HotFreeBooks.com
The Land of Contrasts - A Briton's View of His American Kin
by James Fullarton Muirhead
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

The whole atmosphere of the country tends to preserve the spirit of unsuspecting innocence in the American maiden. The function of a chaperon is very differently interpreted in the United States and in England. On one occasion I met in a Pullman car a young lady travelling in charge of her governess. A chance conversation elicited the fact that she was the daughter of a well-known New York banker; and the fact that we had some mutual acquaintances was accepted as all-sufficing credentials for my respectability. We had happened to fix on the same hotel at our destination; and in the evening, after dinner, I met in the corridor the staid and severe-looking gouvernante, who saluted me with "Oh, Mr. Muirhead, I have such a headache! Would you mind going out with my little girl while she makes some purchases?" I was a little taken aback at first; but a moment's reflection convinced me that I had just experienced a most striking tribute to the honour of the American man and the social atmosphere of the United States.

The psychological method of suggestive criticism has, perhaps, never been applied with more delicacy of intelligence than in M. Bourget's chapter on the American woman. Each stroke of the pen, or rather each turn of the scalpel, amazes us by its keen penetration. As we at last close the book and meditate on what we have read, it is little by little borne in upon us that though due tribute is paid to the charming traits of the American woman, yet the general outcome of M. Bourget's analysis is truly damnatory. If this sprightly, fascinating, somewhat hard and calculating young woman be a true picture of the transatlantic maiden, we may sigh indeed for her lack of the Ewig Weibliche. I do not pretend to say where M. Bourget's appreciation is at fault, but that it is false—unaccountably false—in the general impression it leaves, I have no manner of doubt. Perhaps his attention has been fixed too exclusively on the Newport girl, who, it must again be insisted on, is too much impregnated with cosmopolitan fin de siecle-ism to be taken as the American type. Botanise a flower, use the strongest glasses you will, tear apart and name and analyse,—the result is a catalogue, the flower with its beauty and perfume is not there. So M. Bourget has catalogued the separate qualities of the American woman; as a whole she has eluded his analysis. Perhaps this chapter of his may be taken as an eminent illustration of the limitations of the critical method, which is at times so illuminating, while at times it so utterly fails to touch the heart of things, or, better, the wholeness of things.

Among the most searching tests of the state of civilisation reached by any country are the character of its roads, its minimising of noise, and the position of its women. If the United States does not stand very high on the application of the first two tests, its name assuredly leads all the rest in the third. In no other country is the legal status of women so high or so well secured, or their right to follow an independent career so fully recognised by society at large. In no other country is so much done to provide for their convenience and comfort. All the professions are open to them, and the opportunity has widely been made use of. Teaching, lecturing, journalism, preaching, and the practice of medicine have long been recognised as within woman's sphere, and she is by no means unknown at the bar. There are eighty qualified lady doctors in Boston alone, and twenty-five lady lawyers in Chicago. A business card before me as I write reads, "Mesdames Foster & Steuart, Members of the Cotton Exchange and Board of Trade, Real Estate and Stock Brokers, 143 Main Street, Houston, Texas." The American woman, however, is often found in still more unexpected occupations. There are numbers of women dentists, barbers, and livery-stable keepers. Miss Emily Faithful saw a railway pointswoman in Georgia; and one of the regular steamers on Lake Champlain, when I was there, was successfully steered by a pilot in petticoats. There is one profession that is closed to women in the United States—that of barmaid. That professional association of woman with man when he is apt to be in his most animal moods is firmly tabooed in America—all honour to it!

The career of a lady whose acquaintance I made in New York, and whom I shall call Miss Undereast, illustrates the possibilities open to the American girl. Born in Iowa, Miss Undereast lost her mother when she was three years old, and spent her early childhood in company with her father, who was a travelling geologist and mining prospector. She could ride almost before she could walk, and soon became an expert shot. Once, when only ten years of age, she shot down an Indian who was in the act of killing a white woman with his tomahawk; and on another occasion, when her father's camp was surrounded by hostile Indians, she galloped out upon her pony and brought relief. "She was so much at home with the shy, wild creatures of the woods that she learned their calls, and they would come to her like so many domestic birds and animals. She would come into camp with wild birds and squirrels on her shoulder. She could lasso a steer with the best of them. When, at last, she went to graduate at the State University of Colorado, she paid for her last year's tuition with the proceeds of her own herd of cattle." After graduating at Colorado State University, she took a full course in a commercial college, and then taught school for some time at Denver. Later she studied and taught music, for which she had a marked gift. The next important step brought her to New York, where she gained in a competitive examination the position of secretary in the office of the Street Cleaning Department. Her linguistic accomplishments (for she had studied several foreign languages) stood her in good stead, and during the illness of her chief she practically managed the department and "bossed" fifteen hundred Italian labourers in their own tongue. Miss Undereast carried on her musical studies far enough to be offered a position in an operatic company, while her linguistic studies qualified her for the post of United States Custom House Inspectress. Latterly she has devoted her time mainly to journalism and literature, producing, inter alia, a guidebook to New York, a novel, and a volume of essays on social topics. It is a little difficult to realise when talking with the accomplished and womanly litterateur that she has been in her day a slayer of Indians and "a mighty huntress before the Lord;" but both the facts and the opportunities underlying them testify in the most striking manner to the largeness of the sphere of action open to the puella Americana.

If American women have been well treated by their men-folk, they have nobly discharged their debt. It is trite to refer to the numerous schemes of philanthropy in which American women have played so prominent a part, to allude to the fact that they have as a body used their leisure to cultivate those arts and graces of life which the preoccupation of man has led him too often to neglect. This chapter may well close with the words of Professor Bryce: "No country seems to owe more to its women than America does, nor to owe to them so much of what is best in its social institutions and in the beliefs that govern conduct."

FOOTNOTES:

[8] Since writing the above I have learned that Mr. W.D. Howells has written of "Daisy Miller" in a similar vein, speaking of her "indestructible innocence and her invulnerable new-worldliness." "It was so plain that Mr. James disliked her vulgar conditions that the very people to whom he revealed her essential sweetness and light were furious that he should have seemed not to see what existed through him."



V

The American Child

The United States has sometimes been called the "Paradise of Women;" from the child's point of view it might equally well he termed the "Paradise of Children," though the thoughtful observer might be inclined to qualify the title by the prefix "Fool's." Nowhere is the child so constantly in evidence; nowhere are his wishes so carefully consulted; nowhere is he allowed to make his mark so strongly on society in general. The difference begins at the very moment of his birth, or indeed even sooner. As much fuss is made over each young republican as if he were the heir to a long line of kings; his swaddling clothes might make a ducal infant jealous; the family physician thinks $100 or $150 a moderate fee for ushering him into the light of day. Ordinary milk is not good enough for him; sterilised milk will hardly do; "modified" milk alone is considered fit for this democratic suckling. Even the father is expected to spend hours in patient consultation over his food, his dress, his teething-rings, and his outgoing. He is weighed daily, and his nourishment is changed at once if he is a fraction either behind or ahead of what is deemed a normal and healthy rate of growth. American writers on the care of children give directions for the use of the most complex and time-devouring devices for the proper preparation of their food, and seem really to expect that mamma and nurse will go through with the prescribed juggling with pots and pans, cylinders and lamps.

A little later the importance of the American child is just as evident, though it takes on different forms. The small American seems to consider himself the father of the man in a way never contemplated by the poet. He interrupts the conversation of his elders, he has a voice in every matter, he eats and drinks what seems good to him, he (or at any rate she) wears finger-rings of price, he has no shyness or even modesty. The theory of the equality of man is rampant in the nursery (though I use this word only in its conventional and figurative sense, for American children do not confine themselves to their nurseries). You will actually hear an American mother say of a child of two or three years of age: "I can't induce him to do this;" "She won't go to bed when I tell her;" "She will eat that lemon pie, though I know it is bad for her." Even the public authorities seem to recognise the inherent right of the American child to have his own way, as the following paragraph from the New York Herald of April 8, 1896, will testify:

WASHINGTON, April 7.—The lawn in front of the White House this morning was littered with paper bags, the dyed shells of eggs, and the remains of Easter luncheon baskets. It is said that a large part of the lawn must be resodded. The children, shut out from their usual romp in the grounds at the back of the mansion, made their way into the front when the sun came out in the afternoon, and gambolled about at will, to the great injury of the rain-soaked turf.

The police stationed in the grounds vainly endeavored to persuade the youngsters to go away, and were finally successful only through pretending to be about to close all the gates for the night.

It is, perhaps, superfluous to say that this kind of bringing up hardly tends to make the American child an attractive object to the stranger from without. On the contrary, it is very apt to make the said stranger long strenuously to spank these budding citizens of a free republic, and to send them to bed instanter. So much of what I want to say on this topic has been well said by my brother Findlay Muirhead in an article on "The American Small Boy," contributed to the St. James's Gazette, that I venture to quote the bulk of that article below.

