ROBERT CORTES HOLLIDAY
AS A CAT MAY LOOK AT A KING
SO I DEDICATE THIS LITTLE DOINGS TO
THREE FINE MEN:
W. C. BROWNELL
BECAUSE THEY REPRESENT TO MY MIND
THE BEST THINGS GOING:
THE PURE MILK OF THE WORD
These little records of some excursions made by what Mr. James called "a visiting mind" first saw the light of public countenance in the pages of various publications. "On Going to Art Exhibitions" has been much expanded since its appearance in Vanity Fair. In The Unpopular Review the original title of "That Reviewer 'Cuss'" was brought into harmony with the dignity of its setting by being changed to "The Hack Reviewer." "A Clerk May Look at a Celebrity" was printed in the New York Times under the head "Glimpses of Celebrities." This paper has been included in this collection at the request of several distinguished gentlemen who have been so unfortunate as to lose their newspaper clippings of the article. That several of the personages figuring in this and one or two other of these papers have passed away since these papers were written seems to be thought an additional reason for reprinting these essays here. The Bellman fell for "Caun't Speak the Language"; the New York Tribune, "Humours of the Bookshop"; The Independent, "Reading After Thirty," "You Are an American" appeared in the New York Sun; where the head "An American Reviewer in London" was substituted for the title of "Literary Levities in London." The following papers were contributed to the New York Evening Post: "The Fish Reporter," "On Going a Journey," "A Roundabout Paper," "Henry James, Himself," "Memories of a Manuscript," "Why Men Can't Read Novels by Women," "The Dessert of Life," "Hunting Lodgings," "My Friend, the Policeman," "Help Wanted," "Human Municipal Documents," "As to People," "A Town Constitutional," and "On Wearing a Hat." "On Carrying a Cane" appeared in The Bookman. I thank the editors of the publications named for permission to reprint these papers here. R. C. H.
New York, 1918.
PROLOGUE: ON CARRYING A CANE
I THE FISH REPORTER II ON GOING A JOURNEY III GOING TO ART EXHIBITIONS IV A ROUNDABOUT PAPER V THAT REVIEWER "CUSS" VI LITERARY LEVITIES IN LONDON VII HENRY JAMES, HIMSELF VIII MEMORIES OF A MANUSCRIPT IX "YOU ARE AN AMERICAN" X WHY MEN CAN'T READ NOVELS BY WOMEN XI THE DESSERT OF LIFE XII A CLERK MAY LOOK AT A CELEBRITY XIII CAUN'T SPEAK THE LANGUAGE XIV HUNTING LODGINGS XV MY FRIEND, THE POLICEMAN XVI HELP WANTED—MALE, FEMALE XVII HUMAN MUNICIPAL DOCUMENTS XVIII AS TO PEOPLE XIX HUMOURS OF THE BOOK SHOP XX THE DECEASED XXI A TOWN CONSTITUTIONAL XXII READING AFTER THIRTY
EPILOGUE: ON WEARING A HAT
ON CARRYING A CANE
Some people, without doubt, are born with a deep instinct for carrying a cane; some consciously acquire the habit of carrying a cane; and some find themselves in a position where the matter of carrying a cane is thrust upon them.
Canes are carried in all parts of the world, and have been carried—or that which was the forefather of them has been carried—since human history began. Indeed, a very fair account of mankind might be made by writing the story, of its canes. And nothing that would readily occur to mind would more eloquently express a civilisation than its evident attitude toward canes. Perhaps nothing can more subtly convey the psychology of a man than his feeling about a cane.
The prehistoric ape, we are justified in assuming, struggled upright upon a cane. The cane, so to speak, with which primitive man wooed his bride, defended his life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, and brought down his food, was (like all canes which are in good taste) admirably chosen for the occasion. The spear, the stave, the pilgrim's staff, the sword, the sceptre—always has the cane-carrying animal borne something in his hand. And, down the long vista of the past, the cane, in its various manifestations, has ever been the mark of strength, and so of dignity. Thus as a man originally became a gentleman, or a king, by force of valour, the cane in its evolution has ever been the symbol of a superior caste.
A man cannot do manual labour carrying a cane. And it would be a moral impossibility for one of servile state—a butler, for instance, or a ticket-chopper—to present himself in the role of his occupation ornamented with a cane. One held in custody would not be permitted to appear before a magistrate flaunting a cane. Until the stigma which attaches to his position may be erased he would be shorn of this mark of nobility, the cane.
Canes are now carried mostly by the very youthful and the very aged, the powerful, the distinguished, the patrician, the self-important, and those who fancy to exalt themselves. Some, to whom this privilege is denied during the week by their fear of adverse public opinion, carry canes only on Sundays and holidays. By this it is shown that on these days they are their own masters.
Custom as to carrying canes varies widely in different parts of the world; but it may be taken as a general maxim that the farther west you go the less you see of canes. The instinct for carrying a cane is more natural in old civilisations, where the tradition is of ancient growth, than in newer ones, where frequently a cane is regarded as the sign of an effete character. As we have been saying, canes, we all feel, have an affinity with the idea of an aristocracy. If you do not admit that the idea of an aristocracy is a good one, then doubtless you are down on canes. It is interesting to observe that canes have flourished at all especially chivalrous periods and in all especially chivalrous communities. No illustrator would portray a young planter of the Old South without his cane; and that fragrant old-school figure, a southern "Colonel," without his cane is inconceivable. Canes connote more or less leisure. They convey a subtle insinuation of some degree of culture.
They always are a familiar article of a gentleman's dress in warm climates. The cane, quite strictly speaking, in fact has its origin in warm countries. For properly speaking, the word cane should be restricted in its application to a peculiar class of palms, known as ratans, included under the closely allied genera Calamus and Daemonorops, of which there are a large number of species. These plants, the Encyclopedia tells us, are found widely extended throughout the islands of the Indian Archipelago, the Malay Peninsula, China, India and Ceylon; and examples have also been found in Australia and Africa. The learned Rumphius describes them, under the name of Palmijunci, as inhabitants of dense forests into which the rays of the sun scarce can penetrate, where they form spiny bushes, obstructing the passage through the jungle. They rise to the top of the tallest trees and fall again so as to resemble a great length of cable, adorned, however, with the most beautiful leaves, pinnated or terminating in graceful tendrils. The plants creep or trail along to an enormous length, sometimes, it is said, reaching five hundred feet. Two examples of Calamus verus, measuring respectively two hundred and seventy feet and two hundred and thirty feet, were exhibited in the Paris exhibition of 1855.
The well-known Malacca canes are obtained from Calamus Scipionum, the stems of which are much stouter than is the case with the average species of Calamus. Doubtless to the vulgar a Malacca cane is merely a Malacca cane. There are, however, in this interesting world choice spirits who make a cult of Malacca canes, just as some dog fanciers are devotees of the Airedale terrier. Such as these know that inferior Malacca canes are, as the term in the cane trade is, "shaved"; that is, not being of the circumference most coveted, but too thick, they have been whittled down in bulk. A prime Malacca cane is, of course, a natural stem, and it is a nice point to have a slight irregularity in its symmetry as evidence of this. The delicious spotting of a Malacca cane is due to the action of the sun upon it in drying. As the stems are dried in sheaves, those most richly splotched are the ones that have been at the outside of the bundle. What new strength to meet life's troubles, what electric expansion of soul, come to the initiated upon the feel of the vertebra of his Malacca cane!
The name of cane is also applied to many plants besides the Calamus, which are possessed of long, slender, reed-like stalks or stems, as, for instance, the sugar-cane, or the reed-cane. From the use as walking-sticks to which many of these plants have been applied, the name cane has been given generally to "sticks" irrespective of the source from which they are derived.
Our distinguished grandfathers carried canes, frequently handsome gold-headed ones, especially if they were ministers. Bishops, or "Presiding Elders;" when, in those mellow times, it was the custom for a congregation to present its minister with a gold-headed cane duly inscribed. Our fathers of some consequence carried canes of a gentlemanly pattern, often ones with ivory handles. Though in the days when those of us now sometime grown were small one had to have arrived at the dignity of at least middle-age before it was seemly for one to carry a cane. In England, however, and particularly at Eton, it has long been a common practice for small aristocrats to affect canes.
