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- Europe Revised - 30/47 -

One thinks of Paris as a woman, rather pretty, somewhat regardless of morals and decidedly slovenly of person; craving admiration, but too indolent to earn it by keeping herself presentable; covering up the dirt on a piquant face with rice powder; wearing paste jewels in her earlobes in an effort to distract criticism from the fact that the ears themselves stand in need of soap and water. London, viewed in retrospect, seems a great, clumsy, slow-moving giant, with hair on his chest and soil under his nails; competent in the larger affairs and careless about the smaller ones; amply satisfied with himself and disdainful of the opinions of outsiders; having all of a man's vices and a good share of his virtues; loving sport for sport's sake and power for its own sake and despising art for art's sake.

You do not have to spend a week or a month or a year in either Paris or London to note these things. The distinction is wide enough to be seen in a day; yes, or in an hour. It shows in all the outer aspects. An overtowering majority of the smart shops in Paris cater to women; a large majority of the smart shops in London cater to men. It shows in their voices; for cities have voices just as individuals have voices. New York is not yet old enough to have found its own sex. It belongs still to the neuter gender. New York is not even a noun--it's a verb transitive; but its voice is a female voice, just as Paris' voice is. New York, like Paris, is full of strident, shrieking sounds, shrill outcries, hysterical babblings--a women's bridge-whist club at the hour of casting up the score; but London now is different. London at all hours speaks with a sustained, sullen, steady, grinding tone, never entirely sinking into quietude, never rising to acute discords. The sound of London rolls on like a river--a river that ebbs sometimes, but rarely floods above its normal banks; it impresses one as the necessary breathing of a grunting and burdened monster who has a mighty job on his hands and is taking his own good time about doing it.

In London, mind you, the newsboys do not shout their extras. They bear in their hands placards with black-typed announcements of the big news story of the day; and even these headings seem designed to soothe rather than to excite--saying, for example, such things as Special From Liner, in referring to a disaster at sea, and Meeting in Ulster, when meaning that the northern part of Ireland has gone on record as favoring civil war before home rule.

The street venders do not bray on noisy trumpets or ring with bells or utter loud cries to advertise their wares. The policeman does not shout his orders out; he holds aloft the stripe-sleeved arm of authority and all London obeys. I think the reason why the Londoners turned so viciously on the suffragettes was not because of the things the suffragettes clamored for, but because they clamored for them so loudly. They jarred the public peace--that must have been it.

I can understand why an adult American might go to Paris and stay in Paris and be satisfied with Paris, if he were a lover of art and millinery in all their branches; or why he might go to Berlin if he were studying music and municipal control; or to Amsterdam if he cared for cleanliness and new cheese; or to Vienna if he were concerned with surgery, light opera, and the effect on the human lungs of doing without fresh air for long periods of time; or to Rome if he were an antiquarian and interested in ancient life; or to Naples if he were an entomologist and interested in insect life; or to Venice if he liked ruins with water round them; or to Padua if he liked ruins with no water anywhere near them. No: I'm blessed if I can think of a single good reason why a sane man should go to Padua if he could go anywhere else.

But I think I know, good and well, why a man might spend his whole vacation in London and enjoy every minute of it. For this old fogy, old foggy town of London is a man-sized town, and a man-run town; and it has a fascination of its own that is as much a part of it as London's grime is; or London's vastness and London's pettiness; or London's wealth and its stark poverty; or its atrocious suburbs; or its dirty, trade-fretted river; or its dismal back streets; or its still more dismal slums--or anything that is London's.

To a man hailing from a land where everything is so new that quite a good deal of it has not even happened yet, it is a joyful thing to turn off a main-traveled road into one of the crooked byways in which the older parts of London abound, and suddenly to come, full face, on a house or a court or a pump which figured in epochal history or epochal literature of the English-speaking race. It is a still greater joy to find it--house or court or pump or what not--looking now pretty much as it must have looked when good Queen Bess, or little Dick Whittington, or Chaucer the scribe, or Shakspere the player, came this way. It is fine to be riding through the country and pass a peaceful green meadow and inquire its name of your driver and be told, most offhandedly, that it is a place called Runnymede. Each time this happened to me I felt the thrill of a discoverer; as though I had been the first traveler to find these spots.

