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

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flames. They were never replaced, possibly because
the public takes more interest nowadays in variety
entertainments than in arch^ological research. Still,
the Crystal Palace continues to flourish as the home
of the best music, the purest literature, and the
brightest art. F lor eat!

THE EXPOSITION OF 1 862 AND AFTER.

The second International Exhibition was held in
1862— nearly forty years ago. It was designed by
an amiable officer of the Royal Engineers, and both
of its domes still exist at the Alexandra Palace on
Muswell Hill. It was not nearly as successful as its
predecessor, and when it closed there was a general

8*



ii6 LONDON AT END 01^ CENTURY.

understanding that it would not be repeated. On the
shutters being put up there was a vigorous effort made
to secure the building for the nation. But sensible
people objected " that it really was quite too ugly,"
and the objection was sustained. On its site stands
the Natural History Museum, which as a structure is
certainly a great improvement on the original building.
Before it was pulled down the hall of the Exhibition
of 1862 was used for the holding of a grand fancy
bazaar in aid of the Home for Incurables. The Prince
and Princess of Wales were present, and two of the
features were fitted-up theatres. At the first of these
— Richardson's Show — was played a piece called
The Siege of Seringapatam, by F. C. Burnand, in
which the author took a prominent part. He was sup-
ported by Oliffe (son of Sir Joseph, the founder of
Trouville and medical adviser to Napoleon III.),
Charles Hall (now Recorder of London), Matt Mor-
gan (the artist), and many others. The rival theatre
was under the management of Lady Anne Sherson
(a relative of the Duke of Fife), and there was played
therein a burlesque drama called The Port Admiral,
written by Mr. Thomas Gibson Bowles, M.P. The
author again played in his own piece, and was sup-
ported by the late Frank Marshall and myself.
During the " intervals " the rival comp;mics used to
march round the building in the hope of attracting
audiences. Mr. Burnand appeared as a sort of com-



LONDON EXHIBITIONS. 117

promise between a field-marshal and a postilion, Mr.
Bowles as a British tar, Mr. Matt Morgan as a Spanish
bullfighter, and Mr. (now Sir) Charles Hall as an acro-
bat. Those (there were two of them) were pleasant
days indeed, and the Home for Incurables greatly
benefited by our charitable labours.



THE BAZAARS OF THE EARLY SEVENTIES.

And now, leaving out of consideration the series
of home exhibitions that began with the Fisheries and
ended with the Colonies, or the Militaries and Naval-
ries of a few years since, I come to the consideration
of a now half-forgotten specimen of the international
sort that flourished early in the seventies. It was held
in the galleries belonging to the Horticultural Society,
and the gardens of that useful, but not (then) very
prosperous institution were thrown in. The notion
was to encourage foreigners to bring their goods duty
free to England, and then, when they had got them
here, to actually sell them at a great reduction. This
transaction was very popular with the British public,
but it was not regarded with so much favour by
the British trader. The unfortunate proprietor of
premises, say in Regent Street or Piccadilly, could not
behold with unmixed satisfaction a foreigner under-
selling him in what was really a gigantic bazaar. The
foreigner could offer a French clock for twenty shil-



ii8 LONDON AT END OF CENTURY.

lings — some 30 per cent, cheaper than the article as
displayed in the London shops. The British trader
had to pay for carriage, duty, house rent, and the rest
of it The foreign " exhibitor " got his carriage paid
and his rent for nothing, so could afford to be liberal.
But his liberality was rather too much for the British
retailer. A most useful body called the National
Chamber of Trade took the matter up, called an in-
dignation meeting at Willis's Rooms, and the Inter-
national Exhibitions on the bazaar principle dis-
appeared for ever — or nearly ever.



I



119



CHAPTER XIV.

COACHING THE UNIVERSITY CREW.

I FANCY it is the fashion nowadays to suggest that
popular enthusiasm is on the wane about things
athletic. Some " hundreds of thousands less than the
average " go every year to see the Derby, and a
million or thereabouts annually steer clear of the tow-
ing path, when, according to the placards on the
Underground Railway (as the Metropolitan and
District used to be called until recently), " the crews
are on the river." For all that and all that, during
the last weeks of Lent all England, Scotland, Ireland,
and Wales, to say nothing of India, Canada, and the
Colonies, are talking about " the boat race." Every-
one (more or less) has something to say about the
powerful, steady stroke of Oxford, and the quicker,
more catchy, less effective pull of the Cantabs. I
remember some years ago feeling prouder than I
have ever felt in my life when at the close of the



