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scientific branch, had been sent to school to lecurn all
about them. In those days, to get a certificate an
ofTicer was required to know the drill of every gun
in the force, besides the ordinary ** red book " litera-
ture. I believe of late this regulation has been re-
laxed, and an auxiliary gunner is only asked to get
up the drill of the gun with which his own corps is
furnished. The course in my days took rather Ov^er
a month. The members of the class wore " jumpers "
and worked like niggers. Repository drill was par-
ticularly trying. The practice of " parbuckling " and
raising guns with the assistance of a gin are terribly
fatiguing. After many years, I look back with pride
to the days when I was capable of such physical ex-
ertion. Really and truly, my work was as hard as
that of a mender of roads or a bricklayer. Thinking
over the matter, it seems to me that the course was
conducted on the Squeers principle. It will be remem-
bered that that eminent pedagogue used to teach his
pupils how to spell " winders " and then set them to
clean them.

" What is parbuckling ? " asked tlie schoolmaster
at Woolwich.

" A method by which guns can be dismounted froru


one carriage and placed on another," replied the
scholar, with more or less accuracy.

" Quite so," replied Teacher War Office, " and now
go and parbuckle."

And the scholar obeyed his instructions.

When I was at Woolwich the General in command
used now and again to attend our class and put us
on to some problem or other. On one occasion I was
singled out for this distinction.

" Captain a Beckett," said my CO., " will you be so
good as to tell me what you would do under the
following circumstances ? You have a gun yoked to
oxen. You are passing a gate, and the wheels of
the carriage are stopped by the posts. What, sir,
would you do under those circumstances ? "

** Remove the posts, sir."

" Can't, sir — the posts are immovable."

" Well, take the wheel off the gun, sir."

'■ Can't, sir ; you can't get at it."

" Take off the gun itself, sir."

" Won't do, sir ; the gun is as inaccessible as the

" Well, sir, back the oxen until the gun is clear."

" Can't, sir ; oxen won't back."

" Then what ought I to do, sir ? "

" Can't say, sir. I am here to ask questions and
not to answer them ! "

So my curiosity was never satisfied. If to-morrow



I found myself in the suggested dilemma I should
not know how to act beyond resigning on the spot
and going home to tea ! Possibly one of my military
readers can solve the problem for himself. The
commandant of the school to which I referred was
unequal to the task.


To return to Shoeburyness. There is no doubt
that the discipline and work at the meeting are both
admirable. In the days of Wimbledon, when the
Volunteers certainly took matters calmly, the contrast
between Surrey and Essex was most remarkable.
But even now, when the National Rifle Association
has changed its quarters, there is no comparison be-
tween the gunners and the sharpshooters. At .Shoe-
buryness there is a discipline in the air. There is not
much to choose between the silver lace and the g« vld,
the white and the yellow. Years ago I took part in
a meeting of the N.A.A., and was delighted with the
outing. As I was not entered for any competition
I was used merely as a regimental officer, and invited
to make myself generally useful. On one occasion
I was in command of a range party, whose duty it
was to ascertain and signal the various shots as they
hit or missed the target. We were put on our stage
(in mid ocean) at seven in the morning and kept there


until late at night. It was delightfully fresh and
appetite-increasing. At mid-day the guns at the bat-
teries ceased firing, and everyone went to lunch.
When I write " everyone," I mean all those on shore.
We poor people at the ranges were entirely forgotten.
However, when the batteries after the interval de-
sired a record of their firing, I refused to gratify their
wishes until our creature comforts had received ide-
quate attention. I accordingly signalled " lunch " to
all applications to know " What's the matter ? " until
the necessary meal had been supplied. Subsequently,
being required to give my " reasons in writing " for
my conduct, I wrote a " leading article " sort of a
report, in which I set forth that as I had not been
supplied with food, the men under my command, ex-
posed to the exhausting rays of the sun, would have
probably become victims to " stroke " and possibly
to " collapse " — hence my demand for lunch. I was
subsequently officially informed that my explanation
was " satisfactory."


