Part 2 out of 3
perambulator: and I would draw back into dark doorways, determined,
as he came by, to dart out and pull his ear for him. To my
astonishment--for the first week--I learnt it was the Belgian Army,
getting itself accustomed, one supposes, to the horrors of war. It
had the effect of making me a peace-at-any-price man.
They tell me these armies are necessary to preserve the tranquility
of Europe. For myself, I should be willing to run the risk of an
occasional row. Cannot someone tell them they are out of date, with
their bits of feathers and their odds and ends of ironmongery--grown
men that cannot be sent out for a walk unless accompanied by a couple
of nursemen, blowing a tin whistle and tapping a drum out of a toy
shop to keep them in order and prevent their running about: one
might think they were chickens. A herd of soldiers with their pots
and pans and parcels, and all their deadly things tied on to them,
prancing about in time to a tune, makes me think always of the White
Knight that Alice met in Wonderland. I take it that for practical
purposes--to fight for your country, or to fight for somebody else's
country, which is, generally speaking, more popular--the thing
essential is that a certain proportion of the populace should be able
to shoot straight with a gun. How standing in a line and turning out
your toes is going to assist you, under modern conditions of warfare,
is one of the many things my intellect is incapable of grasping.
In mediaeval days, when men fought hand to hand, there must have been
advantage in combined and precise movement. When armies were mere
iron machines, the simple endeavour of each being to push the other
off the earth, then the striking simultaneously with a thousand arms
was part of the game. Now, when we shoot from behind cover with
smokeless powder, brain not brute force--individual sense not
combined solidity is surely the result to be aimed at. Cannot
somebody, as I have suggested, explain to the military man that the
proper place for the drill sergeant nowadays is under a glass case in
some museum of antiquities?
I lived once near the Hyde Park barracks, and saw much of the drill
sergeant's method. Generally speaking, he is a stout man with the
walk of an egotistical pigeon. His voice is one of the most
extraordinary things in nature: if you can distinguish it from the
bark of a dog, you are clever. They tell me that the privates, after
a little practice, can--which gives one a higher opinion of their
intelligence than otherwise one might form. But myself I doubt even
this statement. I was the owner of a fine retriever dog about the
time of which I am speaking, and sometimes he and I would amuse
ourselves by watching Mr. Sergeant exercising his squad. One morning
he had been shouting out the usual "Whough, whough, whough!" for
about ten minutes, and all had hitherto gone well. Suddenly, and
evidently to his intense astonishment, the squad turned their backs
upon him and commenced to walk towards the Serpentine.
"Halt!" yelled the sergeant, the instant his amazed indignation
permitted him to speak, which fortunately happened in time to save
the detachment from a watery grave.
The squad halted.
"Who the thunder, and the blazes, and other things told you to do
The squad looked bewildered, but said nothing, and were brought back
to the place where they were before. A minute later precisely the
same thing occurred again. I really thought the sergeant would
burst. I was preparing to hasten to the barracks for medical aid.
But the paroxysm passed. Calling upon the combined forces of heaven
and hell to sustain him in his trouble, he requested his squad, as
man to man, to inform him of the reason why to all appearance they
were dispensing with his services and drilling themselves.
At this moment "Columbus" barked again, and the explanation came to
"Please go away, sir," he requested me. "How can I exercise my men
with that dog of yours interfering every five minutes?"
It was not only on that occasion. It happened at other times. The
dog seemed to understand and take a pleasure in it. Sometimes
meeting a soldier, walking with his sweetheart, Columbus, from behind
my legs, would bark suddenly. Immediately the man would let go the
girl and proceed, involuntarily, to perform military tricks.
The War Office authorities accused me of having trained the dog. I
had not trained him: that was his natural voice. I suggested to the
War Office authorities that instead of quarrelling with my dog for
talking his own language, they should train their sergeants to use
They would not see it. Unpleasantness was in the air, and, living
where I did at the time, I thought it best to part with Columbus. I
could see what the War Office was driving at, and I did not desire
that responsibility for the inefficiency of the British Army should
be laid at my door.
Some twenty years ago we, in London, were passing through a riotous
period, and a call was made to law-abiding citizens to enrol
themselves as special constables. I was young, and the hope of
trouble appealed to me more than it does now. In company with some
five or six hundred other more or less respectable citizens, I found
myself one Sunday morning in the drill yard of the Albany Barracks.
It was the opinion of the authorities that we could guard our homes
and protect our wives and children better if first of all we learned
to roll our "eyes right" or left at the given word of command, and to
walk with our thumbs stuck out. Accordingly a drill sergeant was
appointed to instruct us on these points. He came out of the
canteen, wiping his mouth and flicking his leg, according to rule,
with the regulation cane. But, as he approached us, his expression
changed. We were stout, pompous-looking gentlemen, the majority of
us, in frock coats and silk hats. The sergeant was a man with a
sense of the fitness of things. The idea of shouting and swearing at
us fell from him: and that gone there seemed to be no happy medium
left to him. The stiffness departed from his back. He met us with a
defferential attitude, and spoke to us in the language of social
"Good morning, gentlemen," said the sergeant.
"Good morning," we replied: and there was a pause.
The sergeant fidgetted upon his feet. We waited.
"Well, now, gentlemen," said the sergeant, with a pleasant smile,
"what do you say to falling in?"
We agreed to fall in. He showed us how to do it. He cast a critical
eye along the back of our rear line.
"A little further forward, number three, if you don't mind, sir," he
Number three, who was an important-looking gentleman, stepped
The sergeant cast his critical eye along the front of the first line.
"A little further back, if you don't mind, sir," he suggested,
addressing the third gentleman from the end.
"Can't," explained the third gentleman, "much as I can do to keep
where I am."
The sergeant cast his critical eye between the lines.
"Ah," said the sergeant, "a little full-chested, some of us. We will
make the distance another foot, if you please, gentlemen."
In pleasant manner, like to this, the drill proceeded.
"Now then, gentlemen, shall we try a little walk? Quick march!
Thank you, gentlemen. Sorry to trouble you, but it may be necessary
to run--forward I mean, of course.. So if you really do not mind, we
will now do the double quick. Halt! And if next time you can keep a
little more in line--it has a more imposing appearance, if you
understand me. The breathing comes with practice."
If the thing must be done at all, why should it not be done in this
way? Why should not the sergeant address the new recruits politely:
"Now then, you young chaps, are you all ready? Don't hurry
yourselves: no need to make hard work of what should be a pleasure
to all of us. That's right, that's very good indeed--considering you
are only novices. But there is still something to be desired in your
attitude, Private Bully-boy. You will excuse my being personal, but
are you knock-kneed naturally? Or could you, with an effort, do you
think, contrive to give yourself less the appearance of a marionette
whose strings have become loose? Thank you, that is better. These
little things appear trivial, I know, but, after all, we may as well
try and look our best -
"Don't you like your boots, Private Montmorency? Oh, I beg your
pardon. I thought from the way you were bending down and looking at
them that perhaps their appearance was dissatisfying to you. My
"Are you suffering from indigestion, my poor fellow? Shall I get you
a little brandy? It isn't indigestion. Then what's the matter with
it? Why are you trying to hide it? It's nothing to be ashamed of.
We've all got one. Let it come forward man. Let's see it."
Having succeeded, with a few such kindly words, in getting his line
into order, he would proceed to recommend healthy exercise.
"Shoulder arms! Good, gentlemen, very good for a beginning. Yet
still, if I may be critical, not perfect. There is more in this
thing than you might imagine, gentlemen. May I point out to Private
Henry Thompson that a musket carried across the shoulder at right
angles is apt to inconvenience the gentleman behind. Even from the
point of view of his own comfort, I feel sure that Private Thompson
would do better to follow the usual custom in this matter.
"I would also suggest to Private St. Leonard that we are not here to
practice the art of balancing a heavy musket on the outstretched palm
of the hand. Private St. Leonard's performance with the musket is
decidedly clever. But it is not war.
"Believe me, gentlemen, this thing has been carefully worked out, and
no improvement is likely to result from individual effort. Let our
idea be uniformity. It is monotonous, but it is safe. Now, then,
gentlemen, once again."
The drill yard would be converted into a source of innocent delight
to thousands. "Officer and gentleman" would become a phrase of
meaning. I present the idea, for what it may be worth, with my
compliments, to Pall Mall.
The fault of the military man is that he studies too much, reads too
much history, is over reflective. If, instead, he would look about
him more he would notice that things are changing. Someone has told
the British military man that Waterloo was won upon the playing
fields of Eton. So he goes to Eton and plays. One of these days he
will be called upon to fight another Waterloo: and afterwards--when
it is too late--they will explain to him that it was won not upon the
play field but in the class room.
From the mound on the old Waterloo plain one can form a notion of
what battles, under former conditions, must have been. The other
battlefields of Europe are rapidly disappearing: useful Dutch
cabbages, as Carlyle would have pointed out with justifiable
satisfaction, hiding the theatre of man's childish folly. You find,
generally speaking, cobblers happily employed in cobbling shoes,
women gossipping cheerfully over the washtub on the spot where a
hundred years ago, according to the guide-book, a thousand men
dressed in blue and a thousand men dressed in red rushed together
like quarrelsome fox-terriers, and worried each other to death.
But the field of Waterloo is little changed. The guide, whose
grandfather was present at the battle--quite an extraordinary number
of grandfathers must have fought at Waterloo: there must have been
whole regiments composed of grandfathers--can point out to you the
ground across which every charge was delivered, can show you every
ridge, still existing, behind which the infantry crouched. The whole
business was began and finished within a space little larger than a
square mile. One can understand the advantage then to be derived
from the perfect moving of the military machine; the uses of the
echelon, the purposes of the linked battalion, the manipulation of
centre, left wing and right wing. Then it may have been worth while-
-if war be ever worth the while--which grown men of sense are
beginning to doubt--to waste two years of a soldier's training,
teaching him the goose-step. In the twentieth century, teaching
soldiers the evolutions of the Thirty Years' War is about as sensible
as it would be loading our iron-clads with canvas.
I followed once a company of Volunteers across Blackfriars Bridge on
their way from Southwark to the Temple. At the bottom of Ludgate
Hill the commanding officer, a young but conscientious gentleman,
ordered "Left wheel!" At once the vanguard turned down a narrow
alley--I forget its name--which would have led the troop into the
purlieus of Whitefriars, where, in all probability, they would have
been lost for ever. The whole company had to be halted, right-about-
faced, and retired a hundred yards. Then the order "Quick march!"
was given. The vanguard shot across Ludgate Circus, and were making
for the Meat Market.
At this point that young commanding officer gave up being a military
man and talked sense.
