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Had I a park of a thousaad acres, well wooded with spreading oaks and towering elms, well watered with crystal lakes, and well stocked with fleet red deer, how gladly would I open my gates, and widen my pathways, that others might share in my gratifications! And had I a goodly mansion in the midst, with noble halls and suites of apartments, and ten thousand a year to spend, how hospitably would I entertain those who are less abundantly provided for than myself! My dainty morsels should not be eaten alone; I would open my doors to the traveller.
By this time the reader will be quite satisfied that I neither have an extended park, a goodly mansion, and ten thousand a year, nor any very clear prospect of suddenly coming into possession of the same. burst of disinterestedness and generosity, as that in, which I have just indulged, is perfectly natural in my present sphere; and very likely (such is man!) the readiest way to cure me of such impulsive openheartedness, would be to give me the means of embodying my imaginary benevolence. There is a something in the very nature of riches that prompts the owner of them to increase, rather than to diminish his possessions: so that, often in the same degree in which we have power to assist others, we have only the inclination to serve ourselves. Instances, many instances, occur to the contrary; but they are the exceptions to the general rule.
“Lord, make us truly wise,
To choose thy people's lot,
The greatest evil we can fear,
While thus indulging my reflections, I am seated on one of the benches in St. James's Park, opposite the lake; the proud palace of Buckingham is on my right: the goodly towers of the abbey of Westminster on my left; with a promenade, in the fore-ground, of well dressed people, and beyond it the clear, sunlit, windruffled water, on which aquatic fowls of different kinds are sporting joyously. I have, before now, when seated here, under favourable circumstances, thought that few scenes in the world, of a limited -extent, could be finer than this; and feelings of a similar kind are exercising an influence over me now.
The parks, as breathing places to the inhabitants, are, indeed, important appendages to the metropolis. Here the sovereign and her subjects find healthy exercise and agreeable recreation. St. James's Park is used more for promenading than for riding or driving, though the carriage communication between Buckingham Palace and that of St. James's is very frequent.
In the reign of Henry virr., the park was nothing more than a desolate marsh. It was enlarged and planted with lime trees by Charles II., who contracted the water into a canal, and formed, likewise, a decoy and other ponds for water fowl. In one part of the park there once was a hollow smooth walk, enclosed with a border of wood on each side, and ended at one extremity by a hoop of iron. Here a certain game at ball was much played, and it was from this that the place afterwards took the name of “ mall."
Between a hundred and fifty and two hundred years ago, king Charles II. might have been seen in that part
of the park called Bird-cage walk, playing with his spaniels, and other dogs, feeding his ducks, and talking in a familiar manner with his subjects. He had an aviary near the place. The more swampy part of the park was then called Duck Island.
Never, perhaps, did St. James's Park present so splendid an appearance as on the coronation of queen Victoria. The queen with her attendants, the royal carriages, the embassadors vying with each other in the magnificence of their carriages and equipages; the field marshals and general officers in full uniform with their troops; the military bands, the flags and streamers; and the innumerable multitudes assembled, formed a spectacle inconceivably imposing.
Just before the queen made her appearance in her state carriage, a heron rose up from the lake, winged its way far above the assembled throng, and sailed majestically round and round over the palace walls. As I gazed on the noble bird, which had attracted the attention of tens of thousands, I thought to myself, “ In olden times great importance was attached, on particular occasions, to the flight of birds. Now, if that heron should alight for a moment on the pediment of the palace, or on the flag-staff bearing the standard, it would be regarded as an omen for good, and the event would be handed down to posterity."
The Green Park is, perhaps, less frequented than any other. A walk along the carriage road, by the side of it, has brought me to the triumphal arches, for such they are frequently called, at Hyde Park-corner. Apsleyhouse, the mansion of the duke of Wellington, with its iron gates and barred windows, stands like a fortress at the entrance of Hyde Park; but I must relate an anecdote of Apsley-house, that some time ago appeared in the London journals.
It is said that as George 11. was riding on horseback, one day, in Hyde Park, he 'met an old soldier, who had fought with him in the battle of Dettingen; with this soldier he entered into free discourse.
After talking together for some time, the king asked the veteran what he could do for him ? “ Why, please your majesty," said the soldier, “my wife keeps an apple stall on the bit of waste ground as you enter the park, and if your majesty would be pleased to make us a grant of it, we might build a little shed and improve our trade.” The request, a very
moderate one, was at once granted. In a little time the old apple-woman prospered greatly; for the shed was built, and her business surprisingly increased.
The situation was a good one for the purpose, and she carried on a very profitable trade.
In the course of years, the old soldier died, and the lord chancellor, who was looking around him, at the time, for a suitable piece of ground where he might build himself a mansion, fixed his mind on this very spot. The old woman was sadly alarmed when she saw her poor shed pulled down, and preparations made to build up a great house where it stood; and
she went to a son, an attorney's clerk, to consult with him as to what course she ought to take. The son was shrewd enough to see, at once, the advantage that might be gained by remaining quiet in the matter; so he advised his mother to say nothing until the great mansion should be completed. No sooner was the house finished, than the son waited on the lord chancellor to complain of the trespass committed on his mother's
property, and to claim a recompence for the injury that had been sustained.
When the chancellor saw that the claim was undeniable, he directly offered a few hundred pounds by way of compensation ; but this was altogether refused; the old woman, advised by her son, would by no means settle the affair on such easy terms. After some deliberation, a ground rent of four hundred pounds a year was demanded, and his lordship, at last, agreed to the terms. It is added, that to this very day Apsley-house yields a ground rent of four hundred pounds yearly to the descendants of the old apple-woman.
The bronze figure of Achilles, on the granite pedestal, which meets the eye on entering the archway into the park, was erected in honour of the duke of Wellington. It is considered a fine specimen of art, and is very generally admired.
Of all the royal parks, no one is so extensive as Hyde Park, nor can such an assemblage of carriages and fine horses be seen in any other place in the whole world, as are here daily witnessed during the summer months ; to a stranger they appear absolutely numberless, and the wonder rises in the mind, that there should be rich people enough to keep so many costly equipages.
Two hundred years back, Hyde Park contained as many as eighteen hundred acres; but now it has not quite four hundred, Kensington Gardens being separated from it. The Serpentine River, as it is called, which adorns the place, is as straight as if drawn with a rule and compasses: great is the number of persons who have therein met with a watery grave.
There will always be found, among bathers and skaters, many of a daring and others of an inconsiderate disposition, so