Vieweg told me, with perfect justice, that he knew every path and every track in the Northern Harz, and that he had climbed every single hill. He complained that none of his German friends cared for climbing or walking, and asked whether I would accompany him on one of his expeditions. So a week later we went again to the Harz, and Vieweg led me an interminable and very rough walk up-hill and down-dale. He afterwards confessed that he was trying to tire me out, in which he failed signally, for I have always been, and am still, able to walk very long distances without fatigue. He had taken four of his fellow-pupils from Hentze's over the same road, and they had all collapsed, and had to be driven back to the railway in a hay-cart, in the last stages of exhaustion. Finding that he could not walk me down, Vieweg developed an odd sort of liking for me, just as I had admired him for standing up to his knees in very cold water for a couple of hours on end whilst fishing. So a queer sort of friendship sprang up between me and this taciturn youth. The only subject which moved Vieweg to eloquence was quinine, out of which his father had made his fortune. I confess that at that time I knew no more about that admirable prophylactic than the Queen of Sheba knew about dry-fly fishing, and had not the faintest idea of how quinine was made. Vieweg, warming to his subject, explained to me that the cinchona bark was treated with lime and alcohol, and informed me that his father now obtained the bark from Java instead of from South America as formerly. He did his utmost to endeavour to kindle a little enthusiasm in me on the subject of this valuable febrifuge. When not talking of quinine, he kept silence. This singular youth was obsessed with a passionate devotion to the lucrative drug.
The Harz Mountains are pretty without being grand. The far-famed Brocken is not 4000 ft. high, but rising as these hills do out of the dead-flat North German plain, the Harz have been glorified and magnified by a people accustomed to monotonous levels, and are the setting for innumerable German legends. The Brocken is, of course, the traditional scene of the "Witches Sabbath" on Walpurgis-Nacht, and many of the rock-strewn valleys seem to have pleasant traditions of bloodthirsty ogres and gnomes associated with them. There is no real climbing in the Harz, easy tracks lead to all the local lions. As is customary in methodical Germany, signposts direct the pedestrian to every view and every waterfall, and I need hardly add that if one post indicates the Aussichtspunkt, a corresponding one will show the way to the restaurant without which no view in Germany would be complete. Through rocky defiles and pine-woods, over swelling hills and past waterfalls, Vieweg and I trudged once a week in sociable silence, broken only by a few scraps of information from my companion as to the prospects of that year's crop of cinchona bark, and the varying wholesale price of that interesting commodity. At times, before a fine view, Vieweg would make quite a long speech for him: "Du Fritz! Schon was?" using, of course, the German diminutive to my Christian name, after which he would gaze on the prospect and relapse into silence, and dreamy meditations on sulphate of quinine and its possibilities.
I think Vieweg enjoyed these excursions, for on returning to Brunswick after about four hours' un-broken silence, he would always say on parting, "Du Fritz! War nicht so ubel;" or, "Fritz, it wasn't so bad," very high praise from so sparing a talker.
Mr. Vieweg senior invited me to shoot with him on several occasions during the winter months. The "Kettle-drive" (Kessel-Treib) is the local manner of shooting hares. Guns and beaters form themselves into an immense circle, a mile in diameter, over the treeless, hedgeless flats, and all advance slowly towards the centre of the circle. At first, it is perfectly safe to fire into the circle, but as it diminishes in size, a horn is sounded, the guns face round, back to back, and as the beaters advance alone, hares are only killed as they run out of the ring. Hares are very plentiful in North Germany, and "Kettle-drives" usually resulted in a bag of from thirty to forty of them. To my surprise, in the patches of oak-scrub on the moor-lands, there were usually some woodcock, a bird which I had hitherto associated only with Ireland. Young Vieweg was an excellent shot; in common with all his father's other guests, he was arrayed in high boots, and in one of those grey-green suits faced with dark green, dear to the heart of the German sportsman. The guns all looked like the chorus in the Freischutz, and I expected them to break at any moment into the "Huntsmen's Chorus." Young Vieweg was greatly pained at my unorthodox costume, for I wore ordinary homespun knickerbockers, and sported neither a green Tyrolese hat with a blackcock's tail in it, nor high boots; my gun had no green sling attached to it, nor did I carry a game-bag covered with green tassels, all of which, it appeared, were absolutely essential concomitants to a Jagd-Partie.
In these country districts round Brunswick nothing but Low German ("Platt-Deutsch") was talked. Low German is curiously like English at times. The sentence, "the water is deep," is identical in both tongues. "Mudder," "brudder," and "sister" have all a familiar ring about them, too. The word "watershed," as applied to the ridge separating two river systems, had always puzzled me. In High German it is "Wasser-scheide," i.e. water-parting; in Low German it is "Water-shed," with the same meaning, thus making our own term perfectly clear. "Low" German, of course, only means the dialect spoken in the low-lying North German plains: "High" German, the language spoken in the hilly country south of the Harz Mountains. High German only became the literary language of the country owing to Luther having deliberately chosen that dialect for the translation of the Bible. The Nibelungen-Lied and the poems of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries were all in Middle-High German (Mittel-Hoch Deutsch).
I remember being told as a boy, when standing on the terrace of Windsor Castle, that in a straight line due east of us there was no such corresponding an elevation until the Ural Mountains were reached, on the boundary between Europe and Asia. This will give some idea of the extreme flatness of Northern Europe, for the terrace at Windsor can hardly be called a commanding eminence.
I am sorry to say that for over forty years I have quite lost sight of Vieweg. My connection with quinine, too, has been usually quite involuntary. I have had two very serious bouts of malarial fever, one in South America, the other in the West Indies, and on both occasions I owed my life to quinine. Whilst taking this bitter, if beneficent drug, I sometimes wondered whether it had been prepared under the auspices of the friend of my youth. So ignorant am I of the quinine world, that I do not know whether the firm of Buchler & Vieweg still exists. One thing I do know: Vieweg must be now sixty-three years old, should he be still alive, and I am convinced that he remains an upright and honourable gentleman. I would also venture a surmise that business competitors find it very hard to overreach him, and that he has escaped the garrulous tendencies of old age.
One of the curses of German towns is the prevalence of malicious and venomous gossip. This is almost entirely due to that pestilent institution the "Coffee Circle," or Kaffee Klatsch, that standing feature of German provincial life. Amongst the bourgeoisie, the ladies form associations, and meet once a week in turn at each others' houses. They bring their work with them, and sit for two hours, eating sweet cakes, drinking coffee, and tearing every reputation in the towns to tatters. All males are jealously excluded from these gatherings. Mrs. Spiegelberg was a pretty, fluffy little English woman, without one ounce of malice in her composition. She had lived long enough in Germany, though, to know that she would not be welcomed at her "Coffee Circle" unless she brought her budget of pungent gossip with her, so she collected it in the usual way. The instant the cook returned from market, Mrs. Spiegelberg would rush into the kitchen with a breathless, "Na, Minna, was gibt's neues?" or "Now, Minna, what is the news?" Minna, the cook, knowing what was expected of her, proceeded to unfold her items of carefully gathered gossip: Lieutenant von Trinksekt had lost three hundred marks at cards, and had been unable to pay; it was rumored that Fraulein Unsittlich's six weeks' retirement from the world was not due to an attack of scarlet fever, as was alleged, but to a more interesting cause, and so on, and so on. The same thing was happening, simultaneously, in every kitchen in Brunswick, and at the next "Coffee Circle" all these rumours would be put into circulation and magnified, and the worst possible interpretation would be given them. All German women love spying, as is testified by those little external mirrors fixed outside almost every German window, by which the mistress of the house can herself remain unseen, whilst noting every one who passes down the street, or goes into the houses on either side. I speak with some bitterness of the poisonous tongues of these women, for I cannot forget how a harmless episode, when I happened to meet a charming friend of mine, and volunteered to carry her parcels home, was distorted and perverted.
One of Hentze's pupils, a heavy, bovine youth, invited me to Hamburg to his parents' silver wedding festivities. I was anxious to see Hamburg, so I accepted. Moser's parents inhabited an opulent and unimaginably hideous villa on the outskirts of Hamburg. They treated me most hospitably and kindly, but never had I pictured such vast eatings and drinkings as took place in their house. Moser's other relations were equally hospitable, until I became stupid and comatose from excessive nourishment. I could not discover the faintest trace of hostility to England amongst these wealthy Hamburg merchants. They had nearly all traditional business connections with England, and most of them had commenced their commercial careers in London. They resented, on the other hand, the manner in which they were looked down on by the Prussian Junkers, who, on the ground of their having no "von" before their names, tried to exclude them from every branch of the public service. The whole of Germany had not yet become Prussianised.
