About the author

Theodor Fontane, 1819 – 1898, journalist, novelist and poet,
was arguably the most important German writer of the 19th C.
realist movement. He is best known for his novels, such as Effi
Briest, which has been favourably compared with Anna
Karenina and Madame Bovary. In London in the 1850s he wrote
articles on English life and mores for publication in the German
press. They were later collected and published under the title
Ein Sommer in London, on which this translation is largely

About the translator

John Lynch taught himself Danish and German, and later
obtained the degree of BA in these languages at the University
of Newcastle. He has taught English in Danish and German
schools and has also worked in Sweden and Iceland. After
studying at the University of East Anglia, he was awarded the
degree of MA in Scandinavian Studies. He holds a Postgraduate
Diploma in Librarianship and his varied career included a spell
as a college tutor librarian in Banbury. In addition to the present
work, John has also translated works from Danish, including
The Fantasists, a novel by Hans Egede Schack, published by
Austin Macauley in 2013.

Copyright © John Lynch

The right of John Lynch to be identified as translator of this work
has been asserted by him in accordance with section 77 and 78 of
the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced,
stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any
means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or
otherwise, without the prior permission of the publishers.

Any person who commits any unauthorized act in relation to this
publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims
for damages.

A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British

ISBN 978 184963 331 4


First Published (2014)
Austin Macauley Publishers Ltd.
25 Canada Square
Canary Wharf
E14 5LB

Printed and bound in Great Britain


The translator wishes to thank David Kaye for proof-reading
and preparing the text for publication.

Cont ent s

Introduction 11
From Gravesend to London 20
London 24
Telltale Figures 27
From Hyde Park to London Bridge 30
London Street Noise and its Consequences 35
The Shadwell Theatres 41
Spring in St. Giles 45
The General Post Office 47
London Bridge 50
Public Monuments 54
Streets, Houses, Bridges and Palaces 60
A Wander Through the Empty Crystal Palace 66
The Golden Calf 69
The Music Makers 76
Manufactured Art 81
Tavistock Square and the Pavement Artist 84
The Dock Vaults 87
The Middlesex Election 91
‘Not a Drum Was Heard’ 97
Preparations for the Peace Celebrations 100
After the Celebrations 103
The Foreigner in London 107
The Hospitable English House 112
Miss Jane 118
27 Long Acre 123
The Anglicised German 129

Richmond 135
Greenwich/Blackwall/Woolwich/ 139
Windsor 139
Christmas Tree and Holly 146
The Poor Man’s Christmas Tree 148
Little Games in London 149
Sources 152
Notes 155

I nt r oduc t i on

Theodor Fontane ranks as the early master of modern German
Realism, and his late nineteenth-century novels are currently
enjoying a revival. Much of his early training as an observer of
the social scene and the big city was acquired, curiously enough,
as a journalist in London, employed by the Prussian state. The
material in this collection consists of short articles describing
London for the people back home.
Fontane was born in 1819 at Neuruppin, Brandenburg (the
core province of Prussia), to parents of French Huguenot
extraction; initially he took up his father’s occupation as an
apothecary. However, from an early age his inclinations were
towards authorship, though necessity compelled him to earn his
bread in chemists’ shops. His first literary excursions were in
poetry, particularly the ballad, and he remained an accomplished
exponent of the genre all his life. Whilst still a chemist in Berlin
he achieved early recognition within Der Tunnel über der Spree
(The tunnel over the Spree: a jocular allusion to the tunnel under
the Thames), a talented literary group which counted P. Heyse,
Theodor Storm and Heinrich Seidel amongst its members and
hosted people like Gottfried Keller; this connection proved an
important stimulant and provided influential contacts in literary
and social circles.
During the 1840s and 1850s he moved progressively into
the field of writing and spent three periods in Britain. His
creative work offered a commentary on things around him,
particularly in London, and many articles contributed to the
German Press were later collected together and published in
book form. Exceptionally, his writings on Scotland were
conceived as a unity, appearing in 1860 as an account of his
travels Jenseits des Tweed (Across the Tweed). This eulogy to
Scotland came out shortly after his final departure from Britain;
a charming blend of local history, social commentary and
personal travel narrative, it provided the ideal apprenticeship for

