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Whibley, Charles / American Sketches
Produced by David Widger





AMERICAN SKETCHES

By Charles Whibley

William Blackwood & Sons - 1908




AMERICAN SKETCHES.




NEW YORK.

To land at Hoboken in a quiet drizzle is to sound the depths of
desolation. A raw, half-finished, unkempt street confronts you.
Along the roadway, roughly broken into ruts, crawls a sad tram. The
dishevelled shops bear odd foreign-looking names upon their fronts, and
the dark men who lounge at their doors suggest neither the spirit of
hustling nor the grandeur of democracy. It is, in truth, not a street,
but the awkward sketch of a street, in which all the colours are blurred
and the lines drawn awry. And the sense of desolation is heightened by
the memory of the immediate past. You have not yet forgotten the pomp of
a great steamship. The gracious harbour of New York is still shining
in your mind's eye. If the sentiment of freedom be dear to you, you are
fresh from apostrophising the statue of Liberty, and you may have just
whispered to yourself that you are breathing a clearer, larger air.
Even the exquisite courtesy of the officer who has invited you in the
blandest terms to declare that you have no contraband, has belied the
voice of rumour and imparted a glow of satisfaction. And then you are
thrown miserably into the leaden despair of Hoboken, and the vision of
Liberty herself is effaced.

But Hoboken is an easy place where-from to escape, and the traveller
may pass through it the more cheerfully, because it prepares him for
the manifold and bewildering contrasts of New York. The towns of the
old world have alternations of penury and affluence. In them also
picturesque squalor obtrudes itself upon an ugly splendour. But New
York, above all other cities, is the city of contrasts. As America is
less a country than a collection of countries, so New York is not a
city--it is a collection of cities. Here, on the narrow rock which
sustains the real metropolis of the United States, is room or men and
women of every faith and every race. The advertisements which glitter
in the windows or are plastered upon the hoardings suggest that all
nationalities meet with an equal and a flattering acceptance. The German
regrets his fatherland the less when he finds a brilliant Bier-Halle
waiting for his delight. The Scot no doubt finds the "domestic" cigar
sweeter to his taste if a portrait of Robert Burns adorns the box
from which he takes it. The Jew may be supposed to lose the sense of
homesickness when he can read the news of every day in his familiar
Yiddish. And it is not only in the contrast of nationalities that New
York proves its variety. Though Germans, Italians, and Irish inhabit
their own separate quarters and frequent their own separate haunts,
there are many other lines of division. Nowhere in the world are there
sharper, crueller distinctions of riches and poverty, of intelligence
and boorish-ness, of beauty and ugliness. How, indeed, shall you find
a formula for a city which contains within its larger boundaries Fifth
Avenue and the Bowery, the Riverside Drive and Brooklyn, Central Park
and Coney Island?

And this contrast of race and character is matched by the diversity of
the city's aspect. Its architecture is as various as its inhabitants.
In spite of demolition and utility, the history of New York is written
brokenly upon its walls. Here and there you may detect an ancient
frame-house which has escaped the shocks of time and chance, and still
holds its own against its sturdier neighbours. Nor is the memory of
England wholly obliterated. Is there not a homely sound in Maiden Lane,
a modest thoroughfare not far from Wall Street? What Englishman can feel
wholly abroad if he walk out to the Battery, or gaze upon the austere
houses of Washington Square? And do not the two churches of Broadway
recall the city of London, where the masterpieces of Wren are still
hedged about by overshadowing office and frowning warehouse? St Paul's
Chapel, indeed, is English both in style and origin. It might have been
built in accord with Sir Christopher's own design; and, flanked by the
thirty-two storeys of the Park Row Building, it has the look of a small
and dainty toy. Though Trinity Church, dedicated to the glory of God
and the Astors, stands in an equally strange environment, it is less
incongruous, as it is less elegant, than St Paul's. Its spire falls not
more than a hundred feet below the surrounding sky-scrapers, and were it
not for its graveyard it might escape notice. Now its graveyard is one
of the wonders of America. Rich in memories of colonial days, it is as
lucid a piece of history as survives within the boundaries of New York.
The busy mob of cosmopolitans, intent upon trusts and monopolies, which
passes its time-worn stones day after day, may find no meaning in its
tranquillity. The wayfarer who is careless of the hours will obey the
ancient counsel and stay a while. The inscriptions carry him back to the
days before the Revolution, or even into the seventeenth century. Here
lies one Richard Churcher, who died in 1681, at the tender age of five.
And there is buried William Bradford, who printed the first newspaper
that ever New York saw, the forefather in a long line of the Yellowest
Press on earth. And there is inscribed the name of John Watts, the last
Royal Recorder of New York. Thus the wayfarer may step from Broadway
into the graveyard of a British colony, and forget, in contemplating
the familiar examples of a lapidary style, that there was a tea-party at
Boston.