These Hamburg men were intensely proud of their city. They boasted, and I believe with perfect reason, that the dock and harbour facilities of Hamburg far exceeded anything to be found in the United Kingdom. I was taken all over the docks, and treated indeed with such lavish hospitality that every seam of my garments strained under the unwonted pressure of these enormous repasts. Hamburg being a Free Port, travellers leaving for any other part of Germany had to undergo a regular Customs examination at the railway station, as though it were a frontier post. Hamburg impressed me as a vastly prosperous, handsome, well-kept town. The attractive feature of the place is the "Alster Bassin," the clear, fresh-water lake running into the very heart of the town. All the best houses and hotels were built on the stone quays of the Alster facing the lake. Geneva, Stockholm, and Copenhagen are the only other European towns I know of with clear lakes running into the middle of the city. The Moser family's silver wedding festivities did not err on the side of niggardliness. The guests all assembled in full evening dress at three in the afternoon, when there was a conjuring and magic-lantern performance for the children. This was followed by an excellent concert, which in its turn was succeeded by a vast and Gargantuan dinner. Then came an elaborate display of fireworks, after which dancing continued till 4 a.m., only interrupted by a second colossal meal, thus affording, as young Moser proudly pointed out, thirteen hours' uninterrupted amusement.
As I felt certain that I should promptly succumb to apoplexy, had I to devour any more food, I left next day for Heligoland, then, of course, still a British Colony, an island I had always had the greatest curiosity to see. A longer stay in Hamburg might have broadened my mind, but it would also unquestionably have broadened my waist-belt as well.
The steamer accomplished the journey from Hamburg in seven hours, the last three over the angry waters of the open North Sea. To my surprise the steamer, though island-owned, did not fly the British red ensign, but the Heligoland flag of horizontal bars of white, green, and red. There is a local quatrain explaining these colours, which may be roughly Englished as—
"White is the strand, But green the land, Red the rocks stand Round Heligoland."
Heligoland is the quaintest little spot imaginable, shaped like an isosceles triangle with the apex pointing northwards. The area of the whole island is only three-fourths of a square mile; it is barely a mile long, and at its widest only 500 yards broad. It is divided into Underland and Overland; the former a patch of shore on the sheltered side of the island, covered with the neatest little toy streets and houses. In its neatness and smallness it is rather like a Japanese town, and has its little theatre and its little Kurhaus complete. There are actually a few trees in the Underland. Above it, the red ramparts of rock rise like a wall to the Overland, only to be reached by an endless flight of steps. On the green tableland of the Overland, the houses nestle and huddle together for shelter on the leeward side of the island, the prevailing winds being westerly. The whole population let lodgings, simply appointed, but beautifully neat and clean, as one would expect amongst a seafaring population. There are a few patches of cabbages and potatoes trying to grow in spite of the gales, and all the rest is green turf. There is not one tree on the wind-swept Overland. I heard nothing but German and Frisian talked around me, and the only signs of British occupation were the Union Jack flying in front of Government House (surely the most modest edifice ever dignified with that title), and a notice-board in front of the powder-magazine on the northern point of the island. This notice-board was inscribed, "V.R. Trespassers will be prosecuted," which at once gave a homelike feeling, and made one realise that it was British soil on which one was standing.
The island had only been ceded to us in 1814, and we handed it over to Germany in 1890, so our tenure was too brief for us to have struck root deeply into the soil. Heligoland was a splendid recruiting ground for the Royal Navy, for the islanders were a hardy race of seafarers, and made ideal material for bluejackets. There was not a horse or cow on the island, ewes supplying all the milk. As sheep's milk has an unappetising green tinge about it, it took a day or two to get used to this unfamiliar-looking fluid. There being no fresh water on Heligoland, the rain water from the roofs was all caught and stored in tanks. On that rainswept rock I cannot conceive it likely that the water supply would ever fail. Some-how the idea was prevalent in England that Heligoland was undermined by rabbits. There was not one single rabbit on the island, for even rabbits find it hard to burrow into solid rock.
Professor Gatke's books on the migrations of birds are well known. Heligoland lies in the track of migrating birds, and Dr. Gatke had established himself there for some years to observe them, and there was a really wonderful ornithological museum close to the lighthouse. The Heligoland lighthouse is a very powerful one, and every single one of these stuffed birds had committed suicide against the thick glass of the lantern. The lighthouse keepers told me that during the migratory periods, they sometimes found as many as a hundred dead birds on the external gallery of the light in the morning, all of whom had killed themselves against the light.
From 1830 to 1871 there were public gaming-tables in Heligoland, and the Concessionaire paid such a high price for his permit that the colonial finances were in the most flourishing condition. In 1871, Downing Street stopped this, with disastrous effect on the island budget. Fortunately, Germans took to coming over in vast numbers for the excellent sea-bathing, and so money began to flow in again. The place attracted them with its glorious sea air; it had all the advantages of a ship, without the ship's motion.
I paid a second visit to Heligoland three years later, when I was Attache at our Berlin Embassy. Sir Fitzhardinge Maxse, the uncle of Mr. Leo Maxse of the National Review, was Governor then. Sir Fitzhardinge had done his utmost to anglicise the island, and the "Konigstrasse" and "Oststrasse" had now become "King Street" and "East Street." He had induced, too, some of the shop-keepers to write the signs over their shops in English, at times with somewhat eccentric spelling; for one individual proclaimed himself a "Familie Grozer." How astonished the Governor and I would have been to know that in twenty years' time his much-loved island would be transformed into one solid concreted German fortress! Sir Fitzhardinge had a great love for the theatre. He was, I believe, the only person who had ever tried to write plays in two languages. His German plays had been very successful, and two one-act plays he wrote in English had been produced on the London stage. He always managed to engage a good German company to play in the little Heligoland theatre during the summer months, and having married the leading tragic actress of the Austrian stage, both he and Lady Maxse occasionally appeared on the boards themselves, playing, of course, in German. It looked curious seeing a bill of the "Theatre Royal on Heligoland," announcing Shakespeare's tragedy of Macbeth, with "His Excellency the Governor as Macbeth, and Lady Maxse as Lady Macbeth."
There is a fine old Lutheran Church on Heligoland. It is the only Protestant church in which I have ever seen ex votos. When the island fishermen had weathered an unusually severe gale, it was their custom to make a model of their craft, and to present it as a thank-offering to the church. There were dozens of these models, all beautifully finished, suspended from the roof of the church by wires, and the fronts of the galleries were all hung with fishing nets. The singing in that church was remarkably good.
It was a pleasant, unsophisticated little island; a place of fresh breezes, and red cliffs with great sweeping surges breaking against them; a place of sunshine, and huge expanses of pale dappled sky.
Lady Maxse told me that it was impossible for any one to picture the unutterable dreariness of Heligoland in winter; when little Government House rocked ceaselessly under the fierce gales, and the whole island was drenched in clouds of spindrift; the rain pounding on the window-panes like small-shot, and the howling of the wind drowning all other sounds. She said that they were frequently cut off from the mainland for three weeks on end, without either letters, newspapers, or fresh meat, as the steamers were unable to make the passage. There was nothing to do, nowhere to go, and no one to speak to. It must have been a considerable change for any one accustomed to the life of careless, easy-going, glittering Vienna in the old days. Even Sir Fitzhardinge confessed that during the winter gales he had frequently to make his way on all fours from the stairs from the Underland to Government House, to avoid being blown over the cliffs. Lady Maxse hung an extra pair of pink muslin curtains over every window in Government House, to shut out the sight of the wintry sea, but the angry, grey and white rollers of the restless North Sea asserted themselves even through the pink muslin.
I am glad that I saw this wind-swept little rock whilst it was still a scrap of British territory. When my time came for leaving Brunswick, I was genuinely sorry to go. I confess that I liked Germany and the Germans; I had been extremely well treated, and had got used to German ways.
The teaching profession were only then sowing broadcast the seed which was to come to maturity thirty years later. They were moulding the minds of the rising generation to the ideals which find their most candid exponent in Nietzsche. The seed was sown, but had not yet germinated; the greater portion of Germany in 1875 was still un-Prussianised, but effect followed cause, and we all know the rest.
Some London beauties of the "seventies"—Great ladies—The Victorian girl—Votaries of the Gaiety Theatre—Two witty ladies—Two clever girls and mock-Shakespeare—The family who talked Johnsonian English—Old-fashioned tricks of pronunciation—Practical jokes—Lord Charles Beresford and the old Club-member—The shoe-less legislator—Travellers' palms—The tree that spouted wine—Celyon's spicy breezes—Some reflections—Decline of public interest in Parliament—Parliamentary giants—Gladstone, John Bright, and Chamberlain—Gladstone's last speech—His resignation—W.H. Smith—The Assistant Whips—Sir William Hart-Dyke—Weary hours at Westminster—A Pseudo-Ingoldsbean Lay.
