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any degree noteworthy. But, although pretty,
there is nothing in this renowned lake of any
special beauty, and the same remark applies to
the famous Lakes George and Champlain, which


American guide-books proclaim to be unequalled
in the world for beauty, but which would not
receive much attention were they situated in
the country that owns Maggiore, Como and
Garda, Such a spectacle as Lucerne on a
brilliant spring morning, with Pilatus and the
Righi to right and left, still covered with their
crown of snow, the deep-blue lake and the multi-
tudinous mountains in the white distance, is no-
where to be seen in the States. Of river scenery
I know little, and the Hudson, the St. Lawrence,
the Las Animas, Del Norte, and the Mississippi
exhaust my list. The Hudson has a world-wide
reputation for beauty, but strikes a European as
overrated. That portion of its course in the
immediate neighbourhood of New York is fine,
and indeed the fifty miles to West Point is well
worth seeing. After that the scenery is tame,
and the beauty of the whole distance is much
injured, more Americano, by the railway running
on either bank, and cutting the river from the
scenery by its level line of embankment, and by
the numerous block ice houses and manufactories
which occupy every specially lovely turn in the
river. The St. Lawrence is, like the Mississippi
or the lakes, too large to be uniformly beauti-
ful, though it is a superb stream, and Quebec,



situated at its true mouth, is from natural position
incomparably the most stately and striking city
that I have seen in America. Indeed there are
few cities in Europe which can match Quebec for
imperial beauty. Much of the best scenery in the
States is within reasonable distance of the eastern
sea board, in Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia and
New Hampshire, where low ranges of picturesque
mountains and an infinite variety of vegetation
make in spring and autumn a veritable paradise.
But, for the boldest and most characteristic scenery,
it is necessary to go two thousand miles west to the
Rocky Mountains, where, unless the imagination of
the traveller has been unduly exalted, he will be
well repaid for his labours. The first view of the
Rocky Mountains, before snow has fallen on the
heights, is disappointing. They do not appear of
any considerable elevation, though a few of the
loftiest peaks, such as those behind Colorado
Springs, are not much inferior to Mont Blanc. This
is due to the gradual rise of the prairie from the
Mississippi, until at Cheyenne or Denver the
traveller, though still on the open plain, is some
6,000 feet above the level of the sea. Nor is the
colouring of the mountains at all rich. Almost
devoid of vegetation on their eastern slopes, and
not high enough for snow to lie throughout the


year, the long range of bare, burnt hill-side rather
resembles the dreary mountain ranges of Afghan-
istan or the Derajat than the Alps or the
Pyrenees. In the spring months, before the
winter snow has melted or the fierce heats of
summer have baked the country to a uniform tint,
the mountains are doubtless beautiful enough. So
they are as I was privileged to see them, in the
autumn. One day, early in October, the scene
changed as if by magic: at night, no snow had
been visible on the mountains, except in some few
isolated patches in sheltered valleys, but heavy
rain fell in the lowlands, and with the morning
the Rocky Mountains were covered far down with
snow. The scene then was one of surpassing
beauty, and the journey from Antonito and
Duvango to Silverton, the train now slowly
climbing passes 11,000 feet above the sea, now
winding along the bank of an impetuous river,
the whole mountains from river to peak densely
covered with vegetation aflame with the thousand
tints with which autumn in America decorates
the forest, could never be forgotten by any one
who witnessed it. For the bareness of the
Rocky Mountains towards the plain country in
Colorado does not prepare one for the great
beauty and variety of the forest when once the

D 3


heart of the hills has been penetrated. One
charm of railway travelling in the Rocky Moun-
tains is due to the manner in which the lines
have been constructed. In order to avoid un-
necessary expenditure in this new and wild country,
which, a few years ago, was almost unexplored, the
line has been carried along the edge of the pre-
cipice in a thousand curves, instead of piercing the
mountains by tunnels as in the St. Gothard Rail-
way. What is thus lost in directness of route is
gained in beauty of scenery. No traveller who
desires to understand what America has of rich,
quiet beauty, as well as of wild, savage scenery,
should fail to visit some portions of the interior of
the Rocky Mountains, and if his business or plea-
sure carries him to Salt Lake City or San Fran-
cisco, he would do well to travel by the new route
through Pueblo and Gunnison, rather than by the
uninteresting direct line from Cheyenne.