These contrasts are wayward and accidental. The hand of chance has been
merciful, that is all; and if you would fully understand New York's
self-conscious love of incongruity it is elsewhere that you must
look. Walk along the Riverside Drive, framed by nature to be, what an
enthusiast has called it, "the finest residential avenue in the world."
Turn your back to the houses, and contemplate the noble beauty of the
Hudson River. Look from the terrace of Claremont upon the sunlit scene,
and ask yourself whether Paris herself offers a gayer prospect. And then
face the "high-class residences," and humble your heart. Nowhere else
will you get a clearer vision of the inappropriateness which is the most
devoutly worshipped of New York's idols. The human mind cannot imagine
anything less like "residences" than these vast blocks of vulgarity. The
styles of all ages and all countries have been recklessly imitated.
The homes of the millionaires are disguised as churches, as mosques, as
medieval castles. Here you may find a stronghold of feudalism cheek
by jowl with the quiet mansion of a colonial gentleman. There Touraine
jostles Constantinople; and the climax is reached by Mr Schwab, who has
decreed for himself a lofty pleasure-dome, which is said to resemble
Chambord, and which takes its place in a long line of villas, without
so much as a turnip-field to give it an air of seclusion or security.
In this vainglorious craving for discomfort there is a kind of naïveté
which is not without its pathos. One proud lady, whose husband, in
the words of a dithyrambic guide-book, "made a fortune from a patent
glove-hook," boasts that her mansion has a glass-room on the second
floor. Another vain householder deems it sufficient to proclaim that
he spent two million dollars upon the villa which shelters him from
the storm. In brief, there is scarcely a single palace on the Riverside
which may not be described as an antic of wealth, and one wonders what
sort of a life is lived within these gloomy walls. Do the inhabitants
dress their parts with conscientious gravity, and sit down to dine with
the trappings of costume and furniture which belong to their
houses? Suppose they did, and, suppose in obedience to a signal they
precipitated themselves upon the highway, there would be such a
masquerade of fancy dress as the world has never seen. The Riverside
Drive, then, is a sermon in stones, whose text is the uselessness of
uncultured dollars. If we judged New York by this orgie of tasteless
extravagance, we might condemn it for a parvenu among cities, careless
of millions and sparing of discretion. We may not thus judge it New
York, if it be a parvenu, is often a parvenu of taste, and has given
many a proof of intelligence and refinement. The home of great luxury,
it does not always, as on the Riverside, mistake display for beauty.
There are houses in the neighbourhood of Fifth Avenue which are perfect
in reticence and suitability. The clubs of New York are a splendid
example even to London, the first home of clubs. In Central Park the
people of New York possesses a place of amenity and recreation which
Europe cannot surpass; and when you are tired of watching the antics of
the leisurely chipmunk, who gambols without haste and without fear, you
may delight in a collection of pictures which wealth and good management
will make the despair and admiration of the world. Much, of course,
remains to do, and therein New York is fortunate. Her growing interest
in sculpture and architecture is matched by a magnificent opportunity.
In the Old World all has been accomplished. Our buildings are set up,
our memorials dedicated, our pictures gathered into galleries. America
starts, so to say, from scratch; there is no limit to her ambition; and
she has infinite money. If the past is ours, the future is hers, and we
may look forward to it with curiosity and with hope.

