Lord Fisher exemplified what I have often met with in men who have won eminent distinction in some career, whose great desire was to have fame in another and entirely different one. Apparently he wished his friends and those he met to believe that he was the best storyteller in the world; that he had the largest stock of original anecdotes and told them better than anybody else. I found that he was exceedingly impatient and irritable when any one else started the inevitable "that reminds me," and he was intolerant with the story the other was trying to tell. But I discovered, also, that most of his stories, though told with great enthusiasm, were very familiar, or, as we Americans would say, "chestnuts."
During my summer vacations I spent two weeks or more at Homburg, the German watering-pIace. It was at that time the most interesting resort on the continent. The Prince of Wales, afterwards King Edward VII, was always there, and his sister, the Dowager Empress of Germany, had her castle within a few miles. It was said that there was a quorum of both Houses of Parliament in Homburg while the prince was there, but his presence also drew representatives from every department of English life, the bench and the bar, writers of eminence of both sexes, distinguished artists, and people famous on both the dramatic and the operatic stage. The prince, with keen discrimination, had these interesting people always about him. There were also social leaders, whose entertainments were famous in London, who did their best to add to the pleasure of the visit of the prince. I met him frequently and was often his guest at his luncheons and dinners. He fell in at once in the Homburg way.
The routine of the cure was to be at the springs every morning at seven o'clock, to take a glass of water, walk half an hour with some agreeable companion, and repeat this until three glasses had been consumed. Then breakfast, and after that the great bathing-house at eleven o'clock. The bathing-house was a meeting-place for everybody. Another meeting-place was the open-air concerts in the afternoon. In the evening came the formal dinners and some entertainment afterwards.
Both for luncheon and dinner the prince always had quite a large company. He was a host of great charm, tact, and character. He had a talent of drawing out the best there was in those about his table, and especially of making the occasion very agreeable for a stranger. Any one at his entertainments always carried away either in the people he met or the things that were said, or both, permanent recollections.
I do not think the prince bothered about domestic questions. He was very observant of the limitations and restrictions which the English Government imposes upon royalty. He was, however, very keen upon his country's foreign relations. In the peace of Europe he was an important factor, being so closely allied with the imperial houses of Germany and Russia. There is no doubt that he prevented the German Emperor from acquiring a dangerous control over the Czar. He was very fixed and determined to maintain and increase friendly relations between the United States and Great Britain. He succeeded, after many varied and long-continued efforts, in doing away with the prejudices and hostilities of the French towards the English, an accomplishment of infinite value to his country in these later years.
I was told that the prince required very little sleep, that he retired to bed late and was an early riser. I was awakened one night by his equerry calling me up, saying the prince was on the terrace of the KursaaI and wanted to see me. The lights were all out, everybody had gone, and he was sitting alone at a table illuminated by a single candle. What he desired was to discuss American affairs and become more familiar with our public men, our ideals, our policies, and especially any causes which could possibly be removed of irritation between his own country and ours. This discussion lasted till daylight.
Meeting him on the street one day, he stopped and asked me to step aside into an opening there was in the hedge. He seemed laboring under considerable excitement, and said: "Why do the people in the United States want to break up the British Empire?"
I knew he referred to the Home Rule bill for Ireland, which was then agitating Parliament and the country, and also the frequent demonstrations in its favor which were occurring in the United States.