Regent's Park and Primrose
Hill in Literature and Music
Authors - A to D
Adams, Douglas (P)
Adams, Francis (1885)
Ainsworth, William Harrison (1842)
Angerstein, Reinhold Rücker (1753)
Anonymous - A.B. (1749)
Anonymous B (1830)
Anonymous Gardener's Chronicle (1863)
Anonymous - A Gentleman of London (1747)
Anonymous The Gentleman's Magazine (1792)
Anonymous The People's Paper (1856)
Anonymous Punch or The London Charivari
Anonymous - A Seven Year's Absentee (1822)
Anonymous The Southern Monthly Magazine
Anstey, F. (1886)
Vicomte Charles D' (1844)
Armistead, Wilson (1891)
Auden, W.H. (P)
Audubon, John James (1898)
Barrett Browning, Elizabeth (1846)
Bauer, Karoline (1829)
Bennett, Alan (P)
Berkeley, Grantley Fitzhardinge (c1850)
Black, William (1878)
Blake, William (c1800) (P)
Bloom, William (P)
Boswell, James see Johnson
Boyle, John, Earl of Cork (1754) (P)
Broady, Bill (P)
Bryant, William Cullen (1845)
Burney, Frances (1778)
Buxton, Bertha H. (1880) (P)
Campanella, Giuseppe Maria (1875) (P)
Casanova, Giacomo (1763)
Cautious, Prudence (1738)
Chaney, Jill (P)
Charles, Paul (P)
Clairmont, Clara Mary Jane (1814) (P)
Collins, Wilkie (1852)
Cooper, James Fenimore (1828)
Coren, Alan (P)
Couchman, Obadiah (1641)
Craig, Amanda (P)
Craik, Mrs. (1852)
Custance, Olive (P)
Dare, Bill (P)
Davidson, John (1893) (P)
Dickens, Charles (1833)
Dickens, Charles Culliford Boz (1888)
Digby, Edward (1805) (P)
Digby, Kenelm Henry (1866) (P)
Disraeli, Benjamin (1830)
Dixon, Ella Hepworth (1894)
Downing, A.J. (1850)
Doyle, Conan (1893)
Du Maurier, Daphne
Minaret. Bloomsbury, 2005.
'I had been pushing Mai on the swing and he appeared with his rucksack
as if it is natural for him on his way home to look in on us in Regent's
Park...Mai walks over to the sandpit. I help her take off her shoes
and she starts playing with a little boy. His Sri Lankan nanny sits
on the edge of the sandpit holding a Tupperware box of rice in one
hand, a spoon in the other. She feeds him while he scoops sand with
a spade...Tamer moves away from the swing and sits on a nearby bench'
The narrator, Najwa, is working as a nanny for a Sudanese
family and a romance is developing with Tamer, Mai's youthful uncle.
'It starts to rain, a few drops that look dark on
the red safety tiles under the see-saw. Tamer looks up at the sky.
He seems more relaxed than the other day when we met in the street.
He might not know it but it is safe for us in playgrounds, safe among
children. There are other places in London that aren't safe, where
our very presence irks people' (p.111).
On a later visit to the park Tamer proposes marriage
"It's not very Islamic for a man and woman to be friends"
but walks off in a huff when the shock of it makes her laugh
The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul.
1988. Reprinted in The Dirk Gently Omnibus. William Heinemann,
'She hailed a taxi and sat in the back with
her eyes closed most of the way back to her home in Primrose Hill...On
one occasion she had gone to this corner of the park and walked around
the invisible perimeter that marked out the limits of what she could
see, and had come very close to feeling that this was her own domain.
She had even patted the plane trees in a proprietorial sort of way, and had then sat beneath them
watching the sun going down over London over its badly spoiled
skyline and its non-delivering pizza restaurants and had come
away with a profound sense of something or other, though she wasn't
quite certain what' (p.66-67).
Kate has just discharged herself from hospital after
an act of god at Terminal Two, Heathrow, sent the check-in desk shooting
through the roof in a ball of orange flame. So much for her offer
to help Thor get a ticket to Oslo. But the God of Thunder hasn't finished
with her yet. He needs to get back to Valhalla, and Primrose Hill
is the ideal spot to launch his second attempt.
'The park was closed for the night, but Thor leapt
quickly over the spiked railings and then lifted her over in turn
as lightly as if she had been a bunch of flowers. The grass was damp
and mushy, but still worked its magic on city feet. Kate did what
she always did when entering the park, which was to bob down and put
the flats of her hands down on the ground for a moment. She had never
quite worked out why she did this, and often she would adjust a shoe
or pick up a piece of litter as a pretext for the movement, but all
she really wanted was to feel the grass and the wet earth on her palms'
A Child of the Age. 1894. Garland, 1977.
'Generally, in the late afternoon I went out for a walk into the Regent's
Park, feeling as if I were away from the streets and the life-worn
people there. Many happy hours were spent by me wandering whistling
over the middle grass plateau (it seemed to me like a plateau), thinking
of my work and, sometimes, of the dear woman to whom some day I should
tell all of this...I was very fond of wandering by night: especially
to the top of Primrose Hill, to look out over the great city, and
the rings of light closer to, as in a vestibule-court of an almost
boundless palace-building' (p.71-72).
Returning home from his walk Bertie is in time to
rescue a fellow lodger, Rosy, from being evicted for non-payment of
rent, thereby winning her devotion as well as her gratitude. Hard
up himself - a poet who cannot find a publisher - he finally takes
a job as secretary to a gentleman travelling abroad. Now he has to
break the news to Rosy, and suggests they go for a walk.
'We were half-way up Primrose Hill: when all at once
I remembered a certain bench not far from the top, by which I had
on a certain night stood and looked out over the darkness from which
came the cool breeze fanning my feverish cheek...I led her a little
round then up to it. And we sat down upon it together and talked softly'
Leicester: An Autobiography. George
Redway, 1885. 2 vols.
Despite its title this is a novel, an earlier version of A Child
of the Age: longer and with a different ending. There are two
passages which were deleted from the later work:
'[I] passed out of a somewhat dirty road, through the gates, and so
over the two bridges into the Park itself. I sauntered along the side
of the lake, looking at the swans and ducks. It was a glorious morning.
The sun breathed a gentle heat upon me, and warmed me gratefully.
The dew was still on the grass: a few people hurried across by pathways;
every now and then a duck whirred through the air. At last I reached
another bridge, went onto it, and stood and watched a flight of birds
bathing themselves wantonly in the shallows of a small bay on the
far shore...I ate my dates and loaf on a seat behind, or rather beside,
a tree on an elevation that runs up there and along parallel to the
curve of the lake' (vol.1, p.171).
'It was a few days after this that Rosy and I went our second evening
walk together...We went up to the top of Primrose Hill again, and
I snuffed in the breeze and was somewhat revived; but (it had been
raining heavily earlier in the day) that made me appreciate how stickily
muddy it was going down, and I was forthwith driven into a state of
utter saplessness and disgust' (vol.2, p.10).
Monday Morning from The Obituary Tango: a selection of works
from the Caine Prize for African Writing. New Internationalist
Publications Ltd., 2006.
'"I want to piss," the boy said in their language...The
mother scanned the area, but she could not find a place for her son;
there were too many people beside the trees, talking, laughing...The
boy and his father hurried towards the lake. The father was glad to
see that his son could find relief. They did not notice how people
looked at them with their mouths turned down. Sour. The eyes narrowed
to slits. The breeze blew and the ducks and swans floated past. The
boy was afraid of them, but his need to evacuate was too urgent. Steam
rose from the stream that emerged from him as it fell into the water,
and he marvelled at this. There was so much to understand that was
new here' (p.9).
The boy and his family are staying at a hostel after fleeing the violence
of their own country. 'The sign at the building read Hotel Excelsior,
but this was not a hotel...The linen was stained with the memory of
previous guests, the rooms sang with the clamour of too many people.'
An outing to the park provides some respite.
'They joined the people on the path as they strolled though Regent's
Park...A breeze gathered up leaves and pushed the crowds along. A
clump of clouds dragged across the sun. People pulled their clothes
tight around themselves. The mother adjusted her scarf so there were
no spaces for the wind to enter...She shoved her mittened hand back
into her coat pocket and watched the children as they drifted away.
After a moment she called, "Ernesto, come away from there,"
to her eldest boy. They had wandered towards an area where people
were playing a game with a ball and a piece of wood, and she did not
want there to be any trouble' (p10).
Sorrows of the Moon: A Journey Through London.
Coldstream Publishers, 2004.
'We all took a walk towards Regent's Park, passing the patina-coloured
dome of the planetarium before we reached York Gate, leading to the
outer circle of the park. The cream-coloured villas were intruded
upon by a modern-looking concrete building..."The Royal College
of Physicians". A lady wearing a sari emerged from the building.
The lawns in front of the terraces had been mown by gardeners, giving
the air a smell of freshly cut grass...Shireen chose a spot by a rose
garden for all of us to sit down and spread out a blanket on the grass.
She had also brought some snacks and savouries' (p.130).
A picnic has been arranged as an opportunity for some
'oriental-style matchmaking...Mariam, who had never met Hassan before,
cast furtive glances at him...Perhaps she knew that they were going
to be left alone in due course. And sure enough, Abbas and Shireen
announced that they wanted to go for a stroll around the park'.
The author volunteers to join them. 'We walked towards
the other side of the park. An armed policeman stood outside a villa
in the park holding a gun close to his chest. I could see from a certain
distance that an American flag was flying at an acute angle on top
of the entrance of the villa' (p.131). Enquiring a few days later,
Ahmed learns that the suitor had ruined his chances when he asked
Mariam how much she earned.
AINSWORTH, WILLIAM HARRISON
The Miser's Daughter. 1842.
Routledge & Sons, 1906.
'Carriages, coaches and chairs were setting down their occupants at
the entrance to the gardens, as Mr. Cripps and his companion drew
near. Never had Mrs. Nettleship seen a gayer thing - the dresses she
thought magnificent...The main walk was completely thronged, and presented
the appearance of the Mall at high tide, while all the boxes and alcoves
were filled with persons discussing bowls of punch, plates of ham,
chickens, salads, and other good things. The band in the orchestra
was excellent, and the lovely airs and symphonies added to the excitement
and spirit of the scene. Mr. Cripps created a great sensation. Many
persons thought they had seen him before, but no-one could tell who
What they had seen before was his finery: Cripps has
taken advantage of his master's absence to dress up in Mr. Villiers's
most magnificent suit of clothes for a visit to Marylebone Gardens.
His intention is to persuade Mrs. Nettleship, a wealthy widow, of
his desirability as a husband; leading her to a secluded spot he is
about to propose when his master appears. The valet begs him not to
spoil his chances; Villiers good-naturedly agrees, but adds, '"Get
you gone instantly: if I find you in the gardens in ten minutes from
this time, you shall have the caning you merit."' (p.181).
ANGERSTEIN, REINHOLD RÜCKER
R.R. Angersteins's Illustrated Travel Diary, 1753-1755.
Trans. T. and P. Berg. Science Museum, London, 2001.
'Marylebone pleasure gardens. Upon arrival in St. James's Park, we
alighted from the carriage and went to Marylebone to see the amusements
put on here for the last time this year, consisting of music, illuminations
and fireworks. The entrance fee was 1 shilling and 6 pence. Poles
carrying illuminated lanterns bordered the walk around the rotunda.
A large number of people were to be seen here, particularly young
women and girls, who tried to charm the men present with their clothes
and the way they walked. The music was nothing special, and the singing
consisted largely of English arias. This lasted until ten o'clock,
when a small fireworks display was set off, after which we went home'
The author, from a family of well-to-do ironmasters,
had left his native Sweden on what was ostensibly an 'extended duty
tour' to study mining. He arrived in London in September 1753 and
stayed for several months: not the most obvious place to learn about
mining but useful for perfecting his English. Writing two years earlier,
Tobias Smollett had said that
Marylebone Gardens were 'frequented by the best company in town' (The
Adventures of Peregrine Pickle), but one wonders about those female
May Fairy. A Poem. 1827.
'...Whirl to the West, you find the park
But turn'd a fuller Noah's ark...
There, Nash, thy plaster town aspires
Retreat of Moorfields and Black Friars.
The stucco fine, the gravel finer;
The lamps divine, the lake diviner.
The whole affair superbly pretty!
The whole the trader and his city.
There pant, uneasy for their life,
Fat pair, the alderman and his wife...'
The poem is preceded by an editorial comment: 'The
description of the present state of the Regent's Park is a specimen
of double-refined horror of the author's contact with cits...' The
text is taken from a cutting, Item A1X22, in the Heal Collection at
Camden Local Studies Centre. The title and date are hand-written at
the side of the poem; there is no indication of the source.
The Prospect From Primrose Hill. The Gentleman's
Magazine, June 1749.
'Stella, my Muse! whose beauty prompts the song,
To whom the poet and the lays belong...
To Primrose Hill lead on the flow'ry way,
And thence the matchless scenes around survey.
Mean while the Muse shall sing, with fond surprise,
The various prospects, as by turns they rise...
But where, entranc'd, shall I begin the lay?
Where Phoebus' dancing beams reflected play;
From Highgate's shining villas, tow'ring high,
That pierce the clouds, and seem to touch the sky;
Or where fair Hampstead's shaded beauties dawn,
Like Stella's bosom, thro' the op'ning lawn:
Where Kent and Surrey's pleasant hills arise,
Or spire-crown'd Harrow strikes my roving eyes;
Which way soe'ere I shift the pleasing view,
The charms, tho' equal, vary'd still, are new...'
Metropolitan Melodies No. 1 in The British Magazine,
January to June 1830.
'The Regent's Park, the Regent's Park!
Shall mountain, mead, and dale,
That long have been the chosen scene
Of each romantic tale
Shall these be still the favourite views
That bards and artists mark?
Or shall this rhyme become sublime,
And sing the Regent's Park?
On Grecian or Italian shores
Some seek the mouldering pile;
And others walk to make in chalk
A drawing of the Nile.
Yet here's a rare and rich canal
Whose source is far less dark;
And as for Rome, oh! Stay at home,
And paint the Regent's Park
I love the smaller circle's walk,
And, while the verdure shields
One's face from sun, to hunt for fun
In those Elysian fields.
To see the nursery-maid attract
Some coxcomb of a clerk;
To hear him praise her air, her stays,
And then the Regent's Park [...]'
A total of 15 verses making gentle fun of the Park. The source of
the Nile, alluded to in the second verse, was still a mystery.
ANONYMOUS (GARDENER'S CHRONICLE)
The Gardener's Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette.
15th August 1863.
'Once upon a time, a pedestrian, happening to find himself, some sultry
summer's day, in the neighbourhood of the Regent's Park, and desirous
of pleasant exercise while inhaling the cool and freshening breezes
which he might hope to find sweeping down from Primrose Hill, could
have strolled the whole length of the park from south to north
a goodly promenade under the shade of lines of trees of, we
suppose, some 40 years' growth. On either side of a gravel walk of
noble proportions, he would have found Horse Chestnuts, Limes, and
Elms in quadruple ranks, forming three umbrageous avenues, with seats
at intervals, the trees always furnishing a most refreshing shade,
and at certain seasons superadding a most delicious sweetness.'
All that was to change when the Commissioner of Works
appointed William Nesfield 'to design formal gardens and open up avenues
and vistas, presumably in an attempt to make the park more accessible
to the public' (Nina Gibbs James-Fowler, Landscape into Architecture.
University of London, 1997, p.105). There were gains as well as losses,
the anonymous author acknowledged. 'The change principally consists
in turning the most attractive parts of the Park into beautiful garden
walks...The large Chestnut trees which lined the path have been cut
down, and in their stead, the ground has been attractively laid out,
and filled with the choicest shrubs and flowers.'
But the promenade was sorely missed. 'Instead therefore
of sauntering down the leafy avenues, as of yore, the poor pedestrian,
while panting for a cooling breeze as SOL darts down his fiery rays,
is doomed to drag himself along the glaring expanse of hot and dusty
or shingly gravel...while as compensation for the loss of shade he
is permitted to refresh his eyes while gazing on beds of blazing flowers
and plantations of fancy shrubs, fenced in as if only a favoured few
were to be admitted to approach them' (p.771)
ANONYMOUS (A GENTLEMAN OF
The Tricks of the Town Laid Open OR A Companion
for Country Gentlemen. 1747. Reprinted in Tricks of the Town;
being Reprints of Three Eighteenth Century Tracts. Ralph Straus.
Chapman & Hall, 1927.
