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THE GREAT WORLD OF LONDON.
LONDON CONSIDERED AS A GREAT WORLD.
"Londres n'est plus une
ville: c'est une province couverte de maisons," says M. Horace
Say, the celebrated French economist.
The remark, however, like most French mots, is more sparkling than lucid; for, if the term "province" be used - and so it often is by the inconsiderate - as if it were synonymous with the Anglo-Saxon "shire," then assuredly there is no county in England nor "departement" in France, which, in the extent of its population, is comparable to the British Metropolis. Not only does London contain nearly twice as many souls as the most extensive division of the French Empire, but it houses upwards of a quarter of a million more individuals than any one county in Great Britain.* [* The population of the departement du Nord is, in round numbers, 1,130,000; and that of the Seine 1,365,000. The population of Lancaster, on the other hand, is 2,031,236.]
How idle, therefore, to speak of London as a mere province, when it comprises within its boundaries a greater number of people than many a kingdom! the population of the British Metropolis exceeding - by some five hundred thousand persons - that of the whole of Hanover, or Saxony, or Wurtemburg; whilst the abstract portion of its people congregated on the Middlesex side of the Thames only, out-numbers the entire body of individuals included within the Grand Duchy of Baden.** [** The population of the above-mentioned countries is, according to the returns of 1860, as follows:- Saxony, 1,836,433 ; Hanover, 1,758,856; Wurtemburg, 1,743,827; Baden, 1,349,980, - M'Culloch's Geographical Dictionary.
[-4-] Nay, more: towards the close of the 14th century, there were not nearly so many men, women, and children scattered throughout all England as there are now crowded within the Capital alone.* [* The population of England in the year 1377 was 2,092,978]
Further assuming the population of the entire world, according to the calculations of Balbi (as given in the Balance Politique du Globe), to be 1075 millions, that of the Great Metropolis constitutes no less than 1-450th part of the whole; so that, in every thousand of the aggregate composing the immense human family, two at least are Londoners.
In short, London may be safely asserted to be the most densely-populated city in all the world - containing one-fourth more people than Pekin, and two-thirds more than Paris; more than twice as many as Constantinople; four times as many as St. Petersburg; five times as many as Vienna, or New York, or Madrid; nearly seven times as many as Berlin eight times as many as Amsterdam; nine times as many as Rome ; fifteen times as many as Copenhagen; and seventeen times as many as Stockholm.** [** The figures from which the above deductions are made are as follows :- Pekin (reputed population) 2,000,000; Paris, 1,650,000; Constantinople, 950,000; St. Petersburg, 600,000; Vienna, 500,000; New York, 500,000; Madrid, 450,000 ; Berlin, 380,000 ; Amsterdam, 300,000; Rome, 275,000; Copenhagen, 160,000; Stockholm, 150,000.-Haydyn's Dictionary of Dates. Sixth Edition.]
Surely then London, being, as we have
shown, more numerously peopled than any single province - and, indeed, than many
an entire State - may be regarded as a distinct World; and, in accordance with
this view, Addison has spoken of the British Metropolis as composed of different
races like a world, instead of being made up of one cognate family like a town.
"When I consider this great city," he says,*** [*** Spectator, No.340] "in its several quarters or divisions, I look upon it as an aggregate of various nations, distinguished from each other by their respective customs, manners, and interests. The courts of two countries do not so much differ from one another as the Court and City of London in thou- 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, by several climates and degrees, in their ways of thinking and conversing together."
Viewing the Great Metropolis, therefore, as an absolute world, Belgravia and Bethnal Green become the opposite poles of the London sphere - the frigid zones, as it were, of the Capital; the one icy cold from its exceeding fashion, form, and ceremony; and the other wrapt in a perpetual winter of withering poverty. Of such a world, Temple Bar is the unmistakable equator, dividing the City hemisphere from that of the West End, and with a line of Banks, representative of the Gold Coast, in its immediate neighbourhood. What Greenwich, too, is to the merchant seamen of England, Charing Cross is to the London cabmen - the zero from which all the longitudes of the Metropolitan world are measured.
Then has not the so-called World of London its vast continents, like the veritable world of which it forms a part? What else are the enormous trans-Thamesian territories of Southwark and Lambeth? Moreover, the localities of St. Benetfink, and. St. Benetsherehog, or even Bevis Marks, in the heart of the City, are as much terra incognita, to the great body of Londoners themselves, as is Lake Tehad in the centre of Africa to all but the Landers or Dr. Barths of our race.
Again, as regards the metropolitan people, the polite Parisian is not more widely different from the barbarous Botecudo, than, is the lack-a-daisical dandy at Almack's from the Billingsgate "rough." Ethnologists have reduced the several varieties of mankind into five distinct types; but surely the judges who preside at the courts in Westminster are as morally distinct from the Jew "fences" of Petticoat Lane as the Caucasian from the Malayan race. Is not the "pet parson," too, of some West End Puseyite Chapel as ethically [-5-] and physically different from the London prize-fighter, and he again from the City Alderman, as is the Mongol from the Negro, or the Negro from the Red Indian.
In the World of London, indeed, we find almost every geographic species of the human family. If Arabia has its nomadic tribes, the British Metropolis has its vagrant hordes as well. If the Carib Islands have their savages, the English Capital has types almost as brutal and uncivilized as they. If India has its Thugs, London has its garotte men.
Nor are the religious creeds of the entire globe more multiform than those of the Great Metropolis. We smile with pity at the tribes of the Bight of Benim, who have a lizard for their particular divinity; and throw up our hands and brows in astonishment on learning that the Bissagos offer up their prayers to a barn-door cock. But have we not among us, in this "most enlightened Metropolis," and in these most "enlightened times," people who devoutly believe that Mrs. Joanna Southcott was designed to have been the mother of the Messiah? others who are morally convinced that Joe Smith was inspired by the Almighty to write the Book of Mormon - an unsuccessful novel that is regarded as a second gospel by thousands? others again who find a special revelation from the Most High in the babbling of nonsense by demented women - the uttering of "unknown tongues," as it is termed ? and others still whose steadfast faith it is, that the special means of communing with the spirits of the other world are alphabets and secret tappings under the table!
Further: the philological differences of the several races scattered over the globe are hardly more manifold than are the distinct modes of speech peculiar to the various classes of Metropolitan society. True, the characteristic dialect of Bow-bells has almost become obsolete; and aldermen, now-a-days, rarely transpose the v's and w's, or "exasperate" the h's, and no longer speak of some humble residence as "an 'ouse, an 'ut, or an 'ovel," nor style it, with like orthoepy, a "Hightalian willer," or a "French cottage horny (ornée)." But though this form has passed away, there are many other modes of speech still peculiar to the Metropolitan people.
Your London exquisite, for instance, talks of taking - aw - his afternoon's wide - aw - in Wotton Wo - aw - aw - or of going to the Opewa- aw - or else of wunning down - aw - to the Waces-aw-aw.
The affected Metropolitan Miss, on the other hand, loves the ble-ue ske-i, and her bootie little doggie and birdie, and delights in being key-ind to the poor, and thinks Miss So-and-so looked "sweetly pretty" at church in her new bonnet.
Then the fast young gentleman positively must speak to his governor, and get the old brick to fork out some more tin, for positively he can hardly afford himself a weed of an evening - besides he wants a more nobby crib, as the one he hangs out in now is only fit for some pleb or cad. It really isn't the Stilton.
Moreover, there is the ‘Cadgers’ (beggars’) cant’, as it is called—a style of language which is distinct from the slang of the thieves, being arranged on the principle of using words that are similar in sound to the ordinary expressions for the same idea. ‘S’pose now, your honour,’ said a ‘shallow cove’, who was giving us a lesson in the St. Giles’ classics, ‘I wanted to ask a codger to come and have a glass of rum with me, and smoke a pipe of baccer over a game of cards with some blokes at home—I should say, Splodger, will you have a Jack-surpass of finger-and-thumb, and blow your yard of tripe of nosey-me-knacker, while we have a touch of the broads with some other heaps of coke at my drum?’ * [* It will be readily observed, by means of the numbers, that the above cant words are mere nonsensical terms, rhyming with the vernacular ones to which the same figure is annexed.]
Again, we have the ‘Coster-slang’, or the language used by the costermongers, and which consists merely in pronouncing each word as if it were spelt backwards:—’I say, Curly, will you do a top of reeb (pot of beer)?’ one costermonger may say to the other. ‘It’s on doog, Whelkey, on doog (no good, no good),’ the second may reply. ‘I’ve had a reg’lar troseno (bad sort) to-day. I’ve been doing b—y dab (bad) with my tol (lot, [-6-] or stock)—ha’n’t made a yennep (penny), s’elp me.’ ‘Why, I’ve cleared a flatch-enorc (half-a-crown) a’ready,’ Master Whelkey will answer, perhaps. ‘But kool the esilop (look at the police); kool him (look at him) Curly! Vom-us! (be off). I’m going to do the tightner (have my dinner).’
