Regent's Park and Primrose Hill in Literature and Music
Authors - J to N
James, Henry (1897)
Jeaffreson, John Cordy (1882)
Jerome, Jerome K.
Johnson, Samuel (c1772)
Kalm, Pehr (1748)
Kirkland, Caroline Matilda (1849)
Klingemann, Karl (1881)
Lamb, Charles (c1830)
Le Carré, John
Le Vert, Octavia Walton (1853)
Levy, Roger (P)
Lowndes, Marie Belloc
Lucy, Henry (1888)
MacDonald, George (1871)
Mackenzie, Alexander Slidell (1835)
Macnamara, Charles Nottidge (1896)
MacNeice, Louis (P)
Malcolm, James Peller (1774)
Marshall, Des (P)
Mayhew, Henry (1861)
Meade, L.T. (1883)
Merwin, W.S. (P)
Moran, Benjamin (1853)
Morgan, William De
Morton, John Maddison (1864) (P)
Moses, Kate (P)
Mother Goose (P)
Murray, H.G. (1892)
Nabbs, Thomas (1639)
Neville, Sylas (1767)
Newman, Henry (1740)
North, Freya (P)
Nowrojee, Jehangeer and Merwanjee, Hirjeebhoy
What Maisie Knew. 1897.
Penguin Classics, 1988.
Shuttling between her divorced parents, Maisie is put in a hansom cab
that 'passed under a pretty arch and drew up at a white house in a terrace
from which the view, she thought, must be lovely', but 'the green expanse
of the Regent's Park' is the only description (p.108-109).
The Wings of the Dove. 1902. Penguin Classics,
Fabulously wealthy but stricken with a mysterious illness, Milly Theale
resolves to live life to the full and 'take personal possession of what
surrounded her', which translates in this instance as a walk through
the park instead of being driven around it. 'The real thing was to be
quite away from the pompous roads, well within the centre and on the
stretches of shabby grass. Here were benches and smutty sheep, here
were idle lads at games of ball, with their cries mild in the thick
air; here were wanderers anxious and tired like herself...' (p.215).
See the Nesbit entry for a description
of the 'dusty and yellowish' appearance of the park at this time.
The Golden Bowl. 1904. The World's Classics/OUP,
The Italian prince and his American wife live in Portland Place, from
whence the princess and her father go out for a turn in the park. 'Dropping
into the first pair of sequestered chairs they came across' they wait
a little, 'as if now at last she might bring out, as between them, something
more specific' (p.360). Fat chance, as readers of the later novels will
Innocent Blood. 1980. Faber
& Faber paperback, 2000.
'The canal, rich and sluggish as treacle, slipped undisturbed under
the low bridges and seeped into the moist fringes of the bank...The
air was rich with a rank river smell overlaid with loamy earth and spiced
with the drifting scent of lawn cuttings and roses from the high gardens
above the canal. The birds were silent now, except for the occasional
distant cry, plaintive and alien, from the zoo aviary'.
Philippa and her mother, a child-murderer now out on
parole, have come to throw a suitcase full of prison clothes into the
canal. 'The case rose slowly, slid along the greasy surface of the water,
then reared itself like a sinking ship, toppled and was gone' (p.167-168).
A few weeks later they are recognized by the child's father in Queen
Mary's Rose Garden, where they have come after a church service. (p.213-217).
Time To Be In Earnest. Faber & Faber, 1999.
In this autobiography the author describes walking in the park with
her daughter, also after a church service, in March 1998. At the restaurant
'we had a light lunch sitting outside. Although the sun was fitful,
the air was warm and moist. Just to breathe, particularly in this green
and flower-scented place, was a sensual pleasure'. Comparing the park
with St. James's Park she finds it 'more formally splendid' but 'less
intimate'; its visitors are 'intent on going somewhere, pausing less
often than in other parks to sniff, touch and wonder' (p.176).
Hairy Undepoldus Music. 2003.
'As he was doing his work at Regent's Park, George was alerted by a
message signal on the vidcom..."George, this is Kerstin...I gather
that you know that Boku was mainly responsible for your safety today.
There were four of the gang waiting to kidnap you at Regent's Park...Boku
somehow managed to get the children to surround you at the crucial moment.
Then the children stayed with you until you reached the entrance to
the animal enclosure...I kept out of view when I saw you going towards
the Animal Park entrance but I circled round to check that you got into
Undepoldus House OK."'
George is an exobiologist, specializing in communicating
with alien species. He is also a member of the Spacers League, one of
whose craft had unwittingly brought back to Earth 'an enormous off-white
furry caterpillar.' Due to its rapid growth Undepoldus is now being
housed in a purpose-built unit. George's unique knowledge of the creature
has made him a target for a rival organization.
'Ivor asked, "Why did you let a group of schoolchildren
in here before we officially opened?"
"I had met them when I had just got off the strip.
One of them said 'There's the Undepoldus man' and they surrounded me...
I showed them the replica I carry as we walked towards the Park entrance
together...A policewoman spotted men on the roof above the door...She
thought that the children could protect me again so she told them that
I might let them see the real Undepoldus. They ran towards me and surrounded
me again before the kidnappers could do anything...I let them in so
that they could see Undepoldus. He didn't mind"' (Section 29, How
It Was Done).
The book has not appeared in print but the full text
is available at
JEAFFRESON, JOHN CORDY
The Rapiers of Regent's Park. Hurst and Blackett,
1882. 3 vols.
'Mr. Doughty Rapier bought Thurlow Lodge, Regent's Park...without having
seen the property. He bought it unintentionally in the auction-mart.'
Unfamiliar with the procedures, Rapier had not realized that in 'nodding
now and then' he had unwittingly made the highest bid. Dashing outside
and hailing a cab, he 'drove to the north-west suburb, to satisfy himself
by observations on the spot that there really was such a place as Thurlow
Lodge...Having surveyed the gardens, and walked through the occasionally
melodious groves that fringed the palatial bijou, he returned to the
City in a happy and even triumphant frame of mind' (vol.1, p.85-88).
His wife however is outraged, and the culprit is hauled
over the coals before she consents to make a visit. 'Before she had
spent a quarter of an hour within the bounds of her husband's new estate,
Mrs. Rapier admitted to herself that the bijou palace was precisely
the house that she desired...The lawns were skirted by well-grown trees,
and so shut in by a high thorn-fence that no vulgar eyes could overlook
them from the public road; the walks of the lower shrubberies, leading
down to the water, where the canal curved like a natural river, would
be delightful in summer, and were abundantly picturesque with the red
and crimson and lemon-yellow leaves of autumn still lingering on the
JEROME, JEROME K.
Paul Kelver. Hutchinson,
'Have you forgotten, Tubby, our secret camping ground beside the lonely
waters of the Regent's Park canal, where discussing our frugal meal
of toasted elephant's tongue - by the uninitiated mistakable for jumbles
- there would break upon our trained hunter's ear the hungry lion or
tiger's distant roar, mingled with the melancholy, long-drawn growling
of the polar bear, growing ever in volume and impatience until half-past
four precisely; and we would snatch our rifles, and with stealthy tread
and every sense alert make our way through the jungle - until stopped
by the spiked fencing round the Zoological Gardens?' (p.139-140).
In this autobiographical novel the narrator is recalling
childhood days - earlier he describes a confrontation with an errand
boy who barred his way 'just as we were about to enter Regent's Park
by the wicket opposite Hanover Gate', and challenges him to a fight
(p.79). Worse things happen in later life: an entrepreneur who persuaded
him to invest in a play has 'bolted and taken the week's money with
him', making Paul a bankrupt and precipitating a nervous breakdown.
'One night, a week or two after my partial recovery,
I had wandered on and on for hour after hour. The breaking dawn recalled
me to myself. I was outside the palings of a park. In the faint shadowy
light it looked strange and unfamiliar. I was too tired to walk further.
I scrambled over the low wooden fencing, and reaching a seat, dropped
down and fell asleep...Suddenly I started to my feet. Norah's strong
hand drew me down again. I was in the broad walk, Regent's Park, where,
I remembered, Norah often walked before breakfast. A park-keeper, the
only other human creature within sight, was eyeing me suspiciously.
I saw myself - without a looking-glass - unkempt, ragged ...Ashamed
of my weakness, ashamed of everything about me, I burst into tears...The
park-keeper, satisfied, I suppose, that at all events I was not dangerous,
with a grin passed on' (p.356).
The Fawn Gloves from Malvina
In Brittany. Cassell & Co., 1916.
'All down the Broad Walk and across Primrose Hill, he saw her silhouetted
against the sinking sun. At least that much of her: the wistful face
and the trim brown shoes and the little folded hands; until the sun
went down behind the high chimneys of the brewery beyond Swiss Cottage,
and then she faded' (p.287).
In this short story a clerk walking home across the
park each evening is intrigued by the 'plainly dressed, childish-looking
figure' who is always sitting alone on a park bench. He strikes up an
acquaintance, speculates on her history and situation, and gradually
becomes obsessed by her.
'The twilight had almost faded, and, save for the broad
back of a disappearing policeman, they had the Outer Circle to themselves;
and, the sudden impulse coming to him, he dropped on one knee, as they
do in plays and story books and sometimes elsewhere, and pressed the
little fawn gloves to his lips in a long passionate kiss' (p.297).
But the fawn gloves conceal a secret, and the romance
ends in tragedy.
My Life and Times. 1926. Folio Society, 1992.
'My way led by Primrose Hill and across Regent's Park. Primrose Hill
was then on the outskirts of London, and behind it lay cottages and
fields...Sometimes of a morning I was lucky enough to strike a carriage
going round the outer circle of the park, and would run after it and
jump on to the axle-bar. But clinging on was ticklish work, especially
when handicapped by a satchel and an umbrella; added to which there
was always the danger of some mean little cuss pointing from the pavement
and screaming "Whip behind", when one had to spring off quickly,
taking one's chance of arriving upon one's feet or one's sitting apparatus'
In 1869, aged ten, the author started at the Philological
School in Lisson Grove, a two-hour train journey from his home in Poplar.
(Memories of his school days appear lightly disguised in Paul Kelver.)
'It was one Dan of the lower third who first disturbed
my religious beliefs. He came from the neighbourhood of Camden Town,
and generally we would meet in the outer circle, and walk together across
the park' (p.23). Jerome confided that he had been praying for success
in the forthcoming maths exam; Dan wondered whether this wasn't cheating
- shouldn't he rely on his own efforts rather than divine intervention?
The author's best-known book, Three
Men in a Boat (1889), describes the boating party 'chatting about
our rowing experiences...My own earliest boating recollection is of
five of us contributing three-pence each and taking out a curiously
constructed craft on the Regent's Park lake, drying ourselves subsequently
in the park-keeper's lodge' (Penguin Classics, 1999, p.134).
Boswell's Life of Johnson. Ed. G.B. Hill, revised
L.F. Powell. OUP Clarendon Press, 1934. 6 Vols.
'Dr. Johnson once assumed a character in which
perhaps even Mr. Boswell never saw him. His curiosity having been excited
by the praises bestowed on the celebrated Torré's fireworks at
Marybone-Gardens, he desired Mr. Steevens to accompany him thither.
The evening had proved showery; and soon after the few people present
were assembled, publick notice was given, that the conductors to the
wheels, suns, stars, &c., were so thoroughly water-soaked, that
it was impossible any part of the exhibition should be made.
"This is a mere excuse, (says the Doctor,) to save
their crackers for a more profitable company. Let us but hold up our
sticks, and threaten to break those coloured lamps that surround the
Orchestra, and we shall soon have our wishes gratified. The core of
the fireworks cannot be injured; let the different pieces be touched
in their respective centers, and they will do their offices as well
as ever." Some young men who overheard him, immediately began the
violence he had recommended, and an attempt was speedily made to fire
some of the wheels which appeared to have received the smallest damage;
but to little purpose were they lighted, for most of them completely
failed. The authour of The Rambler, however, may be considered, on this
occasion, as the ringleader of a successful riot, though not as a skilful
pyrotechnist' (Vol.4, p.324-325).