his next substantial production, the monumental study of his
homeland Brandenburg, which, he felt, had some mystical
affinity with Scotland. The first two volumes of Wanderungen
durch die Mark Brandenburg (Journeys in the Mark of
Brandenburg) were published in 1863; three more were to
follow, the last in 1889.
There is a sort of inexorable development and relationship
between experience and artistic progression in Fontane. Just as
the Scottish work led to Wanderungen, so too, did the latter
presage his first novel Vor dem Storm (Before the storm), 1878,
an historic epic in the Scott tradition depicting Prussia’s War of
Liberation against Napoleon. In the interim Fontane’s
journalistic activities had continued. Three particular events,
doubtless, had made their contribution to that novel, namely, the
campaigns launched by Prussia against Denmark (1864),
Austria (1866) and France (1870), which Fontane followed as
an official war-correspondent, whilst he was engaged in the
writing process. A number of other historical works of fiction
followed Vor dem Storm, before he finally got to grips with two
decades of social realism. The count would be incomplete if no
mention was made of his twenty years as a dramatic critic and
significant autobiographical works.
Fontane’s international reputation, however, is based upon a
series of novels depicting the social scene in nineteenth-century
Prussia as the old conservatism comes to terms with economic
change. The role of women in society is examined in a number
of these works. His characters are handled compassionately,
though with gentle irony, and his forte is the dialogue, through
which the personalities are revealed and the narrative proceeds.
This technique, quite new to German narrative art, undoubtedly
owed much to his experience of drama. Best known to the
English reader is Effi Briest (1895) which has been the subject
of a Fassbinder film; others, in chronological sequence, are:
L’Adultera (1882), Cécile (1887), Irrrungen, Wirrungen (1888),
Stine (1890), Frau Jenny Treibel (1892), and Die Poggenpuhls
(1896). The final completed novel, Der Stechlin, published in
the year of his death, 1898, is regarded by many Germans as his
masterpiece and a fitting epitaph to his work. Introducing it to

an editor, Fontane observes: ‘…on the one hand an old-
fashioned estate in the Mark of Brandenburg, on the other an à
la mode upper-class house (Berlin), various people meet there
and talk through God and the world. Nothing but conversation,
dialogue, in which the characters play out the story, together and
in themselves. Not only do I consider this to be the proper, but
also the necessary, way to write a contemporary novel.’
Fontane’s authorship rests substantially on the foundation of
journalistic experience; this in turn is based in large part on his
initiation in Britain, a country which held a special attraction for
him, even as a child. Neuruppin seemed to have been rather
prosaic; the family’s five year sojourn in Swinemunde, a Baltic
seaport, where there was contact with British seafolk and
merchants, amongst others, opened his eyes to the great wide
world outside, a world in which Britain then played a major
part. This inclination was further strengthened in later years
through readings in history and literature.
Even as a Berlin chemist’s assistant he found time, whilst
‘brewing up’ concoctions for export to Britain, to add readings
of Dickens, Marryat, Scott and others to an already extensive
knowledge of Shakespeare. His interests were not confined to
literature however; his political instincts had been aroused at
home, where he became an avid newspaper reader at an early
age. With youthful idealism he was attracted to those reformist
tendencies which made this country a focal point for the
politically aware in the Europe of that time; seen from afar,
Britain appeared as the home of the parliamentary ideal and the
champion of threatened and oppressed minorities. After the
1832 Reform Act in particular the German Press carried regular
reports on the British scene; such developments became a
favourite topic of conversation in intellectual circles and clubs.
His first personal contact with this country came quite
unexpectedly, in 1844, whilst doing a year’s voluntary military
service with the Prussian Guards in Berlin. Fontane describes
how an old friend from home turned up, entirely without notice,
offering to treat him to a trip to England:
‘“To England?” I asked flabbergasted. “To the Kingdom of
Great Britain, to the land where London is the capital city and