Lastly comes the veritable slang, or English ‘Argot’, i.e., the secret language used by the London thieves. This is made up, in a great degree, of the mediaeval Latin, in which the Church service was formerly chanted, and which indeed gave rise to the term cant (from the Latin cantare), it having been the custom of the ancient beggars to ‘intone’ their prayers when asking for alms.*
[* The word "patter, which is the slang for speech, is borrowed merely from the "pater-nosters" that the old-established mendicants delighted to mumble. So, too, the term "fake" (to do anything) is merely the Latin facere; and a "fakement" (anything done or written, as a beggar's petition), the classic facimentum. But a large number of foreign words have since been introduced into this species of cant, for as secresy is the main object of all cantoloquy, every outlandish term is incorporated with the "lingo," as soon as it can be picked up from any of the continental vagrants frequenting the "padding kens" (low lodging- houses) throughout the country. Thus the term "carser," for a gentleman's house (Italian casa), has been borrowed from the organ boys; and "ogle" (Dutch, Oogelijn, a little eye), from the Hollanders on board the Billingsgate eel-boats. " Fogle," for a handkerchief, a "bird's eye wipe" (German, vogel, a bird), has been taken, on the other hand, from the German vagrants, such as the bird-cage men, &c.; "showfull," base money, which is likewise the Teutonic shoful (bad stuff-trash), has had the same origin; and "bone," which is the slang for good, and evidently the French bon, has been got, probably, from the old dancing-dog men. The gipsy language has also lent a few words to the stock of slang, whilst the British, and even the Anglo-Saxon speech of our forefathers have many a phrase preserved in it (the vulgar being, as Latham says, the real conservators of the Saxon tongue). For instance, the slang term "gammy" (bad) comes from the Welsh gam, crooked, queer; and the cant expression, "it isn't the cheese," is pure old English, signifying, literally, it is not what I should choose; for Chaucer, in the Canterbury Tales, has the line-
"To cheese whether she weld him marry or no."
Moreover, fanciful metaphors contribute largely to the formation of slang. It is upon this principle that the mouth has come to be styled the "tater-trap;" the teeth, "dominoes;" the nose, the "paste-horn;" the blood "claret; shoes, "crab-shells ;" umbrellas, "mushrooms" (or, briefly, "mush"); prisons, "stone jugs," and so on.]
‘Can you roker Romany (can you speak
cant)?’ one individual ‘on the cross’ will say to another who is not
exactly ‘on the square’; and if the reply be in the affirmative, he will
probably add —‘What is your monekeer (name)?—Where
do you stall to in the huey (where do you lodge in the town)?’ ‘Oh, I drop
the main toper (get out of the high-road),’ would doubtless be the answer,
‘and slink into the ken (lodging-house) in the back drum (Street).’ ‘Will
you have a shant o’ gatter (pot of beer) after all this dowry of parny (lot of
rain)? I’ve got a teviss (shilling) left in my clye (pocket).’
To speak of the "World of London," then, is hardly to adopt a metaphor, since the metropolitan people differ from one another - as much as if they belonged to different races - not only in their manners and customs, as well as religion, but in their forms of speech; for, if we study the peculiar dialect of each class, we shall find that there is some species of cant or other appertaining to every distinct circle of society; and that there is a slang of the Drawing-room, of Exeter Hall, of the Inns of Court, the Mess-table, the Editor's-room, the Artist's Studio, the Hospital, the Club-house, the Stable, the Workshop, the Kitchen, ay, and even the Houses of Parliament-as distinctly as there is the slang of Billingsgate and the "padding ken."
But London is not only a World: it is a Great
World as well.
We have been so long accustomed to think of worlds as immense masses, measuring some thousands of miles in diameter, that it seems almost like hyperbole to class a mere patch of the earth, like the British Metropolis, among the mundane bodies. The discoveries of the present century, however, have revealed to us an order of celestial worlds, many of which are hardly as big as German kingdoms.
[-7-] These "asteroids," or " planetoids," as they are sometimes called, are supposed by astronomers to be fragments of a great planet - mere star-chips, or splinters of some shattered larger sphere - that formerly occupied the ethereal gap between Mars and Jupiter.* [* Mr. Daniel Kirkwood, of Potsville Academy, has ventured theoretically to restore the fractured primitive planet, by calculations of the remaining fragments; and he finds that it must have had a diameter of about half that of the earth, and a day of more than twice the length of our own. Reports of the British Association.] Even so, then, may London itself be considered as a kind of terroid - a distinct chip of the greater world, the Earth.
The discs of the minor celestial spheres, Humboldt tells us in his Cosmos, "have a real surface, measuring not much more than half that of France, Madagascar, or Borneo." Indeed, Mr. Hind says, that "the largest of the, twenty-five small planets probably does not exceed 450 miles in diameter;"* [* Illustrated London Anatomy, page 60.] so that such a planetary world is not so long-by upwards of a hundred miles - as even our own little island.
Now, as this is the measure of the largest of the minor planetary spheres, surely we can conceive that some of those bodies may be barely bigger than the Metropolis itself, seeing that the English Capital covers an area of no less than 120 odd square miles in extent.
If then, by some volcanic convulsion - some subterranean quake and explosion - the earth were suddenly to burst, like a mundane bomb, and, being shattered into a score or two of terroid fragments, the great Metropolis were to be severed from the rest of the globe, London is quite large enough to do duty as a separate world, and to fall to revolving by itself about the sun - with Hampstead and Sydenham for its north and south poles, doomed alike to a six months' winter - with the whole line of Oxford Street, Holborn, and Cheapside, scorching under the everlasting summer of what would then be the metropolitan torrid zone, and whilst it was day at Kensington, night reigning at Mile End.
What a wondrous World, too, would this same abstract London be! A World with scarcely an acre of green fields in all its 120 square miles of area - a World unable to grow hardly a sack of corn, or to graze a flock of sheep for itself - a World choke-full of houses, and reticulated with streets, as thick as the veins on a vine-leaf - and a World with two millions and a half of people crowded within it almost as close as negroes in the hold of a slave ship!
Can Ceres, or Pallas, or Juno, or Astrea, or Iris, or indeed any other of the twenty-five minor planets, be in any way comparable to it?
A BALLOON VIEW OF LONDON.
THERE is an innate desire in all men to view the earth and
its cities and plains from "exceeding high places," since even the
least imaginative can feel the pleasure of beholding some broad landscape spread
out like a bright-coloured carpet at their feet, and of looking down upon the
world, as though they scanned it with an eagle's eye. For it is an exquisite
treat to all minds to find that they have the power, by their mere vision, of
extending their consciousness to scenes and objects that are miles away; and as
the intellect experiences a special delight in being able to comprehend all the
minute particulars of a subject under one associate whole, and to perceive the
previous confusion of the diverse details assume the form and order of a
perspicuous unity; so does the eye love to see the country, or the town, which
it usually knows only as a series of disjointed parts - as abstract fields,
hills, rivers, parks, streets, gardens, or churches - become all combined, like
the coloured fragments of the kaleidoscope, into one harmonious and varied
With great cities, however, the desire to perceive the dense multitude of houses at one single [-8-] glance, and instead of by some thousand different views, to observe the intricate net-work of the many thoroughfares brought into the compass of one large web as it were; the various districts, too, with their factories, their markets, their docks, or their mansions, all dove-tailed, one into the other, as if they were the pieces of some puzzle-map - is a feeling strong upon every one-the wisest as well as the most frivolous-upon all, indeed, from the philosopher down to the idler about town.
We had seen the Great Metropolis under almost every aspect. We had dived into the holes and corners hidden from the honest and well-to-do portion of the London community. We had visited Jacob's island (the plague-spot of the British Capital) in the height of the cholera, when to inhale the very air of the place was to imbibe the breath of death. We had sought out the haunts of beggars and thieves, and passed hours communing with them as to their histories, habits, thoughts, and impulses. We had examined the World of London below the moral surface, as it were; and we had a craving, like the rest of mankind, to contemplate it from above; so, being offered a seat in the car of the Royal Nassau Balloon, we determined upon accompanying Mr. Green into the clouds on his five hundredth ascent.
It was late in the evening (a fine autumn one) when the gun was fired that was the signal for the great gas-bag to be loosened from the ropes that held it down to the soil; and, immediately the buoyant machine bounded, like a big ball, into the air. Or, rather let us say, the earth seemed to sink suddenly down, as if the spot of ground to which it had been previously fastened had been constructed upon the same principle as the Adelphi stage, and admitted of being lowered at a moment's notice. Indeed, no sooner did the report of the gun clatter in the air, than the people, who had before been grouped about the car, appeared to fall from a level with the eye; and, instantaneously, there was seen a multitude of flat, upturned faces in the gardens below, with a dense chevaux de frise of arms extended above them, and some hundreds of outstretched hands fluttering farewell to us.
The moment after this, the balloon vaulted over the trees, and we saw the roadway outside the gardens stuck all over with mobs of little black Lilliputian people, while the hubbub of the voices below, and the cries of "Ah bal-loon!" from the boys, rose to the ear like the sound of a distant school let loose to play.
Now began that peculiar panoramic effect which is the distinguishing feature of the first portion of a view from a balloon, and which arises from the utter absence of all sense of motion in the machine itself, and the consequent transference of the movement to the ground beneath. The earth, as the aeronautic vessel glided over it, seemed positively to consist of a continuous series of scenes which were being drawn along underneath us, as if it were some diorama laid flat upon the ground, and almost gave one the notion that the world was an endless landscape stretched upon rollers, which some invisible sprites below were busy revolving for our especial amusement.
Then, as we floated along, above the fields in a line with the Thames towards Richmond, and looked over the edge of the car in which we were standing (and which, by the bye, was like a big "buck-basket," reaching to one's breast), the sight was the most exquisite visual delight ever experienced. The houses directly underneath us looked like the tiny wooden things out of a child's box of toys, and the streets as if they were ruts in the ground; and we could hear the hum of the voices rising from every spot we passed over, faint as the buzzing of so many bees.
