London Melodies; Or, Cries of the Seasons c. 1825
To the lovers of botany here is a treat,
Sweet flowers all growing, although in the street,
Here are roses and myrtles, geraniums and stocks,
The sweet-smelling balsam, and close growing box.
The fine painted lady, or sweet-scented pea,
And firs of all sizes, from the sprig to the tree.
Migionet set in boxes, perfuming the air;
In short, all that Summer produces that’s rare,
Yet let not their beauty occasion alarms,
Or suppose that my price, mist keep pace with their charms;
I bear this in mind, – should I sell my plants dear,
My friends may neglect me the following year;
Whereas, if I only demand a fair price,
They are pleased, and the bargain is made in a trice;
Nor do they forget to attend to my cry,
When I, not regarding, might pass their door by.
Who would expect to meet a moving garden in the streets of London; what a variety too! roses, myrtles, geraniums, &c. &c. If we can not buy all, at least we may have some, and money is not ill laid out in their way, for it is both delightful and rational, to watch the progress, and growth of plants.
Roses are one of the most beautiful productions of nature, but alas! they soon fade; geraniums and stocks are more lasting, though not so fragrant; – and myrtles are still more hardy than either, bearing Winter as well as Summer, with a little care and attention. This pleasant smelling shrub, like certain qualities of the mind, out-live the more attractive ones, and pleases, when the others are entirely forgotten. Mignionet owns a most charming odour, and if sown in the spring, and kept well watered, will last a long while. I am sure its scent well repays any trouble we may take to preserve it.
Flowers and plants of all descriptions, are certainly most beautiful in their natural situations, but it i a great luxury for those who have no gardens, to be thus able to procure some of nature’s beauties, and at so trifling an expense.
In the balcony of the nobleman’s house, may be seen the choicest of shrubs and plants, selected with great taste, and regardless of expence.
We, however, are content to choose our garden, from the cart of this man, and enjoy its fragrance with as much gratification as they do their expensive ones. We should ever suit our wishes to our means.
Countries differ in regard to their taste in gardening: Italy has ever been estimated as the most successful in elegance and scenery; France, likewise, owns much beauty in both these points; but although we may allow the Italians and French all due merit for their respective tastes, we will not cede our own, in point of usefulness and comfort. The English garden is not intended for the eye only; health, as well as pleasure direct the planner: – fine open walks, well grown shrubberies, and spreading trees, alternately present themselves to our view; all so well arranged, that we can chuse our walk according to the weather, sheltering ourselves from Summer’s heat, or enjoying the sun and free air in Winter. No people are more partial to botany than the Dutch, or take more pains to cultivate flowers; their tulips are superior to all others, and so highly do they esteem this flower, that many a Dutchman has paid several hundred pounds for the single root of an admired one.
The gardens of Holland, do not, however, bear comparison with either of the above mentioned countries; formality, and of course sameness, fatigues the eye of the traveller, who would willingly dispense with the gaudy tulip, for the pleasure of beholding nature more like herself.
Warm climates are most congenial to the growth of flowers, yet labour and perseverance may effect much without this natural benefit; witness the gardens of the Emperor of Russia, where may be seen all that can charm the eye, notwithstanding the severity of the clime from its northern situation.
In an age marked with frivolity and the conceitedness of superficial acquirements, every pursuit that tends to produce simplicity, and a love of domestic retirement, should be encouraged. Botany is eminently calculated to inspire a partiality for the country, and a desire of investigating the works of nature. By forming an early attachment to the study of the plants, many a youth might be saved from the gambling table, and not a few modern young ladies, would hasten from contemplating their own persons in the mirror, to admire the lasting beauty of divine nature. Nothing is of greater importance than to introduce information at first, in an interesting manner: both religion and virtue would prevail more among the young, were they not presented to the mind, by methods more calculated to inspire disgust than affection: the delightful study of botany should therefore be rendered at once easy, useful, and amusing; when it would never cease to afford lasting charms to those youths, who are thus favoured with an early acquaintance with the grand works of the PARENT of NATURE.
