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Title: America To-day, Observations and Reflections
Author: Archer, William, 1856-1924
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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AMERICA TO-DAY

_OBSERVATIONS AND REFLECTIONS_

BY
WILLIAM ARCHER

NEW YORK
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
1899



CONTENTS


_PART I--OBSERVATIONS_

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


_PART II--REFLECTIONS_

North and South, I

North and South, II

North and South, III

North and South, IV

The Republic and The Empire, I

The Republic and The Empire, II

The Republic and The Empire, III

The Republic and The Empire, IV

American Literature

The American Language, I

The American Language, II

The American Language, III

The American Language, IV



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



PART I

OBSERVATIONS



LETTER I

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


R.M.S. _Lucania_.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


FOOTNOTES:

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



LETTER II

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


NEW YORK.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


FOOTNOTES:

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



LETTER III

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


NEW YORK.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


FOOTNOTES:

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



LETTER IV

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


NEW YORK.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


FOOTNOTES:

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

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



LETTER V

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


NEW YORK.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

     RHETORIC AND ENGLISH COMPOSITION

     COURSES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


     ENGLISH AND LITERATURE

     COURSES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     Courses 12 and 13 are given in alternate years.

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

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

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

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


     LITERATURE.

     COURSES.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


FOOTNOTES:

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

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



LETTER VI

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


WASHINGTON.

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

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

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

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

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

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



LETTER VII

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


BOSTON.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


FOOTNOTES:

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



LETTER VIII

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


CHICAGO.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New England, however, cannot be utterly depopulated of its old stocks,
for at every turn you come up against those good old Puritan names which
bespeak a longer ancestry than many an English peer can claim. I find
among the signatures to a petition against the reinstatement of an
elevated railroad in Boston, such names as Adams, Morse, Lowell,
Emerson, Bowditch, Lothrop, Storey, Dabney, Whipple, Ticknor, and Hale.
Of the fifty signatures, only three (or, at the outside five, if we
include two doubtful cases) are of other than English origin. In
contrast to this I may mention another list of names which came under my
notice at the same time--a list of the purchasers at a sale by auction
of seats for a New York first-night. Here twenty-six names out of forty
are obviously of non-English origin, while several of the remaining
fourteen have a distinctly Hebraic ring.

Though very much smaller than New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia,
Boston is essentially a great city, with a very animated street life,
and nothing in the least provincial about it. But it is not in these
great capitals, not even in this marvellous Chicago where I am now
writing, that one most clearly realises the bewildering potentialities
of the United States. It is precisely in the minor, the provincial
cities, which to us in Europe are no more than names--perhaps not so
much. For instance, what does the average Englishman know of Detroit?[H]

What State is it in? Is it in the North or the South, the East or the
West? For my part I knew in a general way, having been there before,
that Detroit was situated somewhere between Chicago and Niagara Falls,
but until a few days ago I should have been puzzled to describe its
situation more precisely. Well, I arrive in this obscure, insignificant
place, and find it a city of considerably more than a quarter of a
million inhabitants, beautifully laid out, magnificently paved and
lighted, its broad and noble avenues lined with handsome commercial
houses and roomy if not always beautiful villas, trees shading its
sidewalks, electric cars swimming in an endless stream along its
bustling thoroughfares, its imposing public library swarming with
readers, its theatres crowded, its parks alive with bicyclists, an eager
activity, whether in business, culture, or recreation, manifesting
itself on every hand. Or take, again, Buffalo, somewhat larger than
Detroit, but still by no means a city of the first rank. Everything that
I have said of Detroit applies to it, with the addition that some of
its commercial buildings are not only palatial in their dimensions, but
original and impressive in their architecture. An afternoon stroll along
Woodward-avenue, Detroit, or Main-street, Buffalo, reassures one as to
the future--the physical, at any rate--of the American people. The
prevailing type is, if not definitely Anglo-Saxon, at any rate Teutonic,
and the average of physical development is very high, especially among
the women. It may have some bearing upon what I have been saying above
to note that, in point of stature and beauty, the Bostonian woman, as a
rule, seemed to me to fall far short of her sisters in the other cities
I have visited. I have before my mind's eye many distinguished and
delightful exceptions to this rule; but, postponing gallantry to
sociological candour, I state my general impression for what it is
worth.

Here, in Chicago, gallantry and candour go hand in hand. A legend of the
envious East represents that a Chicago young man travelling in Louisiana
wrote to his sweetheart: "DEAR MAMIE,--I have shot an alligator. When I
have shot another, I will send you a pair of slippers." The implication
is, to the best of my knowledge and belief, a base and baseless
calumny. New York itself does not present a higher average of female
beauty than Chicago, and that is saying a great deal. But I must not
enlarge on this fascinating topic. A Judgment of Paris is always a
delicate business, and I am in nowise called upon to make the invidious
award. Were I compelled to undertake it, I could only distribute the
apple, and my homage, in equal shares to the goddesses of the East, the
South, and the Middle West.

When I was in Chicago in '77, it was the metropolis of the West, without
qualification. Now it is merely the frontier city of the Middle West.
From the standpoint of Omaha and Denver, it seems to fill the Eastern
horizon, and shut out the further view. Many stories are told to show
how absolutely and instinctively your true Westerner ignores the Eastern
States and cities. Here is one of the most characteristic. A little girl
came into the smoking car of a train somewhere in Kansas or Nebraska,
and stood beside her father, who was in conversation with another man.
The father put his arm round her and said to his companion, "She's been
a great traveller, this little girl of mine. She's only ten years old,
and she's been all over the United States."

"You don't say!" replied the other; "all over the United States?"

"Yes, sir; all over the United States," said the proud father; and then
added, as though the detail was scarcely worth mentioning, "except east
of Chicago."

Chicago, unfortunately, marks the limit of my wanderings; so I shall
return to England without having seen anything of the United States,
except for a sort of Pisgah-glimpse from the tower of the Auditorium.


FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote H: My own visit to Detroit illustrated this vagueness of the
average Englishman. I was anxious to see Mr. James A. Herne's famous
play, _Shore Acres_, and learned from Mr. Herne that it would be played
by a travelling company at Buffalo on a certain date. I carefully noted
the place and day, but contrived to mix up Buffalo and Detroit in my
mind, and arrived on the appointed day in Detroit--nearly two hundred
and fifty miles from the appointed place! It was as though, having
arranged to be in Brighton at a certain time, one should go instead to
Scarborough.]



LETTER IX

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


CHICAGO.

When I was in America twenty-two years ago, Chicago was the city that
interested me least. Coming straight from San Francisco--which, in the
eyes of a youthful student of Bret Harte, seemed the fitting metropolis
of one of the great realms of romance--I saw in Chicago the negation of
all that had charmed me on the Pacific slope. It was a flat and grimy
abode of mere commerce, a rectilinear Glasgow; and to an Edinburgh man,
or rather boy, no comparison could appear more damaging. How different
is the impression produced by the Chicago of to-day! In 1877 the city
was extensive enough, indeed, and handsome to boot, in a commonplace,
cast-iron fashion. It was a chequer-board of Queen-Victoria-streets.
To-day its area is appalling, its architecture grandiose. It is the
young giant among the cities of the earth, and it stands but on the
threshold of its destiny. It embraces in its unimaginable amplitude
every extreme of splendour and squalor. Walking in Dearborn-street or
Adams-street of a cloudy afternoon, you think yourself in a frowning and
fuliginous city of Dis, piled up by superhuman and apparently sinister
powers. Cycling round the boulevards of a sunny morning, you rejoice in
the airy and spacious greenery of the Garden City. Driving along the
Lake Shore to Lincoln Park in the flush of sunset, you wonder that the
dwellers in this street of palaces should trouble their heads about
Naples or Venice, when they have before their very windows the
innumerable laughter, the ever-shifting opalescence, of their
fascinating inland sea. Plunging in the electric cars through the river
subway, and emerging in the West Side, you realise that the slums of
Chicago, if not quite so tightly packed as those of New York or London,
are no whit behind them in the other essentials of civilised barbarism.
Chicago, more than any other city of my acquaintance, suggests that
antique conception of the underworld which placed Elysium and Tartarus
not only on the same plane, but, so to speak, round the corner from each
other.

As the elephant (or rather the megatherium) to the giraffe, so is the
colossal business block of Chicago to the sky-scraper of New York. There
is a proportion and dignity in the mammoth buildings of Chicago which is
lacking in most of those which form the jagged sky-line of Manhattan
Island. For one reason or another--no doubt some difference in the
system of land tenure is at the root of the matter--the Chicago
architect has usually a larger plot of ground to operate on than his New
York colleague, and can consequently give his building breadth and depth
as well as height. Before the lanky giants of the Eastern metropolis,
one has generally to hold one's æsthetic judgment in abeyance. They are
not precisely ugly, but still less, as a rule, can they be called
beautiful. They are simply astounding manifestations of human energy and
heaven-storming audacity. They stand outside the pale of æsthetics, like
the Eiffel Tower or the Forth Bridge. But in Chicago proportion goes
along with mere height, and many of the business houses are, if not
beautiful, at least æsthetically impressive--for instance, the grim
fortalice of Marshall Field & Company, the Masonic Temple, the Women's
Temperance Temple (a structure with a touch of real beauty), and such
vast cities within the city as the Great Northern Building and the
Monadnock Block. The last-named edifice alone is said to have a daily
population of 6000. A city ordinance now limits the height of buildings
to ten stories; but even that is a respectable allowance. Moreover, it
is found that where giant constructions cluster too close together, they
(literally) stand in each other's light, and the middle stories do not
let. Thus the heaven-storming era is probably over; but there is all the
more reason to feel assured that the business centre of Chicago will ere
long be not only grandiose but architecturally dignified and
satisfactory. A growing thirst for beauty has come upon the city, and
architects are earnestly studying how to assuage it. In magnificence of
internal decoration, Chicago can already challenge the world: for
instance, in the white marble vestibule and corridors of The Rookery,
and the noble hall of the Illinois Trust Bank.

At the same time, no account of the city scenery of Chicago is complete
without the admission that the gorges and canyons of its central
district are exceedingly draughty, smoky, and dusty. Even in these
radiant spring days, it fully acts up to its reputation as the Windy
City. This peculiarity renders it probably the most convenient place in
the world for the establishment of a Suicide Club on the Stevensonian
model. With your eyes peppered with dust, with your ears full of the
clatter of the Elevated Road, and with the prairie breezes playfully
buffeting you and waltzing with you by turns, as they eddy through the
ravines of Madison, Monroe, or Adams-street, you take your life in your
hand when you attempt the crossing of State-street, with its endless
stream of rattling waggons and clanging trolley-cars. New York does not
for a moment compare with Chicago in the roar and bustle and
bewilderment, of its street life. This remark will probably be resented
in New York, but it expresses the settled conviction of an impartial
pedestrian, who has spent a considerable portion of his life during the
past few weeks in "negotiating" the crossings of both cities.

On the other hand, I observe no eagerness on the part of New York to
contest the supremacy of Chicago in the matter of smoke. In this
respect, the eastern metropolis is to the western as Mont Blanc to
Vesuvius. The smoke of Chicago has a peculiar and aggressive
individuality, due, I imagine, to the natural clearness of the
atmosphere. It does not seem, like London smoke, to permeate and blend
with the air. It does not overhang the streets in a uniform canopy, but
sweeps across and about them in gusts and swirls, now dropping and now
lifting again its grimy curtain. You will often see the vista of a
gorge-like street so choked with a seeming thundercloud that you feel
sure a storm is just about to burst upon the city, until you look up at
the zenith and find it smiling and serene. Again and again a sudden
swirl of smoke across the street (like that which swept across
Fifth-avenue when the Windsor Hotel burst into flames) has led me to
prick up my ears for a cry of "Fire!" But Chicago is not so easily
alarmed. It is accustomed to having its airs from heaven blurred by
these blasts from hell. I know few spectacles more curious than that
which awaits you when you have shot up in the express elevator to the
top of the Auditorium tower--on the one hand, the blue and laughing
lake, on the other, the city belching volumes of smoke from its thousand
throats, as though a vaster Sheffield or Wolverhampton had been
transported by magic to the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. What a
wonderful city Chicago will be when the commandment is honestly
enforced which declares, "Thou shalt consume thine own smoke!"

What a wonderful city Chicago will be! That is the ever-recurring burden
of one's cogitations. For Chicago is awake, and intelligently awake, to
her destinies; so much one perceives even in the reiterated complaints
that she is asleep. Discontent is the condition of progress, and Chicago
is not in the slightest danger of relapsing into a condition of inert
self-complacency. Her sons love her, but they chasten her. They are
never tired of urging her on, sometimes (it must be owned) with most
unfilial objurgations; and she, a quite unwearied Titan, is bracing up
her sinews for the great task of the coming century. I have given myself
a rendezvous in Chicago for 1925, when air-ships will no doubt make the
transit easy for my septuagenarian frame. Nowhere in the world, I am
sure, does the "to be continued in our next" interest take hold on one
with such a compulsive grip.

Culture is pouring into Chicago as rapidly as pork or grain, and Chicago
is insatiate in asking for more. In going over the Public Library (a not
quite satisfactory building, though with some beautiful details) I was
most of all impressed by the army of iron-bound boxes which are
perpetually speeding to and fro between the library itself and no fewer
than fifty-seven distributing stations scattered throughout the city. "I
thought the number was forty-eight," said a friend who accompanied me.
"So it was last year," said the librarian. "We have set up nine more
stations during the interval." The Chicago Library boasts (no doubt
justly) that it circulates more books than any similar institution in
the world. Take, again, the University of Chicago: seven years ago (or,
say, at the outside ten) it had no existence, and its site was a dismal
swamp; to-day it is a handsome and populous centre of literary and
scientific culture. Observe, too, that it is by no means an oasis in the
desert, but is thoroughly in touch with the civic life around it. For
instance, it actively participates in the admirable work done by the
Hull House Settlement in South Halsted-street, and in the vigorous and
wide-spreading University Extension movement.

At the present moment, Chicago is not a little resentful of the sharp
admonitions addressed to her by two of her aforesaid loving but exacting
children. One, Professor Charles Zueblin, has been telling her that "in
the arrogance of youth she has failed to realise that instead of being
one of the progressive cities of the world, she has been one of the
reckless, improvident, and shiftless cities." Professor Zueblin is not
content (for example) with her magnificent girdle of parks and
boulevards, but calls for smaller parks and breathing spaces in the
heart of her most crowded districts. He further maintains that her great
new sewage canal is a gigantically costly blunder; and indeed one cannot
but sympathise with the citizens of St. Louis in inquiring by what right
Chicago converts the Mississippi into her main sewer. But if Professor
Zueblin chastises Chicago with whips, Mr. Henry B. Fuller, it would
seem, lashes her with scorpions. Mr. Fuller is one of the leading
novelists of the city--for Chicago, be it known, had a nourishing and
characteristic literature of her own long before Mr. Dooley sprang into
fame. The author of _The Cliff-Dwellers_ is alleged to have said that
the Anglo-Saxon race was incapable of art, and that in this respect
Chicago was pre-eminently Anglo-Saxon. "Alleged," I say, for reports of
lectures in the American papers are always to be taken with caution, and
are very often as fanciful as Dr. Johnson's reports of the debates in
Parliament. The reporter is not generally a shorthand writer. He jots
down as much as he conveniently can of the lecturer's remarks, and
pieces them out from imagination. Thus, I am not at all sure what Mr.
Fuller really said; but there is no doubt whatever of the indignation
kindled by his diatribe. Deny her artistic capacities and sensibilities,
and you touch Chicago in her tenderest point. Moreover, Mr. Fuller's
onslaught encouraged several other like-minded critics to back him up,
so that the city has been writhing under the scourges of her
epigrammatists. I have before me a letter to one of the evening papers,
written in a tone of academic sarcasm which proves that even the
supercilious and "donnish" element is not lacking in Chicago culture. "I
know a number of artists," says the writer, "who came to Chicago, and
after staying here for a while, went away and achieved much success in
New York, London, and Paris. The appreciation they received here gave
them the impetus to go elsewhere, and thus brought them fame and
fortune." Whatever foundation there may be for these jibes, they are in
themselves a sufficient evidence that Chicago is alive to her
opportunities and responsibilities. She is, in her own vernacular,
"making, culture hum." Mr. Fuller, I understand, reproached her with her
stockyards--an injustice which even Mr. Bernard Shaw would scarcely
have committed. Is it the fault of Chicago that the world is
carnivorous? Was not "Nature red in tooth and claw" several æons before
Chicago was thought of? I do not understand that any unnecessary cruelty
is practised in the stockyards; and apart from that, I fail to see that
systematic slaughter of animals for food is any more disgusting than
sporadic butchery. But of the stockyards I can speak only from hearsay.
I shall not go to see them. If I have any spare time, I shall rather
spend it in a second visit to St. Gaudens' magnificent and magnificently
placed statue of Abraham Lincoln, surely one of the great works of art
of the century, and of the few entirely worthy monuments ever erected to
a national hero.


POSTSCRIPT.--The above-mentioned Hull House Settlement in South
Halsted-street, under the direction of Miss Jane Addams, is probably the
most famous institution of its kind in America; but it is only one of
many. There is no more encouraging feature in American life than the
zeal, energy, and high and liberal intelligence with which social
service of this sort is being carried on in all the great cities. This
is a line of activity on which England and America are advancing hand
in hand, and however much one may deplore the necessity for such work,
one cannot but see in the common impulse which prompts and directs it a
symptom of the deep-seated unity of the two peoples. Nothing I saw in
America impressed me more than the thorough practicality as well as the
untiring devotion which was apparent in the work carried on by Miss
Addams in Chicago and Miss Lillian D. Wald in Henry-street, New York.
And in both Settlements I recognised the same atmosphere of culture, the
same spirit of plain living, hard working, and high thinking, that
characterises the best of our kindred institutions in England. A lady
connected with the University of Chicago, who is also a worker at the
Hull House Settlement, told me a touching little story which illustrates
at once the need for such work in Chicago, and the unexpected response
with which it sometimes meets. She had been talking about the beauties
of nature to a group of women from the slums, and at the end of her
address one of her hearers said, "I ain't never been outside of Chicago,
but I know it's true what the lady says. There's two vacant lots near
our place, an' when the spring comes, the colours of them--they fair
makes you hold your breath. An' then there's the trees on the Avenoo.
An' then there's all the sky." On another occasion the same lady met
with an "unexpected response" of a different order. She was showing a
boy from the slums some photographs of Italian pictures, when they came
upon a Virgin and Child. "Ah," said the boy at once, "that's Jesus an'
his Mother: I allus knows _them_ when I sees 'em." "Yes," said Miss
R----, "there is a purity and grandeur of expression about them, isn't
there--" "Tain't that," interrupted the boy, "it's the rims round their
heads as gives 'em away!"

