The Scenery of LondonMitton, G. E.
CHAPTER III: The City
CHAPTER III: The City
To a vast number of people the City is a terra incognita; even among those who consider that they know London "very fairly" there are many who have but a vague idea of the limits of the City. One lady at least, who had lived all her life in London, believed that anything beyond was the City. To such as these the doings of the Diamond Jubilee came as a revelation. Many who had rarely been on the top of an omnibus before, whose carefully sheltered lives, spent in drawing-rooms and broughams, had never led them beyond the Army and Navy Stores or at the farthest on the way to the Continent, hired private omnibuses, and from that vantage point surveyed the City as a strange and foreign land. The wisest started by the south side of the river and worked back across , and who that saw that sight will ever forget it ? Lines of green moss, wreathed with flowers and glittering with coloured electric lights, ran on both sides; at the north end rose the ghostly steeple of St. Magnus,
|opposite the substantial walls of the Fishmongers' Hall, while the summit of the Monument was lost in the darkness above. Outlined in fire were the great group of buildings, near the Bank, including the Royal Exchange and the Mansion House, while the Insurance offices near throbbed and blazed with colour; for once the City was in festival garb.|
Yet those who know the City, glad though they were to see what she could do in the way of finery, love her best in everyday attire. It is a sight of sights to go, on the top of an omnibus for choice, to the meeting of the ways, the great heart of London, at mid-day. The medley of traffic is perfectly controlled, no vehicle goes a wheel's breadth out of its own ground; the pavements are filled with top-hatted, hurrying men intent on the business of the moment, which is with most of them at that hour lunch; this makes a picture full of life and one that stimulates the blood till it runs quicker than its wont. On the left is the long, low building of the Bank, four-square, which encloses within its secret recesses a real garden in which real trees grow. The Bank is the outward and visible representation of the solidity and credit of England. Opposite is the great facade of the Royal Exchange, with flower-sellers and newspaper-vendors grouped in front of it; within, the hall rises in two stories and the walls are lined by great cartoons representing scenes in the history of the City. The first Royal Exchange was built by Sir Thomas Gresham in imitation of that of the merchants of Antwerp. Until that time the English merchants had
|no common place for business, but had met in Lombard Street haphazard, an excellent commentary on the English method of muddling along, which somehow produces as great results as if all plans had been cut and dried beforehand. Sir Thomas Gresham's Exchange was made of small blocks of Turkish hone-stones, some of which are incorporated into the present building. It bore on all its pinnacles his own crest, a grasshopper, and it was destroyed in the Great Fire. It was soon replaced, but its successor suffered the same fate, also perishing by fire in ; hence the present building.|
Besides being a place of business, the first Exchange was a centre for amusement and recreation. The citizens, who were then real citizens living in the City, used to walk there with their wives and daughters in the evenings; it formed a pleasant change from the fields outside the City walls. There were shops set thickly round "well furnished according to that time; for then the milliners or haberdashers in that place sold mouse-traps, bird-cages, shoeing-horns, lantherns, etc." There was an upper pawne or gallery, also well set with shops, where the young men bought ribbons and laces for their sweethearts, and flirted with the shop girls in doing so. The youths, the apprentices of the City, played football in the wide courtyard until it was forbidden by law.