No date is given for this incident, but it would have
been between 1772 and 1774. He is said to have made a second visit,
which may have inspired one of his 'lost' literary works. In a biographical
sketch in The Gentleman's Magazine (December 1874, p.910) Thomas
Tyers wrote, 'On the fireworks of Torri he wrote a Latin poem.' It has
since disappeared, but happily another poem on the subject, by Silipo,
Johnson went to live at 6 Castle Street, Cavendish Square,
half a mile away, soon after he returned to London in 1738. In the same
year he wrote London: A Poem, and in the lines, 'Couid'st thou
resign the Park and Play content,/For the fair Banks of Severn or of
Trent...', it is tempting to see a reference to Marylebone Park, where
the Gardens were situated. A.D. Webster, in The Regent's Park and
Primrose Hill (1911), says that 'the great lexicographer...was a
frequent visitor to the Park' (p.71), but I have not been able to find
any other references.
Kalm's Account of His Visit to England on His Way
to America in 1748. Trans. Joseph Lucas. Macmillan & Co., 1892.
'15th May 1748. In the afternoon I walked out on the North side of the
town to see the country on that side. The land here was mostly divided
into grass fields. Beautiful and very well-built villages, farm house,
and buildings were scattered here and there amongst them. These villages
and houses were commonly surrounded with beautiful gardens. A multitude
of people now streamed out here from all sides of London to enjoy their
Sunday afternoon and take the fresh air. In all the aforesaid villages
there was a superfluity of beer-shops, inns, and such-like houses, where
those who came from the town rested. There were also small summer-houses
built in the gardens, with benches and tables in them, which were now
all full of swarming crowds of people of both sexes' (p.37-38).
The Swedish naturalist had to make a lengthy stopover
in England when his onward journey was delayed by bad weather, and took
the opportunity to make observations. He does not identify the area
as Marylebone Park, but Ann Saunders (Regents Park from 1086
to the Present) cites his description of the grass fields as evidence
that the Park at that time was mostly grassland.
'22nd May, 1748...On the whole of this side of London
which we visited today there was a great multitude of inclosures...nearly
all laid out as meadows. The land around Hampstead consisted mostly
of hills, long-sloping on all sides. The grass-growth in them was very
beautiful, and now as long as any on our very best meadows in Sweden
at the end of June, which is principally owing to this, that these meadows
are here commonly manured every year. On most of the meadows around
Hampstead the grass growth...stood as thick as the thickest rye-fields,
and every plant was 2 feet 6 inches high or more' (p.49).
Goldie Sapiens from On the Way to the Depot,
1967. Reprinted in The Oxford Book of Comic Verse. Ed. John Gross.
'When Goldie the golden eagle escaped from the Zoo
All the world went to Regent's Park and we went too.
There he was, with an air of depression, a sooty hunch,
Digesting the grey-eyed merganser he had for lunch.
Under him, children and coppers and mothers and fathers
And bare-kneed ornithologists with cameras
Hanging down to their ankles and lovers and others
Peeling damp cellophane from sandwiches stand and wait...
Later that evening the Nation breathed a sigh.
Goldie like us, Goldie the human and sage,
With tail between talons, had lolloped back to the cage.'
Goldie escaped from the London Zoo in February 1965
and was at large for two weeks. He remained for most of the time in
Fowlers End. 1957. Harvill, 2001.
'This part of Regent's Park borders on Primrose Hill. "The Scotsman's
Zoo" they call it, because here is Monkey Hill where the baboons
live. To this part of the Zoological Gardens are relegated the creatures
that were once beasts - an old wild boar, one or two scabby dogs...a
moth-eaten bison...You could look at them free any time the park was
open; that is why this part of the place was called "The Scotsman's
Anything that's free appeals to David Laverock at this
moment: he has just been evicted from his lodgings for failing to pay
the rent. The thousand pounds left him by his grandmother had been invested
in a Circulating Library that swiftly went bust.
'I walked to the lake in Regent's Park with, I believe,
some mad idea of stealing a duck. No doubt I was light-headed with hunger;
floating away from my body. All the ducks were gathered about an eccentric
old lady in withered skirts who was throwing them bits of cake. I toyed
with the idea of going up to her and saying: "Madam, I am Curator
of Ducks. It is strictly forbidden to feed ducks with cake. Cake is
deadly poison to the duck. I am afraid I must confiscate that bag; and
think yourself lucky!" But my nerve failed me. I walked, with dignity,
to a drinking fountain, washed my face, filled myself up with water,
and walked, swinging that nuisance of a cane, into Baker Street' (p.79).
KIRKLAND, CAROLINE MATILDA
Holidays Abroad: Or Europe From the West.
[Publisher not known] 1849. 2 vols.
'By far the most magnificent thing in London, is her chain of parks,
unequalled in the world. The taste, the liberality, the wealth displayed
in the appropriation of these vast areas in the midst of the great metropolis,
is surprising, and certainly gives the stranger a higher idea of the
grandeur of London than any other single thing about it' (vol.1, p.89-90).
The author was well established as a writer and educator
when she set off on from New York on her tour. A strong supporter of
social reform, she felt that the best thing about the parks was the
creation of vast green spaces for 'the public health and happiness of
the people', in the words of her friend and fellow reformer, William
Cullen Bryant. Addressing her fellow Americans, she 'pleads earnestly'
for the same facilities in her own country: 'wide, generous fields,
clean walks, and soft-flowing water, for the use of such as own nothing
but hands and hearts.'
Regent's Park was 'magnificent', she concluded, 'dotted
with handsome residences' whose occupants 'enjoy the advantages of both
country and city life...but the true charm lies in the trees, the grass,
the water, the quiet, and the human faces one meets in traversing the
walks. Nothing we saw in London made our own dear city of New York seem
so poor in comparison as these parks!' (p.93).
The Mendelssohn Family (1729-1847), From Letters
and Journals. Sebastian Hensel. Trans. Carl Klingemann and an American
collaborator. Sampson Low & Co., 1881. 2 vols.
'London. December 7, 1827...I only wish I were less near-sighted, especially
for the sake of the English ladies. They do not know how to bake a pancake,
and are mostly occupied with useless things, but they look desperately
pretty. A peripatetic girls' school, dozens of which you see daily in
Regent's Park, where they come for fresh air, appears to me like as
many pathetic Peris, one more beautiful than the other, marching two
and two, the grown-up ones together and conscious enough of their victorious
gifts; the severe ayah in their rear looking daggers at every male person'
(from a letter to the Mendelssohn family in Berlin, vol.1, p.144).
The writer was the animating spirit of the Mendelssohn
family's circle of friends, and greatly missed when he was posted to
the Hanoverian Legation in London. But it meant he was able to take
the 20-year-old Felix under his wing two years later when the composer
arrived for a series of concerts. Felix wrote to his family on 25th
April 1829 that he was to be shown around Regent's Park that day (vol.1,
p.181), but there is no record of the visit here.
Four years later Felix visited London again, this time
with his father. In a letter dated 1st August 1833 Abraham Mendelssohn
described a visit to a house in Hanover Terrace, Regent's Park: 'there
live three sisters, unmarried, probably very rich, at any rate well
off, highly fashionable,' and added, 'Felix has known them before, but
never mentioned them to me' (vol.1, p.303).
Killers. 2002. John Blake
Publishing Ltd., 2003.
'We drove to Regent's Park and cruised around the outer circle. We normally
went down there to nick our cars because we knew the commuters parked
there all day while they were working and it was common knowledge that
no one would notice the missing cars until about 5 p.m. By that time
we were long gone and, nine times out of ten, we would have done the
Harry Roberts, 'in 1996...Britain's most wanted man',
is recounting the events of Friday, 12th August that year, that led
to the murder of three policemen in a street near Shepherd's Bush. The
author, wife of the gangster Ronnie Kray, had interviewed him in Gartree
High Security Prison. Regent's Park on this occasion was found lacking.
'We spotted the two Jags we needed but couldn't find
the Ford Executive and the day was wasting away. We ended up driving
to Harrow and found a Ford Executive parked down a sidestreet next to
the tube station' (p.106).
The Bard of Mary Redcliffe. Sherman & Co., 1910.
'Act IV. Scene: Marylebone Gardens, London. In the centre is a pavilion
with a curtained stage, on either side of which is an orange tree with
a small lamp in each orange...The trees and the pavilion, decorated
with festoons and flowers and brilliantly lighted with lamps of various
colours, give the place the appearance of a gala night. On the rise
of the curtain, ladies and gentlemen are strolling through the grounds,
and two macaronis [fops] with two girls are seated at the table drinking
The year is 1770, the Bard is the poet Thomas Chatterton, and it was
the ancient manuscripts taken from the muniment room of the church of
St.Mary Redcliffe, Bristol that 'gave both the inspiration and an indisputable
provenance for any medieval texts Chatterton himself might compose'
(Oxford Dictionary of National Biography).
'Enter Chatterton, Barthelemon, and Phillips.
Chatterton: Walpole is here tonight; and, as I said, I have a weighty
secret to unfold through this Burletta' (p.127-128).
'Enter Walpole, Bertha, and Burgum.
Walpole: How scrub these gardens are. But for the lamps, 'twould be
a common sight' (p.144).
In the burletta (a musical farce) Chatterton reveals, through the figure
of Cupid, that he is 'old Rowley, and his works are mine' (p.163). Rowley
was the persona he invented as author of the fake medieval works he
himself had written. He is distraught because the others do not believe
him, and ridicule his own claims as a poet.
'An explosion of fireworks and the shouts of people are heard; the gardens
are lighted by the glow; and Chatterton, mastering his emotion, rises
Chatterton: Come, Phillips, let us see the fireworks play.
The Rowley manuscripts had in fact been denounced as forgeries a year
earlier, after Walpole had shown them to two experts. Chatterton did
write a burletta, The Revenge, in 1770 but it was not performed at Marylebone
Gardens until seven years later.
The Works of Charles Lamb.
Ed. Thomas Noon Talfourd. Edward Moxon & Co., 1865.
'In the Regent's Park, in particular, Dash had his master completely
at his mercy; for the moment they got into the ring, he used to get
through the paling on to the greensward, and disappear for a quarter
or half an hour together, knowing perfectly well that Lamb did not dare
move from the spot where he (Dash) had disappeared till such time as
he thought proper to show himself again. And they used to take this
particular walk much oftener than they otherwise would, precisely because
Dash liked it and Lamb did not.'
The poet and author of Essays of Elia lived at Colebrook
Cottage near Islington Green from 1823 to 1827. In an article (apparently
written under a pseudonym) in Court Magazine, reprinted here,
Peter Patmore (father of the poet Coventry Patmore) wrote:
'His mornings were chiefly occupied in long walks, sometimes
extending to ten or twelve miles, in which at this time he was accompanied
by a noble dog, the property of Mr. Hood, to whose humours Lamb became
almost a slave, and who at last acquired so portentous an ascendancy,
that Lamb requested his friend Mr. Patmore to take him under his care.'
The editor adds that 'under his second master we learn from the same
source that Dash "subsided into the best bred and best behaved
of his species."' (Chapter XVI, p.145).
Lamb's walks also took him to Primrose Hill. In Detached
Thoughts on Books and Reading from The Last Essays
of Elia (1833) he wrote:
'I do not remember a more whimsical surprise than having
been once detected by a familiar damsel reclined at my
ease upon the grass, on Primrose Hill (her Cythera), reading
Pamela. There was nothing in the book to make a man seriously ashamed
at the exposure; but as she seated herself down by me, and seemed determined
to read in company, I could have wished it had been any other book.
