Said a friend of mine to me some months ago: “Well now, why don’t you write a sensible book? I should like to see you make people think.”
“Do you believe it can be done, then?” I asked.
“Well, try,” he replied.
Accordingly, I have tried. This is a sensible book. I want you to understand that. This is a book to improve your mind. In this book I tell you all about Germany—at all events, all I know about Germany—and the Ober-Ammergau Passion Play. I also tell you about other things. I do not tell you all I know about all these other things, because I do not want to swamp you with knowledge. I wish to lead you gradually. When you have learnt this book, you can come again, and I will tell you some more. I should only be defeating my own object did I, by making you think too much at first, give you a perhaps, lasting dislike to the exercise. I have purposely put the matter in a light and attractive form, so that I may secure the attention of the young and the frivolous. I do not want them to notice, as they go on, that they are being instructed; and I have, therefore, endeavoured to disguise from them, so far as is practicable, that this is either an exceptionally clever or an exceptionally useful work. I want to do them good without their knowing it. I want to do you all good—to improve your minds and to make you think, if I can.
What you will think after you have read the book, I do not want to know; indeed, I would rather not know. It will be sufficient reward for me to feel that I have done my duty, and to receive a percentage on the gross sales.
London, March, 1891.MONDAY, 19TH
My Friend B.—Invitation to the Theatre.—A Most Unpleasant Regulation.—Yearnings of the Embryo Traveller.—How to Make the Most of One’s Own Country.—Friday, a Lucky Day.—The Pilgrimage Decided On.
My friend B. called on me this morning and asked me if I would go to a theatre with him on Monday next.
“Oh, yes! certainly, old man,” I replied. “Have you got an order, then?”
“No; they don’t give orders. We shall have to pay.”
“Pay! Pay to go into a theatre!” I answered, in astonishment. “Oh, nonsense! You are joking.”
“My dear fellow,” he rejoined, “do you think I should suggest paying if it were possible to get in by any other means? But the people who run this theatre would not even understand what was meant by a ‘free list,’ the uncivilised barbarians! It is of no use pretending to them that you are on the Press, because they don’t want the Press; they don’t think anything of the Press. It is no good writing to the acting manager, because there is no acting manager. It would be a waste of time offering to exhibit bills, because they don’t have any bills—not of that sort. If you want to go in to see the show, you’ve got to pay. If you don’t pay, you stop outside; that’s their brutal rule.”
“Dear me,” I said, “what a very unpleasant arrangement! And whereabouts is this extraordinary theatre? I don’t think I can ever have been inside it.”
“I don’t think you have,” he replied; “it is at Ober-Ammergau—first turning on the left after you leave Ober railway-station, fifty miles from Munich.”