Walks in London, vol. I

Hare, Augustus J. C.
1878

Introductory.
Sir, the happiness of London is not to be conceived but by those who have been in it. I will venture to say there is more learning and science within the circumference of
ten
miles from where we sit than in all the rest of the kingdom.
Such was the dictum of Dr. Johnson when he was seated with Boswell in the Mitre Tavern near
Temple Bar
, and how many thousands of people before and since have felt the same cat-like attachment as the old philosopher to the vast town of multitudinous life and ever-changing aspects? As Cowper says-
Where has Pleasure such a field,
So rich, so thronged, so drained, so well supplied,
As London-opulent, enlarged, and still
Increasing London.
Macaulay had the reputation of having walked through every street in London, but if we consider the ever-growing size of the town we cannot believe that anyone else will ever do so: for more people live in London already than in the whole of Denmark or Switzerland, more than twice as many as in Saxony or Norway, and nearly as many as in Scotland. And, if we trust to old prophecies. London has
still to be doubled in circumference, for Mother Shipton says that the day will come when Highgate Hill shall be in the middle of the town. Few indeed are the Londoners who see more than a small circuit around their homes, the main arteries of mercantile life, and some of the principal sights. It is very easy to live with eyes open, but it is more usual, and a great deal more fashionable, to live with eyes shut. Scarcely any man in what is usually called
society
has the slightest idea of what there is to be seen in his own great metropolis, because he never looks, or still more perhaps, because he never inquires, and the architectural and historical treasures of the City are almost as unknown to the West End as the buried cities of Bashan or the lost tombs of Etruria. Strangers also, especially foreigners, who come perhaps with the very object of seeing London, are inclined to judge it by its general aspects, and do not stay long enough to find out its more hidden resources. They never find out that the London of
Brook Street
and
Grosvenor Street
, still more the odious London of Tyburnia, Belgravia, and South Kensington, is as different to the London of our great-grandfathers as modernised Paris is to the oldest town in Brittany, and dwellers in the West End do not know that they might experience almost the refreshment and tonic of going abroad in the transition from straight streets and featureless houses to the crooked thoroughfares half-an-hour off, where every street has a reminiscence, and every turn is a picture. There is a passage in Heinrich Heine which says,
You may send a philosopher to London, but by no means a poet. The bare earnestness of everything, the colossal sameness, the machine-like movement, oppresses the imagination and
rends the heart in twain.
But those who know London well will think that Heine must have stayed at an hotel in
Wimpole Street
, and that his researches can never have taken him much beyond
Oxford Street
and its surroundings; and that a poet might find plenty of inspiration, if he would do what is so easy, and break the ice of custom, and see London as it really is--in its strange varieties of society, in its lights and shadows of working life, in its endless old buildings which must ever have a hold on the inmost sympathies of those who look upon them, and who, while learning the story they tell of many generations, seem to realise that they are
in the presence of their fame and feel their influence.
An artist, after a time, will find London more interesting than any other place, for nowhere are there such atmospheric effects on fine days, and nowhere is the enormous power of blue more felt in the picture; while the soot, which puts all the stones into mourning, makes everything look old. The detractors of the charms of London always lay their strongest emphasis upon its fogs-
More like a distillation of mud than anything else; the ghost of mud,--the spiritualised medium of departed mud, through which the dead citizens of London probably tread, in the Hades whither they are translated.
-Hawthorne.
Note-books
.
But if the fogs are not too thick an artist will find an additional charm in them, and will remember with pleasure the beautiful effects upon the river, when only the grand features remain, and the ignominious details are blotted out; or when
the eternal mist around
St. Paul's
is turned to a glittering haze.
In fact, if the capitals of Europe are considered, London is
one
of the most picturesque--far
more so than Paris or Vienna; incomparably more so than St. Petersburg, Berlin, Dresden, Munich, Brussels, or Madrid.
