Regent's Park and Primrose Hill in Literature and Music
Authors - T to Z
Taine, Hippolyte Adolphe
Tennyson, Sir Charles
Thackeray, William Makepeace (1839)
Thomson, Katherine (1844)
Trusler, John (1806)
Vaughan Williams, Ursula
Wagner, Richard (1855)
Wallis, Hannah (1787) (P)
Wells, H.G. (1859) (P)
Willard, Emma (1831)
Wilson, Harriette (1825)
Wordsworth, William (1812)
Wright, Deborah (P)
TAINE, HIPPOLYTE ADOLPHE
Notes on England. Translated
by W.F. Rae. Strahan & Co., 1872.
'Regent's Park is larger than the Jardin des Plantes and the Luxembourg
put together. I have often remarked that our life seems to them cooped
up, confined; they need air and space more than we do...This park is
in a retired neighbourhood; one hears no longer the rolling of carriages,
and one forgets London; it is a solitude. The sun shines, but the air
is always charged with damp clouds, floating watering-pots which dissolve
in rain every quarter of an hour. The vast watery meadows have a charming
softness, and the green branches drip with monotonous sound upon the
still water of the pond' (p.19).
The French critic and historian had published a History
of English Literature some years earlier, and seems to have been convinced
that it rains all the time in England. However his dampened spirits
became dangerously excited on discovering the Botanical Gardens.
'I enter a hot-house where there are splendid orchids,
some having the rich velvet of the iris, others a fresh colour of that
inexpressible, delicious, mingled tint transformed with light like palpitating
living flesh, a woman's breast; alongside, palm-trees raise their stems
in a tepid atmosphere.'
Recovering from this erotic fantasy, he adds: 'A strange
thing to us is that there are no keepers; admission is free, and no
damage is done; I can understand that they must ridicule our establishments
and public festivals, with their accompaniments of municipal guards'
TAYLOR, ELIZABETH (not the film star!)
A Game of Hide and Seek. 1951. Virago, 1986.
On a seat in the park Harriet waits for her lover and observes the other
visitors. 'Only the faintest breeze wrinkled the lake. Flecks of dazzling
colour, the tiny new leaves dotting the trees, the broken sunlight,
gave a painted look to the scene...pale, flaking houses enclosed the
tender greenness' (p.209-210).
The Soul of Kindness. 1964. Virago Modern Classics,
Elinor Pringle, bored stiff on a Sunday afternoon, 'went into the park
and sat down on a seat by the lake and opened her book.' But she's too
self-conscious to read, imagining passers-by commenting on her solitary
state 'when everyone else in the world has company
family parties, so sedate, so Sundayish' (p.148-149).
A few days later Meg Driscoll, in a happy/unhappy state, visits the
Zoo accompanied by the gay man she is in love with. 'A shimmer of heat
rose from the paths. The trees, water, iron railings had a gilded look'
Freud's Alphabet. Scribner,
'Regent's Park. Early afternoon. A clear sky apart from a handful of
clouds shaped like penny loaves. A nanny strolls along the sanded path,
wheeling a vast navy-blue perambulator, with its hood up to protect
from the elements a tiny, well-swaddled infant. Another nanny follows
at a discreet distance. And then another. A fleet of perambulators,
sailing off towards the horizon. These are followed by an old man in
a Bath chair, being wheeled by a young girl, quite possibly his granddaughter.
(An ironic inversion, yes; too pointed to seem altogether natural.)'
It is 1939 and Sigmund Freud, a refugee from Nazi-annexed
Vienna, is 'contrasting the city he happens to be in with the city which
is, for him, the obverse of this one - Paris.' The park 'seems quite
perfect; if anything a touch too perfect.' A lawnmower goes past, 'the
kind that has no box behind it to catch the leavings - instead the green
stuff is forced out, splattering all over the Doktor.'
'The Doktor sniffs. The sweet aroma of freshly cut grass.
