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´╗┐Title: My Discovery of England
Author: Leacock, Stephen, 1869-1944
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "My Discovery of England" ***

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By Leacock, Stephen

Introduction of Mr. Stephen Leacock Given by Sir Owen Seaman
on the Occasion of His First Lecture in London

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN: It is usual on these occasions for the chairman
to begin something like this: "The lecturer, I am sure, needs no
introduction from me." And indeed, when I have been the lecturer and
somebody else has been the chairman, I have more than once suspected
myself of being the better man of the two. Of course I hope I should
always have the good manners--I am sure Mr. Leacock has--to disguise
that suspicion. However, one has to go through these formalities, and I
will therefore introduce the lecturer to you.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is Mr. Stephen Leacock. Mr. Leacock, this is
the flower of London intelligence--or perhaps I should say one of the
flowers; the rest are coming to your other lectures.

In ordinary social life one stops at an introduction and does not
proceed to personal details. But behaviour on the platform, as on the
stage, is seldom ordinary. I will therefore tell you a thing or two
about Mr. Leacock. In the first place, by vocation he is a Professor of
Political Economy, and he practises humour--frenzied fiction instead
of frenzied finance--by way of recreation. There he differs a good deal
from me, who have to study the products of humour for my living, and by
way of recreation read Mr. Leacock on political economy.

Further, Mr. Leacock is all-British, being English by birth and Canadian
by residence, I mention this for two reasons: firstly, because England
and the Empire are very proud to claim him for their own, and, secondly,
because I do not wish his nationality to be confused with that of his
neighbours on the other side. For English and American humourists have
not always seen eye to eye. When we fail to appreciate their humour they
say we are too dull and effete to understand it: and when they do not
appreciate ours they say we haven't got any.

Now Mr. Leacock's humour is British by heredity; but he has caught
something of the spirit of American humour by force of association. This
puts him in a similar position to that in which I found myself once when
I took the liberty of swimming across a rather large loch in Scotland.
After climbing into the boat I was in the act of drying myself when I
was accosted by the proprietor of the hotel adjacent to the shore. "You
have no business to be bathing here," he shouted. "I'm not," I said;
"I'm bathing on the other side." In the same way, if anyone on either
side of the water is unintelligent enough to criticise Mr. Leacock's
humour, he can always say it comes from the other side. But the truth
is that his humour contains all that is best in the humour of both

Having fulfilled my duty as chairman, in that I have told you nothing
that you did not know before--except, perhaps, my swimming feat, which
never got into the Press because I have a very bad publicity agent--I
will not detain you longer from what you are really wanting to get at;
but ask Mr. Leacock to proceed at once with his lecture on "Frenzied


     V.      OXFORD AS I SEE IT


I. The Balance of Trade in Impressions

FOR some years past a rising tide of lecturers and literary men from
England has washed upon the shores of our North American continent. The
purpose of each one of them is to make a new discovery of America. They
come over to us travelling in great simplicity, and they return in
the ducal suite of the Aquitania. They carry away with them their
impressions of America, and when they reach England they sell them. This
export of impressions has now been going on so long that the balance
of trade in impressions is all disturbed. There is no doubt that the
Americans and Canadians have been too generous in this matter of giving
away impressions. We emit them with the careless ease of a glow worm,
and like the glow-worm ask for nothing in return.

But this irregular and one-sided traffic has now assumed such great
proportions that we are compelled to ask whether it is right to allow
these people to carry away from us impressions of the very highest
commercial value without giving us any pecuniary compensation whatever.
British lecturers have been known to land in New York, pass the customs,
drive uptown in a closed taxi, and then forward to England from the
closed taxi itself ten dollars' worth of impressions of American
national character. I have myself seen an English literary man,--the
biggest, I believe: he had at least the appearance of it; sit in the
corridor of a fashionable New York hotel and look gloomily into his hat,
and then from his very hat produce an estimate of the genius of Amer ica
at twenty cents a word. The nice question as to whose twenty cents that
was never seems to have occurred to him.

I am not writing in the faintest spirit of jealousy. I quite admit the
extraordinary ability that is involved in this peculiar susceptibility
to impressions. I have estimated that some of these English visitors
have been able to receive impressions at the rate of four to the second;
in fact, they seem to get them every time they see twenty cents. But
without jealousy or complaint, I do feel that somehow these impressions
are inadequate and fail to depict us as we really are.

Let me illustrate what I mean. Here are some of the impressions of New
York, gathered from visitors' discoveries of America, and reproduced not
perhaps word for word but as closely as I can remember them. "New York",
writes one, "nestling at the foot of the Hudson, gave me an impression
of cosiness, of tiny graciousness: in short, of weeness." But compare
this--"New York," according to another discoverer of America, "gave me
an impression of size, of vastness; there seemed to be a big ness about
it not found in smaller places." A third visitor writes, "New York
struck me as hard, cruel, almost inhuman." This, I think, was because
his taxi driver had charged him three dollars. "The first thing that
struck me in New York," writes another, "was the Statue of Liberty."
But, after all, that was only natural: it was the first thing that could
reach him.

Nor is it only the impressions of the metropolis that seem to fall short
of reality. Let me quote a few others taken at random here and there
over the continent.

"I took from Pittsburg," says an English visitor, "an impression of
something that I could hardly define--an atmosphere rather than an

All very well, But, after all, had he the right to take it? Granted that
Pittsburg has an atmosphere rather than an idea, the attempt to carry
away this atmosphere surely borders on rapacity.

"New Orleans," writes another visitor, "opened her arms to me and
bestowed upon me the soft and languorous kiss of the Caribbean." This
statement may or may not be true; but in any case it hardly seems the
fair thing to mention it.

"Chicago," according to another book of discovery, "struck me as a large
city. Situated as it is and where it is, it seems destined to be a place
of importance."

Or here, again, is a form of "impression" that recurs again and
again-"At Cleveland I felt a distinct note of optimism in the air."

This same note of optimism is found also at Toledo, at Toronto--in
short, I believe it indicates nothing more than that some one gave the
visitor a cigar. Indeed it generally occurs during the familiar scene
in which the visitor describes his cordial reception in an unsuspecting
American town: thus:

"I was met at the station (called in America the depot) by a member
of the Municipal Council driving his own motor car. After giving me an
excellent cigar, he proceeded to drive me about the town, to various
points of interest, including the municipal abattoir, where he gave me
another excellent cigar, the Carnegie public library, the First National
Bank (the courteous manager of which gave me an excellent cigar) and
the Second Congregational Church where I had the pleasure of meeting the
pastor. The pastor, who appeared a man of breadth and culture, gave me
another cigar. In the evening a dinner, admirably cooked and excellently
served, was tendered to me at a leading hotel." And of course he took
it. After which his statement that he carried away from the town a
feeling of optimism explains itself: he had four cigars, the dinner, and
half a page of impressions at twenty cents a word.

Nor is it only by the theft of impressions that we suffer at the hands
of these English discoverers of America. It is a part of the system also
that we have to submit to being lectured to by our talented visitors. It
is now quite understood that as soon as an English literary man finishes
a book he is rushed across to America to tell the people of the United
States and Canada all about it, and how he came to write it. At home, in
his own country, they don't care how he came to write it. He's written
it and that's enough. But in America it is different. One month after
the distinguished author's book on The Boyhood of Botticelli has
appeared in London, he is seen to land in New York very quietly out of
one of the back portholes of the Olympic. That same afternoon you will
find him in an armchair in one of the big hotels giving off impressions
of America to a group of reporters. After which notices appear in
all the papers to the effect that he will lecture in Carnegie Hall on
"Botticelli the Boy". The audience is assured beforehand. It consists of
all the people who feel that they have to go because they know all about
Botticelli and all the people who feel that they have to go because they
don't know anything about Botticelli. By this means the lecturer is
able to rake the whole country from Montreal to San Francisco
with "Botticelli the Boy". Then he turns round, labels his lecture
"Botticelli the Man", and rakes it all back again. All the way across
the continent and back he emits impressions, estimates of national
character, and surveys of American genius. He sails from New York in a
blaze of publicity, with his cordon of reporters round him, and a month
later publishes his book "America as I Saw It". It is widely read--in

In the course of time a very considerable public feeling was aroused
in the United States and Canada over this state of affairs. The lack of
reciprocity in it seemed unfair. It was felt (or at least I felt)
that the time had come when some one ought to go over and take some
impressions off England. The choice of such a person (my choice) fell
upon myself. By an arrangement with the Geographical Society of America,
acting in conjunction with the Royal Geographical Society of England (to
both of whom I communicated my proposal), I went at my own expense.

It is scarcely feasible to give here full details in regard to my outfit
and equipment, though I hope to do so in a later and more extended
account of my expedition. Suffice it to say that my outfit, which was
modelled on the equipment of English lecturers in America, included a
complete suit of clothes, a dress shirt for lecturing in, a fountain
pen and a silk hat. The dress shirt, I may say for the benefit of other
travellers, proved invaluable. The silk hat, however, is no longer used
in England except perhaps for scrambling eggs in.

I pass over the details of my pleasant voyage from New York to
Liverpool. During the last fifty years so many travellers have made
the voyage across the Atlantic that it is now impossible to obtain any
impressions from the ocean of the slightest commercial value. My readers
will recall the fact that Washington Irving, as far back as a century
ago, chronicled the pleasure that one felt during an Atlantic voyage
in idle day dreams while lying prone upon the bowsprit and watching the
dolphins leaping in the crystalline foam. Since his time so many gifted
writers have attempted to do the same thing that on the large Atlantic
liners the bowsprit has been removed, or at any rate a notice put up:
"Authors are requested not to lie prostrate on the bowsprit." But
even without this advantage, three or four generations of writers have
chronicled with great minuteness their sensations during the transit.
I need only say that my sensations were just as good as theirs. I will
content myself with chronicling the fact that during the voyage we
passed two dolphins, one whale and one iceberg (none of them moving very
fast at the time), and that on the fourth day out the sea was so
rough that the Captain said that in forty years he had never seen such
weather. One of the steerage passengers, we were told, was actually
washed overboard: I think it was over board that he was washed, but it
may have been on board the ship itself.

I pass over also the incidents of my landing in Liverpool, except
perhaps to comment upon the extraordinary behaviour of the English
customs officials. Without wishing in any way to disturb international
relations, one cannot help noticing the rough and inquisitorial methods
of the English customs men as compared with the gentle and affectionate
ways of the American officials at New York. The two trunks that I
brought with me were dragged brutally into an open shed, the strap
of one of them was rudely unbuckled, while the lid of the other was
actually lifted at least four inches. The trunks were then roughly
scrawled with chalk, the lids slammed to, and that was all. Not one
of the officials seemed to care to look at my things or to have the
politeness to pretend to want to. I had arranged my dress suit and my
pyjamas so as to make as effective a display as possible: a New York
customs officer would have been delighted with it. Here they simply
passed it over. "Do open this trunk," I asked one of the officials, "and
see my pyjamas." "I don't think it is necessary, sir," the man answered.
There was a coldness about it that cut me to the quick.

But bad as is the conduct of the English customs men, the immigration
officials are even worse. I could not help being struck by the dreadful
carelessness with which people are admitted into England. There are, it
is true, a group of officials said to be in charge of immigration, but
they know nothing of the discriminating care exercised on the other side
of the Atlantic.

"Do you want to know," I asked one of them, "whether I am a polygamist?"

"No, sir," he said very quietly.

"Would you like me to tell you whether I am fundamentally opposed to any
and every system of government?"

The man seemed mystified. "No, sir," he said. "I don't know that I

"Don't you care?" I asked.

"Well, not particularly, sir," he answered.

I was determined to arouse him from his lethargy.

"Let me tell you, then," I said, "that I am an anarchistic polygamist,
that I am opposed to all forms of government, that I object to any kind
of revealed religion, that I regard the state and property and marriage
as the mere tyranny of the bourgeoisie, and that I want to see class
hatred carried to the point where it forces every one into brotherly
love. Now, do I get in?"

The official looked puzzled for a minute. "You are not Irish, are you,
sir?" he said.


"Then I think you can come in all right." he answered.

The journey from Liverpool to London, like all other English journeys,
is short. This is due to the fact that England is a small country: it
contains only 50,000 square miles, whereas the United States, as every
one knows, contains three and a half billion. I mentioned this fact to
an English fellow passenger on the train, together with a provisional
estimate of the American corn crop for 1922: but he only drew his rug
about his knees, took a sip of brandy from his travelling flask, and
sank into a state resembling death. I contented myself with jotting down
an impression of incivility and paid no further attention to my fellow
traveller other than to read the labels on his lug gage and to peruse
the headings of his newspaper by peeping over his shoulder.

It was my first experience of travelling with a fellow passenger in
a compartment of an English train, and I admit now that I was as yet
ignorant of the proper method of conduct. Later on I became fully
conversant with the rule of travel as understood in England. I should
have known, of course, that I must on no account speak to the man. But I
should have let down the window a little bit in such a way as to make a
strong draught on his ear. Had this failed to break down his reserve I
should have placed a heavy valise in the rack over his head so balanced
that it might fall on him at any moment. Failing this again, I could
have blown rings of smoke at him or stepped on his feet under the
pretence of looking out of the window. Under the English rule as long as
he bears this in silence you are not supposed to know him. In fact, he
is not supposed to be there. You and he each presume the other to be a
mere piece of empty space. But let him once be driven to say, "Oh, I beg
your pardon, I wonder if you would mind my closing the window," and he
is lost. After that you are entitled to tell him anything about the corn
crop that you care to.

But in the present case I knew nothing of this, and after three hours of
charming silence I found myself in London.

II. I Am Interviewed by the Press

IMMEDIATELY upon my arrival in London I was interviewed by the Press. I
was interviewed in all twenty times. I am not saying this in any
spirit of elation or boastfulness. I am simply stating it as a
fact--interviewed twenty times, sixteen times by men and twice by women.
But as I feel that the results of these interviews were not all that I
could have wished, I think it well to make some public explanation of
what happened.

The truth is that we do this thing so differently over in America that I
was for the time being completely thrown off my bearings. The questions
that I had every right to expect after many years of American and
Canadian interviews failed to appear.

I pass over the fact that being interviewed for five hours is a
fatiguing process. I lay no claim to exemption for that. But to that no
doubt was due the singular discrepancies as to my physical appearance
which I detected in the London papers.

The young man who interviewed me immediately after breakfast described
me as "a brisk, energetic man, still on the right side of forty, with
energy in every movement."

The lady who wrote me up at 11.30 reported that my hair was turning
grey, and that there was "a peculiar languor" in my manner.

And at the end the boy who took me over at a quarter to two said, "The
old gentleman sank wearily upon a chair in the hotel lounge. His hair is
almost white."

The trouble is that I had not understood that London reporters are
supposed to look at a man's personal appearance. In America we never
bother with that. We simply describe him as a "dynamo." For some reason
or other it always pleases everybody to be called a "dynamo," and the
readers, at least with us, like to read about people who are "dynamos,"
and hardly care for anything else.

In the case of very old men we sometimes call them "battle-horses" or
"extinct volcanoes," but beyond these three classes we hardly venture
on description. So I was misled. I had expected that the reporter would
say: "As soon as Mr. Leacock came across the floor we felt we were in
the presence of a 'dynamo' (or an 'extinct battle-horse' as the case may
be)." Otherwise I would have kept up those energetic movements all the
morning. But they fatigue me, and I did not think them necessary. But I
let that pass.

The more serious trouble was the questions put to me by the reporters.
Over in our chief centres of population we use another set altogether.
I am thinking here especially of the kind of interview that I have
given out in Youngstown, Ohio, and Richmond, Indiana, and Peterborough,
Ontario. In all these places--for example, in Youngstown, Ohio the
reporter asks as his first question, "What is your impression of

In London they don't. They seem indifferent to the fate of their city.
Perhaps it is only English pride. For all I know they may have been
burning to know this, just as the Youngstown, Ohio, people are, and
were too proud to ask. In any case I will insert here the answer I had
written out in my pocket-book (one copy for each paper--the way we do it
in Youngstown), and which read:

"London strikes me as emphatically a city with a future. Standing as
she does in the heart of a rich agricultural district with railroad
connection in all directions, and resting, as she must, on a bed of coal
and oil, I prophesy that she will one day be a great city."

The advantage of this is that it enables the reporter to get just the
that been used my name would have stood higher there than it does
to-day--unless the London people are very different from the people in
Youngstown, which I doubt. As it is they don't know whether their future
is bright or is as dark as mud. But it's not my fault. The reporters
never asked me.

If the first question had been handled properly it would have led up
by an easy and pleasant transition to question two, which always runs:
"Have you seen our factories?" To which the answer is:

"I have. I was taken out early this morning by a group of your citizens
(whom I cannot thank enough) in a Ford car to look at your pail and
bucket works. At eleven-thirty I was taken out by a second group in what
was apparently the same car to see your soap works. I understand that
you are the second nail-making centre east of the Alleghenies, and I
am amazed and appalled. This afternoon I am to be taken out to see your
wonderful system of disposing of sewerage, a thing which has fascinated
me from childhood."

Now I am not offering any criticism of the London system of
interviewing, but one sees at once how easy and friendly for all
concerned this Youngstown method is; how much better it works than the
London method of asking questions about literature and art and difficult
things of that sort. I am sure that there must be soap works and
perhaps a pail factory somewhere in London. But during my entire time
of residence there no one ever offered to take me to them. As for the
sewerage--oh, well, I suppose we are more hospitable in America. Let it
go at that.

I had my answer all written and ready, saying:

"I understand that London is the second greatest hop-consuming, the
fourth hog-killing, and the first egg-absorbing centre in the world."

But what I deplore still more, and I think with reason, is the total
omission of the familiar interrogation: "What is your impression of our

That's where the reporter over on our side hits the nail every time.
That is the point at which we always nudge him in the ribs and buy him
a cigar, and at which youth and age join in a sly jest together. Here
again the sub-heading comes in so nicely: THINKS YOUNGSTOWN WOMEN
CHARMING. And they are. They are, everywhere. But I hate to think that
I had to keep my impression of London women unused in my pocket while
a young man asked me whether I thought modern literature owed more to
observation and less to inspiration than some other kind of literature.

Now that's exactly the kind of question, the last one, that the London
reporters seem to harp on. They seemed hipped about literature; and
their questions are too difficult. One asked me whether the American
drama was structurally inferior to the French. I don't call that fair. I
told him I didn't know; that I used to know the answer to it when I was
at college, but that I had forgotten it, and that, anyway, I am too well
off now to need to remember it.

That question is only one of a long list that they asked me about art
and literature. I missed nearly all of them, except one as to whether I
thought Al Jolson or Frank Tinney was the higher artist, and even that
one was asked by an American who is wasting himself on the London Press.

I don't want to speak in anger. But I say it frankly, the atmosphere
of these young men is not healthy, and I felt that I didn't want to see
them any more.

Had there been a reporter of the kind we have at home in Montreal or
Toledo or Springfield, Illinois, I would have welcomed him at my hotel.
He could have taken me out in a Ford car and shown me a factory and told
me how many cubic feet of water go down the Thames in an hour. I should
have been glad of his society, and he and I would have together made up
the kind of copy that people of his class and mine read. But I felt that
if any young man came along to ask about the structure of the modern
drama, he had better go on to the British Museum.

Meantime as the reporters entirely failed to elicit the large fund of
information which I acquired, I reserve my impressions of London for a
chapter by themselves.

III. Impressions of London

BEFORE setting down my impressions of the great English metropolis; a
phrase which I have thought out as a designation for London; I think it
proper to offer an initial apology. I find that I receive impressions
with great difficulty and have nothing of that easy facility in picking
them up which is shown by British writers on America. I remember Hugh
Walpole telling me that he could hardly walk down Broadway without
getting at least three dollars' worth and on Fifth Avenue five dollars'
worth; and I recollect that St. John Ervine came up to my house in
Montreal, drank a cup of tea, borrowed some tobacco, and got away with
sixty dollars' worth of impressions of Canadian life and character.

For this kind of thing I have only a despairing admiration. I can get an
impression if I am given time and can think about it beforehand. But
it requires thought. This fact was all the more distressing to me in as
much as one of the leading editors of America had made me a proposal,
as honourable to him as it was lucrative to me, that immediately on my
arrival in London;--or just before it,--I should send him a thousand
words on the genius of the English, and five hundred words on the spirit
of London, and two hundred words of personal chat with Lord Northcliffe.
This contract I was unable to fulfil except the personal chat with Lord
Northcliffe, which proved an easy matter as he happened to be away in

But I have since pieced together my impressions as conscientiously as I
could and I present them here. If they seem to be a little bit modelled
on British impressions of America I admit at once that the influence
is there. We writers all act and react on one another; and when I see a
good thing in another man's book I react on it at once.

London, the name of which is already known to millions of readers of
this book, is beautifully situated on the river Thames, which here
sweeps in a wide curve with much the same breadth and majesty as the St.
Jo River at South Bend, Indiana. London, like South Bend itself, is
a city of clean streets and admirable sidewalks, and has an excellent
water supply. One is at once struck by the number of excellent and
well-appointed motor cars that one sees on every hand, the neatness
of the shops and the cleanliness and cheerfulness of the faces of the
people. In short, as an English visitor said of Peterborough, Ontario,
there is a distinct note of optimism in the air. I forget who it was who
said this, but at any rate I have been in Peterborough myself and I have
seen it.

Contrary to my expectations and contrary to all our Transatlantic
precedents, I was not met at the depot by one of the leading citizens,
himself a member of the Municipal Council, driving his own motor car.
He did not tuck a fur rug about my knees, present me with a really
excellent cigar and proceed to drive me about the town so as to show me
the leading points of interest, the municipal reservoir, the gas works
and the municipal abattoir. In fact he was not there. But I attribute
his absence not to any lack of hospitality but merely to a certain
reserve in the English character. They are as yet unused to the arrival
of lecturers. When they get to be more accustomed to their coming, they
will learn to take them straight to the municipal abattoir just as we

For lack of better guidance, therefore, I had to form my impressions of
London by myself. In the mere physical sense there is much to attract
the eye. The city is able to boast of many handsome public buildings and
offices which compare favourably with anything on the other side of the
Atlantic. On the bank of the Thames itself rises the power house of the
Westminster Electric Supply Corporation, a handsome modern edifice in
the later Japanese style. Close by are the commodious premises of the
Imperial Tobacco Company, while at no great distance the Chelsea Gas
Works add a striking feature of rotundity. Passing northward, one
observes Westminster Bridge, notable as a principal station of the
underground railway. This station and the one next above it, the Charing
Cross one, are connected by a wide thoroughfare called Whitehall. One
of the best American drug stores is here situated. The upper end of
Whitehall opens into the majestic and spacious Trafalgar Square. Here
are grouped in imposing proximity the offices of the Canadian Pacific
and other railways, The International Sleeping Car Company, the Montreal
Star, and the Anglo-Dutch Bank. Two of the best American barber shops
are conveniently grouped near the Square, while the existence of a tall
stone monument in the middle of the Square itself enables the American
visitor to find them without difficulty. Passing eastward towards the
heart of the city, one notes on the left hand the imposing pile of St.
Paul's, an enormous church with a round dome on the top, suggesting
strongly the first Church of Christ (Scientist) on Euclid Avenue,

But the English churches not being labelled, the visitor is often at a
loss to distinguish them.

A little further on one finds oneself in the heart of financial London.
Here all the great financial institutions of America--The First National
Bank of Milwaukee, The Planters National Bank of St. Louis, The Montana
Farmers Trust Co., and many others,--have either their offices or their
agents. The Bank of England--which acts as the London Agent of The
Montana Farmers Trust Company,--and the London County Bank, which
represents the People's Deposit Co., of Yonkers, N.Y., are said to be in
the neighbourhood.

This particular part of London is connected with the existence of that
strange and mysterious thing called "the City." I am still unable to
decide whether the city is a person, or a place, or a thing. But as a
form of being I give it credit for being the most emotional, the most
volatile, the most peculiar creature in the world. You read in the
morning paper that the City is "deeply depressed." At noon it is
reported that the City is "buoyant" and by four o'clock that the City is
"wildly excited."