where Shakespeare was born? You want to go to that England?”
“If you’ve nothing against it, yes …”’ Fortunately he had
sympathetic superiors and was granted fourteen days’ leave. So
off they went. The excitement of the steamboat journey, the
sights and experiences of London are wittily portrayed in his
diary, correspondence and articles. This brief encounter only
served to encourage his idealism of ‘liberal’ Britain and his
tendency to contrast it with reactionary Prussia.
Back in Berlin he resumed his military duties; soon
afterwards he was made an N.C.O. At the end of 1845 he
became engaged and the prospect of future marital
responsibilities concentrated his mind upon a career; he studied
for professional qualifications as a chemist, achieving this in
Fontane’s political fervour peaked during 1848, the year of
revolution throughout Europe. Like many other German states,
Prussia succumbed to the general turmoil; Fontane mounted the
barricades together with friends and fellow citizens; he shared
their ultimate disappointment. Otherwise he followed his
occupation as a chemist in a half-hearted sort of way, devoting
his greatest effort to writings of one sort or another; indeed, at
one point in 1849 he gave up work and tried in time-honoured
fashion to survive in a garret as a freelance writer, though
without much success; his situation now grew desperate.
Influential friends secured for him a post in the recently created
‘Literary Bureau’ (Literarisches Kabinett) of the Prussian
Interior Ministry. On the strength of this he got married.
Predictably, the work was not to his liking; in general the
Bureau had to monitor the Press and seek to influence provincial
newspapers against the progressive and democratic tendencies.
Again, he broke loose in another unsuccessful attempt at artistic
freedom and independence; once more necessity forced him to
swallow his pride. He returned to the Bureau; a written
comment from November, 1851, strikingly reveals his
bitterness: ‘I have today sold myself to the reactionaries for
thirty pieces of silver.’
He still looked to Britain for salvation, cooking up a plan
which would enable him to return to England, partly to renew

his love-affair with this country, partly in the hope of finding
employment and the chance of settling here, thus escaping the
political situation at home. Fortune was with him; his
suggestions were accepted and he was despatched to London in
April, 1852, as a special correspondent for the Preussische
Zeitung, an organ of the Prussian Office of Public Relations
(Zentralstelle für Presseangelegenheiten), charged with
describing conditions in this country. The essentially personal
observations transmitted to his employers were collected
together two years later and published in book form under the
title Ein Sommer in London (A Summer in London).
Although Fontane never lost his affection for much in
Britain, increased familiarity with conditions awakened his
scepticism towards the contemporary materialism (‘The Golden
Calf’), and also the political system which proved on closer
inspection to be less than perfect. All in all, the experience was
a sobering one; he exploited much of the material gathered a
quarter of a century later when confronted by a similar process
of economic and industrial expansion in his own country.
After five months in London Fontane returned to Berlin
having established a reputation amongst his superiors for his
knowledge of British affairs, though his personal aspirations
remained unfulfilled. Initially he was put in charge of the
English news section of the Preussische Zeitung, but later
moved to other duties. Alongside this work he gave private
tuition, wrote ballads, and was a critic and translator. All this
took a toll on his health and he spent some time in hospital
recovering from tuberculosis.
The continuing Crimean War occasioned tension between
Prussia and Britain; the Prussian administration was steadfastly
neutral and wished to influence the Press in its favour; this
policy was being undermined by an independent German news
agency in London under the direction of a Hungarian bent on
involving Prussia in the war. In September 1865 it was decided
to send someone over, ostensibly as a London correspondent.
Fontane, known to be familiar with the British situation and
with a good knowledge of history and the English language, was
considered a suitable candidate for the post. His arrival in

