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Title: The Egregious English
Author: Crosland, T. W. H. (Thomas William Hodgson)
Language: English
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THE EGREGIOUS ENGLISH

by

ANGUS McNEILL



[Illustration]

New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons
London: Grant Richards
1903

Copyright, 1902, by
Angus McNeill

Published, January, 1903

The Knickerbocker Press, New York



CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                                    PAGE

      I.--Apollo                                1

     II.--The Sportsman                        13

    III.--The Man of Business                  20

     IV.--The Journalist                       28

      V.--The Employed Person                  37

     VI.--Chiffon                              47

    VII.--The Soldier                          59

   VIII.--The Navy                             71

     IX.--The Churches                         79

      X.--The Politician                       90

     XI.--Poets                               103

    XII.--Fiction                             113

   XIII.--Suburbanism                         124

    XIV.--The Man-about-Town                  137

     XV.--Drink                               144

    XVI.--Food                                153

   XVII.--Law and Order                       163

  XVIII.--Education                           171

    XIX.--Recreation                          183

     XX.--Stock Exchange                      192

    XXI.--The Beloved                         199



The Egregious English



CHAPTER I

APOLLO


It has become the Englishman's habit, one might almost say the
Englishman's instinct, to take himself for the head and front of the
universe. The order of creation began, we are told, in protoplasm.
It has achieved at length the Englishman. Herein are the culmination
and ultimate glory of evolutionary processes. Nature, like the
seventh-standard boy in a board school, "can get no higher." She
has made the Englishman, and her work therefore is done. For the
continued progress of the world and all that in it is, the Englishman
will make due provision. He knows exactly what is wanted, and by
himself it shall be supplied. There is little that can be considered
distinguishingly English which does not reflect this point of view. As
an easy-going, entirely confident, imperturbable piece of arrogance,
the Englishman has certainly no mammalian compeer. Even in the blackest
of his troubles he perceives that he is great. "I shall muddle
through," he says. He is expected and understood to muddle through;
and, muddle through or not, he invariably believes he has done it.
Sheer complacency bolsters him up on every hand. At his going forth the
rest of the world is fain to abase itself in the dust. He is the strong
man, the white man of white men. He is the rich, clean sportsman, the
incomparable, the fearless, the intolerable. And by "Englishman" the
world has learned not to mean "Briton." The world has been taught to
discriminate. It has regarded the Britannic brotherhood; and though it
forgets that the Gael and the Celt are Britons, it takes its Englishman
for a Briton, only with a difference. On the other hand, it is keenly
sensible of sundry facts--as that it is the Englishman who rules the
waves and the Englishman upon whose dominions the sun never sets; that
the British flag is the English flag, the British army the English
army, and the British navy the English navy, and that Scotland and
Ireland, with Wales, are English appanages. It would be foolish to
assert that the Englishman has greatly concerned himself in either the
promulgation or the acceptance of these notions. But he holds them
dear, and they are ineradicably planted in his subconsciousness.

One is inclined to think, however, that, while the supremacy and
superiority of the Englishman have been received without traverse in
his own dominions, there are those in outer darkness--on the Continent,
in Ireland, and even in Scotland--who admit no such supremacy and
no such superiority. Nay, there be persons breathing the breath of
life who, so far from looking upon the Englishman with the eyes with
which the early savage must have regarded Captain Cook, look upon him
with the eyes with which Captain Cook regarded the early savage. In
Ireland, particularly, hatred of the English has become a deep-grounded
national characteristic. The French dislike of perfidious Albion may
be reckoned to a great extent an intermittent matter. It sputters and
flares when a Fashoda or a Boer War comes along, and it has a way of
finding its deadliest expression in caricature. But the Irish hatred is
as persistent and concrete as it is ancient. In Scotland the feeling
about the English amounts in the main to good-humoured tolerance,
touched with a certain amazement. The least cultivated of Scotsmen--and
such a man is quite a different being from the least cultivated of
Englishmen--will tell you that "thae English" are chiefly notable by
reason of their profound ignorance and a ridiculous passion for the
dissipation of money. The Scot of the middle class thinks his neighbour
is a feckless, foolish person who would pass muster if he could be
serious, and who has got what he possesses by good luck rather than
by good management. Up to a point both are right, for the English in
the mass are at once much more ignorant and much less thrifty than the
people of Scotland, and their good-nature and happy-go-luckiness are
things to set a Scot moralising.

Years ago Matthew Arnold put the right names on the two more creditable
and powerful sections of English society. The aristocracy he set down
for Barbarians, the middle class for Philistines. The aristocracy were
inaccessible to ideas, he said; the middle class admired and loved the
aristocracy. It is so to this day, and so to an extent which is in
entire consonance with the circumstance that for sheer stupidity the
Englishman of the upper class is without parallel, while the Englishman
of the middle class cannot be paralleled for snobbishness. Arnold's
complaint that neither class was a reading class or at all devoted to
the higher matters still holds. The great, broad-shouldered, genial
Englishman whom Tennyson sang and at whom Arnold gibed is still with
us. That he is as great and as broad-shouldered and as genial as ever
nobody will deny. And, broadly speaking, his outlook upon life remains
exactly what it was. To be ruddy and healthy, to go out mornings with
dogs, to dine hilariously and dance evenings, to be generous to the
poor, and to honour oneself and the King are the rule of his life if
he be a Barbarian; and to ape these things and consider them gifts of
price, if he be a Philistine. Since Arnold, however, the Englishman,
egregious though he undoubtedly was, has taken unto himself a new and
altogether alarming demerit. Out of his love of health and ease and
security and pleasure and well-ordered materialism there has sprung
up a trouble which is like to cost him exceeding dear--a trouble, in
fact, which, if he be not careful, will go far to emasculate him, if
not wholly to destroy him. Of the higher matters, as has been said,
he has taken but the smallest heed. Writer fellows, painter fellows,
philosopher Johnnies, and so forth are not of his world, except in
so far as they may entertain his women-folk, or deck his halls with
commercial canvas, or assist him in the eking out of his small talk
before dessert. It is not to be expected of him that he should take to
his heart persons whom he cannot by any possibility understand. Even
Arnold could forgive him that failing. It was the build of the man, the
breed and constitution of him, that justified him. But since, being
English, he has found his way to the unpardonable sin. It was well
that he should despise persons who, however much they might think, did
little and got little for doing it. It was well that brains which could
not sit a horse, and preferred bed to the moors, and had no rent-roll,
should be despised. It would have been well, too, if that other kind
of brains, which, beginning with nothing, ends in millionairedom and
flagrant barbarianism, might also have continued to be despised and
to be kept at arm's-length. The great, broad-shouldered, genial
Englishman, however, has succumbed. Park Lane has become a Ghetto; my
lord's house parties reek of gentlemen with noses, and names ending
in "baum"; and the English Houses of Parliament, the finest club in
Europe, the mother of parliaments, the most dignified assemblage under
the sun, is just a branch of the Stock Exchange. As the exceedingly
clever young man who recently wrote a book about the Scot might say,
this shows what the English really are.

It has been remarked, and possibly not without truth, that the Scot
keeps the Sabbath and everything else he can lay his hands upon. He
is credited with being the perfect money-grubber; his desire for
competence, we have been told by the clever young man before mentioned,
has blighted his soul and brought him into opprobrium among Turks and
Chinamen. Well, the Scot does look after money: he desires competence,
he loves independence; and, when he can get them, ease and pleasure are
gratifying to him. If he comes off the rock and attains affluence, he
is not averse to the goodnesses that affluence commands. He will start
a castle and a carriage and a coat-of-arms with the best of them; he
will lift up his family and leave his children well provided for. In
these connections he is just as human as the next man; but he never
has played and he never will play the English game of lavishness and
wastefulness and swaggering profusion, and, least of all, will he
play it on a basis of undesirable association. The Scotsman who has
compassed wealth, even though he be the son of a mole-catcher or a
sweetie-wife or a Glasgow beer-seller, can always remember that there
is such a thing as spiritual integrity. And though he may or may not
boo and boo and boo in accordance with the good old kindly English
legend, he certainly will not do it in Jews' houses. This, I take it,
is where he has some little advantage over Englishmen.

Perhaps no finer indication of the English spirit, and of the greed
and corruption that have overtaken it, could have been offered than
has been offered by the trend of recent events in South Africa. To
go thoroughly over the ground in such an essay as the present is, of
course, impossible; to state the arguments for both sides would be to
reproduce writing of which everybody is heartily tired. The battling
newspapers have said their say, and we are just beginning to feel the
comfort of a more or less reasonable settlement. All that need be
said here is that the Englishman has not come out of this war with
anything like the honour and the glory and the _éclat_ that he has
been accustomed to expect of himself in similar undertakings. His
bodily prowess, his hardihood, his Spartan capacity for withstanding
the rigours of campaigning, his military abilities, and his very
patriotism have all had to be called in question during the past two
and a half years. When he went out to the fray, his cry was, "Ha! ha!"
and the war was to be over in six weeks. He had the finest equipment,
the finest munitions, the finest men, the finest system, the world had
seen. He was as fit as a fiddle and as hard as nails, and his love of
music prompted him to take a piano with him. Then the English and they
that dwell in outer darkness saw many things. They have been learning
their lesson ever since. They have learned that in a fight the great,
broad-shouldered, genial Englishman, instead of being worth three
Frenchmen, is worth about the fiftieth part of a Boer farmer. They have
learned that the great, broad-shouldered, genial Englishman is not
above selling spavined horses and stinking beef to the country that
he loves. And they have learned that when a great, broad-shouldered,
genial Englishman is discovered in his incompetence or his culpable
negligence or his dishonour, it is the business of all the other great,
broad-shouldered, genial Englishmen to get round him and screen him
from the public gaze and swear that he is a maligned and misunderstood
man. The incidents of the war alone, without any backing or the
smallest distortion or exaggeration, have been quite sufficient to show
that there is something rotten in the condition of the English. It has
been a tale of shame and ignominy and disaster from beginning to end.
It has resulted in a peace which practically settles very little, and
an inquiry with closed doors. Verily Apollo must have a care for his
reputation in the Pantheon.



CHAPTER II

THE SPORTSMAN


The Englishman who is not a sportsman dares not mention the
circumstance. In the counties he must shoot and hunt, or be for
ever damned. In the towns he must have daily dealings with a
starting-price bookmaker and hourly news from the race-courses and
the cricket-pitches, otherwise Englishmen decline to know him. "I am
a sportsman, sir," is the English shibboleth. "It is the English love
of manly sports that has made the English paramount in every land and
on every sea." The Lord Chief Justice of England rowed stroke for his
college in Oxford _v._ Cambridge in 1815, otherwise he would not be
Lord Chief Justice of England. At eighteen the Lord Chancellor was
one of the best sprinters of his day, otherwise he would never have
dandled his little legs on the Woolsack. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman
is a keen shot, and was one of a party of seven who made the biggest
bag on record in 1865, otherwise he would never have been Leader of
the Opposition. Mr. Henry Labouchere is one of our most brilliant
and daring steeple-chase riders, otherwise he would never have owned
_Truth_. Mrs. Ormiston Chant is a cricket enthusiast; so are the
Archbishop of Canterbury, Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, and Mr. Tommy Bowles.
Lord Roberts can take a hand at croquet with the best young woman out
of Girton, and Mr. John Morley understands a race-horse almost as well
as he understands the Encyclopædists. In fact, the English eminent are
either sportsmen or nothing, and all the other English follow suit.

Now and again somebody gets up and points out that betting is a great
evil; whereupon the Duke of Devonshire opens one eye and says that he
never had a shilling on a horse in his life. Then everybody says that
horse-racing is good for the breed of horses, employing large amounts
of capital and large numbers of honest persons, and on the whole a
manly and profitable pastime. Incidentally, too, it transpires that
fox-hunting is an equally noble and English form of sport, and that
when farmers cease from puppy-walking, Britain may very well drop the
epithet "Great" from her name. Or perhaps Mr. Kipling, fresh from the
unpleasant truths of South Africa, conceives a distich or two as to
flannelled fools and muddied oafs. In response there is an immediate
and emphatic English howl. Why cannot the little man stick to his
Recessionals? How dare he call sportsmen like Ranji and Trott and
Bloggs and Biffkin flannelled fools, much less the Tottenham Hotspurs
and Sheffield United muddied oafs! Is it not true that the battle of
Waterloo was won on the playing-fields of Eton? Were not flannelled
fools and muddied oafs among the first to throw up their home ties and
fling themselves into the imminent breach when the war broke out? Are
not cricket and football healthy and admirable old English sports, and
pleasantly calculated to keep the youth of the country out of much
worse mischief on Saturday afternoons? And so on right down the line.
The English are sportsmen. Sport is bred in the bone of them. Less
than a century ago they were cock-fighting and man-fighting in the
splendid English way. They would be doing it yet, if their own stupid
laws did not prevent them. Instead they race horses and pursue the
fox, watch cricket and football matches, and play tennis and croquet
and ping-pong. It is sport that keeps England sweet. If it were not
for sport, the English would cease to have red faces and husky voices
and check suits. One presumes, too, that if it were not for sport they
would entirely lose their sense of fair play, their love of honest
dealing, and that spirit of self-sacrifice which notoriously informs
all their actions. It is sport that has made the English the justest
as well as the greatest of the nations. It is sport which keeps her
unspotted of the lower vices, such as drunkenness, indolence, and
misspent Saturday afternoons. It is sport which gives her a standard
of manliness, an all-day press, and a platform upon which prince and
pauper, the highest and the lowest, meet as common men. Long live sport!

Perhaps it is pardonable in a Scot to note that the only forms of
sport which can be pronounced sane and devoid of offence came out of
Scotland. The grand instance in point, of course, is the ancient and
royal game of golf. Without attempting to say a word that would tend
to exaggerate the value of a pastime which is beloved by all Scotsmen,
and not without its appreciators even in England, it seems fitting to
remark that in golf you have a game which, while every whit as healthy,
as manly, and as invigorating as horse-racing, cricket, football, and
the rest of them, can never by any chance become the mere kill-time of
the idle, unparticipating spectator or the prey of the "professional",
the ready-money bookmaker, and the halfpenny journal. As to other
Scottish sports, one need not here particularise; but they are all
healthy and honest in the broadest sense, and with the single exception
of football, which has been corrupted by the English, they have not
been allowed to deteriorate into vices. The exploitation of popular
pastimes by covetous and unprincipled persons is an unmistakable sign
of national decadence. In England that exploitation goes on without
let or hindrance and in almost every department. Protest brings merely
contempt and objurgation upon the head of the protester, and the
national virility continues to be slowly but surely sapped away. That
the English notion of sport should permit of the orgies of bloodshed,
rowdyism, and partisanship which take place in the coverts and on
football-fields, race-courses, and cricket-grounds serves to indicate
that, in spite of all that has been said and sung in its praises, the
English notion of sport is an exceedingly sad and sorry one. It is
natural that a people given over to display and the getting of money
for the sake of the more unnecessary luxuries money can buy should in
a great measure lose its taste for outdoor sports of the primal order.
The English are losing that taste at a rate which can leave no doubt as
to the ultimate upshot. In brief, the Englishman as sportsman worth the
name seems to be disappearing; and in his place England will have the
adipose, plethoric, mechanical slayer of birds who goes to his shoot
in a bath-chair, and the cadaverous, undersized, Saturday-afternoon
zealot, the chief joys of whose existence are the cracking of filberts
and the kicking of umpires.



CHAPTER III

THE MAN OF BUSINESS


The English, all the world has heard, are a nation of shopkeepers.
They are understood to keep shop and to glory in it. They have kept
shop, with the other nations for customers, ever since international
shopkeeping became a possibility. In the beginning, one is afraid,
their notion of shopkeeping ran neither to fair trade nor honest
dealing; but gradually there was built up a system of commercial
equity, the main principle of which was the protection of one
shopkeeper against another and the security of shopkeepers generally.

In course of time the English man of business arose. He had a silk
hat and expansive manners. He lived in a suburb and read the _Times_
on his way to business in the morning. All day at his office he would
cheat no man, and his word was as good as his bond. His office day was
a day of quite ten hours, and during those ten hours he sweated like
the proverbial nigger. At nights he retired to his suburb, and, with
the wife and children whom he kept there, ate to repletion from the
joint, washed it down with sherry and port supplied to him by merchants
of the type of the late Mr. Ruskin's father; and, hey, presto! by
eleven of the clock he was deep among the feathers. Twice on Sundays he
went to church and held the plate. To Sunday's midday dinner he invited
the vicar or a curate, and there was always beef and batter-pudding
and improving talk, not to mention cabbage and an extra special "glass
of wine, sir." Other recreations the English man of business had none,
save and except perhaps an occasional Saturday-afternoon drive in a
hired chaise with Mrs. Man-of-Business and the children, and a still
more occasional visit to the theatre. In the long run, by the practice
of these virtues he amassed wealth. He put his money into good bottoms;
he owed no man a penny; and as he never robbed anybody and always lived
miles within his income, he had a conscience so easy that it seemed
to sleep. Everybody respected him. He was in demand to take the chair
at the meetings of young men's improvement societies, and to explain
the secret of his success "free, gratis, and for nothing" to the
callow young men thereat assembled. He would tell you unctuously that
he attributed his success (1) to early rising, (2) to never wasting
time [the split infinitive was his], (3) to always saving at least one
third of his income, (4) to never going bond for anybody, and (5) to
marrying Mrs. Man-of-Business--this last, of course, with a chortle.
So he wagged along and helped to build up the commercial greatness
and probity and honour of his country. And when he died he had a
magnificent and costly funeral and was attended to his last long home
by his weeping relict and sorrowing sons and daughters. Next day there
was an account of Mr. Man-of-Business's obsequies in the local papers,
and his sons proceeded to carry on the concern.

That was forty years ago. To-day the English man of business is
a bird of an entirely different and altogether more entrancing
feather. Indeed, it is a question whether he has not ceased to be a
man of business at all. One might perhaps sum him up best by saying
that he has begun to have notions. Whereas he was once the bulwark
of the Philistine class, he has now gone over, lock, stock, and
barrel--particularly barrel--to the Barbarians. He lives in the manner,
style, and odour of Barbarism; and the ruling ambition of his existence
is to pass for a "county magnate", a man of birth and leisure, rather
than for a man of business. So that he has entirely laid aside the
characteristics which distinguished his early and middle Victorian
prototype. Breadth, girth, weight, the substantial, the ponderous, are
not for him. He does not attribute his success to early rising; he does
not boast that his word is his bond; he does not slap his sides when he
laughs; he never went to business on a tram-car in his life; and as for
his owing all he is to Mrs. Man-of-Business, it is to his association
with that charming bechiffoned, bejewelled little lady that he owes
all he owes. In other words, the new English man of business has made
up his mind that, if life is to be made tolerable at all, it must be
made tolerable through social ways. That is to say, if one's income
runs to a couple of thousand a year out of a butter business, one
must live in precisely the manner of persons whose incomes run to two
thousand a year out of lands and hereditaments. "The glass of fashion
and the mould of form" for a person who would live is Mayfair. Lords
and dukes and the landed gentry have houses in Mayfair; their wives
and female relatives flutter round in flashing equipages and brilliant
toilettes; there is the theatre, the opera, and other people's houses
in the evening, the Park on Sundays, the river in the summer, Scotland
in the autumn, and the Riviera for the winter and early spring. Lords
and dukes and the landed gentry tread this pretty round, and find both
pleasure and dignity in it. Why not the head of the old-established
firm of Margarine, Sons, Bros. & Co.? Why not, indeed? Old Margarine,
founder of the house, never missed a day at the office for forty years.
Young Margarine will tell you that, "after all, you know, it is rather
amusing to drop into the office sometimes and see the fellows sit up."
All the same, the business is a beastly bore, and there are moments
when he wishes it at the deuce.

As for Mrs. Margarine, Mrs. Man-of-Business, the erstwhile portly
mother of daughters and only begetter of her spouse's success, really,
if you saw her in her boudoir, in her carriage, at Princes, at the
opera, at Brighton, or at Monte Carlo, you would not recognise her. She
is young and slim; her hair is of flax; she has rings on her fingers,
and probably bells on her toes; her diamonds are the envy of duchesses;
"and as for Margarine, my dear, I never think either about it or him.
My little boys are at Eton, and Dickie is going into the Guards."
Sometimes even Mr. and Mrs. Man-of-Business manage to get presented.
Then, as you may say, their cup runneth over; hand in hand they stand
upon their Pisgah and stare at the Pacific as it were. There are no
more worlds to conquer. They come down with a light upon their faces,
and Margarine, Sons, Bros. & Co. can be hanged. In point of fact,
Margarine, Sons, Bros. & Co. sooner or later becomes Margarine, Sons,
Bros. & Co., Limited. Margarine himself drops out, taking with him all
the money he can get. When he comes to die, if you said "Margarine," he
would do his best to insult you.