The dandies, fops, exquisites, and beaux of picturesque and courtly ages were, of course, very partial to canes, and sometimes wore them attached to the wrist by a thong. It has been the custom of the Surgeon of the King of England to carry a "Gold Headed Cane." This cane has been handed down to the various incumbents of this office since the days of Dr. John Radcliffe, who was the first holder of the cane. It has been used for two hundred years or more by the greatest physicians and surgeons in the world, who succeeded to it. "The Gold Headed Cane" was adorned by a cross-bar at the top instead of a knob. The fact is explained by Munk, in that Radcliffe, the first owner, was a rule unto himself and possibly preferred this device as a mark of distinction beyond the knob used by physicians in general. Men of genius now and then have found in their choice of a cane an opportunity for the play of their eccentricity, such a celebrated cane being the tall wand of Whistler. Among the relics of great men preserved in museums for the inspiration of the people canes generally are to be found. We have all looked upon the cane of George Washington at Mount Vernon and the walking-stick of Carlyle in Cheyne Walk. And is each not eloquent of the man who cherished it?
Freak canes are displayed here and there by persons of a pleasantly bizarre turn of mind: canes encased in the hide of an elephant's tail, canes that have been intricately carven by some Robinson Crusoe, or canes of various other such species of curiosity. There is a veteran New York journalist who will be glad to show any student of canes one which he prizes highly that was made from the limb of a tree upon which a friend of his was hanged. In our age of handy inventions a type of cane is manufactured in combination with an umbrella.
Canes are among the useful properties of the theatre. He would be a decidedly incomplete villain who did not carry a cane. Imaginative literature is rich in canes. Who ever heard of a fairy godmother without a cane? Who with any feeling for terror has not been startled by the tap, tap of the cane of old Pew in "Treasure Island"? There is an awe and a pathos in canes, too, for they are the light to blind men. And the romance of canes is further illustrated in this: they, with rags and the wallet, have been among the traditional accoutrements of beggars, the insignia of the "dignity springing from the very depth of desolation; as, to be naked is to be so much nearer to the being a man, than to go in livery." J. M. Barrie was so fond of an anecdote of a cane that he employed it several times in his earlier fiction. This was the story of a young man who had a cane with a loose knob, which in society he would slyly shake so that it tumbled off, when he would exclaim: "Yes, that cane is like myself; it always loses its head in the presence of ladies."
Canes have figured prominently in humour. The Irishman's shillelagh was for years a conspicuous feature of the comic press. And there will instantly come to every one's mind that immortal passage in "Tristram Shandy." Trim is discoursing upon life and death:
"Are we not here now, continued the Corporal (striking the end of his stick perpendicularly upon the floor, so as to give an idea of health and stability)—and are we not (dropping his hat upon the ground) gone! in a moment!—'Twas infinitely striking! Susannah burst into a flood of tears."
Canes are not absent from poetry. Into your ears already has come the refrain of "The Last Leaf":
"And totters o'er the ground, With his cane."
And, doubtless, floods of instances of canes that the world will not willingly let die will occur to one upon a moment's reflection.
Canes are inseparable from art. All artists carry them; and the poorer the artist the more attached is he to his cane. Canes are indispensable to the simple vanity of the Bohemian. One of the most memorable drawings of Steinlen depicts the quaint soul of a child of the Latin Quarter: an elderly Bohemian, very much frayed, advances wreathed in the sunshine of his boutonniere and cane. Canes are invariably an accompaniment of learning. Sylvester Bonnard would of course not be without his cane; nor would any other true book-worm, as may be seen any day in the reading-room of the British Museum and of the New York Public Library. It is, indeed, indisputable that canes, more than any other article of dress, are peculiarly related to the mind. There is an old book-seller on Fourth Avenue whose clothes when he dies, like the boots of Michelangelo, probably will require to be pried loose from him, so incessantly has he worn them within the memory of man. None has ever looked upon him in the open air without his cane. And is not that emblem of omniscience and authority, the schoolmaster's ferule, directly of the cane family? So large has the cane loomed in the matter of chastisement that the word cane has become a verb, to cane.
There was (in the days before the war) a military man (friend of mine), a military man of the old school, in whom could be seen, shining like a flame, a man's great love of a cane. He had lived a portion of his life in South America, and he used to promenade every pleasant afternoon up and down the Avenue swinging a sharply pointed, steel-ferruled swagger-stick. "What's the use of carrying that ridiculous thing around town?" some one said to him one day.
"That!" he rumbled in reply (he was one of the roarers among men), "why, that's to stab scorpions with."
They've buried him, I heard, in Flanders; on his breast (I hope), his cane.
"When a Red Cross platoon," says a news despatch of the other day, "was advancing to the aid of scores of wounded men. Surgeon William J. McCracken of the British Medical Corps ordered all to take cover, and himself advanced through the enemy's fire, bearing a Red Cross flag on his walking-stick."
Indeed, the Great War is one of the most thrilling, momentous and colourful chapters in the history of canes. "The officers picked up their canes," says the newspaper, and so forth, and so forth. Captain A. Radclyffe Dugmore, in a spirited drawing of the Battle of the Somme, shows an officer leading a charge waving a light cane. As an emblem of rank the cane among our Allies has apparently supplanted the sword. Something of the dapper, cocky look of our brothers in arms on our streets undoubtedly is due to their canes. One never sees a British, French or Italian officer in the rotogravure sections without his cane. We should be as startled to see General Haig or the Prince of Wales without a cane as without a leg. With our own soldiers the cane does not seem to be so much the thing, at least over here. I have a friend, however, who went away a private with a rifle over his shoulder. The other day came news from him that he had become a sergeant, and, perhaps as proof of this, a photograph of himself wearing a tin hat and with a cane in his hand. It is also to be observed now and then that a lady in uniformed service appears to regard it as an added military touch to swing a cane.
Women as well as men play their part in the colourful story of the cane. The shepherdess's crook might be regarded as the precursor of canes for ladies. In Merrie England in the age when the May-pole flourished it was fashionable, we know from pictures, for comely misses and grandes dames to sport tall canes mounted with silver or gold and knotted with a bow of ribbon. The dowager duchess of romantic story has always appeared leaning upon her cane. Do not we so see the rich aunt of Hawden Crawley? And Mr. Walpole's Duchess of Wrexe, certainly, was supported in her domination of the old order of things by a cane. The historic old croons of our own early days smoked a clay or a corn-cob pipe and went bent upon a cane.
In England to-day it is swagger for women to carry sticks—in the country. And here the thoughtful spectator of the human scene notes a nice point. It is not etiquette, according to English manners, for a woman to carry a cane in town. Some American ladies who admire and would emulate English customs have not been made acquainted with this delicate nuance of taste, and so are very unfashionable when they would be ultra-fashionable.
Anybody returning from the Alps should bring back an Alpine stock with him; every one who has visited Ireland upon his return has presented some close friend with a blackthorn stick; nobody has made a walking tour of England without an ash stick. In London all adult males above the rank of costers carry "sticks"; in New York sticks are customary with many who would be ashamed to assume them did they live in the Middle West, where the infrequent sticks to be seen upon the city streets are in many cases the sign of transient mummers. And yet it is a curious fact that in communities where the stick is conspicuously absent from the streets it is commonly displayed in show-windows, in company with cheap suits and decidedly loud gloves. Another odd circumstance is this: trashy little canes hawked by sidewalk venders generally appear with the advent of toy balloons for sale on days of big parades.
In Jamaica, Long Island, the visitor would probably see canes in the hands only of prosperous coloured gentlemen. And than this fact probably nothing throws more light on the winning nature of the coloured race, and on the character and function of canes. In San Francisco—but the adequate story, the Sartor Resartus—the World as Canes, remains to be written.
This, of course, is the merest essay into this vast and significant subject.
THE FISH REPORTER
Men of genius, blown by the winds of chance, have been, now and then, mariners, bar-keeps, schoolmasters, soldiers, politicians, clergymen, and what not. And from these pursuits have they sucked the essence of yarns and in the setting of these activities found a flavour to stir and to charm hearts untold. Now, it is a thousand pities that no man of genius has ever been a fish reporter. Thus has the world lost great literary treasure, as it is highly probable that there is not under the sun any prospect so filled with the scents and colours of story as that presented by the commerce in fish.
Take whale oil. Take the funny old buildings on Front Street, out of paintings, I declare, by Howard Pyle, where the large merchants in whale oil are. Take salt fish. Do you know the oldest salt-fish house in America, down by Coenties Slip? Ah! you should. The ghost of old Long John Silver, I suspect, smokes an occasional pipe in that old place. And many are the times I've seen the slim shade of young Jim Hawkins come running out. Take Labrador cod for export to the Mediterranean lands or to Porto Rico via New York. Take herrings brought to this port from Iceland, from Holland, and from Scotland; mackerel from Ireland, from the Magdalen Islands, and from Cape Breton; crabmeat from Japan; fishballs from Scandinavia; sardines from Norway and from France; caviar from Russia; shrimp which comes from Florida, Mississippi, and Georgia, or salmon from Alaska, and Puget Sound, and the Columbia River.
