MR. MIGG S.*
MR. MiqGs has not been altogether fortunate in the occasion of his nativity, at least in book form. He began to hold forth in the Pall Mall Gazette about five years ago, or very much about the same time when Mr. Dooley first delighted the readers of the Chicago Evening Post ; but the collected utter- ances of Mr. Dooley outstripped those of Mr. Miggs by several months, and in the inevitable ordeal of comparison the firstcomer always holds a more advantageous position. The resemblance between the two books, again, is on the surface considerable. Both contain, in a number of brief chapters, the views on various topics of the day of a semi- literate philosopher. Mr. Dooley is a small saloon-keeper; Mr. Miggs is a humble shoemaker ; and the role of inter- locutor, filled in the American book by Hennessy, is sustained in Mr. Miggs by the "hoarse-voiced lorry man of large dimensions." But while the superficial re- semblances are considerable, the standpoint of Mr. Stuart widely diverges from that of Mr. Donne. The latter uses the Irish-American publican as a convenient mask behind which he could indulge in political, social, and per- • Mr. :Biggs. By Alexander Stuart. London : Sampson Low, Marston, and 00, [2i. 6.1.] soma satire with a freedom whioh would be rare even in America if Mr. Dunne had chosen to speak in proprid Ferranti. Mr. Dunne's targets are Mr. McKinley, Mr. Alger,
General Miles, Lieutenant Hobson, the Anglomaniac "dudes," Colonel Roosevelt and his Rough Riders—in a word, promi- nent political or social personages—whereas the real object of Mr. Stuart's satire is the "non-eddicated man w'ich only says what he thinks,"—in other words, Mr. Migge himself and the class which he represents. Or to put it in another way, Mr. Dooley is a conscious satirist, while Mr. Miggs is an Inconscions humourist.
The trade of shoemaker has always conduced to argumenta- tiveness and Radicalism, and Mr. Miggs is no exception to the rule. He is a Social Democrat; all for humanity, equality, liberty ; but with only a poor opinion of Parliamentary Liberalism. " Why, my friend," he remarks, " the Liberals is always splitting, because half of 'em is wanting to be Con- servatives to protect what they have, and the other half, not having nothink to lose, want to have as much fun as they can without paying for it." On the burning question of Church and State he states his views with admirable lucidity. Accused of gross ignorance by one of his customers, a High Church curate, he lays the blame on the Established Church :—
" And whose fault is that ? said Mr. Miggs, with surprising sweetness, and suddenly sinking his voice to a whisper. Why, it's your fault, sir ; and the Archbishop of Canterbury's, with his carriages and 'orses and what not. It's the fault of the man which is sittin' on my neck, with his rates, and his tithes, and extortions.'—' And upon what part of your person do the Dissent- ing clergy sit ? ' asked the curate.—' I sits on them,' said Mr. Miggs triumphantly. Don't you make any mistake about that ; and there I intends to sit until the breath's out of them, if need be. And some of 'em needs it bad, which sets themselves up for politicians and doesn't know the A B C of the Social Democratic programme. But I have 'em, so to say, between my finger and thumb. Why, sir, they're dependent on me. Now, I goes to chapel.. For why? Because it belongs to we and a few others. There's a man we have hired, as you might say, to preach to us ; and we selected him out of two hundred, after hearin' a different one every Sunday for two years. Well that man is grateful to us which have eddicated him, as you might say, and clothes and feeds him, and pays him reasonable. If after a time he don't suit, then we sends him away and gets another. Now, sir, that's what I calls running the thing upon true business princerples. You gets exactly what you pays for.'"
Mr. Migga's harshest generalisations, however, almost always admit of modification where individuals are concerned.
