Notes On Europe
In the articles written on the different European nations visited I confined myself to certain subjects, but there are a number of things worthy of comment which were not germane to the matters discussed. I shall present some of these under the above head.
An American who travels in England in the winter time is sure to notice the coldness of the cars. The English people do not seem to notice this, for if they did the matter would certainly be remedied; but the stranger who has to wrap up in blankets and keep his feet upon a tank of hot water makes comparisons between the comfort of the American railway cars and those of England, much to the disadvantage of the latter. On the continent the temperature of the cars is higher and travel more pleasant.
Sheep graze in the very suburbs of London. This was a surprise to me. I saw more sheep in the little traveling that I did in England than I have seen in the United States east of the Mississippi River in years of travel. But after one has enjoyed for a few days the English mutton chop, the best in the world, he understands why English sheep are privileged to graze upon high priced lands.
The House of Lords is much more elegantly furnished than Parliament, but it excites curiosity rather than interest. It, too, is small compared with the number of Lords ; but as the Lords seldom attend, the accommodations are ample. Only three members are required to constitute a quorum, and it is easy therefore to get together enough to acquiesce in measures that pass Parliament. So far as any real influence is concerned, the House of Lords might as well be abolished; ands only three are necessary to constitute a quorum, it would only be necessary to reduce the necessary number by three and make none a quorum to entirely remove this legislative body from consideration.
The Courts of England are a matter of interest to American lawyers, and a matter of curiosity to other Americans. As our Supreme Judges wear gowns, the gown is not so unfamiliar to us; but the wig, which is still worn by the English judges, barristers and solicitors, is not seen in this country. The wig is made of white curly hair and does not reach much below the ears. When the wearer has black hair, or red hair, or in fact hair of any color except white; the contrast between the wig and the natural hair sometimes excites a smile from those who are not impressed with the necessity for this relic of ancient times. In one of the court rooms which I visited, a son of Charles Dickens was arguing a case, and while I did not recognize any of the brilliancy and humor that have led me to place Dickens at the head of the novelists whom I have read, the son is said to be a reasonably successful lawyer. In one of the Admiralty Courts a very bushy headed wharfman was testifying to a salvage contract which he had made and he was quite emphatic in his assertions that the terms were "'alf and 'alf."
In one of the court rooms Lord Alverstone was presiding, and I had the pleasure of meeting him afterwards at dinner in Lincoln Inn Court. He is one of the finest looking men whom I met in England. He rendered a decision in favor of the United States in the matter of the recent arbitration with Canada.
Ambassador Joseph Choate placed me under obligations to him, as did also Secretary of the Legation Henry White, by their many courtesies extended.
At Mr. Choate's table I had the pleasure of meeting Right Hon. A. J. Balfour, the present Premier. He strikes one as a scholarly man rather than as a parliamentary fighter. He has had a remarkable official career. As he was and is still a bimetallist, I found him a con-genial man to have at my right. Mr. Richie, who left the Cabinet be-cause of a disagreement with Mr. Balfour on the fiscal question, sat at my left, and as he was an ardent opponent of protection, I had no trouble conversing with him. I learned afterwards that Mr. Balfour and Mr. Richie had not met since the Cabinet rupture. Among those present at the table was Hon. Leonard Courtney, for many years a member of Parliament. He was a member of the Royal Commission that presented the now world renowned report on falling prices. He also took an active part in opposing the war against the Boers. In appearance he reminds one of Senator Allen G. Thurman, having something of the same strength and ruggedness of feature. I am indebted to him for an opportunity to visit Lincoln Inn Court, where I met a number of other eminent judges besides Lord Alverstone.
Mr. Moreton Frewen was also a guest of Ambassador Choate on that occasion. He has frequently visited the United States and has written much on the subject of silver. When he came to the United States soon after the election in 1896, and was told that there had been some repeating in some of the cities, he inquired, "Is it not twice as honest to vote twice for honest money as to vote once?" I found, however, that he was working with the Chamberlain protectionists, who, by the way, call themselves "tariff reformers." He had found a Bible passage which he was using on the stump. It was taken from Genesis. Pharaoh said to someone who inquired of him, "Go unto Joseph; what he saith to you, do." It seems, however, from the more recent elections, that the people have refused to identify the modern Joseph with the ancient one.