The architects of America have not only composed works in accordance
with the old traditions and in obedience to ancient models; they have
devised a new style and a new method of their own. To pack a vast
metropolis within a narrow space, they have made mountains of houses.
When the rock upon which their city stands proved insufficient for their
ambition, they conquered another kingdom in the air. The skyscrapers
which lift their lofty turrets to the heaven are the pride of New York.
It is upon them that the returning traveller gazes most eagerly, as he
nears the shore. They hold a firmer place in his heart than even the
Statue of Liberty, and the vague sentiment which it inspires. With a
proper vanity he points out to the poor Briton, who shudders at
five storeys, the size and grandeur of his imposing palaces. And his
arrogance is just. The sky-scraper presents a new view of architecture.
It is original, characteristic, and beautiful. Suggested and enforced,
as I have said, by the narrowness of the rock, it is suitable to its
atmosphere and environment. New York is a southern, sunlit city, which
needs protection from the heat and need not fear obscurity. Even where
the buildings are highest, the wayfarer does not feel that he is walking
at the bottom of a well. But, let it be said at once, the sky-scraper
would be intolerable in our grey and murky land. London demands a
broad thoroughfare and low houses. These are its only defence against a
covered sky and an enveloping fog, and the patriotic Americans who would
transplant their sky-scrapers to England merely prove that they do not
appreciate the logic and beauty of their own design.

What, then, is a sky-scraper? It is a giant bird-cage, whose interstices
are filled with stone or concrete. Though its structure is concealed
from the eye, it is impossible not to wonder at its superb effrontery.
It depends for its effect, not upon ornament, which perforce appears
trivial and inapposite, but upon its mass. Whatever approaches it of
another scale and kind is dwarfed to insignificance. The Sub-Treasury of
the United States, for instance, looks like a foolish plaything
beside its august neighbours. Where sky-scrapers are there must be no
commemorative statues, no monuments raised to merely human heroes.
The effigy of Washington in Wall Street has no more dignity than a tin
soldier. And as the skyscraper makes houses of a common size ridiculous,
so it loses its splendour when it stands alone. Nothing can surpass in
ugliness the twenty storeys of thin horror that is called the Flat-iron;
and it is ugly because it is isolated in Madison Square, a place of
reasonable dimensions. It is continuity which imparts a dignity to these
mammoths. The vast masses which frown upon Wall Street and Broadway are
austere, like the Pyramids. They seem the works of giants, not of men.
They might be a vast phenomenon of nature, which was before the flood,
and which has survived the shocks of earthquake and the passage of the
years. And when their summits are lit by the declining sun, when their
white walls look like marble in the glow of the reddening sky, they
present such a spectacle as many a strenuous American crosses the ocean
to see in Switzerland, and crosses it in vain.

New York, in truth, is a city of many beauties, and with a reckless
prodigality she has done her best to obscure them all. Driven by a vain
love of swift traffic, she assails your ear with an incessant din and
your eye with the unsightliest railroad that human ingenuity has ever
contrived. She has sacrificed the amenity of her streets and the dignity
of her buildings to the false god of Speed. Why men worship Speed, a
demon who lies in wait to destroy them, it is impossible to understand.
It would be as wise and as profitable to worship Sloth. However, the men
of New York, as they tell you with an insistent and ingenuous pride, are
"hustlers." They must ever be moving, and moving fast. The "hustling,"
probably, leads to little enough. Haste and industry are not synonymous.
To run up and down is but a form of busy idleness. The captains of
industry who do the work of the world sit still, surrounded by bells and
telephones. Such heroes as J. Pierpont Morgan and John D. Rockefeller
are never surprised on train or trolley. They show themselves furtively
behind vast expanses of plate-glass, and move only to eat or sleep.
It is the common citizen of New York who is never quiet. He finds
it irksome to stay long in the same place. Though his house may be
comfortable, even luxurious, he is in a fever to leave it. And so it
comes about that what he is wont to call "transportation" seems the most
important thing in his life. We give the word another signification.
To New York it means the many methods of conveying passengers from one
point to another. And the methods, various as they are, keep pace with
the desires of the restless citizen, who may travel at what pace and
altitude he desires. He may burrow, like a rabbit, beneath the ground.
If he be more happily normal in his tastes he may ride in a surface car.
Or he may fly, like a bird through the air, on an overhead railway.
The constant rattle of cars and railways is indescribable. The overhead
lines pass close to the first-floor windows, bringing darkness and
noise wherever they are laid. There are offices in which a stranger can
neither hear nor be heard, and yet you are told that to the accustomed
ear of the native all is silent and reposeful. And I can easily believe
that a sudden cessation of din would bring an instant madness. Nor must
another and an indirect result of the trains and trams which encircle
New York be forgotten. The roads are so seldom used that they are
permitted to fall into a ruinous decay. Their surface is broken into
ruts and yawns in chasms. To drive "down-town" in a carriage is to
suffer a sensation akin to sea-sickness; and having once suffered, you
can understand that it is something else than the democratic love of
travelling in common that persuades the people of New York to clamber on
the overhead railway, or to take its chance in a tram-car.