The American Small Boy

The American small boy is represented in history by the youthful George Washington, who suffered through his inability to invent a plausible fiction, and by Benjamin Franklin, whose abnormal simplicity in the purchase of musical instruments has become proverbial. But history is not taken down in shorthand as it occurs, and it sometimes lags a little. The modern American small boy is a vastly different being from either of these transatlantic worthies; at all events his most prominent characteristics, as they strike a stranger, are not illustrated in the earlier period of their career.

The peculiarities of young America would, indeed, matter but little to the stranger if young America stayed at home. But young America does not stay at home. It is not necessary to track the American small boy to his native haunts in order to see what he is like. He is very much in evidence even on this side the Atlantic. At certain seasons he circulates in Europe with the facility of the British sovereign; for the American nation cherishes the true nomadic habit of travelling in families, and the small boy is not left behind. He abounds in Paris; he is common in Italy; and he is a drug in Switzerland. He is an element to be allowed for by all who make the Grand Tour, for his voice is heard in every land. On the Continent, during the season, no first-class hotel can be said to be complete without its American family, including the small boy. He does not, indeed, appear to "come off" to his full extent in this country, but in all Continental resorts he is a small boy that may be felt, as probably our fellow-countrymen all over Europe are now discovering.

There is little use in attempting to disguise the fact that the subject of the present paper is distinctly disagreeable. There is little beauty in him that we should desire him. He is not only restless himself, but he is the cause of restlessness in others. He has no respect even for the quiescent evening hour, devoted to cigarettes on the terrace after table d'hote, and he is not to be overawed by a look. It is a constant source of wonder to the thoughtfully inclined how the American man is evolved from the American boy; it is a problem much more knotty than the difficulty concerning apple-dumplings which so perplexed "Farmer George." No one need desire a pleasanter travelling companion than the American man; it is impossible to imagine a more disagreeable one than the American boy.

The American small boy is precocious; but it is not with the erudite precocity of the German Heinecken, who at three years of age was intimately acquainted with history and geography ancient and modern, sacred and profane, besides being able to converse fluently in Latin, French, and German. We know, of course, that each of the twenty-two Presidents of the United States gave such lively promise in his youth that twenty-two aged friends of the twenty-two families, without any collusion, placed their hands upon the youthful heads, prophesying their future eminence. But even this remarkable coincidence does not affect the fact that the precocity of the average transatlantic boy is not generally in the most useful branches of knowledge, but rather in the direction of habits, tastes, and opinion. He is not, however, evenly precocious. He unites a taste for jewelry with a passion for candy. He combines a penetration into the motives of others with an infantile indifference to exposing them at inconvenient times. He has an adult decision in his wishes, but he has a youthful shamelessness in seeking their fulfilment. One of his most exasperating peculiarities is the manner in which he querulously harps upon the single string of his wants. He sits down before the refusal of his mother and shrilly besieges it. He does not desist for company. He does not wish to behave well before strangers. He desires to have his wish granted; and he knows he will probably be allowed to succeed if he insists before strangers. He is distinguished by a brutal frankness, combined with a cynical disregard for all feminine ruses. He not seldom calls up the blush of shame to the cheek of scheming innocence; and he frequently crucifies his female relatives. He is generally an adept in discovering what will most annoy his family circle; and he is perfectly unscrupulous in avenging himself for all injuries, of which he receives, in his own opinion, a large number. He has an accurate memory for all promises made to his advantage, and he is relentless in exacting payment to the uttermost farthing. He not seldom displays a singular ingenuity in interpreting ambiguous terms for his own behoof. A youth of this kind is reported to have demanded (and received) eight apples from his mother, who had bribed him to temporary stillness by the promise of a few of that fruit, his ground being that the Scriptures contained the sentence, "Wherein few, that is, eight, souls were saved by water."

The American small boy is possessed, moreover, of a well-nigh invincible aplomb. He is not impertinent, for it never enters into his head to take up the position of protesting inferiority which impertinence implies. He merely takes things as they come, and does not hesitate to express his opinion of them. An American young gentleman of the mature age of ten was one day overtaken by a fault. His father, more in sorrow than in anger, expressed his displeasure. "What am I to do with you, Tommy? What am I to do with you?" "I have no suggestions to offer, sir," was the response of Tommy, thus appealed to. Even in trying circumstances, even when serious misfortune overtakes the youthful American, his aplomb, his confidence in his own opinion, does not wholly forsake him. Such a one was found weeping in the street. On being asked the cause of his tears, he sobbed out in mingled alarm and indignation: "I'm lost; mammy's lost me; I told the darned thing she'd lose me." The recognition of his own liability to be lost, and at the same time the recognition of his own superior wisdom, are exquisitely characteristic. They would be quite incongruous in the son of any other soil. In his intercourse with strangers this feeling exhibits itself in the complete self-possession and sang-froid of the youthful citizen of the Western Republic. He scorns to own a curiosity which he dare not openly seek to satisfy by direct questions, and he puts his questions accordingly on all subjects, even the most private and even in the case of the most reverend strangers. He is perfectly free in his remarks upon all that strikes him as strange or reprehensible in any one's personal appearance or behaviour; and he never dreams that his victims might prefer not to be criticised in public. But he is quick to resent criticism on himself, and he shows the most perverted ingenuity in embroiling with his family any outsider who may rashly attempt to restrain his ebullitions. He is, in fact, like the Scottish thistle: no one may meddle with him with impunity. It is better to "never mind him," as one of the evils under the sun for which there is no remedy.

Probably this development of the American small boys is due in great measure to the absorption of their fathers in business, which necessarily surrenders the former to a too undiluted "regiment of women." For though Thackeray is unquestionably right in estimating highly the influence of refined feminine society upon youths and young men, there is no doubt that a small boy is all the better for contact with some one whose physical prowess commands his respect. Some allowance must also be made for the peevishness of boys condemned to prolonged railway journeys, and to the confinement of hotel life in cities and scenes in which they are not old enough to take an interest. They would, doubtless, be more genial if they were left behind at school.

The American boy has no monopoly of the characteristics under consideration. His little sister is often his equal in all departments. Miss Marryat tells of a little girl of five who appeared alone in the table d'hote room of a large and fashionable hotel, ordered a copious and variegated breakfast, and silenced the timorous misgivings of the waiter with "I guess I pay my way." At another hotel I heard a similar little minx, in a fit of infantile rage, address her mother as "You nasty, mean, old crosspatch;" and the latter, who in other respects seemed a very sensible and intelligent woman, yielded to the storm, and had no words of rebuke. I am afraid it was a little boy who in the same way called his father a "black-eyed old skunk;" but it might just as well have been a girl.

While not asserting that all American children are of this brand, I do maintain that the sketch is fairly typical of a very large class—perhaps of all except those of exceptionally firm and sensible parents. The strangest thing about the matter is, however, that the fruit does not by any means correspond to the seed; the wind is sown, but the whirlwind is not reaped. The unendurable child does not necessarily become an intolerable man. By some mysterious chemistry of the American atmosphere, social or otherwise, the horrid little minx blossoms out into a charming and womanly girl, with just enough of independence to make her piquant; the cross and dyspeptic little boy becomes a courteous and amiable man. Some sort of a moral miracle seems to take place about the age of fourteen or fifteen; a violent dislocation interrupts the natural continuity of progress; and, presto! out springs a new creature from the modern cauldron of Medea.

The reason—or at any rate one reason—of the normal attitude of the American parent towards his child is not far to seek. It is almost undoubtedly one of the direct consequences of the circumambient spirit of democracy. The American is so accustomed to recognise the essential equality of others that he sometimes carries a good thing to excess. This spirit is seen in his dealings with underlings of all kinds, who are rarely addressed with the bluntness and brusqueness of the older civilisations. Hence the father and mother are apt to lay almost too much stress on the separate and individual entity of their child, to shun too scrupulously anything approaching the violent coercion of another's will. That the results are not more disastrous seems owing to a saving quality in the child himself. The characteristic American shrewdness and common sense do their work. A badly brought up American child introduced into a really well-regulated family soon takes his cue from his surroundings, adapts himself to his new conditions, and sheds his faults as a snake its skin. The whole process may tend to increase the individuality of the child; but the cost is often great, the consequences hard for the child itself. American parents are doubtless more familiar than others with the plaintive remonstrance: "Why did you not bring me up more strictly? Why did you give me so much of my own way?" The present type of the American child may be described as one of the experiments of democracy; that he is not a necessary type is proved by the by no means insignificant number of excellently trained children in the United States, of whom it has never been asserted that they make any less truly democratic citizens than their more pampered playmates.

