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THE women's club in England is
comparatively a new institution. Organizations of women have been either
political, like the famous Primrose League, or religious, under the domination
of the church. How strongly the latter influence still is, may be inferred from
the fact that a woman's conference held at Nottingham in the autumn of 1895 in
which education, the franchise, economics, philanthropic and kindred topics were
discussed and in which many of the delegates were non-conformists, was opened by
a sermon and the celebration of the communion.
Women's clubs in England in most respects are entirely different from those of the United States. They are, in the first place, limited as to numbers, and the fees are much larger; and in the second place, they are modelled after the clubs for men which flourish in London and the large provincial cities, as they do nowhere else in the world. The Alexandra and the Victoria which are listed in Whittaker's almanac "for ladies of position only," are especially of this nature. The Albemarle is "for ladies and gentlemen," and "The University," for ladies, admits medical women and others holding university diplomas.
The Victoria and Alexandra, the two most exclusive women's clubs in London, have reading-rooms, drawing- rooms, dining-rooms and bed chambers where members may be lodged for a fortnight, if they desire, and it has been found a great convenience for those living in the [-80-] country, when they come up to town. In each the entrance fee is five guineas with an annual subscription of five guineas and both have an extensive waiting list. Both are purely social. Almost every English woman of fortune, and none but women of fortune can afford to belong to either of these clubs, has her money settled upon herself prior to her marriage, which makes it absolutely her own, beyond her husband's control, so that the maintenance of an expensive club is a much simpler matter than it would be in the United States where comparatively few women can boast of an independent income. It need hardly be said that both clubs, notwithstanding their social prestige, are regarded by the ultra conservative with disfavor, and are considered subversive to domestic life.
The Pioneer club is probably the club most widely known outside of London. It was founded by the late Mrs. Massingberd, a woman of good birth and large fortune, and who gave liberally to its support. The Pioneer club occupies a handsome house in Bruton street with the usual complement of reading, drawing and dining- rooms and bed chambers. A large staff of servants was formerly employed and the equipment throughout was excellent and complete. It included in its membership many women of title and position, with others engaged in the professions, admitting even government employes and stenographers, one of its objects being to promote democracy, and to abolish class distinction, at least upon its own common ground. To further this plan, names and titles were eschewed and members were designated by number only - so that "99" might be a duchess or a post-office clerk, as it happened.
The Pioneer club has been partly educational and has supported various educational enterprises, classes having been formed for study, as in American clubs, and debates, the reading of papers followed by discussion, being a part [-81-] of the weekly programme. These exercises are held in the evening instead of the afternoon, and it must be acknowledged that they draw together the most heterogeneous audience imaginable - an assemblage partly in full dress and partly in street costume, many nationalities, French, German, American and even Indian being represented.
On Wednesdays "At Homes" are given to which men are invited, invitations that were frequently accepted out of curiosity-the hospitality of the club having been occasionally abused. After the death of Mrs. Massingberd, which occurred in the winter of 1896, there was a division of opinion as to the future policy to be pursued by the club and the formation of a second organization was agitated. It was decided, finally, that it should retain its autonomy, under the old name and still occupy its old quarters.
It is doubtful, however, if it ever again exerts precisely the same influence that it wielded under Mrs. Massingberd's regime, clubs being much less of a novelty than they were when the Pioneer club was founded in 1878. Furthermore, Mrs. Massingberd had a marked genius for leadership, inspiring others with her own enthusiasm, and possessing that tact and knowledge of character which enabled her to reconcile hostile factions and establish harmony and unity where disaffection threatened.
The Writers' club which has its rooms in Hastings House, Norfolk street Strand, is both social and professional. Both characters are successfully combined, and it affords pleasant entertainment and many comfortable privileges to a class of hard working women who have little time for social life, enabling them to help each other in the most direct and practical manner. Like the Women Journalists' club, all writers, whether for the press or the magazine; with those who devote themselves to au-[-82-]thorship exclusively, are eligible to membership. Its chief purpose is, apparently, to assist women writers upon the press for whom, strangely enough, there is no such liberal provision in the offices of the great London newspapers, as has been made in American newspaper offices.
