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THE PICCADILLY PAPERS.
BY A PERIPATETIC.
T is generally said that the rail
together, and made all our great towns mere suburbs of London. This may be true; but still, in some provinces, provincialism is picturesque and predominant as ever. In those districts which are remote from the great lines of rail, and left behind in the quickened pace of our day, there are still country places to be found with Squires of the Allworthy or Western type, and where we may be closely reminded of the days of the Stuarts. It ought, indeed, to be noted that provincialism is, in fact, a characteristic and a department of the human mind; and if the phrenologists should map out the brain again, they ought to assign a special bump to the discoverable order of provincialism. It is curious how the idea of a metropolis is too vast an idea to be grasped by multitudes of metropolitans, who sigh for the narrower limits of provincialism. Hence London is broken up into provinces, and the man of parochial mind does not so much consider mself a Londoner as an Islingtonian, or Westbournian; and the W. C. district is altogether a different province to the district N. W. Provincialism is as much a definite emotion as patriotism itself. The man of limited mind, who yet finds that his home and business are not sufficiently large for him, and knows, at the same time, that metropolitan and imperial interests are too large for his mental scope, can very well repose ou provincialism as on a satisfying mean.
But though a genuine provincialism may exist in London, for its true undiluted form we must go to the provinces. Sometimes, indeed, it is excessively hard, or even impossible, to get it there. Frequently the country-house reproduces the town-house with the
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utmost exactitude. There are the same servants and liveries, the same horses and carriages, the same breakfasts and dinners, and the same visitors, though fewer of them, as in town during the season. Improvise a pavement and insert some lamp-posts; dress up some fellows as policemen, and drive a Hansom up and down before the dining-room windows, and we are once more back again in town. For ourselves, we do not profess to be Arcadian, and we are not dissatisfied; but still there is not here the provincialism which we seek. But come down into the country some clear three hundred miles, among families of moderate estate and full expenditure, in districts where there are no railways, or where branch lines have only been established very recently; where the minor county families, albeit they make an occasional trip to town or to the Continent, still subsist in, and mainly exist for their part of the country,-and you get a very genuine kind of provincial life. You may then realize the intense earnestness which it concentrates on matters which, to the unassisted human mind, would appear trivial and petty in the extreme; the rivalries and feuds, the meannesses and the amenities of country life, and the picturesque bits of interest which it possesses for the observer; the long drive of twenty miles through indictable roads to the county ball or some solemn dinner-party; the first meet of the hounds, the first otter-hunt or salmon fishing, the wedding or the funeral, and the local gossip on current scandal and flirtation, the change of servants in families, the prices of poultry and butter, the tales how the village grocer has turned Dissenter to spite the parson, and how the parson always keeps beneath the pulpit-cushion a ser
mon which he is prepared to launch, whenever he may have the chance, against a reprobate squire.
