The New Law Courts

The New Law Courts.

Samuel Johnson once declared, "The full tide of existence is at Charing Cross," and the statement seems justified when we enter the railway station of that name, where thousands come and go on lines of steel which, while communicating with the remotest sections of the earth, seem to converge and centre here, as formerly "all roads led to Rome." A part of this leviathan of stone is the Charing Cross Hotel, which serves as a colossal net to catch the human fish that swarm up hither from the sea, and hold them until they can be properly distributed. It is a cosmopolitan caravansary; in which, as in a Russian prison, a number rather than a name is given to each inmate, who, therefore, timidly requests from one of the maids in the office "Number 47's bill," or falteringly deprecates an overcharge for "the light of other days" with a dread of encountering a supercilious "Ah! - Indeed? - Really!" kind of stare. In the Charing Cross Hotel the homesick tourist feels like a prisoner in the Tower of Babel; for he hears all languages spoken about him except English, jostles Turks upon the staircase, and rides with Chinamen in the sepulchral "lift." Even the waiters in this hostelry are foreigners, many of whom are studying so earnestly the language of the Britons that they have no time to attend to the guests. This busy centre of London is hardly the place where one would look for any evidence of sentiment, yet directly in front of the enormous railway station and hotel of Charing Cross, springs, like a graceful flower, from the pavement, a beautiful Gothic spire in honor of the wife of Edward I., the beautiful Queen Eleanor, whose name has been associated with this spot more than six hundred years. It was this "Queen of good memory" who, despite all remonstrances, accompanied her husband through the dangers and privations of the seventh and last Crusade, saying, "Nothing ought to part those whom God hath joined, and the way to heaven is as near from Palestine as from England." On the route of her funeral procession from Lincoln to Westminster Abbey, where her loved form was finally laid to rest, nine halting-places were chosen, at each of which for a time the body of the Queen reposed. At each of these stations a cross was erected, the last and most elaborate being here. Hence many have supposed that the present name of the locality is derived from the hasty, anglicized pronunciation of "Chere Reine" Cross; but the inexorable philologists now tell us that the more probable derivation of the name is the Saxon word Charan, meaning "to turn." The original cruciform memorial to the "dear Queen" was destroyed by the Puritans, in 1647; but, happily, the tender thought that built and for four hundred years preserved it has not perished, and is suggested by the present Gothic spire. I have called it beautiful, and so it would be could it be restored to its original whiteness; but the inevitable soot of London has discolored it, so that its sculptured elegance is largely lost, and its appearance is almost that of a bronze shaft flecked with snow.

Charing Cross Hotel

Charing Cross Hotel.

London Bridge

London Bridge.

The Eleanor Cross

The Eleanor Cross.

From the court of Charing Cross Hotel one steps directly into the flood of life that renowned of London thoroughfares, - the Strand. That this was once, as its name indicates, the shore of the Thames now seems incredible; but such is the fact, and as late as 1315 a petition was presented to the King complaining that the road was infamously bad, and overgrown with thickets and bushes. Later, the Strand became for three hundred years the favorite abode of the English aristocracy, whose gardens sloped from their palatial residences to the river bank, and caused this portion of the Thames to be compared to the Grand Canal of Venice. To-day, however, those stately palaces have disappeared, and the Strand and its continuation, Fleet Street, are now so thoroughly devoted to business interests that a "Hair Cutting Saloon," as its sign conspicuously states, has replaced a residence of Henry VIII. and Cardinal Wolsey.