We read on very sociably for a few pages; and, not finding the author
much to her taste, she got up, and went away. Gentle casuist,
I leave it to thee to conjecture, whether the blush (for there was one
between us) was the property of the nymph or the swain in this dilemma.
From me you shall never get the secret...'
Ferry Over Jordan. Robert
'I well remember the astonishment with which a Free French officer,
one day when I was walking with him in Regent's Park, regarded the crowds
of people, children and grown-ups, who were feeding the pigeons, the
ducks and squirrels on a bright May day.
"You know," he said to me, "this impresses
me more than anything that I have seen in England and it is the
same with all my colleagues! In France we have scarcely any song-birds,
no thrushes or sparrows we trap them for food. And as for squirrels,
those would be caught and killed for their skins in a twinkling. But
here in war-time when you are short of food you people
still bring crumbs to feed these creatures, and one can see from their
tameness that they have no fear of being killed."
I told him rather tersely that if anybody tried to kill
one of the adorable squirrels or the pigeons that will alight on the
hand of a child to be fed, he would probably be thrown into Regent's
Park lake by the infuriated crowd, and he nodded thoughtfully.
"A remarkable people," he said. "A remarkable
people! Nowhere else in the world would you see what I have seen this
And you know, I think he is right.'
The author was a spiritualist and this anecdote forms
part of a chapter in which she maintains that animals have souls and
an afterlife. She is probably best known for her novel, The Madonna
of the Seven Moons, which was made into a film starring Stewart Granger.
LE CARRÉ, JOHN
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
1974. Sceptre, 1999.
'On the canal towpath, meanwhile, Guillam had resumed his vigil of the
house. The footpath is closed to the public one hour before dark: after
that it can be anything from a trysting place for lovers to a haven
for down-and-outs; both, for different reasons, are attracted by the
darkness of the bridges' (p.352).
The house, with 'a strip of walled back garden running
down to the Regent's Canal', is where George Smiley has set a trap for
the mole who has been passing secrets to the Soviet Union. All the action
takes place here; no mention of the park (p.349-366).
The Canal House.
'The house had two stories: one at street level, the other below the
street that was supported by the bridge that curved over Regent's Canal.
As we returned that day on the canal path, I looked up and saw the arched
windows, all of them framed by intricate brickwork. To me, it looked
like a Victorian chapel, something staid and industrial that had once
blessed the coal barges pulled through London' (p.208).
Julia, 'an idealistic British doctor', is sharing the
house with her lover, an American war correspondent, who feels he should
be leaving for Kosovo where the situation has started to deteriorate.
Julia too should be returning to her work with refugees, but has become
fascinated by the wildlife in the park.
'As spring approached, the swans broke the canal ice
that formed overnight and swam about in their little patch of water...I
liked to take the canal path to the bridge at Primrose Hill into Regent's
Park...A boating lake was in one corner of the park with a little island
at the centre. Gray herons were building nests in the island trees and
I spent hours watching them. The herons were large, ungainly birds with
white chest feathers. I watched them eat fish and fly around the park
with their heads pulled back' (p.217).
A Small Girl Throws Stones At a Swan in Regent's
Park. New Statesman, 24th November 1967.
'Oh my swan, my charmer,
Moving unruffled on that stretch of water
Where stop the ripples from my ten strong fingers...'
The girl is reminded of a fairy tale about 'swans that
could be princes', and urges the swan to
'Come, break with your wings in thunder
And climb to rarer islands with this prince's daughter...
You circle orderly the chilly reaches,
Your image whitely upsidedown beside you.
Oh far too perfect swan, my charmer...'
The Story of a Non-Marrying Man and Other Stories.
Jonathan Cape, 1972.
A Year in Regent's Park
'We walked over new grass under trees crammed with pink, with ivory,
with greenish-white flower; we walked beside lakes where crowds of ducklings
and goslings swam beside their parents, minute balls like thistle-down
tossing violently with every wind-ripple, and threatened all the time
by the oars from rowing boats launched into the waters by spring' (p.48).
The author tells us that she has moved into a house
'twenty minutes strolling time from Marble Arch and on a canal'. This
apparently autobiographical story is devoted to descriptions of the
park throughout the seasons. Samples:
In January, 'the park was all grey water, sodden grass,
black trees, and the water-fowl had to contend for crumbs and crusts
with the gulls that had come inland from a stormy sea' (p.45).
In autumn, ' a strong breeze sent leaves spinning down,
and the smell of the stagnant parts of the lakes was truly horrible,
making you wonder about the philosophy of the park-keepers it
was against their principles to clear away the smelly rubbish?' (p.61).
In winter, 'new stacks of leaf are made every day as
the old ones burn, scenting the air with guilt, for now you have to
remember pollution. But the roses are still there, blobs of colour on
tall stems. All the stages of the year are visible at once, for each
plant has on it brightly tinted hips, then dead roses, then the roses
themselves, though each has frost-burn crimping the outer petals' (p.122).
Lions, Leaves, Roses...
'In front of me now the chestnut avenue that
has, half-way down it, the cruel white boy who so casually dunks the
dolphin's head, and a few paces away the urn held by four grinning winged
lions most of the year concealed by dripping leaves and petals. The
chestnuts are blazing, are burning, orangy-yellow under the blue sky,
and the earth is littered precisely, clearly, with solid, ribbed, curved
leaves, green-gold, each one lying defined in its small shell of brown
An autumn walk around the park, starting from St. Mark's
Bridge and taking in the Rose Garden:
'And now, despite six stiff-uniformed park attendants
sitting side by side on a bench to enjoy the sunlight, it is Italy,
with tall aspiring trees around a five-jetted fountain, its white central
plume a noble dropping curve. Towards it a path ascends, gently, in
measured steps, with generously foliaged urns and sets of red roses
and white roses, roses wildfire-coloured, and icy roses bedded in a
blue haze' (p.123).
The Other Garden
'There is a wilderness near the canal where
blackberries may be picked, there are fields of rough grass for lying
on, or rolling on, or loving on, or running the dog or playing football
or cricket...An island full of docketed plants for gardeners to bend
over is reached by a little bridge that must have been copied from a
The narrator is in search of a mysterious garden rumoured
to be 'hidden among the trees' in Regent's Park.
'Perhaps it is the quintessence of the park, a concentrated
statement of it? And so at last it turns out to be. Strolling in the
park, looking at the trees and shrubs, you turn your head and see it.
There it is...It is like Queen Mary's Rose Garden, but an exquisite
copy, segments of earth filled with roses in grass...It is enclosed
by an espalier of limes, a lacing of black knobby branches that are
horizontal and stiff on either side of the central stems...As
you leave the place draws itself in behind you, is gathered into itself,
like water settling after a stone has disturbed it...Turn your back,
turn a corner it is all gone' (p.216-220).
London Observed. Harper Collins, 1992.
A short story in this collection, Among The Roses, concerns a
mother and daughter who meet by chance in the Rose Garden 'on a warm
Saturday afternoon'. Detailed description of garden and roses, e.g.
the main gates with their flourishes of gold on ornamental black
to the right past the bird-loaded lake with the willows on
one side and rose beds on the other
LE VERT, OCTAVIA WALTON
Souvenirs of Travel. S.H.
Goetzel & Co., 1857. 2 vols.
'June 29th 1853...The Horticultural Exposition, in Regent's Park, next
engaged our attention. The drive to it was delightful. Although in the
midst of a great city, we were entirely removed from its tumult. As
far as the eye wandered it only rested upon trees and flowers. As we
approached the gardens it was a scene of rare beauty. There were thousands
and tens of thousands of people, with gala dresses and gala faces, walking
through the park. Bands of musicians were playing most exquisite gems
of opera music. Flags were gaily floating on the "summer wind."
Gallant officers, and manly-looking soldiers, in their conspicuous uniforms,
were sprinkled amid the black coats and white neck-ties of the civilians,
while multitudes of healthful women, blooming girls, and beautiful children,
were seen on every side' (vol.1, chapter 3, p.19-20).
Another foreign visitor who, like the Vicomte
d'Arlincourt ten years earlier, felt that Regent's Park was heaven
on earth. The author was 'a distinguished American lady' whose 'social
position at home...gave her familiar access to scenes and personages
and conditions of life not ordinarily within the reach of the foreign
traveller' (Publisher's Preface, p.v). The hotel at Liverpool had been
a horrid experience: 'Never did we see more miserable, dingy, dark rooms.'
Fortunately London came up to the mark ('words cannot even give a shadow
of the emotions which thrilled me'), and the horticultural exposition
provided a glimpse of Eden:
'Then we entered the tent containing the fruits. There
we saw grapes of wonderful size, mammoth pine-apples, giant peaches,
and pigmy figs and melons. The roses numbered many hundred varieties.
The greenhouse of the garden was almost the size of the New York Crystal
Palace. In it were palm and cocoanut trees, and many bright-hued tropical
plants and flowers' (p.20).
Reckless Sleep. 2000. Gollancz,
'Besides the officiator, only two of them were at the top of Primrose
Hill for the scattering, as far as Jon could make out...A small grey
jar on a rickety folding table on the grass held the ashes. The rocket
with its black bulbous nose lay beside it, with a slender plastic tail
and a stubby twist of purple touch paper. The other fireworks were in
a box on the ground. "The scattering of Marcus Lees," the
officiator announced, facing the hill's long downward slope into darkness'
Jon has come to the funeral of a Far Warrior, a fellow
veteran of a failed attempt at space colonization; in an England subject
to daily seismic tremors, burial is no longer an option. Fireworks are
part of the new ritual: the first one a spectacular display of colour
followed by the pronouncement, "So we hope to be"; the second
a more sombre affair, "So we are". Finally the rocket, now
containing the ashes, is taken to the sandpit and the fuse lit.
'The rocket hissed and in one movement straightened
and screamed up into the night. Behind it the ash jar cracked and fell
apart. The only sign of the rocket in the sky was a brief disturbance
of the drifting smoke left by the preceding firework...High above, far
away, a tiny blur of red light penetrated the smoke. It had vanished
before the accompanying muffled explosion reached the ground. There
was nothing more. "So we will be," said the officiator' (p.44-45).
Captivity Captive. Katabasis, 1971
'...Today we made an acorn man
in Regent's Park.
We called him Midge.
I am God.
I made the dark
and you and all these trees.
I am bored.
I want to go to Baker Street.
This is the iron bridge
hung with flowers and berries
which is my road.
We went across.
Put on my hat,
I am God
coming to Baker Street...'
From part 3 of a dramatic poem in 5 parts.
Glad Rags. Katabasis, 1983.
'Law and Order.
It's Tory policy
to give these people
a short sharp shock:
jolly good idea!
Late again last week,
I biked through Regent's Park
As I approached the broad walk,
up roared a lorry,
abruptly braked by the fountain.
Two men jumped down,
walked round to the tackle at the back,
some crane-like ironmongery.
It's Tory policy [repeated]
In a flash I knew
what they meant to do:
hang me, string me high on that gibbet.
Well, I know Mrs. Thatcher
wants to increase police power
but this is ridiculous:
in Regent's Park of a poet
merely for riding a bike!...'
Keeping Heart: Poems 1967-89. Katabasis, 1989.
Within the outer circle
what had been
the learning haven
became the unspeakable
sleek black nightmare
the appalling pounding
sudden squad car
having huge power
hustling one off alone
to abomination of desolation...
The inner circle
flaunts the brilliant garden
crimson roses creamy
stripy lawn with daisies
where willows dip
to kingcups and lilies
and a shallow curve of poplars
at whose feet fuchsias bow
shelters the central fountain
piled with mer people...'
Previously published in Love and Rage, 1987.
It Could Be You. Oriel Paperback, 1997.
