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Title: The Land of Contrasts - A Briton's View of His American Kin
Author: Muirhead, James Fullarton, 1853-1934
Language: English
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    The
    Land of Contrasts

    _A Briton's View of his American Kin_


    By

    James Fullarton Muirhead

    Author of _Baedeker's Handbooks to Great Britain
    and the United States_


    Lamson, Wolffe and Company
    Boston, New York and London
    _MDCCCXCVIII._


    Copyright, 1898
    By Lamson, Wolffe and Company
     _All rights reserved_


    Press of
    Rockwell and Churchill
    BOSTON, U.S.A.


    _To
    The Land
    That has given me
    What makes Life most worth living_



Contents


    Chapter                                                       Page

    I. Introductory                                                  1

    II. The Land of Contrasts                                        7

    III. Lights and Shadows of American Society                     24

    IV. An Appreciation of the American Woman                       45

    V. The American Child                                           63

    VI. International Misapprehensions and National Differences     74

    VII. Sports and Amusements                                     106

    VIII. The Humour of the "Man on the Cars"                      128

    IX. American Journalism--A Mixed Blessing                      143

    X. Some Literary Straws                                        162

    XI. Certain Features of Certain Cities                         190

    XII. Baedekeriana                                              219

    XIII. The American Note                                        273



Author's Note


My first visit to the United States of America--a short one--was paid
in 1888. The observations on which this book is mainly based were,
however, made in 1890-93, when I spent nearly three years in the
country, engaged in the preparation of "Baedeker's Handbook to the
United States." My work led me into almost every State and Territory
in the Union, and brought me into direct contact with representatives
of practically every class. The book was almost wholly written in what
leisure I could find for it in 1895 and 1896. The foot-notes, added on
my third visit to the country (1898), while I was seeing the chapters
through the press, have at least this significance, that they show how
rapidly things change in the Land of Contrasts.

No part of the book has been previously published, except some ten
pages or so, which appeared in the _Arena_ for July, 1892. Most of the
matter in this article has been incorporated in Chapter II. of the
present volume.

So far as the book has any general intention, my aim has been, while
not ignoring the defects of American civilisation, to dwell rather on
those features in which, as it seems to me, John Bull may learn from
Brother Jonathan. I certainly have not had so much trouble in finding
these features as seems to have been the case with many other British
critics of America. My sojourn in the United States has been full of
benefit and stimulus to myself; and I should like to believe that my
American readers will see that this book is substantially a tribute of
admiration and gratitude.

J.F.M.



I

Introductory


It is not everyone's business, nor would it be everyone's pleasure, to
visit the United States of America. More, perhaps, than in any other
country that I know of will what the traveller finds there depend on
what he brings with him. Preconception will easily fatten into a
perfect mammoth of realisation; but the open mind will add
immeasurably to its garner of interests and experiences. It may be
"but a colourless crowd of barren life to the dilettante--a poisonous
field of clover to the cynic" (Martin Morris); but he to whom man is
more than art will easily find his account in a visit to the American
Republic. The man whose bent of mind is distinctly conservative, to
whom innovation always suggests a presumption of deterioration, will
probably be much more irritated than interested by a peregrination of
the Union. The Englishman who is wedded to his own ideas, and whose
conception of comfort and pleasure is bounded by the way they do
things at home, may be goaded almost to madness by the gnat-stings of
American readjustments--and all the more because he cannot adopt the
explanation that they are the natural outcome of an alien blood and a
foreign tongue. If he expects the same servility from his "inferiors"
that he has been accustomed to at home, his relations with them will
be a series of electric shocks; nay, his very expectation of it will
exasperate the American and make him show his very worst side. The
stately English dame must let her amusement outweigh her resentment if
she is addressed as "grandma" by some genial railway conductor of the
West; she may feel assured that no impertinence is intended.

The lover of scenery who expects to see a Jungfrau float into his ken
before he has lost sight of a Mte. Rosa; the architect who expects to
find the railway time-table punctuated at hourly intervals by a
venerable monument of his art; the connoisseur who hopes to visit a
Pitti Palace or a Dresden Picture Gallery in every large city; the
student who counts on finding almost every foot of ground soaked with
historic gore and every building hallowed by immemorial association;
the sociologist who looks for different customs, costumes, and
language at every stage of his journey;--each and all of these will do
well to refrain his foot from the soil of the United States. On the
other hand, the man who is interested in the workings of civilisation
under totally new conditions; who can make allowances, and quickly and
easily readjust his mental attitude; who has learned to let the new
comforts of a new country make up, temporarily at least, for the loss
of the old; who finds nothing alien to him that is human, and has a
genuine love for mankind; who can appreciate the growth of general
comfort at the expense of caste; who delights in promising experiments
in politics, sociology, and education; who is not thrown off his
balance by the shifting of the centre of gravity of honour and
distinction; who, in a word, is not congealed by conventionality, but
is ready to accept novelties on their merits,--he, unless I am very
grievously mistaken, will find compensations in the United States that
will go far to make up for Swiss Alp and Italian lake, for Gothic
cathedral and Palladian palace, for historic charters and
time-honoured tombs, for paintings by Raphael and statues by Phidias.

Perhaps, in the last analysis, our appreciation of America will depend
on whether we are optimistic or pessimistic in regard to the great
social problem which is formed of so many smaller problems. If we
think that the best we can do is to preserve what we have, America
will be but a series of disappointments. If, however, we believe that
man's sympathies for others will grow deeper, that his ingenuity will
ultimately be equal to at least a partial solution of the social
question, we shall watch the seething of the American crucible with
intensest interest. The solution of the social problem, speaking
broadly, must imply that each man must in some direction, simple or
complex, work for his own livelihood. Equality will always be a word
for fools and doctrinaires to conjure with, but those who believe in
man's sympathy for man must have faith that some day relative human
justice will be done, which will be as far beyond the justice of
to-day as light is from dark.[1] And it would be hard to say where we
are to look for this consummation if not in the United States of
America, which "has been the home of the poor and the eccentric from
all parts of the world, and has carried their poverty and passions on
its stalwart young shoulders." We may visit the United States, like M.
Bourget, _pour reprendre un peu de foi dans le lendemain de
civilisation_.

The paragraph on a previous page is not meant to imply that the United
States are destitute of scenic, artistic, picturesque, and historic
interest. The worst that can be said of American scenery is that its
best points are separated by long intervals; the best can hardly be
put too strongly. Places like the Yosemite Valley (of which Mr.
Emerson said that it was the only scenery he ever saw where "the
reality came up to the brag"), the Yellowstone Park, Niagara, and the
stupendous Cañon of the Colorado River amply make good their worldwide
reputation; but there are innumerable other places less known in
Europe, such as the primeval woods and countless lakes of the
Adirondacks, the softer beauties of the Berkshire Hills, the Hudson
(that grander American Rhine), the Swiss-like White Mountains, the
Catskills, the mystic Ocklawaha of Florida, and the Black Mountains of
Carolina that would amply repay the easy trouble of an Atlantic
passage under modern conditions. The historic student, too, will find
much that is worthy of his attention, especially in the older Eastern
States; and will, perhaps, be surprised to realise how relative a term
antiquity is. In a short time he will find himself looking at an
American building of the seventeenth century with as much reverence as
if it had been a contemporary of the Plantagenets; and, indeed, if
antiquity is to be determined by change and development rather than by
mere flight of time, the two centuries of New York will hold their own
with a cycle of Cathay. It is, as Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes remarked
to the present writer, like the different thermometrical scales; it
does not take very long to realise that twenty-five degrees of Réaumur
mean as great a heat as ninety degrees of Fahrenheit. Such a city as
Boston amply justifies its inclusion in a "Historic Towns" series,
along with London and Oxford; and it is by no means a singular
instance. Even the lover of art will not find America an absolute
Sahara. To say nothing of the many masterpieces of European painters
that have found a resting-place in America, where there is at least
one public picture gallery and several private ones of the first
class, the best efforts of American painters, and perhaps still more
those of American sculptors, are full of suggestion and charm; while I
cannot believe that the student of modern architecture will anywhere
find a more interesting field than among the enterprising and original
works of the American school of architecture.

This book will be grievously misunderstood if it is supposed to be in
any way an attempt to cover, even sketchily, the whole ground of
American civilisation, or to give anything like a coherent
appreciation of it. In the main it is merely a record of personal
impressions, a series of notes upon matters which happened to come
under my personal observation and to excite my personal interest. Not
only the conditions under which I visited the country, but also my own
disqualifications of taste and knowledge, have prevented me from more
than touching on countless topics, such as the phenomena of politics,
religion, commerce, and industry, which would naturally find a place
in any complete account of America. I have also tried to avoid, so far
as possible, describing well-known scenery, or in other ways going
over the tracks of my predecessors. The phenomena of the United States
are so momentous in themselves that the observation of them from any
new standpoint cannot be wholly destitute of value; while they change
so rapidly that he would be unobservant indeed who could not find
something new to chronicle.

It is important, also, to remember that the generalisations of this
book apply in very few cases to the whole extent of the United States.
I shall be quite contented if any one section of the country thinks
that I cannot mean _it_ in such-and-such an assertion, provided it
allows that the cap fits some other portion of the great community. As
a rule, however, it may be assumed that unqualified references to
American civilisation relate to it as crystallised in such older
communities as New York or Philadelphia, not to the fermenting process
of life-in-the-making on the frontier.

In the comparisons between Great Britain and the United States I have
tried to oppose only those classes which substantially correspond to
each other. Thus, in contrasting the Lowell manufacturer, the
Hampshire squire, the Virginian planter, and the Manchester man, it
must not be forgotten that the first and the last have many points of
difference from the second and third which are not due to their
geographical position. Many of the instances on which my remarks are
based may undoubtedly be called _extreme_; but even extreme cases are
suggestive, if not exactly typical. There is a breed of poultry in
Japan, in which, by careful cultivation, the tail-feathers of the cock
sometimes reach a length of ten or even fifteen feet. This is not
precisely typical of the gallinaceous species; but it is none the less
a phenomenon which might be mentioned in a comparison with the
apteryx.

Finally, I ought perhaps to say, with Mr. E.A. Freeman, that I
sometimes find it almost impossible to believe that the whole nation
can be so good as the people who have been so good to me.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] I have some suspicion that this ought to be in quotation marks,
but cannot now trace the passage.



II

The Land of Contrasts


When I first thought of writing about the United States at all, I soon
came to the conclusion that no title could better than the above
express the general impression left on my mind by my experiences in
the Great Republic. It may well be that a long list of inconsistencies
might be made out for any country, just as for any individual; but so
far as my knowledge goes the United States stands out as preëminently
the "Land of Contrasts"--the land of stark, staring, and stimulating
inconsistency; at once the home of enlightenment and the happy hunting
ground of the charlatan and the quack; a land in which nothing happens
but the unexpected; the home of Hyperion, but no less the haunt of the
satyr; always the land of promise, but not invariably the land of
performance; a land which may be bounded by the aurora borealis, but
which has also undeniable acquaintance with the flames of the
bottomless pit; a land which is laved at once by the rivers of
Paradise and the leaden waters of Acheron.

If I proceed to enumerate a few of the actual contrasts that struck
me, in matters both weighty and trivial, it is not merely as an
exercise in antithesis, but because I hope it will show how easy it
would be to pass an entirely and even ridiculously untrue judgment
upon the United States by having an eye only for one series of the
startling opposites. It should show in a very concrete way one of the
most fertile sources of those unfair international judgments which led
the French Academician Joüy to the statement: "Plus on réfléchit et
plus on observe, plus on se convainct de la fausseté de la plupart de
ces jugements portés sur un nation entière par quelques ecrivains et
adoptés sans examen par les autres." The Americans themselves can
hardly take umbrage at the label, if Mr. Howells truly represents them
when he makes one of the characters in "A Traveller from Altruria"
assert that they pride themselves even on the size of their
inconsistencies. The extraordinary clashes that occur in the United
States are doubtless largely due to the extraordinary mixture of youth
and age in the character of the country. If ever an old head was set
upon young shoulders, it was in this case of the United States--this
"Strange New World, thet yit was never young." While it is easy, in a
study of the United States, to see the essential truth of the analogy
between the youth of an individual and the youth of a State, we must
also remember that America was in many respects born full-grown, like
Athena from the brain of Zeus, and coördinates in the most
extraordinary way the shrewdness of the sage with the naïveté of the
child. Those who criticise the United States because, with the
experience of all the ages behind her, she is in some points vastly
defective as compared with the nations of Europe are as much mistaken
as those who look to her for the fresh ingenuousness of youth unmarred
by any trace of age's weakness. It is simply inevitable that she
should share the vices as well as the virtues of both. Mr. Freeman
has well pointed out how natural it is that a colony should rush ahead
of the mother country in some things and lag behind it in others; and
that just as you have to go to French Canada if you want to see Old
France, so, for many things, if you wish to see Old England you must
go to New England.

Thus America may easily be abreast or ahead of us in such matters as
the latest applications of electricity, while retaining in its legal
uses certain cumbersome devices that we have long since discarded.
Americans still have "Courts of Oyer and Terminer" and still insist on
the unanimity of the jury, though their judges wear no robes and their
counsel apply to the cuspidor as often as to the code. So, too, the
extension of municipal powers accomplished in Great Britain still
seems a formidable innovation in the United States.

The general feeling of power and scope is probably another fruitful
source of the inconsistencies of American life. Emerson has well said
that consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds; and no doubt the
largeness, the illimitable outlook, of the national mind of the United
States makes it disregard surface discrepancies that would grate
horribly on a more conventional community. The confident belief that
all will come out right in the end, and that harmony can be attained
when time is taken to consider it, carries one triumphantly over the
roughest places of inconsistency. It is easy to drink our champagne
from tin cans, when we know that it is merely a sense of hurry that
prevents us fetching the chased silver goblets waiting for our use.

This, I fancy, is the explanation of one series of contrasts which
strikes an Englishman at once. America claims to be the land of
liberty _par excellence_, and in a wholesale way this may be true in
spite of the gap between the noble sentiments of the Declaration of
Independence and the actual treatment of the negro and the Chinaman.
But in what may be called the retail traffic of life the American puts
up with innumerable restrictions of his personal liberty. Max O'Rell
has expatiated with scarcely an exaggeration on the wondrous sight of
a powerful millionaire standing meekly at the door of a hotel
dining-room until the consequential head-waiter (very possibly a
coloured gentleman) condescends to point out to him the seat he may
occupy. So, too, such petty officials as policemen and railway
conductors are generally treated rather as the masters than as the
servants of the public. The ordinary American citizen accepts a long
delay on the railway or an interminable "wait" at the theatre as a
direct visitation of Providence, against which it would be useless
folly to direct cat-calls, grumbles, or letters to the _Times_.
Americans invented the slang word "kicker," but so far as I could see
their vocabulary is here miles ahead of their practice; they dream
noble deeds, but do not do them; Englishmen "kick" much better,
without having a name for it. The right of the individual to do as he
will is respected to such an extent that an entire company will put up
with inconvenience rather than infringe it. A coal-carter will calmly
keep a tramway-car waiting several minutes until he finishes his
unloading. The conduct of the train-boy, as described in Chapter XII.,
would infallibly lead to assault and battery in England, but hardly
elicits an objurgation in America, where the right of one sinner to
bang a door outweighs the desire of twenty just persons for a quiet
nap. On the other hand, the old Puritan spirit of interference with
individual liberty sometimes crops out in America in a way that would
be impossible in this country. An inscription in one of the large
mills at Lawrence, Mass., informs the employees (or did so some years
ago) that "regular attendance at some place of worship and a proper
observance of the Sabbath will be expected of every person employed."
So, too, the young women of certain districts impose on their admirers
such restrictions in the use of liquor and tobacco that any less
patient animal than the native American would infallibly kick over the
traces.

In spite of their acknowledged nervous energy and excitability,
Americans often show a good deal of a quality that rivals the phlegm
of the Dutch. Their above-mentioned patience during railway or other
delays is an instance of this. So, in the incident related in Chapter
XII. the passengers in the inside coach retained their seats
throughout the whole experiment. Their resemblance in such cases as
this to placid domestic kine is enhanced--out West--by the inevitable
champing of tobacco or chewing-gum, than which nothing I know of so
robs the human countenance of the divine spark of intelligence. Boston
men of business, after being whisked by the electric car from their
suburban residences to the city at the rate of twelve miles an hour,
sit stoically still while the congested traffic makes the car take
twenty minutes to pass the most crowded section of Washington
street,--a walk of barely five minutes.[2]

Even in the matter of what Mr. Ambassador Bayard has styled "that form
of Socialism, Protection," it seems to me that we can find traces of
this contradictory tendency. Americans consider their country as
emphatically the land of protection, and attribute most of their
prosperity to their inhospitable customs barriers. This may be so; but
where else in the world will you find such a volume and expanse of
free trade as in these same United States? We find here a huge section
of the world's surface, 3,000 miles long and 1,500 miles wide,
occupied by about fifty practically independent States, containing
seventy millions of inhabitants, producing a very large proportion of
all the necessities and many of the luxuries of life, and all enjoying
the freest of free trade with each other. Few of these States are as
small as Great Britain, and many of them are immensely larger.
Collectively they contain nearly half the railway mileage of the
globe, besides an incomparable series of inland waterways. Over all
these is continually passing an immense amount of goods. The San
Francisco _News Letter_, a well-known weekly journal, points out that
of the 1,400,000,000 tons of goods carried for 100 miles or upwards on
the railways of the world in 1895, no less than 800,000,000 were
carried in the United States. Even if we add the 140,000,000 carried
by sea-going ships, there remains a balance of 60,000,000 tons in
favor of the United States as against the rest of the world. It is,
perhaps, impossible to ascertain whether or not the actual value of
the goods carried would be in the same proportion; but it seems
probable that the value of the 800,000,000 tons of the home trade of
America must considerably exceed that of the _free_ portion of the
trade of the British Empire, _i.e._, practically the whole of its
import trade and that portion of its export trade carried on with
free-trade countries or colonies. The internal commerce of the United
States makes it the most wonderful market on the globe; and Brother
Jonathan, the rampant Protectionist, stands convicted as the greatest
Cobdenite of them all!

We are all, it is said, apt to "slip up" on our strongest points.
Perhaps this is why one of the leading writers of the American
democracy is able to assert that "there is no country in the world
where the separation of the classes is so absolute as ours," and to
quote a Russian revolutionist, who lived in exile all over Europe and
nowhere found such want of sympathy between the rich and poor as in
America. If this were true it would certainly form a startling
contrast to the general kind-heartedness of the American. But I fancy
it rather points to the condition of greater relative equality. Our
Russian friend was accustomed to the patronising kindness of the
superior to the inferior, of the master to the servant. It is easy, on
an empyrean rock, to be "kind" to the mortals toiling helplessly down
below. It costs little, to use Mr. Bellamy's parable, for those
securely seated on the top of the coach to subscribe for salve to
alleviate the chafed wounds of those who drag it. In America there is
less need and less use of this patronising kindness; there is less
kindness from class to class simply because the conscious realisation
of "class" is non-existent in thousands of cases where it would be to
the fore in Europe. As for the first statement quoted at the head of
this paragraph, I find it very hard of belief. It is true that there
are exclusive _circles_, to which, for instance, Buffalo Bill would
not have the entrée, but the principle of exclusion is on the whole
analogous to that by which we select our intimate personal friends. No
man in America, who is personally fitted to adorn it, need feel that
he is _automatically_ shut out (as he might well be in England) from a
really congenial social sphere.

Another of America's strong points is its sense of practical comfort
and convenience. It is scarcely open to denial that the laying of too
great stress on material comfort is one of the rocks ahead which the
American vessel will need careful steering to avoid; and it is certain
that Americans lead us in countless little points of household comfort
and labour-saving ingenuity. But here, too, the exception that proves
the rule is not too coy for our discovery. The terrible roads and the
atrociously kept streets are amongst the most vociferous instances of
this. It is one of the inexplicable mysteries of American civilisation
that a young municipality,--or even, sometimes, an old one,--with a
million dollars to spend, will choose to spend it in erecting a most
unnecessarily gorgeous town-hall rather than in making the street in
front of it passable for the ordinarily shod pedestrian. In New York
itself the hilarious stockbroker returning at night to his palace
often finds the pavement between his house and his carriage more
difficult to negotiate than even the hole for his latch-key; and I
have more than once been absolutely compelled to make a détour from
Broadway in order to find a crossing where the icy slush would not
come over the tops of my boots.[3] The American taste for luxury
sometimes insists on gratification even at the expense of the ordinary
decencies of life. It was an American who said, "Give me the luxuries
of life and I will not ask for the necessities;" and there is more
truth in this epigram, as characteristic of the American point of
view, than its author intended or would, perhaps, allow. In private
life this is seen in the preference shown for diamond earrings and
Paris toilettes over neat and effective household service. The
contrast between the slatternly, unkempt maid-servant who opens the
door to you and the general luxury of the house itself is sometimes of
the most startling, not to say appalling, description. It is not a
sufficient answer to say that good servants are not so easily obtained
in America as in England. This is true; but a slight rearrangement of
expenditure would secure much better service than is now seen. To the
English eye the cart in this matter often seems put before the horse;
and the combination of excellent waiting with a modest table equipage
is frequent enough in the United States to prove its perfect
feasibility.

In American hotels we are often overwhelmed with "all the discomforts
that money can procure," while unable to obtain some of those things
which we have been brought up to believe among the prime necessaries
of existence. It is significant that in the printed directions
governing the use of the electric bell in one's bedroom, I never found
an instance in which the harmless necessary bath could be ordered with
fewer than nine pressures of the button, while the fragrant cocktail
or some other equally fascinating but dangerous luxury might often be
summoned by three or four. The most elaborate dinner, served in the
most gorgeous china, is sometimes spoiled by the Draconian regulation
that it must be devoured between the unholy hours of twelve and two,
or have all its courses brought on the table at once. Though the
Americans invent the most delicate forms of machinery, their hoop-iron
knives, silver plated for facility in cleaning, are hardly calculated
to tackle anything harder than butter, and compel the beef-eater to
return to the tearing methods of his remotest ancestors. The waiter
sometimes rivals the hotel clerk himself in the splendour of his
attire, but this does not render more appetising the spectacle of his
thumb in the soup. The furniture of your bedroom would not have
disgraced the Tuileries in their palmiest days, but, alas, you are
parboiled by a diabolic chevaux-de-frise of steam-pipes which refuse
to be turned off, and insist on accompanying your troubled slumbers by
an intermittent series of bubbles, squeaks, and hisses. The mirror
opposite which you brush your hair is enshrined in the heaviest of
gilt frames and is large enough for a Brobdignagian, but the basin in
which you wash your hands is little larger than a sugar-bowl; and when
you emerge from your nine-times-summoned bath you find you have to dry
your sacred person with six little towels, none larger than a
snuff-taker's handkerchief. There is no carafe of water in the room;
and after countless experiments you are reduced to the blood-curdling
belief that the American tourist brushes his teeth with ice-water, the
musical tinkling of which in the corridors is the most characteristic
sound of the American caravanserai.

If there is anything the Americans pride themselves on--and justly--it
is their handsome treatment of woman. You will not meet five Americans
without hearing ten times that a lone woman can traverse the length
and breadth of the United States without fear of insult; every
traveller reports that the United States is the Paradise of women.
Special entrances are reserved for them at hotels, so that they need
not risk contamination with the tobacco-defiled floors of the public
office; they are not expected to join the patient file of room-seekers
before the hotel clerk's desk, but wait comfortably in the
reception-room while an employee secures their number and key. There
is no recorded instance of the justifiable homicide of an American
girl in her theatre hat. Man meekly submits to be the hewer of wood,
the drawer of water, and the beast of burden for the superior sex. But
even this gorgeous medal has its reverse side. Few things provided for
a class well able to pay for comfort are more uncomfortable and
indecent than the arrangements for ladies on board the sleeping cars.
Their dressing accommodation is of the most limited description; their
berths are not segregated at one end of the car, but are scattered
above and below those of the male passengers; it is considered
_tolerable_ that they should lie with the legs of a strange, disrobing
man dangling within a foot of their noses.

Another curious contrast to the practical, material, matter-of-fact
side of the American is his intense interest in the supernatural, the
spiritualistic, the superstitious. Boston, of all places in the world,
is, perhaps, the happiest hunting-ground for the spiritualist medium,
the faith healer, and the mind curer. You will find there the most
advanced emancipation from theological superstition combined in the
most extraordinary way with a more than half belief in the
incoherences of a spiritualistic séance. The Boston Christian
Scientists have just erected a handsome stone church, with chime of
bells, organ, and choir of the most approved ecclesiastical cut; and,
greatest marvel of all, have actually had to return a surplus of
$50,000 (£10,000) that was subscribed for its building. There are two
pulpits, one occupied by a man who expounds the Bible, while in the
other a woman responds with the grandiloquent platitudes of Mrs. Eddy.
In other parts of the country this desire to pry into the Book of Fate
assumes grosser forms. Mr. Bryce tells us that Western newspapers
devote a special column to the advertisements of astrologers and
soothsayers, and assures us that this profession is as much recognised
in the California of to-day as in the Greece of Homer.

It seems to me that I have met in America the nearest approaches to my
ideals of a _Bayard sans peur et sans reproche_; and it is in this
same America that I have met flagrant examples of the being wittily
described as _sans père et sans proche_--utterly without the
responsibility of background and entirely unacquainted with the
obligation of _noblesse_. The superficial observer in the United
States might conceivably imagine the characteristic national trait to
be self-sufficiency or vanity (this mistake _has_, I believe, been
made), and his opinion might be strengthened should he find, as I did,
in an arithmetic published at Richmond during the late Civil War, such
a modest example as the following: "If one Confederate soldier can
whip seven Yankees, how many Confederate soldiers will it take to whip
forty-nine Yankees?" America has been likened to a self-made man,
hugging her conditions because she has made them, and considering
them divine because they have grown up with the country. Another
observer might quite as easily come to the conclusion that diffidence
and self-distrust are the true American characteristics. Certainly
Americans often show a saving consciousness of their faults, and lash
themselves with biting satire. There are even Americans whose very
attitude is an apology--wholly unnecessary--for the Great Republic,
and who seem to despise any native product until it has received the
hall-mark of London or of Paris. In the new world that has produced
the new book, of the exquisite delicacy and insight of which Mr. Henry
James and Mr. Howells may be taken as typical exponents, it seems to
me that there are more than the usual proportion of critics who prefer
to it what Colonel Higginson has well called "the brutalities of
Haggard and the garlic-flavors of Kipling." While, perhaps, the
characteristic charm of the American girl is her thorough-going
individuality and the undaunted courage of her opinions, which leads
her to say frankly, if she think so, that Martin Tupper is a greater
poet than Shakespeare, yet I have, on the other hand, met a young
American matron who confessed to me with bated breath that she and her
sister, for the first time in their lives, had gone unescorted to a
concert the night before last, and, _mirabile dictu_, no harm had come
of it! It is in America that I have over and over again heard language
to which the calling a spade a spade would seem the most delicate
allusiveness; but it is also in America that I have summoned a blush
to the cheek of conscious sixty-six by an incautious though innocent
reference to the temperature of my morning tub. In that country I have
seen the devotion of Sir Walter Raleigh to his queen rivalled again
and again by the ordinary American man to the ordinary American woman
(if there be an _ordinary_ American woman), and in the same country I
have myself been scoffed at and made game of because I opened the
window of a railway carriage for a girl in whose delicate veins flowed
a few drops of coloured blood. In Washington I met Miss Susan B.
Anthony, and realised, to some extent at least, all she stands for. In
Boston and other places I find there is actually an organised
opposition on the part of the ladies themselves to the extension of
the franchise to women. I have hailed with delight the democratic
spirit displayed in the greeting of my friend and myself by the porter
of a hotel as "You fellows," and then had the cup of pleasure dashed
from my lips by being told by the same porter that "the other
_gentleman_ would attend to my baggage!" I have been parboiled with
salamanders who seemed to find no inconvenience in a room-temperature
of eighty degrees, and have been nigh frozen to death in open-air
drives in which the same individuals seemed perfectly comfortable. Men
appear at the theatre in orthodox evening dress, while the tall and
exasperating hats of the ladies who accompany them would seem to
indicate a theory of street toilette. From New York to Buffalo I am
whisked through the air at the rate of fifty or sixty miles an hour;
in California I travelled on a train on which the engineer shot
rabbits from the locomotive, and the fireman picked them up in time to
jump on the baggage-car at the rear end of the train. At Santa Barbara
I visited an old mission church and convent which vied in quaint
picturesqueness with anything in Europe; but, alas! the old monk who
showed us round, though wearing the regulation gown and knotted cord,
had replaced his sandals by elastic-sided boots and covered his
tonsure with a common chummy.[4]

Few things in the United States are more pleasing than the widespread
habits of kindness to animals (most American whips are, as far as
punishment to the horse is concerned, a mere farce). Yet no American
seems to have any scruple about adding an extra hundred weight or two
to an already villainously overloaded horse-car; and I have seen a
score of American ladies sit serenely watching the frantic straining
of two poor animals to get a derailed car on to the track again, when
I knew that in "brutal" Old England every one of them would have been
out on the sidewalk to lighten the load.

In England that admirable body of men popularly known as Quakers are
indissolubly associated in the public mind with a pristine simplicity
of life and conversation. My amazement, therefore, may easily be
imagined, when I found that an entertainment given by a young member
of the Society of Friends in one of the great cities of the Eastern
States turned out to be the most elaborate and beautiful private ball
I ever attended, with about eight hundred guests dressed in the height
of fashion, while the daily papers (if I remember rightly) estimated
its expense as reaching a total of some thousands of pounds. Here the
natural expansive liberality of the American man proved stronger than
the traditional limitations of a religious society. But the opposite
art of cheese-paring is by no means unknown in the United States.
Perhaps not even canny Scotland can parallel the record of certain
districts in New England, which actually elected their parish paupers
to the State Legislature to keep them off the rates. Let the opponents
of paid members of the House of Commons take notice!

Amid the little band of tourists in whose company I happened to enter
the Yosemite Valley was a San Francisco youth with a delightful
baritone voice, who entertained the guests in the hotel parlour at
Wawona by a good-natured series of songs. No one in the room except
myself seemed to find it in the least incongruous or funny that he
sandwiched "Nearer, my God, to thee" between "The man who broke the
bank at Monte Carlo" and "Her golden hair was hanging down her back,"
or that he jumped at once from the pathetic solemnity of "I know that
my Redeemer liveth" to the jingle of "Little Annie Rooney." The name
Wawona reminds me how American weather plays its part in the game of
contrasts. When we visited the Grove of Big Trees near Wawona on May
21, it was in the midst of a driving snow-storm, with the thermometer
standing at 36 degrees Fahrenheit. Next day, as we drove into Raymond,
less than forty miles to the west, the sun was beating down on our
backs, and the thermometer marked 80 degrees in the shade.

There is probably no country in the world where, at times, letters of
introduction are more fully honoured than in the United States. The
recipient does not content himself with inviting you to call or even
to dinner. He invites you to make his house your home; he invites all
his friends to meet you; he leaves his business to show you the lions
of the town or to drive you about the country; he puts you up at his
club; he sends you off provided with letters to ten other men like
himself, only more so. On the other hand, there is probably no country
in the world where a letter of introduction from a man quite entitled
to give it could be wholly ignored as it sometimes is in the United
States. The writer has had experience of both results. No more
fundamental contrast can well be imagined than that between the noisy,
rough, crude, and callous street-life of some Western towns and the
quiet, reticence, delicacy, spirituality, and refinement of many of
the adjacent interiors.

The table manners of the less-educated American classes are hardly of
the best, but where but in America will you find eleven hundred
charity-school boys sit down daily to dinner, each with his own table
napkin, as they do at Girard College, Philadelphia? And where except
at that same institute will you find a man leaving millions for a
charity, with the stipulation that no parson of any creed shall ever
be allowed to enter its precincts?

In concluding this chapter, let me say that its object, as indeed the
object of this whole book, will have been achieved if it convinces a
few Britons of the futility of generalising on the complex organism of
American society from inductions that would not justify an opinion
about the habits of a piece of protoplasm.[5]

FOOTNOTES:

[2] The Boston Subway, opened in 1898, has impaired the truth of this
sentence.

[3] It is only fair to say that this was originally written in 1893,
and that matters have been greatly improved since then.

[4] This may be paralleled in Europe: "The Franciscan monks of Bosnia
wear long black robes, with rope, black 'bowler hats,' and long and
heavy military moustachios (by special permission of the
Pope)."--_Daily Chronicle_, Oct 5, 1895.

[5] In the just-ended war with Spain, the United States did not fail
to justify its character as the Land of Contrasts. From the wealthy
and enlightened United States we should certainly have expected all
that money and science could afford in the shape of superior weapons
and efficiency of commissariat and medical service, while we could
have easily pardoned a little unsteadiness in civilians suddenly
turned into soldiers. As a matter of fact, the poverty-stricken
Spaniards had better rifles than the Americans; the Commissariat and
Medical Departments are alleged to have broken down in the most
disgraceful way; the citizen-soldiers behaved like veterans.



III

Lights and Shadows of American Society


By "society" I do not mean that limited body which, whether as the
Upper Ten Thousand of London or as the Four Hundred of New York,
usually arrogates the title. Such narrowness of definition seems
peculiarly out of place in the vigorous democracy of the West. By
society I understand the great body of fairly well-educated and fairly
well-mannered people, whose means and inclinations lead them to
associate with each other on terms of equality for the ordinary
purposes of good fellowship. Such people, not being fenced in by
conventional barriers and owning no special or obtrusive privileges,
represent much more fully and naturally the characteristic national
traits of their country; and their ways and customs are the most
fruitful field for a comparative study of national character. The
daughters of dukes and princes can hardly be taken as typical English
girls, since the conditions of their life are so vastly different from
those of the huge majority of the species--conditions which deny a
really natural or normal development to all but the choicest and
strongest souls. So the daughter of a New York multimillionaire, who
has been brought up to regard a British duke or an Italian prince as
her natural partner for life, does not look out on the world through
genuinely American spectacles, but is biassed by a point of view which
may be somewhat paradoxically termed the "cosmopolitan-exclusive." As
Mr. Henry James puts it: "After all, what one sees on a Newport piazza
is not America; it is the back of Europe."

There are, however, reasons special to the United States why we should
not regard the "Newport set" as typical of American society. Illustrious
foreign visitors fall not unnaturally into this mistake; even so keen a
critic as M. Bourget leans this way, though Mr. Bryce gives another
proof of his eminent sanity and good sense by his avoidance of the
tempting error. But, as Walt Whitman says, "The pulse-beats of the nation
are never to be found in the sure-to-be-put-forward-on-such-occasions
citizens." European fashionable society, however unworthy many of its
members may be, and however relaxed its rules of admission have
become, has its roots in an honourable past; its theory is fine; not
_all_ the big names of the British aristocracy can be traced back to
strong ales or weak (Lucy) Waters. Even those who desire the abolition
of the House of Peers, or look on it, with Bagehot, as "a vapid
accumulation of torpid comfort," cannot deny that it is an institution
that has grown up naturally with the country, and that it is only now
(if even now) that it is felt with anything like universality to be an
anomaly. The American society which is typified by the four hundred of
New York, the society which marries its daughters to English peers, is
in a very different position. It is of mushroom growth even according
to American standards; it has theoretically no right to exist; it is
entirely at variance with the spirit of the country and contradictory
of its political system; it is almost solely conditioned by
wealth;[6] it is disregarded if not despised by nine-tenths of the
population; it does not really count. However seriously the little
cliques of New York, Boston, and Philadelphia may take themselves,
they are not regarded seriously by the rest of the country in any
degree comparable to the attitude of the British Philistine towards
the British Barbarian. Without the appropriate background of king and
nobility, the whole system is ridiculous; it has no _national_ basis.
The source of its honour is ineradicably tainted. It is the _reductio
ad absurdum_ of the idea of aristocratic society. It is divorced from
the real body of democracy. It sets no authoritative standard of
taste. If anything could reconcile the British Radical to his House of
Lords, it would be the rankness of taste, the irresponsible freaks of
individual caprice, that rule in a country where there is no carefully
polished noblesse to set the pattern. George William Curtis puts the
case well: "Fine society is no exotic, does not avoid, but all that
does not belong to it drops away like water from a smooth statue. We
are still peasants and parvenues, although we call each other princes
and build palaces. Before we are three centuries old we are
endeavouring to surpass, by imitating, the results of all art and
civilisation and social genius beyond the sea. By elevating the
standard of expense we hope to secure select society, but have only
aggravated the necessity of a labour integrally fatal to the kind of
society we seek."

It would, of course, be a serious mistake to assume that, because
there are no titles and no theory of caste in the United States, there
are no social distinctions worth the trouble of recognition. Besides
the crudely obvious elevation of wealth and "smartness" already
referred to, there are inner circles of good birth, of culture, and so
on, which are none the less practically recognised because they are
theoretically ignored. Of such are the old Dutch clans of New York,
which still, I am informed, regard families like the Vanderbilts as
upstarts and parvenues. In Chicago there is said to be an inner circle
of forty or fifty families which is recognised as the "best society,"
though by no means composed of the richest citizens. In Boston, though
the Almighty Dollar now plays a much more important rôle than before,
it is still a combination of culture and ancestry that sets the most
highly prized hall-mark on the social items. And indeed the heredity
of such families as the Quincys, the Lowells, the Winthrops, and the
Adamses, which have maintained their superior position for
generations, through sheer force of ability and character, without the
external buttresses of primogeniture and entail, may safely measure
itself against the stained lineage of many European families of high
title. The very absence of titular distinction often causes the lines
to be more clearly drawn; as Mr. Charles Dudley Warner says: "Popular
commingling in pleasure resorts is safe enough in aristocratic
countries, but it will not answer in a republic." There is, however,
no universal theory that holds good from New York to California; and
hence the generalising foreigner is apt to see nothing but practical
as well as theoretical equality.

In spite of anything in the foregoing that may seem incompatible, the
fact remains that the distinguishing feature of American society, as
contrasted with the societies of Europe, is the greater approach to
equality that it has made. It is in this sphere, and not in those of
industry, law, or politics, that the British observer must feel that
the American breathes a distinctly more liberal and democratic air
than he. The processes of endosmose and exosmose go on under much
freer conditions; the individual particle is much more ready to
filtrate up or down to its proper level. Mr. W.D. Howells writes that
"once good society contained only persons of noble or gentle birth;
then persons of genteel or sacred callings were admitted; now it
welcomes to its level everyone of agreeable manners or cultivated
mind;" and this, which may be true of modern society in general, is
infinitely more true in America than elsewhere. It might almost be
asserted that everyone in America ultimately finds his proper social
niche; that while many are excluded from the circles for which they
_think_ themselves adapted, practically none are shut off from their
really harmonious _milieu_. The process of segregation is deprived to
a large extent of the disagreeableness consequent upon a rigid table
of precedence. Nothing surprises an American more in London society
than the uneasy sense of inferiority that many a distinguished man of
letters will show in the presence of a noble lord. No amount of
philosophy enables one to rise entirely superior to the trammels of
early training and hoary association. Even when the great novelist
feels himself as at least on a level with his ducal interlocutor, he
cannot ignore the fact that his fellow-guests do not share his
opinion. Now, without going the length of asserting that there is
absolutely nothing of this kind in the intercourse of the American
author with the American railroad magnate, it may be safely stated
that the general tone of society in America makes such an attitude
rare and unlikely. There social equality has become an instinct, and
the ruling note of good society is of pleasant cameraderie, without
condescension on the one hand or fawning on the other. "The democratic
system deprives people of weapons that everyone does not equally
possess. No one is formidable; no one is on stilts; no one has great
pretensions or any recognised right to be arrogant." (Henry James.)
The spirit of goodwill, of a desire to make others happy (especially
when it does not incommode you to do so), swings through a much larger
arc in American society than in English. One can be surer of one's
self, without either an overweening self-conceit or the assumption of
brassy self-assertion.

The main rock of offence in American society is, perhaps, its tendency
to attach undue importance to materialistic effects. Plain living with
high thinking is not so much of an American formula as one would wish.
In the smart set of New York, and in other places _mutatis mutandis_,
this shows itself in an appallingly vulgar and ostentatious display of
mere purchase power. We are expected to find something grand in the
fact that an entertainment costs so much; there is little recognition
of the truth that a man who spends $100 where $10 would meet all the
demands of good taste is not only a bad economist, but essentially
bourgeois and _torné_ in soul. Even roses are vulgarised, if that be
possible, by production in the almost obtrusively handsome variety
known as the "American Beauty," and by being heaped up like hay-stacks
in the reception rooms. At a recent fashionable marriage in New York
no fewer than 20,000 sprays of lily of the valley are reported to have
been used. A short time ago a wedding party travelled from Chicago to
Burlington (Iowa) on a specially constructed train which cost £100,000
to build; the fortunes of the heads of the few families represented
aggregated £100,000,000. The private drawing-room cars of millionaires
are _too_ handsome; they do not indicate so much a necessity of taste
as a craving to spend. Many of the best hotels are characterised by a
tasteless magnificence which annoys rather than attracts the artistic
sense. At one hotel I stayed at in a fashionable watering-place the
cheapest bedroom cost £1 a night; but I did not find that its costly
tapestry hangings, huge Japanese vases, and elaborately carved
furniture helped me to woo sweet slumber any more successfully than
the simple equipments of an English village inn. Indeed, they rather
suggested insomnia, just as the ominous name of "Macbeth," affixed to
one of the bedrooms in the Shakespeare Hotel at Stratford-on-Avon,
immediately suggested the line "Macbeth doth murder sleep."

This materialistic tendency, however, which its defenders call a
higher standard of comfort, is not confined to the circles of the
millionaires; it crops out more or less at all the different levels.
Americans seem a _little_ more dependent on bodily comforts than
Englishmen, a _little_ more apt to coddle themselves, a _little_ less
hardy. They are more susceptible to variations of temperature, and
hence the prevalent over-heating of their houses, hotels, and
railway-cars. A very slight shower will send an American into his
overshoes.[7] There is more of a self-conscious effort in the
encouragement of manly sports. Americans seldom walk when they can
ride. The girls are apt to be annoyed if a pleasure-party be not
carried out so as to provide in the fullest way for their personal
comfort.

This last sentence suggests a social practice of the United States
which, perhaps, may come under the topic we are at present discussing.
I mean the custom by which girls allow their young men friends to
incur expense in their behalf. I am aware that this custom is on the
wane in the older cities, that the most refined girls in all parts of
the Union dislike it, that it is "bad form" in many circles. In the
bowling-club to which I had the pleasure to belong the ladies paid
their subscriptions "like a man;" when I drove out on sleigh-parties,
the girls insisted on paying their share of the expense. The fact,
however, remains that, speaking generally and taking class for class,
the American girl allows her admirers to spend their money on her much
more freely than the English girl. A man is considered mean if he does
not pay the car-fare of his girl companion; a girl will allow a man
who is merely a "friend" to take her to the theatre, fetching her and
taking her home in a carriage hired at exorbitant rates. The
_Illustrated American_ (Jan. 19, 1895) writes:

     The advanced ideas prevalent in this country regarding the
     relations of the opposite sexes make it not only proper, but
     necessary, that a young man with serious intentions shall take
     his sweetheart out, give her presents, send her flowers, go
     driving with her, and in numberless little ways incur expense.
     This is all very delightful for her, but to him it means ruin.
     And at the end he may find that she was only flirting with him.

In fact, whenever a young man and a young woman are associated in any
enterprise, it is quite usual for the young man to pay for both. On
the whole, this custom seems an undesirable one. It is so much a
matter of habit that the American girl usually plays her part in the
matter with absolute innocence and unconsciousness; she feels no more
obligation than an English girl would for the opening of a door. The
young man also takes it as a matter of course, and does not in the
least presume on his services. But still, I think, it has a slight
tendency to rub the bloom off what ought to be the most delicate and
ethereal form of social intercourse. It favours the well-to-do youth
by an additional handicap. It throws another obstacle in the track of
poverty and thrift. It is contrary to the spirit of democratic
equality; the woman who accepts such attentions is tacitly allowing
that she is not on the same footing as man. On reflection it must
grate a little on the finest feelings. There seems to me little doubt
that it will gradually die out in circles to which it would be strange
in Europe.

On the whole, however, even with such drawbacks as the above, the
social relationship of the sexes in the United States is one of the
many points in which the new surpasses the old. The American girl is
thrown into such free and ample relations with the American boy from
her earliest youth up that she is very apt to look upon him simply as
a girl of a stronger growth. Some such word as the German
_Geschwister_ is needed to embrace the "young creatures" who, in
petticoats or trousers, form the genuine democracy of American youth.
Up to the doors of college, and often even beyond them, the boy and
girl have been "co-educated;" at the high school the boy has probably
had a woman for his teacher, at least in some branches, up to his
sixteenth or seventeenth year. The hours of recreation are often spent
in pastimes in which girls may share. In some of the most
characteristic of American amusements, such as the "coasting" of
winter, girls take a prominent place. There is no effort on the part
of elders to play the spy on the meetings of boy or girl, or to place
obstacles in their way. They are not thought of as opposite sexes; it
is "just all the young people together." The result is a spirit of
absolute good comradeship. There is little atmosphere of the unknown
or the mysterious about the opposite sex. The love that leads to
marriage is thus apt to be the product of a wider experience, and to
be based on a more intimate knowledge. The sentimental may cry fie on
so clear-sighted a Cupid, but the sensible cannot but rejoice over
anything that tends to the undoing of the phrase "lottery of
marriage."

That the ideal attitude towards and in marriage has been attained in
average American society I should be the last to assert. The way in
which American wives leave their husbands toiling in the sweltering
city while they themselves fleet the time in Europe would alone give
me pause. But I am here concerned with the relative and not the
absolute; and my contention is that the average marriage in America is
apt to be made under conditions which, compared with those of other
nations, increase the chances of happiness. A great deal has been said
and written about the inconsistency of the marriage laws of the
different States, and much cheap wit has been fired off at the fatal
facility of divorce in the United States; but I could not ascertain
from my own observation that these defects touched any very great
proportion of the population, or played any larger part in American
society, as I have defined it, than the differences between the
marriage laws of England and Scotland do in our own island. M.
Bourget, quite arbitrarily and (I think) with a trace of the
proverbial Gallic way of looking at the relations of the sexes, has
attributed the admitted moral purity of the atmosphere of American
society to the coldness of the American temperament and the _sera
juvenum Venus_. It seems to me, however, that there is no call to
disparage American virtue by the suggestion of a constitutional want
of liability to temptation, and that Mark Twain, in his somewhat
irreverent rejoinder, is much nearer the mark when he attributes the
prevalent sanctity of the marriage tie to the fact that the husbands
and wives have generally married each other for love. This is
undoubtedly the true note of America in this particular, though it may
not be unreservedly characteristic of the smart set of New York. If
the sacred flame of Cupid could be exposed to the alembic of
statistics, I should be surprised to hear that the love matches of the
United States did not reach a higher percentage than those of any
other nation. One certainly meets more husbands and wives of mature
age who seem thoroughly to enjoy each other's society.