The idea of establishing summer camps for schoolchildren may not have originated in the United States—it was certainly put into operation in Switzerland and France several years ago; but the most characteristic and highly organised institution of the kind is the George Junior Republic at Freeville, near Ithaca, in the State of New York, and some account of this attempt to recognise the "rights of children," and develop the political capacity of boys and girls, may form an appropriate ending to this chapter. The republic was established by Mr. William R. George, in 1895. It occupies a large tent and several wooden buildings on a farm forty-eight acres in extent. In summer it accommodates about two hundred boys and girls between the ages of twelve and seventeen; and about forty of these remain in residence throughout the year. The republic is self-governing, and its economic basis is one of honest industry. Every citizen has to earn his living, and his work is paid for with the tin currency of the republic. Half of the day is devoted to work, the other half to recreation. The boys are employed in farming and carpentry; the girls sew, cook, and so on. The rates of wages vary from 50 cents to 90 cents a day according to the grade of work. Ordinary meals cost about 10 cents, and a night's lodging the same; but those who have the means and the inclination may have more sumptuous meals for 25 cents, or board at the "Waldorf" for about $4 (16s.) a week. As the regular work offered to all is paid for at rates amply sufficient to cover the expenses of board and lodging, the idle and improvident have either to go without or make up for their neglect by overtime work. Those who save money receive its full value on leaving the republic, in clothes and provisions to take back to their homes in the slums of New York. Some boys have been known to save $50 (L10) in the two months of summer work. The republic has its own legislature, court-house, jail, schools, and the like. The legislature has two branches. The members of the lower house are elected by ballot weekly, those of the senate fortnightly. Each grade of labour elects one member and one senator for every twelve constituents. Offences against the laws of the republic are stringently dealt with, and the jail, with its bread-and-water diet, is a by no means pleasant experience. The police force consists of thirteen boys and two girls; the office of "cop," with its wages of 90 cents a day, is eagerly coveted, but cannot be obtained without the passing of a stiff civil service examination.

So far this interesting experiment is said by good authorities to have worked well. It is not a socialistic or Utopian scheme, but frankly accepts existing conditions and tries to make the best of them. It is not by any means merely "playing at house." The children have to do genuine work, and learn habits of real industry, thrift, self-restraint, and independence. The measures discussed by the legislature are not of the debating society order, but actually affect the personal welfare of the two hundred citizens. It has, for example, been found necessary to impose a duty of twenty-five per cent. "on all stuff brought in to be sold," so as to protect the native farmer. Female suffrage has been tried, but did not work well, and was discarded, largely through the votes of the girls themselves.

The possible disadvantages connected with an experiment of this kind easily suggest themselves; but since the "precocity" of the American child is a recognised fact, it is perhaps well that it should be turned into such unobjectionable channels.



VI

International Misapprehensions and National Differences

Some years ago I was visiting the cyclorama of Niagara Falls in London and listening to the intelligent description of the scene given by the "lecturer." In the course of this he pointed out Goat Island, the wooded islet that parts the headlong waters of the Niagara like a coulter and shears them into the separate falls of the American and Canadian shores. Behind me stood an English lady who did not quite catch what the lecturer said, and turned to her husband in surprise. "Rhode Island? Well, I knew Rhode Island was one of the smallest States, but I had no idea it was so small as that!" On another occasion an Englishman, invited to smile at the idea of a fellow-countryman that the Rocky Mountains flanked the west bank of the Hudson, exclaimed: "How absurd! The Rocky Mountains must be at least two hundred miles from the Hudson." Even so intelligent a traveller and so friendly a critic as Miss Florence Marryat (Mrs. Francis Lean), in her desire to do justice to the amplitude of the American continent, gravely asserts that "Pennsylvania covers a tract of land larger than England, France, Spain, and Germany all put together," the real fact being that even the smallest of the countries named is much larger than the State, while the combined area of the four is more than fourteen times as great. Texas, the largest State in the Union, is not so very much more extensive than either Germany or France.

An analogous want of acquaintance with the mental geography of America was shown by the English lady whom Mr. Freeman heard explaining to a cultivated American friend who Sir Walter Scott was, and what were the titles of his chief works.

It is to such international ignorance as this that much, if not most, of the British want of appreciation of the United States may be traced; just as the acute critic may see in the complacent and persistent misspelling of English names by the leading journals of Paris an index of that French attitude of indifference towards foreigners that involved the possibility of a Sedan. It is not, perhaps, easy to adduce exactly parallel instances of American ignorance of Great Britain, though Mr. Henry James, who probably knows his England better than nine out of ten Englishmen, describes Lord Lambeth, the eldest son of a duke, as himself a member of the House of Lords ("An International Episode"). It was amusing to find when meine Wenigkeit was made the object of a lesson in a Massachusetts school, that many of the children knew the name England only in connection with their own New England home. Nor, I fear, can it be denied that much of the historical teaching in the primary schools of the United States gives a somewhat one-sided view of the past relations between the mother country and her revolted daughter. The American child is not taught as much as he ought to be that the English people of to-day repudiate the attitude of the aristocratic British government of 1770 as strongly as Americans themselves.

The American, however, must not plume himself too much on his superior knowledge. Shameful as the British ignorance of America often is, a corresponding American ignorance of Great Britain would be vastly more shameful. An American cannot understand himself unless he knows something of his origins beyond the seas; the geography and history of an American child must perforce include the history and geography of the British Isles. For a Briton, however, knowledge of America is rather one of the highly desirable things than one of the absolutely indispensable. It would certainly betoken a certain want of humanity in me if I failed to take any interest in the welfare of my sons and daughters who had emigrated to New Zealand; but it is evident that for the conduct of my own life a knowledge of their doings is not so essential for me as a knowledge of what my father was and did. The American of Anglo-Saxon stock visiting Westminster Abbey seems paralleled alone by the Greek of Syracuse or Magna Graecia visiting the Acropolis of Athens; and the experience of either is one that less favoured mortals may unfeignedly envy. But the American and the Syracusan alike would be wrong were he to feel either scorn or elation at the superiority of the guest's knowledge of the host over the host's knowledge of the guest.

However that may be, and whatever latitude we allow to the proverbial connection of familiarity and contempt, there seems little reason to doubt that closer knowledge of one another will but increase the mutual sympathy and esteem of the Briton and the American. The former will find that Brother Jonathan is not so exuberantly and perpetually starred-and-striped as the comic cartoonist would have us believe; and the American will find that John Bull does not always wear top-boots or invariably wield a whip. Things that from a distance seem preposterous and even revolting will often assume a very different guise when seen in their native environment and judged by their inevitable conditions. It is not always true that "coelum non animum mutant qui trans mare currunt" that is, if we allow ourselves to translate "animum" in its Ciceronian sense of "opinion."[9] To hold this view does not make any excessive demand on our optimism. There seems absolutely no reason why in this particular case the line of cleavage between one's likes and one's dislikes should coincide with that of foreign and native birth. The very word "foreign" rings false in this connection. It is often easier to recognise a brother in a New Yorker than in a Yorkshireman, while, alas! it is only theoretically and in a mood of long-drawn-out aspiration that we can love our alien-tongued European neighbour as ourselves.

The man who wishes to form a sound judgment of another is bound to attain as great a measure as possible of accurate self-knowledge, not merely to understand the reaction of the foreign character when brought into relation with his own, but also to make allowance for fundamental differences of taste and temperament. The golden rule of judging others by ourselves can easily become a dull and leaden despotism if we insist that what we should think and feel on a given occasion ought also to be the thoughts and actions of the Frenchman, the German, or the American. There are, perhaps, no more pregnant sentences in Mr. Bryce's valuable book than those in which he warns his British readers against the assumption that the same phenomena in two different countries must imply the same sort of causes. Thus, an equal amount of corruption among British politicians, or an equal amount of vulgarity in the British press, would argue a much greater degree of rottenness in the general social system than the same phenomena in the United States. So, too, some of the characteristic British vices are, so to say, of a spontaneous, involuntary, semi-unconscious growth, and the American observer would commit a grievous error if he ascribed them to as deliberate an intent to do evil as the same tendencies would betoken in his own land. Neither Briton nor American can do full justice to the other unless each recognises that the other is fashioned of a somewhat different clay.

The strong reasons, material and otherwise, why Great Britain and the United States should be friends need not be enumerated here. In spite of some recent and highly unexpected shocks, the tendencies that make for amity seem to me to be steadily increasing in strength and volume.[10] It is the American in the making rather than the matured native product that, as a rule, is guilty of blatant denunciation of Great Britain; and it is usually the untravelled and preeminently insular Briton alone that is utterly devoid of sympathy for his American cousins. The American, as has often been pointed out, has become vastly more pleasant to deal with since his country has won an undeniable place among the foremost nations of the globe. The epidermis of Brother Jonathan has toughened as he has grown in stature, and now that he can look over the heads of most of his compeers he regards the sting of a gnat as little as the best of them. Perhaps not quite so little as John Bull, whose indifference to criticism and silent assurance of superiority are possibly as far wrong in the one direction as a too irritable skin is in the other.