I20 LONDON AT END OF CENTURY.

great race my friend the coach of the Oxford eight
singled me out for recognition and greeting as he
led his charges back in triumph to their quarters in
the Lyric Chib at Barnes. But that moment is
replaced. I have beaten its record. It now ranks in
my memory as the second proudest moment of my
hfe. It is entirely effaced by the hour and a half's
delight I experienced only two or three seasons
since, when I had the honour of accompanying Mr.
R. C. Lehmann on board the Swan, and watchmg the
practice of the Oxford crew. There was another
man on board, an old Oxford Blue, who took the
time. I was the solitary passenger. Three all told —
besides the crew. It was a unique experience, and
in spite of the pelting rain I had the most delightful
time imaginable. When it was over I came to the
conclusion that after all the editor of " Men and
Women of the Day " had shown his wisdom in adding
my otherwise insignificant name to the list of his
biographies in his useful and interesting volume. I
felt, when drenched and dripping I returned to the
Leander dressing-room, that I had at length estab-
lished my right to be considered a celebrity. I had
actually seen the Oxford crew at close quarters — had
followed the boat neck and neck from Putney to
Barnes and back again! Since that time I have
become more than usually unsupportable to my
friends. When any of them say anything about the



COACHING THE UNIVERSITY CREW. 121

boat race (and they talk more or less of nothing else
during Lent) I invariably contradict them.

" Yes, yes," I murmur, '* it is all very well. But
take my word for it that I am right — and I ought to
know, for a few seasons since I was on board the
Swan and saw the crews at practice."

Then there is a silence. There is no answer.
What reply can be made to a man who has seen
practice from the deck of the coach's launch? My
friends have given the question up. So have I. So
must everyone.



COACHING A CREW A LA BOUCICAULT.

Until the occasion to which I refer I must confess
that I had very vague notions about the training of
a crew. I think if I had analysed, so to speak, my
memory I should have found in the residuum a
recollection of Formosa at Drury Lane. To my
lasting regret I did not see the revival of Boucicault's
play a year or two ago at the National Theatre. My
friends and colleagues, the dramatic critics of " the
new school," told me at the time that it was old-
fashioned, out of date, and the rest of it. My
friends and colleagues are rather fond of that sort
of sweeping denunciation. It does not mean much.
It merely suggests that if they had to write such a
play nowadays they would write it very differently.



122 LONDON AT END OF CENTURY.

And no doubt they would. And the admission is
not calculated to lessen the reverence felt for the
memory of Dion qua dramatist. But I saw Formosa
when it was produced, and distinctly recollect an
ex-prize-fighter getting the Oxford crew to sit upon
chairs in a line and " go through the movement " of
rowing. Then the ex-prize-fighter (who was the
coach) sang the crew a song, and the nine (for the
cox took part in the delightful recreation) joined in
the chorus. The daughter of the ex-prize-fighter (if
my memory does not play me false) exercised a
baleful influence over the stroke of the Dark Blues,
and that eminent athlete would have gone completely
to the bad had he not been pulled up at the last
moment by his " guide, philosopher, and friend," the
Oxford steerer.

" Jack," said the Dark Blue coxswain, " you must
be true to your 'Varsity. The public have put their
money on the Oxonians, and we must not betray
them! Your alma mater expects you to do your
duty ! "

Thus spoke the steerer, or words to the same effect.
Jack (I think the stroke was called Jack) became a
changed man from that moment. He gave up balls
down the river, was rescued by his colleagues from a
sponging house, and won the race shoulders square
and a straight back in a common paddle !

Such was my preconceived notion of training an



COACHING THE UNIVERSITY CREW. 123

eight. After my real experience I can confidentially
say, " it is not a bit like it."

FROM PUTNEY TO HAMMERSMITH.

I never remember a " wetter day " than the
occasion of my outing. It pelted at Putney, and even
the habitues of the towing-path sought shelter under
the sheds of the boathouses. The dogs did not seem
to mind the downpour; they walked about as usual.
One of them (he was chained up) treacherously repaid
the kindly pat of my friend the coach by biting
the hand that caressed him. It was a wicked thing
to do, and I believe that canine public opinion
accepted the theory that the deceitful dog had been
carried away by his feelings, or, rather, his betting-
book. Those who know Dog Latin say that the
biter had a "bit on Cambridge," and had, conse-
quently, reasons " of his own " for attempting to in-
capacitate the coach of the Darker Blues. But the
dog was out in his calculations. My friend the
coach, in spite of his accident and the frightful
weather, was as fit as a fiddle.

