Society in London, by a Foreign Resident
Smalley, George W.
CHAPTER V: Some of Society's Sets
SOME OF SOCIETY'S SETS.
CHAPTER V: Some of Society's Sets
SOME OF SOCIETY'S SETS.
OVERGROWN and mixed as London society is, there are in it two or three small and exceedingly exclusive sets the ladies and gentlemen composing which, if they occasionally mingle with the outer world, never tolerate the presence among themselves of any one who does not belong to their number. Lady Sefton, Lady Cowper, Lady Marian Alford, Lady Northampton, and Lady Pembroke are the representatives of coteries of this kind, rigidly barred against all outsiders. Lady Marian Alford, a devoted as well as a very agreeable and accomplished hostess of royalty, is hardly ever to be met with save in her own house. Lord and Lady Bath have little intercourse with those of their fellow-creatures who move on a lower plane. They receive in London and at Longleat a chosen and limited circle of friends. They are finished and favorable specimens of the English nobility, patrician to the tips of their finger-nails. Lord Bath, with his frigidity and hauteur, might be the original of a conventional portrait of an English peer. If his youth and early manhood were agitated by occasional indiscretions, he has long since cast the husk of all follies, and has settled-one might almost say has frozen-down into the very exemplar of an immaculate, unemotional, self-possessed British aristocrat. He has had, too, his flirtations with Liberalism, and has coquetted with Mr. Gladstone. But this, too, is an affair of the past, and one may truthfully state, for the satisfaction of all whom it concerns, that he is to-day as unbending and narrow-minded a Tory as he is a blue-blooded peer. Only contrast with these unrelentingly inelastic cliques the more light-hearted and catholic circles where enjoyment
|is the first thing sought after, and where folly is not despised because it is folly, in which the Hardwicks and Dangans move.|
The scale on which London society exists is unmanageably huge. It therefore lacks unity; it is a chaotic congeries of sets. There are higher grades in it and lower grades. There are certain houses and hosts who constitute centres round which the social atoms rally. On the other hand, the instances just given are almost the only ones which English society affords of equivalents of the old nobility of the Faubourg St. Germain, the old Catholic aristocracy of France or Italy, who will have nothing to say to the newer social grades. For the rest there are a few genuine social leaders. There are innumerable pretenders of the pettiest kind to social leadership. It is impossible, and it would be uninteresting even if it were possible, to pass all or even a majority of these in review. I shall only aim at presenting the reader to some of the chief personages whom it is important he or she should know, and at indicating the principal forces which sway the social mass.
Of these the chief is wealth. English society, once ruled by an aristocracy, is now dominated mainly by a plutocracy. And this plutocracy is to a large extent Hebraic in its composition. There is no phenomenon more noticeable in the society of London than the ascendency of the Jews. Exception may be taken to this statement. I may be told that the chosen race exert no particular power, and that there is a great deal of excellent society in England, and for that matter in London, where Jews are unknown or are rarely seen. But in that kind of society which is known as "smart" you will soon discover that the Israelites are the lords paramount.
The reason is not far to seek. It is to be found, first, in the increased power attaching to the principle of money, as distinguished from the principle of birth; and secondly, in the initiative of the Prince of Wales. The Heir-Apparent is, as I have already explained, the king of the social system in London, just as much as is the Queen the constitutional monarch of the realm. His Royal Highness regards the best class of Hebrews with conspicuous favor. In that, as in other matters, he sets a fashion. The innumerable host of his satellites follow his example, and bow the knee before the descendants of the tribes. You may say that the same thing may be witnessed elsewhere than in England. Possibly; but nowhere, I think, to precisely the same degree.
In London the Rothschilds are, to a great extent, as I have said, by favor of the Prince of Wales, a race of social potentates. That they are commercial potentates in the City of London, as they are in sundry cities of the Continent, who needs to be told? You may hear that there is no member of the English firm of Rothschild, whose mercantile palace is New Court, of commanding ability. If, however, the financial genius of the old Baron Lionel has not descended in its plenitude to each of his sons, each is clever beyond the average, while the accumulated traditions of generations and the ripe experience of their chiefs of department are guarantees against any serious mistakes.