Apart from the Settlements, there are many energetically-conducted
Societies in America for the social and political enlightenment of the
masses. I have before me, for instance, a little bundle of most
excellent leaflets issued by the League for Social Service of New York.
They deal with such subjects as _The Duties of American Citizenship, The
Value of a Vote, The Duty of Public Spirit, The Co-operative City_, &c.
They include an admirable abstract in twenty-four pages, of _Laws
Concerning the Welfare of Every Citizen of New York_, and the same
Society issues similar abstracts of the laws of other States. They have
a large and well-equipped lecture organisation, and they issue
excellent practical _Suggestions for Conferences and Courses of Study_.
The problem to be grappled with by this Society and others working on
similar lines is no doubt one of immense difficulty. It is nothing less
than the education in citizenship of the most heterogeneous, polyglot,
and in some respects ignorant and degraded population ever assembled in
a single city, since the days of Imperial Rome. The spread of political
enlightenment in New York and other cities cannot possibly be very
rapid; but no effort is being spared to accelerate it. I sometimes
wonder whether the obvious necessity for political education in America
may not, in the long run, prove a marked advantage to her, as compared,
for instance, with England. Dissatisfaction, as I have said above, is
the condition of progress. We are apt to assume that every Briton is
born a good citizen; and in the lethargy begotten of that assumption, it
may very well happen that we let the Americans outstrip us in the march
of enlightenment.



LETTER X

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


NEW YORK.

It is with a curious sensation of home-coming that I find myself once
more in New York. Spring has arrived before me. The blue dome of sky has
lost its crystalline sparkle, and the trees in Madison-square have put
on a filmy veil of green. Going to a luncheon party in the Riverside
region, I determine, for the sheer pleasure and exhilaration of the
thing, to walk the whole way, up Fifth-avenue and diagonally across
Central Park. What a magnificent pleasure ground, vast, various, and
seductive! A peerless emerald on the finger of Manhattan! If I were not
bound by solemn oaths to present myself at West-End-avenue at half-past
one, I could loaf all the afternoon by the superb expanse of the Croton
Reservoir, looking out over the giant city of sunshine, with the white
dome of Columbia College and the pyramid of Grant's Monument on the
northern horizon, and far to the eastward the low hills of Long Island.

Passing the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I am reminded, not only that I
have never been inside it, but that in all the cities I have visited I
have not gone to a single show-place, museum, or picture-gallery, save
one remarkable private collection in Baltimore. Of course I must also
except (a large exception!) the public libraries of Washington, Boston,
and Chicago, which are, in a very eminent sense, "show-places." Still,
it seems somewhat remarkable (does it not?) that in a country which is
understood in Europe to be monotonous and unattractive to travellers, I
should have spent two months not only of intellectual interest but of
æsthetic enjoyment, without once, except in a chance moment of idleness,
feeling the least inclination to fall back upon, the treasures of
European art which it undoubtedly contains. I have even ignored the
marvels of nature. I passed within twenty miles of Niagara; I saw the
serried icefloes sweeping down from Lake Erie to the cataract; and I did
not go to see them plunge over. In the first place, I had been there
before; in the second place, I should have had to sacrifice six hours
of Chicago, where I wanted, not six hours less, but six weeks more.

Before saying farewell--a fond farewell!--to New York, let me supplement
my first impressions with my last. The most maligned of cities, I called
it; and truly I said well. Here is even the judicious Mr. J.F. Muirhead
of "Baedeker," betrayed by his passion for antithesis into describing
New York as "a lady in ball costume, with diamonds in her ears and her
toes out at her boots." This was written, to be sure, in 1890, and may
have been true in its day; for it takes an American city much less than
a decade to belie a derogatory epigram. Now, at any rate, New York has
had her shoes mended to some purpose. She is not the best paved city in
the world, or even in America, but neither is she by any means the
worst; and her splendid system of electric and elevated railroads
renders her more independent of paving than any European city.
Fifth-avenue is paved to perfection; Broadway and Sixth-avenue are not;
but at any rate the streets are not for ever being hauled up and laid
down again, like some of our leading London thoroughfares. Holborn, for
example, may be ideally paved on paper, but its roadway is subject to
such incessant eruptions of one sort or another that it is in practice
a much more uncomfortable thoroughfare than any of the New York avenues.
For the rest, New York has a copious and excellent water supply, which
London has not; it has a splendidly efficient fire-brigade; it has an
admirable telephone system, with underground wires; and even its
electric trolleys get their motive-power from underneath, whereas in
Philadelphia the overhead wires are, I regret to say, killing the trees
which lend the streets their greatest charm. Altogether, Tammany or no
Tammany, New York cannot possibly be described as an ill-governed city.
Its government may be wasteful and worse; inefficient it is not. Even
the policemen seem to be maligned. I never found them rude or needlessly
dictatorial.

In one of the essential conveniences of modern life, New York is far
behind London; but the blame lies, not with the city, but with the
United States. Its postal arrangements are at best erratic, at worst
miserable. Letters which would be delivered in London in three or four
hours take in New York anywhere from six to sixteen hours. It was a long
time before I realised and learned to allow for the slowness of the
postal service. At first I used mentally to accuse my correspondents of
great dilatoriness in attending to notes that called for an immediate
reply. On one occasion I posted in Madison Square at 3 P.M. a letter
addressed to the Lyceum Theatre, not a quarter of a mile away,
suggesting an appointment for the same evening after the play. The
appointment was not kept, for the letter was not delivered till the
following morning! To ensure its delivery the same evening, I ought to
have put a special-delivery stamp on it--price fivepence--in addition to
the ordinary two-cent stamp. No doubt it is the universal employment of
the telephone in American cities that leads people to put up with such
defective postal arrangements.

But it is not only within city limits that the United States Post Office
functions with a dignified deliberation. The ordinary time that it takes
to write (say) from New York to Chicago, and receive an answer, might be
considerably reduced without any acceleration of the train service. It
sounds incredible, but it is, I believe, the case, that the simple and
eminently time-saving device of a letter-box in the domestic front-door
is practically unknown in America. I did observe one, in Boston, so
small that a fair sized business letter would certainly have stuck in
its throat. One evening I was sitting at dinner in a fashionable street
in New York, close to Central Park, when I was startled by a distinctly
burglarious noise at the window. My host smiled at my look of
bewilderment, and explained that it was only the letter-carrier; and,
sure enough, when the servant came into the room she picked up three or
four letters from the floor. The postman was somehow able to reach the
front window from the "stoop," open it, and throw in the evening's
mail--a primitive arrangement, more suggestive of the English than of
the American Gotham. Even the gum on the United States postage-stamps
is apt to be ineffectual. When you are stamping letters in hot haste
to catch the European mail, you are as likely as not to find that
the head of President Grant has curled up and refuses--most
uncharacteristically--to stick to its post.

The conveniences of the express system, again, are, in my judgment,
greatly overrated. It is often slow and always expensive. It seems to
have been devised by the makers of Saratoga trunks, for it puts a
premium upon huge packages and a tax upon those of moderate size. I
speak feelingly, for I have just paid, eight shillings for the
conveyance of five packages from my room to the wharf, a distance of
about a mile and a half. A London growler would have taken them and
myself to boot for eighteenpence, three of the packages going outside,
and two, with their owner, inside. It is true that had I packed all my
belongings in one huge box the same company would have conveyed them to
the steamer for one and eightpence, which is the regular charge per
package. But I could not have taken this box into my state-room; I must
in any case have had a cabin trunk; and for an ocean voyage, a bundle of
rugs is, to say the least of it, advisable. Thus I could not have
escaped paying four and tenpence for the conveyance of my baggage
alone--rather more than three times as much as it would have cost to
convey my baggage and myself the same distance in London. It must not be
forgotten, of course, that the New York Express Company would, if
necessary, have carried the goods much further for the same charge of
forty cents a package. The limit of distance I do not know: it is
probably something like twenty miles. But a potential ell does not
reconcile me to paying an exorbitant price for the actual inch which is
all I have any use for. This method of simplification--fixing the
minimum payment on the basis of the maximum bulk, weight, and
distance--seems to me essentially irrational. In some cases, indeed, it
cuts against the Express Company. When I first had occasion to move from
one abode to another in New York--a distance of about a quarter of a
mile--I thought with glee "Now the famous express system will save me
all trouble." But I found that it would cost two dollars to express my
belongings, whereas even the notoriously extortionate New York cabman
would convey me and all my goods and chattels for half that sum. So the
Express Company's loss was cabby's gain.

"The ship is cheered, the harbour cleared," and none too merrily are we
dropping down by the Statue of Liberty to Sandy Hook and the Atlantic.
(There is a point, by the way, a little below the Battery, from which
New York looks mountainous indeed. Its irregularly serrated profile is
lost, and the sky-scrapers fall into position one behind the other, like
an artistically grouped cohort of giants. "Hills peep o'er hills, and
Alps on Alps arise," while in the background the glorious curve of the
Brooklyn Bridge seems to span half the horizon. I could not but think of
Valhalla and the Bridge of the Gods in the _Rheingold_. Elevator
architecture necessarily sends one to Scandinavian mythology in quest of
similitudes.) It is with acute regret that I turn my back upon New York,
or, rather, turn my face to see it receding over the steamer's wake. Not
often in this imperfect world are high anticipations overtopped, as the
real American has overtopped my half-reminiscent dream of it. "The real
America?" That, of course, is an absurd expression. I have had only a
superficial glimpse of one corner of the United States. It is as though
one were to glance at a mere dog-ear on a folio page, and then profess
to have mastered its whole import. But I intend no such ridiculous
profession. I have seen something of the outward aspect of five or six
great cities; I have looked into one small facet of American social
life; and I have faithfully reported what I have seen--nothing more. At
the same time my observations, and more especially my conversations with
the scores of "bright" and amiable men it has been my privilege to meet,
have suggested to me certain thoughts, certain hopes and apprehensions,
respecting the future of America and the English-speaking world, which I
shall try to formulate elsewhere. For the present, let me only sum up
my personal experiences in saying that all the pleasant expectations I
brought with me to America have been realised, all the forebodings
disappointed. Even the interviewer is far less terrible than I had been
led to imagine. He always treated me with courtesy, sometimes with
comprehension. One gentleman alone (not an American, by the way) set
forth to be mildly humorous at my expense; and even he apologised in
advance, as it were, by prefixing his own portrait to the interview, as
who should say, "Look at me--how can I help it?" Again, I had been led
rather to fear American hospitality as being apt to become importunate
and exacting. I found it no less considerate than cordial. Probably I
was too small game to bring the lion-hunters upon my trail. The alleged
habit of speech-making and speech-demanding on every possible occasion I
found to be merely mythical. Three times only was I called upon to "say
something," and on the first two occasions, being taken unawares, I said
everything I didn't want to say. The third time, having foreseen the
demand, I had noted down in advance the heads of an eloquent harangue;
but when the time came I felt the atmosphere unpropitious, and
suppressed my rhetoric. The proceedings opened with an iced beverage,
called, I believe, a "Mississippi toddy," probably as being the longest
toddy on record, the father of (fire) waters; and on its down-lapsing
current my eloquence was swept into the gulf of oblivion. The meeting,
fortunately, did not know what it had lost, and its serenity remained
unclouded. But it is not to the Mississippi toddies and other creature
comforts of America that I look back with gratitude and affection. It is
to the spontaneous and unaffected human kindness that met me on every
hand; the will to please and to be pleased in daily intercourse; and, in
the spiritual sphere, the thirst for knowledge, for justice, for beauty,
for the larger and the purer light.



PART II

REFLECTIONS



NORTH AND SOUTH

I


In Washington, on the 6th of April last, business was suspended from
mid-day onwards, while President McKinley and all the high officers of
State attended the public funeral at Arlington Cemetery of several
hundred soldiers, brought home from the battlefields of Cuba. The burial
ground on the heights of Arlington--the old Virginian home, by the way,
of the Lee family--had hitherto been known as the resting-place of
numbers of Northern soldiers, killed in the Civil War. But among the
bodies committed to earth that afternoon were those of many Southerners,
who had stood and fallen side by side with their Northern comrades at El
Caney and San Juan. The significance of the event was widely felt and
commented upon. "Henceforth," said one paper, "the graves at Arlington
will constitute a truly national cemetery;" and the same note was struck
in a thousand other quarters. Poets burst into song at the thought of
their

  "Resting together side by side,
    Comrades in blue and grey!

  "Healed in the tender peace of time,
    The wounds that once were red
  With hatred and with hostile rage,
    While sanguined brothers bled.

  "They leaped together at the call
    Of country--one in one,
  The soldiers of the Northern hills,
    And of the Southern sun!

  "'Yankee' and 'Rebel,' side by side,
    Beneath one starry fold--
  To-day, amid our common tears,
    Their funeral bells are tolled."

The artlessness of these verses renders them none the less significant.
They express a popular sentiment in popular language. But, as here
expressed, it is clearly the sentiment of the North: how far is it
shared and acknowledged by the South? Happening to be on the spot, I
could not but try to obtain some sort of answer to this question.

Again, as I stood on the terrace of the Capitol that April afternoon,
and looked out across the Potomac to the old Lee mansion at Arlington,
while all the flags of Washington drooped at half-mast, a very
different piece of verse somehow floated into my memory:

    "Walk wide o' the Widow at Windsor,
      For 'alf o' Creation she owns:
  We 'ave bought 'er the same with the sword and the flame,
      And salted it down with our bones.
    (Poor beggars!--it's blue with our bones!)"

The association was obvious: how the price of lead would go up if
England brought home all her dead "heroes" in hermetically-sealed
caskets! My thought (so an anti-Imperialist might say) was like the
smile of the hardened freebooter at the amiable sentimentalism of a
comrade who was "yet but young in deed." But why should Mr. Kipling's
rugged lines have cropped up in my memory rather than the smoother
verses of other poets, equally familiar to me, and equally well fitted
to point the contrast?--for instance, Mr. Housman's:--

  "It dawns in Asia, tombstones show,
    And Shropshire names are read;
  And the Nile spills his overflow
    Beside the Severn's dead."

Or Mr. Newbolt's:

  "_Qui procul hinc_--the legend's writ,
    The frontier grave is far away;
  _Qui ante diem periit,
    Sed miles, sed fro patriâ_."

The reason simply was that during the month I had spent in America the
air had been filled with Kipling. His name was the first I had heard
uttered on landing--by the conductor of a horse-car. Men of light and
leading, and honourable women not a few, had vied with each other in
quoting his refrains; and I had seen the crowded audience at a low
music-hall stirred to enthusiasm by the delivery of a screed of maudlin
verses on his illness. He, the rhapsodist of the red coat, was out and
away the most popular poet in the country of the blue, and that at a
time when the blue coat in itself was inimitably popular. Nor could
there be any doubt that his _Barrack-room Ballads_ were the most popular
of his works. Not a century had passed since the Tommy Atkins of that
day had burnt the Capitol on whose steps I was standing (a shameful
exploit, to which I allude only to point the contrast); and here was the
poet of Tommy Atkins so idolised by the grandsons of the men of 1812 and
1776, that I, a Briton and a staunch admirer of Kipling, had almost come
to resent as an obsession the ubiquity of his name!

It seemed then, that the rancour of the blue coat against the red must
have dwindled no less significantly than the rancour of the grey coat
against the blue. Into the reality of this phenomenon, too, I made it
my business to inquire.



II


There can be no doubt that the Spanish War has done a great deal to
bring the North and the South together. It has not in any sense created
in the South a feeling of loyalty to the Union, but it has given the
younger generation in the South an opportunity of manifesting that
loyalty to the Union which has been steadily growing for twenty years.
Down to 1880, or thereabouts, the wound left by the Civil War was still
raw, its inflammation envenomed rather than allayed by the measures of
the "reconstruction" period. Since 1880, since the administration of
President Hayes, the wound has been steadily healing, until it has come
to seem no longer a burning sore, but an honourable cicatrice.

Every one admits that the heaviest blow ever dealt to the South was that
which laid Abraham Lincoln in the dust. He, if any one, could have
averted the mistakes which delayed by fifteen years the very beginning
of the process of reconciliation. His wise and kindly influence
removed, the North committed what is now recognised as the fatal blunder
of forcing unrestricted negro suffrage on the South. This measure was
dictated partly, no doubt, by honest idealism, partly by much lower
motives. Then the horde of "carpet-baggers" descended upon the
"reconstructed" States, and there ensued a period of humiliation to the
South which made men look back with longing even to the sharper agonies
of the war. Coloured voters were brought in droves, by their Northern
fuglemen, to polling-places which were guarded by United States troops.
Utterly illiterate negroes crowded the benches of State legislatures. A
Northerner and staunch Union man has assured me that in the Capitol of
one of the reconstructed States he has seen a coloured representative
gravely studying a newspaper which he held upside down. The story goes
that in the legislature of Mississippi a negro majority, which had
opposed a certain bill, was suddenly brought round to it in a body by a
chance allusion to its "provisions," which they understood to mean
something to eat! This anecdote perhaps lacks evidence; but there can be
no doubt that the freedmen of 1865 were, as a body, entirely unfitted to
exercise the suffrage thrust upon them. A degrading and exasperating
struggle was the inevitable result--the whites of the South striving by
intimidation and chicanery to nullify the negro vote, the professional
politicians from the North battling, with the aid of the United States
troops, to render it effectual. Such a state of things was demoralising
to both parties, and in process of time the common sense of the North
revolted against it. United States troops no longer stood round the
ballot-boxes, and the South was suffered, in one way and another, to
throw off the "Dominion of Darkness." Different States modified their
constitutions in different ways. Many offices which had been elective
were made appointive. The general plan adopted of late years has been to
restrict the suffrage by means of a very simple test of intelligence,
the would-be voter being required to read a paragraph of the State
constitution and explain its meaning. The examiner, if one may put it
so, is the election judge, and he can admit or exclude a man at his
discretion. Thus illiterate whites are not necessarily deprived of the
suffrage. They may be quite intelligent men and responsible citizens,
who happened to grow to manhood precisely in the years when the war and
its sequels upset the whole system of public education in the South. At
any rate (it is argued), the illiterate white is a totally different man
from the illiterate negro. How far such modifications of the State
constitutions are consistent with the Constitution of the United States,
is a nice question upon which I shall not attempt to enter. The
arguments used to reconcile this test of intelligence with Amendments
XIV. and XV. of the United States Constitution seem to me more ingenious
than convincing. But, constitutional or not, the compromise is
reasonable; and though people in the South still feel, as one of them
put it to me, that the Republican party "may yet wield the flail of the
negro over them," the flail has been laid aside long enough to permit
the South, in the main, to recover its peace of mind and its
self-respect. The negro problem is still difficult enough, as many
tragic evidences prove; but there is no reason to despair of its
ultimate solution.

Meanwhile material prosperity has been returning to the South;
agriculture has revived, and manufactures have increased. Social
intercourse and intermarriage have done much to promote mutual
comprehension between North and South, and to wipe out rankling
animosities. Each party has made a sincere effort to understand the
other's "case," and the war has come to seem a thing fated and
inevitable, or at any rate not to have been averted save by superhuman
wisdom and moderation on both sides. With mutual comprehension, mutual
admiration has gone hand in hand. The gallantry and tenacity of the
South are warmly appreciated in the North, and it is felt on both sides
that the very qualities which made the tussle so long and terrible are
the qualities which ensure the greatness of the reunited nation. But
changes of sentiment are naturally slow and, from moment to moment,
imperceptible. It needs some outside stimulus or shock to bring them
clearly home to the minds of men. Such a stimulus was provided by the
conflict with Spain. It did not create a new sense of solidarity between
the North and the South, but rather brought prominently to the surface
of the national consciousness a sense of solidarity that had for years
been growing and strengthening, more or less obscurely and
inarticulately, on both sides of Mason and Dixon's line. It consummated
a process of consolidation which had been going on for something like
twenty years.

