(From the 1919 J. W. Arrowsmith edition.)
Said a friend of mine to me some months ago: "Well now, why don't you
write a SENSIBLE book? I should like to see you make people think."
"Do you believe it can be done, then?" I asked.
"Well, try," he replied.
Accordingly, I have tried. This is a sensible book. I want you to
understand that. This is a book to improve your mind. In this book
I tell you all about Germany - at all events, all I know about
Germany - and the Ober-Ammergau Passion Play. I also tell you about
other things. I do not tell you all I know about all these other
things, because I do not want to swamp you with knowledge. I wish
to lead you gradually. When you have learnt this book, you can come
again, and I will tell you some more. I should only be defeating my
own object did I, by making you think too much at first, give you a
perhaps, lasting dislike to the exercise. I have purposely put the
matter in a light and attractive form, so that I may secure the
attention of the young and the frivolous. I do not want them to
notice, as they go on, that they are being instructed; and I have,
therefore, endeavoured to disguise from them, so far as is
practicable, that this is either an exceptionally clever or an
exceptionally useful work. I want to do them good without their
knowing it. I want to do you all good - to improve your minds and to
make you think, if I can.
WHAT you will think after you have read the book, I do not want to
know; indeed, I would rather not know. It will be sufficient reward
for me to feel that I have done my duty, and to receive a percentage
on the gross sales.
LONDON, March, 1891.
DIARY OF A PILGRIMAGE
My Friend B. - Invitation to the Theatre. - A Most Unpleasant
Regulation. - Yearnings of the Embryo Traveller. - How to Make the
Most of One's Own Country. - Friday, a Lucky Day. - The Pilgrimage
My friend B. called on me this morning and asked me if I would go to
a theatre with him on Monday next.
"Oh, yes! certainly, old man," I replied. "Have you got an order,
"No; they don't give orders. We shall have to pay."
"Pay! Pay to go into a theatre!" I answered, in astonishment. "Oh,
nonsense! You are joking."
"My dear fellow," he rejoined, "do you think I should suggest paying
if it were possible to get in by any other means? But the people
who run this theatre would not even understand what was meant by a
'free list,' the uncivilised barbarians! It is of no use pretending
to them that you are on the Press, because they don't want the
Press; they don't think anything of the Press. It is no good
writing to the acting manager, because there is no acting manager.
It would be a waste of time offering to exhibit bills, because they
don't have any bills - not of that sort. If you want to go in to see
the show, you've got to pay. If you don't pay, you stop outside;
that's their brutal rule."
"Dear me," I said, "what a very unpleasant arrangement! And
whereabouts is this extraordinary theatre? I don't think I can ever
have been inside it."
"I don't think you have," he replied; "it is at Ober-Ammergau - first
turning on the left after you leave Ober railway-station, fifty
miles from Munich."
"Um! rather out of the way for a theatre," I said. "I should not
have thought an outlying house like that could have afforded to give
"The house holds seven thousand people," answered my friend B., "and
money is turned away at each performance. The first production is
on Monday next. Will you come?"
I pondered for a moment, looked at my diary, and saw that Aunt Emma
was coming to spend Saturday to Wednesday next with us, calculated
that if I went I should miss her, and might not see her again for
years, and decided that I would go.
To tell the truth, it was the journey more than the play that
tempted me. To be a great traveller has always been one of my
cherished ambitions. I yearn to be able to write in this sort of
"I have smoked my fragrant Havana in the sunny streets of old
Madrid, and I have puffed the rude and not sweet-smelling calumet of
peace in the draughty wigwam of the Wild West; I have sipped my
evening coffee in the silent tent, while the tethered camel browsed
without upon the desert grass, and I have quaffed the fiery brandy
of the North while the reindeer munched his fodder beside me in the
hut, and the pale light of the midnight sun threw the shadows of the
pines across the snow; I have felt the stab of lustrous eyes that,
ghostlike, looked at me from out veil-covered faces in Byzantium's
narrow ways, and I have laughed back (though it was wrong of me to
do so) at the saucy, wanton glances of the black-eyed girls of Jedo;
I have wandered where 'good' - but not too good - Haroun Alraschid
crept disguised at nightfall, with his faithful Mesrour by his side;
I have stood upon the bridge where Dante watched the sainted
Beatrice pass by; I have floated on the waters that once bore the
barge of Cleopatra; I have stood where Caesar fell; I have heard the
soft rustle of rich, rare robes in the drawing-rooms of Mayfair, and
I have heard the teeth-necklaces rattle around the ebony throats of
the belles of Tongataboo; I have panted beneath the sun's fierce
rays in India, and frozen under the icy blasts of Greenland; I have
mingled with the teeming hordes of old Cathay, and, deep in the
great pine forests of the Western World, I have lain, wrapped in my
blanket, a thousand miles beyond the shores of human life."
B., to whom I explained my leaning towards this style of diction,
said that exactly the same effect could be produced by writing about
places quite handy.