+ ~ -
 
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
 
Report an Error
Go!
 
Go!
 
TOC
 

entertained. Mr. Hounsditch, the eminent
contractor, considered a fine orator at the
vestry, by means of his never stopping for
a word, projected it all with a ravishing
eloquence. A great hall for concerts, and
dioramas, and meetings, smaller rooms for
societies, a working-man's reading room at
the back, religious worship on Sundays for
any new and unchapelled sect, and, above
all, a club with billiard, library, and
refreshment rooms, where you could get a
glass of wine. In short, the purposes
projected were so varied and innumerable that,
if carried out, it would be the most
wonderful building in London; and a speculative
member of the vestry might have
added one more function, namely, making
the whole a show, and charging a small fee.
All London would surely flock to see
praying or preaching, refreshment, billiard-
playing, concert, diorama, clubbing, and
discussion, all going on at the same time.
Mr. Hounsditch had figures for everything,
and "writing off" a certain margin
for contingencies, brought out an amazing
amount of profit.

The building was duly completed; but
it would be hard to give an idea of how
this edifice blazed and shone in all the
finery of new yellow, red, and black bricks.
The Byzantine style was chosen, as allowing
a grand opening for brick polychromy.
There were "punchy" balconies,
balustrades, mouldings, Moorish arches, all in
the same material. The architect, too, had
ingeniously contrived to amalgamate or
symbolise all its motley purposes in his
style. As we turn down by the fa├žade, next
the public-house, it looked like a chapel,
combined with a private residence for the
minister; while its main entrance had
something the air half of a glorified police
office, half of a tavern.

However, it was opened. The marquis
came and spoke one of those orations he
always kept mixed for the numerous stones
or inaugurations that were being laid or
taking place on his estate. And now, being
opened, the Jericho Rooms were ready for
the world to enter. There was a debt;
but this, as Mr. Hounsditch showed by
figures, must clear itself off in two years
an arrangement so satisfactory that one
wished means could be found of applying
it more generally to pecuniary liquidation.
Still there was an unaccountable pause.
No unchapelled sect came forward. The
working-men apparently did not want to
read. The adjoining public-house seemed
to satisfy the most ambitious dreams of
refreshment. At last, however, the first
show came. Mr. Montague Jackson's
Cambrian MedleyTwo Happy Hours of
Witchery and Wales. Part I.—General
Remarks. The Welsh People: their Tears
and Sunshine. Moxey-Ap-Thomas, the
Harper. Diverting Incident. Song in
Character, &c. This, our first attempt,
brought a house that must have amazed
Mr. Montague Jackson, who, when he
took his show to country towns, always
flourished about it as "exhibited on the
opening of the Royal Jericho Rooms before
one of the largest audiences ever seen in
London." Every onethe vestry particularly
were greatly pleased at this
inauguration, though the entertainment was
mild enough, and rested on a cracked
pianoforte and on Mr. Jackson himself.
But there was a long gap before any one
else followed. Mr. Curlew, the eminent
elocutionist, came and surveyed it, but
evidently with distrust. "You'll have to
come down to a chapel with this," he said.
However, he said he "wouldn't mind
chancing it for once." The committee
were indignant at this contumely. The
newest designbest architect and work
the finest thing in London, though it might
not be the largest! What did the man
mean? However, Mr. Curlew came, issued
on posters the Death of Cocles, the Skating
Scene from Pickwick, with, for second
part, a wonderful Compression of the Idylls
of the King; but we never shall forget his
blank look as he surveyed the cathedral-
like solitude. In provincial towns and
watering-places, there is nothing more
dispiriting than the look of such a place,
as some poor unfamiliar stroller or jester
has come round and pasted the walls over
with his Two Hours with Momus. And
the white walls of the lobby and stair, with
the abundant gas blazing as if in mockery,
with the officials waiting there to take the
money, their all but hungry look at you,
doubtful whether you will not, after all,
take shape as that unclean thingan order.
Then the glimpse into the large empty
room, with half a dozen folk dotted about
and looking strangely at you, wondering
what on earth brings you into this solitude!

Another long interval, and some species
of Christy Minstrels came round, bones and
the rest. Later again, a Voyage Round
the World, with chromatic advertisements,
a picture of a gaudy railway-station,
where every one, with his luggage, was
in blue, yellow, green, or red clothing, and
flamed and glittered as if on the stage