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LONDON : : : 1909




Copyright. 1909, by Charles Scribner's Sons, for the
United States of America

Published March, 1909

Printed by the Scribner Press
New York, U. S. A.






I. First Impressions 1

II. Who Are the English ? . . . 37

III. The Land of Compromise . . 78

IV. English Home Life 133

V. Are the English Dull.? . . . 176

VI. Sport 230

VII. Ireland 274

VIII. An English Country Town . . 314

IX. Society 366

X. Conclusion 412




LEAVING New York on a steamer offi-
cered and manned by Englishmen your
impressions may begin from the moment
you put foot on board. The change from the
restless volubility of the Irish cab driver to the
icy servility of the Englishman of the servant
class is soothing, depressing, irritating or amus-
ing as the case may be. The chattering, waving,
gesticulating high-voiced travellers, and good-
byers, are apparently of no interest to the stolid
stewards, who move about at slower speed,
speak in lower tones, do what they have to do
with as little unnecessary expenditure of nerve,
and muscle, and speech power, as possible.
Even before the ship moves you have moved
from the exhilarating, bracing, bright air of in-
land and upland plains, to the heavier and more



moist climate of an island. Movement, speech,
feature and bulk are different. Thev are all,
movement, speech, feature and bulk, different
in a way that is easily and definitely expressed
by one word: heavy. Later one finds that this
word is used accurately. The English men,
women, horses, vehicles, machinery, houses,
furniture, food, are all heavier in proportion
than ours.

What will you have for breakfast, if, alas, you
will have any breakfast the first morning out ?
Something very light perhaps. These islanders,
you soon find, have little regard for lightness.
A light dish of eggs in some form, a light roll,
fresh butter, coffee and hot milk ? Yes, of a sort,
but none of them light. You soon forswear
coffee for tea, and ere long the passive bulwark
of resistance wearies you into eggs and bacon,
and cold meat, and jams, for your first meal of
the day. Little things are typical. What you
want is not refused you, but what they have and
like is gradually forced upon you. Thus they
govern their colonies. No raising of voices, no
useless and prolonged discussion, no heat gen-
erated, no ridicule of your habits, or eulogy of
their own, none of these, but just slow-moving,
unchanging, confident bulk!

The monotonous and solemn *'yes, sir,"


*' thank you, sir," of the servants, may lead you
to suppose that at any rate this class of English
man and woman is servile, is lacking in the na-
tional trait of confidence, is perhaps amenable
to suggestions of a change. On the contrary,
this class less even than others. The manner
and speech are merely mechanical. The un-
blushing demands, either frankly open, or awk-
wardly surreptitious, for tips are part of the
day's work. They are servants, they know it,
they have no objection to your knowing it, and
most of them have little ambition to be anything
else. They are not in that position in the mean-
time, but permanently; they are not serving,
while waiting for something else; service is their
career. The American may "sling hash" at
Coney Island, or in a western frontier town, un-
til he can escape to become something else, but
as a vocation he does not recognize it. At first,
therefore, these people are puzzling, we shall
see later that they are a factor in the civili-
zation we are about to explore. They have
their pride, their rules of precedence, their
code; they are fixed, immovable, unconcerned
about other careers, undisturbed by hazy am-
bitions, and insistent upon their privileges,
as are all other Englishmen. They will not
overstep the boundary lines of your personal


position, and they jealously guard the boun-
daries of their own.

When we come to know them better we find
that, although they are of all the laboring classes
completely unorganized, without unions or so-
cieties, they are the one class which has kept up
and increased the standard of wages. As a class
they have made no claims, they have not ap-
pealed to the public, or to the politician, but
they have, none the less, increased their demands,
and obtained their demands. This is rather a
curious commentary upon organized labor. The
servant class numbers something like one in
forty of the total population. My only explana-
tion is that, as they are the class coming most
closely in contact with the ruling class, they have
absorbed and used the methods of that class.
They hold themselves at a high value, assert
that value, and wherever and whenever possible,
take all they can get. It is done quietly, as a mat-
ter of right, and with a sort of subdued air of sanc-
tity. This is the British way, an impressive and
an eminently successful way. At any rate, so
far as the servants themselves are concerned,
they may well laugh in their sleeves at the
troubles of the trades unions and other socie-
ties, which, with much noise, turmoil, strikes
and boycotts, have not succeeded as well as they


have in bettering their condition. The wages of
servants have increased out of all proportion to
the increase of wages in other occupations in the
last fifteen years.

