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the pious woman speaks in the simple lines she wrote in her diary that evening :
May 1.-the great event has taken place-a complete and beautiful triumph-a glorious and touching sight, one which I shall ever be proud of for my beloved Albert and my country. . . . Yes! it is a day which makes my heart swell with pride and glory and thankfulness! . . . The sight as we came to the middle where the steps and chair (which I did not sit on) were placed, with the beautiful crystal fountain just in front of it, was magical-so vast, so glorious, so touching. One felt-as so many did whom I have since spoken to-filled with devotion-more so than by any service I have ever heard. The tremendous cheers, the joy expressed in every face, the immensity of the building, the mixture of palms, flowers, trees, statues, fountains, the organ (with 200 instruments and 600 voices which sounded like nothing), and my beloved husband the author of this Peace Festival,' which united the industry of all the nations of the earth-all this was moving indeed, and it was, and is, a day to live for ever. God bless my dearest Albert! God bless my dearest country, which has shown itself so great to-day! One felt so grateful to the great God, who seemed to pervade all and bless all!
To a generation like that of the present day, steeped in constant amusement and excitement, these words may seem exaggerated or even incomprehensible, but to those who can look back a long way they are most touching and pathetic, because the new era inaugurated by this great Exhibition with such glorious hopes has landed us in such troubled waters.
In the middle of the nineteenth century the waters were very clear and still. The scum which always rises to the top in all Revolutions, and which had been mightily stirred up on the Continent in '48 and '49, had again sunk to the bottom, but unfortunately much of it had settled down in England. England felt herself strong and peaceful enough to harbour all the disturbing spirits which were expelled from their native soil. But the Italian proverb says Poco favilla gran fiamma seconda,'' and who knows whether this generous act of hospitality, at first only offered to political offenders but now extended to every class of agitators, has not been one of the chief causes of our present troubles?
When the Exhibition closed, a splendid success, the problem arose what to do with the Palace. Some wished it to be turned into a winter garden for the delectation of Londoners, and the surplus money, nearly a quarter of a million, to be applied to this purpose. But the Prince Consort interposed. He did not think a pleasure palace necessary for the London public, as the chief object for which it had been built was the promotion of human industry and not of popular recreation. The minds of the early and mid-Victorian Englishmen must have been of a different temper from those of our days, for the Prince carried 1 'A small spark lights a great flame.'
his decision. Not for amusement but for instruction and national advance were the palatial halls to be preserved. To-day no institute, no village hall could live unless the best part of it were devoted to amusement. Cards and billiard tables are a sine quâ non, for they only, alas! attract the young.
The Prince had to deal with many difficulties, but he had to deal, if I may so express myself, with Roman souls, whilst the Byzantine soul of the present day has other needs.
The Crystal Palace was constructed at a time when taste was supposed to be bad (though lately there has been rather a reaction on this point), but work was still good; the workman had a conscience and much pride in what he produced, and this gives things of that time a certain attraction. In the building of the Crystal Palace beauty was united to good work, and thus it stands to-day as a memorial of the initial stage of England's Imperial era; for though many may only date this from the day when Lord Beaconsfield's genius evolved the idea of crowning Queen Victoria Empress of India, he no doubt read, with subtle intuition, the thought in the public mind, and we may assume that the great Exhibition of 1851 was a powerful factor in its birth.
The Government, after considering the question a long time, declined to take over the Crystal Palace for the benefit of the nation. It is the drawback of a severely constitutional country, and especially of Party Government, that such opportunities are constantly allowed to slip. A Republic like France would have seized upon it at once, and most countries with autocratic rulers would have most certainly bought it. The purchase of the Palace was left to private enterprise, and under the guidance of intelligent and energetic men the colossal structure was transferred by an army of 7000 men to its present position.
It would have been difficult to find a finer site, for from it the eye roves over half a dozen counties, and the lungs breathe a most invigorating and diamantine air-a treasure which the jaded Londoner has not yet sufficiently appreciated. If the modern Englishman had one half of the hygienic instinct of the ancient Greek, the Crystal Palace would long ago have been converted into a Palace of Health, second to none in the world. But unfortunately in health as in many other things we shut the door only after the mare has been stolen; we talk of cures when it is prevention we ought to think of.
Better to hunt in fields for Health unbought
Never did poet write truer lines.
The appalling statistics about the degeneration of the race ought to alarm the public, but it looks on with indifference. I transcribe the following from General Baden-Powell's Scoutbook of 1911, p. 177 :
Recent reports on the deterioration of our race ought to act as a warning to be taken in time before it goes too far.