Far beneath, in the direction we were sailing, lay the suburban fields; and here the earth, with its tiny hills and plains and streams, assumed the appearance of the little coloured plaster models of countries. The roadways striping the land were like narrow brown ribbons, and the river, which we could see winding far away, resembled a long, gray, metallic-looking snake, creeping through the fields. The bridges over the Thames were positively like planks; and the tiny black barges, as they floated along the stream, seemed [-9-] no bigger than summer insects on the water. The largest meadows were about the size of green-baize table covers; and across these we could just trace the line of the South-Western Railway, with the little whiff of white steam issuing from some passing engine, and no greater in volume than the jet of vapour from an ordinary tea-kettle.
Then, as the dusk of evening approached, and the gas-lights along the different lines of road started into light, one after another, the ground seemed to be covered with little illumination lamps, such as are hung on Christmas-trees, and reminding one of those that are occasionally placed, at intervals, along the grass at the edge of the gravel-walks in suburban tea-gardens; whilst the clusters of little lights at the spots where the hamlets were scattered over the scene, appeared like a knot of fire-flies in the air; and in the midst of these the eye could, here and there, distinguish the tiny crimson speck of some railway signal.
In the opposite direction to that in which the wind was insensibly wafting the balloon, lay the leviathan Metropolis, with a dense canopy of smoke hanging over it, and reminding one of the fog of vapour that is often seen steaming up from the fields at early morning. It was impossible to tell where the monster city began or ended, for the buildings stretched not only to the horizon on either side, but far away into the distance, where, owing to the coming shades of evening and the dense fumes from the million chimneys, the town seemed to blend into the sky, so that there was no distinguishing earth from heaven. The multitude of roofs that extended back from the foreground was positively like a dingy red sea, heaving in bricken billows, and the seeming waves rising up one after the other till the eye grew wearied with following them. Here and there we could distinguish little bare green patches of parks, and occasionally make out the tiny circular enclosures of the principal squares, though, from the height, these appeared scarcely bigger than wafers. Further, the fog of smoke that over-shadowed the giant town was pierced with a thousand steeples and pin-like factory-chimneys.
That little building, no bigger than one of the small china houses that are used for burning pastilles in, is Buckingham Palace - with St. James's Park, dwindled to the size of a card-table, stretched out before it. Yonder is Bethlehem Hospital, with its dome, now of about the same dimensions as a bell.
Then the little mites of men, crossing the bridges, seemed to have no more motion in them than the animalcules in cheese; while the streets appeared more like cracks in the soil than highways, and the tiny steamers on the river were only to be distinguished by the thin black thread of smoke trailing after them.
Indeed, it was a most wonderful sight to behold that vast bricken mass of churches and hospitals, banks and prisons, palaces and workhouses, docks and refuges for the destitute, parks and squares, and courts and alleys, which make up London - all blent into one immense black spot - to look down upon the whole as the birds of the air look down upon it, and see it dwindled into a mere rubbish heap - to contemplate from afar that strange conglomeration of vice, avarice, and low cunning, of noble aspirations and humble heroism, and to grasp it in the eye, in all its incongruous integrity, at one single glance - to take, as it were, an angel's view of that huge town where, perhaps, there is more virtue and more iniquity, more wealth and more want, brought together into one dense focus than in any other part of the earth - to hear the hubbub of the restless sea of life and emotion below, and hear it, like the ocean in a shell, whispering of the incessant strugglings and chafings of the distant tide - to swing in the air high above all the petty jealousies and heart-burnings, small ambitions and vain parade of "polite" society, and feel, for once, tranquil as a babe in a cot, and that you are hardly of the earth earthy, as, Jacob-like, you mount the aerial ladder, and half lose sight of the "great commercial world" beneath, where men are regarded as mere counters to play with, and where to do your neighbour as your neighbour would do you constitutes the first principle in the religion [-10-] of trade - to feel yourself floating through the endless realms of space, and drinking in the pure thin air of the skies, as you go sailing along almost among the stars, free as "the lark at heaven's gate," and enjoying, for a brief half hour, at least, a foretaste of that Elysian destiny which is the ultimate hope of all.
Such is the scene we behold, and such the thoughts that stir the brain on contemplating London from the car of a balloon.*
[* There are some peculiar effects in connection with balloon travelling that are worthy of further mention. The first is the utter absence of all sense of motion in the vehicle. Motion, indeed, at all times is only made known to us by those abrupt changes in our direction which consist of what are termed joltings; for the body, from its "vis inertiae", partaking of the movement of the conveyance in which it is travelling, is, of course, thrown forcibly forwards or sideways, directly the course of the machine is violently arrested or altered. In a balloon, moreover, we are not even made conscious of our motion by the ordinary feeling of the air blowing against the face as we rush through it, for as the vessel travels with the wind, no such effect is produced; and it is most striking to find the clouds, from the same cause, apparently as motionless as rocks; for as they too are travelling with the balloon, and at precisely the same rate, they naturally cannot but appear to be absolutely still. Hence, under such circumstances, we have no means of telling whether we are ascending or descending, except by pieces of paper thrown out from the car, and which are of course left below if the machine be rising, and above if it be falling ; indeed, when the balloon in which Albert Smith ascended from Vauxhall burst, and he and his aerial companions were being precipitated to the earth with the velocity of a stone, the only indication they got of the rate of their descent was by resorting to the little paper "logs," before mentioned. And Mr. Green assured use that though he has travelled in the air during a gale of wind at the rate of ninety-five miles in the hour, he was utterly unconscious not only of the velocity with which he had been projected, as it were, through the atmosphere, but also of the fury of the hurricane itself-feeling as perfectly tranquil all the while as if he had been seated in his easy chair by his own fireside; nor was it until he reached the earth, and the balloon became fixed to the ground by means of the grapnel, that he was sensible of the violence of the wind (and it was the same with us during our trip); for then, as the machine offered a considerable obstruction to the passage of the air, the power of the gale was rendered apparent - since, strange to say, without resistance there is no force. Hence there is but little danger in aeronautic excursions while the balloon remains in the air - and so indeed there is with a ship, as long as it has plenty of sea room; whereas, directly the aerial machine is fixed to the ground, it is like a stranded vessel, and becomes the sport of the wind, as the ship, similarly circumstanced, is of the waves. Another curious effect of the aerial ascent was, that the earth, when we were at our greatest altitude, positively appeared concave, looking like a huge dark bowl rather than the convex sphere, such as we naturally expect to see it. This, however, was a mere effect of perspective, for it is a law of vision that the horizon or boundary line of the sight always appears on a level with the eye - the fore-ground being, in all ordinary views, directly at the feet of the spectator, and the extreme back-ground some five feet and a half above it, while the relative distances of the intermediate objects are represented pictorially to the eye by their relative heights above the lowest, and therefore the nearest object in the scene - so that pictorial distance is really at right angles to tangible distance, the former being a line parallel with the body, and the latter one perpendicular to it. Hence, as the horizon always appears to be on a level with our eye (which is literally the centre of a hollow sphere rather than of a flat circle during vision), it naturally seems to rise as we rise, until at length the elevation of the circular boundary line of the sight becomes so marked, owing to our own elevation, that the earth assumes the anomalous appearance, as we have said, of a concave rather than a convex body. This optical illusion has, according to the best of our recollection, never been noticed or explained before, so that it becomes worthy of record. Another curious effect, bust upon another sense, was the extraordinary, and indeed painful, pressure upon the cars which occurred at our greatest altitude. This was precisely the same sensation as is produced during a descent in a diving-bell, and it at first seemed strange that such a result, which, in the case of the diving-bell, obviously arises from the extreme condensation of the air within the submerged vessel, and its consequent greater pressure on the tympanum - should be brought about in a balloon immediately it enters a stratum of air where the rarefaction is greater than usual. Here were two directly opposite causes producing the same effect. A moment's reflection, however, taught us that the sensation experienced in the diving-bell arises from the drum of the car being unduly strained by the pressure of the external air; whereas the sensation experienced in the balloon was produced by the air inside the ear acting in the same manner.]
SOME IDEA OF THE SIZE AND POPULATION OF LONDON.
IT is strange how hard it is for the mind to arrive at any
definite notion as to aggregate numbers or dimensions in space. The savage who
can count only up to ten, points to the hairs of his head, in order to convey
the complex idea of some score or two of objects; and although educated people
can generally form a concrete conception of hundreds, without losing all sense
of the individual units composing the sum, it is certain, nevertheless, that
when the aggregate reaches thousands and millions, even the best disciplined
intellects have a very hazy notion of the distinct numerical elements making up
the gross idea - the same as they have of the particular stars that go to form
some unresolved nebulae, or of the several atoms in the forty thousand millions
of siliceous shells of insects that Ehrenberg assures us are contained in every
cubic inch of the polishing slate of Bilin.
Is it not, then, the mere pedantry of statistics to inform the reader, while professing to describe the size and population of the Great Metropolis, that, according to the returns of the last census, it is 78,029 statute acres, or 122 square miles, in extent; that it contains 327,391 houses; and that it numbers 2,362,236 souls within its boundaries!