Furthermore, the Spanish War deposed the Civil War from its position as
the last event of great external picturesqueness in the national
history. However sincere may be our love of peace, war remains
irresistibly fascinating to the imagination; and the imagination of
young America has now a foreign war instead of a civil war to look back
upon. The smoke of battle, in which the South stood shoulder to shoulder
with the North, has done more than many years of peace could do to
soften in retrospect the harsh outlines of the fratricidal struggle.

At the same time, there is another side to the case which ought not to
be overlooked. The South is proud, very proud; and the older generation,
the generation which fought and agonised through the terrible years from
'61 to '65, is more than a little inclined to resent what it regards as
the condescending advances of the North. This feeling is not confined to
those out-of-the-way corners where, as the saying goes, they have not
yet heard that the war--the Civil War--is over. It is not confined to
the old families, ruined by the war, whom the tide of returning
prosperity has not reached, and never will reach. It is strong among
even the most active and progressive of the veterans of '65. They smile
a grim smile in their grizzled beards at the fuss which has been made
over this "picayune war," as they call it. They, who came crushed,
impoverished, heartbroken, out of the duel of the Titans--they, who know
what it really means to sacrifice everything, everything, to a patriotic
ideal--they, to whom their cause seems none the less sacred because they
know it irrevocably lost--how can they be expected to toss up their caps
and help the party which first vanquished, and then, for many bitter
years, oppressed them, to make political capital out of what appears, in
their eyes, a more or less creditable military picnic? It is especially
the small scale of the conflict that excites their derision. "Did you
ever hear of the battle of Dinwiddie Court-House?" one of them said to
me. I confessed that I had not. "No," he said, "nor has any one else
heard of the battle of Dinwiddie Court-House. It was one of the most
insignificant fights in the war. But there were more men killed in half
an hour in that almost forgotten battle, than in all this mighty war we
hear so much about. Ah!" he continued, "they think we are vastly
gratified when they 'fraternise' with us on our battlefields and
decorate the graves of our dead. I don't know but I prefer the 'waving
of the bloody shirt' to this flaunting of the olive-branch. They have
their victory; let them leave us our graves."

An intense loyalty, not only to the political theories of the South, but
to the memory of the men who died for them--"qui bene pro patria cum
patriaque jacent"--still animates the survivors of the war. With a
confessed but none the less pathetic illogicality, they feel as though
Death had not gone to work impartially, but had selected for his prey
the noblest and the best. One of these survivors, in a paper now before
me, quotes from _Das Siegesfest_ the line--

  "Ja, der Krieg verschlingt die Besten!"

and then remarks: "Still, when Schiller says:--

  'Denn Patroklus liegt begraben,
    Und Thersites kommt zurück,'

his illustration is only half right. The Greek Thersites did not return
to claim a pension."

The dash of bitterness in this remark must not be taken too seriously.
The fact remains, however, that among the veterans of the South there
prevails a certain feeling of aloofness from the national jubilation
over the Spanish War. They "don't take much stock in it." The feeling is
widespread, I believe, but not loud-voiced. If I represented it as
surly or undignified, I should misrepresent it grossly. It is simply the
outcome of an ancient and deep-seated sorrow, not to be salved by
phrases or ceremonies--the most tragic emotion, I think, with which I
ever came face to face. But it prevails almost exclusively among the
older generation in the South, the men who "when they saw the issue of
the war, gave up their faith in God, but not their faith in the cause."
To the young, or even the middle-aged, it has little meaning. I met a
scholar-soldier in the South who had given expression to the sentiment
of his race and generation in an essay--one might almost say an
elegy--so chivalrous in spirit and so fine in literary form that it
moved me well-nigh to tears. Reading it at a public library, I found
myself so visibly affected by it that my neighbour at the desk glanced
at me in surprise, and I had to pull myself sharply together. Yet the
writer of this essay told me that when he gave it to his son to read,
the young man handed it back to him, saying, "All this is a sealed book
to me. I can not feel these things as you do."

More important, perhaps than the sentiment of the veterans is the
feeling, which has been pretty generally expressed, that the South was
slighted in the actual conduct of the late war--that Southern regiments
and Southern soldiers (notably General Fitzhugh Lee) were unduly kept in
the background. Still, there is every reason to believe that the general
effect of the war has been one of conciliation and consolidation. From
the ultra-Southern point of view, the North seems merely to have seized
the opportunity of making honourable amends for the "horrors of
reconstruction;" but even those who take this view admit that the North
_has_ seized the opportunity, and that gladly. As a matter of fact the
good-will of the North, and its desire to let bygones be bygones, are
probably very little influenced by any such recondite motive. It is in
most cases quite simple and instinctive. "There are no rebels now," said
the commandant of the Brooklyn Navy Yard when he gave orders to delete
the fourth word of the inscription "Taken from the rebel ram
_Mississippi_" over a trophy of the Civil War displayed outside of his
quarters. Admiral Philips had probably no thought of "reconstruction" or
of "making amends;" he simply obeyed a spontaneous and general
sentiment. The Southern heroes of the Civil War, moreover, are freely
admitted, and enthusiastically welcomed, into the national Pantheon.

When the thirty-fourth anniversary of "Appomattox Day," which brought
the war to an end, was celebrated in Chicago on April 10 last (Governor
Roosevelt being the guest of honour), the memory of Lee was eulogised
along with that of Grant, and the oration in his honour was received
with equal applause. Finally, it is admitted even by those who are most
inclined to make light of the sentiment elicited by the late war, that
all the States of the Atlantic seaboard are instinctively drawing
together to counterpoise the growing predominance of the West. This
substitution of a new line of cleavage for the old one may seem a
questionable matter for rejoicing. But in any great community, conflicts
of interest must always arise. The recognition of the problems which
await the Republic in the near future does not imply any doubt of her
ability to arrive at a wise and just solution of them.



III


The most loyal of the Southern veterans, I have said, recognise that the
cause of the South is irrevocably lost. By the cause of the South I do
not, of course, mean slavery. There is probably no one in the South who
would advocate the reinstatement of that "peculiar institution," even if
it could be effected by the lifting of a finger. "The cause we fought
for and our brothers died for," says Professor Gildersleeve of
Baltimore, "was the cause of civil liberty, not the cause of human
slavery.... If the secrets of all hearts could have been revealed, our
enemies would have been astounded to see how many thousands and tens of
thousands in the Southern States felt the crushing burden and the awful
responsibility of the institution which we were supposed to be defending
with the melodramatic fury of pirate kings."

What was it, then, that the South fought for? In what sense was its
cause the cause of "civil liberty?" A brief inquiry into this question
may be found to have more than a merely historic interest--to have a
direct bearing, indeed, upon the problems of the future, not only for
America, but for the English-speaking world.

Let me state at once the true inwardness of the matter, as I have been
led to see it. The cause of the South was the cause of small against
large political aggregations; and the world regards the defeat of the
South as righteous and inevitable, because instinct tells it that the
welfare of humanity is to be sought in large political aggregations, and
not in small. Providence, in a word, is on the side of the big (social)
battalions.

From the point of view of pure logic, of academic argument, the case of
the South was enormously strong. Consequently, the latter-day apologists
of the Confederacy devote themselves with pathetic fervour, and often
with great ingenuity, to what the impartial outsider cannot but feel to
be barren discussions of constitutional law. They point out that the
States--that is, the thirteen original States--preceded the Federal
Union, and voluntarily entered into it under clearly-defined conditions;
that the Federal Government actually derived its powers from the
consent of the States, and could have none which they did not confer
upon it; that the maintenance of slavery in the Southern States, and the
right to claim the extradition of fugitive slaves, were formally
safeguarded in the Constitution; that it was in reliance upon these
provisions that the Southern States consented to enter the Union; that
the right of secession had been openly and repeatedly asserted by
leading politicians and influential parties in several Northern States,
and was therefore no novel and treasonable invention of the South; and,
finally, that the right to enter into a compact implied the right to
recede from it when its provisions were broken, or obviously on the
point of being broken, by the other party or parties to the agreement.
All this is logically and historically indisputable. The Southerners
were the conservative party, and had the letter of the Constitution on
their side; the Northerners were the reformers, the innovators.
Entrenched in the theory of State Sovereignty, the South denied the
right of the North, acting through the Central Government, to interfere
with its "peculiar institution;" and even those who deplored the
existence of slavery felt themselves none the less bound to assert and
defend the right of their respective States to manage their own
affairs.[I] It was a conflict as old as the Revolution--and even, in its
germs, of still older date--between centripetal and centrifugal forces,
between national and local patriotism. The makers of the Constitution
had tried to hold the scales justly, but in their natural jealousy of a
strong central power, they had allowed the balance to deflect unduly on
the side of local independence. The North, the national majority, felt,
obscurely and reluctantly, that a revision of the Constitution in the
matter of slavery was essential to the national welfare.[J] The South
maintained that the States were antecedent and superior to the Nation,
and said, "If your Nation, in virtue of its mere majority vote, insists
on encroaching on State rights which we formally reserved as a condition
of entering the Nation, why then, we prefer to withdraw from this Nation
and set up a nation of our own, in which the true principles of the
Constitution shall be preserved." Thereupon the North retorted, "We
deny your right to withdraw," and the battle was joined.

The North said, "You have no right to withdraw," but it meant, I think,
something rather different. It threw overboard the question of abstract,
formal, technical right, and fought primarily, no doubt, for a
humanitarian ideal, but fundamentally to enforce its instinct of the
highest political expediency. The right interpretation of a state-paper,
however venerable, would not have been a question worthy of such
terrible arbitrament. Even the emancipation of the negro, had that been
the sole object of the contest, would have been too dearly paid for in
blood and tears. The question at issue was really this: What is the
ideal political unit? The largest possible? or the smallest convenient?
What mattered abstract argument as to the _right_ to secede? Once grant
the _power_ to secede, once suffer the precedent to be established, and
the greatest democracy the world had ever seen was bound to break up,
not only into two, but ultimately into many petty republics, wrangling
and jangling like those of Spanish America. To this negation of a great
ideal the North refused its consent. National patriotism had outgrown
local patriotism. It had become to all intents and purposes a fiction
that the Federal Government derived its powers from the States; Thirteen
of them, indeed, had sanctioned the Federal Government, but the Federal
Government had sanctioned and admitted to the Union twenty-one more. In
these the sentiment of priority to the Union could not exist, while
State Sovereignty was a doctrine limited by considerations of
expediency, rather than a patriotic dogma. Immigration, and westward
migration from the north-eastern States, had produced a race of men and
women whose patriotism was divorced, so to speak, from any given patch
of soil, but was wedded to the all-embracing idea of the United States,
with the emphasis on the epithet. They thought of themselves first of
all as American citizens, and only in the second place as citizens of
this State or of that. This habit or instinct is still incomprehensible,
and almost contemptible, to the Southerner of the older generation; but
the Time-Spirit was clearly on its side.

Thus, then, I interpret the fundamental feeling which impelled the North
to take up arms: "Better one stout tussle for the idea of Unity, than a
facile acquiescence in the idea, of Multiplicity, with all its sequels
of instability, distrust, rivalry, and rancour. Better for our
children, if not for us, one great expenditure of blood and gold, than
never-ending threats and rumours of war, commercial conflicts, political
complications, frontiers to be safeguarded, bureaucracies to be
financed." Of course I do not put this forward as a new interpretation
of the question at issue. It is old and it is obvious. But though the
national significance of the struggle has long been recognised, I am not
sure that its international, its world-historic significance, has been
sufficiently dwelt upon. We Europeans have been apt to think that,
because the theatre of conflict was so distant, we had only a
spectacular, or at most an abstract-humanitarian, interest in it. There
could not be a greater mistake. The whole world, I believe, will one day
come to hold Vicksburg and Gettysburg names of larger historic import
than Waterloo or Sedan.


FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote I: "Submission to any encroachment," says Professor
Gildersleeve, "the least as well as the greatest, on the rights of a
State, means slavery;" this remark occurring early in an article of
twenty-five columns, in which _negro_ slavery is not so much as
mentioned until the twenty-first column.]

[Footnote J: See _Postscript_ to this article.]



IV


The iconoclast of to-day is full of scorn for patriotism, which he holds
the most retrograde of emotions. He may as usefully declaim against
friendship, comradeship, the love of man for woman or of mother for
child. The lowest savage regards himself, and cannot but regard himself,
as a member of some sort of political aggregation. This feeling is one
of the primal instincts of humanity, and as such one of the permanent
data of the problem of the future. It is folly to denounce or seek to
eradicate it. The wise course is to give it large and noble instead of
petty and parochial concepts to which to attach itself. Rightly esteemed
and rightly directed, patriotism is not a retrograde emotion, but one of
the indispensable conditions of progress.

"Nothing is," says Hamlet, "but thinking makes it so." It is not oceans,
straits, rivers, or mountain-barriers, that constitute a Nation, but the
idea in the minds of the people composing it. Now, the largest
political idea that ever entered the mind--not of a man--not of a
governing class--but of a people, is the idea of the United States of
America. The "Pax Romana" was a great idea in its day, but it was
imposed from without, and by military methods, upon a number of subject
peoples, who did not realise and intelligently co-operate in it, but
merely submitted to it. It has its modern analogue in the "Pax
Britannica" of India. The idea of the United States, on the other hand,
gives what may be called psychological unity to one of the largest
political aggregates, both in territory and population, ever known to
history. In the modern world, there are only two political aggregates in
any wise comparable to it: the British Empire, whereof the idea is not
as yet quite clearly formulated; and the Russian Empire, whereof the
idea, in so far as it belongs to the people at all, is a blind and
slavish superstition. Holy Russia is a formidable idea, Greater Britain
is a picturesque and pregnant idea; but the United States is a
self-conscious, clearly defined and heroically vindicated idea, in whose
further vindication the whole world is concerned. It is only an
experiment, say some--an experiment which, thirty years ago, trembled
on the brink of disastrous failure, and which may yet have even greater
perils to encounter. This is true in a sense, but not the essential
truth. Let us substitute for "experiment" another word which means the
same thing--with a difference. The United States of America, let us say,
is a rehearsal for the United States of Europe, nay, of the world. It is
the very difficulties over which the croakers shake their heads that
make the experiment interesting, momentous. The United States is a
veritable microcosm: it presents in little all the elements which go to
make up a world, and which have hitherto kept the world, almost
unintermittently, in a state of battle and bloodshed. There are wide
differences of climate and of geographical conditions in the United
States, with the resulting conflict of material interest between
different regions of the country. There are differences of race and even
of language to be overcome, extremes of wealth and poverty to be dealt
with. As though to make sure that no factor in the problem of
civilisation should be omitted, the men of last century were at pains to
saddle their descendants with the burden of the negro--a race incapable
of assimilation and yet tenacious of life. In brief, a thousand
difficulties and temptations to dissension beset the giant Republic: in
so far as it overcomes them, and carries on its development by peaceful
methods, it presents a unique and invaluable object-lesson to the world.
The idea of unity, annealed in the furnace of the Civil War, has as yet
been stronger than all the forces of disintegration; and there is no
reason to doubt that it will continue to be so. When France falls out
with Germany, or Russia with Turkey, there is nothing save a purely
material counting of the cost to hinder them from flying at each other's
throats. The abstract humanitarianism of a few individuals is as a
feather on the torrent. Such sentiment as comes into play is all on the
side of bloodshed. It takes very little to make a Frenchman and a German
feel that they are in a state of war by nature, and that peace between
them is an artificial and necessarily unstable condition. But in
America, should two States or two groups of States fall out, there is a
strong, and we may hope unconquerable, sentiment of unity to be overcome
before the dissentients even reach the point of counting the material
cost of war. Men feel that they are in a state of peace by nature, and
that war between them, instead of being a hereditary and almost
consecrated habit, would be a monstrous and almost unthinkable crime.
The National Government, as established by the Constitution, is in fact
a permanent court of arbitration between the States; and the
common-sense of all may be trusted to "hold a fractious State in awe."
"Did not people say and think the same thing in 1859," it may be asked,
"on the eve of the greatest Civil War in history?" Possibly; but that
war was precisely what was needed to ratify the Union, and lift it out
of the experimental stage. "Blut ist ein ganz besondrer Saft," and it is
sometimes necessary that other pacts than those of hell should be
written in blood, before the world recognises their full validity.
Heaven forbid that the Deed of Union of the United States should require
a second time to be retraced in red!

But it is an illusion, though a salutary one, that civil war is any more
barbarous than international war. What the world wants is the
realisation that every war is a civil war, a war between brothers,
justifiable only for the repression of some cruelty more cruel than war
itself, some barbarism more barbarous. Towards this realisation the
United States is leading the way, by showing that, under the conditions
of modern life, an effective sense of brotherhood, a resolute loyalty
to a unifying idea, may be maintained throughout a practically unlimited
extent of territory.

But, while enumerating the difficulties which the Republic has to
overcome, I have said nothing of the one great advantage it enjoys--a
common, or at any rate a dominant, language. The diversity of tongues
which prevails in Europe is doubtless one of the chief hindrances to
that "Federation of the World" of which the poet dreamed. But if the
many tongues of Europe retard its fusion into what I have called a
political aggregate, there exists in the world a political aggregate
larger in extent than either Europe or the United States, which
possesses, like the United States, the advantage of one dominant
language. I mean, of course, the British Empire; and surely it is,
on the face of it, a fact of good augury for the world that the
dominant language of these two vast aggregations of democracies should
happen to be one and the same. The hopes--and perhaps, too, some
apprehensions--arising from this unity of speech will form the subject
of another article.


POSTSCRIPT.--My representation of the South as the conservative and the
North as the innovating party is the only point in this article to
which (so far as I know) serious objection has been made. A very able
and courteous critic--Mr. Norman Hapgood--writes to me as follows: "I
think the history of the Kansas-Nebraska trouble, in which the
preliminary conflict centred, the speeches of the time, North and South,
the party platforms, all proved that the North said, 'Slavery shall keep
its rights and have no further extension,' while the South said, 'It
shall go into any newly-acquired territory it chooses.' In 1860 the
slave interest was more protected and extended by law than ever before
in the history of the country. It had simply made a new claim which the
North could not allow. The abolitionists were few; the Northerners who
said that slavery should not be _extended_ were many.... I don't believe
there is an American historian of standing who does not say that the
propositions of the South, on which the North took issue in 1861, were
these: (1) Slavery shall go into all territory hereafter acquired; (2)
We will secede if this is not allowed."

