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Highways and Byways in London By Emily Constance Baird Cook Characters: 46680

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

-"All the world's a stage,

And all the men and women merely players...."-Shakespeare.

"O gleaming lamps of London, that gem the City's crown,

What fortunes lie within you, O lights of London Town!"-

G. R. Sims, Ballads of Babylon.

As I was travelling, one day in winter, by the familiar and homely 'bus whose "hue is green and gold"; not however, the "St. John's Wood" 'bus, but that humbler and more business-like one which runs between Victoria and King's Cross, I observed, as we ascended Long Acre, a young woman get in at Bow Street, followed by a "lady friend" at Drury Lane. They were hot, untidy, and, as to their attire, muddy, be-bugled, and be-plushed; also, one of them carried a large and equally be-bugled baby. After their first salutations, they panted for a few minutes, out of breath; then:-

"I've got it, duckie," cried the Bow Street charmer, a young woman with a big black fringe, and the owner of the overdressed and pasty-faced baby.

"What have you got, dearie?" inquired her friend, who wore a dirty blouse that had once been yellow, under a heavy plush fur-trimmed cape (the month was November). The 'bus sat expectant.

"'E's made me a thief!" (The 'bus, to a man, or rather, woman, started.) "I told 'im as I'd give 'im no peace till 'e did; I was bound to go back an' back, till 'e give me somethin'. An' now, sweetie, I'm one er the forty thieves, at a quid a week, and find nothin'. Ain't that somethin'?"

A light broke in upon the wondering 'bus, and all the auditors peacefully resumed their papers or their reflections. Of course, it was the Drury Lane pantomime! It was stupid of us not to have guessed it before, for the "dearie," "duckie" and "sweetie" ought to have suggested it at once! Also, the dresses of the two interlocutors, which, now that I looked at them again, seemed to have on the beholder that peculiar effect of combined smartness and disorder that, for some reason or the other, distinguishes the "pro;" the "pro,"-that is,-of the lower ranks of the theatrical profession.

The profession (as it is expressively and somewhat exclusively called by its devotees) embraces, of course, as many "sorts and conditions of men" as the equally large profession of newspaper writers. While it still remains a cruel fact that any one picked up "drunk and incapable" in a London street is usually described in next day's Police News as either a journalist or an actress, there can yet be no doubt that the Bohemianism of the past, so far as the higher class of the theatrical world is concerned, is going out of fashion. With few exceptions, it is only among the lower ranks of "pros," or in music-halls, that it largely exists. These exceptions are, usually, to be found among those who have suddenly risen from obscurity on the theatrical firmament, to shine as bright "stars" for some brief period. Nowhere is success so sudden, so overwhelming, so blinding as it is in this vast city of London; and nowhere, alas! is that success so soon over, forgotten, eclipsed. The deity of one season is forsaken in the next; the Ruler-of-the-Universe must perforce return to his hovel, and, to say truth, he generally takes the change badly. London has a short memory. But the medal has its pleasanter reverse side. For, per contra, the young woman who has for years, maybe, blushed unseen in Camberwell, wasted her sweetness on seaside "fit-ups," and lorded it in third-rate provincial companies, may, suddenly, by some unexpected turn of Fortune's wheel, find herself elevated to the highest salaries in the profession. From a penurious lodging in the slums,-a daily "third return" from Gower Street,-she may rise, almost in the twinkling of an eye, to £40 a week, a flat in Mayfair, and a daintily-clipped poodle!

It is, of course, the fame of such sudden successes that suffices to "turn the heads" of ignorant neophytes, who are but too apt to forget the common maxim, that "the many fail, the one succeeds." Thus it is that the stage has been for years flooded with girls of all classes, all eager for distinction, and all, alas! desiring "the palm without the dust!" Rising actresses have, as a rule, but one ambition-to act in London, to charm London audiences. Better, some think, a three-line part at the Lyceum than a "juvenile lead" at Leamington; better twenty weeks of the Criterion than a cycle of the Counties; better a curtain-raiser in the Haymarket than Shakespeare's Rosalind at Darlington or Preston. Hence the cruel and heart-rending "struggle-for-life" among young actresses in this big city of London; hence the weeks of slow starvation in Bloomsbury lodgings or Soho garrets, waiting for work that never comes. It is, indeed, for them, the "dust without the palm." Disappointed hopes, shattered ambitions, tragic suicides,-what stories could some of those Bloomsbury garrets tell!

"O cruel lamps of London, if tears your light could drown,

Your victims' eyes would weep them, O lights of London Town."

Theatrical managers are callous; they can, indeed, hardly be otherwise, for the stage, like journalism, is scarcely "a charitable institution"; and the supply of stage applicants is far greater than the demand. When a new play is to be produced at a theatre, see how its waiting-rooms and grimy staircases are daily crowded with young men and women, all eager, all well-dressed, and all anxiously trying to conceal their often desperate need of money. For they must always be well-dressed; no self-respecting manager will ever think twice of a shabby or dowdy young woman; and dress is difficult to procure on a starvation diet.

