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Spa, or Baden-Baden. We never met any of them on the boulevards in Paris; and even if we had, they do not carry out G. Ui's atrocious libel upon fair Englishwomen's costumes abroad, that it is slovenly and slipshod.
An idea strikes us. We know that in France and other continental countries, luggage is always paid for box by box. We have seen Paterfamilias standing aghast at the pile of trunks he has to see weighed in foreign railway stations. We know this forms a very important source of revenue of their railway companies; is G. U., we ask in all good faith, bribed by them to pile up this mountain of impedimenta still higher, and does he do his work accordingly by abusing, in the Times, his fair countrywomen for their shabbiness?
If I know anything of my fair countrywomen, I think I am not far out in believing that their instincts to make themselves as taking as possible are not likely to be dulled by a visit to Paris; and of this I am certain, the English gentlemen who dress like cabmen, are confined to the personal friends of the fine gentleman who signs himself G. U. in the Times.
THE NEW HOTEL SYSTEM.
When railways were first brought into operation, and one by one the splendidly-appointed mails that used to leave the Post-office yard at St. Martin's-le-Grand dropped out of life, and found their way to coachmakers' backyards, what a revolution was inaugurated in our social habits! Any great invention affecting our social arrangements is sure to carry in its wake other changes scarcely less important. But the first puff of the locomotive, as it sped on its way to Manchester-what a shock it proved to old ways and habits of thought!
In conservative England, however, although the current of change may be moving rapidly in any given direction, it is very remarkable how long old forms and habits will remain to all appearance unchanged by the revolutionizing agent. Progress goes on like the white ant in India, eating out the heart of the thing it attacks, until the outside is hollowed to a shell, which the slightest touch reduces to dust. Let us instance our old Hotel system.
What ages seem to separate us from the days when the travelling world used to put up at the Bell Savage, the Saracen'Head, the Swan with Two Necks, the Black Bull, or the Bell in Holborn! The type of all these famous old inns was pretty much the same great court-yard into which the coach rolled with its heavy load, and a quadrangle surrounded with wooden galleries and balconies by means of which the guests found their way to the different bed-rooms, a low bar, a stuffy coffee-room, and a much superior commercial “ parlour.”
The model was that of the Tabard of Southwark, in which the genius of Chaucer assembled his Canterbury Pilgrims in 1383. Such were the renowned inns of London to which middle-class travellers resorted not more than five-and-twenty years ago. These were the only genuine old hotels in existence.
"Tis true that a sort of mongrel inn, constructed out of three or four old houses, with floors on different levels, and with partitions cobbled up to suit the exigencies of the moment, was from time to time called into existence; but, with the exception of the houses mentioned, there were no other hostels specially built to suit the requirements of the travelling public.
In these inns such things as carpets were not known in the public rooms thirty or forty years ago, and we can all remember the funereal four-posters in the bed-rooms, the old thread-bare carpets, the musty old corner washstand, with the cast-iron soap, which had passed through the hands of countless travellers without even raising the ghost of a lather.
Such was the accommodation Paterfamilias was obliged to put up with on coming to London a quarter of a century ago; nay, in many cases, as late as ten years back; and for charges such as should have commanded all the comforts of home. It is true there were, and still are, certain hotels which sought a particular custom, in which a traveller could be comfortable enough.
For instance, Furnival's Inn, in Holborn, is still the great home for country clergymen and other professional gentlemen who love a good glass of port. The Castle and Falcon is sought by Manchester merchants and other commercial “ gents," and the Spread Eagle, in Gracechurch Street, is still famous as a resort for seafaring men. At the West-end, again, the family hotels are “little heavens below” for those who can command the purse of Fortunatus; and the Clarendon, in Bond Street, is a kind of noble preserve in which all the old and noble families engage suites of apartments for the term of their natural lives paying for them every season, whether they are used or not, whilst its younger sons hold out at Long's. And last, but not least, there is Mivart's, in which they receive nothing lower than crowned heads and princes of the blood royal.
Notwithstanding the controversy carried on in the Times, in which the shortcomings of London hotels were so clearly pointed out, and notwithstanding the splendid hotels which have long flourished in the United States, it seemed as though matters would never mend, and that we were condemned to old buggy four-posters for ever. The hotel proprietor was an Old Man of the Sea, and seemed destined to ride to the end on the shoulders of the British public. Yet the whole system was hollow.
The Great Western Railway Company, about a dozen years ago, built the Great Western Hotel ; five or six gentlemen formed themselves into a company to work it, perchance in fear and trembling, and from the moment its doors were opened to its guests its success has been triumphant. The pressing public want of the age had been discovered, and unheard-of dividends were the result. Since that time a perfect mania for gigantic hotels seems to have taken possession of European capitalists. The Louvre and the Hôtel Grand in Paris have become famous throughout Europe, and in London every large terminus has its mammoth hotel; and the cry is still they come.
No greater contrast can be conceived than that between the old-fashioned London hotel built and added to by succeeding generations, and the splendid palaces constructed after some Palladian design, which we now see towering like huge elephants over the surrounding houses. These establishments have leapt into life, fully armed, like Minerva from the brain of Jupiter. They differ as much from the hotels of our forefathers as & railway-carriage differs from a stagewaggon. The traveller of the present day, in short, enjoys in this metropolis a first-class club life at third-class club prices.
As the Grosvenor is one of the latest and largest of these new railway-terminus hotels, we will accompany the reader through its long galleries and splendid reception-rooms, and give him a general view of the under