One cause which contributed to the downfall of the Roman Empire was the fact that the soldiers fell away from the standard of their forefathers in bodily strength.
Our standard of height in the army was 5 feet 6 inches in 1845; it was four inches less in 1895. In 1900 forty-four men in every thousand recruits weighed under 7 st. 12 lb. ; in 1905 this deficiency had increased to seventysix per thousand.
In 1908 our recruits were 2 inches below the standard height of men of their age-viz. eighteen to nineteen-and six pounds under the average weight. Three thousand men were sent home from the South African War on account of bad teeth.
Then General Baden-Powell goes on to give statistics about school-children which are even more sad and discouraging, for they are younger than the soldiers, and the report shows how rapidly deterioration is growing. The astounding part of it all is that most of the diseases the present generation suffers from would be quite easily preventable by a wise legislation and educating the public mind to grasping the necessity of being healthy. A low motive would perhaps with the unevolved be the best incentive, and if they understood that health means money, they might be converted to a better way of living. If the people will not do it for themselves it is the duty of the Government to teach them. How can a nation be great when it is not healthy? How can it keep up a high moral standard? How can it be happy? 'The voice of joy and health is in the dwellings of the righteous,' says the Psalmist, but we do not hear the voice of joy or health in England, and the terrible thing is that only few, a very few, seem to miss it. The perfect balance of the soul and body is the sine quâ non of success. The poet's three words, Health, peace, and competence' are what is wanted for the people, but how can the two last be secured without the first and most important? What is the good of all the reforms made from time to time if the nation is not taught to understand them?
Some months ago an excellent and most beneficial campaign was made for wholesome bread. Whether it ever penetrated much below the upper classes is very doubtful, but even they are beginning to be slack about it now and accept again the bad bread the baker sends them. The great masses cling to their gallons of poisonous stewed tea, their bad beer, their uncooked, wasteful, unnutritious food, their tinned stuff, and their patent medicines. A nation that lives thus must degenerate. A
great food reform ought to be initiated by the Government; there is no difficulty about it, if given into the hands of those who really understand it. The whole system of diet in prisons, workhouses, asylums, schools, as well as in the Army and Navy, needs to be reformed, and one could double the health, while halving the expense, for it would be chiefly done out of savings, and why should not prisons and schools, &c., be made a means of educating the inmates and children as to how they could feed easily and economically afterwards?
Why should not the Crystal Palace be made into a great School of Health for all manner of people, for all ages from infancy to childhood, for girls and boys, for young mothers on to middle and old age? It would be a school with practical demonstration in everything pertaining to health. Demonstrations in cooking, gymnastics, and dancing; sun and air baths, and every kind of water cure. There would be air huts for those who wish to learn the simple life and nature cures; no place could be more perfect for this ideal way of recovering health than the Crystal Palace, as on rainy days it would provide a shelter and amusement and exercise. Hygienic clothing would be taught and hygienic living in its best sense. The theme and scope are so large that they would fill volumes, and yet so simple that the rules once learnt become a second nature to those who have thoroughly grasped them.
Health taught in such a way, in such a place, would be the strong wings which would raise England again to its glorious place in the Council of Nations. No well-balanced and selfreliant people would have shown the pusillanimous and constant preoccupation about war and invasions which has been so rife these latter years. Then what a boon would such a place be so near London, so vast, and with such air! All the over-tired, the exhausted, the nervous, the bored, the over-amused, could in one week, under proper tuition, learn what health really means, and discover the philosophy of life.
Nor would this be all. This scheme of public health would only embrace the buildings surrounding the Crystal Palace. The central monument, and those buildings erected in connexion. with the Festival of Empire, could be made use of as a vast Empire Club, where Colonials would feel themselves at home, where they could have exhibits of their produce, where in a few days or hours they could learn to know all about the Mother Country, and then the ties which shall and must unite England to her children will be welded faster than ever.
The wisdom of the older country will temper the impetuosity of the younger ones, the go and dash of their children will infuse new vigour into the parent. Bound firmly to her Colonies and
supported by their common sense and energy, England would no longer be lured by the mirages of the Demagogue and Jacobin; she would spurn the foreign agitator, whose only aim is to undermine her strength, because she has stood for so long as the prototype of law, order, and high moral sense in the van of the nations.
Only a patriotic, large-hearted, united Empire can ensure the continuance of Great Britain's power. It is only by meeting that Englishmen and Colonials will learn to know and appreciate each other.
Let the Palace of Crystal, an emblem of strength and purity, be the trysting ground where parent and children shall unite in love and loyalty to build an Empire, just, strong, and beneficent for the happiness of the nation and an example to the world.