In certain quarters of the Strand and of Soho, "ladies" are to be found who act as superior "old clothes" dealers, buying, at cheap rates, the fine dresses of society butterflies from the maids of these latter, and retailing them again at enhanced prices to the poor neophytes in the theatrical profession. The custom, no doubt, is advantageous to all parties concerned; to the fine lady, who must not be seen more than three or four times in the same gown; to the maid, to whom the said gowns are "perquisites"; and, lastly, to the poor girl who must, co?te que co?te, procure her brocades, her gold lace and tinsel for her provincial tours. (London managers usually provide the ladies' dresses themselves; the men of the company, on the other hand, must provide their own.)

Though actors and actresses live, nowadays, in all parts of London, yet, perhaps, they most incline to Bloomsbury and Soho, which classic region they have, indeed, haunted for centuries. In old Tudor and Shakespearean times Shoreditch and Bankside were the favoured spots, just as, later on, Covent Garden with its "Piazza," its Opera-houses, and its general air of Bohemianism, became the chosen locality. The histrionic art is no longer solely associated with Covent Garden and Bohemianism; indeed, the stars of the profession now belong, rather, to the smartest "set" in society; they often inhabit Mayfair,-and all doors, even those of royalty,-are open to them. But, just as the "rank and file" of the profession still haunt the classic neighbourhood of the "Garden," so the large bulk of actors and actresses are still to be found in the adjacent and convenient districts of Soho and Bloomsbury. In Bloomsbury, especially, are yearly rising innumerable red-brick flats, abodes largely tenanted by the theatrical profession. Their surroundings tell of them; "by their fruits ye shall know them." Hair-dressing shops, florists' shops, cheap jewellery shops, all these betray the tastes of the profession, and all these abound in the neighbourhood.

The pantomimes, owing to the enormous number of people they employ, as well as to the great fillip they give to certain trades and occupations, play no inconsiderable part in the vast web of London life. That the Pantomime, as a yearly pageant, has so much increased in glory of recent times, is due mainly to the efforts of the late Sir Augustus Harris, who may, indeed, be said to have reached the high-water-mark of splendour in the Christmas show. Many hundreds of girls and women, often married and supporting families, are employed in the vast choruses of the Drury-Lane Theatre,-"the Lane" as it is called in local parlance; many hundreds of men, scene-shifters, carpenters, mechanics, and the like, are required for the production of its stupendous effects. Pantomime-land is, indeed, to those who know it, a country and a life in itself. From autumn to spring its rigors last; from October to March its workers labour. A few weeks before Christmas, the annual fever is at its height. Not only grown people, but children too, are pressed into the service; hence, no doubt, the pretty "steps" daily practised, throughout the year, by Cockney girl children before street-organs. Yet, the class whence these children are drawn is generally a more or less superior one; superior, at any rate, to that which one would naturally imagine. Once, in walking down Museum Street, I chanced to get just behind three nice little girls and their mother. It was a foggy, murky evening, and they were evidently taking the direct route for Drury Lane. They were pretty children, red-cloaked, rosy-cheeked, and neatly shod, and they tripped along demurely, holding each other's hands; their mother, neat also, if a little threadbare, walking behind them, keeping a careful and approving eye on her little flock.

"Yes, they're all engaged for the winter at the 'Lane,'" she told me, in response to my sympathetic inquiry. "And it's a great help to me, it is, indeed; for my husband's ill, and he doesn't ever expect to get much better.... They're in the 'Flower Ballet'; the eldest, Lina, she's a Pansy; and the two younger ones, they're both Daisies.... Quite a short scene; they're off in twenty minutes.... Interfere with their schooling? nothing to speak of, and they enjoy it. Yes, I take 'em there, and fetch 'em back, twice every day; I can make shift to leave my husband for that time ... and I don't like 'em to run the streets alone.... But here we are...." a sudden lifting of the fog, a sudden glare of light, and then the Pansy, the Daisies, and their maternal attendant, were swallowed by the big jaws of the devouring "Lane."

A lady who went on the pantomime stage, by special favour, for one night only, for the sake of the experience, has entertainingly related her adventures. Decked for the evening in a gay cavalier's hat, a velvet cloak, gorgeous trappings, and "tights," she got through her allotted part very creditably, though with no little nervousness. The tights specially distressed her, and she was hardly consoled by the wardrobe-mistress's kind assurance, that the cloak was "so very ample!" What struck her principally, in the whole thing, was the good humour and high spirits of the ladies of the chorus and ballet, who all of them joked and laughed incessantly, called each other by pet names, and seemed, like children, to know no care or trouble in the world. For the moment they enjoyed, or appeared to enjoy, the whole thing, and yet some of these very girls were, she knew, poor married women whose lives were filled with domestic cares. These regular winter engagements must, indeed, have been welcome, for their earnings averaged from 25s. to 30s. a week for six evening performances, with extra pay for the daily matinées.

