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foreigner ventures to put up for a West End club he
must personally be very popular to secure the faintest
chance of election. When a citizen of the United
States seeks admission, his nationality is a recom-
mendation. The Garrick, the Beefsteak, the Union
and the Wyndham are full of our American cousins,
and if they are seldom found in the Carlton or the
Reform, it is because participation in national politics
at those clubs is a necessary qualification. At the
recent banquet in honour of Her Majesty's eightieth
birthday, our American cousins took a part as repre-
sentatives of England's senior colony. Not long ago
I had the pleasure of conversing with Mr. Maxim, of
quick-firing fame. When we discussed the relative



positions of England and the United States, I ven-
tured to tell him that I considered his part of the
territory on the other side of the Atlantic was a
branch establishment of the Mother Country, of
which she had every reason to be proud. Mr. Maxim
agreed with me. One of the pleasantest signs of
the times at the end of the centruy is the hearty
good-feeling that happily exists between the two
great divisions of the English-speaking race.


Years ago cattle-show week was an institution of
far greater importance than it is at the present
moment. The week in which it was held was
considered by the theatrical proprietor and the lessees
of the music halls as the carnival of the country'
cousin. Even at the close of the century, a large
contingent of rosy-cheeked young men, wearing pot
hats and leather gaiters, visit London at the end of
October and in early November. But, thanks to the
railways and their cheap excursions, provincials have
grown so accustomed to our manners and customs
that they nowadays attract little attention. The
country bumpkin of old-fashioned melodrama is
played out, at any rate, in the metropolis. Of late
years nearly every county has its London dinner,
whereat all the provincials settled in town enjoy a


banquet and eloquence of a more or less excellent
order. We have the festival of the Devonians in
London, and the East AngUans in London, and
many others. Taking the journalists belonging to
the metropolitan district of the Institute, I beheve
country is in the majority to town. Indeed, it has
occurred to me that if I wished to establish my name
as an organizer, I could adopt no better course than
founding a dinner to be exclusively reserved for
Londoners in London. I believe that if I were to
make the attempt, my chief difficulty would be to
find sufficient convives possessing the necessary
qualification. Until a provincial speaks it is difficult
to distinguish him from a Londoner, but when he
talks his accent betrays him. Strictly speaking, your
true Londoner should be born within sound of Bow
Bells, but this test will remain obsolete until the
belfry of the famous City church has been sufficiently
repaired to allow of the ringing of the chimes.


The ancient landmarks have almost disappeared.
Speaking personally, I myself was under the
impression that I first saw the light, or maybe
the fog, in North End, Fulham, but a recent map
of the locality which contained the house in which
I was born, proves to me that there was a mis-



take in the matter. According to this chart, I
must have commenced the earliest days of my
career in West Kensington. What were Brompton
and Hammersmith 20 or 30 years ago, are now really
the south-western portion of the London postal dis-
trict. But this matters little to our visitors. To them
Town is always Town. Go where you will, you find the
provincials all the year round, and besides them,
colonists from Canada, Australia, and Southern Africa.
They are mostly white, but India and the Gold Coast
send us many swarthy fellow subjects. These last
are to be found in large numbers at the Inns of Court.
They chiefly adopt the Inner Temple, but some of
them prefer Gray's Inn, that forensic hostelry that
has, of late years, risen by leaps and bounds into
popularity. Taking the four guardians protecting
the portals of the Royal Courts of Justice, Gray's Inn
is becoming one of the most numerous in students,
as it has ever been the most famous in history. I
speak of it absolutely without bias. My father
belonged to Gray's Inn. So do I.

In conclusion, taking the stranger in London as
we find him, and considering his position from every
point of view, I think we may affirm, with a consider-
able amount of confidence in the reasonableness of
our assumption, that given health, plenty of money,
and a cheerful disposition, he has a thoroughly good
time of it.




Perhaps nothing strikes a Londoner with greater
force than the altered tone about the manner of spend-
ing Sunday in town which marks the end of the cen-
tury. It was Charles Dickens who first called atten-
tion to the dismal view that some very worthy people
adopted relative to what they were pleased to call
" the Sabbath." London, in spite of its vast popula-
tion, is distinctly "religious." I use the word in its
broadest sense. We have little of that " philosophy "
which in Paris means " infidelity." Certainly here and
there we find a poseur who delights in proclaiming
his contempt for things divine, but the bulk of sensible
men regard him with as much esteem as that accorded
to the gentleman who took pleasure in speaking dis-
respectfully of the Equator. A stroll through the
streets between twelve and one on a Sunday will
show the promenader all sorts and conditions of


men coming from church and chapel. And if the
afternoon and evening are spent in recreation away
from the tavern, why none should be the worse.
After all, it is only reverting to the eighteenth
century, when many a country parson took part in
a game of cricket on the village green. So, without
entering into the vexed question of sacred music (or
otherwise) in our halls and public buildings, I will
give a rapid glance at Sunday as we find it in London
at the end of the nineteenth century.


