Whymper's London Diary, July-December 1856

The Apprenticeship of a Mountaineer: Edward Whymper's London Diary, 1855-1859. Originally published by London Record Society, London, 2008.

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Edward Whymper, 'Whymper's London Diary, July-December 1856', in The Apprenticeship of a Mountaineer: Edward Whymper's London Diary, 1855-1859, (London, 2008) pp. 62-78. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/london-record-soc/vol43/pp62-78 [accessed 24 May 2024].

Edward Whymper. "Whymper's London Diary, July-December 1856", in The Apprenticeship of a Mountaineer: Edward Whymper's London Diary, 1855-1859, (London, 2008) 62-78. British History Online, accessed May 24, 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/london-record-soc/vol43/pp62-78.

Whymper, Edward. "Whymper's London Diary, July-December 1856", The Apprenticeship of a Mountaineer: Edward Whymper's London Diary, 1855-1859, (London, 2008). 62-78. British History Online. Web. 24 May 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/london-record-soc/vol43/pp62-78.

Whymper's London Diary, July-December 1856

1. JULY. Finished 'Tunny' and went to Mr Foster's at St Johns Wood. No news. Fine day.

2. Began a fish and also a machine. Went to cricket in the afternoon to Kennington Oval. No news. My father went to Mr Gilbert's. My mother to Ham Common after lodgings. If they go there I shall not take my holidays.

3. Finished 'shearing machine' and fish. No news. My uncle John came on a visit to us today. Fine day, very nice and cool.

4. Drew 2 fishes, arranged Gosse's blocks, cut up wood etc. No news. I went part of the afternoon to the Oval to see a cricket match, between the Surrey and the Oxford Clubs. The batting of the former and the fielding of the latter was especially good. It is to be continued tomorrow. Fine day, rain threatening.

5. Touched up several fishes and drew another etc. No news. Fine day.

6. Sunday. Went to Maze Pond in morning and evening. Mr Aldis preached an excellent sermon on the death of our late friend Mr John Brown. In the evening a missionary from Jamaica preached. No news. Fine.

7. Drew a blast furnace and began another, went to Gibson's etc. No news. Rainy. We are now, I am glad to say, pretty busy and with a fair chance of keeping so for some time. I hope it may be so for many reasons.

8. Went on with 'blast furnace' and drew letters. No news. Rainy. The soldiers from the Crimea are going to make a triumphal? procession through London, or at least so say the papers! They are to be headed by the Queen!!!!!

9. Finished 'blast furnace,' went to Gibson's, began a fish etc etc. No news. The Guards from the Crimea walked about the town today, but it could not be called a triumphal entry or an enthusiastic reception. Showery. Accounts say that it will be a pretty good year for the crops. Apples will be scarce.

10. Finished fish and planed up blocks etc. No news. Fine day. My mother etc at the Crystal Palace.

11. Cut up wood, drew diagrams, altered fish. No news. My father went to Mr Gilbert's. Showery.

12. Drew diagrams, cut up wood, went to Kings Cross station etc. No news. Rainy. I went to the Oval, but did not play at cricket owing to the rain.

13. Sunday. Went to Maze Pond in morning and evening. A Lancashire man preached. No news. Fine weather.

14. Drew diagrams, arranged trade sheets etc. Mr Green came to tea. No news. Fine day.

15. Finished diagrams, began a fish, cut up wood etc. No news. My father went to Mr Clay's to dinner. It is now lightening very severely (sheet). My mother and brothers go to Ham Common this day next week.

16. Drew a machine and began another, cut up wood and arranged Gosse's. In the night the sheet lightening turned into fork ditto and it rained tremendously. No news. Thundering.

17. Finished machine and drew two others, cut up wood etc. No news. Fine day.

18. Drew a fish, squared 60 of Gosse's blocks, cut up wood etc. No news. I saw a large fire tonight, but I do not know its whereabouts. Fine. My father went sketching near Dorking.

19. Drew diagram fish and began another, went to the Oval to cricket, etc. No news. A very fine day. A cricket match has just come off which lasted 3 days between the counties of Surrey and Sussex in which the latter was beat by about 200 runs.

20. Went to Maze Pond in morning and evening. Mr Ashmead preached both times. No news. Fine day. Fred's birthday. His is 18.

21. Began a machine, went to Kearney etc. No news. Fine day.

22. Went on with machine. No news. Fine day.

23. Finished machine and arranged Gosse's blocks. A storm is approaching. It is now lightening. My mother and brothers went to Richmond today and will be away for a month. It is quite pleasant to have the house quiet for a few weeks. No news. My father went to Gilbert's.

24. Went to Paddington station with my cousin Theophilus who has had to return without getting a situation. No news. Began an air bladder of a fish. Fine day. My Grandfather completed his 70th year today.

26. Went in the evening to Ham Common.

27. Sunday. Went in morning to chapel to Richmond and staid at home in evening on account of rain. No news.

28. Came up to Lambeth. Went to Fred Gilbert's at Blackheath, drew fish etc. No news. Fine day.

29. Drew a fish, cut up wood etc. No news. Fine. Very busy in business.

30. Drew 2 maps, went errands, touched up blocks. No news. My father has gone to Richmond to sketch.

31. Drew letters, went on with Indian temple etc. No news. Fine day.

1. August. Went to Mrs Gould's, went on with Temple etc. No news. Fine day. A frightful accident has just occurred on an American railway. It was an excursion train of children and women, which had to meet at another spot, another train. When they got to the place, the train was not there, so the engine driver backed his train and in doing so he went smash into the other train which was coming round a curve. At the instant of the collision the carriages took fire and those who were not smashed were roasted without the bystanders being able to afford any assistance. About 60 or 70 were killed.

