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   Chapter 16 RUS IN URBE

Highways and Byways in London By Emily Constance Baird Cook Characters: 46642

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


"It is my delight to be

Both in town and in countree."-Old Couplet.

"If one must have a villa in summer to dwell,

Oh, give me the sweet shady side of Pall Mall."-Charles Morris.

Oh, London! beautiful London! who would not be with thee in May? Paris should not, surely, be recommended as the only Mecca of that lovely month. When the London street authorities, with unwonted forbearance, have for one brief moment suspended their incessant repairing of the busiest thoroughfares; when the hanging gardens of Park Lane, and the window-boxes of Seven Dials, alike display their "pavilions of tender green"; when Piccadilly is blocked with traffic; when Rotten Row is thronged with the smart world; when the shops hang out their daintiest spring fashions; when the gay parterres of the Parks show flowers of kaleidoscopic brilliance, and their sylvan seclusions suggest the "real country," what can be more delightful than our own often-maligned metropolis?

The Parks of London are, perhaps, the element that most surprises the foreigner unused to English tastes and ways. Here are neither the leafy terraces and regular alleys of German capitals, nor the trim well-clipped boscages and levels of Versailles and the Tuileries; but only mere stretches of park-like greensward, dotted here and there, in charming irregularity, with old trees of noble girth. Walks there are, indeed, and footpaths, shrubberies, and flower-beds; but the chief area of the London Parks is, ever and always, this fresh, radiant, undulating turf, turf which here, more than ever, suggests the little Board School girl's answer to a question on general knowledge: "Turf, ma'am, is grass and clean dirt put together by God."

Of Hyde Park, the largest and oldest of the London Parks, Disraeli said truly in one of his novels: "Hyde Park has still about it something of Arcadia. There are woods and waters, and the occasional illusion of an illimitable distance of sylvan joyance." The history of Hyde Park is the history, generally, of Greater London; first monastery grounds, then royal demesne, then again, the people's. Some of the old trees may even have seen the ancient manor of Hyde; some of them must certainly recall the time when this was a royal Tudor hunting-ground, well-stocked with deer. Many of its fine old timber-trees have, however, disappeared, so that the famous "Ring" of Charles II.'s time can be now but imperfectly traced.

The Parks are, naturally, "the lungs of London." Were it not for these large "open spaces," so mercifully preserved to us by the wisdom and farsightedness of former rulers and legislators, the health of the great city would hardly now be what it is. The little town of the early centuries, Roman, Saxon, or Norman, surrounded by country woods and pastures,-dotted with the gardens of merchants and magnates, as well as with frequent convent closes, orchards, and leafy precincts,-had small need of such vast pleasure-grounds. For London, even in Elizabeth's day, consisted (as shown in Aggas's map), of only two tiny townlets, "London" and "Westminster"; beyond, all was open fields. Tottenham Court Road, that dreary thoroughfare of ugly modernity, was the solitary manor of "Toten Court," a sylvan resort for "cakes and creame": Chelsea was a pretty, distant riverside hamlet; Regent Street and Bond Street were cows' pastures, and the "flowery fields" of "Marybone" were altogether in the rural distances. Who, indeed, would recognise the present Regent's Park in these lines (from an old play called "Tottenham Court"):

"What a dainty life the milkmaid leads,

When o'er these flowery meads

She dabbles in dew,

And sings to her cow,

And feels not the pain

Of love or disdain...."

But if, to the London of old time, the Parks were not necessary, to modern London, which has more than doubled its population and its area in the last century and a half, they are an unspeakable boon. Our forefathers were wise in their generation when they secured these stretches of the outlying country for public use. We, too, in our own day, make similar efforts, efforts of which the recent preservation of Parliament Fields, of part of Caen Wood, affords sufficient proof. In that far-off day, prophesied by "Mother Shipton," when "Primrose Hill shall be the centre of London," such breathing spaces, such oases in the wilderness of bricks and mortar, would prove of quite incalculable value.

Happily, London, even in her rampant growth, is often jealously mindful of her responsibilities. Though our city boasts no such spacious boulevards as are to be seen in Paris, trees are often now planted at intervals on the sidewalks in many of the newest thoroughfares, and a few of the older streets are being widened and improved. Very few are the London views, as I have said elsewhere, that are not in a measure enlivened by foliage or greenery.

The colouring of London is a thing peculiar to itself; it requires to be specially studied, even by painters whose eyes are trained to observation. Its wonderful atmospheric effects have been only more or less recently recognised by them. Very few artists have rendered thoroughly the strange cold light on the London streets; cold, yet suffused by an underlying glow, by a warmth of colour hardly at first guessed by the spectator. Even a rainy day of London greyness-what does the poet's eye see in it?

"Rain in the measureless street,

Vistas of orange and blue....

Blue of wet road, of wet sky,

(Grey in the depths and the heights),

Orange of numberless lights,

Shapes fleeting on, going by...."

