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Title: Liverpool
Author: Scott, Dixon
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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LIVERPOOL


      *      *      *      *      *      *

IN THE SAME SERIES

EACH CONTAINING 24 FULL-PAGE
ILLUSTRATIONS IN COLOUR

EACH =6s.= NET

DEVON--NORTH
DEVON--SOUTH
IRELAND
JAMAICA
THE UPPER ENGADINE
NORWEGIAN FJORDS
PARIS

PUBLISHED BY
ADAM AND CHARLES BLACK
SOHO SQUARE, LONDON, W.

AGENTS

AMERICA   THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
            64 & 66 FIFTH AVENUE, NEW YORK

CANADA    THE MACMILLAN COMPANY OF CANADA, LTD.
            27 RICHMOND STREET WEST, TORONTO

INDIA     MACMILLAN & COMPANY, LTD.
            MACMILLAN BUILDING, BOMBAY
            309 BOW BAZAAR STREET, CALCUTTA

      *      *      *      *      *      *


[Illustration: THE TOWN HALL.]


LIVERPOOL

Painted by

J. HAMILTON HAY

Described by

DIXON SCOTT

With 25 Full Page Illustrations in Colour



[Illustration: Publisher’s monogram, A&CB]

London
Adam and Charles Black
1907

Published August, 1907



TO MY NEPHEW OR NIECE



WRITER’S NOTE


Neither guide-book nor history nor commercial estimate, this Book
merely attempts the much less laborious task of handing on the instant
effect produced by that active, tangible quantity, the Liverpool of the
present day; and its Writer has therefore been forced to rely, almost
as completely as its Illustrator, upon the private reports of his own
senses rather than upon the books and testimonies of other people. None
the less he has managed to incur a little sheaf of debts, and these,
although he is unable to repay, he is anxious at least to acknowledge.
By far the greatest measure of his gratitude is due, not for the first
time, to his friend Mr. John Macleay--lacking whose suggestion the
Book would never have been begun--lacking whose counsel it would,
when finished, have been even less adequate than it now remains; but
he desires as well to offer his especial thanks to Professor Ramsay
Muir, who generously permitted him to read certain chapters of the
recently published “History of Liverpool” in proof; to Dr. E. W.
Hope, Liverpool’s Medical Officer of Health, for courteous responses
to various inquiries; to Mr. G. T. Shaw (of the Liverpool Athenæum),
Mr. A. Chandler (of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board), Mr. H. Lee
Jones, Mr. T. Alwyn Lloyd, and Mr. William Postlethwaite, all of whom
have provisioned him with much more information than he has found it
possible to use. To them, and to all those other creditors whose names
have not been mentioned but who may be equally inclined to deplore the
waste of good material, he would protest that their assistance might
have had a more commensurate practical result if only they could have
persuaded those implacable niggards, space and time, to imitate their
eager liberality.



CONTENTS


CHAPTER I

THE RIVER

                                                                   PAGE
Its dominion over the City--The historical result--Liverpool
  and the nineteenth century--Youth and age--Liverpool’s dual
  paradox--The River as reconciler--Its physical influence--Its
  psychological--As a maker of pageants--The traveller’s report      1


CHAPTER II

THE DOCKS

Liverpool’s distribution--The great fan--Ramparts--The
  seven-mile sequence--Unhuman romance--Loot of
  cities--Labyrinthine effort--Efficiency--The key to the
  labyrinth--A relic--Brown and blue--The new drama--A river
  progress--Advents--The Landing-Stage--Arrivals and
  departures--The bridges from New York to London                   22


CHAPTER III

THE CITY

The problem--A bunch of street portraits--Lord Street, North
  John Street, Whitechapel, Stanley Street--Bold Street,
  Brunswick Street, Victoria Street--The four vestibules--Lime
  Street, Church Street, Tithebarn Street, the River-side
  terrace--Episodes and intermediaries--The general
  interpretation--The stage manager--Typical
  actresses--And actors--The Sunday quietude--Bank holiday
  incursions--The City at night                                     43


CHAPTER IV

THE SUBURBS

Rejuvenation--Car influences--Sociabilities and
  processes--Seaforth to Southport--Bootle’s
  independence--The universal trend--Damocles and
  Litherland--Walton’s tragedy--The Grand
  National--Everton--Squeezed Dye-wood--From Anfield to the
  South--The two spinsters--Liverpool’s Bloomsbury--The outer
  curve--Cabbage Hall to Mossley Hill--Sefton
  Park--Garston to the centre--Dingle and melodrama--The
  cross-river cubicles--Bidston Hill                                93


CHAPTER V

THE SLUMS

The black dream--A fulcrum--The docks and their
  levers--The people of the abyss--Dialect, priests and a
  postulate--Esther--The suburban attitude--A matter of
  technique--Marooned--Ameliorations--The official
  tides--Free-lance efforts--The approach of the
  change--Portents--The Liverpool of the future                    141



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


THE TOWN HALL                         _Frontispiece_

                                              FACING PAGE

BIRKENHEAD FROM THE RIVER                               8

THE LANDING-STAGE, SOUTH END                           16

THE DOCK BOARD OFFICES FROM THE CANNING GRAVING DOCK   22

DOCK BOARD OFFICES FROM THE ALBERT DOCK                28

CUSTOM HOUSE FROM THE SALTHOUSE DOCK                   32

THE “LUCANIA”                                          40

BOLD STREET                                            46

LIME STREET STATION                                    50

LIME STREET WITH WELLINGTON MONUMENT                   54

ELECTRIC CAR TERMINUS, PIER-HEAD                       56

LITTLE SHOP, MOUNT PLEASANT                            60

THE QUEEN VICTORIA MEMORIAL                            62

ST. JOHN’S MARKET                                      68

ST. NICHOLAS’ CHURCH AND THE LAST OF TOWER BUILDINGS   70

ST. PETER’S CHURCH                                     76

EVENING AT NEW BRIGHTON                                82

THE WALKER ART GALLERY: INTERIOR                       86

OVERHEAD RAILWAY FROM JAMES STREET                     92

THE HORNBY LIBRARY                                     96

OLD HAYMARKET                                         106

CALDERSTONES PARK                                     128

HERCULANEUM DOCK                                      136

BIDSTON HILL                                          138

ALBERT DOCK: TWILIGHT                                 142



LIVERPOOL



CHAPTER I

THE RIVER


§ 1.

That fine fellow (a Scotchman, I understand) who so handsomely
acknowledged the thoughtfulness displayed by Providence in
“constraining the great rivers of England to run in such
convenient proximity to the great towns” would have found in
Liverpool-on-the-Mersey an altogether exceptional opportunity
for thanksgiving. For it is upon her River, with a very singular
completeness, that the existence of this great, complex, modern
organism unanimously depends. Rob her of her duties as port and
harbour, and she becomes impossible. Other duties, of course, she
has: among the labyrinths of effort which her million people have
created all about them, you will find tobacco-factories, corn-mills,
soap-works, breweries, sugar-refineries, and a dozen other quite
flourishing industrial exploits; but these, even if they were not
in large measure directly derived from the River itself--the voice
of the River, so to say, announcing itself in other dialects--are
never really fundamental. They could be plucked away, as her famous
Potteries were plucked away at the opening of the nineteenth century,
as her Chemical Works were plucked away some decades later, without
producing anything but the mildest and most parochial of disturbances.
Certainly, there would be no crisis: the great machine would still
throb equably, the procession of her continually advancing life would
still move magnificently on. But if you rob her of her river-born
attributes, you leave her utterly dismantled. Let the river-estuary
silt up, as river-estuaries have been known to do, as this one is
constantly endeavouring to do, and the whole elaborate structure
instantly crumbles and subsides. In London there are a score of
Londons, in Glasgow a dozen Glasgows; but here there is only one
Liverpool--Liverpool-on-the-Mersey.

That is the great fact of her life. And its significance is chief, not
merely because Liverpool owes her actual existence to the River, but
also because the whole quality, the “virtue,” of that existence has
been determined by the completeness of the dependency. It is not simply
that it is upon this broadly curving estuary, as upon some broadly
curving scimitar, that Liverpool has had wholly to rely in slashing
her way to the position she now maintains; it is also (and, from our
present point of view, chiefly) that her fidelity to that weapon has
induced certain habits of poise, of outlook, of ideal, which are now
her most essential characteristics. The influence is disclosed, as we
shall see, in all manner of ways. It drenches the local atmospheres,
private, social, civic, with a distinctive colour. It is revealed in
the nature of the men in her streets, and in the nature of the streets
about the men. It is the deciding element in that inherent spirit of
the place which those men and those streets at once prefigure and
evoke, and which it is the main purpose of this book, with the aid of
those men and streets, to attempt in some measure to enclose. Some of
the channels of the influence are direct and obvious enough, others
are indirect and secret; and one of the more obvious and one of the
most secret are connected with the fashion in which that dependence has
affected her history in the past.


§ 2.

The incisive feature of that history is the suddenness of the City’s
emergence from a position of comparative obscurity into one of
supreme moment. All down the ages, indeed, as the preparations for
its sept-centenary celebrations, with which the place is ringing as
I write, are now making especially clear, people have been clustered
together on the river-bank, testing the great weapon, shaping and
sharpening it, using it, as new issues and battle-cries uprose, with a
constantly increasing forcefulness.[1] But it was not until the later
decades of the eighteenth century that the real opportunity arrived.
It was among the alarums and excursions of the amazing period which
then began, among its endless industrial sallies and revolutions, its
fabulous commercial conquests, that the weapon was for the first time
granted the scope it needed to swing with full effect. And therefore it
was within a space of extraordinary brevity--within the leaping years
of a single century, indeed--that the City achieved its greatness, and
assumed the aspect which it wears to-day.

[1] The details of these activities have been set out more perfectly
than ever before, and with a union of concision and lucidity which it
is impossible to praise too highly, in Professor Ramsay Muir’s recent
“History of Liverpool.”

The direct consequences of that are obvious enough. Liverpool becomes,
quite frankly, an almost pure product of the nineteenth century, a
place empty of memorials, a mere jungle of modern civic apparatus.
Its people are people who have been precipitately gathered together
from north, from south, from overseas, by a sudden impetuous call. Its
houses are houses, not merely of recent birth, but pioneer houses,
planted instantly upon what, so brief a while ago, was unflawed
meadow-land and marsh. Both socially and architecturally it becomes, in
large measure, a city without ancestors.

That is sufficiently manifest. But what is not so manifest, and
what robs these sept-centenary celebrations, these pageants and
retrospective ardours, of any too great tincture of incongruity, is
the fact that the River which has washed these interior traditions and
memorials away has also restored them in another place and form. It has
established, at the gates of the City, a far more perdurable monument
to antiquity than any that architecture could contrive. For, whilst
they are not of the soil, these people, they are all unmistakably of
the Mersey. They have discovered a kinship, neither of blood nor of
land, but wholly vital and compelling, which binds them not only with
one another, but with old ardours and forgotten years. The wide plain
of water that pours endlessly about their wharves and piers colours
their lives as deeply as it coloured the lives of those who watched
its lapse before them: consciously or unconsciously, they acquire
something of the ripeness that comes from traffic with old and fateful
quantities. Thus, consciously or unconsciously, they inevitably pass
into vital touch with the earlier wielders of the weapon: with the
dim fisher-folk who were its eldest users; with the cluster of serfs
who received their first “charter” of privileges seven hundred years
ago; with the Irish traders of the seventeenth century; with the
slave-traders of the eighteenth; with the merchants who watched the
dawn of the day of the last great onset. The River becomes in this way
a kind of Cathedral, a place heavy with traditions, full of the sense
of old passions.

This is clearly not the sort of influence that one can measure with a
foot-rule or sum up in a syllogism; but in this nuance of endeavour
and in that, in characteristics which it would be impossible briefly
to define, but which may perhaps appear in the pages which follow,
the effect, I feel, is made faintly, delightfully apparent. The sheer
youth of the place has been granted something of the dignity of age.
The audacities and vigours of the century which gave it birth have
been tinged with a certain gravity and largeness. The very force
which has made the place so superbly youthful and athletic, so
finely unhampered by the rags of outworn modes, has also granted it
that intimate sense of history, that heartening and annealing influence
of ancient ardours vitally and romantically recalled, without which a
city, as a nation, is but an army without music and banners.


§ 3.

[Illustration: BIRKENHEAD FROM THE RIVER]

And it is this complete dependence of City upon River, too, which
helps largely to explain what are certainly the two main paradoxes of
her daily life: the fact that she is of all cities at once the most
heterogeneous in composition, and in exposition the most homogeneous;
and the fact, again, that her commercial interests are extravagantly
world-wide, and her civic interests extraordinarily local. They are
characteristics, these two, which never fail to attract the observer
extremely--perhaps, even, extremely to puzzle him. He remarks the
cosmopolitan population, the nomadic life so many of them lead, the
disturbing flux and bustle of the traveller-strewn pavements; and in
face of these things he discovers, to his huge surprise, that the civic
spirit of this variegated and distracted junction is more puissant
and concerted than that of any other city in the kingdom. He knows
that she is, in effect, little more than a great gateway between West
and East; he knows that her merchants are chiefly middlemen, that the
prime function of the place is to fetch and carry, to bring from hither
and forward there; and yet he finds the whole affair looming up into
a stubborn Rodinesque independence, achieving this and that original
thing with an unexpected air of finality, and maintaining always an
aloofness, a clear and unmistakable individuality, that seems utterly
incongruous in the midst of the involved world-movements swaying so
frantically about her.

Of the accuracy of his observation, at all events, there is room for
little question. At every turn of the City’s social and municipal
life those two salient antithetical characteristics are vividly
displayed. Liverpool is boldly different. She possesses, it seems, a
singular faculty for moulding and co-ordinating. The peoples of the
world pour through her streets, but they never interrupt her energetic
introspectiveness. Fragments of this and that exotic race remain; they
settle down, they breed, they pour their alien habits, their alien
modes of thought, speech, religion, into the communal veins; but there
is no perceptible change. The same emphatic lines of activity sweep on;
the same special type is faithfully reproduced.... Liverpool, it seems
to me, is astonishingly self-absorbed. It is her own problems that
chiefly interest her, and she has a habit of solving these problems for
herself on self-invented lines. She has striven to work out--she is, as
we shall see, still intently striving to work out--in ways of her own
devising, the salvation of her proletariate. She has created a society
that is quite untinged by the colours of the county. She has bred her
local school of painters. Her politics are a strange sort of democratic
conservatism. She is more civic than national, and the newspapers of
this most cosmopolitan of English towns tend to reflect the movements
of the City rather than the movements of the nation. And yet, she is
not provincial. Manchester, her nearest neighbour, has her finely
national _Guardian_, and touches the actual life of the metropolis with
a far greater intimacy and frequency; and yet, of the two, Manchester
is clearly the more provincial. For provinciality, after all, is but a
subordination to the metropolis, a reflection, half deliberate, half
unconscious, of the life that goes on spontaneously at the centre.
Well, Liverpool would be spontaneous, too. She will imitate no one,
not even London. She will be her own metropolis. And those who have
marked the clear efficiency of her designs, the unique mingling of
American alertness and Lowland caution which colours the spirit that
lives behind her very positive efforts, will admit that she has come
bewilderingly near success.


§ 4.

Much of this unexpected loyalty to certain salient attributes,
unvarying and individual, is due, no doubt, to the brevity of the
period in which her final growth took place: the pressure and intensity
of the moment begot, of necessity, a kind of concentrated civism. And
much of it, too, is due to a certain physical peculiarity which it
is perhaps worth while remarking. The City and the River, of course,
have now become a roaring avenue between the hemispheres; but none
the less, Liverpool, in a certain narrow, internal sense, cannot be
regarded as other than side-tracked. Unlike Manchester, she lies some
distance away from the great highways that link north with south,
and even to-day the tradition of London’s remoteness still to some
extent adheres. This isolation--an isolation that was felt very keenly
in the early days of her growth--must have helped, in some measure,
to breed that spirit of independence and self-reliance. She had to
fight for herself. Her River made her too strong to be crushed by
the disadvantage, and gave her more than all the power she needed to
transform that initial weakness into a positive stimulus to especially
emphatic effort.

So the River reappears; and I like to think that it is, in the end,
to the influence of that superbly dominating presence, even more than
to the influence of these factors of concentrated growth and isolated
station, that the City’s paradoxically assonant announcements are to
be attributed. It is, as we have seen, the City’s _raison d’être_,
the chief orderer and distributer of her people’s vocations; and in
that way alone it interweaves class with class, provides merchant,
clerk, seaman, and dock-labourer with a common unifying interest.
But with this dictation of tasks, with this provision of a tangible
_leit motiv_ that runs through and conjoins the efforts of several
hundred thousand workers, the co-ordinating influence of the River can
scarcely be believed to end. As a controller of physique, for instance,
slowly reconciling disparities, its effect must be incalculably
potent. It is a reservoir of tonic airs; it renews and revivifies the
common atmosphere; it sets a crisp brine-tang in the heart of every
inhalation. Some kind of mental and physical conformity, not easily
to be defined, but still remarkable, that democratic sting quite
conceivably creates; and some kind of subtle solidarity, too, must
certainly result from the constant, unforgettable presence of a piece
of outer Nature possessing so large a share of unremitting loveliness.
From the fierce beauty of the River, indeed, there is no possibility
of escape: its scale is so vast; it thrusts itself so exultantly upon
one. It is not only the strange powers that belong to moving waters
that it exercises; it trails with it as well, into the very core of the
City, a great attendant sweep of unsullied and inviolable skyscape, and
burns great sunsets, evening after evening, within full gaze of the
town. The imaginative effect of all this insistent pageantry cannot,
indeed, be easily overestimated. And I certainly believe that it is one
of the great forces that weld this diverse city-full into so curious a
unanimity.


§ 5.

[Illustration: THE LANDING STAGE--SOUTH END.]

