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An English Invasion Of The Riviera
by [?]

When sixty years ago Lord Brougham, en route for Italy, was thrown from his travelling berline and his leg was broken, near the Italian hamlet of Cannes, the Riviera was as unknown to the polite world as the centre of China. The grand tour which every young aristocrat made with his tutor, on coming of age, only included crossing from France into Italy by the Alps. It was the occurrence of an unusually severe winter in Switzerland that turned Brougham aside into the longer and less travelled route via the Corniche, the marvellous Roman road at that time fallen into oblivion, and little used even by the local peasantry.

During the tedious weeks while his leg was mending, Lord Brougham amused himself by exploring the surrounding country in his carriage, and was quick to realize the advantages of the climate, and appreciate the marvellous beauty of that coast. Before the broken member was whole again, he had bought a tract of land and begun a villa. Small seed, to furnish such a harvest! To the traveller of to-day the Riviera offers an almost unbroken chain of beautiful residences from Marseilles to Genoa.

A Briton willingly follows where a lord leads, and Cannes became the centre of English fashion, a position it holds to-day in spite of many attractive rivals, and the defection of Victoria who comes now to Cimiez, back of Nice, being unwilling to visit Cannes since the sudden death there of the Duke of Albany. A statue of Lord Brougham, the “discoverer” of the littoral, has been erected in the sunny little square at Cannes, and the English have in many other ways, stamped the city for their own.

No other race carry their individuality with them as they do. They can live years in a country and assimilate none of its customs; on the contrary, imposing habits of their own. It is just this that makes them such wonderful colonizers, and explains why you will find little groups of English people drinking ale and playing golf in the shade of the Pyramids or near the frozen slopes of Foosiyama. The real inwardness of it is that they are a dull race, and, like dull people despise all that they do not understand. To differ from them is to be in the wrong. They cannot argue with you; they simply know, and that ends the matter.

I had a discussion recently with a Briton on the pronunciation of a word. As there is no “Institute,” as in France, to settle matters of this kind, I maintained that we Americans had as much authority for our pronunciation of this particular word as the English. The answer was characteristic.

“I know I am right,” said my Island friend, “because that is the way I pronounce it!”

Walking along the principal streets of Cannes to-day, you might imagine yourself (except for the climate) at Cowes or Brighton, so British are the shops and the crowd that passes them. Every restaurant advertises “afternoon tea” and Bass’s ale, and every other sign bears a London name. This little matter of tea is particularly characteristic of the way the English have imposed a taste of their own on a rebellious nation. Nothing is further from the French taste than tea-drinking, and yet a Parisian lady will now invite you gravely to “five o’clocker” with her, although I can remember when that beverage was abhorred by the French as a medicine; if you had asked a Frenchman to take a cup of tea, he would have answered:

“Why? I am not ill!”

Even Paris (that supreme and undisputed arbiter of taste) has submitted to English influence; tailor-made dresses and low-heeled shoes have become as “good form” in France as in London. The last two Presidents of the French Republic have taken the oath of office dressed in frock-coats instead of the dress clothes to which French officials formerly clung as to the sacraments.