I have tried in vain to find the causes of these peculiar changes of
feeling. The ostensible reasons, as given in the newspaper, are so
trivial as to be hardly worthy of belief. For example, here is the kind
of news that comes out from the City. "The news that a modus vivendi
has been signed between the Sultan of Kowfat and the Shriek-ul-Islam
has caused a sudden buoyancy in the City. Steel rails which had been
depressed all morning reacted immediately while American mules rose up
sharply to par."... "Monsieur Poincar, speaking at Bordeaux, said
that henceforth France must seek to retain by all possible means the
ping-pong championship of the world: values in the City collapsed at
once."... "Despatches from Bombay say that the Shah of Persia yesterday
handed a golden slipper to the Grand Vizier Feebli Pasha as a sign that
he might go and chase himself: the news was at once followed by a drop
in oil, and a rapid attempt to liquidate everything that is fluid..."

But these mysteries of the City I do not pretend to explain. I have
passed through the place dozens of times and never noticed anything
particular in the way of depression or buoyancy, or falling oil, or
rising rails. But no doubt it is there.

A little beyond the city and further down the river the visitor finds
this district of London terminating in the gloomy and forbidding
Tower, the principal penitentiary of the city. Here Queen Victoria was
imprisoned for many years.

Excellent gasoline can be had at the American Garage immediately north
of the Tower, where motor repairs of all kinds are also carried on.

These, however, are but the superficial pictures of London, gathered by
the eye of the tourist. A far deeper meaning is found in the examination
of the great historic monuments of the city. The principal ones of
these are the Tower of London (just mentioned), the British Museum and
Westminster Abbey. No visitor to London should fail to see these. Indeed
he ought to feel that his visit to England is wasted unless he has seen
them. I speak strongly on the point because I feel strongly on it. To
my mind there is something about the grim fascination of the historic
Tower, the cloistered quiet of the Museum and the majesty of the ancient
Abbey, which will make it the regret of my life that I didn't see any
one of the three. I fully meant to: but I failed: and I can only hope
that the circumstances of my failure may be helpful to other visitors.

The Tower of London I most certainly intended to inspect. Each day,
after the fashion of every tourist, I wrote for myself a little list of
things to do and I always put the Tower of London on it. No doubt the
reader knows the kind of little list that I mean. It runs:

    1. Go to bank.

    2. Buy a shirt.

    3. National Picture Gallery.

    4. Razor blades.

    5. Tower of London.

    6. Soap.

This itinerary, I regret to say, was never carried out in full. I
was able at times both to go to the bank and buy a shirt in a single
morning: at other times I was able to buy razor blades and almost to
find the National Picture Gallery. Meantime I was urged on all sides by
my London acquaintances not to fail to see the Tower. "There's a grim
fascination about the place," they said; "you mustn't miss it." I am
quite certain that in due course of time I should have made my way to
the Tower but for the fact that I made a fatal discovery. I found out
that the London people who urged me to go and see the Tower had never
seen it themselves. It appears they never go near it. One night at a
dinner a man next to me said, "Have you seen the Tower? You really ought
to. There's a grim fascination about it." I looked him in the face.
"Have you seen it yourself?" I asked. "Oh, yes," he answered. "I've seen
it." "When?" I asked. The man hesitated. "When I was just a boy," he
said, "my father took me there." "How long ago is that?" I enquired.
"About forty years ago," he answered;

"I always mean to go again but I don't somehow seem to get the time."

After this I got to understand that when a Londoner says, "Have you seen
the Tower of London?" the answer is, "No, and neither have you."

Take the parallel case of the British Museum. Here is a place that is
a veritable treasure house. A repository of some of the most priceless
historical relics to be found upon the earth. It contains, for instance,
the famous Papyrus Manuscript of Thotmes II of the first Egyptian
dynasty--a thing known to scholars all over the world as the oldest
extant specimen of what can be called writing; indeed one can here see
the actual evolution (I am quoting from a work of reference, or at
least from my recollection of it) from the ideographic cuneiform to the
phonetic syllabic script. Every time I have read about that manuscript
and have happened to be in Orillia (Ontario) or Schenectady (N.Y.) or
any such place, I have felt that I would be willing to take a whole trip
to England to have five minutes at the British Museum, just five, to
look at that papyrus. Yet as soon as I got to London this changed. The
railway stations of London have been so arranged that to get to any
train for the north or west, the traveller must pass the British Museum.
The first time I went by it in a taxi, I felt quite a thrill. "Inside
those walls," I thought to myself, "is the manuscript of Thotmes II."
The next time I actually stopped the taxi. "Is that the British Museum?"
I asked the driver, "I think it is something of the sort, sir," he
said. I hesitated. "Drive me," I said, "to where I can buy safety razor

After that I was able to drive past the Museum with the quiet assurance
of a Londoner, and to take part in dinner table discussions as to
whether the British Museum or the Louvre contains the greater treasures.
It is quite easy any way. All you have to do is to remember that The
Winged Victory of Samothrace is in the Louvre and the papyrus of Thotmes
II (or some such document) is in the Museum.

The Abbey, I admit, is indeed majestic. I did not intend to miss going
into it. But I felt, as so many tourists have, that I wanted to enter
it in the proper frame of mind. I never got into the frame of mind; at
least not when near the Abbey itself. I have been in exactly that frame
of mind when on State Street, Chicago, or on King Street, Toronto, or
anywhere three thousand miles away from the Abbey. But by bad luck I
never struck both the frame of mind and the Abbey at the same time.

But the Londoners, after all, in not seeing their own wonders, are only
like the rest of the world. The people who live in Buffalo never go
to see Niagara Falls; people in Cleveland don't know which is Mr.
Rockefeller's house, and people live and even die in New York without
going up to the top of the Woolworth Building. And anyway the past
is remote and the present is near. I know a cab driver in the city of
Quebec whose business in life it is to drive people up to see the Plains
of Abraham, but unless they bother him to do it, he doesn't show them
the spot where Wolfe fell: what he does point out with real zest is the
place where the Mayor and the City Council sat on the wooden platform
that they put up for the municipal celebration last summer.

No description of London would be complete without a reference, however
brief, to the singular salubrity and charm of the London climate. This
is seen at its best during the autumn and winter months. The climate of
London and indeed of England generally is due to the influence of the
Gulf Stream. The way it works is thus: The Gulf Stream, as it nears the
shores of the British Isles and feels the propinquity of Ireland, rises
into the air, turns into soup, and comes down on London. At times the
soup is thin and is in fact little more than a mist: at other times it
has the consistency of a thick Potage St. Germain. London people are a
little sensitive on the point and flatter their atmosphere by calling it
a fog: but it is not: it is soup. The notion that no sunlight ever gets
through and that in the London winter people never see the sun is
of course a ridiculous error, circulated no doubt by the jealousy of
foreign nations. I have myself seen the sun plainly visible in London,
without the aid of glasses, on a November day in broad daylight; and
again one night about four o'clock in the afternoon I saw the sun
distinctly appear through the clouds. The whole subject of daylight in
the London winter is, however, one which belongs rather to the technique
of astronomy than to a book of description. In practice daylight is
but little used. Electric lights are burned all the time in all houses,
buildings, railway stations and clubs. This practice which is now
universally observed is called Daylight Saving.

But the distinction between day and night during the London winter is
still quite obvious to any one of an observant mind. It is indicated by
various signs such as the striking of clocks, the tolling of bells, the
closing of saloons, and the raising of taxi rates. It is much less easy
to distinguish the technical approach of night in the other cities of
England that lie outside the confines, physical and intellectual, of
London and live in a continuous gloom. In such places as the great
manufacturing cities, Buggingham-under-Smoke, or Gloomsbury-on-Ooze,
night may be said to be perpetual.


I had written the whole of the above chapter and looked on it as
finished when I realised that I had made a terrible omission. I
neglected to say anything about the Mind of London. This is a thing that
is always put into any book of discovery and observation and I can only
apologise for not having discussed it sooner. I am quite familiar with
other people's chapters on "The Mind of America," and "The Chinese
Mind," and so forth. Indeed, so far as I know it has turned out that
almost everybody all over the world has a mind. Nobody nowadays travels,
even in Central America or Thibet, without bringing back a chapter on
"The Mind of Costa Rica," or on the "Psychology of the Mongolian." Even
the gentler peoples such as the Burmese, the Siamese, the Hawaiians, and
the Russians, though they have no minds are written up as souls.

It is quite obvious then that there is such a thing as the mind of
London: and it is all the more culpable in me to have neglected it in as
much as my editorial friend in New York had expressly mentioned it to
me before I sailed. "What," said he, leaning far over his desk after his
massive fashion and reaching out into the air, "what is in the minds of
these people? Are they," he added, half to himself, though I heard him,
"are they thinking? And, if they think, what do they think?"

I did therefore, during my stay in London, make an accurate study of the
things that London seemed to be thinking about. As a comparative basis
for this study I brought with me a carefully selected list of the things
that New York was thinking about at the moment. These I selected
from the current newspapers in the proportions to the amount of space
allotted to each topic and the size of the heading that announced it.
Having thus a working idea of what I may call the mind of New York, I
was able to collect and set beside it a list of similar topics, taken
from the London Press to represent the mind of London. The two placed
side by side make an interesting piece of psychological analysis. They
read as follows:

    What is it thinking?        What is it thinking?

    1. Do chorus girls make     1. Do chorus girls marry
       good wives?                 well?

    2. Is red hair a sign of    2. What is red hair a
       temperament?                sign of?

    3. Can a woman be in        3. Can a man be in love
       love with two men?          with two women?

    4. Is fat a sign of genius? 4. Is genius a sign of fat?

Looking over these lists, I think it is better to present them without
comment; I feel sure that somewhere or other in them one should detect
the heart-throbs, the pulsations of two great peoples. But I don't get
it. In fact the two lists look to me terribly like "the mind of Costa

The same editor also advised me to mingle, at his expense, in the
brilliant intellectual life of England. "There," he said, "is a coterie
of men, probably the most brilliant group East of the Mississippi." (I
think he said the Mississippi). "You will find them," he said to me,
"brilliant, witty, filled with repartee." He suggested that I
should send him back, as far as words could express it, some of this
brilliance. I was very glad to be able to do this, although I fear
that the results were not at all what he had anticipated. Still, I held
conversations with these people and I gave him, in all truthfulness, the
result. Sir James Barrie said, "This is really very exceptional weather
for this time of year." Cyril Maude said, "And so a Martini cocktail
is merely gin and vermouth." Ian Hay said, "You'll find the underground
ever so handy once you understand it."

I have a lot more of these repartees that I could insert here if it was
necessary. But somehow I feel that it is not.

IV. A Clear View of the Government and Politics of England

A LOYAL British subject like myself in dealing with the government of
England should necessarily begin with a discussion of the monarchy. I
have never had the pleasure of meeting the King,--except once on the
G.T.R. platform in Orillia, Ontario, when he was the Duke of York and
I was one of the welcoming delegates of the town council. No doubt he
would recall it in a minute.

But in England the King is surrounded by formality and circumstance. On
many mornings I waited round the gates of Buckingham Palace but I found
it quite impossible to meet the King in the quiet sociable way in which
one met him in Orillia. The English, it seems, love to make the kingship
a subject of great pomp and official etiquette. In Canada it is quite
different. Perhaps we understand kings and princes better than the
English do. At any rate we treat them in a far more human heart-to-heart
fashion than is the English custom, and they respond to it at once. I
remember when King George--he was, as I say, Duke of York then--came up
to Orillia, Ontario, how we all met him in a delegation on the platform.
Bob Curran--Bob was Mayor of the town that year--went up to him and
shook hands with him and invited him to come right on up to the Orillia
House where he had a room reserved for him. Charlie Janes and Mel
Tudhope and the other boys who were on the town Council gathered round
the royal prince and shook hands and told him that he simply must stay
over. George Rapley, the bank manager, said that if he wanted a cheque
cashed or anything of that sort to come right into the Royal Bank and
he would do it for him. The prince had two aides-de-camp with him and a
secretary, but Bob Curran said to bring them uptown too and it would be
all right. We had planned to have an oyster supper for the Prince at Jim
Smith's hotel and then take him either to the Y.M.C.A. Pool Room or else
over to the tea social in the basement of the Presbyterian Church.

Unluckily the prince couldn't stay. It turned out that he had to get
right back into his train and go on to Peterborough, Ontario, where they
were to have a brass band to meet him, which naturally he didn't want to

But the point is that it was a real welcome. And you could see that the
prince appreciated it. There was a warmth and a meaning to it that the
prince understood at once. It was a pity that he couldn't have stayed
over and had time to see the carriage factory and the new sewerage
plant. We all told the prince that he must come back and he said that if
he could he most certainly would. When the prince's train pulled out
of the station and we all went back uptown together (it was before
prohibition came to Ontario) you could feel that the institution of
royalty was quite solid in Orillia for a generation.

But you don't get that sort of thing in England.

There's a formality and coldness in all their dealings with royalty that
would never go down with us. They like to have the King come and open
Parliament dressed in royal robes, and with a clattering troop of
soldiers riding in front of him. As for taking him over to the Y.M.C.A.
to play pin pool, they never think of it. They have seen so much of the
mere outside of his kingship that they don't understand the heart of it
as we do in Canada.

But let us turn to the House of Commons: for no description of England
would be complete without at least some mention of this interesting
body. Indeed for the ordinary visitor to London the greatest interest of
all attaches to the spacious and magnificent Parliament Buildings. The
House of Commons is commodiously situated beside the River Thames. The
principal features of the House are the large lunch room on the western
side and the tea-room on the terrace on the eastern. A series of smaller
luncheon rooms extend (apparently) all round about the premises: while a
commodious bar offers a ready access to the members at all hours of the
day. While any members are in the bar a light is kept burning in the
tall Clock Tower at one corner of the building, but when the bar is
closed the light is turned off by whichever of the Scotch members leaves
last. There is a handsome legislative chamber attached to the premises
from which--so the antiquarians tell us--the House of Commons took its
name. But it is not usual now for the members to sit in the legislative
chamber as the legislation is now all done outside, either at the home
of Mr. Lloyd George, or at the National Liberal Club, or at one or other
of the newspaper offices. The House, however, is called together at
very frequent intervals to give it an opportunity of hearing the latest
legislation and allowing the members to indulge in cheers, sighs,
groans, votes and other expressions of vitality. After having cheered as
much as is good for it, it goes back again to the lunch rooms and goes
on eating till needed again.

It is, however, an entire exaggeration to say that the House of Commons
no longer has a real share in the government of England. This is not so.
Anybody connected with the government values the House of Commons in a
high degree. One of the leading newspaper proprietors of London himself
told me that he has always felt that if he had the House of Commons on
his side he had a very valuable ally. Many of the labour leaders are
inclined to regard the House of Commons as of great utility, while the
leading women's organizations, now that women are admitted as members,
may be said to regard the House as one of themselves.

Looking around to find just where the natural service of the House of
Commons comes in, I am inclined to think that it must be in the practice
of "asking questions" in the House. Whenever anything goes wrong a
member rises and asks a question. He gets up, for example, with a little
paper in his hand, and asks the government if ministers are aware that
the Khedive of Egypt was seen yesterday wearing a Turkish Tarbosh.
Ministers say very humbly that they hadn't known it, and a thrill runs
through the whole country. The members can apparently ask any questions
they like. In the repeated visits which I made to the gallery of the
House of Commons I was unable to find any particular sense or meaning
in the questions asked, though no doubt they had an intimate bearing
on English politics not clear to an outsider like myself. I heard one
member ask the government whether they were aware that herrings were
being imported from Hamburg to Harwich. The government said no. Another
member rose and asked the government whether they considered Shakespere
or Moliere the greater dramatic artist. The government answered that
ministers were taking this under their earnest consideration and that
a report would be submitted to Parliament. Another member asked the
government if they knew who won the Queen's Plate this season at
Toronto. They did,--in fact this member got in wrong, as this is the
very thing that the government do know. Towards the close of the evening
a member rose and asked the government if they knew what time it was.
The Speaker, however, ruled this question out of order on the ground
that it had been answered before.

The Parliament Buildings are so vast that it is not possible to state
with certainty what they do, or do not, contain. But it is generally
said that somewhere in the building is the House of Lords. When they
meet they are said to come together very quietly shortly before the
dinner hour, take a glass of dry sherry and a biscuit (they are all
abstemious men), reject whatever bills may be before them at the moment,
take another dry sherry and then adjourn for two years.

The public are no longer allowed unrestricted access to the Houses of
Parliament; its approaches are now strictly guarded by policemen. In
order to obtain admission it is necessary either to (A) communicate
in writing with the Speaker of the House, enclosing certificates of
naturalization and proof of identity, or (B) give the policeman five
shillings. Method B is the one usually adopted. On great nights,
however, when the House of Commons is sitting and is about to do
something important, such as ratifying a Home Rule Bill or cheering,
or welcoming a new lady member, it is not possible to enter by merely
bribing the policeman with five shillings; it takes a pound. The English
people complain bitterly of the rich Americans who have in this way
corrupted the London public. Before they were corrupted they would do
anything for sixpence.

This peculiar vein of corruption by the Americans runs like a thread, I
may say, through all the texture of English life. Among those who have
been principally exposed to it are the servants,--especially butlers and
chauffeurs, hotel porters, bell-boys, railway porters and guards, all
taxi-drivers, pew-openers, curates, bishops, and a large part of the

The terrible ravages that have been made by the Americans on English
morality are witnessed on every hand. Whole classes of society are
hopelessly damaged. I have it in the evidence of the English themselves
and there seems to be no doubt of the fact. Till the Americans came to
England the people were an honest, law-abiding race, respecting their
superiors and despising those below them. They had never been corrupted
by money and their employers extended to them in this regard their
tenderest solicitude. Then the Americans came. Servants ceased to be
what they were; butlers were hopelessly damaged; hotel porters became
a wreck; taxi-drivers turned out thieves; curates could no longer be
trusted to handle money; peers sold their daughters at a million dollars
a piece or three for two. In fact the whole kingdom began to deteriorate
till it got where it is now. At present after a rich American has stayed
in any English country house, its owners find that they can do
nothing with the butler; a wildness has come over the man. There is a
restlessness in his demeanour and a strange wistful look in his eye
as if seeking for something. In many cases, so I understand, after an
American has stayed in a country house the butler goes insane. He is
found in his pantry counting over the sixpence given to him by a Duke,
and laughing to himself. He has to be taken in charge by the police.
With him generally go the chauffeur, whose mind has broken down from
driving a rich American twenty miles; and the gardener, who is found
tearing up raspberry bushes by the roots to see if there is any money
under them; and the local curate whose brain has collapsed or expanded,
I forget which, when a rich American gave him fifty dollars for his soup

There are, it is true, a few classes that have escaped this contagion,
shepherds living in the hills, drovers, sailors, fishermen and such
like. I remember the first time I went into the English country-side
being struck with the clean, honest look in the people's faces. I
realised exactly where they got it: they had never seen any Americans.
I remember speaking to an aged peasant down in Somerset. "Have you ever
seen any Americans?" "Nah," he said, "uz eeard a mowt o' 'em, zir,
but uz zeen nowt o' 'em." It was clear that the noble fellow was quite
undamaged by American contact.

Now the odd thing about this corruption is that exactly the same idea is
held on the other side of the water. It is a known fact that if a young
English Lord comes to an American town he puts it to the bad in one
week. Socially the whole place goes to pieces. Girls whose parents are
in the hardware business and who used to call their father "pop" begin
to talk of precedence and whether a Duchess Dowager goes in to dinner
ahead of or behind a countess scavenger. After the young Lord has
attended two dances and one tea-social in the Methodist Church Sunday
School Building (Adults 25 cents, children 10 cents--all welcome.) there
is nothing for the young men of the town to do except to drive him out
or go further west.

One can hardly wonder then that this general corruption has extended
even to the policemen who guard the Houses of Parliament. On the other
hand this vein of corruption has not extended to English politics.
Unlike ours, English politics,--one hears it on every hand,--are pure.
Ours unfortunately are known to be not so. The difference seems to
be that our politicians will do anything for money and the English
politicians won't; they just take the money and won't do a thing for it.

Somehow there always seems to be a peculiar interest about English
political questions that we don't find elsewhere. At home in Canada our
politics turn on such things as how much money the Canadian National
Railways lose as compared with how much they could lose if they really
tried; on whether the Grain Growers of Manitoba should be allowed to
import ploughs without paying a duty or to pay a duty without importing
the ploughs. Our members at Ottawa discuss such things as highway
subsidies, dry farming, the Bank Act, and the tariff on hardware. These
things leave me absolutely cold. To be quite candid there is something
terribly plebeian about them. In short, our politics are what we call in
French "peuple."

But when one turns to England, what a striking difference! The English,
with the whole huge British Empire to fish in and the European system to
draw upon, can always dig up some kind of political topic of discussion
that has a real charm about it. One month you find English politics
turning on the Oasis of Merv and the next on the hinterland of Albania;
or a member rises in the Commons with a little bit of paper in his hand
and desires to ask the foreign secretary if he is aware that the Ahkoond
of Swat is dead. The foreign secretary states that the government have
no information other than that the Ahkoond was dead a month ago. There
is a distinct sensation in the House at the realisation that the Ahkoond
has been dead a month without the House having known that he was alive.
The sensation is conveyed to the Press and the afternoon papers appear
with large headings, THE AHKOOND OF SWAT IS DEAD. The public who have
never heard of the Ahkoond bare their heads in a moment in a pause to
pray for the Ahkoond's soul. Then the cables take up the refrain and
word is flashed all over the world, The Ahkoond of Swat is Dead.

There was a Canadian journalist and poet once who was so impressed with
the news that the Ahkoond was dead, so bowed down with regret that he
had never known the Ahkoond while alive, that he forthwith wrote a poem
in memory of The Ahkoond of Swat. I have always thought that the reason
of the wide admiration that Lannigan's verses received was not merely
because of the brilliant wit that is in them but because in a wider
sense they typify so beautifully the scope of English politics. The
death of the Ahkoond of Swat, and whether Great Britain should support
as his successor Mustalpha El Djin or Kamu Flaj,--there is something
worth talking of over an afternoon tea table. But suppose that the whole
of the Manitoba Grain Growers were to die. What could one say about it?
They'd be dead, that's all.

So it is that people all over the world turn to English politics with
interest. What more delightful than to open an atlas, find out where the
new kingdom of Hejaz is, and then violently support the British claim to
a protectorate over it. Over in America we don't understand this sort of
thing. There is naturally little chance to do so and we don't know
how to use it when it comes. I remember that when a chance did come in
connection with the great Venezuela dispute over the ownership of the
jungles and mud-flats of British Guiana, the American papers at once
inserted headings, WHERE IS THE ESSIQUIBO RIVER? That spoiled the whole
thing. If you admit that you don't know where a place is, then the
bottom is knocked out of all discussion. But if you pretend that you do,
then you are all right. Mr. Lloyd George is said to have caused great
amusement at the Versailles Conference by admitting that he hadn't known
where Teschen was. So at least it was reported in the papers; and for
all I know it might even have been true. But the fun that he raised was
not really half what could have been raised. I have it on good authority
that two of the American delegates hadn't known where Austria Proper
was and thought that Unredeemed Italy was on the East side of New York,
while the Chinese Delegate thought that the Cameroons were part of
Scotland. But it is these little geographic niceties that lend a charm
to European politics that ours lack forever.

I don't mean to say the English politics always turn on romantic places
or on small questions. They don't. They often include questions of the
largest order. But when the English introduce a really large question as
the basis of their politics they like to select one that is insoluble.
This guarantees that it will last. Take for example the rights of the
Crown as against the people. That lasted for one hundred years,--all the
seventeenth century. In Oklahoma or in Alberta they would have called a
convention on the question, settled it in two weeks and spoiled it for
further use. In the same way the Protestant Reformation was used for a
hundred years and the Reform Bill for a generation.

At the present time the genius of the English for politics has selected
as their insoluble political question the topic of the German indemnity.
The essence of the problem as I understand it may be stated as follows:

It was definitely settled by the Conference at Versailles that Germany
is to pay the Allies 3,912,486,782,421 marks. I think that is the
correct figure, though of course I am speaking only from memory. At any
rate, the correct figure is within a hundred billion marks of the above.

