A LONDON THUNDERSTORM is a great thing. Clouds, like feather-beds, lie piled
thick and heavy upon the horizon; darkness is precipitated upon the earth; a
chilliness, with depression, comes over the mind; the body languishes under the
calm, unmoving, sultry atmosphere; a blink of sunshine streams now and then, as
if to show the menacing blackness overhead; lambent lightnings play at short and
rapidly-decreasing intervals; crushing, crashing, brattling thunder shakes the
ground on which we tread.
Now elderly, bald-headed gentlemen, with bland, benevolent expression of face, smile placidly upon houseless wayfarers, drenched to the skin, and standing close up to the hall-door over the way, in the attitude of policemen at 'attention'; ladies, nestling in like manner, their holiday-finery bedraggled beyond repair, and their visages mournfully expressive of the irreparable fate of dress.
Now strikes upon the ear the frequent rattle of long-unemployed cabs; happy may be his dole who sits snugly ensconced within! Now omnibus 'cads,' more than full inside, 'have the advantage of you,' and regard you with a derisive air of independence, as, from your doorway shelter, raising your hand, you implore the favour of a seat. Now does the passenger, misled by morning sunbeams, 'wise in his own conceit,' sigh after his homely but trusty friend and protector, his cotton umbrella; now, who does not regret his folly, parted from his excellent acquaintance, Macintosh?
Thunderstorms in London do not endanger human life so frequently as we might suppose; we have ere now walked unharmed through an atmosphere, we might call it, of lambent lightning. Nor are they without salutary influences, no less in restoring the proper elemental equilibrium than in supplying the defects of the scavengers, when these gentry, as is too frequently the case, postpone their detergent operations. The streets are cleansed in an instant; the macadamized roads looking as if they had been holy-stoned, and the wood-pavement as if it had been french-polished. Of accumulated filth, egg and oyster shells, broken delf, and cabbagestalks, the gutters are gutted: your thunderstorm is the greatest of detergents - admirable abstersive! How its torrents sweep the delining streets, scattering, like snipe-shot, the isolated stones and wandering pebbles.
John Fisher Murray, writing in Bentley's Miscellany, 1844