No town in Europe is better supplied with greenery than London: even in the City almost every street has its tree. And pity often is ill bestowed upon Londoners by dwellers in the country, for the fact is all the best attributes of the country are to be found in the town. The squares of the West End, with their high railings, and ill-kept gardens, are certainly ugly enough, but the parks are full of beauty, and there are walks in Kensington Gardens which in early spring present a maze of loveliness. Lately too, since window gardening has become the fashion, each house has its boxes of radiant flowers, enlivening the dusty stonework or smoke-blackened bricks, and seeming all the more cheerful from their contrast. Through the markets too all that is best in country produce flows into the town: the strawberries, the cherries, the vegetables, are always finer there than at the places where they are grown. Milton, who changed his house oftener than anyone else, and knew more parts of the metropolis intimately, thus apostrophizes it-
Oh city, founded by Dardanian hands,
Whose towering front the circling realms commands,
Too blest abode! no loveliness we see,
In all the earth, but it abounds in thee.
There is a certain class of minds, and a large
one
, which stagnates in the country, and which finds the most luxurious stimulant in the ceaseless variety of London, where there is always so much to be seen and so much to be heard, and these make so much to be thought of.
I have passed all my days in London, until I have formed as many and as intense local attachments, as any of you mountaineers can have done with dead nature. The lighted shops of
the Strand
and
Fleet Street
; the innumerable trades, tradesmen, and customers, coaches, waggons, playhouses; all the bustle and wickedness round about Covent Garden; the watchmen, drunken scenes, rattles;--life awake, if you awake, at all hours of the night; the impossibility of being dull in
Fleet Street
; the crowds, the very dirt and mud, the sun shining upon houses and pavements, the print-shops, the old book-stalls, parsons cheapening books, coffee-houses, steams of soups from kitchens, the pantomimes-London itself a pantomime and a masquerade-all these things work themselves into my mind, and feed me without a power of satiating me. The wonder of these sights impels me into night-walks about her crowded streets, and I often shed tears in the motley Strand from fulness of joy at so much life. ... I consider the clouds above me but as a roof beautifully painted, but unable to satisfy the mind; and at last, like the pictures of the apartment of a connoisseur, unable to afford him any longer a pleasure. So fading upon me, from disuse, have been the beauties of Nature, as they have been confinedly called; so ever fresh, and green, and warm, are all the inventions of men, and assemblies of men in this great city.
Charles Lamb to Wordsworth,
Jan.
30
,
1800
.
Many derivations are given for the name London. Some derive it from Lhwn-dinas, the
City in the Wood;
others from Llongdinas, the
City of Ships;
others from Llyndhn, the
Hill Fortress by the Lake.
Geoffrey of Monmouth says that Brute
builded this citie
about A.C.
1008
. From the time at which it is reported to have been founded by Brute, says Brayley,
even fable itself is silent in regard to its history, until the century immediately preceding the Roman invasion.
Londiniana
.
Then King Lud is said to have encircled it with walls, and adorned it
with fayre buildings and towers.
The remains found certainly prove the existence of a British city on the site before the Londinium, or Colonia Augusta, spoken of by Tacitus and
Ammianus Marcellinus, which must have been founded by the Roman expedition under Aulus Plautius in A.D.
43
. Tacitus mentions that it was already the great
mart of trade and commerce
and the
chief residence of merchants,
when the revolt of the Iceni occurred under Boadicea in A.D.
61
, in which it was laid waste with fire and sword. It had however risen from its ashes in the time of Severus (A.D.
193
-
211
), when Tacitus describes it as
illustrious for the vast number of merchants who resorted to it, for its extensive commerce, and for the abundance of every kind of commodity which it could supply.
Londiniana
.
Stow says that the walls of London were built by Helena, mother of Constantine the Great,
about the year of Christ
306
,
at any rate there is little doubt that they were erected in the
fourth
century. They were rather more than
two
miles in circumference, defended by towers, and marked at the principal points by the great gates,
Aldgate
, Bishopsgate, Cripplegate, Aldersgate, and Ludgate. The best fragments of the old wall remaining are to be seen opposite Sion College, and in the churchyard of St. Giles, Cripplegate there is also a fragment in St.
Martin's Court
on
Ludgate Hill
. Quantities of Roman antiquities, tessellated pavements, urns, vases, &c., have been found from time to time within this circuit, especially in digging the foundations of the Goldsmiths' Hall, and of the Hall of Commerce in
Threadneedle Street
. For a long time these remains were carelessly kept or not kept at all, but latterly some of them have been collected in the admirable little museum under the
Guildhall
. Several Roman cemeteries have been discovered,
one
of them by
Sir Christopher Wren when he was laying the foundation of the new
St. Paul's
. All the excavations show that modern London is at least
fifteen
feet higher than the London of the Romans, which has been buried by the same inexplicable process which entombed the Roman Forum, and covered many of its temples with earth up to the capitals of the columns.