A strange place that City, very different from the one we now know as a place well peopled by day and empty at night. Have you ever been to the heart of the City at midnight ? It is very silent. By the Bank
|a few stray omnibuses on their last journey pass sleepily, the strong, well-fed policeman goes his rounds trying door and bolt and fastening, and inquiring if he sees lights still in an office to make sure that it is an uncommonly industrious partner working late, and not a burglar intent on spoil. In the modern City the ways are still narrow and winding, and of recent years an enormous outburst of carved and hewn-stone ornament has appeared on the new buildings and offices. Some of these additions are really artistic, and show that pains have been taken with their design, others are mere meaningless imitations overloaded with an abundance of ornament. But at any rate time and money have been spent on the architecture, showing some care and love for this daytime habitation.|
In the old days men not only worked in the City, but lived and slept there, and knew each other as neighbours. Even in the eighteenth century the City life and the City society were still quite apart from that of the West End. The merchant, who was not quite what we call a merchant now, lived over his shop, and kept two or more apprentices, who did part of the housework, while his wife and daughters did the rest, with possibly the help of a kitchen-maid. On festival occasions, these people might go as far as Vauxhall, or any of the other gay resorts where fashion was wont to assemble, but as a rule they kept aloof. They were not in the fashionable set; the cut of their clothes, and their manners betrayed them. Clad in gowns of rich and sumptuous stuffs, silks of the best and cloths of the
|most superfine, yet the style was alien to the style of the fine ladies. They had, however, plenty of society among themselves. They knew not the lack of money, their table was always laden with good things, and a City merchant's capacity for food and drink seems to have been unlimited. In the evenings, if it were fine, they could walk in the wide Moorfields, curtailed of their ancient extent, it is true, but still open and farreaching.|
The merchant himself was a person of no small consequence; he had behind him generations of forebears who had not been afraid to stand before kings. From the days of the Plantagenets the City had had a corporate life and a mind of its own, and when our kings were forced to ask, humbly or otherwise, for funds " on loan " from the City, the citizen had the whip hand. It was in the reign of William III. that the last of these "loans" was requested, after that the king went to the Bank. Picture it then, this life so different from that of our own times. The well-to-do merchant, a man of self-respect and dignity, who acknowledged without shame that the nobility and gentry were of a very different class from himself, but who had no wish to mingle with them or to cringe to them; picture his lively apprentices, his blooming, unaffected daughters, and his good lady, inclining early to embonpoint; the diversions and the street scenes, the neighbourly intercourse, the bustle without hurry. The same merchant in all important attributes may be traced back almost as far as the history of London extends; though his opulence
|varied with the trade of London, and he was at his greatest in the days of trade-expansion in the time of Queen . Look at him as he was before the Fire, living in a house which for picturesqueness could hardly be matched. " The houses were timbered with tiled roofs; the fronts all covered with carvings painted and gilded; there were scattered here and there substantial stone houses." Gable ends, overhanging stories, the pinnacles and the wood-carving, the houses not in alignment but set each at its own angle to the street, made vistas which to-day we should regard with admiration, though of the sanitation in such dwellings the less said the better. Paving was a very late improvement, and, until after the Fire, only composed of the rounded cobble stones still in use in some provincial towns. There was no footway at all, and the suggestion that a row of posts should mark off the foot traffic from the wheeled was a distinct innovation; the mud holes caused much splashing, so that to walk in the streets at all was a danger. At many corners there were great heaps of rubbish-laystalls-where every one tilted their refuse, and which were occasionally pitched into the river. To counter balance this nearly every house had its garden, extending over a considerable area and well cultivated, filled with old-fashioned, sweet-scented blooms, such as stocks, gillyflowers, and pinks. The Londoners loved their flowers and some of them had additional gardens on the open ground at Moorfields.|
Where the Mansion House stands was formerly an open space in which was a pair of stocks for the punishment
