Home Thoughts From Abroad




AFTER some months at ‘home’ in America and a couple spent in rambling over Italy and France, I returned once more to London several weeks ago. The first thing that struck me, happily, was that its perennial and inexhaustible charm was as fresh and unchanged as ever. It is true that changes in detail, mainly architectural, are to be observed as plentiful enough by one who has long known it and who has now been an annual visitor for some years. Devonshire House, never a thing of beauty, but nevertheless of a certain antique dignity, has given place to a glaringly white palace of smart flats and shops. The yet newer but equally glaring hotel in Park Lane is regarded with many shakings of heads as a possible portent for what may be in store for the entire length of that aristocratic street. Dorchester House, most beautiful of all the great houses in town, has been sold in spite of efforts to save it from the auctioneer’s hammer and probable destruction. Burlington Arcade, beloved of all shopping tourists, has also changed hands and its fate is unknown. The Adelphi, with its dignified houses above and its gloomy and mysterious ‘arches’ below, is about to be disposed of. The dark passageways, lit at midday by flaring gas lamps, and housing, besides memories of David Copperfield, the largest and perhaps choicest collections of wines in the world, are probably doomed. I hesitate to say too much about it for American readers, but there are estimated to be between three and four hundred thousand dozen of priceless vintages stored in the vaults which will soon have to be moved. At least, although the fate of the buildings still hangs in the balance, Bernard Shaw, who has lived there for thirty years, has taken, with Celtic impatience, a flat elsewhere, and Sir James Barrie, another tenant, is, with more British calm, ‘waiting,’ as he says, ’to see.’ As for the complete transformation of lower Regent Street, in progress for several years, the alterations are now practically completed and the new buildings will require many months of damp and soot to mellow into harmonious tone with their surroundings.

Yes, in some external features London is undoubtedly changing, and changing rapidly. But then, it always has been changing since it was founded by the Romans nearly two thousand years ago. Here and there we may lament some particular manifestation of the law of life and growth, but as a whole one finds the life of the town singularly unaltered, and London still seems to me in most ways the most civilized, as it is unquestionably the greatest, of the cities of men.

Coming from the Continent, a ‘citizen of the world’ feels at once that he has come from the backwaters into a great centre of human interest. London is not only in sheer extent and population the largest city in the world, so that Paris and even New York, in the restricted limits of its only interesting portions, seem quickly exhaustible in comparison, but it is the centre as yet of the greatest and most widely scattered empire the world has ever seen. The dweller in it feels that he is at the crossroads of all the world’s chief highways. One can survey the world from here as from no other one centre. France, it is true, has a scattered empire also, but the average Frenchman has, for the most part, as little interest in the world at large as has the American of the Middle West. Italy’s empire and interests are almost wholly confined to the shores of the Mediterranean, to say nothing of the iron censorship of speech and press. Except for international sport and the spectacular, the average city in America is as unconscious of what is being said and done in other countries as is a man of the radio waves carried on the ether. By ‘listening in’ he may at once pick up a whole world of sound and thought of which he is otherwise unconscious. In the same way a man at home may ‘listen in’ to the international world by using special apparatus in the way of foreign journals or by personal relations, but these opportunities are limited to comparatively small groups.

Here, on the other hand, that world is, so to say, in the air and not the ether, and one does not have to make a special effort or acquire exceptional apparatus to share in it. There are certain types of the stay-at-home smaller business Englishman who are as hopelessly narrow and provincial as Babbitt. But, even if one is not a Joshua to fell the walls of high society or the higher political circles, one is more apt here to meet all the time people who have just come from China or the Cape, or almost any part of the world, than one is at home to meet strayers from Dayton or Houston or Los Angeles. Moreover, if one picks up a dozen English magazines on the news stand and contrasts them with a dozen American ones, the wider range of interests at once becomes apparent. Of course, there are reasons for this. The main business of England, both in merchandising and banking, is international. The larger business man has a direct interest in almost all quarters of the globe. Again, speaking broadly, there is scarcely a family of the bettermagazine-reading classes which has not a member of it living in some remote corner of the Empire or of the world outside. Cape Town, Calcutta, and Peking are not merely far-off foreign cities which creep into the news occasionally as centres of political disturbance, but places where ‘Tom’ or ‘Dick’ or ‘Harry’ is stationed.

