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In the first place, there are a group of forces that will diminish in strength. There is at present the greater convenience of "shopping" within a short radius of the centre of the great city, a very important consideration indeed to many wives and mothers. All the inner and many of the outer suburbs of London obtain an enormous proportion of the ordinary household goods from half a dozen huge furniture, grocery, and drapery firms, each of which has been enabled by the dearness and inefficiency of the parcels distribution of the post-office and railways to elaborate a now very efficient private system of taking orders and delivering goods. Collectively these great businesses have been able to establish a sort of monopoly of suburban trade, to overwhelm the small suburban general tradesman (a fate that was inevitable for him in some way or other), and – which is a positive world-wide misfortune – to overwhelm also many highly specialized shops and dealers of the central district. Suburban people nowadays get their wine and their novels, their clothes and their amusements, their furniture and their food, from some one vast indiscriminate shop or "store" full of respectable mediocre goods, as excellent a thing for housekeeping as it is disastrous to taste and individuality.18 But it is doubtful if the delivery organization of these great stores is any more permanent than the token coinage of the tradespeople of the last century. Just as it was with that interesting development, so now it is with parcels distribution: private enterprise supplies in a partial manner a public need, and with the organization of a public parcels and goods delivery on cheap and sane lines in the place of our present complex, stupid, confusing, untrustworthy, and fantastically costly chaos of post-office, railways, and carriers, it is quite conceivable that Messrs. Omnium will give place again to specialized shops.

It must always be remembered how timid, tentative, and dear the postal and telephone services of even the most civilized countries still are, and how inexorably the needs of revenue, public profit, and convenience fight in these departments against the tradition of official leisure and dignity. There is no reason now, except that the thing is not yet properly organized, why a telephone call from any point in such a small country as England to any other should cost much more than a postcard. There is no reason now, save railway rivalries and retail ideas – obstacles some able and active man is certain to sweep away sooner or later – why the post-office should not deliver parcels anywhere within a radius of a hundred miles in a few hours at a penny or less for a pound and a little over,19 put our newspapers in our letter-boxes direct from the printing-office, and, in fact, hand in nearly every constant need of the civilized household, except possibly butcher's meat, coals, green-grocery, and drink. And since there is no reason, but quite removable obstacles, to prevent this development of the post-office, I imagine it will be doing all these things within the next half-century. When it is, this particular centripetal pull, at any rate, will have altogether ceased to operate.

A second important centripetal consideration at present is the desirability of access to good schools and to the doctor. To leave the great centres is either to abandon one's children, or to buy air for them at the cost of educational disadvantages. But access, be it noted, is another word for transit. It is doubtful if these two needs will so much keep people close to the great city centres as draw them together about secondary centres. New centres they may be – compare Hindhead, for example – in many cases; but also, it may be, in many cases the more healthy and picturesque of the existing small towns will develop a new life. Already, in the case of the London area, such once practically autonomous places as Guildford, Tunbridge Wells, and Godalming have become economically the centres of lax suburbs, and the same fate may very probably overtake, for example, Shrewsbury, Stratford, and Exeter, and remoter and yet remoter townships. Indeed, for all that this particular centripetal force can do, the confluent "residential suburbs" of London, of the great Lancashire-Yorkshire city, and of the Scotch city, may quite conceivably replace the summer lodging-house watering-places of to-day, and extend themselves right round the coast of Great Britain, before the end of the next century, and every open space of mountain and heather be dotted – not too thickly – with clumps of prosperous houses about school, doctor, engineers, book and provision shops.

A third centripetal force will not be set aside so easily. The direct antagonist it is to that love of nature that drives people out to moor and mountain. One may call it the love of the crowd; and closely allied to it is that love of the theatre which holds so many people in bondage to the Strand. Charles Lamb was the Richard Jefferies of this group of tendencies, and the current disposition to exaggerate the opposition force, especially among English-speaking peoples, should not bind us to the reality of their strength. Moreover, interweaving with these influences that draw people together are other more egotistical and intenser motives, ardent in youth and by no means – to judge by the Folkestone Leas – extinct in age, the love of dress, the love of the crush, the hot passion for the promenade. Here, no doubt, what one may speak of loosely as "racial" characteristics count for much. The common actor and actress of all nationalities, the Neapolitan, the modern Roman, the Parisian, the Hindoo, I am told, and that new and interesting type, the rich and liberated Jew emerging from his Ghetto and free now absolutely to show what stuff he is made of, flame out most gloriously in this direction. To a certain extent this group of tendencies may lead to the formation of new secondary centres within the "available" area, theatrical and musical centres – centres of extreme Fashion and Selectness, centres of smartness and opulent display – but it is probable that for the large number of people throughout the world who cannot afford to maintain households in duplicate these will be for many years yet strictly centripetal forces, and will keep them within the radius marked by whatever will be the future equivalent in length of, say, the present two-shilling cab ride in London.

