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London at the end of the century : a book of gossip online

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about with me. I venture to believe what caused his
surprise was that I had overlooked the roast beef, the
holly and mistletoe, and the mince pies!


In conclusion, the Channel has lost most of its
terrors in these days of Lord Wardens, Leopold the
Seconds, Duchesses of York, and Calais Doiivres.
A good passage is almost a certainty. On enquiry
at the London termini one can always find the con-
dition of affairs at the coast. You know whether it
is calm or " rather rough." If you are tied to time
you brave the weather, and in the event of there
being a gale trust to the reviving effects of the buffets
at Boulogne and Calais. But if it is calm the passage
over is simply " a dream." It is a thousand pities
that (thanks to the treachery of the weather) some-
times that dream is changed into a nightmare.





As the season draws towards its close the stress and
tear of the business of either work or pleasure begins
to tell upon the average Londoner. A barrister well
served with briefs, a doctor with a long list of
patients, an editor, assisted by a large staff of con-
tributors, have each in his way a good deal to do.
As January is lost in Easter, and Whitsuntide is
passed and forgotten in July, the longing for rest and
recreation grows stronger and stronger. The wish
becomes an earnest desire, when one's guide, philoso-
pher and medical friend, Dr. Farren Farce, takes one
by the arm, and looking one in the face through his
benevolent spectacles, utters a remonstrance :

" Dear friend," says the philanthropic physician,
" you are not appearing well. You want another
rest. Come to me to-morrow and I will tell you what

to do."


So on the following morning one repairs to the
pleasant mansion of the ablest of men and receives
orders to be off to Cairo or the Canaries, Homburg
or Harrogate, or if complacent, a tour round the
world, beginning with the Cape. Whether the advice
is taken or not is another affair.


And now to consider the matter methodically.
Should Dr. Farren Farce's advice be followed }
Why, certainly, if possible. When the physician
steps in and interferes in the march of work, it is as
well to pay some attention to his cautions. It pays
in the long run. As a stitch in time saves nine, so
does a week in the country, passed at the proper
season, sometimes dispense with the necessity of
knocking off work for a year and a day.

So we all agree that when the doctors speak we
should obey ; and having come to this decision follow
our own devices. For all that the matter is scarcely
a subject that can be cured by jesting.


Very often one receives orders to take to riding.
Of course, if you happen to have a banking account
which never sinks to less on the credit side in the
pounds column than five figures in your pass-book, the


matter is as simple as possible. All you have to do
is to find a horse up to your weight. Having done
this (which you generally can manage with the
assistance of a friend), you can ride to your heart's
content in Rotten Row. Bat supposing you have
neglected to take the necessary biscuits, or your build
is hereditarily stalwart, or from some other unac-
countable reason, you turn the scales at the club at
twenty- two stone, why, then you must travel further
north. I believe by arrangement you can always
secure a nice ride in the early morning at the Zoo on
the back of an elephant, but the mount naturally has
to be ordered well in advance.

And here lef me suggest that there can be no sight
more instructive and amusing to the Intelligent
Foreigner than a review of " the Liver Brigade " in
the early morning. When the shadows of the trees
bordering Rotten Row are still of measurable length,
it is delightful to watch the riders as they pass and
repass, now singly, now in couples, now in groups.
Here comes a famous aitist in black and white,
looking like a farmer in his workaday clothes. He
is followed by an eminent Q.C. much in the same
costume. They are succeeded by judges, editors,
statesmen, and now and again by a bishop. Bot
hats, caps, even straw hats are used as a headgear.
Collars turned up, and suits of the loudest material.
If the various celebrities could be put as they are


in the scenes of their daily professional exploits
they would certainly cause a profound sensation.
For instance, how could the Q.C. cross-examine in
grey dittos and a red necktie ? How could " my
lord" deliver judgment in an old woollen comforter?
How could the ecclesiastic preach in a cap calculated
to capture the taste of a costermonger ? But in
Rotten Row everything is acceptable. I believe
Buffalo Bill, when he was last in England, frequently
appeared beneath the trees in his professional
toggery. If he did I am quite sur® that his eminence
as a Society lion, and not the unconventionality of
his costume, attracted attention. Were a North
American Indian, of the old-fashioned Cooper novel
sort, to gallop through the Row, he would attract
little or no attention. All that would be said would,
no doubt, be uttered by the eminent artist in black

and white to whom I have already referred.

