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Highways and Byways in London By Emily Constance Baird Cook Characters: 53631

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

"In old days ... the hawthorn spread across the fields and market gardens that lay between Kensington and the river. Lanes ran to Chelsea, to Fulham, to North End, where Richardson once lived and wrote in his garden-house. The mist of the great city hid the horizon and dulled the sound of the advancing multitude; but close at hand ... were country corners untouched-blossoms instead of bricks in spring-time, summer shade in summer."-Miss Thackeray, Old Kensington.

"There is not a step of the way, from ... Kensington Gore to ... Holland House, in which you are not greeted with the face of some pleasant memory. Here, to 'mind's eyes' ... stands a beauty, looking out of a window; there, a wit, talking with other wits at a garden gate; there, a poet on the green sward, glad to get out of the London smoke and find himself among trees. Here come De Veres of the times of old; Hollands and Davenants, of the Stuart and Cromwell times; Evelyn peering about him soberly, and Samuel Pepys in a bustle.... Here, in his carriage, is King William the Third, going from the Palace to open Parliament ... and there, from out of Kensington Gardens, comes bursting, as if the whole recorded polite world were in flower at one and the same period, all the fashion of the gayest times of those sovereigns, blooming with chintzes, full-blown with hoop-petticoats, towering topknots and toupées.... Who is to know of all this company, and not be willing to meet it?"-Leigh Hunt.

"Faith, and it's the old Court suburb that you spoke of, is it? Sure, an' it's a mighty fine place for the quality."-Old Play.

Anglers in the Parks.

The great highway of Knightsbridge,-on the southern side of the Park,-leads, as everybody knows, from Hyde Park Corner to Kensington. Kensington, as it is now, is an all-embracing name, a generic term; it comprises not only Old Kensington, but both "West Kensington," a new and quickly increasing district of tall flats and "Queen Anne" houses, as far removed from London proper, for all practical purposes, as St. Albans; and "South Kensington," a dull and uninteresting quarter, but close to all the big West-end museums and collections, and where no self-respecting lady or gentleman of the professional or "middle classes" can really help living. He, or she, must, nevertheless, beware lest they stray too far from the sacred precincts. For, on the west, South Kensington degenerates into Earl's Court; on the south, a belt of "mean streets" divides it from equally select Chelsea (and, in London, the difference of but one street may divide the green enclosure of the elect from the dusty Sahara of the vulgar); while on the east, its glories fade into the dull, unlovely streets of Pimlico, brighten into the red-brick of the Cadogan Estate, or solidify into the gloomy pomp of Belgravia.

These, however, are but Kensington's later excrescences, due to the enormous increase of London's population, and to the consequent building craze of the last century. It was the Great Exhibition of 1851 that gave building, in this direction, its great impetus. The original village of Kensington, the "Old Court Suburb" of Leigh Hunt's anecdotes, lies in and about the Kensington High Street, the Gardens, and the Palace. It is pre-eminently of eighteenth century renown; Pepys hardly mentions it; its glory was after his day. It is reached from London by the Knightsbridge Road, a thoroughfare that, crowded as it is to-day by the world of fashion, was, only at the end of the eighteenth century, so lonely as to be unsafe from the ravages of thieves and footpads; a road "along which," Mr. Hare remarks plaintively, "London has been moving out of town for the last twenty years, but has never succeeded in getting into the country." So solitary, indeed, was this road that, even at the close of the eighteenth century, a bell used to be rung on Sunday evenings to summon the people returning to London from Kensington Village, and to allow them to set out together under mutual protection. London is not, even now, well lit as compared with large foreign cities; in old days, however, the darkness was such as to draw down the well-deserved strictures of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. Such was the insecurity of that courtly highway, the Kensington or Knightsbridge Road, that it was the first place to adopt, in 1694, oil lamps with glazed lights, in preference to the older fashion of lanterns and wicks of cotton.

Some of London's finest mansions are now to be found in this Knightsbridge Road. On the left, as you go towards Kensington, are Kent House (Louisa, Lady Ashburton), once lived in by the Duke of Kent, Queen Victoria's father; Stratheden House, and Alford House,-this last a fine modern building of brick and terra-cotta, with high roofs. Beyond Kensington Gore (so called from "Old Gore House," that once occupied the site of the Albert Hall), is the attractive and strangely rural-looking Lowther Lodge, now so cruelly dominated by tall "mansions"; and further still, the vast "Albert Hall," a red Colosseum of music. This, in spring, is a delightful drive; indeed, London wears here such a semi-suburban air that it is with almost the feeling of entering a new townlet that we presently approach the charming "High Street" of Old Kensington. Charming it is still, with still something of an old-world air; and yet, during the last fifty years or so, it has terribly altered. In the old days, the days when "the shabby tide of progress" had not yet spread to this quiet old suburb of which Miss Thackeray wrote so lovingly;-had not yet engulfed "one relic after another, carrying off many and many a landmark and memory,"-there were "gardens, and trees, and great walls along the high road that came from London, passing through the old white turnpike.... In those days the lanes spread to Fulham, white with blossom in spring, or golden with the yellow London sunsets that blazed beyond the cabbage-fields.... There were high brown walls along Kensington Gardens, reaching to the Palace Gate: elms spread their shade and birds chirruped, and children played behind them."

Yet, even for sweet Dolly Vanborough, Miss Thackeray confesses, Old Kensington was already vanishing. Already for her "the hawthorn bleeds as it is laid low and is transformed year after year into iron railings and areas, for particulars of which you are requested to apply to the railway company, and to Mr. Taylor, the house-agent." How much, alas, is left of it now? True, Holland House, and Kensington Palace, and Gardens, are left inviolate, but Campden Hill is adorned by the aspiring chimneys of waterworks, the peace of quiet Kensington Square is invaded by model lodging-houses, the underground railway defiles the pleasant High Street, and where of old the hawthorn bloomed, tall placards now advertise "Very Desirable Mansions to be Let on Exceptional Terms."