It was inevitable that this protest should be raised, since, in the
limited space at my command, I had imperfectly expressed my meaning. My
reply to Mr. Hapgood puts it, I hope, more clearly. It ran as
follows:".... What I was trying to do was not so much to summarise
conscious motives as to present my own interpretation (right or wrong)
of the sub-conscious, the unconscious forces that were at work. I go
behind the declarations of Northern statesmen, and what, I have no
doubt, was the sincere sentiment of the majority in the North, against
interference with slavery in the existing slave States. I have tried to
allow to this sentiment what weight it deserves, in saying that the
North '_obscurely and reluctantly_ felt a revision of the Constitution
essential to the national welfare.' But my view is that whatever they
said, and whatever, on the surface of their minds, they thought, the
people of the North knew, even if they denied it to themselves, that
chattel slavery was impossible in the modern world; and furthermore that
the people of the South were justified in that instinct which told them
that the institution, fatally menaced, was to be saved only by
secession. The kernel of the matter, to my thinking, lay in the fugitive
slave question. The provision of the Constitution for the return of
fugitive slaves, though it may seem a matter of detail, was, I think, in
reality the keystone of the arch. Make it inoperative, and the
institution was doomed. Now many of the Northern States, by 'personal
liberty laws' and the like, had long been picking at that keystone.
Whatever were the professions of politicians and people as to
non-interference, they shrank from the logical corollary, which would
have been the sincere, whole-hearted and cheerful carrying out of
Article IV., Section 2, Paragraph 3 of the Constitution. They were even,
I think, logically bound to accept loyally the Dred Scott decision,
which was absolutely constitutional. To protest against it, to seek to
evade it, was to insist on a revision of the Constitution. But it was
inconceivable that a civilised community, not blinded by local Southern
prejudice, could loyally accept the Dred Scott decision, or could
cheerfully assist the Southern slaveholder to capture and carry off from
their own hearthstones, as it were, his runaway chattel. Therefore, the
position and the protestations of the North were mutually contradictory.
It was a case of trying to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds;
and the North was bound to the hare by fundamental considerations of
humanity and self-interest, to the hounds, only by a compact accepted at
a time when its consequences could not possibly be foreseen. I do not
doubt that the North, on the surface of its will, sincerely desired to
keep this compact; but the South, with an instinct which was really that
of self-preservation, looked, as I am trying to look, beneath the
conscious surface to the unconscious sweep of current. It is not with
reference to the struggle for Western expansion that I call the South
the conservative and constitutional party. There, as it seems to me, the
question was entirely an open one, the power of Congress over
territories being undefined in the Constitution; and no doubt the South,
in the course of the struggle, often took up violent and extravagant
positions. My argument is that the attitude of the North, whatever its
protestations, virtually threatened the institution of slavery in the
old slave States, and that therefore the South had virtual, if not
formal, justification for holding the constitutional compact broken."



THE REPUBLIC AND THE EMPIRE

I


Though one of the main objects which I proposed to myself in visiting
America was to take note of American feeling towards England as affected
by the Spanish War, I soon found that, so far as the gathering of
information by way of question and answer was concerned, I might almost
as well have stayed at home. A curious diffidence beset me from the
first. I shrank from recognising that there was any question as to the
good feeling between the two countries, and still more from seeming to
appeal to a non-existent or a grudging sense of kinship. It seemed to me
tactless and absurd for an Englishman to lay any stress on the war as
affecting the relations between the two peoples. What had England done?
Nothing that had cost her a cent or a drop of blood. The British people
had sympathised with the United States in a war which it felt to be, in
the last analysis, a part of the necessary police-work of the world; it
had applauded in American soldiers and sailors the qualities it was
accustomed to admire in its own fighting men; and the British
Government, giving ready effect to the instinct of the people, had, at a
critical moment, secured a fair field for the United States, and broken
up what might have been an embarrassing, though scarcely a very
formidable, anti-American intrigue on the part of the Continental
Powers. What was there in all this to make any merit of? Nothing
whatever. It was the simplest matter in the world--we had merely felt
and done what came natural to us. The really significant fact was that
any one in America should have been surprised at our attitude, or should
have regarded it as more friendly than they had every right and reason
to expect. In short, I felt an irrational but I hope not unnatural
disinclination to recognise as matter for question and remark a state of
feeling which, as it seemed to me, ought to "go without saying."

Above all was I careful to avoid the word "Anglo-Saxon." I heard it and
read it with satisfaction, I uttered it, never. It is for the American
to claim his Anglo-Saxon birthright, if he feels so disposed; it is not
for the Briton to thrust it upon him. To cheapen it, to send it
a-begging, were to do it a grievous wrong. Besides, the term
"Anglo-Saxon" is inaccurate, and, so to speak, provisional. Rightly
understood, it covers a great idea; but if one chooses to take it in a
strict ethnological sense, it lends itself to caricature. The truth is,
it has no strict ethnological sense--it may rather be called an
ethnological countersense, no less in England than in America. It
represents an historical and political, not an ethnological, concept.
The Anglo-Saxon was already an infinitely composite personage--Saxon,
Scandinavian, Gaul, and Kelt--before he set foot in America; and America
merely proves her deep-rooted Anglo-Saxonism in accepting and absorbing
all sorts of alien and semi-alien race-elements. But when we have to go
so far behind the face-value of a word to bring it into consonance with
obvious facts, it is safest to use that word sparingly.

In brief, I did not wear my Anglo-Saxon heart on my sleeve, or go about
inviting expressions of gratitude to England for having, like Mr.
Gilbert's House of Lords,

  Done nothing in particular,
    And done it very well.

Yet evidences of a new tone of feeling towards England met me on every
hand, both in the newspapers and in conversation. The subject which I
shrank from introducing was frequently introduced by my American
acquaintances. It was evident that the change of feeling, though far
from universal, was real and wide-spread. Americans who had recently
returned to their native land, after passing some years abroad, assured
me that they were keenly conscious of it. Many of my acquaintances were
opposed to the policy which brought about the Spanish War, and declared
the better mutual understanding between England and America to be its
one good result. Others adopted the view to which Mr. Kipling had given
such far-echoing expression, and frankly rejoiced in the sympathy with
which England regarded America's determination to "take up the white
man's burden." In the Kipling craze as a whole, after making all
deductions, I could not but see a symptom of real significance. It was
partly a mere literary fashion, partly a result of personal and
accidental circumstances; but it also arose in no small degree from a
novel sense of kinship with the men, and participation in the ideals,
celebrated by the poet of British Imperialism.

The change, moreover, extended beyond the book-reading class, wide as
that is in America. It was to be noted even in the untravelled and
unlettered American, the man whose spiritual horizon is bounded by his
Sunday newspaper, the man in the street and on the farm. The events of
the past year had taught him--and he rubbed his eyes at the
realisation--that England was not an "effete monarchy," evilly-disposed
towards a Republic as such,[K] and dully resentful of bygone
humiliations by land and sea, but a brotherly-minded people, remembering
little (perhaps _too_ little) of those "old, unhappy, far-off things,"
willing to be as helpful as the rules of neutrality permitted, and eager
to applaud the achievements of American arms.

Millions of people who had hitherto felt no touch of racial sympathy,
and had been conscious only of a vague historic antipathy, learned with
surprise that England was in no sense their natural enemy, but rather,
among all the nations of Europe, their natural friend. Anglophobes, no
doubt, were still to be found in plenty; but they could no longer reckon
on the instant popular response which, a few years ago, would almost
certainly have attended any movement of hostility towards England. An
American publicist, who has perhaps unequalled opportunities for keeping
his finger on the pulse of national feeling, said to me, "It is only
three or four years since I heard a Federal judge express an earnest
desire for war with England, as a means of consolidating the North and
South in a great common enthusiasm. Of course this was pernicious talk
at any time," he added; "but it would then have found an echo which it
certainly would not find to-day."

This puts the international situation in a nutshell, so far as to-day is
concerned. But what about to-morrow?


FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote K: See _Postscript_ to this article.]



II


When people spoke to me of the sudden veering of popular sympathy from
France and Russia, and towards England, I could not help asking, now and
again, "When is the reaction coming?" "There is no reaction coming," I
was told with some confidence. For my part, I hope and believe that a
permanent advance has been made, and that any reaction that may set in
will be trifling and temporary. But to ensure this result there is still
the most urgent need for the exercise of wisdom and moderation on both
sides. The misunderstandings of more than a century are not to be wiped
out in two or three months of popular excitement. What we have arrived
at is not a complete mutual understanding, but merely the attitude of
mind which may, in course of time, render such an understanding
possible. That, to be sure, is half the battle; but the longer and more
tedious half is before us.

The Englishman who visits America for pleasure, and enjoys the
inexhaustible hospitality of New York, Boston, and Washington, must be
careful not to imagine that he gets really in touch with the sentiment
of the American nation. His circle of acquaintance is almost certain to
be composed mainly of people whom he, or friends of his, have met in
Europe, people of more or less clearly remembered British descent, who
know England well, have many English friends and possibly relatives, and
are conscious of a distant sentimental attachment to "the Old Country."
They are almost without exception people of culture, as well read as he
himself in the English classics, ancient and modern. They show their
Americanism not in that they love English literature less, but that very
probably they love French literature more, than he does. Further, they
are an exceedingly polite people, and, sensitive themselves on points of
national honour, they instinctively keep in the background all topics on
which a too free interchange of opinions might be apt to wound the
susceptibilities of their guest. Thus he loses entirely his sense of
being in a foreign country, because he moves among people most of whom
have an affection for England almost as deep as his own, while all are
courteous enough to respect his prejudices. This class is large in
actual numbers, no doubt, but in proportion to the whole American
people it is infinitesimal, and would be a mere featherweight in the
scale at any moment of crisis. Its voice is clearly audible in
literature and even in journalism, but at the polls it would be as a
whisper to the thunder of Niagara. The traveller who has "had a good
time" in literary, artistic, university circles in the Eastern cities,
has not felt the pulse of America, but has merely touched the fringe of
the fringe of her garment.

We deceive ourselves if we imagine that there is, or at any rate that
there was until recently, the slightest sentimental attachment to
England in the heart of the American people at large. Among the
"hyphenated Americans," as they are called--Irish-Americans,
German-Americans, and so forth--it would be folly to look for any such
feeling.[L] The conciliation of America will never be complete until we
have achieved the conciliation of Ireland. It is evident, indeed, from
many symptoms, that Irish-American hostility to England is declining, if
not in rancour, at any rate in influence. Still, a popular New York
paper, on St. Patrick's Day, thinks it worth while to propitiate "The
Powerful Race of Ireland" by a leader under that heading, and to this
effect:

     "The Irish race is famous as producing the best fighters and poets
     among men, and the most beautiful and most virtuous of women.

     "Such a reputation should suffice for any nation.

     "And note that Ireland still is and always will be a NATION. There
     is no Anglomania in that fair land, no yearning for reciprocity for
     the sake of a few dollars, no drinking of the Queen's health
     first....

     "Noble patriots like John Dillon and William O'Brien fight for them
     in the House of Commons, and they are good fighters everywhere,
     from the glass-covered room in Westminster Abbey (!) to the
     prize-ring, where a Sullivan, of pure Irish blood, forbids any man
     to stand three rounds before him.

     "The English whipped the Irish at the battle of the Boyne--true.
     But the English on that occasion had the good luck to be led by a
     Dutchman, and the Irish--sorra the day--had an English King for a
     leader. The English King was running fast while the Irish were
     still fighting the Dutchman.

     "Wellington, of Irish blood, beat Napoleon; Sheridan, of Irish
     blood, fought here most delightfully.

     "Here's to the Irish!"



This spirited performance no doubt represents fairly enough the
political philosophy of the thousands composing the league-long
procession which filed stolidly up Fifth Avenue on the day of its
appearance.

But even among unhyphenated Americans--Americans pure and simple--the
tendency to regard England as a hereditary foe, though sensibly weakened
by recent events, remains very strong. A good example of this frame of
mind and habit of speech is afforded by the following passage from an
address delivered by Judge Van Wyck at the Democratic Club's Jefferson
Dinner in New York on April 13 last. Referring to England, the speaker
said:--

     "Let us be influenced by the natural as well as the fixed policy of
     that nation toward us for a century and a half, rather than by
     their profuse expressions of friendship during the Spanish War.
     England's policy has been one of sharp rivalry and competition
     with America; it impelled the Revolution of 1776, fought for
     business as well as political independence; brought on the war of
     1812, waged against the insolent claim of England for the right to
     search our ships of commerce while riding the highways of the
     ocean; caused her to contest every inch of our northern boundary
     line from ocean to ocean; made her encourage our family troubles
     from 1860 to 1865, for which she was compelled to pay us millions
     and admit her wrong; and actuated her, in violation of the Monroe
     doctrine, to attempt an unwarrantable encroachment on the territory
     of Venezuela, until ordered by the American Government to halt."

Apart from the obvious begging of the question with reference to
Venezuela, there is nothing in this invective that has not some
historical foundation. It is the studiously hostile turn of the
phraseology that renders the speech significant. Everything--even the
honourable amends made for the _Alabama_ blunder--is twisted to
England's reproach. She is "compelled" to do this, and "ordered" to do
that. There is here no hint of good feeling, no trace of international
amenity, but sheer undisguised hatred and desire to make the worst of
things. And this address, be it noted, was the speech of the evening at
a huge and representative gathering of the dominant party in New York
municipal politics.

I need scarcely adduce further evidence of the fact that Anglophobia is
still a power in the land, if not the power it once was. But active and
aggressive Anglophobia is, I think, a less important factor in the
situation than the sheer indifference to England, with a latent bias
towards hostility, which is so widespread in America. To the English
observer, this indifference is far more disconcerting than hatred. The
average Briton, one may say with confidence, is not indifferent towards
America. He may be very ignorant about it, very much prejudiced against
certain American habits and institutions, very thoughtless and tactless
in expressing his prejudices; but the United States is not, to him, a
foreign country like any other, on the same plane with France, Germany,
or Russia. But that is precisely what England is to millions of
Americans--a foreign country like any other. We see this even in many
travelling Americans; much more is it to be noted in multitudes who stay
at home. Many Americans seem curiously indifferent even to the comfort
of being able to speak their own language in England; probably because
they have less false shame than the average Englishman in adventuring
among the pitfalls of a foreign tongue. They--this particular class of
travellers, I mean--land in England without emotion, visit its shrines
without sentiment, and pass on to France and Italy with no other feeling
than one of relief in escaping from the London fog. These travellers,
however, are but single spies sent forth by vast battalions who never
cross the ocean. To them England is a mere name, and the name, moreover,
of their fathers' one enemy in war, their own chief rival in trade. They
have no points of contact with England, such as almost every Englishman
has with America. We make use every day of American inventions and
American "notions": English inventions and "notions," if they make their
way to America at all, are not recognised as English. There are few
Britishers, high or low, that have not friends or relatives settled in
America, or have not formed pleasant acquaintanceships with Americans on
this side. But there are innumerable families in America who, even if
they be of British descent, have lost all vital recollection of the
fact; who (as the tide of emigration has not yet turned eastwards) have
no friends or relatives settled in England; and who, in their American
homes, are far more apt to come in contact with men of almost every
other nationality than with Englishmen. "But surely English
literature," it may be said, "brings England home even to people of this
class, and differentiates her from France or Germany." In a measure,
doubtless; but I think it will be found that the lower strata of the
reading public (not in America alone, of course) are strangely
insensitive to local colour. To people of culture, the bond of
literature is a very strong one; but the class of which I am speaking is
not composed of people of culture. They read, it is true, and often
greedily; but generally, I think, without knowing or greatly caring
whether a book is English or American, and at all events with no such
clear perception of the distinctive qualities of English work as could
beget in them any imaginative realisation of, or affection for, England.
Let us make no mistake--in the broad mass of the American people no such
affection exists. They are simply indifferent to England, with, as I
have said, a latent bias towards hostility.

Thus the scale of American feeling towards England, while its gradations
are of course infinite, may be divided into three main sections. At one
end of the scale we have the cultured and travelled classes, especially
in the Eastern States, conscious for the most part of British descent,
alive to the historical relationship between the two countries, valuing
highly their birthright in the treasures of English literature, knowing,
and (not uncritically) understanding England and her people, and
clinging to a kinship of which, taking one thing with another, they have
no reason to be ashamed. This class is intellectually influential, but
its direct weight in politics is small. It is, with shining exceptions,
a "mugwump" class. At the other end of the scale we have the hyphenated
Americans, who have imported or inherited European rancours against
England, and those unhyphenated Americans whose hatred of England is
partly a mere plank in a political platform, designed to accommodate her
hyphenated foe-men, partly a result of instinctive and traditional
chauvinism, reinforced by a (in every sense) partial view of
Anglo-American history. Finally, between these two extremes, we have the
great mass of the American people, who neither love nor hate England,
any more than they love or hate (say) Italy or Japan, but whose
indifference would, until recently, have been much more easily deflected
on the side of hatred than of love. The effect of the Spanish War has
been in some measure to alter this bias, and to differentiate England,
to her advantage, from the other nations of Europe.


FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote L: A very distinguished American authority writes to me as
follows with regard to this passage: "I hardly think you lay enough
weight upon the fact that in two or three generations the great bulk of
the descendants of the immigrants of non-English origin become
absolutely indistinguishable from other Americans, and share their
feelings. This is markedly so with the Scandinavians, and most of the
Germans of the second, and all the Germans of the third, generation, who
practically all, during 1898, felt toward Germany and England just
exactly as other Americans did.... Twice recently I have addressed huge
meetings of eight or ten thousand people, each drawn, as regards the
enormous majority, from exactly that class which you pointed out as
standing between the two extremes. In each case the men who introduced
me dwelt upon the increased good feeling between the English-speaking
peoples, and every complimentary allusion to England was received with
great applause." At the same time my correspondent adds: "Your division
of the American sentiment into three classes is exactly right; also your
sense of the relative importance of these three classes."]



III


It is commonly alleged that the anti-English virulence of the ordinary
school history of the United States is mainly responsible for this bias
towards hostility in the mind of the average American. Mr. Goldwin
Smith, a high authority, has contested this theory; and I must admit
that, after a good deal of inquiry, I have been unable to find the
American school historians guilty of any very serious injustices to
England. Some quite modern histories which I have looked into (yet
written before the Spanish War) seem to me excellently and most
impartially done. The older histories are not well written: they are apt
to be sensational and chauvinistic in tone, and to encourage a somewhat
cheap and blusterous order of patriotism; but that they commonly malign
character or misrepresent events I cannot discover. They are perhaps a
little too much inclined to make "insolent" the inseparable epithet of
the British soldier; but there is no reason to doubt that in many cases
it was amply merited. I have not come across the history in which Mr.
G.W. Steevens discovered the following passages:

     "The eyes of the soldiers glared upon the people like hungry
     bloodhounds. The captain waved his sword. The red-coats pointed
     their guns at the crowd. In a moment the flash of their muskets
     lighted up the street, and eleven New England men fell bleeding
     upon the snow.... Blood was streaming upon the snow; and though
     that purple stain melted away in the next day's sun, it was never
     forgotten nor forgiven by the people.... A battle took place
     between a large force of Tories and Indians and a hastily organised
     force of patriotic Americans. The Americans were defeated with
     horrible slaughter, and many of those who were made prisoners were
     put to death by fiendish torture.... More than six thousand
     American sailors had been seized by British warships and pressed
     into the hated service of a hated nation."

These passages are certainly not judicial or even judicious in tone; but
I fancy that the book or books from which Mr. Steevens culled them must
be quite antiquated. In books at present on the educational market I
find nothing so lurid. What I do find in some is a failure to
distinguish between the king's share and the British people's share in
the policy which brought about and carried on the Revolutionary War.
For instance, in Barnes's _Primary History of the United States_
(undated, but brought down to the end of the Spanish War) we read:

     "_The English people_ after a time became jealous of the prosperity
     of the colonists, and began to devise plans by which to grasp for
     themselves a share of the wealth that was thus rolling in....
     Indeed, _the English people_ acted from the first as if the
     colonies existed only for the purpose of helping them to make
     money."

George III. and his Ministers are not so much as mentioned, and the
impression conveyed to the ingenuous student is that the whole English
nation was consciously and deliberately banded together for purposes of
sheer brigandage. The same history is delightfully chauvinistic in its
account of the Colonial Wars. The British officers are all bunglers and
poltroons; if disasters are averted or victories won, it is entirely by
the courage and conduct of the colonists:

     "When Johnson reached the head of Lake George he met the French,
     and a fierce battle was fought. Success seemed at first to be
     altogether with the French; but after a while Johnson was slightly
     wounded, when General Lyman, a brave colonial officer, took
     command, and beat the French terribly.... Abercrombie's defeat was
     the last of the English disasters. The colonists now had arms
     enough, and were allowed to fight in their own way, and a series of
     brilliant victories followed.... By the energy, courage, and
     patriotism of her colonies, England had now acquired a splendid
     empire in the New World. And while she reaped all the glory of the
     war and its fruits, it was the hardy colonists who had throughout,
     borne the brunt of the conflict."

The child who learns his history from Mr. Barnes may not hate England,
but will certainly despise her.

Text-books of this type, however, are already obsolescent. A committee
of the New England History Teachers' Association published in the
_Educational Review_ for December 1898 a careful survey of no fewer than
nineteen school histories of the United States, and summed up the
results as follows:

     "In discussing the causes of the Revolution, text-book writers have
     sounded pretty much the whole scale of motives. England has been
     pictured, on the one hand, as an arbitrary oppressor, and, on the
     other, as the helpless victim of political environment. Under the
     influence of deeper study and a keener sense of justice, however,
     the element of bitterness, which so often entered into the
     discussion of this subject, has largely disappeared; and while the
     treatment of the Revolution in the text-books still leaves much to
     be desired, it is now seldom dogmatic and unsympathetic."

The fact remains, however, that we have still to live down our wars
with the United States, in which there was much that was galling to the
just pride of the American people, and much, too, that was perhaps
over-stimulating to their self-esteem. There is no doubt, on the one
hand, that we were inclined to adopt a supercilious and contemptuous
attitude towards the "rebel colonists" of 1775, the new-made nation of
1815; no doubt, on the other hand, that they made a splendid fight
against us, and taught our superciliousness a salutary lesson. They feel
to this day the humiliation of having been despised, and the exultation
of having put their despisers to shame. These wars, which were, until
1861, almost the whole military history of the United States, were but
episodes in our history, and one of them a trifling episode. Therefore,
while the average Englishman has not studied them sufficiently to
realise how much he ought to deplore them, the average American has been
taught to dwell upon them as the glorious struggles in which his nation
won its spurs. To the juvenile imagination, battles are always the oases
in the desert of history, and the schoolboy never fails to take sides
fiercely and uncompromisingly, exaggerating, with the histrionic
instinct of youth, his enthusiasm and his hatreds. Thus the insolent
Britisher became the Turk's-head or Guy Fawkes, so to speak, of the
American boy, the butt of his bellicose humours; and a habit of mind
contracted in boyhood is not always to be eradicated by the sober
reflection of manhood, even in minds capable of sober reflection. The
Civil War, be it noted, did not depose the insolent Britisher from his
bad eminence in the schoolboy imagination. The Confederates were, after
all, Americans, though misguided Americans; and the fostering, the
brooding upon, intestine rancours was felt by teachers and pupils alike
to be impossible. But there is in the juvenile mind at any given moment
a certain amount of abstract combativeness, let us call it, which must
find an outlet somewhere. Hatred is a natural function of the human
mind, just as much as love; and the healthy boy instinctively exercises
it under the guise of patriotism, without clearly distinguishing the
element of sheer play and pose in his transports. England's attitude
during the Civil War certainly did nothing to endear her either to the
writers or the readers of school histories; and she remained after that
struggle, as she had been before, the one great historical adversary on
whom the abstract combativeness of young America could expend itself.
How strong this tendency is, or has been, in the American school, may be
judged from the following anecdote. A boy of unmixed English parentage,
whose father and mother had settled in America, was educated at the
public school of his district. On the day when Mr. Cleveland's Venezuela
message was given to the world, he came home from school radiant, and
shouted to his parents: "Hurrah! We're going to war with England! We've
whipped you twice before, and we're going to do it again." It is clear
that at this academy Anglomania formed no part of the curriculum; and
who can doubt that in myriads of cases these schoolboy animosities
subsist throughout life, either active, or dormant and easily awakened?

Let us admit without shrinking that the history of the United States
cannot be truthfully written in such a way as to ingratiate Great
Britain with the youth of America. There have been painful episodes
between the two nations, in which England has, on the whole, acted
stupidly, or arrogantly, or both. Nor can we shift the whole blame upon
George III. or his Ministers. They were responsible for the actual
Revolution; but after the Revolution, down even to the time of the
Civil War inclusive, the English people, though guiltless in the main of
active hostility to America, cannot be acquitted of ignorance and
indifference. It is not in the least to be desired that American history
should be written with a pro-English bias, and, as I have said, I do not
find the anti-English bias, even in inferior text-books, so excessive as
it is sometimes represented to be. The anti-English sentiment of
American schools is, as it seems to me, an inevitable phenomenon of
juvenile psychology, under the given conditions; and it is the
alteration in the actual conditions wrought by recent events, rather
than any marked change in the tone of the text-books, that may, I think,
be trusted to soothe the schoolboy's savage breast. England has now done
what she had never done before: shown herself conspicuously friendly to
the United States; and another European country has given occasion for
spirit-stirring manifestations of American prowess. Thus England is
deposed for the time, and we may trust for ever, from her position as
the one traditional arch-enemy.

But though the errors of commission in American history-books have been
exaggerated, I cannot but think that a common error of omission is
worthy of remark and correction. They begin American history too
late--with the discovery of America--and they do not awaken, as they
might, the just pride of race in the "unhyphenated" American boy. Long
before Columbus set sail from Palos, American history was a-making in
the shire-moots of Saxon England, at Hastings, and Runnymead, and
Bannockburn. In all the mediæval achievements of England, in peace and
war--in her cathedrals, her castles, her universities, in Cressy,
Poictiers, and Agincourt--Americans may without paradox claim their
ancestral part. Why should the sons of the English who emigrated leave
to the sons of those who stayed at home the undivided credit of having
sent to the right-about the Invincible Armada? Nay, it is only the very
oldest American families that can disclaim all complicity in having, as
Lord Auchinleck put it, "garred kings ken that they had a lith in their
necks." Of course I do not mean that the American schoolboy should be
taken in detail through British history down to the seventeenth century
before, so to speak, he crosses the Atlantic. But I do suggest that he
would be none the worse American for being encouraged to set a due value
on his rightful share in the achievements of earlier ancestors than
those who fought at Trenton or sailed with Decatur. Let him realise his
birthright in the glories of Britain, and he will perhaps come to take a
more magnanimous view of her errors and disasters.



IV


Britain has been too forgetful of the past, America, perhaps, too
mindful; and in the everyday relations of life Britain has often been
tactless and unsympathetic, America suspicious and supersensitive. There
is every prospect, I think, that such errors will become, in the future,
rarer and ever rarer; and it behoves us, on our side, to be careful in
guarding against them. We have not hitherto sufficiently respected
America,--that is the whole story. We have taken no pains to know and
understand her. We have too often regarded her with a careless and
supercilious good feeling, which she has not unnaturally mistaken for
ill feeling, and repaid in kind. The events of the past year seem to
have brought the two countries almost physically closer to each other,
and to have made them more real, more clearly visible, each to each.
America has won the respectful consideration of even the most
thoughtless and insular among us. She has come home to us, so to speak,
as a vast and vital factor in the problem of the future.
Superciliousness towards her is a mere anachronism.

Many Englishmen, however, are still guilty of a thoughtless captiousness
towards America, which is none the less galling because it manifests
itself in the most trifling matters. A friend of my own returned a few
years ago from a short tour in the United States, declaring that he
heartily disliked the country, and would never go back again. Inquiry as
to the grounds of his dissatisfaction elicited no more definite or
damning charge than that "they" (a collective pronoun presumed to cover
the whole American people) hung up his trousers instead of folding
them--or _vice versâ_, for I am heathen enough not to remember which is
the orthodox process. Doubtless he had other, and possibly weightier,
causes of complaint; but this was the head and front of America's
offending. Another Englishman of education and position, being asked why
he had never crossed the Atlantic, gravely replied that he could not
endure to travel in a country where you had to black your own boots!
Such instances of ignorance and pettiness may seem absurdly trivial, but
they are quite sufficient to act as grits in the machinery of social
intercourse. Americans are very fond of citing as an example of English
manners the legend of a great lady who, at an American breakfast, saw
her husband declining a dish which was offered to him, and called across
the table, "Take some, my dear--it isn't half as nasty as it looks."
Three different people have vouched to me for the truth of this
anecdote, each naming the heroine, and each giving her a different name.
True or false, it is held in America to be typical; and it would
scarcely be so popular as it is unless people had suffered a good deal
from the tactlessness which it exemplifies. The same vice, in a more
insidious form, appears in a remark made to me the other day by an
Englishman of very high intelligence, who had just returned from a long
tour in America, and was, in the main, far from unsympathetic. "What I
felt," he said, "was the suburbanism of everything. It was all Clapham
or Camberwell on a gigantic scale." Some justice of observation may
possibly have lain behind this remark, though I certainly failed to
recognise it. But in the form of its expression it exemplified that
illusion of metropolitanism which is to my mind the veriest cockneyism
in disguise, and which cannot but strike Americans as either ridiculous
or offensive.

Englishmen who, as individuals, wish to promote and not impede an
international understanding, will do well to take some little thought to
avoid wounding, even in trifles, the just and inevitable
susceptibilities of their American acquaintances. Our own national
self-esteem is cased in oak and triple brass,[M] and we are apt to
regard American sensitiveness as a ridiculous foible. It is nothing of
the sort: it is a psychological necessity, deep-rooted in history and
social conditions.

Again, there are certain misunderstandings which Englishmen, not as
individual human beings but as citizens of the British Empire, ought
carefully to guard against. Let us beware of speaking or thinking as
though friendship for England involved on the part of America any
acceptance of English political ideas or imitation of English methods.
In especial, let us carefully guard against the idea that an
Anglo-American understanding, however cordial, implies the adoption of
an "expansionist" policy by the United States, or must necessarily
strengthen the hands of the "expansionist" party. If America chooses to
"take up the white man's burden" in the Kiplingesque sense, it would ill
become England to object; but her doing so is by no means a condition of
England's sympathy. It might seem, indeed, that she had plenty of "white
man's burden" to shoulder within her own continental boundaries; but
that is a matter which she is entirely competent to determine for
herself.

Most of all must we beware of anything that can encourage an impression,
already too prevalent in America, that we find the "white man's burden"
too heavy for us, and are anxious to share it with the United States.
This suspicion is very generally felt and very openly expressed. Take,
for instance, this paragraph from an editorial in one of the leading
Chicago papers:

     "It would be a strange thing to see Continental Europe take up arms
     against Great Britain alone.... That it is a very reasonable
     possibility, however, is generally recognised in Europe, and it
     was doubtless a knowledge of this fact that induced Great Britain
     to make such unusual exertions to ally itself with the United
     States."

Here, again, is another journalistic straw floating on the stream:

     "Referring to the fact that English and American officers had
     fallen side by side in Samoa while promoting commercial interests,
     Lord [Charles] Beresford expressed the hope that the two nations
     would 'always be found working and fighting in unison.' This might
     keep us pretty busy, your lordship."

In a rather low-class farce which I saw in a Chicago theatre, two men
wandered through the action, with the charming irrelevance
characteristic of American popular drama, attired, one as John Bull, the
other as Brother Jonathan. There came a point in the action where some
one had to be kicked out of the house. "You do it, Jonathan," said John
Bull; whereupon Jonathan retorted: "I know your game; you want me to do
your fighting for you, but _I don't do it_! See?" These are ridiculous
trifles, no doubt, but they might be indefinitely multiplied; and they
show the set of a certain current in American feeling. Let us beware of
lending added strength to this current by any appearance of
self-interested eagerness in our advances towards America.

One thing we cannot too clearly realise, and that is that the true
American clings above everything to his Americanism. The status of an
American citizen is to him the proudest on earth, and that although he
may clearly enough recognise the abuses of American political life, and
the dangers which the Republic has to encounter. The feeling (which is
not to be confounded with an ignorant chauvinism, though in some cases
it may take that form) is the fundamental feeling of the whole nation;
and no emotion which threatened to encroach upon it, or compete with it
in any way, would have the least chance of taking a permanent place in
the American mind. The feeling which, as one may reasonably hope, is now
growing up between the two nations must be based on the mutual admission
of absolute independence and equality. The relation is new to history,
and must beget a new emotion. Strong as is the bond of mutual interest,
it must have a large idealism to reinforce it--a sentiment (shall we
say?) of mutual admiration--if the English-speaking peoples are to play
the great part in the drama of the future which Destiny seems to be
urging upon them. In order to stand together in perfect freedom and
dignity, it is essential that each of the brother-nations should be
incontestably able to stand alone. If we want to cement the
Anglo-American understanding, the first thing we have to do is to cement
the British Empire.

There is no more typical and probably no more widely respected American
at the present moment than Governor Roosevelt, of New York. Even those
who dissent from his "strenuous" ideal and his expansionist opinions,
admit him to be a model of political integrity and public spirit. In an
article on "The Monroe Doctrine," published in 1896, Mr. Roosevelt wrote
as follows:

     "No English colony now stands on a footing of genuine equality with
     the parent State. As long as the Canadian remains a colonist, he
     remains in a position which is distinctly inferior to that of his
     cousins, both in England and in the United States. The Englishman
     at bottom looks down on the Canadian, as he does on any one who
     admits his inferiority, and quite properly too. The American, on
     the other hand, with equal propriety, regards the Canadian with the
     good-natured condescension always felt by the freeman for the man
     who is not free. A funny instance of the English attitude towards
     Canada was shown after Lord Dunraven's inglorious fiasco last
     September, when the Canadian yachtsman Rose challenged for the
     America Cup. The English journals repudiated him on the express
     ground that a Canadian was not an Englishman, and not entitled to
     the privileges of an Englishman. In their comments, many of them
     showed a dislike for Americans which almost rose to hatred. The
     feeling they displayed for Canadians was not one of dislike. It was
     one of contempt."

There are several contestable points in this statement, and I quote it,
though it is but three years old, as a historical rather than a
contemporary utterance. At the same time it expresses an almost
universal American point of view, and indicates errors to be corrected,
dangers to be avoided. It is absurd, of course, that the American should
look down upon the Canadian as a "man who is not free"; but every shadow
of an excuse for such an attitude ought to be removed, and the citizen
of the British Empire ought to have as clearly defined a status as the
citizen of the American Republic.

Even if such unpleasant incidents should recur as those to which Mr.
Roosevelt alludes, we may trust with tolerable confidence that he would
now find no "hatred" for America, or "contempt" for Canada, in the tone
of the British Press. The years which have passed since 1896 have not
only created a new feeling between England and America, but have drawn
the Empire together. In this respect--in every respect--much remains to
be done.

But at least we can say with assurance that a good beginning has been
made towards that consolidation of the English-speaking countries on
which the well-being of the world so largely depends.


POSTSCRIPT.--The notion of inevitable hostility between a constitutional
Monarchy and a Republic has been fostered by American writers in whom
one would have expected greater clearness of perception. We find Lowell,
for instance, writing in his well-known essay _On a Certain
Condescension in Foreigners_: "I never blamed her (England) for not
wishing well to democracy--how should she?" The more obvious question
is, How should not one democracy wish another well? There may have been
at the time when Lowell wrote, and there may even be to-day, a handful
of royalty-worshippers in England who regard a Republic as a vulgar,
unpicturesque form of government; but this is not a political opinion,
or even prejudice, but mere stolid snobbery. Whatever were England's
misdemeanours towards America at the time of the Civil War, they were
not prompted by any hatred of democracy.

I find the same misconception insisted on in a document much later than
Lowell's essay: a leaflet by the Rev. Edward Everett Hale, contributed
to a _Good Citizenship Series_ especially designed for the enlightenment
of the more ignorant class of American voters. The tract is called _The
Ruler of America_, and sets forth that the Ruler of America is "The
People with a very large P." Now, according to Dr. Hale, we benighted
Europeans are absolutely incapable of grasping this truth. He says:
"This is at bottom the trouble with the diplomatists of Europe, with
prime ministers, and with leaders of ''Er Majesty's Hopposition.'...
Even men of intelligence.... can make nothing of the central truth of
our system.... In my house, once, an English gentleman of great
intelligence told me that he had visited the White House, and was most
glad to pay his respects to 'the Ruler of our Great Nation.' Poor man!
he thought he would please me! But he saw his mistake soon enough. I
stormed out, 'Ruler of America? Who told you he was the ruler of
America? He never told you so. He is the First Servant of America.' And
I hope the poor traveller learned his lesson."

It is true that the poor traveller used a pompous and rather absurd
expression, but if he had had his wits about him he might have reminded
Dr. Hale that the President is much more effectively the Ruler of
America than the Queen is the Ruler of England. He rules by the direct
mandate of the People, but he rules none the less. It would greatly
conduce to a just understanding between America and England if the
political instructors of the American people would correct instead of
confirming the prevalent impression that they have a monopoly of
democracy.



AMERICAN LITERATURE


Great Britain and the United States are sister Commonwealths, enjoying
the advantages and exposed to the dangers of sisterhood. The dangers are
as real, though we trust not as great, as the advantages. Family
quarrels are apt to be bitterest; a chance word will seem unkind and
unbearable from a near kinsman, which, coming from a stranger, would
carry no sting at all. As Lowell very truly said, "The common blood, and
still more the common language, are fatal instruments of
misapprehension." But behind this statement there lies a far deeper
though still obvious truth. We misunderstand because we understand; and
it would be an extravagance of pessimism to doubt that, in the long run,
understanding will carry the day. Light may dazzle here and bewilder
there; but, after all, it is light and not darkness. We English and
Americans hold a talisman that makes us at home over half, and more than
half, the world; and we are not going to rob it of its virtue by
renouncing our ties, and wantonly declaring ourselves aliens to each
other.

Our unity of speech is such a commonplace that we scarcely notice it.
But, rightly regarded, it is a thing to be rejoiced in with a great joy,
and not without a certain sense of danger happily escaped. He would have
been a bold man who should confidently have prophesied at the Revolution
that American and English would remain the same tongue, and that at the
end of the nineteenth century there would not be the slightest
perceptible cleavage, or threat of ultimate divergence. No doubt there
were forces obviously tending to preserve the linguistic unity of the
two nations. There was the English Bible for one thing, and there was
the whole body of English literature. The Americans, it might have been
said, could scarcely be so foolish as deliberately to renounce their
spiritual birthright, or let it drift little by little away from them.
But, on the other hand, virulent and inveterate political enmity, had it
arisen, might quite conceivably have led the Americans to make it a
point of honour to differentiate their speech from ours, as many
Norwegians are at this moment making it a point of honour to
differentiate their language from the Danish, which was until of late
years the generally accepted medium of literary expression. In the
evolution of their literature, the Americans might purposely have
rejected our classical tradition, making their effort rather to depart
from than to adhere to it. Again, an observer in 1776 could not have
foreseen the practical annihilation, by steam and electricity, of that
barrier which then appeared so formidable--the Atlantic Ocean. He might
have foreseen the immense influx of men of every race and tongue into
the unpeopled West; but he could scarcely have anticipated with
confidence the ready absorption of all these alien elements (save one!)
into the dominant Anglo-Saxon polity. It was quite on the cards that a
new American language might have developed from a fusion of all the
diverse tongues of all the scattered races of the earth.