" Yes," my talented friend would observe, " very
nice indeed as a study, but his mocassins are all
wrong. If you wear feathers on your trousers you
should also wear feathers on your boots."


Now and again you come upon stories of the
marvellous effects of speciahties. For instance, there
is one very well known in service circles as a certain


cure for gout. Several of my soldier and sailor
friends have tried it, and with great success. The
story goes that the members of a certain very dis-
tinguished " service " club had very many years ago
a reputation for speaking on occasion harshly to the
waiters, and when much irritated making use of such
improper expressions as " Dear me ! " " Dash it ! "
and even (but this, of course, only on the rarest of
rare occasions) " Hang it ! " The lamentable exhi-
bitions of anger were entirely attributable to the
prevalence of gout.

According to the legend, by a sort of miracle it
became known to the members of the club that the
good sisters of a certain convent in foreign parts
supplied for twenty-five francs, a box of powders
that contained 365 packets. By taking one of the
nuns' prescriptions daily for a year a cure was per-
formed, and the patient, from the most irritable
became one of the most amiable of men.

Such is the story. It is said (and 1 believe with
truth) that nowadays the members of the service club
in question are so gentle in their manners, that they
serve as a contrast to the comparatively blustering
bishops in a well known literary cercle located in the
near neighbourhood.

However, lest it may be thought that this specific
for gout amongst the military is invariably infallible,
it is only rigtit to say that 1 found it not entirely satis-



factory in one instance. A very old and valued
friend of mine tried it.

" Yes," said he, " it certainly seemed to be affecting
me. But after I had got through half my box of
powders my doctor stopped the cure, as he said that
the remedy in gout was giving me the yellow

jaundice ! "

But to be entirely just I must admit that my friend,
although one of the best and smartest soldiers I have
ever met, had only held a commission in the Auxiliary
Forces. To take proper effect the cure for gout
should be tried upon a Major-General at the least -
indeed, the nuns (so I have been told) prefer a Field-


However, it is sometimes possible to carry out
doctor's orders without resorting to the extreme
measures conveyed in the medical commands. For
instance, only the other day I had a proof of the
convenient manner of obeying the spirit rather than
the words of the prescription. A very old and valued
friend of mine is accustomed to compare every now
and again what may be termed our mutual ailments.
As a rule, whoever commences the comparison has
to submit to the other going one better, or rather,
I should say, one worse. If I assert I have a bad
headache my friend not only has a raging pain in the


forehead, but that pain extends right down the neck.
If he tells me that he believes he has incipient lum-
bago, I assure him that I am quite certain I am in
the first stage of rapidly-creeping paralysis.

" I did not sleep last night," said my friend, a day
or two ago.

" Why, I have had chronic insomnia ever since the
middle of March," was my prompt reply, going,
according to the rule of the game, one worse.

" The only thing to cure me," continued my com-
rade in adversity, " is a sea voyage to Cairo."

" I feel convinced I shall never be myself until I
have been to Austraha and back on a trading vessel,"
I put in again, scoring cleverly.

" Quite so," said my friend, " but unfortunately I
can only spare half a week."

" And I the inside hours of a Sunday."

The last statements were not only interesting to
ourselves, but had the additional merit of being
absolutely accurate. So we determined, as the lesser
commanded the greater, we would see what could be
done within the inside hours of a Sunday.

" Why not go to Boulogne by the Marguerite ? "

But that necessitated very early rising, and my
friend and I came to the conclusion that as we were
both suffering from insomnia we ought not to think
of moving until 9 a.m. I am not sure that we had
any doctor's opinion to support our contention, but


we had a pious belief that to stay in bed until the
sun was ready to receive was emphatically the right

thing to do.

" Why not go to Calais and back ? " asked my
friend, as if he were putting a conundrum full of
pleasing possibilities.

