And can such a seething mass of humanity be reached by any Christian influences? That is the problem to be solved. It is a gigantic undertaking. Whatever can make any impression upon it, deserves the support of all good men. I hope fervently that the present movement may leave a moral result that shall remain after the actors in it have passed away.
From the Lakes of Killarney to the Golden Horn
TWO SIDES OF LONDON. – IS MODERN CIVILIZATION A FAILURE?
It is now "the height of the season" in London. Parliament is in session, and "everybody" is in town. Except the Queen, who is in the Highlands, almost all the Royal family are here; and (except occasional absences on the Continent, or as Ministers at foreign courts, or as Governors of India, of Canada, of Australia, and other British colonies) probably almost the whole nobility of the United Kingdom are at this moment in London. Of course foreigners flock here in great numbers. So crowded is every hotel, that it is difficult to find lodgings. We have found very central quarters in Dover street, near Piccadilly, close by the clubs and the parks, and the great West End, the fashionable quarter of London.
Of course the display from the assemblage of so much rank and wealth, and the concourse of such a multitude from all parts of the United Kingdom, and indeed from all parts of the earth, is magnificent. We go often to Hyde Park Corner, to see the turnout in the afternoon. In Rotten Row (strange name for the most fashionable riding ground in Europe) is the array of those on horseback; while the drive adjoining is appropriated to carriages. The mounted cavalcade makes a gallant sight. What splendid horses, and how well these English ladies ride! Here come the equipages of the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Edinburgh, with their fair brides from northern capitals, followed by an endless roll of carriages of dukes and marquises and earls, and lords and ladies of high degree. It seems as if all the glory of the world were here. In strange contrast with this pomp and show, whom should we meet, as we were riding in the Park on Saturday, but Moody (whom John Wanamaker, of Philadelphia, was taking out for an airing to prepare him for the fatigues of the morrow), who doubtless looked upon all this as a Vanity Fair, much greater than that which Bunyan has described!
But not to regard it in a severe spirit of censure, it is a sight such as brings before us, in one moving panorama, the rank and beauty, the wealth and power, of the British Empire, represented in these lords of the realm. Such a sight cannot be seen anywhere else in Europe, not in the Champs Elysées or the Bois de Boulogne of Paris, nor the Prater at Vienna.
Take another scene. Let us start after ten o'clock and ride down into "the city," – a title which, as used here, belongs only to the old part of London, beyond Temple Bar, which is now given up wholly to business, and where "nobody that is anybody" lives. Here are the Bank of England, the Royal Exchange, and the great commercial houses, that have their connections in all parts of the earth. The concentration of wealth is enormous, represented by hundreds and thousands of millions sterling. One might almost say that half the national debts of the world are owned here. There is not a power on the globe that is seeking a loan, that does not come to London. France, Germany, Russia, Turkey, all have recourse to its bankers to provide the material of war, or means for the construction of the great works and monuments of peace. Our American railways have been built largely with English money. Alas, that so many have proved unfortunate investments!
It is probably quite within bounds to say that the accumulation of wealth at this centre is greater than ever was piled up before on the globe, even in the days of the Persian or Babylonian Empires; or when the kings of Egypt built the Pyramids; or when Rome sat on the seven hills, and subject provinces sent tribute from all parts of the earth; or in that Mogul Empire, whose monuments at Delhi and Agra are still the wonder of India.
Can it be that a city so vast, so populous, so rich, has a canker at its root? Do not judge hastily, but see for yourself. Leave Hyde Park Corner, and its procession of nobles and princes; leave "the city," with its banks and counting-houses, and plunge into another quarter of London. One need not go far away, for the hiding-places of poverty and wretchedness are often under the very shadow of the palaces of the rich. Come, then, and grope through these narrow streets. You turn aside to avoid the ragged, wretched creatures that crouch along your path. But come on, and if you fear to go farther, take a policeman with you. Wind your way into narrow passages, into dark, foul alleys, up-stairs, story after story, each worse than the last. Summon up courage to enter the rooms. You are staggered by the foul smell that issues as you open the doors. But do not go back; wait till your eye is a little accustomed to the darkness, and you can see more clearly. Here is a room hardly big enough for a single bed, yet containing six, eight, ten, or a dozen persons, all living in a common herd, cooking and eating such wretched food as they have, and sleeping on the floor together.