The sum to be paid was not reached without a great deal of discussion.
Monsieur Briand, the French Minister, is reported to have thrown out the
figure 4,281,390,687,471. But Mr. Lloyd George would not pick it up. Nor
do I blame him unless he had a basket to pick it up with.

Lloyd George's point of view was that the Germans could very properly
pay a limited amount such as 3,912,486,782,421 marks, but it was not
feasible to put on them a burden of 4,281,390,687,471 marks.

By the way, if any one at this point doubts the accuracy of the figures
just given, all he has to do is to take the amount of the indemnity as
stated in gold marks and then multiply it by the present value of the
mark and he will find to his chagrin that the figures are correct. If he
is still not satisfied I refer him to a book of Logarithms. If he is not
satisfied with that I refer him to any work on conic sections and if not
convinced even then I refer him so far that he will never come back.

The indemnity being thus fixed, the next question is as to the method of
collecting it. In the first place there is no intention of allowing the
Germans to pay in actual cash. If they do this they will merely inflate
the English beyond what is bearable. England has been inflated now for
eight years and has had enough of it.

In the second place, it is understood that it will not do to allow the
Germans to offer 4,218, 390,687,471 marks' worth of coal. It is more
than the country needs.

What is more, if the English want coal they propose to buy it in an
ordinary decent way from a Christian coal-dealer in their own country.
They do not purpose to ruin their own coal industry for the sake of
building up the prosperity of the German nation.

What I say of coal is applied with equal force to any offers of food,
grain, oil, petroleum, gas, or any other natural product. Payment in any
of these will be sternly refused. Even now it is all the British farmers
can do to live and for some it is more. Many of them are having to sell
off their motors and pianos and to send their sons to college to work.
At the same time, the German producer by depressing the mark further and
further is able to work fourteen hours a day. This argument may not be
quite correct but I take it as I find it in the London Press. Whether
I state it correctly or not, it is quite plain that the problem is
insoluble. That is all that is needed in first class politics.

A really good question like the German reparation question will go on
for a century. Undoubtedly in the year 2000 A.D., a British Chancellor
of the Exchequer will still be explaining that the government is fully
resolved that Germany shall pay to the last farthing (cheers): but that
ministers have no intention of allowing the German payment to take a
form that will undermine British industry (wild applause): that the
German indemnity shall be so paid that without weakening the power of
the Germans, to buy from us it shall increase our power of selling to

Such questions last forever.

On the other hand sometimes by sheer carelessness a question gets
settled and passes out of politics. This, so we are given to understand,
has happened to the Irish question. It is settled. A group of Irish
delegates and British ministers got together round a table and settled
it. The settlement has since been celebrated at a demonstration of
brotherhood by the Irish Americans of New York with only six casualties.
Henceforth the Irish question passes into history. There may be some odd
fighting along the Ulster border, or a little civil war with perhaps
a little revolution every now and then, but as a question the thing is

I must say that I for one am very sorry to think that the Irish question
is gone. We shall miss it greatly. Debating societies which have
flourished on it ever since 1886 will be wrecked for want of it. Dinner
parties will now lose half the sparkle of their conversation. It will be
no longer possible to make use of such good old remarks as, "After all
the Irish are a gifted people," or, "You must remember that fifty per
cent of the great English generals were Irish."

The settlement turned out to be a very simple affair. Ireland was merely
given dominion status. What that is, no one knows, but it means that the
Irish have now got it and that they sink from the high place that they
had in the white light of publicity to the level of the Canadians or the
New Zealanders.

Whether it is quite a proper thing to settle trouble by conferring
dominion status on it, is open to question. It is a practice that is
bound to spread. It is rumoured that it is now contemplated to confer
dominion status upon the Borough of Poplar and on the Cambridge
undergraduates. It is even understood that at the recent disarmament
conference England offered to confer dominion status on the United
States. President Harding would assuredly have accepted it at once but
for the protest of Mr. Briand, who claimed that any such offer must be
accompanied by a permission to increase the French fire-brigade by fifty
per cent.

It is lamentable, too, that at the very same moment when the Irish
question was extinguished, the Naval Question which had lasted for
nearly fifty years was absolutely obliterated by disarmament. Henceforth
the alarm of invasion is a thing of the past and the navy practically
needless. Beyond keeping a fleet in the North Sea and one on the
Mediterranean, and maintaining a patrol all round the rim of the Pacific
Ocean, Britain will cease to be a naval power. A mere annual expenditure
of fifty million pounds sterling will suffice for such thin pretence of
naval preparedness as a disarmed nation will have to maintain.

This thing too, came as a surprise, or at least a surprise to the
general public who are unaware of the workings of diplomacy. Those who
know about such things were fully aware of what would happen if a whole
lot of British sailors and diplomatists and journalists were exposed
to the hospitalities of Washington. The British and Americans are both
alike. You can't drive them or lead them or coerce them, but if you give
them a cigar they'll do anything. The inner history of the conference is
only just beginning to be known. But it is whispered that immediately
on his arrival Mr. Balfour was given a cigar by President Harding. Mr.
Balfour at once offered to scrap five ships, and invited the entire
American cabinet into the British Embassy, where Sir A. Geddes was rash
enough to offer them champagne.

The American delegates immediately offered to scrap ten ships. Mr.
Balfour, who simply cannot be outdone in international courtesy, saw the
ten and raised it to twenty. President Harding saw the twenty, raised it
to thirty, and sent out for more poker chips.

At the close of the play Lord Beatty, who is urbanity itself, offered
to scrap Portsmouth Dockyard, and asked if anybody present would like
Canada. President Harding replied with his customary tact that if
England wanted the Philippines, he would think it what he would term a
residuum of normalcy to give them away. There is no telling what might
have happened had not Mr. Briand interposed to say that any transfer
of the Philippines must be regarded as a signal for a twenty per cent
increase in the Boy Scouts of France. As a tactful conclusion to the
matter President Harding raised Mr. Balfour to the peerage.

As things are, disarmament coming along with the Irish settlement,
leaves English politics in a bad way. The general outlook is too
peaceful altogether. One looks round almost in vain for any of those
"strained relations" which used to be the very basis of English foreign
policy. In only one direction do I see light for English politics, and
that is over towards Czecho-Slovakia. It appears that Czecho-Slovakia
owes the British Exchequer fifty million sterling. I cannot quote the
exact figure, but it is either fifty million or fifty billion. In either
case Czecho-Slovakia is unable to pay. The announcement has just been
made by M. Sgitzch, the new treasurer, that the country is bankrupt or
at least that he sees his way to make it so in a week.

It has been at once reported in City circles that there are "strained
relations" between Great Britain and Czecho-Slovakia. Now what I advise
is, that if the relations are strained, keep them so. England has lost
nearly all the strained relations she ever had; let her cherish the few
that she still has. I know that there are other opinions. The suggestion
has been at once made for a "round table conference," at which the whole
thing can be freely discussed without formal protocols and something
like a "gentleman's agreement" reached. I say, don't do it. England is
being ruined by these round table conferences. They are sitting round in
Cairo and Calcutta and Capetown, filling all the best hotels and eating
out the substance of the taxpayer.

I am told that Lloyd George has offered to go to Czecho-Slovakia. He
should be stopped. It is said that Professor Keynes has proved that
the best way to deal with the debt of Czecho-Slovakia is to send them
whatever cash we have left, thereby turning the exchange upside down
on them, and forcing them to buy all their Christmas presents in

It is wiser not to do anything of the sort. England should send them
a good old-fashioned ultimatum, mobilise all the naval officers at the
Embankment hotels, raise the income tax another sixpence, and defy them.

If that were done it might prove a successful first step in bringing
English politics back to the high plane of conversational interest from
which they are threatening to fall.

V. Oxford as I See It

MY private station being that of a university professor, I was naturally
deeply interested in the system of education in England. I was therefore
led to make a special visit to Oxford and to submit the place to a
searching scrutiny. Arriving one afternoon at four o'clock, I stayed at
the Mitre Hotel and did not leave until eleven o'clock next morning.
The whole of this time, except for one hour spent in addressing the
undergraduates, was devoted to a close and eager study of the great
university. When I add to this that I had already visited Oxford in 1907
and spent a Sunday at All Souls with Colonel L. S. Amery, it will
be seen at once that my views on Oxford are based upon observations
extending over fourteen years.

At any rate I can at least claim that my acquaintance with the British
university is just as good a basis for reflection and judgment as that
of the numerous English critics who come to our side of the water. I
have known a famous English author to arrive at Harvard University in
the morning, have lunch with President Lowell, and then write a whole
chapter on the Excellence of Higher Education in America. I have known
another one come to Harvard, have lunch with President Lowell, and do an
entire book on the Decline of Serious Study in America. Or take the case
of my own university. I remember Mr. Rudyard Kipling coming to McGill
and saying in his address to the undergraduates at 2.30 P.M., "You
have here a great institution." But how could he have gathered this
information? As far as I know he spent the entire morning with Sir
Andrew Macphail in his house beside the campus, smoking cigarettes. When
I add that he distinctly refused to visit the Palaeontologic Museum,
that he saw nothing of our new hydraulic apparatus, or of our classes
in Domestic Science, his judgment that we had here a great institution
seems a little bit superficial. I can only put beside it, to redeem it
in some measure, the hasty and ill-formed judgment expressed by Lord
Milner, "McGill is a noble university": and the rash and indiscreet
expression of the Prince of Wales, when we gave him an LL.D. degree,
"McGill has a glorious future."

To my mind these unthinking judgments about our great college do harm,
and I determined, therefore, that anything that I said about Oxford
should be the result of the actual observation and real study based upon
a bona fide residence in the Mitre Hotel.

On the strength of this basis of experience I am prepared to make
the following positive and emphatic statements. Oxford is a noble
university. It has a great past. It is at present the greatest
university in the world: and it is quite possible that it has a great
future. Oxford trains scholars of the real type better than any other
place in the world. Its methods are antiquated. It despises science. Its
lectures are rotten. It has professors who never teach and students who
never learn. It has no order, no arrangement, no system. Its curriculum
is unintelligible. It has no president. It has no state legislature to
tell it how to teach, and yet,--it gets there. Whether we like it
or not, Oxford gives something to its students, a life and a mode of
thought, which in America as yet we can emulate but not equal.

If anybody doubts this let him go and take a room at the Mitre Hotel
(ten and six for a wainscotted bedroom, period of Charles I) and study
the place for himself.

These singular results achieved at Oxford are all the more surprising
when one considers the distressing conditions under which the students
work. The lack of an adequate building fund compels them to go on
working in the same old buildings which they have had for centuries.
The buildings at Brasenose College have not been renewed since the year
1525. In New College and Magdalen the students are still housed in the
old buildings erected in the sixteenth century. At Christ Church I was
shown a kitchen which had been built at the expense of Cardinal Wolsey
in 1527. Incredible though it may seem, they have no other place to cook
in than this and are compelled to use it to-day. On the day when I
saw this kitchen, four cooks were busy roasting an ox whole for the
students' lunch: this at least is what I presumed they were doing from
the size of the fire-place used, but it may not have been an ox; perhaps
it was a cow. On a huge table, twelve feet by six and made of slabs of
wood five inches thick, two other cooks were rolling out a game pie. I
estimated it as measuring three feet across. In this rude way, unchanged
since the time of Henry VIII, the unhappy Oxford students are fed. I
could not help contrasting it with the cosy little boarding houses
on Cottage Grove Avenue where I used to eat when I was a student at
Chicago, or the charming little basement dining-rooms of the students'
boarding houses in Toronto. But then, of course, Henry VIII never lived
in Toronto.

The same lack of a building-fund necessitates the Oxford students,
living in the identical old boarding houses they had in the sixteenth
and seventeenth centuries. Technically they are called "quadrangles,"
"closes" and "rooms"; but I am so broken in to the usage of my student
days that I can't help calling them boarding houses. In many of these
the old stairway has been worn down by the feet of ten generations of
students: the windows have little latticed panes: there are old names
carved here and there upon the stone, and a thick growth of ivy covers
the walls. The boarding house at St. John's College dates from 1509, the
one at Christ Church from the same period. A few hundred thousand pounds
would suffice to replace these old buildings with neat steel and brick
structures like the normal school at Schenectady, N.Y., or the Peel
Street High School at Montreal. But nothing is done. A movement was
indeed attempted last autumn towards removing the ivy from the walls,
but the result was unsatisfactory and they are putting it back. Any one
could have told them beforehand that the mere removal of the ivy would
not brighten Oxford up, unless at the same time one cleared the stones
of the old inscriptions, put in steel fire-escapes, and in fact brought
the boarding houses up to date.

But Henry VIII being dead, nothing was done. Yet in spite of its
dilapidated buildings and its lack of fire-escapes, ventilation,
sanitation, and up-to-date kitchen facilities, I persist in my assertion
that I believe that Oxford, in its way, is the greatest university
in the world. I am aware that this is an extreme statement and needs
explanation. Oxford is much smaller in numbers, for example, than the
State University of Minnesota, and is much poorer. It has, or had till
yesterday, fewer students than the University of Toronto. To mention
Oxford beside the 26,000 students of Columbia University sounds
ridiculous. In point of money, the 39,000,000 dollar endowment of the
University of Chicago, and the $35,000,000 one of Columbia, and the
$43,000,000 of Harvard seem to leave Oxford nowhere. Yet the peculiar
thing is that it is not nowhere. By some queer process of its own it
seems to get there every time. It was therefore of the very greatest
interest to me, as a profound scholar, to try to investigate just how
this peculiar excellence of Oxford arises.

It can hardly be due to anything in the curriculum or programme
of studies. Indeed, to any one accustomed to the best models of a
university curriculum as it flourishes in the United States and Canada,
the programme of studies is frankly quite laughable. There is
less Applied Science in the place than would be found with us in a
theological college. Hardly a single professor at Oxford would recognise
a dynamo if he met it in broad daylight. The Oxford student learns
nothing of chemistry, physics, heat, plumbing, electric wiring,
gas-fitting or the use of a blow-torch. Any American college student
can run a motor car, take a gasoline engine to pieces, fix a washer on a
kitchen tap, mend a broken electric bell, and give an expert opinion on
what has gone wrong with the furnace. It is these things indeed which
stamp him as a college man, and occasion a very pardonable pride in the
minds of his parents.

But in all these things the Oxford student is the merest amateur.

This is bad enough. But after all one might say this is only the
mechanical side of education. True: but one searches in vain in the
Oxford curriculum for any adequate recognition of the higher and more
cultured studies. Strange though it seems to us on this side of
the Atlantic, there are no courses at Oxford in Housekeeping, or in
Salesmanship, or in Advertising, or on Comparative Religion, or on
the influence of the Press. There are no lectures whatever on Human
Behaviour, on Altruism, on Egotism, or on the Play of Wild Animals.
Apparently, the Oxford student does not learn these things. This cuts
him off from a great deal of the larger culture of our side of the
Atlantic. "What are you studying this year?" I once asked a fourth year
student at one of our great colleges. "I am electing Salesmanship and
Religion," he answered. Here was a young man whose training was destined
inevitably to turn him into a moral business man: either that or
nothing. At Oxford Salesmanship is not taught and Religion takes the
feeble form of the New Testament. The more one looks at these things the
more amazing it becomes that Oxford can produce any results at all.

The effect of the comparison is heightened by the peculiar position
occupied at Oxford by the professors' lectures. In the colleges of
Canada and the United States the lectures are supposed to be a really
necessary and useful part of the student's training. Again and again I
have heard the graduates of my own college assert that they had got
as much, or nearly as much, out of the lectures at college as out of
athletics or the Greek letter society or the Banjo and Mandolin Club.
In short, with us the lectures form a real part of the college life. At
Oxford it is not so. The lectures, I understand, are given and may even
be taken. But they are quite worthless and are not supposed to have
anything much to do with the development of the student's mind. "The
lectures here," said a Canadian student to me, "are punk." I appealed to
another student to know if this was so. "I don't know whether I'd call
them exactly punk," he answered, "but they're certainly rotten." Other
judgments were that the lectures were of no importance: that nobody took
them: that they don't matter: that you can take them if you like: that
they do you no harm.

It appears further that the professors themselves are not keen on their
lectures. If the lectures are called for they give them; if not, the
professor's feelings are not hurt. He merely waits and rests his brain
until in some later year the students call for his lectures. There are
men at Oxford who have rested their brains this way for over thirty
years: the accumulated brain power thus dammed up is said to be

I understand that the key to this mystery is found in the operations of
the person called the tutor. It is from him, or rather with him, that
the students learn all that they know: one and all are agreed on that.
Yet it is a little odd to know just how he does it. "We go over to his
rooms," said one student, "and he just lights a pipe and talks to us."
"We sit round with him," said another, "and he simply smokes and goes
over our exercises with us." From this and other evidence I gather that
what an Oxford tutor does is to get a little group of students together
and smoke at them. Men who have been systematically smoked at for four
years turn into ripe scholars. If anybody doubts this, let him go to
Oxford and he can see the thing actually in operation. A well-smoked man
speaks, and writes English with a grace that can be acquired in no other

In what was said above, I seem to have been directing criticism against
the Oxford professors as such: but I have no intention of doing so. For
the Oxford professor and his whole manner of being I have nothing but
a profound respect. There is indeed the greatest difference between the
modern up-to-date American idea of a professor and the English type. But
even with us in older days, in the bygone time when such people as Henry
Wadsworth Longfellow were professors, one found the English idea; a
professor was supposed to be a venerable kind of person, with snow-white
whiskers reaching to his stomach. He was expected to moon around the
campus oblivious of the world around him. If you nodded to him he failed
to see you. Of money he knew nothing; of business, far less. He was, as
his trustees were proud to say of him, "a child."

On the other hand he contained within him a reservoir of learning of
such depth as to be practically bottomless. None of this learning was
supposed to be of any material or commercial benefit to anybody. Its use
was in saving the soul and enlarging the mind.

At the head of such a group of professors was one whose beard was even
whiter and longer, whose absence of mind was even still greater, and
whose knowledge of money, business, and practical affairs was below
zero. Him they made the president.

All this is changed in America. A university professor is now a busy,
hustling person, approximating as closely to a business man as he can
do it. It is on the business man that he models himself. He has a
little place that he calls his "office," with a typewriter machine and
a stenographer. Here he sits and dictates letters, beginning after the
best business models, "in re yours of the eighth ult., would say, etc.,
etc." He writes these letters to students, to his fellow professors, to
the president, indeed to any people who will let him write to them. The
number of letters that he writes each month is duly counted and set
to his credit. If he writes enough he will get a reputation as an
"executive," and big things may happen to him. He may even be asked
to step out of the college and take a post as an "executive" in a soap
company or an advertising firm. The man, in short, is a "hustler," an
"advertiser" whose highest aim is to be a "live-wire." If he is not, he
will presently be dismissed, or, to use the business term, be "let go,"
by a board of trustees who are themselves hustlers and live-wires. As to
the professor's soul, he no longer needs to think of it as it has been
handed over along with all the others to a Board of Censors.

The American professor deals with his students according to his lights.
It is his business to chase them along over a prescribed ground at a
prescribed pace like a flock of sheep. They all go humping together over
the hurdles with the professor chasing them with a set of "tests" and
"recitations," "marks" and "attendances," the whole apparatus obviously
copied from the time-clock of the business man's factory. This process
is what is called "showing results." The pace set is necessarily that
of the slowest, and thus results in what I have heard Mr. Edward Beatty
describe as the "convoy system of education."

In my own opinion, reached after fifty-two years of profound reflection,
this system contains in itself the seeds of destruction. It puts a
premium on dulness and a penalty on genius. It circumscribes that
latitude of mind which is the real spirit of learning. If we persist
in it we shall presently find that true learning will fly away from our
universities and will take rest wherever some individual and enquiring
mind can mark out its path for itself.

Now the principal reason why I am led to admire Oxford is that the place
is little touched as yet by the measuring of "results," and by this
passion for visible and provable "efficiency." The whole system at
Oxford is such as to put a premium on genius and to let mediocrity and
dulness go their way. On the dull student Oxford, after a proper lapse
of time, confers a degree which means nothing more than that he lived
and breathed at Oxford and kept out of jail. This for many students is
as much as society can expect. But for the gifted students Oxford offers
great opportunities. There is no question of his hanging back till the
last sheep has jumped over the fence. He need wait for no one. He may
move forward as fast as he likes, following the bent of his genius. If
he has in him any ability beyond that of the common herd, his tutor,
interested in his studies, will smoke at him until he kindles him into
a flame. For the tutor's soul is not harassed by herding dull students,
with dismissal hanging by a thread over his head in the class room. The
American professor has no time to be interested in a clever student. He
has time to be interested in his "deportment," his letter-writing, his
executive work, and his organising ability and his hope of promotion
to a soap factory. But with that his mind is exhausted. The student of
genius merely means to him a student who gives no trouble, who passes
all his "tests," and is present at all his "recitations." Such a student
also, if he can be trained to be a hustler and an advertiser, will
undoubtedly "make good." But beyond that the professor does not think
of him. The everlasting principle of equality has inserted itself in a
place where it has no right to be, and where inequality is the breath of

American or Canadian college trustees would be horrified at the notion
of professors who apparently do no work, give few or no lectures and
draw their pay merely for existing. Yet these are really the only kind
of professors worth having,--I mean, men who can be trusted with a vague
general mission in life, with a salary guaranteed at least till their
death, and a sphere of duties entrusted solely to their own consciences
and the promptings of their own desires. Such men are rare, but a
single one of them, when found, is worth ten "executives" and a dozen

The excellence of Oxford, then, as I see it, lies in the peculiar
vagueness of the organisation of its work. It starts from the assumption
that the professor is a really learned man whose sole interest lies in
his own sphere: and that a student, or at least the only student with
whom the university cares to reckon seriously, is a young man who
desires to know. This is an ancient mediaeval attitude long since
buried in more up-to-date places under successive strata of compulsory
education, state teaching, the democratisation of knowledge and the
substitution of the shadow for the substance, and the casket for the
gem. No doubt, in newer places the thing has got to be so. Higher
education in America flourishes chiefly as a qualification for entrance
into a money-making profession, and not as a thing in itself. But in
Oxford one can still see the surviving outline of a nobler type of
structure and a higher inspiration.

I do not mean to say, however, that my judgment of Oxford is one
undiluted stream of praise. In one respect at least I think that Oxford
has fallen away from the high ideals of the Middle Ages. I refer to the
fact that it admits women students to its studies. In the Middle Ages
women were regarded with a peculiar chivalry long since lost. It was
taken for granted that their brains were too delicately poised to
allow them to learn anything. It was presumed that their minds were
so exquisitely hung that intellectual effort might disturb them. The
present age has gone to the other extreme: and this is seen nowhere more
than in the crowding of women into colleges originally designed for men.
Oxford, I regret to find, has not stood out against this change.

To a profound scholar like myself, the presence of these young women,
many of them most attractive, flittering up and down the streets of
Oxford in their caps and gowns, is very distressing.

Who is to blame for this and how they first got in I do not know. But I
understand that they first of all built a private college of their own
close to Oxford, and then edged themselves in foot by foot. If this is
so they only followed up the precedent of the recognised method in use
in America. When an American college is established, the women go and
build a college of their own overlooking the grounds. Then they put on
becoming caps and gowns and stand and look over the fence at the college
athletics. The male undergraduates, who were originally and by nature a
hardy lot, were not easily disturbed. But inevitably some of the senior
trustees fell in love with the first year girls and became convinced
that coeducation was a noble cause. American statistics show that
between 1880 and 1900 the number of trustees and senior professors who
married girl undergraduates or who wanted to do so reached a percentage
of,--I forget the exact percentage; it was either a hundred or a little

I don't know just what happened at Oxford but presumably something of
the sort took place. In any case the women are now all over the
place. They attend the college lectures, they row in a boat, and
they perambulate the High Street. They are even offering a serious
competition against the men. Last year they carried off the ping-pong
championship and took the chancellor's prize for needlework, while in
music, cooking and millinery the men are said to be nowhere.