The pantomime is, however, hardly good to count on as a living, being, after all, but intermittent; the rank-and-file of the people engaged in the pantomime business have therefore often other avocations, and are not all full-blown "pros" with ambitions and yearnings. Not for such as these are the cruel disappointments, the insulting slights, the heart-rending procrastinations that break the spirit of so many young men and maidens in the "profession." If some of these could, indeed, know all that was in store for them, would they so gaily have embraced the theatrical career? It is a pity that they cannot be first disillusioned by a year's apprenticeship; yet even that might be of no avail, for when once they have experienced the magic glamour of the footlights, there is, indeed, little hope of return. Yet, to the outsider, who has never felt this glamour, there seems to be but little attraction about even a London stage rehearsal. The theatre is usually dark, and always dirty; the actors, especially those in secondary parts, seem but little impressed or interested; dressed, too, in their ordinary clothes, they look foolish, and their fine sentiments seem out of place. Even the protagonists are a trifle chilly: when Juliet or her next-of-kin unromantically munches sandwiches, seated on a dusty box in the wings; when Romeo, or his more modern prototype, uses language more convincing than elegant; and when both are addressed with almost painful familiarity by the dirty "call-boy," the glamour of the whole thing is apt, so far as the spectator is concerned, to be somewhat dispelled. Then, the manager is peremptory; the unhappy author quivers with emotion-and generally also with cold-in the stalls; people have a decided tendency to lose their tempers, and the onlooker is reduced to wonder dumbly,-whether things can possibly "pull themselves together" for the imminent "first night,"-and how in the world the dingy, draughty theatre can conceivably transform itself into the home of glory, wealth, and light that the favoured audience of the "première" know. These things are certainly an experience.

The "Gods."

"Good society," says M. Taine (in his Notes on England), "does not go to the theatres, with the exception of the two opera houses, which are the exotic and hothouse plants of luxury, and in which the prices of admission are enormous, and evening dress is imperative. As to the others, the audience is recruited from among the lower middle class." This, although it contains a small element of truth, is, nevertheless, a manifest exaggeration. For smart society is a great supporter of the drama, and even royalty, whose attendance in the theatre is always announced beforehand by the supply of white silk programmes in the royal box, occasionally vouchsafes its presence. Especially is there always a great furore over the procuring of "first night" seats at the best London theatres. So far, indeed, as the audience of the stalls is concerned, the "first-nighters" are, more or less, always the same people; influential magnates, editors, aristocratic "patrons of the drama," and a certain proportion of smart London people, those of whom it has come to be known that they make a point of attending every "first night" of any distinction. Sometimes invitations are issued; sometimes, it is a case of making early application. The entrée to certain first nights is a kind of social distinction. Often a supper party is given after the performance, on the cleared stage; at such gatherings a spirit of geniality prevails, and smart society does obeisance generally to the bright particular stars of the drama. With the more plebeian pit and gallery it is otherwise. These unreservedly express their feelings, and, after first representations, voice the sentiments of the multitude. These, if the curtain be at all belated in rising, raise the house by din and hubbub; the noise that they make, indeed, is apt to scare the uninitiated; it resembles a revolution on a small scale. The pit and gallery are very intent on getting their money's worth; for they always pay for their seats, and pay, not only in coin of the realm, but in sad and weary hours of waiting in the cold, drizzled street. Who has not noticed, on days of bright spring weather and dreary autumn alike, a long crowd of patient men and women waiting uncomplainingly in a long file till the theatre doors should open and admit them? At the Lyceum, the file,-and this not only on first nights,-extends far round the corner into the Strand. At the Haymarket Theatre, or the newer Her Majesty's,-it reaches far up towards Piccadilly Circus. Sometimes a few among the patient crowd have provided themselves with campstools; sometimes, too, kindly managers or thoughtful ladies like Miss Ellen Terry send out five o'clock tea to the suffering humanity nearest to the theatre doors; and, certainly, the "cup that cheers" must prove exceptionally cheering when one has waited for it in the chilly street ever since 9 A.M.! For very important first-night performances, nine, or at latest 10 A.M. is essential if the playgoer would make at all sure of the front row. It is a long day's picnic; yet the crowd remains ever amiable and stoical. One may, indeed, learn not a little of philosophy and bonhomie from that motley crew, who,-whether they be ladies from the suburbs, calmly eating sandwiches,-superior artisans taking "a day off,"-city clerks,-shop-girls,-or dressmakers' apprentices come to study the prevailing modes,-are all uniformly cheerful. From hour to hour homely jest and rough witticism enliven the day's tedium, and testify to the unfailing good temper and love of fair play of London crowds.

