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

of the gutter. A few waggons next arrive, well
loaded with timber and planks, and accompanied
by a number of gravel-coloured men with
pickaxes and shovels. In a day and a night, or
little more, a few hundred yards of roadway are
enclosed, and a strange quiet reigns for a time,
in consequence of the carriage traffic being
diverted. The omnibuses that used to form an
endless rumbling procession before the windows,
are turned down small back streets and winding
alleys, while the outside passengers are
sometimes nearly rubbed against the houses, or have
to stoop to avoid barbers' poles, and other
trading projections. The calm of the main
thoroughfare is soon disturbed by the arrival of
steam-engines, horses, carpenters, and troops of
"navvies," within the enclosure. The sound of
pickaxes, spades, and hammers, the puffing of
steam, and the murmur of voices, begin: never
to cease for some months, day or nignt. Huge
timber structures spring up at intervals along
the centre of the road, where the spots for opening
shaft-holes are marked out, and it is not
many hours before iron buckets and chains are
at work, dragging up the heart of the roadway.
This rubbish is carted off on a tramway as
quickly as possible, and tilted down a gaping
pit, with a noise like distant thunder, to be
carried away into the country along the
underground branch railway already completed.
Notwithstanding this labour and arrangement, the
gravel scatters itself among the houses
overlooking the works; the mistresses complain of
living in a perpetual " mess," the servants
declare their inability to keep door-steps and
passages clean in the face of such an earthquake;
the front gardens are often trespassed upon, and
huge pieces of timber are planted against some
of the houses to prevent their falling forward
into the street. A father of a family looks out
of his window one morning after shaving, and
finds a large breezy " clearance" among his
neighbours' houses to the right or left, which
ventilates the neighbourhood, but fills his mind
with doubts about the stability of his dwelling.
A wet week comes, and the gravel in his front
garden turns to clay; the tradespeople tread it
backwards and forwards to and from the street
door; he can hardly get out to business, or
home to supper, without slipping; and he
strongly objects to a temporary way of wet
planks, erected for his use, and the use of the
passers-by, over a yawning cavern underneath
the pavement. Sometimes irritated by seeing
his railings broken, and by what he thinks an
unwarrantable encroachment upon his liberties as
an Englishman, he dreams of Chancery injunctions,
and instructs his solicitor to serve all
kinds of " notices" on the contractor.

If a wet week, or a wet month, tries the
temper of a neighbourhood suffering under the
infliction of railway works in the middle of the
thoroughfares, it also tries tiie temper of the
contractor. Four or five hundred men have to
be paid every Saturday night, although the
weather has kept them idle all the week, and
the capital invested in plant and machinery is
" eating its head off." This latter represents
no mean sum, when we have to calculate the
value of tunnel supports and scaffoldings at from
five to fifteen pounds a yard. The very stuff
that we call " dry rubbish," which is thrown on
the roadway of a tunnel when it is finished,
cannot be bought under six shillings a yard.
Luckily, a large contractor has too much work
on his hands, in different places, to allow him to
be idle or melancholy. While Mr. Jay is carrying
out the principal channel of this underground
railway, he is building the government fortifications
at Portland, and a railroad in Wales, and
is attending to most contract orders that come
from the corporation of London.

The Metropolitan, or Underground Railway,
as an Institution, is only just begun.
From three to four hundred millions sterling
of property, invested in English railways,
is constantly pressing for an universal junction
throughout the country, and also in London,
the heart of the system. An underground
railroad, if parliament be willing, will
soon join the Brighton line at Pimlico to
Bayswater and the Great Western Railway, by
a channel under Kensington Gardens. The
Charing-cross branch of the South-Eastern will
push on from Hungerford-market to the New-
road: thereby attaching itself through the
Underground Railway, with the three great main lines
on that sidethe Great Northern, North-
Western, and Great Western. The Regent's
Canal will be turned into a railway, and the
Great Northern, at King's-cross, will be thus con-
nected with the Eastern Counties' lines. When
this is done, the junction of all the metropolitan
lines will be effected; and minor branches, such
as the one proposed from Smithfield to the
Regent's-circus, will merely help to feed the
general centralisation at Finsbury-circus. These
works, like all alterations and repairs, will give
employment to many, and be a nuisance to
others, as long as they are being constructed;
but when the mess is cleared up, and the new
channels are thrown open, a sense of comfort
and relief will be felt throughout the vast general
traffic of London.


IN the depth of an ancient casement,
Looking unto the west,
A little maiden sat and read,
In the evening's golden rest.

And her bright brain teemed with fancies
Of spiritual things,
Of breadths of silent, starry skies,
Whitened with angels' wings.

And fields of blowing lilies,
Radiant within the dawn,
With the branches of the tree of life
Shadowing field and lawn.

For the thin and tiny volume
Was rich with fairy lore,
And kindled her chiming fancies,
As she turned the leaflets o'er,