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Title: Bohemian Days in Fleet Street
Author: Mackay, William
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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Transcribed from the 1913 John Long edition by David Price, email
ccx074@pglaf.org

                          [Picture: Spine cover]



                             BOHEMIAN DAYS IN
                               FLEET STREET


                                * * * * *

                                    BY
                               A JOURNALIST

                      [Picture: Decorative graphic]

                                  LONDON
                            JOHN LONG, LIMITED
                         NORRIS STREET, HAYMARKET
                                 MCMXIII

                                * * * * *

                        _First published in 1913_

                                * * * * *



CONTENTS

CHAPTER                                               PAGE
         I.  THE STREET OF ADVENTURE                     9
        II.  DRIFTING INTO IT                           18
       III.  LEARNING TO SWIM                           33
        IV.  INTO THE MAELSTROM                         49
         V.  SOCIETY JOURNALISM                         68
        VI.  A GAY SCIENCE                              84
       VII.  THE PASSING OF THE PURITAN SABBATH        104
      VIII.  ODD FISH                                  116
        IX.  MORE ODD FISH                             130
         X.  BOHEMIAN CLUBS                            146
        XI.  THE JOKER                                 164
       XII.  ANSDELL’S AFTERNOONS                      181
      XIII.  DE MORTUIS                                192
       XIV.  MY FRIENDS THE PLAYERS                    205
        XV.  “THE ’ALLS”                               222
       XVI.  MINE EASE AT MINE INN                     240
      XVII.  BOOKIES AND OTHER WILD-FOWL               260
     XVIII.  OLLA PODRIDA                              276
       XIX.  THE PRESS IN TRANSITION                   292
             INDEX                                     301

                                * * * * *



CHAPTER I
THE STREET OF ADVENTURE


BOOKS beget books, even when they are books of autobiography.  Not that
the writer of reminiscence will admit as much.  He is—if you believe
him—the victim of an irrepressible impulse, or he has at length (usually
at great length) yielded to the solicitations of a large circle of
acquaintances.  I am impelled to my present enterprise by no sense of my
own aptitude, nor have my discerning friends urged that some record of my
experiences would supply a long-felt want.  My book—like a great many
other books—owes its existence to a book that went before it.  In other
and plainer words, if Mr. Philip Gibbs had not written his novel entitled
“The Street of Adventure,” this present collection of reminiscences would
never have been attempted.  And I should, perhaps, apologize to Mr. Gibbs
for saddling him with the awful responsibility.  The novel to which
allusion has been made—and a very excellent one it is—suddenly, but with
much distinctness, suggested my course.  The muck-rake of reminiscence is
deliberately taken up because I represent a condition of Press life that
has apparently ceased to exist.  If one accepts the statements of Mr.
Gibbs—and there is every reason why one should—the Fleet Street of to-day
bears no sort of resemblance to the Fleet Street of yesterday.  If I
describe the London Press and the London Pressman of less than two
decades ago, I am describing a state of things that has been reformed off
the face of the earth, and a race of men extinct as the Dodo.

To an old member of the Press this is the real significance of “The
Street of Adventure,” for the story describes—with entire candour and
accuracy; one can entertain no doubt about that—the working of the
Metropolitan Press and its personnel as they exist at this the dawn of
the century.  I have read chapter after chapter of the story with a
growing sentiment of astonishment and dismay.  The accomplished author
describes, at first hand, a conjuncture of men and conditions so
different to that existing in my time that I completely fail to recognize
in this picture of the present a single salient characteristic of the
past.  Had the writer discovered for us evidences of a natural progress
of evolution, a survival of fitness, an institution rising on
stepping-stones of its dead self to higher things, this book had never
been conceived.  But this melancholy tale suggests a sad and sudden
deterioration, the inauguration of a period of decadence, the setting in
of a newspaper rot.  It is in the belief that a certain interest must
centre about times that have gone beyond recall, and round the names of
the men whose successors are ruthlessly painted for us in the pages
before me, that I address myself to the task of fixing the random
recollection of some twenty jocund years.

During the seventies and eighties I knew my Fleet Street well.  I worked
among its presses; was on intimate terms with many of its most famous
habitués; revelled in its atmosphere; and, in a word, lived its strenuous
but happy life.  And I would wish no better now—could such things be—than
to live it all over again: granted, of course, that I lived it under the
same conditions and among the same companions.  Under the conditions and
among the companions described in “The Street of Adventure,” a survivor
of the seventies or eighties would find life intolerable.  For the
conditions, as described, are degrading, and the companionship
unwholesome and depressing.  It is impossible to catch the new
atmosphere, to visualize the new journalist.  And any nascent desire I
may once have cherished to visit the scenes of my ancient labours has
been effectually quenched by the perusal of these squalid records.

The time occupied in the unfolding of the drama which marks our author’s
starting-point commences with the founding of an important daily paper,
and ends with the foundering of the same.  The _dramatis personæ_ belong
entirely to the staff of the wonderful party organ, with the proprietor,
shadowy but maleficent, brooding over the adventure like a gloomy and
heartily detested Fate.  In making the acquaintance of the members of the
staff I am being introduced to a new race.  I recognize nothing in
character, equipment, or even in physique, that for a moment recalls the
figures of the past.  For “there were giants on the earth in those days.”
The characters represented here are anæmic, neurotic, hysterical.  Their
professional avocation brings them into competition with women, and the
conditions of their service involves working with them as colleagues and
accepting them as comrades.  This intimate professional association may
account for the hysterics—to some extent.  But it does not account for
the infinite joylessness which is the dominant note of the record.  The
various characters seem to move in a fuliginous cloud beyond which they
are always scenting disaster.  Should the disaster ensue, they are as men
and women without hope.  When, in effect, the dreaded calamity does
overtake them—not without due notice—they are like mountain sheep in a
thunder-storm: awe-stricken and helpless.  We of a brisker time might,
under similar circumstances, have imitated sheep in that we would have
had recourse to our “damns.”  But the gentlemen of “The Street of
Adventure” have not spirit enough even for that.  To change the figure:
Their ship has foundered; they abandon themselves to their fate, for not
one of them can swim.

Now, in the times of which I am about to record a few personal
impressions, total disaster of the kind described here was impossible.
That is to say, collapse of a newspaper did not involve the endowment of
the individual members of its staff with the key of the street.  For
although the failure of a journal—and I have watched over the last hours
of more than one or two of them—might mean a temporary crippling and a
serious curtailment of income to certain members of the staff, it never
involved a drought in all the springs of income.  For even the most
important writers on the staff of a daily newspaper had other irons in
the fire.  Indeed, the more important the writer, the greater the number
of fires offered for the accommodation of his irons.  But the adventurers
in this new Fleet Street are represented as being bound body and soul to
a single proprietor.  They are in thrall to one insistent master.  In the
morning they are expected to report themselves at the office, and are
then to take their places in a sort of common-room waiting for orders,
much as messenger-boys at their call-centres lounge around waiting for
their “turn.”

The atmosphere, as I endeavour to catch it from these illuminating pages,
is that of a barracks—barracks provided for an army where women serve in
the ranks.  One by one the anxious, nervous waiters are sent on their
several missions.  Their tasks are not of a very cheerful or inspiring
kind.  Crime-hunting, according to Mr. Gibbs, appears to be a tremendous
“feature” in the journals of the period, and the crime-hunter, as
observed by him, is the most virile (perhaps I had rather say the least
effeminate) of these queer adventurers.  He, at all events, “lives up” to
his mission, and even provides his home with an object-lesson in the
social strata through which he works in search of his quarry, for he has
taken under his “protection” a member of the criminal classes, and
established her as mistress of his flat in Battersea.  Pretty well this
for one of the most distinguished members of the staff of a leading
Metropolitan journal! and quaint reading for those who belong to other
times, and illustrated—I am happy to think—other manners.  If, however,
the ladies and gentlemen of the newspaper staff of the period are
depicted as eccentric in both conduct and appearance, their conversation
when they forgather in their gaollike common-room, or in their favourite
taverns, is neither bright nor edifying.  They interchange some cheap
philosophical reflections, and occasionally employ a preciosity of
diction which, introduced in the eighties, was laughed out of Fleet
Street by the men of that bustling time.  Beyond these exchanges of
conversational mock-jewellery, their talk is all of “shop.”  And deadly
dull it is.  The poor creatures never deviate into fun.  Their young
lives are coloured by a sense of apprehension and oppression.  To them
the newspaper is an awful mother.  Yet her death means the sealing-up of
the founts by which they live.  And all their thoughts are grey and
melancholy in anticipation of the imminent catastrophe.  When eventually
the long-anticipated doom is announced, the sensation of the reader is
that of relief.  The chapter in which the disaster is set forth is, as a
piece of writing, so forcible and so convincing that one is driven to the
conclusion that the writer is describing an actual occurrence.  And the
victims?  Does their conduct under the final stroke evoke our sympathy as
their apologist evidently means that it should?  Personally I am
conscious of no sentiments other than those of pity and contempt.  When
the proprietor makes the announcement that he has gone the limit, and
that no further issue of his costly and ill-fated paper will be made,
some of the men are described as weeping; all are more or less
hysterical.  The busy builders of an overturned ant-heap arouse our
admiration by their courage and capacity and resource.  The pitiable
creatures who crawl out into the night from the crumbling press-heap of
Fleet Street can but provoke a gibe.  Some of them seek the oblivion
purchasable in public-houses—for the journalist in “The Street of
Adventure” understands a tavern only as a place in which to get
drunk—others seek consolation in the flats of the lady members of the
staff, an expedient more sober at once and more economical.  I quit their
society with pleasure.  They belong to a marrowless, joyless,
invertebrate breed; seedy, selfish, but superior persons, affording at
all times a safe medium for maleficent mind-microbes on the prowl after a
reliable culture.

If “The Street of Adventure” supplies a cinematographic record of the
London journalistic life of to-day, it should be well worth while, I
think, to compose some account of the very different conditions
prevailing on the Press less than two decades ago; to present some fairly
recognizable sketches of the gentlemen of the Press who bore the burden
and heat of that day; to indicate the manner in which our cheery duties
were discharged; and—a more difficult matter—to render, if possible,
something of the atmosphere of the period.  My own experience, roughly
speaking, covers a period of twenty years.  It extends from 1870 to 1890.
The mere record of a few of the names of those with whom at one time or
another I became associated indicates at once the great gulf fixed
between the Then and the Now.  There were, among others, George Augustus
Sala, Godfrey Turner, “Scholar” Williams, Edmund Yates, Gilbert Venables,
Tom Purnell, Archibald Forbes, Captain Hamber, George Henty, John
Augustus O’Shea, Edmund O’Donovan, Hilary Skinner, Charles Williams,
Henry Pearse, John Lovell.  In the mere matter of physique this short
catalogue suggests another age of journalists.  Imagine these men, or any
one of them, being thrown into hysterics by the failure of a newspaper to
pay its way.  Fancy Forbes in tears over the _Daily News_ reduced to a
halfpenny!  Or Edmund O’Donovan, on the morrow of his proprietor’s
financial ruin, seeking balm for his wounded spirit in the flats of lady
colleagues!

By the nature of his calling the journalist is thrown much into contact
with those outside his profession.  The descriptive writer and special
correspondent touches life at all points.  A memorable struggle in the
Commons House; the more lurid impact of armies; coronations; first nights
at the theatre; command nights at the opera; the funerals of statesmen;
prize-fights—the thousand pageants that make up the passing show called
“public life”—these were approached by the Press correspondents, not in
the spirit of nervous despondency described as characterizing the
attitude of the puppets of Mr. Gibbs.  My contemporaries went to work in
an optimistic mood, mixed with the pageant with an air of cheery
familiarity, and recorded their impressions in articles which would be
considered nowadays as too picturesque, too vigorous, and too literary in
style.  Their functions brought them into pleasant contact with the
heroes of whom they sung.  They were given to looking at things from the
inside as well as from the outside.  They made friendships among the
Parliament men, the pugilists, the pulpiteers, and the players, of whose
exploits they were the chartered chroniclers.  If an acquired familiarity
with social functions of every sort could constitute a Society man, then
the journalist of my period should—after a long and exhausting
experience—possess all the gifts and graces of that ineffable being.  And
at the least his retrospect should be of the most pleasant description.
He will recall with delight his experience of the dandies and the
dullards, the wits and the wantons, with whom he came in contact during
his excursions in those higher altitudes.  Actors and actresses were, of
course, his ordinary prey.  Among the stars of the dramatic firmament he
revolved in an amity now and then disturbed by some notice less fulsome
than the object of it may have deemed acceptable.  But on the whole the
terms existing in my time between Press and Stage were those of immense
consideration each for each.  That the love of each for each has grown
more ardent in these later days may be attributable to the prodigious
increase in the advertising orders received by newspaper managers from
the managers of playhouses.  Painters were less amenable.  Them you had
to meet socially.  They had the least possible respect for the
professional journalist’s opinion of pictures.  They affected to ignore
newspaper criticism of their exhibited works, or, if they were thrust
upon them, shuddered as they read.  Artists in black-and-white found
their way to Fleet Street, but their dealings were confined to the
illustrated papers.  The first time that a drawing appeared in a daily
paper was, if I remember rightly, when the _Daily Telegraph_ published
what it called “a portrait sketch” of Lefroy the murderer, a publication
which led, it may be remembered, to the arrest of that miscreant.  To-day
the black-and-white artist is in the ascendant, and I entertain a pious
hope that the day is not far off when its critics will habitually say of
a newspaper, not that it is well or ill “written,” but that it is well or
ill “drawn.”

This book will be largely anecdotal.  I may therefore be permitted at
this point—irrelevantly and parenthetically—to introduce a reminiscence
of Oscar Wilde which the mention of Lefroy recalls to me; I might forget
it later.  I was sitting at Romano’s in the company of that clever and
ill-fated genius shortly after the trial of Lefroy.  Wilde was amusing
the company with his affectations and paradoxes.  “If,” he said, in his
ineffably superior way—“if I were not a poet, and could not be an artist,
I should wish to be a murderer.”  “What!” exclaimed one of us, “and have
your portrait-sketch in the _Daily Telegraph_?”  “Better that,” cooed
Wilde, “than to go down to the sunless grave unknown.”  On the same
occasion the merits of Irving—then attracting the town—came up for
discussion.  Wilde was a warm supporter of the actor’s methods, and
indulged in a strain of exaggerated praise over the performance then
holding the boards at the Lyceum.  “But what about his legs?” inquired an
irreverent listener.  “Irving’s legs,” answered Wilde, with the manner of
a man who is promulgating some eternal truth—“Irving’s legs are
distinctly precious, _but his left leg is a poem_!”

Having permitted myself this moment of “comic relief,” I proceed to state
the plan which I propose to follow in the following pages.  I disclaim
any title to the office of auto-biographer.  I am nobody.  My own twenty
years’ experience is nothing.  The interest of my reminiscences centres
entirely in those others among whom my lot was cast.  So, having in the
three following chapters described the stages over which I drifted into
journalism, I shall in the succeeding chapters abandon any chronological
arrangement of narrative, and group in each section certain events,
individuals, enterprises, and incidents.  And the interest I hope to
enhance by the introduction of incidents and anecdotes that have come
under my personal observation and been uttered in my own hearing.

As I essay to challenge my memory of that pleasant past, the first
results are not satisfactory.  The pictures are confused in composition
and blurred in general effect.  After a little patient waiting—much in
the manner of our late friend Stead in Julia’s bureau—the blurred
pictures acquire other characteristics.  The second effect is
kaleidoscopic.  The retrospect is full of movement and colour.  At last
the kaleidoscopic effects become mere atmosphere, and one by one, or in
groups, the _dramatis personæ_ take their places on the stage.  And the
curtain rises on the play.



CHAPTER II
DRIFTING INTO IT


NOWADAYS, I understand, there are schools to educate young gentlemen for
the Press.  Indeed, in my own time a school of journalism was founded by
a man who had taken to the calling quite late in life.  But I have never
heard that the seminary in question turned out any pressman of eminence
or even of uncommon aptitude.  The founder of the singular academy was a
Mr. David Anderson, about whom and about whose school I may have
something to say in another chapter.

A man of very different calibre, a profound literary scholar, the most
cultured critic of his time, was, at a more recent period, imbued with
Anderson’s idea that a special training was desirable in the case of
candidates for a vacancy on a newspaper staff.  He was, indeed, prepared
to carry the notion much farther than the system of perfunctory
instruction instituted by the founder of the “school,” who was more or
less a blind leader of the blind.  The second reformer to whom I allude
contemplated the establishment of a Chair of Journalism at the University
of Birmingham.  Indeed, he had obtained considerable support for his
enterprise, and had it not been for his lamented death, I believe, the
scheme would have taken shape.  I had several opportunities of discussing
the proposal with Professor Churton Collins—for it is of that
accomplished critic and enthusiastic educationist I am speaking—and,
although it was difficult to withstand arguments conveyed in the
Professor’s felicitous language, and uttered in his melodious and
persuasive tones, I was never quite convinced of the utility of the
scheme.  From whence are the Professors to be drawn?  Not from the ranks
of journalism, surely.  Because the men who have risen to such an
eminence in journalism as would qualify them for the position would be
very unlikely to abandon their fat editorships for the poor emoluments of
such a Chair.

Churton Collins was a man with a passion for accuracy.  His whole
teaching was a protest against the slipshod style in literature.  His
favourite epithet was “charlatan,” which he hurled against all
incompetent persons professing to instruct the public.  Moreover, though
in the earlier stages of his career he wrote for newspapers, he was never
what was known as “a newspaper man.”  He was _on_ the Press, but not _of_
it.  And I question if he had taken much notice of its later
developments.  Had he observed the signs of the times as they are seen in
our daily broadsheets, he would have perhaps admitted that among the
qualifications which should be demanded in any occupant of a University
Chair of Journalism was a good working knowledge of the camera, and the
ability to instruct students in the most suitable subjects for
photographic reproduction.

Schools of journalism and professorships of Press lore are “all my eye
and Betty Martin.”  The journalist, like the poet, is born, not made.  A
University education can do him no harm.  A large proportion of the men
of the seventies and eighties had had a distinguished University career.
Nor does the absence of a college education prejudice the aspiring
neophyte.  Those men, indeed, who have made themselves a name in
journalism—such men, for instance, as George Sala and Archibald
Forbes—started without any of the equipment supplied by an Alma Mater.
Any training worth mentioning must be picked up on the Press itself.  And
the main qualification is a natural aptitude.  Thus, the
journalist—self-taught man, or public-school man, or University man—just
drifts into it.

Personally I have to admit that it was in my own case entirely a matter
of drifting.  Unconsciously and gently impelled toward it by the motions
of a certain desire for facile and frequent expression in print, one
becomes eventually the subject of an invincible attraction.  Those who
were responsible for the ordering of my early life took a large view of
their responsibilities.  The same persons who had provided me with a
rattle and a cradle, in later years selected for me a profession.  And
although I have never ceased to be a member of the learned profession
chosen for me, in the same way that I abandoned the rattle and the
perambulator, it has never afforded me either the amusement or the
support supplied by the toys or the equipages of childhood.  I am
indebted to it, however, for some cherished friendships, and for
introductions to some valuable “openings” into that teeming journalistic
arena with which I was to become identified.  Those set in authority over
me believed that I was “cut out” for a barrister.  But when I, my
friends, was called to the Bar, I’d an appetite—well, for anything but
law.  The law never appealed to me.  Literature always did.  Before I
went into chambers—and for some time after that—the only interest the
Temple possessed for me was that Goldsmith lay buried there, and that
there Warrington and Pendennis railed against the publishers, and wrote
for the _Pall Mall Gazette_, thus antedating by many years the actual
appearance of that journal.  While reading for the Bar and keeping my
terms, I had few acquaintances in London beyond those I met at the
dinners in Hall, and Mr. MacDermott, with whom I “read.”  The town seemed
deadly lonely at first.  It takes some time before the new-comer realizes
that he is part of the crowd that jostles him, before the feeling of
isolation gives way to that of fellowship.

When I first came up, I lodged at the house of an old gentleman in Woburn
Place, Russell Square.  He was a typical Londoner, and he followed a
calling of which, I should imagine, he must have been the very last
professor.  He was a painter of hatchments.  In those days the death of a
member of the aristocracy was indicated by the appearance on the
house-front of a canvas bearing a representation of the armorial bearings
of the deceased.  This work of art was usually fixed between the windows
of the first-floor.  These grim heraldic emblazonments were at one time
exhibited in considerable profusion in the streets and squares of the
West End.  The custom seems to have “gone out.”  So many swells now live
in flats, where the exhibition of such mural decoration might be
misunderstood and resented, that the grisly custom has grown into
desuetude.  My landlord was the last of the hatchment painters.  He was a
little man close upon seventy years of age.  He was extremely
good-looking, had small side-whiskers and a tiny imperial, both
snow-white.  The rest of his face was clean-chaven.  His salient physical
peculiarity was a pink and white complexion which have been the despair
and envy of his aristocratic patrons.  He was a brisk, cheery mortal
wonderfully quick in his movements.  For the rest, he loved the London in
which he had been born, and from which he had never wandered much farther
than Hampton Court; he had a fund of information about the houses of
Mayfair and Bloomsbury; he was a determined playgoer; he had an
acquaintanceship with some actors and actresses, and was on particularly
friendly terms with Charles Mathews.  Naturally, he was a wellspring of
gossip regarding the noble families with whom his melancholy art made him
acquainted.

His studio was in Great Ormond Street, and next door to the Working Men’s
College, where he had got to know the Rev. F. D. Maurice and the Rev.
Charles Kingsley.  Of the latter broad-minded Broad Churchman he had
several stories.  One only can I recall.  Kingsley had felt called upon
to reprove a parishioner of his on a growing spirit of miserliness which
he was exhibiting.  The fellow was well off, a widower, and living alone.
He was denying himself the necessaries of life, when his Rector thought
it time to remonstrate.  But the old man was immune against reason, or,
rather, he had an objection to every argument urged by his spiritual
adviser.  At last Kingsley took him on lower ground.  The old fellow had
an only son.  He was a sailor and a notoriously free-handed young man.
“This money,” urged the Rector, “which you are hoarding, and which you
might employ so usefully, will come at last to your boy, who will fling
it about with both hands.”  “Ah, well,” observed the unrepentant niggard,
“if Jim has on’y half the pleasure a-spendin’ on it as I’ve had a-savin’
on it, I wholly envy ’im—that ’a do.”  A congregation composed of rustics
of that type must have been a bit of a trial to a man of Kingsley’s
optimistic temperament.  But, then, his reverence was also endowed with
the saving grace of humour.

I suppose the hatchment habit—which had persisted for so many
generations—had fallen into a rapid decline just about this period, for
my cheery little landlord had but lately taken to letting apartments.
The income from heraldic painting had ceased to prove sufficient for the
upkeep of a big house.  The old gentleman’s housekeepers were a wife and
daughter, whose second-hand acquaintance with the heraldry of the great
had induced the belief that, if not actually “in Society,” they were very
much in touch with it.  Their conversation was studded with allusions to
“Lady This” and “Lord That.”  It was some time before I discovered that
their constant conversational appeals to “the Dook,” a personage with
whom, it might appear, they lived on terms of considerable intimacy, was
His Grace the Duke of Bedford.  Their supposed friendship with that
nobleman rested solely on the circumstance that His Grace was the ground
landlord of the premises in which they lived.  “I shall certainly speak
to the Dook about it,” or, “You must reelly write to His Grace, my dear,”
were tit-bits that were served up to me _ad nauseam_ when—as would
sometimes be the case—I was asked to join the ladies at five o’clock tea.
In his reminiscences of “the nobs,” as the Upper Ten were then called,
the hatchment painter himself betrayed no snobbishness whatever.  He
related anecdotes of his noble employers, just as he would tell a “good
thing” about a divine, or an actor, or an artist.

And talking of artists, I may mention here that the only person of
distinction whose acquaintance I ever made through my host was Frost, the
accomplished follower of Etty as a painter of the nude.  I had the mild,
man-in-the-street sort of admiration of Frost’s work, which I had seen on
the walls of the Royal Academy Exhibition, then held, not at Burlington
House, but in Trafalgar Square.  And from his pictures I expected—such
are the perverse preconceptions of youth—to meet a young, tall,
flamboyant man with flowing locks and the airs of a Grand Seignior.  We
were walking one morning—my host and I—down the main avenue of the
Regent’s Park.  It was spring-time.  The flower-beds were ablaze with
bulb plants.  But few people were about at the moment.  Presently we came
upon a small and sombre man feeding the sparrows, which followed him in
flocks, hovering about his head, and now and then lighting on his hand to
snatch a crumb.  The small, sombre man was dressed in rusty broadcloth.
He wore a wig, had a most melancholy expression, and might have been put
down as a superannuated tax-collector, a solicitor run to seed, a
Dissenting preacher out of work; but not one man in a thousand would have
identified him as a painter of nude subjects, which had been severely
reprobated by the unco’ guid.  Yet the amiable provider of food for the
sparrows was none other than the celebrated Mr. Frost.  Frost was a
bachelor, and his house was kept for him by a couple of old maiden
sisters, who had little sympathy with the direction in art which their
brother’s genius had taken.  But the sparrows in Regent’s Park altogether
approved of their eccentric benefactor.  And in this particular form of
charity he was the forerunner of the amiable M. Pol (that is the
Frenchman’s name, I think) whom I have watched feeding the birds in the
gardens of the Tuileries.  On this occasion Frost was not to be tempted
into any discussion on art.  He was intent on arguing the question of
drains with my friend, and spoke on the sewer question with the dry
particularity of a sanitary engineer.  Altogether a disappointing
experience of the painter of “Actea: the Nymph of the Shore,” a work
which had stimulated all my youthful enthusiasm.

The first movement in the drifting stage of my career was the result of
my presence at the first performance of “School” at the old Prince of
Wales Theatre in Tottenham Street.  The hatchment painter and I had long
before agreed that we would be present on that memorable occasion.  The
night came at last.  We were early—or what in those days would have been
considered early—and obtained seats at the back of the pit.  At that time
the suburbs still remained sane.  There was no queue of demented women
posted outside pit and gallery doors at eight o’clock in the morning so
as to be in good time for a performance commencing at eight at night.
But the seating capacity of Miss Wilton’s theatre was limited, the
pittites being restricted to a very small area, and, having passed the
check-taker, we felt that we might consider ourselves lucky in having
gained admittance at all.  Ah, to recall the sensations of that
playgoing!  The sigh of relief as I settle myself in my seat!  The
roseate air of pleasurable anticipation on the faces of those about me;
the empty rows of the booked stalls stretching from the front row of the
pit to the orchestra; the eager scanning of the features of the stalls as
they file in; the curious feeling of cheery elation, of high
expectation—these are sensations which grow very stale with use; they are
the prerogatives of youth.  Enjoy them, my boys, while you are in your
heyday.  They are moods for which the old and the _blasé_ would give a
ransom to experience once again.

Indirectly and ultimately this visit to the pit meant much to me.
Immediately it meant my first appearance in print in a London
publication; eventually it meant my first acquaintance with a dramatic
author.  Ultimately, perhaps, it meant the determination to a calling
quite apart from that to which I had been devoted by my friends.  My
chirpy companion, as he kept pointing out to me the various distinguished
stall-holders as they filed into their places, little dreamed—as, indeed,
how should he?—that he was conversing with a dramatic critic _in embryo_,
and that in the course of a few short years I, too, would have a stall
set apart for me in that select parterre.

With the production of “School” the Bancroft management and the Robertson
comedies reached high-water mark, and all the town was soon rushing to
the Royal Dustbin in its grimy and shabby little street off the Tottenham
Court Road.  A return to the natural in comedy has always spelled
success.  Farquhar’s was such a return.  Goldsmith’s return to nature was
hailed by a community sick of stilted heroics and artificial sentiment.
Sheridan later on recalled the playgoer to the fact that to give a
humorous presentation of society as it is means the highest pleasure to
the patron and the highest profit to the playwright.  At this present
time of writing a return to nature has a meaning very different indeed to
that which it bore at other periods.  Nowadays the meaning of a return to
nature seems to be a return to obscenity.  Natural is a term connoting
lubricity.  And to this confusion in the minds of some modern dramatists
as to the true significance of words I attribute much of the irritation
caused by supervision and most of the agitation fomented with a view of
disestablishing the censorship.  But in the old Tottenham Street days we
had not as yet accepted the quaint perversion of ideas at present offered
us by an anæmic, exotic, futile section of playwrights, whose goods are
exhibited at unlicensed matinées, because—luckily—the managers see “no
money” in them.  The word “nature” was not understood in this foul
fashion by T. W. Robertson.  The men and women of Robertson’s comedies
were the men and women of his own day.  The incidents were amusing
without being preposterous, or pathetic without being maudlin.  The
construction of the Robertson series was close, intelligible, sequent.
His dialogue rippled rather than sparkled; the story was invariably
simple, wholesome, attractive; and over each production was the
incommunicable Robertson atmosphere.

And the management that presented these dainty works exercised a care, a
taste, and a scrupulous devotion to the details of representation which
came as a revelation to those acquainted with the stage methods of the
period; and marked, indeed, a revolution in stage management.  It is not
overstating the case to say that, had it not been for the lead given in
this direction by the Bancrofts in the ’sixties and early ’seventies, and
subsequently followed up with still greater _éclat_ by the same artists
at the Haymarket, one would scarcely have witnessed the elaborate sets
and costly casts to which Irving accustomed us in the ’eighties and
’nineties, or on which, in our own time, Sir Herbert Tree spends so much
money and so much intelligent enterprise.  In the history of stage
reform, however, the Bancrofts must always figure as pioneers; nor is
anyone who is old enough to remember the London stage as it was accepted
before their management of the Prince of Wales Theatre, at all likely to
controvert the statement.  Happily for the public, the lead was quickly
and largely followed.  The old-fashioned stage-manager became a thing of
the past.  What was once the exception is now the rule.

                       “Most can raise the flowers now,
                         For all have got the seed.”

Slender as was my experience of London theatres and immature as was my
judgment, I was intelligently impressed by the idyllic delicacy of the
work represented, and by the exquisite rendering accorded by a company so
wonderfully fitted with their parts.  I confess to having felt an
enthusiasm then which now I should have some difficulty in explaining.
That emotion was soon to find an opportunity for expression.  When
“School” had been running for some little time, a letter appeared in the
_Times_, conceived in that spirit of dignified rebuke which, in its
correspondents, seems to have appealed to successive editors of that
great newspaper.  In this communication Robertson was crudely accused of
having stolen the play, lock, stock, and barrel, from a play then (or
recently) running in Germany.  I had no acquaintance with the German
language and no time (so insistent on protest was my indignation) to
inquire into the facts.  But I felt that from the internal evidence
afforded by “School” I would be able to make a good case.  Even in those
remote days many of our most admired articles of so-called British
manufacture were “made in Germany,” and most of them bore about with them
the ineffaceable signs of their origin.  I strongly felt that on internal
evidence I should have little difficulty, in that “School” was “quite
English, you know,” and that, above all, there was no trace whatever of
anything German in the conception or the treatment.  I had already seen
the play a second time when the _Times_ letter made its appearance.  On
the night of the day on which it was published I paid a third visit to
the pit of the Tottenham Street playhouse.  When I got back to my
“diggings,” I sat down and commenced to write what I intended to be a
letter to Jupiter Tonans of Printing House Square, but what turned out to
be my first professional contribution to the London Press.  Next day I
abandoned my more legitimate studies, and rewrote and polished—as well as
I knew how—the essay over which I had burned my first sacrifice of
midnight oil.  The result was in no way suitable as a letter in the
correspondence column of a newspaper.  My own poor outlook assured me of
that.  Where to send the essay?  A copy of a weekly magazine called _Once
a Week_ lay on a chair in the room.  I caught it up, looked for the
editorial address, wrote a brief note to the editor apprising him of the
drift of my contribution, addressed an envelope, and posted my “stuff,”
as I subsequently learned to call my articles in manuscript.

Had a mentor, skilled to advise, been available at that moment, he would
no doubt have advised me to send my essay to any other publication, but
_not_ to _Once a Week_, because the paper in question was then under the
editorial control of a member of the staff of the _Times_.  So that—a
circumstance of which I was happily ignorant—the organ selected haphazard
for my venture was the very last that should be likely to serve my
purpose.  Four days after its despatch I received a proof of the article
with a request that it should be “returned immediately” to the printer.
A delightful sensation—that of correcting one’s first galleys of matter
moist from the press!  The following week the article appeared in all the
pride of print, though I confess that the pride of print (a mere
figurative locution) was as nothing to the pride of the author who
already saw himself on the high-road to fame and fortune.  Alas! it is a
highroad which, while the gayest and cheeriest to travel, rarely leads to
fame, and never to fortune. . . . I have no doubt that this first
published composition of mine was a tremendously faulty piece of
work—immature and pretentious.  But the appearance of no subsequent
production of mine has afforded me a tithe of the pleasure.  And,
incidentally, it was the means of my making the acquaintance of “Tom”
Robertson.

Our acquaintanceship—never an intimate one—began with a correspondence,
friendly and genial on his side, ebullient and unctuous, I fear, on mine,
for I was very young.  Some time elapsed before I met him in the flesh.
The introduction was effected at the Albion Tavern in Russell Street,
Covent Garden.  That famous hostelry has gone by the board this many a
day.  When first I knew it the Albion was a London institution for which
one might have prophesied a permanence as secure as that of St. Paul’s.
It faced the north side wall of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, some
distance west of the stage-door.  It was the favourite supper resort of
theatrical people, and famous for its tripe and onions and for its
marrow-bones.  An excellent dinner of fish, joint, and cheese was served
earlier in the evening at half a crown a head—the carver, in white smock
and apron and white cook’s cap, wheeling the joint round from table to
table on an ambulatory dumb-waiter, and carving in front of the customer,
and according to the customer’s desire.  The place was run by two
brothers, named Cooper, who owned a similar house in Fleet Street.  This
was called the Rainbow.  It was a great luncheon-resort of lawyers, and
three-fourths of the present occupants of the judicial bench must have
taken their midday meal there from time to time.  The Rainbow, alas!
where once law officers chopped and learned leaders absorbed the midday
refresher, is now mainly a wine-bar—the daily resort of the Guppys, the
Joblings, and the Smallweeds of the profession.

The brothers Cooper were not very much in evidence at either house.  They
presented none of the characteristics of the typical licensed victualler.
Indeed, they were the most highly respectable looking men to be seen in
any walk of life—rosy-cheeked, white-whiskered, of solemnly benign
expression, and dressed with an amount of elderly foppishness which, in a
drab mid-Victorian age, was quite delightful to behold.  Up the
Thames—somewhere in the Hampton Court direction, if I remember
aright—where their home was, the neighbours who were “not in the know”
supposed them to be stockbrokers of a sporting turn of mind.  But if the
Coopers took no ostensibly active part in the management of the Albion,
they were most effectively represented by their head-waiter—the
incomparable Paunceford.  Even now, across the years, one can see his
beaming face, his head held a little to one side—a propitiatory pose—his
twinkling eye, his mellifluous and insinuating tone as he proceeds from
box to box, half an hour, or even an hour, after closing-time, with the
half-plaintive, half-humorous admonition of “Time, gentlemen, if you
please!”  Paunceford and the Albion should both have been made immortal.
For when the Albion closed its doors, another race of waiters had arisen,
and Paunceford’s occupation was gone.  The last time I passed through
Russell Street, Covent Garden, a merchant from the neighbouring market
was running the premises as a store for fruit and vegetables.  I wonder
whether the ghosts of those departed who once made merry within ever
appear to the eminent salesman, flitting behind his mountains of
green-stuff, or playing phantom hide-and-seek among his boxes of oranges
and bananas.

The first meeting between Robertson and myself was cordial enough, but
though he evidently appreciated the defence of “School,” which was the
basis of our friendship, it was equally apparent that he had expected to
meet an older man, and one who was at least somewhere “in the movement.”
When at last we were alone, he became communicative.  He was at the time
probably suffering from the premonitory distresses of the disease which
was destined to carry him off untimely.  My first impression was of the
bitterness with which he discussed men and things.  It was so entirely
different from that which I had expected in the mood of one who stood so
illuminated in the sunlight of popular approval.  Fame and competence had
come too late for him.  The long, hungry struggle for recognition had
soured a nature once, perhaps, sunny enough.  More than once during our
conversation he alluded to his troubles with his first success,
“Society.”  It had originally been intended for Buckstone at the
Haymarket—then _par excellence_ the Comedy theatre; and for six years
after its refusal by Buckstone its author had hawked it about to all the
London managers and to some in the provinces.  I had asked him what
chance of recognition a beginner at stage-writing should have with the
managers.  This it was that brought “Society” on the tapis.  He drove
home the lesson with the _argumentum ad hominem_.  His deliverance
certainly put me off any vague scheme I may have formed of commencing
dramatist, and made me resolve to advance in the critical career upon
which, in my youthful folly, I imagined I had successfully embarked.
Speaking with great acerbity, he said:

“I was born among stage associations.  I grew up among them.  It was the
natural thing for me to look to the stage for my daily bread.  My
earliest craft was stagecraft.  If I was compelled to carry about in my
back-pocket for six years the play into which I had put all my experience
before I could get a hearing, you can calculate for yourself the chances
of an outsider.”

Reverting to the charge of having drawn on the work of others for his
most popular success, he said:

“The author of a successful play is always charged with plagiarism.  It
was a commonplace to accuse Sheridan of the crime.  And Shakespeare
was—according to the critics—the greatest thief of all.  I am, at least,
pilloried in good company.”

After a pause, he continued, with increased bitterness:

“According to your critic, the only man who never plagiarizes is the
dramatist who is hidebound by tradition; whose work reeks of the essence
of authors who have gone before him, or who are his contemporaries.  The
only originality they know of is originality of phrase.  Original
dramatists of the sort generally find time to do a little dramatic
criticism as well, so that their case runs no danger of being understated
on the press.”

I could not help reflecting at the time that of all men T. W. Robertson
had least reason to complain of the indifference or the ineptitude of the
dramatic critics.  Altogether my sentiment on bidding Robertson
“Good-night” was one of depression, which quite overbalanced that feeling
of elation which a raw and callow youth would naturally experience after
having enjoyed a couple of hours intimate and uninterrupted chat with the
most popular dramatist of the hour.

William Brunton—that most lovable and luckless of Irishmen and
artists—had given me the coveted personal introduction.  Him I had met at
the hatchment studio in Great Ormond Street.  Brunton was himself a
dabbler in heraldry, and, before he started as a comic artist on the
pages of Tom Hood’s _Fun_, had been something of an authority on family
escutcheons.  A handsome, distinguished-looking fellow was Brunton in
those days.  His laugh was contagious, and greeted impartially his own
jokes and those of his friends.  His own jokes were curious, involved,
impromptus, mostly without meaning, but characterized by an irresistible
quaintness of manner.  His own hearty enjoyment of these cryptic
_morceaux_ made up for any lack of substance in the things themselves,
and, by a sort of infection, aroused the laughter of his hearers.  Thus I
have myself roared with merriment over his report of the ultimatum
delivered by the Irish widow on a third-floor-back in Clare Market to her
countrywoman occupying the third-floor-front.  It was the way he did it,
for in cold print the joke scarcely moves even the most facile muscles:

“I declare to Hiven, Mrs. Dooley ma’am, if ye don’t take yer washin’ off
the lobby, I’ll quit th’ tinimint!  There it is shmokin’ like a
lime-kiln, and my dog Towzer barkin’ at it, thinkin’ it’s a robber!”

When Brunton heard of my appearance for the defence of Robertson in the
matter of “School,” and became acquainted with my desire to be
introduced, he at once promised, in his jovial, off-hand manner, to bring
about the accomplishment of my wish.  That he faithfully fulfilled his
undertaking has been seen.  I met Brunton shortly after at the Strand
Theatre.  I confessed to him that Robertson’s conversation had not
exhilarated me, and that I had not been prepared for a mood so
pessimistic in a man so fortunate.

“That’s nothin’,” declared Brunton cheerily.  “You should hear Tom
sometimes.  Last night he was denyin’ th’ existence of th’ Almighty.  Dr.
Barnett, the editor of the _Sunday Times_, was present.  B— was at one
time a Dissenting divine, you know, and is as orthodox as the Pope of
Rome.  He gently rebuked Tom.  It was only addin’ fuel to the flame.  ‘If
there be a God, why don’t He destroy me now?’ says Tom.  Then it was old
Barnett’s turn.  With a sweet smile and the soft accent of a sort of
evangelical angel, he answered: ‘You forget, Tom, that the Almighty is
capable of an infinite contempt!’  And be jabers,” concluded Brunton,
“poor Robertson was as dumb as an oyster for the rest of the evening.”

It was a noble retort, and it is pleasant to know that Robertson accepted
it in silence, and subsequently expressed a very pretty contrition.
Robertson was the first experience I had of the fact that an author’s
personality or temperament can rarely be gathered from his works.  During
my sojourn in the tents of Shem I was destined to meet many famous
illustrations of the same truth.



CHAPTER III
LEARNING TO SWIM


THE receipt of a cheque in payment for the Robertson article in _Once a
Week_ convinced me, not only that I had discovered my _métier_, but that
I had formally entered upon a profitable occupation, which would be
pursued under most agreeable conditions.  Let me at once confess that
some years were to elapse before the returns from my literary labours
amounted to a sum that would pay for my tobacco and my laundry.  But if
in the period of keeping my terms cheques were few and far between, I got
no end of an opportunity of seeing my name in print as the author of at
least one prodigious poetical work and of several essays, chiefly of
dramatic criticism.  It is pleasant to reflect that these exercises—early
and immature though they were—brought me several friends in the literary
and artistic world.  At this juncture, indeed, it appeared probable that
I would eventually develop into a “litery gent” whose future outlook
would be that of considerable dubiety as to the respectability of the
journalistic calling.

A friendly solicitor—I had been admonished to make friends of the Mammon
of Unrighteousness—introduced me at a City dinner to William Harrison
Ainsworth, author of “The Tower of London” and other lurid romances.  It
was a bit of a surprise to meet the venerable man, for, truth to tell, I
had thought him long since dead.  He was by no means dead, however, or
even apparently moribund, but extremely alive to anything that looked
like business.  His Manchester training never failed him to the end.  He
exhibited a fatherly interest in me, which was extremely flattering to my
vanity, and before we parted he had arranged a luncheon date for the
following week.  He was living at the time at Hurstpierpoint in Sussex.
I kept the appointment, you may be well assured, and after our little
midday meal the worthy exponent of Dick Turpin opened his business.

It was a simple affair.  He had acquired a magazine some time before,
and, finding that its circulation did not come up to his expectations, he
had resold to a relative—a cousin of his own.  He had agreed with the
sanguine relative that he would continue to send in signed contributions,
and that he would secure the services of other brilliant writers; and I
was one of the “brilliant writers” whose exertions were to raise the
cousin’s hopeless purchase into a position of safety.  Harrison Ainsworth
candidly assured me that the proprietor was not in a position to pay for
the serial rights of my esteemed contributions.  But the copyright should
remain mine—a valuable concession and consideration!—and I should receive
suitable remuneration when the magazine “turned the corner.”  Ah, that
fugacious corner which, always nearing, is rarely reached, and never by
any chance turned!  How often has it lured the novice and tempted even
the needy veteran victim!  I agreed to all my host’s suggestions.  As I
left him, he murmured a tremulous “God bless you!” and I was conscious of
a fine feeling of elation as I returned to town—my star evidently in the
ascendant.

If there was no money to be obtained from my new engagement, there was
some fun: there was excellent practice, and there was the unexpected
introduction to a “set” whose members I had always admired at a distance,
but with whom my taste and training had denied me an understanding
sympathy.  For a while I fluttered in those reserved groves.  But when at
last the Street of Adventure claimed me as its own, my new associates
drew me from those higher altitudes.  The loss, I am sure, has all been
mine.

On the magazine, to which I had pledged myself, I commenced as a poet, a
poem being the only thing I had by me.  The cousinly proprietor—an
extremely pleasant old gentleman, also named Ainsworth—appeared glad to
accept _anything_.  He was the only person whom I have known literally to
laugh over misfortunes.  He was a septuagenarian Mark Tapley.  He gave
excellent dinners at Ravenscourt Park—the house in which he entertained
has long since been reduced to what printers call “pie,” its place being
covered with brand-new “mansions” and “gardens” and villas.  It speaks
volumes for the old gentleman’s good-nature that, when my “poem”
appeared, filling five pages of his periodical, he never uttered a word
of rebuke or reproach.  That was forty years ago, and I still regard the
incident with gratitude, for the composition was a narrative of great
duration.  The scene was laid in Italy, the subject romantic, and the
verse written in heroic couplets, interspersed with lyrics after the
manner made fashionable by the Poet Laureate.  I never saw it again after
my first rapturous readings, but I have little doubt that it was sad
stuff.

I then resolutely set myself to keep my proprietor fed up with prose
essays.  I had the material, and I took no end of pains with the setting.
They were for the most part essays in literary criticism, and one or two
of them attracted the attention of the right sort of people.  Many years
after its appearance, I was surprised and gratified to find one of these
early articles quoted in the _Athenæum_ by Theodore Watts-Dunton, and
quoted, moreover, by that distinguished man of letters as being
authoritative.  Alas! by the time this appreciation of my literary
research and criticism appeared I had ceased to take myself very
seriously, and I was mixing in a society that did not take _anything_
very seriously.  In my early years I had the run of a good dramatic
library, particularly rich in editions of the Elizabethan masters.  The
majority of my essays of this period were derived from those boyish
studies, fortified by later browsings in the reading-room of the British
Museum.  The eminent but erratic Irish gentleman with whom I was reading
Law had suggested the Museum, little imagining the direction which my
researches there were sometimes to take.  To which of these fugitive
pieces of the Ainsworthonian period of my novitiate I owed my
introduction to Madox Brown, the celebrated Pre-Raphaelite painter, I
cannot distinctly recall.  Clearly, it would not have been to that
terrible Italian romance in heroic couplets.  But the thing happened
somehow, and I still remember the pleasurable sensations I experienced
when Oliver, the son of the great artist, called on me by appointment and
took me round to the house in Fitzroy Square, to be introduced to his
father.  Madox Brown was a handsome man, of medium height,
broad-shouldered, with a wiry beard, at that time just beginning to show
the grey autumnal tints.  The charm of the man was to be caught in the
sweet benignity of his expression and in the musical cadences of his
voice.  He was evidently the devoted family man.  And it was his interest
in his own children that caused him to suffer the society of other young
fellows struggling for notice.  Among those who dropped in at the studio
that afternoon were Theo Marzials, the author of the popular “Twickenham
Ferry,” and Hueffer, the exponent of Wagner, who was engaged to Brown’s
daughter.

A reception to which I received an invitation some weeks after was my
first appearance in one of the select literary circles of the capital.
It was in honour of Hueffer and his bride-to-be, and was held at the
Madox Brown house in Fitzroy Square on the night before the wedding.  It
was a rather weird experience.  And not even the fact that Swinburne was
present—and his was a figure to arouse all my youthful
enthusiasm—reconciled me to the gathering.  I felt as much alone in this
crowd as I had formerly felt in the seething streets.  I beat an early
retreat, profoundly impressed by the reflection that I did not possess
the natural adaptability which would make me an acceptable member of a
society with its own especial equipment, its own passwords, and its own
particular pose.  I should never have become a competent authority on
that which Carlyle calls “the Correggiosity of Correggio.”

The Madox Brown connection led to an invitation to Westland Marston’s
less “precious” Sunday receptions, and to those of Lady Duffus Hardy.  At
the latter house I met for the first time Joaquin Millar, the poet of the
Sierras.  Millar and I were to become great friends later on, but on
first meeting him my feeling was one of frank dislike.  At the time his
pose was that of the wild man of the illimitable plains.  He kept his
hair in curling cataracts down his shoulders.  He wore great jack-boots
over his trousers, and was accustomed to appear in the Park mounted on a
hack harnessed with a Mexican saddle, blinkers, and other absurd
accoutrements.  The rider wore a white sombrero, and gilt spurs six
inches long.  If his object was to attract attention, he undoubtedly
succeeded.  In the drawing-room of the Hardys he struck the sublimest
attitudes, and, when he crossed the room, did it with a limp—because he
had heard that Byron limped.

His utterances were studied with a view of occasioning surprise.  He had
then lately returned from a tour in Italy.

“What struck you most about Venice?” inquired one of his fair admirers.

“The bugs!” he replied with entire gravity, and stroking his golden
beard.

“Oh, Mr. Millar!” exclaimed the lady, in shocked reproof.

“But,” he proceeded calmly, “the bugs in Venice are not the mild domestic
animals you cultivate in this country.  A Venetian bug has a beard and
moustache as big as the King of Italy’s.”

It was during this stay in England that Millar met a lady to whom he
became engaged, and the poet would have married her had her parents not
discovered in time that the wild man of the illimitable plains had
already a wife and child stranded somewhere on the South Pacific Coast.

Joaquin Millar became in time quite a civilized Christian, and I reflect,
with some natural satisfaction, that I was the humble means in the hands
of Providence that, some years after our first frigid meeting, succeeded
in inducing him to get his hair cut.  An immense social and moral
rehabilitation followed this sacrifice on the part of a poet who had his
share of the Divine afflatus.  What he lost in picturesqueness he gained
in self-respect, and during his brief sojourns in London he figured as a
Bohemian observant of the conventions, and possessed of a certain subtle
humour, which rendered his society very agreeable to his club mates at
the Savage.

The travelling American millionaire is a strange portent in his way; but
to me a far more wonderful thing is the American who on a small and
irregular pay, often derived from correspondence with some third-rate
newspaper, supplemented by the proceeds of a few magazine articles,
manages to travel all over the habitable globe.  You will meet
them—cultivating literature on a little oatmeal—in London, in Paris, in
Rome, in St. Petersburg, in Tokio, in Honolulu.  They are always waiting
for remittances, and they are always on the move.  One of these wanderers
I met at Millar’s rooms in Bloomsbury.  She was a fine woman—robust,
large-eyed, sentimental, but with a certain saving sense of humour.  Her
sole means were derived from a weekly letter written for a San Francisco
newspaper.  Yet she was setting out to do what she called “the grand
tower.”  She was not so lucky as the others.  I met her at the same rooms
a year afterwards.  She had just returned from “the grand tower.”  She
looked awfully worn and ill, and she was accompanied by a gigantic
brigand, who had not a word of any language save his own incommunicable
patois.  He breathed hard and scowled and shrugged his shoulders while he
rolled his eyes and smoked innumerable cigarettes.  His name, even when
gently broken to us by his fair introducer, was a wholly impossible
thing.  But he was a Count—or so he said.  And the infatuated
correspondent of the Californian paper was “my lady,” for she had married
the brute.  The Count had probably been a Neapolitan luggage-porter, or
something of the kind, and my own private opinion is that he beat the
poor woman and otherwise ill-treated her.

Charles Warren Stoddard is another name which pleasantly connects itself
with those days of emergence.  There are few parts of the civilized globe
over which “dear Charlie”—as his intimates called him—has not trotted.
He lived the absolutely “natural life” in the South Seas.  The result of
that enervating experience may be seen in two very delightful books,
“South Sea Idylls,” published over thirty years ago, and “The Island of
Tranquil Delights,” published in this country a couple of years since.
He travelled all over Europe, joining a monastic brotherhood at Rome.
This he quitted after a few years’ experience, his memories of tropical
islands, perhaps, engendering a hankering after the fleshpots.  On one of
the Pyramids he met Williamson the actor—to become in the fulness of time
Williamson the successful Australian manager—and on the tomb of the
Pharaohs he gave Williamson an introduction to me, which led to a very
delightful acquaintanceship.  From a Japanese poet named Noguki, who
recently produced a wonderful book of verse in London, I heard that he
had met Stoddard in Tokio, and that he was then on his way to take up a
Chair of English Literature at a University in Washington.  But he must
have wandered away from that place of safety, for I next heard of him as
having escaped by the skin of his teeth from the awful seismic disaster
in San Francisco.  You don’t want much money in a monastery, and you
probably get enough to live on while teaching English literature to the
youth of the United States.  But, deducting these two brief periods of
retirement from wandering, Stoddard must have moved around, surveying the
wonders of the world, on an income entirely derived from fugitive
articles in the papers of California.

Stoddard brought me to see Mark Twain at the Langham Hotel.  The two men
were great friends, and, indeed, I believe that some of the descriptive
touches in the lectures delivered in London by Twain were “written in” by
Stoddard.  It was a fearfully foggy afternoon on which we made our call.
Twain was walking up and down his sitting-room, evidently in a low key.
The sight of Stoddard, however, cheered him.  He pointed to a table at
the end of the room, on which were ranged, in vast quantities, the
materials necessary for the compounding of cocktails, and begged us to
help ourselves.  When we had got our medicine “fixed”—an operation which
our host kindly undertook for me—Stoddard asked suddenly:

“Say, Clemens, what have you done with your shorthand writer?”

“Shot him,” replied Twain grimly.

“You don’t say!” exclaimed Stoddard.

“I shot him out into the fog.  He couldn’t hurt the fog much.  Another
ten minutes of him would have killed _me_.”

Then came out the explanation of this short and cryptic dialogue.  In
genial conversation with his visitors Twain got off some uncommonly “good
things,” and, as he rarely recalled the items that went best, he was
induced to engage a stenographer, who, concealed from him and from his
visitors, should take down the coinage of his wit as it came hot from the
mint.  The shorthand writer was duly installed in his cave.  Visitors
arrived.  But Twain’s conversational powers had deserted him.  “Couldn’t
scintillate worth a cent” would have been his own way of describing the
situation.  The knowledge of the fact that a paid reporter was taking him
down seemed to sterilize his brain.  The stenographer had got on the
humorist’s nerves.  Twain before his visitors opened not his mouth.

I question, however, whether any stenographer could have conveyed, by the
mere words uttered by Twain in conversation, the peculiar charm and
savour of his impromptus, which lay in the manner rather than in the
matter.  Ready, apposite, and spontaneous, he undoubtedly was; but the
melancholy drawl which he affected, the quaint American accent, the
impassive features of the speaker, added enormously to the value of the
utterance.  And these, of course, transcend the powers of a reporter to
reproduce.

Against the advice of his agent—poor old George Dolby, who had acted in
the same capacity for Dickens—Twain had stopped his lectures at the
Hanover Square Rooms for a “spell” in the provinces.  On the evening of
the day on which we called he was to resume the course which he had
abandoned.  The low key in which we found him was the result of the fog,
in the first place; and, in the second place, he was worrying himself by
recalling the warnings Dolby had given him about the danger of
interrupting the course originally, his fear of the power of some new
attraction, his knowledge of the fickleness of public taste.  And as the
afternoon advanced the fog grew more dense.  We remained with the
depressed humorist until Dolby arrived to escort him to the rooms.  An
hour before the time for commencing the lecture all four of us got into a
growler, and were swallowed by the fog.  I have never measured the
distance between the Langham Hotel and Hanover Square, but I think I
could manage it in ten minutes.  It took our cabby just three-quarters of
an hour to land his fare.  He lost his way twice, and finally was obliged
to get off the box, engage the services of an imp carrying a link, and
lead his dejected horse.  Dolby had been right in getting us off early.
When we arrived at the hall, we had just ten minutes in hand.

Twain was in a state of the most profound depression.  Stoddard and I
took our places in the front row of the stalls.  The house was full of
fog, and only half full of audience.  Dolby afterwards told me that he
had experienced the greatest difficulty in inducing Twain to appear at
all.  An appeal to his honour and the risk of ignoring an engagement with
his public at last prevailed.  About five minutes after the advertised
time he came out.  He advanced slowly to the very edge of the
platform—the tips of his pumps, indeed, went over the edge.  He craned
his neck, peering through the mist.  In his sad, slow way he commenced:

“Ladies and gentlemen . . . I don’t know . . . whether you can see me or
not. . . .  But I’m here!”

You observe that there is nothing in the mere words.  But their
spontaneity and appositeness told at once.  The effect was electrical.
The audience was put into a good humour, and the lecture went with a roar
of laughter and applause from start to finish.

Dr. Gordon Hake was a friend whom I made through a review of his “Poems
and Parables,” printed by my Tapleyan editor.  Hake was a most courtly
old gentleman, and when actively engaged in the pursuit of his
profession—he had been a general medical practitioner—must have possessed
an enviable degree of what is known among physicians as “a fine bedside
manner.”  The doctor had a pleasant little place at Coombe End, just
beyond the spot at which Roehampton Lane impinges on Wimbledon Common.
Under his hospitable roof I met one or two famous men and a goodly number
of men who aspired to be famous.  Of the famous men I shall here make
mention of one only.

George Borrow, author of “Lavengro” and “Romany Rye,” was an old friend
of Hake’s, and I was invited down to Coombe End to meet that very
extraordinary old gentleman.  Dr. Hake had taken care to warn me that it
would be as well to say nothing of my contributions to periodical
literature, as Borrow had a great dislike to literary persons.  My claim
to that description being of the slightest, I quite gladly assented, and
as a result George Borrow and I became on fairly friendly terms—or I had
rather put it: the Gipsy King was less bearish to me than to some of the
others with whom he was thrown into contact.  I did not at that time
understand his hostile attitude to contemporary professors of literature.
I do now.  Borrow had enjoyed for a brief period the questionable
delights of being lionized in London society.  His “Bible in Spain” had
created a furore.  An immense amount of curiosity was created as to the
personality of a man who had gone through the extraordinary adventures
described in that romantic book.  For a couple of seasons Borrow was
invited everywhere, and then as capriciously he was dropped.  At the end
of the sixties, when I met him, the hostesses who had fought with each
other for his presence could not have told you whether the great man was
alive or dead.

A big, broad-shouldered, slightly stooping man, with white hair, shaven
face, and bushy eyebrows, was the George Borrow whom on a fine summer
afternoon I met on the lawn at Coombe End.  He was dressed in rusty
broadcloth.  At the moment he was about to take a walk across the common.
He did me the honour to ask me to accompany him.  The only book of his
that I had read at that time was “The Bible in Spain.”  It used to be
given to me when I was quite a little boy as suitable Sunday reading.  It
was very unlike the general run of Sunday reading to which I had become
accustomed.  It was, indeed, a series of lurid adventures, hairbreadth
escapes, desperate encounters, fire, thunder, murder, and sudden death—a
boy’s book of the most pronounced type.  And its title notwithstanding, I
felt, even in those young days, that the incidents related must have been
evolved by the teeming imagination of a novelist.

My first walk with Borrow confirmed me in the certainty of my childish
instinct.  Crude uncritical people, without a due respect for literary
genius, would, on the strength of his conversation during that walk of
mine, have characterized him offhand as a flamboyant liar.  The true
explanation is that he was continually evolving or devising incidents
which, once given shape, remained with him as facts to be thenceforth
remembered and related as occurrences duly observed.  I feel sure that
Borrow firmly believed that he had personally experienced all the
eburescent transactions described in his “Bible in Spain.”  On our way
across the common he was accosted by a tramp.  Borrow was infuriate.  He
invited the sturdy beggar to fight—he even began to divest himself of his
broadcloth frock-coat; but the beggar made off.  He was in search of
benefactions, not of blows.  Had the beggar been a gipsy, Borrow’s
attitude would have been quite friendly.  He would have, were it needed,
administered to the wants of the swarthy nomad; but an English beggar was
in the eyes of Borrow simply an habitual criminal, and as such should be
soundly trounced whenever encountered.

In a road t’other side the common he took me into a beerhouse, and called
for two half-pints of “swipes.”  Thus in such places they call their
thinnest, sourest, and cheapest ale.  Borrow drank his as one enjoying a
rare vintage.  With difficulty I sipped a tipple, which I found to be
simply villainous.  In the far corner of the taproom sat a man at a
table.  He had finished his mug of ale, and was slumbering.

“See that fellow?” asked Borrow in an impressive stage whisper.

“Yes,” I replied faintly, for the beer was positively making me ill.

“That man is a murderer.  Finish your swipes.  I’ll tell you all about it
when we get out.”

And once out, he proceeded to tell me all about it.  Here he was at his
best.  You could not help listening, admiring, and—almost—believing.  It
was so wonderfully done: the whole invented narrative, the squalid
details, the sordid motive, the escape from justice owing to the presence
on the jury of a friend of the prisoner, the verdict of “Not Guilty”
rendered by an eleven of the vaunted Palladium starved into acquiescence
by one determined boot-eater—all this the venerable old gentleman related
with the utmost sincerity and circumstantiality.

On the following morning I took a walk across the common unaccompanied.
I revisited the little swipe-shop.  The man who had served us was behind
the bar.  He was the landlord.  Did he recollect serving myself and
another gentleman in the taproom on the previous afternoon?  Of course he
remembered.  There was a third person in the taproom at the time?  Of
course there was.  Did he know anything of that third person?  Of course
he did.  Why, that was old William Mobbs, of Putney, carter to Mr. —
(mentioning a market-gardener in the vicinity).

“Anything against him?” I inquired.

“Anything agin William Mobbs!” exclaimed mine host indignantly.  “William
is the most virtuosest man within a ragious of twenty mile!  I b’leeve
he’s the qui’test, law-abidin’est old bloke in the ’ole world.”

And in this way was Borrow’s murderer rehabilitated for me by one who
knew him.

This visit of Borrow’s to Dr. Hake came to an abrupt close in a somewhat
melodramatic way.  Two families of gipsies set up an encampment on the
common.  Hosts who entertained Borrow in the country had to take their
chance of an incident of that kind happening, for the gipsies seemed to
scent their protector out.  He spoke their language, he wrote their
songs.  By some of them he was known as their “King.”  The presence of
the nomadic tribe was immediately made known to Borrow by one of their
dirty but intelligent scouts.  The “King” thereupon made a call of
ceremony upon his distinguished subjects.  When he returned to Coombe
End, he informed Dr. Hake that his friends the gipsies were in a
difficulty about their water-supply, and that he had taken upon himself
to give them permission to fill their buckets at the good doctor’s well.
The good doctor consented with concealed misgiving.  His fears were
justified.  The gipsies came on to his little estate, and not only took
his water, but took away anything portable that happened to be lying
around.

In his most courteous manner Dr. Hake told his illustrious guest what had
happened.  Borrow literally raged.  The man who insulted his Romany
friends insulted him.  His friends were incapable of any act of
ingratitude to a man whose hospitality he was accepting.  But the worthy
Hake insisted that, as a matter of mere fact, certain fowls, linen, and
garden tools, had disappeared from the place at a time which synchronized
with the Romany incursion.  It was enough.  The incensed “Lavengro”
ordered his portmanteau to be packed and taken to the station.  He flung
out of the house, ignoring the kindly _au revoir_ of his gentle host.
After many moons he came to his senses again, and was reconciled to one
of the most amiable, hospitable, and accomplished men of his time.

On two or three occasions after my introduction I met Borrow in town.  He
had apartments near the Museum.  He was invariably civil.  But this I
attribute to the fact that I was able to talk pugilistic lore with him,
and to introduce him to Nat Langham’s, a centre of “the fancy,” of the
existence of which it surprised me to find so great an admirer of the
P.R. completely ignorant.  When I proposed this excursion we were in
Charlotte Street, Fitzroy Square, and Borrow had been met by me as he was
walking along the side-path with a copy of the Old Testament in Hebrew
held close to his failing eyes.  He thrust the book into his pocket and
accompanied me.  I shrewdly suspect that this was the only occasion on
which a Bible found its way into Nat Langham’s famous crib.

Some time after Borrow’s death I was regularly engaged in writing for the
newspapers, and it came in my way to make some inquiries concerning the
circumstances under which he passed away.  They were grim enough.  In a
lonely old farmhouse, situated by the whispering reeds of a Suffolk
broad, he breathed his last.  He was quite alone at the time when he was
_in extremis_.  And when at last the massive form was found lying there,
cold and stark and dead, it was gathered up and pressed into a deal box.
hastily put together by the village carpenter, and despatched by rail
from the nearest railway-station—a sad and tragical ending, surely, for
an imperious genius who had been in his day the lion of a London season,
and whose writings have established a cult comparable only to that which
has arisen over Fitzgerald and the libidinous old Persian philosopher,
whom he made to live again in his wonderful paraphrase.

Of Dante Gabriel Rossetti I had but a passing glimpse.  The poet-painter
called on George Hake (a son of Borrow’s friend) when I happened to be
stopping with him at Oxford.  But the impression left is vivid enough.
Six or seven years had passed since the bitter domestic bereavement had
taken place which saddened his life and induced the habit that shortened
his days.  In appearance he presented neither the delicate, almost
ascetic, figure of the early portraits nor the wan aspect of the later
likenesses.  One might have almost called him robust.  He had the general
aspect of a prosperous country squire.  We all three chatted on current
topics, and in Rossetti’s contributions to the talk he was now incisive
and epigrammatic, and again fanciful and quaint.  He was not for a moment
pessimistic or bitter.  The Rossetti presented to the public is, I know,
a very different sort of individual.  I can only repeat that I describe
the man as I saw him during the closing years of the sixties.

Mr. Hall Caine presents a Rossetti of a very different sort.  In a work
of autobiography that popular writer devotes the greater portion of his
book to a narrative of his relations with the poet.  Mr. Caine became
acquainted with the poet when his powers were decaying and his work
practically finished; when he was habitually drugged and incapable of
normal emotions; when he was deserted by his friends, and grateful for
the companionship of almost anybody.

The literary venture of Mark Tapley Ainsworth failed to justify the
auriferous future that his cousin, the novelist, had prophesied for it.
The unfortunate owner was losing over it more money than he could afford.
He called on me to announce the sad circumstance.  He was as joyous as
ever.  He laughed merrily as he spoke of his bitter disappointment.  I
felt it impossible to sympathize with his mood.  In my crass ignorance of
the publishing world, the death of a magazine was a tragic thing.  It
affected me almost as the passing away of some eminent man.  We lunched
over the event (a sort of “wake,” it seemed to me) at the Blue Posts in
Cork Street, and the proprietor of the magazine, the decease of which was
about to be announced, was in the gayest of spirits.  After all, the dear
old chap may be excused at exhibiting some feeling of relief.  It had
been for him, as he cheerily explained, “a matter of always paying out,
and never paying in.”

He certainly had not embarrassed himself by paying anything to me.  But
the regular occupation had been excellent practice, and the immediate
ponderable result was the formation of a circle of acquaintances among
literary men and artists.  We drank, in excellent claret, to the
resurrection of the dead periodical.  But we honoured the toast as those
who have no hope.  Mark Tapley and I parted on excellent terms.  We
walked down the Burlington Arcade, and took leave of each other when we
reached Piccadilly.  His last word was a jape at the expense of himself
and his venture.  The last sound I heard of him was a particularly jolly
laugh as he ambled off.

This collapse of the Ainsworthian magazine; my “call”; the removal from
lodgings in Woburn Place to chambers in the Temple—these may be
conveniently taken as roughly marking the end of my informal novitiate.
I don’t know whether the habit of giving “call suppers” still persists.
I was persuaded that the obligation to invite my friends to one was
incumbent on me.  The repast was ordered at my chambers for eight, and
all my guests turned up.  On the other side of Fleet Street, and nearly
opposite Middle Temple Lane, was an oyster-house and restaurant called
Prosser’s.  At that establishment the supper was ordered.  I regret to
say that I recollect very little of the entertainment.  My health was
proposed, and a bright career at the Bar foretold for me by a gentleman
who is now an ornament of the judicial bench.  An artist present drew a
picture entitled “Coke upon Littleton,” which evoked roars of laughter by
reason of its audacious Rabelaisian humour.  And an Hibernian journalist,
who is now an English M.P., sang “The Wearin’ o’ the Green.”  I
replied—coherently—to the toast of my health.  After that things became a
trifle blurred.  Prosser had done me too well.



CHAPTER IV
INTO THE MAELSTROM


A call to the Bar and a residence in the Temple necessitate a somewhat
intimate acquaintance with Fleet Street.  But, of course, they do not
make of one a Fleet Street man in the journalistic meaning of that
phrase.  Some time was to pass yet ere I could regard myself as free of
the street—so to say.  The haunts of the Templar are not those of the
Pressman.  The former, when of an afternoon he quits the “dusty purlieus
of the Law,” usually hastens westward.  The haunts of the journalist are
in Fleet Street itself.  Yet it was to barristers, after all, that I owed
my initiation into the mysteries of the newspaper world.

In those days a considerable number of young barristers—and some old
ones—were more or less dependent on their contributions to the Press for
an income.  Tired of idling in chambers and

    “Beckoning the tardy briefs,
    The briefs that never came.”

they had struck boldly off into the whirling, throbbing life that
surrounded their quiet cloisters.  Among those who were to influence my
career at this stage were “Willie” Dixon, son of Hepworth Dixon, the
author of “Spiritual Wives” and other books which had a mighty vogue in
their day and seem now to be forgotten; Patrick Macdonald, a Scotsman
with a knowledge of Law that would have landed him on the Bench had he
lived to justify the opinion of the solicitors who “discovered” him too
late; and Robert Williams.  To the former gentlemen I owed my
introduction to the Savage Club, where for a time I became a frequent
visitor, though not qualified for membership under their drastic first
rule—a rule which has, I understand, become considerably relaxed, in
order to give admission to that Mammon of Unrighteousness with which
clubmen, among others, are commanded to “make friends.”  Here, for the
first time, I met some of the practical journalists—the men whose
profession it was to feed the palpitating monsters of Fleet Street with
their mighty pabulum of “copy.”