In view of all this vital domination of the City by its River, there is
something singularly appropriate in the nature of the first impression
created by Liverpool on the traveller who approaches her from the
sea. That first impression is, quite inevitably, an impression of a
great river with a city vaguely and ineffectively attached. He has
left New York, let us say, a week before, and New York remains on his
memory as an intricate, high-piled monument of stone and iron, crowding
upon and overshadowing the waters of the Upper Bay. No such effect
of dominating human interests salutes him as he steams up the river
towards New Brighton from the Bar. The south-swinging curve of the
coast hides the City for a while, and for a while he sees nothing but
a long, low line of bourgeois villas, sitting comfortably among the
sandhills on his left, and the great sky-snipping lattice of the New
Brighton Tower rising, not inelegantly, ahead. The houses on his left
increase; Waterloo and Seaforth shine pleasantly in the sun; and from
the base of the Tower, behind the domed and glittering pier that swims
delicately out into the water from its root, more bourgeois villas
and a great plenitude of white sea-promenades, stretching away up the
coast to Egremont, up, beyond sight, to Seacombe, carry out the note
of mild watering-place delights. It is all very charming, thinks the
visitor, but it doesn’t particularly suggest any furious commercial
maelstrom.... The town swings into foreshortened vision, flat and
docile beyond the racing tide: a mild, smoke-softened, wavering of
roofs, a sporadic spire or so, a dozen and a half of chimney-stalks,
and the dun cloud overhead--the constant cloud that ought certainly
to speak impressively of industry, but that seems, somehow, on the
contrary, to mitigate all the efforts (none of them very energetic)
that the City makes in the direction of mass and lordliness. With the
steep uprising of the Seaforth battery comes the first of the dumb
grey miles of granite that stretch up-river to the Stage. They testify
nothing to man’s sovereignty, these great dock-walls; they seem--if,
indeed, they seem of human origin at all--no more than an enforced
defence-work; and the quiet rigging discernible behind them, and the
funnels of a hidden liner, carry on that idea of the River’s superior
strength--a strength sufficient to pass the grey barriers and create a
second kingdom in the plains beyond. A couple of little towers, perched
on the wall, make pseudo-romantic notes--absent, archaic, meaningless.
A great warehouse, four-square and stolid, with blind eyes, is set
heavily down like a dull box--a box that may be full or empty, but that
is undoubtedly shut and locked, whose key has undoubtedly been mislaid.
More warehouses, all equally immobile, sullenly succeed it; and then
the Landing-stage itself, low and level and a trifle dingy, begins
to run humbly alongside, spirting out at intervals a little squeal
of advertisement-begotten colour. And still there is no resounding
manifestation from the City. The fretted tower of St. Nicholas makes a
neatly punctured patch upon the sky; the Town Hall Dome shows vaguely;
there is an unexplained glitter from the baseless crest of the Royal
Insurance Office. But the solitary building within sight that swerves
up with any unmistakable authority is the building of the Mersey Docks
and Harbour Board.

And beneath, or beside, all this flatness and domesticity, the Mersey
itself reels and swaggers splendidly. It is turgid and tumultuous; its
bustling highways interlace alarmingly; there is a constant shouting
and hooting and dancing of eager craft. Higher up-stream, the vast salt
lake of the Sloyne holds a brace of liners, each, as it would seem,
more massive than the town; and a tall imperturbable frigate sways
graciously out towards the sea, bursting into white sail-bloom as she
goes....

Nor, when he steps ashore, and climbs up Water Street to the City’s
hub, does that effect of the River’s supremacy utterly forsake him.
Salt airs from the sea pursue him; strange tongues salute his ears;
far-brought merchandise is plucked hither and thither about him as he
goes. And even when he passes through the heart of the City and into
the suburbs beyond, and through the belt of these into the open country
that stretches towards the east, the sting of the brine will from time
to time assault him, and he will hear the endless crying of sea-birds,
and he will watch the grey, innumerable gulls as they rise and fall
above the red wake of the plough.



CHAPTER II

THE DOCKS


§ 1.

[Illustration: THE DOCK BOARD OFFICES FROM THE CANNING GRAVING DOCK.]

As Liverpool lies deployed upon the South Lancashire landscape,
she falls into the shape of an all but fully unfurled fan. The
root bone-work of that fan, its unwebbed handle-part, is formed by
the commercial apparatus of the place, the municipal apparatus,
and--pleasantly conjoined to these hard masculine concerns--the more
feminine region of the great shops, the flowers, the carriages, the
shopping women. All this has been compactly tugged down towards its
central wharves by that inevitable arbiter the River; it forms the
area, busy but uninhabited, which the traveller enters the moment he
steps ashore. In it are the streets of offices, the banks, the various
Exchanges--Cotton, Corn, Produce, Stock--and occasional dense masses
of warehouses; all about these--a pattern of dull jewels, say, on the
grey essential framework--there lie the great official buildings--the
Town Hall, the Municipal Offices, St. George’s Hall, the Art Gallery,
and so forth--with here and there, more vigorously flashing, the glassy
bulbs that tip the railways; and there, finally--a series of decorative
flourishes--curve the bright ways of the emporia. Next, to right and
left of this clean-picked fabric, appear, like two swart brush-strokes,
the twin quags of the slums--their position, too, explicitly defined
by the River; and beyond these, again, drooping down V-wise towards
the handle in the centre, but for the rest holding consistently aloof,
spread the vast, indeterminate plumes of the suburbs, curving round
from the river-side at Seaforth, away through the open country, and so
back to the river-side at Garston.

Thus, the whole congeries splits up, it will be seen, rather more
automatically than is usual, into just those four great divisions which
every modern city is theoretically supposed to display. Here and there,
of course, a divergency appears: over at Linacre, for instance, a group
of industrial exploits--match-works, dye-works, a tannery--have lunged
out towards the open, have tended to create out there their own special
circle of suburb, their own little patch of slum. Over at Garston,
again, there is a somewhat similar happening; and across the River,
on the shores of the Wirral Peninsula, Birkenhead, with its Town Hall
and its Docks, makes an attempt to complete that tangential impulse
which the River has interrupted. But, for the most part, the two main
facts in Liverpool’s career--the precipitancy of her uprising and the
singleness of her purpose--have served to make her adherence to that
basic plan a singularly faithful one;[2] and I propose, therefore, to
take advantage of it in this book, dealing in the third chapter with
that central region of shops and offices and civic architecture, the
formal van of the army; in the fourth chapter with the plumes of the
fan, the skirmishing sweep of the suburbs; and in the fifth with those
dusky smears of the underworld.

[2] It is interesting to observe that in this, as in so many other
matters (the strength of her civic spirit, for instance; the nature of
her municipal exploits; the conspicuous attention she is giving to the
specifically urban problem of the Housing of the Poor; her constant
devotion to the specifically urban business of locomotion), the
abnormal circumstances of Liverpool’s growth have made her an unusually
faithful embodiment of certain of the most essential of modern urban
impulses. She is, as I have said, boldly different; and it is of the
body of that difference that she should be thus clearly representative:
there being nothing, in actuality, quite so exceptional as the typical.
On the one hand, that is to say, she is exceptional because she is
typical; on the other, she is typical because she is exceptional.

But before I approach even the first of these, there remains yet
another region, perhaps more memorable, certainly more remarkable,
than them all: that queer specialized region of the Docks, the most
extensive thing of its kind in the world, which runs all along
the littoral, from Dingle in the south to Seaforth in the north,
sustaining, both pictorially and essentially, practically the whole of
that great fan of masonry, making a kind of long entrenchment, behind
which the army of the City is drawn up: the elaborately forged handle,
really, which Liverpool has constructed in order that she may grip her
weapon more effectively.


§ 2.

It is a region, this seven-mile sequence of granite-lipped lagoons,
which is invested, as may be supposed, with some conspicuous properties
of romance; and yet its romance is never of just that quality which
one might perhaps expect. It is not here, certainly, in spite of
the coming and going of great ships, and the aching appeal of brine,
that the mind is moved to any deep sense of kinship with the folk
who wielded the river-weapon in old days. The place is as modern as
the town, as purged of traditions as the town, and the drama that
goes on here is one that has never been enacted in the world before.
Its effectiveness, indeed (I do not now speak of its efficiency), is
a thing that aligns with no preconceived notions of effectiveness.
Neither of the land nor of the sea, but possessing almost in excess
both the stability of the one and the constant flux of the other--too
immense, too filled with the vastness of the outer, to carry any sense
of human handicraft--this strange territory of the Docks seems, indeed,
to form a kind of fifth element, a place charged with daemonic issues
and daemonic silences, where men move like puzzled slaves, fretting
under orders they cannot understand, fumbling with great forces that
have long passed out of their control....

[Illustration: DOCK BOARD OFFICES FROM THE ALBERT DOCK.]

That, certainly, is the first impression--an impression that has
nothing whatever to do with the romance of commerce or the ingenuity
of man, or anything of that kind, but that is simply the effect of
the unhuman spaciousness of it all, the strangely quiet, strangely
patient presence of great ships, the vast leaning shadows, the smooth
imprisoned waters, the slow white movements of a sea-bird gravely
dipping and curving, dipping and curving, between the shadow and the
sun, the sudden emergence in the midst of this solemnity of some great
fever of monstrous echoing activity. Afterwards, of course, as the
senses grow accustomed to the new order of things, to the frightening
spaciousness and the bursts of tangled effort, there ensues another
attitude. Names catch the eye: Naples, Hong-Kong, Para; and the
imagination gets its practised opportunity. The sudden activities,
too--the clustered, wrangling cranes, perched on their high roofs,
and pecking tirelessly; the bound, leaning carcass of the ship below
them, bleeding from a score of wounds, the cranes about her own masts
adding to the riot; the long sheds, ringing with echoes, dappled with
tiny figures delving in a long ruin of all the goods of the world--they
begin to affect the mind more intimately. You find yourself in the
shadow of some slab hill of cotton-bales, or peering up the slopes of
a swelling cone of grain, a sibilant alp of gold, and you begin to
envision the anæmic spinster who will one day wrap herself in some part
of that sodden mound, or the white hen, in some dreamful farmyard,
that will one day peck this grain.... Or you come down to the Docks
after nightfall, passing out of the greasy silence of the northern
streets, under the terrace of the Overhead Railway, and so through the
gates behind the Huskisson. The air is troubled with a soft sustained
groaning: the _Saxonia_ (let us say) is at her berth discharging. She
arrived from Boston on Thursday, she will sail again on Tuesday, and
every instant, day and night, that soft moaning will continue. And that
direful sound, and the torment of labour going forward, in a shower of
green light, beneath the vague riven masses of the liner, serve somehow
to drive you on to thoughts concerning Liverpool’s efficiency and
tirelessness, concerning the bigness of her interests.


§ 3.

And gradually, too, the system of the labyrinth begins to emerge.
That first period of bewilderment, of bewilderment that was almost
fear, when you crept along narrow shelves running between dead water
and warehouse wall, and watched the vistas unfolding, some gloomy,
some naked, some clotted with ships as a mill-dam is clotted with
drift-wood; when you crossed bridge after bridge, from granite islands
to granite mainland, and heard the wailful voices of men coming
desperately out of the distances, and decided with a sickening sense
of despair that the whole thing had swollen utterly out of hand,
that those ships would never be extricated, those giant forces never
recaptured--that bewilderment is followed by the certainty that
specific things will always be going on in specific places, and that
the whole litter of events is really made up of two or three constantly
recurring happenings. It becomes plain, for instance, that in one
branch of the Huskisson you will always find the brick-red and black
funnels of the Cunarders, and in another the cream and black of the
White Star. You learn, again, that in the Wellington one or other of
Glynn’s boats will always be unloading grain from the Danube, that
cotton from the Brazils and india-rubber from the Amazon will always be
found in the sheds beside the Queens, and grapes and wines from Spain
in the next dock to that, and rice from Calcutta over in the Toxteth.
An austere elevator in the Coburg insists on the constant attendance
of grain-barges; a mustard-coloured stain on the rim of the Harrington
stands for cotton-seed meal from Galveston; silver-hulled coasters,
their spars and rigging hanging in tender meshes against the blue, fill
the quiet reaches of the Salthouse; and in the cloisters surrounding
the sunless quadrangle of the Waterloo, men are always moving, as Mr.
Hay has painted them, in a deep warm tumult of golden dusk. One-seventh
of all the ships in the world, it is true, laden with fabulous loot,
are driven along these intricate waterways, are penned in these
monstrous interwoven cells; and one-third of all the goods the Kingdom
receives, one-fourth of all the goods she sends away, pass through
these great sheds and cumber these endless quays. But those vast herds,
charging so wonderfully across the plains of the Seven Seas, hold here
for the end of their flight a space that is measured by inches;
and you may, therefore, in spite of its enormity, map out the whole
labyrinth in your mind either chromatically or topographically, either
by the names of companies or in terms of grapes and silks and dyes and
precious ores, just as your temperament inclines.

[Illustration: CUSTOM HOUSE FROM THE SALTHOUSE DOCK.]


§ 4.

But however neatly familiarity may thus label the place and tie it up
into little packages of effort, that first sense of the superhumanity
of the drama going on here never for an instant lightens. The actors
employed, whether the liners themselves, or the gaunt roof-cranes,
or the dire monsters that effect the coaling, or the deliberate jaws
of the dock-gates, are designed on so immensely loftier a scale than
the rather draggled humans who run to and fro in their shadows,
watched by the great silences, that they inevitably upraise the
expectations to their own gigantic measure. Only in one brief corner
of this seven-mile harbourage is it possible to return once more to
the intimate human romance, the traditional drama, of harbours and
sea-traffickings. It is a little basin between the Coburg Dock and the
Brunswick Half Tide, and there, for a little while longer, beneath an
old-world quay, brown sails dip softly in a quiet haven. Fishermen
sit and smoke above them, nets hang in the sun, low buildings with
broken, domestic roofs run round a cobbled square; and in one corner a
pier-master’s cottage has its ivy, its curtains, its canary in a wicker
cage. It is a relic that serves only to italicize the change. A pace to
the right of it, a pace to the left, the new world of draggled humans
and unhuman gestures is awaiting one: a world where the blues of those
jerseys, the warm browns of those sails, have faded into the sad blues
and yellows of mechanics’ overalls. From the cyclopean platform of
granite, frowned upon by a cirque of raw cliff, and patterned with the
shaggy heads and shoulders of half-embedded liners, which lies at one
end of the chain, through all the rigid convolutions of honey-coloured
water which lead to the interminable clangour of the Atlantic berths
at the other, it is a place, invariably, where a new relation has
been established between man and the outer seas. It is in hieroglyphs
of granite and water, in monstrous shapes and silences, that the
bare-handed individual and the naked element make their communications;
and in the face of this terrible script it is not strange that the
writer should be forgotten. The efficiency of Liverpool, yes; but
never, quite, the efficiency of the people of Liverpool.


§ 5.

I went down the other evening, for instance, to see the _Baltic_
and the _Campania_ come in to their berths. They had both arrived
that morning from New York, they had landed their passengers and
their mails at the Stage, and all afternoon they had been lying in
mid-stream, two steep-shored islands, with the ferry-boats passing
beneath them and silver clouds of gulls ranging about their coasts. And
now, the tide being at the full, they had awakened wonderfully to life,
and were moving processionally down the flood. A brace of tugs marched
at the head of each, one a little to starboard, one to port, and in the
wake of each another tug nodded and dipped.

It was a grey evening; a cold wind pressed upon the tide, slats of rain
broke upon the surface. But the sight of that pageant out there in
the stillness warmed the grey as with fire. It stirred the heart like
music; it was as elemental in appeal as music. It fingered a new range
of emotions, untouched by the doings of men. It was a progress as brave
and unhuman as the progress of clouds across the sky.

The great moment came when they curved slowly about in the dusk, and
began to move imperturbably across the flood to where the head-light
of our pier upheld a cold gleam against the grey. The wind beat about
them as they advanced, flurries of rain beset them, but neither the
wind nor the rain, nor the racing tide, nor the narrowness of the
granite-guarded opening they had to enter, seemed in the least to
trouble that impassive progress. And then they were upon the gap, and
the sheer walls were crushing about their flanks, and a vague tumult
of sounds drifted down the air, and so they passed through, with a
kind of contemptuous precision, into the dead reaches beyond. One
admired, one marvelled, but it was never the admiration one gives to
human things. That vague drift of sound, the dim peering faces away up
there on the bridge, the little group of men running with a rope along
the quay--they all seemed quite irrelevant--little happenings to which
the lordly shapes remained profoundly indifferent. It was to them, to
those lordly shapes, that the homage went out; theirs was the courage
and the beauty and the wise strength. And when one lighted porthole,
and then another, revealed rooms filled with living people, it became
scarcely possible to resist a cry. The monster, after all, beneath
this impassivity, was really crammed and feverish with some dreadful
parasitic life.... It is a sensation not dissimilar to that which one
gets when, standing in Hyde Park on some clear spring morning, one
surveys the far landscape rising and falling away in the east, and
then suddenly realizes with a stound that all that palely gleaming
country-side is riddled with caverns enclosing living men.


§ 6.

After the starkness and rigour of the Docks, the Landing Stage itself,
the half-mile raft, moored to the City’s gates, which forms their
centre-piece, presents a somewhat dilettante appearance, almost,
indeed, a sentimental. It certainly makes amends, at any rate, for the
absence of the human note in the theatre that stretches away at either
end of it. Half of Liverpool uses it as a matter of business, the other
half as a matter of health and pleasure, and it presents all day long
the appearance of a democratic promenade. It is, in fact, the finest
of Liverpool’s parks, furnished with its sheet of water, provided
with its cafés, its bookstalls, its seats. Merchants and clerks from
the contiguous bone-part of the fan slip down here at lunch-time,
mothers bring their children from the recesses of the suburban plume.
The actual people of Liverpool are here at last to be seen in vital
conjunction with the weapon they employ. All that is vivid in the
movements of great waters is made into a bright piece of their lives,
a familiar picture on the walls of their living-room. A breeze is
blowing, maybe, and all the wide surface is curded and laced with
foam. The foam makes a silver lattice up which the golden roses of the
morning climb and burn. The scent of their blooming has coloured the
dreams of the ages.