'She giggled, and prepared herself for the pitch. Above her the clear
blue sky stretched out over Regent's Park. This was a crucial run. If
she missed this ball, or it was caught, the team would be out and she
would be to blame. Watch the ball, she thought. Focus. Suddenly she'd
hit it, the ball soaring up towards the orange sun, suspended above
the tree tops. She flung the bat down and could hear Lisa screaming
at her to run...She sprinted into the base, just as the ball flew through
the air towards Bob, who was looking in the opposite direction...Charlie
skidded into him, knocking him over before he could catch the ball.
She'd made it. Her team had won' (p.47-48).
The sales promotion agency where Charlie works is competing
against other firms in an agency softball league. This is a warm-up
game, to pick the best players.
'Across the dry expanse of grass other teams were playing
and Charlie lay down and closed her eyes, listening to the muffled cheers
drifting in the breeze and pointing her face into the sun as she tried
to catch her breath. Then she heard the crack and fizz of a can being
opened near her face and opened her eyes to see Daniel, who handed her
a beer...He looked breathtakingly gorgeous in baggy blue shorts and
battered sneakers, stretching out his long, well-defined legs on the
tufty grass. "I had no idea you were such an athlete."' (p.48)
The Morals of Marcus Ordeyne. 1905. The Readers
Library Publishing Co., 1938.
'I have a small house in Lingfield Terrace, on the north side of the
Regent's Park, so that my drawing-room, on the first floor, has a southern
aspect. It has been warm and sunny for the past few days, and the elms
and plane-trees across the road are beginning to riot in their green
bravery, as if intoxicated with the golden wine of spring. My French
window is flung wide open, and on the balcony a triangular bit of sunlight
creeps round as the morning advances...I have a delicious sense of isolation
from the world. Away over those tree-tops is a faint purpurine pall,
and below it lies London, with its strife and its misery, its wickedness
and its vanity' (p.17).
The narrator is celebrating 'the seventh anniversary of my release from
captivity', the day when he learned that all his male relatives had
drowned in the Mediterranean and he had inherited a fortune and a title.
Freed from the teaching job that he hated, and 'the degrading influences
of Jones Minor and the First Book of Euclid,' he could now devote himself
to a long cherished project, a History of Renaissance Morals.
'In the afternoon I strolled into Regent's Park and
meeting the McMurray's nine-year-old son in charge of the housemaid,
around whom seemed to be hovering a sheepish individual in a bowler
hat, I took him off to the Zoological Gardens. On the way he told me,
with great glee, that his German governess was in bed with an awful
sore throat; that he wasn't doing any lessons; that the sheepish hoverer
was Milly's young man, and that the silly way they went on was enough
to make one sick. When he had fed everything feedable and ridden everything
ridable, I drove him to the Wellington Road and deposited him with his
Derelicts. George Newnes, 1907.
'When they arrived at the Regent's Park they proceeded for some distance
northwards up the great avenue. It was crowded. Joyce looked about him
with a fidgeted air at the stream of passers-by. "Let us get away
from the people and sit under a tree," he said, at length...They
left the main avenue and wandered on over the green turf, seeking for
a long time a piece of shade untenanted by sprawling men, or lovers,
or heterogeneous families. At last they found a lonely tree and sat
down beneath it' (p.112).
Yvonne has suggested the visit to the park, determined
to uncover Stephen Joyce's dark secret. Eventually he is persuaded to
tell her the full story, "the dreadful part of it," of why
he had been sent to jail.
'"Thank you for telling me," she said, coming
near to him and taking his arm. "I did not know, how terrible it
has been and I never realised what a brave man you are"...They
walked back to the park gates in a happy silence, drawn very near to
one another, since both hearts were very full' (p.113).
The Pebbled Shore: the Memoirs of Elizabeth Longford.
Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1986.
'"The Gardens", as we called that fee-paying playground for
the children of fee-paid parents - now Queen Mary's Gardens, a public
part of Regent's Park - was the almost daily pilgrimage of Nurse, nursemaid,
pram, mailcart, baby, toddlers, John and me. Many of my earliest meditations
took place either in the gardens or on the way there. It was while crossing
the bridge over Regent's Park lake, clinging to one handlebar of the
big green double pram, that a puzzling thought entered my head: suppose
everything that's happening now - the walk, the bridge, the water, Nurse,
John, Kitty, me, everyone - is all in a dream? How am I to know? I couldn't
know, could I, unless I woke up? But if I went on dreaming...Years later
when reading philosophy at Oxford I was glad to find my childhood thoughts
had found a place in more magisterial minds' (p.8).
Literature rather than philosophy was to be the author's
future path. An acclaimed biographer and historian, several of her children
were to become writers; they include the biographer Antonia Fraser,
the novelist Rachel Billington, the poet Judith Kazantzis and the historian
Thomas Pakenham. As a child living in nearby Harley Street, where she
was born in 1906, the park must have seemed an ideal playground: 'there
was a lake in the Botanical Gardens that I sketched lusciously with
Windsor and Newton pastels, smudging in the autumn tints and getting
an effect with no effort. I also collected frogspawn from the shallows...to
keep in a bowl in Harley Street.'
'I loved wet days...If we were in the Gardens when it
came on to rain, we were allowed to shelter in the vast humid conservatory
among writhing tropical plants instead of playing eternal hide-and-seek
in the shrubberies. If we were in Regent's Park we would dash for one
of the sooty Victorian summerhouses. From here, with luck, we could
see the very pillar-box in which, Nurse told us, the suffragettes had
posted dynamite instead of letters' (p.9).
LORAC, E.C.R. (pseudonym of Edith
The Organ Speaks. Sampson
Low, Marston & Co., 1935.
'Turning up towards the Inner Circle, Westray soon stood by the great
iron gates which led to the portico of Waldstein Hall...What could be
the explanation of that ghostly, hideous wail which carried through
the stone walls?' (p.6-7).
The Hall, designed by Nash for a German nobleman as
a venue for concerts and operas, has now reverted to the Crown Commissioners
and a fierce public debate is under way as to whether it should be preserved
or demolished. 'Such thoughts were in the mind of Hamilton Westray,
the journalist, as he strolled round the Outer Circle of Regent's Park
one frosty evening in the cold spring of 1934' (p.5).
The wailing is soon explained: the organist is discovered
slumped over the console, electrocuted, and Chief Inspector Macdonald
takes charge. A length of wiring has been removed; various musical folk
are suspected. 'Leaving the Waldstein Hall, Macdonald walked round the
shady curve of the Inner Circle deep in thought. When he reached the
turning leading towards York Gate, he stopped on the bridge over the
lake and filled his pipe, looking down at the ducks on the water. It
was just at this spot that a coil of flex had been retrieved by the
men who had dragged the lake...' (P.242).
Murder By Matchlight. 1945.
Ian Henry Publications, 1977.
'He had turned into the Outer Circle at Clarence Gate, and crossed the
road, and now he stood at the approach to the iron bridge which spans
the lake...He stood in the searching damp chill of a black November
evening just because it gave him pleasure to be reminiscent. As a schoolboy
he had learnt to scull and to punt on Regents Park Lake, and he had
learnt to skate there as well. On summer afternoons in the holidays
he and Peter and Pat had taken picnics to eat in their skiffs under
the shady trees of the islands' (p.5).
Bruce Mallaig's job as an analytical chemist at the
Ministry of Supplies has exempted him from military service. But civilians
too can meet sudden death in wartime, and not just from enemy bombs.
Walking east along the path by the lake he hears - but cannot see, in
the blackout - someone approaching.
'Just before the gateway which led into the York Gate
there was a little wooden bridge. Beneath this bridge a path in the
College gardens led to the lakeside. The newcomer had paused on the
bridge, and stood there for a few seconds. Then, rather cautiously,
he flashed a dim torch light around' (p.6). The man conceals himself
beneath the bridge; dark deeds ensue and Mallaig finds himself arrested
as an accomplice. Chief Inspector Macdonald, an old hand at Regent's
Park murders (The Organ Speaks), inspects the scene (p.21-25)
and later returns with Mallaig for a re-enactment (p.54-57).
LOWNDES, MARIE BELLOC
The Lodger. 1913. Hamish
'"In order to come home I had to pass through a portion of the
Regent's Park; and it was there - to be exact, about the middle of Prince's
Terrace - when a very peculiar-looking individual stopped and accosted
me...To tell you the truth, I thought this gentleman was a poor escaped
lunatic, a man who'd got away from his keeper...I said to him, as soothingly
as possible, 'A very foggy night, sir.' And he said, 'Yes - yes, it
is a foggy night, a night fit for the commission of dark and salutary
The Avenger has struck again; a witness is giving evidence at the coroner's
court, and the police are baffled. Mr. Bunting would have known who
the peculiar-looking individual was, but as yet he has no reason to
suspect his mysterious lodger. Returning home a few nights later he
bumps into him in the hall, and experiences a 'sensation of mortal terror'.
Mr. Sleuth (!) apologises:
'"I'm afraid, Mr. Bunting, that you must have felt
something dirty, foul, on my coat? It's too long a story to tell you
now, but I brushed up against a dead animal, a creature to whose misery
some thoughtful soul had put an end, lying across a bench on Primrose
Hill."' (p.203). The Avenger's ninth victim is duly discovered
the next day.
The story was inspired by the Jack the Ripper murders;
the 1926 film version was Alfred Hitchcock's first critical and commercial
Sixty Years in the Wilderness: More Passages by the Way. Smith,
Elder & Co., 1912.
'October 30, 1888. On the stroke of seven o'clock a chill October morning
breaking over Regent's Park beheld a strange sight. It was nothing less
than Sir Charles Warren, Commissioner of the Police, chased by bloodhounds
from cover to cover, and not a policeman in sight? A gentleman who was
present tells me the agility with which Sir Charles covered the grounds
as the hounds approached within measurable distance was more than could
have been expected from his age and his official responsibility.'
The author was a well-known journalist of the period, reporting for
both The Observer and Punch on parliamentary matters. The Commissioner
had been appointed two years earlier: one of the first problems he faced
was the Jack the Ripper murders.
'The little entertainment took place in conjunction with a Yorkshire
gentleman who is the happy possessor of a pair of famous bloodhounds.
Sir Charles, anxious to test for himself the possibility of the dogs
rendering service in connexion with the Whitechapel murders, made an
appointment in Regent's Park, and, anxious to obtain the fullest personal
information on the subject, he made believe that he (Sir Charles) was
the murderer. Assuming a guilty air, he swiftly made off across the
Park. After he had got a fair start the hounds were placed on the scent,
and in two cases led straight up to the place where the agitated head
of the Metropolitan Police was hiding' (p.181).
Warren's entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography says
of the bloodhounds: 'His supposed support for the use of bloodhounds,
two of which apparently got lost during trials in fog on Tooting Common,
was not true. He remained sceptical, and had the animals imposed on
him by the Home Office reacting to public pressure. In the end the dogs
were not used because Warren refused to buy them.' There is no mention
of the Regent's Park trial.
The Janson Directive. Orion
'To him, it had always felt like a refuge, this vast campus of trees
and grass, playing fields and tennis courts. The boating lake stretched
like an amoeba, narrowing to a stream that, edged by flower beds, ran
under York Bridge in the southern part of the park. And in the inner
circle was Queen Mary's Garden, filled with exotic flora and rare fowl,
discreetly penned: a sanctuary for wild birds and lonely, fragile people'
Today, however, Regent's Park has become a killing field:
a team of concealed snipers is under orders to assassinate former intelligence
operative Paul Janson. The author, 'the best selling thriller writer
of all time' (blurb), has clearly done his homework and makes full use
of all the park's features - bandstand, tennis courts, mosque etc. -
as Janson dodges about to evade the killers (pages 214-238).
'He ran along the banks of the boating lake and past
an elderly woman who was throwing bread crumbs to ravenous pigeons.
