London, Volume 1
Though under another name, dates its origin a little earlier than Ranelagh. The mention of its existence as a public place of resort is also of the most interesting of its many and illustrious literary associations. This occurs in the
a number of which (), dated from Addison's Summer-house at , , is devoted to an account of his visit to , in company with Sir Roger de Coverley, that most exquisite of Addison's creations. They go by water in a wherry from the , the good Knight, with characteristic thoughtfulness, taking care to employ a waterman with a wooden leg; observing,
Sir Roger having trimmed the boat with his coachman,
they made the best of their way to Faux Hall. On their way, Sir Roger, according to custom, gives good night to every person he passes on the water, of whom, instead of returning the civility, asked what queer old put they had in the boat, and whether he was not ashamed to go a wenching at his years? with a great deal of the like Thames ribaldry. Sir Roger seemed a little shocked at , but at length, assuming a face of magistracy, told his friend
Such is our earliest notice of as a public garden, written most probably not long after its opening. The name, as we have here seen, was originally Faux Hall, which has been corrupted into the present appellation of . It was popularly derived from Guy Faux, the gunpowder-plot conspirator; but the true derivation is supposed to be from Fulk or Faulk de Brent, a famous Norman soldier of fortune, to whom King John gave in marriage Margaret de Ripariis or Redvers. To that lady belonged the manor of , to which the mansion called Fauks Hall, was annexed. At all events, the manor-house was known for centuries before Guy Faux's time under the name it now bears. The manor, with the Isle of Wight and other property, was purchased by Edward I.; and by Edward the Black Prince it was given to the church of Canterbury, to which see it still belongs: Henry VIII., at the suppression of the monastery, having granted it to the dean and chapter. Near the Thames was formerly a large mansion belonging to Sir Thomas Parry, Chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, and held by him of the manor of . Here the ill-fated Arabella Stuart, whose misfortune it was to be too nearly allied to a Crown, remained prisoner for months, under the custody of Sir Thomas. This house, in Norden's
(), is called Copt Hall, and is described as being opposite to a capital mansion called Fauxe Hall. The latter, Lysons imagines, was the ancient manor-house mentioned above, which being afterwards pulled down or otherwise lost, the name was transferred to Copt Hall. In the Parliamentary Survey taken after the execution of Charles I., Sir Thomas Parry's house is described as
It was sold in , but reverted to the Crown at the Restoration. After passing through various hands, in Sir Samuel Morland obtained a lease of House, made it his residence, and considerably improved the premises. This gentleman was a great mechanic, and every part of his house was filled with his works. The side-table in the dining-room was supplied with a large fountain, and the glasses stood under little streams of water His coach had a moveable kitchen with clock-work machinery, with which he could make soup, broil steaks, or roast a joint of meat. When he travelled he was accordingly his own cook. From this period to that of the visit of Addison and Sir Roger nothing appears to be known concerning , nor again from that time to , when the gardens were in the occupation of Jonathan Tyers, Esq., and were opened by him in a style of novel magnificence. Of this gentleman we shall have more to say. On the re-opening there were about persons present. The ladies with their long waists, arching hoops, and decorated fans formed but a small proportion of the number: scarce in , we are informed.
