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LONDON BY DAY AND NIGHT
MEN AND THINGS
THE GREAT METROPOLIS
DAVID W. BARTLETT
HURST & CO., PUBLISHERS
122 NASSAU STREET.
IT is customary, we believe, to write a preface, if one
ventures to do that somewhat dangerous, though not uncommon thing - make a book.
Taking advantage of this custom, we will not let our firstling go forth without
a single explanation to live or die, according to its intrinsic merits. Our
words shall be few, however - simply in explanation of the circumstances under
which we saw the emporium of England.
In the autumn of 1847, at the age of nineteen, we sailed from Boston for Liverpool, and resided in the English capital for a year: again in the July of 1850 we set sail from New York for Liverpool, and spent another twelvemonth in London. This volume is the result of our observations during that time.
We simply write of what we saw, and therefore the work is not a hand-hook to London; we have described some things at length, others with brevity, but make no pretensions of describing all even of the prominent men and things in the English metropolis. But as a faithful description of such men and things as came under our observation - as a true account of our own impressions of London, its places, people, their manners and. customs, we hope for it the good opinion of those who may honor it with attention.
[-vi-] During our first year in London we were so busily occupied as scarcely to be able to have a fair view of its renowned places and men, but during our last year there, seeing and describing was our principal employment. Our companion during that ear was our cousin and friend, RUFUS C. REYNOLDS, Esq., and we cannot refrain from mentioning here the enthusiasm with which we together threaded the myriad avenues of the great town, seeking out not only the abodes of wealth and splendor, but the haunts of the poor and down-trodden.
There are probably inaccuracies in the style of our pages, and possibly in statement, though, we trust, to a very limited extent. Our object has been to give a vivid picture of the English Metropolis, shifting quickly and easily from one subject to another, and treating no single subject at any great length. We have, in carrying out our plan, made use of matter which has, in a more condensed and inaccurate form, been furnished by us while abroad, to several American journals; but it has been revised and rewritten, and much new matter added thereto. If the reader is amused and instructed, our purpose will be accomplished.
THE PINES, Avon, Conn, February, 1852.
WHAT I SAW IN LONDON.
IT was a morning in autumn, fair and
lovely, when we first gazed upon the shores of Ireland while on our way from Boston
to Liverpool. We had been careering over rough and disagreeable seas for many
days and nights, and to wake and suddenly discover the beautiful fields of
Ireland close under our quarter, seemed magical. The morning sun was upon it
making it radiant with beauty, the hues of the landscape were emerald, and the
sky was a mellow-gray - and it was not strange that our hearts throbbed with
The sight of land is always dear to the sailor, and especially to those unused to the mountain wave; but now we were approaching those countries of old renown which we had longed to see for many a year, and our enthusiasm was the keener from this feeling of exquisite romance, which cannot be described.
The sailors were joyous with their uncouth but hearty land- songs and were getting the anchor-chains out - the passengers were industriously packing their baggage for the unpleasant ordeal at the Custom House, and a few looked almost sadly upon the staunch vessel which had borne us so safely over [-12-] the dangers of the ocean, and to which we were now about to bid farewell.
The wind bore us quickly along cur course, and soon we had crossed the channel over to the Welsh coast and had the pleasure of gazing at the grand Welsh mountains and the picturesque hamlets and windmills. The number of sail increased as we neared the mouth of the Mersey, and at last when a little, snorting steam-tug - lookiug puny though in reality our master - favored us with its assistance, we were surrounded by vessels of all shapes and sizes and from the four quarters of the world.
Our veteran captain now came upon the quarter-deck in land-clothes - the striped shirt-collar and pilot overcoat were relinquished for another voyage. The passengers too were dressed for shore, and had smiling faces, and some were so utterly devoid of romance as to talk audibly of English roast-beef, and plum-puddings! The pilot gave us a half-dozen old newspapers to read, while he gladly accepted an American cigar, which he smoked with the exquisite satisfaction of knowing it had never paid duty at a Custom House.