Nor is even the utilitarian, the northern, end of the Stage, where the
great liners, the _Baltics_ and _Campanias_, discharge and accept their
passengers and mails, altogether free from that effect of festival.
The mass of the steamer blots out the sky, indeed, and it is thus in
a cistern of shade that the actual leave-takings are effected and the
baggage plucked aboard. But there is always so much of briskness,
of white-handed briskness, of silks and uniforms and an active
sociability, that the gloom becomes a positive aid to the drawing-room
sparkle of it all. Deep amongst those monstrous shapes and silences
at the Docks all the real effort has gone forward--the loading, the
coaling, even the embarkation of the emigrants--and having suffered
that in secret, the liner simply plays the part of stolid protector
of intimacies. The human drama is never very obvious: there are more
tears and tension at any of the great railway-stations; and although
the actual severance of the ship from its moorings--breaking away, as
it seems from a distance, like a solid lump of the land--does make some
restoration of that unhuman drama of elemental quantities, the massed,
fluttering handkerchiefs, the lines of upturned faces by the water’s
edge, keep the moment intimate and gallant.

[Illustration: THE LUCANIA.]

More of the real emotion of distance, of destinies astonishingly
contravened, belongs to the instant of the steamer’s arrival. The naked
fact of the departure is always somewhat misted, and the last severance
gradually prepared for, by the way the process extends: the steamer
protects the Stage for an hour or so, the nerves are habituated. But
the incoming of the liner is a different matter. It is a smear in the
sky, it is a neatly pencilled apparition, it is a towering event in
the River, it is a vast door barring out the west, all in the briefest
space of time: from start to climax the event leaps up through a swift
crescendo of incident, and the little figures trooping an instant
later over the high gangways that are really bridges from New York to
London have a fine aura of adventure. To see all this accomplished in
some evening of amber and emerald, with the lights unfolding like pale
flowers on the far-drawn violet shores, is to get another vision of the
world’s possibilities of beauty and romance.



CHAPTER III

THE CITY


§ 1.

How to set about conveying the sense of this great mass of minutely
reticulated architecture without instantly growing too pedantic
on the one hand or too vaguely general on the other--that is the
problem--always, in this business of civic portraiture, a very present
one--that now begins to grow especially insistent. For the Docks,
after all, in spite of their unhuman magnitude, do resolve themselves,
as we have seen, into a fairly compact cycle of recurrences; and the
Suburbs, again, unfolding themselves in their order, do provide a clear
and vital method of attack; and the Slums, unhappily, cling loyally
throughout to one dolorous code. But here, in this imposing van of
the civic army, there is neither loyalty to sole effect nor specific
rotation of several effects. Each building is more or less deeply
individualized; every street has its especial quality; and about the
bases of all these fretted cliffs, down all these changeful ravines,
the mutable tides of the traffic charge and ebb unceasingly.... How is
the sense of all these innumerable aspects going to be squeezed into a
pitiful couple of thousand words?...

One would like, for example, to distinguish street from street: to
speak of Lord Street, say, with its inevitable air of well-groomed
alertness, brisk and personable even under gloom, its rather
superficial architecture pleasantly asnap, its traffic and its shops
equally avoiding the dully commercial, equally achieving a confident
glitter that only just falls short of a swagger. One would like to
contrast it with one of the ways that branch out from it--with North
John Street, for instance, bleak-faced and sombre, constantly resonant
with heavy traffic from the Docks, but made suddenly magnificent by
the rocketting cream and gold of the foreshortened Royal Insurance
building at its head; or with Whitechapel, again--a street, for all its
proximity, of so profoundly different a quality: a street that seems
always to be attempting to override, by dint of cheap cafés, clothiers,
boot-shops, and the like, the coarse utilitarian note that insists
on lumbrously emerging from Crosshall Street, from Stanley Street,
from the neighbouring clangorous Goods depots: a country tripper of
a street, shamefacedly endeavouring to conceal the presence of its
obviously autochthonous companions.

And one would like, again, to speak of Stanley Street itself, chief of
those autochthonous companions, a narrow and difficult ravine, mostly
sunless, always noisy, whose bed is encumbered from end to end with
floats and lorries and waiting carters, and whose walls are provision
offices, provision warehouses, and the sheer grey flanks of the G.P.O.
From a gash in those grey flanks a blood-red stream of post-office vans
and motors is jerked out intermittently. The air is thick with swinging
boxes and heavy or keen with the most astounding range of odours: with
slab cheesy odours and searching fruity ones; with exotic odours that
one sniffs uncertainly, for which one can find no closer definition
than nice or nasty; and, supereminently, running through them all,
the wild decivilizing smell of wet deal cases--a smell that always
arouses a certain unemotional cotton-broker of one’s acquaintance to an
inconvenient but rather touching hunger for some particular place of
dim forest silences.

[Illustration: BOLD STREET.]

And then one would like to appraise the elusive atmosphere of Bold
Street--that intimate, elegant avenue of rare fabrics and shopping
women and the ripe, drumming ripple of automobiles--the Bond Street of
Liverpool, whose wood pavements make a sudden chosen silence in the
midst of the clatter, which is held beautifully inviolate from electric
cars and sandwichmen, and at the head of whose discreet vista the
tower of St. Luke’s rises gravely up, faintly remindful of the manner
in which the towers of Sainte Gudule survey that other road of women
and priceless elegancies in Brussels. And with this so purely feminine
apartment one would proceed to contrast, properly enough, some such
exclusively male possession as Brunswick Street. It, too, is highly
chosen and conserved, and the sober, archaic front of the old Heywood’s
Bank at the upper end of it prepares one at the outset for exactly
the unostentatious sobriety of the lower, where it passes under the
influence of the Corn Exchange. It seems to reflect, and the brokers
one meets there seem exceptionally to reflect as well, something of
the spirit of that fine race of merchants who wore leathern watchguards
but stocked a most excellent port, whose word was good for thousands
and who lunched at the little tavern which still stands there, like an
old-fashioned waiter, with so engaging an air of homely dignity.

And it would be impossible, of course, to avoid comparing Brunswick
Street with that other exclusively masculine quarter, Victoria Street,
which passes, in spite of its consistent virility, through three
successive phases. In the first, where it lies between North John
Street and the Post Office, it has an almost Stanley Street-like
aspect--a wider and less viscid Stanley Street, with the red stream of
mail-vans exchanged for a black swarm of clerks and merchants, hiving
about the Produce Exchange. In the second it grows aridly official,
the fidgety pomp of the Post Office towering away on the right, the
Revenue Offices marching with much cold grey dignity on the left.
And, finally, in its third phase, it grows positively dramatic and
unintentionally spectacular: the offices of the town’s protagonistic
newspapers, the _Post_ and the _Courier_, confront one another
threatfully--silent at sunset, but romantically vociferous towards
dawn, and, from close beside them, one gets (especially on a morning
of sunshine) the most delightful glimpse of the entirely noble sweep
of architecture that rises up--dreaming, reduced, subtile--beyond the
quick, green flash that sings out from among the statuary of St. John’s
Gardens.

And so one could go on, disengaging the essential spirit of street
after street, hoping that all the readings, taken together, would build
up into the gross effect of the whole thing, would cleanly spell out
the essential spirit of the City. As, indeed, they no doubt would. But
in the way of the adoption of that course there lies one rather serious
objection. To make its final result veracious, it would have to be
followed with uncompromising thoroughness; and if it were followed with
uncompromising thoroughness this chapter would never end.


§ 2.

So, then, although it carries us a certain distance, that bundle of
street analyses, even if it were considerably enlarged, must not
be looked upon as final. The alternative method, of course, is the
eclectic--a searching out of “notes,” of the vistas, the groupings,
the buildings, that leap incisively out from the mass and engage the
memory--an arrangement of these things in some considered order.

[Illustration: LIME STREET STATION]

And to such a collection that bunch of street-portraits (their
subjects, to be frank, having been chosen rather less off-handedly
than might appear) forms an admirable nucleus. And since it is at the
moments of arrival and departure that the nerves are most sensitive
to aspects--since it is, in consequence, the first or the last
glimpse of a place that remains, for most of us, its practical,
portable symbol--the collection should next include a note of the way
Liverpool reveals herself at each of her four great vestibules--at the
Landing Stage, at the Exchange Station, at Lime Street Station, at the
Central Station.

From within the railings that fringe the tiny courtyard outside the
last, for instance, it is as a neatly compacted vista of twinkling
shops, of converging roofs, minarets, and flag-poles, that, in the
day-time, she rather alluringly presents herself. There is much
delicate cross-hatching of shade and shine, much blithe gold-lettering
on the walls. There are flower-sellers on the kerb, a string of
hansoms glisten in the roadway, an electric car, double-decked and
yellow, surges down the hill from Ranelagh Street and provides the due
top-note.... Emphatically, a most efficient place, this Liverpool,
glossy and high-stepping, at once elegant and active. And with
nightfall it emerges as a place of quite exceptional loveliness.
That checked curve of the receding buildings, giving the prospect
depth without diminution, grades the lights without disparting them,
knits them together, both the near and the far, into one exquisitely
modulated chorus. Moon-green, mistletoe-white, orange, amethyst, and
pearl, are their principal colours, and in this chamber of converging
lines the massed clusters branch and leap and linger with the most
wonderful effect of tender ardency.... Emphatically, a place, this
Liverpool, possessing very singular possibilities of beauty.

The Liverpool that awaits one outside the orifices that lead from
Exchange Station, however, is of a vastly different quality.[3]
Roofed with a remote, unimportant sky, floored (say) with a vague
shimmer from recent rain, and hung monotonously about with carefully
unobtrusive buildings, it seems less like one of the central spaces
of the City than a mere ante-chamber to rooms--possibly magnificent,
possibly squalid--that lie somewhere beyond; and in the mornings, when
the hosts from the northern suburbs are pouring silently through, that
effect is irresistibly emphasized. It is all neutral, non-committal.
The solitary stains of colour are the hoardings that flame up before
the Moorfields entrance, and the immemorial fruit-barrow that picks out
against the grey in Bixteth Street.

[3] I speak here of what always seems to me to be its most
characteristic moment. That it should sometimes be profoundly
different, that it should often present itself, for example, as a
prolonged splutter of lorries fighting up from the Docks--agitated
enough, then, in all conscience, and daubed with much raw colour--is
but a testimony to that baffling mutability which seems, in this
matter, to make capture of the _vraie vérité_ even more impossible than
usual.

[Illustration: LIME STREET, WITH WELLINGTON MONUMENT.]

One’s impression of the Lime Street Liverpool, again, is always
tinged by the consciousness of that superb stretch of “smutted
Greek,” Liverpool’s most deliberate effort in the direction of
sustained architectural spectacle, which one sees just the moment
before or just the moment after. Without that consciousness, the
flat-chested, multi-windowed, watery-complexioned hotels that droop,
perhaps a little dismally, down the hill opposite, and the uncertain
traffic that spreads itself thinly out upon the vast road-spaces in
between, would probably not convince one that their claim to dignity
was extraordinary. But as it is, they do seem to catch a kind of
magnificence, a magnificence that is positively almost shared by the
little ragged sentry-box of the Punch and Judy show set oddly down,
like a grandfather’s clock, plump in the middle distance--a queer axis
for the cars that curve clangorously about it. As one advances, the
black chine of St. George’s Hall, a long grey ripple of steps lapping
its base, thrusts forward more and more emphatically, and so one
passes into sight of that plateau of classicism--St. George’s Hall,
the Museum, the Library, the Walker Art Gallery, which Mr. Hay has
described so perfectly upon another page.

Deliberately majestical here, gravely featureless in Tithebarn Street,
elegant from the Central, Liverpool achieves within the last of her
four porticoes an order of effects more urgent and memorable still.
For it is behind the Landing Stage that many of the car routes of the
City terminate, and the great space of unshadowed roadway, empty of all
buildings save the new-sprung Dock Offices, is really a brave platform
on which the cars endlessly wheel and interlace. By daylight it is
wonderful enough: the long files of maroon and yellow monsters curving,
separating, recoiling; the constant scream and clangour of their onset;
the rich white bulk of the Dock Board building floating serenely
above the press. But towards evening, when every car becomes a great
cresset of prisoned flame, the golden plenty of it all, the intricate
splendour of this vast terrace of racing and receding fire, is a thing
to leave the senses glutted and overborne. Liverpool is no longer a
place of architecture, grave or dignified. It is a mere spectacle,
a piece of golden pageantry. And even the beauty of the dominating
building, ivory and pale rose as it accepts the sunset, luminous and
firm-bodied as an eastern cloud at the end of a day of wind, seems no
more than a fit accessory to the fabric of woven lights astir below.

[Illustration: ELECTRIC CAR TERMINUS--PIER HEAD.]


§ 3.

It is one or other of those vignettes that stands for Liverpool in the
minds of all but all those who live without her walls; but there still
remains another touch or two to add before the symbol we are attempting
to create can be called completed, before this inevitable, initial slab
of what must begin to appear uncommonly like sheer “word-painting”
(crude word for a cruder occupation) can be brought to a close. Already
we have taken the sense of a group of her central ways; already we
have surprised her at each of her four great doorways. It now remains
to brush in a connecting note or two, an episode or so from the less
formal interspaces:

An appreciation, say, of one of those admirable fortalice-like
structures, the warehouses, which clamp all the lower end of the mass
and convert the little connecting roadways into canyons of sumptuous
gloom. Four-square and massive, they are always shapely; the old stock
brick, hand-made, of which so many of them are built, gives them a
fine hunger for ripe colouring; and from their vertical lines of
doorways--six, eight, ten, a dozen, of them superimposed in a slot that
runs from roof to base--they gain the power to charge their austerity
with something very near to positive elegance....

A reference to one other of the connecting ways: thin sabre wounds of
light drawn across the dense body of offices--to such a one as Leather
Lane, for instance, slipping stealthily from Tithebarn Street to Dale
Street, a sun-bright tremor of traffic, dainty and diminished as an
image in a lens, flickering delicately across its outlet....

An impression of some such typical grouping of the mobile and the
architectural as one gets, say, at the top of one of the three parallel
ways--Chapel Street, Water Street, James Street--which run down from
the centre towards the River: a crawling steep of men, cars, carriages,
and drays; the flags and signs of a horde of shipping offices
accompanying its descent; slow masts and a couple of great funnels
moving seriously beyond. Or of such another grouping as one finds being
repeated, over and over again, at the base of the brown stone curtain
that falls from St. Nicholas’ Churchyard to the street below: a troop
of sandwichmen, their beat ended, piling their placards against the
wall; a couple of ramping Clydesdales--head-chains glinting, feet
asplay for purchase--taking the Chapel Street hill; an aproned carter
swinking at their heads; a white-flecked mound of cotton-bales lurching
stolidly at their heels; high over all, sailing equably against the
blue, the fretted top-gallant of the Church....

A memorandum of one of the older (not the old--there are none) scraps
of the City, pushed a little to one side, antiquated before they are
antique: of that jolly little pot-bellied barber’s shop at the foot
of Mount Pleasant (Mr. Hay has described that, too), and of how the
slick new mass of the juxtaposed University Club crushes it into
insignificance--a ready-made metaphor; or of that delightful Georgian
residence in Wolstenholme Square, not far from Bold Street, with
lorries clattering about its mild old cobbles, and a trio of extremely
dirty tinsmiths bullying a carter from the top of its dignified
stairway....

[Illustration: THE LITTLE SHOP, MOUNT PLEASANT.]

An appreciation of that tumultuary roofscape one surveys from the
steps of the Art Gallery, a thing to be seen against the afterglow, a
clean-verged, leaping monochrome of mauve on chrysoprase....

And there you have the main letters in the alphabet of masonry which
Liverpool uses to write out some part of her confessions.


§ 4.

Now, it may be observed that I have made no reference whatever to
some of the most conspicuous majuscules in that alphabet. I have
said nothing, for instance, about the Municipal Offices, nor of the
Town Hall, nor of the Sailors’ Home, nor of the new Cotton Exchange,
nor of the old Custom House, nor of a dozen other much-photographed
architectural plums. This is not laxity, nor a sudden dearth
of adjectives, nor a disgust with the business of scene-painting.
There is, as they say, a reason; and if I disclose that reason, the
confessions which those dropped capitals bestud may tend to grow more
legible. Such disclosure might serve, at all events, to suggest a
co-ordinating theory, to provide a kind of zoetrope into which those
detached impressions and Mr. Hay’s pictures may equally be fitted, and
which, judiciously twirled, may induce them all to swim into a single
animate and breathing image.

The fact is, then, that when Liverpool desires most to impress she
expresses least. When she draws herself together for a splendid
outburst, she grows inarticulate. Her considered effects are mostly
affectations. So that to pick out those effects, to arrange all the
majuscules together, is not merely to print her confession in another
type: it is to print a confession of another type. One omits these
deliberate, self-consciously impressive things from one’s notes, not
because Liverpool contains very little of such things, but rather
because such things contain very little of Liverpool.

[Illustration: THE QUEEN VICTORIA MEMORIAL.]