It has always been noted that in courts of justice you obtain some of the most vivid glimpses of local manners. I have noted several amusing instances in a remote country district with which I used to cultivate an acquaintance. frequently happens that judge, legal gentlemen, plaintiffs and defendants, are all on some terms of intimacy, and permit themselves a familiarity and license of language which would indeed astonish more regular courts. For instance, I have known of a magistrate who, being annoyed at the tone of a defending lawyer with whom he was on terms of chronic animosity, interrupted the legal proceedings by brandishing his stick and threatening to crack the learned gentleman's skull. One or two instances I refrain from quoting, but the following must be told. On a far-away county-court circuit a learned gentleman used to preside who was more noted for his goodness of heart and head than for an extensive technical acquaintance with the law. His justice was irrefragable, but his law was of the shakiest description. There was a clever young solicitor who used to plead before him; but Lawyer Jack, though a favourite with juries and much in legal request, was possessed by a fatal fondness for spirituous liquors. One day a rather important case was called on, in which Lawyer Jack had to appear. But, alas! he had made a beefsteak breakfast, washed down by ale, with his client, and had made a point of honour of liquoring up with all the witnesses. When Jack began his speech it became painfully evident that he was hardly in a condition to do full justice to his case or his client. The kind hearted judge, seeing how matters lay, adjourned the court for a quarter of an hour. Obviously the lawyer ought to have spent the time in holding his head under a pump, and have told a waiter to keep on uncorking soda-water until further notice. Injudiciously, however, he
went to the bar of the adjacent 'public,' and manufactured a mighty tumbler hot and strong. On resuming his speech, he smiled very inanely, and made a variety of very foolish observations. The judge then told him to sit down. Does your honour mean to say,' asked Lawyer Jack, with an expression of virtuous indignation, that I'm intossicated?' I mean to say,' mildly returned the judge, 'that, looking to all the circumstances of the case, and speaking to the best of my judgment, I hardly believe that you are in a fit condition to be permitted to address the court.' For a moment the lawyer maintained an attitude and look of wounded feeling and drunken wisdom. He then said calmly, 'I really believe that, for this once, your Honour is correct in an opinion.'
An extremely thoughtful and well-written essay was published last year on 'Country Towns," the author of which strongly advocated that mitigated form of provincialism. There was an excellent saying by an excellent man: When I am in the country I believe in God, and when I am in London I believe in the devil.' This essayist endorses Mr. John Stuart Mill's complaint that society is crushing out individuality. He thinkswhich we altogether doubt-that residence in a country-town would obviate this. He says, acutely enough, that though people in London do not gossip like people in a small town, yet a London set gossip just as much as a country set. It might be added that in either one might so live as to defy gossip. He says that in the country we might have a simple natural life, and tells a town story: 'I know a man, suddenly raised by successful speculation above the life of an operative, who took a house and furnished a splendid drawing-room, which his wife used to exhibit to his friends, and then return with them to sit in a little parlour down-stairs.' We
*Country Towns, and the Place they fill in Modern Civilization.' Bell and Daldy.
believe this anecdote might be capped again and again in country towns, and the standard objection to perpetual provincialism is untouched-of its dreariness and stagnation.
Another instance may be taken as illustrating the narrowness and limitation of small provincial towns. Every market of metropolitan talent is regularly fed by provincial feeders. The vast majority of the men who, so to speak, come up to the surface of London life and achieve some kind of distinction, are men who have been drawn from the provinces by the irresistible London magnet. Such men achieve a distinction in London which it would be impossible for them to attain in their own provincial town. The local artist or the local poet are men who are misunderstood and derided. If by any chance the town should earnestly believe in its poet or its artist, that poet or artist is infallibly a humbug. The born genius is scouted by his townsmen. When all the world has recognized that genius, the native will continue blind and deaf to it, or perhaps affirm that it is altogether founded upon misapprehension and mistake. A prophet is without honour among his own kindred and in his own country. The prophet will therefore do wisely if he ignores his town, which will most certainly ignore him, and appeal to a larger audience and to wider sympathies. It hardly appears to us that our towns have progressed in this respect, or done anything towards wiping away this reproach. Lichfield is a provincial town which, in its literary aspect, is very favourably known to us during a portion of the last century. There appear to have been persons in Lichfield who were capable of recognizing the nascent genius of Garrick and the ponderous sense and erudition of Johnson. Kindly gentry in the cathedral close asked the young fellows to dinner, and did what they could to promote their views in life. We suspect that anything of this sort is now extremely rare. Still, those whose lot is cast in a provincial
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town may find many very excellent arguments to prove that their lot is the very best in the world; and, if they have the true savoir vivre, they may really make it so. Theoretically we admit the charms of provincialism, but practically we would desire to combine some slight modification. Let a man have the run of London in the season, the run of the seaside in summer and autumn, the run of the Continent when he wants a change, and for the rest of the fleeting year provincialism becomes a very endurable and praiseworthy institution.