" Yes," I answered. " Why not .? As a matter of
fact I believe that the buffet at the station is a most
excellent one. Is not lunch a safe cure for

insomnia ? "

"Unquestionably, if taken after an appetite-
creating sea voyage. And we could avoid the risk
of endangering our health by getting up too early,
as the mail train does not leave Victoria until eleven


This consideration decided us to make the experi-
ment. So a few minutes before the appointed hour
we appeared on the platform in that light and airy
costume the delight of tourists of the better class.

" Shall I get your luggage labelled, sir .? " asked an

attentive guard.

" We have no luggage," was our triumphant reply.
And, carrying nothing but two thin overcoats and a
couple of genuine Sunday newspapers, we took our
places in a comfortable compartment and started for
Dover. We devoured the contents of the couple of


genuine Sunday newspapers with the usual deUght.
They were, as is their custom of a Sabbath morn,
replete with excellent matter. Then when we
reached Chatham we laid them aside. Our insomnia
did not permit us to sleep ; so we only closed our
eyes and allowed ourselves to drift into unconscious-
ness. When we opened our eyes (with a start) we
found ourselves at Dover.

" Luggage labelled, sir } " asked the guard.

" We have no luggage ! " we replied with pride.
Fortunately our eminently respectable appearance
disarmed unworthy suspicion, and we were not
arrested as Anarchists.

We embanked on board the Lord Warden. We
met several friends who were going on to Paris.
They were not so sure of our destination.

" I suppose," said one of them with detective-like
sagacity, " that you propose crossing the Channel ? "

As we were seated on lounging chairs on the upper
deck, and the steamboat had already left the Dover
pier, we admitted the soft impeachment.

" I wonder how people come to think of such clever
things," I murmured to my comrade. To which
question he languidly replied that he considered the
rival to Sherlock Holmes " a stupid ass."

After this I was silent. We spent an hour in
drinking the jxire air of the Channel. The sea was


as smooth as a mill pond, and the breezes were


We arrived. As we walked on shore the rival to
Sherlock Holmes made another discovery. " If you
are not going further, I suppose you will stay at
Calais .? "

Again my comrade muttered " stupid ass," and led
the way to the buffet.

I shall never forget the luncheon. It was excel-
lent. Poidet rbti with ponimes sautes^ some petits
pois and a langue de bceiif, sauce fiquante. This,
with a bottle of white vin ordinaire, some black
coffee, and a chasse, came to twelve francs.

" Avez-voiis de nionnaie pour tin sovereign — un
piece de vingt-cinq francs?" asked my friend, in
that admirable French which in years gone by was
the envy and astonishment of his school-fellows at

" Certainly, sare," returned the waiter," " I give you
eleven shillings change. Will you read The Observer y
The Sunday Times, or Punch ? "

We returned to the Lord Warden in comfort.
We took up our position in two v/ell-situated arm-
chairs. We watched the luggage of the poor
passengers from Paris and Brussels coming down


the slope with more or less expedition, and more or
less wear and tear to the fabric of the boxes.

We got back to Dover, after a most delightful
voyage, by about five o'clock. Tea was awaiting us
at the station. We quaffed a cup, and, once more
closing our eyes and resigning ourselves to uncon-
sciousness, got back to town by a little after seven
o'clock. The next morning I met my comrade's
doctor. He told me how he had directed his patient
to take a sea passage to Egypt.

" But you, dear friend, seem the picture of health,"
he exclaimed. " You don't want to go to Cairo."

" No," I replied, " I don't, because I have been to

And with this apparently pointless remark I
brought our interview to an abrupt conclusion — like
this chapter.