For the spirit behind this fabric is essentially a spirit absorbed
in other matters than the deliberate, preconsidered capture of the
beautiful.... Out of the several characteristics we have already
noted--the swiftness of the City’s growth, its glittering modernity,
its tireless, deft adjustment of alien activities to a common
end, its tenacious efficiency and alertness--out of these things
in conjunction does there not already begin to emerge (we are all
invincible anthropomorphists in these matters) some kind of quite
consistent Personality--the genius of the place, if you will--the handy
embodiment, at any rate, of the main instincts which this specially
environed congeries has tended to throw into exceptional relief? For
myself, I see it always as a blunt Rodinesque figure, sternly thewed,
tensely poised, strenuously individual, tenacious of the actual,
impatient of mere dreams, energetic rather than adventurous, a lover,
above everything, of efficiency--efficiency, testing and twisting
things with earnest, untiring fingers, whittling things down to the
valid, irreducible core.... It is not from fingers like those that one
looks to receive many frail white images of beauty. And whether this
reading of the essential psychology of the place be true or false,
it is certain that the men of Liverpool have never been overprone to
sheer æstheticism. The vivid day of their City has been crammed with
leaping episodes, it has left no spare strength for flourishes, and
they have expressed themselves throughout in terms of a naked and
practical utility. Such purely decorative effects as have from time to
time been judiciously introduced become in consequence effects which
it is vastly easy to misunderstand. Take, for instance, that lordly
plateau-load of classical furniture at Lime Street--a feature that
would seem utterly to contradict, but that in reality beautifully
confirms, this non-æsthetic reading of the City’s nature. Raking among
the ruins of the place a thousand years hence, when steamships are
unknown and the Mersey is silted up, some earnest archæologist will
come upon those (in both senses of the word) imposing remains, and
will promptly be deceived. He will speak with rapture of the “sharp
bright edge of high Hellenic culture” that must have glittered about
the community which could produce such stately monuments; and he will
probably have a good deal to say about the civic decadence of his
contemporaries. But archæology (not, perhaps, for the first time) will
have been mistaken. These clean-limbed columns and great porticoes and
pediments were not upreared by a race of Phryne-worshipping hedonists.
Directly regarded, therefore, they are misleading, uncharacteristic;
but in an indirect way they are very characteristic indeed. One
would ask for no better proof of a man’s lack of native appetite for
literature than that he had read through, in turn, the whole of the
hundred best books. Similarly, this wholesale, uncompromising adoption
of an architectural mode already traditional, already innumerable times
approved, is a most convincing proof of the existence of that spirit
of honest and tenacious practical efficiency of which I have spoken.
When it came to a matter of beauty, they made beauty a business, they
captured it by brute strength and logic. There was nothing tentative,
experimental, about the effort; there was no attempt at realizing some
splendid, unprecedented dream; line for line, mass for mass, it was
the stolid, efficient reproduction of masses and lines about whose
loveliness there was no possibility of question. And so the beautiful
sequence of buildings which stands for Liverpool’s most deliberate
piece of architectural æstheticism is really a testimony to the
beauty-disregarding spirit of naked utilitarianism which her endless
and imminent activities have made inevitable.


§ 5.

And it is precisely to this beauty-disregarding spirit of
utilitarianism again that one traces some of the most memorable and
significant pieces of beauty that the place possesses--more memorable
and significant than the St. George’s Hall group, because vastly
more vital and characteristic. For Liverpool, in spite of herself,
and quite unconsciously, is a place of exceeding beauty. Out of that
hard turmoil of tangible interests and endeavours a very splendid and
reassuring happening has sprung. In honest and shrewd response to
instant necessities, the city has been carved and kneaded into the
lean lines of practical effectiveness; and those lines have joined
wonderfully together to make any number of unpremeditated glories.
Loveliness has descended unawares. Built frankly for use, it seems
to have attained, by processes almost as organic as those of outer
nature, a very singular and moving impressiveness. That drama of
leaping roof-tops seen from the Walker Art Gallery, that chamber of
co-ordinated lights seen from the Central Station, that racing flood
of gold beneath the Dock Board building, are examples of the sort of
thing I mean. It is in these natural and instinctive creations, frankly
utilitarian, and not in her self-conscious trafficking with loveliness,
that Liverpool grows most sensuously magnificent. A curve of sunless
canal with clustered chimneys rising solemnly about; a pit of railway
sidings, warehouses ranged round, one proud white plume of smoke moving
slowly across it; long glittering reaches at the Docks; a black stretch
of suburb crawling out, myriad-speared, across the sunset; a mass of
warehouses blotting out the stars; hot vistas in the markets, ripe and
fierce with colour; burning evening skies, unintentionally clipped
and framed by the pillars of the Town Hall portico; roof-adjusted
rods of sunlight creating unexpected carnivals; perspectives forming
and vanishing; great horses moving in procession; swift, imperative
assonances--momentary, irrecoverable--between traffic and grouped
buildings: these and a thousand others of the same spontaneous kind
are the passages of her life, the native gestures, that linger in the
memory like a cadence, that colour her aspect with an abiding dignity
and graciousness.

[Illustration: ST. JOHN’S MARKET.]

And this is, after all, to say little more than that Liverpool
possesses in deep measure that strange accidental beauty of the modern
city which is a thing so new to the world that the arts have not yet
learned to teach men how to enjoy it. But in Liverpool (exceptional,
once more, because typical, typical because exceptional) that beauty
exists in a state of singular purity. It is a beauty that is the
result, above everything, of a naked response in stone and iron to
certain clear imperative necessities: such a response catching, as
it would seem, some of the beauty and authority that inevitably attach
to every articulate expression of a vital impulse. And in Liverpool
those responses have been especially clean and unentangled. The place
is self-contained: it has never run to booths and show-places; it has
no associations, romantic or historic, to attract the gaper; it has
never had to sustain a pose, and only rarely been tempted to attempt
one; and these facts, and the fact that its growth has been continuous,
that there has nowhere been any shrinkage or debilitation, have made
it possible for the garment of buildings to be fitted to the authentic
body of its energies with an absolute closeness and integrity. There
are no loose folds, no adaptations, very few adhesive insincerities.
The whole thing is supremely vital and athletic; and therefore it
everywhere discloses that strong and moving graciousness, as yet
almost wholly uncelebrated, which is as elemental and unaffected as
the strong, forthright graciousness of its River.


§ 6.

Thus far I have spoken chiefly of the setting of this central stage,
its scenery and back-cloths. Let me now attempt to indicate, as
uninvidiously as may be, one or two of the more prominent actors:
themselves, of course, equally symptomatic, equally the choice and
the mouthpiece of that Rodinesque _deus ex machina_ couched invisibly
behind.

[Illustration: ST. NICHOLAS CHURCH AND THE LAST OF TOWER BUILDINGS.]

_Place aux dames_, by all means.... Of the maturer actresses, however,
I confess I speak with a certain degree of diffidence. It is always
dangerous to generalize on such a topic, and when the generalization
inclines to be not wholly laudatory, to the danger of being guilty
of inaccuracy is added that of floundering into blank discourtesy.
But I will have, at least, the courage of my impressions. Sifting
them, I incline to suggest that the more mature of the women-folk
whom one discerns here, among the central shops--driving, walking,
shopping--seem somehow not wholly to succeed. The efforts of an earlier
day seem to have left their marks--sometimes in a certain exiguity,
more often in a certain inexiguity; and, facially, one rather deplores
the absence of anything in the nature of that enduring patrician
basis which sometimes makes (as one seems to remember) the inevitable
touches of attrition touches almost to be welcomed--touches that
refine, clarify, take distinction a delicate step further. Here and
there, in a Bold Street carriage, or in some one of the more guarded
roadways of the south-eastern suburbs, a silvery face will flash out
with a cameo-like precision; but their incidence is rare--quite rare
enough, it seems to me, to be accepted as significant. The general note
wavers instead between something almost touchingly _fade_ and something
too tenacious of qualities which, however charming in themselves,
have rather lost their personal propriety.... So one hesitatingly
generalizes. For the rest, there is an infinitude of kindliness; and
one suspects that it would sometimes much prefer to break away, more
often than it has the right to do, into frankest homeliness. One is
never tempted to deplore a too vulgar display of mere culture.

But of the younger of the female players I speak with a notable
access of assurance. There, beyond question, do I seem to detect
the presence of a very distinct type, and (still more reassuring)
of a type that is vastly pleasant. More, I have, for the first part
at least of this judgment, the confirmation of a friend in whose
_flair_ for social qualities I repose, for the best of reasons, the
most absolute confidence. “I can tell them anywhere, anywhere,” she
assures me: in Paris, at Nice, in Scotland, it seems, the Liverpool
_jeune fille_ stands apart. To the latter part of my judgment, it
is true, she subscribes only an assent that is dimmed by a vague
qualification or so, perhaps not wholly inexplicable. She hints,
for one thing, at a kind of gaucherie; but that, I am convinced,
is unfair. One may suggest, indeed, not without justice, a certain
lack of finesse, but that is by no means the same thing. Gaucherie
implies a kind of inefficiency, an inadequacy that trends towards
clumsiness, and anything short of an absolute efficiency is flatly
uncharacteristic of the sort of girl I mean. Whether she speaks or
walks, buys a hat or wears one, plays golf or the piano, it is always
the consummate apportionment of means to end that most impresses one;
and if one rarely finds her indulging in the frailer, more elusive,
artifices of femininity--in those so alluringly deliquescent touches
of speech, voice, emotion, gesture, and so forth--in all the subtle
craft of implication, for instance--it is by no means because her
methods stumble before they reach her ideals, but simply because her
ideals include none of those fine, diaphanous practices. Her vision of
the world is as distinct and sharp as Mr. Bernard Shaw’s (Mr. Shaw,
indeed, would unreservedly admire her); her emotions are robustious and
definite; and she makes all this instantly quite clear, even to the
outsider, in her manner of speaking to her coachman as she steps into
her brougham, or in the strong delicacy of the colours with which she
so charmingly and undisguisedly emphasizes the clear colour of her eyes.

I grow intimate, it will be perceived, and, in order to grow more
intimate still, let me appoint a flesh-and-blood heroine. She is a
woman who always seems to me perfectly to achieve exactly what her
sister-players, one in this way, one in that, succeed in attaining only
approximately. She certainly, at any rate, perfects and epitomizes,
in the most delightful fashion, what one singles out as their main
tendencies--their main physical tendencies, that is, and therefore,
no doubt, their main sub-physical tendencies as well. She is tall and
large-limbed, more Hebe than Diana, with the grace of swiftness rather
than of languor, and a mode of gowning that deals directly with the
body’s needs, and so, the body being so admirably fashioned, immensely
rejoices the eye. Bronze and rose (here one inevitably tends toward
dithyramb; but these Liverpool complexions, too good to be untrue, are
really quite memorable) meet distractingly in her face’s colouring,
and I will not deny an occasional freckle or so. She speaks an English
that is clean and well picked in a voice that is so satisfied that it
needs all its firmness to keep it from complacency, and she has no
discoverable accent. She lives at Sefton Park in one of the rather
ineffective houses we will criticize in the next chapter, and, as
often as not, comes to town by electric car. (London, I hear, still
looks askance at its County Council cars, but in Liverpool they are,
and always have been, quite the thing.) She is most herself when she
walks. Her stride is not evasive. Golf has helped to solidify it. She
writes a most excellent letter, reads a good deal, cares nothing for
Mr. Yeats, a great deal for Tolstoi, is (rather unexpectedly) a devotee
of Bach, and can play the Chaconne very vividly. She is at once shrewd
and tender, cool-headed and warm-hearted. And although she protests
that she has “a soul above self-coloured papers,” her regard for sacred
things, on the one hand, is as free from sickliness as her regard for
secular things, on the other, is free from crudity and ill-taste.

[Illustration: SAINT PETER’S CHURCH.]

She stands, then, that highly satisfactory young animal, for all that,
in their several ways, the majority of the younger women-folk tend
to rival; not only those who pass from brougham to shop in the clear
morning brightness of Church Street and Bold Street, but also those
others, even more truly native to these central quarters, whom one
observes hurrying here a few hours earlier, and leaving, with something
more of leisureliness, in the neighbourhood of six and seven: the less
fortunate, but scarcely less reassuring sisterhood whose business it is
to wait at the thither end of that passage from brougham to shop, and
produce such hats, ribbons, laces, flowers, as our heroine may desire.
Physically, indeed, these shop-girls of Liverpool have a charm that
rather astonishes the stranger; and they, too, are remarkably efficient
self-gowners. To pass down Lord Street and Church Street on some
spring evening, with the ebbing daylight tactfully erasing any of the
lines the stress of the long, close hours may have left on the young
faces, and the flowering lights of the City flinging little splashes
of piquancy among them, is to be charmed into accepting the physical
beauty of women as one of the especial attributes of these rapid
commercial streets.


§ 7.

As for the male members of the company, they avow, of course, an
unusually complete immersion in occupations unmuscular and theoretical:
Liverpool’s exceptional freedom from industrialism--other than the
secluded industrialism of the Docks--making her, in this conspicuous
white-fingered urbanity of her workers, once more especially typical of
one of the chief modes of modern civic life. All manual labour being,
broadly speaking, tidily banished to the Docks, these central spaces
are left entirely at the disposal of the dock-labourer’s soft-handed
collaborators--the clerk, the merchant, the broker. Every morning, from
nine to ten, the tide of these spruce actors pours astonishingly in.
They cram and encrust the cars, they traverse, with a neat, fashionable
air, that mild ante-room in Tithebarn Street; they flood thickly up
from the River--an agreeably apparelled army that gives a fine air of
prosperity to all the streets, and that will shortly settle down, in
a thousand unseen cells, to its extraordinary and so modern labours,
dealing always with symbols instead of actualities, with signatures
instead of people, with bills of lading instead of bales and boxes,
flinging tons of merchandise from continent to continent with the flick
of a pen--a queer, Shalott-like existence of whispers and reflections.

But in spite of these unmuscular rites, and in spite of those elegant
costumes, it must not be imagined that the ritualists are themselves
unmuscular. It is by no means a white-faced and dyspeptic clan, this
clerical tribe of Liverpool. And, for my own part, I like to believe
that it is the River once more which has secured for these clerks,
merchants, bankers, brokers, their rather conspicuous emancipation from
the proverbial physical defects of the sedentary. The place, anyhow,
is very clearly pledged to athleticism, as those rows of physical
culture magazines which chromatically tessellate the pavements of Water
Street and Chapel Street would alone suffice to make quite evident. And
certainly, even if it be not wholly responsible for this remorseless
pursuit of muscularity, the River gives that pursuit all manner of
exceptional advantages. The long series of famous golf-links that
lie amongst the sand-dunes at New Brighton, at Leasowe, at Hoylake,
at Formby, at Blundellsands, at Birkdale; the numerous salt-water
swimming-baths; the sailing clubs; the briny, gale-cleansed spaces of
aromatic gold, free to all who care to use them, that curve endlessly
about the coast; the mere proximity of the Landing Stage and the
presence of the cordial and bracing airs that enfilade the streets
of offices behind it--all these things must have tended to give
athleticism an especial point and vigour. The River has made one-half
of Liverpool a race of quill-drivers; but it has also made them a race
of exceptionally deep-lunged and brown-faced quill-drivers.

[Illustration: EVENING AT NEW BRIGHTON.]

Take, for instance, the case of L----. L----, nearer twenty than
thirty, is a clerk in a bank here, and he, like our free-striding
heroine, presents a clear and accurate summary of the tendencies one
notes in the innumerable clerks who fill the close-packed offices all
about him. He lives “across the water” at New Brighton, choosing that
because of the half-hour’s river crossing morning and evening. (He
spends that half-hour walking steadfastly round and round the upper
deck, hat in hand, practising--if he can do so unobtrusively--an
elaborate and, I am sure, highly painful system of respiration.) He
goes to the swimming-bath twice a week in winter, five or six times in
summer, dodging down there, if possible, at moments that are perhaps,
from a mere purist’s point of view, not entirely his own. But in these
matters L---- is no mere purist. He does his work well (he is really
a most excellent servant), and that suffices. He is paid £140 a year
for doing it well, and that, too, suffices. It suffices for three
£3 3s. suits per annum, for subscriptions to a football club, to a
cricket club, to a tennis club, for a sixth share of the expenses of
running a small yacht, for a £13 summer holiday, and for his various
trim necessities. He is a close student of the science of “fitness,”
regarding “fitness” (very properly) as a thing much superior to any
mental abnormality, and the shilling which suffices for his daily
lunch is not expended without due dietetical considerations. Just now
it is vegetarianism. Thereafter he repairs to one of those surprising
underground smoking cabarets--places where an Oriental easefulness
and languor loom dimly through a blue narcotic veil--which Liverpool,
probably because of her emphatic clericalism, provides in such
extreme abundance, and there, in the company of other seekers after
fitness, he sips, and smokes, and nibbles one of the two biscuits
with which he is provided (never both--that would be a grave _faux
pas_), and discusses athleticism until a quarter of an hour after
the time he should be back at his desk. He is lithe, clean-shaven,
temperate, unmarried, and, in spite of his _contes_, probably strictly
celibate as well. He reads, but books are of interest to him chiefly
because they remind him of life, give him a fresh appetite for the
fit and pleasant things of life; thus, he praises Harland because
his people--Anthony and the rest--are “so immensely decent.” He is
not inordinately religious, but the traditional piety of his people
is a thing he contentedly accepts. He may one day migrate (“going
abroad” is a familiar topic in this City of lowly paid clerks and
multitudinous cheap and obvious modes of exit), and if he does he will
certainly score. If he stays at home he will wind up with a small bank
managership and as much in the way of golf and week-ends as £250 a year
will permit him to use as a salve for the obedient monotony of small
bank management.

That is one type of player. Another, and much older, is to be found
gravely pacing among those sober buildings in Brunswick Street.
Self-made, but never blatant; successful because of his common sense
and his genius for hard work, and remaining common-sensible and
hard-working in spite of his success; vested with a dignity that
sometimes verges on stolidity; suspicious of sentiment in life, but
an admirer of Bouguereau in art, he is pre-eminently the kind of man
who ought always to be commemorated in a steel engraving, never in a
photograph. He has had much to do with the creation of his City, and
certain of her newer propensities awaken in him a vague sensation of
alarm. Wealthy, he is a collector rather than an amateur, but a friend
rather than a host. Not without a rich vein of humour, he still takes
politics quite seriously. His house (if his family be amenable) has a
strong mahogany flavour; if his family be vigorous, that vague feeling
of disquietude pursues him there, where he is compelled to fit into an
incongruous bungalow-full of _art nouveau_ tenuities.

[Illustration: THE WALKER ART GALLERY--INTERIOR.]

