Letter from London

Daily Alta California/August 17, 1872

Our Correspondent as a Court Chronicler—His Perfectly True Account of an Interview with a British Editor—Something More (Positively the Last) About the Ballot Bill—The British Elector, And Why he Votes for Smith Rather than Jones—Effect of the New Franco-German Treaty Upon the Money Market—A Game of “Ball,” and a “Tempest of Boltheads”—Atrocious Murder of a Mother and Daughter—London Goes into the Country and our Correspondent into a Rhapsody—He Likes England

I presume you are interested in what is called “court news;” that is, the movements of the royal family. You must be interested in it, because if it were not a very interesting subject every English daily newspaper would not publish several inches of it in each issue. I have, therefore, collated some of the most deeply distracting items for the benefit of your readers. If they are not strictly true, it is because I have not the power to make the royal family conform to my ideas of what they ought to be doing.

Court News (Aforesaid)

Windsor Castle, July—“Her Majesty, the queen, accompanied by Her Royal Highness, Princess Beatrice, drove out. They went three times about the park, and came home to luncheon at a quarter to one. After luncheon it was discovered that Her Majesty’s boot had been for some time unlaced! No serious consequences are apprehended.”

“The Reverend Dr. S. Dologer had the honor of dining at the back kitchen steps of the Castle, upon the cold scraps which had graced the table of Her Majesty.”

“Their Sublime Serenities, the Maharaja and Maharanee of Puddledock, had an audience of Her Majesty’s footman. By gracious command of Her Majesty, this is to be considered equivalent to having an audience of Her Majesty; and for all practical purposes it is so.”

“His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales, accompanied by Her Royal Highness, the Princess of Wales, will on tomorrow open the Shoreditch Asylum for Indigent Confederate Bondholders.”

“Her Majesty has been graciously pleased to confer upon the Lady John Jacob Stailwittelz, second daughter of Sir Barnaby Stailwittelz, of Bethnal-Green the appointment of Lady of Her Majesty’s Bedchamber. It will be the duty of Lady Stailwittelz to empty the Royal slops.”

I suppose you will have no objection to taking these items at second-hand. I confess that I compiled them for the Weekly Turn-Turn, a paper which I sometimes favour with worse things than these. I carried them myself to the editor, whom I found, as usual, surrounded by the most brilliant intellects of Fleet Street, who had gathered round to solicit small advances upon their salaries. My items were received with unbounded approval; such fun as we had over them! But when I innocently inquired if they were “in time for this week’s paper,” you might have heard a pin drop, or a gum drop. The editor rose and gravely asked me if I really intended them for publication.

“Certainly,” I replied, “but if they are too long I’ll cut them down a bit. I don’t mind if you don’t.”

“My friend,” said he, “you must be either an American or a fool!”

I told him I was, and he continued, as follows:

“Sir, you have much to learn. You have so far forgot yourself as to write disrespectfully of Her Majesty. Now, the old gal is one of our Institutions, and in England and Institution is regarded with the deepest veneration. People who rail at Institutions find the climate of England unfavourable to longevity. As for your slur upon His Royal Highness; the Prince of Wales, I need only remark that that duffer is to be our king; and is, therefore, another Institution. As for the other blokes whom you have vituperated, including the foreign cad you defame, these are no less respected and loved. Gather up your miserable manuscript and depart hence!”

I did so, and the next day received a note from the editor, reading thus:

“Dear B—: If you get that d— stuff printed in America I want twenty copies of the paper. All my friends will take a dozen each. Gad! how we’d like to be able to print the like o’ that; but you’ve no idea what anomalies the British public are. They are just like the jackass mentioned by— ”

But my friend’s letter is too long for publication; they are just like any jackass.

The Peer’s “Crawfish.”

As I predicted in my last letter (I think I predicted it) the House of Lords has backed squarely down from the position it had taken upon the Ballot bill. As soon as the Commons rejected their killing amendments, and sent them back the bill in very nearly the shape in which it had passed that House, their lordships hastened to concur by a large majority; and the measure which has occupied a greater or less portion of the time of Parliament for forty years is now disposed of for eight years: England has the Ballot for that period, as an experiment; and during that time no man is permitted to tell how he has voted. I have heretofore expressed an opinion that the ballot without compulsory secrecy would, in this country, be utterly futile, so far as concerns curing a single one of the evils it is designed to suppress, the chief of which are bribery and coercion. I think so still, but confess that my faith is not great in the efficacy of any law enforcing secrecy. There are a thousand ways by which a voter may indirectly, but none the less effectually, make known his action. He may call his two dogs by the names of the opposing candidates, and publicly thrash one of them, or caress the other. He may put a caricature of the candidate he did not vote for over his door , and daub it with mud. Anyhow, his wife will know how he voted; and she can make it clear to those pecuniarily or otherwise interested. I say pecuniarily interested, for of course it is understood that the average British elector is moved to his inestimable privilege by nothing but a pecuniary motive. He has no preference; and any expression of enthusiasm for one candidate or another means, in his case, that he has accepted a bribe from this party or from that. Under the new system, he can safely receive money from both; and the theory is that this fact will prevent him from getting an offer from either. Nous verrons.

