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ocean of roofs. The sun, still visible on the horizon, shines on the roof of the cathedral, and shows the gigantic cupola in the most charming light. St. Paul's ought to be seen from the river by those who would fully understand its grandeur.
We pass through the arches of Blackfriars Bridge, and proceed in a line with Fleet Street. Before us the stream is spanned by a number of bridges, so that it seems as if their pillars crossed one another, and as if the nearest bridge bore the next following on its arched back.
Nine enormous bridges have been built across the river at very short intervals, and unite the more animated parts of the Borough and Lambeth with London proper. It is true that only three of these bridges are freely open to the public, and that the others exact a toll; but, for how many years past have the Germans talked of a stone bridge across the Rhine at Cologne, and another stone bridge across the Danube at Vienna! And as yet neither Cologne nor Vienna have mustered the funds for such undertakings! And in London there are nine bridges within a river-length of a few miles. A little higher up, moreover, are the New and the Old Battersea Bridges, along with two fine railway viaducts; and below London Bridge there is the Tunnel. The English have a right to pride themselves on the grandeur of the British spirit of enterprise. But the German who comes into this country and beholds its marvels, makes comparisons which sorely vex and trouble his spirit.
the Temple, Somerset House, the new Houses of Parliament, and Westminster Abbey; but we cannot stop to describe them. Besides, our attention is engaged by the general aspect of the river and its banks. Darkness has set in ; steamers, with red and green eyes of fire, rush past us; little boats cross in all directions under the very bows of the steamers ; fishing-boats, with dark brown sails, go with the tide in solemn silence; the lights on the bridges and in the streets are reflected in the water. This is the hour at which matter-of-fact London dons her poetical night-dress. We pass
Lambeth Palace, and its ruin-like watch-tower. The boat stops at Vauxhall Bridge ; and again we are on terra firma.
THE POST OFFICE. As the first stroke of six sounds from the clock of St. Martin's. le-Grand, there is a wild rush to the various letter-boxes : bags and bundles of newspapers are sent flying at the clerks; newsboys stumble over each other in their hot haste: all is bustle and confusion. When the last stroke has resounded, there is an instantaneous lull, and the spectators disperse. They have seen the hurry and the crowd, and undoubtedly it is a sight well worth seeing in its way; they have not seen one which is far more interesting. A problem has to be solved which is not the less wonderful because its solution occurs every evening. Hundreds of thousands of letters, addressed to all parts of the globe, and in all languages, flung hastily into certain boxes, have to be sorted, arranged, and sent forward towards their destinations, in the course of about two hours. The time is short, the labor enormous; let us see how it is done.
The letters, as they swarm into the office, are first of all received by clerks, who face them, so that all the directions may be in the same way. They next go to clerks who have a more complicated duty, that of stamping them with a double stamp, that indicating the office where they are posted, and thus obliterating the postage label; and at the same time the letters are counted. It is astonishing to see with how much rapidity—the result of constant practice--this somewhat complex task is performed. Keeping an account of their numbers, an account which is afterwards checked and verified, the clerks next pass the bundles on to other officials, whose duty it is to examine the letters as to weight, and to surcharge for any deficiency in postage. Generally the mere touch of a letter suffices for these experienced hands; and it is seldom, indeed, that they single out a missive for examination which does not prove, when tested by the scales, to be of excessive weight. All these weighings, how. ever, necessarily cause some slight delay, the fault of which assuredly does not lie with the Post Office authorities, but with the public.
Next comes the sorting. Discarding all the old divisions of counties, letters are now sorted with reference entirely to our railways - North-Western, Midland Counties, Great Eastern,
South-Eastern, South-Western, and Great Western. Each of these lines forms, so to speak, a connecting thread of the arrangement that runs through the whole process of sorting. Let us take, for example, the Great Western. The first two letters upon which we happen to glance are directed, one to Uxbridge and the other to Truro; but both the Middlesex and the Cornish letter will have to go to Paddington. Not yet, however. The process is far from being completed. Every railway trunk line has its divisions; every division its subdivisions. Under the head of Oxford, for instance, we find eleven considerable towns; and here we may mention the fact, upon which hasty assailants of the Post Office will do well to reflect, that not above one letter in four is addressed to the right postal town. As fast as the sorters get on with their work, which they do with a speed that seems astonishing to the stranger, collectors come round the rooms ready to carry the letters elsewhere for further “sorting."