The London of 1876 boasted an extraordinary constellation of lovely women. First and foremost came the two peerless Moncreiffe sisters, Georgiana Lady Dudley, and Helen Lady Forbes. Lady Dudley was then a radiant apparition, and her sister, the most perfect example of classical beauty I have ever seen, had features as clean-cut as those of a cameo. Lady Forbes always wore her hair simply parted in the middle, a thing that not one woman in a thousand can afford to do, and glorious auburn hair it was, with a natural ripple in it. I have seldom seen a head so perfectly placed on the shoulders as that of Lady Forbes. The Dowager Lady Ormonde and the late Lady Ripon were then still unmarried; the first, Lady Leila Grosvenor, with the face of a Raphael Madonna, the other, Lady Gladys Herbert, a splendid, slender, Juno-like young goddess. The rather cruelly named "professional beauties" had just come into prominence, the three great rivals being Mrs. Langtry, then fresh from Jersey, Mrs. Cornwallis West, and Mrs. Wheeler. Unlike most people, I should myself have given the prize to the second of these ladies. I do not think that any one now could occupy the commanding position in London which Constance Duchess of Westminster and the Duchess of Manchester (afterwards Duchess of Devonshire) then held. In fact, with skirts to the knee, and an unending expanse of stocking below them, it would be difficult to assume the dignity with which these great ladies, in their flowing Victorian draperies, swept into a room. The stately Dutchess of Westminster, in spite of her massive outline, had still a fine classical head, and the Duchess of Manchester was one of the handsomest women in Europe. London society was so much smaller then, that it was a sort of enlarged family party, and I, having six married sisters, found myself with unnumbered hosts of relations and connections. I retain delightful recollections of the mid-Victorian girl. These maidens, in their airy clouds of white, pink, or green tulle, and their untouched faces, had a deliciously fresh, flower-like look which is wholly lacking in their sisters of to-day. A young girl's charm is her freshness, and if she persists in coating her face with powder and rouge that freshness vanishes, and one sees merely rows of vapid little doll-like faces, all absolutely alike, and all equally artificial and devoid of expression. These present skimpy draperies cause one to reflect that Nature has not lavished broadcast the gift of good feet and neat ankles; possibly some girls might lengthen their skirts if they realised this truth.
In the "seventies" there was a wonderful galaxy of talent at the old Gaiety Theatre, Nellie Farren, Kate Vaughan, Edward Terry, and Royce forming a matchless quartette. Young men, of course, will always be foolish, up to the end of time. Nellie Farren, Kate Vaughan and Emily Duncan all had their "colours." Nellie Farren's were dark blue, light blue, and white; Kate Vaughan's were pink and grey; Emily Duncan's black and white; the leading hosiers "stocked" silk scarves of these colours, and we foolish young men bought the colours of the lady we especially admired, and sat in the stalls of the Gaiety flaunting the scarves of our favourite round our necks. As I then thought, and still think, that Nellie Farren was one of the daintiest and most graceful little creatures ever seen on the stage, with a gaminerie all her own, I, in common with many other youths, sat in the stalls of the Gaiety wrapped in a blue-and-white scarf. Each lady showered smiles over the footlights at her avowed admirers, whilst contemptuously ignoring those who sported her rival's colours. One silly youth, to testify to his admiration for Emily Duncan, actually had white kid gloves with black fingers, specially manufactured for him. He was, we hope, repaid for his outlay by extra smiles from his enchantress.
Traces of the witty early nineteenth century still lingered into the "seventies," "eighties," and "nineties." Lady Constance Leslie, who is still living, and the late Lady Cork were almost the last descendants of the brilliant wits of Sydney Smith and Theodore Hook's days. The hurry of modern life, and the tendency of the age to scratch the surface of things only, are not favourable to the development of this type of keen intellect, which was based on a thorough knowledge of the English classics, and on such a high level of culture as modern trouble-hating women could but seldom hope to attain. Time and time again I have asked Lady Cork for the origin of some quotation. She invariably gave it me at once, usually quoting some lines of the context at the same time. When I complimented her on her wonderful knowledge of English literature of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, she answered, "In my young days we studied the 'Belles Lettres'; modern women only study 'Belle's Letters,'" an allusion to a weekly summary of social events then appearing in the World under that title, a chronicle voraciously devoured by thousands of women. When the early prejudice against railways was alluded to by some one who recalled the storms of protest that the conveyance of the Duke of Sussex's body by train to Windsor for burial provoked, as being derogatory to the dignity of a Royal Duke, it was Lady Cork who rapped out, "I presume in those days, a novel apposition of the quick and the dead." A certain peer was remarkable alike for his extreme parsimony and his unusual plainness of face. His wife shared these characteristics, both facial and temperamental, to the full, and yet this childless, unprepossessing and eminently economical couple were absolutely wrapped up in one another; after his death she only lingered on for three months. Some one commenting on this, said, "They were certainly the stingiest and probably the ugliest couple in England, yet their devotion to each other was very beautiful. They could neither of them bear to part with anything, not even with each other. After his death she was like a watch that had lost its mainspring." "Surely," flashed Lady Constance Leslie, "more like a vessel which had lost her auxiliary screw." The main characteristic of both Lady Cork and Lady Constance Leslie's humour was its lightning speed. It is superfluous to add, with these quick-witted ladies it was never necessary to EXPLAIN anything, as it is to the majority of English people; they understood before you had finished saying it.
Many years after, in the late "eighties," Lady Constance Leslie's two elder daughters, now Mrs. Crawshay and Lady Hope, developed a singular gift. They could improvise blank verse indefinitely, and with their father, Sir John Leslie, they acted little mock Shakespearean dramas in their ordinary clothes, and without any scenery or accessories. Every word was impromptu, and yet the even flow of blank verse never ceased. I always thought it a singularly clever performance, for Mrs. Crawshay can only have been nineteen then, and her sister eighteen. Mrs. Crawshay invariably played the heroine, Lady Hope the confidante, and Sir John Leslie any male part requisite. No matter what the subject given them might be, they would start in blank verse at once. Let us suppose so unpromising a subject as the collection of railway tickets outside a London terminus had been selected. Lady Hope, with pleading eyes, and all the conventional gestures of sympathy of a stage confidante, would at once start apostrophising her sister in some such fashion as this:—
"Fair Semolina, dry those radiant orbs; Thy swain doth beg thee but a token small Of that great love which thou dost bear to him. Prithee, sweet mistress, take now heart of grace, At times we all credentials have to show, Eftsoons at Willesden halts the panting train, Each traveller knows inexorable fate Hath trapped him in her toils; loud rings the tread Of brass-bound despot as he wends his way From door to door, claiming with gesture rude His pound of flesh, or eke the pasteboard slip, Punched with much care, all travel-worn and stained, For which perchance ten ducats have been paid, Granting full access from some distant spot. Then trembles he, who reckless loves to sip The joys of travel free of all expense; Knowing the fate that will pursue him, when To stern collector he hath naught to show."
To which her sister, Mrs. Crawshay, would reply, without one instant's hesitation, somewhat after this style:—
"Sweet Tapioca, firm and faithful friend, Thy words have kindled in my guilty breast Pangs of remorse; to thee I will confess. Craving a journey to the salt sea waves Before this moon had waxed her full, I stood Crouching, and feigning infant's stature small Before the wicket, whence the precious slips Are issued, and declared my years but ten. Thus did I falsely pretext tender age, And claimed but half the wonted price, and now Bitter remorse my stricken conscience sears, And hot tears flow at my duplicity."
The lines would probably have been more neatly worded than this, but the flow of improvised blank verse from both sisters was inexhaustible. The somewhat unusual names of Semolina and Tapioca had been adopted for the heroine and confidante on account of their rhythmical advantages, and a certain pleasant Shakespearean ring about them.
I know another family who from long practice have acquired the habit of addressing each other in flowing periods of Johnsonian English. They never hesitate for an epithet, and manage to round off all their sentences in Dr. Johnson's best manner. I was following the hounds on foot one day, with the eldest daughter of this family, when, as we struggled through a particularly sticky and heavy ploughed field, she panted out, "Pray let us hasten to the summit of yonder commanding eminence, whence we can with greater comfort to ourselves witness the further progress of the chase," and all this without the tiniest hesitation; a most enviable gift! A son of this family was once riding in the same steeplechase as a nephew of mine. The youth had lost his cap, and turning round in his saddle, he shouted to my nephew in the middle of the race, between two fences, "You will perceive that I have already sacrificed my cap, and laid it as a votive offering on the altar of Diana." One would hardly have anticipated that a youthful cavalry subaltern, in the middle of a steeplechase, would have been able to lay his hands on such choice flowers of speech. Unfortunately, owing to the time lost by these well-turned periods, both the speaker and my nephew merely figured as "also ran."
In the "seventies" some of the curious tricks of pronunciation of the eighteenth century still survived. My aunts, who had been born with, or before the nineteenth century, invariably pronounced "yellow" as "yaller." "Lilac" and "cucumber" became "laylock" and "cowcumber," and a gold bracelet was referred to as a "goold brasslet." They always spoke of "Proosia" and "Roosia," drank tea out of a "chaney" cup, and the eldest of them was still "much obleeged" for any little service rendered to her, played at "cyards," and took a stroll in the "gyarden." My grandfather, who was born in 1766, insisted to the end of his life on terming the capital of these islands "Lunnon," in eighteenth-century fashion.
