图书图片
PDF
ePub

Several times the town has suffered severely from floods.

We will now cross over the river by means of Kew bridge—a substantial high-centred structure, erected, like Richmond Bridge, by Payne, in the last century. Kew is directly opposite to Brentford, but the houses of the village lie at a distance from the river.

CHAPTER XXIV.

KEW AND CHISWICK.

Darwin, in his 'Botanic Garden,' has proclaimed, in his most grandiloquent style, what is now, still more than it was when he wrote, the crowning glory of Kew:

"So sits enthroned in vegetable pride
Imperial Kew by Thames's glittering side:
Obedient sails from realms unfurrowed bring
For her the unnam'd progeny of Spring:
Attendant Nymphs her dulcet mandates hear,
And nurse in fostering arms the tender year."

There is a good deal more to the same effect, but the reader is probably satisfied with this sample.

Kew Gardens, with all their old recollections, their recent changes, and present admirable condition, might well alone fill a chapter of a volume on the Thames. But here they must be dismissed with a short notice. My rapidly diminishing space, and the distance yet to be traversed, warn me of the necessity of brevity. I have preferred to loiter along the more rural and distant parts of the river: as we approach London we can afford to proceed more rapidly—we need merely glance at the most inviting objects or places, and may safely leave unnoticed many which in the earlier part of the route it would have been improper to neglect. This is a ramble; not a history or a topographical survey.

Kew House, which, with its grounds, occupied the site of what is now called Kew Gardens, was taken on a long lease, about 1730, by Frederick, Prince of Wales; and the estate was purchased by his son, George III., soon after his accession to the throne. The Dowager Princess of Wales continued to reside in Kew House after the death of her husband; and took much interest in the improvement of the grounds, which she caused to be entirely remodelled. Being quite level, the grounds allowed the more scope for the exercise of genius. The task of newly arranging them was intrusted to Sir William Chambers; whose satisfaction with the result of his labours was abundantly manifested by the publication of his elaborate folio volume of 'Plans, Elevations, &c, of the Gardens and Buildings at Kew.' A mere list of the buildings reads like a satire now. There were in the grounds, which contained an area of about 120 acres, Temples of Bellona, Arethusa, Pan, JEolus, the Sun, Victory, and Peace; these of course were in the "classic " orders of architecture, in one of which was also the "Roman ruin." Then there were, in the Gothic style, a cathedral and an aviary. In the Arabic and Moresque, there were a mosque and "the Alhambra." And last, not least, there were, in the Chinese, a pavilion, a house of Confucius, and the Pagoda. The Chinese Pagoda is known to every one who has been near this part of the Thames. It consists of ten stories, and is 163 feet high. Towering far above the lofty trees, its appearance is very singular. The view from the upper story is said to be magnificent. In the recent Ordnance Survey of the metropolis a "crow's-nest" tent was fixed on the seemingly insecure roof of this pagoda.

The Botanic, or, as it used to be called, the Physic Garden, was also commenced by the Princess of Wales. Its history will be found succinctly given (from Lysons) in Sir W. J. Hooker's excellent little ' Guide to Kew Gardens.' This garden was carefully maintained during the reign of George III., under whose fostering care it became celebrated all over the world. In many kinds of plants, especially South African, it was unrivalled. By his successors it was neglected, and consequently "the Botanic Garden," to use the words of its present director, "retrograded rather than flourished." The ascension of Victoria, however, wrought a change in its favour. An inquiry was directed to be made into its condition, the result of which was that "about the year 1840, from being a private garden belonging to the Royal Family, and maintained by funds from the Board of Green Cloth, it was liberally relinquished by her present Majesty, Queen Victoria, and placed under the control of the Commissioners of Her Majesty's "Woods and Forests, with the view of rendering it available to the general good." At the same time it was determined to extend the collection of plants, and make such alterations in the general arrangements, as should give to it the rank which such a place ought to hold among the public gardens of Europe. Sir W. J. Hooker was appointed general director. From that time the improvement of the garden has been prosecuted with steady zeal and excellent judgment. The grounds have been greatly enlarged ; new buildings have been erected, and efforts made to render the collection of plants as complete as possible. The Botanic Garden at Kew is now an honour to the country.

The plant-houses are abundantly stocked with rare and interesting specimens from all parts of the world; and throughout the year some or other of them are in full flower. The chief attraction is the new Palm-stove, a noble building " consisting of a centre and two wings occupying an area 362 feet in length; the centre is 100 feet wide, and 66 feet in height to the summit of the lantern; the wings 50 feet wide and 30 feet high." This enormous building, appearing at a little distance entirely formed of glass, has a striking effect on a bright day, especially when seen from the opposite side of the lake and reflected, in it. "The extent of glass for covering this vast building is about 45,000 square feet." The interior of the building, with its cocoa-nut and palm trees, the tree-ferns, and other of the noble Oriental and Australian exotics, lifting their heads, many of them almost to the roof, and growing in apparently native luxuriance, is still more striking than the exterior. The other plant-houses contain splendid collections of orchidaceae, and other of the rarer or more curious or important plants from every clime;—and the variety is literally marvellous. All these houses are open without restriction to the public. Considering that the plants so exposed are of the most delicate as well as valuable description, and that it would be hardly practicable (if it were not most undesirable) to have persons stationed in each house to prevent mischief or peculation, it was

« 上一页继续 »