The cold pearly greyness of winter, the blue mist of spring, the silvery haze of summer, the orange sunsets of autumn, when the dim sun sinks in the fog like a gigantic red fireball, all, in turn, have their charm. The artist's fault is that he nearly always paints London scenes too cold, too joyless. Mr. Herbert Marshall, the water-colour painter, to whom we are indebted for so many charming impressions of the London streets, leans, if anything, somewhat to the other side, and hardly allows for the ?sthetic value of smoke. Painting, in London, is always a difficulty; but Mr. Marshall, it is said, used to station himself and his paraphernalia securely inside some road-mending enclosure, and thus pursue his calling undeterred by the persecution of the idle.

Rotten Row.

The faint blue-grey mist of the great city often gives to London scenes something of the quality of dissolving views. Seldom is a vista perfectly clear; rather does it often suggest a vague intensity of misty glory. Does not that lovely glimpse of the Whitehall palaces from St. James's Park, seen, on fine days in summer, from the little bridge over the "ornamental water," gain an added charm from distance? Do not the more or less prosaic Government buildings appear to be the

"cloud-capt towers and gorgeous palaces"

of some dream of Oriental splendour? In such guise, one might imagine, would the deceiving visions of a "Fata Morgana,"-a fairy palace, shaded by just such branching, feathery trees,-appear to the thirsting traveller over the desert sands.

Even M. Max O'Rell, who allows himself to scoff at most things English, has a word of admiration for the peculiar misty beauty of the London parks.

"Nothing" (he says) "is more imposing than the exuberant beauty of the parks. Take a walk across them in the early morning when there is no one stirring, and the nightingale is singing high up in some gigantic tree; it is one of the rare pleasures that you will find within your reach in London. If the morning be fine, you will not fail to be struck with a lovely pearl-grey haze, soft and subdued, that I never saw in such perfection as in the London parks."

The parks of London, like its districts, all have their special attributes, their special place in the social plane. Thus, Hyde Park is aristocratic, and in the season, its penny chairs, from Hyde Park Corner to the Albert Gate, are thronged with the smart world. Beautiful women, distinguished men, and gilded youths may be seen riding-the best riders and the finest horses in the world-along Rotten Row at the fashionable morning hour; and, in the afternoon, the whole of "Society" appears to take its afternoon drive round the magic "Ring" or circle of the Park, enjoying seeing and being seen. Three times round the Ring is a common afternoon allowance; exercise, surely, that habit must render, in time, not unlike a treadmill. In Hyde Park, too, takes place the yearly meet of the "Four-in-Hand" Club, extensively patronised by rank and royalty; on which the popular sentiment is delightfully echoed by the refrain of the cockney song of The Runaway Girl,

"I'd have four horses with great long tails,

If my papa were the Prince of Wales!"

Here in the Park, on Sundays, takes place the famous "Church Parade," so paragraphed in the society papers; here, also, are often ratified on May mornings, the season's matrimonial engagements; and here fond mothers with pretty daughters keep a watchful outlook for "detrimentals."

Rotten Row.

"The Ring," in Stuart times, was the scene of frequent duels, the most noted of which was that between Lord Mohun and the Duke of Hamilton (made use of in Thackeray's Esmond), in 1712, when both combatants were killed. And one of the saddest modern associations of this circular drive is connected with Mrs. Carlyle's death here on April 21, 1866. The poor lady, to whom a brougham and an afternoon drive were luxuries of her later and invalid years, died quietly and silently in her carriage from heart failure caused by shock at a trivial accident to her small dog, which she had put out to run at Victoria Gate, near the Marble Arch; the coachman, knowing nothing of the fatality, driving on for some time before discovering the sad truth.

The Tyburnia end of Hyde Park is that most frequented by the populace. If the smart world monopolises the vicinity of Hyde Park Corner, the green spaces fringing the Bayswater Road, and near the Marble Arch, are generally appropriated by tired workmen and idle loafers, who lie about on the grass, in enviable bliss, on hot days in summer, looking like nothing so much as an army of soldiers mown down by a Maxim gun, and contentedly appreciating the fact that here in London, for once, they have found free and undisputed possession-a place where:

"no price is set on the lavish summer,

June may be had by the poorest comer."

In the space opposite the Marble Arch is the so-called "Reformers' Tree," where political meetings sometimes take place on Sundays, and where preachers, lecturers, and "cranks" of every possible denomination, hold their respective courts. Visitors to London should make a point of witnessing this curious and well-known phase of London life; the outcome, M. Taine seems to suggest, of the latent seriousness of the British mind; "an intense conviction, which for lack of an outlet, would degenerate into madness, melancholy, or sedition." Mr. Anstey in the pages of Punch, has, in his own inimitable way, described these scenes, which are familiar to the readers of "Voces Populi."

The Serpentine, Hyde Park.

The "Serpentine," a large sheet of water mainly artificial, certainly cannot be said to "serpent," for it has but a very slight bend. Originating, however, at a period when all garden walks and ponds were of painful Dutch regularity, it owes its name to this trifling deviation. This prettily devised and wooded piece of water is due mainly to Queen Caroline, wife to George II., an energetic lady with gardening tastes. Very charming is the view to be obtained from the five-arched stone bridge over the Serpentine, "a view," says Mr. Henry James, "of extraordinary nobleness." Yet the Serpentine, too, has its tragic associations. Perhaps it suggests, in its beauty, the haunting lines:

"When Life hangs heavy, Death remains the door

To endless rest beside the Stygian shore."