There is a certain "snap" to American society that is not due merely
to a sense of novelty, and does not wholly wear off through
familiarity. The sense of enjoyment is more obvious and more evenly
distributed; there is a general willingness to be amused, a general
absence of the _blasé_. Even Matthew Arnold could not help noticing
the "buoyancy, enjoyment, and freedom from restraint which are
everywhere in America," and which he accounted for by the absence of
the aristocratic incubus. The nervous fluid so characteristic of
America in general flows briskly in the veins of its social organism;
the feeling is abroad that what is worth doing is worth doing well.
There is a more general ability than we possess to talk brightly on
the topics of the moment; there is less lingering over one subject;
there is a constant savour of the humorous view of life. The more even
distribution of comfort in the United States (becoming, alas! daily
less characteristic) adds largely to the pleasantness of society by
minimising the semi-conscious feeling of remorse in playing while the
"other half" starves. The inherent inability of the American to
understand that there is any "higher" social order than his own
minimises the feeling of envy of those "above" him. "How dreadful,"
says the Englishman to the American girl, "to be governed by men to
whom you would not speak!" "Yes," is the rejoinder, "and how
delightful to be governed by men who won't speak to you!" From this
latter form of delight American society is free. Henry James strikes a
true note when he makes Miranda Hope (in "A Bundle of Letters")
describe the fashionable girl she met at a Paris pension as "like the
people they call 'haughty' in books," and then go on to say, "I have
never seen anyone like that before--anyone that wanted to make a
difference." And her feeling of impersonal interest in the phenomenon
is equally characteristic. "She seemed to me so like a proud young
lady in a novel. I kept saying to myself all day, 'haughty, haughty,'
and I wished she would keep on so." Too much stress cannot easily be
laid on this feeling of equality in the air as a potent enhancer of
the pleasure of society. To feel yourself patronised--even, perhaps
especially, when you know yourself to be in all respects the superior
of the patroniser--may tickle your sense of humour for a while, but in
the long run it is distinctly dispiriting. The philosopher, no doubt,
is or should be able to disregard the petty annoyances arising from an
ever-present consciousness of social limitation, but society is not
entirely composed of philosophers, even in America; and the sense of
freedom and space is unqualifiedly welcome to its members. It is not
easy for a European to the manner born to realise the sort of
extravagant, nightmare effect that many of our social customs have in
the eyes of our untutored American cousins. The inherent absurdities
that are second nature to us exhale for them the full flavour of their
grotesqueness. The idea of an insignificant boy peer taking precedence
of Mr. John Morley! The idea of _having_ to appear before royalty in a
state of partial nudity on a cold winter day! The necessity of backing
out of the royal presence! The idea of a freeborn Briton having to get
out of an engagement long previously formed on the score that "he has
been _commanded_ to dine with H.R.H." The horrible capillary plaster
necessary before a man can serve decently as an opener of
carriage-doors! The horsehair envelopes without which our legal brains
cannot work! The unwritten law by which a man has to nurse his hat and
stick throughout a call unless his hostess specially asks him to lay
them aside!

Mr. Bryce commits himself to the assertion that "Scotchmen and
Irishmen are more unlike Englishmen, the native of Normandy more
unlike the native of Provence, the Pomeranian more unlike the
Wurtemberger, the Piedmontese more unlike the Neapolitan, the Basque
more unlike the Andalusian, than the American from any part of the
country is to the American from any other." Max O'Rell, on the other
hand, writes: "L'habitant du Nord-est des Etats Unis, le Yankee,
diffère autant de l'Americain de l'Ouest et du Midi que l'Anglais
diffère de l'Allemand ou de l'Espagnol." On this point I find myself
far more in accord with the French than with the British observer,
though, perhaps, M. Blouët rather overstates his case. Wider
differences among civilised men can hardly be imagined than those
which subsist between the creole of New Orleans and the Yankee of
Maine, the Kentucky farmer and the Michigan lumberer. It is, however,
true that there is a distinct tendency for the stamp of the Eastern
States to be applied to the inhabitants of the cities, at least, of
the West. The founders of these cities are so largely men of Eastern
birth, the means of their expansion are so largely advanced by Eastern
capitalists, that this tendency is easily explicable. [So far as my
observation went it was to Boston rather than to New York or
Philadelphia that the educated classes of the Western cities looked
as the cynosure of their eyes. Boston seemed to stand for something
less material than these other cities, and the subtler nature of its
influence seemed to magnify its pervasive force.] None the less do the
people of the United States, compared with those of any one European
country, seem to me to have their due share of variety and even of
picturesqueness. This latter quality is indeed denied to the United
States not only by European visitors, but also by many Americans. This
denial, however, rests on a limited and traditional use of the word
picturesque. America has not the European picturesqueness of costume,
of relics of the past, of the constant presence of the potential
foeman at the gate. But apart altogether from the almost theatrical
romance of frontier life and the now obsolescent conflict with the
aborigines, is there not some element of the picturesque in the
processes of readjustment by which the emigrants of European stock
have adapted themselves and are adapting themselves to the conditions
of the New World? In some ways the nineteenth century is the most
romantic of all; and the United States embody and express it as no
other country. Is there not a picturesque side to the triumph of
civilisation over barbarism? Is there nothing of the picturesque in
the long thin lines of gleaming steel, thrown across the countless
miles of desert sand and alkali plain, and in the mighty mass of metal
with its glare of cyclopean eye and its banner of fire-illumined
smoke, that bears the conquerors of stubborn nature from side to side
of the great continent? Is there not an element of the picturesque in
the struggles of the Western farmer? Can anything be finer in its way
than a night view of Pittsburg--that "Hell with its lid off," where
the cold gleam of electricity vies with the lurid glare of the
furnaces and smelting works? I say nothing of the Californian
Missions; of the sallow creoles of New Orleans with their gorgeous
processions of Mardi-Gras; or of the almost equally fantastic fête of
the Veiled Prophet of St. Louis; or of the lumberers of Michigan; or
of the Mexicans of Arizona; or of the German beer-gardens of Chicago;
or of the swinging lanterns and banners of Chinatown in San Francisco
and Mott street in New York; or of the Italians of Mulberry Bend in
the latter city; or of the alternating stretches on a long railway
journey of forest and prairie, yellow corn-fields and sandy desert; or
of many other classes and conditions which are by no means void of
material for the artist in pen or brush. All these lend hues that are
anything but prosaic to my kaleidoscopic recollections of the United
States; but more than all these, _the_ characteristically picturesque
feature of American life, stands out the omnipresent negro. It was a
thrill to have one's boots blackened by a coloured "professor" in an
alley-way of Boston, and to hear his richly intoned "as shoh's you're
bawn." It was a delight to see the negro couples in the Public Garden,
conducting themselves and their courting, as Mr. Howells has well
remarked, with infinitely more restraint and refinement than their
Milesian compeers, or to see them passing out of the Charles-street
Church in all the Sunday bravery of broadcloth coats, shiny hats,
wonderfully laundered skirts of snowy whiteness, and bodices of all
the hues of the rainbow. And all through the Union their glossy black
faces and gleaming white teeth shed a kind of dusky radiance over the
traveller's path. Who but can recall with gratitude the expansive
geniality and reassuring smile of the white-coated negro waiter, as
compared with the supercilious indifference, if not positive rudeness,
of his pale colleague? And what will ever efface the mental kodak of
George (not Sambo any more) shuffling rapidly into the dining-room,
with his huge flat palm inverted high over his head and bearing a
colossal tray heaped up with good things for the guest under his
charge? And shall I ever forget the grotesque gravity of the negro
brakeman in Louisiana, with his tall silk hat? or the pair of gloves
pathetically shared between two neatly dressed negro youths in a
railway carriage in Georgia? or the pickaninnies slumbering sweetly in
old packing-cases in a hut at Jacksonville, while their father
thrummed the soft guitar with friendly grin? It has always seemed to
me a reproach to American artists that they fill the air with sighs
over the absence of the picturesque in the United States, while almost
totally overlooking the fine flesh-tones and gay dressing of the
coloured brother at their elbow.

The most conventional society of America is apt to be more or less
shrouded by the pall of monotony that attends convention elsewhere,
but typical American society--the society of the great mass of
Americans--shows distinctly more variety than that of England. In
social meetings, as in business, the American is ever on the alert for
some new thing: and the brain of every pretty girl is cudgelled in
order to provide some novelty for her next party. Hence the
progressive euchre, the "library" parties, the "shadow" dances, the
conversation parties, and the long series of ingenious games, the
adoption of which, for some of us at least, has done much to lighten
the deadly dulness of English "small and earlies." Even the
sacro-sanctity of whist has not been respected, and the astonished
shade of Hoyle has to look on at his favourite game in the form of
"drive" and "duplicate." The way in which whist has been taken up in
the United States is a good example of the national unwillingness to
remain in the ruts of one's ancestors. Possibly the best club-players
of England are at least as good as the best Americans, but the general
average of play and the general interest in the game are distinctly
higher in the United States. Every English whist-player with any
pretension to science knows what he has to expect when he finds an
unknown lady as his partner, especially if she is below thirty; but in
America he will often find himself "put to his trumps" by a bright
girl in her teens. The girls in Boston and other large cities have
organised afternoon whist-clubs, at which all the "rigour of the game"
is observed. Many of them take regular lessons from whist experts; and
among the latter themselves are not a few ladies, who find the
teaching of their favourite game a more lucrative employment than
governessing or journalism. Even so small a matter as the eating of
ice-cream may illustrate the progressive nature of American society.
Elderly Americans still remember the time when it was usual to eat
this refreshing delicacy out of economical wine-glasses such as we
have still to be content with in England. But now-a-days no American
expects or receives less than a heaping saucer of ice-cream at a time.

Americans are born dancers; they have far more quicksilver in their
feet than their English cousins. Perhaps the very best waltzers I have
ever danced with were English girls, who understood the poetry of the
art and knew how to reflect not merely the time of the music, but its
_nuances_ of rhythm and tone. But dancers such as these are like
fairies' visits, that come but once or twice in a lifetime; and a
large proportion of English girls dance very badly. In America one
seldom or never finds a girl who cannot dance fairly, and most of them
can claim much warmer adverbs than that. The American invention of
"reversing" is admirable in its unexaggerated form, but requires both
study and practice; and the reason that it was voted "bad form" in
England was simply that the indolence of the gilded youth prevented
him ever taking the trouble to master it. Our genial satirist _Punch_
hit the nail on the head: "Shall we--eh--reverse, Miss Lilian?"
"Reverse, indeed; it's as much as you can do to keep on your legs as
it is."

One custom at American dances struck me as singularly stupid and
un-American in its inelasticity. I know not how widespread it is, or
how fashionable, but it reigned in circles which seemed to my
unsophisticated eyes quite _comme il faut_. The custom is that by
which a man having once asked a lady to dance becomes responsible for
her until someone else offers himself as her partner. It probably
arose from the chivalrous desire not to leave any girl partnerless,
but in practice it works out quite the other way. When a man realises
that he _may_ have to retain the same partner for several dances, or
even for the greater part of the evening, he will, unless he is a
Bayard absolutely _sans peur et sans reproche_, naturally think twice
of engaging a lady from whom his release is problematical. Hence the
tendency is to increase the triumphs of the belle, and decrease the
chances of the less popular maiden. It is also extremely uncomfortable
for a girl to feel that a man has (to use the ugly slang of the
occasion) "got stuck" with her; and it takes more adroitness and
self-possession than any young girl can be expected to possess to
extricate herself neatly from the awkward position. Another funny
custom at subscription balls of a very respectable character is that
many of the matrons wear their bonnets throughout the evening. But
this, perhaps, is not stranger than the fact that ladies wear hats in
the theatre, while the men who accompany them are in evening dress--a
curious habit which to the uninitiated observer would suggest that the
nymphs belonged to a less fashionable stratum than their attendant
swains. A parallel instance is that of afternoon receptions, where the
hostess and her myrmidons appear in ball costume, while the visitors
are naturally in the toilette of the street. The contrast thus evolved
of low necks and heavy furs is often very comical. The British
convention by which the hostess always dresses as plainly as possible
so as to avoid the chance of eclipsing any of her guests, and so
chooses to _briller par sa simplicité_, is in other cases also more
honoured in the breach than in the observance in America.

A very characteristic little piece of the social democracy of America
is seen at its best in Chicago, though not unknown in other large
cities. On the evening of a hot summer day cushions and rugs are
spread on the front steps of the houses, and the occupants take
possession of these, the men to enjoy their after-dinner cigars, the
women to talk and scan the passers-by. The general effect is very
genial and picturesque, and decidedly suggestive of democratic
sociability. The same American indifference to the exaggerated British
love of privacy which leads John Bull to enclose his fifty-foot-square
garden by a ten-foot wall is shown in the way in which the gardens of
city houses are left unfenced. Nothing can be more attractive in its
way than such a street as Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, where the pretty
villas stand in unenclosed gardens, and the verdant lawns melt
imperceptibly into each other without advertisement of where one
leaves off and the other begins, while the fronts towards the street
are equally exposed. The general effect is that of a large and
beautiful park dotted with houses. The American is essentially
gregarious in his instinct, and the possession of a vast feudal
domain, with a high wall round it, can never make up to him for the
excitement of near neighbours. It may seriously be doubted whether the
American millionaire who buys a lordly demesne in England is not doing
violence to his natural and national tastes every day that he inhabits
it.

FOOTNOTES:

[6] Mrs. Burton Harrison reports that a young New York matron said to
her, "Really, now that society in New York is getting so large, one
must draw the line somewhere; after this I shall visit and invite only
those who have more than five millions."

[7] I have seen a brakeman on a passenger train wear overshoes on a
showery day, though his duties hardly ever compelled him to leave the
covered cars.



IV

An Appreciation of the American Woman


Compared to the appearance of the American girl in books written about
the United States, that of Charles I.'s head in Mr. Dick's memorial
might perhaps be almost called casual. All down the literary ladder,
from the weighty tomes of a Professor Bryce to the witty persiflage of
a Max O'Rell, we find a considerable part of every rung occupied by
the skirts appropriated to the gentler sex; and--what is, perhaps,
stranger still--she holds her own even in books written by women. It
need not be asserted that all the references to her are equally
agreeable. That amiable critic, Sir Lepel Griffin, alludes to her only
to assure us that "he had never met anyone who had lived long or
travelled much in America who did not hold that female beauty in the
States is extremely rare, while the average of ordinary good looks is
unusually low," and even visitors of an infinitely more subtle and
discriminating type, such as M. Bourget, mingle not a little vinegar
with their syrup of appreciation. But the fact remains that almost
every book on the United States contains a chapter devoted explicitly
to the female citizen; and the inevitableness of the record must have
some solid ground of reason behind or below it. It indicates a vein of
unusual significance, or at the very least of unusual conspicuousness,
in the phenomenon thus treated of. Observers have usually found it
possible to write books on the social and economical traits of other
countries without a parade of petticoats in the head-lines. This is
not to say that one can ignore one-half of society in writing of it;
but if you search the table of contents of such books as Mr. Philip
Hamerton's charming "French and English," or Mr. T.H.S. Escott's
"England: Its People, Polity, and Pursuits," you will not find the
words "woman" or "girl," or any equivalent for them. But the writer on
the United States seems irresistibly compelled to give woman all that
coördinate importance which is implied by the prominence of capital
letters and separate chapters.

This predominance of woman in books on America is not by any means a
phase of the "woman question," technically so called. It has no direct
reference to the woman as voter, as doctor, as lawyer, as the
competitor of man; the subject of interest is woman as woman, the
_Ding an sich_ of German philosophical slang. No doubt the writer may
have occasion to allude to Dr. Mary Walker, to the female mayors of
Wyoming, to the presidential ambitions of Mrs. Belva Lockwood; but
these are mere adjuncts, not explanations, of the question under
consideration. The European visitor to the United States _has_ to
write about American women because they bulk so largely in his view,
because they seem essentially so prominent a feature of American life;
because their _relative_ importance and interest impress him as
greater than those of women in the lands of the Old World, because
they seem to him to embody in so eminent a measure that intangible
quality of Americanism, the existence, or indeed the possibility, of
which is so hotly denied by some Americans.

Indeed, those who look upon the prominent rôle of the American woman
merely as one phase of the "new woman" question--merely as the
inevitable conspicuousness of woman intruding on what has hitherto
been exclusively the sphere of man--are many degrees beside the point.
The American note is as obvious in the girl who has never taken the
slightest interest in polities, the professions, or even the bicycle,
as in Dr. Mary Walker or Mrs. Lockwood. The prevalent English idea of
the actual interference of the American woman in public life is
largely exaggerated. There are, for instance, in Massachusetts 625,000
women entitled to vote for members of the school committees; and the
largest actual vote recorded is 20,140. Of 175,000 women of voting age
in Connecticut the numbers who used their vote in the last three years
were 3,806, 3,241, and 1,906. These, if any, are typical American
States; and there is not the shadow of a doubt that the 600,000 women
who stayed at home are quite as "American" as the 20,000 who went to
the poll. The sphere of the American woman's influence and the reason
of her importance lie behind politics and publicity.

It seems a reasonable assumption that the formation of the American
girl is due to the same large elemental causes that account for
American phenomena generally; and her _relative_ strikingness may be
explained by the reflection that there was more room for these great
forces to work in the case of woman than in the case of man. The
Englishman, for instance, through his contact with public life and
affairs, through his wider experience, through his rubbing shoulders
with more varied types, had already been prepared for the working of
American conditions in a way that his more sheltered womankind had
not been. In the bleaching of the black and the grey, the change will
be the more striking in the former; the recovery of health will be
conspicuous in proportion to the gravity of the disease. America has
meant opportunity for women even more in some ways than for men. The
gap between them has been lessened in proportion as the gap between
the American and the European has widened. The average American woman
is distinctly more different from her average English sister than is
the case with their respective brothers. The training of the English
girl starts from the very beginning on a different basis from that of
the boy; she is taught to restrain her impulses, while his are allowed
much freer scope; the sister is expected to defer to the brother from
the time she can walk or talk. In America this difference of training
is constantly tending to the vanishing point. The American woman has
never learned to play second fiddle. The American girl, as Mr. Henry
James says, is rarely negative; she is either (and usually) a most
charming success or (and exceptionally) a most disastrous failure. The
pathetic army of ineffective spinsters clinging apologetically to the
skirts of gentility is conspicuous by its absence in America. The
conditions of life there encourage a girl to undertake what she can do
best, with a comparatively healthy disregard of its fancied
"respectability." Her consciousness of efficiency reacts in a thousand
ways; her feet are planted on so solid a foundation that she
inevitably seems an important constructive part of society. The
contrast between the American woman and the English woman in this
respect may be illustrated by the two Caryatides in the Braccio Nuovo
at the Vatican. The first of these, a copy of one of the figures of
the Erechtheum, seems to bear the superincumbent architrave easily and
securely, with her feet planted squarely and the main lines running
vertically. In the other, of a later period, the fact that the feet
are placed close together gives an air of insecurity to the attitude,
an effect heightened by the prevalence of curved lines in the folds of
the drapery.

The American woman, too, has had more time than the American man to
cultivate the more amiable--if you will, the more showy--qualities of
American civilisation. The leisured class of England consists of both
sexes, that of America practically of one only. The problem of the
American man so far has mainly been to subdue a new continent to human
uses, while the woman has been sacrificing on the altar of the Graces.
Hence the wider culture and the more liberal views are often found in
the sex from which the European does not expect them; hence the woman
of New York and other American cities is often conspicuously superior
to her husband in looks, manners, and general intelligence. This has
been denied by champions of the American man; but the observation of
the writer, whatever it may be worth, would deny the denial.

The way in which an expression such as "Ladies' Cabin" is understood
in the United States has always seemed to me very typical of the
position of the gentler sex in that country. In England, when we see
an inscription of that kind, we assume that the enclosure referred to
is for ladies _only_. In America, unless the "only" is emphasized, the
"Ladies' Drawing Room" or the "Ladies' Waiting Room" extends its
hospitality to all those of the male sex who are ready to behave as
gentlemen and temporarily forego the delights of tobacco. Thus half of
the male passengers of the United States journey, as it were, under
the ægis of woman, and think it no shame to be enclosed in a box
labelled with her name.

Put roughly, what chiefly strikes the stranger in the American woman
is her candour, her frankness, her hail-fellow-well-met-edness, her
apparent absence of consciousness of self or of sex, her spontaneity,
her vivacity, her fearlessness. If the observer himself is not of a
specially refined or delicate type, he is apt at first to
misunderstand the cameraderie of an American girl, to see in it
suggestions of a possible coarseness of fibre. If a vain man, he may
take it as a tribute to his personal charms, or at least to the
superior claims of a representative of old-world civilisation. But
even to the obtuse stranger of this character it will ultimately
become obvious--as to the more refined observer _ab initio_--that he
can no more (if as much) dare to take a liberty with the American girl
than with his own countrywoman. The plum may appear to be more easily
handled, but its bloom will be found to be as intact and as ethereal
as in the jealously guarded hothouse fruit of Europe. He will find
that her frank and charming companionability is as far removed from
masculinity as from coarseness; that the points in which she differs
from the European lady do not bring her nearer either to a man on the
one hand, or to a common woman on the other. He will find that he has
to readjust his standards, to see that divergence from the best type
of woman hitherto known to him does not necessarily mean
deterioration; if he is of an open and susceptible mind, he may even
come to the conclusion that he prefers the transatlantic type!

Unless his lines in England have lain in _very_ pleasant places, the
intelligent Englishman in enjoying his first experience of
transatlantic society will assuredly be struck by the sprightliness,
the variety, the fearless individuality of the American girl, by her
power of repartee, by the quaint appositeness of her expressions, by
the variety of her interests, by the absence of undue deference to his
masculine dignity. If in his newly landed innocence he ventures to
compliment the girl he talks with on the purity of her English, and
assumes that she differs in that respect from her companions, she will
patriotically repel the suggested accusation of her countrywomen by
assuring him, without the ghost of a smile, "that she has had special
advantages, inasmuch as an English missionary had been stationed near
her tribe." If she prefers Martin Tupper to Shakespeare, or Strauss to
Beethoven, she will say so without a tremor. Why should she
hypocritically subordinate her personal instincts to a general theory
of taste? Her independence is visible in her very dress; she wears
what she thinks suits her (and her taste is seldom at fault), not
merely what happens to be the fashionable freak of the moment. What
Englishman does not shudder when he remembers how each of his
womankind--the comely and the homely, the short and the long, the
stout and the lean--at once assumed the latest form of hat, apparently
utterly oblivious to the question of whether it suited her special
style of beauty or not? Now, an American girl is not built that way.
She wishes to be in the fashion just as much as she can; but if a
special item of fashion does not set her off to advantage, she
gracefully and courageously resigns it to those who can wear it with
profit. But honour where honour is due! The English girl generally
shows more sense of fitness in the dress for walking and travelling;
she, consciously or unconsciously, realises that adaptability for its
practical purpose is essential in such a case.

The American girl, as above said, strikes one as individual, as
varied. In England when we meet a girl in a ball-room we can
generally--not always--"place" her after a few minutes' talk; she
belongs to a set of which you remember to have already met a volume or
two. In some continental countries the patterns in common use seem
reduced to three or four. In the United States every new girl is a new
sensation. Society consists of a series of surprises. Expectation is
continually piqued. A and B and C do not help you to induce D; when you
reach Z you _may_ imagine you find a slight trace of reincarnation.
Not that the surprises are invariably pleasant. The very force and
self-confidence of the American girl doubly and trebly underline the
undesirable. Vulgarity that would be stolid and stodgy in Middlesex
becomes blatant and aggressive in New York.

The American girl is not hampered by the feeling of class distinction,
which has for her neither religious nor historical sanction. The
English girl is first the squire's daughter, second a good
churchwoman, third an English subject, and fourthly a woman. Even the
best of them cannot rise wholly superior to the all-pervading, and,
in its essence, vulgarising, superstition that some of her
fellow-creatures are not fit to come between the wind and her
nobility. Those who reject the theory do so by a self-conscious effort
which in itself is crude and a strain. The American girl is, however,
born into an atmosphere of unconsciousness of all this, and, unless
she belongs to a very narrow coterie, does not reach this point of
view either as believer or antagonist. This endues her, at her best,
with a sweet and subtle fragrance of humanity that is, perhaps,
unique. Free from any sense of inherited or conventional superiority
or inferiority, as devoid of the brutality of condescension as of the
meanness of toadyism, she combines in a strangely attractive way the
charm of eternal womanliness with the latest aroma of a progressive
century. It is, doubtless, this quality that M. Bourget has in view
when he speaks of the incomparable delicacy of the American girl, or
M. Paul Blouët when he asserts that "you find in the American woman a
quality which, I fear, is beginning to disappear in Paris and is
almost unknown in London--a kind of spiritualised politeness, a tender
solicitude for other people, combined with strong individuality."

There is one type of girl, with whom even the most modest and most
moderately eligible of bachelors must be familiar in England, who is
seldom in evidence in the United States--she whom the American
aborigines might call the "Girl-Anxious-to-be-Married." What
right-minded man in any circle of British society has not shuddered at
the open pursuit of young Croesus? Have not our novelists and
satirists reaped the most ample harvest from the pitiable spectacle
and all its results? A large part of the advantage that American
society has over English rests in the comparative absence of this
phenomenon. Man there does not and cannot bear himself as the cynosure
of the female eye; the art of throwing the handkerchief has not been
included in his early curriculum. The American dancing man does not
dare to arrive just in time for supper or to lounge in the doorway
while dozens of girls line the walls in faded expectation of a waltz.
The English girl herself can hardly be blamed for this state of
things. She has been brought up to think that marriage is the be-all
and end-all of her existence. "For my part," writes the author of
"Cecil, the Coxcomb," "I never blame them when I see them capering and
showing off their little monkey-tricks, for conquest. The fault is
none of theirs. It is part of an erroneous system." Lady Jeune
expresses the orthodox English position when she asserts flatly that
"to deny that marriage is the object of woman's existence is absurd."
The anachronistic survival of the laws of primogeniture and entail
practically makes the marriage of the daughter the only alternative
for a descent to a lower sphere of society. In the United States the
proportion of girls who strike one as obvious candidates for marriage
is remarkably small. This _may_ be owing to the art with which the
American woman conceals her lures, but all the evidence points to its
being in the main an entirely natural and unconscious attitude. The
American girl has all along been so accustomed to associate on equal
terms with the other sex that she naturally and inevitably regards him
more in the light of a comrade than of a possible husband. She has so
many resources, and is so independent, that marriage does not bound
her horizon.

Her position, however, is not one of antagonism to marriage. If it
were, I should be the last to commend it. It rather rests on an
assurance of equality, on the assumption that marriage is an
honourable estate--a rounding and completing of existence--for man as
much as for woman. Nor does it mean, I think, any lack of passion and
the deepest instincts of womanhood. All these are present and can be
wakened by the right man at the right time. Indeed, the very fact that
marriage (with or without love) is not incessantly in the foreground
of an American girl's consciousness probably makes the awakening all
the more deep and tender because comparatively unanticipated and
unforeseen.

The marriages between American heiresses and European peers do not
militate seriously against the above view of American marriage. It
cannot be sufficiently emphasised that the doings of a few wealthy
people in New York are not characteristic of American civilisation.
The New York _Times_ was entirely right when it said, in commenting
upon the frank statement of the bridegroom in a recent alliance of
this kind that it had been _arranged_ by friends of both parties: "A
few years ago this frankness would have cost him his bride, if his
'friends' had chosen an American girl for that distinction, and even
now it would be resented to the point of a rupture of the engagement
by most American girls."

The American girl may not be in reality better educated than her
British sister, nor a more profound thinker; but her mind is
indisputably more agile and elastic. In fact, a slow-going Britisher
has to go through a regular course of training before he can follow
the rapid transitions of her train of associations. She has the
happiest faculty in getting at another's point of view and in putting
herself in his place. Her imagination is more likely to be over-active
than too sluggish. One of the most popular classes of the "Society for
the Encouragement of Study at Home" is that devoted to imaginary
travels in Europe. She is wonderfully adaptable, and makes herself at
ease in an entirely strange _milieu_ almost before the transition is
complete. Both M. Blouët and M. Bourget notice this, and claim that it
is a quality she shares with the Frenchwoman. The wife of a recent
President is a stock illustration of it--a girl who was transferred in
a moment from what we should call a quiet "middle-class" existence to
the apex of publicity, and comported herself in the most trying
situations with the ease, dignity, unconsciousness, taste, and
graciousness of a born princess.

The innocence of the American girl is neither an affectation, nor a
prejudiced fable, nor a piece of stupidity. The German woman, quoted
by Mr. Bryce, found her American compeer _furchtbar frei_, but she had
at once to add _und furchtbar fromm_. "The innocence of the American
girl passes abysses of obscenity without stain or knowledge." She may
be perfectly able to hold her own under any circumstances, but she has
little of that detestable quality which we call "knowing." The
immortal Daisy Miller is a charming illustration of this. I used
sometimes to get into trouble with American ladies, who "hoped I did
not take Daisy Miller as a type of the average American girl," by
assuring them that "I did not--that I thought her much too good for
that." And in truth there seemed to me a lack of subtlety in the
current appreciation of the charming young lady from Schenectady, who
is much _finer_ than many readers give her credit for. And on this
point I think I may cite Mr. Henry James himself as a witness on my
side, since, in a dramatic version of the tale published in the
_Atlantic Monthly_ (Vol. 51, 1883), he makes his immaculate Bostonian,
Mr. Winterbourne, marry Daisy with a full consciousness of all she was
and had been. As I understand her, Miss Daisy Miller, in spite of her
somewhat unpropitious early surroundings, was a young woman entirely
able to appreciate the very best when she met it. She at once
recognised the superiority of Winterbourne to the men she had hitherto
known, and she also recognised that her "style" was not the "style" of
him or of his associates. But she was very young, and had all the
unreasonable pride of extreme youth; and so she determined not to
alter her behaviour one jot or tittle in order to attract him--nay,
with a sort of bravado, she exaggerated those very traits which she
knew he disliked. Yet all the time she had the highest appreciation of
his most delicate refinements, while she felt also that he ought to
see that at bottom she was just as refined as he, though her outward
mask was not so elegant. I have no doubt whatever that, as Mrs.
Winterbourne, she adapted herself to her new _milieu_ with absolute
success, and yet without loss of her own most fascinating
individuality.[8]

The whole atmosphere of the country tends to preserve the spirit of
unsuspecting innocence in the American maiden. The function of a
chaperon is very differently interpreted in the United States and in
England. On one occasion I met in a Pullman car a young lady
travelling in charge of her governess. A chance conversation elicited
the fact that she was the daughter of a well-known New York banker;
and the fact that we had some mutual acquaintances was accepted as
all-sufficing credentials for my respectability. We had happened to
fix on the same hotel at our destination; and in the evening, after
dinner, I met in the corridor the staid and severe-looking
_gouvernante_, who saluted me with "Oh, Mr. Muirhead, I have such a
headache! Would you mind going out with my little girl while she makes
some purchases?" I was a little taken aback at first; but a moment's
reflection convinced me that I had just experienced a most striking
tribute to the honour of the American man and the social atmosphere of
the United States.

The psychological method of suggestive criticism has, perhaps, never
been applied with more delicacy of intelligence than in M. Bourget's
chapter on the American woman. Each stroke of the pen, or rather each
turn of the scalpel, amazes us by its keen penetration. As we at last
close the book and meditate on what we have read, it is little by
little borne in upon us that though due tribute is paid to the
charming traits of the American woman, yet the general outcome of M.
Bourget's analysis is truly damnatory. If this sprightly, fascinating,
somewhat hard and calculating young woman be a true picture of the
transatlantic maiden, we may sigh indeed for her lack of the _Ewig
Weibliche_. I do not pretend to say where M. Bourget's appreciation is
at fault, but that it is false--unaccountably false--in the general
impression it leaves, I have no manner of doubt. Perhaps his attention
has been fixed too exclusively on the Newport girl, who, it must again
be insisted on, is too much impregnated with cosmopolitan _fin de
siècle-ism_ to be taken as the American type. Botanise a flower, use
the strongest glasses you will, tear apart and name and analyse,--the
result is a catalogue, the flower with its beauty and perfume is not
there. So M. Bourget has catalogued the separate qualities of the
American woman; as a whole she has eluded his analysis. Perhaps this
chapter of his may be taken as an eminent illustration of the
limitations of the critical method, which is at times so illuminating,
while at times it so utterly fails to touch the heart of things, or,
better, the wholeness of things.

Among the most searching tests of the state of civilisation reached by
any country are the character of its roads, its minimising of noise,
and the position of its women. If the United States does not stand
very high on the application of the first two tests, its name
assuredly leads all the rest in the third. In no other country is the
legal status of women so high or so well secured, or their right to
follow an independent career so fully recognised by society at large.
In no other country is so much done to provide for their convenience
and comfort. All the professions are open to them, and the opportunity
has widely been made use of. Teaching, lecturing, journalism,
preaching, and the practice of medicine have long been recognised as
within woman's sphere, and she is by no means unknown at the bar.
There are eighty qualified lady doctors in Boston alone, and
twenty-five lady lawyers in Chicago. A business card before me as I
write reads, "Mesdames Foster & Steuart, Members of the Cotton
Exchange and Board of Trade, Real Estate and Stock Brokers, 143 Main
Street, Houston, Texas." The American woman, however, is often found
in still more unexpected occupations. There are numbers of women
dentists, barbers, and livery-stable keepers. Miss Emily Faithful saw
a railway pointswoman in Georgia; and one of the regular steamers on
Lake Champlain, when I was there, was successfully steered by a pilot
in petticoats. There is one profession that is closed to women in the
United States--that of barmaid. That professional association of woman
with man when he is apt to be in his most animal moods is firmly
tabooed in America--all honour to it!

The career of a lady whose acquaintance I made in New York, and whom I
shall call Miss Undereast, illustrates the possibilities open to the
American girl. Born in Iowa, Miss Undereast lost her mother when she
was three years old, and spent her early childhood in company with her
father, who was a travelling geologist and mining prospector. She
could ride almost before she could walk, and soon became an expert
shot. Once, when only ten years of age, she shot down an Indian who
was in the act of killing a white woman with his tomahawk; and on
another occasion, when her father's camp was surrounded by hostile
Indians, she galloped out upon her pony and brought relief. "She was
so much at home with the shy, wild creatures of the woods that she
learned their calls, and they would come to her like so many domestic
birds and animals. She would come into camp with wild birds and
squirrels on her shoulder. She could lasso a steer with the best of
them. When, at last, she went to graduate at the State University of
Colorado, she paid for her last year's tuition with the proceeds of
her own herd of cattle." After graduating at Colorado State
University, she took a full course in a commercial college, and then
taught school for some time at Denver. Later she studied and taught
music, for which she had a marked gift. The next important step
brought her to New York, where she gained in a competitive examination
the position of secretary in the office of the Street Cleaning
Department. Her linguistic accomplishments (for she had studied
several foreign languages) stood her in good stead, and during the
illness of her chief she practically managed the department and
"bossed" fifteen hundred Italian labourers in their own tongue. Miss
Undereast carried on her musical studies far enough to be offered a
position in an operatic company, while her linguistic studies
qualified her for the post of United States Custom House Inspectress.
Latterly she has devoted her time mainly to journalism and literature,
producing, _inter alia_, a guidebook to New York, a novel, and a
volume of essays on social topics. It is a little difficult to realise
when talking with the accomplished and womanly _littérateur_ that she
has been in her day a slayer of Indians and "a mighty huntress before
the Lord;" but both the facts and the opportunities underlying them
testify in the most striking manner to the largeness of the sphere of
action open to the _puella Americana_.

If American women have been well treated by their men-folk, they have
nobly discharged their debt. It is trite to refer to the numerous
schemes of philanthropy in which American women have played so
prominent a part, to allude to the fact that they have as a body used
their leisure to cultivate those arts and graces of life which the
preoccupation of man has led him too often to neglect. This chapter
may well close with the words of Professor Bryce: "No country seems to
owe more to its women than America does, nor to owe to them so much of
what is best in its social institutions and in the beliefs that govern
conduct."

FOOTNOTES:

[8] Since writing the above I have learned that Mr. W.D. Howells has
written of "Daisy Miller" in a similar vein, speaking of her
"indestructible innocence and her invulnerable new-worldliness." "It
was so plain that Mr. James disliked her vulgar conditions that the
very people to whom he revealed her essential sweetness and light were
furious that he should have seemed not to see what existed through
him."



V

The American Child


The United States has sometimes been called the "Paradise of Women;"
from the child's point of view it might equally well he termed the
"Paradise of Children," though the thoughtful observer might be
inclined to qualify the title by the prefix "Fool's." Nowhere is the
child so constantly in evidence; nowhere are his wishes so carefully
consulted; nowhere is he allowed to make his mark so strongly on
society in general. The difference begins at the very moment of his
birth, or indeed even sooner. As much fuss is made over each young
republican as if he were the heir to a long line of kings; his
swaddling clothes might make a ducal infant jealous; the family
physician thinks $100 or $150 a moderate fee for ushering him into the
light of day. Ordinary milk is not good enough for him; _sterilised_
milk will hardly do; "_modified_" milk alone is considered fit for
this democratic suckling. Even the father is expected to spend hours
in patient consultation over his food, his dress, his teething-rings,
and his outgoing. He is weighed daily, and his nourishment is changed
at once if he is a fraction either behind or ahead of what is deemed a
normal and healthy rate of growth. American writers on the care of
children give directions for the use of the most complex and
time-devouring devices for the proper preparation of their food, and
seem really to expect that mamma and nurse will go through with the
prescribed juggling with pots and pans, cylinders and lamps.

A little later the importance of the American child is just as
evident, though it takes on different forms. The small American seems
to consider himself the father of the man in a way never contemplated
by the poet. He interrupts the conversation of his elders, he has a
voice in every matter, he eats and drinks what seems good to him, he
(or at any rate _she_) wears finger-rings of price, he has no shyness
or even modesty. The theory of the equality of man is rampant in the
nursery (though I use this word only in its conventional and
figurative sense, for American children do not confine themselves to
their nurseries). You will actually hear an American mother say of a
child of two or three years of age: "I can't _induce_ him to do this;"
"She _won't_ go to bed when I tell her;" "She _will_ eat that lemon
pie, though I _know_ it is bad for her." Even the public authorities
seem to recognise the inherent right of the American child to have his
own way, as the following paragraph from the New York _Herald_ of
April 8, 1896, will testify:

     WASHINGTON, April 7.--The lawn in front of the White
     House this morning was littered with paper bags, the dyed shells
     of eggs, and the remains of Easter luncheon baskets. It is said
     that a large part of the lawn must be resodded. The children,
     shut out from their usual romp in the grounds at the back of the
     mansion, made their way into the front when the sun came out in
     the afternoon, and gambolled about at will, to the great injury
     of the rain-soaked turf.

     The police stationed in the grounds _vainly endeavored to
     persuade the youngsters to go away_, and were finally successful
     only through pretending to be about to close all the gates for
     the night.

It is, perhaps, superfluous to say that this kind of bringing up
hardly tends to make the American child an attractive object to the
stranger from without. On the contrary, it is very apt to make the
said stranger long strenuously to spank these budding citizens of a
free republic, and to send them to bed _instanter_. So much of what I
want to say on this topic has been well said by my brother Findlay
Muirhead in an article on "The American Small Boy," contributed to the
_St. James's Gazette_, that I venture to quote the bulk of that
article below.

     The American Small Boy

     The American small boy is represented in history by the youthful
     George Washington, who suffered through his inability to invent a
     plausible fiction, and by Benjamin Franklin, whose abnormal
     simplicity in the purchase of musical instruments has become
     proverbial. But history is not taken down in shorthand as it
     occurs, and it sometimes lags a little. The modern American small
     boy is a vastly different being from either of these
     transatlantic worthies; at all events his most prominent
     characteristics, as they strike a stranger, are not illustrated
     in the earlier period of their career.

     The peculiarities of young America would, indeed, matter but
     little to the stranger if young America stayed at home. But young
     America does not stay at home. It is not necessary to track the
     American small boy to his native haunts in order to see what he
     is like. He is very much in evidence even on this side the
     Atlantic. At certain seasons he circulates in Europe with the
     facility of the British sovereign; for the American nation
     cherishes the true nomadic habit of travelling in families, and
     the small boy is not left behind. He abounds in Paris; he is
     common in Italy; and he is a drug in Switzerland. He is an
     element to be allowed for by all who make the Grand Tour, for his
     voice is heard in every land. On the Continent, during the
     season, no first-class hotel can be said to be complete without
     its American family, including the small boy. He does not,
     indeed, appear to "come off" to his full extent in this country,
     but in all Continental resorts he is a small boy that may be
     felt, as probably our fellow-countrymen all over Europe are now
     discovering.

     There is little use in attempting to disguise the fact that the
     subject of the present paper is distinctly disagreeable. There is
     little beauty in him that we should desire him. He is not only
     restless himself, but he is the cause of restlessness in others.
     He has no respect even for the quiescent evening hour, devoted to
     cigarettes on the terrace after _table d'hôte_, and he is not to
     be overawed by a look. It is a constant source of wonder to the
     thoughtfully inclined how the American man is evolved from the
     American boy; it is a problem much more knotty than the
     difficulty concerning apple-dumplings which so perplexed "Farmer
     George." No one need desire a pleasanter travelling companion
     than the American man; it is impossible to imagine a more
     disagreeable one than the American boy.

     The American small boy is precocious; but it is not with the
     erudite precocity of the German Heinecken, who at three years of
     age was intimately acquainted with history and geography ancient
     and modern, sacred and profane, besides being able to converse
     fluently in Latin, French, and German. We know, of course, that
     each of the twenty-two Presidents of the United States gave such
     lively promise in his youth that twenty-two aged friends of the
     twenty-two families, without any collusion, placed their hands
     upon the youthful heads, prophesying their future eminence. But
     even this remarkable coincidence does not affect the fact that
     the precocity of the average transatlantic boy is not generally
     in the most useful branches of knowledge, but rather in the
     direction of habits, tastes, and opinion. He is not, however,
     evenly precocious. He unites a taste for jewelry with a passion
     for candy. He combines a penetration into the motives of others
     with an infantile indifference to exposing them at inconvenient
     times. He has an adult decision in his wishes, but he has a
     youthful shamelessness in seeking their fulfilment. One of his
     most exasperating peculiarities is the manner in which he
     querulously harps upon the single string of his wants. He sits
     down before the refusal of his mother and shrilly besieges it. He
     does not desist for company. He does not wish to behave well
     before strangers. He desires to have his wish granted; and he
     knows he will probably be allowed to succeed if he insists before
     strangers. He is distinguished by a brutal frankness, combined
     with a cynical disregard for all feminine ruses. He not seldom
     calls up the blush of shame to the cheek of scheming innocence;
     and he frequently crucifies his female relatives. He is generally
     an adept in discovering what will most annoy his family circle;
     and he is perfectly unscrupulous in avenging himself for all
     injuries, of which he receives, in his own opinion, a large
     number. He has an accurate memory for all promises made to his
     advantage, and he is relentless in exacting payment to the
     uttermost farthing. He not seldom displays a singular ingenuity
     in interpreting ambiguous terms for his own behoof. A youth of
     this kind is reported to have demanded (and received) eight
     apples from his mother, who had bribed him to temporary
     stillness by the promise of a few of that fruit, his ground being
     that the Scriptures contained the sentence, "Wherein few, that
     is, eight, souls were saved by water."

     The American small boy is possessed, moreover, of a well-nigh
     invincible _aplomb_. He is not impertinent, for it never enters
     into his head to take up the position of protesting inferiority
     which impertinence implies. He merely takes things as they come,
     and does not hesitate to express his opinion of them. An American
     young gentleman of the mature age of ten was one day overtaken by
     a fault. His father, more in sorrow than in anger, expressed his
     displeasure. "What am I to do with you, Tommy? What am I to do
     with you?" "I have no suggestions to offer, sir," was the
     response of Tommy, thus appealed to. Even in trying
     circumstances, even when serious misfortune overtakes the
     youthful American, his _aplomb_, his confidence in his own
     opinion, does not wholly forsake him. Such a one was found
     weeping in the street. On being asked the cause of his tears, he
     sobbed out in mingled alarm and indignation: "I'm lost; mammy's
     lost me; I _told_ the darned thing she'd lose me." The
     recognition of his own liability to be lost, and at the same time
     the recognition of his own superior wisdom, are exquisitely
     characteristic. They would be quite incongruous in the son of any
     other soil. In his intercourse with strangers this feeling
     exhibits itself in the complete self-possession and _sang-froid_
     of the youthful citizen of the Western Republic. He scorns to own
     a curiosity which he dare not openly seek to satisfy by direct
     questions, and he puts his questions accordingly on all subjects,
     even the most private and even in the case of the most reverend
     strangers. He is perfectly free in his remarks upon all that
     strikes him as strange or reprehensible in any one's personal
     appearance or behaviour; and he never dreams that his victims
     might prefer not to be criticised in public. But he is quick to
     resent criticism on himself, and he shows the most perverted
     ingenuity in embroiling with his family any outsider who may
     rashly attempt to restrain his ebullitions. He is, in fact, like
     the Scottish thistle: no one may meddle with him with impunity.
     It is better to "never mind him," as one of the evils under the
     sun for which there is no remedy.

     Probably this development of the American small boys is due in
     great measure to the absorption of their fathers in business,
     which necessarily surrenders the former to a too undiluted
     "regiment of women." For though Thackeray is unquestionably right
     in estimating highly the influence of refined feminine society
     upon youths and young men, there is no doubt that a small boy is
     all the better for contact with some one whose physical prowess
     commands his respect. Some allowance must also be made for the
     peevishness of boys condemned to prolonged railway journeys, and
     to the confinement of hotel life in cities and scenes in which
     they are not old enough to take an interest. They would,
     doubtless, be more genial if they were left behind at school.

The American boy has no monopoly of the characteristics under
consideration. His little sister is often his equal in all
departments. Miss Marryat tells of a little girl of five who appeared
alone in the _table d'hôte_ room of a large and fashionable hotel,
ordered a copious and variegated breakfast, and silenced the timorous
misgivings of the waiter with "I guess I pay my way." At another hotel
I heard a similar little minx, in a fit of infantile rage, address her
mother as "You nasty, mean, old crosspatch;" and the latter, who in
other respects seemed a very sensible and intelligent woman, yielded
to the storm, and had no words of rebuke. I am afraid it was a little
boy who in the same way called his father a "black-eyed old skunk;"
but it might just as well have been a girl.

While not asserting that all American children are of this brand, I do
maintain that the sketch is fairly typical of a very large
class--perhaps of all except those of exceptionally firm and sensible
parents. The strangest thing about the matter is, however, that the
fruit does not by any means correspond to the seed; the wind is sown,
but the whirlwind is not reaped. The unendurable child does not
necessarily become an intolerable man. By some mysterious chemistry of
the American atmosphere, social or otherwise, the horrid little minx
blossoms out into a charming and womanly girl, with just enough of
independence to make her piquant; the cross and dyspeptic little boy
becomes a courteous and amiable man. Some sort of a moral miracle
seems to take place about the age of fourteen or fifteen; a violent
dislocation interrupts the natural continuity of progress; and,
presto! out springs a new creature from the modern cauldron of Medea.

