Old and New London: Volume 5. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.
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THE REGENT'S PARK: THE ZOOLOGICAL GARDENS, &c.
"What a dainty life the milkmaid leads,
When o'er these flowery meads
She dabbles in the dew,
And sings to her cow,
And feels not the pain
Of love or disdain.
She sleeps in the night, though she toils all the day,
And merrily passeth her time away."—Old Play.
Rural Character of the Site in Former Times—A Royal Hunting-ground—The Original Estate Disparked—Purchased from the Property of the Duke of Portland—Commencement of the Present Park—The Park thrown open to the Public—Proposed Palace for the Prince Regent—Description of the Grounds and Ornamental Waters—The Broad Walk—Italian Gardens and Lady Burdett-Coutts' Drinking-Fountain—The Sunday Afternoon Band—Terraces and Villas—Lord Hertford and the Giants from St. Dunstan's Church—Mr. Bishop's Observatory—Explosion on the Regent's Canal—The Baptist College—Mr. James Silk Buckingham—Ugo Foscolo—Park Square—Sir Peter Laurie a Resident here—The Diorama—The Building turned into a Baptist Chapel—The Colosseum—The Great Panorama of London—The "Glaciarium"—The Cyclorama of Lisbon—St. Katharine's College—The Adult Orphan Institution—Chester Terrace and Chester Place—Mrs. Fitzherbert' Villa—The Grounds of the Toxophilite Society—The Royal Botanical Society—The Zoological Gardens.
"Among the magnificent ornaments of our metropolis commenced under the auspices of his present Majesty, while Regent," we read in "Time's Telescope" for March, 1825, "the Regent's Park ranks high in point of utility as well as beauty, and is an invaluable addition to the comforts and the pleasures of those who reside in the north-west quarter of London. It is no small praise to the Commissioners of Woods and Forests to say that this park is under their especial direction; and although, from the various difficulties they have necessarily encountered, they have not been enabled to carry into execution every part of their intended plan, they have done enough to entitle them to the lasting thanks of a grateful public. A park, like a city, is not made in a day; and to posterity it must be left fully to appreciate the merits of those who designed and superintended this delightful metropolitan improvement."
As we have stated in the previous chapter, this park was formed out of part of the extensive tract of pasture land called Marylebone Park Fields, which, down to the commencement of the present century, had about them all the elements of rustic life; indeed, the locality seems to have been but little altered then to what it was two centuries previously; for in Tottenham Court, a comedy by Thomas Nabbs, in 1638, is a scene in Marylebone Park, in which is introduced a milkmaid, whose song, which we quote as a motto to this chapter, testifies to the rural character of the place.
In the reign of James I. the manor of Marylebone was granted to Edward Forest; the king, however, reserved the park in his own hands, and here he entertained foreign ambassadors with a day's hunting, as Queen Elizabeth had done before him. In the Board of Works accounts for 1582 there is the entry of a payment "for making of two new standings in Marebone and Hide Parkes for the Queene's Majestie and the noblemen of Fraunce to see the huntinge." In 1646, Charles I. granted Marylebone Park to Sir George Strode and John Wandesforde, by letters patent, as security for a debt of £2,318 11s. 9d., due to them for supplying the king with arms and ammunition. After the death of Charles no attention was paid to the claims of these gentlemen, but the park was sold by the Parliament to John Spencer, on behalf of Colonel Harrison's regiment of dragoons, on whom it was settled for their pay. At this time, the deer and much of the timber having been sold, Marylebone Park was disparked, and it was never again stocked with deer. At the Restoration, Sir George Strode and Mr. Wandesforde were reinstated in their possession of the Marylebone Park, which they held till their debt was discharged, except the great lodge, or palace, as it was sometimes called, and sixty acres of land which had been granted to Sir William Clarke, secretary to the Lord General (Monk) the Duke of Albemarle. A compensation was also made to John Carey for the loss of his situation as ranger, which he had held before the Protectorate.
After both park and manor had been "disparked" by Cromwell, the land was held on lease, for various terms, by different noblemen and gentlemen in succession; the last who held it in this way being the Duke of Portland, whose lease expired in 1811.
The present park was commenced in 1812, from the designs of Mr. Nash, the architect, who had lately finished Regent Street; and for several years the site, we are told, presented "a most extraordinary scene of digging, excavating, burning, and building, and seemed more like a work of general destruction than anything else." Indeed, it took such a long time to lay out and build, that Hughson, in his "Walks through London," published in 1817, speaks of it as "not likely to receive a speedy completion," though it was already "one of the greatest Sunday promenades about the town." By degrees, however, the elements of confusion and chaos were cleared away; and in the year 1838, when the park was thrown open, Nash's grand design received the admiration of the public. It was at first proposed to build a large palace for the Prince Regent (after whom the park is named) in the centre, but this plan was not entertained, or, if entertained, it was speedily abandoned. It was, likewise, at first intended, as we have already stated, to connect the park with Carlton House; and this design, though never realised in its full extent, gave birth to Regent Street. (fn. 1)
The park is over 400 acres in extent, and is nearly circular in form. It is crossed from north to south by a noble road, bordered with trees, known as the Broad Walk, and is traversed in every direction to all points of the compass by wide gravel paths, furnished with seats at short intervals. Around the park runs an agreeable drive nearly two miles long; and an inner drive, in the form of a circle, encloses the Botanic Gardens—which, it is stated, was the site reserved by Mr. Nash for the proposed palace of the Prince Regent—adjoining which is the garden belonging to the Toxophilite Society. When the park was laid out, much expense was saved by the building of terraces round the enclosure, and by letting some part of the land to certain gentlemen who were willing to build villas for themselves within the grounds on long leases. These, and the gardens of the Royal Botanic Society and the Zoological Society, do not injure the general effect, but rather add to the beauty of the place. The full extent of this park, which is decidedly one of the finest in London, is nowhere seen, in consequence of the public road crossing it towards the south end, and the Inner Circle being taken out of it. And besides the Inner Circle, the gardens of the Zoological Society cover a large portion on the north side. The ornamental water in this park is superior to that of St. James's; and that part of the ground where it is situated is in all respects the most interesting. "The water itself," says the author of Weale's "London and its Vicinity Exhibited" (1851), "is of a good form, with its terminations well covered, and several fine islands, which are well clothed with trees. It lies also in the midst of some villas and terraces, from which it receives additional beauty. It is on the south side of the park. Some noble weeping willows are placed along its southern margin. Three light suspension bridges, two of which carry the walk across an island at the western end of the lake, are neat and elegant, but the close wire fence at their sides sadly interferes with the beauty of their form. These bridges are made principally of strong wire rods. It is to be regretted that the material which came out of the lake at the time of its formation has been thrown into such an unmeaning and unartistic heap on the north side; although the trees which have been placed upon it in some measure relieve its heaviness. Here, perhaps, more than anywhere else, a good mass of shrubs, as undergrowth, would have been of the greatest assistance. Passing along the western road from Portland Place to the Inner Circle, there is a very picturesque and pleasing nook of water on the right, where the value of a tangled mass of shrubs for clothing the banks will be very conspicuously seen." Here are a number of aquatic birds, almost rivalling those already mentioned in St. James's Park. They build and rear their young freely in the bays and islands. The ornamental water consists of a large lake, with three widely-diverging bays or inlets, and it is a favourite resort of skaters in the winter season. At that time, whenever the ice will bear, notwithstanding the throng of fashionables, there may be seen here a large number of the working, and even of the vagabond classes, pursuing their favourite recreation with perhaps more spirit than elegance. In the winter of 1866-7 a terrible accident occurred in one portion of the ornamental waters; a large field of ice gave way suddenly, and upwards of 200 persons were immersed. Forty were drowned; and the lake was afterwards cleared out, and the water reduced in depth. Boats, of late years, are allowed to be let for amusement here, and during the pleasant evenings of summer a very agreeable scene is here presented. The banks of the lake and its three armlets during the summer months form a most agreeable and picturesque promenade, and in fine weather they are at all times crowded with idlers and juveniles, to whom this park, from its central situation, is conveniently accessible. Between the water and the top of the long walk lies a broad open space on the slope of a hill facing the west. "Perhaps," says the author above quoted, "as the area is intersected with several walks, it may be a little too bare, and might possibly be improved by a few small groups of trees or thorns; but in parks of this description, such a breadth of grass glade, especially on the face of a hill that does not front any cold quarter, is of immense value, both for airiness and effect. It will only want some scattered groups of trees along the edge of the slope, near the summit, to form a foreground to any view that may be attainable from the top of the hill, and also to get a broken horizontal line when looking up the slope of the hill from the bottom. The space we are speaking of is by no means favourably circumstanced in the latter respect, as the hill is crowned by the fourfold avenue of the long walk, which presents an exceedingly flat and unbroken surface line." The Brothers Percy, in 1823, call it one of the greatest ornaments of the metropolis, "around which noble terraces are springing up as if by magic." Walker thus writes in "The Original" in 1835: "The beauties of the Regent's Park, both as to buildings and grounds, seem like the effect of magic when contrasted with the recent remembrance of the quagmire of filth and the cow-sheds and wretched dwellings of which they now occupy the place." It was thought, indeed, so magnificent at the time of its completion and opening to the public, that a panoramic view of it was published on five large sheets.
Of late years the surface has been, in common with that of the other metropolitan parks, considerably improved. It has been thoroughly drained, so that the dampness of the clayey soil is greatly obviated. Mounds have been raised in various parts, and shrubs planted upon them. A portion of the central avenue has also had its sides opened, and laid out as elegant Italian gardens, which are well supplied with flowers, and kept in order with the greatest taste.
At the upper end of this long walk, opposite the principal entrance to the Zoological Gardens, stands a handsome drinking-fountain, presented, in 1871, by Lady Burdett-Coutts. It is of granite, marble, and bronze, with statuary and carving, and is surmounted with a cluster of lamps, with jets of water springing up from the basins. The architect was Mr. Darbishire.
