16 NOVEMBER 1907, Page 24


MANY of us can remember when the Lord Mayor's Show was an object of common ridicule. Only the intense conservatism of the City kept it alive, and certainly it seemed hard that the Chief Magistrate of London, the holder of a great historic position, and in the estimation of foreigners ranking only second to the Sovereign, should be condemned to enter upon his year of office by making his carriage a pillory in which good- or ill-humoured jeers took the place of brickbats and rotten eggs. After a time things began to mend. The London crowd was more and more swelled by strangers to whom the Show was new and the customary jokes unfamiliar. By degrees the character of the procession improved. At first it became simpler, and so less open to ridicule. Then efforts were made to give some place in it to City Corporations, or to the industries they traditionally represent. The individual tastes of the Lord Mayors contributed to this process with greater or less-duecess, until -at length in this present year of. grace London seems to have taken a new departure, and the • Lord Mayor's Show promises to become areal feature in the civic life of London. There have been times when no one would have thought it possible that the procession would ever be described, and that by an observer not given to exaggeration, as "impressive and magnificent," and that even " grumbling business men, unable to escape in time to the suburbs, would perhaps admit that it was well worth looking at from the office window." It is true that this revival was not exactly home grown. The authorities deserve the credit which is due to men who go to the right quarter for what they want. London, they may have remembered, has as yet had no pageant. Towns with not half its history have had theirs, and their success has shown what a mine of spectacular interest history can become when it is properly worked. Who, we wonder, was the happily inspired Alderman to whom it first occurred that a procession might be given some, at least, of the features of a pageant, while it would have the advantage of being witnessed by larger numbers and without payment ? Nor did the inspiration stop at this point. Had it done so, the success might also have stopped there. But the civic authorities remembered that it is not every one who has the skill to arrange a long cavalcade of famous personages presented as they might have looked and moved when alive, and instead of doing the work themselves they wisely made it over to Mr. Louis N. Parker, to whom we owe three of the pageants which have been a special feature of the present year,—those at Warwick, Sherborne, and Bury St. Edmunds. Whose was the thought that the seven Edwards might be used to present as many characteristic episodes in English history we do not know, but to Mr. Parker belongs the honour of giving that thought life and expression. What has been done in 1907 will doubtless be repeated with the additional splendour that comes from longer preparation and the becoming rivalry of successive Lord Mayors. A new character and a permanent interest will thus be given to the great London spectacle. There need be no fear but that the annals of England—the annals, for that matter, of the City itself—will supply endless combinations of incidents in which designers like Mr. Parker will find all the material they can desire.

Changes of this kind naturally come in companies. Had there been no pageants elsewhere, we should hardly have had one as part of the ordinary civic year of London. Other places—Oxford perhaps especially—have shown what can be done by learning and imagination, combined with something of the art of the stage-manager, to make the past live again in the present. But even these pageants are but indications of a larger change in the English character. We have passed out of the severe utilitarianism which sought to proscribe anything like splendour in public ceremonial, and refused to gratify the eye with anything more attractive than a frock-coat and a tall hat. The process, indeed, has never been carried quite so far as in France. Our public men have been allowed to retain their frock-coats on public occasions instead of outraging the daylight by swallow-tails and white ties. But for many years any special clothing for office-holders was dis- couraged, and civilians of all classes shared with officers of the Army the dislike of appearing in uniform. It is singular that the one class which remained exempt from this general tendency were working men, and working men engaged in the soberest of occupations. A " Forester " could not insure his life or provide against sickness or old age except decked out with a variety of green scarves graduated according to his rank in the Society. This, at least, was the only public evidence that the love of show, for something to please the eye and gratify the taste, had not wholly died out The Freemasons, indeed, had main- tained the same tradition in their secret conclaves ; but of these the outer world knew nothing save by uncertain reports. In the wider fields of our commonplace existence we emulated only the Quakers. Even this we only did negatively, sharing their love of sober colours, but taking care not to make even these distinctive. For some time past this unwillingness to invest official position with any characteristic trappings has been dying out. In the sphere of local government, which is growing daily more important, it maybe said to have disappeared. The Mayor of a newly made borough has been known to order his official robes before he has acquainted himself with any one of - the duties which he is to discharge when he has put them on. Whether the change is likely to spread beyond the Old World we will not venture to say ; but our American kinsmen have enough in common with us to make it possible that they too may come to think that on great official occasions a President of the United States may well be marked off from his fellow-citizens by some differ- ence that shall be visible to the eye. The dislike to any such distinction is perhaps the first instinct of newly emancipated democracies. They have been accustomed to regard the external pomp of Sovereigns and their repre- sentatives as the outward symbol of the tyranny from which they have freed themselves. Their first instinct is to dislike authority, to resent anything that reminds them of the yoke they have thrown off. It is a natural mistake, but it is a mistake all the same. They are justly pleased that they are free men, and that none can command them except those to whom they have voluntarily delegated the right to rule. The true course of the democratic instinct would have led them to dwell, not simply on the emancipation from an authority imposed upon them from without, but on the substitution of an authority chosen by themselves for one in the creation of which they had borne no part. The mediaeval Republics had a truer sense of their own position than the democracies of to-day. Provided that their Chief Magistracies were elective, and that sufficient safeguards were provided against any abuse of the powers committed to those who held them, the citizens loved to surround their great officials with some- thing of Royal state. It was fitting, they thought, that the sovereignty of the people should have the external marks which they had been accustomed to associate with the sovereignty of the King or the great noble. It is only in modern times that the main object of democracies has been to deprive the object of their choice of any dignity that he can derive from his surroundings, and to make it plain in every possible way that an elected ruler cannot be the equal of one to whom power has come by descent.

What it is that is bringing about this change in English feeling it is difficult to say. Certainly it is not the result of any formal reasoning such as we have described. Possibly the explanation is that, as the country has grown pros- perous, as hours of labour have shortened and occasional intervals of leisure become less rare, there has grown up a desire for greater attractiveness in the conduct of public life, alike in those who bear a part in it and in those who merely look on. And beyond doubt this is a change for the better. Anything that lifts men for however a short a time above the range of their own personal concerns, anything that makes them feel that they are not mere isolated units, that they belong to a Society, to a Corpora- tion, to a body which has its visible representatives wield- ing the symbols as well as the reality of power— anything, in short, which helps to take them out of them- selves, and to make them conscious of the relations in which they stand to their fellows—promotes the well-being of the community. The tendency may no doubt be pushed to extremes. We have no wish to see the picture drawn by Mr. Chesterton in his " Napoleon of Notting Hill " reduced to fact, and the "Lord Provosts" of the Metro- politan boroughs never leaving their houses without a guard of armed men. Even less should we care to have the taste for gay clothing extended to private life, and custom compelling the ordinary Londoner to go about his business clad in murrey velvet or peach-coloured satin. But of these extravagances no fear need be entertained. Modern conditions will continue to make external magnificence the exception, not the rule. But that these exceptions should become more common, that life in our cities should be made brighter and the eye be pleased, on proper occasion, by something of " pomp and circumstance," would be—may we not say will be ?- unalloyed gain.