Queensberry Talks!- The Marquis Discusses His Varied Experiences.
(John Sholto Douglas) He does not consider himself an authority on pugilistic matters, and don't wish to be mixed up with them - A social outcast in England - His opinion of Sullivan.
"Is the Marquis of Queensberry at home?," says I. "Front! 104," says he. I was the [New York] Herald; he was the dapper clerk of the Brevoort House. The Marquis was at home and would see the Herald, but a word about No. 104 before I proceed with his right honorableness. No 104 is in the basement of the Brevoort. It is a big, cavernous room full of closets and wardrobes. It is a room always assigned to the British aritocracy when it stops at the Brevoort. It is convenient to the bar, coffee and billard rooms. It is within 54 feet of the hotel office and the row of patient Irshmen who answer the bell. It was here that the earl of Rosebery used to make those elaborate toilets with which fifteen years ago he sought to captivate the heart of an American heiress now married to a commercial Englishman. It is here that the earl of Dunraven used to exhibit specimens of every species of big game that he had shot west of the "Rockies." It is in this room that Capt. Fred Ward, aide-de-camp to the earl of Dufferin, Governor General of Canada, stowed away his wonderful collection of Japanese curios and books with pictures that would have delighted the soul of St. Anthony Comstock. It is here that I first clapped eyes on Sir John Sholto Douglas, Marquis of Queensberry.
The Marquis, as every one ought to know, is 45 years of age, but looks like an old print, with his smoothly shaven face, erect hair and alert expression. There is not a symptom of the English peer about him, except his perfectly unaffected and cordial manner. Nor is there any evidence of those debasing sporting proclivities with which his lordship is sometimes credited. Indeed my first question quite dispelled any hope I had of hearing a learned disquisition on prize fighting.
"What do you think of John L. Sullivan?" I asked.
"I don't think about him at all nor of any of his ilk," was the emphatic reply. "As a matter of fact, I take as little interest in the prize ring as any man in the world. My name is eternally mixed up with the subject because in my school boy days I formulated some rules for our amateur sparring matches. They were never intended for use in a ring. I never stood at a ring side but once in my life and that was at the Kilrain-Smith fight in France. They asked me to be referee, but I declined because my sympathies were entirely with Kilrain, who caught my fancy for being such a square, stand up, manly fellow. I believe that I was the only Englishman present who backed him, but I was tired and disgusted before the fight was half over."
"But how about Sullivan?"
"I don't want to do any one a harm by my opinion, but I am convinced that Sullivan has done more to injure the so-called profession of fighting than any man in the world. No, of course I don't believe that he means [to] fight, and I haven't the least idea that any of the big talk now in vogue will ever get any of its mouthpieces inside of the ropes and stakes."
"You take more interest, then, in theatricals than in fighting?"
"Not at all. There is another instance of the way in which my name has been unwarrantably used. According to some of your papers I am the general agent, manager, treasurer, patron and lover of the entire gaiety company. As a matter of fact I have not been inside a theater since my arrival in America. I know Leslie, and he tells me that they are making all the money they need. I am not a dramatic critic to pass judgment on their performance. I presume that pretty women well drilled in the art of pleasing will make money wherever they go."
"If it is not an impertinent question, may I ask why you are spending so much of your time in this country?"
"I'll tell you in a word. I'm a social outcast - (with intense feeling) - in England; a Pariah, disfranchised and deprived of my seat in the House of Lords by what I consider a most unjustifiable exhibition of prudishness on the part of the lords. I come here to breathe the air of absolute freedom - freedom of thought, speech and action."
"I had supposed that a peer of the realm held an inalienable right to his seat in the upper house, except under attaint?"
"Yes, but I am not a peer of the realm. I sat in the Lords as a representative peer of Scotland, elected for life, as precedent goes, but in reality subject to a vote of my peers every time a new parliament assembles. Two years ago I was thrown out by such a vote, the first case on record in English history when a representative peer had been deprived of his seat."
"And the reason?"
"Oh, my views are too advanced" - (with a laugh). You know I am a pronounced free thinker and atheist - the Bob Ingersoll of England. He seems to me to be the ideal man of your country, free, frank and fearless."
"What are your politics, my lord?"
"I'm the most emphatic kind of a home ruler. I delight in the collapse of the Times case. I know that a year ago Balfour suspected the authenticity of those Parnell letters and warned Walter that he was wandering in tall grass."
"Do you suspect Walter of bad faith?"
"No, I do not. I believe that he convinced himself that the letters were genuine, because he wanted them to be genuine. They had to be genuine. His discomfiture now is all the more agreeable to me because he attempted to scathe me in his columns about two years ago.
The Plattsburgh Republican, Saturday, April 6, 1889, p. 3