Of the books written about the United States in the last score of years by European writers of any weight, there are few which have not helped to dissipate the grotesquely one-sided view of America formerly held in the Old World. Preeminent among such books is, of course, the "American Commonwealth" of Mr. James Bryce; but such writers as Mr. Freeman, M. Paul Bourget, Sir George Campbell, Mr. William Sanders, Miss Catherine Bates, Mme. Blanc, Miss Emily Faithful, M. Paul de Rousiers, Max O'Rell, and Mr. Stevens have all, in their several degrees and to their several audiences, worked to the same end. It may, however, be worth while mentioning one or two literary performances of a somewhat different character, merely to remind my British readers of the sort of thing we have done to exasperate our American cousins in quite recent times, and so help them to understand the why and wherefore of certain traces of resentment still lingering beyond the Atlantic. In 1884 Sir Lepel Griffin, a distinguished Indian official, published a record of his visit to the United States, under the title of "The Great Republic." Perhaps this volume might have been left to the obscurity which has befallen it, were it not that Mr. Matthew Arnold lent it a fictitious importance by taking as the text for some of his own remarks on America Sir Lepel's assertion that he knew of no civilised country, Russia possibly excepted, where he should less like to live than the United States. To me it seems a book most admirably adapted to infuriate even a less sensitive folk than the Americans. I do not in the least desire to ascribe to Sir Lepel Griffin a deliberate design to be offensive; but it is just his calm, supercilious Philistinism, aggravated no doubt by his many years' experience as a ruler of submissive Orientals, that makes it no less a pleasure than a duty for a free and intelligent republican to resent and defy his criticisms.

Can, for instance, anything more wantonly and pointlessly insulting be imagined than his assertion that an intelligent and well-informed American would probably name the pork-packing of Chicago as the thing best worth seeing in the United States? After that it is not surprising that he considers American scenery singularly tame and unattractive, and that he finds female beauty (can his standard for this have been Orientalised?) very rare. He predicts that it would be impossible to maintain the Yellowstone National Park as such, and asserts that it was only a characteristic spirit of swagger and braggadocio that prompted this attempt at an impossible ideal. He also seems to think lynching an any-day possibility in the streets of New York. The value of his forecasts may, however, be discounted by his prophecy in the same book that the London County Council would be merely a glorified vestry, utterly indifferent to the public interest, and unlikely to attract any candidates of distinction!

An almost equal display of Philistinism—perhaps greater in proportion to its length—is exhibited by an article entitled "Twelve Hours of New York," published by Count Gleichen in Murray's Magazine (February, 1890). This energetic young man succeeded (in his own belief) in seeing all the sights of New York in the time indicated by the title of his article, and apparently met nothing to his taste except the Hoffman House bar and the large rugs with which the cab-horses were swathed. He found his hotel a den of incivility and his dinner "a squashy, sloppy meal." He wishes he had spent the day in Canada instead. He is great in his scorn for the "glue kettle" helmets of the New York police, and for the ferry-boats in the harbour, to which he vastly prefers what he wittily and originally styles the "common or garden steamer." His feet, in his own elegant phrase, felt "like a jelly" after four hours of New York pavement. What are the Americans to think of us when they find one of our innermost and most aristocratic circle writing stuff like this under the aegis of, perhaps, the foremost of British publishers?

As a third instance of the ingratiating manner in which Englishmen write of Americans, we may take the following paragraph from "Travel and Talk," an interesting record of much journeying by that well-known London clergyman, the Rev. H.R. Haweis: "Among the numerous kind attentions I was favoured with and somewhat embarrassed by was the assiduous hospitality of another singular lady, also since dead. I allude to Mrs. Barnard, the wife of the venerable principal of Columbia College, a well-known and admirably appointed educational institution in New York. This good lady was bent upon our staying at the college, and hunted us from house to house until we took up our abode with her, and, I confess, I found her rather amusing at first, and I am sure she meant most kindly. But there was an inconceivable fidgetiness about her, and an incapacity to let people alone, or even listen to anything they said in answer to her questions, which poured as from a quick-firing gun, that became at last intolerable." Comment on this passage would be entirely superfluous; but I cannot help drawing attention to the supreme touch of gracefulness added by the three words I have italicised.

There is one English critic of American life whose opinion cannot be treated cavalierly—least of all by those who feel, as I do, how inestimable is our debt to him as a leader in the paths of sweetness and light. But even in the presence of Matthew Arnold I desire to preserve the attitude of "nullius addictus jurare in verba magistri," and I cannot but believe that his estimate of America, while including much that is subtle, clear-sighted, and tonic, is in certain respects inadequate and misleading. He unfortunately committed the mistake of writing on the United States before visiting the country, and had made up his mind in advance that it was almost exclusively peopled by, and entirely run in the interests of, the British dissenting Philistine with a difference.

It is the more to be regretted that he adopted this attitude of premature judgment of American characteristics because it is only too prevalent among his less distinguished fellow-countrymen. From this position of parti pris, maintained with all his own inimitable suavity and grace, it seems to me that he was never wholly able to advance (or retire), though he candidly admitted that he found the difference between the British and American Philistine vastly greater than he anticipated. The members of his preconceived syllogism seem to be somewhat as follows: the money-making and comfort-loving classes in England are essentially Philistine; the United States as a nation is given over to money-making; ergo, its inhabitants must all be Philistines. Furthermore, the British Philistines are to a very large extent dissenters: the United States has no established church; ergo, it must be the Paradise of the dissenter.

This line of argument ignores the fact that the stolid self-satisfaction in materialistic comfort, which he defines as the essence of Philistinism, is not a predominant trait in the American class in which our English experience would lead us to look for it. The American man of business, with his restless discontent and nervous, over-strained pursuit of wealth, may not be a more inspiring object than his British brother, but he has little of the smugness which Mr. Arnold has taught us to associate with the label of Philistinism. And his womankind is perhaps even less open to this particular reproach. Mr. Arnold ignores a whole far-reaching series of American social phenomena which have practically nothing in common with British nonconformity, and lets a similarity of nomenclature blind him too much to the differentiation of entirely novel conditions. The Methodist "Moonshiner" of Tennessee is hardly cast in the same mould as the deacon of a London Little Bethel; and even the most legitimate children of the Puritans have not descended from the common stock in parallel lines in England and America.

Mr. Arnold admitted that the political clothes of Brother Jonathan fitted him admirably, and allowed that he can and does think straighter (c'est le bonheur des hommes quand ils pensent juste) than we can in the maze of our unnatural and antiquated complications; he wholly admired the natural, unselfconscious manner of the American woman; he saw that the wage-earner lived more comfortably than in Europe; he noted that wealthy Americans were not dogged by envy in the same way as in England, partly because wealth was felt to be more within the range of all, and partly because it was much less often used for the gratification of vile and selfish appetites; he admitted that America was none the worse for the lack of a materialised aristocracy such as ours; he praises the spirit which levels false and conventional distinctions, and waives the use of such invidious discriminations as our "Mr." and "Esquire." Admissions such as these, coming from such a man as he, are of untold value in promoting the growth of a proper sentiment towards our transatlantic kinsmen. When he points out that the dangers of such a community as the United States include a tendency to rely too much on the machinery of institutions; an absence of the discipline of respect; a proneness to hardness, materialism, exaggeration, and boastfulness; a false smartness and a false audacity,—the wise American will do well to ponder his sayings, hard though they may sound. When, however, he goes on to point out the "prime necessity of civilisation being interesting," and to assert that American civilisation is lacking in interest, we may well doubt whether on the one hand the quality of interest is not too highly exalted, and, on the other, whether the denial of interest to American life does not indicate an almost insular narrowness in the conception of what is interesting. When he finds a want of soul and delicacy in the American as compared with John Bull, some of us must feel that if he is right the latitude of interpretation of these terms must indeed be oceanic. When he gravely cites the shrewd and ingenious Benjamin Franklin as the most considerable man whom America has yet produced, we must respectfully but firmly take exception to his standard of measurement. When he declares that Abraham Lincoln has no claim to distinction, we feel that the writer must have in mind distinction of a singularly conventional and superficial nature; and we are not reassured by the quasi brutality of the remark in one of his letters, to the effect that Lincoln's assassination brought into American history a dash of the tragic and romantic in which it had hitherto been so sadly lacking ("sic semper tyrannis is so unlike anything Yankee or English middle class"). When he asserts that from Maine to Florida and back again all America Hebraises, we reflect with some bewilderment that hitherto we had believed the New Orleans creole (e.g.) to be as far removed from Hebraising as any type we knew of. It is strikingly characteristic of the weak side of Mr. Arnold's outlook on America that he went to stay with Mr. P.T. Barnum, the celebrated showman, without the least idea that his American friends might think the choice of hosts a peculiar one. To him, to a very large extent, Americans were all alike middle-class, dissenting Philistines; and so far as appears on the surface, Mr. Barnum's desire to "belong to the minority" pleased him as much as any other sign of approval conferred upon him in America.