Surely the mind is no more enabled to realize the immensity of the largest city in the world by such information as this, than we are helped to comprehend the vastness of the sea by being told that the total area of all the oceans amounts to 145 millions of square miles, and that it contains altogether 6,441 billions of tons of common salt.* [*See Ansted's Geology, page 28]
We will, however, endeavour to conjure up a more vivid picture of the giant city in the brain, not only of those who have never visited the spot, but of those who, though living in it all their lives, have hardly any clearer ideas of the town, in its vast integrity, than the fishes have of the Atlantic in which they swim.
We must premise, then, that it is as difficult to tell where the Metropolis begins, and where it ends, as it is to point out the particular line of demarcation between the several colours of the rainbow; for the suburban villages blend so insensibly into the city, that one might as well attempt to define the precise point where the water begins to be salt at the mouth of some estuary.
Hence, it has been found necessary to pass special Acts of Parliament in order to let Londoners know how far London really extends into the country, and to define the size of the Great Metropolis according to law.**
[** The following are the terms of the Burial Act (15 and 16 Vict., cap. 85):- "For the purposes of this Act, the expression the Metropolis' shall be construed to mean and include the Cities and Liberties of London and Westminster, the Borough of Southwark, and the Parishes, Precincts, Townships, and Places mentioned in the Schedule (A.) to this Act."
The City of London and the Liberties thereof, the Inner Temple, and Middle Temple, and all other Places and Parts of Places contained within the exterior Boundaries of the Liberties of the City of London.
The City and Liberties of Westminster.
The Parishes of St. Margaret and St. John the Evangelist.
The Parish of St. Martin in the Fields.
The Parish of St. George, Hanover Square.
The Parish of St. James.
The Parish of St. Mary-le-Strand, as well as within the Duchy Liberty.
The Parish of St. Clement Danes, as well within the Liberty of Westminster as within the Duchy Liberty.]
This is, however, very much of a piece
with the renowned stroke of legislation performed [-12-] by
the progress-hating King Canute, since it is quite as absurd for rulers to say,
"Thus far shalt thou go, and no farther,'' to the bricks and mortar of
London, as to the waves of the ocean.
In the year 1603, for instance, we find that the legal limits of London, " within and without the walls," were but little better than fifteen hundred statute acres; whereas in the next century the Metropolis, "according to law," had swollen to upwards of twenty thousand acres. Then at the beginning of the present century the area was farther extended to thirty thousand acres; and in 1837, it was again increased to forty-six thousand; whilst now it is allowed by Act of Parliament to corer a surface of no less than seventy-eight thousand acres in extent.
The Parish of St. Paul, Covent Garden.
The Parish of St. Anne, Soho.
Whitehall Gardens (whether the same be parochial or extra-parochial).
Whitehall (whether the came be parochial or extra- parochial).
Richmond Terrace (whether the same be parochial or extra-parochial).
The Close of the Collegiate Church of St. Peter.
The Parishes of St. Giles in the Fields and St. George, Bloomsbury.
The Parishes of St. Andrew, Holborn, and St. George the Martyr.
The Liberty of Hatton Garden, Saffron Hill, and Ely Rents.
The Liberty of the Rolls.
The Parish of St. Pancras
The Parish of St. John, Hampstead.
The Parish of St. Marylebone.
The Parish of Paddington.
The Precinct of the Savoy.
The Parish of St. Luke.
The Liberty of Glasshouse Yard.
The Parish of St. Sepulchre.
The Parish of St. James, Clerkenwell, including both Districts of St. James and St. John.
The Parish of St. Mary, Islington.
The Parish of St. Mary, Stoke Newington.
The Parish of St. Mary, Whitechapel.
The Parish of Christchurch, Spitalfields.
The Parish of St. Leonard, Shoreditch.
The Liberty of Norton Folgate.
The Parish of St. John, Hackney.
The Parish of St. Matthew, Bethnal Green.
The Hamlet of Mile-end Old Town.
The Hamlet of Mile-end New Town.
The Parish of St. Mary, Stratford, Bow.
The Parish of Bromley, St. Leonard.
The Parish of All Saints, Poplar.
The Parish, of St. Anne, Limehouse.
The Hamlet of Ratcliffe.
The Parish of St. Paul, Shadwell.
The Parish of St. George in the East.
The Parish of St. John, Wapping.
The Liberty of East Smithfield.
The Precinct of St. Catherine.
The liberty of Her Majesty's Tower of London, consisting of-
The Liberty of the Old Artillery Ground.
The Parish of Trinity, Minories.
The Old Tower Precinct.
The Precinct of the Tower Within.
The Precinct of Wellclose.
The Parish of Kensington.
The Parish of St. Luke, Chelsea.
The Parish of Fulham.
The Parish of Hammersmith.
That Part of Furnival's Inn, in the County of Middlesex.
The Parish of Willesden.
The Pariahs of St. Paul, Deptford.
The Parish of St. Nicholas, Deptford.
The Parish of Greenwich.
The Parish of Woolwich.
The Parish, of Charlton.
The Parish of Plumstead.
The Borough of Southwark.
The Parish of St. George the Martyr.
The Parish of St. Saviour.
The Parish of St. John, Horsleydown.
The Parish, of St. Olave.
The Parish, of St. Thomas.
The Pariah of Battersea (except the hamlet of Penge).
The Parish of Bermondsey.
The Parish of Camberwell
The Parish of Clapham.
The Parish of Lambeth.
The Parish of Newington.
The Parish of Putney.
The Parish, of Rotherhithe.
The Parish of Streatham.
The Parish of Tooting.
The Parish of Wandsworth
The Parish of Christchurch.
The Clink Liberty.
The Hamlet of Hateham in the Parish of Deptford.
[-13-] Indeed, the increase of the metropolitan population within the last ten years, tells us that further house-room has to be provided in London every twelvemonth for upwards of forty thousand new corners. Of these about half are strangers; for, as the annual excess of births over deaths in the Metropolis amounts to but little better than half the yearly increase in the number of the people, it is manifest that nearly twenty thousand individuals must come and settle in the town every year, from other parts - a rate of immigration as great as if the entire population of Guernsey had left their native island for the "little village."*
[* The above statement is proved thus: -
2,362,236 = Population of London in 1851.
1,948,417 = Population of London in 1841.
413,819 = Increase of Population in 10 years.
41,381.9 = Annual increase.
84,944 = Births in London, in 1855.
61506 = Deaths in London, in 1855.
23,438 = Annual excess of Births over Deaths.
17,943 = Annual Immigration.
41,385 = Annual Increase.]
No wonder, then, that the returns show that there are
continually 4,000 new houses in the course of erection; for it may be truly said
our Metropolis increases annually by the addition of a town of considerable
Hence, even though, as Maitland says, London had a century ago absorbed into its body one city, one borough, and forty-three villages, it still continues daily devouring suburbs, and swallowing up green field after green field, and the builders go on raising houses where the market-gardeners a short time ago raised cabbages instead - the Metropolis throwing out its many fibres of streets like the thousand roots of an old tree stretching far into the soil; so that it is evident that though the late Burial Acts pretended to mark out the limits of the Capital in 1852, still, in another decenniad another Act will have to be passed, incorporating other hamlets with the town; even as the Old Bills of Mortality, which were issued by the Company of Parish Clerks in 1603, were forced in a few years after the date to add St. Giles in the Fields and Clerkenwell to the metropolitan circle, and at the end of the century to include also the villages of Hackney, and Islington, and Newington, and Rotherhithe; whilst the New Bills have since encompassed the hamlets of Kensington, and Paddington, and Hammersmith, and Fulham, and Camberwell, and Wandsworth, and Deptford, and Greenwich, and Plumstead, and Lewisham, and Hampstead; until at length the Capital has been made to consist, not only of some score of Wicks, and Townships, and Precincts, and Liberties, but to comprise the two great boroughs of Southwark and Greenwich, as well as the Episcopal Cities of Westminster and London proper. Indeed, the monster Metropolis now comprehends, within its parliamentary boundaries, what once constituted the territories of four Saxon Commonwealths - the kingdom of the Middle Saxons, East Saxons, the South Rick, and the Kentwaras.
Now as regards the actual size of this enormous city, it may be said that its area is considerably more than twice the dimensions of the island of St. Helena, - and very nearly double that of Jersey - being not quite so large as Elba, but nearly one-half the superficial extent of Madeira. Not only does it stretch into the three counties of Middlesex, Surrey, and Kent, but the length of that portion of the Thames which traverses the Metropolis - and divides the river, as it winds along, into two great metropolitan provinces as it were - measures no less than twenty miles from Hammersmith to Woolwich; whilst in its course the river receives the waters of the navigable Roding and Lea on the one side, and the Ravensbourne and Wandle on the other, together with many other minor streams that are now buried under the houses, and made to do the duty of sewers, though they were, at one time, of sufficient capacity to be the scenes of naval battles.**
[** "Anciently," says Stowe, "until the Conqueror's time, and two hundred years afterwards, the city of London was watered - besides the famous river of Thames, on the south - with the river of Wells, as it was [-14-] then called (but Fleete dike afterwards - "because it runneth past the Fleets," he adds in another place) on the west; with the water called Wallbrooke running through the midst of the city into the river of Thames, serving the heart thereof; and with a fourth water or bourne, which ran within the city through langbourne ward, watering that part in the east. In the west suburbs was also another great water called Oldborne, which had its fall into the river of Wells." * * * * Moreover, "in a fair book of Parliament records now lately restored to the Tower," he adds, "it appears that a Parliament being holden at Carlisle in the .year 1307 (the 35th of Edward I.), Henry Lacy, Earl of Lincoln, complained that whereas in times past the course of water running at London under Oldborne bridge and Fleets bridge into the Thames, had been of such breadth and depth that ten or twelve ships navies at once, with merchandise, were wont to come to the aforesaid bridge of Fleete and some of them to Oldborne bridge; now the same course, by filth of the tanners and such others, is sore decayed ; also by raising of wharfs ; but especially by a diversion of water made by them of the new Temple, in the first year of King John, for their mills, standing without Baynard's Castle, and divers other impediments, so that the said ships cannot enter as they were wont, and as they ought." * * * * Further, we are told by the same historian, that "in the year 1502, the seventh of Henry VII., the whole course of the Fleets dike (then so called) was scowered down to the Thames, so that boats with fish and fuel were rowed to the Fleete bridge and to Oldborne bridge, as they of old time had been accustomed, which was a great commodity to all the inhabitants in that part of the city." - STOWE'S Surrey (Thoms' Edition), pp. 5, 6.]