The reason--or at any rate one reason--of the normal attitude of the
American parent towards his child is not far to seek. It is almost
undoubtedly one of the direct consequences of the circumambient spirit
of democracy. The American is so accustomed to recognise the essential
equality of others that he sometimes carries a good thing to excess.
This spirit is seen in his dealings with underlings of all kinds, who
are rarely addressed with the bluntness and brusqueness of the older
civilisations. Hence the father and mother are apt to lay almost too
much stress on the separate and individual entity of their child, to
shun too scrupulously anything approaching the violent coercion of
another's will. That the results are not more disastrous seems owing
to a saving quality in the child himself. The characteristic American
shrewdness and common sense do their work. A badly brought up American
child introduced into a really well-regulated family soon takes his
cue from his surroundings, adapts himself to his new conditions, and
sheds his faults as a snake its skin. The whole process may tend to
increase the individuality of the child; but the cost is often great,
the consequences hard for the child itself. American parents are
doubtless more familiar than others with the plaintive remonstrance:
"Why did you not bring me up more strictly? Why did you give me so
much of my own way?" The present type of the American child may be
described as one of the experiments of democracy; that he is not a
necessary type is proved by the by no means insignificant number of
excellently trained children in the United States, of whom it has
never been asserted that they make any less truly democratic citizens
than their more pampered playmates.

The idea of establishing summer camps for schoolchildren may not have
originated in the United States--it was certainly put into operation
in Switzerland and France several years ago; but the most
characteristic and highly organised institution of the kind is the
George Junior Republic at Freeville, near Ithaca, in the State of New
York, and some account of this attempt to recognise the "rights of
children," and develop the political capacity of boys and girls, may
form an appropriate ending to this chapter. The republic was
established by Mr. William R. George, in 1895. It occupies a large
tent and several wooden buildings on a farm forty-eight acres in
extent. In summer it accommodates about two hundred boys and girls
between the ages of twelve and seventeen; and about forty of these
remain in residence throughout the year. The republic is
self-governing, and its economic basis is one of honest industry.
Every citizen has to earn his living, and his work is paid for with
the tin currency of the republic. Half of the day is devoted to work,
the other half to recreation. The boys are employed in farming and
carpentry; the girls sew, cook, and so on. The rates of wages vary
from 50 cents to 90 cents a day according to the grade of work.
Ordinary meals cost about 10 cents, and a night's lodging the same;
but those who have the means and the inclination may have more
sumptuous meals for 25 cents, or board at the "Waldorf" for about $4
(16s.) a week. As the regular work offered to all is paid for at rates
amply sufficient to cover the expenses of board and lodging, the idle
and improvident have either to go without or make up for their neglect
by overtime work. Those who save money receive its full value on
leaving the republic, in clothes and provisions to take back to their
homes in the slums of New York. Some boys have been known to save $50
(£10) in the two months of summer work. The republic has its own
legislature, court-house, jail, schools, and the like. The legislature
has two branches. The members of the lower house are elected by ballot
weekly, those of the senate fortnightly. Each grade of labour elects
one member and one senator for every twelve constituents. Offences
against the laws of the republic are stringently dealt with, and the
jail, with its bread-and-water diet, is a by no means pleasant
experience. The police force consists of thirteen boys and two girls;
the office of "cop," with its wages of 90 cents a day, is eagerly
coveted, but cannot be obtained without the passing of a stiff civil
service examination.

So far this interesting experiment is said by good authorities to have
worked well. It is not a socialistic or Utopian scheme, but frankly
accepts existing conditions and tries to make the best of them. It is
not by any means merely "playing at house." The children have to do
genuine work, and learn habits of real industry, thrift,
self-restraint, and independence. The measures discussed by the
legislature are not of the debating society order, but actually affect
the personal welfare of the two hundred citizens. It has, for example,
been found necessary to impose a duty of twenty-five per cent. "on all
stuff brought in to be sold," so as to protect the native farmer.
Female suffrage has been tried, but did not work well, and was
discarded, largely through the votes of the girls themselves.

The possible disadvantages connected with an experiment of this kind
easily suggest themselves; but since the "precocity" of the American
child is a recognised fact, it is perhaps well that it should be
turned into such unobjectionable channels.



VI

International Misapprehensions and National Differences


Some years ago I was visiting the cyclorama of Niagara Falls in London
and listening to the intelligent description of the scene given by the
"lecturer." In the course of this he pointed out Goat Island, the
wooded islet that parts the headlong waters of the Niagara like a
coulter and shears them into the separate falls of the American and
Canadian shores. Behind me stood an English lady who did not quite
catch what the lecturer said, and turned to her husband in surprise.
"Rhode Island? Well, I knew Rhode Island was one of the smallest
States, but I had no idea it was so small as that!" On another
occasion an Englishman, invited to smile at the idea of a
fellow-countryman that the Rocky Mountains flanked the west bank of
the Hudson, exclaimed: "How absurd! The Rocky Mountains must be at
least two hundred miles from the Hudson." Even so intelligent a
traveller and so friendly a critic as Miss Florence Marryat (Mrs.
Francis Lean), in her desire to do justice to the amplitude of the
American continent, gravely asserts that "Pennsylvania covers a tract
of land larger than England, France, Spain, and Germany all put
together," the real fact being that even the smallest of the countries
named is much larger than the State, while the combined area of the
four is more than fourteen times as great. Texas, the largest State in
the Union, is not so very much more extensive than either Germany or
France.

An analogous want of acquaintance with the mental geography of America
was shown by the English lady whom Mr. Freeman heard explaining to a
cultivated American friend who Sir Walter Scott was, and what were the
titles of his chief works.

It is to such international ignorance as this that much, if not most,
of the British want of appreciation of the United States may be
traced; just as the acute critic may see in the complacent and
persistent misspelling of English names by the leading journals of
Paris an index of that French attitude of indifference towards
foreigners that involved the possibility of a Sedan. It is not,
perhaps, easy to adduce exactly parallel instances of American
ignorance of Great Britain, though Mr. Henry James, who probably knows
his England better than nine out of ten Englishmen, describes Lord
Lambeth, the eldest son of a duke, as himself a member of the House of
Lords ("An International Episode"). It was amusing to find when _meine
Wenigkeit_ was made the object of a lesson in a Massachusetts school,
that many of the children knew the name England only in connection
with their own New England home. Nor, I fear, can it be denied that
much of the historical teaching in the primary schools of the United
States gives a somewhat one-sided view of the past relations between
the mother country and her revolted daughter. The American child is
not taught as much as he ought to be that the English people of to-day
repudiate the attitude of the aristocratic British government of 1770
as strongly as Americans themselves.

The American, however, must not plume himself too much on his superior
knowledge. Shameful as the British ignorance of America often is, a
corresponding American ignorance of Great Britain would be vastly more
shameful. An American cannot understand himself unless he knows
something of his origins beyond the seas; the geography and history of
an American child must perforce include the history and geography of
the British Isles. For a Briton, however, knowledge of America is
rather one of the highly desirable things than one of the absolutely
indispensable. It would certainly betoken a certain want of humanity
in me if I failed to take any interest in the welfare of my sons and
daughters who had emigrated to New Zealand; but it is evident that for
the conduct of my own life a knowledge of their doings is not so
essential for me as a knowledge of what my father was and did. The
American of Anglo-Saxon stock visiting Westminster Abbey seems
paralleled alone by the Greek of Syracuse or Magna Græcia visiting the
Acropolis of Athens; and the experience of either is one that less
favoured mortals may unfeignedly envy. But the American and the
Syracusan alike would be wrong were he to feel either scorn or elation
at the superiority of the guest's knowledge of the host over the
host's knowledge of the guest.

However that may be, and whatever latitude we allow to the proverbial
connection of familiarity and contempt, there seems little reason to
doubt that closer knowledge of one another will but increase the
mutual sympathy and esteem of the Briton and the American. The former
will find that Brother Jonathan is not so exuberantly and perpetually
starred-and-striped as the comic cartoonist would have us believe;
and the American will find that John Bull does not always wear
top-boots or invariably wield a whip. Things that from a distance seem
preposterous and even revolting will often assume a very different
guise when seen in their native environment and judged by their
inevitable conditions. It is not always true that "_coelum non
animum mutant qui trans mare currunt_" that is, if we allow ourselves
to translate "_animum_" in its Ciceronian sense of "opinion."[9] To
hold this view does not make any excessive demand on our optimism.
There seems absolutely no reason why in this particular case the line
of cleavage between one's likes and one's dislikes should coincide
with that of foreign and native birth. The very word "foreign" rings
false in this connection. It is often easier to recognise a brother in
a New Yorker than in a Yorkshireman, while, alas! it is only
theoretically and in a mood of long-drawn-out aspiration that we can
love our alien-tongued European neighbour as ourselves.

The man who wishes to form a sound judgment of another is bound to
attain as great a measure as possible of accurate self-knowledge, not
merely to understand the reaction of the foreign character when
brought into relation with his own, but also to make allowance for
fundamental differences of taste and temperament. The golden rule of
judging others by ourselves can easily become a dull and leaden
despotism if we insist that what _we_ should think and feel on a given
occasion ought also to be the thoughts and actions of the Frenchman,
the German, or the American. There are, perhaps, no more pregnant
sentences in Mr. Bryce's valuable book than those in which he warns
his British readers against the assumption that the same phenomena in
two different countries must imply the same sort of causes. Thus, an
equal amount of corruption among British politicians, or an equal
amount of vulgarity in the British press, would argue a much greater
degree of rottenness in the general social system than the same
phenomena in the United States. So, too, some of the characteristic
British vices are, so to say, of a spontaneous, involuntary,
semi-unconscious growth, and the American observer would commit a
grievous error if he ascribed them to as deliberate an intent to do
evil as the same tendencies would betoken in his own land. Neither
Briton nor American can do full justice to the other unless each
recognises that the other is fashioned of a somewhat different clay.

The strong reasons, material and otherwise, why Great Britain and the
United States should be friends need not be enumerated here. In spite
of some recent and highly unexpected shocks, the tendencies that make
for amity seem to me to be steadily increasing in strength and
volume.[10] It is the American in the making rather than the matured
native product that, as a rule, is guilty of blatant denunciation of
Great Britain; and it is usually the untravelled and preëminently
insular Briton alone that is utterly devoid of sympathy for his
American cousins. The American, as has often been pointed out, has
become vastly more pleasant to deal with since his country has won an
undeniable place among the foremost nations of the globe. The
epidermis of Brother Jonathan has toughened as he has grown in
stature, and now that he can look over the heads of most of his
compeers he regards the sting of a gnat as little as the best of them.
Perhaps not _quite_ so little as John Bull, whose indifference to
criticism and silent assurance of superiority are possibly as far
wrong in the one direction as a too irritable skin is in the other.

Of the books written about the United States in the last score of
years by European writers of any weight, there are few which have not
helped to dissipate the grotesquely one-sided view of America formerly
held in the Old World. Preëminent among such books is, of course, the
"American Commonwealth" of Mr. James Bryce; but such writers as Mr.
Freeman, M. Paul Bourget, Sir George Campbell, Mr. William Sanders,
Miss Catherine Bates, Mme. Blanc, Miss Emily Faithful, M. Paul de
Rousiers, Max O'Rell, and Mr. Stevens have all, in their several
degrees and to their several audiences, worked to the same end. It
may, however, be worth while mentioning one or two literary
performances of a somewhat different character, merely to remind my
British readers of the sort of thing we have done to exasperate our
American cousins in quite recent times, and so help them to understand
the why and wherefore of certain traces of resentment still lingering
beyond the Atlantic. In 1884 Sir Lepel Griffin, a distinguished Indian
official, published a record of his visit to the United States, under
the title of "The Great Republic." Perhaps this volume might have been
left to the obscurity which has befallen it, were it not that Mr.
Matthew Arnold lent it a fictitious importance by taking as the text
for some of his own remarks on America Sir Lepel's assertion that he
knew of no civilised country, Russia possibly excepted, where he
should less like to live than the United States. To me it seems a book
most admirably adapted to infuriate even a less sensitive folk than
the Americans. I do not in the least desire to ascribe to Sir Lepel
Griffin a deliberate design to be offensive; but it is just his calm,
supercilious Philistinism, aggravated no doubt by his many years'
experience as a ruler of submissive Orientals, that makes it no less a
pleasure than a duty for a free and intelligent republican to resent
and defy his criticisms.

Can, for instance, anything more wantonly and pointlessly insulting be
imagined than his assertion that an intelligent and well-informed
American would probably name the pork-packing of Chicago as the thing
_best worth seeing_ in the United States? After that it is not
surprising that he considers American scenery singularly tame and
unattractive, and that he finds female beauty (can his standard for
this have been Orientalised?) very rare. He predicts that it would be
impossible to maintain the Yellowstone National Park as such, and
asserts that it was only a characteristic spirit of swagger and
braggadocio that prompted this attempt at an impossible ideal. He also
seems to think lynching an any-day possibility in the streets of New
York. The value of his forecasts may, however, be discounted by his
prophecy in the same book that the London County Council would be
merely a glorified vestry, utterly indifferent to the public interest,
and unlikely to attract any candidates of distinction!

An almost equal display of Philistinism--perhaps greater in proportion
to its length--is exhibited by an article entitled "Twelve Hours of
New York," published by Count Gleichen in _Murray's Magazine_
(February, 1890). This energetic young man succeeded (in his own
belief) in seeing all the sights of New York in the time indicated by
the title of his article, and apparently met nothing to his taste
except the Hoffman House bar and the large rugs with which the
cab-horses were swathed. He found his hotel a den of incivility and
his dinner "a squashy, sloppy meal." He wishes he had spent the day in
Canada instead. He is great in his scorn for the "glue kettle" helmets
of the New York police, and for the ferry-boats in the harbour, to
which he vastly prefers what he wittily and originally styles the
"common or garden steamer." His feet, in his own elegant phrase, felt
"like a jelly" after four hours of New York pavement. What are the
Americans to think of us when they find one of our innermost and most
aristocratic circle writing stuff like this under the ægis of,
perhaps, the foremost of British publishers?

As a third instance of the ingratiating manner in which Englishmen
write of Americans, we may take the following paragraph from "Travel
and Talk," an interesting record of much journeying by that well-known
London clergyman, the Rev. H.R. Haweis: "Among the numerous kind
attentions I was favoured with and somewhat embarrassed by was the
assiduous hospitality of another singular lady, _also since dead_. I
allude to Mrs. Barnard, the wife of the venerable principal of
Columbia College, a well-known and admirably appointed educational
institution in New York. This good lady was bent upon our staying at
the college, and hunted us from house to house until we took up our
abode with her, and, I confess, I found her rather amusing at first,
and I am sure she meant most kindly. But there was an inconceivable
fidgetiness about her, and an incapacity to let people alone, or even
listen to anything they said in answer to her questions, which poured
as from a quick-firing gun, that became at last intolerable." Comment
on this passage would be entirely superfluous; but I cannot help
drawing attention to the supreme touch of gracefulness added by the
three words I have italicised.

There is one English critic of American life whose opinion cannot be
treated cavalierly--least of all by those who feel, as I do, how
inestimable is our debt to him as a leader in the paths of sweetness
and light. But even in the presence of Matthew Arnold I desire to
preserve the attitude of "_nullius addictus jurare in verba
magistri_," and I cannot but believe that his estimate of America,
while including much that is subtle, clear-sighted, and tonic, is in
certain respects inadequate and misleading. He unfortunately committed
the mistake of writing on the United States before visiting the
country, and had made up his mind in advance that it was almost
exclusively peopled by, and entirely run in the interests of, the
British dissenting Philistine with a difference.

It is the more to be regretted that he adopted this attitude of
premature judgment of American characteristics because it is only too
prevalent among his less distinguished fellow-countrymen. From this
position of _parti pris_, maintained with all his own inimitable
suavity and grace, it seems to me that he was never wholly able to
advance (or retire), though he candidly admitted that he found the
difference between the British and American Philistine vastly greater
than he anticipated. The members of his preconceived syllogism seem to
be somewhat as follows: the money-making and comfort-loving classes in
England are essentially Philistine; the United States as a nation is
given over to money-making; _ergo_, its inhabitants must all be
Philistines. Furthermore, the British Philistines are to a very large
extent dissenters: the United States has no established church;
_ergo_, it must be the Paradise of the dissenter.

This line of argument ignores the fact that the stolid
self-satisfaction in materialistic comfort, which he defines as the
essence of Philistinism, is _not_ a predominant trait in the American
class in which our English experience would lead us to look for it.
The American man of business, with his restless discontent and
nervous, over-strained pursuit of wealth, may not be a more inspiring
object than his British brother, but he has little of the smugness
which Mr. Arnold has taught us to associate with the label of
Philistinism. And his womankind is perhaps even less open to this
particular reproach. Mr. Arnold ignores a whole far-reaching series of
American social phenomena which have practically nothing in common
with British nonconformity, and lets a similarity of nomenclature
blind him too much to the differentiation of entirely novel
conditions. The Methodist "Moonshiner" of Tennessee is hardly cast in
the same mould as the deacon of a London Little Bethel; and even the
most legitimate children of the Puritans have not descended from the
common stock in parallel lines in England and America.

Mr. Arnold admitted that the political clothes of Brother Jonathan
fitted him admirably, and allowed that he can and does think
straighter (_c'est le bonheur des hommes quand ils pensent juste_)
than we can in the maze of our unnatural and antiquated complications;
he wholly admired the natural, unselfconscious manner of the American
woman; he saw that the wage-earner lived more comfortably than in
Europe; he noted that wealthy Americans were not dogged by envy in the
same way as in England, partly because wealth was felt to be more
within the range of all, and partly because it was much less often
used for the gratification of vile and selfish appetites; he admitted
that America was none the worse for the lack of a materialised
aristocracy such as ours; he praises the spirit which levels false and
conventional distinctions, and waives the use of such invidious
discriminations as our "Mr." and "Esquire." Admissions such as these,
coming from such a man as he, are of untold value in promoting the
growth of a proper sentiment towards our transatlantic kinsmen. When
he points out that the dangers of such a community as the United
States include a tendency to rely too much on the machinery of
institutions; an absence of the discipline of respect; a proneness to
hardness, materialism, exaggeration, and boastfulness; a false
smartness and a false audacity,--the wise American will do well to
ponder his sayings, hard though they may sound. When, however, he goes
on to point out the "prime necessity of civilisation being
interesting," and to assert that American civilisation is lacking in
interest, we may well doubt whether on the one hand the quality of
interest is not too highly exalted, and, on the other, whether the
denial of interest to American life does not indicate an almost
insular narrowness in the conception of what is interesting. When he
finds a want of soul and delicacy in the American as compared with
John Bull, some of us must feel that if he is right the latitude of
interpretation of these terms must indeed be oceanic. When he gravely
cites the shrewd and ingenious Benjamin Franklin as the most
considerable man whom America has yet produced, we must respectfully
but firmly take exception to his standard of measurement. When he
declares that Abraham Lincoln has no claim to distinction, we feel
that the writer must have in mind distinction of a singularly
conventional and superficial nature; and we are not reassured by the
_quasi_ brutality of the remark in one of his letters, to the effect
that Lincoln's assassination brought into American history a dash of
the tragic and romantic in which it had hitherto been so sadly lacking
("_sic semper tyrannis_ is so unlike anything Yankee or English middle
class"). When he asserts that from Maine to Florida and back again all
America Hebraises, we reflect with some bewilderment that hitherto we
had believed the New Orleans creole (_e.g._) to be as far removed from
Hebraising as any type we knew of. It is strikingly characteristic of
the weak side of Mr. Arnold's outlook on America that he went to stay
with Mr. P.T. Barnum, the celebrated showman, without the least idea
that his American friends might think the choice of hosts a peculiar
one. To him, to a very large extent, Americans were all alike
middle-class, dissenting Philistines; and so far as appears on the
surface, Mr. Barnum's desire to "belong to the minority" pleased him
as much as any other sign of approval conferred upon him in America.

A native of the British Isles is sometimes apt to be a little nettled
when he finds a native of the United States regarding him as a
"foreigner" and talking of him accordingly. An Englishman never means
the natives of the United States when he speaks of "foreigners;" he
reserves that epithet for non-English-speaking races. In this respect
it would seem as if the Briton, for once, took the wider, the more
genial and human, point of view; as if he had the keener appreciation
of the ties of race and language. It is as if he cherished continually
a sub-dominant consciousness of the fact that the occupation of the
North American continent by the Anglo-Saxons is one of the greatest
events in English history--that America is peopled by Englishmen. When
he thinks of the events of 1776 he feels, to use Mr. Hall Caine's
illustration, like Dr. Johnson, who dreamed that he had been worsted
in conversation, but reflected when he awoke that the conversation of
his adversary must also have been his own. As opposed to this there
may be a grain of self-assertion in the American use of the term as
applied to the British; it is as if they would emphasise the fact that
they are no mere offshoot of England, that the Colonial days have long
since gone by, and that the United States is an independent nation
with a right to have its own "foreigners." An American friend suggests
that the different usage of the two lands may be partly owing to the
fact that the cordial, frank demeanour of the American, coupled with
his use of the same tongue, makes an Englishman absolutely forget that
he is not a fellow-countryman, while the subtler American is keenly
conscious of differences which escape the obtuser Englishman. Another
partial explanation is that the first step across our frontier brings
us to a land where an unknown tongue is spoken, and that we have
consequently welded into one the two ideas of foreignhood and
unintelligibility; while the American, on the other hand, identifies
himself with his continent and regards all as foreigners who are not
natives of it.

The point would hardly be worth dwelling upon, were it not that the
different attitude it denotes really leads in some instances to actual
misunderstanding. The Englishman, with his somewhat unsensitive
feelers, is apt, in all good faith and unconsciousness, to criticise
American ways to the American with much more freedom than he would
criticise French ways to a Frenchman. It is as if he should say, "You
and I are brothers, or at least cousins; we are a much better sort
than all those foreign Johnnies; and so there's no harm in my pointing
out to you that you're wrong here and ought to change there." But,
alas, who is quicker to resent our criticism than they of our own
household? And so the American, overlooking the sort of clumsy
compliment that is implied in the assurance of kinship involved in the
very frankness of our fault-finding criticism, resents most keenly the
criticisms that are couched in his own language, and sees nothing but
impertinent hostility in the attitude of John Bull. And who is to
convince him that it is, as in a Scottish wooing, because we love him
that we tease him, and in so doing put him (in our eyes) on a vastly
higher pedestal than the "blasted foreigner" whose case we consider
past praying for? And who is to teach us that Brother Jonathan is able
now to give us at least as many hints as we can give him, and that we
must realise that the same sauce must be served with both birds? Thus
each resiles from the encounter infinitely more pained than if the
antagonist had been a German or a Frenchman. The very fact that we
speak the same tongue often leads to false assumptions of mutual
knowledge, and so to offences of unguarded ignorance.

One of the most conspicuous differences between the American and the
Briton is that the former, take him for all in all, is distinctly the
more articulate animal of the two. The Englishman seems to have
learned, through countless generations, that he can express himself
better and more surely in deeds than in words, and has come to
distrust in others a fatal fluency of expressiveness which he feels
would be exaggerated and even false in himself. A man often has to
wait for his own death to find out what his English friend thinks of
him; and

    "Wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us
    To see oursels as others see us,"

we might often be surprised to discover what a wealth of real
affection and esteem lies hid under the glacier of Anglican
indifference. The American poet who found his song in the heart of a
friend could have done so, were the friend English, only by the aid of
a post-mortem examination. The American, on the other hand, has the
most open and genial way of expressing his interest in you; and when
you have readjusted the scale of the moral thermometer so as to allow
for the change of temperament, you will find this frankness most
delightfully stimulating. It requires, however, an intimate knowledge
of both countries to understand that when an Englishman congratulates
you on a success by exclaiming, "Hallo, old chap, I didn't know you
had it in you," he means just as much as your American friend, whose
phrase is: "Bravo, Billy, I always _knew_ you could do something
fine."

That the superior powers of articulation possessed by the American
sometimes takes the form of profuse and even extreme volubility will
hardly be denied by those conversant with the facts. The American may
not be more profound than his English cousin or even more fertile in
ideas, but as a rule he is much more ready and easy in the discussion
of the moment; whatever the state of his "gold reserve" may be, he has
no lack of the small counters of conversation. In its proper place
this faculty is undoubtedly most agreeable; in the fleeting interviews
which compose so much of social intercourse, he is distinctly at an
advantage who has the power of coming to the front at once without
wasting precious time in preliminaries and reconnaissances. Other
things being equal, the chances of agreeable conversation at dinner,
at the club, or in the pauses of the dance are better in the United
States than in England. The "next man" of the new world is apt to talk
better and to be wider in his sympathies than the "next man" of the
old. On the other hand, it seems to me equally true that the Americans
possess the defects of their qualities in this as in other respects;
they are often apt to talk too much, they are afraid of a
conversational lull, and do not sufficiently appreciate the charm of
"flashes of brilliant silence." It seemed to me that they often
carried a most unnecessary amount of volubility into their business
life; and I sometimes wondered whether the greater energy and rush
that they apparently put into their conduct of affairs were not due to
the necessity of making up time lost in superfluous chatter. If an
Englishman has a mile to go to an appointment he will take his
leisurely twenty minutes to do the distance, and then settle his
business in two or three dozen sentences; an American is much more
likely to devour the ground in five minutes, and then spend an hour or
more in lively conversation not wholly pertinent to the matter in
hand. The American mind is discursive, open, wide in its interests,
alive to suggestion, pliant, emotional, imaginative; the English mind
is concentrated, substantial, indifferent to the merely relative,
matter-of-fact, stiff, and inflexible.

The English have reduced to a fine art the practice of a stony
impassivity, which on its highest plane is not devoid of a certain
impressiveness. On ordinary occasions it is apt to excite either the
ire or the amusement of the representatives of a more animated race. I
suppose it is almost impossible for an untravelled Englishman to
realise the ridiculous side of the Church Parade in Hyde Park--as it
would appear, say, to a lively girl from Baltimore. The parade is a
collection of human beings, presumably brought together for the sake
of seeing and being seen. Yet the obvious aim of each English item in
the crowd is to deprive his features of all expression, and to look as
if he were absolutely unconscious that his own party were not the only
one on the ground. Such vulgarity as the exhibition of the slightest
interest in a being to whom he has not been introduced would be
treason to his dearest traditions. In an American function of the same
kind, the actors take an undisguised interest in each other, while a
French or Italian assembly would be still more demonstrative. On the
surface the English attitude is distinctly inhuman; it reminds one
that England is still the stronghold of the obsolescent institution of
caste, that it frankly and even brutally asserts the essential
inequality of man. Nowhere, perhaps, will you see a bigger and
handsomer, healthier, better-groomed, more efficient set of human
animals; but their straight-ahead, phlegmatic, expressionless gaze,
the want of animated talk, the absence of any show of intelligence,
emphasises our feeling that they are _animals_.

The Briton's indifference to criticism is at once his strength and his
weakness. It makes him invincible in a cause which has dominated his
conscience; it hinders him in the attainment of a luminous
discrimination between cause and cause. His profound self-confidence,
his sheer good sense, his dogged persistence, his bulldog courage, his
essential honesty of purpose, bring him to the goal in spite of the
unnecessary obstacles that have been heaped on his path by his own
[Greek: hubris] and contempt of others. He chooses what is physically
the shortest line in preference to the line of least resistance. He
makes up for his want of light by his superiority in weight. Social
adaptability is not his foible. He accepts the conventionality of his
class and wears it as an impenetrable armour. Out of his own class he
may sometimes appear less conventional than the American, simply
because the latter is quick to adopt the manners of a new _milieu_,
while John Bull clings doggedly or unconsciously to his old conventions.
If an American and an English shop-girl were simultaneously married to
peers of the realm, the odds would be a hundred to one in favour of the
former in the race for self-identification with her new environment.

The American facility of expression, if I do not err, springs largely
from an amiable difference in temperament. The American is, on the
whole, more genially disposed to all and sundry. I do not say that he
is capable of truer friendships or of greater sacrifices for a friend
than the Englishman; but the window through which he looks out on
humanity at large has panes of a ruddier hue, he cultivates a mildness
of tone, which a Briton is apt to despise as weakness. His desire to
oblige sometimes impels him to uncharacteristic actions, which lead to
fallacious generalisations on the part of his British critic. He
shrinks from any assumption of superiority; he is apt to think twice
of the feelings of his inferiors. The American tends to consider each
stranger he meets--at any rate within his own social sphere--as a good
fellow until he proves himself the contrary; with the Englishman the
presumption is rather the other way. An Englishman usually excuses
this national trait as really due to modesty and shyness; but I fear
there is in it a very large element of sheer bad manners, and of a
cowardly fear of compromising one's self with undesirable
acquaintances. Englishmen are apt to take _omne ignotum pro
horribile_, and their translation of the Latin phrase varies from the
lifting of the aristocratic eyebrow over the unwarranted address of
the casual companion at _table d'hôte_ down to the "'ere's a stranger,
let's 'eave 'arf a brick at 'im" of the Black Country. In England I am
apt to feel painfully what a lame dog I am; in America I feel, well,
if I am a lame dog I am being helped most delightfully over the
conversational stile. An Englishman says, "Would you _mind_ doing
so-and-so for me?" showing by the very form of the question that he
thinks kindness likely to be troublesome. An American says, "Wouldn't
you _like_ to do this for me?" assuming the superior attitude of one
who feels that to give an opportunity to do a kindness is itself to
confer a favour. The Continental European shares with the American the
merit of having manners on the self-regarding pattern of _noblesse
oblige_, while the Englishman wants to know who _you_ are, so as to
put on his best manners only if the _force majeure_ of your social
standing compels him. No one wishes the Englishman to express more
than he really feels or to increase the already overwhelming mass of
conventional insincerity; but it might undoubtedly be well for him to
consider whether it is not his positive duty to drop a little more of
the oil of human kindness on the wheels of the social machinery, and
to understand that it is perfectly possible for two strangers to speak
with and look at each other pleasantly without thereby contracting the
obligation of eternal friendship. Why should an English traveller deem
it worthy of special record that when calling at a Boston club, he
found his friend and host not yet arrived, other members of the club,
unknown to him, had put themselves about to entertain him? An American
gentleman would find this too natural to call for remark.

Whether we like it or not, we have to acknowledge the fact that our
brutal frankness, our brusqueness, and our extreme fondness for
calling a spade a spade are often extremely disagreeable to our
American cousins, and make them (temporarily at any rate) feel
themselves to be our superiors in the matter of gentle breeding. As
Col. T.W. Higginson has phrased it, they think that "the English
nation has truthfulness enough for a whole continent, and almost too
much for an island." They think that a line might be drawn somewhere
between dissembling our love and kicking them downstairs. They also
object to our use of such terms as "beastly," "stinking," and "rot;"
and we must admit that they do so with justice, while we cannot assoil
them altogether of the opposite tendency of a prim prudishness in the
avoidance of certain natural and necessary words. For myself I
unfeignedly admire the delicacy which leads to a certain parsimony in
the use of words like "perspiration," "cleaning one's self," and so
on. And, however much we may laugh at the class that insists upon the
name of "help" instead of "servant," we cannot but respect the class
which yields to the demand and looks with horror on the English slang
word "slavey."

On the other hand there are certain little personal habits, such as
the public use of the toothpick, and what Mr. Morley Roberts calls the
modern form of [Greek: kottabos], which I think often find themselves
in better company in America than in England. Still I desire to speak
here with all due diffidence. I remember when I pointed out to a
Boston girl that an American actor in a piece before us, representing
high life in London, was committing a gross solecism in moistening his
pencil in his mouth before adding his address to his visiting card,
she trumped my criticism at once by the information that a
distinguished English journalist, with a handle to his name, who
recently made a successful lecturing tour in the United States,
openly and deliberately moistened his thumb in the same ingenuous
fashion to aid him in turning over the leaves of his manuscript.

A feature of the average middle-class Englishman which the American
cannot easily understand is his tacit recognition of the fact that
somebody else (the aristocrat) is his superior. In fact, this is
sometimes a fertile source of misunderstanding, and it is apt to beget
in the American an entirely false idea of what he thinks the innate
servility of the Englishman. He must remember that the aristocratic
prestige is a growth of centuries, that it has come to form part of
the atmosphere, that it is often accepted as unconsciously as the law
of gravitation. This is a case where the same attitude in an American
mind (and, alas, we occasionally see it in American residents in
London) would betoken an infinitely lower moral and mental plane than
it does in the Englishman. No true American could accept the
proposition that "Lord Tom Noddy might do so-and-so, but it would be a
very different thing for a man in my position;" and yet an Englishman
(I regret to say) might speak thus and still be a very decent fellow,
whom it would be unjust cruelty to call a snob. No doubt the English
aristocracy (as I think Mr. Henry James has said) now occupies a
heroic position without heroism; but the glamour of the past still
shines on their faded escutcheons, and "the love of freedom itself is
hardly stronger in England than the love of aristocracy."

Matthew Arnold has pointed out to us how the aristocracy acts like an
incubus on the middle classes of Great Britain, and he has put it on
record that he was struck with the buoyancy, enjoyment of life, and
freedom of constraint of the corresponding classes in America. In
England, he says, a man feels that it is the _upper class_ which
represents him; in the United States he feels that it is the _State_,
_i.e._, himself. In England it is the Barbarian alone that dares be
indifferent to the opinion of his fellows; in America everyone
expresses his opinion and "voices" his idiosyncrasies with perfect
freedom. This position has, however, its seamy side. There is in
America a certain anarchy in questions of taste and manners which the
long possession of a leisured, a cultivated class tends to save us
from in England. I never felt so kindly a feeling towards our
so-called "upper class" as when travelling in the United States and
noting some effects of its absence. This class has an accepted
position in the social hierarchy; its dicta are taken as authoritative
on points of etiquette, just as the clergy are looked on as the
official guardians of religious and ecclesiastical standards. I do not
here pretend to discuss the value of the moral example of our
_jeunesse dorée_, filtering down through the successive strata of
society; but their influence in setting the fashion on such points as
scrupulous personal cleanliness, the avoidance of the _outré_ in
costume, and the maintenance of an honourable and generous standard in
their money dealings with each other, is distinctly on the side of the
humanities. In America--at least, "Out West"--everyone practically is
his own guide, and the _nouveau riche_ spends his money strictly in
accordance with his own standard of taste. The result is often as
appalling in its hideousness as it is startling in its costliness. On
the other hand I am bound to state that I have known American men of
great wealth whose simplicity of type could hardly be paralleled in
England (except, perchance, within the Society of Friends). They do
not feel any social pressure to imitate the establishment of My Lord
or His Grace; and spend their money for what really interests them
without reference to the demands of society.

It is rather interesting to observe the different forms which
vulgarity is apt to take in the two countries. In England vulgarity is
stolid; in America it is smart and aggressive. We are apt, I think, to
overestimate the amount in the latter country because it is so much
more in voluble evidence. An English vulgarian is often hushed into
silence by the presence of his social superior; an American vulgarian
either recognises none such or tries to prove himself as good as you
by being unnecessarily _grob_. This has, at any rate, a manlier air
than the vulgar obsequiousness of England towards the superior on the
one hand or its cynical insolence to the inferior on the other. The
feeling which made a French lady of fashion in the seventeenth century
dress herself in the presence of a footman with as much unconcern as
if he were a piece of furniture still finds its modified analogy in
England, but scarcely in America. Almost the only field in which the
Americans struck me as showing anything like servility was in their
treatment of such mighty potentates as railway conductors, hotel
clerks, and policemen. Whether, until a millenial golden mean is
attained, this is better than our English bullying tone in the same
sphere might be an interesting question for casuists.

Americans can rarely understand the amount of social recognition given
by English duchesses to such American visitors as Col. William Cody,
generally known as "Buffalo Bill." They do not reflect that it is
just because the social gap between the two is so irretrievably vast
and so universally recognised that the duchesses can afford to amuse
themselves cursorily with any eccentricity that offers itself. As
Pomona's husband put it, people in England are like types with letters
at one end and can easily be sorted out of a state of "pi," while
Americans are theoretically all alike, like carpet-tacks. Thus
Americans of the best class often shun the free mixing that takes
place in England, because they know that the process of redistribution
will be neither easy nor popular. The intangible sieve thus placed
between the best and the not-so-good is of a fine discrimination,
beside which our conventional net-works seem coarse and ineffective.

Since returning from the United States I have occasionally been asked
how the general tone of morality in that country compared with that in
our own. To answer such a question with anything approaching to an air
of finality or absoluteness would be an act of extreme presumption.
The opinions which one holds depend so obviously on a number of
contingent and accidental circumstances, and must so inevitably be
tinged by one's personal experiences, that their validity can at best
have but an approximate and tentative character. In making this
comparison, too, it is only right to disregard the phenomena of mining
camps and other phases of life on the fringes of American
civilisation, which can be fairly compared only with pioneer life on
the extreme frontiers of the British Empire. From a similar cause we
may omit from the comparison a great part of the Southern States,
where we do not find a homogeneous mass of white civilisation, but a
state of society inexpressibly complicated by the presence of an
inferior race. To compare the Southerner with the Englishman we should
need to observe the latter as he exists in, say, one of our African
colonies. Speaking, then, with these reservations, I should feel
inclined to say that in domestic and social morality the Americans are
ahead of us, in commercial morality rather behind than before, and in
political morality distinctly behind.

Thus, in the first of these fields we find the American more
good-tempered and good-natured than the Englishman. Women, children,
and animals are treated with considerably more kindness. The American
translation of paterfamilias is not domestic tyrant. Horses are driven
by the voice rather than by the whip. The superior does not thrust his
superiority on his inferior so brutally as we are apt to do. There is
a general intention to make things pleasant--at any rate so long as it
does not involve the doer in loss. There is less _gratuitous_
insolence. Servility, with its attendant hypocrisy and deceit, is
conspicuously absent; and the general spirit of independence, if
sometimes needlessly boorish in its manifestations, is at least sturdy
and manly. In England we are rude to those weaker than ourselves; in
America the rudeness is apt to be directed against those whom we
suspect to be in some way our superior. Man is regarded by man rather
as an object of interest than as an object of suspicion. Charity is
very widespread; and the idea of a fellow-creature actually suffering
from want of food or shelter is, perhaps, more repugnant to the
average American than to the average Englishman, and more apt to act
immediately on his purse-strings. In that which popular language
usually means when it speaks of immorality, all outward indications
point to the greater purity of the American. The conversation of the
smoking-room is a little less apt to be _risqué_; the possibility of
masculine continence is more often taken for granted; solicitation on
the streets is rare; few American publishers of repute dare to issue
the semi-prurient style of novel at present so rife in England; the
columns of the leading magazines are almost prudishly closed to
anything suggesting the improper. The tone of the stage is distinctly
healthier, and adaptations of hectic French plays are by no means so
popular, in spite of the general sympathy of American taste with
French. The statistics of illegitimacy point in the same direction,
though I admit that this is not necessarily a sign of unsophisticated
morality. In a word, when an Englishman goes to France he feels that
the moral tone in this respect is more lax than in England; when he
goes to America he feels that it is more firm. And he will hardly find
adequate the French explanation, _viz._, that there is not less vice
but more hypocrisy in the Anglo-Saxon community.

There is another very important sphere of morality in which the
general attitude of the United States seems to me very appreciably
superior to that of England. It is that to which St. Paul refers when
he says, "If a man will not work, neither shall he eat." American
public sentiment is distinctly ahead of ours in recognising that a
life of idleness is wrong in itself, and that the possibility of
leading such a life acts most prejudicially on character. The American
answer to the Englishman trying to define what he meant by "gentlemen
of leisure" "Ah, we call them _tramps_ in America"--is not merely a
jest, but enshrines a deep ethnical and ethical principle. Most
Americans would, I think, agree strongly with Mr. Bosanquet's
philosophical if somewhat cumbersomely worded definition of legitimate
private property, "that things should not come miraculously and be
unaffected by your dealings with them, but that you should be in
contact with something which in the external world is the definite
material representative of yourself" ("Aspects of the Social Problem,"
p. 313). The British gentleman, aware that his dinner does not agree
with him unless he has put forth a certain amount of physical energy,
reverts to one of the earliest and most primitive forms of work,
_viz._, hunting. There is a small--a very small--class in the United
States in the same predicament; but as a rule the worker there is not
only more honoured, but also works more in accordance with the spirit
of the age.

The general attitude of Americans towards militarism seems to me also
superior to ours; and one of the keenest dreads of the best American
citizens during a recent wave of jingoism was that of "the reflex
influence of militarism upon the national character, the
transformation of a peace-loving people into a nation of swaggerers
ever ready to take offence, prone to create difficulties, eager to
shed blood, and taking all sorts of occasions to bring the Christian
religion to shame under pretence of vindicating the rights of humanity
in some other country." The spectacle of a section in the United
States apparently ready to step down from its pedestal of honourable
neutrality, and run its head into the ignoble web of European
complications, was indeed one to make both gods and mortals weep. But
I do not believe it expressed the true attitude of the real American
people. Perhaps the personal element enters too largely into my
ascription of superior morality to the Americans in this matter,
because I can never thoroughly enjoy a military pageant, no matter how
brilliant, for thinking of the brutal, animal, inhuman element in our
nature of which it is, after all, the expression: military pomp is to
me merely the surface iridescence of a malarious pool, and the honour
paid to our life destroyers would, from my point of view, be
infinitely better bestowed on life preservers, such as the noble and
intrepid corps of firemen. Sympathisers with this view seem much more
numerous in the United States than in England.[11]

The judgment of an uncommercial traveller on commercial morality may
well be held as a feather-weight in the balance. Such as mine is, it
is gathered mainly from the tone of casual conversation, from which I
should conclude that a considerable proportion of Americans read a
well-known proverb as "All's fair in love or business." Men--I will
not say of a high character and standing, but men of a standing and
character who would not have done it in England--told me instances of
their sharp practices in business, with an evident expectation of my
admiration for their shrewdness, and with no apparent sense of the
slightest moral delinquency. Possibly, when the "rules of the game"
are universally understood, there is less moral obliquity in taking
advantage of them than an outsider imagines. The prevalent belief that
America is more sedulous in the worship of the Golden Calf than any
other country arises largely, I believe, from the fact that the
chances of acquiring wealth are more frequent and easy there than
elsewhere. Opportunity makes the thief. Anyhow, the reproach comes
with a bad grace from the natives of a country which has in its annals
the outbreak of the South Sea Bubble, the railway mania of the Hudson
era, and the revelations of Mr. Hooley.

Politics enter so slightly into the scope of this book that a very few
words on the question of political morality must suffice. That
political corruption exists more commonly in the United States than in
Great Britain--especially in municipal government--may be taken as
admitted by the most eminent American publicists themselves. A very
limited degree of intercourse with "professional politicians" yields
ample confirmatory evidence. Thus, to give but one instance, a wealthy
citizen of one of the largest Eastern towns told me, with absolute
ingenuousness, how he had "dished" the (say) Republican party in a
municipal contest, not in the least because he had changed his
political sympathies, but simply because the candidates had refused to
accede to certain personal demands of his own. He spoke throughout the
conversation as if it must be perfectly apparent to me, as to any
intelligent person, that the only possible reason for working and
voting for a political party must be personal interest. I confess this
seemed to me a very significant straw. On the other hand the
conclusions usually drawn by stay-at-home English people on these
admissions is ludicrously in excess of what is warranted by the facts.
"To imagine for a moment that 60,000,000 of people--better educated
than any other nation in the world--are openly tolerating universal
corruption in all Federal, State, and municipal government is simply
assuming that these 60,000,000 are either criminals or fools." Now,
"you can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the
people all of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of
the time." A more competent judge[12] than the present writer estimates
the morals of the American political "wire-puller" as about on a level
with those of our company directors. And before my English readers
make their final decision on the American political system let them
study Chapter XLVI. of that very fascinating novel, "The Honorable
Peter Stirling," by Paul Leicester Ford. It may give them some new
light on the subject of "a government of the average," and show them
what is meant by the saying, "The boss who does the most things that
the people want can do the most things that the people don't want."

We must remember, too, that nothing is hidden from general knowledge
in America: every job comes sooner or later into the merciless glare
of publicity. And if our political sins are not the same as theirs,
they are perhaps equally heinous. Was not the British landlord who
voted against the repeal of the corn laws, so that land might continue
to bring in a high rent at the expense of the poor man, really acting
from just as corrupt a motive of self-interest as the American
legislator who accepts a bribe? It does not do to be too superior on
this question.

We may end this chapter by a typical instance of the way in which
British opinion of America is apt to be formed that comes under my
notice at the very moment I write these lines. The _Daily Chronicle_
of March 24, 1896, published a leading article on "Family Life in
America," in which it quotes with approval Mme. Blanc's assertion that
"the single woman in the United States is infinitely superior to her
European sister." In the same issue of the paper is a letter from Mrs.
Fawcett relating to a recent very deplorable occurrence in Washington,
where the daughter of a well-known resident shot a coloured boy who
was robbing her father's orchard. In the _Chronicle_ of March 25th
appears a triumphant British letter from "Old-Fashioned," asking
satirically whether the habit of using loaded revolvers is a proof of
the "infinite superiority" of the American girl. Now this estimable
gentleman is making the mistake that nine out of ten of his countrymen
constantly make in swooping down on a single _outré_ instance as
_characteristic_ of American life. If "Old-Fashioned" has not time to
pay a visit to America or to read Mr. Bryce's book, let him at least
accept my assurance that the above-mentioned incident seems to the
full as extraordinary to the Bostonian as to the Londoner, and that it
is just as typical of the habits of the American society girl as the
action of Miss Madeleine Smith was of English girls.

    "Of all the sarse thet I can call to mind,
    England doos make the most onpleasant kind.
    It's you're the sinner ollers, she's the saint;
    Whot's good's all English, all thet isn't, ain't.
    She is all thet's honest, honnable, an' fair.
    An' when the vartoos died they made her heir."

FOOTNOTES:

[9] See, _e.g._, "Ad Familiares," 5, 18.

[10] This was written just after President Cleveland's pronunciamento
in regard to Venezuela, and thus long before the outbreak of the war
with Spain.

[11] This paragraph was written before the outbreak of the
Spanish-American war; but the events of that struggle do not seem to
me to call for serious modification of the opinion expressed above.

[12] Sir George Campbell, in "Black and White in America."



VII

Sports and Amusements


In face of the immense sums of money spent on all kinds of sport, the
size and wealth of the athletic associations, the swollen salaries of
baseball players, the prominence afforded to sporting events in the
newspapers, the number of "world's records" made in the United States,
and the tremendous excitement over inter-university football matches
and international yacht-races, it may seem wanton to assert that the
love of sport is not by any means so genuine or so universal in the
United States as in Great Britain; and yet I am not at all sure that
such a statement would not be absolutely true. By true "love of sport"
I understand the enjoyment that arises from either practising or
seeing others practise some form of skill-demanding amusement for its
own sake, without question of pecuniary profit; and the true sport
lover is not satisfied unless the best man wins, whether he be friend
or foe. Sport ceases to be sport as soon as it is carried on as if it
were war, where "all" is proverbially "fair." The excitement of
gambling does not seem to me to be fairly covered by the phrase "love
of sport," and no more does the mere desire to see one's university,
state, or nation triumph over someone else's university, state, or
nation. There are thousands of people who rejoice over or bewail the
result of the Derby without thereby proving their possession of any
right to the title of sportsman; there is no difference of quality
between the speculator in grain and the speculator in horseflesh and
jockeys' nerves. So, too, there are many thousands who yell for Yale
in a football match who have no real sporting instinct whatever.
Sport, to be sport, must jealously shun all attempts to make it a
business; the more there is of the spirit of professionalism in any
game or athletic exercise the less it deserves to be called a sport. A
sport in the true sense of the word must be practised for fun or
glory, not for dollars and cents; and the desire to win must be very
strictly subordinated to the sense of honour and fair play. The
book-making spirit has undoubtedly entered far too largely into many
of the most characteristic of British sports, and I have no desire to
palliate or excuse our national shortcomings in this or other
respects. But the hard commercial spirit to which I have alluded seems
to me to pervade American sport much more universally than it does the
sport of England, and to form almost always a much larger factor in
the interest excited by any contest.

