Saturday 31 July 2010

'Under the Bridge'

A nice little topographical sketch:



While the tide of population, at the rate of about ten to fifteen thousand an hour, is pouring in contrary streams over London liridge—while the omnibuses are crashing, the wagons are groaning, and the cabs and lighter vehicles are bounding and rattling along the granite causeway—we shall take the liberty to glance at what is going on in a portion of that transverse thoroughfare which runs under the bridge, at a level of thirty or forty feet below.

     The stone shaft at the side of the bridge-foot stands open, and from the dark orifice dusky figures emerge momentarily into the daylight, and are immediately swallowed up among the passing multitudes. Diving down the broad stone stairs, we are on the point of stumbling over a bundle of something animate crouched on the last step of the first flight. It is a poor vagrant Irishwoman, with three half-naked infants huddled close to her knees : she has been roaming about all the morning, and has resorted to this halflighted retreat to divide among her starving progeny the fruits of her mendicant expedition. She has spread upon her lap the fragments of broken bread, scraps of meat, morsels of dried fish and cold potatoes; and the children are stuffing the viands into their mouths, heedless of the discomforts of the sloppy, miry vestibule in which they take their repast, and of the keen, dank, wintry wind that stirs their tattered garments as it moans and whines drearily np the shaft.
   We are landed at the bottom of the descent in the heart of Thames Street, amid a babel of tongues, a motley mixture of the city population in a state of familiar tumultuousness peculiar to the quarter, and a dead-lock of carts, wagons,, and packages brought to a sudden stand-still by the crashing outwards of a huge wain and team from the wharf on the river's brink. It is no easy matter to elbow a way among the press; but the denizens of the place take the business quite coolly and as a matter of course, and the traffic on the north side of the street pursues its noisy current unmoved by the clash and clamour of wheels, and rampant hoofs, and blatant throats, all in active conflict before the eyes and ears of all comers. There is, moreover, entertainment quite as pungent for the nose; for, be it known, we have plunged at once into a combination of smells not the most aromatic. The prevailing odour is the ancient and venerable one of dried fish, mingled with another which becomes more and more perceptible as we advance, and at length becomes paramount about the latitude of Pudding Lane. The flavours of dried fish emanate from a row of shops, in good part denuded of their fronts, and almost overflowing into one another and on to the foot-path. Said shops are all crammed to repletion with every imaginable specimen of dried, smoked, and salted members of the finny tribe.
    There are dried cod and salmon, dried haddocks and mackarel; herrings red and white, smoked and salted; sprats by the million in the same state; pilchards in pickle, and oysters in ditto ; anchovies, sardines, camplins, and other unfamiliar specimens from the Mediterranean; and a vast selection besides, which we have not the skill to name. All these, piled in heaps, pressed into barrels and packed into baskets, lie about on floor and table, counter, stall-board and shelf, in immeasurable quantities; and as we look on, they vibrate in balances, they are told off in dozens, scores, and hundreds, they are sold and delivered in pots and tin cases, and they walk off in bag:, basket, or brown paper parcel to the extent of some cart-loads an hour.
    But by this time we have passed the terminus of Fish Street Hill, and are arriving at that classical and historical locality known as Pudding Lane, where, two hundred years ago, the great fire of London began that memorable banquet which, commencing with fish in this spot, finished off with pastry at Pie Corner. Before we are up with Pudding Lane, that other odour which we mentioned above begins to assert itself in spite of the dried fish. It is an odour of oranges, lemons, and dried fruits, and it proceeds from the shops of those mixed dealers who mingle salt cod and pickled salmon with Barcelona nuts and the fruits of Madeira and the Azores. Together with these stores, they exhibit also whole regiments of bottles of all sizes, filled, in defiance of Dr. Jongh, with cod-liver oil—oil expressed from the veritable liver of the veritable cod, on that spot and by their own hands.
     Arrived at Pudding Lane, we resign for a brief space the fish and the fish-like smells, and breathe an atmosphere which seems to have been bottled up long ago in a latitude considerably nearer the tropics than that we are accustomed to, and, after having grown remarkably musty in confinement, inst let loose for our delectation. The physiognomy of Pudding Lane is not of a fascinating kind ; a good proportion of the houses are antiquated, and of that order of ancient architecture sometimes significantly described as "ramshackled;" the causeway will accommodate one wagon or cart; the footways on each side one pedestrian. The shops, though invitingly open, have nothing inviting within, at least to the vision; trhcre are piles of bulging orange-boxes, little barrels, and baskets of unpeeled willow in a state of compound fracture; and there are bags and sacks with their mouths open, disclosing rich hoards of-hazel nuts, cobs, brazils, and chestnuts in endless variety. The windows do not make a grand show, but a rather strange and singular one. There are oranges almost as green as unripe codlins, lemons of the same hue, or with a tip of yellow at their heels; these repose in beds of dried orange-peel cnt from the fruit of last season, and of dried lemon peel, to all appearance of a far more ancient date. There are no end of bungs, some few cut from cork, but the majority turned in the lathe from inch-thick oak; and there are numberless specimens of a nondescript article resembling a dozen bungs cemented together, also fashioned in the lathe from oak. Then there is an assemblage of gourds of various kinds, from all latitudes, of all sizes, and whose nomenclature it would puzzle us to set down. Aloft in the uppermost panes are ranks of bottles, containing orange-juice and lemonjuice, sold or offered for sale, as a notice on the side-posts informs us, for domestic use or for exportation. All these things impart no brilliancy to Pudding Lane, which wears a sombre and dingy appearance, but is lively notwithstanding, inasmuch as a violent quarrel is proceeding in one of the recesses behind one of the shops, which quarrel appears to afford considerable excitement to the neighbours, who are Hocking round the door, and which, judging from the shrill sharp tones of the interlocutors, seems to proclaim that the lemon-juice is in excess within the domicile.
    We have no penchant for witnessing the resolution of this "difficulty," and, retreating to Thames Street, turn up the next lane to the left in our eastward progress. This is comparatively a quiet place—peaceable, but decidedly fishy in odour, though we see no fish. But what is here ? A periwinkle warehouse,—periwinkles in huge hogsheads, and in mountains, distilling with the salt ooze and glistening darkly beneath a jet ot gas-light. There is nothing else in the place; the entire establishment is devoted to periwinkles, and there they lie on the wet floor in monster masses, while two stalwart fellows, shovel in hand, are labouring to pile Pelion on Ossa, and all in periwinkles! What a strange business to speculate in—and to speculate on—is that of a periwinkle merchant! How does he manage it ? Does he boil the poor creatures himself? does he take all those millions upon millions of innocent lives and consign them to death in his monster pot, and make them ready for the pin of the picker and the tooth of the eater? or does he sell the savoury hosts all alive oh! and leave the wholesale murders to the retailers ? Then, as to his commercial anxieties—are periwinkles liable to the influence of a panic ? Does a momentary crisis make the poor things dull ? Are they brisk and ready to "shell out" when cash is easy ? and how do they behave when discount is at ten per cent. ? Then, again, what do the underwriters say to periwinkles ? are they a damageable commodity ? are they ever brought into the Admiralty Court mixed up with questions of salvage ? and how do they stand at Lloyd's or on 'Change ? Such are some of the questions that arise at the first glance at the subject, and we could propound fifty more if it were worth while; in fact, we could speculate on periwinkles to the end of a pretty long chapter, but we have no strong desire to speculate in them. That thought is perplexing; think of a man's hopes and prospects, all one enjoys and all one longs for, being bound up with periwinkles! Positively, it would never do.
     That speculation on periwinkles has been too much for us, and we rush for refuge into Dark House Lane, on the opposite side of the way. Dark Honse Lane, spite of its ominous name, is light enough, and all the lighter that it opens at the end upon the broad surface of the river, whence a fresh breeze is blowing up at the moment, and kindly mitigating the smell of fish, which is the native and the perennial odour of the spot. As for the fish themselves, there they lie, poor sufferers, on the stall-boards—cods that were alive yesterday, now stretched motionless and slashed in ghastly gashes—silver whitings purchaseabfe for copper browns—princely turbots, with the whole tribes of subordinate flat-fish, all fatefully laid out and waiting to be entombed in the sepulchral maw of omnivorous London. For Dark House Lane is the supplementary Billingsgate of the metropolis, and does all day long, for the lovers of fish and a bargain, what Billingsgate will do only in the early hours of the morning.
    At the end of the lane we are at the door of the noted fish dining-house, where, for such a thing as eighteenpence, you may take your fill and your choice of a whole catalogue of finny delicacies; and there hangs the catalogue at the door, in the shape of the bill of fare, with the princely turbot at the top. And, by the same token, the genteel flavour of the aldermanic fish, mingled with odours fragrant and appetising, of melted butter and ketchup and Hervey sauce, greets our olfactories as we linger on the threshold; and we hear the clatter of knives and forks, the clink of glasses, the explosion of corks, and the subdued hum of voices in the room above; and we feel that the critical moment has arrived, and that the deed which is irrevocable is being done.
      "May good digestion wait on appetite, and health on both." Here we are in Billingsgate Market—Billingsgate in midday—Billingsgate without so much as a single fin, a fish-fag, or a bnmmaree. All are fled; the stall-boards are bare and deserted; the flag-paved floor is swimming in water, and men in wooden clogs are swilling and sweeping it clean: the ornamental fountain runs a dark-brown mixture, and buckets are leaping in and out to supply the cleansing fluid. Down in the regions below the dealers are overhauling the whelks, muscles, and other shellfish, shovelling and measuring them into baskets and hampers, and packing them for consignment to distant quarters. A solitary mountain of shrimps is all that makes head against Thames Street.
      Off the river front of the market, from fifteen to twenty fishing-smacks lie moored close to the stairs; but they have discharged their cargoes long ago, and dance buoyantly on the waves. The crews are lounging about lazily, hands in pocket and pipe in mouth, watching the craft that sail or paddle past, and exchanging impromptu criticisms and rough compliments with each other. Here and there a fellowship porter is seen gossiping among them. You may know him by his characteristic garb, cleansed though it be from the soil of the morning's labour, and by his independent j air and bearing. You cannot see across the river, for the mist and fog of the season have settled down upon the water, and the vessels, as they loom past, have carefully to watch their way up and down the channel. But there is life on the broad stream; you catch the cough, cough of the engines, the dashing of paddles, the hoarse hail of the seaman, the shrill cry of the engine-boy, and a hundred minor and mingled sounds, which, accompanied by the low talk of the restless billows, tell the tale of man's ceaseless industry on this, the grandest of the highways of the world.
     Opposite to the Thames Street front of Billingsgate stands a handsome edifice, with a tower over a hundred feet in height. This is the Coal Exchange, and, as the doors stand open, we may as well look ki. We ascend the stairs in the body of the tower, and emerge upon a gallery, one of three which look out upon a rotunda sixty feet in diameter. The floor below represents the dial of a mariner's compass, the design being formed by a species of parquetagc, with timber of different hues. In the centre are the city arms, the dagger-blade being formed of a part of a mulberrytree, planted by Peter the Great when he was working as a shipwright in the dockyard at Deptford. Around and near the walls are arranged a row of high desks, furnished with writing materials, at which the agents and speculators stand and transact their business. The gallery from which we look down is ornamented with emblematical figures painted on the panels, and with views of the different processes by which coal is won from the mine and transferred to the consumer. All round the gallery are private chambers and offices, tenanted by the agents of the great coal-owners, and devoted to the transaction of their business. Ascending to the second gallery, and thence again to the third, we find the same style of ornamentation and similar conveniences for business. The roof is a glazed dome, crowned with a lantern, which rises seventy feet high, and sheds a flood of light through the whole interior, almost equal to that of the street without. The Coal Exchange was finished and opened in the year 1849, having cost over £90,000 in its erection. In excavating for the foundation, there were discovered the remains of a Roman bath, in excellent preservation. This relic has been preserved, and is open to the inspection of the visitor. It is in the basement floor, on the east side.
     Beyond Billingsgate, Thames Street shakes off its bustling character, and presents nothing especially remarkable, at least in that peculiar phase of London life which we have been contemplating. Furthermore, at this distance from the dry arches we can hardly be said to be under the bridge. The present sketch may therefore end here.
Leisure Hour, 1858