Taken as a whole, the Regent's Park is more like the demesne of an English nobleman than the breathing-ground of the denizens of a great city, being well wooded and adorned with trees, many of them of ancient growth, and standing in ranks, avenues, or clusters picturesquely grouped. It is, however, situated too far from the Court and the Houses of Parliament ever to be fashionable in the best sense of the word; but still it is much frequented by those of the higher professional classes who wish to unite the enjoyments of town life with fresh air and the sight of green leaves. The nightingale still is often heard here.
Thirty or forty years ago it was remarked, and with some show of justice, that foreigners are perfectly surprised when they contrast the splendour of our streets and public edifices with the waste and dreary appearance of our parks; but such a remark would certainly not hold good now, though we are not even yet as well off as we might be.
The park is always full, but on Sundays and holidays it really swarms with pleasure-seekers, who find in its trees, grass, and flowers a very fair substitute for the fields of the country. During the summer months a band plays on Sunday afternoons on the green-sward by the side of the long avenue, and is the means of attracting thousands of the working classes thither. Still, the numbers that are now to be found there are not unexampled in the same place, for it is on record that 50,000 persons have been at one time in the Marylebone fields on a fine Sunday evening to hear the preaching of Whitefield.
On entering the park at York Gate, which is opposite Marylebone Church, will be noticed a fine range of buildings, called Ulster Terrace, extending some distance to the right; on the left is a similar range, named Cornwall Terrace; and further on are Clarence Place, Sussex Place, and Hanover Terrace—all bearing names connected with royalty. Though differing in architectural style, the mansions comprised in these several "places" and "terraces" have a corresponding uniformity of design, consisting of a centre and wings, with porticoes, piazzas, and pediments, adorned with columns of various orders. Sussex Place is crowned with singular gourd-like cupolas. Hanover Terrace, unlike Cornwall and the other terraces, is somewhat raised from the level of the road, and fronted by a shrubbery, through which is a carriage-drive. The general effect of the terrace is pleasing, and the pediments, supported on an arched rustic basement by fluted Doric columns, are full of richness and chaste design, the centre representing an emblematical group of the arts and sciences, the two ends being occupied with antique devices, and the three surmounted with figures of the Muses. The frieze is also light and simple elegant. The terrace was built from the designs of Mr. Nash. Altogether, Hanover Terrace may be considered as one of the finest works of the neighbourhood, and at one time it was an object of special admiration.
"The architectural spirit which has arisen in London since the late peace, and ramified from thence to every city and town of the empire, will present an era in our domestic history." Such is the opinion of a writer in Brande's Quarterly Journal, in 1827; and he goes on to describe the new erections in the Regent's Park as the "dawning of a new and better taste, and, in comparison with that which preceded it, a just subject of national exultation." Of the general merits of these erections, the same author further says:—"Regent's Park and its circumjacent buildings promise, in few years, to afford something like an equipoise to the boasted Palace-group of Paris. If the plan already acted upon is steadily pursued, it will present a union of rural and architectural beauty on a scale of greater magnificence than can be found in any other place. The variety is here in the detached groups, and not as formerly in the individual dwellings, by which all unity and grandeur of effect was, of course, annihilated. These groups, undoubtedly, will not always bear the eye of a severe critic, but altogether they exhibit, perhaps, as much beauty as can easily be introduced into a collection of dwelling-houses of moderate size. Great care has been taken to give something of a classical air to every composition; and with this object, the deformity of door-cases has been in most cases excluded, and the entrances made from behind. The Doric and Ionic orders have been chiefly employed; but the Corinthian, and even the Tuscan, are occasionally introduced. One of these groups is finished with domes; but this is an attempt at magnificence which, on so small a scale, is not deserving of imitation."
It must not, however, be supposed that all the various terraces of the Regent's Park front the green-sward of the park. For instance, Kent Terrace, so named after the father of her present Majesty, faces Alpha Road and St. John's Wood, a little above the top of Upper Baker Street. Here, at No. 5, the genial and kindly humourist, Shirley Brooks, the life and soul of Punch almost from its commencement, and the successor of Mark Lemon in its editorial chair, spent the last few years of his life, and there he died in February, 1874. He was buried at Kensal Green: may the turf lie light upon his grave!
Most of the mansions to which we have referred above are situated in or near what is called the Outer Circle, a carriage-drive which, for nearly two miles in extent, encloses the whole area of the park; while some of them are in the park itself, their beautiful private gardens forming part of the enclosed land. Among the most remarkable of these noble edifices are The Holme, nearly central in the park-land, built by Burton, the architect; St. John's Lodge, long the residence of Sir Isaac Lyon Goldsmid; and St. Dunstan's Villa. As we mentioned in our account of Fleet Street, when old St. Dunstan's Church was pulled down, the clock was sold by auction, and bought by Lord Hertford, for whom Mr. Decimus Burton erected St. Dunstan's Villa here. In the grounds of this villa the old clock was put up, with its automaton giants striking the hours and the quarters; and it is still to be seen there in full working order, performing the same duties as of old in Fleet Street, as may be seen in our illustration. (fn. 2) The clock and figures were put up in old St. Dunstan's Church in 1671, the "two figures, or boys with poleaxes," being made to strike the quarters. The clock had a large gilt dial overhanging the street, and above it two figures of savages, life-size, carved in wood, standing beneath a pediment, each having in his right hand a club, with which he struck the quarters upon a suspended bell, moving his head at the same time. To see the men strike was very attractive, and opposite St. Dunstan's Church was a famous field for pickpockets, who took advantage of the gaping crowd. When the old church was taken down, in 1830, Lord Hertford attended the second sale of the materials, and purchased the clock, bells, and figures for £210, and placed them in the grounds of his new villa here. In the year 1855, after the death of the Marquis of Hertford, the "costly effects" of St. Dunstan's Villa were brought to the hammer of the auctioneer. In a notice of the sale which appeared in the newspapers of the time, it is stated that "the interior of this building is somewhat grotesque and irregular, it having been erected at enormous expense and by instalments, for the sole purpose of entertaining the late marquis's numerous friends." The sale consisted of the furniture and effects, a few valuable pictures, antique sculptures, Florentine bronzes, &c.
South Villa, which is situated between the Inner Circle and the ornamental water, was for many years the residence of Mr. Bishop, whose observa tory here, erected in 1836, under the management successively of the late Rev. W. R. Dawes and Mr. J. R. Hind, gained great distinction by the discovery of asteroids and variable stars. Mr. Hind was previously an assistant in the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, and almost immediately after undertaking the management of Mr. Bishop's observatory, in 1844, he applied himself diligently to the discovery of the small planets revolving in orbits between Mars and Jupiter. The first four of this series of asteroids, which now amount to more than 160, were discovered in the first seven years of the present century; no further discoveries were made till 1845, when the detection of the fifth by M. Hencke induced Mr. Hind to prosecute his researches in this particular field of astronomy. Between the years 1847 and 1854 Mr. Hind's labours were rewarded by the discovery of no less than ten. In order to accomplish this work, it was necessary to construct charts of that portion of the heavens where the planets are usually found, and the accuracy required in mapping down the positions of minute stars in this region led to the discovery of these small planets. This observatory was a few years ago removed to Twickenham.
Proceeding onwards, in the direction of North Gate, by St. Dunstan's Villa, a bridge is crossed, under which passes the Regent's Canal; on each side is a foot-path, with a beautiful margin of trees. Outside the North Gate is the extensive district of St. John's Wood, of which we have already treated, and likewise Primrose Hill, of which we shall speak presently.
This portion of the park was the scene of a deplorable accident, on the 2nd of October, 1874, by which three lives were lost. In the early morning, shortly before five o'clock, five barges laden with merchandise, and among the rest a large quantity of combustibles, were being towed by a steam-tug along the canal. The head of the little flotilla had just passed under the North Bridge when a terrific explosion occurred, which shook nearly the whole of London, and blew the stout iron bridge into atoms, shattering the lodge-house to pieces, and causing considerable damage to the surrounding property. The bridge has since been rebuilt on almost precisely the same plan.
Holford House, a mansion of large extent and rare magnificence a little to the north of St. Dunstan's Villa, has since the decease of its wealthy proprietor been transformed into a training college for ministers of the Baptist denomination. The college was founded at Stepney in 1810, but transplanted hither in 1856.
We must now mention some of the chief inhabitants of the park. In Hanover Lodge lived for some time old Lord Dundonald. At 26, Sussex Place, lived for several years Mr. William Crockford, the proprietor of the club in St. James's Street which bore his name; and No. 11, Cornwall Terrace was long the residence of Mr. James Silk Buckingham, some time M.P. for Sheffield, and the most restless and indefatigable of literary toilers. Not many months previous to his death, Mr. Buckingham commenced an "Autobiography," which promised to be exceedingly voluminous. The portion published sufficed to show that the career of the author had been singularly chequered and adventurous. In his early days, he went to sea in an humble capacity. He afterwards became connected with journalism in India, travelled over the greater part of the world, and, returning to England, acquired some fame as a lecturer, and grew conspicuous by his connection with various philanthropic schemes, many of which, however, were looked upon as impracticable. In 1832 he was elected M.P. for Sheffield, and he continued to represent that constituency until the dissolution in 1837. His connection with the British and Foreign Institute, and the ridicule with which many of his proceedings were visited by Punch, were for a long time matters of public notoriety.
Another resident in Regent's Park in its early days was Ugo Foscolo, the Italian exile and poet, who built for himself a house, which he furnished sumptuously and with exquisite taste; but he had not occupied it long when it was seized by his creditors. His poetic genius rendered him utterly unpunctual and impracticable. He used to say to his friends, "Rich or poor, I will live and die like a gentleman, on a clean bed, surrounded by Venus and Apollo, and the Graces, and the busts of great men, among flowers and with music breathing around me; . . . and since I must be buried in England, I am happy in having got for the remainder of my life a cottage, independent of neighbours, open to the air of heaven, and surrounded by shrubs and flowers, among which I will build a small dwelling for my corpse, under a beautiful plane-tree from the East, which I mean to cultivate till the last day of my existence." Poor poet! "man proposes, but God disposes." Within a few months his cottage and all its belongings came to the hammer, and his memory has passed away from the Regent's Park. He died at Turnham Green in 1827, and was buried at Chiswick.
