want to ride more than half a mile. Take,
again, the harmless, necessary operation of shaving. In a good English
barber's shop it is a brief and not unpleasant process; in an American
"tonsorial parlour" it is a lingering and costly torture. One of the
many reasons which lead me to regard the Americans as a leisurely people
rather than a nation of "hustlers" is the patience with which they
submit to the long-drawn tyranny of the barber. In England, one grudges
five minutes for a shave, and one pays from fourpence to sixpence; in
America one can hardly escape in twenty-five minutes, and one pays (with
the executioner's tip)[G] from a shilling to eighteenpence. The charge
would be by no means excessive if one wanted or enjoyed all the endless
processes to which one is subjected; but for my part I would willingly
pay double to escape them. The essential part of the business, the
actual shaving, is, as a rule, badly performed, with a heavy hand, and a
good deal of needless pawing-about of the patient's head. But when the
shave is over the horrors are only beginning. First, your whole face is
cooked for several minutes in relays of towels steeped in boiling water.
Then a long series of essences is rubbed into it, generally with the
torturer's naked hand. The sequence of these essences varies in
different "parlours," but one especially loathsome hell-brew, known as
"witchhazel" is everywhere inevitable. Then your wounds have to be
elaborately doctored with stinging chemicals; your hair, which has been
hopelessly touzled in the pawing process, has to be drenched in some
sickly-smelling oil and brushed; your moustache has to be lubricated
and combed; and at last you escape from the tormentor's clutches,
irritated, enervated, hopelessly late for an important appointment, and
so reeking with unholy odours that you feel as though all great
Neptune's ocean would scarcely wash you clean again. Only once or twice
have I submitted, out of curiosity, to the whole interminable process. I
now cut it short, not without difficulty, before the "witchhazel" stage
is reached, and am regarded with blank astonishment and disapproval by
the tonsorial professor, who feels his art and mystery insulted in his
person, and is scarcely mollified by a ten-cent tip. Americans, on the
other hand, go through all these processes, and more, with stolid and
long-suffering patience. Yet this nation is credited with having
invented the maxim "Time is money," and is supposed to act up to it with
feverish consistency!

POSTSCRIPT.--As I have said a good deal about clubs in this letter, let
me add to it a word as to the influence of club life in keeping America
in touch with England. At all the leading clubs one or two English daily
papers and all the more important weekly papers are taken as a matter of
course; so that the American club-man has not the slightest difficulty
in keeping abreast of the social, political, and literary life of
England. As a matter of fact, the educated American's knowledge of
England every day puts to shame the Englishman's ignorance of America.
Reciprocity in this matter would be greatly to the advantage of both
countries. I am much mistaken if there is a single club in London where
American periodicals are so well represented on the reading-room table
as are English periodicals in every club in New York. Yet there is
assuredly no dearth of interesting weekly papers in America, some
connected with daily papers, others independent. It may be said that
they are not taken at English clubs because they would not be read. If
so, the more's the pity; but I do not think it is so; for this is a case
in which supply would beget demand. At any rate, there must be numbers
of people in London who would be glad to keep fairly in touch with
American life, if they could do so without too much trouble. Why should
there not be an Anglo-American social club, organised with the special
purpose of bringing America home (in a literal sense) to London and
England? Why should not (say) the Century Club of New York be reproduced
in London, with American periodicals as fully represented in its
news-room and reading-room as are English periodicals in an American
club of the first rank? Interest in and sympathy with America would be
the implied condition of membership; and by a judiciously-devised system
of non-resident membership, American visitors to London would be enabled
to read their home newspapers in greater comfort than at the existing
American reading-rooms, and would, moreover, come into easy contact with
sympathetically-minded Englishmen, to their mutual pleasure and profit.
Such a club might, in process of time, become a potent factor in
international relations, and form a new bond of union, of quite
appreciable strength, between the two countries.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote G: I had read or been told that the tip system did not obtain
in America, except in the case of negroes and waiters. A very few days
in New York undeceived me. I went twice to a barber's shop in the
basement of the house in which I lived, paid fifteen cents to be shaved,
and gave the operator nothing; but at my second visit I found myself so
lowered upon by that portly and heavy-moustached citizen that I never
again ventured to place myself under his razor, but went to a more
distant establishment and tipped from the outset. There are, indeed,
certain classes of people--railroad conductors for instance--who do not
expect the tips which in England they consider their due; but, according
to my experience, the safe rule in America is, "when in doubt--tip."]

LETTER VIII

Boston--Its Resemblance to Edinburgh--Concord, Walden Pond, and Sleepy
Hollow--Is the "Yankee" Dying Out?--America for the Americans--Detroit
and Buffalo--The "Middle West."

CHICAGO.