"Not that way," he shouted: "up Fleet Street and through Middle
Then without further trouble the army of the future went upon its
OUGHT STORIES TO BE TRUE?
There was once upon a time a charming young lady, possessed of much
taste, who was asked by her anxious parent, the years passing and
family expenditure not decreasing, which of the numerous and eligible
young men then paying court to her she liked the best. She replied,
that was her difficulty; she could not make up her mind which she
liked the best. They were all so nice. She could not possibly
select one to the exclusion of all the others. What she would have
liked would have been to marry the lot; but that, she presumed, was
I feel I resemble that young lady, not so much in charm and beauty as
in indecision of mind, when the question is that of my favourite
author or my favourite book. It is as if one were asked one's
favourite food. There are times when one fancies an egg with one's
tea. On other occasions one dreams of a kipper. To-day one clamours
for lobsters. To-morrow one feels one never wishes to see a lobster
again. One determines to settle down, for a time, to a diet of bread
and milk and rice pudding. Asked suddenly to say whether I preferred
ices to soup, or beef-steak to caviare, I should be completely
There may be readers who care for only one literary diet. I am a
person of gross appetites, requiring many authors to satisfy me.
There are moods when the savage strength of the Bronte sisters is
companionable to me. One rejoices in the unrelieved gloom of
"Wuthering Heights," as in the lowering skies of a stormy autumn.
Perhaps part of the marvel of the book comes from the knowledge that
the authoress was a slight, delicate young girl. One wonders what
her future work would have been, had she lived to gain a wider
experience of life; or was it well for her fame that nature took the
pen so soon from her hand? Her suppressed vehemence may have been
better suited to those tangled Yorkshire byways than to the more
open, cultivated fields of life.
There is not much similarity between the two books, yet when
recalling Emily Bronte my thoughts always run on to Olive Schreiner.
Here, again, was a young girl with the voice of a strong man. Olive
Schreiner, more fortunate, has lived; but I doubt if she will ever
write a book that will remind us of her first. "The Story of an
African Farm" is not a work to be repeated. We have advanced in
literature of late. I can well remember the storm of indignation
with which the "African Farm" was received by Mrs. Grundy and her
then numerous, but now happily diminishing, school. It was a book
that was to be kept from the hands of every young man and woman. But
the hands of the young men and women stretched out and grasped it, to
their help. It is a curious idea, this of Mrs. Grundy's, that the
young man and woman must never think--that all literature that does
anything more than echo the conventions must be hidden away.
Then there are times when I love to gallop through history on Sir
Walter's broomstick. At other hours it is pleasant to sit in
converse with wise George Eliot. From her garden terrace I look down
on Loamshire and its commonplace people; while in her quiet, deep
voice she tells me of the hidden hearts that beat and throb beneath
these velveteen jackets and lace falls.
Who can help loving Thackeray, wittiest, gentlest of men, in spite of
the faint suspicion of snobbishness that clings to him? There is
something pathetic in the good man's horror of this snobbishness, to
which he himself was a victim. May it not have been an affectation,
born unconsciously of self-consciousness? His heroes and heroines
must needs be all fine folk, fit company for lady and gentlemen
readers. To him the livery was too often the man. Under his stuffed
calves even Jeames de la Pluche himself stood upon the legs of a man,
but Thackeray could never see deeper than the silk stockings.
Thackeray lived and died in Clubland. One feels that the world was
bounded for him by Temple Bar on the east and Park Lane on the west;
but what there was good in Clubland he showed us, and for the sake of
the great gentlemen and sweet ladies that his kindly eyes found in
that narrow region, not too overpeopled with great gentlemen and
sweet women, let us honour him.
"Tom Jones," "Peregrine Pickle," and "Tristram Shandy" are books a
man is the better for reading, if he read them wisely. They teach
him that literature, to be a living force, must deal with all sides
of life, and that little help comes to us from that silly pretence of
ours that we are perfect in all things, leading perfect lives, that
only the villain of the story ever deviates from the path of
This is a point that needs to be considered by both the makers and
the buyers of stories. If literature is to be regarded solely as the
amusement of an idle hour, then the less relationship it has to life
the better. Looking into a truthful mirror of nature we are
compelled to think; and when thought comes in at the window self-
satisfaction goes out by the door. Should a novel or play call us to
ponder upon the problems of existence, or lure us from the dusty high
road of the world, for a while, into the pleasant meadows of
dreamland? If only the latter, then let our heroes and our heroines
be not what men and women are, but what they should be. Let Angelina
be always spotless and Edwin always true. Let virtue ever triumph
over villainy in the last chapter; and let us assume that the
marriage service answers all the questions of the Sphinx.
Very pleasant are these fairy tales where the prince is always brave
and handsome; where the princess is always the best and most
beautiful princess that ever lived; where one knows the wicked people
at a glance by their ugliness and ill-temper, mistakes being thus
rendered impossible; where the good fairies are, by nature, more
powerful than the bad; where gloomy paths lead ever to fair palaces;
where the dragon is ever vanquished; and where well-behaved husbands
and wives can rely upon living happily ever afterwards. "The world
is too much with us, late and soon." It is wise to slip away from it
at times to fairyland. But, alas, we cannot live in fairyland, and
knowledge of its geography is of little help to us on our return to
the rugged country of reality.
Are not both branches of literature needful? By all means let us
dream, on midsummer nights, of fond lovers led through devious paths
to happiness by Puck; of virtuous dukes--one finds such in fairyland;
of fate subdued by faith and gentleness. But may we not also, in our
more serious humours, find satisfaction in thinking with Hamlet or
Coriolanus? May not both Dickens and Zola have their booths in
Vanity Fair? If literature is to be a help to us, as well as a
pastime, it must deal with the ugly as well as with the beautiful; it
must show us ourselves, not as we wish to appear, but as we know
ourselves to be. Man has been described as a animal with aspirations
reaching up to Heaven and instincts rooted--elsewhere. Is literature
to flatter him, or reveal him to himself?
Of living writers it is not safe, I suppose, to speak except,
perhaps, of those who have been with us so long that we have come to
forget they are not of the past. Has justice ever been done to
Ouida's undoubted genius by our shallow school of criticism, always
very clever in discovering faults as obvious as pimples on a fine
face? Her guardsmen "toy" with their food. Her horses win the Derby
three years running. Her wicked women throw guinea peaches from the
windows of the Star and Garter into the Thames at Richmond. The
distance being about three hundred and fifty yards, it is a good
throw. Well, well, books are not made worth reading by the absence
of absurdities. Ouida possesses strength, tenderness, truth,
passion; and these be qualities in a writer capable of carrying many
more faults than Ouida is burdened with. But that is the method of
our little criticism. It views an artist as Gulliver saw the
Brobdingnag ladies. It is too small to see them in their entirety:
a mole or a wart absorbs all its vision.
Why was not George Gissing more widely read? If faithfulness to life
were the key to literary success, Gissing's sales would have been
counted by the million instead of by the hundred.
Have Mark Twain's literary qualities, apart altogether from his
humour, been recognised in literary circles as they ought to have
been? "Huck Finn" would be a great work were there not a laugh in it
from cover to cover. Among the Indians and some other savage tribes
the fact that a member of the community has lost one of his senses
makes greatly to his advantage; he is then regarded as a superior
person. So among a school of Anglo-Saxon readers, it is necessary to
a man, if he would gain literary credit, that he should lack the
sense of humour. One or two curious modern examples occur to me of
literary success secured chiefly by this failing.
All these authors are my favourites; but such catholic taste is held
nowadays to be no taste. One is told that if one loves Shakespeare,
one must of necessity hate Ibsen; that one cannot appreciate Wagner
and tolerate Beethoven; that if we admit any merit in Dore, we are
incapable of understanding Whistler. How can I say which is my
favourite novel? I can only ask myself which lives clearest in my
memory, which is the book I run to more often than to another in that
pleasant half hour before the dinner-bell, when, with all apologies
to good Mr. Smiles, it is useless to think of work.
I find, on examination, that my "David Copperfield" is more
dilapidated than any other novel upon my shelves. As I turn its dog-
eared pages, reading the familiar headlines "Mr. Micawber in
difficulties," "Mr. Micawber in prison," "I fall in love with Dora,"
"Mr. Barkis goes out with the tide," "My child wife," "Traddles in a
nest of roses"--pages of my own life recur to me; so many of my
sorrows, so many of my joys are woven in my mind with this chapter or
the other. That day--how well I remember it when I read of "David's"
wooing, but Dora's death I was careful to skip. Poor, pretty little
Mrs. Copperfield at the gate, holding up her baby in her arms, is
always associated in my memory with a child's cry, long listened for.
I found the book, face downwards on a chair, weeks afterwards, not
moved from where I had hastily laid it.
Old friends, all of you, how many times have I not slipped away from
my worries into your pleasant company! Peggotty, you dear soul, the
sight of your kind eyes is so good to me. Our mutual friend, Mr.
Charles Dickens, is prone, we know, just ever so slightly to gush.
Good fellow that he is, he can see no flaw in those he loves, but
you, dear lady, if you will permit me to call you by a name much
abused, he has drawn in true colours. I know you well, with your big
heart, your quick temper, your homely, human ways of thought. You
yourself will never guess your worth--how much the world is better
for such as you! You think of yourself as of a commonplace person,
useful only for the making of pastry, the darning of stockings, and
if a man--not a young man, with only dim half-opened eyes, but a man
whom life had made keen to see the beauty that lies hidden beneath
plain faces--were to kneel and kiss your red, coarse hand, you would
be much astonished. But he would be a wise man, Peggotty, knowing
what things a man should take carelessly, and for what things he
should thank God, who has fashioned fairness in many forms.
Mr. Wilkins Micawber, and you, most excellent of faithful wives, Mrs.
Emma Micawber, to you I also raise my hat. How often has the example
of your philosophy saved me, when I, likewise, have suffered under
the temporary pressure of pecuniary liabilities; when the sun of my
prosperity, too, has sunk beneath the dark horizon of the world--in
short, when I, also, have found myself in a tight corner. I have
asked myself what would the Micawbers have done in my place. And I
have answered myself. They would have sat down to a dish of lamb's
fry, cooked and breaded by the deft hands of Emma, followed by a brew
of punch, concocted by the beaming Wilkins, and have forgotten all
their troubles, for the time being. Whereupon, seeing first that
sufficient small change was in my pocket, I have entered the nearest
restaurant, and have treated myself to a repast of such sumptuousness
as the aforesaid small change would command, emerging from that
restaurant stronger and more fit for battle. And lo! the sun of my
prosperity has peeped at me from over the clouds with a sly wink, as
if to say "Cheer up; I am only round the corner."