At the south-eastern corner of the park, opposite to the northern end of Portland Place, is Park Square. Its site was, in 1817, when Hughson wrote his "Walks through London," an open field, with a rustic gate; and the southern side of the road, where Park Crescent now stands, was much in the same condition. The houses, built in almost open country, were finished so slowly and found so few ready to take them, that for a long time it seemed doubtful whether the formation of the Regent's Park would not have to be abandoned. "The works have been so long," writes Hughson, "in this half-built state that grass has grown on the top of the walls, reaching in some places higher than the kitchen windows!" Park Square, as we have already stated, (fn. 3) occupies the site of what was originally intended as part of a large circus, which was to have closed the northern end of Portland Place; only one half, however, was erected, and that, as we have observed, is now called Park Crescent. The square consists of two rows of houses, elongated upon the extremities of the crescent, and separated from the Marylebone Road, from the park, and from each other by a spacious quadrangular area, laid out with ornamental pleasure grounds. Extending from the crescent to the enclosed area of the square, under the roadway, is the underground passage or tunnel, called the "Nurserymaids' Walk," of which we have spoken in a former chapter. (fn. 4) In 1826, Park Square was completed, and just beginning to be occupied. At No. 7 lived for many years the amiable and eccentric alderman, Sir Peter Laurie. He was the son of a small agriculturist, and came from Scotland to London to push his fortunes as a poor boy. He at first filled a clerk's place in a saddler's counting-house, and having married the daughter of his employer, set up on his own account as a merchant. He became ultimately head of the firm of Laurie and Marner, the great coach-builders of Oxford Street, and Lord Mayor of London. He died in 1861. (fn. 5)
On the east side of Park Square stands the building formerly known as the Diorama. It was built by Messrs. Morgan and Pugin, architects, and was opened in 1823. It was erected for the purpose of exhibiting two dioramic views which had been previously shown in Paris by the originators, MM. Bouton and Daguerre; the latter, the inventor of the Daguerreotype, died in 1851. The pictures were changed two or three times every year; they were suspended in separate rooms, and a circular room, containing the spectators, was turned round, "much like an eye in its socket," to admit the view of each alternately. The pictures were eighty feet in length and forty feet in height, painted in solid and in transparency, and arranged so as to exhibit changes of light and shade and a variety of natural phenomena, the spectators being kept in comparative darkness, while the picture received a concentrated light from a ground-glass roof. The interior of Canterbury Cathedral, the first picture exhibited, is said to have been a triumph of architectural painting; the companion picture, the Valley of Sarnen, was equally admirable in its atmospheric effects. On one day (Easter-Monday, 1824) the receipts exceeded £200. Although the speculation was artistically successful, it did not answer commercially. In 1848, the building and ground in the rear, with the machinery and pictures, were sold; and the property, with sixteen pictures, rolled on large cylinders, subsequently realised only £3,000, not a third of the original cost of the Diorama, which was built and opened in the space of four months. The building was purchased by Sir S. Morton Peto in 1852, and turned by him into a Baptist chapel, its first minister being the Rev. Dr. Landels.
About two hundred yards to the north, and overlooking the park, stood, till 1875, the Colosseum, which was at one time a magazine of artistic and mechanical wonders, well known not only to Londoners, but to sight-seeing strangers from far and near who visited the metropolis; indeed, for many years it enjoyed a celebrity of its own as a place of amusement, with attractions for "country cousins," such as panoramas of London, Rome, Paris, and other cities, dioramas, dissolving views, grottoes, conservatories, a Gothic aviary, Temple of Theseus, &c. It was, perhaps, badly named, for, though "colossal" in its size, it bore no resemblance, physically or æsthetically, to that magnificent ruin, the Coliseum at Rome, and consequently could not fail to raise expectations which it disappointed afterwards. This, and the absence of an underground railway to make it easily accessible, ruined its popularity. The Colosseum itself was originally planned by Mr. Horner, a land surveyor, and was begun in 1824 from the designs of Decimus Burton, Messrs. Grissell and Peto being the contractors. Together with the conservatories and garden adjoining, it occupied about an acre. It was a heavy nondescript building, polygonal in form, and surmounted by an immense dome or cupola of glass, by which alone it was lighted. In the principal or western front, towards the Regent's Park, was a grand portico, with large fluted columns, of the Doric order, supporting a bold pediment. "The whole," writes Mr. Baker in his "Pictorial Handbook of London," "resembles rather a miniature of the Pantheon at Rome, except that the portico is Doric, with only six columns, said to be full-sized models of those of the Pantheon at Athens. The stripping off the plaster showed up the sham grandeur of the denuded remnant; and the prostitution of the place to a mere show-room, exceeding the bounds of a burlesque, failed to hit the taste of the public, and brought the place to grief."
On the canvas walls of the interior, for many years from and after 1829, was exhibited perhaps the most popular of all panoramas, "London," one of the first objects which country cousins were taken to see in the days of our youth. It was painted from sketches taken by Mr. Horner himself in a temporary wooden cabin or "crow's nest" erected in 1821 on the summit of the cross of St. Paul's, as we have stated in a previous volume. (fn. 6) The view of the picture was obtained from two galleries, one above the other, intended to correspond with the two galleries in the dome of the Cathedral. The ascent to these galleries was by spiral staircases, built on the outside of what may be termed a huge central shaft. In the inside of this was a chamber, capable of containing ten or twelve persons at a time, called the "Ascending Room." This was hoisted by invisible machinery to the level of the two galleries already mentioned. The ceiling of the picture was formed by an inner dome. "The painting of this panorama," says Mr. Timbs, in his "Curiosities of London," "was a marvel of art. It covered upwards of 46,000 square feet, or more than an acre of canvas. The dome on which the sky was painted was thirty feet greater than that of St. Paul's in diameter, and the circumference of the horizon from the point of view nearly 130 miles. Except the dome of St. Paul's, there was (at that time at least) no painted surface in Great Britain to compare with it in magnitude. . . . It is inferred that Sir James Thornhill, in painting the interior of the dome of St. Paul's, used the scaffolding which had been employed for its construction, and his designs comprised twelve several compartments, each distinct in itself. Not so this panorama of London, which, as one subject, required unity, harmony, and accuracy of linear and aërial perspective. The perpendicular canvas and the concave ceiling of stucco were not to be seen by or even known to the spectator, on whom a veritable illusion was intended to be practised; and the combination of a vertical and horizontal surface, though used, was not to be detected. After the sketches were completed upon 2,000 sheets of large paper, and the building finished, no person could be found to paint the picture in a sufficiently short period, and many artists were consequently employed upon it. At last, by the use of platforms slung by ropes, with baskets for conveying the colours, temporary bridges, and other ingenious contrivances, the painting was executed, but in the particular style, taste, and notions of each artist; to reconcile which, and to bring them to form one vast whole, was a novel, intricate, and delicate task which several persons tried, but without effect. At length, Mr. E. T. Parris, possessing an accurate knowledge of mechanics and perspective and practical execution in painting, combined with great enthusiasm and perseverance, accomplished the labour, principally with his own hands, standing in a wooden box or cradle suspended from cross poles, and lifted, as required, by ropes. The panorama, thus completed, was viewed from a gallery with a projecting framework beneath it, in exact imitation of the outer dome of St. Paul's, so as to produce the illusion that the spectator was actually standing at that altitude, the perspective and light and shade of the campanile towers above the western front being admirably managed. There was above this another staircase, leading to an upper gallery, the view from which was intended to represent the view from the cross at the top of St. Paul's." It has been said, with some truth, that of all the panoramic pictures that ever were painted in the world, of the proudest cities formed and inhabited by the human race, the view of London contained in the Colosseum was the most pre-eminent, exhibiting as it did, at one view, "to the eye and to the mind the dwellings of near a million and a half of human beings, a countless succession of churches, bridges, halls, theatres, and mansions; a forest of floating masts, and the manifold pursuits, occupations, and powers of its ever-active, ever-changing inhabitants."
This panorama, though opened early in 1829, retained its popularity so long that in 1845 it was re-painted by Mr. Parris, when a second exhibition—the same, of course, mutatis mutandis—"London by Night," was exhibited in front of the other. It was illuminated in such a way as to produce the illusion of a moonlight night, with the lamps in the shops, on the bridges, &c., and the rays of the moon falling on the rippling river. In 1848, the Panorama of Paris, painted by Danson, of the same size as the night view of London, was exhibited there, the localities made famous by the then recent Revolution being brought out into prominence. In 1850 both of these exhibitions gave way to a panorama of the Lake of Thun, in Switzerland; but in the following year—that of the first Great Exhibition—the old panorama reasserted its claim on the public attention, and was reproduced with great success.