That is all. Of course, I have taken an extreme case, but apparently
the desire of the latter-day English man of business is wholly in these
directions. Be he in a great or small way, he is fain to step westward;
he is fain to live as the Barbarians and to be undistinguishable
from them. And rather than be beaten he will enter into that kingdom
piecemeal. Surpluses that would have gone to consolidation and
extension in the old days now go to personal and feminine expenditure.
Bond Street captures what the wise would have dumped into Threadneedle
Street; and instead of resting our hope upon the business methods
of Benjamin Franklin and Samuel Budgett, our heart inclines to the
excellent precepts of our millionaire friend "Yeth Indeed." Which is to
say that the English man of business, like the English sportsman, is
dying out of the land. Whether his loss will be deplored by countless
thousands is another question. Anyway, he is going.



CHAPTER IV

THE JOURNALIST


I am dealing here with the English journalist, because in my opinion,
after the English sportsman and the English man of business, there is
nothing under the sun so wonderfully English and so fearfully foolish.
The elegant and austere writer who gave us _The Unspeakable Scot_ has
said much which he no doubt hoped would lead people to believe that
the British Press was entirely in the hands of Scotsmen, and that this
accounted at once for its dulness and its continual advertisement of
Scottish virtues. For my own part, I have no hesitation in asserting
that Mr. Crosland's view of the situation is quite a mistaken one.
In any case, it is obvious that, even if Fleet Street be, as Mr.
Crosland suggests, eaten up with louts from over the Border, the
English journalist is not yet wholly extinct, and somewhere in the land
the remnant of him stands valiantly to its guns. It is well known,
however, that, as a fact, the remnant very largely outnumbers its
hated rival, the proportion of Scots to the proportion of Englishmen
on the staffs of most newspapers being probably no higher than as one
is to three. So that for the stodginess and flat-footedness of the
English newspaper--the epithets are Mr. Crosland's own--the Englishman
is at least equally to blame with the Scot. Mr. Crosland's main
complaint against the newspaper press of his country is that it lacks
brilliance. So far as I am aware, it has never before been asserted
that the function of a newspaper is to be brilliant. News is news all
over the world. To write brilliantly of a dog-fight or of the suicide
of a defaulting clerk may be Mr. Crosland's ambition in life, but
most persons possessing such an ambition would transfer their finical
attentions from the field of journalism to that of belles-lettres. No
doubt, if Mr. Crosland had his way, the morning papers, in which the
soul of the average Englishman so delighteth, would be published from
the Bodley Head or at the Sign of the Unicorn, or haply at Mr. Grant
Richards's.

It is not my intention, however, to enter into a sort of ten nights'
discussion with Mr. Crosland. He has had his say and taken the whipping
he deserved. My business is with the English journalist; and while I
shall not descend to personalities in dealing with him, I hope to show
that his brilliance and liveliness and smartness, though much vaunted,
are neither a boon nor a blessing either to journalism as a force or
to society at large. I think that it may be fairly set down for a fact
that the fine flower and consummate expression of English journalism
is the halfpenny newspaper. At any rate, nobody would pretend to find
in the halfpenny newspaper the sententious dulness and flat-footedness
which are supposed to characterise the journalistic work of the Scot.
The smartness of the halfpenny press is indeed not even American.
There is but one epithet for it, and that is English. Broadly speaking,
its appeal is directly and exclusively to the bathotic. In England
the bathotic has always had the majority in its grip. The majority
notoriously has no mind. It is a thing of one emotion, an instrument
of one stop. On that stop--the bathotic stop--the English journalist
makes a point of playing. There has been a time in his history when he
believed in the educative possibilities and duties of his profession.
He long held with the Scot that the Press was a power, and that it was
becoming that it should glory in being a power for the betterment of
the race. After many shrewd searchings and commercial gropings, the
English journalist discovered that the way to fame and fortune lay in
the mastery of the bathotic stop. He learned to sing songs of Araby
in one squalid key every morning, and he has since been able to keep
a gig and out-circulate everything that considers itself possessed of
circulation. He has played, as one might say, old Harvey with the
_Daily Telegraph_. He has put the _Times_ to the shame of being a
journal that "nobody reads." More than all, he has said flatly to the
English people, "You are a rabbit-brained crowd, and here for your
delectation and your coppers is the worst that can be written for you."

When England comes to her day of reckoning, in the hour when she
shall see her own mischance and is fain to remember the names of her
destroyers, none of them will seem to her so flagrant and so to be
deprecated as the English journalist. "Behold," she will say, "the
monster who convinced me that it was beautiful to split infinitives;
that it was elegant to begin six paragraphs on one page with the
blessed statement, 'A dramatic scene was enacted in Mr. Thingamybob's
court yesterday'; that good books are to be worthily pronounced upon by
sub-editors in the intervals of waiting for the three o'clock winner;
and that, so far from being a reproach to one, the bathotic was the
only honourable and creditable attitude of mind."

If a man wish to perceive to what degraded passes the art of writing
may come and yet retain the qualities of intelligibility and apparent
reasonableness, let him peruse the morning papers and die the death.
The reek and offence of them smells to heaven. They are a sure
indication of the decadence of the English mind and of the cupidity
and unscrupulousness of the English journalist. There has been nothing
like them, nothing to compare with them, for cheapness and futility and
banality in the history of the world. They are more to be fearful of
than the pestilence, inasmuch as they spell intellectual debasement,
the corruption of the public taste, and the defilement of the public
spirit. Their very literal innocuousness condemns them. It is their
boast that they may be read in the family without a blush. Their
assumption of morality and puritanical straitlacedness is admirable.
Beneath it there lie a licentiousness of purpose, a disregard for
what is just, and a contempt for what is decent and of good report
which are calculated to make the angels weep. When one inquires into
the personnel of the staffs by which these papers are run, one is
confronted with exactly the kind of man one expects to meet. First
of all, he is English, and as shallow and flippant and irresponsible
as only an Englishman can be. The saving touch of seriousness does
not enter into his composition. He neither reads nor thinks. Beer,
billiards, and free lunches, free entry to the less edifying places of
amusement, a minimum of work and a maximum of pay, constitute his ideal
of the journalist's career, and he is always doing his best to live
up to it. Of responsibility to anybody save his immediate chief, who,
after all, is only himself at a little higher salary, he has not the
smallest notion. His duty is neither by himself nor by the public. All
that is expected of him is loyalty to his chief and to his paper, and
it is his pride and joy that this loyalty is invariably forthcoming.

Very occasionally one hears that, in consequence of a change in
the political policy of a newspaper, the editor of that paper has
considered it to be his duty to resign his editorship. Probably not
more than two such resignations have occurred in English journalism
during the past twenty years. In both instances the self-denying
editors have been held up by the English papers as sublime examples of
honour and martyrdom. That there is nothing extraordinary in sticking
to one's principles, even though it means loss of livelihood, does not
appear to have dawned upon the lively English mind. Of course, it will
be said that, if every member of the staff of a newspaper, down even
to the junior reporters, were allowed to have beliefs and principles,
and were not expected to write anything in antagonism to them, an
exceedingly remarkable kind of newspaper would result. Compromise, at
any rate on established matters, must be the rule of the journalist's
life. On the other hand, I incline to the opinion that the English
journalist is far too swift to acquiesce in doubtful procedure, and
that where the morals, good report, and high character of a paper are
concerned it is better to have a Scotch staff than an English one.
Nothing is more characteristic of the English journalist of to-day than
the circumstance that he is literally without opinions of his own.
He takes his opinions from his chiefs, just as his chiefs take their
opinions from their proprietors, or from the wire-pullers with whose
party the paper happens to be associated. In a sense it is impossible
that it should be otherwise. Yet you will find that in the main
Scottish journalists do have opinions of their own, and that somehow
they manage to be loyal to them. For weal or woe the Scot is immovable
and unchangeable as the granite of his own hills. You can never get him
to see that half-measures are either desirable or necessary. He will
not stretch his conscience nor palter with his soul for any man or any
man's money. The Englishman is all the other way--that is why he makes
such a nimble and even brilliant journalist.



CHAPTER V

THE EMPLOYED PERSON


The English are a nation of employed persons. Wherever you go, from
Berwick to Land's End, you will find that in the main the men you
meet are somebody's employees. The better kind of them possibly write
"manager" on their cards; some of them even are managing directors;
others, again, are partners in wealthy houses or heads of such houses.
Yet, as I have said, they strike you almost to a man as being in
somebody's employment. Even the most prosperous of them have the
strained, repressed, furtive look which comes of the long turning of
other people's little wheels; while the masses, the employed English
masses, give you, as regards appearance, physique, and habit of mind
alike, an excellent notion of what a galley-slave must have been. The
fact of being employed is indeed the only big and abiding fact in the
average Englishman's life. It has its effect on the whole man from the
time of his youth to the time of his death; it influences his actions
and the trend of his thoughts to a far greater extent than any other
force--love and religion included. In the Englishman's view, to be
employed is the only road to subsistence, and, if one be ambitious, the
only road to honour. He must work for somebody, otherwise he cannot
be happy. The notion of working for himself appals him; and if by any
chance he be persuaded to take the plunge, the consideration that
he has no master weighs so heavily upon him that his end is usually
speedy ruin of one sort or another. That is to say, he either takes
advantage of his freedom to the extent of doing no work at all, or,
in the absence of the guiding hand, he loses his judgment and throws
to the winds the caution that kept him his place. It is a pity, there
can be no doubt; but the thing is in the English blood. If you are
an Englishman, you must be employed; if you are unemployed, you are
unhappy, and worse. For a full century the rich merchants, enterprising
manufacturers, colliery-owners, mill-owners, and what not, in whom
the English put their trust, have been preaching and fomenting this
doctrine by every means in their power. To their aid in spreading
the glorious truth they have brought the moralists and the Churches:
"'if a man will not work, neither shall he eat.' 'Servants, obey your
masters.' Punctuality is the soul of business. Be faithful over a few
things. Begin at the bottom rung of the ladder. Mr. So-and-so, the
notorious billionaire, was once a poor working-boy in Manchester.
Furthermore, if you _don't_ work and at our price--well, to say the
least of it, God will not love you."

And the English--poor bodies!--carry on their lives accordingly.
The whole scheme of things is arranged to fit in with the ideas of
employers as to what work means, under what conditions it should
be performed, and what should be its rewards. To live in the manner
pronounced to be respectable by the moralists and the Churches, you
must take upon yourself exactly the labours, and no others, prescribed
by the employers. In other words, to keep an eight-roomed house with a
piano in it, a wife with blouses and four new hats a year, and a little
family who can go to church on Sunday mornings dressed as well as any
of them, you must keep Messrs. Reachemdown's books, and pass through
your hands many thousands of Messrs. Reachemdown's moneys, for a salary
of £150 a year. When you get old and half blind through years of poring
over Reachemdown's figures, they will pension you off at a pound a
week, and get a younger man to do the work for the other £2. You, good,
easy Englishman, will, in your heart of hearts, be exceedingly grateful
to Reachemdown & Reachemdown, and count it not the least of your many
blessings that you have never wanted good work and kind employers.
You will say to your English son, "My boy, make up your mind to serve
people well, and in your old age they will never forget you. Always be
industrious, obliging, and respectful. Remember that a rolling stone
gathers no moss, and never forsake the substance for the shadow." And
the chances are that your fine English boy will do exactly what you,
his fine English father, have done. Indeed, if he be old enough at the
time of your "retirement," he might very appropriately take your place
at Reachemdown & Reachemdown's; then he will marry, he will live in a
house with a piano in it, his wife will have four new hats a year, and
his children will go to church on Sundays as well dressed as any of
them.

On the whole, I should be sorry to say that this sort of thing was
not desirable. If a nation is to be great, it is essential that it
should contain a large body of workers, and the more industrious and
dependable and trustworthy that body of workers, the better it is for
the State and for the pillars and props of the State, the employers
included. But the point is that the English take too much credit for
it and get too much ease out of it. It has been complained by Mr.
Crosland and other masters of elegant English that the Scot goes
to London and the smaller industrial markets and there enters into
successful competition with the English employed, and it appears to
annoy Mr. Crosland that the Scot should not be content with good work,
say book-keeping from nine to six, good wages, say £150 per annum, and
kind employers, say Messrs. Reachemdown & Reachemdown, all his life.
It seems to annoy him, too, that the Scot never acquires that pathetic
satisfaction in being employed which permeates the beautiful spirit of
his English competitor. You will meet hoary and bald-headed Englishmen
who will tell you with a quaver that they have been in the employment
of one and the same house, man and boy, for over half a century, sir!
Somehow the Englishman tells you this with a look of pride, and rather
expects you to regard him as a sort of marvel. It never occurs to
him that he is really bragging of his own ineptitude,--to use Mr.
Crosland's favourite abstraction,--his own lack of enterprise. The
number of Scots who have been in the employment of one house for forty
years, least of all the number of Scots who brag about it, is probably
not a round dozen. As a general rule, when a Scot has been in a house
forty years, it is his house.

Another matter in which the English employee appears to me to err
mightily is his treatment of his employer. In concerns of great
magnitude personal relations between employer and employed are often
impossible, because the employer seldom comes near the place where his
money is made for him. Quite frequently, however, he is accessible;
yet the employee knows him not. He would no more think of walking up
and shaking hands with him than he would think of casting himself from
the top of the factory chimney-stack. It is the unwritten law of the
English that the employer is a better man than the employed. For the
employee to say "How do!" to the employer; for the employee to meet
the employer in the street and omit to make respectful obeisances;
for the employee to assert anywhere outside his favourite pot-house
that Jack's as good as his master, would never do. If you are paid
wages, you must be grateful and respectful; and though you know quite
well that your employer is paying you just as little as ever he can,
you must still respect him. Broadly speaking, we manage these things
better in Scotland; and, for that matter, the Scot manages them
better in England. The English employee quirks and crawls before his
employer, because he knows that his employer can exercise over him
powers which, if they do not mean exactly life and death, do mean a
possibly long period of out-of-workness. And out-of-workness is, as a
rule, the most fearful thing in life that can happen to an Englishman,
for the simple reason that he never has anything behind him. If he
has been earning fifty pounds a year, he has spent it all; if he has
been earning a thousand a year, he has spent it all and more to it.
With the Scot it is different. No matter how small his earnings, he
invariably contrives to save a portion of them. When he has saved a
hundred pounds, he is practically an independent man, for a Scot with
a hundred pounds at his disposal can defy, and can afford to defy, any
employer that ever breathed the breath of life. Besides, hundred pounds
or no hundred pounds, the Scot will not grovel. He does his work and
his duty, and the rest can go hang. His days are not spent in blissful
contemplation of the joys of being in good work; he has no anxieties
as to how long it is going to last; he admits no superiorities; he is
afraid of no man. Some day, perhaps, the Englishman will learn to take
a leaf out of his book. The Englishman will learn that to be employed,
excepting with a view to greater things than subsistence, is to be in
a condition which borders very closely on degradation. He will learn
that services rendered and energies expended for long periods of years
without adequate reward, and with only a pretence at advancement, are a
discredit and not an honour. He will learn that a man's a man, and that
it is no man's business to be so faithful to another man that he cannot
be faithful to himself.



CHAPTER VI

CHIFFON


It pains me beyond measure to say it, but I think there can be no
doubt that the accumulated experience and wisdom of mankind goes to
show that at the bottom of most troubles there is a woman. Since Eve
and the first debacle, it has been woman all along the line. I do not
say that it is her fault, but the fact remains. White hands cling
to the bridle-rein, and the horse proceeds accordingly. It is woman
that shapes our ends, rough-hew them as we will. She has a delicate
finger in everybody's pie. No matter who you are, some woman has got
you by a little bit of string. Occasionally you are the better for
being so entangled; but nine times out of ten it is a misfortune for
you. When one comes to look closely at the decadence of the English,
and endeavours to account for it in a plain way and without fear
or prejudice, one cannot help perceiving that here again one has a
pronounced case of woman, woman, woman. Further,--and once more I
pray that I may not seem impolite,--the woman with whom you have to
contend in England, though her hand be full of power, is not, perhaps,
a woman, after all. I sometimes think that she may be best and most
properly expressed in the word "Chiffon." Whatever she may have been
in the past, however sweet, however demure, however capable, however
beautiful, the Englishwoman of to-day is just a foolish doll, a
thing of frills and fluff and patchouli, a daughter of vanity, and a
worshipper of dressmakers. Under her little foot, under her mild, blue,
greedy eye, the Englishman has become a capering carpet-knight, one
who dallies at high noon, a buck, a dandy, an unconvinced flippancy,
the shadow of his former self. Be he father or merely husband of the
fair, his case is pretty much the same. Both at home (if he can find
it in his heart to call his conglomeration of cosey-corners home) and
abroad it is Chiffon that runs him. Chiffon must have a house full of
fal-lals: so must the Englishman. Chiffon delights in Chippendale that
a sixteen-stone male person dare not sit upon: so does the Englishman.
Chiffon must dine late off French kickshaws with champagne to them: so
must the Englishman. Chiffon must not have more than two children, whom
she must visit and kiss once a day: it is the same with the Englishman.
Chiffon does not like the way in which you are running your newspaper:
the Englishman forthwith runs his newspaper another way. Chiffon does
not like that cross-eyed clerk of yours; she is sure there is something
wrong about him; she wouldn't trust him with a hairpin, my dear! He
gets fired. Chiffon is fond of motor-cars and tiaras of diamonds and
eight-guinea hats and three or four new frocks a week, and she hates to
be worried about money matters. "Poor little Chiffon!" says the good,
kind Englishman; "she shall be happy, even though we drift sweetly
toward Carey Street. We must keep it up, though the heavens fall; and
when I come to think of it, I have read somewhere of a man who had only
£500 year, and is now in receipt of £16,000 simply through marrying
an expensive wife." Lower down the scale it is just the same: Chiffon
will have this, Chiffon will have that, and so will the Englishman. It
is only four-three a yard, and it will make up lovely! The Englishman
never doubts that it will. Chiffon discovers that Chiffon next door
has got an oak parlour-organ and a case of birds on the instalment
system. "She is getting them off a Scotsman," says Chiffon; "and I
want some too." "Dry those pretty eyes," says the Englishman; "I will
apply at once for an extra two-bob a week, and it shall be done." The
children of Chiffon next door are "taking music lessons off a lidy in
reduced circumstances." Chiffon's children are as good as the children
of Chiffon next door any day in the week--they, too, shall take music
lessons. The Englishman concurs.

This, of course, is all when you are married to her. When you are
Chiffon's _fiancé_ (she would not have you say sweetheart or lover
for worlds), you enjoy what is commonly called in England a high old
time. First of all, she will flirt with you till your reason rocks
upon its throne. Then, when you are about as confused as a little boy
who has fallen out of a balloon, she brings you to the idiot-point,
informs you that it is so sudden and that she doesn't quite know
what you mean, and asks you if you do not think it would have been
more manly on your part to have spoken first with her papa. Being an
Englishman, and having nothing better to do, you put up with it and
go guiltily off to Chiffon's delectable male parent. He inquires into
your income in pretty much the manner of a person who is going to
lend you £20 on note of hand only, grunts a bit, asks to be excused
while he has a word with the missis; comes back, says, "Yes, you can
have her," and next morning you find yourself on the same old stool,
in front of the same old shiny desk, wondering what in the name of
heaven you have done. There is a three-years' courtship, all starch
and theatre-tickets and bouquets and fretfulness and anxiety; there is
a wedding pageant, got up specially for the purpose of annoying the
neighbours; you have a whirling twenty minutes before a company of
curates, who persist in calling you by the wrong name; you go home in
shivers; you drink soda-water to prevent you from getting drunk; you
make a speech in the tone of a man who has just been hung; you find
yourself feeling rather queer aboard the Dover packet,--and Chiffon
is yours. Such an experience at a time of life when a man is callow,
shy, full of nerves, and unversed in the serious matters of life is
bound to leave its mark upon the character. It takes the heart out of
most men, and some of them never get it back again. It is an English
institution and a stupid one. Like many another English institution, it
has its basis in pretentiousness and display, instead of in the vital
issues of life. In Scotland we make marriages on different and more
serious principles. There are no Chiffons in Scotland, whether maids
or matrons. Consequently in Scotland there are precious few fools.
Hard heads, sound sense, high spirits, indomitable will, inexhaustible
energy, are not the offspring of mammas who know more about cosmetics
than about swaddling-clothes, and who suckle their children out of
patent-food tins. One of the rebukers of Mr. Crosland has pointed out
with some pertinence that the Scotswoman approximates more closely to
the Wise Man's view of what a good wife should be than almost any other
kind of woman in the world. Here, as Mr. Crosland would say, is Solomon:

 Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.