When Summer fruits have had their day,
And Autumn brings her share;
The Orange comes, of colour gay,
And flavour sweet as rare.
But mark – it does not ripen here,
The climate is too cold;
No matter – warmer climes are near,
To rear this fruit of gold.
When sickness makes us loath our food,
And all our friends produce;
The Orange seems to do us good,
So grateful is its juice.
But while this fruit continues sour,
Of tasting it be shy;
For acids have a baneful power,
As those will find who try.
Grateful indeed, and pleasant, is the juicy Orange in health or sickness, and when ripe, wholesome, as sweet: their colour and outward appearance, recommend them to the eye; their rich flavour to the palate; and I believe no fruit is so generally a favourite.
Though usually termed China Oranges, most of them sold in this country, come from Portugal and Spain, where they grow in great abundance; they are sent in chests to the fruit merchants, who pick out the best for the fruit shops and market, while the inferior kind, is disposed of, to those who wheel the barrow, or carry the basket. In their native soil, they must indeed be a luxury, for no doubt most of their fine flavour is lost during the voyage to England; nevertheless, we find them a delicious fruit, and are quite content to eat them as they reach us. The Orange-tree is very handsome, and the blossom beautiful, of those we can judge; for they are common in the hot houses of the nobility and gentry – but they cannot come to perfection in so cold a climate as ours.
Sour Oranges are pernicious, and greatly injure those who eat them, for as the Poet observes, “all acids have a baneful quaity.” After learning this, those who indulge their fancy this way, deserve to suffer the certain consequences.
While others on their pillows sleep,
The early rising Chimney-sweep,
Your chimney’s rugged side ascends,
Or under weighty soot-bag bends.
His task performed, no tempting slice,
Of buttered bear, or breakfast nice,
Awaits his coming home, to share;
Again for work, he must prepare.
Hard seems his fate, compared to yours,
Yet uncomplaining he endures;
Perhaps his master treats him kind;
And some employment all should find.
Although so dirty seems his trade,
We could not do without his aid;
Did soot remain from year to year,
We dare not light a fire for fear
The blaze should kindle, and consume
Instead of making warm our room.
We cannot say much in favour of the man and the boys appearance here represented; but if we reflect on the nature of their employment, we shall not wonder to see them so dirty.
To climb a small chimney, and gather the soot is not a nice matter; yet these people do it continually, and but for their timely assistance, the soot would collect in such quantities, that the chimney would become foul, and take fire.
Thus, however we may despise the trade, we are much indebted to the sweeps exertions.
The cleaning of chimneys, is sometimes attended with great danger, for if they are ill-built, the poor Sweep finds it difficult to accomplish his purpose, and often receives severe bruises, if not a broken limb. – Some people are so cruelly inconsiderate, as not to put out the fire, time enough to get cool, previous to the boy’s going up; by which carelessness, it has happened, the unfortunate child has been terribly burned – such unfeeling conduct, deserves severest censure.
Soot is not thrown away, worthless, as you may suppose it; it is of infinite service in destroying insects, and enriching the earth; and for this end, the master Chimney-sweeper disposes of it.
What beverage is half so sweet,
As New Milk from the Cow?
But what we purchase in the street,
Is not, we must allow.
The wish for profit, which makes them add
Water which turns it blue;
Of course this makes the milk turn bad,
And soon get sour too.
But do not think that all combine,
To cheat the public so;
The Milk, this woman sells, is fine,
As all who try, must know.
Let it but stand an hour, or two,
And thick cream will arise;
Which plainly proves the milk is new,
And may be deemed a prize.
When next we dainty custards make,
She shall the milk supply;
And if we find them firmly bake,
Of her, we’ll always buy.
One of the greatest luxuries in life, is, good Milk: in the country, we of course get it in perfection: London also can furnish us with very excellent, brought to our very houses, but its worth is greatly diminished by the venders, who shamefully adulterate it before the consumer gets it.