2nd to 14 inclusive. At home and at Ham Common. Having already lodged there two summers previously, there is but little in the neighbourhood that we are not acquainted with. Notwithstanding this, there are very many pretty and beautiful parts around. Richmond Park, and the river from Richmond to Kingston, have many nice views in them. While at Ham I did but little good, my time being principally occupied with playing at cricket and trying to catch fish who laughed at my vain endeavours. I tried to sketch in colours, but like my previous attempts it was a complete failure. During the time I was there my father went to Yorkshire taking with him my brother Fred, who has ambitions of being a painter. He has shown (considering his small practice) considerable ability in what he has already done, but greater things are expected of him.

News is rather scarce, newspapers consequently are dull. The weather has been rather variable, a good deal of fine, with a good deal of wet.

15. Began drawing a missionary block. No news. Showery day. My father has now gone to Richmond, Yorkshire.

16. Finished missionary block and went to Clay's etc. No news. Fine until evening. I go to Ham this evening. I went to the Oval this afternoon.

17. Sunday. At Ham. I went to chapel at Kingston morning and evening. Raining hard pretty nearly all day. A very good preacher at Kingston and the congregation sing better than any I have heard. The chapel has just been opened. I had the pleasure on Saturday of being driven down to Richmond by a drunken engineer who took us clean through stations we ought to have stopped at, much to the alarm, anger, etc., of the passengers.

18. Began a map and altered mission block, cut up wood etc. No news. Dull day.

19. Went on with map and went down to Ham, also returned. Very dull day. Raining incessantly. No news.

20. Went on with map. No news. Raining hard. My uncle has bought a new house for his own exclusive use. Hope he may enjoy it.

21. Went on with map, out errands, cut up wood for Skill, altered one of Skill's blocks etc. No news. Showery. My mother, brothers and sister came home today from Ham.

22. Went on with map, cut up a great deal of wood for Skill and Prior etc. No news. Showery.

23. Finished map and began another, went to King's Cross etc. Played at cricket in afternoon. Fine day. No news. Fred came home from York.

24. Sunday. Went to Maze Pond in morning and evening. A minister from Bath preached both times. No news. Fine day.

25. Went on with map, went errands etc. No news. Showery. There was a very large fire on the other side of the water this evening, which I did not see until it was nearly ended. A large number of the Crimean Guards were entertained today at a dinner at the Surrey music gardens. It was provided for by a public subscription which was liberally supported.

26. Went on with map, went to Butterworth's etc. No news. Very fine day. Played at cricket at Kennington Oval.

27. Went on with map. No news. Fine day. My father returned tonight.

28. Went on with map. Played at cricket at the Oval and went to Wandsworth. No news. Showery. My father has been rather unsuccessful in his sketching this season; he has not brought home any better and he has some worse than he did last year.

29. Went on with map, went to Mrs Gould's, errands, also corrected trade sheets. No news. Fine day with promise of better.

30. Went to Clay's, went on with map etc. No news. Fine day.

31. Sunday. Went to Maze Pond in morning and evening. A student preached both times. No news. Fine until the evening. My father in afternoon went to Peckham to see Mr Leigh who is now seriously ill from the effects of obstinacy in not seeing a doctor before.

1. Sept. Finished map etc. No news. Fine with a great deal of lightening.

2. Went on with another map. No news. Fine.

3. Went on with map etc. No news. Played at cricket at the Oval in afternoon. Fine day. My mother at Peckham, and my father at Mr Gilbert's.

4. Went on with map etc. No news. Fine day.

5. Finished map. Fine day. The Royal British Bank has just stopped payment, after sustaining a run on it of nearly a quarter of a million. It appears that the cause of its failing is because they have been unfortunate (the directors have) in some mining speculations and have lost by that about 200,000£s, being more than the whole of their capital. The depositors in the bank will most probably lose nothing by it, but it is the shareholders who will suffer. There has just been a call made up of 100£s on every share, and that with what they subscribed before, makes 150£s they have paid for 100£ share, and of this they will most likely never see a farthing of again, as of course the shares are of no value, when all the capital and credit of the bank are gone.

6. Altered and named maps etc, went errands. In the afternoon to cricket at the Oval. No news. Fine day.

7. Sunday. Went to Maze Pond in morning and evening. Heard a missionary from Jamaica both times. No news. Fine day. A large fire was burning this evening near Blackfriars Bridge by the water side which must have destroyed many thousands in amount.

8. Went errands, named maps etc. No news. Fine day. My father goes out tomorrow for a second sketching excursion. I hope it may be more profitable than the first. He has just received a commission to paint a picture, however, of Richmond in Yorkshire where he has just been.