And finally Liverpool looms up in the distance, with her steeples, her great forest of ships and steamers, and her gigantic docks. We are no longer at the sport of the winds, but are fairly abreast the town, and our anchor goes hissing down to seize upon reality once more. There is a noise of cheering among the crew, and we transfer ourselves and baggage to the little Tug and steer for the Custom House. Here we are detained for an hour, perhaps longer, and undergo an unpleasant examination, but at last it is all over and we stand free in the streets of Liverpool-we are in the Old World!
But we cannot afford to pass by the Custom House so easily. The officers of the English Custom Houses are by no means the same kind of men as those who officiate in our own Custom Houses. Ours are invariably gentlemen, and treat stran[-13-]gers with politeness. Such is not always the case in England The officer into whose hands we fell at Liverpool was exceedingly morose, though we handed him the key of our trunk to gaze at what he pleased. And he overturned the whole contents, and opened a little daguerreotype portrait and weighed it, charging so much the ounce upon it! It seemed to us excessively mean for great England to charge us a few pennies on our mother's picture ! We think the official exceeded his duty, probably because he was in a bad humor. We have never since been so ill-treated by an English official, and think that this one in his surliness was not a fair specimen of the class.
LIVERPOOL TO LONDON.
That which strikes the American most
forcibly, as he enters London, is the apparent age and magnificent solidity of
everything about him. He has been accustomed to look upon everything, save the
region of the skies, as transitory and ephemeral. In a land where great towns
grow up in a few years, change is the law and passion of the people The cities,
even in the Atlantic States, are constantly undergoing such transitions that
were a citizen of one of them to absent himself ten years he could scarcely know
the place upon his return as the one he had left. Whole miles of streets,
perhaps, have been added, great buildings erected, and large sections torn down,
or burnt and rebuilt during his absence.
Many of our railroads have, to an English eye, an unfinished appearance, and some of them are temporary performances. Railway bridges are often constructed of wood, spiles being driven into the earth, instead of using the solid stones which can never decay. Some of them cross tracts of territory where the shrieks of the steam-horse startle the wild deer in their lonely haunts.
[-14-] When the American lands in Liverpool, the first sight which bursts upon him is of the Quays and Docks, and their solid masonry strikes him with wonder. They seem to have existed for ages, and promise to exist without repair for all ages to come. The long rows of warehouses, and stores, look grim and dark as if they had seen a year of winters. The bricks of which they arc made are twice the size of American bricks, and are dark as iron in their color.
When the railway is taken for London the trans-Atlantic stranger is surprised to see how thoroughly, how strongly, and on what a magnificent scale the road is constructed. From London to Liverpool there are two carefully laid tracks, and a portion of the distance three and four. It would be considered madness to run trains upon a line with but one track, and the law would not allow it. He notices how splendidly all the bridges are made, as if to last forever; how hills are tunnelled through, and yawning chasms wired over with suspension bridges; how careful the officers of the road are of the life in their keeping; not allowing any one to cross the track, or stand upon the platform of the car, or put his head out of the window while under way; and yet with all this care when he gets to London and looks at his watch he finds that he has made his journey of 210 miles quicker than he ever made a similar journey before, in his life. If he came in a first-class car he was, however, better satisfied with its comfort and ease than its price, for upon the whole, American railway travelling is cheaper by one third than the English. For his ride he paid nearly twelve dollars, which is one half more than he would have paid for the same distance on an American line. It is on the rail that the American generally gets his first taste of English prices and manners. Of all men, save us from travelling Englishmen. They are no more like themselves at home and surrounded by their household gods, than is a sleeping tiger like a tiger awake and voracious. In [-15-] coming from Liverpool to London we were shut up in a car with an Englishman whose profession was, judging by appearances, commercial. He eyed us from head to foot as carefully as if we had been an orang-outang instead of a humble member of the human fraternity. But he never ventured to utter a loud word. At last we ventured to say:
"It is a pleasant day, sir!"
He replied by a mere monosyllable, and evidently would not talk - so we rode for miles until a vision of beauty - a lovely valley with a stream meandering through it, and with soft hills in the distance - burst upon us, and we could not hold our tongue, and exclaimed, "How beautiful!"
