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A STRAIGHT DEAL (chapter15)

2006-08-28 14:08

    CHAPTER XV: Rude Britannia,Crude Columbia

    It may have been ten years ago, it may have been fifteen——and just how long it was before the war makes no matter——that I received an invitation to join a society for the promotion of more friendly relations between the United States and England.

    "No, indeed," I said to myself.

    Even as I read the note, hostility rose in me. Refusal sprang to my lips before my reason had acted at all. I remembered George III. I remembered the Civil War. The ancient grudge, the anti-English complex, had been instantly set fermenting in me. Nothing could better disclose its lurking persistence than my virtually automatic exclamation, "No, indeed!" I knew something about England's friendly acts, about Venezuela, and Manila Bay, and Edmund Burke, and John Bright, and the Queen, and the Lancashire cotton spinners. And more than this historic knowledge, I knew living English people, men and women, among whom I counted dear and even beloved friends. I knew also, just as well as Admiral Mahan knew, and other Americans by the hundreds of thousands have known and know at this moment, that all the best we have and are——law, ethics, love of liberty-all of it came from England, grew in England first, ripened from the seed of which we are merely one great harvest, planted here by England. And yet I instantly exclaimed, "No, indeed! "

    Well, having been inflicted with the anti-English complex myself, I understand it all the better in others, and am begging them to counteract it as I have done. You will recollect that I said at the outset of these observations that, as I saw it, our prejudice was founded upon three causes fairly separate, although they often melted together. With two of these causes I have now dealt——the school histories, and certain acts and policies of England's throughout our relations with her. The third cause, I said, was certain traits of the English and ourselves which have produced personal friction. An American does or says something which angers an Englishman, who thereupon goes about thinking and saying, "Those insufferable Yankees!" An Englishman does or says something which angers an American, who thereupon goes about thinking and saying, "To Hell with England!" Each makes the well-nigh universal——but none the less perfectly ridiculous——blunder of damning a whole people because one of them has rubbed him the wrong way. Nothing could show up more forcibly and vividly this human weakness for generalizing from insufficient data, than the incident in London streets which I promised to tell you in full when we should reach the time for it. The time is now.

    In a hospital at no great distance from San Francisco, a wounded American soldier said to one who sat beside him, that never would he go to Europe to fight anybody again——except the English. Them he would like to fight; and to the astonished visitor he told his reason. He, it appeared, was one of our Americans who marched through London streets on that day when the eyes of London looked for the first time upon the Yankees at last arrived to bear a hand to England and her Allies. From the mob came a certain taunt: "You silly ass."

    It was, as you will observe, an unflattering interpretation of our national initials, U. S. A. Of course it was enough to make a proper American doughboy entirely "hot under the collar." To this reading of our national initials our national readiness retorted in kind at an early date: A.

    E. F. meant After England Failed. But why, months and months afterwards, when everything was over, did that foolish doughboy in the hospital hug this lone thing to his memory? It was the act of an unthinking few. Didn't he notice what the rest of London was doing that day? Didn't he remember that she flew the Union Jack and the Stars and Stripes together from every symbolic pinnacle of creed and government that rose above her continent of streets and dwellings to the sky? Couldn't he feel that England, his old enemy and old mother, bowed and stricken and struggling, was opening her arms to him wide? She's a person who hides her tears even from herself; but it seems to me that, with a drop of imagination and half a drop of thought, he might have discovered a year and a half after a few street roughs had insulted him, that they were not all England. With two drops of thought it might even have ultimately struck him that here we came, late, very late, indeed, only just in time, from a country untouched, unafflicted, unbombed, safe, because of England's ships, to tired, broken, bleeding England; and that the sight of us, so jaunty, so fresh, so innocent of suffering and bereavement, should have been for a thoughtless moment galling to unthinking brains?

    I am perfectly sure that if such considerations as these were laid before any American soldier who still smarted under that taunt in London streets, his good American sense, which is our best possession, would grasp and accept the thing in its true proportions. He wouldn't want to blot an Empire out because a handful of muckers called him names. Of this I am perfectly sure, because in Paris streets it was my happy lot four months after the Armistice to talk with many American soldiers, among whom some felt sore about the French. Not one of these but saw with his good American sense, directly I pointed certain facts out to him, that his hostile generalization had been unjust. But, to quote the oft-quoted Mr. Kipling, that is another story.

    An American regiment just arrived in France was encamped for purposes of training and experience next a British regiment come back from the front to rest. The streets of the two camps were adjacent, and the Tommies walked out to watch the Yankees pegging down their tents.

    "Aw," they said, "wot a shyme you've brought nobody along to tuck you in."