The reference to music on the first day of the week
brings me naturally to that product of the followers
of St. Philip Neri, the oratorio. The good Italian
priest founded his oratory in Florence centuries ago,
and, thanks to Cardinal Newman and Farther Faber,
branch establishments have appeared in Birmingham
and London since 1850. To the casual Londoner the
Brompton Oratory is a magnificent church used fre-
quently during the season for — as the papers have
it — " fashionable weddings." But the excellent
Fathers have duties other than presiding at nuptials
of the blue blood of Catholic Society. The Fathers
have " Little Brothers," who, on the first day of the
week, meet together for pleasant chat and chess and
other innocent distractions. On the Feast of St. Ce-


cilia there is an oratorio held in their own private
chapel, at which the best music is performed, to the
delight of the audience, or should I say — for a sermon
is a part of the proceedings — the congregation ? What
that excellent institution the Y.M.C.A. is to non-Catho-
lics the Little Brothers of the Oratory are to members
of the Church of Rome. And here I may call atten-
tion to the change of tone that has taken place during
the last thirty years anent the question of " 'Version."
I have in my mind as I write the case of a youngster
of sixteen, whose religious belief altered in the early
sixties. His career had been marked out for him.
A great friend of his dead father was a titled stock-
broker, who had most kindly promised the lad a
seat in his counting-house with a junior partnership in
the future. The moment the news reached the City
that the boy had 'Verted the kind offer was withdrawn.
The elder. brother of the youngster suggested as a
mode of " knocking the nonsense " out of him, turning
him into the workhouse, and, as a matter of fact, penni-
less and without food, the young gentleman had to
seek a breakfast, the outcome of hospitable benevo-
lence. At the end of this century such a case would
be impossible. Now-a-days a religious belief is re-
garded with as much tolerance as opinions anent
politics. A man is allowed to follow the teachings of
the Archbishop of Canterbury, or Cardinal Vaughan,
or Dr. Parker, or the Rev. Price Hughes, as the spirit


moves him. So long as he is a good fellow, which
is another term for a gentleman in its right sense,
it matters little to the vast majority whether he be
Anglican, Catholic, or Dissenter. The old feeling
of hatred and all uncharitableness which, perhaps,
was a legacy from the times of the Puritans, and later
on the Jacobites, has disappeared, and London is
the better for it


In spite of the exceptions to whom I have referred
the bulk of Londoners are churchgoers. In the coun-
try for years it has been considered the thing to do to
go to the family pew, as an example to the simple
villagers. Besides, the Rector would feel naturally
annoyed if the Squire were absent. The meetings at
the Sessions, the dinner-table, and even, perhaps, the
covertside, would be slightly embarrassing if the Hall
neglected the Pulpit's sermons. And what has been
long the rule in the country has become the custom
in town. There are very few churches west of the
site of Temple Bar that have not crowded congrega-
tions. Many of the temples of the Establishment
have as many services as the Catholic churches and
chapels, and at each service (especially at the Catho-
lic) in the morning there is a new set of worshippers.
From statistics it would seem that the influence of


the Church is holding its own. Every day amongst
the intellectual there is a call. Without becoming
serious people are more and more in earnest. It was
no mean compliment to a land where a church is by
law established that a Pope should testify to the
national righteousness, and yet so it has been. There
is a spirit of conciliation abroad, in spite of differences
of opinion upon such weighty matters as the burning
of incense and the use of daylight candles.


The end of the century sees in existence two won-
derful organisations — the Church Army and the Salva-
tion Army. It has been the fashion to laugh at the
latter and " the General " who commands it. Now
and again I have come across some of his officers, and
certainly, from what I have gathered from them, I
cannot speak of the movement with disrespect. No
doubt the music of the Salvationists in the streets is
not always tuneful, and, to put it quite straight,
frequently a nuisance. And there may be a lurk-
ing danger that the excitement created by long
prayer meetings may lead to lunacy, as it did, I have
been told, amongst the revivalists in America. But
taking the Salvation Army as a whole, I believe that
it has been the cause of a maximum of good and a
minimum of evil. And I say this as a Christian who


belongs to a creed which differs materially with the
tenets held by the General.

And here I may point out that the Salvation Army
is no new thing. Those who have read Macaulay's
essays dealing with the Reformation will find that the
preaching monk was quite as much in earnest as the
Fire and Iron captain.