The pit is a sacred institution of London. We may, if we choose, sympathise with the long hours of waiting pit-door crowds, but woe betide him who would thoughtlessly attempt to do away with the system. One manager, indeed, did recently attempt this; but a riot nearly supervening, he had perforce to take refuge in a judicious compromise. The Londoner is ever conservative in his tastes as well as in his politics. Ladies are allowed to wear their headgear in the pit; and the large erections they sometimes don testify more to their vanity than to their philanthropy. One sometimes hears a faint protest against such exaggerated types of millinery: "I 'ope I sha'n't 'ave to sit be'ind that 'at," a depressed pittite has been heard to murmur when entering the theatre just after a "lydy" with one of these alarming concoctions.

Where are the tastes of "the people" with regard to plays? It is difficult to generalize. The gallery love melodrama; they also like a good deal of moral sentiment, which they will often loudly approve;-to the extent, sometimes, of even offering advice on the situation to the actors. This is why the Message from Mars, a morality taken straight from Dickens, went so directly home to "the great heart of the British people." M. Taine complains that the English have no national comedy; that all their comedies are adapted from the French; "is it," he asks, "because of English reserve?" But, though the pit and gallery are generally serious, they are yet not serious enough for Ibsen; "I consider that there piece blasphemious," a disgusted artisan once said to me of the Master-Builder; "that 'ere shillin' I spent on it was clean thrown away; I went out arter the fust act." The majority of young men and maidens love comic opera, which seems, indeed, to be one of the paying "lines" in the London of to-day. Music-halls flourish; it is an eloquent sign of the times that the large and ornate "Palace Theatre,"-opened, with such a flourish of trumpets, a few years ago as the "New English Opera House," and known far and wide by its flashes of brilliant search-light,-should now have descended to a "variety" show. The great middle-class supports Shakespeare and the "legitimate" drama; shop-girls, and dressmakers' apprentices, like the "society" plays of the St. James's and kindred theatres, because they offer some opportunity for seeing the ways of that "high-life" from which they are themselves excluded. Millinery and costume are most important factors in the modern theatre; I know of many well-to-do girls who never think of buying their season's hats and gowns till they have first seen them on Mrs. Patrick Campbell, Mrs. Tree, or Miss Winifred Emery. And The Price of Peace, a feeble, but immensely successful Drury Lane melodrama, owed its success to the fact that it brought before the eyes of the proletariat, in a variety of well-constructed scenes, all the select haunts and fashions of the great world: Tea on the Terrace; a Wedding in Westminster Abbey; a Debate in the House of Commons; a Ball in Park-Lane, &c., &c. Such pieces are, of course, not the only favourites; good comedies are very popular, and English people, despite M. Taine, still like to laugh. Yet, take it all round, "Good Society," with, preferably, a judicious admixture of melodrama and sentiment, is the really paying thing with the pit and gallery.

If the murky London daylight in the theatre shows a mournful change from its nocturnal glories, even sadder is the contrast between the splendid entrance hall, or lobby, blazing with welcome lights, and the dark, grimy, and generally wretched "stage-door," which opens, mostly, into some gloomy back-street, and seems, to the uninitiated at least, to have no connection at all with the theatre. Here, the manners of the stage acolytes are altogether to match with the outward show, and there would appear to exist some traditional and transmitted dislike to soap-and-water. Strange stories some of these stage doors could tell! The stage door of the "Adelphi," for instance, where poor William Terriss was brutally murdered by the criminal lunatic whom he had befriended,-does it not still give to its old locality a suggestion of blood and tears? Are not the vicissitudes, too, of theatres as striking and as dramatic in their way as those of other historic houses? Now they are great and well-known; then disaster overtakes them, and their very names, for years, are forgotten,-till at last they go the way of old bricks and mortar. In their final dirt and disgrace they hardly recall the scenes of their former triumphs. One might, indeed, become superstitious when one sees how Fortune seems to befriend certain theatres, and as persistently to frown on others. As for some old playhouses,-their day once over, their place knows them no more.... The old Prince of Wales's Theatre, for instance, in Tottenham Street, so famous in the early triumphs of the Bancrofts and Kendals,-who recalls it in its present ruin and discomfiture? The Salvation Army has lately taken pity on it; but apparently its hour has now come, and with its adjacent tenement-houses in Pitt Street, where its green-rooms were, it lies at the mercy of fate and the hammer.

The London theatres are nearly all of them in crowded situations, and often so devious and unexpected are the ways by which they are reached that if the city were at some distant age dug out from oblivion like that of Pompeii, the results might be even more puzzling to the antiquary. The stalls, for instance, of the Criterion Theatre are deep underground, reached by myriad carpeted stairs; even the upper circles are well below the street. And what a strange and indecipherable "crypto-porticus" would the "Twopenny Tube" prove to some future Middleton of the ages? In central parts, London, indeed, seems a city built in several superimposed layers: layers, too, not successive, but co?val.

