Victorian London - Publications - Social Investigation/Journalism - The Business of Pleasure, by Edmund Yates, 1879 - Chapter 2 - Cremorne Gardens

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CHAPTER II.

CREMORNE GARDENS.

REMOVING recently into a new house - a miserable performance which has once or twice fallen to my lot - I determined, besides giving a "general superintendence" (which means looking helplessly on, while stout men in carpet-caps balance chests-of-drawers, console-tables, and looking-glasses, and saying to them, perspiring, and in proximate danger of letting every thing drop: "Steady there; mind the corner! a-a-h! the gilt frame!"), I determined on looking after my books, of which I possess a tolerable number, and arranging them myself. Experience fully carrying out all she had promised in the round-hand copy-slip at school, taught me this plan; for when we made our former celebrated removal from Glum Street, Holstein Square, to Jetsam Gardens, Matilda, my maid, kindly undertook to "put my books straight," an effort which resulted in an utter impossibility of finding any work of reference, and in the final discovery of the third volume of Rabelais lurking shamefacedly behind Nelson's Fasts and Festivals. So I sat down on an enormous pile of volumes in the middle of the library-floor, and I looked at the row of empty bookcases, glaring in a very ghastly manner from the walls, and I began my task; very seldom, however, settling more than a dozen books without again sitting down to peer between the leaves [-11-] of some volume which I had not seen for a very long time. They were of all sorts: some of my father's old Charterhouse schoolbooks; editions of the Classics, free from all that erudite annotation which has been so productive of headache to schoolboys of more recent date; some of my own schoolbooks with names once familiar, now long forgotten, scrawled on the margin of the pages, and a fancy portrait of Euripides (very fancy) on the fly-leaf of the Orestes; Jones's early poems, Twilight Musings, with my name inscribed on the title-page in Jones's own hand, "from his devoted friend and cue-fellow." Jones is now principal vitriol-thrower on the Scalpel literary newspaper, and is popularly believed to have written that review of his devoted friend and cue-fellow's last book of travels which caused the devoted f. and c.-f. to spend an evening rolling on his hearthrug in agonies of rage and despair. Here are other given books: Manna in the Wilderness, or the Smitten Rock, presented to me at "Crismass 1844," as the written legend records, by my cousin Augustus, who was great at morality, but weak in orthography, and who in the next spring ran away and joined Herr Carlos Wilkinsoni's travelling cirque, after having forged his father's name to a cheque for twenty pounds. Here is my first copy of Shakespeare, with my name in faded ink, and underneath it two sets of initials in different handwritings, the owners of which, long separated by death, are, I pray Heaven, more happily reunited; and here is a copy of Blugg's collected works, with the sixpenny label of the bookstall still sticking to it. Poor Dick Blugg, who combined so much capacity for writing and gin-and-water, and whose life was divided between a bare room containing a desk, a blotting-pad, an ink-bottle, and a pile of paper, where he did his work, and the night-houses in the Haymarket, where he spent his money. Other books acting as milestones in one's life : copy of Mr. Thomas Moore's Lalla Rookh, with the "young gazelle" bit very much [-12-] pencil-scored; Byron's Giaour, Childe Harold, and works generallv, with marginal pencilled references expressive of my entire concurrence in the noble poet's views of human nature (by the date it must have been just after J. M. married that stockbroker); and a copy of the Vauxhall Comic Songster, with the portrait and autograph of a once-celebrated comic singer. Milestones indeed! Where is the comic singer? Dust and ashes! The Yorick of the orchestra, with his white waistcoat and his thumbs in his armholes; his queer merry eyes and thin pursed lips, with his riddles and his jokes and his tol-de-rol choruses - dust and ashes! And Vauxhall? with its thousand of extra lamps, and its gritty arcades, and its ghastly Italian walk, and its rickety firework gallery, and its mildewy Eve at the fountain, and Joel Il Diavolo's terrific descent with the crackers in his heels, and the skinny fowls and the dry ham and the rack-punch, and the enclosure outside Mr. Wardell's house where all the hansom cabs were inextricably mixed together-where are these? On what the bills used to call the "royal property" (at this moment I can plainly see the sticking-plaster portrait Of Simpson, life-size, by the pay-place) are reared now suburban villas, wherein the young soap-boiler tosses his son and heir, or the bone-crusher's head-clerk reads the American news with calm contempt. No! the name may remain, but the place has vanished for ever.