'Bowling is a game for diversion, recreation and exercise...and was
formerly a game for few but gentlemen, as that was; but as men and
things are generally grown worse and worse, so is this too, and strangely
degenerated from an innocent, inoffensive diversion to be a perfect
trade, a kind of set calling and occupation for cheats and sharpers...If
you please therefore we'll make a short trip to Marybone (for that's
the chief place of rendezvous) the bowling greens having there in
these latter years gained a kind of preheminence and reputation above
the rest, and thither most of the noblemen and gentlemen about the
town, that affect that sort of recreation, generally resort' (p.55).
The tract was written in the form of a series of letters
'from a Gentleman of London to his Friend in the Country, to disswade
him from coming to town...' This is from Letter X.
'I have seen a hundred at a time at least following
one block, and the greatest part of them, five to one, I'm confident,
rooks and sharpers...They bet nothing but gold here, so that a man
must have a good stock that pretends to embark with them...Marybone,
as I told you, is the chief place about town, but for all its greatness
and preheminence, it lies under shrewd suspicion of being guilty of
sharping and crimping as well as the rest' (p.55-56).
Domestic Occurrences in The Gentleman's Magazine, October
'Saturday Sept. 22. This being the day on which the autumnal equinox
occurred, some Welsh Bards, resident in London, assembled in congress
on Primrose Hill, according to ancient usage...The wonted ceremonies
were observed. A circle of stones formed, in the middle of which was
the Maen Gorsedd, or altar, on which a naked sword being placed, all
the Bards assisted to sheathe it. The ceremony was attended with a
proclamation, the substance of which was, that the Bards of the Island
of Britain (for such is their ancient title) were the heralds and
ministers of peace, and never bore a naked weapon in the presence
of anyone...The Bardic tradition, and several odes, were recited.'
The author was anxious to explain that 'The Bardic Institution of
the Ancient Britains, which is the same as the Druidic, has been from
the earliest times, through all ages, to the present day, retained
by the Welsh. Foreign writers, ancient and modern, have fallen into
a great mistake, in considering the Bards and Druids as different
orders; or, at least, as one subordinate to the other. This is very
The ceremonies concluded, arrangements were made for next year. 'The
subject proposed for an English Ode...is the resurrection of Rhitta
Gawr. Rhitta Gawr was a famous chief of the Ancient Britons, who exterminated
so many despots, that he made himself a robe of their beards' (p.957).
A curious choice, one might think, for the ministers of peace.
ANONYMOUS (THE PEOPLE'S PAPER)
Great National Demonstration Of Nearly One Million People in
The People's Paper. September 20, 1856.
'Such a demonstration as occurred on Monday last to welcome Mr. John
Frost and ratify the principles of Chartism, London has probably never
before witnessed. The mighty multitudes lining the streets, the vast
numbers forming the cortege, and congregated in every available part
along the extended line of the route, the dense mass cresting Primrose
Hill, waiting the arrival of the Procession...are certainly unparalleled
in the history of popular ovations, in this country at least.'
Chartism, which took its name from The People's Charter of 1838, was
a mass working class movement for political and social reform. Frost,
one of its leaders in Wales, had been transported to the penal colony
in Australia for his part in a demonstration that had ended in bloodshed.
When he returned 15 years later Chartism was a spent force, although
one would never suspect it from this account in its weekly newspaper.
'One of the grandest sights of the kind perhaps ever held, was when
the procession came in sight of Primrose Hill. We never shall forget
the spectacle now displayed: the crowd lost to sight in the distance
behind; the immense succession of banners; the boundless enthusiasm
of the multitude...and in front the great hill crested and covered
down half the descent, with a mass of people, over whom waved a solitary
dark blue flag on the highest point, and from whom, like distant thunder,
came a shout of greeting, as they caught sight of the head of the
advancing line...At length the enormous masses settled into comparative
quiet and Ernest Jones having been called by acclamation to preside,
mounted on the shoulders of two stalwart working men, and began to
address the crowd' (p.1).
(PUNCH OR THE LONDON CHARIVARI)
Punch or the London Charivari. Vol. XXIII, 1852. Punch Publications
'The Primrose-Hill Gold and Silver Mining Company...Abstract of Prospectus:
The great absence of Gold in England has long been felt to be a general
want. It is the object of this Company to supply that want. Public
rumour has long pointed to Primrose Hill as being a mine of hidden
wealth...Deposits have been found there of the richest description.
Pieces of copper as big as a penny have been repeatedly picked up;
and one old man recollects vividly, as if it were only yesterday,
his finding a morçeau of gold, which, when washed from the
earth matter that surrounded it, weighed not less than a sovereign.'
The Australian gold rush had started the previous year, with discoveries
in New South Wales and Victoria. The ensuing frenzy had inspired several
satirical pieces in the magazine.
'There has been a fortune lying at London's door, and for generations
we have been doing nothing but kick it away. The Regent's Canal, at
the foot of Primrose Hill, may also be a Pactolus that is actually
running with streams of Gold, and we do not even send a bucket to
help ourselves!...Future workings of Primrose Hill, however, may afford
yet more outstanding revelations of its internal treasures. Something
turns up every day to justify the most sanguine expectations that
an El Dorado has really been discovered' (p.111).
The jokes in Punch drew on a wide range of literature. Ovid (43BC-17AD)
had related the story of Pactolus, the golden river, in Book 11 of
his Metamorphoses (King Midas had been told that if he bathed
in the stream the disastrous power of turning everything into gold
would pass into its waters). Charles Dickens's Oliver Twist,
first published in the year the gold rush had started, introduced
the character of Mr. Micawber, who was constantly announcing his 'sanguine
expectations' that something would 'turn up' (and eventually emigrated
ANONYMOUS (A SEVEN YEARS
A Sabbath in London in The New Monthly Magazine
and Literary Journal. London, July to December, 1822. Republished
by Oliver Everett, Boston, 1822.
'I avoided the way to the lounging places, and strolled thoughtfully
on to the Regent's park, near which I lost myself in a wilderness
of cottages and villas that had sprung up like magic since my last
visit to London. One little piece of classic curiosity here struck
particularly my attention. It was a brass plate on a door, with the
inscription Digamma Cottage which was chosen I suppose to puzzle the
vulgar; while the [digamma symbol] placed above it, though comprehensible
to the learned, serves only to announce to the common eye, through
its resemblance to one of the characters of our alphabet [F], the
name of the celebrated owner. This information I obtained from a butcher's
boy who was passing, and who assured me that "the F stood for
Foscolo, the great Italian poet, and that Digamma was the Latin for
Die Game;" which proved what all the world said, that he was
a true patriot into the bargain!' (vol.4, p.505-506).
The digamma was the sixth letter of the original Greek Alphabet (unfortunately
I cannot reproduce it here); the cottage was named after an erudite
article that the poet had written on that subject. See
the Foscolo entry for a description
of life at the cottage, its extravagance and its nemesis.
(THE SOUTHERN MONTHLY MAGAZINE)
Mrs. Simpkinson's Party in The Southern Monthly Magazine,
September 1863. Reighton and Scales, Auckland, NZ.
'The Regent's Park...that grand resort of nursery-maids and Life Guardsmen
from the Albany-street barracks, who seem, in conjunction with the
wild beasts of the zoological, to have a monopoly of the park. On
week-days it is deserted enough. A few perambulators are wheeled up
under the shade, their contents being permitted to choke themselves
quietly, whilst their attendant flirts with a red-jacketed giant;
here and there may be seen some young ladies taking a morning's constitutional,
whilst if any of the male sex (Life-guards exempted) be seen about,
they are either taking a short cut through the park, or have come
there with a felonious design upon some of its frequenters' (p.345-346).
In the Introduction to their new magazine the publishers 'especially
welcomed contributions relating to this country,' but in the first
issue many of them concerned the Old Country. Acknowledging the eminence
of the English periodicals, they nevertheless trusted that 'the food
for the imagination which our magazine will supply' would prove acceptable.
'If you are fond of a walk, for the walk's sake, no better place certainly
can be found for it in town than the Regent's Park; we may presume
it was this reason which induced the two Misses Simpkinson, on the
morning following ...to enter its gates and turn down one of its most
unfrequented avenues. This time, however, it was not altogether deserted,
for some way up, lying lazily along a bench and smoking a cigar, was
a young man of some eight-and-twenty or thereabouts...Perhaps he had
found the air of the Regent's Park very reviving perhaps it
is no use conjecturing further, for as he sees the two young ladies
approaching, he starts to his feet, runs forward to meet them' (p.346).
ANSTEY, F. (pseudonym of Thomas
A Fallen Idol. 1886.
Reprinted in Humour and Fantasy, an omnibus edition of Anstey's
popular fiction. John Murray, 1931.
'It was a lovely spring afternoon, with a balmy warmth in the air.
The foliage generally was still sparse, and only the smaller trees
had burst into leaf; but here and there the curving chestnut branches
ended in a pale knob, and the bare outline of an elm was softened
by a delicate mist of green. They were outside the ring of the Botanic
Gardens before Campion told his story of defeat, and having begun,
he told it manfully, beginning with his threatened legacy and ended
with his Academy reverses...' (p.550).
The young portrait painter is convinced that the reverses,
financial and professional, will have ruined his marriage prospects,
but for Sybil perfect love casteth out worldly concerns.
'And so they walked on by the edge of the lake, where
they had met once before, and all around them seemed in harmony with
their own happiness. From the little suspension bridge came the lively
clatter of feet over its planks, and the merry shouts of the ragged
urchins sliding face downwards on its broad supports. Pleasure boats,
propelled by various experimental methods, were splashing over the
dark olive water, laced by amethyst ripples, and the waterfowl quacked
and screamed with the delight of outwitting one another in the hunt
for bread...For Campion, at least, Regent's Park was a paradise on
that unforgettable afternoon, and everything in it was eloquent of
the long happy summer that was at hand' (p.551).
ARLINCOURT, VICOMTE CHARLES
The Three Kingdoms. Richard Bentley, 1844.
The French viscount and man of letters set off on a tour of the UK
in 1843. Regent's Park, he decided, was his sort of place: 'a scene
of enchantment, where we might fancy ourselves surrounded by the quiet
charms of a smiling landscape, or in the delightful gardens of a magnificent
A fête champêtre
in the gardens of the Royal Botanic Society sent him into raptures:
'Many of the English nobility were assembled in its shrubberies and
parterres. This spot, filled with rare plants and curious shrubs,
resembled a gigantic vase of flowers; the atmosphere exhaling a delicious
fragrance re-echoed the harmonious sounds of military music. Here
and there immense tents were erected in which were exhibited all the
marvels of Flora. Not far from these were miniature lakes with pleasure
boats, shell grottos, mountains and temples, ball-rooms roofed with
canvass; then came flowers again, of all kinds in endless profusion;
until, under the brilliant influence of the season, we felt our own
hearts expand as if we too were growing young again' (p.25).
The Quakeress Bride in Tales and Legends
of the English Lakes. 1891. EP Publishing Ltd., 1976.
'He rejoiced when the approach of evening allowed him to escape, and
to accept the invitation of his friend, Charles Manson, to walk with
him in the Regent's Park. Charles, who was some years his junior...was
a youth of sanguine temperament - one of those who love to view things
on their brightest side.'
Edward Fletcher has decided that it's time he got
married, but has spent a sleepless night worrying about it. Charles,
who hasn't been told of this momentous decision, chatters on regardless.
'The fineness of the weather, the number and gay appearance
of the company in the Park...all tended to enliven him, and animated
his converse. Scarcely an equipage rolled by, or a horseman passed
them, without furnishing him with an occasion for an approving or
satirical remark. Edward, however, seemed not to heed his observations...He
passed in silence the various natural and architectural beauties of
the place, on which he was accustomed to dilate. The fine Doric portico,
and massive grandeur of the Colosseum, the splendid facade of Cumberland
Place, the innumerable curiosities of the Zoological Gardens, and
the rural loveliness of the wooded lake, were alike unheeded' (p.181).
The scene continues to p.184.
Evening and Night on Primrose Hill. The Gresham,
16th December 1922.
'Splendid to be on Primrose Hill
At evening when the world is still!
And City men, in bowler hats, return now day is done,
Rejoicing in embers of the sun.
The City men they come, they go,
Some quick, some slow.
Then silence; the twinkling lights are lit upon the hill,
The moon stands over Primrose Hill.'
Auden was known to have written a poem about Primrose
Hill while a pupil at Gresham's School in Norfolk, but it was long
thought to be lost. In September 2007 it was discovered by the school's
former Head of Arts, John Smart, in a copy of the school magazine;
though unsigned, it is generally accepted to be one of the poet's
earliest works. I am grateful to Mr. Smart for providing me with the
AUDUBON, JOHN JAMES
Audubon and His Journals. Maria Audubon. 2
Vols. J.C. Nimmo, 1898.
The artist and author of Birds of America was on a visit to Europe
to sell his pictures, but felt 'unhappy and dull' in London and pined
for home. On 22nd January 1828, after a bad night's sleep at his lodgings
in Great Russell Street, he 'dressed and walked off in the dark to
Regent's Park, led there because there are some objects in the shape
of trees, the grass is green, and from time to time the sweet notes
of a Blackbird strike my ear and revive my poor heart...As daylight
came a flock of Starlings swept over my head, and I watched their
motions on the green turf where they had alighted' (Vol.1, p.278).
Two days earlier he had visited the park and 'saw
a large flock of Wild Ducks passing over me; after a few minutes a
second flock passed over me…Two flocks of Wild Ducks, of upwards of twenty each!
Wonderful indeed!' (Vol.1, p.277). On 2nd February he visited the
Zoo. On 6th May, 'I walked early round the Regent's Park, and there
purchased four beautiful little Redpolls from a sailor, put them in
my pocket, and, when arrived at home, having examined them to satisfy
myself of their identity with the one found in our country, I gave
them all liberty to go. What pleasure they must have felt rising,
and going off over London; and I felt pleasure too, to know they had
the freedom I so earnestly desired' (Vol.1, p.298).
The Twelve Deaths of Christmas. William Collins,
'I have always loved Queen Mary's Rose Garden. Even at this time of
year and after the sleet and snow of the other day, there are still
brave blossoms clinging to the stems and proudly showing colour against
the dull grey of earth and sky' (p.64).
On closer inspection the dull grey of the earth turns
out to be 'an overlay of pulp and detritus paper handkerchiefs,
plastic coffee cartons' etc., including a metal ring-pull which the
narrator slips on to her finger and sharpens with a nail file. It
proves fatal to the drunken 'yobbo' who disturbs the peaceful scene
with a blaring transistor: 'blood makes an excellent fertilizer for
roses' (p.64-69). This is not the first of the twelve deaths: 'those
small bodies lifted out of Regent's Park Lake had marked the beginning
of the current bizarre series' (p.33).
The Graveyard Game. 2001. Tor Trade Paperback,
'The trees were still there, and so was Queen Mary's Garden; but its
lawns hadn't been mown in years, so most of the park was hip-high
weedy wilderness and young woodland. There were stories that tigers
had been released into it when the London Zoo was closed down, and
lurked in the tall grass even now, leaping out to eat the occasional
homeless person...One could still stand in the middle of the footbridge
and watch the swans gliding to and fro where there was open water,
and this is what Joseph and Lewis were doing as they waited for Victor'
The three men are cyborgs employed by Dr. Zeus Inc.,
a 24th century research and development firm that has invented a means
of time travel. As a result 'the past could now be looted to increase
corporate earnings', but at present Joseph is more concerned with
personal matters. What he learns is disconcerting, and his informant
is anxious to get away.
'He strode off in the direction of Chester Road. Joseph
stood staring after him, openmouthed. Finally he shivered and looked
around him at the abandoned pavilion and the high weeds, uncertain
whether he heard a low staccato growl, caught a glimpse of striped
flank. He set off for the Outer Circle, making his way along the overgrown
path in some haste' (p.171).
The Life of the World to Come. Tor/Tom Doherty
'Folding up his map, Chatterji peered at the red words on the screen.
Rutherford looked too. Their lips moved as they sounded them out.
"Reg - " "Regent's Park," said Rutherford...They
came round a corner and there was Regent's Park: acres of green and
sunlight and birdsong, visible in glimpses between the tour transports
that came and went. Staggering like cripples they approached it, uttering
little cries of eagerness. "It's Olde England at last,"
gasped Rutherford, holding out his arms as though to embrace it all.
Before him an industrial mower whirred busily along, shearing the
grass to one precise height the full length of a long stripe exactly
one metre wide. "Primeval Albion. The green and pleasant land"'
Three time-travelling agents of Dr. Zeus Inc. have
arrived in the London of 2350 with the task of creating a new kind
of Immortal. Feeling the need for 'a bit more inspiration,' Rutherford
has suggested that they emulate the sages of the past, who would go
off on 'walking tours...stride out through the hedgerows, and meadows
and animals and things. It'd give them lots of ideas' (p.154).