Movement, then, noisy and incessant, is the passion of New York. Perhaps
it is the brisk air which drives men to this useless activity. Perhaps
it is no better than an ingrained and superstitious habit. But the
drowsiest foreigner is soon caught up in the whirl. He needs neither
rest nor sleep. He, too, must be chasing something which always eludes
him. He, too, finds himself leaving a quiet corner where he would like
to stay, that he may reach some place which he has no desire to see.
Even though he mount to the tenth or the twentieth story, the throb of
the restless city reaches him. Wall Street is "hustling" made concrete.
The Bowery is crowded with a cosmopolitan horde which is never still.
Brooklyn Bridge and Brooklyn Ferry might be the cross-roads of the
world. There a vast mob is passing hither and thither, on foot, on
boats, on railroads. What are they doing, whither are they going,
these scurrying men and women? Have they no business to pursue, no
office-stool to sit upon, no typewriting machines to jostle? And when
you are weary of transportation, go into the hall of a big hotel and
you will find the same ceaseless motion. On all sides you will hear the
click, click of telephone and telegram. On all sides you will see
eager citizens scanning the tape, which brings them messages of ruin
or success. Nowhere, save in a secluded bar or a stately club, will you
find a single man content to be alive and to squander the leisure that
God has given him.

And with all her undying haste New York is not content. She must still
find other means of saving time. And to save time she has strained
all the resources of civilisation. In that rather dismal thing called
"material progress" she is easily ahead of the world. Never was the
apparatus of life so skilfully turned and handled as in New York.
There are no two fixed points which are not easily connected by iron
lines. There seems no reason why a citizen of New York should ever walk.
If stairs exist, he need not use them, for an express lift, warranted
not to stop before the fifteenth floor, will carry him in a few seconds
to the top of the highest building. If he open a cupboard door, the mere
opening of it lights an electric lamp, and he need not grope after a
coat by the dim light of a guttering candle. At his bed-head stands a
telephone, and, if he will, he may speak to a friend a thousand miles
away without moving from his pillow. But time is saved--of that there is
no doubt. The only doubt is, whether it be worth saving. When New York
has saved her time, what does she do with it? She merely squanders it
in riotous movement and reckless "transportation." Thus she lives in a
vicious circle--saving time that she may spend it, and spending it
that again she may save it. Nor can this material progress be achieved
without a loss of what the Old World prizes most highly. To win all the
benefits which civilisation affords, you must lose peace and you must
sacrifice privacy. The many appliances which save our useless time may
be enjoyed only by crowds. The citizens of New York travel, live,
and talk in public. They have made their choice, and are proud of it
Englishmen are still reckless enough to waste their time in pursuit of
individualism, and I think they are wise. For my part, I would rather
lose my time than save it, and the one open conveyance of New York which
in pace and conduct suits my inclination is the Fifth Avenue Stage.

But New York is unique. It baffles the understanding and defies
observation. In vain you search for a standard of comparison. France and
England set out many centuries ago from the same point and with the same
intention. America has nothing in common, either of purpose or method,
with either of these countries. To a European it is the most foreign
city on earth. Untidy but flamboyant, it is reckless of the laws by
which life is lived elsewhere. It builds beautiful houses, it delights
in white marble palaces, and it thinks it superfluous to level its
roads. Eager for success, worshipping astuteness as devoutly as it
worships speed, it is yet indifferent to the failure of others, and
seems to hold human life in light esteem. In brief, it is a braggart
city of medieval courage and medieval cruelty, combining the fierceness
of an Italian republic with a perfect faith in mechanical contrivance
and an ardent love of material progress.