There is no doubt that unless Oxford puts the women out while there is
yet time, they will overrun the whole university. What this means to the
progress of learning few can tell and those who know are afraid to say.

Cambridge University, I am glad to see, still sets its face sternly
against this innovation. I am reluctant to count any superiority in the
University of Cambridge. Having twice visited Oxford, having made the
place a subject of profound study for many hours at a time, having twice
addressed its undergraduates, and having stayed at the Mitre Hotel,
I consider myself an Oxford man. But I must admit that Cambridge has
chosen the wiser part.

Last autumn, while I was in London on my voyage of discovery, a vote
was taken at Cambridge to see if the women who have already a private
college nearby, should be admitted to the university. They were
triumphantly shut out; and as a fit and proper sign of enthusiasm the
undergraduates went over in a body and knocked down the gates of the
women's college. I know that it is a terrible thing to say that any
one approved of this. All the London papers came out with headings
The Manchester Guardian draped its pages in black and even the London
Morning Post was afraid to take bold ground in the matter. But I do know
also that there was a great deal of secret chuckling and jubilation in
the London clubs. Nothing was expressed openly. The men of England have
been too terrorised by the women for that.

But in safe corners of the club, out of earshot of the waiters and away
from casual strangers, little groups of elderly men chuckled quietly
together. "Knocked down their gates, eh?" said the wicked old men to one
another, and then whispered guiltily behind an uplifted hand, "Serve 'em
right." Nobody dared to say anything outside. If they had some one would
have got up and asked a question in the House of Commons. When this is
done all England falls flat upon its face.

But for my part when I heard of the Cambridge vote, I felt as Lord
Chatham did when he said in parliament, "Sir, I rejoice that America
has resisted." For I have long harboured views of my own upon the
higher education of women. In these days, however, it requires no little
hardihood to utter a single word of criticism against it. It is like
throwing half a brick through the glass roof of a conservatory. It is
bound to make trouble. Let me hasten, therefore, to say that I believe
most heartily in the higher education of women; in fact, the higher the
better. The only question to my mind is: What is "higher education"
and how do you get it? With which goes the secondary enquiry, What is
a woman and is she just the same as a man? I know that it sounds a
terrible thing to say in these days, but I don't believe she is.

Let me say also that when I speak of coeducation I speak of what I
know. I was coeducated myself some thirty-five years ago, at the very
beginning of the thing. I learned my Greek alongside of a bevy of beauty
on the opposite benches that mashed up the irregular verbs for us very
badly. Incidentally, those girls are all married long since, and all
the Greek they know now you could put under a thimble. But of that

I have had further experience as well. I spent three years in the
graduate school of Chicago, where coeducational girls were as thick as
autumn leaves, and some thicker. And as a college professor at McGill
University in Montreal, I have taught mingled classes of men and women
for twenty years.

On the basis of which experience I say with assurance that the thing is
a mistake and has nothing to recommend it but its relative cheapness.
Let me emphasise this last point and have done with it. Coeducation is
of course a great economy. To teach ten men and ten women in a single
class of twenty costs only half as much as to teach two classes.
Where economy must rule, then, the thing has got to be. But where the
discussion turns not on what is cheapest, but on what is best, then the
case is entirely different.

The fundamental trouble is that men and women are different creatures,
with different minds and different aptitudes and different paths in
life. There is no need to raise here the question of which is superior
and which is inferior (though I think, the Lord help me, I know the
answer to that too). The point lies in the fact that they are different.

But the mad passion for equality has masked this obvious fact. When
women began to demand, quite rightly, a share in higher education, they
took for granted that they wanted the same curriculum as the men.
They never stopped to ask whether their aptitudes were not in various
directions higher and better than those of the men, and whether it might
not be better for their sex to cultivate the things which were best
suited to their minds. Let me be more explicit. In all that goes with
physical and mathematical science, women, on the average, are far below
the standard of men. There are, of course, exceptions. But they prove
nothing. It is no use to quote to me the case of some brilliant girl who
stood first in physics at Cornell. That's nothing. There is an elephant
in the zoo that can count up to ten, yet I refuse to reckon myself his

Tabulated results spread over years, and the actual experience of those
who teach show that in the whole domain of mathematics and physics women
are outclassed. At McGill the girls of our first year have wept over
their failures in elementary physics these twenty-five years. It is time
that some one dried their tears and took away the subject.

But, in any case, examination tests are never the whole story. To those
who know, a written examination is far from being a true criterion of
capacity. It demands too much of mere memory, imitativeness, and the
insidious willingness to absorb other people's ideas. Parrots and crows
would do admirably in examinations. Indeed, the colleges are full of

But take, on the other hand, all that goes with the aesthetic side of
education, with imaginative literature and the cult of beauty. Here
women are, or at least ought to be, the superiors of men. Women were in
primitive times the first story-tellers. They are still so at the cradle
side. The original college woman was the witch, with her incantations
and her prophecies and the glow of her bright imagination, and if
brutal men of duller brains had not burned it out of her, she would be
incanting still. To my thinking, we need more witches in the colleges
and less physics.

I have seen such young witches myself,--if I may keep the word: I like
it,--in colleges such as Wellesley in Massachusetts and Bryn Mawr in
Pennsylvania, where there isn't a man allowed within the three mile
limit. To my mind, they do infinitely better thus by themselves. They
are freer, less restrained. They discuss things openly in their classes;
they lift up their voices, and they speak, whereas a girl in such a
place as McGill, with men all about her, sits for four years as silent
as a frog full of shot.

But there is a deeper trouble still. The careers of the men and
women who go to college together are necessarily different, and the
preparation is all aimed at the man's career. The men are going to be
lawyers, doctors, engineers, business men, and politicians. And the
women are not.

There is no use pretending about it. It may sound an awful thing to say,
but the women are going to be married. That is, and always has been,
their career; and, what is more, they know it; and even at college,
while they are studying algebra and political economy, they have their
eye on it sideways all the time. The plain fact is that, after a girl
has spent four years of her time and a great deal of her parents' money
in equipping herself for a career that she is never going to have, the
wretched creature goes and gets married, and in a few years she has
forgotten which is the hypotenuse of a right-angled triangle, and she
doesn't care. She has much better things to think of.

At this point some one will shriek: "But surely, even for marriage,
isn't it right that a girl should have a college education?" To which I
hasten to answer: most assuredly. I freely admit that a girl who knows
algebra, or once knew it, is a far more charming companion and a nobler
wife and mother than a girl who doesn't know x from y. But the point is
this: Does the higher education that fits a man to be a lawyer also fit
a person to be a wife and mother? Or, in other words, is a lawyer a wife
and mother? I say he is not. Granted that a girl is to spend four years
in time and four thousand dollars in money in going to college, why
train her for a career that she is never going to adopt? Why not give
her an education that will have a meaning and a harmony with the real
life that she is to follow?

For example, suppose that during her four years every girl lucky
enough to get a higher education spent at least six months of it in
the training and discipline of a hospital as a nurse. There is more
education and character making in that than in a whole bucketful of

But no, the woman insists on snatching her share of an education
designed by Erasmus or William of Wykeham or William of Occam for the
creation of scholars and lawyers; and when later on in her home there is
a sudden sickness or accident, and the life or death of those nearest to
her hangs upon skill and knowledge and a trained fortitude in emergency,
she must needs send in all haste for a hired woman to fill the place
that she herself has never learned to occupy.

But I am not here trying to elaborate a whole curriculum. I am only
trying to indicate that higher education for the man is one thing, for
the woman another. Nor do I deny the fact that women have got to earn
their living. Their higher education must enable them to do that. They
cannot all marry on their graduation day. But that is no great matter.
No scheme of education that any one is likely to devise will fail in
this respect.

The positions that they hold as teachers or civil servants they would
fill all the better if their education were fitted to their wants.

Some few, a small minority, really and truly "have a
career,"--husbandless and childless,--in which the sacrifice is great
and the honour to them, perhaps, all the higher. And others no doubt
dream of a career in which a husband and a group of blossoming children
are carried as an appendage to a busy life at the bar or on the
platform. But all such are the mere minority, so small as to make no
difference to the general argument.

But there--I have written quite enough to make plenty of trouble except
perhaps at Cambridge University. So I return with relief to my general
study of Oxford. Viewing the situation as a whole, I am led then to the
conclusion that there must be something in the life of Oxford itself
that makes for higher learning. Smoked at by his tutor, fed in Henry
VIII's kitchen, and sleeping in a tangle of ivy, the student evidently
gets something not easily obtained in America. And the more I reflect
on the matter the more I am convinced that it is the sleeping in the ivy
that does it. How different it is from student life as I remember it!

When I was a student at the University of Toronto thirty years ago, I
lived,--from start to finish,--in seventeen different boarding houses.
As far as I am aware these houses have not, or not yet, been marked with
tablets. But they are still to be found in the vicinity of McCaul and
Darcy, and St. Patrick Streets. Any one who doubts the truth of what I
have to say may go and look at them.

I was not alone in the nomadic life that I led. There were hundreds
of us drifting about in this fashion from one melancholy habitation to
another. We lived as a rule two or three in a house, sometimes alone. We
dined in the basement. We always had beef, done up in some way after it
was dead, and there were always soda biscuits on the table. They used
to have a brand of soda biscuits in those days in the Toronto boarding
houses that I have not seen since. They were better than dog biscuits
but with not so much snap. My contemporaries will all remember them.
A great many of the leading barristers and professional men of Toronto
were fed on them.

In the life we led we had practically no opportunities for association
on a large scale, no common rooms, no reading rooms, nothing. We never
saw the magazines,--personally I didn't even know the names of them.
The only interchange of ideas we ever got was by going over to the Caer
Howell Hotel on University Avenue and interchanging them there.

I mention these melancholy details not for their own sake but merely to
emphasise the point that when I speak of students' dormitories, and the
larger life which they offer, I speak of what I know.

If we had had at Toronto, when I was a student, the kind of dormitories
and dormitory life that they have at Oxford, I don't think I would
ever have graduated. I'd have been there still. The trouble is that the
universities on our Continent are only just waking up to the idea of
what a university should mean. They were, very largely, instituted and
organised with the idea that a university was a place where young men
were sent to absorb the contents of books and to listen to lectures in
the class rooms. The student was pictured as a pallid creature, burning
what was called the "midnight oil," his wan face bent over his desk. If
you wanted to do something for him you gave him a book: if you wanted to
do something really large on his behalf you gave him a whole basketful
of them. If you wanted to go still further and be a benefactor to the
college at large, you endowed a competitive scholarship and set two or
more pallid students working themselves to death to get it.

The real thing for the student is the life and environment that
surrounds him. All that he really learns he learns, in a sense, by the
active operation of his own intellect and not as the passive recipient
of lectures. And for this active operation what he really needs most is
the continued and intimate contact with his fellows. Students must live
together and eat together, talk and smoke together. Experience shows
that that is how their minds really grow. And they must live together
in a rational and comfortable way. They must eat in a big dining room
or hall, with oak beams across the ceiling, and the stained glass in
the windows, and with a shield or tablet here or there upon the wall,
to remind them between times of the men who went before them and left
a name worthy of the memory of the college. If a student is to get from
his college what it ought to give him, a college dormitory, with the
life in common that it brings, is his absolute right. A university that
fails to give it to him is cheating him.

If I were founding a university--and I say it with all the seriousness
of which I am capable--I would found first a smoking room; then when I
had a little more money in hand I would found a dormitory; then after
that, or more probably with it, a decent reading room and a library.
After that, if I still had money over that I couldn't use, I would hire
a professor and get some text books.

This chapter has sounded in the most part like a continuous eulogy
of Oxford with but little in favour of our American colleges. I turn
therefore with pleasure to the more congenial task of showing what is
wrong with Oxford and with the English university system generally, and
the aspect in which our American universities far excell the British.

The point is that Henry VIII is dead. The English are so proud of
what Henry VIII and the benefactors of earlier centuries did for the
universities that they forget the present. There is little or nothing
in England to compare with the magnificent generosity of individuals,
provinces and states, which is building up the colleges of the United
States and Canada. There used to be. But by some strange confusion of
thought the English people admire the noble gifts of Cardinal Wolsey and
Henry VIII and Queen Margaret, and do not realise that the Carnegies
and Rockefellers and the William Macdonalds are the Cardinal Wolseys
of to-day. The University of Chicago was founded upon oil. McGill
University rests largely on a basis of tobacco. In America the world of
commerce and business levies on itself a noble tribute in favour of the
higher learning. In England, with a few conspicuous exceptions, such as
that at Bristol, there is little of the sort. The feudal families are
content with what their remote ancestors have done: they do not try to
emulate it in any great degree.

In the long run this must count. Of all the various reforms that are
talked of at Oxford, and of all the imitations of American methods that
are suggested, the only one worth while, to my thinking, is to capture
a few millionaires, give them honorary degrees at a million pounds
sterling apiece, and tell them to imagine that they are Henry the
Eighth. I give Oxford warning that if this is not done the place will
not last another two centuries.

VI. The British and the American Press

THE only paper from which a man can really get the news of the world in
a shape that he can understand is the newspaper of his own "home town."
For me, unless I can have the Montreal Gazette at my breakfast, and the
Montreal Star at my dinner, I don't really know what is happening. In
the same way I have seen a man from the south of Scotland settle down to
read the Dumfries Chronicle with a deep sigh of satisfaction: and a man
from Burlington, Vermont, pick up the Burlington Eagle and study
the foreign news in it as the only way of getting at what was really
happening in France and Germany.

The reason is, I suppose, that there are different ways of serving up
the news and we each get used to our own. Some people like the news
fed to them gently: others like it thrown at them in a bombshell: some
prefer it to be made as little of as possible; they want it minimised:
others want the maximum.

This is where the greatest difference lies between the British
newspapers and those of the United States and Canada. With us in America
the great thing is to get the news and shout it at the reader; in
England they get the news and then break it to him as gently as
possible. Hence the big headings, the bold type, and the double columns
of the American paper, and the small headings and the general air of
quiet and respectability of the English Press.

It is quite beside the question to ask which is the better. Neither is.
They are different things: that's all. The English newspaper is designed
to be read quietly, propped up against the sugar bowl of a man eating
a slow breakfast in a quiet corner of a club, or by a retired banker
seated in a leather chair nearly asleep, or by a country vicar sitting
in a wicker chair under a pergola. The American paper is for reading
by a man hanging on the straps of a clattering subway express, by a
man eating at a lunch counter, by a man standing on one leg, by a man
getting a two-minute shave, or by a man about to have his teeth drawn by
a dentist.

In other words, there is a difference of atmosphere. It is not merely
in the type and the lettering, it is a difference in the way the news
is treated and the kind of words that are used. In America we love such
words as "gun-men" and "joy-ride" and "death-cell": in England they
prefer "person of doubtful character" and "motor travelling at excessive
speed" and "corridor No. 6." If a milk-waggon collides in the
street with a coal-cart, we write that a "life-waggon" has struck a
"death-cart." We call a murderer a "thug" or a "gun-man" or a "yeg-man."
In England they simply call him "the accused who is a grocer's assistant
in Houndsditch." That designation would knock any decent murder story to

Hence comes the great difference between the American "lead" or opening
sentence of the article, and the English method of commencement. In the
American paper the idea is that the reader is so busy that he must first
be offered the news in one gulp. After that if he likes it he can go
on and eat some more of it. So the opening sentence must give the whole
thing. Thus, suppose that a leading member of the United States Congress
has committed suicide. This is the way in which the American reporter
deals with it.

"Seated in his room at the Grand Hotel with his carpet slippers on his
feet and his body wrapped in a blue dressing-gown with pink insertions,
after writing a letter of farewell to his wife and emptying a bottle
of Scotch whisky in which he exonerated her from all culpability in his
death, Congressman Ahasuerus P. Tigg was found by night-watchman, Henry
T. Smith, while making his rounds as usual with four bullets in his

Now let us suppose that a leading member of the House of Commons in
England had done the same thing. Here is the way it would be written up
in a first-class London newspaper.

The heading would be HOME AND GENERAL INTELLIGENCE. That is inserted so
as to keep the reader soothed and quiet and is no doubt thought better
HOTEL. After the heading HOME AND GENERAL INTELLIGENCE the English
paper runs the subheading INCIDENT AT THE GRAND HOTEL. The reader still
doesn't know what happened; he isn't meant to. Then the article begins
like this:

"The Grand Hotel, which is situated at the corner of Millbank and
Victoria Streets, was the scene last night of a distressing incident."

"What is it?" thinks the reader. "The hotel itself, which is an
old Georgian structure dating probably from about 1750, is a quiet
establishment, its clientele mainly drawn from business men in the
cattle-droving and distillery business from South Wales."

"What happened?" thinks the reader.

"Its cuisine has long been famous for the excellence of its boiled

"What happened?"

"While the hotel itself is also known as the meeting place of the
Surbiton Harmonic Society and other associations."

"What happened?"

"Among the more prominent of the guests of the hotel has been numbered
during the present Parliamentary session Mr. Llewylln Ap. Jones, M.P.,
for South Llanfydd. Mr. Jones apparently came to his room last night
at about ten P.M., and put on his carpet slippers and his blue dressing
gown. He then seems to have gone to the cupboard and taken from it a
whisky bottle which however proved to be empty. The unhappy gentleman
then apparently went to bed..."

At that point the American reader probably stops reading, thinking that
he has heard it all. The unhappy man found that the bottle was empty
and went to bed: very natural: and the affair very properly called a
"distressing incident": quite right. But the trained English reader
would know that there was more to come and that the air of quiet was
only assumed, and he would read on and on until at last the tragic
interest heightened, the four shots were fired, with a good long pause
after each for discussion of the path of the bullet through Mr. Ap.

I am not saying that either the American way or the British way is the
better. They are just two different ways, that's all. But the result is
that anybody from the United States or Canada reading the English papers
gets the impression that nothing is happening: and an English reader
of our newspapers with us gets the idea that the whole place is in a

When I was in London I used always, in glancing at the morning papers,
to get a first impression that the whole world was almost asleep. There
was, for example, a heading called INDIAN INTELLIGENCE that showed,
on close examination, that two thousand Parsees had died of the blue
plague, that a powder boat had blown up at Bombay, that some one had
thrown a couple of bombs at one of the provincial governors, and that
four thousand agitators had been sentenced to twenty years hard labour
each. But the whole thing was just called "Indian Intelligence."
Similarly, there was a little item called, "Our Chinese Correspondent."
That one explained ten lines down, in very small type, that a hundred
thousand Chinese had been drowned in a flood. And there was another
little item labelled "Foreign Gossip," under which was mentioned
that the Pope was dead, and that the President of Paraguay had been

In short, I got the impression that I was living in an easy drowsy
world, as no doubt the editor meant me to. It was only when the Montreal
Star arrived by post that I felt that the world was still revolving
pretty rapidly on its axis and that there was still something doing.

As with the world news so it is with the minor events of ordinary
life,--birth, death, marriage, accidents, crime. Let me give an
illustration. Suppose that in a suburb of London a housemaid has
endeavoured to poison her employer's family by putting a drug in
the coffee. Now on our side of the water we should write that little
incident up in a way to give it life, and put headings over it that
would capture the reader's attention in a minute. We should begin it


The English reader would ask at once, how do we know that the parlor
maid is pretty? We don't. But our artistic sense tells us that she ought
to be. Pretty parlor maids are the only ones we take any interest in: if
an ugly parlor maid poisoned her employer's family we should hang her.
Then again, the English reader would say, how do we know that the man is
a clubman? Have we ascertained this fact definitely, and if so, of what
club or clubs is he a member? Well, we don't know, except in so far as
the thing is self-evident. Any man who has romance enough in his life
to be poisoned by a pretty housemaid ought to be in a club. That's the
place for him. In fact, with us the word club man doesn't necessarily
mean a man who belongs to a club: it is defined as a man who is arrested
in a gambling den; or fined for speeding a motor or who shoots another
person in a hotel corridor. Therefore this man must be a club man.
Having settled the heading, we go on with the text:

"Brooding over love troubles which she has hitherto refused to divulge
under the most grilling fusillade of rapid-fire questions shot at her
by the best brains of the New York police force, Miss Mary De Forrest,
a handsome brunette thirty-six inches around the hips, employed as a
parlor maid in the residence of Mr. Spudd Bung, a well-known clubman
forty-two inches around the chest, was arrested yesterday by the flying
squad of the emergency police after having, so it is alleged, put four
ounces of alleged picrate of potash into the alleged coffee of her
employer's family's alleged breakfast at their residence on Hudson
Heights in the most fashionable quarter of the metropolis. Dr. Slink,
the leading fashionable practitioner of the neighbourhood who was
immediately summoned said that but for his own extraordinary dexterity
and promptness the death of the whole family, if not of the entire
entourage, was a certainty. The magistrate in committing Miss De
Forrest for trial took occasion to enlarge upon her youth and attractive
appearance: he castigated the moving pictures severely and said that he
held them together with the public school system and the present method
of doing the hair, directly responsible for the crimes of the kind

Now when you read this over you begin to feel that something big has
happened. Here is a man like Dr. Slink, all quivering with promptness
and dexterity. Here is an inserted picture, a photograph, a brick house
in a row marked with a cross (+) and labelled "The Bung Residence as. it
appeared immediately after the alleged outrage." It isn't really. It is
just a photograph that we use for this sort of thing and have grown to
like. It is called sometimes:--"Residence of Senator Borah" or "Scene
of the Recent Spiritualistic Manifestations" or anything of the sort.
As long as it is marked with a cross (+) the reader will look at it with

In other words we make something out of an occurrence like this. It
doesn't matter if it all fades out afterwards when it appears that Mary
De Forrest merely put ground allspice into the coffee in mistake for
powdered sugar and that the family didn't drink it anyway. The reader
has already turned to other mysteries.

But contrast the pitifully tame way in which the same event is written
up in England. Here it is:


"Yesterday at the police court of Surbiton-on-Thames Mary Forrester, a
servant in the employ of Mr. S. Bung was taken into custody on a charge
of having put a noxious preparation, possibly poison, into the coffee of
her employer's family. The young woman was remanded for a week."

Look at that. Mary Forrester a servant?

How wide was she round the chest? It doesn't say. Mr. S. Bung? Of
what club was he a member? None, apparently. Then who cares if he is
poisoned? And "the young woman!" What a way to speak of a decent girl
who never did any other harm than to poison a club man. And the English
magistrate! What a tame part he must have played: his name indeed
doesn't occur at all: apparently he didn't enlarge on the girl's good
looks, or "comment on her attractive appearance," or anything. I don't
suppose that he even asked Mary Forrester out to lunch with him.

Notice also that, according to the English way of writing the thing up,
as soon as the girl was remanded for a week the incident is closed.
The English reporter doesn't apparently know enough to follow Miss De
Forrest to her home (called "the De Forrest Residence" and marked with
a cross, +). The American reporter would make certain to supplement what
went above with further information of this fashion. "Miss De Forrest
when seen later at her own home by a representative of The Eagle
said that she regretted very much having been put to the necessity of
poisoning Mr. Bung. She had in the personal sense nothing against Mr.
Bung and apart from poisoning him she had every respect for Mr. Bung.
Miss De Forrest, who talks admirably on a variety of topics, expressed
herself as warmly in favour of the League of Nations and as a devotee of
the short ballot and proportional representation."

Any American reader who studies the English Press comes upon these
wasted opportunities every day. There are indeed certain journals of
a newer type which are doing their best to imitate us. But they don't
really get it yet. They use type up to about one inch and after that
they get afraid.

I hope that in describing the spirit of the English Press I do not seem
to be writing with any personal bitterness. I admit that there might be
a certain reason for such a bias. During my stay in England I was most
anxious to appear as a contributor to some of the leading papers. This
is, with the English, a thing that always adds prestige. To be able to
call oneself a "contributor" to the Times or to Punch or the Morning
Post or the Spectator, is a high honour. I have met these "contributors"
all over the British Empire. Some, I admit, look strange. An ancient
wreck in the back bar of an Ontario tavern (ancient regime) has told
me that he was a contributor to the Times: the janitor of the building
where I lived admits that he is a contributor to Punch: a man arrested
in Bristol for vagrancy while I was in England pleaded that he was a
contributor to the Spectator. In fact, it is an honour that everybody
seems to be able to get but me.