Cheery, elastic Mr. and Mrs. Micawber, how would half the world face
their fate but by the help of a kindly, shallow nature such as yours?
I love to think that your sorrows can be drowned in nothing more
harmful than a bowl of punch. Here's to you, Emma, and to you,
Wilkins, and to the twins!
May you and such childlike folk trip lightly over the stones upon
your path! May something ever turn up for you, my dears! May the
rain of life ever fall as April showers upon your simple bald head,
And you, sweet Dora, let me confess I love you, though sensible
friends deem you foolish. Ah, silly Dora, fashioned by wise Mother
Nature who knows that weakness and helplessness are as a talisman
calling forth strength and tenderness in man, trouble yourself not
unduly about the oysters and the underdone mutton, little woman.
Good plain cooks at twenty pounds a year will see to these things for
us. Your work is to teach us gentleness and kindness. Lay your
foolish curls just here, child. It is from such as you we learn
wisdom. Foolish wise folk sneer at you. Foolish wise folk would
pull up the laughing lilies, the needless roses from the garden,
would plant in their places only useful, wholesome cabbage. But the
gardener, knowing better, plants the silly, short-lived flowers,
foolish wise folk asking for what purpose.
Gallant Traddles, of the strong heart and the unruly hair; Sophy,
dearest of girls; Betsy Trotwood, with your gentlemanly manners and
your woman's heart, you have come to me in shabby rooms, making the
dismal place seem bright. In dark hours your kindly faces have
looked out at me from the shadows, your kindly voices have cheered
Little Em'ly and Agnes, it may be my bad taste, but I cannot share my
friend Dickens' enthusiasm for them. Dickens' good women are all too
good for human nature's daily food. Esther Summerson, Florence
Dombey, Little Nell--you have no faults to love you by.
Scott's women were likewise mere illuminated texts. Scott only drew
one live heroine--Catherine Seton. His other women were merely the
prizes the hero had to win in the end, like the sucking pig or the
leg of mutton for which the yokel climbs the greasy pole. That
Dickens could draw a woman to some likeness he proved by Bella
Wilfer, and Estella in "Great Expectations." But real women have
never been popular in fiction. Men readers prefer the false, and
women readers object to the truth.
From an artistic point of view, "David Copperfield" is undoubtedly
Dickens' best work. Its humour is less boisterous; its pathos less
One of Leech's pictures represents a cab-man calmly sleeping in the
"Oh, poor dear, he's ill," says a tender-hearted lady in the crowd.
"Ill!" retorts a male bystander indignantly, "Ill! 'E's 'ad too much
of what I ain't 'ad enough of."
Dickens suffered from too little of what some of us have too much of-
-criticism. His work met with too little resistance to call forth
his powers. Too often his pathos sinks to bathos, and this not from
want of skill, but from want of care. It is difficult to believe
that the popular writer who allowed his sentimentality--or rather the
public's sentimentality--to run away with him in such scenes as the
death of Paul Dombey and Little Nell was the artist who painted the
death of Sidney Carton and of Barkis, the willing. The death of
Barkis, next to the passing of Colonel Newcome, is, to my thinking,
one of the most perfect pieces of pathos in English literature. No
very deep emotion is concerned. He is a commonplace old man,
clinging foolishly to a commonplace box. His simple wife and the old
boatmen stand by, waiting calmly for the end. There is no straining
after effect. One feels death enter, dignifying all things; and
touched by that hand, foolish old Barkis grows great.
In Uriah Heap and Mrs. Gummidge, Dickens draws types rather than
characters. Pecksniff, Podsnap, Dolly Varden, Mr. Bumble, Mrs. Gamp,
Mark Tapley, Turveydrop, Mrs. Jellyby--these are not characters; they
are human characteristics personified.
We have to go back to Shakespeare to find a writer who, through
fiction, has so enriched the thought of the people. Admit all
Dickens' faults twice over, we still have one of the greatest writers
of modern times. Such people as these creations of Dickens never
lived, says your little critic. Nor was Prometheus, type of the
spirit of man, nor was Niobe, mother of all mothers, a truthful
picture of the citizen one was likely to meet often during a
morning's stroll through Athens. Nor grew there ever a wood like to
the Forest of Arden, though every Rosalind and Orlando knows the path
to glades having much resemblance thereto.
Steerforth, upon whom Dickens evidently prided himself, I must
confess, never laid hold of me. He is a melodramatic young man. The
worst I could have wished him would have been that he should marry
Rose Dartle and live with his mother. It would have served him right
for being so attractive. Old Peggotty and Ham are, of course,
impossible. One must accept them also as types. These Brothers
Cheeryble, these Kits, Joe Gargeries, Boffins, Garlands, John
Peerybingles, we will accept as types of the goodness that is in men-
-though in real life the amount of virtue that Dickens often wastes
upon a single individual would by more economically minded nature, be
made to serve for fifty.
To sum up, "David Copperfield" is a plain tale, simply told; and such
are all books that live. Eccentricities of style, artistic trickery,
may please the critic of a day, but literature is a story that
interests us, boys and girls, men and women. It is a sad book; and
that, again, gives it an added charm in these sad later days.
Humanity is nearing its old age, and we have come to love sadness, as
the friend who has been longest with us. In the young days of our
vigour we were merry. With Ulysses' boatmen, we took alike the
sunshine and the thunder with frolic welcome. The red blood flowed
in our veins, and we laughed, and our tales were of strength and
hope. Now we sit like old men, watching faces in the fire; and the
stories that we love are sad stories--like the stories we ourselves
CREATURES THAT ONE DAY SHALL BE MEN.
I ought to like Russia better than I do, if only for the sake of the
many good friends I am proud to possess amongst the Russians. A
large square photograph I keep always on my mantel-piece; it helps me
to maintain my head at that degree of distention necessary for the
performance of all literary work. It presents in the centre a
neatly-written address in excellent English that I frankly confess I
am never tired of reading, around which are ranged some hundreds of
names I am quite unable to read, but which, in spite of their strange
lettering, I know to be the names of good Russian men and women to
whom, a year or two ago, occurred the kindly idea of sending me as a
Christmas card this message of encouragement. The individual Russian
is one of the most charming creatures living. If he like you he does
not hesitate to let you know it; not only by every action possible,
but, by what perhaps is just as useful in this grey old world, by
generous, impulsive speech.
We Anglo-Saxons are apt to pride ourselves upon being
undemonstrative. Max Adeler tells the tale of a boy who was sent out
by his father to fetch wood. The boy took the opportunity of
disappearing and did not show his face again beneath the paternal
roof for over twenty years. Then one evening, a smiling, well-
dressed stranger entered to the old couple, and announced himself as
their long-lost child, returned at last.
"Well, you haven't hurried yourself," grumbled the old man, "and
blarm me if now you haven't forgotten the wood."
I was lunching with an Englishman in a London restaurant one day. A
man entered and took his seat at a table near by. Glancing round,
and meeting my friend's eyes, he smiled and nodded.
"Excuse me a minute," said my friend, "I must just speak to my
brother--haven't seen him for over five years."
He finished his soup and leisurely wiped his moustache before
strolling across and shaking hands. They talked for a while. Then
my friend returned to me.
"Never thought to see him again," observed my friend, "he was one of
the garrison of that place in Africa--what's the name of it?--that
the Mahdi attacked. Only three of them escaped. Always was a lucky
"But wouldn't you like to talk to him some more?" I suggested; "I can
see you any time about this little business of ours."
"Oh, that's all right," he answered, "we have just fixed it up--shall
be seeing him again to-morrow."
I thought of this scene one evening while dining with some Russian
friends in a St. Petersburg Hotel. One of the party had not seen his
second cousin, a mining engineer, for nearly eighteen months. They
sat opposite to one another, and a dozen times at least during the
course of the dinner one of them would jump up from his chair, and
run round to embrace the other. They would throw their arms about
one another, kissing one another on both cheeks, and then sit down
again, with moist eyes. Their behaviour among their fellow
countrymen excited no astonishment whatever.
But the Russians's anger is as quick and vehement as his love. On
another occasion I was supping with friends in one of the chief
restaurants on the Nevsky. Two gentlemen at an adjoining table, who
up till the previous moment had been engaged in amicable
conversation, suddenly sprang to their feet, and "went for" one
another. One man secured the water-bottle, which he promptly broke
over the other's head. His opponent chose for his weapon a heavy
mahogany chair, and leaping back for the purpose of securing a good
swing, lurched against my hostess.
"Do please be careful," said the lady.
"A thousand pardons, madame," returned the stranger, from whom blood
and water were streaming in equal copiousness; and taking the utmost
care to avoid interfering with our comfort, he succeeded adroitly in
flooring his antagonist by a well-directed blow.
A policeman appeared upon the scene. He did not attempt to
interfere, but running out into the street communicated the glad
tidings to another policeman.
"This is going to cost them a pretty penny," observed my host, who
was calmly continuing his supper; "why couldn't they wait?"
It did cost them a pretty penny. Some half a dozen policemen were
round about before as many minutes had elapsed, and each one claimed
his bribe. Then they wished both combatants good-night, and trooped
out evidently in great good humour and the two gentlemen, with wet
napkins round their heads, sat down again, and laughter and amicable
conversation flowed freely as before.
They strike the stranger as a childlike people, but you are possessed
with a haunting sense of ugly traits beneath. The workers--slaves it
would be almost more correct to call them--allow themselves to be
exploited with the uncomplaining patience of intelligent animals.
Yet every educated Russian you talk to on the subject knows that
revolution is coming.
But he talks to you about it with the door shut, for no man in Russia
can be sure that his own servants are not police spies. I was
discussing politics with a Russian official one evening in his study
when his old housekeeper entered the room--a soft-eyed grey-haired
woman who had been in his service over eight years, and whose
position in the household was almost that of a friend. He stopped
abruptly and changed the conversation. So soon as the door was
closed behind her again, he explained himself.
"It is better to chat upon such matters when one is quite alone," he
"But surely you can trust her," I said, "She appears to be devoted to
"It is safer to trust no one," he answered. And then he continued
from the point where we had been interrupted.
"It is gathering," he said; "there are times when I almost smell
blood in the air. I am an old man and may escape it, but my children
will have to suffer--suffer as children must for the sins of their
fathers. We have made brute beasts of the people, and as brute
beasts they will come upon us, cruel, and undiscriminating; right and
wrong indifferently going down before them. But it has to be. It is
It is a mistake to speak of the Russian classes opposing to all
progress a dead wall of selfishness. The history of Russia will be
the history of the French Revolution over again, but with this
difference: that the educated classes, the thinkers, who are pushing
forward the dumb masses are doing so with their eyes open. There
will be no Maribeau, no Danton to be appalled at a people's
ingratitude. The men who are to-day working for revolution in Russia
number among their ranks statesmen, soldiers, delicately-nurtured
women, rich landowners, prosperous tradesmen, students familiar with
the lessons of history. They have no misconceptions concerning the
blind Monster into which they are breathing life. He will crush
them, they know it; but with them he will crush the injustice and
stupidity they have grown to hate more than they love themselves.