A native of the British Isles is sometimes apt to be a little nettled when he finds a native of the United States regarding him as a "foreigner" and talking of him accordingly. An Englishman never means the natives of the United States when he speaks of "foreigners;" he reserves that epithet for non-English-speaking races. In this respect it would seem as if the Briton, for once, took the wider, the more genial and human, point of view; as if he had the keener appreciation of the ties of race and language. It is as if he cherished continually a sub-dominant consciousness of the fact that the occupation of the North American continent by the Anglo-Saxons is one of the greatest events in English history—that America is peopled by Englishmen. When he thinks of the events of 1776 he feels, to use Mr. Hall Caine's illustration, like Dr. Johnson, who dreamed that he had been worsted in conversation, but reflected when he awoke that the conversation of his adversary must also have been his own. As opposed to this there may be a grain of self-assertion in the American use of the term as applied to the British; it is as if they would emphasise the fact that they are no mere offshoot of England, that the Colonial days have long since gone by, and that the United States is an independent nation with a right to have its own "foreigners." An American friend suggests that the different usage of the two lands may be partly owing to the fact that the cordial, frank demeanour of the American, coupled with his use of the same tongue, makes an Englishman absolutely forget that he is not a fellow-countryman, while the subtler American is keenly conscious of differences which escape the obtuser Englishman. Another partial explanation is that the first step across our frontier brings us to a land where an unknown tongue is spoken, and that we have consequently welded into one the two ideas of foreignhood and unintelligibility; while the American, on the other hand, identifies himself with his continent and regards all as foreigners who are not natives of it.

The point would hardly be worth dwelling upon, were it not that the different attitude it denotes really leads in some instances to actual misunderstanding. The Englishman, with his somewhat unsensitive feelers, is apt, in all good faith and unconsciousness, to criticise American ways to the American with much more freedom than he would criticise French ways to a Frenchman. It is as if he should say, "You and I are brothers, or at least cousins; we are a much better sort than all those foreign Johnnies; and so there's no harm in my pointing out to you that you're wrong here and ought to change there." But, alas, who is quicker to resent our criticism than they of our own household? And so the American, overlooking the sort of clumsy compliment that is implied in the assurance of kinship involved in the very frankness of our fault-finding criticism, resents most keenly the criticisms that are couched in his own language, and sees nothing but impertinent hostility in the attitude of John Bull. And who is to convince him that it is, as in a Scottish wooing, because we love him that we tease him, and in so doing put him (in our eyes) on a vastly higher pedestal than the "blasted foreigner" whose case we consider past praying for? And who is to teach us that Brother Jonathan is able now to give us at least as many hints as we can give him, and that we must realise that the same sauce must be served with both birds? Thus each resiles from the encounter infinitely more pained than if the antagonist had been a German or a Frenchman. The very fact that we speak the same tongue often leads to false assumptions of mutual knowledge, and so to offences of unguarded ignorance.

One of the most conspicuous differences between the American and the Briton is that the former, take him for all in all, is distinctly the more articulate animal of the two. The Englishman seems to have learned, through countless generations, that he can express himself better and more surely in deeds than in words, and has come to distrust in others a fatal fluency of expressiveness which he feels would be exaggerated and even false in himself. A man often has to wait for his own death to find out what his English friend thinks of him; and

"Wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us To see oursels as others see us,"

we might often be surprised to discover what a wealth of real affection and esteem lies hid under the glacier of Anglican indifference. The American poet who found his song in the heart of a friend could have done so, were the friend English, only by the aid of a post-mortem examination. The American, on the other hand, has the most open and genial way of expressing his interest in you; and when you have readjusted the scale of the moral thermometer so as to allow for the change of temperament, you will find this frankness most delightfully stimulating. It requires, however, an intimate knowledge of both countries to understand that when an Englishman congratulates you on a success by exclaiming, "Hallo, old chap, I didn't know you had it in you," he means just as much as your American friend, whose phrase is: "Bravo, Billy, I always knew you could do something fine."

That the superior powers of articulation possessed by the American sometimes takes the form of profuse and even extreme volubility will hardly be denied by those conversant with the facts. The American may not be more profound than his English cousin or even more fertile in ideas, but as a rule he is much more ready and easy in the discussion of the moment; whatever the state of his "gold reserve" may be, he has no lack of the small counters of conversation. In its proper place this faculty is undoubtedly most agreeable; in the fleeting interviews which compose so much of social intercourse, he is distinctly at an advantage who has the power of coming to the front at once without wasting precious time in preliminaries and reconnaissances. Other things being equal, the chances of agreeable conversation at dinner, at the club, or in the pauses of the dance are better in the United States than in England. The "next man" of the new world is apt to talk better and to be wider in his sympathies than the "next man" of the old. On the other hand, it seems to me equally true that the Americans possess the defects of their qualities in this as in other respects; they are often apt to talk too much, they are afraid of a conversational lull, and do not sufficiently appreciate the charm of "flashes of brilliant silence." It seemed to me that they often carried a most unnecessary amount of volubility into their business life; and I sometimes wondered whether the greater energy and rush that they apparently put into their conduct of affairs were not due to the necessity of making up time lost in superfluous chatter. If an Englishman has a mile to go to an appointment he will take his leisurely twenty minutes to do the distance, and then settle his business in two or three dozen sentences; an American is much more likely to devour the ground in five minutes, and then spend an hour or more in lively conversation not wholly pertinent to the matter in hand. The American mind is discursive, open, wide in its interests, alive to suggestion, pliant, emotional, imaginative; the English mind is concentrated, substantial, indifferent to the merely relative, matter-of-fact, stiff, and inflexible.

The English have reduced to a fine art the practice of a stony impassivity, which on its highest plane is not devoid of a certain impressiveness. On ordinary occasions it is apt to excite either the ire or the amusement of the representatives of a more animated race. I suppose it is almost impossible for an untravelled Englishman to realise the ridiculous side of the Church Parade in Hyde Park—as it would appear, say, to a lively girl from Baltimore. The parade is a collection of human beings, presumably brought together for the sake of seeing and being seen. Yet the obvious aim of each English item in the crowd is to deprive his features of all expression, and to look as if he were absolutely unconscious that his own party were not the only one on the ground. Such vulgarity as the exhibition of the slightest interest in a being to whom he has not been introduced would be treason to his dearest traditions. In an American function of the same kind, the actors take an undisguised interest in each other, while a French or Italian assembly would be still more demonstrative. On the surface the English attitude is distinctly inhuman; it reminds one that England is still the stronghold of the obsolescent institution of caste, that it frankly and even brutally asserts the essential inequality of man. Nowhere, perhaps, will you see a bigger and handsomer, healthier, better-groomed, more efficient set of human animals; but their straight-ahead, phlegmatic, expressionless gaze, the want of animated talk, the absence of any show of intelligence, emphasises our feeling that they are animals.

The Briton's indifference to criticism is at once his strength and his weakness. It makes him invincible in a cause which has dominated his conscience; it hinders him in the attainment of a luminous discrimination between cause and cause. His profound self-confidence, his sheer good sense, his dogged persistence, his bulldog courage, his essential honesty of purpose, bring him to the goal in spite of the unnecessary obstacles that have been heaped on his path by his own [Greek: hubris] and contempt of others. He chooses what is physically the shortest line in preference to the line of least resistance. He makes up for his want of light by his superiority in weight. Social adaptability is not his foible. He accepts the conventionality of his class and wears it as an impenetrable armour. Out of his own class he may sometimes appear less conventional than the American, simply because the latter is quick to adopt the manners of a new milieu, while John Bull clings doggedly or unconsciously to his old conventions. If an American and an English shop-girl were simultaneously married to peers of the realm, the odds would be a hundred to one in favour of the former in the race for self-identification with her new environment.

The American facility of expression, if I do not err, springs largely from an amiable difference in temperament. The American is, on the whole, more genially disposed to all and sundry. I do not say that he is capable of truer friendships or of greater sacrifices for a friend than the Englishman; but the window through which he looks out on humanity at large has panes of a ruddier hue, he cultivates a mildness of tone, which a Briton is apt to despise as weakness. His desire to oblige sometimes impels him to uncharacteristic actions, which lead to fallacious generalisations on the part of his British critic. He shrinks from any assumption of superiority; he is apt to think twice of the feelings of his inferiors. The American tends to consider each stranger he meets—at any rate within his own social sphere—as a good fellow until he proves himself the contrary; with the Englishman the presumption is rather the other way. An Englishman usually excuses this national trait as really due to modesty and shyness; but I fear there is in it a very large element of sheer bad manners, and of a cowardly fear of compromising one's self with undesirable acquaintances. Englishmen are apt to take omne ignotum pro horribile, and their translation of the Latin phrase varies from the lifting of the aristocratic eyebrow over the unwarranted address of the casual companion at table d'hote down to the "'ere's a stranger, let's 'eave 'arf a brick at 'im" of the Black Country. In England I am apt to feel painfully what a lame dog I am; in America I feel, well, if I am a lame dog I am being helped most delightfully over the conversational stile. An Englishman says, "Would you mind doing so-and-so for me?" showing by the very form of the question that he thinks kindness likely to be troublesome. An American says, "Wouldn't you like to do this for me?" assuming the superior attitude of one who feels that to give an opportunity to do a kindness is itself to confer a favour. The Continental European shares with the American the merit of having manners on the self-regarding pattern of noblesse oblige, while the Englishman wants to know who you are, so as to put on his best manners only if the force majeure of your social standing compels him. No one wishes the Englishman to express more than he really feels or to increase the already overwhelming mass of conventional insincerity; but it might undoubtedly be well for him to consider whether it is not his positive duty to drop a little more of the oil of human kindness on the wheels of the social machinery, and to understand that it is perfectly possible for two strangers to speak with and look at each other pleasantly without thereby contracting the obligation of eternal friendship. Why should an English traveller deem it worthy of special record that when calling at a Boston club, he found his friend and host not yet arrived, other members of the club, unknown to him, had put themselves about to entertain him? An American gentleman would find this too natural to call for remark.