|of evildoers. In , Henry Waleys, sometime Mayor, built here a market called the Stocks, where were sold at first flesh and fish, and later various commodities. The place prospered exceedingly, and "the butchers of the Stokkes" several times appear in the City chronicles. That they were kept under strict supervision is shown by the fact that when one of the number so far forgot himself as to attempt to sell putrid flesh he was condemned to stand in the pillory, with the offensive meat under his nose, an example of poetic justice which is rare. Sir Robert Vyner put up a statue of King Charles II. on horseback in the market at his own expense; this was greatly admired until it was discovered that it had originally been a statue of trampling a Turk underfoot, and that the economical Sir Robert had bought it abroad cheaply and had only gone to the expense of altering 's head to that of Charles, and the Turk's to represent Cromwell, on whom unfortunately the sculptor had left the Turk's turban, which led to the exposure of the fraud! The market was removed to Farringdon Street in .|
Of this London, this beautiful, insanitary, picturesque, fascinating London, we possess but few remnants, and these we shall consider in detail presently. Of London after the Fire there are not many good examples either, but one such I found in a house near Billingsgate which report says to have been Sir Christopher Wren's own City house, though here, as frequently elsewhere, report speaks hastily, and on insufficient premises. At any rate we may take it that this house forms a very good
|specimen of the kind of mansion the City merchant of that date preferred. It is admirably proportioned, built of red brick, with quoins and string-courses of stone. The front door faces a yard, and has stone steps leading up to it on each side; beneath them is a kennel for a dog. In the hall black and white marble tiles form the pavement; the stairs with carved balusters bear date , that is to say, just subsequently to the Fire, when all around lay in ashes, and the air was thick with complaints and actions as to "meum and tuum." However did they settle it, we wonder, when all landmarks were swept away ?|
On the first floor of this beautiful old house are four doors with heavily carved architraves, rich in foliage and fruit, in the style of Gibbons. The upper rooms have decorated ceilings, with heavy mouldings; in one room the mantelpiece and fireplace is of marble of different tints, and in the centre is an exquisite plaque of a sleeping child in relief. On the ground floor is a small room completely lined with oil paintings on panels reaching from floor to ceiling; these are dark with age, though in good preservation, and were painted in by " R. Robinson." The ceiling here is also carved in wood, and though paint and varnish overlies most of the carving on stairs and ceilings, still one can see the care and the loving attention which the man who owned the house had given to its details.
Many attempts were made by the English sovereigns to stop the growth of London. There were edicts issued against the building of houses, for it was feared
|that the population would get beyond the control of the authorities. The measures were taken in all good faith, but seem to us naive in their simplicity, for an order of a very different sort is now in force, that whosoever pulls down the houses of the poor shall erect other houses for them.|
Let us consider the gradual growth of London. In the very earliest days, when the importance of the Thames as a waterway had been noted and proved, the merchants settled along its banks on the site of the present City. Down the centre of this settlement ran the Wallbrook; on the west was the Fleet, and on the east the Lea. About the year 360 A.D. the enclosing wall, which played a large and important part in the history of London, was built; but it remains now only in fragments, in St. Giles's Churchyard, near All Hallows on the Wall, and possibly at the Tower.
Pass on six hundred years, and we find the same City extending over something like the same limits, though probably with a largely increased population. The houses are poor and mean, built for the most part of wattle and clay with a strengthening of wood. There are many churches; from the earliest date the City has been a city of churches. In this mean City was burnt from end to end, and was rebuilt in much better style. The London that arose from the ashes had schools and a fine trade; the citizens already had a good social life with opportunities for recreation as well as work. Let us pass on another three hundred years: this brings us to the reign of the pious King Henry VI., and, as
|we should expect, churches and religious houses then abounded. The pinnacles and spires of the churches arose in all parts of the City, and the religious houses also cluster thickly around the walls on the outside. Old , still for many a long year the only bridge at London, was covered with irregular houses, and had a chapel on it, dedicated to St. Thomas of Canterbury, a very gem of work. It was of two stories, richly decorated, and supported by clustered columns. On the south side of the river there were houses around St. Mary Overies, and a line by the water-side, but beyond that was nothing but fields.|
