Esoteric London

No. 835: King’s Mews, WC1

Posted in Amusements, Lettering, Sport by esotericlondon on May 10, 2013

© Roger Dean RED_0411 copy

King’s Mews, London, WC1. Photo © Roger Dean 2013

The Little World of London; or, Pictures in Little of London Life – Charles Manby Smith, 1857:

A LIST of the amusements and recreations of London, were it only those of a single season, would be a catalogue comprising everything which the talent, the enterprise, and the ingenuity of men have accomplished for the gratification of their fellows’ curiosity – their love of the beautiful, their sense of humour, their literary and artistic predilections, and their peculiar tastes, whether refined by cultivation on the one hand, or coarse and demoralising on the other. Fancies and hobbyhorses the oddest, the most grotesque and whimsical, have their enthusiastic patrons anti votaries in this all-embracing metropolis. We might run down the scale from a morning concert at Hanover Square, admission one guinea, to a midnight dog-show, or a duel of rats at Whitechapel, entrance twopence, including a ticket for beer; and, in the course of the descent, we should light upon whole classes of exhibitions which one half the world would as carefully avoid, as the other half would eagerly seek out. But such a catalogue, comprehensive as it would be, would embrace very few indeed of the gratuitous entertainments with which the masses of London are amused. The number of those who cannot afford to pay for recreation is, probably, quite as large as those who can. To them it matters nothing that the theatres, the music-halls, the casinos, the gala-gardens, the panoramas, or the free-and-easys, the  public-houses, and the gin-shops, stand perpetually open. They have no money to expend for purposes of amusement, and must be recreated gratis, if recreated at all. Confessedly, the amusements provided for the populace are too few – that item appears to have been entirely left out of the calculations of the authorities, who have not condescended to recognise a claim that way for many generations. The old athletic sports have long vanished, from want of space to practise them upon; and the only relic of anything of that kind, are the games of the London street-boys – games played on so puny a scale, and in such feminine sort, as to excite the derision of the country youth, accustomed to “ample room and verge enough” for something like manly exercise. If the city boy contracts, as he frequently does, a sporting taste, he spends his leisure in catching fish, twenty-five to the pound, in the New River; or, borrowing an old gun, in shooting at sparrows in the brick-fields.

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