I first entered the London Boating Club (where
the Oxonians put up), and had a glance at the photo-
graphs of boating men past and present; strolled
through the apartments devoted to "changing,"
weighing, and rubbing down, and got aboard the



124 LONDON AT END OF CENTURY.

Swan. My companions had waterproofs ; I wore a
fur-lined coat.

"You should have scaled before embarking," said
the Old Blue. "You will find that coat will put on
an extra stone of water before we get home."

The Old Blue was right. But there was no time
for chaff. The crew had carried their ship from the
boathouse to the river and were afloat. They took
off their wraps and were ready to start A few
directions and off we went, the Swan keeping just
in rear of the Oxford rudder. From that moment
there was a silence broken only by the voice of the
coach as he called out to this man and to that to
correct some fault. When he was not giving a
particular direction he repeated a general instruction.
I was reminded of Wellington Barracks and the
sergeant-major in charge of the newly-joined subs.
My friend Mr. Lehmann was intently on the alert,
and so was the Old Blue, and so was I.

As we passed along we had the banks of the
river to ourselves — not a soul to be seen anywhere.
But civilisation came within measurable distance as
we neared Hammersmith Bridge. There were a
couple of omnibuses and a cab crossing. As we
approached they pulled up sharp, and heads appeared
in all directions. It was against human nature to
proceed while the Oxford eight were in view. My
friend Mr. Lehmann shouted out a few directions,



COACHING THE UNIVERSITY CREW. 125

and we shot the bridge in splendid style. Then he
called to the man in charge of the engine, " Once,"
and there was a solitary whistle. Then, " Twice,"
and we had two whistles. The crew slowed at the
first signal and stopped at the second.

" Put on your wrap. Seven," shouted Mr. Lehmann,
as he noticed that one of his charges (a freshman in
his first term) had forgotten to take the necessary
precautions to keep off chills. Then there was time
for a few minutes' chat and recreation.

INCIDENTS OF A TRAINING.

" Don't laugh at my ignorance," said I, " but how
do they train ? When do they begin it ? "
- " On Ash Wednesday," returned Mr. Lehmann.
" Up at seven in the morning, a spin before break-
fast. Then tea and toast and a chop. Practice.
Lunch at 1.30, beef or mutton, watercress or salad.
Practice. Dinner at seven. Fish, a fowl entree, beef
or mutton. Two glasses of ale at luncheon, same
at dinner. One glass of port at end of the latter.
Bed at ten o'clock."

" And do you train with them ? " I asked.

" Certainly. I accompany them in their morning
spin. I am responsible for their being fit. If I see
anything amiss in any of my charges I march him off
to the doctor. However, they are all wonderfully



126 LONDON AT END OF CENTURY.

well, and we haven't had to call in medical assistance
so far."

" Except in your own case," I said, pointing to the
bandaged hand peeping out of a sling.

" Oh, that's nothing," he cried. " Now then, back
to work."

We were off again. The coaching went on as
before. Stroke and Bow lead the boat between
them, the earnest little coxswain (covered up in
shining waterproof) occasionally giving the time. As
we neared Barnes Bridge we saw a luggage train
hasten up and stop in the centre of the structure.
The engine driver, stoker, and guards had a good
look at us. As we passed Thornycroft's the same
thing happened. Work was suspended that we might
be carefully inspected. Officials and mechanics
formed together in groups to join in a common
criticism. It was a link binding all Englishmen
together — the love of sport, of pluck, of a good fight
honourably fought.

THE MORAL OF THE BOAT RACE.

We had been to the " Ship " at Mortlake, and were
returning to Putney with the tide. Just after leaving
the Barnes Bridge our crew were called upon to give
up " paddling " to have a row. Then they " let her
have it." It was a splendid eight minutes. My



COACHING THE UNIVERSITY CREW. 127

friend, Mr. Lehmann, shouted out all sorts of cries
of encouragement Now and again I heard the yells
of the hunting-field finding a place amongst the
echoes of the towing-path. It was a beautiful sight ;
one never to be forgotten. The boat sprang at
almost every stroke. The blades of the oars worked
like clockwork. The crew strove with the earnest-
ness of Englishmen.