An enormous flock of the birds took flight as he pounded through their
midst, like an exploding cloud of feathers. One of them, batting its
wings just a few yards ahead, suddenly dropped like a stone, landing
near his feet. The smudge of red on the pigeon's breast told him that
it had caught a stray bullet intended for him' (p.217).
top of page
Foreign Affairs. Michael
'He scarcely sees the picturesque scene through which he is walking:
on the one hand a bank of long grass and wild flowering weeds, on the
other the brightly painted barges and the tall horse chestnuts in the
gardens on the opposite shore, which have begun to scatter their clusters
of bloom onto the canal, transforming it into a floating carpet of cream
and pink stars' (p.194).
Fred, a visiting American academic, is 'walking along
the Regent's Canal above Camden Lock on a glowing June day', preoccupied
with thoughts of Rosemary. Another American visitor, Vinnie, has rented
a flat in Regent's Park Road and visits the Zoo. 'An early-afternoon
shower has sluiced the dust from the still-shiny leaves and the mica-flecked
paths, and has lent the air a scented freshness.' Seated on a bench
and musing on her life, she too becomes preoccupied with thoughts of
her lover (p.205-215).
The Sherlock Holmes Adventure. iUniverse Inc.,
'"You say someone is missing?"
"Me Mum. One minute she was there, the next, gone. Quick as a fart,
"And where was it she disappeared from?"
"Regent's Park. Just an hour ago."...
"You were with her in the park?"
"I were. We were sittin' on a bench talkin' over how bad business
has been, when she said she wanted a cuppa from one of those Ducketts
wot sells from carts..."
"What part of the Park were you in?"
"Near the lake loop, past Hanover Gate"' (The Case of the
Mumbling Mum, p.1-2).
'Inquiry agent' Joshua Pitt is interrogating Molly Brick
about the disappearance of the 'dollymop wot dint work for no Cash Carrier,
did she?' A fee of 'five thickers' agreed on, the couple 'walked towards
Regents' to investigate (p.3-4). (Despite the author's heroic attempts
to evoke Victorian London, an occasional turn of phrase betrays a transatlantic
origin.) Pitt has in the past 'provided assistance to Sherlock Holmes,'
and is asked to do so again in the title story:
'He'd walked perhaps a quarter mile and was close by
the footbridge that crossed one of the fingers of the lake when he decided
to sit on a convenient bench and light a pipe. There was a small island
just a few feet offshore at this point and the footbridge arched just
enough to permit the passage of punts that rowers hired from a concessionaire
at the far end of the lake. He was just putting a second match to his
pipe when he heard angry voices, one male and one female' (The Sherlock
Holmes Adventure, p.62).
The ever-reliable London fog enables Pitt to remain
concealed from the 'two dark shapes coming over the bridge,' and overhear
their conversation. The mystery surrounding the murder of Artimus Weatherill
is eventually cleared up.
At the Back of the North Wind. 1871.
Puffin Books, 1994.
'They were now climbing the slope of a grassy ascent. It was Primrose
Hill, in fact, although Diamond had never heard of it. The moment they
reached the top, North Wind stood and turned her face towards London.
The stars were still shining clear and cold overhead. There was not
a cloud to be seen. The air was sharp, but Diamond did not find it cold.
"Now," said the lady, "whatever you do, do not let my
hand go."... As she stood looking towards London, Diamond saw that
she was trembling. "Are you cold, North Wind?" he asked. "No,
Diamond," she answered, looking down upon him with a smile; "I
am only getting ready to sweep one of my rooms. Those careless, greedy,
untidy children make it in such a mess"' (p.30-32).
Herodotus, the author tells us, said that
the people who lived at the back of the north wind were so comfortable
that they could not bear it any longer, and drowned themselves. But
this will be quite a different story, about a small boy who was called
Diamond after his coachman father's favourite horse. North Wind came
to see him one night with an invitation to join her on her travels.
'The next moment he was rising in the air.
North Wind grew towering up to the place of the clouds. Her hair went
streaming out from her, till it spread like a mist over the stars. She
flung herself abroad in space...The earth was rushing past like a river
or a sea below him. Trees and water and green grass hurried away beneath.
A great roar of wild animals rose as they rushed over the Zoological
Gardens, mixed with a chattering of monkeys and a screaming of birds;
but it died away in a moment behind them. And now there was nothing
but the roofs of houses, sweeping along like a great torrent of stones
and rocks. There was a great roaring, for the wind was dashing against
London like a sea' (p.33).
Wilfrid Cumbermede. Hurst and Blackett, 1872.
'One lovely evening in Spring...drew me out to the park, where the trees
were all in young leaf, each with its shadow stretching away from its
foot, like its longing to reach its kind across dividing space...The
workmen were at that time busy about the unfinished botanical gardens,
and I wandered thitherward, lingering about...I was at length sauntering
slowly home...when something about a young couple in front of me attracted
my attention. They were walking arm in arm, talking eagerly, but so
low that I heard only a murmur. I did not quicken my pace, yet was gradually
gaining upon them, when suddenly the conviction started up in my mind
that the gentleman was Charley' (Vol.2, Chapter VIII, p.127-128)
The young lady turns out to be Clara, with whom Wilfrid
was once in love, and who, he later discovers, has contrived to blacken
his character in furtherance of a plot concerning the inheritance of
Moldwarp Hall. Clara subsequently writes to him asking for a meeting,
somewhere where they will not be overheard. For reasons he's not entirely
sure of 'was it from a suggestion of Satan, from an evil impulse
of human spite, or by the decree of fate' he suggests Regent's
'After an early dinner [I] sauntered out to the Zoological
Gardens, to spend the time till the hour of meeting. But there, strange
to say, whether from insight or fancy, in every animal face I saw such
gleams of a troubled humanity that at last I could bear it no longer,
and betook myself to Primrose Hill. It was a bright afternoon, wonderfully
clear, with a crisp frosty feel in the air. But the sun went down, and
one by one, here and there, above and below, the lights came out and
the stars appeared, until at length sky and earth were full of flaming
spots, and it was time to seek our rendezvous' (Vol.3, Chapter XI, p.137).
But the rendezvous is not as secluded as Wilfrid thought and they are
overheard, with fateful consequences later.
The Marquis of Lossie. 1877.
'From Mr. Graham's lodging to the northeastern gate of the Regent's
Park, the nearest way led through a certain passage, which, although
a thoroughfare, to persons on foot, was little known. Malcolm had early
discovered it, and always used it. Part of this shortcut was the yard
and back-premises of a small public-house. It was between eleven and
twelve when he entered it for the second time that night. Sunk in thought
and suspecting no evil, he was struck down from behind, and lost his
consciousness. When he came to himself he was lying in the public-house,
with his head bound up, and a doctor standing over him, who asked him
if he had been robbed. He searched his pockets, and found that his old
watch was gone, but his money left' (p.220).
A sinister plot lurks behind this apparently straightforward
robbery, as Malcolm begins to suspect. A man he 'half thought he had
seen before', and 'did not like the look of,' offers to see him home;
Malcolm accepts, 'hoping to get on the track of something thereby.'
'As soon as they entered the comparative solitude of
the park, he begged his companion, who had scarcely spoke all the way,
to give him his arm, and leaned upon it as if still suffering, but watched
him closely. About the middle of the park, where not a creature was
in sight, he felt him begin to fumble in his coat-pocket, and drew something
from it. But when, unresisted, he snatched away his other arm, Malcolm's
fist followed it, and the man fell, nor made any resistance while he
took from him a short stick, loaded with lead, and his own watch, which
he found in his waistcoat-pocket. Then the fellow rose with apparent
difficulty, but the moment he was on his legs, ran like a hare' (p.221).
The Sheep and the Goat from The Poetical Works
of George MacDonald. Vol. 1. Chatto & Windus, 1915.
'...In Regent's Park, one cloudless day,
An overdriven sheep,
Come a hard, long, and dusty way,
Throbbing with thirst and hotness lay,
A panting woollen heap.
But help is nearer than we know
For ills of every name:
Ragged enough to scare the crow,
But with a heart to pity woe,
A quick-eyed urchin came.
Little he knew of field or fold,
Yet knew what ailed; his cap
Was ready cup for water cold;
Though creased, and stained, and very old,
'Twas not much torn, good hap!
Shaping the rim and crown he went,
Till crown from rim was deep;
The water gushed from pore and rent,
Before he came one half was spent
The other saved the sheep.
O little goat, born, bred in ill,
Unwashed, half-fed, unshorn,
Thou to the sheep from breezy hill
Wast bishop, pastor, what you will,
In London dry and lorn! ...'
MACKENZIE, ALEXANDER SLIDELL
The American in London. 1835.
George Clark and Son, 1848.
'From Macclesfield Bridge, which is a beautiful construction of cast
iron, I took in a pleasing view of the banks of the Canal, of Primrose
Hill, the holiday resort of the jaded artisans of either sex, and the
curious scene of practical jokes, and sturdy and somewhat unscrupulous
gambols...The laugh and lively prattle of children, too, gave to the
scene its most pleasing character of animation. Some were ferried over
the water in pretty wherries, while others, hanging over the railings
of the airy bridges which spanned the stream, seemed delighted to divide
their luncheon with the majestic swans which sailed proudly below, and
which for a moment forgot their stateliness and dignity in their eager
efforts to catch the descending morsels' (Chapter 10, Walks in London,
The author, a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, had made
his name as a writer when he was 26 with the first of a series of travel
books. The entrance to Regent's Park, he noted approvingly, 'was defended
by railings and gates of iron, which may be closed at pleasure, to shut
out intruding stage coaches, omnibuses, loaded carts, or aught that
is unseemly or inelegant.' A New Yorker by birth, he pointed out that
Nash's 'magnificent palaces...are not more expensive to the tenant than
the graceless edifices of equal size from which our city magnates look
out rejoicingly into the dust, tumult and deafening clatter of Broadway.'
The Park Villages too won his approval. Emerging from
Gloucester Gate 'and walking a few steps, [I] came to a bridge over
the Regent's Canal, on the banks of which stands a charming collection
of little ornamental cottages of the Elizabethan, Gothic, or Saxon architecture.
Many of these have a grotesque and quaint appearance, yet the effect
of the whole is pleasing and agreeable. Small, but beautifully arranged
gardens and mimic conservatories swept down to the borders of the stream'
(Chapter 9, Walks in London, p.111-112). A visit to the Zoo is described
The Story of an Irish Sept. J.M. Dent, 1896. Reprinted by Martin
'I left choice of time, place and weapons to the Colonel, who took out
his watch with an air of great sans froid and said in two hours time
(it then being five o'clock) he would meet me on Primrose Hill, with
pistols, saying all gentlemen fought with these weapons...We were all
in less than hour on Primrose Hill, where we waited a long time...Poor
Montgomery arrived at last, but with a different mien to what I saw
in him two hours before. The ground was measured; to level together
and fire when we liked. He fired first and wounded me; I fired afterwards,
fatally, as the ball passed through his heart' (p.297). Letter from
Captain James Macnamara to his brother John, April 1803.
A relatively trivial incident had led to the duel. Their dogs had got
into a fight in Hyde Park and Colonel Montgomery had reacted furiously,
using such insulting language that Macnamara felt he had to respond.
He was tried for manslaughter at the Old Bailey, and called Admiral
Lord Nelson, under whom he had served, to testify that he was the
reverse of a quarrelsome man. Despite being instructed by the
judge that on the evidence they had to convict, the jury found him not
Lectured in classics at Bedford College for Women (now Regent's College)
in the late 1930's. In May 1938 went to live at 16A Primrose Hill Road,
and in 1952 took over Elizabeth Bowen's house at 2 Clarence Terrace.
Zoo Michael Joseph, 1938.
'The magnificent terraces of houses around Regent's Park insulate it
from hustle. People play cricket here, sit in deckchairs, feed ducks.
