Are Comparisons Odious?
EVERY once in so often, someone sets a silly phrase in motion and it rolls and rolls, farther and farther, until one is powerless to catch up with it; such a phrase is: Comparisons are odious. It seems to mean that comparisons, in general, are unfair and should be avoided. Now I take it that in travel, if one is not going to make comparisons, one might as well stay at home. Comparison is the essence of travel. Sterne in his Sentimental Journey sets out with, ‘They order this matter better in France.’ In my experience what they order in France better than elsewhere is a dinner: I know of some things they order badly.
For example, let us compare the Bibliothèque Nationale with the British Museum. The English library is always open; its treasures are always on view, displayed to the best advantage in rooms well lighted, well heated, ventilated, and served by an intelligent and accommodating staff: in a word, everything is done for the comfort and convenience of the visitor. Enter now the great French library, one of the oldest and probably the richest in the world. Did I say ‘enter’? Say rather, attempt to enter; for on only two days a week is one permitted to break in upon the slumber of the attendants, who, resenting the intrusion, shrug their shoulders at your questions as to the whereabouts of the exhibits you especially want to see, and go to sleep again. Alone and unaided, you wander through cold, dark chambers, where in cases so placed that at best only half of their contents can be seen, are displayed books so rare and bindings so magnificent that the booklover, under happier surroundings, would wish to spend the rest of this life in their contemplation. As it is, he gives them a glance and is glad to get out into the hospitality of the streets.
Turn now to the Conciergerie, that famous prison, fairly reeking with history and especially reminiscent of Marie Antoinette and other figures of the French Revolution. It is not too easy to find, but at last you reach the portal only to learn that it is necessary to get an order of admission from M. le Préfet de Police. You write for it, taking care to assure that gentleman that you entertain for him feelings of consideration which simple words are powerless to express. In due course the permit arrives in the stamped and self-addressed envelope you have enclosed with your application. You receive with joy the small scrap of paper which is to open to you the portals of that gloomy prison, and once again present yourself at the door, ring the bell, and again the attendant declines to let you enter, pointing gleefully to a line of fine print on your permit which you had not before observed, which translates: ‘The visit can be made only on Friday.’ As the day is Sunday, that settles that.
Sunday in Paris being like all other days, only more so, you decide you will visit the Tomb of Napoleon, which was closed when you were last there. You look in your guidebook to be sure that it is a day upon which it is permitted to gaze upon the sarcophagus which contains the remains of the man who tore up and remade and tore up again the map of Europe. The day is the right one, and the hour twelve. You are lunching with a friend at Prunier’s at a quarter to one; there is just time. Entering a taxi, you are in a few minutes descended before the great gates which are closed. Upon one of them hangs a sign which informs visitors that they may enter at twelve o’clock. But hold! following the 12 someone has written 45, in small characters, in ink: twelve forty-five is the hour of admission. Just the hour when you should be discussing the particular variety of oyster you will be ordering at Prunier’s. ‘They order these matters better in France, I don’t think,’ you murmur to yourself as you turn away, at the same time applauding the ingenuity with which the French make sight-seeing in Paris an obstacle race. And when it comes to getting a passport visaed, it is certainly better to be robbed several times at your hotel than to subject yourself to the indignities you are likely to experience in the upper halls and chambers of the Bureau of Police.
How ever did the fiction arise that the French are a polite people? Their language is, without doubt, and a Frenchman may be very polite to a lady with whom he is not too intimately acquainted; but polite as a nation! certainly not — except by comparison with the German. It is my honest belief, in spite of the fact that black eyes are frequently worn by ladies of the lower orders in London on Monday mornings, that the English are the politest and kindliest people in the world. Of the manners of the American, I refrain from speaking — some subjects are too painful.
As I loitered across the Place de la Concorde on my way to the restaurant, I thought of Napoleon’s desire that his ‘cinders’ should be interred on the banks of the Seine in the midst of the French people that he loved so well. Should I be unlucky enough to die in Paris, I wish my cinders placed elsewhere at the earliest possible moment. With their love of red tape, the French would be reluctant to permit them to be interred anywhere until my motherin-law’s marriage certificate and lots of other little certificates of this character were produced; this being difficult or impossible, a horde of governmental officials would have to be seen and placated: the thought is paralyzing. Love of bookkeeping is a national trait. I have no doubt that the age and sex of every oyster I have consumed at Prunier’s is on file with the Chief of Police.