Kensington Palace and the Round Pond.

But Kensington has not changed in essentials. In those old days it was already, as it is now, a great Roman Catholic quarter, with convents and shops for the sale of sacred objects. No great cathedral had as yet been built there; no Newman as yet looked steadfastly from his marble alcove over the noisy Brompton Road; the tendencies in that direction were, however, already paramount.

When a London suburb has once become crowded with houses, what was once picturesque becomes speedily squalid and sordid; the pretty village street soon changes to a murky alley, and the ivy-grown tavern converts itself into a mere disreputable-looking public-house. Of this sad fact, Miss Thackeray's pleasant lanes, running from Kensington to Chelsea and Fulham, furnish at the present day abundant proof. The charming village lanes that at the beginning of last century filled Kensington and Chelsea,-the dairies such as that where pretty Emma Penfold dispensed curds and whey,-the cottages with damask rose-trees,-the tea-gardens, rural as now those on Kew Green,-what is now their latter end? Their modern realisations-Sydney Street, Smith Street, Manor Street-are not exactly attractive or savoury byways. No, it requires palaces and big mansions to keep up the "rus-in-urbe"; mere cottages cannot do it without degenerating into drying-grounds, unspeakable back yards, or slums. But, if the old beauty has gone from Kensington, another beauty, of a different kind, awaits it. Of such beauty the imposing dome of the "Brompton Oratory," seen against a lurid sunset at the end of a vista in the Brompton Road, is an effective instance. This church, so dramatically placed in close proximity with the Anglican parish church, is a very striking object in the landscape; especially striking, too, when the light "that London takes the day to be," has softened and blended its more salient architectural features into one dimly glorified mass.

If Kensington is somewhat addicted to "cliques" and to social exclusiveness, it is, after all, only following out its ancient traditions. For in older days it was always prim and conservative, governed by its own laws.

"There was" (says Miss Thackeray) "a Kensington world ... somewhat apart from the big uneasy world surging beyond the turnpike-a world of neighbours bound together by the old winding streets and narrow corners in a community of venerable elm trees and traditions that are almost levelled away. Mr. Awl, the bootmaker in High Street, exhibited peculiar walking-shoes long after high heels and kid brodekins had come into fashion in the metropolis. The last time I was in his shop I saw a pair of the old-fashioned, flat, sandalled shoes, directed to Miss Vieuxtemps, in Palace Green. Tippets, poke-bonnets, even a sedan chair, still existed among us long after they had been discarded by more active minds."

It all suggests nothing so much as one of Mr. G. D. Leslie's pictures. The poetic fancy of the writer of Old Kensington is, indeed, conceived in much the same pleasant minor key as the artist's-the author of School Revisited and kindred idylls,-both evoking visions of girls in short waists, lank, frilled skirts, and sandals, amid cool suburban walled gardens, grass plots, and fountains.

Thackeray lived at three Kensington houses:-first, at that known as "The Cottage":-No. 13 (now No. 16), Young Street,-from 1847 to 1853; secondly, at No. 36, Onslow Square, from 1853 to 1862; and thirdly, at No. 2, Palace Green, where he died. The great writer's daughters, who must have been quite little children when he first came here, no doubt knew and loved well their home of so many years. From the daughter's very vivid reminiscences, we get charming sketches of the life and the different abodes of the family. The Newcomes, The Virginians, and the Four Georges were written in Onslow Square, where, says Miss Thackeray, "I used to look up from the avenue of old trees and see my father's head bending over his work in the study window, which was over the drawing-room." But Onslow Square is close to South Kensington Station, and the Young Street house, which was the earlier residence, was certainly in a prettier neighbourhood. Also, it has double-fronted bay windows, and enjoyed, moreover, the honour of inspiring its tenant's magnum opus, for here Thackeray wrote Vanity Fair, as well as Esmond and Pendennis. Most of his work was done in a second-story room, overlooking an open space of orchards and gardens. A tablet now distinguishes the window where the novelist worked, with the initials W. M. T. grouped in a monogram between the dates of his residence here; the names of the three books of this period being inscribed in the border.

Artists, who in the early part of last century were still more or less faithful to the northern suburbs, have, during the last three or four decades flocked to Kensington and Chelsea. Millais, Leighton, and others led the way; and now fine studios abound in all the newer and airy streets of red brick houses. At No. 6, The Terrace, Campden Hill, poor John Leech, who moved hither from Bloomsbury street afflictions, died in 1864 from spasm of the heart, at the comparatively early age of forty-seven. On Campden Hill, also, is "Holly Lodge," Lord Macaulay's residence; the place, too, where he died, and where he "loved to entertain all his youthful nephews and nieces." Campden Hill has still a certain charm, a charm of gardens, terraces, and irregular houses; it has, too, so many winding ways, that it is easier to lose one's bearings here, than almost anywhere in London.

Leigh Hunt, the gossiping chronicler of Kensington Court scandals and celebrities, lived for eleven years, and more successfully than elsewhere, in Edwardes Square, a charming enclosure, a little way back from the Kensington Road beyond High Street, and opposite the grounds of Holland House. Here the versatile writer, the ill starred "Skimpole" of Dickens's satire, lived with his numerous family,-now older than in the Cheyne Row period of their existence,-and, possibly, less addicted to litter, and to borrowing the long-suffering neighbours' tea-cups. Leigh Hunt's son, Thornton Hunt, thus describes the Square at this time:-

"Our square, with its pretty houses and rustic enclosure, left with its natural undulations, very slight, but sufficient to diminish the formal look, its ivy-covered backs of houses on one side, and gardens and backs of houses on the other, was a curiosity which, when I first saw it, I could not account for on English principles, uniting as it did something decent, pleasant, and cheap, with such anti-comme il faut anomalies-such aristocratic size and verdure in the ground plot, with so plebeian a smallness in the tenements. But it seems a Frenchman invented it."