In speaking of the general impression left upon
me by American cities, I trust that I shall not be
accused of Philistinism if I give, unhesitatingly, my
preference to the brand new city of Chicago, which
has risen, phcenix like, from its ashes. I am well
aware that many of the evils which I have here-
after described as existing in the municipal
administration of New York, flourish almost as


luxuriantly in Chicago. But with all its defects,
upon which I do not intend to dwell, this city
seems to me destined by its unrivalled position,
and by the energy and public spirit of its citizens,
to be the future metropolis of America. It has
been planned and laid out with a noble confidence
in its future. Its avenues, and magnificent series
of parks surrounding the city, are not only un-
surpassed but unequalled in any part of the world.
It has had the good fortune to possess architects of
genius, and many of the private residences are
models of convenience and good taste, while the
City Hall and Post Office, for beauty and dignity,
might well be studied by those architects who are
now submitting plans for public offices in London.
Most American towns are of little interest, and
their monotony, from the rectangular system on
which they have been planned, is depressing to
the last degree. The narrow streets, the winding
ways, the perpetual surprises of unexpected views
of strangeness and beauty found in the ancient
cities of Europe, which have slowly grown up
through a thousand years, with no definite plan,
and recalling even in their inconveniences the
struggles and warfare of their mediaeval days, have
naturally no place in American cities. The width
of the streets, the admirable public buildings, and


the well built and extensive shops and places of
business, together with the general air of industry
and prosperity form their only charm, which has no
connection with the picturesque. Churches, indeed,
form an exception to the general monotony, and
to judge from their number, of every denomination,
the Americans must be, on Sundays, at any rate,
a religious people ; while there is every sign that
the Roman Catholic form of creed is gaining, in
America, all the ground that it has lost in Europe.
The most noticeable defect of the towns is the
inferior character of the roadway. Paving in Ame-
rica seems an unknown art ; the principles of Mac-
adam have not crossed the ocean, and the paving
generally would be considered disgraceful in an
English village. Washington is, in this, as in almost
every branch of civic administration, the honour-
able exception, and the reason is found in the fact,
which is as significant as any in American political
life, that the district of Columbia, which is virtually
no more than the city of Washington itself, is not
delivered, like other American towns, to the tender
mercies of an inefficient and corrupt municipality.
I believe that Washington, in former days, had its
municipal troubles, and it was only bitter experi-
ence that induced it to take refuge in despotic
government from that popular administration which


Congress recommends elsewhere, but which it
soon discarded when the usual results followed
in the only city over which the Government of
the United States can exercise any direct control.
The number of Industrial Exhibitions, both in
the United States and Canada, surprises a stranger
who is accustomed to the apathy of the Old World
at all those times when it is not excited to interna-
tional competition. Toronto, Chicago, London, St.
Louis, and even Denver, with many other towns,
had their exhibitions, all good, and some, especi-
ally that at Chicago, admirable. In this last was
the best loan collection of pictures that I saw in
America. At Denver, the Exhibition buildings
had been placed too far from the town, and the
show was not a financial success; but in its display
of mineral wealth it was of the greatest interest.
The example of America might be followed in
England with great advantage to trade. In Lon-
don something is being done, and the Fisheries
Exhibition last year and the Sanitary Exhibition
this season, together with the international show
at the Crystal Palace, sufficiently testify to metro-
politan public spirit. But there is no reason that
the great provincial cities, like Manchester, Liver-
pool, Glasgow, Bristol, and Birmingham, should not
annually by turns have an exhibition of arts and