This is very clearly shown by the way in which games are carried on at
the universities of the two countries. Most members of an English
college are members of some one or other of the various athletic
associations connected with it, and it cannot be denied that the
general interest in sport is both wide and keen. But it does not
assume so "business-like" an air as it does in such a university as
Yale or Princeton. Not nearly so much money is spent in the
paraphernalia of the sport or in the process of training. The
operation of turning a pleasure into a toil is not so consistently
carried on. The members of the intercollegiate team do not obtain
leave of absence from their college duties to train and practise in
some remote corner of England as if they were prize-fighters or
yearlings. "Gate-money" does not bulk so largely in the view; in fact,
admission to many of the chief encounters is free. The atmosphere of
mystery about the doings of the crew or team is not so sedulously
cultivated. The men do not take defeat so hardly, or regard the loss
of a match as a serious calamity in life. I have the authority of Mr.
Caspar W. Whitney, the editor of _Forest and Stream_, and perhaps the
foremost living writer on sport in the United States, for the
statement that members of a defeated football team in America will
sometimes throw themselves on their faces on the turf and weep (see
his "Sporting Pilgrimage," Chapter IV., pp. 94, 95).[13] It was an
American orator who proposed the toast: "My country--right or wrong,
my country;" and there is some reason to fear that American college
athletes are tempted to adapt this in the form "Let us _win_, by fair
means or foul." I should hesitate to suggest this were it not that the
evidence on which I do so was supplied from American sources. Thus,
one American friend of mine told me he heard a member of a leading
university football team say to one of his colleagues: "You try to
knock out A.B. this bout; I've been warned once." Tactics of this kind
are freely alleged against our professional players of association
football; but it may safely be asserted that no such sentence could
issue from the lips of a member of the Oxford or Cambridge university
teams.

Mr. E.J. Brown, Track Captain of the University of California,
asserted, on his return from a visit to the Eastern States, that
Harvard was the only Eastern university in which the members of the
athletic teams were all _bonâ fide_ students. This is doubtless a very
exaggerated statement, but it would seem to indicate which way the
wind blows. The entire American tendency is to take amusement too
seriously, too strenuously. They do not allow sport to take care of
itself. "It runs to rhetoric and interviews." All good contestants
become "representatives of the American people." One serious effect of
the way in which the necessity of winning or "making records" is
constantly held up as the _raison d'être_ of athletic sports is that
it suggests to the ordinary student, who has no hopes of brilliant
success in athletics, that moderate exercise is contemptible, and that
he need do nothing to keep up his bodily vigour. Thus, Dr. Birkbeck
Hill found that the proportion of students who took part in some
athletic sport was distinctly less at Harvard than at Oxford. Nor
could I ascertain that nearly so large a proportion of the adult
population themselves played games or followed athletics of any kind
as in England. I should say, speaking roughly, that the end of his
university career or his first year in responsible business
corresponded practically for the ordinary American to the forty-fifth
year of the ordinary Englishman, _i.e._, after this time he would
either entirely or partially give up his own active participation in
outdoor exercises. Of course there are thousands of exceptions on both
sides; but the general rule remains true. The average American
professional or business man does not play baseball as his English
cousin does cricket. He goes in his thousands to see baseball
matches, and takes a very keen and vociferous interest in their
progress; but he himself has probably not handled a club since he left
college. No doubt this contrast is gradually diminishing, and such
games as lawn tennis and golf have made it practically a vanishing
quantity in the North-eastern States; but as one goes West one cannot
but feel that baseball and other sports, like dancing in China, are
almost wholly in the hands of paid performers.

The national games of cricket and baseball serve very well to
illustrate this, as well as other contrasts in the pastimes of the two
nations. In cricket the line between the amateur and the professional
has hitherto been very clearly drawn; and Englishmen are apt to
believe that there is something elevating in the very nature of the
game which makes it shed scandals as a duck's back sheds water. The
American view is, perhaps, rather that cricket is so slow a game that
there is little scope for betting, with all its attendant excitement
and evils. They point to the fact that the staid city of Philadelphia
is the only part of the United States in which cricket flourishes;
and, if in a boasting mood, they may claim with justice that it has
been cultivated there in a way that shows that it is not lack of
ability to shine in it that makes most Americans indifferent to the
game. A first-class match takes three days to play, and even a match
between two teams of small boys requires a long half-holiday. Hence
the game is largely practised by the members of the leisure class. The
grounds on which it is played are covered with the greenest and
best-kept of turf, and are often amid the most lovely surroundings.
The season at which the game is played is summer, so that looking on
is warm and comfortable. There is comparatively little chance of
serious accident; and the absence of personal contact of player with
player removes the prime cause of quarrelling and ill-feeling. Hence
ladies feel that they may frequent cricket matches in their daintiest
summer frocks and without dread of witnessing any painful accident or
unseemly scuffle. The costumes of the players are varied, appropriate,
and tasteful, and the arrangement of the fielders is very picturesque.

Baseball, on the other hand (which, _pace_, my American friends, is
simply glorified rounders), with the exception of school and college
teams, is almost wholly practised by professional players; and the
place of the county cricket matches is taken by the games between the
various cities represented in the National League, in which the
amateur is severely absent. The dress, with a long-sleeved semmet
appearing below a short-sleeved jersey, is very ugly, and gives a sort
of ruffianly look to a "nine" which it might be free from in another
costume. The ground is theoretically grass, but practically (often, at
least) hard-trodden earth or mud. A match is finished in about one
hour and a half. In running for base a player has often to throw
himself on his face, and thereby covers himself with dust or mud. The
spectators have each paid a sum varying from 1s. or 2s. to 8s. or even
10s. for admission, and are keenly excited in the contest; while their
yells, and hoots, and slangy chaff are very different to the decorous
applause of the cricket field, and rather recall an association
football crowd in the Midlands. As a rule not much sympathy or
courtesy is extended to the visiting team, and the duties of an
umpire are sometimes accompanied by real danger.[14] Several features
of the play seem distinctly unsportsmanlike. Thus, it is the regular
duty of one of the batting team, when not in himself, to try to
"rattle" the pitcher or fielder by yells and shouts just as he is
about to "pitch" or "catch" or "touch." It is not considered
dishonourable for one of the waiting strikers to pretend to be the
player really at a base and run from base to base just outside the
real line so as to confuse the fielders. On the other hand the game is
rapid, full of excitement and variety, and susceptible of infinite
development of skill. The accuracy with which a long field will throw
to base might turn an English long-leg green with envy; and the way in
which an expert pitcher will make a ball deflect _in the air_, either
up or down, to the right or left, must be seen to be believed. A
really skilful pitcher is said to be able to throw a ball in such a
way that it will go straight to within a foot of a tree, _turn out for
the tree_, and resume its original course on the other side of it!

The football match between Yale and Princeton on Thanksgiving Day
(last Thursday in November) may, perhaps, be said to hold the place in
public estimation in America that the Oxford and Cambridge boat-race
does in England. In spite of the inclement season, spectators of
either sex turn out in their thousands; and the scene, except that
furs are substituted for summer frocks, easily stands comparison with
the Eton and Harrow day at Lord's. The field is surrounded in the same
way with carriages and drags, on which the colours of the rival teams
are profusely displayed; and there are the same merry coach-top
luncheons, the same serried files of noisy partisans, and the same
general air of festivity, while the final touch is given by the fact
that a brilliant sun is not rarer in America in November than it is in
England in June. The American game of football is a developed form of
the Rugby game; but is, perhaps, not nearer it than baseball is to
rounders. It is played by eleven a side. American judges think that
neither Rugby nor Association football approaches the American game
either in skill or in demand on the player's physical endurance. This
may be so: in fact, so far as my very inexpert point of view goes I
should say that it is so. Undoubtedly the American teams go through a
much more prolonged and rigid system of training, and their scheme of
tactics, codes of signals, and sharp devices of all kinds are much
more complicated. "Tackling" is probably reduced to a finer art than
in England. Mr. Whitney, a most competent and impartial observer, does
not think that our system of "passing" would be possible with American
tacklers. Whether all this makes a better _game_ is a very different
question, and one that I should be disposed to answer in the negative.
It is a more serious business, just as a duel _à outrance_ is a more
serious business than a fencing match; but it is not so interesting to
look at and does not seem to afford the players so much _fun_. There
is little running with the ball, almost no dropping or punting, and
few free kicks. The game between Princeton and Yale which I,
shivering, saw from the top of a drag in 1891, seemed like one
prolonged, though rather loose, scrimmage; and the spectators fairly
yelled for joy when they saw the ball, which happened on an average
about once every ten or fifteen minutes. Americans have to gain five
yards for every three "downs" or else lose possession of the ball; and
hence the field is marked off by five-yard lines all the way from goal
to goal. American writers acknowledge that the English Rugby men are
much better kickers than the American players, and that it is now
seldom that the punter in America gets a fair chance to show his
skill. There are many tiresome waits in the American game; and the
practice of "interference," though certainly managed with wonderful
skill, can never seem quite fair to one brought upon the English
notions of "off-side." The concerted cheering of the students of each
university, led by a regular fugle-man, marking time with voice and
arms, seems odd to the spectator accustomed to the sparse,
spontaneous, and independent applause of an English crowd.

An American football player in full armour resembles a deep-sea diver
or a Roman retiarius more than anything else. The dress itself
consists of thickly padded knickerbockers, jersey, canvas jacket, very
heavy boots, and very thick stockings. The player then farther
protects himself by shin guards, shoulder caps, ankle and knee
supporters, and wristbands. The apparatus on his head is fearful and
wonderful to behold, including a rubber mouthpiece, a nose mask,
padded ear guards, and a curious headpiece made of steel springs,
leather straps, and India rubber. It is obvious that a man in this
cumbersome attire cannot move so quickly as an English player clad
simply in jersey, short breeches, boots, and stockings; and I question
very much whether--slugging apart--the American assumption that the
science of Yale would simply overwhelm the more elementary play of an
English university is entirely justified. Anyone who has seen an
American team in this curious paraphernalia can well understand the
shudder of apprehension that shakes an American spectator the first
time he sees an English team take the field with bare knees.

Certainly the spirit and temper with which football is played in the
United States would seem to indicate that the over-elaborate way in
which it has been handled has not been favourable to a true ideal of
manly sport. On this point I shall not rely on my own observation, but
on the statements of Americans themselves, beginning with the
semi-jocular assertion, which largely belongs to the order of true
words spoken in jest, that "in old English football you kicked the
ball; in modern English football you kick the man when you can't kick
the ball; in American football you kick the ball when you can't kick
the man." In Georgia, Indiana, Nebraska, and possibly some other
States, bills to prohibit football have actually been introduced in
the State Legislatures within the past few years. The following
sentences are taken from an article in the _Nation_ (New York),
referring to the Harvard and Yale game of 1894:

     The game on Saturday at Springfield between the two great teams
     of Harvard and Yale was by the testimony--unanimous, as far as
     our knowledge goes--of spectators and newspapers the most brutal
     ever witnessed in the United States. There are few members of
     either university--we trust there are none--who have not hung
     their heads for shame in talking over it, or thinking of it.

     In the first place, we respectfully ask the governing body of all
     colleges what they have to say for a game between youths
     presumably engaged in the cultivation of the liberal arts which
     needs among its preliminaries a supply on the field of litters
     and surgeons? Such preparations are not only brutal, but
     brutalising. How any spectator, especially any woman, can witness
     them without a shudder, so distinctly do they recall the duelling
     field and the prize ring, we are unable to understand. But that
     they are necessary and proper under the circumstances the result
     showed. There were actually seven casualties among twenty-two men
     who began the game. This is nearly 33 per cent. of the
     combatants--a larger proportion than among the Federals at Cold
     Harbor (the bloodiest battle of modern times), and much larger
     than at Waterloo or at Gravelotte. What has American culture and
     civilisation to say to this mode of training youth? "Brewer was
     so badly injured that he had to be taken off the field crying
     with mortification." Wright, captain of the Yale men, jumped on
     him with both knees, breaking his collar bone. Beard was next
     turned over to the doctors. Hallowell had his nose broken. Murphy
     was soon badly injured and taken off the field on a stretcher
     unconscious, with concussion of the brain. Butterworth, who is
     said nearly to have lost an eye, soon followed. Add that there
     was a great deal of "slugging"--that is, striking with the fist
     and kicking--which was not punished by the umpires, though two
     men were ruled out for it.

       *       *       *       *       *

     It may be laid down as a sound rule among civilised people that
     games which may be won by disabling your adversary, or wearing
     out his strength, or killing him, ought to be prohibited, at all
     events among its youth. Swiftness of foot, skill and agility,
     quickness of sight, and cunning of hands, are things to be
     encouraged in education. The use of brute force against an
     unequally matched antagonist, on the other hand, is one of the
     most debauching influences to which a young man can be exposed.
     The hurling of masses of highly trained athletes against one
     another with intent to overcome by mere weight or kicking or
     cuffing, without the possibility of the rigid superintendence
     which the referee exercises in the prize ring, cannot fail to
     blunt the sensibilities of young men, stimulate their bad
     passions, and drown their sense of fairness. When this is done in
     the sight of thousands, under the stimulation of their frantic
     cheers and encouragement, and in full view of the stretchers
     which carry their fellows from the field, for aught they know
     disabled for life, how, in the name of common sense, does it
     differ in moral influence from the Roman arena?

Now, the point in the above notice is that it is written of
"gentlemen"--of university men. It is to be feared that very similar
charges might be brought against some of the professionals of our
association teams: but our amateurs are practically exempt from any
such accusation. The climax of the whole thing is the statement by a
professor of a well-known university, that a captain of one of the
great football teams declared in a class prayer-meeting "that the
great success of the team the previous season was in his opinion due
to the fact that among the team and substitutes there were so many
praying men." The true friends of sport in the United States must wish
that the football mania may soon disappear in its present form; and
the Harvard authorities are to be warmly congratulated on the manly
stand they have taken against the evil. And it is to be devoutly hoped
that no president of a college in the future will ever, as one did in
1894, congratulate his students on the fact "that their progress and
success in study during the term just finished had been _fully equal_
to their success in intercollegiate athletics and football!".[15]

I have, however, no desire to pose as the British Pharisee, and I am
aware that, though we make the better showing in this instance, there
are others in which our record is at least as bad. The following
paragraph is taken from the _Field_ (December 7th, 1895):

     HIGHCLERE.--As various incorrect reports have been
     published of the shooting at Highclere last week, Lord Carnarvon
     has desired me to forward the enclosed particulars of the game
     shot on three days: November 26, 27, and 29, James McCraw (13,
     Berkeley-square, w.). November 26, Grotto (Brooks) Beat, 5
     partridges, 1,160 pheasants, 42 hares, 2,362 rabbits, 7 various;
     total, 3,576. November 27, Highclere Wood (Cross) Beat, 5
     partridges, 1,700 pheasants, 1 hare, 1,702 rabbits, 4 woodcock,
     16 various; total, 3,428. November 29, Beeches (Cross) Beat, 6
     partridges, 2,811 pheasants, 969 rabbits, 2 wild fowl, 15
     various; total, 3,803. Grand total: 16 partridges, 5,671
     pheasants, 43 hares, 5,033 rabbits, 4 woodcock, 2 wild fowl, 38
     various; total, 10,807. The shooters on the first two days were
     Prince Victor Duleep Singh, Prince Frederick Duleep Singh, Lord
     de Grey, Lord Ashburton, Lord Carnarvon, and Mr. Chaplin. On
     November 29 Mr. Rutherford took the place of Mr. Chaplin.

A little calculation will show that each of the six gentlemen
mentioned in the paragraph must have killed one head of game every
minute or two. This makes it impossible that there could have been
many misses. This in turn makes it certain that the pheasants in the
bag must have been nearly as tame as barndoor fowl. The shooting,
then, must have been one long drawn-out massacre of semi-tame animals,
with hardly a breathing interval. I confess such a record seems to me
as absolutely devoid of sport and as full of brutality as the worst
slugging match between Princeton and Yale; and it, moreover, lacks the
element of physical courage which is certainly necessary in the
football match. Besides, the English sinners are grown men and members
of the class which is supposed to set the pattern for the rest of the
nation; the university footballers, in spite of their own sense of
importance, are after all raw youths, to whom reason does not
altogether forbid us to hope that riper years may bring more sense and
more true manliness.

Two of the most popular outdoor amusements in the United States are
driving and sailing. I do not know how far statistics would bear me
out, but one certainly gets the impression that more people keep
horses for pleasure in America than in England. Horses are
comparatively cheap, and their keep is often lower than with us. The
light buggies must cost less than the more substantial carriages of
England. Hence, if a man is so fond of driving as to be willing to be
his own coachman and groom, the keeping of a horse and shay is not
very ruinous, especially in the country or smaller towns. As soon as
the element of wages enters into the question the result is very
different: carriage-hire is usually twice as high as in England and
often more. However that may be, it is certainly very striking to see
the immense number of one-horse "teams" that turn out for an afternoon
or evening spin in the parks and suburban roads of places like New
York, Boston, and Chicago. Many of these teams are of a plainness, not
to say shabbiness, which would make an English owner too shamefaced to
exhibit them in public. The fact that the owner is his own stableman
is often indicated by the ungroomed coat of his horse, and by the
month-old mud on his wheels. The horse, however, can generally do a
bit of smart trotting, and his owner evidently enjoys his speed and
grit. The buggies, unsubstantial as they look, are comfortable enough
when one is seated; but the access, between, through, and over the
wheels, is unpleasantly suggestive for the nervous. So fond are the
Americans of driving that they evidently look upon it as a form of
active exercise for themselves as well as for their nags. One man said
to me: "I am really getting too stout; I must start a buggy."

I am almost ashamed to avow that I spent five years in the United
States without seeing a trotting-race, though this was owing to no
lack of desire. The only remark that I shall, therefore, venture to
make about this form of sport is that the American claim that it has a
more practical bearing than the English form of horse-racing seems
justified. It is alleged indeed that the English "running" races are
of immense importance in keeping up the breed of horses; but it may
well be open to question whether the same end could not be better
attained by very different means. What is generally wanted in a horse
is draught power and ability to trot well and far. It is not clear to
the layman that a flying machine that can do a mile in a minute and a
half is the ideal parent for this form of horse. On the other hand,
the famous trotting-horses of America are just the kind of animal that
is wanted for the ordinary uses of life. Moreover, the trot is the
civilised or artificial gait as opposed to the wild and natural
gallop. There are 1,500 trotting-tracks in the United States, owned by
as many associations, besides those at all county and State fairs as
well as many private tracks at brood-farms and elsewhere. Stakes,
purses, and added moneys amount to more than $3,000,000 annually; and
the capital invested in horses, tracks, stables, farms, etc., is
enormous. The tracks are level, with start and finish directly in
front of the grand stand, and are either one mile or one-half mile in
length. They are always of earth, and are usually elliptical in shape,
though the "kite-shaped track" was for a time popular on account of
its increased speed. In this there is one straight stretch of
one-third mile, then a wide turn of one-third mile, and then a
straight run of one-third mile back to the start and finish. The
horses are driven in two-wheeled "sulkies" of little weight, and the
handicapping is exclusively by time-classes. Records of every race are
kept by two national associations. Horses that have never trotted a
mile in less than two minutes and forty seconds are in one class;
those that have never beaten 2.35 in another; those that have never
beaten 2.30 in a third; and so on down to 2.05, which has been beaten
but a dozen times. Races are always run in heats, and the winner must
win three heats. With a dozen entries (or even six or eight, the more
usual number) a race may thus occupy an entire afternoon, and require
many heats before a decision is reached. Betting is common at every
meeting, but is not so prominent as at running tracks.

The record for fast trotting is held at present by Mr. Morris Jones'
mare "Alix," which trotted a mile in two minutes three and
three-quarters seconds at Galesburg in 1894. Turfmen confidently
expect that a mile will soon be trotted in two minutes. The two-minute
mark was attained in 1897 by a _pacing_ horse.

Sailing is tremendously popular at all American seaside resorts; and
lolling over the ropes of a "cat-boat" is another form of active
exercise that finds innumerable votaries. Rowing is probably practised
in the older States with as much zest as in Great Britain, and the
fresh-water facilities are perhaps better. Except as a means to an
end, however, this mechanical form of sport has never appealed to me.
The more nearly a man can approximate to a triple-expansion engine the
better oarsman he is; no machine can be imagined that could play
cricket, golf, or tennis.

The recent development of golf--perhaps the finest of all games--both
in England and America might give rise to a whole series of
reflections on the curious vicissitudes of games and the mysterious
reasons of their development. Golf has been played universally in
Scotland for hundreds of years, right under the noses of Englishmen;
yet it is just about thirty years ago that (except Blackheath) the
first golf-club was established south of the Tweed, and the present
craze for it is of the most recent origin (1885 or so). Yet of the
eight hundred golf-clubs of the United Kingdom about four hundred are
in England. The Scots of Canada have played golf for many years, but
the practice of the game in the United States may be dated from the
establishment of the St. Andrew's Club at Yonkers in 1888. Since then
the game has been taken up with considerable enthusiasm at many
centres, and it is estimated that there are now at least forty
thousand American golfers. There is, perhaps, no game that requires
more patience to acquire satisfactorily than golf, and the preliminary
steps cannot be gobbled. It is therefore doubtful whether the game
will ever become extensively popular in a country with so much nervous
electricity in the air. I heartily wish that this half-prophecy may
prove utterly mistaken, for no better relief to overcharged nerves and
wearied brains has ever been devised than a well-matched "twosome" or
the more social "foursome;" and the fact that golf gently exercises
_all_ the muscles of the body and can be played at _all_ ages from
eight to eighty gives it a unique place among outdoor games. The skill
already attained by the best American players is simply marvellous;
and it seems by no means beyond the bounds of possibility that the
open champion of (say) the year 1902 may not have been trained on
American soil. The natural impatience of the active-minded American
makes him at present very apt to neglect the etiquette of the game.
The chance of being "driven into" is much larger on the west side of
the Atlantic than on the conservative greens of Scotland; and it seems
almost impossible to make Brother Jonathan "replace that divot." I
have seen three different parties holing out at the same time on the
same putting green. In one open handicap tournament I took part in
near Boston the scanty supply of caddies was monopolized by the
members of the club holding the tournament, and strangers, who had
never seen the course, were allowed to go round alone and carrying
their own clubs. On another occasion a friend and myself played in a
foursome handicap tournament and were informed afterwards that the
handicaps were yet to be arranged! As the match was decided in our
favour it would be ungracious to complain of this irregularity. Those
little infringements of etiquette are, after all, mere details, and
will undoubtedly become less and less frequent before the growing
knowledge and love of the game.

Lacrosse, perhaps the most perspicuous and fascinating of all games to
the impartial spectator, is, of course, chiefly played in Canada, but
there is a Lacrosse League in the Atlantic cities of the United
States. The visitor to Canada should certainly make a point of seeing
a good exposition of this most agile and graceful game, which is seen
at its best in Montreal, Toronto, or Ottawa. Unfortunately it seems to
be most trying to the temper, and I have more than once seen players
in representative matches neglect the game to indulge in a bout of
angry quarter-staff with their opponents until forcibly stopped by the
umpires, while the spectators also interfere occasionally in the most
disgraceful manner. Another drawback is the interval of ten minutes
between each game of the match, even when the game has taken only two
minutes to play. This absurd rule has been promptly discarded by the
English Lacrosse Clubs, and should certainly be modified in Canada
also.

Lawn tennis is now played almost everywhere in the United States, and
its best exponents, such as Larned and Wrenn, have attained all
but--if not quite--English championship form. The annual contest for
the championship of America, held at Newport in August, is one of the
prettiest sporting scenes on the continent. Polo and court tennis also
have their headquarters at Newport. Hunting, shooting, and fishing
are, of course, immensely popular (at least the last two) in the
United States, but lie practically beyond the pale of my experience.

Bowling or ten-pins is a favourite winter amusement of both sexes, and
occupies a far more exalted position than the English skittles. The
alleys, attached to most gymnasia and athletic-club buildings, are
often fitted up with great neatness and comfort; and even the
fashionable belle does not disdain her "bowling-club" evening, where
she meets a dozen or two of the young men and maidens of her
acquaintance. Regular meetings take place between the teams of various
athletic associations, records are made and chronicled, and
championships decided. If the game could be naturalised in England
under the same conditions as in America, our young people would find
it a most admirable opportunity for healthy exercise in the long dark
evenings of winter.

Track athletics (running, jumping, etc.) occupy very much the same
position in the United States as in England; and outside the
university sphere the same abuses of the word "amateur" and the same
instances of selling prizes and betting prevail. Mr. Caspar Whitney
says that "amateur athletics are absolutely in danger of being
exterminated in the United States if something is not done to cleanse
them." The evils are said to be greatest in the middle and far West.
There are about a score of important athletic clubs in fifteen of the
largest cities of the United States, with a membership of nearly
25,000; and many of these possess handsome clubhouses, combining the
social accommodations of the Carlton or Reform with the sporting
facilities of Queen's. The Country Club is another American
institution which may be mentioned in this connection. It consists of
a comfortably and elegantly fitted-up clubhouse, within easy driving
distance of a large city, and surrounded by facilities for tennis,
racquets, golf, polo, baseball, racing, etc. So far it has kept clear
of the degrading sport of pigeon shooting.

Training is carried out more thoroughly and consistently than in
England, and many if not most of the "records" are held in America.
The visits paid to the United States by athletic teams of the L.A.C.
and Cambridge University opened the eyes of Englishmen to what
Americans could do, the latter winning seventeen out of twenty events
and making several world's records. Indeed, there is almost too much
of a craze to make records, whereas the real sport is to beat a
competitor, not to hang round a course till the weather or other
conditions make "record-making" probable. A feature of American
athletic meetings with which we are unfamiliar in England is the
short sprinting-races, sometimes for as small a distance as fifteen
yards.

Bicycling also is exposed, as a public sport, to the same reproaches
on both sides of the Atlantic. The bad roads of America prevented the
spread of wheeling so long as the old high bicycle was the type, but
the practice has assumed enormous proportions since the invention of
the pneumatic-tired "safety." The League of American Wheelmen has done
much to improve the country roads. The lady's bicycle was invented in
the United States, and there are, perhaps, more lady riders in
proportion in that country than in any other. As evidence of the
rapidity with which things move in America it may be mentioned that
when I quitted Boston in 1893 not a single "society" lady so far as I
could hear had deigned to touch the wheel; now (1898) I understand
that even a house in Beacon Street and a lot in Mt. Auburn Cemetery
are not enough to give the guinea-stamp of rank unless at least one
member of the family is an expert wheelwoman. An amazing instance of
the receptivity and adaptability of the American attitude is seen in
the fact that the outsides of the tramway-cars in at least one Western
city are fitted with hooks for bicycles, so that the cyclist is saved
the unpleasant, jolting ride over stone pavements before reaching
suburban joys.

FOOTNOTES:

[13] I wish to confess my obligation to this interesting book for much
help in writing the present chapter.

[14] A match played in no less aristocratic a place than Newport on
Sept. 2, 1897, between the local team and a club from Brockton, ended
in a general scrimmage, in which even women joined in the cry of "Kill
the umpire!"

[15] It is, perhaps, only fair to quote on the other side the opinion
of Mr. Rudolf Lehmann, the well-known English rowing coach, who
witnessed the match between Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania
in 1897. He writes in the London _News_: "I have never seen a finer
game played with a manlier spirit. The quickness and the precision of
the players were marvellous.... The game as I saw it, though it was
violent and rough, was never brutal. Indeed, I cannot hope to see a
finer exhibition of courage, strength, and manly endurance, without a
trace of meanness."

And to Mr. Lehmann's voice may be added that of a "Mother of Nine
Sons," who wrote to the Boston _Evening Transcript_ in 1897, speaking
warmly of the advantages of football in the formation of habits of
self-control and submission to authority.



VIII

The Humour of the "Man on the Cars"


"A difference of taste in jokes is a great strain on the affections."
So wrote George Eliot in "Daniel Deronda." And the truth of the
apothegm may account for much of the friction in the intercourse of
John Bull and Brother Jonathan. For, undoubtedly, there is a wide
difference between the humour of the Englishman and the humour of the
American. John Bull's downrightness appears in his jests also. His
jokes must be unmistakable; he wants none of your quips masquerading
as serious observations. A mere twinkle of the eye is not for him a
sufficient illumination between the serious and the comic. "Those
animals are horses," Artemus Ward used to say in showing his panorama.
"I know they are--because my artist says so. I had the picture two
years before I discovered the fact. The artist came to me about six
months ago and said, 'It is useless to disguise it from you any
longer--they are horses.'"[16] This is the form of introduction that
John Bull prefers for his witticisms. He will welcome a joke as
hospitably as a visitor, if only the credentials of the one as of the
other are unimpeachable.

Now the American does not wish his joke underlined like an urgent
parliamentary whip. He wants something left to his imagination; he
wants to be tickled by the feeling that it requires a keen eye to see
the point; he may, in a word, like his champagne sweet, but he wants
his humour dry. His telephone girls halloo, but his jokes don't. In
this he resembles the Scotsman much more than the Englishman; and both
European foreigners and the Americans themselves seem aware of this.
Thus, Max O'Rell writes:

     De tous les citoyens du _Royaume_ plus ou moins _Uni_ l'ami
     Donald est le plus fini, le plus solide, le plus positif, le plus
     persévérant, le plus laborieux, et le plus spirituel.

     Le plus spirituel! voilà un grand mot de lâché. Oui, le plus
     spirituel, n'en déplaise a l'ombre de Sydney Smith.... J'espère
     bien prouver, par quelques anecdotes, que Donald a de l'esprit,
     de l'esprit de bon aloi, d'humour surtout, de cet humour fin
     subtil, qui passerait à travers la tête _d'un Cockney_ sans y
     laisser la moindre trace, sans y faire la moindre impression.

The testimony of the American is equally explicit.

The following dialogue, quoted from memory, appeared some time since
in one of the best American comic journals:

     _Tomkyns_ (of London).--I say, Vanarsdale, I told such a good
     joke, don't you know, to MacPherson, and he didn't laugh a bit! I
     suppose that's because he's a Scotsman?

     _Vanarsdale_ (of New York).--I don't know; I think it's more
     likely that it's because you are an Englishman!

An English audience is usually much slower than an American or
Scottish one to take up a joke that is anything less than obvious. I
heard Max O'Rell deliver one of his witty orations in London. The
audience was good humored, entirely with the lecturer, and only too
ready to laugh. But if his joke was the least bit subtle, the least
bit less apparent than usual, it was extraordinary how the laughter
hung fire. There would be an appreciable interval of silence; then,
perhaps, a solitary laugh in a corner of the gallery; then a sort of
platoon fire in different parts of the house; and, finally, a
simultaneous roar. So, when Mr. John Morley, in his admirable lecture
on the Carlyle centenary celebration (Dec. 5, 1895), quoted Carlyle's
saying about Sterling: "We talked about this thing and that--except in
opinion not disagreeing," there was a lapse of half-a-minute before
the audience realised that the saying had a humorous turn. In an
American audience, and I believe also in a Scottish one, the report
would have been simultaneous with the flash.

Perhaps the Americans themselves are just a little too sure of their
superiority to the English in point of humour, and indeed they often
carry their witticisms on the supposed English "obtuseness" to a point
at which exaggeration ceases to be funny. It is certainly not every
American who scoffs at English wit that is entitled to do so. There
are dullards in the United States as well as elsewhere; and nothing
can well be more ghastly than American humour run into the ground. On
the other hand their sense of loyalty to humour makes them much more
free in using it at their own expense; and some of their stories show
themselves up in the light usually reserved for John Bull. I
remember, unpatriotically, telling a stock story (to illustrate the
English slowness to take a joke) to an American writer whose pictures
of New England life are as full of a delicate sense of humour as they
are of real and simple pathos. It was, perhaps, the tale of the London
bookseller who referred to his own coiffure the American's remark
apropos of the two-volume English edition of a well-known series of
"Walks in London"--"Ah, I see you part your _Hare_ in the middle."
Whatever it was, my hearer at once capped it by the reply of a Boston
girl to her narration of the following anecdote: A railway conductor,
on his way through the cars to collect and check the tickets, noticed
a small hair-trunk lying in the forbidden central gangway, and told
the old farmer to whom it apparently belonged that it must be moved
from there at once. On a second round he found the trunk still in the
passage, reiterated his instructions more emphatically, and passed on
without listening to the attempted explanations of the farmer. On his
third round he cried: "Now, I gave you fair warning; here goes;" and
tipped the trunk overboard. Then, at last, the slow-moving farmer
found utterance and exclaimed: "All right! the trunk is none o' mine!"
To which the Boston girl: "Well, whose trunk was it?" We agreed, _nem.
con._, that this was indeed _Anglis ipsis Anglior_.

These remarks as to the comparative merits of English and American
humour must be understood as referring to the average man in each
case--the "Man on the Cars," as our cousins have it. It would be a
very different position, and one hardly tenable, to maintain that the
land of Mark Twain has produced greater literary humorists than the
land of Charles Lamb. In the matter of comic papers it may also be
doubted, even by those who most appreciate American humour, whether
England has altogether the worst of it. It is the fashion in the
States to speak of "poor old _Punch_," and to affect astonishment at
seeing in its "senile pages" anything that they have to admit to be
funny. Doubtless a great deal of very laborious and vapid jesting goes
on in the pages of the _doyen_ of English comic weeklies; but at its
best _Punch_ is hard to beat, and its humours have often a literary
quality such as is seldom met with in an American journal of the same
kind. No American paper can even remotely claim to have added so much
to the gaiety of nations as the pages that can number names like Leech
and Thackeray, Douglas Jerrold and Tom Hood, Burnand and Charles
Keene, Du Maurier and Tenniel, Linley Sambourne and the author of
"Vice Versâ," among its contributors past and present. And
besides--and the claim is a proud one--_Punch_ still remains the only
comic paper of importance that is always a perfect gentleman--a
gentleman who knows how to behave both in the smoking-room and the
drawing-room, who knows when a jest oversteps the boundary line of
coarseness, who realises that a laugh can sometimes be too dearly won.
_Punch_ is certainly a comic journal of which the English have every
reason to be proud; but if we had to name the paper most typical of
the English taste in humour we should, perhaps, be shamefacedly
compelled to turn to _Ally Sloper_.

The best American comic paper is _Life_, which is modelled on the
lines of the _Münchener Fliegende Blätter_, perhaps the funniest and
most mirth-provoking of all professedly humorous weeklies. Among the
most attractive features are the graceful and dignified drawings of
Mr. Charles Dana Gibson, who has in its pages done for American
society what Mr. Du Maurier has done for England by his scenes in
_Punch_; the sketches of F.G. Attwood and S.W. Van Schaick; and the
clever verses of M.E.W. The dryness, the smart exaggeration, the
point, the unexpectedness of American humour are all often admirably
represented in its pages; and the faults and foibles of contemporary
society are touched off with an inimitable delicacy of satire both in
pencil and pen work. _Life_, like _Punch_, has also its more serious
side; and, if it has never produced a "Song of the Shirt," it earns
our warm admiration for its steadfast championing of worthy causes,
its severe and trenchant attacks on rampant evils, and its eloquent
tributes to men who have deserved well of the country. On the other
hand, it not unfrequently publishes jokes the birth of which
considerably antedates that of the United States itself; and it
sometimes descends to a level of trifling flatness and vapidity which
no English paper of the kind can hope to equal. It is hard--for a
British critic at any rate--to see any perennial interest in the long
series of highly exaggerated drawings and jests referring to the
gutter children of New York, a series in which the same threadbare
_motifs_ are constantly recurring under the thinnest of disguises. And
occasionally--very occasionally--there is a touch of coarseness in the
drawings of _Life_ which suggests the worst features of its German
prototype rather than anything it has borrowed from England.

Among the political comic journals of America mention may be made of
_Puck_, the rough and gaudy cartoons of which have often what the
Germans would call a _packende Derbheit_ of their own that is by no
means ineffective. Of the other American--as, indeed, of the other
British--comic papers I prefer to say nothing, except that I have
often seen them in houses and in hands to which they seemed but ill
adapted.

Among the characteristics of American humour--the humour of the
average man, the average newspaper, the average play--are its utter
irreverence, its droll extravagance, its dry suggestiveness, its
_naïveté_ (real or apparent), its affectation of seriousness, its
fondness for antithesis and anti-climax. Mark Twain may stand as the
high priest of irreverence in American humour, as witnessed in his
"Innocents Abroad" and his "Yankee at the Court of King Arthur." In
this regard the humour of our transatlantic cousins cannot wholly
escape a charge of debasing the moral currency by buffoonery. It has
no reverence for the awful mystery of death and the Great Beyond. An
undertaker will place in his window a card bearing the words: "You
kick the bucket; we do the rest." A paper will head an account of the
hanging of three mulattoes with "Three Chocolate Drops." It has no
reverence for the names and phrases associated with our deepest
religious feelings. Buckeye's patent filter is advertised as
thoroughly reliable--"being what it was in the beginning, is now, and
ever shall be." Mr. Boyesen tells of meeting a venerable clergyman,
whose longevity, according to his introducer, was due to the fact that
"he was waiting for a vacancy in the Trinity." One of the daily
bulletins of the captain of the large excursion steamer on which I
visited Alaska read as follows: "The Lord only knows when it will
clear; and _he_ won't tell." And none of the two hundred passengers
seemed to find anything unseemly in this official freedom with the
name of their Creator. On a British steamer there would almost
certainly have been some sturdy Puritan to pull down the notice. One
of the best newspaper accounts of the Republican convention that
nominated Mr. J.G. Blaine for President in 1884 began as follows: "Now
a man of God, with a bald head, calls the Deity down into the _mêlée_
and bids him make the candidate the right one and induce the people to
elect him in November." If I here mention the newspaper head-line
(apropos of a hanging) "Jerked to Jesus," it is mainly to note that M.
Blouët saw it in 1888 and M. Bourget also purports to have seen it in
1894. Surely the American journalist has a fatal facility of
repetition or--?

American humour has no reverence for those in high position or
authority. An American will say of his chief executive, "Yes, the
President has a great deal of taste--and all of it bad." A current
piece of doggerel when I was in Washington ran thus:

    "Benny runs the White House,
      Levi keeps a bar,
    Johnny runs a Sunday School--
      And, damme, there you are!"

The gentlemen named are the then President, Mr. Harrison; the
Vice-President, Mr. Morton, who was owner or part owner of one of the
large Washington hotels; and Mr. Wanamaker, Postmaster General, well
known as "an earnest Christian worker."

I have seen even the sacred Declaration of Independence imitated, both
in wording and in external form, as the advertisement of a hotel.

A story current in Philadelphia refers to Mr. Richard Vaux, an eminent
citizen and member of a highly respected old Quaker family, who in his
youth had been an _attaché_ of the American Legation in London. One of
his letters home narrated with pardonable pride that he had danced
with the Princess Victoria at a royal ball and had found her a very
charming partner. His mother replied: "It pleaseth me much, Richard,
to hear of thy success at the ball in Buckingham Palace; but thee must
remember it would be a great blow to thy father to have thee marry out
of meeting."

Philosophy, art, and letters receive no greater deference at the hands
of the American humorist. Even an Oliver Wendell Holmes will say of
metaphysics that it is like "splitting a log; when you have done, you
have two more to split." A poster long used by the comedians Crane and
Robson represented these popular favourites in the guise of the two
lowermost cherubs in the Sistine Madonna. Bill Nye's assertion that
"the peculiarity of classical music is that it is so much better than
it sounds" is typical of a whole battalion of quips. Scenery, even
when associated with poetry, fares no better. The advertising fiend
who defaces the most picturesque rocks with his atrocious
announcements is, perhaps, hardly entitled to the name of humorist;
but the man who affixed the name of Minniegiggle to a small fall near
the famous Minnehaha evidently thought himself one. So, doubtless, did
one of my predecessors in a dressing-cabin at Niagara, who had
inscribed on its walls:

    "Cannon to right of them,
    Cannon to left of them,
    Cannon in front of them,
    Volleyed and thundered!
    But the man who desc_i_nds
    Through the Cave of the Winds
    Can give points to the noble six hundred."

Of the extravagant exaggeration of American humour it is hardly
necessary to give examples. This, to the ordinary observer, has
perhaps been always its salient feature; and stock examples will occur
to everyone. It is easy to see how readily this form of humour can be
abused, and as a matter of fact it is abused daily and hourly. Many
would-be American humorists fail entirely to see that exaggeration
_alone_ is not necessarily funny.

To illustrate: the story of the woman who described the suddenness of
the American cyclone by saying that, as she looked up from her
gardening, "she saw the air black with her intimate friends," seems to
me a thoroughly humorous application of the exaggeration principle.
So, too, is the description of a man so terribly thin that he never
could tell whether he had the stomach-ache or the lumbago. But the
jester who expects you to laugh at the tale of the fish that was so
large that the water of the lake subsided two feet when it was drawn
ashore simply does not know where humour ends and drivelling idiocy
begins.

The dry suggestiveness of American humour is also a well-known
feature. In its crudest phase it assumes such forms as the following:
"Mrs. William Hankins lighted her fire with coal oil on February 23.
Her clothes fit the present Mrs. Hankins to a T." The ordinary
Englishman will see the point of a jest like this (though his mind
will not fly to it with the electric rapidity of the American's), but
the more delicate forms of this allusive style of wit will often
escape him altogether. Or, if he now begins to "jump" with an almost
American agility it is because the cleverest witticisms of the Detroit
_Free Press_ are now constantly served up to him in the comic columns
of his evening paper. We have got the length of being consumers if not
producers of this style of jest.

In its higher developments this quality of humour melts imperceptibly
into irony. This has been cultivated by the Americans with great
success--perhaps never better than in the columns of that admirable
weekly journal the _Nation_. Anyone who cares to search the files of
about eight or ten years back will find a number of ironical leaders,
which by their subtlety and wit delighted those who "caught on,"
while, on the other hand, they often deceived even the elect Americans
themselves and provoked a shower of innocently approving or
depreciatory letters.

Apart altogether from the specific difference between American and
English humour we cannot help noticing how humour penetrates and gives
savour to the _whole_ of American life. There is almost no business
too important to be smoothed over with a jest; and serio-comic
allusions may crop up amongst the most barren-looking reefs of scrip
and bargaining. It is almost impossible to imagine a governor of the
Bank of England making a joke in his official capacity, but wit is
perfected in the mouth of similar sucklings in New York. Of recent
prominent speakers in America all except Carl Schurz and George
William Curtis are professed humorists.

When Professor Boyesen, at an examination in Columbia College, set as
one of the questions, "Write an account of your life," he found that
seventeen out of thirty-two responses were in a jocular vein. Fifteen
of the seventeen students bore names that indicated American
parentage, while all but three of the non-jokers had foreign names.
Abraham Lincoln is, of course, the great example of this tendency to
introduce the element of humour into the graver concerns of life; and
his biography narrates many instances of its most happy effect. _All_
the newspapers, including the religious weeklies, have a comic column.

The tremendous seriousness with which the Englishman takes himself and
everything else is practically unknown in America; and the ponderous
machinery of commercial and political life is undoubtedly facilitated
in its running by the presence of the oil of a sub-conscious humorous
intention. The American attitude, when not carried too far, seems,
perhaps, to suggest a truer view of the comparative importance of
things; the American seems to say: "This matter is of importance to
you and for me, but after all it does not concern the orbit of a
planet and there is no use talking and acting as if it did." This
sense of humour often saves the American in a situation in which the
Englishman would have recourse to downright brutality; it unties the
Gordian knot instead of cutting it. A too strong conviction of being
in the right often leads to conflicts that would be avoided by a more
humorous appreciation of the relative importance of phenomena. To look
on life as a jest is no doubt a deep of cynicism which is not and
cannot lead to good, but to recognise the humorous side, the humorous
possibilities running through most of our practical existence, often
works as a saving grace. To his lack of this grace the Englishman owes
much of his unpopularity with foreigners, much of the difficulty he
experiences in inducing others to take his point of view, even when
that point of view is right. You may as well hang a dog as give him a
bad name; and a sense of humour which would prevent John Bull from
calling a thing "un-English," when he means bad or unpractical, would
often help him smoothly towards his goal. To his possession of a keen
sense of humour the Yankee owes much of his success; it leads him,
with a shrug of his shoulders, to cease fighting over names when the
real thing is granted; it may sometimes lean to a calculating
selfishness rather than spontaneous generosity, but on the whole it
softens, enriches, and facilitates the problems of existence. It may,
however, be here noted that some observers, such as Professor Boyesen,
think that there is altogether too much jocularity in American life,
and claim that the constant presence of the jest and the comic
anecdote have done much to destroy conversation and eloquence.

Humour also acts as a great safety-valve for the excitement of
political contests. When I was in New York, just before the election
of President Harrison in 1888, two great political processions took
place on the same day. In the afternoon some thirty thousand
Republicans paraded the streets between lines of amused spectators,
mostly Democrats. In the evening as many Democrats carried their
torches through the same thoroughfares. No collisions of any kind
took place; no ill humour was visible. The Republicans seemed to enjoy
the jokes and squibs and flaunting mottoes of the Democrats; and when
a Republican banner appeared with the legend, "No frigid North, no
torrid South, no temperate East, no _Sackville West_," nobody appeared
to relish it more than the hard-hit Democrat. The Cleveland cry of
"Four, four, four years more" was met forcibly and effectively with
the simple adaptation, "Four, four, four _months_ more," which proved
the more prophetic of that gentleman's then stay at the White House.
At midnight, three days later, I was jammed in the midst of a yelling
crowd in Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, watching the electoral returns
thrown by a stereopticon light, as they arrived, on large white
sheets. Keener or more interested partisans I never saw; but at the
same time I never saw a more good-humored crowd. If I encountered one
policeman that night that was all I did see; and the police reports
next morning, in a city of a million inhabitants let loose in the
streets on a public holiday, reported the arrest of five drunk men and
one pickpocket!

Election bets are often made payable in practical jokes instead of in
current coin. Thus, after election day you will meet a defeated
Republican wheeling his Democratic friend through the chuckling crowd
in a wheelbarrow, or walking down the Bond Street of his native town
with a coal-black African laundress on his arm. But in such forms of
jesting as in "White Hat Day," at the Stock Exchange of New York,
Americans come perilously near the Londoner's standard of the truly
funny.