It is, so far as the Rothschilds themselves are concerned, a species of trinity, the first person of which is Sir Nathaniel, the second Mr. Alfred, and the third Mr. Leopold de Rothschild. The baronet is the supreme head of the establishment, occupying the first place at the family tribunal, receiving visitors, and treated with marked deference by his two brothers. You will find him at first a gentleman of curious manner. He is so preoccupied by the cares of business, lie is so habituated to the exercise of authority, that he can spare little thought for the amenities of life, and he is not so much intolerant of contradiction by others as fond of contradicting others himself. But this is merely one of the superficial idiosyncrasies of the man. A contradiction with him means no more than an interrogation with you. It is only the way in which he puts a question. Instead of asking on what evidence your assertion rests that the day is fine or wet, he considers it the more effectual to meet your statement that it is wet or fine with a point-blank denial. In this fashion he hopes to elicit your reasons, to put you on your mettle, to compel you to retract your declaration, if it is hasty and ill- considered, or to demonstrate that it is based upon testimony entitled to respect. People who make "Natty's " acquaintance for the first time may be forgiven if they conceive the idea that he is disposed to be imperious, overbearing, and harsh. There could be no greater mistake. He is not any one of these things. He is, on the contrary, when his interest or regard is fairly enlisted, kind, considerate, and sympathetic.
His two brothers discharge respectively parts essential to the economy of New Court. The youngest, Leopold, is occupied with the mechanical minutiae of the business. In the City his vocation appears humble and he himself little more than a drudge. Outside
|the City he is a person of importance, a man of sport and pleasure, a member of the Jockey Club, an owner of race-horses, and of a modest establishment in Buckinghamshire. The second of the three Rothschild brothers has functions, as he has a physiognomy, altogether unlike either of his two brothers. He is light of complexion, while they are dark, with tawny hair and drooping mustache of the same color and cut known as the Dundreary. He bestows much attention on the graces of manner. His hospitalities in London and in the country are upon an elaborate scale. The Prince of Wales is frequently among his visitors, and no opportunity is wanting to enable him to form an accurate idea of the opinion held by the privileged or official classes in English society. Add to this that the Rothschilds in London have at their disposal a little army of brokers and touts in the City, a choice detachment of politicians and financiers, whether they do or do not belong to the public service at the West End; bear in mind, too, that they receive early information from their kinsmen and correspondents in every part of the earth of what is happening or is likely to happen, and you will not be surprised to know that New Court is the abode of power.|
The family genius of the Rothschilds shows itself equally in the understanding they maintain among themselves and the relations they establish with all those who can be useful to them. It is only natural that a house divided as the Rothschilds are into branches, each branch being a separate dynasty, should have its own little jealousies. There could be no more solid monument to their shrewdness and sagacity than that they should not suffer these jealousies to hold them apart at critical moments when union is strength. Nor do they choose their friends and agents outside themselves with less discrimination or treat them with less of wise generosity and forbearance. They know exactly whom to select for their purpose, and once having made their choice, they are loyal to it. Many men are indebted to the Rothschilds for their fortune. No one who has once placed their trust in them, and whom they have found it worth their while to trust, can reproach them with having deserted him.
There is a fourth member of the Rothschild family, himself having nothing to do with the business in New Court, or with any department of the Rothschild business in any other capital, and yet largely instrumental in extending the influence and popularity,
|and in reinforcing the dignity, of the great house: this is Baron Ferdinand Rothschild, by birth an Austrian, by process of naturalization an Englishman. His role in existence is principally ornamental. Like his kinsmen, he is possessed of a palace in that portion of Piccadilly which may be called the Rothschilds' quarter. He has also a magnificent chateau in that part of the county of Buckingham which the Rothschilds have practically annexed, though, with characteristic caution, their actual investments in land are much smaller than is generally supposed. Here he receives more or less throughout the whole year, and especially during the summer months for two or three days at a time, whole cohorts of fashionable and distinguished guests. It is a real palace of art; a superb domicile of decorative treasure; a paradise for the connoisseur and the virtuoso. All the Rothschilds are collectors, and Baron Ferdinand is conspicuous among them.|