 The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall
 have no need of spoil.

 She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.

 She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.

 She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar.

 She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her
 household, and a portion to her maidens.

 She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands
 she planteth a vineyard.

 She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.

 She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out
 by night.

 She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.

 She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her
 hands to the needy.

 She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household
 are clothed with scarlet.

 Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of
 the land.

 She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the
 merchant.

 Strength and honour are her clothing: and she shall rejoice in time to
 come.

 She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of
 kindness.

 She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the
 bread of idleness.

 Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he
 praiseth her.

Yes, Mr. Crosland, it _is_ "very, very, very Scotch." What poor little
Chiffon would think of it, if it were put before her as a standard of
wifely qualification and duty, nobody but the Englishman knows. Perhaps
she would shrug her shoulders and say, "How absurd!" Perhaps she would
not understand it at all.

The Englishwoman's love of petty display and cheap fripperies, her
desire to outshine the neighbours and to put all she has on her back,
and to pass everywhere for a woman of means and station, no doubt
had its beginning in a laudable anxiety to make the best of things.
Unfortunately, however, the tendency has been developed out of reason,
to the neglect of the qualities which make a woman the inspiration
and strength of a man's life. To dress, and to talking and thinking
about it, the Englishwoman devotes unconscionable hours. The bare
business of robing and disrobing takes up pretty well half her waking
day. Her transference from the bath to the breakfast-table cannot be
accomplished under fifty minutes. Before she will appear in the open
she will make yet another toilet. She is a full twenty minutes tidying
herself before lunch. In the afternoon there is an hour of getting into
tea-gowns; and, crowning rite of all, my lady "strips" for dinner.
From morn to dewy eve her little mind is busy with dress. The shopping,
over which she makes such a fuss, is almost invariably a matter of new
frocks, new hats, new shoes, new feathers, matching this, exchanging
that, sitting on high stools before pomatumed counter-skippers, and
dissipating, in the purchase of sheer superfluities, gold that men have
toiled for. Her visiting is equally an unmitigatedly dressy matter;
she goes to see her friends' frocks, not her friends, and it is the
delight of her soul to turn up in toilettes which render her friends
frankly and miserably envious. Of the real purport of clothes she knows
nothing; and if you endeavour to explain it to her, she will charge
you with the wish to make an old frump of her before her time. As for
the expense of it all, she never bothers her pretty head about money
matters; she tells you in the most childlike way that her account at
the bank seems to be perpetually overdrawn, but that "Randall is a
dear, kind boy, though he does swear a bit when some of the bills come
in. Besides," she says, "I am sure it helps him in his profession to
have a well-dressed wife."

And the pity of it is, that quite frequently the person upon which
these adornments are lavished is really not worth the embellishment,
and would indeed be far better served and make a far better show in
the least elaborate of garments. For, notoriously, the physique of the
Englishwoman of the middle and upper classes is not now what it was.
In height, in figure, in suppleness and grace of build, the Scottish
woman can give her English sister many points. In the matter of facial
beauty, too, the Englishwoman cannot be said particularly to shine. At
a Drawing-Room, at the opera, the beauty of England spreads itself for
your gaze; and the amazing lack both of beauty and the promise of it
appals you. If we are to believe the society papers, there is not an
ugly nor a plain-featured woman of means in all broad England. Every
week the English illustrated journals give you pages of photographs,
beneath which you may read in entrancing capital letters, "The
beautiful Miss Snooks," or "Lady Beertap's two beautiful daughters."
Yet the merest glance at those photographs convinces you that Miss
Snooks is about as good-looking as the average kitchen-wench, while the
two beautiful daughters of Lady Beertap have faces like the backs of
cabs. The fact is, that the so-called English beauty is a rare thing
and a fragile thing. Fully seventy-five per cent. of Englishwomen are
not beautiful to look upon. Of the other twenty-five per cent., one
here and there--perhaps one in a thousand--could stand beside the Venus
of Milo without blenching. For the rest, they have a girlish prettiness
which accompanies them into their thirtieth year, and sickens slowly
into a sourness. At forty, little Chiffon, who was so pretty at twenty,
has crow's-feet and flat cheeks, and a distinct tendency to the
nut-cracker type of profile.



CHAPTER VII

THE SOLDIER


"With a tow-row-row-row-row-row for the British Grenadiers!" Which,
of course, means the English Grenadiers, inasmuch as there never were
any Scottish Grenadiers. To-day, however, the English do not sing this
song. Their grandfathers delighted in it, and the tune still survives
as a soldier-man's march. But when the modern English wish to celebrate
the English soldier vocally, they do it in their own decadent, bathotic
way. They have an idiot-song called _Tommy Atkins_. The chorus of it
goes somewhat in this wise:

    Oh! Tommy, Tommy Atkins,
      You're a good 'un, heart and hand;
    You're a credit to your nation
      And to your native land.

    May your hand be ever ready!
      May your heart be ever true!
    God bless you, Tommy Atkins!
      Here's your country's love to you!

And since the outbreak of the late war, at any rate, the English do not
speak of soldiers, but of Tommies; and the principal English poet has
gone farther, and dubbed them Absent-Minded Beggars. Since the outbreak
of the war, too, it has been necessary to issue from time to time words
of caution to the great English public. Lord Roberts--"Little Bobs,"
I suppose, I should call him, in the choice English fashion--has on
two or three occasions deemed it advisable to let it be known that
his desire was that the great English public should discontinue the
practice of treating Cape-bound or returned Tommies to alcoholic
stimulants, and substitute therefor mineral waters or cocoa. This was
very wise on Little Bobs's part, and it has no doubt saved at least
two Cape-bound or returned Tommies from the degradation of an almighty
drunk. I mention this because it illustrates in an exceedingly quaint
way the attitude of the English towards the soldier. When there is
war toward, the soldier is absolutely the most popular kind of man in
England. In peace-time an English soldier is commonly credited with
being socially vile and unpresentable. There is a popular conundrum
which runs, "What is the difference between a soldier and a meerschaum
pipe?" and the answer, I regret to say, is, "One is the scum of the
earth, and the other the scum of the sea." Tommy's place in the piping
times of peace is just at the bottom of the social ladder; there he
must stay, and drink four ale, and smoke cheap shag, and sit at the
back of the gallery in places of amusement. Then war comes along, and
the English bosom expands to the sound of the distant drum, and to
the rumour of still more distant carnage. Who is it that's a-working
this 'ere blooming war? Blest if it ain't our old friend Tommy Atkins!
Fetch him out of the four-ale bar at once. The nation's heroes have
no business in four-ale bars. The saloon bar is the place for them,
and the barmaid shall smile upon them, and they shall have free drinks
and free cigars till all's blue; for they are the nation's heroes, and
they deserve well of their country. Furthermore, if they wish to visit
those great and glorious centres of enlightened entertainment commonly
called the Halls, they shall no longer be stuffed obscurely away in the
rear portion of the gallery, but they shall come out into the light of
things; they shall come blushingly and amid acclaim into the pit or the
stalls, or, for that matter, into any part of the 'ouse.

Throughout the war this has been so. It was so till yesterday. But
the ancient English smugness has begun to assert itself once more;
and Tommy--dear Tommy, God-bless-you Tommy, in fact--finds staring
him in the face, as of yore, "Soldiers in uniform not served in this
compartment"; "Soldiers in uniform cannot be admitted to any part of
this theatre except the gallery." The English Kipling hit the whole
matter off in his vulgar way when he wrote _Tommy_:

  I went into a theatre as sober as could be;
  They gave a drunk civilian room, but 'adn't none for me;
  They sent me to a gallery, or round the music-'alls;
  But when it comes to fightin'--Lord! they'll shove me in the stalls!

  For it's Tommy this and Tommy that, an' "Tommy, wait outside";
  But it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide--
  The troopship's on the tide, my boys--the troopship's on the tide
  Oh! it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide.

We were told that this war, if it were doing England no other good,
was at least bringing her to a right understanding of the soldier-man.
It was teaching her to take him by the hand, to recognise in him a
creditable son and an essential factor in the State. It has ended in
the way in which pretty well every English revival does end--namely, in
smoke. Though England has as much need of the soldier and is as much
dependent upon him for peace and security as any other nation, she has
never been able--excepting, as I have said, in time of war--to bring
her greedy mind to the pass of doing him the smallest honour or of
rendering to him that measure of social credit which is obviously his
by right.

That the English Tommy is not altogether a delectable person, however,
goes, I think, without saying. According to General Buller and other
more or less competent authorities, the men in South Africa were
splendid. I do not doubt it in the least. On the other hand, the
"returns" from that country have not struck one as reaching a high
standard of savouriness or manliness; and, however splendid he may
have been as a campaigner, as an ex-campaigner the English Tommy has
scarcely shone; so that in a sense the changed attitude of the English
public mind towards him is not to be wondered at.

Elsewhere in this essay I have pointed out that the late war has not
reflected any too much credit upon that chiefest of snobs--the English
military officer. To go into the army has long been considered good
form among the English Barbarians, and to be an officer in a swagger
regiment may be reckoned one of the best passports to English society.
It gives a man a tone, and puts him on a footing with the highest,
because an officer is a gentleman in a very special sense. But it
is well known that, during the past half-century or so, the English
Barbarians have been too prone to put their sons into the army for
social considerations only, and without regard to their qualification
or call for the profession of arms. And in the long result it has come
to pass that the English army is officered by men who know as little
as possible and care a great deal less about their profession, and are
compelled to leave the instruction, and as often as not the leadership,
of their men to non-commissioned officers. Over and over again in the
South African campaign it was the commissioned officer who blundered
and brought about disaster, and the non-commissioned officers and the
horse sense of the rank and file that saved whatever of the situation
there might be left to save. Probably the true history of the British
reverses, major and minor, in South Africa will never be made public.
But I believe it can be shown that in almost every instance it was
the incapacity or remissness of the English commissioned officer
which lay at the root of the trouble. The fact is, that the monocled
mountebank who is in the army, don't you know, seldom or never
understands his job. He is too busy messing, and dancing, and flirting,
and philandering, and racing, and gambling, and speeding the time
merrily, ever to learn it. That the honour of Britain, and the lives
of Englishmen, Scotsmen, and Irishmen, should be in his listless, damp
hand for even as long as five minutes is an intolerable scandal. That
he should haw and haw, and yaw and yaw, on the barrack-square, and
take a salary out of the public purse for doing it, shows exactly how
persistently stupid the English can be. Of course, the common reply
to any attack upon these shallow-pated incompetents is that you must
have gentlemen for the King's commissions, and that the pay the King's
commissions carry is so inadequate that no gentleman unpossessed of
private means can afford to take one. This is a very pretty argument
and exceedingly English. The money will not run to capable men;
therefore let us fling it away on fools. Army reform, sweeping changes
at the War Office, new army regulations, an army on a business footing,
and so on and so forth, are always being clamoured for by the English
people, and always being promised by the English Government. But
until the day when the granting of commissions and promotion are as
little dependent upon social influence and the influence of money as
advancement in the law or advancement in the arts, the English army
will remain just where it is and just as rotten as it is.

For downright childishness the modern English soldier, whether he be
officer or file-man, has perhaps no compeer. When the South African War
broke out, Tommy and his officers were men of scarlet and pipe-clay and
gold lace and magnificent head-dresses. Also all drill was in close
order; you were to shove in your infantry first, supported by your
artillery, and deliver your last brilliant stroke with your cavalry.
The men should go into the fray with bands playing, flags flying, and
dressed as for parade. You commenced operations with move No. 1; the
enemy would assuredly reply with move No. 2; you would then rush in
with move No. 3; there would be a famous victory, and the streets of
London would be illuminated at great expense. In South Africa matters
did not quite pan out that way; the enemy declined absolutely to play
the stereotyped war-game, for the very simple reason that they did
not know it, and that South Africa is not quite of the contour of a
chess-board. And so the English had to change their cherished system,
and to learn to ride, and to throw their pretty uniforms into the
old-clothes baskets, and to get out of their old drill into a drill
which was no drill at all, and to give up resting their last hope on
the British square, and to get accustomed to deadly conflict with an
enemy whom they never saw and who never took the trouble to inform
them whether they had beaten him or not. It was all very trying and all
very bewildering, and it is to the credit of the English army that in
the course of a year or two it did actually manage to understand the
precise nature of the work cut out for it and made some show of dealing
with it in a workman-like way.

Here was a lesson for us, and we learned it. An Englishman, you know,
can learn anything when he makes up his mind to it. And he has learned
this South African lesson thoroughly well; so well, indeed, that it
looks like being the only lesson he will be able to repeat any time
in the next half-century. For what has he done? Well, to judge by
appearances, we must reason this way: "I was not prepared for this
South African business. It was a new thing to me. It gave me a new
notion of the whole art and practice of war. The old authorities were
clean out of it. Therefore I solemnly abjure the old authorities. For
the future I wear slouch-hats and khaki and puttees and a jacket full
of pockets, and I drill for the express notion that I may some day
meet a Boer farmer. The entire sartorial and general aspect of my army
shall be remodelled on lines which might induce one to think that the
sole enemy of mankind was Mr. Kruger, and the great military centre of
the world was Pretoria." It does not seem to occur to the poor body
that his next great trial is not in the least likely to overtake him
in South Africa. He has had to fight on the Continent of Europe before
to-day, and I shall not be surprised if he has to do it again before
many years have passed over his head. Yet, wherever his next large
fighting has to be done, you will find that he will sail into it in his
good old infantile, stupid English way, armed cap-a-pie for the special
destruction of Boers. It is just gross want of sense, and that is all
that can be said for it.



CHAPTER VIII

THE NAVY


Since Trafalgar, the English navy has been the apple of the
Englishman's eye. He holds that the English power is a sea-power;
that these leviathans afloat, the King's ships, are his first line of
defence; and that so long as he keeps the English navy up to the mark
he can defy the world. His method of keeping it up to the mark is most
singular. It consists of tinkering with old ships generation after
generation, laying down new ones which seemingly never get finished,
and of being chronically short of men. The naval critics of England
may be divided sharply into two camps. In the one we have a number
of gentlemen who are naval critics simply because they happen to be
connected with newspapers. These young persons are naturally anxious
to do the best that can be done for their papers and for themselves.
They recognise that if they are to be in a position to obtain immediate
and first-hand information--not to say exclusive information--as
to naval doings, they must stand well with the Admiralty and the
authorities. The Admiralty and the authorities are not in need of
adverse critics. What they like and what they will have are smily, wily
reporters, who will swear with the official word, see with the official
eye, and take the rest for granted. In the other camp of naval critics
you have a bright collection of book-compilers, naval architects,
and patent-mongers, all of whom have some sort of fad to exploit or
some private axe to grind. Hence the amiable English taxpayer knows
just as much at the present moment about his navy as he knew three
years ago about his army. In spite of the perfervid assurances of Mr.
Kipling, and of the ill-written, anti-scare manifestoes of the morning
papers, the English taxpayer knows in his heart that all is not so
well as it might be with the English navy. What is wrong the English
taxpayer cannot tell you; but there it is, and he has a sort of feeling
that, when the big sea-tussle comes, the English navy, being tried,
will be found wanting. Herein I think he shows great prescience. The
superstition to the effect that the English rule the waves has of late
begun to be known for what it is. There are nowadays other Richmonds
in the field, all bent on doing a little wave-ruling on their own
account. And after the first start of surprise and astonishment, the
sleepy, slack, undiscerning Englishman has just let things go on as
they were, and has just dilly-dallied what time the new wave-rulers
were building and equipping the finest battle-ships that modern science
can put afloat, and making arrangements for the acquisition of as much
naval supremacy as they can lay their hands on. And whether the English
navy be or be not as efficient as the Admiralty and the admirals would
have us believe, it is quite certain that, in consequence of budding
wave-rulers, the English navy is not, on the whole, so formidable a
weapon or so impregnable a defence as it ought to be. The fact is,
that in the matter of naval strength, offensive and defensive, the
English are just a quarter of a century behind. They slept whilst their
good friends the French, the Russians, and the Germans were climbing
upward in the dark; and when they woke it was to perceive that another
navy had sprung into existence by the side of the English navy, and
that the task of catching up, of putting the old navy into a position
of absolute supremacy over the new, was well-nigh an impossible one.
You cannot build line-of-battle ships in an hour. Furthermore, the
yards of England, though capable of extraordinary achievements, are
not capable of a greater output than the yards of France, Russia, and
Germany conjoined. Half a century ago the English had a distinct and
preponderating start. When the other powers began to show increased
activity in the matter of shipbuilding, the English said, "It is of
no consequence; let 'em build." They threw their start clean away. The
probabilities are that they will never be able to regain it.

Quite apart from the large general question, however, and granting
that on paper England's sea-power is equal to that of any three powers
combined, it cannot have escaped the attention of the interested that
the foreign naval experts view our whole flotilla with a singular calm,
and appear to be quite amused when we talk of naval efficiency and
advancement. It is pretty certain that this calm and this amusement are
not based entirely in either ignorance or arrogance. Ships built and
fitted in Continental yards may lack the advantage of being English
built, but they are fighting-ships nevertheless, and they have not much
to lose by comparison with the best English fighting-ships, even when
the comparison is made by English experts. Indeed, it is very much
open to question whether some of the Continental ships are not a long
way ahead of some of the best English ships in destructive power and
possibilities for fight. Of course the common reply to this is, that
it is no good having a fine machine unless you have the right man to
handle it. And Jack, of course,--the honest English Jack,--is the only
man in the world that really knows how to handle fighting-ships. Well,
it may be so, or it may not be so. The Englishman will undoubtedly keep
his engines going and stick to his guns till chaos engulfs him. It
seems possible, too, that he has made himself thoroughly familiar with
every detail of the machine he has got to work, and that he knows his
business in a way which leaves precious little room for more intimate
knowledge. In spite of all this, however, it cannot be denied that the
Continental navy-man is slowly but surely creeping up to the English
standard. That as a rule he is a man of better family than the English
navy-man, that his conditions of service are more favourable, and
that his food and accommodation are better, are all in his favour.
He may lack the steadiness and the grit of the old original English
hearts of oak. Still, he is coming on and making progress; whereas the
old original English hearts of oak do not appear to be getting much
"forrader." Besides, it is well known that the English do not possess
anything like enough of them, and those whom they do possess have such
a love for the service that they take particularly good care to warn
would-be recruits off it.

From time immemorial the English have made a point of treating the
saviours of their country meanly and shabbily. In the Crimea the
English troops were half-starved and went about in rags, while a lot
of broad-shouldered, genial Englishmen made fortunes out of army
contracts. It was the same in the Transvaal, and it will be the same
whenever England is at war. In peace-time she does manage to keep her
soldiers and sailors decently dressed, but it is notorious that she
nips them in the paunch, and that the roast beef and plum-pudding and
flagons of October which are supposed to be the meat and drink of John
Bull are not considered good for his brave defenders. A beef-fed army
and a beef-fed navy are what Englishmen believe they get for their
money. The rank and file of the army and navy are better informed. With
a navy that is undersized, undermanned, underfed, and underpaid, the
English chances of triumph, when her real strength is put to the test,
are problematical. Meanwhile, we may comfort ourselves with Mr. Kipling
and the _Daily Telegraph_.



CHAPTER IX

THE CHURCHES


The English have one sauce. But the number of their religions is as the
sands of the sea. Roughly speaking, they divide themselves religiously
into two classes--Anglicans and Nonconformists. The Anglicans, one may
say, are reformed Catholics; the Nonconformists, reformed Anglicans.
Apparently all English religions--with the exception, of course, of
the Catholic religion, which is not counted--date from or since the
Reformation. We know what the Reformation means in Scotland, though
the English notion of it seems to be a trifle vague. We also know in
Scotland what religion means. I doubt if the English have any such
knowledge. One has only to visit an average Anglican or Nonconformist
church on the Sabbath to perceive that in England religion is under
a cloud and has almost ceased to be a spiritual matter. In the first
place, you will notice that the congregation is for the most part
composed of women and children. Englishmen are too busy or too bored to
go to church on the Sabbath. What little faith, what little religious
fervour or feeling, they ever possessed has been knocked out of them,
and they no longer go to church. And this change has been accomplished,
not by the failure of dogmas, not by the spread of free-thought, not
by secularists, anti-clericalists, or philosophers, but simply by an
indolent clergy on the one hand and cheap railway fares on the other.
The mediocre preacher and the new-fangled English week-end have emptied
the churches of England's manhood. The women and children are left, a
puling, bemused crowd, and to these the English shepherds and pastors
blate their cheap ritual and read their ill-considered sermons.