Aha! he is beginning to have an inkling: he is spotting the deliberate
mistake. For the grass smells "sweet" and that is it. The
subtle, the infinitely complex aroma that this would have elsewhere,
that it did have, to his certain knowledge, in Paris, is absent in this
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TENNYSON, SIR CHARLES.
The grandson of the poet was born in Sussex Place in 1879 and was a
Where I Was Young - Memories of London Childhoods.
Valerie Jenkins. Hart Davis MacGibbon, 1976.
Recalls seeing 'one of the last surviving Jacks-in-the-Green, or Green
Men, a survival from pagan times. A man dancing along the road in Regent's
Park, dressed in leaves and flowers, playing on pipes' (p.89). Other
reminiscences are mostly about how much the park has changed (p.87-91).
THACKERAY, WILLIAM MAKEPEACE
Catherine: A Story. 1839. Reprinted in The
Works of William Makepeace Thackeray, Vol.11. Smith, Elder &
'There was given, at Marylebone Gardens, a grand concert and entertainment...After
the dancing, the music, and the fireworks, Monsieur de Galgenstein felt
the strange and welcome pangs of appetite, and was picking a cold chicken...along
with some other friends in an arbour when he was led to remark that
a very handsome plump little person, in a gorgeous stiff damask gown
and petticoat, was sauntering up and down the walk running opposite
his supping-place, and bestowing continual glances towards his Excellency.
The lady, whoever she was, was in a mask...and had a male companion.
He was a lad of only seventeen, marvellously well dressed indeed,
no other than the Count's own son, Mr. Thomas Billings' (Chapter 10,
The plump little person is Catherine, whose affair with
Count Galgenstein in the distant past had resulted in Thomas Billings.
Catherine's 'ancient lover' fails to recognize her behind the mask;
intrigued as to who she might be, he invites her to join him for a drink.
Tom meanwhile encounters his beloved, Polly Briggs, in the company of
another man, and challenges him to a fight.
'How the brawl might have ended, no one can say, had
the two gentlemen actually crossed swords; but Mrs. Polly, with a wonderful
presence of mind, restored peace by exclaiming, "Hush, hush! the
beaks, the beaks!" Upon which, with one common instinct, the whole
party made a rush for the garden gates, and disappeared into the fields.
Mrs. Briggs knew her company: there was something in the very name of
a constable which sent them all a-flying' (Chapter 10, p.117).
The Bedford Row Conspiracy. 1840. Reprinted in
A Shabby Genteel Story and Other Tales. D. Appleton & Co.,
'The intimacy of these young persons had, in fact,
become so close, that on a certain sunshiny Sunday in December, after
having accompanied aunt Riggs to church, they had pursued their walk:
as far as that rendezvous of lovers the Regent's Park, and were
talking of their coming marriage with much confidential tenderness,
before the bears in the Zoological Gardens. Miss Lucy was ever and anon
feeding those interesting animals with buns, to perform which act of
charity, she had clambered up on the parapet which surrounds their den'
Lucy, niece of the wealthy Lady Gorgon, had not thought
it 'at all necessary to inform her ladyship how deeply she was smitten
by the wicked young gentleman who had made all the disturbance at the
Oldborough ball.' Unexpectedly encountering the Gorgon entourage at
the Zoo, she has to confess.
'"An engagement without consulting your guardians!"
screamed her ladyship, "this must be looked to! Jerningham, call
round my carriage...Miss Gorgon, I will thank you to follow me immediately;"
and so saying...the lady bustled away forwards, the files of Gorgon
daughters and governess closing round and enveloping poor Lucy, who
found herself carried forward against her will, and in a minute seated
in her aunt's coach, along with that tremendous person' (p.204).
Vanity Fair. 1847. Dent Everyman, 1963.
The Marquess of Hertford, who owned Hertford Villa in the park, was
the model for the fictional Marquess of Steyne, but in the novel Steyne
lives in 'Gaunt Square'. Only fleeting references to the park, e.g.
on p.527 where he drives around it in a carriage with Becky Sharp.