Very little is known of London in Saxon times except that
St. Paul's Cathedral
was founded by Ethelbert, in A.D.
610
, in the time of King Sebert. Bede, who mentions this, describes London as an
emporium of many nations who arrived thither by land and sea.
London was the stronghold of the Danes, but was successfully besieged by Alfred, and Athelstan had a palace here. His successor Ethelred the Unready was driven out again by the Danes under Sweyn. On the death of Sweyn, Ethelred returned, and his son Edmund Ironside was the
first
monarch crowned in the capital. London grew greatly in importance under Edward the Confessor, who built the Palace and Abbey of
Westminster
, and it made a resistance to the Conqueror which was for some time effectual, though, on the submission of the clergy, he was presented with the keys of the City and crowned at the Confessor's tomb. He immediately tried to conciliate the citizens, by granting them the charter, which, written in the Saxon language, on a strip of vellum, is still preserved amongst the City archives.
William the King greeteth William the Bishop and Godfrey the Portreve, and all the burgesses within London, both French and English. And I declare that I grant you all to be law-worthy as ye were in King Edward's days. And I will that every child be his father's heir after his father's days. And I will not suffer that any man do you wrong. . God preserve you.
The chief events in the after story of London, its insurrections, its pageants, its martyrdoms, its conspiracies, its pestilences, its Great Fire, its religious agitations, its political excitements, are all noticed in describing those parts of the town with which they are especially connected.
Fuller says that London
is the
second
city in Christendome for greatnesse, and the
first
for good government.
Its chief officer under the Saxons was called the Portreeve. After the Conquest the French word Maire, from Major, was introduced. We
first
hear of a
Mayor
of London in the reign of Henry II. His necessary qualifications are, that he shall be free of
one
of the City Companies, have served as Sheriff, and be an Alderman at the time of his election.
Londiniana.
The name of
Alderman
is derived from the title of a Saxon noble,
eald
meaning old,
ealder
elder. It is applied to the chief officer of a ward or guild and each Alderman of London takes his name from a ward. The
City Companies
or Merchant Guilds, though branches of the Corporation, have each a distinct government and peculiar liberties and immunities granted in special charters. Each Company has a Master and other officers, and separate
Halls
for their business or banquets. The oldest of the Companies is the Weavers, with a charter of i
164
. Then come the Parish Clerks, instituted in
1232
, and the Saddlers, in
1280
. The Bakers, Goldsmiths, Skinners, Grocers, Carpenters, and Fishmongers, all date from the
fourteenth
century. There are
ninety-one
Companies, but of these
twelve
are the most important, viz.-
Mercers
Merchant Tailors
Grocers
Haberdashers
Drapers
Salters
Fishmongers
Ironmongers
Goldsmiths
Vintners
Skinners
Clothworkers.
In the
second
year of Elizabeth the pictorial map of Ralph Aggas was published, which shows how little in those days London had increased beyond its early boundaries. Outside
Aldgate
, Bishopsgate, and Cripplegate, all was still complete country.
The Spital Fyeld
(Spitalfields) and
Finsburie Fyeld
were archery grounds:
Moorfields
was a marsh. St. Giles, Cripplegate, was the church of a little hamlet beyond the walls. Farther west a few houses in
Little Britanne
and
Cock Lane
clustered around the open space of
Schmyt Fyeld,
black with the fires of recent martyrdoms. A slender thread of humble dwellings straggled along the road which led by Holbourne Bridge across the Fleet to St. Andrew's Church and Ely Place, but ceased altogether after
Holbourne Hill
till the road reached the desolate village and leper-hospital of St. Giles-in-the-Fields. A wide expanse of open pasture-land, only broken by Drury House and the Convent Garden of
Westminster
, extended southwards from
St. Giles's
to
the Strand
, where the houses of the great nobles lined the passage of the sovereign from the City to the small royal city and great palace of
Westminster
. From
Charing Cross
,
St. Martin's Lane
and the
Haymarket
were hedge-girt roads leading into a solitude, and there was scarcely any house westwards except the Hospital of St. James, recently turned into a palace.
