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you are carried to one or the other. Then get on to
a coach bearing the legend " Louvre," and you are
taken there. Lastly, you ascend a carriage inscribed
" Opera, Place de la Concorde, Tcrnes," and you are


conveyed everywhere. If you wish to do the place
thoroughly, seemg all the latest uiiprovements and
new builduigs, you can spend hours and hours upon
the omnibuses. Let them take you where they wul,
and supposing you have not been in Paris for a yeat
or two, you will find every yard of the ground m-


Of course if you want to go to the Bois (which, by
the way, Zola considered ftner than our parks and
gardens!) you can take a voiture, at 2.50 the hour;
ninety minutes will be quite enough of it m the au-
tumn, when the leaves are falling and the lakes look
" damp " and cheerless. But I cannot recommend a
breakfast at the cafe either m the wood or the
Champs Elysees.


Of course you have an inclination to visit the
theatres. But just now there is nothing new save the
last play by Sardou, and a rather naughty piece of
magic nonsense. I am m Pans, and what are they
playing? Why, any number of revivals. And m all
Paris not a single English piece, not a single English
actor ! Certainly British histrions are at a discount
just now in the city of Corneille and Moliere!

The last time that an Anglo-Saxon actor made a
stand in Paris was, I fancy, when Sothern went over


to Paris during the Exhibition year of 1867, and
played Lord Dundreary. It was not a success. I am
not quite sure whether this appearance was prior or
subsequent to the debut of Charles Mathews in
r Anglais Timide. By the way, I have heard a good
story told about this last-mentioned piece. I fancy it
was originally written by an Englishman (I think
Blanchard Jerrold, son of Douglas), and played in
London, then translated into French, then re-trans-
lated back into English under the title of As Cool as
a Cucumber; then re-translated again into French
when Charles Mathews accepted his Parisian engage-
ment. I remember hearing Charles Mathews saying
that his brother actors were utterly surprised at the
way he rehearsed the play. In his days it was the
custom to merely walk through the part, indicating in
the faintest manner the " business." The French, on
the contrary, rehearsed everything as if they had a
critical audience in front of them irjstead of an empty
auditorium. On " the night " his fellow actors were
astounded at " Charley's " success, and I am glad to
say gratified. But I must not talk about the drama in
Paris, as I have to get back to work in town.


Tuesday is like unto Monday. 1 managed to see
the Musee Gravin, but when I proposed to visit the


Louvre it was suggested to me by an influential
authority " that really it was a pity when one was in
Paris to waste time upon things like that." Not that
the influential authority did not admire art, " but art
was long and lasting and Parisian bonnets ever
changing." So the visit to the Louvre was changed
to a visit to the Magasins du Louvre. And I must
confess there was much more novelty about the latter
than the former. Again omnibuses, again table d'hote
breakfasts (four flats an choix) and dinners. Again
new faces, new people, new uniforms, new surround-
ings, new everything.

When we returned about the middle of the week,
after two clear days in Paris, it seemed as if we had
been away for months. My friend. Dr. Farren Farce,
happened to be on the platform. The eminent phy-
sician beamed through his benevolent glasses. Then
he smilingly addressed me :

" Dear friend ! You were right to take my advice.
Now you can go on for another twelvemonth, if need
be, without bad results. Satisfactory, dear friend ;
most satisfactory ! "

And the " dear friend " had nothing to say to the




A Londoner must preserve his health, and at the
close of the century the doctors admit rivals to the
continental watering-places. Nowadays, it is quite a
common experience to hear Sir William This and Sir
Robert That speaking with respect of Buxton, Tun-
bridge Wells; and Harrogate ; and the autumn is
the pleasantest time for a sojourn at these reviving
watering-places. I have been to most of them and
think I may, after mature consideration, declare my
preference for the half-way tov/n between London
and Hastings. The site of " Ye Pantyles " is still
fashionable, and in very much the same condition (if
one is able to judge from contemporary prints and
old guide-books) that it was just a century ago ; and
furthermore, the death-rate seems as low now as it
was a hundred years since.