Edwardes Square is, like Kensington Square, still pretty and rural and attractive. At one end of it, and looking on to the Kensington Road, is Earl's Terrace, a row of attractive, old-fashioned houses, set back from the street, with little front gardens. Here, not so very long ago, lived Walter Pater, continuing the literary associations of the neighbourhood; a lover of beauty, he, too, but very different from Leigh Hunt. In Hunt's time, Mrs. Elizabeth Inchbald lived "as a boarder" at No. 4 in this terrace. Her chief claim to fame is The Simple Story, a work which few people now read, though many have heard of it. She appears to have been a charming and eccentric as well as a talented lady. Here is a diary jotting of hers, quoted by Leigh Hunt:-"On the 29th of June (Sunday) dined, drank tea, and supped with Mrs. Whitfield. At dark, she and I and her son William walked out, and I rapped at doors in New Street and King Street and ran away." "This was in the year 1788," says Hunt, "when she was five-and-thirty. But such people never grow old.... Divine Elizabeth Inchbald, qualified to be the companion of every moment of human life, grave or gay, from a rap at the street door in a fit of mirth to the deepest phases of sympathy."

Yes, The Simple Story must have been a real work of genius, for no one, surely, but a genius, could afford so absolutely to disregard les convenances. Though, for that matter, our feminine geniuses of to-day take themselves a trifle more seriously. Imagine, for instance, our George Eliots of the twentieth century, our presidents of writers' unions and clubs, going out late at night to ring people's doorbells and run away! Such "eternal childishness" really out-Skimpoles Skimpole. If Providence had seen fit to place the two in contemporary residence in Edwardes Square, would not Mrs. Inchbald have been a neighbour after Leigh Hunt's own heart? The lady, it is further recorded, died-at sixty-eight, too-of "tight-lacing."

Leigh Hunt's must have been an interesting personality, and Dickens's caricature of him, intended or no, seems cruel. The late Mr. George Smith, of the great publishing house, tells an entertaining story of him. On one occasion, it appears, Mr. Smith paid Leigh Hunt £200 in bank notes:

"Two days afterwards" (wrote Mr. Smith) "Leigh Hunt came in a state of great agitation to tell me that his wife had burned them. He had thrown the envelope with the banknotes carelessly down, and his wife had flung it into the fire. Leigh Hunt's agitation while on his way to bring this news had not prevented him from purchasing on the road a little statuette of Psyche, which he carried, without any paper round it, in his hand. I told him I thought something might be done in the matter. I sent to the bankers and got the numbers of the notes, and then, in company with Leigh Hunt, went off to the Bank of England. I explained our business, and we were shown into a room where three old gentlemen were sitting at tables. They kept us waiting some time, and Leigh Hunt, who had meantime been staring all round the room, at last got up, walked up to one of the staid officials, and addressing him, said, in wondering tones: 'And this is the Bank of England! And do you sit here all day, and never see the green woods and the trees and flowers and the charming country?' Then, in tones of remonstrance, he demanded: 'Are you contented with such a life?' All this time he was holding the little naked Psyche in one hand, and with his long hair and flashing eyes made a surprising figure. I fancy I can still see the astonished faces of the three officials; they would have made a most delightful picture. I said: 'Come away, Mr. Hunt, these gentlemen are very busy.' I succeeded in carrying Leigh Hunt off, and, after entering into certain formalities, we were told that the value of the notes would be paid in twelve months. I gave Leigh Hunt the money at once, and he went away rejoicing."

Opposite the Palace Gardens, where "Kensington Court" now stands, stood once Kensington House, a big Roman Catholic boarding-house, surely a kind of early prototype of the modern "mansions." Here Louise de la Querouaille, Duchess of Portsmouth, lived, and here Mrs. Inchbald died; later it was occupied by Jesuits, who have had for long a special stronghold in this quarter. Then, at last, in 1876, the older house made way for Mr. Albert Grant's pretentious Italian mansion of the same name, which cost £270,000, and only existed seven years, having been pulled down in 1883. So involved, and so difficult to decipher, is the history of London buildings.

"Church House," so vividly described by Miss Thackeray as Dolly Vanborough's home, stood close to the modern Church Street. And close to Church Street is Campden House, a modern restoration of the ancient building of that name, which was burned down in 1862; the gateway of the old mansion being now built up into the east wall of the garden. Old Campden House dated from 1612, and was principally known as having been the residence of Queen Anne's charming and precocious little son, the Duke of Gloucester, the poor child who died at eleven, "from excessive dancing on his birthday," the last hope of the race dying out with him. Campden House had been taken for the boy, so that he might be near his aunt, Queen Mary, who was very fond of him, and had him carried daily in infancy to see her at Kensington Palace.

Kensington Square, with its comfortable-looking houses of sober red brick, and windows with white painted casements, has a delightfully old-world aspect. Behind the houses are pleasant gardens, as yet-but for how long?-left untouched by the tide of progress. Thackeray, as well as his daughter, must have known and loved this square well; for here he imagined Lady Castlewood, Beatrix, and Harry Esmond to dwell.

Earl's Court.

