the State, and those who have induced the State to make the drink so irrationally dear.

From the standpoint, therefore, of sobriety in drink our licensing system, and the whole policy underlying it, have singularly failed; what progress has been made in recent years towards temperance has been made, I say deliberately, in spite of so-called temperance legislation and the licensing system. A simple test will prove this: Where did the movement towards temperance begin? It began among those classes of society whose members do not use the public-house, and who, except in rare cases, have not been touched by the teetotal propaganda, which has been confined to the working and lower middle classes. The movement has filtered down from the gentleman to the working man, as other movements and fashions, good and bad, have the habit of doing in this country. Neither the administrators of teetotal pledges nor the builders or administrators of licensing laws can claim any credit for the improvement which has been achieved; whereas it may well be argued that a stupid licensing system has retarded the improvement.

But we must avoid falling into the pit which most teetotal propagandists have dug for themselves-that is, of regarding sobriety in the use of fermented beverages as the one virtue worth troubling about. That is the way most heresies have arisen-by confining oneself to one particular doctrine or aspect of the doctrine, perfectly true in itself, but becoming monstrously untrue when taken out of its setting and regarded exclusively. There are other things of capital importance to our well-being besides temperance in drink. Let me name two: freedom, and the building up of character, for which a large measure of freedom is essential. Living in society, a man's freedom to do exactly as he chooses must necessarily be curtailed in some directions. It must be curtailed when a man would do something which would injure or oppress his neighbours. That is a condition, indeed, of the freedom which those neighbours are entitled to enjoy with himself. But, outside certain obviously necessary limitations of personal freedom, one needs to proceed with the utmost caution, and only the strongest case will support interference. It is desirable that men should not become chronic or public drunkards. Most men in most ages and countries are temperate enough, but there is always a minority, of varying size but usually small, of men addicted to drunkenness; and it is evidently desirable that they should cease from their vice. But when, in order that they may so cease, proposals are brought forward for State restriction of the habits and liberties of the whole population, the vast majority of which is in no need of them, restrictions which entail incon

venience and, worse still, must necessarily act upon individual character as the tying up of an arm would act upon the muscles of that arm-then, even if it could be proved that the proposed restrictions would achieve their purpose of sobering the drunken few, would it not be paid for too dearly? Evil as drunkenness is, the absence of it is no virtue when it is produced by vis major; the excellent moral conduct of a prisoner is hardly a virtue worth making much of. To abolish by human force the divinely appointed area in which human free will is designed to operate is an act of blasphemy which in the early days of Christianity, in connexion with an analogous matter to which more detailed reference need not be made, was condemned by the Church. Admirably, therefore, as well as boldly, did a prelate of the Anglican Church declare some years ago, better England free than England sober.' And here we have the final condemnation of teetotal legislation.

'Better free than sober'-but best of all, free and sober. And that is the condition, as the Licensing and Criminal Statistics show, which we are now approaching. The question is how to help forward that desirable consummation. In other words, what is the true line of temperance reform? For some years past now I have been convinced, and my conviction grows in strength, that the true line is to be found mainly in the transformation of the public-house. The public-house is a social necessity. It is, and has long been, not only the place of refreshment for the wayfarer, but the combined club, cellar, and dining-room of the working classes. And instead of being a diminishing necessity, as the State closing of alleged superfluous public-houses would seem to indicate, it is becoming an increasing social necessity; other classes of society, even the most wealthy, are now appreciating the necessity, or at any rate the desirability, of obtaining refreshment and amusement and giving entertainment in public places designed for the purpose, instead of in their own homes. There should therefore be no question of abolishing the public-house. Our sole aim should be to transform it, in accordance with our best practicable ideals.

Let me sketch my own. The ideal public-house would be, allowing, of course, plenty of scope for local variations, a commodious and decent building, into which any passer-by might enter and call for any reasonable kind of refreshment-food or drink, the latter alcoholic or non-alcoholic. He should be able to consume these refreshments comfortably seated in a room well lit, warmed, and ventilated. He should be able not only to smoke, but if he chose, to obtain the materials for smoking also on the premises. The place should be so reputable that,

whatever his social position, he could enter it openly, and even take his wife and children with him and find suitable refreshment there for them. If he were alone he should be able to call for or purchase in the house newspapers and magazines. If he had any business to transact there should be a telephone on the premises for his use. If he had one or more friends, and the party desired amusement other than conversation, they should be able to call for cards, chess or dominoes, or quoits and bowls in the country. Or, if they desired more passive amusement, there should be music to listen to. The humblest inn could provide an hour or two a day of piano playing; the richer the large houses in wealthy towns-could furnish a small orchestra and a vocalist or two. And there is no reason why dancing should not be permitted under due guarantees of respectability. This is the ideal public-house. Such a house as this would add to the innocent enjoyment of the people, and would be an incentive to temperance and good order. No one would misbehave himself in such surroundings by drinking to excess, or by any other form of disorder; public opinion would make such conduct impossible. Upon young people of the working and lower middle classes such a house would exercise a positive influence for good. It would improve their manners, and might improve their morals. They would be better in such a house than in prowling streets and lanes at night; and they would avoid that boredom which is the fruitful parent of all kinds of mischief.

