The Land of Contrasts eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 289 pages of information about The Land of Contrasts.
spot in which the chiefs of the learned professions are to be found, where the most potent and widely read journals are published, whither men of literary and scientific capacity are drawn.”  New York journalists, with a happy disregard of the historical connotation of language, are prone to speak of their city as a metropolis; but it is very evident that the most liberal interpretation of the word cannot elevate New York to the relative position of such European metropolitan cities as Paris or London.  Washington, the nominal capital of the United States, is perhaps still farther from satisfying Mr. Bryce’s definition.  It certainly is a relatively small city, and it is not a leading seat of trade, manufacture, or finance.  It is also true that its journals do not rank among the leading papers of the land; but, on the other hand, it must be remembered that every important American journal has its Washington correspondent, and that in critical times the letters of these gentlemen are of very great weight.  As the seat of the Supreme Judicial Bench of the United States, it has as good a claim as any other American city to be the residence of the “chiefs of the learned professions;” and it is quite remarkable how, owing to the great national collections and departments, it has come to the front as the main focus of the scientific interests of the country.  The Cosmos Club’s list of members is alone sufficient to illustrate this.  Its attraction to men of letters has proved less cogent; but the life of an eminent literary man of (say) New Orleans or Boston is much more likely to include a prolonged visit to Washington than to any other American city not his own.  The Library of Congress alone, now magnificently housed in an elaborately decorated new building, is a strong magnet.  In the same way there is a growing tendency for all who can afford it to spend at least one season in Washington.  The belle of Kalamazoo or Little Rock is not satisfied till she has made her bow in Washington under the wing of her State representative, and the senator is no-wise loath to see his wife’s tea-parties brightened by a bevy of the prettiest girls from his native wilds.  University men throughout the Union, leaders of provincial bars, and a host of others have often occasion to visit Washington.  When we add to all this the army of government employees and the cosmopolitan element of the diplomatic corps, we can easily see that, so far as “society” is concerned, Washington is more like a European capital than any other American city.  Nothing is more amusing—­for a short time, at least—­than a round of the teas, dinners, receptions, and balls of Washington, where the American girl is seen in all her glory, with captives of every clime, from the almond-eyed Chinaman to the most faultlessly correct Piccadilly exquisite, at her dainty feet.  I never saw a bevy of more beautiful women than officiated at one senatorial afternoon tea I visited; so beautiful were they as to make me entirely forget what seemed
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The Land of Contrasts from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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