He is greatly attracted by Lord Hugh Cecil's speech advocating the admission of Dissenters into the House of Lords "for to settle the hash of the Archbishop of Canterbury"
"He's a proud and strong man is the Archbishop ; but I'd like for to see him stand up fair and square and no favour to Mr. Hugh Price Hughes. It would be as good as a play just to watch them. Hughes, if I ain't mistaken, is just the sort of man as would hang on like a bull-terrier, no matter where he had his grip. Oh, my friend, if the proposal had not been made by the son of Lord Salisbury, which is the most serious man in the country, I couldn't have believed that such a happiness was in store for Dissenters. For don't you make no mistake about it, we'll get the upper hand yet. Once let Hughes get into the House of Lords, and if he don't make the Bishops hop, then I don't know my business."
In spite of his enthusiasm for humanity, Mr. Migge's patriotism is not altogether untainted with a prejudice in favour of the predominant partner. His attitude towards the Welsh is the reverse of sympathetic : "I've been in Wales living and working. But this I will say, that you don't find me trusting a Welshman more than is convenient. He is a hymn-singing, banjo-playing, go-to-meeting thief." Nor is he much more appreciative of our neighbours beyond the Tweed : " An Englishman hasn't a chance with a Scotehman for the reason I give, that he's mean, but, unfortunately, honest. A free living man has no change against him." As for the French, his estimate is worth quoting at greater length at the present juncture
"There was a barber I knew as was a Frenchman, and I forced him in argyment to admit as his langwidge was more suitable for monkeys than men. Even after he had learned to talk English,
you could see he was a Frenchman To my mind a Frenchman has got something too much in him, as the statement goes, which always keeps him on the move. He doesn't know what he wants, but he thinks he ought to get it somehow."
When his interlocutor objected that the Frenchman was at an obvious disadvantage when talking in English, Mr. Miggs retorts with crushing emphasis -
" I'm a non-eddicated man, and I hive to depend on the brain within this .head. I don't need to know French to understand what the French are doing. And what are they doing, my friend P Talking themselves silly, which is a non-certainty, and no honest man can deny. If I could put the French nation on this stool for a week with its month shut, and talk to it like a Dutch uncle, it would do it a world of good. What they want is calm, my friend. Thoughts is heating, but words is pisen to them."
Though chiefly interested in what he calls "the intrig-ew
of life "—i.e., in matters of serious political and social import —Mr. Miggs readily responds to the invitation to unburden himself on almost any conceivable topic. In one chapter he gives a delicious appreciation of the acting of Mr. Wilson Barrett in Hamlet ; in another he gallantly espouses the
cause of the advocates of rational dress for women. Anon we find him discussing the choice of a Gladstone emblem, and rejecting, with a good deal of common-sense, the claims of the rose, the lily of the valley, the white marguerite, and the daisy, in favour of the forget-me-not, as being at once " beautiful, serviceable, not too big, and not too cheap." We are sorely tempted to quote his impressions of a visit to the House of Commons, in which he gives portraits of the Speaker, Mr. Chamberlain, Mr. Asquith, and Mr. Balfour, but must content ourselves with this characterisation of the Member for West Birmingham :—" You may take my word for it, 'e's all there, as you might say, and a little more into the bargain. Cool and straight he stands, as if he was the only man in the House. And w'en he smiles, my friends, he's a corker. But he ain't affable; that's how I would crikitise him. He 'its out with a smile, but he 'its all the 'arder for it, and well you know it."
Mr. Miggs, in conclusion, for all his ignorance and preju- dice, his confused and inconsequent logic, is a man of shrewd mother-wit, with a gift of trenchant, and even picturesque, expression. " A man what respects himself," he says in one place, " gets no hurt; and a man that does not respect him- self, why you might cover the, road from here to hell with broken glass, and he'd get there by a subway, without know- ing anythink about it." Here, again, is a luminous comment on over-legislation: " I tell you what it is, my friend, I don't care whether it be Liberal or Tory, but the Government is tryin' to bamboozle the workin' man by passin' so many Acts, which it stands to reason that a man what has to earn his bread by the sweat of his brow can't be expected to know them all." Whether Mr. Miggs is drawn from the life or not, he is very far from being a mere caricature of the "non-eddi- cated man " who has to depend on " the brain within his head."