[-14-] From east to west, London stretches from Plumstead to
Hammersmith on the Middlesex side of the river, and from Woolwich to Wandsworth
on the Surrey side, and there is nearly one continuous street of houses joining
these extreme points, and measuring about fourteen miles in length; whilst the
line of buildings running north and south, and reaching from Holloway to
Camberwell, is said to be upwards of twelve miles long.
If, however, we estimate only the solid mass of houses in the centre, where the tenements are packed almost back to back, and nearly as close as the bales of cotton in the hold of a merchant ship, the area so occupied is found to be larger, even, than the Island of Guernsey.*
[* The comparative density of the buildings in the different parts of London may be indicated by the fact, that in the heart of the city there are upwards of 30 houses to the acre; whereas in the outlying localities of [-15-] Kensington and Camberwell, there are but little more than two houses; and in Hampstead not quite one house to the same extent of ground - as may be seen by the following
TABLE SHOWING THE AREA, NUMBER OF HOUSES, AND PROPORTION OF HOUSES TO EACH ACRE IN LONDON, 1851.
DISTRICTS Area in Statute Acres Total Number of Houses Number of Houses to the Acre WEST DISTRICTS Kensington 7374 19082 2.7 Chelsea 865 7953 9.1 St. George, Hanover Square 1161 9404 8.0 Westminster 917 6978 7.6 St. Martin-in-the-Fields 305 2465 8.0 St. James, Westminster 164 3533 21.0 Total West Districts 10,786 49,505 4.5 NORTH DISTRICTS Marylebone 1509 16448 10.9 Hampstead 2252 1822 0.8 Pancras 2716 19688 7.2 Islington 3127 14736 4.7 Hackney 3929 10517 2.6 Total North Districts 13,533 63,221 4.6 CENTRAL DISTRICTS St. Giles 245 4996 20.0 Strand 174 4110 23.6 Holborn 196 4519 23.0 Clerkenwell 380 7549 19.8 St. Luke 220 6616 30.0 East London 153 4945 32.3 West London 136 2850 21.6 London City 434 8373 19.2 Total, Central Districts 1,938 44,058 22.7 EAST DISTRICTS Shoreditch 646 16182 25.0 Bethnal Green 760 13819 18.1 Whitechapel 406 9161 22.5 St. George-in-the-East 243 6351 26.1 Stepney 1257 17348 13.8 Poplar 2918 7283 2.4 Total, East Districts 6,230 70,144 11.2 SOUTH DISTRICTS St. Saviour, Southwark 250 4856 19.4 St. Olave, " 169 2436 14.4 Bermondsey 688 7466 10.8 St. George, Southwark 282 7513 26.6 Newington 624 11205 19.9 Lambeth 4015 21659 5.3 Wandsworth 11695 9163 0.7 Camberwell 4342 10072 2.3 Rotherhithe 886 3058 3.4 Greenwich 5367 1580 2.9 Lewisham 17224 6624 0.3 Total, South Districts 45,542 100,453 2.4 Total for all London 78,029 327,451 4.1
Again, an enumeration of the gross amount of buildings which
make up the dense crowd of houses in London is quite as useless, for all
imaginative purposes, as is the specification of the number of statute acres
comprised within its area, for helping us to conceive its size. A statement, on
the contrary, of the mere length of the line that the buildings would form if
joined all together in one continuous row, will give us a far better idea of the
gross extent of the whole. This is easily arrived at by assuming each of the
tenements to have an average frontage of fifteen feet in width; and thus we find
that the entire length of the buildings throughout London amounts to near upon
one thousand miles, so that if they were all ranged in a line, they would form
one continuous street, long enough to reach across the whole of England and
France, from York to the Pyrenees!
If, then, such be the mere length of the aggregate houses in London, it may be readily conceived that the streets of the Metropolis-which, on looking at the map, seem to be a perfect maze of bricks and mortar-should be some thousands in number; and, accordingly, it appears that there are upwards of 10,500 distinct streets, squares, circuses, crescents, terraces, villas, rows, buildings, places, lanes, courts, alleys, mews, yards, rents, &c., particularized in that huge civic encyclopaedia, the London Post-Office Directory.
Many of these thoroughfares, too, are of no inconsiderable dimensions. Oxford Street alone is more than one mile and a third long, and Regent Street, from Langham Church to Carlton Terrace, measures nearly one mile in length; whilst the two great lines of thoroughfare parallel to the river, the one extending along Oxford Street, Holborn, Cheapside, Cornhill, and Whitechapel to Mile-end, and which is really but one street with different names, and the other stretching from Knightsbridge along Piccadilly, the Haymarket, Pall Mall East, the Strand, Fleet Street, Cannon Street, Tower Street, and so on by Ratcliffe Highway to the West India Docks - are each above six miles from one end to the other.
[-15-] But "if you wish," said Dr. Johnson, "to have a just notion of the magnitude of this city, you must not be satisfied with seeing its streets and squares, but must survey the little lanes and courts. It is not, he added, "in the showy evolution of buildings, but iii the multiplicity of human habitations, which are crowded together, that the wonderful immensity of London consists."
Indeed, the gross extent of the London streets, small as well as great, is almost incredible; for a return by the Police, in 1850, makes the aggregate length of the metropolitan thoroughfares amount to no less that 1750 miles - so that, according to this, the highways and byeways of the Capital must be even longer than the lines of the five principal London railways-the North Western, Great Western, South Western, Great Northern, and Eastern Counties-all added on one to another; or considerably more than three times the length of the railway from London, via Calais and Ghent, to Cologne. The cost of forming this astounding length of paved roadway, I have elsewhere shown to amount to no less than £14,000,000; and that not only have these same roadways to be entirely relaid every five years, but the mere repairs upon them cost upwards of £1,800,000 per annum.
[-16-] Of the enormous mass of human beings comprised in the London population, it is even more difficult to have an adequate conception than to realize to our minds the gross number of its houses and length of its streets. One way, however, in which we may arrive at a vague idea of the dense human multitude is, by comparing the number of people resident in the Metropolis with those that lined the thoroughfares on the day of the Duke of Wellington's funeral; and judging by the extent of the crowd collected on that occasion, as to the probable dimensions of the mob that would be formed were the people of London to be all gathered together into one body.
It was calculated on that occasion that there were a million and a half of people in the streets to witness the procession and that these covered the pathways all along the line of route for a distance of three miles. Hence it follows, that were the whole of the metropolitan population ever to be congregated in the streets at one and the same time, they would form a dense mass of human beings near upon five miles long.
Or, to put the matter still more forcibly before the mind, we may say, that if the entire people of the capital were to be drawn up in marching order, two and two, the length of the great army of Londoners would be no less than 670 miles and, supposing them to move at the rate of three miles an hour, it would require more than nine days and nights for the aggregate population to pass by!*
[* The distribution and relative density of the population throughout London is numerically as follows
TABLE SHOWING THE DISTRIBUTION AND DENSITY OF THE POPULATION OF LONDON IN 1851.
DISTRICTS Area in Statute Acres Males Females Total of Persons Number of Persons to Acre WEST DISTRICTS Kensington 7374 49949 70055 120004 16.2 Chelsea 865 25475 31063 56538 65.4 St. George, Hanover Square 1161 31920 41310 73230 63.0 Westminster 917 32949 33125 65609 71.5 St. Martin-in-the-Fields 305 11918 12722 24640 80.8 St. James, Westminster 164 17377 19029 36406 215.9 Total, West Districts 10786 169133 207294 376427 34.9 NORTH DISTRICTS Marylebone 1509 69115 88581 157696 104.5 Hampstead 2252 4960 7026 11986 5.3 Pancras 2716 76144 90812 166956 61.4 Islington 3127 42760 52567 95329 30.4 Hackney 3929 25083 33346 58429 14.8 Total, North Districts 13533 218064 272332 190396 36.2 CENTRAL DISTRICTS St. Giles 245 25832 28382 54214 221.2 Strand 174 21570 22890 44460 255.5 Holborn 196 22860 23761 46621 237.8 Clerkenwell 380 31489 33289 64778 170.4 St. Luke 220 26178 27877 54055 245.7 East London 153 28536 22870 44406 290.2 West London 136 14604 14186 28890 211.6 London City 434 27149 28783 55932 128.8 Total, Central Districts 1938 191218 202038 393256 77.9 EAST DISTRICTS Shoreditch 646 52087 57170 109257 169.1 Bethnal Green 760 44081 46112 90193 118.6 Whitechapel 406 40271 39488 79759 196.4 St. George-in-the-East 243 23496 24880 48376 199.0 Stepney 1257 52342 58433 110777 88.1 Poplar 2928 23902 23260 47162 16.1 Total, East Districts 6230 236179 249343 485522 77.9 SOUTH DISTRICTS St. Saviour, Southwark 250 17432 18299 35731 77.9 St. Olave, ditto 169 9660 9715 19375 114.6 Bermondsey 688 23511 24617 48128 69.9 St. George, Southwark 282 25374 26450 58824 208.5 Newington 624 30255 34561 64816 103.8 Lambeth 4015 63673 75652 139325 34.7 Wandsworth 11695 23011 27753 50764 4.6 Camberwell 4342 23574 31093 54667 12.5 Rotherhithe 886 9127 8678 17805 20.0 Greenwich 5367 50639 48726 99365 6.4 Lewisham 17224 15708 19127 34835 2.0 Total, South Districts 45542 291964 324672 616635 11.3 Total, for all London 78,029 1,103,558 1,258,678 1,362,236 3.0
But a better idea of the comparative density of the population in the several districts of London, will be obtained by reference to the subjoined engraving.