Take the obituaries of fishermen. "In his prime, it is said, there was not a better skipper in the Gloucester fishing fleet." Take disasters to schooners, smacks, and trawlers. "The crew were landed, but lost all their belongings." New vessels, sales, etc. "The sealing schooner Tillie B., whose career in the South Seas is well known, is reported to have been sold to a moving-picture firm." Sponges from the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. "To most people, familiar only with the sponges of the shops, the animal as it comes from the sea would be rather unrecognisable." Why, take anything you please! It is such stuff as stories are. And as you eat your fish from the store how little do you reck of the glamour of what you are doing!
However, as it seems to me unlikely that a man of genius will be a fish reporter shortly I will myself do the best I can to paint the tapestry of the scenes of his calling. The advertisement in the newspaper read: "Wanted—Reporter for weekly trade paper." Many called, but I was chosen. Though, doubtless, no man living knew less about fish than I.
The news stands are each like a fair, so laden are they with magazines in bright colours. It would seem almost as if there were a different magazine for every few hundred and seven-tenth person, as the statistics put these matters. And yet, it seems, there is a vast, a very vast, periodical literature of which we, that is, magazine readers in general, know nothing whatever. There is, for one, that fine, old, standard publication, Barrel and Box, devoted to the subjects and the interests of the coopering industry; there is, too, The Dried Fruit Packer and Western Canner, as alert a magazine as one could wish—in its kind; and from the home of classic American literature comes The New England Tradesman and Grocer. And so on. At the place alone where we went to press twenty-seven trade journals were printed every week, from one for butchers to one for bankers.
The Fish Industries Gazette—Ah, yes! For some reason not clear (though it is an engaging thing, I think) the word "gazette" is the great word among the titles of trade journals. There are The Jewellers' Gazette and The Women's Wear Gazette and The Poulterers' Gazette (of London), and The Maritime Gazette (of Halifax), and other gazettes quite without number. This word "gazette" makes its appeal, too, curiously enough, to those who christen country papers; and trade journals have much of the intimate charm of country papers. The "trade" in each case is a kind of neighbourly community, separated in its parts by space, but joined in unity of sympathy. "Personals" are a vital feature of trade papers. "Walter Conner, who for some time has conducted a bakery and fish market at Hudson, N.Y., has removed to Fort Edward, leaving his brother Ed in charge at the Hudson place of business."
The Fish Industries Gazette, as I say, was one of several in its field, in friendly rivalry with The Oyster Trade and Fisherman and The Pacific Fisheries. It comprized two departments: the fresh fish and oyster department, and myself. I was, as an editorial announcement said at the beginning of my tenure of office, a "reorganisation of our salt, smoked, and pickled fish department." The delectable, mellow spirit of the country paper, so removed from the crash and whirr of metropolitan journalism, rested in this, too, that upon the Gazette I did practically everything on the paper except the linotyping. Reporter, editorial writer, exchange editor, make-up man, proof-reader, correspondent, advertisement solicitor, was I.
As exchange editor, did I read all the papers in the English language in eager search of fish news. And while you are about the matter, just find me a finer bit of literary style evoking the romance of the vast wastes of the moving sea, in Stevenson, Defoe, anywhere you please, than such a news item as this: "Capt. Ezra Pound, of the bark Elnora, of Salem, Mass., spoke a lonely vessel in latitude this and longitude that, September 8. She proved to be the whaler Wanderer, and her captain said that she had been nine months at sea, that all on board were well, and that he had stocked so many barrels of whale oil."
As exchange editor was it my business to peruse reports from Eastport, Maine, to the effect that one of the worst storms in recent years had destroyed large numbers of the sardine weirs there. To seek fish recipes, of such savoury sound as those for "broiled redsnapper," "shrimps bordelaise," and "baked fish croquettes." To follow fishing conditions in the North Sea occasioned by the Great War. To hunt down jokes of piscatory humour. "The man who drinks like a fish does not take kindly to water.—Exchange." To find other "fillers" in the consular reports and elsewhere: "Fish culture in India," "1800 Miles in a Dory," "Chinese Carp for the Philippines," "Americans as Fish Eaters." And, to use a favourite term of trade papers, "etc., etc." Then to "paste up" the winnowed fruits of this beguiling research.
As editorial writer, to discuss the report of the commission recently sent by congress to the Pribilof Islands, Alaska, to report on the condition of our national herd of fur seals; to discuss the official interpretation here of the Government ruling on what constitutes "boneless" codfish; to consider the campaign in Canada to promote there a more popular consumption of fish, and to brightly remark apropos of this that "a fish a day keeps the doctor away"; to review the current issue of The Journal of the Fisheries Society of Japan, containing leading articles on "Are Fishing Motor Boats Able to Encourage in Our Country" and "Fisherman the Late Mr. H. Yamaguchi Well Known"; to combat the prejudice against dogfish as food, a prejudice like that against eels, in some quarters eyed askance as "calling cousins with the great sea-serpent," as Juvenal says; to call attention to the doom of one of the most picturesque monuments in the story of fish, the passing of the pleasant and celebrated old Trafalgar Hotel at Greenwich, near London, scene of the famous Ministerial white-bait dinners of the days of Pitt; to make a jest on an exciting idea suggested by some medical man that some of the features of a Ritz-Carlton Hotel, that is, baths, be introduced into the fo'c's'les of Grand Banks fishing vessels; to keep an eye on the activities of our Bureau of Fisheries; to hymn a praise to the monumental new Fish Pier at Boston; to glance at conditions at the premier fish market of the world, Billingsgate; to herald the fish display at the Canadian National Exhibition at Toronto, and, indeed, etc., and again etc.
As general editorial roustabout, to find each week a "leader," a translation, say, from In Allgemeine Fishcherei-Zeitwung, or Economic Circular No. 10, "Mussels in the Tributaries of the Missouri," or the last biennial report of the Superintendent of Fisheries of Wisconsin, or a scientific paper on "The Porpoise in Captivity" reprinted by permission of Zoologica, of the New York Zoological Society. To find each week for reprint a poem appropriate in sentiment to the feeling of the paper. One of the "Salt Water Ballads" would do, or John Masefield singing of "the whale's way," or "Down to the white dipping sails;" or Rupert Brooke: "And in that heaven of all their wish. There shall be no more land, say fish"; or a "weather rhyme" about "mackerel skies," when "you're sure to get a fishing day"; or something from the New York Sun about "the lobster pots of Maine"; or Oliver Herford, in the Century, "To a Goldfish"; or, best of all, an old song of fishing ways of other days.
And to compile from the New York Journal of Commerce better poetry than any of this, tables, beautiful tables of "imports into New York": "Oct. 15.—From Bordeaux, 225 cs. cuttlefish bone; Copenhagen, 173 pkgs. fish; Liverpool, 969 bbls. herrings, 10 walrus hides, 2,000 bags salt; La Guayra, 6 cs. fish sounds; Belize, 9 bbls. sponges; Rotterdam, 7 pkgs. seaweed, 9,000 kegs herrings; Barcelona, 235 cs. sardines; Bocas Del Toro, 5 cs. turtle shells; Genoa, 3 boxes corals; Tampico, 2 pkgs. sponges; Halifax, 1 cs. seal skins, 35 bbls. cod liver oil, 215 cs. lobsters, 490 bbls. codfish; Akureyri, 4,150 bbls. salted herrings," and much more. Beautiful tables of "exports from New York". "To Australia" (cleared Sep. 1); "to Argentina;"—Haiti, Jamaica, Guatemala, Scotland, Salvador, Santo Domingo, England, and to places many more. And many other gorgeous tables, too, "Fishing vessels at New York," for one, listing the "trips" brought into this port by the Stranger, the Sarah O'Neal, the Nourmahal, a farrago of charming sounds, and a valuable tale of facts.
As make-up man, of course, so to "dress" the paper that the "markets," Oporto, Trinidad, Porto Rico, Demerara, Havana, would be together; that "Nova Scotia Notes"—"Weather conditions for curing have been more favourable since October set in"—would follow "Halifax Fish Market"—"Last week's arrivals were: Oct. 13, schr. Hattie Loring, 960 quintals," etc.—that "Pacific Coast Notes"—"The tug Tatoosh will perform the service for the Seattle salmon packers of towing a vessel from Seattle to this port via the Panama Canal"—would follow "Canned Salmon"; that shellfish matter would be in one place; reports of saltfish where such should be; that the weekly tale of the canned fish trade politically embraced the canned fish advertising; and so on and so on.