Here, then, are all the elements of interest and curiosity. Happy are
the citizens who watch from day to day the fight that never before has
been fought on the same terms. And yet more strangely baffling than the
city are the citizens. Who are they, and of what blood and character?
What, indeed, is a New Yorker? Is he Jew or Irish? Is he English or
German? Is he Russian or Polish? He may be something of all these, and
yet he is wholly none of them. Something has been added to him which he
had not before. He is endowed with a briskness and an invention often
alien to his blood. He is quicker in his movement, less trammelled in
his judgment Though he may lose wisdom in sharpening his wit, the
change he undergoes is unmistakable. New York, indeed, resembles a magic
cauldron. Those who are cast into it are born again. For a generation
some vague trace of accent or habit may remain. The old characteristics
must needs hang about the newly-arrived immigrant. But in a generation
these characteristics are softened or disappear, and there is produced
a type which seems remote from all its origins. As yet the process of
amalgamation is incomplete, and it is impossible to say in what this
hubble-shubble of mixed races will result. Nor have we any clue of
historical experience which we may follow. The Roman Empire included
within its borders many lands and unnumbered nationalities, but the
dominant race kept its blood pure. In New York and the other great
cities of America the soil is the sole common factor. Though all the
citizens of the great republic live upon that soil, they differ in
blood and origin as much as the East of Europe differs from the West.
And it is a mystery yet un-pierced that, as the generations pass, they
approach nearer and nearer to uniformity, both in type and character.
And by what traits do we recognise the citizen of New York? Of course
there is no question here of the cultivated gentleman, who is familiar
in Paris and London, and whose hospitality in his own land is an amiable
reproach to our own too frequent thoughtlessness, but of the simpler
class which confronts the traveller in street and train, in hotel and
restaurant. The railway guard, the waiter, the cab-driver--these are the
men upon whose care the comfort of the stranger depends in every land,
and whose tact and temper are no bad index of the national character. In
New York, then, you are met everywhere by a sort of urbane familiarity.
The man who does you a service, for which you pay him, is neither civil
nor uncivil. He contrives, in a way which is by no means unpleasant,
to put himself on an equality with you. With a mild surprise you find
yourself taking for granted what in your own land you would resent
bitterly. Not even the curiosity of the nigger, who brushes your coat
with a whisk, appears irksome. For the habit of years has enabled white
man and black to assume a light and easy manner, which in an Englishman,
born and trained to another tradition, would appear impertinence.

And familiarity is not the only trait which separates the plain man of
New York from the plain man of London. The New Yorker looks upon the
foreigner with the eye of patronage. To his superior intelligence the
wandering stranger is a kind of natural, who should not be allowed to
roam alone and at large. Before you have been long in the land you find
yourself shepherded, and driven with an affability, not unmixed with
contempt, into the right path. Again, you do not resent it, and yet are
surprised at your own forbearance. A little thought, however, explains
the assumed superiority. The citizen of New York has an ingenuous pride
and pleasure in his own city and in his own prowess, which nothing can
daunt. He is convinced, especially if he has never travelled beyond his
own borders, that he engrosses the virtue and intelligence of the world
The driver of a motor-car assured me, with a quiet certitude which
brooked no contradiction, that England was cut up into sporting estates
for the "lords," and that there the working man was doomed to an idle
servility. "But," said he, "there is no room for bums here." This
absolute disbelief in other countries, combined with a perfect
confidence in their own, has persuaded the citizens of New York to look
down with a cold and pitiful eye upon those who are so unfortunate as to
be born under an effete monarchy. There is no bluster in their attitude,
no insistence. The conviction of superiority is far too great for that.
They belong to the greatest country upon earth; they alone enjoy the
true blessings of freedom; they alone understand the dignity of labour
and the spirit of in-dependence; and they have made up their minds
kindly but firmly that you shall not forget it.

Thus you carry away from New York a memory of a lively air, gigantic
buildings, incessant movement, sporadic elegance, and ingenuous
patronage. And when you have separated your impressions, the most vivid
and constant impression that remains is of a city where the means of
life conquer life itself, whose citizens die hourly of the rage to live.




BOSTON.