There can be no doubt that in case of " national
emergency " the Volunteer artillery would be imme-
diately useful. Their discipline is extremely good,
and they at once would become of considerable value
behind earthworks. As garrison gunners I think most


experts would admit they would be able to take post
with regulars. They, of course, could serve the guns
every bit as well as their professional comrades. The
War Office has done its best to discourage field bat-
teries, and I think to some extent, not unwisely.
Behind earthworks the Volunteer gunners, as I have
said, would be equal to any troops similarly situated
in the wide world. But in the open the matter might
be different. It is in this that the value of discipline
(acquired morning, noon and night) becomes fully
apparent. To be able to face a rain of bullets un-
moved, when the enemy is out of sight and smokeless
powder is the order of the day, is a feat that cannot
be acquired in, a "brace of shakes," nor yet in five
minutes. No doubt the Volunteers would show pluck
when the time came, but they would show it with less
inconvenience were they to acquire the knack with
the aid of adequate discipline. Behind earthworks the
serving of guns is purely mechanical, so it will be seen
at a glance how immensely valuable our Volunteer
artillerymen will be when they are told off to relieve
the regulars at our coast defences. All they will have
to do will be to fire straight. And that art they
acquire, thanks to the organisation of the National
Artillery Association. So it is our duty as well as our
inclination to wish that hard-working and useful body
every success.

And we do. But as Lord Roberts has suggested,


wishes are less valuable than money. And this say-
ing should be laid to heart by those patrons of Bisley,
who, after giving any number of prizes to our rifle-
men, find they have nothing left for our Volunteer




When the season commences and " lists of engage-
ments " begin to be filled up weeks, and even
months ahead, the annual question must be faced and
answered. Who is to be lion-in-chief ^ " Celebrities "
are certainly flourishing at the end of the century.
We have our varieties. Now it is a soldier, now
an explorer, now a " nigger," now an author, now a
" fiddler."

I fancy that lions of a season can be justly divided
into two varieties — those who deserve attention on
account of their merits and those who claim it on
account of their eccentricities. Many years ago a
friend of mine was a great collector of human
curiosities. " All London " used to be present at his
receptions. It was capital fun to see " the
menagerie," and the refreshments were by Gunter,
or some other eminent artist of the kitchen. One
afternoon he met me in great glee.


" You see by your card," said he, " that I have
secured the attendance of the Chinese Ambassa-
dor ? "

I admitted that I was burning with curiosity to see
the representative of the Father of the Sun, or the
Uncle of the Moon, or whatever other title the ruler
of China assumes when chez lui.

" Yes, I knew you would like to see him," assented
my host, " but I have done better than get him. He
is here with his national costume complete, and that's
an attraction in itself — isn't it ? But what do you
think? I have induced His Excellency to bring his
music with him, and he is just going to sing a comic
song ! "

And my friend was right. The Ambassador gave
us a very charming and amusing song. It was full
of humour. Of course I should have appreciated it
better had I understood the language. But we all
laughed heartily, as if nothing pleased us so well as
a really witty saying in pure Pekinian. Later on an
accomplished friend of mine obliged with one of his
inimitable " piano entertainments." The perform-
ance in every way was excellent, and we were all
immensely pleased with it, but I am afraid that many
of us had a sneaking preference for the Ambassador's
chinoiserie. The latter was so quaint, and (so far as
we were able to judge without understanding the
lingo) so thoroughly and entirely original.


On another occasion the same host was dehghted
at having secured a new kind of explorer.

" He is not one of those fellows who fill up maps
for the publishers and get gold medals from the
Royal Geographical Society," my friend explained,
" but really a first-class hero."

" What has he done ? "

" Why, he had the courage — the almost incredible
courage — to wish the King of the Cobra Isles good
morning ! "

" Really. And did the King return the compli-
ment ? "

" Return the compliment ! Why, it is death to
speak to the. King! If a man looks at His Majesty
his eyes are put out with red-hot irons, and if he
touches him he is cast forthwith into the cave of
serpents, and dies in terrible agonies."