The Russian peasant, when he rises, will prove more terrible, more
pitiless than were the men of 1790. He is less intelligent, more
brutal. They sing a wild, sad song, these Russian cattle, the while
they work. They sing it in chorus on the quays while hauling the
cargo, they sing it in the factory, they chant on the weary, endless
steppes, reaping the corn they may not eat. It is of the good time
their masters are having, of the feastings and the merrymakings, of
the laughter of the children, of the kisses of the lovers.
But the last line of every verse is the same. When you ask a Russian
to translate it for you he shrugs his shoulders.
"Oh, it means," he says, "that their time will also come--some day."
It is a pathetic, haunting refrain. They sing it in the drawing-
rooms of Moscow and St. Petersburg, and somehow the light talk and
laughter die away, and a hush, like a chill breath, enters by the
closed door and passes through. It is a curious song, like the
wailing of a tired wind, and one day it will sweep over the land
A Scotsman I met in Russia told me that when he first came out to act
as manager of a large factory in St. Petersburg, belonging to his
Scottish employers, he unwittingly made a mistake the first week when
paying his workpeople. By a miscalculation of the Russian money he
paid the men, each one, nearly a rouble short. He discovered his
error before the following Saturday, and then put the matter right.
The men accepted his explanation with perfect composure and without
any comment whatever. The thing astonished him.
"But you must have known I was paying you short," he said to one of
them. "Why didn't you tell me of it?"
"Oh," answered the man, "we thought you were putting it in your own
pocket and then if we had complained it would have meant dismissal
for us. No one would have taken our word against yours."
Corruption appears to be so general throughout the whole of Russia
that all classes have come to accept it as part of the established
order of things. A friend gave me a little dog to bring away with
me. It was a valuable animal, and I wished to keep it with me. It
is strictly forbidden to take dogs into railway carriages. The list
of the pains and penalties for doing so frightened me considerably.
"Oh, that will be all right," my friend assured me; "have a few
roubles loose in your pocket."
I tipped the station master and I tipped the guard, and started
pleased with myself. But I had not anticipated what was in store for
me. The news that an Englishman with a dog in a basket and roubles
in his pocket was coming must have been telegraphed all down the
line. At almost every stopping-place some enormous official, wearing
generally a sword and a helmet, boarded the train. At first these
fellows terrified me. I took them for field-marshals at least.
Visions of Siberia crossed my mind. Anxious and trembling, I gave
the first one a gold piece. He shook me warmly by the hand--I
thought he was going to kiss me. If I had offered him my cheek I am
sure he would have done so. With the next one I felt less
apprehensive. For a couple of roubles he blessed me, so I gathered;
and, commending me to the care of the Almighty, departed. Before I
had reached the German frontier, I was giving away the equivalent of
English sixpences to men with the dress and carriage of major-
generals; and to see their faces brighten up and to receive their
heartfelt benediction was well worth the money.
But to the man without roubles in his pocket, Russian officialdom is
not so gracious. By the expenditure of a few more coins I got my dog
through the Customs without trouble, and had leisure to look about
me. A miserable object was being badgered by half a dozen men in
uniform, and he--his lean face puckered up into a snarl--was
returning them snappish answers; the whole scene suggested some half-
starved mongrel being worried by school-boys. A slight informality
had been discovered in his passport, so a fellow traveller with whom
I had made friends informed me. He had no roubles in his pocket, and
in consequence they were sending him back to St. Petersburg--some
eighteen hours' journey--in a wagon that in England would not be
employed for the transport of oxen.
It seemed a good joke to Russian officialdom; they would drop in
every now and then, look at him as he sat crouched in a corner of the
waiting-room, and pass out again, laughing. The snarl had died from
his face; a dull, listless indifference had taken its place--the look
one sees on the face of a beaten dog, after the beating is over, when
it is lying very still, its great eyes staring into nothingness, and
one wonders whether it is thinking.
The Russian worker reads no newspaper, has no club, yet all things
seem to be known to him. There is a prison on the banks of the Neva,
in St. Petersburg. They say such things are done with now, but up
till very recently there existed a small cell therein, below the
level of the ice, and prisoners placed there would be found missing a
day or two afterwards, nothing ever again known of them, except,
perhaps, to the fishes of the Baltic. They talk of such like things
among themselves: the sleigh-drivers round their charcoal fire, the
field-workers going and coming in the grey dawn, the factory workers,
their whispers deadened by the rattle of the looms.
I was searching for a house in Brussels some winters ago, and there
was one I was sent to in a small street leading out of the Avenue
Louise. It was poorly furnished, but rich in pictures, large and
small. They covered the walls of every room.
"These pictures," explained to me the landlady, an old, haggard-
looking woman, "will not be left, I am taking them with me to London.
They are all the work of my husband. He is arranging an exhibition."
The friend who had sent me had told me the woman was a widow, who had
been living in Brussels eking out a precarious existence as a
lodging-house keeper for the last ten years.
"You have married again?" I questioned her.
The woman smiled.
"Not again. I was married eighteen years ago in Russia. My husband
was transported to Siberia a few days after we were married, and I
have never seen him since."
"I should have followed him," she added, "only every year we thought
he was going to be set free."
"He is really free now?" I asked.
"Yes," she answered. "They set him free last week. He will join me
in London. We shall be able to finish our honeymoon."
She smiled, revealing to me that once she had been a girl.
I read in the English papers of the exhibition in London. It was
said the artist showed much promise. So possibly a career may at
last be opening out for him.
Nature has made life hard to Russian rich and poor alike. To the
banks of the Neva, with its ague and influenza-bestowing fogs and
mists, one imagines that the Devil himself must have guided Peter the
"Show me in all my dominions the most hopelessly unattractive site on
which to build a city," Peter must have prayed; and the Devil having
discovered the site on which St. Petersburg now stands, must have
returned to his master in high good feather.
"I think, my dear Peter, I have found you something really unique.
It is a pestilent swamp to which a mighty river brings bitter blasts
and marrow-chilling fogs, while during the brief summer time the wind
will bring you sand. In this way you will combine the disadvantages
of the North Pole with those of the desert of Sahara."
In the winter time the Russians light their great stoves, and doubly
barricade their doors and windows; and in this atmosphere, like to
that of a greenhouse, many of their women will pass six months, never
venturing out of doors. Even the men only go out at intervals.
Every office, every shop is an oven. Men of forty have white hair
and parchment faces; and the women are old at thirty. The farm
labourers, during the few summer months, work almost entirely without
sleep. They leave that for the winter, when they shut themselves up
like dormice in their hovels, their store of food and vodka buried
underneath the floor. For days together they sleep, then wake and
dig, then sleep again.
The Russian party lasts all night. In an adjoining room are beds and
couches; half a dozen guests are always sleeping. An hour contents
them, then they rejoin the company, and other guests take their
places. The Russian eats when he feels so disposed; the table is
always spread, the guests come and go. Once a year there is a great
feast in Moscow. The Russian merchant and his friends sit down early
in the day, and a sort of thick, sweet pancake is served up hot. The
feast continues for many hours, and the ambition of the Russian
merchant is to eat more than his neighbour. Fifty or sixty of these
hot cakes a man will consume at a sitting, and a dozen funerals in
Moscow is often the result.
An uncivilised people, we call them in our lordly way, but they are
young. Russian history is not yet three hundred years old. They
will see us out, I am inclined to think. Their energy, their
intelligence--when these show above the groundwork--are monstrous. I
have known a Russian learn Chinese within six months. English! they
learn it while you are talking to them. The children play at chess
and study the violin for their own amusement.
The world will be glad of Russia--when she has put her house in
HOW TO BE HAPPY THOUGH LITTLE.
Folks suffering from Jingoism, Spreadeagleism, Chauvinism--all such
like isms, to whatever country they belong--would be well advised to
take a tour in Holland. It is the idea of the moment that size
spells happiness. The bigger the country the better one is for
living there. The happiest Frenchman cannot possibly be as happy as
the most wretched Britisher, for the reason that Britain owns many
more thousands of square miles than France possesses. The Swiss
peasant, compared with the Russian serf, must, when he looks at the
map of Europe and Asia, feel himself to be a miserable creature. The
reason that everybody in America is happy and good is to be explained
by the fact that America has an area equal to that of the entire
moon. The American citizen who has backed the wrong horse, missed
his train and lost his bag, remembers this and feels bucked up again.
According to this argument, fishes should be the happiest of mortals,
the sea consisting--at least, so says my atlas: I have not measured
it myself--of a hundred and forty-four millions of square miles.
But, maybe, the sea is also divided in ways we wot not of. Possibly
the sardine who lives near the Brittainy coast is sad and
discontented because the Norwegian sardine is the proud inhabitant of
a larger sea. Perhaps that is why he has left the Brittainy coast.
Ashamed of being a Brittainy sardine, he has emigrated to Norway, has
become a naturalized Norwegian sardine, and is himself again.
The happy Londoner on foggy days can warm himself with the reflection
that the sun never sets on the British Empire. He does not often see
the sun, but that is a mere detail. He regards himself as the owner
of the sun; the sun begins his little day in the British Empire, ends
his little day in the British Empire: for all practical purposes the
sun is part of the British Empire. Foolish people in other countries
sit underneath it and feel warm, but that is only their ignorance.
They do not know it is a British possession; if they did they would
My views on this subject are, I know, heretical. I cannot get it
into my unpatriotic head that size is the only thing worth worrying
about. In England, when I venture to express my out-of-date
opinions, I am called a Little Englander. It fretted me at first; I
was becoming a mere shadow. But by now I have got used to it. It
would be the same, I feel, wherever I went. In New York I should be
a Little American; in Constantinople a Little Turk. But I wanted to
talk about Holland. A holiday in Holland serves as a corrective to
exaggerated Imperialistic notions.
There are no poor in Holland. They may be an unhappy people, knowing
what a little country it is they live in; but, if so, they hide the
fact. To all seeming, the Dutch peasant, smoking his great pipe, is
as much a man as the Whitechapel hawker or the moocher of the Paris
boulevard. I saw a beggar once in Holland--in the townlet of
Enkhuisen. Crowds were hurrying up from the side streets to have a
look at him; the idea at first seemed to be that he was doing it for
a bet. He turned out to be a Portuguese. They offered him work in
the docks--until he could get something better to do--at wages equal
in English money to about ten shillings a day. I inquired about him
on my way back, and was told he had borrowed a couple of forms from
the foreman and had left by the evening train. It is not the country
for the loafer.