As the Writers' club is just off the Strand, in the very center of the newspaper and publishing district, the women writers find the pleasant rooms, furnished with tables and writing materials, a great convenience. Here "copy" can be prepared and left at the newspaper office as the reporter or writer is on her way home. The entire suite is upon the ground floor, and includes a writing room, dining room, a kitchen, a cloak room and two reception rooms. A plain dinner, tea and supper are furnished at a very moderate cost and while the Writers' club has grown steadily in membership, gradually extending its resources, it has become more than self-supporting and has a comfortable balance in the bank. The rooms are plainly but well furnished. Over the mantel in the reception rooms are bulletin boards upon which are posted not only announcements of meetings and applications for membership, but applications for engagements from women readers and singers.
The honorary President of the Writers' club is the Princess Christian, and among a lengthy list of Vice- Presidents are such well known names as Mine. Adam, Mrs. Alexander, the novelist, Mrs. G. Linnaeus Banks, Mrs. the Hon. Mrs. H. W. Chetwynd, Lady Jeune, Edna Lyall, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Miss Rosa Nouchette Carey, the Countess of Munster, Mrs. Richmond Ritchie, Lady Seton, and the Duchess of Sutherland. The executive committee, as in most clubs, is empowered to transact all business, and fill any vacancies that may occur during the current year after the annual election of officers. Its chairman in 1887 was Mrs. Humphrey Ward, who, al-[-83-]though she attended the club irregularly, is said to be much interested in the work being done. The committee consists of twelve members among whom are Lady Jeune who is a prolific writer for London periodicals and newspapers; Miss Margaret Bateson, the associate editor of the Queen, one of the most brilliant and scholarly young journalists in England; Miss Ada Heather-Biggs and Miss Strutt-Cavelle.
As in all such clubs, a few of the members are merely dilettanti, but many earn their living by writing and there are, consequently, no literary exercises in the list of its club recreations. On Friday the weekly house tea is given to which members have the privilege of inviting a guest, upon payment of a small fee. If the guest does not accompany her hostess she presents her card at the door, it is sent in and the member joins her in the writing room and escorts her to the reception rooms which are always well filled. A table is spread with the whitest damask covered with flowers and glittering with silver at which tea, bread and butter and cakes are served. The tea is strong - as it is everywhere in England - and it adds an appreciable zest to the conversation which never seems to languish. Both men and women attend these pleasant and informal gatherings and one can generally count upon meeting there the author of the last new book,-the man or woman most talked about at that particular hour; the artists seem to hold aloof except on more formal occasions, having little coteries of their own which they apparently prefer.
The Writers' club has been in existence only a few years but it has a membership of over four hundred. This has so taxed its accommodations that it has been decided to limit its future growth in some manner, which it was thought the executive committee would be able to devise.
The Women Journalists' club is another comparatively [-84-] new organization with rooms in Henrietta street. Its President is Mrs. Craigie (John Oliver Hobbes) and it provides a course of lectures during the winter, and gives what is known as a midsummer party to which all literary, artistic and social London is bidden. In June, 1896, this great function was held at Stafford House - the town residence of the Duke and Duchess of Sutherland, and there was such a demand for invitations that the committee was forced to announce through the columns of the morning newspapers that no more cards would be issued, those which had been sent having been inexorably marked "strictly non-transferable." The invitations included every artist, man or woman, every journalist, author, musician and actor of note in London, with scientists, members of Parliament, cabinet ministers, diplomats and those who lived simply to enliven and adorn the social world. Long before ten o'clock there was a line of carriages stretched down Pall Mall, each awaiting its turn at the entrance in the shadow of the great porte cochère around which was stationed an array of footmen in black and gold livery. The guests were received by the President, Mrs. Craigie, a woman of striking beauty and dignity, who was assisted by Mrs. Johnson, the editor of The Gentlewoman, and other women journalists.
A remarkably varied programme had been arranged, literally suited to all tastes, and the names of the artists who had contributed their services included Mine. Albani and Cissy Loftus, Arthur Roberts, the comedian and Johannes Wolff the violinist, Alice Gomez, the contralto of the St. James concerts, and Letty Lind of the Empire Music Hall. Mme. Albani did not appear, but the beautiful and fascinating Cissy Loftus did not disappoint the company, and she gave an extremely clever imitation of a popular actress whose mannerisms were then the delight [-85-] of the Music Hall artists, and a source of pecuniary profit as well.