To the north stretched the Moorfields, open and reaching up to the far heights of Highgate. The Town ditch was still in evidence and full of water; it needed continual cleansing year by year, and was a source of much expense to the authorities. Complaint was frequently made that the houses were built right on to it, overlapping it, and that their gardens reached down the banks; considering the repeated assurances of the "filthy" state of the ditch we wonder at the audacity, and immunity from germs of our predecessors ! It is difficult to think of the City as thickly set with the houses of nobles, but so it was in the Middle Ages. In Aldersgate lived the Earls of Northumberland, Westmoreland, Thanet, and the Marquis of Dorchester; the Earls of Arundel had their town house in Botolph Lane ; the Earls of Worcester in Worcester Lane ; the Duke of Buckingham lived on College Hill; was domiciled in Fish Street Hill; the
|Earls of Oxford were at one time in St. Mary Axe, and Cromwell, Earl of Essex, in Throgmorton Street; the Earls of Leicester were in the Old Bailey ; besides these, scattered about within the limits of the City, were the town houses of the Beaumonts and the Huntingdons, the Lords Mountjoy and Berkeley, the Earls of Richmond and of Pembroke; and the palaces of kings, such as the Erber, Cold Harbour, Baynard's Castle, Tower Royal, and Crosby Hall. All these within the narrow limits of a square mile of space. The parts remaining of the ancient City are very few. If we set aside for the moment the venerable Tower and the oldest part of the Guildhall, all there is to be seen amounts to a few fragments. Among these is numbered Crosby Hall, built in , which was the town house of ., the residence of the Lord Mayors of London, and of Sir Thomas More. It is now turned into a restaurant, and must be visited of course. The stained-glass windows and the dark-painted woodwork will make us feel we have come by mistake into some ancient chapel. The luncheon here is largely patronised by the more wealthy strata of the City men, also by those having ladies as their guests, and the place is so crowded that it is often difficult to get a seat at all. A very short way northward is the tiny church of St. Ethelburga, with shops projecting from its frontage; a piscina and other details here survived the Fire. The noble Church of St. Mary-le-Bow in Cheapside is so intimately associated with Old London, that to be born "within sound of Bow Bells" was once synonymous|
|with being a cockney. Times have changed since then; the great spaces of "wider London " are beyond the sound of the sweet bells of Bow, and a present-day Dick Whittington would have left fields far behind him before he came within reach of their encouraging tones. Bow Bells are still famous for their chimes, and though the bells are not the same as in Whittington's day they are ancient enough, having been put up in place of those destroyed by the Fire. Unfortunately they are seldom rung, for lack of funds. Six times a year is the rule. Bow Steeple soars grandly, rising like a dart that would pierce the sky, but by far the oldest parts of the church are the Norman Chapel and crypt, which, with those of St. Paul's and Clerkenwell, and part of St. Bartholomew's Church, are reckoned among the most ancient fragments of Old London remaining.|
|The Chapel of St. Mary's, which lies 18 feet below the level of the street (a fact caused by the enormous débris of the Fire, and to be noted in all old City buildings), is Norman work, with massive, rough-hewn stone. Wren ran a wall through it in order to utilise these solid foundations for the support of his new church. At a very little lower level is the crypt, with some beautiful Norman pillars with " cushion " capitals; on one of these is moulding, a spear-head, a very uncommon addition in those days of severe simplicity. Eight hundred coffins are walled up in the crypt. Leaving St. Mary-le-Bow we may go northward to St. Giles's, Cripplegate, built in the fourteenth century, and though restored and repaired, yet to all general observation a fourteenth-century church|
|as different from Wren's churches as a heron is from a sleek city pigeon. The side facing the street is quaint in colouring, composed of worn stone, and brick, brown with age. At one end rises the curious tower with an upper story of brick. Unfortunately some charming old houses over an entry have been done away with. In the churchyard is a bastion of the ancient City wall, looking wonderfully fresh and white beside the smokeblackened ivy that grows near it. The pleasant green sward of the churchyard is fenced in by the heavy iron railings which line the right of way, and there is no possibility of sitting in this quiet spot dreaming of Old London and of , as one ought to be able to do. If the late restoration had done away with the high heavy railings and restored the sacred green patch to the dreamer and the enthusiast, it would indeed have been a restoration worth the name.|
Just within the Liberties of the City westward, being in fact the first numbers in Holborn, are the ancient Elizabethan houses beneath which runs the entrance to Staple Inn. These have been carefully restored and, being in good hands, may stand for many a day yet, and as they, with Crosby Hall, are the only specimens of Elizabethan domestic architecture remaining to us in the City of London, well may they be cherished.