Thus, in spite of the fact that he, more than any of the others, often
startles one by his resemblance to the tense Rodinesque figure beyond,
he finds himself already being surrounded by a steady flow of new modes
and influences. E----, for example, is the vigorous son of one of these
admirable persons; and E---- believes in bungalows, thinks consistent
dignity undignified, and has acquired for mahogany a distaste which
he believes to be instinctive. I doubt, myself, whether he has the
essential capacity of his parent; but his practice (he is a solicitor)
is good and whenever one catches his alert, rather thin, diligently
groomed face in the City, he seems extraordinarily full of business.
He is a member of a club, but uses it rarely: there is little club
life in Liverpool. His idea of conversation is to get one alone, and
talk shop with extreme diligence and (to be just) much charm. In spite
of his _art nouveau_ proclivities, he has less sincere taste for the
arts than his Bouguereau-appreciating father; but he has a great stock
of criteria, numbers a local portrait-painter among his friends, and
at the Private View of the Autumn Exhibition has a neat, intelligent
appraisement for every notable picture in the room. He never makes
discoveries there, and of course his range is limited. He has a
word of judicious praise for Hornel (whom his father still honestly
dislikes), but Steer has not yet emerged from the unimportant section
he vaguely calls Impressionist; but within those limits his efficiency
is surprising: yes, he is unmistakably intelligent. He is not quite
sure of the University: actually, unconsciously, he is just a little
afraid of all that it stands for; and the University, although it makes
a friend of him, has, in private, an attitude not wholly antithetical
to pity.... That splitting up--that friendly specialization and
intelligent exchange when needed--of culture, of business instincts,
of dilettantism--so different from the inclusive interests, almost the
independent universality, both of demand and supply, that marked his
father--I find quite profoundly characteristic of the Liverpool of the
present moment.


§ 8.

Well, there, in their most characteristic rôles, are some of the chief
of the players who step efficiently, efficiently, through the six
days’ traffic of this well-set central stage. I have said nothing,
it will be seen, of their nationalities. That is partly because
national characteristics in Liverpool have a way of bowing to the
local spirit--or rather, to put it more accurately, because various
national characteristics have contributed to a local spirit that an
Englishman, a Scotchman, or a Welshman finds it easy and proper to
adopt. Thus, there are any number of clerks in the North and South
Wales Bank (whose Head Office is here) who are perfect replicas of
L----, and E---- _père_, for all his typical Liverpolitanism, is really
a pure-bred Scot. And it is partly, too, because any real consideration
of this alluring question of race would lead to what would be, in this
most cosmopolitan of places, a quite endless business: the discussion,
namely, of how the pattern of the local spirit has been affected by the
presence of those charming peoples who draw such bright exotic threads
through the social fabric.

Into all that, unhappily, I have here no space to enter, nor can I
even, much as I would desire, describe the changes of cast and play
which occasionally take place: the pale Maeterlinckian drama, for
instance, which is invariably presented at the close of the six days’
traffic, making a mild hyphen between Saturday’s curtain and Monday’s
overture--a coming and going of unknown people among wide echoes and
empty roadways, with the sleepy Sunday buildings looking down in a
kind of vacant puzzlement.... Or that other performance, not in the
least Maeterlinckian, by which the Sunday quiet is succeeded--the great
Rabelaisian drama of the Bank Holiday, presented by an entirely fresh
company with new costumes and new effects. The lumpish dialect of South
Lancashire echoes everywhere about the stage on such occasions. The
Landing Stage is a prolonged ballet in red and white and inordinately
electric blue. And although the Cotton Market and the Stock Exchange
are utterly deserted, the appearance in the streets of a strange,
pinkish, tissue-wropt substance described (perhaps apocryphally?) as
“Liverpool Rock” would seem to testify to the discovery, and to the
whole-souled encouragement, of a hitherto unsuspected local industry.

And I would have liked, too, to celebrate in some measure the
change that sweeps over the City with the oncoming of night. It is
in her native unconsidered gestures, as I have said, far more than
in her studied poses, that the essential beauty of Liverpool is most
perfectly revealed; and it is at night, when the aid of the sunlight
is ended and the sky is a forgotten tale and even the stars are of as
little moment as moths that palely flutter outside the windows of a
lighted palace, that Liverpool becomes most elemental and instinctive.
Abandoned by external nature, she becomes most natural, and therefore
attains her most conspicuous beauty. Those electric cars, of course,
designed purely for utility, with no thought of spectacle, give to
her nocturnes their special individualizing note; so that whilst
she has nothing to correspond to that astonishing golden spray of
hansoms which makes midnight Piccadilly a place of almost intolerable
magnificence, she has her own rich code, just as characteristic, and
of but little less a loveliness. Down London Road, down Renshaw Street,
the crocus-coloured rivers pour into the vortex of light that boils
beneath the great cliffs of Saint George’s Hall, so terrible in their
nocturnal shapelessness. Moon-green arc-lamps, that only Baudelaire
could properly describe, hang, strange fruits, above the golden
turmoil; and it is through courses fledged by sun-gold and canopied by
this moon-green that the fluent saffron finally escapes. It sweeps down
Dale Street and Water Street, it sweeps down Church Street and James
Street, and so pours out, in the end, upon that streaming terrace by
the water-side.


§ 9.

So, inevitably, we return in the end to the River, the beautiful
source of all this beauty, the magnificent architect of all this
golden triumph. I have spoken already of its daylight loveliness,
of the elemental hungers that it both feeds and fosters, of its
cordial ministry to all that is most panic in men’s blood. But with
the advent of night it, too, suffers a deep and splendid change.
Renouncing this medicative disloyalty, it frankly surrenders itself
to the City’s rule, and becomes a peaceful province of urbanity. The
lights of the City make golden chains about it, golden lights from
the City patrol its deep recesses. It is the hour of reconciliations.
The City is more elemental than by day, the River is less elemental,
and a long sustained harmony unites the flaming tides of the streets
and the darkened causeway of the tide. Even the boats have shared the
transformation. So eminently business-like beneath the sun, they are
now changed to shining presences, romantically visiting the night.
Topaz, emerald, and ruby are their chosen favours, and widespread robes
of cramoisie and gold reflections trail sumptuously about them as they
move.

[Illustration: OVERHEAD RAILWAY FROM JAMES STREET.]



CHAPTER IV

THE SUBURBS


§ 1.

If one wanted very badly to indulge a passion for historical
retrospect, this chapter, of course, would provide the great
opportunity. For although it is customary to regard them as mere
upstarts, the Suburbs of Liverpool, like the suburbs of so many great
towns, are really much more venerable than the City itself. West
Derby, for instance, was a place of power and dignity when Liverpool
was a mere huddle of patched cabins on the marshes away below; and
Bootle, Litherland, Crosby, Walton, Kirkdale, Smithdown, Wavertree, and
Toxteth, unlike the place that now looks down upon them patronizingly,
are all distinguished by references in Doomsday Book. But in spite of
this, and although, as we shall see, some faint odour of antiquity
still here and there survives, yet to make anything more than the
barest mention of their fine old memories and traditions would be to
create a very false impression of the aspect they present to-day. It
would be quite possible, I imagine, to wander through Kirkdale for a
lifetime (an inspiring pilgrimage) without once suspecting that it owed
anything to any other era than excessively mid-Victorian; and to tell
over the far-off things that made Smithdown and Toxteth names of terror
or magnificence in old days would be to give about as fair an idea of
the expression now worn by those sober neighbourhoods as a description
of the old tithe-barn that once stood there would give of that cautious
ante-room in Tithebarn Street. The Suburbs are certainly older than the
City, but the City has infected them with her youthfulness. They do,
in cold fact, grow younger every day.

[Illustration: THE HORNBY LIBRARY.]

This double process of suburb-subordination and suburb-rejuvenescence
has always, of course, been dependent upon the progress of the arts of
locomotion; and its latest and swiftest phase was undoubtedly heralded
by the clangour of the gong on the first electric car. It is her
cars, as we have seen, that perfect Liverpool’s most characteristic
beauty. It is her cars, again, that have helped to perfect her
characteristic homogeneity and compactness, that have helped to bind
the whole sprawling mass, City and Suburb and all, more and more
tightly together, both physically and sentimentally, into one unigenous
organism. The London suburb, save in such districts as are tapped by
the Tube and its companions, is a fairly self-contained community;
it has its own shops, interests, concerts, society; and even in many
of our smaller towns and cities the general effect is that of a
number of self-interested _colonies_ pouncing upon the central spaces
for the mere means of life, and then returning to their own private
recesses to dispose of them. But in Liverpool the Suburbs tend more
and more to part with their independence, to “pool” their interests
and enjoyments, to form themselves into a kind of family party ranged
round the brightly burning grate of the City. And they grow more
like a family party, not only because of this absorption in a common
atmosphere, but also because of the increasing freedom which marks
their intercourse one with another. That division of the residential
semicircle into specific social _faubourgs_--Scotch engineers in
Bootle, for instance, Welsh builders in Everton, merchants in Sefton
Park--which subsisted very definitely until quite recently, is now in
large measure being broken down. Interfusion of social states goes on
with constantly increasing rapidity. Families who now migrate with
the utmost nonchalance from, say, Kirkdale to Aigburth, confident of
finding somewhere there precisely the strata to which they have been
accustomed, would have looked on such a flight only last generation as
being almost as impossible, almost as profoundly charged with social
significations, as a transfer from Poplar to Park Lane; and were
content, as I well know, to live and die and inherit without stirring,
without dreaming of forsaking an equally static coterie of friends.
Well, the chief agent in breaking down these social divisions was also
that art of locomotion to the encouragement of which Liverpool, as
I have said, has so peculiarly devoted herself, and the latest, the
most democratic, and the most mobile of the creations of that art,
the electric car, has inevitably increased that fluidity in a very
remarkable degree.[4] The overhead wires that bring every suburb into
vital connexion with the centre are like the radiating nerves of the
organism, flushing all the extremities with one sympathetic life.

[4] It is impossible to doubt that Liverpool’s conspicuous devotion
to the business of locomotion--a devotion that is briefly evidenced
by the significant association of her name with the first railway,
the first canal, one of the first sub-river underground railways,
the first electric overhead railway, the first sustained application
of electricity to long-distance railway traction, and now with these
electric road cars--owed its first impulse to that comparative
isolation of her early situation to which I referred in the first
Chapter, and that the eager continuance of that devotion was largely
due to the function of universal carrier which was afterwards imposed
upon her. It is equally impossible to doubt that it was that early
isolation which helped, at the outset, to foster her spirit of
independent and concerted effort. And it is, therefore (to me, at any
rate), rather a pleasant reflection, and not perhaps a wholly useless
one, that the circumstance which primarily and directly induced that
essential solidarity was also the circumstance which created the tools
for riveting it; and that the creation of those tools was considerably
aided by the apparition of precisely those forces which seemed to
threaten her with a disrupting cosmopolitanism.


§ 2.

It is by the presence of these wires, then, that you may recognize
the great suburb-reaching thoroughfares, the raying bones of our all
but unfurled fan, and by taking up a position at one of the central
junctions--that river-side terrace would be an excellent place--you may
traverse them all in turn, and examine almost all the details of the
residential plume, with no more trouble than is caused by stepping from
pavement to car-platform, from car-platform back again to pavement.
Seaforth tips the first bone; Litherland the second; Walton, Aintree
and Fazakerley, Everton and Anfield, Cabbage Hall, Tuebrook and West
Derby, variously feather the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth; whilst
Fairfield, Old Swan and Knotty Ash, Edge Hill and Wavertree, Sefton
Park and Mossley Hill, Dingle, Aigburth and Garston, fledge the
remaining branches in the east and south.

Great Howard Street, Derby Road, and Rimrose Road, the three nominal
sections of the first of these plangent ways, are tipped, as I say,
by Seaforth, and to reach Seaforth they have to bore their way
through the dense landscape of warehouses and timber-yards that lies
behind the northern docks. But out beyond Seaforth, through Waterloo,
Blundellsands, Altcar (its rifle-ranges crackling like a coffee-mill),
Formby, Freshfield, and Birkdale, that other humming river of
electricity, the most western arm of the Lancashire and Yorkshire
Railway, whose course the road from the first pretty closely follows,
drains (or, rather, feeds) a constantly spreading, bungalow-saturated
district of _bonne bourgeoisie_. It is all very prosperous, this new
rubicund neighbourhood: sand-hills and wide shore spread between it
and the sea; half a dozen golf-links accompany its brisk march by
the railway-side; and that march can really scarcely be regarded as
completed until the railway terminates, and plutocracy flames up in
a last supreme outburst, twenty miles away from Liverpool, among the
bathing-vans and pierrots of Southport: for Southport, too, in spite
of plutocratic hauteur, is being rapidly induced by locomotion to play
the part of Liverpool’s accessory. And Southport presents, anyhow, a
series of little paradoxes in appearance upon which one could desire
to linger. It is, for instance, at once the chosen home of countless
millionaires, and the chosen resort of countless cheap day-trippers.
(Although that, indeed, if all local tales be true, is less fundamental
a paradox than might perhaps be supposed.) Antitheses--at any rate
superficial antitheses--are in consequence engagingly plentiful, and at
night the place crowns this distracting effect by assuming all the airs
and graces of the Continent. Lights thickly sown among the prolonged
verdure of its central boulevard, a red-coated band and endless
promenaders, little tables beneath the trees--yes, it is all, to the
eye, very perfectly arranged.... And then, suddenly, disastrously,
there emerges the slow accent, the toilsome facetiousness, of
Chowbent.... But it is still very charming to have so many of the
materials of illusion so ingeniously provided; and one looks back at
evenings spent there, discreetly companioned, with a very quick tinge
of pleasure.

As for Seaforth itself, the first link in this chain of seaside
settlements--well, it, naturally, is the least personable of them
all. “The slums of the future,” say the pessimists sententiously; and
already a notable greyness begins to creep over its tightly packed
workmen’s cottages. It seems especially deplorable, for the shore of
the place (unbelievably peppered in the summer heats with naked pinkish
youngsters) is clean and fair enough, New Brighton glitters pleasantly
across the estuary, the Welsh hills heave up in the distance, and the
great ships of the world promenade before its parlour windows. A
little further along the coast, towards Waterloo, the Marconi station
leans upon its tall central mast like a sentry on his spear, and
listens to the cries of other great ships fighting in the clutch of
some blind Atlantic storm.

Not far away, and even more conspicuous, a high, livid convent,
many-windowed and forbidding, rises up out of the sand; and on its
flat roof, remote against the sky, you may sometimes see the good
nuns pacing to and fro together, or leaning solitarily against the
wind. They must survey a bold and various prospect. On the one hand
the level floor of the sea, here dusked, there silvered, marbled by
voyaging clouds, runs out until it meets a wide pure sky. Poised at
the western extreme of the long horizon blade, Anglesey rests like a
sapphire, and the hem of all the air that sweeps away to the south
is braided thereafter by the woven hills of Wales. From them the eye
stoops successively to the shimmering aura of the Dee, to the embossed
interspace of the Wirral, to the bright-mailed river down below, and
so to the louring masses of the City, ranging darkly out towards the
east, a creation more terribly unhuman than even the mountains or the
sea. Lastly, there is the scaly back of the suburb lying beneath, and,
beyond it, unfolding between that spreading blackness in the south and
a rim of purple woodland in the north, a fair carpet of meadowland
and cornfield runs clear and away. A rare white farm or so, set in
that green tranquillity, invest it with a kind of homely joy. And the
tender outlines of a sister convent near at hand, rising gravely among
the serene devices of its trees, touch that joy with a patience as of
evening.


§ 3.

But although it thus provides a very gracious incident in the
landscape, that sister convent, the Convent of Our Good Shepherd down
at Ford, plays no small part in increasing the dolour of the second
of our great northward-driving roadways. For its annexe, hidden among
those trees, is one of the chief of Liverpool’s Catholic cemeteries,
and since this second “bone” (Scotland Road, Stanley Road, Linacre
Road, are its successive names) passes through the very heart of the
Irish quarter of Liverpool, it follows that a grim pageant of rococo
hearses, plumes, and jaded mourners passes constantly along this
thoroughfare every Sunday in the year. It certainly stands in no need
of these aids to sobriety. Quite on its own merits it succeeds in being
the most profoundly depressing highway in all Liverpool. It plunges,
the moment it leaves the City, into the tawdry litter of shops that
edge the northern slum, and it is defamed, all thereabout, by the
sour sights and sounds and smells (the sights and sounds and smells
which we are to investigate in the next chapter) which the northern
slum exudes. It runs, after that, along the ragged fringe of the grey
curtain of shoddy streets that droops drearily down from the stooping
shoulder of Everton. And it winds up, at Linacre, with an altogether
abominable jangle of raw street-ends, waste lands, gasometers, and
factories. Its solitary moment of even comparative cheerfulness,
indeed, is to be set down to the credit of Bootle. At Bootle you catch
a glimpse of a couple of parks; a broad avenue--trim, well-treed, and
topped by an elegant spire--sweeps proudly across your track; and signs
of free-stone and prosperity are not wanting. Lacking that respite,
this arrow-straight four-mile stretch from the Old Haymarket to the
terminus at Linacre Road would infallibly induce neurasthenia.

[Illustration: OLD HAYMARKET]

Not that Bootle ever receives the slightest acknowledgment for this
fine alleviating effort. It is a curious thing, but no Liverpolitan
to whom you may ever speak will permit himself to refer to Bootle
except in tones of an amused contempt. In part, no doubt, this is a
result of Bootle’s obstinate, exotic retention of her independence.
In spite of the identity of interests, in spite of the physical
absorption which long ago took place, Bootle still clings vehemently
to her separate Boroughship; and not all the engines of suasion or
attack (and both sorts have been energetically applied) that Liverpool
can level against her seem able to encompass the surrender. Vividly
exceptional, breaking up, at any rate theoretically, the co-ordination
that would else be almost universal, she still adheres to all the
formulæ of a separate social and municipal existence: appointing her
own Mayor, lodging him in an impressive Town Hall, making him the hub
of a brightly revolving wheel of emphatically local sociabilities.
And Liverpool, incensed, no doubt, by this gross transgression of the
physical and sentimental laws that rule her life, responds with a dole
of contempt.