But my real introducer was Williams.  It was to his influence that I was
indebted for my “chance.”  His unerring advice, his ungrudging
assistance, his fine faith in my aptitude, made the beginning easy for
me.  Robert Williams was, perhaps, the most remarkable man of his time in
the Street of Adventure.  He was a Welshman, with but little of the Welsh
temperament save the hopefulness characteristic of that race.  He was a
graduate of Jesus College, Oxford, becoming thereafter a Fellow of
Merton.  His nickname at the University was “Scholar” Williams, which
sufficiently indicates the sort of reputation he had acquired.  He was
one of the finest Greek scholars of his day.  His “Notes on Aristotle”
are still regarded as authoritative by examiners.  He was, I think, tutor
both to Lord Rosebery and Lord Lansdowne.  He was a member of the Reform
Club before he had ever seen Pall Mall.  Lord Rosebery took a great
interest in the career of Williams after he left Oxford and had flung
himself into Fleet Street, for he married and threw up his Fellowship.

Lord Rosebery’s influence took an extremely practical turn.  For
instance, he bought the _Examiner_ for Williams.  But the “Scholar,”
although a very accomplished contributor, had not been cut out by Nature
for an editor.  This he proved, not only in his conduct of the
_Examiner_, but in the founding and editorial management of a venture
which followed.  He sold the property which Lord Rosebery had made over
to him, and with the proceeds started a weekly illustrated paper called
_Sketch_—to be distinguished from _The Sketch_ belonging to the Ingram
group, a much more recent candidate for popular favour.  The capital
which Williams had acquired by the sale of the _Examiner_ was only
sufficient to keep his new venture running for a few weeks.  He
transferred it to an owner of sporting papers, in whose hands it died the
death.

But the finest journalistic work of “Scholar” Williams may be seen in his
leading articles in the _Daily Telegraph_.  For some years he was
retained on the staff of that journal, transferring his services
eventually to the _Standard_.  He had a prodigious memory.  In that
respect he was the equal of Lord Macaulay.  Indeed, at Oxford he was
always regarded as a “coming Lord Macaulay.”  He knew Dickens by heart,
and his apposite quotations from that author are more frequent than
allusions from Aristotle.  He had a very keen sense of humour, and in
exercising his gifts in that way he had no sort of compunction.  Indeed,
I fear that to his habit of “giving away the secrets of the Prison House”
in humorous recital and to mixed audiences may be attributed the events
which immediately preceded his transference from Peterborough Court to
Shoe Lane.

A striking appearance was that of Robert Williams.  I can recall vividly
his form at this moment as he makes his way down Fleet Street.  In figure
he was a miniature Dr. Johnson—bulky, short in the neck and short in the
sight.  He had a broad, clean-shaven face, and, so far as his features
were concerned, possessed the true forensic aspect.  He went always clad
in black, and invariably proceeded down the street with a book or a paper
held close to his eyes.  As he forged his way ahead he constantly
collided with citizens hastening in the opposite direction.  These
frequent impacts did not seem to retard his progress or inconvenience in
any way the stolid scholar who walked slowly and serenely on, oblivious
of the frequent rebukes and objurgations which his progress evoked.  He
had a loud metallic voice, which in conversation was always raised, so
that his observations were heard by persons at a considerable distance
off.  His laugh—well it did you good to hear Williams laugh at a joker,
his own or another’s.

Williams, too, was a man who could not only laugh at a joke against
himself, but could even tell a joke against himself.  One of these
stories is worth recalling in this place, although it has to do, not with
his journalistic, but with his barristerial work.  I may perhaps premise
this, as elucidatory of the point of the narrative: Montagu Williams was
at that time one of the most popular men at the Criminal Bar.  He was the
terror of evil-doers.  And if he were engaged for the prosecution, the
unfortunate man in the dock often pleaded guilty, “lest a worse thing
happen unto him.”

It happened that Robert Williams was briefed one day to prosecute a
prisoner for burglary.  The trial took place at the Old Bailey, and
Williams was seated just beneath the dock, and well within hearing of
anything that might transpire there.  The prisoner was duly put forward,
the indictment read, and the malefactor asked to plead.  Williams then
heard the following whispered colloquy take place between the accused man
and the warder:

“Who’s a-prosecutin’ me?” inquired the caged gaol-bird.

“Mr. Williams,” whispered the warder.

“GUILTY, me lord!” said the prisoner to the court in the accent of
penitential despair.

In due course Williams rose to enlighten the tribunal as to certain
incidents in the previous career of the individual whom he was
endeavouring to consign to “chokey.”  The thread of his narrative was,
however, cut by the following conversation, hurriedly battledored between
the burglar and his custodian:

“I thort,” said the man, indignantly reproachful, “you said as Mister
Williams was a-prosecutin’ me.”

“Well,” replied the warder, “that _is_ Mr. Williams—Mr. Robert Williams.”

“Oh!” exclaimed the prisoner, as one become the subject of a sudden
illumination.  “I thought you meant Mr. _Montagu_ Williams.  I ain’t
a-goin’ to plead guilty to that little beggar. . . .  NOT GUILTY, me
lord!”

It is satisfactory to be able to add that on this occasion, and in spite
of his amended plea.  Williams succeeded in consigning his cynical
detractor to a long term of imprisonment.

Once I accompanied Williams to the Court of Queen’s Bench.  On that
occasion he was less triumphant.  It was at the old Courts in
Westminster.  Williams had to move for a new trial before three of Her
Majesty’s Judges.  One of them happened to be Blackburn.  Williams moved
on three points.  He had said but a few words on the first of these
heads, when Blackburn, with that brutal disregard for the
susceptibilities of the Junior Bar for which he was notorious, cut my
unfortunate friend short with the request: “Get on with your next point.”

Somewhat abashed, Williams proceeded to open his second argument.  He had
barely stated his point, when his tormentor again interrupted with—

“Let us hear what you’ve got to say about your third reason.”

Williams was nettled.  The influential solicitor who had instructed him
was in court.  He felt that he must make a stand for his client.

“I trust, my lord, that I am not irrelevant,” he ventured, with a tone of
offended dignity.

“_But you are_!” was the brusque retort of Blackburn (J.).

The effect of this rebuff was so considerable that Williams attacked his
third point without spirit, without interruption, and without success.

I have said that some of the finest journalistic work of Robert Williams
appeared as “leaders” in the _Daily Telegraph_.  I might go farther.  In
my opinion, some of those leading articles were, for trip, style,
reasoning, and allusiveness, the best things that had ever appeared in
that newspaper.  I am speaking now of the best of Williams, for he was an
unequal writer, and his success depended much on the sympathy evoked by
his subject.  He threw the essays off with consummate ease.  I remember
congratulating him on this wonderful facility.

“Nothing in it, my dear fellow,” he replied.  “You’ve only to follow
strictly the rule of our office, and your leader will come as easy as
sand off a shovel.”

“And the rule?”

“All leaders,” he replied, “are divided into three paragraphs, and no
paragraph must begin with the word ‘The.’  Simple, ain’t it?  Eh, what?”

An answer which seemed rather to argue that, his extraordinary
journalistic capacity notwithstanding, he regarded the Press with a
sentiment not far removed from cynical contempt.

And yet to have taken a first place as a writer on a journal boasting
such a staff as the _Telegraph_ then possessed should have gratified the
ambition of any ordinary man.  Mr. (subsequently Sir) Edwin Arnold was
really Editor, though nominally working under the direction of Mr. Edward
Lawson (now Lord Burnham).  A courteous and accomplished gentleman,
Arnold will perhaps be remembered by posterity in respect of his “Light
of Asia.”  That poem was an awakening for the easy-going, slow-thinking,
credulous, missionary-meeting-supporting British public, who had been
taught from infancy that Buddha was a false god, and the centre of a foul
and degrading faith.  To Sir Edwin Arnold is mainly due the fact that in
England to-day there are thousands who have some appreciation of the life
and the doctrines of “the teacher of Nirvana and the Law.”  Sir Edwin had
the courage of his Oriental convictions.  He chose as his second wife a
Japanese lady.

But the writer who had given the _Telegraph_ its peculiar _cachet_, and
whose work was readily recognized by the readers of the paper, was George
Augustus Sala.  Sala, I maintain, was the best all-round journalist of
his time.  Nothing came amiss to him.  Although the _Saturday_ and
Matthew might affect to sneer at the erudition of his “leaders,” it may
be mentioned here that those superior critics sometimes mistook for
Sala’s the work of Williams, whose scholarship was at least equal to that
of the detractors.  As a descriptive writer, Sala was quite without a
rival, and the public soon “tumbled” to his piping.  The early vogue of
the “_Telly_” was due to his brilliant and unceasing series of
pen-pictures.  One saw the pageants that he wrote about.  Coronations,
royal functions, the marriage of Princes, great cathedral services—these
incidents lived again in his vivid columns.  Sala’s versatility was
amazing.  He wrote at least one remarkable novel; he illustrated some of
his own humours; he is the author of a ballad—printed for private
circulation only—of which Swift would have been proud.  His “Conversion
of Colonel Quagg” is one of the most humorous short stories ever written.
He wrote an excellent burlesque for the Gaiety Theatre.  His articles on
Hogarth, contributed to the _Cornhill_, at the suggestion of Thackeray,
exhibit him as an art critic of insight and of profound technical
knowledge.  His lectures on the conflict between North and South,
delivered on his return from his mission as Special Correspondent during
the American War, drew the town.  He was a fine linguist, and, at a time
when the art of after-dinner speaking was still held in some repute, he
was easily first among many rivals.  In the preface to one of his books,
he says of the proprietors of the paper with which he was identified:
“They accorded me the treatment of a gentleman and the wages of an
Ambassador.”  It is pleasant to be able to reflect that, however high the
scale of remuneration may have been, Sala was always worth a bit more
than his pay.

There is one phrase of Sala’s which, by means of quotation, has become a
household word.  “‘Sir,’ said Dr. Johnson, ‘let us take a walk down Fleet
Street,’” is piously repeated even by well-informed literary persons as a
saying of the great dictionary-maker duly recorded in Boswell’s “Life.”
Johnson and Boswell were both innocent of it.  The saw was one of Sala’s
harmless forgeries, and was used by him as the motto of _Temple Bar_ when
he edited that magazine.  There appeared in _Punch_ one week a clever
skit entitled “Egoes of the Week.”  This was a travesty of an article
which Sala was then contributing to the _Illustrated London News_ under
the title of “Echoes of the Week.”  The parody was merciless, and, as
some thought, malicious.  The weaknesses of Sala’s manner were rendered
with laughable exaggeration.  His peculiarities of diction were
ruthlessly imitated and emphasized.  Some of his friends hoped to see him
incensed, and looked forward eagerly for reprisals.  But Sala took the
attack lying down, emulating the spirit of his own Colonel Quagg.  And
the reason for this evidence of magnanimity under attack somewhat puzzled
his associates until it was discovered that the _Punch_ parody was
written by Sala himself!

Godfrey Turner was another of the “handy-men” of the _Telegraph_.  He had
not that _élan_ in style which characterized his colleague Sala, but he
was a most agreeable essayist, and turned out some extremely neat _vers
de société_.  His song, supposed to be written by Boswell on Dr. Johnson,
has genuine humour.  Boswell sets out sober in the first stanza; he
becomes merry as he proceeds; when he gets to the last verse he is drunk,
and blurts out his real opinion of the great lexicographer.  That
catastrophic verse ran something like this, I think:

    “‘The man that makes a pun,’ says he,
    ‘Would e’en commit a felony.
    And hanged he deserves to be’—
    Says (_hic_) that old fool Doctor Johnson.”

Turner was a bit of a purist, and sought always for the fittest word; and
he was as particular in his dress as in his “copy.”  He was a stickler
for “good form,” and sometimes, when engaged on a mission, would offer a
gentle hint to some eager correspondent whose manner in public offended
his fastidious taste.  Sometimes the hint was taken in good part;
sometimes it was resented.  On one occasion it secured for poor Godfrey a
retort which covered him for a moment with ridicule.  It happened in this
way:

Some sapient person in society had come to the conclusion that the
ordinary coffin was not constructed on the right hygienic principles.  He
contended that we should, when our turns came, be buried in coffins made
of wicker-work.  He constructed quite a number of these melancholy
receptacles.  They were brought to Stafford House for exhibition, and the
leaders of Society and the representatives of the Press were invited to
inspect.  I attended the quaint and rather gruesome collection.  Among
the other journalists present were my friend Godfrey Turner and
Humphreys, the sub-Editor of the _Morning Post_.  Humphreys was an
Irishman, a hopelessly eccentric individual, negligent in his dress and
flamboyant in his manner.  He was a fine fellow, however, had a head and
beard like those attributed to Homer, and was every inch a gentleman.
His foible was a belief in spiritualism.  That he really believed in the
actual presence of the dear departed I am convinced, for I have been in
his company in the Strand and close to the offices of his own paper when
he has interrupted the conversation to speak with the spirit of his
great-grandfather, which had just made its presence known to him.  The
coffins at Stafford House seemed to appeal to his sense of humour.  He
became quite hilarious over them, and addressed several of the noble
persons present by name, slapping belted Earls on the back, and repeating
his cemetery jokes for the benefit of Countesses.  This affronted the
fastidious taste of Turner, who at last got Humphreys into a corner, and
thus gently admonished him:

“I say, my dear fellow, _do_ let us try and behave like gentlemen!”

“Thry away, me boy.  It costs _me_ no effort!” exclaimed Humphreys,
leaving his discomfited friend for the society of a Viscount.

Clement Scott was another of the “young lions.”  He was not very popular
with the other members of the staff.  Sala, I know, disliked him, for he
told me so.  Scott was the dramatic critic of the paper.  He wrote a
sugary, young-ladylike style that “took” with a large section of the
public.  It was a chocolate-creamy style, and “went down”—like chocolate
creams.  He understood the value of a phrase, and when he got hold of an
effective one he ran it to death.  For instance, there are poppies in the
cornfields round Cromer.  Probably there is a much greater profusion of
poppies in cornfields in Kent or in Bucks, but Scott gives to Cromer a
kind of monopoly in the right sort of poppy.  The country in that part of
East Anglia he “wrote up” as “Poppyland,” to the great advantage of the
Great Eastern Railway Company, to which corporation he became a sort of
unofficial Poet Laureate.  When I first knew him, Scott had not yet
“discovered” Cromer or written the syrupy sentiments of “The Garden of
Sleep.”  He was eloquent at that period over the beauties of the Isle of
Thanet, for “Clemmy” was a personal friend of Mr. Joseph Moses Levy, the
principal proprietor of the _Telegraph_, and was frequently his guest
somewhere in the neighbourhood of Ramsgate.  Clement Scott always took
himself very seriously.  Now, that was a pose rarely adopted by the
journalists of my day.  We regarded our calling as a means of obtaining a
livelihood, certainly, and to that extent a serious occupation, but in
the pursuit of it we gave ourselves no airs.  We considered the whole
business rather good fun, and were upheld by a consciousness of the fact
that we were all more or less humbugs.  Scott’s nonsense, however, suited
the nonsense of the followers of Peterborough Court, and at a time of
general scepticism it was refreshing to encounter a man who believed in
something, even if that something happened to be himself.

Another of the “young lions” who roared in the Peterborough Court
menagerie was Drew Gay.  Phil Robinson perched for a while on the staff,
and flitted elsewhere.  All those I have named have finished their
accounts with this world.  Bennet Burleigh still lives, a prosperous
gentleman, and the doyen of war-correspondents.  Burleigh professed
strong Socialistic principles at a time when they were regarded by
respectable people as the most damnable heresies.  My first experience of
a Socialist Club was gained through Bennet Burleigh.  He introduced me
one night to the Social Democratic Club.  This select association held
its meetings in the cellars of a new building in Chancery Lane.  One had
to dive down two flights of stone steps to the subterranean rooms of the
club.  The rooms were full of gaunt, long-haired men of both home and
foreign growth, and women in clinging (and not very cleanly) raiment.
Whiskies and sodas were hospitably dispensed, and most of the women were
smoking cigarettes and trying to look as though they were quite used to
it and liked it.  I encountered Dr. Tanner, the Member for Mid-Cork.  He
introduced me to a bright, interesting old lady, whose name I forget.  We
had an edifying chat, she and I, and when, a few nights afterwards, I met
Tanner in the Lobby of the House of Commons, I asked him about the lady
to whom he had introduced me.

“Oh,” replied Tanner good-humouredly, “that was the celebrated Madeline
Smith.  She is a married woman now.”

“You don’t mean Madeline Smith, the murderess?” I asked.

“I mean Madeline Smith, who was _tried_ for murder, and for whom the jury
found a Scotch verdict of ‘Not proven,’” he reminded me.

“And of such is the Social Democratic Club?” I observed.

“Que voulez-vous?” said Tanner, shrugging his shoulders.

But I have wandered somewhat wide of the matter in hand, which was to
afford a little idea of the principal members of the staff among whom
Robert Williams became enrolled.

Fleet Street—the thoroughfare itself, I mean—has undergone considerable
change since those days.  Nearly all the Dickens features have been shorn
away from it, and the Dickens-land that impinged upon it has ceased to be
recognizable.  From the West we then entered Fleet Street through Temple
Bar.  In the north wing of that historic but obstructive gateway an old
barber plied his calling.  He reminded me of Mr. Krook in “Bleak House.”
He was never what you would call quite sober.  His face was blotched and
fiery with his excesses, and his hand that held the razor trembled so
violently that one wondered how he got through the day without wounding
some of his customers.  Once the operation commenced, however, the
trembling ceased, and the razor sped unerring, steady, expert.  What
became of the old fellow when Temple Bar was taken down I have never
heard.  He would hardly, I imagine, have survived his disestablishment.

Sir Henry Meux bought the old structure, and had the Bar erected again as
one of the entrances to Theobald Park.  I have no doubt that Lady Meux
had a word to say in the matter, for Lady Meux was a “sport” all over.  I
first knew her as Valerie Reece, of the Gaiety Theatre, where she was
noted as being the most high-spirited of an extremely high-spirited lot.
Her early days at Theobald Park were remarkable for some sporting events
of a novel and exciting kind.  Thus—or so the story went—her ladyship
ordered a cargo of monkeys from India, and had the unfortunate Simian
immigrants let loose in the park.  As they fled gibbering from branch to
branch, the determined little sportswoman took pot-shots at them, and had
good fun while the supply held out.

Close by Temple Bar stood the old “Cock” Tavern.  It was a snug, smelly,
inconvenient, homely, stuffy, and (I should imagine) hopelessly
insanitary old crib, much resorted to by barristers at lunch-time, for
the chops and steaks were excellent.  The “Cock” port was also reputed
above reproach, but I never quite acquired the port habit, and should not
like to obtrude my opinion; but I “hae ma doots.”  The tavern will live
for a while in Tennyson’s lines:

    “O plump head-waiter at the Cock,
       To which I most resort.
    How goes the time?  ’Tis five o’clock.
       Go fetch a pint of port.”

And one notes here that Tennyson owns up to the barbarous custom of
drinking port at five o’clock in the afternoon!  Well, the “Cock” has
gone by the board.  A curious incident disturbed its declining days.  A
carved rooster was the sign of the tavern, and stood over the narrow
entrance in Fleet Street.  While the owner was under notice to quit his
building, the sign was stolen one night, and has never been recovered
from that day to this.  Another “Cock” Tavern has been opened on the
opposite side of Fleet Street, and lower down.  This place also displays
as its sign a carved rooster, which is believed to be the original from
over the way.  But it is _not_ the original bird.  That ancient fowl has
become the property of the great American people.  The wonder to me is
how they missed collaring Temple Bar!

The widening of Fleet Street by throwing back the building line of the
south side has naturally involved the removal of a good number of
landmarks; and even where the widening has not been carried out, one
observes, with certain pangs of regret, the disappearance of some
well-beloved feature.  The banking-house of Hoare (“Mr. W.,” as the
squeamish lady called him) still stands, the carved wallet in its
forefront bearing witness to the “pride that apes humility.”

But Gosling’s, as I knew it, is gone.  Gosling’s I have always identified
with Tellson’s in “A Tale of Two Cities.”  “It was very small, very dark,
very ugly, very incommodious. . . .  After bursting open a door of
idiotic obstinacity with a weak rattle in its throat, you fell into
Tellson’s down two steps, and came to your senses in a miserable little
shop, with two little counters where the oldest of men made your cheque
shake as if the wind rustled it while they examined the signature by the
dingiest of windows, which were always under a shower-bath of mud from
Fleet Street.”  The description exactly fits Gosling’s before it got
itself a new façade and became the mere branch of a bigger bank.  And the
Dickens Fellowship should have looked to it, and preserved for the nation
this memorial of the master.

Close by was a shop for the sale of mechanical toys, in the window of
which a steamer laboured heavily in a sou’-westerly gale, the rolling
waves kept in a state of agitation by clockwork, and the whole effect
being particularly real and naturalistic.  The proprietor of this
scientific toy-shop was eventually attacked by the virus that runs
through Fleet Street.  He became a newspaper proprietor, and a successful
one.  His translation happened in this way: Young Kenealy, son of the
eminent but erratic counsel for the Claimant, founded a paper called
_Modern Society_.  His pious object was to rehabilitate his late father,
and this could only be accomplished by reopening the whole of the dreary
Tichborne case, of which the public was heartily sick.  The paper did not
pay, and it was eventually acquired, as a property, by the owner of the
clockwork ocean.  He, worthy man, had no axe to grind.  He retained the
services of a pliant editor, and made the organ a vehicle for that sort
of gossip which goes down so well with suburban matrons.  The paper went
up by leaps and bounds.  The new proprietor gave himself airs, dressed
the part, exhibited himself in the Park, and in a brief period had
managed to shed all traces of the obsequious Fleet Street tradesman.  He
crossed the bar years since—perhaps in his mechanical steamer—but his
paper persists to this day.

At the corner of Chancery Lane, and above the shop of Partridge and
Cooper, was a new restaurant called “The London.”  The proprietor was a
sanguine man, but made the mistake of being a little before his time.
The Fleet Street men of his period preferred to lunch and dine
uncomfortably.  The owner of “The London” did us too well, and attended
too scrupulously to the nicer amenities of the table.  We tried the
establishment, and then returned to our husks.  Outside the new
restaurant stood a burly commissionaire, with puffy red cheeks and purple
nose.  When the restaurant closed its doors for ever, the commissionaire
remained, eager to perform the errands of all and sundry.  He was rather
a picturesque old fellow, and was for a long time one of the features of
that end of the street.  He wore a red shako, which added greatly to the
picturesqueness of his appearance, and I should not be surprised to learn
that in private life he drank heavily.

The favourite luncheon haunts of the journalist in the consulate of
Plancus were the Cheshire Cheese in Wine Office Court, and the
refreshment bar of Spiers and Pond at Ludgate Hill Railway-Station.  At
the latter place, between the hours of one and three, you were pretty
certain to meet a number of confrères.  Christopher Pond, one of the
partners who ran the bar and restaurant at Ludgate Hill, was to be seen
here on most days of the week.  He was a big, broad-shouldered, hearty
man, who made no secret of his desire to conciliate the members of the
London Press.  Among those who were daily worshippers at this shrine were
Tom Hood, the Editor of _Fun_; Henry Sampson, then one of Hood’s staff,
but afterwards to become famous as the founder of the _Referee_: “Bill”
Brunton, the artist; Charles Williams, the war-correspondent; and John
Augustus O’Shea, of the _Standard_.  John Corlett used to drop in
occasionally, and John Ryder, who lived down the line, invariably called
in on his way to the theatre.  Ryder was a fine raconteur, and he had the
largest and most varied assortment of amusing reminiscences of any man I
have ever met.  Mr. Henry Labouchere used to tell a story of “Jack” Ryder
which was eminently characteristic of the actor.  When Labouchere
produced “The Last Days of Pompeii” at the old Queen’s Theatre in Long
Acre, Ryder was his stage-manager, and, in his desire to make the
production as naturalistic as possible, he asked Labouchere to obtain
some real lions.  Labouchere demurred; Ryder pleaded.

“But,” objected Labouchere at last, “suppose the lions broke loose?”

“Well,” answered John cheerily, “they’d have to eat the band first.”

Another habitué of the Ludgate Hill resort was Louis Lewis.  This
extraordinary little man was a brother of the late George Lewis.  Like
his more illustrious relative, Louis also was a solicitor.  One day
Brunton had been having his lunch at the table in the corner, and before
leaving the artist had made a drawing, on the tablecloth, of a somewhat
Rabelaisian character.  Louis Lewis entered as Brunton left, and took the
seat which had been vacated by the artist.  He at once saw the drawing,
which appealed to such sense of humour as he possessed, and began to ogle
it, laughing with a peculiar subdued chuckle which was peculiarly his
own.  At that moment Christopher Pond happened to come in.  He noticed
the mirth of little Louis, and proceeded to ascertain the cause of it.
When he grasped the gross intention of the drawing, and as he conceived
Lewis to be the author of it, he became extremely indignant, ordered his
waiters to turn the innocent and protesting man off the premises, and
informed those trembling menials that if any of them ever served the
offender again it would mean instant dismissal.  The smirched cloth was
then removed, and at the laundry all evidence that could convict the real
culprit was in due course destroyed.  But the incensed solicitor served a
writ on Pond the very next day, and the action was “settled out of
court.”

There was a gentleman connected with the sporting Press in the seventies
called Barney Briant.  No one knew exactly what it was he wrote, or
whether he wrote at all, but he had obtained an undoubted reputation as a
sporting writer of parts.  His most salient physical peculiarity
consisted in the fact that his elbows seemed to have become glued to his
sides.  If Barney shook hands with a man—and he was for ever shaking
hands—he moved his arm from the elbow only, never from the shoulder.  I
observed on this peculiarity to Reginald Shirley Brooks (assuredly one of
the most amiable and most talented of the men of his time), and his
explanation was illuminating.

“You see,” said Shirley, “Barney spends nearly the whole day in the
narrow passage in front of the Cheshire Cheese bar.  To do this in
comfort, he has to keep his elbows well screwed in, to let the customers
pass to and from the dining-room.  In the course of generations the arms
of his descendants will grow from the waist.”

The incident is recorded in this place as illustrating better than any
mere verbal description the exiguous nature of the main passages of the
Cheshire Cheese.  The bar in the passage has been disestablished this
many a year.  It was a sort of glass case with barely room for two
barmaids, a beer-engine, and some shelves of bottles.  Sala called it
“the bird-cage,” and the name stuck to the structure ever after.  In
recent years the Cheshire Cheese has attracted a considerable clientele
on a claim that it was the favourite Fleet Street resort of Dr. Johnson.
Mr. Seymour Lucas, the Royal Academician, indeed, adopted the theory
without any exhaustive inquiry, and painted a picture in which the Great
Bear is depicted “taking his ease” in this inn.  There are some things
which we may not know about the author of “Rasselas,” but among them,
most assuredly, cannot be numbered the houses of entertainment which he
frequented.  Boswell followed old man Johnson about to all his “pubs,”
and the fact that there is no mention in Boswell’s “Life” of his hero
having visited the “Cheese” is evidence presumptive that he never _did_
visit it.  In his time the tavern in Wine Office Court was the nightly
resort of the respectable tradesmen of Fleet Street who still lived above
their shops—the last sort of company upon which the Doctor would think of
intruding.

But if the Johnson legend must be dismissed as mythical, the chops,
steaks, beefsteak puddings, and stewed cheeses, were substantial and
indisputable.  Godfrey Turner wrote in one of the Christmas annuals, then
in great favour, a description of a meal at the Cheshire Cheese.  The
thing was wonderfully well done, and gave considerable umbrage to the
proprietor, and to some of the literary gentlemen whom the writer
introduced.  The waiter in the room downstairs was one Tom Brown, who
used to drive up from his place in the suburbs in a smart dogcart.
William, who had no other name, was a short red-haired man with
(appropriately enough) mutton-chop whiskers, very prominent teeth, a
pink-and-white complexion, and a perennial sheep-like smile.  Diners gave
him their orders with minute particularity, assured that he would
communicate their wishes to the cook, which William never did.  This is
the sort of thing that would happen:

FIRST CUSTOMER: “A mutton chop very well done, please, waiter.”

WILLIAM: “Well done, sir?  Yessir.”

SECOND CUSTOMER: “Underdone chop, William.”

WILLIAM: “Chop underdone, sir?  Very good, sir.”

                                                          [_Exit_ WILLIAM.

WILLIAM (_heard without_): “Cook, two muts down together, cook!”

On Saturday an enormous beefsteak pudding delightfully fortified with
larks, oysters, mushrooms, and other seasoning, was served.  This monster
of the pudding tribe was put down to boil at one o’clock in the morning,
and was served with great ceremony at one o’clock on the afternoon of the
same day.  Moore, the proprietor, cut the savoury mountain up.  Every
seat was taken a quarter of an hour before the dish made its appearance,
and late-comers had to turn disconsolate away.  On one fateful morning—a
cold, foggy day in mid-winter—the usual congregation of
pudding-worshippers had gathered together, hungry, expectant, keen-set.
At the stroke of one the step of William was heard on the stair, and a
pungent steam was wafted to the waiting gourmets.  Then all at once was
heard a slip, a groan, and, last of all, an awful crash.  William, with
the pudding in his arms, had slipped on the top of the flight of stairs
leading to the hall, and the place was flooded with broken pudding-bowl
and dismembered pudding, now mixing itself ineffectually with the sawdust
of the floor.  Mingled sighs and oaths arose on all sides.  The mischief
was, alas! irreparable.

After this, William was pensioned off by Moore, but the devoted old man
could not be induced to quit the scene in which most of his life had been
passed.  He was not permitted to resume his official position as a
waiter, but he turned up every morning at his usual time, and remained on
the premises until closing-time.  They were puzzled at first what to do
with him.  At last it was resolved to put him into a leather apron, and
let him pretend to be having a very busy time in the cellar.  From that
cool and cobwebby grot he made frequent emergences during meal-times to
indulge the one pleasure left him—that of a little familiar talk with an
old customer.  One day William was missed and his old customers knew
instinctively that he was dead.  The old fellow left considerable
personality and some real estate.

I have now tried to sketch, however indifferently, some of the centres
round which the Fleet Street maelstrom roared.  Ceaselessly for more than
twenty years I whirled round and round in its irresistible eddies.  One
never hoped, one never wished, for deliverance from the seething circle.
Once caught up in it, the daily round was discovered to possess a
fascination overwhelming, imperious, inexorable.  It was a career the
most strenuous, at once, and the most irresponsible.  There was a sense
of freedom, yet one was a slave of the lamp; a feeling of power, yet one
was the mere mouthpiece of an organ.  By the outsider one was alternately
hated and courted, and one went one’s way.

As free-lance, as a member of a “staff,” as special correspondent, as
leader-writer, book-reviewer, and dramatic critic, my experience has been
considerable, and I have generally found my work delightful; but its
greatest charm, after all, has been in the society of the comrades whom I
have met by the way.  Good-fellowship, loyalty to one another, a fine
sense of chivalry, a constant readiness to help the lame dog over the
style, a stern ostracism of the unhappy wight who evinced a congenital
inability to play the game—these were the characteristics of the men of
my time.  Sitting down in the afternoon of my day to recall that pleasant
past, I now, as I intimated in my opening chapter, drop all pretence of
sequent autobiography, and proceed to present such groups and incidents,
such characters and scenes, such _mots_ and anecdotes, as may appeal to
those who live in another time and pursue their calling under other
conditions.



CHAPTER V
SOCIETY JOURNALISM


    “Sassiaty is Sassiaty: its lors ar irresistibl.”—_Yellowplush
    Papers_.

SOCIETY journalism had been founded just before I began to earn a “living
wage” in Fleet Street, but its development and popularity were items of
later history.  The ball was set rolling by Mr. Thomas Gibson Bowles—to
become known in other times as the intractable Conservative Member of
Parliament, and the beloved “Tommy” Bowles of the man in the street.  The
familiar sobriquet only got into print after Bowles captured King’s Lynn
in the Tory interest, but he was called by that playful diminutive long
before he entered the House of Commons, although he himself was probably
unaware, as he would certainly resent, the fact.  Pottinger Stephens
bestowed upon him the familiar name, and in Fleet Street and the Strand
he was always known to his Press contemporaries as “Tommy.”

That this gentleman should have turned Liberal in his old age, and that
he should have captured his ancient Conservative stronghold in Lynn for
the Rads, will not seem at all extraordinary to those who are a little
behind the scenes.  Those who accomplish a great deal for their party
naturally expect that their party will do a little for them, provided
they possess the necessary qualifications.  Tommy certainly had the
qualifications, and it is equally certain that he “put in” a lot of good
work for the Tories; but he was never a _persona grata_ with his leaders.
The Conservatives are rather stupid on matters of birth and parentage,
and Bowles did not come up to their standards.  Having fought and lost
two elections “on his own,” the party sent him down to a forlorn hope at
Lynn.  To their surprise and disgust he won the seat.  For years he
served the Tories loyally in Parliament, but when there came a division
of loaves and fishes, Bowles was invariably left out of the reckoning.
In the last Parliament in which he sat on the Conservative benches, he
fell foul of his party, and personally attacked his hereditary leaders.
From his place he alluded to the Salisbury administration as “the Hôtel
Cecil,” and described the Front Bench as “a gallery of family portraits.”

Bowles acquired his knowledge of journalism and his respect for the
conventions of Society on the _Morning Post_.  He had started life, I
believe, in Somerset House, which was just over the way, and he became
imbued with the notion—a very profitable notion, as it turned out—that a
paper chiefly devoted to the “hupper suckles,” written in their
interests, and employing what he used to call “the passwords of Society,”
should be a financial success.  To what extent (at that period) Bowles
was in Society, or how he obtained a knowledge of its passwords, or what
those cryptic passwords were, I have never been able to find out; but, as
one astute editorial admonition is “Know what you don’t know!” those same
passwords may have been part of a pleasant myth.

His paper was duly launched at the price of twopence, and under the
admirable title of _Vanity Fair_.  But the paper, smartly and even
wittily written as it was, would have failed to reach the somewhat
inaccessible class for which its founder proposed to cater had it not
been for his discovery of Pellegrini, and the appearance in _Vanity Fair_
of that Italian artist’s inimitable cartoons.  The price was raised to
sixpence, the paper hit those remote circles for which it had been
destined, “Tommy’s” career was assured, and Society journalism was
established in our midst.

A tremendous number of imitators have sprung up from time to time—“they
had their day, and ceased to be”—but there were only two other
publications that enjoyed permanent success; and those two, with the
first Society organ founded by Mr. Bowles, constituted, and still
constitute, what is understood as Society journalism.  The second paper
in the trio was _The World_, founded by Edmund Yates; and the third was
_Truth_, established by Henry Labouchere.  I was fortunate enough to
write for all three; for two of them I have written voluminously.

Bowles used to aver that he had no staff.  He wrote a great deal of the
paper himself, and his “Jehu Junior” articles, written to accompany the
cartoons, were models of what essays should be.  Light, epigrammatic,
pungent, and excessively neat, they were the one possible accompaniment
to “Ape’s” caricatures.  A sentence from the “Jehu Junior” article always
appeared beneath the picture.  I can recall a couple.  Beneath the first
picture of Disraeli was inscribed: “He educated his party, and dished the
Whigs to pass Reform, but to have become what he is from what he was is
the greatest reform of all.”  When Bishop Magee made his great speech in
the House of Lords in defence of the Irish Church, his likeness appeared
in the _Vanity Fair_ gallery, and it had appended to it this extract from
the article by Bowles: “If eloquence could justify injustice, he would
have saved the Irish Church.”  And the output of the able little editor
was always up to sample.

Although Bowles professed to conduct his paper without the aid of a
staff, he engaged regular contributors, which is pretty much the same
thing.  These gentlemen were never consulted in a body.  “Collectivity”
was never “pretty Fanny’s way,” as the Tory party, too late, discovered.
But individual members of the body of contributors were occasionally
summoned to meet their editor and proprietor at his chambers.  When I was
first ushered into the august presence, Bowles had rooms in Palace
Chambers, at the corner of St. James’s Street, over against the Palace
itself.  He had just commenced his yachting career at that period, and
adopted the mariner’s pose ashore to the extent of receiving you in his
bare feet—to give the impression, I suppose, of rolling seas and a
slippery deck.

But if one did not meet one’s confreres in the rooms of the editor, we
were bound to encounter in the outer world—perhaps at the printer’s or
elsewhere.  The printer was Peter Rankin, of Drury Court—a dour and
adventurous Scot who, having conveyed a newspaper by means of
registration from its rightful owner, continued the management of the
property on his own account.  He had not the success which usually
attends these Napoleonic sportsmen in the Street of Adventure.  He came
to grief and death, and nobody seemed to care.  At his printing-offices I
met for the first time Willmott Dixon, then a contributor under the
Bowles banner.  Dixon was at that time a fresh-coloured, stout,
broad-shouldered man with an indomitably sweet temper which indicated its
permanence in a dimple in the cheek.

Willmott Dixon had brought into Fleet Street with him much of the
ebullient spirit and readiness for practical fun for which he was noted
at Cambridge in his undergraduate days.  Bon-vivant, raconteur, and
essentially good fellow, he was in general demand as a companion.  After
the days of our _Vanity_, I was associated with Dixon on many other
papers, for he had the pen of a ready writer, and was in considerable
demand.  Of all the men I have known, he was the quickest producer of
“copy,” and he seemed capable of coming up with his tale of work under
any and all conditions.  His sporting articles and stories under the _nom
de plume_ of “Thormanby” are well known, and his accounts of the old
prize-fights are the best ever written.  The amount of “copy” produced by
Dixon would equal that of any three ordinary journalists, taking a period
of years in the productive stage of each.  But why should I speak of
Willmott Dixon in the past tense?  He is now a hale young fellow of
seventy, and within the last few years he has published three successful
novels under his own name, one collection of sporting stories under his
_nom de plume_ of “Thormanby,” and an autobiography entitled “The Spice
of Life.”  This is the sort of veteran whom Mr. Philip Gibbs should take
down Fleet Street with him one fine day, with the idea of presenting him
to the young gentlemen who weep and have hysterics when a newspaper
happens to put up the shutters.  Very few, I imagine, of the invertebrate
Press gang of the period will be writing saleable novels at seventy!

Henry Pottinger Stephens, another of _Vanity’s_ regular contributors, I
first met at the office of the publisher.  We were both there on the same
errand, I believe, stalking an oof bird.  Stephens had just returned from
Paris, where he had been acting as one of the correspondents of the
_Times_.  He also was to be my associate in other papers, my companion in
other adventures.  To these I may recur in another chapter.

At what date it was I forget, but in the early eighties Bowles sold the
paper to Arthur Evans.  The price was, I think, £20,000.  With this
Bowles started the _Lady_, which, if not perhaps quite his own line of
country, promised a bigger income than would ever be obtainable from his
original venture.  Under the new regime I continued to contribute.  The
proprietor confined his attention to the City article.  The literary part
of the paper was under Mr. Oliver Fry.  From the time of the founding of
_Vanity Fair_ until its purchase half a dozen years ago by the
Harmsworths—a period of, say, forty years—it had but two editors.  Thus,
the traditions of the paper were regarded, its tone and policy were
continuous, and it retained in consequence its old subscribers and its
old advertisers.  An editorial chair held in forty years by two editors
in succession marks a record.  There were several editors during the
Harmsworth epoch.  But the new atmosphere did not seem to suit the old
growth.  It was sold again.  The cartoons have always been the mainstay
and chief attraction of _Vanity Fair_.  When dear old Pellegrini died,
Bowles had discovered an accomplished successor in “Spy.”  Over this name
Mr. Leslie Ward drew almost continuously for the paper for many years.
Indeed, his work has appeared there up to a comparatively recent date.

When Edmund Yates founded the _World_, a departure in Society journalism
was made.  The new candidate for popular favour was to depend on its
writing alone for its success.  Yates had no misgivings about the
propriety of engaging a staff.  Bowles always held himself aloof from,
and socially superior to, the Fleet Street man.  Yates had been a Fleet
Street man himself, and was unlikely to make that mistake.  He liked to
meet his contributors socially.  He was at one with them.  And they had
an immense liking for their chief.  For, although Yates was as savage as
a Mohawk when he “went for” his enemies, he was devoted to his friends.
Not infrequently, in the journalistic world, you will come upon
soft-hearted sayers of hard-hearted things.  Yates was a man of that
sort.  Warm in his friendships, genial in his manner, sympathetic to the
tyro, he was out for scalps the moment he scented a hint of offence—it
mattered not whether the offence was intended for him or for one of his
friends.

In the inception of his “Journal for Men and Women,” Yates had the
assistance of Henry Labouchere and Grenville Murray.  And among the
principal writers engaged to support the new venture were Bernard Becker,
Henry Pearse, Dutton Cook, and Christie Murray.  A. M. Broadley did not
join till later on, I think; though when he did join he proved himself
extremely useful in picking up those Society items upon which the _World_
depended very much in the effort to prove acceptable to the “classes.”

Yates liked to have about him as staff officers men of goodly presence,
gentlemanly address.  And he had a horror of anything soiled or slovenly
in the attire of his contributors.  This latter characteristic of the
_World’s_ editor accounted for the engagement of lady journalists.  It
was, indeed, the paragraph of one of his women contributors that involved
him in the criminal libel suit brought by Lord Lonsdale, resulting in the
incarceration of Yates in Holloway—a severe punishment in respect of a
stupid little paragraph, and a punishment the effects of which Yates
carried with him to his dying day.  There was one of the contributors who
scarcely came up to the standard of physique which the editor regarded as
desirable.  This was Mr. (now Sir) H. W. Lucy.  Yates gave that gentleman
his first great chance of showing his paces as an independent descriptive
reporter of proceedings in the House of Commons.  Lucy’s weekly
contribution was entitled “Under the Clock, by one of the Hands.”  The
title was supplied by the chief.

Lucy was a smart little fellow of tremendous industry and always
conscious of his own ability to make his way in the world.  His hair,
turning grey even in that far-off time, stood up like the quills of the
porcupine.  He always gave you the impression of a man who had suddenly
waked up in a fright.  And the expression that seemed his normal one was
that of a gentle surprise.  He became, at another stage in his successful
career, associated with a little Irishman—Mr. Harry Furniss—an artist for
some time connected with _Punch_.  It was a very quaint sight to see the
two little chaps pottering through an art gallery in search of subjects
for their merciless ridicule.  Furniss, red-headed and rotund of paunch,
looking like a sort of duodecimo edition of a City Alderman, whispered
his jokes to his companion, accompanying the witticisms with an engaging
smile, Lucy accepting them with his habitual look of gentle wonder.

Yates himself wrote the neatest, most scintillating, and most readable
paragraphs of any man who has ever essayed that extraordinarily difficult
art.  But neither the appeal to Society, nor the descriptive pictures of
Parliament, nor the now sparkling and now vitriolic paragraphs of the
editor, brought on that happy event which is known in the newspaper world
as “turning the corner.”  That is the happy moment when the paper becomes
increased in circulation, and advertising returns to the point at which
it pays.  It is always the unexpected that happens, and the contributions
which raised the _World_ from the commercial Slough of Despond were a
remarkable series of articles on “West End Usurers,” attributed to Mr.
Henry Labouchere.  As a matter of fact, however, the material was
collected by several persons, and I understood at the time that the
proofs were submitted to Sir George Lewis before they were passed for the
press.

Judging from the style in which some of them were written, concerning men
notoriously wealthy, their filtration through Ely Place was an entirely
necessary proceeding.  When the victim was unlikely to resent attack or
attempt reprisals, the onset was at times very warm indeed.  Poor Hubert
Jay Maurice was one of these latter.  One never knew what the dapper
gentleman’s real name was—probably Moses.  He had been known as Mr. Jay
and as Mr. Maurice.  And he ended his days as Mr. Didcot, a music-hall
agent, having succeeded in giving his only daughter in marriage to the
cadet of a noble house.  The Didcot article appeared during Christmas
week, and ended with the pregnant sentence: “Indeed, this young man’s
career has been so shameless that at this festive season of the year we
will not ask our compositors to set it up in print.”

The success of the _World_ once secured, the circulation went up by leaps
and bounds, and Mr. Labouchere, quick to appreciate the effect of his own
suggestion, and willing to secure for himself the profits to be made by
exhibiting and denouncing the evil that is in the world, soon determined
to run a paper of his own.  This was _Truth_, the third in the triad of
publications that made good a claim to the title of Society journals.
Labouchere went to work very carefully and systematically in founding the
journal which will always be associated with his name—a journal, it
should be at once admitted, which, while it did much in the way of airing
personal dislikes, did much more in ridding Society of pests and
parasites, of swindlers and charlatans, than any other journal of our
time.

My friend Robert Williams was consulted concerning the founding of the
new paper.  And from him I used to hear how matters were progressing.
From him, for example, I learned that Mr. Horace Voules, of the _Echo_,
had accepted the position of manager to the new venture.  Voules always
reminded me of the description of another Mr. Vholes as described in
“Bleak House.”  You recall the passage, perhaps?  “If you want
common-sense, responsibility, respectability, all united—Vholes is _the_
man!”  Williams was fond of telling a story of the interview between
Labouchere and Voules at the time of the engagement.  The story was _ben
trovato_.  But my own subsequent acquaintance with Mr. Voules convinced
me that there was not any element of fact in it.  The dialogue as
reported by “Bobbos” ran thus:

LABOUCHERE: “I understand, Mr. Voules, that, in dealing with the outside
public, you are apt to be rather haughty in your manner?”

VOULES: “Indeed!”

LABOUCHERE: “Now, in your interviews with my little public, I desire that
you will tone yourself down a little toward their level.”

VOULES (_bridling_, _but dignified_): “Mr. Labouchere, ’aughty I never
ham; but I ’ope I ’ave a proper pride.”

I can testify personally that, when I knew him, Horace Voules was
perfectly sound in the matter of his aspirates.  To me, indeed, he
appeared to be over-solicitous about them.

No sooner had “Labby,” as he began to be called, got his venture
launched, than he opened an attack on the owners of the _Daily Telegraph_
in the most systematic, sustained, and unrelenting vein of personal
journalism.  Mr. Labouchere’s memoirs, which are in hand, may perhaps
relate that old story.  It is no business of mine to stir up the puddle.
Man of the world, politician, diplomatist, cool-headed as Labouchere had
always proved himself, he here undoubtedly permitted himself to be
betrayed into a series of libels on an old friend, which were in no way
creditable to him.  His attacks thereafter were legitimate crusades
against the undetected jackals who prey on the public.  And the public is
considerably in his debt in respect of them.  While as to his more
piquant and personal libels, it must be reluctantly admitted that their
appearance and the circumstances which resulted from them added
considerably to the jocundity of those Fleet Street days.

There were quite a number of stories current then as illustrating the
delightful insouciance of Labouchere.  Here are four of them:

When he was in the diplomatic service, he was sent on a mission to St.
Petersburg.  Before starting he had a dispute with the Foreign Office
about his expenses.  F.O. had its idea of the scale; Labouchere had his.
But the Office refused to reconsider its decision.  Labouchere took his
leave, crossed the Channel, and was, to all appearance, lost.  A week
after the appointed time he had not arrived at St. Petersburg.  A
representative of F.O. was sent out on his trail.  He was traced to
Paris, and from thence to Vienna, where he was run to earth.  In reply to
his discoverer, he coolly said:

“The Foreign Office refused to pay me my expenses, and _I’m walking to
St. Petersburg_.”

He was at one time Attaché at our Embassy in Washington.  The Minister
was suddenly recalled to London, and Labouchere was left in charge.  On
the morning following the departure of the Ambassador, one of the members
of the United States Government called.  “Minister in?” he inquired
curtly of Labouchere.  “Not in,” replied Labby, lighting a cigarette.
“Guess I’ll call again,” said the big politician.  “Ah, do!” said
Labouchere sweetly.  An hour afterwards the same Great Man again put in
an appearance.  “Minister in yet?” he inquired sharply.  “Not yet,”
answered Labouchere from behind the paper which he was reading.  “Can you
give me any idea when he _will_ be back?” asked the important senator
impatiently.  “I haven’t the remotest idea: _he sailed for Europe
yesterday_,” was the soft answer not altogether calculated to turn away
wrath.

When he stood for Northampton, Labouchere’s colleague was Charles
Bradlaugh, who frankly avowed his atheism to the shoemakers and other
horny-handed artisans who were his supporters.  Now, Labouchere, who was
an old campaigner, knew that the Liberals of the constituency would not
stand _two_ atheists.  The moment his address was circulated, the
Nonconformists took fright, and, although religious topics were
altogether absent from the astute candidate’s pronunciamento, eager
Dissent sniffed heterodoxy in every line of it.  Labouchere thereupon sat
down and wrote an autograph letter to every Nonconformist divine, on the
register and off it, asking each of them to meet him, and for the purpose
of discussing those topics which all good Liberals hold dear.  He hired
the biggest room in his hotel.  He had a line of chairs drawn up in
uncompromising rows along the two principal side-walls.  At the end of
the room was a table with a tumbler and a carafe of water.  Lying
promiscuously around were copies of the _Daily News_ and the _Christian
World_.  The invited ministers turned up to a man.  The candidate’s agent
met them and conducted them, with every demonstration of respect, to the
seats allotted to them.  When Labouchere, waiting in an ante-chamber, was
informed that they were all come, he entered the room.  He bowed right
and left, a sad smile on his lips, a black suit enveloping his person,
and a general air of Chadband emanating from all parts of him.  He took
his place behind the table, poured out a tumbler of water, drank it down
with all the gusto of one who thoroughly enjoyed it, and forthwith
addressed his sad audience.

“My reverend friends,” he began, “I have invited you to meet me in order
that we may interchange views on those topics which are of first-class
importance to Liberals, and more especially to Liberals attached to the
great, influential Nonconforming bodies.  But before proceeding to the
consideration of mere worldly matters, I shall ask the Reverend Mr.
So-and-So to engage in a few words of prayer, beseeching the Lord’s
blessing on our deliberations.”

That did the trick for him at Northampton.

“That gentleman an atheist!” said the Reverend Mr. So-and-So to a friend
as they left the hotel. “He’s the first political candidate I ever knew
to ask the Divine guidance in his campaign.  He shall have my vote and
my—er—little influence.”

Those who know anything about the depth of Labouchere’s religious
feelings and the extent of his personal affection for Dissenters will
best appreciate the humour of the situation.

When Labouchere was member for Middlesex—that was long before the
Northampton days—the Lord Taunton who sat in the Upper House was his
uncle.  A member of the House of Commons who had mistaken the
relationship addressed Labouchere one day on the Lobby.

“Ah, Labouchere,” he said, “I’ve just been in the other House, and I
heard your father deliver a most admirable address.”

“I’m more than pleased to hear it,” said Labby; “for my father has been
dead these ten years, and until the present moment I never knew where he
had got to!”

Between Labouchere on _Truth_ and Yates on the _World_ there commenced a
species of “snacking” or sparring which promised from time to time a rush
into active and bitter hostilities.  The paragraphs of one paper bristled
with allusions to the slips of “Edmund,” and the other paper retorted
racily on “Henry,” and we all looked out eagerly for an outbreak of real
hostility; but it never came.  The doughty champions both feared and
respected each other, and they expended any gall which they may have
secreted during their meditations on other victims.  The papers still
adhere pretty nearly to the lines laid down by their founders, though
lacking the personal supervision of those distinguished editors.  Yates
died suddenly—tragically—on leaving the stalls of a theatre, and
Labouchere, abandoning both the senate and the editorial seat, retired to
Florence, where he recently died.  The memoirs of “Labby” should be a
stimulating and piquant collection.

The complete success of the three papers about which I have been writing
naturally provoked a considerable amount of the sincerest form of
flattery, and imitators sprang up like mushrooms, willing to share the
rewards apparently reserved for those who catered for Society.  These
misguided adventurers discovered too late that even a Society editor must
have his aptitudes—his special qualifications.  Some of the new
candidates for popular favour died the death.  Others of them—dumb
witnesses to that hope that “springs eternal in the human breast”—never
in their lives arrived at paying-point, yet exist to this day.  They pass
from proprietor to proprietor.  No one ever hears at what price they
change hands.  No one ever sees a copy sold on a stall.  There is no
trace of their existence in the clubs.  Now and then one comes upon a
back number in the coffee-room of an hotel.  They are the pathetic
derelicts of the Press—the pariahs of journalism.  They persist by reason
of their absolute badness.  Their persistence recalls the inference set
forth in the lines of Henry S. Leigh’s verses about Uncle John:

    “If Uncle John goes living on,
    How wicked Uncle John must be!”

It is amusing to note how proprietors, editors, and contributors, will
differ as to the motive power which has given the first substantial rise
in circulation.  Voules always held—he has told me so a dozen times—that
the success of _Truth_ was brought about by the fashion articles of
“Madge.”  And Lucy of the _World_ became possessed by the belief that the
popularity of the Yates venture was partly due to the appearance therein
of his articles from the gallery of the House of Commons.  He determined
to establish a paper on the lines laid down by Yates.  And his leading
article was to be his own series, entitled “Under the Clock, by One of
the Hands.”

Lucy selected _Mayfair_ as the name of the venture on which he was about
to embark.  There should be no mistake about his _title_ to rank as a
Society journalist.  In that matter he could ruffle it with the best of
them.  He was, however, beset with difficulties from the beginning.  In
the first place—to his immense surprise and disgust—he found that Yates
entirely declined to abandon his right in the heading of the
Parliamentary articles, which continued to appear, from another “Hand,”
until long after the death and burial of Lucy’s bantling.

Lucy found certain members of the staff of _Mayfair_ intractable; the
intractable aids declared that they found things impossible.  And no one
was greatly surprised when the new purveyor of social wares put the
shutters up.  Incidentally, Mr. Lucy’s paper was the means of enriching
that harvest of English literature which is garnered by Mudie.  It led to
the publication of a couple of novels.  In one of these works Mr. Lucy
drew a character which was instantly recognized as a portrait of Mr.
Christie Murray.  Murray had been one of the intractables on the strength
of the _Mayfair_.  Christie was not only impatient of attack, but he was
very well equipped for hitting back, which in due course he proceeded to
do.  Anyone interested in the literary amenities of the jocund days may
find some diversion in referring to Christie Murray’s “The Way of the
World.”  Such merry jousts are inadmissible in these less strenuous
times.

A much longer period of existence was granted to the _St. Stephen’s
Review_, founded by Mr. William Alison.  In the editorial scheme, this
organ was to play Parliamentary measures—so to speak—in addition to its
piping for Society.  Its political cartoons by Tom Merry did good service
on more than one electoral campaign.  Alison was a member of the Junior
Carlton Club, so that it is needless to indicate the policy for which his
paper stood.  Alison had chosen for his sub-editor one of the strangest
of the strange persons who crowd the journalistic mart.  His name was
William Tasker.  He wrote vapid verses and slushy prose by the ream, over
the name of “Edgar Lee.”  But if his literary output was of a middling
sort, his lying was first-rate.  He had become so much the servant of the
habit that he often believed his own stories.  Alison never contradicted
him, and so the faculty increased, and the facility acquired by the
little professor became quite marvellous.  He was an extremely
ill-dressed man, and grew the mutton-chop face fungi for which Frank
Richardson affects such a distaste.  He always wore a red tie, and it was
always a soiled one.  A bland, propitiatory smile played about the
corners of his mouth.  He would rush up to one in the Strand with this
sort of news: “I’ve just been to Downing Street, and Disraeli told
me—this is quite private, mind you—that he’ll go to the country in June.”
The reply might be: “Hang it all!  I’ve just left the House of Commons.
Dizzy is on his feet, and has been for the last three-quarters of an
hour.”  But that sort of facer never disturbed Tasker.  He would shake
his head and smile a deprecatory smile, as he answered: “Optical
illusion, my dear fellow.  I tell you I’ve just left him in Downing
Street.  I mentioned your name to him, and he said: ‘Sound man that; give
him my regards.’  And I said I would, and so I have.”  I have heard him
tell, with every detail, of his sprinting prowess.  He could not run
fifty yards.  And he would descant on his success on the race-course, who
did not know the meaning of a handicap.  He survived for some years the
passing of the journal with which he was associated.  These he devoted to
palmistry, astrology, and other wizard sciences, the profession of which,
to a scientist knowing how to advertise—and where—may, even in these
advanced days, yield a living of sorts.

But the surpassing claim of the _St. Stephen’s Review_ to the respectful
regard of posterity is the fact that it introduced Phil May to the
British public.  A Bohemian of Bohemians was Phil May when he was
discovered, and a Bohemian of Bohemians he continued to the end—the all
too early end.  When he began to contribute to Alison’s paper, he was
engaged in designing dresses for Alias the costumier.  Alias had some
funny stories about the difficulty he experienced in keeping Phil at his
work.  One day he arrived at the office having come through a heavy
shower of rain.  His boots, coat, and hat, were soaked.  The humane
little employer fussed about, induced him to remove his boots and coat,
and provided him with slippers and a studio jacket.  “I shall ’ave them
dried,” he explained as he hurried off.  The dear little chap, however,
locked them up, assured that Phil May would not venture abroad without
his boots and coat and hat.  The hour was eleven of the forenoon.  The
programme of Alias was to hurry off, see his customers at one or two
theatres, and return about one o’clock and take Phil—who he hoped would
then have made several good designs—out to lunch.  Passing Romano’s, he
thought he would turn in and take a liqueur of brandy.  He entered.
There were shouts of laughter at the end of the bar.  In the midst of an
admiring crowd of “the boys” stood Phil May, fully attired in the
costumier’s stock.  He wore red Hessian boots to beyond his knees.  On
his head was the shako of a gendarme, and his slim figure was enveloped
in a brigand cloak built for a big man.  Of course the designs of the
dresses had not been touched.

“I came here to see if they had got my boots,” Phil explained to the
exasperated costumier.  “Will you take anything?”

“I vill take YOU!” replied the little man, leading his designer into the
Strand, where they were followed to the shop by a delighted crowd of
urchins, who were divided in opinion as to whether the thin gentleman in
costume was “Awthur Roberts” or “’Enery Hirving.”

When Phil had “come into his own,” when he was the favourite artist on
_Punch_—favourite of the public, that is to say—he continued in the
Bohemian courses which he had acquired in the lean and struggling years.
At one time he was ordered horse exercise; and when he got the horse, it
was thought, by the authorities at home, that it would be an excellent
idea for Phil if he went into Fleet Street on horseback when business
took him that way.  This, it was thought, would insure his safe and early
return to the domestic hearth.  It answered well—for a bit.  But one
afternoon Phil was riding home from Fleet Street to his house in
Kensington, and in passing through Leicester Square, thought that he
would drop in at the “Cosy Club,” a small club then recently founded.  He
gave his horse in charge of an urchin to hold for him.  It was then four
in the afternoon.  At two o’clock in the morning a police constable
entered the club to inquire whether one of the members had left a horse
in charge of a boy outside.  The secretary remembered that May was the
proud possessor of a steed.  But May had left the club at midnight.  He
had forgotten all about his horse, and had driven home in a hansom.

Of the making of penny Society papers there was no end.  But of those
papers themselves there was generally an early end, and of these one may
more conveniently treat in the chapter “De Mortuis.”



CHAPTER VI
A GAY SCIENCE


TO anyone born with a taste for the theatre, a _flair_ for the public
demand in stage entertainment, and a desire for the society of actors and
actresses, the position of dramatic critic on a London newspaper should
be one of the most coveted berths on the ship.  The opportunity of
heralding a good play or of “slating” a bad one secures a true moment of
satisfaction.  Moreover, the occupation, notwithstanding the late hours,
hot theatres, and liability to corporal punishment, involved, is one of
the most healthy undertakings in the gift of the Press.  A continuous
pursuit of this gay science insures longevity.  The dramatic critic is
the most long-lived man in the profession.  Some of the dramatic critics
whom I knew in the early eighties and late seventies are still “hard at
it,” I am pleased to hear.  I imagine that the dramatic critic never
dies.  Like the majority of the plays upon which he passes judgment, he
is translated or adapted.

John Oxenford, of the _Times_, was the doyen of the dramatic critics of
my day.  It was John’s proudest boast that he never wrote a word in the
_Thunderer_ that could do professional damage to an actor, or take the
bread out of the mouth of an actress.  An amiable sentiment, truly, but
scarcely indicative of the critical attitude of a writer conscientiously
performing his duty to the public, his employers—ay, and to the stage
itself.  Often after our Saturday dinner at the Junior Garrick Club, an
association which I joined some time after my regular engagement as
taster of new plays, I have heard the venerable man make this boast in a
post-prandial speech.  As the great majority of his hearers were actors,
managers, and dramatic authors, the sentiment was invariably received
with abundant applause.

Oxenford suffered for years from a chronic cough, which always announced
his arrival at a theatre, and usually punctuated the performance
throughout the night.  Whether it was on account of this distressing
affliction, or because he represented the leading journal, I do not know,
but a box was always put at Mr. Oxenford’s disposition on the first night
of a new play.  Two determined “dead-heads” generally turned up sooner or
later in the great man’s box.  These were the late Lord Alfred Paget and
John Murphy of Somerset House.  The friendship between these three men,
so different in station and in intellectual capacity, was exposed in a
theatrical organ of the period, and in an article called “Dead-heads:
Cornelius Nepos O’Mulligan.”  O’Mulligan was evidently intended for
Murphy.  He was therein described as Oxenford’s toady, and his mission
was indicated as being that of a diplomatic mediator who would persuade
Oxenford to give a line of notice to some good-looking young woman on the
stage in whom his lordship happened to take a passing interest.  It was
further suggested that Lord Alfred’s solicitude for the ambitious artist
whom he wished to befriend was not altogether personal.  Lord Alfred, it
was said, was simply interesting himself in furtherance of the wishes of
a third party—a Very Great Personage.  That I do not believe.  But what I
do believe is that Oxenford was innocent of sinister designs on the part
of his friends, and that when a kindly word appeared in the _Times_
regarding the performance of some third-rate actress, enacting a
fourth-rate part, the record testified to the possession of a kindly
disposition and a congenital incapacity for saying “No.”

Murphy and Lord Alfred were both members of the Junior Garrick Club, and
when the article to which I have alluded came out, Murphy consulted me as
to what course he should take.  Murphy had the baldest expanse of head I
have ever seen—quite a continent it was.  And it was surrounded by a
fringe of red hair.  He was clean-shaven, had a most bewitching squint,
and a Cork accent of peculiar enormity.

“It’s not for meself I keer,” said John to me, with tears in his voice,
“but Alfrid’s takin’ it to hear-r-r-t.  He niver slep’ a wink since th’
attack on um come out.  Now wh-h-at _had_ we betther do?”

“I have no doubt that you and Lord Alfred will live it down,” I told him.

“Sure it’s what I’m afther tellin’ Alfrid meself.  ‘Take no notice of um
at all,’ says I.  O’ny Alfrid wanted your opinion as well.  He thinks
sich a lot of your common-sinse, bedad.”

“Lord Alfred doesn’t suppose, by any chance, that _I_ wrote the thing?” I
asked.

“Alfrid would as soon think of suspectin’ Jan Axenford himself,” said
Murphy.  But he hesitated before he said it; his squint became more
pronounced, and there was such a general air of confusion on his beaming
and rubicund countenance that I was convinced that both the wily
conspirators had attributed the essay to me, and that John had simply
been “told off” by his noble friend to lure me into an admission.

Burlesque was still a leading card at the Gaiety, and one or two other
“burlesque houses,” as they were called, though opera-bouffe was
gradually superseding the old home-made article, with its pitiful puns
and sawdust buffooneries.  And the chorus engaged for these
entertainments consisted of handsome girls possessing limbs suitable for
exhibition in pink or yellow or violet tights.  Murphy and Paget were
constant visitors at these theatres.  And his lordship would frequently
present to some shapely ornament of the chorus a gold bangle as a token
of his regards, and as an earnest of his desire for her success in the
profession she had adopted.  Some attempt on the part of a necessitous
chorus girl to pawn one of his lordship’s bangles led to the discovery
that the ornaments were of little value.  And it eventually transpired
that they had been purchased by the gross from a Jew dealer in
Houndsditch.  His lordship always posed among Bohemians as a poor man,
and managers, therefore, thought it nothing that he should accept free
admission to the playhouses.  There was some searching of spirit among
them when the aristocratic dead-head’s will was proved.  He “cut up” for
quite a lot of money.  And when he died, John Murphy soon followed—of a
broken heart, they said, and having nothing more to live for.  So passed
this _par nobile fratum_!

William Holland at one time “ran” the Surrey Theatre, with pantomime in
the winter, and melodrama during the remainder of the year.  I attended
the Surrey during his occupancy, to notice a new piece by poor Henry
Pettitt.  Oxenford had a box as usual.  And not only was his sneezing
rather more distressing than usual, but he was accompanied by a lady
whose babble was incessant.  This acquaintance of the venerable critic
was a person of no very exalted rank in Society, and Holland became
anxious lest the sternutation and conversation in the box should
interfere with the comfort of those in its immediate vicinity.  During
the second _entr’acte_ he thought it well to pay his court to the eminent
exponent of the higher criticism.  He knocked at the door of the box, was
bidden to enter, went in, and, greeting the occupants with his
characteristic effusion, inquired:

“And what do you think of the play, Mr. Oxenford?”

“The play?” said the old gentleman.  “Oh, the play is rot! . . .  What do
_you_ think of it, my dear?”

“Rot?” exclaimed the lady friend thus addressed—“it’s muck!”

Only the word the fair creature employed was much coarser than “muck,”
and the anxious manager went away sorrowing.  However, an excellent
notice of the melodrama subsequently appeared in the leading journal.  It
may interest a new generation of those who illustrate the gay science to
learn that all the theatrical representative of the _Times_ received for
his services was one hundred pounds a year.  At least, so Mr. Oxenford
himself more than once assured me.

When Mowbray Morris succeeded Oxenford as the representative of the
_Thunderer_, a very different spirit informed those columns of the
_Times_ devoted to the stage.  Morris came to the task impressed with the
idea that it was the business of a critic to criticize.  “Have at you!”
was evidently his motto.  And he laid about him right merrily, not
particular whom he might inconvenience by his shrewd thrusts; for,
indeed, he was no respecter of persons, and was suspected of entertaining
an invincible contempt for the personnel of the British stage.  When
Morris was appointed, Henry Irving was in the first flush of his triumph
as manager of the Lyceum Theatre.  And the shrewd actor-manager had
inaugurated the custom of giving a reception to his friends on the first
night of a new play.

The reception was held on the stage itself after the conclusion of the
performance.  Very agreeable, and even memorable, functions they were.
The stage had been quickly transformed into a palatial hall, made
comfortable by a judicious arrangement of curtains and palms, and—as at
that advanced period of the night guests were usually in need of
sustenance—tables were laid out laden with cold viands in profusion.  And
there was plenty to drink.  Now, the attitude of Morris towards the stage
was that of a person who did not accept the existence of the actor as a
social fact, and he resented this surely innocent effort on the part of
Irving to gratify his friends.  It would all have been very well had the
new critic kept his opinions on this head to himself.  Unfortunately, he
gave them to the readers of his journal.  He attributed sinister motives
to the founder of the feast, and boldly averred that it was an attempt to
influence the Press with “chicken and champagne.”  The phrase “chicken
and champagne” in this connection persisted for a long time—for a much
longer time than Mowbray Morris continued in his post.  From the
beginning of his managerial career it had been Irving’s great aim to
consolidate friendly relations with the London and provincial newspapers.
And the fearless and unconventional satirist of “chicken and champagne”
gave the popular manager of the Lyceum furiously to think.

May I here, in justice to the present policy of the _Times_ in the
control of its dramatic columns, acknowledge the fact that the gentleman
who at present represents that journal at the theatres more nearly
approaches the ideal of what a dramatic critic ought to be than any of
the men who were my contemporaries, and that he is head and shoulders
above any of his own contemporaries?  It is pleasant to be able to say
this of any department of a Press which exhibits many of the symptoms of
decadence.  Mr. Walkley’s attitude regarding stage affairs is nicely
calculated.  He is beautifully poised.  He never condescends to a
contemptuous pose.  On the other hand, he is never inclined to accept the
dramatic art too seriously.  He states his opinions with playfulness and
not with brutality.  He exhibits a fine spirit of detachment.  He never
insults the professors of the art.  On the other hand, he declines to
take those gentlemen as seriously as they take themselves.  Under all
that he writes may be discovered the social philosopher.  His essays are
scholarly without pedantry, lively without vulgarity, piquant without
mordacity, and they always afford the most stimulating “reading.”