But another and perhaps one of the chief charms of London is that, if it is the greatest of all great cities, it is also the most homelike and, one might almost say, rural. The low sky line, and the fact that the architectural unit for most of the town yet remains the small house as contrasted with the vast ‘apartment houses’ and skyscrapers of American cities, account for part of this ‘homey’ atmosphere for a generation which still feels that a home means a house and not a slice of some costly communal barracks. Then there are the parks everywhere, affording not only the welcome relief of lawns and trees, but opportunities for cricket and golf and tennis within walking distance of one’s house almost wherever it may be. Apart from the innumerable larger parks there are the endless ‘squares’ and ‘gardens,’ so that one may walk only a few minutes in almost any direction without the eye encountering the restful green of trees and shrubs. Cheek by jowl with the busiest thoroughfares there are village-seeming streets or quiet nooks which are as retired and peace-bringing as any cathedral close. One steps out of Piccadilly to find one’s self surrounded by the flowers and country atmosphere of the Albany, or one passes from the confusion of High Holborn under an archway to rest in the charming old-world garden of Staple Inn, where the lilacs and iris bloom and a fountain plashes with the cool serenity of the garden sanctuary of some country house. Again, one may pass from the Strand, busiest of the streets of men, under another archway to the perfect sylvan peace of the Temple, where lawns stretch to the river and boys and girls are playing tennis and one feels a brooding calm under the shade of almost immemorial trees. One of the loveliest rural views in England is looking up the water in St. James’s Park, only three minutes from what, with the Abbey and Parliament Buildings, may be called the very centre of Empire. Starting there, one may walk for miles over grass and under the trees, keeping all the time in the heart of London. I know in America no country club to compare in sheer rural beauty with Ranelagh, with its superb gardens, its flowers, water views, tennis courts, golf course, and polo grounds,yet this, like Hurlingham, is not an hour or so out of town by train, but on one of the busiest arteries of traffic within the city itself.

All these open spaces, all this green and the scent of flowers, give one the impression that everywhere the country is overflowing into the city. One hears the syrinx rather than the riveter, and Pan and Flora yet hold the field against Midas and Vulcan. Nowhere in London, with the exception of the Mall and perhaps one or two other instances, do we find any such planned architectural vistas as so delight the French. London, vast as a primeval forest, has just naturally grown without elaborate city planning, but unlike New York and the larger American cities it has managed to keep itself green and homelike and beautiful. Nature has not been banished, but welcomed in a thousand nooks and corners prepared for her to enter. The difference seems to depend on national taste and a different scale of values. In America the sole ‘value’ of a piece of city real estate is considered to be what it will yield when built upon, and every inch is made to produce as much as possible by building on it. Here—although, Heaven knows, London land is costly enough — open spaces, irises and daffodils, hawthorns and lawns, have their values also for the human life of the town. It is this sense of human values, in private properties as well as public parks, maintained in spite of the need and lure of money in the world’s most densely populated city, which again gives one a sense of its civilized attitude toward life.

Yet another element in its civilization is the almost perfect quiet that reigns in it. As contrasted with the insane tooting of horns day and night in Paris and New York, one rarely hears a motor, and although these warm days the parks are filled with children and older persons of all grades of society, walking about or playing games, one never hears any such ‘catcalling,’ yelling, and general racket as one would in American city parks with such masses of people. Civilization is of necessity a colossal compromise between impulses of self-expression in an individual and his strength of will in controlling such impulses as, indulged in by many others, would make life less possible or agreeable for all. When one motorist, dashing through a street at night, gives vent to his self-expression by a shriek of his horn which awakens with a start perhaps a hundred people, he is a being who has not learned the very rudiments of civilization — that is, of harmonizing his own instincts with the good of all.

