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Holborn until I came to Snowhill, to which street Godwin subsequently removed his business and his interesting family. Turning off to the left, and doubling somewhat on my tracks, I descended Snowhill, and found myself facing a substantial modern building, which challenged attention by reason of the rather unusual decoration of its facade. It needed but a glance to see that this building had been erected on the site of the Saracen's Head Inn, immortalized by Charles Dickens in Nicholas Nickleby. Let into the wall were two large panels, one being a school-scene bearing the legend 'Dotheboys Hall'; the other, a 'Mail Coach leaving Saracen's Head.' Over the arched doorway was a fine bust of Dickens, while to the left was a fulllength figure of the immortal Mr. Squeers, and on the right a similar figure of Nicholas Nickleby.
In the pleasure of my discovery I almost forgot all about Godwin, whose shop was once near-by; proving again, what needs no proof, that many characters in fiction are just as sure of immortality as persons who once moved among us in the flesh. Then I remembered that John Bunyan had lived and died in this street, when Snowhill was described as being very narrow, very steep, and very dangerous. This led me to decide that I would make a pilgrimage to Bunyan's tomb in Bunhill Fields, which I had not visited for many years.
And so, a few days later, I found myself wandering about in that most depressing graveyard, in which thousands of men and women, famous in their time, found sepulture—in some cases merely temporary, for the records show that, after the passing of fifteen years or so, their graves were violated to make room for later generations, all traces of earlier interments having been erased. Poor Blake and his wife are
among those whose graves can no longer be identified.
On the day of my visit it was much too damp to sit on the ground and tell sad stories of anything; but I had no difficulty in coming upon the tomb of Defoe, or that of Bunyan, a large altarlike affair, with his recumbent figure upon it. An old man whom I met loitering about called my attention to the fact that the nose had recently been broken off, and told me that it had been shot off by some soldier who had been quartered during the war in the near-by barracks of the Honorable Artillery Company. It appears that some miscreant had, to beguile the time, amused himself by taking pot shots at the statuary, and that much damage had been done before he was discovered. I think I shall accuse the Canadians of this act of vandalism. It is always well to be specific in making charges of this kind; moreover, it will grieve my talented friend, Tait McKenzie, the sculptor, who comes to us from Scotland by way of Toronto, and who thinks it a more grievous crime to mutilate a statue than to damage a man.
It will have been seen from the foregoing that I am the gentlest of explorers. Give me the choice of roaming the streets of London in search of a scarce first edition of, say, The Beggar's Opera, — so delightfully performed month after month at the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith, but which lasted scarcely a week in New York, — and a chance to explore some out-of-the-way country with an unpronounceable name, and my mind is made up in a moment. I have found the race with the sheriff sufficiently stimulating, and, on a holiday, give me the simple, or at least the contemplative, life.
Just before leaving home, I had lunched with my friend Pullerton Waldo; his face positively beamed with happiness and his eye sparkled. Why? Because he was going to Russia to see for himself what the Bolsheviki were doing. 'You will see plenty of misery, you may be sure,' I replied. 'Why look at it? Why not let the Russians stew in their own juice? Ultimately they will come home, those that are left, wagging their tales behind them.'
But no, he wanted to see for himself. So we parted, each of us going his own way, and both happy.
But I did see one thing unusual enough to have interested even so sophisticated a traveler as Waldo, and that was the crowd which, on Armistice Day, that is to say, the eleventh of November, 1920, at exactly eleven o'clock in the morning, stood absolutely silent for two whole minutes. London is a busy city; there is a ceaseless ebb and flow of traffic, — not in a few centres and here and there, as with us, but everywhere, — and when this normal crowd is augmented by thousands from the country, intent upon seeing the dedication of the Cenotaph in the centre of Whitehall and the burial of the unknown warrior in the Abbey, it is a crowd of millions. And this huge crowd, at the first stroke of eleven, stood stock-still; not a thing moved, except, perhaps, here and there a horse turned its head, or a bird, wondering what had caused the great silence, fluttered down from Nelson's monument in Trafalgar Square. And so it was, we read, all over Britain, all over Australia and Africa, and a part of Asia and America: the great Empire, Ireland alone excepted, stood with bowed head in memory of the dead. Not a wheel turned anywhere, not a telegram or telephone message came over the wires.
These English know how to stage big effects, as befits their Empire; with them history is ever and always in the making. And when at last the bunting fluttered down from the Cenotaph, and when the bones of the Unknown, with
the King representing the nation as chief mourner, were deposited in the Abbey, there formed a procession which several days afterward, when I sought to join it, was still almost a mile long!
