As I was taking luncheon at a London club, and trying to fix my attention upon a soup for which its kitchen has a singular reputation, I was conscious that a gentleman who was passing my table paused; a hand was lightly laid upon my shoulder, and I heard the salutation, “How are you?” with that up and down and up again inflection of the voice upon the three words which makes the greeting so cheery from English lips. I turned my fuil face to the speaker, and for a moment we looked straight into each other’s eyes; then he stepped back saying, “I — I beg pardon; I was mistaken.” In that moment of mutual scrutiny, although I had never seen him before, I had recognized the fine, sagacious face of Sergeant-, one of the

leaders of the British bar,—rightly, as a casual introduction soon showed; but in his face there was only blankness, astonishment, and confusion. The incident impressed itself upon me not only or chiefly because a like mistake in regard to me had been made twice before

in England, but because Sergeant-’s

face was familiar to me from a good photograph I had had for several years at home, and because in considering it I had been struck with its conformity in feature and expression to a not uncom-

mon New England type. And yet a more thoroughly English face could not be found between John o’ Groat’s and Land’s-End. It was not round or rosy, neither was it at all bluff. It was rather long or longish; the cheeks were not full and had little color, but that was healthy ; the nose was aquiline ; the mouth not small, but well shaped, with mobile lips; the chin firm; the forehead high, and rather narrow than broad. In brief, it was a face as unlike that of “John Bull” as a human face could well be; and yet, as I have already said, one more thoroughly English could not well be found. And here was a typical Englishman taking an unmitigated Yankee, not one of whose forefathers had been in England for two hundred and forty and odd years, for another Englishman, his familiar friend, and the latter recognizing the typical Englishman’s face as one known to him for its New England form and favor. As types will survive long under strange and adverse skies, and even after disappearing for some two or three generations will break forth again, this was not at all out of the natural course of things. The significant fact in the incident was that this New England face on a London barrister’s shoulders was the typical face that has ruled in England for centuries, and yet that it is absolutely unlike the face which (who can tell why or how?) has been thrust upon the world, nay, accepted by Englishmen, as the characteristic English face, the face of John Bull. Now it is with careful consideration and after examination of the subject that I say that the rarest man in the England of to-day is John Bull, and that in the England of the past he was almost unknown. We all know him well. He began to appear in caricature about a hundred years ago; a huge, broad-backed, big-bellied, uncouth, stolid, beef-witted animal, as incapable of thought or daring, not to say of poetry, philosophy, statesmanship, or chivalry, as a fatted calf. Nevertheless such has been the creature set up as the type of the people which has produced Sidney and Spenser and Shakespeare and Bacon and Newton and Nelson and Napier, — men who were only the first among a throng of others of their kind. Not forgetting the homely traits which are apt to be selected in the humorous delineation of a figure which is to represent a people, and making all allowance for this trick of art, it is yet undeniable that John Bull is soberly regarded by half the world, himself included, as the type of the people which has assumed his name. There was never a more absurd misrepresentation, except indeed in the accepted typical Yankee of the British stage, which our own caricaturists — if we have any who may be rightly called our own — have in like manner adopted, thereby giving a semblance of authority to a ridiculous libel, and perpetuating it. John Bull may of course be found in England, but his appearance there, like that here of him who is strangely called the typical American, always occasions remark, and of a somewhat disparaging and jocose character. I have observed that if one Englishman speaks of another as “a real John Bull,” it is generally with a smile, and that the real John is sure to be in a somewhat lower social position than the speaker. Whence comes this coarse, obtrusive figure, elbowing his way before his betters, to thrust himself forward as the most English of Englishmen? He has no place in England’s history, even in the history of the English people. His face and figure do not appear in the throng of those who, for one quality or another which made them men of mark, or in many cases, perhaps in most, for their mere possession of English land, have been handed down to us on canvas. John Bull’s face does not look upon posterity from England’s long gallery of portraits until within the last century; and even in that period he appears but rarely. Turn over the copious collections of engraved portraits of Englishmen from the times of the Wars of the Roses, in the throes of which modern England had its birth; wander through the oak-carved rooms and raftered halls from which ancestral Englishmen gaze down in still amazement upon their successors, not always their descendants, and you will see that John Bull, unlike Napoleon, was not an ancestor. Nor does the type of which he may be accepted as the caricature appear; except, indeed, with such rarity of occurrence and vagueness of conformity as might be found in the pictured memorials of anypeople. John Bull as we hear him described and see him represented now is a production of the coarse caricaturists with pen and pencil of the last century, and he has been thoughtlessly adopted by their successors and the public for which they have worked; the adoption being favored by the fact that it occurred at a period when England was reaching the pinnacle of her military, naval, and commercial eminence, and when her middle classes were rising to political importance.