Perhaps the highest test of whether a city or a people is civilized is just this one of how far it has gone in learning what things can and cannot be done in order to attain to the most perfect balance between expression and restraint. This, of course, is most obviously manifested in the nature and character of the laws, in the speed and impartiality with which they are enforced, and in the attitude of the people at large to them. One feels here that, whether by centuries of training or by some political instinct, this people can govern itself as no other can. There are comparatively few laws interfering with the liberty of the individual to do as he likes, but they are enforced with a swiftness, an impartiality, and a completeness that leave an American green with envy. To note merely two examples since my arrival: About three weeks ago a woman’s body was found in a trunk which had been checked at Charing Cross Station. There was no apparent clue to the mystery. At the end of a week the newspapers were much perturbed by what they called the ‘unique’ and most disturbing fact that after seven days the police had not yet caught the unknown murderer. A few days later, however, he had been run down, had confessed, and is now in jail. Shortly after this a most outrageous blackmailing scheme was brought to the attention of the police. Within a fortnight the ringleaders had been caught, tried, convicted, and sent to prison for terms ranging up to life.

It may be said that good enforcement of the law might also be had under an autocracy, but what strikes one here as a test of civilization is not merely the enforcement of law by the authorities, but the attitude of the people themselves toward it in a democracy. Take the case of the regulation of the liquor traffic. We tried it ourselves at home for years; but, on the one hand, the authorities proved themselves too incompetent and venal to enforce any laws regulating the saloon, and, on the other, the people as a whole were too lawless to make the problem a small one. From this we went on to prohibition, with the resulting farcical but no less disgraceful mess we are in to-day. Over here, ever since the war, the traffic has been regulated by permitting sales only at certain hours of the day, and it is illuminating to see how the law is everywhere enforced by the people themselves. The hours vary slightly in different towns so that not infrequently in the past five years I have found myself asking for a drink in a public house or hotel a few minutes ahead of the particular opening time in that locality. In all these years I have never yet witnessed a single case in which the law has been infringed by the fraction of a second on my behalf or that of anyone else. As a result, the law has been entirely successful. The possibility of prohibition, with all its evils, has been put off indefinitely, and on the other hand drunkenness has ceased, as far as my observation has gone. I have seen only one case of even semi-intoxication, that of a man who had that afternoon received a decree of divorce and was either drowning his sorrows or celebrating his luck, I never knew which. Over the Whitsuntide holiday, I might add, some two hundred and fifty thousand persons went to Blackpool, and there was not a single instance of drunkenness or disorderly conduct.


Certainly if we judge the degree of civilization by the completeness with which a people governs itself, combined with the completeness with which it retains all possible liberty of individual action, I know no other leading country of European civilization which can compete with England. As for liberty of speech, thought, and action in America, it is notorious that in many ways they are being maintained only by a direct disobeying of or winking at innumerable laws.

To some extent we may attribute some of our difficulties of this sort to the extremely heterogeneous population we now have, but that is due to the ‘native’ American’s dislike of physical work and his desire to get rich as quickly as possible by exploiting with the greatest speed and with alien labor the resources of the continent. At home there is no use blinking the fact any longer that we are not an AngloSaxon country. Our language may be English, the framework of our government may be mainly derived from English precedents, and the old stock may still give the leaders, for the most part, in culture, but the population figures tell another story. In New York City alone there are two million foreign born and two hundred thousand negroes, to say nothing of foreigners of the second generation. In all England there are only three hundred thousand aliens, and this racial solidarity gives one a sense of being at home and among one’s own kind.

The figures in Who’s Who are suggestive. That volume is supposed to list some twenty-six thousand Americans who have achieved enough distinction to win a place there. Of those twenty-six thousand, as I recall it, ten per cent were foreign born, but of that ten per cent one half came to us from the British Empire, leaving only five per cent, or some thirteen hundred persons in all America, who have achieved distinction from among the millions of all other races who have been immigrants in the last generation. For the most part, we get the lowest and not the best from foreign countries, and, apart from a few notable individuals, their purely cultural contribution to American life has been small. The types of civilization evolved by various races all have their good and bad points, but each has been fitted to racial idiosyncrasies. The world would be poorer without either the Anglo-Saxon or the Latin; but, to mention only one point, when we study what the Latins have everywhere made of parliamentary government of the English type it is evident that it is utterly unsuited to them. It is not one of the least satisfactions of living in England that one is surrounded by English people. In America one is also surrounded by ‘Americans,’ but ‘American’ has utterly ceased to have any racial connotation. In the colonial days, in spite of a considerable admixture of Germans, Dutch, Scotch, and Irish, the social fabric was still English, and it is not surprising if an American of English descent whose family had been in America for many generations before the separation took place should still prefer an English altitude and outlook on life to that of the Semites or Slavs or Armenians, however interesting he may find certain aspects of their selfexpression in literature or art.