These gigantic pictures, however, were by no means the only, though they were the principal, features of the Colosseum in the days of its celebrity. It contained a sculpture gallery, called the "Glyptothec," two large conservatories of glass, and a Swiss chalet, with mountain scenery and real water running through it, the execution of Mr. Horner, the original designer of the building. In 1834, there was exhibited here a very fine collection of animals and other curiosities from Southern and Central Africa, which created a great sensation by their novelty, and formed one of the attractions of the season. It has often been said that there is nothing new under the sun; but it may sound novel and strange to many readers to learn, on the authority of the "Chronicles of the Seasons," published in 1844, that the experiment of a skating-hall, with boards for ice, and with skates on wheels, was tried here forty years before either "rinks" or Plimpton's patent skates were heard of. The author of that book writes: "As the exercise of skating can be enjoyed in this country only for a short period in the winter, and sometimes not for many years together near our large towns, an attempt has been made to supply a substitute by which persons might glide rapidly over any level surface, though not with so much facility as upon ice. This contrivance, which . . . . emanated from a Mr. Tyers, consists of the woodwork of a common skate, or something nearly like it; but instead of a steel support at the bottom, having a single row of little wheels placed behind one another, the body of the skater being carried forward by the rolling of the wheels, instead of by the sliding of the iron. We have seen these skates used with much facility on a boarded floor . . . . A more successful plan still has been adopted by an ingenious inventor, who has furnished the lovers of skating in the metropolis with a fine sheet of artificial ice. It was at first exhibited at the Colosseum, in the Regent's Park, but was afterwards removed to a building where a more spacious area could be opened for the purpose. The place is decorated with scenery representing snowy mountains, and in summer it presents, with its parties of skaters, a strange contrast to the actual state of things out of doors." The "glaciarium," or "skating-rink" of real ice, was the invention of the late Mr. Bradwell, the chief machinist of Covent Garden Theatre, who was himself the inventor of the ice, and first tried it at the theatre. "At first," says a writer in the Athenœum, "the surface was hard and polished, and bore skating well; but the amateurs complained it would not enable them to cut a figure like real ice, so next year Bradwell invented an ice which cut well with the skate. The affair was on too small a scale to pay in those days." We have already mentioned this early attempt to make a skating-rink in summer in our account of Madame Tussaud's Exhibition, in Baker Street. (fn. 7) In spite of all this ingenuity, the projector failed, and the building passed, by sale, into other hands. The Colosseum was soon afterwards altered, with the exception of the panorama, and sundry additions and improvements were made to enhance its attractions. An entrance made on the east from Albany Street, a Gothic aviary, sundry pieces of rock scenery, and models of the ruins of the arch of Titus, the temples of Vesta and Theseus, as well as other classical subjects, a stalactite cavern, &c., were among the most important. In 1848, there was added a sort of theatre, highly decorated with reproductions of bacchanalian groups, some of Raphael's cartoons, &c. "Upon the stage," says John Timbs, "passed the Cyclorama of Lisbon, representing with terrible minuteness the terrible scenes which marked the earthquake of 1755." This exhibition was very popular for a time, and Dr. Bachhoffner added to its attractiveness by his lectures and other exhibitions. In the end, however, perhaps for the reasons we have stated above, the number of visitors dwindled, and the exhibition was closed.
The Colosseum was put up to auction by Messrs. Winstanley in 1855, but no bid was made which reached the "reserve price," £20,000, about a tenth of the sum which had been up to that time expended upon it. The building afterwards passed into several hands, and ultimately it was purchased by a small number of gentlemen, with the idea of erecting there a grand hotel; but this idea was abandoned. Subsequently the lease was purchased by a Mr. Bird, and the walls were levelled to the ground, as stated above, with the view of erecting on its site a number of private residences.
Not far to the north of the Colosseum stands the modern Collegiate Church of St. Katharine's, once part of a royal hospital and religious foundation, established on the eastern side of the Tower of London, by Matilda, the queen consort of King Stephen. On the destruction of the former establishment in 1825, to make room for the St. Katharine's Docks, this building was erected from the designs of Mr. Ambrose Poynter, and completed in 1828. It is a Gothic structure, of yellow brick, consisting of a chapel, six residences for pensioners, and a detached residence for the master. The chapel is in the florid Gothic style, and is a poor imitation of the chapel of King's College, Cambridge; it has two octagonal towers, with a large window of perpendicular tracery, above which are the royal arms and those of the college; it has, moreover, a pulpit of wood, a gift to the church from Sir Julius Cæsar. Here, too, is the tomb of John Holland, Duke of Exeter (who fought in France in the wars of Henry VI., and who died in the year 1447), which was also removed hither from the old church of St. Katharine at Tower Hill. It is an altar-tomb, and on it rest the effigies of the duke and his two wives, under a rich canopy. On the dwellings of the chaplains the arms of the college are repeated, encircled with the motto, "Elianora fundavit," with the royal arms to correspond. The same arms are also carved on the two lodges, and are encircled with the inscriptions, "Fundavit Mathilda, 1548," and "In hoc situ restitit, 1828." In the centre of the court-yard is a conduit for the supply of the hospital. The west end of the chapel immediately faces the park road, on the opposite side of which stands the house of the master, whose office is in the gift of the Queen Consort for the time being, if there is one—if not, of the Crown. The present hospital was built with the money awarded as compensation for the removal of the old hospital, situated on the east of the Tower of London, described by us previously, (fn. 8) and whose homely buildings and cloisters are described by Stow as holding more inhabitants than some cities in England. Of the foundation of this hospital and its history, down to the time of its removal hither, we have already spoken; but we may add here something concerning the inmates of the hospital. Under the charter and statutes granted by Philippa, queen of Edward III., the brethren were to wear "a strait coat," and over that a black mantle, with "the sign of the holy Katharine." Green clothes or those entirely red, or any striped clothes, "as tending to dissoluteness," were not to be used. The clerks were to have shaven crowns. The curfew-bell was to ring home at night the brethren and sisters. The queen contributed to the rebuilding of the collegiate church in 1340, and her husband there founded a chantry for the repose of her soul. The hospital still remains under queenly patronage, and the mastership is a valuable sinecure. The revenues of the ancient hospital were directed to the maintenance of "six poor bachelors and six poor spinsters."
The community now consists of a master and three brethren, all bound by the charter to be priests, three sisters, and twenty bedesmen, and alike the number of bedeswomen, their chief duties being regular celebration and attendance at divine service, and works of charity and almsgiving among the poor, as examples of good Christian life and conversation. Conformably with these pious instructions we find that the master is a layman of quality who resides near St. James's Palace; that the three brethren have houses and occupations elsewhere, one at a time being "in residence" for a few months in the year; that the sisters "do not in general reside;" that the bedesmen and bedeswomen "have no residence," and though "still called by their ancient style, have no duties to perform," beyond receiving their annual dole of £10 a-piece; that the charity to the poor consists in the maintenance of a school containing as many as thirty-six boys and eighteen girls; and that the income of the community amounts to about £7,000, which, by better management, might be raised to £10,000 or £11,000. The chaplains hold country livings together with their appointments, which are practically fellowships without the restriction of celibacy.
During the last century a MS. register-book of the monastery of Christ Church, or the Holy Trinity within Aldgate—on the ground of which monastery Queen Matilda had founded her hospital—contained many interesting particulars about the connection of these two houses. Queen Eleanor, it seems, was not content that the government of a house, the patronage of which was in her gift, should remain in the hands of the Austin Canons. Both at Westminster and before the Lord Mayor she was defeated in her suit to obtain the entire control of this ecclesiastical foundation. But afterwards, at her request, a visitation was held by the Bishop of London, who cajoled the monks into surrendering their right by a threat of the king's displeasure if they continued to assert them. At length then, in her widowhood, the old queen was enabled to carry out her project, and she certainly founded an establishment which might have worked well down to the present day with no essential changes in its constitution. To her foundation were subsequently added various benefactions of chapelries, &c., and Edward II. presented, in 1309, the advowson, still held by the chapter, of Kingsthorpe, Northampton, with its belongings. The various chaplaincies have lapsed at some period unknown, probably at the Reformation, when the whole house was threatened with dissolution, together with the other monasteries of the kingdom, and was only rescued through the fact that, the patronage being in the hands of the queen consort, Anne Boleyn thought it worth while to induce her royal master to continue this source of influence to her and her successors.
In the reign of Elizabeth, and with the queen herself, began the first abuse of this institution. Up to that period the master had always been a priest, and held a position similar to that of a dean at the head of his chapter. The Crown, however, to whom the appointment on this occasion lapsed through default of a queen consort, contravened the old statutes, and, by a writ of non-obstante, placed Thomas Wilson, Doctor of Laws, in this ecclesiastical post, in which he ought, according to the charter of Queen Philippa (a special benefactress), to perform all priestly offices. This layman not only was incapacitated from carrying out the original intentions of the foundresses, but endeavoured in every possible way to enrich himself at the expense of the corporation. He surrendered the charter of Henry VI., on which foundation the hospital had hitherto rested, and in lieu thereof received one from the queen—one which remains in force to the present day. In this latter charter an important omission was made of all mention of the fair hitherto held by this hospital on Tower Hill for twenty-one days. This fair was now granted to the Corporation of the City of London, who paid to this generous master the sum of £466 13s. 4d., a slight fee which went into his own private purse.
At this hospital, for ages, the queens consort had appointed their chaplains, their ladies of the bed-chamber, or other dependants, to posts where in their old age they might perform many useful offices to the poor around them, and in return for which they might receive a decent maintenance. There were plenty of duties, and the pay was tolerably good. Besides, foreign chaplains, or chaplains attached to foreign queens, would be the very men to understand best of all the language and customs of the seafaring men and foreigners who in each reign would come in greatest numbers from the country where the queen consort had passed her youth, and would settle down in this free precinct (both ecclesiastical and civil courts belonging to the hospital), just outside the City walls, where they would be entirely free from the exactions of the City merchants, ever jealous of outsiders. This institution, therefore, was remarkably well adapted for the locality in which it was placed. But in the reign of George IV., about the year 1824, an attempt was made, and, as we have seen, with success, to remove this venerable hospital from its ancient site, and to demolish its church, a fine edifice of Perpendicular architecture. At first a strong opposition was made by the inhabitants, but eventually the influence of the moneyed shareholders carried their point, and the king, nothing loth to adorn the park which was to commemorate his earlier administration, sanctioned its withdrawal to the north-west of London, where no precinct was assigned to it, where there was no necessity for such a mission-house, and no opening for its proper working and development.
