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with its valuable manuscripts and archiepiscopal register, is of universal fame.
From Bishops' Walk a very good general view of the New Houses of Parliament (or Palace of Westminster, if that is to be its title) may be obtained in connexion with Westminster Abbey. And here (or from the river in this direction) it will be seen why Mr. Barry proposes to carry up a lofty and massive tower at the west end of his building. He evidently intends the Victoria Tower to be the grand central point of the composition, when the new palace shall be seen grouped along with the Abbey—whose lofty roof and towers would else overbalance the lower mass of the new structure. The architect has of late had to bear many rough attacks; but so had Wren while building St. Paul's Cathedral, and so had the architect of every great work during its erection ;—and certain senators, who have been foremost among the objectors, by their amazing exhibitions of aesthetic criticism, seem chiefly to have designed to set their sails to catch a passing breath of popular applause, though they may also succeed in providing for themselves a place in the history of this edifice, similar to that which other critics of like knowledge and profundity have won in earlier records. What this building may be it is yet perhaps too soon to predicate; but we have reason, from what has been accomplished, as well in the interior as externally, to hope and expect that it will convey to posterity a worthy example of the art of the middle of the nineteenth century.
"Matter grows under one's hands "—says Sterne —" Let no man say, 'Come—I'll write a duodecimo.'" It is certainly a dangerous undertaking. Ten to one he will find, long before his task is ended, that he has written an octavo. I thought to have strolled down the Thames as far as Westminster, in the compass of little more than half this second volume ;—then, "skipping" the huge city (which is no place to ramble in—though very instructive to explore), to have dropped at ease down the lower reaches of the river, and just hauled ashore to inspect whatever seemed to require inspection. But the reader has seen how, after quitting the rural parts, I have hurried over the places within every one's reach; and yet while already beyond the proper limits of the volume, all " below bridge" is untouched. To enter into an examination of any new locality now, would plainly extend this volume to an inconvenient size —and of course another is not to be dreamt of. You, gentle reader, will be glad to get to the end of the Ramble—and so, I am sure, shall I.
The Ramble is in fact ended here. London, as has been said, is altogether out of the question—and below London the width of the river makes a ramble by it impossible. We will therefore, if you please, pass unnoticed the Thames in its course through the Metropolis—leave untouched its astounding traffic—the mighty forest of masts—the docks—the bridges—the wharfs, and all that renders it the busiest, the most wonderful river in the world :—and seating ourselves in a skiff at Greenwich, avail ourselves of an ebb tide to reach as quickly as we may the sestuary of the Thames. As we sail along we can just point out any notable place, but that is all.
Were not speed so necessary, Greenwich would be a pleasant spot to gossip over before starting. There are the old palace, Placentia, and its successor the Hospital, and each has a history and associations of more than ordinary interest. Then there is the Park with all its mirthful memories. The Observatory, with the discoveries which have ennobled its name. Recollections too there are of Johnson and Savage, and of Defoe there; and of many another of the names which dwell in the memory of their countrymen. And then there is Blackheath,—a subject for a volume in itself—which is so intimately connected with Greenwich, as not to be passed over in any notice of it.
The Royal Hospital for aged and disabled seamen is a later establishment than the hospital for soldiers at Chelsea. It was founded in the reign of William III., and the credit of originating the design is given to Queen Mary. The appearance of Greenwich Hospital is familiar to every one who has been on the river—and from prints, hardly less so to those who have not. It is indisputably the noblest building on the Thames, and its situation here, at the entrance of the Port of London, is a most happy one. Nor could a more suitable object than the Asylum for the sons of mariners be chosen to fill the central opening between the two sides of the Hospital. I do not of course mean the present contemptible building placed in so important a position, but some one worthy of the site and the purpose. The Observatory is a noticeable feature in the view from the river: and the Park contributes its share to the picture. Altogether, he must have an unenviable mind who can gaze upon this scene without emotion—at least, until familiarity shall have lessened its impressiveness.
Here it will hardly be necessary to mention the delicate little fish which in these days is so essentially characteristic of this part of our river. If the reader have not tasted the delicious morsel, he will do well and wisely to avail himself of the first seasonable opportunity to come hither for a whitebait dinner. It matters little whether Greenwich or Blackheath be selected, or Quartermain or Lovegrove be patronized. But only here can the fish be properly appreciated. Fish, says Cicero, should taste of the sea: by which no doubt he meant,— being a man of taste and sound judgment,—that it ought to be eaten when and where taken. He would have had a salmon put into the kettle fresh out of the Tiber ;—and were he here now, he would have white-bait just out of the Thames. They serve them up in London, and sometimes on the other side of it, but it is poor work that; every yard the dainty little creature is carried from the shore depreciates it—and they are all taken off where we now are. It is not the foolishest thing the Ministers do, when they come down here to their annual white-bait dinner.
At Blackwall will be noticed the entrances to the East and West India Docks; and also the ship-building yards of Messrs. Wigrams and Green, from whose slips many of the finest vessels in our mercantile, and some in the royal navy have been launched. Only a short distance beyond the neat station and pier of the Blackwall Railway is the confluence of the Lea, of which river an account has already been given; and by the mouth of the Lea is the wharf of the Trinity Company, some of whose curious-looking but very valuable beacons will probably be observed. The banks now, on both sides of our river, are flat and marshy. The Essex marshes—or levels, as they are called—continue with little intermission to the mouth of the Thames; but on the Kent side there is more diversity. A range of low hills runs at a varying distance from the shore to the mouth of the Medway. Here, for example, though the bank be flat, the chalk hills of Charlton are but a short distance inland, and pleasantly vary the scenery. Charlton itself is a very pretty village, but we cannot visit it. In it was held Horn Fair, which some years ago used to be a scene of strange tumult and wild mirth: the fair is still continued, but it is quiet, and degenerate, and dull. Beyond Charlton is seen Shooter's Hill, whither Queen Elizabeth went betimes in the morning " a-maying;" and where her burly father used to witness, if not to practise, archery.