Nothing of the sort, as we know, has happened. The instinct of kinship
from the first kept political enmity in check; the Atlantic has been
practically wiped out; and English has easily absorbed, in America, all
the other idioms which have been brought into contact, rather than
competition, with it. The result is that the English language occupies a
unique position among the tongues of the earth. It is unique in two
dimensions--in altitude and in expanse. It soars to the highest heights
of human utterance, and it covers an unequalled area of the earth's
surface. Undoubtedly it is the most precious heirloom of our race, and
as such we must reverence and guard it. Nor must we islanders talk as
though we hold it in fee-simple, and allowed our trans-Atlantic kinsfolk
merely a conditional usufruct of it. Their property in it is as complete
and indefeasible as our own; and we should rejoice to accept their aid
in the conversation and renovation (equally indispensable processes) of
this superb and priceless heritage.

English critics of the beginning of the century so convincingly set
forth the reasons why America, absorbed in the conquest of nature and in
material progress, could not produce anything great in the way of
literature, that their arguments remain embedded in many minds even to
this day, when events have conclusively falsified them. It is a
commonplace with some people that America has not developed a great
_American_ literature. If this merely means that, in casting off her
allegiance to George III., America did not cast off her allegiance to
Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Dryden, Addison, Swift, Pope, the
reproach, if it be one, must be accepted. If it be a humiliation to
American authors to own the traditions and standards established by
these men, and thereby to enrol themselves in their immortal fellowship,
why, then it must be owned that they have deliberately incurred that
humiliation. One American of vivid originality tried to escape it, and
with what result? Simply that Whitman holds a place of his own, somewhat
like that of Blake one might say, in the literature of the English
language, and has produced at least as much effect in England as in
America. If, on the other hand, it be implied that American literature
feebly imitates English literature, and fails to present an original and
adequate interpretation of American life, no reproach could well be more
flagrantly unjust. It is not only the abstract merit of American
literature, though that is very high, but precisely the Americanism of
it, that gives it its value in the eyes of all thinking Englishmen. Only
one American author of the first rank could possibly, at a superficial
glance, appear--not so much English as--European, cosmopolitan. I mean,
of course, Edgar Allan Poe, who has left perhaps a deeper impress upon
literature outside the English-speaking countries than any other
imaginative writer of the century, with the exception of Byron. Poe was
a born idealist, a creature of pure intelligence. Whether in poetry or
fiction, he was always solving problems; and it is hard to be
distinctively national in an exercise of pure intelligence. We do not
look for local colour in, for example, the agreeable essays of Euclid.
But Poe's intelligence was, at bottom, of a characteristically American
type. He was the Edison of romance.[N] As for the other great writers of
America, what can be more patent than their Americanism? Speaking only,
for the present, of those who have joined the majority, I would name two
who seem to me to stand with Poe in the very front rank of original
genius. They are Emerson, that starlike spirit, dwelling in a serener
ether than ours, which, though we may never attain, it is yet a
refreshment to look up to; and Hawthorne, not perhaps the greatest
romancer in the English tongue, but certainly the purest artist in that
sphere of fiction. Now, it is a mere truism to say that each of these
men was, in his way, a typical product of New England, inconceivable as
the offspring of any other soil in the world. Emerson, it has been said,
not without truth, was the first of the American humourists, carrying
into metaphysics that gift of realistic vision and inspired hyperbole
which has somehow been grafted upon the Anglo-Saxon character by the
conditions of American life. As for Hawthorne, though he has felt and
reproduced the physical charm of Rome more subtly than any other artist,
his genius drew at once its strength and its delicacy from his Puritan
ancestry and environment. To realise how intimately he smacks of the
soil, we have but to think of that marvellous scene in _The Blithedale
Romance_, the search for Zenobia's body. From what does it derive its
peculiar quality, its haunting savour? Simply from the presence of Silas
Foster, that delightful incarnation of the New England yeoman. "If I
thought anything had happened to Zenobia, I should feel kind o'
sorrowful," said the grim Silas; and there never was a speech more
dramatically true, or, in its context, more bitterly pathetic.

Even while English critics were proving that there could be no such
thing as an American literature, Washington Irving and Fenimore Cooper
were laying its foundations on a thoroughly American basis. Irving was
none the less American for loving the picturesque traditions of his
English ancestry; Cooper, a gallant and fertile genius, did his country
and our language an inestimable service by adding a whole group of
specifically American figures to the deathless aristocracy of the realms
of romance. Then, in the generation which has just passed away, we have
such men as Thoreau, racy of his native soil; Longfellow, in his day and
way the chief interpreter of America to England; Whittier, so intensely
local that, as Professor Matthews puts it, "he wrote for New England
rather than for the whole of the United States;" Lowell, courtly,
cultured, cosmopolitan, and yet the creator of Hosea Biglow; Holmes, as
American in his humour as Lamb was English, who justly ranks with Lamb
and Goldsmith among the personally best-beloved writers of the English
tongue. Prescott, in the sphere of history, paralleled the achievement
of Cooper in fiction, by giving literary form to the romance of the New
World; while Motley was inspired (too ardently, perhaps) by the spirit
of free America in writing the great epic of religious and political
freedom in Europe. Finally, it must not be forgotten that in _Uncle
Tom's Cabin_, a tragically American production, Mrs. Beecher Stowe added
to the literature of the English language the most potent, the most
dynamic, pamphlet ever hurled into the arena of national life.

Of all that living Americans are doing for the literature of our common
tongue it is as yet impossible to speak adequately. Since 1870, a new
spirit of nationalism has entered into American literature, which has
not yet been thoroughly studied in America or appreciated in England. So
far from having no national literature, America has now, perhaps, the
most intimately national body of fiction in the modern world. Before the
Civil War there was practically no deliberate and systematic study of
local and racial idiosyncracies. Hosea Biglow was a mask, not a
character, and Parson Wilbur was a literary device. Even Hawthorne
thought primarily of the element of imagination in the romances--the
universal, not the local, element. His leading characters are
psychological creations, with nothing specifically American about them;
his local colour and local character-study, though admirable, are
incidental, or at any rate stand on a secondary plane. In the South
there was no literature at all, local or otherwise, with the one
startling exception of _Uncle Tom's Cabin_.[O] But since 1870, and
mainly, indeed, within the past twenty years, a marvellous change has
come over the scene. Not only the national but the local
self-consciousness of America has sprung to literary life, until at the
present day there is scarcely a corner of the country, scarcely an
aspect of social life, that has not found its special, and, as a rule,
very able interpreter through the medium of fiction. Pursuing technical
methods partly borrowed from abroad (from France rather than from
England), American writers have undertaken what one is tempted to call a
sociological ordnance-survey of the Republic from Maine to Arizona, from
Florida to Oregon. There is scarcely a human being in the United States,
from the Newport society belle to the "greaser" of New Mexico, that has
not his or her more or less faithful counterpart in fiction. No European
country, so far as I know, has achieved anything like such comprehensive
self-realisation. Comprehensive, I say--not necessarily profound.
Perhaps France in Balzac, perhaps Russia in Turgueneff and Tolstoï,
found more searching interpretation than America has found even in her
host of novelists. But never, surely, was there a body of fiction that
touched life at so many points, to mirror if not to probe it. And in
many cases to probe it as well.

It would take a volume to criticise these writers in any detail. I can
attempt no more than a bald and imperfect enumeration. Miss Mary
Wilkins's studies of New England life are well known and appreciated in
England, but the talent of Miss Sarah Orne Jewett is not sufficiently
recognised. In her _Country of the Pointed Firs_, for example, there are
whole chapters that rise to a classical perfection of workmanship. The
novelists of the Eastern cities, with Mr. Howells, a master craftsman,
at their head, are of course numberless. For studies in the local colour
of New York nothing could be better than Professor Brander Matthews'
_Vignettes of Manhattan_, and other stories. Mr. Paul Leicester Ford's
_Honorable Peter Stirling_, though antiquated in style, gives a
remarkable picture of political life in New York. The Bowery Boy is
cleverly represented, so far as dialect at any rate is concerned, by
Mr. E.W. Townsend in his _Chimmie Fadden_. Even the Jewish and the
Italian quarters of New York have their portraitists in fiction. Life in
Washington has been frequently and ably depicted; for instance, in Mrs.
Burnett's _Through one Administration_. Of the many interpreters of the
South I need mention only three: Mr. Cable, Mr. Thomas Nelson Page, and
Mr. Chandler Harris. Miss Murfree ("Charles Egbert Craddock") has made
the mountains of Tennessee her special province. Chicago has several
novelists of her own: for example, Mr. Henry Fuller, author of _The
Cliff Dwellers_, Mr. Will Payne, and that close student of Chicago
slang, Mr. George Ade, the author of _Artie_. The Middle West counts
such novelists as Miss "Octave Thanet" and Mr. Hamlin Garland, whose
_Main Travelled Roads_ contains some very remarkable work. The Far West
is best represented, perhaps, in the lively and graphic sketches of Mr.
Owen Wister; while California has novelists of talent in Miss Gertrude
Atherton and Mr. Frank Norris. At least two Americans living abroad have
made noteworthy contributions to this sociological survey of their
native land: the late Mr. Harold Frederic, who has dealt mainly with
country life in New York State, and Miss Elizabeth Robins, whose
picture, in _The Open Question_, of a Southern family impoverished by
the war, is exceedingly vivid and bears all the marks of the utmost
fidelity. Nor must I omit to mention that the stage has borne a modest
but not insignificant part in this movement of national
self-portraiture. Mr. Augustus Thomas' _Alabama_ is a delightful picture
of Southern life, while Mr. James A. Herne's _Shore Acres_ takes a
distinct place in the literature of New England, his _Griffith
Davenport_[P] in the literature of Virginia.

There must, of course, be many gaps in this summary enumeration. It is
very probable that many novelists of distinction have altogether escaped
my notice; and I have made no attempt to include in my list the writers
of short magazine stories, many of them artists of high accomplishment.
One omission, however, I must at once repair. "Mark Twain's"
contributions to the work of self-realisation have been in the main
retrospective, but nevertheless of the first importance. He is the
"sacred poet" of the Mississippi. If any work of incontestable genius,
and plainly predestined to immortality, has been issued in the English
language during the past quarter of a century, it is that brilliant
romance of the Great Rivers, _The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn_.

Intensely American though he be, "Mark Twain" is one of the greatest
living masters of the English language. To some Englishmen this may seem
a paradox; but it is high time we should disabuse ourselves of the
prejudice that residence on the European side of the Atlantic confers
upon us an exclusive right to determine what is good English, and to
write it correctly and vigorously. We are apt in England to class as an
"Americanism" every unfamiliar, or too familiar, locution which we do
not happen to like. As a matter of fact, there is a pretty lively
interchange between the two countries of slipshod and vulgar
"journalese;" and as the picturesque reporter is a greater power in
America than he is with us, we perhaps import more than we export of
this particular commodity. But there can be no rational doubt, I think,
that the English language has gained, and is gaining, enormously by its
expansion over the American continent. The prime function of a language,
after all, is to interpret the "form and pressure" of life--the
experience, knowledge, thought, emotion, and aspiration of the race
which employs it. This being so, the more tap-roots a language sends
down into the soil of life, and the more varied the strata of human
experience from which it draws its nourishment, whether of vocabulary or
idiom, the more perfect will be its potentialities as a medium of
expression. We must be careful, it is true, to keep the organism
healthy, to guard against disintegration of tissue; but to that duty
American writers are quite as keenly alive as we. It is not a source of
weakness but of power and vitality to the English language that it
should embrace a greater variety of dialects than any other civilised
tongue. A new language, says the proverb, is a new sense; but a
multiplicity of dialects means, for the possessors of the main language,
an enlargement of the pleasures of the linguistic sense without the
fatigue of learning a totally new grammar and vocabulary. So long as
there is a potent literary tradition keeping the core of the language
one and indivisible, vernacular variations can only tend, in virtue of
the survival of the fittest, to promote the abundance, suppleness, and
nicety of adaptation of the language as a literary instrument. The
English language is no mere historic monument, like Westminster Abbey,
to be religiously preserved as a relic of the past, and reverenced as
the burial-place of a bygone breed of giants. It is a living organism,
ceaselessly busied, like any other organism, in the processes of
assimilation and excretion. It has before it, we may fairly hope, a
future still greater than its glorious past. And the greatness of that
future will largely depend on the harmonious interplay of spiritual
forces throughout the American Republic and the British Empire.


FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote M: I do not mean that we are callous to American criticism, or
always take it in good part when it comes home to us. I think with
shame, for example, of the stupid insolence with which certain English
journalists used for years to treat Mr. W.D. Howells, merely because he
had expressed certain literary judgments from which they dissented. What
I do mean, and believe to be true, is that we are _habitually
unconscious_ of American criticism, while Americans may rather be said
to be _habitually over-conscious_ that the eyes of England and of the
world are on them. The existence of this habit of mind seems to me no
less evident than the fact that it is rapidly correcting itself.]

[Footnote N: I went to see Poe's grave in Baltimore, marked by a mean
and ugly monument, little more than a mere tombstone. It is surely time
that a worthy memorial should be raised, at his burial-place or
elsewhere, to this unique genius. England and the English-speaking world
would gladly contribute. For a masterly criticism and vindication of
Poe, let me refer the reader to Mr. John M. Robertson's _New Essays
towards a Critical Method_. London and New York, 1897.]

[Footnote O: For the reasons of this barrenness, see an essay on _Two
Studies in the South_, in Professor Brander Matthews' _Aspects of
Fiction_. New York, 1896.]

[Footnote P: Founded on a novel by Miss Helen H. Gardener.]



THE AMERICAN LANGUAGE

I


Nothing short of an imperative sense of duty could tempt me to set forth
on that most perilous emprise, a discussion of the American language.
The path is beset with man-traps and spring-guns. Not all the serious
causes of dissension between England and America have begotten half the
bad blood that has been engendered by trumpery questions of vocabulary,
grammar, and pronunciation. I cannot hope to escape giving offence,
probably on both sides; but if I can induce one or two people on either
side to think twice before they scoff once, I shall not have written in
vain.

In the way of scoffing, we English have doubtless (and inevitably) been
the worst offenders. We have habitually used "Americanism" as a term of
reproach, implying, if not saying in so many words, that America was the
great source of pollution, and of nothing but pollution, to the
otherwise limpid current of our speech. Dean Alford wrote offensively
to this effect; Archbishop Trench, on the other hand, discussed the
relations between the English of America and the English of England with
courtesy and good sense.[Q] He protested against certain transatlantic
neologisms, including in his list that excellent old word "to berate,"
and a word so useful and so eminently consonant with the spirit of the
language as "to belittle;" but, whether wise or unwise, his protest was
at least civil. Other writers, both in books and periodicals, have been
apt to take their tone from the Dean rather than from the Archbishop. It
may even be said that the instinct of the majority of Englishmen, which
finds heedless expression in the newspapers and common talk, is to
regard Americanisms as necessarily vulgar, and (conversely) vulgarisms
as probably American. If challenged and brought to book, they can
generally realise the narrowness and injustice of this way of thinking;
yet they relapse into it next moment. It is time we should be on our
guard against so insidious a habit. Its reduction to absurdity may be
found (alackaday!) in _Fors Clavigera_ for June 1, 1874. With shame and
sorrow I transcribe the passage, for the time has not yet come for it
to be forgotten. If it were merely the aberration of an individual,
however distinguished, it were better kept out of sight, out of mind;
but it is, I repeat, the reckless exaggeration of a not altogether
uncommon habit of thought:--

     "England taught the Americans all they have of speech or thought,
     hitherto. What thoughts they have not learned from England are
     foolish thoughts; what words they have not learned from England,
     unseemly words; the vile among them not being able even to be
     humorous parrots, but only obscene mocking-birds."


Can we wonder that Americans have retorted with some asperity upon
criticisms in which any approach to such insolent insularism is even
remotely or inadvertently implied?

The American retort, however, has not always been judicious or
dignified. It has too often consisted in the mere pitting of one
linguistic prejudice against another. It is very easy to prove that
there are bad speakers and bad writers in both countries, and the
attempt to determine which country has the more numerous and the greater
sinners is exceedingly unprofitable. The "You're another" style of
argument has been far too prevalent. Here we have Mr. Gilbert M. Tucker,
for instance, in a book entitled _Our Common Speech_ (1895) implying,
if he does not absolutely assert (p. 173), that a "boldness of
innovation" in matters linguistic, amounting to "absolute
licentiousness," is more characteristic of England than of America. The
suggestion leaves my British withers entirely unwrung, for I approve of
bold innovation in language, trusting to the impermanence of the unfit
to counteract the effects of licentiousness. If I could believe that we
British were the bolder innovators, I should admit it without blenching;
but observation and probability seem to me to point with one accord in
the opposite direction. New words are begotten by new conditions of
life; and as American life is far more fertile of new conditions than
ours, the tendency towards neologism cannot but be stronger in America
than in England. America has enormously enriched the language, not only
with new words, but (since the American mind is, on the whole, quicker
and wittier than the English) with apt and luminous colloquial
metaphors; and I know not why Mr. Tucker should disclaim the credit.

He next sets forth to show how recent English writers are corrupting the
language; and, in doing so, he falls into some curious errors.

Dickens was boldly innovating when he made Silas Wegg say, "Mr. Boffin,
I never bargain"--"haggle," it would seem, is the proper word. But if
Mr. Tucker will look into the matter, he will find it extremely probable
that this was the original sense of the word "bargain," and quite
certain that it was a very early sense; for instance--

  "So worthless peasants bargain for their wives,
  As market-men for oxen, sheep, or horse."

  I HENRY VI., V. v. 53.

And, in any case, is it possible to set up such a distinction between
"bargaining" and "haggling" as to be worth an international wrangle?
"Starved" for frozen is to Mr. Tucker an innovation; it was used both by
Shakespeare and Milton. "Assist" in the sense of to "be present at" is
an "absurd" innovation; it was used by Gibbon and by Prescott, a
"tolerably good authority," says Mr. Tucker himself, "in the use of
English." Miss Yonge is taken to task for saying, "Theodora _flung_ away
and was rushing off;" but Milton says, "And crop-full out of doors he
flings." Charles Reade "is guilty of such phrases as 'Wardlaw whipped
before him,' 'Ransome whipped before it;'" but the Princess in _Love's
Labour's Lost_ is guilty of saying, "Whip to our tents, as roes run
o'er the land," and the word occurs in the same sense in Ben Jonson and
Steele, to search no further. The simple fact is that Mr. Tucker has not
happened to note the intransitive sense of "to fling" and "to whip,"
which has been current in the best authors for centuries. He is very
severe on the English habit of "inserting utterly superfluous words,"
instancing from Lord Beaconsfield, "He was _by way of_ intimating that
he was engaged on a great work," and, from a magazine, "She was _by way
of_ painting the shrimp girl." Now, this is not an elegant expression,
and for my part I should be at some pains to avoid it; but it has a
perfectly distinct meaning, and is not a mere redundancy. If Mr. Tucker
supposes that "She was by way of painting the shrimp girl" means exactly
the same as "She was painting the shrimp girl," he misses one of the
fine shades of the English language. Similarly, his remark on the
"peculiar misuse of the affix _ever_, as in saying 'What_ever_ are you
doing?'" stands in need of reconsideration. It is wrong, certainly, to
treat _ever_ as an affix, and to mistake the first two words of "What
ever are you doing?" for the one word "whatever;" but to suppose the
"ever" meaningless and inert, is to overlook a clearly marked and very
useful gradation of emphasis. "What are you doing?" expresses simple
curiosity; "What ever are you doing?" expresses surprise; "What the
devil are you doing?" expresses anger--we need not run farther up the
scale. Nor is this use of "ever" an innovation, licentious or otherwise.
"Ever" has for centuries been employed as an intensive particle after
the interrogative pronouns and adverbs how, who, what, where, why. For
instance, in _The World of Wonders_ (1607), "I shall desire him to
consider how ever it was possible to get an answer from these priests."