I AM told (and I have every reason for believing
that the assertion is true) that a large number of
Londoners never take a holiday. Professional men
have their " close time," which mercifully forces them
to desist from their labour. For instance, the
barrister, unless he makes himself a slave to vacation
work, gets away in the middle of August, and is not
wanted back in the Royal Palace in the Strand until
the end of October. Then the doctor, prescribing
for himself, takes a clear two months in the dead
season of the year. But the journalist (especially if
he be an editor), like the late Lord Tennyson's
Brook, " goes on for ever." A friend of mine, who
some years ago had been following the " active duties
of his profession " for any number of years, had a
very unpleasant reminder that " human nature after
all is human nature." One day he met that eminent


physician, Dr. Farren Farce, in a railway carriage.
The other occupants of the compartment were a
married couple — a man who seemed to be a con-
firmed invalid, and his devoted wife. The husband
was feeble to the last degree, with lack-lustre eyes,
and the gait of a nonogenarian who has borne his
years badly. At the station en route the poor fellow
was helped out of the train by his sorrowful and
sympathetic helpmate, and struggled away towards
the exit gate, with the assistance of the ticket col-
lector and a couple of porters.

" You should feel a special interest in that group,"
said Dr. Farren Farce to my friend, " because, my
dear fellow, unless you immediately knock off work
and take a complete holiday you will find yourself
in the same plight within the next fortnight."

And the eminent physician was a true prophet.
My friend did not act upon the medico's advice, and
became absolutely incapacitated for the lightest work
for no less than two years. He found himself without
memory, without energy, without everything. He
was a perfect wreck, and it took twenty-four calendar
months to bring him back to his customary con-
dition. So when Dr. Farren Farce takes me by
the arm, and, calling me " dear friend," tells me to
" pull up," I invariably do my best to obey his com-
mands. And it really is wonderful how little time
you need to follow the prescription. As I am nothing




if not practical, I will do my best to show in how
short a space the thing can be done. I will suppose
myself a London journalist at the end of the nine-
teenth century, who cannot possibly get away froin_ __..'-'
town for more than three week-days. I may do
what I please with Sunday and Monday ; Tuesday
and Wednesday are entirely at my service ; but I
have to be at the office on Thursday. How am I
to get the complete rest the Dr. Farren Farce has
ordered for his " dear friend " in the first four days
of the week ? We will see.


If you have been very hard pressed, and have not
had leisure to leave your native country for some time,
there is no better place for a complete change than
foreign parts. I think I may say that the golden
rule for the overworked is " when in doubt try Paris."
And the regulation (like a similar decree in the game
of whist) will usually resolve into trumps. Yes, there
is no place like the capital of France for the weary
journalist whose ears are deaf to any sound but
Fleet Street echoes. When a man has become a
burden to himself and a nuisance to his neighbours
he had better go to Paris — he will find the journey
there beneficial, and pleasanter than a trip either to
Bath or Coventry. Then there is the way of going :



the Newhaven-Dieppe route is very pleasant,
especially in the summer ; the boats are now always
excellent, and the passage takes only half-a-dozen
hours ; but if you are very pressed for time I think
you cannot do better \Xiii\ to trust yourself and your
fortunes (represented by a s' ^all Gladstone bag) to
the Soutli Eastern and Chatham and Dover Railways.
If you are single, there is no reason why you should
not travel by night ; but if you are to be accom-
panied by your wife, you had better make your
journey in the daytime. There is nothing like sun-
light for facing your enemy — and by the foe I do
not mean your better seven-eighths, but the sea.
And at all times you will fmd the after-effects of
the night travelling rather tryin;;. The shadow of
the Calais lights will cast a gloom over your dejeuner,
and the long journey between " the label on Mary's
heart," a^d the " ground surrounding the Tour Eiffel "
will spoil the pleasure of the afternoon walk on the
boulevards, the dinner (say) at Bignon's and the
fmiteuil at the Vaudeville. So make up your mind
to a daylight voyage and a good night's rest. You
will not regret your decision, although you may
possibly sigh as you think of the time when packing
at five, eating at six, starting at eight, and Paris in
the dawn of the following morning, were matters of