[ocr errors]

Can this ideal be realised? It evidently can. There are difficulties in the way, of course. Has any reform ever been known that has not had to encounter difficulties? But of this I am convinced-that the difficulties in the way of the transformation of the public-house on the lines I have indicated are not insuperable.

Take the obvious practical difficulty which has been allegedthe difficulty of bringing up to a definite standard the many thousands of public-houses up and down the country which to-day not only deviate deplorably from the ideal type, but vary among themselves and in reference to the requirements they have to serve. The answer to this difficulty is that when one speaks of the ideal public-house one is gathering up into a picture a number of qualities to indicate the general type. But there will be particular types; and it is not proposed that all publichouses should conform to exactly the same standard. Let me illustrate by one or two examples.

Take first the commodious, well-appointed house in London or the near suburbs or one of the larger provincial towns-the house which tradesmen, clerks, men of business generally, and

VOL. LXXI-No. 422

3 A

the smaller professional men now patronise in the evening, to chat over a glass of whisky and perhaps play a game of billiards. Many of these houses have been vastly improved already in recent years, and the task of converting them into ideal public-houses would not entail very serious structural or decorative changes. The bars would be removed, or reduced to a mere service bar in a corner of the establishment; tables and easy chairs and a small bandstand would occupy the vacant space; a newspaper kiosk could be installed in one corner, and a counter for the sale of confectionery and tobacco in another; an adjoining small room would do for the telephone, and another room could be fitted with writing tables. And, just as to-day divisions are made between the various bars, so some sort of partition could be put up in the main hall to fence off the serious diners from those who only want light refreshment. Where possible a sort of conservatory should be thrown out, to give an air of lightness and coolness and to add to the pleasant and picturesque appearance of the house; and the floor would be carpeted with matting and rugs. There would be a sufficient display of programmes, setting forth the daily fare of all edibles and beverages (with prices), as well as of the music to be performed in the afternoon or evening. In most of such houses as are now contemplated it would also be practicable and desirable to provide an adjoining room where women, alone or with children, could go if they preferred it. One could instance further details, but enough has been said to indicate the transformation which could be wrought in the better-class town or suburban public-house.

But the town public-house frequented by poorer folk is even more in need of transformation. The change is not quite so easy, but it is not impossible of attainment when allowance is made for the fact that the full programme of accessories such as have been outlined in the previous paragraph would not be expected with this class of house. It is all a matter of degree. The varieties of refreshment and entertainment and decoration would be on a simpler scale-that is all. The class of customers in Whitechapel would not want (and would not pay for) such luxurious service as would be expected in Hampstead. Yet, in spite of comparative simplicity, the change would be greater than in the case of the class of house previously referred to. The light and warmth of the public-house as it is to-day in the poorer quarters of towns would be retained; but, by the abolition of the stuffy compartment system and the big space-destroying bars, fresher air would be secured, and the additional space would get rid of crowding and allow a sufficiency of comfortable seats; while inexpensive but clean and simple, well-cooked and appe

tising food would furnish a welcome alternative to the monotonous pewter pots of beer. These and the like alterations (which in most cases could be achieved without structural extensions) would transform the average poor man's public-house out of recognition, and he and his womenfolk would quickly respond to the new conditions and improve their own appearance and manners to accord therewith. In this class of house, above all, the opportunity of resting in comfort, playing a game of draughts or dominoes, hearing the popular songs and dances on a piano and violin, eating decently cooked meals, reading a newspaper or writing a letter, would be appreciated; and the popularity of the new style of house would stimulate licensees to compete with each other in adding such comforts, adornments, and entertainments as their ingenuity could suggest, and their means render possible.

A third type of house may be mentioned-the village inn. The same sort of improvements would not be wanted here as in town public-houses, but the opportunities are almost equally great. More often than not the village inn has some ground attached which could be utilised for bowls, and other games, or a miniature rifle gallery, a dancing lawn, or an al fresco concert place. At the least, comfortable chairs and settees and small tables could be provided for the patronage of the public. in fine weather. As to the interior, in many village inns this is picturesque enough now, and would need little more than a brightening up on lines which would be harmonious with the character of an old hostelry. A common fault at present with many of these places is that space is rather cramped in them, but the abolition of a bar, and the opening out of two or three small rooms into one large room, would usually remove this difficulty; and building out, when necessary, would not be a serious operation in a village. Where the house was of sufficient importance the adjoining courtyard could be roofed in with glass, and be floored with tiles, as I have seen done with excellent results in a Norfolk hotel.

Such attractions as musical entertainment would, of course, be both simpler and less frequent in the village than in the town, but some provision could be made for them, and they would be even more appreciated than in the town. The traveller would heartily welcome such a haven of refreshment; but the village resident, for whom it would chiefly exist, would enjoy it quite as much; for it would brighten up and dispel the monotony of village life, and the mechanical manufacture of lethargic village topers would soon die out. In the right sort of situation-the green, or the outskirts of the village street-and with the right

« VorigeDoorgaan »