What can be expected of human beings, crowded in such miserable habitations, living in filth and squalor, and often pinched with hunger? Not only is refinement impossible, but comfort, or even decency. What manly courage would not give way, sapped by the deadly poison of such an air? Who wonders that so many rush to the gin-shop to snatch a moment of excitement or forgetfulness? What feminine delicacy could stand the foul and loathsome contact of such brutal degradation? Yet this is the way in which tens, and perhaps hundreds of thousands of the population of London live.
But it is at night that these low quarters are most fearful. Then the population turns into the streets, which are brilliantly lighted up by the flaring gas-jets. Then the gin-shops are in their glory, crowded by the lowest and most wretched specimens of humanity – men and women in rags – old, gray-headed men and haggard women, and young girls, – and even children, learning to be imps of wickedness almost as soon as they are born. After a few hours of this excitement they reel home to their miserable dens. And then each wretched room becomes more hideous than before, – for drinking begets quarrelling; and, cursing and swearing and fighting, the wretched creatures at last sink exhausted on the floor, to forget their misery in a few hours of troubled sleep.
Such is a true, but most inadequate, picture of one side of London. Who that sees it, or even reads of it, can wonder that so many of these "victims of civilization," finding human hearts harder than the stones of the street, seek refuge in suicide? I never cross London Bridge without recalling Hood's "Bridge of Sighs," and stopping to lean over the parapet, thinking of the tragedies which those "dark arches" have witnessed, as poor, miserable creatures, mad with suffering, have rushed here and thrown themselves over into "the black-flowing river"[2 - "The bleak wind of MarchMade her tremble and shiver,But not the dark arch,Nor the black flowing river.Mad from life's history,Glad to death's mysterySwift to be hurledAnywhere, anywhere,Out of the world"] beneath, eager to escape
Out of the world!"
Such is the dreadful cancer which is eating at the heart of London – poverty and misery, ending in vice and crime, in despair and death. It is a fearful spectacle. But is there any help for it? Can anything be done to relieve this gigantic human misery? Or is the case desperate, beyond all hope or remedy?
Of course there are many schemes of reformation and cure. Some think it must come by political instrumentality, by changes in the laws; others have no hope but in a social regeneration, or reconstruction of society, others still rely only on moral and religious influences.
There has arisen in Europe, within the last generation, a multitude of philosophers who have dreamed that it was possible so to reorganize or reconstruct society, to adjust the relations of labor and capital, as to extinguish poverty; so that there shall be no more poor, no more want. Sickness there may be, disease, accident, and pain, but the amount of suffering will be reduced to a minimum; so that at least there shall be no unnecessary pain, none which it is possible for human skill or science to relieve. Elaborate works have been written, in which the machinery is carefully adjusted, and the wheels so oiled that there is no jar or friction. These schemes are very beautiful; alas! that they should be mere creations of the fancy. The apparatus is too complicated and too delicate, and generally breaks to pieces in the very setting up. The fault of all these social philosophies is that they ignore the natural selfishness of man, his pride, avarice, and ambition. Every man wants the first place in the scale of eminence. If men were morally right – if they had Christian humility or self-abnegation, and each were willing to take the lowest place – then indeed might these things be. But until then, we fear that all such schemes will be splendid failures.
In France, where they have been most carefully elaborated, and in some instances tried, they have always resulted disastrously, sometimes ending in horrible scenes of blood, as in the Reign of Terror in the first Revolution, and recently in the massacres of the Commune. No government on earth can reconstruct society, so as to prevent all poverty and suffering. Still the State can do much by removing obstacles out of the way. It need not be itself the agent of oppression, and of inflicting needless suffering. This has been the vice of many governments – that they have kept down the poor by laying on them burdens too heavy to bear, and so crushing the life out of their exhausted frames. In England the State can remove disabilities from the working man; it can take away the exclusive privileges of rank and title, and place all classes on the same level before the law. Thus it can clear the field before every man, and give him a chance to rise, if he has it in him– if he has talent, energy, and perseverance.