Finest of all, as reporter, to go where the fish reporter goes. There the sight-seeing cars never find their way; the hurried commuter has not his path, nor knows of these things at all; and there that racy character who, voicing a multitude, declares that he would rather be a lamp post on Broadway than Mayor of St. Louis, goes not for to see. Up lower Greenwich Street the fish reporter goes, along an eerie, dark, and narrow way, beneath a strange, thundering roof, the "L" overhead. He threads his way amid seemingly chaotic, architectural piles of boxes, of barrels, crates, casks, kegs, and bulging bags; roundabout many great fetlocked draught horses, frequently standing or plunging upon the sidewalk, and attached to many huge trucks and wagons; and much of the time in the street he is compelled to go, finding the side walks too congested with the traffic of commerce to admit of his passing there.
You probably eat butter, and eggs, and cheese. Then you would delight in Greenwich Street. You could feast your highly creditable appetite for these excellent things for very nearly a solid mile upon the signs of "wholesale dealers and commission merchants" in them. The letter press, as you might say, of the fish reporter's walk is a noble paean to the earth's glorious yield for the joyous sustenance of man. For these princely merchants' signs sing of opulent stores of olive oil, of sausages, beans, soups, extracts, and spices, sugar, Spanish, Bermuda, and Havana onions, "fine" apples, teas, coffee, rice, chocolates, dried fruits and raisins, and of loaves and of fishes, and of "fish products." Lo! dark and dirty and thundering Greenwich Street is to-day's translation of the Garden of Eden.
Here is a great house whose sole vocation is the importation of caviar for barter here. Caviar from over-seas now comes, when it comes at all, mainly by the way of Archangel, recently put on the map, for most of us, by the war. The fish reporter is told, however, if it be summer, that there cannot be much doing in the way of caviar until fall, "when the spoonbill start coming in." And on he goes to a great saltfish house, where many men in salt-stained garments are running about, their arms laden with large flat objects, of sharp and jagged edge, which resemble dried and crackling hides of some animal curiously like a huge fish; and numerous others of "the same" are trundling round wheelbarrow-like trucks likewise so laden. Where stacks of these hides stand on their tails against the walls, and goodness knows how many big boxes are, containing, as those open show, beautifully soft, thick, cream-coloured slabs, which is fish. And where still other men, in overalls stained like a painter's palette, are knocking off the heads of casks and dipping out of brine still other kinds of fish for inspection.
Here it is said by the head of the house, by the stove (it is chill weather) in his office like a ship-master's cabin: "Strong market on foreign mackerel. Mines hinder Norway catch. Advices from abroad report that German resources continue to purchase all available supplies from the Norwegian fishermen. No Irish of any account. Recent shipment sold on the deck at high prices. Fair demand from the Middle West."
So, by stages, on up to turn into North Moore Street, looking down a narrow lane between two long bristling rows of wagons pointed out from the curbs, to the facades of the North River docks at the bottom, with the tops of the buff funnels of ocean liners, and Whistleranean silhouettes of derricks, rising beyond. Hereabout are more importers, exporters, and "producers" of fish, famous in their calling beyond the celebrities of popular publicity. And he that has official entree may learn, by mounting dusky stairs, half-ladder and half-stair, and by passing through low-ceilinged chambers freighted with many barrels, to the sanctums of the fish lords, what's doing in the foreign herring way, and get the current market quotations, at present sky-high, and hear that the American shore mackerel catch is very fine stock.
Then roundabout, with a step into the broad vista of homely Washington Street, and a turn through Franklin Street, where is the man decorated by the Imperial Japanese Government with a gold medal, if he should care to wear it, for having distinguished himself in the development of commerce in the marine products of Japan, back to Hudson Street. An authentic railroad is one of the spectacular features of Hudson Street.
Here down the middle of the way are endless trains, stopping, starting, crashing, laden to their ears with freight, doubtless all to eat. Tourists should come from very far to view Hudson Street. Here is a spectacle as fascinating, as awe-inspiring, as extraordinary as any in the world. From dawn until darkness falls, hour after hour, along Hudson Street slowly, steadily moves a mighty procession of great trucks. One would not suppose there were so many trucks on the face of the earth. It is a glorious sight, and any man whose soul is not dead should jump with joy to see it. And the thunder of them altogether as they bang over the stones is like the music of the spheres.
There is on Hudson Street a tall handsome building where the fish reporter goes, which should be enjoyed in this way: Up in the lift you go to the top, and then you walk down, smacking your lips. For all the doors in that building are brimming with poetry. And the tune of it goes like this: "Toasted Corn-Flake Co.," "Seaboard Rice," "Chili Products," "Red Bloom Grape Juice Sales Office," "Porto Rico and Singapore Pineapple Co.," "Sunnyland Foodstuffs," "Importers of Fruit Pulps, Pimentos," "Sole Agents U.S.A. Italian Salad Oil," "Raisin Growers," "Log Cabin Syrups," "Jobbers in Beans, Peas," "Chocolate and Cocoa Preparations," "Ohio Evaporated Milk Co.," "Bernese Alps and Holland Condensed Milk Co.," "Brazilian Nuts Co.," "Brokers Pacific Coast Salmon," "California Tuna Co.," and thus on and on.
The fish reporter crosses the street to see the head of the Sardine Trust, who has just thrown the market into excitement by a heavy cut in prices of last year's pack. Thence, pausing to refresh himself by the way at a sign "Agency for Reims Champagne and Moselle Wines—Bordeaux Clarets and Sauternes," over to Broadway to interview the most august persons of all, dealers in fertiliser, "fish scrap." These mighty gentlemen live, when at business, in palatial suites of offices constructed of marble and fine woods and laid with rich rugs. The reporter is relayed into the innermost sanctum by a succession of richly clothed attendants. And he learns, it may be, that fishing in Chesapeake Bay is so poor that some of the "fish factories" may decide to shut down. Acid phosphate, it is said, is ruling at $13 f.o.b. Baltimore.
And so the fish reporter enters upon the last lap of his rounds. Through, perhaps, the narrow, crooked lane of Pine Street he passes, to come out at length upon a scene set for a sea tale. Here would a lad, heir to vast estates in Virginia, be kidnapped and smuggled aboard to be sold a slave in Africa. This is Front Street. A white ship lies at the foot of it. Cranes rise at her side. Tugs, belching smoke, bob beyond. All about are ancient warehouses, redolent of the Thames, with steep roofs and sometimes stairs outside, and with tall shutters, a crescent-shaped hole in each. There is a dealer in weather-vanes. Other things dealt in hereabout are these: chronometers, "nautical instruments," wax gums, cordage and twine, marine paints, cotton wool and waste, turpentine, oils, greases, and rosin. Queer old taverns, public houses, are here, too. Why do not their windows rattle with a "Yo, ho, ho"?
There is an old, old house whose business has been fish oil within the memory of men. And here is another. Next, through Water Street, one comes in search of the last word on salt fish. Now the air is filled with gorgeous smell of roasting coffee. Tea, coffee, sugar, rice, spices, bags and bagging here have their home. And there are haughty bonded warehouses filled with fine liquors. From his white cabin at the top of a venerable structure comes the dean of the salt-fish business. "Export trade fair," he says; "good demand from South America."
ON GOING A JOURNEY
One of the pleasantest things in the world is "going a journey"—but few know it now. It isn't every one that can go a journey. No doubt one that owns an automobile cannot go. The spirit of the age has got him fast. Begoggled and with awful squawks, feverish, exultant, ignorant, he is condemned to hoot over the earth. Thus the wealthy know nothing of journeys, for they must own motors. Vain people and envious people and proud people cannot go, because the wealthy do not. Silly people do not know enough to go. The lazy cannot, because of their laziness. The busy hang themselves with business. The halt nor the aged, alas! cannot go. In fine, only such as are whole anywise and pure in heart can go a journey, and they are the blessed.
"We arrive at places now, but we" (most of us) "travel no more." The way a journey is gone, to come to the point, is walking. Asking many folks' pardon, to tear through the air in an open car, deafened, hilariously muddled by the rush and roar of wind, is to drive observation from the mind: it is to be, in a manner, complacently, intellectually unconscious; is to drink an enjoyment akin to that of the shooters of the chute, or that got on the very latest of this sort of engine of human amusement called the "Hully-Gee-Whizz," a pleasure of the ignorant, metaphorically, a kind of innocents' rot-gut whiskey. The way a journey is gone, which is walking, is a wine, a mellow claret, stimulating to observation, to thought, to speculation, to the flow of talk, gradually, decently warming the blood. Rightly taken (which manner this paper attempts to set forth), walking is among the pleasures of the mind. It is a call-boy to wit, a hand-maiden to cultivation. Sufficiently indulged in, it will make a man educated, a wit, a poet, an ironist, a philosopher, a gentleman, a better Christian (not to dwell upon improving his digestion and prolonging his life). And, too, like true Shandyism "it opens the heart and the lungs." Whoso hath ears, let him hear! Once and for all, if the mad world did but know it, the best, the most exquisite automobile is a walking-stick; and one of the finest things in life is going a journey with it.