It seemed as if a ghost of a smile flitted over his face as we said this, as if he was not entirely insensible to praise of his native land from the lips of a foreigner. but he uttered not a word till we arrived at the Euston-square Station, when one of the railway porters ran off with his trunk by mistake, and he bellowed forth his wrath lustily, while we exclaimed in our heart, "Capital!-the man can talk!"
This is a feature in the English which is often noticed and commented on harshly by strangers who only reside in England for a short time, and to a certain extent it is richly deserved; but we have learned from experience that often these very men who are so morose as travellers, are really noble, and kind, and faithful, and perhaps generous to a fault. It is one of the peculiarities of a London man of business, that he is shy of strangers while travelling, but if in any manner you find your way to his heart and home, you are surprised to discover a region of beauty and kindness you had not dreamt of, and if you are in need, or sorrow, the sanctities of home are freely offered to you, and even pressed upon you; his purse is yours to any extent, and your name will never become quite obliterated horn his heart. - At first sight the -Frenchman gives you a more cordial greeting, but he is not [-16-] constant and grandly unchanging. While all is fair, he is impulsively warm and courteous, but he soon wearies of any great exertions in your favor, if they include anything more costly than politeness. Still a valuable lesson may be learned from the politeness of the French - you may give gladsomeness to the stranger's heart often by words and looks, which cost nothing. The Englishman shows his rough qualities first - his gentle ones afterwards. Emerson says, that in adversity the Englishman is grand. He is right, and also to persons in adversity, throughout his conduct to such, if they are his friends, he is grand! It is unwise to judge a people superficially, as the majority of English travellers have judged America; and the American in London is very liable to make up his mind that the race of Englishmen is the least affectionate of any on the face of the earth, but such is not the fact. At first sight they appear to be so, but a second sober view reveals a different story.
If the stranger leaves the Euston Square railway station for a fashionable hotel, he will order the cabman to drive him to somewhere west of Charing Cross, or to Morley's Tavern, at Charing Cross. If he is a business man, he will drive to somewhere within the limits of the city-proper, in the region of the Royal Exchange, perhaps to the North and South American Hotel facing it. These two points of attraction- Charing Cross and the Royal Exchange - are nearly three miles apart, and the genuine Pelham never is to be seen east of the Cross. Sheridan once caught the celebrated Beau Brummel on the unfashionable side of the Cross; the elegant and fastidious Beau was severely mortified, or affected to be so, and attempted several excuses, when Sheridan administered to him a pungent rebuke under the color of a witticism
If the stranger in London is a man of wealth and fashion, and proceeds to a West End Hotel, he very soon learns that paying for fashion is vastly dearer in London than paying for [-17-] it in New York. It is quite a different thing, living in the metropolis of England like a gentleman of wealth and blood, from living in an American town as such. Instead of your Astor House or Irving House prices of from two to five dollars a day, the same attention and almost extravagant profusion of delicacies will cost from ten to twenty dollars per day Everything is charged for separately. Every dish and every attention, we might almost say, must be paid for in British gold. And when your bill is settled, you must make a large allowance for the fees to the waiters, chambermaid, "boots," and so forth. You will perhaps wish a carriage or cabriolet of your own, and will be obliged to pay twice or three times the amount for any kind of an establishment by the month or six months, that you would pay in Boston or New York. You can get nothing, look at nothing, without paying dearly for it.
The appearance of the streets at the West End will be much more pleasant to you than of those of any other quarter of London. There is an air of cleanliness about them one sees nowhere else in town, but even they look older and much more substantial than the streets of American towns.
You wander forth from your Hotel, and stand upon the fine Square which contains the Reservoir and Nelson's Monument. You are not pleased with either, for they have serious faults. The fountain is not equal to its position - you are reminded of the jet from a hand-syringe - it is so thread-like and insignificant. The building which contains the National Gallery of Paintings stands on the northern side of the Square, but you are not exactly pleased with it, and so turn your back to it and wander down southward toward the river Thames. A sight of Westminster Abbey suddenly bursts upon you, and then you are struck dumb with awe at the age and glorious beauty of the scene, and when you remember how many centuries the brave old building has withstood the beatings of [-18-] the winter storms - how many summers' suns have gilded its towers, so that glooms and smiles have alike become daguerreotyped upon its countenance, you feel your heart tremble with a solemn, yet half-pathetic delight!