And, after all, for all such "shopping" as one cannot do by telephone or postcard, it will still be natural for the shops to be gathered together in some central place. And "shopping" needs refreshment, and may culminate in relaxation. So that Bond Street and Regent Street, the Boulevard des Capuchins, the Corso, and Broadway will still be brilliant and crowded for many years for all the diffusion that is here forecast – all the more brilliant and crowded, perhaps, for the lack of a thronging horse traffic down their central ways. But the very fact that the old nucleus is still to be the best place for all who trade in a concourse of people, for novelty shops and art shops, and theatres and business buildings, by keeping up the central ground values will operate against residence there and shift the "masses" outwardly.

And once people have been driven into cab, train, or omnibus, the only reason why they should get out to a residence here rather than there is the necessity of saving time, and such a violent upward gradient of fares as will quite outbalance the downward gradient of ground values. We have, however, already forecast a swift, varied, and inevitably competitive suburban traffic. And so, though the centre will probably still remain the centre and "Town," it will be essentially a bazaar, a great gallery of shops and places of concourse and rendezvous, a pedestrian place, its pathways reinforced by lifts and moving platforms, and shielded from the weather, and altogether a very spacious, brilliant, and entertaining agglomeration.

Enough now has been said to determine the general nature of the expansion of the great cities in the future, so far as the more prosperous classes are concerned. It will not be a regular diffusion like the diffusion of a gas, but a process of throwing out the "homes," and of segregating various types of people. The omens seem to point pretty unmistakably to a wide and quite unprecedented diversity in the various suburban townships and suburban districts. Of that aspect of the matter a later paper must treat. It is evident that from the outset racial and national characteristics will tell in this diffusion. We are getting near the end of the great Democratic, Wholesale, or Homogeneous phase in the world's history. The sport-loving Englishman, the sociable Frenchman, the vehement American will each diffuse his own great city in his own way.

 

And now, how will the increase in the facilities of communication we have assumed affect the condition of those whose circumstances are more largely dictated by economic forces? The mere diffusion of a large proportion of the prosperous and relatively free, and the multiplication of various types of road and mechanical traction, means, of course, that in this way alone a perceptible diffusion of the less independent classes will occur. To the subsidiary centres will be drawn doctor and schoolmaster, and various dealers in fresh provisions, baker, grocer, butcher; or if they are already established there they will flourish more and more, and about them the convenient home of the future, with its numerous electrical and mechanical appliances, and the various bicycles, motor-cars, photographic and phonographic apparatus that will be included in its equipment will gather a population of repairers, "accessory" dealers and working engineers, a growing class which from its necessary intelligence and numbers will play a very conspicuous part in the social development of the twentieth century. The much more elaborate post-office and telephone services will also bring intelligent ingredients to these suburban nuclei, these restorations of the old villages and country towns. And the sons of the cottager within the affected area will develop into the skilled vegetable or flower gardeners, the skilled ostler – with some veterinary science – and so forth, for whom also there will evidently be work and a living. And dotted at every convenient position along the new roads, availing themselves no doubt whenever possible of the picturesque inns that the old coaching days have left us, will be wayside restaurants and tea houses, and motor and cycle stores and repair places. So much diffusion is practically inevitable.

In addition, as we have already intimated, many Londoners in the future may abandon the city office altogether, preferring to do their business in more agreeable surroundings. Such a business as book publishing, for example, has no unbreakable bonds to keep it in the region of high rent and congested streets. The days when the financial fortunes of books depended upon the colloquial support of influential people in a small Society are past; neither publishers nor authors as a class have any relation to Society at all, and actual access to newspaper offices is necessary only to the ranker forms of literary imposture. That personal intercourse between publishers and the miscellaneous race of authors which once justified the central position has, I am told, long since ceased. And the withdrawing publishers may very well take with them the printers and binders, and attract about them their illustrators and designers… So, as a typical instance, one – now urban – trade may detach itself.