Is it because I love London so that I am always ill at ease in Paris? Is it the language? which, although I speak it fluently, no one understands. Is it the life of Paris with which I am out of sympathy? It is the most beautiful city in the world: the French have forgotten more about town-planning than we shall ever know. Its buildings are magnificent, and so perfectly placed that one superb vista opens after another. But it is too perfect, too artificial; nothing fine ever happens by chance. And its atmosphere of graypink and violet, which so delights the artist, is indeed lovely, but I prefer the dull and frequently sunless streets of London, and occasionally even, give me London in a fog.
Forty years ago I had but one ambition: to make enough money to retire from business and spend my declining years in England; preferably up the Thames in any one of the many beautiful houses which border either side of that historic river. To-day, nothing would induce me to accept as a gift any cottage or mansion either on the Thames or elsewhere, if I had to live in it: not that I do not love England just as much as ever, — as I know it better I love it more, — but I do not belong there; and so far as an Englishman would consent to express his opinion, I am not wanted there; few Americans are.
A moment’s reflection will show why this is. For almost three centuries the English have been the richest and most powerful people on earth. Their laws permitted, indeed they encouraged, the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few great families who came to believe that wealth and power was their natural prerogative. By one means or another they acquired great estates in the country on which they built magnificent castles, and on the whole they used their wealth and power wisely. Then came the industrial era, and the wealth of the world began to pour into England. More palaces were built, and the continent was ransacked for works of art for their decoration. Pictures, statuary, and books were acquired; Italy became the happy hunting-ground of every Englishman of means. Then a GermanEnglish King forced Washington to become the Father of his Country, and after that country had successfully fought a Civil War it dawned upon the Englishman that the United States had come to stay. He did not like the idea, but even then it hardly seemed possible that we could become a serious rival.
When was the turning point in England’s greatness? No one knows exactly. It may have been when our iron production overtopped hers, for, as Gibbon has said, the control of iron soon gives a nation the control of gold; or it may have been shortly after that dramatic moment when Disraeli hailed his Queen as Empress of India. Be that as it may, the United States became enormously rich, not only potentially but actually, and our wealth was not concentrated in a few hands, as in England, but was better distributed. Then Americans began to play in England the rôle that Englishmen had played a century or two before in Italy. They searched the country for art treasures, and many of them, falling in love with the well-ordered life of the people, began to take up their residence there, at least for a part of every year. In time they came to occupy some of the finest mansions in town and some of the most historic castles in the country. Then they became disliked. Some of these Americans were loud, vulgar, and ignorant, as well as rich: more and more they came, and more and more they flaunted their wealth, which was their chief distinction, in the face of the English. The feeling of noblesse oblige is very real in England: the English understand and, I believe, respect the foreigner who settles there and goes to work, John Julius Angerstein, for example, the founder of a great British institution. ‘ Lloyds,’ whose pictures formed the nucleus of the National Gallery, which is celebrating its centennial this year, was a Russian, who became, as foreigners are apt to do, more English than the English themselves. What they do not want is to have Americans come over and sit down on them, taking up their town and country houses, and trying to get into their clubs, which are more difficult to enter than the Kingdom of Heaven.
When we ceased to be ‘The Colonies’ we ceased to be interesting to the English. A century ago we had to work hard to subdue a continent; now that the continent is subdued, we keep on working from force of habit. This has given us the reputation of caring for nothing but money, whereas, actually, the Englishman cares far more for money than we do, because he knows the value of the leisure that money will buy and how to enjoy it. It is not an extreme statement to say that we do not. Americans are the best husbands in the world, but the most uninteresting men; hence it is that so many rich American girls go to England and, meeting men of a type that we do not breed over here, cast themselves and their fortunes at their feet — and usually live to regret it.
I am wandering. Slowly but surely America was forging ahead when the war came, and the drift of things was greatly accelerated. We became enormously rich and the English ghastly poor. They envy us our wealth and our aloofness from the troubles of Europe, and envy is not a good foundation on which to build friendship. Of our social and political problems they know little and care less: they have their own. What we call ‘prohibition’ amuses them as much as it distresses us, and they are mildly curious about the size and rapidity with which Henry Ford has amassed his fortune; here their interest stops. Everyone has read or is reading the Letters of Walter H. Page —as well they may, for they are a tribute to the greatness of England; of the Education of Henry Adams they have never heard; but they wish us to read their books and pay them handsome royalties, as we are now doing, but for many years did not; and above all things they regard us as a people that should be lectured to.