I have mentioned the charm of the flowers in London, but the children, dainty and flowerlike, are no less charming, and these warm days the parks and squares and streets are full of them. As great numbers of the boys of the better classes are away at school, the girls are most in evidence, with their skirts so short as to be mere flounces on the bottom of abbreviated waists. One can study childish legs from ankle to hip here by the thousand, and one comes to the conclusion that they are among the most beautiful things the world has to offer. These youngsters, arrayed in a way to make Main Street gasp, have also a gentleness, a modesty, and a quietness of demeanor that are equally beyond the ken of that thoroughfare.

One could continue to write indefinitely of the charms of London, but already many readers have undoubtedly been giving vent to that characteristic remark whenever one praises foreign lands or suggests anything lacking in ‘God’s Country’: ‘Why don’t you go there to live if you think it’s so much better?’ — with an inflection of annoyance that makes the sentence much more of an imperative than an interrogative. Over here, year after year, as one’s life passes so easily and humanely, one asks one’s self that question, especially as one reads that marvelously fascinating last page of the morning Times with its illustrated advertisements, veritable ‘magic casements,’ of country houses for sale at fabulously low prices according to American standards. Also one knows one can be sure of a cook. Why not stay here and live? And yet one does n’t — or, at least, one has not yet.

As for the mere matter of changing one’s residence, American opinion has always been irrational. Americans think it laudable that a citizen of any other nation should come to America to better his condition, but shameful that an American should emigrate to Europe for the same purpose. Let an Astor or a Henry James or an Edwin Abbey transfer himself to England and, in the American vernacular, ‘a howl goes up’ as though he had been a Benedict Arnold. But life after all is not rational, and one hesitates. The advantages of this country are all rational. The reasons for not packing up forthwith are largely irrational and usually they win, though they are not easy to describe.

There is at bottom that largely modern and perhaps hardest of all passions to analyze, the love of one’s country, even in America where in many neighborhoods one’s neighbors have ceased to be of one’s own race or even, perhaps, capable of speaking one’s own tongue. As one looks at the beautiful English landscape, more beautiful in its well-tended charm and utter peacefulness than any other I know in the whole world, a sudden nostalgia will come over one for a rough, neglected bit of some Vermont hillside or the familiar ugliness of some fishing village on the shore. One murmurs to one’s self, ‘Beautiful, beautiful,’ in Devon or Warwickshire, and then may unaccountably be seized with a sudden desire to ‘muss it all up.’ All Englishmen have to some extent this love of the wild and the unfinished, and perhaps those of us whose families have been in America for centuries — and mine, counting South as well as North America, was here for two generations before even the Mayflower sailed — have ‘gone native’ a bit, have become a little more uncivilized, a little savage. Something revolts in us at living too continuously too perfect, too orderly, too civilized a life.

Perhaps the scale has something to do with it. Mere bigness, so much worshiped at home, has no value in itself. Many a tiny insect is more beautiful than an elephant. But there is a sense in which size when translated into scale has a legitimate influence. A miniature, an easel painting, and a mural decoration differ in something more than mere size. So far as I know, no attempt has been made to study the effect of the size of a man’s habitation upon him, though as the average man’s grows smaller and smaller it is a subject not without interest. What are all the psychological effects of living in two rooms and a bath as compared with the old roomy house of two generations ago? Over here one feels at times that sense of being ‘cabin’d, cribb’d, confin’d.’ One recalls the picture in Punch of an American motorist driving his car at seventy miles an hour while a man by the roadside calls out, ‘Remember this is an island!' Even if one has lived only on the Atlantic seaboard, he has felt that there were three thousand miles of open sea in front of him and three thousand miles of his own land behind him, and it has done something, very lasting but very hard to define, to him.