There are several Cow owners in the vicinity of the metropolis, who keep hundreds of cows, for the sole purpose of accommodating the inhabitants of this city.
What a useful creature is the cow; what obligations do we not owe her; what puddings, what custards, and other nice things, her milk affords us; not to mention the milk we use in our tea, or with bread for our breakfast: and here let me recommend such a one to my young friend, in preference to any other, for it is certainly the most wholesome of any, and the sweetness of new milk, cannot be surpassed.
How many there are, obliged to be contented with stale bread and water, nor even taste the produce of the friendly cow. Let us think of this, before we turn aside from the basin of fresh milk, and say, we are tired of it.
To the Cow we are indebted for all the butter and cheese we get, for it is her milk that makes them.
Come buy my Rabbits young and tame,
Or if you like them wild,
O have them, choice as any game,
And yet their flavour’s mild.
The season now is just set in,
Come taste them in their prime;
I know your custom I shall win,
If you but buy this time.
None in the trade can better sell;
My stock is always good;
And whether you be sick or well,
Rabbits are wholesome food.
Believe me, what I say is just,
I do not wish to puff;
But mark, I neither score or trust;
Have I not said enough?
We must be deaf indeed, not to hear the Rabbit Man, who makes more noise than most criers. Rabbits are a pleasant sweet food, and sometimes sold very reasonable. The tame feed chiefly upon cabbage, lettuce, and other green leaves, and are not very choice in their food.
Many people prefer the flavour of the wild to the tame. They live in burrows on the side of hills; these burrows or warrens are deep holes, which they dig themselves, and there live in vast numbers. It is curious to see them pass in and out of these places, which they do, hundreds at a time, so that the hill appears a moving world.
They are naturally timid, the least noise sets them a scampering, and although they cross your path frequently when near their habitations, it is to avoid, rather than come in your way. Their skins are soft and furry, particularly the white: the dealers in old clothes buy them, to sell again to the furriers, who clean and dress them; after which, they are made into tippets for the ladies, caps, &c. Thus you see, the flesh though delicate eating, is not the only worth of the animal.
The prettiness of their form, added to their harmless natures, makes them general favourites with young people, who can easily tame them; but indulgence should not permit them to intrude into your gardens, where they can occasion much mischief, by cropping the vegetables and herbage.
Despise not the half worn out Chair,
It has lulled you in many pain;
Here is one, who can quickly repair,
And make it look tidy again.
I rejoice, when I find things will mend,
And would rather retain them than new,
It seems like retaining a friend,
And to friends some attention is due.
Full many there be, who have old,
And cannot afford new to buy;
Their remedy need not be told,
They will find it in this simple cry.
All trades are not suited to the capacities of women, and one would suppose, this one, not very adapted to females; yet it common to see them pursuing it, and with as much assiduity, and dexterity, as any workman in the Trade. Long slim rushes are the articles with which they repair old chairs; and these they pass over and over the outward frame, until the bottom is completely covered.
Simple as the process seems from description, the performance is more difficult than may be imagined; for the bottom of the chair being divided into four parts, it requires much nicety to make the point meet well in the middle, and the rushes join regularly in each division.
This poor woman travels many miles in the course of day, to seek employment; and if our chairs be too good to require her aid, she will fare but badly: if on the contrary, they need repairing, few can do them better than she, and her charges are very reasonable.
In the country the chair mender meets good encouragement; for the Cottager seldom possesses better chairs than rush ones, and gladly avails himself of the opportunity of repairing the same, while so good a friend is at hand. The trade cannot be so good in London now, as it was formerly, for other kinds are more common, and the rush chair is seen in few houses, except in bed-rooms.
Chairs are not common in all societies. In Turkey, ottomans, or low stools, are used by the natives, who sit cross-legged. In savage climes the ground satisfies the inhabitants, who, being ignorant of form or ceremony, consult convenience rather than ornament.