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have been made of the value of the property destroyed on that memorable occasion, and in round numbers it has been supposed to be about £12,000,000, which, according to our standard of value, would be equal to £50,000,000 or £60,000,000. All the fires to which reference has been made, were attended by the destruction, to a greater or less amount, of human life. The narrowness of the streets, conjoined with the circumstance of the houses being mostly, except at the time of the great fire of 1666, built of wood, enabled the flames to spread with a fearful rapidity. The consequence of this destruction both of property and life, was, that the progress of London in commercial greatness, and the extension of its size, was frequently arrested. Between the frequent fires and plagues with which London was visited during the periods which have been referred to, it is indeed a matter of surprise that it should have continued to retain its importance as the first city in Europe.
Those who are conversant with the history of London in the dark ages, must feel the contrast between what it then was and what it now is, to be curious and striking. At that time the city, extending from Ludgate Hill eastward to the Minories, was surrounded by, forests and water. A few miles north of the Thames there was an immense forest : it extended for many miles from west to east. The district now known by the name of Finsbury, was a large lake, whose waters washed the north-east wall of the city. Westminster was wholly separated from London by an immense tract of water, the communication between the two cities being carried on by boats. A river of considerable : size ran, so late as two centuries ago, along Farringdon Street, and emptied itself into, thọ Thames. At a still later period, there were large and beautiful gardens attached to many of the houses in the Strand. In the time of Elizabeth, Holborn, which was then only built as far westward as Gray's Inn Lane, was called a village, and was not connected with London. In the now gigantic borough of Marylebone, there was not then a single house, $t, Pancras, Pentonville, Islington, the City Road, Hoxton, &c., were all open fields, through which it was dangerous to pass, in consequence of the number of robbers by which they were infested.
To those who are fond of comparing the past with the present, it would be a very interesting exercise to compare the external aspect of London four or five hundred years ago, with its external aspect at present. Then, the houses, with very few exceptions, were built of wood, their roofs being covered over with thatch similar to what is still to be seen in many farmsteadings in different parts of the country. The streets were narrow and irregular, and the city generally had a very heavy, repulsive appearance. The streets were not paved; they first.
began to be so in the year 1533. The inhabitants, in wet weather, were generally, when walking along the leading thoroughfares, ankle deep in mud; and, to aggravate the evil, vehicles for the conveyance of the public from one part of the town to another, were then unknown. Indeed, at so late a period as the year 1625, there were only twenty hackney-coaches in London. Even those who, before the streets of London were paved, could afford to keep their carriages, could not, in very rainy weather, pass from one part of the town to the other without great difficulty and danger. The carriages often stuck fast in the mud, and in the endeavour to extricate them, the horses became restive, and often upset the vehicles. A curious illustration of the soft nature of the leading thoroughfares in London before the idea of paving them occurred to the citizens, was given in the year 1091. In that year occurred the most terrible tempest with which London was ever visited. No fewer than six hundred houses-probably a tenth of the whole--were blown down. The Tower suffered greatly from the effects of the storm, and many of the most strongly-built churches were entirely destroyed. Among others, the church of St. Mary-le-bow (our present Bow Church), fell a partial victim to the fury of the tempest. Four of the rafters on the roof, each of them thirty feet in length, were blown off, and, falling into Cheapside, so great was the softness of the soil, and such the force of the storm, that twenty-six feet out of the thirty were buried in the earth. Only four feet of the rafters were visible above ground. Handsome squares and ornamental parks were then wholly unknown; there were no places of public promenade. Such a thing as walking for pleasure was altogether unknown. Fine shops, or fine houses of any kind, were also unknown. The streets were not lighted at night; the little light that guided the feet of the pedestrian was emitted from the shops and the windows of the houses. It was dangerous, owing to the numerous robberies then committed after dark, to go out at night; no one, indeed, left his own abode who was not obliged to do so. How altered the aspect and state of London now! But I dwell not on its present condition; I leave that to the reader himself. Suffice it to say, that it is now one of the most healthy and comfortable towns in the kingdom.
It were improper to close this introductory chapter without some reference to the recent rapid extension of London, and what it is likely to attain to ere the lapse of many years. Astounding as is the magnitude which it has already attained, it is increasing in extent with a rapidity to which there is no parallel either in its own annals, or in the history of any other city in the world. In little more than twelve years, no fewer than twelve hundred streets have been added to the number pre
viously existing-being at the rate of a hundred new streets every year. The statement will surprise our country readers ; many of them will, doubtless, regard it as an experiment on their credulity. It is, nevertheless, strictly true. It is given on the authority of a return recently made, not to the legislature, but to the government. These twelve hundred new streets consist of forty-eight thousand houses, most of them built on a large and commodious scale, and in a style of superior comfort. It is a fact which is worthy of being recorded, that of late the new houses which have been built, are, in the majority of cases, of a superior class as compared with the houses previously erected. The resident in the metropolis is less liable to be struck with amazement at the rapid rate with which it is, in all directions, extending its boundaries, because almost daily additions to its magnitude come gradually on him; but it requires no great effort of the imagination to form some idea of what must be the measure of that man's surprise who now surveys its suburbs after an absence of ten or twelve years.