Earl's Court,-now mainly remarkable for the near neighbourhood of "Olympia,"-the "Great Wheel,"-and an endless colony of railway lines,-was, some fifty years ago, still "a quaint old row of houses, their lattices stuffed with spring flowers, facing a deep cool pond by the roadside," and embowered in orchards. Spots of welcome greenery there still are in the wide area of West and South Kensington; there is a big cemetery to be buried in, and the oval enclosure called "the Boltons" is a pleasant place to live in. But, on the whole, the purlieus of Kensington are depressing. While West Kensington is mainly degraded "Queen Anne," interspersed with railways,-South Kensington has one very general distinguishing mark. It is nearly always stuccoed, and usually also porticoed. Its larger streets, in sun or shine, bear a gloomy likeness to an array of family vaults, awaiting their occupants. The early nineteenth century had, in truth, much to answer for in the way of bricks, mortar, and stucco,-but principally stucco! Occasionally there is some faint relief to the prevailing mode, and here and there some of the smaller roads are brightened in spring by a few acacias and hawthorns; but in the larger streets there is usually the same saddening uniformity, and, when once you have left the vicinity of Kensington Square, you find nothing in quite the same style until you reach Chelsea and Cheyne Walk.

Chelsea, too, was a very picturesque village in old days,-when the "Old Chelsea Bun-House" was a favourite resort of the Court,-when "Ranelagh" and "Vauxhall" flourished in the neighbourhood,-and when the then fashionable race of London's "jolly young watermen" for their annual badge attracted, as the Oxford and Cambridge boat-race does nowadays, crowds of spectators.

Ranelagh and Vauxhall! what recollections do they not suggest of Fielding, of Richardson, of Fanny Burney! Both these places of amusement flourished in the latter half of the eighteenth century; Vauxhall (earlier called "Spring Garden"), was, so to speak, the "Earl's Court," the summer resort of the day; just as "Ranelagh," with its famous "Rotunda," was the "Olympia," or winter one. Only, both the ancient pleasure resorts rejoiced in being the centre of fashion, which can hardly be said with truth of the modern ones. Also, from old novelists the reader gathers that it was very dangerous for young ladies to go unprotected to either place, in case of being run away with by bold, bad young men of the "Lovelace" type. Charming young ladies are, perhaps, more of "a drug in the market" now: and they are besides, as a rule, perfectly well able to take care of themselves.

That managers of those days were not more ignorant than their twentieth-century successors of the great art of advertising,-the following extract (from Rogers's Table Talk) shows:

"The proprietors of Ranelagh and Vauxhall used to send decoy-ducks among the ladies and gentlemen who were walking in the Mall, that is, persons attired in the height of fashion, who every now and then would exclaim in a very audible tone, 'What charming weather for Ranelagh,' or 'for Vauxhall!'"

At any rate, old Vauxhall Gardens must have been a charming place for flirtation, for "the windings and turnings in little wildernesses (were) so intricate, that the most experienced mothers often lost themselves in looking for their daughters." Part of the site of old Ranelagh is now appropriated as the gardens of Chelsea Hospital; the site of Vauxhall (in South Lambeth, on the Surrey side) is now covered by St. Peter's, Vauxhall, and its adjacent streets.

Picturesque in old days, Chelsea is a picturesque place still, and much beloved of painters, poets, and littérateurs;-the class of Bloomsbury, and yet with a vast difference. Here it is the "mode" to be select and exclusive. The artistic "cliques" of Tite Street and Cheyne Walk are nothing if not particular. To use the words of the modest prospectus issued by a recent magazine, they "will not tolerate mediocrity." But then no one in Chelsea ever is, or at least allows himself, to be "mediocre." Perhaps the fortunate inhabitants feel, as do the denizens of the academic towns of Oxford and Cambridge, the important weight of the traditions of their literary past. The spirit of Carlyle, Leigh Hunt, Rossetti, George Eliot, yet gives to Chelsea a literary atmosphere that it must at all hazards keep up. A dinner-party in its august cliques is not to be lightly undertaken; you feel, as you enter, that this is indeed a holy place.

Yet, already, the seclusion and selectness of Chelsea's sacred circles are being threatened with invasion by the Philistine. On "the other side of the water,"-where a picturesque suspension-bridge, the Albert Bridge, throws its graceful chain-curves across Chelsea Reach,-lies Battersea Park, surrounded on three sides by myriad red-brick flats of varying cheapness, grown like mushrooms, and still growing. Here is an infant community, a sort of "townier" Bedford Park, whose inhabitants can boast, with some truth, that they are "near the hum of the great city, and yet not of it." Flats are increasing all over London and its immediate suburbs now to such an extent that they are, indeed, in some danger of being overdone. In Central London, the growth of flats is, perhaps, of little consequence; but in suburban or semi-suburban London, the ubiquitous builder is the great bloodsucker of our day; he wanders perpetually, seeking, like the devil, what he may devour; and, on his debatable "Tom Tiddler's Ground," everlastingly "picking up gold and silver." But the builder has done good work too in Chelsea; for does not Cheyne Walk, of picturesque and venerable aspect, with its well-restored, red-brick, white-casemented houses, and fine old ironwork, lend a dignity to the western end of the Chelsea Embankment, to which, lower down, the spacious new red mansions, of ornate yet good style, do no disgrace? And modest Cheyne Row, containing the most famous dwelling in all Chelsea, is built in quiet, unobjectionable style.

Carlyle's quiet-looking residence in Cheyne Row is, practically, a museum of the Soane kind, left exactly as when lived in; the only difference being that here the relics are purely personal. This, a real "house of pilgrimage" to the literary world, is, especially, the resort of cultured Americans, who have even, it is said, had to be mildly dissuaded from sitting on the Sage's chairs and trying on his head-gear.

The "Carlyle House,"-desecrated, indeed, to the scandal of the neighbours, for an interregnum of unholy years by a horde of lawless cats,-is now entirely restored to its pristine neatness and order. It is difficult to imagine any place less museum-like and more pleasantly homely than this silent, peaceful, darkly-panelled abode, which seems,-backed by its green garden-close,-to be indeed a survival of the past, breathing forth still the spirit of the departed seer.

It was thus that Carlyle wrote of the street and the house some seventy years ago:

"The street is flag-pathed, sunk-storied, iron-railed, all old-fashioned and tightly done up; looks out on a rank of sturdy

old pollarded (that is, beheaded) lime trees standing there like giants in tawtie wigs (for the new boughs are still young); beyond this a high brick wall; backwards a garden, the size of our back one at Comely Bank, with trees, &c., in bad culture; beyond this, green hayfields and tree avenues, once a bishop's pleasure grounds, an unpicturesque yet rather cheerful outlook. The house itself is eminent, antique, wainscoted to the very ceiling, and has been all new painted and repaired; broadish stair with massive balustrade (in the old style), corniced and as thick as one's thigh; floors thick as a rock, wood of them here and there worm-eaten, yet capable of cleanliness, and still with thrice the strength of a modern floor.... Chelsea is a singular heterogeneous kind of spot, very dirty and contused in some places, quite beautiful in others, abounding in antiquities and the traces of great men-Sir Thomas More, Steele, Smollett, &c. Our Row, which for the last three doors or so is a street, and none of the noblest, runs out upon a 'Parade' (perhaps they call it), running along the shore of the river, a broad highway with huge shady trees, boats lying moored, and a smell of shipping and tan."

Houses where people have lived, and suffered, and experienced, always-at least to those who know-seem to bear the impress of their past owners' personality. Who has not gone back, after long years, to an old dwelling-place, and been haunted by ghosts of the past, lurking in every well-known corner and cranny? There is something of the feeling of standing by a new-made grave,-the grave of what has been, and will never be again. Such feelings, in a minor degree, does the Carlyle house suggest to those who have read and interested themselves in the long-drawn-out tragedy of those joint lives with which it was bound up. In Mrs. Carlyle's pretty "china closet," for instance, you can almost see the slender figure in neat black silk, deftly arranging and dusting; here, in the drawing-room beyond, is her work-table; you can imagine her, most thrifty of housewives, mending a hole in the carpet; there in the chimney-corner she lay on her sofa, silently suffering, while her prophet vociferated his thunders, and puffed clouds of tobacco-smoke into the chimney. Upstairs, on the top story, is the much-written-of "sound-proof" room, which was really not "sound-proof" at all, though it was constructed with that object by Carlyle at a considerable expense. Possibly, "the young lady next door" still plays on her piano; most likely the neighbours' fowls still crow loudly in the mornings (for these minor evils of London are perennial), in full security now and immunity.

A seated statue of Carlyle, by Boehm,-a real work of art,-faces the river in the neighbouring Embankment Gardens, close to the Albert Bridge. Weary, wrinkled, as Tithonus, the old man gazes ever towards the unceasing tides of the river and of humanity, his look troubled, but yet

"majestic in his sadness at the doubtful doom of human kind."

In Upper (or "Little") Cheyne Row, close by the Carlyles, lived for seven years,-the most embarrassed years in his chequered career,-Leigh Hunt. (This was from 1833 to 1840, before the Edwardes Square time.) Could one imagine a greater contrast than these two Cheyne Row households? The Hunts were Bohemians of irrepressible type. Mrs. Carlyle, being, too, in 1834 only at the very beginning of her neat Chelsea housekeeping, and not yet "bug-bitten, bedusted, and bedevilled," was, naturally, very severe on the subject of the Hunts. To judge from the letters of "that clever lady, a little too much given to insecticide" (as Lord Bowen called her), she had but the poorest opinion of her neighbour's wife's "management" and borrowing ways. And here is Carlyle's account of the Hunt ménage:

"Hunt's house" (he says) "excels all you have ever read of-a poetical Tinkerdom, without parallel even in literature. In his family room, where are a sickly large wife and a whole school of well-conditioned wild children, you will find half-a-dozen old rickety chairs gathered from half-a-dozen different hucksters, and all seeming engaged, and just pausing, in a violent hornpipe. On these and around them, and over the dusty table and ragged carpet lie all kinds of litter-books, papers, egg-shells, scissors, and, last night when I was there, the torn heart of a half-quartern loaf. His own room above stairs, into which alone I strive to enter, he keeps cleaner. It has only two chairs, a bookcase, and a writing-table; yet the noble Hunt receives you in his Tinkerdom in the spirit of a king, apologises for nothing, places you in the best seat, takes a window-sill himself if there is no other, and then, folding closer his loose-flowing 'muslin-cloud' of a printed nightgown, in which he always writes, commences the liveliest dialogue on philosophy and the prospects of man (who is to be beyond measure happy yet); which again he will courteously terminate the moment you are bound to go; a most interesting, pitiable, lovable man, to be used kindly, but with discretion."

In the neighbouring Cheyne Walk have, of course, lived many notable people. Innumerable associations cling to this picturesque row of time-darkened red-brick and white-casemented houses, with the graceful wrought-iron railings and tall gates that shut out their trim front-garden plots from the curious Embankment. At No. 4, died George Eliot the novelist, in 1880, a short time after her marriage to Mr. Cross. She had only recently settled into this charming London dwelling, and her voluminous library had only just been arranged for her with infinite care, "as nearly as possible in the same order as at the Priory," when the sudden stroke of Death fell. Daniel Maclise, the early-Victorian painter, a meteor of art, and the wonder of his own age, had lived in this same house before. Cecil Lawson, that young painter of such great promise, who died so early, lived at No. 15; and No. 16, or "Queen's House," is bound up with the memory of that brilliant and wayward genius, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, who lived here after his wife's tragic death, and gathered round him his famous miscellany of strange beasts and curious creatures.

