« PreviousContinue »
The tea return'd an answer to the hailing-
The Chinaman is, Heaven be praised! more wise.
"But fare-thee-well! and speed thee with the gale
To praise an article of native growth,
* Garcilasso de la Vega, one of the most celebrated poets of Spain. An elegant translation of his works into English verse, has appeared from the pen of Mr Wiffen.
The frighten'd vagrant flung away His stick, or, as himself would say, He cut his stick, and ran.
The dog pursued him as he fled; And what a wretch is this," he cried,
"Who holds a living dog in dread, Yet, when he meets with one that's dead,
Will strip it of its hide!"
XV. THE FROG and the frogling.
From their dwelling in a bog,
Would deserve to vie with them?"
Is as empty, frail, and thin,
Many bardlings in a strain
THE LUNGS OF LONDON.
"Moreover he hath left you all his walks,
His private arbours, and new planted orchards
THE preservation of public health in great cities is an object no less of paramount importance to the citizen, than of curious inquiry to the philosopher; and it is truly surprising to reflect, that in our own country we should have given to this subject so little serious consideration. Abroad, the means of conserving the public. health, of disarming the malignity of epidemic diseases, and of preventing their too frequent recurrence, are investigated by the philosophic physician, are carried into practical operation by a code of sanatory law, and are sedulously watched over, as one of their most sacred and important public duties, by the government of the country. At home, the health, which is the life of the great mass of the population, is not considered worth a thought, except at times of impending danger, when thought is vain. when the pestilence rages in the midst of us, we run wildly about in search of relief-when, having completed its ravages, it finally disappears from our towns and our cities, we are too happy to dismiss it also from our thoughts, and to forget all enquiries as to the means of prevention for the future, in congratulation on our preservation for the present. Our Boards of Health, hastily and crudely organized in the hour of difficulty and danger, when the danger and difficulty, by the mercy of Divine Providence, have been got over, are immediately dispersed the fast days and the thanksgiving days have had their day-the contests between the contagionists and the noncontagionists are contagious no longer -the advocates of tar water, and the advocates of hot water, lay down their arms-specifics and the people who recommended specifics are alike forgotten-cajeput oil is a drug in the market, and brandy is no longer consumed under false pretences!
The pestilence is over-but the danger is not; that which has been, may be again-and the best time to escape a danger is surely that, when
our judgment is unclouded by the prospect of imminent risk, and we as yet contemplate the danger at a distance.
But the danger never is at a distance. There exists, in great cities, an under-current of pestilence at all times and in all seasons-typhus, for example, is ever at work among us—it is true, at work obscurely, because its ravages are among the obscureamong those who live precariously from day to day, in low, unventilated, and densely populated neighbourhoods, where bad drainage, bad air, bad water, and bad smells, perpetuate the epidemics they originate, and whose miserable inhabitants form the neverfailing and ever-dying population of our fever hospitals. We know no thing of this-we see nothing of this; the progress of the sick poor from their miserable" rookeries" to the hospital, and from the hospital to the grave, is silent and unobserved. Let a brace of dukes, however, or a few members of the House of Commons, or even an East India director be carried off, and we begin to hear of the epidemic-it then begins to be " dreadful," "shocking," and so forth. "To think of the Duke of Doodle-so excellent a man, only seventy-six-being so suddenly cut off!" and Viscount Noodle, too, in the prime of life-a man equal to two bottles of port a-day-'tis dreadful to think of!" The epidemic, dreadful to think of as it is, runs its allotted course, and the popular alarm keeps pace with it—infants yet unborn, and aged people yet alive, are reported to have died of it-topers are said to be dead, and have a narrow escape of being buried alive, who are discovered, on more minute examination, to have been only dead-drunk-and every soul, without exception, carried off during the epidemic, has been carried off, if you believe your ears, by the epidemicphysicians are " looking up," chemists and druggists in full workpost-horses, moreover, are in demand,
and the great world gallops off en masse to save itself in the countrywhile the trading, mercantile, and middling classes, who are compelled to remain, bethink themselves of their unrepented sins, and liberally subscribe for whitewash!