Always a noted spot for suicides, it was the place chosen by Harriet Westbrook, the unfortunate first wife of Shelley, for the ending of the many troubles of her short life; "a rash act," says Professor Dowden with praiseworthy partisanship, which it "seems certain that no act of Shelley's, during the two years which immediately preceded her death, tended to cause." "Shelley," comments Matthew Arnold drily, "had been living with another woman all the time; only that!"

The charm of Kensington Gardens-detached from Hyde Park in later times-is, perhaps, its greater seclusion and air of guarded calm, as befits the gardens surrounding a royal palace. No carriages are allowed to profane its sacred shades; no rude sounds of the outer world penetrate its leafy bowers. In one pleasant spot of greenery a welcome innovation has lately been introduced in the summer months, in the shape of afternoon tea al fresco, provided by an enterprising club, and of late much frequented by the fashionable world. Kensington Gardens are always very select in their coterie; on their western side stands the old Dutch palace of solid red-brick, built for William and Mary,-sorrowed in by desolate Queen Anne,-birthplace of Queen Victoria, worthiest, noblest, and most lamented of her line. With her, most of all, are the associations of Kensington Gardens now bound up. In these pretty walks crowded still by the children and nurses of the wealthy and noble, the little royal girl used to play, regardless alike of her coming doom-or glory.

Yet, with all the nursery din of Kensington Gardens-an English Tuileries-there yet are spots so secluded and so quiet as still to justify Matthew Arnold's lovely lines:

"In this lone, open glade I lie,

Screen'd by deep boughs on either hand;

And at its end, to stay the eye,

Those black-crown'd, red-boled pine-trees stand!

"Birds here make song, each bird has his,

Across the girding city's hum.

How green under the boughs it is!

How thick the tremulous sheep-cries come!

"Here at my feet what wonders pass,

What endless, active life is here!

What blowing daisies, fragrant grass!

An air-stirred forest, fresh and clear.

"In the huge world, which roars hard by,

Be others happy if they can!

But in my helpless cradle I

Was breathed on by the rural Pan.

"Yet here is peace for ever new!

When I who watch them am away,

Still all things in this glade go through

The changes of their quiet day."

Poor Haydon, the painter, whose fitful genius went out so sadly in lurid gloom, said of Kensington Gardens that "here are some of the most poetical bits of tree and stump, and sunny brown and green glens and tawny earth." Disraeli, also, wrote of it as follows in his most "classically-flowery" manner:-

"The inhabitants of London are scarcely sufficiently sensible of the beauty of its environs. On every side the most charming retreats open to them.... In exactly ten minutes it is in the power of every man to free himself from all the tumult of the world; the pangs of love, the throbs of ambition, the wear and tear of play, the recriminating boudoir, the conspiring club, the rattling hell, and find himself in a sublime sylvan solitude superior to the cedars of Lebanon, and inferior only in extent to the chestnut forests of Anatolia. It is Kensington Gardens that is almost the only place that has realised his idea of the forests of Spenser and Ariosto."

Tea in Kensington Gardens.

What havoc, truly, the Great Exhibition of 1851, the Prince Consort's darling scheme, must have wrought in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens! And what would the bright particular spirits of the present day now think of such irreverent, such high-handed proceedings? Even the Kensington Museum now eschews the too close neighbourhood of ephemeral Exhibitions; they are relegated to the more distant shades of Olympia and of Earl's Court; the immense Crystal Palace-the Exhibition building-now flourishes at Sydenham, and the site of the great show is commemorated in Hyde Park by the Albert Memorial, an edifice about the merits of which much difference of opinion rages. Yet, even its detractors must own the magnificence of the monument, and admire the eastern opulence of its mosaics, its gilding, its bronzes and marbles.

But St. James's Park is really, in some ways, quite the prettiest of the London parks, and though sufficiently aristocratic, it is yet much frequented by the populace. "A genuine piece of country, and of English country," Taine says of it. Round it are situated royal palaces and beautiful mansions, standing amidst their spacious gardens. North of St. James's Park stretches the Mall, so named from the ancient game of "Paille Maille," played here by the gay court of Charles II. The game consisted in striking a ball, with a mallet, through an iron ring, down a straight walk powdered with cockle-shells. Here, in later Stuart and Hanoverian times, was to be seen the very height of London fashion, the ladies in "full dress," and their cavaliers carrying their hats under their arms. Perhaps, of all the varying "modes" flaunted from time to time in the "Mall," the fashions of 1800-1810 would strike us now as being the most peculiar.

A Fountain in St. James's Park.