Though I have written that they are unor-
ganized as a class, in the sense in which the min-
ers or the spinners are organized, they maintain
among themselves distinctions and gradations
as sharp as those of a Court. The house-keeper,
the butler, the head coachman, the master's
valet, and the mistress's maid, are the nobility
and gentry of the servants' hall, while footmen,
grooms, maids and the like are commoners. To
the average American these distinctions may be
merely laughable. Let him come to England
and keep house for a year and he will find them
adamant. He can no more ignore them or over-
ride them than he can alter the procedure in the
House of Lords. If he accepts them, well and
good; if not, he will have no servants. The but-
ler and the house-keeper are spoken of by the
other servants as "Mr." Jones and *'Mrs."
Brown, and the mistress's maid is '*Miss," and
woe be to the unlucky underling who forgets
these prefixes! At a large house party where
there are many men servants and maids, they
take the precedence of their particular master
and mistress. You smile at first, and then you


realize that underlying the snobbishness, the
petty dignities, is the national love of orderliness,
the desire for a cut-and-dried routine, the Brit-
ish contentment in having a fixed personal status.
Those who have read Thackeray's novels, and
his Yellowplush papers, have a not inaccurate,
though a brightly colored picture of the English
servant class. Above all things, do not forget
the most important factor of all, — they are all
English, they are all of the same race as their
masters. This explains, if not everything, almost

But, like all good Americans, let us be moving,
let us get on. Here we are at last in London!
That yellow ball above the horizon, seen through
this bituminous haze, is the sun — the sun sadly
tarnished. Those little toy coaches and engines,
are cars and locomotives. The noiseless gliding
out, and gliding into the station, is the English
way of running things. No shouting, no nervous
snapping of watches, no shriek of w^histle, no
clanging of bell; a scarcely audible whistle, and
the thing is done. ^ These people must know their
business or somebody would be left behind,
somebody w^ould get into the wrong train; they
do know their business. We are soon to find
that this is the country of personal freedom, and
also personal responsibility. You may do as


you please unmolested, uncriticised, unreported,
unpliotograplied, unheralded, unnoticed even,
as in no other country in the world, but the mo-
ment you do what you ought not to please to do,
from the policeman to the court, and thence to
the jail, is a shorter road here than anywhere
else. So much personal liberty is only possible
where justice is swift, unprejudiced impartial
and sure. The lord, the millionaire, the drunk-
ard and the snatch thief are treated the same —
within the same six months a great financial
schemer and the son of a great nobleman were
ushered behind the bars with almost as little
ceremony and as little delay as are required
for the trial of a wife-beater or a burglar. Per-
sonal freedom has this serious responsibility:
its misuse is promptly punished, and there is
no escape, — they even behead a king on oc-

When we are in England we do, so far aS our
temperamental limitations permit, as the English
do. We go to a private hotel, small, with a front
door always locked and only opened on demand,
and we are ushered into our own apartment.
For a w^eek now, not another guest has revealed
himself. Meals are served to each in his own
rooms, and though there is a coffee-room, no
one, apparently, uses it. The Englishman brings




his home to his hotel. It is not a meeting-place,
but, quite on the contrary, a place for personal
privacy and seclusion. There are, of course,
now in London, great caravansaries, but they
are for the stranger and for the modernized
Englishman, the real John Bull abhors them.
The rooms are damp, a small grate-fire miti-
gates the gloom of the sitting-room, but bed-
room and dressing-room retain their damp-blan-
ket atmosphere throughout our stay. A tin tub
is brought in in the morning and evening, and
you bathe as a protection from the cold. A
sound rubbing with a coarse tow^el takes the
place of a fire, or steam heat. No doubt many
people die in becoming accustomed to this
method of keeping warm, but those who survive
have conquered for themselves the greatest em-
pire extant.

