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Guide Goings: In Thirteen Sittings

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We mean to be delightful, of course; but we signally fail.


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In those far-away kindergarten days in Harley Street there were a little boy and three grown-up gentlemen with whom I made friends. The little boy grew up and went to Mexico, where I met him after a lapse of twenty-five years, a merchant in a good position. He was able to do a great deal for me during my stay there, and proved as a brother in occasions of difficulty. Sir Felix Semon became a great physician, and Dr. The more elderly gentleman was studying at the British Museum, and only lodged at the house. On his return to Berlin he published, in , a book called Begriff des Staates.

It was a learned volume and created much sensation in Germany. One day he was sitting in the Foreign Office when he received an invitation to dine with the great Bismarck. He was amazed, but naturally accepted. At the dinner were only two other men, the Imperial Chancellor and his son Herbert.

Gordon Lish

The former talked to von Rottenburg about his book in most flattering terms. On his return home that night his wife asked him how he had got on. A week later von Rottenburg was again sitting in his room when Count Wilhelm Bismarck was announced. Be pleased to call at such an hour Perplexed as to the repetition of the invitation the young diplomat called as desired. Bismarck was sitting at his table writing. The man who held the destiny of Europe in his hands looked up and nodded. Here let it be remarked that Bismarck was a great English scholar. He spoke the language fluently, he read Tom Jones from cover to cover four times, and was never without his Shakespeare in the original, whole pages from which he could quote.

But mind, if you come to me you will have to be my slave. Where I go you must go, and it is only fair that you should ask her permission. Women should be more considered than they are. Go home, I tell you, and ask your wife. Still bewildered, flattered but faltering, von Rottenburg went home.

He told his wife of his extraordinary interview with the Chancellor, and she at once exclaimed:. A chance comes once to every man; let him accept it gladly when it does come. This post is by appointment for three years, and, as a rule, men are not reappointed, but von Rottenburg was enjoying his fourth term when Bismarck went out of office.

During all those ten years von Rottenburg rarely left the side of his Chief—the greatest man of his day. Bismarck was the most remarkable man in the world. His physical health was as wonderful as his mental capacity. He had so much to do, so much to bear, so much to arrange, that I naturally saved him in every way I could, therefore nearly everything of importance went through me. That alone was a great responsibility. I settled all I could, arranged what interviews I thought necessary, and played buffer between him and the great world outside.

But I often felt he reposed too much confidence in me. Bismarck objected to German being written or printed in Latin characters, and never read a book not printed in German letters. Von Rottenburg told me Bismarck had the greatest mathematical head he ever knew and a colossal brain. A man of huge bulk, vast appetite, and unending thirst, he was once at a supper-party in Berlin where six hundred oysters were ordered for ten people.

He ate the greater share. I shiver to think of the times I was disturbed at night with messages of importance, telegrams, special messengers, or letters marked Private ; all these things seemed to have a particularly unhappy 18 knack of arriving during the hours one should have had repose. It was very seldom, however, that I went to Bismarck, as I never disturbed him at night unless on a matter of urgent business, feeling that his sleep was as important to him as his health was to the German nation.

During those years with Bismarck I had to be so careful, so exact and methodical. One of his little hobbies was that when he was staying in an hotel, or anywhere away from home, he, or I, would carefully search the waste-paper baskets to see no scrap of paper that could in any way be made into political capital was left therein. He destroyed everything that might, he thought, make mischief, or would do harm of any kind. Did von Rottenburg destroy his wondrous diaries which I saw a few weeks before he died?

Of them I may have more to say in the future. Another of my very earliest recollections is of Madame Antoinette Sterling. She came from America to sing in England, and often stayed at the residence of my grandfather, James Muspratt, of Seaforth Hall, near Liverpool. Again and again we wildly demanded another song, clapping our hands, and again and again that good, kind soul sang to her juvenile admirers—maybe her first English audience.

Seaforth Hall was built by my grandfather about , 19 at which time four miles of beach divided him from Liverpool. The docks of that city are eleven miles long to-day, and the Gladstone Dock is now in the field in which we children used to ride and play. I often heard him speak of the delightful gatherings he attended and so much enjoyed in those early days before I had opened my eyes on this wonderful world, when women like Charlotte Cushman, Catherine Hayes, Helen Faucit, Mrs.