America, the country of contrasts, can show none more sudden or
striking than that between New York and Boston. In New York progress and
convenience reach their zenith. A short journey carries you back into
the England of the eighteenth century. The traveller, lately puzzled by
overhead railways and awed by the immensity of sky-scrapers, no
sooner reaches Boston than he finds himself once more in a familiar
environment. The wayward simplicity of the city has little in common
with the New World. Its streets are not mere hollow tubes, through which
financiers may be hastily precipitated to their quest for gold. They
wind and twist like the streets in the country towns of England and
France. To the old architects of Boston, indeed, a street was something
more than a thoroughfare. The houses which flanked it took their places
by whim or hazard, and were not compelled to follow a hard immovable
line. And so they possess all the beauty which is born of accident and
surprise. You turn a corner, and know not what will confront you; you
dive down a side street, and are uncertain into what century you will be
thrust. Here is the old wooden house, which recalls the first settlers;
there the fair red-brick of a later period. And everywhere is the
diversity which comes of growth, and which proves that time is a better
contriver of effects than the most skilful architect.

The constant mark of Boston is a demure gaiety. An air of quiet
festivity encompasses the streets. The houses are elegant, but sternly
ordered. If they belong to the colonial style, they are exquisitely
symmetrical. There is no pilaster without its fellow; no window that
is not nicely balanced by another of self-same shape and size. The
architects, who learned their craft from the designs of Inigo Jones and
Christopher Wren, had no ambition to express their own fancy. They were
loyally obedient to the tradition of the masters, and the houses which
they planned, plain in their neatness, are neither pretentious nor
inappropriate. Nowhere in Boston will you find the extravagant ingenuity
which makes New York ridiculous; nowhere will you be disturbed by an
absurd mimicry of exotic styles; nowhere are you asked to wonder at
mountainous blocks of stone. Boston is not a city of giants, but of men
who love their comfort, and who, in spite of Puritan ancestry, do
not disdain to live in beautiful surroundings. In other words, the
millionaire has not laid his iron hand upon New England, and, until he
come, Boston may still boast of its elegance.

The pride of Boston is Beacon Street, surely one among the most majestic
streets in the world. It recalls Piccadilly and the frontage of the
Green Park. Its broad spaces and the shade of its dividing trees are
of the natural beauty which time alone can confer, and its houses are
worthy its setting. I lunched at the Somerset Club, in a white-panelled
room, and it needed clams and soft-shell crabs to convince me that I was
in a new land, and not in an English country-house. All was of another
time and of a familiar place--the service, the furniture, the aspect.
And was it possible to regard our sympathetic hosts as strange in blood
or speech?

The Mall, in Beacon Street, if it is the pride, is also the
distinguishing mark of Boston. For Boston is a city of parks and trees.
The famous Common, as those might remember who believe that America
sprang into being in a night, has been sacred for nearly three hundred
years. Since 1640 it has been the centre of Boston. It has witnessed the
tragedies and comedies of an eventful history. "There," wrote an
English traveller as early as 1675, "the gallants walk with their
marmalet-madams, as we do in Moorfields."

There malefactors were hanged; there the witches suffered in the time of
their persecution; and it is impossible to forget, as you walk its ample
spaces, the many old associations which it brings with it from the past.

For it is to the past that Boston belongs. No city is more keenly
conscious of its origin. The flood of foreign immigration has not
engulfed it. Its memories, like its names, are still of England, New
and Old. The spirit of America, eagerly looking forward, cruelly
acquisitive, does not seem to fulfil it The sentiment of its beginning
has outlasted even the sentiment of a poignant agitation. It resembles
an old man thinking of what was, and turning over with careful hand the
relics of days gone by. If in one aspect Boston is a centre of commerce
and enterprise, in another it is a patient worshipper of tradition, It
regards the few old buildings which have survived the shocks of time
with a respect which an Englishman can easily understand, but which may
appear extravagant to the modern American. The Old South Meeting-House,
to give a single instance, is an object of simple-hearted veneration
to the people of Boston, and the veneration is easily intelligible. For
there is scarcely an episode in Boston's history that is not connected,
in the popular imagination, with the Old South Meeting-House. It stands
on the site of John Winthrop's garden; it is rich in memories of Cotton
and Increase Mather. Within its ancient walls was Benjamin Franklin
christened, and the building which stands to-day comes down to us from
1730, and was designed in obedient imitation of English masters. There,
too, were enacted many scenes in the drama of revolution; there it
was that the famous tea-party was proposed; and thence it was that the
Mohawks, drunk with the rhetoric of liberty, found their way to the
harbour, that they might see how tea mixed with salt-water. If the
sentiment be sometimes exaggerated, the purpose is admirable, and it is
a pleasant reflection that, in a country of quick changes and historical
indifference, at least one building will be preserved for the admiration
of coming generations.

It is for such reasons as these that an Englishman feels at home in
Boston. He is secure in the same past; he shares the same memories, even
though he give them a different interpretation. Between the New and Old
England there are more points of similarity than of difference. In
each are the same green meadows, the same ample streams, the same wide
vistas. The names of the towns and villages in the new country
were borrowed from the old some centuries ago; everywhere friendly
associations are evoked; everywhere are signs of a familiar and kindly
origin. When Winthrop, the earliest of the settlers, wrote to his wife,
"We are here in a paradise," he spoke with an enthusiasm which is easily
intelligible. And as the little colony grew, it lived its life in accord
with the habit and sentiment of the mother-country. In architecture and
costume it followed the example set in Bristol or in London. Between
these ports and Boston was a frequent interchange of news and
commodities. An American in England was no stranger. He was visiting,
with sympathy and understanding, the home of his fathers. The most
distinguished Bostonians of the late eighteenth century live upon the
canvases of Copley, who, in his son, gave to England a distinguished
Chancellor, and whose career is the best proof of the good relations
which bound England to her colony. Now Copley arrived in England
in 1774, when his native Boston was aroused to the height of her
sentimental fury, and he was received with acclamation. He painted
the portraits of Lord North and his wife, who, one imagines, were not
regarded in Boston with especial favour. The King and Queen gave him
sittings, and neither political animosity nor professional rivalry
stood in the way of his advancement. His temper and character were well
adapted to his career. Before he left New England he had shown himself a
Court painter in a democratic city. He loved the trappings of life,
and he loved to put his sitters in a splendid environment. His own
magnificence had already astonished the grave Boston-ians; he is
described, while still a youth, as "dressed in a fine maroon cloth, with
gilt buttons"; and he set the seal of his own taste upon the portraiture
of his friends.

I have said that Boston loves relics. The relics which it loves best are
the relics of England's discomfiture. The stately portraits of Copley
are of small account compared to the memorials of what was nothing else
than a civil war. Faneuil Hall, the Covent Garden of Boston, presented
to the city by Peter Faneuil some thirty years before the birth of
"Liberty," is now but an emblem of revolt. The Old South Meeting-Place
is endeared to the citizens of Boston as "the sanctuary of freedom." A
vast monument, erected a mere quarter of a century ago, commemorates the
"Boston Massacre." And wherever you turn you are reminded of an episode
which might easily be forgotten. To an Englishman these historical
landmarks are inoffensive. The dispute which they recall aroused far
less emotion on our side the ocean than on the other, and long ago we
saw the events of the Revolution in a fair perspective. In truth, this
insistence on the past is not wholly creditable to Boston's sense of
humour. The passionate paeans which Otis and his friends sang to Liberty
were irrelevant. Liberty was never for a moment in danger, if Liberty,
indeed, be a thing of fact and not of watchwords. The leaders of the
Revolution wrote and spoke as though it was their duty to throw off the
yoke of the foreigner,--a yoke as heavy as that which Catholic Spain
cast upon Protestant Holland.

But there was no yoke to be thrown off, because no yoke was ever
imposed, and Boston might have celebrated greater events in her history
than that which an American statesman has wisely called "the glittering
and sounding generalities of natural right."

However, if you would forget the follies of politicians, you have but to
cross the bridge and drive to Cambridge, which, like the other Cambridge
of England, is the seat of a distinguished university. You are doubly
rewarded, for not merely is Cambridge a perfect specimen of a colonial
village, but in Harvard there breathes the true spirit of humane
letters. Nor is the college a creation of yesterday. It is not far short
of three centuries ago that John Harvard, once of Emmanuel College
in England, endowed the university which bears his honoured name. The
bequest was a poor £780, with 260 books, but it was sufficient to ensure
an amiable immortality, and to bestow a just cause of pride upon the
mother-college. The daughter is worthy her august parentage. She has
preserved the sentiment of her birth; she still worships the classics
with a constant heart; the fame of her scholars has travelled in the
mouths of men from end to end of Europe. And Harvard has preserved all
the outward tokens of a university. Her wide spaces and lofty avenues
are the fit abode of learning. Her college chapel and her college halls
could serve no other purpose than that for which they are designed. The
West, I believe, has built universities on another plan and to another
purpose. But Harvard, like her great neighbour Boston, has been obedient
to the voice of tradition, and her college, the oldest, remains also the
greatest in America.

