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International Vegetarian Congress
Paris 1900

From the Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester), August 1900, pp.254-263:

THE PARIS INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE OF VEGETARIANS.
By M. HOMPES.

It was a happy idea on the part of our French friends to act in conjunction with the Vegetarian Federal Union in organising an International Conference of Vegetarians in connection with the great World's Exhibition in their grand and bright capital. I believe this is the first movement of the kind which has been admitted as a recognised item on the official programme of the Government arrangements. And to my mind that is a great step forward. Vegetarianism may afford material for joking to the playful, derision to the scornful, amazement and bewilderment to the ignorant, contempt to the careless fond of tasty dishes, but happily it also gives pause to the thinking man, and courts enquiry from those eager for knowledge of any kind, and most for that which may benefit humanity. And the great thing at which we have to rejoice is just this, that vegetarianism has become a recognised thing which can, if men feel so disposed, be treated seriously and which must be dealt with. It can no longer be pushed aside as a useless non-descript. We have a message to give to the world, and those who listen to us respectfully feel that whether we are wrong or right, we are worth listening to for an hour or two. It was a grand opportunity then which the French Government gave us, and I feel it a great privilege to have been permitted to use it in however small degree.

By the exceeding kindness of my Southport friends this was made possible to me, and I shall ever feel grateful to them. And here permit me to say that apart from my personal gratitude for their generosity, I look upon it as a mark of enthusiasm for the cause that a small and young Society like ours should have conceived the wish to send a representative. I do not think I was born under a lucky star, but it certainly was a lucky day when the Southport Food Reform Association elected me as their president. On which side the luck falls, of course modesty forbids me to say.

The arrangements which Mr. Harry Phillips made for us were happily conceived and productive of much good. From the moment of our arrival on the platform at Charing Cross, whence we were to start for Dover, we felt that we had come into a circle of friends. Friendly recognitions were made on all hands, all looked happy, gay, sociable and chatty, such a very different mode of traveling from that usually indulged in by the Britisher, who looks upon almost any other person who enters into the railway compartment as an intruder. The English party numbered over 60 persons, and we were as one family during that happy week. A few London friends less favoured than ourselves had come to the station to wave a farewell as we steamed out, among these was our ever enthusiastic vice-president, Mrs. Boult, who unfortunately could not accompany us. I had the good fortune to share the compartment with happy, cheerful Mr. Broadbent, and I need give no assurance that all sped well. Details of a journey make wearisome reading, and as nothing very remarkable occurred until we reached Paris, I will spare those who do me the honour to read this sketchy impression. For I do not intend to write a report of the Congress, for if I did I fear my readers would be fewer still.

The crossing from Dover to Calais was all too short for so pleasant a mode of locomotion during a lovely night. The French railway accommodation is very comfortable, and we reached Paris as promised at 6 a.m. Here omnibuses were waiting to convey us to Cook's Exhibition Hotel. I am sorry to be obliged to say that the catering at said hotel left something to be desired. This is not the place to go into detailed grumbling. I am anxious rather to tell my friends all the good things I enjoyed; but I do distinctly feel that the hotel accommodation fell short of what most of us expected. But what Messrs. Cook did not provide we provided for ourselves in good cheer and good fellowship. The happy party which met round that board each morning and evening for the short-long space of one whole week, could rise above mere creature comforts. I have never been happier with any party. Men and women whom I had never before seen, but united to me by the common bond of vegetarianism, were as brothers and sisters - members of one family. No one waited for introductions, though many were given, but each and all were free and accessible, bright and chatty, eager to give and receive both pleasure and profit. Dull would be he who would return from that week's gathering without feeling cheered and buoyed with enthusiasm, and without the happy assurance that a common cause binds all vegetarians, and breaks the barriers of position.

