29 JANUARY 1910, Page 39



WE do not see how Mr. Howells makes out his seven English cities; an "English city" cannot be without a Bishop. Liverpool, therefore, Manchester, York, and Durham are qualified beyond doubt for the title; Sheffield, as giving a title to a Suffragan, may pass, though we are not sure that it also gives him a cathedra; but here we have to atop. Boston cannot be allowed the dignity, even though it is the "mother of the American Athens," and Doncaster is also disqualified. Mr. Howells himself cannot have reckoned Aberystwyth and Llandudno, the two Welsh watering-places, whose salubrities and amenities he amply repays with appreciative notices. It matters nothing ; he may give our towns what titles he pleases so long as he makes them texts of such pleasant discourses.

Liverpool, of course, comes first among the seven, or what should be the seven. Mr. Howells professes a "modest liking" for it. That he might estimate it fairly, he did not approach it by the usual Trans- atlantic route. The land which a man first touches after a week or so of journeying by sea he regards, according to his mood, with favour or disfavour, both certain to be in excess. So Mr. Howells came by train from London, having himself, it would appear, fallen into what we may call the Southampton heresy. Thus he was able to regard the place from the impartial standpoint of one who, as he is good enough to put it, was "vainly trying to be English," and could feel how thoroughly it is Americanised, at least in the quarter which presents itself to the visitor. The stream of arrivals from the West was continuous, so that the hotel was a little America, still swelling into a larger as steamer succeeded steamer. When the observer turned from the strangers to the natives, he was not wholly pleased. He noted that the average type was pale and small ; as he looked on the groups who were "performing their devotions with the aid of a brass band," it struck him that rags were a favourite Liverpool wear. On the whole, it seemed to him strange that "so great a city should make so small an appeal to the imagination." The want of "social consciousness" he takes to be common to it with all other English towns outside London. This comes, we suppose, from the fact that our towns are, at the most, the capitals of counties, not of States. Whether the difference is generally for good or for bad is not a question that we can here discuss. Liverpool used, we imagine, to pride itself on a certain pre-eminence. It was, in comparison with its Northern neighbours and rivals, apxcudwA.ovror, an abode of "old hereditary wealth."

After Liverpool comes Manchester, to which the reader, though supposed to be desirous of going to Oxford, has to follow his guide. It appeared to the visitor "a most dignified town, with as great beauty as could be expected of a place which has always had so much to do besides looking after its figure and complexion." It has a place of its own in political and literary history. The "Manchester School" was certainly a power, and, we may agree with Mr. Howells in thinking, probably "a good thing in its time." We are coming round to a policy which is the very opposite of laissez-faire, and Mr. Howells is quite right when he says that we have not yet surmounted all the difficulties and dangers of the experiment. It is satisfactory to be told that the street type of the town was "uncommonly good." Perhaps in Manchester the undesirable alien is less in evidence than he is in Liverpool. Mr. Howells wished to see the Manchester Ship Canal, but seems to have failed to get to it. He did see the Cotton Exchange. It made an impression of dignity and importance, but it was not histrionic, very unlike the New York Stock Exchange with its " hell-roaring " tumult, or the scarcely less tumultuous . gathering which may be seen in the Parisian Bourse.

Third in order comes Sheffield. "Smokiest," Mr. Howells

• Seven English Cities. By W. D. Howells. London: Harper and Bruthers. pOL 64.]

calls it. We are not sure that it has a right to this superla- tive. Does it not more properly belong to Wigan P The epithet, it must be remembered, is one of praise rather than obloquy. It is almost equivalent to prosperous. On a Whit- Monday when all the mills and factories are resting the air

of the busiest town is clear, and a strike or lock-out, or a violent interference with trade such as fell on Lancashire in the American Civil War, would have much the same effect. There was something in Sheffield which specially appealed to its visitor. It has historical associations with which the two Lancashire cities had nothing to compare ; its chief industry, too, is ancient. Sheffield cutlery was

already famous while America was still, so to speak, in the Stone Age.