Then the government can in many ways encourage the poorer classes, and so gradually lift them up. In great cities the drainage of unhealthy streets, of foul quarters, may remove the seeds of pestilence. Something in this way has been done already, and the death rates show a corresponding diminution of mortality. So by stringent laws in regard to proper ventilation, forbidding the crowding together in unhealthy tenements, and promoting the erection of model lodging-houses, it may encourage that cleanliness and decency which is the first step towards civilization.
Then by a system of Common Schools, that shall be universal and compulsory, and be rigidly enforced, as it is in Germany, the State may educate in some degree, at least in the rudiments of knowledge, the children of the nation, and thus do something towards lifting up, slowly but steadily, that vast substratum of population which lies at the base of every European society.
But the question of moral influence remains. Is it possible to reach this vast and degraded population with any Christian influences, or are they in a state of hopeless degradation?
Here we meet at the first step in England A CHURCH, of grand proportions, established for ages, inheriting vast endowments, wealth, privilege, and titles, with all the means of exerting the utmost influence on the national mind. For this what has it to show? It has great cathedrals, with bishops, and deans, and canons; a whole retinue of beneficed clergy, men who read or "intone" the prayers; with such hosts of men and boys to chant the services, as, if mustered together, would make a small army. The machinery is ample, but the result, we fear, not at all corresponding.
But lest I be misunderstood, let me say here that I have no prejudice against the Church of England. I cannot join with the English Dissenters in their cry against it, nor with some of my American brethren, who look upon it as almost an apostate Church, an obstacle to the progress of Christianity, rather than a wall set around it to be its bulwark and defence. With a very different feeling do I regard that ancient Church, that has so long had its throne in the British Islands. I am not an Englishman, nor an Episcopalian, yet no loyal son of the Church of England could look up to it with more tender reverence than I. I honor it for all that it has been in the past, for all that it is at this hour. The oldest of the Protestant Churches of England, it has the dignity of history to make it venerable. And not only is it one of the oldest Churches in the world, but one of the purest, which could not be struck from existence without a shock to all Christendom. Its faith is the faith of the Reformation, the faith of the early ages of Christianity. Whatever "corruptions" may have gathered upon it, like moss upon the old cathedral walls, yet in the Apostles' Creed, and other symbols of faith, it has held the primitive belief with beautiful simplicity, divested of all "philosophy," and held it not only with singular purity, but with steadfastness from generation to generation.
What a power is in a creed and a service which thus links us with the past! As we listen to the Te Deum or the Litany, we are carried back not only to the Middle Ages, but to the days of persecution, when "the noble army of martyrs" was not a name; when the Church worshipped in crypts and catacombs. Perhaps we of other communions do not consider enough the influence of a Church which has a long history, and whose very service seems to unite the living and the dead – the worship on earth with the worship in heaven. For my part, I am very sensitive to these influences, and never do I hear a choir "chanting the liturgies of remote generations" that it does not bring me nearer to the first worshippers, and to Him whom they worshipped.
Nor can I overlook, among the influences of the Church of England, that even of its architecture, in which its history, as well as its worship, is enshrined. Its cathedrals are filled with monuments and tombs, which recall great names and sacred memories. Is it mere imagination, that when I enter one of these old piles and sit in some quiet alcove, the place is filled to my ear with airy tongues, voices of the dead, that come from the tablets around and from the tombs beneath; that whisper along the aisles, and rise and float away in the arches above, bearing the soul to heaven – spirits with which my own poor heart, as I sit and pray, seems in peaceful and blessed communion? Is it an idle fancy that soaring above us there is a multitude of the heavenly host singing now, as once over the plains of Bethlehem, "Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, good will towards men!" Here is the soul bowed down in the presence of its Maker. It feels "lowly as a worm." What thoughts of death arise amid so many memorials of the dead! What sober views of the true end of a life so swiftly passing away! How many better thoughts are inspired by the meditations of this holy place! How many prayers, uttered in silence, are wafted to the Hearer of Prayer! How many offences are forgiven here in the presence of "The Great Forgiver of the world"! How many go forth from this ancient portal, resolved, with God's help, to live better lives! It is idle to deny that the place itself is favorable to meditation and to prayer. It makes a solemn stillness in the midst of a great city, as if we were in the solitude of a mountain or a desert. The pillared arches are like the arches of a sacred grove. Let those who will cast away such aids to devotion, and say they can worship God anywhere – in any place. I am not so insensible to these surroundings, but find in them much to lift up my heart and to help my poor prayers.