There was at St. Katharine's a "fraternity of the guild of our glorious Saviour Christ Jesus, and of the Blessed Virgin and Martyr St. Barbara." The beadroll runs as follows:—"First, ye shall pray especially for the good estate of our sovereign lord and most Christian and excellent prince King Henry VIII. and Queen Catherine, founders of the said guild and gracious brotherhood, and brother and sister of the same. And for the good estate of the French Queen's Grace, Mary, sister to our said sovereign lord, and sister of the said guild. Also, ye shall pray for the good estate of Thomas Wolsey, of the title of St. Cecilia of Rome, priest, cardinal, and legatus a latere to our Holy Father the Pope, Archbishop of York, and Chancellor of England, brother of the said guild. Also for the good estate of the Duke of Buckingham and my lady his wife; also for the good estate of the Duke of Norfolk and my lady his wife; the Duke of Suffolk; also for my Lord Marquis; for the Earl of Shrewsbury; the Earl of Northumberland; the Earl of Surrey; my Lord Hastings; and for all their ladies, brethren and sisters of the same. Also for Sir Richard Chomley, knt.; Sir William Compton, knt.; Sir William Skevington, knt.; Sir John Digby, knt., &c.; and for all their ladies, brethren and sisters of the same, that be alive, and for the souls of them that be dead; and for the masters and wardens of the same guild, and the warden collector of the same. And for the more special grace, every man of your charity say a Paternoster and an Ave. And God save the king, the master, and the wardens, and all the brethren and sisters of the same."
Of the eminent Masters of St. Katharine's Hospital, prior to its removal hither, we have already spoken. Sir Herbert Taylor, G.C.B., held the office at the time of the change. He had served with the Duke of York during the whole of the campaign in Holland; he was for some time private secretary to George III.; and in 1812 he was nominated one of the trustees of the king's private property; and soon after (in consequence of the Regency), private secretary to the Queen, a post which he afterwards held under William IV. and Queen Adelaide. He was appointed to the post of Master of St. Katharine's in 1818, and retained it till his death, in 1839. The next appointment was made by the late Queen Dowager, during the reign of Queen Victoria. When there is a queen consort a queen dowager loses her patronage.
Between the site of the old Colosseum and Park Square, on the north of St. Andrew's Place, is the Adult Orphan Institution, which was established in 1820. The object of this institution is the education as governesses of the orphan daughters of clergymen and of naval and military officers. The number of inmates is generally about thirty, and the income is about £4,000 annually, but it is dependent mainly on voluntary contributions.
In Chester Terrace the eminent architect, Professor Cockerell, R.A., spent the last ten years of his life, and he died here in 1863. We have already mentioned him in our account of St. Paul's Cathedral. (fn. 9) He was for some years Professor of Architecture in the Royal Academy, but, late in life, withdrew from active professional practice. His merits as an architect received the highest testimony of approbation by his election, in 1860, as President of the Institute of British Architects. In 1862, he resigned his position as R.A., and became one of the first of the "honorary retired Academicans." Professor Cockerell published, late in life, a large folio work, descriptive of the Temples of Jupiter and Apollo, in Ægina and the Peloponnesus, which many years before he had explored in company with Lord Byron.
In Chester Place, which is also on the east side of the Park, Charles Dickens had a house for a few months in 1847, and there was born his son, Sydney Smith Dickens, who became a lieutenant in the navy, and died at sea soon after his father. Dickens had previously lived in Osnaburgh Terrace, which is close by, though only for a few weeks, in the summer of 1844, before he started for Italy, having let his house in Devonshire Terrace.
The villa of Mrs. Fitzherbert, the wife of George Prince of Wales (afterwards George IV.), stands on the north side of the Park, in the neighbourhood of Primrose Hill, facing the canal at North Gate. It now bears the name of Stockleigh House, and has been occupied by several different families in succession. The villa was severely injured by the gunpowder explosion on the canal, of which we have spoken above.
As we have now travelled round the circuit of the Park, it is time that we should give a brief account of its hitherto unexplored interior, which is intersected by a road known as the Inner Circle. We enter this Inner Circle at the south, opposite Marylebone Church, and pass over a bridge across the ornamental water. On the right hand are the grounds of the Toxophilite Society, nearly adjoining those of the Royal Botanical Society, which reach back almost to the centre of the Park. We will speak of both of these in turn.
In 1781, as we have stated in a previous volume, (fn. 10) the survivors of the "old Finsbury Archers" established the Toxophilite Society in the gardens at the back of Leicester House, then in Leicester Fields, it is stated, principally through Sir Ashton Lever, who, as we have already mentioned, showed his museum there. The society then held their meetings in Bloomsbury Fields, behind the present site of Gower Street. Some twenty-five years later they removed on "target days" to Highbury Barn, and from thence to Bayswater, where we found them again. (fn. 11) In 1834 they took up their quarters here, where they have a rustic lodge, and between five and six acres of ground. The members of the society meet every Friday during the spring and summer, and many prizes are shot for during the season. They possess the original silver badge of the old Finsbury Archers. Strutt, in his "Sports and Pastimes," says: "There is no art more conspicuous for the high degree of perfection to which it has been carried in this kingdom than that of archery. With our ancestors it had a double purpose to answer, that of a means of destruction in war, and an object of amusement in time of peace. The skill of the English, however, has always been proverbial; their many and glorious victories are their best eulogiums. By the Saxons. or Danes, though well acquainted with the use of the bow, it was used principally for pastime, or for the purpose of procuring food, in times anterior to the Conquest. Under the Normans, who used their bow as a military weapon, the practice of archery was much improved, and generally diffused throughout the kingdom; it was, in the age of chivalry, considered an essential part of the education of a young man who wished to distinguish himself."
Notwithstanding the advantages of the practice of archery, it seems to have been neglected, even when the glory of the English archers was at its greatest height, in the reign of Edward III., for we find a letter from that monarch to the sheriffs of London, declaring that the skill in shooting with arrows was almost totally laid aside for the pursuit of various useless and unlawful games; he therefore commands them to prevent such idle practices within the City and liberties of London, and to see that the leisure time upon holidays was spent in recreations with bows and arrows. In the fifth year of Edward IV., an ordinance was made, commanding every Englishman and Irishman dwelling in England to have a long bow of his own height; the Act directs that butts should be made in every township, at which the inhabitants were to shoot up and down upon all feast days, under the penalty of one halfpenny for every time they omitted to perform this exercise. In the sixteenth century we find heavy complaints of the disuse of the long bow, especially in the vicinity of London. Stow attributes this to the enclosures made near the metropolis, by which means the citizens were deprived of room sufficient or proper for the purpose. In the reign of Henry VIII., three several Acts were made for promoting the practice of shooting with the long bow; yet, notwithstanding the interference of the Legislature in its favour, archery gradually declined, and at the end of the seventeenth century was nearly, if not altogether, discontinued.
An author in the time of Queen Elizabeth informs us that it was necessary the archer should have a bracer, or close sleeve, to lace upon the left arm; this bracer was to be made of materials sufficiently rigid to prevent any folds that might impede the bow-string when loosed from the hand; to this was to be added a shooting glove, for the protection of the fingers. The bow, he tells us, ought to be made of well-seasoned wood, and formed with great exactness, tapering from the middle towards each end. Bows were sometimes made of brazil, of elm, of ash, and several other woods, but yew was held in most esteem. With regard to the bow-string, the author was undecided which to prefer; he would, therefore, leave the choice to the string-maker. A thin string casts the arrow further, a thick string gives greater certainty. For the arrow, he says, there are three essential parts—the stile, or wand, the feathers, and the head. The stile was not always made of the same sort of wood, but varied as occasion required to suit the different manners of shooting practised by the archers. Our author then gives some instruction as to the management of the bow, and first recommends a graceful attitude.
Another writer says:—"The shooter should stand fairly and upright with his body, his left foot at a convenient distance before his right, holding the bow by the middle, with his left arm stretched out, and with the three first fingers and the thumb of the right hand upon the lower part of the arrow affixed to the string of the bow. Secondly, a proper attention should be paid to the notching, that is, the application of the notch at the bottom of the arrow to the bow-string; the notch of the arrow should rest between the fore-finger and the middle finger of the right hand. Thirdly, the proper drawing of the bow-string is to be attended to. In ancient times the right hand was brought to the right pap, but at present it is elevated to the right ear; the latter method is to be preferred. The shaft of the arrow below the feathers ought to be rested upon the knuckle of the fore-finger of the left hand, the arrow to be drawn to the head, and not held too long in that situation, but neatly and smartly discharged, without any hanging upon the string."
We must not judge of the merits of ancient
bowmen from the practice of archery in the present
day. There are no such distances now assigned
for the marks as we find mentioned in old historians
or old poetical legends; nor such precision even at
short lengths in the direction of the arrow.
"The stranger he made no mickle ado,
But he bent a right good bow,
And the fattest of all the herd he slew,
Forty good yards him fro;
'Well shot! well shot!' quoth Robin Hood, &c."
Few, if any, of the modern archers in long shooting reach four hundred yards, or in shooting at a mark exceed eighty or a hundred. It must be borne in mind, however, that archery is now followed only for amusement, and as a delightful and healthful exercise for both sexes.
Strutt observes:—"I remember, about four or five years back, at a meeting of the Society of Archers, in their ground near Bedford Square, the Turkish Ambassador paid them a visit, and complained that the enclosure was by no means sufficiently extensive for a long shot; he therefore went into the adjacent fields to show his dexterity, where I saw him shoot several arrows more than double the length of the archery ground, and his longest shot fell upwards of 480 yards from his standing. The bow he used was much shorter than that used by the English archers, and his arrows were of the bolt kind, with round heads made of wood."
"This delightful amusement," says a writer in "Colburn's Kalendar of Amusements for 1840," "is becoming almost as popular amongst us as it was with our forefathers. It decidedly is the most graceful game that can be practised, permitting the utmost exertion of skill and address, and, from bygone glorious associations, recommending itself instantly to every lover of pleasure. The ancient festival of 'Robin Hood and May-game' was so much in repute in the reign of the eighth Harry, that he and his nobles would frequently appear as Robin and his merry men, dressed in Kendal green, with hoods and hosen. In an ancient drama called The Play of Robin, 'very proper to be played in May Game,' a friar, surnamed Tuck, forms one of the principal characters. He comes to the forest in search of the bold Robin, with full intent to fight with him, but is prevailed upon to change his intention and to become chaplain to Mayde Marian. The character of Marian was generally represented by a boy; it, however, appears, from an entry in a list of the expenses of the play at Kingston-uponThames, that it was twice performed there by a female, who for each year's services received the sum of one shilling!"