The London Money Market

Which is a very sensitive thing, is beginning to show the effect of the new FrancoGerman treaty. By this pact there must, within the next three months, be a movement of one hundred millions of dollars; and in February next a movement of a similar sum. These immense amounts must, of course, go from France; where they will go to is uncertain—and that uncertainty is what is making the trouble. It rests with the German Government to say whether all this money shall remain in circulation, keeping the London market “flush,” as at present, or be withdrawn bodily and locked up in Berlin, causing a distressing tightness. While all is conjecture upon this point, it is evident enough that within the next seven or eight months there will be very marked fluctuations in the purchasing power of gold, and consequently in the nominal values of all stocks and securities. As a matter of course, prudent operators will be careful in what enterprises they embark their capital, and I note already a disposition to shorten sail.

In consequence of the tremendous sums Germany is extorting from France, she is experiencing a money glut with its attendant evils of reckless speculative operations; and it would seem to be the best policy for her to stop the influx which might work her financial woe. But Germany is, by virtue of the grasp she has upon the purse of France, enabled to control the financial world, and there is no telling how she may use her power. She has lately been accustomed to make some use of whatever agencies God has placed in her hands—as Kaiser Wilhelm would devoutly say—and it is noticeable that in doing so, whatever nation has suffered she has prospered. It is, therefore, probable that whatever capitalist shall be able to most clearly see what are the interests of Germany with regard to the disposal of these two hundred millions, will have the soundest foundation for his own private financial superstructure.

A Little Gunning Party

A very interesting experiment was tried the other day at Weymouth, by order of the Admiralty. A turret-ship, the Glatton, was moored at a distance of only two hundred yards from the Hotspur, and the latter pounded her twice with a twenty-five-ton gun, upon the most vulnerable parts of her turret—a revolving one, constructed upon a new principle. The impact of the six-hundred-pound iron globes produced, as might have been expected, a marked effect. One smashed through the fourteen-inch iron plating, lodging in the wooden “backing,” breaking the inner lining, and creating a tempest of rivet-heads. The other struck at the junction of the turret and the deck, penetrated fifteen inches into the plates, and rolled out again. The turret was not seriously injured in its armor, nor at all in its revolving-machinery. A crew of twenty men and officers who were on board—not in the turret, naturally—describe the sound of the shot striking, as “not exceeding that made by the dropping of a tea-tray.” This is weak; they should have said the shutting of a jack-knife, or the wiping of a nose. The parties who really bore the brunt of the experiment were, singularly enough, not at all interested in the results to be obtained by it. They were a goat, a rabbit and a hen; and they came out of their prison house unscathed by the flying bolt-heads, though apparently dazed by the concussion. Upon the whole, the result is received as conclusive evidence that the turret is practically a safe spot. Still, I cannot help wishing there had been some men inside, just to see how they would have managed those rivet-heads.

I must mention that one of the journals, which was loudest in felicitating the public upon the admirable manner in which the ship stood fire, gravely remarked that the only depressing consideration about it is that more powerful guns than that used in the experiment are now being cast by the Government. It seems as if this objection might be removed by stopping their construction, and destroying any that may already have been finished.

“Murder Most Foul”

London does not, for a very long period at a time, lack its horrible murder; though a city of three or four millions ought to be indulged in one occasionally, when the stirring Western villages of New York and San Francisco have them so often. The last one occurred at Hoxton. Two women, mother and daughter (the latter a mother also, however; though, like many mothers of her class, not exactly a wife), the former seventy years of age, the latter thirty-eight, kept a little print-shop in a populous street. In the very middle of the day, when the sidewalks were swarming with passers-by, and the street was thronged with vehicles, a man entered the shop, fastened the door, and deliberately beat out the brains of both. Their heads were literally crushed, and the floor flooded with their blood. He then ransacked the house from cellar to attic, finding, it is thought, a considerable sum of money, opened the door, walked out into the street, and disappeared. Although fifty detectives from Scotlandyard have been ever since “working up the case,” the only clue to this identity yet discovered is a few gray hairs in the hand of one of the victims, who, poor thing! Had had strength to “wool” him a little while he was making a mess of her head. A deed of so hideous boldness was never before committed, I verily believe. For once, London has been fairly roused to actual interest in the fate of individuals belonging to the tradesman class, and if the murderer shall be caught, I believe he will get it as hot as if he had massacred a couple of “ladies.”

The End of the Revel

We are about at the close of “the season,” and everybody is off, either to the continent or the seaside. Two weeks from now, Rotten-Row will be deserted of an afternoon, the Royal Academy’s pictures will confront only the uncritical plebeian, and Pall Mall will have resumed its aspect of repose. Already the queen has flitted from Windsor to Osborne, and will not return till next January; although I believe that has very little to do with the season. During her absence, the Castle is to undergo a deal of repairing. The opera will fly from Covent Garden next. The annual shooting at Wimbledon is even now “adoing,” and the cricketing between the callow youth of Eton and Harrow, which will come to an end next week, may be regarded as the last strong agony of the London “season.” After that, the ubiquitous American will pack his traps for Paris, Naples or the Tyrol, and be swindled for a few brief months in the continental fashion.

By the way, there have been more Americans in town during the last few months than ever before. Every other cab you meet on the Strand contains a brace of them; TrafalgarSquare is infested with them; and they perch innumerable in the boxes at the theatres. In St. Paul’s and Westminster Abbey, about Tower, and, generally speaking, at all the “objects of interest,” nothing but American is spoken. I think I know what brings ’em over; I fancy most of ’em came here for the same reason I did: because it is cheaper to spend the summer in England than to loaf about the vicinity of New York. Also, this is a better country, has nicer people, and is in every way superior. You will infer from this that I like England. I do— rather—ubette!

(Source: California Digital Newspaper Collection: http://cdnc.ucr.edu/cgibin/cdnc?a=d&d=DAC18720817.2.38.6&e=——-en–20–1—txIN——–1