Another and a more gorgeous spectacle presents itself to your wondering eyes - the new Houses of Parliament not yet completed,, but near enough so to win your unbounded admiration. Such architectural beauty (unless you have previously traversed the continent) your eyes are unaccustomed to, and you prize it more than those who have been born among it.
You are surprised with the number, the splendor and magnificence of the carriages of the aristocracy. It seems literally as if there was no end to brilliant equipages and turnouts, and you conclude that the wealth of London is almost boundless. All day long at Charing Cross you may see private carriages of great beauty and costliness speeding away like the wind, hither and thither, up from Downing-street away towards Piccadilly and Hyde Park-in every direction.
The great Parks are open to view, and their rural scenery contrasts strangely with the brick houses and forests of chimneys. You enter them, and tread upon soft, green grass; birds sing melodiously over your head in the branches of the lofty trees ; children gambol in the sunshine before you, and you conclude that Englishmen have a care for health as well as wealth. Some unlucky day you chance to lose your way, and wander a little back of Westminster Abbey into old Pye street, or Duck Lane. - Great heavens !-what can this mean? You see wretchedness the most bitter, destitution the most utter, and vice the most terrible, that ever you saw. It was but a step from your former paradise to this unsightly hell - and all, too within a stone's throw of the glorious old Abbey. You never will forget the shock you received that day, and when you are in your room, and have pondered. over it, you are satisfied that everything in this world has its dark, as [-19-] well as bright side - and that truly London has one side which is too painfully dark and horrible to gaze at with complacent nerves.
Perhaps you are not a man of fashion, but a man of business, and drive from the railway straight to the Exchange, down in the city. Almost your first walk is to see venerable St. Paul's, the most remarkable piece of architecture in London, if not in the world; and when you gaze upon it, it is with a feeling of reverence for so much solemn beauty. It was never our lot to gaze upon a building of such majesty as St. Paul's. Those who are competent to judge assert that it is only equalled by one building in the world, and that is St. Peter's, at Rome ; and that, in the opinion of some eminent critics, does not surpass it.
London has few public buildings to be proud of; it is upon the whole a. smoky, gloomy town, but three buildings it may justly glory in the new Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, and Saint Paul's. The majestic grandeur of the latter settles down upon London with a grace which adds great dignity to the metropolis of the British Empire.
After seeing St. Paul's, you hurry at once to see Thames Tunnel - that wonder of the world, and you acknowledge, as you gaze upon it, that it is a living proof of the industry and genius of the English nation. But, if your hotel be in the vicinity of the Exchange, you .very soon venture east - east, into that wild wilderness of misery and suffering called Spitalfields. You traverse street after street, and see nothing but the most disgusting, the most beseeching poverty. There are thousands of men and women there who never have known what plenty is, what pure joy is, but are herded together, thieves, prostitutes, robbers and working-men, in frightful masses. You meet beggars at every step; at night the streets are crowded with wretched women, called in mockery "women of pleasure," and you are horror-struck when you [-20-] learn from reliable sources, that many of these are but children in age - but fourteen years old, some of them, and the fear of starvation is what has driven them to vice. Upon their faces there is a look of wan despair which tells the story of their infamy.
Your impressions, first and last, are, that in London there is good and ill; enormous wealth and terrible poverty; great virtue and frightful vice; beautiful churches and thousands who can never enter them for want of decent raiment; - in fact that London is the wealthiest and most wretched city in the world - the city of extremes.
THE STREETS, &c.