9. Arranged trades, went errands, began a map, cut up wood etc. No news. Fine.

10. Went errands, drew tool etc. No news. Fine. I went to Oval to cricket. At Baden at one of the gaming houses there was an officer (in the Prussian service I believe) who was playing deeply, and at last ventured and lost his all. He was so much excited that he blew his brains out at the table where they were playing. But did this interrupt the others going on? Not a bit, they had his blood etc wiped up and went on just the same. Almost precisely the same thing happened a few weeks back at the same place to an English officer. And it is the regent of that place we are now – no – the Queen is now entertaining and showing everything to. Enlightened man to allow and encourage such scenes as these! He has done worse than this however. He is a human brute of the first order.

11. Went errands, drew tools, cut up wood, looked over trade sheets etc. No news. Fine day. My mother at the Crystal Palace, Fred at Peckham and my father at Hastings.

12. Drew tools, went out etc. No news. Rainy. The Emperor of all the Russians is at last crowned at Moscow with great pomp and ceremony and also what is remarkable, without any accident to mar it.

13. Went on with map, arranged room etc. No news. Went to Oval, played a match and beat the other side by 42 runs. Drizzly day.

14. Sunday. Went to Maze Pond in morning and evening. Fine day. No news.

15. Went to Smithers and Dare's, drew a parrot, went on with map etc. No news. Very fine day.

16. Went on with map etc. No news. Fine day. My father returned today from Hastings, well satisfied with himself and bringing abundance of sketches.

17. Drew diagrams of irrigation, went on with map, cut up wood etc. No news. Threatening rain. Went to cricket in afternoon, played a match and were victorious as usual. 9 wickets to fall.

18. Drew diagrams, cut up wood and went out. No news. Fine day. Weather considerably colder than last week.

19. Went on with map and finished diagrams, cut up a great deal of wood etc. No news. Fine.

20. Went on with map, altered parrot etc. No news. A great fire broke out last night on Thames St near London Bridge and is burning still. I played a match at the Oval in the afternoon against the Merchant Tailors School 3rd Eleven and got beaten by one wicket. Pretty close work and was well contented. We play a return match next Saturday.

21. Sunday. Went to Maze Pond in morning and evening. Mr Cowdy of Leighton Buzzard preached both times. No news. Wet day.

22. Went to Smithers and [page corner torn off] places after photographs to illustrate 'Childe Harold.' Went on with map. No news. Showery. Business bad.

23. Finished map and began another, cut up wood etc etc. No news. Showery day. The game of last Saturday turned out not to be a defeat for us after all, as a mistake was discovered in the scoring papers, which made them have 4 more runs to get properly, so that it must be reckoned a drawn game.

24. Went on with map, went out, drew letters etc. No news. Rainy. Went to Oval in afternoon.

25. Drew signatures, went on with map, went to Gilbert's at Blackheath etc. No news. The late commander in chief of the army, Lord Hardinge, died yesterday morning at ½ past 11. Very wet. My mother at Crystal Palace.

26. Went on with map. No news. Very wet.

27. Went on with map, cut up wood and went to Blind School. My Father is endeavouring to make the Christian Knowledge Society start a new periodical. I hope he may succeed, but I am afraid he will not. Very wet. No news.

28. Sunday. Went to Maze Pond in morning and evening. Heard Mr Cowdy both times. He is a fine preacher I think. Wet day. No news.

From 1st of December 1855 to 28 of September 1856, both dates inclusive.

[Book Three]
September 29. Went on with map, went out errands, cut up good deal of wood etc. No news. Fine day.

30. Went on with map, drew the autograph of a New Zealander, went out etc. No news. Our friend Mr Leigh getting worse, hardly expected to recover. Fine.

Oct. 1. Went on with map and went to Southend. 83 miles, 2nd class for 2/ 6. Enjoyed myself thoroughly. Indeed it would have been strange if I had not, for I had a beautiful day, country looked lovely, I rowed for 2½ hours and had a good bathe in the sea. No news. An accident on the North Kent railway, a passenger train ran into a coal train. Nobody killed.

2. Finished map. The last! Hurrah! The title for the paper we are trying to start is 'The Englishman.' That ought to succeed if properly conducted. No news. Fine.

3. Arranged and corrected 'trades sheets,' priced blocks etc. No news. Last Sunday was very disastrous for all shipping round the coast, a great many wrecks took place, especially on south coast at Shoreham, Hastings and Dover. Showery. Castle, one of our apprentices, treated the rest to a days pleasure at Richmond; a boat, cramming stomachs etc.

4. Cut up wood, revised trade sheet, began the Convent at Vallombrosa. No news. Wet.

5. Sunday. Went to Maze Pond in morning and evening. Mr Booth of Falmouth preached both times. No news. Wet.

6. Went on with convent, corrected trades etc. No news. The steamer 'Tay' has just been lost, but not any lives I believe. Showery and cold.

7. Finished convent, began Fontaine St Sulpice, Paris, went to Truscott's etc. No news. Wet.

8. Went to Blind School, cut up wood, began the Bridge of the Holy Trinity at Florence. No news. Wet. My mother went to Peckham.

9. Went to Butterworth's, Prior's and Clowes', went on with Bridge, looked over trade sheets etc. No news. Fine.

10. Cut up wood, began large diagram of seasons etc. No news. The disturbances or rather the war in Arkansas U.S. seems to be getting rather worse instead of better. It originated in the question should it be a free or a slave state? The majority of the inhabitants were for the former, but those of the surrounding slave states determined that it should be one, too, which of course was opposed; but many of their cities have been burnt, and men, women and children slaughtered in hundreds. The most savage acts have been perpetrated for a settlement of this apparently trivial question, which still is not decided. I went this afternoon to Primrose Hill and shall never (unless there is strong inducement) go there again on pleasure. Fine.