Jamrach's Shop

Ever wondered how much an elephant cost in Victorian London? The answer is £300. The explanation lies in this article below, outlining the inhabitants of a famous East End shop.



LONG before "Ratcliff Highway" had been refined into "St. George Street, E.," Jamrach was a familiar name there. Indeed, for a much longer period than that, it has been a familiar name with the sailors and naturalists of many nations. The father of Mr. Charles Jamrach, the head of the East-end firm (a naturalised British subject), was the chief of the Hamburg River Police, who, through boarding vessels manned by mariners from far countries, who had brought foreign birds, beasts, &c., over with them, acquired a liking for natural history and a knack of making it pay. Both taste and trade he handed on to his son, who has been settled in St. George's for nearly half a century. His establishment consists of a bird shop and a museum in St. George Street, a menagerie in Bett Street, and a warehouse in Old Gravel Lane. They are dingy enough outside and cramped within - full of  dark comers. The plumage of some of the inmates makes sunshine in very shady places. But a good deal of money is turned over in the course of the year in the dusky little office, on whose shelves the museum begins. To both museum and menagerie drive members of the English Royal Family and nobility to make selections for themselves. Mr. Jamrach receives orders not only from the Maharajah we have settled in Norfolk, but also from many of the independent princes in India. For them to order wild beasts from England seems at first sight like ordering coals from London for Newcastle, but it is African and American specimens the rajahs require for their menageries. Zoological gardens in Europe and America, aristocratic owners of aviaries, and ornithological clubs on the continent are Mr. Jamrach's other chief customers. In England, it seems, the fancy for keeping foreign birds is not nearly so prevalent as on the Continent, but it is extending, especially, as might be expected, among the wealthier classes. The animals, &c., are collected in various ways. Sometimes collectors are sent out to India, Africa, and America; but this mode of collection is far more "risky" in a pecuniary point of view than the purchase of specimens delivered in Europe.
    Runners board vessels at Gravesend and in all the London Docks, which are likely to have brought anything which Mr. Jamrach might wish to purchase; and he has agents at Liverpool, Southampton, Plymouth, Deal, Bordeaux, Marseilles, Hamburg, and other ports, who telegraph for instructions to purchase on the arrival of likely commodities. Masters of merchantmen, again, before sailing, call on Mr. Jamrach for a priced list of animals, &c., required, and bring back as many of the things ordered as they can lay their hands on. In one transaction they very often make more than their whole year's pay. Five thousand pairs of cockatoos, &c., have been brought home in one vessel. A master sometimes receives as much as £1,000 for the produce of one voyage.
    When I was last at "Jamrach's," I was shown some china and three black panthers which had been brought over by a ship· master, who had brought over at the same time the Sumatran rhinoceros (priced at £1,000), at present lent to the London Zoological Gardens, for which, as she is a popular favourite, she will probably be bought. How queer, if her sea-voyage had not dulled her senses, the huge beast must have felt when she found herself in Ratcliff Highway.
    Another of the "Zoo's" rhinoceroses, the hairy-eared "Begum," captured by elephant-hunting British officers in Burmah, was bought from Mr. Jamrach for £1,250. On my last visit to his place, he had only a stuffed elephant in stock; but I may mention here that he "quotes" live elephants at £300 a head. Of the other animals of his ever-varying stock which did not happen to be on hand at that time - his slack season - may also as well jot down the prices:-
Zebras £100 to £150 each.
Camels £20
Giraffes £40
Ostriches £80
Polar Bears £25
Other Bears from £8 to £16
Leopards £20
Lions £100
Tigers £300
The rations in Ratcliff Highway for full-grown lions and tigers are eight pounds of meat each per diem. To show that the above prices are calculated according to popular taste as well as others afterwards to be quoted I may add that having struck a pecuniary keynote for my children, and then read out to them a list of Mr. Jamrach's .animals, they guessed the prices at which he had appraised them in the majority of instances very closely in some cases exactly to a pound. They were out in the case of the giraffe; and, indeed, £40 seems a low price for that fleet creature, of which fifty years ago there was only one live specimen in England, a present from Mohammed Ali to George IV., which soon afterwards died at Windsor. An American, wishing to exhibit it, offered £20,000 for the Ratcliff Highway museum, but the money was refused. The museum includes tropical beetles glorious with shards of green and gold, and tropical butterflies like tropical blossoms, or costliest satin and velvet embroidered with creamy lace, and be-dropt with precious metals and precious stones. The collection of shells contains some not to be found at the British Museum. Dr. Gray, of that institution, has named a rare volute after its discoverer Jamrachi. Amongst his treasures of the deep he has another rare shell from the Pacific - the Cypraa aurora if I remember rightly - which, when found, is reserved for the decoration of the chief. With East-end dust instead of South Sea sand upon them, those many-coloured shells with their whorls, cones, spires, and spines, and linings of iris-shot mother-of-pearl, have a very curious effect. The muddy bustle of the squalid Highway rumbles and rattles past them instead of
    "The league-long roller thundering on the reef."
    A French professor once gave 6,000 francs for a Spondylus regius, and then, to his horror, sat down upon it, as Sir Walter Scott did upon the royal wine-glass, which his, in this case, snobbish loyalty had induced him to put in his pocket. I do not know whether any single shell at Jamrach's would now cost so much, but you might soon get rid of a good bit of money in a very unpleasant way by making shell-purchases there, and then sitting down on them. The museum contains also the stuffed elephant mentioned before, which died in the menagerie; two bisons' heads and an eland's; African antelope horns; skins of the almost extinct owl-parrot, and the apteryx, or kiwi, that queer bird which looks so much like an old gentleman, with a very long and "picket" nose, tucking in a scanty Inverness wrapper between his knees. The museum has, moreover, a Maori's model, in wood and glass, of a Great Exhibition building; a mummy found in a saltpetre mine; Peruvian pottery - water "monkeys" with very small apertures, and porous, so as to have had the property of keeping their contents ice-cold - found in the tombs of the Incas; clay masks, with projecting chins and hideously grinning teeth - - very like little death's heads - found in the tumuli of Mexico, and supposed to be likenesses of a primeval pigmy race; repoussé work; implements of war with which the Crusaders and the Saracens banged and hacked and prodded each other; Japanese swords, with stone-ray handles, and "happy dispatch" supplementary daggers; waddies, nullahs, boomerangs, spears, womeras from Australia; more implements of war, and curious cloths, and podgy little idols - dropsical-looking divinities - from Fiji, New Zealand, the Solomon Islands, &c.; Sevres ware in satin-lined cases at £5 a plate; old bronzes; quaint and dainty ivory carvings - some of pagodas; grotesques carved in tea-root; droll, unperspective screens; porcelain Chinamen laughing from ear to ear; porcelain dragons with dimmed gilding; old China ware of all kinds from Kaga, Satsuma, &c.; vases in porcelain and in metal, some inlaid in curious patterns with ground turquoise, others that once belonged to the Great Mogul adorned with texts from the Koran, running from a foot to six feet in height; the price of these blue grenadiers being some £200 per pair.
    The museum is the depth of a house and the height of two floors, a gallery fringing it midway up; but it is so crowded that progression as discreet as that of a cat walking among broken bottles on the top of a brick wall is necessary on the part of a traverser of its alleys of curios. Mr. Pardiggle would be in agonized dread of bankruptcy if his spouse were to find her way there, even in these days of figure-fitting skirts.
    "What for plunder!" a stranger is apt to meditate, like Blucher although, of course, with non-personal reference as he looks upon the fancy-priced riches of the show. But the proprietor professes himself quite free from apprehension on this head. No burglar ever tried his premises; it is a vulgar error, he says, to suppose that any professional robbers are to be found in the district of East London, frequented by the modem mercantile Ulysses and Calypso. Perchance a salutary dread of being gobbled for supper by a lion or a tiger, or dark-chokered by a boa-constrictor, may have had something to do with Mr. Jamrach's immunity from depredation. On my last visit there was only one snake on the premises a python snugly coiled up for the winter in his blankets. His Longness's price was £3.