Some time ago I saw a picture in Punch which illustrates this prettily: a callow youth rushes into his mother’s drawing-room and cries exultingly: ‘Oh, Mother, my novel has been accepted at last.’ ‘Splendid!’ exclaims the mother. ‘Now you will be able to go to New York and lecture.’
As sportsmen, they — well, ‘despise’ us would hardly be too strong a word. They say we play to win, not for the sake of the sport. How far they are correct in this I do not know; I am no sportsman, but I suspect that in a measure they are right. A year ago I was going up in a lift to my little flat in Albemarle Street with two Englishmen: one worked the tiny lift , the other was a lodger like myself. Said the lodger to the liftman, ‘ Well, the Americans have won again.’ I forget what the sport was, but the reply, which was made for my benefit, was, ‘Yes sir, by that low cunning which is so characteristic.’ I said nothing, but on my next visit to London I did not return to Albemarle Street.
It requires only a moment’s reflection to discover why this is. Temperamentally we are very unlike the English; we are extravagant in our talk and are always blowing our own trumpet. Have you read Babbitt? Well, there is much of Babbitt in many of us and some of Babbitt in all of us. In the Englishman’s modesty there is more arrogance than in our bluster. We are always trying to improve ourselves — especially our women; hence their passion for attending lectures. The Englishman doubts whether he could be improved.
This lecture craze is one which will wear itself out in time, but I shall not live to see it. It is asking too much of the average English lecturer to forgo the easy money that awaits him in America. I once wrote to my friend, E. V. Lucas, and asked him why he did not come and lecture. I told him that we were so mad about lecturing Englishmen that if he would come and lecture to us on ‘A Wanderer in London in the Time of Dr. Johnson,’ ‘A Wanderer in London in the Time of Charles Dickens,’ and ‘A Wanderer in London To-day,’ he would bag a small fortune. I even offered to write his lectures for him, but he replied that he would become panic-stricken before an audience. And when finally he came, this most urbane and charming essayist traveled America from one ocean to another, practically incognito, without opening his mouth except to put food into it — with an occasional drink. Has anyone who heard Margot when she was with us forgotten the experience? She was too dreadful! In an effort to pack the house, boxes were offered to those likely to occupy them in evening dress, and one of our newspapers described her ‘lecture’ by saying that ‘she pelted us with soiled feathers.’ We have sent ‘bounders’ to London, but hardly one so raw as this wife of a former Prime Minister.
But the passion to lecture is a European rather than an exclusively English weakness. Maeterlinck came to us speaking no English, yet after a few weeks’ intensive study, he essayed to address us in such a language as was never heard before by mortal man. Not a soul understood whereof he was speaking, and he finally fled the platform and the country. And while I was in London I cut the following from a newspaper: ‘A protest has been lodged with Dr. Nicholas Murray Butler, the President of the Columbian (sic) University, against the proposed course of lectures at the University by Giovanni Papini, author of The Life of Christ. The protest is based on Papini’s definition, in his writings, of America as “the home of millionaires and the birthplace of the nauseating Longfellow, the intolerable Washington, and the degenerate Whitman.” ‘ And even as I write, Dr. Bridges, the Poet Laureate, a gentleman in his eightieth year, arrives a few months tardily, and draws down a substantial sum for merely looking benignly at the students of a western university. Absurdity can go no further. But my quarrel is not with the lecturers: it is with those who hire them.
Our national likeness to the English is superficial. We talk about our common inheritance, our speaking the same language, our joint ownership of Shakespeare, and all that; but au fond we are totally different, and the difference is this: America accepts as fundamental the doctrine of ‘the greatest good for the greatest number.’ This is the best that can be said for ‘democracy,’ and if Dr. Johnson was right when he said, ‘The state of the people is the state of the nation,’ it is much. With us mediocrity is the rule; on the other hand, England does not interest herself in mediocrity in the least. She is not interested in the ‘greatest number’; she takes the best possible care of the individual. Such has been her habit for centuries.