But it was, of course, in York and Durham that the traveller from the West found his chief delight. Of York Minster he has something to say which it will be worth while to quote. It is, he asserts,

the grandest and beantifulest in all England, as I felt then and I feel now. If I were put to the question and were forced to say in what its supreme grandeur and beauty lay, I should perhaps say in its most ample simplicity. No doubt it is full of detail, but I keep no sense of this from that mighty interior, with its tree- like, clustered pillars, and its measureless windows, like breadths of stained foliage in autumnal woodlands. You want the scale of nature for the Minster at York, and I cannot liken it to less than all-out-doors. Some cathedrals, like that of Wells, make you think of gardens ; but York Minster will not be satisfied with less than an autumnal woodland, where the trees stand in clumps, with grassy levels about them, and with spacious openings to the sky, that let in the coloured evening light."

He felt it as a grievance when he was suddenly shut out from the choir by the falling of a metallic screen ; service had begun. We can sympathise. Still, it must be remembered, the

place exists for service, and all sightseers are not of Mr. Howells's temper. From York he made a fruitless expedition to the battlefield of Marston Moor ; he asked many questions as to its whereabouts. Most of those whom he questioned knew the name, but that was all. It was something that they were all civil, more civil, Mr. Howells ventures to suggest, than countrymen of his own would have been in the circum- stances. A more fruitful excursion was to the Archbishop's palace ; and yet another to Doncaster more fruitful still, because it gave him an opportunity of seeing the King, and an occasion of saying something about kingship and

Republics, with a special reference to Edward VII. Here is a part of it :— 'Probably no man in his kingdom understands better than Edward VII. that he is largely a form, and that the more a form he is the more conformable he is to the English ideal of a monarch. But no Englishman apparently knows better than he when to leave off being a form and become a man, and he has endeared himself to his people from time to time by such inspirations. Re is reputed on all hands to be a man of great good sense; if he is ever fooled it is not by himself, but by the system which he is no more a part of than the least of his subjects. If he will let a weary old man or a delicate woman stand indefinitely before him, he is no more to blame for that than for speaking English with a trace of German in his th. sounds ; he did not invent his origins or his traditions. Personally, having had it out with life, he is as amiable and as unceremonious as a king may be. He shares, as far as he can, the great and little interests of his people. He has not, so far as noted, the gifts of some of his sisters, but he has much of his mother's steadfast wisdom, and his father's instinct for the right side in considerable questions ; and he has his father's prescience of the psychological moment for not bothering. Of course, he is a fetish ; no Englishman can deny that the kingship is an idolatry; but he is a fetish with an uncommon share of the common man's divinity."

Seeing this does not in the least interfere with an unquestion-

ing loyalty to Republicanism. For our part, not to go any deeper into the question, we prize the advantage of not having to elect a new King every four years at an expense which makes all civil lists sink into insignificance.

Passing Durham, where the exterior of the Cathedral

in its magnificent situation greatly pleased him, while the interior seemed less admirable, and the two Welsh watering-

places, we come to a final chapter entitled "Glimpses of English Character." There is much here that we may read with pleasure, and much perhaps that we may read with profit.

He seems to us to exaggerate somewhat the aristocratic element in our government. Is there really an exclusion of the immense majority from the administration of their own affairs P If there is not, then the apology, such as it is, for American "graft" fails. "It is one of the people picking their pockets." We have some pocket-picking here, but it comes in where the governing classes are least in evidence. But these are too serious matters to be hastily discussed. It may not be wholly unfitting or inappropriate to conclude with what our traveller says about our way of dealing with passengers' luggage on the railway. It is wholly wrong-headed. All sorts of wrongdoing might arise out of it. Any one might appropriate any one else's property. But it does not happen. "Apparently it is not the custom."