London was not propitious; he had with him a treasured three-
volume copy of Vanity Fair with copious marginal notes –
Customs confiscated it as a pirated edition.
The correspondent was required to scan the English Press
for the relevant material, translate this and send it back to
Berlin. Shortage of funds made it impossible to purchase all the
newspapers; often Fontane had to operate in cafes and the like.
Not only did his artistic nature rebel, but he also felt
overworked; a letter of complaint to his chief in Berlin runs
‘…You promise the Queen’s speech. On the same evening I
have to walk or drive about three miles to get advice from my
friend Morris. The speech is made; I have to write to friend
Schweitzer, quote him, etc. The money runs out; who has to go
to the Embassy, who has to dress up in a white waistcoat, etc.,
(because Bernstorff is supposed to have returned already) – who
other than the aforesaid Fontane. He rushes over there twice in
vain; who has to make out a sort of petition to Count
Brandenburg? Me, of course. Dr. Mengel’s letters require
answers – who has to write them? Me. Before I have finished
the printer sends me a letter announcing that all the paper has
been used up, it’s an emergency. Who has to go helter-skelter to
Drury Lane to buy paper? Me. Who has to run (and at full tilt) to
the printer’s and from the printer’s to the post? Me. Who has to
read the evening papers, making extracts far into the night? Me.
And finally, after all that, who has to fill the columns …’ For
various reasons the mission’s objectives were not realised;
Fontane, though not relishing his duties, wanted to avoid recall
to Berlin; his greatest wish was to recommence his study of
English life and culture and, if possible, put his knowledge to
good use. This was the drift of correspondence in which he
argued his case with Berlin.
It was now 1856; luck was with Fontane, for on 30th March
the Treaty of Paris brought the Crimean War to an end. The
feeling in Berlin was that tension with Britain would now
gradually relax. Fontane’s duties were changed; he was brought
under the supervision of the Prussian Ambassador, with a view
to influencing the British Press, though the Public Relations
Office was to help place his articles in Prussia. The new

arrangements certainly improved his lot, but things were still not
ideal and he continued to make representation to his chief, even
requesting his release. Finally he was given the security of a
three-year contract; this ensured economic stability, so he
brought his family over and found a nice house in Camden
The presence of wife and child and improved circumstances
ensured a much better lifestyle; he was even able to travel out of
London to provincial centres. However, the highlight of the
whole period was a two-week tour of Scotland, a country which
Fontane took to his heart, and for which he felt a special
Meanwhile, back in Prussia, Prince Wilhelm had assumed
the regency in October 1858 on account of the King’s failing
health. The Prince’s known opposition to the reactionary
policies pursued hitherto gave rise to hopes of a more liberal
administration. Friends in Berlin urged Fontane to return home
and exploit this situation. However, just as his enthusiasm for
Britain (especially its politics) had waned during the last few
years, so too had he lost much of his reformist fervour and
become more of a pragmatist. As he pointed out in a letter to a
friend, he had never been a creature of the old regime, nor was
he a particular supporter of the new one. ‘I am, quite simply,
Fontane.’ Nevertheless, he put forward proposals for the
arrangements with the British Press which would free him from
his contract and enable him to return home. Berlin accepted; he
left London in January 1859, never to return.
Fontane’s output was prolific; despite his obligations to the
Prussian state, whilst in London he managed to write numerous
articles; he also composed poetry, translated, kept an
intermittent diary and engaged in lengthy correspondence. Nor
was he unaware of the potential of this material. During 1858, in
a letter, he outlined plans for a three-volume collection on
Britain: the first volume to be entitled Bilderbuch aus England
(English picture-book) and made up ‘simply of little sketches, of
which I have written so many’; the other two volumes were to
contain ballads, translations and essays on the theatre, art, the
Press, etc. However, other correspondence suggests that he was

unclear how to proceed with this plan. Nevertheless, 1860 saw
the publication of Aus England, Studien und Briefe über
Londoner Theater, Kunst und Presse (From England, Essays
and correspondence on London theatre, Art and Press) and also
the work on Scotland Jenseits des Tweed (English translation:
Across the Tweed, by Brian Battershaw, Phoenix House,
London, 1965). It was left to his son, Friedrich Fontane, to
publish in 1938 his version of Bilderbuch aus England, made up
of his father’s writings then available but not yet published in
book form (translated as Journeys to England in Victoria’s early
days, by Dorothy Harrison, Massie Publishing Co., London,
The well-known Fontane scholar Hans-Heinrich Reuter
estimated that the author’s writings on Britain, including
correspondence, diaries, translations, etc., would amount to
about five thousand printed pages. Reuter’s compilation of this
material Wanderungen durch England und Schottland (Journeys
in England and Scotland), (Berlin, 1979/80), an impressive two-
volume work of some twelve hundred pages, goes a long way
towards realising Fontane’s own ambition. The present
translation uses texts from this title; more than half the material
belongs to the collection of articles first published in book form
in Germany as Ein Sommer in England, which has not so far
appeared in English. The arrangement is not chronological;
pieces are simply gathered under topic headings. Obscure
references are dealt with in the notes section, whilst ‘Sources’ at
the back indicates in which publication each piece first