Does anyone suppose that when Dr. Nicholas Murray Butler goes to England and tells the Master of New College, Oxford (founded in 1379, mark you), of the difficulties he has confronted or overcome, incidentally remarking that Columbia has enrolled over thirty thousand students this year — does anyone suppose that the ‘Master of New’ is in the least degree interested? He is thinking of the great men who call Oxford ‘Mother,’ and if this thought does not enthrall him, he wonders in what manner Dr. Butler’s students will use their education when they get it — if they get it.
There is another great difference: England is, or until recently was, a man’s country. ‘An Englishman’s house is his castle,’ and ‘A man is master in his own house.’ England is the most comfortable country in the world for men; they have spent centuries in making it so. I recently bought a copy of John Stuart Mill’s Subjection of Women, first edition 1869. I want to read it again. The subject does not exist in America; with us, it is the men who are ‘subjected,’ and I don’t see what we are going to do about it.
Those of us who love England do so because it is well ordered and comfortable to a degree that we at home know nothing of. Things fall naturally into their proper place; all is — perhaps it would be more exact to say all was — ordered for the best in the best of all possible worlds. By best, one means, of course, for the upper classes. One day in church during an appallingly stupid sermon, such a sermon as one can hear only in England, when all around me were asleep, I looked for and found in the Hymnal two silly verses which express the idea not only of the rich toward the poor, but also the idea of the English toward the rest of the world: —
The poor man at the gate,
God made them high or lowly,
And ordered their estate.
Some have riches and high place;
Some have lowly homes and labour;
All may have His precious grace.
The idea, of course, comes from the Church of England catechism.
I don’t think I ever admired England more than when she was undergoing what was called the ‘throes of a general election.’ In October last, Mr. Baldwin, as Prime Minister, had a majority in Parliament of about one hundred and fifty. Suddenly he decided upon a general election and the issue which he presented to the country for its consideration was Protection. Instantly every politician in the country, with the exception of Lord Curzon, who was at the Foreign Office, which has many problems these days, was dashing madly about the country making speeches. The issue was one which an American could understand. Business in Britain was and still is very bad. There are, it is said, almost a million and a half of people out of work, and many of those who are working are insufficiently paid — are earning just barely enough to keep body and soul together. Taxes are very high. ‘The Dukes,’as Mr. Lloyd George called the tremendously rich landowning class, have been practically extinguished. Two or three deaths in a certain succession almost wipe out an estate. I am not sure that this is not good business. Why should one man have half a dozen palaces, each surrounded by a magnificent park, in a tiny, overpopulated country like England, in which there is not enough of anything to go ‘round? But the Dukes’ cake is dough, and I must say they take what is coming to them uncomplainingly.
Not so, however, the manufacturers of the country: they see themselves deprived of foreign markets that they have for a long time been enjoying, and they see their own domestic markets being taken away from them by Germany, France, Belgium, and the United States. Something has to be done quickly, they say.
Such were conditions when Mr. Lloyd George left home to make his whirlwind tour through Canada and the United States, during which, according to a cartoon in a French paper, he was seen standing reverently before the tomb of P. T. Barnum — the picture bearing the legend: ‘Barnum, I am here!' While he was on the high seas the Prime Minister came out for Protection. Mr. Baldwin is an ironmaster on a large scale, swept into politics by the war. His rise has been a rapid one; an honest and educated gentleman, he is not adroit enough to be a successful politician. Had he been content to extend little by little the power that he had — by which motor cars and talking machines and certain other things are made to pay a heavy duty—all might have been well; instead of which he asked for a mandate from the people to put into effect such tariffs as would in the judgment of a board of experts afford protection to certain trades and better employ labor. For the great question in England today is the question of unemployment. But to expect an Englishman, and above all things an English yokel, suddenly, in less than a month, to reverse the policy of a century, was expecting too much.
Personally, I have no doubt that Mr. Lloyd George who was on the sea when Mr. Baldwin threw his bombshell, having seen the magnificent prosperity of America under a protective tariff, was going home with a full determination to do another sudden ‘about face’ for which he is so famous, and himself come out for Protection. If so, when he found Mr. Baldwin had beaten him to it, he said not a word — or rather, it would be true to say that he said a great many. Of course he had been advised of the trend of affairs by wireless, but nevertheless upon the arrival of the steamer he expressed amazement at the news and was in fighting trim in an instant. ‘And so,’ he said, ‘they are going to feed starving Labor with the mouldy straw of the last century, are they? Well, nothing that Mr. Baldwin does surprises me. He does n’t know his own mind from one hour to another’ — thus firmly establishing himself on horses going in opposite directions.