But perhaps most of all there is the feeling that at home one is watching one of the greatest experiments in history, an experiment that is somehow partly one’s own responsibility as an American. If one loses one’s way in the subway because the conductor can talk only Hungarian, if some negroes are burned at the stake as though it were the year 800, if a bricklayer gets twenty dollars a day and a professor of economics gets ten, if a town can find no better way to express its enthusiasm for a native son than by running the fire engines up and down the main street, it twenty thousand school children are assembled to see which has the most freckles, if any one of the hundred unaccountable and fantastic things in the American press come true daily, one wonders what it all signifies and where it is all going to end. But that is just it. One wonders and one wants to wait just a little longer and see. Perhaps the small boy has never lost his love for the circus.


In speaking with American friends at home I find that there is a widespread opinion that the English do not like us and that a tourist or resident here is acutely made aware of the fact. I have spent part of each of the last five years in England and have found very little of this alleged hostility to ourselves.

There is no other human relationship more apt to breed bad blood and misunderstanding than that between debtor and creditor, as the entire history of our country proves in the relations between East and West. The trouble is apt to be greatly emphasized when such a relation is suddenly reversed and the formerly rich creditor finds himself in turn in the rôle of poor debtor. The debt of the now comparatively poor England to the enormously prosperous America might well have been expected to have bred ill feeling of the deepest sort, but it has not done so to anything like the degree which it has on the continent of Europe. In the first place, there has been the long-ingrained respect in England for business ethics. She has been called a nation of shopkeepers, but the very conditions that have called forth that name have bred in her a sense of commercial honor that is notably lacking in certain other countries. The war debt has therefore been regarded here much more than in any other debtor country in the same light in which the business man in America has regarded it — that is, as a purely financial transaction the terms of which should be complied with as far as possible. Also the English are good sports and believe in ‘playing cricket.’

It is true that England would have been glad to see all debts canceled for the good of all, and in this she was not as selfish as has been claimed, for the debts owing her by other nations are much more than she owes and she would have lost heavily on balance by such an all-round cancellation. This balance she has, as a matter of fact, relinquished by canceling all debts due her except enough to pay us, provided she can collect it, which is not by any means yet certain. English business, including manufactures, commerce, and banking, has always been international, whereas American has been almost wholly domestic. The average American has little or nothing to do with the complicated problems of foreign exchange, and the English can see far more clearly the future difficulties involved for the entire business of the world in these enormous annual payments by Europe to a country which already has half the world’s gold supply. The task of paying international debts raises problems which are entirely different from the mere transfer of domestic credits, and the securing of funds to be transferred annually to America is far from being solely a matter of taxation, however staggering. When, in addition to insisting that the debts be paid to the uttermost farthing possible, according to our standard of the debtors’ ‘capacity to pay,’ we raise a tariff wall which prohibits the sale of foreign goods to us, an almost impossible situation is created. We already have the gold, so they cannot pay us in that. We refuse to let them pay us in goods. We prohibit the import of wool, for example, one of England’s chief exports, by raising the duty to sixty per cent. As a personal experience, last year on the dock I found the duty on my suits to be the figure just named, on embroidery seventy-five per cent, on jewelry eighty per cent, and on lace ninety per cent. In the old days we used to imprison debtors who could not pay. We gradually learned that shutting a man in jail and depriving him of the means of making a livelihood was a foolish way to expect him to pay his debt. By our tariff wall we are imprisoning our European debtors in much the same way. This phase of the problem is resented to some extent here because the situation is much better understood than at home, where most business men have had experience only with domestic debts, with no training in international finance.

