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OWHERE does“ Eyes and No Eyes ” apply better than in this
great city. We miss Mr. Barlow sadly. Dwellers in London, who go staring round Paris, see nothing to stare at in London. Yet there is a vast amount to be seen and inwardly digested ; particularly if there be some cicerone to play showman and take the trouble of study and thinking off one's hands. When the country cousin comes on a visit to town—a diligent explorer, with the work cut out for every day-is not the host often entertained and surprised at the accounts, rehearsed with a rustic enthusiasm, of the day's adventures ?
This great city is as stored with all kinds of old treasures, old associations, old houses, old buildings, old “ bits,” as a San Donato museum. Here motley is your only wear.
In an hour you may see “no end,” i.e. dozens, of curious things. The late Walter Thornbury, or, better still, the remote Peter Cunningham, could have pointed out the strangest objects. But this would be trespassing on antiquarian bounds.
The River from Battersea to Greenwich is ever attractive-a very different river from the one that meanders at Kew and Putney, and sleeps so languidly at Maidenhead and Henley. The town river is full of brightness; the air is fresh and inspiriting; there is bustle, change, and vitality. A Sentimental Journey from, say, Cremorne to Wapping would be highly interesting.
Cremorne! Already the lawful prey of the Walfords and Cunninghams is brought within the range of practical antiquaries. See the erst gay enclosure, the fair gardens, now one of the most rueful wanton wrecks that can be conceived. So it has lain for some years now. It is as though an army of navvies had been turned inperhaps they had—to level, wreck, and spoil, or, as the gentleman in "The Wolf” sings, to “rifle, rob, and plunder ;" then go their way. The ground dug up as with a plough ; a stray shattered vase tumbled
; down; a bit of the old wall; a bit of the painted scenery jumbled together, all gives toker of the piteous ruin-judgment, some men call it-that has overtaken this place of “enjoyment." It has been razed. So pretty a garden did not exist near London, and there was a quaint old fashion somehow preserved, suggesting Ranelagh and Vauxhall. Of a summer's evening, it was pleasant to glide down by steamer, touch at the crazy pier, now passed away, walk by the river's edge to where the old trees rose high, thick, and stately-you expected rooks-through which came the muffled sounds of music and glittering flitting lights. Even the gate was old and stately, and its ironwork good. Within, the blaze of light at the platform; the old-fashioned hotel -nobody, surely, ever boarded or lodged there, or could do it-its low windows all ablaze with lamps; the “boxes " running round for suppers; the not unpicturesque bars; the capital theatres, for there were several dispersed about here and there and everywhere; the sort of procession headed by an illuminated placard announcing the name of the next show. Then would the band strike up a stirring march, the drums clattering, the brass braying, and in military array lead the way, attended by all the rout and crowd who fell in behind, and tramped on cheerfully to renewed enjoyments. The dancing was always an amusing spectacle, from the rude honesty with which it was carried out; not the least amusing portion the dignity of the M.C.'s. The people sitting under the good old trees-the glaring boothseven the fortune-teller sitting retired ;-all this, in a deep grove, made up a curious entertainment never likely to be revived. We cannot go back to these things. The Surrey Gardens went before, as these have gone. Now these elements are gathered into aquariums, great halls, perhaps "hugely to the detriment" of the public. Peace be with the manes of Cremorne !
Turning out of Cheyne Walk, we find ourselves in Cheyne Row, which seems still and old-fashioned as some by-street in a cathedral close. Here are small, sound, old red-brick houses of the Queen Anne period, or so-called Queen Anne period. And here, at No. 24, lives Thomas Carlyle, of whom neighbours and neighbourhood may well feel proud. A compact dwelling, next to the one with a verandah and substantial porch ; it has been much restored. Its neighbour on the other side boasts the good old eaves which it has lost—but en revanche it has “jealousies." Within, there is a strange air of old fashion, and the furniture as antique. It is pleasant to find how much the sage is regarded in this appropriate district. The inhabitants, or vestry perhaps, have honoured him. For close by is a rather imposing square-yclept Carlyle Square—a nice and unusual shape of compliment. Anyone will point out his house, and at the photographers' and print shops you can buy photo. graphs of it, as also of the sitting figure modelled by Boehm-really one of the finest and most characteristic bits of portrait sculpture. This has not yet been done in bronze; the good lieges of Dumfries might surely set it up in their market-place. It is singularly powerful; a likeness in all parts—in dress, mode of sitting in the old Chippendale arm-chair), in the curious robe which drapes the lean figure, the nervous or delicate fingers, and the grave, judicial air of expectancy. It is not unlikely that, if the traveller lingers about, he will encounter the sage himself-a curious but interesting figure, in the well-known broad-leafed hat and cloak, taking his walk with some faithful friends, who are proud to attend him. Only a few are allowed the privilege, and one may envy them their promenade. Few can guess how grimly and Scottically humorous can be our philosopher.
