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Temple to pray, and I knew there were no
better words that I could say beside his bed,
than " O Lord, be merciful to him, a sinner!"


THERE are more ways than one of looking at
sewers, especially at old London sewers. There
is a highly romantic point of view from which
they are regarded as accessible, pleasant, and
convivial hiding-places for criminals flying from
justice, but black and dangerous labyrinths for
the innocent stranger. Even now, in these days
of new police and information for the people, it
would not be difficult to find many thousands
who look upon them as secret caverns full of
metropolitan banditti. When the shades of
evening fall upon the City, mysterious
whispered "Open sesames" are heard in imagination
near the trap-door side-entrances, and many
London Hassaracs or Abdallahs, in laced-boots
and velveteen jackets, seem to sink through the
pavement into the arms of their faithful
comrades. Romances, as full of startling incidents
as an egg is full of meat, have been built
upon this underground foundation, and dramas
belonging to the class which are now known as
"sensation" pieces, have been placed upon the
stage to feed this appetite for the wonderful in
connexion with sewers. I have some recollection
of a drama of this kind that I saw some
years ago at one of the East-end theatres, in
which nearly all the action took place under
huge dark arches, and in which virtue was
represented in a good strong serviceable shape
by an heroic sewer-cleanser. Much was made
of floods and flooding, which the flusher, who
played the villain of the piece, seemed to have
completely under his control; and it was not
considered at all singular by the audience, that
a dozen men and women should be found walking
high and dry under these mysterious arcades,
as if in some place of public resort.

Imagination generally loves to run wild about
underground London, or the sub-ways of any
great city. Take away the catacombs of Paris
the closed, magnified, mysterious catacombs
and the keystone of a mass of French fiction falls
to the ground. The dark arches of our own
dear river-side Adelphifamiliarised, not to say
vulgarised, as they have been by being turned
into a thoroughfare to coal-wharves and half-
penny steam-boatsare still looked upon as the
favourite haunts of the wild tribes of London or
City Arabs, whatever these may be.

A popular notion exists that those few sloping
tunnels are a vast free lodging-house for
hundreds of night wanderers; and that to those
who have the watchword, they form a passage
leading to some riotous hidden haunt of vice.
This belief prevails very largely amongst very
quiet, respectable people; the class who live in
the suburbs, and feed upon " serious" literature,
and shudder when the metropolis, the modern
Nineveh, is mentioned in conversation, and
who, by no chance, ever heard the chimes at
midnight, or were caught wandering about the
streets after nine P.M.

This passion, however, is not entirely confined
to people who are totally ignorant of the existing
out-door world. Hundreds of traditions are
cherished about secret passages said to have
extended from St. Saviour's, Southwark, under the
river Thames, or from Old Canonbury House
to the Priory at Smithfield. The people who
cherish these traditions are not easily deceived
by any fancy stories about life in London as
it is now; they are too knowing for that;
but they like to have their little dream of wonder
about life in the middle ages. In vain does
Mr. Roach Smith write, or do Archaeological
Societies lecture, upon these fragments of
old masonry, laid bare during the building of
city warehouses or suburban settlements. The
poor old monks are not to be saved so easily
from a few damaging theories regarding their
presumed habits; and the vestiges of ancient
conduit heads, or covered ways to protect water-
pipes,* are always thought to be the remains of
murder-caverns, or cells for the unhappy victims
of religious hatred. A piece of ordinary rust,
or of moist red brick, is soon pictured as the trace
of blood; and those who do not take this
sanguinary view of these unearthed sub-ways, are
always ready to regard them as cellars full of
buried gold.

* The water-pipes used in old times were not
always embedded in the earth as they are now, but
enclosed within a capacious arch of brickwork, into
which workmen could descend to repair any decay
or accident.—Ellis's History of Shoreditch.

Next to the romantic way of regarding sewers,
there is the scientific or half scientific way,
which is not always wanting in the imaginative
element. I remember attending an exhibition,
about four years ago, at the Society of Arts,
which, although it consisted only of engineering
plans for the improvement of London sub-ways,
was amusing from the unpractical character of
the schemes proposed.

A number of designs were submitted to the
Metropolitan Board of Works for the total sub-
surface re-construction of the metropolitan
streets, and these designsabout forty in number
were referred to a committee of eminent
engineers, whose task it was to give away
certain money prizes. Nearly all the designs, as
far as I recollect, exhibited the same
features: a centre tunnel under the roadway,
accessible by traps from the street, and
containing the different pipes for gas, water,
telegraphic wires, and sewage. The plan that got a
prize of one hundred guineas, proposed to have
arched brick vaults extending from the houses
on each side of the tunnel, giving a solidity to
the roadway, and increasing to a great extent
the cellar accommodation of houses and
warehouses. Another plan, which got a prize of
fifty guineas, had no central tunnel under the
roadway, but provided for the same purposes
two side tunnels running parallel to each other,
and connected with the houses on either side.
The difference in the estimate of cost of the