No one, though (this is the first article to be observed), should ever go a journey with any other than him with whom one walks arm in arm, in the evening, the twilight, and, talking (let us suppose) of men's given names, agrees that if either should have a son he shall be named after the other. Walking in the gathering dusk, two and two, since the world began, there have always been young men who have time to one another plighted their troth. If one is not still one of these, then, in the sense here used, journeys are over for him. What is left to him of life he may enjoy, but not journeys. Mention should be made in passing that some have been found so ignorant of the nature of journeys as to suppose that they might be taken in company with members, or a member, of the other sex. Now, one who writes of journeys would cheerfully be burned at the stake before he would knowingly underestimate women. But it must be confessed that it is another season in the life of man that they fill.
They are too personal for the high enjoyment of going a journey. They must be forever thinking about you or about themselves; with them everything in the world is somehow tangled up in these matters; and when you are with them (you cannot help it, or if you could they would not allow it), you must be forever thinking about them or yourself. Nothing on either side can be seen detached. They cannot rise to that philosophic plane of mind which is the very marrow of going a journey. One reason for this is that they can never escape from the idea of society. You are in their society, they are in yours; and the multitudinous personal ties which connect you all to that great order called society that you have for a period got away from physically are present. Like the business man who goes on a vacation from business and takes his business habits along with him, so on a journey they would bring society along, and all sort of etiquette.
He that goes a journey shakes off the trammels of the world; he has fled all impediments and inconveniences; he belongs, for the moment, to no time or place. He is neither rich nor poor, but in that which he thinks and sees. There is not such another Arcadia for this on earth as in going a journey. He that goes a journey escapes, for a breath of air, from all conventions; without which, though, of course, society would go to pot; and which are the very natural instinct of women.
The best time for going a journey (a connoisseur speaks it) is some morning when it has rained well the day or night before, and the soil of the road, where it is not evenly packed, is of about that substance of which the fingers can make fine "tees" for golfing. This is the precise composition of earth and dampness underfoot most sympathetic to the spine, the knee sockets, the muscles, tendons, ligaments of limb, back, neck, breast and abdomen, and the spirit of locomotion in the ancient exercise of walking. On this day the protruding stones have been washed bald in the road; the lines and marks of drainage are still clearly, freshly defined in the soil; in the gutters light-coloured sand has risen to the surface with the dark moist soil in a grained effect not unlike marbled chocolate cake; and clean, sweet gravel is laid bare here and there in the wagon ruts. This is the chosen time for the nerves and senses. On such a day the whole world greets one cleansed and having on a fresh bib-and-tucker. It is a conscious pleasure to have eyes. It is as if one long near-sighted without knowing it had suddenly been fitted with the proper spectacles. It is sweet to have olfactories. Whoso hath lungs, let him breathe. Man was made to rejoice!
How green, on such a day, are the greens; the distant purples how purple! The stone walls are cool. The great canvas of the sky has been but newly brushed in, as if by some modern landscape painter (the tube colours seem yet hardly dry); the technique, the brush-marks, show in the unutterably soft, warm-white clouds; or, like a puff of beaten-egg white, wells above that orchard hill. Higher up, thinly touched across the blue, a great sweep of downy, swan breast-breast feathers spreads. But not one canvas is this sky; ceaselessly it changes with the minutes. To observe is to walk through an endless gallery of countless pictures. It is alone a life-study. Now the wind has blown it clear as blue limpidness; now scattered flakes appear; now it is deep blue; now pale; now it tinges darkly; now it is a layer of cream. Again, it breaks into shapes—decorative shapes, odd shapes, lovely shapes, shapes always fresh. Its innovations are unflagging, inexhaustable. Always art, its genius is infinite.
One must go a journey to discover how vast the sky really is, and the world. To mount, bending forward, up by a long, tree-walled ascent from some valley, and come upon this spectacular sight—the fair globe that man inhabits lying away before one like a gigantic physical map, a map in relief, cunningly painted in the colours of nature, laid off by woods and orchards and roads and stone walls into many decorative shapes until it melts into purple, and fainter and fainter and still fainter purple Japanese hills. The sight is some of the noble quarry, the game; this is the anise-seed bag of him that goes a journey. Some glimmering of the nobility of the plan of which he is a fell, erring speck comes over one as he looks. This is the religious side of going a journey.
It is best to go a journey on a road that you do not know; on a road that lures you on to peep over the crest of yonder hill, that ever flees before you in a game of hide-and-seek, disappearing behind great, jutting rocks and turns and trees, to leap out again at your approach and laughingly, elusively, continually slip before you; a road that winds anon where some roaring brook pours near by; a road that may deceive you and trick you into miles out of your way.
A high breeze rushes through the trees and fans the traveller's opened pores. With a sudden, startling whir, mounting with their hearts, a bird flushes from the tangled growth at the roadside.
The worst roads for walking are such as are commonly called the best; that is, macadam. A macadam pavement is a piece of masonry, wholly without elasticity, built for vehicles to roll over. To go a journey without a walking-stick much would be lost; indeed it would be folly. A stick is the fly-wheel of the engine. Something is needed to whack things with, little stones, wormy apples, and so forth, in the road. It can be changed from one hand to the other, which is a great help. Then if one slips a trifle on a down-grade turn it is a lengthened arm thrown out to steady one. It is the pilgrim's staff. On the up-grades it assists climbing. It is a weapon of defence if such should ever be needed. It is a badge of dignity, a dress sword. It is the sceptre of walking.
Dipping the dales, riding the swells, the automobiles come, like gigantic bugs coming after the wicked. With a sucking rush of wind and dust and an odour of gasoline they are past. Stray pieces of paper at the roadside arise and fly after them, then, further on, sink impotent, exhausted.
"I have found that no exertion of the legs can bring two minds much nearer to one another!" One who goes much a-journeying cannot understand how Thoreau got it so completely turned around. But after the first effervescence of going a journey (of speech a time of times) has passed, and when, next, the fine novelty of open observation has begun to pale, there are still copious resources left; one retires on the way, metaphorically speaking, into one's closet for meditation, for miles of silent thought—when one's stride is mechanical, and is like an absent-minded drumming with the fingers; but that it is better, for it pumps the blood for freer thought than in lethargic sitting.
In this rhythmic moving one thinks as to a tune. To sit thus absolutely silent, absent in thought completely, even with that friend one wears in one's heart's core, will at length become dull for one or other; sitting thus one is tempted, too, to speech. Walking, it is not so. One may talk or one may not. If both wish to think, both feel as if something sociable is being done in just walking together. If one does not care to go wool-gathering, the other does not leave him without entertainment; walking alone is entertainment. It is assumed, of course, that one goes a journey in silence as in speech with the companion with whom one has been best seasoned. Silently walking, the movement of the mind keeps step in thought exactly with the movement of the man, so that the pace is a thermometer of the temperature at that moment of one's brain.
One who has written on going a journey as well perhaps as the world will ever see it done owned that he never had had a watch. Further, he intimated that the possession of one was an indication of poverty of mental resource. It was his own wont, he said, to pass hours, whole days, unconscious of the night of time. He described his father as taking out his watch to look at whenever he could think of nothing else to do. His father, our author says, was no metaphysician. It must be confessed that one now writing of journeys, sometimes, somewhat unmetaphysician-like, conscious of the flight of time, has communication with a watch; and, finding the day well advanced, decides, speaking very figuratively, to lay the cloth, beneath some twisted, low, gnarled apple tree.
"At the next shadow," he suggests.
"Let's wait until we get to the top of this hill, first."
"Here we are."
Sweet rest! when one throws one's members down upon the turf and there lets them lie, as if they were so many detached packages dropped. Then one feels the exquisite nerve luxury of having legs: while one rests them. One's back could lie thus prone forever. One feels, sucking all the rich pleasure of it, that one couldn't move one's arms, lift one's hand, if one had to. What are the world's rewards if this is not one!
At length in going a journey comes a time when one tiredly shrinks from the work of speech, when observation dozes, and thought lolls like a limp sail that only idly stirs at the passing zephyrs; the legs like piston-rods strike on; when the pleasure is like that almost of dull narcotics; one realises only dimly that one is moving. At such times as these, coming from one knows not whence, and one feels too weak to search back to discover, there flit across the mind strange fragments, relevant, as they seem, to nothing whatever present.
