Thursday, September 24, 2015

A Walk In London In 1807

Thursday, September 24, 2015
Cheapside 1813
Loretta reports:

I’ve offered excerpts from Robert Southey's Letters from England* before (here). This one notes interesting pedestrian behavior. Also, those of us who lament the destruction of Carlton House will learn that not everybody loved it.

The distance [westward to St. James’s Palace]was considerable: the way, after getting into the main streets, tolerably straight. There were not many passers in the by-streets; but when I reached Cheapside the crowd completely astonished me. On each side of the way were two uninterrupted streams of people, one going east, the other west. At first I thought some extraordinary occasion must have collected such a concourse; but I soon perceived it was only the usual course of business. They moved on in two regular counter currents, and the rapidity with which they moved was as remarkable as their numbers ... Nobody was loitering to look at the beautiful things in the shop windows; none were stopping to converse, every one was in haste, yet no one in a hurry; the quickest possible step seemed to be the natural pace. The carriages were numerous in proportion, and were driven with answerable velocity.

If possible, I was still more astonished at the opulence and splendor of the shops: drapers, stationers, confectioners, pastry cooks, seal-cutters, silver-smiths, booksellers, print-sellers, hosiers, fruiterers, china-sellers,—one close to another, without intermission, a shop to every house, street after street, and mile after mile; the articles themselves so beautiful, and so beautifully arranged, that if they who passed by me had had leisure to observe any thing, they might have known me to be a foreigner by the frequent stands which I made to admire them. Nothing which I had seen in the country had prepared me for such a display of splendour ...
I went on to the palaces of the Prince of Wales, and of the King, which stand near each other in a street called Pall Mall. The game from whence this name is derived is no longer known in England.

The Prince of Wales's palace is no favourable specimen of English
Carlton House 1811
architecture. Before the house are thirty columns planted in a row, two and two, supporting nothing but a common entablature, which connects them. As they serve for neither ornament nor use, a stranger might be puzzled to know by what accident they came there; but the truth is, that these people have more money than taste, and are satisfied with any absurdity if it has but the merit of being new.

*Online at Internet Archive Vol 1, Vol 2, Vol 3.

Cheapside, from Ackermann's Repository for 1813
Carlton House, from Ackermann's Repository for 1811

Clicking on the image will enlarge it.  Clicking on the caption will take you to the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.


Unknown said...

Thank you for the link to "Letters from England". I'm definitely adding this to my reading list. :-)

I've been following your blog for about 2 years now, and you ladies never disappoint. Thanks for sharing your fervor for History in such an entertaining manner.

Regency Romance Author Donna Hatch said...

I didn't realize Cheapside was a great place to shop. I'm excited to read Letters From England, too.

online paraphrase said...

Great writing ! In my reading list too !!

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