My mention above of Henry Pettitt reminds me of another writer of
melodrama whom we, of the jocund years, were sometimes called upon to
review.  This was Paul Merrit.  Paul was an enormously fat man with the
absolutely hairless face of a boy.  He had a high falsetto voice, and his
blood-and-thunder dramas were crude, lurid,
penny-plain-and-twopence-coloured productions.  He had a great facility
in plots and situations, and, in respect of these gifts and graces, was
called in by Sir Augustus Harris to collaborate in one or two of the
autumn melodramas at Drury Lane.  Paul was the last man in all Europe to
whom would apply the term “literary.”  Yet he became a member of one or
two literary clubs.  On the day on which the death of Thomas Carlyle was
announced, some of us were sitting in one of these institutions
discussing the passing of the Sage of Chelsea.  To us entered Paul
Merrit.  He wore the drawn and despairing expression of one who had
suffered a severe personal bereavement.  He had in his hand a journal
containing a long obituary notice of Carlyle.  Holding it towards us, he
said in his high falsetto, shaken by a queer tremolo of emotion:

“Well, gentlemen, _another gap in our ranks_!”

The notion was too farcical.  The claim of Merrit to a fellowship with
Carlyle dispelled the cloud that the intelligence of the death of the
author of the “Sartor Resartus” had superinduced.  And, to the great
surprise and disgust of poor Paul, we all burst into an incontrollable
roar of laughter.  Merrit eventually abandoned writing and took to
farming.  In that occupation, I understand, he discovered his _métier_.

I mentioned a little while back that the business of dramatic criticism
is conducive of longevity.  When I first went professionally to the
theatre stalls in 1870, until I gave up that healthy practice in 1890, I
saw on first night after first night the same faces.  They never appeared
to be ill or tired.  They never sent substitutes on important _premiers_.
They never appeared to grow any older from year to year.

There was Joseph Knight, for example.  He was occupying the critic’s
stall long before I ever saw the inside of a London theatre, and he
continued to occupy it—with credit to himself, and to the great
satisfaction of the performers—for years after my connection with the
Press had ceased.  He was a fine, burly, broad-shouldered man.  Hailed
from Yorkshire, I think, and with his bronzed face, brown beard, genial
smile, and keen eye, presented more the appearance of a retired officer
of the mercantile marine than of a haunter of the auditorium, and a man
who usually got up in the afternoon, and came home with the milk in the
morning.  He had a hearty way with him, and talked in a torrent that
seemed to rush over pebbles.  “Willie” Wilde used to give a wonderfully
realistic imitation of Jo Knight, which the subject overhearing in the
foyer of the Avenue Theatre one night gravely resented.  But the two men
“made it up,” and Knight, indeed, became so friendly with his imitator
that on one occasion he asked him to write his weekly article in the
_Athenæum_ for him.  Willie readily consented; and when the article in
due course appeared, it turned out to be a really remarkable travesty of
dear Jo’s somewhat turgid and oracular style.  The essay gave great
delight to those who were in the secret.  But Knight never saw the joke—I
question whether he ever saw any joke—and expressed to Wilde his
gratitude for the admirable manner in which he had filled his place.

Once and only once did I see the “Knight Owl” in a rage.  Joseph was a
sort of pluralist in dramatico-critical benefices, representing at one
time three or four daily and weekly publications.  This fact came to the
knowledge of the very young critic of a very young weekly paper, who
thought that he saw his way to a pungent personal paragraph.  The
paragraph duly made its appearance, and Knight was severely taken to task
because he was in the habit of writing about the same performance in
several newspapers.  The young critic put it at half a dozen, which was
overshooting the mark by at least two.  At the very next first night of a
new play, Knight and his small accuser were in their stalls before the
rising of the curtain.  Knight, perceiving his prey from afar off, made
toward him and, assuming a very threatening attitude, said:

“What you wrote about me in your infernal paper is—A LIE!”

The youthful criticaster adjusted his monocle, produced a notebook and
pencil, and, with the well-bred suavity of a man dying to oblige his
accuser, inquired, “How many of it is a—er—lie?” and prepared to take
down the correction for use in a future issue.  But the torrent of
Knight’s speech tumbled unintelligible over the pebbles, and he returned
to his own stall snorting defiance.

Moy Thomas was an excellent judge of what a play ought to be, and
understood also the sort of treatment best suited to the public for whom
he wrote.  For many years he wrote the dramatic notices for the _Daily
News_.  In those far-off days it had a literary staff, the character of
which was not second to that of any morning journal.  Thomas’s articles
were remarkable for their admirable lucidity, sound judgment, and
polished literary style.  He also provided the dramatic notices for the
_Graphic_.

“Willie” Wilde, whom I have just mentioned in connection with the burly
Joseph Knight, was a determined first-nighter.  He was an exceedingly
talkative man, and he talked so very well that one did not care to stop
his agreeable chatter even when it was inconveniently out of place.  One
evening I happened to occupy a stall next to that of a then well-known
gentleman of the Jewish persuasion who commenced in Fleet Street as an
advertising canvasser, and subsequently blossomed into a newspaper
proprietor, although the newspaper in question was, to quote the immortal
excuse of the wet-nurse in “Mr. Midshipman Easy,” “a very little one.”  I
imagine he has done well, for the last time I saw him he was lolling back
in a victoria, and driving down Portland Place with the air of a man who
owned all the houses on both sides.  On the occasion to which I allude,
he had not as yet arrived at the victoria stage.  Indeed, he had been
released from gaol that very morning.  He had been remanded in custody on
a charge of a commercial kind; but being now out on bail, and having none
of that supersensitiveness which would characterize a Gentile similarly
situated, he celebrated his release by taking his wife to the theatre.
Wilde was sitting immediately behind the pair, and next to William
Mackay, to whom, as the play proceeded, he indulged in a series of
humorous commentaries.  Our hero, being very intent on the play—an
opera-bouffe—became at last annoyed by the chatter behind him, and,
turning round to Mackay, who had not uttered a word, said in a voice
audible all over the place:

“I wish, sir, you’d make less noise.”

Mackay, conscious of innocence and deeply resentful, turned to Wilde, and
observed audibly, with a touch of malice which was seldom absent from his
impromptus:

“Do keep quiet, Willie; you are annoying the occupant of the _adjoining
cell_.”

A London edition of the _New York Herald_ was published in the Strand at
the time when this little incident happened, and next morning the critic
of that journal, under the head of “An Incident,” tacked the story on to
his dramatic notice—names and all.  He added the comment: “A word in
season, how good it is!”

Wilde and his friend, who were both Irishmen, and had at various periods
written the dramatic notices for _Vanity Fair_, represented the new
school of criticism.  They took neither themselves nor the dramatic art
seriously.  Accepting the dictum of their fellow-countryman, Sheridan, as
to the purpose of the theatre and the limitations of dramatic art, their
articles were irreverent, audacious, a little contemptuous.  _Vanity
Fair_ encouraged this attitude towards players and playhouses.  And,
indeed, it was the natural and inevitable result of the seriousness with
which the critics of the period were beginning to take both themselves
and the theatre.  The proprietors of the _Daily Telegraph_ were greatly
interested in theatrical affairs.  Mr. Edward Lawson, now Lord Burnham,
was the son-in-law of Mr. Ben Webster, of the Adelphi Theatre; and that
paper led the way in devoting a considerable space to theatrical matters.
“Epoch-making” became quite the appropriate phrase to employ regarding
any new production which was unusually well received.  Clement Scott, the
critic of the _Daily Telegraph_, was an instrument ready to the hand of
his employers.  His standard of all dramatic work appeared to be the
Robertson comedies as staged by the Bancrofts—just as in later years Mr.
William Archer found nothing very good after “The Second Mrs. Tanqueray.”
That forgotten comedy was Mr. Archer’s “epoch-making play.”

Both Mr. Archer and Clement Scott had served an apprenticeship on the
_London Figaro_, and surely no two members of a staff were ever before so
unequally yoked together.  Scott was impulsive, always in extremes of
heat or cold, and never very particular as to the accuracy of his
phrases.  Archer was a “dour body,” solid in matter, turgid and dogmatic
in manner, and as solemn in statement as a Presbyterian meenister.  The
atmosphere of seriousness by which Mr. Archer has surrounded himself when
dealing with playhouses is, indeed, impenetrable, fuliginous.

Perhaps, all being said and done, the proper attitude of the man retained
for this sort of work is neither that of satirical sceptic and
scintillating detractor, nor that of fanatical worshipper and solemn
commentator.  Ernest Bendall, in my time, struck, I think, the golden
mean.  He was never betrayed into excessive praise or excessive censure.
He found nothing in the theatre to make such a demand on the emotions as
should call for literary heroics.  Yet his judgments were sound, and they
carried weight.  He was temperate in expression, had a natural facility
for hitting on the right word, and he always wrote like a gentleman.
Bendall may have had contemporaries who wrote more brilliantly, but none
who wrote with a nicer sense of his duty to the public, and with less
desire to parade his own idiosyncrasies.  A more admirable selection for
the office of Censor under the Lord Chamberlain could not have been made.

Nesbit was another of the serious exponents of the art of dramatic
criticism.  He followed Morris on the _Times_, but whether he was his
immediate successor, or whether some other contributor intervened, I do
not recollect.  I have never kept a diary, and I have never preserved a
letter written to me.  And I would embrace this opportunity of advising
any young journalist who may happen to read these recollections to make a
point of writing up his diary, and of filing letters possessing any
literary value.  Had I made a practice of diarizing, my present task
would be very considerably lightened; and if I had kept my letters from
contemporaries, I should by now have had a very fine collection of
autographs upon which to draw for the entertainment of my readers.
Nesbit wrote well, but he wrote too much.  The marvel to me about his
work always was, that, accomplishing so tremendous an output, he was able
to keep his supply in bulk up to his sample.  But Nesbit was dull—and
that’s a fact.  He and Archer approached the task of reporting a play
much in the attitude of a Judge taking his seat to try a man for murder.

But there was a third class of reviewer.  He adopted neither the solemn
mood affected by Ibsenites and Irvingites, nor the detached and playful
attitude of those who perpetuated Sheridan’s sane assignment of the
position of the stage.  James Davis was a fair representative of this
third class.  “Jimmy” delighted in setting the mummers by the ears.  He
attacked without scruple and without mercy.  He had all the audacity of
the free-lance, with all the love of mischief which characterizes the
schoolboy.  And yet “Jimmy” was one of the best-natured little fellows in
the world.  But he revelled in what the Germans call mischief-joy.  And
when you put a pen into his hand, it ran to libel as surely as the needle
turns to the pole.  He owned at various times the _Cuckoo_, originally
started by Edmund Yates.  He founded the _Bat_—wherein he fell foul of
the whole theatrical hierarchy—and near the end he established a weekly
organ called the _Phœnix_, which lacked somewhat of his old dash and vim.
A member of the Jewish community, he was wanting in one of the racial
characteristics.  He cared nothing for money—as money.  He married money,
and he made money, and all the time he was flinging money about with both
hands.  It is strange to remember that, notwithstanding his early and
persistent attacks on the stage and its professors, he eventually became
a popular writer of musical comedy, and during this period he made
thousands of pounds, and was the means of giving employment to hundreds
of the performers whom he affected to hate.  James was a most cheery
companion, a finished gourmet, a lavish and agreeable host, a determined
gambler, and a rattling good little chap.  He went through several
fortunes, died worth nothing, and he was the best bridge-player of his
day.

The serene atmosphere in which the critic of plays dwelt was seldom
disturbed by storms.  Tempest did occur, however, to the intense delight
of the newspaper-reading world, and to the great scandal of the more
serious supporters of the British drama.  Thus, Henry Irving found it
advisable to take criminal proceedings against a paper for a perfectly
harmless and very humorous skit written by Mr. G. R. Sims.  Never,
surely, in the history of the theatre was so much cry made over such a
contemptible quantity of wool.  But we were just beginning to stand on
our dignity, you see, and the Lyceum manager stood for all that was
respectable and traditional.  Never, perhaps, had the suburbs been so
moved as on that occasion.  And had Mr. Sims been tried by a jury drawn
from the fastnesses of Brixton, Clapham, and the Camden Road, he would
have had but a short shrift.  Happily for all concerned, the matter was
amicably settled in court.  It ended like a French duel—shots were
exchanged, but nobody was hurt.

A more serious forensic encounter took place in the Court of Common
Pleas.  I had not at that time commenced business on the Press as a
regular writer about plays; but I was enormously interested in all that
concerned the drama and I attended the trial concerning which I shall say
a word or two.  The case was called “Fairlie _v._ Blenkinsop.”  It came
on for hearing before Mr. Justice Keating in the Court of Common Pleas in
Westminster Hall.  Fairlie was the lessee and manager of the St. James’s
Theatre.

Mr. Fairlie’s manager—“producer” he would be termed in these fastidious
days—was Richard Mansell.  Mansell was an Irishman whose real name was
Maitland, and he had been the first to introduce opera-bouffe. with
English words, to a London audience.  With very little money, but with
unbounded pluck, he took the Lyceum Theatre, and produced “Chilperic” and
“Le Petit Faust,” bringing Hervé over from Paris to conduct the
orchestra.  The thing was a great success, but Dick Mansell had about as
much notion of theatrical finance as had his great London predecessor,
Dick Sheridan.  The money flowed quickly into the treasury, but it flowed
out in even greater volume.  The system of accounts was lax, and Mansell,
who should never have looked back after that successful venture, did
nothing _but_ look back for the rest of his life.  He died a short time
since after a long and painful illness.  But to the last he was the
hopeful, hearty, handsome Irishman whom I had met for the first time on
the day that the disaster at Sedan was reported in the papers.

The management opened their theatre with an opera-bouffe entitled “Vert
Vert,” translated from the French by Henry Herman, who afterwards made a
reputation for himself as the author of “The Silver King.”  The attack
made on the opera by _Vanity Fair_ was fierce, scathing, unsparing.  The
writer was especially nasty about the ladies of the chorus, whom he said
could neither act, sing, nor dance, but who, he supposed, were exhibited
before the public because “there are some rich young men about town, and
several old ones, who devote their time and energies to the discovery and
encouragement of dramatic talent in good-looking young women.”  That was
the gravamen of the charge—that and an allusion to a dance called the
“Riperelle.”  Serjeant Ballantine was for the plaintiff, and Mr. John Day
(afterwards Mr. Justice Day) was for the defendant.

The interest of the occasion centred greatly in the cross-examination of
Mr. Thomas Gibson Bowles, subsequently the representative of King’s Lynn,
and the beloved “Tommy” of the House of Commons.  Ballantine, of course,
could see nothing wrong in anything theatrical, and contrived by
maladroit questions to let “Tommy” get in some answers which Day dare not
have elicited in chief.  In particular he made the mistake of
cross-examining him about the “Riperelle.”  “It is the cancan in its
essential part,” explained Bowles.  Ballantine, rushing on his fate,
pressed the witness.  “Tell us,” he thundered, “in what the indecency of
the dance consists.”  Stroking his blonde cavalry moustache, and smiling
pleasantly, Bowles replied, with great distinctiveness and amid a dead
silence: “The ‘Riperelle’ is an illustration by gesture of the act of —”
But the conclusion of the sentence is scarcely of a kind to be repeated
here.  It won the case.  The jury found for the defendant without leaving
the box.  Mr. Fairlie soon after his theatrical experiences resumed his
proper name of Philips, read for the Bar, was called, and in 1890 I
happened to be with him in settling a case of newspaper libel in which he
was engaged for the plaintiff.  Mr. F. C. Philips has furthermore made a
reputation for himself as a writer of excellent fiction.  His “As in a
Looking-Glass” has gone through many editions, and is to this day, I
understand, “asked for” at Mudie’s.

That sort of criticism, however, is no longer in vogue, which for some
reasons, I think, is rather a pity.  And one of them is that
theatre-goers have ceased to accept dramatic criticisms as being in any
way a guide to the theatre.  Bad plays are so frequently treated with
respectful notices, and the public reading the criticisms have been so
frequently deceived, that this department of a newspaper’s literary
contents has become negligible.  The most frank and most business-like
method would be to drop all pretence at criticism, and simply “report”
each new play.  It will come to that.

A well-known barrister who wrote criticisms on plays was Sir Douglas
Straight.  He had not then received the honour of knighthood.  He was the
inseparable companion of Montagu Williams, represented the licensed
victuallers in the House of Commons, and wrote his dramatic criticisms in
the _Sporting Times_.

It would be impossible to give a complete list of the dramatic critics
who exercised their craft during the couple of decades that comprise my
experience of the front of the house.  But as a suitable conclusion to
this chapter on a gay art I shall endeavour to call up the appearance of
the approaches and auditorium of a leading theatre on the production of
an important work.  In an attempt to visualize the scene, some figures
will present themselves that, without this aid to memory, might—to my
lasting regret—be overlooked.  I shall not attempt to recall any
particular play.  But I shall select what I shall suppose to be a typical
first night at the Lyceum Theatre at the beginning of the eighties.  One
proceeds along the Strand leisurely and in chastened mood.  The tail of
the pittites is struggling out of the covered passage that leads to the
pit entrance.  That passage, by the way, had been nicknamed by a witty
policeman the “Cowshed,” in honour of certain elderly ladies who used to
pervade that part of the Strand, and who were accustomed to take shelter
in this recess.  Turning out of the Strand into Wellington Street, one
sees the long line of cabs and carriages discharging their occupants
between the classic pillars which stand before the Lyceum portico.  There
are as yet no motors—no taxi-cabs—in this procession.  Somehow those
panting vehicles would not have harmonized with the sentiments of a
Lyceum audience.  We cross the threshold.  On the right is the
box-office, and through the aperture you see the benign and reverend face
of Mr. Joseph Hurst, placid, gold-spectacled, serene.  The vestibule is
spacious, heavily carpeted, and from it an immensely wide flight of
steps, covered in soft, thick stair-carpets, leads to the back of the
circle.  On each side of this stairway stand little boys in Eton suits.
They are infant vergers in this temple of art; for Irving has
disestablished the female programme-seller—she was perhaps a too
frivolous person—and has installed these youths in clean collars and
short jackets to conduct the patrons to their seats, and to see each one
provided with a bill of the play.  The lights are subdued.  The arriving
visitors do not indulge in the laughter and gay, irresponsible chatter of
people entering a house of opera-bouffe.  Here is more serious business,
be assured.  Our voices, as we advance to the foot of the stairs, are
subdued, like the lights.  The moving crowd has more the aspect of a
congregation than of a theatrical audience.

At the top of the stairs stands a tall man in a reddish beard.  He is in
evening-dress, but wears no decoration of any kind.  Yet he is there to
receive this distinguished throng.  There is a gracious bow to each as he
passes, and to some an extended hand and a sedate greeting given in a
rich Dublin brogue.  For the gentleman in the red beard is Mr Bram
Stoker, the business man, chief bottle-holder and Boswell, of the Lyceum
manager.  Bram is one of your genuine hero-worshippers.  He abandoned a
big berth under the Dublin Corporation to follow the fortunes of the
Chief.  He makes much of his hero’s friends on the Press, and does his
best to conciliate his detractors.  He manages Irving’s finances—as far
as the manager will permit their supervision.  And he writes the Chief’s
after-dinner speeches and his lectures on Shakespeare and the musical
glasses.  As he smiles on us now, he little foresees what the future
holds for Irving and himself.  No gloomy anticipations intrude as we pass
the well-pleased priest of the vestibule.  The Irving regime is for all
time, and the “wing of friendship shall never moult a feather.”  Alas for
the futility of human foresight!  Poor Bram has himself now gone to solve
the great mystery.

At last we have reached our stalls—you and I—and have time to look about
us.  The attendant acolyte has provided us with programmes.  There is a
subdued air of expectancy abroad.  Conversation is carried on in decorous
accents.  There is no laughter.  Even the deep bass of Jo Knight is
tempered to the occasion.  The orchestra files in.  Mr. Hamilton Clarke
takes his place above the tuneful choir.  The popular parts of the house
are crammed.  The seasoned playgoers who have fought their way through
the “Cowshed” to the front row of the pit point out to each other the
eminent persons as they proceed to their stalls.  They are not always
infallible in their identification—these quidnuncs of the pit.  Mr. Moy
Thomas is confidently pointed out as Sir Garnet Wolseley.  “Looks
diff’rent in his uniform, don’t he?” observes the lady recipient of the
information.  I have heard them point out Lennox Browne as the Duke of
Argyll, Sir Francis Jeune as Lord Leighton, and Mr. Hume Williams as Mr.
Walter of Printing-House Square—a gentleman rarely seen at these
functions, and one whose name, one would imagine, would hardly be known
to the public of the pit.  These illuminating asides were always
delivered with the utmost confidence.  And upon one such occasion I was
overjoyed to hear myself identified and accepted as Cardinal Manning—an
ecclesiastic to whom the theatre was anathema, whose priests were
forbidden the playhouse, although, strangely enough, they were left free
to patronize the music-halls.

On these first nights at the Lyceum the occupants of the stalls and boxes
the gathering is representative of various strata of Society.  High
finance and high philanthropy are there in the person of the Baroness
Burdett-Coutts, who was long and generally supposed to have financed the
Lyceum.  This has now been officially contradicted by the authorized
biography.  All I can say is, that the Baroness might have done worse
with her money.  Sir George Lewis, eyeglass duly adjusted, stands
surveying the house and nodding to his many acquaintances.  On hearing of
the death of Sir George an old friend of his spoke of him as having gone
to learn “the great Secret.”  “They will find,” said a lady, “that it is
no secret from Sir George.”  The higher branch of the profession is
represented by Sir Edward Clarke, always looking fierce, and always
feeling much the reverse, his short, square figure and “Dundreary”
whiskers savouring much of the “City” which he loves, and in which he
began life.  Frank Lockwood, towering, genial, and majestic, does not
permit his natural humour to become abated even in this grave gathering.
Mr. Watts-Dunton, brisk and beady-eyed, busies himself with his playbill,
and makes no pretence of hearing the remarks which Mr. Percy Fitzgerald
passes on to him.  Clement Scott, self-conscious and upheld by a sense of
the importance of the occasion—and of his own—divests himself of his fur
coat, and settles himself in his stall, assuming an expression of the
deepest melancholy.  Edmund Yates—evidently bored by, and sceptical
concerning, the pervading air of gravity—discusses mere _World_-ly
matters with his accomplished critic, Dutton Cook.  Oscar Wilde, seated
beside his pretty wife, preserves the cynical smile which characterizes
him.  Joseph Hatton—one of Irving’s most devoted literary henchmen—beams,
like another Mr. Fezziwig, “one vast, substantial smile.”  Knight is
accompanied by a lady of great personal attractions—of a classic beauty,
one might have said.  It is the accomplished pluralist’s daughter.  Frank
Marshall, of the leonine head, looks as though he were anticipating one
of the great moments of his life.  And so he is.  His admiration of
Irving is sincere and whole-hearted.  In his view Irving can do no wrong.
Charles Dunphy, of the _Morning Post_, seated next to Howe, of the
abhorred _Morning Advertiser_, takes a mental note of the Society persons
who are present, and inquires after the health, I hope, of Howe’s father.
For Howe is the son of the veteran actor of that name, now a member of
the Irving company, and the son is present to sit in judgment of his
parent.  It is—to quote a phrase of Labouchere’s, in his speech to the
jury in a famous libel case—a reversal of the old Scriptural legend:
“Instead of Abraham offering up Isaac, we are presented with the
spectacle of Isaac offering up Abraham.”

On these first nights at the Lyceum there are a great many persons
present whom one never sees on other occasions or at other theatres.  If
Bram Stoker had his way, they would not be sitting here and now.  Mr.
Stoker’s eye is ever on the main chance, and he resents the sort of
dead-head out of whom you cannot get even a newspaper paragraph.  But
Irving has his way in all these matters, and the presence of this
unproductive contingent testifies to a trait only too rare both in men
and managers.  Princely in his hospitalities, generous to a fault, Irving
was above all capable of a lasting gratitude.  These dead-heads were the
recurring evidence of this sentiment.  They were those who had been kind
to him in early days, those who had faith in him when, as yet, the public
had not accepted him.  These he never forgot.  And it is one of the
little circumstances in his career as manager which I like most to
remember.  For, truth to tell, there are some of them that I would quite
willingly forget.

Byron Webber, burly and black-bearded, appears rather restive under the
restraint of the Lyceum auditorium.  Tom Catling’s genial smile indicates
that no amount of exterior depression can affect a spirit tuned to gentle
enjoyment wherever two or three of his fellow-creatures are gathered
together.  Among the others who are constitutionally incapable of
assuming the grave expression suitable to the occasion are Bendall the
bland; Chance Newton, the Aristarchus _cum_ Autolycus of the stalls;
Burnand, beaming beatific—of _Punch_. . . .  But the orchestra has
ceased, and the curtain is going up.

One could not but admire Irving.  He compelled admiration.  But I never
could enroll myself among the congregation of his worshippers.  He had a
magnetic and dominating personality; he was that strange portent—a
gentleman of Nature’s own making; he was princely in his dealings; he was
an accomplished stage-manager; his ideals were of the highest.  But, in
my opinion, he was never a great actor.  He most nearly approached
histrionic genius when cast for a part in which his outstanding
mannerisms became utilized as qualities.  In parts where they could not
be made characteristic of the part, they were excrescences.  Thus, I have
always held that the actor’s best parts were Digby Grand in “Two Roses,”
and Mathias in “The Bells”; and his most deplorable efforts, Othello and
Macbeth.

But whatever his shortcomings, he deserved better of his day and
generation than to have been made the subject of Mr. Brereton’s “Life.”



CHAPTER VII
THE PASSING OF THE PURITAN SABBATH


IN the course of the decades of which I am writing, London became the
centre of a silent, gradual, irresistible, and altogether welcome
revolution.  It witnessed the passing away of the Puritan Sabbath and the
evolution of the Rational Sunday.  So quietly did the change evolve
itself that no man could mark the hour or the year of its completion.
But the historian of the passing moment, the working journalist of the
period affected, had at all events a unique opportunity of noting the
events which led to our gradual emergence from the national gloom
generated in these islands more than three centuries ago.

London in the sixties and early seventies was the saddest and most gloomy
capital in Europe.  In the morning church bells clanged over empty
streets.  An expression of misery might be read on the faces of the few
hurrying pedestrians.  A curious silence pervaded the thoroughfares.  At
the hours for repairing to church or chapel, sad-faced men and women, and
demure little hypocrites of boys and girls in stiff Sunday best, made
dutiful marches.  After church came the awful midday meal of roast beef,
Yorkshire pudding, and apple tart.  The afternoon was usually devoted to
sleep.

The proletariat as a rule remained in bed until the public-houses opened.
Crowds of soddened creatures, suffering yet from the effects of Saturday
night’s carousals, clustered round the doors of the gin-palaces, eager to
obtain “a hair of the dog that bit them.”  When at last the portals did
open, a clamorous congregation besieged the bars, and one beheld,
perhaps, the origin of the phrase which tells of those who do “a roaring
trade.”  In the Seven Dials, in Clare Market, across the water in
Southwark and Blackfriars, the “pub” proclaimed itself as the most
popular institution in all England.  It is quite impossible for the
younger generation to picture the scenes that were witnessed on Sunday
nights just before and just after closing hour at these houses of
refreshment.  At that time Great Britain might easily have boasted of
being the most drunken nation in the world.  As the doors of the taverns
swung open to admit or to vomit forth a votary, one caught a glimpse of
pictures Hogarthian in their stark and shameless debauchery.  I can
recall even now the gust of hot, pestilent air that issued out, and
caught the throat and nose of the passing citizen; the clamorous boom of
a hundred excited conversations pierced and punctuated by the shrill
declamation and hysterical shriek of women—sometimes suckling their young
in the mephitic miasma of a moral hell.

And who can blame them?  They had no other resource.  Here, at least,
they might woo a temporary forgetfulness.  By hereditary custom amusement
was taboo for ever for them and for their children.  So they slept on a
Sabbath during the close time for publicans, and then they proceeded in
droves to their favourite houses of call, there to make beasts of
themselves.  The streets of London on Sunday night, when the time arrived
for the eviction of the publican’s customers into the night, presented a
sad spectacle.  In some parts of the Metropolis the scenes enacted were a
disgrace to even what small civilization existed in those regions.
Brawls, assaults, free fights, licence, “language,” brought to a lurid
close the hours of the holy day.

Thus the proletariat.  And the more favoured classes—how of them?  Well,
they were—or such of them as were acquainted with Fellows of the
Zoological Society—at liberty to visit the Zoo!  By a great many worthy
persons even this educational diversion was regarded with extreme
disfavour.  And I have known a father of a family, a gentleman of
position, a person of business aptitudes, and in the ordinary affairs of
life accredited with more than his share of common-sense, refuse to
permit his daughters to make use of Fellows’ tickets admitting to the
Gardens on Sunday.  Quite gravely—and quite honestly, I believe—he
explained his action on the ground that a visit to the Zoo on Sunday was
a breach of the Commandment which adjures us to “keep holy the Sabbath
day.”  How many fathers would adopt that course to-day?  And supposing
the paternal prohibition were uttered, how many daughters do you suppose
would regard it?  The fact that rest may also mean recreation has become
an article of the Londoner’s creed.  The parks are now provided with
excellent bands.  The environs of the city are supplied with golf-links.
The lawn-tennis courts of the suburbs are used on Sundays by those to
whom the Sabbath is, perhaps, the only day in the week on which they can
be sure of a game.  In the evening there are concerts.  The innocent
gaiety of Society is catered for at a hundred West End restaurants and
hotels.  While the bike and the motor have taken roving Londoners farther
afield for their well-earned seventh-day cessation from work.  The
Puritan Sabbath has died the death.  The Rational Sunday has come to
stay.

And what were the causes—immediate and remote—which have led up to this
very important and desirable result?  It was not effected by any
systematic preaching of a propaganda.  Moral and social reforms are not
secured in that way.  Politicians, keen to observe the tendency of public
taste, sometimes attempt to run with it, and then accept the honour of
having created it.  Perhaps in the whole history of legislation no more
delightful instance of this has been afforded than in some of the
enactments of the Administration.  They brought in a measure of
spoliation called a Licensing Bill, and they included in their Finance
Bill a crushing tax on spirits.  The avowed object of both measures was
declared by their authors to be to stamp out the curse of drink.
Chadband himself never rose to such heights of hypocrisy, or uttered,
with Puritan unction, such atrocious cant.  The moment selected by Mr.
Asquith and his friends for making Great Britain sober was the moment
when it had become patent to the world that Great Britain had grown sober
on its own account!

The efforts of the Sunday League must not be omitted in any attempt to
assign their places to the influences at work in the emancipation of the
English from the slavery of the Puritan Sabbath.  The League came forward
at what is called “the psychological moment” to supply a demand which the
growing intelligence of the people had created.  The first great impetus
given to the rational observance of a seventh day was given by the
general adoption of the bike by the youth of both sexes.  This easy,
safe, quick, and inexpensive mode of transit gave almost immediate
pretext for revolt against the ancient domestic enactments.  The call of
the long white roads sounded in the ears of the boys and girls.  Wider
vistas opened up before them.  Inaccessible places were brought near.
Even the attractions of the Sunday dinner of roast beef no longer allured
those who wished to be early afield.  The roadster triumphed.  The old
restrictions were swept away like cobwebs.

Another factor in the silent revolution was the lure of the Thames.
This, indeed, began to call to the jaded senses of the overworked
Londoner at an earlier date than that of the invitation of the bike.  In
the early seventies I have sculled from Kingston up to Sunbury Lock on a
Sunday afternoon without meeting more than a dozen other craft.  And
during those same years I have idled between Marlow Bridge and Temple
Lock without encountering a skiff on the whole reach.  The fatuous
fisherman, indeed, attached his unwieldy punt to the ripecks stuck in the
river-bed, and invented fish stories while he waited for the infrequent
bite.  Save for him the upper reaches were deserted.  The beauties of the
river discovered themselves for him and for the swans.

To-day the Thames has become the River of Pleasure.  Music floats from
club lawns; every reach from Richmond up to Wargrave is joyous with the
laughter from skiffs and punts and launches.  The locks, ever filling and
emptying, give entrance and egress to as many river craft on this one day
as in earlier times passed in the whole three hundred and sixty-five.
There is a line of house-boats on nearly every reach, and from beneath
their awnings, white or striped or apple green, there come the strumming
of the banjo and the pop of the champagne cork.  On the lawns sloping
from week-end houses to the stream happy groups assemble.  The men in
flannels, the girls in white and cream-coloured fabrics, make for the
tennis-courts or for the flotilla moored to the landing-stage in which
the lawn meets the river.  Yes; in any attempt to assign the causes which
were instrumental in banishing the Puritan Sabbath from London, the
Thames must be accorded a place of honour.  The Thames first showed the
Londoner the way out.  And the motor car continued and extended the
exodus.

It must not be supposed that the old order was permitted to yield place
to new without a word of protest here and there.  Among other of the many
remonstrants were the Reverend and Right Reverend Fathers in God forming
the Upper House of Convocation.  The action of this episcopal court
brings me to the point at which the Press touches the question, and
renders this matter of Sunday observance germane to the general scheme of
my book.

Singular as it may appear, the original factor which set the Upper House
of Convocation reflecting on the matter was an article by Mr. “Jimmy”
Davis in his own paper, the _Bat_.  That a gentleman of the Jewish faith
should have succeeded in influencing the episcopal chiefs of the English
Christians may, on the first blush of it, appear strange.  But it is not
more strange than the other fact that some of those very Bishops owed
their preferment to a Jewish Prime Minister.  The whole incident of
Jimmy’s interposition, and its results, make an interesting story, though
a long one, I am afraid.  At this juncture, then, let me address you, who
have followed me thus far, in the words that appear in the middle of the
stodgy parts of Carlyle’s “Frederick the Great”: “Courage, reader!”

While freedom was thus making for itself wider boundaries, Jimmy Davis
was very much in the movement.  And being in the movement, he would
naturally take an interest in the Pelican Club, which was the most
advanced, unconventional, and at times rowdy, protest that had so far
been made against the tyranny of Mrs. Grundy.  Although I was a member of
the Pelican Club myself, I do not remember whether Davis was.  Nor need I
take the trouble to make inquiries, as the fact does not affect my
narrative.  Probably he was _not_.  For the institution was founded by a
gentleman who had at one time been in his employ in an inferior capacity.
Certainly I never met him on the premises.

The Pelican Club was founded by Mr. Ernest Wells—familiarly known as
“Swears-and-Swells.”  Its membership was composed chiefly of rapid
men-about-town, and its principal functions were given on Sunday nights.
These were concerts at which the comic element preponderated, and boxing
contests conducted in a properly-appointed ring.  Suitable premises were
secured in Denman Street, a shy thoroughfare close to Piccadilly Circus.
The place had formerly been used as the factory of a carriage-builder.
The ground-floor was very spacious and very lofty, and in every way was
adapted to its new purposes.  There was a gallery above, off which opened
card-rooms, bedrooms, and other apartments.  A bar was fitted up close to
the entrance, and the whole place was soon transformed into an extremely
bright and cheery institution.  Having secured the premises and decided
on the lines on which the institution was to be run, there remained for
the enterprising founder the important question of obtaining members.

Mr. Wells called in to his assistance Mr. “Willie” Goldberg.  A word or
two concerning that remarkable little man may not be out of place.  John
Corlett and Reggie Brooks were taking a walk one day in the neighbourhood
of Maidstone, when they came on the encouraging spectacle of a small man
sitting by the roadside, and sniggering over the front page of Corlett’s
newspaper.  The sight was so agreeable and flattering to the wayfarers
that they stopped to inquire into the exact source of the stranger’s
mirth.  The conversation thus commenced ended in the engagement of the
small man on the staff of the _Pink ’Un_.  And it turned out to be one of
the best engagements that Corlett ever made.  Goldberg was a ’Varsity
man, his career at Oxford having been, if not brilliant, at least much
more than respectable.  When he left the University, he obtained a
Government appointment, which, in his own phrase, he “chucked.”  When
encountered by Corlett on a Kentish highway, he was just idling along.
He was a born Bohemian, and he idled along until the day of his death.

Now, when Goldberg joined Corlett’s staff, the paper to which he was
called upon to contribute was the favourite periodical literature of what
constituted the rapid section of Society.  And Goldberg not only catered,
in his way, for the literary thirst of men-about-town, but he became
personally identified with that contingent out of doors.  The “Johnnies,”
the “mashers,” the “rowdy-dowdy boys,” the “sports,” of the joyous days
made much of him.  Indeed, they made so much of him that he went to his
grave a good quarter of a century before there was any absolute necessity
for making that journey.

Here, then, was the man for Ernest Wells.  Goldberg was in a position not
only to introduce members, but to “boom” the enterprise in the Press.
“Willie” at first showed himself coy.  But the offer of a share in the
concern proved an irresistible lure.  An agreement was drawn up, and the
Pelican Club became the joint property of Ernest Wells and William
Goldberg.  The latter gentleman at once set himself to the task of
collecting members.  And the collection which he succeeded in making as a
nucleus certainly promised something in the way of clubs that the West
End had yet seen.  There were Major “Bob” Hope Johnstone, “Hughie”
Drummond of the Stock Exchange, his brother Archie Drummond of the Scots
Guards, Captain Fred Russell, “Billy” Fitzwilliam, the Marquis of
Queensberry, “Kim” Mandeville (afterwards Duke of Manchester), Arthur
Roberts the comedian, and the brothers Horn—not the boxers of that name,
but a couple of rich young men.

From such a start the club naturally grew in numbers, and made for itself
exactly the sort of reputation which the proprietors desired.  Denman
Street became the liveliest comer in the swagger end of London.  Boxing
contests on a Sunday night hit the imagination of the town.  A certain
general curiosity was excited.  Membership, which was restricted, was
eagerly sought.  The shekels came rolling in.  The Pelican, it was
believed, had come to stay.

When the success of the new institution was at its height, “Jimmy” Davis
contributed to the columns of the _Bat_ an article on “The Sunday
Amusements of the Rich.”  Of course, the whole thing was conceived in a
mood of extreme cynicism, and Davis wrote the article with his tongue in
his cheek.  It was strange enough that Davis should write such an
article.  For what, after all, could it matter to a Jew how the Gentiles
amused themselves on a Sunday?  But it was still more strange that an
article appearing in the columns of a paper which did not enjoy the very
sweetest of reputations, should have vexed the righteous minds of the
Episcopal Bench, and caused the subject of “Jimmy’s” article to be
debated in the Upper House of Convocation.

And it was strange, too—in its way—that, when the debate was set down for
hearing, I, a member of the Pelican Club, should have been deputed by the
editor of an evening paper to attend Convocation, and write a more or
less graphic description of the historic debate.  My experience of the
Upper House of Convocation, while assuring me that its members possessed
quite a respectable amount of debating power, also convinced me that
their deliberations were academic merely, and that the Bishops were
terribly out of touch with actualities.  The conditions under which the
“House” sat were not conducive to those illusions which the laity should
cherish regarding the episcopacy.  Their lordships met in a dining-room
on the first-floor of a house in Dean’s Yard, Westminster.  A striped
wall-paper was adorned at gaping intervals with engravings from Millais
and Landseer.  The furniture was mid-Victorian.  A long telescope-table
filled the middle of the room.  Round this board sat the Bishops,
presided over by the Archbishop of Canterbury, who took his place at the
top of the table.  Had their lordships not been robed in billowing white,
with lawn sleeves, doctors’ hoods, and decorated with episcopal signets,
the idea conveyed to the mind of the casual observer would have been that
of a group of commercial travellers assembled in the commercial room of a
country hotel waiting for the one o’clock ordinary.  In the embrasure of
a window looking out on to Dean’s Yard a table was placed for the
reporters.  The general public was, of course, rigorously excluded.
Arrangements were made only for a certain number of reporters—six, I
think, was the limit.  And it had been necessary to arrange for the
absence of one of these gentlemen, so that I, who unfortunately have
never mastered shorthand, might be present.  From my coign of vantage in
the embrasure I could see some Westminster schoolboys playing in the
enclosure.  Their shrilling shouts punctuated the earlier deliberations
of their lordships.  Besides ourselves of the Press and the members of
the Upper House of Convocation, the only other person present was Sir
John Hassard, the courteous Registrar.  His chief duty seemed to be that
of ushering the gentlemen of the Press in and out of this hopelessly
bourgeois Upper Chamber.  And this was a ceremony of frequent occurrence.
When their lordships considered that the trend of the debate made it
desirable that strangers should retire, the Archbishop looked over to us,
smiled benevolently, and observed: “If you please, gentlemen.”  It
reminded me of Ponsford’s early morning admonition to customers supping
late at the Albion.  We rose.  Sir John preceded us to the door, opened
it, and bowed us out.  Presently—their lordships having concluded their
private colloquy—he came out to us in the passage, and ushered us in
again.

To me the surroundings, coupled with the irreverent and openly familiar
attitude of the chief of my colleagues, came as a shock.  I had
anticipated that the Upper House would have sat in some gilded chamber of
their own, or perhaps in one of the chapels of the Abbey.  I had imagined
myself, as the representative of the profane vulgar, sitting hidden away
in some lofty gallery.  But here I was hobnobbing with the Bishops, as it
were.  It was a sense of unsolicited intimacy that possessed me.  And
when I reflected that I was one of the very persons whose conduct was
under debate, I had the further sensation of being a spy in the camp.
Mr. Basil Cook, the chief of the staff reporting in Convocation, was
disturbed by none of these scruples, and when he noticed that a Bishop
was speaking from a written document, he went up to the venerable orator
at the conclusion of his speech, and boldly asked him for his notes.  In
one case, indeed, the intrepid man seemed to collar the ecclesiastic’s
notes by force.

Of the debate nothing remains in my memory save the speech of the Bishop
of Winchester.  Tall, gaunt, marked down even then by Death, Harold
Browne proved himself intellectually as well as physically head and
shoulders above his brethren.  His words were weighty, well chosen,
impressive.  His message was one of grave reproval.  He deplored the
introduction of the topic.  He warned Convocation of the danger of
registering its views in resolutions of the House.  Resolutions which
were foredoomed as inoperative, he argued, must stultify them as a high
deliberative assembly.  But the warnings of My Lord of Winchester fell on
deaf ears.  Their lordships were out after the Sunday amusements of the
rich.  They were not to be balked of their sport.  They passed their
resolutions.  And from that hour the rich have gone on extending the
scope and scenes of their Sunday amusements.

Of my own descriptive account of the proceedings, of course, I say
nothing.  But Sala made it the text of one of his inimitable essays.  His
comments, I remember, concluded with these words:

“It may interest these Reverend and Right Reverend Fathers in God to know
that the resolutions which they have just registered will have about as
much influence on the Sunday amusements of the rich as a similar set of
resolutions passed by the Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes.”

Very soon indeed the Church discovered that, there being no hope of
stemming the tide, their only chance was to make things easy and
agreeable for those who were borne along by it.  Accommodation for
bicycles was announced here and there by a far-seeing Vicar—temporarily
characterized as a “crank.”  And in villages down by the banks of the
Thames, Rectors began to intimate that visitors in flannels were welcome
to worship.  Sunday clubs multiplied on the banks of “Sweete Temmes.”
Sunday golf clubs were established on a thousand links.  The introduction
of the automobile has precipitated matters.  The word “rest” has had
appointed to it the only reasonable interpretation.  And the twentieth
century Anno Domini has definitely declined to be bound any longer by an
enactment forced on a nomadic and unruly crowd by a Jewish leader who
“flourished” nearly twenty centuries before Christ.

It is interesting to note that this consummation was helped forward by
the ill-advised action of a bench of Bishops.  And it is amusing to
remember that their lordships were acting on the initiative of a
man-about-town, of Hebrew extraction, who personally did not care a cent
for the observance either of the Jewish Sabbath or of the Christian
Sunday.

The Pelican Club was not a very long-lived institution.  The founder had
not taken into account the gradual nature of all processes of evolution.
He had gone too fast and too far.  There was, indeed, a growing feeling
in the public mind that the observance of Sunday as ordained was
irrational.  But the vast majority of those who confessed to that frame
of mind would contend that to watch boxing contests and listen to comic
songs in a hot and crowded arena was a still more irrational manner of
keeping the Sabbath.  The movement was toward outdoor exercise, healthy
recreation, fresh air, and the open road.

When the Pelican Club ceased, it was for a short space reincarnated as
the “Barn Club.”  The constitution, ownership, and membership, were
practically identical with those of the earlier venture.  Here, however,
the building was erected by Wells.  He was free from the demands of a
landlord, which in Denman Street had increased in exact proportion to his
own growing prosperity.  The new premises were in Gerrard Street, Soho.
And I understand that the founder made rather a profitable deal when he
disposed of the building to an electric lighting company or to a
telephone company—which was it?

The name of the Pelican Club still persists in the title of a theatrical
paper conducted by Mr. Frank Boyd.  Never before, I should imagine, was a
journalistic success achieved at so small an expenditure of either brains
or capital.  But Frank was ever a canny man; he understood the small
public for whom he catered, gave them, at small cost, what he considered
good for them, became that enviable personage the owner of a paying
newspaper property, and so continueth even unto this day.

Boyd sanctified his association with the stage by marrying Miss Agnes
Hewitt, a well-known actress who is understood to supply her husband with
his Society gossip and his latest fashions.  His original ties were
rather with the Church than with the Stage.  He was the son of Dr. A. K.
H. Boyd, of St. Andrews, author of “The Recreations of a Country
Parson”—the “Boyd that writes” of Carlyle’s famous sneer.

The passing of the Puritan sabbath has conferred benefits also on those
who are entirely out of sympathy with the new order of things, and who
still patronize the institution of public worship to the extent of
attending church or chapel twice or even thrice on Sunday.  The priests
and the pastors have awakened to the fact that if they would retain their
congregations they must give them bright, cheery services, and sermons
which, if not eloquent or convincing, shall at least be interesting and
intelligent.

Huxley flung a gibe at the “corybantic Christianity” of General Booth.
But “corybantic Christianity” has held the proletariat by substituting
one sort of excitement for another.  And the great middle classes can
only be kept in leash for a while longer by music and oratory of a kind
which, a century since, our militant Protestant forbears would surely
have regarded as, in themselves, grievous acts of Sabbath-breaking.

Sabbath-breaking, quotha!  The Sabbath set up by the dour, morose,
uncharitable religionists of my childhood has been broken into bits, nor
will all the skilled science of enthusiastic collectors ever piece it
together again.



CHAPTER VIII
ODD FISH


LONDON streets have been cleared of their professional “odd fish” owing
to the parental solicitude of the police.  The expensive operations of
the London County Council having swept away all the remnants of
Dickensland, the police have gathered up and carried away any Dickenesque
characters that survived the advent of the reforming Council.  All things
considered, our ædiles have acted wisely in the interests of Londoners.
They have gained experience and confidence.  Such early mistakes as the
architecture of Shaftesbury Avenue and Charing Cross Road will never be
repeated.  The progress of Kingsway and Aldwych prove _that_ at all
events.  If we are to lose the ancient picturesqueness, we are to have in
return spacious roadways flanked by architectural dignity.

If, however, we rejoice in the erection of palaces on sites once occupied
by rookeries, we must surely sometimes experience a pang of regret over
the disappearance of the eccentric characters of the town—the quaint
Londoners who made a living out of their eccentricities or their
afflictions.  Those of them who were not removed disappeared, no doubt,
owing to natural causes.  But no successor was admitted to have a valid
claim to the vacant place.  The streets are clear of mendicant freaks,
and even of those quaint itinerants who performed on the chance of a
public recognition of their exhibitions.  Codlin and Short no longer—as
in the _Punch_ pictures of John Leech—set up their stage in West End
squares.  The man in soiled tights who released himself from ropes coiled
and knotted by confederates in the crowd is never seen nowadays
attempting his performance in the mouth of a “no-thoroughfare.”  His
dirty fleshings would scarcely be tolerated even on a race-course.  On
second thoughts, I omit him from the odd street characters whom I miss
from the London thoroughfares.

But there should have been someone of his household to carry on the
tradition of the little cripple who used to sit on the pavement in front
of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, making weird noises on a
German concertina.  Close by, in the mouth of Suffolk Street, Pall Mall
East, a most respectable young man exhibited a “happy family” in a large
cage.  It was a most instructive lesson in natural history, and an
illustration of the power of man over cats, canaries, rats, mice, dogs,
and other specimens of what are popularly known as “the lower animals,”
and many a morning have I stood entranced as I watched a white mouse play
with the whiskers of a cat, or seen a fox-terrier invite the familiarity
of an exceedingly maleficent-looking rodent.  There was some ethical
teaching to be picked up also, for no doubt the result achieved by the
showman was entirely the effect of moral suasion.  “It is all done by
kindness,” as the showman of the circus used to say.

Then there was the old fellow who used to sweep the crossing at the top
of King Street, where it enters St. James’s Square.  He was a rubicund
customer, whose whole person seemed to reek of much good ale.  He was
dressed in the pink of the hunting-field, and wore the picturesque
hunting-cap of the shires.  He could scarcely have been a M.F.H. fallen
on evil times, and haunting the clubland of the days of his vanity.
Perhaps he was a huntsman or a whipper-in grown too fat or too bibulous
for his work.  He had certainly selected an eligible “pitch,” and must
have acquired a nice competence from the fogeys, old and middle-aged, who
used his crossing.  His attractive livery should have descended—for I
deem the original wearer long since the victim of another sort of
crossing—to an emulous son.  The world is growing too drab.  And even an
æsthetic crossing-sweeper might do somewhat to improve its colour scheme.

Do you remember the accomplished harper who made gay with his music the
old flagged courts of the City?  No one interfered with the performances
of that descendant of David.  He was permitted to make music within the
sacred precincts of the courtyard in which stands Rothschild’s famous
house in St. Swithin’s Lane.  It was to this gracious permission,
doubtless, that might be traced the rumour—repeated by the credulous sort
in the City—that this player on stringed instruments was a poor relation
of the financial princes of New Court.  Since that musician was called
away, no successor has been permitted to waken the dulcet echoes of New
Court.  Nor, indeed, are the efforts of strolling artists on sackbut or
psaltery encouraged in the obscure byways of the City, a circumstance
which is, I think, to be deplored.

Whenever I visited the City, a merchant who always fascinated me was one
who had a pitch in the opening of a passage at the eastern end of the
Poultry.  Alas! the very passage itself is built over now, and the
merchant and his wares have not become even a part of tradition.  I have
asked City men about him a score of times.  I have never yet met one who
remembers ever having seen him—ever having heard of him.  They are the
most expert forgetters in the world, are City men.  And it is perhaps as
well.  A large proportion of the day’s transactions there are best
forgotten.  The vanished merchant of the vanished passage had set up a
stand on which he exhibited miniature articles in copper.  The goods were
most exquisitely finished, and were perfect models—made to scale—of their
originals.  Culinary articles were his chief stock-in-trade—kettles,
frying-pans, Dutch ovens, dish-covers, coffee-pots, saucepans—all
beautifully executed, and the largest of them not more than three inches
in diameter.  At one time I had an entire _batterie de cuisine_ bought
from him.  He, too, should have had a successor; but possibly a successor
might have found himself flattened out by the stores.

The sleight-of-hand performer has been gently pushed off the public
highways.  Him also I regret, and offer what incense I may to his memory.
A smart-looking, precise, never-in-a-hurry young man, his expression was
invariably pensive, suspicions, contemptuous.  He carried a little round
table with a faded red cloth fixed to it, like that of a card-table,
which indeed, in a way, it was.  Ah those delightful tricks!  Cinquevalli
and Charles Bertram have since worked their miracles for my behoof, but
they have failed to arouse the same sensations which the performers of
the West End street corners raised in my ingenuous mind.

Conjurers had sharp tongues, too, and their repartee was ready and
pungent.  I was walking down Bedford Street, Strand, one forenoon with
the late Mr. J. L. Toole, the celebrated comedian.  One of these roadside
jugglers had set up his stand near the corner of Maiden Lane.  He was
performing some trick with a bottle and a piece of paper.  Toole, who was
uncommonly fond of practical joking, pushed through the little crowd,
and, simulating the manner of a person in great pain and in a great
hurry, held out twopence to the magician.

“I’ll take a pennyworth of your pills and a pennyworth of your
pain-destroyer,” he groaned.

“Thank you, Mr. Toole,” coolly observed the other, who had at once
recognized the actor, “but I make it a rule never to take money from
brother professionals.”

His little audience laughed, now discovering the identity of the
practical joker.  Toole exhibited every outward sign of delight at the
retort, tossed a florin to the victor, and whispered to me as we went
off: “That’s a dev’lish smart chap, don’t you know; but he took my money
all the same!”  I do not think, however, that he relished the incident
any too well.

Barney Barnato commenced his financial career as a peripatetic conjurer,
his beats being in the East, and not in the West End of the town.  And,
although I only knew him in the days of his prosperity, I did not find it
difficult to discover in the millionaire the traces of the ancient
calling.  And, to do Barney justice, he was not in the least ashamed of
his humble beginnings.  In this he differed considerably from certain
other South African magnates whom I have met.  Who persuaded Barney to
build the pretentious, over-ornamented palace in Park Lane I do not know,
but I feel sure it was never undertaken on his own initiative.

There was one very odd fish who perambulated the Strand in the seventies.
The cut of his clothes—which were old but well brushed—was early
Victorian.  His light-coloured hair was divided at the back most
mathematically, and a wisp of it was drawn over each ear after a fashion
set by costermongers and adopted by Lord Ranelagh.  He wore his hat
cocked over one ear, and he sported a straw-coloured moustache to match
the hair of his head.  His whole appearance was that of a dandy run to
seed.  He might have been a forgotten ghost of the Regency.  He carried a
Malacca cane with tassels, and behind him there followed a white poodle.
The man and the dog made one of the features of the Strand.  The poodle
never left his master’s heels.  Hundreds of times have I watched the pair
of them pass along the street.  The dandy seemed to know nobody, nor did
anyone ever salute him; yet he was an intimate part of the show.

There came a day when he made his promenade—alone.  And he was attired in
mourning.  Whether he had donned sables out of respect for the memory of
his canine friend I cannot say, but the dog was dead and the man was in
mourning.  Shortly after this the buck of the Regency himself
disappeared.  Then inquiries were made.  The dandy was dead.  He had
lodged in Westminster.  He was a half-pay Major, and, except that he
dressed oddly and clipped and groomed his poodle with his own hands, he
appears to have had few eccentricities.  His landlady wept as she spoke
of him.  “My dear gentleman” she called him, and she had a hundred and
one stories to relate of his kindly disposition, his practical
benevolence, and his racial pride.  He was a Scotsman.

Of the same period as that of the Scots Major was Kitty, the old Irish
flower-seller.  Kitty was about seventy years old when I first made her
acquaintance.  She perambulated the north side of the Strand, her beat
being bounded by the old Gaiety Theatre on the east, and by the Adelphi
on the west.  She was a “character.”  She knew nearly all her customers
by name, though how she acquired the information the Lord only knows.
“Witty Kitty” she was called, and not without good reason.  I was
standing one day on the step of the _Globe_ office, talking to Henri Van
Laun, the friend and translator of Taine.  Kitty came up to us with her
basket of sweet-smelling wares.  Van Laun, who hated an interruption
while in the act of unwinding one of his interminable yarns, motioned her
away with a cross word and an angry gesture.  Van Laun was a Jew who had
the national characteristics very severely marked in nose and lips and
complexion.  Kitty did not at once accept her dismissal.

“Ah, buy one for the love o’ God!” she persisted.

Van Laun turned on her.  He was professedly an agnostic, and fond of
airing the fact.

“No, no!  Who is zis Almighty zat I should buy for love of him?  Hey?” he
queried fiercely.

“Och, sir,” said Kitty, in sad, reproachful accents, “an’ is it
pretendin’ not to know Him you are—an’ you wan of His _chosen_ people!”

The calculated accent on the “chosen” was delightful.  From that day Van
Laun became one of “Witty Kitty’s” most profitable customers.

Human freaks are now steadily discouraged by the police.  But in an
earlier time men and women were permitted to parade their afflictions or
deformities in the London thoroughfares.  There was a horrible cripple
who used to propel himself about Trafalgar Square and its vicinity.
Apparently his motive power was confined to his arms.  His progress along
the side-paths was like that of a seal.  He was attired in a white
nautical suit; he had big round eyes which he rolled about in the most
curious way.  Women were much frightened on beholding him for the first
time, and I suspect him of having been an arrant impostor.  Then there
was the old lady who perambulated Whitehall, the top of her head pointing
to the pavement.  She was bent literally double.  I once saw Mr.
Gladstone (I mean, of course, the eminent man of that name) stop and
address her and give her a coin.  The Grand Old Man had a great taste for
curios and antiquities.  The one-armed sailor—he carries the other down
his side—and the one-legged mill hand have been relegated to the suburbs,
and even there they have become discredited, I think.  And as to the
miserable wretches who used to exhibit their sores and open wounds, a
public that liberally supports hospitals won’t tolerate any more of that
sort around.

But while I have been recalling a few of the odd fish who frequented the
thoroughfares in the quarters of the town most affected by gentlemen of
the Press, I have been somehow conscious all the time that, however
interesting the recollections may be, they are scarcely of the particular
type of odd fish which I set out to describe.  My intention was—and is—to
recall some of the eccentric persons on the Press, or those eccentrics
with whom the Press brought me into contact.  To that task I now address
myself.

One of the queerest fish of my time was Mr. William Henry Bingham-Cox.
He was a tall, swarthy man—swarthy, indeed, is euphemistic, for the man
was as copper-coloured as a Hindu.  He had big lips and a head of curly
black hair.  The tar-brush had at some time played an important place in
his evolution.  He had at one stage of his career been a clerk in the
Bank of England.  On inheriting a certain legacy, he threw up his
appointment in Threadneedle Street, and bought a paper—then in very low
water—entitled _The Licensed Victuallers’ Gazette_.  He seemed from the
first to be able to interest “the trade,” and greatly increased the
advertising income of his purchase.  It was not, however, until he
conceived the happy idea of publishing bright and cleverly-written
accounts of old prize-fights that the _Gazette_ began to feel its feet
and to make big strides in the favour of the public.

Although Bingham-Cox was believed by many of his contemporaries to be as
mad as Bedlam, there was a certain method in his madness.  He had the
_savvee_ to see that the new edition of the old fights must be of some
literary excellence, that the stories must be retold with a graphic force
and without a nauseating repetition of the worn-out _clichés_ which,
strangely enough, gave relish to the original accounts when, years
before, they appeared in the columns of _Bell’s Life_.  His first
selection was a fortunate one.  Sydney French was the chosen historian of
the “fancy.”  He approached the subject with an open mind, for he had
never seen a fight and knew nothing of the prize-ring.  But he was an
all-round journalist, and could produce a readable column of copy on
almost any given topic within the hour.  “The Dean could write well about
a broomstick!” exclaimed Stella.  That was the sort of journalist French
was.  He could write well—that is to say, in an interesting way—about a
broomstick.  He was not always what you might call _on_ his subject.  But
he was always somewhere round about it.  And he was never dull.  He kept
on at the fights until his death.  French was on the staff of the
_Dispatch_, and found the Cox engagement a very nice addition to his
income.  The honorarium for the fight article ranged from seven to ten
guineas a week.

When French died, Bingham-Cox was in despair.  Many men had a “try” at
the game.  But it was not as easy as it looked.  Man after man was found
wanting.  Among others who took a hand at the task was Mr. T. P.
O’Connor, now M.P. for the Scotland Division of Liverpool.  “Tay Pay” has
a fine roving style of his own, but was apparently unequal to the Homeric
strain essential in the epic of the Ring.  Willmott Dixon was sent for,
and for many years he was not only the writer of the prize-fights, but
editor of the paper.  French was bad to beat, but Dixon beat him, and
beat him easily.  Dixon had a knowledge of the Ring; he could “put up his
dukes” himself, thoroughly enjoyed “a bit of a scrap,” and his Cambridge
experiences stood him in good stead.  His memory, too, was rarely at
fault.  I never met a journalist so independent of books of reference.

Bingham-Cox was a great theatre-goer.  His widowed sister kept house for
him over the offices of the paper in Southampton Street, Strand.  She
usually accompanied her brother on these outings, and, though his paper
had no recognized position in the theatrical world, “William Henry” used
to besiege the acting-managers for stalls and boxes.  When he succeeded
in capturing a couple of free seats he was as pleased as Punch, although
they usually cost him three or four times their market price, for he
invariably indicated his appreciation of the manager’s civility by
sending him a box of cigars.  As the cigars were generally “Flor de Cuba”
or “Cabañas” of a famous crop, one may imagine that acting-managers were
not unwilling to oblige him if they could.  The strange man did not smoke
himself, and was horrified if anyone came smoking into his office.

Occasionally he contributed to his own columns.  His contributions were
usually of a more or less libellous nature.  He called me in on one
occasion to advise about the opening paragraph of a short dramatic notice
which he had written.  The thing was in proof.  It dealt with a play by
Sims and Buchanan called “The English Rose.”  From the tone of the essay
I inferred that the eccentric proprietor had been unsuccessful in getting
free stalls at the Adelphi, where the play had been produced.  The
paragraph about which he seemed particularly anxious was the opening one.
It ran in this way:

“This is the most extraordinary production we have ever been invited to
witness.  It is an Irish melodrama.  It is entitled ‘The English Rose.’
It is written by a Scotsman and a Jew, and it has been put on the stage
by two gentlemen of Swiss nationality.”

“What do you think of it?” he exclaimed, grinning and showing his
gleaming white teeth.

“I think you are wrong about your facts.”

He glared at me, exposed his teeth more than ever, stuck his thumbs in
the armholes of his waistcoat, and asked:

“What! what!  Wrong in my facts!  Nonsense, my friend, nonsense!”

“In the most material statement you are wrong,” I persisted; “for
Buchanan is not a Scotsman, and Sims is not a Jew.”

“Ah,” he cried, grinning more fiercely, “then it’s not a libel!”

“That’s as may be,” said I; “for to my mind the law of libel resolves
itself into this: Whether twelve men on their oaths consider that the
words published by A have injured B.”

He went to his desk, initialled the galley, rang the bell, and handed the
slip to the man answering the summons, with the intimation: “For the
printer.”  Then, turning to me, he said defiantly: “I’ll let it go.”

Whether it ever _did_ go I never inquired.  The reminiscence comes back
to me unbidden.  It had clean vanished from my memory from that day to
this.

He was constantly—but, as I believe, quite unconsciously—giving offence
to all sorts and conditions of men.  His black beard, curly hair,
gleaming teeth, and fierce grin, obtained for him an offensive sobriquet
thus bestowed: One of his contributors sent him a letter resigning his
position on the staff.  He alleged but one reason for this course.  It
was: “I can no longer put up with the antics of a Barbary ape.”  The
eccentric recipient of the letter, instead of putting it into the fire
and forgetting all about it, assembled the members of the staff, and read
the document as though it proved the hopeless insanity of the writer.
Having read it, he ran round the room, pretending to scratch his arms
after the manner of a caged monkey, uttering the most comical squeals and
chattering his teeth no end.

He was drawn over the incident by Pottinger Stephens, who was running a
weekly called _The Topical Times_.  In that smart little journal a
question was asked the following week in these words: “When did Mr.
Bingham-Cox receive the degree of B.A.?”  The unfortunate man did not see
what lay under the inquiry.  He wrote a letter on the note-paper of the
Junior Athenæum—the “Junior Prigs,” as it used to be called—explaining
that he had dispensed with the advantages of a University training, and
that he was not a B.A.  The letter appeared in Pot’s paper in due course;
but with this heading: “_Mr. Bingham-Cox denies that he is a B.A._”  The
person of the newspaper proprietor was less sacrosanct in the jocund days
than in these greyer times.

Bingham-Cox was a collector in his way.  He was very keen on engravings,
and was by no means a bad judge.  He started on his hobby long before the
“engraving craze” set in, and his collection became worth four or five
times the price he gave for it.  The first-floor above the office was
full of his samples from floor to ceiling.  One day when I was looking
over the gallery in his company, he invited me to select a couple of the
engravings.  I chose two—by no means the least valuable in the
collection—and was about to ask when I might send for them, when he
whipped out a notebook, and saying, “I’ll leave them to you in my will,”
made an elaborate pretence of recording the incident.  He was a collector
of musical instruments, and had a piano or an American organ on every
landing in the house.  The most intolerable trials to which he subjected
his friends were his recitals on one or other of these instruments.  As
he crashed out his Masses and fugues he rolled his head, showed his
teeth, and grinned awfully, as though he thoroughly enjoyed witnessing
the torture he inflicted.

The end of his story is a mingling of tragedy and comedy.  He sold his
paper.  During the years in which he had conducted it he always “lived
over the shop.”  He could never have spent a fourth part of his net
profits, and the balance had been well and luckily invested.  When he
received the purchase money for the _Gazette_ and left Southampton
Street, he was worth considerably over £100,000.  When he crossed the
threshold of his old offices his astuteness and his luck seem to have
deserted him.  He bought a brewery in St. Albans, where he had a house.
From the first this venture was foredoomed to failure.  He became the
prospective Unionist candidate for the division.  But Captain Middleton
and the Central Office would have nothing to do with him, and ran a
candidate of their own against him.  Bingham-Cox persisted, and actually
went to the poll.  At this period I became more intimately associated
with the eccentric man.  I made some speeches for him, and even canvassed
the independent electors.  More than once during the campaign I thought
it my duty to inform him that his methods, should he be elected, must
insure his being unseated on petition.  He only bared his teeth at the
suggestion.  He was quite sure of winning, and he was equally sure that
there would be no petition.

One of my trials in accompanying him was being obliged to drive about
with him in a little village cart, painted a vivid green, and drawn by a
big black donkey.  The candidate, with his swarthy face, grizzly beard,
and fierce expression, might have been the _avant-courier_ of some
travelling show.  The little villagers evidently accepted him as
something of the sort, and accompanied the strange vehicle and its
grinning occupant in and out of their hamlets with joyful “whoops.”  He
was badly beaten at the polls.  I don’t believe that even the well-bribed
employés in the brewery voted for him.  Then the brewery itself went
smash, and Bingham-Cox returned to Southampton Street (the new owners of
the paper having found less expensive premises), and recommenced life as
a newspaper proprietor.

His new paper was called _The Rocket_.  His idea was to give the public a
_Truth_ for a penny.  The title was an ill-omened one.  The paper went up
like the explosive after which it was named, and came down like the
stick.  He sent for Clement Scott, and instructed him to write an article
dealing abusively with stage-players.  Clemmy agreed provided his name
was kept a profound secret.  Bingham-Cox promised.  The worthy man had
probably suffered from some further slight at the hands of the managers.
“Cut ’em up!  Slash ’em!  Flay ’em alive!” he exclaimed to the
accommodating contributor.  Scott, secure in his anonymity, proceeded to
cut up, slash, and flay, the unfortunate mummers in a strain of pious
indignation that was peculiarly his own.  The article duly appeared with
Clement Scott’s name in large letters both at the top and bottom of it.
Scott never really got over the incident, and his reproaches had no
effect on his employer.  “Breach of faith indeed!  Why, you have broken
faith with a whole profession!” was the only satisfaction he could get
from his betrayer.

The _Rocket_ was a failure from the first.  It stopped for want of funds.
For the unfortunate man had been drained dry.  Even the engravings and
the musical instruments had gone.  In a few short years his fortune had
melted.  He was overdrawn at the bank; he had not a cent in the world.
One morning the word went round that he had been found dead in bed, and
there was no inquest.

Arthur T. Pask was a name with which the public became acquainted in the
eighties.  He wrote in Christmas numbers, annuals, and story magazines.
He had established relations with the _Standard_, and used to write
“turn-overs” for that journal.  His copy always appeared to me to be
devoid of merit, but personally he was a most interesting man.  He was
engaged in the Affidavit Department of the Royal Courts of Justice.  One
would have imagined that in that office he would come across plenty of
material for his fictions.  He preferred, however, to evolve these from
his inner consciousness, and to this end he appeared to live in a set of
circumstances of his own invention.  At one time he became subject to the
hallucination that he kept a yacht.  He appeared in Fleet Street one day
in the most weird sort of nautical rig.  With his yachting cap, white
shoes, and reefer jacket with brass buttons, he had the appearance of the
steward of a penny steamer.  He breathed a sea-air.  His conversation was
of the “Royal Squadron”; his similes were drawn from out the vasty deep.
He had acquired something of the roll of the mariner, and his
acquaintances humoured him in his delusion, and, if they laughed, Arthur
himself also was perfectly happy.  One of his nautical impromptus uttered
by him during this phase has remained with me.  We began discussing a
comet then due in the heavens, and were talking the customary foolishness
about the chances of that heavenly body striking the earth.  Pask was
equal to the occasion and ready with an expedient.  “By Jove!” he
exclaimed breezily, “we must throw out cork-fenders over our lee bow!”