After spending a
few days at a hotel, we learned from an English friend the fact, that superior
comfort and independence could be secured for less money by taking apartments in
a private house. This we did, renting a sleeping apartment, a drawing-room, use
of plate, and service for a reasonable sum. This is in fact the universal mode
of living among English bachelors, and is more economical, if one chooses to
make it so, than a life at a hotel. You dine as richly as, and when you please;
go and come when you please; invite as many friends to take supper with you as
suits your fancy, and besides paying a certain sum for the use of apartments,
plate and servants, only pay the market price for provisions consumed. We soon
liked the ease and freedom of life in lodgings in preference to the more noisy,
bustling life of a hotel. By degrees the streets became familiar to us, that is,
the leading thoroughfares in the more central portions of the town - as a matter
of course the greater portion of London for months was an unexplored wilderness
Regent-street is one of the most spacious and elegant streets in the world, and we doubt if it has an equal. There [-21-] is a grandeur in its width, in the lofty beauty of its buildings, which are simple though rich, which we have scarcely if ever seen otherwheres. The western part of Piccadilly is a splendid street, and is very fashionable, as the Duke of Wellington lives in it and other distinguished noblemen.
But the busiest, noisiest, and most crowded street in the English metropolis is that called the "STRAND." It runs rum Charing Cross eastward to Temple Bar - the same street under the name of "FLEET," extends east of Temple Bar to St. Paul's Cathedral. Dr. Johnson in his day considered Charing Cross to be the most lively spot in London, and it is in our opinion the case now, for from it one sees the traffic of the "city" combined with the aristocratic equipage of the West End. Temple Bar is the western boundary of the ancient city of London, and therefore the Strand belongs to Westminster. The Bar or Gateway is a quaint-looking structure, dingy with smoke, and always has its apparently useless gates secured apart. We must except state occasions, for then her majesty Q.ueen Victoria cannot pass through that gateway without asking permission of the city authorities. Her power as Queen of territories so vast that the sun never sets upon them avails her nothing then - she must sue for admittance like a very beggar. It is a curious sight when she enters the city-proper upon state occasions. The dingy old gates of Temple Bar are then folded together and locked as if a foreign invader were to be kept out. The royal procession goes slowly on until the Bar is reached, and it stops humbly and asks if it may enter. One of the Queen's officers, apparelled, as a matter of course, in gorgeous gewgaws, descends from a carriage and knocks upon the gate. The Lord Mayor of London asks with as much pompous dignity as if he really didn't-know:
"Who is there ?"
The reply comes with equal pomposity-
[-22-] "The Queen!"
Then the gates are opened, and amid protestations of loyalty and love the monarch enters the city of London! The custom seems to outsiders a foolish and laughable one, but not so to the Londoner. To him it is a legal, constitutional right which he never would think of relinquishing to the most popular sovereign in the world - thanks to his genuine English love of liberty and independence. It is one of the privileges of the city of London - that even the King cannot enter it without leave! It matters little now, but the times once were when the privilege were worth possessing, when rapacious men sat upon the throne - and such times may be again. It seems a waste of words where so gentle a creature as Victoria Guelph is concerned, a nonsensical form, but no one can tell the temper of England's rulers in the future! The Londoner, notwithstanding his profuse exhibitions of loyalty, is nevertheless proud of this privilege, and it gratifies him nut a little to know that even the monarch cannot enter his gates without liberty!
In coming from the Strand through Fleet-street to the Exchange one gets a fine view of Saint Paul's, and the contrast on week-days between its holy grandeur and the din and strife of the Fleet and Strand is singular and striking. Fleet-street is somewhat famous for the hasty and irreverent marriages once perpetrated in it. Husbands and wives were bought and sold with astonishing facility and dispatch on the spot; shameless wretches for paltry fees married whoever presented themselves, and sometimes, indeed often, the ceremony was performed in the street. It was unsafe for a pretty woman to venture near it, and rich heiresses were sometimes forcibly abducted and married in the Fleet against their will; worse yet, even women who for some object wished to establish the legal fact that they were married, and still did not wish the trouble of a husband, came to the Fleet and [-23-] bribed some low fellow to go through the ceremony of marriage, with the understanding that as soon as it was over that he was never to be seen again.