The lectures of the club are held in the rooms of the Royal Society, Adelphi and I had the pleasure of hearing on one occasion Prof. Herkomer, and, somewhat later, T.P. O'Connor, M. P., who gave an address upon "Journalism."
The lecture of Prof. Herkomer was largely autobiographical, and -the speaker made a special request that a chairman and the vote of thanks, which formally close such an address, be dispensed with. Each member had been permitted to invite a guest and a large audience was present. Professor Herkomer came upon the platform, a man of slender figure, of somewhat nervous manner, the pallor of his delicate and regular features intensified by his dark hair; he looked about a moment, glanced down at a long table covered with pens, ink and blotting-paper and said that the lecture would be delivered with the explicit understanding that it was not to be reported for the daily press. He did not proceed until the writing materials were taken away, as if he feared that some one of the numerous lady journalists present might yield to an irresistible impulse, rush to the table and begin taking notes on the spot, before she could be prevented, taken into custody and led away. With the removal of the pens and ink no such coup de main was possible. The lecture was one that was delivered several times during the course of that winter, which was a sufficient reason for the request that no report be made for publication. It was reminiscent, intensely interesting, without egotism or anything that approached self-laudation. The great painter frankly related how the sale of his first picture had been compassed: sitting in an omnibus, comparatively unknown in the great world of London, he overheard two gentlemen discussing pictures - a prospective purchase, among other [-86-] topics. He plucked up courage, informed them that he was a painter and had just finished a picture which he would like very much to have them see. They expressed their willingness to visit his studio, the address was given, they came and one of them actually bought the picture. When he painted his "Chelsea Pensioners" his friends had warned him against attempting a canvas of such great size. He had his own views; the picture was painted as he had planned it, and then sent, in fear and trembling, to the hanging committee of the Royal Academy. He was watching at night by the bedside of a friend who was dangerously ill when the telegram came informing him that the picture had been accepted and he said: "I burst into tears and fell upon my knees in gratitude to God."
Mr. T. P. O'Connor's paper was also brilliant and interesting, as might have been expected, but rather badly read-with a falling inflection at the end of every sentence, which made it difficult to follow him. The functions of the critic were sharply discussed afterwards, one grievance calling forth especial protest-the custom of employing one and the same critic upon half a dozen different journals; where the criticism was adverse it appeared as if ,all these journals were of the same mind; whereas, it was merely the opinion, widely disseminated, of one and the same individual. The corresponding advantage of so wide a circulation of favorable opinion was not mentioned, although, certainly, something might have been said on that side of the question, also.
Some time after this I was invited twice to the Playgoers' club - on one occasion when the subject for the evening was: "Can Women Write Plays?"- the paper having been written by Mrs. Oscar Beringer; Mr. Beere, the dramatic critic, Mr. Rose, who dramatized "The Prisoner of Zenda," and Lady Bancroft, the actress-manager, whose husband had been recently knighted - taking part [-87-] in the discussion. At a subsequent meeting the address was delivered by Zangwill, upon the "Modern Drama," a number of well known managers speaking upon the subject.
Both men and women are admitted to the Playgoers' club, which is comparatively a young organization, but quite enterprising and vigorous and with a very large membership. It has strong affiliation with the literary profession.
It is the custom to invite some distinguished author to preside at the meetings which are held on Sunday evening in the banqueting hall of St. James restaurant in Piccadilly - Sunday being the one day of leisure upon which theatrical people can reckon, as the theatres are still rigidly closed on Sunday throughout Great Britain. The audience is always varied and interesting, musicians, journalists, artists, critics and of course the actors themselves assembling in force. The meetings are conducted on the plan of "a smoker," and most of the men present smoked cigars and cigarettes; and a few of the more daring did not remove their hats. The air was blue and thick, and the windows tightly closed so that breathing with anything like ease was a pretty severe test of the capacity of one s lungs. Mrs. Beringer, who had been asked to give some account of women dramatists, was herself a very successful playwright. She had tried her hand at several short plays and "A Bit of Old Chelsea, her latest production, had been running at the Royalty Theatre for some months. While there were certain speeches and situations that any but a London audience would have pronounced slightly broad, the construction was good, and the little drama abounded in genuine humor and pathos.