The life of London, always intense, burns at its highest pressure in and near Piccadilly Circus, and a restless activity reigns here all through the long hours of day and night. For this is, so to speak, one of the main doorways of the immense ant-heap; like ants

, too, people seem to swarm incessantly, to go and come, in inconsequent but feverishly active sequence. Here is a blaze of light, a perpetual throng of "London's gondola," the hansom-cab, a confused medley of many sounds, that ceases not, but fades only after midnight; when the "heart of London," that never sleeps, subsides in the early hours of the morning into a dulled and general hum.

At Piccadilly, the foreign element from Leicester Square and Soho meets the native one. The French, Italian, and German tongues are, indeed, frequently heard all over London; but in the neighbourhood of Leicester Square, the visitor really might, especially on a sunny fogless day, imagine himself in Paris or Berlin. The shops have foreign names: "Blanchisserie Fine" alternates with "Deutsche Droguenhandlung" or "Vino Scelto"; French waiters and Italian cooks stand, white-capped and white-aproned, smilingly at the doors of their respective restaurants; cheap and fair hostelries for wandering foreigners, with beds as low in price as two shillings per night, rise towering on every side. It is said that the French colony, in particular, of Leicester Square and Soho owes its origin to the early French refugees who, at various stormy periods, have sought shelter here from the internal dissensions of their own country. It has been said that, as far north as Seven Dials, the organ-grinders still find the "Marseillaise" the most lucrative tune to play; and this may well be so, though I myself have generally found, at least among the rising generation, the latest music-hall song or dance to be in the ascendant. There is another subject I would fain touch on here, at the risk even of irrelevance; it refers to the Soho style of coiffure. That there is a special fashion in ladies' hair-dressing peculiar to every district in London, is a fact which every passing visitor must soon recognize; thus, while in Clerkenwell model-lodging-houses it is generally (except for one short hour or two on Sundays),-Hinde's curlers,-in Seven Dials it is mostly of the "touzled" order, and in the West End of the classic "New Greek style." Here, in Leicester Square, it has a partly-French, partly-theatrical air, being generally parted in the middle, and brought, in smooth, dark, exaggerated Early Victorian loops, well over the ears. But details are more important than people imagine. "Nothing," says M. Gabriel Mourey, "so reveals a woman's psychology as her way of doing her hair." And the observant Frenchman goes on to draw certain quaint inferences from the English girl's style of coiffure, and her neatly braided tresses, careless of such aids to beauty as stray curls or "mèches folles;" a severe style that, according to this writer, "forms a rude contrast to the spiritual charm of her face, her Burne-Jonesian refinement of feature." ... As to the manner of hair-dressing betraying the personality, "nothing," he adds paradoxically, "could be more true of the typical Englishwoman, who never of her own free will, allows you to see a fraction of her real self, but draws into her shell of reserve with the same jealous reclusiveness that makes her bind her hair in such dull, tight, regular uniformity."

M. Mourey is certainly more polite to us than was M. Taine, who said unkindly that Englishwomen had big feet, as large as those of watermen, "and gait and boots in keeping"; also, that "it is impossible to train one's self to endure their long projecting teeth;" the effect, he supposes, of a carnivorous diet! "The point of view," again, not merely Anglophobia! The red-whiskered Englishman dressed in blatant checks;-his long-toothed gaunt spouse,-how long will these ridiculous fictions haunt the French mind? But even M. Taine would have been happy in Soho. Here, even the Englishwoman is less aggressively English; indeed, she blends, in indescribable medley, the qualities both of the Belle of New York and of the Parisian boulevards! Soho, however, is remarkable for other things than mere hairdressing. For the gastronomic talent that the French so naturally possess causes this whole district, including the neighbouring Covent Garden, to be noted, not only for many second-class "eating-houses," but also for good and moderately priced places to dine. The vast reform in this respect that has taken place of late years all over London probably owes not a little to these early pioneers in the art.

With the multiplication of cheap and good restaurants has grown in equal ratio the importation of Swiss and Italian waiters. These, every year, emigrate from their romantic valleys to our foggy shores, and work out their three, four, or five years in an alien land, partly for the sake of better wages, partly for that of learning the English language-an accomplishment without which no foreign waiter is now considered fully equipped. With unsparing thrift, they save the greater part of their wages; and they acquire the language as quickly as they can; with these two possessions they return to their own country, where they may either at once demand a higher salary,-or, if already well-to-do, buy a small holding and "settle down." When they first arrive in London, they are generally very young men, who come in faith and hope to the rumoured "golden land" of England, leaving their lovely native valley and their romantic homesteads with no less courage and resolution than, in medi?val times, would have drawn them forth, at a mercenary's wage, to the bloody field of war. The late Mr. J. A. Symonds, whose sympathies with, and knowledge of, the Swiss-Italian waiter are well known, has, he tells us, often wondered why the Alpine peasant goes through such cruel and comfortless expatriation. "The answer," he says, "is very simple:

"He wants to make money, and has the most resolute intention, after making it, to settle down at home and live the pleasant life of his forefathers in the mountains. In olden days he would have fought on any and every battlefield of Europe to get cash. But European history has turned over a new leaf. 'Tempora mutantur et nos mutamur in illis,' and the Swiss make more by Fremdenindustrie than they could do by foreign military service in this age."