And though Mozart and Shakespeare are performed here in the summer,
and on the south side the rich babies ride in their prams, it is really
the lower classes who make use of its great green levels. Little boys
kick footballs in all directions and hoot without respect of persons.
I heard an elderly park-keeper complain that it was not so in the old
The book is mostly about Regent's Park Zoo, which he
visited frequently. On the evening of 1st June 1938, after one such
'I sat in my flat and looked out at a couple on Primrose
Hill. They lay facing each other, caressing, she with her hand on his
hair, he with his hand in her bosom for a long time lay there
entranced and I could not see their faces. Then both sat up like puppets
pulled by strings, their faces unflushed, perfectly matter-of-fact.
He took out a cigarette, lit it, threw away the match like a man perfectly
in control; she patted her hair, looked silently away into space. Spirals
of blue smoke, ash tapped off into grass, then Bang both flopped
down on the grass and resumed their loving. And all within earshot of
the lion' (p.94).
Primrose Hill from The Last Ditch. 1939.
The Cuala Press, Dublin, 1940. Reprinted for the Irish University Press,
'...The top of the hill is bare
But the trees beneath it stretch
Through Regent's Park and reach
A rim of jewelled lights -
The music of the fair.
And the wind gets up and blows
The lamps between the trees
And all the leaves are waves
And the top of Primrose Hill
A raft on stormy seas.
Some day the raft will lift
Upon a larger swell
And the evil sirens call
And the searchlights quest and shift
And out of the Milky Way
The impartial bombs will fall.
The Strings Are False. Faber, 1965.
During the Munich crisis in 1938, 'I found the Territorials hastily,
inefficiently, cutting down the grove on the top of Primrose Hill
next day Primrose Hill looked so forlorn that I took the train to Birmingham
(p.174). After the Munich Agreement, 'back in London Primrose Hill was
embarrassingly naked, as if one's grandfather had shaved his beard off.
Propped on tree trunks on the top of it were two or three little museum-piece
guns, ingenuously gaping at the sky' (p.175). Although he must have
walked through the park every day when teaching at Bedford College there
is no mention of it in this autobiography.
Collected Poems. Faber, 1966.
In a number of poems over a period of twenty years the park is depicted
in a variety of moods and seasons. The first reference seems to be in
Trilogy For X (p.88-91), written in the summer of 1938 and reflecting
concerns about the approach of war. (In March that year Hitler had annexed
Austria.) Part 3 begins:
'March gave clear days,
Gave unaccustomed sunshine,
Prelude to who knows
What dead end or downfall...
Regent's Park was
Gay with ducks and deck-chairs,
Omens were absent
In Autumn Journal, also 1938, in Canto V, p.109:
Of leaves in Regent's Park
And suddenly from the Zoo I hear a sea-lion
And so to my flat with the trees outside the window
And the dahlia shapes of the lights on Primrose Hill
...The bloody frontier
Converges on our beds...'
And in Canto VII, p.113:
'...I hear dull blows on wood outside my window;
They are cutting down the trees on Primrose Hill.
The wood is white like the roast flesh of chicken,
Each tree falling like a closing fan;
No more looking at the view from seats beneath its branches,
Everything is going to plan;
They want the crest of this hill for anti-aircraft...'
In Autumn Sequel (1953), Canto III, p.343:
'The whistles begin: from Clarence Gate to the Zoo
The lights go up on the road and down in the lake,
The deckchairs empty and the shades accrue,
The lovers untwine and rise, intertwine again and take
Their long abstracted exit, terriers bark
Hustled away on their leads while, like a sudden ache,
A harsh voice cries All Out all out of Regent's
There are other passages in Canto 1, p.333-334; Canto
VI, p.354; Canto XVII, p.401; Canto XIX, p. 406; and Canto XXIII, p.423.
In 1957-60 a sequence of four poems: The park, The
lake in the park, Dogs in the park and Sunday in the park,
p.494-496. Difficult to pick out a representative piece from the later
work; this is from The lake in the park (p.495):
'On an empty morning a small clerk
Who thinks no-one will ever love him
Sculls on the lake in the park while bosomy
Trees indifferently droop above him...'
MALCOLM, JAMES PELLER
Anecdotes of the Manners and Customs of London During
the Eighteenth Century. Longman, Hurst, Rees and Orme, 1810. 3 vols.
'The orchestra, boxes, theatre, and every part of the gardens were beautifully
illuminated at vast expense with lamps of various colours, disposed
with great taste and elegance. The grass plat before Mr. Torre's building
was surrounded with two semi-circular rows of trees and hedges prettily
contrived, divided, and forming two walks; and between every tree hung
a double row of lamps bending downwards; between every break orange
and lemon-trees were placed, and the whole was hung with festoons of
flowers and other pastoral emblems. On this place the rural entertainment
was held, consisting of singing and dancing...On the left hand of this
rural space was a stile, and a walk which led to a Temple sacred to
Hymen, which was transparent, and had a pretty effect when viewed from
a distance' (vol.2, p.290).
This description of a Fête Champêtre in
Marylebone Gardens, c1774, was taken from a newspaper of the period.
As originally staged it had been criticised as 'a few tawdry festoons
and extra lamps,' not worth the entrance charge of five shillings. This
new version seems to have been a success: 'The gardens were not clear
of company at six o'clock next morning.'
Marylebone Gardens had opened in 1659 and 'were entered
gratis by all ranks of people;' but in 1738, 'the company resorting
to them becoming more respectable, Mr. Gough, the keeper, determined
to demand a shilling as entrance-money, for which the party paying was
to receive an equivalent in viands' (vol.2, p.198). Entertainments were
staged throughout the season: there is a description of a typical evening,
including an exhibition of Torré's famous fireworks, at p.276.
top of page
Journal of an Urban Robinson Crusoe: London
and Brighton. Saxon Books, 2002.
'7 December ...I was walking over Primrose Hill feeling really
low and ugly, not aware of people properly, even avoiding them, when
a beautiful little girl unexpectedly came up to me and said, "Please,
sir, would you be my Valentine?" giving me daisy and buttercup
flowers. I said something like, "Oh yes, thank you", and as
I walked away I saw her mother give me a brief smile. I had to walk
quickly away because I was so overcome I thought I would break down
in tears. I'm sure she must have been an angel, because it was exactly
what I needed to break the black mood I was in. I didn't even know it
was St Valentine's Day until later' (p.17-18).
At the start of this book Des Marshall tells us that
he didn't write it: the real author was a 'small, nervous, thin faced'
man he met on a Mental Health Day Workshop in Camden, who asked if he
could help him get it published. 'I exist on an Island of Urban curiosity,
with no Girl Friday...I live my separate reality', the journal begins.
His outsider status makes him highly sensitive to other people's behaviour,
although anyone who has walked along a canal towpath will identify with
the experience recorded a few days earlier:
'I was thinking of walking to Regent's Park along the
canal but the weather is very changeable. It's December and there is
going to be hail and heavy downpours. Why I am undecided about it is
that people zoom down the path on their bikes. They don't seem to care
about people walking. A week before I broke my arm I heard a bell tinkle.
I looked behind me and couldn't believe what I saw - a man on a bike
with two huge Doberman pinschers running alongside him, bearing down
on me, racing along like a man possessed. Now I'm sure he was insane
and maybe Jeffrey Darma was normal after all, because I doubt he would
do that' (p.16-17). (Darma was a serial killer who had just been pronounced
The Devil's Garden. 1914. Thornton Butterworth,
'Blindly raging, he passed through the silent, deserted streets, and
presently blundered into Regent's Park. It was all exquisitely pretty
in the pure morning light, with dew-wet grass, feathery branches of
trees, and the water of a river or lake flashing and sparkling; and
as he stared stupidly about him, he thought for a moment that he was
experiencing an illusion of the senses. Or was he a boy again safe in
his forest? This sort of thing belonged to the happy past, and could
have no proper place in the abominable present.'
Facing dismissal from his position in the Post Office,
William Dale has been driven half mad by the discovery that his wife
has 'sacrificed herself' to an influential grandee in order to save
his career. 'One thought had split away from all the rest, and every
moment was becoming more definite, more logical, more full of excruciating
pain. He thought now only of his enemy, of the human fiend who had destroyed
Mavis and himself.'
'He crossed a low rail, walked on a little way toward
the water, and then threw himself face downward on the grass. He knew
where he was now - in the present time, in a public pleasure-ground.
London stretched about the park, and beyond that there was the vast
round globe; beyond that again there was the universe; and it seemed
to him that, big as it all was, it was not big enough to hold one other
man and himself' (p.102).
London Labour and the London Poor. 1861-1862. Dover Publications
Inc., 1968. 4 vols.
'"The first rats I caught was when I was about nine years of age.
I ketched them at Mr. Strickland's, a large cow-keeper, in Little Albany-street,
Regent's Park. At that time it was all fields and meaders in them parts...With
my ferruts I at first used to go out hunting rats round by the ponds
in Regent's-park, and the ditches, and in the cow- sheds round about.
People never paid me for ketching...I used to make my money by selling
the rats to gents as was fond of sport, and wanted them for their little
dogs. I kept to this till I was thirteen or fourteen years of age, always
using the ferruts; and I bred from them, too"'
(vol. 3, p.13).
Jack Black, the self-styled 'Queen's ratcatcher,' was the man to go
to when the author 'wished to obtain the best information about rat
and vermin destroying...There was an expression of kindliness in his
countenance, a quality which does not exactly agree with one's preconceived
notions of ratcatchers...Mr. Black stuffs animals and birds...The enormous
pot-bellied carp, with the miniature rushes painted at the back of its
case, was caught in the Regent's Park waters' (p.10-11).
'"It's fifteen years ago since I first worked for Goverment. I
found that the parks was much infested with rats, which had underminded
the bridges and gnawed the drains...I've taken thirty-two rats out of
one hole in the islands in Regentsey-park, and found in it fish, birds,
and loads of eggs duck eggs and every kind"' (p.15-16).
How It All Came Round. Hodder & Stoughton, 1883.
'In half an hour she found herself in Regent's Park...The whole place
was flooded with sunshine. There were no flowers visible; the season
had been too bad, and the year was yet too young...Children were running
about everywhere. Charlotte loved children. Many an afternoon she had
gone into Kensington Gardens for the mere and sole purpose of watching
them. Here were children, too, as many as there, but of a different
class. Not quite so aristocratic, not quite so exclusively belonging
to the world of rank and fashion. The children in Regent's Park were
certainly quite as well dressed; but there was some little indescribable
thing missing in them, which the little creatures whom Charlotte Harman
was most accustomed to notice, possessed' (p.64-65).
Musing on these differences, Charlotte becomes aware of a group approaching
the bench that she shares with a clergyman.
'A very small nurse appeared, wheeling a perambulator, while two children
ran by her side...The little group were walking past rather more slowly
than most of the other groups, for the older boy and girl looked decidedly
tired, when suddenly they all stopped; the servant girl opened her mouth
until it remained fixed in the form of a round O; the baby raised its
arms and crowed; the elder boy and girl uttered a loud shout and ran
forward. "Father, father, you here?" said the boy' (p.65).
Charlotte gets into conversation, later visits their house and discovers
that the clergyman's wife is a long-lost relative. But past events mean
that the reunion is not a happy one, and subsequently the two women
arrange to meet in the park to sort things out (p.122-129). At a final
chance encounter with the children Charlotte becomes reconciled to what
she has learned (p.297-301).
Birds Waking from Green With Beasts, 1955.
Reprinted in The New Oxford Book of American Verse. Ed. Richard
Ellman. OUP, 1976.
'I went out at daybreak and stood on Primrose Hill.
It was April: a white haze over the hills of Surrey
Over the green haze of the hills above the dark green
Of the park trees, and over it all the light came up clear,
The sky like deep porcelain paling and paling,
With everywhere under it the faces of the buildings
Where the city slept, gleaming white and quiet,
St Paul's and the water tower taking the gentle gold
And from the hill chestnuts and park trees
There was such a clamour rose as the birds woke,
Such uncontainable tempest of whirled
Singing flung upward and upward into the new light...'