THE WORLD OF LETTERS.
That voluminous literature that belongs to Abyssinian subjects has, we hope, received its culmination in the two volumes which Mr. Hormuzd Rassam has published, thinking it right that he, too, should have his say on a subject in which he was so greatly concerned. The volumes have caused some of the critics to study Mr. Rassam as a psychological subject, and to question, from internal evidence, whether he was the best sort of man to make the majesty of Britain intelligible to the barbaric mind. He has something more to say on the subject of Theodore's present of cows to Lord Napier: the Abyssinian cow threatens to be as renowned a beast as the Trojan horse. Also we are glad to hear that Mr. Rassam received a solatium of five thousand pounds for the hard lines he had undergone, and Dr. Blanc and Lieutenant Prideaux two thousand each. The last gentleman, on whom the honours of martyrdom were so nearly forced, will have peculiar reason to congratulate himself. When the war commenced, we were all gleaning stray facts discoverable about Abyssinia, but now there has been such a blaze of information about it, that an additional work becomes as burdensome as that additional penny in the income tax.
A great deal of deserved attention has justly been drawn to Mr. Wallace's new work on the Malay Archi
pelago. It is in every respect one of the most genuine and thorough works of travel we have ever perused. Mr. Wallace returned home six years ago, but he has had many thousand specimens to examine and classify, and in these days of rapid writing it is gratifying to know that for so many years a work has been simmering in an author's mind. Travels, in these days, must be sensational, and Mr. Wallace's sensations are the Orang-Utan and the Bird of Paradise, which appear in every variety of artistic illustration. The work has many elements of popularity, but Mr. Wallace's enthusiastic devotion to his favourite science, entomology, and the positive results at which he has arrived, will be peculiarly interesting to the esoteric circle of scientific readers. That devotion is indeed great. He dilates with joy over a superb 'bug,' and has given us a close description of his sensations of intense excitement when he discovered the Croesus butterfly. 'On taking it out of my net and opening the glorious wings, my heart began to beat violently, the blood rushed to my head, and I have felt much more like fainting than I have done when in apprehension of immediate death. I had a headache the rest of the day, so great was the excitement produced by what will appear to most people a very inadequate cause.'
who love ferns-and in these days who does not love them?-will read with envy and delight of fern-trees that raise their fronds thirty feet in the air. Mr. Wallace gives a very pleasing picture of many of the tribes, though a picture the reverse of pleasing is to be given of many other tribes, and thinks that some energetic missionaries might do much good, but then they must not be trading missionaries but men of a genuine stamp, like the Jesuit missionaries of Singapore. Mr. Wallace does not positively state what, nevertheless, his words imply, that accredited missionaries from Eng
The Malay Archipelago; the Land of the Orang-Utan and the Bird of Paradise, etc. By Alfred Russell Wallace. Macmillan.
land are also traders. Mr. Wallace's great object was Natural History, but his remarks on the ethnology and physical geography of a remote region so rarely visited by travellers are exceedingly valuable. The archipelago, as a whole, is comparable with any division of the globe -it is, indeed, a broken-up and dismembered continent, and it has islands larger than France or the Austrian empire. There are many interesting evidences to prove that the great islands of Java, Sumatra, and Borneo, at a recent geological epoch formed part of the Asian continent, and the other islands form a distant division approximating to Australia and New Guinea. Mr. Wallace divides the inhabitants into Malay or yellow, and Papuan or black; but we are somewhat surprised at his identifying the Papuans with the Polynesians, as the prevalent ethnological opinion identifies them with the Malayans. He has a striking description of the wonders of a coral sea; but he maintains that the animals and plants of the tropics are not more brilliantly coloured than those of the temperate regions. He draws a contrast between savages and civilized beings which is by no means flattering to civilized beings. We think that Mr. Wallace shows to least advantage when he deserts his proper path as a scientific observer. During his residence in the archipelago, Mr. Wallace independently worked out that idea of natural selection and the survival of the fittest, which is known almost exclusively as Darwinism.