With these internal elements of power, and with its age and history, and the influence of custom and tradition, the Church of England has held the nation for hundreds of years to an outward respect for Christianity, even if not always to a living faith. While Germany has fallen away to Rationalism and indifference, and France to mocking and scornful infidelity, in England Christianity is a national institution, as fast anchored as the island itself. The Church of England is the strongest bulwark against the infidelity of the continent. It is associated in the national mind with all that is sacred and venerable in the past. In its creed and its worship it presents the Christian religion in a way to command the respect of the educated classes; it is seated in the Universities, and is thus associated with science and learning. As it is the National Church, it has the support of all the rank of the kingdom, and arrays on its side the strongest social influences. Thus it sets even fashion on the side of religion. This may not be the most dignified influence to control the faith of a country, but it is one that has great power, and it is certainly better to have it on the side of religion than against it. We must take the world as it is, and men as they are. They are led by example, and especially by the examples of the great; of those whose rank makes them foremost in the public eye, and gives them a natural influence over their countrymen.
As for those who think that the Gospel is preached nowhere in England but in the chapels of Dissenters, and that there is little "spirituality" except among English Independents or Scotch Presbyterians, we can but pity their ignorance. It is not necessary to point to the saintly examples of men like Jeremy Taylor and Archbishop Leighton; but in the English homes of to-day are thousands of men and women who furnish illustrations, as beautiful as any that can be found on earth, of a religion without cant or affectation, yet simple and sincere, and showing itself at once in private devotion, in domestic piety, and in a life full of all goodness and charity.
It must be confessed that its ministers are not always worthy of the Church itself. I am repelled and disgusted at the arrogance of some who think that it is the only true Church, and that they alone are the Lord's anointed. If so, the grace is indeed in earthen vessels, and those of wretched clay. The affectation and pretension of some of the more youthful clergy are such as to provoke a smile. But such paltry creatures are too insignificant to be worth a moment's serious thought. The same spiritual conceit exists in every Church. We should not like to be held responsible for all the narrowness of Presbyterians, whom we are sometimes obliged to regard, as Cromwell did, as "the Lord's foolish people." These small English curates and rectors we should regard no more than the spiders that weave their web in some dimly-lighted arch, or the traditional "church mice" that nibble their crumbs in the cathedral tower, or the crickets or lizards that creep over the old tombs in the neighboring churchyard.
But if there is much narrowness in the Church of England, there is much nobleness also; much true Christian liberality and hearty sympathy with all good men and good movements, not only in England but throughout the world. Dean Stanley (whom I love and honor as the manliest man in the Church of England) is but the representative and leader of hundreds who, if they have not his genius, have at least much of his generous and intrepid spirit, that despises sacerdotal cant, and claims kindred with the good of all countries and ages, with the noble spirits, the brave and true, of all mankind. Such men are sufficient to redeem the great Church to which they belong from the reproach of narrowness.
Such is the position of the Church of England, whose history is a part of that of the realm; and which stands to-day buttressed by rank, and learning, and social position, and a thousand associations which have clustered around it in the course of centuries, to make it sacred and venerable and dear to the nation's heart. If all this were levelled with the ground, in vain would all the efforts of Dissenters, however earnest and eloquent – if they could muster a hundred Spurgeons – avail to restore the national respect for religion.
Looking at all these possibilities, I am by no means so certain as some appear to be, that the overthrow of the Establishment would be a gain to the cause of Christianity in England. Some in their zeal for a pure democracy both in Church and State – for Independency and Voluntaryism in the former, and Republicanism in the latter – regard every Establishment as an enemy alike to a pure Gospel and to religious liberty. The Dissenters, naturally incensed at the inequality and injustice of their position before the law (and perhaps with a touch of envy of those more favored than they are) have their grievance against the Church of England, simply because it is established, to the exclusion of themselves. But from all such rivalries and contentions we, as Americans, are far removed, and can judge impartially. We look upon the Established Church as one of the historical institutions of England, which no thoughtful person could wish to see destroyed, any more than to see an overthrow of the monarchy, until he were quite sure that something better would come in its place. It is not a little thing that it has gathered around it such a wealth of associations, and with them such a power over the nation in which it stands; and it would be a rash hand that should apply the torch, or fire the mine, that should bring it down.