At Mr. Choate's table the subject of story telling was discussed, and some comment made about the proverbial slowness of the Englishman in catching the point of American stories. I determined to test this with a story and told of the experience of the minister who was arguing against the possibility of perfection in this life. He asked his congregation : "Is there anyone here who is perfect?" No one arose. "Is there anyone in the congregation who has ever seen a perfect person?" No one arose. Continuing his inquiry, he asked, "Is there anyone here who has ever heard of a perfect person?" A very meek little woman arose in the rear of the room. He repeated his question to be sure that she understood, and as she again declared that she had heard of such a person, he asked her to give the name of the perfect person of whom she had heard. She replied, "My husband's first wife." All the Englishmen at the table saw the point of the story at once, and one of them remarked that he thought the story would be appreciated wherever domestic life is known.
It was my good fortune to meet in London Mr. Sidney Webb and his talented wife, both of whom have written extensively on municipal ownership and industrial co-operation.
One of the most interesting figures in European journalism is Sir Alfred Harmsworth, proprietor of the London Daily Mail. He has achieved a remarkable success and is still a young man. His country home, some thirty miles out from London, is an old English castle which he recently secured for a long term of years. The house was built more than three hundred years ago by one of the kings for a favorite courtier. The estate is large enough to include farm and pasture lands and a well stocked hunting preserve. Lady Harmsworth is one of the most beautiful women in the kingdom and entertains lavishly.
The average foreigner does not have any higher opinion than the American does of those "international marriages" by means of which some of the decaying estates of titled foreigners are being restored, but there are many marriages between our people and Europeans which rest upon affection and congeniality. The union of Rt. Hon. Joseph Chamberlain and the daughter of Ex-Secretary Endicott, who was at the head of the Navy Department during Mr. Cleveland's first administration, is a notable illustration. Mrs. Chamberlain is a charming and accomplished woman and justly popular with the Britons as well as with the Americans who visit England.
The American tourist is sure to find some of his countrymen stranded in London. I met several of them. Most of them represented them-selves as related to prominent political friends, and these I could. assist without inquiring too closely into the alleged relationship, but one case of a different kind failed to appeal to me. A lady who attached a high sounding title to her name sent her secretary to solicit aid. He represented her as an American who had against her parents' wishes married a titled Englishman ; her husband had deserted her and her physician had told her that her health required that she spend the winter in Southern France. Her American relatives were rich, I was assured, but she was too proud to let them know of her misfortune. It was a sad story even when told by a secretary (how she could afford one I do not know), but I did not feel justified in encouraging a pride that led her to make her wants known to strangers rather than to her own kin.
In my article on the growth of municipal ownership (it will be found on another page), I referred to -the work of John Burns, the noted labor leader of London. I may add here that his seven or eight years old son is the handsomest child that I saw in England. I was on the stage at Lord Rosebery's meeting and my attention was attracted to a child of unusual beauty sitting just in front of me. I asked the gentleman at my side whether he was a fair sample of the English boy; he replied that he was an excellent representative. Soon after-ward the mother introduced herself to me as the wife of John Burns. I thought it an interesting coincidence that I should admire the child unconscious of his relationship to the man who had the day before impressed me so favorably.
And, speaking of Mr. Burns, I reproduce below an item which appeared in one of the London papers the day after I returned Mr. Burns' call. He sent it to me with the remark that it probably differed from the personal items to which I was accustomed. It reads :
"Mr. Burns' Mysterious Visitor.
