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A PAGE OF VERSE
Dickens's Use of the Word "Gentleman." By R. T. Young
The Royal Academy and the Salon. By H. Heathcote Statham .
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BRITISH AND AMERICAN AMBASSADORS.
Of all diplomatic posts I have often thought the pleasantest in most ways and the most exacting in some is that of American Ambassador to the Court of St. James. Whoever holds it gets infinitely nearer to the realities of English life than the representative of any other country. He is treated from the first as a national guest whom it is a delight to honor, rather than as an official emissary. The Mayor and Corporation of Plymouth or Southampton board his vessel in the bay, and, even before he lands, convince him that the British people have no intention of surrendering him to the Court, Whitehall, and the West End. Nothing, indeed, could well be more significant or of better omen than the semi-official, semipopular greetings that are extended to each new American Ambassador on his arrival. They are local in form but national in the feeling behind them. They have become, in fact, a custom of British public life, and a custom of which the full meaning is to be found in its singularity. So far as I know, nothing like it exists anywhere else. No Ambassador to this or any other nation is similarly honored. For the representative of a foreign Power to be fêted on his recall in the capital of the State to which he is accredited is
common enough. But for the representative of a foreign Power to be hailed with welcoming words at the moment of his arrival, before he has even presented his credentials, before he has given any token either of his personality or of his diplomatic policy, this is an experience which, alone among the diplomats of the world, is enjoyed by the American Ambassador to the Court of St. James. It is intended, I need hardly say, to be precisely what it is-a unique compliment, a distinguishing recognition on our
part that Great Britain and the United States stand to one another in a special relationship such as unites no other nations on this earth, and that between them some departure from the merely official attitude is of all things the most natural. It would be against the grain of national instinct if no distinction were to be made between the American and other Ambassadors. Popular opinion separates him at once from his colleagues of the diplomatic corps. He is the only one who reaches the mass of the people. The ordinary Londoner, who could no more tell you the name of the Italian or German Ambassador than a New Yorker could tell you the name of the Lieutenant-Governor of Kansas, would not only answer correctly if you asked him the name of the American Ambassador, but would probably rattle off Mr. Whitelaw Reid's predecessors as far back as James Russell Lowell. He is the only one in whom the people as a whole have any interest. From the day of his arrival he becomes an intimate part of English society, and a still more intimate part of the world of English art and letters and public-by which, of course, I do not mean political-life. Other Ambassadors may be as lavishly entertained, may be able to show as full an engagement list, may dispense in return an equally brilliant hospitality. But the quality of the welcome extended to them differs altogether from that which greets their American confrère. He alone gets behind the scenes, is shown the best of whatever England has to offer, and becomes at once a public character. Of him alone is it expected that he will be less of an official and more of a man. One hears, perhaps, once in a lifetime of the Russian or German Ambassador being
asked to lecture before an educational or philosophical society, or invited to a literary dinner. However great their command of English, they still stand outside all but a fraction of the national life. The public knows nothing about them, and does not care to know anything. They are what the American Ambassador never is-they are foreigners, and treated as such. A para. graph in the Court Circular is enough to announce their advent or recall, while their American colleague, on his arrival as well as his departure, receives a full-blown editorial salute from the entire London Press. The one is merely an incident of officialdom; the other is a national event.