Technicolor Dreamin'. Trafford Publishing, 2006.
'We took a walk in Regent's Park, that picturesque expanse of grass,
tearooms and ponds, all bordered by stately homes. The air, unusually
warm for London, hung heavy with the smell of honeysuckle and roses.
Men in suits sat eating their lunch, wearing handkerchiefs, tied at
each corner, like a hat, to shield them from the heat. All around us
people lay on the grass in their bathing suits or in various states
of undress, exposing white English skin that was certain to be blistering
pink by the end of the afternoon' (p.126-127).
The author had arrived from Canada in the 1960's, just
in time for 'the fun-loving, optimistic and idealistic hippie movement...It
was here that I found my niche, and my fashion career began as I worked
to dress the streets with Pre-Raphaelite flower children.' Knotted handkerchiefs
worn on the head were definitely out.
'We sat on a bench near the boat-hire and watched the
glimmering trout surface in the dark, marshy water under the entangled
leaves of the weeping willow. My attention was caught by a distinguished-looking
gentleman in a bowler hat. He arrived in a taxi and unloaded a large
trunk, which to my surprise emitted cries for help and loud thumps.
At the boat-hire stall nearby, the sharp eyes of the attendant scrutinized
the trunk suspiciously. "What yer gonna do with that trunk, sir?"
he asked. The gentleman replied off-handedly, "I'm going to dump
it into the middle of the lake."'
Even to a fun-loving hippie, this seemed to be going
a bit far. 'In a panic, I jumped up and rushed toward the boat, yelling,
"Hey, Stop! What have you got in the trunk?" Only the broad
smile of the gentleman made me suspect there was something amiss. I
felt quite ridiculous when it turned out to be an episode for Candid
Camera, then a virtually unknown TV series' (p.127).
The Footpath and Highway; Or, Wanderings of an American
In Great Britain in 1851 and '52. Lippincott,
Grambo & Co., 1853.
'The parks of London deserve the attention of
the stranger as much as any other objects of interest in the metropolis...the
trees are large, and as they are principally oaks and elms, their branches
extend so far as to form leafy arcades for a great distance. People
are permitted to ramble over the grass, and it is not unusual to see
them lying down under the trees, reading, or asleep' (p.96).
The author had worked as a printer in Philadelphia before
setting off at the age of 30 on a visit to Europe. Disembarking at Liverpool,
he had travelled around the country mainly on foot. In London he seems
to have been greatly taken with the Zoo - both its inmates and its visitors.
'There are specimens of natural history from every section
of the world, and it is a matter of surprise that animals from warm
climates live and thrive so well in English air as those do in Regent's
Park...Saturday afternoon is a favourite time, among the wealthy and
titled, for visiting the Zoological Gardens, and then and there the
stranger has an opportunity of seeing the refined society of London.
Good conduct, gentle behavior, and suavity of manner characterize the
gentlemen, and all that contributes to the elevation of female character
is discoverable in the ladies' (p.97).
The Journal of Benjamin Moran, 1857-1865. University
of Chicago Press, 1948. 2 vols.
'Friday, Jan 30 ...Crowds of carriages were dashing up and down
Portland Place in the afternoon as I walked towards Regent's Park, most
of them filled with ladies muffled in furs and finery. I saw a number
of good looking English girls taking their walk in the park, each seemingly
enjoying herself. These Eng. females are wonderful for exercise. They'll
walk Lord knows how many miles daily, go alone for miles, take care
of themselves wherever they go, and come home delighted and not the
least tired' (vol.1, p.5).
Persuaded perhaps by the suave manners and elevated
characters he had observed on his previous visit, Moran had entered
the diplomatic service and in 1855 was appointed secretary of the United
States legation in London. On 10th May 1857 he records a walk to Hampstead,
'visiting Primrose Hill on our way' (vol.1, p.41). There are probably
other references to the Hill and the Park, but 1,437 pages without an
index or chapter summaries deterred me from a thorough examination.
MORGAN, WILLIAM DE
Alice-for-Short: a Dichronism. 1907. Thomas Nelson
& Sons, 1919.
'He turned to walk back along the broad walk. The gate was closing;
but he was allowed to pass if he would promise to go straight across,
and not keep the gate-closing back. He walked on through the almost
deserted Park, shouts of "All out!" reaching him from wandering
guardians, and the beasts in the Zoological Gardens seeming to echo
their injunctions. No wonder, Charles thought, if it is true that they
are allowed out on parole in the empty Park, at night, as the story
Disconcerted by his feelings for the beautiful artist's
model who has been sitting for his "Lear and Cordelia", Charles
has abandoned work in his studio and gone to think things over in the
park. 'It contributed to the melancholy and fostered it to dream of
the days when there were May trees over there in Marylebone Fields'
'In order to lengthen out his walk in the silence of
the Park, now moonlit and enjoyable, and at the same time to keep faith
with the authorities, he made for Hanover Gate, instead of keeping on
the broad walk. A belated workman or two, and a park-keeper who said
"All out!" sternly and reproachfully, were all the folk he
saw until he drew near the bridge over the Ornamental Water. Then he
became aware that there was a woman behind him, following at no great
distance; but still near enough to give the impression that she was
following...He quickened his pace, realising that a prowler of the class
he supposed her to belong to would see in this a hint that her society
was not coveted' (p.203). But Charles is mistaken, and subsequent events
plunge him into an even greater emotional turmoil.
Clinging To The Wreckage.
A farcical encounter involving divorce proceedings, dental fillings
and a spare-rib, in the Rose Garden restaurant some time in the 1960's,
is recorded in this autobiography (p.244-5). See the Tour
for more details.
MORTON, JOHN MADDISON
Woodcock's Little Game. A
Comedy-Farce in Two Acts. Thomas Hailes, 1864.
'Act 2 [A house in Regent's Park]
Swansdown: We must fight, sir. I know all! All!
Larkings: The devil! Well, sir, tomorrow morning!
Swansdown: No! Now! Now! It's a moonlight night! Primrose Hill close
at hand, and I've pistols in my pocket! (p.29)
A love letter from Larkings to Swansdown's wife has
been discovered and the injured husband is demanding satisfaction, but
as this is a 'comedy-farce' the duel takes place off-stage and nothing
David [servant]: Oh please ma'am a policeman has just
rung at our bell - seeing we hadn't gone to bed, he called to say that
as he was going over Primrose Hill, about a quarter of an hour ago,
he picked up this card case, ma'am!...
Mrs. Larkings: But why bring it to our home?
David: Because it's Mr. Larkings's card case, ma'am!
Mrs Larkings (to Larkings): So you've been to Primrose Hill, it seems?
Larkings: Yes - the fact is - the rooms were so hot - and - never having
seen the sun set - I mean the moon rise...
Mrs Larkings: Where did the man say he picked the card case up?
David: Where the shooting took place ma'am...He heard two shots, ma'am
- bang, bang; and ran to the spot just in time to see three gentlemen
walking off; and -
Mrs Larkings: You can go, David...'(p.34).
The theatre critic of The Times thought that
'the duel in the midst of a modern ball, so very improbable and so very
French, suddenly interrupts the course of genuine comedy, and counteracts
all the clever adapter's efforts to give an English aspect to a foreign
story', but felt nevertheless that the play was 'unequivocally successful'.
Wintering. Hodder and Stoughton,
'Up the gravel-crusted footpaths of Primrose Hill she rises, pushing
Nicholas in the pram...Across the green lawns spreading on all sides,
she walks in the last granular light of afternoon. Frieda's mittened
hand curls round the curving chrome chassis of the pram. Sylvia leads
her, a docile calf, toward the playground at the foot of the hill. But
the summit exerts its own pull, its cloud-marbled arc of changeable,
potent sky drawing Sylvia's muted attention' (p.102-103).
The mother pushing the pram is of course Sylvia Plath,
then living at 23 Fitzroy Road, and the date is 13th December 1962.
The last months of her life are re-created in this novel, with scrupulous
attention to the chronology but questionable taste. A family visit to
the Zoo in happier times is described on p.102-107.
As I Was Going Up Primrose Hill from
The Classic Book of Nursery Rhymes. Treasure
Press, 1986. Originally published by George G. Harrap (1920) as Mother
'As I was going up Primrose Hill,
Primrose Hill was dirty;
There I met a pretty Miss,
And she dropped me a curtsey.
Little Miss, pretty Miss,
Blessings light upon you;
If I had a half-a-crown a day,
I'd spend it all upon you.'
The poem also appears in Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes,
arr. Logan Marshall (John C. Winston Co., Philadelphia and Chicago,
1917). Strictly speaking it should be attributed to Anonymous: there
is no consensus as to who Mother Goose was, or whether she ever existed.
The first printed edition bearing the name was Mother Goose's Melodies,
or Sonnets for the Cradle, published in London in 1780 and described
as 'a compilation of traditional English nonsense songs and rhymes.'
There have been many different versions since then, with new rhymes
In some editions 'Primrose Hill' is changed to 'Pippen Hill'; no-one
knows why, or whether such a place exists.
Cold Cream. Bloomsbury, 2008.
'I was hired to teach English history and manners, including cricket,
to the three children of David and Evangeline Bruce who had just moved
into the American Embassy in Regent's Park...Nothing to do except set
out the cricket stumps on the vast lawn, since David Junior, Nicky and
the eldest, Sasha, a dark coltish fifteen-year-old, had a real nanny
who looked after them most of the time' (p.192-193).
Recently down from Oxford, this was not
how the author had imagined life in 1960's Swinging London. 'Ensconced
in the garden wing of the enormous mansion that Barbara Hutton had donated
to the American nation,' he noted that the children 'seemed ill at ease'
with their parents.
'As we played our desultory games out on
the huge sward, the boys cross-batting the ball baseball-style despite
my repeated instructions on keeping a straight bat, the Bruces' guests
British politicians, American senators, other ambassadors, sometimes
film stars like Gregory Peck would come out on to the terrace
for pre-lunch cocktails. They seemed miles away. It was as though our
little game was taking place out in the middle at Lord's or the Oval'
(p.193). It was nevertheless 'a wonderful carefree summer,' and the
evenings were all his own. 'As I strolled out through the wrought-iron
gates and down the Outer Circle under the limes and chestnuts, I no
longer felt like a Chekhov tutor but rather like a young blood in Thackeray
out for an evening's gaming...' (p.193-194).
Lived at Cambridge Gate in the early post-war years.
The Infernal Grove. Collins, 1973. (Vol. 2 of
his autobiography The Chronicles of Wasted Time)
'I remember particularly Regent's Park on a moonlit night, full of the
fragrance of the rose gardens; the Nash terraces perfectly blacked-out,
not a sign of light anywhere, white stately shapes waiting to be toppled
over as they duly were, crumbling into rubble like melted snow'
The author is recalling his night-time walks during
the Blitz of 1940-41. In the post-war years,
'I used to walk around Regent's Park most afternoons
with Tony Powell at the time he was writing the first volume of his
Music Of Time, and we would discuss, as we went along, the forthcoming
adventures of his characters' (p.253).
Like It Was - The Diaries of Malcolm Muggeridge.
Various brief references, of which the most descriptive is 'March 9,
1948. Came back early and walked with Kitty in Regent's Park. Wonderful
evening light, blossoms beginning, Spring coming' (p.254). On 22nd January
1951, during an evening walk around the terraces, a scream attracts
his attention to a drunken row between a man and a woman (p.426). This
is his most detailed entry regarding the park; like his neighbour Anthony
Powell he seems to have been impressed by the violence of the area.
For Love's Sake in The Australian Journal, 1st June 1892.