Perhaps it might interest some of my readers to know the names of a few of our party. I cannot give a full list, but I believe Mr. Broadbent has one,* and beg those who are either mentioned or omitted to believe that I am giving the names of those only who just happen to occur to me, or with whom I came into the closest contact. Neither prominence on the one hand nor slight on the other is dreamt of. Right opposite to me at table sat the veteran Mr. Hanson, whose 80th birthday occurred during our stay at Paris, and was honoured by Mr. Phillips by a suitable gift of fruit and flowers. His healthy frame and marked vigour are a credit to vegetarianism. No less so in the point of testimony was our good, kind, old friend, the Rev. James Clark. His kindly good humour and large charity is always felt wherever he moves, be it on platform, at table, or in the street. He remained in Paris a few days after our departure and as he followed our omnibus for a short while waving a kindly good-speed, I felt that I had never seen a finer figure, breathing a more noble influence. It is such men as he that are our best propaganda. Dr. Hadwen's cheery happy face, with a pleasant word for everybody, added greatly to the luxuries of our table, and to further back us out with science we had Dr. Black close at hand. Then there was the president of the Dutch Vegetarian Society, Mr. de Clercq, a true boy of 47 years, healthy, sturdy, happy, bright, all loving like a child. I had met him in Holland two years ago, and was delighted to be able to introduce him to my English friends who, I am pleased to note, straightway had the good taste to fall in love with him. He, in his turn, introduced us to his good friend, Dr. Nyssens of Brussels, founder of the Belgian and Paris societies, editor of the Réforme Alimentaire, a finely-built, fair-haired, tall, handsome man, about whom more later on. My good friend Mr. Sankey decided at the last moment to join us, and to me it made Paris feel like home to have him. He was a kindly guiding father spirit to our particular small section of five, consisting of himself, Mr. Broadbent, myself, and two other ladies, a small family knot among the larger tribe, so to speak. How we enjoyed ourselves and how we argued! The latter is the privilege of thinking men and women as vegetarians should be. Another interesting figure at our table was that of Mr. Frank Pearce of Portsmouth, who is known to many vegetarians, though I had not the privilege of meeting him before. I entered into conversation with him while crossing from Dover to Calais, when we were both drawing some interesting bits of conversation from one of the sailors. Mr. Pearce has been a vegetarian for twenty-five years, is a strict teetotaller and non-smoker. He has succeeded in running two theatres, without allowing either flesh-foods or alcohol to he served at the bar, and as he humbly puts it manages to live. It cost him hundreds of pounds to obtain his dramatic license, owing to the opposition in the town of Portsmouth. Oh the perversity of men! But he insisted on his rights and finally succeeded. Perhaps some day I shall be able to write a short sketch of his very remarkable career.

In going about Paris during the few days we had at our disposal in the early part of the week, we managed to obtain very comfortable luncheons. The Frenchman calls them his dejeuner, but as most of our party partook of a hearty breakfast before leaving the hotel, the English word, which so conveniently covers any portion, taken at any time of the day, is the more fitting for us. Here I must except myself, for when one has only a cup of coffee at 9 a.m., bread and fruit at 1 p.m., may fairly pass for dejeuner. Call it what you will lovely ripe strawberries in plenty, bread served by the yard. French fashion to cut as you please, pats of butter, ad lib., with a full measure of rich creamy milk, followed by a bite of cheese and a cup of excellent coffee - all served on a clean, white cloth, spread purposely for our party, with a serviette the size of a tray cloth to each person, do not make a bad midday meal for the modest price of 1/- to 1/3. You can vary the above by having salad or fresh boiled vegetables if you choose, and pay no more.

Though it was only the third week in June, fruit was very plentiful and good in Paris. I bought beautiful strawberries, ripe and full in flavour, at 4d. per lb., nice cherries at 1d. per lb., apricots at 5d. per lb., again French beans were priced as low as 2d. per lb. And oh! The roses, the roses! Men and women in the street were selling great branches of roses from large hampers. You might carry away a large handful for 1d. France is emphatically the land of roses and fruit. And I cannot help feeling again and again that while Europe will yield such products in such plenty, there is no need for vegetarians to emigrate. All that is needed is that we should cultivate, cultivate! produce, produce! For if the above prices obtain in Paris, the cost of production in the country district must be small indeed. Talking on this matter with Dr. Nyssens he confirmed my feeling that in the country fruit and vegetables are very plentiful, and that the people largely live upon them. Hence there is not, hygienically speaking, the same need for preaching vegetarianism in France as in England. But, added Dr. Nyssens though the people are practically almost vegetarians, they repudiate the name of vegetarians with something approaching fear. Again one can only say - oh, the perversity of men ! They will do anything, good happily as well as evil, from mere habit or necessity but confront them with a principle and you frighten them. Truly as Mr. Bernard Shaw pithily remarks: "Men's principles are mainly excuses for what they want to do."

