There was a very painful scene last week at the dinner of the Benchers of Gray's Inn. It seems that one of the chief justices had undertaken to make home brew for the Benchers, just as the people do on our side of the water. He got one of the waiters to fetch him some hops and three raw potatoes, a packet of yeast and some boiling water. In the end, four of the Benchers were carried out dead. But they are going to give them a public funeral in the Abbey.
I regret to say that the death list in the Royal Navy is very heavy. Some of the best sailors are gone, and it is very difficult to keep admirals. But I have tried to explain to the people here that these are merely the things that one must expect, and that, with a little patience, they will have bone-dry admirals and bone-dry statesmen just as good as the wet ones. Even the clergy can be dried up with firmness and perseverance.
There was also a slight sensation here when the Chancellor of the Exchequer brought in his first appropriation for maintaining prohibition. From our point of view in America, it was modest enough. But these people are not used to it. The Chancellor merely asked for ten million pounds a month to begin on; he explained that his task was heavy; he has to police, not only the entire coast, but also the interior; for the Grampian Hills of Scotland alone he asked a million. There was a good deal of questioning in the House over these figures. The Chancellor was asked if he intended to keep a hired spy at every street corner in London. He answered, "No, only on every other street." He added also that every spy must wear a brass collar with his number.
I must admit further, and I am sorry to have to tell you this, that now we have prohibition it is becoming increasingly difficult to get a drink. In fact, sometimes, especially in the very early morning, it is most inconvenient and almost impossible. The public houses being closed, it is necessary to go into a drug store--just as it is with us--and lean up against the counter and make a gurgling sound like apoplexy. One often sees these apoplexy cases lined up four deep.
But the people are finding substitutes, just as they do with us. There is a tremendous run on patent medicines, perfume, glue and nitric acid. It has been found that Shears' soap contains alcohol, and one sees people everywhere eating cakes of it. The upper classes have taken to chewing tobacco very considerably, and the use of opium in the House of Lords has very greatly increased.
But I don't want you to think that if you come over here to see me, your private life will be in any way impaired or curtailed. I am glad to say that I have plenty of rich connections whose cellars are very amply stocked. The Duke of Blank is said to have 5,000 cases of Scotch whiskey, and I have managed to get a card of introduction to his butler. In fact you will find that, just as with us in America, the benefit of prohibition is intended to fall on the poorer classes. There is no desire to interfere with the rich.
IX.--"We Have With Us To-night"
NOT only during my tour in England but for many years past it has been my lot to speak and to lecture in all sorts of places, under all sorts of circumstances and before all sorts of audiences. I say this, not in boastfulness, but in sorrow. Indeed, I only mention it to establish the fact that when I talk of lecturers and speakers, I talk of what I know.