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It is possible that in the present work I may, with some readers, run the risk of forfeiting a portion of that good opinion which has been so kindly and so liberally extended to me. There may be those who will think that London sight-seeing is an occupation too light-hearted to be indulged in by an old man, and that I might have employed myself better in attending to things more profitable, and better adapted to my years.
Different people, however, take different views on most subjects ; and believing, as I do, that habitual cheerfulness is no unfit attendant on healthy piety; and having also a strong impression that a grateful participation of lawful enjoyment is a better expression of thankfulness to the Father of mercies, than a voluntary endurance of unmeaning penances, and useless and unprofitable self-denials; I have thought it not inconsistent with my years and my hopes, to give some account of such places of public interest in London as may be visited by Christian people in their hours of relaxation, without hampering them in their earthly duties, or hindering them on their way to heaven.
Though the grey hair is on my head, and the furrows of time on my brow, yet have I to be thankful for a light foot, a ready hand, a quick eye, and a cheerful heart; and the possession of these blessings, naturally enough, leads me to partake of sunshine, rather than to go in quest of shadows. Most people think that their trials are at least equal to those of their neighbours; and I, too, have thought before now that I have had my share. If, how
ever, my mourning has been great, my me cies have been greater , and seldom do I pass an hour of any day without a halleluia on my lip or in my heart. No marvel, then, that with these buoyant emotions, I should love to go abroad when animate and inanimate creation rejoices ; when mankind, in a proper and grateful spirit, keep holiday; and when the mountains break forth into singing, and the trees of the field clap their hands."
In collecting into one volume my scattered papers on the sights of London, and in adding to them such further information as they appeared to require, I hope not to dissipate the minds of my readers, but, on the contrary, to interest and instruct them. There are some who know less of the things on which I have treated than myself, though many may know more: at any rate, I have persuaded' myself that the cheerful gossip and graver remarks of a friendly old man, on subjects interesting in themselves, will not be altogether unwelcome.
To such of my readers as estimate books only in the proportion in which they are likely to do good, I trust it will appear that I have not sought to give pleasure unaccompanied with profit, but so connected my walk's in London with that "city which hath foundations,” that those who are informed as to the one, shall not be altogether inmindful of the other.;
WALKS IN LONDON
BEFORE I notice the sights of London and the neighbourhood, let me point out a few things which are to me sources of gratification. Wrong me not, however, by supposing me to be an idle lounger, an indolent stroller in public places. Sight-seeing may be useful as an occasional recreation, though it would be profitless as a regular employment.
In the busiest life there are seasons or leisure, even in the six uays appointed us in which to labor and do all that we have to do, and I think it no evil, wherever I am, in town or country to seek out innocent sources of enjoyments.
I like to pick up scraps of conversation as I pass my fellow pilgrims in the world, whether at St. Giles's or St. James's: to notice peculiarities in form, dress, demeanour, language, or action: to muse on the shrewdness of one man, the oddness of another, the churlishness of a third, and the kindness of a fourth: the Jew with his old clothes; the Mohammedan with his bux of rhubarb; the whining beggar, defended by his matches from the interference of the police; the fish-woman at Billingsgate; the merchant on 'Change, and the Lord Mayor in his state carriage-all call forth the speculations of Old Humphrey.
I like to look in the shop windows, for many of them supply food for profitable speculation. I like to pause as the plumed hearse and mourning coaches, drawn by black horses arching their proud necks and lifting their feet high, slowly move among the crowded and busy streets, emphatically proclaiming to the passers by; “ Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble. He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not,” Job xiv. 1, 2.
I like to look on etchings, drawings, engravings, and pictures, and am oftentimes spell-bound by their influence, feeling regret that I cannot thank those who have so much contributed to my gratification. I like to glance, if it be only at the title-page, on the works of authors that I believe to be in heaven, claiming kindred with them even there, knowing them, loving them, and longing to be like them. How many a kindred spirit, by the record it has left behind it, has made
iny heart beat and my pulse play, and called forth my admiration, joy, and thankfulness, hundreds of years after its translation to glory!
I like to linger at the well-supplied stalls of secondhand books, and to turn over the leaves of the volumes exposed for sale from the twopenny box of all sorts at the door, to the shelf of folios inside the shop. I like to glide slowly with the living stream along Cheapside, noting the passers by, and reading their history in their
eyes, faces, and appearance. Twenty men did I see there in procession last week, every one bearing a broad, heavy board on his shoulder, placarded with the name of a London Journal, and some of them tottered beneath their burdens. Oh, what a tale did their haggard cheeks, their sickly frames, and their ragged raiment make known! Poverty, and perhaps, thoughtlessness, indiscretion, and crime, had made them what they were.
I like to stand opposite Christ's Hospital, and look through the double row of iron palisades at the boys when they are at play in the court-yard. If it were possible to make a good-looking boy appear ugly, by dressing him up in uncouth clothing, the blue gown, yellow petticoat and stockings, and buckle-garter-like girdle of the Christ's Hospital costume would undoubt'edly do it: but, in spite of their dress, the light-hearted, merry-making young rogues find their way into my heart. I remember that I once was a boy, and when they knuckle down at ring-taw, leap the skipping rope, trundle the hoop, and race after one another, I feel that I could join them at their sport. It was but yesterday that I stood looking at them for ten minutes, afterwards giving them in silence my parting blessing.
I like, when I feel strong, though some would regard it as an arduous undertaking for an old man, ascend to the golden gallery of St. Paul's Cathedral, and look upon London below. The incessant rumble of busy life reaches me as an echo of things remote, and my brother emmets beneath me, by their diminished stature make me feel little in my own eyes. London, the treasure-house of the earth for wealth and power, as the queen of nations, stretches the sceptre of her influence over the east and west, the north and the south.