How did I come to travel to " the survival of the
Georges " ? Why, thanks to " doctor's orders," 1


had been sounded and tHumped and made to jump on
one leg. Then my medical friend had listened to
my breathing, with the assistance of a stethoscope,
as if he were trying to carry on a conversation with
some distant friend through a slightly damaged

" You want change of air," said the doctor, laying
down the stethoscope, " and rest if you can get it."

I explained that rest was out of the question, but
I might perhaps steal an occasional " Sunday to
Wednesday morning " away from town.

" I suppose," he continued, " you could not arrange
to take a yachting tour in the Mediterranean } You
could not meet the boat at Marseilles and coast along
Southern Europe, touching at Genoa, Leghorn and
Venice ? "

" Well, no," I replied ; " I do not think I could
manage it. You see, that sort of thing cannot be got
through in fifty-six hours."

" Very likely ; very likely," admitted the worthy
nineteenth century representative of ^sculapius.
" Then how about Skye or Switzerland .'' "

" Both impossible, for the same consideration."

" Well, I suppose we must fall back upon England,"
said my medical mentor in a tone of disappointment.
" If you can't manage to get to the Mediterranean or
Lucerne or even Portree, why you had better go to
Tunbridge Wells."


So from this I gathered that the Kentish-Sussex
" watering-place " had a kinship (in air) with Switzer-
land, the Highlands, and Italy. I am nothing if not
practical, and so I call upon health-seekers to make
a note of this conjecture.

Then Tunbridge had a further advantage. It was
within easy reach of town and served by two excellent
railway companies. First there was the South
Eastern, which landed you at the foot of Mount
Pleasant (which by the way might be called Mount
Unpleasant when you have to ascend it), close to
" favourite residences " on Mount Ephraim and in
Calverley Park; and next there was the London,
Brighton and South Coast, which invited you to
descend (a much better phrase than " turn you out ")
in the neighbourhood of " Ye Pantyles." The fares
of these trains were reasonable, and the time-tables
entirely satisfactory. I found I could get to Tun-
bridge Wells in little over an hour, and that the
starting fixtures were well selected. What more
could be desired by a Londoner attracted to town by
the magnet of editorial work ?


I have had the advantage of a quiet perusal of the
" Snail- Way Guide " of my friend Mr. Ashby Sterry,
in which the charms of Tunbridge Wells are duly


set forth. The " Lazy Minstrel " delights in descrip-
tions of the Common, "Ye Pantyles," and the
magnificent country surrounding High Rocks and
Rusthall Church. To those who admire a series of
charming word-pictures, I confidently recommend
this httle work. It is not in the least like an ordinary
guide-book, inasmuch as it comes from the desk of
an accomplished essayist, of whom it may be said
that his pencil and his pen are equally graceful,
equally eloquent, equally fanciful. I have the less
hesitation in recommending my friend's " Snail-Way
Guide " to the general public, as I have every reason
for believing it is out of print, and that its present
price is about the dozen times the charge made by
the original publishers. So my recommendation
cannot be stigmatised as an advertisement, but
merely accepted as the possible cause of a fruitless
search ending happily at last in the reading-room of
the British Museum. If I am not mistaken, a volume
once costing only a few coppers can now only be
purchased by gold or its equivalent. And if any of
my readers are inclined to possess themselves of the
" Snail-way Guide " at the increased price, I do not
think they will have any cause to regret the bargain.
The beauties of Tunbridge Wells are painted in
words, and each syllable is worth its weight in





And what are the chief attractions of this " survival
of the eighteenth century ? " Well, I think I
may say " air." The breezes that are wafted
across the Common at all times are full of
health. You inhale new life and energy as you
sit in front of an hotel that boldly announces
(on its wall) that it is many hundred feet above
the sea level. If the weather is boisterous you
can seek the shelter of the valley. Fall to the level
of " Ye Pantyles," and you are surrounded on all
sides by hills that have been accustomed for centuries
to set the winds at utter defiance and to treat the
hurricane as a negligible quantity. Even on the
hottest day of August there is a breeze on the Com-
mon. Then there are the waters that are healing
medicines. They are full of iron, so are greatly
patronised by those in search of strength or with a
preference for water tasting of ink.