The Oppenheim and Bischoffsheim establishments are two of the other chief monuments which London affords to the Hebraic ascendency. There is, however, a marked distinction between these families. Mr. Oppenheim-" H. O.," as you may hear him familiarly called in New Court and in other circles where he is intimate -has completely merged himself in the society of Englishmen. Himself a man of singularly agreeable and even winning manners, he married one of the cleverest, prettiest, and best born of Irish women; he inhabits and has beautified incredibly the mansion in Bruton Street which belonged formerly to Lord Granville and Lord Carnarvon. On the other hand, Mr. and Mrs. Bischoffsheim are to all intents and purposes foreigners. Naturalized and acclimatized to England and London they are; but they have never become completely amalgamated with the social mass of which they form a part. It is true they entertain, and are entertained by, the highest and the smartest personages in England; but Mr. Bischoffsheim, a Dutchman by birth, is as little of an Englishman as his brother Charles, that most confirmed of all Parisian boulevardiers. Nor is there more of the Briton in Mrs. Bischoffsheim. A Viennese by origin, she is a bold, successful, gracious woman of the world; very handsome, and with the eye of a general for social combinations and manoeuvres. Her attitude may indeed remind one of that of a foreign commander in petticoats in possession of a conquered country, and placed there for the exclusive purpose of holding down its inhabitants. She does not, perhaps, greatly love the English, or,
|indeed, the Christian race. She fetes and pets them if necessary with benignity and with magnificence; but, unless I am much mistaken, her sentiments are those of the general who, by dint of consummate cleverness, has won a supreme triumph, and whom victory enables to be generous, rather than of the hostess of London society who is to the manner born. She is an excellent mother, and dresses to perfection. As her children are admirably brought up, so are her toilets in the best taste. Indeed, both Mrs. Bischoffsheim and Mrs. Oppenheim have more influence upon fashion in feminine costume than any two other ladies resident in London; and as regards modes are six months in advance of any of their rivals.|
The second feature to which, in my attempt to present a trustworthy chart of society in London, I should draw attention is the ascendency of the Teutonic element. The social influences of Jews and Germans run in parallel, often in converging, streams, and are frequently centred in the same persons. But there are some Germans, who are exceedingly powerful in London, who are not Jews. Just as Great Britain is now suffering from an invasion of Germans as formidable in its way as that which France experienced in the Great War--an invasion which substitutes German clerks and lawyers, German merchants and big and small tradesmen for English; which supplants English by German barristers-so in society there are opulent Teutons who, having made large fortunes in the United States or in the colonies of England, have settled in London, and exercise their supremacy over a gradually extending area.
Every grade in English life, from the royal family to the domestic servant, is leavened by the German element. A few statistics will show the force of this statement. Of the 250,000 Germans in England to-day at least two-fifths live in the metropolis. The German consulate estimates the total at 70,000; but if one reckons German Austrians and German Swiss, the aggregate of Teutonic Londoners cannot fall short of 100,000; and one must never forget that many of these are married, and that their children probably number 50,000.
To depart for a moment from the society of the West End, you will discover much crime, more misery, and infinite degradation at the East End, occasioned, first, among the English work-people, secondly, among themselves, by the influx of Germans. Thus there are some 5,000 tailors of German birth east of the Bank of
|England who swell the ranks of an industry which without them would be more than choked. It is the same with every calling in the British capital, whether in high life or low. Germans elbow Englishmen in all directions, underselling them in commerce, and reducing the increment of the wage-earning classes to a minimum which barely suffices to keep starvation from their doors. It is a startling fact that in no city in the world, Berlin alone excepted, are there so many destitute Germans as in London.|
Fifty years ago things were very different. The German was then only a casual visitor to our shores, and the German language was despised by English scholars. But the neglected idiom of the Fatherland became a general and favorite study immediately after the marriage of the Queen with a German prince, and to-day Goethe and Lessing are as familiar to some English people as Carlyle, Lytton, or Scott are to the German.
As with literature, so with every other profession and phase of the national existence. Music, art, politics, finance, commerce soon began to feel, and still feels, to even an increasing extent, the influence of German culture and resource. In English finance Germany is represented by men of whom I have already spoken. One of the ablest men in the House of Commons, Mr. Goschen, is a German; so are Mr. and Henry de Worms. Mr. Max Muller is only one of a host of German professors in England. Music claims many eminent German composers, such as Halle, Richter, Meininger, Joachim, Bonnawitz, Strakosch, Menter. Since the Franco-German War there has been an unwonted tendency on the part of the Teuton in every quarter of the world to assert his nationality; and though in English society he is respected and welcomed, in English commercial and professional life he is creating a scare by the manner in which he is displacing the sons of the soil.