    As for birds, one room was full of cockatoos, cackling and fussing about in their white robes like a lady's school alarmed by a cry of fire. A bird-Shop needs no shop-door bell. To those who have seen the white cockatoo flying free in flocks, like rooks at home, making the dusky creekside roosting-tree suddenly burst forth in milky or rosy-snowy blossom, when the circling, screaming flock has at last settled in the westering sunbeams, it seems at first hard to find Pretty Cocky in captivity; but he grows such a familiar, saucy fellow when his wings are clipped so ready to "show his blanket" and to bite his master's imperfectly-slippered heels that the pity cannot last long.
    "Leadbeaters" were priced at £3 each, a "Nosecus" at £2, grey parrots at £1 each, a white-fronted Amazon at £2, a "cut-throat" parrot at £1, a masked parrot from Fiji, a funny-looking, black-faced fellow, at £10; a pair of Australian king parrots, looking very much like pompous flunkeys in their green coats and red waistcoats, at £4; forty-two Yendaya parrakeets at £3 each; bloodwing, Nanday, macaw, ring-neck, half-moon, blood-rump, blue-bonnet, and Pennant's ditto, at prices varying from £1 to £6 each. Two blue and yellow macaws were set down at £5 each, and a red one, like a flame of fire, at the same price.
    For a wonder, there was not a single specimen in the shop of the budgerigar, or betcherrygah, as the zebra, or shell parrakeet is also called, a name which, however spelled, means simply, l believe, the "good" or " beautiful" bird. Most certainly these tiny parrakeets, sometimes confounded with love birds, are little beauties; plumage the colour of spring com, striped and speckled with yellow and bloomy black, a yellow forehead like a golden fillet, and purple beauty-spots upon the cheeks. The dainty little creatures have also a fitly dainty little voice. In Australia they sometimes swarm about the gum-trees, with whose dull bluish-green, verdigrised-metal-like foliage their bright plumage so piquantly contrasts; but they had never been seen alive in England until Mr. Gould brought home a specimen about forty years ago. Now, however, Mr. Jamrach sometimes buys a thousand pairs at a stroke, and exports them at once to Paris, Antwerp, and other places on the Continent (where, as well as in England, they will breed), at 8s. a pair, instead of the high prices they once commanded. In South Australia the little beauty sells for 6d., and is bought, heu, infandum! for shooting matches; 8s. a pair is also the price of the zebra finch, of which there were flocks at Jamrach's on the occasion to which I refer. The air of one room, with a sloping platform of perches, whirred with the Butterings of the pretty little fellows. In another room stood a pile of tiny cages, in which a number of small birds, priced at 4s. a pair, had just arrived from Africa. Amongst other late arrivals were a coop of painted grouse, the first ever imported, and a big-headed, bright-eyed, Australian night jar, almost as innocent of body as a cherub, known as the morepoke or morepork, from the cry it utters as it floats about on silent, unflapping wing.
    For £20 I might have bought two squashes, for £3 a hen bird of paradise, for £12 a pair of fruit doves from Coc:hin China, for £10 a green·billed toucan, for £15 a black and white hornbill (both of these birds having a disagreeable suggestiveness to a visitor at Christmas time), for 5s. a pair of St. Helena waxbills, and for £150 five vulturine guinea fowls from Zanzibar, which, in spite of their high price and haughty look, were very contentedly pecking at some wilted cabbage.
    Black swans, with their red ceres, white pinion feathers, and musically fluting voices, are no longer rara aves in our lands, or rather ornamental waters. Those sprawling in their straw at Jamrach's were priced at £5 each.
    There were also there a fine Australian cassowary, £50; a native companion, so called from the readiness with which, although a very wary bird when wild, it can be tamed, an Australian blue crane with no tail to speak of, a red hood, and a black comforter, £20; eight piping crows and three white-backed ditto, from Tasmania, at £2 each.
    The goose was represented by one homed one, £6; three barheaded, £4 each; and two Sebastopol, £2 each: the duck by a smart Mandarin drake, £4; and Carolina ducks at £3 a pair. The price of the pair of crowned pigeons from New Guinea, more heavily plumed than hearses, was £40; of the Nicobar pigeons, £5; and of the harlequin doves, £1 per pair.
    The Rev. Harry Jones, rector of the parish in which Jamrach's is situated, has said in one of his books that he believes he is the only clergyman in England who, if he wanted a lion before breakfast, and had money to buy it, would only have to send round the corner to get one. But this does not always hold good. There were no lions, or tigers either, in the menagerie on the occasion of my visit. It had, however, four black panthers, £150 each, which growled and sprang at the bars of their cramped cages as if they would like to make a meal of one. Since Jamrach's was established there has been only one alarming escape from confinement I there that of a tiger that got loose some years back. A striped hyrena, £10, also regarded all passers-by with a very unamiable I expression of countenance. But, on the other hand, a pair of pumas, £50, and a pair of cheetahs, or hunting leopards, £80, allowed their keeper, a little man very like Phil who waits on Trooper George in " Bleak House," to fondle them, and in return rubbed their heads against him, just like domestic cats. The caracal, £12, Indian or African, notwithstanding its reputed wildness, put up its back as it walked to and fro, looking very like a long-shanked domestic cat, as if it would like to be tickled when the little man went by. He was on excellent terms, also, with a Persian greyhound, £25, and a handsome eland, £60; and two male South American tapirs, £40 each, let him twist their long, lithe snouts about as if they had been bits of indian-rubber. The spotted ocelot, £10 seemed fierce, nor did the civet cat, £2,appear to covet caresses. Long-haired Persian cats like locomotive rugs, were priced at £3 each. An Asiatic deer was priced at £15. I forget the variety, but it was not, I think, the elegant wide-antlered one, whose coat, like the earth, changes from dull neutral tint in winter into summer's glorious gold. A Boubaline antelope was priced at £40; a ram moufflon the wild sheep not only of Asia Minor and Cyprus, but of Corsica and Sardinia, a favourite quarry of Victor Emmanuel's, at £6.
    The menagerie is largely supplied from Australia. It has often held wombats, a somewhat badger-like burrower, except that it has none of the badger's fierceness; but Mr. Jamrach tells me that, although he has given order after order to ship-masters, he has never succeeded in procuring a live specimen of the koala, or native bear (Phascolarctus cinereus). Either from cold, or failure of its favourite food, fresh eucalpytus leaves, the poor constrained emigrant has generally died when about three days out at sea. This curious creature wears a grey paletot, with a white cravat, and a white patch on the other extremity of its person, which looks like a shirt-tail hanging out, and on this it carries its young, tiny chips of the old block. It has a hairless face, beaded with black eyes, and no tail.
    Her bats are other of Australia's curious animals - flying mice, flying squirrels, and frugivorous flying foxes. One of these last frightened a man of Captain Cook's a Cook's tourist of the period into the belief that he had seen the devil; and, indeed, they have not a much better reputation now with Australian owners of gardens and orchards, when they come floating down at dusk, like fallen cherubim, to feast upon the peaches hanging from the standard trees like apples in England. Of these queer things - the flying foxes, I mean - Jamrach's, at the time of my visit, had fifteen young ones, hanging up by the heels like hams, and priced at a pound apiece. It also contained a "boomer," or rather boomah, kangaroo, £25, a marsupial famous for its size and the savoury soup made out of its tail; a doe black wallaby, £12; a kangaroo rat, £2 - a kangaroo in miniature, which prefers running on all fours to hopping; and an Australian phalanger - less learnedly, a possum £ 2, a good deal sleepier than it would have been if at home on that hour of the twenty-four. In that case, instead of snoozing in frost-foggy London daylight, Possy would have been scampering, growling, up and down a gum-tree by silvery Australian moonlight, swinging from a bough, or seated on it embossed upon a gold-dotted onyx sky; or, if a domesticated pet, opening cupboard doors in midnight burglary, and abstracting the contents of the sugar-basin.
    Two Spanish donkeys, 12½ hands high, were priced at £40 each; a Japanese ape at £15; and a black-and-white shaggy Iceland bull and cow, 32 inches high, at £15 each.
    I have nothing further to state, except to assure my readers of naturalist tastes that, for whatever they want, from a hippopotamus to a humming-bird, Jamrach's is the very place to go to; and to thank Mr. Jamrach and his son for their courtesy in allowing me to inspect their curious place of business, and giving me information concerning it.