It is impossible to calculate how much human life might be prolonged not only prolonged, indeed; but, what is of still greater importance, how much the condition of humanity might be improved in great cities-by legislative interference. It is melancholy to reflect how little has in this respect been done. One of the first, one of the surest, one of the most practicable methods of ameliorating the condition of the poor, is the amelioration of the habitations of the poor. Take two men; put one into a comfortable cottage-not one of your gimcrack, roseencircled cottages, constructed to exhibit the taste of the landlord more than to administer to the comfort of the tenant, but a clean, snug, and commodious habitation. Locate the other in a pig-stye: the one will degenerate into a hog, the other will "learn to venerate himself as man." There is very little reasonable doubt, that if the design of Sir Christopher Wren for rebuilding the city of London, after the great fire, had been adopted, the value of human life in the metropolis would have improved; and it is equally certain that the plan for the regeneration of the city of Westminster, devised by the learned and talented Mr Bardwell, if carried into effect, would be a good measure of morality as well as of architecture. An avenue carried from the east end of Oxford Street through the "rookeries" of St Giles's into Holborn, would be a more effectual, safe, and permanent preventive of vice and crime, than if Meux's Brewery were converted into an enormous penitentiary, and a couple of juvenile thieves were to be suspended in terrorem over the principal entrance every morning before breakfast. The making easy, safe, and accessible roads, is the very first element of civilisation, and is no less applicable to the wilderness of London, than to the wilderness of the Mississippi. We venture to hope that the legislature may spare a little time from the squabbles of contending factions, and petty personal triumphs in debate, to devote to
carrying out the Report of the Metropolitan Improvements Committee, if it were only for the novelty of the thing. It would be worth a statesman's while to give his best energies for once to objects practically philanthropical, than which nothing can be more so than an attempt to improve the habitations of the poorer classes of the inhabitants of the British Metropolis. We are far from having a desire to undervalue the benevolent exertions of those who labour to relieve the spiritual destitution of the London poor. Their task is a high and holy one, and their intentions must command the respect even of those who doubt the efficacy of their labours. The more we see, however, of human nature, whether in great cities or in the country, the more we are convinced that nothing can be done by the distribution of tracts for instance, by preaching in the open air, by visiting the poor at their wretched habitations, in comparison with the moral predisposition that may be induced by the less direct, but far more efficacious, system of improving first their temporal condi
The prime essentials to human existence in crowded cities are pure water, pure air, thorough drainage, and thorough ventilation-which last are only applications of the water and the air-and last, though by no means least in importance, the facility of taking exercise within a convenient distance. Thus, every city has its public pulmonary organs-its instruments of popular respiration-as essential to the mass of the citizens as is to individuals the air they breathe. Paris boasts her Boulevards, her gardens of the Tuileries, her Champs Elysées, and her Bois du Boulogne, -Madrid, her far-famed Prado, where the monarch and the meanest of the people assemble to take the air, “their custom always of an afternoon, Rome, her spacious Corso,-Naples, her Mola and Strada di Toledo,-and last, Vienna enjoys her Glacis, no longer bristling with artillery, no longer enlivened with the "pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war," but crowded with a peaceful, gay, and happy population. Within our own islands, Dublin recreates her sons in the Phoenix Park, a spot unrivalled in its display of the softer features of rural scenery,-Edinburgh
rejoices in her King's Park, to which there is nothing equal for solitary grandeur and romantic seclusion within a like distance of a metropolitan city anywhere to be found,-and the mighty modern Babylon pours her pent-up population through the various avenues of her Parks. Well, indeed, and happily, have these been designated "THE LUNGS OF LONDON." There is not only much matter of historical importance connected with the several parks of London scattered about in the various statistical books of surveys, but a good deal of material for picturesque description. Why it is that the historical records have not, by some curious enquirer, been collected and arranged, or why the natural and artificial advantages of these charming retreats from the coil and hum of men have not been hitherto thought worthy of description, must, I suppose, be attributable to our habitual negligence of that which we see every day, and which, by being continually presented to our eyes, takes no hold upon the imagination or the memory, but is, as it were, of itself a continual picture, and of itself a perpetual record. We are not to be deterred from our proposed feeble attempt at description, by any dread of the suspicion of cockneyism. Nature is beautiful exceedingly, whether in the parish of St James's or the parish of St Kilda; and whatever contributes materially to the recreation and the health of numbers, is, by that circumstance alone, raised above the level of neglect, and has dignity sufficient to demand attention.
The Lungs of London, then, consist of several great divisions or lobes, embracing the west end of the town, and extending round to the northward, commencing, we may say, at the entrance to the Horse Guards, and extending through St James's Park, the Green Park, Hyde Park, and Kensington Gardens, forming a continued thoroughfare of several miles, in a direct line towards the north-west. To the north, the Regent's Park extends from the upper end of that noble avenue Portland Place, as far as the base of Primrose Hill, with a transverse diameter almost equal to its length, and containing within its circumference between five and six hundred acres of valuable land. This
is the northern lobe of the Lungs of London. The eastern side of the city is lamentably destitute of breathingplaces for the pent-up citizens, as is also the borough of Southwark. Lambeth is somewhat more open; its Bishop's Walk affording a pleasing view of the river, and an agreeable promenade of a too limited extent.
The several divisions of the great respiratory organs we have noticed are worth a distinct consideration; and, as we will understand them better by ocular demonstration, the curious reader will take his hat and stick. I will be his humble cicerone, and tell him all I know of the history of the Parks of our metropolis, as we go along.
Follow me, if you please, sir, through this little gate-take care of the steps -there are exactly six-now, give me your arm-this is the Birdcage Walk
that classic structure to our left the military chapel-to the right you see Storey's Gate-immediately in the rear are our chambers," and exactly in front, half hidden by its own umbrageous foliage, is the charming enclosure-step this way-the charming enclosure of
ST JAMES'S PARK.
When I enter this park, my notions of government, let me tell you, become highly monarchical. I touch my hat to the memory of our kings who devised and confirmed to us these places of harmless recreation, and am more and more established in my contempt for your close-fisted, shabby, commercial republicans, who, if they got their greasy paws upon this place once again, would cut down the timber (as they did before), steal the ducks, and sell the grounds by auction. Brother Jonathan, when he takes a stroll this way, forgets, for at least five minutes, to boast his "free and independent" citizenship, and begins to think that kings and queens, after all, are not quite so black as they are painted! For this park and the pleasure it affords us we are indebted to our monarchs-let us enjoy their munificent gift and be thankful. Let us remember that the citizens have never planted a shrub for our recreation--that they have never set apart an acre of their corporation lands to give us, our wives, and our children, a mouthful of fresh air; let