But the influence of the Church of England is mainly in the higher ranks of society. Below these there are large social strata – deep, broad, thick, and black as seams of coal in a mountain – that are not even touched by all these influences. We like to stray into the old cathedrals at evening, and hear the choir chanting vespers; or to wander about them at night, and see the moonlight falling on the ancient towers. But nations are not saved by moonlight and music. The moonbeams that rest on the dome of St. Paul's, or on the bosom of the Thames, as it flows under the arches of London Bridge, covering it with silver, do not cleanse the black waters, or restore to life the corpses of the wretched suicides that go floating downward to the sea. So far as they are concerned, the Church of England, and indeed we may say the Christianity of England, is a wretched failure. Some other and more powerful illustration is needed to turn the heart of England; something which shall not only cause the sign of the cross to be held up in St. Paul's and Westminster Abbey, but which shall carry the Gospel of human brotherhood to all the villages and hamlets of England; to the poorest cottage in the Highlands; that shall descend with the miner into the pit underground; that shall abide with every laborer in the land, and go forth with the sailor on the sea.
How inadequately the Church of England answers to this need of a popular educator and reformer, may be illustrated by one or two of her most notable churches and preachers.
On Sunday last we attended two of the most famous places of worship in London – the Temple Church and Westminster Abbey. The former belongs to an ancient guild of lawyers, attached to what are known as the Middle and the Inner Temple, a corporation dating back hundreds of years, which has large grounds running down to the Thames, and great piles of buildings divided off into courts, and full of lawyers' offices. Standing among these is a church celebrated for its beauty, which once belonged to the Knights Templars, some of whose bronze figures in armor, lying on their tombs, show by their crossed limbs how they went to Palestine to fight for the Holy Sepulchre. As it is a church which belongs to a private corporation, no one can obtain admission to the pews without an order from "a bencher," which was sent to us as a personal courtesy. The church has the air of being very aristocratic and exclusive; and those whose enjoyment of a religious service depends on "worshipping God in good company," may feel at ease while sitting in these high-backed pews, from which the public are excluded.
The church is noted for its music, which amateurs pronounce exquisite. As I am not educated in these things, I do not know the precise beauty and force of all the quips and quavers of this most artistic performance. The service was given at full length, in which the Lord's Prayer was repeated five times. With all the singing and "intoning," and down-sitting and uprising, and the bowing of necks and bending of knees, the service occupied an hour and a half before the rector, Rev. Dr. Vaughan, ascended the pulpit. He is a brother-in-law of Dean Stanley, and a man much respected in the Church. His text was, "He took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses," from which he preached a sermon appropriate to the day, which was "Hospital Sunday," a day observed throughout London by collections in aid of the hospitals. It was simple and practical, and gave one the impression of a truly good man, such as there are thousands in the Church of England.
But what effect had such a service – or a hundred such – on the poor population of London? About as much as the exquisite music itself has on the rise and fall of the tide in the Thames, which flows by; or as the moonlight has on vegetation. I know not what mission agencies these old churches may employ elsewhere to labor among the poor, but so far as any immediate influence is concerned, outside of a very small circle, it is infinitesimal.
In the evening we went to Westminster Abbey to hear the choral service, which is rendered by a very large choir of men and boys, with wonderful effect. Simply for the music one could not have a more exquisite sensation of enjoyment. How the voices rang amid the arches of the old cathedral. At this evening service it had been announced that "The Lord Archbishop of York" was to preach, and we were curious to see what wisdom and eloquence could come out of the mouth of a man who held the second place in the Established Church of England. "His grace" is a large, portly man, of good presence and sonorous voice. His text was "Behold, I stand at the door and knock." He began with an allusion to Holman Hunt's famous picture of Christ standing at the door, which he described in some detail; the door itself overgrown with vines, and its hinges rusted, so long had it been unopened; and then the patient Man of Sorrows, with bended head and heavy heart, knocking and waiting to come in. From this he went into a discussion of modern civilization, considering whether men are really better (though they may be better off) now than in the days of our fathers; the conclusion from all which was, that external improvements, however much they add to the physical comfort and well-being of man, do not change his character, and that for his inward peace, the only way is to open the door to let the blessed Master in. It seemed to me rather a roundabout way to come at his point; but still as the aim was practical, and the spirit earnest and devout, one could not but feel that the impression was good. As to ability, I failed to see in it anything so marked as should entitle the preacher to the exalted dignity he holds; but I do not wish to criticize, but only to consider whether a Church thus organized and appointed can have the influence over the people of England we might expect from a great National Establishment. Perhaps it has, but I fail to see it. It seems to skim, and that very lightly, over the top, the thin surface of society, and not to touch the masses beneath.
