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Everyday London

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Everyday London

Post by Karen on Wed 8 Jan 2014 - 16:06

Every-Day London.

It has been said that mutton chops are fine only in England, because here the dew is always on the grass. Perhaps the worldly Englishman prefers his chops to sunshine, since the latter has gone to join that vast army of relics of the past which delight the stranger at Westminster
and the Tower, and the chill in the air makes one think a stray iceberg has got wedged in under London bridge.
At every crossing there is a voluntary sweeper who solicits a penny for saving one's shoes from the mud. A man without "a shine" may try the mire, but the man on his way to the opera is a perpetual victim.
The other day on Piccadilly I stopped to buy a half-penny paper; giving the newsboy a penny I held out my hand for change. With a charming smile and a touch of the hat he said:
"Ye won't be a usin' of the ha-penny this hafternoon, will ye, sir?" How could one ask for it after so good-natured an appeal? But feeing can be made less expensive by judicious discrimination in giving. An ability to use cockney would almost free one from the nuisance, but, as W.W. Story
says, our voices are squeaky, and we must abide by our heritage.
While I am rambling on I may speak of the stores decked with the royal arms where, I am told, "the royalties" (as one of the court coachmen called them) keep running accounts. These have a special framed document, saying nothing in particular, unless one reads between the lines that here
prices are high, and therefore the nabobs may run accounts that are to be settled at the last trump. Mr. Benzon explained this manner of living in his book not long ago, describing how he went through some millions of dollars in about two years. Now his tailors et al. are forcing him to tell the story again
to the judge.
But as one of Canada's great civil engineers, now in London, said to me, "Every day's Sunday here," and all the men wear silk hats after lunch and go to the theatre in evening dress with white flowers in their button-holes, so everyone has a footman as well as a driver, although I must say I was disappointed
in the display of coat-armor. Since people pay for the privilege, a crest no bigger than a dollar under the window is a small affair that would hardly attract the notice of our Newport nobility.
English people are very gracious to the right kind of Americans, as they are gratified by hospitality from us when they visit America. I find five o'clock teas very like Boston teas, only that one misses the all-around introducing that we have at home. When you have begun a pleasant chat with a stranger on the left
or right, the hostess happens round and introduces you. Then, if the lady has a mind, she gives her card, and the stranger has a place to call. To Americans the nobility do not seem so far away as to the loyal Englishmen, for no little of the feting in high circles is done by our people. The other night I asked a gentleman
about English loyalty to the Queen. "Well," said he, "if one of my countrymen didn't take off his hat when we sing 'God Save the Queen,' I'd take it off for him."
The notorious Whitechapel is a fine broad street running from Aldgate street, a place for offices, to Stratford church. All along the middle are great drays, which give the place the look of busy New York. But it is just back of Whitechapel that poverty and crime are to be found. I walked the length of old Montague street,
parallel with Whitechapel, without seeing a wagon or a man, I might almost say. The old brick blocks have no foundations to keep them from the street, and the doors and windows are kept open. All the signs are in English and Hebrew - a strange place for that noble language! The innumerable half-clad children wear
ear-rings and pins as they play in the streets, while their mothers, each with her baby, after the fashion of John Rogers's wife, lean over the bars at the "Shakespeare Arms" and other gin shops.
Here I found "The King's Arms street," "Green Dragon Yard," and "Hope street." But the courts that lead from Old Montague street, through a tunnel entrance, are the most squalid in appearance. I confess I was afraid to go into the traps, but by stooping I could see the ubiquitous swarm of motley children sleeping on
the pavement or in the corners of the court. It is strange that so much was heard of the murders here, for a hundred more could not wake these people from their miserable inaction.
In this district once stood the city gate where travellers met to go out in companies for protection from the highwaymen. Those like Dick Turpin were gallant fellows, who enjoyed a stolen kiss from the ladies as much as they did the silk purses from the gentlemen. Here is the Master Mariner's Home and the great Charrington
Brewery, both described by Walter Besant in his novels. Just beyond is the People's Palace, opened in 1887 by the Queen. Here are schools, reading and lecture rooms and baths for the people. Ninety-eight thousand men have used the baths in five months.
Some one has said that even here the free sun of heaven comes to them through glass marked with the royal arms. But, after all, loyalty is the first thing to be taught in such a place. A better appreciation of government might bring more self-respect and more economy. But this institution does not reach the old Montague-street
population as I described it a moment ago. Even at Toynbee Hall, I am told, the men are apt to get fond of their books and of each other's society, and neglect the very low about them.
An Oxford man the other day, hearing that I came from Harvard, adjusted his Joseph Chamberlain eyeglass and asked me seriously if Harvard was the place where they taught culture! I reminded him of the Chinaman's description - a place where men exercise on the water except during a rain, when they go inside and read.
Miss Guiney is here, as bright as ever, and well versed in all London's twists of speech. Mr. Fullerton, now on the Times, is working furiously, albeit he is known as the "lucky man." Another old Cantabrigian is Bernard Berenson, one of the founders of the Monthly. He has a beard and has dispensed with his engaging locks. People
like him as much as ever and take him off with them to see the beauties of Italy and France.
Englishmen have a way of marrying above or beneath themselves that does not appeal very directly to Americans. The wife (young and pretty) of one of London's ex-Lord Mayors and philanthropists entertains many people of note and is fond of American ladies. What her husband did by marrying "beneath him" is illustrated by an
amusing story of their first party at their home, "Highgate." The Prince of Wales was present, and the new lady - of whom I have been speaking - said to him, "Does not Your Highness think 'ighget very pretty?" The gallant Prince, not confused by even this pointed question, as he understood it, replied, "I am sure, my dear lady, your
mirror must often tell you so!"
If I may be pardoned an every-day expression, I will add that her ladyship knows an H now when she sees it!


Source: The Cambridge Tribune, Saturday August 2, 1890, Page 8

Karen Trenouth
Author of: "Epiphany of the Whitechapel Murders"
Author of: "Jack the Ripper: The Satanic Team"

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