Possibly people were more cultured in those days, or, at all events, more in the habit of using their brains. Imbecility, whether real or simulated, had not come into fashion. My mother told me that in her young days a very favourite amusement in country houses was to write imitations or parodies of some well-known poet, and every one took part in this. Nowadays no one would have read the originals, much less be able to imitate them. My mother had a commonplace book into which she had copied the cleverest of these skits, and Landseer illustrated it charmingly in pen-and-ink for her.
Any one reading the novels of the commencement of the nineteenth century must have noticed how wonderfully popular practical jokes, often of the crudest nature, then were. A brutal practical joke always seems to me to indicate a very rudimentary and undeveloped sense of humour in its perpetrator. Some people with paleolithic intellects seem to think it exquisitely humorous to see a man fall down and hurt himself. A practical joke which hurts no one is another matter. All those privileged to enjoy the friendship of the late Admiral Lord Charles Beresford will always treasure the memory of that genial and delightful personality. About thirty years ago an elderly gentleman named Bankes-Stanhope seemed to imagine that he had some proprietary rights in the Carlton Club. Mr. Bankes-Stanhope had his own chair, lamp, and table there, and was exceedingly zealous in reminding members of the various rules of the club. Smoking was strictly forbidden in the hall of the Carlton at that time. I was standing in the hall one night when Lord Charles came out of the writing-room, a big bundle of newly written letters in his hand, and a large cigar in his mouth. He had just received a shilling's-worth of stamps from the waiter, when old Mr. Bankes-Stanhope, who habitually puffed and blew like Mr. Jogglebury-Crowdey of "Sponge's Sporting Tour," noticed the forbidden cigar through a glass door, and came puffing and blowing into the hall in hot indignation. He reproved Lord Charles Beresford for his breach of the club rules in, as I thought, quite unnecessarily severe tones. The genial Admiral kept his temper, but detached one penny stamp from his roll, licked it, and placed it on his forefinger. "My dear Mr. Stanhope," he began, "it was a little oversight of mine. I was writing in there, do you see?" (a friendly little tap on Mr. Bankes-Stanhope's shirt-front, and on went a penny stamp), "and I moved in here, you see" (another friendly tap, and on went a second stamp), "and forgot about my cigar, you see" (a third tap, and a third stamp left adhering). The breezy Admiral kept up this conversation, punctuated with little taps, each one of which left its crimson trace on the old gentleman's white shirt-front, until the whole shilling's-worth was placed in position. Mr. Bankes-Stanhope was too irate to notice these little manoeuvres; he maintained his hectoring tone, and never glanced down at his shirt-front. Finally Lord Charles left, and the old gentleman, still puffing and blowing with wrath, struggled into his overcoat, and went off to an official party at Sir Michael Hicks-Beach's, where his appearance with twelve red penny stamps adhering to his shirt-front must have created some little astonishment.
In the '86 Parliament there was a certain Member, sitting on the Conservative side, who had the objectionable habit of removing his boots (spring-sided ones, too!) in the House, and of sitting in a pair of very dubious-coloured grey woollen socks, apparently much in want of the laundress's attentions. Many Members strongly objected to this practice, but the delinquent persisted in it, in spite of protests. One night a brother of mine, knowing that there would shortly be a Division, succeeded in purloining the offending boots by covering them with his "Order paper," and got them safely out of the House. He hid them behind some books in the Division Lobby, and soon after the Division was called. The House emptied, but the discalced legislator retained his seat. "A Division having been called, the honourable Member will now withdraw," ordered Mr. Speaker Peel, most awe-inspiring of men. "Mr. Speaker, I have lost my boots," protested the shoeless one. "The honourable Member will at once withdraw," ordered the Speaker for the second time, in his sternest tones; so down the floor of the House came the unfortunate man—hop, hop, hop, like the "little hare" in Shock-headed Peter. The iron ventilating gratings were apparently uncomfortable to shoeless feet, so he went hopping and limping through the Division Lobby, affording ample glimpses of his deplorably discoloured woollen footwear. Later in the evening an attendant handed him a paper parcel containing his boots, the attendant having, of course, no idea where the parcel had come from. This incident effectually cured the offender of his unpleasant habit. The accusation of neglecting his laundress may have been an unfounded one. In my early youth I was given a book to read about a tiresome little girl named Ellen Montgomery, who apparently divided her time between reading her pocket-Bible and indulging in paroxysms of tears. The only incident in the book I remember is that this lachrymose child had an aunt, a Miss Fortune, who objected on principle to clean stockings. She accordingly dyed all Ellen's stockings dirt-colour, to save the washing. It would be charitable to assume that this particular Member of Parliament had an aunt with the same economical instincts.
I must plead guilty to two episodes where my sole desire was to avoid disappointment to others, and to prevent the reality falling short of the expectation. One was in India. Barrackpore, the Viceroy of India's official country house, is justly celebrated for its beautiful gardens. In these gardens every description of tropical tree, shrub and flower grows luxuriantly. In a far-off corner there is a splendid group of fan-bananas, otherwise known as the "Traveller's Palm." Owing to the habit of growth of this tree, every drop of rain or dew that falls on its broad, fan-shaped crown of leaves is caught, and runs down the grooved stalks of the plant into receptacles that cunning Nature has fashioned just where the stalk meets the trunk. Even in the driest weather, these little natural tanks will, if gashed with a knife, yield nearly a tumblerful of pure sweet water, whence the popular name for the tree. A certain dull M.P., on his travels, had come down to Barrackpore for Sunday, and inquired eagerly whether there were any Travellers' Trees either in the park or the gardens there, as he had heard of them, but had never yet seen one. We assured him that in the cool of the evening we would show him quite a thicket of Travellers' Trees. It occurred to the Viceroy's son and myself that it would be a pity should the globe-trotting M.P.'s expectations not be realised, after the long spell of drought we had had. So the two of us went off and carefully filled up the natural reservoirs of some six fan-bananas with fresh spring-water till they were brimful. Suddenly we had a simultaneous inspiration, and returning to the house we fetched two bottles of light claret, which we poured carefully into the natural cisterns of two more trees, which we marked. Late in the afternoon we conducted the M.P. to the grove of Travellers' Trees, handed him a glass, and made him gash the stem of one of them with his pen knife. Thanks to our preparation, it gushed water like one of the Trafalgar Square fountains, and the touring legislator was able to satisfy himself that it was good drinking-water. He had previously been making some inquiries about so-called "Palm-wine," which is merely the fermented juice of the toddy-palm. We told him that some Travellers' Palms produced this wine, and with a slight exercise of ingenuity we induced him to tap one of the trees we had doctored with claret. Naturally, a crimson liquid spouted into his glass in response to the thrust of his pen-knife, and after tasting it two or three times, he reluctantly admitted that its flavour was not unlike that of red wine. It ought to have been, considering that we had poured an entire bottle of good sound claret into that tree. The ex-M.P. possibly reflects now on the difficulties with which any attempts to introduce "Pussyfoot" legislation into India would be confronted in a land where some trees produce red wine spontaneously.
On another occasion I was going by sea from Calcutta to Ceylon. On board the steamer there were a number of Americans, principally ladies, connected, I think, with some missionary undertaking. When we got within about a hundred miles of Ceylon, these American ladies all began repeating to each other the verse of the well-known hymn:
"What though the spicy breezes Blow soft o'er Ceylon's isle,"
over and over again, until I loathed Bishop Heber for having written the lines. They even asked the captain how far out to sea the spicy breezes would be perceptible. I suddenly got an idea, and, going below, I obtained from the steward half a dozen nutmegs and a handful of cinnamon. I grated the nutmegs and pounded the cinnamon up, and then, with one hand full of each, I went on deck, and walked slowly up and down in front of the American tourists. Soon I heard an ecstatic cry, "My dear, I distinctly smelt spice then!" Another turn, and another jubilant exclamation: "It's quite true about the spicy breezes. I got a delicious whiff just then. Who would have thought that they would have carried so far out to sea?" A sceptical elderly gentleman was summoned from below, and he, after a while, was reluctantly forced to avow that he, too, had noticed the spicy fragrance. No wonder! when I had about a quarter of a pound of grated nutmeg in one hand, and as much pounded cinnamon in the other. Now these people will go on declaring to the end of their lives that they smelt the spicy odours of Ceylon a full hundred miles out at sea, just as the travelling M.P. will assert that a tree in India produces a very good imitation of red wine. It is a nice point determining how far one is morally responsible oneself for the unconscious falsehoods into which these people have been betrayed. I should like to have had the advice of Mrs. Fairchild, of the Fairchild Family upon this delicate question. I feel convinced that that estimable lady, with her inexhaustible repertory of supplications, would instantly have recited by heart "a prayer against the temptation to lead others into uttering untruths unconsciously," which would have met the situation adequately, for not once in the book, when appealed to, did she fail to produce a lengthy and elaborately worded petition, adapted to the most unexpected emergencies, and I feel confident that her moral armoury would have included a prayer against tendencies to "leg-pulling."