Whether we like it or not, we have to acknowledge the fact that our brutal frankness, our brusqueness, and our extreme fondness for calling a spade a spade are often extremely disagreeable to our American cousins, and make them (temporarily at any rate) feel themselves to be our superiors in the matter of gentle breeding. As Col. T.W. Higginson has phrased it, they think that "the English nation has truthfulness enough for a whole continent, and almost too much for an island." They think that a line might be drawn somewhere between dissembling our love and kicking them downstairs. They also object to our use of such terms as "beastly," "stinking," and "rot;" and we must admit that they do so with justice, while we cannot assoil them altogether of the opposite tendency of a prim prudishness in the avoidance of certain natural and necessary words. For myself I unfeignedly admire the delicacy which leads to a certain parsimony in the use of words like "perspiration," "cleaning one's self," and so on. And, however much we may laugh at the class that insists upon the name of "help" instead of "servant," we cannot but respect the class which yields to the demand and looks with horror on the English slang word "slavey."

On the other hand there are certain little personal habits, such as the public use of the toothpick, and what Mr. Morley Roberts calls the modern form of [Greek: kottabos], which I think often find themselves in better company in America than in England. Still I desire to speak here with all due diffidence. I remember when I pointed out to a Boston girl that an American actor in a piece before us, representing high life in London, was committing a gross solecism in moistening his pencil in his mouth before adding his address to his visiting card, she trumped my criticism at once by the information that a distinguished English journalist, with a handle to his name, who recently made a successful lecturing tour in the United States, openly and deliberately moistened his thumb in the same ingenuous fashion to aid him in turning over the leaves of his manuscript.

A feature of the average middle-class Englishman which the American cannot easily understand is his tacit recognition of the fact that somebody else (the aristocrat) is his superior. In fact, this is sometimes a fertile source of misunderstanding, and it is apt to beget in the American an entirely false idea of what he thinks the innate servility of the Englishman. He must remember that the aristocratic prestige is a growth of centuries, that it has come to form part of the atmosphere, that it is often accepted as unconsciously as the law of gravitation. This is a case where the same attitude in an American mind (and, alas, we occasionally see it in American residents in London) would betoken an infinitely lower moral and mental plane than it does in the Englishman. No true American could accept the proposition that "Lord Tom Noddy might do so-and-so, but it would be a very different thing for a man in my position;" and yet an Englishman (I regret to say) might speak thus and still be a very decent fellow, whom it would be unjust cruelty to call a snob. No doubt the English aristocracy (as I think Mr. Henry James has said) now occupies a heroic position without heroism; but the glamour of the past still shines on their faded escutcheons, and "the love of freedom itself is hardly stronger in England than the love of aristocracy."

Matthew Arnold has pointed out to us how the aristocracy acts like an incubus on the middle classes of Great Britain, and he has put it on record that he was struck with the buoyancy, enjoyment of life, and freedom of constraint of the corresponding classes in America. In England, he says, a man feels that it is the upper class which represents him; in the United States he feels that it is the State, i.e., himself. In England it is the Barbarian alone that dares be indifferent to the opinion of his fellows; in America everyone expresses his opinion and "voices" his idiosyncrasies with perfect freedom. This position has, however, its seamy side. There is in America a certain anarchy in questions of taste and manners which the long possession of a leisured, a cultivated class tends to save us from in England. I never felt so kindly a feeling towards our so-called "upper class" as when travelling in the United States and noting some effects of its absence. This class has an accepted position in the social hierarchy; its dicta are taken as authoritative on points of etiquette, just as the clergy are looked on as the official guardians of religious and ecclesiastical standards. I do not here pretend to discuss the value of the moral example of our jeunesse doree, filtering down through the successive strata of society; but their influence in setting the fashion on such points as scrupulous personal cleanliness, the avoidance of the outre in costume, and the maintenance of an honourable and generous standard in their money dealings with each other, is distinctly on the side of the humanities. In America—at least, "Out West"—everyone practically is his own guide, and the nouveau riche spends his money strictly in accordance with his own standard of taste. The result is often as appalling in its hideousness as it is startling in its costliness. On the other hand I am bound to state that I have known American men of great wealth whose simplicity of type could hardly be paralleled in England (except, perchance, within the Society of Friends). They do not feel any social pressure to imitate the establishment of My Lord or His Grace; and spend their money for what really interests them without reference to the demands of society.

It is rather interesting to observe the different forms which vulgarity is apt to take in the two countries. In England vulgarity is stolid; in America it is smart and aggressive. We are apt, I think, to overestimate the amount in the latter country because it is so much more in voluble evidence. An English vulgarian is often hushed into silence by the presence of his social superior; an American vulgarian either recognises none such or tries to prove himself as good as you by being unnecessarily grob. This has, at any rate, a manlier air than the vulgar obsequiousness of England towards the superior on the one hand or its cynical insolence to the inferior on the other. The feeling which made a French lady of fashion in the seventeenth century dress herself in the presence of a footman with as much unconcern as if he were a piece of furniture still finds its modified analogy in England, but scarcely in America. Almost the only field in which the Americans struck me as showing anything like servility was in their treatment of such mighty potentates as railway conductors, hotel clerks, and policemen. Whether, until a millenial golden mean is attained, this is better than our English bullying tone in the same sphere might be an interesting question for casuists.

Americans can rarely understand the amount of social recognition given by English duchesses to such American visitors as Col. William Cody, generally known as "Buffalo Bill." They do not reflect that it is just because the social gap between the two is so irretrievably vast and so universally recognised that the duchesses can afford to amuse themselves cursorily with any eccentricity that offers itself. As Pomona's husband put it, people in England are like types with letters at one end and can easily be sorted out of a state of "pi," while Americans are theoretically all alike, like carpet-tacks. Thus Americans of the best class often shun the free mixing that takes place in England, because they know that the process of redistribution will be neither easy nor popular. The intangible sieve thus placed between the best and the not-so-good is of a fine discrimination, beside which our conventional net-works seem coarse and ineffective.

Since returning from the United States I have occasionally been asked how the general tone of morality in that country compared with that in our own. To answer such a question with anything approaching to an air of finality or absoluteness would be an act of extreme presumption. The opinions which one holds depend so obviously on a number of contingent and accidental circumstances, and must so inevitably be tinged by one's personal experiences, that their validity can at best have but an approximate and tentative character. In making this comparison, too, it is only right to disregard the phenomena of mining camps and other phases of life on the fringes of American civilisation, which can be fairly compared only with pioneer life on the extreme frontiers of the British Empire. From a similar cause we may omit from the comparison a great part of the Southern States, where we do not find a homogeneous mass of white civilisation, but a state of society inexpressibly complicated by the presence of an inferior race. To compare the Southerner with the Englishman we should need to observe the latter as he exists in, say, one of our African colonies. Speaking, then, with these reservations, I should feel inclined to say that in domestic and social morality the Americans are ahead of us, in commercial morality rather behind than before, and in political morality distinctly behind.

Thus, in the first of these fields we find the American more good-tempered and good-natured than the Englishman. Women, children, and animals are treated with considerably more kindness. The American translation of paterfamilias is not domestic tyrant. Horses are driven by the voice rather than by the whip. The superior does not thrust his superiority on his inferior so brutally as we are apt to do. There is a general intention to make things pleasant—at any rate so long as it does not involve the doer in loss. There is less gratuitous insolence. Servility, with its attendant hypocrisy and deceit, is conspicuously absent; and the general spirit of independence, if sometimes needlessly boorish in its manifestations, is at least sturdy and manly. In England we are rude to those weaker than ourselves; in America the rudeness is apt to be directed against those whom we suspect to be in some way our superior. Man is regarded by man rather as an object of interest than as an object of suspicion. Charity is very widespread; and the idea of a fellow-creature actually suffering from want of food or shelter is, perhaps, more repugnant to the average American than to the average Englishman, and more apt to act immediately on his purse-strings. In that which popular language usually means when it speaks of immorality, all outward indications point to the greater purity of the American. The conversation of the smoking-room is a little less apt to be risque; the possibility of masculine continence is more often taken for granted; solicitation on the streets is rare; few American publishers of repute dare to issue the semi-prurient style of novel at present so rife in England; the columns of the leading magazines are almost prudishly closed to anything suggesting the improper. The tone of the stage is distinctly healthier, and adaptations of hectic French plays are by no means so popular, in spite of the general sympathy of American taste with French. The statistics of illegitimacy point in the same direction, though I admit that this is not necessarily a sign of unsophisticated morality. In a word, when an Englishman goes to France he feels that the moral tone in this respect is more lax than in England; when he goes to America he feels that it is more firm. And he will hardly find adequate the French explanation, viz., that there is not less vice but more hypocrisy in the Anglo-Saxon community.