The presence of ladies at the gatherings of the Toxophilite Society having largely increased, about 1839, the meetings began to be wound up by balls, which grew to formidable dimensions, and threatened to eclipse the object of the society; accordingly, they were given up, and instead was established a "Ladies' Day," annually on the 5th of July, on which the fair "archeresses" of England—so called in the records of the society, be it observed—compete for silver bugles, bracelets, and other prizes. The average number of ladies who join in the shooting on these occasions is between fifty and sixty. The late Prince Consort and the Prince of Wales have successively been patrons of this society, whose meetings are among the pleasantest gatherings of the London season. In due course of time, though contrary to the spirit, if not to the letter, of the rules of the society, croquet became legitimised on these days. In 1869 the grounds were turned to a novel use in winter, by being laid down as a skating-rink. In the grounds is a pavilion, called the Hall, for the use of the society, tastefully adorned with stags' heads and antlers and the armorial bearings of members. The silver cups, badges, and other treasures of the society, we may add, are worth inspection.
The Royal Botanic Society, whose gardens and ornamental grounds, as we have stated, adjoin those of the Toxophilite Society, was established in 1839, under the Duke of Richmond, and having among its supporters the most eminent botanists and scientific men in the metropolis. Meetings for the reading of papers and the discussion of subjects connected with botany, or its adaptation to the arts, from a very prominent part of the operations of the society. The grounds, which are about eighteen acres in extent, allow of excellent opportunity for display; between 4,000 and 5,000 species of hardy herbaceous plants, trees, and shrubs flourish in the open air, and in the glasshouses about 3,000 species and varieties. The grounds were laid out by Mr. Robert Marnock, the designer and former curator of Sheffield Botanic Gardens, assisted by Mr. Decimus Burton as architect. In May, June, and July, floral exhibitions take place here, when nearly 3,000 medals are distributed, the value of them ranging between fifteen shillings and twenty pounds. About £1,000 is annually spent by the society in the encouragement, acclimatization, and growth of rare plants.
This garden, as we have stated above, occupies the spot said to have been reserved for a palace for the Prince Regent. It was for some time used as a nursery-garden by a Mr. Jenkins, and from this circumstance derived the advantage of having a number of ornamental trees, some of which are of respectable growth, already existing upon it when it was taken by the Royal Botanic Society. The numerous specimens of weeping ash, the large weeping elms, and many of the more common trees on the south-western side of the garden, are among the older tenants of the place. Although situated as it were in London, this garden does not suffer much from the smoke incident to the metropolis; and being in the midst of Regent's Park, with the ground falling away from it on most sides, while conspicuous hills and swells rise in the distance, this place is made, by a wise treatment of the boundary, to appear twice as large as it really is; for, from the middle of the garden, the fences are scarcely at all seen, and much of the plantations blending with those outside, and with the surrounding country, great indefiniteness of view is procured.
"In a landscape point of view," says the author of Weale's "London" (1851), "we may safely affirm that Mr. Marnock has been particularly happy in the arrangement and planting of this garden. As a whole, the avowedly ornamental parts are probably superior to anything of the kind in the neighbourhood of the metropolis. Much has been attempted, especially in the variation of the surface of the ground, and almost all that has been proposed is fully and well achieved. We would particularly point out the clever manner in which the boundary fence is got rid of on the northern and north-western sides, as seen from the middle of the garden; the beautiful changes in the surface of the ground, and the grouping of the masses of plants, in the same quarter; the artistic manner in which the rockery is formed, out of such bad materials, and the picturesque disposal of the plants upon it; and the treatment of the large mound, from which so many and such excellent views of the garden and country are obtained. . . . . Entering by the principal gate, not far from York Gate," continues the writer, "the first thing deserving of notice is the very agreeable and effective manner in which the entrance is screened from the gardens, and the gardens from the public gaze. This is not done by large close gates and heavy masonry, but by a living screen of ivy, planted in boxes, and supported by an invisible fence. There are, in fact, two screens: one close to the outside fence, opposite the centre of the principal walk, and having an entrance-gate on either side of it; and the other several feet further in, extending across the sides of the walk, and only leaving an opening in the centre. By keeping the ivy in boxes, it does not interfere with the continuity of the gravel walk, and has a neater appearance, and can, we suppose, be taken away altogether, if required. At any rate, it has a temporary look, which is of some consequence to the effect. These screens are from six to eight feet high. In a small lodge at the side, visitors enter their names, and produce the orders of the Fellows of the Society, which are necessary for seeing the gardens." After passing through the screen above described, we find ourselves on a broad, bold walk, at the end of which, on a slightly-raised platform, is the great conservatory. Before passing up this central walk, we will make the circuit of the grounds, starting by a pathway on the right-hand side. The ascent of a large mound is one of the first things that commands attention. "Directly the visitor sets upon this walk he will perceive that an entire change of character has been contemplated. Instead of the highly-artificial features of the broad walk opposite the entrance, we are here introduced to an obvious imitation of nature. The surface of the ground is kept rough, and covered only with undressed grass—such, we mean, as is only occasionally and not regularly mown; the direction of the walks is irregular, or brokenly zigzag, and their sides ragged; the plants and trees are mostly of a wild character, such as furze, broom, ivy, privet, clematis, thorns, mountain ash, &c., and these are clustered together in tangled masses. . . . In the very midst of a highlycultivated scene, which is overlooked at almost every step, and adjoining a compartment in which the most formal systematic arrangement is adopted in beds, and almost within the limits of the great metropolis itself, such an introduction of the rougher and less cultivated features of nature is assuredly to be deprecated. Several platforms on the face of the mound, and especially one at the summit, afford the most beautiful views of Regent's Park and its villas, Primrose and other neighbouring hills, and the more distant country. On a clear day, and the wind south-west, west, or north-west, these landscapes are truly delightful. There is a mixture of wood, grass, mansion, and general undulation, which is singularly refreshing so near London, and which abundantly exhibits the foresight that has been displayed in the formation of this mound. Unquestionably, when the atmosphere is at all favourable, the ascent of the mound is one of the greatest attractions of the garden to a lover of landscape beauties. . . . Descending the mound on its eastern side, a small lake, out of which the material for raising the mound was procured, is seen to stretch along its base, and to form several sinuous arms. Like the mound itself, an air of wildness is thrown around this lake, which is increased by the quantity of sedgy plants on its margins, and the common-looking dwarf willows which abound near its western end. In this lake, and in some of the small strips of water by which it is prolonged towards the east, an unusually complete collection of hardy water-plants will be found, and these are planted without any appearance of art, so as to harmonise with the entire scene. There is a rustic bridge over one arm of the lake, which, being simple and without pretension, is quite in character with the neighbouring objects. Between the lake and the boundary fence, in a little nook formed on purpose for them, the various hardy ferns and Equiseta are cultivated. The plants of the former are put among masses of fused brick, placed more with reference to their use in affording a position for growing ferns than for their picturesque effect. This corner is," in fact, adds the writer, "altogether an episode to the general scene, and does not form a part of it.
"On a border near these ferns, and extending along the south side of the lake, are several interesting collections, illustrative of one of the society's objects, which is to show, in a special compartment, the hardy plants remarkable for their uses in various branches of manufacture. Commencing at the western end of this border, we find, first, the plants which afford tanning materials; the Rhus cotinus and coriaria, the Scotch fir, the larch, and the oak, are among these. Next in order are the plants whose fibre is used for chip plat, comprising Salix alba, the Lombardy poplar, &c. Then follow the plants whose fibre is adapted for weaving, cordage, &c.; the Spartium junceum, flax and hemp, rank in this class. The plants used in making baskets, or matting, &c., next occur, and embrace the lime and osier among others. Grasses of different kinds then illustrate the plants whose straw is used for platting. The cork-tree and Populus nigra furnish examples of plants whose bark yields cork. A collection of plants whose parts furnish materials for dyeing finishes the series. Altogether, this is a very instructive border, and all the objects are labelled under the respective heads here given, so that they may be readily referred to.
"A large herbaceous garden adjoins the lake at its eastern end, and the plants are here arranged in beds, according to the natural system, the species of each order being assigned to one bed. Of course, the beds will thus vary greatly in size. Three or four crescent-shaped hedges are placed here and there across this garden, partly for shelter, but principally to act as divisions to the larger groups of natural orders. These hedges separate the garden into the great natural divisions, and each of the compartments they form is again subdivided into orders by walks four feet in width, the sub-orders being indicated by division-walks of two feet in width. The inquiries of the student are thus greatly aided, and he is enabled to carry away a much clearer impression of the natural system than can be had from books. This is an excellent place for ascertaining what are the best and most showy herbaceous border flowers. Further on, in the same direction, is a garden assigned entirely to British plants, disposed, in conformity with the Linnæan system, in long beds, with alleys between. In this division will be seen how very ornamental are some of the plants to which our soil gives birth; and the less informed will be surprised to find that many of their garden favourites are the natural products of some part or other of our own country. A well-stocked 'medical garden' terminates this chain of scientific collections, and is more pleasing than the other two, on account of the plants being much more varied. The arrangement of this tribe is founded on the natural system, and the plants are in narrow beds, which take a spiral form. Near the medical garden are the plant-houses, pits, and reserve-ground, in which all the plants are grown for stocking the conservatory, flower-beds, borders, &c. The planthouses are constructed in a very simple manner, with a path down the centre, flat shelves or stages at the sides, the hot-water pipes under the stages, near the walls, the lights resting on the side-walls, and all fixed, with ventilators, in the shape of small sashes, here and there along the top of the larger lights, on both sides of the centre. One of these houses, which is used for orchids, has no means of ventilation at all, except at the end, over the door, where there is a small sash capable of being opened. With proper shading it is found, both here and elsewhere, that orchids very seldom require fresh air. One of the span-roofed houses is almost wholly occupied with a cistern containing the great Victoria regia, Nymphæa cærulea, and other aquatics. From the reserve-ground a few steps lead to the large conservatory, which is more appropriately termed the 'winter-garden.' At the eastern end of this conservatory, and in a corresponding place at the other end, there is a large vase placed on the gravel; and along the front of the conservatory, at the edge of the terrace, are several more vases, of a handsomer kind. The conservatory, which is of large dimensions, is of the very lightest description, built wholly of iron and glass. The front is simply adorned with a kind of pilaster, composed of ground glass, neatly figured, which gives a little relief, without obstructing the light. The central flattish dome has an ornamental kind of crown, which helps to break the outline. The roof is, for the most part, composed of a series of large ridges, the sides of these being of an inverted sort of keel shape, and a transverse ridge extending along the principal front from either side of the domical portion. The warming of the building is effected by means of hot water circulating in cast-iron pipes, placed in brick chambers under the surface of the floor, and by a continuous iron tank, eighteen inches wide and six inches deep, placed in a brick chamber around the building. The heated air escapes by perforated castings level with the floor, and airducts communicate with the chambers containing the pipes and tank, bringing air to be heated from parts of the house most remote from the heating surface. Ventilation is provided by means of sashes made to slide on the roof, and worked simultaneously by means of simple machinery, and at the ends of the house and in the front by casements hung on pivots. The conservatory is capable of accommodating 2,000 visitors, and it was erected at a cost of about £7,000."