It is curious to note how easily an English parson or Nonconformist
minister can make a reputation for greatness as a preacher. Let him
be just a little more competent than the average, and people flock
to hear him. I doubt if there is a really great preacher alive in
England to-day. Yet there are three or four who pass for great, and
who are supposed to be in line with St. Paul, John Knox, and Wesley.
To give instances would be invidious, but I have no hesitation in
asserting that the preachments offered in London at the three or four
great churches which are supposed to enshrine orators are, as a rule,
exceedingly feeble efforts, tricked out with gauds and mannerisms,
packed with trite sentiment, and utterly devoid of doctrine,
inspiration, and value. There are not three bishops on the English
bench that can furnish forth a sermon worth going fifty yards to hear.
There is not a Nonconformist minister who has a soul above stodginess,
convention, and a convenient if threadbare Scriptural tag. The
Salvation Army, perhaps, have the fervour and the courage, but they
lack wisdom, and they have no art. The Congregationalists have some of
the wisdom and a touch of the art, but they have no fervour. Indeed,
wherever you turn you find that the recognised English religionists
have given themselves up to a decadent, Hebraic emotion, and let the
solid things of the spirit--the Hebraic culture, the Hebraic vision,
the Hebraic passion--pass by them.

Gradually the churches of this remarkable country are ceasing to
have anything to do with religion at all. "Religion be hanged!" say
those that run them. "Religion no longer appeals to the wayward,
stony-hearted, over-driven, half-educated English populace. What is
wanted is social brightness and warmth, the religion of brotherhood
and the full belly; so that we will give magic-lantern entertainments
in our churches on the Lord's Day, we will go in 'bald-headed' for
pleasant Sunday afternoons, hot coffee and veal-and-ham pies, and
screws of tobacco given away at the doors, wrapped up in a tract,
which you are at liberty either to read or to light your pipe with."
As for the English priests that had the authority of God, they are no
longer sure whether they have that authority or not. Of course, they
believe they have it in a sacerdotal, canonical, and private way; but
not one of them dare stand up and swear by his powers publicly. The
bishops are all for peace and quietness. "If you please, we are your
friends, and not your masters," say they to their clergy; and their
clergy, to use an English vulgarism, "wink the other eye." And the
clergy, too, in turn are the friends and not the masters of common
men; they are so much your friends, indeed, that, providing you mount
a silk hat on Sunday and put a penny on the plate, you can depend
upon a friendly shake of the hand and a kindly grin of recognition
six days in the week, even though you happen to be a bookmaker or the
keeper of a bucket-shop. For the Nonconformist clergy, if clergy they
may be called, they speak humorously at tea-parties, they enter into
hat-trimming competitions at bazaars, and they play principal guest
at the tables of over-fed tradesmen. There is not a man amongst them
who can say boo to a goose. There is not a man amongst them who as a
social unit is worth the £150 a year and a manse, with £10 per annum
for each child, that a glozing, unintellectual English congregation
hands over to him. Out of the ease and security and respectability
and _dolce far niente_ which the Church of England provides for a
considerable proportion of her priests, she has managed to evolve
a few scholars, a few men of letters, perhaps an odd saint or two,
and an odd man of temperament and mark. But what have the English
Nonconformists produced? Dr. Horton and Dr. Parker, and that G.R. Sims
of religionists, the Rev. Hugh Price Hughes. To this distinguished
triumvirate--though the English Nonconformists will hold up pious hands
of horror at the notion--one may add that valiant thumper of the pulpit
drum, General Booth, who is doing a work in religious decadence and
bathoticism which it will take centuries to undo. Want of heart and
want of mind, coupled with the blessed spirit of tolerance, have indeed
played havoc with the English Churches.

The loosening of the grip of the Church on English society has, of
course, not been without its results on English morals and on English
society at large. There is a general feeling abroad that religion is
played out, that the system of Hebrew ethics which has been drilled
into the English blood by generations of the faithful was all very
well for the faithful, but is altogether impracticable and out of
harmony with the present intelligent times. You will find Englishmen
nowadays complaining that the taint of spiritualism, asceticism, and
ethical faith which they have inherited from their people is a source
of hindrance to them in the matter of their commercial or social
progress, and their lives are spent in an endeavour to eradicate or to
triumph over that taint. The Archbishop of Canterbury could not run
a tea-shop by the rules laid down in the Sermon on the Mount, they
will tell you; and, what is worse, the Archbishop of Canterbury agrees
with them. "Take all thou hast, and give it to the poor" is out of the
question even for Dr. Horton. Since those blessed words were said, we
are told, the Poor Law has sprung up; we give all that is necessary
for pauperism in the poor-rate; and, thanks to the excellence of our
social system, it is now impossible for man, woman, or child to die
of starvation, provided only that they will work. I have heard it
stated by an English Nonconformist minister that his chief complaint
against the Roman Catholic community in his district was their habit
of being over-liberal to the poor. "No man is refused," observed my
Nonconformist friend, "no matter how dissolute or idle or irreligious
he may be."

Then in the large question of the employment of human flesh and blood
to make money for you, the modern Englishman finds that he must either
tear the effects of his religious bringing-up out of his heart, or
forego the possibility of becoming really rich, don't you know. It is
all a matter of supply and demand; and if the mass of humanity live
starved lives and die daily in order that I may be fat and warm and
cultured and possessed of surpluses at banks, it is not my fault. You
must really blame supply and demand. With this fine phrase on his lips,
the English capitalist confutes all the philosophies and sets his foot
on the majority of the decencies of life. Of course, I shall be told
that the prince and chief of all hide-bound industrial capitalists is
Mr. Andrew Carnegie, who happens to be a Scot. And I cheerfully admit
that Mr. Carnegie is a very serious case in point. But for our one Mr.
Carnegie, the English have fifty Mr. Carnegies. They may not be so
rich or so famous; but there they are, and the blood and spirit of the
English people suffer accordingly. The religion of the wealthy does not
prevent them from grinding the face of the poor; and the religion of
the middle classes is of pretty much the same order. It is at the hands
of the English middle classes that the English poor suffer a further
and a bitterer depredation. For when you have earned money hardly, you
want good goods for it; and the English middle classes, who are nearly
all shopkeepers, either directly or indirectly, make a point of palming
off on you the very worst goods the law will allow them to sell.

And, in spite of all, the churches continue to open their doors, new
churches continue to be built, million-pound funds are raised, the
missionary speeds over the blue wave to the succour of the 'eathen,
and English women and children have their pleasant Sunday afternoons,
and bishops keep high-stepping horses; Church and State are grappled
together with hooks of steel, and England is a Christian country.
Till the churches get out of their slippers and their sloth and their
tea-bibbing and their tolerance, matters will go on in the same old
futile, scandalous way. If they are to have charge and direction of
the soul of man, they must remember that the soul of man is a greater
thing than ease, and a greater thing than the Church; they must not
play with the immortal part of humanity, and they must not trifle
with the things which they believe to be of God. In no other country
save England would such churches and such priests as the English now
possess be tolerated or supported; it is the English decadence which
has rendered Englishmen blind to the stupidity and banality of their
pastors and spiritual guides, and it is the English easy-heartedness
which permits the game of cant and cadge and sham to go on unchecked.



CHAPTER X

THE POLITICIAN


The flower and exemplar of well-nigh everything that is choicely and
brutally English may be summed up in the English politician. Such a
tub-thumper, such a master of claptrap and the arts and feints and
fetches of oratory, has never been known before since the world began.
He is English, and therefore he knows his business. He has made a study
of it as a business, and without regard to its more serious issues. His
position is, that, if he would do himself well, he must tie himself
hand and foot to some party, and serve that party through thick and
thin. Then in the end, and with good luck, will come reward. You may
be born in a chandler's shop. By birth, therefore, you belong to the
very lower English middle class. Through the practice of a number of
commercial virtues, and with the help of considerable speculation
outside your own business, you become wealthy. Now, wealth without
honour is nothing to an Englishman. He cannot brook that his wealth,
his shining, glorious superfluity, should be hidden under a bushel.
Therefore he seeks municipal honours; he becomes a town councillor, an
alderman, a mayor even.

But these, after all, are not the summits; they lead at best only to
a common knighthood, and any fool can get knighted if he wants to. So
you determine to seek Parliamentary honours. You subscribe liberally
to the funds of your party, and by-and-by a constituency is found
for you to contest. You lose the fight and subscribe again; another
constituency is found for you, and you win by the skin of your teeth or
with a plumping majority, as the case may be. You are now a full-blown
member of Parliament; it is worth the money and much better than being
a mayor. Up to this time you have been an orator of sorts. You have
held forth from schoolroom platforms and the tops of waggons what time
the assembled populace shouted and threw up its sweaty nightcaps. You
have been carried shoulder high behind brass bands rendering _See, the
Conquering Hero Comes_. Now however, you are really in Parliament; and
for the nonce--for several years, in fact--you must give up talking.
There is plenty for you to do; you may put questions on the paper,
you may get a look in at committee work, you may show electors round
the Houses, and you may go on subscribing liberally to the party
funds. When you have subscribed enough, it is just within the bounds
of possibility that the heads of the party--the Front Bench people,
as it were--will begin to discover that there is virtue in you. You
will be encouraged to make a speech or two at the slackest part of
debates, and some fine day you may be entrusted with the fortunes of
a little Bill which your party wishes to rush through. All the while
you are subscribing liberally to the party funds. After many years,
when you are least expecting it, the bottom seems to fall out of the
universe--that is to say, there is a General Election. You have to
fight your seat; you win; you come nobly back; behold, your party is in
power. Then comes the grand moment of your life. You are shovelled into
the Cabinet on account of services rendered. From this point, if you
possess any ability at all, you can have things pretty much your own
way; and if your ambition has been to hear yourself called "My lord"
before you die, and to see your wife in the Peeresses' Gallery on great
occasions, and your sons swanking about town with "Hon." before their
names, you can manage it. It is a slow job, and it involves many years
of hard work and lavish expenditure; but it is politically possible in
England for a man to be born on the flags and to die properly set forth
in Burke and Debrett.

I do not say for a moment that the end and aim of every English
politician is the peerage; but I do say that, as a rule, his labours
are directed towards some end of honour or emolument, and seldom or
never to the good of the State. It is ambition, and not patriotism,
that fires his bosom; it is self-aggrandisement, and not a desire
for the welfare of the English people, that keeps him going; and it
is party, and not principle, that guides and rules his legislative
actions. Of course, the great art of being a politician is to hide
these facts from the public. If you went down to your constituency
like an honest man and said, "Gentlemen, I wish you to return me to
Parliament in order that I may make a high position for myself, in
order that I may become a man of rank and the founder of a family,"
your constituency would hurl dead cats at you. Therefore you go down
with an altogether different tale: "I am going to the House of Commons,
gentlemen, in your interests and not in mine. It will cost me large
sums of money; besides which, as your member, I shall be expected to
subscribe to all the local cricket clubs. But I have the best interests
of Muckington at heart; and, if you honour me by making me your
representative, money is no object."

It is a wonderful business, and a great and a glorious. One stands in
astonishment before the bright English intelligence which takes so
much on promise and gets so little performed. An English party never
goes into power with the intention of doing more than half of what it
has promised to do. At election times its great business is to capture
votes: these must be had at any price short of rank bribery. And, once
landed with the blest, the party immediately settles down, not to the
work of carrying out its promises, but to the far more serious business
of keeping itself in power. From the point of view of the careless
lay-observer, the House of Commons is an assemblage for the discussion
of Imperial affairs, with a view to their being managed in the best
possible way. To the politician it is just an arena in which two sets
of greedy men meet to annoy, thwart, ridicule, and bring about the
downfall of each other.

The amount of interest the Englishman is supposed to take in this
amazing assemblage and its doings makes it plain that the Englishman
himself is well-nigh as foolish and well-nigh as oblique as the person
whom he elects to represent him. Next to royalty itself there is nobody
in England who can command so much attention and such a prominent
place in the picture as the politician. If he be a Cabinet Minister
of any standing, it is impossible for him to walk through the streets
either of London or of any of the English provincial towns without
being immediately recognised and "respectfully saluted"; whereas, if he
happens to have come to any metropolitan district or provincial town
on political business bent, he may depend upon being received at the
proper point by the local authorities, supported by a guard of honour
of the local Volunteers, and he may also depend upon more or less of
an ovation on his way to and from the place of meeting.

Year in and year out, too, the illustrated papers of every degree
blossom with his latest photograph. Mr. So-and-so in his new motorcar;
Mr. So-and-so playing golf; Mr. So-and-so and the King; Mr. So-and-so
addressing the mob from the railway train,--these are pictures in which
every Englishman has delighted from his youth up, and in which he will
always find great artistic and moral satisfaction. As for the journals
which live out of the personal paragraph, they must give--or imagine
they must give--pride of place to the politician, or perish. Little
anecdotes of the sayings and doings of the politically great are always
marketable. It is not necessary that they should have the slightest
foundation in truth; but they must be neat, reasonably amusing, and
flattering to the personage involved.

It is when one turns to the English daily papers, however, that one
begins to understand what an extraordinary hold the political interest
has upon the English public mind. It is well known that, in the main,
the debates in the House of Commons are quite dull, colourless, and
somnolent functions. Half of them take place in the presence only of
the Speaker and a quorum. That is to say, nine nights out of ten,
members spend the greater portion of their time in the smoke-rooms,
dining-rooms, and lobbies, and not in the House itself, the simple
reason being that, as a rule, the debates are not interesting. When
some reputable champion of either party gets on his legs, or when
some wag is up, members manage to attend in force; but it is only
at these moments that they do so. Yet, if you pick up an English
morning newspaper, you will find six columns of that sheet devoted to
a report of the proceedings in Parliament; another three columns of
descriptive matter bearing on the same proceedings; and, out of four or
five leaders, three at least deal with the political question of the
moment. Even when Parliament is not sitting, the first leader is never
by any chance other than political. From the point of view of the
dull English mind, nothing more important than a political happening
can happen in this world. Mr. Somebody has called Mr. Somebody else
a liar across the floor of the House of Commons. It is essential
for the well-being of the country at large that the episode should
be reported with a separate subhead and great circumstance in the
Parliamentary report; that the scene should be described by the lively
and picturesque pen of the writer of the Parliamentary sketch; that
the appearance of the gentleman who called the other gentleman a liar
should be dwelt upon in the notes; that instances of other gentlemen
having called gentlemen liars across the floor of the House should
also be given in the notes; and, finally, that a rotund and windy
leader should be written, wherein is discussed gravely the general
advisability of gentlemen calling other gentlemen liars across the
floor of the House; wherein one is assured that, in spite of occasional
regrettable instances of the kind, the English Parliament is the most
decorous and dignified assemblage under the sun; and wherein we cannot
refrain from paying our tribute of respectful admiration to the Right
Honourable the Speaker, whose tact, good sense, and gentleman-like
spirit, coupled with the firmness, resolution, and knowledge of the
procedure of the House becoming to his high position, invariably enable
him to still the storm and to repress the angry passions of our heated
legislators before any great harm has been done. So that a gentleman
who calls another gentleman a liar across the floor of the House of
Commons really renders a great service to Englishmen, inasmuch as he
provides them with a gratuitous entertainment, about which they may
read, talk, and argue for at least twenty-four hours.

Recognising their own love of politics and political strife, and
knowing in their hearts that the talk in the House of Commons--not to
mention the House of Lords--is, generally speaking, of the flattest
and flabbiest, one would imagine that the wise English would be at
some pains to take measures calculated to brighten up the Parliamentary
debates and render them of real interest. But no such precautions are
taken. When a would-be member of Parliament is heckled, he is never
by any chance asked if he is prepared, at the psychological moment,
to pull the nose of one of the right honourable gentlemen opposite.
Any member of Parliament who, in the middle of a dull debate, would
walk across the floor and box the ears of, say, Mr. Balfour, or Lord
Hugh Cecil, would thereby earn for himself the distinction of being
the best-discussed and best-described man in England for quite half
a week. Considering the small amount of exertion required for such a
proceeding, and the very large amount of notoriety which would accrue
to the person who ventured on it, one wonders that it has never been
done.

In spite of the abnormal share of publicity and applause which is
extended to the English politician, however, the solemn fact remains
that he is seldom a person of any real force, capacity, understanding,
or character. Commonplace, mediocre, insincere, inept, are the epithets
which best describe him. He passes through the legislative chamber or
chambers, says his say in undistinguished speeches, casts his vote,
earns his place, his pension, or his peerage, and passes beyond our
echo and our hail. The daily papers manufacture for him an obituary
notice varying in length from five lines to a couple of columns, and
nobody wants to hear anything more about him. As a matter of fact, he
has left the world neither wiser nor wittier nor happier than he found
it. If he has made one phrase or uttered one sentiment that sticks in
men's minds, he is fortunate. Neither history nor posterity will have
anything to say about him, though in his day he kicked up some fuss and
took up a lot of room. In short, politics as a career in England is
not a career for solid, serious men. It merely serves the turn of the
specious, the shallow, the incompetent, and the vainglorious.



CHAPTER XI

POETS


It may be set down as an axiom that a nation which is in the proper
enjoyment of all its faculties, which is healthy, wealthy, wise, and
properly conditioned, must be producing a certain amount of poetry.
From the beginning this has been so; it will be so to the end. When
England was at her highest, when the best in her was having full play,
she produced poets. Right down into the Victorian Era she went on
producing them. Then she took to the Stock Exchange and an ostentatious
way of life, and the supply of poets fell off. If we except Mr.
Swinburne, who does not belong rightfully to this present time,
there is not a poet of any parts exercising his function in England
to-day. Furthermore, any bookseller will tell you that the demand for
poetry-books by new writers has practically ceased to exist.

These statements will be called sweeping by a certain school of
critics, and I shall be asked to cast my eye round the English nest of
singing-birds, and to answer and say whether Mr. So-and-so be not a
poet, and Mr. So-and-so, and Mr. So-and-so, and Mr. So-and-so. I shall
also be asked to say if I am prepared to deny that of Mr. So-and-so's
last volume of verse three hundred copies were actually sold to
the booksellers. For the propounders of such questions I have one
answer--namely, it may be so.

In the meantime let us do our best to find an English poet who is worth
the name, and who is prescriptively entitled to be mentioned in the
category which begins with Chaucer and ends with Mr. Swinburne. Shall
we try Mr. Rudyard Kipling? Tested by sales and the amount of dust he
has managed to kick up, Mr. Kipling should be a poet of parts. He is
still young, and, happily, among the living; but it cannot be denied
that as a poet he has already outlived his reputation. Two years ago he
could set the English-speaking nations humming or reciting whatever he
chose to put into metre. Some of his little things looked like lasting.
Already the majority of them are forgotten. To the next generation,
if he be known at all, he will be known as the author of three
pieces--_Recessional_, the _L'Envoi_ appended to _Life's Handicap_, and
_Mandalay_. What is to become of such verses as the following?

  'Ave you 'eard o' the Widow at Windsor,
    With a hairy gold crown on 'er 'ead?
  She 'as ships on the foam--she 'as millions at 'ome,
    An' she pays us poor beggars in red.
        ('Ow poor beggars in red!)

  There's 'er nick on the cavalry 'orses,
    There's 'er mark on the medical stores--
  An' 'er troopers you'll find with a fair wind be'ind
    That takes us to various wars.
        (Poor beggars! barbarious wars!)

  Then 'ere's to the Widow at Windsor,
    An' 'ere's to the stores and the guns,
  The men an' the 'orses what makes up the forces
    O' Missis Victorier's sons.
        (Poor beggars! Victorier's sons!)