Landing in London with a small and hardly-saved pittance in their pockets, these lads usually live, as cheaply as may be, in and about Soho and Covent Garden, until such time as they can obtain employment. Switzerland, and especially Canton Ticino, furnishes a large part of the London waiters; yet all Italy, too, contributes her share. Even from one of the lonely hill-towns of the Apennines, three elegant youths, faultlessly attired,-servants of the inn, but whom I had imagined from their superior manners to be resident aristocrats,-once begged me to take them into my service, as footmen, cooks, knife-and-boot-boys, anything; "anything, madame, just to get a footing in England." Though the desirability of these as servants in private houses might, perhaps, be doubtful,-yet it is certain that in restaurants or hotels,-in quickness and in reliability,-the Swiss or Italian waiter far excels the English one. He rarely loses his temper. I have seen one waiting, single-handed, upon at least fifty impatient diners, and contenting every one. We can teach them very little. Yet they like to learn of us all they can. "I have learned a few things in England," the son and waiter in a little Swiss inn once said to me; a pleasant, rosy-cheeked youth, just over twenty, recently returned from a two years' service in London to the parental hostelry in a lonely, narrow valley. "Yes, I have learned something very fine." And he drew my attention to the quaint white-washed walls of the inn, made hideous by Japanese fans and cheap paper rosettes, &c.

"You are English?" he went on, with a pleased smile: "ah, then, you know my place in London, Scott's?"

(By "Scott's," he designated, as it turned out, the oyster-bar at the top of the Haymarket, which locality he apparently considered to represent the sum and total of "smart" London life.)

"Ah, I shall do this place up in fine style," he said, looking contemptuously round him at the modest but picturesque paternal inn. "Why, you will hardly know it again next year! I shall have the salle-à-manger pypered"-(he had learned the cockney dialect well), "pypered with bunches of fruit, flowers, monkeys-all in the English manner-ah! you will see! I shall wake them all up!"

And the "salle-à-manger," with its old black-panelled walls, was so much prettier as it was!

To be a waiter, however, even an "oyster-bar" waiter, is a superior position to that of a mere porter; and to be porters, "boots," hotel drudges of any and every description, "just to get a footing," is the primary aim of these sturdy aliens. Not only money and future advantage, but also what is known as the "Wanderlust," is, perhaps, yet another factor in the impulse that drives them from their homes. However this may be, rarely do they stay in the land of their bondage beyond the allotted time; still more rarely do they "colonize" in our sense of the word; but have ever before them, through all their struggles and hardships, the thought of the peaceful mountain home and honest competency that shall be theirs in middle age.... Poor lads! when I see you, worn and shabby, waiting, perhaps, in that long, pitiful black line of seedy applicants, now hopeful, now despairing of engagement, outside the big London restaurants, I confess to a tightness in my throat, thinking how, like Calverley's little Savoyard of Hatton Garden:

"Far from England, in the sunny

South, where Anio leaps in foam,

Thou wast bred, till lack of money

Drew thee from thy vine-clad home."

Surely the traveller who returns, yearly, from his pleasant tour in Alpine valleys, might always, here in foggy London, yield to the motive that prompts him, after a well-served dinner, to "give to the poor devil" an extra sixpence, reflecting, meanwhile, that he is thereby hastening the happy, far-off time when that "poor devil," enriched by years of painful toil and honest endeavour, may return to his valley, his home, his boyhood's love perhaps, and his own little patch of tillage.

The great monument of the "Fremden-Industrie" in London, as well as the focus and centre of the Swiss-Italian immigrants, is, of course, the establishment known as "Gatti's." Everyone knows the "Adelaide Gallery," and the palatial, velvet-cushioned restaurant that fronts the Strand. What were the beginnings of this great business? The brothers Agostino and Stefano Gatti, chocolate-makers, ice-cream princes, theatrical managers,-who has not heard of them from time immemorial?-has not their fame, in melodrama no less than in meringues, been almost a household word? In 1868, already they were naturalized as Englishmen; yet Mr. Agostino Gatti, native of Ticino, was none the less elected as a representative to the supreme Swiss Federal Assembly. The two brothers began modestly, in a small way; they managed everything themselves; standing, daily, shirt-sleeved, at their desk at receipt of custom, they were familiar figures of the past. They succeeded on the principle of Dickens's honest grocer, Mr. Barton, who made it his boast that "he was never above his business, and he hoped his business would never be above him!" The "Maison Gatti," the brothers' private house, stands in dignified Bedford Square; and the firm of Gatti, the heads of which are still to be seen in their shops, has doubtless amassed a large fortune. That fortune was well deserved; for the Gattis were among the pioneers in the reforming of restaurants.

"There is no more curious sight in London," writes the chronicler of the Gattis, "than the Adelaide Gallery between five and seven o'clock in the evening. From the door which opens into the street which runs by the graveyard of St. Martin's Church, to the handsome frontage which opens into the Strand, every table is occupied by a remarkable assemblage of men, women, and children. The husband brings his wife, the mother brings her children, the lover brings his sweetheart, and the Church, the stage, the press-each sends its representatives. Tragedies and comedies have been enacted over those marble-topped tables which, if they were related, would make the fortune of a thousand playwrights."

Ice-cream Barrow.

The ice-cream trade, however, with which the brothers Gatti largely identified themselves, is carried on, on inferior lines, to-day in Hatton Garden, Little Saffron Hill, and Clerkenwell. Here is the poorer Italian colony; organ-grinders, ice-cream-barrow-men, "hokey-pokey" sellers, and their like. Here, among a population of more or less honest toilers, congregate the waifs and strays of civilisation, people who, owing perhaps to their peripatetic and uncertain trade, could hardly help being loafers, even were they not mainly Neapolitans to boot: a difficult word, which has been corrupted by the low English in the vicinity, into first "Nappleton" and then simply "Appleton." City improvements have, however, ousted the chief Neapolitan colony from Great and Little Saffron Hills; and Eyre Street Hill, with its adjacent slums and alleys, is now their peculiar haunt. In the worst byways, and after dark, this is said to be a dangerous quarter to visit, Neapolitans being always proverbially ready with the knife.... Nevertheless, on fine spring days, it is not unpicturesque; the gay dresses of the women, the groups of handsome, dark-eyed youths, and the merry, brightly-clad children, lending almost an Italian charm to the scene. And the charming, curly-haired boys-the pretty and pathetic Savoyard, with his beloved monkey in a red coat-who does not know them? The men have other resources, as well as ice-creams and street-organs. Some of them hire themselves out as artists'-models to the big studios, a business which is well paid, and to which the picturesque Italian beauty well lends itself. Some, more skilled, are perhaps modellers of stucco images, which are hawked about the streets by others; some are knife-grinders, who go about with a wheel, and make, it is said, the best earnings of all. In the summer these poor exotics from the land of the sun manage to live, no doubt, pretty tolerably; in the winter, surely not even the chestnut-roasting apparatus that they hawk from street to street can suffice to keep them warm! They generally live in human rabbit warrens, under the patronage of a "padrone," a sort of modified and amiable slave-dealer, who imports them from their native land, and pockets, as price, a share of their earnings. They live poorly and frugally: and those of us who know the long street of Portici, will not, in the fouler air of London, expect much from their homes in the way of cleanliness. Yet the Italian women who, with their "men" and their babies, accompany the street organs, are generally trim and smiling, and, so far as foot-gear and general neatness of appearance is concerned-are immeasurably the superiors of their English slum-sisters.

The Organ-grinder.

The Italian woman seems, indeed,-in London, at any rate,-always vastly superior to the Italian man. She is religious; she goes, as a rule, regularly to her "Chiesa Cattolica." She is cleaner, smarter, pleasanter; she does most of the work; she often does the principal part of the organ-pushing-while her loafing partner slouches along by her side, yearning, doubtless, for his "polenta" and his midday siesta. She helps-indeed, her entire family, down to the babies, help-in the matutinal manufacture of the mysterious "hokey-pokey," whence, in the early morning hours, her "court" is a perfect babel of chatter and noise, and Eyre Street Hill becomes a strange sight for the inexperienced Londoner. Not only Neapolitans, but Sicilians, Tuscans, Venetians, are represented; indeed, the dialects and the slang used are so unlike, that the different circles of this Italian colony often themselves fail to understand one another. In the evenings, and generally on their doorsteps, the men play "mora," and gamble; while the women, for their part, patch clothes, chatter, and gesticulate in true native fashion. Later, the lord of creation, leaving his lady at home, goes off to the "Club Vesuvio" or to the "Club Garibaldi," where dancing goes on to a tune struck up by a fiddler, and the lowest type of London girls, befeathered, shawled, and dishevelled in true East-End fashion, dance with dirty and brigand-like Italian men. It is a strange life, and stranger still is the manner in which various types and nationalities have thus for generations "squatted down" in special districts of the metropolis, and filled them with their traditions, their atmosphere, their personality.

Many other colonies are to be seen in London; it is the most polyglot of cities. For those interested in such matters, nothing would give a better idea of the many-sided life of the metropolis than to take a long Sunday walk through its various districts. To quote the words of a recent writer:

"Sunday is, above all days, the day for such excursions, because there are none of the distractions of every-day life, or the bustle of business affairs. It is on Sunday you can see how polyglot London is, how the gregarious foreigners, herding together, occupy whole districts, living their own life, following the manners and customs of their own country, enjoying their own forms of religion, amusement, and business."