The Virginians: A Tale of the Last Century. 1859.
Smith, Elder & Co., 1901.
Harry Warrington, scion of a wealthy tobacco-growing family in Virginia
(then a British colony), has arrived in England in 1756, accompanied
by his black servant Mr. Gumbo. After a lengthy stay with his Hampshire
relatives he is keen for more lively company.
'Reading in the London Advertiser, which was served
to his worship with his breakfast, an invitation to all lovers of manly
British sport to come and witness a trial of skill between the great
champions Sutton and Figg, Mr. Warrington determined upon attending
these performances, and accordingly proceeded to the Wooden House, in
Marybone Fields...He reached his destination at length...and found no
small company assembled to witness the valorous achievements of the
two champions' (Chapter XXXVII, p.310).
Sutton and Figg were real characters, and this contest
was the subject of a poem by James Byrom: 'Long was the great Figg,
by the prize-fighting swains, / Sole monarch acknowledg'd of Mary-bone
plains...' (A Collection of Poems in Six Volumes, By Several Hands.
Ed. R. & J. Dodsley. J. Hughes, 1758. Vol.6, p.286). Other sources
give the venue as the Boarded House in the Bear Garden at Marylebone,
and the date as 1727 some 30 years before Harry's visit.
'A crowd of London blackguards was gathered round the
doors of this temple of British valour...a variety of beggars and cripples
hustled round the young gentleman, and whined to him for charity...Mr.
Gumbo took his seat in the amphitheatre below; or, when tired, issued
forth into the outer world to drink a pot of beer, or play a game at
cards with his brother-lacqueys, and the gentlemen's coachmen on the
boxes of the carriages waiting without. Lacqueys, liveries, footmen
the old society was encumbered with a prodigious quantity of
these...They guzzled, devoured, debauched, cheated, played cards, bullied
visitors for vails that noble old race of footmen is well-nigh
In Camden Town. Hutchinson, 1983.
'There's some very bad people get into the park at night. There's
ways in when it's shut and no keepers about...I've seen some
you know two of them well, but I'm not saying and I've seen them
at Claridges next day and with carrier bags. They get the job if the
chef spots the bag and they get enough to keep anyone for a sennight
for what's in the bag, and get the day's work as well.
What's in the bag then?
Wild duck and sometimes young geese, but geese are nasty. You
can get hurt' (p.248-249).
Bill, the author's informant, has just come in to the
Engineer pub from the Regent's Park lake, where he has fed the ducks
and the younger geese every day 'until some got to know him and came
when he whistled.' Thomson suspects that this may have something to
do with 'a bulky Tesco carrier bag which I hadn't noticed when he came
This account of the years 1980-82 when the author lived
in Regent's Park Terrace begins with a description of the Rose Garden
on a Sunday evening in August. 'Fat short Maria-like women streaming
through Queen Mary's Garden gates unconscious of our wanting to get
in talk kept them and their men busy.' Maria turns out to be
the Thomsons' cleaner, too busy working to save up for a house back
in Portugal to have time for Sunday walks (p.7).
The White Mask. 3vols. Richard Bentley, 1844.
'Meantime Lord Sussex and Amy proceeded...to the celebrated
pleasure gardens of Marylebone...The Tavern, gay with flags, and filled
with company of the highest rank, commanded extensive gardens, in which
a band of music was playing. The diversions which attracted persons
to this place were still decorous still inoffensive...Paying
a shilling for their admittance, the gay and great poured into the gardens,
which formed a sort of Exchange for the polite world...Here a group
of high-born ladies, in hoods, and masks, sat round a tea-table, laying
aside their masks to converse, but holding them up to shade their faces,
as young gallants passed, and paid their obeisance...'(vol.1, p.138-141).
The period is c.1690, and 'the riotous manners, and
dark deeds which Gay had figured forth'
had not yet 'sullied this fashionable resort'. Not that his lordship
would have minded, he's only there for the bowling, and Amy has to sit
and watch while her companion, 'his fingers tingling from the propensity
to draw forth his money and to bet, became wholly absorbed in the game'
(p.143). (See the Sheffield
entry for a duke who liked to 'bowl time away' in low company.)