The gardens are open every week-day, from nine till sunset, and on Sundays after two o'clock; and we need hardly add that during the summer, or in the height of the London "season," its pleasant pathways and rustic walks form very agreeable promenades and lounges for the "upper ten thousand."
Leaving the gardens by the gate on the eastern side, and passing for a short distance along Chester Road, we enter the "broad walk" of the Park, and proceeding northward, find ourselves at the entrance to the Zoological Gardens. These gardens, it need hardly be stated, are the chief attraction of Regent's Park to the thousands who flock to London during the holiday seasons. Here, as almost all the world knows, is collected the most comprehensive assemblage of animated nature in the whole kingdom, perhaps in the whole world. Here the different animals and tribes of animals, instead of being confined in wooden cages, and bandied about the country in travelling menageries, are surrounded by the very circumstances which attend them in their wild state, as far as that is possible, and thus they live, and thrive, and multiply almost as freely and certainly as in their native homes. The denizens of this unrivalled spot must be numbered by thousands, and they embrace not only all that roam the forest and the desert, and cleave the air, but some others that dwell in the caverns of the deep. The gardens, as we have stated above, are on the north-west side of the Park, and are about seventeen acres in extent. They are divided into two parts by the "Outer Circle" or carriage-drive, which passes through them elliptically, each part being appropriately connected by a short tunnel. The north entrance to the gardens is in this road. A straight principal walk passes through the gardens at an oblique angle from the main entrance in the Broad Walk, and leads by a flight of steps over the roof of one of the larger menageries, this roof being balustraded at the sides, and forming a large terraceplatform, from which a large part of the gardens, and also of the Park, may be viewed. The sides of the walk leading to this terrace are bordered by small flower-beds, backed by shrubs. The rest of the garden is laid out in the most irregular manner possible, so as to obtain a greater number and variety of walks. Several of the structures appropriated to the different animals are picturesque and pleasing examples of the rustic style; and in different parts of the gardens are sheets of water, some of them containing miniature islands, wherein the various species of water-fowl disport themselves. The northern division of the gardens is connected with the other part by a tunnel, which passes under the roadway. The ground in this part of the garden is on the slope of the banks of the canal, and constitutes a pleasant and shady walk during the summer months. The museum, the giraffes, the huge hippopotamus, the elephants, &c., are in this direction; but of these, and some of the other animals, we shall speak more in detail presently.
The Zoological Society of London, to which these gardens belong, and of which we have spoken in our notice of Hanover Square, (fn. 12) was instituted in 1826, under the auspices of Sir Humphrey Davy, Sir Stamford Raffles, and other eminent individuals, "for the advancement of zoology, and the introduction and exhibition of subjects of the animal kingdom, alive or in a state of preservation." The collection of animals first established here in 1828 was soon after swelled by the royal collection in the Tower of London, of which we have spoken in a previous volume, (fn. 13) the remains of which were transferred hither in 1834. The collection in the Tower is said to have grown out of a group of three leopards, presented by the Emperor Frederick II., the greatest zoologist of his day, to Henry III., in allusion to the three leopards which then adorned the royal shield of England, but which have since been exchanged for lions, as were also their living representatives. A full account of the Zoological Society and its living treasures, in the first few years of their occupation of its present abode, will be found in "The Gardens and Menagerie of the Zoological Society delineated," printed by Whittingham at the Chiswick Press. During the period which has elapsed since the opening of the gardens a very large number of species of mammalia and birds has been obtained, either by bequest or by purchase, detailed lists of which are to be found in the successive annual reports of the society. To these there were added, in 1849, a collection of reptiles, which has afforded great facilities to the scientific observers of this class of animals, and, more recently, a collection of fishes and of the lower aquatic animals, both marine and fresh-water, which has given rise to many interesting discoveries in their habits and economy.
That part of the menagerie over which is the terrace of which we have spoken above was formerly called the house of the "great carnivora." Here were exhibited, in dens, the lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars, panthers, &c.; but at the com mencement of 1876 they were removed to more spacious and comfortable quarters in a new "lion house," which is situated a little further to the south, not far from the ponds set apart for the seals and sealions. The noble beasts made the journey, not in a sort of quiet and sober procession, and as they are seen in pictures of Bacchus and his attendant train, but in closed boxes, with slipped sides, into which they were tempted by the sight of some extra slices of meat. This done, they were transported on trucks, in a most unroyal and ignoble manner, to the new abode, where the closed box was placed against the front bars of the new den, into which they were only too glad to make their way. The new "lion house" is excellently constructed and well warmed; and far more persons are now able to watch its inmates dine at four o'clock on Sunday afternoons in "the season" than was the case before this change was made.
A writer in a work called "Colburn's Calendar of Amusements," published in the year 1840, tells the following story, which shows the king of beasts in an amiable light:—"The lion in the collection of the Zoological Gardens was brought, with his lioness, from Tunis, and, as the keeper informed us, they lived most lovingly together. Their dens were separated only by an iron railing, sufficiently low to allow of their jumping over. One day, as the lioness was amusing herself with leaping from one den to the other, whilst her lord looked on, apparently highly delighted with her gaiety, she unfortunately struck her foot against the top of the railing, and was precipitated backwards; the fall proved fatal, for, upon examination, it was found she had broken her spine. The grief of her partner was excessive, and, although it did not show itself with the same violence as in a previous instance, it proved equally fatal: a deep melancholy took possession of him, and he pined to death in a few weeks." The writer tells us that these lions, during the voyage, behaved with so much suavity and good humour, that they were allowed the freedom of the ship, coming and going whithersoever it pleased them, and being on terms of friendship with all on board. When the vessel reached port, numerous visitors arrived, and, as these were confined to the male sex, the lions continued the same genteel behaviour; but no sooner had several ladies set foot on the deck of the vessel than they took to flight, and, hiding themselvesin some corner of the ship, showed the most extraordinary symptoms of fear and antipathy at the sight of the new comers.
Occasionally the menagerie has been fortunate
enough to obtain a specimen of the African chimpanzee—the nearest approach of the monkey tribe
to humanity—but in each case it has been only
for a short time, the climate of England proving
too cold for their lungs. The first specimen,
which was brought to England in 1836, caused
quite as great a furore as did the arrival of the first
hippopotamus, and all London society rushed to
"leave its cards" on the "little stranger;" so that
there was hardly an exaggeration in the words of
a poem, by Theodore Hook, in Blackwood:—
"The folks in town are nearly wild
To go and see the monkey-child,
In Gardens of Zoology,
Whose proper name is Chimpanzee.
To keep this baby free from hurt,
He's dressed in a cap and a Guernsey shirt;
They've got him a nurse, and he sits on her knee,
And she calls him her Tommy Chimpanzee."
The Tory poet then describes, in graphic colours,
imaginary visits paid to the chimpanzee by Lord
Melbourne, Lord John Russell, Lord Palmerston,
Lord Glenelg, the Speaker, and the other ministers
"Lord John came up the other day,
Attended by a lady gay,
'Oh, dear!' he cried, 'how like Lord T.!
I can't bear to look at this chimpanzee.'
The lady said, with a tender smile
Fit all his sorrows to beguile,
'Oh, never mind, Lord John: to me
You are not in the least like a chimpanzee!'
"Glenelg mooned up to see the brute,
Of distant climes the rarest fruit,
And said to the keeper, 'Stir him up for me:
He seems but an indolent chimpanzee.'
Says the keeper, 'My lord, his is a snug berth—
He never does nothing whatever on earth;
But his brother Bob, who is over the sea,
Is a much more sprightly chimpanzee.'
"The Speaker next, to make him stare,
Proceeded, dressed as he is in the chair;
When Tommy saw him, such a scream raised he
As had never been heard from a chimpanzee.
'What's the matter, Mr. Keeper?' the Speaker cried.
'Why, really, Mr. Speaker,' the man replied,
'I hope no offence, but I think that he
Takes you for the late Mrs. Chimpanzee.'
"Lord Palmerston, just turning grey,
Came up to gaze, and turned away,
And said, 'There's nothing here to see;
He's but a baby chimpanzee!'
'No,' said the keeper, 'my lord,' and smiled,
'Our Tom is but a tender child;
But if he live to be fifty-three,
He'll make a most Cupid-like chimpanzee.'
"Lord Melbourne cantered on his hack
To get a peep at Tommy's back;
He said to the keeper, he wanted to see
The tail of this wonderful chimpanzee.
'He's got no tail,' said the keeper, 'my lord.'
'You don't mean that! upon my word,
If he does without a tail he's superior to me,'
Said Melbourne, and bowed to the chimpanzee."
The poet ends by a suggestion that perhaps the
Ministry itself might do well to give place to so
clever a creature:—
"For if the King—God bless his heart—
Resolve to play a patriot's part,
And seek to mend his Ministry,
No doubt he'll send for the chimpanzee."