As to the hotels and boarding-houses I am not
in a position to say much. I stayed once at a capital
hostelrie on Mount Ephraim, and believe there are
other establishments equally good. I may hint, too,
that on Mount Ephraim you can get a charmingly
furnished house for about four or five guineas a week.


If you are " a careful tenant " you may get one even
for less.



My friend Ashby Sterry was right in making his
guide a " Snail-Way " specimen. Life in Tunbridge
Wells is quiet to a degree. There is a story that the
gayer of the inhabitants spent their existence in six
months of anticipation of delight and six months in
pleasant recollections around the central event of the
year's story, the visit of a famous conjuror to the
Large Hall. I happened to be staying in the town
when this function came off, and can testify to the
excitement caused by the display of the portraits
of the wonder-worker. Crowds flattened their noses
against the shop windows in which these pleasing
features were displayed.

Then there is the band daily on " Ye Pantyles,"
where, for the price of one penny, one can get a
chair with a programme of the music thrown in
free, gratis, and for nothing. The bandmaster is
fond of classical music, and frequently " drops into
Handel." When he does, it is not difficult to people
the old promenade with persons of the period — Dr.
Johnson and Boswell, Steele and Addison, Angelica
Kaufmann and Sir Joshua Reynolds ; and, of course,
my Lord Lovelace and my Lady Bettie Modish, and


all the belles from the Mall and the beaux from the
" waiters' coffee-houses," They pace up and down
" Ye Pantyles," as you listen with half-closed eyes to
the strains of the band. And here, by the way, why
not reproduce Tunbridge Wells on the stage ? What
an excellent " scene " for a theatrical management
strong in its painting room!


And this reference to the dram.a reminds me that
while I was there I assisted at the performance of
Our Boys at Tunbridge Wells, in the Large Hall, and
had the pleasure of seeing my friend Thomas Thorne
in the character rendered famous by David James.
I little thought when I was marking the differences
between the two readings that I never should look
upon the original again. The first time I met David
James was after the production of Ixion at the
Royalty. I had just made the acquaintance of the
author of the famous burlesque, and at a dinner at
which I was present, given by Frank Marshall to
Alfred Wigan, Joseph Robins and Burnand, the latter
spoke of the great possibilities of the coming actor.
Mr. David James was cast for a comparatively small
part, but he played it to the entire satisfaction of a
rather exigent author. Mr. Burnand said that from
what he had seen of his acting at rehearsal he was
sure he would be " very good." And so he was


From his first appearance at the Httle Royalty he was
a favourite with the Press. He played in several of
Burnand's burlesques (and they were something like
burlesques in those days !), first at Dean Street, Soho,
and then at the Strand. He was always excellent.
When David James and Thomas Thorne were at the
Vaudeville I had a near chance of seeing them in one
of my own pieces ; they both read it and said they
both liked it. They sent for me and told me that
they considered it could be cast from the existing

" And we should be glad to play it at once," said
David James, " had we not given Byron a commission
which should be our next production. However, he
is very backward with his work, and the third act is
not yet delivered. If he doesn't hurry up, and we
don't get the act in a fortnight, your piece shall have
the preference."

My friend H. J. Byron, however, did "hurry up"
and the third act was duly dehvered. The piece to
which it belonged was Our Boys, which ran without
stopping for five years! My excellent play (I am
afraid it has grown rather old-fashioned) is still
tenderly cherished — on my bookshelves!


My " Green-room Recollections " have run away
with me and carried me from " Ye Pantyles " to the



Vaudeville Theatre. But if the operation were re-
versed I am not sure that the experiment would not
be successful. I am not quite sure what is being
played at the old house at this moment. But tired
brains from the play-houses, not only in the Strand
but elsewhere, will find Tunbridge Wells a delightful
restorative. It is quaint and beautiful, old-fashioned
and lovely beyond compare. Above all arid before
all, it is the very land of health. Invalids revive like
drooping flowers thirsting for water on the appear-
ance of a summer shower. There are shops of all
sorts and conditions ; but during my stay I never
noticed the presence of an establishment belonging
to an undertaker. And this being so, I venture to
raise the appropriate cry of " Tunbridge Wells and
its inhabitants for ever ! "