The Earl of Carnarvon is so justly celebrated in society and in politics, that any publication of his, however slight, is sure to excite a large measure of personal interest. He has edited the diary of his late fathera nobleman as distinguished for his accomplishments as for his retiring disposition-in a most complete and meritorious manner, most ingeniously dovetailing his own observations on his father's narrative. As a picture of the land at the epoch of the Liberation, the diary is faithful and picturesque, and the
Earl of Carnarvon's own statesmanlike remarks on the present state of Greece have a real political importance. The community of Greek merchants in London; possess a high degree of social repute and commercial prosperity, but when they come to apply their abilities to the politics of their own country, the uniform result is failure and scandal. We trust that Lord Carnarvon will redeem the literary promise of this useful and pleasant little book by some work of independent authorship. He has a hereditary reputation to vindicate, besides his own collegiate, parliamentary, and social fame. The days of Philhellenism are over; and it is perhaps very doubtful whether the modern Greeks are, in any real sense, the descendants of the ancient Greeks; but at any rate the same scenery is theirs, and they are zealously trying to revert to the old language, and to keep in mind the historic traditions. In spite of the misbehaviour of the youngest, and spoilt, member of European families, those who take an interest in ancient Greece will feel an interest also for modern Greece. An article in the current 'Quarterly'-the author of which is aut Stanley aut Diabolas- Mr. Tozer's Researches in the Highland of Turkey,' is coupled with Lord Carnarvon's publication, and the reviewer praises Mr. Tozer's volumes as having' the thorough taste of that rare quality, a genuine traveller:' a hint for collectors of books of travel.
It can hardly, however, be questioned that in any classification of travellers, very few would have a higher place than Bayard Taylor. He, indeed, refutes a saying that has been ill-naturedly imputed to Humboldt respecting him-He has travelled more and seen less than any man living'-by the simple remark, that he has a letter of Humboldt to himself which would silence such an invention; but at the same time he ingenuously admits that he has seen more than he has been able to digest, and means to lay aside the mantle of the traveller and apply himself to culture. He says that the mind flags under a constant
receptivity, and must have time to assimilate and arrange its stores. Mr. Taylor is a most wonderful traveller; he has penetrated to the Arctic Zone, and Central Africa, has ransacked Europe, and is largely acquainted with India, Japan, and China. Although he speaks so modestly and unaffectedly of himself, he is, in truth, a charming writer of travels, thoughtful and observant, and possessed of a grace and force peculiarly his own. His present work on the 'Byeways of Europe will only cost his readers one regret, which will be found in its announcement that this is to be his last book of travels. He here brings before us his reminiscences of districts which, as a matter of fact, are not at all difficult of investigation to ordinary travellers but which ordinary travellers generally neglect on account of more frequented and fashionable localities. Thus he penetrated to Andorra, the little republic in the Pyrenees, with which the public is much less acquainted than with San Marino. He wished to visit Caprera, but Garibaldi, with a capriciousness which seems to belong to his character, refused to honour the strong letters of introduction with which he was furnished. He took a cruise on the largest European inland water, Lake Ladoga, so rarely visited, although it is easily accessible from St. Petersburg. So, too, few of the many persons who sail Lake Constance, or reach St. Gall, penetrate to the Little Land of Appenzell. Yet this isolated mountain republic, islanded in the territory of St. Gall, presents many points of interest, and struck the first blow for Swiss liberty. With a natural affinity, Mr. Taylor sceks out the simplest and most primitive forms of democracy. We think that he exaggerates-we are sure unconsciously-the unfrequentedness of the Balearic Islands. We have friends who go out there for the winter; and a few years ago there was a regular colony of English on one of the islands, owing to the construction of a railway. Again,
Byeways of Europe.' By Bayard Taylor. Sampson Low, Son, & Co.