The first days in the streets of London bring
so many impressions that it is as confusing to
remember them as to recall, in their proper order,
the changes of a kaleidoscope. It is apparent
that the men are heavier here than with us : ap-
parent, too, that this is a land of men, ruled by
men, obedient to the ways and comforts and
prejudices of men, not women. Here the male
})ird has the brilliant plumage. The best of
them, as one sees them in Piccadilly, in Bond


Street, in St. James's Street, in the clubs, in the
park on a Sunday after church, are fine-look-
ing fellows, well set up and scrupulously well
groomed and turned out. But the women ! What
hats, what clothes, what shoes, what colors, what
amorphous figures ! One hears of English econo-
mies, evidently they begin with the dress-maker's
bill. Who permits that nice-looking girl to wear
a white flannel skirt, a purple jacket, and a fur
hat with a bunch of small feathers sticking out of
it at right angles ? Here is another with an em-
broidered linen coat, and a bit of ermine fur,
and a straw hat with flowers on it! The gro-
tesque costumes of the women would make one
stop to stare, were it not that they are so common
one ceases at last to notice them. But their taste
in dress is nothing new. When Queen Victoria
came to the throne their tasteless vagaries of
costume were noticeable. A well-dressed lady is
described as wearing, in those days, **a blue
satin robe, a black-violet mantlet lined with blue
satin and trimmed with black lace, and an em-
erald-green hat, trimmed with blonde and roses,
as well as ribbon and feathers"!

The complexions of the English have often
been exploited for our benefit. The damp cli-
mate and the exercise out-of-doors produce the
red, they say. But on examination it proves to


be not the red of the rose, but the red of raw
beef, and often streaky and fibrous at that.
The features are large and the faces high-col-
ored, but it is not a delicate pink, it is a coarse
red. At a distance, the effect is charming, bright,
refreshing, but close to, often rather unpleasant.
Here the features of the women, even the feat*
ures of the beautiful women, are moulded ; while
the features of our beautiful American women
are chiselled.

The shops wear the colors, so to speak, of the
dominant sex. Those that most attract you
have in their windows the paraphernalia of the
male bird. Shops with guns, and folding seats
to carry about when shooting, and everything
pertaining to the sport in profusion; shops with
windows draped with haberdashery; shops filled
with leather and silver conveniences for men;
shops with all sorts of hats for all sorts of climates
for men's wear; shops with harness, shops with
whips, shops with saddles, shops with tobacco,
endless shops with potables of all kinds from
those vintages of '47, '64, '84, '99, and 1900, for
the particular imbiber, to those with the ever-
lasting *' Bitter" and "Gin," enjoyed by the no-
madic drinker with only pennies on his person
and no credit. Should you take the trouble to
count you would find that the purveyors to


masculine taste largely predominate. The men
dress, the women are clothed, and the shops are
provided accordingly.

The Englishwoman pretends that the French-
woman and the American woman are over-
dressed, inappropriately dressed. This, how-
ever, is only a salve to her feelings, and is acqui-
esced in by her lord for reasons of economy. In
the country, in stout boots, nondescript hats,
and cheap flannel and tweed, the Englishwoman
is properly clothed because such costumes are
cheap; but in town she is awkwardly clothed
because well-fitting clothes of fine material are
expensive, and the Englishwoman is not given
her appropriate share of the income for purposes
of personal adornment. That is the truth of the
matter, that and the national all-pervasive lack
of taste, which accounts for the odd, often comi-
cal appearance of women in London.

It might imperil the faith of the reader in
these impressions, were one to give facts in this
connection; if one, that is to say, were to give
the figures of amounts allowed to certain women,
wives, sisters, daughters, in certain families to
dress on. Just as our women are so often wick-
edly and grotesquely extravagant in their ex-
penditure, so, here, such matters are on a scale
that can only be called mean. Very often facts.


statements from real life are flouted as isolated,
exaggerated and hence untrue to life. Often
enough, therefore, a general impression carries
more weight, and is, in truth, more valuable.
This is the case in this particular instance as in
many others. After an experience of England
and the English covering some thirty odd years,
I could easily quote example after example of
the pittances allowed Englishwomen for their
personal expenditure. Is it not, perhaps, easier
and surer, after all, to develop particular in-
stances from general lines of civilization ? This
England has become the great Empire she is
because she is a man's country; this fact at any
rate will protrude itself, make itself unmistak-
able at every turn as we go on, and the expendi-
tures permitted to the women are merely one of
the minor results of this.