Mrs. Beringer appeared upon the platform promptly at eight o'clock, a tall, graceful woman, with a face of a somewhat oriental type, dark eyes, dark hair and a slightly [-88-] aquiline nose. She read extremely well, beginning with a somewhat superfluous apology for her incapacity as a critic, the confession of a fault that was not apparent to her audience. She reviewed the dramatic work of women in the past, confining herself chiefly to the misdemeanors of Mrs. Aphra Behn, but passing over Joanna Baillie of whom even the caustic Byron made an exception when he wrote: "Women cannot write tragedy, except Joanna Baillie." Miss Mitford was also forgotten whose "Rienzi" was produced in 1828 with the "Foscari" and "Charles I" for which she received very large sums. It was argued that men and women possessed precisely the same emotional and intellectual qualities that fitted them for play-writing. She did not claim that women had the intellectual force of men, but she believed that they had keen and more delicate perceptive powers, which were essential to character delineation, and which she considered the chief requisite of the dramatist. A novelist had many aids of which the playwright could not avail himself; description, incident, the direct effect of his own personality, none of which could be utilized in the construction of a play when the plot must be developed by the character and made apparent by the denouement. All manifestations of art were defined as the outcome of experience. It was impossible to depict life without having lived, and in the past women had been hampered by restrictions-the narrowness of the sphere in which they were born. She did not think that any just estimate of women's genius could be made until they had known something of the freedom and training which had been enjoyed by men from the beginning of time; they were simply upon probation. She had great hope for the future; women were displaying ability in so many directions, as Opportunity was given them, that she had no doubt whatever as to their ultimate success when they had been further schooled by experience. She gave [-89-] a sly thrust at certain violations of the code on the part of shrewd aspirants to fame in the province of dramatic authorship. One of these ladies having finished her play invited a well known critic to come and hear it read. The tea table was spread, decorated with lights and flowers and the author herself appeared in a most becoming gown. She read her comedy, and as the critic took his leave asked him tremblingly what he thought of it. By way of reply he exclaimed with emphasis: "You darling!" But he had nothing to say about the play! Mrs. Beringer confessed naively that she had never had such an encounter herself, - a confession that was greeted with much laughter and applause. Her conclusion, after a careful summing up of all the arguments that she had presented, was that dramatic work of the best class in the future would be written by women.
The gentleman who opened the discussion began his speech with what might be called a general onslaught. He spoke indistinctly, turning his face aside so that it was a little difficult to hear perfectly all that he said, but in these recurrent intervals of incoherency it could not be supposed that he had expressed any opinion that was especially tolerant or commendatory; his general tone of disapproval precluded any such hope. Women, he declared, had never written anything of any consequence for the stage; Mrs. Aphra Behn had excelled even her profligate age in outspoken indecency. He named all the recent dramatic authors among women, in not one of whom was any merit to be found. Lady C- had written a play which was a failure, like others which he mentioned. Miss C. G- had produced what was called a play, in which a most chaste and charming actress had been subjected to the indignity of appearing in breeches. Somebody had written something that had run a few nights only because of a particularly nasty inuendo in the second act - very few peo-[-90-]ple came in time for the first. In short, he declared authoritatively, that the influence of women playwrights had been distinctly to lower the moral tone of the stage. Having pronounced this anathema the speaker sat down amid very feeble and dispirited applause. The reader of the paper preserved her serenity under the scoring, in a way that proved conclusively that women, as well as men, can bear with composure criticism that verges dangerously upon personal abuse. Mr. Rose, who responded to the dramatic mysogynist, took a decidedly optimistic view, and thought that there was no reason why women should not write plays, and great plays. As Mrs. Beringer had said, barriers had been thrown in their way, and all the ordinary conditions had been opposed to them. He corroborated her opinion: to write one must first live; the woman dramatist must know men and women and the world in which they actually dwelt. Even by men, with all their superior advantages, not more than three or four great plays had been produced in a century; and in all the ages there had been but one Shakespeare. Women had distinguished themselves in recent years in many fields, doing difficult work as well as it had been done by men, where an opportunity had been given them. He did not think that the field of play-writing was exceptional, and, because a woman had not yet written a great play was no reason why she would not write one in the future; she had the requisite genius, feeling and intellect.