The Strand is almost entirely given up to shops and places of business. Go where you will in it and you are sure to find a constant succession of draper's shops, book-stores, and luncheon rooms. There are several journals published in it. The "Nonconformist," edited by Edward Miall, one of the first writers in London, is published in the Strand. "Punch" is on the city side of Temple Bar - the building in which it is published stands upon the spot where formerly stood the house in which the immortal Milton lived. The "Morning Chronicle" is published in the Strand, the paper on which Charles Dickens was once a reporter, and in which he first published Sketches by Boz. The "Illustrated London News," and many other well-know journals are also published in it.
The noise of the street is at times overpowering to a person of weak-nerves, and the confusion indescribable. It is almost as much as a man's life is worth to attempt to cross it on certain times. Sometimes for half a mile it is completely choked up with vehicles of all descriptions, so wedged in together that a long time elapses before the current moves on again. The policeman with his leather-topped hat and baton is busy giving an order here, assisting there, and exercising in a laughable manner his authority. There have been occasions when a dense fog has suddenly at night settled down upon the Strand, and carriages have become so entangled with each other, that they were obliged to remain until the fog raised its gloomy pall from the earth.
There are many circumstances which combine to make Charing Cross one of the busiest spots in London. There, several streets pour forth their crowds of people, and carriages of all descriptions. Standing by Nelson's Column one can on one hand see the splendid equipages of the aristocracy, [-24-] and on the other get a good view of the competition and spirit and energy of the trade in the city. It is the spot where Commerce and Nobility seem to shake hands with each other-where splendid Pride smiles coldly and yet half- patronizingly down upon toiling Industry and energetic Trade.
Edward I., centuries ago, going to Westminster Abbey to inter his consort, stopped at "the little hamlet of Charing," and erected a cross in honor of the resting-place. There were then but few buildings there - what a change! Upon the identical spot where the cross was placed, now stands the statue of Charles I. It was once condemned by Parliament to be broken up, but was saved by a lover of royalty upon the spot; before the statue was replaced, the regicides suffered death. It was there that the noble Harrison was so inhumanly tortured to death, his very bowels being cut out before his eyes by the officers of the unprincipled and luxurious Charles II.
The lofty courage which the regicides exhibited on that spot of death, made a profound impression upon the hearts of the people, and the government paused amid its bloody career for very fear. Although tortures the most fiendish were heaped upon Harrison, not a single murmur escaped his lips, not a cry or reproach until lie was seized with delirium. After he had been cut down alive and his bowels cast into the fire before his eyes, by his executioner, he rose on his feet and gave the wretch a blow on his ear. The act was, how ever, a delirious one, for during the earlier stages of his tortures when he must have felt more keenly the agony of suffering, he was calm and uncomplaining, and suffered like a Christian martyr.
We have often, when on the spot, contrasted the noise and tumult of the scene around it with the quiet and beautiful grave of one of the regicides on the Green in the city of New [-25-] Haven - the calm and natural death of one, with the horrible atrocities which caused the death of the other.
Tavistock-street, which lies just in the rear of a portion of the Strand, is the place where Lord Sandwich first saw the beautiful but unfortunate actress, Miss Ray. Maiden Lane, not far off, was the street in which Voltaire resided while in England, and from a house in it he wrote a celebrated letter to Dean Swift.
There is another street, not far from Tavistock-street, Russell-street, which once contained the little book-shop where James Boswell was first introduced to the great Dr. Johnson. Little did the loquacious and fawning Scotchman then suppose that he was one day to become the biographer of the man before whom he trembled, and in that manner hand himself, arm-in-arm with Samuel Johnson, down to succeeding ages! Who that has ever read his life of Johnson, will ever forget his description of the interview in the little book-shop in Russell-street? Who does not delight to forget himself and the cares which press sorely about him in the pages of Boswell, notwithstanding all their adulation? He tells us honestly and simply how he felt before "the awful approach" of the author of the Rambler, and it is for this childish sincerity that he is so liked. A man who will not hesitate, as he did not, to describe scenes wherein he himself acted the part of a fool, for the pleasure of the friend he is describing, may be relied on as a truth-teller. It was utterly impossible for him to worship more than one man, and he was Johnson; and he wrote one of the most interesting biographies that ever was written, when he wrote the life of his great hero, the great master in English literature. Macaulay, however, has very conclusively shown that, however great a master in literature, he was net without grievous faults as a man, and that lie used his pen against the cause of liberty.