Good Words, 1879

Friday 30 July 2010

Field Lane Ragged School


RAGGED SCHOOLS have been so long before the public, that they have lost the prestige of novelty. Whether John Pounds, the humble cobbler of Portsmouth, was the originator of the system in England, or whether, under a sense of individual responsibility, it sprung up in various districts at the same time, cannot easily be determined. Suffice it to say that, as the very best meaus of meeting the claims of the destitute and depraved classes, they have so multiplied that, not to refer to the provinces, there are now about 160 Ragged Schools in the Modern Babylon, wherein, by day and by night, 20,000 scholars are taught how to make the best of both worlds. Yet, though much has been done, more remains to be effected, before the social and spiritual needs of the parishes of London will be fully reached. For drunkenness and profligacy abound. " Gaffs " (unlicensed penny theatres) are permitted to give nightly lessons to youth how to perpetrate crime successfully; licentious periodicals, whose sale may be counted by hundreds of thousands, corrupt our youthful population; whilst in the low districts of London, too, the hovel of poverty and the felon's den are associated, and the offspring of honest penury and of the coiner, playing together in the same gutter, receive the same street education. Hence, could the "stones cry out of the wall, and the beam of the timber answer it," almost every rookery would bear witness to the fearful iniquity of its occupants.
    These facts were recently brought tangibly to our notice as we passed down Victoria Street, Holborn Hill—the new street which has cut right through the very heart of the dens of Field Lane. A crowd of persons, of all ages and of both sexes, were standing round a quaint-looking building, with two tiers of windows and an elongated lantern light. Their general aspect was outré in the extreme. The majority were shoeless, and their raiment so threadbare and ventilated by holes, that even that notorious mart of faded apparel, Rag Fair, would have scorned to purchase their whole stock of clothing. The faces, too, of many were dingy from dirt and long exposure to the weather; whilst the hair, unkempt and shaggy, was obviously allowed to grow at "its own sweet will." He must have been but a crude disciple of Lavater or Spurzheim, who could not have read in most faces the lines of care, or the impress of long-indulged vice. If ever picture of concentrated misery was visible in the streets of tins mighty city, it was presented in this strange group. Pen could never fully describe it; and from its mingled grutesqueness and settled gloom, none but a Cruikshank or a Rembrandt could have depicted it.
    After wondering what had attracted these miserable creatures, and that too whilst the rain poured in torrents, we glanced at the building near to which they were lounging, in attitudes more easy than graceful, when the secret was revealed. For, over the first tier of windows, we read this inscription: "Field Lane Ragged School." Thus, then, it appeared that we were gazing at oue of those admirable institutions which are at once the glory and the shame of Great Britain—of her shame, that a pariah class has been allowed to grow up unchecked amid a city of palaces; of her glory, that, what the State refused to do, men with love in their hearts and the Bible in their hands have essayed to do, and accomplished.
On entering the school-room, we were struck by its cheerful aspect. It is 55 feet long by 35 wide, and, by means of the women's gallery, at the north end, can accommodate nearly 500 persons. Adequate provision was made to send a current of fresh air through the room, whenever required ; and, well cleansed and lighted, it formed a perfect contrast to those miserable dens from which so many of the attendants had strayed. After a hymn had been well sung, in which all joined, a chapter from the oldest and best of books was read, which was followed by a brief but fervent prayer. During the devotional exercises, the congregation was subdued into a stillness like that of the desert. Classes were then formed, which were divided from each other by moveable partitions, about three feet high. Composed, as these classes were, of some of the most unruly and debased of London—several, indeed, were pointed out who had been in prison nine or ten times—all were attentive, and not a few drank in the gospel lesson, as if the very soul were famishing.
    Quiet as was the school, we found that in 1841, when it was first opened, and before the full effects of discipline were felt, it might have been cited as au example of "confusion worse confounded." Old and young used to troop in with whoops and yells like Red Indians—the very idea of their being invited to attend school being regarded as a first-rate joke. On one occasion, they came in all-fours, baa-ing like lambs. Teachers, too, were often thrown down—accidentally, of course ; and not unfreqnently they were relieved of their purses by these modern conjurors. As many parents also had trained their offspring as thieves, that they might spend in gin what had been earned by crime, they regarded the moral and religious culture of their children as the loss of a part of their regular income. Hence, they attempted to eject these intruders by breaking the windows, or by throwing oyster-shells and stale vegetables at the teachers. But as the work did not spring from that sickly sentimentality which, contented with crying over wrong, never attempts to remedy it, the teachers did not slacken in their labours, until love had conquered where the strong arm of the law had failed.
    In reply to our inquiries, we found that the operations of this institution were so diverse, and yet so based on the great truth that the soul requires feeding as much as the body, that it may be regarded more as a "Preaching Station for Outcasts" than as a mere school. Day and night schools are conducted here, which are attended by 500 scholars. Due provision would also seem to be made to practically enforce this proverb of Solomon : " In all labour there is profit." For in the tailor's and shoemaker's classes we found about eighty young men mending their old clothes, and furbishing up their well-worn boots. In the young women's class, about ninety were busily plying the needle, whilst they lightened the labour with holy song. And at the mother's class, fifty women, some decrepit with extreme age, and others in the first bloom of womanhood, nursing their babes, were cutting out or repairing garments, and listening to such advice as, if followed, would keep many a poor industrious man out of the gin palace. In addition to 400 scholars, taught by sixty voluntary teachers, divine worship is conducted every Lord's day. At a visit to this "Ragged Church," we found about 200 persons assembled, mostly adults. They were chiefly costermongers, cadgers, thieves, (whose cropped hair told that they had only recently left jail), and females, many of whom had gone astray before they properly knew the distinction betwixt vice and virtue. There was no difference, save in brevity, between this and an ordinary service; and yet no congregation could have displayed more external attention and reverence. One, indeed, of this strange flock came up to the preacher at the close of the service, and said, "Thank you, sir, for your sermon, I enjoyed it very much."
     Nor does the work end here. Mere preaching would be of little benefit to those whose haggard looks aud sunken eyes toll that they are enduring the horrors of semi-starvation. On the contrary, a dormitory is provided on the ground-floor for houseless males. In this humble refuge, about sixty men and lads sleep every night throughout the year; and the inmates received last year 53,765 six-ounce loaves. We thought, as we inspected this item, how Christ-like was the gift. Knowing that men have bodies as well as souls, whilst He preached he fed; for, said he, in his inimitable tenderness, " If I send them away fasting, they will faint by the way."
At the close of school-hours, sixty-five persons trooped down to the dormitory below. It was formerly used as a smithy, but is now fitted up with baths aud lavatories, and is calculated to accommodate above 100 persons. It was first opened in May, 1851, principally at the cost of an "elect lady." When opened, many lads were admitted who had not slept in a bed for several months—one, indeed, had found his nightly shelter, during the inclement winter, in the large garden roller of Regent's Park. Regulations for the preservation of order were suspended in the large school-room; and, as no one is admitted without prior inquiry, all possible means are employed to restrict it to homeless but deserving wanderers. The berth provided would not offer many temptations to a sybarite, seeing that it is simply a wooden compartment—of a length suitable to boys or men—which, for the sake of the daily cleansing, slopes down to the stone footways. After washing, they received a small loaf of bread, which many devoured ravenously, as it was the first meal they had tasted that day. In family worship, conducted with the brevity which befits the class, they were commended to the care of Him who is the guardian of the poor as well as of the rich, and slept more soundly than if they reclined on beds of down. Since this dormitory was opened, above 10,000 men and boys have availed themselves of the shelter provided; of whom 1326 are known to have obtained permanent employment. During the past year alone, no less than 3959 persons were admitted into the dormitory, of whom 342 either obtained work, or were restored to relatives who had mourned over them as lost or dead prodigals.
    The success of this movement induced the managers of the school, in March last, to open a female dormitory. A rigid inquiry into the history of the females who attended the ragged church, proved the correctness of the saying of the poet, that "truth is stranger than fiction." The causes of their destitution were varied. For example, eight had become poor through the death of, and three more through desertion by, their husbands. Two girls had been forsaken by their mothers; and three had been turned out of doors by parents, who showed less affection for their offspring than the beasts that perish. Nineteen more had lost their employment, and sought for work in vain; thirteen were widows; nine were married, and were accompanied by their children ; the remainder were single women.
Many of these poor victims of neglect had slept in the casual wards of the London workhouses. In some of these they were treated with less kindness than horses or dogs. No light illumines the "darkness that may be felt." As the very air breathes of pestilence, the unhappy inmates awake from a restless sleep, either physically exhausted or fever-stricken. Straw, rotten from age, and reeking with filth, too often forms their only bed; damp exhalations float all around, and clothe the very walls with strange fungi. Hence the seeds of asthma and consumption are thickly sown in these miserable abodes. The moral evils of the casual wards are fitly symbolised by these physical horrors. No attempt at classification being made, unmitigated disorder reigns. Modest girls and dissolute women ; pallid and thinly-clad women weakened by disease or penury, and girls discarded by their families for their profligate habits; servants out of work, and girls who never mean to work—all herd together, more like swine than human beings. What is still worse—as exhibiting the saddest of spectacles, women in utter debasement—too many pass the night in foul jesting and filthier song.
     These painful facts were confirmed by a visitation of some casual wards of London by a late lord mayor. Of the appropriate remedy who could doubt? Seeing the success of the male dormitory, the propriety of forming a female one, to supplement the other, was at once perceived. A stable having been obtained, it was fitted up for the accommodation of fifty females, at the cost of about £200, the larger part of which was contributed by the same Christian lady who had defrayed the expense of the male dormitory.
After threading a maze of alleys and of ruinous houses, which, before their westward emigration, had formed the homes of England's nobility, we found this Refuge in Hatton Court, Hatton Garden. It was well lighted and ventilated; and the recent lime-washing diffused a healthy savour throughout the premises. From the extreme, and if possible prudish, cleanliness of the dormitory, it was clearly not a spot wherein a spider could safely spin his web. The inmates, many of whom had the impress of age in extreme youth, were clean and neat. Very pleasant was it to listen to their song of praise before retiring to rest. As we left this Refuge, amid a squall of rain and wind, we felt grateful to think that these poor daughters of woe, who otherwise must have roamed the streets the live-long night, were sheltered from the storm.
A question recurred to us after our visit: "Has any benefit accrued from these self-denying labours ? or does its history present but another example of money and toil wasted on a barren soil ?" It would seem that in this, as in all cases, " the hand of the diligent maketh rich." If wc inspect the statistics of the past year alone, we find that 105 children attending the day school obtained employment ; 32 of the little needlewomen at the industrial school entered into service ; and 342 inmates of the male Refuge were provided for. What is most pleasing, as showing that the friendless and hall-starved children are permanently reclaimed, we were informed that, of the 402 scholars who last March received the prizes of that admirable institution," the Ragged -School Union," for retaining their situations for twelve months and upwards, no less than seventy-six belonged to this school. One sketch of a former scholar may be fitly given, especially as it may be regarded as a representative biography of many other inmates.
     —, aged 26. His father died when he was six years old. He was apprenticed to a respectable firm in Hull, but his mother indulged him with an excess of pocket-money, which induced extravagant habits and negligence of his employers' interests, till his indentures were cancelled. He then became landing-waiter at the customs of Hull, but was discharged for being drunk on duty. He once more obtained a situation and remained in it two years, when drink brought him to want. He then went into the country, hawking small wares, where he forged an order for sixpence, which is allowed to every Odd Fellow while travelling; for which offence he was imprisoned twelve months. After leaving prison he came to London, and found his way to Field Lane Refuge, from whence, his conduct proving satisfactory, he was recommended to a permanent Refuge, where he became a communicant, and is now a clerk to a land surveyor in America. Before sailing he sent the following letter to the Refuge master:—" Ere leaving the shores of Old England for a strange and distant country, I think a few lines from me will be as pleasant for you to receive as it is for me to send them. Many times I have said to myself this morning, 'What should I be now, but for yon, and the kind teachers of Field Lane School ? I should still be walking the streets or in some prison ; and I do feel happy and thankful that Providence ever brought me there, otherwise I am afraid I should never have known the value of a living: God. Now I can look up to him with confidence.' May God bless you all, and the school, for it has proved a blessing to my soul and body."
    Whilst cogitating over the strange sights wc had seen, and the romantic recital of individual histories to which we had listened, we found ourselves exclaiming aloud : "With evidence like this, that none are beyond the reach of practical Christianity, why should such institutions be in debt ? and are the wealthy doing their part towards elevating, morally and socially, their poorer brethren? * [Few objects are more worthy of the generous support of the benevolent than such schools and refuges; and aid to which, in seasons of distress like the present, is sure to be especially acceptable. Those who have not the opportunity of visiting Field Lane Ragged Schools may have (post free) a lengthened and very interesting report of their various details, by forwarding six postage stamps to Mr. Mountstephen, 72 West Smithfield, London.]  It is not difficult to admire the parable of the Good Samaritan; but of the multitude who praise, how many ever entered the rookeries and byeways of London to search for and reclaim those who, from their very birth, have "fallen among thieves?" Many a morally wounded youth lies at our very door, and unless we prefer the gloom of a prison, nothing but the unbought love of the Ragged School teacher can meet his case. Even, if regarded only in a social point of view, this and all kindred institutious deserve the warm support of the public. It is affirmed on good authority that, before his career is stopped, every criminal costs the nation at least £300. Now it would seem that 342 adults, of the very same class, and destined to disseminate the same moral malaria, were reclaimed by this one school, at an expense of little more than £1 per head. Viewed, then, economically—and when did John Bull, in testing a theory, ever forget his banker's account ?—the curative process is better than the old plan of social excision. The history of the Field Lane School, as do the records of every other ragged school, fully shows that, what legal force can never effect is not beyond the power of love. For criminals have been reformed who regarded a jail merely as another home; outcasts have not only received shelter, but been taught the great duty of work; the profligate or spendthrift has been shown that true pleasure cannot be divorced from duty; and not a few of our home heathen have been pointed to the eternal Refuge far away. Thus is it shown, by illustrations not to be misinterpreted, that the Christianity which saves, also civilizes; and that before men can properly perforin their duty to society, they must learn their duty to their Maker.