'Haltingly they moved along the sandy path...that
took them to a real bridge over a real lake and beyond. They stood
spellbound on the bridge a while, watching the waterfowl that paddled
and fought. Rutherford quoted reverently from The Wind in the Willows.
Drawn by the spell of wilderness they went on, and presently found
a snack bar on the greensward. It wasn't exactly a cosy country tavern;
it featured various treats manufactured from algae, and four varieties
of distilled water...There was only a chilly outdoor seating area
enclosed behind Plexiglas panels in which to sit, no snug nook beside
a sea-coal fire. Imagination plastered over disappointment, however,
and they enjoyed their meal' (p.173-174).
Day One. 1998. Quartet Books, 1999.
'Mattie in the Regent's Park walked slowly from the bandstand sorting
all the notes and sketches that he'd taken in his head to put down
later. There had to be enough room underneath the floor to put to
use and that five-lever lock there on the access hatch was easily
dealt with. The little signboard had those brackets, like for slotting
in the odds at the races. So they must put the performances up there,
but if that only happened on the day he'd have to watch and see how
regular it was and who was playing. If he got the St John's Ambulance
Brigade band by mistake or schoolkids the publicity could backfire'
On the 2nd April 1982 a variety of people
are going about their lawful and unlawful business. Mattie is a fictional
character, but there was a real IRA plot to blow up the bandstand:
it went into effect three months later, on the 20th July, killing
seven military bandsmen. (See the Hames
entry for a factual account of the aftermath of the explosion.) Mattie
turns out to have an additional reason for visiting the park.
'He drew out from his parka pocket his expensive little
green pair of binoculars and trained them on the island in the lake...It
was nesting. On the big trees there. No sign of the other one. He
watched, watched and was suddenly rewarded. The great S neck reared,
the spear bill skyward, and the great grey wings and reedlike legs
unfolded, and with a beat at first heavy but soon easier, near silent,
the great ungainly beauty of a bird took flight. Mattie ogling a heron'
Another character, walking across the park, encounters
two rollerskaters showing off their skills in the Broad Walk (p.150),
and has a confrontation with a squirrel (p.157-158).
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BARRETT BROWNING, ELIZABETH
Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett – The Courtship
Correspondence 1845-1846. Ed. Daniel Karlin.
Clarendon Press, 1989.
The Barrett family lived in Wimpole Street near the park, and a visit
accompanied by her sister Arabel was a welcome
treat for the semi-invalid Elizabeth. Her father's disapproval meant
that the courtship had to be conducted in secret.
In a letter of 29th May 1846 she wrote to Robert:
'Dearest, I committed a felony for your sake today - so never doubt
that I love you. We went to the Botanical Gardens, where it is unlawful
to gather flowers, and I was determined to gather this for you, and
the gardeners were here and there
they seemed everywhere
but I stooped down and gathered it - Is it felony, or burglary on
green leaves - or what is the name of the crime? Would the people
give me up to the police I wonder? Transie de peur [overcome with
fear], I was
listening to Arabel's declaration that all gathering
of flowers in those gardens is highly improper, and I made her finish
her discourse, standing between me and the gardeners
that I was the better for it.
How pretty those gardens are, by the way! We went
to the summerhouse and sate there, and then on, to the empty seats
where the band sit on your high days. What I enjoy most to see,
is the green under the green…where the grass
stretches under trees. That is something unspeakable to me,
in the beauty of it. And to stand under a tree and feel the green
shadow of the tree! I never knew before the difference of the sensation
of a green shadow and brown one – I seemed to feel that green shadow
through and through me, till it went out at the soles of my feet and
mixed with the other green below' (p.256).
Earlier, on 11th May, she had written: 'Look what
is inside of this letter – look! I gathered it for you today while
I was walking in the Regent’s Park. Are you surprised? Arabel
and Flush [her dog] and I were in the carriage and the sun
was shining with that green light through the trees, as if he carried
down with him the very essence of the leaves, to the ground…and
I wished so much to walk through a half-open gate along a shaded path,
that we stopped the carriage and got out and walked, and I put both
my feet on the grass…which was the strangest feeling!...and gathered this
laburnum for you. It hung quite high up on the tree, the little blossom
did, and Arabel said that certainly I could
not reach it – but you see! It is a too generous return for all your
flowers: or, to speak seriously, a proof that I thought of you and
wished for you – which was natural to do, for I never enjoyed any
of my excursions as I did today’s – the standing under the trees and on the grass,
was so delightful. It was like a bit of that Dreamland which is your
special dominion…And all those strange people (flitting) moving
about like phantoms of life – how wonderful it looked to me!...' (p.248-9).
Fortunately for other visitors these acts of vandalism
ceased a few months later when the couple married and fled to Italy.
In The Great Folk of Old Marylebone (1904)
Margaret Baillie-Saunders says that after receiving a number of letters
from Robert urging marriage and elopement, Elizabeth drove to the
park accompanied by her sister Arabel, 'alighted
and walked on the grass and leaned against a tree, and looked long
at the leaves and the sky, thinking. Then she went home and wrote
off "Yes!"' (p.49). A.D. Webster (The Regent's Park and
Primrose Hill, 1911) adds that 'Mrs. Baillie-Saunders told me
that the tree was one of those growing in the park near York Gate,
though the particular specimen is not known' (p.42).
See the Forster
entry for a fictional account of these excursions (Lady's Maid),
and the Woolf entry for a fictional account of what the dog
thought of them (Flush).
The Man Who Was There. Chatto
& Windus, 1969.
'On a November night, say, the park stilled by autumnal mist and the
old-fashioned street lights like so many watery yellow moons, the
faintly seen columned façade acquires a haunting beauty…' (p.23).
Michael Locke is on his way to the Canfield Foundation,
a cultural institution that provides a cover for his intelligence
work abroad. Like James Bond's Naval Intelligence HQ it is situated
in the park: various Bond-like escapades follow. Another park description
Memoirs of Karoline Bauer. Translated
from the German. Remington & Co., 1885. 4 vols.
'It was growing dark when we arrived in Regent's Park, after having
wound our way through endless gloomy, monotonous streets. I examined
with curiosity the cottages, villas, and proud houses upon the magnificent
terraces that were already partly lighted up, half-hidden under glorious
old trees and blooming shrubberies. In the pond on the large grass
lawn the first stars were glittering. Nightingales were singing from
the bushes...At last we stopped in front of an iron railing, and through
the trees we saw a charming little villa, brightly lit up' (vol.2,
The German actress was recalling her arrival on a
spring evening in 1829 at the hideaway where she would await her marriage
to Prince Leopold of Coburg (later King Leopold I of the Belgians).
'Our little villa was charming and neat as a jewel-casket, and nicely
and cosily furnished with true English comfort...To this must be added
a large parklike garden, with bright-green, velvet-soft turf, and
a profusion of flowers...But how quiet it was all around in this remote
part of Regent's Park! One saw indeed a few similar gardens and villas,
but only rarely a solitary pedestrian or a silent park labourer' (vol.2,
Accustomed to the bright lights, she soon begins to
fret in this 'green nook.' There are occasional diversions when she
is taken to the Zoo (vol.2, p.124) or goes for a drive around the
park, where she is struck by 'the great number of children... They
sported about on the fresh green lawn with their pretty little ponies
and goat-carriages, whilst the fashionable world, in the most elegant
toilettes, drove or rode on horseback in the "ring" or the
surrounding roads' (vol.2, p.123). Slowly it dawns on her that while
the prince is happy to avail himself of her charms he isn't serious
about the betrothal, and the villa ends up becoming 'a charming golden
A.D. Ponsonby's A Prisoner in Regent's Park
(Chapman & Hall, 1961) puts the episode in context, and provides
a smoother translation than the original (uncredited) version.
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Violet, Or, The Danseuse: A Portraiture of Human
Passions and Character. Henry Colburn, 1836.
(The novel was published anonymously and there have been several suggestions
as to the author. The British Library attributes it to Beasley, forename
'D'Arcy had a house in one of the terraces facing the Regent's Park:
he had taken care to have it prettily furnished; and the sunny aspect
and enlivening green expanse on which the eye could dwell from the
windows, rendered it a cheerful abode, and one in which Violet would
have lived almost contentedly if - but there are always ifs' (vol.
The 'if' here is that Violet, a dancer at the Opera,
has been seduced by 'a rising star among the host of modern politicians'
and now finds herself in the role of mistress. Unhappiness about her
fall from grace increases with the discovery that D'Arcy is pursuing
'The sun was shining brightly over the green surface
of the Regent's Park. It was a charming afternoon in the month of
June. Violet heard the rattle of carriages, and watched the britschkas
of the London ladies as they rolled on to the park. Their appearance,
as they dashed along, in their brilliant attire and their open vehicles,
conveyed an idea of gaiety, and of minds at ease, which the reality,
if known, might have failed in proving. Violet gave a sigh, and said
inwardly, "All those people cannot be happy, but they are not
as wretched as I am"' (p.215-216). A description of the park
at twilight on pages 231-232.
Serena 1 from Echo's
Bones, 1935, reprinted in Collected Poems in English and French.
John Calder, 1977.
'without the grand old British Museum
Thales and the Aretino
on the bosom of the Regent's Park the phlox
crackles under the thunder
scarlet beauty in our world dead fish adrift...
I find me taking the Crystal Palace
for the Blessed Isles from Primrose Hill
alas I must be that kind of person
hence in Kenwood who shall find me
my breath held in the midst of thickets
none but the most quarried lovers'
The author of Waiting for Godot lived in London for
several years in the 1930's, 'scraping a living by occasional reviews
and half-heartedly looking for work' (Grove Companion to Samuel
Lawrence E. Harvey, in Samuel Beckett: Poet and
Critic (Princeton University Press, 1970), comments that 'Serena
1 envisions the world as a cruel and painful place... "Quarried"
like animals in the forest, the lovers become the object of a murderous
hunt...It is true that the phlox in Regent's Park is "scarlet
beauty", but it crackles under the assault of the thunder and
exists in a world likened to a "dead fish adrift." The narrator...ruefully
admits, "Alas, I must be that kind of person"...the inveterate
idealist, sensitive to beauty, desiring, needing, demanding more of
perfection than earth has to offer...' (p.86-87).
The Most Intimate Relationship Of The Heart – Modern
Sufi Poetry. PARAS, 1992.
'…the fluorescent pinks
of geraniums dazzling the eyes,
the greens of the trees
looking faded and jaded…' (p.31).
The author has informed me that, although not identified
in the text, the park was the inspiration for this poem and others
describing spring (p.29) and autumn (p.35).
Forty Years On. 1968. Reprinted
in Alan Bennett: Plays One. Faber & Faber, 1991.
'Act 1...LECTERN: March, 1913. Lady Ottoline Morrell walks with Bertrand
Russell on Primrose Hill.
Sometime in that year of 1913 I walked with Bertie Russell through
Regent's Park to Primrose Hill. It was on this hill that the Prince
Regent had once thought to put that Pavilion he eventually built at
Brighton, and it was here that Wells had pictured the final apocalyptic
scene of The War of the Worlds. But it was very peaceful when we walked
there: sheep and lambs grazed among the trees and in the distance
the solid splendour of St Paul's rose above the smoke of the city'
This is an excerpt from a play within the play, first performed at
the Apollo Theatre, London on 31 October 1968. Replying to a query
about the origin of this scene, the author said, 'I don't have a reference
for Primrose Hill and Ottoline Morrell but I tend to be quite timid
about inventing things so it may well be that there is one somewhere
but I've forgotten it' (letter to me, January 2009).
Writing Home. 1994. Faber& Faber, 1998.
'20 May . In the evening I often bike round Regent's Park. Tonight
I am mooning along the Inner Circle past Bedford College when a distraught
woman dashes out into the road and nearly fetches me off. She and
her friend have found themselves locked in and had to climb over the
gate. Her friend, Marie, hasn't made it. And there, laid along the
top of one of the five-barred gates, is a plump sixty-year-old lady,
one leg either side of the gate, bawling to her friend to hurry up.
I climb over and try to assess the situation. "Good," says
Marie, her cheek pressed against the gate. "I can see you're
of a scientific turn of mind." Her faith in science rapidly evaporates
when I try moving her leg, and she yells with pain.
It's at this point that we become aware of an audience.
Three Chinese in the regulation rig-out of embassy officials are watching
the pantomime, smiling politely and clearly not sure if this is a
pastime or a predicament. Eventually they are persuaded to line up
on the other side of the gate. I hoist Marie over and she rolls comfortably
down into their outstretched arms. Much smiling and bowing. Marie's
friend says, "All's well that ends well." Marie says she's
laddered both her stockings, and I cycle on my way' (p.175-176).
'23 June. As A. and I are walking in Regent's Park
this evening we stop to watch a baseball game. A police car comes
smoothly along the path, keeping parallel with a young black guy who
is walking over the grass. The police keep calling to him from the
car, but he ignores them and eventually stops right in the middle
of the game. A policeman gets out and begins questioning him, but
warily and from a distance. The baseball players, unfortunately for
the suspect, are all white and they mostly pretend it isn't happening...Only
a few unabashedly listen. Someone shouts, "What's he done?"
"I want you to bear witness," the man shouts. "You
all bear witness."
For his part the policeman ignores the players, sensing
that he is at a disadvantage and that the middle of the game is some
kind of sanctuary and too public for the law's liking...Meanwhile
reinforcements are on the way, and, as a police van speeds over the
grass, another policeman gets out of the car and the two of them tackle
the suspect. Still one watched, nobody saying anything, those nearest
the struggle moving away, their embarrassment now acute. Eventually
the police bundle the man into a van and he is driven off...'(p.177-178).
A Common Assault. London Review of Books, Vol.
26, No.21, 4th November 2004.
'I was walking in Regent's Park when another stroller stopped me and
(with no sign of a cigarette) asked me for a light…' It was one of
the 'rare occasions when I was unambiguously approached' but 'failed
to divine the true nature of the encounter until it was too late';
a failing ruefully ascribed to 'an innocence I retained long after
it could be seen as becoming' (p.28). (This was not the occasion of
the assault, which happened elsewhere.)
In another article in the London Review of Books (6th
January 2005) the author complained that there was 'no designated
cycling path through the park, nothing, only a vigilant police force
ready to fine any biker they can catch. Why? Is this the case in all
the Royal Parks or in all the parks in London? No cycling. Dogs shit
there. People fuck there. They even play football and put on plays.
But no cycling.'
The articles were reprinted in Untold Stories
(Faber&Faber, 2005) on pages 572 (Assault) and 354 (Cycling).
BERKELEY, GRANTLEY FITZHARDINGE
Reminiscences of a Huntsman. Edward
'Among the most extraordinary scenes a hunting-field in so populous
a vicinity afforded...was when a fine stag, covered with foam and
stained with blood, entered London by the Regent's Park and ran the
streets to No.1, I think, Montague Street, Russell Square. My brother...who
whipped in with me had stopped the hounds outside the Regent's Park,
all but two couple, who went at the flanks of the deer pell-mell into
the town. I followed them, of course, to see the termination....The
stag was obliged to stop, and turn to bay, backing his haunches against
the street door of No.1, and looking wildly over into the area, into
which I could see he had a mind to jump' (p.46).
A crowd had gathered and the angry house-owner threatened
to call a beadle if it was not taken away. The stag was finally secured:
there is no indication of its fate but it may have been taken home,
to be hunted again. A report in The Times (25-3-1842) described
a hunt by the Royal staghounds that featured 'the celebrated deer
Hampton, which has afforded some most extraordinary sport during the
present and past seasons.' Starting from Ickenham, the stag had eventually
'crossed over Primrose-hill, into the Regent's-park, skirting Hampstead
on the left, and was taken, after one of the most brilliant runs on
record, in the area, where it had fled, of No.5, Chester-terrace,
In his introduction Herbert Maxwell explains that Berkeley, born in
1800, 'lived in an age when, in the hunting field, as in many other
scenes of activity, the old order was changing, yielding place to
new. His father [the fifth Earl of Berkeley] had hunted a tract of
country extending from Kensington Gardens in the east to the suburbs
of Bristol in the west' (p.viii). Now the spreading metropolis was
encroaching on the old hunting grounds, and incidents such as this
- there were confrontations with farmers and nurserymen in other areas
- finally convinced Berkeley that they were no longer suitable for
Just Biggins: My Story. John Blake, 2008.
'The Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park is one of the great joys of
an English summer, but from the company's point of view it can take
some getting used to... It has the most wonderful gem of a location,
tucked away within the inner circle of that beautiful royal park.