    They made other similar remarks; commented unfavorably upon the alignment; "You were a bit late in coming," they said. Of course our boys had answers, and to these the Tommies had further answers, and this encounter of wits very naturally led to a result which could not possibly have been happier. I don't know what the Tommies expected the Yankees to do. I suppose they were as ignorant of our nature as we of theirs, and that they entertained preconceived notions. They suddenly found that we were, once again to quote Mr. Kipling, "bachelors in barricks most remarkable like" themselves. An American first sergeant hit a British first sergeant. Instantly a thousand men were milling. For thirty minutes they kept at it. Warriors reeled together and fell and rose and got it in the neck and the jaw and the eye and the nose——and all the while the British and American officers, splendidly discreet, saw none of it. British soldiers were carried back to their streets, still fighting, bunged Yankees staggered everywhere——but not an officer saw any of it. Black eyes the next day, and other tokens, very plainly showed who had been at this party. Thereafter a much better feeling prevailed between Tommies and Yanks.

    A more peaceful contact produced excellent consequences at an encampment of Americans in England. The Americans had brought over an idea, apparently, that the English were "easy." They tried it on in sundry ways, but ended by the discovery that, while engaged upon this enterprise, they had been in sundry ways quite completely "done" themselves. This gave them a respect for their English cousins which they had never felt before.

    Here is another tale, similar in moral. This occurred at Brest, in France. In the Y hut sat an English lady, one of the hostesses. To her came a young American marine with whom she already had some acquaintance. This led him to ask for her advice. He said to her that as his permission was of only seventy-two hours, he wanted to be as economical of his time as he could and see everything best worth while for him to see during his leave. Would she, therefore, tell him what things in Paris were the most interesting and in what order he had best take them? She replied with another suggestion; why not, she said, ask for permission for England? This would give him two weeks instead of seventy-two hours. At this he burst out violently that he would not set foot in England; that he never wanted to have anything to do with England or with the English: "Why, I am a marine!" he exclaimed, "and we marines would sooner knock down any English sailor than speak to him."

    The English lady, naturally, did not then tell him her nationality. She now realized that he had supposed her to be American, because she had frequently been in America and had talked to him as no stranger to the country could. She, of course, did not urge his going to England; she advised him what to see in France. He took his leave of seventy-two hours and when he returned was very grateful for the advice she had given him.

    She saw him often after this, and he grew to rely very much upon her friendly counsel. Finally, when the time came for her to go away from Brest, she told him that she was English. And then she said something like this to him:

    "Now, you told me you had never been in England and had never known an English person in your life, and yet you had all these ideas against us because somebody had taught you wrong. It is not at all your fault. You are only nineteen years old and you cannot read about us, because you have no chance; but at least you do know one English person now, and that English person begs you, when you do have a chance to read and inform yourself of the truth, to find out what England really has been, and what she has really done in this war."

    The end of the story is that the boy, who had become devoted to her, did as she suggested. To-day she receives letters from him which show that nothing is left of his anti-English complex. It is another instance of how clearly our native American mind, if only the facts are given it, thinks, judges, and concludes.

    It is for those of my countrymen who will never have this chance, never meet some one who can guide them to the facts", that I tell these things. Let them "cut out the dope." At this very moment that I write-November , ——the dope is being fed freely to all who are ready, whether through ignorance or through interested motives, to swallow it. The ancient grudge is being played up strong over the whole country in the interest of Irish independence.

    Ian Hay in his two books so timely and so excellent, Getting Together and The Oppressed English, could not be as unreserved, naturally, as I can be about those traits in my own countrymen which have, in the past at any rate, retarded English cordiality towards Americans. Of these I shall speak as plainly as I know how. But also, being an American and therefore by birth more indiscreet than Ian Hay, I shall speak as plainly as I know how of those traits in the English which have helped to keep warm our ancient grudge. Thus I may render both countries forever uninhabitable to me, but shall at least take with me into exile a character for strict, if disastrous, impartiality.

    I begin with an American who was traveling in an English train. It stopped somewhere, and out of the window he saw some buildings which interested him. "Can you tell me what those are?" he asked an Englishman, a stranger, who sat in the other corner of the compartment.

    "Better ask the guard," said the Englishman.

    Since that brief dialogue, this American does not think well of the English.

    Now, two interpretations of the Englishman's answer are possible. One is, that he didn't himself know, and said so in his English way. English talk is often very short, much shorter than ours. That is because they all understand each other, are much closer knit than we are. Behind them are generations of "doing it" in the same established way, a way that their long experience of life has hammered out for their own convenience, and which they like. We're not nearly so closely knit together here, save in certain spots, especially the old spots. In Boston they understand each other with very few words said. So they do in Charleston. But these spots of condensed and hoarded understanding lie far apart, are never confluent, and also differ in their details; while the whole of England is confluent, and the details have been slowly worked out through centuries of getting on together, and are accepted and observed exactly like the rules of a game.

    In America, if the American didn't know, he would have answered, "I don't know. I think you'll have to ask the conductor," or at any rate, his reply would have been longer than the Englishman's. But I am not going to accept the idea that the Englishman didn't know and said so in his brief usual way. It's equally possible that he did know. Then, you naturally ask, why in the name of common civility did he give such an answer to the American?

    I believe that I can tell you. He didn't know that my friend was an American, he thought he was an Englishman who had broken the rules of the game. We do have some rules here in America, only we have not nearly so many, they're much more stretchable, and it's not all of us who have learned them. But nevertheless a good many have.

    Suppose you were traveling in a train here, and the man next you, whose face you had never seen before, and with whom you had not yet exchanged a syllable, said: "What's your pet name for your wife?" Wouldn't your immediate inclination be to say, "What damned business is that of yours?" or words to that general effect?

    But again, you most naturally object, there was nothing personal in my friend's question about the buildings. No; but that is not it. At the bottom, both questions are an invasion of the same deep-seated thing——the right to privacy. In America, what with the newspaper reporters and this and that and the other, the territory of a man's privacy has been lessened and lessened until very little of it remains; but most of us still do draw the line somewhere; we may not all draw it at the same place, but we do draw a line. The difference, then, between ourselves and the English in this respect is simply, that with them the territory of a man's privacy covers more ground, and different ground as well. An Englishman doesn't expect strangers to ask him questions of a guide-book sort. For all such questions his English system provides perfectly definite persons to answer. If you want to know where the ticket office is, or where to take your baggage, or what time the train goes, or what platform it starts from, or what towns it stops at, and what churches or other buildings of interest are to be seen in those towns, there are porters and guards and Bradshaws and guidebooks to tell you, and it's they whom you are expected to consult, not any fellow-traveler who happens to be at hand. If you ask him, you break the rules. Had my friend said: "I am an American. Would you mind telling me what those buildings are?" all would have gone well. The Englishman would have recognized (not fifty years ago, but certainly to-day) that it wasn't a question of rules between them, and would have at once explained——either that he didn't know, or that the buildings were such and such.

    Do not, I beg, suppose for a moment that I am holding up the English way as better than our own——or worse. I am not making comparisons; I am trying to show differences. Very likely there are many points wherein we think the English might do well to borrow from us; and it is quite as likely that the English think we might here and there take a leaf from their book to our advantage. But I am not theorizing, I am not seeking to show that we manage life better or that they manage life better; the only moral that I seek to draw from these anecdotes is, that we should each understand and hence make allowance for the other fellow's way. You will admit, I am sure, be you American or English, that everybody has a right to his own way? The proverb "When in Rome you must do as Rome does" covers it, and would save trouble if we always obeyed it. The people who forget it most are they that go to Rome for the first time; and I shall give you both English and American examples of this presently. It is good to ascertain before you go to Rome, if you can, what Rome does do.

    Have you never been mistaken for a waiter, or something of that sort? Perhaps you will have heard the anecdote about one of our ambassadors to England. All ambassadors, save ours, wear on formal occasions a distinguishing uniform, just as our army and navy officers do; it is convenient, practical, and saves trouble. But we have declared it menial, or despotic, or un-American, or something equally silly, and hence our ambassadors must wear evening dress resembling closely the attire of those who are handing the supper or answering the door-bell. An Englishman saw Mr. Choate at some diplomatic function, standing about in this evening costume, and said:

    "Call me a cab."

    "You are a cab," said Mr. Choate, obediently.

    Thus did he make known to the Englishman that he was not a waiter. Similarly in crowded hotel dining-rooms or crowded railroad stations have agitated ladies clutched my arm and said:

    "I want a table for three," or "When does the train go to Poughkeepsie? "

    Just as we in America have regular people to attend to these things, so do they in England; and as the English respect each other's right to privacy very much more than we do, they resent invasions of it very much more than we do. But, let me say again, they are likely to mind it only in somebody they think knows the rules. With those who don't know them it is different. I say this with all the more certainty because of a fairly recent afternoon spent in an English garden with English friends. The question of pronunciation came up. Now you will readily see that with them and their compactness, their great public schools, their two great Universities, and their great London, the one eternal focus of them all, both the chance of diversity in social customs and the tolerance of it must be far less than in our huge unfocused country. With us, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco, is each a centre. Here you can pronounce the word calm, for example, in one way or another, and it merely indicates where you come from. Departure in England from certain established pronunciations has another effect.

    "Of course," said one of my friends, "one knows where to place anybody who says 'girl'" (pronouncing it as it is spelled)。

    "That's frightful," said I, "because I say 'girl'."

    "Oh, but you are an American. It doesn't apply."

    But had I been English, it would have been something like coming to dinner without your collar.

    That is why I think that, had my friend in the train begun his question about the buildings by saying that he was an American, the answer would have been different. Not all the English yet, but many more than there were fifty or even twenty years ago, have ceased to apply their rules to us.

    About  a friend of mine from New York was taken to a London Club. Into the room where he was came the Prince of Wales, who took out a cigar, felt for and found no matches, looked about, and there was a silence. My friend thereupon produced matches, struck one, and offered it to the Prince, who bowed, thanked him, lighted his cigar, and presently went away.

    Then an Englishman observed to my friend: "It's not the thing for a commoner to offer a light to the Prince."

    "I'm not a commoner, I'm an American," said my friend with perfect good nature.

    Whatever their rule may be to-day about the Prince and matches, as to us they have come to accept my friend's pertinent distinction: they don't expect us to keep or even to know their own set of rules.

    Indeed, they surpass us in this, they make more allowances for us than we for them. They don't criticize Americans for not being English. Americans still constantly do criticize the English for not being Americans. Now, the measure in which you don't allow for the customs of another country is the measure of your own provincialism. I have heard some of our own soldiers express dislike of the English because of their coldness. The English are not cold; they are silent upon certain matters. But it is all there. Do you remember that sailor at Zeebrugge carrying the unconscious body of a comrade to safety, not sure yet if he were alive or dead, and stroking that comrade's head as he went, saying over and over, "Did you think I would leave yer?" We are more demonstrative, we spell things out which it is the way of the English to leave between the lines. But it is all there! Behind that unconciliating wall of shyness and reserve, beats and hides the warm, loyal British heart, the most constant heart in the world.

    "It isn't done."

    That phrase applies to many things in England besides offering a light to the Prince, or asking a fellow traveler what those buildings are; and I think that the Englishman's notion of his right to privacy lies at the bottom of quite a number of these things. You may lay some of them to snobbishness, to caste, to shyness, they may have various secondary origins; but I prefer to cover them all with the broader term, the right to privacy, because it seems philosophically to account for them and explain them.

    In May, , an Oxford professor was in New York. A few years before this I had read a book of his which had delighted me. I met him at lunch, I had not known him before. Even as we shook hands, I blurted out to him my admiration for his book.


    That was the whole of his reply. It made me laugh at myself, for I should have known better. I had often been in England and could have told anybody that you mustn't too abruptly or obviously refer to what the other fellow does, still less to what you do yourself. "It isn't done." It's a sort of indecent exposure. It's one of the invasions of the right to privacy.

    In America, not everywhere but in many places, a man upon entering a club and seeing a friend across the room, will not hesitate to call out to him, "Hullo, Jack!" or "Hullo, George!" or whatever. In England "it isn't done." The greeting would be conveyed by a short nod or a glance. To call out a man's name across a room full of people, some of whom may be total strangers, invades his privacy and theirs. Have you noticed how, in our Pullman parlor cars, a party sitting together, generally young women, will shriek their conversation in a voice that bores like a gimlet through the whole place? That is an invasion of privacy. In England "it isn't done." We shouldn't stand it in a theatre, but in parlor cars we do stand it. It is a good instance to show that the Englishman's right to privacy is larger than ours, and thus that his liberty is larger than ours.

    Before leaving this point, which to my thinking is the cause of many frictions and misunderstandings between ourselves and the English, I mustn't omit to give instances of divergence, where an Englishman will speak of matters upon which we are silent, and is silent upon subjects of which we will speak.

    You may present a letter of introduction to an Englishman, and he wishes to be civil, to help you to have a good time. It is quite possible he may say something like this:

    "I think you had better know my sister Sophy. You mayn't like her. But her dinners are rather amusing. Of course the food's ghastly because she's the stingiest woman in London."

    On the other hand, many Americans (though less willing than the French) are willing to discuss creed, immortality, faith. There is nothing from which the Englishman more peremptorily recoils, although he hates well nigh as deeply all abstract discussion, or to be clever, or to have you be clever. An American friend of mine had grown tired of an Englishman who had been finding fault with one American thing after another. So he suddenly said:

    "Will you tell me why you English when you enter your pews on Sunday always immediately smell your hats? "

    The Englishman stiffened. "I refuse to discuss religious subjects with you," he said.

    To be ponderous over this anecdote grieves me——but you may not know that orthodox Englishmen usually don't kneel, as we do, after reaching their pews; they stand for a moment, covering their faces with their well-brushed hats: with each nation the observance is the same, it is in the manner of the observing that we differ.

    Much is said about our "common language," and its being a reason for our understanding each other. Yes; but it is also almost as much a cause for our misunderstanding each other. It is both a help and a trap. If we Americans spoke something so wholly different from English as French is, comparisons couldn't be made; and somebody has remarked that comparisons are odious.

    "Why do you call your luggage baggage?" says the Englishman——or used to say.

    "Why do you call your baggage luggage?" says the American——or used to say.

    "Why don't you say treacle?" inquires the Englishman.

    "Because we call it molasses," answers the American.

    "How absurd to speak of a car when you mean a carriage!" exclaims the Englishman.

    "We don't mean a carriage, we mean a car," retorts the American.

    You, my reader, may have heard (or perhaps even held) foolish conversations like that; and you will readily perceive that if we didn't say "car" when we spoke of the vehicle you get into when you board a train, but called it a voiture, or something else quite "foreign," the Englishman would not feel that we had taken a sort of liberty with his mother-tongue. A deep point lies here: for most English the world is divided into three peoples, English, foreigners, and Americans; and for most of us likewise it is divided into Americans, foreigners, and Eng- lish. Now a "foreigner" can call molasses whatever he pleases; we do not feel that he has taken any liberty with our mother-tongue; his tongue has a different mother; he can't help that; he's not to be criticized for that. But we and the English speak a tongue that has the same mother. This identity in pedigree has led and still leads to countless family discords. I've not a doubt that divergences in vocabulary and in accent were the fount and origin of some swollen noses, some battered eyes, when our Yankees mixed with the Tommies. Each would be certain to think that the other couldn't "talk straight"——and each would be certain to say so. I shall not here spin out a list of different names for the same things now current in English and American usage: molasses and treacle will suffice for an example; you will be able easily to think of others, and there are many such that occur in everyday speech. Almost more tricky are those words which both peoples use alike, but with different meanings. I shall spin no list of these either; one example there is which I cannot name, of two words constantly used in both countries, each word quite proper in one country, while in the other it is more than improper. Thirty years ago I explained this one evening to a young Englishman who was here for a while. Two or three days later, he thanked me fervently for the warning: it had saved him, during a game of tennis, from a frightful shock, when his partner, a charming girl, meaning to tell him to cheer up, had used the word that is so harmless with us and in England so far beyond the pale of polite society.

    Quite as much as words, accent also leads to dissension. I have heard many an American speak of the English accent as "affected"; and our accent displeases the English. Now what Englishman, or what American, ever criticizes a Frenchman for not pronouncing our language as we do? His tongue has a different mother!

    I know not how in the course of the years all these divergences should have come about, and none of us need care. There they are. As a matter of fact, both England and America are mottled with varying accents literate and illiterate; equally true it is that each nation has its notion of the other's way of speaking——we're known by our shrill nasal twang, they by their broad vowels and hesitation; and quite as true is it that not all Americans and not all English do in their enunciation conform to these types.

    One May afternoon in  I stopped at Salisbury to see that beautiful cathedral and its serene and gracious close. "Star-scattered on the grass," and beneath the noble trees, lay New Zealand soldiers, solitary or in little groups, gazing, drowsing, talking at ease. Later, at the inn I was shown to a small table, where sat already a young Englishman in evening dress, at his dinner. As I sat down opposite him, I bowed, and he returned it. Presently we were talking. When I said that I was stopping expressly to see the cathedral, and how like a trance it was to find a scene so utterly English full of New Zealanders lying all about, he looked puzzled. It was at this, or immediately after this, that I explained to him my nationality.

    "I shouldn't have known it," he remarked, after an instant's pause.

    I pressed him for his reason, which he gave; somewhat reluctantly, I think, but with excellent good-will. Of course it was the same old mother tongue!

    "You mean," I said, "that I haven't happened to say 'I guess,' and that I don't, perhaps, talk through my nose? But we don't all do that. We do all sorts of things."

    He stuck to it. "You talk like us."

    "Well, I'm sure I don't mean to talk like anybody!" I sighed.

    This diverted him, and brought us closer.

    "And see here," I continued, "I knew you were English, although you've not dropped a single h."

    "Oh, but," he said, "dropping h's——that's——that's not——"

    "I know it isn't," I said. "Neither is talking through your nose. And we don't all say 'Amurrican.'"

    But he stuck to it. "All the same there is an American voice. The train yesterday was full of it. Officers. Unmistakable." And he shook his head.

    After this we got on better than ever; and as he went his way, he gave me some advice about the hotel. I should do well to avoid the reading room. The hotel went in rather too much for being old-fashioned. Ran it into the ground. Tiresome. Good-night.

    Presently I shall disclose more plainly to you the moral of my Salisbury anecdote.

    Is it their discretion, do you think, that closes the lips of the French when they visit our shores? Not from the French do you hear prompt aspersions as to our differences from them. They observe that proverb about being in Rome: they may not be able to do as Rome does, but they do not inquire why Rome isn't like Paris. If you ask them how they like our hotels or our trains, they may possibly reply that they prefer their own, but they will hardly volunteer this opinion. But the American in England and the Englishman in America go about volunteering opinions. Are the French more discreet? I believe that they are; but I wonder if there is not also something else at the bottom of it. You and I will say things about our cousins to our aunt. Our aunt would not allow outsiders to say those things. Is it this, the-members-of-the-family principle, which makes us less discreet than the French? Is it this, too, which leads us by a seeming paradox to resent criticism more when it comes from England? I know not how it may be with you; but with me, when I pick up the paper and read that the Germans are calling us pig-dogs again, I am merely amused. When I read French or Italian abuse of us, I am sorry, to be sure; but when some English paper jumps on us, I hate it, even when I know that what it says isn't true. So here, if I am right in my members-of-the-family hypothesis, you have the English and ourselves feeling free to be disagreeable to each other because we are relations, and yet feeling especially resentful because it's a relation who is being disagreeable. I merely put the point to you, I lay no dogma down concerning members of the family; but I am perfectly sure that discretion is a quality more common to the French than to ourselves or our relations: I mean something a little more than discretion, I mean esprit de conduits, for which it is hard to find a translation.

    Upon my first two points, the right to privacy and the mother-tongue, I have lingered long, feeling these to be not only of prime importance and wide application, but also to be quite beyond my power to make lucid in short compass. I trust that they have been made lucid. I must now get on to further anecdotes, illustrating other and less subtle causes of misunderstanding; and I feel somewhat like the author of Don Juan when he exclaims that he almost wishes he had ne'er begun that very remarkable poem. I renounce all pretense to the French virtue of discretion.

    Evening dress has been the source of many irritations. Englishmen did not appear to think that they need wear it at American dinner parties. There was a good deal of this at one time. During that period an Englishman, who had brought letters to a gentleman in Boston and in consequence had been asked to dinner, entered the house of his host in a tweed suit. His host, in evening dress of course, met him in the hall.

    "Oh, I see," said the Bostonian, "that you haven't your dress suit with you. The man will take you upstairs and one of mine will fit you well enough. We'll wait."

    In England, a cricketer from Philadelphia, after the match at Lord's, had been invited to dine at a great house with the rest of his eleven. They were to go there on a coach. The American discovered after arrival that he alone of the eleven had not brought a dress suit with him. He asked his host what he was to do.

    "I advise you to go home," said the host.

    The moral here is not that all hosts in England would have treated a guest so, or that all American hosts would have met the situation so well as that Boston gentleman: but too many English used to be socially brutal-quite as much so to each other as to us, or any one. One should bear that in mind. I know of nothing more English in its way than what Eton answered to Beaumont (I think) when Beaumont sent a challenge to play cricket: "Harrow we know, and Rugby we have heard of. But who are you?"

    That sort of thing belongs rather to the Palmerston days than to these; belongs to days that were nearer in spirit to the Waterloo of , which a haughty England won, than to the Waterloo of -, which a humbler England so nearly lost. Turn we next the other way for a look at ourselves. An American lady who had brought a letter of introduction to an Englishman in London was in consequence asked to lunch. He naturally and hospitably gathered to meet her various distinguished guests. Afterwards she wrote him that she wished him to invite her to lunch again, as she had matters of importance to tell him. Why, then, didn't she ask him to lunch with her? Can you see? I think I do.

    An American lady was at a house party in Scotland at which she met a gentleman of old and famous Scotch blood. He was wearing the kilt of his clan. While she talked with him she stared, and finally burst out laughing. "I declare," she said, "that's positively the most ridiculous thing I ever saw a man dressed in."

    At the Savoy hotel in August, , when England declared war upon Germany, many American women made scenes of confusion and vociferation. About England and the blast of Fate which had struck her they had nothing to say, but crowded and wailed of their own discomforts, meals, rooms, every paltry personal inconvenience to which they were subjected, or feared that they were going to be subjected. Under the unprecedented stress this was, perhaps, not unnatural; but it would have seemed less displeasing had they also occasionally showed concern for England's plight and peril. An American, this time a man (our crudities are not limited to the sex) stood up in a theatre, disputing the sixpence which you always have to pay for your program in the London theatres. He disputed so long that many people had to stand waiting to be shown their seats.

    During deals at a game of bridge on a Cunard steamer, the talk had turned upon a certain historic house in an English county. The talk was friendly, everything had been friendly each day.

    "Well," said a very rich American to his English partner in the game, "those big estates will all be ours pretty soon. We're going to buy them up and turn your island into our summer resort." No doubt this millionaire intended to be playfully humorous.

    At a table where several British and one American——an officer——sat during another ocean voyage between Liverpool and Halifax in June, , the officer expressed satisfaction to be getting home again. He had gone over, he said, to "clean up the mess the British had made."

    To a company of Americans who had never heard it before, was told the well-known exploit of an American girl in Europe. In an ancient church she was shown the tomb of a soldier who had been killed in battle three centuries ago. In his honor and memory, because he lost his life bravely in a great cause, his family had kept a little glimmering lamp alight ever since. It hung there, beside the tomb.

    "And that's never gone out in all this time?" asked the American girl.

    "Never," she was told.

    "Well, it's out now, anyway," and she blew it out.

    All the Americans who heard this were shocked all but one, who said:

    "Well, I think she was right."

    There you are! There you have us at our very worst! And with this plump specimen of the American in Europe at his very worst, I turn back to the English: only, pray do not fail to give those other Americans who were shocked by the outrage of the lamp their due. How wide of the mark would you be if you judged us all by the one who approved of that horrible vandal girl's act! It cannot be too often repeated that we must never condemn a whole people for what some of the people do.

    In the two-and-a-half anecdotes which follow, you must watch out for something which lies beneath their very obvious surface.

    An American sat at lunch with a great English lady in her country-house. Although she had seen him but once before, she began a conversation like this:

    Did the American know the van Squibbers?

    He did not.

    Well, the van Squibbers, his hostess explained, were Americans who lived in London and went everywhere. One certainly did see them everywhere. They were almost too extraordinary.

    Now the American knew quite all about these van Squibbers. He knew also that in New York, and Boston, and Philadelphia, and in many other places where existed a society with still some ragged remnants of decency and decorum left, one would not meet this highly star-spangled family "everywhere."

    The hostess kept it up. Did the American know the Butteredbuns? No? Well, one met the Butteredbuns everywhere too. They were rather more extraordinary than the van Squibbers. And then there were the Cakewalks, and the Smith-Trapezes' Mrs. Smith-Trapeze wasn't as extraordinary as her daughter——the one that put the live frog in Lord Meldon's soup——and of course neither of them were "talked about" in the same way that the eldest Cakewalk girl was talked about. Everybody went to them, of course, because one really never knew what one might miss if one didn't go. At length the American said:

    "You must correct me if I am wrong in an impression I have received. Vulgar Americans seem to me to get on very well in London."

    The hostess paused for a moment, and then she said:

    "That is perfectly true."

    This acknowledgment was complete, and perfectly friendly, and after that all went better than it had gone before.

    The half anecdote is a part of this one, and happened a few weeks later at table——dinner this time.

    Sitting next to the same American was an English lady whose conversation led him to repeat to her what he had said to his hostess at lunch: "Vulgar Americans seem to get on very well in London society." "They do," said the lady, "and I will tell you why. We English——I mean that set of English——are blase. We see each other too much, we are all alike in our ways, and we are awfully tired of it. Therefore it refreshes us and amuses us to see something new and different."

    "Then," said the American, "you accept these hideous people's invitations, and go to their houses, and eat their food, and drink their champagne, and it's just like going to see the monkeys at the Zoo?"

    "It is," returned the lady.

    "But," the American asked, "isn't that awfully low down of you?" (He smiled as he said it.)

    Immediately the English lady assented; and grew more cordial. When next day the party came to break up, she contrived in the manner of her farewell to make the American understand that because of their conversation she bore him not ill will but good will.

    Once more, the scene of my anecdote is at table, a long table in a club, where men came to lunch. All were Englishmen, except a single stranger. He was an American, who through the kindness of one beloved member of that club, no longer living now, had received a card to the club. The American, upon sitting down alone in this company, felt what I suppose that many of us feel in like circumstances: he wished there were somebody there who knew him and could nod to him. Nevertheless, he was spoken to, asked questions about various of his fellow countrymen, and made at home. Presently, however, an elderly member who had been silent and whom I will designate as being of the Dr. Samuel Johnson type, said: "You seem to be having trouble in your packing houses over in America? "

    We were.

    "Very disgraceful, those exposures."

    They were. It was May, .

    "Your Government seems to be doing something about it. It's certainly scandalous. Such abuses should never have been possible in the first place. It oughtn't to require your Government to stop it. It shouldn't have started."

    "I fancy the facts aren't quite so bad as that sensational novel about Chicago makes them out," said the American. "At least I have been told so." "It all sounds characteristic to me," said the Sam Johnson. "It's quite the sort of thing one expects to hear from the States."

    "It is characteristic," said the American. "In spite of all the years that the sea has separated us, we're still inveterately like you, a bullying, dishonest lot——though we've had nothing quite so bad yet as your opium trade with China."

    The Sam Johnson said no more.

    At a ranch in Wyoming were a number of Americans and one Englishman, a man of note, bearing a celebrated name. He was telling the company what one could do in the way of amusement in the evening in London.

    "And if there's nothing at the theatres and everything else fails, you can always go to one of the restaurants and hear the Americans eat."

    There you have them, my anecdotes. They are chosen from many. I hope and believe that, between them all, they cover the ground; that, taken together as I want you to take them after you have taken them singly, they make my several points clear. As I see it, they reveal the chief whys and wherefores of friction between English and Americans. It is also my hope that I have been equally disagreeable to everybody. If I am to be banished from both countries, I shall try not to pass my exile in Switzerland, which is indeed a lovely place, but just now too full of celebrated Germans.

    Beyond my two early points, the right to privacy and the mother-tongue, what are the generalizations to be drawn from my data? I should like to dodge spelling them out, I should immensely prefer to leave it here. Some readers know it already, knew it before I began; while for others, what has been said will be enough. These, if they have the will to friendship instead of the will to hate, will get rid of their anti-English complex, supposing that they had one, and understand better in future what has not been clear to them before. But I seem to feel that some readers there may be who will wish me to be more explicit.

    First, then. England has a thousand years of greatness to her credit. Who would not be proud of that? Arrogance is the seamy side of pride. That is what has rubbed us Americans the wrong way. We are recent. Our thousand years of greatness are to come. Such is our passionate belief. Crudity is the seamy side of youth. Our crudity rubs the English the wrong way. Compare the American who said we were going to buy England for a summer resort with the Englishman who said that when all other entertainment in London failed, you could always listen to the Americans eat. Crudity, "freshness" on our side, arrogance, toploftiness on theirs: such is one generalization I would have you disengage from my anecdotes.

