The Strand, Looking West.
In King Street, Westminster, we tread a Via Dolorosa where Edmund Spenser, the poet laureate of chivalry and fairy-land, died of starva-t i o n and a broken heart. In Bow Street, C o v e n t Garden, stands the house in which the novelist Fielding wrote "Tom Jones"; and we may still behold, near the memorial of Temple Bar, the site of the Mitre Tavern where Shakespeare and his friends, and, later, Samuel Johnson, Boswell, Goldsmith, and their boon companions fought those duels, whose bullets were light bon mots, and whose rapier cuts were thrusts of repartee. Fleet Street has been for centuries a thoroughfare of literature and is, to-day, the heart of London journalism, containing the publishing offices of many periodicals, and of such newspapers as The Daily Telegraph, The Standard, The News, The Chronicle, and Punch; while in the purlieus of that avenue of printing-power are countless reminiscences of England's most illustrious authors, essayists, and poets. Thus, at No. 17, Gough Square, just off Fleet Street, Samuel Johnson completed his famous Dictionary, and, at No. 8, Bolt Court, close by the highway that he loved so well, he spent the last years of his life, and died in 1784. Where the printing-office of Punch now stands John Milton once taught school, and in the Cheshire Cheese Tavern one may ensconce himself by the same window, and in the same corner, where the authors of "Rasselas" and the "Vicar of Wakefield" used to sit together. In Fleet Street, Isaac Newton attended the meetings of the Royal Society, of which he was president; and, at the corner of that street and Chancery Lane, two hundred and sixty years ago, stood the milliner's shop of Izaak Walton, the author of the "Complete Angler" and the patron saint of fishermen; while, it was "in a dark letter box, in a dark office, up a dark court in Fleet Street," that Dickens, as he tells us in the preface to his "Pickwick Papers," dropped his first contribution to the press, and started on the road to literary immortality.
The Shakespeare Fountain.
In driving from Charing Cross down into the heart of Old London, the tourist should on one occasion at least take a hansom, if only to admire the marvelous skill of London cab drivers in winding through the throngs of vehicles and pedestrians which surge through the "City's" narrow streets. It is, probably, the peculiar position from which a hansom cabby looks upon the hubs of his own and his neighbors' wheels that enables him to estimate to almost a hair's breadth the space required for him to pass; but nothing I have ever seen in any other portion of the world can equal the ability thus displayed. The regulation of the traffic in London streets seems as smooth as their pavements. London policemen reign supreme, and their authority is instantly recognized on the mere lifting of the hand. Owing to this and to the absence of tracks and trolley cars, tangles and blocks of vehicles are much less frequent in London than in New York; and if a horse falls on the slippery wood or asphalt, a man is always ready to dart forth with a shovel full of sand or gravel (purposely stored at regular intervals along the streets), and scatter it under the animal, so as to aid it in its struggles to regain its foothold. Noticeable, too, are the little spaces, surrounded by pillars, which rise in the centre of these thoroughfares, like islands in a roaring torrent. Indeed, it would be dangerous, and almost impossible, to cross many of London's streets but for these places of refuge, in which pedestrians may halt, while the vehicles roll by on either side.
A London Crowd.
Mansion House Street.