« PreviousContinue »
At the present time a genuine effort seems to be made to improve the labourer's lot by means of giving him facilities to cultivate a plot of ground of his own. Without doubt also there is a great future for those who devote themselves to what is known as "Intensive Gardening." The recognition of the commercial possibilities of a well-tended garden, it is interesting to note, is no new thing. As long ago as 1668 this was recognized by the author of a work entitled "A Way to get Wealth." Wealth." "The Gardener," the author says, "had not need to be an idle or 'lazie lubber.' Weeds are always growing; the great mother of all living creatures, the Earth, is full of seed in her bowels, and any stirring gives them heat of Sun, and being laid neer day, they grow: Moles work daily, though not always alike: Winter herbs at all times will grow (except in extreme frost). In winter your trees and herbs would be lightened of snow, and your allies cleansed: drifts of snow will set Deer, Hares and Conies and other noysome beasts over your walls and hedges. When Summer cloaths your borders with green and speckled colours, your Gardener must dress his hedges, and antick works, watch his bees and hive them. Distil his Roses and other Herbs. Now begin Summer fruits to ripen, and crave your hand to pull them. If he have a Garden (as he must needs) to keep, you must needs allow him good help, to end his labours which are endless, for no one is sufficient for these things." This description of the market-gardener of two hundred and fifty years ago, with his duties thus summed
up in a curiously concise manner, concludes with the rewards which shall be his, "God shall Crown the labours of his hands with joyfulness, and make the clouds drop fatness upon your trees; he will provoke your love, and earn his wages and fees belonging to his place." It is curious to observe that the enumeration of the products of a market-garden of two centuries ago is but little different from that of to-day, although some of the most common vegetables are absent, amongst others the potato and rhubarb; and from some of the amusing descriptions of the uses to which certain of the vegetables and herbs are to be put, it might be inferred that they were not very common. Thus lettuce is described as "usual in sallets and in the pot." Of strawberries, "the use is they will cool my Housewife well, if they be put in Wine or cream with Sugar." Aniseed is "good for opening the pipes." Burrage and Bugloss are two cordials "most comfortable for the heart and stomack." Camomile "is sweet smelling, qualifying head-ach."
In speaking of carnations or pinks, the writer says, "July-flowers, commonly called Gilly-flowers or clove July-flowers (I call them so because they flower in July) they have the name of Cloves of their 'sent.' I may well call them the king of flowers except the rose, and the best sort of them are called Queen Julyflowers of all flowers (save the Damask Rose) they are the most pleasant to sight and smell. Their use is much in ornament and comforting the spirits by sense of smelling."
London sixty years ago-Fogs-Amusements-Improvement in locomotion-Hackney coaches and Hansoms-Street noises and cries— Punch-Unmelodious music-Letters from Mark Lemon and Dickens— Tolerated mendicity—The London police in its early days and nowImpostors Begging letters-A curious specimen-London rivers-The Lord Mayor's barge-London bridge and Free Trade-The Spitalfield weavers- -From Camisard to Cockney-The Reverend Osborne Jay and his admirable work-The London Hospital
ONDON at the present day is a far more pleasant place to live in than it was sixty years ago.
Formerly the fogs were appalling. No doubt they gave the English the reputation for suffering from that mysterious malady of which little is now heard, the spleen. In a fog, the air was hardly fit for breathing; it was grey-yellow, of a deep orange, and even black; at the same time, it was moist, thick, full of bad smells, and choking. The fog appeared, now and then, slowly, like a melodramatic ghost, and sometimes it swept over the town as the simoom over the desert. At times, it spread with equal density throughout the streets, rolling itself into intensely dense masses, from which the passengers came forth like ghosts.
In the way of amusements the metropolis has
enormously improved. A curious fact, however, is that whilst cheap entertainments, such as cinematograph theatres, abound, the prices of seats at plays is far higher than was formerly the case. At many theatres there were no stalls at all, contrary to the modern fashion, according to which stalls take the place of the pit: the pit occasionally reached right up to the orchestra. Another old feature was the "Footman's Gallery," to which on the application of their masters or mistresses, footmen were admitted free.
The present price of stalls, it is curious to remember, dates only from 1867, when considerable irritation was caused by 10s. 6d. being charged for them at the St. James's Theatre, where a Parisian company gave some performances.
"What" (said a critic) "would the public say if they were asked to pay half-a-guinea for a stall from which to see A Scrap of Paper, and Box and Cox, unless perchance for a charity, when the end justifies the means employed? And yet here is Mr. Michell, who never-no never-made the French plays pay, asking ten-and-sixpence for a stall at the St. James's Theatre.
On the other hand, it must be remembered that far more money is now lavished upon theatrical productions than was formerly the case.
The greatest metropolitan improvement of all, I think, is the Taxi, which has so completely superseded the four-wheelers and hansoms, which in their day had been improvements upon the old hackney coaches.
These were really old private carriages which had
261 had their day; the older ones were family coaches with steps to let down: these were drawn by a pair of horses at a fare, I think, of about a shilling a mile. Later came the back cabs, with a hood, and the driver sitting by his fare; the Patent Safety Hansom, though one cannot say there was ever very much real safety connected with any hansom, came into use about 1840.
In many other ways the amenities of London have improved; though we have the motor bus, there is a distinct lessening in other nuisances. Newspaper-boys are no longer allowed to shout, and the cries of the street-venders, who used to bawl out the names of their wares, are no longer heard. For some time after the law against them was rigidly en forced they continued to haunt the West End, wistfully looking up at windows and down into areas for purchasers. The shivering groundsel-sellers stared silently at balconies where birdcages hung. The dealer in hare skins and rabbit skins communicated softly, like a spirit-rapper, with the cook. Such small traders are rarely seen to-day in the West End, and street cries are a thing of the past. The old clo' man no longer utters his wail, and the muffin man has long ceased to combine the harmony of words with the tinkle of his bell.
Some of those old street venders, picturesque as they undoubtedly were, indulged in many dubious practices.
One who had a particularly melodious way of