No corrections yet
LONDON LIFE. A COMMENTARY. London, Dec, 28. Recent demonstrations by the unem ployed-notably the march of the thou sands of provincial unemployed to Lon don to interview the Prime Minister have brought home to many that the stories of widespread suffering and dis tress told by Labour M's.P. and others are very much less political stage thun der than some people' for a time sus pected. Now comes the annual review of the movements of pauperism in England. Issued by "The Times," which shows only too clearly how the post-war trade slump has affected thousands of working class people. This review, published two days be fore Christmins Day. does not make sea.. sotiable reading. That its columns of figures will be read bymjnany' is doubt ful, but such of the pets as are : ,t already known or guessed must soon . or 'later become matters of public know ledge. The outstanding fact is that in the second quarter of this year 1.769,387 persons-that is to say, one in 20 of the piopulation-were in receipt of relief iin one. form or another. After June the numbedis fell somewhat, but in October. when winter had just begun, they stood at 1.513,767. According to .the "Times' tle state of affairs in June this year was worse than at any previous time since 1871. Examining . the October fig ures, one might well shrink from cone templating the possible increase in dis tress with the worst of the winter ye* to come, but fortunately several gleams of hope are contained in the ittterancer of business men and politicians made since the publication of the report. Mr. Bonar Law says: "I am convinced that things have reached bottom. If there is no trouble in Europe we are in for a real trade revival. I see signs of it everywhere." In several important trader the orders in hand for the New 'Year point to a return to more satisfactory conditions. The outlook in the' iron and steel trade is much brighter than it has been for some time,. orders for. new ships and for railway material give pre mies of improved prospects' in the en gineering trade, and a renewal of Ameri. can buying, resulting in substantial ord ers now awaiting execution, should go far' tolwards bringing. about a much-need-: ed improvement in the coal mining in. dustry. It is to be hoped that these things will operate not only in redue. ing the -terrible suffering resulting from unemployment, but also in relieving the heavy financial burden which the work'of alleviating distress has 'imposed upon ratepayers and taxpayer,. :. There are now so many channels through which relief, in 'one form or another, 'is' distributed,: that it 'is almost impossible to give accurate figures show ing what unemployment,'.poverty, " and incapacity for work are corting the 'na tion; but in . "tahle published some months ago by the Ministry of Health. it was set forth'that the expenditure under thirteen Acts-including :National Instir ance, Unemployment .InTurance. War Pensions, Old Age Pensions and 'Hous 'ing-amounted in 1921 to £265;774,909. Christmas Revels. That old-fashidJied Christmas of which, as mentioned in my last letter,'the wea ther gave every; promise, was doubtless enjoyed by thousands of families through out England, but' in London, at any rate, a- very new-fashioned Christmas-is rapidly ousting the older., or pre-war variety, at least so far as a large number of members bof the more pros perous classes are concerned. Christmas, of course, used to be essentially a time, for. home ;pleasures .and home 'parties. The eating of Christmas 'dinner was a rite to be merrily. (or solemnly) performed in the Englishman's lhome. The increase of flat life,. ithe shoritage' of domestic servants and a tendency in .favour of eating in ipuiblic, ,which developed enor mously during tlh. hectic days of 'war, are .rapidly changing ?this. .: People who 'can 'afford it. are"'getting more and more into'".he habit' 'of )aving their Christmas dinners 'at .oqeior other of the 'big West End'hotels' and each year the hotels strive more s.r'enuos~'ly v cater for this class.- All' the principal. hotels ,this year were lavishly: 'decorated and, seasonable menus were' prepared. Aster .the' Christmas dinners came 'dane ing and erevely which lasted: into the small hours. of the following morning. At Claridge's the foyer was trainsformed ir?o the irsterior of 'a Watteau temple; the Savoy provided ;thousands, of crac kers toys and oother souvenir's for its S1;20 'guests; at.the' Berkeley every table was decorated with a "hiniature Christ mas tree; ;while ?the Troceadei&,Land Fras caLi's , both made' a feature of special Christmas Eve children's dinners: which were 'atleided' by'. several' thousands of youngsters. 'Christmas dinner at an hotel does'not conform to the Dickens's ideal, but many families, find- this .a more pleasant, more convenieait and, on the whole, not' more expensive way' of consuming turkey and plum pudding than the; older way of d& ing it at homae. And those'important per sons, Jeames and Mary Annu appro-e the innovation,,wxhich,,'by Irelieving them of.the necessity for preparing and serv ing the usual lamily dinner, gives them an opporuinity of enjoying Christinas in their own way,. which in many cases means in their own homes..: New ,Rallway, Era. - With Ithe cominng of the New Year an important change will ~ake place in the management of o the railways of Gieat Britain, for on: January 1 the, re-group ing of companies..provided. for in ';:d Railways Act of 1921 comes into force. Until now the railways: of t.his country have he?an in.l'h. hnnrl nf 1RI2) onnr.nnans