A remarkable figure in those Fleet Street days was that of a man who was
known by two nicknames, and whose real name appeared to have been quite
forgotten.  He was tall and thin, had a broken nose, a small stubbly
moustache, and had acquired the peculiarly disagreeable habit of
addressing every person with whom he had business as “Cocky.”  This
curious person had originally been a baker in Fetter Lane.  But while his
hands were busy in the bakehouse, his heart was in the race-course, and
when his batch of bread was out of the oven and in the baskets of the
distributors, the honest tradesman was off to the terminus to catch a
train to Newmarket or Doncaster or Epsom.  He became as well known on the
race-course as Steele or the Duke of Westminster or John Porter.  And the
nickname bestowed on him—it originated in the Ring, no doubt—was “the
Flying Baker.”  There could, of course, be but one end to a sporting
career of the kind.  As Dick Dunn once said to him, not unkindly, “You
should be bakin’ ’em, not backin’ ’em!”  But no backer ever takes that
sort of advice; he has so much faith in his own good luck, coupled with
his sound knowledge of a handicap, that he keeps on to the end—the
invariably bitter end.  The “Flying Baker” had hoped to break the Ring,
but the Ring broke the “Flying Baker.”  The hungry creditors refused to
be satisfied by bread alone.  The unfortunate victim went through the
Court, and Fleet Street and Fetter Lane knew him no more—for a time.

After a space of years he reappeared in his old haunts.  He had obtained
a post on one of the sporting papers.  Whether he was on the editorial
staff, or in the publishing department, or a mere messenger, I do not
know.  He came round to chambers with a note for me one day.

“I want an answer to this, Cocky,” he observed.

“You’re a bit familiar, don’t you think?” I ventured to remark.

“What say, Cocky?” he inquired, with the most innocent air in the world.

I considered it unadvisable to pursue the conversation.  I wrote my reply
to the note he had delivered, and handed it to him without a word.

“Well, so long, Cocky!” he said as he shambled off.

In this reincarnation of his he was known in Fleet Street as “Newman
Noggs.”  His real name need not be recorded here, as it is borne to-day
by a son who has risen to considerable eminence in one of the artistic
professions.



CHAPTER IX
MORE ODD FISH


MY odd fish should have been disposed of in a single chapter, but one has
lingered over the memory of them.  After all, they contributed the comic
element—or some of it—to many hours that lapsed in laughter.  And shall
one not be grateful to them or to their memories?

A considerable proportion of my Press work had to do with the theatres.
I was acquainted with most of the actors and managers of my time, and
some of the oddest fish that ever swam into my ken were connected with
the “profession.”

There was, for instance.  William Duck—manager, theatre-owner,
impresario.  Duck commenced life in some very humble capacity in the West
of England.  By a practice of punctuality, civility, a strict attention
to business, and the other virtues which are supposed to furnish forth
the complete British tradesman, he became a music-seller and purveyor of
musical instruments.  In this capacity he evolved, by easy stages, into a
booker of theatre seats.  And although Duck would not know a good play
from a bad one, he saw in the theatre an easy way to fortune.  He felt
his feet by dabbling a little as “sharer” in likely ventures.  But he
found himself, and, incidentally, founded his fortune, when, acting
alone, he purchased the country rights of “Our Boys.”

How much Duck netted out of that most diverting comedy I cannot say; but
I know that it was a prodigious sum.  When first the money came tumbling
in, the happy man built him a lordly pleasure-house.  In his new mansion
there were prominent two works of art: a statue of William Shakespeare
and a life-size portrait of Henry Byron.  But, of the two, Duck always
considered the author of “Our Boys” to be the greater genius.  He thought
no end of the writer of the play that brought him his first really big
returns.  I met him, in deep mourning, a short time after Byron’s death.

“Ah, sir,” he said, shaking his head, “we’ll never see another man like
him—not in _our_ time.”

And Byron took every advantage of his admirer’s infatuation.  Anything
that Byron brought him in the shape of a play Duck bought.  When Duck
followed his idol to the Elysian Fields, his executors came upon a whole
press full of Byron manuscripts which were little more than “dummies.”
Byron had parted with his birthright for a mess of pottage, and
considered that he was justified in thus getting back a bit of his own.

Becoming interested in productions running at one or two of the West End
houses, Duck was now frequently to be met “in front,” and became known to
members of the Press.  He was an exceedingly common-looking man, and one
of his eyes always oozed moisture, which caused him to raise his
handkerchief to his face while he conversed—a habit which acquaintances
at first found a little disconcerting.  He was extremely ignorant—or, to
speak by the cards, extremely uneducated—and he never employed an
aspirate except when it was absolutely unnecessary.  Which reminds me of
a story.

When “Our Boys” was being played for the first time at Plymouth, Duck
recollected having heard Byron say that he had never visited that town;
so he wired to his favourite author to come down as his guest.  Byron
wired his acceptance.  He probably had a new bundle of manuscript to pass
on to his patron.  Duck was at the station to meet the traveller with a
programme for the afternoon’s enjoyment.  He was anxious, above all
things, that Byron should see Plymouth’s famous Hoe.  So, when they had
exchanged the customary civilities, Duck explained:

“I’m agoin’ to take you round to see the sights; an’ fust of all I think
we’d better take a little stroll round the ’O!”

“Don’t you think,” asked Byron, fixing him through his monocle, “that
first of all we’d better take a little stroll round the H?”

Duck looked amazed at his guest.  He had not the remotest idea of the
point of Byron’s joke.  He felt, in his confused way, that “’Enery Byron
was gittin’ at ’im.”  He smiled feebly, shook his head in modest
deprecation, and answered:

“’Ar, you _will_ ’ave your little joke, sir; but it ain’t the haitch
after all, it’s the ’O we’re agoin’ to see—the ’O.”

“O!” was Byron’s monosyllabic comment.

William Duck had in his company as “leading man” a capital actor named
Edward George.  Much of the success of “Our Boys” in the provinces was
due to the admirable impersonation of Perkyn Middlewick by that excellent
comedian.  While on tour, and playing in one of the large towns in the
North, an admirer of George presented him with a cameo pin, having the
likeness of Lord Byron carved on it.  Duck, who noticed everything, and
who had twice as much curiosity as an old woman, seeing the pin in the
scarf of the comedian, immediately said:

“Pretty pin, Mr. George!  ’Ad it giv’ to you?”

“It’s a present,” admitted the actor.

“Anybody’s portrait?  Hey, Mr. George?”

“Yes.  It’s a portrait of Byron,” was the reply.

Duck started, came nearer to George, held his face close to the cameo,
and then fell back laughing consumedly.  When he had succeeded in
controlling his merriment, he exclaimed:

“You’ve bin took in, my dear feller: _’tain’t a bit like ’im_!”

William Duck, you see, knew of only one Byron.  And that was “H. J.”

When Byron’s play had run under Duck’s management for five hundred nights
in the provinces, the grateful manager thought that he would like to
celebrate the event, and testify to his appreciation of the efforts put
forth by the members of his company.  It was, if I remember aright, in
Liverpool that the play achieved its five hundredth night.  Duck’s idea
was to give a supper at his hotel.  “Comes cheaper ’n a lunching,” one
hears him say.  He also determined—it must have cost him a pang, for
William was mean, and that’s the truth—to give a little present to each
member of the cast.  He purchased some cheap bangles for the ladies, and
a “charm” of more or less precious metal for the watch-guards of each of
the gentlemen.

The memorable night arrived.  Duck took the chair, presiding with rustic
geniality over the pleased, and indeed surprised, comedians.  Supper at
an end, Duck hammered for silence, and rose, amid cheers, to make the
speech of the evening.  He told the devoted band of players what a lot he
thought of them, how their efforts had helped the success of the comedy,
and, in a word, how tremendously pleased he was with affairs generally.
He concluded his address in the following peroration:

“But, ladies and gentlemen, them’s mere words.  I wished to present
everyone ’ere a solid token of my feelin’s, so I ’ave determined to give
each member of my company a little momentum of the occasion. . . .
Waiter!” he called out to the smiling attendant, “bring in them
momentums!”

H. J. Byron, in pre-Duckian days, added to the joys of the town by
inventing “malaprops,” which he used to put into the mouth of poor Mrs.
Swanborough, of the Strand Theatre.  But the advent of Duck put an end to
that branch of industry as far as Byron was concerned.  Duck found his
own “malaprops,” and in their presence the pale contrivances of the wit
were “As moonlight is to sunlight or as water is to wine.”

By the way, I would like to say here, in justice to an amiable lady long
since dead, that Mrs. Swanborough was not at all the sort of person that
the Byron anecdotes make her out to be.  I was for years acquainted with
her, and I never knew her to be guilty of such solecisms as the “H. J.”
series put to her account.

The banquet and the presentation of “momentums” exhausted Duck’s
capabilities in the direction of hospitality and largesse; for he was
penurious above all things, and desperately thrifty.  In the drawing-room
scene in “Our Boys,” the stage directions provide for a chandelier in the
centre of the ceiling.  In the London production this was ablaze every
night with wax candles.  The first night on tour, the property-master had
provided candles on the original scale.  Duck nearly had a fit when he
saw the illumination.  He summoned the property-man to his office,
and—_both_ eyes now shedding tears—he ordered that in future the candles
be reduced in number by one half, and those that were used to be cut in
four pieces.  The expression of the property-man was one of mingled
distress and contempt.  Observing which, Duck, wiping his eyes, observed
with a smile:

“The shorter they har, the longer they’ll last.  See?  Hey?”  I suspect
he saw, for he spat on the carpet; and made his exit without a word.

I remember another London manager who was before Duck’s time, and who
possessed some of his peculiarities.  This was Giovanelli, who engaged in
theatrical and other entertainments in the east and north of the town.
How this extraordinary individual came by the name Giovanelli I never
knew.  He was a Cockney Jew, with all the engaging characteristics of
that delightful hybrid.  His friends called him “Jo” for short.  He had
seen the world, had Giovanelli.  Among other places which he had visited
was Australia.  It was on returning from that colony, I think, he adopted
the rolling Italian name which he bore in after-life.  What name he went
out in is one of those interesting facts lost to the annals of the stage.

Besides running a theatre in the East End, the versatile “Jo” acted as a
low comedian.  He did not, however, quite fancy himself in the dual role
of actor-manager, and neither, indeed, did the public.  Therefore he
always engaged a low comedian in his company to supplement his own
efforts in that line.  Indeed, the low comedian was the most important
member of East End companies, the “comic relief” in melodrama being
greatly to the taste of the untutored patrons.  “Jo” once engaged an
actor who seemed to go all right at rehearsal, but who on the first night
excited the sibilation of “the bird.”  At the end of the performance
Giovanelli sent for him.  He handed him some golden coins.

“That’s your week’s salary, my boy.  You needn’t come again.”

“I demand your reason for this summary dismissal,” said the chagrined
performer, standing greatly on his dignity.

“Well,” said Giovanelli, shrugging his shoulders, “if you _will_ ’ave
it—it’s because you’re a dam bad low comedian.”

“And what price _you_ as a comedian?” exclaimed the other.

“I know, I know, my boy,” replied Giovanelli, in his oily, deprecating
way; “but, you see, the public won’t stand _two_ dam bad low comedians.”

Some time since I saw in the Death advertisements of the _Times_ an
announcement of the decease of Mr. Richard Barnard.  “Dick” Barnard was
one of the most impenetrable mysteries of the Strand.  He was always well
dressed; he posed as a racing man, as a journalist, as a _flâneur_.  He
managed to procure first-night invitations to all the important premiers.
He had scraped an acquaintance with some of the best-known men on the
turf, and was hand-in-glove with theatrical managers.  The major portion
of his time was spent in Romano’s bar.  But, for all his pose, Barnard
never owned a race-horse, never was a journalist, never had the slightest
interest in the stage.  His success was founded on a well-groomed person,
a supercilious manner, the judicious communication of any good racing
information that came his way, and—indomitable cheek.  For Dick was an
adventurer pure and simple, having abandoned the career of
billiard-marker in Birmingham for the greater possibilities of the
Metropolis.

Like most of his kidney, his life was a series of financial “ups and
downs.”  Sometimes he was full of money; as often he was stony-broke.  It
was during one of these latter periods that he was sitting in “the
Roman’s” lonely and disconsolate.  To him entered, like a ray of
sunshine, a man-about-town in his little way, a votary of the drama, and
an habitué of Romano’s.  He was one of those, also, who took Dick Barnard
seriously, supposing him to be a person of great influence on the Turf,
the Stage, and in Society.

Dick brightened up at the advent of his friend, but, of course, he did
not evince any particular elation.  His satisfaction was naturally
enhanced when the young man from the country invited him to lunch.

Barnard accepted in the manner of a man who was conferring a favour.
They went into the narrow dining-saloon behind the bar—that was the only
_salle à manger_ Romano boasted in his halcyon days—and ordered luncheon
for two from Otto the waiter.  During lunch Barnard related such items of
news as he thought would interest.  And in return for these bits of
scandal his friend told him that he had just been down in the Boro’
selling his father’s crop of hops, and that he was carrying home the
spoils in his note-case—spoils amounting to several hundred pounds.  To a
man who had not fingered a banknote for a month of Sundays this was news
indeed.

They did themselves fairly well—as well as a bill of fifteen shillings
will allow two lunchers to do themselves at “the Roman’s.”  When coffee
had been served, and the lofty-minded Otto had gone to take orders from
another customer, the young gentleman leaned across the table, and
whispered to Barnard:

“I’ll pass you a tenner under the table; please pay the bill and give me
the change outside.”

“Certainly, sonny,” said Dick; “but may I ask the reason of all this
mystery?”

“The fact is, I’ve no smaller change, and I owe Otto a bit,” was the
answer.

“Oh!” said Dick sympathetically.

The tenner was duly passed under the table.  The young man lit a
cigarette and left the room, passing out into the “roaring Strand.”  He
waited for a quarter of an hour cooling his heels on the pavement, when
he was rejoined by his friend.

“Your change, old chap,” said Dick sweetly, as he handed the youth five
shillings.

“But, my dear fellow, that was a ten-pun note I gave you,” he said.

“I know,” replied Dick.  “But, you see, _I owed Otto a bit too_.”

How the ingenuous youth explained matters to his father, I have never
heard.

In 1871 I first made the acquaintance of E. J. Odell, the actor.  He then
seemed to be a man well advanced in middle age.  He is still alive—one of
the features and mysteries of the Strand.  He is the last of the
Bohemians—the survival of days (to quote Eccles) “as is gone most like
forever.”  He has contrived to make a lasting reputation as an actor.
His impersonations were usually in burlesque or opera-bouffe.  I can
personally recall two of his Metropolitan engagements.  One of these was
in a burlesque at the Gaiety.  But he failed there to justify the high
expectations of the management.  Even at rehearsal there were
difficulties.  Bob Soutar was stage-manager, and, being a bit of a
martinet, he and Odell did not quite “hit it.”

Odell played on tour as Gaspard the miser in “Les Cloches de Corneville,”
and I believe acquitted himself very creditably, which is no small thing
to say of any performer following Shiel Barry in the same part.  For
Barry’s performance was one of the finest bits of acting seen on the
London stage in my time.  On the first night of Shiel Barry’s appearance
in the part, I first understood the meaning of the phrase (Edmund Kean’s,
is it not?), “The Pit rose at me.”  When the curtain fell on the second
act of “Les Cloches,” moved by the intensity of Shiel Barry’s acting in
the final scene of the act, the audience rose to their feet in all parts
of the house.  It was an outburst of genuine enthusiasm which called the
performer before the curtain again and again.  Lord Kilmorey—at that time
Lord Newry—was sitting next to me in the stalls.  He does not strike one
as being a very emotional sort of nobleman; but he was carried away like
the rest of us by a wave of pulsating fervour which was quite
irresistible.

But to return to Odell.  If that gentleman has not achieved a long record
of successes _on_ the stage, he has certainly made a great reputation
_off_ it.  My friend Hollingshead was right when he described Odell as a
monologue entertainer.  His entertainments, to be successful, must,
however, be of a private or semi-private nature.  Certain of his ballads
are conceived more or less on the lines of Sala’s “Bet Belmanor.”  One of
them was a weird thing commencing:

    “Oh! was it in the garding,
    Or was it in the ’all?”

He had an unctuous manner of rendering this gem which was quite his own—a
manner unique and of humour all compact.

There can be little doubt that Odell deliberately adopted the pose of an
eccentric.  He enjoyed the surprise and interest occasioned by his
appearance when he promenaded the Strand.  He had a thin, clean-shaven
face which would have been ascetic were it not for a perennial smile.  He
wore his hair long; rolling down on his shoulders, it fell in a brown
cascade.  Above was a wide black sombrero tilted rakishly on one side.
His coat—worn summer and winter—was an ulster cut very wide in the skirt.
He walked with a curious swaying gait which caused the ulster to undulate
its skirts from side to side.  If his object were to attract public
attention to his person, he most undoubtedly succeeded.  Country cousins
encountering the strange figure were sure to spot him as a celebrity of
some sort, and inquire as to his identity.  Every gamin, in that
thoroughfare of gamins, was ready with the answer:

“’Im?  W’y, that’s Odell, the hactor!”

Odell has a very pretty wit of his own, and there is no member of the
Savage Club—of which he is one of the oldest members—who can hope to get
the better of him in repartee.  I remember hearing him sit very severely
on a pompous member of the old Lancaster Club, in the Savoy.  Odell
happened to invite one or two of his friends to drink with him.  The rude
and pompous person approached the group, and Odell, on hospitality
intent, invited him to have a drink.

“Thanks,” replied the would-be wit, “I only drink with gentlemen.”

“Then, sir,” flashed out Odell, without a moment’s hesitation, “let me
assure you that _you will never die of delirium tremens_!”

Odell’s age has always been as profound a mystery as his place of
residence.  Much time and ingenuity have been expended by his associates
in the endeavour to unravel these mysteries.  As the place of his birth
has never been divulged, there is an insuperable difficulty in obtaining
information under the first head; while as to the second, he has never
been known to leave his club until all the other members have departed.
Of all London, Odell holds the record of “latest to bed.”  The genial
Bohemian has in his old age been very well treated by his clubs—more
particularly by the Savage.  But what the Savage Club would be without
Odell one cannot imagine.  The chief of the Bohemian clubs cannot afford
to lose the chief of the Bohemians.

Your average pressman, with an observing eye and an open mind, is bound
to knock up against a greater number of charlatans than the member of any
other profession.  For publicity is to the charlatan the breath of his
nostrils, and the Press is the most potent engine in procuring publicity
of which the charlatan has any knowledge.  And it will be borne in mind
that your properly-constituted charlatan does not at all care what
description of publicity he attains so long as the quantity is all right.

                 “Better be damned than mentioned not at all”

is his motto.  Notoriety rather than celebrity is his aim.

Taking this as the measure of his aims, I conceive that the Marquis De
Leuville was the greatest charlatan that loomed through all the jocund
years.  To begin with, he was no more a Marquis than I am; and, to
complete the absurdity of his pretensions, although he bore a
high-sounding French title, he was not a Frenchman.  But he had every
possible claim to the title of “odd fish.”  He was an Englishman.  His
name was Oliver, and the place of his nativity was the city of Bath.
Various accounts have been circulated concerning his early life.  Some of
these legends declared him to have been a hairdresser’s assistant;
others, that he had commenced as page-boy to a Bath doctor.  About these
matters he himself was persistently reticent.  The literary world first
heard of his existence by means of a novel in three volumes—at that time
the simple and inexpensive method of publishing a couple of shilling’s
worth of fiction.  I forget the title of the book, I never read it; but I
discovered some time after its appearance that, although the title-page
described it as “by the Marquis De Leuville,” it was the work of one of
those literary “ghosts” of whose labours, all through his artistic
career, the “Marky,” as he was called, liberally availed himself.

The “Marky’s” novel was reviewed in the daily and weekly Press.  In many
quarters it was even favourably reviewed.  For there are snobs in Fleet
Street, as there are everywhere else, and there were certain
book-reviewers who would consider it bad form to say anything that was
not quite civil about the productions of a Marquis, even though the title
he bore was only a French one.  The appearance, and newspaper acceptance,
of the book established those friendly relations with the Press
concerning which our friend Oliver had been so solicitous.  Having once
established his footing in Fleet Street, the “Marky” was most assiduous
in his attention to those individuals with whom his work had found
favour.  By them he was introduced to others.  And so he extended his
connection like a good commercial traveller.  It was rather unfortunate
for the adventurer that, at the moment of his advent as a writer, Mr.
Henry Labouchere had just commenced, in _Truth_, that crusade against
impostors, charlatans, and social parasites generally, which at once made
his paper and protected the public—one of those rare occasions by which
public benefactors have made anything out of their labours.  In the most
matter-of-fact way Labouchere laid bare the pretensions of the mock
Marquis, and left him without a rag of reputation to his back.

Little incidents of the kind are always allowed for in the calculations
of an adventurer.  The Marquis De Leuville, following the example of “ole
Brer Fox” in the allegory, determined to “lay low an’ say nuffin.”  When
the Labouchere disclosures were forgotten, the scandal blown over, and
the sportsmen of Carteret Street busy on the trail of some other quarry,
the Marquis-who-was-not-a-Marquis and author-who-was-not-an-author made
his reappearance.  Invitations to garden-parties at the Priory, Kilburn,
issued by a Mrs. Peters, descended like a shower of snow on newspaper
offices.  And those who accepted them were received at the Priory by a
very affable, not to say merry, widow, who had very sensibly discarded
the trappings and the suits of woe.  This was Mrs. Peters, the owner of
the house and grounds.  And in these pleasant surroundings we found the
Marquis installed.  The game was a very pretty one.  Mrs. Peters was the
widow of a wealthy coach-builder.  And in the chaste fastnesses of
Kilburn she had thought to establish a _salon_.  Here she would play the
part of Madame Récamier to the Chateaubriand of a Bath Oliver!

Quick to read between the lines, the journalists who had been induced to
accept an invitation to the Priory were able now to piece together the
whole story.  The giddy relict of the deceased coach-builder was the
founder of the “Marky’s” fortunes.  Her cheque had paid for the French
marquisate.  The Marquis De Leuville was, indeed, a work of fiction
conceived, constructed, and given to the public, by Mrs. Peters.  And it
was a work of fiction transcending in human interest anything in the same
line which could be produced by Oliver or his “ghosts.”  The _salon_ at
Kilburn failed to fulfil the hopes of its promoters; Society—even society
with a little “s”—fought shy of it.  It was felt that Mrs. Peters as
Madame Récamier and her protégé as Chateaubriand did less than justice to
their several parts.

A suite of rooms was then taken for the Marquis in Victoria Street,
Westminster, somewhere opposite the Army and Navy Stores.  Here the
indomitable humbug gave receptions, issuing the invitations in his own
name.  At these receptions one met the most weird characters—the shy
denizens of the fringe of Bohemia, ostracized clerics, unread authors,
swashbucklers of doubtful nationality, but about whose character there
could be no sort of doubt whatever.

Mr. Harry De Windt, in his interesting book of reminiscence, gives an
anecdote concerning the Marquis and his Victoria Street receptions,
which, if worth telling at all, was worth telling correctly.  I now
relate the incident as it was repeated to me by Mr. Charles Collette, the
well-known actor.  At one of these assemblies in Victoria Street the
Marquis invited two or three of the guests to remain and “have a bite”
with him.  When the general body of the guests had retired, these
selected individuals were taken to the dining-room, where the merry widow
was discovered awaiting them.  Half a dozen people sat down to a meal
which consisted chiefly of potatoes and mutton cutlets.  Collette sat on
the left of the Marquis, who took the head of the table.  The Marquis was
not a pretty eater, and that’s the truth.  He detached a whole cutlet
from the bone, and put it into his mouth as one bite.  Looking up, he saw
the amazed expression on Collette’s face.

“I’ve got a devil of a twist,” explained the Marquis.

“I see.  An Oliver twist,” said Collette sweetly.

De Leuville called on me once in Fleet Street while I was editing a
weekly paper.  One of my contributors had fallen foul of a poem bearing
the nobleman’s name.  The reviewer had discovered in the verses every
fault which the author of a poetical composition could by any possibility
commit.  De Leuville’s principal object in seeking an interview was, he
declared, to prove to me that “shore” was a true rhyme to “Samoa.”  He
did not quite succeed.  He was a man with a big, round, foolish face; he
wore a moustache and imperial.  He had very broad shoulders, and wore his
collar so low as to give him something of a _décolleté_ appearance.  His
black tie was big and flamboyant, and suggested the boulevards—as it was,
no doubt, intended to do.  His hair was long, and his broad-brimmed silk
hat was worn slightly tilted to one side, indicating that he was rather a
dog of a Marquis.  He wore stays, which had the effect of adding,
apparently, to the width of his shoulders.  On his fingers were large
rings of eccentric design.  And the man literally stank—there is no other
word for it—of unguents and essences.  That was the first occasion on
which I had the doubtful pleasure of seeing the Marquis De Leuville.  The
last time I encountered him was about three years since at Boulogne.  He
was a greatly altered marquis.  His long grey hair fell over his
shoulders; he wore a black soft felt hat, a black velvet dinner-jacket.
He looked a rather seedy and shrivelled Marquis.  Altogether he had the
appearance of a stunted Buffalo Bill fallen upon evil days.  He was
accompanied in his visits to the _établissement_ by a group of
octogenarian lady admirers.  He lived in an hotel at one side of the
estuary; they lived in a hotel on the other.  Everything was entirely
respectable and platonic.  And it was quite pathetic, I thought, to hear
the shrill voice of the merry widow—for the “Marky,” like the Pope, was
still supported by “Peters’ Pence”—rebuking a friend, and announcing
emphatically:

“My dear, the Marquis has a soul above gambling!”

Messengers came and went between the hotels, and a pleasant interchange
of amenities was constantly taking place.  The Marquis, from his retreat
near the railway-station, despatched little presents of scent and
trifling sonnets to his mistress’s eyebrow.  These manuscripts the
recipient read in her high piping voice to her satellites, describing
them as “p’tee morr-sow.”  And I suppose in exchange for the bottles of
strange smells and the poems there was a generous supply of “Peters’
pence.”

During his stay in Boulogne the Marquis invented a new boot-varnish, the
secret of applying which belonged to himself alone.  He spent quite an
hour a day varnishing his boots, the result being that he was evicted,
one after another, from half the hotels in the town.  His varnish had a
nasty habit of communicating itself to table-linen, carpets, or any other
hotel property that happened to touch it.  But Oliver stuck to his
boot-varnish, and permitted himself to be driven from hostelry to
hostelry rather than abandon it.  He afforded a fine example of the old
nobility sacrificing itself on the altar of principle.  A year after I
had seen him in Boulogne I read of his death; and the devoted chatelaine
of the Priory, Kilburn, soon followed him into a realm where charlatanism
is, we may imagine, at a discount.

Colonel Whitehead was another gentleman who thought it well to establish
relations with gentlemen on the Press—on the principle, I suppose, that
it is well to make friends of the mammon of unrighteousness.  The Colonel
was a great admirer of the stage, more particularly that department of
the stage which devotes itself to the encouragement of histrionic talent
in good-looking young women.  He was a haunter of stage-doors, was
admitted, here and there, to the _coulisses_, and was one of those
patrons of the drama whose patronage takes a practical turn in the case
of its female professors.  In order to indulge his tastes in this
direction, he leased the Canterbury for a season, revived the ballet with
some of its ancient glory, and thoroughly enjoyed himself among the
members of the corps.  But the experiment was a costly one, and his
operations were subsequently carried on at a less ruinous scale of
expenditure.

He was one of the original members of Russell’s Club for Ladies.  Here he
would turn up of a night with the largest shirt-front in London, in the
middle of which sparkled a diamond of prodigious size.  The Colonel was
sitting one night in the drawing-room of the club, waiting, no doubt, for
one of those ladies for whose special convenience Russell had founded his
club.  A boyish officer in one of the regiments of Guards was sitting not
far off staring at the Colonel, whose get-up fascinated him.  The
youthful Guardsman was not nearly as sober as he might have been.  Having
gazed, fascinated, for a length of time at the Colonel, he called out:
“Waiter!”

“Yessir,” said the servant who answered the summons.

“Oh—er—waiter, who’s (hic) that man with the lighthouse in his stomach?”

From that day to the day of his death Whitehead was known as Colonel
Lighthouse.  The Colonel had a big house outside Margate, to which at
week-ends he invited his theatrical and literary friends.  And the
highest sort of high-jinks were carried on there.

A certain Irish nobleman was on his death-bed.  The priest came to him.
The holy man was anxious to get a general confession from him.  The
nobleman declared he had nothing to confess.  “Look back on your past
life, my lord.  Is there nothing you regret?”

“Nothing,” he replied; “_I never denied myself a pleasure_!”

He closed his eyes, fell back on his pillow, and, in that happy belief,
died.

Whitehead was a gentleman of that kidney, and brings to an end my
selections from an almost inexhaustible list of odd fish.



CHAPTER X
BOHEMIAN CLUBS


THE promotion of clubs became a very busy industry under the consulate of
Plancus.  Of these promotions but few survive, and of these few none are
of the proprietary kind.  A club, to survive, must have arisen in
response to an actual need, and out of the regular assembling of those
who are kindred spirits, or who are brought together by common
professional interests.  The promoters of proprietary clubs are forced to
provide for their enterprises both a demand and a supply.  Were the
gambling laws less drastic in this country, I can easily conceive that a
fortune might be made by the proprietor of a roulette and baccarat club.
But the promotion of ordinary social rialtos involves a considerable
amount of risk.  I must have belonged to a dozen of these mushroom
institutions between 1870 and 1890, and I was on the committee of a
fourth of them.  But whether we started with palatial premises or with an
unpretentious flat, the end came soon or late.  Members seemed always to
have an insuperable diffidence about paying their subscriptions, and
proprietors had an equally insuperable objection to expelling defaulters.

For some years a gentleman named Russell displayed great pertinacity in
pursuing this particular line of promotion.  Mr. Russell was, I believe,
the son of Henry Russell, the well-known ballad-singer.  “Cheer, Boys,
Cheer” Russell the old man was called.  By his rendering of that song and
other spirited compositions by Dr. Charles Mackay, he had added immensely
to his reputation, and greatly assisted that tide of emigration that was
then setting to the West.  His son evidently did not believe in the
depopulation of his native land.  He was keen on the construction of
places of comfortable resort which would induce people to remain right
here.

Russell’s first promotion might have proved a success had it been
properly financed and discreetly managed.  It was founded at what was, or
should have been, the psychological moment.  It had really fine premises,
splendid rooms, and an excellent service.  It was situated at the corner
of a street running off the Strand, over against St. Mary-le-Strand.  It
had a strong committee of well-known barristers and literary men, and it
was, very happily, called the Temple Club.  But in his desire to swell
the roll of members, Russell encouraged laxity in the labours of the
committee.  Men were elected who would have been blackballed at any West
End club, and men dropped in at night who were not members at all.  The
latter circumstance was brought to my notice in a very unpleasant way.

I had been at a performance at the Strand Theatre, and in the foyer I had
met Mr. Vincent Boyes, a gentleman well known in literary and artistic
circles.  Boyes was a most highly respectable person, the very pink of
propriety, and an inordinate stickler for _les convenances_.  He was,
moreover, a man old enough to have been my father.  I invited Boyes to
turn into the Temple Club for half an hour.  He accepted.  We entered the
club, I called for some refreshment, and after it had been served we were
joined by a man who was personally known to both of us.  The new-comer
was a soldier of fortune, a bit of a swashbuckler, a traveller, and a
most amusing raconteur.  It is unnecessary to mention his name in this
connection.  He kept us in fits of laughter for an hour, during which
time both he and I had replenished the glass of the almost oppressively
respectable Boyes.  At the conclusion of one of the swashbuckler’s
narratives, Boyes said gravely: “I’m sorry I can’t ask you fellows to
have a drink with me, but I’m not a member.”  “Order away, old chap—no
more am I!” exclaimed the cheery raconteur.  Boyes regarded the man with
a look of horror.  He rose from his seat, took leave of me, and stalked
out of the place without flinging even a nod to the soldier of fortune.
That a man should have played the host to him in a club of which that
host was not a member was to Boyes the unforgivable offence.

In that same smoking-room there used frequently to meet a little coterie
of journalists, among whom were Tom Dunning, one of the most respected
men in “the Gallery”; H. H. S. Pearse, special correspondent of the
_Daily News_; and Charles Williams, war-correspondent of many dailies in
succession: for Charles, although an accomplished journalist, had an
Irish temper, and frequently “quarrelled with his bread and butter.”  I
have met many eminent romancers in my time.  Charlie Williams could have
given Baron Munchausen a stone and a beating.  He spoke with a rasping
North of Ireland accent, and his campaign anecdotes gained greatly by the
stolid, matter-of-fact manner in which they were narrated.  I recall now
one of his campaign reminiscences.  It is a quaint experience of a
correspondent under fire.

“I had got under cover of a big boulder, and had tethered my horse beside
me.  I was just munchin’ a beskit, when a shall burst on the rock, an’
shot the nosebag right off my charger.  He had shoved his daumned ould
head out of cover.”

“And you?” asked Pearse.

“I just went on munchin’ my beskit.”

“But,” suggested Dunning, “if the shell took away the nosebag, it ought
to have carried away the beast’s head as well.”

“_It did_!” replied Williams, with the utmost sang-froid.

In the same place, but on another occasion, I heard him aver with the
utmost solemnity that he had been selected by the Liberal party to oppose
Sir Hugh M’Calmont Cairns, when that eminent man—afterwards Earl
Cairns—first stood for Belfast in the Conservative interest.

“Ef,” declared Charlie, “I’d stud against Sir Hugh when first he put up
for Bel-fawst, there’d be no such a personage now as Lord Cairns, Lord
High Chawncellor of England!”

He was a bit of a romancer, was Williams.  It should be admitted,
however, that Williams did, at a later period in his career, stand as a
candidate for Imperial Parliament.  He opposed Herbert Gladstone at
Leeds.

Another promotion of Russell’s was his club for ladies.  As a sort of
major-domo for this establishment, Russell engaged the services of the
obese but obliging “Fatty” Coleman, who had some time previously left the
mild pursuits of a private life for the bustle of a public one.  He was
assistant-manager of the Aquarium when Russell captured him.  “Fatty” was
a broad and beaming man, of immense geniality, and in every sense a most
expansive person.  As the presiding genius of a club for ladies he was
entirely in his element.  But the time for what were irreverently called
“cock-and-hen” clubs had not fully come, and this venture of the
indefatigable promoter went the road to dusty death which had been taken
by the unfortunate gentleman’s other efforts to divert and refine human
society.  The adventures of the ingenuous “Fatty” would make a volume of
their own.  I last encountered him in a French watering-place, where he
was acting as a sort of manager’s representative to an hotel much
frequented by Englishmen.  He had lost some of his flesh, but none of his
beaming bonhomie.  There was a legend—I have never tested its
authenticity—that “Fatty” had at one time held a commission in a regiment
of the Guards.

While the social activities of Russell were at their busiest, the field
was entered by another club-promoter.  He, however, after a short
experience became weary of well-doing.  This was the Hon. John Colborne.
The Hon. John—“Dirty Jack” was his sobriquet in his regiment—had become
known to the public as the defendant in a criminal libel suit brought
against him by a moneylender.  John had got deep into the books of the
remorseless Israelite, and, seeing no way of settling with him in coin,
determined to pay him in kind; so he sat down and wrote an extremely
diverting and trenchant little book entitled “The Vampires of London.”
Herein the methods of usury were exposed in a fierce light.  This,
however, the wily Jew might have forgiven.  What he could never forgive
was the ridicule which the gallant officer threw on his _ménage_.  He had
invited his customer to accept the hospitality of his home, and now the
secrets of that home were held up to public ridicule and contempt.  The
writer had not spared the members of the family.  The very children of
Israel were sacrificed on the altar of John’s vengeance.  The allurements
of Rachael, the schemes of “blear-eyed Leah,” were set forth with
fiendish particularity.

The trial came off at the Old Bailey, and the prosecutor was represented
by a rising barrister called Mr. Hardinge Giffard.  That rising young
barrister has, in so far as the Bar is concerned, risen and set many a
day ago.  He is now Lord Halsbury.  The jury found for the persecuted
Hebrew.  The Hon. John was sentenced to certain months in gaol as a
first-class misdemeanant, and ordered to pay a heavy fine.  Defendants in
cases of the kind were not so closely watched in those days as they are
in the present year of grace, and when Mr. Colborne was called upon to
receive sentence he was nowhere to be found.  Having a very clear notion
of the sort of verdict the jury would give, he had skipped over to France
earlier in the day.

John had carried with him across the Channel a new and enlarged edition
of “The Vampires,” and he at once set about issuing copies by post to
advertisers desiring to acquire a work about which the trial had set all
the town talking.  To stop this fresh persecution, plaintiff was willing
to accept any sort of terms in reason.  All that Mr. Colborne desired was
liberty to return to his native land, to obtain cancellation of the
excessive interest on his bills, and to live thenceforth in peace with
all men.  His friends were enabled to arrange terms on this basis, and
John was free to prosecute those schemes for improving the condition of
his fellow-man to which he purposed to devote his energies.  His schemes
were fated to “gang agley.”  He joined the Egyptian army, and died in
action.  It was probably the kind of death he would have wished, for,
however he may have proved wanting in other qualities, no one ever
doubted his high courage.

Chinery, in his club promotions, aimed at higher game.  He had served as
Consul-General in a West African State, was a member of the Reform and
the Devonshire, was a convinced Liberal, and had a wonderfully good
connection.  Owing to these circumstances, he was able to muster a much
stronger committee than others who had started before him in the club
industry.  His first venture was the Empire Club.  For this establishment
he had acquired what the auctioneers call “eligible” premises.  He got a
lease of the house in Grafton Street, Piccadilly, which had been the last
home of Lord Brougham.  Men like the late (and great) Marquis of Dufferin
became members.  Viscount Bury was President of the club.  A large
membership, including many leading colonials, was assured.  The
management was reliable, the cellar unimpeachable, the house dinner
(always presided over by a colonial Governor-General or some other
potentate interested in our overseas Empire) became a welcome feature,
and a long spell of prosperity seemed to be ahead of us.  But our hopes
did not reach fruition.  Something went wrong with the accounts, and the
Empire closed its doors.

The festive Chinery, in no whit discouraged, started on fresh promotions.
None of them achieved the brilliant reputation of his original venture,
and Chinery himself died a broken man.

At one time I belonged to a club called the Wanderers, in compliment, I
suppose, to the Travellers, which was nearly opposite.  The club-house
occupied the corner, on the other side of Pall Mall, corresponding to
that of the Athenæum.  This was a comfortable and well-found
establishment.  Tod Heatley, the wine-merchant, was supposed to be
interested in it; but it passed through many vicissitudes, and went under
many names, till it was eventually devoted to more profitable purposes.
Although the Wanderers had always other and higher pretensions, it was
essentially a Bohemian club.  A mixture of such pretensions with such
actualities should be foredoomed to failure.  In clubland the Wanderers
was known as “The Home for Lost Dogs.”

Chief among the genuine Bohemian clubs is the Savage Club, whose home is
on the Adelphi Terrace.  Although the Bohemianism of this famous club is
mainly traditional, it preserves the good custom of general communication
among members, and encourages that spirit of playful geniality which is
inseparable from the idea of Bohemianism.  But the Savage Club of to-day
is a very different thing from the same association as I knew it in 1870.
This, indeed, will be admitted by the official historian of the club, Mr.
Aaron Watson, whose admirable monograph on the Savage leaves nothing for
any future writer to tell concerning the genesis and early struggles of
the Savages.

I was a guest at the Savage on about half a dozen occasions in early
years, and I once passed a few hours with Christie Murray in its new and
more abiding home.

It was on a dull November day, and Pat Macdonald and I were walking
westward from Fleet Street.  We had taken Covent Garden on our way.
“Let’s see if there’s anybody in the Savage Club,” he said casually, as
we left the central avenue of the market, under the shadow of St. Paul’s,
of the convent garden.  To me the invitation was delightful.  Often I had
heard of the celebrated resort of actors, authors, and musicians.  With
the rest of the world, I had become impressed with the idea that election
to this coterie was extremely difficult.  I had read with much interest
the first issue of “The Savage Club Papers,” and it came upon me as a
surprise that my friend Macdonald, whose contributions to literature were
of the most tenuous character, should be a member, and that he should
hold his membership so lightly.

Soon I discovered the reason, and this, by the way, is a rather
interesting morsel of history which has escaped the vigilant eye of Mr.
Aaron Watson.  In those early and unsophisticated days, when a man was
put up for membership at the Savage, he was given the run of the club
until the date of the next election; and some men are by nature such
excellent company that a club existing above all other things for
congenial companionship will be apt to regard the claims of the
professionally unqualified candidate as above those of the highly
qualified man who happens to be a dull dog.  This month of probation
afforded the good fellow—“the clubbable man” of Dr. Johnson—the
opportunity of asserting his claims; and although the committee was bound
by its first rule, which provided that only men professionally connected
with literature, the drama, or the arts, should be eligible, when they
got the chance of electing a man of Macdonald’s erudition, humour, and
powers of conversation, they were not likely to give that chance away.
It was a strange rule, but it worked well.  In those days there was no
place in a club forced to forgather in a single room for men who could
not talk well and laugh loudly.

Under the guidance of my friend, I crossed to the right through the
inevitable slush and vegetable refuse, and we were soon mounting the
steps that led to Evans’s Hotel.  With the celebrated Supper-Room beneath
the hotel I was already acquainted, but I had never before visited the
hotel.  Nor did I for a moment imagine that the club which occupied so
large a place in my fancy and my esteem occupied rooms on licensed
premises.  The Savage Club was in possession of the room on the left of
the hall as you entered the hotel.  It had originally been the
coffee-room, and was one of the principal apartments in the building.
Evans’s Hotel is now the National Sporting Club.  It was first the
Falstaff, and to fit it for its new purposes considerable structural
alterations were necessary, including a small private theatre, now
abolished, but the lines of the old home of the Savages can still be made
out.

There were very few members present on the occasion of this first visit
of mine, and I was reminded of the omnipresence of the legal profession
on finding that two of them were barristers.  One was Mr. Jonas Levy,
Chairman of the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway; and the other
Mr. Hume Williams—not the K.C. and Recorder of Norwich, but the father of
that learned gentleman.  Another of those present was Henry S. Leigh, the
author of “The Carols of Cockayne”—a gentleman whom I came to know
intimately.  He had the bitterest tongue and sweetest nature of any man I
ever met.  The arrangements of the room testified to the simplicity of
taste observed by those primitive Savages.  On the tables that lined the
walls were laid out clay pipes of the shape and size with which we
associate the name “churchwarden,” and I observed that Leigh was drinking
beer out of a pewter pot.  There are no pewter pots in the Savage Club
nowadays, but neither are there any Leighs.

Whether it was the deadly dulness of the autumn afternoon or my own lack
of responsiveness, or whether it was that I had cherished exaggerated
expectations, or whether it was the result of a conspiracy of all these
causes, I cannot say, but my first visit to the Savage was a
disappointment and a disillusion.  A year or more went by before I was
afforded an opportunity of reviewing my earlier impressions.  This time I
had no cause to complain of the quality of the entertainment.  “Jimmy”
Albery, who had recently made his name with “Two Roses”; H. S. Leigh; E.
A. Sothern; George Honey, the actor; Arthur Boyd Houghton, the artist;
and Andrew Halliday, the author and journalist-dramatist, were among
those present.  My earlier impressions were at once erased.  Never had I
been thrown into the society of a number of grown men where such a spirit
of fun, of _camaraderie_, of irresponsibility, and of the joy of life,
prevailed and sparkled.  They talked in the spirit of schoolboys, but
with the point of seasoned wits.  It was altogether a delightful
experience.

It was at the Savage Club that I first saw the game of poker played.  The
game had been introduced by some Americans who enjoyed the privileges of
corresponding membership in respect of their connection with the Lotus
Club, New York.  It was shortly made taboo by a ukase of the Portland and
Turf Clubs, and disappeared from the card-rooms of all the West End
clubs.  I have always thought this rather a pity.  Poker is one of the
best games to be got out of a pack.  It calls into exercise other
faculties beside memory, judgment, skill, and a nice knowledge of the
value of cards.  You want to be a bit of a physiognomist.  Your own
expression should be under control, and your manner absolutely
inscrutable.  It is in respect of their natural endowment in these
qualities that the Yankees make such good poker-players.  I became
greatly interested in the game, and it was indirectly through my
instrumentality that its rules were first published in this country.
General Schenk drew up the enactments governing the science of the
pastime, at the request of Lady Waldegrave.  Lady Waldegrave had them set
up in type at Strawberry Hill.  She had a few dozen copies printed for
the use of her acquaintances.  I became the proud possessor of one of
these copies.  A friend of mine—or perhaps I should say a gentleman whom
up to that time I had regarded as a friend—induced me to lend him the
brochure to settle some dispute which had arisen between certain
correspondents on his paper; for my friend was a rather distinguished
writer on the sporting press.  I never saw that book again, but to my
intense surprise and chagrin I found the whole of the Strawberry Hill
rules published in the columns of my friend’s paper, with their place of
origin given, and Lady Waldegrave’s authority cited.

The transaction did more harm to the gentleman who had betrayed my
confidence than it did to me.  In those days an act of the kind would be
generally reprobated.  Dog did not eat dog when Plancus was Consul.
Nowadays I am given to understand that it would be regarded as a bit of
smart journalism.

As I write, the memory of that first game of draw-poker comes vividly
back to me, and, singular as it may seem to you, it comes back to an
accompaniment of music.  It was night, and in the supper-room below and
at the back the little pale-faced choristers in their Eton suits were
singing glees for Paddy Green’s customers.  These vocal exercises were
resented by grumpy members of the club, but to me distance enhanced the
beauty of the singing, and I never hear poker mentioned now, such is the
strange influence of the association of ideas, that I do not instantly
hear the far-away voices of boys singing:

    “Oh, who will o’er the downs with me—
       Oh, who will with me ride?
    Oh, who will up and follow me
       To win a blooming bride?”

Poor words, perhaps; set to old-fashioned glee music, no doubt;
introducing in the last line a word rendered vulgar by a merciless
modernity, admitted.  But, Lord! how sweet the memory of them comes back
to me over the years—how inexpressibly sweet, yet how incalculably sad!
for nothing but the haunting memory is left.  My contemporaries of that
time have, nearly all of them, satisfied their curiosity concerning the
Great Secret.  The pale-faced choir boys have grown to manhood,
developing, perhaps, into “fat and greasy citizens.”  Only the song
remains.

Baker Green, editor of the _Morning Post_, was a member of the Savage at
a somewhat later date.  He was a great hulking figure of a man, with a
terrible mordant humour of his own, and a devilish solemn manner of
stating the most absurd propositions.  His monocle was as inseparable
from him as that of Sir Squire Bancroft.  His peculiar style of humour
may be best illustrated anecdotically.

A member who loomed large in the life of the club in the days when the
Imperial Institute was being nursed into life was Somers Vine.  In
respect of his services rendered to the Institute the excellent man
received the honour of knighthood.  It is to be feared that Baker Green
had no great liking for Sir Somers.  Of this sentiment on the part of his
fellow-member, Vine, it must be supposed, had no inkling, for one
evening, bubbling over with hospitality and brotherly kindness, he
approached Baker Green in the club.

“I wish, my dear fellow, you would come down and spend a week at my place
at Chislehurst,” he said.

“Delighted,” replied the other.

“I live at Vine Court,” explained the knight.

Baker Green took out his pocket-book as if to make a note.

“What Court did you say?” he asked innocently.

“Vine Court,” replied the pleased Sir Somers.

“Yes—er—_and what number_?” inquired the remorseless Green.

It is perhaps needless to add that the proposed visit was never paid.

Sir W. S. Gilbert was an occasional visitor at the supper-rooms beneath
the club.  The incident I am about to relate is scarcely relevant to the
subject with which the present chapter deals, but as it happened on the
premises, so to speak, I may be pardoned for introducing it.  At Evans’s
it was the custom to pay for your supper to a waiter who stood at the
door—a lightning calculator who, by the means of a legerdemain which was
all his own, was able to add about 25 per cent. to every bill without the
victim being able to see exactly how it was done.  Gilbert rather
resented the arithmetical methods of “John,” and at last came to the
determination to pay “John” off by tipping him a penny instead of the
sixpence which had hitherto been his _pourboire_.  On the night on which
his resolution was to be carried into effect his bill amounted to exactly
hall a crown.  He handed that coin to the magic calculator, and then
handed his tip of one penny.  “John” looked at the coin, smiled a
deprecating smile, and, handing it back to the donor, said in a tone of
subdued solicitude: “Perhaps you may be going over a bridge, sir.”

There was a toll levied on those crossing Waterloo Bridge in those days.
The retort hit in two ways.  The first suggestion was that the gentleman
lived at the other side of the water; and the second, that he had been
reduced to his last copper.  The comment was, in fact, quite
Gilbertian—as “John” himself was perfectly well aware.

The doyen of the club was W. B. Tegetmier.  He seemed a survival almost
of another age.  For he was the same W. B. Tegetmier to whom Darwin, in
his “Descent of Man,” makes so many acknowledgments of assistance in
connection with experiments in the breeding of pigeons.  He was one of
the first men to use the bicycle as a means of getting to and from his
office at the _Field_, which was then in the Strand.  He must have been
well over sixty at the time, and he continued to use the machine till he
was well over seventy.  A wonderful, wiry, active, peppery-tempered
little man with a kindly expression indicating a heart more kindly still.
Not that he could not say a hard thing when he thought it absolutely
necessary.  By his intimates he was always called “Teg.”  But should any
man who was not an intimate presume thus to address him, he would quickly
resent the familiarity.  Thus, on one occasion Mr. Bowles, a barrister
and brother-Savage, finding the little naturalist there, addressed him by
his sobriquet.

“Hallo, how are you, Teg?” said the devoted man, bent on geniality.

“Quite well, thank you—Po!” answered the other icily.

I had the honour of attending two of the Saturday dinners of the Savage
Club.  There was nothing quite like those dinners then; there has been
nothing quite like them since.  No after-dinner speeches were permitted,
but when the meal—a very simple one—was at an end, the members set about
entertaining their guests and themselves by song, anecdote, recitation,
imitation, and playing upon instruments—for some of the finest
instrumentalists in England were Savages.  Old George Grossmith—father of
George Grossmith, the well-known illustrator of Gilbert and Sullivan
opera and platform entertainer, and grandfather of George Grossmith
junior of the Gaiety Theatre—gave us a reading from the first chapter of
“Bleak House”; Signor Foli sang “Simon the Cellarer”; Oscar Barrett and
John Radcliffe fluted to us; Hamilton Clarke presided at the piano;
Charles Collette pattered; George Honey gave some side-splitting stories,
ably seconded in this department by dear old “Lal” Brough.  The whole
thing went with a “zip.”  There was no hesitation on the part of
performers; the neophyte who “broke down” in his performance was as
heartily cheered as the veteran who rendered a passage reserved for such
a gathering.  Indeed, the feeling that one was listening to an
entertainment which the public could not have for love or money added not
a little, I imagine, to the sense of pleasure in those who took part in
the post-prandial entertainment.

The Arundel and the Wigwam were conducted much on Savage lines, and the
Junior Garrick, to which I have made reference in an earlier chapter, was
decidedly a Bohemian institution.  It had two periods.  It originally
existed as a members’ club; but a large number of influential members
quarrelled with the committee and withdrew.  The financial position of
those who remained was not sufficiently strong to justify them in
continuing it.  And it seemed a pity to close the doors; for the club
occupied a fine house at the corner of Adam Street and Adelphi Terrace.
It remains an excellent example of Adam architecture, and contains some
magnificent Adam ceilings and cornices.  The drawing-room on the
first-floor, with its unrivalled view of the Thames, is a spacious and
well-proportioned apartment.  The room beneath it was our dining-room,
and the billiard-room was at the top of the house.

Now, whereas the Savage never suffered from any schism, the Junior
Garrick was the victim of no less than two.  The first while it was a
members’ club; the second, when it had become a proprietary club.  The
first offshoot organized itself into the Green-Room Club, which
flourishes to this day, and is at present housed in Leicester Square,
nearly facing the Alhambra.  This is now the principal club, entirely
composed of stage professionals.  The second offshoot of the old
“J.G.C.,” as we liked to call it, was the Yorick.  I know the Yorick
still exists, for I recently saw in the daily Press a letter dated from
that address.

In these days the Bohemian thinks it no longer good form to roam around
the town attired in the negligent seediness of the impecunious student of
the Quartier Latin.  Unkempt locks, extreme squalor, and dirty
finger-nails, are no longer regarded as essential characteristics of the
social Bohemian.  In the process of evolution we have now arrived at the
evening-dress Bohemian.  The Eccentric Club at Piccadilly Circus is his
chosen resort.  The phenomenal success of this club is attributable to
the fact that the principal members of the original committee were
business men; that it has been enabled to develop on a very small
capital—some £700, I think; and that it was so fortunate as to acquire
the premises, furniture, and fixtures, of an expiring institution at a
ridiculously small figure.

This flourishing society grew out of the ashes of the old Coventry, a
proprietary club which existed for some years in Coventry Street.  When
that rather cosy resort went the way of all proprietary clubs, a few of
us met at Rule’s, in Maiden Lane, with a view of seeing whether a
sufficient number of old Coventry members could not be induced to found
another social centre in which men who had for some years come to regard
the Coventry as their ordinary place of meeting.  The idea caught on.
The title “Eccentric” was decided on at our very first meeting.  The old
premises of the Pelican were to be had on reasonable terms.  And we
commenced, with a good list of members, in those sacred precincts.  Among
the actors who joined were “Lal” Brough and Arthur Roberts, and among the
artists were Phil May, Julian Price, and Paleologue.  The last-named
gentleman adorned the walls of the club-house with some very spirited
mural decorations.  So spirited, indeed, was the fresco from the atelier
of Paleologue, that when the club gave what were called “ladies’ days”
Paleologue’s canvas had to be removed for the occasion.  Knowing who some
of the ladies were, and understanding something also of the
characteristics of the committee-men who succeeded in carrying this
proposal, the arrangement always struck me as being particularly quaint
and insular.

One of the paintings of Julian Price was an inimitably clever likeness of
Drummond, our head-waiter.  No man was ever half so respectable as
Drummond looked; and Price has caught his mild, inquiring, deprecatory
expression to a nicety.  His trim black whispers increase the pallor of
his face, and, to mark the members’ appreciation of his high reputation,
the artist has endowed him with a halo.  We had taken Drummond on from
the Raleigh Club.  In carrying out his duties, Drummond was unaffected by
the circumstances passing around him.  The most mirth-provoking joke
might be let off in his presence, but Drummond never turned a hair.  When
joking took a practical turn, and when he became the subject of the joke,
affairs took on another complexion.  And Drummond’s reason for resigning
at the Raleigh was—or was said to be—that Lord Marcus Beresford, in an
access of boyish irresponsibility, had put Drummond into the ice-chest,
shut the lid on him, and had then forgotten all about him.  Fortunately,
another waiter had occasion to go to the refrigerator before a fatality
occurred, or poor Drummond would have become just so many pounds of
frozen meat.

This extraordinary man, notwithstanding his serious mood, was the most
painstaking, obliging, and solicitous club waiter I have ever met.  He
understood the gastronomic tastes of every member, and was infinitely
desirous of giving satisfaction.  He had one or two curious methods of
pronunciation; I believe they had been imposed on him by facetious
members of the Raleigh.  Thus, he always said “sooty” instead of “sauté.”
It became quite a habit to ask Drummond what potatoes were ready, for the
sake of hearing his quaint version: “What potatoes to-day, Drummond?”
“Potatoes, sir?  There’s biled, mashed, and sooty.”

Drummond’s reason for accepting service at clubs which remained open all
night long, and frequently until four and five in the morning, was a
singular one.  It seems that he was a proper religious man, and held the
office of deacon in connection with some conventicle in the suburbs.  In
accepting a position in a club where all-night sittings were the rule, he
was free for every Sunday.  I have seldom heard of a man sacrificing more
for his religion—have you?  If Drummond be still alive, he must be an old
man by now, and may his declining years be peaceful!  If he be dead, may
the turf lie light on him!

The safeguard of a strong committee will never stand between a
proprietary club and eventual extinction.  One of the strongest
committees I have known was got together by Mr. Earn Murray when he
founded the United Arts Club.  The promoter was enterprising, sanguine,
and ambitious.  But the only two private members of the club who ever
succeeded in achieving notoriety were “Old Solomon,” the racing tipster,
and Percy Lefroy, the murderer of Mr. Gold.

Our legislature, which always does things in a grandmotherly sort of way,
thought to purify the West End and suppress the Cyprian by closing the
night-houses in the Haymarket and in the streets impinging thereon.  The
abolishing of those squalid dens did not, indeed, result in her
disestablishment, but in the betterment of the conditions under which she
carried on her sad but—if the unco’ guid will permit the use of the word
in this relation—necessary calling.  Phryne, like the poor, we shall
always have with us.  The obvious duty of society, therefore, is not to
take measures for her suppression, but measures for her amelioration and
regulation.  School Board education and an acquired knowledge of the laws
of hygiene have done much for her.  When one compares the toilet, the
costume, and the manners, of the _demi-mondaines_ who nightly frequent
the back of the dress-circle of certain houses of entertainment with the
tawdry, over-painted, giggling, solicitous creature of thirty years ago,
then, and only then, can one understand the gratifying change that has
taken place in the habitude of this inalienable excrescence on the body
politic.

When the night-houses were closed, and the police instructed to keep the
West End streets clear at midnight, there opened, here and there, clubs
for the accommodation of Phryne and her friends.  So that the closing of
the frowsy saloons in which she had been wont to congregate was a
blessing in disguise, and, indeed, fixes the date of the gratifying
amelioration in her manners.  For in the clubs a certain decorum was
observed even in the ballroom, which afforded the _raison d’être_ of
social rialtos of the small-hours.  The proprietors saw to that; for the
recurrence of disturbance or the report of sinister incidents might
occasion a raid.  Election to these clubs was not, as may well be
supposed, a very difficult matter.  One was proposed on the doorstep,
seconded on the hall mat, and unanimously elected a member in the
cloak-room.  But the men “on the door” knew perfectly well whom to admit
and whom to dismiss.  The bully, the exploiter of frailty, the
_souteneur_, were kept ruthlessly outside.  Thus the proprietor protected
at once himself and his customers.  He ran a sort of _bon marché_ in
fact, where no middleman operated between the goods and the patrons of
the exchange.

The children of Israel—whose mission in these later years is to be both
our paymasters and our panders—were particularly zealous in the promotion
of this kind of _réunion bohémiene_.  Belasco opened the Supper Club in
Percy Street, Tottenham Court Road.  Sam Cohen provided the “Spooferies”
in Maiden Lane.  He had previously run the concern as a baccarat club,
its useful career in that direction having ended in a raid, and a
prosecution of the greatest number of persons ever called up at Bow
Street to answer a single charge.  Sam must have been a bit of a cynic in
his way, for the house in which the “Spooferies” met was next door to the
Jewish synagogue.  A Hebrew named Foster established a similar place in
Long Acre, and a coreligionist of his called Moore—a euphuism, I
apprehend, for Moses—opened the Waterloo Club in Waterloo Place, Pall
Mall.  There were others.  But those I have named are the only ones of
which I had a personal knowledge.  This admission may, I fear, horrify
those readers who are of the dawn of the century.  I can assure my
prudish friends, however, that were I mischievously inclined I could give
them a list of names of persons who were at one time young men about
town, but who now occupy prominent positions in the Senate, at the Bar,
and, generally speaking, in the public life of the country, who were to
be seen, in the jocund years, thoroughly enjoying themselves in such
Bohemian society as was to be found at the “Spooferies” or the Supper
Club.

I can see—in my mind’s eye, Horatio—some adipose, sleek, and eminently
respectable householder, some Member of Parliament, London County
Councillor, West End physician, fashionable painter, or what not, who has
taken up these reminiscences to while away an hour.  I can see this staid
citizen, this respectable family man, this stickler for morality, this
Justice of the Peace, and all the rest of it, squirming as he reads the
above passage.  With a blush he lays down the book, and, looking
suspiciously around, murmurs: “Damn the fellow, he means _me_!”  Yes, I
undoubtedly mean _you_.  But you may read on without apprehension, my
excellent friend, for I am the soul of discretion.  Your early trespasses
are safe.  In return I would only ask this: that, remembering that you
and I have sown some wild-oats in the same fallows, you should exercise a
little more common-sense and charity in dealing with the peccadilloes of
your juniors, and that, generally speaking, you would carry yourself with
a less pompous air of conscious rectitude.



CHAPTER XI
THE JOKER


THERE are jokers and jokers.  Professors of the art of practical joking
are disappearing before an advancing civilization like the Red Indian of
the Far West.  The evanishment of the verbal joker is due to a deplorable
shrinkage in the national sense of humour.  There will soon be left to us
the joker which is the fifty-third card in the pack, and is incapable of
any sense or emotion whatever.

But in the days of my vanity grown men carried with them into a
tun-bellied middle-age the fine flow of animal spirits and inordinate
capacity for fun which nowadays would be deprecated by the well-regulated
schoolboy.  In Fleet Street one would have thought that there would have
been no time for any joking beyond an occasional interchange of verbal
pleasantries.  But even in that busy thoroughfare the practical joker
found—or made—occasions for the exercise of his fearsome talents.

It is something of a truism to say that the real man is very seldom the
man as he is observed in his public appearances.  Who, for instance, who
only knew Edmund O’Donovan as the learned writer of travel articles in
the _Quarterly Review_, the accomplished special correspondent of a
one-time influential daily, the honoured guest of savants, the respected
lecturer before Royal Societies—who, I say, who saw O’Donovan with his
Society war-paint on could have imagined the wild, undisciplined,
half-mad, but wholly delightful creature that was exhibited at intervals
to Society in conventional garb.  He was the maddest and the most modest
Irishman I ever met.  When he returned from his extraordinary adventures
in Merv, he did not put up at some swagger hotel in London, where he
would be easily accessible to Society intent on making him the lion of a
season.  He lodged at a public-house in Holborn kept by a
fellow-countryman of his, named Peter Cowell.  This house was at the time
known to the police in connection with the visits of Irish patriots of
the physical force party in national politics.  It was the resort of the
scattered remnants of a disintegrated Fenianism.

Cowell revered his strange guest, and when customers heard the sounds of
revolver practice in the upper part of the house, you may be sure that he
did not give his patrons the true explanation of the noise.  The fact was
that O’Donovan, in bed at midday, had grown greatly annoyed at the crude
art evinced in the engravings that Cowell had hung upon his walls, and
that he was engaged in shooting those masterpieces into smithereens.
This revolver practice in his bedroom only ceased when there was nothing
breakable left to fire at.  “Glory be to God!” said Peter Cowell, in
relating the circumstance to a correspondent, “there’s not a pictur’ nor
a frame nor a utinshill of anny kyoind that Misther O’Donovan hasn’t bruk
_an’ ped for_!”

Two foreign gentlemen who refused to give their names, but who had some
important intelligence to convey, called at my office.  I signalled down
that I would see them.  I expected men in European garb.  But the two
weird creatures who shuffled into my sanctum were clothed in undressed
animal skins reaching almost to their feet.  They were shod in the same
material.  And their head-dress was also a fur so fashioned that only the
eyes and nose of the individuals were visible.  The curious part of the
equipment was that the visitors carried pistols in their skin belts.  I
think that it was this little circumstance that “gave the show away.”  I
looked very hard at the taller of the two men, and then, feeling sure in
my surmise, I said cheerily:

“My dear O’Donovan, how are you?  I’m delighted to see you.”

“Faith, I knew you’d know me!” he declared, in a tone that entirely
disguised his disappointment.  “Come out and have a drink.”

Now, this hospitable invitation placed me in something of a dilemma.  For
in the first place I did not wish to offend O’Donovan by refusing, and in
the second I had no desire to walk up Fleet Street in the company of
companions so strangely clad.  I suggested that, if O’Donovan and his
friend would go on to the “Cheese,” I would follow when I had finished
writing the letter on which I was then busy.

“That’s a beastly picture of Dizzy,” said O’Donovan quietly.  He had
taken his revolver from his belt, and was pointing with it to “Ape’s”
cartoon of Beaconsfield which hung opposite my desk.

I understood the hint.  I rose and accompanied my remorseless friend.  My
worst anticipations were realized when I reached the office door.  Quite
a large crowd of Fleet Street loafers—and I think that in the Street of
Adventure we could have boasted of as many loafers to the square yard as
any thoroughfare in London—pressed round the door.  The Fleet Street
loafer is often exhilarated by the sight of strange visitors; but he had
never yet seen visitors quite so strange as these.  The crowd did not
make any demonstration.  But Cockney criticisms of the general appearance
of my companions were freely bandied about.  We had to cross the street
and encounter the jibes of cab-drivers and omnibus cads.  The crowd
followed us right up to the doors of the tavern to which I had been
invited.  Here was another assembly.  For O’Donovan had already visited
the Cheshire Cheese, and had announced his intention of returning to
lunch.  I believe that old Moore had during that afternoon the most
anxious time of his life.  The fun waxed fast and furious.  But there is
safety in a multitude of any kind, and the intrepid traveller had so many
friends and admirers in this gathering that I was soon able to slip away
unnoticed.

The man who accompanied O’Donovan on this occasion was Frank Power—one of
the most accomplished humbugs that ever made a way in life by means of a
glib tongue, a vivid imagination, and an entire absence of scruple of any
kind.  O’Donovan subsequently engaged him as secretary, and he was to
have accompanied his employer during the march with Hicks Pasha.  It was
characteristic of Power that when the march was made Power remained
behind in Khartoum.  He was once mentioned in the House of Commons.  A
question was asked by an Irish Member as to the qualifications of Mr.
Frank Power, who had contrived to get himself made British Consul at
Khartoum.  Mr. Gladstone, whose imagination was at times as vivid as that
of Power himself, replied promptly that the gentleman in question was an
“esteemed merchant” of that city.

In letters home, O’Donovan freely expressed his belief that the chances
of his ever returning to England alive were extremely small.  It is
inconceivable that he should not have communicated this opinion to Power.
That young gentleman, holding that discretion is the better part of
valour, had an attack of dysentery at the very moment when his services
should have—under ordinary circumstances—become of any value to his
chief.  He did not accompany the intrepid column that marched across the
sands to inevitable and complete annihilation.  As to O’Donovan, I know
that he died as he would have wished to die.  No survivor of that
ill-fated expedition was allowed to escape with the story of the fight.
But I can picture O’Donovan in the midst of the mêlée, his eyes bright
with the fury of battle, his wild Irish “Whirroo!” appalling even his
frantic assailants, his desperate play with revolver, his final collapse
on the hot bosom of Mother Earth, his warm Irish blood reddening the
sands of the African desert.

John Augustus O’Shea, of the _Standard_, was another war-correspondent
who was very much given to practical joking, and disguise generally
played a prominent part in his plans.  On one occasion he was
commissioned by his editor to describe a certain Lord Mayor’s Show.
Elephants were to play a part in this particular pageant; and it occurred
to the accomplished correspondent that from the back of an elephant he
might obtain an unrivalled view of the rivals of the route.  George
Sanger was providing the elephants, and O’Shea experienced no difficulty
in obtaining permission to ride in a howdah and illustrate the fidelity
of Indian Princes to the Empire.  Sanger was also able to provide the
Oriental costume essential to the part, together with the stage diamonds
without which no self-respecting Prince ever goes out elephant-riding.
His face was made up to the proper tint; his turban was a triumph of
millinery; and as O’Shea passed through Fleet Street in the character of
an Eastern potentate, and in the train of a London Lord Mayor, not a soul
recognized him.

Indeed, the completeness of the disguise led to some inconvenience.  For
when the show was at an end, and O’Shea went on his elephant to Sanger’s
stables in the Westminster Bridge Road, he found himself pressed for
time, and unable, therefore, to abandon his disguise.  He got into a
hansom just as he was, and drove off to Shoe Lane to write his
descriptive article for the _Evening Standard_.  He was about to pass the
commissionaire who stood sentry at the office door.  But that old soldier
did not recognize a member of the staff in the garb of a pious Hindu, and
O’Shea, unable to curb his love of practical joking, soundly rated the
old soldier in an improvised gibberish which the warrior, no doubt,
thought he recognized as something he had been acquainted with in the
East.  O’Shea endeavoured to push past.  The man “on the door” barred his
progress.  The war of strange words between them grew loud and furious.
The commissionaire called to a member of the crowd that was gathering
round the door to go for the police, and upstairs the sub-editor was
anxiously waiting for O’Shea’s copy.

Before the police could arrive Gilbert Venables came on the scene,
recognized the correspondent under the disguise of the dusky Indian, and
explained matters to the faithful doorkeeper.  The anxiety of the
sub-editor was soon appeased, and O’Shea sat down to reel off a column of
humorous descriptive copy such as he alone on that staff could produce.
“The Giniral”—as O’Shea was called in Fleet Street—was one of those
strange men who think that it is never time to go to bed.  Even when he
got home in the small-hours he never felt inclined to “turn in.”  And as
he never could do without company of some sort, he bought an owl.  This
bird he installed in his “study,” and when he went home in the morning he
related some of the more piquant experiences of the day to the
wise-looking fowl.  When the owl exhibited any signs of inattention or
betrayed symptoms of sleepiness, O’Shea would recall him to a sense of
his responsibilities by throwing a slipper or any other handy missile at
his feathered companion.  As some of these missiles hit their mark, the
life of the sagacious bird was neither peaceful nor protracted.