From Gravesend to London

The English coast ahead. Yarmouth with its towers is
shimmering through the morning mist. Another tidy stretch
southwards and the mouth of the Thames lies in front. There it
is: Sheerness with its cone-buoys and markers appears. And
now our steamer seems to have sprouted wings, its paddles beat
the surging waters ever faster; rushing through that dazzling
bight, whether broad river or narrow sea one cannot tell, it
carries us past Gravesend into the River Thames proper. All
things exert their influence from afar: we can feel a
thunderstorm long before it’s upon us. Great men have their
heralds: that’s how it is with great cities too. Gravesend is such
a harbinger, it calls out to us: ‘London is coming’. Restlessly,
expectantly, our gaze ranges up the Thames. Swift as an arrow
the steamer’s keel cuts through the water, but we curse our
dawdling captain: our yearning flies more speedily than his ship
– that’s his trouble Yet already London is present all around us.
Gravesend does not lie within the bounds of London; all the
same it’s spellbound by it. Still another five miles to the old
City; we still have to pass by bustling towns; yet already we are
caught up in the hurly-burly of the giant city. Greenwich,
Woolwich and Gravesend still rate as separate towns, though
they are no longer; the fields and meadows between them and
London are simply extended Hyde Parks. From Smithfield to
Paddington, straight across the city, is a worse journey than
from London Bridge to Gravesend; Mile End is no longer the
longest street in London, the splendid River Thames is: instead
of cabs and omnibuses, hundreds of carriers and steamers use it,
Greenwich and Woolwich are stopping places, and Gravesend is
the last station.
The spell of London is – its vastness. Naples impresses by
virtue of its Bay and sky, Moscow by its gleaming cupolas,
Rome by its memories, Venice by the thrill of beauty risen from
the sea; with London the feeling of boundlessness overwhelms

us – the same feeling which grips us on our first glimpse of the
sea. The teeming abundance, the inexhaustible mass – that is the
real essence, the nature of London. This confronts you
everywhere. Gazing down from St. Paul’s or the Greenwich
Observatory over the sea of buildings, wandering through the
City streets, half borne away by the tide of humanity, you
cannot suppress the thought that every building is probably a
theatre which at this moment is pouring out its thronging
audience into the fresh air – everywhere it is the number, the
great quantity, which evokes our astonishment.
Everywhere! But nowhere so much as on that great London
highway – the Thames. I shall attempt to paint a picture of all
this hustle and bustle. Gravesend lies behind us, we can still see
the bright shimmer of its buildings, and already Woolwich, the
arsenal town, appears before our gaze. To the right and left lie
the guard-ships; menacingly they show their teeth, bright in the
sunlight the guns gleam from their hatches. We have nothing to
fear: the flag of Old England flutters from our mast; a cannon-
shot booms across the Thames but it is only in peace, and its
echo dies away there in the quiet air of Kent. Onward paddles
the steamer, past East-Indiamen which even now are setting out
to sea, out into the world with full sails and full of hope; look,
the sailors greet us and wave their hats. When they have land
under their feet again it will be on the banks of the Indus or the
Ganges. Safe voyage!
Now a hospital ship almost blocks our way. Everything
about it is battered – both itself and its occupants. It’s a three-
decker; the cannon hatches have been turned into peaceful
windows behind which the victors of Abukir and Trafalgar,
Nelson’s old guard, have their cosy berths.
But let’s leave the old ones. At this moment, young, vibrant
life passes exultantly by. A veritable flotilla of steamboats, a
peaceful host only native to the waters of the Thames, comes
gliding down the river to the accompaniment of song and music.
There’s a fair or a boating festival in Gravesend, it’s a must for
the journeyman, the clerk and the tradesman; half the city, it
seems, is fledged and wants to dance and romp in Gravesend
and simply enjoy itself to the music of bagpipes. The festive