The question has often been asked, “Is London likely to continue for any length of time to increase its dimensions in the same ratio as it has done for the last fourteen or fifteen years ?” Absolute certainty on such a point is necessarily out of the question. No man can speak oracularly on the subject. The presumption, however, undoubtedly, is in favour of an affirmative answer. The probability, indeed, is, that not only will it go on extending its proportions at the same extraordinary rate, but that it will do so at an accelerated pace. The disposition to build is everywhere prevalent. A few months only have elapsed since a great effort was made to obtain the sanction of the legislature to erect houses on Hampstead Heath. Had this sanction been given to the parties applying for it, there cannot be a question, that before twelve months had elapsed, that extensive common would have presented the aspect of a moderately-sized country town.
In confirmation of the opinion that this mighty metropolis will go on, for many years to come, enlarging its dimensions, in as great if not a greater ratio than during the last fourteen or fifteen years, it may be right to refer to the fact, that the demand for houses instead of diminishing, continues to increase. From all parts of the country we hear, at short intervals, of the number of unoccupied houses in particular towns. No such complaint ever greets the ear in reference to the metropolis. Not only are there few untenanted houses in the more central parts of the town, but the most careless observer who passes through any of the suburban districts must have been often struck with the fact, that scarcely is a new street finished, than almost every house in it is fully occupied.
This very extensive and rapidly increasing demand for houses is susceptible of easy explanation. The extraordinary facilities for travelling afforded by the numerous railways now intersecting the country, induce myriads to visit the metropolis, who, but for these facilities of transit, would have remained contented in the provinces : many thousands of these settle permanently among us. It need hardly be remarked, that increased facilities of intercourse between London and the country towns, necessarily increase the trade and commerce of the former, and that as trade and commerce increase, the demand for houses must continue to grow, and the metropolis, consequently, continue to extend. As an illustration of the influence which the railways have in bringing persons from the provinces to the metropolis, who otherwise would not have visited the latter place, the fact deserves to be mentioned, that the daily influx of individuals to London is five times as great now as it was only fifteen years ago. Let any one only visit the termini of the great trunk railwaysthe London and Birmingham, the Great Western, the London and South Western, the Eastern Counties', the Dover, the Brighton, &c.; let any one only visit the termini of these great lines of railway, and he will be overwhelmed with amazement at the thousands of persons which the provinces daily pour into the metropolis. As railways are multiplied and extended throughout the country, London, already so overgrown, must needs continue to swell its dimensions. When or where the enlargement of its boundaries is to stop, no one can tell; not even a confident conjecture can be formed on the subject. There is not, assuredly, anything improbable in the supposition that, ere many years have elapsed, Blackwall, Stratford, Greenwich, Hampstead, Highgate, Hornsey, Hammersmith, Fulham, Brixton, and other places around London, will, by the filling up of the intervening open space with houses, be all brought within the comprehensive embraces of the metropolis. In the supposed case, instead of being, as at present, about forty miles in circumference, its circumference would be little less than a hundred miles; while the population would be from three millions five hundred thousand to four millions. The mind feels appalled at the contemplation of so colossal a place; it is overpowered as it reflects on the probability that so vast a number of human beings will, ere long, be permanently congregated together, as if all belonged to one great family. London is already regarded as a little world of itself. The author who, half a century hence, shall write on so fruitful a theme, may, with a special propriety, choose for his book the title of “ The Modern Babylon.”
E. H. E.
THE PARLOUR BOARDER.
AN EVERY-DAY SKETCH.
MRS. SARAH BLOOMER was a widow, her amiable husband having died come years prior to the period of which we write. She was a nice woman in her way was Mrs. Bloomer, but her ways were at times rather
queer. In the opinion of some persons, doubtless, she would have been fair; fat she decidedly was in the opinion of all; and forty she could have been proved to be, had reference been made to certain documentary evidence most incontestible respecting the point. Appearances, however, militated against this latter fact; for Mrs. Bloomer was romantic in her disposition, and inclined to be gay and youthful in her habits. The curls upon her forehead were always well arranged, and exceedingly natural they appeared, according most admirably with her complexion, which inclined to be florid. Mrs. Bloomer resided in Gower Street, Bedford Square, where she let lodgings to single gentlemen, and gained her livelihood by “comfortably doing for them” at a guinea-and-a-half a week. Mrs. Bloomer was very decided in her an. tipathies and likings, and scrupled not to exhibit them whenever occasion presented itself. She admired herself in particular; but her admiration did not extend to her sex in general; and she, therefore, invariably rejected any application for her apartments for the accommodation of ladies, alleging as her reason that “they do give sich trouble." To the applicants, however, of the other sex, she was affability itself. She had a most determined knack of administering what she quaintly but expressively termed “the sauce of life," spiced according to the palate of the patient. We all of us, from the philosopher to the determined fop, disguise it as we may, can find a relish for the honied words of flattery; and when it proceeds from a lady, it comes with a resistless force. If ever an amiable-looking gentleman in knee smalls and gaiters for instance, made application at the house of Mrs. Bloomer. to be comforted in that lady's
establishment, ten to one but a bargain on the spot was the result. The seductive tones of Mrs. Bloomer at once brought down the bill, and brought in the gentleman. When in, how pleased he would become with the amiable widow, and how he would congratulate himself when he experienced with delight the many little attentions of his blooming hostess. We can recollect a set of Mrs. Bloomer's apartments being vacant—"the bill " appeared conspicuously in the parlour window, and its filagree work appeared the emblem of gentility. It had not been there many hours before a little gentleman stopped before the house, glanced at the card first, and then cast a look at the drawing-room windows. Having completed this survey to his satisfaction, he proceeded to the door, and infipted a series of heavy knocks thereon, which made the street resound again and again. The door was speedily opened by the housemaid, who requested the
Sept. 1844.—VOL. XLI. NO. CLXI.