"Queen's House," unaltered in essentials, has still a picturesque and old-world air that agrees well with its long history. Its mellowed bricks of sober red have a pleasant solidity. It used to be called "Tudor House," owing to its early traditional associations with Queens Katherine Parr and Elizabeth; for the ancient "Manor House" of Chelsea, built by Henry VIII., occupied, with its gardens, the site of this and the adjoining houses; from No. 18 Cheyne Walk eastward as far as Oakley street. Of the many celebrated people who have lived there, Sir Hans Sloane was the latest;-the old house was pulled down after his death. The basements and gardens of the houses in Cheyne Walk still show traces of this palace of Henry VIII. The present "Queen's House" is said to have been built by Wren, the Royal Architect, for the neglected Queen Catherine of Braganza; and some say that the initials, "C. R.", in twisted iron on the gate and railings, commemorate her tenancy. However that may be, we may take it that Thackeray, in Esmond, describes it as the home of the old "Dowager of Chelsey;" and here, again, we note the curious fact that the fictional interest is at least as strong as the real.

Inside, the house is delightful; all the rooms and passages are heavily wainscoted, and the balustrade of the spiral staircase is of "finest hand-wrought iron." When Rossetti entered on its occupation, Chelsea was still, though literary, comparatively unfashionable; (for in those days the two persuasions did not as yet go hand-in-hand). The poet-painter began a joint tenancy here with Swinburne, George Meredith, and his brother, William Rossetti; of these Swinburne was the most constant, and he wrote many of his best-known poems here. But of Mr. Meredith's would-be-tenancy the following story is told, on the novelist's own authority:-

"Mr. Meredith had, rather irresponsibly, agreed to occupy a couple of rooms in Queen's House.... One morning therefore, shortly after Rossetti moved in,-Mr. Meredith, who was living in Mayfair, drove over to Chelsea to inspect his new apartments. 'It was,' says the unhappy co-tenant, 'past noon. Rossetti had not yet risen, though it was an exquisite day. On the breakfast table, on a huge dish, rested five thick slabs of bacon, upon which five rigid eggs had slowly bled to death! Presently Rossetti appeared in his dressing-gown with slippers down at heel, and devoured the dainty repast like an ogre.' This decided Mr. Meredith. He did not even trouble to look at his rooms, but sent in a quarter's rent that afternoon, and remained in Mayfair, where eggs and bacon were, presumably, more appetizingly served."

Rossetti's studio was at the back of the old house; but what the painter enjoyed most was the garden, an acre in extent in his time, with an avenue of limes opening out on to a broad grass plot;-part, no doubt, of the ancient "Manor House" garden:

"In this garden were kept" (says Mr. Marillier) "most of the animals for which Rossetti had such a curious and indiscriminate affection. How many of them there may have been at any one time does not seem to be stated; but as one died or disappeared, another would be got to replace it, or Rossetti would see some particularly outlandish specimen at Jamrach's and bear it home in triumph to add to the collection. Wire cages were erected for their accommodation, but these were not always proof against escape, especially in the case of the burrowing animals, which had an annoying way of appearing in the neighbours' gardens. Mr. W. M. Rossetti has given from memory a tolerably long list of creatures which at one time or another figured in the menagerie at Cheyne Walk. They included a Pomeranian puppy, an Irish deerhound, a barn-owl named Jessie, another owl named Bobby, rabbits, dormice, hedgehogs, two successive wombats, a Canadian marmot or woodchuck, an ordinary marmot, kangaroos and wallabies, a deer, two or more armadillos, a white mouse with her brood, a raccoon, squirrels, a mole, peacocks, wood-owls, Virginian owls, horned owls, a jackdaw, a raven, parakeets, a talking parrot, chameleons, grey lizards, Japanese salamanders, and a laughing jackass. Besides these there was a certain famous bull, a zebu, which cost Rossetti £20 (he borrowed it from his brother), and which manifested such animosity in confinement that it had to be disposed of at once. The strident voices of the peacocks were so little appreciated in the neighbourhood that Lord Cadogan caused a paragraph to be inserted in all his leases thereafter forbidding these birds to be kept."

The house, as I said, is very little changed,-though Mr. Haweis, its recent occupant, added a statue of Mercury, poised on the ball at its gable apex,-and its brickwork is said by Mr. Marillier to have "had an older, more natural look in Rossetti's day." And "in front the unembanked river, and ... the boating bustle and longshore litter of the old days added picturesqueness to the view, which in all essentials was the same as the aged Turner had looked out upon from his little house not very far away." Ghosts,-of Katherine Parr and others,-have, not unnaturally, been accredited to "Queen's House." But they do not appear to have survived Rossetti's tenancy; for Mr. Haweis, who lived and entertained here for 14 years, was not disturbed by them, "even though he unearthed the entrance of a mysterious subterranean passage, which was believed to have communicated with the Lord High Admiral's House;"-a sort of semi-royal cryptoporticus of intrigue! Mr. Haweis also discovered the antique watergate of the former stately mansion-leading to the stone steps where in old days barges were moored,-the shelving river banks extending in those days far nearer than now. The great thickness of the walls of Queen's House may, indeed, be partly accounted for by the necessity for protection against floods; Mr. Haweis, who sacrilegiously cut a window to light the spiral staircase, had to pierce three feet of solid brickwork.

Here is a funny story, retailed by Mr. Marillier, of Rossetti and the advancing Age of Progress:

"The only bridge along the reach" (he says) "was old Chelsea Bridge, concerning which Mr. George Meredith tells me a pleasant story. One day there called upon Mr. Rossetti a pompous individual of the vestryman class, with a paper to which he requested his signature. 'We are getting up a petition,' he said, 'to replace the old wooden bridge by a handsome new iron one, with gilt decorations, and I am sure that you as an artist, Mr. Rossetti, will lend us the weight of your name for so desirable an object.' Rossetti's language, on occasion, could be more forcible than polite, and his unvarnished reception of the vestryman's proposal caused that rash but well-meaning person to retire with extreme precipitation."

Of all his many pets, Rossetti was perhaps especially devoted to his wombats. To one of these he addressed the lines:

"O how the family affections combat

Within this breast, and each hour flings a bomb at

My burning soul! Neither from owl nor from bat

Can peace be gained until I clasp my wombat."