It is terribly unfair, of course; for Bootle, in spite of the fact
that its dockside quarters are not places of an overwhelming lucency
and charm, really does possess many gentle and engaging attributes,
not least among them being the spasmodic presence in its midst (even
yet in larger numbers than elsewhere) of the most delightful broad
Scotch seagoing engineers--sitters (when in port) in stifling back
sitting-rooms--smokers of incomparable cigars (on which duty may or
may not have been paid)--possessors of a very precise knowledge of
the healing virtues of strong waters.... And yet, in spite of the
unfairness of that contempt, one can’t help feeling that perhaps,
after all--independence or no independence--something of the sort was
inevitable. Frankly, what is to be expected by a place so unhappily
named? Its absurdity is crushing. Bootle, tootle, footle--and not
another rhyme-sound in the language. _Buckingham Palace, Bootle_;
_White Nights, Bootle_: clearly, note-paper could affect no address,
from the most stately to the most charming, that it would not instantly
convert to screaming farce. And to protest that the name is of the
most honourable antiquity is by no means to avoid the consequences. It
simply invests the whole business with an extra tinge of tragedy.

Independence of another sort, as yet untouched by tragedy, and
awakening in the soul of the Liverpolitan something more like envy
than contempt, is to be found at Litherland, which lies just beyond
that raucous Linacre terminus, a few steps nearer to the cemetery at
Ford. They are steps that provide an effective study in contrasts. They
carry one across a frail little swing-bridge; and whilst one end of
the bridge is immersed in that bad-tempered outburst of industrialism,
the other shares an atmosphere of positively Quakerish demureness.
Mild old Georgian residences, placidly sunning themselves among their
groves and lawns, are respectfully waited upon by an irresistible
village street of shops and inns and a post office. In the mildest and
sunniest residence of all the Urban District Council has comfortably
established itself; the village fire-escape sits contentedly upon the
lawn; and the orchard at the rear has been contrived into an alley
echoing with bird-song, where councillors and counselled may foregather
with their evening pipes.... It is that highly prosaic thing, the Leeds
and Liverpool Canal, that has apparently served to keep this idyll
unspotted by the world. It curves like a defensive moat between the
bird-song and the harsh imbroglio a biscuit’s-throw beyond, and upon
the frail structure that crosses it not the most reckless electric car
in the world would ever dream of venturing. It is the weakness of that
bridge that has proved the place’s strength.

It was in the very shadow of that enviable fire-escape, by the way,
that I heard of another and a subtler way in which the electric car
carries on its business of subversion. My informant was an Urban
District retainer, whom I found, the other afternoon, bedding out the
Urban District geraniums. I spoke to him regarding the pleasantness
of the neighbourhood, praised its quiet, its salubrity, and so forth.
He merely subscribed a perfunctory assent. Judging that my pæan was
considered to lack the appropriate degree of fervour, I redoubled
my efforts. I waxed really eloquent. Superlatives abounded. But my
strophe aroused no antistrophe. The more loudly did I extol, indeed,
the gloomier and more perfunctory became his replies. At last I touched
on rates, and that proved the last straw. “They’re only two shillings
and ninepence,” he burst out wrathfully--I think it was two shillings
and ninepence; anyhow, something quite preposterously minute--“and over
in Liverpool folks is paying eight or nine shillin’.” It certainly
seemed an extraordinary sort of grievance.... And then “They use our
cars,” he went on savagely--“they use our cars an’ libries an’ baths.
Why shouldn’t they help to pay for ’em?... But they can’t ’old out for
ever; Liverpool will nab the place some o’ these fine days.” And he
glanced at the genteel old stucco with an air of malevolent triumph.

The man, it will be seen, was himself a Liverpolitan, and I dare say
he voiced very fairly the general Liverpolitan sentiment in these
matters. “You use our cars; clearly, then, you must be one of us; so
quit this foolish pose of independence.” And one day, no doubt, it
will quit the pose perforce. Liverpool will “nab” it, the moat will be
stoutly bridged, a troop of electric cars will storm across, and the
quiet little gathering among the trees will be rudely broken up and
submerged.


§ 4.

To witness the actual consummation of such a ravagement, it is only
necessary to follow the next “bone” as far as Walton-on-the-Hill.
Walton, to my mind, stands as a perfect embodiment of all the mingled
tragedy and triumph of this great process of suburb overthrow. For
centuries her Church was the proud hub of the parish in which Liverpool
was but an inconsiderable hamlet; and even so late as the last year
of the seventeenth century she compelled Liverpool to regard her as
its parochial superior, and to tramp every Sunday three miles out to
her and three miles back. There is little pride left to the old Church
now. It stands, bleak and friendless, in the midst of a dull pool of
gravestones; smoke from a railway siding blackens its walls; the cars
roar triumphantly past its very gates; it has been compelled to guard
its dead with rows of iron railings. In the lanes that cower behind
it, too, defeat is equally apparent: scraps of villagedom hunted down
by a rabble of red-faced tenements; a mass of garish brick squatting
blatantly in the ruins of a cornfield; jerry-builders evicting old
residents from the cottages they have lived in for half a century;
the old Hall, in its nest of trees, lying fouled and rifled. In the
shadow of the Church there is a little cottage that has the reputation,
significantly enough, of being the only thatched cottage in Liverpool.
It is delicately complexioned, daintily windowed, and altogether very
fragrant and delightful. But the poor soul, one fancies, is not long
for this world. A frenzied hoarding, horrent and gibbering, raves above
it on one side; on the other some kind of corrugated iron affair screws
its blunt shoulder into the frail old bones.... One seems to catch a
gleam of piteous supplication behind the leaded panes.

But just beside the Church one gets the modern touch that seems to make
amends. It is from here that the great new road--wide, much-foliaged,
grass-platted--begins the journey which is to result in a curving
band of ordered white and green being drawn right through the mass of
eastern suburbs: a noble avenue which posterity will pace delightedly,
thinking kind thoughts of 1907. It is an admirable project, and a fine
salve for outraged sentiment. It sets the seal on Walton’s defeat: more
even than the red-faced streets does it signalize her absorption in the
mass; but it is none the less a thing one welcomes with enthusiasm.
Thatch, after all, is not the final excellence of life.


§ 5.

And, in any case, if Walton still thirsts for redress, she can surely
regard herself as amply revenged by her sister suburb, Aintree.
For Aintree, to no inconsiderable proportion of the inhabitants
of the British Isles, is a vastly more important place than
Liverpool--Liverpool, indeed, for them, deriving its sole significance
from the fact that it is a well-trained and useful attendant at
Aintree’s door. The secret, of course, is the Grand National--most
searching of all the national rhapsodies we strum on horse-flesh--which
is performed here every spring.

Big race-meetings don’t vary very much; and Grand National Day at
Aintree presents much the same features as one finds elsewhere. There
are the same great stands, looking, from a proletarian distance,
like boxes crammed with flowers; the same sliding bourdon from the
betting-rings; the same sudden drift of music that means that Majesty
has arrived, that Majesty is mounting the Stand, that Majesty’s
binoculars are even now compressing the whole astonishing landscape
into one bright little picture for Majesty’s eyes. Follows, as always,
the remote, wavering crescent at the starting-point; the delicate
stream of coloured scraps, blowing as before a wind, rising and
falling here and there in easy, soundless undulations; the faint, raw
crash of sound as the stream flutters beneath the quivering sparkle of
the Stands. And afterwards, the usual black flood of people pouring
across the plain, the usual sententious groups about the jumps, the
usual rancid litter, the inevitable dizzy smell of trodden turf.

Only, right at the end, there is one amendment to note. The traditional
hotchpotch of home-returning vehicles has been replaced by something
else. Away in the centre of the City some one in a little office signs
an order; and when the mob pours out, it discovers long glittering
files of electric cars awaiting it at the entrance. So, independently
propelled no longer, but packed sociably together, they sweep back
to the heart of the City, past the sad walls of Walton Church, a
magnificent official cavalcade.


§ 6.

Walton’s drab neighbours on the other side, too, have also their
sporting associations, and, in consequence, some measure of
independent fame. Each Saturday afternoon throughout the winter grey
clouds of sound drift over all this northern district and out into
the country beyond: rivalling for a time the brazen rumours from
the River which are always visiting these airs. They rise from the
great football-grounds at Everton and Anfield, where some tens of
thousands of enthusiasts, incredibly packed together (any number of the
worst-paid of L----’s understudies among them), indulge, week after
week, a passion for vicarious athletics.

There is always something rather heartsome about the sound of distant
cheering, and in this case one welcomes these tumults with an especial
enthusiasm. It would probably be unjust to suggest that they stand
for the most positive moment in the lives of the cheerers, but it
is certainly true that they provide the most positive note in the
whole of the dull regions that surround them. Towards Stanley Park,
indeed, in Anfield, there is a momentary touch of something that is
almost sprightliness; and over in Everton, near the hill from which
De Quincey admired the view of distant Liverpool, there is a flavour
of dignified decay. But, for the rest, there are only labyrinthine
miles of gardenless, spiritless streets, neither new nor old, neither
vicious nor respectable--always tragically null and inchoate. They
involve Kirkdale; they trail out towards Cabbage Hall; they trudge
past Newsham Park, and so away towards the south. The main ribs strike
across them here and there, distributing a little colour--paper-shops,
tobacconists’, sweet-shops, the rich phials of a drug-store, butchers’
slabs covered with intricate runes of red and yellow; but these
respites are desperately restricted. The gleam dies away as quickly as
the sound of the car-gongs; the web slinks back into its old monotony,
into that grey neutrality which seems, somehow, to be far baser and
more vitiating than the brute positive blackness of the slums.

To explain these regions, to see them (as we ought to see them) as
something more than a dull and featureless enigma, it is needful
to regard them in relation to the City, to see them as one of the
essential whorls in the great hieroglyph which is Liverpool. Looked
at in this way, they do begin to reveal a kind of meaning, even to
assume a kind of magnificence. They mean that Liverpool demands, for
the prosecution of her so colourful adventures, the services of so many
thousands of grey lives, the efforts of a great brotherhood content to
labour all day long on her behalf in exchange for permission to return
at nightfall just here, to make themselves a home in just this stretch
of barren twilight. She cannot let them go further afield; she cannot
grant them space enough for brightness. This much she can afford them,
and no more.

So regarded, all this drabness becomes something much more terrible
and magnificent than a mere neutral foil to the City’s beauty, a mere
grey passage which throws the purple into relief. It becomes one of the
sources of that beauty, one of the processes by which that beauty was
attained--a grey and dreadful ritual observed by the City in the hope
of being granted strange powers. These dull houses are so much squeezed
dye-wood. Their colour, their brightness, have gone to stain the rich
fabric of the City’s enterprise, to paint the romantic emblem by which
she is known in dim corners of the earth, to illuminate the saga of her
career. And, remembering this, it becomes almost possible to regard the
dwellers in these regions less as prisoners in a dull and sorrowful
gaol than as priests in the recesses of some twilit temple, gravely
and honourably fulfilling sacred offices.


§ 7.

At the same time, it is, no doubt, only too easy to overestimate
the heaviness of the twilight. Here is human nature packed thick
and thick, and where there is human nature, there romance is also.
Theoretically, therefore, the whole place is seething with adventure,
and each one of these drab doorways is an entrance to a palpitating
epic. Theoretically, all this monotony is but a mask, and beneath it
there are warm human features, quick and variable with terror and
pity and passion and quiet joy. It may be so; but those doors remain
implacably closed, the mask is never dropped; all this great romance
is writ in cipher. Here and there a phrase emerges: a couple of youths
whispering at a corner; a woman wrapped in a shawl singing drearily
in an empty street; an old man solemnly tapping at a door; a child
running screaming from a curtainless house; and one fingers them for a
little, and pores over them, but in the end is always forced to push
them despairingly aside. The key is lacking; they remain enigmatic; and
one might wander these grey sad streets for ever and learn nothing of
their secrets. Every house is inarticulate; a menacing dumbness broods
over the whole region.

And it is by personal associations alone that those secrets can be
surprised. Directories carry us a little way: they tell us that two
cabmen, a draper’s assistant, a cotton-porter, a stoker, a bricklayer,
and a carter, live in that half-dozen liver-coloured brick boxes; and
the knowledge certainly invests the place (it is a street in Anfield)
with a tinge of actuality. But there are so many other things we
require to know about that bricklayer--the colour of his wife’s eyes,
for instance; whether he prefers hot-pot or Irish-stew; whether his
youngest has yet had the measles. At Sefton Park, at Blundellsands,
qualities analogous to these are easily discoverable, even by the
outsider; but here they are hidden away beneath an unfathomable
monotony. To discover the romance, to taste the secret drama that
makes Anfield and Everton and Cabbage Hall habitable, it would be
necessary to live in each of them in turn, to have an initiating friend
in every road.... Thus, in a little street behind Netherfield Road
there live a couple of dear old maiden ladies, whom the progress of
education has prevented from teaching and taught to starve, and whose
training has made them determined to starve respectably, in private;
and knowledge of them and of their drama has made, for me, that street
a shade less cryptic. And then, again, over in Edge Hill there is a
little bed-sitting-room overlooking a stale back-yard where I used to
go once a week to hear the Kosmos put in order by a poet who wrote
bad verses, but quoted good ones. To the outsider Edge Hill must
seem as inscrutably monotonous as its neighbours. But I know better.
It revealed itself to me, in those days, as a wonderful avenue to all
manner of tender and high-hearted possibilities; and I still recall
evenings spent in the Botanic Gardens over there, with my poet mouthing
some splendid scarlet thing from Whitman or Shelley in the afterglow,
when the place seemed positively surcharged with vital and dramatic
loveliness.


§ 8.

But revealing experiences of this sort are inevitably limited, and,
lacking any great store of them, one is content to fall back on broad
summaries, to say that this crepuscular region stretches from Anfield
and Everton in the north, below Newsham Park, through Edge Hill, and
so towards Wavertree in the south. It has its degrees of neutrality,
of course--amenities creep occasionally in--but for the most part
it remains a region whose intimate meanings are concealed by its
monotony, but whose monotony gives it in the mass a deep and terrible
significance.

And below this tract, gravely introducing its later passages to the
City, there marches a dull, highly respectable quarter of streets and
squares (rare episodes, these latter, in Liverpool), of which, again,
one can only protest that it is really much more impressive than it
seems. There is Abercromby Square, where the Bishop lives; there is
Oxford Street, upon which the shade of Aubrey Beardsley is reported
to make an occasional shrinking descent; there are Catherine Street,
Bedford Street, Chatham Street, all earnestly pleading for geranium
boxes; and Rodney Street, where many doctors and one small green
slab combine to surround Gladstone’s birthplace with an appropriate
atmosphere of dignity. And so at length to the verge of the hill that
cups the City, with the Philharmonic Hall making one part of it a
place, on winter nights, of ringing hoofs and thronging audiences, and
the University, in another, looking gravely down upon the rooftops of
the tense and vivid City which it is its duty by scholarship to serve.

And on the other side of that dumb territory there always sweep the
suburbs that have the green fields for their neighbours: the suburbs
that here delicately woo the country and there vulgarly accost it,
and now stop short at the sight of it with a gorgeous affectation
of surprise, and now stealthily seduce it into all manner of morbid
episodes; but whose essential business is always, by this device or by
that, to lure the fields into the state of urbanity, to establish fresh
colonies and receptacles for the constantly swelling mass that seethes
behind. Cabbage Hall, the northernmost, plays the part of stealthy
seducer, dribbling out among the fields in colourless disorder,
entrapping them in the dreariest fashion, without a hint of glamour.
Next comes West Derby, a group of clean-faced cottages standing about
its car-terminus like smocked village children gaping prettily at a
lurid visitor, its neatly dignified church and deer-scattered park
reflecting the outburst of ripe, authentic aristocracy that makes
the country-side beyond so unexpectedly, so exotically, old English.
And after West Derby come Knotty Ash and Old Swan: the first, in
one’s pocket vision of it, a jolly stage-setting of taverns with
farm-carts before them, of tiny, twinkling pinafores pouring out of a
village school, of a neat spire (a property it doesn’t, however, do
to investigate too closely) rising above a grove of realistic trees;
the second--suffering in places from a bad attack of the scarlet-fever
which is now ravaging domestic architecture--leading to a long surge
of ambiguous ways and broken ends that spills out finally among the
fields near Wavertree. The country on which it breaks has qualities
of richness; little coils of woodland lie pleasantly among leaning
meadows; and right in the midst of it, like a fleck of pure foam far
cast by the muddy wave of the town, lie the lawns and gardens of
Calderstone, the latest of Liverpool’s parks.

[Illustration: CALDERSTONES PARK.]


§ 9.

For parkland proper, however, it is needful to return to the smoke.
Wavertree lies at the end of the Smithdown Road bone of the fan. The
next bone pierces that Bloomsbury-like district of highly respectable
squares, and so comes out upon the tail of a long regiment of trees
making a fine effort to live up to their reputation of being a
boulevard. This is Princes Avenue, and Princes Avenue (familiarity
breeding uncontempt) is sometimes spoken of in the same breath as
Berlin’s Unter den Linden. But although the conjunction is scarcely
wise, this broad way of trees and churches makes a wholly pleasant
approach to the suavest of Liverpool’s inner suburbs; and it leads,
too, to a deftly-handled space of open air, where it is certainly
possible to think of the Champs Elysées without a blush. Sefton
Park, although it may not serve so deeply human a purpose as, say,
Stanley Park in the north, is certainly quite the most perfectly
fashioned of Liverpool’s open spaces; and although it is the largest,
it never commits the mistake that large parks sometimes make of
endeavouring to appear like a piece of virginal country. It is always
mannered, self-conscious, full of effects that are in the right sense
“picturesque”; and the sheep that feed in one part of it do not seem
much less deliberately decorative in intention than the peacocks that
everywhere admirably strut and flower. To find one of these peacocks
(the white one preferably) self-consciously posing on a meadow of
rhythmical daffodils is to discover the true spirit of park artistry
symbolized with absolute perfection.