This 1 know: that in no English home into which I was admitted, whether a peasant’s cottage or a great house, did I find John Bull, either as host or guest. I met him neither at Oxford nor at Cambridge, among the Fellows or the undergraduates, nor at the Inns of Court among the other barristers. He never brought me my chop in London, or waited on me at a country house. I did see him, however, from time to time, but very rarely. I met him on the top of an omnibus, in a grill-room, as one of the magnates of a knot of suburban villas, in the coffee-room of a provincial inn, and once in the pit of a theatre, where he was accompanied by the dreadful female of his own species, for whom he went out and brought in food, as became an animal Jerus naturæ ; and very odd he and she looked there in full evening dress. As to his make and his manner, who needs to be told them? He is ungainly, with too much solid fat for ease of movement; grace is beyond his apprehension; he does not know what it is. He is red of face, and often of whisker; and his big mouth is oftener open than shut, even when he is not engaged in the serious occupation of putting something into it, or in the rarer employment of speaking. His reason is an oath or a bet; his wit, a practical joke; his merriment, a horse-laugh; his most powerful argument, a clenched fist. In John Bull there seems to he embodied a certain element of brutality which has, by time and circumstance, or change of clime, been bred out of the English blood in this country. It is that element of character which makes some Englishmen not only use force brutally, but even submit to it when it is so used with effect. John Bull will thrash you if he can, and make you do his dirty work; but if you can thrash him, he will submit and do yours, shake hands, and bear no malice. He fights to try who is the best man; and the best man, not right, is to rule. It is this element of character which is the stable foundation of fagging at the public schools. The small boys and the new boys must submit to the big boys and the old boys, and fag for them, simply because those are small and new, and these are big and old. That is the order of nature, — John Bull nature. This nature supports the cruel floggings and “ tundings ” which make the blood of other folk to boil within tliem. The female Bull is not exempt from it. Flogging seems to be the most dearly cherished privilege among parents, even mothers, of the John Bull class. Some years ago, when there was a feeble protest made in the London pa-

pers against flogging girls, sundry British matrons, glowing with virtuous indignation, rushed into print and to the rescue, and told with unction how they had stripped and flogged their daughters, marriageable girls, and with what good effect; for, marvelous to tell, the girls submitted! And an English lady whom I know well told another whom I know better bow her uncle, a peer, came one morning into her bedroom, as he was going to ride to hounds, and making her get tip flogged her with Ids huntingwhip as she stood in her nightgown; and this because she would let her cousin, his son, make love to her, to the prospective peril of some family arrangements. She was an orphan and brotherless; and therefore let us hope and be willing to believe it was that this coroneted Bull had not his nose brought to the ring. As to the cruel and indiscriminate flogging in public schools, Fielding’s wise head and kind heart, protested against it more than a century ago. “ Discipline, indeed! ” says Parson Adams. “ Because one man scourges twenty or thirty boys more in a morning than another, is he therefore a better disciplinarian?” True, scourging is a very ancient and mueli-honored form of educational discipline; for have we not Solomon’s protest against innovation in this respect? Parson Adams himself scourged boys who could not say the catechism. It is the acceptance of it by the scourged as well as by the scourgers, and the willingness of fathers that their boysshould be beaten by any one who is able to do it, from master and usher down, to the school bully and the town bully, which is particularly John Bullish. The father would be delighted if his boy could and should thrash the bully; but the right of the bully to thrash if hecan, and to have his own way because he is the best man, he rarely ventures to dispute. The right of might and the laws which might establishes are not to be denied. A fainting, frightened hare is torn to pieces by the hounds before the face of Fanny and that paragon of men, her lover, Joseph Andrews; but she. Fielding tells us, “ was unable to assist it with any aid more powerful than pity, nor could she prevail on Joseph, who had been himself a sportsman in his youth, to attempt anything contrary to the laws of hunting in favor of the hare, which he said was killed fairly. ” The laws of the hunting-field are too much those of English society. It was perfectly in keeping with this spirit that recently an anti-vivisection meeting was broken up by two or three hundred medical students, and such like, who marched into the lecture-room of Mr. Spurgeon’s Tabernacle, yelling, blowing trumpets, ringing bells, breaking the chairs and the chandeliers, and at last fighting with the police. They were presumably educated men, students of science; but because the call for the meeting spoke of vivisection as cruel and demoralizing, they broke it up by brute force, and gave a high finish to their proceedings by lighting their pipes and cigars and puffing the smoke into the faces of the ladies who were present. John Bull was there in large force on that occasion.