On one occasion the festive little correspondent was sent into the
country to describe a two-day function, the exact nature of which I
forget.  On the morning of the second day another representative of the
London Press gave a breakfast at his hotel to some of his colleagues.
Those invited were of the swagger order of pressmen—Bernard Becker, Harry
Pearse, Godfrey Turner, Edmund Yates, and some others.  O’Shea heard of
this social function, and, I dare say, rather resented the fact that he
had not been invited.  He got there, however, for in the middle of the
meal O’Shea’s card was brought in to the founder of the feast.  The host
did the only thing he could do under the circumstance: he desired the
visitor to be shown in.  After a few minutes something was heard rumbling
along the hotel passage.  The door of the sitting-room in which O’Shea’s
distinguished contemporaries were breakfasting was thrown open, a
Bath-chair was trundled into the apartment by a couple of men, and in the
Bath-chair sat O’Shea, a red Gibus on his head, a churchwarden pipe in
his mouth, and on his wrists a pair of handcuffs.  These he held up to us
appealingly.  But it suited him to pretend to be a deaf-mute, and his
companions explained that the gentleman was a little mad, that they were
his keepers, and that, as it was dangerous to thwart him, they were bound
to accede to his request to be shown in to the present distinguished
party.

O’Shea kept the game up for a long time.  He resisted all efforts to
induce him to appear _in propria persona_ and sit down at table.  He
shook his head, he made queer guttural noises, and when he felt that he
had entirely upset everybody he made signs to his companions to wheel him
away.  He was taken from the hotel to the public promenade, and was
driven up and down that select area, still in red Gibus, handcuffs, and
long clay pipe, followed everywhere by an interested crowd.  Eventually
the police interfered, and in the afternoon “the Giniral” appeared before
the scandalized breakfast-party of the morning clothed and in his right
mind.

A powerful practical joke of a double-barrelled kind was played by a
Fleet Street artist, and got into the papers of the time.  There were two
black-and-white artists in the Street of Adventure.  One was H. Furniss
with an “i”; the other was H. Furness with an “e.”  The one was an
Irishman; the other was a Yorkshireman.  The latter was the perpetrator
of the joke.  Joseph Biggar, the well-known Parliamentary obstructionist,
was so unfortunate as to have been made the defendant in an action for
breach of promise of marriage.  What was still more unfortunate was that
he lost his case, and was cast in heavy damages.  Furness (with an “e”)
herein saw an opening.  He drew a cheque for the amount of the damages
incurred, and forwarded it to Jo Biggar in a letter glowing with
expressions of sympathy and admiration.  Biggar attributed this act of
princely generosity to Furniss (with an “i”), and sent to that gentleman
an acknowledgment of his great indebtedness.  Meanwhile the joker had
stopped his cheque at the bank, and Jo Biggar had given the
correspondence—the donor’s letter and his own reply—to the Press.  Biggar
was covered with shame, Furniss (with an “i”) was aroused to indignation,
and Furness (with an “e”) had proved himself—as is the nature of
furnaces, however spelt—to be very hot stuff.

But it was among my theatrical friends that I found the most patient,
enterprising, and scientific prosecutors of humour in action.  J. L.
Toole was very fond of the practical joke.  But he did not carry his
schemes out on the generous scale that seemed the proper proportions to
certain of his colleagues.  His jokes were small personal affairs, never
calculated to give pain or annoyance, and invariably described in some
paper or another.  “How _do_ these things get into the papers?”  Sothern
was a past-master in the fine art of practical joking.  Some of his most
notorious successes in that line have been narrated in works of biography
or autobiography by other men.  But I was a witness of two of his efforts
in this way which I have never seen described in print.  They indicate
the time, thought, and pains, which Sothern was always prepared to spend
over the elaboration of a practical joke in order that it might
eventually be presented complete and perfect.  He possessed a true
actor’s faith in efficient rehearsal.

The breakfasts of Sam Rogers, the banker-poet, at the beginning of the
nineteenth century, may have been very interesting reunions; but they
could not have been half as amusing as the breakfasts of Sothern given
during the closing years of that century.  No one was invited to these
gatherings who was not either odd or interesting or witty.  The
conversation was kept up to the mark by a host who could play on the
faculties of his guests as a musician on the strings of an instrument.

One Sunday forenoon at Sothern’s London _pied-à-terre_ in Vere Street,
John Maclean, of the Gaiety Theatre, was present.  Maclean was what was
called in those days a “useful actor.”  He was a wonderfully fine mimic,
and was particularly good at reproducing the different shades of Irish
and Scotch dialects in all their varying enormity.  He used to tell a
story about George Cordery, the property-master at the Theatre Royal,
Dublin, and Barry Sullivan, the tragedian, which introduced admirable
imitations of both those worthies.  The story itself would lose most of
its point by translation into cold print.  It described an altercation
between the tragedian and the property-master as to the correct cue for
the lowering of the cauldron in “Macbeth,” Cordery insisting that “filthy
’ags” was the cue, because he had been so taught by his “old mawster,
Mister Phellups—an’ ’e was a man as knew ’ow to play Macbeth.”  Sullivan
insisted on the cue being, “May eternal curses light upon you!”  At the
last rehearsal of the Witch scene, Barry Sullivan stalked over to the
trap through which the cauldron was to disappear, and called down to the
property-master:

“Do you know the cue _now_, Mr. Cordery?”

“S’wulp me, Goad!” came back the voice of the exasperated George, “I
shall never forgit it.  It’s ‘May etarnal cusses light upon
you!’—_meanin’ nothing personal to you_, _Mr. Barry Soolivan_!”

The breakfast at an end and cigars lighted, there was always experienced
a feeling of suspense and expectancy.  Sothern requested Maclean to give
his famous imitation of the tragedian and the property-master.  After the
usual amount of demur, Johnny rose to do as he had been bidden.  Sothern
placed his victim on the hearthrug, where, with his back to the fire, he
could command the entire company, and where he was at the farthest point
from the entrance to the room.  The gifted imitator launched into his
narrative, and soon had the assembly in a roar.  But just when he had
come to the height of the colloquy between the tragedian and his
subordinate, the door of the room was suddenly opened, and Sothern’s man
announced:

“Mr. Barry Sullivan!”

The tragedian entered, bowing right and left, and shaking hands with his
host.

“Go on with your recitation, Johnny!” cried Sothern.

But Maclean had collapsed and taken refuge behind the chair of a friend.
Nor was he greatly reconciled to the situation when it was discovered
that the new-comer was not Sullivan at all, but a brother comedian made
up for the part.

Another of Sothern’s practical jokes was carried out with the assistance
of Sir Charles Wyndham—in those days innocent of any pretensions to the
accolade.  This particular experiment was six months in the working, and
by the elaborate means adopted its victim was kept on the tenterhooks of
suspense during all that time.  The late Mr. Edgar Bruce, then lately
joined to the ranks of “the profession,” was the unfortunate dupe.  Bruce
was an ambitious young gentleman, and the joke was so contrived as to
play on this characteristic.  It commenced in this way: Sothern had it
put about that he had been approached by the Russian Minister on the
possibility of getting together a company of English comedians to play in
St. Petersburg.  He personally could not accept the flattering command.
He pretended to offer it to Wyndham, and Wyndham handed the proposal on
to Bruce.  Bruce jumped at it, and then, and for a period of six months,
the fun waxed fast and furious.  Bruce was invited to meet the Minister.
An old nobleman smothered in orders, but having no language but French
and his native tongue, was introduced to Bruce at a luncheon given for
the purpose.  At that time Bruce had no French, and the conversation was
carried on with Wyndham as interpreter.  Preliminaries were settled.  An
agreement was signed.  There remained nothing now but to engage a
company.  Here again his good friends Wyndham and Sothern came to the
rescue.  They made a careful selection of actors and actresses who were
let into the secret.

Eventually the affair got paragraphed in the newspapers.  The public was
as greatly duped as Bruce himself, and those interested in theatrical
matters gossiped knowingly about the visit of the English comedians to
Russia.  Constant devices were adopted to raise, and sometimes to dash,
the hopes of the victim.  Once Sothern borrowed a thousand pounds’ worth
of diamonds from his jeweller, and lent them to Miss Edith Chalice—one of
the supposed Bruce Company—who exhibited them to the deluded victim as a
gift from the Minister, asking him to name any little souvenir he would
desire for himself from the same potentates.  Bruce made his desires
known; but that was as far as the matter ever went in that particular
direction.

I was at a Bohemian party given by Val Bromley one night at his studios
in Bloomsbury Square, when there was an amusing exhibition of the system
adopted by Sothern and Wyndham to arouse the anxiety of poor Bruce.  All
three of them happened to be at this jolly function.  At about one
o’clock in the morning a sudden altercation broke out between Sothern and
Wyndham; they stood in the middle of the studio in attitudes of menace,
their voices were raised.  “Never dare to speak to me again!” shouted one
of the angry men.  “You are a contemptible scoundrel, sir!” roared the
other.  The war of words grew hot, the gestures more threatening, and
Bruce ran from friend to friend in the room, crying: “For Heaven’s sake
pacify them!  My whole future is ruined if those two men quarrel!”  He
spoke with the greatest emotion, and his face was deadly pale.  At length
one of the disputants cried out: “A friend of mine will wait upon you in
the morning, sir!” and strode out of the room, speedily followed by his
brother-conspirator.  Soon after this the whole thing was “given away” by
one or other, or by both, of the authors of the joke.  But the curious
part of the thing is that Edgar Bruce had for six months so convinced
himself that he was a manager that he could not rid himself of the
character.  He had achieved the reputation.  He had, moreover, made
openings for himself among performers, costumiers, authors, and
musicians.  In six months he had gained experience of the managerial
methods, and, being a manager in imagination, he crystallized into a
manager in reality.  His first managerial experiment was, I think, at the
Royalty Theatre in Dean Street, Soho.  Here he engaged as his
representative in front of the house a comparatively unknown young man
called Augustus Harris, little imagining that he was employing an
Augustus Druriolanus in the making.  He subsequently built the Lyric
Theatre, and he died a comparatively rich man.  The theatrical career of
Edgar Bruce is the only practically good thing that I have known to
result from the playing of a practical joke.

These carefully-devised experiments on a large scale, becoming known,
naturally fired the ambition of imitators and a number of gabies, whose
only indication of humour consisted in the fatuous smirk with which they
greeted one in season and out of season, set up as professors of the
game.  Certain of these misguided young men formed themselves into a
nomadic club called “The Who-bodies.”  But a better name for them was
invented by Wallis Mackay, who lashed them unmercifully in his “Captious
Critic” under the name of “Theodore Hooklings.”

The humour which is not of a practical kind appears to have died away out
of our literature, our legislature and our judicature alike.  Nay, it is
fading out of our street life with the disappearance of the omnibus cad
and the driver of the hansom.  Even the gamin is losing his
characteristic gaiety in the solving of puzzles in his favourite
publications or in calculating the odds in turf handicaps.  The last of
the Parliamentary wits was Bernal Osborne.  He scintillated before I
entered on a journalistic career, but I well remember the stimulation
which the newspaper reports of his utterances afforded me in my younger
days.  In contesting Waterford at a General Election, he was opposed by
Sir Patrick O’Brien, a very old man whose enunciation was not of the
clearest.  Following the revered Baronet on the hustings, Osborne,
exactly mimicking the tones of his rival, commenced: “Pity the sorrows of
a poor old man whose trembling limbs have borne him to these hustings!”
Then, addressing himself to one of the nasty points of the other
candidate’s attack, he said: “But when the honourable Baronet describes
me as the rejected of seven constituencies, I hurl the accusation back in
his teeth—_if he has any_!”  In the House he was equally ready.  Liskeard
was among the constituencies that had rejected him.  A question arising
regarding that now happily disfranchised borough, it was referred to
Bernal Osborne.  He immediately rose and said: “I regret, sir, that I am
unable to recall any particulars respecting _that highly respectable
street_!”  Viscount Amberley was a small, baby-faced man.  When he sat in
Parliament, and when Bernal Osborne was at the Admiralty, Amberley asked
some inconvenient question regarding that Department.  Osborne smilingly
informed the House: “That is a matter which was settled when the
honourable Viscount was in his—er—perambulator!”

Bernal Osborne’s patronymic was Bernal.  He was a Jew and the son of Mr.
Ralph Bernal, who was for many years Chairman of Committees in the House
of Commons.  He added the name Osborne to his own on marrying Lady
Osborne, with whom he did not always agree.  When he married he was a
dashing young officer and Aide-de-Camp to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.
I suppose he was not quite so successful in the dull domestic round, for
he and his wife led a cat-and-dog life.  They soon separated, and during
the period of this first grass-widowhood the lady wrote a novel in which
her husband was depicted, under a thin disguise and in very lurid
colours.  Society was greatly diverted.  Bernal begged his wife’s
forgiveness.  A reconciliation was effected, the novel was withdrawn from
circulation, and Bernal settled down once more as the model married man.
The vivacity of his disposition, however, and his great extravagance,
occasioned fresh quarrels.  There was another separation, succeeded
shortly after by a reissue of the wife’s literary caricature of her
refractory husband.

Bernal Osborne was what, in more heroic times than these, was known as a
“diner-out”—that is to say, a man who was asked to dinner entirely on
account of the sparkle of his conversation.  Nowadays the sparkle is the
monopoly of the champagne.  The very last of the “diners-out” was Father
Healy of Bray, in County Wicklow.  For some years before his death, that
wittiest of Irishmen was invited to London during the season, and was to
be met night after night at the tables of the leaders of Society.  He was
a wit of parts, and the curious thing about him was that he never for a
moment supposed that he owed his acceptance in Society to his wit and
humour.  He always believed that the great ones of the earth inviting him
to their tables were anxious to ascertain his views on Irish politics.
Dining one night at the table of Lord Ardilaun, he met a prelate of the
Church of England.  Healy by no means appreciated the tone of easy
condescension adopted by the Bishop.  His lordship was patronizing, and
Healy bitterly resented anything of the kind.  He bided his time.  It
came, as all things do to him who knows how—and how long—to wait.

“I’ve lived sixty years in this wicked world,” at length said the Bishop,
smiling and expansive, “and I have never yet been able to see the
difference between a good Catholic and a good Protestant.”

“Faith, me lord,” answered Healy, “you won’t be sixty seconds in the next
before you’ll know all about it!”

Dowse is a name utterly forgotten by the present generation.  Yet Dowse
afforded a great deal of occupation to the pressmen of his day in
reporting his sayings.  He was a rough-looking Irishman, red-headed and
rotund.  Originally, as a boy, he had herded goats about the mountains
near Dungannon.  He contrived, however, to get an education, read for the
Irish Bar, was duly called, became Solicitor-General for Ireland, and, in
the fulness of time, Chief Baron of the Irish Exchequer.  He was famous
for his “bulls,” and when in the House of Commons succeeded in
introducing one at least before which those of Sir Boyle Roche are simply
negligible.  A question was put to him, while he was Solicitor-General,
respecting certain religious riots that had broken out in Londonderry.
Dowse explained that the riots had been occasioned by the ceremony
connected with the “shutting of the gates.”

“And that,” he continued, “is an anniversary that takes place twice a
year in Derry!”

Bernal Osborne has been, I confess, rather irrelevantly introduced into
this chapter, for I never knew him.  But I had the honour of knowing
Baron Dowse.  And I enjoyed the still greater privilege of dining at the
table of Father Healy, to whom I was introduced by Mr. John Gunn, of the
Gaiety Theatre, Dublin.  Healy was one of the handsomest as Dowse was one
of the ugliest of men.

The illustration of the science of humour on the judicial bench is now
the province of ermined jokers.  Perhaps nothing could give a more vivid
idea of the decadence of the bench in this respect than a comparison of
the Ally Sloperian japes of certain living judges with the polished
shafts of the late Lord Justice Bowen.  Lord Bowen’s was the true Attic
salt.  And because he knew its quality, he never offered it to either the
groundlings or the gallery.  The reappearance of his shafts—bright and
polished as they were—only caused him to shudder, even when followed in
the newspaper by the reportorial “(laughter).”  To some of our Judges,
the constant appearance in the columns of their jokes, followed by
“laughter” in brackets, would appear to be a chief end of their
existence.  Indeed, a Judge, quite recently dead, has occasionally
supplied me, what time I sat in an editorial chair, with little
impromptus which he has let off in the course of the day.  For verily all
is vanity.

Two examples of Lord Bowen’s wit may be recorded here.  Bowen was a
Liberal in politics, but, like a great many other thinking men, he
deserted his party when Mr. Gladstone introduced his Home Rule Bill.
Tackled by one who regarded him as guilty of political apostasy, and
challenged as to his then opinion of Mr. Gladstone, he replied, in those
mincing, modulated tones which he had acquired at Balliol:

“Mr. Gladstone’s is one of the greatest and most complex minds of our
time.  He possesses all the apostolic fervour of St. Paul with all the
moral obliquity of Ananias.”

On the occasion of the Jubilee of Her late Majesty Queen Victoria, the
Judges met to decide on an address from their body to be presented to
their Sovereign.  A draft was submitted by one of their number.  It
commenced with the words:

“Madam, conscious as we are of our own infirmities.”  But immediate
objection was taken by their lordships to this opening, and suggestions
were invited.  The measured calculated drawl of Bowen made itself heard:

“Suppose we substitute for the paragraph this: ‘Conscious as we are of
one another’s infirmities!’”

Mr. Commissioner Kerr was a Judge whose rasping voice and strong Glasgow
accent issued from the bench of my time utterances both strange and
strong.  The old gentleman was, in effect, brutally rude, and that’s a
fact.  He was particularly hard on solicitors.  On one occasion I heard
him open a charge in this way:

“There are a number of hairpies who infest this coort.  An’ when I use
the words ‘hairpies,’ I do not wish to be meesunderstood.  I refer to the
soleecitors who lie in wait about the corridors of the coort.”

I was present also when the following colloquy took place between the
bench and a perfectly respectable witness to whom Kerr had evidently
taken an instinctive dislike:

KERR: “What air you?”

WITNESS: “I’m a merchant.”

KERR: “What’s your mairchandise?”

WITNESS: “I’m an importer of lemons.”

KERR: “An importher of lemons!  Why, ye ken you’re naething mair nor less
than a huckster!”

Lewis Glyn the barrister, whom Kerr hated to see come into his court,
once got very much the better of the learned Commissioner.  Glyn, in
addressing the court, had indulged in a French expression.

“Talk the Queen’s English, Misther Glyn.  We don’t want anny of your bad
French in this coort,” snapped out the Commissioner.

“I beg your Honour’s pardon, but I thought that by this time the court
had become so accustomed to strange dialects that one more or less would
not matter,” answered Glyn sweetly.

But though rude and brusque in the extreme, Kerr was a sound lawyer and a
strong Judge.  It must be recalled to his credit, also, that he was
invariably the champion of the poor and oppressed who appeared before
him.  He was down on usurers, and his constant attacks on the immunity of
those plunderers of the poor, under the law as it existed, did much to
hasten the reform in the legislature—small as it is—under which
money-lenders now ply their calling.

Undoubtedly the most colossal joker of my time was that huge mountain of
flesh who came from the antipodes to claim the title and estates of the
Tichborne family.  When that obese impostor copied from Miss Braddon’s
novel the inspiring sentence, “Them as has money and no branes was made
for them as has branes and no money,” he declared the spirit in which he
played the game.  He must have enjoyed the joke immensely—while it
lasted.  And it lasted long enough, unfortunately, to ruin the twelve
jurymen who sat for the greater part of a year on the second trial.

Whether the Claimant was really Arthur Orton or Castro I never troubled
myself to determine.  That he was not Tichborne, or, indeed, a gentleman
of any degree whatever, I satisfied myself at my first interview with
him.  It was during the trial before the Lord Chief Justice, Sir
Alexander Cockburn, and I was as yet a novice in Fleet Street.  Mr. G. W.
Whalley, the eccentric Member for Peterborough, was an acquaintance of
mine, and he believed that were I to meet the Claimant I would be
convinced that he was Roger Tichborne, and that I would do my little
utmost for him on the Press.  Whalley was a tremendous Protestant,
anti-Ritualist, and “no Popery” man, and I believe that he espoused the
cause of the Wapping butcher from Wagga-Wagga, not because he was in any
degree attracted by him but because he believed him to be the victim of a
gigantic Jesuitical intrigue in which Parliament, the Judicial Bench, and
the British Press, were all concerned to keep the man out of his own.

Whalley took me to visit his adipose protégé in a street in Pimlico.  I
think it was called Bessborough Street; I recollect that it was a
continuation of Tachbrook Street.  Here “Sir Roger” had installed Miss
Norrie Jordan, a member of the chorus at the Globe Theatre, in control of
his domestic arrangements, “Lady Tichborne” being provided for elsewhere.
This was quite characteristic of the Claimant.  He had not the slightest
affection for Miss Jordan, and appeared to feel uncomfortable in her
presence.  But it was the fashion for gentlemen of title to run
“side-shows,” as they were called; and “Sir Roger” was determined to
stand by his order, and show himself a man sensitive to the slightest
movements of Society, however personally unpleasant to himself the
experiments involved might be.

My subsequent meetings with the fellow proved to me that the sum of his
so-called accomplishments might be set down in a line or two.  He had an
unbounded capacity for swallowing gin-and-soda; he had a good eye and a
steady hand as a pigeon-shot; and he possessed an unrivalled faculty for
exploiting “mugs.”  In dealing with possible subscribers to the Tichborne
“stock,” it was a favourite ruse of his to ask the intended victim to try
on the Claimant’s gloves.  This trial proved that the hands of the
Claimant were small, whereas those of Orton were _said_ to have been
large.  When the “unfortunate nobleman” went to Dartmoor to “languish”
for a term of years, it was a great relief to the Press and an infinite
advantage to the community at large.

He had indeed proved himself the very Prince of Jokers, but his joke had
begun to pall.



CHAPTER XII
ANSDELL’S AFTERNOONS


JAMES ANSDELL was a retired Cape merchant.  He was a genial, generous,
and clever little man, and bore a somewhat striking facial resemblance to
Livingstone the explorer.  Why on earth James Ansdell, with a fine income
and all the world open to him as an oblate spheroid of a pleasure-garden,
should have selected Anderton’s Hotel in Fleet Street as the resort, of
all others, to afford him the greatest amount of diversion, I have never
been able to discover.  But in the smoking-room of Anderton’s some
five-and-twenty years ago Ansdell was to be found on every afternoon
after lunch, surrounded by a little coterie of pressmen, Fleet Street
nondescripts, and Cape cronies.  He established himself as host of the
table; and in those days that in itself was a passport to the less
strenuously occupied of the journalists.  Ansdell was always sure of a
full company, and as he was not only a good talker, but a good listener,
conversation for conversation’s sake was greatly encouraged, and time
passed swiftly and agreeably enough over the Cape merchant’s coffees and
whiskies and cigars.

Ansdell had met Alfred Geary at the Cape—about Geary I shall have a
little to say in my next chapter—and I suppose that to Geary he was
indebted for the introductions which enabled him to establish his
“afternoons.”  My opportunities of joining Ansdell’s circle were
infrequent.  The journalist of larger leisure, a smaller sense of
responsibility, and more mercurial temperament, found the Ansdell
reunions extremely to his taste.  And there can be no doubt that the
founder of the “afternoons” had contrived to surround himself with some
very interesting characters.

Among them was a certain poet.  The world forgets all about him—a
tasteless and an ungrateful world—but in the seventies and eighties no
new publication would consider itself complete that did not contain a
copy of verse from his muse.  And if he had been Horace himself, he could
not have had a more profound belief in the authenticity of his poetic
gift.  He had a stout figure, a round red face, and he walked up and down
the Street that is called Fleet with his head held well back, and with
the severe air of a man that was determined to bring the beast of a
British Public to its knees.  I am afraid the good fellow was chaffed
considerably at the Ansdell symposia.  But his belief in his own good
gifts was too profound to permit him to take offence even at the most
obvious irony.

The last occasion on which I saw the poet was on the day on which the
papers announced that the Laureateship, vacant for some time by the death
of Tennyson, had been bestowed upon Mr. Austin.  He was overwhelmed with
grief and chagrin—grief, that a post so manifestly adapted to his own
genius should have been given to another; chagrin, because the office had
been given to one whom he regarded as his own inferior.  His idea was
that I should obtain for him permission, from the conductors of a journal
with which I was then connected, to write the new appointment down.  He
was greatly incensed, I remember, by my asking him whether it mattered
very much who was appointed or whether any appointment whatever were
made.

“It is the cynical act of a Minister who has made science his hobby.
What sort of a taste for literature can be expected to be acquired in
Lord Salisbury’s laboratories at Hatfield?”

“A taste for literary retorts,” I suggested.  But he would not allow the
momentous subject to be side-tracked by a mere verbal pleasantry.

“I tell you,” he persisted, “it’s a filthy political job.  Austin has
been officially honoured, not on account of his poems, but as a reward
for his Conservative leaders in the _Standard_.  This great office has
been flung like a bone to a dog by a cynical and unscrupulous Minister.”

It was strange, the way he harped on poor Lord Salisbury’s cynicism.  But
I was unable to obtain for him the hearing he desired, and I do not
expect that it was accorded to him elsewhere.

The most picturesque figure at these informal assemblies was
Brigadier-General McIver.  In what service this Caledonian swashbuckler
earned his last distinction I forget, but the reader will find the
details in an autobiography of the General entitled “Under Fourteen
Flags.”  From the very title of the book it will be deduced that the
General was impartial in his sympathies, and that his good sword was at
the disposal of any nationality that was disposed to pay for it.  In that
autobiographical work the author is somewhat reticent about his life
previous to the date at which he received his first command.  From
personal observation of the gallant officer, I should be inclined to say
that he had served in the ranks as a British Tommy, and that, having a
real taste for soldiering, and finding the rate of promotion in the ranks
vastly too slow for his aspirations, he had left the home forces, and
placed his services at the disposal of those struggling nationalities
which are so often only too glad to accord high commissions to Englishmen
or Scotsmen or Irishmen willing to serve under their flags.  His whole
bearing, dialect, and appearance, was that of the ranker.

His book, which was really written for him by an English officer “down on
his luck,” is an amazing record of deeds of derring-do in Servia, in
Turkey, in the Far East, and in the republics of South America.  It was
all one to McIver.  A soldier of fortune, it mattered nothing to him
whose blood he was called upon to shed, provided he was allowed to shed a
great deal of it.  Had the deeds which the Brigadier-General has had
recorded in his name been performed under the British flag, the intrepid
warrior should have earned the Victoria Cross, perhaps a peerage, and
certain such a money grant as would have made him quite comfortable for
the rest of his natural life.  The struggling nationalities, apparently,
had all been either ungrateful or impecunious, and McIver was in the
habit of drawing on the resources of his generous entertainer from the
Cape.  That worthy individual was quite ready to meet these recurrent
demands, persuaded that in listening to the lurid romances of the General
he was receiving rather more than value for his money.

The successes of the gallant General in war were only less renowned than
his successes in love—that is to say, from the General’s own not very
lofty point of view.  His intrigues were, indeed, of a somewhat squalid
character, occasionally involving the professional disqualification of
the “slavey” at his lodgings, and his own temporary disappearance from
his Fleet Street haunts.

He was a tall, muscular, well-knit, soldierly-looking man with a cavalry
moustache and big imperial.  His accent was that of the Lowland Scot.  On
one of Ansdell’s afternoons the General, “intoxicated,” to use a famous
phrase, “by the exuberance of his own verbosity,” or from other causes,
retired from the convivial circle, and stretched himself out to rest on a
couch at the end of the room.  While “he lay like a warrior taking his
rest,” some habitués of the room decorated the face of the sleeping hero
with burnt cork and red paint, and when their artistic work had been
effected McIver looked more like a Sioux Indian on the war-path than a
Scots free-lance seeking repose.  Hours afterwards he woke, and found
himself in a smoking-room now filled with strangers.  A loud laugh
greeted his appearance when he arose—a giant refreshed.  There could be
no mistake that the laughter was directed against him.  In his most
heroic vein he demanded the cause of the company’s hilarity, and was
referred to the mirror that was fixed above the fireplace.

A wild Scottish whoop came from his throat.  He turned on the assembly
with a fierce expression and a commanding gesture.  The laughter of the
room broke out afresh.  McIver was speechless with rage.  He rushed from
the place.  But he was staying in the hotel at the time, and in half an
hour returned in the opera-bouffe costume of a Brigadier-General in the
army of a struggling nationality.  He had washed the paint and charcoal
from his face.  He stood in the midst of the grinning assembly, and,
drawing his sword, he inquired in an awful voice for the name of the
perpetrator of the dastardly outrage, manifestly intent on cleaving that
caitiff from helm to chine.  But a fresh roar of inextinguishable
laughter greeted his challenge.  In the pages of “Under Fourteen Flags”
he would have fallen upon that ribald crowd, cutting the infidels down
man by man.  In Fleet Street such a course was inexpedient.  The _beau
sabreur_, casting on the mockers a glance of superb disdain, exclaimed,
“Ye’re a pauck o’ scoundrels sheltering a coward!” and stalked from the
room with the air of a tragedy king, followed by the gibes of the now
irate “scoundrels.”

Mr. Gladstone—the G.O.M., I mean—was accustomed to ask strange people to
his breakfast-table.  But no stranger guest did he ever entertain than
when McIver sat with him at that meal to give the great statesman his
experiences in the Balkan States.  Gladstone welcomed anyone who could
give him the slightest information regarding what were known in the
eighties as “Bulgarian atrocities,” and the Brigadier-General returned to
England reputedly abounding with reliable news from that part of Europe.
If Mr. Gladstone was greatly in the habit of taking his facts about the
Eastern Question from authorities of the McIver kidney, it is little
wonder that he led his countrymen astray when he inflamed their passions
on the topic of atrocities with which he had become obsessed.

A year or two since I saw the death of the hero of the “Fourteen Flags”
announced in the _Daily Telegraph_.  It was followed by quite a
flattering obituary notice of the deceased officer.  His many deeds of
valour were referred to in terms which must have made all his friends
regret that the tribute should have been delayed till the man himself was
no longer alive to read it.

I have quoted above the initials G.O.M. as applied to Mr. Gladstone, and
standing, of course, for “Grand Old Man.”  Another and less reverent
reading of the initials was given by one of Gladstone’s most devoted
supporters, Mr. Labouchere.  It must have been at a time when the doctors
had stopped “Henry’s” cigarettes, or perhaps during one of those periods
of shuffling the Ministerial cards when Labouchere felt annoyed at having
his claims to office once more disregarded.  Whatever the cause, to Mr.
Henry Labouchere was quite rightly attributed the translation of G.O.M.
into “God’s only mistake!”

Another of the regular members of the Ansdell circle was Morgan Evans.
Evans was as good a fellow and as sound a journalist as ever tempted
fortune in the Street of Adventure.  But, like many a cultured man, he
drifted into the wrong line—wrong, I mean, in so far as money-making is
concerned.  In journalism, as in other professions, that man makes most
who specializes in certain subjects.  Now, the subject on which Evans had
specialized was scientific dairy-farming.  In this study, his friendship
with Professor Duguid and other leading lights in the veterinary world
was of considerable service to him.  The admirable series of articles
which he contributed to the _Field_ created widespread interest among
those for whose edification they were written, and Evans might have gone
on for ever treating on that subject and cognate ones in the _Field_ and
other papers dealing with agriculture.  Such a course meant abundance of
work at special rates.  But Morgan Evans was a dreamer, and preferred the
position of a free-lance writing spasmodically on general topics to that
of the highly paid regular contributor on scientific or semi-scientific
subjects.

With a miserably insufficient capital, and possessing absolutely no
business capacity, Evans founded a monthly magazine entitled _The
Squire_.  He did me the honour to consult me about the prospects of such
a venture.  When I asked and ascertained what was the amount of capital
behind the proposition, I strongly advised him to desist.  It appeared to
me that the title was more suited to a weekly paper on the lines of the
_Field_, and I believed that if he would agree to the scheme a sufficient
capital could be obtained.  But Evans was impatient.  He would hear of
anything save delay.  Besides, it was evident that he wanted the organ to
be his own mouthpiece and under his own individual control.  And this
could only be achieved by the employment of his own capital.  So he
brought out the _Squire_, and his friends rallied round him.  H. H. S.
Pearse wrote charming articles about hunting; Vero Shaw wrote with
interest and authority about the dog; I believe I contributed some
dramatic articles.  Evans himself wrote on general literature, and
Montgomerie Rankin produced the inevitable verses.  Every topic in which
a country gentleman might take an interest was dealt with—except
scientific dairy-farming!  Evans had been fed up with that subject, and
devoted himself to essays entirely detached from science of any sort.  I
forget who was responsible for the rather neat and appropriate title for
the article dealing with the drama of the month; it was called “Partridge
at the Play.”

The _Squire_ lived for six months, and then fizzled out, the savings of
poor old Morgan Evans having fizzled out too.  He then returned to the
unprofitable, but more congenial, rôle of casual contributor to the
Press.  During the last months of his life he did little and suffered
much, and the end came mercifully and quickly.  Evans was a rather short,
yellow-bearded man, with a gentle voice and a most engaging smile.  He
hailed from the Principality, but was not at all of the type of Welshman
that now affrights the imagination of the English.

An occasional visitor to Ansdell’s table was A. K. Moore.  At that time
Moore also was among those who wielded the free-lance.  Among the
journals that sometimes accepted his contributions was _Punch_.  But
Fleet Street was a long time discovering Moore’s merits.  He was a
graduate of Dublin University and a graduate of Oxford.  He was an
Irishman, he possessed a fine sense of humour, wrote a lucid, vigorous
style, yet had to wait many years for a recognition of his gifts.  When
at last “he came into his own” by being appointed Editor of the _Morning
Post_, he proved himself to possess all that his journalistic friends in
Fleet Street claimed for him; but I imagine that it was a man somewhat
soured by waiting who took command in the editorial sanctum of the
_Post_.  His duties were, however, discharged not only with fidelity, but
with conspicuous ability, and the paper prospered greatly in his hands.
He died in harness.

There were two artists in the Ansdell entourage.  The one was Mat
Stretch, the other George Cruikshank junior.  Both were contributors to
the comic papers.  The work of Mat Stretch was at one time in great
demand.  He possessed a vein of humour which was quite his own, and his
drawings always found a place in one or other of the humorous
publications.  Cruikshank had a stiff style and an exaggerated method.  I
never could stand his work, nor, indeed, did I care very much for the
little creature himself.  He was by way of being a bit of a dandy.  He
wore a very glossy silk hat tilted over one ear; his clothes were usually
of a sporting cut, and he affected the style of a patron of the turf.
Before the growing popularity of camera pictures both he and Mat Stretch
fell back.  The camera, if not artistic, is at least reliable, and any
reliability which Cruikshank might have at one time evinced became
impaired by his conviviality.  It is to be feared, indeed, that he was
not a bigoted subscriber to the teetotal tenets of his illustrious
relative.  George the Elder drew “The Bottle.”  George the Younger was
fonder of drawing the cork.

Ansdell, the chairman of these afternoon reunions, was a widower.  When
he took to himself a second wife, Cruikshank junior regarded it as
something in the nature of a personal affront that the permission of the
circle at Anderton’s had not been obtained in the first place.  Perhaps
Ansdell knew that George would never give his consent.  At all events, he
got married without asking for it.  The agreeable afternoon functions
were broken up, and Fleet Street knew James Ansdell no more.

The smoking-room at Anderton’s Hotel is abundantly provided with windows
at the back, and over the front part of it, which is cut off from the
back by a partition, there is a dome light.  But the place is so built in
that the walls of neighbouring erections cut off the sunlight, and on the
brightest days this particular apartment is always tenebrious.  On gloomy
days the artificial lights are switched on.  At Anderton’s Hotel the
redoubtable Richard Pigott spent some of the last days of his smirched
career, and the smoking-room was the favourite resort of the devoted
forger.

Pigott’s favourite position was at the writing-tables under the glass
skylight in the lower part of the room.  There he spent many hours of
those days of the Parnell Commission pending and during his call to the
witness-box.  I had occasion to interview him on two occasions during
this momentous period—almost literally period—in his career.  I always
found him writing away like mad and smiling sweetly to himself the while.
Never, surely, did the results of a literary man’s efforts yield so much
immediate pleasure to their author as Pigott’s “copy” seemed to afford to
him.  When I addressed him and explained my desires, he gathered up his
sheets of “copy” and deposited them in a black leather bag which always
accompanied him.

He was a most benevolent-looking rascal.  His white beard and whiskers
were carefully trimmed; his rubicund face was invariably wreathed with
smiles; his portly figure had an aldermanic contour; and altogether he
suggested the railway director or the rich stage uncle.  No one would
have taken him for the editor of a tenth-rate provincial paper, or the
clumsy forger who was so careless in his criminality as to sign his
victim’s name at the top rather than at the bottom of a letter on the
acceptance of which everything depended.

Once I met him in Coventry Street late at night, and asked him into the
American Bar of the Criterion.  He hesitated a good deal before accepting
my invitation, and was evidently ill at ease while he remained there with
me.  He was greatly disconcerted by the apparent interest which two men
who were drinking cocktails were taking in him.  They certainly looked
our way and whispered together.  Pigott took leave of me hurriedly and
left the place.  I called on him next day, desirous, if possible, of
ascertaining his exact suspicion about the men, whose presence had so
obviously disturbed him, and their connection with a conspiracy of which
he was obviously in dread.  But Pigott could be as close as an oyster
when he desired.  He assured me that he had not particularly noticed
anyone at the Criterion, and explained that he never really liked the
place.  The “company is so mixed, you see,” declared the venerable liar.

Pigott presented a strange psychological problem with singular
physiological developments.  Immediately after the appearance of his
forgeries in the _Times_, he suddenly lost flesh: the incessant smile and
inflated waist had disappeared; his face was haggard; he was but the
shadow of his former self.  Pigott was a sick man.  The thing
accomplished, fear possessed him and reacted on his body.  But he put on
flesh again, and when he appeared before the Commission he was the same
sleek, obese, oleaginous charlatan of former days.  On his oath he was as
unctuous and specious as when off it, and quite untrammelled by its
obligations.

His flight to Spain, and his suicide when his pursuers were close on his
trail—these are matters of history.  That which is not quite a matter of
history is an incident redounding very much to the charity and humanity
of Mr. Labouchere.  It will be recollected, perhaps, that the exposure
and flight of the traitor and forger were brought about at a conference
which he had with Sala and Labouchere at the house of the latter.  That
which has gone unrecorded is that Labouchere charged himself with the
maintenance of the dead man’s children.

It was curious to note the effect of the exposure of the Pigott forgeries
on the London public.  The Man in the Street came out very strong on the
occasion.  Up to that time Parnell was a much-hated politician.  But your
Cockney has fine sporting instincts always, and the finest instinct of
the sportsman is a love of fair-play.  It was felt now that a deadly
wrong had been done to the leader of the Irish people—for leader of the
Irish party he never was and never pretended to be.  He led the people;
but he drove the party like a herd of pigs.  I was on the steps of the
Royal Courts when Parnell came out after the disclosure.  Quite a crowd
of people were assembled on the pavement.  Parnell was accompanied by
George Lewis.  On the appearance of the lawyer and his client, quite a
hearty cheer was raised.  The eminent solicitor—usually so impassive—was
quite evidently moved and pleased.  But Parnell passed on untouched,
sphinx-like, contemptuous.  As far as he was concerned there might have
been no demonstration, no expression of sympathy, no British public at
all.  Tall, gaunt, unbending, he moved on, a sad, lonely figure of a man,
I thought.  His, however, was the immobility that covered a very genuine
sense of power.

After the divorce proceedings, which broke the rod of iron with which he
had hitherto ruled his so-called Parliamentary following, had come to an
end, the Irish tribune proceeded to his native country to face the thing
out in the constituencies.  A friend of his and of mine met him on the
platform at Euston Station, and, on behalf of a news association, asked
him to impart something of his plans and views.

“What is there about which you particularly want to know?” asked Parnell.

“Well,” said the interviewer, “my people are anxious to ascertain your
present attitude with regard to Mr. Gladstone.”

“Oh, the old man?” said Parnell coolly, and dropping the “grand” which
usually accompanied the words.  “You can tell your people, if you like,
that the old man has made three mistakes with me.”

“Yes,” said the other eagerly.

“The first was when he put me into gaol; the second was when he let me
out; and the third was when he went into business with me and thought to
get the better of me.”

But I have wandered some few perches from Anderton’s.  I return.  My last
visit to that hotel was with the late Dr. Tanner, a Member for Mid-Cork.
His brother had committed suicide there by injecting morphia.  The
deceased gentleman, Dr. Lombard Tanner, was an extremely jovial and
good-looking Irishman.  He had got into entanglements—not of a financial,
but of the _other_ kind—and he saw no way out but this.  I had been an
intimate friend of his.  But he sought advice neither from friends nor
relatives.  The memory for me will always remain gruesome and
ineffaceable.  For before the inquest the coroner’s officer handed me a
letter-card addressed to me by poor Lombard, which was written, as to the
first part, just before he commenced the injection, and, as to the last
part, ending blurred and incoherent, while the drug was taking effect.
He wished me to accept his sword and certain other effects which he had
left at his room, in St. James’s Place, St. James’s, and to bid me
farewell!

This is, I confess, a sad note on which to close a chapter, but even the
most jocund periods have their short sharp moments of tragedy.



CHAPTER XIII
DE MORTUIS


FLEET STREET is haunted by the ghosts of dead newspapers.  At midnight
they flit—in white sheets, of course—out of the doors and windows of old
offices in the thoroughfare itself, and in the tributary lanes and
streets and courts that flow into it.  You may—if you have a good
reliable imagination—catch the glimmer of their silent passage as they
scurry back to their long homes.  Poor sheeted dead! once so full of life
and hope and confidence, but cut down untimely, and fated to revisit the
scenes of their short but well-meant labours!

When my time comes to go, I shall not be able to leave my children much
money; but I can—and will—leave them a lot of good advice.  Should one of
them determine to try his fortune in Fleet Street—a course which I should
deplore—I would advise that devoted child of mine to keep a diary.  Had I
adopted this precaution, I should now be in a position to fix an exact
date to every incident and anecdote related in these chronicles, and to
record a hundred others which have escaped my memory.  And for the
purposes of this particular chapter I should be in a position to give the
names, dates, and careers, of all the dead newspapers I have known during
their brief stay on earth.

In the absence of any record, and having no desire to engage in research
at the British Museum, I should roughly compute the number of
publications started in my time and since died the death at between forty
and fifty.  I confine myself in this estimate to papers founded during
the twenty years of my Press experience, and issues with which I had some
intimate or remote personal connection.  And here permit me to give
another crumb of advice to that unfortunate boy of mine who may develop
journalistic leanings.  I would say to him:

“My son, when sinners entice thee to found a newpaper, be sure you do not
call it after the name of a bird.”

That way disaster lies.  There is ill luck in the selection.  Even
_Chantecler_ would fail to draw the public if put on a Fleet Street
publication.  There is a fatality about feathers.  It has happened so,
perhaps, since journalists abandoned the goose-quill for the Gillott, the
pencil, and the stylus.  But that it _is_ so there can be no manner of
doubt.  The smartest, breeziest, and best-written little paper of which I
have any recollection was _The Owl_.  It appeared only during the
Parliamentary session.  It was a sort of co-operative concern carried on
by a group of able men in politics and Society.  It came somewhat before
my time, and I am shaky in my recollections of its short but brilliant
career.  I think Bowles fleshed his maiden sword in its columns, and Hume
Williams the Elder wrote in it his “Diary of a Disappointed Politician.”
The other members of the group were persons of higher social distinction.
The profits of the issue were expended on dinners at Greenwich—I wonder
why people ever _did_ dine at Greenwich?—and on a box at the opera.  But
the paper did not live, and now “_The Owl_, for all his feathers, is a’
cold.”

_The Cuckoo_ made its early flights with a strong pinion.  It was started
as an evening paper by Edmund Yates, and was frankly named after the
predatory fowl because it made free with the nests of its morning
contemporaries.  Yet in truth it did not sin half so largely in this
direction as the other evening papers, and its original matter was smart,
ably written, and cheery.  But who cares in these days to hear of
original matter in a paper?  Nowadays matter doesn’t matter.  From Yates
the devoted _Cuckoo_ passed, by purchase, into the hands of my friend
“Jimmy” Davis.  “Jimmy,” in his desire to make his journal spicy, lowered
its tone.  He was very fond of writing what he called “snaky” paragraphs,
and too ready to accept, without making due inquiries, items of curious
information about people in Society.  It was useless to reason with him
on the subject.  A short time before the end came I met the sub-editor in
Fleet Street, evidently labouring under a stress of emotion.  I asked him
what was the matter.

“If we don’t dry up we’ll be smashed tip,” he replied.  “Look at this!
He insists on its going in!”

“He,” of course, was Davis, and “it” was a paragraph dealing with the
private life of a very great lady indeed.  This particular item got
crushed out at the last minute.  But the risks of criminal libel run
every day by “Jimmy” would appal the modern journalist.  This
notwithstanding, the _Cuckoo_ died a natural death.  Contrary to general
expectation, it “dried up,” and was not “smashed up.”

The bat is not what naturalists would call a bird, but I feel sure Davis
thought it was.  For his second venture was a weekly publication called
_The Bat_.  In his earlier paper he had gone out of his way to attack
Society people; in the _Bat_ he found a savage delight in crucifying
Stage folk.  In this direction he probably went as far as any man ever
_did_ go without suffering from reprisals.  He was less fortunate when he
turned his attention to the leading men on the Turf.  Lord Durham, being
advised that the _Bat_ had gone beyond the limits of fair criticism, took
criminal proceedings.  The redoubtable James, having a lawyer’s notion of
what the upshot would be, and a nice appreciation of the advantages of
liberty, repaired to France, where he remained in exile for several
years.  George Lewis, indeed, boasted that as long as he (Lewis) lived
Jimmy should never return to his native land.  And when two Jews feel
like that about each other, you may safely anticipate trouble.  But Mrs.
Davis brought her personal influence to bear on Lord Durham, and, the
Hatton Garden threat notwithstanding, “Jimmy,” who had got as far as
Boulogne, was permitted to return to London—absent from which centre of
activity he was never really happy.

Some few years before his death Davis founded yet another paper.  This
time he combined in his title his taste both for ornithology and for
mythology.  He called his paper _The Phœnix_.  He now showed his pristine
smartness without his old-time scurrility.  The paper was, indeed, very
well done—bright, original, and mordantly humorous.  But the day for that
sort of thing was closing in.  There was no longer any public for
six-pennyworth of smartness.  Seeing this, the accommodating proprietor
reduced his price to twopence; but even at that figure his smartness
proved unsaleable.  At the other end of the town, however, he was making
money “hand over fist,” as the vulgar saying has it.  His “Floradora” was
running at a West End theatre and playing to crowded houses.  I suspect
that a considerable amount of the money which he made out of comic opera
was lost in comic journalism.  I wrote for Davis on all his papers, and
although he usually owed me a balance at the moment of the inevitable
“smash-up” or “dry-up,” that balance was so inconsiderable in each case,
as compared with the sums that I had taken from him, that I never thought
of pressing him.  Davis was essentially a good “pal.”  He has followed
his papers and his other enterprises into the grave.  May the turf lie
light on him!  The Turf pressed him rather heavily here.

Another bird of ill omen was _The Hawk_.  This was hatched out by
Augustus Moore, an Irishman very well known in the eighties on the Press,
but in later years better known in connection with the stage and stage
plays.  Augustus Moore was the brother of George of that ilk, an author
who first came into notice by means of a collection of verses, chiefly
imitations of Swinburne, and called “Pagan Poems,” and afterwards
notorious for some faithful studies of domestic servants given to the
public in the guise of fiction of the Zolaesque order of literature.  In
his labours on the _Hawk_, Augustus Moore was greatly assisted by his
compatriot and copartner, Mr. J. M. Glover, known in later days as the
conductor at Drury Lane and onetime Mayor of Bexhill-on-Sea.

Moore passed through many vicissitudes in carrying on the _Hawk_, all of
them encountered in that spirit of cheery optimism which characterized
the adventurers of the jocund days—the boys of the Old Brigade, as
Clement Scott called them.  But the financial position at last became
impossible.  Moore sold out his interest for a small sum, and the _Hank_
came under the control of John Chandor, an implacable enemy of Moore’s,
and a sort of Ishmael in his attitude with respect to society generally.
Chandor’s reign was brief but lurid.  He hit out all round, not with the
rapier, but with the bludgeon, and at last, getting into a fracas at the
Aquarium with some gentlemen holding commissions in the army, he attacked
these men by name in his paper.  The Colonel of the regiment insisted on
his officers obtaining an apology or bringing an action.  No apology was
forthcoming.  The action was taken; heavy damages were imposed.  The
venomous bird of prey had made her last flight.

_The Pelican_ may, at first sight, appear to be an exception to the rule
which associates ill luck with the selection of a bird name for a paper.
But, with all respect to Mr. Boyd, the _Pelican_ is scarcely a paper in
any large or liberal use of that term.  It is a little organ owned,
edited, and principally written, by one man.  It has discovered a nice
adjustment between the minimum of “copy” and the maximum of
advertisement.  But the circulation is good, and the advertisers are
quite satisfied, so no one else need cavil; however, I should not advise
any future promoter to attempt success on Mr. Boyd’s lines, even with a
good bird name to start out on.

Another bird which, having for many years suffered severely from the pip,
at length died a lingering death, not greatly regretted by the public for
which it fatuously “clucked,” was _The Bird o’ Freedom_.  This weird fowl
was hatched in the hot incubators of the _Sporting Times_.  Its memorial
tablet is now affixed, together with that of the _Man of the World_,
among the titles of the parent paper.  No paper has so many titles
incorporated as the _Pink Un_.

“How much money should you have to start a daily newspaper?” I once asked
the owner of one of our great dailies.

“Two hundred and fifty thousand pounds,” he answered promptly.

Many daily papers have been started on less than that sum, and a few of
them have succeeded.  But my experience of Fleet Street confirms the
estimate of the eminent man whom I have quoted.  It is not the mere
start, of course, that demands that large capital sum; it is the income
expended in keeping the thing going until it reaches the paying point
that renders desirable a big capital.  The best sub-edited paper that
ever saw the light in London was _The Echo_.  Its editing also was good.
But for sub-editing it held, in its time, an easy pre-eminence.  No one
knows—no one ever will know—the amount of capital sunk in that venture
successively by the publishers in La Belle Sauvage Yard, by Baron Grant,
and by Passmore Edwards.  Sanguine speculators succeeded each other in
prolonging its existence.  It was the very type and model of what an
evening paper should be.  It lived for many years.  It never paid.  It is
one of the mysteries of the profession.

A much shorter shrift was accorded by the public—that _difficile_ and
insensate public!—to _The Hour_.  This ambitious Tory organ was edited by
Captain Hamber, who had held a corresponding post on the _Standard_.
Hamber was one of the most remarkable men I ever met.  He possessed some
rather pronounced eccentricities; but he was a gentleman _ad unguem_, and
he had the authentic editorial _flair_.  But the faith of the proprietors
of the _Hour_ could not have been equal to the proverbial grain of
mustard-seed.  For—at least, so Hamber more than once told me—they “shut
down” on the very day on which, for the first time, the paper showed a
profit.  On the collapse of this Conservative venture the gallant Captain
was offered the editorship of the _Morning Advertiser_.  Thus he
could—and did—boast of having controlled the destinies of three morning
papers.  He did not, however, very greatly relish his connection with the
“_’Tiser_,” as it was irreverently called by the Street.  But he did his
work well and conscientiously, and succeeded in what should have seemed
an impossible task—that, namely, of raising the tone and increasing the
influence and circulation of the organ of the British Bung.

Hamber always treated his licensed victualling proprietors with a sort of
lordly tolerance, and they forgave his mood in return for the good
fortune which had attended his conduct of their property.  Indeed, they
evinced the unbounded confidence they bestowed in him by always granting
any advances for which he asked, for he was afflicted with a chronic need
of advances.  Once or twice the worthy men gave him a bonus to discharge
some pressing obligations.  His salary was £1,000 a year; but had it been
£5,000 a year, Hamber would have contrived to get through it.  To be in
debt was his _métier_.  Yet he was fond of lecturing members of the
staff, who evinced a faculty for following his brilliant example on the
folly and wickedness of the thing.  Indeed, I have known him to be
interrupted in the delivery of a homily of the kind by the intrusion of a
Sheriff’s officer charged with an ultimatum to the genial editor himself.

His handwriting was the very worst I ever attempted to make out.  As a
matter of fact, he could not decipher it himself.  But there was one
compositor in each of the offices in which he had edited who could set up
his copy, though, as Hamber often said, “whether he really sets up
exactly what I wrote is quite another matter.  But he always swears he
does, and I’m blessed if I can contradict him!”  Before Captain Hamber
took to journalism he had become known as having been the man who
enrolled and commanded the German Legion during the Crimean War.  Neither
Hamber nor his Legion was ever called to the front; but it was generally
admitted that in this matter he had acted promptly and patriotically.
Hamber was a staunch party man, a member of the Junior Carlton Club from
its foundation, and he possessed an unrivalled acquaintance with the fine
art of party tactics.  It is not altogether to the credit of the party
that his last days should have been passed under a cloud to which there
was no silver lining.  He was a man physically of great proportions, but
had acquired a stooping habit and unmilitary gait.  And his great frame
contained a heart as big as the shell that enshrined it.

The forerunner of the halfpenny dailies was _The Morning_.  The one
circumstance against that wonderfully well edited paper was that it came
before its time.  It was founded by Mr. Chester Ives, one of the most
popular and most accomplished of the American colony in London.  He
edited the paper himself, and surrounded himself with a really smart and
reliable staff.  Among other men whom he introduced was a young man from
the North who afterwards became associated with the Harmsworths in the
promotion of their successful newspaper undertakings.  Notwithstanding
the bold bid which the _Morning_ made for public favour, it failed to
“catch on,” and we watched its disappearance with regret—but not as those
without hope.  Poor Chester Ives! since the above lines were penned he
has passed from amongst us, and under peculiarly painful circumstances.

H. J. Byron brought out a penny rival to _Punch_, to which he gave the
somewhat jejune title _Comic News_.  But there was nothing at all jejune
about the contents.  The editor seemed to have inspired his staff with
his own spirit of wild and irresponsible fun.  The thing was a roar from
beginning to end.  The title displayed a caricature of the royal arms,
with the mottoes “Dieu et mon droit” and “Honi soit qui mal y pense”
riotously rendered, “Do ’em and drwaw it” and “On his walks he madly
puns.”  It was the funniest thing ever produced, but it did not take with
the many-headed.  I strongly suspect that the public imagined that “H.
J.” was laughing _at_ and not _with_ them.

Two weekly organs of gossip, criticism, and politics which depended for
acceptance chiefly on their cartoons were the _Tomahawk_ and _Will O’ the
Wisp_.  The former introduced to the public the bold and effective
artistic work of Matt Morgan; the latter was the first to discover the
abundant merits of the art of my friend John Proctor.  In the literary
department both papers occasionally condescended to scandal and
scurrility.  Morgan’s cartoon entitled “A Brown Study” was resented by
all decent-minded men, and both papers failed because they entirely
misunderstood the tastes of those who at that time purchased weekly
journals.  The cartoons in both cases were of sufficient merit to keep
any properly edited paper alive.  But when the cartoonists themselves
were inspired by the conductors the worst happened.  Both papers died the
death unregretted.

How the _St. Stephen’s Review_ managed to struggle through its recurring
financial viscissitudes is one of the unsolved mysteries of the
publishing world.  It was a strong Tory weekly, price sixpence, with a
coloured cartoon by Tom Merry, and the one outstanding fact to its credit
is that Mr. William Alison, the editor, gave Phil May his first chance.
Alison has since those days discovered his journalistic _métier_ in a
field far removed from the arid area of politics, and in his new line he
has achieved a large and financial success.  I wrote a lot of copy for
the _St. Stephen’s Review_.  But I turned it up after a while, and I have
no doubt someone better qualified took my place.

A curious incident happened to me in connection with this paper.  The
Hon. Mrs. Whyte-Melville, widow of the novelist, had engaged as her
private chaplain a wild Irish divine known as the Rev. Peter Higginson.
Peter had been chaplain to Bishop Colenso, and his native impetuosity had
been increased on the African veldt.  Now, a paragraph had appeared in
Alison’s paper in which it was stated, as a matter of gossip, that
Whyte-Melville’s favourite cob, which had been provided an old age of
ease by the deceased gentleman’s will, was being daily galloped about the
Thames Valley by a mad clergyman with a big red beard.  A day or two
after the appearance of the paragraph a gentleman answering the
description of the person mentioned in connection with Whyte-Melville’s
cob, entered my room unannounced.  He threw a copy of the paper
containing the note on the table at which I was sitting.

“That manes me, an’ you wrote it!” he said.

I asked him to be so good as to remove his hat and take a seat.  He
complied growling, and blushing, I thought, on his cheek-bones.

“Now, perhaps,” I suggested suavely, “you will tell me who you are and
how you got in here.”

“I’m the Rivirind Pether Higginson,” he answered, in a more chastened
spirit, “an’ I gev your boy five shilluns to let me in.”

I rang the bell.  My unfortunate clerk entered.

“You’ve got five shillings belonging to this gentleman.  Give them back
to him.”  Greatly resenting the order, the boy complied.  “Now show the
gentleman out!” I continued.

A letter from Peter received a month after assured me that he had
discovered the writer of the offensive note, that he greatly regretted
his intrusion, and that he would esteem it as a great favour if I would
lunch with him on the following day at Simpson’s in the Strand.  I went,
and had a most amusing time listening to his gasconading.  He married the
widow for the repose of whose husband’s soul he had been engaged to pray,
and I became an occasional visitor at their house at St.
Margaret’s-on-Thames.  Peter’s solicitude for my welfare was quaintly
evinced on the first occasion of my dining with the newly-married couple.
Just before going into the dining-room he whispered solemnly in my ear:

“Don’t dhrink the clar’t: it’s muck!”

“If I be waspish best beware!” was the motto which appeared under the
title of _The Hornet_.  This smart and satirical little paper was
originally launched in the wilds of Hornsey as a minor City organ.  It
then came into the hands of the American, Stephen Fiske.  This gentleman
made theatrical criticism the leading feature of his newly-acquired
property.  He was a great friend of Mrs. John Wood, the inimitable
comedienne, and he was said to have been financed by Peabody the
philanthropist.  This I always took leave to doubt, because, although
Fiske put plenty of brains and labour into his new purchase, it gave none
of the customary signs of any considerable outlay of money.  Indeed, in
his hands, the _Hornet_ was more or less (rather more than less) of a
financial failure.  Fiske returned to New York.  Here he took up the post
of dramatic critic on the _Spirit of the Times_, a position which he
still holds, though the name of the journal has been changed to _Sports
of the Times_.

Joseph Hatton then undertook to run the _Hornet_.  Hatton had written a
novel called “Clytie,” a great part of which was made up of the
proceedings in the celebrated Twiss case lifted bodily from the columns
of a daily paper.  The novel enjoyed a sort of library success, and
Hatton thought to increase the circulation of his new property by
bringing out “Clytie” as a serial.  Now, the public hates reprint, and it
particularly hates reprint of unsuccessful stuff.  But Hatton was
obsessed by “Clytie.”  He not only ran it in his paper, but he turned it
into a play, and as he could not find a manager willing to produce it, he
took it on the road himself.  That soon settled poor Jo Hatton, and
incidentally involved his parting with the _Hornet_.

Under the editorship of Vero Shaw the _Hornet_ exhibited all the signs of
enlightened management and a desire to live up to the paper’s motto.
Shaw introduced new men and new features.  H. J. Byron was engaged to
write a serial, and he also contributed a weekly causerie entitled “Our
Absurd Column.”  Other members of the staff were Godfrey Turner, John
Augustus O’Shea, Tom Purnell, and the redoubtable Featherstonhaugh.  For
the first time in its varied career the paper began to hum, a
circumstance attributable not only to the increased brightness of the
literary department, but also to the fact that the cartoons were the work
of that most gifted of caricaturists and most amiable of men, the late
Alfred Bryan.  One salient feature of the paper under its new control was
a spicy City article in which the bucket-shops of the period were
remorselessly exposed and condemned.  A syndicate of City men then came
forward and offered a price so substantial that the proprietor could not
resist the temptation to realize.  Having gained their object by
purchase, the _Hornet_ was put to a speedy and painless end by its new
owners.

An incident delightfully characteristic of the irresponsible way in which
minor journalism was carried on in the jocund days may be popped in here.
I can personally vouch for the truth of it.  During the last weeks of his
proprietorship, and during the negotiations for sale, Hatton was away
from home, and the affairs of the _Hornet_ were left in the hands of
Broughton, the dramatic critic.  It was essential, in view of
negotiations then pending, that the paper should be kept alive.  Danks,
the printer, whose “works” were next door to the Argyll Rooms, suddenly
refused to proceed with the printing unless his balance were paid, and
the “oof bird” was particularly shy and strong on the wing just then.
Broughton, though a little man, was a most loyal and determined one.  By
hypothecating some sleeve-links and a watch-chain, and by the skilful
manœuvring of cross cheques, a small sum of “ready” was secured.  The
Cesarewitch was being run that day, and the money thus secured was, on
the advice of Vero Shaw, invested on Hilarious.  The noble horse won at
excellent odds.  Danks, the printer, was appeased, the hypothecated
jewellery was redeemed, the cross cheques met, and the _Hornet_ saved!

James Mortimer made a long, arduous, and plucky fight of it with
_Figaro_.  First of all the paper appeared as a daily, and was supposed
to enjoy some financial backing from the Tuileries.  Eventually it
settled down into a weekly.  For a short period, too, it sent out a
Sunday edition.  But Mortimer was not one of the lucky ones.  After the
disappearance of _Figaro_ from the face of the earth, he started the
_Lantern_, and in still more recent years the _Anglo-Saxon_.  His later
bantlings all perished in early life owing to feeble circulation and
insufficient nourishment.  It is, however, with his first venture,
_Figaro_, that the name of James Mortimer will always remain honourably
associated.  His staff on that paper was largely recruited from the Civil
Service.  He engaged Clement Scott, of the War Office; Dowty (“ O. P. Q.
Philander Smiff”), of the Paymaster’s Office; Ernest Bendall, of the same
Department; Archer and Winterbotham.  They were not only capable
writers—Mortimer was wont to say—but they were reliable.  “You always
know where to find them when you want them,” he would slyly add.
Mortimer’s hobby had always been chess, and to the pursuit of this
stimulating science he devoted a considerable portion of a full and busy
life.

Hugo Ames was, I think, the tallest man who ever adventured in Fleet
Street.  He is a younger brother of Captain “Ossy” Ames, who has the
distinction of being the tallest man in the British Army.  The career of
Mr. Ames as a newspaper proprietor was brief—and disastrous.  He
established a smart little paper called _The Dwarf_, to which he
contributed largely himself.  He also founded _Smart Society_, and he was
foolishly persuaded to purchase the _Hawk_.  Ames was a splendid fellow,
but he got into wrong hands, and as a consequence dropped a fortune at
newspaper promotion in less than two years.

. . . But I have exceeded the chapter limit which I had assigned to
myself, and I have dealt with but a few of the dear—the very
dear—departed papers of my day. . . .  The sheeted dead press round me,
gibbering and clamouring for notice.  Poor ineffectual ghosts!  They are
doomed still to “walk.”  I have no space in which to “lay” them.



CHAPTER XIV
MY FRIENDS THE PLAYERS


NEARLY opposite the old Gaiety Theatre in the Strand stood the offices of
Gaze and Co., the tourists’ agents.  And in the early seventies the upper
part of the premises had been let to a retired old sea-dog of portly
person and convivial habits called Captain Harris.  This gentleman had
made a somewhat extensive acquaintance among the lesser lights of the
stage, the music-hall, and the newspaper world, and he had taken the
upper part of the Gaze office with the view of turning it into a Bohemian
club.

For a while the institution flourished greatly.  It was named the Savoy
Club—on the _lucus a non lucendo_ principle—and by those who had not been
chosen for membership it was nicknamed “the Saveloy.”  A continuous
conviviality was the dominant note of the establishment.  The hours kept
by the members were astounding.  The pace, in a word, was too fast.  And
in a couple of years the Savoy closed its doors, the unfortunate mariner
who founded it having lost in the venture the savings of a lifetime.

It was at the Savoy that I first met John Hollingshead.  After the
closing of his theatre he would drop in of a night, generally accompanied
by one or two members of the Gaiety company.  No man ever undertook the
management of a playhouse with less practical knowledge of the stage than
Hollingshead; no man ever conducted a theatre more successfully, and to
no man is the public more indebted for the amelioration of the condition
of that portion of it which patronizes the drama.  Hollingshead was a man
of sound common-sense, never hide-bound by tradition, and always
possessing the courage of his opinions.  These were the characteristics
which he brought to bear on the unknown enterprise of theatrical
management.  And so considerable was the success attending the
application of his principles to the unfamiliar task which he had
undertaken, that in the course of a few years he became known all over
“the profession” by the sobriquet of “Practical John.”

It is true that after a successful managerial career lasting over many
years his luck deserted him, and his theatre fell into other hands, but
the period of undimmed success during which he kept burning that which he
called “the sacred lamp of burlesque” was one upon which he might look
back with considerable satisfaction.  He was in many directions a
reformer.  He abolished the programme fee.  He refused to sublet his
cloak-rooms to the harpies who at that time held an undisputed monopoly
for at once incommoding and fleecing the playgoers who booked for the
stalls and boxes.  He was the first man in London who installed the
electric light.  He did not, indeed, use it as an illuminant inside his
theatre—electric lighting was in its infancy, and had not as yet been
tried as an indoor illuminant—but he burned a fierce, if blinking,
electric globe over the main entrance to the Gaiety, and he should have
the obituary honours due to the pioneer.

Gradually I became on intimate terms with Hollingshead, and remained a
friend of his until his lamented death.  Some millions—I am speaking by
the card—had passed through his hands to actors, authors, musicians, and
the rest of the vast army required to carry on the business of a
successful theatre.  Yet he died in somewhat straitened circumstances.
His courage and his equable temper, however, did not desert him.  He was
a bit of a fatalist, I fancy.  He spoke jauntily of being “equal to
either fortune.”  Originally he had been on the Press.  He was one of the
staff of Charles Dickens on _Household Words_ and _All the Year Round_.
He wrote for Thackeray on the _Cornhill_, and for Norman Macleod on _Good
Words_.  Indeed, in the sixties his work was in general demand by the
magazine editors.  The daily paper with which he was most intimately
associated was the _Daily News_, for which his particular friend Moy
Thomas was dramatic critic.  When he severed his connection with
journalism, he characteristically observed that a journalist is like a
barrel-organ—wound up to play so many tunes, and that when he has “run
down” it is time for him to retire.  Which, I may parenthetically
mention, would have been a sad doctrine for some of us.

No figure was more familiar in the Strand, Garrick Street, and the West
End than that of Hollingshead in the halcyon days of the Gaiety.  His
good looks, his neat attire, his silvery hair, his hat cocked a trifle on
one side, his brisk walk, his cheery expression, and his generally
debonair appearance, suggested even to the outsider the busy, competent,
yet good-natured, man of affairs.  He was an excellent talker, very fond
of paradox.  A utilitarian philosopher, he was a follower of Jeremy
Bentham.  It was difficult to gather from his views as given in
conversation what his political convictions really were.  I once asked
him the question.  He readily replied in that curious but modulated
falsetto of his.  “I’m a Tory Socialist,” was his answer.

The stalls of the Gaiety—more particularly the front row of the
stalls—were filled with the _jeunesse dorée_ of the period.  These young
gentlemen were each interested in the career of one of the shapely
vestals who tended Hollingshead’s “sacred lamp.”  A somewhat lavish
display of figure was then _de rigueur_ with the chorus ladies.  It had
not yet become the fashion for young men to marry into the chorus—so to
say; but the young swells made other arrangements which—in those days—the
chorus lady regarded as eminently satisfactory.  So the fortunes of the
chorus ebbed and flowed.  I have called at the ineligible rooms of a
chorus lady while she was lunching on fried liver and bacon; her hair was
in curling-pins, and her principal article of attire was a far from
cleanly peignoir.  She has called me by endearing terms, and there was
nothing in the world she would not surrender to me in return for a
newspaper notice a line long.  In a week’s time I have seen the same
young woman drive up to the Gaiety in her own victoria, loaded with
jewels, dressed in a Parisian inspiration, and with a crop of golden hair
which spoke volumes for the prolific nature of the foreign soil in which
it grew.  Her attitude toward myself had changed as perceptibly as had
her coiffure, “Hello, old chappie!” she has cried, with an amusing
affectation of high-bred hauteur.

The swagger stallites who had organized themselves into a beauty cult at
the Gaiety displayed every variety of what Tennyson called “the gilded
forehead of the fool.”  These young gentlemen were known as “mashers”
(the object of their temporary devotions was known as a “mash”); as
“Johnnies” and as “members of the Crutch and Toothpick Brigade.”  In this
race for the overrated favours of the chorus lady they were often beaten
by the elderly “masher”—the fatuous old _roué_ of the wig, the stays, the
pigments, and the unguents.  In these, as in all other civil contracts,
it is money that matters, after all.