East of St. James's Park are the stately Government Offices, and south is Birdcage Walk, overlooked by the pretty hanging gardens and balconies that adorn the mansions of picturesque Queen Anne's Gate. Where "Spring Gardens" now stand was, in old days, "Milk Fair," where asses' and cows' milk was sold to the votaries of fashion, to repair the ravages of late hours and "routs." Milk-vendors, boasting their descent from the original holders, have still their cow-stall at the park corner under the elm-trees. In the distance the grey old abbey, with its delicate tracery, appears at intervals above the trees and buildings; and, though so near the city smoke, the Ornithological Society breeds many beautiful aquatic birds on a small island on the Ornamental Water. St. James's Park is a series of pictures; the sketcher, too, will find many convenient seats, as well as charming views.

It is difficult to believe that this lovely park was, in pre-Tudor times, merely a swampy field, pertaining to a hospital "for fourteen maidens that were leprous," and far beyond the precincts of the little London of that day. (The lepers' hospital itself stood where now stands St. James's Palace.) It was Henry VIII. who removed the leper maidens, converting their asylum into a palace, their field into a park; a park used as the private garden to the palace until Charles II.'s time, at which period it was made public and laid out by a French landscape gardener called "Le N?tre." There is a story that Queen Caroline, wife to George II., wished to appropriate the Park once more for the sole use of the Palace, and asked "what it would cost to effect this?" "Only three crowns," was the pithy answer of the minister, Sir Robert Walpole.

Beautiful as St. James's Park still is, it must have been yet more charming a century-and-a-half ago, when no houses as yet intervened between it and the grey dignity of the old Abbey of Westminster, and when the vanished Rosamond's Pond, with its wild and romantic banks, gave a rural attraction to the scene. Rosamond's Pond, mentioned by Pope and other writers, was a favourite trysting-place for lovers, and had also, from its seclusion, a less enviable notoriety for suicides.

Charles II., was especially fond of St. James's Park; he would sit here for hours among his dogs, amusing himself with the tame ducks, that he had himself introduced; the descendants of these ducks, it is said, flourish, like those of the milk-vendors, to this day, and are fed familiarly by constant Londoners. Perhaps it was Charles's fondness for animals that, by a natural sequence of events, caused the park, somewhat later, to become a sort of Zoological Gardens for London. Birds of all kinds still thrive in it, although distant Battersea Park, new and semi-suburban, now claims its share of ornithological fame. The London County Council, among other good works, has adopted towards animals the protecting r?le of Charles II., and sedulously encourages bird-life in the parks; woe, therefore, to the boy or man, who goes bird-nesting or bird-snaring in one of these sacred enclosures! Wild birds reciprocate the Council's paternal care by taking up their lodging in Battersea of their own free will. A cuckoo's egg was even found in Battersea Park lately, laid, very annoyingly, in a "whitethroat's" nest, which had been made in a bamboo-bush in the "sub-tropical" part of the gardens. Nevertheless, the charitable whitethroats overlooked the liberty, and safely hatched that cuckoo. Battersea Park claims, moreover, robins, tits, hedge-sparrows, chaffinches, wrens, and greenfinches; to say nothing of herons, and even a white blackbird. Birds take kindly to London; do not even the gulls come up the river by thousands in severe winters, as the Albatross came to the call of the Ancient Mariner? Also, over 200 wood pigeons are said to roost regularly on the Battersea Park islands. But then, wood-pigeons seem to be everywhere at home in London. Do they not haunt the city gardens that lie behind Queen Square, and coo sweetly all through the London spring and summer?

If Battersea Park, with its charmingly laid-out gardens, its wealth of tropical plants, all its feathered population, and its river glories of twilight and sunset, is yet undistinguished, so also is the Regent's Park, which is situated at quite another, (though equally semi-suburban), angle of the metropolis. Regent's Park, like Battersea Park, is the resort of the great middle-class. Here you may see, on Bank Holidays, the groups so lovingly described by Ibsen, "father, mother, and troop of children," all drest in their Sunday best, and all dropping orange-peel cheerfully as they go. Here too, on Sundays, is a "Church Parade," quite as crowded as that of Hyde Park, though not, perhaps, so largely noticed in the "society" papers. The demeanour of the young couples is perhaps here a trifle more boisterous, that of their elders perhaps a shade more prim; the attire of the ladies, generally, a thought more crude. The wide middle avenue of Regent's Park, on Sundays, affords capital study to those interested in the vast subject of Man and Manners. And then the great middle class is so much more amusing than are the "Well-Connected"!

The flowers in Regent's Park, in spring and early summer, are a yearly marvel and a delight. Not even those of Hyde Park, in all their season's glory, can surpass them. On each side of the large middle avenue, gay parterres vie with one another in brilliance. Tulips, hyacinths of wonderful shades, all the glory of spring bulbs, make way, later, for summer "bedding-out-plants" in lovely combinations of colour. Crocuses, scillas, and snowdrops, too, are scattered here and there, with a charming air of lavishness, over the grassy slopes: this has a delightful effect, giving all the look and suggestion of wild flowers.