11. Went to Stephenson's the great engineer, cut up wood, went on with seasons etc. No news. I have turned over to the Peace Party not from love of them but from disgust of the way in which all our political operations are performed. Bomba (nickname of), King of Naples, has by various acts of petty tyranny and impertinence to foreign states provoked us to demand a cessation of the aforesaid acts and an apology, which Bomba refuses. We bully, but Bomba is firm and is backed by Russia, upon which England is satisfied, and shuffles out of it, leaving the aforesaid tyrant to continue the petty acts of tyranny. Is the power of England declining? I think it is. Why? I am convinced as to the reason, as must all others who think about it.

12. Sunday. Went to Maze Pond in morning and evening and heard Mr Richards both times. No news. Fine.

13. Went to Mr G. Stephenson's, went on with seasons etc. Fine. No news. A total eclipse of the moon is, at the present time taking place, the moon has nearly disappeared.

14. Altered map and went on with seasons. No news. Fine.

15. Went to G. Stephenson's, cut up wood and went on with 'Seasons'. No news. Very wet. My father tempted by a sunny morning ventured to Reigate to sketch but returned in the afternoon with none but with a bad temper, which was expected.

16. Went on with 'Seasons', drew diagrams and went to G.R. Stephenson's. No news. Rainy. I have been reading the diary of Thomas Moore, poet. I have come to the conclusion that without having an overabundant genius (or indeed intellect), he was most disgustingly conceited. One cannot get a better idea of a man, than by reading his diary (if he kept one), if at all carefully kept, detailing his actions and conversations. There is however a great deal of amusing matter in the volumes, worth perusal.

17. Drew diagrams, went on with 'Seasons' etc. No news. Fine for a wonder. Had Mr and Mrs W. Collingwood Smith to tea and supper, he as amusing and she as amusingly impudent as ever.

18. Finished season and went to cricket at Archbishops Grounds. Fine. Leaves falling fast now. Suicides are (as usual at this time of year), very numerous, no less than 21 being reported to the police last week. Another great vagabond has lately made his appearance in the world, in the shape of a Mr Robson, clerk in the transfer office of the Crystal Palace, who although in the receipt of only 150£ per annum, managed to keep 6 horses, (2 of which sold for 520£), several carriages and several houses at the same time, an instance not often met with, of how far a little will go, when one knows the way how. It is needless to say that he had other sources of wealth, which were the shares of the Crystal Palace and which he has it is supposed (it is not known at present) appropriated to the value of about 30,000£! He on being discovered fled to the continent, but was taken at Copenhagen, and will, it is hoped, meet with condign punishment.

19. Sunday. Went to Maze Pond in morning and evening. Mr Firow of Finchley preached both times. Very fine.

20. Began the solar system, cut up wood, went to Stephenson's, Prior's etc. No news. A house fell in Bishopsgate St on Saturday, burying 12 men in its ruins, some of whom were killed. We hear pretty regularly of one disgraceful row among the officers of the army in a year. This year's one has happened at Brighton, but has been promptly and justly punished. The malefactors were Lord Ernest Vane Tempest and 2 other young officers, who thought it becoming to themselves as officers and as was supposed of gentlemen, to annoy by all means in their power another young cornet in their regiment, because he perhaps had not the means and certainly had not the will, to join in their gallant exploits about Brighton. The climax of this however was their, one night as he was leaving the mess table, taking him and shaving one side of his whiskers off and tying his hands, in order that they might feed him with pap, like a baby, which they did slapping him all the time. He took all this quite quietly and retired to his lodgings but he was disturbed in the night by having his door smashed open. He at last was aroused and reported their conduct to the Colonel, who referred the matter to the Duke of Cambridge who ordered them to deliver up their swords, and to be placed under close arrest; they have subsequently been tried and have been dismissed the service for ever and ever!! The Duke has given a decisive proof that he is fitted for his office.

I have mentioned before that Mr Spurgeon, who has turned a large portion of the religious world in London crazy, has been lately preaching in the large room of Exeter Hall for a considerable time, filling it in every part, but he has been refused the use of it by the proprietors and has consequently been obliged to take himself off. But Mr Spurgeon is not to be done in that way, so he hires the large music hall in the Surrey Gardens, (the concert season being over) and behold the result. He began last night and long before the appointed time of commencement all the hall and streets surrounding it were crammed with people, indeed they were estimated at 30,000 in number. They began the service and Spurgeon had got into the middle of his prayer, when all at once several persons were heard crying out, the roof is on fire, the building is falling, and other things, whereupon the greater part of the hearers rushed to the doors which were of course soon blocked up with their numbers, many were trampled on, and hundreds had their clothes torn from their backs. This spectacle, combined with the horrid shrieks of those unable to get out and who were terrified, combined with the groans of the wounded, formed one of the most frightful scenes that have ever been witnessed in London. According to the latest accounts, 7 have been killed (chiefly women) and hundreds wounded, numbers not known. The service had of course to be brought to a hasty conclusion and the shaking of the money boxes for contributions sounded not a little strange after such a frightful calamity. Mr Spurgeon has it is said, gone to the country to recover his senses, which he appears to have lost.