But it also offers every hazard known to an actor. Flocks of birds
fly overhead, or land in front of you. Ducks waddle across the stage.
At matinees tourists sometimes seem to miss the fact that the ordinary
rules still apply. So they will send children on to the stage for
photos in the middle of the action' (p.178-179).
The author, a showbiz stalwart for forty years, came to national attention
when he was crowned King of the Jungle on the TV show I'm a Celebrity...Get
Me Out of Here!
'On stage rain can play havoc with a performance...In a scene in that
year's Midsummer [Night's Dream], I was prostrate at Kate O'Mara's
feet when the rain started to fall. It began slowly. A single drop
hit one of her surgically enhanced bosoms. Ping. I tried to ignore
it. Then a drip hit her right tit. Pong. Then two drops. Ping, ping.
And then the drops began to land on each tit in turn...The audience
couldn't have heard it. But I couldn't hear anything else. So my shoulders
started to shake as I started to laugh. Fortunately for me, Kate was
having to do all the talking. She made her big speech...But soon I
knew my lines would come. Could I spit them out through the laughs?'
(p.180-181). Just in time the drops turn into a downpour, bringing
the performance to an end.
Later that year another fit of giggles threatens a royal occasion.
On a backstage tour after a performance of The Dark Lady the Queen
is fascinated by a minor item of costume: '"Look, Philip,"
she exclaimed, turning to where her husband was jammed in the doorway.
"Puck's shoe." And then I really did lose it' (p.184-185).
Macleod of Dare. Bernhard Tauchnitz, 1878.
'A small, quaint, old-fashioned house in South Bank, Regent's Park;
two maidens in white in the open veranda; around them the abundant
foliage of June, unruffled by any breeze; and down at the foot of
the steep garden the still canal, its surface mirroring the soft translucent
greens of the trees and bushes above, and the gaudier colours of a
barge lying moored on the northern side' (vol. 1, p.98).
The actress Gerty White and her sister are awaiting
a visit from Sir Keith Macleod, heir to Castle Dare 'on the high and
rocky coast of Mull'. Smitten with Gerty's charms, he is still coming
to terms with her way of life. 'It was a pretty sort of idleness.
It seemed to harmonize with this still, beautiful summer day, and
the soft green foliage around, and the still air that was sweet with
the scent of the flowers of the lime-trees' (vol.1, p.110).
Manly and sensitive but short on small talk, he is
embarrassed to be 'talking to an actress about her profession, and
not having a word of compliment to say. Instead, he praised the noble
elms and chestnuts of the Park, the broad white lake, the flowers,
the avenues. He was greatly interested by the whizzing by overhead
of a brace of duck' (p.112). The maidens have suggested a visit to
the Zoo, where the snakes give him a nasty turn (vol.1, p.117-122).
BLAKE, NICHOLAS (pseudonym of
the poet Cecil Day-Lewis)
Minute For Murder. The Crime Club/Collins,
'[He walked] through the July sunshine round the curve of the noble
crescent at the far end of which stood the Lakes' house. The stucco
was discoloured and peeling, the magnificent row of houses was
gapped in two places where bombs had fallen; but its grandeur had
not departed from the place' (p.188).
Nigel Strangeways, temporary
civil servant and amateur sleuth, has come to interrogate the Lakes
about a mysterious poisoning at the wartime 'Ministry of Morale'.
'From the top of the house there was a magnificent view over Regent's
Park' (p.194). Some days later he is invited there for supper; after
a lengthy discussion the murderer is finally unmasked (p.216-240).
Poems and Prophecies. Everyman/Dent, 1950.
From Jerusalem, Chapter
2 (To the Jews), early 19th century:
'The fields from Islington to Marybone,
To Primrose Hill and Saint John's Wood,
Were builded over with pillars of gold,
And there Jerusalem's pillars stood.
Her Little-ones ran on the fields,
The Lamb of God among them seen...
The Jew's-harp-house & the Green Man,
The Ponds where Boys to bathe delight,
The fields of Cows by Willan's farm,
Shine in Jerusalem's pleasant sight.' (p.190)
The Jew's Harp inn was a popular rendezvous in Marylebone
Park. It stood next to Willan's Farm, where
Leigh Hunt remembered having eaten
'creams and other country messes' in the days before 'the dear old
fields' were redeveloped as Regent's Park.
Blake's most famous verse, 'And did those feet in
ancient time', will not be found in this poem, whose subject is the
fallen condition of Man and the forces that will redeem him. London
is imagined as the historical Jerusalem.
Henry Crabb Robinson, in
his Diaries, Reminiscences and Correspondence (ed T. Sadler,
Macmillan, 2 vols, 1872), recalls Blake telling him, 'I have conversed
with the spiritual Sun. I saw him on Primrose Hill. He said, "Do
you take me for the Greek Apollo? "No", I said, "that
(pointing to the sky) is the Greek Apollo. He is Satan"'(Vol
2, page 9, Aphorisms from Blake).
Working With Angels, Fairies and Nature Spirits.
Judy Piatkus, 1998.
'One spring morning I felt called by her at dawn to Primrose Hill...It
was the morning of a full moon and I was up on the hill before the
sun rose, sitting in meditation, waiting to sense whatever it was
that she was going to show me. As the dawn crept into the sky I could
feel the usual fresh flow of vital energy that begins to move across
the landscape as the first light of the sun begins to turn the darkness
grey, then white and finally clear. Then I began to feel the angel
doing something of her own' (p.36).
The author assures us in his introduction that 'the
angel world does exist. It is part of the fabric of nature and the
universe.' The angel of London has been showing him 'various natural
energy centres' around the city. Regent's Park was a disappointment:
'she did not like the famous Nash Regency Terraces, partly because
they blocked the natural flow of earth energy.' Fortunately Primrose
Hill came up trumps.
'It was as if [the angel] were lifting up and expanding
the whole of her energy field to draw in as much of the dawn's vital
energy as possible...Then I began to feel the flow that was coming
through her, as enormous floods of vitality were pushed through the
city and directed into all the natural life that inhabited it. The
life-force flowed into trees, shrubs and plants everywhere...The movement
through her energy body lasted perhaps twenty minutes and then gently
subsided. "Magnificent," I communicated. "You do this
at every full moon?" "No, no, sweet boy," came the
reply. "I do it every morning"' (p.36-37).
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The doyenne of Regent's Park writers lived at 2 Clarence Terrace from
1935 to 1951.
The Death of the Heart. 1938. Penguin, 1962.
'The islands stood in frozen woody brown dusk; it was now between
three and four in the afternoon. A sort of breath from the clay, from
the city outside the park, condensing, made the air unclear; through
this, the trees round the lake soared rigidly up. Bronze sky of January
bound the sky and the landscape; the sky was shut to the sun – but
the swans, the rims of the ice, the pallid withdrawn Regency terraces
had an unusual burnish, as though cold were light' (p.7).
A slow walk around the Boating Lake takes up the whole
of Chapter 1. The principal characters live at '2 Windsor Terrace'
which has been identified as the author's own home in Clarence Terrace.
House and park appear frequently throughout the book.
London, 1940. Reprinted in The Mulberry
Tree - Writings of Elizabeth Bowen. Ed. Hermione Lee. Virago,
'I had always placed this park among the most
civilized scenes on earth; the Nash pillars look as brittle as sugar
– actually, which is wonderful, they have not cracked; though several
of the terraces are gutted…Just inside the
gates an unexploded bomb makes a boil in the tarmac road… The RE "suicide
squad" detonate, somewhere in the hinterland of the park, bombs
dug up elsewhere…' (p.24-25).
Air raids in World War Two had caused the park to
be closed because of time bombs; further damage to the houses meant
that after the war the author's Clarence Terrace home would be demolished
and rebuilt. (See the Ritchie
entry for a description of the house and park in wartime.) The novelist
Anthony Powell recalled going
there for a snack after an unsatisfactory dinner at her neighbour
Cyril Connolly’s (this was before the demolition).
She 'rarely wore spectacles, and perhaps did not see very clearly
without them', and never seemed to see the cockroaches in the kitchen
that neighbours complained of in other Regent’s Park houses. The kitchen floor was 'writhing' with
them (Faces In My Time, p.27)
The Heat of the Day. 1948. Vintage, 1998.
Chapter One describes a Sunday concert at the Open Air Theatre in
September, 1942: 'from where it was being played at the base of this
muffled hollow the music could not travel far through the park - but
hints of it that did escape were disturbing: from the mound, from
the rose gardens, from the walks round the lakes people were being
slowly drawn to the theatre by the sensation that they were missing
What Louie is missing is her soldier husband: Regent's
Park is where she goes to find male company, and the concert is as
good a place as any. Later, as winter approaches, the opportunities
lessen: 'from the Sunday park the illusory sensuous veil was stripped
- one saw clean through the thickets into empty distance; the ilexy
love mound rode in a waste of lawn like a ship abandoned; strangers
gave one another unmeeting looks. Habituated lovers made the park
tour briskly and arm-in-arm; along black paths and round more sheltered
seats she overheard chatter of that existence which was the secret
of everybody except her...Yes, it was in the disenchanted park that
London's indifference to Louie stood out most stark and bare' (p.146).
The Collected Stories of Elizabeth Bowen. Penguin
The Man of the Family. Reprinted from The
Cat Jumps (Gollancz, 1934).
'Pretty Rachel sat smiling into the bowl of glass fruit, on which
green sunshine, reflected back from the Regent's Park trees, twinkled
and slid. The trees were in full June light, the dining-room in shadow
...William always lunched at his Aunt Luella's on his way across London.
The Regent's Park house was his pied-à-terre' (p.441).
After lunch Rachel insists on being escorted:
'I think Regent's Park's so shady; one never knows.
Last time I got spoken to by a boy on a scooter, and today I was followed
by a repulsive Airedale. We parted out on the doorstep; it's probably
waiting still' (p.445).
Tears, Idle Tears. Reprinted from Look At
All Those Roses (Gollancz, 1941).
'Frederick burst into tears in the middle of Regent's Park. His mother,
seeing what was about to happen, had cried: "Frederick, you can't
in the middle of Regent's Park!" Really, this was a corner,
one of those lively corners just inside a big gate, where two walks
meet and a bridge starts across the pretty, winding lake...May sun
spattered gold through the breezy trees; the tulips though falling
open were still gay; three girls in a long boat shot under the bridge'
Frederick's mother, an emotionally frozen war widow,
walks off, forbidding him to join her 'till you've stopped that noise.'
The miserable seven-year-old finds solace in a duck that 'sat folded
into a sleek white cypher on the green, grassy margin of the lake.'
As he approaches, the duck enters the lake; 'its lovely white-china
body balanced on the green glass water as it propelled itself gently
round the curve of the bank. Frederick saw with a passion of observation
its shadowy webbed feet lazily striking out' (p.485).
I Hear You Say So. Reprinted from New Writing
and Daylight, September 1945.
'A week after V.E. Day, the nightingale came to London un-noticed
until it began to sing...It was now about half past ten; the rose
garden in the centre of the park had been closed and locked, leaving
the first roses to smoulder out unseen as dark fell...The waterbirds
one by one were drawing in to settle among the dock leaves round the
islands. The water, which had dulled as the sky faded, now began to
shed, as though it were phosphorescent, ghostly light of its own'
It has an unsettling effect on the park's visitors:
'Unseen rays of night pinpointed the nightingale,
in the concentrated and somehow burning blackness of its unknown tree.
It sang into incredulity like the first nightingale in Eden...It sang
from a planet, beyond experience, drawing out longings, sending them
back again frozen, piercing, not again to be borne' (p.753).
BOYLE, JOHN, EARL OF CORK
History of the Pumpkin Family in The World:
A Periodical Paper, No.68, April 18, 1754. Reprinted in Vol.
24 of The British Essayists. Ed. James Ferguson. J. Richardson
& Co., 1823.
'Truncheon, a deep-sighted man, chose Primrose-hill for the field
of battle, and swords for the weapons of defence. To avoid suspicion,
and to prevent discovery, they were to walk together from Piccadilly,
where we then lived, to the summit of Primrose-hill. Truncheon's scheme
took effect. Mr. Muzzy was much fatigued and out of breath with the
walk. However, he drew his sword; and, as he assured me himself, began
to attack his cousin Truncheon with a valour which must have charmed
my grandfather, had he been present' (p.10-11).
Mary Muzzy is recounting some 'anecdotes of my family,'
this one concerning her husband, who was 'very fat and extremely lethargic...Having
received many taunts and reproaches from my grandfather...he resolved
to challenge his own cousin-german by the mother's side, Brigadier
'The brigadier went back; Mr. Muzzy pursued; but not
having his adversary's alacrity, he stopped a little to take breath.
He stopped, alas, too long!: his lethargy came on with more than ordinary
violence: he first dozed, as he stood upon his legs, and then beginning
to nod forwards, dropped by degrees upon his face in a most profound
sleep. Truncheon, base man! took this opportunity to wound my husband
as he lay snoring on the ground; and he had the cunning to direct
his stab in such a manner as to make it supposed that Mr. Muzzy had
fled, and in his flight had received a wound in the most ignominious
part of his body. Mr. Muzzy, wounded as he was (the blood trickling
from him in great abundance), might probably have slept upon that
spot for many hours, had he not been awakened by the cruel bites of
a mastiff' (p.11).
The Last Hope of Girls. Review, 2001.
'They went to Regent's Park the following weekend, meeting in the
rose garden. "I used to live in that house there," Martha
pointed to a large, tall building standing in the central curve of
a pale crescent, overlooking the park, "until I was three or
four." The front door was black, as were the doors of all the
houses. A broad railing framed a strip of garden separating the house
from the main road. On the grass two girls in dark blue coats with
velvet collars were playing. "My father still lives there. We
used to be very big on ducks," she said. "Some of the ducks
really made me laugh. I used to like these funny black and white ones
with bizarre teddy-boy-style orangy-red quiffs"' (p.161).
Martha and 'the new man in her life' are still getting to know each
other, exchanging memories of childhood.
'They followed a softly curved path through the rose beds, stopping
to look at the names of the different blooms, which were displayed
on small rectangular green notices.
"They've got some mighty odd names, some of those roses."
"Starlight." he read out. "Splendid Renate. Noblesse.
"I learned to read here, pretty much. People like Gina Lollobrigida
I really thought were just roses, for years"' (p.162).
Martha returns later to visit to her childhood home in the 'crescent
of large houses, with their haughty Nash columns and rows of high
windows' (p.206-208). The ducks are featured again on pages 66 and
top of page
The Ungreen Park - The
Diary of a Keeper. Bodley Head, 1978.
'Entering the park makes me gasp with pleasure. Everywhere is so green
and time has blissfully stood still. Tourists are strolling around
sedately and there is an air of calm about everyone's movements. My
pace slows, all my anger and aggression gone' (p.9-10).
Escaping briefly from her office job to find some
solitude in Regent's Park, the author is inspired to seek work 'close
to nature'. This leads to a job with Islington Council, in much scruffier
surroundings than these, and we hear no more of 'the pink and red
England's Hour. Macmillan, 1941.
'On the last day of May  Martin and I walk in Regent's Park
amid shaded mauve pansies and pale pink lupins. "It's just like
Sunday," I remark to him, for the park is so deserted that it
suggests a hot summer holiday when everyone who possesses something
on wheels has gone into the country. Since most of the iron railings
have now been removed from London's parks and squares for conversion
into armaments, Regent's Park resembles a vast green field, very fresh
and vivid. A few elderly people are sitting in chairs, a few young
ones sailing boats with striped sails. Again, as in the New Forest,
comes the strange illusion of peace, due largely to the beauty of
the summer and its scents and sounds. We feel as though we are watching
the funeral of European civilizations elegantly conducted. Just so
the Roman Empire must have appeared before the barbarians marched
The author of Testament of Youth had become a pacifist
after her experience in World War One as a nurse at a field hospital
in France. In September 1939 she had started publishing Letters to
Peace Lovers, a journal that expressed her views on the present war.
'Recollections come back to me of early morning walks
taken after the "All Clear" had ended one more nightly onslaught;
of waking up, fully dressed, from a comfortless doze in the basement
to stroll through the chill dawn loveliness of Regent's Park while
incendiary bombs still smouldered on adjacent rooftops. I walked there
in the early morning of Sunday, September 15th, when the newspapers
reported that the Nazi forces were already massed for invasion' (p.246).
Eternity is Temporary. Portobello Books, 2006.
'When they reached Primrose Hill, Evan could feel the parched earth
crumbling under his feet. Pushing the chair up the steep slope, however,
was surprisingly easy. He felt a pleasant glow radiating from the
small of his back...The path to the summit was lined with cast-iron
Victorian street lamps, each one individually numbered in sequence.