industries, which, with due attention to amusement,
should be profitable. Industrial Exhibitions are
not the most exciting form of human amusement,
and it is only as a means for developing commer-
cial enterprise that they are to be recommended.
They seem to form a considerable proportion of
the popular recreation in the United States, and
their number and excellence are partly due to the
commercial energy of the people and partly to
the republican simplicity which, in a country
possessing little to amuse, has adopted that form
of dissipation which the jaded cities of the West
have abandoned from sheer disgust and weariness
of spirit. There are, however, many circles in the
inferno of amusement, and it is possible to make
even an Industrial Exhibition attractive, as was
proved at Vienna in 1873, and by the Fisheries
Exhibition in London.



INTERNATIONAL criticism was represented in
its most attractive form by Lord Coleridge during
his recent visit to the States. It is true that he
was in no position to act the Mentor and unfavour-
ably discuss American institutions. He was the
guest of the American bar, and no Englishman in
recent years has received in the States a more
cordial or more generous welcome. The high
rank and reputation of the Chief Justice, his un-
blemished character, and the literary distinction
connected with his name, combined with his fine
presence and courtly manners, impressed and
charmed American society. His progress from
city to city was almost triumphal, and his opinion
of his hosts and their country as expressed in his
speeches was doubtless heartfelt and sincere.
Guests and hosts were mutually gratified. It may,
however, be questioned whether it was altogether


consistent with the dignity of the Chief Justice of
England to be carried about America like Barnum's
" Greatest Show on Earth," as an advertisement
of the glory of that remarkable country. Better
the dinner of herbs with freedom, than terrapin
and canvas-back ducks with servitude. And it
must be admitted that a full expression of opinion
and indulgence of the critical or judicial spirit
were impossible in these frequent banquets and
receptions. It is not after dining with a friend
that we can best criticise the arrangement of his
house or the manners of his family. It is true
that honest criticism was neither expected nor
desired, for the Americans resemble and herein
they are very sensible people those authors de-
scribed by Oliver W. Holmes, who, when they ask
for your criticism expect your praise, and will not
be satisfied with anything else. A Chief Justice
should only speak from the bench, where his
words carry the force and weight which is rightly
accorded to deliberate judgment, wisely formed
and temperately expressed. Not for him is the
glorious dust of the arena or the applause of the
crowd ; the falseness of open compliment, the
insincerity of unspoken blame. His language
should be judicial, or he should be silent. Now,
whatever may have been the merits or charm of


Lord Coleridge's American utterances, no one
will be disposed to call them judicial. His praise
of many things American may be fairly held
extravagant ; his eulogy of Matthew Arnold is
open to the same objection ; while, if the American
press be correct, he even attempted socially to
whitewash General Butler, Governor of Massa-
chusetts, the most unscrupulous and indecent of
demagogues, whose defeat during the late elections
has delighted all honest men, whether Republicans
or Democrats. His ungrudging praise of the
judiciary of the United States altogether ignored
the fact that a considerable proportion of that
body, elected by the same processes as give
municipal government to the cities, is notoriously
inefficient and corrupt, and that the criminal
classes, who are personally most interested in the
verdicts of the courts, select the judges to preside
in them. Even in lighter matters Lord Coleridge's
desire to please went somewhat in excess of the
requirements of the situation. His comparison of
English and American beauty, which occasioned
much comment in the States, cannot be considered
just to his own countrywomen. The Washington
Post says :

" But his expressions regarding the American ladies have
imperilled the Lord Chief Justice's chances of ever again


finding favour in the eyes of English beauty. An absence of
only two months from his native land has served, he says, to
win him from the standard of English loveliness, and he can
conscientiously champion only the American type of beauty.
Wherever rys went the American lady was the same charming
personage, and the American girl the same self-possessed
bundle of independent anomalies. He could not sufficiently
praise the fresh complexions, the charming manners, and the
independence that marked the ladies he counted himself for-
tunate in meeting. And fairly turning against his own
countrywomen, he unhesitatingly admitted that in his eyes
the American women were the more attractive."