| soldiers were present to keep good order--a precaution that seems to explain very significantly the character of many of the anticipated visitants. The entertainment given on this occasion, which was announced as a |
was several times repeated, which encouraged the proprietor so much that in a short time he opened the gardens every evening during the proper season. Among Tyers's numerous friends was Hogarth, who had a summer residence at , and who, to add to the attractions of the place, advised him to decorate the boxes with paintings. The suggestion was immediately carried into effect, and at a great expense. Some of the paintings were copies by Hayman of Hogarth's own productions, and which still remain in the gardens. Tyers acknowledged the assistance he had received by a present of a gold medal, which admitted the artist and his friends free. As grew more and more in the public estimation, the proprietor erected an organ in the orchestra, and placed a
| statue of Handel, by the great French sculptor, Roubilliac, in the gardens. But it is time that we should give a more particular description of the appearance of the gardens under their new aspect. The favourite method of reaching them was of course still by small boats on the water, and a gay and animated scene the Thames must have presented at such times. The author of |
() thus describes this very pleasant mode of locomotion. He has ladies in company with him: so
The poem then proceeds with a satirical account of the company assembled in the gardens, referring of course more particularly to well-known individuals. A fuller account of the gardens is given in a letter professedly written by a foreigner to his friend at Paris; and which was published in
of the . The writer had previously visited Ranelagh, and in reference to that place says,
Our readers may think this praise somewhat extravagant; but there is in Fielding's
a very interesting passage, which shows us that it did no more than justice to the exceeding loveliness of . The great novelist observes, and evidently in his own personal character,
[n.407.1] Under a man of this stamp, it is not probable that would remain to any serious degree obnoxious to the censures with which Addison and Sir Roger de Coverley branded it. It was, no doubt, made an innocent as well as an elegant place of enjoyment, if we measure it by the only fair standard, the manners and customs of the best society of the time. Goldsmith, writing perhaps about , having praised the singers and the very elegant band of performers, continues,
[n.407.2] The same author's account of in the
contains some interesting passages; this occurs in the description of the visit to the gardens of the shabby beau, the man in black, and or other persons, in company with the Chinese philosopher. The beau's lady, Mrs. Tibbs, has a natural aversion to the water, and the pawnbroker's widow, being
protests against walking, so a coach is agreed on as the mode of conveyance.
says the philosopher,
A dispute between the ladies now engages the philosopher's attention:
The cascade here referred to had been but recently introduced into the gardens, so we need not wonder at the widow's anxiety to see what was as yet a great attraction. A few years later the
were greatly improved, and called the Cataract; the effects then produced were very ingenious and beautiful; and at the signal for their commencement,--the ringing of a bell at o'clock,--there was a general rush from all parts of the gardens. The widow, therefore, shows her prudence in getting a good standing-place in time. From another part of the same account we perceive that the keepers of the boxes were accustomed to make distinctions between the persons who desired boxes, reserving those
where the beau wished to be, for
We may conclude our notice of the literary associations of by recalling to our readers the well-known scenes in Miss Burney's novels which take place in the gardens, more particularly the in
where the heroine endures so many mortifications whilst in the company of the vulgar family of the Braughtons, and that in
where the weak and miserable Harrel, after a night of frenzied gaiety, commits suicide.
Up to the year Tyers was only a tenant, but he then purchased the property. He died in .
his son, author of
was of Johnson's social circle, and not the least esteemed of its members.
We have alluded to the literary associations of ; and these remind us of some others of an amusing character. The following appeared as an advertisement in the
of the :--
&c. The advertisement is altogether written in a spirit and style which seem to mark it as the genuine effusion of a lover whom despair of finding the object of his sudden attachment had impelled into the adoption of an unusual course. Another reminiscence of is connected with the half-insane conduct of a man who, about years ago, excited a great deal of temporary notice. He called himself
and appears to have been filled with the idea of his more than earthly physical perfections. Among various other fantastic tricks, he was in the habit of calling upon eminent professional men, surgeons and artists, and offering them permission to study for their several purposes from his body as a model of perfection. His public appearance at is thus recorded in of the :--
The prices, of admission into the gardens have undergone several changes: prior to the charge was ; new and expensive decorations were then introduced, and the charge raised to , including however tea and coffee. During the present century without any refreshment has been long paid; the next change was to the original price of only. During this last-mentioned period a new and great attraction was added-the Nassau balloon, the largest machine of the kind yet constructed; which, as is well known, derives its name from the extraordinary aerial journey made in it from London to Nassau in Germany, by Mr. Green and his fellow-travellers. At present, during the few nights on which the gardens are open prior to the disposal of the property, the price of admission is .