To return to the London of the "seventies" and "eighties" after this brief journey to the East, nothing is more noticeable than the way public interest in Parliamentary proceedings has vanished. When I was a boy, all five of the great London dailies, The Times, Morning Post, Standard, Daily Telegraph, and Daily News, published the fullest reports of Parliamentary news, and the big provincial dailies followed their example. Every one then seemed to follow the proceedings of Parliament with the utmost interest; even at Harrow the elder boys read the Parliamentary news and discussed it, and I have heard keen-witted Lancashire artisans eagerly debating the previous night's Parliamentary encounters. Now the most popular newspapers give the scantiest and baldest summaries of proceedings in the House of Commons. It is an editor's business to know the tastes of his readers; if Parliamentary reports are reduced to a minimum, it must be because they no longer interest the public. This, again, is quite intelligible. When I first entered Parliament in 1885 (to which Parliament, by the way, all four Hamilton brothers had been elected), there were commanding personalities and great orators in the House: Mr. Gladstone, John Bright, Joseph Chamberlain, Lord Hartington, Henry James and Randolph Churchill. When any of these rose to speak, the House filled at once, they were listened to with eager attention, and every word they uttered would be read by hundreds of thousands of people next day. Nowadays proceedings in Parliament seem to be limited to a very occasional solo from the one star-performer, the rest of the time being occupied by uninteresting interludes by his understudies, all of which may serve to explain the decline in public interest. At the time of the Peace of Paris in 1856, on the termination of the Crimean War, there were in the House of Commons such outstanding figures as Gladstone, Disraeli, Lord John Russell, John Bright, and Palmerston; the statesman had not yet dwindled into the lawyer-politician.
I only heard Mr. Gladstone speak in his old age, when his voice had acquired a slight roughness which detracted, I thought, from his wonderful gift of oratory. Mr. Gladstone, too, had certain peculiarities of pronunciation; he always spoke of "constitootional" and of "noos." John Bright was a most impressive speaker; he obtained his effects by the simplest means, for he seldom used long words; indeed he was supposed to limit himself to words of Saxon origin, with all their condensed vigour. Is not Newman's hymn, "Lead, Kindly Light," considered to be a model of English, as it is composed almost entirely of monosyllables, and, with six exceptions, of words of Saxon origin? John Bright's speaking had the same quality as Cardinal Newman's hymn. In spite of his eloquence, John Bright's prophecies were invariably falsified by subsequent events. I have never heard any one speak with such facility as Joseph Chamberlain. His utterance was so singularly clear that, though he habitually spoke in a very low voice, every syllable penetrated to all parts of the House. When Chamberlain was really in a dangerous mood, his voice became ominously bland, and his manner quieter than ever. Then was the time for his enemies to tremble. I heard him once roll out and demolish a poor facile-tongued professional spouter so completely and remorsely that the unfortunate man never dared to open his mouth in the House of Commons again. I think that any old Member of Parliament will agree with me when I place David Plunkett, afterwards Lorth Rathmore, who represented for many years Trinity College, Dublin, in the very front rank as an orator. Plunkett was an indolent man, and spoke very rarely indeed. When really roused, and on a subject which he had genuinely at heart, he could rise to heights of splendid eloquence. Plunkett had a slight impediment in his speech; when wound up, this impediment, so far from detracting from, added to the effect he produced. I heard Mr. Gladstone's last speech in Parliament, on March 1, 1894. It was frankly a great disappointment. I sat then on the Opposition side, but we Unionists had all assembled to cheer the old man who was to make his farewell speech to the Assembly in which he had sat for sixty years, and of which he had been so dominating and so unique a personality, although we were bitterly opposed to him politically. The tone of his speech made this difficult for us. Instead of being a dignified farewell to the House, as we had anticipated, it was querulous and personal, with a peevish and minatory note in it that made anything but perfunctory applause from the Opposition side very hard to produce. Two days afterwards, on March 3, 1894, Mr. Gladstone resigned. In the light of recent revelations, we know now that his failing eyesight was but a pretext. Lord Spencer, then First Lord of the Admiralty, had framed his Naval Estimates, and declared that the shipbuilding programme outlined in those Estimates was absolutely necessary for the national safety. Mr. Gladstone, supported by some of his colleagues, refused to sanction these Estimates. Some long-headed Members of the Cabinet saw clearly that if Lord Spencer insisted on his Estimates, in the then temper of the country, the Liberal party would go to certain defeat. Accordingly, Mr. Gladstone was induced to resign, as the easiest way out of the difficulty. I do not gather, though, that those of his colleagues who, with him, disapproved of the Naval Estimates, thought it their duty to follow their chief into retirement.
I am amused on seeing on contents bills of news-papers, as a rare item of news, "All-night sitting of Commons."
In the 1886 Parliament practically every night was an all-night sitting. Under the old rules of Procedure, as the Session advanced, we were kept up night after night till 5 a.m. Some Members, notably the late Henry Labouchere, took a sort of impish delight in keeping the House sitting late. Many Front-Bench men had their lives shortened by the strain these late hours imposed on them, notably Edward Stanhope and Mr. W. H. Smith. Mr. W. H. Smith occupied a very extraordinary position. This plain-faced man, who could hardly string two words together, was regarded by all his friends with deep respect, almost with affection. My brother George has told me that, were there any disputes in the Cabinet of which he was a member, the invariable advice of the older men was to "go and take Smith's advice about it." Men carried their private, domestic, and even financial troubles to this wise counsellor, confident that the advice given would be sound. Mr. Smith had none of the more ornamental qualities, but his fund of common sense was inexhaustible, he never spared himself in his friends' service, and his high sense of honour and strength of character earned him the genuine regard of all those who really knew him. He was a very fine specimen of the unassuming, honourable, high-minded English gentleman.
In the 1886 Parliament, Mr. Akers-Douglas, now Lord Chilston, was Chief Conservative Whip and he was singularly fortunate in his Assistant Whips. Sir William Walrond, now Lord Waleran, Sir Herbert Maxwell, and the late Sidney Herbert, afterwards fourteenth Earl of Pembroke, formed a wonderful trio, for Nature had bestowed on each of them a singularly engaging personality. The strain put on Members of the Opposition was very severe; our constant attendance was demanded, and we spent practically our whole lives in the precincts of the House. However much we longed for a little relaxation and a little change, it was really impossible to resist the blandishments of the Assistant Whips. They made it a sort of personal appeal, and a test of personal friendship to themselves, so grudgingly the contemplated visit to the theatre was abandoned, and we resigned ourselves to six more hours inside the over-familiar building.
Sir William Hart-Dyke had been Chief Conservative Whip in the 1868-1873 Parliament. He married in May 1870, in the middle of the session at a very critical political period. He most unselfishly consented to forego his honeymoon, or to postpone it, and there were rumours that on the very evening of his wedding-day, his sense of duty had been so strong that he had appeared in the House of Commons to "tell" in an important Division. When Disraeli was asked if this were true, he shook his head, and said, "I hardly think so. Hart-Dyke was married that day. Hart-Dyke is a gentleman; he would never kiss AND 'tell.'" As a pendant to this, there was another Sir William, a baronet whose name I will suppress. With execrable taste, he was fond of boasting by name of his amatory successes. He was always known as "William Tell."
In 1886 the long hours in the House of Commons hung very heavily on our hands, once the always voluminous daily correspondence of an M.P. had been disposed of. My youngest brother and I, both then well under thirty, used to hire tricycles from the dining-room attendants, and have races up and down the long river terrace, much to the interest of passers-by on Westminster Bridge. We projected, to pass the time, a "Soulful Song-Cycle," which was frankly to be an attempt at pulling the public's leg. Our Song-Cycle never matured, though I did write the first one of the series, an imaginative effort entitled "In Listless Frenzy." It was, and was intended to be, utter nonsense, devoid alike of grammar and meaning. I quoted my "Listless Frenzy" one night to an "intense" and gushing lady, as an example of the pitiable rubbish decadent minor poets were then turning out. It began—
"Crimson wreaths of passionless flowers Down in the golden glen; Silvery sheen of autumnal showers; When, my beloved one, when?"
She assured me that the fault lay in myself, not in the lines; that I was of too material a temperament to appreciate the subtle beauty of so-and-so's work. I forget to whom I had attributed the verses, but I felt quite depressed at reflecting that I was too material to understand the lines I had myself written.
My brother was a great admirer of the Ingoldsby Legends, and could himself handle Richard Barham's fascinating metre very effectively. He was meditating "A Pseudo-Ingoldsbean Lay," dealing with leading personalities in the then House of Commons. The idea came to nothing, as an "Ingoldsby Legend" must, from its very essence, be cast in a narrative form, and the subject did not lend itself to narrative. Although it has nothing to do with the subject in hand, I must quote some lines from "The Raid of Carlisle," another "Pseudo-Ingoldsbean Lay" of my brother's, to show how easily he could use Barham's metre, with its ear-tickling double rhyme, and how thoroughly he had assimilated the spirit of the Ingoldsby Legends. The extracts are from an account of an incident which occurred in 1596 when Lord Scroop was Warden of the Western or English Marches on behalf of Elizabeth, while Buccleuch, on the Scottish side, was Warden of the Middle Marches on behalf of James VI.