The Leisure Hour, 1858

The East India Museum


This Museum, to which late events have given a more than ordinary interest, occupies a series of apartments, or floors, one above another, in the India House, Leadenhall Street. It is open to the public free on one day of the week, and may be visited on other days by the possessors of tickets, obtainable from members of the Court, or other authorities, but is closed during the month of September. It contains a mass of curious and interesting material, illustrative of the manners, customs, arts, and industry of the people of India, and also in some degree of their religious superstitions and past history. Owing to the absence of systematic classification, and the want of a catalogue—to which we may add, the evident want of room for the proper display of the treasures accumulated—it is not easy at one view to acquire anything like a correct notion of the whole, much less to note every object worthy of observation. The collection is, in fact, well deserving of the closest study and scrutiny, and it is much to be regretted that every facility, with regard to space, to the distribution of annotated catalogues, and the affixing of descriptive labels to the several articles, is not afforded to the public. There is enough here, with the aid of such explanatory notes as the various articles would suggest, to teach the people of England, in a few hours, more of the inner life and social customs of the Hindoos than they are likely to get from years of desultory reading, or, indeed, than is to be got at all from any existing published works. It is sometimes a subject of complaint that the popular mind of England has never been brought into contact with the popular mind of Hindostan. The complaint is just: as a mass, we know next to nothing of the hundred millions of Hindoos who are our fellow-subjects; we gaze with surprise and wonder at their industrial miracles—at their inimitable textile fabrics—at the proofs they send us of their unaccountable perseverance in minute and laborious undertakings, and of their unrivalled skill in such masterpieces of patience and manual dexterity; but of the Indian people—the power that produces these astonishing results—we know nothing, or next to nothing. Now, the East India Museum would afford a key to a good part, at least, of this mystery, and, if rightly used, would render valuable service in enlightening us with regard to a subject which is becoming day by day of more importance to Englishmen.
    The visitor will do well to commence his examination upon the basement floor. This is chiefly appropriated to the reception and arrangement of models embracing a large variety of subjects, all of them possessing tho recommendation of novelty to the untravelled spectator, and all more or less curious and interesting. Our space will allow us to notice but a few. The model of Juggernaut's ugly car strikes us with the aspect of an old acquaintance, and, remembering it for thirty years at least in the illustrated pages of the missionary reports, we are not surprised to find it a rather worn-out and dusty affair. A much more sightly thing is a model of a royal chariot-shaped palanquin, of carved wood, leather, and ivory, in which a grandee, who could dispense with the ceremony of stretching his legs, might ride aloft in regal state. Bnt the most notable model is perhaps that of the tomb of Runjeet Singh, at Lahore. This is elaborately carved in a species of dark wood, and represents a magnificent temple, having four facades, each apparently the counterpart of the others, and a grand dome rising in the centre, the dome being crowned by a lofty spire. The design is grand and imposing, but to the eye of an European it has nothing sepulchral about it, and would suggest rather the idea of life, with splendour and luxury within its walls, than of silence, solitude, and death.
 A model of the Bridge and Falls at Goluckpore shows one of the peculiarities of river navigation in India, and the mode in which the difficulties arising from the sudden innndations to which the country is liable are met. The models of Indian dwelling-houses of the upper class afford us some insight into the comforts and luxuries of the rich, and, surrounded as several of them are, with groups of the natives employed at their several avocations, enable us to form some notion of the domestic establishment and operations of an Indian household. A most beautiful model, executed in soft white wood, represents a fort on an eminence, surrounded by square, barrack-like buildings at its base; diminutive figures of soldiers are standing singly or in ranks about the ground, and the whole is carved with consummate skill and delicacy of finish.
The models of figures may he numbered by the thousand. Perhaps the most useful and interesting are those which represent the workers at their several crafts and occupations : these, for the most part, are of diminutive size; but they are clad, or half-clad, or unclad, as the case may be, in their national and professional costume, and we see them at work, weaving, digging, carrying water, tilling the soil, grinding the corn, cooking their food, or juggling, conjuring, snake-charming, and exercising themselves in feats of agility or muscular exploits—at all their occupations, in short, as they would be found actually engaged on their native soil. One scene represents a grand procession at the marriage of a native rajah, the models being arrayed in glittering robes and arms, and literally sparkling with gold and gems; some on foot, some on horseback, others on camels or elephants, and others, again, borne in chariots. Another scene is a court of justice, at which a trial is going forward, and all the officials in their robes of office are present, with plaintiff and defendant, and an audience to represent the public. Again, there are models of religions fanatics and ascetics, showing the various modes of torture and self-devotion to which these misguided zealots of heathenism submit themselves at the instigation of their doleful creed.
    The models of tools of all kinds, and of agricultural implements, are interesting as exhibitions of a rude state of knowledge in reference to the arts of cultivation. Then there are models of every species of carriage, whether on poles, as in the palanquin, or on wheels. And finally, among the models, must not be omitted those of their sea and river-craft, whether for purposes of commerce or of which the Indian shipwrights launch upon their waters. Some of them are exceedingly light and handsome, resembling in a degree European yachts, and carrying large, angular, lateen sails, under which they must fly at considerable speed. Others, again, are as heavy and enmbersome as the Chinese junks ; such are some of the cotton-boats; and some, as the cargo-boats, for instance, seem to be mere shapeless masses of floating lumber, compared to which the heaviest Dutch bottom would be a flying Mercury. The stateboots, adapted for regal or religious pageants, seem to vie almost with those of the Venetian doges in point of costliness and splendour.
On the same floor with the models are displayed a collection of Indian musical instruments. All of them are of the portable kind, and they embrace wind-instruments, such as horns, trumpets, clarions, bamboo flutes; stringed instruments of the banjo sort, some apparently of the nature of the viol, and others which look like a hybrid between the harp and the guitar. What is remarkable about them all is the utter ignorance of the principles of acoustics on the part of their makers, and the lavish amount of labour bestowed on their structure and ornamentation. This remark does not, however, apply to the cymbals, gongs, drums, and bells, and other contrivances for the perpetration of uproarious noises.
Leaving the basement floor, the visitor may ascend the staircase, on the walls of which he will have an opportunity of examining a rather comprehensive assortment of Indian woven fabrics of the useful sort. These are principally mattings, rugs, carpets richly wrought in a kind of shawl pattern; mats of willow, straw, or split bamboo; floor-cloths embroidered in silk floss on a silk ground; hangings of the same kind with figures of animals and of human beings mingled with flowers, scrolls, and pattern work. Higher up he will come upon huge buffalo heads and horns, and the heads and antlers of the wild stag. In the cases on the landing, he will see specimens of the hemp plant, and of various kinds of substitutes for hemp prepared from the fibre of other plants. Together with all these are shown some fine samples of the ropes, cables, and cordage, for the manufacture of which they seem to be perfectly well adapted.