Yes, Ranelagh is gone; and but a few short days or weeks may elapse before will have shared its fate. The
along which of old swept the courtly and fashionable throng,--revelling in all the
|fantastic varieties of the Mode, as we see them pictured in engravings of the time,--will perhaps soon be changed into long and busy rows of bricks and mortar, where the wandering minstrel with his barrel-organ will usurp|
| the place of the magnificent |
and the stentorian cries of the perambulatory dealers rise in harsh contrast with the songs of the nightingales which were once heard from the lofty, over-arching, and fragrant boughs, in the same place, when Addison roamed along its walks, meditating possibly his next
and beheld, in his
Sir Roger, by his side, buried in a train of the tenderest recollections of the widow!
But the illustrious memories of such places as Ranelagh and , like the deeds of good men, die not with them. We shall still be able to a certain extent to enjoy all they offered for enjoyment in the pages of our great writers; and even this humble memorial may not for the same purpose be found useless. It is that consideration which impels us to conclude our paper with a description of a place so often described, and so generally well known. What would be useless as a present guide may as a future be of value. The mode of entrance into the gardens, which extend over about acres, is admirably calculated to enhance their extraordinary effect on the view. We step at once from the passages into a scene of enchantment, such as in our young days opened upon our eyes as we pored over the magical pages of the
It were indeed worth some sacrifice of time, money, and convenience, to see for once in a lifetime that view. At , wide-extended and interminable blaze of radiance is the idea impressed upon the dazzled beholder. As his eyes grow accustomed to the place, he perceives the form of the principal part of the gardens resolve itself into a kind of long quadrangle, formed by colonnades which enclose an open space with trees, called . On his right extends of the colonnades, some feet long, with an arched Gothic roof, where the groins are marked by lines of lamps, shedding a yellow golden light, and the pendants by single crimson lamps of a larger size at the intersections. The effect of this arrangement is most superb. Near the eye, the lines or groins appear singly, showing their purpose; farther off they grow closer and closer, till at some distance the entire vista beyond appears rich blaze of radiance. In front the visitor looks across of the shorter ends of the quadrangle, illuminated in a different but still more magnificent manner by a chandelier of great size, formed of coloured lamps, and by various smaller chandeliers. Still standing in the same place (at the door of entrance), and looking across the interior of the quadrangle called , midway is seen the lofty orchestra, glittering all over with the many-coloured light diffused from innumerable lamps. This was erected in , and has itself many interesting memories attached to it. Beneath that vast shell which forms the roof or sounding-board of the orchestra many of our greatest vocalists and performers have poured forth their strains to the delight of the crowded auditory in front- Signor and Signora Storace, Mrs. Billington, Miss Tyrer (now Mrs. Liston), Incledon, Braham, and a host of others, at once rise to the memory. is illuminated not only by the reflected light from the colonnades on either side and by the orchestra, but by festoons of lamps, gracefully undulating along the sides of the colonnades from end to the other. Among the other attractions of , we find immediately we step into it some beautiful plaster casts from the antique, the light colour of which forms a fine contrast with
|the blackness of the neighbouring trees and the solemn gloom of the sky above, which assumes a still deeper tinge when seen under such circumstances. Immediately opposite these, at the back of the short colonnade which forms this end of , with elevated arches opening upon the colonnade, is the splendid room originally called the Pavilion, now the Hall of Mirrors, a title more appropriate as marking its distinctive character, the walls being lined with looking-glass. This is the principal supper-room. Turning the corner we enter upon the other of the principal colonnades, which is similarly illuminated. A little way down we find an opening into the Rotunda, a very large and handsome building, with boxes, pit, and gallery in the circular part, and on side a stage for the performance of ballets, &c. The pit forms also, when required, an arena for the display of horsemanship. At the end of this colonnade we have on the right the colonnade forming the other extremity of , hollowed out into a semicircular form, the space being fitted up somewhat in the manner of a Turkish divan. On the left we find the more distant and darker parts of the gardens. Here the spot that attracts our attention is a large space, the back of which presents a kind of mimic amphitheatre of trees and foliage, having in front rock-work and fountains; from of the latter Eve has just issued, as we perceive by the beautiful figure reclining on the grass above. Not far from this place a fine cast of Diana arresting the flying hart stands out in admirable