Life In New York City: Random Gossip 1885 #2
 

 
 THE CHARITY BALL this year was an agreeable surprise. The managers and those interested in this now time honored entertainment were much chagrined last year by the entire failure of the ball. It was the first time it had ever been held in the Metropolitan, and as that structure was then gloomy and repellant and the people were unaccustomed to it, the ball had an air of strangeness which did not add to this attraction. Society people sat stiffly in their boxes until 12 o'clock and stared at the more venturesome ones who danced, and the laxity and carelessness in disposing of the tickets resulted in the attendance of a class of people who were in every way objectionable. This year, however, much more care was exercised and for some unexplained reason society people entered into the spirit of the ball with the most extraordinary vim. The number girls of who have been introduced into society during the past month is fabulous. They have all the eagerness of debutantes for the dance, and the admirable appearance of the Metropolitan, the capital floor and a well dressed throng were irresistible attractions to them. The rosebuds descended in swarms and danced till after 2 o'clock.

The effect was to make the ball a striking success, and Mr. Arthur Leary, who founded the charity something over a quarter of a century ago, was in a state of beatific and gratified serenity. In the course of four or five years the Charity will become even more popular than it is now, if the present tendency of society to defer the opening of the Winter season continues. Everyone knows how much more of a success a ball is at the beginning of a season when everybody is fresh and it is more or less of a novelty than when it comes along later on, after people have been eating dyspeptic suppers, dancing when they ought to have been asleep and turning everything tipsy turvey for months. The festivities of New York's Winter season are at last fairly under way. it is evident, however, to close students of social customs here that it will only be a question of a few years when the regular season will begin with the new year. People who have country places generally remain away until the middle of November as it is. Then, as they generally run out to spend Christmas week in the country, the season really amounts to little before New Year's day. Of course, the shorter the season is the faster it goes and there will be such a whirl in society from now until May that "our best people" by the way, I have never been able to tell whether this expression is satirical or not will heartily welcome the advent of Spring and the rest of an ocean voyage.

MR. GEORGE AUGUSTUS SALA is probably the foremost reporter in the world today. he is a journalist of unbounded popularity among newspaper men, because he is not of the tribe of fancy, gilt edged and aesthetic London writers, w ho have so often disappointed the men who have entertained them on this side of the water. Some of the most detestable snobs I have ever met, and there are a good many floating about now, have been English writers. Apparently, they are men of most stupendous importance in their own minds, but it is impossible to find anything, either in their talk or their newspaper work, which warrants such magnificent estimates of themselves as they seem to hold. Nothing can exceed the contempt which an average newspaper worker by which I mean a man who writes every day for his daily bread, and whose work appears in a journal of some standing in the newspaper world fees for the pompous men who pose as "journalists" and who are considered uncommonly prolific; if they produce five ideas in the year. Mr. Sala, who even at this period of his life does, on occasions, bits of reportorial work that are precisely in the line of the duties of any first class newspaper reporter, announces with the utmost frankness that he has come to America to make money by delivering a few lectures, and he adds with the same candor that he is very much in need of money. He is a red faced man with a prodigious nose, of which many anecdotes are told, many of them a trifle too broad for publication. He is a distinguished rounder in London and perhaps the most extraordinary feature of this life there is that no one knows where he lives. After he leaves his office in the afternoon he is lost until he turns up the following day. That sort of thing is possible in London, but not in New York. Mr. Sala it is pronounced salla and sayla has been dined and wined extensively and he will be received tomorrow by the New York Press Club before he goes West on his lecture tour. Speaking of him recalls the names of the other two London journalists who are widely known in America Labouchere, of Truth, and Edmund Yates, of the World.

The papers controlled by these two men are the town gossips of England. They deal in personalities and small talk, and when they are lugged into the courts, as it occasionally happens, on scandalous and libelous charges, the whole of England is interested. They illustrate a phase of journalism which is just getting a foothold in New York. Many newspaper men here dream of starting a London Truth in New York, a weekly paper written in short paragraphs and devoted to comments on the passing show. Thus far, however, the scheme has never been successful, and I think it is largely because there has been no Edmund Yates or Henry Labouchere to head it. The reason London Truth has so much influence is because its utterances concerning the Government and high social life are known to be trustworthy. Mr. Labouchere is himself a Member of Parliament and a man of distinction and influence in political life. Mr. Yates knows every one and goes everywhere. The trials in the police courts show that the papers are written for by Duchesses, countesses and spiteful women in every rank of life who have interesting bits of scandal to relate, or who desire to vent their spleen. The ordinary citizen who reads London Truth has a good deal of the same sensation as he would have if talking familiarly with a great and important personage. Therein lies the success of the paper. The attempts to establish journals similar to that of Labouchere in New York have been many. No less than three have seen the light within two weeks. One of these, a little weekly called the Citizen, is edited by a man who was once a park commissioner, then a State senator and later on a lawyer of some distinction in New York. It is a clean, correctly written and serious little journal, which utters a number of cutting strictures upon New York politics and speaks with an air of authority on municipal affairs; but it will not interest people outside of the City Hall to any large extent, unless some new features are introduced.

