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An essay by Israel Zangwill


Title:     Ventnor
Author: Israel Zangwill [More Titles by Zangwill]

I did not get to Ventnor without a struggle. Everybody that I met held up hands of horror. "What! Going to Ventnor? You will be roasted before your time." My friends grieved, my very publishers wrung their hands, my newsvendor took me aside and besought me to live on a high hill. Yet through the whole of August I sat coolly writing on a low terrace. There is a superstition about Ventnor, and none of the people who talk glibly about its temperature have ever been there. But I think I have discovered the origin of the great Ventnor myth. The place is a winter resort of consumptives; and Mr. Frederick Greenwood, who was the chief charm of Ventnor, told me that you may take coffee on your lawn in November. The town, then, is warm in winter. The popular mind, with its hasty logic, thinks that this is tantamount to saying it is broiling hot in summer. I fancy there is a similar fiction about Bournemouth. But as a rule the British climate pays no heed to guide-books. By the natives, Ventnor, though as beautiful as a little Italian town, seems to be regarded as a good place to go away from, for every other man keeps a coaching establishment (I don't mean a school), and you cannot walk two yards without being accosted by a tout, who resents your walking the next two. Its regatta is a puerile affair, its own boating crews going off by preference to rival regattas. But in illuminations it comes out far better than Cowes, whose loyal inhabitants throw all the burden of fireworks upon the royal and other yachts anchored in the bay. And besides, Ventnor has a carnival, which I saw in the shop-windows in the shape of comic masks.

Bonchurch, the suburb of Ventnor, which plumes itself upon a very artificial pond, furnished in the best style with sycamores, Scotch firs, elms and swans, is more interesting for containing the old churchyard by the sea which received the bones of John Sterling and inspired the best poem of Philip Bourke Marston:--

Do they hear, through the glad April weather,
The green grasses waving above them?
Do they think there are none left to love them,
They have lain for so long there together?
Do they hear the note of the cuckoo,
The cry of gulls on the wing,
The laughter of winds and waters,
The feet of the dancing Spring?

I was married in Ventnor. At least so I gather from the local newspapers, in whose visitors' lists there figures the entry, "Mr. and Mrs. Zangwill." I do not care to correct it, because, the lady being my mother, it is perfectly accurate and leads to charming misconceptions. "There, that's he," loudly whispered a young man, nudging his sweetheart, "and there's his wife with him." "That! why, she looks old enough to be his mother," replied the young lady. "Ah!" said her lover, with an air of conscious virtue and a better bargain, "they're awfully mercenary, these literary chaps." The reverse of this happened to a young friend of mine. He married an old lady who possessed a very large fortune. During the honeymoon his solicitous attentions to her excited the admiration of another old lady, who passed her life in a Bath-chair. "Dear me!" she thought: "how delightful in these degenerate days to see a young man so attentive to his mother!" and, dying soon after, left him another large fortune.

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Israel Zangwill's essay: Ventnor