" Well, how did our sunburnt friend escape ? "

" Why, fortunately, the King of the Cobra Isles was
a little deaf, and didn't hear him. However, the
Adacanvassa — a native official corresponding, I
believe, to our President of the Board of Trade —
did not overlook the occurrence, and ordered our
friend to be immediately ground down in a bakatata
kan, a kind of rudely-constructed sausage machine."

" But as he is here of course he escaped ? "

" Yes. The King of the Cobra Isles kindly inter-
vened on his behalf. Negotiations were entered into


with some missionaries in the neighbourhood. Our
friend was ransomed at the cost of sixteen ounces of
coloured beads, four pounds of gunpowder, and a
bottle of rum."

It is many years since this conversation took place,
so I cannot speak by the card. However, the above
is my impression of the incident, which may be more
or less right or more or less wrong.


Turning from the past to the present, a man may
make himself a lion by attracting attention by some
startling eccentricity. It matters very little what the
eccentricity is so that it be plain and distinct, and
consequently understandable by the people. For
instance, say that a candidate for lionship is a
litterateur. He has to invent a specialite. If
people have a general impression that virtue is a
matter that should be encouraged rather than not, he
should take up vice. This is managed more easily
nowadays than it was in the comparatively " long
ago." Twenty years since plays that dealt with the
seventh commandment found little favour in the eyes
of the Reader for the Lord Chamberlain, and novels
that sailed dangerously near the wind, lacked sub-
scriptions at the circulating libraries. This last prac-
tically meant ruin to the luckless publisher who took


the risk of a " tabooed " book. However, we are
more liberal-minded in the hours of the expiring
century, and Formosa (once held up to horror as
the quintessence of the improper), is accepted as
quite bourgeois in its humdrum respectability, and
" Paul Ferrol's Wife " (years ago a novel to be found
in the reserved part of Paterfamilias' bookshelves),
is suggestive of nothing more formidable than
" prunes and prisms." The patronage of Vice either
on the stage on in the circulating library is already
becoming old-fashioned, but there is still enough life
in the mode to help a candidate for lionship to the
desired notability. All he has to do is to " go one
better " than the latest eccentricity. If Smith has
advocated manslaughter. Brown should strongly
recommend murder. But not common-place murder,
but fratricide or matricide. If Brown can be pointed
out as " the chap who wrote that book, don't you
know, proving that Faust was right enough in his
dealings with Marguerite " his fortune is made. The
theory will attract the proper amount of attention.
Hitherto it has been accepted that the rejuvenated
of Mephistopheles behaved rather badly to Gretchen.
Prove that both of them acted in the best possible
manner and all will be well. Critics will cry the book
up to the skies on the score that it is " intensely
human." On my word, I would write the book
myself if I were not sure that either the subject has


been done, or that someone at this moment is doing
it. Years ago it would have been sufficient to prove
that Mephistopheles was not so black as he was
painted. But that kind of thing is rather out of date
— it ceased to be the fashion after the whitewashing
of Henry VIIL, Judas, Judge Jeffries, and Pontius

It may be safely laid down, as a rule, that if a man
can write something that is " bad " enough for the
reading of women, it will be good enough for the
reading of men.


If a man is an artist, and he wishes to become a

"lion," I fancy that his best course is to go in tor

"advanced impressionism." I frankly admit that I

have never learned drawing, still recent compositions

on the hoardings and elsewhere have induced me to

believe that I might readily secure fame if I were to

adopt "advanced impressionism." Out Whistler

Whistler and out Snooks Snooks. Years ago Turner

was said to get his effect by slopping a canvas with a

paint mop. Nowadays, impressionists of the new

school seem to sprinkle whitewash on preparations

of Indian ink. After sprinkling they appear to look

at their handiwork with a view to selecting the title.