21. Went to Stephenson's, drew diagrams, cut up wood etc. My father and mother went to Smith's (the artists's) at Brixton. I saw today being hoisted out of the schooner and afterwards being conveyed over Westminster Bridge, the great bell for the clock tower of the Houses of Parliament. It is about 8 feet high and the same in diameter and was drawn by 16 horses. It has been christened "Big Ben" in honour of Sir B. Hall. (fn. 1)

22. Finished the 'Solar system', drew diagrams and went to Watson's. My brother Fred went to Richmond to sketch. Very fine. A most murderous and cruel assault was made on Monday on the assistant of a jeweler in Parliament St as he was shutting up the shop. The assailant and 2 others wished undoubtedly to rob the shop and the assistant being in the way, he knocked him on the head with a life preserver. He was taken, but his 2 accomplices escaped. The assistant is expected to die from the blows.

23. Drew diagrams etc. Fine day. Had Bennett to tea. He has been to Scotland for 6 weeks, Kenilworth and Rievaulx Abbey 3 weeks, to Wales and to Hastings about a month, so that he has worked the season pretty well. He, as most of the artists, has had bad weather this year; he has however done about 60 sketches.

24. Drew a 'Whip', diagrams etc. No news. Fine. My father went to sketch at Richmond. It will be his last time this year I think.

25. Went to Stephenson's and to Gibson's, marked out blocks, drew diagrams etc. Fine. Had McKewan to supper and Gilbert to dinner. We know from reliable authority that Mr Spurgeon is delirious and insensible.

26. Sunday. Went to Maze Pond in morning and evening. Mr Booth preached both times. My uncle came up today a courting to Clapham. Fine but cold.

27. Went to Dover by an excursion train for 3s6d, we did it in 3¼ one way and 3 hours the other. I thought the situation of Dover much finer than any place I have yet seen. I went through the castle (which is being extended), saw the submarine telegraph at the point that it enters the sea and other interesting things. Was altogether much pleased with the excursion which is as cheap as one could desire. I had a bathe and took a sketch of the S. Foreland with Dover in the distance, so that with this and travelling about 190 miles I did pretty well. Very fine.

28. Drew diagrams etc. No news. Fine but cold. My father went to Bennetts etc.

29. Drew diagrams, corrected proof sheets of atlas, drew a whip, funnel, and altered a block of Sir R. Murchison's. Foggy and very cold.

30. Drew diagrams. Fine. Mr Leigh has just had a physician to see him who says that his complaint was brought on by too much mental exertion which has acted on the spine, but has not touched the brain. It arose no doubt at the time that he had several millions of money at the Bank of England to take care of. He is not expected to live long. Fox and Henderson, the great contractors, have just failed. They built both the '51 and the present Crystal Palace. Their debts are about 350,000£s. So many of the eminent contractors have failed lately that it excites no surprise now, indeed after the exposures that have been made of the contract system, it would be strange if they did.

31. Drew diagrams, went to Mrs Gould's and booked blocks. No news. Very wet. My father went with Collingwood Smith to Gilbert's. Murders are again becoming the fashion. Last Sunday a mother murdered her child at Dover. Two children have lately been murdered in Cheshire. A man murdered his wife in Westminster this week, and so on for several others which I cannot specify.

November 1. Drew diagrams, went errands, drew graining comb etc. Fine. An accident on the Greenwich railway, which is a most rare occurrence. 7 persons smashed but none killed. The foggy weather on Wednesday was a cause of great inconvenience on the North Western railway, for by a collision in consequence thereof, the lines were destroyed and upwards of 20 trains were stopped, the people remaining in some of them for upwards of 14 hours without any refreshment.

2. Sunday. Went to Maze Pond in morning and evening. Mr Booth (our intended) preached both times. We had him home to dinner. He appears to be a sensible, plain man. Fine.

3. Drew diagrams etc. Fine. My father at Mr Beddome's. American affairs are looking very black. It appears to be all centred on the election of the president which comes off tomorrow. It is a curious fact that although the slave states contain 350,000 whites only, they rule the free states which contain 16 millions. The slave states contribute about 6 out of 7 of the leading men in the United States.

4. Drew moon diagrams and iron bridges diagrams, went to Clay's and Dare's, cut up wood etc. No news. Another railway accident with 50 people wounded. I went this evening to a 'political soirée' at St Martin's Hall held by Ernest Jones, the Chartist. I had expected to find a furious democrat railing at everything and everybody, but if he did I did not hear him, for I could not hear what he said. Once I began to catch a glimpse of what he was saying, but just as the climax was reached the interest was excited to hear, he suddenly dropt his voice and the people applauded. I am sure they heard no more than I did. On the whole I came away as wise as I went and 4d minus. He composed 2 pieces of poetry which he recited on the occasion, one 'the song of the living and the other the song of the dead' but they were very dead alive sort of things.

5. Drew diagrams etc, cut up wood. Fine and very cold. Guy Fawkes Day. It seems to me that the day is not thought so much of or kept like it used to be. My father went to Mr Green's to dinner. Last night at 12 o'clock our friend Mr Leigh died. He had been in the Bank of England 48 years and had risen there from being a common clerk to be one of the chief cashiers, with millions of money under his care. His library is very choice and worth at least 3000£. One of the kindest, and at the same time one of the firmest men I knew of. My mother saw him at 5 o'clock last night and went today.