It is time I spoke of the Conference, which began at 2-30 on Thursday afternoon, June 21st, in the Congress Hall within the Exhibition grounds. The hall is spacious and airy and all the rooms leading off, in which various congresses were held, share the same good qualities. Dr. Jules Grand, the president of the Vegetarian Society of France, occupied the chair, being supported by Mr. Arnold F. Hills on his right. Others on the platform were M. Roux of Rouen, M. Morand, Dr. Nyssens, Mr. Harry Phillps, Rev. James Clark, Mr. Rheinheimer, Dr. Dock, Mr. de Clerq, and myself, I being the only lady. I regretted this, but I did not see that it was a sufficient reason for refusing Mr. Harry Phillips' request to step up. I always regret when ladies do not come forward to take a proper share at our meetings, since vegetarianism is so largely a woman's question. But let it not be misunderstood that ladies did not take a share in this Congress, notwithstanding their absence from the platform. There was a good proportion of the female element in the meeting, and we also had several lady speakers. Madame Keelhoff of Brussels brought very strong testimony to vegetarianism. But more of this presently.

Dr. Jules Grand opened the Congress with a very fine speech of welcome in which he traced the progress of vegetarianism as a recognised system in France, and dealt most closely, fully and enthusiastically with its advantages. He is deeply convinced of its principles and holds that no mother of a family should partake of flesh foods or alcohol, and that no child should be permitted to have either. The first Vegetarian Conference was held in France in 1890, and during the decade which has elapsed the movement has made great progress, so that Dr. Grand and his fellow-workers look forward with great hope to the future. Dr. Grand is not an impressive speaker, though a sense he may he called eloquent. He has his subject well in hand and is very exhaustive, but he speaks rather too quickly even for a Frenchman and not very distinctly. He was followed Mr. Hills, who in a few fitting words, spoken in French, expressed his gratification at being present, gave a hearty welcome in the name of the Vegetarian Federal Union to all, and looked upon this International Vegetarian Conference as the clou of the Exposition, of which so much has been said. It was indeed a pivot, for upon the advance of this cause turned the question of humanitarianism, of peace and brotherhood throughout the whole creation. He then proceeded to read in English his paper, which was full of the poetry of the Bible and other great books, full of the promises which a vegetarian mode of life holds out to the human race, and instinct with that enthusiasm which is so character Mr. Hills.

Next in order came Dr. Dock of St. Gallen, a most interesting old gentleman, who bears his 68 years well. He looks so fresh and vigorous, and speaks in such clear, rich tones and with such emphatic force that any cause might well feel proud of him. His exposition of the "Advantages of Vegetarianism" had but one fault - it was too long. But it says much for it that notwithstanding this fact it escaped being wearisome. Nevertheless I think it would have been a better plan if the Committee had set some limit to the speakers, as a few certainly exceeded the time which they could fairly claim to occupy in the face of the large number of papers waiting to be brought forward. As a consequence quite a number of the papers found in the official portfolio (which by the courtesy of the Committee I was permitted to examine) had actually to be dismissed with a mere reference. I may say here in passing that I think an English committee of management could give our French friends a few points. There was not enough plan apparent throughout the Conference. One marked inconvenience was that we did not have a syllabus of the sittings and consequently we did not know what papers to expect at any particular meeting. Hence, one could not prepare oneself in any way. Again, so far from encouraging discussion as our English chairmen do, the presidents at the French conferences appeared to rather discourage it and hurry on from one paper to another. This may not have been their intention, but it came to this practically that a president hardly ever asked anyone to speak on a given paper, and that anyone who wished to speak had some difficulty in obtaining the president's permission and sometimes altogether failed to do so.

But after an experience of this sort at the first meeting our English friends broke through, and ever after we managed better. Still there was not that bright animation of keeping the ball rolling which is characteristic of our English meetings, though one must grant that with us there is frequently much time wasted in useless questions and remarks. Perhaps a fair mixture of the French and English methods would make a happy combination, certain it is that in this French republic a president has his meeting well in hand and does not allow it to run away with him.