"Now, I'd better explain, while I'm still in the vein, That towards the close of Elizabeth's reign, Though the 'thistle and rose' were no longer at blows, They'd a way of disturbing each other's repose. A mode of proceeding most clearly exceeding The rules of decorum, and palpably needing Some clear understanding between the two nations, By which to adjust their unhappy relations. With this object in view, it occurred to Buccleuch That a great deal of mutual good would accrue If they settled that he and Lord Scroop's nominee Should meet once a year, and between them agree To arbitrate all controversial cases And grant an award on an equable basis. A brilliant idea that promised to be a Corrective, if not a complete panacea— For it really appears that for several years, These fines of 'poll'd Angus' and Galloway steers Did greatly conduce, during seasons of truce, To abating traditional forms of abuse, And to giving the roues of Border society Some little sense of domestic propriety.
So finding himself, so to speak, up a tree, And unable to think of a neat repartee, He wisely concluded (as Brian Boru did, On seeing his 'illigant counthry' denuded Of cattle and grain that were swept from the plain By the barbarous hand of the pillaging Dane) To bandy no words with a dominant foe, But to wait for a chance of returning the blow, And then let him have it in more suo."
These extracts make me regret that the leading personalities in the Parliament of 1886 were not commemorated in the same pleasant, jingling metre.
The Foreign Office—The new Private Secretary—A Cabinet key—Concerning theatricals—Some surnames which have passed into everyday use—Theatricals at Petrograd—A mock-opera—The family from Runcorn—An embarrassing predicament—Administering the oath—Secret Service—Popular errors—Legitimate employment of information—The Phoenix Park murders—I sanction an arrest—The innocent victim—The execution of the murderers of Alexander II.—The jarring military band—Black Magic—Sir Charles Wyke—Some of his experiences—The seance at the Pantheon—Sir Charles' experiment on myself—The Alchemists—The Elixir of Life, and the Philosopher's Stone—Lucid directions for their manufacture—Glamis Castle and its inhabitants—The tuneful Lyon family—Mr. Gladstone at Glamis—He sings in the glees—The castle and its treasures—Recollections of Glamis.
Having successfully defeated the Civil Service Examiners, I entered the Foreign Office in 1876, for the six or eight months' training which all Attaches had to undergo before being sent abroad. The typewriter had not then been invented, so everything was copied by hand—a wearisome and deadening occupation where very lengthy documents were concerned.
The older men in the Foreign Office were great sticklers for observing all the traditional forms. Lord Granville, in obedience to political pressure, had appointed the son of a leading politician as one of his unpaid private secretaries. The youth had been previously in his father's office in Leeds. On the day on which he started work in the Foreign Office he was given a bundle of letters to acknowledge. "You know, of course, the ordinary form of acknowledgment," said his chief. "Just acknowledge all these, and say that the matter will be attended to." When the young man from Leeds brought the letters he had written, for signature that evening, it was currently reported that they were all worded in the same way: "Dear Sirs:—Your esteemed favour of yesterday's date duly to hand, and contents noted. Our Lord Granville has your matter in hand." The horror-stricken official gasped at such a departure from established routine.
As was the custom then, after one month in the Foreign Office, my immediate chief gave me a little lecture on the traditional high standard of honour of the Foreign Office, which he was sure I would observe, and then handed me a Cabinet key which he made me attach to my watch-chain in his presence. This Cabinet key unlocked all the boxes in which the most confidential papers of the Cabinet were circulated. As things were then arranged, this key was essential to our work, but a boy just turned twenty naturally felt immensely proud of such a proof of the confidence reposed in him. I think, too, that the Foreign Office can feel justifiably proud of the fact that the trust reposed in its most junior members was never once betrayed, and that the most weighty secrets were absolutely safe in their keeping.
I have narrated elsewhere my early experiences at Berlin and Petrograd. In every capital the Diplomatists must always be, in a sense, sojourners in a strange land, and many of them who find a difficulty in amalgamating with the people of the country must always be thrown to a great extent on their own resources. It is probably for this reason that theatricals were so popular amongst the Diplomats in Petrograd, the plays being naturally always acted in French.
Here I felt more or less at home. My grandmother, the Duchess of Bedford, was passionately fond of acting, and in my grandfather's time, one room at Woburn Abbey was permanently fitted up as a theatre. Here, every winter during my mother's girlhood, there was a succession of performances in which she, her mother and brothers and sisters all took part, the Russell family having a natural gift for acting. Probably the very name of Charles Matthews is unfamiliar to the present generations, so it is sufficient to say that he was THE light comedian of the early nineteenth century. The Garrick Club possesses a fine collection of portraits of Charles Matthews in some of his most popular parts. Charles Matthews acted regularly with the Russell family at Woburn, my mother playing the lead. I have a large collection of Woburn Abbey play-bills, from 1831-1839, all printed on white satin, and some of the pieces they put on were quite ambitious ones. My mother had a very sweet singing voice, which she retained till late in life; indeed a tiny thread of voice remained until her ninety-third year, with a faint remnant of its old sweetness still clinging to it. After her marriage, her love of theatricals still persisted, so we were often having performances at home, as my brothers and sisters shared her tastes. I made my first appearance on the stage at the age of seven, and I can still remember most of my lines.
At Petrograd, in the French theatricals, I was always cast for old men, and I must have played countless fathers, uncles, generals, and family lawyers. As unmarried girls took part in these performances, the French pieces had to be considerably "bowdlerized," but they still remained as excruciatingly funny as only French pieces can be.
If I may be permitted a rather lengthy digression, "bowdlerised" derives its name from Thomas Bowdler, who in 1818 published an expurgated edition of Shakespeare. It would be rather interesting to make a list of words which have passed into common parlance but which were originally derived from some peculiarity of the person whose surname they perpetuate. A few occur to me. In addition to "bowdlerise," there is "sandwich." As is well known, this compact form of nourishment derives its name from John, fourth Earl of Sandwich, who lived between 1718-1792. Lord Sandwich was a confirmed gambler, and such was his anxiety to lose still more money, and to impoverish further himself, his family, and his descendants, that he grudged the time necessary for meals, and had slices of bread and slices of meat placed by his side. The inventive faculty being apparently but little developed during the eighteenth century, he was the first person who thought of placing meat between two slices of bread. Owing to the economy of time thus effected, he was able to ruin himself very satisfactorily, and his name is now familiar all over the world, thanks to the condensed form of food he introduced.
Again, Admiral Edward Vernon was Naval Commander-in-Chief in the West Indies in 1740. The Admiral was known as "Old Grog," from his habit of always having his breeches and the linings of his boat-cloaks made of grogram, a species of coarse white poplin (from the French grosgrain). It occurred to "Old Grog" that, in view of the ravages of yellow fever amongst the men of the Fleet, it would be advisable, in the burning climate of the West Indies, to dilute the blue-jackets' rations of rum with water before serving them out. This was accordingly done, to the immense dissatisfaction of the men, who probably regarded it as a forerunner of "Pussyfoot" legislation. They at once christened the mixture "grog," after the Admiral's nickname, and "grog" as a term for spirits and water has spread all over the world, and is used just as much in French as in English.
The origin of the expression "to burke an inquiry," in the sense of suppressing or stifling it, is due to Burke and Hare, two enterprising malefactors who supplied the medical schools of Edinburgh with "subjects" for anatomical research, early in the nineteenth century. Their procedure was simple. Creeping behind unsuspecting citizens in lonely streets, they stifled them to death by placing pitch-plasters over their mouths and noses. Burke was hanged for this in Edinburgh in 1829.
In our own time, an almost unknown man has enriched the language with a new verb. A Captain Boycott of Lough Mask House, Co. Mayo, was a small Irish land-agent in 1880. The means that were adopted to try and drive him out of the country are well known. Since that time the expression to "boycott" a person, in the sense of combining with others to refuse to have any dealings with him, has become a recognised English term, and is just as widely used in France as with us.
A less familiar term is a "Collins," for the usual letter of thanks which a grateful visitor addresses to his recent host. This, of course, is derived from the Rev. Mr. Collins of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, who prided himself on the dexterity with which he worded these acknowledgments of favours received. As another example, most bridge-players are but too familiar with the name of a certain defunct Earl of Yarborough, who, whatever his other good qualities may have been, scarcely seems to have been a consistently good card-holder.
There must be quite a long list of similar words, and they would make an interesting study.