procession is endless: I have counted up to a hundred of the
steamers speeding past (which, incidentally, have no masts and
carry only one iron smokestack), but I give up; they are simply
countless. And what a pace. Some of them try to overtake the
others as if it were a race; it’s a northern regatta. What a
splendid lagoon this Thames – what a fleeting gondola each
chugging boat. Greenwich appears ahead now, things are
stirring more and more, the river is getting more colourful; like
ants at work, hither and thither, to the left and to the right,
backwards and forwards, always in motion, it’s full of life
between the banks. So far we have not heard a word of English,
and yet the sterns and flags of the ships rushing past have
opened up a whole new vocabulary for us, we could read it like
the pages of a giant dictionary. As yet we have not set foot in
London, it still lies ahead, but already part of it is behind us – it
hurried past us on a hundred steamboats. The populations of
entire cities have fled that one city; yet the thousands it is
lacking it does not lack. What a fragment of protozoan matter is
to Ehrenberg’s microscope, so is London before the human eye.
It teems, immeasurably; they provide us with figures, but the
numbers are beyond our imagination. The rest is – sheer



London has made an ineradicable impression upon me; not so
much its beauty as its splendour has caused me to marvel. It is
the model, the quintessence of a whole world. The oft-
mentioned fact that it has more night-watchmen (twelve
thousand) than the Kingdom of Saxony has soldiers, gives a
good idea of the scale of this gigantic city.
We Germans groan about ‘the high cost of living’ in
London: I will not comment on that but would simply assure
you that a pair of shoe-soles and a few pence are all that is
needed to get to know the true, the real, the incomparable
The Italian opera where one pays a pound admission, the
countless churches and theatres in which one is more or less
fleeced, the much admired squares and their columns, the
majestic Thames’ bridges, none of them make London what it
is, they could all be lacking without robbing it of its grandeur.
Tamburini is just the same in Paris as in London, and Lablanche
does not sing one crochet deeper in England than in France;
Vienna and Dresden and Berlin, too, have splendid theatres,
indeed, greater ones to some extent than Drury Lane and Covent
Garden. Does Westminster Abbey put the cathedrals of
Strasbourg or Cologne into the shade? Do not Berlin’s Pleasure
Gardens and surroundings outdo the Trafalgar and Leicester
Squares? The Dresden Picture Gallery is richer and worthier
than London’s National Gallery, and even the Tunnel is more
likely to impress the reflective rather than the feeling person,
conveys more to the intellect than to the eye. No, whoever really
wants to get to grips with London will plunge, if he is bold and a
good walker, into the throng of people, or, better still, he will
climb up on to the outside of an omnibus and ride up the streets,
down the streets, from the City as far as Paddington, from
Westminster Bridge to Vauxhall, and from there to Hyde or
Regent’s Park. In Cheapside in the City there unfolds before his

gaze the humming, restless bustle of the world’s premier
commercial city. He will see the streets around him covered,
literally, with people, cabs and gigs, goods wagons and hackney
coaches; every moment he expects to see the thoroughfare
blocked or the omnibus which carries him pulverised; but no,
here, too, practice has made perfect; where nervousness would
spell danger, self-assurance triumphs. To what can I compare
this hustle and bustle? To an industrious swarm of bees flying
out in a dense cloud to seek nourishment, an indolent, doll-like
queen at their head? Shall I call this ceaselessly dispersing,
ceaselessly re-forming wave of humanity a sea, in which the
individuals merge like drops of water? Perhaps I can illustrate
this hurly-burly more vividly by comparing each street with a
narrow theatre corridor which, at the end of a performance, can
scarcely cope with the audience pouring through. Anyway, our
omnibus is still far from its destination; just at this moment it is
crossing Farringdon Street and passing out of the City into the
fashionable quarter, the West End. It rolls along on the wooden
pavings of the Strand, the first handsome West End street it has
to pass. The scene changes; the streets, broad and tidy, reveal
only now and again a lone goods-van which seems to have lost
its way; the throng slackens and people and carriages appear
more elegant. We pass Charing Cross and find ourselves now in
the territory of the nobility. Piccadilly, Regent and Oxford
Streets, it makes no difference which of the three we submit to
close scrutiny. I would not wish to be the Paris who had to
decide their beauty contest. If it were evening, I would
undoubtedly enter the lists for Oxford Street, for, longer and
straighter in the main than the other two streets, the radiant
picture of closely bunched gaslamps, intensified by a sea of light
emerging from all the shops unquestionably affords the loveliest
view. What a difference between the commercial world of the
West End and that of the City. The latter conducts a global trade
and deems it of little consequence whether the bill of exchange
is signed in gloomy badly built counting-house offices or in
chambers decked out in velvet and gold; whereas the West End
businessman is only a shopkeeper providing for the nobility in
his immediate vicinity. Her ladyship personally might one day