Regent's Park has, then, an unrivalled charm to the flower-lover. (And what true Londoner, one may ask, is not a fl

ower-lover? The Londoner loves flowers with an intensity undreamed of in the real country.) The slum children, who frequent this park in large numbers, respect, as a rule, the flower-beds. Slum-children are, generally, as I have observed from experience gathered in the Temple Gardens, St. Paul's Churchyard, Leicester Square and elsewhere,-more reverently inclined, as regards flowers, than their more pampered contemporaries; though, of course, nature is nature, and there may be occasional lapses. Thus, the other day I chanced to notice, in Regent's Park, two small girls "of the people," whose ideas on the subject of "property" seemed just a trifle elementary. They were ragged and hungry-looking too, and to add to the pathos of their rags, one of them flourished a broken green parasol, and the other one's tattered hat flaunted a dirty pink ostrich feather:

"Oh, Lizer," I heard the smallest one say, "I do wish I could git one o' them flowers! jest one geranium, for ter stick in my 'air at Sunday-school ter-morrer! They'd niver miss it"!

"Certingly not! The p'leaceman 'ud be after you, pretty sharp," says the elder child, severely. "You know 'ow Bert caught it, three weeks back, for on'y a-breakin orf of two daffies, and one of 'em nearly dead too! Well, (relenting), "you may git me jest a few, if you kin do it so's the p'leaceman can't see".... Rosie, shet it!" as the younger girl clutched at some flowers: "I see 'im a-comin' towards us, this minnit! No, if you please, we ain't done nothin', sir! My sister an' me, sir, we was on'y jest a-lookin' at the flowers, an' saying as 'ow beautiful they 'ad grown, since this Sat'day gone a week.... Our garding ain't got no show to equil them, and we ain't got no cut flowers, for onst, in ma's drorin'-room; and these 'ere is grown that beautiful."

"You was a-goin' to 'elp 'em grow, wasn't you?" said the policeman, good-naturedly enough: "I see you a-stretchin' over them railin's! Your garding's a alley, that's wot it is! an' your drorin'-room is jest a three-pair-model, I back!... I know your sort! 'Ere, tike yerselves orf, double quick!"

The ignorant in such matters may, perhaps, vaguely wonder, in Regent's Park, why the comfortable chairs provided, apparently, for man's delectation, are all deserted of the multitude, and why, on the other hand, the iron seats are crammed to repletion? The explanation is a simple one. The chairs cost a penny each to sit on! It is, however, not unusual to see a stray marauder occupy one of these sacred resting-places for a stolen minute of bliss, and, on seeing the approach of the Guardian of the Park furniture (whence such guardians spring up is ever a mystery), rise and absent himself in well-feigned abstraction.

The Reformer.

Regent's Park, like Hyde Park, is a focus of itinerant lecturers and preachers. These have apparently established a kind of "Sunday right" to the upper part of the long avenue of trees beyond the flower-gardens. Here, as in the larger park, may be seen "cranks" of every kind. Thus, one lecturer will hold up to obloquy an unkind caricature of Mr. Chamberlain, representing the great man with the addition of horns and hoofs; another, proclaiming the gospel of Jingoism, will shout himself hoarse in the attempt to drown his adversary. (Political meetings, however, may now possibly be regarded with disfavour by the authorities, the Boer War having lately rendered many of them somewhat picturesque in incident.) Under another big tree, a Revivalist meeting will be held, accompanied by sundry groans and sobs, and varied at intervals by hymns sung to the accompaniment of a harmonium or a small piano-organ. The first beginnings of lectures, as of righteousness, are hard. One poor orator, on the outskirts of the crowd, I saw myself arrive on the scene, and "work up" his lecture to the unsympathetic and goggle-eyed audience of a small cockney nursemaid, a perambulator, and two wailing babies. I quite felt for that poor man; nevertheless, he persevered, and in only five minutes auditors had already begun to trickle in. (A considerable percentage of the Park congregations, I may here observe, had no "fixed city," no abiding convictions; they wandered about here and there, from one preacher to another, "just as fate or fancy carried"; or, rather, to whichever of the said preachers happened at the moment to be the most emphatic.) With lectures al fresco, as with other things, it would appear to be only the premier pas qui co?te; and soon the would-be orator had a distinguished and motley following. What, exactly, he was lecturing about, it is really beyond me to say, for my attention was largely woolgathering about the crowd; but he seemed, like Mr. Chadband, of immortal memory, to repeat himself a good deal, and to be very angry indeed about something or other. Indeed, I doubt whether the majority of his audience quite understood the orator's drift, but they knew that he was bellowing with all the strength of his lungs, and Englishmen always respect a man who makes sufficient noise. The lecturer's anger seemed, strangely enough, to be directed against poor, unoffending Regent's Park itself:

"For twenty years," he kept reiterating, "for twenty years Regent's Park has been allowed to speak, unhindered, under this very tree. For twenty years it has found its voice, ay, and its pence, too, here.... Is it to continue to find them, or not? That is the question.... Does Regent's Park wish to sit tamely under insult? to lie down to be crushed? to bend its back to the tyrant?" (here the speaker, in his fervour, seemed to get a trifle mixed in his similes.)

"'Ear, 'ear," said a chubby baker's boy, who had stopped for a moment to listen; and one of the forgotten babies in the perambulator wailed.