At the same time, it must be confessed, the poet regretted his pet's inveterate tendencies toward "drain architecture." Rossetti's domestic proclivities must, one thinks, have rendered him a terror to his neighbours! Indeed, the only London inhabitant,-if we except the celebrated "Lady of the Cats" in the desecrated Carlyle House,-who can be said to have at all emulated him in that line, was Frank Buckland the great naturalist, who, in his house, No. 34, Albany Street, Regent's Park, kept "a museum and a menagerie in one." "His house was full of crawling, creeping, barking, flying, swimming, and squeaking things." When he was at church one Sunday, "Dick, the rat," he relates, "stole away two five-pound notes from my drawers." Among other creatures Mr. Buckland kept, like Rossetti, a laughing jackass, who "would never laugh," and "who was only provoked to a titter by the consumption of a toothsome mouse"; this pet escaped from its cage one day and was found asleep on the bed of a gentleman near the Hampstead Road. But Mr. Buckland could at any rate excuse his vagaries on scientific grounds, for he was trying to acclimatize foreign animals suitable for food in this country.

The fleeting tide of fashion is now at its height in Chelsea; the historic old houses of Cheyne Walk are let at enormous rents, and, year by year, tall, prosaic red-brick edifices spring up like mushrooms all round them. A few old "bits" of Chelsea still remain unaltered,-but very few. The old church, and the rectory, the home of the Kingsleys, with its charming old walled garden, are still delightful; the embankment houses, standing back behind their gardens and ironwork, are fine in their dignified, time-hallowed red-brick; Paradise Row, that picturesque oasis of old dwellings that breaks the ugliness of the modern Queen's Road West, yet bears witness to the charm of old Chelsea. In humble Paradise Row, (now part of Queen's Road West, and converted to laundries and other uses;)-in Paradise Row, with its quaint tiled roofs, dormer windows, and high white gate-posts, many well-known people have lived; it was even connected, more or less, with royalty, for in 1692 it was the dwelling place of the first Duke of St. Albans, Nell Gwynne's son. Chelsea has always been associated with the Stuarts. When it was but a picturesque riverside village,-fishermen's huts diversified by a few old palaces,-divided yet by space of green fields from the storm and stress of the greater London,-they brought it wealth and fashion, and caused its gardens to spread in fragrant greenery down to the water's edge. The Chelsea of the Restoration had the patronage of the aristocracy, as well as that of the Royal favourites; here the King's Mistresses flaunted their grandeur, their extravagance, their impecuniosity before the world. It was in comparatively humble Paradise Row that the notorious Duchesse de Mazarin lived in her later and bankrupt stage; here she entertained royally, and was, besides, in arrears with the Parish Rates. At No. 2 in Paradise Row lived that Lord Robartes, Earl of Radnor, who, like the "Vicar of Bray," "trimmed" so judiciously through the Jacobite wars. This house (No. 2.), was, by the way, said by Pepys to be "the prettiest contrived house he ever saw in his life."

King's Road, Chelsea,-now shabby and mediocre enough, but once the "Merry Monarch's" own private drive, and said to have been made by him as an easy access to his favourites' suburban resorts,-leads, finally, to Fulham, and to the old house called Sandford Manor, traditionally ascribed to Nell Gwynne's tenancy. This ancient mansion, now divided into two residences, is still unharmed, though, owing to its too close proximity to the Gas Works, it is now unhappily threatened with demolition. London, as we know, has ever been more utilitarian than antiquarian; and perhaps the old house owes its escape so far to the fact that "it has been used successively as farmhouse, pottery, cloth manufactory, and patent cask factory."-(Mr. Reginald Blunt, An Historical Hand-Book to Chelsea.) Nevertheless, its pilastered doorway exists yet, and, internally, it still boasts its square wainscoted hall and old staircase, much as they were when King Charles, as the story goes, rode his pony up the stair for a freak. The old walnut trees, said to have been planted by Nell Gwynne herself, are gone; but an antiquated mulberry-tree still defies the railway in front of it, and the awful Gas Works behind it-a very Scylla and Charybdis of encroaching modernity! A delightful old house, and yet, surely, all its historical glamour and romance would hardly enable even an enthusiast to take up his abode there.

The old Church of Chelsea, otherwise St. Luke's,-whose tower of darkened red-brick lends such picturesque effect to the Battersea reach beyond the Albert-Bridge,-is, both for its antiquity and its monuments, one of the most interesting churches in London. Its interior, never having been "restored," has a very old-world look; and it still retains, as when it was built, all the simplicity of the remote village church. Henry Kingsley, whose boyhood was spent in the delightful old Chelsea rectory, fittingly commemorates his father's church in his best-known story, "The Hillyars and the Burtons." "Four hundred years of memory," he makes Joe Burton say, "are crowded into that old church, and the great flood of change beats round the walls, and shakes the door in vain, but never enters. The dead stand thick together there, as if to make a brave resistance to the moving world outside, which jars upon their slumber. It is a church of the dead." Dean Stanley greatly loved this church: he used to call it "one of the chapters of his abbey." Here Sir Thomas More worshipped in the days of his power, and here, in the chapel that he built, is his monument. More lived himself near by, in a now vanished mansion called "Beaufort House," where, in his "fair garden," he received his friend Erasmus, and also, his king-Henry walking with his arm lovingly placed about his favourite's neck-that neck he was so soon to dissever. In Chelsea Church are the famous "chained books," Sir Hans Sloane's gift; the Bible, the Homilies, and Foxe's Book of Martyrs; enormous volumes heavily bound in leather with strong clasps, chained, underneath a bookcase, to a quaint lectern, where they may be read. This strange custom recalls the monkish days, when printed books were so rare and costly. The names of the guardian spirits of Chelsea, such as Lady Jane Cheyne and Sir Hans Sloane,-respectively lady and lord of the manor, after whom so many streets, squares, and courts have been christened,-recur here too on elaborate monuments and sarcophagi. Both were great benefactors to their parish church. Sir Hans Sloane's daughter was afterwards Lady Cadogan, and hence it was that the property came into the possession of the Cadogan family.