When a journey has been made one way, the trick has been done; the superfluous energy which inspired it has found escape; the way to return is not by walking. A friend to fatigue is this, that in walking back one is not on a voyage of discovery; one knows the way and very much what one will see on it; one knows the distance. In fact, the fruit has been plucked: the bloom is gone; to walk back would be like tedious marching with a regiment. One should return resting. On trains one returns from a journey.
Whoso hath life, one thinks as his journey draws to its close, let him live it! What does it profit a man, if he gain the whole world and never know his own soul?
GOING TO ART EXHIBITIONS
There are two opposing views as to going to art exhibitions. And much with a good deal of reason may be said on both sides. There is one very vigorous attitude which holds that the pictures are the thing. This, indeed, is a perfectly ponderable theory. But it may be questioned whether in its ardour it does not go a little far. For it affirms that people are a confounded nuisance at art exhibitions, and should not be permitted to be there, to distract one's attention from the peaceful contemplation of works of art, and to infuriate one by their asinine remarks in the holy presence of beauty. I have heard it declared with very impressive spirit, and reasoned with much force, that only one person, or at most only one person and his chosen companion, should be allowed in an art gallery at a time. It is debatable, however, whether this intellectually aristocratic idea is altogether practicable. On the other hand, was it not even Little Billie who found the people at art exhibitions frequently more interesting than the pictures?
Anyhow, persons who write about art exhibitions confine themselves exclusively to the subject of art. When they gossip it is about the pictures, the painters, and the sculpture. True, of course, this is their job, and then, these persons go on press days and so only see, outside of that which is intentionally exhibited, other critics.
Now, there is nothing in all the world quite like art exhibitions. Beyond any other sort of show they possess a spirit which (to use a pet and an excellent critical expression of one of our foremost art critics) is "grand, gloomy, and peculiar." You feel this charged atmosphere at once at an art exhibition. You walk softly, you speak low, and you endeavour to become as intelligent as possible. Art exhibitions, in short, present various features indigenous to themselves which, so far as I am aware, have not before been adequately commented upon. The principal observations which they solicit are as follows:
First, art exhibitions are attended by two classes of people: very fine-looking people, and funny-looking people. There is a very striking kind of a young man goes to art exhibitions that I myself never accomplish seeing anywhere else, though sometimes I see pictures of him. This young man is superbly patrician. You may have remarked this singular phenomenon. All the young men in all the advertisements in the magazine Vanity Fair are the same young man, whether riding in a splendid motor car, elegantly attending the play, or doing a little shooting of birds. You know him, for one thing, by his exquisite moustache. This fastidiously groomed, exclusively tailored young man, to be seen in the pages spoken of and at art exhibitions, is certainly not of Art, nor is he of business. He takes no account whatever, apparently, of time, as men of business do; and manifestly one could not work in such a moustache and such clothes without mussing them. He is, in fine, of Vanity Fair. Oscar Wilde was, as usual, wrong when he said that all beautiful things were quite useless. This immaculate young man's practical function at art exhibitions, as perhaps elsewhere, is that of escort.
He is escort to groups of very handsome and very expensive-looking young ladies; and these fragrant, rustling groups, with the waxen, patrician young man in tow, stroll slowly about, catalogues unnoticed in hand, without pause skirting the picture-hung walls. They are very still, and they gaze upon the art that they pass with the look of a doe contemplating the meaning of the appearance of a man. The perfect escorts of these groups, who would seem naturally to be rather gay young men, look very serious indeed. Now one of them gracefully, though as if careful not to make any noise, bends to one of the young ladies; and, indicating by a solemn look one of the paintings, he whispers to her apparently concerning it. She silently nods: it is, evidently, quite as he says. When an art exhibition is so undertakery a thing you wouldn't think that one would come. Though perhaps it is that one ought.
At any rate, there is quite a turn-out to-day moving beneath the ghostly glow of the shrouded sky-light ceiling. Half the Avenue seems to be here. What a play it is, this highly urban throng! Let us sit here on this divan down the middle of the room. With what a stately march the pictures go in their golden frames along the symphonious, burlap walls! There, by that copious piece of intelligence, Manet's "Music Lesson," is—
But see! What has come over our earnest group? Those who compose it are all quite changed. They look as happy as can be, all beaming with smiles, their backs to the neighbouring walls. Friends, it seems, have greeted them. How they all bubble on, all about the outside world! But goodness! Now what is the matter? Suddenly one of the newcomers is struck by a startled look. She sees, that is it, one of the pictures. In an arrested voice she says: "Oh, isn't that perfectly lovely!" At once the happy light fades from the faces of all. An awed hush falls upon them as stiffly they turn their heads in the direction of her view. "Charming!" one of the young men breathes, staring intently at the painting which has come upon them. That it is awkward for everybody is plain. But, happily, there is much rebound to youth. One of the young ladies, at length, shakes herself free from the pall upon her spirits; the mesmeric spell is broken; and presently all are chatting again, gaily oblivious to Art.
By the way, there is the proprietor of the gallery, just before the three Renoir pastels. Is there anything about art exhibitions that more enlists the imagination than the study of the "dealers" themselves? The gentlemen who preside at art exhibitions fall, rather violently, into three, perhaps four, classes. You have, I dare say, been repeatedly struck by the quaintly inappropriate character in appearance of those of one of these classes. I mean, of course, those very horsey-looking men, with decidedly "hard" faces, loudly dressed, and dowered with hoarse voices. They would seem to be bookmakers, exceedingly prosperous publicans, bunco-brokers, militant politicians—anything save of the Kingdom of Art. Are their polished Bill Sykes' exteriors but bizarre domiciles for lofty souls? I cannot tell.
Here and there, it is true, you find the aesthete in effect among dealers: the wired moustaches, the spindle-legged voice, and the ardent spirit in discussing his wares with lady visitors. Our horsey type seems rather ponderous and phlegmatic in this matter. Then there is, too, a land of art exhibition which is very close indeed to Art, a kind of spirited propaganda, in fact, which is presided over by those of hierarchical character, beings as to hair and cravat, swarthy complexion and mystic gesticulation, holy from the world and mocked by the profane.
But, to my mind, the most satisfying sort of a host to observe at an art exhibition is that of the description of this admirable dealer before us. Benign, frock-coated, hands clasped behind him, he stands, symbol of gentlemanly, merchantly dignity. Occasionally he rises upon his toes, and then sinks again to his heels obviously with satisfaction. But that which proclaims the perfect equity of his mind is this: his nice recognition of the nuances in human kind. You perceive that his bow to each of his guests, that he recognises at all, is graduated according to the precise degree of that person's value to Art; that to some few, royal patrons presumably, being at an angle of forty-five degrees; while a common amateur of Art is acknowledged by one of five. Where—to continue the paraphrase of a pleasant observation upon Mr. George Brummell—it is a mere question of recognising the fact that a certain person dwells on the same planet with Art "a slight relaxation of the features" is made to suffice.
So! This profound bow is plainly meant for a particular tribute to one who wears the richest purple. Lo! He advances with unclasped hands. Pleasure beams from his countenance. Without such as she Art, and dealers, and galleries, and the recorded beauty of the world would perforce pass away. This entertaining personage, who is the great flurry at art exhibitions, is of the novelists' dowager Duchess type. A short, obese, and jovial figure, or dried and withered but imperious distinction, as the case may be. There is much crackling of fine garments, a brilliant display of lorgnette, and this penetrating and comprehensive royal critical dictum: "Isn't that interesting! So full of feeling."
Two outstanding features, you mark, of art exhibitions everywhere are here presented. Is any one who doesn't know what he is talking about at art exhibitions (and which of us does?) properly equipped for attendance there without this happy esoteric phrase "full of feeling"? It is safe, or as safe as anything can be, to say about any picture. It graphically indicates in the speaker delicate sensitivity and emotional responsiveness to Art. And, most beneficently, it subtly evades anything like the trying ordeal of an analysis of a work of art. It is, indeed, invaluable.
The other thing is this: There is no place going which is so well adapted to the exhibition of handsome, fashionable, or eccentric eye-glasses as an art exhibition. You observe there all that is newest and classy in glasses, and you are insistently invited to admiring study of the art of wearing queer glasses effectively, and of taking them off, letting them bound on their leash, doubling them up, opening them out, and putting them on with a gesture.