But let me return for a few minutes to Dr. Dock. He was very interesting because he told us so much of his personal experience. An Alsatian by birth, now living at St. Gallen in Switzerland where he has a Sanatorium at Waid, he has been a vegetarian since 1867. He became a student of medicine, rather late in life, at Zurich, and was consequently known among the students as "Papa Dock." He had many animated, not to say heated conversations and arguments with men whose names have become household words in the realm of science, among such Theodore Hahn and Virchow, the latter of whom had to admit that there was no difference between animal and vegetable albumen, as regards nutrition. Dr. Dock testified that he had worked hard physically and mentally on a simple diet and felt splendid. He certainly looked it. "An old man (he said) needs natural food." It certainly would seem rational and certainly Dr. Dock derives a large amount of energy from it. A man fuller of zeal it would be difficult to meet. Next to him came our friend, the Rev. James Clark, who in his peculiar gentle way was equally impressive. After this the first sitting broke up and on the invitation of Mr. Hills the company went to the "Restaurant des Congress," situated just opposite to the Congress Hall, to partake of noon cup of tea. The tables were prettily set with dishes of fresh fruit, and on each person's serviette was placed a beautiful spray of roses. Dr. Grand and Mr. Hills spoke a few words of greeting.

On Friday we met in good time at 9-30 a.m., the chair being occupied by M. Roux, an able avocat of Rouen. He handsome, commanding presence, speaks fluently, clearly and well, and makes an excellent chairman. Reports were read from or by the delegates of foreign countries. Germany by E. Hering (read by Mr. Reinheimer of London), America by Mr. Anderson Hanson, Australia, Austria, Hungary, Belgium, Denmark, India, Holland. Each of these reports had points of interest and importance, but it would occupy too much space to enter into details here, and I believe that the French Committee intends to publish a good resumé of the papers, which may be had from the Secretary, M. Morand, 13, Rue Froissart, Paris, for 1 franc. Mr. Harry Phillips read an excellent paper on "Vegetarianism and Work," in which he set forth in clear terms the message which vegetarianism brings to the working man. He did this in the best possible manner by letting a working man tell his own 25 years' experience of vegetarianism. He also referred to the Waldstead Colony founded in Essex in 1896, and recommended such a colony as this to the French Government for the treatment of its paupers and criminals, as by such means as these the people might be brought back to their self-respect. He also alluded to the feeding of the board school children in London and the National Food Supply Association.

During the course of the meeting Madame Keelhoff of Brussels related how she had suffered frightfully from indigestion, and after consulting more than 100 doctors, which seems almost incredible, she embraced vegetarianism, which restored her to health. This was three years ago, and she is now at 68 years of age, well in health, reads works and travels without undue fatigue. Madame Keelhof is an enthusiast in the suppression of alcoholism, and read a paper on that subject, asking all present to spread the knowledge of abstinence from alcohol. As Madame Keelhoff unfortunately show any connection between vegetarianism and abstinence the chairman felt, justly enough, compelled to remind her that we were met to discuss vegetarianism and that we must confine ourselves to that. It seemed a strange omission on the part of the essayist that she did not claim her right to speak on the ground of the close connection between the two subjects, but chose to retire rather. Here was a grand opportunity lost. It was impossible to draw attention to the omission before M. Roux passed on to the next paper.

At 12 o'clock on Friday, the 22nd, a dejeuner was served at the "Restaurant des Congrés," the tickets were 5 francs, which we should consider very heavy in England, though the dejeuner is almost equivalent to a diner. The menus were a curiosity, being illustrated with grotesque human figures represented by some vegetable. It was a curious conceit and caused much amusement among the guests, especially as there was a variety of designs. The meal was well served in every sense. As is the custom on the continent one which I think has many points of advantage though there are drawbacks, each guest had his or her place assigned. The food was excellent and well cooked, the attendance was very good, so that the waiter deserved his perquisite which he so naively solicits by offering the gentlemen a toothpick when the meal is over. M. Roux made a dainty little speech in giving the toast of vegetarianism, and was followed by the indefatigable Dr. Dock who alluded playfully to a grand-mother of the present French Vegetarian Society, which he founded in Belleisle many years ago, but which like some other small societies came to grief. M. Roux added that their good friend Nyssens was their father, though curiously many of them were older than he. Among these I must not forget the venerable gentleman at my right, ex-Commandant Courmes, who gave up his position in the French Navy some years before age would have compelled him to accept his pension, in order to be able to carry out his vegetarian principles. Commandant Courmes is now a man of some 60 years or more I should say, though I must warn my readers not to put great faith in my estimate, as I consider myself a better judge of character than age. I used to have a theory that I could not tell age at all, till my good father humorously convinced me that I could tell the difference between a man of 20 and one of 90. I yielded and ask my friends to allow me that wide margin to save any mistake. But here are a few indications to support my estimate. Commandant Courmes is fast turning grey and bald and has come to wear spectacles, but he still looks healthy and vigorous, and makes an interesting table companion. On Saturday afternoon he read us a paper on "Vegetarianism from the moral point of view," and a splendid paper it was. A man of his type should have something to say on that aspect of the question.