Lady Bancroft was called upon and after much urging spoke rather reluctantly, explaining that she had never attended a meeting of the Playgoers' club before, and certainly had not expected to make a speech. In her long experience as manager of a London theatre, she had no reason to be much impressed with what she had seen of plays written by women and which had been submitted to her for approval. She gave a very humorous account of one [-91-] which the author had asked permission to read to her, proffering the modest opinion that she, the author, believed it to be the greatest play that had ever been produced and that the one situation, which was the dramatic and rhetorical climax "had never been presented on the stage." The generous lady-manager agreed to read the play, insisting upon reading it herself, by way of shortening the ordeal, and she was to go through it at her leisure. The scene that was to astonish the London public was arranged in this wise: A lady who had a husband had also a lover. While she was holding a secret conference with the lover she fainted, the husband having appeared unexpectedly upon the scene. Reviving suddenly, roused no doubt by an acute consciousness of the great rudeness of the omission, she exclaimed: "O, I beg your pardon: I have neglected to introduce you !" The play was a tragedy, not a comedy.
At the end of the speech-making Mrs. Beringer recapitulated the points brought up in the discussion, very gracefully acknowledging the support that her position had received, and replying with like grace and tact to those who had been rather unduly severe in their opposition.
Zangwill's paper which I heard several weeks later, was a decidedly caustic arraignment of modern drama. He was of very distinguished appearance, tall, slight, with a decided Semitic cast of countenance, though the features were much less heavy than appears in his portraits. He spoke with much deliberation, giving his audience ample time to catch his points which, for the most part, were strongly put and invariably well taken. He disapproved without reservation the custom of producing a play which was repeated many nights in succession; he thought the practice fatal to dramatic composition, the authors being crowded out by this usurpation, while the actors them-[-92-]selves, once letter-perfect, grew indolent and indifferent. They lost the great incentive of continued and renewed effort. He contrasted this demoralizing English and American custom to the more rigid requirements of the French and German stage, where every artist was obliged to have a varied repertoire of great plays, which were presented at short intervals, and upon very brief notice. He believed that this state of readiness for whatever might be demanded of them, accounted for the finished and artistic work of both French and German actors. The London stage at that time was reviewed not much to its credit, several popular melodramas were mercilessly condemned and at least one accomplished actor-manager severely taken to task for surrendering to the demands of British Philistinism. As an evidence of further decadence, the greatest crime with which the modern playwright could be charged was that of being "literary." It was impossible to read a modern play; yet more delightful reading than the old English plays could not be found. He thought that actors should cultivate literary taste; that they should be familiar, not only with the classics, but with all European literature, which they should be able to read in the original. He gave a very amusing incident in which he, himself, was the chief actor; he had been in Paris and had taken breakfast with a very distinguished English actor-manager. At this breakfast it was arranged that he should write a play for him. It was thoroughly discussed and, having virtually reached an agreement, they parted. When he returned to London while passing the theatre one of the associate lessees rushed out - a man of my own race, Zangwill explained, and expressed his great gratification that he was to write the play.
"But," he added, cautioning him, "remember, Zangwill, no d-d literature!"
Several actor-managers present defended their fellow-[-93-]managers with much wit and spirit; among them a gentleman who had vainly endeavored to raise the public taste to the level of Ibsen and had made a disastrous financial failure of it.
In all the talk, while the women were not quite so fluent and numerous as the men, those who did speak acquitted themselves with credit, coming to the point with great directness, and showing themselves liberally endowed with good sense and humor. Miss Kate Roorke thought well of dramatic schools, such as were common in the United States, as a means of educating young men and women in the art of acting, it being understood that she herself was personally interested in such an institution. She defended her position by calling attention to the great degree of excellence that had been attained by young men and women on the American stage - especially young women, many of whom had achieved much success in London, where they were then greatly esteemed at all the leading theatres. This theory was warmly disputed, the majority deciding that the stage itself, where all great actors and actresses had been trained from childhood, was the only school in which real dramatic art could ever be acquired. There was no substitute for the discipline of failure or the stimulus of success, which were possible only on the real stage, behind the foot-lights where the verdict of the audience-the arbiter of the actor's destiny - was immediately rendered.