'The game of bowls lasted until the sun began to decline
and then, there was a general push and scramble for refreshments,
which each person, such was the arrangement of Marylebone Gardens, might
take to the extent of the introductory shilling. Of course it was fashionable
and liberal greatly to exceed that amount...and, accordingly, young
men were seen crowding around booths at which wine, and even spirits
were to be purchased. A more staid and intellectual tribe seated themselves
at tables, on which the milder and more refined luxuries of chocolate
and coffee, and afterwards of tea, were to be gracefully sipped in the
company of fair ladies, a bow at every sip, a compliment with every
bow; and sometimes, it must be avowed, a double entendre with every
compliment...'(p.150-151). The scene ends at page 161.
Memoirs of the Life of the Rev. Dr. Trusler
Written by Himself. John Brown, 1806.
'Leaving Cambridge soon after I was twenty-one years of age, I returned
home to my father's house, at Marybone, for I could not take orders
until I was nearly twenty-three.'
The author's father was proprietor of the Rose Tavern
and tearooms at Marylebone Gardens when the future cleric came down
from Cambridge in 1756. 'Let loose from a school of discipline, in the
prime of youth, and in such a vortex of dissipation, as a public place
of amusement affords, without the least controul; it would have been
no wonder had I deviated from the line of rectitude, I was taught to
pursue' (p.57). He was ordained three years later, escaping from the
noxious influence of such habitués as the Butcher of Culloden:
'William, Duke of Cumberland, used to amuse himself
in the dark walks of this place, and gave way to a variety of unbecoming
frolics with the women, which would have disgraced one of the lowest
class in society, and which to relate would disgust the reader. He was
supported in these unprincely acts, by two honourable aid-de-camps,
too often pandar to a prince's vice' (p.57-58).
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VAUGHAN WILLIAMS, URSULA
Paradise Remembered. Albion Music Ltd., 2002.
'We found the perfect house, 10 Hanover Terrace in Regent's Park...Before
we could move in the rebuilding following the bomb damage had to be
completed' (p.169). This was 1953, and they lived there until Ralph
Vaughan Williams's death in 1958. 'It was a delight to live in Hanover
Terrace. It is a large and beautiful house, the front looking over Regent's
Park, red may trees, an early flowering chestnut and the lake beyond.
At the back, a garden the width of the house, and the mews house at
the end of it...Ralph's pattern of work did not change, but there seemed
much more time for diversion. His, and often my, daily strolls were
in the park' (p.173-175).
In RVW: A Biography of Ralph Vaughan Williams
(OUP, 1964) Ursula Vaughan Williams says they became 'very much involved'
in a campaign to prevent the Nash Terraces being demolished. At Whitsun
1956 a group of Morris dancers performed in front of the house and were
invited in for drinks afterwards. Michael Kennedy (The Works of Ralph
Vaughan Williams, Clarendon, 1992) adds that 'at 10 Hanover Terrace
- his "plainly grand" home, as Frances Cornford described
it - he enjoyed five years of golden harvest, happy, creative, and surrounded
by friends young and old' (p.381).
In Regent's Park. Spring Ast LIX. Rousay, 1999.
once, on a wooden bench seat in Regent's Park,
the sun gone down leaving a May sky twilight lit, opalescent,
green and blue, I knew what it was to be in love, an experience
too intense to last, but then that was not the
intent; what lasts
is that which escapes time's net and gives to
From the title poem, a lament for the demise of romantic
love: 'the profiteers have got to work and mangled it flat'.
In a letter to me in December 2005 the author wrote:
'I have very fond memories of the Park. I worked for a time at the London
Planetarium during its foundation and would wander into the Park for
my lunch break. But my association with the place goes back long before
that time. It always appealed to me in a way it is difficult to define.'