I had often tried before I went to England to contribute to the great
English newspapers. I had never succeeded. But I hoped that while in
England itself the very propinquity of the atmosphere, I mean the very
contiguity of the surroundings, would render the attempt easier. I tried
and I failed. My failure was all the more ignominious in that I had very
direct personal encouragement. "By all means," said the editor of the
London Times, "do some thing for us while you are here. Best of all,
do something in a political way; that's rather our special line." I
had already received almost an identical encouragement from the London
Morning Post, and in a more qualified way from the Manchester Guardian.
In short, success seemed easy.

I decided therefore to take some simple political event of the peculiar
kind that always makes a stir in English politics and write it up for
these English papers. To simplify matters I thought it better to use one
and the same incident and write it up in three different ways and get
paid for it three, times. All of those who write for the Press will
understand the motive at once. I waited therefore and watched the papers
to see if anything interesting might happen to the Ahkoond of Swat or
the Sandjak of Novi Bazar or any other native potentate. Within a couple
of days I got what I wanted in the following item, which I need hardly
say is taken word for word from the Press despatches:

"Perim, via Bombay. News comes by messenger that the Shriek of Kowfat
who has been living under the convention of 1898 has violated the modus
operandi. He is said to have torn off his suspenders, dipped himself in
oil and proclaimed a Jehad. The situation is critical."

Everybody who knows England knows that this is just the kind of news
that the English love. On our side of the Atlantic we should be bothered
by the fact that we did not know where Kowfat is, nor what was the
convention of 1898. They are not. They just take it for granted that
Kowfat is one of the many thousand places that they "own," somewhere
in the outer darkness. They have so many Kowfats that they cannot keep
track of them.

I knew therefore that everybody would be interested in any discussion
of what was at once called "the Kowfat Crisis" and I wrote it up. I
resisted the temptation to begin after the American fashion, "Shriek
sheds suspenders," and suited the writing, as I thought, to the market I
was writing for. I wrote up the incident for the Morning Post after the
following fashion:

"The news from Kowfat affords one more instance of a painful back-down
on the part of the Government. Our policy of spineless supineness is now
reaping its inevitable reward. To us there is only one thing to be done.
If the Shriek has torn off his suspenders he must be made to put them
on again. We have always held that where the imperial prestige of this
country is concerned there is no room for hesitation. In the present
instance our prestige is at stake: the matter involves our reputation in
the eyes of the surrounding natives, the Bantu Hottentots, the Negritos,
the Dwarf Men of East Abyssinia, and the Dog Men of Darfur. What will
they think of us? If we fail in this crisis their notion of us will fall
fifty per cent. In our opinion this country cannot stand a fifty per
cent drop in the estimation of the Dog Men. The time is one that demands
action. An ultimatum should be sent at once to the Shriek of Kowfat. If
he has one already we should send him another. He should be made at once
to put on his suspenders. The oil must be scraped off him, and he must
be told plainly that if a pup like him tries to start a Jehad he will
have to deal with the British Navy. We call the Shriek a pup in no sense
of belittling him as our imperial ally but because we consider that the
present is no time for half words and we do not regard pup as half a
word. Events such as the present, rocking the Empire to its base, make
one long for the spacious days of a Salisbury or a Queen Elizabeth, or
an Alfred the Great or a Julius Caesar. We doubt whether the present
Cabinet is in this class."

Not to lose any time in the coming and going of the mail, always a
serious thought for the contributor to the Press waiting for a cheque, I
sent another editorial on the same topic to the Manchester Guardian. It
ran as follows:

"The action of the Shriek of Kowfat in proclaiming a Jehad against us is
one that amply justifies all that we have said editorially since Jeremy
Bentham died. We have always held that the only way to deal with a
Mohammedan potentate like the Shriek is to treat him like a Christian.
The Khalifate of Kowfat at present buys its whole supply of cotton
piece goods in our market and pays cash. The Shriek, who is a man of
enlightenment, has consistently upheld the principles of Free Trade.
Not only are our exports of cotton piece goods, bibles, rum, and beads
constantly increasing, but they are more than offset by our importation
from Kowfat of ivory, rubber, gold, and oil. In short, we have never
seen the principles of Free Trade better illustrated. The Shriek, it is
now reported, refuses to wear the braces presented to him by our envoy
at the time of his coronation five years ago. He is said to have thrown
them into the mud. But we have no reason to suppose that this is meant
as a blow at our prestige. It may be that after five years of use the
little pulleys of the braces no longer work properly. We have ourselves
in our personal life known instances of this, and can speak of the sense
of irritation occasioned. Even we have thrown on the floor ours. And in
any case, as we have often reminded our readers, what is prestige? If
any one wants to hit us, let him hit us right there. We regard a blow at
our trade as far more deadly than a blow at our prestige.

"The situation as we see it demands immediate reparation on our part.
The principal grievance of the Shriek arises from the existence of our
fort and garrison on the Kowfat river. Our proper policy is to knock
down the fort, and either remove the garrison or give it to the Shriek.
We are convinced that as soon as the Shriek realises that we are
prepared to treat him in the proper Christian spirit, he will at once
respond with true Mohammedan generosity.

"We have further to remember that in what we do we are being observed by
the neighbouring tribes, the Negritos, the Dwarf Men, and the Dog Men of
Darfur. These are not only shrewd observers but substantial customers.
The Dwarf Men at present buy all their cotton on the Manchester market
and the Dog Men depend on us for their soap.

"The present crisis is one in which the nation needs statesmanship and a
broad outlook upon the world. In the existing situation we need not the
duplicity of a Machiavelli, but the commanding prescience of a Gladstone
or an Alfred the Great, or a Julius Caesar. Luckily we have exactly this
type of man at the head of affairs."

After completing the above I set to work without delay on a similar
exercise for the London Times. The special excellence of the Times, as
everybody knows is its fulness of information. For generations past the
Times has commanded a peculiar minuteness of knowledge about all parts
of the Empire. It is the proud boast of this great journal that to
whatever far away, outlandish part of the Empire you may go, you will
always find a correspondent of the Times looking for something to do.
It is said that the present proprietor has laid it down as his maxim,
"I don't want men who think; I want men who know." The arrangements for
thinking are made separately.

Incidentally I may say that I had personal opportunities while I was
in England of realising that the reputation of the Times staff for the
possession of information is well founded. Dining one night with some
members of the staff, I happened to mention Saskatchewan. One of the
editors at the other end of the table looked up at the mention of the
name. "Saskatchewan," he said, "ah, yes; that's not far from Alberta, is
it?" and then turned quietly to his food again. When I remind the reader
that Saskatchewan is only half an inch from Alberta he may judge of the
nicety of the knowledge involved. Having all this in mind, I recast the
editorial and sent it to the London Times as follows:

"The news that the Sultan of Kowfat has thrown away his suspenders
renders it of interest to indicate the exact spot where he has thrown
them. (See map). Kowfat, lying as the reader knows, on the Kowfat River,
occupies the hinterland between the back end of south-west Somaliland
and the east, that is to say, the west, bank of Lake P'schu. It thus
forms an enclave between the Dog Men of Darfur and the Negritos of
T'chk. The inhabitants of Kowfat are a coloured race three quarters
negroid and more than three quarters tabloid.

"As a solution of the present difficulty, the first thing required
in our opinion is to send out a boundary commission to delineate more
exactly still just where Kowfat is. After that an ethnographical survey
might be completed."

It was a matter not only of concern but of surprise to me that not one
of the three contributions recited above was accepted by the English
Press. The Morning Post complained that my editorial was not firm enough
in tone, the Guardian that it was not humane enough, the Times that
I had left out the latitude and longitude always expected by their
readers. I thought it not worth while to bother to revise the articles
as I had meantime conceived the idea that the same material might be
used in the most delightfully amusing way as the basis of a poem far
Punch. Everybody knows the kind of verses that are contributed to Punch
by Sir Owen Seaman and Mr. Charles Graves and men of that sort. And
everybody has been struck, as I have, by the extraordinary easiness of
the performance. All that one needs is to get some odd little incident,
such as the revolt of the Sultan of Kowfat, make up an amusing title,
and then string the verses together in such a way as to make rhymes with
all the odd words that come into the narrative. In fact, the thing is
ease itself.

I therefore saw a glorious chance with the Sultan of Kowfat. Indeed, I
fairly chuckled to myself when I thought what amusing rhymes could be
made with "Negritos," "modus operandi" and "Dog Men of Darfur." I can
scarcely imagine anything more excruciatingly funny than the rhymes
which can be made with them. And as for the title, bringing in the word
Kowfat or some play upon it, the thing is perfectly obvious. The idea
amused me so much that I set to work at the poem at once.

I am sorry to say that I failed to complete it. Not that I couldn't
have done so, given time; I am quite certain that if I had had about two
years I could have done it. The main structure of the poem, however, is
here and I give it for what it is worth. Even as it is it strikes me as
extraordinarily good. Here it is:


   ...................... Kowfat

        Verse One

   ............... modus operandi;
   .................., Negritos:
   ....................... P'shu.

        Verse Two

   ..................... Khalifate;
   ............. Dog Men of Darfur:
   ....................... T'chk.

Excellent little thing, isn't it? All it needs is the rhymes. As far as
it goes it has just exactly the ease and the sweep required. And if some
one will tell me how Owen Seaman and those people get the rest of the
ease and the sweep I'll be glad to put it in.

One further experiment of the same sort I made with the English Press in
another direction and met again with failure. If there is one paper in
the world for which I have respect and--if I may say it--an affection,
it is the London Spectator. I suppose that I am only one of thousands
and thousands of people who feel that way. Why under the circumstances
the Spectator failed to publish my letter I cannot say. I wanted no
money for it: I only wanted the honour of seeing it inserted beside the
letter written from the Rectory, Hops, Hants, or the Shrubbery, Potts,
Shrops,--I mean from one of those places where the readers of the
Spectator live. I thought too that my letter had just the right touch.
However, they wouldn't take it: something wrong with it somewhere, I
suppose. This is it:

    To the Editor,
      The Spectator,
        London, England.

    Dear Sir,

    Your correspondence of last week contained such interesting
    information in regard to the appearance of the first cowslip
    in Kensington Common that I trust that I may, without
    fatiguing your readers to the point of saturation, narrate
    a somewhat similar and I think, sir, an equally interesting
    experience of my own. While passing through Lambeth Gardens
    yesterday towards the hour of dusk I observed a crow with
    one leg sitting beside the duck-pond and apparently lost in
    thought. There was no doubt that the bird was of the
    species pulex hibiscus, an order which is becoming
    singularly rare in the vicinity of the metropolis. Indeed,
    so far as I am aware, the species has not been seen in
    London since 1680. I may say that on recognising the bird I
    drew as near as I could, keeping myself behind the
    shrubbery, but the pulex hibiscus which apparently caught a
    brief glimpse of my face uttered a cry of distress and flew

    I am, sir,
      Believe me,
       yours, sir,
          O.Y. Botherwithit.
     (Ret'd Major Burmese Army.);

Distressed by these repeated failures, I sank back to a lower level of
English literary work, the puzzle department. For some reason or other
the English delight in puzzles. It is, I think, a part of the peculiar
school-boy pedantry which is the reverse side of their literary genius.
I speak with a certain bitterness because in puzzle work I met with no
success whatever. My solutions were never acknowledged, never paid for,
in fact they were ignored. But I append two or three of them here, with
apologies to the editors of the Strand and other papers who should have
had the honour of publishing them first.

    Puzzle I

Can you fold a square piece of paper in such a way that with a single
fold it forms a pentagon?

My Solution: Yes, if I knew what a pentagon was.

    Puzzle II

A and B agree to hold a walking match across an open meadow, each
seeking the shortest line. A, walking from corner to corner, may be said
to diangulate the hypotenuse of the meadow. B, allowing for a slight
rise in the ground, walks on an obese tabloid. Which wins?

My Solution: Frankly, I don't know.

     Puzzle III

(With apologies to the Strand.)

A rope is passed over a pulley. It has a weight at one end and a monkey
at the other. There is the same length of rope on either side and
equilibrium is maintained. The rope weighs four ounces per foot. The
age of the monkey and the age of the monkey's mother together total four
years. The weight of the monkey is as many pounds as the monkey's mother
is years old. The monkey's mother was twice as old as the monkey was
when the monkey's mother was half as old as the monkey will be when
the monkey is three times as old as the monkey's mother was when the
monkey's mother was three times as old as the monkey. The weight of the
rope with the weight at the end was half as much again as the difference
in weight between the weight of the weight and the weight of the monkey.
Now, what was the length of the rope?

My Solution: I should think it would have to be a rope of a fairly good

In only one department of English journalism have I met with a decided
measure of success; I refer to the juvenile competition department. This
is a sort of thing to which the English are especially addicted. As a
really educated nation for whom good literature begins in the home they
encourage in every way literary competitions among the young readers
of their journals. At least half a dozen of the well-known London
periodicals carry on this work. The prizes run all the way from one
shilling to half a guinea and the competitions are generally open to all
children from three to six years of age. It was here that I saw my open
opportunity and seized it. I swept in prize after prize. As "Little
Agatha" I got four shillings for the best description of Autumn in two
lines, and one shilling for guessing correctly the missing letters in
BR-STOL, SH-FFIELD, and H-LL. A lot of the competitors fell down
on H-LL. I got six shillings for giving the dates of the Norman
Conquest,--1492 A.D., and the Crimean War of 1870. In short, the thing
was easy. I might say that to enter these competitions one has to have
a certificate of age from a member of the clergy. But I know a lot of

VII. Business in England. Wanted--More Profiteers

It is hardly necessary to say that so shrewd an observer as I am could
not fail to be struck by the situation of business in England. Passing
through the factory towns and noticing that no smoke came from the tall
chimneys and that the doors of the factories were shut, I was led to the
conclusion that they were closed.

Observing that the streets of the industrial centres were everywhere
filled with idle men, I gathered that they were unemployed: and when I
learned that the moving picture houses were full to the doors every day
and that the concert halls, beer gardens, grand opera, and religious
concerts were crowded to suffocation, I inferred that the country was
suffering from an unparalleled depression. This diagnosis turned out to
be absolutely correct. It has been freely estimated that at the time I
refer to almost two million men were out of work.

But it does not require government statistics to prove that in England
at the present day everybody seems poor, just as in the United States
everybody, to the eye of the visitor, seems to be rich. In England
nobody seems to be able to afford anything: in the United States
everybody seems to be able to afford everything. In England nobody
smokes cigars: in America everybody does. On the English railways the
first class carriages are empty: in the United States the "reserved
drawingrooms" are full. Poverty no doubt is only a relative matter: but
a man whose income used to be 10,000 a year and is now 5,000, is living
in "reduced circumstances": he feels himself just as poor as the man
whose income has been cut from five thousand pounds to three, or from
five hundred pounds to two. They are all in the same boat. What with the
lowering of dividends and the raising of the income tax, the closing of
factories, feeding the unemployed and trying to employ the unfed, things
are in a bad way.

The underlying cause is plain enough. The economic distress that the
world suffers now is the inevitable consequence of the war. Everybody
knows that. But where the people differ is in regard to what is going to
happen next, and what we must do about it. Here opinion takes a variety
of forms. Some people blame it on the German mark: by permitting their
mark to fall, the Germans, it is claimed, are taking away all the
business from England; the fall of the mark, by allowing the Germans to
work harder and eat less than the English, is threatening to drive the
English out of house and home: if the mark goes on falling still further
the Germans will thereby outdo us also in music, literature and in
religion. What has got to be done, therefore, is to force the Germans to
lift the mark up again, and make them pay up their indemnity.

Another more popular school of thought holds to an entirely contrary
opinion. The whole trouble, they say, comes from the sad collapse of
Germany. These unhappy people, having been too busy for four years in
destroying valuable property in France and Belgium to pay attention to
their home affairs, now find themselves collapsed: it is our first duty
to pick them up again. The English should therefore take all the money
they can find and give it to the Germans. By this means German trade and
industry will revive to such an extent that the port of Hamburg will be
its old bright self again and German waiters will reappear in the London
hotels. After that everything will be all right.

Speaking with all the modesty of an outsider and a transient visitor,
I give it as my opinion that the trouble is elsewhere. The danger of
industrial collapse in England does not spring from what is happening in
Germany but from what is happening in England itself. England, like
most of the other countries in the world, is suffering from the
over-extension of government and the decline of individual self-help.
For six generations industry in England and America has flourished on
individual effort called out by the prospect of individual gain. Every
man acquired from his boyhood the idea that he must look after himself.
Morally, physically and financially that was the recognised way of
getting on. The desire to make a fortune was regarded as a laudable
ambition, a proper stimulus to effort. The ugly word "profiteer" had not
yet been coined. There was no income tax to turn a man's pockets inside
out and take away his savings. The world was to the strong.

Under the stimulus of this the wheels of industry hummed. Factories
covered the land. National production grew to a colossal size and the
whole outer world seemed laid under a tribute to the great industry. As
a system it was far from perfect. It contained in itself all kinds
of gross injustices, demands that were too great, wages that were
too small; in spite of the splendour of the foreground, poverty and
destitution hovered behind the scenes. But such as it was, the system
worked: and it was the only one that we knew.

Or turn to another aspect of this same principle of self-help. The way
to acquire knowledge in the early days was to buy a tallow candle
and read a book after one's day's work, as Benjamin Franklin read or
Lincoln: and when the soul was stimulated to it, then the aspiring youth
must save money, put himself to college, live on nothing, think much,
and in the course of this starvation and effort become a learned man,
with somehow a peculiar moral fibre in him not easily reproduced to-day.
For to-day the candle is free and the college is free and the student
has a "Union" like the profiteer's club and a swimming-bath and a Drama
League and a coeducational society at his elbow for which he buys Beauty
Roses at five dollars a bunch.

Or turn if one will to the moral side. The older way of being good was
by much prayer and much effort of one's own soul. Now it is done by
a Board of Censors. There is no need to fight sin by the power of the
spirit: let the Board of Censors do it. They together with three or four
kinds of Commissioners are supposed to keep sin at arm's length and to
supply a first class legislative guarantee of righteousness. As a
short cut to morality and as a way of saving individual effort our
legislatures are turning out morality legislation by the bucketful. The
legislature regulates our drink, it begins already to guard us against
the deadly cigarette, it regulates here and there the length of our
skirts, it safeguards our amusements and in two states of the American
Union it even proposes to save us from the teaching of the Darwinian
Theory of evolution. The ancient prayer "Lead us not into temptation" is
passing out of date. The way to temptation is declared closed by Act of
Parliament and by amendment to the constitution of the United States.
Yet oddly enough the moral tone of the world fails to respond. The
world is apparently more full of thugs, hold-up men, yeg-men, bandits,
motor-thieves, porch-climbers, spotters, spies and crooked policemen than
it ever was; till it almost seems that the slow, old-fashioned method of
an effort of the individual soul may be needed still before the world is
made good.

This vast new system, the system of leaning on the government, is
spreading like a blight over England and America, and everywhere we
suffer from it. Government, that in theory represents a union of effort
and a saving of force, sprawls like an octopus over the land. It has
become like a dead weight upon us. Wherever it touches industry it
cripples it. It runs railways and makes a heavy deficit: it builds ships
and loses money on them: it operates the ships and loses more money:
it piles up taxes to fill the vacuum and when it has killed employment,
opens a bureau of unemployment and issues a report on the depression of

Now, the only way to restore prosperity is to give back again to the
individual the opportunity to make money, to make lots of it, and when
he has got it, to keep it. In spite of all the devastation of the war
the raw assets of our globe are hardly touched. Here and there, as in
parts of China and in England and in Belgium with about seven hundred
people to the square mile, the world is fairly well filled up. There is
standing room only. But there are vast empty spaces still. Mesopotamia
alone has millions of acres of potential wheat land with a few Arabs
squatting on it. Canada could absorb easily half a million settlers a
year for a generation to come. The most fertile part of the world, the
valley of the Amazon, is still untouched: so fertile is it that for tens
of thousands of square miles it is choked with trees, a mere tangle
of life, defying all entry. The idea of our humanity sadly walking the
streets of Glasgow or sitting mournfully fishing on the piers of the
Hudson, out of work, would be laughable if it were not for the pathos of

The world is out of work for the simple reason that the world has
killed the goose that laid the golden eggs of industry. By taxation, by
legislation, by popular sentiment all over the world, there has been
a disparagement of the capitalist. And all over the world capital is
frightened. It goes and hides itself in the form of an investment in a
victory bond, a thing that is only a particular name for a debt, with no
productive effort behind it and indicating only a dead weight of taxes.
There capital sits like a bull-frog hidden behind water-lilies, refusing
to budge.

Hence the way to restore prosperity is not to multiply government
departments and government expenditures, nor to appoint commissions
and to pile up debts, but to start going again the machinery of bold
productive effort. Take off all the excess profits taxes and the
super-taxes on income and as much of the income tax itself as can be
done by a wholesale dismissal of government employees and then
give industry a mark to shoot at. What is needed now is not the
multiplication of government reports, but corporate industry, the
formation of land companies, development companies, irrigation
companies, any kind of corporation that will call out private capital
from its hiding places, offer employment to millions and start the
wheels moving again. If the promoters of such corporations presently
earn huge fortunes for themselves society is none the worse: and in any
case, humanity being what it is, they will hand back a vast part of what
they have acquired in return for LL.D. degrees, or bits of blue ribbon,
or companionships of the Bath, or whatever kind of glass bead fits the
fancy of the retired millionaire.

The next thing to be done, then, is to "fire" the government officials
and to bring back the profiteer. As to which officials are to be fired
first it doesn't matter much. In England people have been greatly
perturbed as to the use to be made of such instruments as the "Geddes
Axe": the edge of the axe of dismissal seems so terribly sharp. But
there is no need to worry. If the edge of the axe is too sharp, hit with
the back of it.

As to the profiteer, bring him back. He is really just the same person
who a few years ago was called a Captain of Industry and an Empire
Builder and a Nation Maker. It is the times that have changed, not the
man. He is there still, just as greedy and rapacious as ever, but no
greedier: and we have just the same social need of his greed as a motive
power in industry as we ever had, and indeed a worse need than before.

We need him not only in business but in the whole setting of life, or
if not him personally, we need the eager, selfish, but reliant spirit
of the man who looks after himself and doesn't want to have a spoon-fed
education and a government job alternating with a government dole, and
a set of morals framed for him by a Board of Censors. Bring back the
profiteer: fetch him from the Riviera, from his country-place on the
Hudson, or from whatever spot to which he has withdrawn with his tin
box full of victory bonds. If need be, go and pick him out of the
penitentiary, take the stripes off him and tell him to get busy again.
Show him the map of the world and ask him to pick out a few likely
spots. The trained greed of the rascal will find them in a moment.
Then write him out a concession for coal in Asia Minor or oil in the
Mackenzie Basin or for irrigation in Mesopotamia. The ink will hardly
be dry on it before the capital will begin to flow in: it will come from
all kinds of places whence the government could never coax it and where
the tax-gatherer could never find it. Only promise that it is not going
to be taxed out of existence and the stream of capital which is being
dried up in the sands of government mismanagement will flow into the
hands of private industry like a river of gold.

And incidentally, when the profiteer has finished his work, we can
always put him back into the penitentiary if we like. But we need him
just now.

VIII. Is Prohibition Coming to England?

IN the United States and Canada the principal topic of polite
conversation is now prohibition. At every dinner party the serving of
the cocktails immediately introduces the subject: the rest of the dinner
is enlivened throughout with the discussion of rum-runners, bootleggers,
storage of liquor and the State constitution of New Jersey. Under
this influence all social and conversational values are shifted and
rearranged. A "scholarly" man no longer means a man who can talk well on
literary subjects but a man who understands the eighteenth amendment and
can explain the legal difference between implementing statutes such as
the Volstead Act and the underlying state legislation. A "scientist"
(invaluable in these conversations) is a man who can make clear the
distinction between alcoholic percentages by bulk and by weight. And
a "brilliant engineer" means a man who explains how to make homebrewed
beer with a kick in it. Similarly, a "raconteur" means a man who has
a fund of amusing stories about "bootleggers" and an "interesting
traveller" means a man who has been to Havana and can explain how wet
it is. Indeed, the whole conception of travel and of interest in foreign
countries is now altered: as soon as any one mentions that he has been
in a foreign country, all the company ask in one breath, "Is it dry?"
The question "How is Samoa?" or "How is Turkey?" or "How is British
Columbia?" no longer refers to the climate or natural resources: it
means "Is the place dry?" When such a question is asked and the answer
is "It's wet," there is a deep groan all around the table.