'Nearly four months passed before I saw her. I was walking in the Regent's
Park one afternoon in December. There was half-frozen snow upon the
ground, and more in the sky waiting to fall. I was thinking about her,
and I felt dull and miserable. I sat down upon a bench and lit my pipe,
and tried to drive her from my mind by thinking of a story I was writing
at the time. But I could think of nothing but her. The night was closing
in, and a park-keeper came and told me that the gates would soon be
closed and I must go. As I rose to obey, a woman's figure fluttered
by me. The light was dim under the trees, and she passed quickly at
some distance from where I stood. But I knew her. It was she, the girl
I had lost' (p.565).
The narrator had first seen her, chaperoned by her aunt, at an evening
reception given by a famous authoress. He had been smitten immediately,
but later the girl had disappeared. Meeting her now in the park, he
learns that her aunt 'had lost the income on which they had lived, by
a piece of heartless rascality,' and they were now reduced to poverty.
A further twist of fate results in our hero inheriting a fortune, enabling
him to provide for both ladies.
Totenham Court - A Pleasant Comedy.
1639. H. Hills, 1709.
'The Deer fed well, Sir, only a Mischance. Some Cuckold's Cur (for I
saw him run towards London) had pulled down two or three young Deer.'
Slip is making his report to the Keeper of Marrowbone
[Marylebone] Park, who replies, 'Well, Sirrah, round you the South-side
o' th' Park; and meet me at the great Oak.' (Act 1, Scene 5).
The play is set in 'Totenham [Tottenham] Court and the
fields about it'. Act 1, Scene 3 ends with Cicely the milkmaid's offstage
'What a dainty life the Milk-maid leads
When over the flow'ry Meads
She dabbles in the Dew,
And sings to her Cow...'
In the park she encounters a distressed maiden, Bellamie,
who is fleeing from her uncle, and whose bedraggled appearance leads
Cicely to mistake her for a whore:
'The Park here has fine conveniences, or Totenham-Court's
close by. Tis suspected that fine City Ladies give away fine things
to Court Lords for a Country Banquet there...I will go to my Cows and
leave you to the Fare of the Morning: Despair not of a Customer; but
be sure I catch you not napping; for if I do, I have less Mercy than
Prentices at Shrovetide. I hate hedge-coupling worse than fasting at
Christmas.' (Act 1, Scene 4). (See the Shaw
entry for an opinion on hedge-coupling in the park some 250 years later.)
The Park's reputation as a haunt of prostitutes was frequently alluded
to by contemporary dramatists. In The Roaring Girl (Thomas Middleton
and Thomas Dekker, 1611), Laxton tells his coachman to drive 'to the
hither end of Marybone Park, a fit place for Moll to get in' (Act 3,
Sc 1). A real-life character, Moll Cutpurse was a notorious prostitute,
pick-pocket and highway robber. In A Fair Quarrel (Thomas Middleton
and William Rowley, 1614) Trimtram sings:
'He that the reason would know, let him hark,
Why these three were buried near Marybone Park;
These three were a pander, a bawd and a whore,
That sucked many dry to the bones before...' (Act 4 Sc 4)
Lord Will and Her Grace. Signet,
'They entered the deserted outer circle of Regent's Park and with the
flick of the whip, Sophie signalled her mare into a canter, which soon
became a gallop when Lord Drummond's gelding tried to catch them...The
mare handily won the impromptu race ending at Macclesfield Bridge. Sophie
turned her head to give Lord Drummond some good-natured ribbing before
she heard a shout from the groom. The young man pointed toward something
in the misty distance in the direction of Primrose Hill across the road.
"They're duelling, miss," the groom, Jemmy, called out' (p.154-155).
Ignoring Drummond's protests Sophie goes to investigate,
and is alarmed to discover that one of the duellists is Lord Will, for
whom she retains a soft spot despite previous evidence of his wicked
ways. It soon transpires that she didn't know the half of it. 'Sophie
was still reeling from the revelation of William's debauchery when Mr.
Farquhar whistled to Lord Drummond. "Escort Miss Somerset from
here, for God's sake"' (p.162).
The author, a rising star of the Regency Romance genre,
cites Jane Austen and the Brontes as early influences, but despite a
'Reader, I married him' ending there are no discernible traces in her
top of page
The Story of the Amulet.
1906. Puffin Classics, 1996.
Escaping a sticky situation in Ancient Egypt, where the amulet's magical
powers had taken them, the children are relieved to find themselves
back in the present, 'breathing in the quiet, safe air of Regent's Park'
and listening to 'the peeking and patting of the sparrows on the gravel
and the voices of the ragged baby children playing Ring-o'-Roses on
the yellow trampled grass' (p.82-83).
On an earlier visit the children take a picnic, 'sitting
on the grass
under trees whose leaves would have been clean, clear
green in the country, but here were dusty and yellowish, and brown at
the edges.' (This is the grimy, polluted London of 1905 see the
Henry James entry for a 1902 description of 'shabby
grass' and 'smutty sheep'.) The magic amulet causes a 'great red arch'
to appear: 'all round and beyond were the faded trees
little ragged children were playing Ring-o'-Roses. But through the opening
of it shone a blaze of blue and yellow and red' (p.52-53).
Some 20 years earlier (August 1886) Nesbit had gone
for walks in the park with Bernard Shaw to whom she had formed a 'passionate
attachment', in Shaw's words (A Woman of Passion: the Life of Edith
Nesbit 1858-1924. Julia Briggs. p.91). Could there be a link between
the sensuous imagery the 'great red arch' with its 'blaze' of
colours and their unconsummated relationship?
The Diary of Sylas Neville, 1767-1788. Ed. Basil Cozens-Hardy.
'Mon. Jun. 8 ...At 6 went to Marybone Gardens, a place of the
kind of Ranelagh but not so elegant nor frequented by such good
company indeed much indifferent company resort to both. A transparent
picture of a Patagonian man, woman and child was exhibited for the first
time; went and returned on foot. Marybone fields are much pleasanter
than the gardens. Got home about 11' (p.10).
The author was 26 at the time and had given up his law
studies to enjoy the life of man-about-town. The pleasure gardens offered
many diversions: Patagonians were then an object of great curiosity
as they were thought to be giants. The frontispiece to Commodore Byron's
Journal of a Voyage Round the World, published the previous year,
showed them as nearly twice the size of the European officers standing
alongside. The transparent painting, on several layers of fabric and
lit from behind, would have given a striking three-dimensional effect.
'Tues. Jun. 23 ...½ past six got to Marybone
Gardens to hear Dr. Arne's Glee of "Which is the properest day
to drink?" That of "The Silent Cock and hen that crows"
and others performed with a few fireworks by Blanfield. 11 when I left
the Gardens. Crossing the fields when full of people from the Garden
is not dangerous' (p.13).
Eighteenth Century Piety. W.K. Lowther Clarke.
'June 6th, 1740...I have informed myself of the character of the entertainments
at Marybone...The company...is not half so much as in Vauxhall, seldom
above 300 or 400 in an evening, and rarely any quality among them. Their
terms of admittance and for eatables and drinkables in the evening are
the same as at Vauxhall. But I am told they make the most of their company
at breakfast there in the morning when they give nothing to be admitted
but pay 1s. for the coffee and tea they drink and 18d. if they have
chocolate. But they have no music in the morning except the French horn.
In the evening everyone pays a shilling for admittance and eats or drinks,
or not, as he pleases, as they do at Vauxhall. There is a grotto in
the neighbourhood which they say is worth seeing and that 1s. is given
to see the shell work of it...'(Letter to Mrs. Forman, p.46).
Henry Newman was Secretary of the Society for Promoting
Christian Knowledge; Marylebone Gardens was a few minutes walk from
the SPCK's offices. He seems to have felt reassured about its moral
character. Over the next 16 years it evidently went downhill, the Rev.
Dr. Trusler describing it as 'a
vortex of dissipation.'
Love Rules. HarperCollins,
'Overhead, a scruff of crows littered the sky, like flits of charcoal
coughed up by a bonfire. Thea found herself wondering if the crows were
somehow goading the birds caged in the London Zoo aviary, just down
the hill and over the road' (p.63).
Thea is waiting for her lover on Primrose Hill, scene
of their first chance encounter (p.49-55) and their second, planned,
one (p.58-59). Another visit on the first anniversary of their meeting
(p.110), and a final one when it's all over:
'At the top of Primrose Hill, in the dawn of August
bank holiday Monday, Thea and Alice take a seat on one of the benches
with a view. Alice gazes at the ghostly panorama of London. The design
of the rubbish bins on Primrose Hill echo [sic] the shape of Canary
Wharf. Everything seems a little unreal, distorted.' They have come
to dispose of the ring he gave her. 'Thea stands and then, with a competent
throw, launches the ring as high as she can...She's pleased that she's
released it to a place, a time, sacred to when she and Saul were very
very happy. Now she's spread their dreams under other people's feet.
She hopes they'll tread softly' (p.388-389).
NOWROJEE, JEHANGEER and MERWANJEE,
Journal of a Residence of Two Years and a Half in Great Britain.
W.H. Allen, 1841.
'Sir Charles...took us in his carriage to a most lovely spot in the
Park, called the Zoological Gardens; on our way thither we saw a great
number of very elegant carriages, drawn by beautifully spirited horses,
with harness of superior description, and the coachmen and servants
behind the carriages dressed in liveries of every known colour; within
the carriages as we swiftly rolled by, we saw many women, fair and with
light hair, many of them appeared to us most beautiful. All of them
appeared to have mild blue eyes, and very sweet expression of countenance,
and we saw more of female beauty in a few hours, than we had ever beheld
in all our lives' (p.31-32).
In 1838 the two young naval architects from Bombay (Mumbai) had been
dispatched to the Chatham shipyards in Kent to learn about 'the construction
of steam vessels,' since it was clear that sailing ships were on their
way out. But, citing the adage that 'keeping the bow always bent would
only tend to weaken it,' they took time out to relax and see how the
English disported themselves on their native soil; adding, doubtless
with an eye to their employers back home, that they were 'careful in
our hours of relaxation to visit such exhibitions, and to associate
with such people, as would instruct while they amused.'
'The Regent's Park...has all around it magnificent houses looking into
it, built in every varied style of architecture...We consider these
parks as most conducive to the health of the inhabitants of London.
All these parks are inclosed in by iron railings with handsome gateways
and they are infinitely superior to the Esplanade at Bombay, the only
place of resort for the public near that city; here is to be found pure
air, healthful exercise can be taken, and here at certain hours every
day, more wealth, more respectability, more beauty, is to be seen collected
in one spot than is to be found congregated in any other part of the
Lived at 13 Hanover Terrace from 1927 to 1937, when he sold it to H.G.
Two Worlds For Memory (Sheed & Ward, 1953)
'Your house seems to be perfectly delightful. It is the kind that one
sees but never gets. Still, you must take one consideration with another.
You have the ornamental water, but is not our dear Mr. Gosse also of
Regent's Park? Eau et Gosse à tous les étages, as they
say in the advertisement. Be careful' (p.214).
Noyes, best known now for his poem The Highwayman, does
not himself mention the park. Here he is quoting a letter from his friend
Barry Pain, whose warning is a pun on 'Eau et Gaz à tous les
étages', the sign advertising 'Water and Gas on all floors' that
used to appear on the facade of Paris apartments. 'Be careful' may be
a reference to Gosse's bisexual inclinations. Though happily married
he had a long relationship with the sculptor Hamo Thorneycroft. (Asked
about Gosse's sexuality, his fellow critic Lytton Strachey said he was
Noyes only mentions the house when distinguished folk
are invited there, e.g. a lunch to discuss a forthcoming BBC talk in
praise of James Joyce's recently published Ulysses. The guests included
the Director of the BBC, Sir John Reith; they all agreed it was 'a foul
chaos', and ought to be banned (p.220).
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