Victorian London - Transport - Walking - walking in London

    The necessity of expeditious and cheap locomotion in the streets of London has called forth a variety of methods of travelling. The cheapest, simplest, oldest, and most natural of them is walking. In the narrow and crowded streets of the City, where conveyances make but little progress, this method is certainly the safest, and, withal, the most expeditious. Strangers in London are not fond of walking, they are bewildered by the crowd, and frightened at the crossings; they complain of the brutal conduct of the English, who elbow their way along the pavement without considering that people who hurry on, on some important business or other, cannot possibly stop to discuss each kick or push they give or receive. A Londoner jostles you in the street, without ever dreaming of asking your pardon; he will run against you, and make you revolve on your own axis, without so much as looking round to see how you feel after the shook; he will put his foot upon a ladyís foot or dress, exactly as if such foot or dress were integral parts of the pavement, which ought to be trodden upon; but if he runs you down, if he breaks your ribs, or knocks out your front teeth, he will show some slight compunction, and as he hurries off, the Londoner has actually been known to turn back and beg your pardon.
    Of course all this is very unpleasant to the stranger, and the more delicate among the English themselves do not like it. None but men of business care to walk through the City at business hours; but if, either from choice or necessity, you find your way into those crowded quarters, you had better walk with your eyes wide open. Donít stop on the pavement, move on as fast you can, and do as the others do, that is to say, struggle on as best you may, and push forward without any false modesty. The passengers in London streets are hardened; they give and receive kicks and pushes with equal equanimity.
    Much less excusable is the kicking and pushing of the English public at their theatres, museums, railway stations, and other places of public resort. Nothing but an introduction to every individual man and woman in the three kingdoms will save you from being, on such occasions, pushed back by them. You have not been introduced to them ; you are a stranger to them, and there is no reason why they should consult your convenience. The fact is, the English are bears in all places, except in their own houses; and only those who make their acquaintance in their dens, know how amiable, kind, and mannerly they really are.
    You cannot lounge about in the streets of London. Those who would walk, should go at once to the parks, or parade some square. The loungers you see in Regent Street and its purlieus, are foreigners, chiefly French, as their hirsute appearance clearly shows. An Englishman likes that sort of thing on the Boulevards of Paris, or St. Markís Place, at Venice ; but in his own country he wants the scenery, the climate, the excitement, and the opportunities. A thousand various interests draw him back to his family circle. Though accustomed to the Continent, and its manners and customs, the moment the traveller returns to England, he takes to English customs and English prejudices, and, in the fulness of his British pride, he is very careful lest his
appearance and conduct show traces of his residence in foreign countries. The Germans do exactly the contrary.

Max Schlesinger, Saunterings in and about London, 1853