A correspondent of the New York World,
who claimed to have interviewed Lord Coleridge
on the steamer which took him to England,
writes :

" He said he thought the American women far excelled
their English cousins in both beauty and intellect, and he
should not be backward to say so on his native soil."

Although justice be proverbially blind, and the
ethics of compliment are elastic, there is no occa-
sion to believe that Lord Coleridge ever made the
remarks attributed to him in so crude a form ;
and American reporters are very apt to record the
questions they may ask as being the answers they
have received. But the comparison, whether made
by Lord Coleridge in these terms or not, is one
of some interest, and a few remarks on it will not
be out of place. There can be no doubt that


Americans honestly believe their women to be the
most beautiful in the world ; nor to them would
there appear any extravagance in the remark of
the New York Sun on the audience which attended
Irving' s first performance, " in respect of the beauty
it contained far surpassing any audience that Mr.
Irving ever bowed to in his life." But the opinion
of foreigners I do not speak of Englishmen alone
is very different ; and I have never met one who
had lived long or travelled much in America who
did not hold that female beauty in the States is
extremely rare, while the average of ordinary good
looks is unusually low. More pretty faces are to be
seen in a single day in London than in a month in
the States. The average of beauty is far higher in
Canada, and the American town in which most
pretty women are noticeable is Detroit, on the
Canadian border, and containing many Canadian
residents. In the Western States beauty is con-
spicuous by its absence, and in the Eastern towns,
Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston,
it is to be chiefly found. In New York, in August,
I hardly saw a face which could be called pretty.
Society was out of town, but an estimate of
national beauty is best formed by a study of the
faces of the people ; and the races at Monmouth
Park had collected whatever of beauty or fashion


had been left in the city. Even at Saratoga, the
most attractive face seemed that of a young
English lady passing through on her way to
Australia. In November, New York presented a
different appearance, and many pretty women were
to be seen, although the number was comparatively
small, and, at the Metropolitan Opera House, even
American friends were unable to point out any
lady whom they could call beautiful. A dis-
tinguished artist told me that when he first visited
America he scarcely saw in the streets of New
York a single face which he could select as a
model, though he could find twenty such in the
London street in which his studio was situated.
The American type of beauty is extremely deli-
cate and refined, and London and Continental
society will always contain some American ladies
who may rank among the loveliest in the world.
Such are known to us all, but are more common
in Europe than America. A beautiful girl is, in
the first place, more likely to travel than a plain
one, for she is anxious for new worlds to conquer ;
the pride and affection of her parents are more
likely to second her legitimate ambition, and,
having reached Europe, she is obviously more
likely to remain there. If American girls be
anxious to marry Englishmen, as a study of


contemporary novels, plays, and society would
seem to show, it is a proof of their good sense ;
for America, which is the best place in the world
for making money, is the very worst for spending
it. Life revolves round the office and the shop
and the counting-house, and a woman of spirit
doubtless prefers a society like that of London,
where even the men, to say nothing of the women,
from the time they rise at eleven till they go to bed
at three o'clock in the morning, think of nothing
but how they may amuse themselves. America
will grow day by day more like the Old World
in this respect, and when its citizens shall have
learned the science of amusement it will become
a far more agreeable place than it is at present.
The change in the habits of the men will have a
direct effect upon the beauty of the women. The
English are an athletic race, and the amusements
in which they delight are in the open air. As are
the men so are the women. Riding and rowing,
walking and tennis, have developed in them a
beauty the chief charm of which is that it is
healthy. The late hours of the ball-room do not
take the bloom from a cheek which is daily re-
newed by a gallop in the park before luncheon
or a game of lawn-tennis in the afternoon. In
America life is sedentary. The national game of


base-ball is mostly played by professionals ; the
national pastime of trotting-matches cannot be
counted as exercise in the English sense of the
word. The men, with few exceptions, have no
country life few of them even know how to ride ;
they neither hunt nor row, nor shoot, nor play
cricket ; and the women, being everywhere the
shadow of the men, are accomplished in none of
those outdoor exercises in which their English
sisters find and renew their beauty. The charm
which is born of delicacy may be a very lovely
hing, like the finest porcelain, but it does not,
constitute the highest form of beauty, which is
inseparable from good health.