    The first floor of the Museum is entered through a kind of lobby, in which the visitor stands before a finished model of a nautch, which is a representation of a kind of regal levee, at which a prince, sitting in front of a tent of crimson velvet, fringed with a massive bordering of silver-work, receives the homage of his ministers and chiefs, or perhaps his guestb. The whole affair is of the most gorgeous description, blazing in gold, silver, and brilliant colours.
    Near this striking group hang numerous samples of Indian leather; it is mostly of a sound, substantial kind, but in point of dressing is not equal to the work of the western tanner. On the opposite wall are specimens of paper of various sorts, made of exceedingly coarse and inexpensive materials, such as the jute which is so largely used for door-mats, and other common vegetable fibres. In the same lobby are an assortment of baskets, most of them finely woven with straw, willow, split bamboo, etc., and excelling in point of workmanship anything that our artisans can produce.
Passing through the lobby to the right, we are in presence of an exhibition of the choicest works of Indian skill of all kinds. Some paintings on the wall first challenge the eye. They are finished much in the style of our own miniature paintings, and would not suffer much by comparison with the best of them, in point either of colour or effect, or dexterity of handling. Perspective, however, is recognised but in part, and its recognition by the artist leads as often to blundering as it does to truth of outline.
In the kindred walk of sculpture, the Hindoo artist shows to much greater advantage. The carvings in ivory are most numerous, and all, without exception, are of high merit, evidencing remarkable correctness of eye, and skill in the use of the carving tool. Men, horses, camels, elephants—all are sculptured with astonishingfidelity as to form, and the most minute details are given with a scrupulous particularity, unrivalled, so far as we know, in tha works of Europeans, on the same diminutive scale. Equal praise is due to the carvings in stone: the material generally chosen are the varieties of native marble; sometimes it is agate or crystals; but in all the sculptures are of a High class, giving the character of the animals with much truth and vigour; and the whole of them bear the highest polish the material is capable of receiving.
A prominent object is a grand collection of Indian arms, inclosed in a glass-case. These are, nearly one and all, of the most magnificent and costly description, being inlaid or overlaid with ornaments of pure gold, and glittering here and therewith precious gems. The kreeses, or poniards, are fitted in handles of jasper, agate, native crystal, or rare stones; the shields, helmets, gauntlets, etc., are rough with chased work in the precious metals, or sparkling with jewels, and the swords, spears, and battle-axes are no less lavishly adorned. As for tlie matchlocks, their long steel barrels are one mosaic of gold-work, and the stocks and fittings are equally rich and gorgeous.
    More elaborated than the arms, and perhaps as costly, are the specimens of cabinet-work in sandalwood. These are inlaid with particles of white metal, ivory, and rare stones, far more minute than the finest mosaic of the Italian school, and many of them must have occupied years of close and patient industry in their construction. Not less remarkable than these are the examples of minate carved work in the same wood, where, in the space of a single square inch, the labour of whole days is concentred; and microscopic blossoms, leaves, and filaments lie clustered together in a mass—all carved with persevering labour in the soft, close-grained wood.
    Among the commoner products may be mentioned a curious collection of lacquered ware, and another of brass wares; these consist of lamps, vases, teapots, candlesticks, mortars, dishes, hookah-bottoms, water-vessels, and various domestic implements; also a collection of pottery, including specimens rude and rough, such as calabashes, tiles for paving, plates, cups, etc., and other specimens of elegant design and well finished, somewhat resembling the old Etruscan ware.
In the centre of this department, inclosed in a number of glass-cases, is a fine collection of gems,
jewels, and personal ornaments, together with articles in silver and gold of the choicest kind. Bracelets, armlets, necklaces, rings, amulets, and charms, lie here in heaps, the gems glittering and flashing like eyes in every beam of light. In the same glass-case are some rare specimens of silver and gold work, such as card-baskets, guardchains, metal bracelets, etc. The work bestowed on some of these, if it were paid for at the value of labour in London, would probably outweigh the cost of the material nearly a thousand times. And here we may as well make a remark, the force of which has struck us throughout thewhole of this examination : the distinguishing character of Indian industry is elaboration; the Hindoo artist seems never content with his work so long as it is possible to do anything more; utility he seems never to consider, and only deems his work perfect when he has exhausted all his powers upon it. Thus he makes, too often, articles which must remain untouched by the rude hands of use, to be preserved at all. This useless elaboration is not only perceptible, but prominent in all departments of Hindoo labour, and it tells a tale too plain to be mistaken—namely, that the labour of the native Hindoo has never found cither its proper channel or its merited reward.
Re-crossing the lobby and entering the chamber to the left, we find ourselves in a department in which, to confess the truth, we are not very much at home. This chamber contains a dazzling exhibition of female garniture and dresses, of gold-embroidered cloaks and head-dresses, of muslins bearing patterns printed in gold instead of colours, of chintzes, of shawls of Cashmere, of silk handkerchiefs and gown-pieces, of net-work as fine as gossamer, of delicate embroideries, of kincobs or massive textures ponderous with golden lace-work, of embroidery on velvets, of lace muslins, the lace wrought with threads of gold and minute devices of flat gold laminse—and more of the sort, at which the ladies present are in convulsive raptures, but which poor we want the wit to appreciate or describe. We can appreciate, however, the furniture of the room, which is of the most luxurious and costly kind, all full of that elaboration already hinted at; and we can appreciate the Nawab Schurff of Lucknow, in his niche at the end of the gallery. There he sits, as large as life, and just as natural, smoking his hookah under his awning of crimson velvet, with his legs crossed beneath him on the mat, and surrounded with all the elements of wealth and splendour becoming his condition.
Ascending the stairs to the top floor, we arc among the natural products of India, and surrounded by samples of the commercial staples of the country, derived from the animal, vegetable, and miueral kingdoms. These materials are exceedingly numerous, and we cannot attempt to catalogue them ; they are, however, classified and arranged in tolerable order in the cases and in the shelves. Among them are specimens of the various species of timber, in small blocks ; samples of Indian ceroals, corn, grain, rice in all its varieties, millet and every kind of pulse; tea, coffee, tobacco in leaf; arrowroot, tapioca, sugars, meal of all sorts, etc., etc. Then come the fruits, dried or preserved, as dates, figs, tamarinds, lemons ; and coloured models in plaster of such as cannot be preserved, as apples, pears, pines, and garden fruits. Cotton is exhibited in all stages of production and preparation, and trie same may be said of flax and vegetable fibres. There are silks in skeins from the Punjaub; wools of Cashmere, fine as silk and dazzling in their brilliancy of colour. There are stores of animal substances fit for manufactures, as shells, teeth, horns, elephants' tusks, mother of pearl, gorgeous feathers, dried sinews, etc. There are dyes, as indigo, saffron and cochineal, and there are the substances used for tanning. There are drugs, chemicals, and medicaments without number; there arc countless samples of oils, animal and vegetable; there are stones, pebbles, fossils, and geological specimens; there are paints, pigments, and earths for ceramic uses; and there are ores dug from the mine.
    Such is the result of a very rapid survey of the Indian Museum, which we recommend the reader, at his opportunity, to examine deliberately for himself. We have said nothing of the muchtalked—of lions of the place—of Tippoo's tiger, and his invulnerable mantle—of the full length portrait (which is no credit to the artist) of the famous Nadir Shah—of the sword of the Candy executioner, etc. In truth, most of them escaped our view in the crowded masses of treasures with which the chambers are filled. There is occupation here for weeks of profitable study, and the Directors of the East India Company have conferred a boon on the public by giving them access to such an exhibition.