Eminently Parisian in the morning, when the nurse-girls bring their
charges here, and gossip and read and scold and perfunctorily play
ball precisely as the _bonnes_ do in the Champs Elysées, Sefton Park
grows unmistakably British in the sacred hour that lapses between tea
and dinner. For then young athletes like L----, and Hebes like our
heroine, fill all its tennis-courts with a white-limbed energy.... It
is not exactly a white-limbed energy that one observes in the adjoining
bowling-green; and its laborious, stooping, shirt-sleeved figures may
conceivably be regarded as striking rather a dissonant note amongst
the clean-cut decorative activities which surround it. But none the
less the sociologist in one eagerly welcomes and commemorates them. For
their apparition is another evidence of that coalescence of strata with
strata which is one of the features of suburb life just now. They mean
that laborious, stooping, shirt-sleeved figures can live nowadays in
the once exclusive neighbourhood hereabout; can demand, for their own
especial pleasures, some share of the glittering accessory with which
this suave neighbourhood once rather royally provided itself.


§ 10.

But the neighbourhood that immediately environs the Park still remains
fairly costly and responsible, and that it seems a little to fall short
of absolute impressiveness is doubtless largely due to the overwhelming
nature of its accessory. And then, too, it should be remembered, these
yellow, uneasy houses came before the bungalow had taught a reasonable
compromise between dignity and domesticity. A little further away, up
towards Mossley Hill, the success is notably greater. Grave roads,
filled with that indescribable hushed exclusiveness which only tall,
ripe, sandstone walls and overarching leafage have power to confer,
lead up the hill towards the Church. There are deliberate lodges and
sudden glimpses of deep-breathing lawn; life grows leisurely and
communicative; the silence is full of confessions.

The Church itself, bulking monumentally against the sky, continues the
warm, grave intimacy: even the green stillness that encircles it seems
fuller of humanity than all the acres, dense with flesh and blood,
over at Everton and Anfield. It is always worth while, therefore, to
step through to the farther wall. There, in a flash, you find you
have come again to the uttermost edge of the town. A great landscape
leaps suddenly out from beneath your feet, woods curve distantly about
it, sweet airs bring a company of quiet sounds. A chalk line being
softly ruled across the green map means that half a hundred people
who have just had tea in town will see the buses in the Euston Road
before dinner. A vague smear on the far sky stands for Widnes and
poison. A fainter smear above the tree-tops to the right reveals the
neighbourhood of Garston.


§ 11.

And with Garston we reach the tip of the last of the plumes of our fan.
Viewed _de profil_--as, for instance, from the River--it would appear
to be furnished chiefly with gasometers. The concomitants of gasometers
are as invariable as those of race-meetings: Garston is grimy.
Considered more closely, however, it breaks up a little, and reveals
here and there some wholly pleasant incidents. And on its inland side
it yields very gracefully to the influence of the shadowed lanes from
Allerton.

The rib that joins it to the centre, sweeps, in the first place,
through an easy, spacious district of private parks and well-preserved,
middle-aged mansions, and, in the last place, through the débris
of the southern slums. Its name in this last phase is Park Lane.
If, perceiving that, the visitor feel impelled to smile as at an
anticlimax, he would perhaps do well to hesitate; for this Park Lane
has probably a wider reputation than any other thoroughfare in Europe.
In and about this débris stand the sailors’ quarters, the foreign
quarters, the Chinese Colony, the emigrants’ lodging-houses, the
Sailors’ Home; and the street that threads these things (“Parkee Lanee
Street” the coolies call it) is spoken of affectionately in every
corner of the Seven Seas. Park Lane probably spells home to half the
sailors in the world.

Midway in its course this last rib separates the decaying gentility
south of Princes Park from the frankly homespun suburb of the Dingle.
But even the Dingle, since it marches cheek by jowl with the River,
cannot escape being occasionally infected with romance. There is one
little row of apparently quite subdued little tenements, for instance,
whose lives must really be one long debauch of raw sensation. I do not
insist upon the haunting presence of the Fever Hospital at one end of
them; nor upon that of the lean bridge which stalks appallingly across
a ramping railway-siding at the other; for these are incidents of a
sort that make other neighbourhoods tremendous. But these cottages
have perched themselves exactly on the brink of the ragged cliff which
surrounds that ultimate dock, the Herculaneum, and beneath them a group
of black monsters are always at work plucking trucks of coal bodily
from the railway and plunging them into the bowels of chained ships.
Further over, there are the peering heads and shoulders of embedded
liners; further, again, the wide manuscript of the River, lurid with
adventure; and, beyond that, the stony slopes of the Wirral. Nor is
this all; for immediately below their doorsteps some thousands of
gallons of petroleum are stored in the live rock, and somewhere beneath
their kitchen floors the Midland expresses race and hammer all day long.

[Illustration: HERCULANEUM DOCK.]

Certainly, if it is roaring melodrama one thirsts for, the Dingle, in
spite of its drabness, is clearly the place to dwell.


§ 12.

I have just spoken of the stony slopes of the Wirral. The stones, of
course, are houses, and the houses form themselves into suburbs, and
those suburbs troop all about the coast, and pour inland, and tend
to fill all the green peninsula with pleasant cubicles. But of those
suburbs and all the tranquil spaces they lead to and enclose I must not
now attempt to speak. Their qualities are many: river and sea, heather,
champaign, woven coppice, and swart fir-wood grant them a procession of
aspects no mere generalization could include. Port Sunlight set out as
though for an old English festival; Eastham with its woods and booths;
New Ferry and Rock Ferry, the stony slopes that lead at length to
Birkenhead; Birkenhead itself, a march played like a dirge; Seacombe,
Egremont, New Brighton, promenade-linked, wide-shored, flickering out
into all manner of watering-place delights; Leasowe, whose sea-beaten
coppices are wonderful in spring with ranks of praying white and
hymning purple; Hoylake, with its famous links and golfing fishermen;
Thurstaston, with its legendary hills and dear memories; Heswall,
sunset-saturated among its heaths; Prenton, with its pine-woods and
its water-tower; Oxton, mellow and meticulous upon its height: so do
I content myself with naming them, and, so naming them, add one word
of admiration for the dainty fashion in which, in her green chamber,
Wirral makes the beds for so many of the workers in the streets across
the way.

[Illustration: BIDSTON HILL.]

But there is one place in the Wirral about which I must inevitably
add another word. Both practically and sentimentally, indeed,
Bidston Hill belongs to Liverpool: practically because it is the
property of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, and because its
Pharos plays so large a part in directing the courses of the fleets;
sentimentally--well, sentimentally for a dozen excellent good reasons.
It would be from here, no doubt, in the old days, that the traveller
from the south would catch his first glimpse of the River and the
hamlet; it is from here that generation after generation of townsfolk
have come to see their City in its bulk; it is here still that they
bring the good stranger, hoping secretly that he will find their
Liverpool a rather wonderful and alluring sort of place. And certainly
it is from here, among this almond-scented gorse, that Liverpool builds
up most perfectly into a visible entity. The City and its outposts
draw easily together; the Dock Board Building makes an ivory nucleus;
and Walton Church on the left, and Mossley Hill Church on the right,
seem, in actuality, as they are in essence, but two organic incidents
in the great design of which it forms the centre. The bird-song and
the dumbness, the green spaces and the grey, the hid tragedies, the
fair buildings, the lavish, roaring ways, are now merged wonderfully
together, and, in their fusion, form one supreme attribute, nameless
because it is unhuman. Smoke-scarves of her own weaving and vapours
of the air binding her and her children together, Liverpool broods
there in the sunshine, sole and indivisible, a splendid seaward-facing
Presence. And the River flames at her feet.



CHAPTER V

THE SLUMS


§ 1.

She couches there like a vast Presence, seaward-facing but inly
brooding, and, indeed, it is profoundly true that the remote adventures
she surveys draw much of their range and splendour from the darkness of
her private dreams. For in a manner much more direct and unescapable
than those dumb grey regions in the east, these black abysses of her
underworld are intimately bound up with the chief sources of her
efficiency and power. It is their main purpose to provide the human
fulcrum demanded by those monstrous levers at the Docks, and the
strange motions of those engines are of a nature that inevitably leave
the flesh hideously excoriated and crushed. The bedraggled humans
whom we saw running hither and thither among the unhuman silences
and uproars are drawn almost wholly from the Slums, and it is, quite
undisguisedly, the incalculable necessities of those silences and
uproars that have condemned them to the slums and kept them prisoned
there.

[Illustration: THE ALBERT DOCK.]

For it is not that the wage of a dock-labourer is insufficient to grant
life its decencies. It would, on the contrary, be quite possible for a
dock-labourer, constantly employed, to live in one of the suburbs--out,
say, at Seaforth--and come to the wharves each day by electric car. But
the majority of these men are not constantly employed, and much of that
inconstancy would seem to be inevitable. Ships come, ships go, and the
tide of labour waxes and wanes as ceaselessly as the tides about it,
and vastly more capriciously. And thus not more than twenty-five per
cent. of these workers receive a full and constant wage; quite fifty
per cent. average less than one-half; and fully a quarter are fortunate
if they are permitted to work a couple of days a week. For the greater
number of these ministers to Liverpool’s efficiency, then, the Slums,
obviously, are inevitable. Equally inevitably, the Slums form a
topographical annexe to the Docks, a hinterland behind its gates. Out
of the bodies of the battered and congested people who crowd there
Liverpool contrives a suave unguent, more dreadful than adipocere,
which enables the great ships to slide so smoothly to their berths.


§ 2.

That, then, is the first broad feature of Liverpool’s poverty--the
frankness and completeness with which it is involved in the processes
which grant her all her wealth. I have already spoken of its physical
distribution: two dirty smears, one on either hand of the clean-swept
central spaces. Of the two, the northern is the larger; and together
they probably contain some six thousand adults and some thirteen
thousand children. Of these (and this is the second and more interior
peculiarity), the majority are either Irish or of Irish descent.[5] It
follows, therefore, that here alone in Liverpool do you get a specific
dialect. They speak a bastard brogue: a shambling, degenerate speech of
slipshod vowels and muddied consonants--a cast-off clout of a tongue,
more debased even than Whitechapel Cockney, because so much more
sluggish, so much less positive and acute. It follows, too, that the
ruling religion of these quarters is Roman Catholicism. There are about
a dozen Catholic churches actually in the Slums, and to pass suddenly
into one of them out of the stench and uproar of some dishevelled
court is to taste again, in a very peculiar measure, the sweet, rich
silence that has so often broken on one’s palate in the towns and
villages of the Continent. Here, as on the Continent, too, the people
slip in and out all day long, genuflecting, sitting in apathetic
huddles, going back once more to their sorrowful outer world. And you
constantly see the figures of priests moving to and fro among the lanes
and alleys.

[5] The northern Slum forms a large part of the only English
constituency returning a Nationalist Member to the House.


§ 3.

It would be an easy matter to add to this list of the region’s
peculiarities: to speak of its food--chiefly bread and tea, with, upon
occasion, the viler parts of pig; of its queer parasitic industries; of
its dress, its habit of early marriage, its extravagant fecundity. But
to do this would be simply to repeat, with a difference, that oldest
and unhappiest of slum-induced habits, the habit of regarding the
people who live there as, in some sort, a race apart. We speak largely
of the Underworld, the People of the Abyss, the Submerged Tenth, and
gradually we drift into a way of considering them as a strange breed
of degenerates, mattoids, morlocks.... It is an offence that all the
friendships I have formed amongst these people make me especially
anxious to avoid. They are all, really, much more like the suburbans
than the suburbans are themselves. Each one of these so bedraggled
humans is really a rinsed and expurgated bundle of just those passions
and emotions which form the unalterable nucleus of every character in
the world. Life for them, you see, is so astonishingly shorn of the
complexities and elaborations. All its circumstances--those levers at
the Docks amongst others--have tended to fine everything down to the
blunt, primary facts; and it is here, accordingly, and not amongst the
lettuce-eaters who read Nietzsche in lonely country cottages, that you
may discover the authentic simple life. They are always undisguisedly
face to face, for instance, with that most ancient and inveterate of
human problems, the problem of getting food. They start, so to say,
from scratch. They tear the day’s vitality out of their own vitals.
They know the pains of hunger on the one hand, the pains of satisfying
hunger on the other; and they are constantly preoccupied with the
fundamental human business of reconciling that great antithesis. It
is the same throughout. Birth and Death, Hunger, Love and Hate, the
Terrors of Damnation and the Hope of Heaven, become constant and
vehement companions. The bones of life show through. Here, certainly,
_plus ça change plus c’est la même chose_. And the people who live here
are simply our simplified selves.


§ 4.

Take, for example, the case of Esther--of Esther (I’m sorry)
Grimes. She lives in one of those blind-backed courts off Blenheim
Street--quite one of the most malodorous corners in the whole of
Liverpool’s Underworld. Her father (like so many of the fathers here:
they seem to wear rather worse than the women) is dead, and Esther
keeps herself and a vile-tempered, rheumaticky old gargoyle-crowned
stick of a mother by tramping amazing distances through the northern
suburbs--Anfield, Kirkdale, and so on--selling “stuff.” “Stuff” is
Liverpool Irish for cheap fruits and vegetables, and she carries her
ill-favoured tomatoes or oranges or whatever it may be in a great
basket poised on a turban perched on the top of her head. Also, she
bellows. By getting to the market by six in the morning and steadily
walking and bellowing until five o’clock at night she can sometimes
make quite as much as twelve shillings a week, which is more than she
used to make in the tin-works. (It was Mr. Upton Sinclair, by the way,
who really expelled her from there. “The Jungle” had some unsuspected
sequels in this and that odd corner of the world.) She wears one of
those local accretions of innumerable petticoats which so successfully
attain all a crinoline’s ugliness without any of its precision, and her
mass of red hair is scraped back into a tumbling knot above her neck,
and drawn over the forehead of her pointed face in a broad fringe.
She speaks the hideous jargon of the district, and when the suburban
sees her in his own streets thus fringed, petticoated, bawling, and
besmeared, he very naturally wonders what kind of preposterous nature
must lurk beneath so preposterous an exterior.

But I know Esther very well indeed, and I protest that she is not in
the least preposterous, that she is not, essentially, anything but
particularly normal. I am convinced, indeed, as Grant Allen was of
Hedda Gabler, that “I take her in to dinner twice a week.” She has all
the essential, the root qualities: she is just, she is generous, she
is sociable. She loves cleanliness and good colours. She has a fine
appetite for pleasure, and the right, needful touch of _diablerie_.
All that she lacks is an adequate mode of expression, the flexile,
elaborate technique which would enable her to grant these things a
gracious and orderly embodiment.... If you could invest her with
certain possibilities of dress (the dress that Mr. Charles Ricketts
designed the other day for Miss McCarthy would suit her admirably),
could get her hair heaped up and back, and so round across her forehead
in the curve that would rhyme with the feat curve of her chin, she
would present, if not a figure of intolerable beauty, at least one of
very singular vividness and charm.... Well, just in the same way with
that essential bundle of root qualities which she possesses: grant
them a similar appropriate equipment, and you would get an equally
delightful result. But as it is, hammered out on the patched and
tuneless instrument she has been provided with, all the fine human
music of which she is so full sounds fearfully like so much deliberate
discordancy. Her sociability, for instance: she is compelled to
express that by sitting on a sour doorstep in the midst of a raucous
group of messy neighbours. Her affection, again: she can only display
that by lovingly cursing her mother, and by swinking all day on her
behalf instead of getting married--as she so easily might do. She is
just; but perhaps the only dignified example of her justness that I
can produce is her remark (remember, she is one of the devoutest of
Catholics) that probably the folks who insist upon leaving tracts for
her really mean very well at bottom. She is fond of cleanliness; and
the proof of that is to be found in the fact that she spends vastly
more pains upon her toilet than many even second-rate actresses. It is
not her fault that the results are incommensurate with her efforts.
When one has to get all the water one uses from a little dribbling
pump in the middle of a filthy court; when one has to carry it in a
leaky meat-tin up a slimy stairway to a fœtid room; when one has to
wash (without soap) in the same meat-tin, and do one’s fringe without
a looking-glass; when one has to do all this on a diet of bread and
tea, and under a constant hail of reproaches from a rheumaticky old
gargoyle, then it becomes distinctly easy to expend an enormous amount
of energy without obtaining any very ravishing result. The result in
Esther’s case is that you get an apparition so preposterous and streaky
that well-meaning old ladies in the public streets are often moved to
remonstrate with it on the subject of untidiness. I have heard them.
I have also heard Esther’s replies.... She has, as I say, the needful
touch of _diablerie_.


§ 5.

As with Esther, so with the majority of those about her. They are
not plaster saints, and they are not morlocks: they are simply a
community of amiably-intentioned life and laughter loving men and
women and children, with the average amount of pluck and the average
amount of cowardice, all exceedingly human and sinful and lovable
and amorous and faithful and absurd and vain, and all compelled, by
some strange swirl of outer circumstance, to spend their strength in
a warfare waged on prehistoric lines. Here and there, of course, the
skin self-protectingly toughens, malformities creep in, the Beast
gets its appalling opportunities. Those levers at the Docks produce
some sickening results.... But I do not want to heap up horrors.
That, indeed, would be an easy thing to do. But it is even easier
to misunderstand those exterior horrors which constantly do present
themselves. That dirt, as we have seen, does not mean a love of dirt or
a lack of energy; it simply stands for lack of proper tools.

Those clustered slatterns on the doorsteps do not really symbolize
degeneracy; they merely emblematize that delicate and wholesome spirit
which finds its projection elsewhere in the pleasant devices of our
drawing-rooms. That ghastly uproar in a place of stench and wailing
children simply means that the spleen which you and I, armed with a
host of ingenious little instruments, twist and contrive into this and
that elaborate code of moods and attitudes, is there being published
abroad in the only fashion available. And it is not the fault of these
people, nor in the least their essential desire, it is wholly the fault
of the uncouth apparatus at their disposal, that their embodiment of
that other wholesome and delicate human instinct--the instinct for
Pleasure--should have taken the form of the crude lights and shocks of
a corner tavern.