In the next room, accordingly, we find them distributed to the various postal towns; and here again we notice not only how frequent are the errors of the public, but how swift and intelligent are the clerks in correcting them. When the sorting is completed here, the letters are placed in bags, and sent swiftly off to the various stations by the mail-carts, which, with the horses ready harnessed, are waiting outside. On arriving at the station, a fresh sorting takes place in carriages expressly fitted up for the purpose; but, as regards the officials of St. Martin’s-le-Grand, their task of despatching the letters is generally completed about eight o'clock; that is to say, within half an hour of the time up to which letters may be posted on payment of an extra charge. The task thus accomplished is one the magnitude of which cannot be accurately estimated from a mere table of figures. These will give, at best, a dry outline of the result; the activity, the energy, the intelligence, by which alone it is achieved, cannot be gauged by so slight a test.
The errors made in delivery are comparatively few, and those that do occur are generally the fault of the public themselves. Some of the addresses are illegible ; others are imperfect, or indicate no place at all; and a few are entirely blank. Of those which are most singular, we subjoin a few-premising that whilst many of them are evidently written by the uneducated classes, those classes owe it to Sir Rowland Hill's exertions that they are able to avail themselves of postal facilities at a moderate rate. Take the following :-"Ash Bedles in the Coles for John Horsell the grinder in the county of Istershire.” Who would guess that this was intended for Ashby-de-la-Zouch? The next letter was assuredly a puzzler-"Uncle John, Hopposite the Church, London, Hingland.” Another, intended for her Majesty, is addressed as follows—"For keen vic tins at wincr casel, London.” Another example—“Mr.
Fine Hart Department, greson cort, cristol palis, Sidnom." Another—" To the king of Rusheya, Feoren, with speed.” Another—"Oiley white, amshire ;' i.e., Isle of Wight, Hampshire. Another—"Conegach lunemtick A siliam ;" for the Lunatic Asylum at Colney Hatch. Another missive is directed to an old lady who "on lonnon bridge sells froot;" and, the last we shall quote, “Obern penen,” was intended for Holborn Union. The greater part even of the letters bearing such directions as these are delivered.
No one, we are persuaded, ever went away froni such an inspection as that of which we have given a necessarily imperfect sketch, without a feeling of wonder, not that mistakes occur, but that so enormous a work done so well.
THE LORD MAYOR'S SHOW. In the heart of the City, less than half a mile from the Thames and London Bridge, various streets meeting form an irregular open place. This irregular place is one of the most remarkable spots in London. For no other place, except that of Westminster, can vie with this in the importance of its buildings and the crowding of its streets, though many may surpass it in extent, beauty, and architectural regularity. It is the Capitoline Forum of British Rome; it holds its temples, the Mansion House, the Exchange, and the Bank. In the centre, the equestrian statue of the hero of the capitol—the Duke of Wellington. All around are islands of pavements, as in other parts of the town, for the foot-passengers to retire to from the whirlpool of vehicles.
At our right, just as we come out of Cheapside, is a house supported by columns and surrounded with strong massive railings. Two flights of stone steps lead to the upper story: massive stone pillars surrounded by gas lamps stand in a row in front of it, but neither the gas nor the clearest noonday sun suffices to bring out the allegorical carvings which ornament the roof. This is the Mansion House; the official residence of the Lord Mayor, who here holds his court, as if his was one of the crowned heads.
Here he lives. Here are the halls in which the most luxurious dinners of modern times are given; here are bis offices and courts of justice, according to the ancient rights and privileges of the City of London.
Every year the Lord Mayor elect enters upon the functions of his office on the ninth of November. The City crowns its king with mediæval ceremonies. The shops are shut at an early hour, and many
do not open at all; for masters and servants must see the “show.” For many hours the City is closed against all vehicles ; flags and streamers are hung out from the houses; the pavement is covered with gravel; holiday faces everywhere; amiable street-boys at every corner bearing flags; brass bands, and confusion and endless cheers! Such is the grave, demure, and busy City on that remarkable day.
While the streets are every moment becoming more crowded and noisy, the new Lord Mayor takes the customary oaths in the presence of the Court of Aldermen, and signs a security to the amount of £4,000 for the City plate, which, according to a moderate computation, has a value of at least £20,000.
This done, he is lord and king of the City, and sets out upon his coronation procession, surrounded by his lieges and accompanied by the ex-mayor, the aldermen, sheriffs, the dignitaries of his guild, the city heralds, trumpeters, men in brass armour, &c. The road which the Lord Mayor is to take is not prescribed by law; but, according to an old custom, the procession must pass through that particular ward in which the king of the City acted as alderman. The ward partakes in the triumph of the day ;
and the cheers in that particular locality are, if possible, louder than anywhere else.
The Lord Mayor and his suite, arrived at Wesminster, repair to the Court of Exchequer, where he is introduced to the judges.