One of the most remarkable paragraphs in Mr. Tucker's book is that in
which he proves "the greater permanence and steadiness of our American
speech as compared with that of the mother country" by going through
Halliwell's _Dictionary of Archaisms and Provincialisms_, and picking
out 76 words which Halliwell regards as obsolete, but which in America
are all alive and kicking. (The vulgarism is mine, not Mr. Tucker's.)
Now as a matter of fact not one of these words is really obsolete in
England, and most of them are in everyday use; for instance, adze,
affectation, agape, to age, air (appearance), appellant, apple-pie
order, baker's dozen, bamboozle, bay window, between whiles, bicker,
blanch, to brain, burly, catcall, clodhopper, clutch, coddle, copious,
cosy, counterfeit money, crazy (dilapidated), crone, crook, croon,
cross-grained, cross-patch, cross purposes, cuddle, to cuff (to strike),
cleft, din, earnest money, egg on, greenhorn, jack-of-all-trades,
loophole, settled, ornate, to quail, ragamuffin, riff-raff, rigmarole,
scant, seedy, out of sorts, stale, tardy, trash. How Halliwell ever came
to class these words as archaic I cannot imagine; but I submit that any
one who sets forth to write about the English of England ought to have
sufficient acquaintance with the language to check and reject
Halliwell's amazing classification. Does Mr. Tucker so despise British
English as never to read an English book? How else is one to account for
his imagining for a moment that clodhopper, clutch, copious, cosy,
cross-grained, greenhorn, and rigmarole are obsolete in England?

Far be it from me to assert that Mr. Tucker makes no good points in his
catalogue of English solecisms. I merely hint that this game of pot and
kettle is neither dignified nor profitable; that purism is almost always
over-hasty, and apt to ignore both the history and the psychology of
language; and, finally, that nothing is gained by introducing acerbity
(though I have admitted the frequent provocation) into a discussion
which a little exercise of temper should render no less agreeable than
instructive to both parties. "The speech of the lower orders of our
people," says Mr. Tucker, "... differs from what all admit to be
standard correctness in a much smaller degree[R] than we have every
reason to believe to be the case in England, _our enemies themselves
being judges_." Now I protest I am not Mr. Tucker's enemy, and I know of
no reason why he should be mine. I cannot share the withering contempt
with which he regards the extension of the term "traffic" from barter to
movement to and fro, as in a street or on a railway; but if he prefers
another word (he does not suggest one, by the way) for the traffic on
Broadway or on the New York Central, I shall not esteem him one whit the
less.[S] Even when he tells me that "bumper" is the English term for
the American "buffer" (on a railway carriage) I do not feel my blood
boil. A very slight elevation of the eyebrows expresses all the emotion
of which I am conscious. So long as he does not insist on my saying a
"bumper state" when I mean a "buffer state," I see no reason whatever
for any rupture of that sympathy which ought to subsist between two men
who take a common interest and pride in the subject of his
treatise--_Our Common Speech_.


FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote Q: See _English Past and Present_, ninth edition, pp. 63,
215.]

[Footnote R: "What great city of this country," Mr. Tucker inquires,
"has developed, or is likely to develop, any peculiar class of errors at
all comparable in importance to those of the Cockney speech of London?"
The answer is pat: New York and Chicago--unless Mr. Townsend's _Chimmie
Fadden_ and Mr. Ade's _Artie_ are sheer linguistic libels.]

[Footnote S: It must be very painful to Mr. Tucker to find Shakespeare
talking of the "two hours' traffic of our stage." He was a hardened
offender, was Shakespeare, against Mr. Tucker's ideal of one single,
inelastic, cast-iron signification for every word in the language.]



II


It is not to be expected that an extremely English intonation should
ever be agreeable to Americans, or an extremely American intonation to
Englishmen. We ourselves laugh at a "haw-haw" intonation in English;
why, then, should we forbid Americans to do so? If "an accent like a
banjo" is recognised as undesirable in America (and assuredly it is),
there is no reason why we in England should pretend to admire it. But a
vulgar or affected intonation is clearly distinguishable, and ought to
be clearly distinguished, from a national habit in the pronunciation of
a given letter, or accentuation of a particular word, or class of words.
For instance, take the pronunciation of the indefinite article. The
American habitually says "[=a] man" (_a_ as in "game"); the Englishman,
unless he wants to be emphatic, says, "[)a] man."[T] Neither is right,
neither wrong; it is purely a matter of habit; and to consider either
habit ridiculous is merely to exhibit that childishness or provincialism
of mind which is moved to laughter by whatever is unfamiliar. Again,
when I first read the works of the sagacious Mr. Dooley, I thought it a
curiously far-fetched idea on the part of that philosopher to talk of
Admiral Dewey as his "Cousin George," and assert that "Dewey" and
"Dooley" were practically the same name. I had not then noticed that the
American pronunciation of "Dewey" is "Dooey," and that the liquid "yoo"
is very seldom heard in America. In the course of the five minutes I
spent in the Supreme Court at Washington, I heard the Chief Justice of
the United States make this one remark: "That, sir, is not
_constitootional_." To our ears this "oo" has an old-fashioned ring,
like that of the "ee" in "obleeged;" but to call it wrong is absurd, and
to find it ridiculous is provincial. Very possibly it can be proved that
had Shakespeare used the word at all, he would have said
"constitootional;" but that would make the "oo" neither better nor worse
in my eyes. There always have been, and always will be, changing
fashions in pronunciation; and the Americans have as good a right to
their fashion as we to ours. Fifty years hence, perhaps, our grandsons
will be saying "constitootional," and theirs "constityootional." I
confess that, in point of abstract sonority, I prefer the "yoo" to the
dry "oo;" but that, again, is a pure matter of taste. If Americans
choose to say,

                               "From morn
  To noon he fell, from noon to dooey eve,
  A summer's day."

I am perfectly willing that they should do so, reserving always my own
right to say "dyooey." It would not at all surprise me to learn that
Milton said "dooey;" but neither would it lead me to alter the
pronunciation which, as one of the present generation of Englishmen, I
have learnt to prefer.

It is said that when Mr. Daly's company returned to New York, after a
long visit to England, they pronounced "lieutenant" according to the
English fashion, "leftenant," but were called to order by an outburst of
protest. Though, for my own part, I say "leftenant," I heartily
sympathise with the protesters. "Leftenant," though a corruption of
respectable antiquity, is a corruption none the less, and since it has
died out in America, it would be mere snobbery to reintroduce it.

So, too, with questions of accentuation. We say "prim-arily" and
"tem-porarily;" most (or at any rate many) Americans say "primar-ily"
and "temporar-ily." Here there is no question of right or wrong,
refinement or vulgarity. The one accentuation is as good as the other.
It may be argued, indeed, that our accentuation throws into relief the
root, the idea, the soul of the word, not the mere grammatical suffix,
the "limbs and outward flourishes;" but on the other hand, it may be
contended with equal truth that the American accentuation has the Latin
precedent in its favour. Neither advantage is conclusive; neither,
indeed, is, strictly speaking, relevant; for Englishmen do not make a
principle of accentuating the root rather than the prefix or suffix,
else we should say "inund-ation," "resonant," "admir-able;" and the
Americans do not make a principle of following the Latin emphasis, else
they would say "ora-tor" and "gratui-tous," and the recognised
pronunciation of "theatre" would be "theayter." It is argued that there
is a general tendency among educated Englishmen to throw the accent as
far back as possible; that, for instance, the educated speaker says
"in-teresting," the uneducated, "interest-ing." True; but until this
tendency can be proved to possess some inherent advantage, there is not
a shadow of reason why Americans should be reproached or ridiculed for
obeying their own tendency rather than ours. The English tendency is a
matter of comparatively recent fashion. "Con-template," said Samuel
Rogers, "is bad enough, but bal-cony makes me sick." Both forms have
maintained themselves up to the present; but will they for long? I think
one may already trace a reaction against the universal throwing backward
of the accent. I myself say "per-emptory" and "ex-emplary;" but it would
take very little encouragement to make me say "peremp-tory" and
"exemp-lary," which seem to me much more expressive words. There is
surely no doubt that, in accenting a prefix rather than the root of the
word, we lose a certain amount of force. "Con-template," for instance,
is not nearly so strong a word as "contemp-late." We say an
"il-lustrated" book or the "_Il-lustrated London News_" because we do
not require any particular force in the epithet; but when the sense
demands a word with colour and emotion in it, we say the "illus-trious"
statesman, the "illus-trious" poet, throwing into relief the essential
element in the word, the "lustre." What a paltry word would
"tri-umphant" be in comparison with "trium-phant!" But the larger our
list of examples, the more capricious does our accentuation seem, the
more evidently subject to mere accidents of fashion. There is scarcely a
trace of consistent or rational principle in the matter. To make a merit
of one practice, and find in the other a subject for contemptuous
criticism, is simply childish.

Mere slovenliness of pronunciation is a totally different matter. For
instance, the use of "most" for "almost" is distinctly, if not a
vulgarism, at least a colloquialism. It may be of ancient origin; it may
have crossed in the _Mayflower_ for aught I know; but the overwhelming
preponderance of ancient and modern usage is certainly in favour of
prefixing the "al," and there is a clear advantage in having a special
word for this special idea. If American writers tried to make "most"
supplant "almost" in the literary language, we should have a right to
remonstrate; the two forms would fight it out, and the fittest would
survive. But as a matter of fact I am not aware that any one has
attempted to introduce "most," in this sense, into literature. It is
perfectly recognised as a colloquialism, and as such it keeps its place.
Again, such pronunciations as "mebbe" for "maybe" and "I'd ruther" or "I
druther" for "I'd rather" are obvious slovenlinesses. No American would
defend them as being correct, any more than an Englishman would defend
"I dunno" for "I don't know" or "atome" for "at home." If an actor, for
instance, were to say,

  "I druther be a dog and bay the moon
  Than such a Roman,"

American and English critics alike could not but protest against the
solecism; for in poetry absolute precision of utterance is clearly
indispensable. But in everyday speech a certain amount of colloquialism
is inevitable. Let him whose own enunciation is chemically free from
localism or slovenliness cast the first stone even at "mebbe" and
"ruther."

A curious American colloquialism, of which I certainly cannot see the
advantage, in the substitution of "yep," or "yup" for "yes," and of
"nope" for "no." No doubt we have in England the coster's "yuss;" but
one hears even educated Americans now and then using "yep," or some
other corruption of "yes," scarcely to be indicated by the ordinary
alphabetical symbols. It seems to me a pity.

Much more respectable in point of antiquity is the habit which obtains
to some extent even among educated Americans, of saying "somewheres" and
"a long ways." Here the "s" is an old case-ending, an adverbial
genitive. "He goes out nights," too, on which Mr. Andrew Lang is so
severe, is a form as old as the language and older. I turn to Dr. Leon
Kellner's _Historical English Syntax_ (p. 119) and find that the Gothic
for "at night" was "nahts," and that the form (with its correlative
"days ") runs through old Norse, old Saxon, old English, and middle
English: for instance, "dages endi nahtes" _(Hêliand)_, "dæges and
nihtes" _(Beówulf)_, "dæies and nihtes" (Layamon), all meaning "by day
and by night." In all, or almost all, words ending in "ward," the
genitive inflection, according to modern English practice, can either be
retained or dropped at will. It is a mere pedantry to declare "toward"
better English than "towards," "upward" than "upwards." Thus we see
that here again there is neither logical principle nor consistent
practice to be invoked. At the same time, as "somewheres" has become
irremediably a vulgarism in England, it would, I think, be a graceful
concession on the part of educated Americans to drop the "s." After all,
"somewhere" does not jar in America, and "somewheres" very distinctly
jars in England.

An insidious laxity of pronunciation (rather than of grammar), which is
taking great hold in America, is the total omission of the "had" or
"have," in such phrases as "You'd better," "we've got to." Mr. Howells's
Willis Campbell, a witty and cultivated Bostonian, says, in _The Albany
Depot_, "I guess we better get out of here;" Mr. Ade's Artie, a Chicago
clerk, says, "I got a boost in my pay," meaning "I have got:" the
locution is very common indeed. It is no more defensible than "swelp me"
for "so help me." It arises from sheer laziness, unwillingness to face
the infinitesimal difficulty of pronouncing, "d" and "b" together. As a
colloquialism it is all very well; but I regard it with a certain alarm,
for where all trace of a word disappears, people are apt to forget the
logical and grammatical necessity for it. Though contracted to its last
letter, a word still asserts its existence; but when even the last
letter has vanished its state is parlous indeed.

An Anglicism much ridiculed in America is "different to." As a
Scotchman, I dislike it, and would neither use nor defend it. At the
same time I cannot but hint to American critics that the use of a
particular preposition in a particular context is largely a matter of
convention; that when we learn a new language we have simply to get up
by rote the conventions that obtain in this regard, reason being little
or no guide to us; and that within the same language the conventions are
always changing. You may easily nonplus even a good grammarian by asking
him suddenly, "What preposition should you use in such-and-such a
context?" just as you may puzzle a man by asking him to spell a word
which, if he wrote it without thinking about it, would present no
difficulty to him. Some very good American writers always say, "at the
North," and "at the South," where an Englishman would certainly say
"in." "At," to my mind, suggests a very narrow point of space. I should
say "at" a village, but "in" a city--"at Concord," but "in Boston." I
recognise, however, that this is a mere matter of convention, and do
not dream of condemning "at the North" as an error. In the same way I
would claim tolerance, though certainly not approval, for "different
to."

As a general rule, I think, educated Americans are more apt to err on
the side of purism than of laxity. I have before me, for example, a long
list of rules and warnings for American writers, issued by the _New York
Press_, many of which are very much to the point, while others seem to
me captious and pedantic. For instance, a woman is not to "marry" a man;
she is "married to" him; "the clergyman or magistrate marries both." The
grammatical suitor, then, when the awful moment arrives, must not say to
the blushing fair, "Will you marry me?" but "Will you be married to me?"
Again, you not only must not split infinitives, but you must not
separate an auxiliary from its verb; you must say "probably will be,"
not "will probably be." This is English by the card indeed.

I will not waste space upon discussing the different fashions of
spelling in England and America. The rage excited in otherwise rational
human beings by the dropping of the "u" in "favor," or the final "me" in
"program," is one of the strangest of psychological phenomena. The
baselessness of the reasonings used to bolster up the British clinging
to superfluous letters is very ably shown in Professor Matthews'
_Americanisms and Briticisms_. Let me only put in a plea for the
retention of such abnormal spellings as serve to distinguish two words
of the same sound. For instance, it seems to me useful that we should
write "story" for a tale and "storey" for a floor, and in the plural
"stories" and "storeys."


FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote T: "Surely, on Mr. Archer's own showing," writes Mr. A.B.
Walkley, "the Englishman has the advantage here, for 'when he wants to
be emphatic' he can be, whereas the American cannot." This is a
misapprehension on Mr. Walkley's part. The American a can be spoken with
or without emphasis, just as the speaker pleases. It is because we are
accustomed always to associate this particular sonority with emphasis
that even when it is spoken without emphasis, we imagine it to be
emphatic.]



III


Passing now from questions of pronunciation and grammar to questions of
vocabulary, I can only express my sense of the deep indebtedness of the
English language, both literary and colloquial, to America, for the old
words she has kept alive and the new words and phrases she has invented.
It is a sheer pedantry--nay, a misconception of the laws which govern
language as a living organism--to despise pithy and apt colloquialisms,
and even slang. In order to remain healthy and vigorous, a literary
language must be rooted in the soil of a copious vernacular, from which
it can extract and assimilate, by a chemistry peculiar to itself,
whatever nourishment it requires. It must keep in touch with life in the
broadest acceptation of the word; and life at certain levels, obeying a
psychological law which must simply be accepted as one of the conditions
of the problem, will always express itself in dialect, provincialism,
slang.

America doubles and trebles the number of points at which the English
language comes in touch with nature and life, and is therefore a great
source of strength and vitality. The literary language, to be sure,
rejects a great deal more than it absorbs; and even in the vernacular,
words and expressions are always dying out and being replaced by others
which are somehow better adapted to the changing conditions. But though
an expression has not, in the long run, proved itself fitted to survive,
it does not follow that it has not done good service in its time.
Certain it is that the common speech of the Anglo-Saxon race throughout
the world is exceedingly supple, well nourished, and rich in forcible
and graphic idioms; and a great part of this wealth it owes to America.
Let the purists who sneer at "Americanisms" think for one moment how
much poorer the English language would be to-day if North America had
become a French or Spanish instead of an English continent.

I am far from advocating a breaking down of the barrier between literary
and vernacular speech. It should be a porous, a permeable bulwark,
allowing of free filtration; but it should be none the less distinct and
clearly recognised. Nor do I recommend an indiscriminate hospitality to
all the linguistic inspirations of the American fancy. All I say is that
neologisms should be judged on their merits, and not rejected with
contumely for no better reason than that they are new and (presumably)
American. Take, for instance, the word "scientist." It was originally
suggested by Whewell in 1840; but it first came into common use in
America, and was received in England at the point of the bayonet. Huxley
and other "scientists" disowned it, and only a few years ago the _Daily
News_ denounced it as "an ignoble Americanism," a "cheap and vulgar
product of transatlantic slang." But "scientist" is undoubtedly holding
its own, and will soon be as generally accepted as "retrograde,"
"reciprocal," "spurious," and "strenuous," against which Ben Jonson, in
his day, so--strenuously protested. It holds its own because it is felt
to be a necessity. No one who is in the habit of writing will pretend
that it is always possible to fall back upon the cumbrous phrase "man of
science."[U] On the other hand, the purist objection to
"scientist"--that it is a Latin word with a Greek termination, and that
it implies the existence of a non-existent verb--may be urged with
equal force against such harmless necessary words as deist, aurist,
dentist, florist, jurist, oculist, somnambulist, ventriloquist,
and--purist. Much more valid objection might be made to the word
"scientific," which is not hybrid indeed, but is, if strictly examined,
illogical and even nonsensical. The fact is that three-fourths of the
English language would crumble away before a purist analysis, and we
should be left without words to express the commonest and most necessary
ideas.