"I'm surprised they're not named after famous battles,"
In the scorching summer of 1976, two care assistants
are taking wheelchair-bound Terry out for an evening's respite.
'They became aware that they were not alone. At the
edge of the lamps' weak radiance, white shapes could be seen on the
grass: partially-clad human bodies, variously entangled, rolling around.
They heard little cries of pleasure or mock outrage, and a sound of
breathing so distinct that it seemed everyone must be inhaling and
exhaling together. Adrea noticed that all the pairs were the same
distance apart, as if they had been planted there by the parks department:
she wondered if they might be individually numbered too...' (p.238).
A week later an outing to the Zoo provides a treat for the other inmates
of the 'residential home for the elderly' (p.266-278).
The Rules of Engagement. Viking, 2005.
'The weather had deteriorated sharply...by the time I reached Baker
Street Station my eyes were watering and my hair unkempt. The students,
two Indians, two Japanese, and a Nigerian, seemed disenchanted, as
I was, by the peculiar pall that hangs over a London Sunday...Our
semi-rural surroundings failed to enchant. The students wanted, as
I did, some sign of urban excitement, and this was sadly lacking.
The green of the grass looked crude and cold; the very real cold made
one yearn for a different climate, different colours. Before we were
out of the park I made an excuse, designed to make my departure less
Elizabeth has joined an advertised walk in Regent's
Park organized by the warden of a Hall of Residence for foreign students,
and for anyone else at a loss over the Christmas period.
'I wanted more creature comforts than a walk in the
park could provide, as did the students who stayed obstinately together,
unappreciative of their surroundings. Mr. Ward, no fool, could see
that this particular endeavour was proving a failure but had the good
manners to give no sign of this, and went on talking pleasantly in
a voice almost carried away by gusts of wind...The whole group watched
as the taxi carried me away. I felt ashamed, as if I had let them
down, but in fact they were merely envious. My action in leaving was,
if anything, applauded' (p.157-158).
Candy. 2005. The Chicken House, 2006.
'I walked the down-trodden streets of Camden, then up through Parkway
and into the splendour of Regent's Park...looking around at the regal
white houses and the lush green spread of the park, and the calming
waters of the canal, and the little stone bridges, and the barges,
and the ducks, and the distant sounds of the zoo, drifting in the
air, the faint cries of the birds, the monkeys, the sea-lions...(p.76-77).
Joe has bunked off school for the day to meet up with
Candy, first encountered in disquieting circumstances on an earlier
visit to London. This time they have arranged to meet at the zoo,
and after visiting the animal enclosures go for a meal in the café.
'I gazed out through the café window. The patio
outside was deserted. Across the zoo I could see the pathways winding
up and down through a landscape of trees and rocks and make-believe
animal worlds. Man-made mountains stood glowering in the distance,
as pale and grey as poster-painted papier-mâché, and
I wondered if the animals knew the mountains weren't real, and if
they did know, whether they cared' (p.85-86). The scene continues
Hackenfeller's Ape. 1953. Allison and Busby,
'Radiant and full-leafed, the Park was alive with the murmuring vibration
of the species which made it its preserve. The creatures, putting
off timidity at the same time as winter drabness, abounded now with
no ascertainable purpose except to sun themselves' (p.11).
It's not Homo Sapiens, though, that interests Professor
Darrelhyde: he's studying a rare species of ape in Regent's Park Zoo,
whose characteristics 'came closer to the human model than those of
any other animal'. The book is mostly taken up with the professor's
scientific observations; after a night-time break-in (p.77-96) there
are unexpected consequences. Meanwhile the creatures in the park go
about their usual business:
'In the central meadow they were playing cricket.
Westward, the shouts and splashes of the boating lake lingered, like
gentle explosions, above the expanse of shallow water. North-west,
the canal stood black and transparent like indian ink, between canals
mottled by sun...' (p.11).
BRYANT, WILLIAM CULLEN
The Letters of William Cullen Bryant. Ed. William
Cullen Bryant II and Thomas G. Voss. Fordham University Press, 1975-1992.
'London, June 24, 1845...Nothing can be more striking to one who is
accustomed to the little inclosures called public parks in our American
cities, than the spacious, open grounds of London...North of Hyde
Park, after passing a few streets, you reach the great square of Regent's
Park, where, as you stand at one boundary the other is almost undistinguishable
in the dull London atmosphere. North of this park rises Primrose Hill,
a bare, grassy eminence, which I hear has been purchased for a public
ground and will be planted with trees.'
The American poet and newspaper editor was on a visit
to Europe. A vigorous defender of human rights and prominent in the
campaign to abolish slavery, his reformist zeal is evident in his
response to what he saw on his travels.
'All round these immense inclosures, presses the densest
population of the civilized world. Within, such is their extent, is
a fresh and pure atmosphere, and the odors of plants and flowers,
and the twittering of innumerable birds more musical than those of
our own woods, which build and rear their young here, and the hum
of insects in the sunshine...These parks have been called the lungs
of London, and so important are they regarded to the public health
and the happiness of the people, that I believe a proposal to dispense
with some part of their extent, and cover it with streets and houses,
would be regarded in much the same manner as a proposal to hang every
tenth man in London. They will probably remain public grounds as long
as London has an existence' (vol.2, p.330-331).
The Path of the King. 1920. Cedric Chivers
'Lovel had followed him up through Covent Garden, across the Oxford
road, and into the Marylebone fields. There the magistrate's pace
had slackened, and he had loitered like a truant schoolboy among the
furze and briars...Now was the chance for the murderer lurking in
the brambles. It would be easy to slip behind and give him the sword-point.
But Mr. Lovel tarried. It may have been compunction, but more likely
it was fear. It was also curiosity, for the magistrate's face, as
he passed Lovel's hiding-place, was distraught and melancholy. Here
was another man with bitter thoughts - perhaps with a deadly secret.
Whatever the reason he let the morning go by' (p.203).
The year is 1678 and the magistrate is Sir Edmund
Berry Godfrey, an historical figure whose murder has remained unsolved
to this day (see the Potter entry
for a non-fiction account of the incident). Lovel fears the magistrate
will uncover his treasonous past, but is unaware that - in this version
of events - Godfrey's death has already been decided on as part of
Titus Oates's 'Popish Plot'. He continues to follow the magistrate,
waiting for an opportunity, but 'then came mischance. First one, then
another of the Marylebone cow-keepers blocked the lane with their
driven beasts. The place became as public as Bartholomew's Fair.'
The author moved to Portland Place in 1912; it was
from here that his most famous character, Richard Hannay, set out
to solve the mystery of The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915). In The
Three Hostages (1924) Hannay has adventures in Marylebone and
Gospel Oak; on his way to the latter, 'I went up Portland Place, past
the Regent's Park,' but that is all we get.
Evelina. 1778. Penguin
'Letter XXI. Holborn, July 1...Yesterday it was settled that we should
spend the evening in Marybone Gardens, where M. Torre, a celebrated
foreigner, was to exhibit some fire-works...This Garden, as it is
called, is neither striking for magnificence nor for beauty; and we
were all so dull and languid, that I was extremely glad when we were
summoned to the orchestra, upon the opening of a concert...When notice
was given us that the fire-works were preparing we hurried along to
secure good places for the sight; but very soon we were so encircled
and incommoded by the crowd, that Mr. Smith proposed the ladies should
make interest for a form to stand upon' (p.259).
Left alone, the ladies are enjoying the 'really beautiful'
story of Orpheus and Eurydice until the climactic explosion, which
so alarms them that they jump off the bench and scatter in all directions.
Evelina finds herself subject to unwelcome attention from prowling
males, and gets into another panic: 'I ran hastily up to two ladies,
and cried, "For Heaven's sake, dear ladies, afford me some protection!"
They heard me with a loud laugh, but very readily said, "Ay,
let her walk between us;" and each of them took hold of an arm.
Then, in a drawling, ironical tone of voice, they asked what had frightened
my little Ladyship?'
As the conversation proceeds it dawns on Evelina that
her two protectors are prostitutes: 'Had I been at liberty, I should
have instantly run away from them when I made the shocking discovery:
but, as they held me fast, that was utterly impossible' (p.260-261).
Eventually one of the party arrives to chase her captors away, but
not alas before the 'extremely handsome' Lord Orville has observed
her in their company and, 'with an air of gravity that wounded my
very soul, then wished me good night' (p.264).
Five years earlier the author had described her own
visit to the Gardens, to celebrate her 21st birthday, when they were
hoping to see 'the Fire Works of the celebrated Signor Torre. But
a violent Rain came on, and, after sitting in a box in the Gardens,
almost alone, for almost an Hour - We went to sup at Mr. Young's'
(letter dated 13th June 1773 in The Early Journals and Letters
of Fanny Burney, ed. Lars E. Troide, Clarendon, 1988. Vol 1, p.267-268).
On another occasion when the show was cancelled due
to rain the disappointed customers included Dr.
Johnson. Rejecting the management's apologies as 'a mere excuse
to save their crackers for a more profitable company', the author
of A Dictionary of the English Language incited ('to stir up; to push
forward in purpose') the crowd to riot ('a sedition; an uproar. Milton:
"Transformed to serpents all, as accessories/to his bold riot"').
BUXTON, BERTHA H.
From the Wings. Tinsley Bros., 1880. 3 vols.
'Primrose Hill at seven o'clock on a balmy July morning! The kitchen
fires of the surrounding houses are scarcely alight as yet. There
is no smoke to mar the wide prospect which stretches fair and clear
on every side. Clare, tremulously happy, is thankful to steady herself
by casual remarks upon the extensive view..."That is the wonderful
dome of St. Paul's," she says, pointing towards the heavy stone
cupola, so clearly defined against the pearl-grey eastern sky.
"And that huge pile straight ahead? It looks
like a bulky overmasted ship."
"That is the Langham Hotel," says Clare
promptly. "Do you know, I used the very words you did when I
asked what the place was. Is that not strange?"' (p.220-221).
Harold and Clare have been reunited after 'three terrible
years of separation,' blamed on 'that infernal old ruffian' Lord Vestrume.
'They run down Primrose Hill hand-in-hand, these gay
young lovers; and an idle policeman crossing their path smiles grimly
as he looks after them. "Poor youngsters," he mutters. "They's
got the work of the world afore them, they has, they'll find it precious
'ard by-and-by, no doubt."' (p.226).
The Enigma Spy - An Autobiography. Century,
'Klugmann had arranged for the two of us to
meet in the evening at Regent's Park, a spacious and delightful spot
close to the West End where, he probably calculated, we would not
be recognized or disturbed...We made our way into a part of the grounds
with a fair number of trees. It was still light, but there were not
many people around. I noticed that Klugmann was not his usual smiling,
chatty self. My instinct of unease was not mistaken, for suddenly
there emerged from behind the trees a short, stocky figure aged around
forty, whom Klugmann introduced to me as Otto. Thereupon, Klugmann
promptly disappeared without even daring to give me a furtive look'
The author is recalling the day in May, 1937 when
he was 'looking forward to a pleasant stroll in a green setting',
but found that he had been 'trapped into an appointment with the KGB.'
At the time he was a junior employee at the Foreign Office; despite
his misgivings about the USSR he would later agree to spy for them.
'My first encounter with Otto lasted less than half
an hour and ended with my agreeing to meet him again, but nothing
more. I made my way out of the park, got home in a taxi, arriving
in a disturbed condition, and took a strong glass of whisky...Naturally
I was never told Otto's real name, but we now know he was Arnold Deutsch,
one of a group of Soviet undercover agents...(p.63).
Regent's Park seems to have been Otto's favourite
spot for recruiting spies - see the Philby
entry for an identical episode three years earlier.
CAMPANELLA, GIUSEPPE MARIA
An Italian on Primrose Hill. A. Seale, 1875.
'In ten minutes from my home I can be on the top of Primrose Hill.
Many mornings at the hour of four or five I have found myself there,
sitting or slowly walking round the table-land, and then I could not
help thinking upon the numerous happy families in this great metropolis
of the commerce of the world' (p.7). Happy families enjoying an outing
on the hill at Easter are described on p.10.
The author lived at '13 St. John's Terrace', where
'a large and beautiful view presents itself.' Regent's Park, he thought,
was 'best seen when the smiling and surprising English Spring comes.
It is then fragrant with the red and white May-blossom, covering the
numerous and picturesque thorn-trees. Then also the horse-chestnut
and laburnums are in full bloom; and the freshness of the exquisite
verdure of the grass and the young leaves delights you' (p.9).
All this is to set the scene for 'the late mournful
catastrophe in the Regent's Park', when at 5am on 2nd October 1874
'the sleep was broken by one of the most terrible explosions of gunpowder,
powerful enough to throw down masses of stone'. A barge, one of five
towed by a steam tug, had blown up as it passed beneath North Bridge
(now rebuilt as Macclesfield Bridge), killing
the crew of three. An eyewitness account of the aftermath is given
on pages 13-22, followed by six pages deploring man's folly in creating
the conditions for such a disaster.
A Woman of Virtue. Pocket Books/Simon and Schuster, 2001.
'Much later, in the falling February dusk, Henrietta Healy pulled
her thick wool cloak a little closer and stared across the grass of
Regent's Park as a slender canal boat slipped quietly past. Devoid
of cargo, it skimmed high in the water, floating back down to Limehouse
for reloading...The wind shifted then, teasing at the scarf about
her throat, and sending a visible shiver down her spine. "Etta,
you are cold," said Cecilia fretfully as they strolled, their
cloak hems catching on the stiff winter grass. "How thoughtless
I am. Should we go in? I daresay you'll want to be off to your aunt's
Cecilia, Countess of Walrafen, in 1824 'newly possessed of a most
fashionable villa in Park Crescent,' has involved herself in charity
work. Walking in the Park with her maid, she is ruminating on a recent
death in childbirth at the mission she has helped establish.
'Slowly, Cecilia resumed walking, turning away from the towpath to
cross the wide expanse of grass which lay between the canal and her
front door. "Tell me, Etta, how in God's name does it happen?"
Equivocally, Etta shrugged her narrow shoulders. "Wrong time
o' the month, and the poor goose forgot her sponges, most likely."
Cecilia looked at her strangely. "Her what?" Across the
grass, two dapper young gentlemen were approaching, their tall beaver
hats nearly touching as they bent low in conversation. Ignoring them,
Cecilia turned to Etta. She was stunned to see the maid blushing...The
approaching men were much closer now, but in her discomfiture, Etta
apparently did not see them. "Gawd, m'lady!" she squawked,
"Sponges! To keep from 'aving a child." On the path ahead,
one of the young men burst into a giggle, but struggled valiantly
to conceal it behind an elegant kidskin glove' (p.167).
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Look At It This Way. 1990. Picador/Pan, 1991.
'The two men sat in the cab of the truck, waiting for the traffic
on the Outer Circle to ease. From time to time they could feel the
heavy, uneasy movements of the lion rocking the whole truck. The truck
was backed right up against a temporary fence on to the park itself.
After perhaps an hour, the driver climbed out of the cab with a pair
of bolt cutters and cut through the fence immediately behind the truck'
Chaka is being returned to the park after four weeks
in captivity at a chicken farm. Prior to the abduction there have
been frequent visits to the zoo by a journalist hoping to set up a
confrontation between Chaka and a former lion-tamer. 'I watched [the
lion] through the keeper's observation window. Round and round he
walked, looking beyond the children in nylon parkas, beyond the goat
mountain, beyond the mosque. Nothing within hundreds of yards interested
As there had been no clues as to his whereabouts,
'the Zoo was closed until the lion had been found. Residents of the
elegant terraces near by had been advised to keep their dogs at home.
People were advised not to walk along the canal or anywhere in the
park...The press had taken up position with long lenses all around
Regent's Park. They were hoping that the lion would kill a duchess;
failing that they were hoping that it would kill a duchess's poodle'
The Memoirs of Giacomo Casanova di Seingalt. trans. Arthur
Machen. 12 vols. The Casanova Society, 1922.
'Chance led me to the Marylebone Theatre one evening. The spectators
sat at little tables, and the charge for admittance was only a shilling,
but everyone was expected to order something, were it only a pot of
ale. On going into the theatre I chanced to sit down beside a girl
whom I did not notice at first, but soon after I came in she turned
towards me, and I beheld a ravishing profile which somehow seemed
familiar...One of her gloves fell, and I hastened to restore it to
her, whereupon she thanked me in a few well-chosen French sentences.
"Madam is not English, then?" said I, respectfully.