I understand that when the recent disarmament conference met at
Washington just as the members were going to sit down at the table
Monsieur Briand said to President Harding, "How dry is the United
States, anyway?" And the whole assembly talked about it for half
an hour. That was why the first newspaper bulletins merely said,
"Conference exchanges credentials."

As a discoverer of England I therefore made it one of my chief cares to
try to obtain accurate information of this topic. I was well aware that
immediately on my return to Canada the first question I would be asked
would be "Is England going dry?" I realised that in any report I might
make to the National Geographical Society or to the Political Science
Association, the members of these bodies, being scholars, would want
accurate information about the price of whiskey, the percentage of
alcohol, and the hours of opening and closing the saloons.

My first impression on the subject was, I must say, one of severe moral
shock. Landing in England after spending the summer in Ontario, it
seemed a terrible thing to see people openly drinking on an English
train. On an Ontario train, as everybody knows, there is no way of
taking a drink except by climbing up on the roof, lying flat on one's
stomach, and taking a suck out of a flask. But in England in any dining
car one actually sees a waiter approach a person dining and say, "Beer,
sir, or wine?" This is done in broad daylight with no apparent sense of
criminality or moral shame. Appalling though it sounds, bottled ale is
openly sold on the trains at twenty-five cents a bottle and dry sherry
at eighteen cents a glass.

When I first saw this I expected to see the waiter arrested on the spot.
I looked around to see if there were any "spotters," detectives, or
secret service men on the train. I anticipated that the train conductor
would appear and throw the waiter off the car. But then I realised that
I was in England and that in the British Isles they still tolerate the
consumption of alcohol. Indeed, I doubt if they are even aware that
they are "consuming alcohol." Their impression is that they are drinking

At the beginning of my discussion I will therefore preface a few exact
facts and statistics for the use of geographical societies, learned
bodies and government commissions. The quantity of beer consumed in
England in a given period is about 200,000,000 gallons. The life of a
bottle of Scotch whiskey is seven seconds. The number of public houses,
or "pubs," in the English countryside is one to every half mile. The
percentage of the working classes drinking beer is 125: the percentage
of the class without work drinking beer is 200.

Statistics like these do not, however, give a final answer to the
question, "Is prohibition coming to England?" They merely show that
it is not there now. The question itself will be answered in as
many different ways as there are different kinds of people. Any
prohibitionist will tell you that the coming of prohibition to England
is as certain as the coming eclipse of the sun. But this is always so.
It is in human nature that people are impressed by the cause they work
in. I once knew a minister of the Scotch Church who took a voyage round
the world: he said that the thing that impressed him most was the growth
of presbyterianism in Japan. No doubt it did. When the Orillia lacrosse
team took their trip to Australia, they said on their return that
lacrosse was spreading all over the world. In the same way there is said
to be a spread all over the world of Christian Science, proportional
representation, militarism, peace sentiment, barbarism, altruism,
psychoanalysis and death from wood alcohol. They are what are called
world movements.

My own judgment in regard to prohibition in the British Isles is this:
In Scotland, prohibition is not coming: if anything, it is going. In
Ireland, prohibition will only be introduced when they have run out of
other forms of trouble. But in England I think that prohibition could
easily come unless the English people realise where they are drifting
and turn back. They are in the early stage of the movement already.

Turning first to Scotland, there is no fear, I say, that prohibition
will be adopted there: and this from the simple reason that the
Scotch do not drink. I have elsewhere alluded to the extraordinary
misapprehension that exists in regard to the Scotch people and their
sense of humour. I find a similar popular error in regard to the use of
whiskey by the Scotch. Because they manufacture the best whiskey in the
world, the Scotch, in popular fancy, are often thought to be addicted to
the drinking of it. This is purely a delusion. During the whole of two
or three pleasant weeks spent in lecturing in Scotland, I never on any
occasion saw whiskey made use of as a beverage. I have seen people take
it, of course, as a medicine, or as a precaution, or as a wise offset
against a rather treacherous climate; but as a beverage, never.

The manner and circumstance of their offering whiskey to a stranger
amply illustrates their point of view towards it. Thus at my first
lecture in Glasgow where I was to appear before a large and fashionable
audience, the chairman said to me in the committee room that he was
afraid that there might be a draft on the platform. Here was a serious
matter. For a lecturer who has to earn his living by his occupation, a
draft on the platform is not a thing to be disregarded. It might kill
him. Nor is it altogether safe for the chairman himself, a man already
in middle life, to be exposed to a current of cold air. In this
case, therefore, the chairman suggested that he thought it might be
"prudent"--that was his word, "prudent"--if I should take a small drop
of whiskey before encountering the draft. In return I told him that I
could not think of his accompanying me to the platform unless he would
let me insist on his taking a very reasonable precaution. Whiskey taken
on these terms not only seems like a duty but it tastes better.

In the same way I find that in Scotland it is very often necessary to
take something to drink on purely meteorological grounds. The weather
simply cannot be trusted. A man might find that on "going out into the
weather" he is overwhelmed by a heavy fog or an avalanche of snow or a
driving storm of rain. In such a case a mere drop of whiskey might save
his life. It would be folly not to take it. Again,--"coming in out
of the weather" is a thing not to be trifled with. A person coming
in unprepared and unprotected might be seized with angina pectoris or
appendicitis and die upon the spot. No reasonable person would refuse
the simple precaution of taking a small drop immediately after his

I find that, classified altogether, there are seventeen reasons advanced
in Scotland for taking whiskey. They run as follows: Reason one, because
it is raining; Two, because it is not raining; Three, because you are
just going out into the weather; Four, because you have just come in
from the weather; Five; no, I forget the ones that come after that. But
I remember that reason number seventeen is "because it canna do ye any
harm." On the whole, reason seventeen is the best.

Put in other words this means that the Scotch make use of whiskey with
dignity and without shame: and they never call it alcohol.

In England the case is different. Already the English are showing the
first signs that indicate the possible approach of prohibition. Already
all over England there are weird regulations about the closing hours
of the public houses. They open and close according to the varying
regulations of the municipality. In some places they open at six in the
morning, close down for an hour from nine till ten, open then till noon,
shut for ten minutes, and so on; in some places they are open in the
morning and closed in the evening; in other places they are open in the
evening and closed in the morning. The ancient idea was that a wayside
public house was a place of sustenance and comfort, a human need that
might be wanted any hour. It was in the same class with the life boat
or the emergency ambulance. Under the old common law the innkeeper must
supply meat and drink at any hour. If he was asleep the traveller might
wake him. And in those days meat and drink were regarded in the same
light. Note how great the change is. In modern life in England there is
nothing that you dare wake up a man for except gasoline. The mere fact
that you need a drink is no longer held to entitle you to break his

In London especially one feels the full force of the "closing"
regulations. The bars open and shut at intervals like daisies blinking
at the sun. And like the flowers at evening they close their petals with
the darkness. In London they have already adopted the deadly phrases of
the prohibitionist, such as "alcohol" and "liquor traffic" and so on:
and already the "sale of spirits" stops absolutely at about eleven
o'clock at night.

This means that after theatre hours London is a "city of dreadful
night." The people from the theatre scuttle to their homes. The lights
are extinguished in the windows. The streets darken. Only a belated taxi
still moves. At midnight the place is deserted. At 1 A.M., the lingering
footfalls echo in the empty street. Here and there a restaurant in
a fashionable street makes a poor pretence of keeping open for after
theatre suppers. Odd people, the shivering wrecks of theatre parties,
are huddled here and there. A gloomy waiter lays a sardine on the
table. The guests charge their glasses with Perrier Water, Lithia Water,
Citrate of Magnesia, or Bromo Seltzer. They eat the sardine and vanish
into the night. Not even Oshkosh, Wisconsin, or Middlebury, Vermont, is
quieter than is the night life of London. It may no doubt seem a wise
thing to go to bed early.

But it is a terrible thing to go to bed early by Act of Parliament.

All of which means that the people of England are not facing the
prohibition question fairly and squarely. If they see no harm in
"consuming alcohol" they ought to say so and let their code of
regulations reflect the fact. But the "closing" and "regulating" and
"squeezing" of the "liquor traffic", without any outspoken protest,
means letting the whole case go by default. Under these circumstances
an organised and active minority can always win and impose its will upon
the crowd.

When I was in England I amused myself one day by writing an imaginary
picture of what England will be like when the last stage is reached and
London goes the way of New York and Chicago. I cast it in the form of a
letter from an American prohibitionist in which he describes the final
triumph of prohibition in England. With the permission of the reader I
reproduce it here:


    As written in the correspondence of an American visitor

    How glad I am that I have lived to see this wonderful reform
    of prohibition at last accomplished in England. There is
    something so difficult about the British, so stolid, so hard
    to move.

    We tried everything in the great campaign that we made, and
    for ever so long it didn't seem to work. We had processions,
    just as we did at home in America, with great banners
    carried round bearing the inscription: "Do you want to save
    the boy?" But these people looked on and said, "Boy? Boy?
    What boy?" Our workers were almost disheartened. "Oh, sir,"
    said one of them, an ex-barkeeper from Oklahoma, "it does
    seem so hard that we have total prohibition in the States
    and here they can get all the drink they want." And the good
    fellow broke down and sobbed.

    But at last it has come. After the most terrific efforts we
    managed to get this nation stampeded, and for more than a
    month now England has been dry. I wish you could have
    witnessed the scenes, just like what we saw at home in
    America, when it was known that the bill had passed. The
    members of the House of Lords all stood up on their seats
    and yelled, "Rah! Rah! Rah! Who's bone dry? We are!" And the
    brewers and innkeepers were emptying their barrels of beer
    into the Thames just as at St. Louis they emptied the beer
    into the Mississippi.

    I can't tell you with what pleasure I watched a group of
    members of the Athenaeum Club sitting on the bank of the
    Thames and opening bottles of champagne and pouring them
    into the river. "To think," said one of them to me, "that
    there was a time when I used to lap up a couple of quarts of
    this terrible stuff every evening." I got him to give me a
    few bottles as a souvenir, and I got some more souvenirs,
    whiskey and liqueurs, when the members of the Beefsteak Club
    were emptying out their cellars into Green Street; so when
    you come over, I shall still be able, of course, to give you
    a drink.

    We have, as I said, been bone dry only a month, and yet
    already we are getting the same splendid results as in
    America. All the big dinners are now as refined and as
    elevating and the dinner speeches as long and as informal as
    they are in New York or Toronto. The other night at a dinner
    at the White Friars Club I heard Sir Owen Seaman speaking,
    not in that light futile way that he used to have, but quite
    differently. He talked for over an hour and a half on the
    State ownership of the Chinese Railway System, and I almost
    fancied myself back in Boston.

    And the working class too. It is just wonderful how
    prohibition has increased their efficiency. In the old days
    they used to drop their work the moment the hour struck. Now
    they simply refuse to do so. I noticed yesterday a foreman
    in charge of a building operation vainly trying to call the
    bricklayers down. "Come, come, gentlemen," he shouted, "I
    must insist on your stopping for the night." But they just
    went on laying bricks faster than ever.

    Of course, as yet there are a few slight difficulties and
    deficiencies, just as there are with us in America. We have
    had the same trouble with wood-alcohol (they call it
    methylated spirit here), with the same deplorable results.
    On some days the list of deaths is very serious, and in some
    cases we are losing men we can hardly spare. A great many of
    our leading actors--in fact, most of them--are dead. And there
    has been a heavy loss, too, among the literary class and in
    the legal profession.

    There was a very painful scene last week at the dinner of
    the Benchers of Gray's Inn. It seems that one of the chief
    justices had undertaken to make home brew for the Benchers,
    just as the people do on our side of the water. He got one
    of the waiters to fetch him some hops and three raw
    potatoes, a packet of yeast and some boiling water. In the
    end, four of the Benchers were carried out dead. But they
    are going to give them a public funeral in the Abbey.

    I regret to say that the death list in the Royal Navy is
    very heavy. Some of the best sailors are gone, and it is
    very difficult to keep admirals. But I have tried to explain
    to the people here that these are merely the things that one
    must expect, and that, with a little patience, they will
    have bone-dry admirals and bone-dry statesmen just as good
    as the wet ones. Even the clergy can be dried up with
    firmness and perseverance.

    There was also a slight sensation here when the Chancellor
    of the Exchequer brought in his first appropriation for
    maintaining prohibition. From our point of view in America,
    it was modest enough. But these people are not used to it.
    The Chancellor merely asked for ten million pounds a month
    to begin on; he explained that his task was heavy; he has to
    police, not only the entire coast, but also the interior;
    for the Grampian Hills of Scotland alone he asked a million.
    There was a good deal of questioning in the House over these
    figures. The Chancellor was asked if he intended to keep a
    hired spy at every street corner in London. He answered,
    "No, only on every other street." He added also that every
    spy must wear a brass collar with his number.

    I must admit further, and I am sorry to have to tell you
    this, that now we have prohibition it is becoming
    increasingly difficult to get a drink. In fact, sometimes,
    especially in the very early morning, it is most
    inconvenient and almost impossible. The public houses being
    closed, it is necessary to go into a drug store--just as it
    is with us--and lean up against the counter and make a
    gurgling sound like apoplexy. One often sees these apoplexy
    cases lined up four deep.

    But the people are finding substitutes, just as they do with
    us. There is a tremendous run on patent medicines, perfume,
    glue and nitric acid. It has been found that Shears' soap
    contains alcohol, and one sees people everywhere eating
    cakes of it. The upper classes have taken to chewing tobacco
    very considerably, and the use of opium in the House of
    Lords has very greatly increased.

    But I don't want you to think that if you come over here to
    see me, your private life will be in any way impaired or
    curtailed. I am glad to say that I have plenty of rich
    connections whose cellars are very amply stocked. The Duke
    of Blank is said to have 5,000 cases of Scotch whiskey, and
    I have managed to get a card of introduction to his butler.
    In fact you will find that, just as with us in America, the
    benefit of prohibition is intended to fall on the poorer
    classes. There is no desire to interfere with the rich.

IX. "We Have With Us To-night"

NOT only during my tour in England but for many years past it has been
my lot to speak and to lecture in all sorts of places, under all sorts
of circumstances and before all sorts of audiences. I say this, not in
boastfulness, but in sorrow. Indeed, I only mention it to establish the
fact that when I talk of lecturers and speakers, I talk of what I know.

Few people realise how arduous and how disagreeable public lecturing is.
The public sees the lecturer step out on to the platform in his little
white waistcoat and his long tailed coat and with a false air of a
conjurer about him, and they think him happy. After about ten minutes
of his talk they are tired of him. Most people tire of a lecture in ten
minutes; clever people can do it in five. Sensible people never go to
lectures at all. But the people who do go to a lecture and who get tired
of it, presently hold it as a sort of a grudge against the lecturer
personally. In reality his sufferings are worse than theirs.

For my own part I always try to appear as happy as possible while I am
lecturing. I take this to be part of the trade of anybody labelled a
humourist and paid as such. I have no sympathy whatever with the idea
that a humourist ought to be a lugubrious person with a face stamped
with melancholy. This is a cheap and elementary effect belonging to the
level of a circus clown. The image of "laughter shaking both his sides"
is the truer picture of comedy. Therefore, I say, I always try to appear
cheerful at my lectures and even to laugh at my own jokes. Oddly enough
this arouses a kind of resentment in some of the audience. "Well, I
will say," said a stern-looking woman who spoke to me after one of my
lectures, "you certainly do seem to enjoy your own fun." "Madam," I
answered, "if I didn't, who would?" But in reality the whole business of
being a public lecturer is one long variation of boredom and fatigue.
So I propose to set down here some of the many trials which the lecturer
has to bear.

The first of the troubles which any one who begins giving public
lectures meets at the very outset is the fact that the audience won't
come to hear him. This happens invariably and constantly, and not
through any fault or shortcoming of the speaker.

I don't say that this happened very often to me in my tour in England.
In nearly all cases I had crowded audiences: by dividing up the money
that I received by the average number of people present to hear me I
have calculated that they paid thirteen cents each. And my lectures are
evidently worth thirteen cents. But at home in Canada I have very often
tried the fatal experiment of lecturing for nothing: and in that case
the audience simply won't come. A man will turn out at night when he
knows he is going to hear a first class thirteen cent lecture; but when
the thing is given for nothing, why go to it?

The city in which I live is overrun with little societies, clubs and
associations, always wanting to be addressed. So at least it is in
appearance. In reality the societies are composed of presidents,
secretaries and officials, who want the conspicuousness of office, and a
large list of other members who won't come to the meetings. For such an
association, the invited speaker who is to lecture for nothing prepares
his lecture on "Indo-Germanic Factors in the Current of History." If he
is a professor, he takes all the winter at it. You may drop in at
his house at any time and his wife will tell you that he is "upstairs
working on his lecture." If he comes down at all it is in carpet
slippers and dressing gown. His mental vision of his meeting is that of
a huge gathering of keen people with Indo-Germanic faces, hanging upon
every word.

Then comes the fated night. There are seventeen people present. The
lecturer refuses to count them. He refers to them afterwards as "about a
hundred." To this group he reads his paper on the Indo-Germanic Factor.
It takes him two hours. When he is over the chairman invites discussion.
There is no discussion. The audience is willing to let the Indo-Germanic
factors go unchallenged. Then the chairman makes this speech. He says:

"I am very sorry indeed that we should have had such a very poor 'turn
out' to-night. I am sure that the members who were not here have missed
a real treat in the delightful paper that we have listened to. I want
to assure the lecturer that if he comes to the Owl's Club again we
can guarantee him next time a capacity audience. And will any members,
please, who haven't paid their dollar this winter, pay it either to me
or to Mr. Sibley as they pass out."

I have heard this speech (in the years when I have had to listen to it)
so many times that I know it by heart. I have made the acquaintance of
the Owl's Club under so many names that I recognise it at once. I am
aware that its members refuse to turn out in cold weather; that they do
not turn out in wet weather; that when the weather is really fine,
it is impossible to get them together; that the slightest
counter-attraction,--a hockey match, a sacred concert,--goes to their
heads at once.

There was a time when I was the newly appointed occupant of a college
chair and had to address the Owl's Club. It is a penalty that all new
professors pay; and the Owls batten upon them like bats. It is one of
the compensations of age that I am free of the Owl's Club forever. But
in the days when I still had to address them, I used to take it out of
the Owls in a speech, delivered, in imagination only and not out loud,
to the assembled meeting of the seventeen Owls, after the chairman had
made his concluding remarks. It ran as follows:

"Gentlemen--if you are such, which I doubt. I realise that the paper
which I have read on 'Was Hegel a deist?' has been an error. I spent
all the winter on it and now I realise that not one of you pups know who
Hegel was or what a deist is. Never mind. It is over now, and I am glad.
But just let me say this, only this, which won't keep you a minute. Your
chairman has been good enough to say that if I come again you will get
together a capacity audience to hear me. Let me tell you that if your
society waits for its next meeting till I come to address you again, you
will wait indeed. In fact, gentlemen--I say it very frankly--it will be
in another world."

But I pass over the audience. Suppose there is a real audience, and
suppose them all duly gathered together. Then it becomes the business of
that gloomy gentleman--facetiously referred to in the newspaper reports
as the "genial chairman"--to put the lecturer to the bad. In nine cases
out of ten he can do so. Some chairmen, indeed, develop a great gift for
it. Here are one or two examples from my own experience:

"Ladies and gentlemen," said the chairman of a society in a little
country town in Western Ontario, to which I had come as a paid (a very
humbly paid) lecturer, "we have with us tonight a gentleman" (here he
made an attempt to read my name on a card, failed to read it and put the
card back in his pocket)--"a gentleman who is to lecture to us on" (here
he looked at his card again)--"on Ancient Ancient,--I don't very well
see what it is--Ancient--Britain? Thank you, on Ancient Britain. Now,
this is the first of our series of lectures for this winter. The last
series, as you all know, was not a success. In fact, we came out at the
end of the year with a deficit. So this year we are starting a new line
and trying the experiment of cheaper talent."

Here the chairman gracefully waved his hand toward me and there was a
certain amount of applause. "Before I sit down," the chairman added,
"I'd like to say that I am sorry to see such a poor turn-out to-night
and to ask any of the members who haven't paid their dollar to pay it
either to me or to Mr. Sibley as they pass out."

Let anybody who knows the discomfiture of coming out before an audience
on any terms, judge how it feels to crawl out in front of them labelled
cheaper talent.

Another charming way in which the chairman endeavours to put both the
speaker for the evening and the audience into an entirely good humour,
is by reading out letters of regret from persons unable to be present.
This, of course, is only for grand occasions when the speaker has been
invited to come under very special auspices. It was my fate, not long
ago, to "appear" (this is the correct word to use in this connection) in
this capacity when I was going about Canada trying to raise some money
for the relief of the Belgians. I travelled in great glory with a pass
on the Canadian Pacific Railway (not since extended: officials of the
road kindly note this) and was most generously entertained wherever I

It was, therefore, the business of the chairman at such meetings as
these to try and put a special distinction or cachet on the gathering.
This is how it was done:

"Ladies and gentlemen," said the chairman, rising from his seat on the
platform with a little bundle of papers in his hand, "before I introduce
the speaker of the evening, I have one or two items that I want to read
to you." Here he rustles his papers and there is a deep hush in the hall
while he selects one. "We had hoped to have with us to-night Sir Robert
Borden, the Prime Minister of this Dominion. I have just received a
telegram from Sir Robert in which he says that he will not be able to be
here" (great applause). The chairman puts up his hand for silence, picks
up another telegram and continues, "Our committee, ladies and gentlemen,
telegraphed an invitation to Sir Wilfrid Laurier very cordially inviting
him to be here to-night. I have here Sir Wilfrid's answer in which he
says that he will not be able to be with us" (renewed applause). The
chairman again puts up his hand for silence and goes on, picking up one
paper after another. "The Minister of Finance regrets that he will be
unable to come" (applause). "Mr. Rodolphe Lemieux (applause) will not
be here (great applause)--the Mayor of Toronto (applause) is detained
on business (wild applause)--the Anglican Bishop of the Diocese
(applause)--the Principal of the University College, Toronto (great
applause)--the Minister of Education (applause)--none of these are
coming." There is a great clapping of hands and enthusiasm, after which
the meeting is called to order with a very distinct and palpable feeling
that it is one of the most distinguished audiences ever gathered in the

Here is another experience of the same period while I was pursuing the
same exalted purpose: I arrived in a little town in Eastern Ontario,
and found to my horror that I was billed to "appear" in a church. I was
supposed to give readings from my works, and my books are supposed to be
of a humorous character. A church hardly seemed the right place to get
funny in. I explained my difficulty to the pastor of the church, a
very solemn looking man. He nodded his head, slowly and gravely, as he
grasped my difficulty. "I see," he said, "I see, but I think that I can
introduce you to our people in such a way as to make that right."

When the time came, he led me up on to the pulpit platform of the
church, just beside and below the pulpit itself, with a reading desk and
a big bible and a shaded light beside it. It was a big church, and the
audience, sitting in half darkness, as is customary during a sermon,
reached away back into the gloom. The place was packed full and
absolutely quiet. Then the chairman spoke:

"Dear friends," he said, "I want you to understand that it will be all
right to laugh tonight. Let me hear you laugh heartily, laugh right out,
just as much as ever you want to, because" (and here his voice assumed
the deep sepulchral tones of the preacher),-"when we think of the noble
object for which the professor appears to-night, we may be assured that
the Lord will forgive any one who will laugh at the professor."

I am sorry to say, however, that none of the audience, even with the
plenary absolution in advance, were inclined to take a chance on it.