Three other specimens of the chimpanzee have been exhibited here since then, but they have never succeeded in obtaining the attention which was bestowed on their predecessor; the last died in 1875.
The most important block of buildings in the gardens are those which contain the collection of the larger animals, such as the hippopotamus, the giraffe, and the elephants, &c. The fact of hippopotami having been on many occasions exhibited by the Emperors of Rome in the great displays of wild beasts which were presented to the people in the circus, was a sufficient proof that the animal could be transported from its haunts in the Nile with success. And, therefore, although 1,500 years had elapsed since the last recorded instance of this kind, the Council of the Zoological Society, in the year 1849, undertook, with considerable confidence, the operation of carrying one from Upper Egypt, all attempts to obtain it on the west coast having proved futile. By the influence of the Hon. C. A. Murray, then Agent and ConsulGeneral at Cairo, his Highness the Viceroy, Abbas Pasha, was induced to give orders that this object should be effected; and in the month of July in that year a party of hunters, specially organised for the purpose, succeeded in capturing a calf of some three days' old on the island of Obaysch, in the White Nile. When found in the reedy covert to which the mother had confided him, the hippopotamus, who now weighs at least four tons, was of such small dimensions that the chief huntsman took him up in his arms to carry him to the boat from which his men had landed. Covered, however, with a coat of slime, more slippery than that of any fish, the calf glided from his grasp, and struggled to regain the safe recesses of the river. Quicker than he, the hunter used the gaff-hook fastened to his spear, of the same model as that used for a like purpose at the mouth of the Nile 3,000 years before, and struck him on the side, and safely held him. From Obaysch, many hundred miles above Cairo, the hippopotamus travelled down in charge of the hunters and a company of infantry, who finally landed him at the British Agency in the month of November, 1849, and in May of the following year he was landed on English soil. A special train conveyed him to London, every station yielding up its wondering crowd to look upon the monster as he passed—fruitlessly, for they only saw the Arab keeper, who then attended him night and day, and who, for want of air, was constrained to put his head out through the roof. The excitement created by the arrival of the hippopotamus was immense; the number of visitors to the gardens suddenly rose from 168,895 in 1849 to 360,402 in 1850; and the population of London thus attracted to the establishment as suddenly discovered that it contained an unrivalled collection of the most interesting and instructive character, in which, if, as often happened, they failed to see the hippopotamus, they still had the rhinoceros and a vast number of other objects to occupy them, which were scarcely, if at all, less attractive.
The hippopotamus, which thus became a household word, for many years continued to be a prime favourite with the public; and the arrival of his mate, the more juvenile "Adhela," in 1853, did not diminish his attraction.
Professor Owen published a report on the new acquisition, which formed so great an attraction. Macaulay writes thus of him in 1849:—"I have seen the hippopotamus, both asleep and awake; and I can assure you that, asleep or awake, he is the ugliest of the works of God."
It may be added that two hippopotami have been born in the gardens: the first died, and is to be seen stuffed, in the rear of the giraffe house; the second, who is called "Guy Fawkes," was born on the 5th of November, 1874.
The first living giraffe which appeared in this country was transmitted to George IV., in 1827, by Mohammed Ali, Viceroy of Egypt. It lived, however, only a few months in the menagerie at Windsor. Seven years afterwards, the Council of the Zoological Society succeeded in obtaining four specimens from Khordofan, where they were captured by M. Thibaut. This acquisition cost the society upwards of £2,300, including £1,000 for steamboat passage; and the female produced six fawns here between 1840 and 1851.
The reptile-house was fitted up in 1849. The creatures are placed in large plate-glass cases; here are pythons and rattlesnakes, and a variety of other species, some of which have produced their young in the gardens. Several years ago some serpents were exhibited which were taught to dance. This, however, was nothing new, as the same thing was exhibited in 1778 by a foreigner at "Bartlemy Fair." On one occasion a keeper in the gardens was killed by the bite of a cobra di Capello, a large Indian serpent; and some years ago a large boa-constrictor swallowed a blanket, and disgorged it about a month afterwards.
The collection of bears is said to be one of the largest ever made; and the bear-pit has always been a centre of attraction, especially for juveniles, in order to see the grizzly monsters climb the "ragged staff" and catch the biscuits and other edibles that are thrown to them; but the most attractive feature of the gardens, however, in the eyes of children, is the monkey-house, in which there are three large cages full of spider-monkeys, ring-tailed, black-fronted, and white-handed lemurs, dog-faced baboons, apes, the sacred monkey of the Hindoos, and other species. Their frolics in summer, and on a fine warm sunny day in winter, cause the pathways round the cages to be crowded with visitors, watching their ever-varying antics, and occasionally mischievous tricks. It would be well for many a lady's bonnet if its wearer had never approached too near to the bars of the cage of these light-fingered gentry. But every winter makes sad havoc in their numbers, as few of the specimens survive more than a couple of years; dying mostly of consumption or from lung disease, in spite of the admirable arrangements for warming their house. The orang-utan, named "Darby," brought from Borneo in 1851, was the finest specimen of his class that had, up to that time, been seen in Europe; he is stated to have been "very intelligent, and as docile as a child."
Then, again, the elephants are never forgotten, and a ride on the back of one of these monsters, as he paces slowly round his paddock, is a sight as pleasing to adults as it is enjoyable for the young. Usually there are three or four elephants here, either Asiatic or African. With these animals the Council of the Society has been somewhat unfortunate: in 1847, died here the great Indian elephant, "Jack," after having been in the gardens sixteen years; one died in 1875, and another, about the same time, broke the end off the proboscis of its trunk. Adjoining the stable is a tank of water, of a depth nearly equal to the height of a fullgrown elephant, in which they bathe on warm summer afternoons. Although every means has been tried to induce the breeding of elephants here, it has, so far, been unsuccessful, thus corroborating the statement which has been repeated by every writer on natural history, from the days of Aristotle downwards, that the elephant is never known to breed in captivity.
Another great attraction of the gardens is the seal-pond, in which three or four of these "monsters of the deep" may be seen daily playing their gambols, just as on the shores of South Wales or of Brittany. They are most attached and obedient to the keeper—a rough-hewn French coast-guardman, who, when he feeds them publicly, makes them perform all sorts of amusing feats—climbing chairs, &c.
The parrot-house, in the northern section of the gardens, is well worthy of a visit, containing, as it does, every variety of the painted inhabitants of the woods of South America and Australia. The screaming and screeching of these not very tuneful songsters, when they are heard in chorus, may reconcile us to the dull plumage of our native birds, and teach us that there is a law of compensation not only for human beings, but for the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air.
The obituary of the gardens for the year 1873, which we make as a sample for that of most years, included not only a rhinoceros and the little hippopotamus already mentioned, but a seal, an ostrich, and the old and venerable lion "Nero," who died peacefully and quietly, not of any disease, but of sheer age. We might add that, if inquests were held on the bodies of beasts, it would have been the duty of a jury to bring in a verdict of "Wilful murder" against the British public in the case of the seal and the ostrich, the former of which was killed by swallowing a bag of nuts thrown to it by some schoolboys, without cracking the shells; while the latter was shown, upon dissection, to have met its end by twenty-one penny pieces which it could not digest, although it was an ostrich.
The climate, it is true, has something to do, at
times, with the longevity of the animals: for instance, some fine white oxen from Italy, the gift of
Count Cavour, are now all dead, reminding the
classical reader of the well-known line of Virgil—
"Hinc albi, Clitumne, greges, et maxima taurus
Some huge white oxen from India however, now in the gardens, thrive well and multiply.
During the year above mentioned (1873) the list of new arrivals comprised upwards of 1,000 entries, including births, purchases, donations, exchanges, and "deposits." Among these was a handsome lioness, which was purchased in Dublin, and which, shortly after reaching Regent's Park, presented her new masters with a litter of four cubs.
It should be added that at intervals a "duplicate list" of animals is issued and circulated by the secretary of the society; the last of such lists now before us (dated September, 1872) includes a large variety of specimens, ranging from the Indian elephant (offered at £450) down to ring-necked and crested paroquets, at 15s. and 10s., and a common heron at 10s. The books kept daily at the office of the society contain not only the list of "arrivals" and "departures," but also a record of the temperature in the various "houses" in the gardens, and what would be called an "æger list"—namely, a list of such birds, beasts, and fishes as require medical attendance. In one corner of the gardens, not easily found by chance visitors, is a small and unobtrusive dissecting-room, where the carcases of such animals as die from natural causes are made subservient to the purposes of anatomical science.
In 1875 an extensive addition was made to the gardens, by inclosing about four acres of land on the north side of the canal, which is crossed by a bridge, thus enabling the society to open an additional entrance in the Outer Circle of the Park, nearly opposite the foot of Primrose Hill.
In these gardens were lodged, in a temporary building, the collection of beasts and birds brought back by the Prince of Wales from India, in 1876, including several tiger cubs, goats, sheep, dwarf oxen, and dwarf elephants, as well as several varieties of the pheasant tribe.
We may add, in conclusion, that Regent's Park is, and must be, at a disadvantage when compared with the other places of fashionable resort in London; and although crowds of the bon ton flock to the fêtes at the Botanical Gardens, and lounge away their Sunday afternoons at "the Zoo" in the season, yet it never will or can become really "the fashion," as the tide sets steadily in a south-west direction.
"The Regent's Park, above all," writes the Viscomte d'Arlingcourt, in his account of a visit to England in 1844, "is a scene of enchantment, where we might fancy ourselves surrounded by the quiet charms of a smiling landscape, or in the delightful garden of a magnificent country house, if we did not see on every side a countless number of mansions, adorned with colonnades, porticoes, pediments, and statues, which transport us back to London; but London is not here, as it is on the banks of the Thames, the gloomy commercial city. Its appearance has entirely changed. Purified from its smoke and dirt, and decked with costly splendour, it has become the perfumed abode of the aristocracy. No artisans' dwellings are to be seen here: nothing less than the habitations of princes."