"No, sir, I am a Swiss, and a friend of yours"' (vol.10,
The Memoirs, written in the 1780's, are best known for the author's
numerous sexual adventures, of which this is one. The girl turns out
to be Sara, daughter of a family he had visited in Berne: 'in three
years she had grown into a perfect beauty.'
'The waiter came to enquire if we had any orders, and I begged Madame
M F [Sara's mother] to allow me to offer her some oysters.
After the usual polite refusals she gave in, and I profited by her
acceptance to order all the delicacies of the season, including a
hare (a great delicacy in London), champagne, choice liqueurs, larks,
ortolans, truffles, sweetmeats everything, in fact, that money
could buy, and I was not at all surprised when the bill proved to
amount to ten guineas. But I was very much surprised when M. M
F, who had eaten like a Turk and drunk like a Swiss, said calmly
that it was too dear. I begged him politely not to trouble himself
about the cost...Sara glanced at me and squeezed my hand; I had conquered'
The author had come to England in 1763, hoping to sell his idea of
a state lottery to English officials. He does not say when this incident
occurred but it has been dated to September of that year. Marylebone
Gardens was famous for its musical entertainments, and a few months
earlier the lease had been taken over by Thomas
Lowe, a popular singer of the period, who had opened the season
with a Musical Address to the Town.
Old Common Sense: Or, the Englishman's Journal. 1738, Issue 77.
'Red Lion Square, July 20, 1738.
I am of that few who can enjoy the Pleasures of Innocent Diversion
without being a slave to Mode or Fashion...and can be delighted with
the polite entertainments either at Vauxhall or Marybone...Musick
and fresh Air, I own, are my chief Delights in this Season of the
Year; for which reason I am seldom an Evening without taking a Taste
of both...I have lately taken it into my unfashionable Noddle to chuse
the alternative of safe journey to Mary-bone, [instead of] an expensive
and perilous voyage to Vaux-hall...My Cozen Charlotte...teazes my
Heart out to alter my Mind...I appeal to you, whether I, that have
twice already this Summer escap'd drowning in my passage from Vaux-hall,
ought to comply.'
Vauxhall Gardens was then the most fashionable resort in London; Marylebone
Gardens attracted the middling sort with, in the words of a contemporary,
'rarely any quality among them.' The letter from Ms Cautious, a probably
pseudonymous and possibly fictitious correspondent, ostensibly seeks
support for rejecting Cousin Charlotte's entreaties, but may actually
have been a puff.
'I insist upon't, that the Musick is as good at Mary-bone; the Air
much better, there is as much, and as good Company there as I want
to be in; the Refreshments are as elegant to the full, and cheaper;
and, I am sure, the Risk and Expence of coming at them is much less'
On Primrose Hill. Methuen
& Co., 1962.
'Ricky skipped across the road into Regent's Park, listening with
delight to the sloshy noise his gumboots made on the wet pavement.
It was just beginning to get dark, and a grey mist hung around the
trees. He scuffled his feet in the piles of old leaves that lay limply
on the ground. Then he opened his packet of potato crisps and walked
along, crunching enjoyably, and trying to sing at the same time. He
walked down to the water's edge and shouted at some ducks that were
trying to go to sleep. They wouldn't look at him so he went on' (p.9-10).
On his way home Ricky passes a row of derelict houses,
sneaks inside, and decides to do up one of the rooms as a hideout.
A part-time job after school pays for the paint and equipment; returning
home one evening he takes a different route, across Primrose Hill.
'The trees were big and dark but there were friendly
little lamps between them. His feet crunched on the gravel path. Several
people were out with their dogs. He reached the top, and suddenly
there was London spread out before him - lights from side to side
as far as he could see' (p.37). A friendly stranger points out the
landmarks to him: later he is discovered to be occupying Ricky's hideaway.
He confesses to being 'a sort of part-time tramp' and invites Ricky
to join him. Adult readers may feel a bit uneasy at this point, but
we are in Enid Blyton land: the tramp turns out to be a jolly good
sort and their subsequent adventures are entirely innocent.
The Destiny Waltz. Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1971.
'Regent's Park was only a stone's throw away. Thoroughly urban, only
really at home with bricks and paving stones, the only park or open
space he had ever liked, indeed not actively disliked was Regent's
Park; perhaps because of its entirely civilized, urbane quality. Even
now, at this low point of the year horticulturally speaking the park
was entirely charming, as elegant as a duchess in the delicate, grey
chiffon air of the bland February afternoon. There was something about
it wonderfully reminiscent of old postcards of Edwardian spa life,
of ladies in swathed, ankle-length skirts strolling in warm twilights
to music from round band-stands. Entranced, Jimmy walked and walked,
keeping all the time the presence of Michele at his side to whom he
talked and talked' (p.367-368).
The sudden realization that he is in love has brought
Jimmy Marchant into the park to think things over.
'She might have been made to order for him, he thought,
sitting on a bench and gazing across the dreaming, misty lake - like
the silken simplicity of a Chinese painting - to the vista beyond'
(p.368). Musing on their contrasting circumstances, doubts creep in
and 'he sank into a resentful questioning pain;' but not for long.
'He opened his eyes and gradually the grey, pure February afternoon
and the calm charm of the peaceful lake smoothed him back to his previous
condition of marvelling, happy discovery of Michele and what she meant
to him' (p.370).
Last Boat to Camden Town. The Do-Not
morning was sharp he could see his breath before him, but at
least it was dry. Kennedy never tired of the beauty of Primrose Hill,
particularly on such early morning walks. The sky was a powerful blue
and the green and brown colours of the hill combined to create his
personal living picture-postcard. He felt very privileged to live
where he did...His normal route to the office took him past Cumberland
Basin. This morning, there were no signs whatever that twenty-four
hours earlier, a man had lost (or maybe taken) his life there' (p.33).
office is 'CID Camden Town', and Detective Inspector Christy Kennedy
is trying to work out how and why the body of Edmund Berry ended up
in Regent's Canal. (Primrose Hill's most famous murder victim, found
dead in a ditch some three hundred years earlier, was named Edmund
Berry Godfrey see the Potter entry but the DI seems to be unaware of
this.) Kennedy is a Primrose Hill resident himself and most of the
story takes place in this small section of north London, described
with affection and a wealth of local colour. It's not all roses though,
as Detective Sergeant Irvine reports:
to be a bit late. I've been otherwise engaged up on Primrose Hill
this morning...some nutter was sniping at dogs from the high-rise
flats. He killed four of the pets before we managed to disarm him...Apparently,
he was fed up with going out for a walk on the hill every morning
and ending up with dog-shit on his shoes.'
it's the owners he should have been after, not the dogs' (p.13).
Fountain of Sorrow. The Do-Not Press,
he were to be alone tonight then he wanted to spend some of the time
wandering around Primrose Hill, a ramble he never tired of. As he
walked up the hill the sun was going down, nearly gone and it looked
quite spooky. There was an orange haze backlighting the hill and it
picked up the silhouettes of fifteen or so people wandering aimlessly
around the crown. It caught the trees in a similar manner and made
the hill seem more like a scene from a Hitchcock movie than sunset
on London's most beautiful park' (p.100-101).
puzzle for DI Kennedy: who is responsible for the mutilated corpses
accumulating around the fountain 'the one with the bronze statue
of a washerwoman on top of it' near Gloucester Gate, Regent's Park? Once again most of the story takes
place in the Camden Town area, described in loving detail.
The Ballad of Sean and Wilko.
The Do-Not Press, 2000.
greenness and freshness of Primrose Hill and neighbouring Regent's
Park was as spiritual as any countryside. Kennedy was surprised but
not disappointed that more Londoners chose not to sample these life-enriching
sights. Such a soulful experience would set up even the most sceptical
of persons for the trials and tribulations of their imminent day in
the office or their job of work, whatever it may be. Even on the wettest
of winter mornings two magpies had elected to greet him' (p.28).
Detective Inspector's day in the office will start, he hopes, with
the autopsy results on Wilko Robertson,
a 70's rock musician found dead in Dingwall's
Dancehall at the start of what was meant to be a comeback tour. Another
Camden Town mystery waits to be resolved.
I've Heard the Banshee Sing. The Do-Not Press, 2002.
sun was going down and a fiery red sky was adding a perfect light
to the distinctive London skyline, in its own way as breathtakingly
beautiful as any of Woody Allen's Manhattan scenes. There was a power
present, an indefinable power but a power nonetheless, which was probably
at the root of what drove Kennedy' (p.27).
sets the scene for five pages of dialogue on Primrose Hill but most
of the action takes place in Ireland, where Kennedy and assorted characters
unravel another murder mystery.
The Hissing of the Silent Lonely Room. The Do-Not Press Limited,
'He heard Esther's singing voice in his head as he walked over Primrose
Hill. It looked so beautiful this morning. The early morning unused
air was clean, clear and sharp, and he found it made his mind remarkably
clear and sharp as well. Focused. He found it so easy to focus this
morning. Even the early morning dog owners, aiding and abetting their
animals to soil this wonderful space, weren't going to annoy him this
Another puzzle for the DI : who murdered Esther at
her flat at '123 Fitzroy Road, literally a two-minute walk from Primrose
Hill'? Suspects are questioned in Kentish Town and Park Village West,
and once again the story provides a detailed portrait of the area
around Camden Town.
Sweetwater. Dingle: Brandon, 2006.
'Kennedy, in his recuperating periods, would often go for walks in
Regent's Park. He loved the sensation of feeling lost while literally
in the centre of one of the busiest cities in the world...For Kennedy
the compulsive people watcher, the Honest Sausage was one of his favourite
spots to indulge in this non-physical sport. The thing about a café
in the middle of Regent's Park is that it tends not to be frequented
by what you would call regulars, but more by a lot of what you would
call out-of-towners' (p.40-41).
DI Christy Kennedy has more on his mind than people-watching;
a local man has gone missing and there are few clues as to his whereabouts.
Later a corpse is discovered, but it only complicates matters.
'If Kennedy had realized just how hectic Wednesday
morning was going to be, he would have savoured his early morning
walk over Primrose Hill just a wee bit more. Perhaps he would even
have dallied a tad longer to enjoy NW1's most famous patchwork quilt
a pure blue of the sky, the expansive greens of the hill and
the hints of brown on the hill's one hundred and fifty-nine leafy
grand masters as the autumn started to declare its intentions'
There are earlier scenes on Primrose Hill (p.76-77,
111-112, 157-161) and another one in Regent's Park (p.227-229) before
the final one on Primrose Hill (p.283-284); where the reader, though
not the DI, discovers what happened to the missing man.
The Beautiful Sound of Silence.
'He had all his team out walking the circumference of Primrose Hill,
searching for a location where David Peters could have been hidden
during the time between his disappearance and the early hours of the
following morning, when, under a cloak of darkness, his body, assumingly
drugged, was placed in the bonfire...They couldn't have picked a better
day for a search; it was blustery but the sky was blue, and occasional
bursts of sunshine showed off the hill at its magnificent best. The
best, that was, except for the rubble and ash and burnt-out log stumps
that now served as a sad reminder of what had occurred four nights
Despite a plethora of witness statements DI Christy Kennedy's team
haven't much to go on concerning the Guy Fawkes night horror when
the crowds of onlookers heard 'excruciating, ear-splitting wailing...originating
from within the flames of the giant fire' (p.7). A few nights later
a mysterious phone call sends Kennedy racing down to the canal.
'He skipped down the steep slope and would have run straight into
the canal were it not for the high railing at the bottom...
The cavernous thunder of his shoes pounding on the towpath under the
bridge disturbed the dead silence of night. By the time he was running
under Regent's Park Road, he was struggling to catch his breath...In
what seemed like a lifetime but was only a minute and a half, he covered
the remaining 100 yards to ann rea's houseboat, with its circus colours'
The denouement is played out aboard the houseboat in the final pages
of the book, ending at p.282.
The Man Who Was Thursday. 1908. Penguin, 1986.
'He sprang over the tall railings almost with one swing. The others
followed. They broke through a tangle of plants and shrubs, and came
out on an open path. Nothing was in sight, but Dr. Bull suddenly struck
his hands together. "Why, you asses," he cried, "it's
the Zoo!"' (p.158).
Bull and a mixed posse are pursuing the diabolically
clever Sunday, President of the Central Anarchist Council, determined
to thwart his plot to destroy the world. 'Clean across the space of
grass, about two hundred yards away, with a crowd screaming and scampering
vainly at his heels, went a huge grey elephant at an awful stride...On
the back of the bellowing and plunging animal sat President Sunday
with all the placidity of a sultan, but goading the animal to a furious
speed with some sharp object in his hand.' Once again the mastermind
eludes them: 'the great grey elephant had broken out of the gates
of the Zoological Gardens, and was careering down Albany Street like
a new swift sort of omnibus' (p.159-160).
CLAIRMONT, CLARA MARY JANE
The Journals of Claire Clairmont.
Ed. Mary Kingston Stocking with the assistance of David McCambridge.
Harvard University Press, 1968.
'Sunday Oct 2nd . We all go to a Pond past Primrose
Hill and make Paper Boats and sail them...
Wednesday Oct 5th. Go with Mary and Shelley to Primrose Hill Pond
and sail fire Boats Return to Dinner...' (p.47).
Claire, Byron's future mistress, was then aged 16
and still known as Jane or Clara. Mary, daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft
and William Godwin, was six months older. Already pregnant with her
first child, the future author of Frankenstein would become Mrs.
Shelley two years later. The trio moved around from one lodging
to another in the Kentish Town area as Shelley dodged the bailiffs.
He was then 22, but still 'had a passion for sailing paper boats'
according to his friend, the poet Thomas Love Peacock, who accompanied
In his Memoirs of Shelley (ed. Howard Mills;
Rupert Hart-Davis, 1970) Peacock describes a walk over Bagshot
Heath: 'We came on a pool of water, which Shelley would not part from
till he had rigged out a flotilla from any unfortunate letters he
happened to have in his pocket' (p.58). The Croydon
Canal, the Serpentine, Virginia Water and 'a pool on a heath above
Bracknell' provided other opportunities,
but the Primrose Hill pond is not mentioned. There seem to have been
several of them at that time; the last remaining one disappeared in
1902 when it was filled in with soil.
Eight years after the fire boats recorded by Claire,
Shelley was drowned off the coast of Italy when his yacht sank in
a storm. His friends made a funeral pyre on a beach and consigned
his body to the flames.
The Accidental Woman. 1987. Penguin, 2000.
'It was her habit on days which, like this one, were not too busy,
to walk into the park to eat her lunch and to escape, for a while,
the bustle of the office. She would find a vacant bench in one of
the most secluded parts of the park and sit there for nearly an hour,
sometimes thinking, sometimes looking around her, sometimes dozing
and sometimes feeding the birds. For this last purpose she would bring
with her a paper bag full of stale crumbs. Today she also had a packet
of sandwiches, egg and cress, bought at a takeaway in Baker Street.
These turned out to be disgusting. She ended up eating the stale crumbs
and throwing the sandwiches to the birds. That soon got rid of them'
Maria's divorce has freed her to move to London, 'to
enter, in fact, upon one of her better phases...She did not enjoy
her work' but 'recognized with periodically recurring amazement that
in all other respects she had hit upon a way of life which rather
seemed to suit her.'
'Alone, Maria closed her eyes and listened to the
sounds around her... It was a winter's day, sunny but essentially
cold, and the park was not busy. She could hear two men talking in
Japanese, and a baby crying, and a woman saying, There, there, presumably
to the baby, and the cooing of hungry pigeons, and the shouts and
laughter of distant children. At the back of all this was the loud
hum of the city going about its business' (p.104). The scene continues
Streetsmart. 1999. Orion,
'They arrived at the park and drove round the inner circle in the
direction of the mosque...A few solitary joggers pounded their way
round the perimeter, or were engaged in elaborate stretching exercises
against the railings. In a windblown playground, children dangled
from a climbing frame, while their parents stamped their boots and
slapped their arms to keep warm, and wondered how much longer they
must stick it out before going home' (p.227).
Reporter Max Thompson is investigating a Lebanese
arms dealer who lives in Regent Village, 'an enclave of enormous detached
mansions which had been put up by a property company in the early
'nineties...a couple of hundred yards beyond the Royal College of
Obstetricians.' (This would seem to put it in the middle of Sussex
Place - where were the Friends of Regent's Park when we needed them?)
An altercation with two security guards makes a quick
departure advisable. 'They were pulling out of the car park when they
heard a loud beating noise from the direction of Regent Village, and
a helicopter slowly ascended from behind the wall of one of the houses,
tilted over the trees, and headed off above the treetops' (p.229).
London Belongs to Me. 1945. Fontana Books,
'If you had stood there on the summit under the pink hawthorn, looking
out over London - almost standing on top of it, as it were, with St.