At the time of their appearance these lines and the like of them
were vastly admired; everybody read them, most people praised them.
They were supposed to stir the English blood like a blast of martial
trumpets. Here at length was the poet England had been waiting for.
There could be no mistake about him; he had the authentic voice, the
incommunicable fire, the master-touch. He had come to stay. At the
present moment the bulk of his metrical work is just about as dead and
forgotten as the coster-songs of yesteryear. He has not even made a
cult; nobody quotes him, nobody believes in him as a poetical master,
nobody wants to hear any more of him. His imitators have all gone back
to the imitation of better men. If a copy of verses have a flavour
of Kipling about it nowadays, editors drop it as they would drop a
hot coal. So much for the poet of empire, the poet of the people, the
metrical patron of Thomas Atkins, Esq.

Another poet of empire--Mr. W.E. Henley--has fared very little better.
"What can I do for England?" is, I believe, still in request among the
makers of a certain class of anthology; but English poetry in the bulk
is just the same as if Mr. Henley had never been. Even the balderdash
about "my indomitable soul" has fallen out of the _usus loquendi_ of
young men's Christian associations and young men's debating societies.
_The Song of the Sword_ is sung no longer; _For England's Sake_ has
gone the way of all truculent war-poetry; and out of _Hawthorn and
Lavender_ perhaps a couple of lyrics remain. Mr. Henley attacked Burns
when Burns had been a century dead. Who will consider it worth while to
attack Mr. Henley in, say, the year 2002?

Possibly the real, true English poet who will in due course put on the
laurel of Mr. Austin is Mr. Stephen Phillips. Yet Mr. Stephen Phillips
is a purveyor of metrical notions for the stage, and in his last great
work--_Ulysses_--I find him writing as follows:

  ATHENE. Father, whose oath in hollow hell is heard,
  Whose act is lightning after thunder-word,
  A boon! a boon! that I compassion find
  For one, the most unhappy of mankind.

  ZEUS. How is he named?

  ATHENE.        Ulysses. He who planned
  To take the towered city of Troy-land--
  A mighty spearsman, and a seaman wise,
  A hunter, and at need a lord of lies.
  With woven wiles he stole the Trojan town
  Which ten years' battle could not batter down:
  Oft hath he made sweet sacrifice to thee.

  ZEUS (_nodding benevolently_). I mind me of the savoury smell.

  ATHENE.                   Yet he,
  When all the other captains had won home,
  Was whirled about the wilderness of foam:
  For the wind and the wave have driven him evermore,
  Mocked by the green of some receding shore.
  Yet over wind and wave he had his will,
  Blistered and buffeted, unbaffled still.
  Ever the snare was set, ever in vain--
  The Lotus Island and the Siren strain;
  Through Scylla and Charybdis hath he run,
  Sleeplessly plunging to the setting sun.
  Who hath so suffered, or so far hath sailed,
  So much encountered, and so little quailed?

Which is exactly the kind of poetry one requires for the cavern scene
of a New Year's pantomime.

Possibly, again, the real, true English poet is Mr. William Watson,
with his tiresome mimicry of Wordsworth and his high-and-dry style of
lyrical architecture. Mr. Watson is believed to have done great things,
but his rôle now appears to be one of austere silence; he is what the
old writers would have termed a costive poet. And if his _Collected
Poems_ are to be the end of him, his end will not be long deferred.
Or, possibly, the one and only poet our England of to-day would wish
to boast is Mr. Arthur Symons. Mr. Symons writes just the kind of
poetry one might expect of a versifier who, in early youth, had loved a
cigarette-smoking ballet-girl, and could never bring himself to repress
his passion. Here is a sample of Mr. Arthur Symons at his choicest:

    The feverish room and that white bed,
      The tumbled skirts upon a chair,
      The novel flung half open where
    Hat, hair-pins, puffs, and paints are spread.

           *       *       *       *       *

    And you, half dressed and half awake,
      Your slant eyes strangely watching me;
      And I, who watch you drowsily,
    With eyes that, having slept not, ache:

    This (need one dread? nay, dare one hope?)
      Will rise, a ghost of memory, if
      Ever again my handkerchief
    Is scented with White Heliotrope.

No doubt, if the English continue to descend the moral Avernus at their
present rate of speed, Mr. Symons will become, by sheer process of
time, the representative poet of the nation. It is part of a poet's
duty to look into the future, and Mr. Symons appears to have taken the
next two or three generations of Englishmen by the forelock. May he
have the reward which is his due!

For the rest, they all mean well, and they all aim high; but one is
afraid that nothing will come of them. There are Francis Thompson, and
Laurence Housman, and Henry Newbolt, and Laurence Binyon, and F.B.
Money-Coutts, and Arthur Christopher Benson, and Victor Plarr--amiable
performers all, but each a standing example of poetical shortcoming.
Perhaps one ought not to mention Mr. John Davidson and Mr. W.B. Yeats,
because Mr. Davidson is a Scot, and Mr. Yeats, putatively, at any rate,
an Irishman. In some respects these twain may be considered the pick
of the basket. I am constrained to admit, however, that neither of them
has as yet fulfilled his earlier promise.

So that, on the whole, England is practically without poets of marked
or extraordinary attainments. The reason is not far to seek. She is
losing the breed of noble bloods; her greed, her luxuriousness, her
excesses, her contempt for all but the material, are beginning to find
her out. Her youths, who should be fired by the brightest emotions, are
bidden not to be fools, and taught that the whole duty of man is to be
washed and combed and financially successful. Consequently that section
of English adolescence which, in the nature of things, begins with
poetry and gladness very speedily throws up the sponge. Consecration
to the muse is no longer thought of among Englishmen. They cannot be
content to be published and take their chance. The dismal shibboleth,
"Poetry does not pay," wears them all down. What is the good of
writing verses which bring you neither reputation nor emolument? One
must live, and to live like a gentleman by honest toil, and devote
one's leisure instead of one's life to poetry, is the better part.
Meanwhile, England jogs along quite comfortably. She can get Keats for
a shilling, and Shakespeare for sixpence. Why should she worry herself
for a moment with the new men?



CHAPTER XII

FICTION


After much patient thinking, the English have come to the conclusion
that there is but one branch of literary art, and that its name is
Fiction. And by fiction the English really mean the six-shilling novel.
I do not think it is too much to say, that since the six-shilling novel
was first thrust upon our delighted attention it has never brought
within its covers six shillings' worth of reading. The high priest
and the high priestess who serve to the right and left of the altar
of six-shillingism are, as every one knows, Mr. Hall Caine and Miss
Marie Corelli. Each of them wears a golden ephod, with a breastplate of
jewels arranged to spell out the magic figures, One Hundred Thousand.
All the other priests of the Tabernacle look with awe and envy upon
these two, because the other priests' breastplates have hard work to
spell out fifty thousand, and some of them do not even achieve one
thousand five hundred. Burnt-offerings of Caine and Corelli therefore
fill the place with savour. A pair of sorrier writers never was on sea
or land. Everybody knows it, nobody denies it, and nobody seems sad
about it. The six-shilling novel is an established English institution.
Caine and Corelli are its prop and stay, and the rest do their best to
keep in the running and pick up the minor money-bags.

The perusal of six-shilling fiction is practically a sort of mania. It
has seized in its grip the fairest England has to show, particularly
matrons, the younger women, and stockbrokers. For the Englishwoman the
daily round would lose its saltness did she not have handy the newest
six-shilling novel by Mr. Caine, Miss Corelli, or the next literary
bawler in the market-place. There are shops called "libraries," to
which the Englishwoman repairs for her supplies of literary pabulum.
Here the six-shilling novel has a great time. Strapped together
in sixes, or packed in boxes of dozens, it is handed forth to the
carriages of its fair devourers, and taken right away to its repose
in the cultured homes of Bayswater and Kensington. From morning till
night many Englishwomen do little but read this precious stuff. What
they get out of it amounts in the long run to hysteria and anæmia. It
brings about a general deadening of the mind and a general jaggedness
of the emotions, coupled with an utter incapacity to take any save an
exaggerated view of the facts of life. Discontent, disillusionment,
ennui, boredom, ill-temper, a sharp tongue, and a cynical spirit are
other symptoms which the six-shilling novel is prone to evoke. The
habit is worse than opium or haschisch or tea cigarettes. It is just
the devil, and that is all you need say about it. The persons employed
in the opium traffic are supposed to be very wicked. To my mind, the
persons employed in the fiction traffic are as wicked as wicked can
be. When the foul disease began first to make its ravages obvious,
there were not wanting persons who would have checked it and provided
remedies for it. These persons squeaked somewhat, and nothing more
has been heard of them. So the thing goes on unrestrained, and even
applauded by press and pulpit alike; and the Englishwoman has become
a confirmed, inveterate, and incurable fiction-reader. If a man have
an enemy to whom he would do an abiding injury, let him persuade that
enemy to obtain the six more popular six-shilling novels of the moment,
and read them through. If the man's enemy sticks to his bargain--at
which, however, he will probably shy in the middle of the second
volume--the chances are that he gets up from that reading a broken and
spiritless man. His brain will be as saggy as a sponge full of treacle,
and his vision as unreliable as that of the alcoholist who always saw
two cabs, and invariably got into the one that was not there.

Seriously, however, what is there about this English fiction--or,
for that matter, about Scottish fiction--that men and women should
buy it and devour it to the exclusion of all other literary fare?
It is ill-written, it is not original, it is not like life, it is
not beautiful, it is not inspiring, it does not touch the profound
emotions, it means nothing, and it ends nowhere. The reason of its
popularity is, that it appeals to an indolent habit of mind, and, as a
general rule, is calculated to excite the passions, and particularly to
open up questions which experience has shown to be best left alone. In
nine cases out of ten, where a popular work of fiction is concerned,
it is always possible to put one's finger on the chapter or passages
on which its popularity is based; and in nine cases out of ten that
chapter or those passages have to do with sexual matters. The questions
which arise out of the relation of man and woman are no doubt vitally
important and most interesting; but that they should be discussed in
an unscientific, irresponsible, and catch-penny way by everybody who
can trail a pen is something of a scandal. If an author can succeed in
inventing a sexual situation which could not by any possible chance
exist for a moment in real life, or if he can put a glow and a gloss on
the tritenesses of love and lust, his success as a fictionist is to all
intents and purposes assured. What is sometimes spoken of as wholesome
fiction scarcely exists--anyway, nobody reads it. It is the carefully
constructed book about sex that sells and is read. Such a book need
not be flagrant, as was once thought to be the case; it can be "a work
of art"--a thing of veiled suggestion, delicate, unobjectionable, and
seemingly meet to be read.

One has hesitation in asserting that such books ought not to be written
or ought not to be circulated. It is difficult to justify any attitude
of intolerance in such a matter; yet the fact remains that the maids
and matrons of England, together with the men who have the leisure and
sufficient lack of brains to read fiction, are being stuffed season by
season and year by year with about the most undesirable kind of sexual
philosophy that could well be placed before them. Of any Englishwoman
of the leisured class above the age of sixteen years it may be said,
as was said of the late Professor Jowett in a different sense, "What
I don't know isn't knowledge." And the instructor in all cases is a
fictionist. If a man took his notion of business, or politics, or art,
out of six-shilling novels, he would be set down for a fool. Yet most
Englishwomen get their view of love and the married relation from these
extraordinary works, and it is taken for granted that nobody is a penny
the worse. For my own part, I should incline to the opinion that the
only persons who are a penny, not to say six shillings, the worse, are
the English middle and upper classes as a body.

Much has been said in derision of what the English call the Kailyard
school of fiction--Kailyard fiction being, I need scarcely say, a
brand of fiction written by Scotsmen usually in Scotland, and sold in
the English and the American markets. Everybody of taste and judgment
cheerfully admits that Kailyarders are not persons of genius. For
the delectation of the Southerner they have made a Scotland of their
own, the which, however, is not Scotland. They have made a Scottish
sentiment, a Scottish point of view, a Scottish humour, a Scottish
pathos, and even a Scottish dialect, which may be reckoned quite
doubtful. At the same time, one looks in vain to the Kailyarders for
anything that is worse than slobber--anything really noxious and
dreadful, that is to say. One might read Kailyard for ever and a day
without coming to great moral grief. Indeed, I would point out that,
on the whole, the Kailyard system of ethics partakes somewhat of the
character of the system of ethics which used to be unfolded in the
melodrama of our grandfathers' days. Virtue rewarded, vice punished,
is the moral upshot of it. And in any case, and let it be as bad
and as meretricious and as greatly to be deprecated as one will, we
must always remember that the Kailyard book is a work invented and
manufactured, not for Scotsmen, but for the Anglo-Saxon--the Englishman
and his offshoots.

Some months back a considerable hubbub arose in English literary
circles because M. Jules Verne had been saying to an interviewer,
at Amiens of all places in the world! that the novel as a form of
literary expression was doomed, and would gradually die out of popular
favour. It is safe to say that, in the eyes of sundry critics of
pretty well every nationality, the novel has been doomed any time this
last fifty years. Yet the novel comes up smiling every time. Since it
was reduced in price to six shillings in England it has undoubtedly
deteriorated, not only as a piece of writing, but also in the matter
of ethical intention. So long as it remains the prey of some of its
latter-day exploiters, so long will it continue to deteriorate. So
long as the English mind continues to be feeble and unwholesome, and
to yearn for artificial thrills and undesirable emotions, so long will
English fiction continue to be of its present decadent quality. As the
capitalist says, it is all a question of supply and demand. The great
aim of writers of fiction, or at any rate of ninety-nine per cent. of
them, is to produce an article that will sell. You must turn out what
the public want, and they will assuredly buy it. The knack of hitting
the public taste looks easy to acquire, and the fictionist strives
after it with all his might. Many are called to make fortunes out of
novel-writing: few are chosen. But nobody can examine the work of those
few without perceiving that for weal or woe--principally for woe--they
know their business.

Of course, it goes without saying that a very considerable amount of
fiction is published in England which is just as mild and just as
innocuous as tinned milk. To this puling variety of fiction, however,
the English do not appear to be very greatly drawn. It crops up with
great regularity every publishing season, it is solemnly reviewed in
the critical journals, and it even stands shoulder by shoulder with
stronger meat in the bookshops. But the fact remains that it does
not sell; to see "Second Edition" on it is the rarest occurrence. In
fine, the English will have their fiction spiced, and highly spiced,
or not at all. Mealy mouthed writers, over-reticent, over-blushful,
over-austere writers, they do not want; neither have they any
admiration for a writer who is plagued with a feeling for style, and
who may be reckoned an artist in the collocation of words. Their
much-vaunted Meredith has never had the sale of a Crockett or a Barrie
or a Hocking, or, for that matter, of a J.K. Jerome. The English have
little or no literary taste, little or no literary acumen, and they
expect their fictionists to give them anything and everything save what
is edifying.



CHAPTER XIII

SUBURBANISM


Of old--that is to say, twenty years ago--the great majority of the
English people suffered from a mental and general disability which was
termed "provincialism." If you hailed from Manchester, or Liverpool,
or Birmingham, or Edinburgh, or Glasgow, the kind gentlemen in London
who size people up and put them in their places assured you that you
were a provincial, and that you would have to rub shoulders a great
deal with the world--by which they meant London--before you could
rightly consider yourself qualified to exist. Against the epithet
"provincial," however, not a few persons rebelled, when it was applied
flatly to themselves. Most men of feeling felt hurt when you called
them provincial. In the world of letters and journalism to call a
man provincial was the last and unkindest cut of all, and it usually
settled him, just as to say that he has no sense of humour settles
him to-day. Then up rose Thomas Carlyle and Robert Buchanan and a few
lesser lights, who said, "You call us provincials: provincials we
undoubtedly are, and we glory in the character." This rather baffled,
not to say amazed, the lily-fingered London assessors, and gradually
the term "provincial," as a term of opprobrium, passed out of use.

It is admitted now on all hands that the provincial is a very useful
kind of fellow; and when the metropolis feels itself running short of
talent and energy, the provincial is invariably invited to look in.
Latterly, however, the Londoner and the dweller in English provincial
cities have begun to exhibit a distinctly modern disorder, which may be
called, for want of a better term, "suburbanism." In London, which may
be taken as the type of all English cities, suburbanism is pretty well
rampant. It has its origin in what the Americans would call "location."
A man's daily work lies, say, in the City or in the central quarters of
London. For various reasons--such, for example, as considerations of
health, expenditure, and custom--it is practically impossible for him
to live near his work. He must live somewhere; so he goes to Balham,
or Tooting, or Clapham, or Brondesbury, or Highgate, or Willesden, or
Finchley, or Crouch End, or Hampstead, or some other suburban retreat.
London is ringed round with these residential quarters, these little
towns outside the walls. A visitor to any one of them is at once struck
with its striking and painful similarity to all the others. There is
a railway station belonging to one of the metropolitan lines; there
is a High Street, fronted with lofty and rather gaudy shops; there is
a reasonable sprinkling of churches and chapels; there is a brand-new
red-brick theatre; and the rest is row on row and row on row of villa
residences, each with its dreary palisading and attenuated grass-plot
in front, and its curious annex of kitchen, or scullery, behind. Miles
and miles of these villas exist in every metropolitan suburb worth the
name; and though the rents and sizes of them may vary, they are all
built to one architectural formula, and all pinchbeck, ostentatious,
and unlovely. No person of judgment, nobody possessed of a ray of the
philosophic spirit, can gaze upon them without concluding at once that
the English do not know how to live. Take a street of these villas, big
or little, and what do you find? You note, first, that nearly every
house, be it occupied by clerk, Jew financier, or professional man,
has got a highfalutin name of its own. The County Council or local
authority has already bestowed upon it a number. But this is not enough
for your suburbanist, who must needs appropriate for his house a name
which will look swagger on his letter-paper. Hence No. 2, Sandringham
Road, Tooting, is not No. 2, Sandringham Road, Tooting, at all; but
The Laurels, if you please. No. 4--not to be outdone--is Holmwood;
No. 6 is Hazledene; No. 8, The Pines; No. 10, Sutherland House; and
so forth. Then, again, if you walk down a street and keep your eye on
the front windows of this thoroughfare of mansions, you will note that
every one of those windows has cheap lace curtains to it, and that
immediately behind the centre of the window there is a little table,
upon which loving hands have placed a green high-art vase, containing a
plant of sorts. And right back in the dimness of the parlour there is a
sideboard with a high mirrored back.

If you made acquaintance with half a dozen of the occupiers of these
houses, and were invited into the half dozen front rooms, you would
find in each, in addition to the sideboard before mentioned, a piano
of questionable manufacture, a brass music-stool with a red velvet
cushion, an over-mantel with mirrored panels, a "saddle-bag suite,"
consisting of lady's and gent's and six ordinary chairs and a couch;
a centre-table with a velvet-pile cloth upon it, a bamboo bookcase
containing a Corelli and a Hall Caine or so, together with some
sixpenny Dickenses picked up at drapers' bargain-sales, Nuttall's
_Dictionary_, _Mrs. Beeton's House Book_, a Bible, a Prayer Book,
some hymn-books, a work-basketful of socks waiting to be darned, and
a little pile of music, chiefly pirated. At night, when Spriggs comes
home to The Laurels, he has an apology for late dinner, gets into
his slippers, and retires with Mrs. Spriggs, and perhaps his elder
daughter, into that parlour. There he reads a halfpenny newspaper till
there is nothing left in it to read; then he talks to Mrs. Spriggs
about that beast So-and-so, his employer; and Mrs. Spriggs tells him
not to grumble so much, and asks the elder daughter why she doesn't
play a chune to 'liven us up a bit. "Yes," says Spriggs, "what is the
good of having a piano, and me buying you music every Saturday, if you
never play?" Whereupon the elder daughter rattles through _Dolly Gray_,
_The Honeysuckle and the Bee_, and _Everybody's Loved by Some One_;
and Spriggs beats time with his foot till he grows weary, and thinks we
had better have supper and get off to bed.

This kind of thing is going on right down both sides of Sandringham
Road--at Holmwood, at Hazledene, at The Pines, and at Sutherland House,
as well as at The Laurels--every week-day evening between the hours of
eight and midnight. In point of fact, it is going on all over Tooting.
It is the suburban notion of an 'appy evening at home; and, hallowed as
it is by wont and custom, everybody in Tooting takes it to be the best
that life can offer after business hours. Perhaps it is. Just before
supper, or haply a little afterwards, however, Spriggs says that he
believes he will take a little stroll "round the houses." He puts on
a straw hat in summer and a tweed cap in winter, and proceeds gravely
down the Sandringham Road until he reaches a break in the long array
of villas, and is aware of a rather flaring public-house. Into the
saloon bar of this hostelry he walks staidly, nods to the company,
and asks the barmaid for a drop of the usual. "Let me see," says that
sweet lady; "Johnny Walker, is n't it?" "Well, you know it is," says
Spriggs, as he hands over threepence. With the glass of whisky in his
hand he retires to the nearest red plush settee, and looks listlessly
at the illustrated papers on the little table in front of him, drinks
somewhat slowly, smokes a pipe, exchanges a word about the weather with
the landlord of the establishment, says there's time for another before
closing time, has another, and at twelve-thirty trots off home.