In Holland work is easily found; this takes away the charm of looking
for it. A farm labourer in Holland lives in a brick-built house of
six rooms, which generally belongs to him, with an acre or so of
ground, and only eats meat once a day. The rest of his time he fills
up on eggs and chicken and cheese and beer. But you rarely hear him
grumble. His wife and daughter may be seen on Sundays wearing gold
and silver jewellery worth from fifty to one hundred pounds, and
there is generally enough old delft and pewter in the house to start
a local museum anywhere outside Holland. On high days and holidays,
of which in Holland there are plenty, the average Dutch vrouw would
be well worth running away with. The Dutch peasant girl has no need
of an illustrated journal once a week to tell her what the fashion
is; she has it in the portrait of her mother, or of her grandmother,
hanging over the glittering chimney-piece.
When the Dutchwoman builds a dress she builds it to last; it descends
from mother to daughter, but it is made of sound material in the
beginning. A lady friend of mine thought the Dutch costume would
serve well for a fancy-dress ball, so set about buying one, but
abandoned the notion on learning what it would cost her. A Dutch
girl in her Sunday clothes must be worth fifty pounds before you come
to ornaments. In certain provinces she wears a close-fitting helmet,
made either of solid silver or of solid gold. The Dutch gallant,
before making himself known, walks on tiptoe a little while behind
the Loved One, and looks at himself in her head-dress just to make
sure that his hat is on straight and his front curl just where it
ought to be.
In most other European countries national costume is dying out. The
slop-shop is year by year extending its hideous trade. But the
country of Rubens and Rembrandt, of Teniers and Gerard Dow, remains
still true to art. The picture post-card does not exaggerate. The
men in those wondrous baggy knickerbockers, from the pockets of which
you sometimes see a couple of chicken's heads protruding; in gaudy
coloured shirts, in worsted hose and mighty sabots, smoking their
great pipes--the women in their petticoats of many hues, in
gorgeously embroidered vest, in chemisette of dazzling white, crowned
with a halo of many frills, glittering in gold and silver--are not
the creatures of an artist's fancy. You meet them in their thousands
on holiday afternoons, walking gravely arm in arm, flirting with
sober Dutch stolidity.
On colder days the women wear bright-coloured capes made of fine spun
silk, from underneath the ample folds of which you sometimes hear a
little cry; and sometimes a little hooded head peeps out, regards
with preternatural thoughtfulness the toy-like world without, then
dives back into shelter. As for the children--women in miniature,
the single difference in dress being the gay pinafore--you can only
say of them that they look like Dutch dolls. But such plump,
contented, cheerful little dolls! You remember the hollow-eyed,
pale-faced dolls you see swarming in the great, big and therefore
should be happy countries, and wish that mere land surface were of
less importance to our statesmen and our able editors, and the
happiness and well-being of the mere human items worth a little more
of their thought.
The Dutch peasant lives surrounded by canals, and reaches his cottage
across a drawbridge. I suppose it is in the blood of the Dutch child
not to tumble into a canal, and the Dutch mother never appears to
anticipate such possibility. One can imagine the average English
mother trying to bring up a family in a house surrounded by canals.
She would never have a minute's peace until the children were in bed.
But then the mere sight of a canal to the English child suggests the
delights of a sudden and unexpected bath. I put it to a Dutchman
once. Did the Dutch child by any chance ever fall into a canal?
"Yes," he replied, "cases have been known."
"Don't you do anything for it?" I enquired.
"Oh, yes," he answered, "we haul them out again."
"But what I mean is," I explained, "don't you do anything to prevent
their falling in--to save them from falling in again?"
"Yes," he answered, "we spank 'em."
There is always a wind in Holland; it comes from over the sea. There
is nothing to stay its progress. It leaps the low dykes and sweeps
with a shriek across the sad, soft dunes, and thinks it is going to
have a good time and play havoc in the land. But the Dutchman laughs
behind his great pipe as it comes to him shouting and roaring.
"Welcome, my hearty, welcome," he chuckles, "come blustering and
bragging; the bigger you are the better I like you." And when it is
once in the land, behind the long, straight dykes, behind the waving
line of sandy dunes, he seizes hold of it, and will not let it go
till it has done its tale of work.
The wind is the Dutchman's; servant before he lets it loose again it
has turned ten thousand mills, has pumped the water and sawn the
wood, has lighted the town and worked the loom, and forged the iron,
and driven the great, slow, silent wherry, and played with the
children in the garden. It is a sober wind when it gets back to sea,
worn and weary, leaving the Dutchman laughing behind his everlasting
pipe. There are canals in Holland down which you pass as though a
field of wind-blown corn; a soft, low, rustling murmur ever in your
ears. It is the ceaseless whirl of the great mill sails. Far out at
sea the winds are as foolish savages, fighting, shrieking, tearing--
purposeless. Here, in the street of mills, it is a civilized wind,
crooning softly while it labours.
What charms one in Holland is the neatness and cleanliness of all
about one. Maybe to the Dutchman there are drawbacks. In a Dutch
household life must be one long spring-cleaning. No milk-pail is
considered fit that cannot just as well be used for a looking-glass.
The great brass pans, hanging under the pent house roof outside the
cottage door, flash like burnished gold. You could eat your dinner
off the red-tiled floor, but that the deal table, scrubbed to the
colour of cream cheese, is more convenient. By each threshold stands
a row of empty sabots, and woe-betide the Dutchman who would dream of
crossing it in anything but his stockinged feet.
There is a fashion in sabots. Every spring they are freshly painted.
One district fancies an orange yellow, another a red, a third white,
suggesting purity and innocence. Members of the Smart Set indulge in
ornamentation; a frieze in pink, a star upon the toe. Walking in
sabots is not as easy as it looks. Attempting to run in sabots I do
not recommend to the beginner.
"How do you run in sabots?" I asked a Dutchman once. I had been
experimenting, and had hurt myself.
"We don't run," answered the Dutchman.
And observation has proved to me he was right. The Dutch boy, when
he runs, puts them for preference on his hands, and hits other Dutch
boys over the head with them as he passes.
The roads in Holland, straight and level, and shaded all the way with
trees, look, from the railway-carriage window, as if they would be
good for cycling; but this is a delusion. I crossed in the boat from
Harwich once, with a well-known black and white artist, and an
equally well-known and highly respected humorist. They had their
bicycles with them, intending to tour Holland. I met them a
fortnight later in Delft, or, rather, I met their remains. I was
horrified at first. I thought it was drink. They could not stand
still, they could not sit still, they trembled and shook in every
limb, their teeth chattered when they tried to talk. The humorist
hadn't a joke left in him. The artist could not have drawn his own
salary; he would have dropped it on the way to his pocket. The Dutch
roads are paved their entire length with cobbles--big, round cobbles,
over which your bicycle leaps and springs and plunges.
If you would see Holland outside the big towns a smattering of Dutch
is necessary. If you know German there is not much difficulty.
Dutch--I speak as an amateur--appears to be very bad German mis-
pronounced. Myself, I find my German goes well in Holland, even
better than in Germany. The Anglo-Saxon should not attempt the Dutch
G. It is hopeless to think of succeeding, and the attempt has been
known to produce internal rupture. The Dutchman appears to keep his
G in his stomach, and to haul it up when wanted. Myself, I find the
ordinary G, preceded by a hiccough and followed by a sob, the nearest
I can get to it. But they tell me it is not quite right, yet.
One needs to save up beforehand if one desires to spend any length of
time in Holland. One talks of dear old England, but the dearest land
in all the world is little Holland. The florin there is equal to the
franc in France and to the shilling in England. They tell you that
cigars are cheap in Holland. A cheap Dutch cigar will last you a
day. It is not until you have forgotten the taste of it that you
feel you ever want to smoke again. I knew a man who reckoned that he
had saved hundreds of pounds by smoking Dutch cigars for a month
steadily. It was years before he again ventured on tobacco.
Watching building operations in Holland brings home to you forcibly,
what previously you have regarded as a meaningless formula--namely,
that the country is built upon piles. A dozen feet below the level
of the street one sees the labourers working in fishermen's boots up
to their knees in water, driving the great wooden blocks into the
mud. Many of the older houses slope forward at such an angle that
you almost fear to pass beneath them. I should be as nervous as a
kitten, living in one of the upper storeys. But the Dutchman leans
out of a window that is hanging above the street six feet beyond the
perpendicular, and smokes contentedly.
They have a merry custom in Holland of keeping the railway time
twenty minutes ahead of the town time--or is it twenty minutes
behind? I never can remember when I'm there, and I am not sure now.
The Dutchman himself never knows.
"You've plenty of time," he says
"But the train goes at ten," you say; "the station is a mile away,
and it is now half-past nine."
"Yes, but that means ten-twenty," he answers, "you have nearly an
Five minutes later he taps you on the shoulder.
"My mistake, it's twenty to ten. I was thinking it was the other way
Another argues with him that his first idea was right. They work it
out by scientific methods. Meanwhile you have dived into a cab. The
result is always the same: you are either forty minutes too soon, or
you have missed the train by twenty minutes. A Dutch platform is
always crowded with women explaining volubly to their husbands either
that there was not any need to have hurried, or else that the thing
would have been to have started half an hour before they did, the man
in both cases being, of course, to blame. The men walk up and down
The idea has been suggested that the railway time and the town time
should be made to conform. The argument against the idea is that if
it were carried out there would be nothing left to put the Dutchman
out and worry him.
SHOULD WE SAY WHAT WE THINK, OR THINK WHAT WE SAY?
A mad friend of mine will have it that the characteristic of the age
is Make-Believe. He argues that all social intercourse is founded on
make-believe. A servant enters to say that Mr. and Mrs. Bore are in
"Oh, damn!" says the man.
"Hush!" says the woman. "Shut the door, Susan. How often am I to
tell you never to leave the door open?"
The man creeps upstairs on tiptoe and shuts himself in his study.
The woman does things before a looking-glass, waits till she feels
she is sufficiently mistress of herself not to show her feelings, and
then enters the drawing-room with outstretched hands and the look of
one welcoming an angel's visit. She says how delighted she is to see
the Bores--how good it was of them to come. Why did they not bring
more Bores with them? Where is naughty Bore junior? Why does he
never come to see her now? She will have to be really angry with
him. And sweet little Flossie Bore? Too young to pay calls!
Nonsense. An "At Home" day is not worth having where all the Bores
The Bores, who had hoped that she was out--who have only called
because the etiquette book told them that they must call at least
four times in the season, explain how they have been trying and
trying to come.