honour his premises with her lofty presence, which explains the
glittering splendour of the same. The plate-glass windows are
unusually large, all the woodwork is gilt; tastefully arranged, the
most expensive materials are displayed for the eye of the
passers-by. The interior walls of the shops often consist of
nothing but mirrors; illuminated as they are by twenty or more
gaslights all the luxury appears quadrupled to the wondering
spectator. The omnibus conductor shouts, ‘Hyde Park’. We are
on the corner of Oxford Street and Park Lane and alight. Let us
assume it is five o’clock in the afternoon; we proceed into the
Park ahead and sit down on a bench. Here we have the
Longchamps of the Parisian on a daily basis. Whatever today’s
fashion dictates, passes by us. Lord B’s new gig, Lady M’s chic
riding-habit, Baronet V’s dun stallion, on which three days
previously a bet won a thousand pounds – you will find them all
here; here the nobles parade before themselves and the admiring
crowd. And when the last rider has passed by and you see, in the
glare of the setting sun, London with all its spires lying before
you, and countless slender chimneys rising here and there like
minarets in a city of the Prophet, then remind yourself of all
those manifold pictures revealed to you in the course of the day.
Remember that early this morning you stepped down into the
vaults at the Docks, which deserve to be called a London under
the earth; remember that each kind of wine there constituted an
underground district, in which the piled-up casks might
represent the floors of timber buildings, in which we passed
through long, dim alleyways, lamplit like our streets at home by
night. Remember that from the Docks we went aboard a steamer
and, sailing up the Thames from the Tower, saw the crowded
boats glide by as numerous as the cabs in our streets, remember
the boldly arched bridges, under which we sped and over which
a dark wave of humanity roared unceasingly, remember then the
City throng and the fairy-tale splendour of the West End
illuminated, and admit that London is wonderful and

Telltale Figures

‘A change is as good as a rest.’ I made a poetical start in my last
letter, for that reason I am following up today with – figures.
‘Londres n’est pas une ville: c’est une province couverte de
maisons,’ a famous Frenchman has said, and he is right. In an
area of sixteen square miles somewhere near 300,000 houses
with a total of over two million occupants stand. These include
17,000 domestics, 24,000 tailors and 4,000 doctors and
Of the total population 350,000 live on the south side of the
Thames in Southwark and Lambeth; London proper, which is
five times larger, lies to the north. Communication between the
two parts – not counting the Tunnel – is effected by seven
bridges whose construction cost between five and six million
pounds Sterling.
London’s soul is commerce and trade. The Bank is a
creation of this commerce and, on the other hand, its generator
too. Its assets amount to – a return from the year 1850 lies in
front of me, though, I dare say, these figures are not constant –
more than £42 million Sterling, which exceeds the Prussian
public revenues threefold. Its liabilities do not quite reach a
level of £39 million Sterling, amongst which are twenty million
Commerce itself provides the following figures: annually,
an average of 30,000 ships enter the Port of London amongst
which are 8,000 from foreign parts and 22,000 English coastal
vessels. Amongst the 8,000 which sustain England’s
international traffic, 5,000 in turn sail under the British flag –
the total number of foreign ships comes to only 3,000, of which
(1849) 153 are Prussian and 351 German.
The annual London Customs’ receipts amount to more than
£11 million Sterling and make up exactly half the English
Customs’ revenue in general.