Not less remarkable than the social organization and authority of the children of Israel and of the Fatherland is the place which Americans have won for themselves in the social economy of the English capital. Between the tactics of the Hebrews and the subjects of the United States there is a certain similarity: each commences his operations by establishing firmly a centre and a base. Now it may be a connection secured by marriage with a great house, now a friendship with those in social or political power. The Americans of both sexes, if, like the Jews, they have their international
|and tribal jealousies, seldom fail to combine as against the Briton. Englishmen and Englishwomen are the opponents against whom they naturally range themselves, and to overcome whom is the supreme triumph. The American, once he or she has got a foothold in society, never voluntarily relinquishes, and is seldom violently dislodged from it. And the Americans are gregarious; they hunt, not merely in couples, but in little packs. The fair Yankee has no sooner made a conquest and led an English aristocrat to the altar than she commences immediately to consider what she can do for her compatriots with the leverage in her hands. She has sisters or cousins as beautiful as herself, and she feels all the pride of conquest in inducing English lovers to bend the knee to them and to pass under the transatlantic yoke. British fathers and mothers may protest, but the young Englishman, if there is anything which renders him at all eligible when once he is enmeshed in the toils of , never, I think, escapes from them, or never, I should perhaps rather say, shows any desire to do so.|
Much may be said in favor of the American lady who is now one of the reigning princesses of English society. She is often pretty, never mercenary. She has for the most part some wealth herself, and prefers infinitely to wealth in her husband position, wit, intellect. She is also seldom lacking in humor and in conversational skill. Altogether she is an acquisition to society, though her independence, her impatience of restraints, and especially her incessant efforts to advance by matrimonial alliances or otherwise the interest of her countrywomen, may sometimes prove fertile in mischief.
One of the reasons why the fair Americans of London society are so much in request, and are so conspicuous at such august functions as ambassadors' dinners, is that they are for the most part accomplished linguists. The greater portion of their life has been spent on the continent of Europe. Their French, German, and Italian are infinitely better than those of the ordinary educated Englishwoman. Thus they can play their part in the conversation at the most cosmopolitan and panglot of feasts.
Everywhere in France and in Germany politicians and diplomatists are found wedded to American wives. That, perhaps, may be to a large extent because these wives are heiresses. English society, being wealthier, has not felt in the same degree as society
|in France and Germany the effects of their wealth; but it has felt in a greater degree than the society of other capitals the effects of their social talents, has been brightened by their vivacity and illuminated with their gayety. Finally, the fair American has, like the representatives of the Hebrew race, been largely benefited by the approval of royalty. The Prince of Wales is an habitual worshipper at American shrines, and my reader may perhaps, before the London season of is over, have the opportunity of meeting His Royal Highness at a dinner-party every lady present at which comes from the great republic of the west.|
Change breeds love of change, and society in London, having taken to its bosom the exotic novelties here specified, seeks to indulge its passion for novelty in a host of other ways. It craves perpetually for fresh sensations, for new features, for anything that is a little out of the common. Mark now how this impulse expresses itself. Jews, Germans, and Americans are the new blood introduced into English society's veins. That circumstance is to be regarded as the assertion of a general principle. But you will see this principle illustrated in a more specific manner and upon a different scale. For instance, there is a lady well known in London society who lives in a street between and , and who, inspired by the prevailing passion for novel and sensational effects, has turned her drawing-room, and at the hour of luncheon her dining-room too, into a rendezvous of curiosities. There is another lady of the same sort, whose house is at no great distance, who is even more devoted to second-rate celebrities and pinchbeck beauties, and who, next to a Radical statesman, adores an actress with a history, or a married lady on whom august personages in remote regions are reported to have doted. She has her admirers, at a decorous distance be it understood, among all parties, all sects, all religions. She welcomes impartially to her roof Tories and revolutionists, bishops and ballet-girls, -or if not exactly ballet-girls, young ladies whose faces are as well known from their appearance on the burlesque stage as from their photographs in the shop-windows.
I do not know whether London is to be visited in the course of the coming summer by any royal savage from Africa or Asia. If so, he is sure to be as much in request at houses of the type I now speak of as the jeune premier in light comedy who happens to be for the moment the vogue, and his wife who is the substantial embodiment
|of all matronly virtues, and who, even as certain soi-disant negro minstrels never perform out of London, takes good care to acquaint the world that she never goes anywhere unaccompanied by her husband.|
This notoriety-hunting, this droll mixture of nobles and nihilists, of the very flower of respectability with Bohemians whose celebrity is the creation of yesterday, is less amusing than might be expected. Enter the apartment in which this droll assembly is collected, and you will find that you are in an atmosphere of social constraint. The Tory plutocrat tries to make himself agreeable to the communist, but carefully keeps at a little distance, as one who is afraid of his pockets being picked. The hostess herself, as she looks around, betrays signs of misgiving at the experiment in which she is engaged, or, it may be, is agitated by apprehensions that the ornaments which lie scattered about her drawing-room are less safe than usual.