There is another very important sphere of morality in which the general attitude of the United States seems to me very appreciably superior to that of England. It is that to which St. Paul refers when he says, "If a man will not work, neither shall he eat." American public sentiment is distinctly ahead of ours in recognising that a life of idleness is wrong in itself, and that the possibility of leading such a life acts most prejudicially on character. The American answer to the Englishman trying to define what he meant by "gentlemen of leisure" "Ah, we call them tramps in America"—is not merely a jest, but enshrines a deep ethnical and ethical principle. Most Americans would, I think, agree strongly with Mr. Bosanquet's philosophical if somewhat cumbersomely worded definition of legitimate private property, "that things should not come miraculously and be unaffected by your dealings with them, but that you should be in contact with something which in the external world is the definite material representative of yourself" ("Aspects of the Social Problem," p. 313). The British gentleman, aware that his dinner does not agree with him unless he has put forth a certain amount of physical energy, reverts to one of the earliest and most primitive forms of work, viz., hunting. There is a small—a very small—class in the United States in the same predicament; but as a rule the worker there is not only more honoured, but also works more in accordance with the spirit of the age.

The general attitude of Americans towards militarism seems to me also superior to ours; and one of the keenest dreads of the best American citizens during a recent wave of jingoism was that of "the reflex influence of militarism upon the national character, the transformation of a peace-loving people into a nation of swaggerers ever ready to take offence, prone to create difficulties, eager to shed blood, and taking all sorts of occasions to bring the Christian religion to shame under pretence of vindicating the rights of humanity in some other country." The spectacle of a section in the United States apparently ready to step down from its pedestal of honourable neutrality, and run its head into the ignoble web of European complications, was indeed one to make both gods and mortals weep. But I do not believe it expressed the true attitude of the real American people. Perhaps the personal element enters too largely into my ascription of superior morality to the Americans in this matter, because I can never thoroughly enjoy a military pageant, no matter how brilliant, for thinking of the brutal, animal, inhuman element in our nature of which it is, after all, the expression: military pomp is to me merely the surface iridescence of a malarious pool, and the honour paid to our life destroyers would, from my point of view, be infinitely better bestowed on life preservers, such as the noble and intrepid corps of firemen. Sympathisers with this view seem much more numerous in the United States than in England.[11]

The judgment of an uncommercial traveller on commercial morality may well be held as a feather-weight in the balance. Such as mine is, it is gathered mainly from the tone of casual conversation, from which I should conclude that a considerable proportion of Americans read a well-known proverb as "All's fair in love or business." Men—I will not say of a high character and standing, but men of a standing and character who would not have done it in England—told me instances of their sharp practices in business, with an evident expectation of my admiration for their shrewdness, and with no apparent sense of the slightest moral delinquency. Possibly, when the "rules of the game" are universally understood, there is less moral obliquity in taking advantage of them than an outsider imagines. The prevalent belief that America is more sedulous in the worship of the Golden Calf than any other country arises largely, I believe, from the fact that the chances of acquiring wealth are more frequent and easy there than elsewhere. Opportunity makes the thief. Anyhow, the reproach comes with a bad grace from the natives of a country which has in its annals the outbreak of the South Sea Bubble, the railway mania of the Hudson era, and the revelations of Mr. Hooley.

Politics enter so slightly into the scope of this book that a very few words on the question of political morality must suffice. That political corruption exists more commonly in the United States than in Great Britain—especially in municipal government—may be taken as admitted by the most eminent American publicists themselves. A very limited degree of intercourse with "professional politicians" yields ample confirmatory evidence. Thus, to give but one instance, a wealthy citizen of one of the largest Eastern towns told me, with absolute ingenuousness, how he had "dished" the (say) Republican party in a municipal contest, not in the least because he had changed his political sympathies, but simply because the candidates had refused to accede to certain personal demands of his own. He spoke throughout the conversation as if it must be perfectly apparent to me, as to any intelligent person, that the only possible reason for working and voting for a political party must be personal interest. I confess this seemed to me a very significant straw. On the other hand the conclusions usually drawn by stay-at-home English people on these admissions is ludicrously in excess of what is warranted by the facts. "To imagine for a moment that 60,000,000 of people—better educated than any other nation in the world—are openly tolerating universal corruption in all Federal, State, and municipal government is simply assuming that these 60,000,000 are either criminals or fools." Now, "you can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time." A more competent judge[12] than the present writer estimates the morals of the American political "wire-puller" as about on a level with those of our company directors. And before my English readers make their final decision on the American political system let them study Chapter XLVI. of that very fascinating novel, "The Honorable Peter Stirling," by Paul Leicester Ford. It may give them some new light on the subject of "a government of the average," and show them what is meant by the saying, "The boss who does the most things that the people want can do the most things that the people don't want."

We must remember, too, that nothing is hidden from general knowledge in America: every job comes sooner or later into the merciless glare of publicity. And if our political sins are not the same as theirs, they are perhaps equally heinous. Was not the British landlord who voted against the repeal of the corn laws, so that land might continue to bring in a high rent at the expense of the poor man, really acting from just as corrupt a motive of self-interest as the American legislator who accepts a bribe? It does not do to be too superior on this question.

We may end this chapter by a typical instance of the way in which British opinion of America is apt to be formed that comes under my notice at the very moment I write these lines. The Daily Chronicle of March 24, 1896, published a leading article on "Family Life in America," in which it quotes with approval Mme. Blanc's assertion that "the single woman in the United States is infinitely superior to her European sister." In the same issue of the paper is a letter from Mrs. Fawcett relating to a recent very deplorable occurrence in Washington, where the daughter of a well-known resident shot a coloured boy who was robbing her father's orchard. In the Chronicle of March 25th appears a triumphant British letter from "Old-Fashioned," asking satirically whether the habit of using loaded revolvers is a proof of the "infinite superiority" of the American girl. Now this estimable gentleman is making the mistake that nine out of ten of his countrymen constantly make in swooping down on a single outre instance as characteristic of American life. If "Old-Fashioned" has not time to pay a visit to America or to read Mr. Bryce's book, let him at least accept my assurance that the above-mentioned incident seems to the full as extraordinary to the Bostonian as to the Londoner, and that it is just as typical of the habits of the American society girl as the action of Miss Madeleine Smith was of English girls.

"Of all the sarse thet I can call to mind, England doos make the most onpleasant kind. It's you're the sinner ollers, she's the saint; Whot's good's all English, all thet isn't, ain't. She is all thet's honest, honnable, an' fair. An' when the vartoos died they made her heir."

FOOTNOTES:

[9] See, e.g., "Ad Familiares," 5, 18.

[10] This was written just after President Cleveland's pronunciamento in regard to Venezuela, and thus long before the outbreak of the war with Spain.

[11] This paragraph was written before the outbreak of the Spanish-American war; but the events of that struggle do not seem to me to call for serious modification of the opinion expressed above.

[12] Sir George Campbell, in "Black and White in America."



VII

Sports and Amusements

In face of the immense sums of money spent on all kinds of sport, the size and wealth of the athletic associations, the swollen salaries of baseball players, the prominence afforded to sporting events in the newspapers, the number of "world's records" made in the United States, and the tremendous excitement over inter-university football matches and international yacht-races, it may seem wanton to assert that the love of sport is not by any means so genuine or so universal in the United States as in Great Britain; and yet I am not at all sure that such a statement would not be absolutely true. By true "love of sport" I understand the enjoyment that arises from either practising or seeing others practise some form of skill-demanding amusement for its own sake, without question of pecuniary profit; and the true sport lover is not satisfied unless the best man wins, whether he be friend or foe. Sport ceases to be sport as soon as it is carried on as if it were war, where "all" is proverbially "fair." The excitement of gambling does not seem to me to be fairly covered by the phrase "love of sport," and no more does the mere desire to see one's university, state, or nation triumph over someone else's university, state, or nation. There are thousands of people who rejoice over or bewail the result of the Derby without thereby proving their possession of any right to the title of sportsman; there is no difference of quality between the speculator in grain and the speculator in horseflesh and jockeys' nerves. So, too, there are many thousands who yell for Yale in a football match who have no real sporting instinct whatever. Sport, to be sport, must jealously shun all attempts to make it a business; the more there is of the spirit of professionalism in any game or athletic exercise the less it deserves to be called a sport. A sport in the true sense of the word must be practised for fun or glory, not for dollars and cents; and the desire to win must be very strictly subordinated to the sense of honour and fair play. The book-making spirit has undoubtedly entered far too largely into many of the most characteristic of British sports, and I have no desire to palliate or excuse our national shortcomings in this or other respects. But the hard commercial spirit to which I have alluded seems to me to pervade American sport much more universally than it does the sport of England, and to form almost always a much larger factor in the interest excited by any contest.