On the other hand, the same sort of Englishman hears himself with a deference to rank and wealth which is unknown not only here, but on the continent of Europe, except perhaps in Germany. John Bull, it has been said, “ loves a lord; ” but to be loved the lord must have lordly belongings and surroundings. The respect is for gross material advantage, of which the title is the consequence. A peer may become poor, but poor men are not raised to the peerage. The rich lord rules not only the land but the heart of England. At this very day and under the last reform, which distributes the suffrage so widely, even the liberal London Spectator tells us that “the constituencies decline to send up young men unless they are eldest sons.”1 As to wealth, the diffusion of knowledge and the political elevation by which that has been followed seem to have increased rather than diminished the numbers of its slavish worshipers. True, the worship is merely a manifestation of selfishness; but in England it takes on the form of a religion, and seeks to invest itself with a sort of social mystery. The Saturday Review, apropos of the loathsome Bagot will case, says that one point brought out by it is “ the slavish adulation accorded nowadays to mere wealth.” “If,” the reviewer continues, “a man attains to the dignity of a ' nugget ’ his roughness is pardoned, or lauded as an absence of affectation; his vulgarity treated as naturalness or eccentricity; and his vices slurred over, or attributed to defective education.” But this is nothing new in England; it is no peculiar mark of nowadays. In the very book and in the very chapter from which I have just brought Fielding to witness, he makes Joseph ask, “ What inspires a man to build fine houses, to purchase fine furniture, pictures, clothes, and other things, but an ambition to be respected more than other people? ” Nor indeed is this particular kind of respect peculiar to the English or to any other people, or to any period. The Apostle James, in rebuking the early Christians for showing respect to a man who came among them with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and disrespect to the poor man in vile raiment, merely touched a spot of moral weakness which seems to have appeared at the earliest stage of man’s development, — possibly before, for is there not a snobbishness in dogs? And yet the dog may have caught this from his human companion. The wolf, who we are told is his ancestor, is pure from it. The only peculiarity of English society in respect to this feeling is a sort of declarative pompous deification of material wealth, without any of that attempted graceful mitigation of the grossness of the adulation which appears more or less among almost all other peoples.

But in England wealth has, more than in most other countries, its own duties and responsibilities. There a man of wealth, especially of hereditary wealth, cannot hold up his head among men unless he makes some use of his money which will benefit others, — at least “ the county ” and “the parish.” He may do it in a reasonable and benevolent way, or he may keep hounds, or if not subscribe to the hunt; but something he must do, or be set down as a shabby fellow. To pass over the more serious responsibilities of this kind, he is expected to give with his own hand, if he is anything less than a duke. In England noblesse oblige means that he who has pounds must give shillings. Largesse has dwindled into the less mouthfilling tip; but the duty remains. I sought in vain to define the line between the man who did expect a shilling and him who did not. It was easy enough to find those who did not; but to discover exactly where the expectation began was very difficult. And a repetition of the silver sweetener, corresponding to the barrister’s “ refresher,” is expected to be more frequent than I was prepared to find it. There is a butler in Lancashire who, after much not unrewarded attentiveness, parted from me with a cold, reproachful stare of ducal dignity, which when I had got a little distance from the house I felt sure was because of some neglect of what was becoming on my part. I was almost tempted to turn back and beg his forgiveness with the acceptance of a crown, or even a half sovereign. In my lonely moments and waking hours that man’s lofty look of disappointment troubles my memory. In truth, I believe that he was more disappointed in me than in the loss of a “ vail.” He had thought better of me. As to the two classes, of expectants and non-expectants, it would perhaps be safe to assume that tips are not looked for by peers and personal friends; but — safest rule of all — when in doubt give the shilling.