I remember that through an open door I was marveling at the domestic economies of an English barber shop. I use the word economies in this connection advisedly; for, compared with the average high-polished, sterilized and antiseptic barber shop of an American city, this shop seemed a torture cave. In London, pubs are like that, and some dentists' establishments and law offices--musty, fusty dens very unlike their Yankee counterparts. In this particular shop now the chairs were hard, wooden chairs; the looking-glass --you could not rightly call it a mirror--was cracked and bleary; and an apprentice boy went from one patron to another, lathering each face; and then the master followed after him, razor in hand, and shaved the waiting countenances in turn. Flies that looked as though they properly belonged in a livery stable were buzzing about; and there was a prevalent odor which made me think that all the sick pomade in the world had come hither to spend its last declining hours. I said to myself that this place would bear further study; that some day, when I felt particularly hardy and daring, I would come here and be shaved, and afterward would write a piece about it and sell it for money. So, the better to fix its location in my mind, I glanced up at the street sign and, behold! I was hard by Drury Lane, where Sweet Nelly once on a time held her court.

Another time I stopped in front of a fruiterer's, my eye having been caught by the presence in his window of half a dozen draggled-looking, wilted roasting ears decorated with a placard reading as follows:


I was remarking to myself that these Britishers were surely a strange race of beings--that if England produced so delectable a thing as green corn we in America would import it by the shipload and serve it on every table; whereas here it was so rare that they needs must label it as belonging to the vegetable kingdom, lest people should think it might be an animal--when I chanced to look more closely at the building occupied by the fruiterer and saw that it was an ancient house, half-timbered above the first floor, with a queer low-browed roof. Inquiring afterward I learned that this house dated straight back to Elizabethan days and still on beyond for so many years that no man knew exactly how many; and I began to understand in a dim sort of way how and why it was these people held so fast to the things they had and cared so little for the things they had not.

Better than by all the reading you have ever done you absorb a sense and realization of the splendor of England's past when you go to Westminster Abbey and stand--figuratively--with one foot on Jonson and another on Dryden; and if, overcome by the presence of so much dead-and-gone greatness, you fall in a fit you commit a trespass on the last resting-place of Macaulay or Clive, or somebody of equal consequence. More imposing even than Westminster is St. Paul's. I am not thinking so much of the memorials or the tombs or the statues there, but of the tattered battleflags bearing the names of battles fought by the English in every crack and cranny of the world, from Quebec to Ladysmith, and from Lucknow to Khartum. Beholding them there, draped above the tombs, some faded but still intact, some mere clotted wisps of ragged silk clinging to blackened standards, gives one an uplifting conception of the spirit that has sent the British soldier forth to girth the globe, never faltering, never slackening pace, never giving back a step to-day but that he took two steps forward to-morrow; never stopping--except for tea.

The fool hath said in his heart that he would go to England and come away and write something about his impressions, but never write a single, solitary word about the Englishman's tea-drinking habit, or the Englishman's cricket-playing habit, or the Englishman's lack of a sense of humor. I was that fool. But it cannot be done. Lacking these things England would not be England. It would be Hamlet without Hamlet or the Ghost or the wicked Queen or mad Ophelia or her tiresome old pa; for most English life and the bulk of English conversation center about sporting topics, with the topic of cricket predominating. And at a given hour of the day the wheels of the empire stop, and everybody in the empire--from the king in the counting house counting up his money, to the maid in the garden hanging out the clothes--drops what he or she may be doing and imbibes tea until further orders. And what oceans of tea they do imbibe!

There was an old lady who sat near us in a teashop one afternoon. As well as might be judged by one who saw her in a sitting posture only, she was no deeper than any other old lady of average dimensions; but in rapid succession she tilted five large cups of piping hot tea into herself and was starting on the sixth when we withdrew, stunned by the spectacle. She must have been fearfully long-waisted. I had a mental vision of her interior decorations--all fumed-oak wainscotings and buff-leather hangings. Still, I doubt whether their four-o'clock-tea habit is any worse than our five-o'clock cocktail habit. It all depends, I suppose, on whether one prefers being tanned inside to being pickled. But we are getting bravely over our cocktail habit, as attested by figures and the visual evidences, while their tea habit is growing on them--so the statisticians say.

As for the Englishman's sense of humor, or his lack of it, I judge that we Americans are partly wrong in our diagnosis of that phase of British character and partly right. Because he is slow to laugh at a joke, we think he cannot see the point of it without a diagram and a chart. What we do not take into consideration is that, through centuries of self-repression, the Englishman has so drilled himself into refraining from laughing in public--for fear, you see, of making himself conspicuous--it has become a part of his nature. Indeed, in certain quarters a prejudice against laughing under any circumstances appears to have sprung up.

I was looking one day through the pages of one of the critical

Europe Revised - 30/47

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