To return to the Diplomatic Theatricals at Petrograd, Labiche's piece, La Cagnotte, is extraordinarily funny, though written over sixty years ago. We gave a very successful performance of this, in which I played the restaurant waiter—a capital part. La Lettre Chargee and Le Sous-Prefet are both most amusing pieces, which can be played, with very slight "cuts," before any audience, and they both bubble over with that gaiete francaise which appeals so to me. We were coached at Petrograd by Andrieux, the jeune premier of the Theatre Michel, and we all became very professional indeed, never talking of Au Seconde Acte, but saying Au Deux, in proper French stage style. We also endeavoured to cultivate the long-drawn-out "a's" of the Comedie Francaise, and pronounced "adorahtion" and "imaginahtion" in the traditional manner of the "Maison de Moliere."
The British business community in Petrograd were also extremely fond of getting up theatricals, in this case, of course, in English. If in the French plays I was invariably cast for old men, in the English ones I was always allotted the extremely juvenile parts, being still very slim and able to "make up" young. I must confess to having appeared on the stage in an Eton jacket and collar at the age of twenty-four, as the schoolboy in Peril.
Russians are extremely clever at parody. Two brothers Narishkin wrote an intensely amusing mock serious opera, entitled Gargouillada, ou la Belle de Venise. It was written half in French and mock-Italian, and half in Russian, and was an excellent skit on an old-fashioned Italian opera. All the ladies fought shy of the part of "Countess Gorganzola," the heroine's grandmother. This was partly due to the boldness of some of "Gorganzola's" lines, and also to the fact that whoever played the role would have to make-up frankly as an old woman. I was asked to take "Countess Gorganzola" instead of the villain of the piece, which I had rehearsed, and I did so, turning it into a sort of Charley's Aunt part. Garouillada went with a roar from the opening chorus to the final tableau, and so persistently enthusiastic were the audience that we agreed to give the opera again four nights in succession.
I was at work in the Chancery of the Embassy next morning when three people were ushered in to me. They were a family from either St. Helens, Runcorn, or Widnes, I forget which, all speaking the broadest Lancashire. The navigation of the Neva being again opened, they had come on a little trip to Russia on a tramp-steamer belonging to a friend of theirs. There was the father, a short, thickset man in shiny black broadcloth, with a shaven upper lip, and a voluminous red "Newgate-frill" framing his face—exactly the type of face one associates with the Deacon of a Calvinistic-Methodist Chapel; there was the mother, a very grim-looking female; and the son, a nondescript hobbledehoy with goggle-eyes. It appeared that after their passports had been inspected on landing, the goggle-eyed boy had laid his down somewhere and had lost it. No hotel would take him in without a passport, but these people were so obviously genuine, that I had no hesitation in issuing a fresh passport to the lad, after swearing the father to an affidavit that the protuberant-eyed youth was his lawful son. After a few kind words as to the grave effects of any carelessness with passports in a country like Russia, I let the trio from Runcorn (or St. Helens) depart.
That evening I had just finished dressing and making-up as Countess Gorganzola, when I was told that three English people who had come on from the Embassy wished to see me. The curtain would be going up in ten minutes, so I got an obliging Russian friend who spoke English to go down and interview them. The strong Lancashire accent defeated him. All he could tell me was that it was something about a passport, and that it was important. I was in a difficulty. It would have taken at least half an hour to change and make-up again, and the curtain was going up almost at once, so after some little hesitation I decided to go down as I was. I was wearing a white wig with a large black lace cap, and a gown of black moire-antique trimmed with flounces and hanging sleeves of an abominable material known as black Chantilly lace. Any one who has ever had to wear this hateful fabric knows how it catches in every possible thing it can do. Down I went, and the trio from Widnes (or Runcorn) seemed surprised at seeing an old lady enter the room. But when I spoke, and they recognised in the old lady the frock-coated (and I trust sympathetic) official they had interviewed earlier in the day, their astonishment knew no bounds. The father gazed at me horror-stricken, as though I were a madman; the mother kept on swallowing, as ladies of her type do when they wish to convey strong disapprobation; and the prominent-orbed boy's eyes nearly fell out of his head. I explained that some theatricals were in progress, but that did not mend matters; evidently in the serious circles in which they moved in St. Helens (or Widnes), theatricals were regarded as one of the snares of the Evil One. To make matters worse, one of my Chantilly lace sleeves caught in the handle of a drawer, and perhaps excusably, but quite audibly, I condemned all Chantilly lace to eternal punishment, but in a much shorter form. After that they looked on me as clearly beyond the pale. The difficulty about the passport was easily adjusted. The police had threatened to arrest the young man, as his new passport was clearly not the one with which he had entered Russia. The Russian Minister of the Interior happened to be in the green-room, and on my personal guarantee as to the identity of the Widnes youth, he wrote an order to the police on his visiting-card, bidding them to leave the goggle-eyed boy in peace. I really tremble to think of the reports this family must have circulated upon their return to Widnes (or Runcorn) as to the frivolity of junior members of the British Diplomatic Service, who dressed up as old women, and used bad language about Chantilly lace.
There is a wearisome formality known as "legalising" which took up much time at the Berlin Embassy. Commercial agreements, if they are to be binding in two countries, say Germany and England, have to be "legalised," and this must be done at the Embassy, not at the Consulate. The individual bringing the document has to make a sworn affidavit that the contents of his papers are true; he then signs it, the dry-seal of the Embassy is embossed on it, and a rubber stamp impressed, declaring that the affidavit has been duly sworn to before a member of the Embassy staff. This is then signed and dated, and the process is complete. There were strings of people daily in Berlin with documents to be legalised, and on a little shelf in the Chancery reposed an Authorized Version of the Bible, a German Bible, a Vulgate version of the Gospels in Latin, and a Pentateuch in Hebrew, for the purpose of administering the oath, according to the religion professed by the individual. I was duly instructed how to administer the oath in German, and was told that my first question must be as to the religion the applicant professed, and that I was then to choose my Book accordingly. My great friend at Berlin was my fellow-attache Maude, a most delightful little fellow, who was universally popular. Poor Maude, who was a near relation of Mr. Cyril Maude the actor's, died four years afterwards in China. Most of the applicants for legalisation were of one particular faith. I admired the way in which little Maude, without putting the usual question as to religion, would scan the features of the applicant closely and then hand him the Hebrew Pentateuch, and request him to put on his hat. (Jews are always sworn covered.) About a month after my arrival in Berlin, I was alone in the Chancery when a man arrived with a document for legalisation. I was only twenty at the time, and felt rather "bucked" at administering my first oath. I thought that I would copy little Maude's methods, and after a good look at my visitor's prominent features, I handed him the Pentateuch and requested him to put on his hat. He was perfectly furious, and declared that both he and his father had been pillars of the Lutheran Church all their lives. I apologised profusely, but all the same I am convinced that the original family seat had been situated in the valley of the Jordan. I avoided, however, guesses as to religions for the future.
Both at Berlin and at Petrograd I kept what are known as the "Extraordinary Accounts" of the Embassies. I am therefore in a position to give the exact amount spent on Secret Service, but I have not the faintest intention of doing anything of the sort. Suffice it to say that it is less than one-twentieth of the sum the average person would imagine. Bought information is nearly always unreliable information. A moment's consideration will show that, should a man be base enough to sell his country's secrets to his country's possible enemy, he would also unhesitatingly cheat, if he could, the man who purchases that information, which, from the very nature of the case, it is almost impossible to verify. In all probability the so-called information would have been carefully prepared at the General Staff for the express purpose of fooling the briber. There is a different class of information which, it seems to me, is more legitimate to acquire. The Russian Ministries of Commerce and Finance always imagined that they could overrule economic laws by decrees and stratagems. For instance, they were perpetually endeavouring to divert the flow of trade from its accustomed channels to some port they wished to stimulate artificially into prosperity, by granting rebates, and by exceptionally favourable railway rates. Large quantities of jute sacking were imported from Dundee to be made into bags for the shipment of Russian wheat. One Minister of Commerce elaborated an intricate scheme for supplanting the jute sacking by coarse linen sacking of Russian manufacture, by granting a bonus to the makers of the latter, and by doubling the import duties on the Scottish-woven material. I could multiply these economic schemes indefinitely. Now let us suppose that we had some source of information in the Ministry of Commerce, it was obviously of advantage to the British Government and to British traders to be warned of the pending economic changes some two years in advance, for nothing is ever done quickly in Russia. People in England then knew what to expect, and could make their arrangements accordingly. I can see nothing repugnant to the most rigid code of honour in obtaining information of this kind.
On May 6, 1882, Lord Frederick Cavendish, the newly appointed Irish Secretary, and Mr. Burke, the Permanent Under-Secretary for Ireland, were assassinated in the Phoenix Park, Dublin. I knew Tom Burke very well indeed. The British Government offered a reward of ten thousand pounds for the apprehension of the murderers, and every policeman in Europe had rosy dreams of securing this great prize, and was constantly on the alert for the criminals and the reward.