6. Drew diagrams etc. Fine and colder. Business bad. My uncle gone to Edinburgh.

7. Went to Clay's etc, drew diagrams, named blocks. Fine and cold. In evening had Mr Booth to tea with Beddome and other friends who staid the evening.

8. Drew diagrams and went to Clay's and Dickes. Now we have got the weather very wet for the sake of variety, the streets are covered with mud. My father, mother and brothers went to Peckham to see the remains of Mr Leigh, but could not. Our friend Mr Exeter has just died at the advanced age of 85.

Among the numerous schemes of the present day, there is one for making a canal (for ships) from Shoreham to London, with a line of rail by the side of it for locomotives to tow the ships. It is proposed in order to save the time and more especially the expense of ships that are coming up the channel rounding the Foreland. It is said that the loss of insurance money to Lloyds alone is upwards of one million sterling, so that it would be exceedingly desirable to have the aforesaid canal. Time will show if it is practicable.

9. Sunday. Went to Maze Pond in morning and evening. Mr Booth preached. Showery and glass falling rapidly.

10. Drew diagrams and went to Regent Street. Mr Cope the assistant of the jeweler in Parliament St, who was assaulted, has just died. I hope they will hang his murderer, he is a ticket of leave man and must be a thorough brute. My brother Fred went to a musical soirée at Exeter Hall (smaller room).

11. Drew diagrams and began Britannia Tubular Bridge. Fine. Tomorrow Mr Leigh's funeral takes place. I am obliged to attend. Garotte robberies (that is, one man putting a rope round your neck and nearly strangling you and another or more picking your pockets) are becoming very common, several have occurred lately, so that people in some neighbourhoods are going to band together to exterminate them.

12. Finished Britannia Bridge. Went to Mr Leigh's funeral. He was buried in Nunhead cemetery exactly opposite the chapel. Mr Burnet of Camberwell officiated. Excessively cold day. Mr Baxter and son came in evening; took tea and supper with us.

13. Drew an elevation of part of Britannia Bridge. Truly this is a pleasant age to live in, what with swindlers, bankrupts, garotters, burglars, the German Legion, etc. etc., we are neither safe at home at night or day, (or in the streets either), nor are we safe in any commercial transaction. I am led to say this from the discovery of another gigantic fraud of upwards of 180,000£ on the Great Northern of England railway. I am happy to say the wretch has been captured. What punishment is sufficient for these men is a difficult problem to solve. I am also glad to say that the murderer of poor Mr Cope in Parliament St has been found guilty of willful murder and will be tried accordingly.

14. Drew diagrams, went to Clay's etc. Very cold. The last Quarterly Review has in it a very sharp article on the present mania for church building. (fn. 2) It is rather strange to see a Tory and high church review hitting right and left into their own side, and we must give them credit for doing it very cleverly. The great bell of Westminster was sounded yesterday for the first time and it rejoiced the ears of Mr Denison (the designer) to find that its note was the same as was predicted. It is said that St Paul's great bell was heard groaning at the same time, it is supposed that it was because it was no longer the king of bells for London. (They may believe it who like.)

15. Drew diagrams, cut up wood, began another tubular bridge over the river Aire. Very cold, last night ice appeared. Yesterday the river overflowed its banks in several places to the dismay of the surrounding neighbourhoods. It is a disgrace to our parishes that they do not raise the embankment a few inches higher to save all the discomfort arising from occasions like these. 1 foot would be sufficient and the cost would be exceedingly trifling. Turner, the painter, it is well known, left a large fortune to be appropriated in building artists' alms-houses, etc. He also left to the nation (National Gallery) a great number of paintings and drawings (it is stated in the Times), to the number of 20,000. Of the paintings 20 have been selected of the best and are now exhibiting temporarily at Marlborough House. The Times of last Monday had a very excellent sketch of his life and eccentricities.

16. Sunday. Went to Maze Pond in morning and evening. Mr Booth officiated. It is now pretty well settled that he shall settle down with us. Very cold and foggy.

17. Drew diagrams and finished tubular bridge. Cold and foggy. Mr Booth (it was determined this evening) is to be asked to come to us, with a view in the future to the pastorage.

18. Drew diagrams, went out, altered tubular bridge etc. Fine.

19. Drew diagrams, went to Blind School etc. Fine. Bogue the publisher has just died of suffocation. He was reputed rich and was full of his schemes to the last. He was preparing for publication an edition of Shakespeare's works, to bring out in opposition to one that Routledge is now advertising, which is to come out in shilling parts monthly, to contain 20 illustrations by Gilbert (each part). Gilbert is next year going to give up drawing for all periodicals. He is now almost entirely engaged by Routledge to whom he dictates.

20. Drew Life boat, cut up wood and began a volcanic range of mountains.

21. Finished Volcanic chain of mountains and cut up wood. Fine. The presidential election in United States is coming to an end. Mr Buchanan it appears is coming in pretty strongly.

22. Began a Lunar mountain, went to Gas Inspector's etc, cut up wood. Dull. My father went to Mr Hepburn's to dinner on Thursday.