There is one more pre-Fire fragment, for which we have to go a long way, namely London Stone, set in the south wall of St. Swithin's Church, opposite Cannon Street railway station. No one knows the age of this stone, or why it was first adopted as London Stone.
|Some have supposed it to be a Druidical remnant, others the Roman milestone set up to mark the beginning of mile measurements, others again that it was a fragment of a large monument; or that it was the place from which proclamations were made. At any rate, in Jack Cade, the rebel, thought there was some particular virtue in striking the stone as a sign of his possession of the City, which showed that it was regarded as a talisman. It is sadly diminished from what it was; Stow speaks of it as a " great stone," but perhaps after his time it was damaged in the Fire. It was placed in its present position under a grill in , and there it remains, a suggestive fragment for the imagination to work upon.|
There are other details of ancient work preserved and rebuilt into later fabrics, as at St. Alphage's Church, and the Dutch Church in Austin Friars has walls dating back to the thirteenth century, but we have seen all the recognised parts of Old London. Of London subsequent to the Fire there is of course a good deal more, though not so much as might be supposed. Into one after another of Wren's churches we may wander finding all of the same pattern with small varieties and modifications, and everywhere we see the same wood-carving. The wide vestibules, the heavy galleries, the rectangular plan, and the dark woodwork make a strong family likeness; and though the churches are but a percentage of their old number, they are still very thickly set the modern City. The Monument is of course of the same date; it boasts no architectural beauty; but in
|by-streets and courts may be found beautiful bits of Jacobean work, notably in the carved pediments above the doors on College Hill and Laurence Pountney Hill, pediments, heavy with foliage, fruit, and cherubs in relief. The City was of course immensely changed by the opening up of the two great modern streets-Cannon Street and Queen Victoria Street. These cut through any number of narrow passages and tiny courts, and entirely obliterated some. The improvement was really an improvement, as one must sadly also admit of the new Kingsway, yet it did away with many attractive peeps, notably one looking down Paul's Chain at St. Paul's Churchyard to the River, framed between irregular houses, with the red walls of St. Benet's in what is artistically but not euphonically termed the " middle distance."|
Of the modern City we have said a little already in reference to the wonderful outburst of stone ornament, which is of recent growth, and this is perhaps the salient characteristic; but there are others which would strike a stranger with almost equal force. One of these is the tortuousness of the little streets, too narrow for two vehicles abreast, leading into secluded courts as at Austin Friars. Courts like these are often cul-de-sac or else have only an alternative footway leading through the base of some enormous hive of industry into another street. This footway, really part of the house above, forms a public passage for all and sundry, and re-echoes to the clang of heels the whole of the working day. Peering down other entries into other blind alleys, we
|may note the great window reflectors put up to take advantage of every ray of light that filters down from the grey strip of sky above. And yet in these narrow alleys and dark offices an enormous amount of business is done. City offices are not, however, by any means all dark; several have a delightful outlook, where some graveyard, a reminder of a long-vanished church, is still regarded as sacred ground and remains unbuilt on; so that its waving planes and green grass are a continual refreshment to the eyes of those whose windows surround it.|
|Such is the graveyard of the now demolished church on Laurence Pountney Hill. Here are the two beautiful old houses, already referred to, with carved pediments, uprights and lintels of date I703 ; the cornice is also carved, but these details are not well seen by reason of the narrowness of the lane. Under No. 3 on this hill is the crypt of the Manor of the Rose, the stately mansion of , who gave the Cold Harbour to the Earl of Hereford for " one rose at midsummer," from which the name is said to have arisen.|
And amid the modern houses, in the modern streets, what of the men who spend their days in the City ? They are of course of a totally different type from the old merchant, who was a City man through and through; now the distinction between east and west is broken down, as it was beginning to be in the time of the Stuarts; it is nothing derogatory to a man of any station and any rank to be "something in the City," if that something be of a satisfactory
