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We are accustomed to think of the Sultan of Turkey as a sort of heavy villain of a melo-drama; an inhuman wretch with an inordinate thirst for human gore, whose favorite diversion is butchering the poor Armenians. But the Sultan is only human after all, and aside from his notorious cruelty—which is partially religious fanaticism and partially a race characteristic—he has some very quiet and civilized tastes. Among other things he is very fond of music, preferring operatic selections of the old Italian school. He must make a rather amusing picture, this bloodthirsty Hamed of Turkey, pounding out those quaint airs from "La Fille de Madame Angot" on his piano to the ladies of his harem, who are probably bored to death and wishing the old fellow would learn something new. We are all a good deal alike after all; the villain has his soft spots and the saint his weaknesses. Some one should send the Sultan the intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana, as every one who cannot play at all is sure to rank that among their favorite selections.
One of the most peculiar legal cases that have come up this year is the suit of Messrs. Gordon & Keith, an undertaking firm of Halifax, against the Queen of England, for a settlement of their bill for their services at the funeral of Sir John Thompson, late Governor General of Canada. It is the fashion to speak of the Queen only in eupheuistic language. As many eulogies have been written about her as about any of her predecessors, and Tennyson wrote his prettiest rhymes about her, and her perfection as a sovereign and woman is generally taken for granted. While the Queen's virtues are many, generosity has never been one of them. From Prince William down the kings of the Hanover line have been a niggardly set of monarchs. George II. came very near having a war with the king of Prussia over half a dozen windmills. His successor's treatment of the American Colonies was actuated by greed. Victoria is undoubtedly free from the most glaring faults of her ancestors, but she has all their reluctance about paying out good English pounds. Her financial policy has been very evident in the matrimonial dispositions she has made of her numerous family. Public sentiment very nearly revolted some years ago when she engaged poor May of Teck to Duke Clarence and then, when the Duke died because he had too much of his princely papa's blood in his veins to live long, straightway married her off to his younger brother within a twelve-month after the funeral. But whatever policy the Queen may see fit to follow in her own family, it would certainly seem that, if only to avoid public scandal, she would bury her minister decently, and even pay for his interment. It is an awkward thing for a powerful sovereign to be sued for an undertaker's bill, and I am not aware that it has before occurred in history.
Although the fact of Mark Twain's financial collapse is well known, it seems strange that an author who is at once so voluminous and so popular should find himself in straitened circumstances. But Mr. Clemens, like his own optimistic "Colnel Peppers," has an unfortunate tendency for business speculation. This sort of amusement is particularly dangerous for a literary man, who is not likely to have much practical knowledge of business as a foundation for his schemes. Mr. Clemens has dabbled in business enterprises of various kinds and has generally found the big figures on the wrong side of the balance sheet. His principal losses, however, were incurred in his ventures at publishing. Not only has his entire fortune been dissipated, but his old-time vigor is much impaired, and he neither writes as well or as much as he once did. He is now lecturing abroad, and his friends hope that the tour and change of work will greatly benefit him. Recently Mr. Clemens' work has been but an echo of his old self, and he has done nothing in his old vigorous style since he wrote "Pudd'nhead Wilson." Perhaps new environment and a rest from the strain of constant writing will give him back something of what he has lost.
An event of unusual importance in educational circles will take place in Pittsburgh the 23d, 24th and 25th of March—the celebration of the one-hundred-and-tenth anniversary of the Western University of Pennsylvania. In our cold-blooded, matter-of-fact way we have many of us overlooked the fact that we have in our midst the oldest educational institution west of the Alleghany mountains, except one, a small institution in Tennessee.
Dr. W. J. Holland, Chancellor of the University, has taken steps to fittingly celebrate the event. Invitations have been extended to the leading officers and professors of all colleges east and west, to come together and rejoice with us, and the invitations are being accepted with an alacrity that promises a rare gathering. Some of the meetings will, of course, be held in the University building, but the more popular meetings will take place in Carnegie Music Hall. Let the people of Pittsburgh wake up to the fact that educators elsewhere appreciate the great work that has been done, and is being done in our midst. The Western University of Pennsylvania is second in size only to The University of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia and in its prosperity and bright prospects all good citizens will rejoice. Watch the daily papers for announcements of the details of this celebration.
So the Bradley-Martin ball, much advertised by press and pulpit, is over and a thing of the past, and never was a party so much discussed, or watched with such interest. Was there a loafer on the Bowery or a waif in "Hogan's Alley" who didn't feel an individual and personal interest in that ball? The costumes furnished the principal subject of conversation among the shop girls for weeks beforehand, and on that eventful night the whole city of New York surged by the gleaming windows of the Waldorf. Talk about the "lower classes" resenting extravagant outlay,—why they were the people who enjoyed it, just as the audience enjoys a play that is tame enough to the actors. For the actual pleasure that the participants got out of this colossal fête must have been very small though they paid something like $100,000 an hour for it.
The ball was a very stiff and formal affair. It was too formal to admit of much sociability and the guests were too numerous to be congenial. They went there to be magnificent, not to enjoy themselves, and the atmosphere was one of solemn grandeur rather than of levity. The whole affair was one great spectacular show in which the elite of New York appeared as performers for the glory of the Bradley Martins.
The attention that this party has received from editors and eminent divines has only served to pique the public curiosity. Certainly if Mr. Bradley Martin wants to give a party with his own money it is no one's business but his own. He can much better afford to spend $100,000 on a party than plenty of people who give parties costing $100 can afford to expend that comparatively trivial sum. The cost of a man's entertainment is his own affair, just as the dimensions of his tailor's bill are. But, on the other hand, the argument that the money this great masquerade cost goes into the hands of the working people who need it is equally fallacious. It was paid to fashionable caterers and florists who were already wealthy.
But this was not the only extravagant ball that new York has seen. The great Vanderbilt masque given some thirteen years ago was quite as magnificent, though that was in the old days when exclusive society still held to its "Four Hundred" and had not been extended to fifteen hundred. That ball was given in the Fifth Avenue hotel. Ward McAllister was there, dressed as the Count de la Mole, and Mrs. "Willie K." Vanderbilt—Mrs. "Willie K." no longer, alas!—appeared as a Venetian Princess. It was on that occasion, too, that Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt appeared as "Electricity" in a gown the whole front of which was ablaze with diamonds. So it was not entirely without precedent that, while the spirit of discontent is abroad in the land, the Bradley Martins and their friends danced in those same costumes worn by the unhappy Louis XVI. and his court just one hundred and six years ago, when the mob had already sworn the doom of the palace at Versailles, and under the breath of the music could be heard the roar of the oncoming Revolution.