There is a building in Holborn-street, now occupied by a [-26-] wholesale dealer in furniture, which once contained in a little garret-room the boy-poet, Chatterton. We visited it one day but discovered no traces of the garret-room. In answer to our inquiries, the proprietor informed us that Lord Bacon once had a suite of apartments in it - the name of Chatterton he seemed never to have heard before! It was there that Chatterton lived for a short time and perished. It was there that, after being deserted by friend after friend, and while on the point of starvation, with his own hands he ended his young life. He was dying by inches with hunger, while the conceited Walpole, who had turned him off to die with less compunction than a hunter would feel when shooting a deer, was luxuriously supplied with all that wealth could purchase; and so the young poet was buried among the paupers of Shoe Lane! But the world has not suffered his name and memory to perish; and though no shaft of marble may ever tell the stranger where his dust lies, yet he shall never, so long as the English language lives, be forgotten! He lives as well as Horace Walpole, and it is easier to forgive his errors, committed while in despair, and while tasting the woes of bitterest poverty, than to forgive those of the nobleman who, amid all the rich blessings which God had shed upon him, grew fastidious and proud, and despised God's image unless it were covered with the insignia of nobility.
ST. CLEMENT'S INN.
There are in London many quaint old
places, and it was always our delight when there to linger about them. There is
one which opens into the Strand. We had often noticed while walking in it a
queer-looking archway, on the northern side, with enormous pillars, and looking
more like the entrance to a palace than anything less pretending. As nothing
presented itself to view beyond them, save a row of little [-27-] shops, a cluster
of orange-women, and hot potato-boys, we came to the conclusion that the grand
entrance must have been the work of some madman who chanced to have gold as well
as a disordered brain, until in reading one of Albert Smith's stories, we got at
the truth of the matter. One of his renowned characters, (in "Christopher
Tadpole," ) Mr. Gudge the lawyer, had his office beyond these pillars, and
his poor clerk used to come and buy a hot potato occasionally of Stipler, under
the archway, which was a most grandiloquent preface to modest and ruinous - St.
Clement's Inn; a quarter sadly infested with lawyers. During our next walk up
the Strand, we entered the opening with a desire to gaze at a spot sacred to
law. At first we saw nothing but a succession of dirty shops, and the street
gradually narrowed down to a mere foot-path, so that the archway could never
have been intended for the entrance of carriages; for should they enter, there
would be no retreat except by a reversion of the wheels.
We soon entered the open court of the Inn, and it certainly was one of the quaintest places we ever were in before. The court was square, with a little central plot of ground enclosed by what was once an iron fence of some solidity, but which now was in a state of melancholy dilapidation. The grass on the small bit of lawn was bright and green, but the two or three old trees which were there looked forlorn enough. The buildings, which were of brick, were of a sickly hue,and there was a stillness over everything like that of a country church-yard. This then was the spot in honor of which the imposing archway had been erected; this was the home for lawyers. A more dismal, ghost-like place we hope never to see, and by a slight use of imagination, we could believe the spot haunted with the spirits of ruined clients; The patch of beautiful grass under our feet and the strip of heaven's blue overhead, only made the gloominess by contrast more intense.