If there are three little spots in the centi-e of the


paper, then the sketch can be called " The Carnival at
Venice ; " if only a blotch appears in the right-hand
corner, it may mean " Dante Meeting Virgil," or
" Wellington Greeting Blucher," or " The Lower
Thames." In fact, the title doesn't matter in the
least — one is as good and as appropriate as another.
The last few lines may be accepted as a proof that 1
have " no soul for art," and consequently am an in-
capable critic. Such an expression of opinion (if
largely circulated) would be most valuable. If I
could but establish my right to the title of " the most
incapable critic in the world," I should become a lion
and get asked out everywhere. As an artist I feel
sure I should command instantaneous success. A
monthly periodical called The Yellow Book
recently attracted considerable attention. It was
full of weird drawings, that encouraged me to hope
that some day I shall be in the first rank of living
artists. I dropped some ink on a piece of paper a
day or so ago, and the shape the pigment took was
not unsuggestive of a spider or a " daddy long legs."
Rightly understood, I have not a doubt that mv
composition accurately depicts " The Goodwin Sands
by Moonlight," "St. Peter's on Easter Day," or
" Romeo wedding Juliet."



But a candidate for lionship must not rest satisfied
with writing a book or painting a picture — he must
" dress for the part." If he happens to be of an in-
ventive turn of mind he can do wonders. For in-
stance, why not smoke cigarettes made of vermihon
paper? Or why not wear dead flowers instead of
hving ones for a buttonhole ? Or why not (and this,
suggestion is absolutely beautiful in its simplicity)
eat green peas with your knife ?

A friend of mine, who was a thoroughly good
fellow and a clever man to boot, once thought he
might like to get into society. He wrote novels,
essays, and poems. They were praised by the critics,
but they did not get him talked about in what
Thackeray called " the upper suckles." At length
his opportunity came. He was called by the Lord
Mayor of the period to attend a City banquet. He
attended in a velvet coat and a red necktie. This
affair got wind, was duly appreciated, and he became
at once fully qualified to appear as a lion of the


Whether the game is quite worth the candle is a
question for the lions themselves to decide. As a


rule the fame attained by a season's celebrity does
not last longer than a Lord Mayor's tenure of office.
The lion gradually sinks, until he finds his level in
that modern version of Mrs. Leo Hunter, Mrs.
O'Kashenell Parr. He at this period of his butterfly
existence is included in a list of " guests," headed by
a Lord Somebody and " whipped in " by a rising
young actor. Mrs. O'Kashenell Parr is very hos-
pitable, and her cook is a cordon bleu. Whether her
parties are acceptable or not depends upon the taste
of the visitor for cakes and ale, or rather their more
expensive equivalents.




When the Season is commencing in the West-end
of town it becomes the fashion to consider the claims
of the East. It is the mode to assume that Mr.
" 'Enery 'Awkins," and his friends, relatives, and ac-
quaintances, are in need of recreation. The object
we have in view is " to keep him out of the public-
house." No doubt a very excellent idea, but rather
suggestive of patronage. I am not quite sure that we
would feel greatly complimented were the costers of
Shoreditch and Hackney to organise a society to pro-
vide the upper classes with amusements suitable to
their station. If they suddenly took the Westminster
Town Hall, or the rooms belonging to the Institute
of Painters in Water Colours, and invited the cultured
classes to " happy evenings " or " innocent afternoons,"
I fancy the said cultured classes would smile con-
temptuously at the impertinence. The smile would
not become more respectful if the Coster Committee



explained that their object was to keep "the Pall
Mall club-man out of the smoking-room." I refer
to the practice as " slumming " is one of the fads
left in London at the end of the century.


I am not quite sure when " the movement " com-
menced. Years and years ago a society was or-
ganised to establish " working men's clubs." It was
assumed by the founders that the artisan, however
bright he might be in pursuing his own calling, had
yet scarcely sufficient intelligence to look after himself
in the hours ^of non-labour. The builder, the n?ason,
and the bricklayer were consequently invited to
spacious buildings opened for their benefit wherein
the greatest dissipation consisted of bagatelle and in
which the cellar was stocked with no more intoxi-
cating drinks than lemonade, gingerbeer, and soda
water. The excellent-intentioned people who issued
the invitations to the working men soon found they
had made a mistake. The club, with its bagatelle
board and temperance drinks had no chance against
the tavern with its bright appointments and stimu-
lants. So it soon went to the wall. The movement,
I am afraid, did more harm than good, inasmuch as
the lesson was learned with a view to future devek^p-
ment. When the goody-goody clubs disappeared