To those who have given some attention to
gastronomies either for the stomach's or the
pocket's sake, the food provided here is almost
more than a first impression, it is a daily, thrice
daily, bugbear. Here, again, it is surely the
masculine stomach that dictates. Meat, meat,
meat, and no alleviation. The vegetables are
few, and even they, as Heine — how Heine must
have suffered in England — phrased it, '*are
boiled in water, and then put upon the table just


as God made them!" It is true that one may
go to the expensive restaurants, the Ritz, the
Carlton, the Savoy and others, and live daintily
enough, but that is not England, that is a foreign
country with which we have nothing to do.
During the past two weeks, I have dined at our
own private hotel, — which, by the way, it is fair
to the student to say, is a first-rate one in the
fashionable West End district — at the country
house of a distinguished peer of the realm and
at a middle-class restaurant in the Strand. At
all of these meat predominated. At his lord-
ship's it is needless to say, there w^ere fruits, and
salads, and vegetables from his own gardens,
and there was such variety that a guest might
please himself, and must have been over-critical
not to dine well whatever his tastes; but the
eternal round of eggs, bacon, sole, beef, mut-
ton, ham, tongue and chicken, with potatoes,
and cabbage, and cheese, is the familiar diet of
the Englishman. Nor does he complain. He
wants nothing else. He demands just this bill-
of-fare. I have heard at Julien's in Paris, where,
when Julien himself presides over your meal,
you dine completely, the Englishman sighing for
some good plain beef or mutton. He likes it,
it agrees with him, he sighs for it when he has
been separated from it, and those who survive


this sanguinary flesh diet are, it must be ad-
mitted, splendid animals indeed.

"Was ever Tartar fierce or cruel.
Upon the strength of water gruel ?
But who can stand his raging force,
When first he rides then eats his horse!**

This damp, cool climate, where, as King
Charles said, one can be out-of-doors and enjoy
being out-of-doors more days in the year than in
any other country in the world, is a climate
where the warmly dressed, agreeably exercising,
comfortably housed male flourishes like a green
bay tree. Let it be borne in mind constantly
that these pages are not written in criticism —
that is poor business for any man, most of all for
a happy man who numbers many Englishmen
among his friends — but as a study. Who is
this Englishman ? what is he ? why is he ? where
and how does he live ? above all, why has he con-
quered the world ? how much longer will he be
supreme ? — those are the questions of interest.
We are noting facts not because they are pleas-
ant or unpleasant, not because they fit in with
some theory of our own, but because they are to
liglit the road we propose to travel among these

It is this climate, seldom very hot, seldom very


cold, rarely very bright, which lends itself better
than any other to exercise out-of-doors, which
makes fuel of a bulky and beefy sort necessary.
No man in America, not even a coal heaver
could live the year round on the food and drink
which are the daily dietary of many men here;
mostly men, it is true, who spend much time
out-of-doors, shooting, fishing, hunting, golfing
and the like. Eggs and bacon and sole with tea
or coffee for breakfast. A hot dish of meat and
potatoes, vegetable marrow, cabbage, celery, all
boiled, or cold meat, salad and cheese, with beer
or whiskey and soda, and a glass of port to fol-
low for luncheon. Soup, generally very poor,
fish, meat, an entree, often of meat, a sweet,
cheese and fruit for dinner, with champagne,
whiskey and soda or a light wine according to
taste, again with port to follow, this bill-of-fare is
a fair average diet. Added to by the rich, sub-
tracted from by the poor, until it is the best of
good living at the table of a Rothschild, because
there is nothing so difficult in all the realm of
cookery as plain cooking; or the most awfully
unwholesome fodder at the table of the poor
man, because these elements that lend themselves
to the most w^holesome diet, lend themselves also
to the most unwholesome.

