The Land of Contrasts eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 289 pages of information about The Land of Contrasts.

There is probably no country in the world where, at times, letters of introduction are more fully honoured than in the United States.  The recipient does not content himself with inviting you to call or even to dinner.  He invites you to make his house your home; he invites all his friends to meet you; he leaves his business to show you the lions of the town or to drive you about the country; he puts you up at his club; he sends you off provided with letters to ten other men like himself, only more so.  On the other hand, there is probably no country in the world where a letter of introduction from a man quite entitled to give it could be wholly ignored as it sometimes is in the United States.  The writer has had experience of both results.  No more fundamental contrast can well be imagined than that between the noisy, rough, crude, and callous street-life of some Western towns and the quiet, reticence, delicacy, spirituality, and refinement of many of the adjacent interiors.

The table manners of the less-educated American classes are hardly of the best, but where but in America will you find eleven hundred charity-school boys sit down daily to dinner, each with his own table napkin, as they do at Girard College, Philadelphia?  And where except at that same institute will you find a man leaving millions for a charity, with the stipulation that no parson of any creed shall ever be allowed to enter its precincts?

In concluding this chapter, let me say that its object, as indeed the object of this whole book, will have been achieved if it convinces a few Britons of the futility of generalising on the complex organism of American society from inductions that would not justify an opinion about the habits of a piece of protoplasm.[5]


[2] The Boston Subway, opened in 1898, has impaired the truth of this sentence.

[3] It is only fair to say that this was originally written in 1893, and that matters have been greatly improved since then.

[4] This may be paralleled in Europe:  “The Franciscan monks of Bosnia wear long black robes, with rope, black ‘bowler hats,’ and long and heavy military moustachios (by special permission of the Pope).”—­Daily Chronicle, Oct 5, 1895.

[5] In the just-ended war with Spain, the United States did not fail to justify its character as the Land of Contrasts.  From the wealthy and enlightened United States we should certainly have expected all that money and science could afford in the shape of superior weapons and efficiency of commissariat and medical service, while we could have easily pardoned a little unsteadiness in civilians suddenly turned into soldiers.  As a matter of fact, the poverty-stricken Spaniards had better rifles than the Americans; the Commissariat and Medical Departments are alleged to have broken down in the most disgraceful way; the citizen-soldiers behaved like veterans.

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The Land of Contrasts from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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