Paul's and Big Ben underneath your feet - you would have seen Bill
and Doris going down the long walk on the Regent's Park side...When
they arrived at the North Gate they found that they were not the only
ones who had thought of going to the Zoo. Simply because it was the
first hot day of summer - it would be June tomorrow - half London
had turned out to drink bottled lemonade and consume great slabs of
Nestlé's chocolate and study natural history' (p.198).
It's 1939, the last summer before the outbreak of
war, and Londoners - some worried about the looming threat, others
largely ignorant of it - are out enjoying themselves.
'It was years since she had been there. And the astonishing
thing was that the place hadn't altered. It was simply stuck there
in time...The bison, in his eighth of an acre of rolling prairie,
was leaning up against the bars to have his forehead scratched, and
didn't look any older. The sea-lions were the same...They went into
the restaurant. And there were the same plates, with the same lion
stamped on them...When they came out of the Zoo, they made their way
across Primrose Hill again and back to Adelaide Road' (p.199).
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Lived at 17 Hanover Terrace from 1850 to 1857.
Basil. 1852. Dover, 1980.
The hero wanders around the park in a daze after the first sight of
his beloved, who lives nearby. 'I left Hollyoake
Square at once, and walked into the Regent’s
Park, the northern portion of which was close at hand' (p.32-33).
Despite daily visits for a year there is only one more mention: 'Further
on the Park trees came in sight – trees that no autumn decay or winter
nakedness could make dreary, in the bygone time: for she and I had
walked under them together' (p.210).
The Woman in White.
1859. Everyman, 1963.
Although there are no descriptions of the park (there are two walks
alongside the western perimeter) I have included this book because
for a long time it was thought that the dramatic first appearance
of the heroine (p.14) was based on a real-life incident. Collins was
said to have encountered a young woman fleeing from a villa in the
park, where she had been imprisoned. The source for this was J.G.
Millais's biography of his father, The
Life and Letters of Sir John Everett Millais,
Vol. 1, p.278-279. Modern biographers of Collins say it's
Kenneth Robinson, in Wilkie
Collins: A Biography, quotes Collins on the genesis of the novel.
On a visit to Paris he found in an old bookstall 'some dilapidated
volumes…a sort of French Newgate
Calendar…in them I found some of my best
plots' (p.98). (These volumes were Maurice Méjan’s Recueil des
Causes Célèbres.) Collins expressly
cited the plot of The Woman in White, and though later in life he
offered other explanations the points of similarity, even to the detail
of the white dress, are too marked to be dismissed as mere coincidence
Armadale. 1864. Penguin
Lydia Gwilt – bigamist, husband-poisoner
and laudanum addict – arranges to meet Ozias
Midwinter in the park to avoid being seen with him by her landlady
(p.492-493). And again the next day (p.499).
Man and Wife. 1870. World Classics/OUP,
had had a terrible night...I went out to see what the air and the
sunshine and the cool green of trees and grass would do for me. The
nearest place in which I could find what I wanted was the Regent's
Park. I went into one of the quiet walks in the middle of the park,
where the horses and carriages are not allowed to go, and where old
people can sun themselves, and children play,
without danger. I sat me down to rest on a bench. Among the children
near me was a beautiful little boy, playing with a brand-new toy a horse and wagon. While I was watching
him busily plucking up the blades of grass and loading his wagon with
them, I felt for the first time what I have often and often felt
since a creeping
chill come slowly over my flesh, and then a suspicion of something
hidden near me, which would steal out and show itself if I looked
Silvester has supped her full of horrors in the course of
this marathon of marital skulduggery, but it's all been in a good
cause. The author explains in a foreword that he wants to draw attention
to 'the present scandalous condition of the Marriage Laws' and the
abuses 'which have been too long suffered to exist among us unchecked.'
The plot is far too complicated to explain how this is linked to Ann's
present sufferings, but they aren't over yet.
was a big tree hard by. I looked toward the tree, and waited to see
the something hidden appear from behind it. The Thing stole out, dark
and shadowy in the pleasant sunlight. At first I saw only the dim
figure of a woman. After a little it began to get plainer, brightening
from within outward brightening, brightening, brightening,
till it set before me the vision of MY OWN SELF...I saw it move over
the grass. I saw it stop behind the beautiful little boy. I saw it
stand and listen...for the chiming of the bell before the clock struck
the hour. When it heard the stroke it pointed down to the boy with
my own hand; and it said to me, with my own voice, "Kill him."'
(Chapter LIX – The Manuscript, p.605).
Layer Cake. 2000. Duckbacks, 2001.
'The rose garden's in the middle of the park. I've plotted up on a
bench where I can see the comings and goings and waited with the papers.
There are hundreds of different types of roses, each with different
names, but they all look pretty much the same to me, not being a flower
lover. I walked through the China garden and they've got herons standing
on one leg, little bridges and lakes, very quaint, amazing really'
The narrator feels it's time he got out of the drugs
business but has agreed to meet Gene, who has a proposition regarding
two million tablets brought in from abroad. Terms are discussed, warnings
are given. Subsequently he has to reconnoitre Primrose Hill for an
'Someone standing at the viewing platform, or sitting
on one of the benches conveniently placed on the pinnacle, would be
at best silhouetted against the sky and at worst wide open, free from
any protection. They'd make an ideal target...
Me and the shooter go for a little walk around...He
produces a telescopic sight from outa the puffa and starts eyeing-up,
walking at the same time, staying close to the brick and wooden perimeter
fence, looking over his shoulder to check the windows that look out
onto the park. "Here," he says at last, pointing at the
COOPER, JAMES FENIMORE
Gleanings in Europe: England. 1837.
University of New York Press, c1982.
'The mists, when they do not degenerate into downright smoke and fogs,
have the merit of singularly softening and aiding the landscape character
of its scenes. I have driven into the Regent's Park, when the fields,
casting upward their hues, the rows of houses seen dimly through the
haze, the obscure glimpses of the hills beyond, the carriages rolling
up, as it were out of vacuum, and the dim magnificence with its air
of vastness, have conspired to render it one of the most extraordinary
things, in its way, I have ever beheld' (p.85).
The author of The Last of the Mohicans had arrived
at Dover in 1828, on his fourth visit to England, and his gleanings
took the form of letters home. 'This park better deserves the name
of garden', he confided; 'it bids fair to be very beautiful, but is
still too recent to develope all its rural charms' (p.84). He was
noncommittal about the Nash terraces but noted that the park was in
'a quarter inhabited by the upper classes, for, while London has so
many areas for the enjoyment of the affluent, it is worse off than
common, in this respect, in the quarters of the humble' (p.83). And
though less vehement than Maria
Edgeworth about the appearance of the buildings, he shared her
view of their impermanence:
'Were London to fall into ruins, there would probably
be fewer of its remains left in a century than are now to be found
of Rome. All the stuccoed palaces, and Grecian facades of Regent's-street
and Regent's Park, would dissolve under a few changes of the season'
Waiting For Jeffrey.
Robson Books, 2003.
'Always hotly contested, this year's Golden Bootscraper, sponsored
by the Doormats'R'Us chain, went to Spot of Camden Town, a mongrel
who, though completely untrained, not only succeeded in making two-thirds
of Primrose Hill unfit for human use but also wiped out four beds
of Ena Harkness in the Regent's Park Rose Gardens, fused 11 Camden
street-lamps, and was responsible for having a Baker Street phone-box
melted down for scrap' (p.63).
From Four Bad Legs, one of the newspaper columns
republished in this book, in which the author denounces the 'farrago
of entirely unreal qualifications for championship status' at the
Crufts Dog Show and suggests some realistic alternatives.
The Adamites Sermon: Containing their manner of
Preaching, Expounding and Prophesying: As it was delivered in Marie-bone
Park, by Obadiah Couchman, a grave Weaver, dwelling in Southwark,
who with his companie were taken and discovered by the Constable and
other Officers of that place [etc.]. Francis Coules, 1641.
The Adamites were a sect who practised 'holy nudism'
and rejected the marriage laws, claiming that its members were re-established
in Adam and Eve's state of original innocence. In the introduction
to the sermon one of them is explaining to a non-member how the Friday
meetings are conducted. 'He on whom the Spirit falls is led in state
between two sisters and mounted on a chair, circled on every side
with the holy brethren and more holy sisters, where he prophecies
till the spirit giveth way to the flesh, and suffers it to rebel;
then he whom the Spirit so moveth by the insurrection of the flesh
makes his election among the holy sisters; the rest follow his example,
and so they endeavour to propagate and augment their number' (p.3).
The listener needs no further persuasion for what
seems to be an invitation to an orgy, 'so they both departed from
that place where they held this conference and went straight to Mary-bone
Park, where were gathered at least one hundred men and women...[who]
instantly stripped themselves to the bare skin, both men and women,
and then in the manner aforesaid, one of this Holy tribe ascends the
chair, wherein he preached this sermon verbatim, as follows' (p.4).
Adamite purity is compared to the corruption of the
Church of England: 'This our assembly is more holy than their consecrated
church; the green liberty of these trees more pleasant than their
painted windows; the summer apparel of the earth more delightful and
softer by far than their stone; the chirping of these pretty birds
more melodious than their howling organs.' The speaker concludes by
urging his listeners, with 'not so much as fig leaves upon us,' to
'rejoice exceedingly and express our joy in the lively act of generation
and propagation of the godly, that may be born naked as we are at
this present' (p.8).
Disappointingly, it seems that despite the specificity
of the information this is a work of fiction. David Cressy, in Agnes
Bowker's Cat (OUP, 2000), says that 'there are no surviving records
of the Marylebone constables, no incident of this sort appears in
the London or Middlesex sessions records, and no other trace can be
found of the weaver Obadiah Couchman. We are left with an artful construction,
a dialogue followed by a monologue, satirically representing what
the author imagined the Adamites to have said' (p.268).
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In a Dark Wood. Fourth Estate, 2000.
'We got out of the car, and began to walk up Primrose Hill...Far above
us, above the figures of our children toiling up the green hill, kites
whirled and swooped in aerial geometry, whirring as the breeze caught
them. Up and down and round and round, looping the loop, soaring and
plunging, the fine lines that held them like great fish taut in the
hands of the fliers. If I could hold on to myself like that, I thought,
if I could still fly but remain anchored, stabilised,
sane. I had to try' (p. 269-270).
Having finally accepted the need for medication, Benedick
is hoping he can get his manic depression under control. On an earlier
visit he recalls playing there as a child, and is dismayed to find
in the refurbished playground that 'the big brass slide burnished
from all the little bums slipping down it was gone, replaced by a
monstrous construction in dull steel' (p.111). Outings with their
divorced dad can't have been much fun; on this one, and on a visit
to the Zoo, there are outbursts of violence: 'other adults looked
away as my children shrieked' (p.50-52).
CRAIK, MRS. DINAH
The Head of the Family. 1852. Bernhard Tauchnitz, 1858. 2 vols.
'He set out on a ramble through the frosty, moonlit streets, whither
he hardly knew, until he found himself inquiring of a beneficent policeman
the way to the Regent's Park. It was close at hand; the quiet esplanade
glittering in the moonlight a pretty place is the Regent's
Park, at night ay, even the Cockney Coliseum, and the long
terrace-range, where, on still summer nights, one can hear one's feet
echo, and scent hawthorn and lilac-trees at every step. Even Ninian
thought it not so bad, and, with an almost childish fancy, paused
to wonder whose little feet might possibly have touched the pavement
where his now followed, perhaps at only a few hours interval.'
Recently arrived in London after several years' absence, Ninian is
eager to see again his youthful beloved, and 'thought he would walk
on and see the house where the Ansteds lived; it would prevent his
losing time over that search in the morning. He asked for Chester-terrace,
feeling it strange to speak the address he had written so often...He
came to the house, and hesitatingly glanced up, as if he expected
to see her shadow on the blind. There was no shadow, for there was
no light within. In the closed window was a staring printed board
This House to Let' (vol.1, p.323-324).
From the caretaker he learns that the family had departed suddenly,
owing money to various tradesmen and leaving no clue as to their whereabouts.
CULME- SEYMOUR, ANGELA
Bolter's Grand-daughter. Writersworld, 2001.
'It was very cold; the lake in Regent's Park was frozen, an icy white
haze hung low over the black branches of the trees. I saw Jan walking
very fast round the edge of the lake, her face a bluish-mauve colour
from the cold, her eyes red-rimmed from crying...We went on walking
round the lake and then back again' (p.141).
The author is the grand-daughter of Trix Ruthven, 'a society beauty
who famously "bolted" from her first and second husbands
and became known as the Bolter all very shocking in the 1900's'
(blurb). Jan is Angela's mother; her distress may be compounded by
a sense of deja vue, as her daughter has left her husband to live
with another man. And it's not all roses for Angela. Her lover's business
venture in wartime London is near collapse, and she has appealed to
a previous lover to rescue them from bankruptcy.
'Thursday was a beautiful spring day. I pushed Mark in his pram to
Regent's Park... Beds of scarlet, yellow, pink, black and purple tulips
made great lines of colour against the dark tree-trunks. The blue
sky was reflected in the water of the lake...The huge barrage balloons
floated three hundred feet up in the air, silver in the sunlight.
Mark crawled happily off the rug and over the grass. Every now and
then he pulled clumsily at a daisy, examined it, and brought it back
to me, or pulled himself up by the wheel of his pram and dropped it
inside. But the nagging anxiety never left me' (p.147-148).
The Temporary. Picador, 1996.
'Ralph had suggested a walk in Regent's Park; a place to which he
rarely went, but whose foreignness was, he felt, countermanded by
the advantages of the open air. It was the least intimate of settings,
and the possibilities of escape from it were unlimited'. But hopes
of ending his affair with Francine are dashed when she announces that
she is pregnant (p.157-161).
Primrose Hill from The Inn of Dreams.
John Lane/The Bodley Head, 1911.
'Wild heart in me that frets and grieves,
Imprisoned here against your will...
Sad heart that dreams of rainbow wings...
See! I have found some golden things!
The poplar trees on Primrose Hill
With all their shining play of leaves...
And London like a silver bride,
That will not put her veil aside!...'
Natural Selection. Piatkus, 2003.
'The morning has matured into a windy afternoon and I wonder how blowy
it'll be on top of Primrose Hill... I have no idea from which direction
Victoria will come so I stroll round in circles keeping an eye out.
A Scottie dog yaps at my heels and a pretty young girl beckons "Blacky"
back to her with the obligatory "He won't hurt you." No,
but he does irritate me...I keep thinking I see her in the distance
but it's not her. When I do make her out at the Zoo side of the hill
she is unmistakable...I start running with my arms wide open...I begin
to slow down for the great hug when Blacky (I'll always remember you,
Blacky) appears from nowhere barking like mad. "Fuck right off!"
I shout, without looking down. He makes a beeline for my right foot...The
next thing I know I tread on his paw, there's another gust of wind,
and Victoria and I come together. Then we go down together' (p.209-210).
It's four years since the lovers parted; a mutual
friend has put them in touch again and James has been trying to convince
himself that the separation was a good thing really, 'it will be nice
to see Victoria as a friend...catch up with her news.' But it's not
going quite as he planned.
'Victoria is practically sitting on top of me, laughing.
We laugh and kiss each other and try to hug... Victoria buries her
head in my neck and our jerking bodies are entwined...Victoria is
not laughing now but crying. She's holding her left hand and tears
are streaming down her face. And I think to myself what a galumphing
great nincompoop of a man I am.
We are in a taxi heading for the Royal Free Hospital.
"It was that bloody stupid dog. Blacky his name is. I met him
earlier. I knew he was up to no good"' (p.210-211).
Autumnal London in The Glasgow Herald, 21st October
'It is only a few steps along the Regent's Park Road from Chalk Farm
station to Primrose Hill, that most famous, most insignificant-looking
and leftiest of London eminences. In the beginning of October I paid
it my first visit. There were over a dozen people on its top, enjoying
the fresh west wind and the great view of London...Albert Park, of
which Primrose Hill is the centre, is a pendant to Regent's Park.
It is a scraggy, doleful piece of ground, with only a few trees and
a belt of rusty shrubbery. Through it and across the Albert Road I
came to the canal which borders the north of Regent's Park. The stagnant
olive green water was richly embroidered with an arabesque of leaves,
golden, coppery, and crimson, and deep down lay purple patches of
sky and fluttering odds and ends of white cloud.'
'Leftiest' must allude to the Hill's popularity as a venue for radical
demonstrations, most notably by the Chartists
in 1856. Proposals for 'Albert Park,' a vast area which would have
stretched north from Highbury Corner to Manor House, were first put
forward in 1850. In the end only Finsbury Park was created, but the
name persisted. Why the author thought that Primrose Hill, which was
several miles away, was at its centre, is a mystery.
'In Regent's Park the common poplars and the ashes were still as green
as in June, but the plane trees, the limes, the black poplars, the
elms, the chestnuts and the oaks were all deeply stained and tarnished,
and, with the exception of the last, beginning to be stripped...A
magnificent chestnut overhanging the lake caught the sunshine through
a great rent in the cloudy curtain. Its lamps were all out long ago,
but the broad sconces remained of bronze and gold, looking so natural,
so inevitable, that it was impossible to resist the fancy of their
having only been painted green in the summer. "Now," one
felt, "the vulgar, stupid green has all been worn away, and we
have the beautiful burnished metal"' (p.7).
The author subsequently made use of these nature notes in a poem.
Regent's Park from November, 1905. Reprinted in Xavier
Baron's London 1066-1914. Robertsbridge: Helm Information,
1997. 4 vols.
'Poplars, ashes, flaunting wreaths of June,
Green among the tarnished oaks, outstayed
Lindens, plane-trees, chestnuts, elms, so soon
Ragged, draggle-tailed, or stripped and flayed.
Somnolent canal and urban world,
Lawn and lake with saffron leaves and red,
Crimson leaves and olive, brown and gold,
Bronze and topaz leaves engarlanded.
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Lived intermittently at 1 Devonshire Terrace (now the corner of Marylebone
Road and Marylebone High Street) from 1839 to 1851.
Sketches By Boz (1833-1836).
The eponymous hero of A Passage In the Life of Mr. Watkins Tottle drowns himself in the Regent's Canal after a
tragicomic misunderstanding about a forthcoming marriage.
David Copperfield (1849).
Steerforth (future seducer of Little Em'ly) suggests that they 'see the lions for an hour or
two' – presumably at the Zoo – on their way to Highgate.
They also visit a 'Panorama' and 'took a walk through the Museum'
(beginning of Chapter 20). Both attractions were probably in the Colosseum,
on the site where Cambridge Gate now stands. Various characters at
various times stay at addresses in the Camden Town neighbourhood,
as Dickens had as a child, but there are no references to the park.
The Uncommercial Traveller
(This was a persona created in 1860 to link miscellaneous articles
for his magazine All The Year Round).
Chapter XIX - Some Recollections of Mortality – recounts an incident
in 'the hard winter' of 1861: 'I was walking in from the country,
on the northern side of the Regent’s Park
– hard frozen and deserted – when I saw an empty Hansom cab drive
up to the lodge at Gloucester-gate, and the driver with great agitation
call to the man there.' The body of a young woman has been pulled
out of the canal at the bridge 'near the cross-path to Chalk Farm.'
This 'forlorn spectacle' is made more horrifying by the callous behaviour
of a passing bargeman and his wife, who would have walked their horse
right over the body on the towpath if the onlookers had
not shouted at them.
In Claire Tomalin's biography
of the actress Ellen Ternan, who became
Dickens's secret mistress, his reactions to this incident are linked
to his guilty feelings about the young woman he was hoping to seduce
(The Invisible Woman. Viking, 1990, p.134).
An earlier intimation of mortality was
recorded in a letter of 2nd March 1846: 'As an addition to my composure,
I ran over a little dog in the Regent's Park yesterday (killing him
on the spot) and gave his little mistress a girl of thirteen
or fourteen such exquisite distress as I never saw the like
of.' (The Letters of Charles Dickens. Clarendon. Vol.4. Ed.
Kathleen Tillotson. 1977. p.510).
Chapter XXX – The Ruffian – castigates 'constabular
contemplation', i.e. the police turning a blind eye to 'ruffianism'.
'The blaring use of the very worst language possible, in our public
thoroughfares – especially in those set apart for recreation – is
another disgrace to us…Years ago, when I had a near interest in certain children
who were sent with their nurses, for air and exercise, into the Regent’s Park, I found this evil to be so abhorrent and
horrible there, that I called public attention to it, and also to
its contemplative reception by the Police'.
Margaret Baillie-Saunders (The Great Folk of Old
Marylebone, 1904) says of the ruffianism:
'his own little children and their nurses could not take a walk there
without insult and molestation from tramping women and girls – an
evil he was the means of eventually putting down by untiring appeals
to the press and continual police court charges' (p.59).
DICKENS, CHARLES CULLIFORD
Dickens's Dictionary of London, 1888: An Unconventional
Guidebook. Old House Books, 1993.
Regent's Park: 'It is a great place for skating. A band plays near
the broad walk on Sunday in summer, and a vast amount of cricket of
a homely class enlivens the north-eastern portion of the park on Saturday
afternoons' (p.214). Primrose Hill: 'It is very popular with holiday
makers who are unable to get out of town, although, with the exception
of a rather small open-air gymnasium, there is nothing to contribute
to the public amusement' (p.205).
Dickens the novelist had died in 1870, and the author
of the Guidebook series (they appeared annually from 1879, and included
a calendar of forthcoming events) was his eldest son, known as Charley.
Publishers, then and now, rarely mention this fact, which has led
to some confusion in later years.
The Singular Trial of Mr. Jones, A Medical Gentleman,
at the Old Bailey, for a Foot-Pad Robbery near Primrose Hill, on Monday,
October 11, 1802. W.M. Thiselton, 1805.
'[I was going] by Hampstead from Upper Baker Street crossing
the road near Primrose Hill...I was in the act of getting under a
Style I heard a voice say, "Stop, Stop" I
went on I turned round and saw him run I did not at
the first moment observe he had a Pistol in his Hand knowing
it was a Gentleman, I had before seen in the Fields, I did not think
his Intention was to rob me I turned round and went on a little
The Man said, "Damn you stop, or I will blow your Brains
out" he came up to the Style with the Pistol in his hand
I then stopped, and gave him what I had he said, "Damn
you, don't look at me, I am not to be looked at..."'
Samuel Wilkinson was testifying at the trial of Edward
Digby, a highly respectable doctor who had been permitted to assume
the name of Jones 'to prevent precipitate obloquy'. The robbery took
place at about 8pm, according to the Morning Chronicle's report of
the trial, November 5, 1802 (reprinted in this pamphlet). Three witnesses
testified that Digby had been at the house of a Mrs. Sarah Poole from
1pm to 11pm, and he was acquitted.
Unfortunately he was immediately re-arrested for debt
he had 'accepted a Bill' for a friend, who had then departed
to America. Digby was broke, having been unable to recover the costs
of the trial, and had to spend the next three years in the King's
Bench debtors prison. He published this pamphlet on his release.
DIGBY, KENELM HENRY
Primrose Hill from Short Poems. Burns,
Lambert and Oates, 1866.
'...What can be a fairer sight,
When the sun is shining bright,
Than crowds upon a holiday,
All hither come to frisk and play?...
But now in sooth the spirits flag,
And all do long for home;
While after us our legs we drag,
So far we had to roam.
Then eastward, southward, westward, ho!
We scatter through the park,
Trailing, hauling, hasting, tired so;
It now has grown quite dark...'
The Young Duke. 1830. The Bradenham Edition
of the Novels and Tales of Benjamin Disraeli, Vol. 2. Peter Davies,
'The Duke of St. James took his way to the Regent's Park, a wild sequestered
spot, whither he invariably repaired when he did not wish to be noticed;
for the inhabitants of this pretty suburb are a distinct race, and
although their eyes are not unobserving, from their inability to speak
the language of London they are unable to communicate their observations.
The spring sun was setting, and flung a crimson flush over the blue
waters and the white houses...A sudden thought struck him. Would it
not be delightful to build a beautiful retreat in this sweet and retired
land, and be able in an instant to fly from the formal magnificence
of a London mansion? Lady Aphrodite was charmed with the idea; for
the enamoured are always delighted with what is fanciful' (Book 1,
Chapter 9, p.30-31).
The Duke's inamorata is also the wife of Sir Lucius
Grafton, so a wild sequestered spot where she wouldn't be noticed
had an additional charm.
'Nine acres were obtained from the Woods and Forests;
mounds were thrown up, shrubs thrown in...All was surrounded by a
paling eight feet high, that no one might pierce the mystery of the
preparations. A rumour was soon current that the Zoological Society
intended to keep a Bengal tiger au naturel, and that they were contriving
a residence which would amply compensate him for his native jungle.
The Regent's Park was in despair, the landlords lowered their rents,
and the tenants petitioned the King...The truth was then made known
that the young Duke of St. James was building a villa. The Regent's
Park was in rapture, the landlords raised their rents, and the tenants
withdrew their petition' (Book 1, Chapter 9, p.32).
DIXON, ELLA HEPWORTH
The Story of a Modern Woman. 1894.
Merlin Press, 1990.
'So she walked to the Regent's Park, and there, in the trim flower-garden,
where the avenue of chestnuts was making long shadows on the neatly-swept
paths, Mary sat down and waited. It was high midsummer now; there
was a velvety smoothness on the trim lawns, the green light filtered
through a canopy of broad chestnut leaves, and the beds were odorous
with heliotrope, purple with pansies, and aglow with geraniums' (p.120).
Mary is meeting her lover in an hour's time; meanwhile
she studies the other visitors to the park. 'There was a young woman
with restless eyes and a hard mouth, keeping a rendezvous with a lover
who had not yet appeared; a nurse or two with a swarm of children
from the surrounding Georgian terraces, racing and squealing and looking
like white rabbits with their pink noses and creamy boots.' She feels
drawn towards the young woman and 'would like to have gone up and
said something kind. "If that tawdry-looking girl could write
down her story," thought Mary, as she passed her, "we should
have another masterpiece! It is because they suffer so that women
have written supremely good fiction"' (p.121-122).
Visiting Whitechapel Hospital some time later Mary
recognizes the girl, now close to death after trying to drown herself
in the canal. The doctor too recognizes her, and the girl recognizes
him - the lover she had been waiting for in the park, who had abandoned
her when she had started to suspect his real intentions.
The Fifth Season. Pocket Books, 2003.
'Juan Fernandez was waiting for Sam in Regent's Park, just before
dusk. The park was left to a few joggers and winos bedding down for
the night. Fernandez, his arms wrapped around his body, gazed meditatively
at the statue of a small brown terrier..."Amazing story, this,
my friend," said Fernandez in his light, slightly accented baritone.
"The dog was subjected to vivisection operations for two months
at University College. Every time a wound healed, the dog was opened
again. And you English call bullfighting cruel."
"There used to be an older statue here,"
said Sam. "Taken down in 1906 after it provoked riots between
'brown doggers', who were violent anti-vivisectionists, and medical
students who were pro. The new one was erected in the 80's' (p.130-131).
Visitors hoping to find this statue will be disappointed.
The Brown Dogger riots did happen but the memorial fountain was not
in Regent's Park: both the original 1906 monument and the 1985 replacement
were sited in Battersea Park. However the 'Deputy Director General
of the National Crime Squad' has come here with more immediate matters
on his mind: the terrorist bombings at 'Eastfield University.' His
Spanish colleague's suggestion that the Mafia is involved is met with
As the plot develops international ramifications Sam
goes for a run to puzzle things out; 'scattering a gathering of ducks,
[he] headed towards the zoo, offering his customary nod to the black
bear isolated at the top of its ziggurat-shaped hill' (p.169-171).
The evidence eventually leads back to a house overlooking the park,
but a clandestine search reveals that 'the Syrian bird has taken wing'
Rural Essays. Ed. George William Curtis. Leavitt
& Allen, 1856.
'Let me give you an outline of another garden in the midst of the
Regent's Park...The scene, as you enter the grounds, is extremely
beautiful and striking, especially when you recall (what, without
an effort, you would certainly forget) that you are in the midst of
a vast city...Here is a large velvet lawn, admirably kept, the surface
gently undulating, and stretching away indefinitely (to all appearance)
on either side, losing itself amid belts and groups and masses of
shrubs and trees, with winding walks stealing off, here and there,
in the most inviting manner, to the right and left.'
The author had written the first American treatise on landscape gardening
in 1841, and was an advocate of large city parks that could be enjoyed
by all classes of society. In this essay on English gardens, dated
August 1850, he seems to have been most impressed by the park's Botanical
Garden, which was not open to the public.
'All the elite of the West End of London are here;
for in London, horticultural shows are even more fashionable than
the opera; and a gayer or more beautiful sight is not easily found.
At the last festival of this sort, the great novelty was a magnificent
plat, or garden of rhododendrons, of all colors; the plants, in full
bloom, were large and finely-grown specimens, sent beforehand from
various nursery gardens fifty or one hundred miles off, planted here
in a scene by themselves, where they bloomed in the same perfection
as if they had grown here for a dozen years'. (Chapter IV)
The Yellow Face (1893). Reprinted in Sir
Arthur Conan Doyle: the Celebrated Cases of Sherlock Holmes. Octopus
'Sherlock Holmes was a man who seldom took exercise for exercise's
sake...One day in early spring he had so far relaxed as to go for
a walk with me in the Park, where the first faint shoots of green
were breaking out upon the elms, and the sticky spearheads of the
chestnuts were just beginning to burst into their fivefold leaves.
For two hours we rambled about together, in silence for the most part,
as befits two men who know each other intimately.' Dr. Watson notes
that 'it was nearly five before we were back in Baker Street once
The Seven Sisters. 2002. Penguin Books, 2003.
'Eventually I reached the large formal round pond at the end of the
avenue leading from the Rose Garden. There was nobody on any of the
benches. Rain fell on the wet statuary. A white plastic bag was floating
in the shallow water of the fountain...It seemed to sum up my despair.
It floated, half-submerged, yet not sinking, in miserable suspension.
I decided to try to remove it...but it was just beyond my reach. I
looked for a stick, but I could not see anything suitable in that
trim, well-tended public garden...I looked around me, but could see
nobody...I took off my sandals, and rolled up my wet trousers, and
Candida, at her 'lowest ebb' after her divorce and
a subsequent move to London, has forced herself to go out on a wet
day in the hope that the rain will let up.
'The water was shallow, and within two steps I had
the bag in my grasp...As I clambered out, I looked around again, guiltily,
and saw that by now somebody was watching me. An elderly black man,
muffled up in raincoat and hood, had arrived upon the scene, and was
standing, hunched, as a witness. The expression upon his face was
of unutterable dejection...I felt that we were kindred spirits, but
I could neither speak nor smile. Solemnly, clutching the bag, I thrust
my feet back into my wet slippery sandals, and then made my way across
the gravel path to an elaborate black and gold ornamental dustbin,
where I deposited the bag. I felt better for this pointless act' (p.127-128).
DU MAURIER, DAPHNE
Growing Pains: The Shaping of a Writer. Victor
Gollancz , 1977.
'Walks became longer with the Norlands. Instead of the Broad Walk
in Regent's Park, bordering the Zoo...we were marched to Park Square
Gardens some way off, and I soon saw the reason for this, for the
current Norland nurse met friends, and once inside the gardens, which
were enclosed by tall railings, so that you had to enter with a key,
she would sit with the other nurses in a cosy shelter out of the cold
wind, and they drank hot cocoa out of a Thermos flask, and ate biscuits.
Baby, lucky thing, was snug and warm in her pram beside them. "Now
then, run along and play." I did not want to play. My feet were
frozen. My boots were too small. I wanted to sit in the shelter and
be warm with them. No use though' (p.18-19).
The author of Rebecca spent the greater part of her
life in Cornwall, the setting of her best-known stories, but as a
child lived at 24 Cumberland Terrace, where she was born in 1907.
Her world began to change in 1914. 'Soon there were soldiers everywhere...wearing
khaki, marching down Albany Street and through Regent's Park.'
'One day Angela told me that she had overheard someone
tell Nurse Netta that in wartime everyone made eyes at the soldiers.
"What does it mean, making eyes?" I asked her. "I think
it's like this," Angela said, looking sideways out of the corner
of her eyes. We practised this awhile, and afterwards, when we were
walking in Regent's Park, and saw soldiers coming towards us, we used
to stare at them sideways, in a squinting sort of way, smiling at
the same time. Angela said it was patriotic. But I don't think they
noticed, which was disappointing' (p.31-32).
Angela, the author's elder sister, did not recall
this incident in her autobiography, It's Only the Sister...
(Peter Davies, 1951). Her earliest memory was 'wetting my knickers
in Regent's Park, when dressed in my Sunday clothes...I wore a pink
coat (pelisse) and a pink and beaver-edged poke bonnet, and white
suede boots. I was very smart, and in either the Outer or Inner Circle
of Regent's Park this shame befell me' (p.5). She was then aged two.
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