Contrast with the case of "scientist" a vulgarism such as the use of
"transpire" in the sense of "happen." I do not quote it as an
Americanism; it is probably of English origin; it occurs, I regret to
note, in Dickens. I select it merely as an example of a demonstrably
vicious locution which ought indubitably to be banished from the
language. It has its origin in sheer blundering. Some one, at some time,
has come upon the phrase "such-and-such a thing has transpired"--that
is, leaked out, become known--and, ignorantly mistaking its meaning, has
noted and employed the word as a finer-sounding synonym for "occurred"
or "happened." The blunder has been passed on from one penny-a-liner to
another, until at last it has crept into the pages of writers, on both
sides of the Atlantic, who ought to know better. If it served any
purpose, expressed any shade of meaning, it might be tolerated; but
being at once a useless pedantry and an obvious blunder, it deserves no
quarter.

My point, then, is that "scientist" ought to live on its merits,
"transpire" to die on its demerits. With regard to every neologism we
ought first to inquire, "Does it fill a gap? Does it serve a purpose?"
And if that question be answered in the affirmative, we may next
consider whether it is formed on a reasonably good analogy and in
consonance with the general spirit of the language. "Truthful," for
example, is said to be an Americanism, and at one time gave offence on
that account. It is not only a vast improvement on the stilted
"veracious," but one of the prettiest and most thoroughly English words
in the dictionary.

The above-quoted writer in the _New York Press_ is a purist in
vocabulary, no less than in grammar. He will not allow us to be
"unwell," we must always be "ill;" an inhuman imperative. Why should we
sacrifice this clear and useful gradation: unwell, very unwell, ill,
very ill? On "sick" he does not deliver judgment. The American use of
the word is ancient and respectable, but the English limitation of its
meaning seems to me convenient, seeing we have the general terms
"unwell" and "ill" ready to hand. Again, the _New York Press_ authority
follows Freeman in wishing to eject the word "ovation" from the
language; surely a ridiculous literalism. It is true we do not sacrifice
a sheep at a modern "ovation," but neither (for example) do we judge by
the flight of birds when we declare the circumstances to be "auspicious"
for such and such an undertaking. Again, we are never to "retire" for
the night, but always to "go to bed." If, as is commonly alleged,
Americans say "retire" because they consider it indelicate to go to bed,
the feeling and the expression are alike foolish. But I do not believe
that either is at all common in America. On the other hand, one may
retire for the night without going to bed. In the case of ladies
especially, the interval between retiring and going to bed is reputed
to be far from inconsiderable. If, then, one really means "retired for
the night" and does _not_ definitely mean "went to bed," I see no crime
in employing the expression that conveys one's exact meaning. Finally
the _New York Press_ will not let us use the word "commence;" we must
always "begin." This is an excellent example of unreflecting or
half-reflecting purism. "Commence" is a very old word; it is used by the
best writers; it is easily pronounceable and not in the least
grandiloquent; indeed it has precisely the length and cadence of its
competitor. But somebody or other one day observed that it was Latin,
whereas "begin" was Saxon; and since then there has been a systematic
attempt, in several quarters, to hound the innocent and useful synonym
out of the language. Whence comes this rage for impoverishing our
tongue! The more synonyms we possess the better. Wherefore (by the way)
I for my part should not be too rigorous in excluding a forcible
Americanism merely because it happens to duplicate some word or
expression already current in England. The rich language is that which
possesses not only the necessaries of life but also an abundance of
superfluities.


FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote U: Mr. Andrew Lang says: "Plenty of other words are formed on
the same analogy: the Greeks, in the verb 'to Medize,' set the example.
But we happen to have no use for 'scientist.'" It is not quite clear
whether Mr. Lang employs "have no use" in the American sense, expressing
sheer dislike, or in the literal and English sense. In the latter case I
can only say that he has been fortunate in never coming across
conjunctures in which "man of science" came in awkwardly and
inelegantly.]



IV


Let me note a few of the Americanisms, good, bad, and indifferent, which
specially struck me, whether in talk or in books, during my recent visit
to the United States. I call them Americanisms without inquiring into
their history. Some of them may be of English origin; but for practical
purposes an Americanism may be taken to mean an expression commonly used
in America and not commonly used in England.

I had not been three hours on American soil before I heard a charming
young lady remark, "Oh, it was bully!" I gathered that this expression
is considered admissible, in the conversation of grown-up people, only
in and about New York. I often heard it there, and never anywhere else.
A very distinguished officer, who served as a volunteer in Cuba, was
asked to state his impressions of war. "War," he said, "is a terrible
thing. You can't exaggerate its horrors. When you sit in your tent the
night before the battle, and think of home and your wife and children,
you feel pretty sick and downhearted. But," he added, "next day, when
you're in it, oh, it _is_ bully!"

The general use of picturesque metaphor is of course a striking feature
of American conversation. Many of these expressions have taken firm root
in England, such as "to have no use for" a man, or "to take no stock in"
a theory. But fresh inventions crop up on every hand in America. For
instance, where an English theatrical manager would say, "We must get
this play well talked about and paragraphed in advance," an American
manager puts the whole thing much more briefly and forcibly in the
phrase, "We don't want this piece to come in on rubbers." Metaphor
apart, many Americans have a gift of fantastic extravagance of phrase
which often produces an irresistible effect. A gentleman in high
political office had one day to receive a deputation with whose objects
he had no sympathy. He listened for some time to the spokesman of the
party, and then, at a pause, broke in with the remark: "Gentlemen, you
need proceed no further. I am not an entirely dishevelled jackass!" One
would give something for a snapshot photograph of the faces of that
deputation.

Small differences of expression (other than those with which every one
is familiar--such as "elevator," "baggage," "depot," &c.)--strike one in
daily life. The American for "To let" is "For rent;" a "thing one would
wish to have expressed otherwise" is, more briefly, "a bad break;"
instead of "He married money" an American will say "He married rich;"
but this, I take it, is a vulgarism--as, indeed, is the English
expression. I find that in the modern American novel, setting forth the
sayings and doings of more or less educated people, there are apt to be,
on an average, about half a dozen words and phrases at which the English
reader stumbles for a moment. Mr. Howells, a master of English, may be
taken as a faithful reporter of the colloquial speech of Boston and New
York. In one of his comediettas, he makes Willis Campbell say, "Let me
turn out my sister's cup" (pour her a cup of tea). Mrs. Roberts, in
another of these delightful little pieces, says, "I'll smash off a
note," where an English Mrs. Roberts would say "dash off "; and where an
English Mrs. Roberts would ring the bell, her American namesake "touches
the annunciator." It is commonly believed in England that there is no
such thing as a "servant" in America, but only "hired girls" and
"helps." This is certainly not so in New York. I once "rang up" a
friend's house by telephone, and, on asking who was speaking to me,
received the answer, in a feminine voice, "I'm one of Mr. So-and-so's
servants."

The heroine of _The Story of a Play_ says to her husband, "Are you still
thinking of our scrap of this morning?" "Scrap," in the sense of
"quarrel," is one of the few exceedingly common American expressions
which, have as yet taken little hold in England.[V] Admiral Dewey, for
instance, is admired as a "scrapper," or, as we should phrase it, a
fighting Admiral. Mr. Henry Fuller, of Chicago, in his powerful novel
_The Cliff Dwellers_, uses a still less elegant synonym for "scrap"--he
talks of a "connubial spat." In the same book I note the phrases "He
teetered back and forth on his toes," "He was a stocky young man," "One
of his brief noonings," "That's right, Claudia--score the profession."
"Score," as used in America, does not mean "score off," but rather, I
take it, "attack and leave your mark upon." It is very common in this
sense. For instance, I note among the headlines of a New York paper,
"Mr. So-and-so scores Yellow Journalism." Talking of Yellow Journalism,
by the way, the expressions "a beat," and "a scoop," for what we in
England call an "exclusive" item of news, were unknown to me until I
went to America. I was a little bewildered, too, when I was told of a
family which "lived on air-tights." Their diet consisted of canned (or,
as we should say, tinned) provisions.

The most popular slang expression of the day is "to rubberneck," or,
more concisely, "to rubber." Its primary meaning is to crane the neck in
curiosity, to pry round the corner, as it were.[W] But it has numerous
and surprising extensions of meaning. It appears to be one of the laws
of slang that when a phrase strikes the popular fancy, it is pressed
into service on every possible or impossible occasion. Another
favourite expression is "That cuts no ice with me."[X] I was unable to
ascertain either its origin or its precise significance. On the other
hand, a piece of slang which supplies a "felt want," and will one day, I
believe, pass into the literary language, is "the limit" in the sense of
"le comble." A theatrical poster, widely displayed in New York while I
was there, bore this alluring inscription:

     THE LIMIT AT LAST!

     "THE MORMON SENATOR AND THE MERMAID"

     JAGS OF JOY FOR JADED JOHNNIES.

A "jag," be it known, means primarily a load, secondarily a "load," or
"package," of alcohol.

Collectors of slang will find many priceless gems in two recent books
which I commend to their notice: _Chimmie Fadden_, by Mr. E.W. Townsend,
and _Artie_, by Mr. George Ade. _Chimmie Fadden_ gives us the dialect of
the New York Bowery Boy, or "tough," in which the most notable feature
is the substitution either of "d" or "t" for "th." Is this, I wonder, a
spontaneous corruption, or is it due to German and Yiddish influence?
When Chimmie wants to express his admiration for a young lady, he says:
"Well, say, she's a torrowbred, an' dat goes." When the young lady's
father comes to thank him for championing her, this is how Chimmie
describes the visit: "Den he gives me a song an' dance about me being a
brave young man for tumping de mug what insulted his daughter," "Mug,"
the Bowery term for "fellow" or "man," in Chicago finds its equivalent
in "guy." Mr. Ade's Artie is a Chicago clerk, and his dialect is of the
most delectable. In comparison with him, Mr. Dooley is a well of English
undefiled. Here again we find traces of the influence of polyglot
immigration. "Kopecks" for "money" evidently comes from the Russian Jew;
"girlerino," as a term of endearment, from the "Dago" of the sunny
south; and "spiel," meaning practically anything you please, from the
Fatherland. When Artie goes to a wedding, he records that "there was a
long spiel by the high guy in the pulpit." After describing the
embarrassments of a country cousin in the city, Artie proceeds, "Down at
the farm, he was the wise guy and I was the soft mark." "Mark" in the
sense of "butt" or "gull" is one of the commonest of slang words. When
Artie has cut out all rivals in the good graces of his Mamie, he puts it
thus, "There ain't nobody else in the one-two-sevens. They ain't even in
the 'also rans.'" When they have a lovers' quarrel he remarks, "Well, I
s'pose the other boy's fillin' all my dates." When he is asked whether
Mamie cycles, he replies, "Does she? She's a scorchalorum!" When he
disapproves of another young gentleman, this is how "he puts him next"
to the fact, as he himself would say--

     "You're nothin' but a two-spot. You're the smallest thing in the
     deck.... Chee-e-ese it! You can't do nothin' like that to me and
     then come around afterwards and jolly me. Not in a million! I tell
     you you're a two spot, and if you come into the same part o' the
     town with me I'll change your face. There's only one way to get
     back at you people.... If he don't keep off o' my route, there'll
     be people walkin' slow behind him one o' these days.... But this
     same two-spot's got a sister that can have my seat in the car any
     time she comes in."

I plead guilty to an unholy relish for Chimmie's and Artie's racy
metaphors from the music-hall, the poker-table, and the "grip-car."[Y]
But it is to be noted that both these profound students of slang, Mr.
Townsend and Mr. Ade, like the creator of the delightful Dooley, express
themselves in pure and excellent English the moment they drop the mask
of their personage. This is very characteristic. Many educated Americans
take great delight, and even pride, in keeping abreast of the daily
developments of slang and patter; but this study does not in the least
impair their sense for, or their command of, good English. The idea that
the English language is degenerating in America is an absolutely
groundless illusion. Take them all round, the newspapers of the leading
American cities, in their editorial columns at any rate, are at least as
well written as the newspapers of London; and in magazines and books the
average level of literary accomplishment is certainly very high. There
are bad and vulgar writers on both sides of the Atlantic; but until the
beams are removed from our own eyes, we may safely trust the Americans
to attend to the motes in theirs.


POSTSCRIPT.--When this paper originally appeared, it formed the text for
an editorial article in the _Daily News_, in which Mr. Andrew Lang's
sign manual was not to be mistaken. Mr. Lang brought my somewhat
desultory discussion very neatly to a point. He admitted that we
habitually use "Americanism" as a term of reproach; "but," he asked,
"who is reproached? Not the American (who may do as he pleases) but the
English writer, who, in serious work, introduces, needlessly, an
American phrase into our literature. We say 'needlessly' when our
language already possesses a consecrated equivalent for the word or
idiom."

In the first place, one has to remark that many English critics are far
from accepting Mr. Lang's principle that "the American may do as he
pleases, of course." Mr. Lang himself scarcely acts up to it in this
very article. And, for my part, I think the principle a false one. I
think the English language has been entrusted to the care of all of us,
English no less than Americans, Americans no less than English; and if I
find an American writer debasing it in an essential point, as opposed to
a point of mere local predilection, I assert my right to remonstrate
with him, just as I admit his right, under similar circumstances, to
remonstrate with me.

It is not here, however, that I join issue with Mr. Lang: it is on his
theory that an English writer necessarily does wrong who unnecessarily
employs an Americanism. This is a question of great practical moment,
and I am glad that Mr. Lang has stated it in this definite form. My view
is perhaps sufficiently indicated above, but I take the opportunity of
reasserting it with all deliberation. I believe that, as a matter both
of literary and of social policy, we ought to encourage the free
infiltration of graphic and racy Americanisms into our vernacular, and
of vigorous and useful Americanisms (even if not absolutely necessary)
into our literary language. Where is the harm in duplicating terms, if
only the duplicates be in themselves good terms? For instance, take the
word "fall." Mr. Brander Matthews writes: "An American with a sense of
the poetic cannot but prefer to the imported word 'autumn' the native
and more logical word 'fall,' which the British have strangely suffered
to drop into disuse." Well, "autumn" was a sufficiently early
importation. "Our ancestors," wrote Lowell (quoted by Mr. Matthews in
the same article), "unhappily could bring over no English better than
Shakespeare's;" and in Shakespeare's (and Chaucer's) English they
brought over "autumn." The word has inherent beauty as well as splendid
poetical associations. I doubt whether even Shakespeare could have made
out of "fall" so beautiful a line as

  "The teeming autumn, big with rich increase."

I doubt whether Keats, had he written an _Ode to the Fall_, would have
produced quite such a miraculous poem as that which begins

  "Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness."

Still, Mr. Matthews is quite right in saying that "fall" has a poetic
value, a suggestion, an atmosphere of its own. I wonder, with him, why
we dropped it, and I see no smallest reason why we should not recover
it. The British literary patriotism which makes a point of never saying
"fall" seems to me just as mistaken as the American literary patriotism
(if such there be) that makes a merit of never saying "autumn." By
insisting on such localisms (for the exclusive preference for either
term is nothing more) we might, in process of time, bring about a
serious fissure in the language. Of course there is no reason why Mr.
Lang should force himself to use a word that is uncongenial to him; but
if "fall" is congenial to me, I think I ought to be allowed to use it
"without fear and without reproach."

Take, now, a colloquialism. How formal and colourless is the English
phrase "I have enjoyed myself!" beside the American "I have had a good
time!" Each has its uses, no doubt. I am far from suggesting that the
one should drive out the other. It is precisely the advantage of our
linguistic position that it so enormously enlarges the stock of
semi-synonyms at our disposal. To reject a forcible Americanism merely
because we could, at a pinch, get on without it, is--Mr. Lang will
understand the forcible Scotticism--to "sin our mercies."

Mr. Lang is under a certain illusion, I think, in his belief that in
hardening our hearts against Americanism's we should raise no barrier
between ourselves and the classical authors of America. He says: "Let us
remark that they [Americanisms] do not occur in Hawthorne, Poe, Lowell,
Longfellow, Prescott, and Emerson, except when these writers are
consciously reproducing conversations in dialect." He made the same
remark on a previous occasion; when his opponent (see the _Academy_,
March 30, 1895) opened a volume of Hawthorne and a volume of Emerson,
and in five minutes found in Hawthorne "He had named his two children,
one _for_ Her Majesty and one _for_ Prince Albert," and in Emerson
"Nature tells every secret once. Yes; but in man she tells it _all the
time_." The latter phrase is one which Mr. Lang explicitly puts under
his ban. He is an ingenious and admirable translator: I wish he would
translate Emerson's sentence from American into English, without loss of
brevity, directness, and simple Saxon strength. For my part, I can think
of nothing better than "In man she is always telling it," which strikes
me as a feeble makeshift. "All the time," I suggest, is precisely one of
the phrases we should accept with gratitude--if, indeed, it be not
already naturalised.

Mr. Lang is peculiarly unfortunate in calling Oliver Wendell Holmes to
witness against his particular and pet aversion "I belong here" or "That
does not belong there." Writing of "needless Americanisms," he says,
"The use of 'belong' as a new auxiliary verb [an odd classification, by
the way] is an example of what we mean. Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes was a
stern opponent of such neologisms." I turn to the Oxford Dictionary, and
the one quotation I find under "belong" in this sense, is:--"'You belong
with the last set, and got accidentally shuffled with the others.'--_O.W.
Holmes, 'Elsie Venner_.'" But this, Mr. Lang may say, is in
dialogue. Yes, but not in dia_lect_. I am very much mistaken if the
locution does not occur elsewhere in Holmes. If Mr. Lang, in a leisure
hour, were to undertake a search for it, he might incidentally find
cause to modify his view as to the sternness of the Autocrat's
anti-Americanism.

Let me not be thought to underrate the services which, by sound precept
and invaluable example, Mr. Lang has rendered to all of us who use the
English tongue. Conservatism and liberalism are as inevitable, nay,
indispensable, in the world of words as in the world of deeds; and I
trust Mr. Lang will not set down my liberalism as anarchism. He and I,
in this little discussion, are simply playing our allotted parts. I
believe (and Mr. Lang would probably admit with a shrug) that the forces
of the future are on my side. May I recall to him that charming anecdote
of Thackeray and Viscount Monck, when they were rival candidates for the
representation of Oxford in Parliament? They met in the street one day,
and exchanged a few words. On parting, Thackeray shook hands with his
opponent and said, "Good-bye; and may the best man win!" "I hope _not_,"
replied Viscount Monck, with a bow. A hundred years hence, if some
English-speaker of the future should chance to disinter this book from
the recesses of the British Museum or the Library of Congress, and
should read these final paragraphs, I doubt not he will say--for the
immortal soul of the language even anarchism cannot affect--"the race is
not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong."


FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote V: Mr. Walkley reports that he has heard a Cockney policeman,
speaking of a street row, "There's been a little scrappin'."]

[Footnote W: "About a dozen ringers followed us into the church and
stood around rubberin'." "Gettin' next to the new kinds o' saddles and
rubber-neckin' to read the names on the tyres."--_Artie_. A writer in
the New York _Sun_ says: "I first heard the term 'rubbernecks' in
Arizona, about four years ago, applied to the throngs of onlookers in
the gambling-houses, who strove to get a better view of the games in
progress by stretching or bending their necks."]

[Footnote X: "We didn't break into sassiety notes, but that cuts no ice
in our set."--_Artie_.]

[Footnote Y: Extract from a letter to the _Chicago Evening Post_: "I do
not at all subscribe to the sneering remark of a talented author of my
acquaintance, to the effect that there were not enough cultured people
in Chicago to fill a grip-car. I asked him if he meant a grip-car and a
trailer, and he said, 'No; just one car.' And I told him right there
that I could not agree with him."]



THE END





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