"Just before ten o'clock this (Friday) morning a hansom cab (plentifully bespattered with gilt coronets) stopped outside the residence of Mr. Burns, Lavender Hill. A person alighted and was received with every appearance of cordiality by Mr. Burns, who escorted him into the house. We believe the visitor was Lord Rosebery; he certainly bore a striking resemblance to that childlike peer. Possibly, however, it was only the King of Italy. In diplomatic circles it has been known for a long time that his Italian Majesty intended to visit the Municipal Mecca for much the same reasons that induced Peter the Great of Russia to come to England. It was known, also, that he would come in some sort of disguise. That Mr. Burns' visitor this morning was a person of importance is evidenced by the fact that a constable in uniform and two or three other men (probably secret service officers) were in waiting when the cab drew up. They stood round the visitor and the constable saluted respectfully. A uniformed policeman had been in the neighborhood of Mr. Burns' house and the `Crown' all the morning."
Westminster Abbey is one of the places which the visitor cannot well neglect. It was originally the burial place of royalty, and as the guide shows you the tablets and statues which perpetuate the memory of warrior kings and tells you how this king killed that one, and that king killed another, you recall the story of the American minister who concluded a very short discourse at the funeral of a man of questionable character by saying, "Some believe that he was a tolerable good man, while others believe that he was a very bad man, but whether he was good or had we have this consolation, that he is dead." It is a relief to pass from the bloody annals of the earlier days and from the bloody deeds of ancient royalty to that part of the building which is honored by memorials of the great men in modern English life. To the American the most noted of those recently buried in Westminster Abbey was Gladstone. His life spanned the present and the past generation, and his character and talents are regarded as a part of the heritage of English speaking people.
A description of the Art Gallery, the public buildings, the Tower, and of the many interesting and historic places would occupy more space than I can spare at this time.
I shall pass from England with one observation. Upon the streets of London, and in fact throughout the British Isles, the rule is to "turn to the left." The American notices this at once, and until he becomes accustomed to it he is in danger of collision. If England and the United States ever come together in an unfriendly way, it will probably be accounted for by the difference in our rules. We will be turning to the right while she will be turning to the left.
Queenstown, Ireland, the first town to greet the tourist when he reaches Northern Europe and the last to bid him farewell when he departs, is a quaint and interesting old place. It is near the City of Cork, and the names upon the signs—the Murphys, the McDonalds, the O'Briens, etc., are so familiar that one might suppose it to be an American colony. Here the returning traveler has a chance to spend any change which he has left, for black thorn canes and shillalahs, "Robert Emmett" and "Harp of Erin" handkerchiefs and lace collars are offered in abundance. The price of these wares has been known to fall considerably as the moment of departure approaches. At Queens-town one can hear the Irish brogue in all its richness and if he takes a little jaunt about the town he can enjoy the humor for which the Irish are famed.
Scotland has a hardy population, due probably to the climate. Even near. the southern boundary, the weather was quite wintry before Thanksgiving Day of last year. Scotch plaids are in evidence at the stores and the visitor has an opportunity to buy traveling blankets bearing the figures and the colors of the various Scottish clans. As I visited Scotland to study municipal ownership I reserved for a future trip a visit to the places of natural and historic interest.
Strange that a narrow channel should make such a difference as there is between the Englishman and the Frenchman. Some one has said, "not only is England an island, but each Englishman is an island." This puts the case a little too strongly, but one notices that the French are much more gregarious than the English and more inclined to sociability. Their attention to strangers while not more sincere is more marked.
Paris seems to be the favorite place for residence for Americans who desire to live in Europe. The climate is milder, the attractions are more numerous and the cooking, it is said, is the best in the world.
The automobile seems to have captured Paris, possibly because of its many wide streets and boulevards.
While the tipping system may not be worse in France than in other countries, it is certainly nowhere more fully developed. It is said that in some of the fashionable restaurants of Paris the tips are so valuable that the waiters, instead of receiving wages, pay a bonus for a chance to serve. But all over Europe service of every kind is rewarded with tips, and a failure to comply with the custom makes the delinquent a persona non grata. At the hotels all the attendants seem to get notice of the intended departure of a guest and they line up to receive a remembrance—porter, chambermaid, valet, bell-boy, elevator man, and some whose faces are entirely new to the guest. The cab-drivers collect the fare fixed by city ordinance and expect a tip besides. Ten per cent is the amount usually given and anything less fails to elicit thanks. An Irish jaunting car driver at Queenstown took out his tip in making change. While the traveler is often tempted to rebel against the tip system as it is found in Europe, he finally coneludes that he can not reform a continent in one brief visit and submits with as good grace as possible.