If Hollingshead played burlesque as his trump card, it must be recalled,
in justice to his memory, that he instituted the matinée in London; and
that he instituted it, not as the vehicle for amateur authors who played
with problems, and called the result “problem plays,” but as the means of
introducing to the London public (or re-introducing) the greatest living
exponents of the highest examples of dramatic literature.  He brought
over from Paris the entire company of the House of Molière.  He engaged
Charles Mathews to play in a series of his memorable and delightful
performances.  And if I don’t mistake, he gave that veteran actor the
opportunity of enacting a new part in a new-play, “My Awful Dad.”  He
afforded us the opportunity of seeing Phelps in his rendering of Sir
Pertinax MacSycophant in Macklin’s “Man of the World,” probably the
finest all-round bit of acting I have even been privileged to witness.

Knowing “Practical John,” I soon came to know the members of his company,
the bright, particular star of which was Miss Nellie Farren.  Miss Farren
was the embodiment of the very spirit of burlesque.  She was fun
personified.  And although she had the support always of a distinguished
company—it included such men as Toole, Edward Terry, Royce, and John
MacLean, and such women as Constance Loseby and Kate Vaughan—the whole
weight of the production seemed to fall on Nellie Farren’s shoulders, and
she lifted it how, and where, and when she pleased.  Off the stage Miss
Farren was quite as amusing as on.  She had the rare gift of spontaneous
humour, a fine flow of animal spirits, an unfailing good temper, the
whole shot through with a certain indefinable Cockney quality which gave
to everything she said its hall-mark.  I do not think I ever spent more
enjoyable afternoons than on those Sundays when Miss Farren was at home
to her friends at Sunbury.  She had bought two cottages near the gates of
Kempton Park, and had them knocked into one.  And here, on Sundays, the
merry little _châtelaine_ received her friends.  And some very jovial
gatherings we had on those Sunbury sabbaths.  The outstanding
characteristic of the average actress when off the stage is an obvious
artificiality.  The charm of the Farren’s society was in her frank
naturalness, her ingenuous honesty.

Nellie Farren was the wife of Robert Soutar, the stage-manager of the
Gaiety, a comic actor of limited range, and the author of some popular
farces.  An extremely convivial soul when off the stage, he was regarded
as a martinet while on it, and during the entire period of his
stage-management hardly a day passed without a rehearsal being called on
some pretence or another.  For this reason he was highly disapproved of
by the chorus, toward the members of which his sentiments were sometimes
conveyed with brutal directness.  “It’s the only sort of language they
understand,” he once said to me.  Perhaps he was right, although the
polished shafts of Byron’s irony often went home quite as surely.  I have
known a girl at rehearsal burst into tears under the suavely-spoken
sarcasm of Byron, and I once received a letter of complaint from a member
of a chorus illustrating one of his burlesques, in which the talented
author of “Our Boys” was described as “a nasty, sneerin’ beest.”

The inauguration of the old Gaiety and the passing of it, roughly
speaking, cover the period of my own experience of the London stage and
its interesting entourage, which must be my excuse for according to my
memories of the Gaiety what may seem to be an undue space.

If anyone were to ask me who, in my experience, was the most
mirth-provoking actor I had ever seen, I should, without the least
hesitation, mention a name which is quite unknown to the playgoers of
this generation, and is being rapidly forgotten by those who belong to
the last.  And the name that I should mention would be that of John
Sleeper Clarke.  The house at which he originally appeared was the little
Strand Theatre, merrily associated with the burlesques of the Broughs and
Byron, and subsequently with the less artless productions of H. B.
Farnie, in which so much laughter was made for the public by Marius and
Edward Terry, and that plump, inimitable Angelina Claude.  J. S. Clarke
was an American, and, although he appeared with great success in some of
our dramatic masterpieces—he was the finest Bob Acres and the best Dr.
Pangloss of his day—he preferred to enact characters written for him in
pieces of which he held the copyright.

Clarke’s favourite characters were Major Wellington De Boots and Toodles.
It is always a hopeless task to attempt to convey to those who have not
witnessed it the effect of a comic performance on the observer.  It would
not be correct to describe Clarke as an “eccentric” actor.  His
thoroughly artistic and masterly impersonation of Bob Acres and Dr.
Pangloss quite forbid any hasty generalization of the kind.  It would be
more just to say that he selected eccentric characters for
representation, and in the illustration of these characters he employed
for all they were worth certain quaint methods of voice, expression,
gesture, and gait which were quite his own.  The pieces in which he
introduced himself as an irresponsible eccentric were as a rule flimsy
compositions, entirely negligible from a literary and dramatic point of
view.  But in the mouth of Clarke the inanities of the dramatist became
precious gems.  He would utter an author’s commonplace with such an air
of comic gravity—if I may use the expression—with such an inimitable
facial note of enjoyment in the delivery, that the little house in the
Strand would rock with laughter over sayings which in cold print would
appear to be the veriest drivel.

There must be many men about town who retain a vivid recollection of
Clarke’s acting.  They will bear me out as to the statement just made.
They will remember how their sides shook as Clarke in “De Boots” made the
entirely empty declaration: “My dear Felix, I call you Felix because you
are my best friend!”  What an extraordinary quality of irresistible
humour he imparted to that absurdly puerile line!  Again, what a weight
and world of dramatic humour he imposed on the trifling sentence
addressed to the pump in “Toodles”!  The scene is one in which he depicts
a man imperfectly sober.  Stumbling about a yard, he knocks against the
pump.  He grasps the handle, snakes it heartily up and down, exclaiming
the while, “Excuse me, my friend—er—will you take anything?” Banal to a
degree, I quite admit.  But Lord! how often have I roared over the words,
and to how many of my own day who read this page do they not recall an
ineffaceable and delightful recollection—an they would but acknowledge
it.

I hate to apply the money test as a standard by which to measure the
value of artistic work.  In many instances it is no test at all.  The
artistic charlatan sometimes amasses a fortune.  But this does not hold
so literally with the actor who has to appeal in person to patrons drawn
from all classes of society.  In his case the making of a fortune must
surely be a reliable test of the possession of the real sort of genius.
Clarke in a very few years in London made a fortune, purchased the lease
of the Haymarket, and retired from his profession into private life
without any formal leave-taking.  Years after I first roared over his
impersonations, I was introduced to him in a little hotel in one of the
streets—Surrey Street, or another—close to the old Strand Theatre.  Here
the merry-maker was in the habit of sitting alone.  He was the most
moody, melancholy, shy, and reticent person with whom I had up to that
time become acquainted.  There was no slightest trace of the spontaneous,
irrepressible, and irresistible fun which seemed to possess him when he
made his welcome entrances on the stage.  I met him many times
afterwards.  I made a point of meeting him.  The desire to understand the
problem presented obsessed me.  But I found him always the same—polite in
a grave way, willing to converse to the extent of answering a question or
passing a shy opinion when it was challenged.  But he made no jokes, told
no anecdotes, indulged in no reminiscence.  Others who knew him told me
the same tale of him.  In the roaring Strand John Sleeper Clarke was as
much a recluse as though he lived in a hut in the depths of a forest.

Reticence is not usually the characteristic note of the actor.  Of all
the companionships that I formed during my Press experiences, none were
so enjoyable as those I made on the stage.  There are, of course, some
pompous asses among them.  But you will find these in all callings.  And
the pompous mummer was never the most successful one.  As a rule, the
more distinguished and gifted the actor, the more genial and accessible
he is.  The players are full of amusing early experiences, which they
relate with delightful candour.  Actors’ stories are, as a rule, well
told, and are worth telling.  Nor is this extraordinary.  Making points
off the stage should be very good practice for making points on it.
There were two classes of raconteur in my day.  The one was the
reminiscent or quasi-historical man; the other was the simple retailer of
good stories.  Of the former class the two finest examples were John
Ryder and John Coleman.  Of the latter were Lionel Brough and Arthur
Williams.  I should not have used the past tense in alluding to Arthur
Williams, who, I am happy to know, is alive and well, and still
entertaining a public in whose smiles he has basked for many years.

My first introduction to Lionel Brough—“Lal,” as he was always
affectionately called—was at Covent Garden, where he was stage-manager
during the career of that costly experiment “Babil and Bijou.”  The late
Lord Londesborough was a determined supporter of the stage, a great
friend of actors—and actresses—and a generous contributor to theatrical
charities.  His lordship financed the Covent Garden Opera House when it
was taken by Miss Fowler.  Boucicault did the play—a sort of pantomime,
we should call it to-day—with processions, and ballets, and comic relief,
and popular songs, and all the rest of it.  There was an army of Amazons,
headed by the statuesque Helen Barry, who had started her artistic career
in a cigar-shop in Piccadilly.  The armour of these ladies cost no end of
money, being very beautiful and substantial.  A few weeks since I met a
manager—a provincial manager—in the North who informed me that some of
the properties and armour made for “Babil and Bijou” were being taken
round the country by fifth-rate travelling companies to this day.

But to get back to “Lal” and his stories.  The majority of these were, I
have every reason to believe, “made up” by Brough.  Everything was in the
telling.  One of them occurs to me now.  A certain young married couple
had been rendered very unhappy by the betting habits of the husband.
They had an only boy of some seven summers.  They were in debt all over
the place.  The servant had been discharged.  There was little food in
the house.  At this tragic juncture a cheque for forty pounds arrived.
The relieved and delighted husband embraced his wife and hurried off to
the city to “melt” the cheque, promising to return immediately, settle
all outstanding accounts, and take the family out to dinner.  There was
racing at Kempton that day, and the unfortunate man knew of one or two
“certs.”  So when he had received the proceeds of the cheque, he ran down
to Kempton Park, fired with the benevolent idea of doubling, or even
quadrupling, his forty pounds.  The usual thing happened.  Far from
winning, he dropped every sou, and returned home a sad, despairing man.
He hoped for sympathy from his wife; but, for the first time in their
married existence, the wife rose to the occasion, and, in unmistakable
terms, denounced her stricken and shamefaced spouse.  He slunk from the
room, and silently closed the door behind him.  She heard him mount the
stairs.  But her heart was hardened against him.  Ten minutes after the
exit of the gambler her little golden-haired blue-eyed boy dashed into
the room.

“Oh, mummy!” he cried, in his eager, happy way, “daddy’s cut hisself
shavin’.”

“H-h-h-has he cut himself much?” asked the woman, rising.

“Cut hisself much!” exclaimed the innocent child; “he’s cut his bally
head off!”

Brough used to tell another story in which the same note of exaggeration
was the salient characteristic.  It had to do with a Scotsman and a kilt,
and afforded a sort of current phrase in his clubs for a time.  The
quoted phrase was: “I’m a maun o’ few wor-r-r-ds!”  The story is not of
the kind that can easily be conveyed in cold print.

Some years before his death I went into the Eccentric Club with him.
There had been a considerable making of theatrical knights at or about
the time; and when we entered the club-room, we found a smart young
journalist of the new school inveighing against the knighting of stage
folk.  Brough, who did not care a red cent one way or the other, but who
felt himself bound to stick up for his order, asked:

“But why should not actors be made knights?”

“Because,” answered the adolescent Fleet Streeter, with professional
glibness, “they belong to a wandering, a nomadic, race.”

“Sort of Arabian knights, I suppose,” suggested Brough, closing the
discussion with the acquiescent ridicule that kills.

“Lal” Brough and John L. Toole were the especial favourites of
Londesborough among the players, and they might frequently be seen on his
drag—his lordship was an accomplished “whip”—driving down to
race-meetings near London, or enjoying in his company the beauties of
Scarborough.

Another indomitable patron of the stage in the seventies and eighties was
the Duke of Beaufort.  His Grace was particularly quick in discovering
budding talent in pretty actresses.  To his fostering care was due the
great advance which Miss Connie Gilchrist made in an education outside
the meagre accomplishments demanded in an actress of burlesque—an
education which fitted her for taking that high place in Society which
she was destined to fill.  Ah, dear me! it seems but a little while ago
since the Duke was giving those luncheons in the upper room at Rule’s in
Maiden Lane, at which the time passed for all of us so quickly and so
gaily.  Yet how few of those who sat at the board have survived to tell
the tale!

In a public-house kept by one Beck in that part of the Strand which
backed on to Holywell Street, and has disappeared under the advance of
the County Council improvements, there was established a small club of
actors and journalists, called the Unity Club.  This was a coterie to
which admission was not quite so easy as its surroundings might suggest.
The talk there was excellent because, I think, there were always a
sufficient number of butts upon which to exercise the ingenuity of the
wits.  It was in this select assembly that George R. Sims was first
enabled to give a taste of his quality.  His butt-in-ordinary was a very
boastful actor named Harcourt, and the verses—chiefly in parody of great
poets—which Sims wrote on one of Harcourt’s big boasts will still be
recalled by those who were privileged to read one of the few copies
printed.  The “house-dinner” at the Unity Club was one of the most
enjoyable feasts to which I ever sat down.  The fare, indeed, was plain
and substantial, but the sauce provided by the cheery players and
pressmen who sat round the table was the most piquant to be obtained in
all London.

At the Unity might sometimes be met David James and Tom Thorne, of the
Strand Theatre.  The club was just opposite to the theatre.  When James
and Thorne left the Strand, and, in partnership with Harry Montague, took
the Vaudeville, a great amount of public interest was displayed in the
venture.  The new managers relied on burlesque as an opening experiment,
preceded by comedy.  The comedy was provided by Andrew Halliday.  I
forget who wrote the burlesque—Byron, perhaps.  But the fortunes of the
managers were to be founded by the new work of a new man, and the two
burlesque actors from the House of Swanborough were to be enabled to rely
thereafter on comedy, and to dispense entirely with burlesque.  The new
author was James Albery; the new play, “Two Roses.”  For this production
the services of Henry Irving were engaged—an engagement which evinced
considerable managerial discretion, and, incidentally, gave Irving his
first real opportunity of making a hit with the London public.  All the
members of the managerial triumvirate were provided with strong parts.
George Honey gave a memorable impersonation of a good-hearted bagman—the
“Our Mr. Jenkins” of the bills.  Some of his lines were delivered with
great unction.  He comes under the influence of his wife’s religious
belief, and evolves into what he calls “a shining light.”  He and his
wife are encountered by the heroine of the play.

“How do you do, Mr. Jenkins—or perhaps I should ask, how do you shine?”

“With the mild effulgence of the glow-worm,” is the answer of Our Mr.
Jenkins.

“We are all worms,” interpolates his wife.

“Yes, my dear; _but we don’t all glow_,” was the answer, given by Honey
with a half-deprecatory, half exultant expression that was simply
inimitable and delightful.

But the Digby Grand of Irving was, after all said and done, the gem of
the production.  In all his after-life he never surpassed it.  Only once
did he equal it.  I have seen Irving in every impersonation he gave in
London, and I shall always hold that he reached high-water mark with the
selfish swell of “Two Roses,” and that he touched that mark for the
second time with Matthias in “The Bells.”

Albery’s “Two Roses” was succeeded by a comedy from the same author
called “Apple-Blossoms.”  It was not a success.  Nor, indeed, did Albery
ever produce another play to equal his first.  I came to know him well;
collaborated with him in a small way; and visited him when he was living
at Evans’s Hotel, and after he had furnished some pleasant chambers in
Southampton Street, Bloomsbury.  He was an admirable talker, a splendid
listener, and possessed a pretty turn for unexpected epigram.  The
Suffragette existed in those remote days.  But she practised under
another name.  And the questions of Woman’s Rights and Female
Emancipation were argued as warmly then as now.  The subject came up on
one occasion at Albery’s rooms.  His visitors were taking sides.  One
strong believer in tradition took his stand on Genesis, and asserted
woman’s inferiority on Scriptural grounds.

“Woman was made out of the rib of Man,” he declared.

“And was thus a mere side-issue of creation,” suggested Albery.

Albery ended sadly.  He became addicted to a habit which ruined a good
many of the best fellows of a convivial period.  His great gifts were
wasted entirely in conversational sallies, and among boon companions at
the Savage Club and other Bohemian resorts.  He had married a lady who
subsequently “went on the stage,” and greatly succeeded in her vocation,
becoming one of the most popular actresses of her time and of our own.  A
story of the days of Albery’s decadence has come to me.  Some time before
his lamented death, and in a contrite mood, he called his wife to his
bedside, and said:

“Ah, my dear, you should have married a different man!”

“I _did_, Jim,” was the tearful reply.

And there, I think, we plumb the very deeps of pathos.

It would be, however, an endless, exhausting, and uninteresting task to
pursue my friends the players through their various theatres.  The easier
way is to catch them during their hours of relaxation in their clubs and
in their pubs.  The billiard-room of the Junior Garrick between half-past
eleven at night and two in the morning was a covert always successfully
drawn by those in search of theatrical game.  Pool and pyramids were the
games most in vogue, but more especially pool.  Here you were sure of
encountering “Jimmy” Fernandez (I never knew an actor, however sedate and
inaccessible, who, being christened “James,” was not called “Jimmy” by
his confrères), a devoted exponent with the cue; H. B. Farnie was rarely
absent.  He was a great hulking Scotsman with a slight limp, of which he
hated to be reminded.  He had originally been a medical student at
Edinburgh.  John Clarke, of the Adelphi—no relation to John Sleeper
Clarke—was another of this coterie.  He was a fine comic and character
actor.  He was the husband of Miss Furtado, a favourite Adelphi actress
of the time.  He played with unvarying success under many managements,
including that of the Bancrofts, was of a grumbling disposition, and was
known as Lame Clarke, to distinguish him from the other John
Clarke—Sleeper of that ilk—lower down the Strand.

Clarence Holt, the tragedian, greatly fancied himself at the game of
billiards, and had succeeded in cutting more billiard-cloths than any man
living.  Clarence Holt (his real name was Jo) was a barn-stormer of the
old school; and although in general conversation he scowled, and made use
of weird expletives, he was as good-hearted a fellow as ever lived.  At
the Saturday house-dinners of the club he invariably gave a recitation of
“The Old Clock on the Stairs,” and always accepted with a sort of
condescending and regal dignity the ironical cheers which it invariably
evoked.  His mingling of oaths with endearing epithets was one of the
quaintest things in the world.

“How is Miss Holt?” one would ask.

“Oh, the dear, darling, bally little idiot—she’s well, dear boy, well!”

James and Thorne were also habitués of the billiard-room of the “J.G.,”
as it was affectionately called by its members.  And, indeed, in the
stifling atmosphere of that room, which was situated in the upper part of
the house, you would meet from time to time one half the actors in town.
It was the favourite resort of the Swanboroughs, and of many others whose
names have escaped my memory.  In the Savage Club there was no
billiard-room, but there was always a good attendance of actors after the
closing of the theatres.  The Garrick itself was never an actors’ club in
the exclusive sense of the word.  One or two of the upper crust of the
“profession” always belong to it, to justify and perpetuate the use of
the title.  But to the rank and file of the calling it stands in the
relation of Paradise to the Peri.  So that, beyond the Junior Garrick and
the Savage, the noble army of actors had no clubs.  Their usual
meeting-places, therefore, became pubs.  And these seemed to be selected
with a view to obtaining the utmost discomfort conceivable combined with
the highest scale of charges possible.  Thus, in the seventies the chief
meeting-place of the theatrical fraternity was a wine-bar in Russell
Street, Covent Garden, next door to the “Hummums,” and occupying a site
now covered by a market tavern.  From one to four o’clock of an afternoon
the wine-bar at Rockley’s was crammed with all sorts and conditions of
stage folk, and their contributory artistic aids—managers, costumiers,
authors, artists, journalists.

About half a dozen times in my life did I visit Rockley’s, but I retain
the most vivid recollection of the close atmosphere, the mingled smell of
sawdust and port, the loud buzz of conversation, and the frequent laugh
that followed the last new story or the smartly uttered retort.  It will
suffice here to record the impression of a single visit.  The little man
standing close to the bar, the centre of an eager group intent on his
poignant utterance, is Shiel Barry.  Barry was an Irishman, an actor of
extraordinary intensity, and a man of considerable general knowledge.  He
was an omnivorous reader, and, when I first knew him, a great admirer of
Carlyle, some passages of whose “French Revolution” he recited with a
wonderfully lurid effect.  I have recorded elsewhere in this book my
impression of his masterly interpretation of the part of the miser in
“Les Cloches de Corneville.”  His rendering of certain of the characters
in Dion Boucicault’s Irish plays was equally memorable and impressive.
He was a master of pathos and ferocity, and could at once attract or
repel by the strange realism of his embodiment of either emotion.  The
flamboyant gentleman with the Louis-Napoleonic moustache is William
Holland, of the Surrey Theatre, the North Woolwich Gardens, the Circus at
Covent Garden, and finally manager of the Corporation’s amusements at
Blackpool, which became this particular Napoleon’s St. Helena.
Conversing with him is Dr. Joseph Pope, familiarly known as “Jo,” and
nicknamed “Jope.”  Dr. Pope had been a surgeon in the army, serving in
the Royal Artillery.  He was a brother of Mr. Sam Pope, Q.C., of the
Parliamentary Bar.  Jo had been celebrated as the fattest man in the
army, and Sam was distinguished as the fattest man at the Bar.  Sam was a
bachelor making an enormous income.  Jo was a bachelor living on his
half-pay; and it used to be said, that when Jo was in need of a
remittance wherewithal to set right his balance at Cox’s, he would apply
to Sam.  If Sam proved irresponsive, Jo at once threatened to go on to
the music-hall stage.  That always “fetched” Sam, who hated the
Bohemianism in which Jo wallowed.

William Brunton discusses costume designs with Alias, and Harry S. Leigh
hums a new lyric which he has composed for a production at the Alhambra.
Brunton, espying me, edges through the crowd to me.

“Have you heard George Hodder’s _non sequitur_?” he asks.

“No.  What was it?”

“George was sent down to Stony Stratford by the _Daily News_.  When he
woke up in the morning, he had forgotten the name of the place.  He rang
the bell, and desired the chambermaid to send ‘boots’ to him.  When that
menial appeared, George asked: ‘Wh-wh-what’s the n-name of this p-place?’
‘Stony Stratford,’ answered ‘boots.’  ‘Ah!’ said Hodder, ‘you may well
c-call it Stony Stratford—_for I never was so b-b-bitten with bugs in the
whole course of my l-l-life_!”

Rockley’s was at best a cramped and pestiferous inferno, ill ventilated,
and without a chair to sit down on.  But its customers made long stays,
notwithstanding, and I understood that a considerable amount of
theatrical business was done on the premises.  It was a sort of rialto of
the “profession.”  From Rockley’s, the actor and those who do business
with him migrated to the new Gaiety bar opened in the Strand.  This was a
horseshoe-shaped bar next door to the theatre, much patronized by the
Brothers Mansell, by Henry Herman, by the then unknown D’Oyly Carte, by
several of the Nationalist Members of Parliament, and by many of the
shapely members of the chorus from burlesque theatres in the immediate
vicinity.  It was leased by one “Bill” Bayliss, who in after-years, and
during the Beaufort period, conducted Rule’s, in Maiden Lane.  For some
years the Gaiety bar remained a great afternoon centre for the
actors—particularly those who happened to be out of an engagement and to
retain an expensive thirst.  During a Gaiety _entr’acte_ I have smoked a
cigarette in the place, but regret that I have had no great personal
acquaintance with it.  Its history for ten or twelve years from its
opening would be well worth writing by a man possessing the requisite
qualifications.

It was the last public-house meeting-place of stage people.  There are
clubs now to suit every grade of actor.  And chorus girls are no more
seen in bars.  They affect the swagger restaurants—and I, for one, cannot
blame them.  A greater propriety in attire is observed by the actor of
to-day.  He no longer affects a Quartier Latin Bohemianism.  He takes
himself quite seriously as a social unit.  And with reason.  For just as
every citizen of the United States is a possible President, so is every
actor a possible Knight, and every actress a possible “my lady.”

To record the number of my theatrical acquaintances, and my
recollections, pleasant and unpleasant, of our forgathering, would fill
many chapters.  The foregoing stray notes on my friends the players are
remarkable for the omission of many names which I recall with the most
lively sentiments of gratitude for many a dull hour enlivened, and for
many a joyous moment heightened and prolonged.



CHAPTER XV
“THE ’ALLS”


TO the patrons of the music-halls of my early days about town, and to the
performers in them, those places of entertainment were never known as
“halls,” but always as “’alls.”  Nothing should more eloquently indicate
the vast change that has taken place in their administration.  In those
days the “’alls” were held in general disrepute.  To-day their repute in
the land is sweet and sound.  They have, indeed, ceased to be halls; they
have become palaces.  And they have evidently come to stay, always
widening their sphere of influence, and proving, as time goes on, an
increasing source of anxiety to those who have invested their capital in
playhouses.

For the evolution of the theatre has been very gradual.  No great
departure has been made on the boards since the playgoer was taught to
demand accuracy of detail in staging.  That was effected by the Bancrofts
in the sixties.  Managers have since their day “gone one better” in the
cost of a production, in the gorgeousness of scenery and properties, in
the numerical force of their stage crowds.  But nothing since their
production has been more appropriately acted and staged than the
Robertson series of comedies.  And no reproduction—whatever it may have
cost—has proved an artistic advance on the Bancroft presentation of the
“School for Scandal.”  We have better theatres, and we have more of them.
The comfort of the auditorium has been immeasurably increased.  The space
devoted to the stage by our newspapers has quadrupled.  The playgoing
public has grown enormously.  But the playgoer has been marking time all
the while.  And the dramatist, in this particular respect, has been
following the brilliant example of the playgoer.

But if the drama has ceased to show itself progressive, if, according to
some, it even exhibits symptoms of decadence, the evolution of the
music-hall has been that of recovery, progress, and reform.  The music
hall has risen “on stepping-stones of its dead self to higher things.”
And only those who can recall the utter unloveliness of that “dead self”
can properly appreciate the privileges accorded to the patrons of the
halls and palaces as they are conducted in this present year of grace.

To begin with, no woman of the period with which I am dealing, with any
regard for her reputation, would think of entering one of these places of
entertainment.  She would run the inevitable risk of being affronted by
the patrons of the hall, and being outraged by the words and gestures of
the performers on the stage.  Phryne swarmed in the auditorium—poor
soul!—and by the bars lounged or swaggered the shameless males, Jew and
Gentile of his kind, who lived on the exploitation of female beauty.  The
smaller halls, such as the Pavilion (it was a small hall in those days);
the Trocadero, which rose on the ruins of the Argyll Rooms, and was run
by old Bob Bignell; the Oxford in Oxford Street; and Weston’s in
Holborn—all were hot, ill-ventilated, and stuffy interiors; and the moral
atmosphere was as warm as the physical.

Having once got his customer more or less comfortably seated, or propped
up close to a bar, inside his “’all,” the main object of the proprietor
was to induce him to drink as much as possible of very bad wine and
spirits at positively fancy prices.  Phryne, always hovering near,
exhibited a nice solicitude in forwarding the proprietor’s views in this
direction.  The waiters, during the frequent “waits,” made a descent on
the stalls, and, forcing their legs through the exiguous spaces,
contributed largely to our discomfort.  I recall the revenge of a friend
of mine on a waiter who had forced himself past us for the fourth time.
My friend was a Newmarket man, and was up in London for the Epsom Spring
Meeting.  A whisky-and-soda stood on the little ledge in front of him.
As the waiter crushed past, my friend very neatly tipped his glass over
on to the floor.  The glass fell shivered, the waiter turned round, my
friend denounced him for his clumsiness and demanded that his glass
should be replenished.  The waiter protested.  But the manager of the
“’all” decided against his menial.  A fresh drink and a new glass were
provided, and not again during the course of that evening did the waiter
attempt to brush past our stalls.  Not quite honest on the part of my
friend?  Perhaps not; but it was quite effective, and, under the
circumstances, what would you?

Originally the “’all” was merely an annexe to a big public house.  The
thing commenced in “harmonic clubs,” “free-and-easies,” and the like, and
many of the customs and traditions of the “free-and-easy” persisted for a
long time under the altered condition of things.  Thus, the programme
was, as yet, an unknown document, and the singers were introduced by a
bibulous person who sat on an elevated armchair with his back to the
stage, and his eye roving over the house.  To this day I never can quite
make out to what class of society the individuals belonged who sat round
the chairman’s table.  They must have had money, for cigars and
brandies-and-soda, and even that champagne which was innocent of grape,
were consumed at their expense.  An indifferent, honest crowd, no doubt.
Sharks, exploiters, billiard-markers, sporting touts, reinforced from
time to time by a contingent of moneyed “mugs.”

At the “Mogul” in Drury Lane—afterwards known as the “Middlesex”—presided
nightly the king, emperor, titulary chief, of chairmen.  This was a man
named Fox.  His face, encrimsoned by potations long and deep, was large,
and beamed with good-nature.  His nose was immense and pendulous—more a
proboscis than a mere nose.  But the boys in the gallery—a rough lot they
were—took old Fox very seriously indeed.  And it was quite amazing to
witness the way in which, by merely rising and calling upon some
delinquent by name, he could quell an incipient riot among “the gods.”
Thieves and their trulls, the scourings of Drury Lane tributaries, and
the lawless denizens of the turnings off the “Dials”—they were quelled by
the menace in his eye, and trembled at the deep bass of his commanding
voice.  Fox once sat to an artist friend of mine, and the resulting
picture was the very best Bardolph I have ever seen on canvas.

When I was a young man “seeing life”—ay, and tasting it, too, for that
matter—I admit having gained some experiences that I would quite gladly
have missed.  It is inevitable that the memory will be charged with a
reminiscence which is recalled with disgust, and that many of the
so-called pleasures of youth leave a nasty taste in the mouth which is
never entirely displaced.  The “star comique” is one of those memories.
George Leybourne was not at his zenith when I first saw him.  He had
essayed to live the life which he was supposed to depict on the
stage—with the usual result.  But he still held the first claim on the
music-hall public.  It is another circumstance marking the complete and
rapid evolution of the music-hall to note that forty years ago George
Leybourne held the same position with the patrons of these establishments
as was afterwards held by Chevalier and Leno, and is at the present time
of writing held by Harry Lauder.

Leybourne was still singing “Champagne Charlie is my Name” when I heard
him, and the amusing sight was nightly afforded of lawyers’ clerks from
Lincoln’s Inn, and shop-boys from Islington, and young men-about-town on
twenty-five shillings a week, waving their mugs of beer or “goes” of
whisky, and madly joining in the exhilarating chorus as though champagne
was their daily beverage.  But it was not to join in his bacchanalian
choruses that the greater part of the audience crowded to hear
Leybourne’s songs.  The “star comique” was ever provided with offal for
the pigs in front.  And it was when the orchestra began on the opening
bar of ditties like, “Oh, why did she leave her Jeremiah?” that necks
were craned and ears set.  For the pornographic part of the show was now
“on.”  The words of the song itself did not offend save by reason of
their inanity.  But between the verses the singer introduced long
monologues known to music-hall bards as something “spoken.”  It was in
these “spoken” interpolations that Leybourne “let himself go.”  He
cheerily set out to discover how far a pornographic artist could proceed
with a music-hall audience.  Sometimes he played with suggestion and
innuendo.  But properly encouraged and liberally stimulated, he would
spurt filth from his mouth as a juggler emits flames from the same
orifice.  The more reckless he became, the more delighted grew his
audiences.  That was Leybourne as I remember him.  And Leybourne was
typical of the music-hall as it then was.

Off the stage poor George was a good-natured, light-hearted, generous,
and conceited fellow—the friend of bookmakers, Cockney sportsmen,
publicans, and sinners; and the model of the mere middle-class boy in
offices, who imitated his dress and peculiarities, and regarded him as
the mirror of Society.  The great man drove from hall to hall in a little
carriage drawn by a pair of wonderfully neat ponies.  The champagne of
his evening ditties became the usual tipple of the artist during his
afternoon calls at his favourite bars.  He drank, indeed, many of the
sweets of artistic success—adulation, flattery, the favour of women, and
the jealousy of men.  He lived hard and died hard-up.  For even in his
time the shadow of a change was visible, though it was no bigger than a
man’s hand.

Other music-hall artists there were who, however disinclined they might
feel in the matter, were obliged to follow in the wake of the “star
comique.”  Arthur Lloyd was a genuine humorist, and had a peculiar
velvety quality of voice, which was conspicuous by its absence in the
throats of his contemporaries.  As an artist he was incomparably the most
accomplished, and the most versatile of the music-hall men of his time.
But though he got hold of some songs that enjoyed a wide and long
popularity, he never made one of those sensational “hits” which have
accidentally come in the way of less-accomplished performers.  “The Great
Vance” was another of the music-hall favourites.  This wonderfully
overrated person belonged to the Leybourne school of thought, and
illustrated the swell of the period as accurately as was possible by a
man whose aspirates were scarcely on a level with his aspirations.  “The
Great Macdermott” came a little later than the trio whom I have named,
but was long singing on the same stage as Lloyd and Vance, the popularity
of both of whom he was destined to eclipse.

Macdermott had been a sailor in the Royal Navy.  I remember his giving me
on one occasion a most dramatic account of how he came to leave the
service.  The general details I forget.  But there is impressed on my
memory the picture of Macdermott being rowed ashore in a jolly-boat,
rising in the stern-sheets, and, shaking his fist at his ship,
exclaiming: “Her Majesty’s Navy, adoo!”  In the fo’castle there is a
constant demand for the very class of song which was finding so much
favour at the hands of the groundlings when this songster took to the
stage.  And as a follower of poor Leybourne, the
sailor-man-turned-comedian made his first efforts.  He was minded if he
could to “go one better” than the creator of “Champagne Charlie.”  But
that wonderful impersonator had already sounded the depths.  Macdermott,
however, soon asserted his claim to a second place with such compositions
as “Moses and Aaron sat on a rock.”  These essays in an equivocal genre
brought the singer quickly to the front.  Yet it was not as an
illustrator of pornographic minstrelsy that Macdermott was to make his
“hit.”  When that wave of patriotism which its detractors called
“Jingoism” swept the country, Macdermott was to the fore as the laureate
and bard of the patriots.

Macdermott, indeed, has enriched the dictionaries of more nations than
one with a new word.  That is the word “Jingoism,” as used in politics.
He sang a chorus in which we hurled defiance at the wide world, and soon
the wide world was singing it, too.  Macdermott had a wonderfully
distinct enunciation, and had a peculiar knack of emphasizing the initial
letter of every word he sang.  The chorus which created the furore, as
sung by the great man, went in this way:

    “We Don’t Want To Fight;
    But By JINGO If We Do,
    We’ve Got The Ships.  We’ve Got The Men,
    We’ve Got The Money, Too!”

While this ditty was the vogue, the Great Macdermott firmly believed that
he and Lord Beaconsfield were the two principal Conservative forces of
the day.  With the capital he made out of his patriotism he retired from
the music-hall stage.  Unkind rivals declared that his patriotic howling
had cracked his voice.  He set up a “Music-Hail Agency” in the Waterloo
Bridge Road, and joined the redoubtable Jack Coney in “making a book.”
History holds no further record of him and his deeds.

About the same time James Fawn, Herbert Campbell, and Charles Coborn,
began to demonstrate to the public—and this fixes their place in the
elusive story of the evolution of the music-hall—that it is possible to
have a song in which there shall be real humour, the nice delineation, a
“taking” tune, without any appeal to that which is lowest and most
bestial in the minds of the public.  Then followed Chevalier, Dan Leno,
and the comic singers of the present day, with whom, of course, these
reminiscences have nothing to do.

Perhaps the most deplorable feature in the entertainments given by
music-hall managers in the early days of my acquaintanceship with those
places of entertainment was the lady performer.  Those terrible young (or
middle-aged) persons who were announced as the “Sisters” So-and-So, and
were inevitable on every stage, always succeeded in putting a portion of
the audience into a bad temper.  Their short coloured skirts, their fixed
smirk, the mechanical steps of their dance, their metallic voices—these
things have left an impression not pleasant to recall.  They couldn’t
sing.  They couldn’t dance.  And their “make-up” proved that they
couldn’t even paint.  Still, there were women appearing before the
patrons of the “’alls” who possessed the authentic gift.  One of the
earliest of these was Jenny Hill.  “The Vital Spark” they used to call
her on the bills.

In her choice of subject she allowed herself a wide range, alternating
between the pathetic and the humorous.  She was very clever in depicting
the coster class.  She was the forerunner of Bessie Bellwood in that
department.  And I have always held that she was possessed of much higher
artistic qualities than fell to the lot of poor Bessie.  And she had the
same readiness of retort when the “gods” in the gallery felt called upon
to interpose with humours of their own.  At the “Mogul” Jenny Hill had
frequent opportunities of exhibiting her skill in this direction, and
never failed to score off her saucy admirers on the slopes of
cloud-capped Olympus.  Bessie Bellwood revelled in the same sort of
conflict.  But it must be admitted that the older artist had the command
of a more subtle and good-humoured method.  Bellwood’s retorts were often
coarse, and always stung.  But, although the less accomplished performer
of the two, Bessie Bellwood made a quicker jump into fame and achieved a
wider popularity than her older rival.  It was another case of getting
hold of a song that has a “hit” in it.  “What cheer, ’Ria!  ’Ria’s on the
job!” lifted the unknown genius immediately into the front rank—a
position which she kept till her death.  The regard in which this
absolutely untaught woman was held was shown by the thousands of the
public that turned out to follow her funeral, and line the streets
through which the procession to the cemetery passed.

It was with the utmost difficulty that Bessie Bellwood could be induced
to study a new song.  She had no love for music.  She had plenty of
money, she was fond of racing and Society and fun of all kinds.  She
could read and write, but that was about all.  Arthur Williams was the
only man I ever met who seemed to know anything of her early life, and he
always declared that her occupation, before she went on the stage, was
that of skinning rabbits in the East End.  Notwithstanding the obscurity
of her origin and the paucity of her attainments, she was the chosen
domestic companion of a Duke and of a Marquis!

It may seem strange, to a generation possessing only an experience of the
chastened variety theatre of the period, to learn that in my day a person
entirely lacking in education should attain to a foremost position on the
music-half stage.  But the thing was by no means uncommon.  An amusing
case in point occurs to me.  Hollingshead, of the Gaiety, was always on
the lookout for “talent,” and he was not at all particular as to the
source from which he drew it.  Calling on him one day at the theatre, I
found him considerably upset by a discovery which he had just made.  He
had long admired the performance of a certain music-hall artist, and,
when an opportunity arose, he offered him a part in a burlesque then in
course of preparation.  Good terms were offered.  The music-hall artist
was flattered, and the offer was accepted.  But when his part was handed
to him by the stage-manager, it was found to be of no earthly use to him,
for he could not read!  Fortunately, the artist’s ignorance in other
matters came to Hollingshead’s assistance in determining the engagement.
For the contract had been signed in the gentleman’s name by a friend, and
was invalid!

One of those incidents by which one may note the progress of an evolution
comes in its natural order in this place.  Albert Chevalier had failed to
obtain from the general public supporting the theatre the amount of
attention and critical admiration that was accorded to him freely by the
judicious few.  For years he was known at club banquets and the like as
the writer, composer, and singer, of those coster songs which have since
won for him fame and fortune.  In a burlesque of “Aladdin” put on at the
Strand Theatre by Edouin, Chevalier introduced his famous “’Armonic
Club.”  Its humours appealed for the moment, but it did not make one of
those “hits” the impact of which sets all the town tingling.  And for a
long time after the run of the Strand “Aladdin” Chevalier was unable to
obtain “a shop.”  He was one of the many unfortunate artists whose
peculiar vein of talent had not found the proper assay.

When he was at last offered an engagement as a music-hall singer, he
naturally hesitated at taking a step which he rightly regarded as
irrevocable.  He recognized the fact that his acceptance meant a
renunciation of the theatre.  And to his profession—hard mistress though
she had been—he was deeply attached.  I was one of those friends to whom
he repaired for advice over what appeared to him a momentous issue.  I am
glad to recall the fact that I strongly advised him to take the plunge.
Nor was I ever in doubt as to the success of his songs with an audience
even then emerging from under the spell of the raucous and “rawty”
comiques.  A number of us went to the Pavilion to witness his début.  We
had scattered ourselves all over the hall—it was the new building, and
not the stuffy old hole of the seventies—and we were prepared to act as
an unsalaried claque.  But our services were never needed.  With great
judgment, Chevalier had selected as his first song “The Coster’s
Serenade.”  It went home at once.  The delicacy of the art appealed alike
to stalls and gallery.  This refinement of treatment was novel.  It was
something like a revelation to the “gods.”  The song went with a will.
And Chevalier’s fortune was assured.  We who had attended as unpaid and
unwanted claquers were not without a vocation, after all.  We were
watchers at the parting of the ways.  The old music-hall of the Great
Vances and the Bessie Bellwoods was passing away.  The new order of the
Fragsons and the Margaret Coopers was imminent.

It is difficult, in tracing the course of any evolution, to attribute
exactly the dates of transition, or to assign scientifically the
contributing causes of change.  But I think that one would not be far
from the truth in attributing to three causes the wonderful improvement
which has taken place in music-hall conditions and entertainments in the
course of a generation.

In the first place, the erection of more modern, more pretentious, and
more comfortable buildings on the ruins of the ancient pest-houses almost
necessitated a performance from which should be eliminated the more
objectionable features of the old pothouse programme.  In the second
place, due importance should be given to the persistent efforts of
managers of the Charles Morton school, who, foreseeing the possibilities
of the variety show, cherished high ideals, but cherished them on
strictly business lines.  In the third place, one must allow something
for an improvement in public taste.  This factor is—for reasons which I
cannot discuss here—the least potent.  But it is far from being
negligible.  It is a case, indeed, in which the supply created the
demand, not where the demand created the supply.

Charles Morton, whose name must be imperishably associated with the
transformation of the halls, was the least professional-looking manager
in London.  He was of short stature, wore ginger-coloured side-whiskers,
dressed in a frock-coat and silk hat, and affected gold pince-nez.  Asked
to guess at his calling in life, a stranger would probably have put him
down as the owner of a large suburban drapery establishment, who acted on
Sundays as sidesman at the nearest church.  And, truth to tell, Morton’s
innate sense of decorum was so strong that his demeanour in the halls
over which he presided would have done credit to a churchwarden.  No man
was ever half so respectable as Charlie Morton looked.  His work was none
the less efficient and permanent on that account.  And it is satisfactory
to reflect that he who had commenced the crusade against pornography at
the Canterbury, on the other side of the water, should have lived to
preside for years over the fortunes of the Palace, in the heart of the
West End.

In the seventies the Alhambra was not reckoned—as it is to-day—among the
“’alls.”  The Empire and kindred establishments were as yet undreamt of
by the pleasure-hunter.  And the Alhambra was a thing apart.  Leicester
Square, on the eastern side of which it is situated, was then the most
disreputable spot of earth to be found in the centre of any capital in
Europe.  Here on the sunniest summer days might be found promenading some
of the most villainous adventurers from the capitals of Europe.  They
cloaked themselves like brigands, glared at the passing shop-girls with
wicked black eyes, twirled their fierce moustaches, and rolled cigarettes
with a diligence which they gave to no other innocent pursuit.  They were
the off-scourings of Europe.  The swindlers, gamblers, political rogues,
the _souteneurs_, the craven shirkers of conscription, the European
riff-raff that chooses London as its favourite dumping-ground, were all
to be found promenading in Leicester Square.  John Leech has fixed the
type in the pages of _Punch_.  The interesting _émigré_ may still be
detected prowling about the vicinity.  But he is a wonderfully
ameliorated brigand—a tame and nearly normal invader.  The improvement in
the enclosure itself accounts for this.  The squalor in which he throve
as in his native element has gone.  And the picturesque but filthy
villain has happily gone with it.  The “Lee-cess-tare Squar” of my salad
days is no more!

The paling that surrounded the gardens in the centre of the square had
been broken down.  It became the receptacle of the least sanitary parts
of the rubbish of the neighbourhood.  And as the rubbish-heaps increased,
augmented by contributions of dead dog and dead cat, the gamins of the
place found it become more and more desirable as a rallying-point and a
playground.  A statue of one of the Georges bestrode an adipose charger
(fearfully out of drawing) on a pedestal in the centre of the enclosure.
Everything of a humorous and adventurous kind which took place in the
West End in those days was put down to the medical students of the
Metropolis.  After a night of dense fog, the public passing through the
square discovered that the King’s steed had been given a coat of white
paint relieved by black spots.  On another foggy night the same body of
roisterers—or another—unhorsed the monarch, and broke him into pieces,
scattering his remains on the ground; for the effigy was not carved out
of marble, but was a case of moulded metal.  The monarch was discovered
to be a hollow mockery.  For a time the spotted horse dominated the
squalid enclosure, grotesque and riderless.

Then Baron Grant appeared upon the scene, and proceeded to abate this
Metropolitan nuisance.  Grant was a company-promoter of the well-known
type.  His real name was Gottheimer; and he sought, but failed to obtain,
a seat in Parliament as a Member of one of the London divisions.  He
built an enormous house in Kensington, known as “Grant’s Folly.”  Before
the mansion was finished the owner went “broke,” and, as it was not found
suited to the requirements of any of the few millionaires then in need of
a town-house, it was pulled down and the materials sold.  The marble
pillars supporting the ceiling in the hall of “Grant’s Folly” now adorn
the grill-room of the Holborn Restaurant.  Grant, having obtained the
necessary permission, set about the task of converting Leicester Square
into a beauty-spot.  He hoped, and, indeed, believed, that it would be
opened to the public by Royalty, and that he would be rewarded with an
English title.  He desired, also, to further his designs on a
Metropolitan electorate.  He was disappointed in both directions; and his
subsequent bankruptcy showed that both the Queen and the wooed
constituency exercised foresight in disregarding his claims.

But, whatever the Baron’s motives may have been, Londoners owe him a
considerable debt of gratitude in respect of the transformation of the
most disreputable public square in all Europe.  At no time has London
shown itself over-anxious to acknowledge the obligation, and to-day it
has probably forgotten all about its dead benefactor.  I knew the Baron
quite well.  He was a dapper, well-groomed, ambitious little man.  Had
the tide not turned and swept him off his feet, he would have gained
admission to the House of Commons—one of the few associations of English
gentlemen by whom promoters of the Baron Grant type are not merely
tolerated, but even made welcome.

Amid the filth and squalor of the un-reformed square the high edifice of
the Alhambra rose, giving the absent touch of the Orient to a locality
sheltering many swarthy sons of the East.  And there was something
Oriental in the entertainment, the chief feature of which was ballet.  In
the seventies, and before the coming of the Empire and kindred palaces,
every man-about-town dropped in at the Alhambra at least once during the
week.  He was sure to find himself among friends.  And in case that did
not happen, he had offered to him the easy opportunity of picking one up.
The establishment was owned by a company, the principal managing
directors being a bill-poster called Nagle, a friend of Nagle’s called
Sutton, and Captain Fryer, a wine-merchant in the City.  Fryer had
married the old Strand favourite, Bella Goodall, and was a member of the
Junior Garrick and other theatrical clubs, in one of which I first made
his acquaintance.  John Baum was the manager, and the hard-working and
inimitable Jacobi was _chef d’orchestra_.

John Baum, the manager, presented to the ordinary observer rather an
interesting problem.  He was at once manager of the Alhambra, lessee of
Cremorne, and the owner of a glove-shop in Piccadilly, situated on or
about, the spot on which the fountain now stands; for at that time the
open space which spreads itself before the Criterion was covered by a
triangular block of buildings, the back of which faced the London
Pavilion, which then stood close by the Café Monico and a nasty
anatomical exhibition known as Dr. Kahn’s Museum.  The exhibitor eked out
a bare existence by pandering to the prurient, and was at last compelled
by the authorities to close his unspeakably sorry show.  But I must not
side-track Baum in describing his surroundings.  He was a little,
fair-haired person with a rotund figure.  He invariably appeared in
public in a tall hat, a black frock-coat, and a narrow black tie,
carefully fastened in a bow.  But for a scrubby moustache, he looked far
more like a Dissenting parson than like a music-hall manager.  No one
could have inferred from his personal appearance that he could be in any
way connected with two such establishments as the Alhambra and Cremorne.

Baum was a most reticent man.  Little or nothing was to be got out of him
in the course of conversation.  He was at the same time quite polite, and
even affable, in his manner.  I once accepted his invitation to go and
interview De Groof, the intrepid adventurer, who was about to make an
aerial flight from Cremorne.  At the present moment, when aerial
navigation has just come back, and come to stay, a short reference to De
Groof may not be considered out of place.  About De Groof himself there
was nothing particularly striking.  His name notwithstanding, the
aeronaut was a Frenchman, and he reposed, or affected to repose, the most
absolute reliance on his machine.  The latter was more of a parachute
than anything else.  It consisted of two enormous wings worked by
pulleys.  Between the wings a seat was fixed for the accommodation of the
flyer.  The machine was to be fixed to a balloon, from which it could be
disconnected at will, when it was expected to descend gracefully to the
ground.  I did not witness the ascent, and so was spared seeing the
catastrophe.  The balloon failed to get away satisfactorily.  The weight
of the machine in tow was no doubt the cause; and De Groof, fearing
collision with a church-steeple in Sidney Street, Fulham Road, detached
his apparatus prematurely.  The machine fell to the earth like a stone,
and the unfortunate inventor was instantly killed.

The Alhambra audiences were drawn by an exhibition of terpsichorean art
and female beauty.  And establishments devoting themselves to such an
exhibition will have lots of hangers-on.  One of the most noticeable of
these was an exceedingly well-known but ancient and cadaverous-looking
Hebrew not wholly unconnected—if there was anything in current
report—with West End usury.  He was supposed to be the benefactor of
beauty in distress—the guide, philosopher, and friend, of impecunious
maidenhood.  Nor was his philanthropy confined to members of the _corps
de ballet_.

Certain of the habitués of the house had an admission behind the scenes
to what was known as the “canteen,” enjoying the privilege, which,
strangely enough, seems to appeal both to youth and old age, of drinking
champagne made of gooseberries in the company of ballet-girls in gauze
skirts and no bodices to speak of.  It has always struck me as strange
that men accustomed to luxurious surroundings in their homes and clubs
can extract any pleasure in becoming temporary participants of an
existence the dominant note of which is squalor, in which all the senses
are disagreeably assaulted, and the inevitable consequence of which is a
poignant sense of personal degradation!  The “canteen” is, happily, a
thing of the past.

Before Baum’s management of the Alhambra it was conducted for a time by a
man called Strange.  This gentleman had been previously a waiter at the
St. James’s Restaurant—the “Jimmy’s” of later days—and he was running the
show, I think, in 1870.  During that lurid year the Alhambra made a lot
of money, for the war feeling ran high, and the management astutely gave
prominence in its programme to rival national airs.  Partisanship was
evoked.  The house was nightly crowded by patriots on both sides, and
scuffles and encounters were among the ordinary diversions of the
evening.  It is wonderful to see how doughty and valorous your fighting
man who stays at home can be!  Strange was supposed by the supporters of
the house to be consumed by a hopeless passion for the _première
danseuse_, who spurned his addresses.  I never asked him about it, for,
although he always made an effort to be civil to persons of my calling,
he was a churlish fellow, and he wore flowing side-whiskers, which was in
itself an offence.  Both he and the object of his middle-aged affection
have been dead this many a day.

My memory of the Alhambra stage is as a dream of fair women.  Whether as
ballet-girls, as singers, or as actresses in opera-bouffe, the women
engaged were always lovely.  They become visualized for me now in a
procession of pretty faces and divine forms.  There is Kate Santley,
fair-haired and vivacious, and fresh from the music-halls and her success
with “The Bells go ringing for Sarah!”  There passes now Cornélie D’Anka,
the golden-haired Hungarian, with the Amazonian figure and the exquisite
voice; and behind her, as I look, looms, indistinct but recognizable, the
figure of an Oriental potentate visiting our shores—that, indeed, of the
Shah of Persia.  Scasi, with her well-trained voice, passes from the
Alhambra to the Surrey Gardens.  Scasi, as will be seen, is Isaacs
spelled backwards, and with the superfluous “a” deleted.  She was the
daughter of a furniture-dealer in Great Queen Street.  The old Surrey
Gardens, for which she abandoned the Alhambra, was the scene of the last
appearance in public of the beautiful Valérie Reece—the late Lady Meux.
Strange to think that the delightfully irresponsible little Bohémienne of
the jocund days should have evolved into the owner of a Derby
winner—Volodyvoski, which she leased to the American, Mr. Whitney—and the
organizer and provider of equipment to a battery of artillery for service
in South Africa.  The name of Julia Seaman calls up to me that lady’s
appearance in “The Black Crook,” in which fine production she played with
extraordinary effect the part of the malignant fairy.  A more inspiring
performance than that in which I subsequently saw her at Paravicini’s
theatre in Camden Town.  She then essayed—not very convincingly—the rôle
of Hamlet.

Pitteri was _première danseuse_ for more years than it would be quite
gallant to recall.  Although assuming the chief place in ballet, this
famous dancer possessed none of those sylph-like characteristics which
are usually associated with the chief of the ballerine.  She was a lady
of opulent charms and large figure.  In those days there was always
engaged in the Alhambra production that epicene excrescence, the male
ballet-dancer.  At the Alhambra it was the duty of this individual to
support the figure of Pitteri as she made a semicircle in the air, and to
hold her when she assumed those poses which alternated her spells of
purely terpsichorean exercise.  The man ballet-dancer supporting Pitteri
earned his wages whatever they may have been.  Sara—known as Wiry Sal—was
another favourite of the Alhambra ballet.  This lady belonged to the
high-kicking, athletic order of Corybantes.  She was accompanied by two
other high-kickers, and the three became known about town as “the world,
the flesh, and the devil.”

After the reign of John Baum, the directors of the Alhambra were for ever
changing their manager.  All sorts and conditions of managers—from
William Holland and Joseph Cave up to John Hollingshead—had a try at it.
But not one of them seemed able to get along with the Nagles, the
Suttons, and the Winders, of the board of directors.  One by one these
reactionaries died off, and under a reconstructed board and an
enterprising and settled management the establishment at present
flourishes like a green bay-tree.

One of the last occasions on which I visited the Alhambra in my capacity
as a member of the Press was on the occasion of Sandow’s appearance at
that establishment.  He challenged and defeated a “strong man” who was
then drawing the town.  After the performance we were invited to a supper
given in the champion’s honour in a café—the name of which I forget; it
stood between the Alhambra and the Cavour—for even in those early days
Sandow had a keen appreciation of the value of a _réclame_.  Sir Reginald
Hanson took the chair on the occasion, and the police paid us a
domiciliary visit at one o’clock in the morning.  Our names and addresses
were solemnly taken down—a ceremony which occupied much time; but we
never heard any more of the matter.  Sandow has gone far since that
frugal entertainment of the London Press.

The café at which we were invited to sup with Sandow must have occupied
the site, or have been very close to it, once devoted to the squalid
orgies of “The Judge and Jury.”  Elsewhere in these rambling
reminiscences I have alluded to ineffaceable memories which one would
willingly expunge.  Through life one looks back on experiences which one
would gladly forget, but cannot.  They cling like burrs, and pursue like
an evil odour.  My recollection of “The Judge and Jury” furnishes such an
experience.  I visited the place once.  Nothing on earth could induce me
to pay it a second visit.  The entertainment was in two parts.  The first
consisted of a mock trial presided over by “Baron Nicholson.”  Before
this libidinous old president, “barristers,” duly arrayed in wig and
gown, called witnesses, male and female of their kind, and proceeded to
examine and cross-examine with an amount of licence and obscenity that
set up in the hearer a sort of moral nausea.  The “Baron’s” charge to the
jury was a tissue of ribaldry and bawdry which to me seemed simply awful,
but which appealed to the habitués of the squalid hall.

The trial at an end, Nicholson’s bench was removed, and behind it was
seen to be a stage-curtain.  To the strains of a piano this was drawn up,
and on a revolving platform were discovered the figures of some women
representing groups from the classics.  The goddesses of Olympus were
more sadly aspersed by this exhibition of shameless flesh than had been
the Bench and Bar of England by Nicholson’s travesty.  As the platform
revolved, the women, with nothing on save their pink fleshings, smirked
and leered at the audience in front.  Needless to say, the figures in
this exhibition of _posé plastique_ were neither young nor beautiful.
The pink fleshings could scarcely keep in place the sagging charms of a
mature Venus, the lank limbs and scraggy neck of Diana. . . .  Faugh!
London knows better now.



CHAPTER XVI
MINE EASE AT MINE INN


PEOPLE have short memories—particularly in the matter of benefits
received.  To-day, for instance, it is the usual and the correct thing to
credit the London County Council with all that has been accomplished for
the beautification of London during recent years.  Yet the two greatest
improvements carried out in my time were not done by the Council at all.
The two municipal achievements to which I allude are the Holborn Viaduct,
and that magnificent boulevard, the Thames Embankment.  Now, these two
enduring monuments of municipal enterprise and foresight we owe to the
old—and much-maligned—Board of Works.  When I gaze dismayed on the
hideous structure at Spring Gardens, which now admits the public through
its bowels to St. James’s Park; and when, entering and traversing the
Park, I see the grim bastion that has been erected at the end of the
duck-pond, with the object, apparently, of dwarfing Buckingham Palace
into the likeness of a row of aristocratic almshouses, I wonder whether
we were not safer, when all is said and done, in the hands of the
reprobated “Board of Shirks,” as it was called by the comic papers of its
day.

Give a man beautiful surroundings, and he will begin to live up to his
environment.  With the wonderful improvement effected on the face of
London by the operations of the Board, there became heard the still,
small voice of a demand for more beautiful living.  The two main elements
in living, I take it, are eating and drinking.  And, rightly or wrongly,
I have always synchronized the completion of the Viaduct and the
Embankment with the first noticeable advance in catering.  Before that
point of departure there were in London but two restaurants of the first
class at which one could obtain a French dinner.  One of these was the
Café Royal; the other was Verrey’s.  Both were—and still, happily,
are—situated in Regent Street.  To-day we have restaurants which quite
easily surpass in elegance and amplitude of interior the two houses I
have named, but the Café Royal still holds its own both in the matter of
cellar and of cuisine.

There were humbler retreats at which the French manner of dining might be
enjoyed.  Soho was full of these small eating-houses at which the
customers might either dine _à la carte_ at a moderate cost, or eat a
dinner of the _table d’hôte_ order for eighteen pence, with half a bottle
of wine thrown in.  For this you would get a _soup maigre_, a _sole au
vin blanc_, an entrée, a bit of chicken, a morsel of Brie or Camembert,
and the smallest possible collection of nuts and raisins on a Tom Thumb
plate, which was written down “dessert” on the menu.  As a rule the
dinner was not half bad, and the wonder was how it could be done at the
price.  Of the wine one cannot talk so enthusiastically.  Charles Lever
once described a vintage which he tasted in Italy.  He spoke of it as “a
pyroligneous wine, distilled from vine-stalks, and agreeable in
summer—with one’s salad.”  This admirably sets forth the virtues of the
sour but ruddy products of Bordeaux which were “thrown in” by the
enterprising exiles who catered in Soho.  The best of these smaller
restaurants was Kettner’s, in Church Street, close to where the Palace
Theatre now stands.  It is difficult, when one enters the elegant rooms
which are now known as Kettner’s, to call up its small beginnings.  Many
of its old customers cursed the day when it was “discovered” by Mr. E. S.
Dallas, of the _Times_.  Dallas was a man who could not keep a secret.
Having found out what a wonderfully well-cooked dinner the little
restaurant in Church Street could supply to the customer for a very
trifling cost, he must needs go and proclaim the fact from the house-tops
of Printing House Square.  All London began to flock to Church Street,
and all London was delighted to see Madame Kettner presiding as _dame du
comptoir_, and to learn that the dainty dishes provided were prepared by
Monsieur Kettner in the basement below.  This influx of visitors brought
about increased accommodation, improved service, a greater luxury in the
surroundings, until Kettner’s became what it is to-day—a West End resort
with some considerable support from fashionable society.

Prices went up, too.  Dallas, who had very appropriately signed his
letter to the leading journal “A Beast at Feeding-time,” could no longer
get a portion of _sole au vin blanc_ for sixpence, and the poor French
exiles who were wont to forgather in Kettner’s little dining-room in
Church Street were driven forth to seek sustenance elsewhere in the
fastnesses of Soho.  I wonder what those patient old _émigrés_ would have
said concerning an incident which happened to me some few years since at
this famous restaurant?  I was dining in a private room as the guest of a
man who was wanting to “do business” with me.  Beside myself there was
one other guest.  After dinner our host, who was a non-smoker, asked us
to have a cigar.  He called the waiter.  Cigars were ordered.

“Wat price, sare?” inquired the servant.

“The best you have will not be too good for my friends,” declared our
host in an expansive mood.

The cigars came—big things swathed in gold-foil.  We took a cigar each,
and St. Georgi, who had married the widow Kettner and was now running the
show, came in to see how we were getting on.  Him also our host asked to
have a cigar.  St. Georgi complied.  That made three cigars in all.  At
last the time came for paying.  The bill was brought in.  The founder of
the feast ran his eye over it.  The document was quite in order—save for
one item.

“Here, waiter, what the doose is the meaning of this fifteen shillings?”
he asked.

“Three cigars, sare,” he replied sweetly.

“Fifteen shillings!” exclaimed our non-smoking host.

“I am sorry, sare,” replied the waiter, looking very sad indeed; “_but we
have none better_!”

It was a palpable hit.  Our friend joined in the laugh—and paid.

One of the most characteristic of these foreign eating-houses on English
soil was the Café l’Étoile, in one of the streets—Rupert Street, I think
it was—which run off Coventry Street, parallel to Wardour Street.  This
place was one half restaurant, and one half cabaret.  A door and a
passage led from the one to the other.  In the restaurant the usual
eighteen-penny dinner of many courses was served, and the usual bottle of
vinegary wine was “thrown in.”  The company, if not select, was at least
sedate.  Your Frenchman in London is by no means as gay a creature as on
his boulevards at home.  And the few English who joined him at his frugal
meal in the Café l’Étoile as a rule maintained their insular _mauvais
honte_.

But in the adjoining cabaret things were very different.  Here the
bearded exiles were enveloped in such an impenetrable cloud of smoke that
they had forgotten all about their _milieu_.  They had created here their
own atmosphere, so to say.  And a particularly villainous atmosphere it
was—sulphurous and pestiferous.  The chatter was incessant and strident.
The clatter of the dominoes on the tables, the noise of the impact of the
mugs and glasses—these mingled indistinguishably with the universal din.
In this stifling atmosphere might be encountered some of the
off-scourings of Continental cities.  The political refugee, finding
security in a country that could afford to treat him with absolute
contempt, talked treason only when in his cups.  Here was the practical
politician also—the dynamitard, the artificer of bombs, the professor of
the stiletto and the revolver.  Scotland Yard had the dossier of every
frequenter of the Café l’Étoile duly consigned by the police authorities
of Paris, Berlin, and St. Petersburg.  It was the most noisy, the most
stuffy, the hottest, the dirtiest, the most polyglot, little hell in all
London.  I do not know, but I strongly suspect that a too constant
solicitude on the part of Scotland Yard led to its disappearance.  Its
site is occupied by a restaurant called the West End Hotel, the reputable
successor of an unsavoury progenitor.

To William Gorman Wills I owe my introduction to most of the Soho
restaurants.  Wills liked the company he found in these places, and he
liked the prices; for he was seldom well off.  Money flowed from him in
all directions, so that he never had much for his own use.  It was lent
or given in lumps as soon as it was received, a good deal of it finding
its way into the pockets of impostors.  For Wills was a man of genius—one
of the few I have ever met—and inherited that financial incapacity which
is the birthright of men of genius.  He was an artist first of all, and
had a studio in the Brompton Road, in a crescent which stood where the
Consumptive Hospital now stands.  He was a musician of distinction.  He
wrote a novel which would have made the reputation of any man who paid
attention to the social arts which expedite the arrival of Fame.  He
will, perhaps, be still remembered by the public for his many
contributions to the stage.  His “Charles I.,” produced at the Lyceum for
Irving, was one of the most poetical acting plays of the last
century—Byron, and Lytton, and Sheridan Knowles, to the contrary,
notwithstanding.  In his search after French cookery he was instant.  And
I remember the delight with which he took me to Charlotte Street, Fitzroy
Square, where a new café had been opened.  The dining-saloon consisted of
the two ground-floor rooms of an ordinary house thrown into one.  Wills
waved his arm as if to indicate to me fine spaces—like those of the
Louvre for instance.

“All the artists of the neighbourhood will dine here,” be declared with
conviction.  “If we could only get old Madox Brown to come here once, he
would never go to the trouble of having dinners cooked at home!”

Madox Brown lived in Fitzroy Square, so that the convenience of the
arrangement seemed indisputable.  And Charlotte Street, as well as some
other streets with long first-floor windows, was still a thoroughfare in
which artists set up their studios.  The Bohemia of “The Newcomes” was
still existing north of Oxford Street when I first knew London, and when
I have visited Madox Brown in Fitzroy Square it has given me pleasure to
think that his might be the very building which was tenanted for a time
by Colonel Newcome.  But if a tithe of the artists then working in that
part of the town were to demand a meal at the restaurant newly discovered
by Wills, the majority of them must have had their dinner served to them
in the street.  An invasion even of the members of the Madox Brown family
would have strained the resources of the tiny place to the utmost.

At the time when Wills was making daily discoveries among the little
French eating-houses of Soho and Bloomsbury, he had few imitators in that
field of gastronomies.  The Englishman still pooh-poohed the French
cuisine.  He never hesitated to express his contempt for what he called
“kickshaws.”  Give him a basin of mock turtle soup, a bit of boiled
turbot, a cut off the joint, and two vegetables, with apple pudding and
Stilton cheese to end up with, and he wouldn’t thank you for the finest
repast conceived by the first chef, and prepared by the most expert
assistants in Europe!  There are still fine old English gentlemen who
hold this heresy; but they all held it then.  The consequence is that
half the population, over fifty years of age, suffer from indigestion.
But while this most barbarous standard of dining obtained, it was
faithfully catered for by the fine old English gentleman’s staunch
admirer—the fine old English landlord.  And to this day there persist a
few establishments which make it their business to supply the fine old
English dinner for the fine old English gormandizer.

In the early seventies all the hotels, and almost all the restaurants,
supplied nightly the heavy meals that then represented the national
taste.  In an earlier chapter I have alluded to the Rainbow in Fleet
Street, and to the Albion in Russell Street, Covent Garden.  These were
typical.  Simpson’s in the Strand was run on the same lines.  This was a
very famous house of its kind.  I have not visited the place since it was
rebuilt during the alterations at the Savoy.  But it carries on the old
tradition, I understand; that is to say, a customer can still have his
slabs of fish and his thick cuts from the joint, but he is granted an
option.  He may have his food served in daintier guise.  The smoking-room
at Simpson’s was a great rendezvous for men who knew good whisky and were
judges of a cigar.  For the cigar divan next door to the restaurant was
really part of the concern.  It was in that little smoking-room that I
first met Charles Kelly, the actor.  He became the second husband of
Ellen Terry, and was one of the most charming men I have ever known.  His
real name was Wardell, and he had thrown up his commission in a crack
cavalry regiment to “go on the stage.”

Simpson’s was celebrated for something beside its typical old English
fare, its excellent whisky, and its incomparable cigars.  In a certain
upper chamber at Simpson’s there were accustomed to meet all the most
eminent chess-players of the day.  Steinmitz and Blackmore could be found
there on most afternoons.  And, although it was known in the outside
world that they could be seen without any let or hindrance on the part of
the proprietor, their privacy was never invaded.  Only amateurs of the
game entered the chess-room.  Your true Londoner differs in this from the
citizens of other towns: he never intrudes where he is not wanted.  As to
the restaurant below, the dinner there was served in a square saloon at
the back of the building.  The joints were trundled up to the customers
on “dumbwaiters” running on castors.  The meal was of the usual heavy,
stodgy description.  The older diners ate heartily, and, as a rule,
suffered horribly from dyspepsia.  The waiters breathed hard, exhibited
signs of a bibulous habit, and possessed the largest feet of any men I
have seen either before or since.

In Covent Garden, the Tavistock, the Hummums, and the Bedford—each of
them hotels—served the same class of dinner.  At these comfortable
resorts the meal was generally followed by a bottle of port, thus
insuring the achievement of that indigestion which the stodgy comestibles
may have failed to set up.  The ordinary English restaurant was
supplemented by the chop-house.  In the City, where quick lunching is a
desideratum, these establishments flourished exceedingly.  In the West
End the most noted of them was Stone’s, in Panton Street, at that period
a thoroughfare with a bad name, but at the present time purged of its
earlier reputation.  It has a theatre, some elegant restaurants, and
exhibits few signs of its squalid past.  Panton Street has forsworn sack,
and lives cleanly.