The complimentary type to the storied Duchess at art exhibitions is represented by yonder portly blood, in this case a replica of the late King Edward. The fruitful spectacle of art exhibitions, I think, presents nothing which gives one a more gratifying sense of their dignity and of the imperial character of Art than the presence there of these patently highly solvent, ruddy joweled, admirably tailored, and impressively worldly looking connoisseurs of painting to be seen scrutinising the pictures at close range, in a near-sighted way, and rather grimly, as though somewhat sceptically appraising possibly dubious merchandise.
Hello, there's Mr. Chase! And that's a fortunate thing, too, as no sympathetic picture of a representative American art exhibition should omit Mr. Chase. Whether or not we think of him as our premier painter, we should be inordinately proud of him. Undoubtedly he is a great artist. He has wrought himself in the grand manner. In person he delights the eye, and satisfies the imagination. With his inevitable top-hat, his heavy eye-glasses cord, his military moustaches and upward pointing beard, his pouter-pigeon carriage, his glowing spats and his boutonniere, his aroma of distinction, and his ruddy consciousness of his prestige, he is our great tour-de-force as a figure in the artistic scene. He is here, naturally, now the target of popular interest.
The practice of having artists shown at their own exhibitions is one too little cultivated. The Napoleonic brow and the Napoleonic forelock (famous in their circle) of George Luks, the torrential Luksean mirth, how would not their actual presence open the spiritual eyes of visiting school-children to the humane qualities of the works of the Luksean genius! And why should we who procure for our better perception of their works illuminating biographies of the Old Masters not be permitted the intellectual stimulation of beholding the Ten American Painters seated along on a bench at their annual show? The subject of the artists themselves, however, brings us around to the line between the two kinds of people having to do with art exhibitions: fine-looking people and funny-looking people.
Come; let us trot along. Artists themselves are, in a most pronounced degree, of both kinds. And a very singular thing is this: the funnier an artist's pictures are, the funnier-looking is the artist that made them. We'll stop in here, at The Advanced Gallery.
"Ah! How are you?"
That, just going out, is one of the newest groups of painters, known as the Homeopathics. I used to know him before he went abroad. And the curious thing is, that at that time he was very good-looking. He was clean shaven. This strange assortment of whiskers of different fashions on various parts of his face, imperial, goatee, burnsides, he brought back with him.
Notice as we step from the car at the gallery floor the numerous others here who also were at the show we just left. And those who are thus making the rounds, you perceive, are not of what is called society, but of the kind known in these circles, doubtless, as interesting. Nearly everybody in this gallery, in fact, is of the interesting sort. At once it is apparent that there is nothing of the perfunctory here. Art is vital. Art is earnest. The atmosphere is tense. The young women are clad in a manner giving much freedom to the movement of their bodies. They walk with a stride. Their clothes are not of the mode of the Avenue, but they have—how shall I say? To twist what Whistler said of his model: Character, character is what these clothes have. They suggest, many of these young women, the type that has never got back from—
"Do you know Chelsea at all?" asks one of them, of an anarchic-looking young man.
Never got back, as I was about to say, from Chelsea. A couple of other anarchic-looking young men are viewing a painting in the manner that a painting, or perhaps this particular painting, is intended to be viewed; that is by squinting at it first over the tops of their hands and then through their fingers. They discuss it darkly, in low, passionate tones. They advance upon it; and, a few inches before it, one, as though holding a brush in his hand, sweeps eloquently with his arm, following the contour of the painted figure. Legerdemain kind of thing, painting, isn't it? Sort of a black art, when you see into the science of it.
Well, I declare! Here's a friend of mine—there, talking with the Titian-haired lady in the exotic gown. Now, he is coming over to us.
He says he wants us to know Ben-Gunn, who is here, "one of the new crowd," he says. My friend is very keen on the new crowd; everything else he declares is "passe." Anyhow, it is a very valuable experience to talk with an exhibitor at an art exhibition. Your mind is impregnated, until it swells dizzily in your head. That would be he, the illiterate-looking little creature with the uncombed and unsanitary-looking mop.
There! I knew he would say something, something that would never leave you again the same. "Nothing is shiny in Nature," says Mr. Ben-Gunn as though rather depressed, surveying a canvas in this respect unhappily divorced from the truth. "Nature," he adds with Brahminic finality, "is always dull."
Mr. Ben-Gunn is greeted affectionately by a gentleman you always see at every art exhibition. This is Mr.—I forget his name—it is French; I know he writes on Art for Demos; a remarkable being who apparently talks, hears, and sees nothing else but aestheticism. For as there are types peculiar to art exhibitions, so there are certain individuals apparently quite peculiar to art exhibitions. Come, let us go on down to see some Old Masters. Notice there in the corner the foreign-looking gentleman with the three foreign-looking children. That, the quiet, cultivated, foreign father and his children, is one of the pleasantest sights frequently to be seen at art exhibitions. Thus he is to be seen, easily and intimately discussing the pictures with his attentive followers.
The great point about the study of art exhibitions from the point of view of the humanist is the affinity between pictures and people. Here, for instance, on Madison Square, amid the art heritage of times past, what is it that at once strikes you? Why, that old paintings evidently are quite passe to the new crowd. At these exhibitions preliminary to the big auction sales of venerable masters, and of middle-aged masters, and of venerable and middle-aged not-quite-masters, there is a very attractive class of people, a class of funny-looking, fine-looking people, a class, that is, of rather shabby-looking people who look as if they might be very rich, of dull-looking people who look as if they might be very bright. They buy huge catalogues at a dollar or so apiece, which they consult continually. They arrive early and remain a long time.
The women of this audience frequently are rather dowdy, and shapen in very individual fashions. The men generally are elderly beings, now and then reminiscent of the period of Horace Greeley. They are very bald, or with untrimmed white (not grey) hair, and, sometimes, Uncle-Sam-like whiskers. They are usually very wrinkled as to trowsers and overcoats. Here and there among the gentlemen of this company is to be seen one who looks strikingly like Emile Zola, or the late Mr. Pierpont Morgan slightly gone to seed. All these charming folk make of looking at old-fashioned pictures a very busy occupation, and also in effect a rather mundane occupation, as though they were alertly considering the possibility of making a selection from among a variety of serviceable kitchen chairs.
Argumenting the throng are authentic representatives of the world of fashion; some who appear to be students; the ever present foreigners, including the frequently present Jap; a number of those enigmatic beings who continually take notes at art exhibitions; and a respectable quota of those ladies we always have with us at art exhibitions who in the presence of pictures and it necessary to say: "Isn't that wonderful, marvellous tone quality!" Occasionally a decidedly quaint student of Art strolls in, past the imposing flunky (in finery a bit faded) at the door, strolls in in the form of a lodger in Madison Square. He looks at the pictures as if thoughtfully, but without animation.
Well, we have now covered, in an elementary way, about every important species of art show, except one, the most human perhaps of all, that held annually on Fifty-seventh Street. We should hardly have time to go up there to-day. I'll tell you about it. There are several reasons why this exhibition is the most human perhaps of all. One is that more people go than to any other. And these people, taken by and large, are more human, too, than one sees at most art exhibitions, that is more like just ordinary people. This may be, for one thing, because the pictures as a rule are more ordinary pictures. And a very human touch, indeed, is this: when you see the card "Sold" on a painting it is fairly certain to be one of the most ordinary pictures of the lot.
That reminds one of museums. People who are called in the world to the curious pursuit of copying pictures in museums, for some reason or other which I have been unable as yet to work out, apparently always copy the most bourgeois pictures there. But museums, with their throngs of subdued holiday makers and their crowds of weary gaping aliens of the submerged order, museums comprise a separate study.
At any rate, I hope in our stroll I have been able to give you a new insight into the fascination of the great world of Art.
A ROUNDABOUT PAPER
No reader of The Spectator will have forgotten an article which appeared there some years ago entitled "As to Bears." Or ever will forget it until his shall be "the shut lid and the granite lip of him who has done with sunsets and skating, and has turned away his face from all manner of Irish," as William Vaughn Moody says. Not only because it was one of the finest things ever in The Spectator, or anywhere else (after, possibly, that imperishable dissertation of the great Dean's—or was it Sir William Temple's?—"On a Broomstick"), but also because it was one pure flower in our day of a kind of art little cultivated any more. "As to Bears." All, me! How engaging, simple, gracious, and at ease; what perfection of literary breeding; what an amused and genial wave of the finger tips; how marked by good-humoured acuteness, and animated nonchalance; how saturated with a distinguished, humane tradition of letters—that title!