London can boast of countless little museums, or memorials, to this or that great man; and it is soon to have another: Wen tworth Place, in Hampstead, with which the name of Keats is so closely connected. When this is opened to the public, — I have visited it privately, — it is to be hoped that it will take on something of the kindly atmosphere of the Johnson House in Gough Square, rather than that of the cold museum dedicated to that old dyspeptic philosopher, Thomas Carlyle, in Chelsea. I remember well when he died. He was said to have been the Dr. Johnson of his time. Heaven keep us! Carlyle! who never had a good or kindly word to say of any man or thing; whose world, 'mostly fools,' bowed down before him and accepted his ravings as criticism; whose Prussian philosophy* 'the strong thing is the right thing,' was exploded in the great war. I have lived to see his fame grow dimmer day by day, while Johnson's grows brighter as his wit, wisdom, and, above all, his humanity, become better known and understood.
To Gough Square, then, I hastened, once I was comfortably installed in my little flat, to see if any of the suggestions I had made at a dinner given by Cecil Harmsworth, in the winter of 1914, to the Johnson Club, to which I was invited, had been carried out. The door was opened to my knock by an old lady who invited me in as if I were an expected guest. She explained that it was hoped that ultimately one room would be dedicated to the memory of Boswell and others of the Johnsonian circle, — Goldsmith, Garrick, Mrs. Thrale, Fanny Burney, and the rest, — and that the whole house would be pervaded by the immortal memory of Dr. Johnson, the kindest as well as the greatest of men; but that, owing to the war, not as much had been accomplished as had been hoped.
'And so,' I replied, 'my suggestions, have not been entirely forgotten. I had feared —'
'Why,' continued the old lady, 'can you be Mr. Newton of Philadelphia?'
I could have hugged her; for, gentle reader, this is much nearer fame than I ever hoped for. What a morning it was! Mrs. Dyble called for her daughter, and I was presented, and again found to be not unknown; and believe me, these two women were so absolutely steeped in Johnson as to shame my small learning and make me wish for the support of real honest-to-God Johnsonians, such as Tinker or Osgood, or my friend R. B. Adam, of Buffalo, who has the greatest Johnson collection in the world, and who, when next he goes to London, has a treat in store which will cause him to forget, at least momentarily, his charming wife and his young son; charming wives and young sons being not uncommon, whereas Gough Square is unique.
Any man of fine heart and substantial means could have bought the Gough Square house, but it required a singularly wise and modest man to fit it up so simply, so in keeping with, the Johnsonian tradition; to say, 'We don't want a cold, dry-as-dust museum; we want the house to be as nearly as possible what it was when the great Doctor lived in it and compiled the dictionary in its attic room.' So it is, that 17 Gough Square, Fleet Street, is one of the places which it is a delight to visit. A fine Johnsonian library has been lent, and may ultimately be given, to the house; paintings, portraits, rare prints, and autograph letters abound;
and in these interesting surroundings, friends, literary societies, and clubs may meet for the asking, and teas and dinners may be sent in from the nearby Cheshire Cheese. And all this might have been done, and yet the house might have lacked one of its greatest charms, namely, the kindly presence and hospitality of two women, the discovery of whom, by Mr. Harmsworth, was a piece of the rarest good fortune. Mrs. Dyble is a soldier's wife, her husband being a color sergeant in one of the crack regiments; and the story goes that, during the air-raids, when the Germans were dropping bombs on all and sundry, the old lady went, not into the 'tubes' for shelter, but, to meet the bombs half-way, into the attic; there, taking down a copy of Boswell, she read quite composedly through the night; for, as she said, she would not be worthy of her soldier husband if she were not prepared to face death at home as he was doing in France. But how long, I ask myself, will her daughter, Mrs. Rowell, a pretty widow, be content to live upon the memory of Dr. Johnson? I was especially pleased to convey to the Johnson House a superb photograph of a portrait of Dr. Johnson by Reynolds, which had recently been acquired by Mr. John H. McFadden of Philadelphia. I was sitting in my club one afternoon, when Mr. McFadden came up and asked me how I would like to see a picture of Dr. Johnson which he had just received from the Agnews in London. Of course, I was delighted, and a few minutes later I was in the small but exquisite gallery of eighteenth-century portraits which Mr. McFadden has collected. Familiar as I am supposed to be with Johnson portraits, I had never seen the one which was shown me. It was obviously Dr. Johnson; and as soon as I returned home and had an opportunity of consulting my notes, I saw that it was the portrait
painted for Dr. Taylor of Ashbourne. So far as I have been able to learn, it has never been engraved or even photographed; and I told its owner that he owed it to himself and all Johnsonians to have it photographed in the best possible manner, and to send a copy to the Johnson House at Lichfield, and also to Cecil Harmsworth. This Mr. McFadden readily consented to do; and so, on my arrival in London, I had the pleasant duty of presenting the pictures. The portrait is of a very old man; the head is bent forward, the face is kindly, and about the mouth is the tremulousness of age. I take it, indeed, to be a speaking likeness, and it pleases me to fancy that the kindly Doctor has just made the remark quoted by Boswell: 'As I grow older, I am prepared to call a man a good man on easier terms than heretofore.'