    "Vanished for ever" is a dreary phrase ; but then I recollect that there is yet a place of amusement for summer-nights, and that those lively persons who "to Ranelagh went and Vauxhall" may, if they have a mind (and legs) to do so, go to what I should imagine must be a much pleasanter place than either of them-to Cremorne; and when this idea came into my head, I remembered that during the previous week I had been at CREMORNE, and I put down my Comic Songster, and lay back on the pile of books, thinking on all I had heard there.
    [-13-] Heard at Cremorne! What do people hear at Cremorne? The band and the peripatetic brass instruments (which indeed are rather too much heard), and the rumble of the bowls in the American Saloon, and the crack of the rifles discharged by the sportsmen at the little tin beasts which slowly revolve, and the whizzing rush of the rockets, and the roar of the final firework explosion (which must be so comforting to any neighbour suffering with sick-headache, and just in his first sleep); and sometimes, I am given to understand, there may be heard by young couples at Cremorne the voice of love! I heard all these except the last (but then I am not young, and on this occasion I was not a couple); but I heard something else. For as I wandered about the grounds and looked in at the open coffee-room windows, and lounged into the theatre, staring for a few minutes at the ballet, as I noticed the thoroughly trim and neat appearance of the gardens, as I marked the extensive preparations for the fireworks, and as I endeavoured to dodge the rather meandering steps of a gentleman in armour whom I encountered in a back-walk, whose vizor rendered him doubtful as to his eyesight, and whose shining greaves rendered him unsteady on his legs -  I began to ponder on the magnitude of the undertaking, and to wonder how the various wheels in the great whole worked with such unceasing regularity. Here must be large capital involved, very many people engaged, constant supervision exercised, and all for the production of Pleasure. Your "man of business" (who, by the way, when he is that, and nothing more, is horribly offensive) would sneer at the application of the word to the conduct of such a place as this ; and yet I have no doubt that there is as much labour, capital, and energy employed here as in many establishments whose names are household words in the circle of a mile from the Exchange. Pleasure has its business, which requires to be carried on with as great tact, [-14-] earnestness, energy, forethought, and exactness as any other; and when patience, prudence, and perseverance are brought to bear in carrying on the business of pleasure, the result is Fortune. When the business of pleasure is carried on as pleasure itself no one is pleased, and the result to the speculator is Bankruptcy.
    The more I thought of the subject the more I wondered; so that presently encountering the master-mind and governing spirit of the establishment, I requested to have some details of its cost and management: he pleasantly consented, and "while the men and maids were dancing, and the folk were mad with glee," I sat calmly discussing statistics, and gleaned the following information anent the wherewithal necessary for carrying out the business of pleasure at Cremorne.
    So quietly, orderly, and well is this place conducted, and with such sensible regard to the interest of its frequenters (who, by the way, are of all classes, ranging from old women and children who come for an early tea and a stroll in the grounds, who are possessed with wild desires to see the dogs and monkeys, and listen to the band, down to gentlemanly gentlemen who eat suppers, and are far too grand to express their desire to see anything at all), that, by its non-frequenters and by a huge class of amiable people who look upon any amusement as emanating from Moloch and beckoning towards the gallows, it would never be heard of, were it not for the practical wit of certain exquisite humorists, who annually mark certain festive days in London's calendar by breaking the proprietor's glasses and the waiters' heads. This amiable class may perchance be strong in its notions of the diffusion of capital and the employment of labour ; it may be always publishing pamphlets in which these subjects are paraded, in which it is clearly proved that this wretched country is on its way to destruction, and that the sooner every person with natural strength or mechanical knowledge [-15-] is on his way to some hitherto unheard-of land - there to set up that log-hut, and to ply that axe which have stood the poetasters in such good stead - the better for himself and for society.
    The gardens of Cremorne are twenty-two acres in extent, are prettily laid out, are filled with brilliant flowers, and are kept with as much care as those of the Horticultural Society. Indeed, of the quiet daylight frequenters of the place, were they not properly attended to, there would be a serious falling off. During the season the services of fifteen gardeners are constantly required, in rolling paths, mowing lawns, and attending to the beds. Previous to opening, twenty carpenters, six scene-painters, twelve gasmen, two women to sew canvas, four men to repair the roof, and five house-painters, take possession of the outside of Cremorne and its appurtenances; while two upholsterers, fifteen wardrobe-makers, and ten property-men look up old material, and prepare for internal decoration. Then the literary gentleman attached to the establishment sits down in his cabinet to compose the announcement of approaching festivities, and eight bill-posters convey the result of his cogitations to an admiring public.