[-18-] Farther, to put the matter even more lucidly before the mind, we may say that no less than 169 people die each day in the metropolis, and that a babe is born within its boundaries nearly every five minutes throughout the year !*
[* The returns of the Registrar-General as to the number of births and deaths occurring in London during the year 1855, are as follows:-
1855 - Births, Males - 43,352 ; Females - 41,592; Total, 84,944
1855 - Deaths, Males - 37,203; Females - 30,303; Total, 61,506]
LONDON FROM DIFFERENT POINTS OF VIEW.
"Considered in connection with the insular position of
England in that great highway of nations, the Atlantic," says Sir John Herschel,
"it is a fact not a little explanatory of the commercial eminence of our
country, that LONDON occupies very nearly the centre of the terrestrial
But whether the merchant fame of Great Britain be due to its geographical good luck, or to that curious commingling of races, which has filled an Englishman's veins with the blood of the noblest tribes belonging to the multiform family of mankind - the Celtic, the Roman, the Saxon, the Scandinavian, and Norman - so that an Englishman is, as it were, an ethnological compound of a Welshman, an Italian, a German, Dane, and Frenchman - to whichever cause the result be due, it is certain that all people regard the British Capital as the largest and busiest human hive in the world.
The mere name, indeed, of London calls up in the mind - not only of Londoners, but of country folk and foreigners as well - a thousand varied trains of thought. Perhaps the first idea that rises in association with it is, that it is at once the biggest bazaar and the richest bank throughout the globe.
Some persons, turning to the west, regard London as a city of palatial thoroughfares, and princely club-houses and mansions, and adorned with parks, and bristling with countless steeples, and crowded with stately asylums for the indigent and afflicted.
Others, mindful but of the City, see, principally, narrow lanes and musty counting- houses, and tall factory chimnies, darkening (till lately) the air with their black clouds of smoke; and huge blocks of warehouses, with doors and cranes at every floor; and docks crowded with shipping, and choked with goods; and streets whose traffic is positively deafening in the stranger's ear; and bridges and broad thoroughfares blocked with the dense mass of passing vehicles.
Others, again, looking to the east, and to the purlieus of the town, are struck with the appalling wretchedness of the people, taking special notice of the half-naked, shoeless children that are usually seen gambling up our courts, and the capless, shaggy-headed women that loll about the alleys or lanes, with their bruised, discoloured features, telling of some recent violence; or else they are impressed with the sight of the drunken, half-starved mobs collected round the glittering bar of some palatial gin-shop, with the foul-mouthed mothers there drugging their infants with the drink.
In fine, this same London is a strange, incongruous chaos of the most astounding riches and prodigious poverty - of feverish ambition and apathetic despair - of the brightest charity and the darkest crime; the great focus of human emotion - the scene, as we have said, of countless daily struggles, failures, and successes; where the very best and the very worst [-19-] types of civilized society are found to prevail - where there are more houses and more house-less - more feasting and more starvation - more philanthropy and more bitter stony-hearted-ness, than on any other spot in the world - and all grouped around the one giant centre, whose huge dark dome, with its glittering ball of gold, is seen in every direction, looming through the smoke, and marking out the Capital, no matter from what quarter the traveller may come.
"I have often amused myself," says Dr. Johnson, "with thinking how different a place London is to different people. They whose narrow minds are contracted to the consideration of some one particular pursuit, view it only through that medium. A politician thinks of it only as the seat of government in its different departments; a grazier, as a vast market for cattle; a mercantile man, as a place where a prodigious deal of business is done upon Change; a dramatic enthusiast, as the grand scene of theatrical entertainments; a man of pleasure, as an assemblage of taverns. * * * * * But the intellectual man is struck with it as comprehending the whole of human life in its variety, the contemplation of which is inexhaustible."
Of the first impressions of London, those who drew their
infant breath within its smoky atmosphere are, of course, utterly unconscious;
and, perhaps, there is no class of people who have so dull a sense of the
peculiarities of the great town in which they live, and none who have so little
attachment to their native place as Londoners themselves.
The Swiss, it is well known, have almost a woman's love for the mountains amid which they were reared; indeed so fervent is the affection of the Helvetian for his native hills, that it was found necessary to prohibit the playing of the "Ranz des vaches," in the Swiss regiments of the French army, owing to the number of desertions it occasioned. The German, too, in other lands, soon becomes afflicted with, what in the language of the country is termed, "Heimweh"- that peculiar settled melancholy and bodily as well as mental depression which results from a continual craving to return to his "fatherland."
Indeed, though the people of almost every other place throughout the globe have, more or less, a strong attachment for the land of their birth, your old-established Londoner is so little remarkable for the quality, that it becomes positively absurd to think of one born within the sound of Bow-bells displaying the least regard for his native paving-stones. For whilst the scion of other parts yearns to get back to the haunts of his childhood, the Londoner is beset with an incessant desire to be off from those of his. All the year through he looks forward to his week's or month's autumnal holiday abroad, or down at one of the fashionable English watering-places; and even when he has amassed sufficient means to render him independent of the Metropolis, he seldom or never can bring himself to end his days in some suburban "Paradise Place," or "Prospect Row," that is "within half an hour's ride of the Bank," and (as inviting landladies love to add) "with omnibuses passing the door every five minutes." But he retires, on the contrary, to one of the pleasant and secluded nooks of England, or else to some economical little foreign town, where he can realize the pleasures of cheap claret or hock, and avoid the income-tax. Hence it has come to be a saying among metropolitan genealogists, that London families seldom continue settled in the Capital for three generations together - there being but few persons born and bred in the Metropolis whose great-grandfather was native to the place.
Formerly, in the old coaching days, the entrance into London
was a sight that no country in the world could parallel, and one of which the
first impression was well calculated to astound the foreigner, who had been
accustomed in his own country to travel along roads that were about as loose in
the soil and as furrowed with ruts as ploughed fields, and in mails, too, that
were a kind of cross between a fly-wagon and an omnibus, and not nearly so
rapid as hearses when returning from a funeral, and with the horses harnessed to
the [-20-] unsightly vehicle with traces of rope, and a huge-booted
driver continually shouting and swearing at the team.
The entry into the Metropolis, on the contrary, was over a roadway that was positively as hard as steel and as level as water, and upon which the patter of the horses hoofs rang with an almost metallic sound. Then the coachman was often an English gentleman, and even in some cases a person of rank.* [* Aristocracy patronized the coach-box as drivers of stages. Sir Vincent Cotton drove the "Age," Brighton coach; Mr. Willan, the "Magnet;" Sir Thomas Tyrwhitt Jones, the "Pearl;" Mr. Bliss, the "Mazeppa;" and Captain Probin, the "Reading;" all being renowned for their whips and fast coaches, and doing their 10½ and 11 miles per hour. There were also the "Hirondelle," which ran between Cheltenham and Liverpool, 133 miles in l2½ hours; the "Owen Glendower," between Birmingham and Aberystwith, a very hilly country, at the rate of 10½ miles per hour; two coaches, the Phenomenon and the "Blue," ran between London and Norwich at a rate of 12 miles per hour, doing 112 miles in 9¼ hours; the "Quicksilver" and the "Shrewsbury Wonder" were likewise famous fast coaches; and the "Manchester Telegraph" ran 13 miles per hour, including stoppages. Public Carriages of Great Britain. By J. E. Bradfield.] whilst the vehicle itself was a very model of lightness and elegance. The horses, too, were such thorough-bred animals as England alone could produce, and their entire leathern trappings as brightly polished as a dandy's boots.
In those days, even London people themselves were so delighted with the sight of the mails and fast coaches leaving the Metropolis at night, that there was a large crowd invariably congregated around the Angel at Islington, the White Horse Cellar, Piccadilly, and the Elephant and Castle across the water, at eight every evening, to see the royal stages start into the country by their different routes. On the King's birthday, too, the scene at those inns was assuredly as picturesque as it was entirely national. The exterior of the taverns was studded over with lights of many colours, arranged in tasty luminous lines, the sleek-coated blood horses were all newly harnessed, and the bright brass ornaments on their trappings glittered again in the glare of the illumination. The coachmen and guards were in unsullied scarlet coats worn for the first time that day; and there were gay rosettes of ribbon and bunches of flowers at each of the horse's heads as well as in each coachman's button-hole; while the freshly painted mails were packed so thickly in front of the tavern- door, that the teams were all of a heap there; and the air kept on continually resounding with the tinny twang of the post horns of the newly arriving or departing vehicles.