The seven or eight other men in the saloon bar being respectively the
occupiers of Holmwood, Hazledene, The Pines, Sutherland House, etc.,
have done almost exactly as Spriggs has done in the way of drinks and
nods and illustrated papers and having a final at twenty minutes past
twelve. But during the whole evening they have not exchanged a rational
word with one another. They have nothing to talk about; therefore they
have not talked. They are neighbours, and they know it; but they all
hold themselves to be so much superior to one another that they have
scorned to speak to each other, except in the most cursory and casual
way. Next morning, at a few minutes to nine o'clock, they will all be
scooting anxiously along the Sandringham Road with set faces, damp
brows, and a fear at their hearts that they are going to miss their
train. They will travel in packed carriages, half of them standing up,
while the other half growls, to Ludgate Hill or Moorgate Street, as the
case may be, and then rush off again to their respective offices, in
fear and trembling this time lest they should be three minutes late and
the "governor" might notice it.

This is the life of the males in the Sandringham Road year in and
year out. Through living in the same houses, in the midst of the
same furniture, listening to the same pianos, drinking at the same
public-houses, going to business in the same trains, they become as
like one another as peas. They are all anxious, all dull, all short of
sleep, all short of money. In brief, they have become suburbanized.
The monotony and snobbery and listlessness of their home life are
reflected in their conduct of the working-day's affairs. There is not a
man amongst them who has a soul above his job. Each of them sticks at
business, not because he loves it or likes it, but simply because he
knows that, if he were discovered in a remissness, he would get what he
calls "the sack." Each of them "lunches"--oh, this English lunch!--at
the bar of a public-house on a glass of bitter beer and a penny Welsh
rare-bit. Each of them feels a bit chippy and not a little sleepy of
an afternoon, and each of them races for his train in the evening,
chock-full of worry and bad-temper. You must live in the suburbs if you
are to live in London at all, and there is no escape from it.

The lines of the female suburbians are cast in more or less pleasant
places. They do not need to go to town every day. There are shops
galore, filled with just the goods they want, round the corner; and
there is always the next female on both sides to gossip with. For,
unlike the male suburbian, the female suburbian will talk to her
neighbours. Her conversation is of babes, and butchers' meat, and the
piece at the theatre, and the bargains at the stores in the High Road,
and "him." He, or "him," means the good lady's husband. She never by
any chance refers to him either by his Christian name, or his surname,
or as "my husband." It is always, "He said to me this morning," or, "As
I was saying to him before he went to business,"--which, I take it,
is a peculiarly English habit. The female suburbian goes out to tea
sometimes, usually at the house of some suburban relative. Her dress is
a curious blend of ostentation and economy. She will be in the fashion;
and, being an Englishwoman, "expense is no object," providing she can
get the money. She has no notion of thrift; she is perennially in
arrears with the milk and the insurance man; and when money gets very
tight indeed, she lectures her husband on his wicked inability to make
more than he is getting. The whole life, whether for male or female, is
dreary, harried, unrelieved, and destructive of everything that tends
to make life affable and tolerable.

In view of the obvious evils suburbanism has brought about in the
English metropolis, it might have been expected that the English
provincial cities would have done their best to avoid similar troubles
in their own areas. So far from this being the case, however, the craze
for suburbanism is making itself apparent wherever one turns. City
and borough councils lead the way by erecting, at the public expense,
artisans' and clerks' dwellings well out of the town. They hold that
fresh air, the open country, and cheap railway fares are all that is
wanted to make the English citizen's life a perennial joy to him.
Yet the dwellings they erect are of the shoddiest and least homelike
kind, the fresh-air which is to do the worker and the children so
much good is a doubtful quantity, and the cheap railway fares are
bragged about without regard to the time taken up in travelling and the
hurry and anxiety to catch trains. Suburbanism as a stereotyped and
soul-deadening institution is of purely English origin. In no other
country in the world do convention and what other people will say so
rule the lives of men as they do in England. Suburbanism is in many
ways the most obvious of the many products of English convention. It
is at once an indication of brainlessness, want of intelligence, and
incipient decay. Apparently there is to be no limit to it. Outside
London new suburbs spring up almost weekly. But their newness brings no
changes in its train. Each new suburb is mapped out and built exactly
on the lines of the old ones; each is destined for the reception of
exactly the same kind of stupid people; each will be the living-ground
of generations of people still more stupid.



CHAPTER XIV

THE MAN-ABOUT-TOWN


The English man-about-town--and I am not acquainted with any other
sort--is, to put it mildly, a devil of a fellow. Who he may be, how
he gets a living, whether he gets a living, how and why he became a
man-about-town, and whether, after all, he is really a man-about-town,
are matters which are wrapt in mystery. Everybody knows him, yet nobody
knows much about him. You meet him everywhere, yet nobody can tell
you how he gets there. His acquaintance is astonishing, ranging from
dustmen to dukes, as it were; he cuts nobody, though he is intimate
with nobody; he is familiar with his world and all that it expects of
him; and he plays the game skilfully, correctly, and as a gentleman
should. There are droves of him in London; probably no other city in
the world could, with comfort, accommodate so many of him. He lives
in the sun; he is the joy and pride of the restaurateurs' and the
café-keepers' hearts; no billiard-room is complete without him; he
shines at bars of onyx; music-halls and theatres could not get on
without him; and, on the whole, it is his useful and pleasing function
to keep the West End of London and its offshoots going. What the West
End of London means to the man-about-town is a large question. It means
clubs in the morning, with a tailor, a hatter, a bookmaker or two,
thrown in; it means expensive lunches, lazy, somnolent afternoons, big
dinners, hard drinking, cards, night clubs, and a day that ends at
three o'clock in the morning. Nobody but an Englishman could stand the
racket; nobody but an Englishman could find satisfaction in so doing.

The man-about-town is the last expression of an unhealthy plutocracy;
he is the child of means, the son of his father, the pampered darling
of his mother; and he has never understood that life was anything more
than a frivolous holiday. Whether he has money or happens to have spent
it all, he sets the standard of expenditure for everybody who would be
considered in the movement. He also sets the fashion in hats, coats,
trousers, fancy waistcoats, shoes, walking-sticks, and scarf-pins for
Englishmen at large. It never occurs to him that he does this, but he
does it. He it is, too, who is the prime supporter and patron of the
manly English sports, horse-racing, glove-fighting, coaching, moting,
polo, shooting, fishing, yachting, and so forth. In these exercises he
finds great delight. When he is not busy dining and wining and painting
the town red, sport is the mainstay of his existence.

He is usually young till he reaches the age of thirty, when he begins
to decline rapidly. But the older he gets the younger he gets. Although
he may lose his hair, and be compelled to have resort to false teeth
and elastic stockings, his spirits are invariably of the cheerfullest,
his laugh is boisterous, his interest in life acute, and he continues
to be passionately fond of food and drink. It is not till his locks
become hoar, his purse well-nigh empty, and the number of his years
well over threescore-and-ten that he begins to droop. Englishmen will
point him out to you in cafés, and say with hushed voices, "You see
that man,--the one with the frowsy beard and his hat atilt--well, he
spent a hundred and fifty thousand twice! A hundred and fifty thousand,
my boy! What did he do with it? Oh, well, what do people do with money?
There's a man, sir, that's seen life: used to have a house in Berkeley
Square; has owned three Derby winners; built the Thingamybob Theatre
for Miss Jumpabouty; knows everybody; has hobnobbed with the King when
he was Prince of Wales; used to be hand-in-glove with the Duke of ----
and that crowd; and now, damme! he hasn't a pennypiece."

All this with the air of a person who is showing you something worth
seeing. It is the English fatuity, first of all, to admire the man who
is possessed of wealth; secondly, to admire a man who is throwing his
money away; and, thirdly, to look with respectful awe upon the man who
has thrown it away. It warms the English heart and fires the English
imagination to see the son of a recently deceased provision-dealer
playing the prince at the best hotels, plunging at Ascot and Monte
Carlo, buying up the stalls at the Frivolity at the behest of Lottie
Flutterfast, and generally flinging to the winds the hard-earned and,
to a great extent, ill-gotten estate of his late lamented parent.
By all the best people--by all the best English people, that is to
say--such a youth is received and made welcome, if not exactly taken to
the bosom. Englishmen ask him to dinner simply because he has money.
They are aware that his courses will not bear examination, that his
tastes are gross, that his intellect is none of the brightest. He has
nothing to say for himself; he is neither entertaining, nor amusing,
nor instructive. The Englishman has no ulterior designs upon him; he
does not hope to get him into this or that financial swim, neither does
he desire to marry his daughter to him; he simply feels that it is well
to be friendly with money and the man-about-town.

Even a bankrupt or "broke" man-about-town is better to the Englishman
than none at all. With such a person he will foregather and be pleasant
in the sight of all men. "Old So-and-so," he says, "is a dear old
sort. He is broke, of course, and sometimes he rather worries one
for sovereigns. But I have never deserted a pal in adversity in my
life, and I am not going to begin with Old So-and-so." Thus your good
snob Englishman would lead you to believe that he was on terms of
intimacy and affection with Old So-and-so in Old So-and-so's palmy
money-squandering days. Whereas, in point of fact, he never clapped
eyes on the man till he had spent his last farthing.

It is all very English, and to a mere Scot a trifle astonishing. The
Scot, if I know him at all, takes no joys of spendthrifts, however
prettily dressed, and, least of all, can he be brought to court the
society of a man who has reduced himself to beggary by extravagance and
riot. The bare gift of prodigality and the bare reputation of having
been wealthy are nothing to the Scot. If he wants men to admire, he
can find men of solider quality. The Englishman, on the other hand,
has no great love for either solidity or worth; the first makes him
envious; the second bores him. Though he may himself be a person of
judgment and sober life, he likes to have about him men who are going
or who have gone the whole hog, and who pursue their pleasures without
restraint, remorse, or fear. Hence the man-about-town will always
figure interestingly in English society. There is romance about him. He
has been foolish, and perhaps even wicked; but he belongs to the select
coterie of people who, when all is said, make the gay world go round.



CHAPTER XV

DRINK


Mr. Crosland has very kindly suggested that "under the inspiring
tutelage of the national bard Scotland has become one of the drunkenest
nations in the world." I shall not retaliate as one might do, but shall
content myself by referring the reader to the easily accessible tables
of statistics, which render it quite plain that Scotland's drunkenness
is very considerably exceeded by the drunkenness of England.

In London, at any rate, strong drink flows like a river. There are 5300
licensed houses in the metropolitan area alone. In Kilburn, a suburb
of more or less irreproachable respectability, there are twenty-five
churches and chapels and thirty-five public-houses. During late
years public-house property has begun to be looked upon in the light
of a gilt-edged investment. Turn where one will, one finds the older
inns are being swept away, while on their sites are erected flaring
gin-palaces, with plate-glass fronts, elaborate mahogany fitments,
gorgeous saloon and private bars, painted ceilings, inlaid floors, and
electric light throughout. Behind the bar, instead of mine host of a
former day and his wife and daughter, there are half a dozen perked-up
barmaids with rouged cheeks and Rossetti hair, and a person called
the manager, who for £2 a week runs the place for its proprietors--a
Limited Company, which owns, perhaps, twenty or thirty other houses.
In the conduct of these mammoth drinking-places three great points are
kept in view: namely, that a quick-drinking, stand-up trade pays better
than any amount of slow regular custom; that the English drinker of
the lower class cannot tell the difference between good drink and bad,
often preferring, indeed, the bad to the good; and that, as bad liquor
is cheaper than good, the sound commercial thing to do is to supply bad
liquor.

With these admirable axioms continually before it, the English trade
has prospered amazingly. More drink and worse drink is sold in England
to-day than has ever been sold in England before. Through legislation
intended to ensure sound liquor and the proper conduct of licensed
houses the proprietors have consistently made a point of driving the
usual brewer's dray. "In order to meet the Food and Drugs Adulteration
Act, all spirits sold at this establishment, while of the same
excellent quality as heretofore, are diluted according to strength."
"The same excellent quality as heretofore" is choice, and so is
"diluted according to strength." As for the beer, we dilute also the
beer according to strength. When we are caught at it, it is a mistake
on the part of the cellarman, who has been discharged; and the fine is
so small in proportion to the profit on selling water, that we smile at
the back of our necks and keep on diluting according to strength. Our
whole system, in fact, is designed to make people drink, and to make
them drink the worst that we dare put before them.

Now, the Scot, drunkard or no drunkard, does have something of a taste
in liquor. The best clarets have gone to Scotland (in spite of Mr.
Crosland) since claret became a dinner wine. You cannot put off a Scot
with either bad whisky or bad beer. He knows what whisky should be and
what beer should be, and in Scotland, at any rate, he never has any
difficulty in getting them. But the English, taking them in the mass,
are quite the other way. Any sort of wine, provided it be properly
fortified and sophisticated, passes with them for the real thing.
Their Scotch whisky is about the most wholesome thing they drink; but
large quantities of this are bought by English merchants in a crude
state, and rammed down the public throat without a thought to maturing,
blending, and otherwise rendering the spirit potable. English beer, we
have been told in song and story, is the finest beer in the world. Yet
nobody can visit an English brewery without discovering that English
beer is not English beer at all. Glucose in the place of malt, quassia
and gentian in the place of hops, finings in the place of storage, are
the universal order; and so depraved and perverted has the fine old
English taste in beer become that brewers who have set up to provide an
honest article and sent it out to their customers have had it returned
with the curt comment that "nobody would drink such hog-wash, and what
the customers wanted was beer, and not brewer's apron." Every now and
again scares crop up in consequence of the use of improper ingredients;
there is an inquiry, a Royal Commission, and the Englishman still
goes on stolidly drinking. Arsenic will not drive him away from his
favourite tipple, neither will _cocculus indicus_ or any of the round
dozen abominations upon which the brewer's chemist takes his stand.

If there is one thing more than another that is considered the chief
necessity of life in the English household of the poorer class, it is
beer, and its sister beverage, porter. From morning till night the
can is continually going between the house of the artisan and the
neighbouring "public." The first thing in the morning the artisan
himself must have a couple of goes of rum and milk; by eleven o'clock
he is ready for a pint of four-half; at noon, when he knocks off for
dinner, he will imbibe a quart or more of the same beverage; and at
night, after work, he sits in the taproom till closing-time, and drinks
as much as ever he can pay for or chalk up. Meanwhile, his wife must
have her drop of porter in the morning, her drop of bitter to dinner,
and her drop of something hot before going to bed. Also on Saturday
afternoons, when the twain go marketing together, they must have a few
drinks, just to show there is no ill-feeling; while on Saturday night
the artisan not infrequently improves the shining hours by "getting
blind," to use his own elegant phrase. Thus it quite commonly happens
that a third and even a half of the total income of a household of the
artisan class is spent in alcohol. Thrift, provision for a rainy day
and for old age, become an impossibility. Underfeeding usually walks
hand in hand with overdrinking; the man loses his nerve, the woman her
comeliness and her capacity; and the end is pauperism and a pauper's
grave, if nothing worse.

Among the English middle and upper classes there is distinctly a
greater tendency to moderation than among the lower classes. For all
that, the middle classes especially can point to a great many brilliant
examples of the fine art of soaking. Publicans, betting-men, commercial
travellers, proprietors of businesses, solicitors' clerks, journalists,
and the like get through an amount of drinking in the course of a day
which would probably appal even themselves if they kept an account
of it. "Let's 'ave a drink," is invariably one of the first phrases
dropped when two Englishmen meet. "We'll 'ave another" is sure to
follow; and so is, "'Ang it, man! we _must_ have a final." Among the
middle classes, too, as also among the upper classes, there is a very
great deal of secret drinking, particularly among women and persons
whose professional or official positions necessitate the maintenance
of an appearance of extreme respectability. The grocer's license and
his fine stock of carefully selected wines and spirits offer a ready
means of supply to the female dipsomaniac, who would not be seen in
a public-house for worlds; besides, gin can be charged as tea in a
grocery account, and many a bottle of brandy has figured in such
accounts under the innocent pseudonym of "rolled ox-tongue."

Though the English upper classes, as I have said, drink with a certain
moderation, their moderation really embraces a quantity of liquor which
would send the artisan quite off his head. Whiskies-and-sodas at noon,
Burgundy at lunch, with cognac to one's coffee, three kinds of wine at
dinner, followed by liqueurs and whisky, make no appreciable mark on a
man who is living at his ease and can sleep as long as he likes; but
the sum total of alcohol is quite considerable, and probably greater
than that consumed by the "drunken sot" for whom my lord has such
contempt.

Of English drinking, generally, one may remark that it is done in a
very deliberate and unsociable way. The English cannot be said to drink
for company's sake. They do not foregather and carry on their drinking
merrily. In their cups they are neither witty nor happy, but just dull
and dour and inclined to be quarrelsome. They drink for drinking's
sake,--for the sake of intoxication, and to drown trouble. I wish them
good luck and less of their vile concoctions!



CHAPTER XVI

FOOD


The subject of diet--he prefers to call it diet--is apparently one of
unlimited interest to the Englishman. Meet him where you will, he is
ever ready to discuss, first, the weather, and then the things--that
is to say, the kinds of food--that agree with him. Indeed, you could
almost stake your life on extracting from any strange Englishman you
happen to come across some such statement as, "I can't abide eggs,"
or, "Veal always makes me bilious," within ten minutes of opening
up a conversation with him. The Englishman's house, we are told, is
his castle; and the Englishman's hobby, surely, is his digestion. In
point of fact, ninety-nine per cent. of adolescent and adult English
people suffer from chronic indigestion in a more or less severe form.
Flatulence, heartburn, colic, and "liver" are the Englishman's mortal
heritage. He is invariably troubled with some of them, and quite
commonly with all. If you relieved him of them he would scarcely thank
you, because he has nursed them from his youth up, and what he really
wants is amelioration, and not cure. Probably this is the reason why in
the midst of his wails and his unholy talk about diet he continues to
feed in precisely the grossest, greasiest, and least rational manner
that generations of bad feeders have been able to develop.

Of mornings, if you sojourn with an English family, you will be invited
to breakfast at half-past eight. Promptly at that hour they serve a
sort of sickly oatmeal soup, compounded apparently of milk and sugar,
which they call porridge. Then follow thick and piping-hot coffee with
'am and eggs, fish, or a chop, and bread and butter and marmalade as
a sort of wind-up. The man who tackles this menu goes to business
belching like a torn balloon. By eleven o'clock, however, he is ready
for a little snack--oysters and chablis, prawns on toast, a mouthful
of bread and cheese and a bottle of Bass, or something of that kind.
Then at half-past one there is lunch, practically a dinner of several
courses, or a cut from the joint, accompanied by what the English
euphoniously term "two veg." At tea-time your Englishman must needs
lave himself in a dish of Orange-Pekoe or Bohea, to the accompaniment
of lumps of cake. And at long and last comes dinner, the crowning
guzzle of the Englishman's day, and a function usually spread over a
couple of hours. It will be perceived that this gustatory programme or
routine has been copied from the French. The French put away two good
meals per diem, one at noon and the other in the evening, and there
is no reason why the English should not do the same. When you come to
think of it, dinner in the middle of the day is a low, under-bred,
undistinguished arrangement; also not to dine at night is to run the
risk of not losing one's figure, and of having the neighbours say that
one cannot afford it.

The French programme would be all very well if it were carried out
on French lines all through. But it is not. When you say "soup" in a
French restaurant, it means that you will be served with half a dozen
table-spoonfuls of _consommé_, or _petite marmite_, or _bisque_, as the
case may be. When the Englishman says "soup," he means enough thick
stock to wash a bus down. What is more, he gets it and swallows it. And
it is so all down the menu--too much of everything, and don't you think
you can put me off with your blooming homoeopathic portions. A liberal
table, no stint, good food, and plenty of it, is one of the bulwarks of
English respectability. That bad digestion and talks about diet follow
is nobody's fault.