A CHAPTER or two back I had the pleasure of show-
ing how a trip to Paris could be easily managed
within the space of three clear days. It has occurred
to me that I might say a little more, once again adopt-
ing the theory of the journalists that the French
capital is a part of the London district. I will imagine
the travelling over. I have braved the passage be-
tween England and France and have reached the
Gare du Nord after a long and fatiguing railway
journey. It is the early morning, and in the coming
daylight I can see the well-known hoarding that ad-
vertises on the sides of houses the sartorial generosity
of the " bon diable!' Where shall I go ? No doubt
I have decided already, and have told the sleepy
coachman of my voiture to make for the " Grand."
If I have been ultra wise I shall have written to the
hostelrie in the Boulevards des Capucines and com-



manded my room. It is the safest thing to do. I
know of nothing more mortifying than to be sent
away from the doors of an hotel on the score that
there is no accommodation. You feel rather like my
friend Mr. J. L. Molloy's " Vagabond "—" homeless,
ragged, and tanned." But the vagrant in the song
has this pull over you — he was not encumbered with
luggage, and had not to settle up with a sometimes
insolent and invariably surly coachman at the end of
his peregrinations.


Say that \ve have decided to stay at the Grand.
It unquestionably has its advantages. Its courtyard
is certainly a scene of never-ceasing gaiety, and it is
said that you have only to seat yourself outside the
salon de lecture on the terrace to meet " all Paris."
Then there is the table d'hote breakfast, which is
patronised not only by MM. les Voyageurs but by the
natives also. If you partake of this meal with your
wife, the course consists of four dishes at choice, to
say nothing of hors d'oeiivres. From a diversified
carte du jour (including oysters, partridges, mayon-
naise d'homard, chateaubriands, and any number of
other palatable plats) you can, by making a wise se-
lection, secure a meal worthy of a Catullus. And yet
there are Goths who sometimes, in reply to the


garqon, announce that for " their first dish they will
have boiled eggs, and for the other, eggs and bacon ! "
Oh, the pity o' it ! The pity o' it !

Then there is the reading-room, with its papers and
its theatrephones. This last is rather an institution.
During the hours of performance you can hear what
is going on at the Opera, the Bouffes, and many other
French theatres. By putting fifty centimes in the slot
you have the privilege of listening for five minutes,
and by inserting a franc the advantage is extended to
twice that length of time. I cannot say that I was
entirely satisfied with my investment. Once I heard
(amidst a whirl) what seemed to me to be the finale of
a first act. Then I distinctly made out the clapping,
and I transferred the tubes to my better seven-eighths,
and she, too, heard the applause. We were greatly
pleased at this triumph of civilisation, but came to the
conclusion that our assistance of the performance re-
sembled not a little the glimpse of the circus riding
obtained by Leech's boy while looking under the
tent's canvas. He could see the " 'oofs of the 'osses,"
and so — from a musical point of view — could we !


Of course there are other excellent hotels besides
the Grand. There are any number on the Boule-
vards ; along the Rue de Rivoli ; in the Rue St.


Honore. In the days of my youth I used to Hke the
Grand Hotel du Louvre. It still exists, but its ancient
site is now occupied by the Magasins, the delight of
the ladies and the terror of their remaining " eighths."
The other day, when I passed through what used to
be the courtyard, I found it full of all sorts of " high
novelties." Here were some feather ruffs, there a
miscellaneous collection of bonnets all ticketed ten
francs a piece, yonder a great bazaar of " voyage ar-
ticles." I could not help sighing when I thought of
the past, and I feel certain that my melancholy would
have become chronic had not my better seven-eighths
cheered me up by wanting to buy a Franco-Russian
fan, an eiderdown quilt, four umbrellas, a trunk, a
dozen and a half of blankets, a few hats, some cur-
tains, a gauzy arrangement for the front of the dress
" that could be worn with anything," and a dining-
room table. We did not purchase all these articles,
and those we did I am bound to say v/e found a
nuisance. I put some of the blankets, two of the um-
brellas, and the fan in my bundle of coats, and un-
fortunately these did not seem to agree with my re-
cently polished evening boots and my partially opened
sponge-bag. But, of course, you cannot expect every-
thing to go like clockwork when travelling. Still, it
must be supposed that a feather fan, representing the
Franco-Russian colours, is not improved by the appli-
cation of escaped boot polish and liberated Odonto.


