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Literary Levities In Londow
by [?]

Now it’s a funny thing, that, come to think of it. Some folks have questioned whether, the other way round, it could be done in this country at all. It’s a pleasant view anyhow that the matter presents of that curious affair the English character.

There is a notion knocking about over here that considerable rigmarole is required to meet an Englishman. And very probably few who have tried it would dispute that it is somewhat difficult to “meet” an ordinary Englishman to whom you are not known in a railway carriage. With the big ‘uns, however, the business appears to be simple enough. Foolish doings do clutter up one’s luggage with letters of introduction when all that is needed to board round with the most celebrated people in England is a glance at a “Who’s Who” in a public library to get addresses.

For the purpose of convenience the writer of these souvenirs will refer to himself as “I” and “me.” I was all done up in health and was advised by doctors to clear out at once. So I bought a steamship ticket, packed a kit bag, crossed the water and took a couple of strolls about that island over there; when, feeling fitter, I turned up in London for a look about.

It sort of came over me that in my haste of departure I had neglected to bring any of my friends along, or to equip myself with the means of making others here. I was unarmed, so to say–a “Yank” in an obviously hostile country. This, you see, was before the war, before we and Britain had got so genuinely sweet on one another.

At that time I had two acquaintances resident in London. One, a Bostonian, whose attention was quite occupied with a new addition to his family; the other was the errand man stationed before my place of abode. He was an amiable soul, whose companionable nature, worldly wisdom and topographical knowledge I much appreciated. He instructed me in the culinary subject of “bubble and squeak” and many other learned matters; but unfortunately his social connections were limited to one class.

One time not a great while back I happened to review in succession for a New York paper several books by Hilaire Belloc. Mr. Belloc had written me a note thanking me for these reviews. I decided to write Mr. Belloc that I was in London and to ask if he could spare a moment for me to look at him, Mr. Belloc being one of my literary passions.

Then an ambitious idea popped into my head. I determined to write the same request to all the people in England I had ever reviewed. Reviewing, mostly anonymous, had been my business for several years, with other literary chores on the side. I communicated to Mr. Chesterton the fact that I had come over to look about, told him my belief that he was one of the noblest and most interesting monuments in England, and asked him if he supposed that he could be “viewed” by me, at some street corner, say, at a time appointed, as he rumbled past in his triumphal car.

Writing to famous people that you don’t know is somewhat like the drink habit. It is easy to begin; it is pleasurably stimulating; it soon fastens itself upon you to the extent that it is exceedingly difficult to stop indulgence and it leads you straight to excess. I wound up, I think, with Hugh Walpole. I had liked that “Fortitude” thing very much.

My Englishised Boston friend–he’s the worst Englishman I saw over there–simply threw up his hands. He groaned and fell into a chair.

“Holy cat!” he cried, or English words to that effect, “you can’t come over here and do that way. It’s not done,” he declared. “You can’t meet Englishmen in that fashion. These people will think you are a wild, bounding red Indian. They’ll all go out of town until you leave the country.”