After the time of Elizabeth, London began to grow
rapidly, though Elizabeth herself and her immediate successors, dreading the power of such multitudes in the neighbourhood of the Court, did all they could to check it. In
July
,
1580
, all persons were prohibited from building houses within
three
miles of any of the City gates, and, in
1602
, a proclamation was made for
restraining the increase of buildings,
and the
voyding of inmates
in the cities of London and
Westminster
, and for
three
miles round. But in spite of this, in spite of the Plague which destroyed
68,596
people, and the Fire which destroyed
13,200
houses, the great city continued to grow. Latterly it has increased so rapidly westwards, that it is impossible to define the limits of the town. It has been travelling west more or less ever since the time of the Plantagenets;--from the City to
the Strand
, and to Canonbury and Clerkenwell; then, under the Stuart kings, to the more northern parts of the parish of St. Clement Danes and to
Whitehall
: then, under William III. and Anne, to Bloomsbury and Soho: under the early Georges, to the Portland and Portman estates, then to the Grosvenor estates, and lastly to South Kensington. By its later increase the town has enormously increased the wealth of
nine
peers, to whom the greater portion of the soil upon which it has been built belongs-i.e. the Dukes of Portland, Bedford, and
Westminster
; the Marquises of Exeter, Salisbury, Northampton, and the Marquis Camden; the Earl Craven and Lord Portman. No
one
can tell where the West End will be next year. It is always moving into the country and never arriving there. Generally Fashion
is only gentility moving away from vulgarity and afraid of being overtaken by it,
but in this case it is also a perpetual flight before the smoke, which still always drives
westwards, so that when the atmosphere is thickest in Brompton, the sky is often blue and the air pure in
Ratcliff Highway
.
In all the changes of generations of men and manners in London, the truth of the proverb,
Birds of a feather flock together,
has been attested by the way in which the members of the same nationalities and those who have followed the same occupations have inhabited the same district. Thus, French live in the neighbourhood of
Leicester Square
and Soho, Italians in
Hatton Garden
, and Germans in the east of London. Thus, Lawyers live in
Lincoln's Inn
and the Temple; Surgeons and Dentists in
George Street
and
Burlington Street
; Doctors in
Harley Street
; and retired Indians in
Cavendish Square
and
Portman Square
, with their adjoining streets, which have obtained the name of Little Bengal. Thus, too, you would go to look for Booksellers in
Paternoster Row
, Clockmakers: in Clerkenwell, Butchers in Newgate and Smithfield, Furniture Dealers in
Tottenham Court Road
, Hatmakers in
Southwark
, Tanners and Leather-dressers in
Bermondsey
, Bird and Bird-cage sellers near the
Seven
Dials, Statuaries in the
Euston Road
, and Artists at
the Boltons
.
The poorest parts of London also have always been its eastern and north-eastern parishes, and the district about Soho and St. Giles-in-the-Fields. So much has been said and written of the appearance of poverty and crime which these streets present, that those who visit them will be surprised to find at least outward decency and a tolerably thriving population; though of course the words of Cowley are true-
The monster London,
Let but thy wicked men from out thee go,
And all the fools that crowd thee so,
Even thou, who dost thy millions boast,
A village less than
Islington
wilt grow
A solitude almost.
The great landmarks are the same in London now that they were in the time of the Plantagenets: the Tower is still the great fortress;
London Bridge
is still the great causeway for traffic across the river;
St. Paul's
and
Westminster Abbey
are still the great churches; and
Westminster
Palace is only transferred from the sovereign to the legislature. The City still shows by its hills-Ludgate Hill,
Cornhill
, and Tower Hill-why it was chosen as the early capital.
One
feature however of old London is annihilated-all the smaller brooks or rivers which fed the Thames are buried and lost to view. The Eye Bourne, the Old Bourne, and the Wall Brook, though they still burrow beneath the town, seem to have left nothing but their names. Even the Fleet, of which there are so many unflattering descriptions in the poets of the last century, is entirely arched over, and it is difficult to believe that there can ever have been a time when Londoners saw
ten
or
twelve
ships at once sailing up to
Holborn
Bridge, or still more that they can have gone up as high as Baggnigge Wells Road, where the discovery of an anchor seems to testify to their presence. Where the aspect is entirely changed the former character of London sites is often pleasantly recorded for us in the names of the streets.