The luxury of my quarters in Boston seduced me into a disquisition on
American hospitality which would have come in equally well with
reference to any other city. Were I to search very deeply into my soul
(an exercise much in vogue in Boston), I might perhaps find reasons for
my rambling off. To say that Boston did not interest me would be the
reverse of the truth. It interested me deeply; but it did not excite me
with a sense of novelty or vastness. One can only repeat the obvious
truth that it is like an exceptionally dignified and stately English
town. One instinctively looks around for a cathedral, and finds the
State House in its stead. To the founders of this city, the glory of God
was not a thing to be furthered, or even typified, by any work of men's
hands; but the salvation of men's souls, they thought, could be best
achieved in a well-ordered democratic polity. Their descendants have of
late years taken to decorating their places of worship, and Trinity
Church (by H.H. Richardson), and the new Old South Church, are ambitious
and beautiful pieces of ecclesiastical architecture. But the old Old
South Meeting-House, the ecclesiastical centre of the city, is the flat
and somewhat sour negation of all that is expressed or implied in an
English cathedral. Let me not be understood to disparage the Old South
or the spirit which fashioned it. In my eyes, minster and meeting-house
are equally interesting historic monuments, and to my hereditary
instincts the latter is the more sympathetic. I merely note the fact
that the most conspicuous edifice in Boston, its Duomo, its St. Peter's
or St. Paul's, is dedicated, not to the glory of God, but to the
well-being of man.

Not physically, of course, but intellectually, Boston has been likened
to Edinburgh. The parallel is fair enough, with this important
reservation, that the theological element in the atmosphere is not
Presbyterian but Unitarian. The Boston of to-day, it must be added,
especially resembles Edinburgh in the fact that its pre-eminence as an
intellectual centre has virtually departed. The _Atlantic Monthly_
survives, as _Blackwood_, survives, a relic of the great days of old;
but Boston has no Scott Monument to bear visual testimony to her
spiritual achievement. She ought certainly to treat herself to a worthy
Emerson Monument on the Common, whither the boy Emerson used to drive
his mother's cows: not, of course, a Gothic pile like that which
commemorates the genius of Scott, but a statue by the incomparable St.
Gaudens, under a modest classic canopy.

But if, or when, such a monument is erected, it will absolve no one of
the duty of making a pilgrimage to Concord. Even if it had no historic
or literary associations, this simple, dignified, beautiful New England
village, with its plain frame houses and its stately elm avenues, would
be well worth a visit. Village I call it, but township would be a better
word. Let no one go there with less than half a day to spare, for the
places of interest are widely scattered. My companion and I went first
to Walden Pond, then to the Emerson and Hawthorne houses, then to that
ideal burying-place, Sleepy Hollow, where Emerson and Hawthorne and
Thoreau rest side by side, and finally to the bridge--

Where once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.

Everything here is beautifully appropriate. The commemorative statue of
the "minute-man" with his musket is simple and expressive, and the four
lines of Emerson's hymn graven on the pedestal are the right words
written by the right man, entwining, as it were, the historical and
literary associations of the place. An exquisite appropriateness, too,
presides over the Poets' Corner of Sleepy Hollow. The grave of Emerson
is marked by a rough block of pure white quartz, in which is inserted a
bronze tablet bearing the words:--

The passive master lent his hand
To the vast soul that o'er him planned.

Altogether, among the places of pilgrimage of the English-speaking race,
there is none more satisfactory or more inspiring than Concord, Mass.

If Boston is no longer a great centre of literary production, it
remains, with its noble public library in its midst, and with Harvard
University on its outskirts, a great centre of culture. I shall always
remember a luncheon party at Harvard, where I was the guest of an
eminent Shakespearean critic, and had for my fellow guests a very
learned Dante scholar (one of the most delightful talkers imaginable), a
famous psychologist, a political economist, and a lecturer on English
literature. The talk fell upon the depopulation of New England, or
rather the substitution of an alien race for (I had almost said) the
indigenous Yankee stock. There was some discussion as to whether the
Yankee was really dying out, or had merely spread throughout the West,
taking with him and disseminating the qualities which had made the
greatness of New England. It was not denied, of course, that westward
emigration has much to do with the matter. The New England farmer,
unable to stand up against the competition of the prairies, has betaken
himself to the prairies so as to compete on the winning side. But one of
the company maintained that this did not account for the whole
phenomenon. "The real key to it," he said, "lies in such a family
history as mine. My grandmother was the youngest of thirteen children;
my mother was the eldest of five; my brother and I are two; and we are
unmarried."

I am inclined to think that this story of a dwindling stock is typical,
not for New England alone, but for other parts of the Union. It seems as
though the pressure of life in the Eastern States, and perhaps some
subtle influence of climate upon temperament, were rendering the people
of old Teutonic blood--British, Dutch, and German--unwilling to face the
responsibility of large families, and so were giving the country over to
the later and usually inferior immigrant and his progeny. I am not sure
that it might not be well to cultivate a new sense of social duty in
this matter. Is it Utopian to suggest a policy of "America for the
Americans"--some effectual restriction of immigration before it is too
late, so as to leave room for the natural increase of the American
people? This is an "expansion," a "taking up of the white man's burden,"
which would command my warmest sympathy. It is to the interest of the
whole world that the America of the future should be peopled by "white
men" in every sense of the word.

New England, however, cannot be utterly depopulated of its old stocks,
for at every turn you come up against those good old Puritan names which

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