23. Sunday. Went to Maze Pond in morning and evening. Mr Booth preached both times. He has accepted our invitation to be our pastor, but will not commence until the beginning of next year. This morning Mr Spurgeon recommenced preaching at the Surrey Music Hall again. It is said that the accident there has made him serious. I should hope it has for there is plenty of room for it. He has been compared by certain newspapers to the Hippopotamus at the Regents Park gardens, whom to see at first everyone flocked, but he is now deserted for more interesting things. The latter part has however yet to be fulfilled in his case. A most beautiful day, quite as good as our June usually is. Very warm.

24. Finished Lunar mountain and cut up wood. Cold.

25. Began another Lunar mountain, cut up wood, altered diagrams etc. My father went to Gilbert's. Garotting goes on more extensively than ever. They now strangle you at seven o'clock in the evening in the parks. Very cold.

26. Finished 'Lunar mountain' and began a third one, cut up wood etc. Very cold. Last night the first installment of snow appeared for this season, but thawed directly this morning, so made the roads in a delightful mess.

27. Went on with Lunar mountain, altered diagrams and cut up a great deal of wood etc. Fine. All the snow having disappeared. Two more accidents have happened on the North western Railway, one a train running off the line, and the other a train running into a luggage train. I am happy to be able to record that two garotters have been sentenced to be transported for life. I hope many others may quickly follow.

28. Went to Mr Watson's, cut up wood and finished lunar mountain.

29. Named blocks, cut up wood, altered Lunar mountain etc. The engraving business appears to be very bad at present, there are great numbers of engravers out of work. We are not however nearly so bad off as some. I am happy (very) to record that the murderer of poor Mr Cope in Parliament St has been sentenced to death, and the public feeling is quite in accordance with the sentence.

30. Sunday. Went to Maze Pond in morning and evening, Mr Booth preached both times. He will go into the country for a fortnight before he enters on the ministry. Freezing hard.

DECEMBER. 1st. Went on with Bridge at Florence, cut up wood, went out etc. Freezing. Accidents on the railways abound at the present time—one a day is about the average. Freezing.

2. Went to Mr Ellis', altered a grave in the Isle of Wight, went on with bridge etc. Freezing still.

3. Altered a picture of Edinburgh, cut up several pieces of wood, went on with bridge etc. Raining, snowing and hailing, thawing, freezing, such are the gradations of temperature today. The last named is the present state, which makes the road and pavement like glass.

4. Went to Truscott's and Gibson's, finished Florentine Bridge etc. Freezing and thawing.

5. Went to Wells' etc, cut up wood, touched up Bridge, altered a block of Sir R. Murchison's etc. Very windy. All the ice gone, a complete thaw. My father went to dinner at Whites the picture dealers and met a number of artists.

6. Began a railway map for South Eastern Company, went to Truscott's etc. Very windy. My father went to meeting of artists for arranging their conversazione for the ensuing season. They have made it quite a fashionable affair now and it is much sought after in consequence.

7. Went to Maze Pond in morning and evening. Dr Angus preached in the morning and a student in the evening. Very warm and strong S.W. wind.

8. Went to Gibson's etc, and began another railway map. Very windy. My school-fellow Gillman went to sea today as midshipman, he is going to Melbourne.

9. Went to Truscott's and on with railway map. Fine and warm but very windy. I expect to hear of numerous wrecks on the south coast.

10. Went on with Railway map. Windy. Mr Gilbert took tea with us today. Another garrotter has been sentenced to transportation for life! A few months back before these garotte robberies commenced it would have been difficult to have got such a sentence passed on an occasional one, but now pretty well all are alarmed more or less about them and they are quite willing to do all they can to stop them.

11. Went on with Railway map. Windy and rainy.

12. Went on with Railway map. Very heavy rains. Windy. The greatest undertaking of modern times, viz. joining America to Europe by electric telegraph, is about to be an accomplished thing and a profitable undertaking also, for our Government guarantees 4 per cent per annum on the capital and it is reckoned that 40 per cent will be paid. All the shares were taken immediately the prospectus was issued and the work is being set about. Among the doings of this wonderful age a bridge a mile long for railway and passengers is not the least. One of this length is being executed in India. I expect an arrival to-night in the shape of a new relation; no one can tell what the night will bring forth.

13. Went on with Railway map. Fine. There have just appeared a large number of illustrated Christmas books (the engraving on wood) 3 of which we have helped in. Some are a great advance in the art and others are not, but taking them as a whole they are cheaper, more tasteful and better illustrated than any that have yet appeared.

14. Sunday. Went to Maze Pond in morning and evening. Fine day. Mr Richards preached.

15. Went on with Railway map. Very cold. The wretch Marley was hung this morning and it is to be hoped that his fate will deter others from following in his footsteps. In this case I think severity is humanity. At last it is decided that Geo Clowes (the printer) and my father are to start the new magazine, they taking the risk and profit (if any) and the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge is to take 20,000 copies of it weekly in order to secure a circulation of that amount. It will however take more than 20,000 copies weekly to make it pay its expenses properly.

16. Finished Railway map, went to Mr Warren's, arranged blocks in draws. Foggy. My father went to dinner at Mr Green's and has kept me up till ½ past 12 (an unusual thing by the by).

17. Drew Moon diagram, began bridge at Sunderland etc. Fine and cold.

18. Went on with Bridge, cut up wood etc. Cold and fine. This day week is Christmas. We have heard very little about it this year, indeed I think, that this, as well as many other old institutions, are not thought so much about as they were in ages gone by. I have been lately reading Lord Bacon's essays and find that I cannot continue reading them for any length of time because there is more than sufficient to think about in one. They are, in fact, too good.