Perhaps one element of John Bullism is that self-assertion, personal and national, which is certainly a very marked trait of English character. It is not new. Sir William Temple says somewhere that no people so abounds in originals as the English. Doubtless time and the drift of modern society have somewhat done away with this tendency to eccentric excrescence in England; but it still exists there to a degree which makes Sir William Temple’s remarks hold good. They have “characters” in England. Everywhere they may be found; but they naturally come to the surface more in small communities,— provincial towns and villages. In these, characters — men who dare to be peculiar, eccentric — are known to almost all the townsfolk, and are allowed to have their way, if their way is harmless, even if they are poor; if they are rich, whether or no. We have not these characters. There used to be some in the New England villages, but they have mostly if not entirely disappeared, and we are all now ground down into an average.

It is this element of self-assertion that makes John Bull a grumbler even when he is good-natured at bottom. He does not shrink from letting you know just what he wants, and that what he wants he expects, particularly if you have taken his money. This is so general a habit and so well established a privilege that those who do give anything for money look for some grumbling, not only as a matter of course but as a guide. I had been little more than a week at my lodgings in London, where my breakfast was served to me by the lodging-house keeper, at her discretion, when the maid said one morning, as she went out with the tray, “ I’m afraid we shan’t satisfy you, sir, with your breakfast.” I told her that the breakfasts were very good; that tea and eggs and bacon and fish and muffins and marmalade were a breakfast good enough for any man, and quite all I wished to pay for. “ Yes, sir,” she replied, “ but you never grumble about anything you have, and so we don’t know how to please you.” Could this trait of character have had better illustration than in such a disappointed groping for it as a guide by this good girl, who seemed to study my slightest wishes, and who generally did anticipate them ?

Characteristically English conduct was that of a very eminent man of letters, of whose performance I heard. He had gone to visit at a house whose hospitality was offered to him by two old maiden ladies, who were co-heiresses of a small estate, and were of the rank of gentry, but did not keep a very large domestic establishment. They had been brought up when the fashion of “ tubbing ” every morning was not so common as it is now. What was the horror of the household — wholly female — at the appearance of Mr. -at the head of the

staircase in the morning, more thinly and lightly clad than became a middle-aged bachelor among spinsters, and bawling out, “ I should like to know how I ’m to take my bawth with this little can of water! ”

This individual self-assertion takes form in customs peculiar to families, which are adopted very easily and retained firmly; in some cases they have been kept up for generations. In one country house at which I visited it was the custom to breakfast in the library, dinner being of course in the diningroom. On Sunday morning I went as usual to the library at breakfast time, but although I was a little late there were no signs of breakfast. I took up a book and began to read. Erelong a servant appeared and asked me into the diningroom to breakfast; and there my host informed me, with apology, that on Sunday the custom of the house was reversed,— breakfast was in the diningroom and dinner in the library. At a time of some domestic confusion in days past this had happened to be convenient; it was continued for some unknown reason for a while, and bad then hardened into a family custom which became a part of the religious observance of Sunday. The free and independent American citizen does not do so. He is not free and independent enough to dare to be eccentric, and to be so, as in this case, it would seem, chiefly for the purpose of having some custom peculiar to himself and to his household. But it was not unpleasing.

Coexistent, however, with this strong individuality and the license accorded to it is a disposition to resent any attempt to introduce social changes, particularly if the attempt seems to imply any reproach. The sensitiveness on this point is very great, —so great that it becomes touchiness. Nolumus leges antiquas A ngliæ mutare expresses the spirit of the rulers of society now as well as it did that of the rulers of the state centuries ago. It is not the general custom to use napkins at luncheon in England, although at great houses luncheon is in reality a small dinner; as it may well be when “ ta muckle dinner hersel ” is at eight o’clock, and on great occasions at nine. An American lady was visiting at one of these houses, where she found the usual absence of the napkin at midday. She knew her hostess so well that she could venture to ask her why it was that napkins were not used at luncheon. Her grace (for she was a duchess) replied simply and briefly that it was “ not the custom,” and with an air that signified that that settled the question. But her guest had taken luncheon with the queen more than once at Balmoral, and there she had found napkins. This she told her friend as a sort of justification of her inquiry. “ Indeed!” replied the duchess. “The queen had better be careful. She will make herself unpopular if she undertakes to change the customs of the country.” The Philistinism of John Bull does not even stop short of napkins.