During the war, when Germany was dropping bombs on London and England was protesting that no real military purpose was served thereby and that the priceless treasures in the museums that had always been open to the public were being endangered, Germany characteristically replied that England should not keep her bric-a-brac in a fortress. Whether London is a fortress or not, I do not know; doubtless the Tower once was, and doubtless a certain amount of bric-a-brac is stored therein; but the Tower is a fatiguing place, and I fancy I have visited it for the last time; whereas I shall never cease to delight in the London Museum, filled as it is with everything that illustrates the history, the social and business life of a people who by no accident or chance have played a leading part in the history of the world.
This wonderful collection is housed in what was for years regarded as the most sumptuous private residence in London. It is situated in Stable Yard, very near St. James's Palace, and not
so far from Buckingham Palace as to prevent the late Queen Victoria from dropping in occasionally for a cup of tea with her friend, the Duchess of Sutherland, who for many years made it her residence. The story goes, that Her Majesty was accustomed to remark that she had left her house to visit her friend in her palace. Be this as it may, it is a magnificent structure, admirably fitted for its present purpose; and I was fortunate enough to be one of its first visitors when it was thrown open to the public in the spring of 1914. The arrangement of the exhibits leaves nothing to be desired; and if one does not find the garments of the present reigning family very stimulating, one can always retire to the basement and while away an hour or so among the panoramas of Tudor London, or fancy himself for a brief time a prisoner in Newgate.
But the streets of a great city are more interesting than any museum, and it was my custom generally to stroll through St. James's Park, gradually working my way toward Westminster, thence taking a bus to whatever part of London my somewhat desultory plans led me. One morning I had just climbed the steps which lead to Downing Street, when a heavy shower forced me to stand for a few moments under an archway, almost opposite number 10, which, as all the world knows, is the very unimposing residence of the Prime Minister. Standing under the same archway was an admirable specimen of the London policeman, — tall, erect, polite, intelligent, imperturbable,—and it occurred to me that the exchange of a 'British-made' cigar for the man's views on the war would be no more than a fair exchange. And right here let me say that, all the tune I was in England, I did not hear one word of complaint or one word of exultation. There was no doubt in Bobby's mind who won the war, 'but mind you, your fellows was most welcome, when they came'; and I thought I detected just a trifle of sarcasm in his last words. 'We don't like the Germans, but we don't wear ourselves out 'at ing 'em,' he said, in reply to my question.
Just here our conversation was interrupted by an old lady, who came up to inquire at what hour Mrs. Lloyd George was going out. 'I'm not in her confidence, ma'am,' replied my friend; and continuing, he suggested that he had gone to bed hungry many a night but had n't minded in the least, because he knew that British ships were taking the American army to France. 'I've a tendency to get 'eavy, hanyway,' he continued. His views on the League of Nations were what one usually heard. He 'had no confidence a man's neighbors would do more for a man than a man would do for himself; that 'Wilson was a bit 'eady; and the American people 'ad let 'im down something terrible.'
Another morning, walking past the Horse Guards, I noticed on approaching the Mall an enormous German cannon mounted on its heavy carriage, the wheels of which must have had at least five-inch tires. This engine of death, having shot its last bolt, was an object of the greatest interest to the children who constantly played about it. As I passed it, one little chap, probably not over four years of age, was kicking it forcibly with his little foot, his act being regarded approvingly the while by the Bobby who was looking on; but when finally he began to climb up on the wheel, from which he could have got a nasty fall, the policeman took the little lad in his arms, lifted him carefully to the ground, and bade him 'be hoff,' with the remark, 'You'll be tearing that toy to pieces before you are a month older; then we won't 'ave nothing to remind us of the war.'
'I should n't think you were likely to forget it,' I remarked, looking at his decorations and handing him a cigar.
'Well, sir,' he replied, thanking me and putting the cigar in his helmet,'it's curious how one thing drives another out of your mind. I was in it for three years, and yet, except when I look at that gun, I can't rightly say I give it much thought.'
I had an experience one day, which I shall always remember, it was so unexpected and far-reaching. I was sitting in the back room of Sawyer's bookshop in Oxford Street, talking of London, and rather especially of Mr. W. W. Jacobs's district thereof, in which I had recently made several interesting 'short cruises,' in company with his night watchman (he who had a bad shilling festooned from his watch-chain, it will be remembered), when I felt rather than saw that, while I was talking, a man had entered and seemed to be waiting, and rather impatiently, to get into the conversation. Now just how it came about, I don't exactly know; but soon I found myself suggesting that Londoners know relatively little of their great city and that it was only the enlightened stranger who really knew his way about.
'And this to me,' said the stranger in a harsh, strident voice, of such unusual timbre that its owner could have made a whisper heard in a rolling-mill. 'Think of it,' he continued, turning to Sawyer, 'that I should live to be bearded in my den — by a — by a —'
He paused, not at a loss for a word so much as turning over in his mind whether that word should be kindly or the reverse. This gave me an opportunity to look at the man who had entered, unasked, into the conversation in very much the same way that I had