|and honest nature. Men of all classes spend their days in the City and send their sons there after a university education. In the evening they go back to a social life of any kind whatever up to the highest. Of course, with so wide a gamut the type must vary. The man who has got together a small business, and who is in himself but little above the better tradesman, is very far removed from the partner in an old-established business, himself a gentleman and well connected. It is impossible to generalise too freely, but the same life, the rubbing shoulders, the give and take, and the community of interest produce some characteristics which may be set down without straining the generalisation too far. The City man as a rule is alert and shrewd, with an air of good-fellowship, or at least the desire to give that impression; he is pleasant, tolerant, and trustworthy. At his best and at his worst he is of course a very different being. At his best courteous, dignified, yet good-natured, at his worst a sycophant with greasy, ingratiating manners, who mistakes familiarity for ease, slyness for shrewdness, and taking a mean advantage for business ability. A creature of this sort has his lair as a rule in the underground basement of one of the huge modern buildings, where hundreds of offices are collected under one roof. Here, in a tiny box of a room, top-lighted and furnished with a couple of shabby chairs, a few reference books and a " ledger," he dictates to some poor typist girl, at fifteen, or even twelve, shillings a week, the letters and advertisements by which he hopes to lure flies into his web.|
The City may be divided roughly into zones, each with its special types. Westward, in the district about and near St. Paul's Churchyard, are the great warehouses, to which may or may not be attached manufactories in the provincial towns; in many of these the clerks dine "in," and the stores of Honey Lane market are ransacked by the caterers to provide beef and mutton enough. About the Bank and Stock Exchange are, as might be expected, the offices of the stockbrokers and jobbers; with these the tendency is to go northward towards Finsbury Circus, but never south of Cornhill; near the appropriately named Australian Avenue are colonial warehousemen; down about Mincing Lane are the merchants. The shipping offices may be said to have headquarters along Fenchurch Street, while in Thames Street the river is lined by wharfingers, and interspersed amid all the districts are innumerable odd offices dealing with every variety of commerce known to man.
Among the men who work in the City, by far the largest proportion are the clerks; in the same way that there are numbers of privates to one officer, so each City man who is the head of a firm represents a greater or less number of clerks. The status of the clerks varies a good deal with the business of their employers. Those who are in the warehouse businesses have a chance of rising to the very top of the tree, becoming partners and eventually retiring to a "place in the country," there to found a family; and even short of this the incomes are in some cases enormous. There
|is many a Dick Whittington who, beginning with the modest ten shillings a week of an office boy, has found his income running into thousands of pounds yearly, after diligent and steady work. In many, many cases the managing clerk has gradually got the business into his own hands by reason of the slackness of attendance and carelessness of his principal. He is then master of the situation and able to make his own terms. Take him at his best, the City clerk is a good fellow, methodical, industrious, cheerful, and inclined to have a genuine pride in "our office," and to rate the advantages of his employment high. He probably lives out at Camberwell or Peckham or some other suburb easily reached from . If he be a bachelor, he makes his small stipend go wonderfully far. He is always well dressed, is never seen to fail in the immaculateness of his collar, and probably owns a bicycle. He shares to a large extent in the qualities which are the result of his environment. First, he is tolerant: " live and let live" is his unspoken motto; life would be unbearable if he strove to mould the heterogeneous crowd with which he comes in contact to his own views, and to be annoyed at trifles would result in a perpetual state of irritation; therefore he goes his own way and interferes with no one else. This attitude of mind carries with it a corresponding defect-there is more tolerance of evil as well as of mere divergence of opinion, less rigid principle and less keenness in holding opinions than there used to be.|
The number of clerks who find time to play at
|dominoes for half the afternoon is something amazing. They go to and fro on business, and are not accountable for every minute of their time; so long as the work is done no inquiries are made, therefore it is that between two and four on any day but Saturday they may frequently be seen deep in a contest of dominoes in some restaurant. The average clerk is independent also, and does not mind showing it; bound in office hours to give obedience, which he does cheerfully-is it not reckoned in his pay ?