This is one manifestation of the feeling which takes another form in the dislike of anything foreign, and in the assumption that nothing out of England can be quite so right as it is in England, — nothing moral, mental, or physical. This is a genuine feeling, and not an affectation, or the result of arrogance, as it is generally assumed to be. It is often manifested with a simplicity which is at once laughable and charming. In the Tichborne trial, the last one, which condemned the impostor to penal servitude, Major Foster, of Roger Tichborne’s regiment, said, in giving his testimony, that “ Roger was very much of a Frenchman, but a perfect gentleman.” Nothing more natural or unconscious ever was spoken; and the speaker would probably be very unwilling to insult a Frenchman, or to wound his feelings. And so the candid London Spectator said of the hero of a book that “ he lived in a perfect bower of Dresden china, wore blue satin clothes, and told falsehoods with all a foreigner’s facility.” 1 And yet if there is or ever was a journal in the world that means to be just to all men, and that usually is generous, it is the Spectator.

It would seem that “a foreigner” is and always has been the subject of doubt and wonder and laughter in England. “But Lord!” writes Pepys, when the Russian ambassador comes to London, “ to see the absurd nature of Englishmen, that cannot forbear laughing and jeering at everything that looks strange! ’ ’

But notwithstanding the protest that naturally rises at this British assumption, and the arrogance that springs from and accompanies it, the simple truth is that it is not without reason. Of all gentlemen, an English gentleman is the most complete and admirable. His probity is the most absolute, so firm and well settled that it needs not to assert itself; his courtesy is the most genuine, for it unites with a manner which is so simple as not to be a manner a thoughtfulness for others and a hearty benevolence that stops at hardly any self-sacrifice; he is a dignified embodiment of manliness and truth. His .weak point is apt to be in tact; a deficiency which results from a radical lack of sensibility, and from a hardy superiority to the little things of life. But in fine specimens of the class this is supplied by breeding; and the result is a type than which nothing could be more “express and admirable.” It seems as if the hard and tough material of his nature, when it is rubbed down, is capable of the highest polish.

It is somewhat strange to see a people so marked by national egoism, so arrogant and self-asserting, so bound up in a sense of the excellence of their race and of their own institutions, that their insolence is a mere result of the consequent moral insulation, ready to adopt and even to claim the product of other lands and other races as their own. Let any man live in England and take up English ways and prejudices, and he will soon be reckoned among Englishmen. The more surely will this be if he has any special gift in the arts. It is not only strange but a little amusing to hear Englishmen reckoning Handel as an English composer, and Alma Tadema as an English painter, because of their English domicile. For not only were they born and bred in other countries and of other races, but the east of their minds and the nature of their productions is thoroughly un-English. And this same self-centred, self - asserting people is ruled nominally by a family of Germans, whose habits and tone of thought, and, even after generations of life in England, whose daily household speech are German; and ruled really — this downright people — by a crafty Hebrew whom their German queen has made into a grotesque semblance of an English earl.

One result of the egoism and selfassertion which pervades all classes of Englishmen is admirable and much to be desired. This is the maintenance of personal rights of whatever kind. It is absolute, beyond all reach of wealth, or power, or rank; practically even beyond, it would seem, the vaunted omnipotence of an act of Parliament. This absoluteness is a genuine outcome of the English character. It exists nowhere else. Liberty, fraternity, and equality will not secure it; rather the contrary. I would define England as the land where every man has rights which every other man must respect, — can disregard only at his peril. He may incur the danger of disregarding them if he chooses to do so; but in that case the chances are ninetynine in the hundred that whatever his rank or his influence he will suffer for it, even if he accomplish his purpose, and even that he will not do without a fight. The rights are not the same rights, and those who would rather have identity of rights with the constant risk of having them disregarded with impunity by “ the public,” or by rich corporations, or even by an assuming individual who takes on — perhaps physically as well as financially—the form of a corporation, will probably prefer some other country.

Richard Grant White.

  1. May 9, 1878.