"Will Regent's Park, I say, tolerate this? It is, let me repeat it, it is for Regent's Park to decide!"

But the "Regent's Park" of the hour, though thus eloquently adjured, was evidently not to be roused to fury; or even to decision. "Kim on 'ome," cries the nurse-girl to the twins, hitching the perambulator round with a sudden jerk: "Go it, old kipper," shouts a facetious larrikin. Alas! even now "Regent's Park," with its pence too, was apathetically melting away towards that all-important function of the day-its "tea."

There is, indeed, much "life" to be found in Regent's Park.

Some of London's pleasantest "by-ways" are the pretty, well-kept, and delightfully planted walks of the Zoological Gardens. One of the big gates of this institution opens near upon the "preaching trees" of Regent's Park; and, certainly, after a close experience of the "human animal," the rest of the mammalia, unoffending, harmless, and discreetly caged, often occur as quite a pleasant contrast. (I wonder that the simile did not occur to Lord Beaconsfield himself; it is certainly in his line.) Thackeray also, who enjoyed the Zoo greatly, saw, as befitted a great novelist, the human side of it: "If I have cares on my mind," he wrote, "I come to the Zoo, and fancy they don't pass the gate; I recognise my friends, my enemies, in countless cages." Yes, the Zoo is an unfailing pleasure; I can conscientiously recommend it, with one word of caution: Do not choose a very hot day for the excursion: be careful to go a little to windward of the feline race, and eschew the monkey house as much as possible. Poor Sally the chimpanzee is dead, alas! of consumption, and none of her successors, surely, can make up for the very unendurable temperature that has ever to be maintained round them. Monkeys are sad victims to pulmonary disease; every London fog kills, it is said, a few of them. The reptile house is, however, cool and pleasant; and the ponds for aquatic birds are very charming resorts. Altogether, if the great carnivora and the great crowds be shunned, the Zoological Garden becomes distinctly pleasant; its walks, moreover, have all the unexpectedness of "Alice's" peregrinations in the "Live-Flower-Garden," where, continually, round some bowery corner, she came face to face with strange and uncanny-looking beasts. Just so, in the Zoological Gardens, you may suddenly chance upon an amiable, blinking Owl, or a casual Parrot, or a wondering Pelican, peering at you round some bush in the shrubbed pathway. Yet another caution: Do not be tempted, under any circumstances, to ride the Elephant. Its saddle has a knife-board seat adapted only to juveniles; those of the Society's servants who assist you to mount the beast are uncomfortably facetious; and when you are at last safely on top, you feel positively vindictive towards the small children who, down in the depths below you, trifle with your life by offering your elephant a bun.

The Botanical Gardens, enclosed by the ring drive called "The Inner Circle," are, perhaps, best known to Londoners by their three big flower-shows, held in May and June; important functions which are thronged by all the world of rank and fashion.

But, delightful as are these open spaces and public gardens, there is, perhaps, a homelier charm in one's very own London garden,-one's own private rus in urbe. I myself never pass through any part of suburban or semi-suburban London by railway, without looking at all the back-gardens of the small houses. Oliver Wendell Holmes says that a man's belongings and house are an index of his character; but, surely, his garden, or even his yard, is more so. The nature, for instance, that can willingly content itself with a clothes-line and six mouldy cabbage-stalks, while the neighbouring London yards flaunt the golden sunflower, or the graceful foxglove,-reflects, surely, its own shallowness. And if in central London the poor have no small yard even, is there not always a window sill, where from some biscuit tin (in North-Italian fashion,) or from some painted wooden crate, flowers may spring, and rejoice the heart of many a poor wanderer, dreaming, like Wordsworth's Susan, of country meadows and streams? Even the sins of a fried-fish shop may be redeemed by yellow trails of "creeping jenny" from a box above it; even the powerful aroma of "sheeps' trotters" may be almost forgotten in the enjoyment of a stray plant of musk, treasured in some poor man's window-corner. It may be only "a weakly monthly rose that don't grow, or a tea-plant with five black leaves and one green," yet it reflects pleasantly, none the less, the owner's saving grace of taste. To some, this kind of humble garden has a charm all its own. "My gardens," said Gray the poet proudly, "are in the windows like those of a lodger up three pair of stairs in Petticoat Lane, or Camomile Street, and they go to bed regularly under the same roof that I do." There is, I believe, a society for the cultivation of "window-gardening" among the poor, a society that gives prizes to the best results; the movement is a good one, and really deserves encouragement. To beautify the dull and often ugly lives of the London poor,-what society could have a much worthier aim? How many a hideous slum-some "Rosemary Lane," or "Hawthorn Lane,"-has been redeemed from utter gloom by some sprig of greenery, some frond of sickly fern, some crippled and stunted plant brought there, at some time, by some good angel of the poor?