That is just the note I would strike in the great book I have been brooding for years, "Bums I Have Known." It has been my felicity to have known more bums, I think, than any living man. But I fear I shall never get that book written. And this is a pity. It is a pity because this book would be of great value in the years to come. With our modern passion for efficiency, and with efficiency rapidly becoming compulsory everywhere, that colourful class of ancient lineage, the bums, is quickly becoming persona non grata to our civilisation, and will soon be extinct. To the next generation, in all probability, the word bum will be but an empty name. I doubt whether it would be a feasible plan for Dr. Hornaday to undertake to preserve a small number of this species in the Bronx Park. The bum nature, I fear, would languish in captivity. The creature would likely lose its health, and, worse, its spirits. It is a nomad, a child of nature. It takes no thought for the morrow, as our modern prophets teach us to do. I remember well an excellent bum (I mean excellently conforming to type), one Bain, who, growing restive under restraint, lost a position which he happened to have. I asked him what he was going to do now. There was something sublime about that being. He had faith that the Lord would provide. His simple reply was: "Well, the ravens fed Elijah."
Stuffed bums in the American Museum of Natural History would not be any good. Any good, that is, as objects of study. Our children will require to know, to see the past steadily and see it whole, the habits of bums, their manners and customs. So, as I say, my work would be invaluable. The wastrel (as they say in England) has, of course, been celebrated in the literature of the past from time immemorial. I can't at the moment put my finger on any, but I have no doubt there are bums in the pages of Homer, That Persian philosopher who found paradise enow with a jug of wine and a book of verse beneath a bough, Falstaff, Richard Swiveller, how they flock to the mind, they of the care-free kidney! They are in the Books of the great Hebrew literature. There was he that took his journey into a far country. "Gil Blas" and all the early picaresque novels on into the pages of "The Romany Rye" swarm with them. But what is wanting, what will be needed, is a richly informed picture of the last of the race, those now, like the Indian and the buffalo, fast passing away. There is only one way in which such a book could be, or should be written.
"Peace be with the soul of that charitable and Courteous Author who introduced the ingenious way of miscellaneous writing," wrote Lord Shaftsbury in the opening paragraph of his "Miscellaneous Reflections." Peace be with the souls of all those who, for the delight of the anointed, have practised that most debonair of all the arts, the ingenious way of miscellaneous writing! Now, as highly successful novelists always say nowadays when interviewed for highly successful newspapers, "I know very little about literature," but I fancy this benign way of writing had its well-spring in those preposterous days, now long fled, when men of reading were content to give their best thoughts first to their friends and then—ten years or so afterwards—to the "publick." Its period was the day of the "wits"—those beaux of the mind.
I guess the reason it has gone by the board is that it was what would be called "literary." And there is nothing we are so scared of to-day as the literary. It was not those dons the critics, we are told on the subway cards, who made Dickens immortal—it was YOU. And our foremost magazines advertise the "un-literary essay." "Literary expression," that Addisonian English stuff, whose elegance pleasantly conceals the lack of ideas beneath, is taboo in these parts. What we want is writers who have something to say, and who say it naturally and without any beating about the bush.
While the spell of miscellaneous writing, for those who savour it, is the author's joyous inability, it would seem, to get any "forrader," to stick to the point, to carry anything with a rush. See the greatest miscellaneous writer who ever lived, as an admirable later miscellaneous writer the late (in a literary sense) Hon. Augustine Birrell calls him, the Rev. Laurence Sterne. See positively the most buoyant book in all the world; I mean, of course, "The Path to Rome," by Hilaire Belloc. That glorious newspaper article, "Is Genius Conscious of Its Power?" starts off, indeed, with an allusion to the subject of genius. But the genius of this writer, of such unsurpassed and ingratiating savagery, soon turns to its true business of getting lost in the woods, and we take it from William Hazlitt that all in power are a lot of crooks.
So one born under the miscellaneous writer's star who purposed to write on, say, bums he had known would quite likely begin with a disquisition upon the importance of a good shape of human ear, and very naturally would conclude, with some warmth, with a denunciation of tight trowsers. And he would, of course, wander by the way into pleasant reminiscences of his childhood—how, for instance, the child gets his idea of what a native is from the cuts in his geography book. I well remember the first time I was alluded to in my presence as a native. I was very indignant. I knew what natives looked like from the cuts I had pored over. They were a fine, spirited race, very picturesquely attired, mostly in bows and arrows, and as creatures of romance I admired them greatly. Persons such as I and my parents were generally depicted in this connection as fleeing from them. And it did strike me as an ignoramus kind of thing that I should be called a native. When I was reasoned with to the effect that I was a native of Indiana, my resentment but grew. There were no natives in Indiana.
Speaking of efficiency reminds me of the real estate business. I have recently come somewhat into contact with this business and I have observed certain outstanding facts about it which I have not seen commented upon before. To set up in the real estate business one thing above all else is necessary, that is uncommon familiarity with the word "imagination." If you are thinking of buying a lot you will meet a tall, fair man, or a short, dark man (as the case may be), but in any case as unimaginative-looking a man as you could readily imagine. From this person you will learn that the thing at the bottom of every great fortune was imagination. If the location of the lot which you view strikes you as rather a desolate and barren-looking part of the world the trouble is not with the location but with you. Forty-second Street looked worse than that at one time. Thus, I imagine, if you have sufficient imagination you buy the lot.
It is a remarkable thing that the most startling spectacle in New York has never struck any one but myself. Forty-second Street puts me in mind of this. If you were a native of the Sandwich Islands and had never before been in town and were standing at the South-East corner of Broadway and Fulton Street at nine o'clock in the morning and were facing West, you would cry out aghast at this sight: You would see the quiet, old world grave-yard of St. Paul's Chapel, the funereal stone urn upon its stone post marking the corner and the leaning headstones beyond. There is no trumpet sound. But from a mouth at the grave-yard's side the earth belches forth a host which springs quick into the new day. It is a remarkable spectacle to contemplate, fraught with portent and symbol, though the mouth is a subway kiosk, my Sandwich friend.
Now, there are men who walk about London just as some men collect books. They are amateurs of London. Year by year they add precious souvenirs to their rich collections, the find of an old passage way here, there the view when the light is quite right from one precise spot, say, on Waterloo Bridge. Sometimes, indeed, they write books about their hobby, more or less useful to the neophyte: as "A Wayfarer's London," or "A Wanderer in London," or "Ghosts of Piccadilly," or some such thing; but more frequently they are of the highest type of amateur, the connoisseur who will gladly share his joy in his treasures with a cultivated friend but has nothing of his love to sell. I doubt whether there are any such amateurs of New York, any who for thirty years and more have walked our streets as an intellectual sport with unabated zest. London, of course, has the drop on us in the matter of richness of material for this sort of collector, but there is plenty to bag at home. Not far from the corner of Broadway and Fulton Street, I recollect, is a queer place called Vandewater Street.
Some twenty years or so ago you used to go to melodramas, real melodramas. There are aesthetic revivals of melodrama in Boston, I hear. There was nothing aesthetic about the ones I mean, and the enjoyment of them was untainted by the malady of thought. Come along now. We'll dive through Park Row and turn here down Frankfort Street. Few do turn down Frankfort Street, and I fear its admirable points are unappreciated. For one thing, it goes down, down, down a very steep incline; which is a spirited thing for a street to do, I think. And it is very narrow, at the beginning, with sidewalks that hug the walls, and is always in shadow, so that it has a fine, wild, villainous look. Horses climbing it always come with a plunge and a grinding of sparks. And the roar from the cobble stones is deafening, very stimulating to the imagination. The atmosphere is one of typefounders, leather, hides, and oyster houses.
Very few people, I fancy, could tell you where there is a portcullis in New York just like the one at a gateway in The Tower. But if you snook around the arches of the Brooklyn Bridge you'll find one, with a winding stair disappearing beyond it, and mounting, presumably, to a dungeon. Newswomen, I think, are pleasanter to see than newsboys. There is a newsgirl who minds a stand here at the corner of Rose and Frankfort Streets who is charming as a type of 'Arriet. She always wears an enormous hat. A fine thing for a 'Arriet to do, I think. Sometimes the stand is minded by her mother. (I take it, it is her mother.) An old body who always has her head wrapped in a knitted affair. A fine thing for an old body to do, I think. Phil May would have delighted in Frankfort Street. So would Rembrandt. Here comes an elderly person, evidently George Luk's "My Old Pal," who is balancing a large bundle of sticks on her head. Across the way is a Whistler etching; Whistler did not happen to etch it; but it is a Whistler etching all the same. You look up a frowsy little courtyard, the walls of which are more graceful than plumb, and you see a horse's head sticking out into the etching. Also, across the way the "k" has dropped out of steak on the window of a chop-house. The public-houses down this way, many of them, are very low places. The thing to do in this world is to get as much innocent pleasure out of the spectacle as possible.