[-28-] The houses-seemed to have existed for centuries, so antique were they in every feature. The lawyers in them were either not in them, or were still as a breezeless day on the ocean. The iron pickets of the fence were, some of them, broken and them nearly rusted out with age. The noise of the Strand floated indistinctly, in surges, to our ears, for a thick breast-work of buildings guarded the spot from the passionate cries and noises of the world. The distance was not long - a few steps would bring us into the busiest thoroughfare in London and still this antiquated place wan as quiet as if a mortal had not placed foot in it for half a century. The spirit of progress or improvement had not dared to lay its innovating finger upon aught. It would have been mm easy matter to suppose. that it looked the same in the days of Coke. While we were there we saw only one person; he had gray hair, and wore old-fashioned breeches, and stockings, and seemed to be the guardian spirit of the quaint old spot. There is egress from the place by foot-paths, through gates, northward into Holborn and southward into the Strand. Turning southward, in a few minutes we plunged into the uproar and confusion of the street - it seemed like passing from death once more into life!
Some distance to the north-east of St.
Clement's Inn is Smithfield Market, where live cattle are bought and sold - a
place renowned wherever the religion of Protestantism is known; for upon that
open area of ground Latimer and Ridley were burned. But it is a sorry place in
which to indulge in sentiment, for it is one of the greatest nuisances in
London. We arose early one Monday morning and visited it before breakfast. On
our way we crossed "Bartholomew Close," the place where the author of
Paradise Lost once hid himself from his governmental persecutors. We also saw
[-29-] Although it was very early when we stood with "Smithfield" before us yet the market was full of cattle. The place was exceedingly noxious, and it struck us that it must be exceedingly prejudicial to the health of the inhabitants who re side in the streets in its vicinity.
The market is an open area, paved with small round stones, and contains eight or nine acres of ground. In one quarter - there were hundreds of small enclosures for sheep, pigs and calves, and across the other portions strong fences ran to which the cattle are generally tied. Sometimes a circle of "beeves" is made by obliging a dozen of them to turn their heads together in a common centre, and a good driver without rope or centre-post will keep a dozen of powerful cattle together for hours in this manner. There were that morning about ten thousand head of cattle in the market, and perhaps twenty thousand head of sheep. The noise and confusion of the place was indescribable. Scores of shepherd's and drover's dogs were tied to the fences, their "occupation" gone now that the cattle or sheep were penned up or secured. Nevertheless whenever a squad of sheep were marched off by some metropolitan buyer, the curs, as if unaware of any honest bargain by which the ownership had been transferred, set up a shrill howl of discontent. There were acres of cattle and sheep, and hundreds of buyers and sellers, and all in the very heart of London. The buildings surrounding the market were generally low and ancient in their appearance, and their inhabitants seemed to be of a different race from the rest of the Londoners.
And this was where "the fires of Smithfield" were lit! On this spot the first martyrs of the great Reformation perished.
There was something strange to us in the thought that there were houses -before us whose walls saw the kindling flames as they wrapt in their lurid glow the bodies of Ridley - and Latimer! But Smithfield is not now the field for martyrs [-30-] to perish on-neither is it like the field of Waterloo - a place which men take pleasure in visiting, in honor of heroic deeds, for Waterloo is yet a beautiful spot, while Smithfield is a nuisance. Yet the deeds of the martyrs were incomparably greater and holier than any that were ever enacted upon the field of Waterloo.
We were sorry we had visited Smithfield, for previously the name of Smithfield had a sound of heroic martyrdom in it, but henceforth its name is redolent of traffic and wild bulls and unpleasant odors.
It is strange that so civilized a city as London has allowed so long a live cattle-market in its bosom. What would Bostonians think if Brighton Market were held on the Common?
- think that all Cochituate could not wash out the disgrace! Yet London has allowed the intolerable nuisance for ages. Heads of cattle are constantly driven to and from the market through the principal streets of the city, to the constant danger of the people. Many lives have been sacrificed - women have been gored to death on the public side-walks. There is nothing in the world which clings so long to life as an old, London "privilege." But at last Parliament has interfered, and the market is doomed. It was in vain that half the wealth of London clung to the dangerous "privilege," the legislators for the kingdom would no longer look on such a horrible plague-spot in the centre of the greatest city in the civilized world! The men of capital stirred every nerve to prevent the parliamentary act, but were, thank heaven, defeated. It is proposed by some to turn the market into a park -a happy thought. A marble shaft should then point out the spot where the martyrs perished, and it would be a sacred place to the Protestants of the world.
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