London: A Pilgrimage

Jerrold, Blanchard


London Under Green Leaves.

London Under Green Leaves.




Surely the most obstinate and prejudiced traducer of London must admit that the

Cockney is well provided with greenery.

The picturesqueness of the St. James's and Regent's Parks, and of Kensington Gardens, is not to be matched by any capital with which I am familiar, or of which I have heard. In these open places there are sylvan recesses and sylvan views that carry the mind and heart hundreds of miles from the noise and dirt of . The scene which my fellow-Pilgrim drew, lying upon the grass in the , summer afternoon, would suggest a view cut

out of the bosom of the Royal county, but for the peopling of it by nursery- maids, children, idlers, and the inevitable Life- Guardsman. There are corners in Kensington Gardens, and there is timber there, not surpassed by all the wealth in beauty of Windsor. Nay, in some of our London squares--in , for instance, which is barbarously fenced off from the Londoner's tread--there are scenes ready to the landscape painter's hand.

London under green leaves presents, in short, to the foreigner, a constant source of wonder and delight.

Then, again, the suburbs of London are renowned, wherever travelled people abide, for their rich and rare natural beauties. The sylvan glories of the English home counties have attracted all who, having business in London, can afford to escape well away from the sound of Bow Bells (sound that many a Cockney never heard) and enjoy a sleep within sight of the buttercups. Having finished our labors for the day among all classes, and shades of classes, of the metropolis, and had more than our share of fog and smoke, we have often hied to the outskirts. In this way, bit by bit, we have made a journey round the world of London-watching the great city, upon the ruins of which Lord Macaulay's New-Zealander is to gaze, from every height: from Muswell Hill on the north, and Sydenham on the south; from Highgate and Hampstead; and, lastly, from the hill of Richmond.

The general view of London in the time of Charles the , that Macaulay has included in the famous chapter of his history, and which was the result of laborious days in the , and a vast stretch of reading through obscure pamphlets and correspondence, is of the kind we contemplated--only of the London that was living and toiling under our



Whoever examines the maps of London,

Macaulay writes,

which were published towards the close of the reign of Charles the


, will see that only the nucleus of the present capital then existed. The town did not, as now, fade by imperceptible degrees into the country. No long avenues of villas, embowered in lilacs and laburnums, extended from the great centre of wealth and civilization almost to the boundaries of Middlesex, and far into the heart of Kent and Surrey. In the east, no part of the immense line of warehouses and artificial lakes which now stretches from the Tower to


had even been projected. On the west, scarcely


of those stately piles of building which are inhabited by the noble and wealthy was in existence; and


, which is now peopled by more than

forty thousand

human beings, was a quiet country village with about a


inhabitants. On the north, cattle fed, and sportsmen wandered with dogs and guns over the site of the borough of Marylebone, and over far the greater part of the space now covered by the boroughs of Finsbury and of the Tower Hamlets.


was almost a solitude; and poets loved to contrast its silence and repose with the din and turmoil of the monster London. On the south, the capital is now connected with its suburb by several bridges, not inferior in magnificence and solidity to the noblest works of the Caesars. In


a single line of irregular arches, overhung by piles of mean and crazy houses, and garnished, after a fashion worthy of the naked barbarians of Dahomey, with scores of mouldering heads, impeded the navigation of the river.

The face of the historian is familiar to most of us. Many of us have heard his voice in the Senate: the chosen few have been charmed with his ripe, full talk in the study and at the breakfast-table. And yet his contrasts,

between his present and the days of Charles the , suggest a further contrast--almost as startling as his own. The ducks are fed in the from an iron suspension-bridge. The underground railway from Paddington to the City; the Thames ; the ; the new Bridges at and Blackfriars; the broad streets skirted with palatial offices which have been driven through the City, opening up the east and west traffic; the railway through Brunel's Thames Tunnel; and, lastly, the extraordinary network of the metropolitan railway system, that brings the locomotive almost to every man's door, are salient points of a London that would be as strange to the spirit of the historian, could he stir from his cerements to look upon it, as the London of Charles the 's time appears to all of us, under the magic touches of his vivifying pen. When Macaulay wrought the chapter of his history, men had not dreamed that they would ever pass under London from the Great Western to the heart of the City; nor that a merchant from his counting-house would be able to talk with New York and Calcutta. The New York gossip of yesterday is ours upon our breakfast-table. We can almost hear the hum of Wall Street.

If externals are forever changing, however, in this London which has few venerable aspects, because of the energy of the race that dwells within it, the citizens themselves are modified by slow degrees; and it is with these, chiefly, that we have dealt. They are nowhere to be studied to greater advantage than upon the broad green spots which are the glory of London; and for which the Londoner would fight more ferociously than for any other right or privilege whatever.

In the , betimes in spring and summer, are to be

found men, women, and children of all degrees, bowered in abundant greenery. The veriest Tom Allalone is to be seen furtively angling for sticklebacks, and dodging the park-keepers from point to point. The nurses are in groups

airing children as fresh as the roses nodding in the shrubberies; and legislators and ladies are of the mixed party. We pass over the shoulder of the to and the Ride; and here are only the gently born and gently nurtured, driving the heat and faintness of the ball-room out by spirited canters through a grove of such green leaves as only our well-abused English climate can produce.

at the height of the season; on an afternoon when the -in-Hand Club is out in full force, is the best picture we can present to the stranger of the pride and wealth, the blood and bearing, the comeliness, beauty, and mettle of Old England.

In the Park are the grand headquarters of fashion that are not to be matched for stateliness, variety, and natural beauty; and where all the loveliness seen on drawing-room nights at the Opera is to be met betimes gathering fresh roses amid the greenery.