In comparing American humour with English we must take care that we
take class for class. Those of us who find it difficult to get up a
laugh at _Judge_, or Bill Nye, or Josh Billings, have at least to
admit that they are not quite so feeble as _Ally Sloper_ and other
cognate English humorists. When we reach the level of Artemus Ward, Ik
Marvel, H.C. Bunner, Frank Stockton, and Mark Twain, we may find that
we have no equally popular contemporary humorists of equal excellence;
and these are emphatically humorists of a pure American type. If
humour of a finer point be demanded it seems to me that there are few,
if any, living English writers who can rival the delicate satiric
powers of a Henry James or the subtle suggestiveness of Mr. W.D.
Howells' farces, for an analogy to which we have to look to the best
French work of the kind. But this takes us beyond the scope of this
chapter, which deals merely with the humour of the "Man on the Cars."

FOOTNOTES:

[16] In an English issue of Artemus Ward, apparently edited by Mr.
John Camden Hotten (Chatto and Windus), this passage is accompanied
with the following gloss: "Here again Artemus called in the aid of
pleasant banter as the most fitting apology for the atrocious badness
of the painting."

This note is an excellent illustration of English obtuseness--if
needed, on the part of the reading public; if needless, on the part of
the editor.



IX

American Journalism--A Mixed Blessing


The average British daily newspaper is, perhaps, slightly in advance
of its average reader; if we could imagine an issue of the _Standard_,
or the _Daily Chronicle_, or the _Scotsman_ metamorphosed into human
form, we should probably have to admit that the being thus created was
rather above the average man in taste, intelligence, and good feeling.
Speaking roughly, and making allowances for all obvious exceptions, I
should be inclined to say that a similar statement would not be as
universally true of the American paper and the American public,
particularly if the female citizen were included under the latter
head. If the intelligent foreigner were to regard the British citizen
as practically an incarnation of his daily press, whether metropolitan
or provincial, he would be doing him more than justice; if he were to
apply the same standard to the American press and the American
citizen, it would not be the latter who would profit by the
assumption. The American paper represents a distinctly lower level of
life than the English one; it would often seem as if the one catered
for the least intelligent class of its readers, while the other
assumed a standard higher than most of its readers could reach. The
cultivated American is certainly not so slangy as the paper he reads;
he is certainly not keenly interested in the extremely silly social
items of which it contains several columns. Such journals as the New
York _Evening Post_ and the Springfield _Republican_ are undoubtedly
worthy of mention alongside of our most reputable dailies; but
journals of their admirably high standard are comparatively rare, and
no cultivated English visitor to the United States can have been
spared a shock at the contrast between his fastidious and gentlemanly
host and the general tone of the sheet served up with the matutinal
hot cakes, or read by him on the cars and at the club.

Various causes may be suggested for this state of affairs. For one
thing, the mass of half-educated people in the United States--people
intelligent enough to take a lively interest in all that pertains to
humanity, but not trained enough to insist on literary _form_--is so
immense as practically to swamp the cultivated class and render it a
comparatively unimportant object for the business-like editor. In
England a standard of taste has been gradually evolved, which is
insisted on by the educated class and largely taken on authority by
others. In America practically no such standard is recognised; no one
there would continue to take in a paper he found dull because the
squire and the parson subscribed for it. The American reader--even
when himself of high education and refinement--is a much less
responsible being than the Englishman, and will content himself with a
shrug of his shoulders where the latter would write a letter of
indignant protest to the editor. I have more than once asked an
American friend how he could endure such a daily repast of pointless
vulgarity, slipshod English, and general second-rateness; but elicited
no better answer than that one had to see the news, that the
editorial part of the paper was well done, and that a man had to make
the best of what existed. This is a national trait; it has simply to
be recognised as such. Perhaps the fact that there is no metropolitan
press in America to give tone to the rest of the country may also
count for something in this connection. The press of Washington, the
political capital, is distinctly provincial; and the New York papers,
though practically representative of the United States for the outside
world, can hardly be said to play a genuinely metropolitan rôle within
the country itself.

The principal characteristics of American journalism may be summed up
in the word "enterprise." No one on earth is more fertile in
expedients than an American editor, kept constantly to the collar by a
sense of competing energies all around him. No trouble, or expense, or
contrivance is spared in the collection of news; scarcely any item of
interest is overlooked by the army of alert reporters day and night in
the field. The old-world papers do not compete with those of the new
in the matter of _quantity_ of news. But just here comes in one of the
chief faults of the American journal, one of the besetting sins of the
American people,--their well-known love of "bigness," their tendency
to ask "How much?" rather than "Of what kind?" There is a lack of
discrimination in the daily bill of fare served up by the American
press that cannot but disgust the refined and tutored palate. It is
only the boor who demands a savoury and a roast of equal bulk; it is
only the vulgarian who wishes as much of his paper occupied by brutal
prize-fights or vapid "personals" as by important political
information or literary criticism. There is undoubtedly a modicum of
truth in Matthew Arnold's sneer that American journals certainly
supply news enough--but it is the news of the servants' hall. It is as
if the helm were held rather by the active reporter than by the able
editor. It is said that while there are eight editors to one reporter
in Denmark, the proportion is exactly reversed in the United States.
The net of the ordinary American editor is at least as indiscriminating
as that of the German historiographer: every detail is swept in,
irrespective of its intrinsic value. The very end for which the
newspaper avowedly exists is often defeated by the impossibility of
finding out what is the important news of the day. The reporter prides
himself on being able to "write up" the most intrinsically
uninteresting and unimportant matter. The best American critics
themselves agree on this point. Mr. Howells writes: "There are too
many things brought together in which the reader can and should have
no interest. The thousand and one petty incidents of the various
casualties of life that are grouped together in newspaper columns are
profitless expenditure of money and energy."

The culminating point of this aimless congeries of reading matter,
good, bad, and indifferent, is attained in the Sunday editions of the
larger papers. Nothing comes amiss to their endless columns: scandal,
politics, crochet-patterns, bogus interviews, puerile hoaxes, highly
seasoned police reports, exaggerations of every kind, records of
miraculous cures, funny stories with comic cuts, society paragraphs,
gossip about foreign royalties, personalities of every description. In
fact, they form the very ragbag of journalism. An unreasonable pride
is taken in their very bulk--as if forty pages _per se_ were better
than one; as if the tons of garbage in the Sunday issue of the Gotham
_Gasometer_ outweighed in any valuable sense the ten or twelve small
pages of the Parisian _Temps_. Not but that there is a great deal of
good matter in the Sunday papers. _Wer vieles bringt wird manchem
etwas bringen_; and he who knows where to look for it will generally
find some edible morsel in the hog-trough. It has been claimed that
the Sunday papers of America correspond with the cheaper English
magazines; and doubtless there is some truth in the assertion. The
pretty little tale, the interesting note of popular science, or the
able sketch of some contemporary political condition is, however, so
hidden away amid a mass of feebly illustrated and vulgarly written
notes on sport, society, criminal reports, and personal interviews
with the most evanescent of celebrities that one cannot but stand
aghast at this terrible misuse of the powerful engine of the press. It
is idle to contend that the newspaper, as a business undertaking, must
supply this sort of thing to meet the demand for it. It is (or ought
to be) the proud boast of the press that it leads and moulds public
opinion, and undoubtedly journalism (like the theatre) is at least as
much the cause as the effect of the depravity of public taste.
Enterprising stage-managers have before now proved that Shakespeare
does _not_ spell ruin, and there are admirable journals in the United
States which have shown themselves to be valuable properties without
undue pandering to the frivolous or vicious side of the public
instinct.[17]

A straw shows how the wind blows; let one item show the unfathomable
gulf in questions of tone and taste that can subsist between a great
American daily and its English counterparts. In the summer of 1895 an
issue of one of the richest and most influential of American
journals--a paper that such men as Mr. Cleveland and Mr. McKinley have
to take account of--published under the heading "A Fortunate Find" a
picture of two girls in bathing dress, talking by the edge of the sea.
One says to the other: "How did you manage your father? I thought he
wouldn't let you come?" The answer is: "I caught him kissing the
typewriter." It is, of course, perfectly inconceivable that any
reputable British daily could descend to this depth of purposeless and
odious vulgarity. If this be the style of humour desiderated, the
Thunderer may take as a well-earned compliment the American sneer that
"no joke appears in the London _Times_, save by accident." If another
instance be wanted, take this: Major Calef, of Boston, officiated as
marshal at the funeral of his friend, Gen. Francis Walker. In so doing
he caught a cold, of which he died. An evening paper hereupon
published a cartoon showing Major Calef walking arm in arm with Death
at General Walker's funeral.

Americans are also apt to be proud of the number of their journals,
and will tell you, with evident appreciation of the fact, that "nearly
two thousand daily papers and fourteen thousand weeklies are published
in the United States." Unfortunately the character of their local
journals does not altogether warrant the inference as to American
intelligence that you are expected to draw. Many of them consist
largely of paragraphs such as the following, copied verbatim from an
issue of the Plattsburg _Sentinel_ (September, 1888):

     George Blanshard, of Champlain, an experienced prescription clerk
     and a graduate of the Albany School of Pharmacy, has accepted a
     position in Breed's drug-store at Malone.

     Clerk Whitcomb, of the steamer "Maquam," has finished his
     season's work in the boat, and has resumed his studies at
     Burlington.

I admit that the interest of the readers of the _Sentinel_ in the
doings of their friends Mr. Blanshard and Mr. Whitcomb is, perhaps,
saner and healthier than that of the British snob in the fact that
"Prince and Princess Christian walked in the gardens of Windsor Castle
and afterwards drove out for an airing." But that is the utmost that
can be said for the propagation of such utter vapidities; and the man
who pays his five cents for the privilege of reading them can scarcely
be said to produce a certificate of intelligence in so doing. If the
exhibition of such intellectual feebleness were the worst charge that
could be brought against the American newspaper, there would be little
more to say; but, alas, "there are some among the so-called leading
newspapers of which the influence is wholly pernicious because of the
perverted intellectual ability with which they are conducted." (Prof.
Chas. E. Norton, in the _Forum_, February, 1896.)

The levity with which many--perhaps most--American journals treat
subjects of serious importance is another unpleasant feature. They
will talk of divorces as "matrimonial smash-ups," or enumerate them
under the caption "Divorce Mill." Murders and fatal accidents are
recorded with the same jocosity. Questions of international importance
are handled as if the main purpose of the article was to show the
writer's power of humour. Serious speeches and even sermons are
reported in a vein of flippant jocularity. The same trait often
obtrudes into the review of books of the first importance. The
traditional "No case--abuse the plaintiff's attorney" is translated
into "Can't understand or appreciate this--let's make fun of it."

By the best papers--and these are steadily multiplying--the
"interview" is looked upon as a serious opportunity to obtain in a
concise form the views of a person of greater or less eminence on
subjects of which he is entitled to speak with authority. By the
majority of journals, however, the interview is abused to an
inordinate extent, both as regards the individual and the public. It
is used as a vehicle for the cheapest forms of wit and the most
personal attack or laudation. My own experience was that the
interviewer put a series of pre-arranged questions to me, published
those of my answers which met his own preconceptions, and invented
appropriate substitutes for those he did not honour with his approval.
A Chicago reporter made me say that English ignorance of America was
so dense that "a gentleman of considerable attainments asked me if
Connecticut was not the capital of Pittsburgh and notable for its
great Mormon temple,"--an elaborate combination due solely to his own
active brain. The same ingenuous (and ingenious) youth caused me to
invent "an erratic young Londoner, who packed his bag and started at
once for any out-of-the-way country for which a new guide-book was
published." Another, with equal lack of ground, committed me to the
unpatriotic assertion that neither in Great Britain nor in any other
part of Europe was there any scenery to compare with that of the
United States. But perhaps the unkindest cut of all was that of the
reporter at Washington who made me introduce my remarks by the fatuous
expression "Methought"! Mr. E.A. Freeman was much amused by a reporter
who said of him: "When he don't know a thing, he says he don't. When
he does, he speaks as if he were certain of it." Mr. Freeman adds: "To
the interviewer this way of action seemed a little strange, though he
clearly approved of the eccentricity." This gentleman's mental
attitude, like his superiority to grammar, is, unfortunately,
characteristic of hundreds of his colleagues on the American press.

The distinction between the editorial and reportorial functions of a
newspaper are apt to be much less clearly defined in the United States
than in England. The English reporter, as a rule, confines himself
strictly to his report, which is made without bias. A Conservative
speech is as accurately (though perhaps not as lengthily) reported in
a Liberal paper as in one of its own colour. All comment or criticism
is reserved for the editorial columns. This is by no means the case in
America. Such an authority as the _Atlantic Monthly_ admits that
wilful distortion is not infrequent: the reporter seems to consider it
as part of his duty to amend the record in the interest of his own
paper or party. The American reporter, in a word, may be more
active-minded, more original, more amusing, than his English
colleague; but he is seldom so accurate. This want of impartiality is
another of the patent defects of the American daily press. It is a too
unscrupulous partisan; it represents the ethics of the ward politician
rather than the seeker after truth.

If restraint be a sign of power, then the American press is weak
indeed. There is no reticence about it. Nothing is sacred to an
American reporter; everything that can be in any sense regarded as an
item of news is exposed to the full glare of publicity. It has come to
be so widely taken for granted that one likes to see his name in the
papers, that it is often difficult to make a lady or gentleman of the
American press understand that you really prefer to have your family
affairs left in the dusk of private life. The touching little story
entitled "A Thanksgiving Breakfast," in _Harper's Magazine_ for
November, 1895, records an experience that is almost a commonplace
except as regards the unusually thin skin of the victim and the
unusual delicacy and good feeling of the operator. The writer of an
interesting article in the _Outlook_ (April 25, 1896), an admirable
weekly paper published in New York, sums it up in a sentence: "It is
no exaggeration to say that the wanton and unrestricted invasion of
privacy by the modern press constitutes in certain respects the most
offensive form of tyranny which the world has ever known." The writer
then narrates the following incident to illustrate the length to which
this invasion of domestic privacy is carried:

     A cultivated and refined woman living in a boarding-house was so
     unfortunate as to awaken the admiration of a young man of
     unbalanced mind who was living under the same roof. He paid her
     attentions which were courteously but firmly declined. He wrote
     her letters which were at first acknowledged in the most formal
     way, and finally ignored. No woman could have been more
     circumspect and dignified. The young man preserved copies of his
     own letters, introduced the two or three brief and formal notes
     which he had received in reply, made a story of the incident,
     stole the photograph of the woman, enclosed his own photograph,
     mailed the whole matter to a New York newspaper, and committed
     suicide. The result was a two or three column report of the
     incident, with portraits of the unfortunate woman and the
     suicide, and an elaborate and startling exaggeration of the few
     inconspicuous, insignificant, and colorless facts from which the
     narrative was elaborated. That a refined woman in American
     society should be exposed to such a brutal invasion of her
     privacy as that which was committed in this case reflects upon
     every gentleman in the country.

No doubt, as the _Outlook_ goes on to show, the American people are
themselves largely responsible for this attitude of the press. They
have as a whole not only less reverence than Europeans for the privacy
of others, but also less resentment for the violation of their own
privacy. The new democracy has resigned itself to the custom of living
in glass houses and regards the desire to shroud one's personal life
in mystery as one of the survivals of the dark ages. The newspaper
personalities are largely "the result of the desperate desire of the
new classes, to whom democratic institutions have given their first
chance, to discover the way to _live_, in the wide social meaning of
the word."

One regrettable result of the way in which the American papers turn
liberty into license is that it actually deters many people from
taking their share in public life. The fact that any public action is
sure to bring down upon one's head a torrent of abuse or adulation,
together with a microscopic investigation of one's most intimate
affairs, is enough to give pause to all but the most resolute. Leading
journals go incredible lengths in the way they speak of public men.
One of the best New York dailies dismissed Mr. Bryan as "a wretched,
rattle-pated boy." Others constantly alluded to Mr. Cleveland as "His
Corpulency." For weeks the New York _Sun_ published a portrait of
President Hayes with the word FRAUD printed across the forehead.

Such competent observers as Mr. George W. Smalley (_Harper's
Magazine_, July, 1898) bear testimony to the fact that the
irresponsibility of the press has seriously diminished its influence
for good. Thus he points out that "the combined and active support
given by the American press to the Anglo-American Arbitration Treaty
weighed as nothing with the Senate." In recent mayoralty contests in
New York and in Boston, almost the whole of the local press carried on
vigorous but futile campaigns against the successful candidates.
Several public libraries and reading-rooms have actually put some of
the leading journals in an Index Expurgatorius.[18]

The moral and intellectual defects of the American newspaper are
reflected in its outward dress. Neither the paper nor the printing of
a New York or Boston daily paper is so good as that of the great
English dailies. American editors are apt to claim a good deal of
credit for the illustrations with which the pages of their journals
are sprinkled; but a less justifiable claim for approbation was surely
never filed. In nine cases out of ten the wood-cuts in an American
paper are an insult to one's good taste and sense of propriety, and,
indeed, form one of the chief reasons for classing the American daily
press as distinctly lower than that of England. The reason of this
physical inferiority I do not pretend to explain. It is, however, a
strange phenomenon in a country which produces the most beautiful
monthly magazines in the world, and also holds its own in the paper,
printing, and binding of its books. But, as Mr. Freeman remarks, the
magazines and books of England and America are merely varieties of the
same species, while the daily journals of the two countries belong to
totally different orders. Many of the better papers are now beginning
to give up illustrations. A bill to prevent the insertion in
newspapers of portraits without the consent of the portrayed was even
brought before the New York Legislature. An exasperating feature of
American newspapers, which seems to me to come also under the head of
physical inferiority, is the practice of scattering an article over
the whole of an issue. Thus, on reaching the foot of a column on page
1 we are more likely than not to be directed for its continuation on
page 7 or 8. The reason of this is presumably the desire to have all
the best goods in the window; _i.e._, all the most important
head-lines on the front page; but the custom is a most annoying one to
the reader.

It is frequently asserted by Americans that their press is very
largely controlled by capitalists, and that its columns are often
venal. On such points as these I venture to make no assertion. To
prove them would require either a special knowledge of the
back-lobbies of journalism or so intimate an understanding of the
working of American institutions and the evolution of American
character as to be able to decide definitely that no other explanation
can be given of the source of such-and-such newspaper actions and
attitude. I confine myself to criticism on matters such as he who runs
may read. It is, however, true that, contrary to the general spirit of
the country, such questions as socialism and the labour movement
seldom receive so fair and sympathetic treatment as in the English
press.

So many of the journalists I met in the United States were men of high
character, intelligence, and breeding that it may seem ungracious and
exaggerated to say that American newspaper men as a class seem to me
distinctly inferior to the pressmen of Great Britain. But I believe
this to be the case; and indeed a study of the journals of the two
countries would alone warrant the inference. The trail of the reporter
is over them all. Not that I, mindful of the implied practicability of
the passage of a needle's eye by a camel, believe it impossible for
reporters to be gentlemen; but I do say that it is difficult for a
reporter on the American system to preserve to the full that delicacy
of respect for the mental privacy of others which we associate with
the idea of true gentlemanliness. Mr. Smalley, in a passage
controverting the general opinion that a journalist should always
begin at the lowest rung of the ladder, admits that a modern reporter
has often to approach people in a way that he will find it hard to
reconcile with his own self-respect or the dignity of his profession.
The representative of the press whom one meets in English society and
clubs is very apt to be a university graduate, distinguished from his
academic colleagues, if at all, by his superior ability and address.
This is also true of many of the editorial writers of large American
journals; but side by side with these will be found a large number of
men who have worked their way up from the pettiest kind of reporting,
and who have not had the advantage, at the most impressionable period
of their career, of associating with the best-mannered men of the
time. It is, of course, highly honourable to American society and to
themselves that they have and take the opportunity of advancement, but
the fact remains patent in their slipshod style and the faulty grammar
of their writings, and in their vulgar familiarity of manner. It has
been asserted that journalism in America is not a profession, and is
"subject to none of the conditions that would entitle it to the name.
There are no recognised rules of conduct for its members, and no
tribunal to enforce them if there were."

The startling contrasts in America which suggested the title of the
present volume are, of course, well in evidence in the American press.
Not only are there many papers which are eminently unobnoxious to the
charges brought against the American press generally, but different
parts of the same paper often seem as if they were products of totally
different spheres (or, at any rate, hemispheres). The "editorials," or
leaders, are sometimes couched in a form of which the scholarly
restraint, chasteness of style, moral dignity, and intellectual force
would do honour to the best possible of papers in the best possible of
worlds, while several columns on the front page of the same issue are
occupied by an illustrated account of a prize-fight, in which the most
pointless and disgusting slang, such as "tapping his claret" and
"bunging his peepers," is used with blood-curdling frequency.

In a paper that lies before me as I write, something like a dozen
columns are devoted to a detailed account of the great contest between
John L. Sullivan and Jim Corbett (Sept. 7, 1892), while the principal
place on the editorial page (but only _one_ column) is occupied by a
well-written and most appreciative article on the Quaker poet
Whittier, who had gone to his long home just about the time the
pugilists were battering each other at New Orleans.[19]

It would give a false impression of American journalism as a whole if
we left the question here. While American newspapers certainly
exemplify many of the worst sides of democracy and much of the rawness
of a new country, it would be folly to deny that they also participate
in the attendant virtues of both the one and the other. The same
inspiring sense of largeness and freedom that we meet in other
American institutions is also represented in the press: the same
absence of slavish deference to effete authority, the same openness of
opportunity, the same freshness of outlook, the same spontaneity of
expression, the same readiness in windbag-piercing, the same
admiration for talent in whatever field displayed. The time-honoured
alliance of dulness and respectability has had its decree _nisi_ from
the American press. Several of our own journalists have had the wit to
see and the energy to adopt the best feature of the American style;
and the result has been a distinct advance in the raciness and
readableness of some of our best-known journals. The "Americanisation
of the British press" is no bugbear to stand in awe of, if only it be
carried on with good sense and discrimination. We can most
advantageously exchange lessons of sobriety and restraint for
suggestions of candour, humour, and point; and America's share in the
form of the ideal English reading journal of the future will possibly
not be the smaller.

The _Nation_, a political and literary weekly, and the religious or
semi-religious weekly journals like the _Outlook_ and the
_Independent_, are superior to anything we have in the same _genre_;
and the high-water mark even of the daily political press, though not
very often attained, is perhaps almost on a level with the best in
Europe. Richard Grant White found a richness in the English papers,
due to the far-reaching interests of the British empire, which made
all other journalism seem tame and narrow; but perhaps he would
now-a-days hesitate to attach this stigma to the best journals of New
York. And, in conclusion, we must not forget that American papers have
often lent all their energies to the championship of noble causes,
ranging from the enthusiastic anti-slavery agitation of the New York
_Tribune_, under Horace Greeley, down to the crusade against
body-snatching, successfully carried on by the _Press_ of
Philadelphia, and to the agitation in favour of the horses of the
Fifth-avenue stages so pertinaciously fomented by the humorous journal
_Life_.

       *       *       *       *       *

I cannot resist the temptation of printing part of a notice of
"Baedeker's Handbook to the United States," which will show the almost
incredible lengths to which the less cultured scribes of the American
press carry their "spread-eagleism" even now. It is from a journal
published in a city of nearly 100,000 inhabitants, the capital (though
not the largest city) of one of the most important States in the
Union. It is headed "A Blind Guide:"

     It is simply incomprehensible that an author of so much literary
     merit in his preparation of guides to European countries should
     make the absolute failure that he has in the building of a guide
     to the United States intended for European travellers. As a
     guide, it is a monstrosity, fully as deceptive and misleading in
     its aims as it is ridiculous and unworthy in its criticisms of
     our people, our customs and habitations. It is not a guide in any
     sense, but a general tirade of abuse of Americans and their
     country; a compilation of mean, unfair statements; of presumed
     facts that are a tissue of transparent falsehoods; of comparisons
     with Europe and Europeans that are odius (_sic_). Baedeker sees
     very little to commend in America, but a great deal to criticise,
     and warns Europeans coming to this country that they must use
     discretion if they expect to escape the machinations of our
     people and the snares with which they will be surrounded. Any
     person who has ever travelled in Europe and America will concede
     that in the United States the tourist enjoys better advantages in
     every way than he can in Europe. Our hotels possess by far better
     accommodations, and none of that "flunkeyism" which causes
     Americans to smile as they witness it on arrival. Our railway
     service is superior in every respect to that of Europe. As
     regards civility to strangers the Americans are unequalled on the
     face of the globe. In antiquity Europe excels; but in natural
     picturesque scenery the majestic grandeur of our West is so far
     ahead of anything to be seen in Europe, even in beautiful
     Switzerland, that the alien beholder cannot but express wonder
     and admiration. Baedeker has made a mistake in his attempt to
     underrate America and Americans, its institutions and their
     customs. True, our nation is in a crude state as compared with
     the old monarchies of Europe, but in enterprise, business
     qualifications, politeness, literary and scientific attainments,
     and in fact all the essential qualities that tend to constitute a
     people and a country, America is away in the advance of staid,
     old foggy (_sic_) Europe, and Baedeker will find much difficulty
     to eradicate that all-important fact.

I hasten to assure my English readers that this is no fair sample of
transatlantic journalism, and that nine out of ten of my American
acquaintances would deem it as unique a literary specimen as they
would. At the same time I may remind my American readers that the
scutcheon of American journalism is not so bright as it might be while
blots of this kind occur on it, and that it is the blatancy of
Americans of this type that tends to give currency to the distorted
opinion of Uncle Sam that prevails so widely in Europe.

Perhaps I shall not be misunderstood if I say that this review is by
no means typical of the notice taken by American journals of
"Baedeker's Handbook to the United States." Whatever other defects
were found in it, reviewers were almost unanimous in pronouncing it
fair and free from prejudice. Indeed, the reception of the Handbook by
the American press was so much more friendly than I had any right to
expect that it has made me feel some qualms in writing this chapter of
criticism, while it must certainly relieve me of any possible charge
of a wish to retaliate.

FOOTNOTES:

[17] Writing of theatrical managers, the _Century_ (November, 1895)
says: "One of the greatest obstacles in the way of reform is the
inability of these same men to discern the trend of intelligent, to
say nothing of cultivated, public opinion, or to inform themselves of
the existence of the widespread craving for higher and better
entertainment."

[18] The so-called "Yellow Press" has reached such an extreme of
extravagance during the progress of the Spanish-American war that it
may be hoped that it has at last dug its own grave. On the other hand,
many journals were perceptibly steadied by having so vital an issue to
occupy their columns, and the tone of a large section of the press was
distinctly creditable.

[19] It may be doubted, however, whether any American author of
similar standing would devote a chapter to the loathsome details of
the prize-ring, as Mr. George Meredith does in his novel "The Amazing
Marriage."



X

Some Literary Straws


By far the most popular novel of the London season of 1894 was "The
Manxman," by Mr. Hall Caine. Its sale is said to have reached a
fabulous number of thousands of copies, and the testimony of the
public press and the circulating library is unanimous as to the
supremacy of its vogue. In the United States the favourite book of the
year was Mr. George Du Maurier's "Trilby." To the practical and
prosaic evidence of the eager purchase of half a million copies we
have to add the more romantic homage of the new Western towns
(Trilbyville!) and patent bug exterminators named after the heroine.
It may, possibly, be worth while examining the predominant qualities
of the two books with a view to ascertain what light their
similarities and differences may throw upon the respective literary
tastes of the Englishman and the American.

There has, I believe, been no important critical denial of the right
of "The Manxman" to rank as a "strong" book. The plot is drawn with
consummate skill--not in the sense of a Gaborian-like unravelment of
mystery, but in its organic, natural, inevitable development, and in
the abiding interest of its evolution. The details are worked in with
the most scrupulous care. Rarely, in modern fiction, have certain
elemental features of the human being been displayed with more
determination and pathos.

The central _motif_ of the story--the corrosion of a predominantly
righteous soul by a repented but hidden sin culminating in an
overwhelming necessity of confession--is so powerfully presented to us
that we forget all question of originality until our memory of the
fascinating pages has cooled down. Then we may recall the resemblance
of theme in the recent novel entitled "The Silence of Dean Maitland,"
while we find the prototype of both these books in "The Scarlet
Letter" of Nathaniel Hawthorne, who has handled the problem with a
subtlety and haunting weirdness to which neither of the English works
can lay any claim. As our first interest in the story farther cools,
it may occur to us that the very perfection of plot in "The Manxman"
gives it the effect of a "set piece;" its association with Mr. Wilson
Barrett and the boards seems foreordained. It may seem to us that
there is a little forcing of the pathos, that a certain artificiality
pervades the scene. In a word, we may set down "The Manxman" as
melodrama--melodrama at its best, but still melodrama. Its effects are
vivid, positive, sensational; its analysis of character is keen, but
hardly subtle; it appeals to the British public's love of the obvious,
the full-blooded, the thorough-going; it runs on well-tried lines; it
is admirable, but it is not new.

"Trilby" is a very different book, and it would be a catholic palate
indeed that would relish equally the story of the Paris grisette and
the story of the Manx deemster. In "Trilby" the blending of the novel
and the romance, of the real and the fantastic, is as much of a
stumbling-block to John Bull as it is, for example, in Ibsen's "Lady
from the Sea." "The central idea," he might exclaim, "is utterly
extravagant; the transformation by hypnotism of the absolutely
tone-deaf girl into the unutterably peerless singer is unthinkable and
absurd." The admirers of "Trilby" may very well grant this, and yet
feel that their withers are unwrung. It is not in the hypnotic device
and its working out that they find the charm of the story; it is not
the plot that they are mainly interested in; it is not even the
slightly sentimental love-story of Trilby and Little Billee. They are
willing to let the whole framework, as it were, of the book go by the
board; it is not the thread of the narrative, but the sketches and
incidents strung on it, that appeals to them. They revel in the
fascinating novelty and ingenuousness of the Du Maurier vein, the art
that is superficially so artless, the exquisitely simple delicacy of
touch, the inimitable fineness of characterisation, the constant
suggestion of the tender and true, the keen sense of the pathetic in
life and the humour that makes it tolerable, the lovable drollery that
corrects the tendency to the sentimental, the subtle blending of the
strength of a man with the _naïveté_ of the child, the ambidextrous
familiarity with English and French life, the kindliness of the
satire, the absence of all straining for effect, the deep humanity
that pervades the book from cover to cover.

If, therefore, we take "The Manxman" and "Trilby" as types of what
specially appeals to the reading public of England and America, we
should conclude that the Englishman calls for strength and directness,
the American for delicacy and suggestiveness. The former does not
insist so much on originality of theme, if the handling be but new and
clever; there are certain elementary passions and dramatic situations
of which the British public never wearies. The American does not
clamour for telling "curtains," if the character-drawing be keen, the
conversations fresh, sparkling, and humorous. John Bull likes
vividness and solidity of impasto; Jonathan's eye is often more
pleasantly affected by a delicate gradation of half-tones. The one
desires the downright, the concrete, the real; the other is titillated
by the subtle, the allusive, the half-spoken. The antithesis is
between _force_ and _finesse_, between the palpable and the
impalpable.[20]

If anybody but George Du Maurier could have written "Trilby," it seems
to me it would have been an American rather than a full-blooded
Englishman. The keenness of the American appreciation of the book
corresponds to elements in the American nature. The Anglo-French blend
of Mr. Du Maurier's literary genius finds nearer analogues in American
literature than in either English or French.

The best writing of our American cousins has, of course, much that it
shares with our own, much that is purely English in source and
inspiration. Longfellow, for instance, might almost have been an
Englishman, and his great popularity in England probably owed nothing
to the attraction exercised by the unfamiliar. The English traits,
moreover, are often readily discernible even in those works that smack
most of the soil. When, however, we seek the differentiating marks of
American literature, we find that many of them are also
characteristics of the writings of Mr. Du Maurier, while they are much
less conspicuous in those of Mr. Hall Caine. Among such marks are its
freshness and spontaneity, untrammelled by authority or tradition; its
courage in tackling problems elsewhere tabooed; its breezy
intrepidity, rooted half in conscious will and half in _naïve_
ignorance. Besides these, we find features that we should hardly have
expected on _a priori_ grounds. A wideness of sweep and elemental
greatness in proportion to the natural majesty of the huge new
continent are hardly present; Walt Whitman remains an isolated
phenomenon. Instead, we meet in the best American literature an almost
aristocratic daintiness and feeling for the refined and select. As
compared with the British school, the leading American school is
marked by an increased delicacy of _finesse_, a tendency to refine and
refine, a perhaps exaggerated dread of the platitude and the
commonplace, a fondness for analysis, a preference for character over
event, an avoidance of absolutely untempered seriousness and solidity.
Mr. Bryce notes that the verdicts of the best literary circles of the
United States often seem to "proceed from a more delicate and
sympathetic insight" than ours.

This fastidiousness of the best writers and critics of America is by
no means inconsistent with the existence of an enormous class of
half-educated readers, who devour the kind of "literature" provided
for them, and batten in their various degrees on the productions of
Mr. E.P. Roe, Miss Laura Jean Libbey, or the _Sunday War-Whoop_. The
evolution of democracy in the literary sphere is exactly analogous to
its course in the political sphere. In both there is the same tendency
to go too far, to overturn the good and legitimate authority as well
as the bad and oppressive; both are apt, to use the homely German
proverb, "to throw the baby out of the bath along with the dirty
water." This lack of discrimination leads to the rushing in of fools
where angels might well fear to tread. All sorts of men try to write
books, and all sorts of men think they are able to judge them. The old
standard of authority is overthrown, and for a time no other takes its
place with the great mass of the reading public. This state of affairs
is, however, by no means one that need make us despair of the literary
future of America. It reminds me of the mental condition of a kindly
American tourist who once called at our office in Leipsic to give us
the benefit of the corrections he had made on "Baedeker's Handbooks"
during his peregrination of Europe. "Here," he said, "is one error
which I am absolutely sure of: you call this a statue of Minerva; but
I know that's wrong, because I saw _Pallas_ carved on the pedestal!"
When I told this tale to English friends, they saw in it nothing but a
proof of the colossal ignorance of the travelling American. To my
mind, however, it redounded more to the credit of America than to its
discredit. It showed that Americans of defective education felt the
need of culture and spared no pains to procure it. A London tradesman
with the education of my American friend would probably never extend
his ideas of travelling beyond Margate, or at most a week's excursion
to "Parry." But this indefatigable tourist had visited all the chief
galleries of Europe, and had doubtless greatly improved his taste in
art and educated his sense of the refined and beautiful, even though
his book-learning had not taught him that the same goddess might have
two different names.

The application of this anecdote to the present condition of American
literature is obvious. The great fact is that there is an enormous
crowd of readers, and the great hope is that they will eventually work
their way up through Miss Laura Jean Libbey to heights of purer air.
America has not so much degraded a previously existing literary palate
as given a taste of some sort to those who under old-world conditions
might never have come to it. In American literature as in American
life we find all the phenomena of a transition period--all the
symptoms that might be expected from the extraordinary mixture of the
old and the new, the childlike and the knowing, the past and the
present, in this Land of Contrasts. The startling difference between
the best and the worst writers is often reflected in different works
by the same author; or a real and strong natural talent for writing
will be found conjoined with an extraordinary lack of education and
training. An excellent piece of English--pithy, forcible, and even
elegant--will often shatter on some simple grammatical reef, such as
the use of "as" for "that" ("he did not know as he could"), or of the
plural for the singular ("a long ways off"). Mr. James Lane Allen, the
author of a series of refined and delicately worded romances, can
write such phrases as "In a voice neither could scarce hear" and
"Shake hands with me and _tell_ me good-by." ("The Choir Invisible,"
pp. 222, 297.)

I know not whether the phrase "was graduated," applied not to a
vernier, but to a student, be legitimate or not; it is certainly so
used by the best American writers. Another common American idiom that
sounds queer to British ears is, "The minutes were ordered printed"
(for "to be printed"). Misquotations and misuse of foreign phrases are
terribly rife; and even so spirited and entertaining a writer as Miss
F.C. Baylor will write: "This Jenny, with the _esprit de l'escalier_
of her sex, had at once divined and resented" ("On Both Sides," p.
26). In the same way one is constantly appalled in conversation by
hearing college graduates say "acrost" for "across" and making other
"bad breaks" which in England could not be conjoined with an equal
amount of culture and education.

The extreme fastidiousness and delicacy of the leading American
writers, as above referred to, may be to a large extent accounted for
by an inevitable reaction against the general tendency to the careless
and the slipshod, and is thus in its way as significant and natural a
result of existing conditions as any other feature of American
literature. Perhaps a secondary cause of this type of writing may be
looked for in the fact that so far the spirit of New England has
dominated American literature. Even those writers of the South and
West who are freshest in their material and vehicle are still
permeated by the tone, the temper, the method, the ideals, of the New
England school. And certainly Allibone's dictionary of authors shows
that an enormous proportion of American writers are to this day of New
England origin or descent.

Among living American writers the two whose names occur most
spontaneously to the mind as typical examples are, perhaps, Henry
James and W.D. Howells. Of these the former has identified himself so
much with European life and has devoted himself so largely to European
subjects that we, perhaps, miss to some extent the American atmosphere
in his works, though he undoubtedly possesses the American quality of
workmanship in a very high degree. Or, to put it in another way, his
touch is indisputably American, while his accessories, his _staffage_,
are cosmopolitan. His American hand has become dyed to that it works
in. This, however, is more true of his later than of his earlier
works. That imperishable little classic "Daisy Miller" is a very
exquisite and typical specimen of the American suggestiveness of
style; indeed, as I have hinted (Chapter IV.), its suggestiveness
almost overshot the mark and required the explanation of a dramatic
key. His dislike of the obvious and the commonplace sometimes leads
Mr. James to become artificial and even obscure,[21] but at its best
his style is as perspicuous as it is distinguished, dainty, and
subtle; there is, perhaps, no other living artist in words who can
give his admirers so rare a literary pleasure in mere exquisiteness of
workmanship.

Mr. Howells, unlike Mr. James, is purely and exclusively American, in
his style as in his subject, in his main themes as in his incidental
illustrations, in his spirit, his temperament, his point of view. No
one has written more pleasantly of Venice; but just as surely there is
a something in his Venetian sketches which no one but an American
could have put there. Mr. James may be as patriotic a citizen of the
Great Republic, but there is not so much tangible evidence of the fact
in his writings; Mr. Howells may be as cosmopolitan in his sympathies
as Mr. James, but his writings alone would hardly justify the
inference. Mr. Howells also possesses a _bonhomie_, a geniality, a
good-nature veiled by a slight mask of cynicism, that may be personal,
but which strikes one as also a characteristic American trait. Mr.
James is not, I hasten to say, the reverse of this, but he shows a
coolness in his treatment, a lordly indifference to the fate of his
creations, an almost pitiless keenness of analysis, which savour a
little more of an end-of-the-century European than of a young and
genial democracy.

Mr. Howells is, perhaps, not always so well appreciated in his own
country as he deserves--and this in spite of the facts that his novels
are widely read and his name is in all the magazines. What I mean is,
that in the conversation of the cultured circles of Boston or New York
too much stress is apt to be laid on the prosaic and commonplace
character of his materials. There are, perhaps, unusually good reasons
for this point of view. Cromwell's wife and daughters would probably
prefer to have him painted wartless, but posterity wants him warts and
all. So those to whom the average--the _very_ average--American is an
every-day and all-day occurrence cannot abide him in their literature;
while we who are removed by the ocean of space can enjoy these
pictures of common life, as enabling us, better than any idealistic
romance or study of the rare and extraordinary, to realise the life of
our American cousins. To those who can read between the lines with any
discretion, I should say that novels like "Silas Lapham" and "A Modern
Instance" will give a clearer idea of American character and
tendencies than any other contemporary works of fiction; to those who
can read between the lines--for it is obvious that the commonplace and
the slightly vulgar no more exhaust the field of society in the United
States than elsewhere. But to me Mr. Howells, even when in his most
realistic and sordid vein, always _suggests_ the ideal and the noble;
the reverse of the medal proclaims loudly that it _is_ the reverse,
and that there is an obverse of a very different kind to be seen by
those who will turn the coin. It seems to me that no very great
palæontological skill is necessary to reconstruct the whole frame of
the animal from the portion that Mr. Howells sets up for us. His
novels remind me of those maps of a limited area which indicate very
clearly what lies beyond, by arrows on their margins. In nothing does
Mr. Howells more clearly show his "Americanism" than in his almost
divinely sympathetic and tolerant attitude towards commonplace,
erring, vulgar humanity. "Ah, poor real life, which I love!" he writes
somewhere; "can I make others share the delight I find in thy foolish
and insipid face!" We must remember in reading him his own theory of
the duty of the novelist. "I am extremely opposed to what we call
ideal characters. I think their portrayal is mischievous; it is
altogether offensive to me as an artist, and, as far as the morality
goes, I believe that when an artist tries to create an ideal he mixes
some truth up with a vast deal of sentimentality, and produces
something that is extremely noxious as well as nauseous. I think that
no man can consistently portray a probable type of human character
without being useful to his readers. When he endeavors to create
something higher than that, he plays the fool himself and tempts his
readers to folly. He tempts young men and women to try to form
themselves upon models that would be detestable in life, if they were
ever found there."

Perhaps the delicacy of Mr. Howells' touch and the gentle subtlety of
his satire are nowhere better illustrated than in the little
drawing-room "farces" of which he frequently publishes one in an
American magazine about Christmas time. I call them farces because he
himself applies that name to them; but these dainty little comediettas
contain none of the rollicking qualities which the word usually
connotes to English ears. They have all the _finesse_ of the best
French work of the kind, combined with a purity of atmosphere and of
intent that we are apt to claim as Anglo-Saxon, and which, perhaps, is
especially characteristic of America. One is tired of hearing, in this
connection, of the blush that rises to the innocent girl's cheek; but
why should even those who are supposed to be past the age of blushing
not also enjoy humour unspiced by even a suggestion of lubricity? The
"Mikado" and "Pinafore" have done yeoman's service in displacing the
meretricious delights of Offenbach and Lecocq; and Howells' little
pieces yield an exquisite, though innocent, enjoyment to those whose
taste in farces has not been fashioned and spoiled by clumsy English
adaptations or imitations of intriguing _levers-de-rideau_, and to
those who do not associate the name of farce with horse-play and
practical joking. They form the best illustration of what has been
described as Mr. Howells' "method of occasionally opening up to the
reader through the bewilderingly intricate mazes of his dialogue clear
perceptions of the true values of his characters, imitating thus the
actual trick of life, which can safely be depended on to now and then
expose meanings that words have cleverly served the purpose of
concealing." If I hesitate to call them comediettas "in porcelain," it
is because the suggested analogy falls short, owing to the greater
reconditeness, the purer intellectual quality, of Mr. Howells' humour
as compared with Mr. Austin Dobson's. So intensely American in quality
are these scenes from the lives of Mr. and Mrs. Willis Campbell, Mr.
and Mrs. Roberts, and their friends, that it sometimes seems to me
that they might almost be used as touchstones for the advisability of
a visit to the United States. If you can appreciate and enjoy these
farces, go to America by all means; you will have a "good time." If
you cannot, better stay at home, unless your motive is merely one of
base mechanic necessity; you will find the American atmosphere a
little too rare.

A recent phase of Mr. Howells' activity--that, namely, in which, like
Mr. William Morris, he has boldly risked his reputation as a literary
artist in order to espouse unpopular social causes of whose justice he
is convinced--will interest all who have hearts to feel as well as
brains to think. He made his fame by consummately artistic work,
addressed to the daintiest of literacy palates; and yet in such books
as "A Hazard of New Fortunes" and "A Traveller from Altruria" he has
conscientiously taken up the defence and propagation of a form of
socialism, without blanching before the epicure who demands his
literature "neat" or the Philistine householder who brands all
socialistic writings as dangerous. Mr. Howells, however, knows his
public; and the reforming element in him cannot but rejoice at the
hearing he has won through its artistic counterpart. No one of his
literary brethren of any importance has, so far as I know, emulated
his courage in this particular. Some, like Mr. Bellamy, have made a
reputation by their socialistic writings; none has risked so
magnificent a structure already built up on a purely artistic
foundation. It is mainly on account of this phase of his work, in
which he has not forsaken his art, but makes it "the expression of his
whole life and the thought and feeling mature life has brought to
him," that Mr. Howells has been claimed as _the_ American novelist,
the best delineator of American life.[22]

Mr. Howells the poet is not nearly so well known as Mr. Howells the
novelist; and there are doubtless many European students of American
literature who are unaware of the extremely characteristic work he has
done in verse. The accomplished critic, Mr. R.H. Stoddard, writes thus
of a volume of poems published by Mr. Howells about three years
ago:[23] "There is something here which, if not new in American
poetry, has never before made itself so manifest there, never before
declared itself with such vivacity and force, the process by which it
emerged from emotion and clothed itself in speech being so
undiscoverable by critical analysis that it seems, as Matthew Arnold
said of some of Wordsworth's poetry, as if Nature took the pen from
his hand and wrote in his stead." These poems are all short, and their
titles (such as "What Shall It Profit?" "The Sphinx," "If,"
"To-morrow," "Good Society," "Equality," "Heredity," and so forth)
sufficiently indicate that they do not rank among the lighter
triflings with the muse. Their abiding sense of an awful and
inevitable fate, their keen realisation of the startling contrasts
between wealth and poverty, their symbolical grasp on the great
realities of life and death, and the consummate skill of the artistic
setting are all pervaded with something that recalls the paintings of
Mr. G.F. Watts or the visions of Miss Olive Schreiner. One specimen
can alone be given here:

    "The Bewildered Guest

    "I was not asked if I should like to come.
    I have not seen my host here since I came,
    Or had a word of welcome in his name.
    Some say that we shall never see him, and some
    That we shall see him elsewhere, and then know
    Why we were bid. How long I am to stay
    I have not the least notion. None, they say,
    Was ever told when he should come or go.
    But every now and then there bursts upon
    The song and mirth a lamentable noise,
    A sound of shrieks and sobs, that strikes our joys
    Dumb in our breasts; and then, someone is gone.
    They say we meet him. None knows where or when.
    We know we shall not meet him here again."

Mr. Howells has, naturally enough, the defects of his qualities; and
if it were my purpose here to present an exhaustive study of his
writings, rather than merely to touch lightly upon his "American"
characteristics, it would be desirable to consider some of these in
this place. In his desire to avoid the merely pompous he sometimes
falls into the really trifling. His love of analysis runs away with
him at times; and parts of such books as "A World of Chance" must
weary all but his most undiscriminating admirers. His self-restraint
sometimes disappoints us of a vivid colour or a passionate throb which
we feel to be our due. His humour and his satire occasionally pass
from the fine to the thin.

