I have “fought, bled, and died” for home and country more times than I can count since I have been here. I ought to come home with honorable scars and the rank of field-marshal, at least. I never knew how many objectionable features America presented to Englishmen until I became their guest and broke bread at their tables. I cannot eat very much at their dinner parties—I am too busy thinking how to parry their attacks on my America, and especially my Chicago, and my West generally. The English adore Americans, but they loathe America, and I, for one, will not accept a divided allegiance. “Love me, love my dog,” is my motto. I go home from their dinners as hungry as a wolf, but covered with Victoria crosses. I am puzzled to know if they really hate Chicago more than any other spot on earth, or if they simply love to hear me fight for it, or if their manners need improving.
I myself may complain of the horrors of our filthy streets, or of the way we tear up whole blocks at once (here in London they only mend a teaspoonful of pavement at a time), or of our beastly winds which tear your soul from your body, but I hope never to sink so low as to permit a lot of foreigners to do it. For even as a Parisian loves his Paris, and as a New Yorker loves his London, so do I love my Chicago.
It was a fortunate thing, after all, that I went to London first, and had my first great astonishment there. It broke Paris to me gently.
For a month I have been in this city of limited republicanism; this extraordinary example of outward beauty and inward uncleanness; this bewildering cosmopolis of cheap luxuries and expensive necessities; this curious city of contradictions, where you might eat your breakfast from the streets—they are so clean—but where you must close your eyes to the spectacles of the curbstones; this beautiful, whited sepulchre, where exists the unwritten law, “Commit any offence you will, provided you submerge it in poetry and flowers”; this exponent of outward observances, where a gentleman will deliberately push you into the street if he wishes to pass you in a crowd, but where his action is condoned by his inexpressible manner of raising his hat to you, and the heartfelt sincerity of his apology; where one man will run a mile to restore a lost franc, but if you ask him to change a gold piece he will steal five; where your eyes are ravished with the beauty, and the greenness, and the smoothness and apparent ease of living of all its inhabitants; where your mind is filled with the pictures, the music, the art, the general atmosphere of culture and wit; where the cooking is so good but so elusive, and where the shops are so bewitching that you have spent your last dollar without thinking, and you are obliged to cable for a new letter of credit from home before you know it—this is Paris.