But this chapter is not designed as a mere catalogue of the catering
houses, but as the rough sketch of an evolution illustrated by examples,
and illuminated here and there, I hope, by anecdotes, relevant and
irrelevant.  I have sufficiently shown that the Englishman of the early
seventies, dining from home, liked to have served to him the same sort of
meal which was provided for him on Sundays in the bosom of his family.
The Café Royal catered mainly for foreigners.  It and the Café Verrey
were—so far as Londoners were concerned—but two voices crying in the
wilderness.  While as for the minor French restaurants in Soho, only
artists, poets, and other degenerate Englishmen, affected those cheery
little outposts of a great army which was presently to take possession of
the town.  To-day the conquest of London by the foreigner is complete.
The French cuisine has been adopted in all the principal hotels and
restaurants, and the old fish-joint-sweets-and-Stilton menu has been
relegated to the howling wilderness.

I will give three instances of the progress of the reform.  I select
Gatti’s in the Strand, Romano’s in the same thoroughfare, and Pagani’s in
Great Portland Street.  Of the three, Gatti’s is the least
characteristically French, although an excellent French meal may be
obtained there.  The Gattis aimed to be all things to all men; and I hope
it may not prejudice the reader if I mention that it is to-day a
favourite resort of Mr. Lloyd George, who may frequently be seen at the
Adelaide Gallery in company with a brother Welshman, the esteemed
proprietor of _Ally Sloper_.  The growth of the Gatti concern is one of
the commercial marvels of the day.  It started as a café in Adelaide
Street, where fried chops and steaks with chipped potatoes were served on
marble-topped tables.  The meal was washed down with generous draughts of
coffee or chocolate, and the prices were strictly moderate.  To-day the
establishment has struck right through into the Strand, and spread itself
halfway along Adelaide Street.  Its proprietors own two playhouses in the
immediate vicinity—the Adelphi and the Vaudeville—and supply half the
Strand with electric current from their own dynamos.  It is the culinary
Mecca of the suburban, and actors as well as Chancellors find it a
convenient place at which to lunch.

As a rule a restaurant fails or forges ahead on its own merits or
demerits.  But now and then the chance visit of an influential customer
lifts it from obscurity into the warm light of popular favour.  You have
seen how E. S. Dallas made the fortune of Kettner’s.  Carr’s, in the
Strand, was made by an article which appeared in _All the Year Round_, an
article which was generally attributed to Dickens, but was in reality the
work of one of his staff—Sala, Halliday, Hollingshead, or another; in
fact, the writers on that magazine had so entirely acquired the
descriptive trick of “the Master” that it was a difficult thing to “tell
t’other from which.”  Poor Pellegrini was the man who discovered
Pagani’s.  It was a poky little place, indifferently patronized, when he
first entered it.  But he soon discovered that he could get there
spaghetti cooked and served as in his native Italy.  It was served, too,
with a puree of tomato very different from the watery and acid
preparation to which in this country we had become habituated.  Tosti the
composer followed where Pellegrini had led.  The small refreshment-room
was enlarged; an “artists’ room” was established upstairs.  At last
adjoining premises were acquired.  Old Pagani’s was rebuilt into the
handsome and popular restaurant as it is known to the present generation
of diners.  The Paganis have retired on substantial fortunes to the
mountainous land of their nativity.

In carrying out structural alterations, the Paganis, with characteristic
astuteness, determined that the “artists’ room” should not be tampered
with by the builders.  In London no interior is so rich in mural
decorations contributed, gratis and off-hand, by distinguished men using
the apartment.  Tosti has written up some bars of a song, dear old
Pellegrini has contributed some sketches, and other artists have from
time to time added to the exhibition, happy to enrich it if only by an
autograph.  The sketches, signatures, and bits of musical composition,
have been covered with glass.  In other respects the famous upper chamber
remains much what it was in the old days.  In that room I have spent many
happy, interesting, and memorable nights.  One of the most memorable of
these was on the occasion of a supper given by my friend Patrick Edward
Dove, to the members of the first company that performed “Cavalleria
Rusticana” in London.  Dove was a barrister of Lincoln’s Inn, famous for
his knowledge of Patent Law, his acquaintance with the music of the
bagpipes (he had made a collection of several hundred pibroch “scores”),
and his unerring taste as a gastronome.  When last I visited Pagani’s,
they still mixed a salad known as _salad à la Dove_.  The new opera had
been produced at the Shaftesbury, conducted by Arditi, and the tenor part
had been entrusted to Vignas, a singer new to the town.  All the
principals responded to Dove’s invitation, and the “artists’ room” became
the arena of more noise and enthusiasm than had ever been exhibited there
before.  The tenor turned up rather late, being, I have no doubt, a nice
judge of the psychological moment at which to contrive a dramatic
entrance.  These children of art and of the South proceeded “to signify
their approval in the usual manner.”  They rushed upon the poor man,
and—men and women alike—fell upon his neck and kissed him.  To a mere
Englishman the scene was rather embarrassing.  But it was soon over, and
the rest of the night passed in immense chattering and jabbering,
everybody seeming to talk at once, and the utmost amity and joyousness
informing the polyglot crowd.

In the early days of Pagani’s the patrons of the restaurant were nearly
all Italians, and among them the most picturesque figure was that of a
very old gentleman with long silvery hair, extremely classic features,
and scrupulously clean linen, a circumstance remarkable in an Italian
restaurant of the period.  The old gentleman made his appearance each day
between twelve and one, and was always respectfully saluted by his
compatriots.  He had a very frugal midday meal, consisting principally of
a decoction of eggs in a tumbler.  After this he would sit chatting over
his coffee with friends, who took chairs near him, until well on into the
afternoon.  They were informal receptions of a kind, these afternoons of
the handsome old man; for he had been Garabaldi’s doctor, and naturally
was held in high regard by his compatriots.  His disappearance all at
once from his accustomed place was, of course, much commented on.  It was
supposed that he was ill.  On inquiry, however, it was discovered that he
was only married.  A lady had fallen in love with the dear old chap,
carried him off, and married him.  The bride probably considered that the
domestic hearth was more suited to her husband than life in restaurants,
and so Pagani’s knew him no more.

Romano had been a waiter at the Café Royal; and while engaged in this
capacity he must have picked up a great deal of experience of London
Society and its ways, which stood him in good stead when he found himself
the owner of a smart restaurant in the Strand.  A good many men, and,
indeed, some well-known publications, like to pose as the “discoverers”
of Romano’s.  As a matter of fact, Romano was discovered by George
Piesse, an epicurean West End book-maker; and its first regular customers
were the London representative of the _New York Herald_, and the
ubiquitous and frugal “Ape.”  It gradually became known to those who
liked _œuf à la cocotte_ and other Parisian delicacies.  Then it made one
of those sharp and sudden ascents into popularity, its prices ascending
with a proportionate sharpness and suddenness.  At luncheon-time there
was a difficulty in getting a table in the long narrow saloon, looking
like a disused shooting-gallery.  The bar that ran in front was crammed
with book-makers, pressmen, chorus-ladies, champagne-shippers, and young
peers seeing life.  In a word, Romano’s was “booming.”  Bessie Bellwood
made it one of her usual haunts of an afternoon; Hughie Drummond dropped
in after a day on the Stock Exchange; “Billy” Fitzwilliam was a supporter
of its clever proprietor; poor “Kim” Mandeville (afterwards Duke of
Manchester) was a regular customer.  The two least popular members of the
congregation joined somewhat later.  These were the Marquis of Ailesbury
and Abingdon Baird, commonly called “the Squire.”  These two gentlemen
rarely appeared in public except accompanied by a couple of “bruisers,”
and their attitude to society in general entirely justified the
precaution they took in providing themselves with bodyguards—or
body-blackguards, shall I say?  Romano’s was for a long time the
rallying-point of the more rapid section of men-about-town and their lady
friends.  But it was always more than this.  Romano had learned his
business in the best French school in London, and in his catering he
always regarded the traditions of _la haute cuisine_, and he had a fine
taste in wine, the advantages of which were at the disposal of his
customers.

The evolution which I have described as working itself out in three
establishments, all of which originated in small and unpromising
beginnings and under somewhat adverse conditions, was elsewhere evident.
While the small caravanserai of Soho, with its cheap dinner and _vin
compris_ was extending itself into the outer streets, and even as far as
the suburbs, the founding of more swagger restaurants was taking place
all round, and competent chefs began to look to London, and not any more
to Paris, as the summit of their ambition.  The Savoy was one of the
first to take full advantage of the new direction of public taste.  But
at the present moment it has a hundred competitors, from the restaurant
at the Waldorf, on the eastern confines of dinner land, to the Ritz, on
its western frontier.

Having now indicated the extent and importance of the reform which has
been effected in our eating and drinking during the passing of a few
short years, I must return for a moment to my muttons, and record one or
two of the fading memories of other days.  There was a table reserved in
the Café Royal grill-room at which, of an afternoon, there was always a
considerable amount of laughter.  Here were wont to meet MacMahon, the
inventor of the electric “tape” machine; Jenks, a gentleman who had made
a million by running gaming-hells; Ives, of the _Morning_; and Jo
Aaronson, the brother of the well-known New York entrepreneur.  There
were others who were made welcome at this grill-room gathering, so that
as often as not the table had to be doubled by adding another.  Aaronson
was a quaint American with a national sense of humour, a nice knowledge
of the moment at which to “chip in” with a story, and a slight stutter,
which gave an added value to everything he said.  I remember one day
quite well when, with a face drawn and melancholy, he recounted to us the
details of a misfortune which had overtaken him.  His uncle John had died
in London, and Jo had been entrusted with the melancholy duty of having
the body cremated and buried.  Jo described the cremation with great
detail and picturesqueness, showed himself receiving the sacred ashes in
an urn, and hurrying with his precious vase to the railway-station, in
order to catch a train to town.  When Jo arrived in town, he hurried out
of the train, got into a cab, and automatically told the driver to go to
his club.  It was not until Jo arrived at the club that he recollected
that he had forgotten all about Uncle John!  He had placed the ashes of
the deceased in the hat-rack of the railway-carriage in which he had
travelled, and, when he arrived at Waterloo, had forgotten all about it.
And the ashes of Uncle John have not been recovered even unto this day.

The café off which the grill-room opens, and which covers the greater
portion of the ground-floor, became the most cosmopolitan rallying-point
in London.  For while the atmosphere of the place attracted Continental
visitors of all nationalities, the quality of both the viands and wine,
with the excellence of the cooking and service, soon made it a favourite
resort of self-respecting Englishmen.  Among the illustrious exiles who
from time to time have sipped coffee over its domino-tables were Pilotel,
the artist, who had left Paris after the Commune.  Under that
extraordinary form of misgovernment Pilotel had been Minister of Fine
Arts.  In London he discovered his _métier_ in designing models for the
Court milliners, and fashion-plates for the ladies’ newspapers.  A ribald
wag once nicknamed him “the waister,” employing that word, not in any
derogatory sense, but as a tribute to the wasp-like proportions with
which the great big man could endow a woman’s bodice.

Boulanger has waxed voluble over his fortunes in this Regent Street
refuge.  And here the notorious Esterházy, in later days, has consoled
himself in exile, his moments soothed by the adulation of a female
admirer.  Here I have sat with Fred Sandys, the artist, while he has
discussed politics from the Conservative point of view with Michael
Davitt, the Nationalist, the only Irish politician I ever met who gave me
the idea that he believed all he said.  It all comes back to me—the
rattle of the dominoes on the marble slabs, the air charged with the
blue, acrid smoke from a hundred cigarettes, the quick transit of the
white-aproned waiters, the pungent odour of the _café noir_, the flow of
conversational chatter in half a dozen languages, the _froufrou_ of the
passing skirt, the flash of dark eyes, the smile on vermilion lips, the
high-pitched laugh over some picture in _Le Petit Journal pour Rire_, the
general air of life and the joy of it.  The history of the cellar at this
famous restaurant is one of the romances of the wine trade, and would be
out of place here.  But it may just be noted that, when the vineyards in
the South of France which had supplied the brandy grape were, in the
seventies, laid bare by the phylloxera, the proprietor had provided for a
shortage in the eighties; and when that shortage made itself felt,
Frenchmen willingly paid the three shillings which were demanded then for
a liqueur-glass of _fin champagne_.

Verrey’s, on the other side of Regent Street, I have mentioned as the
second West End establishment at which a French dinner could be obtained
in those gastronomically evil days which preceded the great awakening.
When I first knew Verrey’s, it was run by old George Krehl, a most
entertaining man of the old school.  He was not a Parisian, or, indeed, a
Frenchman at all; but he had been educated in the French methods, and his
bisque was the most delicate to be obtained in London.  At the death of
the old man the restaurant descended to his son George, who has since
died.  George the younger Krehl was a dog-fancier in rather a large way
of business.  He ran a paper called _The Stock-keeper_, devoted to the
interests of the “fancy.”  Krehl the Younger introduced some new breeds
to Society, among which were the basset-hound and the schipperké.

In old Krehl’s time Tennyson resorted to the restaurant during his visits
to town.  The poet took quite a fancy to the proprietor, and Krehl
preserved many souvenirs of the poet—plans of battle drawn on backs of
menu-cards, and other trifles whereby Tennyson thought to make his
meaning quite clear to a foreign listener.

It was in the old Krehl’s time that I received an invitation to dine with
an Australian magnate of British birth, on a visit to the mother-country.
The dinner was served in what was then known as the Cameo Room, and the
occasion became memorable to me by reason of an acquaintanceship then
made, which was destined to ripen into a lasting friendship.  It was in
this way.  I found myself seated next to a clergyman.  The circumstance
at first caused me to curse my luck, for I have never taken much stock in
parsons.  But before we had got to the fish I found that my neighbour was
not at all of the class of clergyman with whom, to that time, it had been
my fortune to get acquainted.  He was a man of medium height, about fifty
years of age, broad-shouldered, and of portly figure.  His grey beard was
trimmed and pointed, and he wore a moustache.  His name was Bachelor, and
he was a gaol chaplain.

At that time I discovered nothing of the life-work of the individual
sitting beside me; nor from himself did I ever hear anything, save
incidentally, of his services to his generation—services never
acknowledged, and services sometimes resented and always neglected by the
authorities.  I had beside me that night, in fact, one of those who, in
their own persons, illustrate the truth of Henry Taylor’s apothegm: “The
world knows nothing of its greatest men.”  Here, at least, something may
be recorded as a memorial to him.  And at the same time the narrative may
be enlivened by one or two of those stimulating recollections of which he
seemed to be an inexhaustible mine.  I never sat down to a dinner at
which I enjoyed myself more.  My new friend was a man of the world, a
gourmet, a fine judge of wine, and withal a practical philanthropist,
unresting, untiring, and undespairing.

Bachelor, after his ordination, went out to Australia as chaplain to the
first Bishop of Tasmania.  He passed from that position into the more
active situation of chaplain to the penal settlement there.  From the
beginning he took a strong human interest in his “parishioners,” and he
set to work in the grim employment unhampered by traditions or
instructions, or preconceived notions of any sort.  From the very start,
his theory was that the men to whom he had now become ghostly adviser
differed from those outside the settlement chiefly in the fact that they
had been found out.  Of course he differentiated the material with which
he had to deal.  This the Governor of the settlement discovered during
his first interview with the new “sky-pilot.”  The conversation between
them at length turned on the question of a servant for his reverence—a
menial who had, of course, been selected from among the convicts.

“I’ve chosen a first-rate chap for you,” said the Governor.  “Capital
cook, good valet, nice quiet manner, talks French like a native, and can
mend your linen like a needlewoman.”

“What’s he in for?” inquired Bachelor.

“Forgery,” replied the Governor.

“Couldn’t you let me have a murderer?” inquired the new chaplain.

“If you like,” replied the Governor, shrugging his shoulders, and
regarding the new settler as a man suffering from a loose tile or so; and
a murderer whose domestic accomplishments fitted him for the post was
duly allotted to the parson.

“You see,” he said, in relating the circumstance, “I counted on the
fellow’s gratitude; and I counted right.  The chances of a murderer
obtaining the position were about a million to one; and this fellow,
knowing that fact, exhibited a dog’s fidelity, a woman’s solicitude, and
the devotion of a fanatic to my person.  He would at any moment have
given his life to save mine.”

Shortly after Bachelor arrived in Tasmania with its first Bishop, his
lordship sent out an invitation to the “leading citizens,” asking them to
a reception at the “palace.”  The day after the invitations went out, the
editor and proprietor of a newspaper in Tasmania called at the “palace,”
and demanded to see the new prelate.  Now, this particular owner and
conductor of an organ of public opinion kept his property going by a
systematic levying of blackmail—an easy and lucrative game in those early
days; for very few of the “new rich” in Tasmania would care to have
questions publicly asked about their origin.  “Do you grow your own
hemp?” asked Charles Lamb of his Australian correspondent.  I need not
labour a point which is still sore in Tasmania.  The Bishop declined to
see the caller.  Bachelor, as his chaplain, was deputed to conduct the
interview.

“I’m the editor and proprietor of a newspaper in Tasmania, and I want to
know why I’m not invited to the Bishop’s tea-fight?” said the truculent
visitor, dashing _in medias res_.

“In your place I should accept the situation.  I should not probe after
reasons,” answered the chaplain with characteristic suavity.

“Gammon, parson!  I’ve got to know.  See?  An’ if you don’t tell me now,
I’ll repeat the question in the columns of my paper!” exclaimed this
Australasian _littérateur_.

“Sounds rather like a threat, don’t you think?” observed Bachelor, with
perfect temper; “and, if you _will_ have it, I think I may now give you
his lordship’s reason for declining to invite you.”

“Let her go!” said the editor encouragingly.

“The Bishop’s reason for omitting your name is simply this: that, in the
old country, a man conducting a paper on your lines would be considered
outside the social pale.”

The editor laughed uproariously.  When he had recovered his breath, he
answered in these remarkable words:

“Innercent lambs!  Outside the social pale, hey!  Lookye here, parson!
You jest tell his lordship from me that, _in Tasmania_, _no man is
outside the social pale—until he’s hanged_!”

In Sydney once it became the duty of Bachelor to see a well-known man out
of the world through the trap of a gallows.  Captain Knatchbull, a cadet
of an old Kentish family, had been, while in command of one of H.M.’s
ships, guilty of an offence against the civil law, for which he was tried
and transported.  He escaped from the convict settlement, and turned up
in Sydney half mad with exposure and starvation.  In the Bush he had
probably perpetrated a crime which was never laid to his charge, for he
had got rid of his convict garb, and appeared in New South Wales fully
attired in the clothes of a victim who was probably done to death before
parting with them.  The desperate man entered a baker’s shop in a back
street.  The shop was empty.  The man stretched his arm over the counter,
and pulled out the till.  The woman owning the shop suddenly appeared on
the scene, and caught hold of the marauder’s wrist, screaming the while
for assistance.  Knatchbull flung himself free, picked up the bread-knife
from the counter, and silenced the poor woman for ever.  He was caught
red-handed.  He was brought to trial, when the prosecuting counsel was
Robert Lowe, destined for future fame in England, where he was to be
Chancellor of the Exchequer and a peer of the realm.  On the scaffold he
was attended by Bachelor.

“Is there any last word you would like to say?” whispered the chaplain in
his ear.

Knatchbull looked up, cast a critical eye over the ghastly apparatus,
and, nodding his head in the direction of a defect, said, with the utmost
composure:

“Yes.  _There’s a kink in that rope_!”

In another second his lifeless body was swinging at the end of the
incriminated hemp.  He afforded, then, did Captain Knatchbull, the
supreme instance of “the ruling passion strong in death.”  He must pay
the extreme penalty, but he had respectfully suggested that the execution
should be ship-shape.

When he returned to England, Bachelor was appointed to Dartmoor.  While
he was abroad he could only get at the Home Office by means of a
correspondence.  Now he would be able to pay personal visits to the high
officials in Whitehall during his holidays.  No man ever made himself a
greater nuisance to a Department in the sacred cause of humanity than did
Bachelor.  But humanity is a mere unofficial generality with which
Whitehall has nothing whatever to do.  He bombarded permanent officials,
and he obtained introductions to successive Home Secretaries with a view
of effecting some amelioration in the condition of the convict.  When, by
his own personal influence with the prisoners at Dartmoor, he was
successful in quelling the biggest and most elaborately organized mutiny
known up to that time, he became no more of a _persona grata_ than he had
been before the outbreak.  Officially he was merely the gaol chaplain.
It was not the business of the Department to discover that they were
dealing, not only with a humanitarian, but with a man who had forgotten
more criminology than all the outsiders who write so glibly on the
subject in journals and magazines had ever known.

I at once confess that Bachelor was not attracted to me at this dinner at
Verrey’s by any qualities of my own.  He understood that I was on the
Press, and he always endeavoured to create an interest in his views among
pressmen whom he met.  For some time he had urged on the Home Office the
necessity there existed for supplying prisoners with a newspaper.  His
theory, founded upon years of intelligent observation, was that under our
prison system a man becomes either abnormally ingenious or abnormally
bestial.  And he held that nothing except literature could successfully
divert and dissipate ideas which were likely to become obsessions; and
that the most interesting literature would be news—very carefully edited,
of course—of the outer world.  American officials are not so hidebound as
the home-made article; and the idea of my friend, neglected and contemned
in England, was welcomed and adopted in the United States, where the
principal penitentiaries now run their own newspapers.

We worked together subsequently at this notion of a gaol journal, and I
got out a “dummy” which showed pretty fully what the proposed organ
should be.  At the Home Office the science of circumlocution is better
understood than in any other Department in Whitehall.  There was
voluminous correspondence, meaning much on the part of the parson,
meaning little more than a lavish waste of the tax-payer’s stiff
stationery to the Home Office.  Other ardent souls would have sunk under
the continuous disappointments, delays, shufflings, impertinences, and
utter indifference, of the Office; but Bachelor’s was not a nature to
sink under anything.  He was a man of the world; his sympathy with his
incarcerated parish did not stand in the way of his own reasonable
pleasures.  So he kept on pegging away at Home Secretary after Home
Secretary, always hopeful, cheerful, _débonnaire_.  At last his reward
came.  A large parcel of monthly magazines of the _Leisure Hour_ and
_Good Words_ type was delivered at his house, with a communication from
the Home Secretary.  The chaplain was requested to go through the bundle,
and select such of the publications as, in his opinion, might be usefully
circulated among prisoners.

Had such an act of brutal cynicism been played on the average man, he
would have probably pitched the periodicals into the dustbin, and ceased
to interest himself in the unfortunate creatures for whom he struggled in
vain.  But Bachelor had a finer temper than the average man.  He
reflected that a few crumbs are better than no bread at all.  He
congratulated himself that he had obtained some concession—small though
it was—for those whose cause he had been fighting through weary years.
He sat down before the bundle, conscientiously read through every
magazine contained in it, and made his selection of publications deemed
to be “suitable” under the very strict and elaborate instructions laid
down by the Office in the covering letter.

And so it happens that the Cameo Room in Verrey’s became always
associated in my mind with convicts and their champion.  In those days a
dinner served there was the last word in modern luxury.  A big chandelier
with the hundred pendent crystals hung from the centre of the ceiling.
In mid-Victorian days the chandelier, with its prismatic glass pendants,
was regarded as the most swagger thing in the decoration of a saloon.
Candles guttered under their red shades, science not having as yet
supplied the simple preventive contrivance.  The dinner was beyond cavil
or criticism.  The contents of the cellar had been carefully selected,
and its temperature was religiously observed and maintained.  But the
conditions attendant . . .  As the wheels of my taxi turn from the rattle
of the Strand and run silent over the rubber pavement on the courtyard of
the Savoy, I recognize how far, in some matters, we have travelled in a
very few years.



CHAPTER XVII
BOOKIES AND OTHER WILD-FOWL


MEMBERS of the literary staff of a newspaper were, in the far-off and
half-forgotten days, deputed to write graphic descriptions of what are
known as “the classic events” of the turf.  A big newspaper would send as
many as three special correspondents to “do” the Derby.  One
correspondent devoted himself to the journey down by road, a second
described the journey by rail, and a third gave an animated pen-sketch of
the course.  Indeed, some journals whose motto was “Thorough,” were
accustomed to send a man to potter about the course the night before the
Derby—a writer with the James Greenwood touch, who might be depended upon
for a dramatic and humorous column and a half.

Ascot and Goodwood were the other “classic events” to which the
descriptive writer would be despatched.  Goodwood was always supposed to
necessitate the employment of certain venerable clichés.  And very old
journalists used, therefore, to consider it a great privilege to be sent
to that aristocratic meeting.  Ascot naturally gave considerable scope to
the journalist who flattered himself on an intimate knowledge of Society
with a capital “S.”  For a whole delirious week he never left Society.
He watched its menials depart for the Thames Valley on the Sunday before
the meeting, and on the Sunday after he was pretty certain to turn up at
Boulter’s Lock, where some representative ornaments of Society should be
on view.

Out of all the men on the daily Press who have been commissioned to
attend race-meetings as descriptive writers, I have never known one who
became a victim of the betting habit.  Yet I have known several
sub-editors whose functions did not take them near a race-course, but
whose real business in life seemed to be betting, their sub-editing being
regarded as a temporary means of obtaining the original stake which, some
day, was to supply the foundation of a fortune.  Members of the sporting
Press were betting men to a scribe.  And so it happened that, no matter
what the salary of a writer on the sporting Press might be, he was always
in financial difficulties.  If these gentlemen, presumably “in the know,”
found the game unprofitable, what chance should there be, I reflected,
for an outsider?  Nevertheless, and holding these virtuous views, I have
from time to time fallen from grace.  These occasional lapses have
usually followed a casual bet where the odds have been long and the “tip”
has “come off.”  But eventually the bookies have always got their own
back again—and a bit over and above.

This moralizing strain reminds me of the appearance of Robert Buchanan,
the poet, as a backer of horses.  Some graceless men were inclined to
regard the contact of Buchanan with the Ring as something in the nature
of a joke.  To me it constituted a pitiful and sordid tragedy.  Buchanan
was another of those men who always wanted money, and who was ever on the
lookout for some easy way of getting it.  I do not know who it was that
introduced him to the turf as a likely method of adding to his resources.
But I should not care to be the man with that sin on my soul.  If
Buchanan knew a horse from a cow, it was about as much as he knew.  As to
the significance of the weights in a handicap he was entirely ignorant.
He had got into his head that by luck and good advice large sums might be
made out of the Ring.  About twenty years ago I first came across him
while he was thus engaged.  It was at Epsom the day after the Derby.  The
grand-stand was but sparsely inhabited.  In the interval between the last
race and the last but one, I saw Buchanan coming across the course.  I
went down to meet him.  He was in a flurried and excited condition.  He
had experienced a “rotten” day.  Nor was I surprised when he proceeded to
explain to me his _modus operandi_.  It was this:

He had engaged the services of an infallible tipster.  This infallible
young person I afterwards discovered to be one of the notorious “boys” of
the American Bar of the Criterion, the rendezvous from which the hero of
Ardlamont, it will be recollected, chose his associates.  For himself and
this egregious seer he had taken rooms for the week at the Sun in
Kingston, the pair of them driving over to the course each morning in an
open landau.  As he eagerly explained to me the unsuspected occurrences
which had upset the calculations of his adviser, and within how very
little he came of pulling off some uncommonly good things, I was
profoundly moved.  Here was the author of a work of fiction of the
quality of “God and the Man,” and of poems like “Fra Giacomo,” plunging
on a race-course with the most sordid motives and with the most
ridiculous equipment, and associating with an adviser with whom no
self-respecting sportsman would care to be seen talking.

He had a very strong tip for the next race, and he was anxious that I
should share in any good fortune that might result from backing it.  I
looked at my card.  Among the starters I saw a horse named Tandragee.  I
said, half in earnest, that, if I had a bet at all, I should back
Tandragee.  He inquired very anxiously whether I had heard anything.  I
assured him that I knew nothing whatever, but that the animal bore the
name of “Kim” Mandeville’s place in Ireland.  Buchanan looked at me
reproachfully, as if to suggest that I was treating in a spirit of levity
a very serious, and even tragic, business.  I made inquiries about
Tandragee, and a member of Tattersall’s ring laid me ten to one against
it.  My horse won easily, and Buchanan’s “certainty,” about which he had
only got three to one, was not placed.

With the most ordinary care Robert Buchanan should have acquired a nice
little fortune.  As it was, he lived in a series of financial straits,
and when he paid the debt of nature he left all his other debts
undischarged.

My recollections of race-meetings will always be dominated by the figure
of Caroline, Duchess of Montrose.  I was young and impressionable when I
first saw this formidable _grande dame_.  I first beheld her on the lawn
at Goodwood.  She was accompanied by her husband, Mr. Sterling Crauford,
one of the very best and most aristocratic of racing men.  Her Grace had
a really wonderful vocabulary.  She could have debated a point with a
bargee starting at even weights.  Only once was she talked down.  That
was by the Thersites of the outer ring—Dick Dunn.  This was an Homeric
encounter.  Rich and rare were the gems in Dick Dunn’s armoury of
invective.  While the battle lasted, it was a veritable interchange of
torpedoes.  But the vituperative book-maker won, and the Duchess burst
into tears.

Caroline, Duchess of Montrose, was once in a towering rage over the
defeat of one of her husband’s horses, which she had backed heavily, and,
as was her wont, she was violently abusing the unhappy boy who had
ridden.  I rather think it was little Gallon, but am not sure.  “You
young rascal!” exclaimed the angry Duchess, “did I not tell you to get
through and come right away before reaching the bend?”

“Yes, your Grace, you did,” blubbered the boy; “b-b-b-but I couldn’t come
without the horse!”

When Sterling Crauford died, the Duchess selected as her third husband a
youth who might have been her grandson.

I have just mentioned Dick Dunn, the bookmaker.  This redoubtable
penciller was of Irish nationality, his real name being O’Donoghue.  He
was an extremely good-looking, well-set-up fellow, and, casually
encountered, one would never have believed him capable of the heights and
depths of picturesque objurgation to which he rose and sank.  But he was
really a good-natured chap, with a fund of quaint and characteristic
humour.  I once attended a smoking-concert promoted at Hampton for a
charitable purpose, at which Dick Dunn had been asked to preside.  Things
went very well until a local celebrity—an octogenarian—was called upon to
sing.  The old man began to intone a very long ballad in very slow time.
The audience were getting tired, and the chairman was getting very
fidgety.  At last the vocalist gave the chairman his opportunity.  He was
trolling out a fresh verse commencing with the two lines:

    “He went into a barber’s shop,
    There for to get him shaved.”

“Well!” roared out Dunn, bringing his hammer sharply down on the table,
“what do you suppose he _would_ go in for—_to buy onions_?”

The audience broke into laughter, and the abashed warbler sat down.

They tell me that the present is an uncommonly bad time for bookmakers.
At the Albert and Victoria they are betting with each other—a tame
business, and comparable only (as one of the fraternity recently put it
to me) to “kissing one’s sister.”  The occupation of “Oh, yell, oh!” is
gone.  But in my early Press days he flourished like a green bay-tree.
In the early seventies Steele and Peach of Sheffield were the magnates of
the Ring.  Steele was a big, heavy-faced, sleepy-looking man.  He
commenced his commercial career by hawking fish through the streets on a
barrow.  Peach, who was far smarter in appearance, was of equally low
origin.  The two leviathans of the Ring were closely related by marriage,
and ended up by becoming owners of one of the richest steel-works in
Sheffield.

I can well remember Olney of Manchester and Steve Mundell of Durham.
Olney was a stout, white-haired, red-faced man, who would have been a
little one but for the extra weight in fat he carried.  He was grumpy,
but straight, and his prices were simply awful.  Mundell was known as
“the Durham Ox.”  He was, as his sobriquet may suggest, a big, beefy man.
His Durham acquaintances were very proud of him; and, indeed, he was not
half a bad sort.  He was fond of coursing, and kept a few greyhounds of
his own.

Our old friend the _Daily Telegraph_, writing about some meeting in a
flamboyant style, indulged in an allusion to “the genteel pencillers in
the velvet costumes.”  This chance allusion was the making of Fred
Fraser.  He and his brother—who clerked for him—always appeared dressed
in brown velvet coats, cord breeches, jack-boots, and sombreros.  At one
time he ran a few horses, but his favourite sport was fishing, and his
record exhibition of objurgation was given in connection with the pursuit
of this comparatively innocent pastime.  This was at Staines.  He had
left his line in the water while he went into the town.  During his
absence a friend fastened a dried haddock to his hook.  On his return,
the deluded man saw that he had “got a bite,” and proceeded to “land.”
The “air went blue for miles” as the outraged fisherman expressed his
opinion of the practical jokers who had tampered with his tackle.  Mr.
Fraser was, indeed, a gentleman who should have benefited by an extended
experience of the silent system; and this he was shortly to have.  He was
sentenced to a long term for a particularly brutal outrage.  And that was
the end of “the genteel penciller” so far as Society and the Turf are
concerned.

Billy Nicholls of Nottingham was a wealthy man and a “character.”  He was
a member of the Town Council of his native borough, and a rather good
yarn used to be told of his action in this capacity when a certain matter
of great local interest was brought up before the _Patres Conscripti_ of
Nottingham.  The burning question of “the town pump” had come up in
another shape.  Public opinion was divided as to whether or not a wall
should be built round the cemetery; and, as the municipal elections were
at hand, the members of the Council were also much “vexed in their
righteous minds” as to how they should vote on the recommendation of the
committee.  It remained for Billy Nicholls to settle the question by a
speech which was brief, to the point, and absolutely convincing:

“Muster Mayor, Haldermen, an’ gen’lemen hall,” he said, when he rose in
his place, “it’s like this yer: the pore chaps inside can’t get out, and
them what’s outside don’t want to get in.  So I says, ‘No wall.’”

And “no wall” it was.

Charlie Head was a bookie of a different type.  He was dapper, well
dressed—in fact, a bit of a dandy.  The waxed ends of his moustache were
a source of general joy to his friends at a time when this mode of
treating what Mr. Frank Richardson would call “face fungi” was
comparatively neglected.  I first met Head, not on the course, but at the
theatre.  He was a devoted supporter of the drama, and it was only
reasonable that he should look to the drama to support him.  This it very
generously did, when the Philharmonic in Islington was turned into a
theatre for the production of “Genevieve de Brabant,” one of the most
popular examples of _opera bouffe_ ever given in England.  All the town
flocked lightly to the _terra incognita_ to see Emily Soldene in her
bewitching cook’s uniform, just as all the town some years before had
flocked to see Marie Wilton and her clever company in the equally unknown
little playhouse in Tottenham Street.  In his management of the
Philharmonic Theatre, at this very profitable period of its history, Head
was associated with Charles Morton—a gentleman whose name was never
connected with failure.

Tom King, the well-known champion of the prize ring, was also making a
book in the seventies.  King was a splendid chap, tall, and well set up
as a guardsman.  His nose was slightly out of drawing—the result, no
doubt, of a professional misadventure.  When he left the prize ring Tom
cultivated a beard and moustache, which were always carefully trimmed.
Anything more unlike a “bruiser” it would be impossible to imagine.  His
“book” was not his only source of income: he enjoyed large profits as a
barge owner.  King was a remarkable raconteur, and had a practically
inexhaustible collection of yarns, none of them quite suitable for
spinning in pages intended for general circulation.

Waterhouse was one of the best of his class.  He was a short, fat man,
with a funny little _mouche_ on his lower lip.  With the exception of
this spot, his chubby face was clean-shaven.  He was a hot-tempered chap,
but as straight as a gun-barrel.  He had made a hobby of pigeons, of
which he was a well-known and eminently successful exhibitor.  Waterhouse
was commissioner for Lord Bradford’s stable, and won, I believe, a lot of
money when Sir Hugo, at 40 to I, beat La Flêche in the Derby of 1892—a
date, I should recollect, which lands me two years beyond the
chronological limits of these memoirs.

But, to my way of thinking, Charles Brewer was far and away the best of
the old bookmakers.  He had his offices in Charles Street, St. James’s.
He was joint owner with Charles Blanton, the trainer of that famous
racehorse, Robert the Devil.  Thousands of the British public, as well as
the owners, were bitterly disappointed when Robert the Devil failed to
pull off the Derby in 1880.  The race was won, it will be remembered, by
the Duke of Westminster’s Bend Or.  I saw that exciting finish.  It was
lost to Robert the Devil owing to the cock-sureness of Rossiter, the
jockey.  He took matters far too easy, and was imprudent enough to look
over his shoulder at the psychological moment.  Archer, that king of
riders, saw his advantage in a flash, and caught his opponent at the
post.

And a curious consideration, not altogether unconnected with
psychological ramifications, appeals to me here.  When I have been
deputed to go to a race-meeting for the purpose of making a column or so
of descriptive “copy,” the Ring has always presented itself to me as a
modern Inferno packed with raucous, foul-mouthed demons—rapacious,
brutal, sordid.  Again and again have I reeled off impressionist
descriptions of what I conceived to be a very brutal exhibition.  Yet, in
looking back to those old times, the picture of the betting ring does not
come back to me as a complete and vivid impression.  Faces gaze out at me
one by one, and they are all the faces of men who have made their last
settlement.  One becomes more charitable with the passing of the years, I
suppose, and Time teaches us to differentiate.  I fail altogether now to
recall the Ring as a raging, seething pit.  I only recall, with feelings
not estranged, some of its members whom I have known, and with whom I
have done a little business from time to time.  Their manners may not
have been those of a Chesterfield, but their principles of commercial
morality were more commendable than those of the nobleman whose
“Letters,” according to honest Samuel Johnson, inculcated the morals of a
monkey and the manners of—well, of something even less respectable than
our simian ancestor.

But, having said so much in favour of the personal qualities of certain
members of the betting ring, and having admitted that the transactions of
the fraternity are as a rule honest and open, I venture to suggest that
the institution itself is capable of considerable improvement—that,
indeed, the time has come when it might, with benefit to the community
and to the Government, be improved off the face of the earth.  We are a
nation of hypocrites, and are governed by a series of Ministries who play
up to our hypocrisy.  To certain phases of certain subjects our
Government elects to remain blind.  By a minority of our countrymen
betting is set down as a sin.  This minority (many of whom make bets on
the sly) has an influence with those in power.  Therefore the Government
of the day assumes that there is no such thing as wagering for money over
horse-racing.  The bookmaker is a myth.  In the words of Mrs. Gamp, a
Minister will tell you, “I don’t believe there’s no sich a person.”  And
yet what an income is waiting for that Chancellor of the Exchequer who
will possess the courage to disestablish the betting ring by instituting
the system of _Paris Mutuels_!  The “sin” of betting would not be
increased thereby, so that the moral minority should not be perturbed.
Absolute protection would be afforded to backers, so that the public
would be safeguarded and gratified.  And the income derivable from
commission to the Government would go far towards providing a new
_Dreadnought_ every year, so that, in any event, the nation must be a
gainer.

Mr. Lloyd George might talk the matter over with ‘Dr.’ Clifford, Mr.
Silvester Horne, and the President of the Methodist Conference.  The
predominant partner—Mr. John Redmond, to wit—would, I am confident, give
his consent to an experiment the object of which would be to give some
movement to treasuries which have long since ceased to be “flowing.”

I once spent some hours in the house of a bookmaker, and had an
opportunity of studying the penciller’s _ménage_.  I had often had a bet
with Andy Anderson.  His prices were a trifle short, but he was an
agreeable man to do business with—jovial, good-tempered, and amusing.
After a day’s racing at Hurst Park, he overtook “Boris” of the _Referee_
and myself, and suggested a “lift” as far as Surbiton—without consulting
us as to whether or not Surbiton was on our way home.  “Boris”—who in
private life was Mr. Harry Bromhead—accepted the invitation.  We were
given the back seats on Andy’s jobbed landau and pair, the bookie and his
clerk facing us, and his “runner” sitting on the box.  The carriage
eventually drew up at a detached house standing back from an umbrageous
front-garden in one of the most highly respectable avenues in Surbiton.
The spick-and-span appearance of the façade of the “desirable family
residence” suggested the home of a prosperous stockbroker—a class of
sportsman then affecting the neighbourhood.  Anderson got out, followed
by his guests.  The landau bowled off with the clerk and the “runner”
aboard, and Andy effusively invited us to enter.

We were shown into the drawing-room, where we found Mrs. Anderson—a
remarkably fine woman, with much of her husband’s easy good
temper—petting a remarkably uninteresting mongrel.  Then occurred one of
those incidents which illustrated a strange boyish side of Andy’s
character.  Having formally introduced us to his wife, he gazed at the
dog on her lap with an expression of amazement and admiration, and asked,
with great seriousness:

“Where did you get that dog, my dear?”

“Bought him off a man on the tow-path,” replied Mrs. Andy.

“What did you give?” he inquired.

“Five shillings.”

“Good heavens!” exclaimed Andy, “you’ve had a better day on the tow-path
than I’ve had on the course.  Why, that dog is worth fifty quid.  You
take great care of him, my dear.”

“What breed is he?” asked Mrs. Anderson.

“He’s a tripe-hound,” answered Andy, without moving a muscle, and still
regarding the wretched animal with the satisfied air of an expert.

Mrs. Anderson accepted the legend in deadly earnest.  The next day, as I
afterwards heard, she went into Kingston, purchased a silver collar with
her name and address engraved thereon, obtained a lead, and appeared
every afternoon on the promenade by the river with her priceless pet.
When asked about its pedigree by friends, she explained that she was
obliged to take great care of him, as he was a tripe-hound.  It was
Bessie Bellwood who eventually “gave the show away.”  Making a call on
Mrs. Anderson, and feeling a curiosity to ascertain why such a woman
should make a pet of such an entirely hopeless hybrid, she asked about
it, and received the usual reply, given with an air of complacent pride
in possession.  Bessie’s sense of humour was keen, and her expression of
it tumultuous.  She burst into a fit of irrepressible laughter.
Explanations ensued.  The tripe-hound was disposed of, and relations
between Andy and his wife became somewhat strained.

From the drawing-room, furnished in the most crowded fashion of Early
Victorian period, we were conducted to the dining-room, to have what just
at that time was becoming known as “a bottle of the boy.”  Meeting with a
bookmaker socially always meant in those days a bottle of champagne.  The
pencillers seemed to swim in it.  It is different now.  The simple and
less expensive whisky-and-soda is regarded by the majority of the Ring as
an excellent substitute for the exhilarating vintages of Ay and Épernay
and Grammont.  In his own house Andy was the soul of hospitality.  He
pressed us to remain to dinner.  But we both had duties in town.
However, we sat listening to his anecdotes and experiences for an hour or
more.  The most surprising of his reminiscences was that he, Andy
Anderson the bookmaker, was the son of a Baptist minister!  At first I
was inclined to rate the confession with the legend of the tripe-hound,
but the statement was one of fact.  I commend it to the consideration of
Nonconformist Turf-haters; they can take it either of two ways—as an
inducement to regard charitably a calling which provides fine openings
for the bright sons of Baptist ministers, or as an argument in favour of
the _Paris Mutuels_, whereby the temptation to become bookmakers would be
for ever removed from the precocious progeny of the “unco’ guid.”

The mention of Bromhead naturally reminds me of the paper which he served
so well for so many years.  The _Referee_ was established by Henry
Sampson some few yew after Mr. Corlett found the continuous-paragraph
method so sudden and so triumphant a success.  But the founders of the
new paper, while appreciating the main reason of their rival’s success,
were not slow to observe the departments in which the older paper was
“slack.”  So from the start the _Referee_ gave a proper attention to
arrangement of contents and sub-editing.  And the paper is still
distinguished for its care in these respects.  In a former chapter I have
alluded sympathetically to the fact that death has dogged the footsteps
of Mr. Corlett’s staff.  The _Referee_ has a more fortunate record.  Of
the original staff of the _Referee_, four members are still living and
working.  These are Mr. Richard Butler, Mr. H. Chance Newton, Mr.
Edwards, and Mr. George R. Sims.  The “Handbook” on the first page has of
recent years become a valued feature.  The best of the series was
contributed by the patient and reflective Nesbit, of the _Times_.  He was
followed by Christie Murray.  The present writer is Mr. Arnold White,
whose range is more limited than that of his predecessors.  But he
strikes the patriotic note all the time.  And the expression of his
patriotism never rings false.

In the seventies the _doyen_ of the racing Press was Comyns Cole, of the
_Times_ and the _Field_.  In whatever society he might be found Cole was
always a striking personality.  He was not only an accomplished
journalist, but he was a typical English gentleman of the school even
then becoming regarded as “old.”  He possessed all the gracious courtesy
of a more formal age.  At the time when I made his acquaintance he was
well over sixty, but he was erect in carriage, slim in figure, always
carefully dressed to suit the occasion, and impartially polite to Dukes
and jockeys.  His carefully-cultured grey moustache gave him something of
a military appearance.  His greatest charm was, perhaps, in a voice of
unusual sweetness.  And on the Turf he was liked and respected by
everybody, high and low.  Not merely was Cole a gentleman in thought and
act, but he spoke and wrote like one.  He could never have become
contaminated by the baleful influences of the Press-room.

In my early days there were a lot of small race-meetings in the vicinity
of London which have ceased to exist, their suppression or extinction,
owing to natural causes, being a circumstance on which Society may be
greatly congratulated.  Of these, Hampton was one of the most notorious.
It was a great Cockney carnival, and was held on the ground over which
Hurst Park now stretches.  All the costers of the East End drove down to
this event on their “flying bedsteads,” in the shafts of which
conveyances were harnessed their “mokes.”  On one side of the bedstead,
with legs hanging over the front, was the coster, urging his “moke” with
comic blasphemies.  On the other side sat his “dona,” all hat and
feathers, howling snatches of the music-hall songs of the moment, and in
the intervals plying her “bloke” with beer.  All the pickpockets,
welchers, thimble-riggers, and confidence-tricksters of the Metropolis
turned up at this event, and nowhere else would you be likely to come
across scenes of more unbridled blackguardism.  The inhabitants of
Hampton—standing as it does on one of the prettiest of the nearer reaches
of the Thames—were naturally incensed by the annual Saturnalia.

Not all those who were attracted to the meeting came down for the sport.
Many of them hired skiffs and went on the water.  These greatly daring
adventurers had but the most rudimentary use of the sculls, and their
immunity from accident can only be traced to that watchful Providence
which is believed to look after drunken men and infants.  On one occasion
I happened during these races to be at Hampton, which is, of course, on
the other side of the river.  I there saw a rather cranky skiff let out
by a local boat-owner to a party of a dozen happy Cockneys, male and
female of their kind, not one of whom could row and few of whom could
swim.  As they zigzagged their way to midstream, I thought it my duty to
remonstrate with the boat-owner.

“I shouldn’t have let a boat to that lot: they’re sure to capsize,” I
ventured to suggest.

“It’s orright, guv’nor,” answered the man cheerily; “_I’ve ’ad a quid
deposit_!”

Funny thing, the point of view.  I was solicitous about the safety of the
Cockney excursionists.  My boat-hiring friend could only imagine that I
was anxious lest his skiff should come to grief, and was happy to assure
me that he had secured himself against all possible loss!

At Kingsbury there was another of these classic events.  It was never my
proud privilege to witness the racing at Kingsbury; but the suppression
of that meeting was a never-ceasing cause of regret to Warner, of the
Welsh Harp, Hendon.  I made the acquaintance of that illustrious man when
I was sent down to interview Mrs. Girling on the part of a daily paper
“whose name shall be nameless,” as a villain of melodrama once put it.
The name of Mrs. Girling, I imagine, will call up no memories in the
present generation.  The poor lady, although she made a wonderful
commotion in her time, has failed to write her name with any legibility
on the page of history.

Mrs. Girling, then, was the president, or high-priestess, or boss of the
Shaker community, which at one time thought to establish itself in the
country of a hundred religions and one sauce.  Notwithstanding all that
has been alleged to the contrary, the English still possess a certain
sense of humour, and their knowledge of the new sect was chiefly derived
from the writings of Artemus Ward, who had devoted a chapter of “His
Book” to the more salient eccentricities of the Shakers.  One of the sect
he described as looking like “a last year’s bean-pole dressed in a long
meal-bag.”

The corybantic religionists who had come across the Atlantic with Mrs.
Girling in the pious hope of converting the islanders had been evicted
from their quarters in the New Forest, and had encamped on, and under,
the grandstand on the Kingsbury racecourse.  The expulsion of the Shakers
from their Hampshire Eden became the subject of a great deal of comment
in the Press, and Warner, who was above all else a showman, at once saw
his way to make some money out of the eccentric exiles from the States.
So he philanthropically offered the evicted evangelists such shelter as
the Kingsbury grand-stand afforded.  Mrs. Girling was grateful.  Half
London flocked to Hendon to inspect the high-priestess and her faithful
following of Latter-Day Saints, and, incidentally, to partake of
refreshments at the Welsh Harp.  It was on my way home after my interview
with Mrs. Girling that I made the acquaintance of Mr. Warner himself.  He
was a large, jovial, effusive person—quite the typical Boniface, in fact.
I was about to write “the typical John Bull,” when I recollected that the
national nickname has acquired associations which render it—well, not
quite typical.

Warner appeared to spend most of his time sitting in a wooden armchair of
Brobdingnagian proportions.  When in an anecdotal or reminiscent mood, he
could be extremely entertaining.  One of his reminiscences may be worth
repeating.  The Welsh Harp pleasure-grounds had become a favourite arena
for the managers of Sunday-school treats and high jinks of a similar
character.  During the summer months thousands of children were carted
down from the lanes and alleys of the town to pick daisies in Warner’s
fields, to wander by the margin of Warner’s lake, and to “wolf” Warner’s
buns and ginger-beer amid delightfully rural surroundings.
Consternation, therefore, seized this particular section of Society when
there appeared in the papers the report that the pet bear of the Welsh
Harp had escaped from its den, and had taken refuge in some neighbouring
thicket.  In vain did Warner write solemn disclaimers to the daily
papers.  His pathetic denials of the existence of any bear on the estate
were received with frigid scepticism.  The rumour had been sown
broadcast, and had taken root.  The crop was accepted as first-class
fact.  The more strongly did Warner protest, the more picturesque became
the newspaper reports of the bear-hunt, the methods of the trackers, and
their failure to trap their quarry.

Meanwhile the outlook was becoming serious for the owner of the famous
pleasaunce.  Every post brought the poor man letters from the promoters
of bean-feasts and Sunday-school treats cancelling their dates.  In
moments of desperation the brain sometimes becomes superactive.  At such
a moment Warner was the subject of an inspiration, or, as he himself put
it, “an ’appy thought struck him.”  He drove off to Jamrach’s, the famous
dealers in wild animals, in the Ratcliff Highway, and there he purchased
the cheapest bear in the market.  The brute was taken to the Welsh Harp
in a van and at dead of night.  The following morning the animal was
found tied up to a tree in the grounds, and Warner triumphantly issued to
the Press a purely imaginary account of its pursuit and capture.  The
consequences of the ruse were satisfactory all round.  Nobody seemed to
remember anything at all of Warner’s pathetic denials of the existence of
a bear.  The accuracy of the Press reporters was vindicated, and the
publication of Warner’s circumstantial account of the chase and capture
attracted thousands of sightseers to the Welsh Harp—most of them thirsty.
In a few days the ingenious designer of this public deception was able to
recoup himself for the losses sustained owing to the alleged ravages of
an ursine “Mrs. Harris” by the production of a real bear—a hired,
harmless, and humiliated brute.

Time has been kind to the old Welsh Harp, and I fervently hope that the
day is far distant ere even a garden city shall be established by the
shores of the wonderful lake whereon the Cockney sailed and fished in the
summer, and skated—and was periodically immersed—in the winter months.
For a little while at least its memory will be kept green by Chevalier’s
“Coster’s Serenade”:

    “You ain’t forgotten yet that night in May
    Dahn at the Welsh ’Arp, which is ’Endon way?
    _You_ fancied winkles and a pot of tea;
    ‘Four ’alf,’ I murmured, ‘’s good enough for _me_.
    Give me a word of ’ope that I may win.’
    You prods me gently with the winkle pin.
    We was as ’appy as could be that day
    Dahn at the Welsh ’Arp, which is ’Endon way.”



CHAPTER XVIII
OLLA PODRIDA


TWO American managers had made themselves very well known to the Street
of Adventure in the early eighties.  It was before the advent of the
mighty Frohman and other engineers of the great combine.  The one was
known as “Johnny” Rogers, and the other was W. W. Kelly.  The last-named
gentleman must be, I imagine, still to the fore, for during the last
General Election I visited two provincial centres, and saw, peeling from
the walls of each, the mammoth posters of that wonderful Napoleonic
melodrama “A Royal Divorce.”  I wonder whether, if the spirit of my old
friend, W. G. Wills, revisited these “glimpses of the moon,” he would
recognize his workmanship and marvel at sight of the crowds it still
attracts.

Kelly was a tall, florid man, flamboyant in manner, and gifted with an
eloquence which was never ungarnished.  Rogers was a little man, with a
nice taste in diamonds.  The time that he did not spend in the theatre
writing Press notices about his “star” was devoted to running around the
newspaper offices seeking publicity for his lucubrations.

Rogers managed for a little lady called Minnie Palmer, who appeared at
the Strand Theatre in a sort of pinafore-and-golden-curls part.  She
continued playing the pinafore _ingénue_ until she was well over forty.
Poor little “Johnny,” who had taught the lady all she knew, was quite
broken-hearted when she left his for another management.  Kelly also made
his reputation in London as manager for an actress.  This performer was
called Grace Hawthorne.  Miss Hawthorne took the Olympic and the
Princess’s, and spent quite a fortune in the attempt to establish the
position of her theatres.

Kelly had a humour of his own, which, if Irish in its origin, was
American in its expression.  In the Junior Garrick Club one afternoon
some men were assembled in the hall (the hall-porter, called “Tap,” was a
bit of a bookmaker, and we loyally accepted his ridiculous prices).  The
conversation turned on lying, and some of us were relating our
experiences of great liars whom we had known, and quoting examples of
their skill.  Kelly entered during the recital with a member whose guest
he was, and listened quietly for a while; then, taking advantage of the
first pause, he said:

“I guess what you fellows know about lyin’ ain’t worth a cent.  There are
only three liars in the world . . . is one, _and Rogers is the other
two_.”

When Wilson Barrett produced Mr. Caine’s “Ben My Chree” at the
Princess’s, Kelly had some rights in either the piece or the theatre.
After the first performance, Kelly went round to Barrett’s dressing-room,
and urged the actor to cut down the dialogue before again presenting the
piece.  The critics, Kelly assured him, were very much annoyed by the
length of some of the speeches.  “Don’t you believe it,” replied Barrett
reassuringly.  “To-morrow morning every paper in London will have over a
column of unadulterated praise, and the booking-office will be besieged
by a public mad to buy seats!”

In relating the incident to me, Kelly concluded thus:

“And Wilson Barrett was right.  The following morning they brought the
papers up to my bedroom.  _Times_, a solid column of sugar-candy;
_Telegraph_, a column and a quarter of molasses, laid on thick; _Post_,
syrup suited for Society.  I dressed in a hurry, raced through my
breakfast, ordered a hansom, and told the man to drive like the devil to
the Princess’s Theatre.  I was anxious to see the queue waiting to book,
as discerned in the prophetic vision of my actor-managerial confrère.
Never before did the journey from St. John’s Wood to Oxford Street appear
so long.  It was just on noon when we passed through Oxford Circus, but
by the time we passed Peter Robinson’s I could see a crowd gathered in
front of the theatre.  ‘By Crœsus, Barrett’s right again!’ I said to
myself as I paid the cabby and turned to enter the house; and then the
horrible truth burst upon me.  The crowd was entirely composed of Wilson
Barrett’s creditors!”

There was very little _pose_ about the pressman of the jocund days.
There was an editorial _pose_, of course—that was as essential as an
ecclesiastical or as a judicial _pose_—but among the rank and file
nothing of the sort was known, and nothing of the sort would have been
tolerated.  Journalists were like so many schoolboys grown up, and
affectations of all kinds were an abomination to them; yet the seed for
some of the artistic make-believe which is now so wide spread was sown in
an earlier and, I venture to think, a more healthy time.

Thus, what a mighty growth of rank vegetation has followed the discovery
by Swinburne of Fitzgerald’s paraphrase of the “Rubaiyat” of Omar
Khayyám!  Swinburne’s “find” in Quaritch’s shop was, perhaps, the most
important event that ever took place there.  From a commercial point of
view the transaction was naught, for the neglected verses were rescued by
the poet from the “All these at twopence” box of the expert in old
editions.  Nor was there anything at all sensational in the circumstance
of one poet lighting upon the undiscovered genius of a brother bard.  One
can understand Swinburne’s keen delight and sympathetic appreciation, but
what of the rising flood of slushy adulation which has followed on the
part of men who are without literary discrimination or poetic insight?
The names of eminent members of the Press appear in the lists of those
assembled to do honour to the memory of the Persian voluptuary.  This is
a pity, I think.  To be in harmony with their object, these celebrations
should be orgies, and as long as they are conducted on any other lines
they should be left to the professors of a vapid dilettantism.

Omar Khayyám had a fine sense of humour, and, scanning mundane affairs
from his retreat in Paradise, he must sometimes shake with laughter as he
regards the class of admirers who assemble and meet together, drinking to
his memory, sending roses to be planted on his grave, and ruffling it for
a night in the character of irresponsible roisterers.  There is a touch
of the comic about the situation that just redeems it; otherwise, it were
pitiful.  What on earth does old Omar make in that galley?  The dominant
note of the diners is that of a stifling modernity.  The purveyors of
literary gossip are here, with the prurient and the anæmic, and the few
normal persons who are present are here from a mere desire to gratify
their curiosity or their gregariousness.  All are in the attire decreed
by social convention for functions of the sort.  Many of them wear
spectacles.  When the hour strikes, and the operation of the Licensing
Act compels them to bring their feast to an end, they “taxi” off to their
suburban villas, where they pay rates and elect Borough Councillors.
Here they are “waited up for” by their faithful wives, middle-aged and
highly respectable matrons, to whom, with more or less lucidity, they
relate all they have been doing and saying in honour of a lusty human
animal of primeval instincts, who, had he any “say” in the matter, would
eloquently resent the familiarity which is being taken with his name by
persons with whom he could never have had anything in common.

And this reflection reminds me of an incident related to me by Sala.  He
told it of James Hannay.  That accomplished writer was a great admirer of
the works of Horace, and on December 8—the poet’s birthday—he gave a
dinner in honour of his favourite author.  At these annual assemblies the
majority of the guests were men having a scholarly acquaintance with the
writings of Quintus Horatius Flaccus.  On one of these anniversaries it
happened that the scholarly persons were all prevented from attending,
and Hannay found himself surrounded at dinner by friends whose knowledge
of Horace, if anything at all, was of a schoolboy and negligible kind.
It was Hannay’s custom on these occasions to propose one toast—“The
Memory of Horace.”  He rose to make his customary address, which he
brought to a conclusion in the following words:

“Would that the great poet were with us now!  Here he would tell us of
his Venusian home under the shadow of the Apulian Hills; here he would
explain the recondite personal allusions in his ‘Satires’; here he would
lift the veil from his inner life in quoting passages from the
‘Epistles’; here he would recite, as only he could, his lighter or his
graver ‘Odes,’ happily conscious of the fact that not one person in his
hearing understood a word of the language in which he was speaking!”

And, according to Sala, no one resented the pleasantry.  It may be
assumed that Hannay was more exercised about the memory of Horace than he
was about his own.  One never hears him quoted now; yet he established a
claim on the memory of posterity far more valid than that of a score of
writers who have become accepted as speaking with authority.  His “Satire
and Satirists” proves him to be as fine a master of satire as many of
those with whom he deals.  His “Singleton Fontenoy” is full of wit and
humour, and the shrewd wisdom of a thorough man of the world.  He wrote
largely in the _Quarterly Review_, was a contributor to _Punch_, and a
regular writer on the Press.  There is no English critic to whose pages I
revert with keener satisfaction; but that taste is not general.  Hannay,
alas! has written his name in water.

Charles Reade wrote one of the greatest novels produced in the Victorian
era—I refer, of course, to “The Cloister and the Hearth”—and he was
probably one of the greatest personalities of his own time.  I knew him
fairly well.  Like Robert Buchanan, he was ready to rush into newspaper
correspondence on the slightest provocation, and, having once commenced
operations, he hit out in a way that was perfectly wonderful; yet—again
like poor Buchanan—he was a man with a soft heart and a generous nature.
He would roar through a whole column, hurling at his opponent the most
weird and lurid denunciations, but he bore no malice.  He was afflicted
now and then with righteous indignation, but once the steam was let off,
he cooed like a sucking-dove.  In the height of his argument he would
coin the most wonderful phrases, for Reade never raged as the heathen
rage.  Tom Purnell “had at” the old gentleman in the _Athenæum_, and
Reade was out after his scalp in rather less than no time.  His philippic
on this occasion incidentally enriched the English language by the
addition of a word.  “Pseudonymuncule” was the epithet which he forged
for the confusion of his opponent.

Reade was a big burly man, with a grey beard, short clipped.  Henry Byron
once described him as “Great Briton,” and the phrase was apt enough.  A
tumultuous, overwhelming personage was Reade.  His advertisements to
“Thief Takers,” offering rewards to those who caught unscrupulous persons
pirating his works, were surely the “maddest, merriest” things ever set
up in type; yet they were quite seriously meant by their author.  On the
subject of piracy he was always in deadly earnest.  One of his last
contributions to the Press was a series of articles in the _Daily
Telegraph_ on “Ambidextrous Man.”  On this subject he waxed as emphatic,
insistent, and eloquent as if the world were arrayed in one great stupid
conspiracy against his contention.  As a matter of fact, the world did
not care a farthing about it one way or the other.  Perhaps his most
dramatic exhibition of violent indignation was afforded when the
authorities wanted to acquire his house at Albert Gate.  Among other
devices to which he resorted in order to bring his persecutors to their
senses was a very characteristic one.  He had a huge board affixed to the
forefront of his dwelling, and painted thereon, for all the world to see,
was the legend “NABOTH’S VINEYARD.”  One would have imagined that this
would have stricken his enemies with a sense of shame.  In that
direction, however, I regret to say, it failed.

When the prize-ring was set up between four walls, and its contests
decided after dinner before a mob of gentlemen in evening dress, its
chief London home was, and is, the National Sporting Club.  The National
Sporting Club was not the direct descendant of the prize-ring, but came
to the sons of men by way of the West London Rowing Club, in connection
with which there was a boxing-club supported by such sportsmen as “Pills”
Holloway, “Nobby” Hall, and other gentlemen pugilists.  The umpires,
referees, and time-keepers at the National Sporting Club had graduated at
the West London, which had its premises on the tow-path by Putney Bridge.
The chief of these were Mr. “Jack” Angle, Mr. Vyse, and Mr. “Tom”
Anderson, of the Board of Trade.  All three were men of dress and of
address—what used to be called “swells,” in fact—and Anderson was always
noted for the wonderful depth of his linen collars; indeed, he may be
said to have set that fashion in collars which a few years since bid fair
to strangle the rising hope of England.  Whenever a boxing contest came
off at the National Sporting, the names of these three veterans of the
gloves appeared in the newspapers publishing reports of the “fights.”
When Sir Courtney Boyle became Chief of the Board of Trade, he was
scandalized to find the name of a gentleman holding an important position
in the office appearing publicly in such a degrading connection, and
Anderson was tabled, and informed that if he wished to retain his
position he must abandon all official connection with the “ring.”
Anderson’s resentment may, perhaps, be found expressed in the fact that
shortly afterwards Sir Courtney became known in Whitehall as “Doubtful
Boyle.”  On being asked the meaning of the sobriquet, Anderson would
slyly answer: “The chief is so called because he is always in doubt as to
whether godamighty made him or he made godamighty!”

When the National Sporting Club was yet unthought of, and when the
premises they occupy was still Evans’s Hotel, there was a tobacconist’s
shop next door, and behind the shop there was an American bowling-alley.
This was Kilpack’s.  It was an old-fashioned shop, and the customers sat
on tobacco-barrels beside the counter.  The bowling-alley was not much
frequented when I knew it; but earlier in the nineteenth century it had a
vogue, I understand.  It was a capital alley, and I have enjoyed many a
game there with citizens of the United States, who did not, I am bound to
confess, take much stock in the pastime.  Behind the counter of the
cigar-shop was a middle-aged man, very genial and reminiscent.  The
customers always called him “Kilpack,” and he always “answered” to that
name; but the original Kilpacks had disappeared long before, and this
amiable person—probably a Smith or a Jones—thought it a safe policy to
carry on the old traditions under the old name.  Kilpack’s was

    “A link within the days to bind
    The generations each to each.”

As I see these old landmarks disappear one by one from the face of the
Metropolitan area, I experience a pang of bereavement as at the death of
an old friend.  The site upon which the demolished Kilpack’s once stood
is now occupied by the premises of a draper.

I never had much to do with the money-lending fraternity.  I tried on one
occasion to borrow fifty of Sam Lewis.  I may mention at once that I did
not succeed.  But my visit on the occasion to 17, Cork Street established
a friendship between Sam and myself which continued until his death.  I
have heard a good many stories about the rapacity of Sam in his
professional capacity.  His critics forget to estimate the risks which he
continually took, and when one remembers the sort of men his principal
“clients” were, and the eventual destination of the millions which the
worthy Sam accumulated, it must be admitted that the public has benefited
by the transactions.  Had the vast sums of interest which Sam Lewis
hauled in from clients like Ailesbury percolated through other channels,
Society would not have been a halfpenny the better.  As it was, the Lewis
millions went in the end to benefit hospitals and other great public
charities.  Sam left a lot to be disposed of in this way, leaving the
bulk of his little savings to his wife.  That lady did not survive her
husband by many years, and her will added enormously to the benefactions
devised by her husband.  In the testamentary acts of both husband and
wife the Christian charities were as liberally treated as were those
distinctively Jewish.

Lewis was a dapper, well-dressed little man, with a bald head and a smile
of winning quality; indeed, all Sam’s qualities were winning qualities.
His offices were on the first-floor of the house next door to the Blue
Posts in Cork Street, and impecunious _flâneurs_ emerging from the
Burlington Arcade were often blessed by a sight of the back of Sam’s head
as he leaned against the window talking to some “forlorn and shipwrecked
brother” intent on discovering the wherewithal on which to “take heart
again.”

Lewis began life as a traveller in real and sham jewellery, to which he
added, as time went on, some little adventures on his own account in the
tally-man arena of British enterprise.  The most melancholy young man I
ever saw was his clerk—one Gilbey by name.  Whether this young man’s
melancholy was constitutional or was caused by his acquaintance with the
seamy side of Society, or by the monotonous filling up of bills for Sam’s
clients to sign, I never could make out.  Sam’s chief jackal was one
Alfred Snelling, whose office was in a little house looking down Savile
Row.

Not often have the betting ring and the tipsters and “the boys” generally
come across so soft a thing as they found in Ernest Benzon, whose
meteoric course lasted just two years.  It must be confessed that this
extraordinary young man contrived to fill the public eye during that
period to the exclusion of more useful subjects, and it cost him just a
quarter of a million of money to achieve that splendid notoriety.  The
fortune to which Benzon—known during his brief career on the turf as “the
Jubilee Juggins”—succeeded was made by his father, a Birmingham man.  The
trade by which it was accumulated was that of constructing
umbrella-frames.  That a fortune thus made should have been inherited by
one who was utterly oblivious to the necessity of laying by something for
a rainy day strikes a reflective person as being at once strange and sad.
Benzon did not acquire the sobriquet “Juggins” for nothing.  He was the
last man in the world to whom the control of a fortune should have been
committed.

Benzon was absolutely vain, frivolous, and assertive.  He fancied himself
no end at things for which he had no very great aptitude.  As an instance
of this, I remember quite well how he challenged John Roberts at pyramids
for a sovereign a ball.  Of course, Roberts “took him on,” with what
result can be imagined.  He had that sort of sickly sentimentality which
may be encountered in the sixpenny gallery of the homes of melodrama—a
sentimentality which can exist in natures incapable of any quite genuine
emotion.  Benzon squandered money, and doubtless was robbed of money; but
I have never heard a case in which he spent money on a generous impulse
or with the intention of doing an act of solid benefit to an individual
or to the human race.  Yet I accompanied him on one occasion to the
Adelphi Theatre.  A melodrama of the ordinary Adelphi sort was being
played, and Benzon became so extremely touched by the sufferings of the
heroine that he began blubbering like a child.  Nor can it be said that
the exhibition was explicable on the ground that the “Juggins” was
“crying drunk.”

When Benzon had melted his patrimony of a quarter of a million, he
thought to maintain his notoriety by telling the world how he had managed
to do it.  To this motive may be attributed the appearance of a book
attributed to him, and entitled, “How I Lost £250,000 in Two Years.”  His
friends now considered that a new and reputable career was opened up to
him; for the work was extremely well written, and the “Jubilee Juggins”
accepted with never-failing geniality the congratulations which were
showered upon him.  But even here Benzon was fated to be a disappointment
to his friends.  Some months after the book appeared an action was
brought against the publisher by Vero Shaw.  From the evidence given
during the hearing it transpired that, save for the two words “Ernest
Benzon” which appeared under his likeness opposite the title-page, not a
scrap of the work had been done by the “Juggins” himself.  It was all the
work of Vero Shaw, constructed out of such flimsy materials as could be
gathered from the vapid conversation of the devoted plunger and the diary
of the latter’s tutor.