It is, however, with Mr. Howells in his capacity of literary critic
alone that my disappointment is too great to allow of silence. For the
exquisiteness of a writer like Mr. Henry James he has the keenest
insight, the warmest appreciation. His thorough-going conviction in
the prime necessity of realism even leads him out of his way to
commend Gabriele d'Annunzio, in whom some of us can detect little but
a more than Zolaesque coarseness with a total lack of Zola's genius,
insight, purpose, or philosophy. But when he comes to speak of a
Thackeray or a Scott, his attitude is one that, to put it in the most
complimentary form that I can think of, reminds us strongly of Homeric
drowsiness. The virtue of James is one thing and the virtue of Scott
is another; but surely admiration for both does not make too
unreasonable a demand on catholicity of palate? Mr. Howells could
never write himself down an ass, but surely in his criticism of the
"Wizard of the North" he has written himself down as one whose
literary creed is narrower than his human heart. The school of which
Mr. Henry James is a most accomplished member has added more than one
exquisite new flavour to the banquet of letters; but it may well be
questioned whether a taste for these may not be acquired at too dear a
cost if it necessitates a loss of relish for the steady good sense,
the power of historic realisation, the rich humanity, and the
marvellously fertile imagination of Walter Scott. It is not, I hope, a
merely national prejudice that makes me oppose Mr. Howells in this
point, though, perhaps, there is a touch of remonstrance in the
reflection that that great novelist seems to have no use for the
Briton in his works except as a foil or a butt for his American
characters.

In considering Mr. Howells as an exponent of Americanism in
literature, we have left him in an attitude almost of _Americanus
contra mundum_--at any rate in the posture of one who is so entirely
absorbed by his delight in the contemporary and national existence
around him as to be partially blind to claims separated from him by
tracts of time and space. My next example of the American in
literature is, I think, to the full as national a type as Mr. Howells,
though her Americanism is shown rather in subjective character than in
objective theme. Miss Emily Dickinson is still a name so unfamiliar to
English readers that I may be pardoned a few lines of biographical
explanation. She was born in 1830, the daughter of the leading lawyer
of Amherst, a small and quiet town of New England, delightfully
situated on a hill, looking out over the undulating woods of the
Connecticut valley. It is a little larger than the English
Marlborough, and like it owes its distinctive tone to the presence of
an important educational institute, Amherst College being one of the
best-known and worthiest of the smaller American colleges. In this
quiet little spot Miss Dickinson spent the whole of her life, and even
to its limited society she was almost as invisible as a cloistered nun
except for her appearances at an annual reception given by her father
to the dignitaries of the town and college. There was no definite
reason either in her physical or mental health for this life of
extraordinary seclusion; it seems to have been simply the natural
outcome of a singularly introspective temperament. She rarely showed
or spoke of her poems to any but one or two intimate friends; only
three or four were published during her lifetime; and it was with
considerable surprise that her relatives found, on her death in 1886,
a large mass of poetical remains, finished and unfinished. A
considerable selection from them has been published in three little
volumes, edited with tender appreciation by two of her friends, Mrs.
Mabel Loomis Todd and Col. T.W. Higginson.

Her poems are all in lyrical form--if the word form may be applied to
her utter disregard of all metrical conventions. Her lines are rugged
and her expressions wayward to an extraordinary degree, but "her
verses all show a strange cadence of inner rhythmical music," and the
"thought-rhymes" which she often substitutes for the more regular
assonances appeal "to an unrecognised sense more elusive than hearing"
(Mrs. Todd). In this curious divergence from established rules of
verse Miss Dickinson may be likened to Walt Whitman, whom she differs
from in every other particular, and notably in her pithiness as
opposed to his diffuseness; but with her we feel in the strongest way
that her mode is natural and unsought, utterly free from affectation,
posing, or self-consciousness.

Colonel Higginson rightly finds her nearest analogue in William Blake;
but this "nearest" is far from identity. While tenderly feminine in
her sympathy for suffering, her love of nature, her loyalty to her
friends, she is in expression the most unfeminine of poets. The usual
feminine impulsiveness and full expression of emotion is replaced in
her by an extraordinary condensation of phrase and feeling. In her
letters we find the eternal womanly in her yearning love for her
friends, her brooding anxiety and sympathy for the few lives closely
intertwined with her own. In her poems, however, one is rather
impressed with the deep well of poetic insight and feeling from which
she draws, but never unreservedly. In spite of frequent strange
exaggeration of phrase one is always conscious of a fund of reserve
force. The subjects of her poems are few, but the piercing delicacy
and depth of vision with which she turned from death and eternity to
nature and to love make us feel the presence of that rare thing,
genius. Hers is a wonderful instance of the way in which genius can
dispense with experience; she sees more by pure intuition than others
distil from the serried facts of an eventful life. Perhaps, in one of
her own phrases, she is "too intrinsic for renown," but she has
appealed strongly to a surprisingly large band of readers in the
United States, and it seems to me will always hold her audience. Those
who admit Miss Dickinson's talent, but deny it to be poetry, may be
referred to Thoreau's saying that no definition of poetry can be given
which the true poet will not somewhere sometime brush aside. It is a
new departure, and the writer in the _Nation_ (Oct. 10, 1895) is
probably right when he says: "So marked a new departure rarely leads
to further growth. Neither Whitman nor Miss Dickinson ever stepped
beyond the circle they first drew."

It is difficult to select quite adequate samples of Miss Dickinson's
art, but perhaps the following little poems will give some idea of her
naked simplicity, terseness, oddness,--of her method, in short, if we
can apply that word to anything so spontaneous and unconscious:

    "I'm nobody! Who are you?
    Are you nobody, too?
    Then there's a pair of us. Don't tell!
    They'd banish us, you know.

    "How dreary to be somebody!
    How public, like a frog,
    To tell your name the livelong day
    To an admiring bog!"

           *       *       *       *       *

    "I taste a liquor never brewed,
    From tankards scooped in pearl;
    Not all the vats upon the Rhine
    Yield such an alcohol!

    "Inebriate of air am I,
    And debauchee of dew,
    Reeling, through endless summer days,
    From inns of molten blue.

    "When landlords turn the drunken bee
    Out of the foxglove's door,
    When butterflies renounce their drams,
    I shall but drink the more!

    "Till seraphs swing their snowy hats,
    And saints to windows run,
    To see the little tippler
    Leaning against the sun!"

           *       *       *       *       *

    "But how he set I know not.
    There seemed a purple stile
    Which little yellow boys and girls
    Were climbing all the while,

    "Till when they reached the other side,
    A dominie in grey
    Put gently up the evening bars,
    And led the flock away."

           *       *       *       *       *

    "He preached upon 'breadth' till it argued him narrow--
    The broad are too broad to define;
    And of 'truth' until it proclaimed him a liar--
    The truth never flaunted a sign.
    Simplicity fled from his counterfeit presence
    As gold the pyrites would shun.
    What confusion would cover the innocent Jesus
    To meet so enabled a man!"

The "so _enabled_ a man" is a very characteristic Dickinsonian phrase.
So, too, are these:

    "He put the belt around my life--
    I heard the buckle snap."
    "Unfitted by an instant's grace
    For the contented beggar's face
    I wore an hour ago."

           *       *       *       *       *

    "Just his sigh, accented,
    Had been legible to me."

           *       *       *       *       *

    "The bustle in a house
    The morning after death
    Is solemnest of industries
    Enacted upon earth--
    The sweeping up the heart,
    And putting love away
    We shall not want to use again
    Until eternity."

Her interest in all the familiar sights and sounds of a village garden
is evident through all her verses. Her illustrations are not
recondite, literary, or conventional; she finds them at her own door.
The robin, the buttercup, the maple, furnish what she needs. The bee,
in particular, seems to have had a peculiar fascination for her, and
hums through all her poems. She had even a kindly word for that
"neglected son of genius," the spider. Her love of children is equally
evident, and no one has ever better caught the spirit of

    "Saturday Afternoon

    "From all the jails the boys and girls
      Ecstatically leap,
    Beloved, only afternoon
      That prison doesn't keep.

    "They storm the earth and stun the air,
      A mob of solid bliss.
    Alas! that frowns could lie in wait
      For such a foe as this!"

The bold extravagance of her diction (which is not, however, _mere_
extravagance) and her ultra-American familiarity with the forces of
nature may be illustrated by such stanzas as:

    "What if the poles should frisk about
      And stand upon their heads!
    I hope I'm ready for the worst,
      Whatever prank betides."

           *       *       *       *       *

    "If I could see you in a year,
      I'd wind the months in balls,
    And put them each in separate drawers
      Until their time befalls.

    "If certain, when this life was out,
      That yours and mine should be,
    I'd toss it yonder like a rind,
      And taste eternity."

For her the lightnings "skip like mice," the thunder "crumbles like a
stuff." What a critic has called her "Emersonian self-possession"
towards God may be seen in the little poem on the last page of her
first volume, where she addresses the Deity as "burglar, banker,
father." There is, however, no flippancy in this, no conscious
irreverence; Miss Dickinson is not "orthodox," but she is genuinely
spiritual and religious. Inspired by its truly American and "_actuel_"
freedom, her muse does not fear to sing of such modern and mechanical
phenomena as the railway train, which she loves to see "lap the miles
and lick the valleys up," while she is fascinated by the contrast
between its prodigious force and the way in which it stops, "docile
and omnipotent, at its own stable door." But even she can hardly bring
the smoking locomotive into such pathetic relations with nature as the
"little brig," whose "white foot tripped, then dropped from sight,"
leaving "the ocean's heart too smooth, too blue, to break for you."

Her poems on death and the beyond, on time and eternity, are full of
her peculiar note. Death is the "one dignity" that "delays for all;"
the meanest brow is so ennobled by the majesty of death that "almost a
powdered footman might dare to touch it now," and yet no beggar would
accept "the _éclat_ of death, had he the power to spurn." "The quiet
nonchalance of death" is a resting-place which has no terrors for her;
death "abashed" her no more than "the porter of her father's lodge."
Death's chariot also holds Immortality. The setting sail for "deep
eternity" brings a "divine intoxication" such as the "inland soul"
feels on its "first league out from land." Though she "never spoke
with God, nor visited in heaven," she is "as certain of the spot as if
the chart were given." "In heaven somehow, it will be even, some new
equation given." "Christ will explain each separate anguish in the
fair schoolroom of the sky."

    "A death-blow is a life-blow to some
    Who, till they died, did not alive become;
    Who, had they lived, had died, but when
    They died, vitality begun."

The reader who has had the patience to accompany me through these
pages devoted to Miss Dickinson will surely own, whether in scoff or
praise, the essentially American nature of her muse. Her defects are
easily paralleled in the annals of English literature; but only in the
liberal atmosphere of the New World, comparatively unshadowed by
trammels of authority and standards of taste, could they have
co-existed with so much of the highest quality.

A prominent phenomenon in the development of American literature--so
prominent as to call for comment even in a fragmentary and haphazard
sketch like the present--is the influence exercised by the monthly
magazine. The editors of the leading literary periodicals have been
practically able to wield a censorship to which there is no parallel
in England. The magazine has been the recognised gateway to the
literary public; the sweep of the editorial net has been so wide that
it has gathered in nearly all the best literary work of the past few
decades, at any rate in the department of _belles lettres_. It is not
easy to name many important works of pure literature, as distinct from
the scientific, the philosophical, and the instructive, that have not
made their bow to the public through the pages of the _Century_, the
_Atlantic Monthly_, or some one or other of their leading competitors.
And probably the proportion of works by new authors that have appeared
in the same way is still greater. There are, possibly, two sides as to
the value of this supremacy of the magazine, though to most observers
the advantages seem to outweigh the disadvantages. Among the former
may be reckoned the general encouragement of reading, the
opportunities afforded to young writers, the raising of the rate of
authors' pay, the dissemination of a vast quantity of useful and
salutary information in a popular form. Perhaps of more importance
than any of these has been the maintenance of that purity of moral
tone in which modern American literature is superior to all its
contemporaries. Malcontents may rail at "grandmotherly legislation in
letters," at the undue deference paid to the maiden's blush, at the
encouragement of the mealy-mouthed and hypocritical; but it is a
ground of very solid satisfaction, be the cause what it may, that
recent American literature has been so free from the emasculate
_fin-de-siècle-ism_, the nauseating pseudo-realism, the epigrammatic
hysteria, that has of late been so rife in certain British circles.
Moreover, it is impossible to believe that any really strong talent
could have been stifled by the frown of the magazine editor. Walt
Whitman made his mark without that potentate's assistance; and if
America had produced a Zola, he would certainly have come to the
front, even if his genius had been hampered with a burden of more than
Zolaesque filth.

It is undoubtedly to the predominance of the magazine, among other
causes, that are due the prevalence and perfection of the American
short story. It has often been remarked that French literature alone
is superior in this _genre_; and many of the best American productions
of the kind can scarcely be called second even to the French in
daintiness of phrase, sureness of touch, sense of proportion, and
skilful condensation of interest. Excellent examples of the short
story have been common in American literature from the times of
Hawthorne, Irving, and Poe down to the present day. Mr. Henry James,
perhaps, stands at the head of living writers in this branch. Miss
Mary E. Wilkins is inimitable in her sketches of New England, the
pathos, as well as the humour of which she touches with a master hand.
It is interesting to note that, foreign as her subject would seem to
be to the French taste, her literary skill has been duly recognised by
the _Revue des Deux Mondes_. Bret Harte and Frank Stockton are so
eminently short-story writers that the longer their stories become,
the nearer do they approach the brink of failure. Other names that
suggest themselves in a list that might be indefinitely extended are
those of Miss Jewett, Mrs. Elizabeth Phelps Ward, Mr. Richard Harding
Davis, Mr. T.B. Aldrich, Mr. Thos. Nelson Page, Mr. Owen Wister, Mr.
Hamlin Garland, Mr. G.W. Cable, and (in a lighter vein) Mr. H.C.
Bunner.

This chapter may fitly close with a straw of startling literary
contrast, that seems to me alone almost enough to bring American
literature under the rubric of this volume's title. If a critic
familiar only with the work chiefly associated with the author's name
were asked to indicate the source of the following quotations, I
should be surprised if he were to guess correctly in his first hundred
efforts. Indeed, I should not be astonished if some of his shots
missed the mark by centuries of time as well as oceans of space. One
hesitates to use lightly the word Elizabethan; but at present I do not
recall any other modern work that suggests it more strongly than some
of the lines I quote below:

    "So wanton are all emblems that the cloak
    Which folds a king will kiss a crooked nail
    As quickly as a beggar's gabardine
    Will do like office."

           *       *       *       *       *

    "Thou art so like to substance that I'd think
    Myself a shadow ere thyself a dream."

           *       *       *       *       *

              "Not so much beauty, sire,
    As would make full the pocket of thine eye."

           *       *       *       *       *

                                  "A vein
    That spilt its tender blue upon her eyelid,
    As though the cunning hand that dyed her eyes
    Had slipped for joy of its own work."

           *       *       *       *       *

    "What am I who doth rail against the fate
    That binds mankind? The atom of an atom,
    Particle of this particle the earth,
    That with its million kindred worlds doth spin
    Like motes within the universal light.
    What if I sin--am lost--do crack my life
    Against the gateless walls of Fate's decree?
    Is the world fouler for a gnat's corpse? Nay,
    The ocean, is it shallower for the drop
    It leaves upon a blade of grass?"

           *       *       *       *       *

    "There is a boy in Essex, they do say,
    Can crack an ox's ribs in one arm-crotch."

All these passages are taken from the tragedy of "Athelwold," written
by Miss Amelie Rives, the author of a novel entitled "The Quick and
the Dead."

FOOTNOTES:

[20] I confess I should have felt myself on still firmer ground in
making the above comparison if I had been able to select "Peter
Ibbetson" instead of "Trilby" as the American favourite. It is
distinctly the finest, the most characteristic, and the most
convincing of Mr. Du Maurier's novels, though it is easy to see why it
did not enjoy such a "boom" as its successor. In "Peter Ibbetson" our
moral sense does not feel outraged by the fact of the sympathy we have
to extend to a man-slayer; we are made to feel that a man may kill his
fellow in a moment of ungovernable and not unrighteous wrath without
losing his fundamental goodness. On the other hand, it seems to me,
Mr. Du Maurier fails to convert us to belief in the possibility of
such a character as Trilby, and fails to make us wholly sympathise
with his pæans in her praise. It seems psychologically impossible for
a woman to sin so repeatedly as Trilby, and so apparently without any
overwhelming temptation, and yet at the same time to retain her
essential purity. It is a prostitution of the word "love" to excuse
Trilby's temporary amourettes with a "_quia multum amavit_."

[21] His extraordinary article on George Du Maurier in _Harper's
Magazine_ for September, 1897, is, perhaps, so far as style is
concerned, as glaring an example of how not to do it as can be found
in the range of American letters.

[22] Perhaps Mr. George W. Cable is entitled to rank with Mr. Howells
in this respect as a man who refused to disguise his moral convictions
behind his literary art, and thus infallibly and with full
consciousness imperilled his popularity among his own people.

[23] "Stops of Various Quills," by W.D. Howells (Harper & Brothers,
New York, 1895).



XI

Certain Features of Certain Cities


One of the dicta in M. Bourget's "Outre Mer" to which I cannot but
take exception is that which insists on the essential similarity and
monotony of all the cities of the United States. Passing over the
question of the right of a Parisian to quarrel with monotony of street
architecture, I should simply ask what single country possesses cities
more widely divergent than New York and New Orleans, Philadelphia and
San Francisco, Chicago and San Antonio, Washington and Pittsburg? If
M. Bourget merely means that there is a tendency to homogeneity in the
case of modern cities which was not compatible with the picturesque
though uncomfortable reasons for variety in more ancient foundations,
his remark amounts to a truism. For his implied comparison with
European cities to have any point, he should be able to assert that
the recent architecture of the different cities of Europe is more
varied than the contemporary architecture of the United States. This
seems to me emphatically not the case. Modern Paris resembles modern
Rome more closely than any two of the above-named cities resemble each
other; and it is simply the universal tendency to note similarity
first and then unlikeness that makes the brief visitor to the United
States fail to find characteristic individuality in the various great
cities of the country. We are also too prone to forget that the
United States, though continental in its proportions, is after all but
a single nation, enjoying the same institutions and speaking
practically one tongue; and this of necessity introduces an element of
sameness that must be absent from the continent of Europe with which
we are apt to compare it. If we oppose to the United States that one
European country which approaches it most nearly in size, we shall, I
think, find the balance of uniformity does not incline to the American
side. When all is said, however, it cannot be denied that there _is_ a
great deal of similarity in the smaller and newer towns and cities of
the West, and Mr. W.S. Caine's likening them to "international
exhibitions a week before their opening" will strike many visitors as
very apposite. It is only to the indiscriminate and unhedged form of
M. Bourget's statement that objection need be made.

Architecture struck me as, perhaps, the one art in which America, so
far as modern times are concerned, could reasonably claim to be on a
par with, if not ahead of, any European country whatsoever. I say this
with a full realisation of the many artistic nightmares that oppress
the soil from the Atlantic to the Pacific, with a perfect recollection
of the acres of petty, monotonous, and mean structures in almost every
great city of the Union, with a keen appreciation of the witty saying
that the American architect often "shows no more self-restraint than a
bunch of fire-crackers." It is, however, distinctly true, as Mr.
Montgomery Schuyler well puts it, that "no progress can result from
the labour of architects whose training has made them so fastidious
that they are more revolted by the crudity of the forms that result
from the attempt to express a new meaning than by the failure to make
the attempt;" and it is in his freedom from this fastidious lack of
courage that the American architect is strong. His earlier efforts at
independence were, perhaps, hardly fortunate; but he is now entering a
phase in which adequate professional knowledge coöperates with good
taste to define the limits within which his imagination may
legitimately work. I know not where to look, within the last quarter
of a century or so, for more tasteful designs, greater sincerity of
purpose, or happier adaptations to environment than the best creations
of men like Mr. H.H. Richardson, Mr. R.M. Hunt, Mr. J.W. Root, Mr.
G.B. Post, and Messrs. McKim, Mead, and White. Some of the new
residential streets of places as recent as Chicago or St. Paul more
than hold their own, as it seems to me, with any contemporaneous
thoroughfares of their own class in Europe. To my own opinion let me
add the valuable testimony of Mr. E.A. Freeman, in his "Impressions of
the United States" (pp. 246, 247):

     I found the modern churches, of various denominations, certainly
     better, as works of architecture, than I had expected. They may
     quite stand beside the average of modern churches in England,
     setting aside a few of the very best.... But I thought the
     churches, whose style is most commonly Gothic of one kind or
     another, decidedly less successful than some of the civil
     buildings. In some of these, I hardly know how far by choice, how
     far by happy accident, a style has been hit upon which seemed to
     me far more at home than any of the reproductions of Gothic. Much
     of the street architecture of several cities has very
     successfully caught the leading idea of the true Italian style.

New York, the gateway to America for, perhaps, nine out of ten
visitors, is described by Mr. Richard Grant White, the American
writer, as "the dashing, dirty, demi-rep of cities." Mr. Joaquin
Miller, the poet of the Sierras, calls it "an iron-fronted,
iron-footed, and iron-hearted town." Miss Florence Marryat asserts
that New York is "_without any exception_ the most charming city she
has ever been in." Miss Emily Faithful admits that at first it seems
rough and new, but says that when one returns to it from the West, one
recognises that it has everything essential in common with his
European experiences. In my own note-book I find that New York
impressed me as being "like a lady in ball costume, with diamonds in
her ears, and her toes out at her boots."

Here, then, is evidence that New York makes a pretty strong impression
on her guests, and that this impression is not by any means the same
in every case. New York is evidently a person of character, and of a
character with many facets. To most European visitors it must, on the
_whole_, be somewhat of a disappointment; and it is not really an
advantageous or even a characteristic portal to the American
continent. For one thing, it is too overwhelmingly cosmopolitan in the
composition of its population to strike the distinctive American note.
It is not alone that New York society imitates that of France and
England in a more pronounced way than I found anywhere else in
America, but the names one sees over the shops seem predominantly
German and Jewish, accents we are familiar with at home resound in
our ears, the quarters we are first introduced to recall the dinginess
and shabbiness of the waterside quarters of cities like London and
Glasgow. More intimate acquaintance finds much that is strongly
American in New York; but this is not the first impression, and first
impressions count for so much that it seems to me a pity that New York
is for most travellers the prologue to their American experiences.

The contrasts between the poverty and wealth of New York are so
extreme as sometimes to suggest even London, where misery and
prosperity rub shoulders in a more heartrending way than, perhaps,
anywhere else in the wide world. But the contrasts that strike even
the most unobservant visitor to the so-called American "metropolis"
are of a different nature. When I was asked by American friends what
had most struck me in America, I sometimes answered, if in malicious
mood, "The fact that the principal street of the largest and richest
city in the Union is so miserably paved;" and, indeed, my
recollections of the holes in Broadway, and of the fact that in wintry
weather I had sometimes to diverge into University Place in order to
avoid a mid-shin crossing of liquid mud in Broadway, seem as strange
as if they related to a dream.[24] New York, again, possesses some of
the most sumptuous private residences in the world, often adorned in
particular with exquisite carvings in stone, such as Europeans have
sometimes furnished for a cathedral or minster, but which it has been
reserved for republican simplicity to apply to the residence of a
private citizen.[25] Yet it is by no means _ausgeschlossen_, as the
Germans say, that the pavement in front of this abode of luxury may
not be seamed by huge cracks and rents that make walking after
nightfall positively dangerous.

Fifth Avenue is not, to my mind, one of the most attractive city
streets in the United States, but it is, perhaps, the one that makes
the greatest impression of prosperity. It is eminently solid and
substantial; it reeks with respectability and possibly dulness. It is
a very alderman among streets. The shops at its lower end, and
gradually creeping up higher like the modest guest of the parable,
make no appeal to the lightly pursed, but are as aristocratic-looking
as those of Hanover Square. Its hotels and clubs are equally
suggestive of well-lined pockets. Its churches more than hint at
golden offertories; and the visitor is not surprised to be assured (as
he infallibly will be) that the pastor of one of them preaches every
Sunday to "two hundred and fifty million dollars." Even the beautiful
Roman Catholic cathedral lends its aid to this impression, and
encourages the faithful by a charge of fifteen to twenty-five cents
for a seat. The "stoops" of the lugubrious brown sandstone houses seem
to retain something more of their Dutch origin than the mere name. The
Sunday Parade here is better dressed than that of Hyde Park, but
candour compels me to admit, at the expense of my present point,
considerably less stiff and non-committal. Indeed, were it not for
the miserable horses of the "stage lines" Fifth Avenue might present a
clean bill of unimpeachable affluence.

Madison Avenue, hitherto uninvaded by shops, rivals Fifth Avenue in
its suggestions of extreme well-to-do-ness, and should be visited, if
for no other reason, to see the Tiffany house, one of the most daring
and withal most captivating experiments known to me in city
residences.

Unlike those of many other American cities, the best houses of New
York are ranged side by side without the interposition of the tiniest
bit of garden or greenery; it is only in the striking but unfinished
Riverside Drive, with its grand views of the Hudson, that architecture
derives any aid whatsoever from natural formations or scenic
conditions. The student of architecture should not fail to note the
success with which the problem of giving expression to a town house of
comparatively simple outline has often been tackled, and he will find
many charming single features, such as doors, or balconies, or
windows. Good examples of these are the exquisite oriel and other
decorative features of the house of Mr. W.K. Vanderbilt, by Mr. Hunt,
in Fifth Avenue, at the corner of 52d Street, and specimens will also
be found in 34th, 36th, 37th, 43d, 52d, 56th, and 57th Streets, near
their junction with Fifth Avenue. The W.H. Vanderbilt houses (Fifth
Avenue, between 50th and 51st Streets) have been described as
"brown-stone boxes with architecture appliqué;" but the applied
carving, though meaningless enough as far as its position goes, is so
exquisite in itself as to deserve more than a passing glance. The iron
railings which surround the houses are beautiful specimens of
metal-work. The house of Mr. Cornelius Vanderbilt, a little farther
up the avenue, with its red brick and slates, and its articulations
and dormers of grey limestone, is a good example of an effective use
of colour in domestic architecture--an effect which the clear, dry
climate of New York admits and perpetuates.[26] The row of quiet
oldtime houses on the north side of Washington Square will interest at
least the historical student of architecture, so characteristic are
they of times of restfulness and peace to which New York has long been
a stranger. Down towards the point of the island, in the "city"
proper, the visitor will find many happy creations for modern
mercantile purposes, besides such older objects of architectural
interest as Trinity Church and the City Hall, praised by Professor
Freeman and many other connoisseurs of both continents. Among these
business structures may be named the "Post Building," the building of
the Union Trust Company (No. 80 Broadway), and the Guernsey Building
(also in Broadway). At the extreme apex of Manhattan Island lie the
historic Bowling Green and Battery Park, the charm of which has not
been wholly annihilated by the intrusion of the elevated railway. Here
rises the huge rotunda of Castle Garden, through which till lately all
the immigrants to New York made their entry into the New World. Surely
this has a pathetic interest of its own when we consider what this
landing meant to so many thousands of the poor and needy. A suitable
motto for its hospitable portals would have been, "Imbibe new hope,
all ye who enter here."

As I have said, there is no lack of good Americanism in New York. Let
the Englishman who does not believe in an American school of sculpture
look at St. Gaudens' statue of Admiral Farragut in Madison Square, and
say where we have a better or as good a single figure in any of our
streets. Let him who thinks that fine public picture galleries are
confined to Europe go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art,[27] with its
treasures by Rembrandt and Rubens, Holbein and Van Dyck, Frans Hals
and Teniers, Reynolds and Hogarth, Meissonier and Detaille, Rosa
Bonheur and Troyon, Corot and Breton. Let the admirer of engineering
marvels, after he has sufficiently appreciated the elastic strength of
the Brooklyn Suspension Bridge, betake himself to the other end of the
island and enjoy the more solid, but in their way no less imposing,
proportions of the Washington Bridge over the Harlem, and let him
choose his route by the Ninth-avenue Elevated Railroad with its dizzy
curve at 110th street. And, finally, let not the lover of the
picturesque fail to enjoy the views from the already named Riverside
Drive, the cleverly created beauties of Central Park, and the district
known as Washington Heights.

The Englishman in New York will probably here make his first
acquaintance with the American system of street nomenclature; and if
he at once masters its few simple principles, it will be strange if he
does not find it of great utility and convenience. The objection
usually made to it is that the numbering of streets, instead of
naming them, is painfully arithmetical, bald, and uninteresting; but
if a man stays long enough to be really familiar with the streets, he
will find that the bare numbers soon clothe themselves with
association, and Fifth Avenue will come to have as distinct an
individuality as Broadway, while 23d Street will call up as definite a
picture of shopping activity as Bond Street or Piccadilly. The chief
trouble is the facility of confusing such an address as No. 44 East
45th Street with No. 45 East 44th Street; and so natural is an
inversion of the kind that one is sometimes heedless enough to make it
in writing one's own address.

The transition from New York to Boston in a chapter like this is as
inevitable as the tax-collector, though perhaps less ingenuity is now
spent in the invention of anecdotes typical of the contrasts between
these two cities since Chicago, by the capture of the World's Fair,
drew upon herself the full fire of the satire-shotted guns of New
York's rivalry. It seems to me, however, that in many ways there is
much more similarity between New York and Chicago than between New
York and Boston, and that it is easier to use the latter couple than
the former to point a moral or adorn a tale. In both New York and
Chicago the prevailing note is that of wealth and commerce, the
dominant social impression is one of boundless material luxury, the
atmosphere is thick with the emanations of those who hurry to be rich.
I hasten to add that of course this is largely tempered by other
tendencies and features; it would be especially unpardonable of me to
forget the eminently intellectual, artistic, and refined aspects of
New York life of which I was privileged to enjoy glimpses. In Boston,
however, there is something different. Mere wealth, even in these
degenerate days, does not seem to play so important a part in her
society. The names one constantly hears or sees in New York are names
like Astor, Vanderbilt, Jay Gould, and Bradley-Martin, names which,
whatever other qualities they connote, stand first and foremost for
mere crude wealth. In Boston the prominent public names--the names
that naturally occur to my mind as I think of Boston as I saw it--are
Oliver Wendell Holmes, the poet and novelist; Eliot, the college
president; Francis Walker, the political economist; Higginson, the
generous cultivator of classical music; Robert Treat Paine, the
philanthropist; Edward Everett Hale; and others of a more or less
similar class. Again, in New York and in Chicago (Pullman, Marshall
Field, Armour) the prominent names are emphatically men of to-day and
seem to change with each generation. In Boston we have the names of
the first governor and other leaders of the early settlers still
shining in their descendants with almost undiminished lustre. The
present mayor of Boston, for example, is a member of a family the name
of which has been illustrious in the city's annals for two hundred
years. He is the fifth of his name in the direct line to gain fame in
the public service, and the third to occupy the mayor's chair. No less
than sixteen immediate members of the family are recorded in the
standard biographical dictionaries of America.

While doubtless the Attic tales of Boeotian dulness were at least as
often well invented as true, it is perhaps the case that there is
generally some ground for the popular caricatures of any given
community. I duly discounted the humorous and would-be humorous
stories of Boston's pedantry that I heard in New York, and found that
as a rule I had done right so to do. Blue spectacles are not more
prominent in Boston than elsewhere; its theatres do not make a
specialty of Greek plays; the little boys do not petition the
Legislature for an increase in the hours of school. There yet remains,
however, a basis of truth quite large enough to show the observer how
the reputation was acquired. It is a solemn fact that what would
appear in England as "No spitting allowed in this car" is translated
in the electric cars of Boston into: "The Board of Health hereby
adjudges that the deposit of sputum in street-cars is a public
nuisance."[28] The framer of this announcement would undoubtedly speak
of the limbs of a piano and allude to a spade as an agricultural
implement. And in social intercourse I have often noticed needless
celerity in skating over ice that seemed to my ruder British sense
quite well able to bear any ordinary weight, as well as a certain
subtlety of allusiveness that appeared to exalt ingenuity of phrase at
the expense of common sense and common candour. Too high praise cannot
easily be given to the Boston Symphony Concerts; but it is difficult
to avoid a suspicion of affectation in the severe criticism one hears
of the conductor whenever he allows a little music of a lighter class
than usual to appear on the programme.

Boston is, in its way, as prolific of contrasts as any part of the
United States. There is certainly no more cultivated centre in the
country, and yet the letter _r_ is as badly maltreated by the Boston
scholar as by the veriest cockney. To the ear of Boston _centre_ has
precisely the same sound as the name of the heroine of Wagner's
"Flying Dutchman," and its most cultivated graduates speak of Herbert
Spenc_ah_'s Data_r_ of Ethics. The critical programmes of the Symphony
Concerts are prepared by one of the ablest of living musical critics,
and are scholarly almost to excess; yet, as the observant Swiss
critic, M. Wagnière, has pointed out, their refined and subtle text
has to endure the immediate juxtaposition of the advertisements of
tea-rooms and glove-sellers. Boston has the deserved reputation of
being one of the best-governed cities in America, yet some of its
important streets seldom see a municipal watering-cart, dust flies in
clouds both summer and winter, and myriads of life-endangering
bicycles shoot through its thoroughfares at night without lamps. The
Boston matron holds up her hands in sanctified horror at the freedom
of Western manners, and yet it is a local saying, founded on a solid
basis of fact, that Kenney & Clark (a well-known firm of livery-stable
keepers) are the only chaperon that a Boston girl needs in going to or
from a ball. The Bostonians are not the least intelligent of mortals,
and yet I know no other city in America which is content with such an
anomalous system of hack hire, where no reduction in rate is made for
the number of persons. One person may drive in a comfortable two-horse
brougham to any point within Boston proper for 50 cents; two persons
pay $1, three persons $1.50, and so on. My advice to a quartette of
travellers visiting Boston is to hire _four_ carriages at once and _go
in a procession_, until they find a liveryman who sees the point.

One acute observer has pointed out that it is the men of New York who
grow haggard, wrinkled, anxious-looking, and prematurely old in their
desperate efforts to provide diamonds and balls and Worth costumes and
trips to Europe for their debonair, handsome, easy-going, and
well-nourished spouses and daughters; while the men of Boston are
"jolly dogs, who make money by legitimate trade instead of wild
speculation, and show it in their countenances, illumined with the
light of good cigars and champagne and other little luxuries," while
their womankind are constantly worried by the New England conscience,
and constantly creating anxieties for themselves where none exist.
There is indeed a large amount of truth in this description, if
allowance be made for pardonable exaggeration. It is among the women
of Boston that one finds its traditional mantle of intellectuality
worn most universally, and it is among the women of New York that one
finds the most characteristic displays of love of pleasure and social
triumphs. It is, perhaps, not a mere accident that the daughters of
Boston's millionaires seem to marry their fellow-citizens rather than
foreign noblemen. "None of _their_ money goes to gild rococo
coronets."

I have a good deal of sympathy with a Canadian friend who exclaimed:
"Oh, Boston! I don't include _Boston_ when I speak of the United
States." Max O'Rell has similarly noted that if you wish to hear
severe criticism of America you have only to go to Boston. "_Là on
loue Boston et Angleterre, et l'on débine l'Amérique à dire
d'experts._" It would be a mistake, however, to infer that Boston is
not truly American, or that it devotes itself to any voluntary
imitation of England. In a very deep sense Boston is one of the most
intensely American cities in the Union; it represents, perhaps, the
finest development of many of the most characteristic ideals of
Americanism. Its resemblances to England seem to be due to the simple
fact that like causes produce like results. The original English stock
by which Boston was founded has remained less mixed here than,
perhaps, in any other city of America; and the differences between the
descendants of the Puritans who emigrated and the descendants of those
of them who remained at home are not complicated by a material
infusion of alien blood in either case. The independence of the
original settlers, their hatred of coercion and tyranny, have
naturally grown with two centuries and a half of democracy; even the
municipal administration has not been wholly captured by the Irish
voter. The Bostonian has, to a very appreciable extent, solved the
problem of combining the virtues of democracy with the manners of
aristocracy; and I know not where you will find a better type of the
American than the Boston gentleman: patriotic with enlightened
patriotism; finely mannered even to the class immediately below his
own; energetic, but not a slave to the pursuit of wealth; liberal in
his religion, but with something of the Puritan conscience still lying
_perdu_ beneath his universalism; distributing his leisure between
art, literature, and outdoor occupations; a little cool in his initial
manner to strangers, but warmly hospitable when his confidence in your
merit is satisfied. We, in England, may well feel proud that the blood
which flows in the veins of the ideal Bostonian is as distinctly and
as truly English as that of our own Gladstones and Morleys, our
Brownings and our Tennysons.

Prof. Hugo Münsterberg, of Berlin, writes thus of Boston and Chicago:
"_Ja, Boston ist die Hauptstadt jenes jungen, liebenswerthen,
idealistischen Amerikas und wird es bleiben; Chicago dagegen ist die
Hochburg der alten protzigen amerikanischen Dollarsucht, und die
Weltausstellung schliesslich ist überhaupt nicht Amerika, sondern
chicagosirtes Europa._" Whatever may be thought of the first part of
this judgment, the second member of it seems to me rather unfair to
Chicago and emphatically so as regards the Chicago exhibition.

Since 1893 Chicago ought never to be mentioned as Porkopolis without a
simultaneous reference to the fact that it was also the creator of the
White City, with its Court of Honour, perhaps the most flawless and
fairy-like creation, on a large scale, of man's invention. We expected
that America would produce the largest, most costly, and most gorgeous
of all international exhibitions; but who expected that she would
produce anything so inexpressibly poetic, chaste, and restrained, such
an absolutely refined and soul-satisfying picture, as the Court of
Honour, with its lagoon and gondolas, its white marble steps and
balustrades, its varied yet harmonious buildings, its colonnaded vista
of the great lake, its impressive fountain, its fairy-like outlining
after dark by the gems of electricity, its spacious and well-modulated
proportions which made the largest crowd in it but an unobtrusive
detail, its air of spontaneity and inevitableness which suggested
nature itself, rather than art? No other scene of man's creation
seemed to me so perfect as this Court of Honour. Venice, Naples, Rome,
Florence, Edinburgh, Athens, Constantinople, each in its way is lovely
indeed; but in each view of each of these there is some jarring
feature, something that we have to _ignore_ in order to thoroughly
lose ourselves in the beauty of the scene. The Court of Honour was
practically blameless; the æsthetic sense of the beholder was as fully
and unreservedly satisfied as in looking at a masterpiece of painting
or sculpture, and at the same time was soothed and elevated by a sense
of amplitude and grandeur such as no single work of art could produce.
The glamour of old association that illumines Athens or Venice was in
a way compensated by our deep impression of the pathetic
transitoriness of the dream of beauty before us, and by the revelation
it afforded of the soul of a great nation. For it will to all time
remain impossibly ridiculous to speak of a country or a city as wholly
given over to the worship of Mammon which almost involuntarily gave
birth to this ethereal emanation of pure and uneconomic beauty.

Undoubtedly there are few things more dismal than the sunless cañons
which in Chicago are called streets; and the luckless being who is
concerned there with retail trade is condemned to pass the greater
part of his life in unrelieved ugliness. Things, however, are rather
better in the "office" quarter; and he who is ready to admit that
exigency of site gives some excuse for "elevator architecture" will
find a good deal to interest him in its practice at Chicago. Indeed,
no one can fail to wonder at the marvellous skill of architectural
engineering which can run up a building of twenty stories, the walls
of which are merely a veneer or curtain. Few will cavil at the
handsome and comfortable equipment of the best interiors; but, given
the necessity of their existence, the wide-minded lover of art will
find something to reward his attention even in their exteriors. In
many instances their architects have succeeded admirably in steering a
middle course between the ornate style of a palace on the one hand
and the packing case with windows on the other; and the observer might
unreservedly admire the general effect were it not for the crick in
his neck that reminds him most forcibly that he cannot get far enough
away for a proper estimate of the proportions. Any city might feel
proud to count amid its commercial architecture such features as the
entrance of the Phenix Building, the office of the American Express
Company, and the monumental Field Building, by Richardson, with what
Mr. Schuyler calls its grim utilitarianism of expression; and the same
praise might, perhaps, be extended to the Auditorium, the Owings
Building, the Rookery, and some others. In non-commercial architecture
Chicago may point with some pride to its City Hall, its University,
its libraries, the admirable Chicago Club (the old Art Institute), and
the new Art Institute on the verge of Lake Michigan. Of its churches
the less said the better; their architecture, regarded as a studied
insult to religion, would go far to justify the highly uncomplimentary
epithet Mr. Stead applied to Chicago.

In some respects Chicago deserves the name City of Contrasts, just as
the United States is the Land of Contrasts; and in no way is this more
marked than in the difference between its business and its residential
quarters. In the one--height, narrowness, noise, monotony, dirt,
sordid squalor, pretentiousness; in the other--light, space,
moderation, homelikeness. The houses in the Lake Shore Drive, the
Michigan Boulevard, or the Drexel Boulevard are as varied in style as
the brown-stone mansions of New York are monotonous; they face on
parks or are surrounded with gardens of their own; they are seldom
ostentatiously large; they suggest comfort, but not offensive
affluence; they make credible the possession of some individuality of
taste on the part of their owners. The number of massive round
openings, the strong rusticated masonry, the open loggie, the absence
of mouldings, and the red-tiled roofs suggest to the cognoscenti that
Mr. H.H. Richardson's spirit was the one which brooded most
efficaciously over the domestic architecture of Chicago. The two
houses I saw that were designed by Mr. Richardson himself are
undoubtedly not so satisfactory as some of his public buildings, but
they had at least the merit of interest and originality; some of the
numerous imitations were by no means successful.

The parks of Chicago are both large and beautiful. They contain not a
few very creditable pieces of sculpture, among which Mr. St. Gaudens'
statue of Lincoln is conspicuous as a wonderful triumph of artistic
genius over unpromising material. The show of flowers in the parks is
not easily paralleled in public domains elsewhere. Of these, rather
than of its stockyards and its lightning rapidity in pig-sticking,
will the visitor who wishes to think well of Chicago carry off a
mental picture.

The man who has stood on Inspiration Point above Oakland and has
watched the lights of San Francisco gleaming across its noble bay, or
who has gazed down on the Golden Gate from the heights of the
Presidio, must have an exceptionally rich gallery of memory if he does
not feel that he has added to its treasures one of the most entrancing
city views he has ever witnessed. The situation of San Francisco is
indeed that of an empress among cities. Piled tier above tier on the
hilly knob at the north end of a long peninsula, it looks down on the
one side over the roomy waters of San Francisco Bay (fifty miles long
and ten miles wide), backed by the ridge of the Coast Range, while in
the other direction it is reaching out across the peninsula, here six
miles wide, to the placid expanse of the Pacific Ocean. On the north
the peninsula ends abruptly in precipitous cliffs some hundreds of
feet high, while a similar peninsula, stretching southwards, faces it
in a similar massive promontory, separated by a scant mile of water.
This is the famous Golden Gate, the superb gateway leading from the
ocean to the shelters of the bay. To the south the eye loses itself
among the fertile valleys of corn and fruit stretching away toward the
Mexican frontier.

When we have once sated ourselves with the general effect, there still
remains a number of details, picturesque, interesting, or quaint.
There is the Golden Gate Park, the cypresses and eucalypti at one end
of which testify to the balminess of the climate, while the sand-dunes
at its other end show the original condition of the whole surface of
the peninsula, and add to our admiration of nature a sense of
respectful awe for the transforming energy of man. Beyond Golden Gate
Park we reach Sutro Heights, another desert that has been made to
blossom like the rose. Here we look out over the Pacific to the
musically named Farralone Islands, thirty miles to the west. Then we
descend for luncheon to the Cliff House below, and watch the uncouth
gambols of hundreds of fat sea-lions (Spanish _lobos marinos_), which,
strictly protected from the rifle or harpoon, swim, and plunge, and
bark unconcernedly within a stone's throw of the observer. The largest
of these animals are fifteen feet long and weigh about a ton; and it
is said that certain individuals, recognisable by some peculiarity,
are known to have frequented the rocks for many years. On our way back
to the lower part of the city we use one of the cable-cars crawling up
and down the steep inclines like flies on a window-pane; and we find,
if the long polished seat of the car be otherwise unoccupied, that we
have positive difficulty in preventing ourselves slipping down from
one end of the car to the other. By this time the strong afternoon
wind[29] has set in from the sea, and we notice with surprise that the
seasoned Friscans, still clad in the muslins and linens that seemed
suitable enough at high noon, seek by preference the open seats of the
locomotive car, while we, puny visitors, turn up our coat-collars and
flee to the shelter of the "trailer" or covered car. As we come over
"Nob Hill" we take in the size of the houses of the Californian
millionaires, note that they are of wood (on account of the
earthquakes?), and bemoan the misdirected efforts of their architects,
who, instead of availing themselves of the unique chance of producing
monuments of characteristically developed timber architecture, have
known no better than to slavishly imitate the incongruous features of
stone houses in the style of the Renaissance. Indeed, we shall feel
that San Francisco is badly off for fine buildings of all and every
kind. If daylight still allows we may visit the Mission Dolores, one
of the interesting old Spanish foundations that form the origin of so
many places in California, and if we are historically inclined we may
inspect the old Spanish grants in the Surveyor-General's office. Those
of us whose tastes are modern and literary may find our account in
identifying some of the places in R.L. Stevenson's "Ebb Tide," and it
will go hard with us if we do not also meet a few of his characters
amid the cosmopolitan crowd in the streets or on the wharves. At night
we may visit China without the trouble of a voyage, and perambulate a
city of 25,000 Celestials under the safe guidance of an Irish-accented
detective. So often have the features of Chinatown been described--its
incense-scented joss-houses, its interminable stage-plays, its
opium-joints, its drug-stores with their extraordinary remedies, its
curiosity shops, and its restaurants--that no repetition need be
attempted here. We leave it with a sense of the curious incongruity
which allows this colony of Orientals to live in the most wide-awake
of western countries with an apparently almost total neglect of such
sanitary observances as are held indispensable in all other modern
municipalities. It is certain that no more horrible sight could be
seen in the extreme East than the so-called "Hermit of Chinatown," an
insane devotee who has lived for years crouched in a miserable little
outhouse, subsisting on the offerings of the charitable, and degraded
almost beyond the pale of humanity by his unbroken silence, his blank
immobility, and his neglect of all the decencies of life. And this is
an American resident, if not an American citizen! If the reader is as
lucky as the writer, he may wind up the day with a smart shock of
earthquake; and if he is equally sleepy and unintelligent (which
Heaven forefend!), he may miss its keen relish by drowsily wondering
what on earth they mean by moving that _very_ heavy grand piano
overhead at that time of night.

"Two-thirds of them come here to die, and they can't do it." This was
said by the famous Mr. Barnum about Colorado Springs; and the active
life and cheerful manners of the condemned invalids who flourish in
this charming little city go far to confirm the truth concealed
beneath the jest. The land has insensibly sloped upwards since the
traveller left the Mississippi behind him, and he now finds himself in
a flowery prairie 6,000 feet above the sea level, while close by one
of the finest sections of the Rocky Mountains rears its snowy peaks to
a height of 6,000 to 8,000 feet more. The climate resembles that of
Davos, and like it is preëminently suited for all predisposed to or
already affected with consumption; but Colorado enjoys more sunshine
than its Swiss rival, and has no disagreeable period of melting snow.
The town is sheltered by the foothills, except to the southeast, where
it lies open to the great plains; and, being situated where they meet
the mountains, it enjoys the openness and free supply of fresh air of
the seashore, without its dampness. The name is somewhat of a
misnomer, as the nearest springs are those of Manitou, about five
miles to the north.