This is, I think, essentially as it should be. But at the same time it is a state of affairs that raises some peculiar perplexities and embarrassments. English hospitality successfully, as a rule, escapes the charge of exuberance. We are, indeed, rather famous for taking our guests' enjoyment for granted, for leaving them cordially alone to amuse themselves in their own way, and for not persecuting them with fussy attentions. But with the American Ambassador we throw our traditions overboard. We become almost as anxious and demonstrative as the French, or as his own countrymen. Mr. W. D. Howells in a deathless adjective once dubbed and damned American hospitality as "inexorable." I am not sure that there is not something little short of inexorable in our treatment of American Ambassadors, and that we are not at times positively brutal in our kindness. We do not, of course, mean to be, but that does not alter the fact that we are. Indeed, it rather aggravates it. Our inhumanity is all the more pitiless for being unconscious, and the chances of reformation all the more remote because we are blandly unaware that reformation is needed. If we could conceive The Hague tribunal
adjudicating so nice a point of international manners, I am afraid the decision would be that, in the case of the American Ambassador, we commit the worst crime against hospitality by being too hospitable, that we ask too much of our guest, and drive him too hard, and that there is something perilously adamantine in the attentions we shower upon him. We never really give the poor man a moment's rest. Throughout his stay among us we presume inordinately on his acquaintance with English. There must, indeed, be times when we force him to wish he spoke Basque and Basque only, and did not the faith and morals hold that Milton held. So might he live among us and possess his soul in quietude-a diplomatist and not a public institution. But as it is, no sooner has he reached London than the bombardment begins. I must admit at once that it is most vigorously replied to. England and the American Ambassador set to forthwith to see which can entertain the other the best. Mr. Lowell used to complain that England spoiled the American Ambassador. I rather think that the American Ambassador is more apt to spoil us. Take, for instance, the case of Mr. Choate. Mr. Choate came to us in 1899, after a brilliant and indefatigable career at the American Bar and in American public life. He might well have thought himself entitled to a rest; we, on our part, ought to have seen that he got it. But there is no rest for an American Ambassador in London. He only begins to know what work is when he becomes an English public character, and he becomes that just as soon as his credentials are presented. It is true that not all the depredations upon his leisure are committed by Englishmen; his own countrymen and country women have something to answer for. They take possession of his house on every July the Fourth, and squeeze his hand to a pulp
without breaking down his smile; and they demand his presence and his speech at the yearly banquets on Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Washington's Birthday. Some fifteen or twenty times did Mr. Choate face these gatherings without once repeating himself. It was the penalty of his position, and no slight one; but it could scarcely stand a moment's comparison with all that was inflicted upon him by English insistence. Mr. Choate was the principal guest, and easily the principal speaker, at a dinner given by the Associated Chambers of Commerce within a fortnight of landing. In the six years that he spent among us he distributed the prizes at half a dozen schools, colleges, and institutions; he composed and delivered addresses on Franklin, on Lincoln, on the United States Supreme Court, on American Education, on Alexander Hamilton, and on Emerson; he proposed the health of the Royal Society; he spoke on their favorite authors to the Sir Walter Scott Club, the Dante Society, and the Boz Club; he presided over a lecture by Mr. Birrell; he unveiled portraits and memorial windows, and opened libraries; he spoke three or four times at the Guildhall banquet; he publicly interested himself in many philanthropies; and he was the speaker of the evening at dinners of remorseless frequency and racking variety. Altogether during the term of his Ambassadorship he must have addressed English or mainly English audiences nearly a hundred times. That, it must be owned, was asking a good deal. One would say it was really asking too much were it not that we never seemed to touch the limit either of Mr. Choate's versatility or of his good nature. He went everywhere and met everyone; he let himself freely to the infinitely varied demands of English hospitality; he became, in a word, an Ambassador to the people as well as to the Court. Not
that Mr. Choate had not his diplomatic successes; he helped to wipe out two most contentious issues that in other times and other hands might have led to something more than a passing disagreement. But the outstanding merit of his Ambassadorship was its supreme range of sociability. Mr. Choate got to know all classes and almost all corners of this country. He spent himself ungrudgingly in forwarding many public movements and in the task, which he ranked among the first of his official duties, of doing all he could to interpret America to England. Hence his lavish appearances as a lecturer on American institutions and American statesmen, with crisp, popular, comprehensive discourses. There was no occasion of the slightest AngloAmerican interest that could not enlist his patronage and voice, and the genial freshness, point and aptness of his speeches always made them the feature of the evening. I cannot recall a single instance where he failed to hold and delight his audience. He had the oratorical presence and the oratorical attributes-a fine, massive, lawyer-like head set imposingly on a stalwart frame; a voice of astonishing clarity and carrying power; gestures that were eloquence in themselves; a wit as sly as Lord Rosebery's, and as scathing as was Lord Salisbury's; and a mind as compact, lucid, and orderly as anyone could wish to come across. He belonged to the colloquial school of oratory. He gave one the easy outpourings of a well-stocked mind and a large and genial nature, never flat or stale, but quick with the play of humorous fancy. He never spoke without saying something, and he never made the fatal mistake of soft-soaping England and English ways of doing things. As he travels "down-town" to his office in Wall Street, or surveys from its windows the sparkling movement of the Bay, or relaxes in the