"This afternoon," recounts Mrs. Bore, "we were determined to come.
'John, dear,' I said this morning, 'I shall go and see dear Mrs.
Bounder this afternoon, no matter what happens.'"
The idea conveyed is that the Prince of Wales, on calling at the
Bores, was told that he could not come in. He might call again in
the evening or come some other day.
That afternoon the Bores were going to enjoy themselves in their own
way; they were going to see Mrs. Bounder.
"And how is Mr. Bounder?" demands Mrs. Bore.
Mrs. Bounder remains mute for a moment, straining her ears. She can
hear him creeping past the door on his way downstairs. She hears the
front door softly opened and closed-to. She wakes, as from a dream.
She has been thinking of the sorrow that will fall on Bounder when he
returns home later and learns what he has missed.
And thus it is, not only with the Bores and Bounders, but even with
us who are not Bores or Bounders. Society in all ranks is founded on
the make-believe that everybody is charming; that we are delighted to
see everybody; that everybody is delighted to see us; that it is so
good of everybody to come; that we are desolate at the thought that
they really must go now.
Which would we rather do--stop and finish our cigar or hasten into
the drawing-room to hear Miss Screecher sing? Can you ask us? We
tumble over each other in our hurry. Miss Screecher would really
rather not sing; but if we insist--We do insist. Miss Screecher,
with pretty reluctance, consents. We are careful not to look at one
another. We sit with our eyes fixed on the ceiling. Miss Screecher
finishes, and rises.
"But it was so short," we say, so soon as we can be heard above the
applause. Is Miss Screecher quite sure that was the whole of it? Or
has she been playing tricks upon us, the naughty lady, defrauding us
of a verse? Miss Screecher assures us that the fault is the
composer's. But she knows another. At this hint, our faces lighten
again with gladness. We clamour for more.
Our host's wine is always the most extraordinary we have ever tasted.
No, not another glass; we dare not--doctor's orders, very strict.
Our host's cigar! We did not know they made such cigars in this
workaday world. No, we really could not smoke another. Well, if he
will be so pressing, may we put it in our pocket? The truth is, we
are not used to high smoking. Our hostess's coffee! Would she
confide to us her secret? The baby! We hardly trust ourselves to
speak. The usual baby--we have seen it. As a rule, to be candid, we
never could detect much beauty in babies--have always held the usual
gush about them to be insincere. But this baby! We are almost on
the point of asking them where they got it. It is just the kind we
wanted for ourselves. Little Janet's recitation: "A Visit to the
Dentist!" Hitherto the amateur reciter has not appealed to us. But
this is genius, surely. She ought to be trained for the stage. Her
mother does not altogether approve of the stage. We plead for the
stage--that it may not be deprived of such talent.
Every bride is beautiful. Every bride looks charming in a simple
costume of--for further particulars see local papers. Every marriage
is a cause for universal rejoicing. With our wine-glass in our hand
we picture the ideal life we know to be in store for them. How can
it be otherwise? She, the daughter of her mother. (Cheers.) He--
well, we all know him. (More cheers.) Also involuntary guffaw from
ill-regulated young man at end of table, promptly suppressed.
We carry our make-believe even into our religion. We sit in church,
and in voices swelling with pride, mention to the Almighty, at stated
intervals, that we are miserable worms--that there is no good in us.
This sort of thing, we gather, is expected of us; it does us no harm,
and is supposed to please.
We make-believe that every woman is good, that every man is honest--
until they insist on forcing us, against our will, to observe that
they are not. Then we become very angry with them, and explain to
them that they, being sinners, are not folk fit to mix with us
perfect people. Our grief, when our rich aunt dies, is hardly to be
borne. Drapers make fortunes, helping us to express feebly our
desolation. Our only consolation is that she has gone to a better
Everybody goes to a better world when they have got all they can out
of this one.
We stand around the open grave and tell each other so. The clergyman
is so assured of it that, to save time, they have written out the
formula for him and had it printed in a little book. As a child it
used to surprise me--this fact that everybody went to heaven.
Thinking of all the people that had died, I pictured the place
overcrowded. Almost I felt sorry for the Devil, nobody ever coming
his way, so to speak. I saw him in imagination, a lonely old
gentleman, sitting at his gate day after day, hoping against hope,
muttering to himself maybe that it hardly seemed worth while, from
his point of view, keeping the show open. An old nurse whom I once
took into my confidence was sure, if I continued talking in this sort
of way, that he would get me anyhow. I must have been an evil-
hearted youngster. The thought of how he would welcome me, the only
human being that he had seen for years, had a certain fascination for
me; for once in my existence I should be made a fuss about.
At every public meeting the chief speaker is always "a jolly good
fellow." The man from Mars, reading our newspapers, would be
convinced that every Member of Parliament was a jovial, kindly, high-
hearted, generous-souled saint, with just sufficient humanity in him
to prevent the angels from carrying him off bodily. Do not the
entire audience, moved by one common impulse, declare him three times
running, and in stentorian voice, to be this "jolly good fellow"? So
say all of them. We have always listened with the most intense
pleasure to the brilliant speech of our friend who has just sat down.
When you thought we were yawning, we were drinking in his eloquence,
The higher one ascends in the social scale, the wider becomes this
necessary base of make-believe. When anything sad happens to a very
big person, the lesser people round about him hardly care to go on
living. Seeing that the world is somewhat overstocked with persons
of importance, and that something or another generally is happening
to them, one wonders sometimes how it is the world continues to
Once upon a time there occurred an illness to a certain good and
great man. I read in my daily paper that the whole nation was
plunged in grief. People dining in public restaurants, on being told
the news by the waiter, dropped their heads upon the table and
sobbed. Strangers, meeting in the street, flung their arms about one
another and cried like little children. I was abroad at the time,
but on the point of returning home. I almost felt ashamed to go. I
looked at myself in the glass, and was shocked at my own appearance:
it was that of a man who had not been in trouble for weeks. I felt
that to burst upon this grief-stricken nation with a countenance such
as mine would be to add to their sorrow. It was borne in upon me
that I must have a shallow, egotistical nature. I had had luck with
a play in America, and for the life of me I could not look grief-
stricken. There were moments when, if I was not keeping a watch over
myself, I found myself whistling.
Had it been possible I would have remained abroad till some stroke of
ill-fortune had rendered me more in tune with my fellow-countrymen.
But business was pressing. The first man I talked to on Dover pier
was a Customs House official. You might have thought sorrow would
have made him indifferent to a mere matter of forty-eight cigars.
Instead of which, he appeared quite pleased when he found them. He
demanded three-and-fourpence, and chuckled when he got it. On Dover
platform a little girl laughed because a lady dropped a handbox on a
dog; but then children are always callous--or, perhaps, she had not
heard the news.
What astonished me most, however, was to find in the railway carriage
a respectable looking man reading a comic journal. True, he did not
laugh much: he had got decency enough for that; but what was a
grief-stricken citizen doing with a comic journal, anyhow? Before I
had been in London an hour I had come to the conclusion that we
English must be a people of wonderful self-control. The day before,
according to the newspapers, the whole country was in serious danger
of pining away and dying of a broken heart. In one day the nation
had pulled itself together. "We have cried all day," they had said
to themselves, "we have cried all night. It does not seem to have
done much good. Now let us once again take up the burden of life."
Some of them--I noticed it in the hotel dining-room that evening--
were taking quite kindly to their food again.
We make believe about quite serious things. In war, each country's
soldiers are always the most courageous in the world. The other
country's soldiers are always treacherous and tricky; that is why
they sometimes win. Literature is the art of make-believe.
"Now all of you sit round and throw your pennies in the cap," says
the author, "and I will pretend that there lives in Bayswater a young
lady named Angelina, who is the most beautiful young lady that ever
existed. And in Notting Hill, we will pretend, there resides a young
man named Edwin, who is in love with Angelina."
And then, there being sufficient pennies in the cap, the author
starts away, and pretends that Angelina thought this and said that,
and that Edwin did all sorts of wonderful things. We know he is
making it all up as he goes along. We know he is making up just what
he thinks will please us. He, on the other hand, has to make-believe
that he is doing it because he cannot help it, he being an artist.
But we know well enough that, were we to stop throwing the pennies
into the cap, he would find out precious soon that he could.
The theatrical manager bangs his drum.
"Walk up! walk up!" he cries, "we are going to pretend that Mrs.
Johnson is a princess, and old man Johnson is going to pretend to be
a pirate. Walk up, walk up, and be in time!"
So Mrs. Johnson, pretending to be a princess, comes out of a wobbly
thing that we agree to pretend is a castle; and old man Johnson,
pretending to be a pirate, is pushed up and down on another wobbly
thing that we agree to pretend is the ocean. Mrs. Johnson pretends
to be in love with him, which we know she is not. And Johnson
pretends to be a very terrible person; and Mrs. Johnson pretends,
till eleven o'clock, to believe it. And we pay prices, varying from
a shilling to half-a-sovereign, to sit for two hours and listen to
But as I explained at the beginning, my friend is a mad sort of
IS THE AMERICAN HUSBAND MADE ENTIRELY OF STAINED GLASS.
I am glad I am not an American husband. At first sight this may
appear a remark uncomplimentary to the American wife. It is nothing
of the sort. It is the other way about. We, in Europe, have plenty
of opportunity of judging the American wife. In America you hear of
the American wife, you are told stories about the American wife, you
see her portrait in the illustrated journals. By searching under the
heading "Foreign Intelligence," you can find out what she is doing.
But here in Europe we know her, meet her face to face, talk to her,
flirt with her. She is charming, delightful. That is why I say I am
glad I am not an American husband. If the American husband only knew
how nice was the American wife, he would sell his business and come
over here, where now and then he could see her.
Years ago, when I first began to travel about Europe, I argued to
myself that America must be a deadly place to live in. How sad it
is, I thought to myself, to meet thus, wherever one goes, American
widows by the thousand. In one narrow by-street of Dresden I
calculated fourteen American mothers, possessing nine-and-twenty
American children, and not a father among them--not a single husband
among the whole fourteen. I pictured fourteen lonely graves,
scattered over the United States. I saw as in a vision those
fourteen head-stones of best material, hand-carved, recording the
virtues of those fourteen dead and buried husbands.
Odd, thought I to myself, decidedly odd. These American husbands,
they must be a delicate type of humanity. The wonder is their
mothers ever reared them. They marry fine girls, the majority of
them; two or three sweet children are born to them, and after that
there appears to be no further use for them, as far as this world is
concerned. Can nothing be done to strengthen their constitutions?