Colorado Springs may be summed up as an oasis of Eastern civilisation
and finish in an environment of Western rawness and enterprise. It has
been described as "a charming big village, like the well-laid-out
suburb of some large Eastern city." Its wide, tree-shaded streets are
kept in excellent order. There is a refreshing absence of those "loose
ends" of a new civilisation which even the largest of the Western
cities are too apt to show. No manufactures are carried on, and no
"saloons" are permitted. The inhabitants consist very largely of
educated and refined people from the Eastern States and England, whose
health does not allow them to live in their damper native climes. The
tone of the place is a refreshing blend of the civilisation of the
East and the unconventionalism of the West. Perhaps there is no
pleasanter example of extreme social democracy. The young man of the
East, unprovided with a private income, finds no scope here for his
specially trained capacities, and is glad to turn an honest penny and
occupy his time with anything he can get. Thus there are gentlemen in
the conventional sense of the word among many of the so-called humbler
callings, and one may rub shoulders at the charming little clubs with
an Oxford-bred livery-stable keeper or a Harvard graduate who has
turned his energies toward the selling of milk. Few visitors to
Colorado Springs will fail to carry away a grateful and pleasant
impression of the English doctor who has found vigorous life and a
prosperous career in the place of exile to which his health condemned
him in early manhood, and who has repaid the place for its gift of
vitality by the most intelligent and effective championship of its
advantages. These latter include an excellent hotel and a flourishing
college for delicate girls and boys.

Denver, a near neighbour of Colorado Springs (if we speak _more
Americano_), is an excellent example, both in theory and practice, of
the confident expectation of growth with which new American cities are
founded. The necessary public buildings are not huddled together as a
nucleus from which the municipal infant may grow outwards; but a large
and generous view is taken of the possibilities of expansion. Events
do not always justify this sanguine spirit of forethought. The capitol
at Washington still turns its back on the city of which it was to be
the centre as well as the crown. In a great number of cases, however,
hope and fact eventually meet together. The capitol of Bismarck, chief
town of North Dakota, was founded in 1883, nearly a mile from the
city, on a rising site in the midst of the prairie. It has already
been reached by the advancing tide of houses, and will doubtless, in
no long time, occupy a conveniently central situation. Denver is an
equally conspicuous instance of the same tendency. The changes that
took place in that city between the date of my visit to it and the
reading of the proof-sheets of "Baedeker's United States" a year or so
later demanded an almost entire rewriting of the description.
Doubtless it has altered at least as much since then, and very likely
the one or two slightly critical remarks of the handbook of 1893 are
already grossly libellous. Denver quadrupled its population between
1880 and 1890. The value of its manufactures and of the precious ores
smelted here reaches a fabulous amount of millions of dollars. The
usual proportion of "million" and "two million dollar buildings" have
been erected. Many of the principal streets are (most wonderful of
all!) excellently paved and kept reasonably clean. But the crowning
glory of Denver for every intelligent traveller is its magnificent
view of the Rocky Mountains, which are seen to the West in an unbroken
line of at least one hundred and fifty miles. Though forty miles
distant, they look, owing to the purity of the atmosphere, as if they
were within a walk of two or three hours. Denver is fond of calling
herself the "Queen City of the Plains," and few will grudge the
epithet queenly if it is applied to the possession of this matchless
outlook on the grandest manifestations of nature. If the Denver
citizen brags more of his State Capitol, his Metropole Hotel (no
accent, please!), and his smelting works than of his snow-piled
mountains and abysmal cañons, he only follows a natural human instinct
in estimating most highly that which has cost him most trouble.

Mr. James Bryce has an interesting chapter on the absence of a capital
in the United States. By capital he means "a city which is not only
the seat of political government, but is also by the size, wealth, and
character of its population the head and centre of the country, a
leading seat of commerce and industry, a reservoir of financial
resources, the favoured residence of the great and powerful, the spot
in which the chiefs of the learned professions are to be found, where
the most potent and widely read journals are published, whither men of
literary and scientific capacity are drawn." New York journalists,
with a happy disregard of the historical connotation of language, are
prone to speak of their city as a metropolis; but it is very evident
that the most liberal interpretation of the word cannot elevate New
York to the relative position of such European metropolitan cities as
Paris or London. Washington, the nominal capital of the United States,
is perhaps still farther from satisfying Mr. Bryce's definition. It
certainly is a relatively small city, and it is not a leading seat of
trade, manufacture, or finance. It is also true that its journals do
not rank among the leading papers of the land; but, on the other hand,
it must be remembered that every important American journal has its
Washington correspondent, and that in critical times the letters of
these gentlemen are of very great weight. As the seat of the Supreme
Judicial Bench of the United States, it has as good a claim as any
other American city to be the residence of the "chiefs of the learned
professions;" and it is quite remarkable how, owing to the great
national collections and departments, it has come to the front as the
main focus of the scientific interests of the country. The Cosmos
Club's list of members is alone sufficient to illustrate this. Its
attraction to men of letters has proved less cogent; but the life of
an eminent literary man of (say) New Orleans or Boston is much more
likely to include a prolonged visit to Washington than to any other
American city not his own. The Library of Congress alone, now
magnificently housed in an elaborately decorated new building, is a
strong magnet. In the same way there is a growing tendency for all who
can afford it to spend at least one season in Washington. The belle of
Kalamazoo or Little Rock is not satisfied till she has made her bow in
Washington under the wing of her State representative, and the senator
is no-wise loath to see his wife's tea-parties brightened by a bevy of
the prettiest girls from his native wilds. University men throughout
the Union, leaders of provincial bars, and a host of others have often
occasion to visit Washington. When we add to all this the army of
government employees and the cosmopolitan element of the diplomatic
corps, we can easily see that, so far as "society" is concerned,
Washington is more like a European capital than any other American
city. Nothing is more amusing--for a short time, at least--than a
round of the teas, dinners, receptions, and balls of Washington, where
the American girl is seen in all her glory, with captives of every
clime, from the almond-eyed Chinaman to the most faultlessly correct
Piccadilly exquisite, at her dainty feet. I never saw a bevy of more
beautiful women than officiated at one senatorial afternoon tea I
visited; so beautiful were they as to make me entirely forget what
seemed to my untutored European taste the absurdity of their wearing
low-necked evening gowns while their guests sported hat and jacket and
fur. The whole tone of Washington society from the President downward
is one of the greatest hospitality and geniality towards strangers.
The city is beautifully laid out, and its plan may be described as
that of a wheel laid on a gridiron, the rectangular arrangement of the
streets having superimposed on it a system of radiating avenues, lined
with trees and named for the different States of the Union. The city
is governed and kept admirably in order by a board of commissioners
appointed by the President. The sobriquet of "City of Magnificent
Distances," applied to Washington when its framework seemed
unnecessarily large for its growth, is still deserved, perhaps, for
the width of its streets and the spaciousness of its parks and
squares. The floating white dome of the Capitol dominates the entire
city, and almost every street-vista ends in an imposing public
building, a mass of luxuriant greenery, or at the least a memorial
statue. The little wooden houses of the coloured squatters that used
to alternate freely with the statelier mansions of officialdom are now
rapidly disappearing; and some, perhaps, will regret the obliteration
of the element of picturesqueness suggested in the quaint contrast.
The absence of the wealth-suggesting but artistically somewhat sordid
accompaniments of a busy industrialism also contributes to
Washington's position as one of the most singularly handsome cities on
the globe. Among the other striking features of the American capital
is the Washington Memorial, a huge obelisk raising its metal-tipped
apex to a height of five hundred and fifty-five feet. There are those
who consider this a meaningless pile of masonry; but the writer
sympathises rather with the critics who find it, in its massive and
heaven-reaching simplicity, a fit counterpart to the Capitol and one
of the noblest monuments ever raised to mortal man. When gleaming in
the westering sun, like a slender, tapering, sky-pointing finger of
gold, no finer index can be imagined to direct the gazer to the record
of a glorious history. Near the monument is the White House, a
building which, in its modest yet adequate dimensions, embodies the
democratic ideal more fitly, it may be feared, than certain other
phases of the Great Republic. Without cataloguing the other public
buildings of Washington, we may quit it with a glow of patriotic
fervour over the fact that the Smithsonian Institute here, one of the
most important scientific institutions in the world, was founded by an
Englishman, who, so far as is known, never even visited the United
States, but left his large fortune for "the increase and diffusion of
knowledge among men," to the care of that country with whose generous
and popular principles he was most in sympathy.

FOOTNOTES:

[24] This refers to 1893; things are much better now.

[25] This suggestion of topsy-turvydom in the relations of God and
Mammon is much intensified when we find an apartment house like the
"Osborne" towering high above the church-spire on the opposite side of
the way, or see Trinity Church simply smothered by the contiguous
office buildings.

[26] Compare Montgomery Schuyler's "American Architecture," an
excellent though brief account and appreciation of modern American
building.

[27] The position of the Metropolitan Museum of Art is so assured that
in 1896 its trustees declined a bequest of 90 paintings (claiming to
include specimens of Velazquez, Titian, Rubens, and other great
artists), because it was hampered with the condition that it had to be
accepted and exhibited _en bloc_.

[28] This was changed to simple English in 1898.

[29] It is to this wind, the temperature of which varies little all
the year round, that San Francisco owes her wonderfully equable
climate, which is never either too hot or too cold for comfortable
work or play. The mean annual temperature is about 57° Fahr., or
rather higher than that of New York; but while the difference between
the mean of the months is 40° at the latter city, it is about 10° only
at the Golden Gate. The mean of July is about 60°, that of January
about 50°. September is a shade warmer than July. Observations
extending over 30 years show that the freezing point on the one hand
and 80° Fahr. on the other are reached on an average only about half a
dozen times a year. The hottest day of the year is more likely to
occur in September than any other month.



XII

Baedekeriana


This chapter deals with subjects related to the tourist and the
guidebook, and with certain points of a more personal nature connected
with the preparation of "Baedeker's Handbook to the United States."
Readers uninterested in topics of so practical and commonplace a
character will do well to skip it altogether.

When the scheme of publishing a "Baedeker" to the United States was
originally entertained, the first thought was to invite an American to
write the book for us. On more mature deliberation it was, however,
decided that a member of our regular staff would, perhaps, do the work
equally well, inasmuch as he would combine, with actual experience in
the art of guidebook making, the stranger's point of view, and thus
the more acutely realise, by experiment in his own _corpus vile_, the
points on which the ignorant European would require advice, warning,
or assistance. So far as my own voice had aught to do with this
decision, I have to confess that I severely grudged the interesting
task to an outsider. The opportunity of making a somewhat extensive
survey of the country that stood preëminently for the modern ideas of
democracy and progress was a peculiarly grateful one; and I even
contrived to infuse (for my own consumption) a spice of the ideal into
the homely brew of the guidebook by reflecting that it would
contribute (so far as it went) to that mutual knowledge, intimacy of
which is perhaps all that is necessary to ensure true friendship
between the two great Anglo-Saxon powers.

While thus reserving the editing of the book for one of our own
household, we realised thoroughly that no approach to completeness
would be attainable without the coöperation of the Americans
themselves; and I welcome this opportunity to reiterate my keen
appreciation of the open-handed and open-minded way in which this was
accorded. Besides the signed articles by men of letters and science in
the introductory part of the handbook, I have to acknowledge thousands
of other kindly offices and useful hints, many of which hardly allow
themselves to be classified or defined, but all of which had their
share in producing aught of good that the volume may contain. So many
Americans have used their Baedekers in Europe that I found troops of
ready-made sympathisers, who, half-interested, half-amused, at the
attempt to Baedekerise their own continent, knew pretty well what was
wanted, and were able to put me on the right track for procuring
information. Indeed, the book could hardly have been written but for
these innumerable streams of disinterested assistance, which enabled
the writer so to economise his time as to finish his task before the
part first written was entirely obsolete.

The process of change in the United States goes on so rapidly that the
attempt of a guidebook to keep abreast of the times (not easy in any
country) becomes almost futile. The speed with which Denver
metamorphosed her outward appearance has already been commented on at
page 214; and this is but one instance in a thousand. Towns spring up
literally in a night. McGregor in Texas, at the junction of two new
railways, had twelve houses the day after it was fixed upon as a town
site, and in two months contained five hundred souls. Towns may also
disappear in a night, as Johnstown (Penn.) was swept away by the
bursting of a dam on May 31, 1889, or as Chicago was destroyed by the
great fire of 1871. These are simply exaggerated examples of what is
happening less obtrusively all the time. The means of access to points
of interest are constantly changing; the rough horse-trail of to-day
becomes the stage-road of to-morrow and the railway of the day after.
The conservative clinging to the old, so common in Europe, has no
place in the New World; an apparently infinitesimal advantage will
occasion a _bouleversement_ that is by no means infinitesimal.

Next to the interest and beauty of the places to be visited, perhaps
the two things in which a visitor to a new country has most concern
are the means of moving from point to point and the accommodation
provided for him at his nightly stopping-places--in brief, its
conveyances and its inns. During the year or more I spent in almost
continuous travelling in the United States I had abundant opportunity
of testing both of these. In all I must have slept in over two hundred
different beds, ranging from one in a hotel-chamber so gorgeous that
it seemed almost as indelicate to go to bed in it as to undress in the
drawing-room, down through the berths of Pullman cars and river
steamboats, to an open-air couch of balsam boughs in the Adirondack
forests. My means of locomotion included a safety bicycle, an
Adirondack canoe, the back of a horse, the omnipresent buggy, a
bob-sleigh, a "cutter," a "booby," four-horse "stages," river, lake,
and sea-going steamers, horse-cars, cable-cars, electric cars,
mountain elevators, narrow-gauge railways, and the Vestibuled Limited
Express from New York to Chicago.

Perhaps it is significant of the amount of truth in many of the
assertions made about travelling in the United States that I traversed
about 35,000 miles in the various ways indicated above without a
scratch and almost without serious detention or delay. Once we were
nearly swamped in a sudden squall in a mountain lake, and once we had
a minute or two's pleasant experience of the iron-shod heels of our
horse _inside_ the buggy, the unfortunate animal having hitched his
hind-legs over the dash-board and nearly kicking out our brains in his
frantic efforts to get free. These, however, were accidents that might
have happened anywhere, and if my experiences by road and rail in
America prove anything, they prove that travelling in the United
States is just as safe as in Europe.[30] Some varieties of it are
rougher than anything of the kind I know in the Old World; but on the
other hand much of it is far pleasanter. The European system of small
railway compartments, in spite of its advantage of privacy and quiet,
would be simply unendurable in the long journeys that have to be made
in the western hemisphere. The journey of twenty-four to thirty hours
from New York to Chicago, if made by the Vestibuled Limited, is
probably less fatiguing than the day-journey of half the time from
London to Edinburgh. The comforts of this superb train include those
of the drawing-room, the dining-room, the smoking-room, and the
library. These apartments are perfectly ventilated by compressed air
and lighted by movable electric lights, while in winter they are
warmed to an agreeable temperature by steam-pipes. Card-tables and a
selection of the daily papers minister to the traveller's amusement,
while bulletin boards give the latest Stock Exchange quotations and
the reports of the Government Weather Bureau. Those who desire it may
enjoy a bath _en route_, or avail themselves of the services of a
lady's maid, a barber, a stenographer, and a type-writer. There is
even a small and carefully selected medicine chest within reach; and
the way in which the minor delicacies of life are consulted may be
illustrated by the fact that powdered soap is provided in the
lavatories, so that no one may have to use the same cake of soap as
his neighbour.

No one who has not tried both can appreciate the immense difference in
comfort given by the opportunity to move about in the train. No matter
how pleasant one's companions are in an English first-class
compartment, their _enforced_ proximity makes one heartily sick of
them before many hours have elapsed; while a conversation with Daisy
Miller in the American parlour car is rendered doubly delightful by
the consciousness that you may at any moment transfer yourself and
your _bons mots_ to Lydia Blood at the other end of the car, or retire
with Gilead P. Beck to the snug little smoking-room. The great size
and weight of the American cars make them very steady on well-laid
tracks like those of the Pennsylvania Railway, and thus letter-writing
need not be a lost art on a railway journey. Even when the permanent
way is inferior, the same cause often makes the vibration less than on
the admirable road-beds of England.

Theoretically, there is no distinction of classes on an American
railway; practically, there is whenever the line is important enough
or the journey long enough to make it worth while. The parlour car
corresponds to our first class; and its use has this advantage (rather
curious in a democratic country), that the increased fare for its
admirable comforts is relatively very low, usually (in my experience)
not exceeding 1/2_d._ a mile. The ordinary fare from New York to
Boston (220 to 250 miles) is $5 (£1); a seat in a parlour car costs $1
(4_s._), and a sleeping-berth $1.50 (6_s._). Thus the ordinary
passenger pays at the rate of about 1-1/4_d._ per mile, while the
luxury of the Pullman may be obtained for an additional expenditure of
just about 1/2_d._ a mile. The extra fare on even the Chicago
Vestibuled Limited is only $8 (32_s._) for 912 miles, or considerably
less than 1/2_d._ a mile. These rates are not only less than the
difference between first-class and third-class fares in Europe, but
also compare very advantageously with the rates for sleeping-berths on
European lines, being usually 50 to 75 per cent. lower. The
parlour-car rates, however, increase considerably as we go on towards
the West and get into regions where competition is less active. A good
instance of this is afforded by the parlour-car fares of the Canadian
Pacific Railway, which I select because it spans the continent with
its own rails from the Atlantic to the Pacific; the principle on the
United States lines is similar. The price of a "sleeper" ticket from
Montreal to Fort William (998 miles) is $6, or about 3/5_d._ per mile;
that from Banff to Vancouver (560 miles) is the same, or at the rate
of about 14/15_d._ per mile. The rate for the whole journey from
Halifax to Vancouver (3,362 miles) is about 2/3_d._ per mile.

Travellers who prefer the privacy of the European system may combine
it with the liberty of the American system by hiring, at a small extra
rate, the so-called "drawing-room" or "state-room," a small
compartment containing four seats or berths, divided by partitions
from the rest of the parlour car. The ordinary carriage or "day coach"
corresponds to the English second-class carriage, or, rather, to the
excellent third-class carriages on such railways as the Midland. It
does not, I think, excel them in comfort except in the greater size,
the greater liberty of motion, and the element of variety afforded by
the greater number of fellow-passengers. The seats are disposed on
each side of a narrow central aisle, and are so arranged that the
occupants can ride forward or backward as they prefer. Each seat holds
two persons, but with some difficulty if either has any amplitude of
bulk. The space for the legs is also very limited. The chief
discomfort, however, is the fact that there is no support for the head
and shoulders, though this disability might be easily remedied by a
movable head-rest. Very little provision is made for hand luggage, the
American custom being to "check" anything checkable and have it put in
the "baggage car." Rugs are entirely superfluous, as the cars are far
more likely to be too warm than too cold. The windows are usually
another weak point. They move vertically as ours do, but up instead of
down; and they are frequently made so that they cannot be opened more
than a few inches. The handles by which they are lifted are very
small, and afford very little purchase; and the windows are frequently
so stiff that it requires a strong man to move them. I have often seen
half a dozen passengers struggle in vain with a refractory glass, and
finally have to call in the help of the brawny brakeman. This
difficulty, however, is of less consequence from the fact that even if
you can open your window, there is sure to be some one among your
forty or fifty fellow-passengers who objects to the draught. Or if
_you_ object to the draught of a window in front of you, you have
either to grin and bear it or do violence to your British diffidence
in requesting its closure. The windows are all furnished with small
slatted blinds, which can be arranged in hot weather so as to exclude
the sun and let in the air. The conductor communicates with the
engine-driver by a bell-cord suspended from the roof of the carriages
and running throughout the entire length of the train. It is well to
remember that this tempting clothes-rope is not meant for hanging up
one's overcoat. Whatever be the reason, the plague of cinders from the
locomotive smoke is often much worse in America than in England. As we
proceed, they patter on the roof like hailstones, in a way that is
often very trying to the nerves, and they not unfrequently make open
windows a doubtful blessing, even on immoderately warm days. At
intervals the brakeman carries round a pitcher of iced water, which he
serves gratis to all who want it; and it is a pleasant sight on
sultry summer days to see how the children welcome his coming. In some
cases there is a permanent filter of ice-water with a tap in a corner
of the car. At each end of the car is a lavatory, one for men and one
for women. In spite, then, of the discomforts noted above, it may be
asserted that the poor man is more comfortable on a long journey than
in Europe; and that on a short journey the American system affords
more entertainment than the European. When Richard Grant White
announced his preference for the English system because it preserves
the traveller's individuality, looks after his personal comfort, and
carries all his baggage, he must have forgotten that it is practically
first-class passengers only who reap the benefit of those advantages.

One most unpleasantly suggestive equipment of an American railway
carriage is the axe and crowbar suspended on the wall for use in an
accident. This makes one reflect that there are only two doors in an
American car containing sixty people, whereas the same number of
passengers in Europe would have six, eight, or even ten. This is
extremely inconvenient in crowded trains (_e.g._, in the New York
Elevated), and might conceivably add immensely to the horrors of an
accident. The latter reflection is emphasised by the fact that there
are practically no soft places to fall on, sharp angles presenting
themselves on every side, and the very arm-rests of the seats being
made of polished iron.

There is always a smoking-car attached to the train, generally
immediately after the locomotive or luggage van. Labourers in their
working clothes and the shabbily clad in general are apt to select
this car, which thus practically takes the place of third-class
carriages on European railways. On the long-distance trains running
to the West there are emigrant cars which also represent our
third-class cars, while the same function is performed in the South by
the cars reserved for coloured passengers. In a few instances the
trains are made up of first-class and second-class carriages actually
so named. A "first-class ticket," however, in ordinary language means
one for the universal day-coach as above described.

The ticket system differs somewhat from that in vogue in Europe, and
rather curious developments have been the result. For short journeys
the ticket often resembles the small oblong of pasteboard with which
we are all familiar. For longer journeys it consists of a narrow strip
of coupons, sometimes nearly two feet in length. If this is
"unlimited" it is available at any time until used, and the holder may
"stop over" at any intermediate station. The "limited" and cheaper
ticket is available for a continuous passage only, and does not allow
of any stoppages _en route_. The coupons are collected in the cars by
the conductors in charge of the various sections of the line. The
skill shown by these officials, passing through a long and crowded
train after a stoppage, in recognising the newcomers and asking for
their tickets, is often very remarkable. Sometimes the conductor gives
a coloured counter-check to enable him to recognise the sheep whom he
has already shorn. These checks are generally placed in the hat-band
or stuck in the back of the seat. The conductor collects them just
before he hands over the train to the charge of his successor. As many
complaints are made by English travellers of the incivility of
American conductors, I may say that the first conductor I met found
me, when he was on his rounds to collect his counter-checks, lolling
back on my seat, with my hat high above me in the rack. I made a
motion as if to get up for it, when he said, "Pray don't disturb
yourself, sir; I'll reach up for it." Not all the conductors I met
afterwards were as polite as this, but he has as good a right to pose
as the type of American conductor as the overbearing ruffians who
stalk through the books of sundry British tourists. In judging him it
should be remembered that he democratically feels himself on a level
with his passengers, that he would be insulted by the offer of a tip,
that he is harassed all day long by hundreds of foolish questions from
foolish travellers, that he has a great deal to do in a limited time,
and that however "short" he may be with a male passenger he is almost
invariably courteous and considerate to the unprotected female. Though
his address may sometimes sound rather familiar, he means no
disrespect; and if he takes a fancy to you and offers you a cigar, you
need not feel insulted, and will probably find he smokes a better
brand than your own.

A feature connected with the American railway system that should not
be overlooked is the mass of literature prepared by the railway
companies and distributed gratis to their passengers. The illustrated
pamphlets issued by the larger companies are marvels of paper and
typography, with really charming illustrations and a text that is
often clever and witty enough to suggest that authors of repute are
sometimes tempted to lend their anonymous pens for this kind of work.
But even the tiniest little "one-horse" railway distributes neat
little "folders," showing conclusively that its tracks lead through
the Elysian Fields and end at the Garden of Eden. A conspicuous
feature in all hotel offices is a large rack containing packages of
these gaily coloured folders, contributed by perhaps fifty different
railways for the use of the hotel guests.

Owing to the unlimited time for which tickets are available, and to
other causes, a race of dealers in railway tickets has sprung up, who
rejoice in the euphonious name of "scalpers," and often do a roaring
trade in selling tickets at less than regular fares. Thus, if the fare
from A to B be $10 and the return fare $15, it is often possible to
obtain the half of a return ticket from a scalper for about $8. Or a
man setting out for a journey of 100 miles buys a through ticket to
the terminus of the line, which may be 400 miles distant. On this
through ticket he pays a proportionally lower rate for the distance he
actually travels, and sells the balance of his ticket to a scalper. Or
if a man wishes to go from A to B and finds that a special excursion
ticket there and back is being sold at a single fare ($10), he may use
the half of this ticket and sell the other half to a scalper in B. It
is obvious that anything he can get for it will be a gain to him,
while the scalper _could_ afford to give up to about $7 for it, though
he probably will not give more than $4. The profession of scalper may,
however, very probably prove an evanescent one, as vigorous efforts
are being made to suppress him by legislative enactment.

Americans often claim that the ordinary railway-fare in the United
States is less than in England, amounting only to 2 cents (1_d._) per
mile. My experience, however, leads me to say that this assertion
cannot be accepted without considerable deduction. It is true that in
many States (including all the Eastern ones) there is a statutory fare
of 2 cents per mile, but this (so far as I know) is not always granted
for ordinary single or double tickets, but only on season,
"commutation," or mileage tickets. The "commutation" tickets are good
for a certain number of trips. The mileage tickets are books of small
coupons, each of which represents a mile; the conductor tears out as
many coupons as the passenger has travelled miles. This mileage system
is an extremely convenient one for (say) a family, as the books are
good until exhausted, and the coupons are available on any train (with
possibly one or two exceptions) on any part of the system of the
company issuing the ticket. Which of our enlightened British companies
is going to be the first to win the hearts of its patrons by the
adoption of this neat and easy device? Out West and down South the
fares for ordinary tickets purchased at the station are often much
higher than 2 cents a mile; on one short and very inferior line I
traversed the rate was 7 cents (3-1/2_d._) per mile. I find that Mr.
W.M. Acworth calculates the average fare in the United States as
1-1/4_d._ per mile as against 1-1/6_d._ in Great Britain. Professor
Hadley, an American authority, gives the rates as 2.35 cents and 2
cents respectively.

British critics would, perhaps, be more lenient in their
animadversions on American railways, if they would more persistently
bear in mind the great difference in the conditions under which
railways have been constructed in the Old and the New World. In
England, for example, the railway came _after_ the thick settlement
of a district, and has naturally had to pay dearly for its privileges,
and to submit to stringent conditions in regard to construction and
maintenance. In the United States, on the other hand, the railways
were often the first _roads_ (hence rail_road_ is the American name
for them) in a new district, the inhabitants of which were glad to get
them on almost any terms. Hence the cheap and provisional nature of
many of the lines, and the numerous deadly level crossings. The land
grants and other privileges accorded to the railway companies may be
fairly compared to the road tax which we willingly submit to in
England as the just price of an invaluable boon. This reflection,
however, need not be carried so far as to cover with a mantle of
justice _all_ the railway concessions of America!

Two things in the American parlour-car system struck me as evils that
were not only unnecessary, but easily avoidable. The first of these is
that most illiberal regulation which compels the porter to let down
the upper berth even when it is not occupied. The object of this is
apparently to induce the occupant of the lower berth to hire the whole
"section" of two berths, so as to have more ventilation and more room
for dressing and undressing. Presumably the parlour-car companies know
their own business best; but it would seem to the average "Britisher"
that such a petty spirit of annoyance would be likely to do more harm
than good, even in a financial way. The custom would be more excusable
if it were confined to those cases in which two people shared the
lower berth. The custom is so unlike the usual spirit of the United
Stales, where the practice is to charge a liberal round sum and then
relieve you of all minor annoyances and exactions, that its
persistence is somewhat of a mystery.

The continuance of the other evil I allude to is still less
comprehensible. The United States is proverbially the paradise of what
it is, perhaps, now behind the times to term the gentler sex. The path
of woman, old or new, in America is made smooth in all directions, and
as a rule she has the best of the accommodation and the lion's share
of the attention wherever she goes. But this is emphatically not the
case on the parlour car. No attempt is made there to divide the sexes
or to respect the privacy of a lady. If there are twelve men and four
women on the car, the latter are not grouped by themselves, but are
scattered among the men, either in lower or upper berths, as the
number of their tickets or the courtesy of the men dictates. The
lavatory and dressing-room for men at one end of the car has two or
more "set bowls" (fixed in basins), and can be used by several
dressers at once. The parallel accommodation for ladies barely holds
one, and its door is provided with a lock, which enables a selfish
bang-frizzler and rouge-layer to occupy it for an hour while a queue
of her unhappy sisters remains outside. It is difficult to see why a
small portion at one end of the car should not be reserved for ladies,
and separated at night from the rest of the car by a curtain across
the central aisle. Of course the passage of the railway officials
could not be hindered, but the masculine passengers might very well be
confined for the night to entrance and egress at their own end of the
car. An improvement in the toilette accommodation for ladies also
seems a not unreasonable demand.

Miss Catherine Bates, in her "Year in the Great Republic," narrates
the case of a man who was nearly suffocated by the fact that a slight
collision jarred the lid of the top berth in which he was sleeping and
snapped it to! This story _may_ be true; but in the only top berths
which I know the occupant _lies_ upon the lid, which, to close, would
have to spring _upwards_ against his weight!

A third nuisance, or combination of benefit and nuisance, or benefit
with a very strong dash of avoidable nuisance, is the train boy. This
young gentleman, whose age varies from fifteen to fifty, though
usually nearer the former than the latter, is one of the most
conspicuous of the embryo forms of the great American speculator or
merchant. He occupies with his stock in trade a corner in the baggage
car or end carriage of the train, and makes periodical rounds
throughout the cars, offering his wares for sale. These are of the
most various description, ranging from the daily papers and current
periodicals through detective stories and tales of the Wild West, to
chewing-gum, pencils, candy, bananas, skull-caps, fans, tobacco, and
cigars. His pleasing way is to perambulate the cars, leaving samples
of his wares on all the seats and afterwards calling for orders. He
does this with supreme indifference to the occupation of the
passenger. Thus, you settle yourself comfortably for a nap, and are
just succumbing to the drowsy god, when you feel yourself "taken in
the abdomen," not (fortunately) by "a chunk of old red sandstone," but
by the latest number of the _Illustrated American_ or _Scribner's
Monthly_. The rounds are so frequent that the door of the car never
seems to cease banging or the cold draughts to cease blowing in on
your bald head. Mr. Phil Robinson makes the very sensible suggestion
that the train boy should have a little printed list of his wares
which he could distribute throughout the train, whereupon the
traveller could send for him when wanted. Another suggestion that I
venture to present to this independent young trader is that he should
provide himself with copies of the novels treating of the districts
which the railway traverses. Thus, when I tried to procure from him
"Ramona" in California, or "The Prophet of the Great Smoky Mountains"
in Tennessee, or "The Hoosier Schoolmaster" in Ohio, or "The
Grandissimes" near New Orleans, the nearest he could come to my modest
demand was "The Kreutzer Sonata" or the last effort of Miss Laura Jean
Libbey, a popular American novelist, who describes in glowing colours
how two aristocratic Englishmen, fighting a duel near London somewhere
in the seventies, were interrupted by the heroine, who drove between
them in a hansom _and pair_ and received the shots in its panels! Out
West, too, he could probably put more money in his pocket if he were
disposed to put his pride there too. One pert youth in Arizona
preferred to lose my order for cigars rather than bring the box to me
for selection; he said "he'd be darned if he'd sling boxes around for
me; I could come and choose for myself." However, when criticism has
been exhausted it is an undeniable fact that the American Pullman cars
are more comfortable and considerably cheaper than the so-called
_compartiments de luxe_ of European railways.

It is, perhaps, worth noting that the comfort of the engine-driver, or
engineer as he is called _linguâ Americanâ_, is much better catered
for in the United States than in England. His cab is protected both
overhead and at the sides, while his bull's-eye window permits him to
look ahead without receiving the wind, dust, and snow in his eyes. The
curious English conservatism which, apparently, believes that a driver
will do his work better because exposed to almost the full violence of
the elements always excites a very natural surprise in the American
visitor to our shores.

The speed of American trains is as a rule slower than that of English
ones, though there are some brilliant exceptions to this rule. I never
remember dawdling along in so slow and apparently purposeless a manner
as in crossing the arid deserts of Arizona--unless, indeed, it was in
travelling by the Manchester and Milford line in Wales. The train on
the branch between Raymond (a starting-point for the Yosemite) and the
main line went so cannily that the engine-driver (an excellent
marksman) shot rabbits from the engine, while the fireman jumped down,
picked them up, and clambered on again at the end of the train. The
only time the train had to be stopped for him was when the engineer
had a successful right and left, the victims of which expired at some
distance from each other. It should be said that there was absolutely
no reason to hurry on this trip, as we had "lashins" of time to spare
for our connection at the junction, and the passengers were all much
interested in the sport.

At the other end of the scale are the trains which run from New York
to Philadelphia (90 miles) in two hours, the train of the Reading
Railway that makes the run of 55 miles from Camden to Atlantic City in
52 minutes, and the Empire State Express which runs from New York to
Buffalo (436-1/2 miles) at the rate of over 50 miles an hour,
including stops. These, however, are exceptional, and the traveller
may find that trains known as the "Greased Lightning," "Cannon Ball,"
or "G-Whizz" do not exceed (if they even attain) 40 miles an hour. The
possibility of speed on an American railway is shown by the record run
of 436-1/2 miles in 6-3/4 hours, made on the New York Central Railroad
in 1895 (= 64.22 miles per hour, exclusive of stops), and by the run
of 148.8 miles in 137 minutes, made on the same railway in 1897. The
longest unbroken runs of regular trains are one of 146 miles on the
Chicago Limited train on the Pennsylvania route, and one of 143 miles
by the New York Central Railway running up the Hudson to Albany. As
experts will at once recognise, these are feats which compare well
with anything done on this side of the Atlantic.

In the matter of accidents the comparison with Great Britain is not
so overwhelmingly unfavourable as is sometimes supposed. If, indeed,
we accept the figures given by Mullhall in his "Dictionary of
Statistics," we have to admit that the proportion of accidents is
five times greater in the United States than in the United Kingdom.
The statistics collected by the Railroad Commissioners of
Massachusetts, however, reduce this ratio to five to four. The
safety of railway travelling differs hugely in different parts of
the country. Thus Mr. E.B. Dorsey shows ("English and American
Railways Compared") that the average number of miles a passenger can
travel in Massachusetts without being killed is 503,568,188, while
in the United Kingdom the number is only 172,965,362, leaving a
very comfortable margin of over 300,000,000 miles. On the whole,
however, it cannot be denied that there are more accidents in
American railway travelling than in European, and very many of them
from easily preventable causes. The whole spirit of the American
continent in such matters is more "casual" than that of Europe; the
American is more willing to "chance it;" the patriarchal régime is
replaced by the every-man-for-himself-and-devil-take-the-hindmost
system. When I hired a horse to ride up a somewhat giddy path to the
top of a mountain, I was supplied (without warning) with a young
animal that had just arrived from the breeding farm and had never
even seen a mountain. Many and curious, when I regained my hotel,
were the enquiries as to how he had behaved himself; and it was no
thanks to them that I could report that, though rather frisky on the
road, he had sobered down in the most sagacious manner when we
struck the narrow upward trail. In America the railway passenger has
to look out for himself. There is no checking of tickets before
starting to obviate the risk of being in the wrong train. There is
no porter to carry the traveller's hand-baggage and see him
comfortably ensconced in the right carriage. When the train does
start, it glides away silently without any warning bell, and it is
easy for an inadvertent traveller to be left behind. Even in large
and important stations there is often no clear demarcation between
the platforms and the permanent way. The whole floor of the station
is on one level, and the rails are flush with the spot from which
you climb into the car. Overhead bridges or subways are practically
unknown; and the arriving passenger has often to cross several
lines of rails before reaching shore. The level crossing is,
perhaps, inevitable at the present stage of railroad development in
the United States, but its annual butcher's bill is so huge that one
cannot help feeling it might be better safeguarded. Richard Grant
White tells how he said to the station-master at a small wayside
station in England, _à propos_ of an overhead footbridge: "Ah, I
suppose you had an accident through someone crossing the line, and
then erected that?" "Oh, no," was the reply, "we don't wait for an
accident." Mr. White makes the comment, "The trouble in America is
that we _do_ wait for the accident."

When I left England in September, 1888, we sailed down the Mersey on
one of those absolutely perfect autumn days, the very memory of which
is a continual joy. I remarked on the beauty of the weather to an
American fellow-passenger. He replied, half in fun, "Yes, this is good
enough for England; but wait till you see our American weather!" As
luck would have it, it was raining heavily when we steamed up New York
harbour, and the fog was so dense that we could not see the statue of
Liberty Enlightening the World, though we passed close under it. The
same American passenger had expatiated to me during the voyage on the
merits of the American express service. "You have no trouble with
porters and cabs, as in the Old World; you simply point out your
trunks to an express agent, give him your address, take his receipt,
and you will probably find your trunks at the house when you arrive."
We reached New York on a Saturday; I confidently handed over my trunk
to a representative of the Transfer Company about 9 A.M., hied to my
friend's house in Brooklyn, and saw and heard nothing more of my trunk
till Monday morning!

Such was the way in which two of my most cherished beliefs about
America were dissipated almost before I set foot upon her free and
sacred soil! It is, however, only fair to say that if I had assumed
these experiences to be really characteristic, I should have made a
grievous mistake. It is true that I afterwards experienced a good many
stormy days in the United States, and found that the predominant
weather in all parts of the country was, to judge from my apologetic
hosts, the "exceptional;" but none the less I revelled in the bright
blue, clear, sunny days with which America is so abundantly blessed,
and came to sympathise very deeply with the depression that sometimes
overtakes the American exile during his sojourn on our fog-bound
coasts. So, too, I found the express system on the whole what our
friend Artemus Ward calls "a sweet boon." Certainly it is as a rule
necessary, in starting from a private house, to have one's luggage
ready an hour or so before one starts one's self, and this is hardly
so convenient as a hansom with you inside and your portmanteau on top;
and it is also true that there is sometimes (especially in New York) a
certain delay in the delivery of one's belongings. In nine cases out
of ten, however, it was a great relief to get rid of the trouble of
taking your luggage to or from the station, and feel yourself free to
meet it at your own time and will. It was not often that I was reduced
to such straits as on one occasion in Brooklyn, when, at the last
moment, I had to charter a green-grocer's van and drive down to the
station in it, triumphantly seated on my portmanteau.

The check system on the railway itself deserves almost unmitigated
praise, and only needs to be understood to be appreciated. On arrival
at the station the traveller hands over his impedimenta to the baggage
master, who fastens a small metal disk, bearing the destination and a
number, to each package, and gives the owner a duplicate check. The
railway company then becomes responsible for the luggage, and holds it
until reclaimed by presentation of the duplicate check. This system
avoids on the one hand the chance of loss and trouble in claiming
characteristic of the British system, and on the other the waste of
time and expense of the Continental system of printed paper tickets.
On arrival at his destination the traveller may hurry to his hotel
without a moment's delay, after handing his check either to the hotel
porter or to the so-called transfer agent, who usually passes through
the train as it reaches an important station, undertaking the delivery
of trunks and giving receipts in exchange for checks.

Besides the city express or transfer companies, the chief duty of
which is to convey luggage from the traveller's residence to the
railway station or _vice versa_, there are also the large general
express companies or carriers, which send articles all over the United
States. One of the most characteristic of these is the Adams Express
Company, the widely known name of which has originated a popular
conundrum with the query, "Why was Eve created?" This company began in
1840 with two men, a boy, and a wheelbarrow; now it employs 8,000 men
and 2,000 wagons, and carries parcels over 25,000 miles of railway.
The Wells, Fargo & Company Express operates over 40,000 miles of
railway.

Coaching in America is, as a rule, anything but a pleasure. It is true
that the chance of being held up by "road agents" is to-day
practically non-existent, and that the spectacle of a crowd of yelling
Apaches making a stage-coach the pin-cushion for their arrows is now
to be seen nowhere but in Buffalo Bill's Wild West show. But the
roads! No European who has done much driving in the United States can
doubt for one moment that the required Man of the Hour is General
Wade.[31] Even in the State of New York I have been in a stage that
was temporarily checked by a hole two feet deep in the centre of the
road, and that had to be emptied _and held up_ while passing another
part of the same road. In Virginia I drove over a road, leading to one
of the most frequented resorts of the State, which it is simple truth
to state offered worse going than any ordinary ploughed field. The
wheels were often almost entirely submerged in liquid mud, and it is
still a mystery to me how the tackle held together. To be jolted off
one's seat so violently as to strike the top of the carriage was not a
unique experience. Nor was the spending of ten hours in making thirty
miles with four horses. In the Yellowstone one of the coaches of our
party settled down in the midst of a slough of despond on the highway,
from which it was finally extricated _backwards_ by the combined
efforts of twelve horses borrowed from the other coaches. Misery makes
strange bedfellows, and the ingredients of a Christmas pudding are not
more thoroughly shaken together or more inextricably mingled than
stage-coach passengers in America are apt to be. The difficulties of
the roads have developed the skill, courage, and readiness of the
stage-coach men to an extraordinary degree, and I have never seen
bolder or more dexterous driving than when California Bill or Colorado
Jack rushed his team of four young horses down the breakneck slopes of
these terrible highways. After one particularly hair-raising descent
the driver condescended to explain that he was afraid to come down
more slowly, lest the hind wheels should skid on the smooth rocky
outcrop in the road and swing the vehicle sideways into the abyss. In
coming out of the Yosemite, owing to some disturbance of the ordinary
traffic arrangements our coach met the incoming stage at a part of the
road so narrow that it seemed absolutely impossible for the two to
pass each other. On the one side was a yawning precipice, on the other
the mountain rose steeply from the roadside. The off-wheels of the
incoming coach were tilted up on the hillside as far as they could be
without an upset. In vain; our hubs still locked. We were then allowed
to dismount. Our coach was backed down for fifty yards or so. Small
heaps of stones were piled opposite the hubs of the stationary coach.
Our driver whipped his horses to a gallop, ran his near-wheels over
these stones so that their hubs were raised _above_ those of the
near-wheels of the other coach, and successfully made the dare-devil
passage, in which he had not more than a couple of inches' margin to
save him from precipitation into eternity. I hardly knew which to
admire most--the ingenuity which thus made good in altitude what it
lacked in latitude, or the phlegm with which the occupants of the
other coach retained their seats throughout the entire episode.

The Englishman arriving in Boston, say in the middle of the lovely
autumnal weather of November, will be surprised to find a host of
workmen in the Common and Public Garden busily engaged in laying down
miles of portable "plank paths" or "board walks," elevated three or
four inches above the level of the ground. A little later, when the
snowy season has well set in, he will discover the usefulness of these
apparently superfluous planks; and he will hardly be astonished to
learn that the whole of the Northern States are covered in winter with
a network of similar paths. These gangways are made in sections and
numbered, so that when they are withdrawn from their summer seclusion
they can be laid down with great precision and expedition. No
statistician, so far as I know, has calculated the total length of the
plank paths of an American winter; but I have not the least doubt that
they would reach from the earth to the moon, if not to one of the
planets.

The river and lake steamboats of the United States are on the average
distinctly better than any I am acquainted with elsewhere. The
much-vaunted splendours of such Scottish boats as the "Iona" and
"Columba" sink into insignificance when compared with the wonderful
vessels of the line plying from New York to Fall River. These steamers
deserve the name of floating hotel or palace much more than even the
finest ocean-liner, because to their sumptuous appointments they add
the fact that they are, except under very occasional circumstances,
_floating_ palaces and not _reeling_ or _tossing_ ones. The only hotel
to which I can honestly compare the "Campania" is the one at San
Francisco in which I experienced my first earthquake. But even the
veriest landsman of them all can enjoy the passage of Long Island
Sound in one of these stately and stable vessels, whether sitting
indoors listening to the excellent band in one of the spacious
drawing-rooms in which there is absolutely no rude reminder of the
sea, or on deck on a cool summer night watching the lights of New York
gradually vanish in the black wake, or the moon riding triumphantly as
queen of the heavenly host, and the innumerable twinkling beacons that
safeguard our course. And when he retires to his cabin, pleasantly
wearied by the glamour of the night and soothed by the supple
stability of his floating home, he will find his bed and his bedroom
twice as large as he enjoyed on the Atlantic, and may let the breeze
enter, undeterred by fear of intruding wave or breach of regulation.
If he takes a meal on board he will find the viands as well cooked and
as dexterously served as in a fashionable restaurant on shore; he may
have, should he desire it, all the elbow-room of a separate table, and
nothing will suggest to him the confined limits of the cook's galley
or the rough-and-ready ways of marine cookery.

Little inferior to the Fall River boats are those which ascend the
Hudson from New York to Albany, one of the finest river voyages in the
world; and worthy to be compared with these are the Lake Superior
steamers of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Among the special advantages
of these last are the device by which meals are served in the fresh
atmosphere of what is practically the upper deck, the excellent
service of the neat lads who officiate as waiters and are said to be
often college students turning an honest summer penny, and the
frequent presence in the bill of fare of the _Coregonus clupeiformis_,
or Lake Superior whitefish, one of the most toothsome morsels of the
deep. Most of the other steamboat lines by which I travelled in the
United States and Canada seemed to me as good as could be expected
under the circumstances. There is, however, certainly room for
improvement in some of the boats which ply on the St. Lawrence, and
the Alaska service will probably grow steadily better with the growing
rush of tourists.

Another wonderful instance of British conservatism is the way in which
we have stuck to the horrors of our own ferry-boat system long after
America has shown us the way to cross a ferry comfortably. It is true
that the American steam ferry-boats are not so graceful as ours,
looking as they do like Noah's arks or floating houses, and being
propelled by the grotesque daddy-long-leg-like arrangement of the
walking-beam engine. They are, however, far more suitable for their
purpose. The steamer as originally developed was, I take it, intended
for long (or at any rate longish) voyages, and was built as far as
possible on the lines of a sailing-vessel. The conservative John Bull
never thought of modifying this shape, even when he adopted the
steamboat for ferries such as that across the Mersey from Liverpool to
Birkenhead. He still retained the sea-going form, and passengers had
either to remain on a lofty deck, exposed to the full fury of the
elements, or dive down into the stuffy depths of an unattractive
cabin. As soon, however, as Brother Jonathan's keen brain had to
concern itself with the problem, he saw the topsy-turvyness of this
arrangement. Hence in his ferry-boats there are no "underground"
cabins, no exasperating flights of steps. We enter the ferry-house and
wait comfortably under shelter till the boat approaches its "slip,"
which it does end on. The disembarking passengers depart by one
passage, and as soon as they have all left the boat we enter by
another. A roadway and two side-walks correspond to these divisions on
the boat, which we enter on the level we are to retain for the
passage. In the middle is the gangway for vehicles, to the right and
left are the cabins for "ladies" and "gentlemen," each running almost
the whole length of the boat. There is a small piece of open deck at
each end, and those who wish may ascend to an upper deck. These
long-drawn-out cabins are simply but suitably furnished with seats
like those in a tramway-car or American railway-carriage. The boat
retraces its course without turning round, as it is a "double-ender."
On reaching the other side of the river we simply walk out of the boat
as we should out of a house on the street-level. The tidal difficulty
is met by making the landing-stage a floating one, and of such length
that the angle it forms with terra firma is never inconvenient.