Publishing is, however, only one of the many similar trades equally profitable and equally likely to move outward to secondary centres, with the development and cheapening of transit. It is all a question of transit. Limitation of transit contracts the city, facilitation expands and disperses it. All this case for diffusion so far is built up entirely on the hypothesis we attempted to establish in the first paper, that transit of persons and goods alike is to become easier, swifter, and altogether better organized than it is at present.

The telephone will almost certainly prove a very potent auxiliary indeed to the forces making for diffusion. At present that convenience is still needlessly expensive in Great Britain, and a scandalously stupid business conflict between telephone company and post-office delays, complicates, and makes costly and exasperating all trunk communications; but even under these disadvantages the thing is becoming a factor in the life of ordinary villadom. Consider all that lies within its possibilities. Take first the domestic and social side; almost all the labour of ordinary shopping can be avoided – goods nowadays can be ordered and sent either as sold outright, or on approval, to any place within a hundred miles of London, and in one day they can be examined, discussed, and returned – at any rate, in theory. The mistress of the house has all her local tradesmen, all the great London shops, the circulating library, the theatre box-office, the post-office and cab-rank, the nurses' institute and the doctor, within reach of her hand. The instrument we may confidently expect to improve, but even now speech is perfectly clear and distinct over several hundred miles of wire. Appointments and invitations can be made; and at a cost varying from a penny to two shillings any one within two hundred miles of home may speak day or night into the ear of his or her household. Were it not for that unmitigated public nuisance, the practical control of our post-office by non-dismissable Civil servants, appointed so young as to be entirely ignorant of the unofficial world, it would be possible now to send urgent messages at any hour of the day or night to any part of the world; and even our sacred institution of the Civil Service can scarcely prevent this desirable consummation for many years more. The business man may then sit at home in his library and bargain, discuss, promise, hint, threaten, tell such lies as he dare not write, and, in fact, do everything that once demanded a personal encounter. Already for a great number of businesses it is no longer necessary that the office should be in London, and only habit, tradition, and minor considerations keep it there. With the steady cheapening and the steady increase in efficiency of postal and telephonic facilities, and of goods transit, it seems only reasonable to anticipate the need for that expensive office and the irksome daily journey will steadily decline. In other words, what will still be economically the "city," as distinguished from the "agricultural" population, will probably be free to extend, in the case of all the prosperous classes not tied to large establishments in need of personal supervision, far beyond the extreme limits of the daily hour journey.

But the diffusion of the prosperous, independent, and managing classes involves in itself a very considerable diffusion of the purely "working" classes also. Their centres of occupation will be distributed, and their freedom to live at some little distance from their work will be increased. Whether this will mean dotting the country with dull, ugly little streets, slum villages like Buckfastleigh in Devon, for example, or whether it may result in entirely different and novel aspects, is a point for which at present we are not ready. But it bears upon the question that ugliness and squalor upon the main road will appeal to the more prosperous for remedy with far more vigour than when they are stowed compactly in a slum.

Enough has been said to demonstrate that old "town" and "city" will be, in truth, terms as obsolete as "mail coach." For these new areas that will grow out of them we want a term, and the administrative "urban district" presents itself with a convenient air of suggestion. We may for our present purposes call these coming town provinces "urban regions." Practically, by a process of confluence, the whole of Great Britain south of the Highlands seems destined to become such an urban region, laced all together not only by railway and telegraph, but by novel roads such as we forecast in the former chapter, and by a dense network of telephones, parcels delivery tubes, and the like nervous and arterial connections.