I recall in this same connection the chairman of a meeting at a certain
town in Vermont. He represents the type of chairman who turns up so
late at the meeting that the committee have no time to explain to him
properly what the meeting is about or who the speaker is. I noticed
on this occasion that he introduced me very guardedly by name (from a
little card) and said nothing about the Belgians, and nothing about my
being (supposed to be) a humourist. This last was a great error. The
audience, for want of guidance, remained very silent and decorous, and
well behaved during my talk. Then, somehow, at the end, while some one
was moving a vote of thanks, the chairman discovered his error. So he
tried to make it good. Just as the audience were getting up to put on
their wraps, he rose, knocked on his desk and said:

"Just a minute, please, ladies and gentlemen, just a minute. I have just
found out--I should have known it sooner, but I was late in coming to
this meeting--that the speaker who has just addressed you has done so in
behalf of the Belgian Relief Fund. I understand that he is a well-known
Canadian humourist (ha! ha!) and I am sure that we have all been
immensely amused (ha! ha!). He is giving his delightful talks (ha!
ha!)--though I didn't know this till just this minute--for the Belgian
Relief Fund, and he is giving his services for nothing. I am sure when
we realise this, we shall all feel that it has been well worth while to
come. I am only sorry that we didn't have a better turn out to-night.
But I can assure the speaker that if he will come again, we shall
guarantee him a capacity audience. And I may say, that if there are any
members of this association who have not paid their dollar this season,
they can give it either to myself or to Mr. Sibley as they pass out."

With the amount of accumulated experience that I had behind me I was
naturally interested during my lecture in England in the chairmen who
were to introduce me. I cannot help but feel that I have acquired a fine
taste in chair men. I know them just as other experts know old furniture
and Pekinese dogs. The witty chairman, the prosy chairman, the solemn
chairman,--I know them all. As soon as I shake hands with the chairman
in the Committee room I can tell exactly how he will act.

There are certain types of chairmen who have so often been described and
are so familiar that it is not worth while to linger on them. Everybody
knows the chairman who says; "Now, ladies and gentlemen, you have not
come here to listen to me. So I will be very brief; in fact, I will
confine my remarks to just one or two very short observations." He then
proceeds to make observations for twenty-five minutes. At the end of
it he remarks with charming simplicity, "Now I know that you are all
impatient to hear the lecturer...."

And everybody knows the chairman who comes to the meeting with a very
imperfect knowledge of who or what the lecturer is, and is driven to
introduce him by saying:

"Our lecturer of the evening is widely recognised as one of the greatest
authorities on; on,--on his subject in the world to-day. He comes to
us from; from a great distance and I can assure him that it is a
great pleasure to this audience to welcome a man who has done so much
to,--to,--to advance the interests of,--of; of everything as he has."

But this man, bad as he is, is not so bad as the chairman whose
preparation for introducing the speaker has obviously been made at the
eleventh hour. Just such a chairman it was my fate to strike in the
form of a local alderman, built like an ox, in one of those small
manufacturing places in the north of England where they grow men of this
type and elect them into office.

"I never saw the lecturer before," he said, "but I've read his book." (I
have written nineteen books.) "The committee was good enough to send me
over his book last night. I didn't read it all but I took a look at the
preface and I can assure him that he is very welcome. I understand he
comes from a college...." Then he turned directly towards me and said in
a loud voice, "What was the name of that college over there you said you
came from?"

"McGill," I answered equally loudly.

"He comes from McGill," the chairman boomed out. "I never heard of
McGill myself but I can assure him he's welcome. He's going to lecture
to us on,--what did you say it was to be about?"

"It's a humorous lecture," I said.

"Ay, it's to be a humorous lecture, ladies and gentlemen, and I'll
venture to say it will be a rare treat. I'm only sorry I can't stay for
it myself as I have to get back over to the Town Hall for a meeting. So
without more ado I'll get off the platform and let the lecturer go on
with his humour."

A still more terrible type of chairman is one whose mind is evidently
preoccupied and disturbed with some local happening and who comes on to
the platform with a face imprinted with distress. Before introducing the
lecturer he refers in moving tones to the local sorrow, whatever it is.
As a prelude to a humorous lecture this is not gay.

Such a chairman fell to my lot one night before a gloomy audience in
a London suburb. "As I look about this hall to-night," he began in a
doleful whine, "I see many empty seats." Here he stifled a sob. "Nor am
I surprised that a great many of our people should prefer to-night to
stay quietly at home--"

I had no clue to what he meant. I merely gathered that some particular
sorrow must have overwhelmed the town that day.

"To many it may seem hardly fitting that after the loss our town has
sustained we should come out here to listen to a humorous lecture,--",
"What's the trouble?" I whispered to a citizen sitting beside me on the

"Our oldest resident"--he whispered back--"he died this morning."

"How old?"

"Ninety-four," he whispered.

Meantime the chairman, with deep sobs in his voice, continued:

"We debated in our committee whether or not we should have the lecture.
Had it been a lecture of another character our position would have been
less difficult,--", By this time I began to feel like a criminal. "The
case would have been different had the lecture been one that contained
information, or that was inspired by some serious purpose, or that could
have been of any benefit. But this is not so. We understand that this
lecture which Mr. Leacock has already given, I believe, twenty or thirty
times in England,--"

Here he turned to me with a look of mild reproval while the silent
audience, deeply moved, all looked at me as at a man who went around
the country insulting the memory of the dead by giving a lecture thirty

"We understand, though this we shall have an opportunity of testing for
ourselves presently, that Mr. Leacock's lecture is not of a character
which,--has not, so to speak, the kind of value, in short, is not a
lecture of that class."

Here he paused and choked back a sob.

"Had our poor friend been spared to us for another six years he would
have rounded out the century. But it was not to be. For two or three
years past he has noted that somehow his strength was failing, that, for
some reason or other, he was no longer what he had been. Last month
he began to droop. Last week he began to sink. Speech left him last
Tuesday. This morning he passed, and he has gone now, we trust, in
safety to where there are no lectures."

The audience were now nearly in tears.

The chairman made a visible effort towards firmness and control.

"But yet," he continued, "our committee felt that in another sense
it was our duty to go on with our arrangements. I think, ladies and
gentlemen, that the war has taught us all that it is always our duty to
'carry on,' no matter how hard it may be, no matter with what reluctance
we do it, and whatever be the difficulties and the dangers, we must
carry on to the end: for after all there is an end and by resolution and
patience we can reach it.

"I will, therefore, invite Mr. Leacock to deliver to us his humorous
lecture, the title of which I have forgotten, but I understand it to
be the same lecture which he has already given thirty or forty times in

But contrast with this melancholy man the genial and pleasing person who
introduced me, all upside down, to a metropolitan audience.

He was so brisk, so neat, so sure of himself that it didn't seem
possible that he could make any kind of a mistake. I thought it
unnecessary to coach him. He seemed absolutely all right.

"It is a great pleasure,"--he said, with a charming, easy appearance of
being entirely at home on the platform,--"to welcome here tonight our
distinguished Canadian fellow citizen, Mr. Learoyd"--he turned half
way towards me as he spoke with a sort of gesture of welcome, admirably
executed. If only my name had been Learoyd instead of Leacock it would
have been excellent.

"There are many of us," he continued, "who have awaited Mr. Learoyd's
coming with the most pleasant anticipations. We seemed from his books to
know him already as an old friend. In fact I think I do not exaggerate
when I tell Mr. Learoyd that his name in our city has long been a
household word. I have very, very great pleasure, ladies and gentlemen,
in introducing to you Mr. Learoyd."

As far as I know that chairman never knew his error. At the close of my
lecture he said that he was sure that the audience "were deeply indebted
to Mr. Learoyd," and then with a few words of rapid, genial apology
buzzed off, like a humming bird, to other avocations. But I have amply
forgiven him: anything for kindness and geniality; it makes the whole
of life smooth. If that chairman ever comes to my home town he is hereby
invited to lunch or dine with me, as Mr. Learoyd or under any name that
he selects.

Such a man is, after all, in sharp contrast to the kind of chairman who
has no native sense of the geniality that ought to accompany his office.
There is, for example, a type of man who thinks that the fitting way
to introduce a lecturer is to say a few words about the finances of the
society to which he is to lecture (for money) and about the difficulty
of getting members to turn out to hear lectures.

Everybody has heard such a speech a dozen times. But it is the paid
lecturer sitting on the platform who best appreciates it. It runs like

"Now, ladies and gentlemen, before I invite the lecturer of the evening
to address us there are a few words that I would like to say. There are
a good many members who are in arrears with their fees. I am aware that
these are hard times and it is difficult to collect money but at the
same time the members ought to remember that the expenses of the society
are very heavy. The fees that are asked by the lecturers, as I suppose
you know, have advanced very greatly in the last few years. In fact I
may say that they are becoming almost prohibitive."

This discourse is pleasant hearing for the lecturer. He can see the
members who have not yet paid their annual dues eyeing him with hatred.
The chairman goes on:

"Our finance committee were afraid at first that we could not afford to
bring Mr. Leacock to our society. But fortunately through the personal
generosity of two of our members who subscribed ten pounds each out of
their own pocket we are able to raise the required sum."

   (Applause: during which the lecturer sits looking and feeling
   like the embodiment of the "required sum.")

"Now, ladies and gentlemen," continues the chairman, "what I feel is
that when we have members in the society who are willing to make this
sacrifice,--because it is a sacrifice, ladies and gentlemen,--we ought
to support them in every way. The members ought to think it their duty
to turn out to the lectures. I know that it is not an easy thing to do.
On a cold night, like this evening, it is hard, I admit it is hard, to
turn out from the comfort of one's own fireside and come and listen to a
lecture. But I think that the members should look at it not as a matter
of personal comfort but as a matter of duty towards this society. We
have managed to keep this society alive for fifteen years and, though I
don't say it in any spirit of boasting, it has not been an easy thing
to do. It has required a good deal of pretty hard spade work by the
committee. Well, ladies and gentlemen, I suppose you didn't come here to
listen to me and perhaps I have said enough about our difficulties and
troubles. So without more ado (this is always a favourite phrase with
chairmen) I'll invite Mr. Leacock to address the society; oh, just a
word before I sit down. Will all those who are leaving before the end of
the lecture kindly go out through the side door and step as quietly as
possible? Mr. Leacock."

Anybody who is in the lecture business knows that that introduction is
far worse than being called Mr. Learoyd.

When any lecturer goes across to England from this side of the water
there is naturally a tendency on the part of the chairman to play
upon this fact. This is especially true in the case of a Canadian like
myself. The chairman feels that the moment is fitting for one of those
great imperial thoughts that bind the British Empire together. But
sometimes the expression of the thought falls short of the full glory of
the conception.

Witness this (word for word) introduction that was used against me by a
clerical chairman in a quiet spot in the south of England:

"Not so long ago, ladies and gentlemen," said the vicar, "we used to
send out to Canada various classes of our community to help build up
that country. We sent out our labourers, we sent out our scholars and
professors. Indeed we even sent out our criminals. And now," with a wave
of his hand towards me, "they are coming back."

There was no laughter. An English audience is nothing if not literal;
and they are as polite as they are literal. They understood that I was a
reformed criminal and as such they gave me a hearty burst of applause.

But there is just one thing that I would like to chronicle here in
favour of the chairman and in gratitude for his assistance. Even at his
worst he is far better than having no chairman at all. Over in England a
great many societies and public bodies have adopted the plan of "cutting
out the chairman." Wearying of his faults, they have forgotten the
reasons for his existence and undertaken to do without him.

The result is ghastly. The lecturer steps up on to the platform alone
and unaccompanied. There is a feeble ripple of applause; he makes his
miserable bow and explains with as much enthusiasm as he can who he is.
The atmosphere of the thing is so cold that an 'Arctic expedition isn't
in it with it. I found also the further difficulty that in the absence
of the chairman very often the audience, or a large part of it, doesn't
know who the lecturer is. On many occasions I received on appearing a
wild burst of applause under the impression that I was somebody else.
I have been mistaken in this way for Mr. Briand, then Prime Minister of
France, for Charlie Chaplin, for Mrs. Asquith,--but stop, I may get into
a libel suit. All I mean is that without a chairman "we celebrities" get
terribly mixed up together.

To one experience of my tour as a lecturer I shall always be able to
look back with satisfaction. I nearly had the pleasure of killing a man
with laughing: and this in the most literal sense. American lecturers
have often dreamed of doing this. I nearly did it. The man in question
was a comfortable apoplectic-looking man with the kind of merry rubicund
face that is seen in countries where they don't have prohibition. He was
seated near the back of the hall and was laughing uproariously. All of
a sudden I realised that something was happening. The man had collapsed
sideways on to the floor; a little group of men gathered about him; they
lifted him up and I could see them carrying him out, a silent and inert
mass. As in duty bound I went right on with my lecture. But my heart
beat high with satisfaction. I was sure that I had killed him. The
reader may judge how high these hopes rose when a moment or two later a
note was handed to the chairman who then asked me to pause for a
moment in my lecture and stood up and asked, "Is there a doctor in the
audience?" A doctor rose and silently went out. The lecture continued;
but there was no more laughter; my aim had now become to kill another
of them and they knew it. They were aware that if they started laughing
they might die. In a few minutes a second note was handed to the
chairman. He announced very gravely, "A second doctor is wanted." The
lecture went on in deeper silence than ever. All the audience were
waiting for a third announcement. It came. A new message was handed to
the chairman. He rose and said, "If Mr. Murchison, the undertaker, is in
the audience, will he kindly step outside."

That man, I regret to say, got well.

Disappointing though it is to read it, he recovered. I sent back next
morning from London a telegram of enquiry (I did it in reality so as
to have a proper proof of his death) and received the answer, "Patient
doing well; is sitting up in bed and reading Lord Haldane's Relativity;
no danger of relapse."

X. Have the English any Sense of Humour?

It was understood that the main object of my trip to England was to find
out whether the British people have any sense of humour. No doubt the
Geographical Society had this investigation in mind in not paying
my expenses. Certainly on my return I was at once assailed with the
question on all sides, "Have they got a sense of humour? Even if it is
only a rudimentary sense, have they got it or have they not?" I propose
therefore to address myself to the answer to this question.

A peculiar interest always attaches to humour. There is no quality of
the human mind about which its possessor is more sensitive than the
sense of humour. A man will freely confess that he has no ear for music,
or no taste for fiction, or even no interest in religion. But I have yet
to see the man who announces that he has no sense of humour. In point of
fact, every man is apt to think himself possessed of an exceptional gift
in this direction, and that even if his humour does not express itself
in the power either to make a joke or to laugh at one, it none the less
consists in a peculiar insight or inner light superior to that of other

The same thing is true of nations. Each thinks its own humour of
an entirely superior kind, and either refuses to admit, or admits
reluctantly, the humorous quality of other peoples. The Englishman may
credit the Frenchman with a certain light effervescence of mind which he
neither emulates nor envies; the Frenchman may acknowledge that English
literature shows here and there a sort of heavy playfulness; but neither
of them would consider that the humour of the other nation could stand a
moment's comparison with his own.

Yet, oddly enough, American humour stands as a conspicuous exception to
this general rule. A certain vogue clings to it. Ever since the spacious
days of Artemus Ward and Mark Twain it has enjoyed an extraordinary
reputation, and this not only on our own continent, but in England. It
was in a sense the English who "discovered" Mark Twain; I mean it
was they who first clearly recognised him as a man of letters of the
foremost rank, at a time when academic Boston still tried to explain him
away as a mere comic man of the West. In the same way Artemus Ward is
still held in affectionate remembrance in London, and, of the later
generation, Mr. Dooley at least is a household word.

This is so much the case that a sort of legend has grown around American
humour. It is presumed to be a superior article and to enjoy the same
kind of pre-eminence as French cooking, the Russian ballet, and Italian
organ grinding. With this goes the converse supposition that the British
people are inferior in humour, that a joke reaches them only with great
difficulty, and that a British audience listens to humour in gloomy and
unintelligent silence. People still love to repeat the famous story of
how John Bright listened attentively to Artemus Ward's lecture in
London and then said, gravely, that he "doubted many of the young man's
statements"; and readers still remember Mark Twain's famous parody of
the discussion of his book by a wooden-headed reviewer of an English

But the legend in reality is only a legend. If the English are inferior
to Americans in humour, I, for one, am at a loss to see where it comes
in. If there is anything on our continent superior in humour to Punch I
should like to see it. If we have any more humorous writers in our midst
than E. V. Lucas and Charles Graves and Owen Seaman I should like to
read what they write; and if there is any audience capable of more
laughter and more generous appreciation than an audience in London, or
Bristol, or Aberdeen, I should like to lecture to it.

During my voyage of discovery in Great Britain I had very exceptional
opportunities for testing the truth of these comparisons. It was my
good fortune to appear as an avowed humourist in all the great British
cities. I lectured as far north as Aberdeen and as far south as Brighton
and Bournemouth; I travelled eastward to Ipswich and westward into
Wales. I spoke on serious subjects, but with a joke or two in loco,
at the universities, at business gatherings, and at London dinners; I
watched, lost in admiration, the inspired merriment of the Savages
of Adelphi Terrace, and in my moments of leisure I observed, with a
scientific eye, the gaieties of the London revues. As a result of which
I say with conviction that, speaking by and large, the two communities
are on the same level. A Harvard audience, as I have reason gratefully
to acknowledge, is wonderful. But an Oxford audience is just as good. A
gathering of business men in a textile town in the Midlands is just
as heavy as a gathering of business men in Decatur, Indiana, but no
heavier; and an audience of English schoolboys as at Rugby or at Clifton
is capable of a wild and sustained merriment not to be outdone from
Halifax to Los Angeles.

There is, however, one vital difference between American and English
audiences which would be apt to discourage at the outset any American
lecturer who might go to England. The English audiences, from the nature
of the way in which they have been brought together, expect more. In
England they still associate lectures with information. We don't. Our
American lecture audiences are, in nine cases out of ten, organised by
a woman's club of some kind and drawn not from the working class, but
from--what shall we call it?--the class that doesn't have to work,
or, at any rate, not too hard. It is largely a social audience, well
educated without being "highbrow," and tolerant and kindly to a degree.
In fact, what the people mainly want is to see the lecturer. They have
heard all about G. K. Chesterton and Hugh Walpole and John Drinkwater,
and so when these gentlemen come to town the woman's club want to have
a look at them, just as the English people, who are all crazy about
animals, flock to the zoo to look at a new giraffe. They don't expect
the giraffe to do anything in particular. They want to see it, that's
all. So with the American woman's club audience. After they have
seen Mr. Chesterton they ask one another as they come out--just as an
incidental matter--"Did you understand his lecture?" and the answer is,
"I can't say I did." But there is no malice about it. They can now go
and say that they have seen Mr. Chesterton; that's worth two dollars in
itself. The nearest thing to this attitude of mind that I heard of in
England was at the City Temple in London, where they have every week a
huge gathering of about two thousand people, to listen to a (so-called)
popular lecture. When I was there I was told that the person who had
preceded me was Lord Haldane, who had lectured on Einstein's Theory
of Relativity. I said to the chairman, "Surely this kind of audience
couldn't understand a lecture like that!" He shook his head. "No," he
said, "they didn't understand it, but they all enjoyed it."

I don't mean to imply by what I said above that American lecture
audiences do not appreciate good things or that the English lecturers
who come to this continent are all giraffes. On the contrary: when the
audience finds that Chesterton and Walpole and Drinkwater, in addition
to being visible, are also singularly interesting lecturers, they are
all the better pleased. But this doesn't alter the fact that they have
come primarily to see the lecturer.

Not so in England. Here a lecture (outside London) is organised on a
much sterner footing. The people are there for information. The lecture
is organised not by idle, amiable, charming women, but by a body called,
with variations, the Philosophical Society. From experience I should
define an English Philosophical Society as all the people in town
who don't know anything about philosophy. The academic and university
classes are never there. The audience is only of plainer folk. In the
United States and Canada at any evening lecture a large sprinkling of
the audience are in evening dress. At an English lecture (outside of
London) none of them are; philosophy is not to be wooed in such a garb.
Nor are there the same commodious premises, the same bright lights, and
the same atmosphere of gaiety as at a society lecture in America. On
the contrary, the setting is a gloomy one. In England, in winter, night
begins at four in the afternoon. In the manufacturing towns of the
Midlands and the north (which is where the philosophical societies
flourish) there is always a drizzling rain and wet slop underfoot,
a bedraggled poverty in the streets, and a dimness of lights that
contrasts with the glare of light in an American town. There is no
visible sign in the town that a lecture is to happen, no placards, no
advertisements, nothing. The lecturer is conducted by a chairman through
a side door in a dingy building (The Institute, established 1840), and
then all of a sudden in a huge, dim hall--there sits the Philosophical
Society. There are a thousand of them, but they sit as quiet as a prayer
meeting. They are waiting to be fed--on information.

Now I don't mean to say that the Philosophical Society are not a good
audience. In their own way they're all right. Once the Philosophical
Society has decided that a lecture is humorous they do not stint
their laughter. I have had many times the satisfaction of seeing a
Philosophical Society swept away from its moorings and tossing in a sea
of laughter, as generous and as whole-hearted as anything we ever see in

But they are not so willing to begin. With us the chairman has only to
say to the gaily dressed members of the Ladies' Fortnightly Club, "Well,
ladies, I'm sure we are all looking forward very much to Mr. Walpole's
lecture," and at once there is a ripple of applause, and a responsive
expression on a hundred charming faces.

Not so the Philosophical Society of the Midlands. The chairman rises.
He doesn't call for silence. It is there, thick. "We have with us
to-night," he says, "a man whose name is well known to the Philosophical
Society" (here he looks at his card), "Mr. Stephen Leacock." (Complete
silence.) "He is a professor of political economy at--" Here he turns to
me and says, "Which college did you say?" I answer quite audibly in
the silence, "At McGill." "He is at McGill," says the chairman. (More
silence.) "I don't suppose, however, ladies and gentlemen, that he's
come here to talk about political economy." This is meant as a jest, but
the audience takes it as a threat. "However, ladies and gentlemen, you
haven't come here to listen to me" (this evokes applause, the first of
the evening), "so without more ado" (the man always has the impression
that there's been a lot of "ado," but I never see any of it) "I'll now
introduce Mr. Leacock." (Complete silence.)

Nothing of which means the least harm. It only implies that the
Philosophical Society are true philosophers in accepting nothing
unproved. They are like the man from Missouri. They want to be shown.
And undoubtedly it takes a little time, therefore, to rouse them. I
remember listening with great interest to Sir Michael Sadler, who is
possessed of a very neat wit, introducing me at Leeds. He threw three
jokes, one after the other, into the heart of a huge, silent audience
without effect. He might as well have thrown soap bubbles. But the
fourth joke broke fair and square like a bomb in the middle of the
Philosophical Society and exploded them into convulsions. The process is
very like what artillery men tell of "bracketing" the object fired at,
and then landing fairly on it.

In what I have just written about audiences I have purposely been using
the word English and not British, for it does not in the least apply to
the Scotch. There is, for a humorous lecturer, no better audience in
the world than a Scotch audience. The old standing joke about the Scotch
sense of humour is mere nonsense. Yet one finds it everywhere.

"So you're going to try to take humour up to Scotland," the most eminent
author in England said to me. "Well, the Lord help you. You'd better
take an axe with you to open their skulls; there is no other way." How
this legend started I don't know, but I think it is because the English
are jealous of the Scotch. They got into the Union with them in 1707
and they can't get out. The Scotch don't want Home Rule, or Swa Raj, or
Dominion status, or anything; they just want the English. When they want
money they go to London and make it; if they want literary fame they
sell their books to the English; and to prevent any kind of political
trouble they take care to keep the Cabinet well filled with Scotchmen.
The English for shame's sake can't get out of the Union, so they
retaliate by saying that the Scotch have no sense of humour. But there's
nothing in it. One has only to ask any of the theatrical people and they
will tell you that the audiences in Glasgow and Edinburgh are the best
in the British Isles--possess the best taste and the best ability to
recognise what is really good.

The reason for this lies, I think, in the well-known fact that the
Scotch are a truly educated people, not educated in the mere sense of
having been made to go to school, but in the higher sense of having
acquired an interest in books and a respect for learning. In England
the higher classes alone possess this, the working class as a whole know
nothing of it. But in Scotland the attitude is universal. And the more
I reflect upon the subject, the more I believe that what counts most
in the appreciation of humour is not nationality, but the degree of
education enjoyed by the individual concerned. I do not think that there
is any doubt that educated people possess a far wider range of humour
than the uneducated class. Some people, of course, get overeducated
and become hopelessly academic. The word "highbrow" has been invented
exactly to fit the case. The sense of humour in the highbrow has become
atrophied, or, to vary the metaphor, it is submerged or buried under the
accumulated strata of his education, on the top soil of which flourishes
a fine growth of conceit. But even in the highbrow the educated
appreciation of humour is there--away down. Generally, if one attempts
to amuse a highbrow he will resent it as if the process were beneath
him; or perhaps the intellectual jealousy and touchiness with which he
is always overcharged will lead him to retaliate with a pointless
story from Plato. But if the highbrow is right off his guard and has no
jealousy in his mind, you may find him roaring with laughter and wiping
his spectacles, with his sides shaking, and see him converted as by
magic into the merry, clever little school-boy that he was thirty years
ago, before his education ossified him.

But with the illiterate and the rustic no such process is possible. His
sense of humour may be there as a sense, but the mechanism for setting
it in operation is limited and rudimentary. Only the broadest and most
elementary forms of joke can reach him. The magnificent mechanism of the
art of words is, quite literally, a sealed book to him. Here and there,
indeed, a form of fun is found so elementary in its nature and yet so
excellent in execution that it appeals to all alike, to the illiterate
and to the highbrow, to the peasant and the professor. Such, for
example, are the antics of Mr. Charles Chaplin or the depiction of Mr.
Jiggs by the pencil of George McManus. But such cases are rare. As a
rule the cheap fun that excites the rustic to laughter is execrable to
the man of education.

In the light of what I have said before it follows that the individuals
that are findable in every English or American audience are much the
same. All those who lecture or act are well aware that there are certain
types of people that are always to be seen somewhere in the hall. Some
of these belong to the general class of discouraging people. They listen
in stolid silence. No light of intelligence ever gleams on their faces;
no response comes from their eyes.

I find, for example, that wherever I go there is always seated in the
audience, about three seats from the front, a silent man with a big
motionless face like a melon. He is always there. I have seen that
man in every town or city from Richmond, Indiana, to Bournemouth in
Hampshire. He haunts me. I get to expect him. I feel like nodding to
him from the platform. And I find that all other lecturers have the same
experience. Wherever they go the man with the big face is always there.
He never laughs; no matter if the people all round him are
convulsed with laughter, he sits there like a rock--or, no, like a
toad--immovable. What he thinks I don't know. Why he comes to lectures I
cannot guess. Once, and once only, I spoke to him, or, rather, he spoke
to me. I was coming out from the lecture and found myself close to him
in the corridor. It had been a rather gloomy evening; the audience had
hardly laughed at all; and I know nothing sadder than a humorous lecture
without laughter. The man with the big face, finding himself beside me,
turned and said, "Some of them people weren't getting that to-night."
His tone of sympathy seemed to imply that he had got it all himself;
if so, he must have swallowed it whole without a sign. But I have since
thought that this man with the big face may have his own internal form
of appreciation. This much, however, I know: to look at him from the
platform is fatal. One sustained look into his big, motionless face and
the lecturer would be lost; inspiration would die upon one's lips--the
basilisk isn't in it with him.

Personally, I no sooner see the man with the big face than instinctively
I turn my eyes away. I look round the hall for another man that I know
is always there, the opposite type, the little man with the spectacles.
There he sits, good soul, about twelve rows back, his large spectacles
beaming with appreciation and his quick face anticipating every point.
I imagine him to be by trade a minor journalist or himself a writer of
sorts, but with not enough of success to have spoiled him.

There are other people always there, too. There is the old lady who
thinks the lecture improper; it doesn't matter how moral it is, she's
out for impropriety and she can find it anywhere. Then there is another
very terrible man against whom all American lecturers in England should
be warned--the man who is leaving on the 9 P.M. train. English railways
running into suburbs and near-by towns have a schedule which is
expressly arranged to have the principal train leave before the lecture
ends. Hence the 9-P.M.-train man. He sits right near the front, and
at ten minutes to nine he gathers up his hat, coat, and umbrella very
deliberately, rises with great calm, and walks firmly away. His air is
that of a man who has stood all that he can and can bear no more. Till
one knows about this man, and the others who rise after him, it is very
disconcerting; at first I thought I must have said something to reflect
upon the royal family. But presently the lecturer gets to understand
that it is only the nine-o'clock train and that all the audience know
about it. Then it's all right. It's just like the people rising and
stretching themselves after the seventh innings in baseball.

In all that goes above I have been emphasising the fact that the British
and the American sense of humour are essentially the same thing.
But there are, of course, peculiar differences of form and peculiar
preferences of material that often make them seem to diverge widely.

By this I mean that each community has, within limits, its own
particular ways of being funny and its own particular conception of a
joke. Thus, a Scotchman likes best a joke which he has all to himself
or which he shares reluctantly with a few; the thing is too rich to
distribute. The American loves particularly as his line of joke an
anecdote with the point all concentrated at the end and exploding in a
phrase. The Englishman loves best as his joke the narration of something
that actually did happen and that depends, of course; for its point on
its reality.

There are plenty of minor differences, too, in point of mere form, and
very naturally each community finds the particular form used by the
others less pleasing than its own. In fact, for this very reason each
people is apt to think its own humour the best.

Thus, on our side of the Atlantic, to cite our own faults first, we
still cling to the supposed humour of bad spelling. We have, indeed,
told ourselves a thousand times over that bad spelling is not funny, but
is very tiresome. Yet it is no sooner laid aside and buried than it gets
resurrected. I suppose the real reason is that it is funny, at least
to our eyes. When Bill Nye spells wife with "yph" we can't help being
amused. Now Bill Nye's bad spelling had absolutely no point to it except
its oddity. At times it was extremely funny, but as a mode it led easily
to widespread and pointless imitation. It was the kind of thing--like
poetry--that anybody can do badly. It was most deservedly abandoned with
execration. No American editor would print it to-day. But witness the
new and excellent effect produced with bad spelling by Mr. Ring W.
Lardner. Here, however, the case is altered; it is not the falseness of
Mr. Lardner's spelling that is the amusing feature of it, but the truth
of it. When he writes, "dear friend, Al, I would of rote sooner," etc.,
he is truer to actual sound and intonation than the lexicon. The mode
is excellent. But the imitations will soon debase it into such bad coin
that it will fail to pass current. In England, however, the humour of
bad spelling does not and has never, I believe, flourished. Bad spelling
is only used in England as an attempt to reproduce phonetically a
dialect; it is not intended that the spelling itself should be thought
funny, but the dialect that it represents. But the effect, on the whole,
is tiresome. A little dose of the humour of Lancashire or Somerset or
Yorkshire pronunciation may be all right, but a whole page of it looks
like the gibbering of chimpanzees set down on paper.

In America also we run perpetually to the (supposed) humour of slang, a
form not used in England. If we were to analyse what we mean by slang I
think it would be found to consist of the introduction of new metaphors
or new forms of language of a metaphorical character, strained almost
to the breaking point. Sometimes we do it with a single word. When some
genius discovers that a "hat" is really only "a lid" placed on top of
a human being, straightway the word "lid" goes rippling over the
continent. Similarly a woman becomes a "skirt," and so on ad infinitum.

These words presently either disappear or else retain a permanent place,
being slang no longer. No doubt half our words, if not all of them,
were once slang. Even within our own memory we can see the whole
process carried through; "cinch" once sounded funny; it is now standard
American-English. But other slang is made up of descriptive phrases. At
the best, these slang phrases are--at least we think they are--extremely
funny. But they are funniest when newly coined, and it takes a master
hand to coin them well. For a supreme example of wild vagaries of
language used for humour, one might take O. Henry's "Gentle Grafter."
But here the imitation is as easy as it is tiresome. The invention of
pointless slang phrases without real suggestion or merit is one of our
most familiar forms of factory-made humour. Now the English people are
apt to turn away from the whole field of slang. In the first place it
puzzles them--they don't know whether each particular word or phrase
is a sort of idiom already known to Americans, or something (as with O.
Henry) never said before and to be analysed for its own sake. The result
is that with the English public the great mass of American slang writing
(genius apart) doesn't go. I have even found English people of undoubted
literary taste repelled from such a master as O. Henry (now read by
millions in England) because at first sight they get the impression that
it is "all American slang."

Another point in which American humour, or at least the form which it
takes, differs notably from British, is in the matter of story telling.
It was a great surprise to me the first time I went out to a dinner
party in London to find that my host did not open the dinner by telling
a funny story; that the guests did not then sit silent trying to "think
of another"; that some one did not presently break silence by saying, "I
heard a good one the other day,"--and so forth. And I realised that in
this respect English society is luckier than ours.

It is my candid opinion that no man ought to be allowed to tell a funny
story or anecdote without a license. We insist rightly enough that every
taxi-driver must have a license, and the same principle should apply
to anybody who proposes to act as a raconteur. Telling a story is a
difficult thing--quite as difficult as driving a taxi. And the risks
of failure and accident and the unfortunate consequences of such to the
public, if not exactly identical, are, at any rate, analogous.

This is a point of view not generally appreciated. A man is apt to think
that just because he has heard a good story he is able and entitled to
repeat it. He might as well undertake to do a snake dance merely because
he has seen Madame Pavlowa do one. The point of a story is apt to lie
in the telling, or at least to depend upon it in a high degree. Certain
stories, it is true, depend so much on the final point, or "nub," as we
Americans call it, that they are almost fool-proof. But even these can
be made so prolix and tiresome, can be so messed up with irrelevant
detail, that the general effect is utter weariness relieved by a kind of
shock at the end. Let me illustrate what I mean by a story with a "nub"
or point. I will take one of the best known, so as to make no claim to
originality--for example, the famous anecdote of the man who wanted to
be "put off at Buffalo." Here it is:

A man entered a sleeping-car and said to the porter, "At what time do
we get to Buffalo?" The porter answered, "At half-past three in the
morning, sir." "All right," the man said; "now I want to get off at
Buffalo, and I want you to see that I get off. I sleep heavily and I'm
hard to rouse. But you just make me wake up, don't mind what I say,
don't pay attention if I kick about it, just put me off, do you see?"
"All right, sir," said the porter. The man got into his berth and fell
fast asleep. He never woke or moved till it was broad daylight and
the train was a hundred miles beyond Buffalo. He called angrily to the
porter, "See here, you, didn't I tell you to put me off at Buffalo?" The
porter looked at him, aghast. "Well, I declare to goodness, boss!" he
exclaimed; "if it wasn't you, who was that man that I threw off this
train at half-past three at Buffalo?"

Now this story is as nearly fool-proof as can be. And yet it is amazing
how badly it can be messed up by a person with a special gift for
mangling a story. He does it something after this fashion:

"There was a fellow got on the train one night and he had a berth
reserved for Buffalo; at least the way I heard it, it was Buffalo,
though I guess, as a matter of fact, you might tell it on any other town
just as well--or no, I guess he didn't have his berth reserved, he got
on the train and asked the porter for a reservation for Buffalo--or,
anyway, that part doesn't matter--say that he had a berth for Buffalo or
any other place, and the porter came through and said, 'Do you want an
early call?'--or no, he went to the porter--that was it--and said--"

But stop. The rest of the story becomes a mere painful waiting for the

Of course the higher type of funny story is the one that depends for its
amusing quality not on the final point, or not solely on it, but on the
wording and the narration all through. This is the way in which a story
is told by a comedian or a person who is a raconteur in the real sense.
When Sir Harry Lauder narrates an incident, the telling of it is funny
from beginning to end. When some lesser person tries to repeat it
afterwards, there is nothing left but the final point. The rest is

As a consequence most story-tellers are driven to telling stories that
depend on the point or "nub" and not on the narration. The storyteller
gathers these up till he is equipped with a sort of little repertory of
fun by which he hopes to surround himself with social charm. In America
especially (by which I mean here the United States and Canada, but not
Mexico) we suffer from the story-telling habit. As far as I am able to
judge, English society is not pervaded and damaged by the story-telling
habit as much as is society in the United States and Canada. On our
side of the Atlantic story-telling at dinners and on every other social
occasion has become a curse. In every phase of social and intellectual
life one is haunted by the funny anecdote. Any one who has ever attended
a Canadian or American banquet will recall the solemn way in which the
chairman rises and says: "Gentlemen, it is to me a very great pleasure
and a very great honour to preside at this annual dinner. There was an
old darky once--" and so forth. When he concludes he says, "I will now
call upon the Rev. Dr. Stooge, Head of the Provincial University, Haroe
English Any Sense of Humour? to propose the toast 'Our Dominion.'" Dr.
Stooge rises amid great applause and with great solemnity begins, "There
were once two Irishmen--" and so on to the end. But in London, England,
it is apparently not so. Not long ago I had the pleasure of meeting at
dinner a member of the Government. I fully anticipated that as a member
of the Government he would be expected to tell a funny story about an
old darky, just as he would on our side of the water. In fact, I should
have supposed that he could hardly get into the Government unless he
did tell a funny story of some sort. But all through dinner the Cabinet
Minister never said a word about either a Methodist minister, or a
commercial traveller, or an old darky, or two Irishmen, or any of the
stock characters of the American repertory. On another occasion I dined
with a bishop of the Church. I expected that when the soup came he would
say, "There was an old darky--" After which I should have had to listen
with rapt attention, and, when he had finished, without any pause,
rejoin, "There were a couple of Irishmen once--" and so on. But the
bishop never said a word of the sort.

I can further, for the sake of my fellow-men in Canada and the United
States who may think of going to England, vouchsafe the following facts:
If you meet a director of the Bank of England, he does not say: "I am
very glad to meet you. Sit down. There was a mule in Arkansas once,"
etc. How they do their banking without that mule I don't know. But they
manage it. I can certify also that if you meet the proprietor of a great
newspaper he will not begin by saying, "There was a Scotchman once." In
fact, in England, you can mingle freely in general society without being
called upon either to produce a funny story or to suffer from one.

I don't mean to deny that the American funny story, in capable hands, is
amazingly funny and that it does brighten up human intercourse. But
the real trouble lies, not in the fun of the story, but in the painful
waiting for the point to come and in the strained and anxious silence
that succeeds it. Each person around the dinner table is trying to
"think of another." There is a dreadful pause. The hostess puts up a
prayer that some one may "think of another." Then at last, to the relief
of everybody, some one says: "I heard a story the other day--I don't
know whether you've heard it--" And the grateful cries of "No! no! go
ahead" show how great the tension has been.

Nine times out of ten the people have heard the story before; and ten
times out of nine the teller damages it in the telling. But his hearers
are grateful to him for having saved them from the appalling mantle
of silence and introspection which had fallen upon the table. For the
trouble is that when once two or three stories have been told it seems
to be a point of honour not to subside into mere conversation. It seems
rude, when a story-teller has at last reached the triumphant ending and
climax of the mule from Arkansas, it seems impolite, to follow it up by
saying, "I see that Germany refuses to pay the indemnity." It can't be
done. Either the mule or the indemnity--one can't have both.

The English, I say, have not developed the American custom of the funny
story as a form of social intercourse. But I do not mean to say that
they are sinless in this respect. As I see it, they hand round in
general conversation something nearly as bad in the form of what one may
call the literal anecdote or personal experience. By this I refer to the
habit of narrating some silly little event that has actually happened to
them or in their sight, which they designate as "screamingly funny," and
which was perhaps very funny when it happened but which is not the least
funny in the telling. The American funny story is imaginary. It never
happened. Somebody presumably once made it up. It is fiction. Thus
there must once have been some great palpitating brain, some glowing
imagination, which invented the story of the man who was put off at
Buffalo. But the English "screamingly funny" story is not imaginary. It
really did happen. It is an actual personal experience. In short, it is
not fiction but history.

I think--if one may say it with all respect--that in English society
girls and women are especially prone to narrate these personal
experiences as contributions to general merriment rather than the men.
The English girl has a sort of traditional idea of being amusing; the
English man cares less about it. He prefers facts to fancy every time,
and as a rule is free from that desire to pose as a humourist
which haunts the American mind. So it comes about that most of the
"screamingly funny" stories are told in English society by the women.
Thus the counterpart of "put me off at Buffalo" done into English
would be something like this: "We were so amused the other night in
the sleeping-car going to Buffalo. There was the most amusing old negro
making the beds, a perfect scream, you know, and he kept insisting that
if we wanted to get up at Buffalo we must all go to bed at nine o'clock.
He positively wouldn't let us sit up--I mean to say it was killing the
way he wanted to put us to bed. We all roared!"

Please note that roar at the end of the English personal anecdote. It is
the sign that indicates that the story is over. When you are assured by
the narrators that all the persons present "roared" or "simply roared,"
then you can be quite sure that the humorous incident is closed and that
laughter is in place.

Now, as a matter of fact, the scene with the darky porter may have been,
when it really happened, most amusing. But not a trace of it gets
over in the story. There is nothing but the bare assertion that it was
"screamingly funny" or "simply killing." But the English are such an
honest people that when they say this sort of thing they believe one
another and they laugh.

But, after all, why should people insist on telling funny stories at
all? Why not be content to buy the works of some really first-class
humourist and read them aloud in proper humility of mind without trying
to emulate them? Either that or talk theology.

On my own side of the Atlantic I often marvel at our extraordinary
tolerance and courtesy to one another in the matter of story-telling.
I have never seen a bad story-teller thrown forcibly out of the room or
even stopped and warned; we listen with the most wonderful patience to
the worst of narration. The story is always without any interest except
in the unknown point that will be brought in later. But this, until it
does come, is no more interesting than to-morrow's breakfast. Yet for
some reason or other we permit this story-telling habit to invade and
damage our whole social life. The English always criticise this and
think they are absolutely right. To my mind in their social life they
give the "funny story" its proper place and room and no more. That is to
say--if ten people draw their chairs in to the dinner table and somebody
really has just heard a story and wants to tell it, there is no reason
against it. If he says, "Oh, by the way, I heard a good story to-day,"
it is just as if he said, "Oh, by the way, I heard a piece of news about
John Smith." It is quite admissible as conversation. But he doesn't sit
down to try to think, along with nine other rival thinkers, of all the
stories that he had heard, and that makes all the difference.

The Scotch, by the way, resemble us in liking to tell and hear stories.
But they have their own line. They like the stories to be grim, dealing
in a jocose way with death and funerals. The story begins (will the
reader kindly turn it into Scotch pronunciation for himself), "There was
a Sandy MacDonald had died and the wife had the body all laid out for
burial and dressed up very fine in his best suit," etc. Now for me that
beginning is enough. To me that is not a story, but a tragedy. I am
so sorry for Mrs. MacDonald that I can't think of anything else. But I
think the explanation is that the Scotch are essentially such a devout
people and live so closely within the shadow of death itself that they
may without irreverence or pain jest where our lips would falter. Or
else, perhaps they don't care a cuss whether Sandy MacDonald died or
not. Take it either way.

But I am tired of talking of our faults. Let me turn to the more
pleasing task of discussing those of the English. In the first place,
and as a minor matter of form, I think that English humour suffers from
the tolerance afforded to the pun. For some reason English people find
puns funny. We don't. Here and there, no doubt, a pun may be made that
for some exceptional reason becomes a matter of genuine wit. But the
great mass of the English puns that disfigure the Press every week are
mere pointless verbalisms that to the American mind cause nothing but

But even worse than the use of puns is the peculiar pedantry, not to say
priggishness, that haunts the English expression of humour. To make a
mistake in a Latin quotation or to stick on a wrong ending to a Latin
word is not really an amusing thing. To an ancient Roman, perhaps, it
might be. But then we are not ancient Romans; indeed, I imagine that
if an ancient Roman could be resurrected, all the Latin that any of our
classical scholars can command would be about equivalent to the French
of a cockney waiter on a Channel steamer. Yet one finds even the
immortal Punch citing recently as a very funny thing a newspaper
misquotation of "urbis et orbis" instead of "urbi et orbos," or the
other way round. I forget which. Perhaps there was some further point in
it that I didn't see, but, anyway, it wasn't funny. Neither is it
funny if a person, instead of saying Archimedes, says Archimeeds; why
shouldn't it have been Archimeeds? The English scale of values in these
things is all wrong. Very few Englishmen can pronounce Chicago properly
and they think nothing of that. But if a person mispronounces the
name of a Greek village of what O. Henry called "The Year B.C." it is
supposed to be excruciatingly funny.

I think in reality that this is only a part of the overdone scholarship
that haunts so much of English writing--not the best of it, but a lot of
it. It is too full of allusions and indirect references to all sorts of
extraneous facts. The English writer finds it hard to say a plain thing
in a plain way. He is too anxious to show in every sentence what a
fine scholar he is. He carries in his mind an accumulated treasure of
quotations, allusions, and scraps and tags of history, and into this,
like Jack Horner, he must needs "stick in his thumb and pull out a
plum." Instead of saying, "It is a fine morning," he prefers to write,
"This is a day of which one might say with the melancholy Jacques, it is
a fine morning."

Hence it is that many plain American readers find English humour
"highbrow." Just as the English are apt to find our humour "slangy" and
"cheap," so we find theirs academic and heavy. But the difference, after
all, is of far less moment than might be supposed. It lies only on the
surface. Fundamentally, as I said in starting, the humour of the two
peoples is of the same kind and on an equal level.

There is one form of humour which the English have more or less to
themselves, nor do I envy it to them. I mean the merriment that they
appear able to draw out of the criminal courts. To me a criminal court
is a place of horror, and a murder trial the last word in human tragedy.
The English criminal courts I know only from the newspapers and ask
no nearer acquaintance. But according to the newspapers the courts,
especially when a murder case is on, are enlivened by flashes of
judicial and legal humour that seem to meet with general approval. The
current reports in the Press run like this:

"The prisoner, who is being tried on a charge of having burned his
wife to death in a furnace, was placed in the dock and gave his name as
Evans. Did he say 'Evans or Ovens?' asked Mr. Justice Blank. The court
broke into a roar, in which all joined but the prisoner...." Or take
this: "How many years did you say you served the last time?" asked the
judge. "Three," said the prisoner. "Well, twice three is six," said the
judge, laughing till his sides shook; "so I'll give you six years."

I don't say that those are literal examples of the humour of the
criminal court. But they are close to it. For a judge to joke is as easy
as it is for a schoolmaster to joke in his class. His unhappy audience
has no choice but laughter. No doubt in point of intellect the English
judges and the bar represent the most highly trained product of
the British Empire. But when it comes to fun, they ought not to pit
themselves against the unhappy prisoner.

Why not take a man of their own size? For true amusement Mr. Charles
Chaplin or Mr. Leslie Henson could give them sixty in a hundred. I even
think I could myself.

One final judgment, however, might with due caution be hazarded. I do
not think that, on the whole, the English are quite as fond of humour
as we are. I mean they are not so willing to welcome at all times the
humorous point of view as we are in America. The English are a serious
people, with many serious things to think of--football, horse racing,
dogs, fish, and many other concerns that demand much national thought:
they have so many national preoccupations of this kind that they have
less need for jokes than we have. They have higher things to talk about,
whereas on our side of the water, except when the World's Series is
being played, we have few, if any, truly national topics.

And yet I know that many people in England would exactly reverse this
last judgment and say that the Americans are a desperately serious
people. That in a sense is true. Any American who takes up with an idea
such as New Thought, Psychoanalysis or Eating Sawdust, or any "uplift"
of the kind becomes desperately lopsided in his seriousness, and as a
very large number of us cultivate New Thought, or practise breathing
exercises, or eat sawdust, no doubt the English visitors think us a
desperate lot.

Anyway, it's an ill business to criticise another people's shortcomings.
What I said at the start was that the British are just as humorous as
are the Americans, or the Canadians, or any of us across the Atlantic,
and for greater Certainty I repeat it at the end.

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