On the whole, however, one hears comparatively little here now about the debt. In responsible quarters there is a great desire to let the matter rest and to continue to make the annual payments without further comment unless the ultimate impossibility of the situation may become clearly apparent on both sides of the water. It does hurt and annoy them here when Mr. Mellon tells the American people that the debt is not costing England anything and is not hurting her. If Englishmen are not given either to whimpering or to welshing, they do believe in fair play. They may or may not eventually receive from other nations what they are already paying us. They have not received it yet, and may never do so. They are engaged in delicate negotiations with France about the matter now. Meanwhile they have signed the note to us and are paying it in cash. Therefore, when they are bleeding themselves white in their private and corporate incomes to pay their own taxes (the lowest income-tax rate is twenty per cent), and are paying the debt to us on a scale which we have not exacted from any other debtor, they feel it is unfair to say they are not going into their own pockets at all. But even so, there was much criticism here of Churchill’s note as tending to start afresh a controversy which Englishmen feel is settled and which it is beneath their dignity to reopen of themselves.

Among people of all classes I would say that there is far less feeling against the United States here than there is against England even now at home, with all the improvement that there has been in sentiment there. Perhaps the most absurd opinion which many people in the smaller communities in America hold is that England hates us because she has never forgotten the Revolution. As for the loss of a major part of her earlier empire, several points must be remembered which Americans are apt to forget. One is that for many decades in the nineteenth century public opinion in England was not imperialistic at all, and, so far from regretting the loss of the United States, the country was in favor of divesting itself as soon as possible of the rest of its imperial possessions. The imperialism of today is of comparatively recent growth, with a long interval of anti-imperial feeling between the loss of the old empire and the present day. Again, England has no grievance or rankling soreness from being defeated by Americans. There is a simple reason for this, usually ignored at home. It is that she never was so defeated. She was not beaten by her colonies, but by a coalition of European Powers that came to their aid. Washington admitted that the game was lost and that the only salvation was to have France, at least, enter the fight. Not only did France do so, but Spain also, and England was fighting all over the world as well as in America, and continued to do so a year and more after Cornwallis surrendered. She was beaten only by the combined power of nearly half the civilized world.

As a matter of fact, the Pilgrim Fathers, the Revolution, and all the rest of our history so familiar, either in fact or legend, to American children are to a great extent not known at all here. It was only about four years ago that the first chair of American history in any English university was founded. The cultural contributions of America to civilization had been comparatively slight, and until we became a world Power, owing to our wealth and numbers, there was little more reason for Europe’s being interested in our history than there is for us to study the local historical details of South Africa or Australia. The situation is well illustrated by a story which I heard Lord Lee of Fareham, who has an American wife, tell the other day. She thought she would make a pious pilgrimage to Plymouth to see the place from which her ancestors had sailed. Trying to find the dock, — where, by the way, there is a commemorative tablet, — she asked a man if he could tell her where the Pilgrims had sailed from. He looked puzzled and finally replied: ‘I really do not recall them, madam. Did they sail recently?' The Standard Life Assurance Company is at present running a series of advertisements in one of the best-known English weeklies using ‘historical incidents’ as texts. Last week they inserted one on the sailing of the Mayflower. Explaining briefly for English readers who the Pilgrim Fathers were, the notice says that ‘after a short stay in Holland they sailed for America, where they founded a colony at New Plymouth in 1621' [sic]. This is evidently all new and requiring explanation to English people, although any American child could point out the several errors of fact in that one sentence.

Far from discovering any feeling of antagonism here on the score of history, an American is constantly amazed to find how the greater men on either side of the ocean are considered to belong to one common race. It would be a delicate if not an impossible matter to set up the statue of an English king in America, though Alfred and Edward and all the others down to George the Third are as much figures in our history as in England’s. It would also be difficult to erect the statue of any great Englishman of recent days. But here one is becoming surrounded with Americans. If one goes into the crypt of St. Paul’s Cathedral one finds a bust of Washington gazing at the tomb of Nelson, and there are many tablets there commemorating American artists. In Westminster Abbey Americans abound. Not only are there the bust of Longfellow, the window to Lowell, the tablet to Page, but many lesser men are represented and honored. When one steps outside the door one is confronted with the statue of Lincoln. In front of the National Gallery is a statue of Washington. At St. Saviour’s is a bust of John Harvard, an Englishman, but honored thus for his services to America. In the Bodleian Library at Oxford yesterday I found busts of Washington and Franklin. Incidentally, in a number of English histories which I have just been reading, all for English readers and some for English children, the Revolution is treated with such a spirit of fairness and with so little hostility as to raise the question whether the authors have made out as good a case for their ancestors as they well might.