The last time I saw Benzon he was somewhat less of the butterfly than in
the days of his vanity.  He was living on an inalienable income paid
weekly.  His salient qualities were selfishness and silliness.  He was
what “bookies” used to call “a fly-flat,” and, I may add, more flat than
fly.

Saturday-to-Mondaying became recognized as having a place among British
sports and pastimes some time at the close of the seventies, I think.  It
was started, like so many other delightful innovations, by Bohemians.
Having once “caught on,” it was adopted by Society, and in quite recent
years became recognized under the name which it originally and naturally
bore.  But though Society has sanctioned—or shall I say sanctified?—the
term, the first public allusion to the beneficent custom was on the stage
of the music-hall, and was made by Miss Marie Lloyd or another.  The
stimulating refrain ran: “Oh, will you be my Saturday-to-Monday?”

Charles Wyndham was one of the first of the theatrical profession to
recognize in the Thames Valley a peaceful resort in which, after the
Saturday performance, to rest and study and contrive.  It was at a very
critical period in the history of the Criterion, and the ambitious
manager—surely the finest of English comedians—was suffering all the
horrors of insomnia.  Affairs were balanced on the edge of a knife, as it
were, at the theatre, and it was doubtful whether the courageous young
manager could hold on or not.  His objective in those days was the Swan,
at Thames Ditton, and here for the greater part of Sunday he would shut
himself up in a private room studying manuscript plays, French and
English of their kind.  All who knew him then rejoiced when a brilliant
success at last followed his judgment in selection, and the anxiety and
the insomnia simultaneously disappeared.  Those who have only known him
in later years as the rich and popular Sir Charles Wyndham will learn
that his success—like all solid and lasting successes—was strenuously
won.

But it was not until a later period that the general weekend migration of
Bohemia to the Thames set in with yearly increasing severity.  And those
who followed Wyndham to the river of pleasure did not, you may be quite
sure, follow his example in the matter of arduous study.  A good deal of
“shop” was talked, no doubt, at the merry forgatherings of actors in
flannels and actresses in white frocks—actors will pass their time in
heaven talking “shop”—but serious consideration of the business of the
theatre was as a rule taboo.  The spirit of the little assemblages of
friends all along the Valley was frankly a holiday spirit; the dominant
note of the Bohemian parties was gaiety.  The Saturday-to-Monday
establishments spread themselves from Twickenham—then below locks—to
Datchet.  Nowadays the profession may be found encamped higher up the
stream.  But there were no motors in the dark days of which I am writing,
and players whose engagements were in or near the Strand were limited to
the river resorts served by the South-Western Railway Company.  Whatever
disadvantages may have been incident on this limitation, it had the
advantage of placing the week-enders from the theatres within visiting
distance of each other.

D’Oyly Carte hired a big house at Hampton, close to Tagg’s Island, where
he entertained largely on Sundays.  It had a lawn running down to the
river—a lawn on which I have met some very pleasant people, but none as
pleasant and unassuming as Carte himself, or more hospitable and gracious
than his talented wife.  Carte evidently regarded the Thames as an ideal
stream by which to live, for he afterwards bought an eyot higher
upstream, and built a house on it.

Higher up the stream, at Sunbury, there was a cheery Bohemian colony
where the fun never flagged.  “Cis” Chappel’s cottage by the river was
one of the centres of the settlement.  Among his visitors—also of the
colony—were Captain Fred Russell, whose quaint humour and whose fame as a
raconteur were enhanced by a slight stammer, which, instead of marring,
heightened his effects.  Alfred Benjamin, of bulldog fame, was free of
this circle, in virtue of having “married on to the stage,” so to speak,
Mrs. Benjamin having been one of the vestals who had kept burning
HoIIingshead’s “sacred lamp of burlesque” at the Gaiety.  Other bright
and beautiful women were among Chappel’s visitors, chief among these
being Miss Nellie Farren, who had a residence not far off, and whose
presence and fine flow of animal spirits prevented the possibility of any
dull moments.  The Magpie Hotel, with a landing-stage to the river, was a
famous gathering place for the members of the theatrical profession, more
especially on Sunday afternoons.  Old Freeman, the landlord, has long
since abandoned Clarke’s ferry for that of Charon.  He had the general
appearance of a stage-butler—artificial smirk and all—and he made a nice
fortune by catering for the gay and irresponsible youth who frequented
his establishment.

Still farther upstream was Shepperton.  Here of a morning the handsome
Harry B. Conway might be seen leaving his cottage, preceded by the two
noisiest collies ever littered.  Conway, surely the best-looking Romeo
who ever played the part, was a connection of the Byron family, and
possessed all the good looks of his famous relative.  It is to be feared
that he inherited also some of the other idiosyncrasies of the author of
“Don Juan.”  Henry Pottinger Stephens had for some time a house farther
inland from the river.  He had hired the place furnished.  The grounds
were surrounded by a high wall, the visitor at the gate being scanned
through a grille before admission.  The retreat was as private as a
nunnery.  Once inside, “Pot’s” visitor would be struck by the excessive
number of copies of the Holy Scriptures which were to be found in the
rooms.  It used to amuse “Pot” to stimulate the curiosity of his guests
on this point, and then to explain the mystery by observing that he had
hired the house of Mr. Bagster, the Bible publisher of Paternoster Row.

Above the lock, and on the Chertsey side of the river, Sir Charles Dilke
had built himself the most retired little bungalow on all the river.
Neither from the stream nor from the shore approaches was the house
visible.  It seemed to be sunk in osier-beds and embowered in willows.
Theodore Hook I think it was who described the advantage of having a
riverside cottage as consisting in the fact that “in the summer you had
the river at the bottom of your garden, and that in the winter you had
the garden at the bottom of your river.”  I should imagine that in the
winter, not only the garden, but the house itself, must sometimes have
been at the bottom of the river in the case of Sir Charles Dilke’s
Chertsey home.

At Staines “Tommy” Brett, a member of the Bar, conspicuous for his
negligence in the matter of dress, had his week-end quarters.  He
practised on the Chancery side, and was half mad on the subject of
horse-racing.  To hear and see Tommy describe a close finish was one of
the funniest entertainments possible.  In his excitement, the little man
would get down to his work, his wrists and elbows playing, his knees
pressed in, his neck craned forward, and his hat pressed to the very back
of his head.  Brett was in deadly earnest all the time, while to his
audience the performance appealed as a piece of the most extraordinary
burlesque.  Fortunately, Tommy’s knowledge of law was much more sound
than his knowledge of horse-racing.  On the other side of the river to
Staines is Egham Hythe, and here Vero Shaw had a pleasant establishment
known as Wapshot Farm.  The author of “The Book of the Dog” was here
experimenting in pigeon-breeding, and at Wapshot Farm there was always a
warm welcome to friends on the part of the most cheery of hosts and the
most hospitable of hostesses.  Mrs. Shaw was noted on the Staines reach,
and on reaches above and below it, for her success as a Thames angler.

With the advent of the house-boat an era of greater luxuriousness was
inaugurated.  At first the house-boat was a floating structure of small
proportions and humble pretensions—the home of some artist or some
devoted lover of the Thames who had become tired of camping out.  But the
possibilities of the thing were soon gauged by those to whom money was
not very much of an object.  The first of the house-boats on a really
large and luxurious scale was built for Mr. O’Hagan of Hampton by Tom
Tagg.  Once the game was started, it went on merrily, and continueth even
unto this day, although the motor has diverted many of the wealthy from a
pastime which, from one point of view at least, must be regarded as
“slow.”  Colonel North, the Nitrate King, as they called him in the City,
set up a house-boat on a grand scale.  He called her _The Golden
Butterfly_, and on board this gorgeous floating pleasure-house he gave
princely entertainments to the ornaments of the stage and his City
friends.  John L. Shine, the actor, had gained the good graces of the
egregious Nitrate King—who, while recklessly hospitable, was hopelessly
vulgar—and he did a lot of the inviting for the florid and red-whiskered
magnate.  Where City men of the “Woolpack” type, ladies of the theatre,
unlimited champagne, and a host free of any bigoted regard for the
_convenances_, are the chief elements of a gathering, the fun should have
been fast and furious—as, indeed, it sometimes was.

William Hudson, the wine-merchant, had a house-boat right away from the
more crowded reaches of the Thames.  She lay off the Mapledurham meadows,
belonging to the Blount family.  Hudson’s boat was called _The Little
Billee_, and he kept moored near by an excellent steam-launch, the
_Martlet_, and a whole flotilla of skiffs, punts, and canoes for the use
of his visitors.  In the internal fittings of the _Little Billee_ Hudson
went in not so much for airy grace as for solid comfort.  And no man on
all the Thames gave better weekend dinners.  He liked to have around him
guests who could talk, and who could talk well.  All sorts and conditions
of people met at his board, but one never met there a man who was not
interesting.  Travellers, authors, journalists, merchants, Conservative
Members of Parliament, and Irish Nationalist Members of the same august
assembly, I have met at Hudson’s week-end parties on the _Little Billee_.
And if the after-dinner talk was always kept up to the right
conversational pitch, much of the credit was due to the keenness and tact
of a host who delighted in the conversational “give and take” of clever
men.

On the upper and on the lower reaches of the Thames the upper and the
lower reaches of literature—if I may so describe them—were represented.
Thus, at Kelmscott, by Lechlade, Rossetti and Morris were producing
enduring work; while down at Isleworth Mr. Le Queux was reporting at
County Courts and Boards of Guardians for the _Middlesex Chronicle_,
innocent as yet of the many sensational crimes which, in six-shilling
volumes, he has since committed; and at Richmond Mr. Bloundelle Burton
was daily treading on historic ground without so much as contemplating
the historic novel.  At Teddington, Blackmore, having abandoned
Devonshire and the novel of the West, was devoting himself to the
pleasurable and profitable pursuit of market gardening.  All sorts and
conditions of the cultivators of literature sought the banks of the
Thames; and if Edmund Yates, of the _World_, had a delightful place at
Goring, Purkiss, of the _Police Gazelle_, had a still more luxurious home
at Shepperton.

In the eighties, too, the river began to have a literature of its own.
Of these, _Lock to Lock_ lingers on to this day.  The _Thames_ was a more
serious and a more pretentious paper.  It was under the editorship of one
of the Mackays—William, I think—and to its powerful and continuous
advocacy the public are indebted for the lock below Richmond, an
improvement which can only be appreciated by those who can remember the
exposed bed of the river between Isleworth and Teddington at the height
of a hot summer.  During one such year it was possible to walk across
that part of the river which was supposed to run between Twickenham
foreshore and Eel Pie Island.

To one who comes early under the subtle influence of the Thames there is
no other water which shall ever possess the same attraction.  One falls
in love with it, and thereafter can see only its perfections.  No stream
has been so celebrated in verse.  From Spenser and Drayton to Cowley and
Pope, from Cowley and Pope to Matthew Arnold and Theo Marzials, there
stretches a long list of illustrious versifiers who found inspiration in
the Thames.  And if Pope might so exaggerate the objects of his poetic
vision as to behold “. . . the Muses sport on Cooper’s Hill,” the more
modern bard, Mr. Theo Marzials, may be forgiven for metamorphosing the
Twickenham ferryman.  The song presents that waterman as a dashing young
Lothario.  The unhappy fact is that, at the time when Marzials wrote the
once popular song, the ferryman was a fat, oleaginous old man named
Cooper, with no sentiment of any kind about him save a sentimental
feeling for beer.

Through all my memories of the journalistic life the Thames sings softly.
When I look back, a thousand delightful recollections of its bosom and
its banks inevitably obtrude, even while I try to concentrate on the busy
haunts of men.  “Sweete Temmes!”



CHAPTER XIX
THE PRESS IN TRANSITION


            “Old familiar declining and falling off.”—SILAS WEGG.

“ALL things earthly,” said the wit, “have an end—except Upper Wimpole
Street.”  And the end of the Press has been cheerfully foretold by the
Jeremiahs of Fleet Street.  So obvious, I have been recently informed,
have become the symptoms of disintegration and decay in the institution
known under the style and title of “The Daily Press” that the publicist
who would call attention to the fact must be prepared to hold himself
rather cheap.

Now, it is almost a truism to say that there is in the older members of
any profession an intuition which compels them to regard their own early
days in a calling as indicating the high-water mark of that vocation,
whatever it may have been.  The reason for this curious attitude of the
human mind is not very far to seek.  To parody Lytton, “the youthful and
the beautiful are one.”  And a profession regarded by one who is young,
ardent, impressionable, and credulous, will not appear the same thing to
him when he views it, in its new developments, with old eyes and in a
spirit of detachment.  That which differs in the new constitution from
the conditions of the old he will regard as bad or puerile or
reactionary.  The old things he sees through a golden haze; the new he
regards with the rheumy eyes of the valetudinarian.

In the old newspaper man this instinct to depreciate the present I have
found very strong.  His pose is invariably that of the _laudator temporis
acti_.  In all its departments and through all its methods he observes
what Wegg calls “the Decline-and-Fall-Off” of the daily paper.  Old
actors are very much like old pressmen in this respect.  Their early days
were always “the palmy days.”  And as there have always been living old
actors to impress this fact on the minds of successive generations, it is
obvious that all time, past and present, was and is that blessed period
known as “the palmy days.”

But while I do not note in the newspaper Press, as it exists to-day,
those signs of disintegration and wasting—that “old familiar declining
and falling off”—which have been diagnosed by aged professors, I do
observe the passing of certain stages of the evolution of the newspaper;
and I can even read in those indications the foretaste of a time when the
newspaper, as we know it now, will have ceased altogether to exist.

I will endeavour to explain.

It is not alleged by our Jeremiah that the newspapers have “declined and
fallen off” in circulation.  I write without statistics and making a mere
intelligent guess when I estimate that there are at least four times as
many copies of newspapers sold in a day in London now as were sold in
1870.  Here, at least, there is no indication of decline; and if there be
anything at all in the law of supply and demand, we are bound to infer
that the proprietors of newspapers must be supplying that which the
public demands.  Public taste is not created or directed by newspapers.
The clever editor is he who shrewdly anticipates the direction of the
public taste, and caters for it.  It is a _flair_ which the editor may
possess in common with the theatrical manager and the _restaurateur_.  He
exercises it in exactly the same way as George Edwardes exercises it or
as “Jo” Lyons exercises it.  “Find out what the fool of a public wants,
and give it to ’em!” was the advice given me once by the managing
director of a syndicate of newspapers of the North of England.  And it
was sound advice.

If this view of the whole duty of the modern editor be correct, it
involves the admission that the newspaper of to-day has abandoned its
ancient traditions, just as it has thrown aside the worn-out clichés.
Half the disgust of the journalistic Jeremiah with the new order is
caused, I believe, by the abandonment of those time-honoured clichés.  He
endures a pang of regret and resentment when, in reading the account of a
fire, he finds no allusion to “the devouring element.”  He is incapable
of understanding that the public does not care any more for “the
devouring element,” and that the penny-a-liner has been superseded by the
crime investigator and other weird officials called into existence by the
new reader of newspapers.

When our poor old Jeremiah was young, the newspaper was, primarily, the
organ of a party—sometimes its official organ, but always, whether
officially or unofficially, representing one of the great political
parties.  Nominally, indeed, it is so still.  But there is no underlying
enthusiasm, nor is there any continuity of conviction.  Many of our
“esteemed contemporaries” are, ostentatiously, rail-sitters.  But the
Press has ceased to have any influence with Cabinets, nor are editors any
longer consulted by Cabinet Ministers.  No editor will ever again hold
the position with regard to Ministers held by Dr. Giffard of the _Morning
Herald_, or John Delane of the _Times_.  By the way, the Conservative
party owed a great deal more than they were ever willing to acknowledge
to the said Dr. Giffard.  I suppose that they considered that they had
wiped out the debt when they made his son Lord Chancellor and an Earl!
One of these days we shall find politics left out of our papers save at
election times, when the space will be hired by persons wishing to
advertise their political convictions.

The new conditions under which the newspaper exists, and the new methods
introduced by its conductors, were foreordained, though not foreseen,
when Mr. Forster’s Education Bill became law, and the School Board
education was offered to the youth of merry England.  Paterfamilias
bought his newspaper in the dark ages before Forster.  The generations
that developed under Forster’s Act demanded newspapers of their own, but
they were not prepared to pay a penny for them.  And, lo! the halfpenny
Press arose at his bidding—the bidding of the Board School boy and the
bicycle boy—and remaineth with us even unto this day.

Clearly, the halfpenny paper could only afford half the space to what is
known as “original matter” that was accorded by its penny rival.
Parliamentary and law reports were made taboo.  The “snippet” habit was
inoculated on to the vile body of the daily Press from virus obtained
from the “Bits” papers.  And so eager was the bicycle boy to swallow his
tabloided doses of news that he never discovered the inroads gradually
made by the advertiser on the spaces originally devoted to reading
matter.  Nay, so contented was he with the latest method of presenting
the news of the day, that he did not even mind when further encroachments
were made on his news columns, and a daily portion of the broadsheet was
filched for the presentation of a solid chunk of fifth-rate fiction.  In
his present temper the bicycle boy appears ready to stand almost
_anything_!

Meanwhile, and in face of this determined and successful competition on
the part of the halfpenny papers, what has been the policy of the penny
news-sheets?  They have gone on enlarging their borders, increasing their
bulk, and adding to their weight—adding to their weight, I mean, in the
literal, and not in the figurative, acceptation of that phrase.  The
Parliamentary and law reports are more formidable in their length and
particularity than ever.  Book-reviewing is carried on to an extent
hitherto only demanded in a literary weekly; essays on engineering,
gardening, motoring, fishing, have regular days devoted to them.  The
advertisers are no longer satisfied with a modicum of space.  The mural
poster has been transferred to the pages of the penny morning paper.
Oxbridge’s full pages have become an expected item in the day’s
entertainment, and Coco’s illustrations of his physical perfections have
become an integral feature of our daily portion.  The result is that the
penny paper has grown to an unwieldy bulk, awkward to handle, impossible
to turn over in a train or in the open, and containing, in proportion to
the small ha’pennyworth of what one does want, an intolerable deal of
what one does not, and is never likely to, want.

The general conclusion to be deduced from these necessarily
undemonstrable statements is that the fate of any given newspaper is in
the hands of the advertisers.  Editors choose to address themselves
exclusively to their readers, and maintain a splendid official ignorance
of the advertiser.  This is the only _pose_ possible to the
well-regulated editor.  Did he for a moment admit, even to himself, that
his professional emoluments were derived from Oxbridge and the British
and foreign tradesman generally, he would no longer be able to take the
Press quite so seriously as he does; indeed, he would scarcely be able
any longer to take himself quite seriously, and that would surely be a
great pity.

Suppose for a moment that some other channel were discovered—we live in
an age of surprising discoveries—which the advertisers regarded as more
suited to their requirements than the present system.  What happens?  The
small advertiser, whose three-and-sixpences form the real backbone of
every newspaper enterprise, follows the big one.  The papers shrivel up
in dimensions, and down comes the price, or, in the alternative, up go
the shutters.  I am glad to reflect that the owners of newspapers have
made such fortunes out of their enterprise that they can calmly face the
future.

I have shown how the pressure of advertisers has affected the penny
papers.  It has induced them to increase their space and the quantity of
their “reading matter.”  On the chief of the halfpenny morning papers the
pressure has had an entirely different effect.  The astute proprietor has
met increased pressure by an increased tariff.  The advertiser’s scale on
the principal halfpenny paper is, I believe, higher than that of the
_Times_.  Even at this prohibitive rate the public presses on with a
demand for publicity for its wants.  This impinging on the domain of the
mere reader is skilfully masked.  Always the advertiser is asking for,
and obtaining, more space.  The tabloids of news are more scientifically
compressed.  Unconsidered trifles are snipped off the stodgy chunks of
negligible fiction; for the newspaper _feuilleton_ is but a sickly growth
in Fleet Street soil.  The leading article is squeezed into a paragraph
to admit the prospectus of a pill.  Yet the paper is made to look the
same as usual.  There is never anything _décolleté_ about its appearance,
no matter how much it may have been stripped.  But here also there is an
appointed limit beyond which it will be impossible to step without
incurring the suspicion and arousing the resentment of the long-suffering
reader.  That limit, I apprehend, may at any time be touched.

At present the newspaper habit appears to be strong, inherent, and
hereditary, in the British people.  But is the habit really as deep as it
is widespread?  With men of the world the habit does not even now
persist.  The man of the world seldom _reads_ a newspaper.  He will take
a copy up, and give a glance at stocks or at starting prices.  In the
smoking-room of his club he will use the daily broadsheet as a screen
what time he is sleeping the sleep of the just-tired.  Society will,
however, always want to know what is “going on,” and the end of the
transition period of journalism upon which we have entered will be
heralded by the introduction of a contrivance, original, scientific, and
up-to-date, whereby the latest intelligence shall be distributed with
increased certainty and celerity, and at a moderate cost.

The new contrivance, we may cheerfully assume, will make no use whatever
of paper or printer’s ink.  Science will have exposed the insanitary
effects of a continuous matutinal contact with these obsolete _media_,
and the common-sense of the community will at last have discovered their
curious inadaptability.  The newspaper microbe will become as familiar a
topic with the public as the lobster.  Medical Officers of Health will
“come down on” insanitary journals, even as in our own time they “come
down on” defective drains.  When the transition period shall have come to
an end, and when the newspaper, as we know it, shall have come to an end,
too, the disseminator of news will, it may reasonably be anticipated,
appeal directly to the ear, and not to the eye, of the public.  Nay,
seeing that to science nothing is impossible, may we not be enabled to
absorb our news without fatiguing either ear or eye?  We may be taught to
“take it in through the pores,” like Joey Ladle.

The eventual solution of the difficulty will, doubtless, come to us from
the element responsible for most of our modern miracles.  An adaptation
of wireless methods with the telephone seems to be indicated.  The
newspaper office of the future will be a vast exchange, an enormous
central depot, from which the news of the day will be transmitted to
scattered subscribers.  At these central establishments the news of the
world will continually pour in.  Skilled hands—the old sub-editorial
hands—will winnow it, prune it, classify it, and, generally speaking,
make it ready for the million receivers of the subscribers.  Happily, the
new order will involve little or no abrogation of the functions of the
journalist.  The editor, of course, is doomed, for the public will pay
for news, and not for notions.  But even under the journalistic order as
we know it the power of the editor has become more and more
circumscribed.  He has been going for a long time; soon he will have
gone.  But the position of the staff should be enhanced.  The journalist,
who must reappear under some other title, will be brought more under the
personal control of the subscriber.  Errors in collection or transmission
will, as in other departments, be traced to their source.  The members of
a staff will no longer find shelter behind the impenetrable anonymity of
an editor.  They will have less kudos, but they will have better pay.
They will have become the servants of a sound commercial undertaking, and
they will have ceased to talk of themselves as “the Fourth Estate of the
Realm.”

The processes of evolution are very gradual, and go unrecorded.  How long
will this one take?  A century?  Half a century?  Shall we tie ourselves
to a date, and fix upon the year 1960 as the time of the great
consummation?

Let us imagine the passage of the intervening years, and seek out Jones
in the suburbs, the suburbs in 1960 meaning an area of twenty-five miles
from the City.  Jones descends with all his accustomed pomposity to the
wife and olive-branches assembled in the breakfast-room.  He acknowledges
the salutes of the family with that semiregal affability which is one of
his most engaging characteristics.  He looks through the window, and
notes with satisfaction that his aeroplane is moored to the
aero-railings—shall I say?  Then he seats himself at the breakfast-table,
and places the “receiver and communicator” in position at his side, or,
rather, at the side of his plate.  This insignificant implement is of
silver or of gold or of inferior metal, according to the means or tastes
of the subscriber.  It is the “last word”—as far, at least, as 1960 has
gone.  It sucks in from the ambient air the news sent circulating from
the central depot, and by a most ingenious contrivance it will record
only such news as is demanded of it.  This selection is regulated by a
curious arrangement of “stops.”  There is the “City” stop, the
“Parliamentary” stop, the “Courts” stop, the “Racing” stop.  Jones, you
may depend, turns the “City” tap on before any other.  In answer to his
inquiry as to the prices of certain stocks, he obtains an immediate
answer.  He next inquires as to the result of last night’s debate in the
House of Commons.  He does not seek after sporting intelligence at the
breakfast-table—bad example to the boys, he considers it.  Thus the news
is gently murmured to Jones as he eats his ham and eggs; for, in spite of
the advance of science, the middle-class breakfast-table of 1960 is the
middle-class breakfast-table of the early Victorian era.  Jones digests
his mental pabulum as he masticates his food.

Jones rises from his place, hastens out to his aeroplane, and is soon
purring along to Tom Tiddler’s Ground.  Being a considerate
paterfamilias, he leaves the “receiver” at home for the use of the
family.  His unselfishness in this respect may be discounted by a
consideration of the fact that he has another “receiver” at his office in
the City.  The family gathers in turn round the little implement—scarcely
bigger than a Jew’s-harp it is—and apply to the vibrating atmosphere, now
charged with intelligence hot from a thousand sources, for items suited
to the domestic hearth.  The boys have, I will suppose, had a first “cut
in,” clamorous about starting prices or cricket.  But the interests of
the ladies are more various and more widespread.  They would know, for
instance, who is married and who dead?  What is going on at the theatres,
and what at the Court?  How is Society conducting itself?  There is no
scandal about Queen Elizabeth, one may piously hope?  How shapes the
gossip of the day, and is there an announcement of any Great Pink Sales?

In ten minutes they have learned all that the heart of woman can desire
to know, and they have satisfied their legitimate thirst for knowledge
without having had to prosecute a weary search through the unwieldy pages
of a bulky newspaper.  I can imagine the fond mother of 1960 fetching a
sigh as she recalls the sad, bad system which was in vogue in the days of
her innocent childhood.  She shudders at the memory of the blurred,
insanitary broadsheets of an earlier time.

And the cost? . . .  I do not suppose that it will exceed the amount of
the subscription at present paid for the daily delivery of a penny paper.
It would probably “pan out” at something less.  The cost of a penny paper
totals up to something like five-and-twenty shillings a year.  For an
annual subscription of a guinea the little implement will probably be
placed at the disposal of its customers by the great central exchange. . . .
So mote it be!



INDEX


AARONSON, Jo, 251

“Actea: the Nymph of the Shore,” 23

Adam Architecture, 158

Adelphi Theatre, 93, 124, 218, 247, 284

Advertisements, 296

Ailesbury, Marquis, 250, 283

Ainsworth, Thomas, 35, 47

—, William Harrison, 33

“Aladdin” (burlesque), 230

Albery, James, 154, 216

Albion Tavern, 28, 29, 245

Alhambra, The, 232–238

Alias (costumier), 220

Alison, William, 81, 200

_All the Year Round_, 206, 248

_Ally Sloper_, 247

Amberley, Viscount, 175

“Ambidextrous Man,” Reade’s articles in _Daily Telegraph_, 281

American Civil War, Sala’s lectures, 55

Ames, Hugo, 203

—, Captain “Ossy,” 203

Amusements, Sunday: _see_ Sunday

Anderson, Andy, 268

—, David, 18

—, Tom, 282

Anderton’s Hotel, 181

Angle, Jack, 282

_Anglo-Saxon_, _The_, 203

Ansdell, James, 181

“Ape” (cartoonist), 70, 166, 250

Aquarium, The, 149

Archer, Fred, 267

—, William, 93, 203

Ardilaun, Lord, 176

Arditi, 249

Arnold, Sir Edwin, 54

—, Matthew, 54, 291

Artists and the Press, 15

Arundel Club, 58

“As in a Looking-Glass,” 97

Ascot, 260

_Athenæum_, 35, 90, 280

Austin, Alfred, 182

Avenue Theatre, 90

                                * * * * *

“Babil and Bijou,” 212

Bachelor (gaol chaplain, Tasmania), 254–259

Bagster (Bible publisher), 288

Baird, Abingdon, 250

Ballantine, Serjeant, 97

Ballet, 144, 234

Bancrofts, 24, 93, 156, 218, 222

Barber (in Temple Bar), 59

Barn Club, 114

Barnard, Richard, 135

Barnato, Barney, 119

Barnet, Dr., 32

“Baron Nicholson” (“Judge and Jury” President), 239

Barrett, Oscar, 158

—, Wilson, 277

Barristers, and journalism, 49

Barry, Helen, 213

—, Shiel, 137

_Bat_, _The_, 95, 108, 111, 194

Baum, John, 234

Bayliss, “Bill,” 221

Beaconsfield, Lord, “Ape’s” cartoon, 166

Beaufort, Duke of, 214

Beck (landlord of Unity Club), 215

Becker, Bernard, 73, 169

Bedford, Duke of, 22

Bedford Hotel, Covent Garden, 246

Belasco, 162

Belfast, Charles Williams contests, 148

“Bells, The,” 103, 216

“Bells go ringing for Sarah,” 237

_Bell’s Life_, 122

Bellwood, Bessie, 228, 250, 270

“Ben My Chree,” 277

Bend Or (race-horse), 267

Bendall, Ernest, 94, 102, 203

Benjamin, Alfred, 287

Benzon, Ernest, 284

Beresford, Lord Marcus, 160

Bernal, Ralph, 175

“Bet Belmanor,” 138

Betting: Government’s attitude, 268; _Hornet_ saved by, 203; “Jubilee
Juggins,” 284

“Bible in Spain, The,” 42

Bicycle, effect on Sunday observance, 107

Biggar, Joseph, 170

Bignell, Bob, 223

Bingham-Cox, William Henry, 122

_Bird o’ Freedom_, _The_, 196

Black and White artists, 15

“Black Crook, The,” 237

Blackburn, Judge, 53

Blackmore, R. D., 246, 290

Blackpool, 219

Blanton, Charles, 266

“Bleak House,” 75, 158

Blue Posts (Cork Street), 47, 283

Board of Works, 240

“Bob Acres,” 210

“Bobbos”: _see_ Williams, Robert

Bohemian clubs: _see_ Clubs

“Book of the Dog, The,” 289

Bookmakers, 260–275

Booth, General, Huxley’s opinion of, 115

“Boris”: _see_ Bromhead, Harry

Borrow, George, 42–46

Boswell, 55, 64

Boucicault, Dion, 213, 219

Boulanger, General, 252

Bowen, Lord Justice, 177

Bowles, T. Gibson, 68, 70, 97, 193

Bowling-alley, American, 282

Boxing, 281

Boyd, Dr A. K. H., 115

—, Frank, 114, 196

Boyes, Vincent, 147

Boyle, Sir Courtney, 282

Braddon, Miss, quoted, 179

Bradford, Lord, 266

Bradlaugh, Charles, 77

Brereton Austin, 103

Brett, Tommy, 288

Brewer, Charles, 266

Briant, Barney, 63

Bromhead, Harry, 268

Bromley, Val, 173

Brooks, Reginald Shirley, 64, 109

Brough, Lionel, 158–160, 212–214

Brougham, Lord, 151

Broughton, F. C., 202

Brown, Madox, 36, 244

—, Oliver Madox, 36

—, Tom (waiter at Cheshire Cheese), 65

“Brown Study, A” (notorious cartoon), 199

Browne, Harold (Bishop of Winchester), 113

—, Lennox, 100

Bruce, Edgar, 172

Brunton, William, 31, 62, 220

Bryan, Alfred, 202

Buchanan, Robert, 124, 261–262, 280

Buckstone, J. B., 30

“Bulgarian Atrocities,” Gladstone and, 185

Bulls, Parliamentary, 177

Burdett-Coutts, Baroness, 100

Burleigh, Bennet, 58

Burlesque, 86, 208

Burnand, F. C., 102

Burnham, Lord, 54, 93

Burton, Bloundelle, 290

Bury, Viscount, 151

Butler, Richard, 271

Byron, Henry J., 130–133, 199, 202, 209, 281

—, Lord, 37, 132, 288

                                * * * * *

Café l’Étoile, 243

— Royal, 241, 247, 251; Romano at, 250

— Verrey: _see_ Verrey’s

Caine, Hall, 46, 277

Cairns, Sir Hugh McCalmont, 148

Camden Town, Paravicini’s Theatre, 238

Campbell, Herbert, 228

Canteen, in music-halls, 236

Canterbury Music-Hall, 144, 232

Carlyle, Thomas, 89, 90; on Dr. Boyd (quoted), 108; Shiel Barry and, 219

“Carols of Cockayne, The,” 153

Carr’s Restaurant, 248

Carte, D’Oyly, 221, 287

Cartoons, _Vanity Fair_, 69

Cassell and Co., _The Echo_, 197

Castro: _see_ Orton, Arthur

Catling, Thomas, 102

“Cavalleria Rusticana,” 249

Cave, Joseph, 238

Chair of Journalism, 18

Chairman: _see_ Music-Halls

Chalice, Edith, 173

“Champagne Charlie is my Name,” 225

Chandor, John, 196

_Chantecler_, 193

Chappel, “Cis,” 287

“Charles I.,” at Lyceum, 244

Charlotte Street, Bohemian restaurants, 244

Chertsey, 288

Cheshire Cheese, The, 62–66, 166

Chevalier, Albert, 225–231; song quoted, 275

“Chicken and Champagne,” Irving’s first-night receptions, 88

“Chilperic,” 96

Chinery, 150

Chop-houses, 246

_Christian World_, referred to, 78

Church and Sunday amusements, 108, 111–115

Circus, at Covent Garden, 219

Clarke, Sir Edward, 101

—, Hamilton, 100, 158

—, John (Adelphi), 218

—, John Sleeper, 210–212

Clarke’s Ferry, 287

Claude, Angelina, 210

“Cloches de Corneville, Les,” 137

“Cloister and the Hearth, The,” 280

Clubs, Bohemian, 146 _et seq._

“Clytie,” 201

Coborn, Charles, 228

“Cock” Tavern, Fleet Street, 60

“Cock-and-Hen” Clubs, 149

Cockburn, Sir Alexander, 179

“Cocky”: _see_ “Flying Baker, The”

Coffins, Wickerwork, Godfrey Turner’s exhibition, 56

Cohen, Sam, 162

Colborne, John, 149

Cole, Comyns, 271

Coleman, “Fatty,” 149

—, John, 212

Colenso, Bishop, 200

Collette, Charles, 142, 158

Collins, Churton, 18, 19

“Colonel Lighthouse”: _see_ Whitehead, Colonel

_Comic News_, 199

Coney, Jack, 228

Conjurers, street, 119

Conservatives, T. Gibson Bowles attacks, 69

“Conversion of Colonel Quagg, The,” 55

Conway, Harry B., 288

Cook, Basil, 112

—, Dutton, 73, 101

Coombe End, Dr. Gordon Hake at, 42

Cooper (Twickenham ferryman), 291

Cooper (Brothers) of the Albion Tavern, 28

Cordery, George, 171

Corlett, John, 62, 109–110, 270

_Cornhill_, _The_, 55, 206

“Coster’s Serenade, The,” 231; quoted, 275

“Cosy Club,” 83

Covent Garden Opera House, 212–213

Coventry Club, 159

Cowell, Peter, 165

Cowley (poet), 291

Crauford, Sterling, 263

Cremorne Gardens, 235

Crime, newspaper portrait leads to arrest, 15; specialist on newspaper,
12

Crimean War, Captain Hamber and the German Legion, 198

Criterion Theatre, 286

Cromer, Clement Scott’s articles, 57

Cruikshank, George, jun., 187

“Crutch and Toothpick Brigade,” 208

_Cuckoo_, _The_, 95, 193

                                * * * * *

_Daily News_ referred to, 14, 78; George Hodder, 220; John Hollingshead,
207; H. H. S. Pearce, 148; Moy Thomas, 91

_Daily Telegraph_, 58; “Ben My Chree” critique, 277; on bookmakers, 264;
dramatic criticism, 93; first newspaper illustration, 15; Labouchere
attacks, 76; obituary of Brigadier-General McIver, 185; Charles Reade,
281; Sala, 54; Clement Scott, 50; Godfrey Turner, 56; Robert Williams,
51–53

Dallas, E. S., 241

D’Anka, Cornelie, 237

Danks, printer of the _Hornet_, 202

Dartmoor, chaplain, 257

Darwin, Charles, 157

Davis, James, 95, 193; the _Bat’s_ articles on Sunday amusements, 108,
111

Davis, Mrs., 194

Davitt, Michael, 253

Day, John, 97

“De Boots,” J. S. Clarke in, 210–211

De Groof (aeronaut), 235–236

De Leuville, Marquis, 139–143

De Windt, Harry, 142

Dead-Heads, Irving’s attitude, 102

“Dead-Heads: Cornelius Nepos O’Mulligan,” 85

Delane, John, 294

Denman Street, Pelican Club, 109–110

Derby, The, “Sir Hugo,” 266; “Robert the Devil,” 267

“Descent of Man, The,” referred to 157

Devonshire Club, 150

Diary, importance of, to journalists, 94

“Diary of a Disappointed Politician, The,” 193

Dickens, Charles, 248; George Dolby as agent, 40; John Hollingshead and,
206; Tellson’s Bank original, 61; Robert Williams and works of, 51

Dickens-land, 59

Didcot, Mr.: _see_ Maurice, Hubert Jay

“Digby Grand,” Irving as, 103, 216

Dilke, Sir Charles, 288

“Diners-Out,” 176

“Dirty Jack”: _see_ Colborne, Hon. John

_Dispatch_, _The_, 123

Disraeli, _Vanity Fair_ cartoon, 70

Dixon, Hepworth, 49

—, “Willie,” 49

—, Willmott, 71, 123

Dolby, George, 40

“Don Juan referred to, 288

“Doubtful Boyle”: _see_ Boyle, Sir Courtney

Dove, Patrick Edward, 249

Dowse, Baron, 177

Dowty (“O. P. Q. Philander Smiff”), 203

“Dr. Pangloss,” 210

Dramatic criticism, 84 _et seq._; longevity and, 90; Robertson comedies,
30

Drayton (poet), 291

Drummond (waiter at Eccentric Club), 160

—, Archie, 110

—, Hughie, 110, 250

Drury Lane, 89

— Theatre: _see_ Theatre Royal, Drury Lane

Duck, William, 130

Dufferin, Marquis of, 151

Duguid, Professor, 186

Dunn, Dick, 129, 263

Dunning, Tom, 148

Dunphy, Charles, 101

Durham, Lord, 194

“Durham Ox, The”, _see_ Mundell, Steve

_Dwarf_, _The_, 204

                                * * * * *

Eccentric characters of Fleet Street, 116 _et seq._

Eccentric Club, 159

_Echo_, _The_, 75, 197

“Echoes of the Week,” 55

Edouin, Willie, 230

Education, Universities and journalism, 19

Edwardes, George, 293

Edwards, George Spencer, 271

—, Passmore, 197

Egham Hythe, 289

“Egoes of the Week” skit, 55

Electric Light, in theatres, 206

Empire Club, 151

— Music-Hall, 232

English Literature, Chair at Washington University, 39

“English Rose, The,” 124

Esterhazy, 253

Etty (painter), referred to, 22

Evans, Arthur, 72

—, Morgan, 186–187

Evans’s Hotel, 153, 216, 282

_Evening Standard_, 168

_Examiner_, _The_, 50

                                * * * * *

Fairlie, Mr., 96, 97

“Fairlie v. Blenkinsop,” 96, 97

Falstaff Club, 153

Farnie, H. B., 217, 210

Farquhar, George, 25

Farren, Nellie, 208–209, 287

Fawn, James, 228

Featherstonhaugh, 202

Fenians, at Cowell’s public-house, Holborn, 165

Fernandez, James, 217

Fetter Lane, “The Flying Baker,” 128–129

“Feuilleton”: _see_ Serial Stories

_Field_, _The_, 157, 186, 271

_Figaro_: _see London Figaro_

First Nights, 88, 98–103

Fiske, Stephen, 201

Fitzgerald, Edward, 278

—, Percy, 101

Fitzwilliam, “Billy,” 110, 250

Fleet Street, changes in, 59; contrasts, 9

“Floradora,” 195

“Flying Baker, The,” 128–129

Foli, Signer, 158

Forbes, Archibald, 14, 19

Foreign Office, Labouchere’s dispute with, 76

Foster, runs club in Long Acre, 163

“Fourth Estate,” 298

Fowles, Miss, 213

Fox, chairman of Middlesex Music-Hall, 224

“Fra Giacomo,” 262

Fraser, Fred, 264

Freaks, 121

“Frederick the Great” (Carlyle) quoted, 108

“Free-and-Easies”: _see_ Music-Halls

Free Lance, Americans as, 38

Freeman (landlord of Magpie Hotel), 287

French, Sydney, 122

Frost (painter), 22

Fry, Oliver, 72

Fryer, Captain, 234

_Fun_, 31, 62

Furness, H., 170

Furniss, Harry, 74, 170

Furtado, Miss, 218

                                * * * * *

Gaiety Bar (Strand), 220

Gaiety Theatre, 137, 205 _et seq._, burlesque at, 86; burlesque by Sala,
55; cloak-room subletting abolished, 206; John Maclean, 171; matinee
instituted, 208; House of Molière at, 208; programme fee abolished, 206;
Valerie Reece, 59

Gaiety Theatre, Dublin, 177

“Gallery of Family Portraits,” Front Bench described, 69

Gallon (jockey), 263

Garibaldi’s doctor, 250

“Garden of Sleep, The,” 57

Garrick Club, 218

“Gaspard the Miser,” E. J. Odell as, 137

Gatti’s Restaurant, 247

Gay, Drew, 58

Geary, Alfred, 161

“Genevieve de Brabant,” 266

“Genteel Pencillers in Velvet,” _Daily Telegraph’s_ phrase, 264

George, David Lloyd, 247

—, Edward, 132

German Legion, Captain Hamber and, 198

Gerrard Street, Soho, “Barn Club” premises, 114

Gibbs, Philip, 9, 12, 14, 71

Giffard, Dr., 294

—, Hardinge: _see_ Halsbury, Lord

Gilbert, Sir W. S., 156

Gilbey (Sam Lewis’s clerk), 284

Gilchrist, Connie, 214

“Giniral, The”: _see_ O’Shea, John Augustus

Giovanelli, Edward, 134

Gipsies, George Borrow and, 44

Girling, Mrs., 273

Gladstone, Herbert, 148

—, William Ewart, 121, 167, 185

Globe Theatre, 180

Glover, James M., 195

Glyn, Lewis, 178

“God and the Man,” 262

Goldberg, “Willie,” 109–110

“Golden Butterfly” (houseboat), 289

Goldsmith, Oliver, reference, 20, 25

_Good Words_, 206

Goodall, Bella, 234

Goodwood, 260

Gosling’s Bank, 61

Gottheimer: _see_ Grant, Baron

Grant, Baron, 197, 233

“Grant’s Folly” (Kensington), 233

_Graphic_, _The_, 91

Great Eastern Railway, Clement Scott’s poems, 57

Green, Baker, 156

—, Paddy, 155

Green-Room Club, 159

Greenwich dinners, 193

Greenwood, James, 260

Grossmith, George, 158

Gunn, John, 177

                                * * * * *

Hake, George (junior), 46

—, Dr. Gordon, 41–42

Hall, “Nobby,” 281

—, Owen: _see_ Davis, James

Halliday, Andrew, 154, 215

Halsbury, Lord, 150

Hamber, Captain, 14, 197

“Hamlet,” 237

Hampton, D’Oyly Carte’s house, 287; race-meeting, 272

Hannay, James, 279

Hanover Square rooms, 40

Hanson, Sir Reginald, 238

Harcourt, Charles (actor), 215

Hardy, Lady Duffus, 36

“Harmonic Clubs”: _see_ Music-Halls

Harmsworths, purchase _Vanity Fair_, 72

Harris, Sir Augustus, 89, 174

—, Captain, 205

Hassard, Sir John, 112

Hatchment Painter, 20–21

Hatton, Joseph, 101, 201

_Hawk_, _The_, 195, 204

Hawthorne, Grace, 276

Haymarket, night-houses, 161

— Theatre, 30, 211

Head, Charles, 265

Healy, Father (of Bray), 176

Heatley, Tod, 151

Henty George, 14

Heraldry, 31: _see also_ Hatchment Painter

Herman Henry, 96, 221

Hervé, F. R., 96

Hewitt, Agnes, 115

Hicks Pasha, 167

Higginson, Rev. Peter, 200

Hill, Jenny, 228

Hoare’s Bank, 61

Hoaxes, 164–180

Hodder, George, 220

Hogarth, 55

Holborn, Fenian meeting-house, 165

— Restaurant, 233

— Viaduct, 240

Holland, William, 87, 219, 238

Hollingshead, John, 137, 205–208, 229, 238

Holloway, Thomas, 281

Holt, Clarence, 218

Holywell Street, 215

“Home for Lost Dogs”: _see_ Wanderers Club

Honey, George, 154, 158, 216

Hood, Tom, 31, 62

Hook, Theo, 288

Horace, James, Hannay’s dinners, 279

Horn, Brothers, 110

_Hornet_, _The_, 201–203

“Hotel Cecil” (Salisbury administration called), 69

Houghton, Arthur Boyd, 154

_Hour_, _The_, 197

“House of Molière” at Gaiety Theatre, 208

House-boats, 289

_Household Words_, 206

“How I lost £250,000 in Two Years,” 285

Howe (_Morning Advertiser_), 101

—, Henry (actor), 101

Hudson, William, 290

Hueffer, Ford Madox, 36

Hummums, The, 246

Humphreys (_Morning Post_), 56

Hurst, Joseph, 99

Hurstpierpoint, Ainsworth at, 34

Huxley, opinion of General Booth, 115

                                * * * * *

_Illustrated London News_, _The_, 55

Illustrations, in newspapers, 15

Inns: _see_ Restaurants and Taverns

Irving, Sir Henry, 88, 98–103; in “Charles I.,” 244; first-night
receptions, 88; and G. R Sims, 95; in “Two Roses,” 216; Oscar Wilde’s
views of, 16

“Island of Tranquil Delights, The,” 39

Ives, Chester, 199, 251

                                * * * * *

Jacobi, 234

James, David, 215, 218

Jamrach’s, 274

Jay, Mr.: _see_ Maurice, Hubert Jay

“Jehu Junior”: _see_ Bowles, T. Gibson

Jenks (gambling-den promoter), 251

Jeune, Sir Francis, 100

“Jimmy’s”: _see_ St. James’s Restaurant

“Jingoism,” in music-hall songs, 227

Johnson, Dr., 55, 64; quoted, 267

Johnstone, Major “Bob” Hope, 110

Jordan, Norrie, 180

“Jubilee Juggins”: _see_ Benzon, Ernest

“Judge and Jury, The,” 239

Judges, as wits, 177–179

Junior Athenæum Club, 125

— Carlton Club, 198

— Garrick Club, 84, 158, 217, 234, 277

                                * * * * *

Kahn’s Museum, 235

Kean, Edmund, 137

Keating, Justice, 96

Kelly, Charles, 246

—, W. W., 276

Kelmscott, 290

Kenealy (junior) founds _Modern Society_, 61

Kensington, “Grant’s Folly,” 233

Kerr, Commissioner, 178

Kettner’s, 241

Khartoum, Frank Power as British Consul, 167

Kilmorey, Lord, 137

Kilpack’s American bowling-alley, 282

King, Tom, 266

King’s Lynn T. G. Bowles M.P. for, 68

Kingsbury, race meeting, 273

Kingsley, Rev. Charles, 21

Kitty (flower-seller), 120

Knatchbull, Captain, 256

Knight, Joseph (“Knight Owl”), 90–93, 100, 101

Krehl, George, 253

                                * * * * *

“La Fleche” (race-horse), 266

Labouchere, Henry, 63, 73–79.  Attaché at Washington, 70; attacks _Daily
Telegraph_, 76; crusade against impostors, 140; on G.O.M., 185; mission
to St. Petersburg, 76, and Parnell forgeries, 190; quoted, 101; as member
for Middlesex, 78; founds _Truth_, 70; “West-End Usurers” articles, 74;
on _The World_, 73; rivalry with Yates, 79

_Lady_, _The_, 72

“Lady Tichborne,” 180

Lamb, Charles, quoted, 256

“Lame Clarke”: _see_ Clarke, John (Adelphi)

Langham, Nat, 45

Lansdowne, Lord, 50

_Lantern_, _The_, 203

“Last Days of Pompeii, The,” 63

Lauder, Harry, 225

“Lavengro,” 42

Law Courts, at Westminster, 53

Lawson, Edward: _see_ Burnham, Lord

Le Queux, William, 290

Lee, Edgar: _see_ Tasker, William

Leech, John, 232

Leeds, Charles Williams stands for, 148

Lefroy, Percy, 115, 161

Leicester Square, 83, 232–234

Leigh, Henry S., 80, 153–154, 220

Leno, Dan, 225, 228

Lever, Charles, 241

Levy, Jonas, 153

—, Joseph Moses, 58

Lewis, Sir George, 63, 74, 194; at Lyceum first night, 101; and Parnell,
190

—, Louis, 63

—, Sam, 283

Leybourne, George, 225

_Licensed Victuallers’ Gazette_, 122

“Life of Irving” (Brereton), 103

“Light of Asia, The,” 54

Liskeard, Bernal Osborne stands for, 175

“Little Billee, The” (house-boat), 290

Livingstone, David, 181

Lloyd, Arthur, 226

—, Marie, 286

_Lock to Lock_, 291

Lockwood, Frank, 101

Londesborough, Lord, 212

London, Bohemian quarter, 244; changes, 116 _et seq._, 240; Sunday in,
103

_London Figaro_, 93

London Restaurant, Fleet Street, 62

Longevity, dramatic criticism conducive to, 90

Lonsdale, Lord, 73

Loseby, Constance, 209

Lotus Club, New York, 154

Lovell, John, 14

Lowe, Robert, 257

Lucas, Seymour, 64

Lucy, Sir H. W. 73, 80

Ludgate Hill Station, Spiers and Pond’s buffet, 62

Lyceum Theatre, 88; “Charles I.,” 244; “Chilperic,” 96; dead-heads 102;
first nights, 98–103; “Le Petit Faust,” 96

Lyons, Sir Joseph, 293

Lyric Theatre, 174

                                * * * * *

Macaulay, Lord, 51

“Macbeth,” 103, 171

MacDermott, Mr., 20

“Macdermott, The Great,” 227

Macdonald, Patrick, 49, 152

McIver, Brigadier-General, 183–185

MacKay, Dr. Charles, 146

—, Wallis, 174

—, William, 92, 291

Macklin, Charles, 208

MacLean, John, 171, 209

Macleod, Norman, 206

MacMahon (inventor of tape-machine), 251

“Madge” of _Truth_, 80

Magee, Bishop, 70

Magpie Hotel, 287

Maiden Lane, Rule’s, 159, 221; “The Spooferies,” 162

Maitland: _see_ Mansell, Richard

“Major Wellington De Boots,” J. S. Clarke as, 210

_Man of the World_, 196

Manchester, Duke of: _see_ Mandeville, “Kim”

Mandeville, “Kim,” 110, 262

Manning, Cardinal, 100

Mansell, Richard, 96

— Brothers, 220

Marius, Claude D., 210

Marshall, Frank, 101

Marston, Westland, 36

“Martlet” (steam-launch), 290

Marzials, Theo, 36, 291

Mashers, at Gaiety Theatre, 208

Matinees, Hollingshead institutes, 208

Matthews, Charles, 21, 208

“Matthias,” Irving as, 103, 216

Maurice, Hubert Jay, 75

—, Rev. F. D., 21

May, Phil, 82–83, 160, 200

_Mayfair_, 80

Merrit, Paul, 89

Merry, Tom, 81, 200

Meux, Lady, 59, 237

—, Sir Henry, 59

Middlesex, Labouchere as member for, 78

_Middlesex Chronicle_, _The_, 290

Middlesex Music-Hall, 229

Middleton, Captain, 126

Millar, Joaquim, 37

“Mogul, The”: _see_ Middlesex Music-Hall

Money-lenders, 283

Montague, Harry, 215

Montrose, Caroline, Duchess of, 262

Moore, Augustus, 195

—, A. K., 187

— (of Cheshire Cheese), 65

— (Waterloo Club) 163

Morgan, Matt, 199

_Morning_, 198, 251

_Morning Advertiser_, 101, 197

_Morning Herald_, 294

_Morning Post_, 56; criticism of “Ben My Chree,” 277; T. G. Bowles and,
69; Baker Green edits, 156; dramatic critic at Lyceum, 101; A. K. Moore
edits, 187

Morris, Mowbray, 87

—, William, 290

Mortimer, James, 203

Morton, Charles, 231, 266

“Moses and Aaron sat on a Rock” (song), 227

Motor-Car, effect on Sunday observance, 108

“Mr. Midshipman Easy” quoted, 92

Mundell, Steve, 264

Murphy, John, 85–87

Murray, David Christie, 73, 80–81, 152, 271

—, Earn, 161

—, Grenville, 73

Music-Halls, 222–239: _see also_ Theatres

“My Awful Dad,” 208

                                * * * * *

Nagle, Archibald, 234

National Sporting Club, 153, 281

Nesbit, G. F., 94, 271

_New York Herald_, 92, 250

“Newcomes, The,” referred to, 244

“Newman Noggs”: _see_ “Flying Baker”

Newry, Lord: _see_ Kilmorey, Lord

Newspapers and magazines: derelicts of the Press, 79; extinct, 192–204;
halfpenny, 294; for prisoners, 258; river, 291; sporting, 271: _see also_
Press

Newton, H. Chance, 102, 271

Noguki (Japanese poet), 39

North, Colonel, 289

North Woolwich Gardens, 219

Northampton Labouchere stands for, 77

“Notes on Aristotle,” 50

                                * * * * *

O’Brien, Sir Patrick, 175

O’Connor, T. P., 123

Odell, E. J., 137

O’Donoghue: _see_ Dunn, Dick

O’Donovan, Edmund, 14, 164

“Oh!  Why did she Leave her Jeremiah?” (song), 225

“Oh!  Will you be my Saturday-to-Monday?” (song), 286

O’Hagan Mr., 287

“Old Solomon” (tipster), 161

Oliver: _see_ De Leuville, Marquis

Olney (bookie), 264

Olympic Theatre, 276

Omar Khayyám, 278

_Once a Week_, 33

Orton, Arthur, 179

Osborne, Bernal, 175

—, Lady, 175

O’Shea, John A., 14, 62, 167, 202

“Othello,” 103

Otto (waiter at Romano’s), 136

“Our ’Armonic Club,” 230

“Our Boys,” 130, 209

_Owl_, _The_, 193

Oxenford, John, 84–87

Oxford Music-Hall, 223

                                * * * * *

“Pagan Poems,” 195

Pagani’s, 247, 248, 249

Paget, Lord Alfred, 85–87

Palace Theatre, 232

Paleologue, 160

_Pall Mall Gazette_, 20

Palmer, Minnie, 276

Panton Street, 247

Paravicini, 247

_Paris Mutuels_, 268–270

Park Lane (Barney Barnato’s house), 119

— Theatre, Camden Town, 237

Parnell, Charles Stewart, 190

— Commission, 188–191

“Partridge at the Play” (articles in _The Squire_), 187

Pask, Arthur T., 127

Paunceford (waiter at the Albion), 29

Pavilion Music-Hall, 223; Chevalier’s début, 231

Painters: _see_ Artists

Peabody, and _The Hornet_, 201

Peach: _see_ Steele and Peach

Pearse, H. H. S., 14, 73, 148, 169, 186

_Pelican_, _The_, 114, 196

Pelican Club, 108–110, 114, 159

Pellegrini (cartoonist), 69, 72, 248

“Pendennis,” 20

Persia, Shah of, 237

Peters, Mrs., 141

“Petit Faust, Le,” 96

Pettitt, Henry, 87

Phelps, Samuel, 208

Philharmonic, Islington, 266

Philips, F. C.: _see_ Fairlie

_Phœnix_, _The_, 95, 195

Photography, value in Press work, 19

Piesse, George, 250

Pigott, Richard, 188–191

Pilotel (artist), 252

_Pink Un_: _see Sporting Times_

Piracy: _see_ Plagiarism

Pitteri, Mademoiselle, 238

Plagiarism, 30, 281

“Poems and Parables,” 41

Poet Laureateship, 182

Poker, tabooed in Clubs, 154

Pol, M., 23

_Police Gazette_, 291

Pond, Christopher, 62–63

Pope Alexander, 291

—, Dr. Joseph, 220

—, Sam, 220

“Poppyland,” Clement Scott’s articles, 57

Porter, John: _see_ “Flying Baker”

Portland Club, taboos poker, 154

Power, Frank, 166

Powles, Mr. (barrister), 157

“Practical John”: _see_ Hollingshead, John

Practical joking, 164–180

Press, the, 9; artists’ attitude to, 15; stage and, 15, 84; transition,
292

Price, Julian, 160

Prince of Wales’s Theatre, 23–24

Princess’s Theatre, 276–277

Prisons, newspapers in, 258

Prize-Ring: _see_ Boxing

Proctor, John, 199

Programme-sellers: _see_ Theatres

Prosser’s Restaurant, 48

Prostitution, suppression of Haymarket night-houses, 161

“Pseudonymuncule,” 281

_Punch_, 232; Burnand, 102; Furniss, 74; Hannay, 280; Phil May, 83; A. K.
Moore, 187; Sala, 55

Puritan Sabbath: _see_ Sunday

Purkiss, William, 291

Purnell, Tom, 14, 202, 280

                                * * * * *

Quaritch, 278

_Quarterly Review_, 164, 280

Queen’s Theatre, 63

Queensberry Marquis of, 110

                                * * * * *

Racing, 260–275

— Press: _see_ Sporting Press

Radcliffe, John, 158

Rainbow Tavern, 28, 245

Raleigh Club, 160

Ranelagh, Lord, 120

Rankin, Montgomerie, 186

—, Peter, 71

Ratcliff Highway (Jamrach’s), 274

Rational Sunday: _see_ Sunday

Reade, Charles, 280

“Recreations of a Country Parson, The,” referred to, 115

Reece, Valerie: _see_ Meux, Lady

_Referee_, _The_, 62, 268–271

Reform Club, 150

Restaurants and taverns, 60–66, 240–259

Richardson, Frank, referred to, 81, 265

Richmond, Bloundelle Burton at, 290

“Riperelle” (dance), 97

“Robert the Devil” (race-horse), 266

Roberts, Arthur, 110, 160

——, John, 284

Robertson, Thomas W., 24, 28, 29; Bancroft management 93, 222; on
critics, 30

Robinson, Phil, 58

Roche, Sir Boyle referred to, 177

_Rocket_, _The_, 127

Rockley’s wine bar, 219–220

Rogers, “Johnny,” 276

—, Samuel, 171

Romano’s, 135–136, 247, 250

“Romany Rye, The,” 42

Rosebery Lord, 50

Rossetti, Dante Gabriel, 46, 290

Rossiter (jockey), 267

Royal Academy (Trafalgar Square), 23

“Royal Divorce, A,” 276

“Royal Dustbin”: _see_ Prince of Wales’s Theatre

Royalty Theatre, 174

Royce, Edward W., 209

“Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyám,” 278

Rule’s, Maiden Lane, 159, 221

Russell, Captain Fred, 110, 287

—, Henry, 146

Russell’s club for ladies 144–149

Ryder, John, 62, 212

                                * * * * *

St. Albans, Bingham-Cox’s brewery, 126

St. Georgi, 242

St. James’s Restaurant, 236

—, Theatre, 96

St. Petersburg, Labouchere’s mission to, 76

_St. Stephen’s Review_, 82, 200

Sala, George Augustus, 14, 19, 54, 279; and “Bet Belmanor,” 138; and
“Cheshire Cheese,” 64; and Parnell forgeries, 190; and Clement Scott, 57;
on Sunday amusements, 113

Salisbury, Lord, 182

— Administration, 182

Sampson, Henry, 62, 270

Sandow, Eugene, 238

Sandys, Fred, 253

Sanger, “Lord” George, 167

Santley, Kate, 237

Sara (dancer), 238

“Sartor Resartus” referred to, 290

“Satire and Satirists,” 280

_Saturday_, 54

Savage Club, 49, 138, 151–159, 205, 218

“Savage Club Papers, The,” 152

Savoy Hotel, 251

Scasi, Miss, 237

Schenk, General, 154

“School,” 23, 29

School of Journalism, 18

Scott, Clement, 57, 93, 101, 127, 195, 203

Seaman, Julia 237

“Second Mrs. Tanqueray, The,” 93

Serial story (in newspapers), 296

“Silver King, The,” 96

Shaftesbury Theatre, 249

Shakers, 273

Shakespeare, William, 130

Shaw, Vero, 186, 202, 285, 289

Shepperton, journalists at, 288, 291

Sheridan, Richard Brinsley, 25, 30, 93–96

Shine, John L., 289

Simpson’s, Strand, 245

Sims, George R., 93, 124, 215, 271

“Singleton Fontenoy,” 280

“Sir Hugo” (race-horse), 266

“Sir Pertinax MacSycophant,” 208

_Sketch_, 50

_Sketch_, _The_, 50

Skinner, Hilary, 14

_Smart Society_, 204

Smith, Madeline, 59

Snelling, Alfred, 284

Social Democratic Club, 58

“Society,” 29–30

Society journalism, 68: _see also_ Press

Soho, 241

Soldene, Emily, 266

Sothern, E. A., 154, 170

Soutar, Robert, 137, 209

“South Sea Idylls,” 39

“Spice of Life, The,” 71

Spenser (poet), 291

Spiers and Pond, 62

“Spirit of the Times”: _see_ “Sports of the Times”

“Spiritual Wives,” 49

“Spooferies, The,” 162

Sporting Press, 271

_Sporting Times_ (_Pink Un_), 98, 109, 110, 196, 201

“Spy,” 72

“Squire, The”: _see_ Baird, Abingdon

_Squire_, _The_, 186–187

Stage, 15, 84–103, 205 _et seq._: _see also_ Theatres _and_ Music-Halls

Staines, actors at, 288

_Standard_, _The_, 62; Alfred Austin, 182; Captain Hamber, 197; O’Shea,
168; Arthur Pask, 128; Robert Williams, 51

Stead, W. H. referred to, 17

Steele: _see_ “Flying Baker”

— and Peach, 264

Steinitz, Carl F. von, 246

Stephens, Pottinger, 68, 72, 125, 288

Straight, Sir Douglas, 98

Strand Theatre, 133, 210, 215, 230, 276

Strange, Frederick, 236

Street characters, 116 _et seq._

— performers, 116 _et seq._

“Street of Adventure, The” (novel), 9

Stretch, Mat, 187

_Stock-keeper_, _The_, 253

Stoddard, Charles Warren, 38

Stoker, Bram, 99, 102

Stone’s chop-house, 246

Sullivan, Barry, 171

Sunbury, Bohemian colony, 209, 287

Sunday, observance of, 104–115

— League, 107

_Sunday Times_, 32

Supper Club, 162

Surrey Gardens, 237

— Theatre, 87, 219

Sutton (owner of Alhambra), 234

Swan, The (Ditton), 286

Swanborough, Mrs, 133

“Swears and Swells”: _see_ Wells, Ernest

Swinburne, Algernon, 36, 278

                                * * * * *

Tagg, Thomas, 289

Taine referred to, 121

“Tale of Two Cities, A,” 61

“Tandragee” (race-horse), 262

Tanner, Dr, 58, 191

—, —, Lombard, 191

Tasker, William, 81

Tasmania, Bishop of, 254

Tasmania, prisons, 254–259

Taunton, Lord, 78

Tavistock, the, 246

Taylor, Henry, quoted, 254

Teddington, R. D. Blackmore at, 290

Tegetmier, W. B., 157

“Tellson’s Bank” (Fleet Street original), 61

Temple Bar, 55, 59

— Club, 147

Tennyson, Alfred, 60, 253

Terry, Edward, 209, 210

—, Ellen, 246

Thackeray, William Makepeace, 55, 206

Thames (river), 107, 285–291

_Thames_, _The_, 291

Thames Embankment, 240

Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, 28

— —, Dublin, 171

Theatres, 205; Bancroft’s productions, 220; boy programme sellers, 99;
cloak-room, subletting, 206; electric light in, 206; first nights, 88,
98–103; “mashers,” 208; matinees instituted, 208; programme fees
abolished, 206: _see also_ Music-Halls

Theobald’s Park, Temple Bar in, 59

“Theodore Hooklings” (“Who-bodies”), 174

“Thief Takers, 281

Thomas, Moy, 91, 100, 207

Thormanby: _see_ Dixon, Willmott

Thorne, Tom, 215, 218

_Thunderer_, _The_: _see Times_, _The_

Tichborne Case, 61, 179

_Times_, _The_: “Ben My Chree” critique, 277; Comyns Cole, 271; Dallas,
241; Deland, 294; dramatic critics, 84–89; Nesbit, 94; Parnell forgeries,
189; H. P. Stephens, 72

“Toodles,” J. S. Clarke as, 210

Toole, John L, 119, 170, 209, 214

_Tomahawk_, _The_, 199

Tosti, Francesco P., 248

“Tower of London, The,” 33

Travellers Club, 151

Trocadero (music-hall), 223

_Truth_, 70; fraud campaign, 140; Labouchere, 75; “Madge,” 80; rivalry
with _World_, 79

Turf, the, 260–275

Turf Club taboos poker, 154

Turner, Godfrey, 14, 202; at Cheshire Cheese, 65; on _Telegraph_, 56;
wicker-work coffin exhibition, 56

Twain, Mark, 39

“Twickenham Ferry,” 36, 291

Twiss Case, novel founded on, 201

“Two Roses,” 103, 154, 216

                                * * * * *

“Under Fourteen Flags,” 183–185

United Arts Club, 161

United States, adopt newspapers for prisons, 258

Unity Club, 215

University of Birmingham, proposed Chair of Journalism, 18

Upper House of Convocation, debate on Sunday Observance, 111

                                * * * * *

“Vampires of London, The,” 149

Van Laun, Henri, 121

Vance, the Great, 226

_Vanity Fair_, 69–72, 93, 97

Vaudeville Theatre, 215, 247

Vaughan, Kate, 209

Venables, Gilbert, 14, 168

Verrey’s Restaurant, 241, 247, 253, 258–259

“Vert Vert,” 96

“Vholes, Mr.,” referred to, 75

Victoria, Queen, 178

Vignas (tenor), 249

Vine, Summers, 156

Volodyvoski (race-horse), 237

Voules, Horace, 75, 80

Vyse, Mr., 282

                                * * * * *

Waldegrave, Lady, 154

Walkley, A. B., 89

Walter, John, 100

Wanderers Club, 151

Wapshot Farm, 289

Ward, Artemus, 273

—, Leslie, 72

Wardell: _see_ Kelly, Charles

Warner (of Welsh Harp), 273

Warrington (author), 20

Washington, Chair of English Literature at, 39; Labouchere at, 77

Waterford, Bernal Osborne stands for, 175

Waterhouse (bookmaker), 266

Waterloo Bridge, 157

—, Club, 163

Watson, Aaron, 152

Watts-Dunton, 101

—, Theodore, 35

“Way of the World, The,” 81

“We Don’t Want to Fight,” 227

Webber, Byron, 102

Webster, Ben, 93

Week-ends, 285

Wells, Ernest, 109–110

Welsh Harp, 273, 274

West End Hotel, 243

“West End Usurers,” articles in _The World_, 74

West London Rowing Club, 281

Westminster, Duke of, 267

Weston’s Music-Hall, 223

Whalley, G. W., 179

“What Cheer, ’Ria!  Ria’s on the Job!” (song), 229

White, Arnold, 271

Whitehead, Colonel, 144

Whitney, 237

“Who-bodies” Club, 174

Whyte-Melville, G. J., 200

—, Hon. Mrs, 200

Wigwam Club, 158

Wilde, Oscar, 16, 101

—, “Willie,” 90–93

_Will o’ the Wisp_, _The_, 199

Williams, Arthur, 212, 229

—, Charles, 14, 62, 148

—, Hume, 100, 153

—, — (the elder), 193

—, Montague, 52, 98

—, Robert, 14, 49–54, 75

Williamson, J. C., 39

Wills, William Gorman, 243, 276

Wilton, Marie, 24, 266

Wimbledon Common, gipsies, 44

Winchester, Bishop of: _see_ Browne, Harold

Winterbotham, on the _Hornet_, 203

“Wiry Sal”: _see_ Sara

Wits, 164–180

“Witty Kitty”: _see_ Kitty (flower-seller)

Women and music-halls, 223

Wood, Mrs, John, 201

Working Men’s College, 21

_World_, _The_, 70, 72, 79, 291

Wright, Mary: _see_ Sara (dancer)

Wyndham, Sir Charles, 172, 286

                                * * * * *

Yates, Edmund, 14, 70, 72, 169; _Cuckoo_ founded, 95, 193; at Goring,
291; in Holloway Prison, 73; rivalry with Labouchere, 79; at Lyceum first
night, 101; _World’s_ success, 80

Yorick Club, 159

                                * * * * *

Zoological Gardens, Sunday opening, 105

                                * * * * *

                                 THE END

                                * * * * *

                                * * * * *

               BILLING AND SONS, LTD., PRINTERS, GUILDFORD





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