As to the occasional gardens of the larger houses, these, when they do exist, have, to the faithful Londoner, a beauty all their own; shut in and hidden, they have something of the quiet of old cathedral closes, as well as the charm of unexpectedness. And then-last, best of all! they hang out their "pavilions of tender green" without giving any trouble in that "spring cleaning," so trying to London housewives. Of course, however, London gardens do not thrive without affection and interest. If neglected, they die; if tended, they repay your care with a gratitude almost human. Too often the making of gardens in London is on this wise:-First, the workman, or gardener, levies an assortment of old sardine tins, kettles and other household rubbish; next, he arranges a good solid layer of brickbats; then he levels the "parterre" with a few old sacks and coats; then, finally, he fills up the chinks with a little dank, sour, half-starved London soil-"dirt" is indeed the only name for it!-adding a thin layer of it over the whole. Then the garden is considered "finished," and ready for the credulous to sow their seeds. Such a London garden-a catwalk rather than a thing of beauty-is perhaps only redeemed from utter dreariness by an occasional plane-tree.

Plane-trees, which thrive in London because of their tidy habit of shedding their sooty bark yearly, are luxuriant all over the metropolis, but especially so in Bloomsbury. Here also lived Amy Levy, most pathetic of London poets, and here she watched and loved her tree.

"Green is the plane-tree in the square,

The other trees are brown;

They droop and pine for country air;

The plane-tree loves the town.

"Here, from my garret-pane, I mark

The plane-tree bud and blow,

Shed her recuperative bark,

And spread her shade below.

"Among her branches, in and out,

The city breezes play;

The dun fog wraps her round about;

Above, the smoke curls grey.

"Others the country take for choice,

And hold the town in scorn;

But she has listened to the voice

Of city breezes borne."

The purple clematis jackmanii, which flowers so well in the Regent's Park terraces and in Kensington, flowers also yearly on a certain sunny balcony in Tavistock Square; the iris hangs out its brilliant flags every summer in St. Pancras Churchyard-close under those smoke-begrimed Caryatids whose sad eyes gaze ever, not on to the Peiraeus and to the Aegean Sea, but towards the dreary and everlastingly murky Euston Road.

Even grass will grow in shut-in, walled Bloomsbury gardens; it may, indeed, sometimes require treating as an "annual"; but what of that? If the difficulties of the London garden are great, why, so are its joys.

Cats are, of course, the primal difficulty. We know how lately the "Carlyle House" in Chelsea was cursed with them; it is said, also, that a certain eccentric lady once lived with a family of some eighty-six cats, in a house in Southampton Row. The descendants of these cats must, one thinks, still haunt the neighbourhood, to judge from the number that prowl in it. Cats, in London, often become wild animals, and lose all their domestic charm. "Cats," as the little Board School essayist na?vely wrote: "has nine liveses, which is seldom required in this country 'cos of yumanity." The "yumanity" in question seems, however, to be rather at a discount in London. For cats' owners have a distracting habit of going away for the summer and leaving the poor beasts, so to speak, "on the parish." Five such cats, starving and sick, have I, to my own knowledge, gently released from a cruel world at a neighbouring chemist's. A little boy-one "of the streets streety," once held poor pussy while the quietus-of prussic acid-was administered: "Won't I jest?" he said with glee when asked to officiate. "Won'erful stuff, that 'ere, Miss!" he remarked at the close of the sad ceremony; adding, admiringly, "w'y, that ket did'nt mow once!" "What are you going to do with her?" I inquired of the youth, who now carried the corpse dangling by one leg. "Throw 'er over the fust garding wall I come to," he replied, grinning. Thus, I reflected, the poor London garden is still the victim!

A dead cat may be an awkward visitor, but the surviving cats are the bane of London gardens. Their courtships-on the garden-wall-are long and musical, causing even the merciful to yearn for a syringe at all costs. The sparrows are a far lesser evil. They, indeed, eat the garden seeds; nothing on earth is sacred to a London sparrow or robin. It is impossible, by any system, however well-devised, to outwit them. They are afraid of nothing. Set up an elaborate scarecrow in the garden; for the space, perhaps, of one hour it will puzzle them; but in a day or two they will hop and twitter familiarly about it, even to the extent of pecking bits of thread from it for their impertinent nests. Get a toy cat and place it on the flower-bed; in twenty-four hours they will have discovered that the thing is a hollow sham, and will sit comfortably in the warmth of its artificial fur. But one forgives them; for the birds, after all, are the chief joy of London gardens. Their twitter is sweet on spring mornings; in winter, the robins and sparrows may be tamed by feeding, almost to the extent of coming into the house itself for crumbs; and, in the summer, if you set them a shallow bath every day for their disporting, they will rejoice your heart by their watery antics. Robins and sparrows are alike charming; the robins are the stronger; a single robin, pecking about on the garden step for his breakfast, will scatter a host of sparrows; but it is the sparrows, after all, that form the real bird population of London. Though they appreciate a quiet back garden, they seem also to delight in the noise, traffic, and bustle of the streets. Their cleverness, and their strength too, surpass belief; they even seem to have ?sthetic tastes (did I not see, last month, a sparrow decorate its nest with an overhanging sprig of laburnum, or "golden chain?"); and they are, besides, as irrepressible as the London street arabs, with whom they have much in common; for they are the "gamins" of the bird world. For their parental instinct, on the other hand, there is, in London at least, not much to be said; their way of dealing with their recalcitrant offspring would seem to be a trifle overbearing, for in early spring small, half-fledged corpses are often to be found, dropped unkindly from nests into back-gardens. But, perhaps, as the small boy said of King Solomon, "havin' so many, they can afford to be wasteful of 'em." There are, indeed, many. On the statue of Francis Russell, 5th Duke of Bedford, in Russell Square,-a figure, rising erect, in the curious taste of the time, from a nest of cupids and clouds,-sparrows have built many nests. The chinks in the giant's robe are black, in spring, with their tiny heads; the curly hair of the cupids is fluffed with their downy feathers.