Now, though there is upon these occasions and in such establishments as I am describing a great blending of elements, there is no real fusion of them; it is a rude and undigested mass. Society in its fierce appetite for novelty may be compared to the greedy and famishing eater who bolts anything on which he can lay his hands, but does not assimilate the various morsels. The aliens, the monstrosities, the notorieties, who are very often nonentities, of both sexes, invited for the sake of effect, are looked at askance. They are treated like animals in a cage. At the Zoological Gardens you are requested not to approach too close to the bars, behind which is the fractious monkey or the untamable tiger. Society applies that rule to its intercourse with those whom it affects to welcome as a relief from its own monotony.
There are some ladies in London who make it a point to invite at least one writer of repute to their week-day, and an actor or two of standing to their Sunday, dinner-parties. You can always recognize the social outsider from his air of isolation. Perhaps he is looked at, perhaps he is ignored. He is no more one of the convives, unless he sings or plays or recites, than is the butler or the pageboy. To speak the truth, London society in its anxiety to secure prophylactics against boredom has run into a dangerous excess, and there are some at least who are beginning to doubt whether the remedy is not worse than the disease. But is that possible? The actors and actresses, impostors and impostresses, who feebly twinkle
|in the social firmament, at least help to diversify its appearance. If these are not very entertaining, they are at least harmless. Society does not suffer from its contact with them, and if any one is injured by the arrangement it is the gentlemen and ladies, of a sphere which is not that of society, who are more or less intoxicated by the influences brought to bear upon them, and who occasionally make themselves ridiculous by burlesquing the demeanor of their patrons.|
Let me point out one or two more aspects of this mania which has possessed society in London for the bizarre and the unfamiliar. So terrific had the ravages of ennui and the spleen become that ere yet these queer combinations in drawing-rooms were devised English society was resolved to do something desperate. It occurred to it that it would at least be a change to ignore, when there seemed any possibility of ignoring, the distinction between virtue and vice. I do not mean to say that it deliberately and with one accord dethroned virtue from its pedestal. The idea which suggested itself was, that people branded with the epithet of vicious might at least possess the virtue of contributing to the general fund of amusement. It was therefore determined by way of experiment to grant an amnesty to a certain class of social offenders-to continue to admit them to the chosen places of society if the scandals in which they had been involved were not of a very flagrant character, or if haply they had been forgotten.
So successful did this prove that the ethical relaxation which was the leading idea of the experiment has been permanently established. Society, finding that it was less dull in proportion as it was more tolerant, resolved to carry the virtue of Christian charity and forgiveness to an extreme.
But here I must warn the stranger against committing an unpardonable mistake. Do not suppose that the conversational license which society in London sanctions and stimulates is indiscriminately allowed to any one who chooses to claim it. You must be a chartered libertine in the possession of a certificate duly given to you by society first. Almost anything may be said. Almost any story, however risque, may be told. Almost any allusion, however delicate, may be ventured on, if the person venturing upon it has received, so to speak, the necessary commission from the right authorities. Two things are indispensable. One, that the lady or gentleman indulging in this lively vein should know the idiosyncrasies of his company; the other, that he should be known by
|them-known, that is, as bien vu in high places. And before even the privileged individual can dare all this with impunity, he or she must be thoroughly versed in that jargon and argot which in smart society pass for conversation; must have acquired the right of calling a good many of his friends and acquaintances by their Christian names; must be initiated into all the mysteries of high life; in a word, must be somebody.|
The audacious parvenu who, on the strength of a casual or superficial acquaintance with the customs and chatter of society, thinks to win a reputation by transgressing the limits of decorum, by mild sallies of irreproachable humor, or even by the jests which gentle dulness ever loves, will soon be reminded of his mistake. There is in these matters, as in others, an inexorable order, to violate which is fatal. Society ruthlessly ostracizes anything like unwarranted familiarity. It may be compared to a family party. Its members have been brought up with the same traditions and in the same curriculum. They are bound together by that identity of sentiment or pursuit which comes from the associations of school, college, or regiment, politics or clubs, official, diplomatic, or military life. Much is permitted to those united by this community of experience or occupation. But society resents peremptorily and punishes pitilessly any act of intrusion or presumption on the part of those who have not made their social footing good, or who are not furnished with the due credentials.