Hatton Garden
,
Baldwin's Gardens
,
and
Whetstone Park
keep up a reminiscence of the rural nature of a now crowded district as late as the time of the Stuarts, though
with
Lincoln's Inn Fields
,
and
Great and Little Turnstile,
they have a satirical effect as applied to the places which now belong to them. In the West End,
Brook Street
,
Green Street
,
Farm Street
,
Hill Street
, and
Hay Hill
, commemorate the time,
two hundred
years ago, when the Eye Bourne was a crystal rivulet running down-hill to
Westminster
through the green hay-fields of Miss Mary Davies.
Few would re-echo Malcolm's exclamation,
Thank God, old London was burnt,
even if it were quite true, which it is not. The Fire destroyed the greater part of London, but gave so much work to the builders that the small portion unburnt remained comparatively untouched till the tide of fashion had flowed too far westwards to make any systematic rebuilding worth while. It is over the
City
of London, as the oldest part of the town, that its chief interest still hovers. Those who go there in search of its treasures will be stunned on week-days by the tourbillon of its movement, and the constant eddies at all the great crossings in the whirlpool of its business life, such as no other town in Europe can show. But this also has its charms, and no
one
has seen London properly who has not watched the excited crowds at the Stock Exchange, threaded the labyrinth of the Bank, wondered at the intricate arrangements of the Post Office, attended a Charity Children's service at
St. Paul's
, beheld the Lord Mayor drive by in his coach; stood amid the wigged lawyers and whirling pigeons of the
Guildhall
; and struggled through
Cheapside
,
Cornhill
, and
Great Tower Street
with the full tide of a weekday.
But no
one
can see the City properly who does not walk in it, and.no
one
can walk in it comfortably except on a
Sunday. On that day it is thoroughly enjoyable. The great chimneys have ceased smoking, the sky is blue, the trees look green, but that which is most remarkable is, the streets are empty. What becomes of all the people it is impossible to imagine; there are not only no carriages, there are scarcely any foot-passengers:
one
may saunter along the pavement with no chance of being jostled, and walk down the middle of the street without any fear of being run over. Then alone can the external features of the City be studied, and there is a great charm in the oddity of having it all to
one
's self, as well as in the quietude. Then we see how, even in the district which was devastated by the Fire, several important fragments escaped, and how the portion which was unburnt is filled with precious memorials of an earlier time. Scarcely less interesting also, and, though not always beautiful, of a character exceedingly unusual in England, are the numerous buildings erected immediately after the Fire in the reign of Charles II. The treasures which we have to look for are often very obscure --a sculptured gateway, a panelled room, a storm-beaten tower, or an incised stone-and in themselves might scarcely be worth a tour of inspection; but in a city where so many millions of inhabitants have lived and passed away, where so many great events of the world's history have occurred, there is scarcely
one
of these long-lived remnants which has not some strange story to tell in which it bears the character of the only existing witness. The surroundings, too, are generally picturesque, and only those who study them and dwell upon them can realise the interest of the desolate tombs in the City churches, the loveliness of the plane-trees in their fresh spring green rising amid the smoky
houses in those breathing spaces left by the Fire in the old City churchyards where the churches were never rebuilt, or the soft effects of aerial perspective from the wharfs of the Thames or amid the many-masted shipping in the still reaches of
the Pool
,
where the great White Tower of the Conqueror still frowns at the beautiful church built in honour of a poor ferry-woman,
One hundred and seven
churches were destroyed in the Fire, and only
twenty-two
were preserved. Of these many have since been pulled down, and there are now only
thirteen
churches in existence which date before the time of Charles II. Those which were built immediately after the Fire; however, are scarcely less interesting, for though Wren had more work than he could possibly attend to properly, he never forgot that the greatest acquirement of architecture is the art of
interesting
, and the inexhaustible power of his imagination displayed in his parish churches is not less astonishing than his genius evinced at
St. Paul's
. He built
fifty-three
churches in London, mostly classic; in
one
or
two
, as St. Mary Aldermary and St. Alban,
Wood Street
, he has attempted Gothic, and in these he has failed. Almost all the exteriors depend for ornament upon their towers, which are seldom well seen individually on account of their confined positions, but which are admirable in combination. The best is undoubtedly that of Bow Church; then St. Magnus, St. Bride, St. Vedast, and St. Martin deserve attention. The saints to whom the old City churches are dedicated are generally the old English saints honoured before the Reformation, whose comparative popularity may be gathered from the number of buildings placed under the protection of each. Thus there were
four
churches
dedicated to St. Botolph,
four
to St. Benet,
three
to St. Leonard,
three
to St. Dunstan, and
two
to St. Giles, while St. Ethelburga, St. Etheldreda, St. Alban, St. Vedast, St. Swithin, St. Edmund, and St. Bridget, had each their single church.
Twelve
of the City churches have been wantonly destroyed in our own time, and, though perhaps not beautiful in themselves, the thinning of the forest of towers and steeples, which was such a characteristic of ancient London, is greatly to be deplored. The interiors of the churches derive their chief interest from their monuments, but they are also often rich in Renaissance carvings and ironwork. They almost always have high pews, in which those who wish to attend the service may share the feelings of the little girl who, when taken to church for the
first
time, complained that she had been shut up in a closet, and made to sit upon a shelf.
Interesting specimens of domestic architecture before the Fire are to be found in the neighbourhood of Smithfield, in Aldersgate, Bishopsgate, and their surroundings. Crosby Hall and Sir Paul Pindar's House in the City; the Water Gate of York House; and Holland House in Kensington, are the most remarkable examples which come within the limits of our excursions.
When the new London--arose after the Fire, the persistence of the citizens who jealously clung to their old landmarks caused the configuration of the former city to be observed, to the destruction of the grand designs of renovation proposed by Evelyn and Wren, but to the preservation of many old associations, and the rescuing of much historic interest from oblivion. The domestic buildings which were then erected are no less interesting than the churches,
including as they do many of the noble old Halls of the City Companies, and private houses built by Wren. With the landing of William III. the Dutch style of regular windows and flat-topped uniform brick fronts was introduced, which gradually deteriorated from the comfortable quaint houses of Anne's time with the carved wooden porches which may be seen in
Queen Anne's Gate
, to the hideous monotony of
Wimpole Street
and
Baker Street
. Under the brothers Adam and their followers there was a brief revival of good taste, and all their works are deserving of study-masterly alike in proportion and in delicacy of detail. In fact, though the buildings of the British Classical revival were often cold and formal, they were never bad.
Some people maintain that Art is dead in England, others that it lives and grows daily. Certainly street architecture appeared to be in a hopeless condition, featureless, colourless, almost formless, till a few years ago, but, since then, there has been an unexpected resurrection.
Dorchester House
is a noble example of the Florentine style, really grandiose and imposing, and the admirable work of Norman Shaw at Lowther Lodge seems to have given an impulse to brick and terra-cotta decoration, which has been capitally followed out in several new houses in
Cheapside
,
Oxford Street
,
Bond Street
, and
South Audley Street
, and which is the beginning of a school of architecture for the reign of Victoria, as distinctive as that of Inigo Jones and Wren was for the time of the Stuarts. The more English architects study the brick cities of Northern Italy and learn that the best results are brought about by the simplest means, and that the greatest charm of a street
is its irregularity, the more beautiful and picturesque will our London become.
Besides the glorious collection in its
National Gallery
, London possesses many magnificent pictures in the great houses of its nobles, though few of these are shown to the public with the liberality displayed in continental cities. In the West End, however, people are more worth seeing than pictures, and foreigners and Americans will find endless sources of amusement in Rotten Row--in the Exhibitions-and in a levée at St. James's.
The Courts of
two
countries do not so differ from
one
another, as the Court and the City, in their peculiar ways of life and conversation. In short, the inhabitants of St. James's, notwithstanding they live under the same laws, and speak the same language, are a distinct people from those of
Cheapside
.
-Addison.
In the wonderful extent and variety of London, men of curious inquiry may see such modes of life as very few could ever imagine. ... The intellectual man is struck with it as comprehending the whole of human life in all its variety, the contemplation of which is inexhaustible.
-Boswell's
Life of Johnson.
If a stranger wishes at once to gain the most vivid impression of the wealth, the variety, and the splendour of London, he should follow the economical course of
taking a penny boat
--embarking in a steamer-at
Westminster Bridge
, descend the Thames to
London Bridge
, and ascend the Monument. The descent of the river through London will give a more powerful idea of its constant movement of life than anything else can: the water covered with heavily laden barges and churned by crowded steamboats: the trains hissing across the iron railway bridges: the numerous bridges of stone with their concourse of traffic: the tall chimneys: the hundreds of church towers with the great
dome of
St. Paul's
dominating the whole: the magnificent embankment: the colossal
Somerset House
: the palaces on the shores jostled by buildings of such a different nature, weather-stained wooden sheds, huge warehouses from whose chasm-like windows great cranes are discharging merchandise, or raising it from the boats beneath: and each side artery giving a fresh glimpse into the bustle of a street.
Throughout its long career, London has owed its chief prosperity, as it probably owed its existence, to the Thames, no longer here the
fishful river
of the old records, but ever the great inlet and outlet of the life of London,
which easeth, adorneth, inricheth, feedeth, and fortifieth it.
As a wise king
first
settles fruitful peace
In his own realms; and with their rich increase
Seeks wars abroad, and then in triumph brings,
The spoils of kingdoms and the crown of kings,
So Thames to London.
Sir J. Denham.
The Thames is still the greatest highway in London, formerly it was the only highway; for even the best streets were comparatively mere bye-ways, where the men rode upon horseback, and the ladies were carried in horse litters. It is a proof of the constant use of the river even in the time of Charles II., that Pepys makes a point of mentioning in his
Diary
whenever he went to a place
by land
. The Watermen then used to keep time with their oars to songs, with the chorus-
Heave and how, rumbelow,
like the gondoliers at Venice. Howell, writing in
1645
, says that the river Thames has not her fellow
if regard be
had to those forests of masts that are perpetually upon her; the variety of smaller wooden bottoms playing up and down; the stately palaces that are built upon both sides of her banks so thick; which made divers foreign ambassadors affirm that the most glorious sight, take land and water together, was to come upon a high tide from Gravesend, and shoot the bridge to
Westminster
.
It is a proof of the little need there was to provide for any except water traffic, that except
London Bridge
there was no bridge over the river in London until
Westminster Bridge
was built in the middle of the last century.
All
the existing bridges date from the present century. Hackney coaches were not invented till the
seventeenth
century, and these excited the utmost fury in the minds of the Watermen, who had hitherto had the monopoly of all means of public locomotion. Taylor, the Water Poet, who died in
1654
, writes-
After a mask or a play at the Court, even the very earth quakes and trembles, the casements shatter, tatter, and clatter, and such a confused noise is made, so that a man can neither sleep, speak, hear, write, or eat his dinner or supper quiet for them.
The
first
Hackney Coach stand, which existed till
1853
, was established in front of
St. Mary-le-Strand
by Captain Baily in
1634
, in which year also Strafford's Letters relate that
sometimes there are
twenty
of them together, which disperse up and down,
and that
they and others are to be had everywhere as Watermen are to be had at the waterside.
In the same year the Watermen complained vehemently to the king that the hackney coaches were
not confined to going north and south, but that their plying and carrying of people east and west, to and fro, in the streets and places abutting upon the river doth utterly
ruinate your petitioners.
In
1635
the hackney-coaches were limited. In
June
1636
the coachmen petitioned to be made into a corporation, so that
one hundred
might have coaches and pay the king a
hundred
a year for the right. This number gradually increased, but has only been unlimited since
1833
.
In their early existence hackney-coaches had not only he Watermen to contend with. Prince Charles and the Duke of Buckingham had brought back with them from Spain several Sedan chairs, and, though these at
first
excited the utmost contempt, people
loathing that men should be brought to as servile a condition as horses,
their comparative safety on such rugged pavements as the streets were afflicted with in those days soon made them popular, and they continued to be the fashion for a century and a half They were not, however, without their disadvantages. Swift describes the position of a London dandy in a shower-
Box'd in a chair the beau impatient sits,
While spouts run clattering o«er the roof by fits;
And ever and anon with frightful din
The leather sounds ;--he trembles from within.
The discomforts of the streets, however, then made all means of locomotion unpleasant: thus Gay says-
Let others in the jolting coach confide,
Or in the leaky boat the Thames divide,
Or, box'd within the chair, contemn the street,
And trust their safety to another's feet:
Still let me walk.