This is very clearly shown by the way in which games are carried on at the universities of the two countries. Most members of an English college are members of some one or other of the various athletic associations connected with it, and it cannot be denied that the general interest in sport is both wide and keen. But it does not assume so "business-like" an air as it does in such a university as Yale or Princeton. Not nearly so much money is spent in the paraphernalia of the sport or in the process of training. The operation of turning a pleasure into a toil is not so consistently carried on. The members of the intercollegiate team do not obtain leave of absence from their college duties to train and practise in some remote corner of England as if they were prize-fighters or yearlings. "Gate-money" does not bulk so largely in the view; in fact, admission to many of the chief encounters is free. The atmosphere of mystery about the doings of the crew or team is not so sedulously cultivated. The men do not take defeat so hardly, or regard the loss of a match as a serious calamity in life. I have the authority of Mr. Caspar W. Whitney, the editor of Forest and Stream, and perhaps the foremost living writer on sport in the United States, for the statement that members of a defeated football team in America will sometimes throw themselves on their faces on the turf and weep (see his "Sporting Pilgrimage," Chapter IV., pp. 94, 95).[13] It was an American orator who proposed the toast: "My country—right or wrong, my country;" and there is some reason to fear that American college athletes are tempted to adapt this in the form "Let us win, by fair means or foul." I should hesitate to suggest this were it not that the evidence on which I do so was supplied from American sources. Thus, one American friend of mine told me he heard a member of a leading university football team say to one of his colleagues: "You try to knock out A.B. this bout; I've been warned once." Tactics of this kind are freely alleged against our professional players of association football; but it may safely be asserted that no such sentence could issue from the lips of a member of the Oxford or Cambridge university teams.

Mr. E.J. Brown, Track Captain of the University of California, asserted, on his return from a visit to the Eastern States, that Harvard was the only Eastern university in which the members of the athletic teams were all bona fide students. This is doubtless a very exaggerated statement, but it would seem to indicate which way the wind blows. The entire American tendency is to take amusement too seriously, too strenuously. They do not allow sport to take care of itself. "It runs to rhetoric and interviews." All good contestants become "representatives of the American people." One serious effect of the way in which the necessity of winning or "making records" is constantly held up as the raison d'etre of athletic sports is that it suggests to the ordinary student, who has no hopes of brilliant success in athletics, that moderate exercise is contemptible, and that he need do nothing to keep up his bodily vigour. Thus, Dr. Birkbeck Hill found that the proportion of students who took part in some athletic sport was distinctly less at Harvard than at Oxford. Nor could I ascertain that nearly so large a proportion of the adult population themselves played games or followed athletics of any kind as in England. I should say, speaking roughly, that the end of his university career or his first year in responsible business corresponded practically for the ordinary American to the forty-fifth year of the ordinary Englishman, i.e., after this time he would either entirely or partially give up his own active participation in outdoor exercises. Of course there are thousands of exceptions on both sides; but the general rule remains true. The average American professional or business man does not play baseball as his English cousin does cricket. He goes in his thousands to see baseball matches, and takes a very keen and vociferous interest in their progress; but he himself has probably not handled a club since he left college. No doubt this contrast is gradually diminishing, and such games as lawn tennis and golf have made it practically a vanishing quantity in the North-eastern States; but as one goes West one cannot but feel that baseball and other sports, like dancing in China, are almost wholly in the hands of paid performers.

The national games of cricket and baseball serve very well to illustrate this, as well as other contrasts in the pastimes of the two nations. In cricket the line between the amateur and the professional has hitherto been very clearly drawn; and Englishmen are apt to believe that there is something elevating in the very nature of the game which makes it shed scandals as a duck's back sheds water. The American view is, perhaps, rather that cricket is so slow a game that there is little scope for betting, with all its attendant excitement and evils. They point to the fact that the staid city of Philadelphia is the only part of the United States in which cricket flourishes; and, if in a boasting mood, they may claim with justice that it has been cultivated there in a way that shows that it is not lack of ability to shine in it that makes most Americans indifferent to the game. A first-class match takes three days to play, and even a match between two teams of small boys requires a long half-holiday. Hence the game is largely practised by the members of the leisure class. The grounds on which it is played are covered with the greenest and best-kept of turf, and are often amid the most lovely surroundings. The season at which the game is played is summer, so that looking on is warm and comfortable. There is comparatively little chance of serious accident; and the absence of personal contact of player with player removes the prime cause of quarrelling and ill-feeling. Hence ladies feel that they may frequent cricket matches in their daintiest summer frocks and without dread of witnessing any painful accident or unseemly scuffle. The costumes of the players are varied, appropriate, and tasteful, and the arrangement of the fielders is very picturesque.

Baseball, on the other hand (which, pace, my American friends, is simply glorified rounders), with the exception of school and college teams, is almost wholly practised by professional players; and the place of the county cricket matches is taken by the games between the various cities represented in the National League, in which the amateur is severely absent. The dress, with a long-sleeved semmet appearing below a short-sleeved jersey, is very ugly, and gives a sort of ruffianly look to a "nine" which it might be free from in another costume. The ground is theoretically grass, but practically (often, at least) hard-trodden earth or mud. A match is finished in about one hour and a half. In running for base a player has often to throw himself on his face, and thereby covers himself with dust or mud. The spectators have each paid a sum varying from 1s. or 2s. to 8s. or even 10s. for admission, and are keenly excited in the contest; while their yells, and hoots, and slangy chaff are very different to the decorous applause of the cricket field, and rather recall an association football crowd in the Midlands. As a rule not much sympathy or courtesy is extended to the visiting team, and the duties of an umpire are sometimes accompanied by real danger.[14] Several features of the play seem distinctly unsportsmanlike. Thus, it is the regular duty of one of the batting team, when not in himself, to try to "rattle" the pitcher or fielder by yells and shouts just as he is about to "pitch" or "catch" or "touch." It is not considered dishonourable for one of the waiting strikers to pretend to be the player really at a base and run from base to base just outside the real line so as to confuse the fielders. On the other hand the game is rapid, full of excitement and variety, and susceptible of infinite development of skill. The accuracy with which a long field will throw to base might turn an English long-leg green with envy; and the way in which an expert pitcher will make a ball deflect in the air, either up or down, to the right or left, must be seen to be believed. A really skilful pitcher is said to be able to throw a ball in such a way that it will go straight to within a foot of a tree, turn out for the tree, and resume its original course on the other side of it!

The football match between Yale and Princeton on Thanksgiving Day (last Thursday in November) may, perhaps, be said to hold the place in public estimation in America that the Oxford and Cambridge boat-race does in England. In spite of the inclement season, spectators of either sex turn out in their thousands; and the scene, except that furs are substituted for summer frocks, easily stands comparison with the Eton and Harrow day at Lord's. The field is surrounded in the same way with carriages and drags, on which the colours of the rival teams are profusely displayed; and there are the same merry coach-top luncheons, the same serried files of noisy partisans, and the same general air of festivity, while the final touch is given by the fact that a brilliant sun is not rarer in America in November than it is in England in June. The American game of football is a developed form of the Rugby game; but is, perhaps, not nearer it than baseball is to rounders. It is played by eleven a side. American judges think that neither Rugby nor Association football approaches the American game either in skill or in demand on the player's physical endurance. This may be so: in fact, so far as my very inexpert point of view goes I should say that it is so. Undoubtedly the American teams go through a much more prolonged and rigid system of training, and their scheme of tactics, codes of signals, and sharp devices of all kinds are much more complicated. "Tackling" is probably reduced to a finer art than in England. Mr. Whitney, a most competent and impartial observer, does not think that our system of "passing" would be possible with American tacklers. Whether all this makes a better game is a very different question, and one that I should be disposed to answer in the negative. It is a more serious business, just as a duel a outrance is a more serious business than a fencing match; but it is not so interesting to look at and does not seem to afford the players so much fun. There is little running with the ball, almost no dropping or punting, and few free kicks. The game between Princeton and Yale which I, shivering, saw from the top of a drag in 1891, seemed like one prolonged, though rather loose, scrimmage; and the spectators fairly yelled for joy when they saw the ball, which happened on an average about once every ten or fifteen minutes. Americans have to gain five yards for every three "downs" or else lose possession of the ball; and hence the field is marked off by five-yard lines all the way from goal to goal. American writers acknowledge that the English Rugby men are much better kickers than the American players, and that it is now seldom that the punter in America gets a fair chance to show his skill. There are many tiresome waits in the American game; and the practice of "interference," though certainly managed with wonderful skill, can never seem quite fair to one brought upon the English notions of "off-side." The concerted cheering of the students of each university, led by a regular fugle-man, marking time with voice and arms, seems odd to the spectator accustomed to the sparse, spontaneous, and independent applause of an English crowd.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse