Society in London, by a Foreign Resident

Smalley, George W.


CHAPTER XII: Actors, Actresses, and Artists in Society


CHAPTER XII: Actors, Actresses, and Artists in Society




WHILE journalists and men of letters are content to be merged in the common crowd in London society, artists and actors stand forth from it in prominent relief. They are personages. They insist on making themselves seen and heard. Not, indeed, qua artists and actors, but qua gentlemen or ladies of fashion. The odd thing is that, assuming the airs of people of the highest social consideration, the actors are perpetually asking themselves what their position is. As a matter of fact, it is, with the exception of their womankind, what it always was. The actress in society is a novel feature. Madame Christine Nilsson, the prima donna, visits Lady Salisbury. Mrs. Bancroft-Marie Wilton-visits Lady Hayter, to say nothing of other ladies of social distinction, peeresses by the score thrown in.

This is exactly what might have been expected. London society is, in a sense, stage-struck. It takes the same sort of interest in associating with the ornaments of the stage as boys feel in making the acquaintance of ballet-dancers. There is a certain prurient prudishness, a salacious inquisitiveness, about London society. It loves to hover over, or alight on, the borderland which separates conventional respectability from downright dissoluteness. There is nothing which it so dearly loves as a soupcon of naughtiness. I never see that well-known picture of two young ladies peering into a volume which they have taken down from a shelf in the paternal library-"Forbidden Fruit," I think it is called-and reading in it things which make them alternately smile and blush, without


recognizing the pictorial symbol, the engraved allegory of London society. What, to it, is the mystery of holiness in comparison with the mystery of sin ? Who would not sooner contemplate the lives of the sinners than the lives of the saints ? London society is infinitely charitable, because its curiosity knows no bounds. One of the reasons why it welcomes actresses is that it surrounds them, rightly or wrongly, with a halo of antecedents and environment which leave much to the imagination.

Not, indeed, that in the social demeanor of these ladies there is anything to gratify, or to promise the gratification, of any tastes which are other than puritanical in their severe respectability. With the single exception that they are more demonstrative than ordinary Englishwomen, more anxious to fix attention upon themselves, they might be the wives of barristers or bishops. They are the incarnation of everything that is orthodox in British matronhood. Mrs. Kendal, one of the best artists of her sex on the London stage, is in private life the epitome of all the domestic virtues and graces. She has a husband, himself a worthy actor, and bearing the same relation to a gentleman of fashion as the private in a Yeomanry cavalry regiment does to an officer in the Blues-an historic husband, whom she has recently immortalized, and without whom she goes nowhere. The Kendals and the Bancrofts are at the apex of the theatrical profession from a social point of viewsons at Eton, houses in fashionable quarters, villas on the Thames, shooting-boxes in Scotland, horses, carriages, visiting-lists, fine friends, an endless round of entertainments-whatever, in fact, lends distinction or respectability to life belongs to them.

There are, I may venture to say, not a few houses in London society into the ample bosom of which any one calling herself an actress would be welcomed. Sometimes it happens that society is agitated with misgivings as to the propriety of taking these ladies of the stage to its heart. But the conscientious scruple only makes itself felt to be effaced-appears, to disappear. The fair player, as it discovers, is calumniated. She is confused with some one else, oddly enough, of exactly the same name, who is or was not everything which might be wished; or she has entirety broken with a past which, if equivocal, was experienced under circumstances that make her rather sinned against than sinning, rather a martyr than a culprit. Other social critics there are who, if they are reproached with lack of discrimination on this point, cynically ask what does


it matter, and claim for the gentlemen and ladies who delight the world behind the footlights an exemption from the prosaic trammels of the moral law.

The actress who ten or fifteen years ago was dancing a breakdown on the burlesque stage finds herself seated to-day, between the Premier and a prelate, at the dinner-table of a peer. The fine ladies who affect to be the queens of London society may shrug their shoulders, elevate their eyebrows, and say scornful things about it, but the fact remains the same. The actress in society is as powerful as the best substitute which London can offer for the grande dame, and-which explains her popularity-she is infinitely more amusing. That is the secret of the whole business. Just as there are some gentlemen belonging to the theatrical profession who, when they have played to the public, go into society to sing songs at so much a piece, so actresses are taken into society, not professionally, but upon an unreal footing of equality which makes them the more diverting. They comport themselves with the mien of women to whom imperial sway is a second nature. They are at home immediately. I have never seen the young lady known as Miss Fortescue on the stage, but I have had the honor to view her at a discreet distance in drawing-rooms, and there could not be more of self-consequence in her bearing if she were a duchess.

Nor are the gentlemen of the stage more timid than the ladies. The impression which they aim, quite unconsciously I really believe, at producing, is that of being officers in crack regiments who take, after the habit of military exquisites, an interest in the drama. Some of them, when they are spoiled by great ladies and made to feel almost too much at home in big houses, acquire a habit of slanginess and familiarity which, however, to their real admirers, seems only to add piquancy to their charm.

The London theatrical hosts and hostesses are on the increase. The most noticeable of the number are the Duke of Beaufort and Lord and Lady Londesborough, the last being the daughter of the first. Lord Londesborough is a typical specimen of the English swell. Tall, with tawny beard and mustache, at home in the theatre or at theatrical suppers, in the hunting-field or on the box of a four-in-hand, he is good-natured and heavy, with no definite ideas, probably, on any subject which does not appertain to pleasure or sport, and, as an hereditary legislator, animated by the traditional hatred of the aristocratic Whig for the plebeian Radical.


He is never more happy than when he is entertaining a select party of histrionic artistes of both sexes at his country-seat in Hampshire, or driving his drag, freighted with these same ornaments of the drama, to Sandown or Epsom. He was once mistaken by an American visitor for a popular comedian, which he thought an excellent joke.

Lord Dunraven is also a warm patron of the playhouse and of players. This nobleman has crossed the Atlantic so frequently, and sojourned on the other side of it so long, that he has contracted, or affects to have contracted, something of the American accent Seen anywhere, he would excite attention. His face, with the strongly defined eyebrows, the long, elaborately brushed and waxed mustache, the dark complexion, and the slightly sinister, though not unkind, expression, is suggestive alternately of a mediaeval Mephistopheles and a modern conjurer. He has brains, knowledge, and experience, is a good talker, and can write English which is always grammatical and sometimes vigorous. He will long be remembered as their benefactor by many bright particular stars of the stage. He is not an ascetic, but he is too astute to be, or ever to have been, a spendthrift libertine. Lord Rosebery and Lord Fife can each of them pose as the Maecenas of the Thespian profession, especially when the Prince of Wales graces the occasion by his presence.

The English drama has no warmer patron, and the English actor or actress no more useful friend, than Mr. George Lewis, the eminent lawyer. But his aegis covers a far wider area than that of the stage. He is the oracle and adviser of London society. There is scarcely any gentleman or lady whose name has been mentioned in these pages, and who, if he or she were to become involved in any grave trouble or compromising complication, would not fly for aid and counsel to this most sagacious, acute, and amiable of English solicitors. Small wonder, then, that he is as much of an institution in London society as any of its most conspicuous ornaments, or that his comfortable and artistically arranged house is, under the presiding genius of his graceful and accomplished wife, a social centre. Half the most delicate secrets of the English aristocracy are locked up in the breast of Mr. Lewis; and if you come to gentlemen in business, I verily believe that he knows enough about them to send half the City of London to penal servitude. He goes everywhere and hears everything.


How could it be otherwise? There is no cause celebre in high life every ramification of which is not in his hands.

The actors and actresses reciprocate the hospitality of their hosts in London society. Mr. Arthur Cecil entertains at little suppers, when the play is over, many of the smart ladies of the fine world. Mr. and Mrs. Bancroft give frequent dinners to their numerous admirers at their residence in Berkeley Square. Mr. and Mrs. Kendal are not less fond of seeing their friends in Harley Street. Mr. Wilson Barrett is famous for suppers which are banquets, and occasionally gives dinner-parties on Sundays.

But the most prodigal and magnificent of theatrical hosts is Mr. Henry Irving. Opinions differ as to the merits of this gentleman's acting. Those who appreciate and condemn his art alike recognize the stamp of high intelligence impressed upon it. His mannerisms may be censured, but they are only the veil that never quite conceals a quality closely akin to genius. Whatever profession he might have adopted, he would have made his mark in it. Much satire has been expended on his attitudes, many attacks have been made on his pronunciation of the English language. His best and conclusive answer to his critics on both these grounds is that the public applauds him. He has won its ear, and can always count upon his audience. He has, too, employed successfully other expedients in conciliating the multitude. His profuse expenditure has carried captive their imagination. His known generosity and munificence have made him their idol. Whatever he does is done on a great, even a grand, scale, and done without ostentation, without violating any of the laws of good taste. Whatever the entertainment he has devised for his friends is the best of its kind.

His figure is interesting, not, it is true, wanting in eccentricity, but then not wanting in distinction either. His manner is polished and gentle; his voice off the stage always agreeable, and his smile peculiarly winning. He is also, like Mr. Wilson Barrett, a shrewd and indefatigable man of business. He would never incur the remotest danger of dramatic failure by inattention to any of those details which could promote success. The relations he has established between himself and the Press, and every interest or body of persons with whom he is brought into contact, are equally calculated to help him at any critical juncture. In general society he is reserved, and has been known to remind


some persons of the late Lord Beaconsfield. In the company of his intimate friends his conversation is sometimes exceedingly interesting, though the minuteness with which he dwells upon comparatively trivial details is apt to be a trifle tedious. He is, I should think, the only living actor who has been selected honoris causa a member of the Athenaeum Club, and probably the only actor on whom at any time a similar honor has been conferred by the Committee of the Reform Club.

There are half a dozen or a score of other gentlemen of the stage frequently to be encountered in London society, such as Mr. Conway, Mr. Brookfield, Mr. Hawtrey, and many more. Most of these are well favored to look upon, and much appreciated by ladies who have been the architects of their social fortunes. Mr. Hare, one of the most artistic players of character parts on the English stage, is altogether upon a higher level, more exclusive in his social tastes and engagements, as becomes one who has, by the successful exercise of his art, achieved position and opulence. He has all an Englishman's love of sport, is devoted to horses, and can find enjoyment in games of chance. But, while cultivating pleasure, he may be trusted to avoid rashness, and, speaking generally, I am disposed to think that there is hardly any other race of men so discreet and thrifty, so well acquainted with the value of money, and so certain to secure a wise return for everything they expend, as the prosperous and affluent English actor of to-day.

Mr. Toole does not belong to the set of players of the dandy order, and he would, I suppose, excuse me for saying that, whatever may have been the case once, there is little of the handsome young ingenu left about him now. Yet he is a visitor at the houses of the rich and great, regarded with a favorable eye, and entertained, in common with Mr. Bancroft, Mr. Hare, Mr. Cecil, and others of his calling, by the Prince of Wales. His life has been that of a steady and honorable worker at his profession. He has been the cause of much hearty and harmless laughter in public and private to countless hundreds. Fortune has smiled upon him, and it may be questioned whether there is in London any one who enjoys existence more.

Some years ago Mr. Gladstone introduced the innovation of inviting the representatives of English pictorial art to the great banquets of State. The practice was continued by Lord Beaconsfield.


Although artists of the stage have not, so far as I know, yet received at the hands of English Premiers exactly the same honor as the artists of the brush, Mr. Gladstone has been at special pains to favor them with the marks of his attention. He is, as Europe has been told more than once, a statesman of universal sympathies. Years have passed since he made, at the house, I think, of Mrs. Thistlethwayte, the acquaintance of a veteran Royal Academician, Mr. Herbert. Since then his acquaintance among painters and players has rapidly widened, and to-day, if he were compelled to live in Bohemia, he would not need any fresh introductions.

But although Mr. Irving, Mr. Toole, and others are among the guests at his Thursday breakfast-table, and put in an appearance at Mrs. Gladstone's evening receptions, they have not, so far as I know, up to the present time been summoned to take their place at his banqueting-table among peers and knights of the Garter, upon State occasions such as Her Majesty's birthday.

The artist, however, is more fortunate, and Sir Frederick Leighton is bidden to these feasts in his capacity of an official personage of high degree. The Royal Academy of Arts, of which he is president, is an institution of State, and, as in England professions rise or fall in dignity and repute according as they are or are not connected with the State, the Royal Academicians and their chief have a social prestige in virtue of their official status in which other intellectual and artistic workers do not participate. At the Royal Academy dinner, held on the last Saturday of April, the members of the Cabinet and the chief members of the Government, as well as select representatives of the Bench and Bar, the naval and military services, and other occupations, are entertained. Moreover, the President of the Royal Academy is one of the favored few who can obtain access to the Queen when he desires. He is, therefore, not only an eminent painter, of course, but a public individual of no common importance. These things have conspired to raise the position of artists happening to be also Royal Academicians in the estimate of the public, and, with all charity be it said, in the estimate of themselves.

Sir Frederick Leighton is, in something more than the merely conventional sense, the pride and ornament of his profession. He is not-how, indeed, could he be?-unconscious of the pomp and circumstance with which he is furnished. As an artist pure and


simple he is a great draughtsman and a fantastic colorist. His flesh-hues were never seen upon the inhabitant of any country or climate, of any nationality at any period of the world's history, or under the influence of any light whatever. As a visionary glorification of the actual and the real they may be perfectly legitimate, but there is nothing in them even remotely allied to reality. That, however, is a detail, a matter which concerns Sir Frederick Leighton and his imagination alone. It is necessary for the President of the Royal Academy to be not only an artist but a courtier, not only an authority in the studio but a personable figure in society, a good public speaker, a man of urbane address and of general information and culture.

These last qualifications, so far as I have been able from personal observation to ascertain, are not too common among painters, who have that peculiar vice of the English specialist and know exceedingly little about any subject to which they have not devoted their lives. Whether one takes city merchants and speculators, or lawyers, or actors, makes no difference. In Paris and in other European capitals the gentlemen of the Bourse are politicians and diplomatists, just as the diplomatists and politicians are gentlemen of the Bourse, while the doctors and the avocats are desirous of repute as men of the world, and therefore necessarily endowed with more or less miscellaneous knowledge. But in England the specialists (using this word in the broadest sense and indicating by it those who are wrapped up in the concerns and labors of a single profession) are perfectly satisfied to be in complete ignorance of whatever lies outside the limits of their peculiar sphere. So far from the British artist being an exception to this rule, he is the most conclusive illustration of it. Once detach him from his pigments and brushes, his experiences of foreign galleries, and his sensibility to his rival's shortcomings, and he has nothing to say. He must talk about his art and himself, or he will talk about nothing.

Sir Frederick Leighton, indeed, will discuss his art from every conceivable aspect by the hour, and is not invincibly silent upon the subject of himself. But then he is, besides, a scholar, a speaker, a linguist, a man of business, of the world, and of appreciation of and acquaintance with everything which ministers to the embellishment or the grace of existence. He would have been distinguished in any career. His more enthusiastic admirers have


discovered in him a strong personal resemblance to Apollo, as that classic divinity unveils himself to their imagination, and it is not difficult, as one looks at his elegant presence, to detect in it something which is suggestive of a Greek god in a frock-coat. His are the hyacinthine locks, thinned indeed by years, but still with something celestial in their flow; his that glossy hue which, as seen on his mustache or beard, may come from the liquid dew of Castaly or Roland's Macassar oil. His voice is lutelike, and his language a mosaic of sentiments not so much rare in themselves, as set in phrases which are miracles of the aesthetic imagination, and which can only be interpreted by the vulgar as enshrining thoughts too exquisitely precious. It is not English, nor French, nor Italian, nor Spanish, nor Greek which this accomplished rhetorician pours forth in easy flow. It is rather Ambrosia in syllables; it is Leightonese.

Contrast with this finished specimen of the refinement of English art embodied in the human form, the painter who is probably popular and prosperous before any of his contemporaries, Mr. John Everett Millais. It is, I believe, reported that Mr. Millais, had he cared to press his claims, might have secured his election over Sir Frederick Leighton to the presidential chair of the Royal Academy. But, as he might himself say, "it was not in his line." Everything he could wish he had obtained already-fame, fortune, friends. Millais is an undeniably handsome man, a well-knit giant of six foot one, with a ruddy, open countenance, frank, hearty, a ringing voice and a pealing laugh. Like Leighton he loves beauty and comfort, but unlike Leighton he has a native taste for simplicity; he is, although by birth a native of Jersey, a thorough Englishman, ready to back his race, his country, and everything characteristic of them against the rest of the world. Imagine John Bull a painter, and you have Jack Millais. No more cheery optimist, or one who shows more conclusively the difference between honest pride in himself, his possessions and his works, and vanity or conceit, than Mr. Millais ever lived. Most thoroughly has he apprehended the genius of the English people. Most happily does he reflect it on his canvases, whether they are covered with landscape or portrait.

I never meet this superb type of artistic manhood, with his breezy, boisterous manner, without experiencing a sense of physical refreshment. It is as if there was wafted to me in Pall Mall a


current of air from those Scotch Highlands which he loves and paints so well, fragrant with the heather and the fir-cones. Mr. Millais is a keen sportsman, and one of the reasons why he toils so incessantly during seven or eight months of every year is that he may spend the remaining four or five in quest of grouse and salmon. He has a moor and a river on the other side of the Tweed, and these of course are like everything else which belongs to him, the best in the world. Honestly is lie persuaded, and without the slightest trace of offensive conceit will he assure you, that there is no family so richly endowed with the gift of personal beauty as his own, and that there is no such house as that which he has built for himself. Ask him whether of the two painters he considers Millais or Gainsborough the greater, and he would, I am convinced, if he felt it permissible to speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, say Millais. A chief among artists, this, and a prince among good fellows.

Sir Frederick Leighton's most confidential adviser and friend among men is Mr. Val Prinsep-universally popular, of inexhaustible kindness, and welcome in any society. A finished and most courteous gentleman, notwithstanding an almost uncouth appearance and, so far as his face is concerned, a pervading air of shagginess. is, in each of these respects, opposite-sleek, smooth-mannered, habited with extreme care, wonderfully well-looking, and with no more of the artist in his appearance than is indicated by a certain picturesqueness in his tout-ensemble. and differ from painters of the stamp of as much as Mr. Stone himself differs from Mr. Prinsep. These are not merely wielders of the brush; they are also priests of mighty mysteries. Painters by profession, they are teachers and preachers too. Art is with them a gospel which it is given only to a select minority of initiated votaries to understand aright. There is a subtle symbolism in every picture which Mr. Jones submits to the public. He is taken by his admirers, as indeed is usually the case, at his own estimate of himself. He is never to be met with in any ordinary circle of London society. He deigns only to reveal himself in the drawing rooms of a favored few, and then he expects and receives the worship due to a deity.

In this he and others like him merely illustrate the besetting tendency of the brethren of the brush in England. They believe overmuch


in their own infallibility. They are jealous of contradiction, contemptuous of any outside criticism. For these reasons they are often not especially eligible as companions. To judge of art, they hold, one must begin by being an artist, and if that condition is not forth-coming, any opinion expressed must, they seem to think, be an impertinence. If they are members, actual or potential, of the Royal Academy, they constitute an aggressive guild, always ready, with or without provocation, to assume an offensive attitude towards the world. If they are at feud with the Academy, and affect to despise its distinctions and its diplomas, the area of their supercilious spleen is only enlarged, and they pose as the men of genius whom their own generation does not understand, but for whom an immortality of glory is hereafter reserved. To that belief there are always some ladies in London society who are swift to minister.

There is one artist whose name may be mentioned as furnishing a crucial instance of the service which social and, above all, feminine assistance may render in the establishment of a professional reputation. Mr. Whistler is, for all I know to the contrary, an artist who has the suffrages of his brother artists, a great painter in the judgment of those who live by painting, but if he had not followed the example of his name would be comparatively unknown. He had the wit to see that genius must in these days wear the crown of eccentricity, even as it is the fool's cap which frequently conceals the fool, or rather invests him with the mantle of the wise man. The opportunity came, and he took advantage of it. He developed a little group of characteristics which pleased the fancy and impressed themselves on the memory of society. First he cultivated a lock of hair sprouting from amidst his tresses and fashioned after the model of a feather. Next he substituted for a walking-stick a staff. Having thus appealed to the vision, he proceeded to appeal to society's sense of hearing, and, exaggerating his American twang, invented a species of Yankee dialect hitherto unknown. In this he made it his business to utter grotesque antithetical incoherences, and to ramble on in a maundering monotone from theme to theme. Some clever things he contrived to say, for he is undoubtedly an exceedingly clever man. Concurrently with this he imported a novel mode of painting.

The critics were divided in their opinion. Some said it was


genius, others said it was a daub. Society, being already prejudiced in favor of the man, now welcomed the artist, and saw in everything which came at long intervals from his studio the transcendent gifts of a great original. " Our James" became the rage, because, in fact, society's own James. From the artist he rose to the oracle. Having induced many gay and lively persons in London society to believe that he was the sole painter of the period who had the slightest notion of the rudiments of art, it occurred to him that he might as well explain from a public platform what these were. So he hired a room in Piccadilly, and announced a discourse to be delivered at the unusual hour of ten o'clock. The bait took. It was whispered about in society that it would be the right thing to hear "our James." He must be so entertaining.

When the eventful evening arrived there was not a seat to be had for love or money. All the smart people were there. Some of them could not hear, others could not understand. Some appreciated, others were simply perplexed, but they all resolved to say that it was exceeding clever, and so, whether he did or did not laugh at them in his sleeve, our James had his victory. If society had been ill-natured it might, I am disposed to think, have resented the whole business as an imposture, have exclaimed indignantly that it had been the victim of a practical joke, and have demanded that its money should be returned to it at the doors.

Nothing is more noticeable than the intense respectability of the artistic society of London. In France and in other countries the artist is a Bohemian. In London he is the pink of fashion and the flower of propriety. The curious thing is, that when a man or a woman distinguished in art or literature perpetrates any eccentricity, society insists upon investing it with an air of sanctity. For instance, the English public has just been reading with delight the autobiography of an illustrious female novelist, who lived, during the greater part of her existence, with a man who was not her husband, edited by a man who was. Characteristically it has seen nothing at all odd in this. The lady had a great genius, and, therefore, what in others less gifted might have been vice was in her case a form of virtue.

It never entered into its head to do any one of these things. I have often heard society in London compared to that society in Athens addressed by the apostle Paul, whose whole life was devoted to the seeing or hearing of some new thing. But if London


society is greedy of novelty, it cannot be charged with the sin of inconstancy or caprice. It is, as I have endeavored in these pages to show, credulous and simple in some respects even to a fault. It is also loyal to those whom it has once taken into its service, and who do not put off their cap and bells in its employ. It may not be profound, witty, or wise. But it errs, when it does err, on the side of charity. It will not tolerate idols placed up for its adoration by some external power, but when those idols are set up by itself it does not lightly dethrone them. If the worshippers are mechanically gregarious, they are animated by an esprit de corps which insures their mutual allegiance. I have made no attempt here to conceal or gloss over the faults of London society, but, after these have been duly allowed for, London society will remain the most catholic, comprehensive, tolerant, amusing, the most vast and varied in the world.

One word in conclusion. Those of my readers who are not Englishmen may be surprised that in this account of Society in London I have said nothing of the duel as an institution, or of affairs of honor. The explanation is that such things are in England practically unknown. Twice within my recollection have two gentlemen, both of them officers in the army, thought it necessary to send challenges to friends who had been too attentive to their wives. In each case a personal encounter followed, but no mischief was done, and the general impression of society at the time was that the belligerents had rendered themselves slightly ridiculous. Public opinion in London is indeed undoubtedly hos tile to the duel. The late Prince Consort, who, more than any man of his time, moulded the taste and temper of the English people, strenuously discouraged it; and though the Prince of Wales is reported to have advocated it in a particular instance, and to be generally not unfriendly to the principle of the duel, I see no signs of a disposition to adopt it. This is to a large extent because there exist in London society social tribunals before which there can be tried questions that in France we settle in the Bois de Boulogne, Club committees are in effect courts of honor, and the organized public opinion of London society can visit any grave offence against it with penalties as severe as the bullet of a pistol or the thrust of a rapier. In France men keep their quarrels and scandals to themselves. They are purely personal topics, matters in which they, and they alone, are interested. In England, society being,


as I said at the commencement of this little work, more compactly and elaborately organized than in any other country in the world, makes such incidents its common concern.

With these observations, I bid my readers, French or English or of whatever nationality they may be, farewell. They will find, I believe, in these pages some truth and no ill-nature. I am not, at least, conscious of having written anything which is either impertinent or spiteful. I have raked up the ashes of no scandals. I have not divulged a single secret, or lifted the curtain of any interior which ought not to be revealed, or profaned the sacred mysteries of domestic hospitality. The only sins with which I can be reproached are errors or inelegancies in literary expression. For these I may be pardoned, as one who, though he is now fairly habituated to the English tongue, is painfully alive to the fact that he has still to master many of its idioms and idiosyncrasies.