¶ i. The Entry Into London by "Rail."
We are not among those who regret the change in the mode of
travelling, and we allude to the old mail-coaches here simply as having been
especially characteristic of the country and the Capital. Now that all the
world, however, travels by rail, there is but little peculiar in the style by
which the entry into London is made, to impress the mind of strangers.
Nevertheless, as the trains dart through the different suburbs, the eye must be
dull indeed that is not struck with the strange sights seen by the way, even
though the journey be performed among the house-tops of the metropolitan
What an odd notion the stranger must acquire of the Metropolis, as he enters it by the South-Western Railway! How curious is the flash of the passing Vauxhall Gardens, dreary with their big black trees, and the huge theatrical-looking summer-house, built for the orchestra and half-tumbling to decay; and the momentary glimpse of the Tartarus-like gas-works, with their tall minaret chimneys, and the red mouth of some open retort there glowing like the crater of a burning volcano; and the sudden whisking by of the Lambeth potteries, with their show of sample chimney-pots, and earthen pans, and tubing, ranged along the walls; and, the minute afterwards, the glance at the black rack-like sheds, spotted all over with the snowy ends of lumps of whiting, thrust at intervals through the apertures; and then the sickening stench of the bone-boilers, leaking in through every crevice of the carriage; and the dreary-looking attics of the houses as the roofs fly past; and, lastly, [-21-] while the train stops for the collection of the tickets on the high viaduct over the Westminster Bridge Road, the protracted peep down into the broad street above which the carriages rest, and the odd bird's-eye view of the huge linendrapers' shop there, with the diminutive- looking people, and cabs, and carts, hurrying along deep down in the roadway under the train!
Or, if the visitor enter London by the South-Eastern line, coming from Dover, or Brighton, the scene is equally distinctive. No sooner does the train near London than the huge glass temple of the Crystal Palace appears glittering in the light, like so much ice-work. Then stations rush rapidly by, tabletted all over with showy advertising boards and bills announcing cheap clothing, or cheap tea, or bedding, or stationery, or razors, and the huge letters seeming to be smudged one into the other by the speed. Then as the knot of neighbouring lines draw together like so many converging radii, distant trains are seen at all kinds of levels, flitting across the marshes without the least apparent effort, and with a cloud of white steam puffing fitfully from the chinmey of the engine at the head, while the little wheels of the carriages are observed to twinkle again with their rapid twirling. In a minute or two the train turns the angle of the line, and then through what a bricken wilderness of roofs it seems to be ploughing its way, and how odd the people look, as they slide swiftly by, in their wretched garrets! Next, a smell of tan pervades the air; and there are glimpses of brown hides hanging in sheds below. Now, the church of St. John, Horsleydown, shoots by with the strange stone pillar stuck on the top of it, in lieu of a steeple; and immediately afterwards the tangle of railway lines becomes more and more intricate, the closer the train draws to the terminus, till at length the earth appears to be ribbed over with the iron bars in every direction, and the lines to be in such confusion that it seems a miracle how the engine can find its way among the many fibres of the iron web.
Nor, if the visitor come by the London and North Western line from Liverpool or the great manufacturing districts, are the sights less striking; for here the train plunges with a loud shriek into the long, dark perforation under Primrose Hill, and when it shoots into the light again, the green banks are seen studded with little villas, ranged two and two beside the road. Then, as the carriages stop outside the engine-house for the collection of the tickets, what a hurry-skurry and riot there appears to be among the passing locomotives! Here one engine pants and gasps, as it begins to move, as if it were positively overcome with the exertion, and when the wheels refuse to bite upon the rail, it seems to chuckle again half-savagely at its own failure, as they slip round and round. Another goes tearing by, its shrill whistle screeching like a mad human thing the while, and men shoot out of little sentry-boxes, and shoulder, with a military air, furled-up flags. In a minute or two afterwards the train moves on once more, and the carriages go rattling along the bed, as it were, of some dried-up canal, with little cottage mansions perched on the top of the slanting railway wall, and great iron girders over-head, stretching across the bricken channel like the rafters of a loft.
But the most peculiar and distinctive of all the entries to the Great Metropolis is the one by the river; for, assuredly, there is no scene that impresses the mind with so lively a sense of the wealth and commercial energy of the British Capital as the view of the far-fumed Port of London.
¶ ii. The Port of London.
Seen from the Custom Rouse, this is indeed a characteristic
sight; and some time since we were permitted, by the courtesy of the
authorities, to witness the view from the "long room" there.
The broad highway of the river - which at this part is near upon 300 yards in width - was almost blocked with the tiers of shipping; for there was merely a narrow pathway of grey, glittering water left open in the middle; and, on either side, the river was black with [-22-] the dense mass of hulls collected alongside the quays; while the masts of the craft were as thick as the pine stems in their native forests.
The sun shone bright upon the water, and as its broken beams played upon the surface it sparkled and twinkled in the light, like a crumpled plate of golden foil; and down the "silent highway," barges, tide-borne, floated sideways, with their long slim oars projecting from their sides like the fins of a flying fish; whilst others went along, with their masts slanting down and their windlass clicking as men laboured to raise the "warm-brown" sail that they had lowered to pass under the bridge. Then came a raft of timber, towed by a small boat, and the boatman leaning far back in it as he tugged at the sculls; and presently a rapid river steamer flitted past, the deck crowded so densely with passengers that it reminded one of a cushion stuck all over with black pins; and as it hurried past we caught a whiff, as it were, of music from the little band on board.
The large square blocks of warehouses on the opposite shore were almost hidden in the shadow which came slanting down far into the river, and covering, as with a thick veil of haze, the confused knot of sloops and schooners and "bilanders" that lay there in the dusk, in front of the wharves. Over the tops of the warehouses we could see the trail of white steam, from the railway engines at the neighbouring terminus, darting from among the roofs as they hurried to and fro.
A little way down the river, stood a clump of Irish vessels, with the light peeping through the thicket, as it were, of their masts - some with their sails hanging all loose and limp, and others with them looped in rude festoons to the yards. Beside these lay barges stowed full of barrels of beer and sacks of flour; and a few yards farther on, a huge foreign steamer appeared, with short thick black funnel and blue paddle-boxes. Then came hoys laden with straw and coasting goods, and sunk so deep in the water that, as the steamers dashed by, the white spray was seen to beat against the dark tarpaulins that covered their heaped-up cargoes. Next to these the black, surly-looking colliers were noted, huddled in a dense mass together, with the bare backs of the coalwhippers flashing among the rigging as, in hoisting the "Wallsend" from the hold, they leaped at intervals down upon the deck.
Behind, and through the tangled skeins of the rigging, the eye rested upon the old Suffrance wharves, with their peaked roofs and unwieldy cranes; and far at the back we caught sight of one solitary tree; whilst in the fog of the extreme distance the steeple of St. Mary's, Rotherhithe, loomed over the mast-heads - grey, dim, and spectral-like.
Then, as we turned round and looked towards the bridge, we caught glimpses of barges and boats moving in the broad arcs of light showing through the arches; while above the bridge-parapet were seen just the tops of moving carts, and omnibuses, and high-loaded railway wagons, hurrying along in opposite directions.
Glancing thence to the bridge-wharves on the same side of the river as ourselves, we beheld bales of goods dangling in the air from the cranes that projected from the top of "Nicholson's." Here alongside the quay lay Spanish schooners and brigs, laden with fruits; and as we east our eye below, we saw puppet-like figures of men with cases of oranges on their backs, bending beneath the load, on their way across the dumb-lighter to the wharf.
Next came Billingsgate, and here we could see the white bellies of the fish showing in the market beneath, and streams of men passing backwards and forwards to the river side, where lay a small crowd of Dutch eel boats, with their gutta-percha-like hulls, and unwieldy, green-tipped rudders. Immediately beneath us was the brown, gravelled walk of the Custom House quay, where trim children strolled with their nursemaids, and hatless and yellow-legged Blue-coat Boys, and there were youths fresh from school, who had come either to have a peep at the shipping, or to skip and play among the barges.
From the neighbouring stairs boats pushed off continually, while men standing in the stern wriggled themselves along by working a scull behind, after the fashion of a fish's tail.
[-23-] Here, near the front of the quay, lay a tier of huge steamers with gilt sterns and mahogany wheels, and their bright brass binnacles shining as if on fire in the sun. At the foremast head of one of these the "blue Peter" was flying as a summons to the hands on shore to come aboard, while the dense clouds of smoke that poured from the thick red funnel told that the boiler fires were ready lighted for starting.
Further on, might be seen the old "Perseus," the receiving-ship of the navy, with her topmasts down, her black sides towering high, like immense rampart-walls, out of the water, and her long white ventilating sacks hanging over the hatchways. Immediately beyond this, the eye could trace the Tower wharves, with their gravelled walks, and the high-capped and red-coated sentry pacing up and down them, and the square old grey lump of the Tower, with a turret at each of its four corners, peering over the water. In front of this lay another dense crowd of foreign vessels, and with huge lighters beside the wharf, while bales of hemp and crates of hardware swung from the cranes as they were lowered into the craft below.