Charles Kean, Mrs. Kemble, and Mrs. The people at whose houses he visited became his constant guests; so later his children grew up in a delightful atmosphere, in a home of culture, where art, science, and literature were amply represented.


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Meetings like these, even in earliest childhood, with bright souls, persons of culture, intellect, polished manners, and brilliant gifts, all leave strong impressions on a plastic youthful mind, and the memory is undoubtedly an influence through life. But the commanding figure in Harley Street in my early years was not to be found among the doctors: it was Mr.

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Gladstone, while Mrs. When Mr. The Jingo fever was at its height. There was tremendous excitement, and ultimately the street had to be cleared by mounted police.


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With the grand manner of an old courtier the statesman took off his hat, made a profound bow to the populace, and before the mob had recovered from its astonishment, he had walked away down the street with his wife. It was a plucky act, and one which so surprised the boisterous assembly that they utterly subsided, and soon dispersed quietly. My sister Olga wife of Dr. In fact, he never passed her without stopping to pat her on the head, and make some little joke such as children love. Years afterwards, when Mr. Gladstone had ceased all association with Harley Street, and was Prime Minister, I fell a victim to the desire to possess his autograph.

Few people now realise how difficult a thing it was to secure, for the public imagined that the statesman showered post cards, then a somewhat new invention, on his correspondents by hundreds and thousands. I asked his friend Sir Thomas Bond what was best to do. His advice was shrewdness itself.

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Gladstone, he assured me, had great objections to giving his autograph. He could not himself ask him point-blank 21 for his signature. Not long before his death I had another letter from him, short, as all his communications were, but always long enough to include the gracefully drawn compliment which, one fears, has died out of the art of letter-writing as now practised:.

I consider Finland a singularly interesting country, singularly little known; and I am reading your work in earnest and with great interest. The mention of Mr. Gladstone in connection with Harley Street brings to mind his famous physician, Sir Andrew Clarke, who was a great personal friend of my father. Thanks chiefly to a charming personality, he was one of the most successful and most beloved of all the London medical men, and to him is doubtless due the widespread discovery that a careful diet is a better means to health than promiscuous floods of medicine.

These were some of the friendships and associations that surrounded my childhood: such was the soil that nourished my infant roots in kindliness and encouraged my green idea-buds to put forth into leaf. AS the boy is proverbially father to the man, so is the girl mother to the woman.

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Looking back, over thirteen years of exacting professional work, beginning in —the sad cause and necessity for which will be told later—my destiny seems to have been that of a writer. True, on my first coming out the stage was my girlish ambition. Elsewhere 3 I have told how, after the success and delirious delight of the private theatricals given at home for me instead of a ball—at my own request—there came a tempting offer to make my bow behind the footlights. Breathless with excitement I rushed downstairs to tell my father and receive his approval.

In girlhood one hates the conventionalities. For instance, how I chafed at the care demanded in handling old family treasures and wished the cut-glass decanters, the old Scotch silver salvers, the Italian embroidered cushions, and all the other details of a refined home, at the bottom of the sea. I used mentally to vow that when I had a home of my own I would never have anything that cost more than sixpence, and would wear it out and throw it away. I did not then realise that little by little the love of beautiful 26 things, fine workmanship, rich colours, coupled with reverence for ancient family gods, was being fostered within me.

Heredity and environment are three-fourths of character, the other fourth being left to chance and circumstances; and character counts for more in the end than any other asset in life. If we are born into a refined home, we learn to hate vulgar things, we are not interested in vulgar people, and, however poor we may become, that love of culture and good taste never leaves us.

In spite of the tales and explanations that my father gave us about beautiful things of art, or curios, it must be owned these wearied me. But when the day for work came, some of them formed the nucleus and inspiration of the half-dozen articles the grown woman turned out every week for the Press.

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The influence of that Harley-Street home was very strong. I left it when young for a house of my own, but its atmosphere went with me. After all, it is the woman who makes the home. A man may be clever, brilliant, hard-working, a good son, a good father, and a good master, but without a wife the result is a poor thing.

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It is the woman who keeps the home together. It is the woman who is the pivot of life. Most men are like great big children, and have to be mothered to the end of time. To my mother I really owe any success I may have had.