In " a book of gossip " it may appear out of place
to take a sedate view of life, and life in London on a
Sunday is at its sedatest. So I will touch very lightly
upon what is known as the Nonconformist Conscience.
It has been my good fortune to come across a large
number of divines, from Cardinal Manning at one
end of the list to the Rev. C. H. Spurgeon at the
other. I take these two good and great men because
they have left us, and the language of eulogy is saved
the possible reproach of being flattery by the sad
barrier of the grave.

The first time I met Cardinal Manning was when
he was living at York Place, and then was an arch-
bishop and not a member of the Sacred College. I
had come to him at the request of the proprietor of
a paper to see if he would purchase the copyright. I
shall never forget the interview. Dr. Manning was
kindness itself, and, in spite of the natural inclination


to chaff a lad-I was little more than a lad in those
days-who had come upon an absurd errand, reframed
from the temptation. My paper was devoted to the
Turf in a great degree, and yet it was my duty m the
interests of the needy proprietor to show a way to
utilising .t as a so-called " religious " journal. sug-
eested to His Eminence (that was to be) that to the
races might be added " sermons." " My dear young
friend," said Dr. Manning with a smile, " does it not
seem to you that there is something slightly mcon-
gruous m the juxtaposition of Latest Sportmg with
Latest Ecclesiastical ? "

And there did.

Many a time afterwards I met Cardinal Manning,
and he not unfrequently referred to the occasion when
I tried to induce him to become the proprietor of the
Glowworm. He was one of the kindest and best of


Both Cardinal Manning and Mr. Spurgeon were
very fond of a joke. The last time I saw the latter
was on a Sunday some months before his death, when
I was induced, in company with a High Church Angli-
can clergyman, to pay a visit to the Tabernacle to
hear the reverend gentleman preach. We found the
place crowded, and, at the suggestion of one of the
attendants, tried our luck at a door in the rear of the
premises. We found that we had come upon the pri-
vate entrance reserved for pastors. Our names were


taken in to Mr. Spurgeon, who was conducting the ser-
vice. He came out and gave us both a hearty wel-
come. In the course of a few minutes we found our-
selves seated on a sofa in the pulpit. A gentleman
was reading out the verse of a hymn, and when he had
finished he turned round to us and courteously invited
us to lead the singing. This was slightly embarrass-
ing to my clerical friend, because his costume was
markedly ecclesiastical, and to me because my voice
is not very strong and has never been exhaustively
cultivated. Besides, I was not quite certain that the
sentiment of the hymn had, from a purely theological
point of view, my whole-hearted approval. However,
the congregation, which numbered some thousands,
managed, so far as we were able to judge, to get on
very comfortably without our assistance. After the
hymn came Mr. Spurgeon's address, which was full of
light and shade, by turns witty and solemn, and always
interesting. We had a short chat with Mr. Spurgeon
after the service was over, when the genial pastor sug-
gested to my High Church friend that, although it
would be scarcely fair for him in any of his discourses
to adopt any of his jokes, he was quite at liberty to
use his controversial arguments.


As I am referring particularly to leaders of religious
thought in this chapter, it may not be out of place at


this point to make a passing allusion to the position
held by the Jews at the close of the century in the
estimation of their fellow Londoners. Thanks to their
kindness of heart to their countrymen of British
nationality and their patriotism, they have long since
ceased to be regarded as a race apart. " The Mer-
chant of Venice," which in the last century was re-
garded as a comedy, so far as the principal character
was concerned, at the present time is accepted in the
same relationship as a tragedy. The wrongs of Shy-
lock are no longer received with shouts of derisive
laughter, but even with tears, and when Sir Henry
Irving quits the stage in his gaberdine, bowed down
with the cruel insults of the victorious Christian, the
exit is greeted with keenly sympathetic applause.
It seems strange to us nowadays that the Jews should
have been forbidden entrance to the House of Com-
mons, when some of the most respected members of
the House of Lords at this moment belong to the
same persuasion. At the clubs there are now no re-
ligious disabilities, and some of our most popular chief
magistrates in the City have been supporters of the
synagogues. Some of our greatest philanthropists
have also been Jews, and one of the soundest lawyers
of modern times, a Hebrew by birth and faith, added
by his honoured presence to the illustrious traditions
of the British judicial bench.