Culture has always been at once the boast and the reproach of Boston.
A serious ancestry and the neighbourhood of a university are enough
to ensure a grave devotion to the things of the spirit, and Boston has
never found the quest of gold sufficient for its needs. The Pilgrim
Fathers, who first sought a refuge in New England, left their country
in the cause of what they thought intellectual freedom, and their
descendants have ever stood in need of the excitement which nothing
save pietism or culture can impart. For many years pietism held sway in
Boston. The persecution of the witches, conducted with a lofty eloquence
by Cotton Mather, was but the expression of an imperious demand, and the
conflict of warring sects, which for many years disturbed the peace
of the city, satisfied a craving not yet allayed. Then, after a long
interval, came Transcendentalism, a pleasant mixture of literature and
moral guidance, and to-day Boston is as earnest as ever in pursuit of
vague ideals and soothing doctrines.

But pietism has gradually yielded to the claim of culture. Though one
of the largest buildings which frown upon the wayfarer in Boston is
a temple raised to the honour of Christian Science and Mrs Eddy,
literature is clearly the most fashionable anodyne. It is at once easier
and less poignant than theology: while it imparts the same sense of
superiority, it suggests the same emancipation from mere world-liness.
It is by lectures that Boston attempts to slake its intellectual
thirst--lectures on everything and nothing. Science, literature,
theology--all is put to the purpose. The enterprise of the Lowell
Institute is seconded by a thousand private ventures. The patient
citizens are always ready to discuss Shakespeare, except when Tennyson
is the subject of the last discourse, and zoology remains attractive
until it be obscured by the newest sensation in chemistry. And the
appetite of Boston is unglutted and insatiable. Its folly is frankly
recognised by the wise among its own citizens. Here, for instance, is
the testimony of one whose sympathy with real learning is evident. "The
lecture system," says he, "in its best estate an admirable educational
instrument, has been subject to dreadful abuse. The unbounded appetite
of the New England communities for this form of intellectual nourishment
has tempted vast hordes of charlatans and pretenders to try their
fortune in this profitable field. 'The hungry sheep look up, and are not
fed.' The pay of the lecturer has grown more exorbitant in proportion to
the dilution of his mixture, until professional jokers have usurped the
places once graced by philosophers and poets; and to-day the lyceums
are served by a new species of broker, who ekes out the failing literary
material with the better entertainment of music and play-acting."

I am not sure whether the new species of broker is not better than the
old. So long as music and play-acting do not masquerade in the worn-out
duds of intellect, they do not inflict a serious injury upon the people.
It is culture, false and unashamed, that is the danger. For culture
is the vice of the intelligence. It stands to literature in the same
relation as hypocrisy stands to religion. A glib familiarity with names
does duty for knowledge. Men and women think it no shame to play the
parrot to lecturers, and to pretend an acquaintance with books whose
leaves they have never parted. They affect intellect, when at its best
it is curiosity which drives them to lecture hall or institute--at its
worst, a love of mental dram-drinking. To see manifest in a frock-coat
a poet or man of science whose name is printed in the newspapers fills
them with a fearful enthusiasm. To hear the commonplaces of literary
criticism delivered in a lofty tone of paradox persuades them to believe
that they also are among the erudite, and makes the sacrifice of time
and money as light as a wind-blown leaf. But their indiscretion is not
so trivial as it seems. Though every man and every woman has the right
to waste his time (or hers) as may seem good, something else besides
time is lost in the lecture hall. Sincerity also is squandered in the
grey, dim light of sham learning, and nobody can indulge in a mixed
orgie of "culture" without some sacrifice of honesty and truth.

Culture, of course, is not the monopoly of Boston.



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