Title: The Biggest Man in London | It is the Hon. Buffalo Bill--He May Kill Himself with Tea if he Wants To

Periodical: New York Sun

Date: May 29, 1887

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It is the Hon. Buffalo Bill—He May Kill

Himself with Tea if he Wants To.

LONDON, May 20. —It may be true, as Life asserts, that Buffalo Bill has not had the offer of the Bulgarian throne, but there is good reason to apprehend that the English Government will soon be at a standstill, and that the other disturber of English equanimity, the Crimes bill, will come to grief if the Wild West show is to be quartered in the vicinity of London for any great length of time. The Queen, by her august presence with her court and Parliament, has endorsed the exhibition. In the words of a London reporter, "princes, politicians, and players" have rushed in crowds to the mimic hunting grounds, and have smoked the calumet [1] with the feather-topped Redshirt, and the "magnificent man" of the flowing locks. But, what is more remarkable, London society has opened its arms to this conquering hero, and already not to know and to have shaken hands with Buffalo Bill argues the humiliating fact that one is without the pale.

No longer does my Lady Lofty content herself with numbering the Prince of Wales among her guests. A greater than he has risen in her horizon, and a terrible suspense torments her while she awaits a reply to her invitation to this star of the first magnitude—this comet might be a more fitting figure—to shine in her constellation. Many a stately dame of high degree is doomed to disappointment, for are there not in the guadily painted Indian basket upon his rude camp table, scores of perfumed notes of invitation, begging the honor of the presence of this American exhibitor in marble halls, whose vassals wait in plush and satin to receive him! Five o'clock teas and "at homes" are but so many conferences devoted to Buffalo Bill.

The Royal Academy, [2] the Grosvenor, [3] the Furniss exhibition, [4] the Royal Opera, [5] even Irving's [6] revival of Pickwick "Jingle," themes that would otherwise usurp the social hour, are banished now from drawing rooms, for the mind and soul and heart of London are possessed with one idea—Wild West Bill, as I have heard him designated. The subject is fast resolving itself into the question whether the Queen's jubilee [7] is to be an incident of Buffalo Bill's capture of London, or whether Buffalo Bill is an incident of the jubilee.

Citizens of the United States, who chance to be sojourning in England have discovered that the most effectual method of advancing their interests is to put themselves en rapport with the barbaric feature of the American Exhibition—not to rely upon the inventions, or intelligence, or art exhibits of the Yankees, but rather to identify themselves with the brotherhood of Buffalo Bill and Red Chief. Mexican hats and Indian blankets would surely be the fashion in Piccadilly [8] if English people ever changed their customs or their costumes. Now and then one meets a conservative individual or sensitive woman who ventures a faint protest against those barbarian invaders, but such are quickly overruled.

During an hour spent recently in the drawing room of Miss Hogarth [9] (sister-in-law of Dickens [10] ) I found opportunity to note a slight conflict of opinion on the popular and really prevailing subject. One visitor knew positively that it was impossible to secure Col. Cody's acceptance of invitations to any more dinners or balls, for Lady B. had told her that his engagements were already "weeks deep," running on to the end of London's brief season. The servant announced the entrance of another guest, and I turned my ear, sure of a respite from the Wild West eulogies. Not so. A sentence or two about the late spring and Queen's drawing room of the day previous, and then the inevitable question of not "Have you seen," but, assuming that fact, "What do you think of Buffalo Bill?" One lady, who had participated in the festivities tendered to the American stranger and ranger, and who had breakfasted with this social lion at "Wild West Brompton," confessed to some misgivings at taking a cup of tea from the hand of a host who showed among his trophies numerous human scalps. It is a significant fact that through the hours of Miss Hogarth's at home, the effort to sustain any conversation that had not Buffalo Bill for its text was futile.

Unquestionably the same might be reported of the innumerable coteries that gather all over London in the present season.

Seriously, this scout of the Western plains in his wildest dreams could not have forecast his hospitable reception in England or have believed when he ordered his modest trousseau in Omaha, with a holiday suit for parade and a dress suit "fit to set before a Queen," that he would put London society by the ears in its zealous ambition to write at the head of its invitations the significant sentence, "To meet the Hon. W.F. Cody."

Note 1: A calumet is a long-stemmed, highly ornamented ceremonial pipe used by some American Indians, including the Lakota (Sioux). [back]

Note 2: The Royal Academy of Arts, an art institution founded by a personal act of King George III in 1768, was the first institution to provide professional training for artists in Britain. [back]

Note 3: Grosvenor Gallery, an elite London art gallery founded in 1877 by Sir Coutts Lindsay and wife Blanche; this exhibition space rivaled the Royal Academy, displaying works by artists outside the British mainstream, especially those associated with the Aesthetic Movement. [back]

Note 4: In 1887 Harry Furniss (1854-1925), British cartoonist, caricaturist and illustrator, held the Furniss Exhibition to display parodies of the work of leading illustrators, thus chiding the Royal Academy for its lack of recognition of the work and contributions of illustrators. [back]

Note 5: The Royal Opera, an entertainment company based in central London. [back]

Note 6: Sir Henry Irving. [back]

Note 7: Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee (50 years of reign) was to be officially celebrated on June 20-21, 1887. [back]

Note 8: Piccadilly is a road in the City of Westminster, London, England, running from Hyde Park Corner in the west to Piccadilly Circus in the east. This was the fashionable residential area with some of the grandest mansions in London. [back]

Note 9: Miss Georgina Hogarth (1827-1917), housekeeper and adviser as well as the sister-in-law to Charles Dickens. [back]

Note 10: Charles John Huffam Dickens (1812-1870), world-famous English journalist, critic, and author. [back]

Title: The Biggest Man in London | It is the Hon. Buffalo Bill--He May Kill Himself with Tea if he Wants To

Periodical: New York Sun

Date: May 29, 1887

Topic: Buffalo Bill's Wild West in Britain

Keywords: American Indians Aristocracy (Social class) Grosvenor House (Hotel : London, England) Royal Academy of Arts (Great Britain) Royal Opera (London, England) Royal Opera House (London, England)

People: Dickens, Charles, 1812-1870 Furniss, Harry, 1854-1925 Hogarth, Georgina, 1827-1917 Irving, Henry, Sir, 1838-1905 Red Shirt, 1845?-1925 Victoria, Queen of Great Britain, 1819-1901

Places: London (England) Omaha (Neb.) Piccadilly (London, England)

Sponsor: This project is supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Geraldine W. & Robert J. Dellenback Foundation.

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