This profusion--this overfood, as it were--has been brought to its
noblest expression by the English aristocracy, whose tables literally
groan with costly viands, whose spits are always turning, and whose
scullions and kitchen wenches are as an army. It is related that when
a certain duke found it necessary to retrench, and was advised by his
family solicitor to get rid of his fifth, sixth, and seventh cooks,
his grace remarked, "But ----, So-and-so, a man must have a biscuit!"
And the English middle class of course faithfully imitates to the best
of its powers the English upper class, and so on through the grades.
Among all classes there is a rooted prejudice against food that happens
to be cheap. To this day people who eat escallops are rather looked
down upon, for no other reason than that oysters run you into half a
crown a dozen, while you can get excellent escallops at ninepence. So
the herring, the whiting, and other kinds of cheap fish are considered
little better than offal by persons who can afford to pay for sole
and salmon. Turtle soup is infinitely to be preferred to any other
soup in the world because it is dearer, and champagne is drunk, not
because people like it, but because it looks swagger and testifies to
the possession of means. These gustatory idiosyncrasies are purely
English, and obviously they are the offspring of the English love of
display and superfluity.

Among the lower classes the general feeding, though cheaper, is just
as wasteful and just as gross. Excluding bread, it consists chiefly
of inferior cuts of butcher's meat with _charcuterie_ and dried fish
thrown in. It has been complained against the Scot that he is none
too clean a feeder, delighting hugely in inferior meats. Haggis is
held forth as a great exemplar in point. But it cannot be denied that
throughout England the one kind of emporium for the sale of comestibles
which flourishes and is unfailingly popular is the pork or ham-and-beef
shop. And here what do you obtain? Why, exactly the meats which
gentlemen of the type of Mr. Henley describe as offal. They include, in
addition to pork in and out of season, pig's feet, pig's heads, pig's
liver and kidneys, pig's blood sausages, the "savoury duck" or mess of
seasoned remnants, tripe boiled and raw, and chitterlings. So that
the haggis of Scotland is fairly well balanced. I am not suggesting
for a moment that the English display other than a proper judgment in
devouring these dainties. But if they will favour the pork shop and its
contents, they can scarcely expect to be set down for an angel-bread
and manna-eating people.

Perhaps the chief scandal about English feeding lies in the condition
of the English hotels. On the Continent an hotel is an establishment
for the accommodation of travellers requiring food and rest. In England
an hotel is an establishment for the accommodation of landlords and
waiters. "High class cuisine," says the tariff card, also "wines and
spirits of the best selected quality." Yet one's experience tells one
that, though the bill will be heavy, neither the cuisine nor the wines
will be more than passable, much less high class. A menu which is the
same yesterday, to-day, and for ever, bad cooking, careless service,
and a general lack of finish, are the things one may expect at an
English hotel with the tolerable certainty of not being disappointed.
To complain is to draw forth the ill-disguised contempt of bibulous
head-waiters and the stiff apologies of haughty proprietors. But
beyond that mortal man will never get, because the English hotel is an
immemorial and conservative institution, and as wise in its own conceit
as the ancient sphinx. Of late and in London attempts have been made to
organise hotels adapted to the best kind of requirement. So far as I am
aware, only two of them have really succeeded, and the charges at both
places are quite prohibitive.

Closely identified, one might almost say affiliated, to the English
hotel is the English railway-buffet, of which so much has been said
in song and story. The sheer horribleness of the "refreshments" here
provided has passed into a proverb. The English themselves admit that
if you wish to know the worst about refreshments, you should drink
the railway-buffet tea and partake of the railway-buffet sandwich.
They also admit that for abominations in the way of aërated waters,
milk, beer, and whisky, pastry, cakes, hard-boiled eggs, cold meats,
boiled chicken and ham, and chops and steaks from the grill, the
railway-buffet takes the palm; and they admit further that the Hebes
who dispense these comestibles to the hungry and howling mob have the
manners of duchesses. Yet the English without their railway-buffets
would be an utterly woebegone and miserable people. Put an Englishman
down at a strange railway-station with a half-hour wait before him.
He has but one resort: he inquires right off for the buffet, and
there he gorges and swizzles till the warning bell advises him of the
departure of his train. If there is no buffet, he becomes a dejected,
pallid man, and threatens to write to the newspapers. So long as the
railway-buffets continue to exist, the English digestion can never
aspire to perfection, even though English feeding and cooking outside
railway-stations became ideal; for a single "meal" of railway-buffet
viands would permanently disorganise the digestive capabilities of the
most ostrichy ostrich that ever walked on two legs.



CHAPTER XVII

LAW AND ORDER


The English love to be ruled, just as eels are said to take delight
in being skinned. They hold that a nation which is properly ruled
cannot fail of happiness. Their notion of rule may be summed up in the
phrase, "Law and order." The Englishman believes that law and order are
heaven-sent blessings especially invented for his behoof. "Where else
in the world," he will ask you grandiloquently, "do you get such law
and such order as you get in England--the land of the free?" If anybody
picks his pocket, or encroaches upon his land, or infringes his patent
rights, or diverts his water-courses, the Englishman knows exactly
what to do. There is the law. They keep it on tap in great buildings
called courts, and persons in wigs serve out to you precisely what you
may deserve with great gusto and solemnity. The man picked your pocket,
did he? Three months' imprisonment for the man. Somebody is making
colourable imitations of your patent dolls' eyes. Well, you can apply
for an injunction. And so on.

This is law. All Englishmen believe in it, particularly those who have
never had any. When it comes to the worst, and the Englishman finds
that he really must take on a little of his own beautiful specific, he
usually begins by falling into something of a flutter. Those bewigged
and sedate persons seated in great chairs, with bouquets in front of
them and policemen to bawl "Silence!" for them, begin to have a new
meaning for the Englishman. Hitherto he has regarded them complacently
as the bodily representatives of the law in a free country. He has
smacked his lips over them, rejoiced in their learning, wit, and
acumen, warmed at the notion of their dignity, and thanked God that
he belonged to a free people--free England. Now, when it comes to
a trifling personal encounter before this mountain of dignity--this
mountain of dignity perched on a mountain of precedent, as it were--the
Englishman shivers and looks pale. But his solicitor and his counsel
and his counsel's clerk--particularly his counsel's clerk--soon put him
at his ease, and instead of withdrawing at the feel of the bath, he is
fain to plump right in. Whether he comes out on top or gets beaten is
another matter; in any case, the trouble about the thing is that, win
or lose, it is infinitely and appallingly costly. Law, the Englishman's
birthright, is not to be given away. If you want any, you must pay for
it, and pay for it handsomely, too. Otherwise you can go without. The
English adage to the effect that there is one law for the rich and
another for the poor is one of those adages which are very subtly true.
There is a law for the rich, certainly. There is also a law for the
poor--namely, no law at all. On the whole the Englishman who has not
had his pristine dream of English law shattered by contact with the
realities is to envied. All other Englishmen, whether their experience
has lain in County Courts, High Courts, or Courts of Appeal, talk
lovingly of English law with their tongues in their cheeks.

With respect to order, the much bepraised handmaiden of law, I do not
think that the English get half so much of her as they think they
do. She costs them a pretty penny. The up-keep of her police and
magistrates and general myrmidons runs the Englishman into some noble
taxation; yet where shall you find an English community that is orderly
if even an infinitesimal section of it has made up its mind to be
otherwise? In London at the present moment there are whole districts
which it is not safe for a decently dressed person to traverse
even in broad daylight; and these districts are not by any means
slum districts, but parts of the metropolis in which lie important
arteries of traffic. There is not a square mile of the metropolitan
area which does not boast its organised gang of daylight robbers,
purse-snatchers, watch-snatchers, and bullies who would beat a man
insensible for fourpence, and whose great weapon is the belt.

For convenience' sake these people have been grouped together under
the term "Hooligan." The police--the far-famed London police--can
do nothing with them. They admit that they are ineradicable and
irrepressible. The magistrates and the newspapers keep on asseverating
that "something must be done." That something apparently consists
in the capture of a stray specimen of the tribe, who is forthwith
given three months, with perhaps a little whipping thrown in. But
hooliganism is a business that continues to flourish like the green
bay-tree, and London is no safer to-day than it was in the time of
the garotters. As the belt is the weapon of the London robber, and as
Hooligan is his name, so we find in all the larger provincial towns
gangs of scoundrels with special instruments and slang names of their
own. In Lancashire and the Black Country kicking appears to be the
favourite method of dealing with the order-loving citizen. In some of
the northern towns the knuckle-duster, the sand-bag, and the loaded
stick are requisitioned; and in all cases we are told the police are
powerless. The fact is, that, on the whole, England cannot be reckoned
an orderly country. The "hooligans" and their provincial imitators are
just straws that show the way of the wind. When these persons say: "We
will do such and such things in contravention of the law," there is
practically nothing to stop them. In the same way, when a community
determines to run amuck on an occasion of "national rejoicing" (such
as the late Mafeking night), or because a strike is in progress, or a
charity dinner has been badly served, or the vaccination laws are being
enforced, it does so at its own sweet will, and order can be hanged.
Once a week, too,--namely, on Saturday nights,--English order, like
the free list at the theatres, is entirely suspended. Saturday night
is the recognised and inviolable hour of the mob. Throughout the
country your flaring English gin-palaces are at their flaringest; the
beer-pumps sing together with a myriad voices, and the clink of glasses
takes the evening air with beauty. Until, perhaps, eight o'clock all
goes well; then the quarrelsomeness which the English masses extract
from their cups begins to assert itself, and the chuckers-out (in what
other country in the world are there chuckers-out?) and the police
begin to be busy. Till long after midnight their hands are full, and
it is not until the Sabbath is a couple of hours old that the English
masses seek their rest. In the meantime what squalid indiscretions,
what sins against humanity, what outrages, have not been committed? The
bare consumption of drink alone has been appalling; the bickerings,
angry shoutings, indulgences in pugilism and hair-pulling, have been
infinite; and on Monday morning the police-courts will have their usual
plethora of drunks and disorderlies, wife-beatings and assaults on the
police, with, perhaps, a case or two of manslaughter and a murder to
put the crown on things.

In the main, therefore, law and order may be counted among John Bull's
many illusions. They are, as one might say, sweet to meditate upon;
they look all right on paper, and they sound all right in the mouths
of orators. For the rest the Englishman who is wise smiles and keeps a
folded tale. One may note, before leaving this entertaining subject,
that in England lawyers and laymen alike take a special pride in
admitting a certain ignorance. At the bare mention of Scots law they
lift up pious hands and impious eyes and say, "Thank Heaven, we know
nothing about it!"



CHAPTER XVIII

EDUCATION


Lord Rosebery, whom the worthy Mr. Crosland dislikes on purely racial
grounds, is usually credited as the originator of what has latterly
become the Englishman's watchword, "Educate, educate, educate!"
Whether it was the Scotch half of Lord Rosebery or the English half
that prompted him to this simple human cry, I shall not pretend to
say. On the other hand, it is certain that when his Lordship offered
the English such a profound piece of advice, he gave them exactly
the counsel that they most needed; for, though the English boast of
their knowledge, though they are the arrogant possessors of seats of
learning out of which can come nothing but perfection, though they
possess ancient universities and ancient public schools, though they
have a school-board system and free education, and though their country
is overrun with middle-sized men who play billiards and drink bitter
beer and call themselves schoolmasters, they are indubitably and
unmistakably an uneducated people.

Until the passing of the Elementary Education Act of 1870, learning
in England amounted practically to a luxury. Only the rich might be
permitted to know things. It was a case of schools, colleges, and
universities for the sons of noblemen and gentlemen. The rascally lower
classes might look after themselves. It is open to question whether the
rascally lower classes were not, on the whole, educationally better
off in that day than they are at present. That, however, is by the
way. But in the later sixties the reformer got his eagle eye on the
rascally lower classes. He perceived that the rascally lower classes
were in bad case. They got drunk, they used foul language, they smoked
short pipes, and, Heaven help them! they could not read. Anticipating
the English or Scotch half of Lord Rosebery, as the case may be, the
reformer said, "Educate, educate, educate!" And it was so. The English
have been educating ever since. They educated to such purpose that
thirty years later Lord Rosebery felt it incumbent upon himself to bid
them educate, educate, educate! In those thirty years the rascally
lower classes learned somewhat. They were supposed to discover, _inter
alia_, that knowledge was power. They were told that a hodman who could
write his name was a better hodman than the hodman whose sign-manual
was a cross. They were led shrewdly to infer that their pastors and
masters and general betters owed their supremacy to knowledge; and
that if they, the rascally lower classes, would only instruct their
children, these same children might wax great in the land and carry
burdens no more. The rascally lower classes sent their children to
school, some of them cheerfully, some of them with groans; and the
stars began to shine over England's darkness.

What has come to pass all men know. Every Englishman gets the
smatterings of a literary education, and believes in his heart that
he was cut out by the Almighty to be a clerk. The honest trades and
handicrafts are no longer desirable in the minds of English youth. To
take one's coat off with a view to livelihood is a business for dolts
and fools. Advertise in England for an office-boy and you shall receive
five hundred applications; advertise for a boy to learn plumbing, and
you will be offered, perhaps, two daft-looking lads, who after much
thrashing have managed to attain the age of fourteen years.

The fact is, that the English do not know what education means. At
the public schools, and at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge,
education has become, to a great extent, a social matter. You go to
these places to learn, certainly; but you also go with a view to the
formation of a desirable and influential acquaintance, and to get
upon your forehead the mark which is supposed to make glorious the
public-school and university-bred Englishman. As a general rule, that
mark is altogether imperceptible to the eyes of the unelect, who, if
the truth must be told, discover the university man not so much by
his manners or conversation as by his ineptitudes. When one comes to
consider the principles upon which the public-school and university
system are worked, one is quite prepared to admit that, were it not for
the element of snobbery patent in the system, English public schools
and universities alike would in the long run have to be disestablished.
As it is, they are the conventional resort of aristocratic adolescence,
and permitted to exist only on condition that, if a low middle-class
person can find the money and keep up the style, he, too, may join the
angelic host. To the man of temperament, to the scholar, to the man
who loves learning for learning's sake, the English universities have
precious little to offer.

After Oxford and Cambridge, one turns to London and the non-resident
foundations, all of them, I believe, modern. Here, as it seems to
me, the English err again. Broadly speaking, these institutions,
wittingly or unwittingly, devote their energies to the preparation of
young men for the Civil Service. If you are an English board-school
teacher at £80 a year and you discover that a second-class clerk in
the Circumlocution Department commences at £300 a year, and that,
roughly, the examination to be passed is the same as for matriculation
at London, you naturally go in bald-headed for matriculation at
London. For the learning you get by these efforts you have not the
smallest respect. If, on presenting yourself for examination by the
Civil Service Commissioners, you come out sufficiently high on the
list to secure an appointment, well and good. If not, your labour
has been wasted. It is this spirit which is at the bottom of the
English ignorance. With them, learning, education, is a means to an
end, and not in the least its own exceeding great reward. Hence a
properly educated Englishman is almost as rare as a blue rose. For the
masses--the rascally lower orders, that is to say--there are the board
schools. Here for thirty years past has been enacted about the sweetest
travesty of education that the mind of man could conceive. For the
teaching of the children of the rascally lower orders, the wise English
Government, with the assistance of the wise English school boards, has
invented what is to all intents and purposes a new type of man. And
his name shall be called Schoolmaster. He began Heaven knows how. But
if you inquire into him, you will find that he has spent three years
at a Government training college, and that prior to this experience
he was for some years a pupil teacher; also that he is a son of the
people, and that his father drove an engine or kept a shop. In these
latter circumstances he was, perhaps, fortunate. The marvellous fact
about him is that, in spite of his years of pupil-teachership and of
his three years at a Government training college, he is not a man of
either learning or culture. I am told that an English pupil teacher is
not expected to fash himself by the study of either Latin or Greek. Two
books of Euclid will see him through the stiffest of his examinations.
He does not need to have even a nodding acquaintance with modern
languages; and as for science, if he really wants some, he must pick it
up at evening classes. Even when he passes into the Government training
college,--where, by the way, he is instructed and boarded and lodged
gratis,--his studies do not become in any way profound. The history of
England, the geography of the world, arithmetic according to Barnard
Smith, algebra according to Dr. Todhunter, Latin and Greek according
to Dr. William Smith (Part I.), with a little French,--a very little
French,--bring him to the end of his tether.

Really, the whole business is childish. Any youth of average capacity
should get through the entire three years' course in six weeks. Of
course, there is the so-called technical training to reckon with;
that is to say, a man at one of these colleges is supposed to spend
a great deal of his time, and no doubt does, in perfecting himself
as a teacher; but one would have thought that actual practice in an
ordinary school would be the best instructor in this respect. In
any case, nobody can consider closely the English schoolmaster as
manufactured at Government training colleges without perceiving that
the Government turns out a very remarkable article indeed. I have no
desire to belittle a hard-worked, and probably underpaid, body of
public servants. Their profession is a thankless one. I do not think
for a moment a single man of them went into it with his eyes open,
and I know for a certainty that the school boards and the Government
between them have so hedged it round with petty annoyances that a
man possessed of feeling must loathe it. It is probably this feeling
of loathing of his work that keeps the English schoolmaster down. He
knows that it is vain for him to go a hair's-breadth out of the beaten
tracks. The school boards must have grants; the Government inspectors
must be satisfied. There is only one method of ensuring these desirable
consummations: that one way amounts to sheer mechanism and slog. The
English schoolmaster must have no temperament. If he possess such a
thing, he is bound to come to great grief. Hence the whole weight of
the English system is, from first to last, employed in the work of
knocking temperament out of him and keeping it out. His three years'
free training particularly tend to make a slack, unthinking sap-head
of him. He gets a parchment which entitles him to call himself a
certificated teacher, and he is taught to imagine that for downright
learning there is nothing like himself under the sun. In this latter
surmise he is quite right. The schoolmaster in England, though he will
probably be another quarter of a century waking up to the fact, counts
for next to nothing. Men of parts avoid him; men of no parts laugh at
him. For himself, I imagine, he will long continue to believe in his
heart that he is a great man, a little lower, perhaps, than a parson,
but certainly a little higher than a policeman.

The real value of English education, like the real value of most other
things, becomes apparent when it is put to the test of practical
affairs. Any employer of labour will tell you that, whether an English
boy come to him from a board school or a school of a higher grade,
whether he be the son of a ploughman or of what the English call a
professional man, he is always and inevitably a good deal of a fool.
You have to teach him how to lick stamps. You have to teach him that,
excepting in so far as he can write and read, what he has learned at
school is not wanted; you have to teach him how many beans make five;
you have to teach him that punctuality and accuracy are worth more in
business than all the botany he ever learned; and all the time you
have to watch him like a cat watching a mouse. "Fire out the fools!"
once exclaimed Dr. Robertson Nicoll. I do not think it is too much to
say that, if the average English employer took the hint, he would have
nobody left to do his business for him.



CHAPTER XIX

RECREATION


To amuse oneself is the great art of life. From the English
point of view, the finest kind of amusement is to be obtained by
killing something. Fox-hunting, deer-stalking, grouse-shooting,
pheasant-shooting, pigeon-shooting, and even rabbit-shooting still
stand for a great deal among the best class of Englishmen. Of old, the
masses had their bull-baitings, dog-fights, and cock-fights. These,
however, are no longer regarded as legitimate forms of amusement,
and the masses, being for various reasons unable to hunt foxes and
shoot pheasants, have to fall back on recreations in which killing
takes place only by accident. There is the race-course and the
football-field. The masses are expected to consider themselves happy.
Outside racing and football, however, the come-day, go-day Englishman
has a good many facilities for recreation. Although in most communities
the grandfatherly authorities have abolished the old feasts and fairs,
which provided periodic saturnalia of merry-go-rounds and wild-beast
shows, it is a poor townlet which cannot nowadays boast its permanent
settlement of cocoanut-shies and shooting-galleries, where on Saturday
evenings the true-born Englishman may find substantial joys. Then, for
the Londoner, in addition to this kind of thing, there are from time to
time provided vast orgies at Hampstead Heath, the Welsh Harp, Barnet
Fair, and other choice resorts. Here, again, it is a case of cocoanuts,
shooting-galleries, swing-boats, steam-roundabouts, and aërial flights,
backed up with donkey-rides, a free use of the tickler and the ladies'
teaser, unlimited confetti throwing, and unlimited beer. These
amusements, of course, are on the face of them quite innocent, and
equally English and unintellectual.

Failing merry-go-rounds and cocoanut-shies, the delights of which are
apt to pall, the English masses have still left to them their main
redoubt of rational enjoyment, which, for reasons no man may skill,
is called the music-hall. The English music-hall is practically an
expansion or efflorescence of the old-fashioned "sing-song." Sixty
years ago the man who went out to take a stoup of ale at his inn was
accustomed to be regaled with a little music free of charge. Mine
host had possessed himself of a second-hand piano, and secured the
services of some broken-down musician to play it for him. There was
a great singing of old songs, and the time sped merrily, as it did
in the golden age. These feasts of harmony brought custom, and in
course of time the evening "sing-songs" at certain hostelries became
organised institutions and were run on lines of great enterprise, the
piano being supplemented by an orchestra, and the pianist by a number
of professional singers and entertainers. Within the last fifty years
the "sing-song" has been separated from its parent the alehouse, and
has developed into the music-hall. To-day the English music-halls
are almost as thick on the ground as churches and chapels. In the
metropolis you would have a difficulty to count them. In the provinces
every town of size supports two or three halls, and insists on London
talent and London style. The class of entertainment provided may be
costly and amusing, but it is certainly not edifying. The performers
almost to a man, and one might say to a woman, are persons who can be
considered "artists" only in the broadest sense, and whose ignorance
and vulgarity are as colossal as their salaries.

Roughly, the entertainment may be divided into two sections, the one
concerned with feats of strength, juggling, and the like, and the
other with laughter-making and vocalism. As regards the first of these
sections, a man who can balance a horse and trap on the end of his
chin appears to give great satisfaction to an English audience. Why
this should be so, nobody knows. The good purpose that may be served
by balancing a horse and trap on the end of one's chin is not obvious;
but the English masses are ravished by the spectacle. They also have
a great fondness for the stout lady who catches cannon-balls on the
back of her neck, for the other stout lady who risks her life nightly
on the flying trapeze, for the gentleman who walks about the stage
with a piano under one arm and a live mule under the other, and for
the gentleman who rides the bicycle standing on his head. To the mind
of the English masses these are marvels and well worth the money. They
give a zest to life, they provide material for conversation, and their
attraction seems perennial.

The great stand-by of the halls, however, is the laughter-making and
vocal department. Here shine the great stars whose names are familiar
on English lips as household words. Here is purveyed the culture, the
song, and the humour of the English masses. It is from the music-hall
stage that the vast majority of Englishmen take their tone and their
sentiment. That renowned comedian, Fred Fetchem, strolls on to the
boards of the Frivolity some night, and, assuming a fiendish grin,
exclaims idiotically; "There's 'air!" Next morning and for many weeks
thereafter all England says; "There's 'air!" on any and every occasion.
"What ho she bumps!" "Now, we sha'n't be long," "Not half," "Did he?"
and similar catchwords, all popular and all meaningless, capture the
English imagination in their turn, and for a season, at any rate,
Englishmen can say nothing else. It is the same with the music-hall
song. Always there are current in England three or four "songs of the
hour," which every Englishman worth the name sings, whistles, or hums;
and always these songs, from whatever point of view regarded, are of
the most blithering and bathotic nature. At the present moment the
prime and universal favourite is that pathetic ditty, _Everybody's
Loved by Some One_. For the benefit of the English, I quote the first
stanza and the chorus of this work:

  A lady stood within a busy city,
  Her darling little daughter by her side;
  She'd stopped to buy a bunch of pretty violets
  From a ragged little orphan she espied.
  The words she spoke were kinder than the boy had heard for years;
  And in reply to what she asked, he murmur'd through his tears,

  Everybody's loved by some one, everybody knows that's true,
  Some have father and mother dear; sister and brother, too.
  All the time that I remember, since I was a mite so small,
  I seem to be the only one that nobody loves at all.

With this enchanting song the English welkin resounds by day and night.
The great, broad-shouldered, genial Englishman, full of four-ale and
bad whisky, howls it in chorus at his favourite "public," work-girls
sing it in factories, mothers rock their children to sleep with it, and
every English urchin whistles or shouts it at you with unflagging zest.
Of course, there are others; for example, there is _I'm a P'liceman_,
which goes like this:

  In the inky hour of midnight, when the clock is striking three,
  As I stroll along my beet-root, many curious things I see:
  Ragged urchins stagger past me to their mansions in the west;
  Millionaires, through cold and hunger, on our doorsteps sink to rest;
  Dirty dustmen in their broughams, off to supper at the "Cri.";
  Then "Bill Sykes," the burglar, passes, with an eye-glass in his eye.

  Such are the sights I witness when I am on my beat,
  Filling my heart with sawdust, filling my boots with feet;
  Covering half the pavement up with my "plates of meat,"
  Though mother sent to say that I'm a p'liceman--

which--need one remark?--is intended for what the Scots are supposed to
call "wut." Also, there is _He Stopped_:

    Pendlebury Plum had a wart on his gum,
      And he rubbed it with sand-paper hard;
    The wart on his gum made Plum fairly hum,
      When it stuck out about half a yard.
    The wart grew so quick, when he rubbed it with a brick,
      Till it looked like a short billiard-cue;
    Said Plum to himself, "I shall die on the shelf,
      For I'm darned if I know what to do."

    So he went and got a pick-axe and shov'd it underneath,
    Then he lifted up his jaw, and he swallowed all his teeth;
    Then he stopped!

The verses I have quoted are a good, true, and fair sample of the kind
of thing that finds favour among the English masses. I do not think
that anything better is being proffered, and it is pretty certain that
anything less inane would be doomed to failure. The fact is that the
English mind in the lump is flat, coarse, and maggoty, and the English
understanding is as the understanding of a feeble and ill-bred child.
A couple of generations ago the songs popular among Englishmen had
some claim to coherence, decency, and common sense; nowadays, however,
the Englishman admits that "he cannot sing the old songs." He has gone
farther and fared worse, and among the many symptoms of his decadence,
none is more pronounced than his easy toleration of the balderdash that
is being served up to him by the "'alls."



CHAPTER XX

STOCK EXCHANGE


There is nothing in England more astounding or more tigerish than
the city man. Englishmen have a fixed idea that they are the soul of
generosity, indifferent to money, and not in the least sordid. When
they are put to it for a type of sheer greediness it pleases them to
point a finger at the Scot. Yet there can be no doubt that of late
years the desire for riches has become the absorbing English passion.
The ostentation and vulgar displays of the aristocracy and the newly
rich have stirred the middle-class English heart to envy. How comes
it that such and such a man sleeps on lilies and eats roses? He has
"means," my friend. And what are "means"? Just money. If you are going
to be happy in this life, if you insist upon a full paunch of the
choicest--upon the ease and softness which are so grateful to decadent
persons, if you would be in a position to possess all that the soul
of the decadent person covets, you really must have money. And as you
are a middle class Englishman whose people have omitted to leave you a
million or so, it is very awkward for you. Life is short; the cup goes
round but once.

You have £500. How is it to be made into £50,000, and that while the
flush of youth still incarnadines your ambitious cheek? There is only
one way: you must speculate--judiciously, if you can; but you must
speculate. You are an Englishman and a sportsman, and sometimes you get
your £50,000. Then all the world marvels and would fain do likewise, so
that the ball is kept rolling. It is a ball full of money, and it rolls
cityward. The generous, open-handed Englishmen who are the City take as
much as they want and toss you the balance. The game is as fashionable
as ping-pong: everybody plays it, and, win or lose, everybody calls
it the Stock Exchange. I am told that the Stock Exchange proper is a
reputable institution and essential to the well-being of the country.
I do not doubt this for a moment; but round it there has grown up a
specious and parasitical finance which is rapidly transforming the
English into a nation of punters. "Fortunes made while you wait," is
the lure to which the latter-day Englishman has been found infallibly
to respond. The remnant of the common sense possessed by his excellent
grandparents arouses in him a sneaking suspicion that the golden
promises of the outside broker and the bucket-shop keeper are not to be
depended upon. Yet he reads in his morning paper that no end of stocks
and shares have risen a point or dropped a point, as the case may be,
and he knows that if he had been in on the right side he would have
made more money in a few hours than his excellent grandparents could
have made in the course of a whole grubby lifetime. Hence, sooner or
later, his patrimony, or few hundred of surplus capital, is planked
into the ball that rolls citywards, on the off-chance that it may come
back arm in arm, as it were, with thousands.

Even the more cautious sort of Englishman, who looks upon speculation
with a deprecating eye and pins his faith on legitimate investment,
is rapidly descending into the gambling habit. Schemes which promise
fat dividends inflame his imagination and drag him out of the even
tenor of his way. He is perfectly well aware that fifteen, twenty,
and twenty-five per cent. in return for one's money is quite wrong
somehow. But, on the other hand, the prospect ravishes, and there are
concerns in the world which pay such dividends year by year without
turning a hair. Only sometimes there is a colossal smash, and half the
shopkeepers of England put on sackcloth and ashes and get up funds for
one another's relief. To the looker-on the whole system is highly
diverting; to the players in the game the fun will never be obvious.

The real truth about the matter is simply this--the standard of living
in England is an inflated and artificial standard. Practically every
Englishman lives, or longs to live, beyond his means. The workman
and the workman's wife must put on the style of the foreman and the
foreman's wife, and the foreman and the foreman's wife must appear
to be nearly as comfortably off as the manager, the manager as his
employer, all employers, shopkeepers, factory owners, iron-masters,
engineers, printers, and even publishers as prosperous as each other,
and so on till you come to dukes, than whom, of course, nobody can be
more prosperous. It would be possible to bring together six Englishmen
whose incomes ranged from £1 10_s._ a week to £50,000 a year, and
whose dress and tastes would be pretty well identical. Fifty years ago
the sons of the middle classes had really no inclination toward the
superfluities. The dandy was rather laughed at among them, the gourmet
was a monster they never by any chance encountered, and the libertine
was a sad warning and a person to be eschewed. Nowadays it is all the
other way: the gilt and tinsel and glamour and rapidity of the gay
world have captured the English understanding and brought it exceeding
low. There is little moral backbone left in the country. Money, money,
money, to be ill gotten and ill spent, is the English ideal. The man
who can go without is considered a crank or a fool or worse, or he is
set down for an indolent fellow who should be given a month or two on
the treadmill for luck. The whole duty of man--of Englishmen, that is
to say--is to have money in ponderable quantities; the man without it
is of no account at all. Nobody believes in him, nobody wants him,
nobody tolerates him. He may be wise and witty and chaste and blessed
with all the virtues, and still be received with great coldness by bank
managers; and it is well known that the attitude of a bank manager
towards a man is the attitude of society at large. If the bank manager
beams and rubs his hands, "God's in His heaven: all's right with the
world." If the bank manager frowns and sends you impertinent letters,
you may last a week or a fortnight or a few months, but you are on thin
ice, and you must please take care not to forget it. I should not be
at all surprised if the omnipotent official whose business it is to
discover what persons are or are not qualified to approach our British
fountain of honour were one day found to be a bank manager in disguise.

So that, on the whole, the Englishman has every inducement to get
rich and to be very quick about it. His dealings with the "Stock
Exchange"--that is to say, with the City--are but the natural
expression of his anxiety to oblige all parties concerned. It is a pity
that getting and spending should become the main concerns of his life;
but, as he pathetically puts it, "One must do as Rome does, and some
women are never content." The Stock Exchange is the only way.



CHAPTER XXI

THE BELOVED


What is more beautiful or meet to be taken to the bosom than the
Englishman? Everybody loves him; his goings to and fro upon the earth
are as the progresses of one who has done all men good. He drops
fatness and blessings as he walks. He smiles benignity and graciousness
and "I-am-glad-to-see-you-all-looking-so-well." And before him runs one
in plush, crying, "Who is the most popular man of this footstool?" And
all the people shall rejoice and say, "The Englishman--God bless him!"

Hence it comes to pass that in whatever part of the world the
Englishman may find himself, he has a feeling that he is thoroughly
at home. "I am as welcome as flowers in May," he says. "These pore
foreigners, these pore 'eathen are glad to see me. They never have
any money, pore devils! and were it not for our whirring spindles at
home, I verily believe they would have nothing to wear." In brief, the
Englishman abroad is always in a sort of Father Christmassey, Santa
Claus frame of mind. He eats well, he drinks well, and he sleeps well.
He calls for the best, and he PAYS for it. It is a wonderful
thing to do, and it goes straight to the hearts of the "pore foreigner"
and the "pore 'eathen." This, at any rate, is the Englishman's own
view. It is a pleasing, consoling, and stimulating view, and it would
ill become an unregenerate outsider rudely to disturb it. Indeed, I
question whether the Englishman in his blindness and adipose conceit
would allow you to disturb it.

When persons in France say, "_À bas l'Anglais_," your fat Englishman
smiles, and says, "Little boys!" When people put rude pictures of
him on German postcards, he smiles again, and says that the flowing
tide of public opinion in Germany is entirely with him. When Dutch
farmers propose to throw him into the sea, he becomes very red in the
neck, splutters somewhat, and says, "I'm sure they will make excellent
subjects in time." And when the savage Americans desire to chaw him up
and swallow him, he says, "You astonish me. I have always been under
the impression that blood was thicker than water." His desire is to
live at peace with all men; but his notion of peace is to have his
hand in both your pockets and no questions asked. He owns two-thirds
of the habitable globe (_vide_ the geography books), and every pint of
sea is his (_pace_ the popular song); he owns also everything that is
worth owning. He is the Pierpont Morgan of the universe. Who could help
loving him?

On the other hand, the excellent J.B. has not escaped calumny. If I
were disposed to reproduce some of the slanders upon him, it goes
without saying that they would make a rather large chapter. All manner
of foreign writers have time and time again had a fling at the
Englishman. They love him, but their love is not blind. They perceive
that he has faults of a grievous nature, and they write accordingly.
Curiously enough, too, quite severe criticisms of John Bull have been
written in his own household. Mr. Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, for example,
who is an Englishman, and apparently innocent of Celtic taint, actually
goes so far as to call the Englishman an Anglo-Norman dog:

  Down to the latest born, the hungriest of the pack,
  The master-wolf of all men, called the Sassenach,
  The Anglo-Norman dog, who goeth by land and sea,
  As his forefathers went in chartered piracy,
  Death, fire in his right hand.

And the English poet goes on to elaborate his indictment against the
Englishman, thus:

                        He hath outlived the day
  Of the old single graspings, where each went his way
  Alone to plunder all. He hath learned to curb his lusts
  Somewhat, to smooth his brawls, to guide his passionate gusts,
  His cry of "Mine, mine, mine!" in inarticulate wrath.
  He dareth not make raid on goods his next friend hath
  With open violence, nor loose his hand to steal,
  Save in community and for the common weal

  'Twixt Saxon man and man. He is more congruous grown;
  Holding a subtler plan to make the world his own
  By organized self-seeking in the paths of power
  He is new-drilled to wait. He knoweth his appointed hour
  And his appointed prey. Of all he maketh tool,
  Even of his own sad virtues, to cajole and rule.

We are told, further, that the Beloved has tarred Time's features,
pock-marked Nature's face, and "brought all to the same jakes,"
whatever that may mean. Also:

              There is no sentient thing
  Polluteth and defileth as this Saxon king,
  This intellectual lord and sage of the new quest.
  The only wanton he that fouleth his own nest,
  And still his boast goeth forth.

This is an English opinion, and, consequently, worth the money. Mr.
Blunt assures us that in putting it forth he has the approval of no
less a philosopher than Mr. Herbert Spencer, and no less an idealist
than Mr. George Frederick Watts. "I have not," says Mr. Blunt, "shrunk
from insisting on the truth that the hypocrisy and all-acquiring greed
of modern England is an atrocious spectacle--one which, if there be
any justice in Heaven, must bring a curse from God, as it has surely
already made the angels weep. The destruction of beauty in the name
of science, the destruction of happiness in the name of progress,
the destruction of reverence in the name of religion, these are the
Pharisaic crimes of all the white races; but there is something in the
Anglo-Saxon impiety crueller still: that it also destroys, as no other
race does, for its mere vainglorious pleasure. The Anglo-Saxon alone
has in our day exterminated, root and branch, whole tribes of mankind.
He alone has depopulated continents, species after species, of their
wonderful animal life, and is still yearly destroying; and this not
merely to occupy the land, for it lies in large part empty, but for his
insatiable lust of violent adventure, to make record bags and kill."

When the Beloved comes across reading of this sort he no doubt sheds
bitter tears, and remembers how sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to
have a thankless child. And he goes on his way rejoicing, unimpressed
and unreformed.

The fact of the matter is, that from the beginning, John Bull, though
possessed of a great reputation for honesty and munificence, has never
really been any better than he should be. When he interfered between
tyrant and slave, when he went forth to conquer savage persons and to
annex savage lands which somehow invariably flowed with milk and honey,
he made a point of doing it with the air of a philanthropist, and for
centuries the world took him at his own estimate. Even in the late
war the great cry was that he did not want gold-mines. As a general
rule he never wants anything; but he always gets it. It is only of
late that the world has begun to find him out and that he himself has
begun to have qualms. He feels in his bones that something has gone
wrong with him. It may be a slight matter and not beyond repair, but
there it is. He cannot put his hand on his heart and say; "I am the
fine, substantial, sturdy, truth-speaking, incorruptible, magnanimous,
genial Englishman of half a century ago!" The fly has crept into the
ointment of his virtue, and the fragrance of it no longer remains. His
attitude at the present moment is the attitude of the anxious man who
perceives that life is a little too much for him, and keeps on saying,
"We shall have to buck up!"

He is in two minds about most things over which he was once cock-sure.
He could not quite tell you, for example, whether he continues to stand
at the head of the world's commerce or not. Once there was no doubt
about it; now--well, it is a question of statistics, and you can prove
anything by statistics. Out of America men have come to buy English
things which were deemed unpurchasable. The American has come and seen
and purchased and done it quite quickly. The Englishman is a little
puzzled; his slow wits cannot altogether grasp the situation. "We must
buck up!" he says, "and take measures while there is yet time." He
does not see that the newer order is upon him, and that inevitably and
for his good he must be considerably shaken up. His own day has been
a lengthy, a roseful, and a gaudy one; it has been a day of ease and
triumph and comfortable going, and the Beloved has become very wealthy
and a trifle stout in consequence. Whether to-morrow is going to be
his day, too, and whether it is going to be one of those nice loafing,
sunshiny kind of days that the Beloved likes, are open questions. It
is to be hoped devoutly that fate will be kind to him: he needs the
sympathy of all who are about him; he wants encouragement and support
and a restful time.

It is said that his Majesty of Portugal, who has just left these
shores, on being asked what had impressed him most during his
visit, replied, "The roast beef." "Nothing else, sir?" inquired his
interlocutor. "Yes," said the monarch; "the boiled beef." And there
is a great deal in it. Through much devouring of beef the English
have undoubtedly waxed a trifle beefy. It is their beefiness and
suetiness--that fatty degeneration, in fact--which impress you.

Recognising his need of props and stays and abdominal belts, as it
were, the Beloved has latterly taken to remembering the Colonies. He
is now of opinion that he and his sturdy children over-seas should be
"knit together in bonds of closer unity," "to present an unbroken front
to the world," "should share the burdens and glories of Empire," and so
on and so forth. The Colonies--good bodies!--saw it all at once. They
had been accustomed to be snubbed and neglected and left out of count,
and they had forgotten to whom they belonged. In his hour of need the
Beloved cried, "'Elp! I said I didn't want you, but I do--I do!" and
the Colonies sent to his aid, at a dollar a day per head, the prettiest
lot of freebooters and undesirable characters they found themselves
able to muster. Later, they sent several landau loads of premiers and
politicians, who were fed and flattered to their hearts' content,
and went home, no doubt, greatly impressed with the English roast and
boiled beef. These gentlemen made speeches in return for their dinners;
they were allowed to visit the Colonial Office and kiss the hand of Mr.
Chamberlain; they saw Peter Robinson's and the tuppenny tube: and the
bonds of Empire have been knit closer ever since.

Not to put too fine a point upon it, the Englishman's attempt to
buttress himself up out of the Colonies has proved a ghastly failure.
The scheme fell flat. The English may want the Colonies, but the
Colonies do not want the English--at any rate, on bonds of unity lines.
The banner of Imperialism which has waved so gloriously during the
past lustrum will have to be furled and put away. The great Imperial
idea declines to work; it has been brought on the political stage half
a century too late. At best it was a fetch, and it has failed. The
All-Beloved will have to find some other way out. Whether he is quite
equal to the task may be reckoned another question. One supposes
that he will try; for there is life in the old dog yet, at any rate,
according to the old dog.



      *      *      *      *      *      *



Transcriber's note:

Original spelling has been retained.





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