I noticed that our French friends washed their strawberries in the daintiest of ways. A lady or gentlemen picks up the fruit singly by the stalk, washes it in the tumbler of water then dips it in the sugar and cream on the plate. The French do not crush the fruit as we do but bite it, as they hold it between the finger and thumb. After this very pleasant repast we adjourned to the Congress Hall for more papers. Then and during the following we had read :-Tolstoy's "First Step," "Vegetarianism as a source of energy" by Mr. Light, "The Moralists and the vegetarian regime" by Madame de Pape, "A Contribution to the study of alimentary plants" by M. Largeris, and "The dietetic treatment of diabetis" by Dr. Ernest Nyssens, and the "Benefits of Vegetarianism from the economic and social aspects." All these papers had excellent points, and I am therefore glad to see that the committee intend publishing them as soon as possible. Dr. Dock proposed this but was told by M. Roux that the Society was too poor to afford their publication. But they will appear partly in the Réforme Alimentaire, and partly in pamphlet form. Dr. Nyssens paper on diabetes should prove very useful to his profession, as it records such splendid results. Another medical man, Dr. B. Armulphy, who practises in Paris, bore testimony to the splendid results that had followed the treatment of diabetes on vegetarian lines. It is encouraging to note that no less than fifteen practising physicians in France have joined the vegetarian ranks. M. Largeris is a French poet, and in addition to his paper on plants, which was very full, he recited a poem of his own, entitled " Pour quoi tuer?" (Why should we kill") with very good effect. This was shortly before the close of the Conference on Saturday.

The final meeting was a great success. There was a full audience, and from what I could judge a fair sprinkling of non-vegetarians. The audience was interested and appreciative, and M. Roux drove home his points well. He is indeed a good speaker, whether in a short toast or in a long, well thought out paper he is equally happy and effective. If I had fallen into trouble in France and had to be tried by a French tribunal, I should have been glad for M. avocet Roux to defend me. All good things come to an end, about 5 o'clock on June 23rd the Conference broke up, amid hearty shaking of hands and farewells to friends old and new, but not before we had resolved that we would have another meeting next year, Brussels being decided upon as the place of rendez-vous.


*Representatives of France, Germany, Russia, Holland, Belgium and Switzerland; and the following from England were present: Mr. K. M. Browne (Exeter), Dr. Geo. Black (Torquay), Messrs. R. L. Barr (Kilmalcolm), L. Burford (Cambridge), Geo. Bain (Beith), A. Broadbent (Manchester), Rev. Jas. Clark (Salford), Mr. F. Capley (Nottingham), Mr. A. T. Crouch (London), Mr. C. Dixon (Cambridge), Mr. S. Edney (Bristol), Mr. P. G. Fry (Weston-super-Mare), Mr. J. W. Goddard and Miss Goddard (Leicester), Miss Gifford (Winchester), Mr. B. R. Godfree (Addlestone), Mr. W. Gill (Bradford), Mr. T. Anderson Hanson (London), Mr. E. Harle (Dartford), Mr. W. Harris (Rowlands Castle), Miss Hompes (Sonthport), Mr. and Mrs Hawkins(Exeter), Dr. and Miss Hadwen (Gloucester), Miss Harringion (Balham) Mr. Thos. Jones (Manchester), Mr. Harry Johnson (Cambridge), Mr. and Mrs. King (Ealing), Mr. S. Jones (Ealing), Miss Littledale (Dublin), Mr. H. Light (London), Mr. and Mrs. Laird (Kilmalcolm), Mr. Sidney Morgan (Pontypool), Miss Llewellin (Weston-Super-Mare), Mr. and Mrs. J. T. Pengelly (Exeter), Mr. Harry Phillips, Mr. E. B. Reeves (Norwich), Mr. John Sankev (Sonthport), Mrs. C. H. Smith (Manchester), Mr. W. G. Smith (Kingston), Mr. E. Sargent (Budleigh Salterton), Mrs. Staples (Balham), Mr. and Mrs. A. Wrightson (llfracombe).

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