Would a tonic be of any help to them? Not the customary tonic, I
don't mean, the sort of tonic merely intended to make gouty old
gentlemen feel they want to buy a hoop, but the sort of tonic for
which it was claimed that three drops poured upon a ham sandwich and
the thing would begin to squeak.
It struck me as pathetic, the picture of these American widows
leaving their native land, coming over in shiploads to spend the rest
of their blighted lives in exile. The mere thought of America, I
took it, had for ever become to them distasteful. The ground that
once his feet had pressed! The old familiar places once lighted by
his smile! Everything in America would remind them of him.
Snatching their babes to their heaving bosoms they would leave the
country where lay buried all the joy of their lives, seek in the
retirement of Paris, Florence or Vienna, oblivion of the past.
Also, it struck me as beautiful, the noble resignation with which
they bore their grief, hiding their sorrow from the indifferent
stranger. Some widows make a fuss, go about for weeks looking gloomy
and depressed, making not the slightest effort to be merry. These
fourteen widows--I knew them personally, all of them, I lived in the
same street--what a brave show of cheerfulness they put on! What a
lesson to the common or European widow, the humpy type of widow! One
could spend whole days in their company--I had done it--commencing
quite early in the morning with a sleighing excursion, finishing up
quite late in the evening with a little supper party, followed by an
impromptu dance; and never detect from their outward manner that they
were not thoroughly enjoying themselves.
From the mothers I turned my admiring eyes towards the children.
This is the secret of American success, said I to myself; this high-
spirited courage, this Spartan contempt for suffering. Look at them!
the gallant little men and women. Who would think that they had lost
a father? Why, I have seen a British child more upset at losing
Talking to a little girl one day, I enquired of her concerning the
health of her father. The next moment I could have bitten my tongue
out, remembering that there wasn't such a thing as a father--not an
American father--in the whole street. She did not burst into tears
as they do in the story-books. She said:
"He is quite well, thank you," simply, pathetically, just like that.
"I am sure of it," I replied with fervour, "well and happy as he
deserves to be, and one day you will find him again; you will go to
"Ah, yes," she answered, a shining light, it seemed to me, upon her
fair young face. "Momma says she is getting just a bit tired of this
one-horse sort of place. She is quite looking forward to seeing him
It touched me very deeply: this weary woman, tired of her long
bereavement, actually looking forward to the fearsome passage leading
to where her loved one waited for her in a better land.
For one bright breezy creature I grew to feel a real regard. All the
months that I had known her, seen her almost daily, never once had I
heard a single cry of pain escape her lips, never once had I heard
her cursing fate. Of the many who called upon her in her charming
flat, not one had ever, to my knowledge, offered her consolation or
condolence. It seemed to me cruel, callous. The over-burdened
heart, finding no outlet for its imprisoned grief, finding no
sympathetic ear into which to pour its tale of woe, breaks, we are
told; anyhow, it isn't good for it. I decided--no one else seeming
keen--that I would supply that sympathetic ear. The very next time I
found myself alone with her I introduced the subject.
"You have been living here in Dresden a long time, have you not?" I
"About five years," she answered, "on and off."
"And all alone," I commented, with a sigh intended to invite to
"Well, hardly alone," she corrected me, while a look of patient
resignation added dignity to her piquant features. "You see, there
are the dear children always round about me, during the holidays."
"Besides," she added, "the people here are real kind to me; they
hardly ever let me feel myself alone. We make up little parties, you
know, picnics and excursions. And then, of course, there is the
Opera and the Symphony Concerts, and the subscription dances. The
dear old king has been doing a good deal this winter, too; and I must
say the Embassy folks have been most thoughtful, so far as I am
concerned. No, it would not be right for me to complain of
loneliness, not now that I have got to know a few people, as it
"But don't you miss your husband?" I suggested.
A cloud passed over her usually sunny face. "Oh, please don't talk
of him," she said, "it makes me feel real sad, thinking about him."
But having commenced, I was determined that my sympathy should not be
left to waste.
"What did he die of?" I asked.
She gave me a look the pathos of which I shall never forget.
"Say, young man," she cried, "are you trying to break it to me
gently? Because if so, I'd rather you told me straight out. What
did he die of?"
"Then isn't he dead?" I asked, "I mean so far as you know."
"Never heard a word about his being dead till you started the idea,"
she retorted. "So far as I know he's alive and well."
I said that I was sorry. I went on to explain that I did not mean I
was sorry to hear that in all probability he was alive and well.
What I meant was I was sorry I had introduced a painful subject.
"What's a painful subject?"
"Why, your husband," I replied.
"But why should you call him a painful subject?"
I had an idea she was getting angry with me. She did not say so. I
gathered it. But I had to explain myself somehow.
"Well," I answered, "I take it, you didn't get on well together, and
I am sure it must have been his fault."
"Now look here," she said, "don't you breathe a word against my
husband or we shall quarrel. A nicer, dearer fellow never lived."
"Then what did you divorce him for?" I asked. It was impertinent, it
was unjustifiable. My excuse is that the mystery surrounding the
American husband had been worrying me for months. Here had I
stumbled upon the opportunity of solving it. Instinctively I clung
to my advantage.
"There hasn't been any divorce," she said. "There isn't going to be
any divorce. You'll make me cross in another minute."
But I was becoming reckless. "He is not dead. You are not divorced
from him. Where is he?" I demanded with some heat.
"Where is he?" she replied, astonished. Where should he be? At
home, of course." I looked around the luxuriously-furnished room
with its air of cosy comfort, of substantial restfulness.
"What home?" I asked.
"What home! Why, our home, in Detroit."
"What is he doing there?" I had become so much in earnest that my
voice had assumed unconsciously an authoritative tone. Presumably,
it hypnotised her, for she answered my questions as though she had
been in the witness-box.
"How do I know? How can I possibly tell you what he is doing? What
do people usually do at home?"
"Answer the questions, madam, don't ask them. What are you doing
here? Quite truthfully, if you please." My eyes were fixed upon
"Enjoying myself. He likes me to enjoy myself. Besides, I am
educating the children."
"You mean they are here at boarding-school while you are gadding
about. What is wrong with American education? When did you see your
"Last? Let me see. No, last Christmas I was in Berlin. It must
have been the Christmas before, I think."
"If he is the dear kind fellow you say he is, how is it you haven't
seen him for two years?"
"Because, as I tell you, he is at home, in Detroit. How can I see
him when I am here in Dresden and he is in Detroit? You do ask
foolish questions. He means to try and come over in the summer, if
he can spare the time, and then, of course -
"Answer my questions, please. I've spoken to you once about it. Do
you think you are performing your duty as a wife, enjoying yourself
in Dresden and Berlin while your husband is working hard in Detroit?"
"He was quite willing for me to come. The American husband is a good
fellow who likes his wife to enjoy herself."
"I am not asking for your views on the American husband. I am asking
your views on the American wife--on yourself. The American husband
appears to be a sort of stained-glass saint, and you American wives
are imposing upon him. It is doing you no good, and it won't go on
for ever. There will come a day when the American husband will wake
up to the fact he is making a fool of himself, and by over-
indulgence, over-devotion, turning the American woman into a
heartless, selfish creature. What sort of a home do you think it is
in Detroit, with you and the children over here? Tell me, is the
American husband made entirely of driven snow, with blood distilled
from moonbeams, or is he composed of the ordinary ingredients?
Because, if the latter, you take my advice and get back home. I take
it that in America, proper, there are millions of real homes where
the woman does her duty and plays the game. But also it is quite
clear there are thousands of homes in America, mere echoing rooms,
where the man walks by himself, his wife and children scattered over
Europe. It isn't going to work, it isn't right that it should work."
"You take the advice of a sincere friend. Pack up--you and the
children--and get home."
I left. It was growing late. I felt it was time to leave. Whether
she took my counsel I cannot say. I only know that there still
remain in Europe a goodly number of American wives to whom it is
DOES THE YOUNG MAN KNOW EVERYTHING WORTH KNOWING?
I am told that American professors are "mourning the lack of ideals"
at Columbia University--possibly also at other universities scattered
through the United States. If it be any consolation to these
mourning American professors, I can assure them that they do not
mourn alone. I live not far from Oxford, and enjoy the advantage of
occasionally listening to the jeremiads of English University
professors. More than once a German professor has done me the honour
to employ me as an object on which to sharpen his English. He also
has mourned similar lack of ideals at Heidelberg, at Bonn. Youth is
youth all the world over; it has its own ideals; they are not those
of the University professor. The explanation is tolerably simple.
Youth is young, and the University professor, generally speaking, is
I can sympathise with the mourning professor. I, in my time, have
suffered like despair. I remember the day so well; it was my twelfth
birthday. I recall the unholy joy with which I reflected that for
the future my unfortunate parents would be called upon to pay for me
full railway fare; it marked a decided step towards manhood. I was
now in my teens. That very afternoon there came to visit us a
relative of ours. She brought with her three small children: a
girl, aged six; a precious, golden-haired thing in a lace collar that
called itself a boy, aged five; and a third still smaller creature,
it might have been male, it might have been female; I could not have
told you at the time, I cannot tell you now. This collection of
atoms was handed over to me.
"Now, show yourself a man," said my dear mother, "remember you are in
your teens. Take them out for a walk and amuse them; and mind
nothing happens to them."
To the children themselves their own mother gave instructions that
they were to do everything that I told them, and not to tear their
clothes or make themselves untidy. These directions, even to myself,
at the time, appeared contradictory. But I said nothing. And out
into the wilds the four of us departed.
I was an only child. My own infancy had passed from my memory. To
me, at twelve, the ideas of six were as incomprehensible as are those
of twenty to the University professor of forty. I wanted to be a
pirate. Round the corner and across the road building operations
were in progress. Planks and poles lay ready to one's hand. Nature,
in the neighbourhood, had placed conveniently a shallow pond. It was
Saturday afternoon. The nearest public-house was a mile away.
Immunity from interference by the British workman was thus assured.
It occurred to me that by placing my three depressed looking
relatives on one raft, attacking them myself from another, taking the
eldest girl's sixpence away from her, disabling their raft, and
leaving them to drift without a rudder, innocent amusement would be
provided for half an hour at least.
They did not want to play at pirates. At first sight of the pond the
thing that called itself a boy began to cry. The six-year-old lady
said she did not like the smell of it. Not even after I had
explained the game to them were they any the more enthusiastic for
I proposed Red Indians. They could go to sleep in the unfinished
building upon a sack of lime, I would creep up through the grass, set
fire to the house, and dance round it, whooping and waving my
tomahawk, watching with fiendish delight the frantic but futile
efforts of the palefaces to escape their doom.