The Leisure Hour, 1858

Thursday 29 July 2010

Dining Houses, 1858

A nice piece from 1858 on London dining:

It is evening, and the grey twilight is hovering over the busy streets. The city of London has had its dinner, and having, for the most part, transacted their affairs for the day, its men of business have nearly vanished from the scene — gone in all directions, some to their comfortable villas in the suburbs, north, south, and west, and some by rail to Croydon, Reigate, or uttermost Brighton. The grand army of clerks, dismissed hours ago to enjoy their temporary furlough, have trudged or "bussed" it home to their families; and now there is a comparative solitude in that wide area fronting the Exchange; Cheapside mitigates its myriad march, aud Cornhill takes breath, after the moil and tussle which lasted almost from dawn to sundown. Let us turn out of the main route, down this quiet flag-paved court—quiet now, but which a few hours ago echoed with the ceaseless hum of voices and. the tread of hurrying feet. Yonder is the dining-house, at whose interior, with the permission of our friend the proprietor, we are going to take a glance. A waiter, after his warm day's work, is standing, aproned, at the door, to catch a mouthful of air, and just a glimpse of a few pale stars struggling forth in the deepening blue of the sky.
    "Is Mr. — within?"
    Mr.— steps forward at the sound of our voice, with an answering word of welcome.
    "A busy day to-day?" we ask.
    "Rather—nothing extraordinary ; about six hundred dinners, and the usual bar practice."
    "You have considerable standing at the bar, I believe?"
    "Yes; no sitting allowed. Out benchers don't come to the bar at all, you understand. The bar lunches—the bench dines. Come this way, I will show you where."
    Passing the bar, a plain polished slab, flanked by regiments of bottles and decanters and flies of glasses of ail shapes, we enter the lower dining-room, a capacious chamber, decorated in a style rather solid and substantial than attractively ornate. The tables, of dark mahogany on bronze importers, are parallelograms, projecting endways from the wall, and over them are brass rails and supports for the reception of hats, overcoats, and umbrellas. The benehes are nothing less than a series of well-padded easy chairs, constructed on the true accommodation principle of allowing to each diner his fair two and twenty inches, or thereabouts, of sitting-room, on which his neighbours on each side are prevented from encroaching by the stout supports for the elbows, which shut him in. With all this liberal space, the room will hold, and does hold daily, and several times a-day, about a hundred diners at once. Our friend tells us that he takes in few newspapers or literary attractions of any kind. The attraction of his house, on which he relies, is a good dinner at a moderate cost, served on the instant; and he confesses, without hesitation or reserve, that when he has seen a customer's money he is glad to see his back as soon as possible. This is as it should be. Men, whose time is money, whose very minutes are sometimes rateable at a golden value, do not come here to read. They call for their dinners— they dine, as deliberately as they choose; but, having dmed, they pay their reckoning and depart. Loungers, gossippers, disputants, newsmongers, and men with nothing to do, do not come here—or if they do, they soon find that the atmosphere of the price does not suit them, and they seek a congenial resort elsewhere.
    From the lower room we mount into the upper, noting as we go that the staircase is plated, so to speak, with a thick ribbed coating of leaden mail, which is found to be the only kind of stair-carpet which will stand the everlasting wear and tear of commercial feet. The upper room is furnished in a similar manner to the lower one as to accommodations, but in a superior style of ornament; the walls are divided into panels, in which are groups of flowers brilliantly executed, and a tracery of flowers winds round the painted pillars that divide the panelling. The gaselier is of the last new design, and the padded seats appear to be covered with morocco leather. This room will dine even a larger number than the one below, and with the same individual allowance of space. The dining, our friend tells us, begins at one o'clock, is at flood tide about three, languishes and ebbs at half-past four, and finishes before six, save on rare occasions.
    We now follow our friend to the kitchen, which is on the basement floor. It is a large airy apartment, lighted with gas, and fitted up in the regular English style, differing nothing from the ordinary kitchen of a gentleman's house, save in the multiplied appliances for doing the same thing ten times over at one and the same time. Thus, the range is large and deep enough to accommodate half a dozen spits, and the spits are long enough to contain three or four joints each. Then, for boiling, steaming, grilling, frying, stewing, there are a number of boilers, pans, grills, and circular orifices in what looks like a stone sideboard, underlaid with fires and furnaces—to say nothing of ovens for baking, and warming, and the usual culinary etceteras. The cooking being over tor the day, the kitchen is clean as a new pin; and the only vestige or symptom of anything eatable at all is a sleepy turtle lying on the stones in one corner, w here he slowly blinks his sad eyes as he peeps from under his shell, awaiting his turn for decapitation and evisceration. Our friend has periodical turtle-soup days, well known to the diners on 'Change. One of them comes off on Friday next, and then—good-bye to poor turtle.
   From the kitchen we descend into the cellar, lying at considerable depth beneath. There we have an imitation in miniature of the huge winevaults in the London docks. There is the same black, dusty drapery of cobwebs pendant from the ceiling, the accumulation, probably, of more than a century ; there is the same darkness and vinous odour, and the same moderate temperature. The chief difference is, that instead of interminable perspectives of casks, we have here interminable rows of bottles ranged on shelves, heels outwards, and swathed in the dust of more than one generation. The bottles are in a large variety of shapes—some with long, crane-like necks, others with barely neck enough for the cork; some large enough to hold an imperial quart, and others only professing to contain half-a-pint, and that only the conventional measure. The mass, however, are the familiar wine-bottle ; but this is as various in value as the others are in form: there are new wines from the wood, and old and sea-borne wines, which have not moved from the position they occupy since Victoria ascended the throne. Wines, especially wines in bottle, require careful looking after; they must not be exposed to the great heats of summer or the frosts of winter, or they would lose in flavour, and therefore in value. Our friend shows us the contrivance by which he can keep them at a nearly uniform temperature of about sixty degrees, all the year through. This he does by an ingenious ventilating apparatus, with which he can admit either warm or cold air at pleasure. Looking to the myriads of bottles displayed here, we have an idea that the consumption annually must be no trifle; and as we pass out we note, in an adjoining cellar, that the process of bottling from the pipe is going on, to supply the deficiencies that so regularly occur.
    Ascending from the cellar, our friend invites us to look at his larder. This also is no trifle. The larder is in the open air, and is in fact a small inclosed court in the rear of the house, roofed in only in part, like the stalls in Leadenhall market, and very like a miniature market in looks. There is the green-grocer's stall, with every variety of culinary vegetable, to the amount of something like a wagon-load; there is the poulterer's stall, with twexnty geese and as many turkeys all of a row, with no stint of fowls and game of all kinds; there is the butcher's stall, with thirty legs of mutton, half as many haunches, huge sirloins, barons, and buttocks of beef, and pork ad infinitum ; there are horns from Westphalia, bacon from Wiltshire, and sausages from Norfolk in piles. Then there is the baker's stall, with bread in all shapes, and store of flour for puddings and pies—not to insist upon a whole cargo of preserves and fruits in and out of season, and delicacies of various kinds for the dessert. Who would not like the run of such a larder as that?
    We have seen all now, and are ready to take our leave; but our friend does not allow visitors to his cellar to depart without tasting its contents. A bottle of that beeswing port, of some famous vintage whose precise date we forget, has been sent upstairs, and we are expected to take a glass or two.
    Pending this welcome refreshment after a rather toilsome day, we put one or two questions to our host
    "What do you do with the broken and refuse viands, which must unavoidably be left on your hands after six hundred people have been dining here, and with the numerous joints, which you cannot denude to the bone in serving your customers ?"
    " It is all given away," he replies; " a number of poor persons come for it every evening; we have no difficulty in getting rid of it, I assure you. It forms the chief support of several needy families, and they are grateful for it."
    We note this as an interesting fact, and cannot help wondering whether the same rule is at all general throughout London. If so, it forms a remarkable contrast to the practice which prevails universally in Paris, where the refuse of the higher class estaminets and restaurants is sold for its full value to those of a lower grade, who in turn sell their refuse to a grade lower still.
    "But," we resume, " we saw in your larder a huge tub full of fragments ef meat and vegetables. Why was that not fetched away with the rest?"
   "That is for to-morrow's soup."
    "To-morrow's soup! why, to-morrow is Sunday. You don't open your house on Sunday!"
   "No, but I make soup every Sunday morning, or rather it makes itself during the night. You see, this is a little work of charity which I have thought it my duty to look after. There is a wretched district down in Westminster, where the people are starving, body and soul. I used to go and speak to them of a Sunday morning before service time, in the hope of doing them some good, if it might be. But I found it a sad one-sided business, that of speaking of the state of their souls to people whose bodies were starving for want of food. So I hit upon this soup plan. I make some gallons of wholesome stuff, which costs me no great deal beyond the trouble. I have it served up hot to as many as choose to come on the Sunday morning early, and while they are eating it I read a chapter or two in the Bible, and after they have had their breakfast I can talk to them and pray with them a bit, with a little better face and more satisfaction to myself and them too, than I could when they were too hungry to think of anything else. I suspect my plan is vulnerable to objectors, but, notwithstanding that, I think it works well on tx`he whole; at any rate, the hungry are fed."
    We, who know by experience that the hungry stomach has the deafest of ears, make no objection to the plan. We rise and shake hands with our host, and depart, not without a notion that we have made more discoveries in the old dining-house than we had anticipated.