The Sandringham club, at 13 Old Bond street, is one of the newer organizations, and has convenient and comfortable rooms within walking distance of the galleries and the principal theatres. Once a week during the season it gives pleasant "At Homes" with music and readings as special attractions. It has made a departure from the ordinary rules in admitting to its privileges, upon payment of the required fee, any American woman who may [-94-] be sojourning in London, who brings credentials from American clubs to which she belongs.
The Sesame club admits both men and women to membership. Its rooms are in Westminster and it is especially interested in educational questions. It is distinctly liberal, with, perhaps, a touch of radicalism. Men and women, who compose both the officers and the committees, work together amicably and harmoniously. The Sesame club is in close proximity to the Alexandra club and the Primrose League. I received an invitation to be present at a meeting which was to be addressed by Mrs. Henry Norman, who is better known in the United States as Menie Muriel Dowie, the author of "A Girl in the Karpathians." Mrs. Norman's subject was very unlike her book, though it was characterized by the same wit and originality. She was a tall, slender and graceful woman, far more comely than the profile portrait that is familiar to the American reader. She has a keen sense of humor, and the entire address was brilliant and clever - a plea for simpler living. She advocated removal to the country, or to a suburb, where permanent residence in the country was impossible. She thought that it was much to be deplored that there were so many to whom even this compromise was necessary, but, since it was unavoidable, this class might be consoled with the reflection that half a loaf was better than no bread. The speaker had evidently a warm regard for Americans and an admiration for the American way of living. She eulogized that fascinating if somewhat misleading work: "Ten Acres Enough" in which it was carefully and accurately shown what profit might be derived from the cultivation of a small tract of land upon scientific principles. She rather ruefully admitted that another gentleman of urban prejudices and literary proclivities had also undertaken this sort of scientific agriculture and had set forth his experiences in a work entitled "Two Acres [-95-] too Much." Nevertheless, she held firmly to the belief that the townsman might carry on a legitimate pursuit in the city and successfully unite with it the diversion of the gentleman farmer. She cited the case of a musical critic on one of the New York newspapers, a devoted disciple of Wagner, who, whatever his love for agriculture, was not willing to forego the opera. He combined both callings easily and profitably, did his work as an accomplished critic and enjoyed in their season the fruits of his garden and orchard - delicious peaches and melons and tomatoes of a freshness unknown to the green grocer. She commented forcibly on the market supplies furnished the residents of London-wilted cabbages, faded cauliflower, vegetable marrow long past its prime; neither appeals nor persuasion could move the green grocer to mend his ways, which were altogether bad. While excellent things were really grown-crisp cresses' and lettuce, potatoes worthy the name, they were not to be obtained by the London householder, except by visiting Covent Garden at three o'clock in the morning. She advocated a system of market-houses which she described, similar to those in many American cities, to which the housekeeper might be- take herself easily and conveniently and select her supplies. In connection with the market-house she suggested a refreshment-room or reception-room, where one might meet her friends and rest and solace herself with a little gossip over a cup of tea. This should be made so attractive that the work of marketing for the family would be a pleasure instead of an irksome task. London society was described as a great conglomeration where no one had time for anything; where it was impossible to become acquainted with one's friends or to meet people whom one wished to know; to read the books one wished to read or carry out any rational plans.
Friendship, as London society was then constituted and [-96-] conducted, consisted chiefly in writing notes to say how very sorry you were that you could not attend the delightful luncheon or dinner at which you were asked to meet some one whom it would be such a pleasure to know; and in receiving regrets in the same tenor telling you that the friend with whom you were to have the long-planned talk over a matter of mutual interest would have to be excused. It was a breathless rush and an undignified scramble from one crowd to another-a proceeding of very little profit or benefit of any sort. She knew numbers of people who were going to re-read Thackeray and Dickens, but no one had ever accomplished it; time was consumed by an endless succession of "At Homes," dinners and balls at which people felt impelled to show themselves for no good or tangible reason. All these pleasant occupations were possible in the country, reading the books one liked, doing the things one enjoyed, knowing one's neighbors and being known by them. She admitted that some sacrifices must be made in migrating from the town to the country. Men, perhaps, would have to be content with smaller incomes. Half the dissatisfaction with modern life grew out of the fixed determination to earn a certain sum-say five thousand a year, but to accomplish this a man sacrificed many things of far greater consequence than money. She thought it a truer philosophy to earn £1,000 a year in congenial employment which was in itself a pleasure, rather than to earn double the sum in a profession that was perpetual slavery or galling weariness. She recommended scientific dairying as a pursuit especially well adapted to gentlewomen. As an occupation she thought it far superior to teaching, even in the higher schools. The scientific dairy-woman might not earn more than £200 where the teacher with extraordinary good fortune might be able to command £300; but she considered it better to earn £200 in such a beautiful and interesting pursuit as [-97-] dairying, than in one which was at best, precarious, where success depended largely upon favor, and in which there were innumerable trials and difficulties from which the dairy farmer was exempt.