    Second. The English are blunter than we. They talk to us as they would talk to themselves. The way we take it reveals that we are too often thin-skinned. Recent people are apt to be thin-skinned and self-conscious and self-assertive, while those with a thousand years of tradition would have thicker hides and would never feel it necessary to assert themselves. Give an Englishman as good as he gives you, and you are certain to win his respect, and probably his regard. In this connection see my anecdote about the Tommies and Yankees who physically fought it out, and compare it with the Salisbury, the van Squibber, and the opium trade anecdotes. "Treat 'em rough," when they treat you rough: they like it. Only, be sure you do it in the right way.

    Third. We differ because we are alike. That American who stood in the theatre complaining about the sixpence he didn't have to pay at home is exactly like Englishmen I have seen complaining about the unexpected here. We share not only the same mother-tongue, we share every other fundamental thing upon which our welfare rests and our lives are carried on. We like the same things, we hate the same things. We have the same notions about justice, law, conduct; about what a man should be, about what a woman should be. It is like the mother-tongue we share, yet speak with a difference. Take the mother-tongue for a parable and symbol of all the rest. Just as the word "girl" is identical to our sight but not to our hearing, and means oh! quite the same thing throughout us all in all its meanings, so that identity of nature which we share comes often to the surface in different guise. Our loquacity estranges the Englishman, his silence estranges us. Behind that silence beats the English heart, warm, constant, and true; none other like it on earth, except our own at its best, beating behind our loquacity.

    Thus far my anecdotes carry me. May they help some reader to a better understanding of what he has misunderstood heretofore!

    No anecdotes that I can find (though I am sure that they are to be found) will illustrate one difference between the two peoples, very noticeable to-day. It is increasing. An Englishman not only sticks closer than a brother to his own rights, he respects the rights of his neighbor just as strictly. We Americans are losing our grip on this. It is the bottom of the whole thing. It is the moral keystone of democracy. Howsoever we may talk about our own rights to-day, we pay less and less respect to those of our neighbors. The result is that to-day there is more liberty in England than here. Liberty consists and depends upon respecting your neighbor's rights every bit as fairly and squarely as your own.

    On the other hand, I wonder if the English are as good losers as we are? Hardly anything that they could do would rub us more the wrong way than to deny to us that fair play in sport which they accord each other. I shall not more than mention the match between our Benicia Boy and their Tom Sayers. Of this the English version is as defective as our school-book account of the Revolution. I shall also pass over various other international events that are somewhat well known, and I will illustrate the point with an anecdote known to but a few.

    Crossing the ocean were some young English and Americans, who got up an international tug-of-war. A friend of mine was anchor of our team. We happened to win. They didn't take it very well. One of them said to the anchor:

    "Do you know why you pulled us over the line? "


    "Because you had all the blackguards on your side of the line."

    "Do you know why we had all the blackguards on our side of the line? " inquired the American.


    "Because we pulled you over the line."

    In one of my anecdotes I used the term Sam Johnson to describe an Englishman of a certain type. Dr. Samuel Johnson was a very marked specimen of the type, and almost the only illustrious Englishman of letters during our Revolutionary troubles who was not our friend. Right down through the years ever since, there have been Sam Johnsons writing and saying unfavorable things about us. The Tory must be eternal, as much as the Whig or Liberal; and both are always needed. There will probably always be Sam Johnsons in England, just like the one who was scandalized by our Chicago packing-house disclosures. No longer ago than June , , a Sam Johnson, who was discussing the Peace Treaty, said in my hearing, in London:

    "The Yankees shouldn't have been brought into any consultation. They aided and abetted Germany."

    In Littell's Living Age of July , , pages -, you may read an interesting account of British writers on the United States. The bygone ones were pretty preposterous. They satirized the newness of a new country. It was like visiting the Esquimaux and complaining that they grew no pineapples and wore skins. In Littell you will find how few are the recent Sam Johnsons as compared with the recent friendly writers. You will also be reminded that our anti-English complex was discerned generations ago by Washington Irving. He said in his Sketch Book that writers in this country were "instilling anger and resentment into the bosom of a youthful nation, to grow with its growth and to strengthen with its strength."

    And he quotes from the English Quarterly Review, which in that early day already wrote of America and England:

    "There is a sacred bond between us by blood and by language which no circumstances can break…… Nations are too ready to admit that they have natural enemies; why should they be less willing to believe that they have natural friends?"

    It is we ourselves to-day, not England, that are pushing friendship away. It is our politicians, papers, and propagandists who are making the trouble and the noise. In England the will to friendship rules, has ruled for a long while. Does the will to hate rule with us? Do we prefer Germany? Do we prefer the independence of Ireland to the peace of the world?

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