I have elsewhere touched on the great picturesqueness of London views-a picturesqueness always more or less coloured and influenced by romance and by history: the past and the present, the natural and the artificial-all blended into one glory:-

"glory of warrior, glory of orator, glory of song,

... the glory of going on, and still to be."

Especially beautiful are the effects of light that are obtainable on early summer mornings, or on lurid, stormy, autumn evenings-evenings when the sun sinks with such splendour of attendant fires as is rarely seen away from the great city. The vivid effects are largely increased by the smoky atmosphere. What more mysteriously fine, for instance, than the view of St. Paul's, looking up Ludgate Hill, with, in the foreground, the railway bridge, emitting smoke, raised high above the narrow street: and the black, thin spirelet of St. Martin's, as the attendant "aiguille" leading the eye up to the colossal dome of grey St. Paul's?-

"Here, like a bishop, upon dainties fed,

St. Paul lifts up his sacerdotal head;

While his lean curates, slim and lank to view,

Around them point their steeples to the blue."

Or what, on a fine morning of summer, can be more inspiring than the white and silver harmonies of Cheapside, dominated by the pale tower of St. Mary-le-Bow? Or the sublimity of the Houses of Parliament, that embattled mass with its tall tower, backed by stormy, gold-edged threatening clouds, through which the sunlight breaks? "Sky and cloud and smoke and buildings are all mingled as if they belonged to each other, and man's work stretching heavenward is touched with the sublimity of nature." Or Trafalgar Square, as I saw it lately, on a winter twilight; its tall pillars grey-black against a lurid sky, its fountain alchymised to a molten mass of pearl-white, its geysers to sparkling brilliants, a "nocturne" of silver and gold? Or the Turneresque brilliance of light and splendour on the river-that river to which London owes all her prosperity and all her fame-that river of which already, with true feeling and eighteenth-century artificiality, Alexander Pope wrote:-

"her figured streams in waves of silver rolled,

And on her banks Augusta rose in gold."

But of all the views of London, perhaps none is so fine, and certainly none is so comprehensive, as that which may be obtained, under favourable conditions, from Primrose Hill-that "little molehill," as it has been called, "in the great wen's northern flank." It is a splendid and inspiring panorama. Few people know of it; yet it is a sight not to be forgotten. Go thither on a clear spring or summer evening, three-quarters of an hour before sunset, and you will be richly repaid. What a view! Grime and dinginess are as they were not; the smoky atmosphere is transformed, as if by magic, to a golden, transparent haze-mellowing, brightening, idealising. "Who," as a recent writer says, "would have imagined that this grimy, smoky wilderness of houses, with its factories and its slums, ... could ever look like the fair and beautiful city of some ethereal vision, embosomed in trees and full of glorious stately monuments? It is even so. Regent's Park lies below, a frame of restful greenery. To the left rises Camden Town-prosaic neighbourhood!-up a gentle slope. In the evening sunlight it is transfigured into a mass of brightness and colour, rising in clear-cut terraces, like some fair city on an Italian hill-top. St. Pancras Station is a thing of beauty, with a Gothic spire, and lines like those of a Venetian palazzo on the Grand Canal. Hard by rises the dome of the Reading-Room of the British Museum, embowered in trees-a stately witness to the learning of a continent. St. Paul's soars up grandly above its sister spires, in misty purple-dominating feature of the city-as St. Peter's in Rome. Away towards the mouth of the river rises the high line of Blackheath, and the hills of the Thames valley curve round in a noble sweep above the light haze which marks the unseen river, past the crest of Sydenham Hill with the Crystal Palace shining out white and clear, past Big Ben and the Abbey, and the Mother of Parliaments, to where the ridges above Guildford and Dorking fade away into 'the fringes of the southward-facing brow' of Sussex and Hampshire, towards the English Channel. Innumerable slender church spires point upwards to the wide overarching sky. Northward, again, are the wooded heights of Highgate and Hampstead, and the long battlemented line of the fortress at Holloway. What a view! On Primrose Hill on a summer's evening the Londoner feels, indeed, that he is a citizen of no mean city. Wordsworth, truly, thought that 'Earth had not anything to show more fair' than the view from Westminster Bridge in the early morning. But it needs a modern poet-a poet of the whole English-speaking race-to do justice to this view of the great city on the Thames, lying bathed in the magic glow of a summer sunset beneath Primrose Hill."

A Jury.

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