At the end of the “walk” we reach the river. There is nothing more picturesque in London than old Chelsea Church, with its grimed old red brick or brown brick tower, and its tablets and tombstones fixed outside high in the walls of the church, up and down, like framed pictures-an unusual adornment; whose effect, as may be conceived, is the quaintest. So, too, with the little appendix, or round house, attached to it, with the odd figures, and the Hans Sloane tomb under a sort of shed. The tower, however, is the attraction, suggesting something Dutch, and rising sadly and solemnly. Indeed, the view here is quaint and pretty, and recalls a bit of the Scheldt; the wooden bridge kept together with clamps and bits of framing, with that high hunch-back look we see on the bridges over the Rhine. This rickety structure adds to the picturesque effect; but it will not be for long, and by-and-by will be replaced by a new
Here the visitor to Battersea will perceive a number of columns and granite stones strewing the bank near New Chelsea Bridge, lying derelict-a sort of Tadmor. Few recall how these came here; how they once formed the fine colonnade of Burlington House in Piccadilly, which used to be the admiration of architects. It ran within the great dead wall which stretched in front, for the delectation of its noble owner merely. There was a beatific vision in the minds of some hopeful people that it was to be set up again in some suitable place, and the fragments were left here temporarily. But years have rolled by. Temple Bar was thus carted away, and was to be also set up somewhere. Both are mere heaps of stones, or rubbish, and command no respect.
Cheyne Walk half a dozen years ago was one of the most original and welcome bits in London-a true morsel of a Dutch town. There was the river with the pleasure boats moored in gaudy show; the
rugged bank, with its picturesque old trees, full of shade, overhanging; the pleasant walk underneath, and, a few feet beyond, the row of old mansions, of good brickwork, with fine ironwork in their gates. The tall, well-proportioned piers should be noted, signifying the entrance to a once imposing mansion. One of them-No. 5, I think-was the late Maclise's till he died; he had the good taste not to modernise it, but to keep it in sound repair. His successors have not had the same restraint. A little lower down is a good specimen of the Gothic which at the beginning of the century was thought to be the purest style-a place called “Gothic House." A good deal of this stufi, evolved out of the imagination of the architect, is distributed about the country, even including Royal Windsor. Farther on, towards Cheyne Row and the church, used to run a little narrow street of a highly nautical or waterman-like complexion, with crazy galleries overhanging the water, for the enjoyment of the air and river. All this was pulled down and swept away. The Embankment pushed its way all in front of picturesque Cheyne Walk, and thrust it back a long way from the river.
However, it has not suffered so much as might have been expected.
We now pass from the genuine antique to its imitations, and reach the curious cluster of modern-old houses to which the new Embankment has furnished ground. These strike one as extraordinarily wild in conception, as if the owners or designers had suffered from a sort of brick nightmare. Some, however, are bold and effective, and the whole group, which has gradually extended down the Embankment for a long distance, is worth a special visit. They bear quaint names, such as the Old Swan House, Garden Side, the White House, Carlyle House, Shelley House, River View, and the like. Farnely House and its neighbours are good imposing monuments of brick. Shelley House contains a theatre. The house with the curious white bow windows, set in something that looks like the stern of an old man-of-war, will attract attention; likewise the house at the corner, with its elaborate grilles over most of the windows. But turning down Tite Street—we have heard of Short Street and Queer Street, but Mr. Tite was an eminent architect of a few years back, now of course almost forgotten—we come to the White House, a curious, gaunt structure, stiff as an American's dress-coat about the shoulders, and until lately the dwelling of a well-known American artist, celebrated for his "nocturnes in green” and “symphonies in blue," which caused jesters such merriment; to say nothing of the Peacock Chamber, one of those absurd two- or ten-days' wonders which furnish a vacuous society with something to talk of. Now,
probably, the Peacock Chamber is tarnished, the greens are faded, and the owner, it may be, is thinking of some other mode of decoration. The catastrophe, associated with a collision with the ship John Ruskin, was not long in coming. There was a sale at the White House, and the artist is or was lately on the lagunes of Venice bent on an etching tour. But it was truly ominous that he should have chosen Tite Street for his locale. In the little square or tongue of ground near Cheyne Row will be noticed an elaborate lamp, supported by contorted boys. This was one of the competing patterns for the series that was to decorate the Embankment. The one chosen consists of contorted dolphins, and is not very effective. It may be added that the Chelsea Embankment is considered far more correct in its lines than the one that begins at Westminster.
Just at Vauxhall Bridge we come to a curious conceit, that would have "arrided”-Lamb's word—the heart of Mr. Dickens. Here is a large yard devoted to the sale of ship timber, for which old vessels of course are bought and broken up. But there remain always the old figure-heads-strange, curious gigantic efforts, that make one wonder what manner of man the designer was.
Nor are they without merit or spirit. They rise towering with a strange stark air, and look over the wall much as the animals did in Charles Lamb's copy of Stackhouse's Bible. There are Dukes of York with a fatuous expression, the Janet Simpson, or Lady Smith, Iron Dukes-all, it must be said, wrought rather vigorously, and looking with eternal solemnity over the wall, each some six or eight feet high, to the surprise of the stranger; the natives are familiar with them. At Bangor there is a curious little museum collected by a worthy of the place, who, among other curios, has secured the "figure-heads” from various wrecks, and disposed of them--where will it be supposed ? He planted them in his garden, where, as you walked, they left an uncomfortable effect, soinething like promenading in a lunatic asylum.
From here we can see Milbank Prison, forlorn and gloomy, with an air of standing in a swamp. Turning up the Queen's Road from the Embankment, we pass a very antique row of houses, with its heavybrowed eaves, with grimed tiled roofs and little gardens in front, a general decay over all. This curious row of buildings, which is in Wren's style, is worth a few moments' inspection, especially the one with the effective bit of old iron gateway, as well as the strange institution which forms the last house, entitled “The School of Discipline,” which, it seems, has been flourishing—for it would not have endured fifty-five years otherwise-since 1825. What the