It did not "catch on"--not even that. The precious thing in the lace
collar began to cry again. The creature concerning whom I could not
have told you whether it was male or female made no attempt at
argument, but started to run; it seemed to have taken a dislike to
this particular field. It stumbled over a scaffolding pole, and then
it also began to cry. What could one do to amuse such people? I
left it to them to propose something. They thought they would like
to play at "Mothers"--not in this field, but in some other field.
The eldest girl would be mother. The other two would represent her
children. They had been taken suddenly ill. "Waterworks," as I had
christened him, was to hold his hands to his middle and groan. His
face brightened up at the suggestion. The nondescript had the
toothache. It took up its part without a moment's hesitation, and
set to work to scream. I could be the doctor and look at their
That was their "ideal" game. As I have said, remembering that
afternoon, I can sympathise with the University professor mourning
the absence of University ideals in youth. Possibly at six my own
ideal game may have been "Mothers." Looking back from the pile of
birthdays upon which I now stand, it occurs to me that very probably
it was. But from the perspective of twelve, the reflection that
there were beings in the world who could find recreation in such
fooling saddened me.
Eight years later, his father not being able to afford the time, I
conducted Master "Waterworks," now a healthy, uninteresting, gawky
lad, to a school in Switzerland. It was my first Continental trip.
I should have enjoyed it better had he not been with me. He thought
Paris a "beastly hole." He did not share my admiration for the
Frenchwoman; he even thought her badly dressed.
"Why she's so tied up, she can't walk straight," was the only
impression she left upon him.
We changed the subject; it irritated me to hear him talk. The
beautiful Juno-like creatures we came across further on in Germany,
he said were too fat. He wanted to see them run. I found him
To expect a boy to love learning and culture is like expecting him to
prefer old vintage claret to gooseberry wine. Culture for the
majority is an acquired taste. Speaking personally, I am entirely in
agreement with the University professor. I find knowledge, prompting
to observation and leading to reflection, the most satisfactory
luggage with which a traveller through life can provide himself. I
would that I had more of it. To be able to enjoy a picture is of
more advantage than to be able to buy it.
All that the University professor can urge in favour of idealism I am
prepared to endorse. But then I am--let us say, thirty-nine. At
fourteen my candid opinion was that he was talking "rot." I looked
at the old gentleman himself--a narrow-chested, spectacled old
gentleman, who lived up a by street. He did not seem to have much
fun of any sort. It was not my ideal. He told me things had been
written in a language called Greek that I should enjoy reading, but I
had not even read all Captain Marryat. There were tales by Sir
Walter Scott and "Jack Harkaway's Schooldays!" I felt I could wait a
while. There was a chap called Aristophanes who had written
comedies, satirising the political institutions of a country that had
disappeared two thousand years ago. I say, without shame, Drury Lane
pantomime and Barnum's Circus called to me more strongly.
Wishing to give the old gentleman a chance, I dipped into
translations. Some of these old fellows were not as bad as I had
imagined them. A party named Homer had written some really
interesting stuff. Here and there, maybe, he was a bit long-winded,
but, taking him as a whole, there was "go" in him. There was another
of them--Ovid was his name. He could tell a story, Ovid could. He
had imagination. He was almost as good as "Robinson Crusoe." I
thought it would please my professor, telling him that I was reading
these, his favourite authors.
"Reading them!" he cried, "but you don't know Greek or Latin."
"But I know English," I answered; "they have all been translated into
English. You never told me that!"
It appeared it was not the same thing. There were subtle delicacies
of diction bound to escape even the best translator. These subtle
delicacies of diction I could enjoy only by devoting the next seven
or eight years of my life to the study of Greek and Latin. It will
grieve the University professor to hear it, but the enjoyment of
those subtle delicacies of diction did not appear to me--I was only
fourteen at the time, please remember--to be worth the time and
The boy is materially inclined--the mourning American professor has
discovered it. I did not want to be an idealist living up a back
street. I wanted to live in the biggest house in the best street of
the town. I wanted to ride a horse, wear a fur coat, and have as
much to eat and drink as ever I liked. I wanted to marry the most
beautiful woman in the world, to have my name in the newspaper, and
to know that everybody was envying me.
Mourn over it, my dear professor, as you will--that is the ideal of
youth; and, so long as human nature remains what it is, will continue
to be so. It is a materialistic ideal--a sordid ideal. Maybe it is
necessary. Maybe the world would not move much if the young men
started thinking too early. They want to be rich, so they fling
themselves frenziedly into the struggle. They build the towns, and
make the railway tracks, hew down the forests, dig the ore out of the
ground. There comes a day when it is borne in upon them that trying
to get rich is a poor sort of game--that there is only one thing more
tiresome than being a millionaire, and that is trying to be a
millionaire. But, meanwhile, the world has got its work done.
The American professor fears that the artistic development of America
leaves much to be desired. I fear the artistic development of most
countries leaves much to be desired. Why the Athenians themselves
sandwiched their drama between wrestling competitions and boxing
bouts. The plays of Sophocles, or Euripides, were given as "side
shows." The chief items of the fair were the games and races.
Besides, America is still a young man. It has been busy "getting on
in the world." It has not yet quite finished. Yet there are signs
that young America is approaching the thirty-nines. He is finding a
little time, a little money to spare for art. One can almost hear
young America--not quite so young as he was--saying to Mrs. Europe as
he enters and closes the shop door:
"Well, ma'am, here I am, and maybe you'll be glad to hear I've a
little money to spend. Yes, ma'am, I've fixed things all right
across the water; we shan't starve. So now, ma'am, you and I can
have a chat concerning this art I've been hearing so much about.
Let's have a look at it, ma'am, trot it out, and don't you be afraid
of putting a fair price upon it."
I am inclined to think that Mrs. Europe has not hesitated to put a
good price upon the art she has sold to Uncle Sam. I am afraid Mrs.
Europe has occasionally "unloaded" on Uncle Sam. I talked to a
certain dealer one afternoon, now many years ago, at the Uwantit
"What is the next picture likely to be missing?" I asked him in the
course of general conversation.
"Thome little thing of Hoppner'th, if it mutht be," he replied with
"Hoppner," I murmured, "I seem to have heard the name."
"Yeth; you'll hear it a bit oftener during the next eighteen month or
tho. You take care you don't get tired of hearing it, thath all," he
laughed. "Yeth," he continued, thoughtfully, "Reynoldth ith played
out. Nothing much to be made of Gainthborough, either. Dealing in
that lot now, why, it'th like keeping a potht offith. Hoppner'th the
"You've been buying Hoppners up cheap," I suggested.
"Between uth," he answered, "yeth, I think we've got them all. Maybe
a few more. I don't think we've mithed any."
"You will sell them for more than you gave for them," I hinted.
"You're thmart," he answered, regarding me admiringly, "you thee
through everything you do."
"How do you work it?" I asked him. There is a time in the day when
he is confidential. "Here is this man, Hoppner. I take it that you
have bought him up at an average of a hundred pounds a picture, and
that at that price most owners were fairly glad to sell. Few folks
outside the art schools have ever heard of him. I bet that at the
present moment there isn't one art critic who could spell his name
without reference to a dictionary. In eighteen months you will be
selling him for anything from one thousand to ten thousand pounds.
How is it done?"
"How ith everything done that'th done well?" he answered. "By
earnetht effort." He hitched his chair nearer to me, "I get a chap--
one of your thort of chapth--he writ'th an article about Hoppner. I
get another to anthwer him. Before I've done there'll be a hundred
articleth about Hoppner--hith life, hith early thruggie, anecdo'th
about hith wife. Then a Hoppner will be thold at public auchtion for
a thouthand guineath."
"But how can you be certain it will fetch a thousand guineas?" I
"I happen to know the man whoth going to buy it." He winked, and I
"A fortnight later there will be a thale of half-a-dothen, and the
prithe will be gone up by that time."
"And after that?" I said.
"After that," he replied, rising, "the American millionaire! He'll
jutht be waiting on the door-thtep for the thale-room to open."
"If by any chance I come across a Hoppner?" I said, laughing, as I
turned to go.
"Don't you hold on to it too long, that'th all," was his advice.
HOW MANY CHARMS HATH MUSIC, WOULD YOU SAY?
The argument of the late Herr Wagner was that grand opera--the music
drama, as he called it--included, and therefore did away with the
necessity for--all other arts. Music in all its branches, of course,
it provides: so much I will concede to the late Herr Wagner. There
are times, I confess, when my musical yearnings might shock the late
Herr Wagner--times when I feel unequal to following three distinct
themes at one and the same instant.
"Listen," whispers the Wagnerian enthusiast to me, "the cornet has
now the Brunnhilda motive." It seems to me, in my then state of
depravity, as if the cornet had even more than this the matter with
"The second violins," continues the Wagnerian enthusiast, "are
carrying on the Wotan theme." That they are carrying on goes without
saying: the players' faces are streaming with perspiration.
"The brass," explains my friend--his object is to cultivate my ear--
"is accompanying the singers." I should have said drowning them.
There are occasions when I can rave about Wagner with the best of
them. High class moods come to all of us. The difference between
the really high-class man and us commonplace, workaday men is the
difference between, say, the eagle and the barnyard chicken. I am
the barnyard chicken. I have my wings. There are ecstatic moments
when I feel I want to spurn the sordid earth and soar into the realms
of art. I do fly a little, but my body is heavy, and I only get as
far as the fence. After a while I find it lonesome on the fence, and
I hop down again among my fellows.
Listening to Wagner, during such temporary Philistinic mood, my sense
of fair play is outraged. A lone, lorn woman stands upon the stage
trying to make herself heard. She has to do this sort of thing for
her living; maybe an invalid mother, younger brothers and sisters are
dependent upon her. One hundred and forty men, all armed with
powerful instruments, well-organised, and most of them looking well-
fed, combine to make it impossible for a single note of that poor
woman's voice to be heard above their din. I see her standing there,
opening and shutting her mouth, getting redder and redder in the
face. She is singing, one feels sure of it; one could hear her if
only those one hundred and forty men would ease up for a minute. She
makes one mighty, supreme effort; above the banging of the drums, the
blare of the trumpets, the shrieking of the strings, that last
despairing note is distinctly heard.
She has won, but the victory has cost her dear. She sinks down
fainting on the stage and is carried off by supers. Chivalrous
indignation has made it difficult for me to keep my seat watching the
unequal contest. My instinct was to leap the barrier, hurl the bald-
headed chief of her enemies from his high chair, and lay about me
with the trombone or the clarionet--whichever might have come the
easier to my snatch.
"You cowardly lot of bullies," I have wanted to cry, "are you not
ashamed of yourselves? A hundred and forty of you against one, and