Leaving the reduced Louvre, we may patronise, if
we please, the increased Hotel de Lille et d' Albion.
Years ago this was quite a small place, and the original
site is now occupied (I fancy) by the Hotel St. James.
In its present form it is not bad, still it is " very Eng-
lish." Breakfast is distinctly breakfast, and there is a
strong suggestion of " a cut off the joint " in the other
meals. Much the same may be said of the Normandie,
and if the Continental is not so popular as the Grand,
it is because it is at the wrong end of the Avenue de
rOpera. I have been told by daring tourists that
there are good hostelries on the other side of the
Seine. I cannot speak from experience, but if all I
hear is true, in the Quartier St. Germain there may
still be found representatives of the old noblesse who,
having no houses in Paris, still put up at the ancient
inns devoted to their class. Here you will find mar-
quises who do not owe their coronets to chocolate
manufactories, and peers of France who can trace their
titles beyond the days of Napoleon I.


And speaking of hotels, I am reminded that it is
well to discover the secrets of the electric light before
retiring to rest. A friend of mine, weary from much
travel, went to bed leaving the lamp in full blast. At
4 a.m. he woke up, and finding the electric light still
brilliant, attempted to turn it off. He pushed the


button at his side without any effect. He repeated
the pressure several times, and then heard a knock at
his door and the sleepy sounds of a human voice.
He was asked what he wanted, and then discovered
to his surprise, that he had been taking infinite trouble
to summon a superfluous waiter ! At the Louvre and
many other hotels there is an indiarubber bag attached
by a tube to the electric lights. You squeeze this bag
once, and the chandelier in the centre of the room
blazes, a second pressure transfers the light from the
centre of the room to the bedside, and a third appli-
cation puts lights out. The matter is very simple
when you know how it is done ; but, if you don't, you
may imitate the action of my friend and bring forth
the early waiter — with results. When you do you had
better look out in your conversation book " Dialogue
with a would-be murderer," for you will need some of
the replies ! If you are a theatre-goer, you will find
most of the old playhouses occupied by, in fact, old
plays ; and if you prefer a music-hall, you will see
most of the stars from the mother country once again.
If you are an artist, you will know your Louvre and
your Luxembourg by heart. If you are a musician,
you will find the Opera and Opera Comique scarcely
up to the mark of Covent Garden. And yet, after all,
Paris is delightful. You don't want to go anywhere
or to do anything. The change of scene should be
enough for you.




In my character as a Londoner requiring restoration
to health I give another experience. I have written
of a short trip to Tunbridge Wells, and a two days'
jaunt to Paris. But I have again run down. And
when you run down, the best thing to do is to run off.


I will assume, for the sake of argument, that my
genial and ever courteous friend. Dr. Farren Farce,
has given me a " thorough overhauling," and is look-
ing at me through his confidence-inspiring spectacles.

" You want change of air, pleasant companions,
and a wholesome diet." I will suppose my esteemed
medical adviser is observing, " See that you get them,
dear friend, or I will not answer for the consequences."

After such an (imaginary) decision I have of
course only to obey (supposititious) orders. I am
living in London, and if I have to obtain change of


air, why not go to Whitstable ? I am to indulge in
a wholesome diet ; why not eat oysters ? I am to
seek pleasant companions ; why not leave myself
in the safe hands of a valued friend of mine I will
call Trevelyan ?

The matter is soon arranged. We (our party is
to consist of five) are to leave St. Paul's by the
excellent train starting shortly after ten, and reaching
Whitstable at about noon. There are faster con-
veyances than this on the same well-managed line
of the S. E. and C. D., but this particular " fixture "

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Online LibraryArthur William À BeckettLondon at the end of the century : a book of gossip → online text (page 17 of 19)