    In the season of 1863 the Gardens opened early in the spring with a dog-show; and the estimate for the preparation-for gardeners, painters, roofers, carpenters, smiths, labourers, and gravel-diggers-amounted to £3500, independent of the cost of material, galvanised iron, timber, ironmongery, wire-work, etc., about £2000 more. While the exhibition was open, the expenses of keepers, police, attendants, and music, were about £300 a week, and a very large sum was expended in advertisements and prizes. This dogshow, however, was an extraneous affair, not calculated in the regular round of expense. In the same category was the tournament, to produce which the services of three hundred "supers," six armourers, thirty-two horses, and ten grooms [-16-] were specially engaged. When the Gardens are open for the season, the regular staff is very large and very costly. It comprises sixteen money-takers, seven gasmen, two scene-painters, three house-painters, one resident master-carpenter, and seventeen wardrobe men and women. The stage department requires the services of twenty-five carpenters to work the scenes, a prompter, a hundred members of the corps de ballet; two principal dancers, three prinfcipal pantomimists, several vocalists, and a turncock, without whose aid the fairy fountains would not flow. Add to this a firework manufacturer with seven assistants, fifteen riders, and several horses in the circus; a set of twenty dogs and monkeys, with their master, in the Octagon Theatre; a set of marionettes and their master, in another part of the grounds; twenty-five members of the regular orchestra and two peripatetic bands; a gentleman who delivers a lecture on the Australian explorers; three regular policemen, and on extra nights six others; and you have some notion of what the management of Cremorne Gardens has to meet on Saturday mornings, as the cost of the amusement it provides.
    The hotel department, belonging to the same proprietary, is, of course, worked by a totally different staff. The indoor division has the services of a manager and housekeeper, fifteen barmaids, two head-waiters, eighteen other waiters, a booking-clerk, two hall-keepers, and three porters. The outer division is managed by a head-waiter with fifty subordinates. In the kitchen there are four professed cooks with assistants, a kitchen-boy, a vegetable cook, two scullerymen, two bakers and confectioners, who are all overlooked by a larder clerk. There is also a man whose sole business is the production of soda-water and ginger-beer; and there is a cowkeeper.
    A few years ago supper was the great meal at Cremorne; but under the present management dinners have been made a feature of attraction in the programme; and the number [-17-] of dinners is now large. You can dine at various prices, and have almost anything you like to order, for the cornmissariat is on the most extensive scale. Regarding the consumption of food at this single establishment at the height of the season, the following list may be taken as a daily average : six. salmon, twenty pairs of soles, twelve gallons of whitebait, one turbot, twenty-five pounds of eels, twenty dozen of lobsters, twenty gallons of shrimps, one saddle of mutton, one haunch, six quarters of lamb and six legs, six joints of roast-beef, two fillets of veal, fifty pounds of pressed beef, six dozen pigeon-pies, twenty-four dozen fowls, twelve dozen ducks, twelve tongues, six hams, forty pounds of bacon, two tubs of butter, two sacks of flour, and two hundred eggs. Of vegetable produce, the daily consumption is fifty quarts of peas, three dozen cauliflowers, one hundred-weight of potatoes, twenty score lettuce, one hundred heads of beetroot, thirty bunches of turnips and carrots, and six hundred bundles of watercress. Six hundredweight of ice, two hundredweight of sugar, and twenty pounds of tea, are also consumed daily.
    Such is the internal economy of Cremorne, confessedly the prettiest and best-managed public night-garden in Europe. That it is not so lively as the Chaumière, Mabille, Asnières, or the Closerie des Lilas, must be ascribed to the different character of its frequenters. We have no Counts Chicard, Brididis, Mogadors, or Frisettes (I am laudator temporis acti here it is years since I was in a French public night-garden) among us. I do not think that loss is to be regretted. I know that in "mossoo" visiting us is to be found the most enthusiastic admirer of Cremorne.