The Leisure Hour, 1858

Wednesday 21 July 2010

Hot Property

Readers who are curious about the interior redevelopment of St. Pancras hotel (the best piece of Victorian Gothic in London?), should refer to this link, which I only just discovered (although it appeared in May):

Thursday 15 July 2010

The Ideal Woman (2)

We continue our exploration of the ideal woman under the helpful guidance of the Viscount Mountmorres, who, at the very least, possessed an impecable moustache.

For my part, I think the first requirement in woman in true womanliness ... That outrage on human nature which seeks to cover its defective womanhood under an ill and grotesque copy of man's trappings in speech, manner, thought, and appearance, is fortunately an abomination rarely met with in life, being rather the creature of modern imagination.

Thank heavens for that, sir.

Detestable as is the blue-stocking, I am almost inclined to think the vapidity some times met with worse. There is scarcely any charm, to my mind, greater than a truly beautiful mind, bright in expression, quick of comprehension; a mind that keeps its owner apace with the times, enables her to shine - always without effort - in any company ... If a woman be blessed with such a mind, and have at the same time escaped conceit and self-consciousness, she is always an agreeable companion; and were more women agreeable companions there would be fewer unhappy homes.

So, make an effort, girls.

My ideal is she whose moods are variable as an April day, full of sunshine and gladness, yet capable of deep distress; bringing light and gaiety and warm laughter in her train, but at the same time with a fount of tears for the sorrowing and sad or in the presence of suffering ... 

A fun time to be had be all, if you bag a Viscount, plainly.

I always think it is this very combination, this mixture of bright levity and true depth of feeling, which many Englishmen have found so lovable in our transatlantic cousins, in whose blood it has been innoculated by generationd which have known the wild, glad freedom, yet serious responsibilities and trials, or building up a new country.

Well, that's one theory, I suppose. But, strangely, he agrees with Mr. Frankfort Moore, right at the end:

Let a woman who would merit and gain a man's love and lasting respect not seek after effect, let her think nothing of being ideal, but live her own life according to her own natural instincts, and she will come as near to perfection as she was meant to be. Let her once endeavour to be perfect and that moment she will fall back into the outer darkness of unloved woman.

So, for all you unloved woman out there, the Viscount's message is, ladies, don't try too hard.

I will spare you the full thoughts of the Hon. Stuart Erskine, who ends the piece, except for this gem:

There are two kinds of ideal womankind - the useful, and the purely (and merely) ornamental.

This post is dedicated to all the useful ladies out there.

The Ideal Woman

In 1897, The Lady's Realm (a popular magazine of the day) asked some minor male celebrities to define 'an ideal woman'. Here's some edited highlights. We begin with little-remembered author and poet Frank Frankfort Moore, who waxes poetical:

She is easy to live with. She is worth dying for. She is the high light in the charcoal drawing of humanity, man being the charcoal. She is the skylight in the edifice of human life. She has no history. She has no story. She is the plectrum that makes music with the haert-strings of a man. She is the key by which he is kept constantly in tune. She is the rhythm which transforms the prose of life into poetry.

But then gets a little more prosaic:

She wears a reasonable hat at matinées ... She knows sixteen ways of arranging flowers on the dinner-table. She abhors coloured paper-shades on the candles. She knows how to choose a juicy joint of beef. She laughs when the fishmonger gives her hints about turbot. 

Then a bit moralising:

She knows there is no difference between the woman who calls herself smart and the woman whom respectable people called vulgar.

Then frankly mysterious:

She makes an honest attempt to understand cats, and cats understand her.

But then he pulls it back for all the women out there:

She knows that every real woman is the Ideal Woman, the fact being that every idea of the Ideal Woman is wholly dependent on the idealist, and every woman who is idolised is idealised.

Ah, Frank, I bet you were a devil with the ladeez, my friend.

For any female readers who only know fifteen ways of arranging flowers on the dinner table, or just can't get their head round cats, don't despair, there's more on 'Ideal Women' to follow ... watch this space ...

Thursday 8 July 2010

The Cathedral

Here's a quote from Building News in 1875, considering Victorian Gothic as a form of architecture:

"Railway termini and hotels are to the nineteenth century what monasteries and cathedrals were to the thirteenth century. They are truly the only real representative kind of building we possess. Our churches, scholastic establishments, and domestic structures are more or less copies of mediaeval buildings."

Well, can you guess where I went on my holidays?

This interior was constructed in the 1870s and is the best example of high Victorian Gothic I've happened upon (although I don't get out much) ...

I particularly like the placement of this exit sign ...

The answer is here.

Sunday 4 July 2010

London Parks and Goat Carriages

Browsing an article by 'Meath' about London's parks, 'The Possibilities of Metropolitan Parks', which appeared in The New Review of 1894.

The most interesting information is the sizes of parks in the metropolis (I have re-ordered to show the largest to smallest, sizes in acres, nothing listed smaller than 10 acres) ...

Epping Forest 5348
Richmond Park 2358
Wimbledon Common 1412
Bushey Park 994
Hampton Court Park 752
Hampstead Heath 505
Regent's Park 473
Hyde Park 361
Hackney Marshes 345
Kensington Gardens 275
Blackheath Park 267
Kew Gardens 246
Victoria Park 244
Clapham Common 220
Battersea Park 198
Wormwood Scrubs 193
Greenwich Park 185
Wandsworth Common 183
Tooting Bec Common 144
Finsbury Park 115
Peckham Rye 113
Petersham Park 111
Barnes Common 100
Plumstead Common 100
St. James's Park 93
West Ham Park 80
Brockwell Park 78
Dulwich Park 72
Highgate Woods 70
Streatham Common 66
Southwark Park 63
Tooting Graveney Common 63
Bostall Woods 61
Bostall Heath 55
Green Park 54
Clissold Park 53
Ealing Common and Greens 50
Ladywell Recreation Ground 47
Hilly Fields 45
Hackney Downs 41
Ravenscourt Park 32
Kilburn Park 30
Waterlow Park 30
Highbury Fields 27
London Fields 26
South Mill Field 26
Acton Recreation Ground 25
Paddington Recreation Ground 25
Ealing Lammas Land 24
North Mill Field 23
Little Scrubs 22
South Hackney Common 20
Kennington Park 19
Sydenham Recreation Ground 17
Eelbrook Common 14
Myatts' Fields 14
Thames Embankment Gardens 14 
Acton Green 12
Back Common 12
Maryon Park 12
Kew Green 11
Victoria Park Cemetery 11
Richmond Green 10
Royal Victoria Gardens 10

I wonder if all these spaces remain? I recognise most of them, but some are small suburban parks beyond my knowledge. Any modern list of London parks out there?

Other fascinating facts from 1894, "London County Council spends £5,000 a year in providing music in the parks under its control, and has engaged the services of 92 bandsmen, four conductors, a librarian, and attendants, under the control of a musical director" ... I wonder how this compares to modern spend on music festivals etc?

The author presses for electric lighting ("It is impossible for any respectable man or woman to venture to cross Hyde Park of an evening, or at night, without risk of robbery or outrage") and also suggests "I cannot see why goat carriages for children should not be found in our London parks as well as in the Champs Elysées" (an innovation I do not believe was ever introducted ... yes, goat carriages, that's carriages drawn by goats).