I will assume that I, in my character of Dr. Farren
Farce's "dear friend," have decided to "pop over
to Paris." Believing courteously that the presence of
my better seven-eighths, although doubling the ex-
pense, quadruples the pleasure of the journey, I
have taken coupons for two. My first anxiety is
about the luggage. I explain that if I register the
Gladstone bag there will be delay at the Paris ter-
minus, and delay means no taFle d'hote at the Grand.
For the regulation (which is a trifle stricter than the
laws of the Medes and Persians) declares that no
would-be reveller shall enter the salh a manger
after half-past seven. And as (when I am in Paris)
I am nothing if not greedy, this rule is of the utmost
importance. So I take my Gladstone bag, my hat-
box, and a roll of coats with me in the carriage.
My bag contains the regulation necessaries, inclusive
of evening clothes for myself, and several " dreams
in satin and lace" belonging to my better seven-
eighths ; the hat-box, besides the go-to-meeting
topper, all that was crowded out of the bag; and
the roll of coats beyond the garments named, all
the things that have been crowded out of the hat-
box. It is, consequently, a relief to me that the
Calais douanier (a gentleman who, commencing with



an extremely military cap, suddenly drops into mufti
from his chin downwards) does not order the roll
of coats to be examined. If, instead of marking
the bundle with a " 2," he had insisted upon its being
opened, he would have been surprised at the vastness
and variety of its contents. Later on, when I ask
what have become of my collars, my boot-jack, my
slippers, my frock-coat, my writing-packet, my
sponges, my toilette requisites, my white ties, my
reserve of cigars, and my prayer-book, I am told,
and accurately told, that they are all in the bundle.
And here I nnay hint that as the roll of coats is so
full of good things, it is as well to have it firmly
strapped up^ before starting. It is distinctly em-
barrassing if it comes undone (as I have known it to
do) when it is being conveyed by a youthful mariner
from the train to the boat.


Of the journey to Paris I may note a few points.
I am travelling on Sunday (by starting at eleven there
is plenty of time for breakfast and church) ; so I have
my favourite journal, which I can read at my leisure.
During the journey I notice a vast number of other
passengers engaged in the same pleasant occupation.
I heartily confess that during the seven hours and
three-quarters devoted to the journey from London


to Paris I read it all If your better seven-eighths
does not look at the pages of The Observer, she
glances at those other leaves — the leaves on the trees.

" They are moving ! " she exclaims, " I am sure it
will be rough ! "

It is just possible that there may be a hurricane
taking place. Castles and farmhouses, to say nothing
of oaks centuries old, may be disappearing before the
force of the elements. But even then it is necessary
to assure the lady " that it is quite certain to be calm.
and that the sea will be like a lake." It would be
cruel, it would be unmanly, nay it would be incon-
venient to say anything else. Once on board, strongly
recommend the ladies' cabin and ^Hisappear ^yourself
into the smoking-room. Until you reach Calais the
rest had better be silence. ^

At the buifet ask for the menu, order your lunch
with promptitude and command a bottle of Yin
rouge ordinaire. The tedious railway journey to the
capital comes to an end at last, and then with luck
you get into your voiture and find yourself in the
courtyard of the Grand Hotel, in time for one of the
best tables d'hote in Paris — which is France — which
is the world! Which is London! More or less!


I have been wise. Knowing that the Fair City
is en fete I have written for a room. I hear that


scores and hundreds of would-be sojourners have
been turned away. But to me is given a small book
and a key. Then I enter the lift, and ascend to a
dizzy height. For the moment I feel like Louis
XVI. when, described as the son of the saint, he was
invited to " mojitez au cieir But I get no further in
that direction than the cinquieme etage. Later on I
suggest that something lower would suit me equally
well, and I descend. Still, there are worse places in
the world than a room " au cmquiemel' overlooking
the boulevards at the Grand Hotel. Of course it is
economical, and then I fancy you can see (with the aid
of a telescope) down some of the chimneys of the
neighbouring houses. But this is a fancy, and nothing

I am in Paris, and everything is fresh and charm-
ing. It is Monday, and having had a good night's
rest I am fit for anything. A " complete tea " (taken
in the residential rival to the summit of the Tour
Eiffel) has made us regardless of the pangs of hunger
until one o'clock, so we determine to see all Paris.
How is it done ? Nothing easier. Patronise the omni-
buses and tramcars. All we have to do is to climb
up on a vehicle labelled " Madeleine — Bastille," and

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Online LibraryArthur William À BeckettLondon at the end of the century : a book of gossip → online text (page 16 of 19)