The foregoing remarks, which were intended in
all courtesy, excited, on their first publication
much angry criticism in America. Denunciation
of political profligacy was not only expected, but
could not equal in acrimony that which daily ap-
peared in every American newspaper. But it was
an unpardonable offence to challenge the superi-
ority in beauty of the American women over
the rest of the feminine world. One or two
extracts may be taken almost at random from
American journals. The New Orleans Times
Democrat writes as follows :


" His denial of the beauty of American women does not
call for any special mention. That is a matter of taste, and
an opinion is valuable in proportion to the qualifications of
the judge. Sir Lepel may prefer the large and ample style of
his countrywomen to the more delicate types of this country.
It is his privilege to do so, and its exercise may possess for
him the additional attraction of placing him in antagonism
to nearly every foreigner of taste who has visited the country.
No doubt the arrangement is gratifying to so thorough a
Britisher as Sir Lepel Griffin appears to be. It is quite
evident that he would be shocked and grieved to find himself
forced into agreeing with the rest of the world. We can
afford to dismiss this topic without making an effort to dis-
lodge any of our critic's convictions. His proposition that
American women are unhealthy and that the average English-
woman is a model of grace and beauty is simply amusing
and nothing more. He is welcome to his preference, and, as he
declares his horror of dwelling anywhere save in England, we
are rather disposed to congratulate him on his philosophy."

A Chicago newspaper writes :

" The pertinence of what Sir Lepel has to offer upon this
delicate subject depends entirely upon his standard of beauty,
and these standards always vary in different localities. The
Central Africans regard the Caucasian pink and white as some-
thing hideous. The ebony hue is to them the colour of beauty.
The thick lips, the sprawling noses, and the kinky hair ex-
press to them the highest type of loveliness. In like manner
the Mongol luxuriates in the saffron hue and almond eyes,
the long finger-talons and pinched feet as the traits which go
to make up the symbolic Venus. The Digger Indian regards
the squalid, splay-footed, disgusting belle of his tribe as a
thing of sweetness and light. What are Sir Lepel's standards ?
Probably the English women. We hope it is not ungallant
to say that if they are no one will be surprised to learn that
he does not think American women are handsome. Measured
by English standards they certainly are not. Fortunately we



have had opportunities of applying the tests. They sent us
their most lovely lady widely advertised as the professional
beauty of England sent her over here making no pretensions
that she was an actress, but claiming for her that she was
lovely beyond all description or comparison. Her charms
had distracted all England and had been praised by all
the connoisseurs and esthetes from the Prince of Wales to
Oscar Wilde.

" The ' Jersey Lily ' came, and it was soon found that she
could not compare in beauty with scores of American ladies
in every city where she was on exhibition. Her charms
smote one of our countrymen to a considerable extent and at
considerable expense, if reports be true, but the rest of the
population escaped unscathed. Having had the typical
English beauty on inspection, we can speak with some
confidence in the matter."

Criticism of this character would seem wanting
in precision if it be remembered that nowhere in
her own country is a beautiful American woman
more admired than in English society. The
history of successive London seasons proves
this ; and the passion of the English for novelty,
which has been noticed by every foreign observer
from the time of Froissart, inclines them rather
to exaggerate than depreciate the attractions of a
fair stranger. All can remember American ladies
who have been accepted as beauties in London
drawing-rooms where far lovelier English women
have remained unnoticed. It is improbable that
any civilised or cultured person, whose eye, or
are, or mind has been trained in accordance with


the acknowledged rules of art and taste, would be
influenced in his estimate of beauty by national
predilections. Does the Englishman prefer the

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Online LibraryLepel Henry GriffinThe great republic → online text (page 3 of 11)