others devoted to deep drinking and gambling took
their place. I fancy that many of the cercles now
attracting special attention of the police are the out-
come of the scheme for improving the leisure hours
of the people. The working man resented the irri-
tating patronage of those who considered themselves
his " pastors and masters " ; so, instead of playing
chess and sipping milk and water he went in for
betting and the unlimited consumption of spirits. And
I am afraid that he had general sympathy. Charles
Dickens in his novels and stories never lost an oppor-
tunity of ridiculing the imitation philanthropists.
Albert Smith, too, was particularly hard upon the
patrons of the poorer classes. In his performancv2s
at the Egyptian Hall he delivered many a sly dig at
this painstaking community, and ultimately raised a
perfect storm of remonstrances by saying that the
enthusiasts in China had only one convert — a billiard
marker — whose piety was more likely to be the product
of cash than any nobler consideration. Both Dickens
and Albert Smith were entirely opposed to " gentle-
folk patronage," and there was not a single writer
who took up the cudgels on the behalf of " the other

"QUEEN victoria's OWN THEATRE."

Perhaps the boldest attempt at entertaining the
East-enders was made when a philanthropist converted



the Victoria Theatre (built the Royal Coburg) into
a temperance music-hall. The old playhouse has a
history. It was erected in the days of George IV.,
and the name Coburg was a recognition of the con-
nection existing between the Royal Family and the
German Duke of that ilk. If I am not wrong in my
history, I think it was christened in honour of the
Princess Charlotte's marriage with the King of the
Belgians. Leaving it to members of the Society of
Antiquaries to set me right, I may say that the Co-
burg was opened with great pomp. The lessee,
my maternal grandfather, Mr. Joseph Glossop, was
connected with the Court as a gentleman-at-arms.
He was Clerk of the Cheque and Exon of that
illustrious and valiant body. With this influence
behind him he contrived to have the theatre opened
by one of the Royal Dukes — I fancy by the Duke of
Gloucester. One of the features of the inauguration
ceremony was the first appearance of the celebrated
" looking-glass curtain." This drop was composed of
fairly large mirrors, which unfortunately had been
vlisfigured by the impressions of the dirty hands of
the stage carpenters. When it was disclosed to view
there was a roar of laughter. For instead of being
impressed the audience were much amused to see
their own presentments. After the " house " had in-
spected itself for some minutes, a boy in the gallery
called out, " And now show us something prettier."


Of course this suggestion elicited a shout of merri-
ment, and the curtain was voted more of a joke than
a marvel. Later on the name of the playhouse was
changed from the Coburg to the Victoria, and lost its
cachet. Some twenty years ago it was the home of
that sort of melodrama which is best suited to the
tastes of the inhabitants of the New Cut. A little
later there was an effort made to revive it as a music-
hall on the lines of the Empire, the Alhambra, and
the Canterbury. It did not do, and consequently has
been converted into a Palace of Philanthropy. The
poorer classes, at a nominal rate of admission, are
entertained with a very select music-hall programme.
At first Shakespearean readings were attempted, but
the audience called for something else, and their needs
were supplied. I beheve the undertaking, thanks to
the efforts of a benevolent lady who devotes much of
her time to it3 management, is now doing very well
indeed. I have not heard much about it of late, as
South of the Thames is not my beat.

^^ ^T-,— — , . - .,T>rr>-r i-> T-r^T tt^ i tr »


But perhaps the amateur companies are the latest
fashion. The Victoria has, I fancy, a professional
staff, and consequently is unlike the voluntary asso-
ciations in the East End. It was my good fortune
a short while since to be present at a concert organised
with the view of amusing certain young men co-


operating for their own improvement in the neigh-
bourhood of a well-known city church. The function
was held in a highly-decorated room, redolent of
illuminated texts, and the company was distinctly
select. A clergyman presided, and in the front row
were a number of people well known " further west."
The programme was a good one. We had some ex-
cellent songs sung by two professionals who had
kindly volunteered their services, and a host of

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Online LibraryArthur William À BeckettLondon at the end of the century : a book of gossip → online text (page 11 of 19)