And as I watched them I could not help feeling
that in the youngsters before me were the true germs
of the British race. They were all good in the
schools, but it was something more that shone in the
bright good-looking faces of the heroes of the river.
I recognised in the men before me the stock from
which come the " V.C.'s " and the " D.S.O.'s." There
was not a man amongst them, from the sturdy little
steerer up to gigantic No. 5, who would not have
held his own at Glencoe or shown Tommy Atkins
the way into the Redan at Sebastopol. Here
before me were the descendants of the men who
had fought at Agincourt, Crecy, and Waterloo. And
here were they exhibiting the same fine old British
pluck that had carried their ancestors triumphantly
through the treacheries of the Peninsula and the
cruel mismanagement of the Crimea. Oh, it was a
grand sight! The sort of sight that makes one's
eyes glisten and one's heart beat a little faster at
the thought that the blood coursing through one's



128 LONDON AT END OF CENTURY.

veins was British born, and belonged exclusively to
the children of Britannia.

" What rot ! " will say any of the crew or their
successors, who reads the above language, quoting
the immoral criticism of Lord Arthur Pomeroy.

" Quite so, my good young friend," I reply in
advance. " Certainly ' what rot ! ' but the idea is
sound enough."

And so it was. While our lads can row and live up
to rowing we need not fear for the Union Jack. It
will keep floating all the world over.

ENGLAND AND FRANCE.

We returned in triumph. We passed the Cam-
bridge crew shortly after Hammersmith. They
glanced at us critically as we left them. i\nd here
I may note that the best feeling of camaraderie exists
between the rival Blues — it extends to the coaches
and all concerned. As a proof of this, take the case
of Mr. Lehmann. He is a Trinity Cambridge man ;
was in reserve for the eight when up at Cambridge ;
and yet he has been the Oxford coach. " Our friends
the enemy " are as popular as " our friends the
friends." Before taking my leave, after the most
delightful of morning's recreations, I asked Mr.
Lehmann if the French were really beginning to
take up rowing seriously.



COACHING TUE UNIVERSITY CREW. 129

" Certainly," he replied. " And if they extend the

movement, you take my word for it, it will change

the characteristics of the nation. They will prove

to be like Englishmen."

And I believe they will. Well, if they do, and
mvade us, we will tolerate them. A man who is
worthy to rank with an Old Blue is worthy of any-
thmg and anybody.

And when I say this I do not fear contradiction
from the globe in general, and from the banks of
the Thames between Putney and Mortlake in
particular.



I30



CHAPTER XV.

THE SEQUEL TO THE DERBY.

A Londoner usually pays a visit to Paris to see the
Grand Prix. Not every Londoner, of course, but
very many who live within sound of the bells of
Cockayne. Of late matters sporting have im-
proved amongst " our lively neighbours " (who, by
the way, what with their Anarchists, Communists,
Anti-Semites, and the like, are very frequently " our
sad neighbours "), but in spite of this improvement
there ever will be many strange turns-out. For in-
stance, although many Frenchmen are now capable
of handhng the ribbons and tooling a coach, yet the
typical Jules prefers, as a general rule, to have his
driving done for him. He likes to have a number of
friends, male and female, on his " veritable draggc,"
and then desires his coachman to mount. The hired
jehu appears in the costume of the Postilion de
Longjumeau and everyone (inclusive of the typical



THE SEQUEL TO THE DERBY. 131

Jules) is satisfied. Arrived on the course, " a veri-
table lunch, five o'clock," is discussed. The typical
Jules and his friends, male and female, imitate the
" gentlemans and ladies sportismans " across the
Channel as well as they can, and are perfectly satis-
fied to get back to Paris safely. The typical Jules is
merry, but the survival of the Postilion de Long-
jumeau is as sober as a judge. But whatever be the
method of the typical Jules, the fact remains that
Paris — ^yes, all Paris — is agog with excitement on the
occasion of the Grand Prix, and can think of nothing
but racing.

RACING UNDER THE EMPIRE.