There are some aspects of the personal contact of the two races which, it must be confessed, have unfortunate consequences. As for the appraisal of Americans by the English, the fact that we both speak the same language has its drawbacks. The tongue of every Frenchman, whether gentleman or boor, proclaims his nationality. The best as well as the worst are known for what they are — French. But there is nothing to proclaim so obviously the wellbred, cultivated, quiet-mannered American as American. Unless that fact transpires in some other way, he naturally is considered to be English. On the other hand, there is no mistaking the noisy, underbred American, and, it must be confessed, a most appalling number turn up over here. Nor is it always those without money or apparently any social background who give the English cause to wonder at us as uncultured barbarians. In the quiet English hotel where I always stay in London one is never disturbed by having to overhear the conversation of any English group either in the dining room or in the drawing-rooms. But in every case this winter when an American family has arrived the place has been thrown into a turmoil at once. To cite a specific instance or two: The other day an evidently well-to-do family appeared — father, mother, and son of about fifteen. At dinner the boy came into the dining room ahead of his parents, stood in the middle, and from that vantage point shouted out a conversation to his father, still in the drawingroom, to the consternation of the English diners. A few nights afterward another family, evidently of considerable wealth and speaking with an excellent accent, took possession of the drawing-room. The rest of us, quite uninterested, Were informed in loud tones of what a new camp in the Adirondacks was like, where the son had been big-game hunting on two continents, and many other personal details, until in despair of being able to read or talk quietly one group of English after another got up and left the room to my fellow citizens. It is evident that this sort of thing does not endear us to the hearts of the quiet and privacy-loving British.

On the other hand, many American tourists, accustomed to the freedom of the Pullman smokers at home and the general atmosphere of Rotarian ‘glad hand’ in America, go back with rankling spirits because the English do not talk to them in railway carriages or hotel lobbies. They do not realize, first, that most Englishmen are shy, and, secondly, that the Englishman, prizing quiet and privacy himself above all else, feels that he has no right to intrude upon others and that, unless obviously called for, it is bad form for him to do so. If, however, he feels justified, or if he thinks he can really be of use to a stranger, not even an American is more ready to make himself agreeable. The other day my wife and I were lost for the moment in some of the winding streets in Chelsea and were studying the map. An Englishwoman at once came up, asked if she could guide us, and walked several blocks to do so. The same thing occurred at Lincoln a few days later.

There is, however, a real fear and dislike of America on the part of some thoughtful people — a reasonable fear and dislike, I think, based on something far deeper, more subtle, and more important than a war of a hundred and fifty years ago, the precise terms of the debt settlement, or the abominable manners of many American tourists. It is the fear of the Americanization of Europe. For there are many changes going on here and they are not all due to the European situation in itself. What these people fear is not that they are facing years of comparative poverty, of the rise of the new rich, and of the painful reëstablishment of a bad economic situation, but the loss of the ideals and values of what has hitherto constituted their civilization. This the thoughtful traveler also broods over as he sees the changes that have come and the portents of more.

Mass production in America, the use of advertising to standardize the desires and taste of the public and so standardize production, the consequent reduction in production costs and the increase in wages, have all created a stupendous rise in the scale of American living from the purely material standpoint. With a population of over a hundred millions, undivided by tariff barriers, with most of the raw materials produced at home, with a people singularly lacking in individuality, more than willing to live and have everything exactly like everyone else, the leaders of industry have been able to achieve their ideal of standardized production. But the achievement of this result has brought about the surrender of certain values that the European still thinks of vital importance. What the cultured European desires above all else is to be an individual, to be able to express his own unique personality in work and play. The dreary sameness of American fife throughout an entire and vast continent appalls him. Of what use to travel three thousand miles from New York to San Francisco if for the most part one sees only the same sort of people, reads the same comic strips and syndicated news columns, talks the same ’shop,’and sees the same city architecture?