relief from the dark-green leafy background. Here too is a large building, presenting in front the appearance of the proscenium and stage of a theatre. Ballets, performances on the tight-rope, and others of a like character, are here exhibited. The purpose of the building is happily marked by the statues of Canova's dancing-girls, of which is placed on each side of the area at the front. At the corner of a long walk, between trees lighted only by single lamps spread at intervals on the ground at the sides, is seen a characteristic representation of Tell's cottage in the Swiss Alps. This walk is terminated by an illuminated transparency, placed behind a Gothic gateway, representing the delicate but broken shafts of some ruined ecclesiastical structure, with a large stone cross--that characteristic feature of the way-sides of Roman Catholic countries. At right angles with this walk extends a much broader , with the additional illumination of a brilliant star; and at its termination is an opening containing a very imposing spectacle. This is a representation, in a large circular basin of water, of Neptune with his trident, driving his sea-horses abreast, which are snorting forth liquid streams from their nostrils; these in their ascent cross and intermingle in a very pleasing and striking manner. The lustrous white and great size of the figures are, like all the other works of art in the gardens, admirably contrasted with the surrounding features of the place. Passing in our way the large building erected for the convenience of filling the great balloon, and the area where the fireworks are exhibited, we next enter the Italian Walk, so called from its having been originally decorated in the formal, exact style of the walks of that country. This is a noble promenade or avenue of great length and breadth, crossed every few yards by a lofty angular arch of lamps, with festoons of the same brilliant character, hanging from it, and having statues interspersed on each side throughout.|
| On quitting this walk at its farther extremity we find ourselves in the centre of the long colonnade opposite to that we quitted in order to examine the more remote parts of the gardens. The inner side of each of the long colonnades is occupied by innumerable supper-boxes, in some of which yet remain the pictures before referred to. We have scarcely had time for this hasty survey, during which too our attention has been partially drawn away by the noble music which has been playing almost without intermission since we entered the gardens, before the performances commence with a ballet in the Rotunda, relieved from its usual dulness and absurdity by the extraordinary feats of the Ravel Family, some of which set at nought all our ordinary notions of the anatomy of the body, or the laws of its locomotion. Walking, or rather hopping, across the stage, on stilt, and without any other support, at a quiet gentlemanly pace, is but , and not the most extraordinary, of the many curious things here done. Ducrow's troop next exhibit their unrivalled skill and elegance in the management of the horse, though it is no easy task to clear the pit for them, by this time crowded with spectators. The instant the equestrian performances are over a general race ensues for the stage we have mentioned as standing in another part of the gardens, where tight-rope dancing of no ordinary kind is to be exhibited. And certainly so much ease and elegance in the accomplishment of feats that appear wonderful to be accomplished at all make us forget the uselessness of such laboriously acquired skill, or the danger with which its display is not unfrequently attended. Indeed, as we looked upon the feats done by the performers, of them a member of the family previously noticed, we could scarcely help wondering whether after all the tight rope was not man's natural sphere of exertion; certainly we beheld much done the rope that we should find it difficult to imitate . A bell now rings, and summons us to the last and by far the most beautiful and satisfactory to our minds of the entertainments of the evening--the fire-works. has long been distinguished for the excellence of its displays of this elegant art; and in the hands of the present artist its reputation has been still further advanced. In the words of a very recent writer, who has described of these exhibitions so happily that we shall do better justice to what we ourselves beheld by using his language than our own,-- |
[n.411.1] We must add to this vivid description that during the last portion of the exhibition
|a child ascended a tight-rope stretched at a great height over the gardens, his slender form now hid by the smoke, now revealed by the intense light suddenly bursting forth from different parts of the area: when he had reached the extreme altitude he returned; and as he descended from the giddy elevation, the entire space became-wrapped in almost sudden darkness. The distant orchestra now begins again to summon listeners; the promenaders recommence their walks along the glorious colonnades; whilst the glimpse of attendants darting to and fro with refreshments reminds the hungry that it is now supper-time at .|
[n.407.1] Amelia, b. ix. c. ix.
[n.407.2] A Visit to Vauxhall. Prior's Ed. of Goldsmith's Works, vol. i. p. 202.
[n.411.1] Spectator newspaper, July 10, 1841.