In the distance, towered the huge massive warehouses of St. Katherine's Dock, with, their big signet letters on their sides, their many prison-like windows, and their cranes and doors to every floor. Beyond this, the view was barred out by the dense grove of masts that rose up from the water, thick as giant reeds beside the shore, and filmed over with the gray mist of vapour rising from the river so that their softened outlines melted gently into the dusk.
As we stood looking down upon the river, the hundred clocks of the hundred churches at our back, with the golden figures on their black dials shining in the sun, chimed the hour of noon, and in a hundred different tones; while solemnly above all boomed forth the deep metallic moan of St. Paul's; and scarcely had the great bell ceased humming in the air, before there rose the sharp tinkling of eight bells from the decks of the multitude of sailing vessels and steamers packed below.
Indeed, there was an exquisite charm in the many different sounds that smote the ear from the busy Port of London. Now we could hear the ringing of the "purlman's" bell, as, in his little boat, he flitted in and out among the several tiers of colliers to serve the grimy and half-naked coalwhippers with drink. Then would come the rattle of some heavy chain suddenly let go, and after this the chorus of many seamen heaving at the ropes; whilst, high above all roared the hoarse voice of some one on the shore, bawling through his hands to a mate aboard the craft. Presently came the clicking of the capstan-pails, telling of the heaving of a neighbouring anchor; and mingling with all this might be heard the rumbling of the wagons and carts in the streets behind, and the panting and throbbing of the passing river steamers in front, together with the shrill scream of the railway whistle from the terminus on the opposite shore.
In fine, look or listen in whatever direction we might, the many sights and sounds that filled the eye and ear told each its different tale of busy trade, bold enterprise, and boundless capital. In the many bright-coloured flags that fluttered from the mastheads of the vessels crowding the port, we could read how all the corners of the earth had been ransacked each for its peculiar produce. The massive warehouses at the water-side looked really like the storehouses of the world's infinite products, and the tall mast-like factory chimnies behind us, with their black plumes of smoke streaming from them, told us how all around that port were hard at work fashioning the products into cunning fabrics.
Then, as we beheld the white clouds of steam from some passing railway engine puffed out once more from among the opposite roofs, and heard the clatter of the thousand vehicles in the streets hard by, and watched the dark tide of carts and wagons pouring over the bridge, and looked down the apparently endless vista of masts that crowded either side of the river-we could not help feeling how every power known to man was here used to bring and diffuse the riches of all parts of the world over our own, and indeed every other country.
¶ iii. London from the Top of St. Paul's.
There is, however, one other grand point of view from which
the Metropolis may be contemplated, and which is not only extremely
characteristic of the Capital, but so popular among strangers, that each new
comer generally hastens, as soon as possible after his arrival in London, to the
Golden Gallery to see the giant city spread out at his feet. Hence, this
introduction to the Great World of London would be imcomplete if we omitted from
our general survey to describe the peculiarities of the scene from that point.
It was an exquisitely bright and clear winter's morning on the day we mounted the five hundred and odd steps that lead to the gallery below the ball and cross crowning the cathedral - and yet the view was all smudgy and smeared with smoke. Still the haze, which hung like a thick curtain of shadow before and over everything, increased rather than diminished the monster sublimity of the city stretched out beneath us. It was utterly unlike London as seen below in its every-day bricken and hard-featured reality, seeming to be the spectral illusion of the Great Metropolis - such as one might imagine it in a dream - or the view of some fanciful cloud-land, rather than the most matter-of-fact and prosaic city in the world.
In the extreme distance the faint colourless hills, "picked out" with little bright patches of sunshine, appeared like some far-off shore - or rather as a mirage seen in the sky - for they were cut off from the nearer objects by the thick ring of fog that bathed the more distant buildings in impenetrable dusk. Clumps of houses and snatches of parks loomed here and there through the vapour, like distant islands rising out of a sea of smoke; and isolated patches of palatial hospitals, or public buildings, shone in the accidental lights, as if they were miniature models sculptured out of white marble.
And yet dim and unsatisfactory as at first the view appeared, one would hardly on reflection have had it otherwise; since, to behold the Metropolis without its characteristic canopy of smoke, but with its thousand steeples standing out against the clear blue sky, sharp and definite in their outlines, as "cut pieces" in some theatrical scene, is to see London unlike itself - London without its native element. Assuredly, as the vast Capital lay beneath us, half hidden in mist, and with only a glimpse of its greatness visible, it had a much more sublime effect from the very inability of the mind to grasp the whole in all its literal details.
Still, there was quite enough visible to teach one that there was no such other city in the world. Immediately at our feet were the busy streets, like deep fissures in the earth, or as if the great bricken mass had split and cracked in all directions; and these were positively black at the bottom with the tiny-looking living crowd of vehicles and people pouring along the thoroughfares. What a dense dark flood of restless enterprise and competition it seemed! And there rose to the ear the same roar from it, as rises from the sea at a distance.
The pavements, directly underneath us, were darkened on either side of the roadway with dense streams of busy little men, that looked almost like ants, hurrying along in opposite directions; whilst what with the closely-packed throng of carts, cabs, and omnibuses, the earth seemed all alive with tiny creeping things, as when one looks into the grass on a warm summer's day.
To peep down into the trough of Ludgate Hill was a sight that London alone could show; for the tops of the vehicles looked so compact below that they reminded one of the illustrations of the "testudo," or tortoise-like floor, formed by the up-raised shields of the Roman soldiers, and on which, we are told, people might walk. Here were long lines of omnibuses, no bigger than children's tin toys, and crowded with pigmies on the roof - and tiny Hansom cabs, with doll-like drivers perched at the back - and the flat black and shiny roofs of miniature-like Broughams and private carriages - and brewers' drays, with the round backs of the stalwart team, looking like plump mice, and with their load of beer butts appearing
[-27-] no bigger than
oyster-barrels - and black looking coal-wagons,
that, as you gazed down into them, seemed more like coal-boxes-and
top-heavy-like railway vans, with their little bales of cotton piled high in the
air-and the wholesale linen-drapers' ugly attempts at phaetons - and the butchers'
carts, with little blue-smacked men in them-indeed every kind of London
conveyance was there, all jammed into one dense throng, and so compactly, too,
that one might easily have run along the tops of the various vehicles.
Then how strange it was to watch the line of conveyances move on, altogether, for a few paces, as if they were each part of one long railway train; and then suddenly come, every one, to a dead halt, as the counter stream of conveyances at the bottom of the hill was seen to force its way across the road.
As we turned now to note the other points of the surrounding scene, what a forest of church-steeples was seen to bristle around the huge dome on the top of which we were standing! The sight reminded one of the fact, that before the Great Fire there was a church to every three acres of ground within the City walls; for there were the spires still ranged close as nine-pins, and impressing one with a sense that every new street or public building must knock a number of them down, as if they really were so many stone skittles; for, as we peered into the fog of smoke, we could make out others in the misty back-ground, whose towers seemed suspended, like Mahomet's coffin, midway between heaven and earth, as if poised in the thick grey air; whilst, amid the steeple crowd, we could distinguish the tall column of the Monument, with its golden crown of flames at the top, and surrounded by a host of factory-chimneys that reminded one of the remaining pillars of the ruined temple of Serapis; so that it would have puzzled a simple foreigner to tell whether the City of London were more remarkable for its manufactures or its piety.
Then what a charm the mind experienced in recognizing the different places and objects that it knew under a wholly different aspect!
Yonder flows the Thames, circling half round the vast bricken mass that we call Lambeth and Southwark. It is a perfect arc of water; and the many bridges spanning it, like girders, seem to link the opposite shores of London into one Metropolis, like the mysterious ligament that joined the two Siamese into one life. Then there stands the Exchange, hardly bigger than a twelfth-cake ornament, and with the equestrian statue of Wellington, in front of it, smaller than the bronze horse surmounting some library timepiece; and there the Post-office, dwindled down to the dimensions of an architectural model. That low, square, flat-roofed building is the dumpy little Bank of England; and that ring of houses is Finsbury Circus; it looks from the elevation like the bricken mouth of a well.
This, we mentally exclaim, as we continue our walk round the gallery, is the Old Bailey, with the big cowl to its roof; and close beside it are the high and spiked walls of Newgate prison; we can see half down into the exercising wards of the felons from where we stand. And this open space is Smithfield. How desolate it looks now, stript of its market, and with its empty sheep-pens, that seem from the height to cover the ground like a grating! The dingy domed, solitary building beyond it, that appears, up here, like a "round-house," is the Sessions House, Clerkenwell; and there, amidst the haze, we can just distinguish another dome, almost the fellow of the one we are standing upon; it's the London University.
Next, glancing towards the river once more, we see, where the mist has cleared a bit, the shadowy form of the Houses of Parliament, with their half-finished towers; from the distance it has the appearance of some tiny Parian toy. But the Nelson and the York Columns are lost to us in the haze; so, too, is the Palace; and yet we can see the Hills of Highgate and Surrey; ay, and even the Crystal Palace, shimmering yonder like a bubble in the light.
So dense, however, is the pall of smoke about the City, that beyond London Bridge nothing is to be traced - neither the Tower, nor the Docks, nor the India House - and the outlines even of the neighbouring streets and turrets are blurred with the thick haze of [-28-] the fumes, into half-spectral indistinctness. Though, were it otherwise, it would not, we repeat, be a true picture of London.