In Devonshire the other day I was looking from my window at a bit of new garden wall, already beginning to weather and take on beauty in the damp climate. Most skillfully, and without any sense of patchwork, various materials had been put together in it — some gray stone, some of the red Devon sandstone, concrete, and different sorts of brick, with the effect of variety and interest. An American might have done it more ‘efficiently’ of one material, but then no one would have cared to give it a second glance. The old cottages also gain much of their charm from the variety of materials employed — brick, old oak, stucco, shingles, and clapboards. That evening I happened to read that the American Department of Commerce, coöperating with manufacturers in the interests of ‘efficiency,’ had reduced the varieties of bricks to be produced from sixty-six to seven, two hundred and ten different shapes of bottles to twenty, and so on, and that the suggestions had been received ‘with enthusiasm.’ Nothing could better display the difference in the ideals of the two countries. After all, if we are all to have more and more things, but only on the condition that they shall be exactly like everyone else’s, what becomes of the joy of individual living, of expressing your own personality — provided you have one — in work and play? Is it worth while to gain the whole material world and lose your own soul?

America, overwhelmed like a child on Christmas morning with all its new toys, does not yet seem to give a thought as to where it is all going to end. The average business man resents as almost impious, certainly ‘unpatriotic,’ any suggestion that all is not for the best, so long as his profits pile up annually. It anyone tries to discuss soberly the possible pitfalls of present tendencies, he is apt to have thrown at him, even by university men at home, some such remark as ‘Get over your grouch’ or ‘America has no place for kickers,’ for the average business man, though he takes himself most seriously, is incredibly naïve and immature. The average American, so far from resenting that Big Business is out to limit his choice of things more and more while increasing their number, that it is utilizing all the resources of science in psychological advertising to train him to submerge his individuality in order to simplify business for the manufacturer, to make him a mere ‘consumer’ and not a man, seems to welcome it. In itself that is a sign of immaturity. The schoolboy above all else dreads being ‘different.’

It is only as one grows to maturity that he insists on being himself and expressing himself in his own way.

Europe is mature if it is poor. It has come to know that there are better values in life than a host of material conveniences and possessions. But it is poor. It owes to America the greatest money debt that the world has ever dreamed of. America, with its vast resources, its boiling prosperity, half of the world’s gold, is sucking Europe into the maelstrom of its own whirling industrial life. Europe feels itself slipping against its will, and clings desperately to the shore. It is possible that the present economic régime in America cannot last forever. When overproduction gluts the home market, when manufacturers have to enter into foreign competition for new markets, the story may be different, though the time may be far off. But in the meantime what may happen to the older and the more civilized ideals of the value of individuality and craftsmanship and artistic products?

Even now we have to go to Europe for such things as require individual talent. We still have brains and skill at the top, but are killing them off at the bottom. During the war we had to get Austrians to make our maps because there were no skilled American draftsmen for the work. In one of the finest churches in America the architect designed the carved stone — though in the Middle Ages the workmen would do that themselves — and then had to import workmen from Italy to execute it. Meanwhile Europe owes the debts and we insist they must be paid. The masses heavily taxed look toward American prosperity and methods. Here and there mass production is being tried, although Europe, with its limited and highly differentiated markets, can never fully compete. It is not, as many Americans think, merely a matter of national jealousies or tariff barriers, but of an individualism that makes the world more interesting and richer.

If Europe is sucked into the whirlpool, if her form of civilization gives way to the American, and if we are at last world-standardized to one bottle and one brick and one dress and one bath and one car and one book and one idea, it may be that we shall regret the day when every Englishman could pride himself on being singular and ‘a little mad.’ And so one wonders as one walks about this old city of London — where tulips and irises dot lawns of inestimable ’real estate’ value, where one feels a complete liberty to express one’s individuality, where one is not limited to one brick in seven or one bottle in twenty, where one feels complete personal liberty within a framework of reasonable and observed law — how long it will last; and, if from poverty and the pressure of American gold it all falls to the low level of American efficiency, mass production, and controlled and standardized lives, what one will do for ideas and ideals and all the possible varied interest and charm of human life. It is not impossible that the world of men may eventually be infinitely poorer because of our colossal and unthinking prosperity.