The influence of the Establishment is supplemented by the Dissenting Churches, which are numerous and active, and in their spheres doing great good. Then, too, there are innumerable separate agencies, working in ways manifold and diverse. I have been much interested in the details, as given me by Mrs. Ranyard, of her Bible women, who have grown, in the course of twenty years, from half a dozen to over two hundred, and who, working noiselessly, in quiet, womanly ways, do much to penetrate the darkest lanes of London, and to lead their poor sisters into ways of industry, contentment, and peace.
But after all is said and done, the great mass of poverty and wretchedness remains. We lift the cover, and look down into unfathomable abysses beneath, into a world where all seems evil – a hell of furious passions and vices and crimes. Such is the picture which is presented to me as I walk the streets of London, and which will not down, even when I go to the Bank of England, and see the treasures piled up there, or to Hyde Park, and see the dashing equipages, the splendid horses and their riders, and all the display of the rank and beauty of England.
What will the end be? Will things go on from bad to worse, to end at last in some grand social or political convulsion – some cataclysm like the French Revolution?
This is the question which now occupies thousands of minds in Great Britain. Of course similar questions engage attention in other countries. In all great cities there is a poor population, which is the standing trouble and perplexity of social and political reformers. We have a great deal of poverty in New York, although it is chiefly imported from abroad. But in London the evil is immensely greater, because the city is four times larger; and the crowding together of four millions of people, brings wealth and poverty into such close contact that the contrasts are more marked. Other evils and dangers England has which are peculiar to an old country; they are the growth of centuries, and cannot be shaken off, or cast out, without great tearing and rending of the body politic. All this awakens anxious thought, and sometimes dark foreboding. Many, no doubt, of the upper classes are quite content to have their full share of the good things of this life, and enjoy while they may, saying, "After us the deluge!" But they are not all given over to selfishness. Tens of thousands of the best men on this earth, having the clearest heads and noblest hearts, are in England, and they are just as thoughtful and anxious to do what is best for the masses around them, as any men can be. The only question is, What can be done? And here we confess our philosophy is wholly at fault. It is easy to judge harshly of others, but not so easy to stand in their places and do better.
For my part, I am most anxious that the experiment of Christian civilization in England should not fail; for on it, I believe, the welfare of the whole world greatly depends. But is it strange that good men should be appalled and stand aghast at what they see here in London, and that they should sometimes be in despair of modern civilization and modern Christianity? What can I think, as a foreigner, when a man like George Macdonald, a true-hearted Scotchman, who has lived many years in London, tells me that things may come right (so he hopes) in a thousand years– that is, in some future too remote for the vision of man to explore. Hearing such sad confessions, I no longer wonder that so many in England, who are sensitive to all this misery, and yet believers in a Higher Power, have turned to the doctrine of the Personal Reign of Christ on earth as the only refuge against despair, believing that the world will be restored to its allegiance to God, and men to universal brotherhood, only with the coming of the Prince of Peace.
THE RESURRECTION OF FRANCE
Paris, June 30th.