ANOTHER PAPER IS THE TOWN, a little pamphlet which sells for five cents and may form an opposition to Life. It has society pictures and a few comments on people who are socially prominent. The third of the new papers is known as Town Topics. It is built up from the ashes of a defunct society paper, and its editor is making an ambitious effort to place it in a good position among the weekly papers of New York. Mr. James B. Townsend, the editor of Town Topics, is a man who is himself in the swim, and who adds to an extensive acquaintance with society people the ability to write cleverly and brightly of their doings. He is assisted by a corps of capable men, and if a paper after the style of the London Truth, without a Labouchere, can become a success in New York, a bright future for Town Topics is already assured. The second venture of which I speak, the Town, is named after a little society paper, which flourished for a short time two or three years ago here, and made a startling reputation for its editor. It was small and wasp like. For a time it was the talk of society, and then it gradually melted away, because the editor in the course of a few weeks wrote himself out. I am afraid that will be the trouble with the men who are conducting all the new newspapers which have recently seen the light. It costs money to buy clever matter for a weekly paper from experienced writers, and as the weekly papers have seldom much money to spend, the editor attempts to do all the work himself. There are no spiteful duchesses and countesses to help him in America, and so he is likely to become monotonous. Town Topics, the Town and the Citizen are three very unattractive names, by the way.

ALTHOUGH MADAME RISTORI'S ENGAGEMENT in New York was a failure she was quite a social success here, and the warmth of her reception may have in some sense atoned for her failure at the theater. A number of small dinner parties were given in her honor and she attended several receptions at houses that are given to entertaining celebrities. There are fully a dozen society women of the Mrs. Leo Hunter stripe in town, and any celebrity who arrives here is apt to be besieged by invitations. One of these entertainers, a clever amateur actress and the wife of a husband who idolizes her, is so much like Mrs. Ponsonby de Tompkins that one would imagine that Punch's celebrated pictures of that clever woman were aimed especially at her, were it not for the fact that she has never been across the water. Nothing pleases women of this peculiar bent so much as to secure some eminent person for a guest at dinner. But eminent personages become so sly early in their careers that it is extremely difficult to bag them unless you secure them on their about to become a professional is the most pestiferous.

Why is it that such a man cannot see that the fact of his going on the stage is not a matter of life and death importance to men who are so unfortunate as to know him. Capable and clever amateur actors like Mr. Robert C. Hilliard or Mr. R.S. Hill, who act as a diversion and who usually find something else to talk about than their histrionic experiences, are not open to the charges that are made against the majority of amateur actors. The man I speak of is the one who imagines he is a genius. He has a tendency to wear his hair long and walks with an abstracted air. He mouths his words in a way that makes one blush for the English language and he considers Lawrence Barrett a great tragedian. After he has been an amateur actor for seven or eight years and has devoted so much attention to it that his employers have decided to do without him on account of his lack of attention to his business, he makes up his mind to go on the stage. That is all right, but the trouble is he never goes. He prepares and prepares, shouts through quarter after quarter of elocution lessons, takes instruction from some broken down old actor, who has himself been a failure all his life, and finally, if he is utterly pitiless, gives an entertainment for the purpose of raising sufficient funds to finish his much talked of preparations for the stage. If he is very poor and he finds it absolutely necessary to do something for a living, he will perhaps get a position as sort of half super in some combination company and go out upon the road. This is always a blessing, for you never hear of him again. If he happens to have money the results are much more serious. The stage struck girl who is encouraged to play a knock kneed and weak lunged Juliet for her debut, inspires pity, but we feel none for the occasional young man who essays Hamlet on his first appearance on the professional stage.

A MISSION SPECIALLY designed to look after the little girls who sell newspapers in lower New York should be organized. There is plenty of work for such charity and it seems to be a field quite uncovered by the many benevolent societies which have made New York famous among charitable cities. There are hundreds literally hundreds of ragged, tattered and dirty little girls who infest Park Row and the City Hall Park from 5 o'clock in the evening until far into the night. If a more utterly wretched class of children can be found in New York I don't know where to look for them. The little creatures are hardened to all sorts of abuse, and aside from their pathetic condition, they are a nuisance to the public. When a man is hurrying along, two or three of them will run by his side for blocks, holding fast to his coat and begging him to buy their penny papers. They snivel and cry and put on all the airs of professional beggars, nd when they are stepped on as they usually are, they set up a howl and attract attention everywhere. A coin pacifies them and they rush for the next victim. I have seen scores of them out as late as midnight around Newspaper Row, still begging the passers by to purchase their papers from them. The police say that by the time they get to be fourteen years old, they drift into the dens along Chatham street and become the most degraded women of the Metropolis, and the few philanthropists who have attempted to do something for these ragged little women have found it difficult of success. They are all furnished with papers by their parents or whoever happens to take care of them, and they are afraid to return to their homes until they have disposed of all their stock.

SOME MONTHS AGO I suggested in the Eagle that the capitalists were erecting too many hotels in the vicinity of the Metropolitan Opera House. To my heartfelt grief, and very much to my surprise, the capitalists continued to erect their hotels after that paragraph was published. The revenge has been uncommonly swift in this instance. The hotels are in a most disastrous condition, financially. One of them has failed so often that the head waiter told me the other day that he was anxious to know which of the five recent owners he could hold for his salary for the month of December. Another hotel has made a formerly rich man poor. It is not a pleasant neighborhood for hotels and the buildings which have been erected there, despite acres of stained glass, square miles of tiling and tons of brass nails, have not succeeded in attracting the public.

B.H.


 

Website: The History Box.com
Article Name: Life In New York City: Random Gossip 1885 #2
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina

Source:

Brooklyn Daily Eagle January 11,1885
Time & Date Stamp: