Romance of London: Strange Stories, Scenes And Remarkable Person of the Great Town in 3 Volumes
John Timbs (1801-1875), who also wrote as Horace Welby, was an English author and aficionado of antiquities. Born in Clerkenwell, London, he was apprenticed at 16 to a druggist and printer, where he soon showed great literary promise. At 19, he began to write for Monthly Magazine, and a year later he was made secretary to the magazine’s proprietor and there began his career as a writer, editor, and antiquarian.
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William Scott, First (and only) Lord Stowell
William Scott (1745-1836) was born in Northumberland to a father who was in the business of transporting coal. Both William and his brother John became successful jurists, William becoming a judge of the high court of admiralty and elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, and John eventually becoming Earl of Eldon and Lord Chancellor of England. William was raised to the peerage as a baron following the coronation of George IV in 1821. William was twice married, but as the only one of his four children was a female, the title became extinct after his death at age 90.
Lord Stowell’s Love of Sightseeing
Lord Stowell loved manly sports, and was not above being pleased with the most rude and simple diversions. He gloried in Punch and Judy—their fun stirred his mirth without, as in Goldsmith’s case, provoking spleen. He made a boast on one occasion that there was not a puppet-show in London he had not visited, and when turned fourscore, was caught watching one at a distance with children of less growth in high glee. He has been known to make a party with Wyndham to visit Cribb’s, and to have attended the “fives court” as a favourite resort. “There were curious characters,” he observed, “to be seen at these places.” He was the most indefatigable sight-seer in London. Whatever show could be visited for a shilling, or less, was visited by Lord Stowell. In the western end of London there was a room generally let for exhibitions. At the entrance, as it is said, Lord Stowell presented himself, eager to see “the green monster serpent,” which had lately issued cards of invitation to the public. As he was pulling out his purse to pay for his admission, a sharp but honest north-country lad, whose business it was to take the money, recognized him as an old customer, and knowing his name, thus addressed him: “We can’t take your shilling, my lord; ’tis the old serpent which you have seen twice before in other colors; but ye shall go in and see her.” He entered, saved his money, and enjoyed his third visit to the painted beauty. This love of “seeing sights” was, on another occasion, productive of a whimsical incident. Some forty years ago, an animal, called a “Bonassus,” was exhibited in the Strand. On Lord Stowell’s paying it a second visit, the keeper very courteously told his lordship that he was welcome to come, gratuitously, as often as he pleased. Within a day or two after this, however, there appeared, under the bills of the exhibition, in conspicuous characters, “Under the patronage of the Right Hon. Lord Stowell;” an announcement of which the noble and learned lord’s friends availed themselves, by passing many a joke upon him; all which he took with the greatest good humor.
The Bonassus…proved to be a troublesome neighbour—a constant annoyance. The following letter was intended to have been sent to the “Annoyance Jury,” by the occupier of the house in the Strand (nearly opposite Norfolk-street) adjoining that in which the “Bonassus” was exhibited:—
March 28, 1822
“Gentlemen,—I Am sorry to trouble you but I Am so Anoyd By next Door Neighbour the Bonassus and with Beasts, that I cannot live in my House—for the stench of the Beast is So Great And their is only A Slight petition Betwixt the houses and the Beast are continually Breaking through in to my Different Rooms And I am always loosing my lodgers in Consequence of the Beast first A Monkey made Its way in My Bedroom next the Jackall came in to the Yard and this last week the people in My Second floor have been Alarmed in the Dead of the Night By Monkey Breaking through into the Closet and are Going to leave in Consequence this being the third lodgers I have lost on account of the Beast And I have been letting my Second Floor at Half the Rent—And those men of Mr. James are Bawling the whole Day Against My Window—and continually taking peoples attention from My Window—And I am quite pestered with Rats and I Am Confident they came from the Exhebition—And in Short the Injury and Nuisance is So Great as almost Impossible to Describe But to be so Anoyd By such an Imposter I think is Very Hard—Gentlemen your Early inquiry will oblige your Servant—T.W.—.
N.B. And if I mention anything to Mr. James He only Abuses me with the Most Uncouth Language.”
Susana’s note: Apologies to English teachers everywhere, who have no doubt suffered through many such essays in their noble careers.
Romance of London Series
- Romance of London: The Lord Mayor’s Fool… and a Dessert
- Romance of London: Carlton House and the Regency
- Romance of London: The Championship at George IV’s Coronation
- Romance of London: Mrs. Cornelys at Carlisle House
- Romance of London: The Bottle Conjuror
- Romance of London: Bartholomew Fair
- Romance of London: The May Fair and the Strong Woman
- Romance of London: Nancy Dawson, the Hornpipe Dancer
- Romance of London: Milkmaids on May-Day
- Romance of London: Lord Stowell’s Love of Sight-seeing
- Romance of London: The Mermaid Hoax
- Romance of London: The Bluestocking and the Sweeps’ Holiday
- Romance of London: Comments on Hogarth’s “Industries and Idle Apprentices”
- Romance of London: The Lansdowne Family
- Romance of London: St. Margaret’s Painted Window at Westminster
- Romance of London: Montague House and the British Museum
- Romance of London: The Bursting of the South Sea Bubble
- Romance of London: The Thames Tunnel
- Romance of London: Sir William Petty and the Lansdowne Family
- Romance of London: Marlborough House and Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough
- Romance of London: The Duke of Newcastle’s Eccentricities
- Romance of London: Voltaire in London
- Romance of London: The Crossing Sweeper
- Romance of London: Nathan Mayer Rothschild’s Fear of Assassination
- Romance of London: Samuel Rogers, the Banker Poet
- Romance of London: The Eccentricities of Lord Byron
- Romance of London: A London Recluse