Coming from London to Paris, one is struck with the contrast – London is so vast and interminable, and dark, – a "boundless contiguity of shade," – while Paris is all brightness and sunshine. The difference in the appearance of the two capitals is due partly to the climate, and partly to the materials of which they are built – London showing miles on miles of dingy brick, with an atmosphere so charged with smoke and vapors that it blackens even the whitest marble; while Paris is built of a light, cream-colored stone, that is found here in abundance, which is soft and easily worked, but hardens by exposure to the air, and that preserves its whiteness under this clearer sky and warmer sun. Then the taste of the French makes every shop window bright with color; and there is something in the natural gayety of the people which is infectious, and which quickly communicates itself to a stranger. Many a foreigner, on first landing in England, has walked the streets of London with gloomy thoughts of suicide, who once in Paris feels as if transported to Paradise. Perhaps if he had stayed a little longer in England he would have thought better of the country and people. But it is impossible for a stranger at first to feel at home in London, any more than if he were sent adrift all alone in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The English are reserved and cautious in their social relations, which may be very proper in regard to those of whom they know nothing. But once well introduced, the stranger is taken into their intimacy, and finds no spot on earth more warm than the interior of an English home. But in Paris everybody seems to greet him at once without an introduction; he speaks to a Frenchman on the street (if it be only to inquire his way), and instead of a gruff answer, meets with a polite reply. "It amounts to nothing," some may say. It costs indeed but a moment of time, but even that, many in England, and I am sorry to say in America also, are too impatient and too self-absorbed to give. In the shops everybody is so polite that one spends his money with pleasure, since he gets not only the matter of his purchase, but what he values still more, a smile and a pleasant word. It may be said that these are little things, but in their influence upon one's temper and spirits they are not trifles, any more than sunshine is a trifle, or pure air; and in these minor moralities of life the French are an example to us and to all the world.
But it is not only for their easy manners and social virtues that I am attracted to the French. They have many noble qualities, such as courage and self-devotion, instances of which are conspicuous in their national history; and are not less capable of Christian devotion, innumerable examples of which may be found in both the Catholic and the Protestant Churches. Many of our American clergymen, who have travelled abroad, will agree with me, that more beautiful examples of piety they have never seen than among the Protestants of France. I should be ungrateful indeed if I did not love the French, since to one of that nation I owe the chief happiness of my earthly existence.
Of course the great marvel of Paris, and of France, is its resurrection– the manner in which it has recovered from the war. In riding about these streets, so full of life and gayety, and seeing on every side the signs of prosperity, I cannot realize that it is a city which, since I was here in 1867 – nay, within less time, has endured all the horrors of war; which has been twice besieged, has been encompassed with a mighty army, and heard the sound of cannon day and night, its people hiding in cellars from the bombs bursting in the streets. Yet it is not five years since Louis Napoleon was still Emperor, reigning undisturbed in the palace of the Tuileries, across the street from the Hôtel du Louvre, where I now write. It was on the 15th of July, 1870, that war was declared against Prussia in the midst of the greatest enthusiasm. The army was wild with excitement, expecting to march almost unopposed to Berlin. Sad dream of victory, soon to be rudely dispelled! A few weeks saw the most astounding series of defeats, and on the 4th of September the Emperor himself surrendered at Sedan, at the head of a hundred thousand men, and the Empire, which he had been constructing with such infinite labor and care for twenty years, fell to the ground.
But even then the trials of France were not ended. She was to have sorrow upon sorrow. Next came the surrender of Metz, with another great army, and then the crowning disaster of the long siege of Paris, lasting over four months, and ending also in the same inglorious way. Jena was avenged, when the Prussian cavalry rode through the Arch of Triumph down the Champs Elysées. It was a bitter humiliation for France, but she had to drink the cup to the very dregs, when forced to sign a treaty of peace, ceding two of her most beautiful provinces, Alsace and Lorraine, and paying an indemnity of one thousand millions of dollars for the expenses of the war! Nor was this all. As if the seven vials of wrath were to be poured out on her devoted head, scarcely was the foreign war ended, before civil war began, and for months the Commune held Paris under its feet. Then the city had to undergo a second siege, and to be bombarded once more, not by Germans, but by Frenchmen, until its proud historical monuments were destroyed by its own people. The Column of the Place Vendôme, erected to commemorate the victories of Napoleon, out of cannon taken in his great battles, was levelled to the ground; and the Palace of the Tuileries and the Hôtel de Ville were burnt by these desperate revolutionists, who at last, to complete the catalogue of their crimes, butchered the hostages in cold blood! This was the end of the war, and such the state of Paris in May, 1871, scarcely four years ago.
In the eyes of other nations, this was not only disaster, but absolute ruin. It seemed as if the country could not recover in one generation, and that for the next thirty years, so far as any political power or influence was concerned, France might be considered as blotted from the map of Europe.