It was a whirlwind campaign: in less than a month it was over and Labor was in power. I followed the speeches as they were reported in the Times; important addresses on both sides were reported, almost all at full length, and Free Trade was all but demolished every day in a long and carefully reasoned editorial. Certainly, if an outsider could judge, and the players do not always see the game to the best advantage, Mr. Baldwin had the better argument. He spoke with great simplicity and directness, but I believe, had he consulted his own personal wishes, he would have prayed to be let out of the difficulty of governing England during these troublesome times. Mr. Lloyd George on the other hand gave his hearers an hour’s free entertainment; he joshed his audience and jazzed the subject until all, except the judicious, were convulsed with laughter.
Since Labor came in not a word has been heard of the most important plank in its platform, the ‘capital levy’; that is to say, Labor sought or was said to seek the confiscation by Government of an immense amount of the wealth of the nation. Asked how many times they intended to put this plan in operation, they said ‘once only’ — which was clever; for having once done so what wealth was left would have flown away. Listen to Mr. Lloyd George’s rhetoric on this subject: ‘At the mere possibility of a Labor Government, the western skies become black with the flight of capital seeking safety beyond the Atlantic. The fright is real: there has been nothing like it since horror filled the streets of Rome at the approval of Attila.’ What actually happened was that the ‘5% War Loan,’ the premier security of England, went off about three points at the possibility of Mr. Ramsay MacDonald’s election, and promptly recovered them upon his coming into office.
During the war, Mr. MacDonald was a ‘passivist,’ a ‘conscientious objector,’ and an ‘internationalist.’ He made what trouble for the Government he could: a passport was denied him when he sought to visit his friends in Russia. Now, by a turn of the political wheel, he is Prime Minister of England; yet at a ‘Victory Meeting,’ held at the Albert Hall after his election, the proceeding commenced with the singing of the Marseillaise and concluded with ‘The Red Rag.’ This was not a good beginning, but there is nothing so sobering as responsibility, and the burden which rests upon Mr. MacDonald is almost crushing.
I believe that one thing that contributed to Mr. Baldwin’s defeat was the unwise and improvident agreement he reached with Mr. Mellon, our Secretary of the Treasury, relative to the English war debts. Mr. Baldwin came to this country with the Governor of the Bank of England, and was hailed as an astute financier. There was, naturally, a contest between the group representing England and the group representing the United States. By a miracle it so happened that we were represented by a distinguished financier and not a politician: the result was that Mr. Mellon, holding all the cards, was able to freeze into concrete form our claims against England for the sums that we advanced her during the war, and also the money that through her we loaned to France and Italy. These obligations were given a due date and at a fixed rate of interest: look at the result: due to the fall in exchange, after paying us some hundreds of millions, England now finds herself owing us a greater sum than she owed before she paid us a penny. It is heartbreaking for her to contemplate, but heroically she makes no complaint. She is the only country that will make any real effort to pay us, and she may break her back in an effort to do so — which would be almost as unfortunate for us as for her. The debts of France and Italy occasion these countries just as much concern as you would feel, dear reader, if Mr. Rockefeller had an outlawed claim against you for a hundred million dollars. Politicians cannot say these things, but there is no good reason why a book-collector should not. Mr. MacDonald, Socialist, Laborite, call him what you will, is to-day the most conservative man in England; and here I shall venture to make a prophecy. Due to world conditions with which we are ail familiar, England will, within ten years, have a protective tariff: she may, she probably will, call it something else; no doubt she will be told it is something else, and the man likely to do the telling is that verbal acrobat — Mr. Lloyd George.
Lloyd George! What a man he is! An actor rather than a statesman. If he had chanced to adopt the stage as a profession—but hold! he has: all the world’s a stage, and he has been performing on a large one.
In no city in the world does poverty so impinge upon wealth as in London. The rewards for eminence in any business or profession in England are immense, but mediocrity has a hard time of it, and failure is punished severely. One is constantly impressed with the magnificence of the fashionable districts and the misery of the slums, and they exist almost side by side. ‘The rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate’ — with a vengeance.