The daily bread of the mind, entertainment and diversion is
supplied by newspapers and letters. Of the 84 million newspaper
sheets which are stamped each year in England, almost 50
million appear in London itself, and of the £163,000 Sterling
which advertising tax brings in, London alone pays £70,000.
The revenue from postage is enormous: it amounts to £800,000.
Material necessities furnish the following figures: in the
kitchens and fireplaces, in workshops and factories London uses
3½ million tons of coal. Consumed annually are: 240,000 heads
of cattle, 1,700,000 sheep, 28,000 calves, 38,000 pigs and an
indeterminable quantity of bacon and ham. The number of wild
and tame fowl, together with hares and rabbits (of the latter,
which are scorned by us, 680,000 are consumed), reaches a total
of 4,024,400. Apart from eggs supplied by England itself, a
further 75 million come from Germany and France. What would
John Falstaff have thought glancing over these figures? In spite
of his partiality for sack he would at least have been startled to
hear of the 170 million quarts of porter and ale which are now
drunk in London, year in, year out. That works out at ¼ quart
per person daily.
We come now to the darker side of the picture, to sickness,
crime and death. The record for crime is old (from 1838) and
defective: 220 robberies with violence (burglars and
housebreakers), 5,000 common thefts and 136 begging letter
frauds. 50,000 persons have fallen into prostitution (according
to a census from 1850), including 5,000 children under fifteen.
In the same year there were 853 outbreaks of fire. The state of
health was bleak in former times; in the Plague Year 1665 when
the population of London did not quite amount to 400,000,
nearly 69,000 died, that is to say one in six. Up to the beginning
of this century one in twenty died, year in, year out, that is 5 per
cent. Only in the last decade has this situation improved (25 in
1,000 or 2.5 per cent), even more favourable in fact than in
many other large cities, e.g. Paris where 33 in 1,000, i.e. 3.5 per
cent die. Nevertheless, every year 50,000 people (that is about
one Potsdam) are carried off to the churchyard. Although whole
townships disappear from this city it grows and grows, and its
very size explains this constant new growth. The mighty cities

of Antiquity have long since been outstripped; when will it
share their fate? Ages, ages! Only ‘Chidher, eternally young’

will see corn growing above it or ships sailing over it.

From Hyde Park to London Bridge

It is Saturday afternoon, the sun smiles down as cheerfully as
the hazy streets will permit, but the sun’s cheerfulness does
nothing to relieve me of my earthly depression, and I resort to
my last means of uplift and diversion – an omnibus ride from
the West End to the City.
Here it comes already, my old friend the Royal Blue which
runs between Hyde Park Corner and London Bridge; as I climb
to its highest seat with the twin dexterity of a German gymnast
and a London pavement pounder, it trundles onward at almost
the same instant as it stopped to pick me up. A glance leftwards
into Hyde Park and right to the triumphal arch of the victorious
Duke. But now eyes straight ahead into the swirl of Piccadilly,
down whose paving we are so smoothly driving.
The first half of Piccadilly resembles a quayside: to the left
palaces and other buildings rise up, on the right, however, Green
Park stretches out like a sheet of water, refreshing the eye with
its lawns and the open prospect through the trees. A light breeze
wafts our way, momentarily relieving the day of its sultriness; I
become more relaxed and recall with a smile my remedy which
seems to have proved itself once more.
Further on the quay narrows to a street and loses some of its
refinement; already, however, the driver is turning into Regent
Street and slackens the reins, and downhill we go more quickly
than hitherto towards lovely Waterloo Place. In front of us
towers the York Column; Carlton House, the seat of the
Prussian Embassy, shows off its tall windows; one palace after
another extends before our gaze, but even before we have made
out with certainty the Minerva statue on one of them the
omnibus turns off to the left into the eastern offshoot of Pall
Mall and, past hotels, art shops and clubhouses, we now
approach London’s real focal point, Trafalgar Square.
Here we are: the fountains are doing their part (admittedly
only a modest one); the victor of Trafalgar looks down from his

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