19. Went on with Bridge, began a Signature "Calvert," cut up wood. In evening went to Southwark Literary Institution to hear the annual recitations of my former school. Saw a great number of old 'chums' who are located in various places and different circumstances. Some are in the army, several in the navy, others in India, Australia, Cape of Good Hope, etc. I wonder how many will ever be celebrated men? What shall I myself be in ten years' time, are questions which only the future can determine.

20. Finished Signature, went on with bridge. Fine. The number of Christmas books that are published is really astonishing, one cannot imagine how they can pay, but nevertheless our illustrated edition of the 'Book of Job' (illus. by Gilbert) can be compared with any of them without fear.

21. Sunday. Went to Maze Pond in morning and evening. Heard Mr Booth both times. Fine.

22. Finished bridge, drew letters, went to gas fitters etc. Fine.

23. Began Lunar mountain, went to Blind School, gas fitters, Truscott etc. Fine. In evening went to a party at my uncle's, played at Bagatelle, dancing and singing and so passed the evening and part of the morning for I did not get to bed till 2 o'clock.

24. Went errands, dusted and arranged prints etc, went on with Lunar mountain. Very wet. Christmas Eve. The bells of Lambeth Church have just been ringing their merry peal, and now all London is retiring to rest after a day's work of preparation for a day's work of piggery. Even at this time Lambeth Walk and other low streets are thronged with purchasers and sellers. I would write more but must leave off, for I am sleepy.

25. Christmas Day. Very foggy. Freezing. A thoroughly English day. I enjoyed myself at home in the quiet way very well, had no visitors and did not go out.

26. Finished Lunar mountain etc. Fine and cold. Our Persian quarrel appears to be going on towards war, neither we nor they knowing what we are quarrelling about very well. Prussia is at present getting warm with Switzerland and both are preparing for active operations. I do not know the precise reason of the dispute but it is very trifling I do know. It appears that Switzerland has a very good army when wanted, nearly 110,000 men in fact, and that, too, made of pretty good stuff.

27. Began Shells etc, went to Christian Knowledge Society etc. Fine and freezing. Our project of a new magazine goes on all right, the Soc. for P.C.K. is going to give a grant to the proprietors, (who will be Geo. Clowes and my father I believe). The title is to be settled next Monday. They are still however in want of an editor. They want to find a sensible, well educated and well read, yet of such a kind as to suit the lower orders, in fact he ought to have risen from them himself. They have been disappointed in different ways, viz. in Mr Quentin, who has just been appointed full editor of the Leisure Hour and so took him away; in Hugh Miller the geologist who was found but two nights ago shot in his bed room. He was an exceedingly nervous man latterly and was addicted to walking in his sleep; and it is supposed that he shot himself in one of his midnight rambles. He is indeed a loss, for he was both clever (though not originally well educated) and could write well, for instance his autobiography, which was highly interesting.

28. Sunday. Went to Maze Pond in morning and evening. Mr Booth preached. In evening several persons were baptized. Very cold. Fine.

29. Went to Gibson's etc, finished shell and went on with another. Fine. Our mags' title was settled today. It is "Far and near" or the Age we live in etc. Not a bad one, but not so good as might be found; but I would advise those who criticize titles to try and pick a new one themselves and then they will be aware of the difficulty of the thing. Reade the author of "Never too late to mend" has consented to supply for us occasionally.

30. Altered and drew another shell, cut up good deal of wood etc. Fine. Today the news arrived that we have bombarded Canton. The cause of it was as follows. The feeling of the English and Chinese had been for a long time in a state of mutual irritation, which kept on increasing; but at last the governor of Canton took it into his head without the slightest pretext to seize a vessel which had been under the protection of the English flag, but was not actually under at that time. The commander of the ships of war stationed there (Sir M. Seymour) seized the opportunity to demand the admission of an English ambassador there, which was refused. He then seized a junk by way of reprisals and repeated his demand. Refused. Then he battered an old wall down, then took all the forts round about, which defended the city, and finally battered the governor's quarters, which had no effect at all. So now he has referred home for instructions. What they will be of course is not known, but it is the general opinion that we ought to assert our dignity before the most highly civilized nation of the globe??

31. Drew another shell, cut up wood, went to Mrs Gould's etc. Fine. Last day of the old year and the last hour. Poor old year! Our Wesleyan cook has gone to a service at her chapel, there is no knowing what time she will be home. This is the termination of the first half of my term of apprenticeship. If I do not get on better the second than I have in the first I shall not be worth much when I am out of my time.


  • 1. After the Houses of Parliament burnt down in 1834, it was decided that the new building would have a large clock with four faces, but work did not begin on the clock tower until 1843. Tenders were invited for the manufacture of this large public clock, required to operate to a high degree of accuracy determined by the Astronomer Royal; E.J. Dent and Company began work on the mechanism in 1852. The bell, weighing sixteen tons, was cast in Stockton-on-Seas in 1856 and brought to London by sea. The clock tower was not finished until 1858, so the bell was suspended on gallows in Palace Yard, where it was tested for the next year. Benjamin Hall had been Commissioner of Works since 1855. Whymper's comment appears to remove the possibility that the bell was named after the heavyweight prize-fighter, Benjamin Caunt.
  • 2. Quarterly Review (September 1856): 371 – 396.