London at the End of the Century:A Book of Gossip

a Beckett, Arthur William

1900

MIND AND LEAVE THE BABY.

 

I have spoken of a but I do not wish such a sound to be confounded with the words of wise warning that have been written by that excellent dramatist, novelist, and man of letters, Mr. G. R. Sims. Just before the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of York a poem by appeared, in which the author suggested to his friend the working man that when he (the son of toil) and went out to see the illuminations on the happy occasion they should leave their baby behind them. I hope the words may be taken to heart when next there is a grand function, for certainly they are deserving of attention. More than a quarter of a century ago, when the Duke of York's illustrious father was married, the streets were crowded with an immense throng of holiday-makers, and there was an ugly rush at Temple Bar. The old archway, the work of Sir Christopher Wren, stood (as all the world knows) on the site now occupied by the Griffin. The Metropolitan Police were on duty in the Strand, and Fleet Street was in charge of the City constables. I fancy that the two bodies, in those distant days, did not act with the harmony that now is the characteristic of the joint performance of their important duties. Be this

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as it may, the fight under the archway was something terrific. There was a stream of people coming East and a stream coming West, and the two currents met under the gloomy stones of Temple Bar. I was in the crowd myself, and it was all I could do to avoid committing infanticide. There were a number of silly women, who had brought children with them to see the sights. I do not think the motive that caused them to give their offspring such an airing was entirely unselfish. It may have been possible that the mothers found it impracticable to leave the babies at home, and consequently had brought the infants with them. Whatever may have been the cause the effect was sad in the extreme. The women, crushed and screaming, were at length showing they were not entirely devoid of maternal feeling. was the cry from many a sorrowful mother, and the appeal was disregarded. In such a crowd it was impossible to move save where the current directed, and it was as much as one could do to keep one's feet. In the narrow part of the Strand, just opposite the offices of Messrs. W. H. Smith and Sons, I frequently lost my foothold, and was at times carried by the throng. It was not a pleasant experience. My great effort was to keep my arms free, well above the surging crowd. Once find your hands helpless beside you and your chance of escaping a fall and a trample becomes a small one. Not that

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the crowd was ill-natured. On the contrary, there was a general desire to be kind and considerate. The rough element was conspicuous by its absence. Here and there were five or six hobbledehoys banded together, arms upon shoulders, in single file. But their attempted were not tolerated, and with a shout of they were made to desist. But with all the goodwill in the world it was impossible to protect a child in the midst of such a crowd. I was quite a quarter of an hour before I could get through Temple Bar, and in front of me was a woman and her baby. I did my best to protect her by pushing with my back against the crush, and I even induced others to follow my example. But after a while the crowd was too many for us, and we were swept along. The woman and her little one disappeared in the enormous gathering, and I do not know what became of them. I can only hope that a merciful Providence watched over them. But for years afterwards the piteous appeal of the poor mother rang in my ears, and as I write the scene returns to me. The thousands of lights, the illuminated Prince of Wales's feathers that had taken the place of the gas lamps, the surging, laughing crowd, the gaunt old gateway with its recollections of traitors' heads and suggestions of the Bridge of Sighs, and the one poor woman battling for the life of her pale-faced, frightened little one! It

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is not a pleasant memory, and I repeat the warning of

 
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 Title Page
 Dedication
 PREFACE
CHAPTER I: LONDON AT THE END OF THE CENTURY
CHAPTER II: STRANGERS IN LONDON
CHAPTER III: RELIGION IN LONDON
CHAPTER IV: A PEEP INTO STAGELAND
CHAPTER V: PARLIAMENT UP TO DATE
CHAPTER VI: A NIGHT IN THE HOUSE
CHAPTER VII: THE PREMIER CLUB OF ENGLAND
CHAPTER VIII: LONDONERS HOLDING HOLIDAY
CHAPTER IX: THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE CLUB
CHAPTER X: IN RATHER MIXED CLUBLAND
CHAPTER XI: IN AUXILIARY CLUBLAND
CHAPTER XII: A PANTOMIME AT DRURY LANE
CHAPTER XIII: LONDON EXHIBITIONS
CHAPTER XIV: COACHING THE UNIVERSITY CREW
CHAPTER XV: THE SEQUEL TO THE DERBY
CHAPTER XVI: THE LONDON GONDOLA
CHAPTER XVII: LONDON ON STRIKE
CHAPTER XVIII: LONDON FIRES
CHAPTER XIX: PALL MALL AND PRIVATE THOMAS ATKINS
CHAPTER XX: CONCERNING THE LONDON VOLUNTEERS
CHAPTER XXI: SERVING WITH THE LONDON MILITIA
CHAPTER XXII: LONDON GUNNERS AT SHOEBURYNESS
CHAPTER XXIII: BECOMING A SOCIETY LION
CHAPTER XXIV: ENTERTAINING THE WORKING MAN
CHAPTER XXV: CHOOSING A FANCY DRESS
CHAPTER XXVI: PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKING
CHAPTER XXVII: ART IN LONDON
CHAPTER XXVIII: SPENDING BANK HOLIDAY IN LONDON
CHAPTER XXIX: A BANK HOLIDAY WITHOUT 'ARRY
CHAPTER XXX: LONDON OUT OF TOWN
CHAPTER XXXI: LONDONERS AND THEIR SUMMER HOLIDAYS
CHAPTER XXXII: LONDONERS AND THE CHANNEL
CHAPTER XXXIII: LONDON UNDER DOCTOR'S ORDERS
CHAPTER XXXIV: TWO CITIES IN FORTY-EIGHT HOURS
CHAPTER XXXV: THE LONDONER'S SEARCH FOR HEALTH
CHAPTER XXXVI: THE PARISIAN PART OF THE LONDON DISTRICT
CHAPTER XXXVII: A NOVELTY IN LONDON RECREATIONS
CHAPTER XXXVIII: LONDON SCHOOLBOYS AT THE END OF THE CENTURY