The subject to which I invite attention is that of the Chinese colony in the East End of London. I shall make no attempt at what my Chinese friends would call handsome talkee. My sole effort will be to explain in the simplest possible manner what I have myself seen and heard, touched, tasted, and smelt. At different times, extending over a long series of years, I have made many “trips to Chinatown.” But I have done more than this—I have been animated from the first by a scientific curiosity to understand the inner meaning of everything. I soon found that my ignorance of the Cantonese dialect in which the London Chinese transact their business among themselves, rendered it impossible to advance far without help. On one occasion I took an interpreter with me in the person of a Portuguese friend of mine from Macao. But as a general rule the medium of communication between myself and the Chinese was Pidgin-English. Now, if any of my readers have the least acquaintance with that truly astounding jargon they will readily admit that it does not lend itself to the purposes of scientific investigations. It is fearfully and wonderfully made. Only a very limited range of ideas can be expressed. I think I could do better with the monkey language, or Volapuk. One of the Chinamen who had come from Cuba spoke Spanish, and here I got on better. But the long and the short of it is that I found it necessary to appeal to higher authority for the explanation of some items, which the people themselves could in no way elucidate. Our little community here is as a drop of water to the ocean compared with the vast Chinese settlements which are to be found in the United States. But, like a drop of water, in spite of the difference in volume, Chinese London is composed of the same constituents as Chinese Philadelphia. I accordingly put myself into communication with Mr. Stewart Culin, an American, who had made much the same study of the Chinese element in his own city as I was trying to do in mine. I wish to place it upon record that I received much very courteous help by letter, from this (if I may make bold so to call him) fellow explorer. I had, also, more than one interview with Professor Douglas of the British Museum. He, in turn, referred me to Mr. Wilkinson of the treaty port of Swatow in China, who, fortunately for me, happened to be at that precise moment upon a visit to England. Altogether I think I may call myself lucky in my helpers, whom I here severally thank. The results I have attained may, in comparison, seem small, yet they form at any rate the most complete account of the opium dens of London which has ever been made public. The very existence of such places is unknown to many Londoners. As far as I have examined them, none of the hand-books to London invite the tourist to do “China before breakfast.” Chinatown is marked upon no map. The Lady Guide Office never personally conducts there. The popular novelist, it is true, is aware of its value as furnishing local colour for his shilling shockers. But judging from what I have read of these works the writers never take the trouble to inspect the dens themselves. They rely upon their imagination for the thrilling pictures they draw of them. Occasionally in the silly season a journalist badly off for copy sandwiches a paragraph about the Chinese between the Great Sea Serpent and the Gigantic Gooseberry. But as the reporter appears to consider it necessary to be escorted in his tour of inspection by either a policeman or the Chinese missionary, I need hardly say that he sees little of the genuine article. Chinatown is, above all things, suspicious of the chiel that goes among its inhabitants taking notes. Even Charles Dickens attained a very slight degree of its confidence, judging by the confused account of the process of opium smoking which he gave to the world in the last chapter of his last work, “Edwin Drood.” A long apprenticeship is needed before the European learns to smoke opium as it should be smoked. In the first place you must always take your smoke lying down, whether on a couch or bed, or the more orthodox shelf in a cupboard, or something similar to the berth of a ship’s cabin. Dickens is right so far, when he says of his hero: “he divests himself of his shoes, loosens his cravat, and lies across the foot of the squalid bed with his head resting on his left hand.” The opium, which has been imported in slabs as hard as iron, has been rendered, by a long course of subsequent cooking, a thick paste resembling treacle. As for the pipe, it must be seen to be appreciated. The stem is a piece of natural bamboo. The bowl is not open like that of a tobacco pipe, but closed, with the exception of a tiny hole in the top of it. This bowl is very securely fastened to the stem, because the opium pipe is, of necessity, smoked bowl downwards. It would be obviously annoying if bowl and stem parted company. It might lead to celestial profanity. Other accessories to the toilet (generally placed all together upon the so-called opium tray) are a lighted oil lamp, and a long needle. The smoker dips the end of a needle into the opium, and draws out a small pill about the size of a pea. He hardens this into shape by turning and twisting it over the lamp flame at the point of the needle. The pipe is then held so as to bring the bowl over the lamp while the pill, insinuated with the aid of the needle point into the tiny aperture of the bowl, is at one and the same time cooked in the flame, and smoked. One pill does not last long; the Chinaman sucks in such a pipeful without taking breath. When it has disappeared he lays down the pipe, and then, and then only, expels the smoke through his nostrils. He then takes another pill, and goes through the whole process again. I may add that only the ignoramus buys for smoking purposes a nice, clean, new pipe. The aged and apparently done-for pipes are really the most valuable ones. Their price (always high) varies according to the length of time they have been smoked, and the resulting richness of their colour. Every tobacco smoker who has coloured a meerschaum for himself will understand this. A friend of mine has a curiosity in the way of pipes. Some genius, unable to afford a real pipe, has manufactured one for himself out of a brass door-knob and an old flute. He has drilled a small hole in the top of the door-knob, and affixed it by way of bowl to the flute (its holes stopped up), which serves for stem. The result is a most workmanlike and capable pipe. It is, I think, as admirable an example of Oriental ingenuity as I have ever seen or heard of. Not only that, but coming as it does from the Dickens opium den, it must be the very “broken-down flageolet” alluded to in the “Dictionary of London.” It may also very well be the pipe Mr. Field saw when the novelist took him with him to the same den. “In a miserable court, at night,” Mr. Field tells us, “we found a haggard old woman blowing at a kind of pipe made of an old ink-bottle, and the words that Dickens put into the mouth of this wretched creature in ‘Edwin Drood’ we heard her croon, as we leaned over the tattered bed on which she was lying.”