I suppose that, although the Due d'Aumale was
always fond of horse training, the great revival of
French sport became an accomplished fact under the
patronage of Napoleon III. The Emperor had a
great love for " the noblest friend of man," and did
his level best to bring Epsom to Longchamps.
During his long sojourn in England — v^^hen he was
occupying that now-betableted house in King Street,
St James's — the coming ruler of France was con-
tinually at the more frequented of the meetings. If
he never took part in an actual race himself he at least
entered in the lists of Eglinton Castle when the glories
of Ashby-de-la-Zouch were revived, and some thmk

9*



132 LONDON AT END OF CENTURY.

surpassed. The Emperor Louis Napoleon was the
first to render the June meeting at Longchamps
thoroughly popular. That popularity has now lasted
for something more than forty years. It has survived
the dark days of the Siege and the Commune, and
promises to be one of the features of the coming
twentieth century. The Grand Prix of the Republic
is not so very unlike the Grand Prix of the fifties and
the sixties. The State tribune is filled by the Presi-
dent, his wife, and the more illustrious of their guests,
and the classes and the masses are there — the first in
their hundreds and the last in their thousands. The
only absentee of to-day is the flower-girl of the
Jockey Club. " Isabelle," some quarter of a century
ago, was an institution. It was her duty to appear
in the colours of the favourite, and to supply the
swells of the Jockey Club with button-holes. I
believe during the rest of the year she was the pre-
siding genius of a newspaper kiosk on the Boule-
vards opposite the Grand Hotel. But during the
Sunday devoted to the Grand Prix she was the
heroine of Longchamps. Poor Napoleon III. ! The
last time I saw him was lying in state at Chislehurst.
As I write, his pale, calm face comes back to me, his
iron-grey moustache and " imperial," his scanty locks,
his apparently well-formed cranium. Only the other
day I saw a cast of his head taken by an eminent
surgeon immediately after death. The cast showed



THE SEQUEL TO THE DERBY. 133

a fine forehead, but my friend the eminent surgeon
suggested that, taken as a whole, the head was a
poor one. " It was the head of a dreamer," said my
friend. " It belonged to a man infirm of purpose
and weak to a degree." Well, Napoleon has long
since passed away, and so have " Isabelle," Cora
Pearl, and Schneider, and the other glories of the
Empire.

THE TURF IN THE FRENCH THEATRES.
The mention of that most clever and piquante of
singer-actresses, Mdme. Hortense Schneider, re-
mmds me that the great French pubhc have never
cared for the racing drama. Only a year or so ago
a Drury Lane drama dealing with the Grand
National was transplanted to Paris, and although
staged to perfection under the direction of the late
Sir Augustus Plarris, failed to prove very attractive.
I have been told by the author of the piece that the
manager of the theatre insisted upon the introduc-
tion into this play of " real modern life " of a ballet
of clowns ! And quite recently there was a French
" mimodrame " produced at the Princess's, in which
a " bookmaker " (presumably a '' bookee ") was a
very prominent character. The " bookmaker " wore
a long light coat, a pair of field-glasses and a straw
hat. He was pressing in his attentions upon the
unprotected but virtuous heroine, to that lady's in-



134 LONDON AT END OF CENTURY.

V

dignation. However, upon the noble-minded maiden
stamping her foot and in dumb show " bidding him
begone," the " bookmaker " pohtely nfted his straw
hat and made himself scarce. Beyond this I do not
think that there has been any very modern French
drama treating of the turf. Some years since I
remember seeing a play in Paris (I fancy it must
have been at the Ambigu) in which there was a scene
laid on a racecourse. I have rather an indistinct
recollection of what it was all about, but I remember
that the course was kept by mounted British soldiers
(presumably Life Guards), and there was only one
policeman — and he an avowedly comic character. A
horse was brought across the stage, and received
with cheers ^and laughter. The play ended by the
hero, who was also a sailor, receiving a free pardon
(for something he had been accused of doing but
had not done), and the vote of the House of Com-
mons. This was accorded him by a General, who
was called in the bills " Vellington," and 1 supposed
must have been intended for the Victor of Waterloo.
I knew that it was a very wonderful performance
altogether, but fancy that the least effective part of
the piece was that which dealt with the racing,

A RACE MEETING IN BRITTANY.

Of course the meetings at Paris and other large
towns are nut unlike our own sporting fixtures. But



THE SEQUEL TO THE DERBY, 135

when one travels further afield there is a marked
difference between racing at home and abroad.
Frenchmen choose the hottest months of the
summer for steeplechasing, and their example is
followed by the Germans. Not very long ago I was
visiting a town in Brittany where races had been
organised. The month was August, and the sport,
of course, steeplechasing. There were a number of
wretched screws entered for every race, and it was
absolutely a miracle how some of them surmounted
the various " obstacles " that barred the way to the
winning-post. There was a restive horse in one of
the contests, and this animal bolted. Immediately
a mounted gendarme started in pursuit, caught the
creature up, and brought it back in triumph ! Fancy
such an affair occurring at Epsom! Fancy a


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