Sir Hans Sloane is further commemorated in Chelsea by his gift to the Apothecaries' Company of the "Physick Garden," sometimes also called the "Botanic Garden." This pleasant green spot, barred by high railings, and intersected by many paths, used to contain, and contains this day, so far as may be, "all the herbs of Materia Medica which can grow in the open air, for the instruction of medical students." The old gardens have bravely withstood the vandals and iconoclasts of modern Chelsea, as well as the attacks of builders, seeking what they may devour; but the growth of bricks and mortar round about them has but ill suited the delicate plants, which, it is to be feared, grow now but feebly for the most part. It is long since the days of the Stuarts,-days when the gardens of Chelsea could still grow roses. Nevertheless, the "Physick Garden" is still delightful for purposes quite other than those for which it was first made; and, fortunately, the terms of the bequest render its alienation difficult and unlikely. Perhaps, in the happy future, who knows? the garden may be opened altogether to the Chelsea public. Of its original cedar trees, planted by Sir Hans Sloane in 1683, but one now remains, and this is very decrepit; in its decrepitude it is, however, still quite as picturesque as it could ever have been in its prime. The river, in pre-Embankment days, flowed close by the Physick Garden, the modern roadway and parade being land embanked and reclaimed from the river. The Watergate to Sir Hans's garden has, in consequence, disappeared; but his statue, erected in 1733, still stands, bewigged and robed, chipped and stained, on its pedestal by the historic cedar tree.

Close by was the site of Chelsea Ferry, and it was near here that the Old Swan Tavern, with its attractive wooden balconies projecting over the river, and an entrance from Queen's Road, used to stand. This was the famous tavern, house of call for barges, and resort of so many distinguished pleasure parties, that used to serve as goal for the annual race,-prototype of the modern Oxford and Cambridge race,-that was rowed by the young Thames watermen for the prizes of the "Doggett" badge and the coat full of pockets and guineas. The tavern was destroyed in 1873 to make room for the new Embankment, which has so completely changed the aspect of all this part of the river. To quote a writer in the Art Journal for 1881:-

"No doubt the Embankment at Chelsea was needed; no doubt the broad margin of mud which used to fringe old Cheyne Walk was very unhealthy in summer-time; yet no one who cares for what is quaint and picturesque, and who clings to relics of the old days of which we shall soon have no traces left, can recall the river strand at Chelsea, with its wharfs and its water-stairs, its barges and its altogether indescribable but most picturesque aspect, and not feel as he looks at the trim even wall of the Embankment, and the broad monotonous pavement above it, even if he does not say in words, 'Oh, the difference to me!'"

On the site of the ancient tavern is now built "Old Swan House," a modern-antique mansion designed in a charming style by Mr. Norman Shaw. A few paces westward from Old Swan House, the modern red-brick Tite Street, full of artists' studios and of the elect, runs up towards Queen's Road. Tite Street is, so far as its externals go, somewhat dark and shut in by its tall houses; but it more than atones for any outside dulness by the excessive light and learning of its interiors. "The White House," near the lower end of the street on the right, was built for Mr. Whistler. Further up the street-also on the right-is "Gough House," a fine old mansion of Charles II.'s time, now most happily adapted to the needs of the Victoria Hospital for Sick Children.

Close to the site of the old "Rotunda" of Ranelagh, is the famous "Royal Military Hospital," usually called "Chelsea Hospital," and made familiar to all the world outside London by Herkomer's great pictures, "The Last Muster" and "Chelsea Pensioners." It was John Evelyn who first gained Charles II.'s consent to the erection of a Royal Hospital for veteran soldiers on this site,-though local tradition, apparently without any reason at all, persists in attributing its foundation to Nell Gwynne, who, with all her frailties, was ever the people's darling, and especially a Chelsea darling. The Hospital building-an open quadrangle with wings,-was designed by Wren. In colour as well as form, it is solid and reposeful-a noble example of Wren's style and taste. The gardens, open to the public during the day, have something of the calm regularity of old Dutch palaces. But then Chelsea, in building as in horticulture, had always a tendency to the neat Dutch formalism of William and Mary.

A little north of Chelsea Hospital, between the modern Union Street and Westbourne Street, stood, in the days of the Georges, the "Old Original Chelsea Bun-House," that was for so long the resort of eighteenth-century fashion. Hither used to drive George I. and his consort, Caroline of Anspach; George III. and Queen Charlotte also came here in person to fetch their buns home, which, of course, set the fashion. The old house had a picturesque colonnade; but in 1839 new proprietors rebuilt it; which rash proceeding, however, killed the custom.

Since Stuart and early Hanoverian days, times have changed for Chelsea and Kensington; they are now,-as more distant Hammersmith and Fulham are rapidly becoming, and as Putney and Dulwich soon threaten to be,-integral parts of the "monster London," that, like a great irresistible flood, in spreading absorbs all the peaceful little pools that lie in its path. The squalor and the gloom, as well as the splendour and the riches of the great city, are now their heritage. Never more will the waves lap peacefully at Chelsea along the river's shelving shores; never again will the streets and squares of old Kensington regain their former seclusion and calm. Instead, a modern, and, let us hope, a yearly more beautiful city will spread, gradually and certainly, over all the available area. Chelsea and Kensington in the past have had many glories; who can say what splendid fortune may yet be theirs? And we who lament the inevitable changes of time, must remember that they are still living cities, hallowed by their past, interesting by their present, but whose greater and more enduring magnificence is yet to come.

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