25 OCTOBER 1930, Page 14

So much by way of a bow ; and now

to the throwing of stories. The sort of conference which we all must have noticed if we happen to live in a town which is suitable for its visitations is what I should call the conference of likes. I should guess that these conferences have become numerous in the course of the present century, and that the habit is about as. old as an • undergraduate in his last year. Social developments of this sort arc rapid, but we do not notice them until they are there, quietly mussed in their entrenchments, and ready to hold out against all corners and all criticism. How many, of us, for instance, realize that the " preparatory school," the boarding school for young boys between the ages of eight

and that of thirteen, is .so modern, and indeed so contem- porary a growth, that about 1870 there were perhaps only a dozen, in 1900 there were abOut four hundred, and in 1030 there are over seven hundred ?

But that is another matter, and it belongs to another enquiry, which shall perhaps be undertaken. Redeinus, lector, et conjerantus. The conference of likes is a meeting (perhaps for a week-end, perhaps for a week, perhaps for a fortnight) of persons interested in the same thing, believing the same thing, and exchanging views " about what it is, or what it should he. Some of them are conferences of members of the same party — " summer schools " of Liberals or Conservatives : some of them are conferences of adherents of the same cause—adult education or charity organization ; some of them are conferences of persons in the same profession or occupation—librarians, drapers, confectioners. They all meet : they all feel the glow of the conference ; and they all experience the happiness (perhaps it is better called the intoxication, but that also is a matter for another enquiry) of what is called esprit de corps. This new social habit seems to be spreading, as its waters cover the land, over more and more tracts of our life. Our very holi- days are becoming " conferential," or at any rate co-operative. We all receive advertisements of the Hellenic Travellers Cruises. We all know of the Polytechnic tours. We accept them as part of our civilization. But it is a curious thing, all the same, that even on holidays (when a man goes enquiring after new things, to see the cities and know the minds of new peoples) he should take his English likes with him, and forget to change his mind and his associates when he changes his sky. I wonder whether Ulysses would ever have joined a co-operative cruise !