A Swiss friend of mine, whose ocean steamer landed him on the New
Jersey shore of the North River, actually entered the cabin of the
ferry-boat under the impression that it was a waiting-room on shore.
The boat slipped away so quietly that he did not discover his mistake
until he had reached the New York side of the river; and then there
was no more astonished man on the whole continent!

The transition from travelling facilities to the telegraphic and
postal services is natural. The telegraphs of the United States are
not in the hands of the government, but are controlled by private
companies, of which the Western Union, with its headquarters in New
York, is _facile princeps_. This company possesses the largest
telegraph system in the world, having 21,000 offices and 750,000 miles
of wire. It also leases or uses seven Atlantic cables. In this,
however, as in many other cases, size does not necessarily connote
quality. My experiences _may_ (like the weather) have been
exceptional, and the attempt to judge of this Hercules by the foot I
saw may be wide of the mark; but here are three instances which are at
any rate suspicious:

I was living at Germantown, a suburb of Philadelphia, and left one day
about 2 P.M. for the city, intending to return for dinner. On the way,
however, I made up my mind to dine in town and go to the theatre, and
immediately on my arrival at Broad-street station (about 2.15 P.M.)
telegraphed back to this effect. When I reached the house again near
midnight, I found the messenger with my telegram ringing the bell!
Again, a friend of mine in Philadelphia sent a telegram to me one
afternoon about a meeting in the evening; it reached me in Germantown,
at a distance of about five miles, at 8 o'clock the following morning.
Again, I left Salisbury (N.C.) one morning about 9 A.M. for Asheville,
having previously telegraphed to the baggage-master at the latter
place about a trunk of mine in his care. My train reached Asheville
about 5 or 6 P.M. I went to the baggage-master, but found he had not
received my wire. While I was talking to him, one of the train-men
entered and handed it to him. _It had, apparently, been sent by hand
on the train by which I had travelled!_ This telegraphic giant may, of
course, have accidentally and exceptionally put his wrong foot
foremost on those occasions; but such are the facts.

The postal service also struck me as on the whole less prompt and
accurate than that of Great Britain. The comparative infrequency of
fully equipped post-offices is certainly an inconvenience. There are
letter-boxes enough, and the commonest stamps may be procured in every
drug-store (and of these there is no lack!) or even from the postmen;
but to have a parcel weighed, to register a letter, to procure a
money-order, or sometimes even to buy a foreign stamp or post-card,
the New Yorker or Philadelphian has to go a distance which a Londoner
or Glasgowegian would think distinctly excessive. It appears from an
official table prepared in 1898 that about half the population of the
United States live outside the free delivery service, and have to call
at the post-office for their letters. On the other hand, the
arrangements at the chief post-offices are very complete, and the
subdivisions are numerous enough to prevent the tedious delays of the
offices on the continent of Europe. The registration fee (eight cents)
is double that of England. The convenient "special delivery stamp"
(ten cents) entitles a letter to immediate delivery by special
messenger. The tendency for the establishment of slight divergency in
language between England and America is seen in the terms of the
post-office as in those of the railway. A letter is "mailed," not
"posted;" the "postman" gives way to the "letter-carrier;" a
"post-card" is expanded into a "postal-card." The stranger on arrival
at New York will be amused to see the confiding way in which newspaper
or book packets, too large for the orifice, are placed on the top of
the street letter-boxes (affixed to lamp-posts), and will doubtless be
led to speculate on the different ways and instincts of the street
Arabs of England and America. A second reflection will suggest to him
the superior stability of the New York climate. On what day in England
could we leave a postal packet of printed matter in the open air with
any certainty that it would not be reduced to pulp in half an hour by
a deluge of rain?

No remarks on the possible inferiority of the American telegraph and
postal systems would be fair if unaccompanied by a tribute to the
wonderful development of the use of the telephone. New York has (or
had very recently) more than twice as many subscribers to the
telephonic exchanges as London, and some American towns possess one
telephone for every twenty inhabitants, while the ratio in the British
metropolis is 1:3,000. In 1891 the United States contained 240,000
miles of telephone wires, used by over 200,000 regular subscribers. In
1895 the United Kingdom had about 100,000 miles of wire. The
Metropolitan telephone in New York alone has 30,000 miles of
subterranean wire and about 9,000 stations. The great switch-board at
its headquarters is 250 feet long, and accommodates the lines of 6,000
subscribers. Some subscribers call for connection over a hundred times
a day, and about one hundred and fifty girls are required to answer
the calls.

The generalisations made in travellers' books about the hotels of
America seem to me as fallacious as most of the generalisations about
this chameleon among nations. Some of the American hotels I stayed at
were about the best of their kind in the world, others about the
worst, others again about half-way between these extremes. On the
whole, I liked the so-called "American system" of an inclusive price
by the day, covering everything except such purely voluntary extras as
wine; and it seems to me that an ideal hotel on this system would
leave very little to wish for. The large American way of looking at
things makes a man prefer to give twenty shillings per day for all he
needs and consumes rather than be bothered with a bill for sixteen to
seventeen shillings, including such items (not disdained even by the
swellest European hotels) as one penny for stationery or a shilling
for lights. The weak points of the system as at present carried on are
its needless expense owing to the wasteful profusion of the
management, the tendency to have cast-iron rules for the hours within
which a guest is permitted to be hungry, the refusal to make any
allowance for absence from meals, and the general preference for
quantity over quality. It is also a pity that baths are looked upon as
a luxury of the rich and figure as an expensive extra; it is seldom
that a hotel bath can be obtained for less than two shillings. There
would seem, however, to be no reason why the continental _table
d'hôte_ system should not be combined with the American plan. The
bills of fare at present offered by large American hotels, with lists
of fifty to one hundred different dishes to choose from, are simply
silly, and mark, as compared with the _table d'hôte_ of, say, a good
Parisian hotel, a barbaric failure to understand the kind of meal a
lady or gentleman should want. To prepare five times the quantity
that will be called for or consumed is to confess a lack of all
artistic perception of the relations of means and end. The man who
gloats over a list of fifty possible dishes is not at all the kind of
customer who deserves encouragement. The service would also be
improved if the waiters had not to carry in their heads the
heterogeneous orders of six or eight people, each selecting a dozen
different meats, vegetables, and condiments. The European or _à la
carte_ system is becoming more and more common in the larger cities,
and many houses offer their patrons a choice of the two plans; but the
fixed-price system is almost universal in the smaller towns and
country districts. In houses on the American system the price
generally varies according to the style of room selected; but most of
the inconvenience of a bedchamber near the top of the house is
obviated by the universal service of easy-running "elevators" or
lifts. (By the way, the persistent manner in which the elevators are
used on all occasions is often amusing. An American lady who has some
twenty shallow steps to descend to the ground floor will rather wait
patiently five minutes for the elevator than walk downstairs.)

Many of the large American hotels have defects similar to those with
which we are familiar in their European prototypes. They have the
same, if not an exaggerated, gorgeousness of bad taste, the same
plethora of ostentatious "luxuries" that add nothing to the real
comfort of the man of refinement, the same pier glasses in heavy gilt
frames, the same marble consoles, the same heavy hangings and absurdly
soft carpets. On the other hand, they are apt to lack some of the
unobtrusive decencies of life, which so often mark the distinction
between the modest home of a private gentleman and the palace of the
travelling public. Indeed, it might truthfully be said that, _on the
whole_, the passion for show is more rampant among American
hotel-keepers than elsewhere. They are apt to be more anxious to have
all the latest "improvements" and inventions than to ensure the smooth
and easy running of what they already have. You will find a huge
"teleseme" or indicator in your bedroom, on the rim of which are
inscribed about one hundred different objects that a traveller may
conceivably be supposed to want; but you may set the pointer in vain
for your modest lemonade or wait half an hour before the waiter
answers his complicated electric call. The service is sometimes very
poor, even in the most pretentious establishments. On the other hand,
I never saw better service in my life than that of the neat and
refined white-clad maidens in the summer hotels of the White
Mountains, who would take the orders of half-a-dozen persons for half
a dozen different dishes each, and execute them without a mistake. It
is said that many of these waitresses are college-girls or even
school-mistresses, and certainly their ladylike appearance and
demeanour and the intelligent look behind their not infrequent
spectacles would support the assertion. It gave one a positive thrill
to see the margin of one's soup-plate embraced by a delicate little
pink-and-white thumb that might have belonged to Hebe herself, instead
of the rawly red or clumsily gloved intruder that we are all too
familiar with. The waiting of the coloured gentleman is also pleasant
in its way to all who do not demand the episcopal bearing of the best
English butler. The smiling darkey takes a personal interest in your
comfort, may possibly enquire whether you have dined to your liking,
is indefatigable in ministering to your wants, slides and shuffles
around with a never-failing _bonhomie_, does everything with a
characteristic flourish, and in his neat little white jacket often
presents a most refreshing cleanliness of aspect as compared with the
greasy second-hand dress coats of the European waiter.

As a matter of fact, so much latitude is usually allowed for each meal
(breakfast from 8 to 11, dinner from 12 to 8, and so on) that it is
seldom really difficult to get something to eat at an American hotel
when one is hungry. At some hotels, however, the rules are very
strict, and nothing is served out of meal hours. At Newport I came in
one Sunday evening about 8 o'clock, and found that supper was over.
The manager actually allowed me to leave his hotel at once (which I
did) rather than give me anything to eat. The case is still more
absurd when one arrives by train, having had no chance of a square
meal all day, and is coolly expected to go to bed hungry! The genuine
democrat, however, may take what comfort he can from the thought that
this state of affairs is due to the independence of the American
servants, who have their regular hours and refuse to work beyond them.

The lack of smoking-rooms is a distinct weak point in American hotels.
One may smoke in the large public office, often crowded with loungers
not resident in the hotel, or may retire with his cigar to the
bar-room; but there is no pleasant little snuggery provided with
arm-chairs and smokers' tables, where friends may sit in pleasant,
nicotine-wreathed chat, ringing, when they want it, for a
whiskey-and-soda or a cup of coffee.

American hotels, even when otherwise good, are apt to be noisier than
European ones. The servants have little idea of silence over their
work, and the early morning chambermaids crow to one another in a way
that is very destructive of one's matutinal slumbers. Then somebody or
other seems to crave ice-water at every hour of the day or night, and
the tinkle, tinkle, tinkle of the ice-pitcher in the corridors becomes
positively nauseous when one wants to go to sleep. The innumerable
electric bells, always more or less on the go, are another auditory
nuisance.

While we are on the question of defects in American hotels, it should
be noticed that the comfortable little second-class inns of Great
Britain are practically unknown in the United States. The second-class
inns there are run on the same lines as the best ones; but in an
inferior manner at every point. The food is usually as abundant, but
it is of poorer quality and worse cooked; the beds are good enough,
but not so clean; the table linen is soiled; the sugar bowls are left
exposed to the flies from week-end to week-end; the service is poor
and apt to be forward; and (last, but not least) the manners of the
other guests are apt to include a most superfluous proportion of
tobacco-chewing, expectorating, an open and unashamed use of the
toothpick, and other little amenities that probably inflict more
torture on those who are not used to them than would decorous breaches
of the Decalogue.

In criticising American hotels, it must not be forgotten that the
rapid process of change that is so characteristic of America operates
in this sphere with especial force. This is at work a distinct
tendency to substitute the subdued for the gaudy, the refined for the
meretricious, the quiet for the loud; and even now the cultured
American who knows his _monde_ may spend a great part of his time in
hotels without conspicuously lowering the tone of his environment.

The prevalent idea that the American hotel clerk is a mannerless
despot is, _me judice_, rather too severe. He is certainly apt to be
rather curt in his replies and ungenial in his manner; but this is not
to be wondered at when one reflects under what a fire of questions he
stands all day long and from week to week; and, besides, he does
generally give the information that is wanted. That he should wear
diamond studs and dress gorgeously is not unnatural when one considers
the social stratum from which he is drawn. Do not our very cooks the
same as far as they can? That he should somewhat magnify the
importance of his office is likewise explicable; and, after all, how
many human beings have greater power over the actual personal comforts
of the fraction of the world they come into contact with? I can,
however, truthfully boast that I met hotel clerks who, in moments of
relief from pressure, treated me almost as an equal, and one or two
who seemed actually disposed to look on me as a friend. I certainly
never encountered any actual rudeness from the American hotel clerk
such as I have experienced from the pert young ladies who sometimes
fill his place in England; and in the less frequented resorts he
sometimes took a good deal of trouble to put the stranger in the way
to do his business speedily and comfortably. His omniscience is great,
but not so phenomenal as I expected; I posed him more than once with
questions about his abode which, it seemed to me, every intelligent
citizen should have been able to answer easily. In his most
characteristic development the American hotel clerk is an urbane
living encyclopædia, as passionless as the gods, as unbiassed as the
multiplication table, and as tireless as a Corliss engine.

Traveller's tales as to the system of "tipping" in American hotels
differ widely. The truth is probably as far from the indignant
Briton's assertion, based probably upon one flagrant instance in New
York, that "it is ten times worse than in England and tantamount to
robbery with violence," as from the patriotic American's assurance
that "The thing, sir, is absolutely unknown in our free and
enlightened country; no American citizen would demean himself to
accept a gratuity." To judge from my own experience, I should say that
the practice was quite as common in such cities as Boston, New York,
and Philadelphia as in Europe, and more onerous because the amounts
expected are larger. A dollar goes no farther than a shilling.
Moreover, the gratuity is usually given in the form of "refreshers"
from day to day, so that the vengeance of the disappointed is less
easily evaded. Miss Bates, a very friendly writer on America, reports
various unpleasantnesses that she received from untipped waiters, and
tells of an American who found that his gratuities for two months at a
Long Branch hotel (for three persons and their horses) amounted to
£40. In certain other walks of life the habit of tipping is carried to
more extremes in New York than in any European city I know of. Thus
the charge for a shave (already sufficiently high) is 7-1/2_d._, but
the operator expects 2-1/2_d._ more for himself. One barber with whom
I talked on the subject openly avowed that he considered himself
wronged if he did not get his fee, and recounted the various devices
he and his fellows practised to extract gratuities from the unwilling.
As one goes West or South the system of tipping seems to fall more and
more into abeyance, though it will always be found a useful smoother
of the way. In California, so far as I could judge, it was almost
entirely unknown, and the Californian hotels are among the best in the
Union.

Among the lessons which English and other European hotels might learn
from American hotels may be named the following:

1. The combination of the present _à la carte_ system with the
inclusive or American system, by which those who don't want the
trouble of ordering their repasts may be sure of finding meals, with a
reasonable latitude of choice in time and fare, ready when desired. It
is a sensible comfort to know beforehand exactly, or almost exactly,
what one's hotel expenses will amount to.

2. The abolition of the charge for attendance.

3. A greater variety of dishes than is usually offered in any except
our very largest hotels. This is especially to be desired at
breakfast. Without going to the American extreme of fifty or a hundred
dishes to choose from, some intermediate point short of the Scylla of
sole and the Charybdis of ham and eggs might surely be found. There is
probably more pig-headed conservatism than justified fear of expense
in the reluctance to follow this most excellent "American lead." The
British tourist in the United States takes so kindly to the
preliminary fruit and cereal dishes of America that he would probably
show no objection to them on his native heath.

4. An extension of the system of ringing once for the boots, twice for
the chambermaid, and so on. The ordinary American table of calls goes
up to nine.

5. The provision of writing materials free for the guests of the
hotels. The charge for stationery is one of the pettiest and most
exasperating cheese-parings of the English Boniface's system of
account-keeping. If, however, he imitates the liberality of his
American brother, it is to be hoped that he will "go him one better"
in the matter of blotting-paper. Nothing in the youthful country
across the seas has a more venerable appearance than the strips of
blotting-paper supplied in the writing-rooms of its hotels.

Nothing in its way could be more inviting or seem more appropriate
than the cool and airy architecture of the summer hotels in such
districts as the White Mountains, with their wide and shady verandas,
their overhanging eaves, their balconies, their spacious corridors and
vestibules, their simple yet tasteful wood-panelling, their creepers
outside and their growing plants within. Mr. Howells has somewhere
reversed the threadbare comparison of an Atlantic liner to a floating
hotel, by likening a hostelry of this kind to a saloon steamer; and
indeed the comparison is an apt one, so light and buoyant does the
construction seem, with its gaily painted wooden sides, its
glass-covered veranda decks, and its streaming flags. Perhaps the
nearest analogue that we have to the life of an American summer hotel
is seen in our large hydropathic establishments, such as those at
Peebles or Crieff, where the therapeutic appliances play but a
subdued obbligato to the daily round of amusements. The same spirit of
camaraderie generally rules at both; both have the same regular
meal-hours, at which almost as little drinking is seen at the one as
the other; both have their evening entertainments got up (_gotten_ up,
our American cousins say, with a delightfully old fashioned flavour)
by the enterprise of the most active guests. The hydropathists have to
go to bed a little sooner, and must walk to the neighbouring village
if they wish a bar-room; but on the whole their scheme of life is much
the same. Whether it is due to the American temperament or the
American weather, the palm for brightness, vivacity, variety, and
picturesqueness must be adjudged to the hotel. For those who are young
enough to "stand the racket," no form of social gaiety can he found
more amusing than a short sojourn at a popular summer hotel among the
mountains or by the sea, with its constant round of drives, rides,
tennis and golf matches, picnics, "germans," bathing, boating, and
loafing, all permeated by flirtation of the most audacious and
innocent description. The focus of the whole carnival is found in the
"piazza" or veranda, and no prettier sight in its way can be imagined
than the groups and rows of "rockers" and wicker chairs, each occupied
by a lithe young girl in a summer frock, or her athletic admirer in
his tennis flannels.

The enormous extent of the summer exodus to the mountains and the seas
in America is overwhelming; and a population of sixty-five millions
does not seem a bit too much to account for it. I used to think that
about all the Americans who could afford to travel came to Europe. But
the American tourists in Europe are, after all, but a drop in the
bucket compared with the oceans of summer and winter visitors to the
Adirondacks and Florida, Manitoba Springs and the coast of Maine, the
Catskills and Long Branch, Newport and Lenox, Bar Harbor and
California, White Sulphur Springs and the Minnesota Lakes, Saratoga
and Richfield, The Thousand Isles and Martha's Vineyard, Niagara and
Trenton Falls, Old Point Comfort and Asheville, the Yellowstone and
the Yosemite, Alaska and the Hot Springs of Arkansas. And everywhere
that the season's visitor is expected he will find hotels awaiting him
that range all the way from reasonable comfort to outrageous
magnificence; while a simpler taste will find a plain boarding-house
by almost every mountain pool or practicable beach in the whole wide
expanse of the United States. The Briton may not have yet abdicated
his post as the champion traveller or explorer of unknown lands, but
the American is certainly the most restless mover from one resort of
civilisation to another.

Perhaps the most beautiful hotel in the world is the Ponce de Leon at
St. Augustine, Florida, named after the Spanish voyager who discovered
the flowery[32] State in 1512, and explored its streams on his
romantic search for the fountain of eternal youth. And when I say
beautiful I use the word in no auctioneering sense of mere size, and
height, and evidence of expenditure, but as meaning a truly artistic
creation, fine in itself and appropriate to its environment. The hotel
is built of "coquina," or shell concrete, in a Spanish renaissance
style with Moorish features, which harmonises admirably with the
sunny sky of Florida and the historic associations of St. Augustine.
Its colour scheme, with the creamy white of the concrete, the
overhanging roofs of red tile, and the brick and terra-cotta details,
is very effective, and contrasts well with the deep-blue overhead and
the luxuriant verdancy of the orange-trees, magnolias, palmettos,
oleanders, bananas, and date-palms that surround it. The building
encloses a large open court, and is lined by columned verandas, while
the minaret-like towers dominate the expanse of dark-red roof. The
interior is richly adorned with wall and ceiling paintings of
historical or allegorical import, skilfully avoiding crudity or
garishness; and the marble and oak decorations of the four-galleried
rotunda are worthy of the rest of the structure. The general effect is
one of luxurious and artistic ease, with suggestions of an Oriental
_dolce far niente_ in excellent keeping with the idea of the winter
idler's home. The Ponce de Leon and the adjoining and more or less
similar structures of the Alcazar, the Cordova, and the Villa Zorayda
form indeed an architectural group which, taken along with the
semi-tropical vegetation and atmosphere, alone repays a long journey
to see. But let the strictly economical traveller take up his quarters
in one of the more modest hostelries of the little town, unless he is
willing to pay dearly (and yet not perhaps too dearly) for the
privilege of living in the most artistic hotel in the world.

It is a long cry from Florida to California, where stands another
hotel which suggests mention for its almost unique perfections. The
little town of Monterey, with its balmy air, its beautiful sandy
beach, its adobe buildings, and its charming surroundings, is, like
St. Augustine, full of interesting Spanish associations, dating back
to 1602. The Hotel del Monte, or "Hotel of the Forest," one of the
most comfortable, best-kept, and moderate-priced hotels of America,
lies amid bluegrass lawns and exquisite grounds, in some ways
recalling the parks of England's gentry, though including among its
noble trees such un-English specimens as the sprawling and moss-draped
live-oaks and the curious Monterey pines and cypresses. Its gardens
offer a continual feast of colour, with their solid acres of roses,
violets, calla lilies, heliotrope, narcissus, tulips, and crocuses;
and one part of them, known as "Arizona," contains a wonderful
collection of cacti. The hotel itself has no pretension to rival the
Ponce de Leon in its architecture or appointments, and is, I think,
built of wood. It is, however, very large, encloses a spacious
garden-court, and makes a pleasant enough impression, with its
turrets, balconies, and verandas, its many sharp gables, dormers, and
window-hoods. The economy of the interior reminded me more strongly of
the amenities and decencies of the house of a refined, well-to-do, and
yet not extravagantly wealthy family than of the usual hotel
atmosphere. There were none of the blue satin hangings, ormolu vases,
and other entirely superfluous luxuries for which we have to pay in
the bills of certain hotels at Paris and elsewhere; but on the other
hand nothing was lacking that a fastidious but reasonable taste could
demand. The rooms and corridors are spacious and airy; everything was
as clean and fresh as white paint and floor polish could make them;
the beds were comfortable and fragrant; the linen was spotless; there
was lots of "hanging room;" each pair of bedrooms shared a bathroom;
the _cuisine_ was good and sufficiently varied; the waiters were
attentive; flowers were abundant without and within. The price of all
this real luxury was $3 to $3.50 (12_s._ to 14_s._) a day. Possibly
the absolute perfection of the bright and soft Californian spring when
I visited Monterey, and the exquisite beauty of its environment, may
have lulled my critical faculties into a state of unusual somnolence;
but when I quitted the Del Monte Hotel I felt that I was leaving one
of the most charming homes I had ever had the good fortune to live in.

The only hotel that to my mind contests with the Del Monte the
position of the best hotel in the North American continent is the
Canadian Pacific Hotel at Banff, in the National Rocky Mountains Park
of Canada. Here also magnificent scenery, splendid weather, and
moderate charges combined to bias my judgment; but the residuum, after
all due allowance made for these factors, still, after five years,
assures me of most unusual excellence. Two things in particular I
remember in connection with this hotel. The one is the almost absolute
perfection of the waiting, carried on by gentlemanly youths of about
eighteen or twenty, who must, I think, have formed the _corps d'élite_
of the thousands of waiters in the service of the Canadian Pacific
Railway. The marvellous speed and dexterity with which they ministered
to my wants, the absolutely neat and even dainty manner in which
everything was done by them, and their modest readiness to make
suggestions and help one's choice (always to the point!) make one of
the pleasantest pictures of hotel life lurking in my memory. The other
dominant recollection of the Banff Hotel is the wonderfully beautiful
view from the summer-house at its northeast corner. Just below the
bold bluff on which this hotel stands the piercingly blue Bow River
throws itself down in a string of foaming white cataracts to mate with
the amber and rapid-rushing Spray. The level valley through which the
united and now placid stream flows is carpeted with the vivid-red
painter's brush, white and yellow marguerites, asters, fireweed,
golden-rod, and blue-bells; to the left rise the perpendicular cliffs
of Tunnel Mountain, while to the right Mt. Rundle lifts its weirdly
sloping, snow-flecked peaks into the azure.

In the dense green woods of the Adirondacks, five miles from the
nearest high road on the one side and on the other lapped by an ocean
of virgin forest which to the novice seems almost as pathless as the
realms of Neptune, stands the Adirondack Lodge, probably one of the
most quaint, picturesque little hotels in the world. It is tastefully
built in the style of a rustic log-hut, its timber being merely
rough-hewn by the axe and not reduced to monotonous symmetry by the
saw-mill. It is roofed with bark, and its wide-eaved verandas are
borne by tree-trunks with the bark still on. The same idea is carried
out in the internal equipment, and the bark is left intact on much of
the furniture. The wood retains its natural colours, and there are no
carpets or paint. This charming little hotel is due to the taste or
whim of a New York electrical engineer (the inventor, I believe, of
the well-known "ticker"), who acts the landlord in such a way as to
make the sixty or seventy inmates feel like the guests of a private
host. The clerk is a medical student, the very bell-boy ("Eddy") a
candidate for Harvard, and both mix on equal terms with the genial
circle that collects round the bonfire lighted in front of the house
every summer's evening. As one lazily lay there, watching the wavering
play of the ruddy blaze on the dark-green pines, listening to the
educated chatter of the boy who cleaned the boots, realising that a
deer, a bear, or perchance even a catamount might possibly be lurking
in the dark woods around, and knowing that all the material comforts
of civilised life awaited one inside the house, one felt very keenly
the genuine Americanism of this Arcadia, and thought how hard it would
be to reproduce the effect even in the imagination of the European.

It was in this same Adirondack Wilderness that I stayed in the only
hotel that, so far as I know, caught on to the fact that I was a
"chiel amang them takin' notes" for a guidebook. With true American
enterprise I was informed, when I called for my bill, that that was
all right; and I still recall with amusement the incredulous and
obstinate resistance of the clerk to my insistence on paying my way. I
hope that the genial proprietors do not attribute the asterisk that I
gave the hotel to their well-meant efforts to give me _quid pro quo_,
but credit me with a totally unbiassed admiration for their good
management and comfortable quarters.

Mention has already been made (p. 30) of a hotel at a frequented
watering-place, at which the lowest purchasable quantity of sleep cost
one pound sterling. It is, perhaps, superfluous to say that the rest
procured at this cost was certainly not four or five times better than
that easily procurable for four or five shillings; and that the luxury
of this hotel appealed, not in its taste perhaps, but certainly in
its effect, to the shoddy rather than to the refined demands of the
traveller. Shenstone certainly never associated the ease of his inn
with any such hyperbolical sumptuousness as this; and it probably
could not arise in any community that did not include a large class of
individuals with literally more money than they knew what to do with,
and desirous of any means of indicating their powers of expenditure.
It has been said of another hotel at Bar Harbor that "Anyone can stay
there who is worth two millions of dollars, or can produce a
certificate from the Recorder of New York that he is a direct
descendant of Hendrik Hudson or Diedrich Knickerbocker."

Many other American hotels suggest themselves to me as sufficiently
individual in character to discriminate them from the ruck. Such are
the Hygieia at Old Point Comfort, with its Southern guests in summer
and its Northern guests in winter; looking out from its carefully
enclosed and glazed piazzas over the waste of Hampton Roads, where the
"Merrimac" wrought devastation to the vessels of the Union until
itself vanquished by the turret-ship "Monitor;" the enormous
caravansaries of Saratoga, one of which alone accommodates two
thousand visitors, or the population of a small town, while the three
largest have together room for five thousand people; the hotel at the
White Sulphur Springs of Virginia, for nearly a century the typical
resort of the wealth and aristocracy of the South, and still
furnishing the eligible stranger with a most attractive picture of
Southern beauty, grace, warm-heartedness, and manners; the Stockbridge
Inn in the Berkshire Hills, long a striking exception to the statement
that no country inns of the best English type can be found in the
United States, but unfortunately burned down a year or two ago; the
Catskill Mountain House, situated on an escarpment rising so abruptly
from the plain of the Hudson that the view from it has almost the same
effect as if we were leaning out of the car of a balloon or over the
battlements of a castle two thousand feet high; the colossal
Auditorium of Chicago, with its banquet hall and kitchen on the tenth
floor; and the Palace Hotel of San Francisco, with its twelve hundred
beds and its covered and resonant central court. Enough has, however,
been said to show that all American hotels are not the immense and
featureless barracks that many Europeans believe, but that they also
run through a full gamut of variety and character.

The restaurant is by no means such an institution in the United States
as in the continental part of Europe; in this matter the American
habit is more on all fours with English usage. The café of Europe is,
perhaps, best represented by the piazza. Of course there are numerous
restaurants in all the larger cities; but elsewhere the traveller will
do well to stick to the meals at his hotel. The best restaurants are
often in the hands of Germans, Italians, or Frenchmen. This is
conspicuously so at New York. Delmonico's has a worldwide reputation,
and is undoubtedly a good restaurant; but it may well be questioned
whether the New York estimate of its merits is not somewhat excessive.
If price be the criterion, it has certainly few superiors. The _à la
carte_ restaurants are, indeed, all apt to be expensive for the single
traveller, who will find that he can easily spend eight to twelve
shillings on a by no means sumptuous meal. The French system of
supplying one portion for two persons or two portions for three is,
however, in vogue, and this diminishes the cost materially. The _table
d'hôte_ restaurants, on the other hand, often give excellent value for
their charges. The Italians have especially devoted themselves to this
form of the art, and in New York and Boston furnish one with a very
fair dinner indeed, including a flask of drinkable Chianti, for four
or five shillings. At some of the simple German restaurants one gets
excellent German fare and beer, but these are seldom available for
ladies. The fair sex, however, takes care to be provided with more
elegant establishments for its own use, to which it sometimes admits
its husbands and brothers. The sign of a large restaurant in New York
reads: "Women's Coöperative Restaurant; tables reserved for
gentlemen," in which I knew not whether more to admire the
uncompromising antithesis between the plain word "women" and the
complimentary term "gentlemen" or the considerateness that supplies
separate accommodation for the shrinking creatures denoted by the
latter. Perhaps this is as good a place as any to note that it is
usually as unwise to patronise a restaurant which professedly caters
for "gents" as to buy one's leg-coverings of a tailor who knows them
only as "pants." Probably the "adult gents' bible-class," which
Professor Freeman encountered, was equally unsatisfactory.

Soup, poultry, game, and sweet dishes are generally as good as and
often better than in English restaurants. Beef and mutton, on the
other hand, are frequently inferior, though the American porterhouse
and other steaks sometimes recall English glories that seem largely
to have vanished. The list of American fish is by no means identical
with that of Europe, and some of the varieties (such as salmon) seem
scarcely as savoury. The stranger, however, will find some of his new
fishy acquaintances decided acquisitions, and it takes no long time to
acquire a very decided liking for the bass, the pompano, and the
bluefish, while even the shad is discounted only by his innumerable
bones. The praises of the American oyster should be sung by an abler
and more poetic pen than mine! He may not possess the full oceanic
flavour (coppery, the Americans call it) of our best "natives," but he
is large, and juicy, and cool, and succulent, and fresh, and (above
all) cheap and abundant. The variety of ways in which he is served is
a striking index of the fertile ingenuity of the American mind; and
the man who knows the oyster only on the half-shell or _en escalope_
is a mere culinary suckling compared with him who has been brought
face to face with the bivalve in stews, plain roasts, fancy roasts,
fries, broils, and fricassées, to say nothing of the form "pigs in
blankets," or as parboiled in its own liquor, creamed, sautéd, or
pickled.

Wine or beer is much less frequently drunk at meals than in Europe,
though the amount of alcoholic liquor seen on the tables of a hotel
would be a very misleading measure of the amount consumed. The men
have a curious habit of flocking to the bar-room immediately after
dinner to imbibe the stimulant that preference, or custom, or the fear
of their wives has deprived them of during the meal. Wine is generally
poor and dear. The mixed drinks at the bar are fascinating and
probably very indigestible. Their names are not so bizarre as it is
an article of the European's creed to believe. America possesses the
largest brewery in the world, that of Pabst at Milwaukee, producing
more than a million of gallons a year; and there are also large
breweries at St. Louis, Rochester, and many other places. The beer
made resembles the German lager, and is often excellent. Its use is
apparently spreading rapidly from the German Americans to Americans of
other nationalities. The native wine of California is still fighting
against the unfavourable reputation it acquired from the ignorance and
impatience of its early manufacturers. The art of wine-growing,
however, is now followed with more brains, more experience, and more
capital, and the result is in many instances excellent. The _vin
ordinaire_ of California, largely made from the Zinfandel grape, has
been described as a "peasant's wine," but when drunk on the spot
compares fairly with the cheaper wines of Europe. Some of the finest
brands of Californian red wine (such as that known as Las Palmas),
generally to be had from the producers only, are sound and
well-flavoured wines, which will probably improve steadily. It is a
thousand pities that the hotels and restaurants of the United States
do not do more to push the sale of these native wines, which are at
least better than most of the foreign wine sold in America at
extravagant charges. It is also alleged that the Californian and other
American wines are often sold under French labels and at French
prices, thus doing a double injustice to their native soil. Coffee or
tea is always included in the price of an American meal, and these
comforting beverages (particularly coffee) appear at luncheon and
dinner in the huge cups that we associate with breakfast exclusively.
Nor do they follow the meal, as with us, but accompany it. This
practice, of course, does not hold in the really first-class hotels
and restaurants.

The real national beverage is, however, ice-water. Of this I have
little more to say than to warn the British visitor to suspend his
judgment until he has been some time in the country. I certainly was
not prejudiced in favour of this chilly draught when I started for the
United States, but I soon came to find it natural and even necessary,
and as much so from the dry hot air of the stove-heated room in winter
as from the natural ambition of the mercury in summer. The habit so
easily formed was as easily unlearned when I returned to civilisation.
On the whole, it may be philosophic to conclude that a universal habit
in any country has some solid if cryptic reason for its existence, and
to surmise that the drinking of ice-water is not so deadly in the
States as it might be elsewhere. It certainly is universal enough.
When you ring a bell or look at a waiter, ice-water is immediately
brought to you. Each meal is started with a full tumbler of that
fluid, and the observant darkey rarely allows the tide to ebb until
the meal is concluded. Ice-water is provided gratuitously and
copiously on trains, in waiting-rooms, even sometimes in the public
fountains. If, finally, I were asked to name the characteristic sound
of the United States, which would tell you of your whereabouts if
transported to America in an instant of time, it would be the musical
tinkle of the ice in the small white pitchers that the bell-boys in
hotels seem perennially carrying along all the corridors, day and
night, year in and year out.

FOOTNOTES:

[30] Lady Theodora Guest, sister of the Duke of Westminster, in her
book, "A Round Trip in North America," bears the same testimony: "Over
eleven thousand miles of railway travelling and miles untold of
driving besides, without an accident or a semblance of one. No
_contretemps_ of any kind, except the little delay at Hope from the
'washout,' which did not matter the least; lovely weather, and
universal kindness and courtesy from man, woman, and child."

[31]
 "Had you seen but those roads before they were made,
  You would hold up your hands and bless General Wade."

[32] This epithet must not confirm the usual erroneous belief that
Florida means "the flowery State." It is so called because discovered
on Easter Day (Spanish _Pascua Florida_).



XIII

The American Note


Those who have done me the honour to read through the earlier pages of
this volume will probably find nothing in the present chapter that has
not already been implied in them, if not expressed. Indeed, I should
not consider these pages written to any purpose if they did not give
some indication of what I believe to be the dominant trend of American
civilisation. A certain amount of condensed explication and
recapitulation may not, however, be out of place.

In spite of the heterogeneous elements of which American civilisation
consists, and in spite of the ever-ready pitfalls of spurious
generalisation, it seems to me that there is very distinctly an
American note, different in pitch and tone from any note in the
European concert. The scale to which it belongs is not, indeed, one
out of all relation to that of the older hemisphere, in the way, for
example, in which the laws governing Chinese music seem to stand apart
from all relations to those on which the Sonata Appassionata is
constructed. "The American," as Emerson said, "is only the
continuation of the English genius into new conditions, more or less
propitious;" and the American note, as I understand it, is, with
allowance for modifications by other nationalities, after all merely
the New World incarnation of a British potentiality.

To sum it up in one word is hardly practicable; even a Carlylean
epithet could scarcely focus the content of this idea. It includes a
sense of illimitable expansion and possibility; an almost childlike
confidence in human ability and fearlessness of both the present and
the future; a wider realisation of human brotherhood than has yet
existed; a greater theoretical willingness to judge by the individual
rather than by the class; a breezy indifference to authority and a
positive predilection for innovation; a marked alertness of mind and a
manifold variety of interest; above all, an inextinguishable
hopefulness and courage. It is easy to lay one's finger in America
upon almost every one of the great defects of civilisation--even those
defects which are specially characteristic of the civilisation of the
Old World. The United States cannot claim to be exempt from
manifestations of economic slavery, of grinding the faces of the poor,
of exploitation of the weak, of unfair distribution of wealth, of
unjust monopoly, of unequal laws, of industrial and commercial
chicanery, of disgraceful ignorance, of economic fallacies, of public
corruption, of interested legislation, of want of public spirit, of
vulgar boasting and chauvinism, of snobbery, of class prejudice, of
respect of persons, of a preference of the material over the
spiritual. In a word, America has not attained, or nearly attained,
perfection. But below and behind and beyond all its weaknesses and
evils, there is the grand fact of a noble national theory, founded on
reason and conscience. Those may scoff who will at the idea of
anything so intangible being allowed to count seriously in the
estimation of a nation's or an individual's happiness but the man of
any imagination can surely conceive the stimulus of the constantly
abiding sense of a fine national ideal. The vagaries of the Congress
at Washington may sometimes cause a man more personal inconvenience
than the doings of the Parliament at Westminster, but they cannot
wound his self-respect or insult his reason in the same way as the
idea of being ruled by a group of individuals who have merely taken
the trouble to be born. The hauteur and insolence of those "above" us
are always unpleasant, but they are much easier to bear when we feel
that they are entirely at variance with the theory of the society in
which they appear, and are at worst merely sporadic manifestations.
Even the tyranny of trusts is not to be compared to the tyranny of
landlordism; for the one is felt to be merely an unhappy and (it is
hoped) temporary aberration of well-meant social machinery, while the
other seems bred in the very bone of the national existence. It is the
old story of freedom and hardship being preferable to chains and
luxury. The material environment of the American may often be far less
interesting and suggestive than that of the European, but his mind is
freer, his mental attitude more elastic. Every American carries a
marshal's baton in his knapsack in a way that has hardly ever been
true in Europe. It may not assume a more tangible shape than a feeling
of self-respect that has never been wounded by the thought of personal
inferiority for merely conventional reasons; but he must be a
materialist indeed who undervalues this priceless possession. It is
something for a country to have reached the stage of passing
"resolutions," even if their conversion into "acts" lags a little; it
is bootless to sneer at a real "land of promise" because it is not at
once and in every way a "land of performance."

There is something wonderfully rare and delicate in the finest
blossoms of American civilisation--something that can hardly be
paralleled in Europe. The mind that has been brought up in an
atmosphere theoretically free from all false standards and
conventional distinctions acquires a singularly unbiassed, detached,
absolute, purely human way of viewing life. In Matthew Arnold's
phrase, "it sees life steadily and sees it whole." Just this attitude
seems unattainable in England; neither in my reading nor my personal
experience have I encountered what I mean elsewhere than in America.
We may feel ourselves, for example, the equal of a marquis, but does
he? And even if he does, do A, and B, and C? No profoundness of belief
in our own superiority or the superiority of a humble friend to the
aristocrat can make us ignore the circumambient feeling on the subject
in the same way that the man brought up in the American vacuum does.

The true-born American is absolutely incapable of comprehending the
sense of difference between a lord and a plebeian that is forced on
the most philosophical among ourselves by the mere pressure of the
social atmosphere. It is for him a fourth dimension of space; it may
be talked about, but practically it has no existence. It is entirely
within the bounds of possibility for an American to attempt graciously
to put royalty at its ease, and to try politely to make it forget its
anomalous position. The British radical philosopher may attain the
height of saying, "With a great sum obtained I this 'freedom';" the
American may honestly reply, "But I was free-born."

It is necessary to take long views of American civilisation; not to
fix our gaze upon small evils in the foreground, not to mistake an
attack of moral measles for a scorbutic taint. It is quite conceivable
that a philosophic observer of a century ago might almost have
predicted the moral and social course of events in the United States,
if he had only been informed of the coming material conditions, such
as the overwhelmingly rapid growth of the country in wealth and
population, coupled with a democratic form of government. Even if
assured that the ultimate state of the nation would be satisfactory,
he would still have foreseen the difficulties hemming its progress
toward the ideal: the inevitable delays, disappointments, and
set-backs; the struggle between the gross and the spiritual; the
troubles arising from the constant accession of new raw material
before the old was welded into shape. There is nothing in the present
evils of America to lead us to despair of the Republic, if only we let
a legitimate imagination place us on a view-point sufficiently distant
and sufficiently high to enable us to look backwards and forwards over
long stretches of time, and lose the effect of small roughnesses in
the foreground. Even M. de Tocqueville exaggerated the evils existing
when he wrote his famous work, and forecast catastrophes that have
never arisen and seem daily less and less likely ever to arise. Let it
be enough for the present that America has worked out "a rough average
happiness for the million," that the great masses of the people have
attained a by no means despicable amount of independence and comfort.
Those who are apt to think that the comfort of the crowd must mean the
_ennui_ of the cultured may safely be reminded of Obermann's saying,
that no individual life can (or ought to) be happy _passée au milieu
des génerations qui souffrent_. _This_ source of unhappiness, at any
rate, is less potent in the United States than elsewhere. It is only
natural that material prosperity should come more quickly than
emancipation from ignorance, as Professor Norton has noted in a
masterly, though perhaps characteristically pessimistic, article in
the _Forum_ for February, 1896. It may, too, be true, as the same
writer remarks, that the common school system of America does little
"to quicken the imagination, to refine and elevate the moral
intelligence;" and the remark is valuable as a note of warning. But it
may well be asked whether the American school system is in this
respect unfavourably distinguished from that of any other country; and
it must not be forgotten that even instruction in ordinary topics
stimulates the soil for more valuable growths. The methods of the
Salvation Army do not appeal to the dilettante; but it is more than
possible that the grandchildren of the man whose imagination has been
touched, if ever so slightly, by the crude appeal of trombones out of
tune and the sight of poke-bonnets and backward-striding maidens, will
be more intelligent and susceptible human beings than the
grandchildren of the chawbacon whose mental horizon has been bounded
by the bottom of his pewter mug.

Those who think for themselves will naturally make more mistakes than
those who carefully follow the dictates of a competent authority; but
there are other counterbalancing advantages which bring the
enterprising mistake-maker more speedily to the goal than his
impeccable rival. The poet might almost have sung "'Tis better to have
erred and learned than never to have erred at all." The _intellectual_
monopoly of England is, perhaps, even more dangerous than the
material. The monastic societies of Oxford and Cambridge are too apt
to insist on certain _forms_ of knowledge, and to think that real
wisdom is the prerogative of the few. And we undoubtedly owe many of
the healthy breezes of rebellion and scepticism in such matters to the
example of America. The keen-eyed Yankees distinguish more clearly
than we do between the essential conditions of existence and the
"stupid and vulgar accidents of human contrivance," and are
consequently readier to lay irreverent hands on time-honoured abuses.
If a balance could be struck between the influence of Europe on
America and that of America on Europe, it is not by any means clear
that the scale would descend in favour of the older world.

There is a long list of influential witnesses in favour of the theory
that the development of the democratic spirit is bound inevitably to
hamper individuality and encourage mediocrity. De Tocqueville,
Scherer, Renan, Maine, Bourget, Matthew Arnold, all lend the weight of
their names to this conclusion. It does not seem to me that this
theory is supported by the social facts of the United States. When we
have made allowance for the absence of a number of picturesque
phenomena which are due to temporal and physical conditions, and would
be equally lacking if the country were an autocracy or oligarchy,
there remains in the United States greater room for the development
of idiosyncrasy than, perhaps, in any other country. It has been
paradoxically argued by an English writer that individualism could not
reach its highest point except in a socialistic community; _i.e._,
that the unbridled competition of the present day drives square pegs
into round holes and thus forces the individual, for the sake of bread
and butter, to do that which is foreign to his nature; whereas in an
ideal socialism each individual would be encouraged to follow his own
bent and develop his own special talent for the good of the community.
To a certain extent this seems true of the United States. The career
there is more open to the talents; the world is an oyster which the
individual can open with many kinds of knives; what the Germans call
"_umsatteln_", or changing one's profession as one changes one's
horse, is much more feasible in the New World than in the Old. The
freedom and largeness of opportunity is a stimulus to all strong
minds. Lincoln, as Professor Dowden remarks, would in the Middle Ages
have probably continued to split rails all his life.

     The fact is that if the predominant power of a few great minds is
     diminished in a democracy, it is because, together with such
     minds, a thousand others are at work contributing to the total
     result.... It is surely for the advantage of the most eminent
     minds that they should be surrounded by men of energy and
     intellect, who belong neither to the class of hero-worshippers
     nor to the class of _valets de chambre_.

     The truth seems to be that with an increased population and the
     multiplicity of interests and influences at play on men, we may
     expect a greater diversity of mental types in the future than
     could be found at any period in the past. The supposed uniformity
     of society in a democratic age is apparent, not real; artificial
     distinctions are replaced by natural differences; and within the
     one great community exists a vast number of smaller communities,
     each having its special intellectual and moral characteristics.
     In the few essentials of social order the majority rightly has
     its way, but within certain broad bounds, which are fixed, there
     remains ample scope for the action of a multitude of various
     minorities.--_"New Studies in Literature," by Prof. E. Dowden._

The so-called uniformity and monotony of American life struck me as
existing in appearance much more than in reality. If all my ten
neighbours have pretty much the same income and enjoy pretty much the
same comforts, their little social circle is certainly in a sense much
more uniform than if their incomes ranged down from £10,000 to £300
and their household state from several powdered footmen to a little
maid-of-all-work; but surely in all that really matters--in thoughts,
ideas, personal habits and tastes, internal storms and calms, the
elements of tragedy and comedy, talents and ambitions, loves and
fears--the former circle might be infinitely more varied than the
latter. Many critics of American life seem to have been led away by
merely external similarities, and to have jumped at once to the
conclusion that one Philadelphian must be as much like another as each
little red-brick, white-stooped house of the Quaker City is like its
neighbours. A single glance at the enormous number of _intelligent_
faces one sees in American society, or even in an American street, is
enough to dissipate the idea that this can be a country of greater
monotony than, say, England, where expressionless faces are by no
means uncommon, even in the best circles. America is more monotonous
than England, if a more equitable distribution of material comforts be
monotony; it is not so, if the question be of originality of character
and susceptibility to ideas.





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