One cold, raw Saturday night in December, I put on a cap and a heavy coat and tramped from my little flat near Piccadilly to the Elephant and Castle, ‘in the south suburbs,’ where, says Shakespeare, ‘is best to lodge.’ Three or four centuries ago elephants were always represented with pagodas or castles on their backs, and such a tavern sign must once have hung before a tiny tavern at a place where a number of roads met leading to important towns in Kent and Surrey. But no longer is the Elephant in the suburbs: it is now a great public house in one of the most densely populated districts in south London, a centre as crowded as Piccadilly Circus, but very different in character.
Walking through the magnificence of Whitehall, stopping to look at the Abbey and the Houses of Parliament as they rose out of the mist, over Westminster Bridge, skirting, almost, Lambeth Palace, the official residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, I passed from splendor to scenes of poverty and misery almost beyond belief.
The streets of London are probably safer than the streets of any other large city in the world: the police are not ‘in politics,’ as with us, and although many were drinking and a few were drunk, there was no disorder. My thoughts led me to Albert Chevalier, that great music-hall artist who died not long ago, and of his cycle of songs: ‘The Future Mrs. ‘Awkins,’ ‘The Cradle Song,’ ‘The Little Nipper,’ — a masterpiece, — ‘ Knocked ‘em in the Old Kent Road,’ — which everyone sings,—and the really pathetic song of ‘My Old Dutch,’ sung by Chevalier as an infirm old man to his wife of forty years. For Chevalier’s sake, from The Elephant I hoofed it through the New Kent to the Old Kent Road, ‘knockin’ ‘em’ as I went (and not badly either, for I learned my songs in a good school).
Listen to this bit from ‘The Little Nipper ‘: —
(Spoken) ‘Only last night me an’ the missus took ‘im out for a walk— I should say ‘e took us out. As we was a comin’ ‘ome I says to the old gal, “Let’s pop into the Helephant and ‘ave a drop o’ beer.” She did n’t raise no objection, so in we goes followed by ‘is nibs — I’d forgotten all about ‘im.
’I goes to the bar and calls for two pots of four ‘alf. Suddenly I feels ‘im a-tuggin’ at my coat.
‘ “Wot did yer call for?” sez ‘e.
‘ “Two pots of four ‘alf,” sez I.
‘ “Oh,” sez ‘e, “ain’t mother goin’ to
’ave none?” ‘
Do me proud well ‘e ‘s a knock out,
"Drink up,” sez ‘e. “Three pots, miss, it’s my call.”
I sez, “Now Jacky, Jacky,”
’E sez, “and a screw of baccy,”
And ‘e only stands about so ‘igh, that’s all!’
The hero of this song is supposed to have reached the ripe age of seven.
Returning home I took the Tower Bridge Road, past that historic pile with its thousand years of history; through Billingsgate Market to St. Paul’s, the Strand, Piccadilly again, ‘and so to bed,’ almost in a bee line. My meditation was upon prohibition. We at least have made an effort to deal with the question of drink, which some people consider the curse of England, where the liquor interest seems more strongly intrenched than the Crown.
Democracy just naturally makes for hypocrisy; no man holding office can speak his honest opinion; our politicians are a wretched crew! They wrote into the Constitution what should have been a police or, at best, a state regulation. Am I to be deprived of the pleasure of a proper dinner with a bottle of burgundy of just the right temperature, or ‘a large cold bottle and a small hot bird’ after the theatre, because some farmer in South or West conceives that a beefsteak smothered in onions, with hashed brown potatoes, washed down with iced water, is a feast for Lucullus? I am — without a doubt. What profiteth it me if my gardener can no longer get a drink of decent whiskey for fifteen cents, if my daughter can go to a party with a young man in a Ford coupe (not coupé, mind you), chaperoned by a bottle of raw spirits?
On the other hand: I spent a week in Liverpool, on a Gilbert and Sullivan pilgrimage, staying at the best hotel in England, the Adelphia, built for the American trade just before the war came and diverted all the traffic to Southampton, where they rob you and give you nothing. The poverty, the squalor, the misery, the wretchedness, the vice of Liverpool — largely due to drink —is something beyond words.
‘But it is a seaport,’ they tell you; ‘seaports are always like that.’ Two weeks later I spent a few days in Marseilles — also a seaport: everyone sober, busy, happy, seemingly contented.
We are just where we set out, dear Reader. ‘They order this matter better in France.’