or subsidiary companies, but. under the new grouping scheme the number of rail Iways will be reduced. it four. Australia with its 13 Houses of Parliament does not make a more easy subject for jest than a country which could be stowed away in a corner of any of the larger Australian States and yet, owns 130 railways. Many of these railways own only a very short inileageand ,.ome possess no 'rolling s:ock worth speaking of. There is even a story that when the ne's grouping was taken in hand no 'owner could. be found for one of rthe small railways which caine under na'.ice. Though many of these com panies were small alffairs, they all ini sisted ,upon large and impressive names; concerns such as the Cockermoti:h. Kes wick and Penrit;h and the Llampe:er, Aberayron and New Quay Light railway companies having seemingly determined that their names a: least should not be sbhrter than tthose of more important companies such as the London, Clhatham and Dover and the London, Bright and Soate.h Coast. Even though, as a. general rule, initials only are used to signify the various companies, it is a difficult task, especially for. a newcomer to England. to remember whe ther it is the L.B. -and, S.C., or the S.E. and C. railway that will take iaim to a cenatin place., Under the new system there will .be only the Southern, Western. North Western and Nozith Eastern groups. This will mean that instead of posses sing some of -the smallest, Great Britain will now own some of the largest railways in the world. The 7,000 miles of the new Eastern system can be beaten by very few of the world's privately owned railways. Of course, the won derful Canadian-Pacific now approseh ing a mileage of 20,.0(6, still rem-airs in a class by itself. Still, for 7,000 miles of railway to be owned by one company in a small country like England is suffi ciently impressive when it is remembered that none of the Australian States owns more than about 6.000 miles. In the matter of rolling stock the English railways are far ahead even of the Canadian Pacific, which owns a mere 2,200 locomotives, while the North-East ern here possesses 7,000--a locomotive to every mile of permanent way. As re gards capital, also, the four new Bri tish railway companies will rank among the largest in the world, for the smallest of the four-the Southern-will have a capital of about £150,000,000, while the North-Western has about £350.000,000. How the amalgamation will affect the public in the matter of fares and freigh:s remains to be seei. In the past the fact that large districts were served by several railway companies brought about cutting, and the offering of special inducements to passengers and consign ors, but this competition was largely eliminated when the Government took control of the railways during the war. While the new grouping system will prevent a return to the old fierce com petition, the public is assured that re duced working costs will iultimately re sult in cheaper fares and freights and improved facilities. As usual, ,we are hoping for the best. R.LS. Dramatised. The excursions into the drama made by Robert Louis Stevenson in collabora tnon with W. E. Henley, added nothin, to Stevenson's reputation. The general public knows little of "Macaire" or "Beau Austin," "Admiral Guinea," or "Deacon Brodie" and even highbrow critics do not abuse theatre managers beceame they do not give us performances of these plys. Even when some of hs beet,
knowrn stoels save- bheen drameted by other hands, Stevenson,. in the past, has not been successful from behind the foot light--an .opinion which, I think,.is not likely- to be disputed by many playgoers who witnessed the -adaptation of "DN. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," staged in Australia by the late H. B;-Irving. The peculiar flavour, the -marked .indi vidnality. of Stevenson's style renders its transference to the stage exceedingly difficult but that an 'eminently satisfac tory, if not entirely perfect, di"--"tisa tion of a Stevenson story is poss....,- has now been demonstrated by Mr. J. B. Fagan, from whose pen has come a stage version of "Treasure Island," which was staged at the Strand Theatre on. Boxing Night: Mr. Fagan is not only a- skillful dramatist, but. he is also a man of lite rary taste and discernment, and is pop sessed of a love for Stevenson that has prevented him playing. ducks and drakes either with the story or with the well known characters- of '"Treasure Ilandm " Much of the dialogue in the. play. has been transferred almost intact from the book, .and in this and other ways Mr. Pagan has succeeded in preserving the raciness, and vitality of! the book, and has brought into the -theatre something of the unforgettable R.L.S. tang. Bult when the dramatist had done his work the difficulties assoeiated with a satisfactory . presentation of "Treasure Island" had' ',by, no .means been surmountfd. Whend'it is remembered that two of the mest striking characters in the story were a one-legged villain and .a parrot, it may be realised how great were 'these diffi culties. They have, however, been over come. With.the aid of coat tatls and a sword scabbard. Mr. Arthur Bourchier, as Long John Silver, very cleverly con ceals the fact that he has the; usual number of legs;. and whenever he- sits .down, usually on a barrel, a grim touch of realism is provided by .what looks like" an unmistakable stump. Captain Flint, the. parrot, also- figures in the east, and, pat eonhis cue, duly croeks "Pieces of eight!' Pieces of eight!"--at least, the audience is led to believe that the croaking is done- by the visible Cap tain 'Flint, :but, notwithstanding many. paragraphs in the Press about the diffi culty Mr. Bourchier. had in securing a; parrot sufficiently intelligent to play the part and 'how' he at length found one, I have: a very strong suspicion that Cap tain Flint's lines are. croaked by .a,ven triloquist in the wings. However, tie trick is convincingly worked, and many a schoolboy in- the- first night audience, 'in which' youngsters'. of both sexes were numerous,; must- have thrilled to the.fa miliar words.' - On the opening night- the production, which has some beautiful stage settings and. the .further- advantage of berig acted in a. most spirited - manner by all con- cerned, was. given an, uproariously-. en-. thusiastic receptionby: growi-ups,: plea-; santly engaged in renewing their youth. no less than -bk- the children who had: brought- them., to -.the theatre. The' thrilling strains of "Fifteen men on- the dead min's chest; Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum" will. probably ;.re-echo in the Strand. for ,a long, time, to: come, and.I, hope, ,may. eentually be heard by 'Aus tralian theatregoers.. . "