Look at the people who swarm the streets to


see the Lord Mayor's Show, and where will you
see a more pitiable sight. These beef-eating
port-drinking fellows in Piccadilly, exercised,
scrubbed, groomed, they are well enough to be
sure; but this other side of the shield is distress-
ing to look at. Poor, stunted, bad-complex-
ioned, shabbily dressed, ill-featured are these
pork-eating, gin-drinking denizens of the East
End. Crowds I have seen in America, in Mex-
ico, and in most of the great cities of Europe —
of India and China I know nothing. Nowhere
is there such squalor, such pinching poverty, so
many undersized, so many plainly and revolt-
ingly diseased, so much human rottenness as
here. This is what the climate, the food, and the
drink, and man's rule of the weaker to the wall,
accomplish for the weak.

"The good old rule, the ancient plan.
That he should take who has the power.
And he should keep who can."

But more of this at another time. It is one of
England's ugly problems and deserves a chap-
ter to itself.

What an orderly crowd it is! Call it by all
the bad names you will, and there remains this
characteristic of law-abidingness which has been
to me for many years, and is still, a ceaseless


source of wonder. See them at the great race on
the Epsom Downs on Derby Day. As you look
from your coach top you see a black mass of
people. No sign of a track, no sign of a race.
A bell rings, two or three policemen on horse-
back, half a dozen more on foot, begin moving
along the track, and this enormous crowd melts
aside, makes a lane; the horses come out, dash
away, the race is run, and back the people
swarm again. The same at the Lord Mayor's
Show. A few policemen begin clearing the mid-
dle of Fleet Street — a narrow street at best.
Then mounted police, four abreast, not a word
said, scarcely a gesture ; no clubs, no noise, a lane
is made through these people packed together,
without shoving, pushing, elbowing, cursing or
angry words, and here comes the procession.
I have walked these streets now, on and off, for
many years and at all hours of the day and night,
and I cannot remember being pushed, shoved,
shouldered, or elbowed. It is marvellous. So,
too, I have driven through these streets, one, two
and four horses, many and many a time, and
each time with renewed admiration, not only for
the admirable driving but for the good humor,
the give and take, the fair play, the intuitive and
universal willingness to give every fellow his
fair chance and his rights. If that crowd in the


City is incomparably and uncompromisingly un-
pleasant to look at, it is none the less permeated
with the national gift for law and order and fair

It is not a dull crowd. There are wags
amongst them, and much appreciation of their
humor. In this particular procession the vari-
ous King Edwards appeared in appropriate cos-
tume, and with attendants in the trappings of
their time. As Edward the Confessor appears
some one says: **'Ello Eddie, you don't seem to
'ave changed much!" and there is a roar of ap-
preciation at this chaff, and Eddie looks embar-
rassed enough in spite of his big horse, and his
magnificent followers. *'Oh, Oi soi, 'is beard
and 'air don't match!" greets the appearance of
another Edward, and again the crowd laughs
good-naturedly. But for forty minutes, while
the procession passes, and for hours before and
hours after, this enormous crowd manages itself.
Indeed, it is to be doubted, whether, were there
no policemen in the streets, these people would
not of themselves have made way and given the
new Lord Mayor fair play and a clear passage.

There is one police patrolman to every 496
inhabitants of London ; one to every 547 in New
York; one to every 485 in Wasliington; one to
every 509 in Boston; one to every 449 in Liver-


pool; one to every 330 in Dublin; one to every
340 in Berlin; one to every 184 in St. Peters-
burg; one to every 175 in Lisbon. When one
considers the enormous area of London, and the
universally acknowledged success of their daily
dealings with crowds and with the traffic, and
the comparative comfort and safety of people in
this town, so large that it is almost a nation in
itself, one is driven to the conclusion that the
people themselves have the root of orderliness
and fair play in them.

How is it in quite another social sphere ? At
Newmarket in the members' stand, walking

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Online LibraryPrice CollierEngland and the English from an American point of view → online text (page 1 of 23)