It has often occurred to me that society in London, or that particular section of society which is the brightest, the most diverting, and which makes itself most heard of, resembles an Agapemone. The relations existing between the blithe and joyous persons of whom this household consists may be the most curious imaginable; husbands and wives may all be a little mixed; but then though there is fusion there is no confusion. They understand each other so well. They have tacitly agreed to enjoy themselves according to their own taste. "Fay ce que voudras" is their motto. There was a time when the upshot of it all would have been elopements, duels, the breaking up of homes, and Heaven only knows what else. That sort of thing is sneered at by society to-day as obsolete, melodramatic, childish. The dominating idea is not the cultivation of virtue, but the prevention of scandal. Every one, society argues, has a clear interest in suppressing anything which might lead to social disturbance. Externally, therefore, the proprieties
|must be respected. No handle must be given which the profane vulgar may seize upon to society's detriment. If things wrong in themselves are to be done, in Heaven's name let them be done quietly and decently. If the world will talk, let the lie direct be given to its base assertions and rumors by presenting to the public a front of social decorum and unity. Ladies and gentlemen, as I have said, have entered into a tacit and rational agreement. Let them therefore be unabashed. They have no thought of pursuing each other into the divorce court, and so they take every opportunity of appearing in public as if conjugal infidelity could not be dreamt of, much less exist. When, for instance, an intimacy that may be perhaps a trifle equivocal has been developed between two or three households, the gentlemen and ladies concerned, by way of dispelling suspicion and rebuking the comments of ignorance and malice, make up a party for the play and appear together in the orchestra stalls.|
The real significance of this interesting phenomenon is the extreme sensitiveness of the ladies and gentlemen prominent in London society to the public opinion of their inferiors, and their loyal attachment to the well-being of society itself. Periodically they are troubled with vague alarms that their social organization is in some danger from outside attacks. They catch the echoes of popular disapproval at their doings which, when any scandal occurs, find expression in the newspapers read by their social inferiors. Offences will come, but woe unto him or her by whom they come; and society regards as, in some sort, an enemy and a traitor to itself the man or woman who puts it openly to the blush. Let all things by all means be done decently and in due order; that is society's motto; and those who do not obey it are held to have introduced a foe into the camp. On the whole, the public opinion of society on itself may be defined as the inarticulate utterance of the apprehension with which society is inspired by the actual or possible censures of the common herd.
There is something curious, and even touching, in the tenacity with which society in London clings to the remnants of respectability-in which it is always assuring itself that, however hostile appearances may seem, it is in reality thoroughly moral at heart, and in which it responds to any appeals that may be made to its piety and its virtue. No other nation in the world possesses this morbidly developed self-consciousness. Frenchmen and Frenchwomen may be as virtuous, or the reverse of virtuous, as Englishmen
|and Englishwomen; but with them the morality or immorality is assumed. It is taken for granted; it is not talked about. It is as much a matter of course as the features of the countenance. I should say that in England the most respectable, the most absolutely blameless of ladies love to discuss the contrasts which society contains between vice and virtue, and to toy, in the purest spirit conceivable, with topics of a questionable kind. To sum up, London society is in a constant state of moral valetudinarianism, which is not a conclusive sign of moral health. It protests a little too much that it is ethically robust not to suggest the suspicion that there may be something organically wrong.|
Do not, however, draw from these interesting phenomena the conclusion that society in London is anything like as lax in its observance of ethical laws as it pretends to be. Ladies and gentlemen treat each other with an easy abandon which may seem to imply the absence of respect either for themselves or for each other. You may also fancy that they impute to one another peccadilloes and offences of which not only the Hebraic Decalogue but the English law takes cognizance. That is a peculiarly English trait, and you must beware of overrating its significance. Self- disparagement is a national weakness of the English race, possessing kindred on one side to the pride that apes humility, and on the other to that cynical indifference born of the stolidity of the Briton.
There is scarcely anything indigenous to his land which the Englishman does not in turn abuse, whether it be his climate or his architecture, the physical condition of the streets of his metropolis in bad weather, or their moral condition in all weathers. Society would have too little to talk about if it did not burlesque and exaggerate its pleasant vices. When one considers how much scandal, even though it be short-lived, any serious deflection from the strait path of virtue excites; how much preparation, moreover, it involves; the comparative absence, in a word, of the opportunities of evil-one may perceive immediately that London society could not by any possibility be half so incorrect as it loves in casual conversation to paint itself as being. My concluding advice to the stranger, therefore, is to abstain from presuming-I say not in deed merely, but in word-on that disregard of the sacred laws of hearth and home which the unreflecting listener to the talk of English drawing-rooms and dinner-tables might suppose to be the characteristic of the interesting country and capital he may be about to visit.