The Yiddish colony of Whitechapel, the Jewish Ghetto; the Asiatic colony in Poplar and the Dock neighbourhood generally; these and others display all the picturesqueness, the local colour, the kaleidoscopic life that many travellers go to distant lands to experience. In London, all peoples, and all classes, have their traditional strongholds, which are known and labelled. Thus, Bayswater, where the "high life" among the Asiatic colonists makes its home, is generally spoken of by foreigners as "Asia Minor." Here live the rich and cultured Orientals, those who have come over for pleasure, business, trade, or education; as for their poorer brethren, they live out in Poplar, Shadwell, or anywhere in the near vicinity of the East India Docks.

These Asiatics of the East End are a strange and motley crew; brought in by every steamer, every heavily-cargoed ship from the East, every trader "dropping down with costly bales." On the largest ships, say those of the P. and O. Company, vessels of some 7,000 tons, there will be perhaps some 120 Orientals on board, and, with such contingents continually arriving, there is, naturally, in the East End, a large foreign, though ever-shifting, population. Curious are the corruptions of Indian words one hears, and strange indeed are the sights and sounds among Malays, Chinese, and Indians. The famous opium dens of the East End, turned to such dramatic account not only in Dickens's Edwin Drood, but also, at a later day, in the Sherlock Holmes sequence of stories, are now much restricted in their horrors by police supervision. They used to be devils' haunts, famed for robbery and vice-traps set to catch the unwary Asiatic; but missionary work, combined with the clearances made by the East London Railway, has effected great improvement in the opium den of to-day. In the words of the writer before-mentioned:

"It looks like a private house, and no noise is permitted, for it is necessary to keep it as private as possible to prevent police interference. For they are invariably gambling dens also, and the Asiatic who goes to gamble still burns his joss-stick before the idol set up inside, in order to propitiate his deity and get good luck. Though repellant in appearance, there is a certain picturesqueness about the interior of these places. The shrine stands just inside the door, and there is a pungent odour from the ever-burning incense, while vases of artificial flowers, mingling among such queer votive offerings as biscuits and cups of tea, give it a strange appearance. The Canton matting, which is largely used in the rooms, gives a little local colour, and the personnel of the place is of a decided polyglot order. You may possibly see one or two men lying about sleeping off the results of their opium debauch: but gambling seems to be the main feature."

Nevertheless, even in these "reformed" dens, the home-coming sailor, or the imprudent Lascar, may find himself tempted to his undoing and "cleaned out" of all his hard-won earnings. Or he may possibly be "knifed," and, if the criminal escape, in this region of obscure and unknown "byways," even the experienced police may be hard set to find him. It is, indeed, a true "Vanity Fair," this East End of London, for poor Christian and Faithful, fresh from the sea and all its dangers.

The Yiddish colony is also a city by itself. The Jews who foregather in Whitechapel are mostly of Polish, Russian, or German extraction, and their talk, to unused ears, sounds like a strange German lingo, unpleasantly whined through the nose. Indeed, it closely resembles German; the word "Yiddish" itself being but a corruption of the German "Jüdisch," or Jewish. These people, whose "interpreters" figure largely at nearly every police-court brawl in Whitechapel, Shoreditch, and Spitalfields, may be said to be a law and a dispensation to themselves. They crowd, in their numbers, into dirty tenement houses, in yet dirtier streets; streets in which they barter, buy and sell with all the instinct and all the indomitable energy of their race. Here are the tailors' sweating dens, so often deplored by philanthropic "commissions"; here human toil is reduced, for the benefit of the "middleman," to its lowest possible price. The so-called "Jewish slave-market," to the existence of which attention has been called in the Press, is a strange and unpleasing custom. Here the Jewish "slave-owner" is, more or less, in the place of the Italian "padrone" already referred to, in that he imports human material, and "farms out" human labour:

"Any one who devotes a Sunday or two to visiting the open-air markets in the Jewish quarter, will have noticed on the fringe of the markets groups of men, sometimes with women and children. If you are under the convoy of a Jewish acquaintance who 'knows the ropes,' he will tell you that it is a 'hiring fair.' But it has a suspiciously close approximation to a slave market."

Leases of human labour, sold, at starvation wages for the victims, to the highest bidder, are not unnatural to a slum Yiddish population whose whole life is spent in barter. The Jewish colony in the East End now numbers some 35,000 souls:

"Only recently Lord Rothschild described it as a 'new Poland,' and said that it was the business of the nation 'first to humanise it and then Anglicise it.' It certainly wants humanising."

The cosmopolitanism of London tends to draw to it the sweepings, as well as the choice spirits,-the worst, as well as the best,-of all other nations and climes. "Hell is a city much like London," said the poet Shelley; and he spoke truth. Views, religious and otherwise, differ largely as to what Hell may be; one opinion, however, may be safely hazarded; that it will at any rate be cosmopolitan.

A Sale at Christie's.

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