Guides can be found at all the leading hotels and they are well worth what they charge. They are acquainted with all places of in terest, and can act as interpreters if one wants to make inquiries or do shopping.
The rivers of Europe which have been immortalized in poetry and song—the rivers whose names we learn when as children we study geography—are a little disappointing. The Thames at London, the Seine at Paris, the Tiber at Rome, the Danube at Vienna, the Spree at Berlin, the Po in northern Italy, and the Rhine are not as large as fancy has pictured; but the lakes of Switzerland surpass description.
I was disappointed that I did not have time to see more of Germany. Berlin was the only city in which I stopped, and the fact that the holiday festivities were at their height made it difficult to prosecute any investigation. In another article I have discussed the German socialistic propaganda, and I shall here content myself with calling attention to their railroad system. The total railroad mileage at the end of the year 1900, as reported by the American consul, was 28,601. Of this mileage private companies owned 2,573, and the federal government 798, the remainder was owned by the various German states, some of the states owning but a few miles of line. The ownership of the railroads by the various states does not in the least interfere with the operation of the lines. The plan in operation in Germany suggests the possibility of state ownership in this country as distinguished from federal ownership.
In Austria I saw for the first time the systematic cultivation of forests. In some places the various plantings were near enough together to show trees of all sizes. At one side the trees were but a few feet in height while those at the other side of the forest were being converted into fuel.
Vienna, the capital of Austria, is not the "Old Vienna" which was reproduced at the Chicago World's Fair and at the Buffalo Exposition, but is a substantial, new, and up-to-date city. The stores exhibit an endless variety of leather goods, and I found there, as also in Belgium, many novelties in iron, steel and brass.
Russia deserves more attention than I could give it in the articles on Tolstoy and the czar. It is a land of wonderful resources and possibilities, and is making great progress considering the fact that a large proportion of the population has so recently emerged from serfdom. The peasants live in villages as in France and their life is primitive compared with life in the larger cities. There has been rapid growth in manufacturing, commerce and art. Besides furnishing one of the greatest of novelists, Tolstoy, who is also the greatest of living philosophers, Russia has given to the world many others who are prominent in literature and in art. There is an art gallery at Moscow devoted almost entirely to the work of Russian artists. Here one finds a most interesting collection, a large number of the pictures being devoted to home scenes and historic events. In this gallery the nude in art is noticeable by its absence. In the art gallery at St. Petersburg most of the paintings are by foreign artists. There is in this gallery a wonderful collection of cameos, jewelry and precious stones.
I found in Russia a very friendly feeling toward the United States. Prince Hilkoff, who is at the head of the Siberian railroad, speaks English fluently, as do nearly all the other prominent officials. He informed me that he visited the United States about 1858 and crossed the plains by wagon. He inquired about the Platte river and its branches and remembered the names of the forts along the route.
I have spoken in another article of the deep hold which the Greek Church has upon the people of Russia. A story which I heard in St. Petersburg illustrates this. An American residing there asked her cook to go to market after some pigeons, or doves as they are more often called. The latter was horrified at the thought and refused, saying, "The Holy Ghost descended upon our Saviour in the form of a dove and it might be in one of these." Another American was rebuked by her servant, who when told to throw something out of the window replied, "This is Easter and Christ is risen. He might be passing by at this moment."
In Russia we find the extremes. The government is the most arbitrary known among civilized nations and yet in Russia are to be found some of the most advanced and devoted advocates of civil liberty. Nowhere is the doctrine of force more fully illustrated and yet from Russia come the strongest arguments in favor of non-resistance. The poison and the antidote seem to be found near together in the world of thought as well as in the physical world.
( Originally Published 1907 )
The Old World And Its Way:
The Republic Of Switzerland
Three Little Kingdoms
Germany And Socialism
Russia And Her Czar
Rome—the Catholic Capital
Tolstoy, The Apostle Of Love
Notes On Europe
Read More Articles About: The Old World And Its Way