Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Sunday Visit to Hyde Park in 1835

Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Loretta reports:

Following is an excerpt from Sketches from Real Life, published in The Court Magazine in January 1835.  The entire piece is interesting reading, & you might have fun guessing which people the initials & dashes & asterisks refer to.
We will enter Hyde Park by the gateway of the beautiful screen we have just glanced at . . .It is Sunday ; and we are accompanied on our entrance by streams of well dressed pedestrians, throngs of well mounted cavaliers, and strings of well appointed equipages, all tending to the same point of popular attraction, — the northern portion of that irregular shaped Ring which it is now our business to describe, with all its extraneous chasing, and all those temporary adjuncts which it wears so profusely on this its weekly jour-de-fête.

On first passing through the Screen which separates Hyde Park from the point of junction between the western extreme of Piccadilly on the one hand, and the great western road on the other, we find ourselves in an angular area, of irregular shape, and branching off, on the left, into two long and spacious carriage roads, running parallel with each other to an extent that (in our misty metropolitan atmosphere) the eye can scarcely take in. To-day these two roads are enlivened at intervals, "few and far between," the one on the left by various unpretending equipages, rolling steadily along in both directions, as if willing to avoid the vulgar noise, bustle, and dust of the public road on the one hand, and the aristocratic gaiety and splendour of the crowded Ring on the other. . .
The other still broader and more stately road,* running parallel with that just referred to, finds its spacious solitude enlivened by a few quietly disposed equestrians alone: for carriages are interdicted there, save those of royalty itself, and of one favoured exception, His Grace the High Falconer of England . . . Certain it is, his Duchess does not fail frequently to avail herself of this imaginary approximation to royalty. Nor can we blame her for so doing. To pay a hundred thousand a year for a turnpike ticket entitling one to travel the eight furlongs of "royal road," between Kensington and London, and then not to use the privilege, were a superfluous piece of magnificence. The Court Magazine and Belle Assemblée, 1835

*Rotten Row

1833-Smollinger-Hyde Park section of "Improved map of London for 1833, from Actual Survey. Engraved by W. Schmollinger, 27 Goswell Terrace." (with my notes)

Rotten Row and Hyde Park Corner, London, England, between ca. 1890 and ca. 1900, courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA


Donna Hatch, Regency Romance Author said...

This is a great picture of the park. I've never seen one so detailed. If only there is a way I could go back and actually see it as it was back in the Regency!

Margaret Porter said...

His Grace the High Falconer of England was the Duke of St Albans. His duchess was the low-born actress, Harriott Mellon, widowed by wealthy banker Mr Coutts, who "bought" herself the much younger, unmarried duke as a husband. She was a huge (literally and figuratively)object of derision by society folk, for her common origins, her lavish lifestyle, and her odd marriage.

LorettaChase said...

Donna, I spend a lot of time looking for images of the park in the early 19th century, and have found only one or two offering a decent view of the two roads. The British Library has a good collection, though, of images of the park's interior in the Regency era.

Margaret, thank you for the information. I did wonder about it, mainly because of the unflattering description of the duchess. Very interesting about the actress, esp.since the first duke was the offspring of King Charles II & the actress Nell Gwyn!

Margaret Porter said...

It seems to be genetic, the Stuart/Beauclerk affinity for actresses. Not only was the 1st duke the son of one, the 3rd Duke had no legitimate issue but was notorious for affairs with opera singers & dancers (and his own female servants). Then there was Harriot Mellon's husband, the 9th Duke (they had no children, his heir was born of his 2nd wife).

And the future 15th Duke, which whom I am slightly acquainted, married (and divorced) a television actress/singer.

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