At this point I heard a little murmur of dissent from a plainly dressed girl who sat near me, and who remarked significantly that "dairy farmers also had their trials and difficulties; and that the cost of feeding, the accidents that could happen to cows, with the low price of dairy products, would have to be considered."
The remark was made sotto voce and did not interrupt the speaker, who continued, emphatically declaring that the country was the proper place for children, and those were deeply to be pitied who had never known the freedom of country life, and had failed to acquire that knowledge which was to be gained only by a familiar acquaintance with fields and woods. She thought that the bicycle and railway train, with their rush and noise, fairly typical of modern city life.
A discussion followed not less amusing and entertaining than Mrs. Norman's bright and unconventional talk. The first speaker did not agree with the rosy view of agricultural life which the speaker had taken. If one had a liking for society, he must be content for the greater part of the time with that of the village doctor, the apothecary, the Wesleyan clergyman or the ritualistic curate. Much of the pleasure and benefit of life in the metropolis was in the intellectual stimulus afforded by contact with superior minds; there only could the perfection of civilization be enjoyed - great pictures, the best music and the theatres. Mrs. Norman had admitted that the devotee of Wagner could not banish himself to regions beyond the possibility of hearing "The Flying Dutchman" and "Lohengrin." He himself had been born, reared and educated in the country, and he frankly confessed that he was [-98-] never so miserable as when he was forced to return for an occasional holiday. He had noticed also that the children always came home from such excursions with colds, or measles or some infectious disease which they had entirely escaped in town. This forced him to remark that recent statistics showed London to be the most healthful part of the United Kingdom, its death rate being actually lower than that of the provinces. He thought that the dearth of wholesome amusement had much to do with the depopulation of the country, forcing young men and women to go to the city where this natural desire could be gratified, and where both amusement and congenial companionship were within reach of the poorest. For himself, he acknowledged that he found in the country no enjoyment equal to reading the pea-green pages of the Westminster Gazette in the dim light of an underground railway carriage, as he returned home from the city in the evening-a confession that caused much laughter. Mrs. Norman had criticized the evening papers-not necessarily the Westminster Gazette any more than the others, as one of the unavoidable evils of city life - a perfectly natural discrimination, the speaker thought, since she was connected, editorially and matrimonially, with one of the great morning dailies. Mrs. Norman thus arraigned smiled and shook her head once or twice in amiable protest.
Another of the audience-a woman who, also, was not quite in sympathy with Mrs. Norman's views - told an amusing story of a Scotch gardener. She and a friend rode on their bicycles to a well known show place in the vicinity of London, famous for its magnificent gardens which the owner had generously thrown open to the public. As they walked through the fine shrubbery and along the well-kept borders, she heard a cuckoo calling - "altogether the most ecstatic and loud-voiced cuckoo that she [-99-] had ever heard," and she paused and called her friend's attention to it.
The disgusted comment of the gardener was: "Humph! We have too much of that sort of thing around here!" She thought this a good example of the appreciation of nature on the part of those who were forced to live in the country. The gardener disparaged everything, and if she admired a flower, or a rose of especial beauty, he would tell her that she should have seen some roses at the flower show which he had gone up to London to visit a few days before. She felt that he might be regarded as one of those typical countrymen who instinctively compare all rural institutions to the products of the town, a comparison she had observed which was always to the pronounced disadvantage of the country.
Other charming and pertinent talk, pro and con, was followed by informal conversation in which all took part and during which Mrs. Norman received the warm congratulations of her friends.