It will certainly be a curious and varied region, far less monotonous than our present English world, still in its thinner regions, at any rate, wooded, perhaps rather more abundantly wooded, breaking continually into park and garden, and with everywhere a scattering of houses. These will not, as a rule, I should fancy, follow the fashion of the vulgar ready-built villas of the existing suburb, because the freedom people will be able to exercise in the choice of a site will rob the "building estate" promoter of his local advantage; in many cases the houses may very probably be personal homes, built for themselves as much as the Tudor manor-houses were, and even, in some cases, as æsthetically right. Each district, I am inclined to think, will develop its own differences of type and style. As one travels through the urban region, one will traverse open, breezy, "horsey" suburbs, smart white gates and palings everywhere, good turf, a Grand Stand shining pleasantly; gardening districts all set with gables and roses, holly hedges, and emerald lawns; pleasant homes among heathery moorlands and golf links, and river districts with gaily painted boat-houses peeping from the osiers. Then presently a gathering of houses closer together, and a promenade and a whiff of band and dresses, and then, perhaps, a little island of agriculture, hops, or strawberry gardens, fields of grey-plumed artichokes, white-painted orchard, or brightly neat poultry farm. Through the varied country the new wide roads will run, here cutting through a crest and there running like some colossal aqueduct across a valley, swarming always with a multitudinous traffic of bright, swift (and not necessarily ugly) mechanisms; and everywhere amidst the fields and trees linking wires will stretch from pole to pole. Ever and again there will appear a cluster of cottages – cottages into which we shall presently look more closely – about some works or workings, works, it may be, with the smoky chimney of to-day replaced by a gaily painted windwheel or waterwheel to gather and store the force for the machinery; and ever and again will come a little town, with its cherished ancient church or cathedral, its school buildings and museums, its railway-station, perhaps its fire-station, its inns and restaurants, and with all the wires of the countryside converging to its offices. All that is pleasant and fair of our present countryside may conceivably still be there among the other things. There is no reason why the essential charm of the country should disappear; the new roads will not supersede the present high roads, which will still be necessary for horses and subsidiary traffic; and the lanes and hedges, the field paths and wild flowers, will still have their ample justification. A certain lack of solitude there may be perhaps, and —

Will conspicuous advertisements play any part in the landscape?..

But I find my pen is running ahead, an imagination prone to realistic constructions is struggling to paint a picture altogether prematurely. There is very much to be weighed and decided before we can get from our present generalization to the style of architecture these houses will show, and to the power and nature of the public taste. We have laid down now the broad lines of road, railway, and sea transit in the coming century, and we have got this general prophecy of "urban regions" established, and for the present that much must suffice.

And as for the world beyond our urban regions? The same line of reasoning that leads to the expectation that the city will diffuse itself until it has taken up considerable areas and many of the characteristics, the greenness, the fresh air, of what is now country, leads us to suppose also that the country will take to itself many of the qualities of the city. The old antithesis will indeed cease, the boundary lines will altogether disappear; it will become, indeed, merely a question of more or less populous. There will be horticulture and agriculture going on within the "urban regions," and "urbanity" without them. Everywhere, indeed, over the land of the globe between the frozen circles, the railway and the new roads will spread, the net-work of communication wires and safe and convenient ways. To receive the daily paper a few hours late, to wait a day or so for goods one has ordered, will be the extreme measure of rusticity save in a few remote islands and inaccessible places. The character of the meshes in that wider network of roads that will be the country, as distinguished from the urban district, will vary with the soil, the climate and the tenure of the land – will vary, too, with the racial and national differences. But throughout all that follows, this mere relativity of the new sort of town to the new sort of country over which the new sorts of people we are immediately to consider will be scattered, must be borne in mind.

[At the risk of insistence, I must repeat that, so far, I have been studiously taking no account of the fact that there is such a thing as a boundary line or a foreigner in the world. It will be far the best thing to continue to do this until we can get out all that will probably happen universally or generally, and in particular the probable changes in social forces, social apparatus and internal political methods. We shall then come to the discussion of language, nationality and international conflicts, equipped with such an array of probabilities and possibilities as will enable us to guess at these special issues with an appearance of far more precision than would be the case if we considered them now.]

 
18Their temporary suppression of the specialist is indeed carried to such an extent that one may see even such things as bronze ornaments and personal jewellery listed in Messrs. Omnium's list, and stored in list designs and pattern; and their assistants will inform you that their brooch, No. 175, is now "very much worn," without either blush or smile.
19The present system of charging parcels by the pound, when goods are sold by the pound, and so getting a miserly profit in the packing, is surely one of the absurdest disregards of the obvious it is possible to imagine.