No, down here in the blackness and the slime, it is not, for the most
part, any strange, incalculable brood that has its spawning-place; and
I would like these two regions to remain in your imagination rather as
a couple of far, unwholesome islands, primitive with jungle and morass,
on which some thousands of twentieth century civilians, bankrupt of
even the necessities, have been planked astonishingly down.


§ 6.

Now, it is obviously not in the nature of things that Liverpool should
permit all the resultant discordancies and malformities--the constant
waste of effort, the constant and preposterous clothing of civil
bodies in a barbarous dress--without making some very notable efforts
to provision and equip those islands. Much of this black disorder
forms, as I have said, a large part of the price she pays for her
efficiency--these people have been marooned here by the necessities of
her own prosperous voyages--and although her passion for efficiency
will never permit her to reduce the blackness by decreasing the
efficiency, that very passion has always made her supremely anxious
to beat down the price as far as possible. In no other city in the
country, certainly, have the questions of feeding the poor, of housing
them, nursing them, washing them, received more earnest and controlled
attention; and upon the shores of these strange islands far-sounding
official tides are constantly flinging this and that of necessity, of
comfort, of direction. Into the details of all these efforts I have
now no space to enter; nor, indeed, would such entry fall within the
scope of this book. But you get their presence visualized, you get the
vital sense of the activity of all these forces, when you turn some
drab corner among the hovels and the rank disorder and come suddenly in
sight of one of the clean, decisive blocks of Corporation dwellings:
leash, personable structures, balconied and symmetrical, made up of
course upon course of fit and habitable flats, and glittering at
night with an unexpected blithesomeness and order. You get the same
assurance, again, in the public wash-houses planted here and there--the
first of their kind in the kingdom; and again in the occurrence of
those neat-handed depots for distributing sterilized milk which dot a
white pattern all about the blackness.

And always about these coasts, augmenting the gifts of the controlled
official tides, there constantly wheels and dips an active fleet
of friendly privateers. It is to them, indeed, that one’s natural
inclination is always to look most hopefully: they are obviously
human, they bring camaraderie and affection--needful things that the
milk depots are not compelled to supply. You get all that side of the
thing admirably symbolized by those open-air concerts (also, I fancy,
the first of their sort in the kingdom) organized by one of the most
successful of these free-lance expeditions, which fill the darkest of
the courts, night after night, with actual, colourful music.... So
that all these islanders, Esther and the rest, are not to be pictured
as living in absolute isolation. Through the chaotic crowd of them
there constantly move, very vitally and wonderfully, certain reassuring
visitants--some shrewd, some benignant, some sentimental, but all
enormously in earnest; and for my own part I never recall the dull
bleared speech that prevails there without hearing, too, the dainty
broken English, the daintier laughter, of a certain Swiss worker who
chaffs them and mothers them and bullies them, and whom they love
exceedingly, or without seeing the spare figure of that fine Founder of
a noble secular order whom seven thousand children know by name, and
who can pass anywhere among these morasses, at any hour of the day or
night, and receive nothing but a welcome of elemental friendliness.


§ 7.

So that, in one way and another, the islanders begin to get their
apparatus, the People of the Abyss, if you prefer to call them so,
their share of light and laughter; and some day, perhaps, these two
dull smears may even be wholly erased. And one speaks of such an event
with the more of hopefulness because there are not lacking certain
signals of a wide and deep change that is about to pass over, that
has, indeed, already begun to pass over, the great organism of which
they form so intimate a part. I do not speak now of a mere change in
the social attitude towards these people; I speak rather of those
profounder alterations of character, of purpose, of ideal, which
must run their apparently unrelated course before any such specific
attitude can be affected at all stably and significantly. All this
blackness and disarray is, after all, too fundamental to vanish before
any self-conscious and deliberate endeavours; it can only disappear
by a kind of accident, the almost unintended by-product of other and
alien processes; and it is, therefore, neither to the efforts of these
fine workers, nor to the validity and zeal of that glittering official
machinery, that one turns, on the last analysis, for the true portents
of the change. It is rather to the talk going on in the cafés, to the
books in the booksellers’ windows, to the remote suburban firesides
where very different matters are being quietly discussed, to the
efforts apparent in the ateliers. And in all these places, it seems to
me, there are to be discerned the signs of the dawn of another epoch in
the City’s history.

Liverpool passes out of her pubescence. The swift straight lines of
her eager and yet so strangely dignified uprising begin to swerve
out now into ample curves, begin to enclose another spaciousness, a
larger and more considerate leisure. One finds it evidenced in the
social atmosphere of the place, in an increasing suavity and ripeness
to be discovered there. It appears again in the part played by the
University--a part of ever-increasing confidence and intimacy on the
one hand, of ever-increasing acceptability on the other. It is to
be detected in the religious life of the place, in the aspirations
which surround the great Cathedral which is now splendidly uprising
in her midst. It is disclosed in the revealing mirror of the arts.
In her latest and most perfect piece of architecture, the luminous
building, so significantly isolated, that serenely dominates her
central wharves, she seems, almost for the first time, to have
confessed herself in beauty perfectly, and she has done that because
the nature of the confession had already suffered change. A new poet,
too, has wonderfully arisen in the midst of these hitherto almost
songless workers; and in the painters’ quarters there is a momentous
stir of schism and disputation. Already the old art of the place,
called into existence by its spirit of independence, but limited by
the typical demands of so strenuous an atmosphere, begins to give way
a little before the advances of an art that concedes nothing to the
citizen, that sits frankly apart among its own visions.... In a little
bronze-hung studio, poised high above one of the central ways, a woman
is dealing with pigment in a fashion more sensitive and personal than
any that has been known in Liverpool before. Well, in the quality of
her work I find some confession of the forces that are producing the
profound unanimous change which may lead, among other things, to the
dispersal of the darkness of the underworld.

So that in the end this dull stain may vanish. I have called it
a dream--a black mood out of which the City dreadfully gathers
inspiration for her battles. Like other dreams, it may one day draw to
its close. But when it is over the dreamer, too, will have changed;
that, at least, is inevitable. Just in what manner these subtle
and various mutations will affect her character, her aspect, it is
impossible even to suggest. It may be that this growing sensitiveness
will soften in some measure the fingers we have seen probing, so
tirelessly, so tirelessly, for the hard unmitigable fact. Or it may be
that she will discover some wonderful union between these qualities,
will maintain a double dominion, losing nothing of her ardour, gaining
much of this new tranquillity. It is impossible to predict. This much
alone is certain: that the next book which essays her portraiture will
have to deal with a strangely different subject.



INDEX


Abercrombie, Lascelles, 161

Abercromby Square, 126

Aigburth, 97, 99, 134

Aintree, 99, 115

Aintree Racecourse, 116

Allerton, 134

Altcar 100

Anfield, 99, 118, 123 _seq._, 133, 148

Architecture, 6, 43, 60, 61, 66, 128, 161

Aristocracy, 12, 128

Art, 12, 84, 86, 160 _seq._

Art Gallery, 23, 60, 65, 86

_Art nouveau_, 85

Athleticism, 76, 80, 118

Autumn Exhibition, 86


Bach, 76

_Baltic_, 35, 40

Bank Holiday in Liverpool, 89

Banking, 23, 83, 88

Bar, the, 17

Beardsley, Aubrey, 126

Beauty of Liverpool, 28, 34, 36, 39, 42, 52, 55, 66 _seq._, 90 _seq._,
  95, 140

Bedford Street, 126

Bidston Hill, 139

Bidston Lighthouse, 139

Birkdale, 80, 100

Birkenhead, 24, 138

Bixteth Street, 53

Blenheim Street, 148

Bloomsbury, 129

Blundellsands, 80, 100, 124

Bold Street, 46, 59, 71, 76

Bootle, 93, 96, 106 _seq._

Botanic Gardens, 125

Breweries, 2

Brokers, 47, 78

Brunswick Half Tide Dock, 34

Brunswick Street, 47, 48, 84

Brussels, 47


Cabbage Hall, 99, 119, 124, 127

Cafés, 82, 160

Calderstones Park, 129

_Campania_, 35, 40

Canals, 67, 98, 110

Cathedral, 161

Catherine Street, 126

Catholicism, 105, 144, 151

Central Station, 51, 55, 67

Champs Elysées, 130, 131

Changing modes, 85, 87, 160 _seq._

Chapel Street, 58, 59, 80

“Charter,” 8

Chatham Street, 126

Chemical Works, 2

Chinese Colony, 135

Church Street, 51, 76, 77, 91

Civic spirit, 9, 10, 13, 25, 87, 88, 163

Clerks, 15, 78 _seq._

Club life, 85

Coburg Dock, 34

Commerce, 5, 9, 28, 30, 32, 120, 143

Convent of Our Good Shepherd, 105

Corn Exchange, 23, 47

Corn-mills, 2

Corporation dwellings, 156

Cosmopolitanism, 9, 10, 87, 88, 135

Cotton, 29, 59

Cotton Exchange, 23, 60, 89

County, the, 12, 128

_Courier_, 49

Court concerts, 157

Crosby, 93

Crosshall Street, 45

Croxteth, 128

Cunard Line, 31

Custom House, 60


Dale Street, 58, 91

Dee, 104

De Quincey, 119

Derby Road, 100

Dialect, 75, 89, 102, 144, 149, 158

Dingle, 26, 99, 135, 137

Directories, 123

Dock-labourer, 15, 78, 142 _seq._

Dock offices, 20, 55, 56, 67, 139, 161

Docks, extent of the, 18, 26 _seq._, 30 _seq._
  drama of the, 26 _seq._, 33 _seq._, 67, 136
  system of the, 31 _seq._, 43
  and the slums, 141 _seq._, 146, 153

Dress, 74, 75, 77, 149, 150


E----, 84, 85, 88

Eastham, 138

Edge Hill, 99, 124

Efficiency, 13, 30, 35, 51, 62, 65, 74, 141, 143, 155

Egremont, 17, 138

Eighteenth century, 5, 8

Electric cars, 55, 75, 90, 95, 97, 110, 111, 117

Emigrants, 40, 135

Emigration, 83

Environment, 17 _seq._, 21, 103, 127 _seq._, 133, 137

Everton, 96, 99, 106, 124, 133

Exchange Station, 51, 52, 78, 94


Fairfield, 99

Fazakerley, 99

Football, 118

Ford, 105, 109

Formby, 80, 100

Freshfield, 100

Future, 64, 102, 160, 163


Garston, 24, 99, 134

General Post Office, 46, 48

Gladstone, 126

Glasgow, 3

Golf, 76, 138

Golf-links, 80, 100, 138

Grain, 29

Grand National, 116

Great Howard Street, 100

Grimes, Esther, 147, 158


Harland, Henry, 83

Harrington Dock, 32

Herculaneum Dock, 35, 136

Heswall, 138

Heywood’s Bank, 47

History, 4, 5, 9, 93, 113, 160

Homogeneity, 9 _seq._, 62, 95, 98

Horses, 59, 68

Housing problem, 12, 25, 156

Hoylake, 80, 138

Huskisson Dock, 29, 31, 35


Independence, 10 _seq._, 14, 25, 63, 69, 98, 162

Industries, 2, 24, 145, 148

Irish, 105, 144

Irish traders, 8

Isolation, 13, 14, 98


James Street, 58, 91

“The Jungle,” effect of, 149


Kirkdale, 93, 94, 97, 119, 148

Knotty Ash, 99, 128

Knowsley, 128


L----, 81, 88, 118, 131

Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, 100

Landing Stage, 18, 19, 36, 38 _seq._, 51, 55, 80, 89

Leasowe, 80, 138

Leather Lane, 58

Library, 55

Lime Street, 53, 54, 63

Lime Street Station, 58

Linacre, 24, 106, 109

Linacre Road, 105

Literature, 76, 83, 160, 161

Litherland, 93, 99, 109, 111

Locomotion, 25, 95, 97

London, 3, 12, 14, 42, 90, 95

London Road, 91

Lord Street, 44, 77


Mahogany, 85

Manchester, 12, 13

_Manchester Guardian_, 12

Marconi Station, 103

Markets 67

Merchants, 10, 15, 48, 78, 83, 96

Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, 139.
  See also Docks and Dock offices

Midland Railway, 137

Milk depots, 157

Moorfields, 53

Mossley Hill, 99, 132

Mossley Hill Church, 133, 140

Mount Pleasant, 59

Municipal Offices, 23, 60

Museum, 55, 65

Music, 74, 76, 127, 158


Netherfield Road, 124

New Brighton, 17, 80, 81, 102, 138

New Brighton Tower, 17

New Ferry, 138

Newsham Park, 119, 125

Newspapers, 12, 42

New York, 17, 35, 42

Nietzsche, 146

Nineteenth century, 5, 6

Nocturnal Liverpool, 52, 90

North John Street, 45, 48


Old Haymarket, 106

Old Swan, 99, 128

Open-air concerts, 157

Overhead Railway, 29, 98

Oxford Street, 126

Oxton, 138


Park Lane, 97, 135

Parks, 39, 106, 119, 129 _seq._, 140

Philharmonic Hall, 127

Piccadilly, 90

Politics, 12, 84, 144

Port Sunlight, 137

_Post_, 49

Potteries, 2

Prenton, 138

Princes Avenue, 129

Princes Park, 135

Produce Exchange, 23, 48

Provinciality, 12

Public washhouses, 156, 157

Punch and Judy show, 54


Queen’s Dock, 31


Ranelagh Street, 51

Rates, 111

Religion, 76, 83, 105, 144, 151, 161

Renshaw Street, 91

Revenue Offices, 48

Rifle-ranges, 100

Rimrose Road, 100

River Mersey, predominance of, 2 _seq._, 14 _seq._, 20, 22 _seq._
  social influence of, 3 _seq._, 10 _seq._, 25, 63, 68, 98, 142
  and Liverpool’s history, 4 _seq._
  topographical effect of, 22 _seq._
  influence of, on physique and imagination, 15 _seq._, 39, 79 _seq._,
    92, 102, 118, 136
  by day, 20, 36, 40, 42, 58, 102 _seq._, 135, 136
  at night, 91, 92

Rock Ferry, 138

Rodney Street, 126

Royal Insurance Office, 19, 45


Sailors’ Home, 60, 135

Salthouse Dock, 32

_Saxonia_, 29

School of Painters, 12, 161, 162

Scotch, 87, 88, 96, 108

Scotland Road, 105

Seacombe, 17, 138

Seaforth, 17, 18, 23, 26, 99, 100, 102, 103, 142

Sefton Park, 75, 96, 99, 124, 130

Self-absorption, 11

Sept-centenary celebrations, 5, 6

Seventeenth century, 8, 113

Shaw, G. Bernard, 74

Shipping offices, 58

Shop-girls, 77

Shoppers, 75

Simple life, 146

Sinclair, Upton, 148

Slave-traders, 8

Slums, distribution of, 23, 24, 143, 144
  of the future, 102, 159 _seq._
  Northern, 105, 144 _seq._
  Southern, 135, 144 _seq._
  and Liverpool’s efficiency, 141, 143, 155
  and the docks, 141 _seq._, 146, 153
  and the suburbs, 120, 146, 148, 152
  peculiarities of, 143 _seq._
  workers amongst the, 155 _seq._

Smithdown, 93, 94

Smithdown Road, 129

‘Smutted Greek,’ 49, 54, 63 _seq._

Soap-works, 2

Society, 6, 11, 12, 96, 128, 159

Southport, 101

Squares, 126, 129

St. George’s Hall, 23, 54, 55, 65, 66, 91

St. John’s Gardens, 49

St. Luke’s Church, 47

St. Nicholas’ Church, 19, 58

Stanley Park, 119, 130

Stanley Road, 105

Stanley Street, 45, 46, 48

Stock Exchange, 23, 89

Street-portraits, 44 _seq._

Suburbs, their history, 94 _seq._
  and electric cars, 95 _seq._, 99, 110, 111, 112, 117, 119
  interfusion and communism of, 96 _seq._, 107, 109, 112, 115, 117,
    131, 140
  distribution of, 43, 99, 126 _seq._
  drabness of northern and eastern, 119 _seq._
  country-side, 127 _seq._
  cross-river, 137 _seq._

Sugar-refineries, 2

Sunday in Liverpool, 88, 105

Swiftness of Liverpool’s growth, 5 _seq._, 9, 13, 25, 62, 69, 93

Swimming-baths, 80, 81


Thatch, 115

Thurstaston, 138

Tithebarn Street, 52, 53, 55, 58, 78, 94

Tobacco factories, 2

Tolstoi, 76

Town Hall, 19, 23, 60, 68

Toxteth, 93, 94

Toxteth Dock, 32

Tuebrook, 99

Typical Liverpolitans, 71 _seq._, 131, 149 _seq._


Underground Railway, 98

University, 86, 127, 161

University Club, 59

Utilitarianism, 63, 65, 66, 90, 155, 156


Victoria Street, 48


Walker Art Gallery, 55, 67, 86

Walton, 93, 99, 113, 118

Walton Church, 113, 117, 140

Walton Hall, 114

Warehouses, 19, 23, 46, 57, 67, 100

Water Street, 58, 80, 91

Waterloo, 17, 100

Waterloo Dock, 32

Wavertree, 93, 99, 129

Wellington Dock, 31

Welsh, 87, 96

West Derby, 93, 99, 128

White Star Line, 31

Whitechapel, 45

Widnes, 134

Wirral, the, 24, 104, 136 _seq._

Wolstenholme Square, 59

Women, 71 _seq._, 75, 149, 153


Yeats, W. B., 76



BILLING AND SONS, LTD., PRINTERS, GUILDFORD



      *      *      *      *      *      *



Transcriber’s note:

Footnotes have been moved to the end of the paragraph to which they
refer.

Inconsistent hyphenation and variant spelling are retained.





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