In July 1882, the Ambassador and half the Embassy staff were on leave in England. As matters were very slack just then, the Charge d'Affaires and the Second Secretary had gone to Finland for four days' fishing, leaving me in charge of the Embassy, with an Attache to help me. My servant came to me early one morning as I was in bed, and told me that an official of the Higher Police was outside my front door, and begged for permission to come into my flat. I have explained elsewhere that Ambassadors, their families, their staffs, and even all the Embassy servants enjoy what is called exterritoriality; that is, that by a polite fiction the Embassy and the houses or apartments of the Secretaries are supposed to be on the actual soil of the country they represent. Consequently, the police of the country cannot enter them except by special permission, and both the Secretaries and their servants are immune from arrest, and are not subject to the laws of the country, though they can, of course, be expelled from it. I gave the policeman leave to enter, and he came into my bedroom. "I have caught one of the Phoenix Park murderers," he told me triumphantly in Russian, visions of the possible ten thousand pounds wreathing his face in smiles. I jumped up incredulously. He went on to inform me that a man had landed from the Stockholm steamer early that morning. Though he declared that he had no arms with him, a revolver and a dagger had been found in his trunk. His passport had only been issued at the British Legation in Stockholm, and his description tallied exactly with the signalment issued by Scotland Yard in eight languages. The policier showed me the description: "height about five feet nine; complexion sallow, with dark eyes. Thickset build; probably with some recent cuts on face and hands." The policeman declared that the cuts were there, and that it was unquestionably the man wanted. Then he put the question point-blank, would the Embassy sanction this man's arrest? I was only twenty-five at the time. I had to act on "my own," and I had to decide quickly. "Yes, arrest him," I said, "but you are not to take him to prison. Confine him to his room at his hotel, with two or three of your men to watch him. I will dress and come there as quickly as I can."
Half an hour later I was in a grubby room of a grubby hotel, where a short, sallow, thickset man, with three recent cuts on his face, was walking up and down, smoking cigarettes feverishly, and throwing frightened glances at three sinister-looking plain-clothes men, who pretended to be quite at ease. I looked again at the description and at the man. There could be no doubt about it. I asked him for his own account of himself. He told me that he was the Manager of the Gothenburg Tramway Company in Sweden, an English concern, and that he had come to Russia for a little holiday. He accounted for the cuts on his face and hands by saying that he had slipped and fallen on his face whilst alighting from a moving tram-car. He declared that he was well known in Stockholm, and that his wife, when packing his things, must have put in the revolver and dagger without his knowledge. It all sounded grotesquely improbable, but I promised to telegraph both to Stockholm and Gothenburg, and to return to him as soon as I had received the answers. In the meanwhile I feared that he must consider himself as under close arrest. He himself was under the impression that all the trouble was due to the concealed arms; the Phoenix Park murders had never once been mentioned. I sent off a long telegram in cypher to the Stockholm Legation, making certain inquiries, and a longer one en clair to the British Consul at Gothenburg. By nagging at the Attache, and by keeping that dapper young gentleman's nose pretty close to the grindstone, I got the first telegram cyphered and dispatched by 10 a.m.; the answers arrived about 4 p.m. The man's story was true in every particular. He HAD fallen off a moving tram and cut his face; his wife, terrified at the idea of unknown dangers in Russia, HAD borrowed a revolver and dagger from a friend, and had packed them in her husband's trunk without his knowledge. Mr. D—— (I remember his name perfectly) was well known in Stockholm, and was a man of the highest respectability. I drove as fast as I could to the grubby hotel, where I found the poor fellow still restlessly pacing the room, and still smoking cigarette after cigarette. There was a perfect Mont Blanc of cigarette stumps on a plate, and the shifty-looking plain-clothes men were still watching their man like hawks. I told the police that they had got hold of the wrong man, that the Embassy was quite satisfied about him, and that they must release the gentleman at once. They accordingly did so, and the alluring vision of the ten thousand pounds vanished into thin air! The poor man was quite touchingly grateful to me; he had formed the most terrible ideas about a Russian State prison, and seemed to think that he owed his escape entirely to me. I had not the moral courage to tell him that I had myself ordered his arrest that morning, still less of the awful crime of which he had been suspected. Looking back, I do not see how I could have acted otherwise; the prima facie case against him was so strong; never was circumstantial evidence apparently clearer. Mr. D—— went back to Sweden next day, as he had had enough of Russia. Should Mr. D—— still be alive, and should he by any chance read these lines, may I beg of him to accept my humblest apologies for the way I behaved to him thirty-eight years ago.
I happened to see the four assassins of Alexander II. driven through the streets of Petrograd on their way to execution. They were seated in chairs on large tumbrils, with their backs to the horses. Each one had a placard on his, or her breast, inscribed "Regicide" ("Tsaryubeeyetz" in Russian). Two military brass bands, playing loudly, followed the tumbrils. This was to make it impossible for the condemned persons to address the crowd, but the music might have been selected more carefully. One band played the well-known march from Fatinitza. There was a ghastly incongruity between the merry strains of this captivating march and the terrible fate that awaited the people escorted by the band at the end of their last drive on earth. When the first band rested, the second replaced it instantly to avoid any possibilities of a speech. The second band seemed to me to have made an equally unhappy selection of music. "Kaiser Alexander," written as a complimentary tribute to the murdered Emperor by a German composer, is a spirited and tuneful march, but as "Kaiser Alexander" was dead, and had been killed by the very people who were now going to expiate their crime, the familiar tune jarred horribly. A jaunty, lively march tune, and death at the end of it, and in a sense at the beginning of it too. At times even now I can conjure up a vision of the broad, sombre Petrograd streets, with the dull cotton-wool sky pressing down almost on to the house-tops; the vast silent crowds thronging the thoroughfares, and the tumbrils rolling slowly forward through the crowded streets to the place of execution, accompanied by the gay strains of the march from Fatinitza. The hideous incongruity between the tune and the occasion made one positively shudder.
There is in the Russian temperament a peculiar unbalanced hysterical element. This, joined to a distinct bent towards the mystic, and to a large amount of credulity, has made Russia for two hundred years the happy hunting-ground of charlatans and impostors of various sorts claiming supernatural powers: clairvoyants, mediums, yogis, and all the rest of the tribe who batten on human weaknesses, and the perpetual desire to tear away the veil from the Unseen. It so happened that my chief at Lisbon had in his youth dabbled in the Black Art. Sir Charles Wyke was a dear old man, who had spent most of his Diplomatic career in Mexico and the South American Republics. He spoke Spanish better than any other Englishman I ever knew, with the one exception of Sir William Barrington. He was unmarried, and was a most distinguished-looking old gentleman with his snow-white imperial and moustache. He was unquestionably a little eccentric in his habits. He had rendered some signal service to the Mexican Government while British Minister there, by settling a dispute between them and the French authorities. The Mexican Government had out of gratitude presented him with a splendid Mexican saddle, with pommel, stirrups and bit of solid silver, and with the leather of the saddle most elaborately embroidered in silver. Sir Charles kept this trophy on a saddle-tree in his study at Lisbon, and it was his custom to sit on it daily for an hour or so. He said that as he was too old to ride, the feel of a saddle under him reminded him of his youth. When every morning I brought the old gentleman the day's dispatches, I always found him seated on his saddle, a cigar in his mouth, a skull-cap on his head, and his feet in the silver shoe-stirrups. Sir Charles had been a great friend of the first Lord Lytton, the novelist, and they had together dabbled in Black Magic. Sir Charles declared that the last chapters in Bulwer-Lytton's wonderful imaginative work, A STRANGE STORY, describing the preparation of the Elixir of Life in the heart of the Australian Bush, were all founded on actual experience, with the notable reservation that all the recorded attempts made to produce this magic fluid had failed from their very start. He had in his younger days joined a society of Rosicrucians, by which I do not mean the Masonic Order of that name, but persons who sought to penetrate into the Forbidden Domain. Some forty years ago a very interesting series of articles appeared in Vanity Fair (the weekly newspaper, not Thackeray's masterpiece), under the title of "The Black Art." In one of these there was an account of a seance which took place at the Pantheon in Oxford Street, in either the "forties" or the "fifties." A number of people had hired the hall, and the Devil was invoked in due traditional form, Then something happened, and the entire assemblage rushed terror-stricken into Oxford Street, and nothing would induce a single one of them to re-enter the building. Sir Charles owned that he had been present at the seance, but he would never tell me what it was that frightened them all so; he said that he preferred to forget the whole episode. Sir Charles had an idea that I was a "sensitive," so, after getting my leave to try his experiment, he poured into the palm of my hand a little pool of quicksilver, and placing me under a powerful shaded lamp, so that a ray of light caught the mercury pool, he told me to look at the bright spot for a quarter of an hour, remaining motionless meanwhile. Any one who has shared this experience with me, knows how the speck of light flashes and grows until that little pool of quicksilver seems to fill the entire horizon, darting out gleaming rays like an Aurora Borealis. I felt myself growing dazed and hypnotised, when Sir Charles emptied the mercury from my hand, and commenced making passes over me, looking, with his slender build and his white hair and beard, like a real mediaeval magician. "Now you can neither speak nor move," he cried at length. "I think I can do both, Sir Charles," I answered, as I got out of the chair. He tried me on another occasion, and then gave me up. I was clearly not a "sensitive."