Since Dickens wrote of Mr. and Mrs. Crummies and
their interesting company the position of the actor
has greatly improved. According to the statute, not
so very many, years ago, the player was a rogue and
a vagabond. Nowadays a famous tragedian or come-
dian may expect a knighthood as a proper recogni-
tion of his services in the cause of art. Not only this,
the stage is becoming one of the professions. Young
men from the universities find the A.D.C. and the
O U.D.C. stepping stones to the boards of the Lon-
don theatres. No longer is the adoption of the mask
and the buskin, or rather their modern equivalents,
considered infra dig. by those superior persons who
are pleased to believe that they belong to the " best
society." Ladies and gentlemen of birth and breed-
ing are ready to appear before the footlights without
concealing their identity by assuming nommes de


theatre. On the other hand, dramatic authors, who
in the early part of the century were described on the
programmes as " esquires," now appear without their
titles. The Church and the Stage have joined hands,
and both claim the right of delivering sermons. In
a word, play-acting has become, in the eyes of the
right minded, absolutely respectable. This is as it
should be. It seems to me that if one day of the
week is given up to the pulpit, there can be no pos-
sible harm in devoting the other six to instruction
more or less combined with amusement. It is a solid
fact that, at length, London has playhouses in num-
bers bearing some proportion to the total of its in-
habitants. Within the last eighteen months not only
have theatres sprung into being in the heart of the
metropolis, but in almost every suburb included in the
postal district. And, taken all round, the entertain-
ment provided has been of first-rate quality. The
work of the Lord Chamberlain's Examiner has not
been unpleasant The public may be tired of " prob-
lems," but they act as their own censors and will not
tolerate pieces defying official condemnation. Even
" the jeunesse stage doory " has become a memory
of the past, and it is no longer the thing — as it was
twenty years ago — to visit the theatres a score of
times successively to gaze upon the charms of the
ballet. Our young men nowadays spell Art with a
capital vowel, and prefer the cultured talk of the


Savile to the not always grammatical causerie of
behind the scenes.


First nights are now amongst the most prominent
events of the season. Thanks to Sir Henry Irving
and Mr. Charles Wyndham, a gathering on the seamy
side of the curtain is more than a collection of movers
in smart society. All London on a first night at the
Lyceum foregathers to congratulate the hero and
heroine of the evening. " Chicken and champagne "
is there, but it is not there for the special delectation
of the critics. Those useful framers of public opinion
have to hurry off to Fleet Street to write their notices,
and have no leisure to accept the graceful hospitality
of the actor-managers. The actor of to-day receives
his applause as does the eminent O.C. who listens
to the appreciation of his colleagues in the robing
room. The liberty of the Press is unthreatened,
for it is clearly understood that there is a hard and
fast line dividing friendship from duty. A critic is a
judge first and a bon camarade afterwards. This is
a novel situation for the end of the century. This
foregathering of friends lays that spirit of spite that
disfigured so many of the critiques of the forties and
fifties. Charles Kean — Etonian and man of culture —
suffered severely from this malevolence. It was the


order of the day in more than one office to slate the
tragedian with the " snuffle " and the " nose of strange
device." But nowadays a critic would as soon think
of criticising unfairly, unjustly, the rhetoric of the
Royal Courts of Justice as the elocution of our lead-
ing theatres. I think Sir Henry Irving has written of
the typical actor as Punch, and claimed indulgence
for that unrespected puppet. But his remarks re-
ferred to the days when Punch was found at the
corner of the streets. Nowadays both the dramatic
and the literary puppet are absolutely respectable,
and both wear well-fitting evening suits inclusive of
spotless white waistcoats.


Looking at the list of theatres at the end of the
century it is instructive to note that most of the senior
playhouses have retained the speciaHty of fifty years
ago. The Lyceum is still the home of romantic
drama, Drury Lane and the Adelphi of melodrama,
the St. James and the Haymarket of comedy. The
merry little Strand with its memories of Byron and
Burnand, and, earlier still, of Talford and Albert
Smith, is rather uncertain in the tone of its entertain-
ment. Of the new theatres three or four are
given over to the charms of what of old was known
9.S the burletta. It is strange that with so many



musical pieces going in all directions a national opera
cannot be established. But so it is. Professor Stan-
ford has recently appealed to the public and the
County Council to subsidise such an institution, but
hitherto without success. The days of Pyne and
Harrison are over, and Carl Rosa is becoming a
memory of the past.

Covent Garden survives as the solitary opera house.
The home of music where Jenny Lind made her Lon-
don debut, and Sims Reeves sang in English, no
longer exists. Her Majesty's is now a theatre, not an
opera house. On the 24th of May, 1899, however,
the Queen on her eightieth birthday heard the
national anthem sung on the site of the boards v/here
Piccolomini - warbled the death melodies of " La
Traviata." I believe I may take the credit of filling
the theatre, on the occasion to which I refer, with the
children of the State. The scholars of the Duke of
York's School and the Greenwich Hospital School
were there, with many others. At half-past two
o'clock the children wished their Queen many happy
returns of the day, and Her Majesty listened to the
greeting at Windsor. The telephone carried the
voices from the theatre to the Castle. I believe that
it was the first time that a monarch had listened to
an address from her subjects at a distance of

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Online LibraryArthur William À BeckettLondon at the end of the century : a book of gossip → online text (page 2 of 19)