-he yet holds his independence sturdily. Were all the partners and the senior clerks to be suddenly incapacitated he would cheerfully assume all responsibility for the conduct of affairs until the arrival of a higher authority. He is secretly quite persuaded of his own ability to "run the show" better than his chief. In fact sometimes the difficulty is to check what becomes officiousness; in the language of Korah and his company he "takes too much upon him." His willingness to take responsibility, however, is a large asset in his character, not often drawn upon, but well worth the endurance of self-assertion and cheekiness, which goes with it. It is said that Germans make better clerks as machines, they work harder, take less pay, and are neater than Englishmen, but they will not take responsibility. It is true that real responsibility is not often demanded of a clerk, but the fact of his willingness to take it in small matters as in large makes him worth extra money to his employer. Initiative is a much rarer and correspondingly more valuable quality than willingness to take responsibility;|
|perhaps there was never a time when this commodity was so eagerly sought and so highly paid. For a hundred men who will use judgment and discretion in business, there is only one who will make suggestions and initiate reforms, in fact get his head above the rut. These qualities are more often seen in " travellers" than in ordinary clerks, for the business of a "traveller" cultivates initiative; hence it has been more than once that a large commercial firm has taken a " traveller " into partnership sooner than a more highly paid clerk of longer service.|
The girl clerks or typists are rapidly increasing in the City, and are, as a whole, eminently trustworthy; they show strength in the very qualities in which women might be supposed to be deficient, as in reticence, regularity, and perseverance. They are frequently of a higher social class than the men clerks, and are treated by the latter with courtesy. But there is not much intermingling out of office hours. The wide scattering to all suburbs, east, north, and south, that follows the day's work is against social intercourse; men and girls alike have frequently only just time to catch their trains, and then they are carried away miles from each other until they appear again at the office next morning, when routine and discipline forbid any but the barest human intercourse. A City clerk is in fact very hard beset to find "ladies"' society; he may live in rooms by himself, rooms to which he only returns late at night, and his brother clerks, possibly similarly situated, are far away; there is none of the mutual interchange of sisters
|that makes for marriages in a country town. Many and many a young fellow goes from week's end to week's end associating only with other men. To remedy this state of affairs the late Professor Shuttleworth organised a club which proved a brilliant success. It is a club for both City men and City women, and includes many recreations, such as concerts and dances, and is run upon sensible and sound lines. The club has prospered marvellously, and so many have been the marriages resulting from it that the professor used to be chaffed upon his " matrimonial agency."|
But any account of the City, however general and discursive, would be incomplete without a reference to the king of the City, the Lord Mayor, and his court of aldermen and sheriffs. The Lord Mayor is a very great personage indeed, his office was established in .'s reign, though never acknowledged by Richard. The glory of Lord Mayor's show has unfortunately sadly fallen off since the days of the City giants and the pageantry, or from the time of the river fêtes and the splendid barges, and seems likely to decline still further, till it becomes a mere procession with bands and State carriages. Yet the Lord Mayor still meets the Sovereign on State occasions at Temple Bar, and hands him the keys of the City, and no royal person from abroad feels satisfied that he has really seen London until he has been received by the Lord Mayor. The great civic dinners of the City are not at all diminished in grandeur, and the menus of some of them would make a bygone merchant open his eyes, though he
|might think our ideas of delicacies for the table as strange as we think his "prunes in soup, honey poured over roast mutton, pigeons stuffed with green gooseberries, and turkey with cloves." The City Companies too keep up their reputation in this respect, and any one who has partaken of the hospitality at one of the Halls will not soon forget it. It is the custom on these occasions to entertain men only, and as well as offering a profusion of good fare to send each guest away with a present, of what the Americans call "candies," the French "bonbons," and for which we use the unsatisfactory word "sweets"; doubtless intended as a reminder to the wife at home that though of inferior degree, not worthy to partake of a City Company's dinner, she is kindly remembered.|
The Companies' Halls are in themselves in many cases interesting and, in some cases, ancient, that is to say, since the Fire. The carving and the pictures and the plate are worth seeing, and, though the number of the companies has diminished, they make a brave show, from the lordly Goldsmiths, Mercers, and Drapers down to the humble Tallow Chandlers.
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- Edwin C. Bolles papers
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