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“I can carry your umbrella, and fan your ladyship.” Gay, addressing a gentleman, says:
“Be thou for every season justly drest,
“That garment best the winter's rage defends,
It is difficult to conceive how the umbrella could come into general use in the state in which the streets of London were, up to a comparatively recent period, Gay's poem is well termed the art of walking the streets, for it was an art. Mr. Pugh, in mentioning the zealous and ultimately effectual co-operation of Mr. Hanway in Mr. John Spranger's “Plan for paving the streets and liberty of Westminster in an uniform manner,” thus describes their state before the project was carried into effect:
“It is not easy to convey to a person who has not seen the streets of this metropolis before they were uniformly paved, a tolerable idea of their inconvenience and unseemliness. The carriage-ways were full of cavities, which harboured water and filth. The signs, extending on both sides of the way into the streets, at unequal distances from the houses, that they might not intercept each other, greatly obstructed the view, and, which is of more consequence in a crowded city, prevented the free circulation of the air. The footpaths were universally incommoded, even where they were so narrow as only to admit of one person passing at a time, by a row of posts set on edge next the carriageway. He whose urgent business would not admit of his keeping pace with the gentleman of leisure before him, turned out between the two posts before the door of some large house into the carriageway. When he perceived danger moving towards him, he wished to return within the protection of the row of posts; but there was commonly a rail continued from the top of one post to that of another, sometimes for several houses together, in which case he was obliged to run back to the first inlet, or climb over or creep under the railing; in attempting which, he might think himself fortunate if he escaped with no other injury than what proceeded from dirt: if, intimidated by the danger he escaped, he afterwards kept within the boundary of the posts and railing, he was obliged to put aside the travellers before him, whose haste was less urgent than his ; and these resisting, made his journey truly a warfare. “The French are reproached even to a proverb, for their neglect of the conveniency of foot-passengers in their metropolis, by not providing a separate path for them ; but great as is the exposure to dirt in Paris for want of a footway (which their many portes-cochères seem likely for ever to prevent), in the more important article of danger the city of London was, at this period, at least on a par. How comfortless must be the sensations of an unfortunate female, stopped on the street on a windy day under a large old sign loaded with WOL. II. C
lead and iron, in full swing over her head, and perhaps a torrent of dirty water falling near her from a projecting spout ornamented with the mouth and teeth of a dragon! These dangers and distresses are now at an end, and we may think of them as the sailor does of the storm which has subsided; but the advantages derived from the present uniformity and cleanliness of our streets can be known in their full extent only by comparing them with the former inconveniences.” When to this description is added the fact, that the hoop petticoat and another article of dress monopolised the whalebone, it will be seen how much had to be got over before the umbrella could be carried out by the London citizens as a walking-staff, with the satisfactory assurance of protection in case of a shower.
v. TAKE CARE OF YOUR HEADS.
THE celebrated Neapolitan poet and wit, Nicolo Capasso, whom we shall mention elsewhere, was very ready in making inscriptions of all kinds in Latin, Greek, Italian, and even in his own patois ; and his talent, in this way was continually put in demand by his friends and acquaintances.
One of his contemporaries, the Duke di , who had a singular mania for building, and for being his own architect, once asked him for an inscription to place in front of a palace he had just finished. As the Duke did not always build on philosophical principles, as sundry tumble-downs and accidents had happened to his constructions, and as he had carried the palace in question to an enormous height, the wit sent him the following label:
“Il Duca di — fece, guarda sotto '" Or, (The Duke — built this; take care of your heads below !)
The noble builder never forgave the poet this joke. The mansion, however, did not fall down: it remains to this day as a glaring proof of the architect's bad taste; the whole façade being cut into small semicircular niches, in each of which there is a barbarous bust. The traveller, on entering Naples from Rome, cannot help seeing it. It stands on the right-hand side of the great street called La Foria, between the Botanical Garden and the Museum. The name and title of the nobleman have escaped us.
VI. ANECDOTE OF OLIVER CROMWELL.
THE following anecdote is taken from a small pocketedition Life of Cromwell, of which the title and first fourteen pages, together with all the pages after the 162nd, are gone. We have to a certain extent modernized the language, but without in the slightest degree misrepresenting the facts.
Whatever opinion we may entertain of the character or conduct of Cromwell in other respects, truth must compel us to admit that no man understood better the true interests of the British nation, or maintained the reputation of the British name with a higher hand than he did.
Of the truth of this, the following anecdote, recorded in a printed speech made in the House of Commons by Mr. Poulteney, in a debate on the complaints of the West India merchants, two sessions before the declaration of war against Spain, and preserved in this small
and scarce edition of the life of the Protector, furnishes a striking and instructive proof.
An English merchant-ship was captured, during a period of profound peace with France, by a vessel of that nation, and carried into St. Malo, where she was condemned, and sold for the benefit of the captors, upon some frivolous and groundless pretence.
The master of this merchantman, who happened to be an honest quaker, immediately on his return to England presented a petition, complaining of this grievance, and praying for redress, to the Protector in council. On hearing the case, Cromwell informed the council he would take the affair into his own hands, and ordered the master to attend him the next morning.