Not only are the pavements improved, and the streets lighted by gas, but we have now every facility of transport.
Cabs are unlimited, and Hansom-cabs, so named from their inventor. Omnibuses, only introduced from Paris in
1830
, now run in every direction, and transport those who are not above using them, for immense distances and very small fares. More expensive, and more disagreeable, but still very convenient for those who are in a hurry, is the underground Metropolitan Railway, which makes a circle round London from
Cannon Street
(the
Mansion House
) to
Aldgate
, with stations at all the principal points upon the way.
A pleasant way of learning
one
's London, as of seeing Rome, is to follow some consecutive guiding thread, such as the life of a particular person, and seeing what it shows us. The life of Milton, for example, would lead from his birthplace in
Bread Street
and his school at
St. Paul's
, to the sites of his houses in
St. Bride's
Churchyard,
Holborn
,
Spring Gardens
,
Scotland Yard
,
Petty France
,
Bartholomew Close
, and
Jewin Street
, and so by the place of his death in Bunhill Fields to his grave at
St. Giles's
, Cripplegate.
No
one
can consider the subject without regretting that no official care-taker is appointed for the historical memorials of London, without whose consent the house of Milton in
Petty France
could not have been swept away, and whose influence might be exerted to save at least the picturesque tower of the church which commemorates his baptism, with Dryden's inscription; who might have interposed to save the Tabard Inn, and have prevented the unnecessary destruction of St. Antholin's Tower: who, when a time-honoured burial-ground is turned into a recreation-ground, might suggest that, as in France, advantage
should be taken of all the sinuosities and irregularities which gave the place its picturesqueness, instead of levelling them, and overlaying them with yellow gravel and imitation rockwork, ruthlessly tearing up tombstones from the graves to which they belong, and planting paltry flowers and stunted evergreens in their place, as in the historic though now ruined burial-ground of
St. Pancras
.
Les Monuments sont les crampons qui unissent une genération à une autre; conservez ce qu'ont vu vos pères,
is well said by Joubert in his
Pensées
.
Dwellers in the West End never cease to regret the need of the street scavengers, who in even the smaller towns of France and Germany would be employed daily to gather up and carry away the endless litter of orange-peel and paper which is allowed to lie neglected for months, hopelessly vulgarising the grass and flowers of London parks and squares,--a small but contemptible disgrace to our city, which is much commented upon by foreigners.
Another point which greatly requires a competent and well informed supervision is the nomenclature of the streets. Almost all the older blocks of houses have possessed an inmate or seen an event they might commemorate, and new streets are usually built on land connected with something which might give them a name; so that it is simply contemptible that there should be
95
streets in London called King;
99
Queen;
78
Princes;
009
George;
119
John;
91
Charles;
87
James;
58
Thomas;
47
Henry;
54
Alfred;
88
William;
57
Elizabeth;
91
Church;
69
Chapel;
129
Union;
166
New; go North and South;
50
East and West;
127
York;
87
Gloucester;
56
Cambridge;
76
Brunswick;
70
Devonshire;
60
Norfolk;
50
Richmond, &c.
The Artist in London will find much less difficulty than he anticipates in sketching in the streets, as people are generally too busy to stop to look at him. But, if accustomed to the facilities and liberality met with in Continental cities, he will be quite wearied out with the petty obstacles thrown in his way by every
one
who can make an obstacle to throw. From the Benchers of the Temple to the humblest churchwarden, each official demands to the utmost, orders signed and countersigned, so that no jot of the little meed of homage to their individual self-importance can by any possibility be overlooked.
There are many who, amid the fatigues of society, might find the utmost refreshment of mind and body in mornings spent amid the tombs at
Westminster
; the pictures of the City Companies, the Learned Societies or the great houses of the West End; but most of all in rambles through the ancient bye-ways of the City. There are many more, especially young men, for whom time in London hangs very heavy, and to whom the perpetual lounge in the Park must end by becoming wearisome and monotonous, and for these a new mine of interest and pleasure is only waiting to be worked. If they will take even the Walks indicated in these volumes, they can scarcely fail to end them by agreeing with Dr. Johnson that
he who is tired of London is tired of existence.
To them especially the author would say, in the words of Shakspeare--
I pray you, let us satisfy our eyes
With the memorials, and the things of fame,
That do renown this city.