My Life. Trans. Andrew
Gray, ed. Mary Whittall. Cambridge University Press, 1983.
'Arriving on March 2nd  in London, I turned first of all to Ferdinand
Praeger...established in London for many years as a music teacher...After
spending the first night in his house, I found with his help the following
day a nice place to stay in Portland Terrace in the neighbourhood of
Regent's Park, of which I had pleasant recollections from my past visit.
I thought my stay there would certainly prove agreeable, considering
the expected onset of spring and the immediate proximity of that part
of the park where the paths were shadowed by beautiful copper beeches.
Although I spent four months in London, the spring never seemed to appear;
the foggy climate weighed heavily on all the impressions I received
The composer had been invited to London to conduct a
series of concerts. Praeger had been introduced by friends; Wagner thought
him 'an unusually considerate fellow, yet a bit over-excited for the
level of his education.' The over-excitement seems to have infected
his memoir, Wagner As I Knew Him (Longmans Green, 1892), making
it an untrustworthy source for biographers, but his account of visits
to the park is too good to exclude.
'Part of Wagner's daily constitutional was to the Regent's
Park, entering by the Hanover Gate. There, at the small bridge over
the ornamental water, would he stand regularly and feed the ducks, having
previously provided himself with a number of French rolls - rolls ordered
each day for the occasion. There was a swan, too, that came in for much
of Wagner's affection. It was a regal bird, and fit, as the master said,
to draw the chariot of Lohengrin. The childlike happiness, full to overflowing,
with which this innocent occupation filled Wagner, was an impressive
sight never to be forgotten. His genuine affection for the brute creation,
united to a keen power of observation, gave birth to numberless anecdotes,
and the account of the Regent's Park peregrinations often formed a most
pleasant subject of after-dinner conversation' (p.244).
The Stealer of Marble in The Mind of Mr. J.G.
Reeder. 1925. White Lion Publishers, 1972.
'The house occupied Mr. Reeder's attention to a considerable degree.
It was a red-brick modern dwelling consisting of two floors and having
a frontage on the [Outer] Circle and a side road. Behind and beside
the house was a large garden which, at this season of the year, was
bare of flowers...He was leaning over the wooden palings eyeing the
grounds through the screen of a box hedge that overlapped the fence
with a melancholy stare, when he saw a door open and a big woman come
Something dubious, involving marble chips and a vast
sum of money, is going on inside '904 The Circle', and the detective
from the Public Prosecutor's Department has been asked to investigate.
'It was dusk when a big car drew up at the gate of the
house.' A mysterious transaction follows, 'and the car went out of sight
round the curve of the Circle. Mr. Reeder crossed the road and took
up a position very near the front gate, waiting. Dusk came and the veil
of a Regent's Park fog. The house was in darkness...He glanced round
anxiously... for he had certain acts to perform which required a thick
a cloaking as possible' (p.151-153). The marble chips, it turns out,
were for making carbon monoxide (you steep them in hydrochloric acid),
but Reeder's discovery comes too late to save the City financier.
To Mrs. ?, on the Death of her Husband. From
The Female's Meditations; Or, Common Occurrences Spiritualized, in
Verse (1787), reprinted in Eighteenth Century Women Poets.
Ed. Roger Lonsdale. OUP, 1989.
'...Here Sally did with Tommy walk,
Young Jenny was with me;
We cast our eyes on Wellings Farm;
And Primrose Hill would see.
I do remember on our way
We through a field did pass,
Where quantities of grasshoppers
Were jumping in the grass...
We soon ascended Primrose Hill,
And did those buildings view,
Which sure have stood in ancient times,
And many that were new...' (p.408)
'Wellings Farm' must have been Willans Farm in Marylebone
Park. Little is known about the author, but it can be deduced from her
verse that she grew up in a village near Chelmsford in Essex. The editor
adds that 'in March 1789 the Monthly Review merely quoted four
lines from her book as evidence that this "poor Methodist"
would "never write tolerable verse." But some readers at least
may find that her blend of naive reminiscence and simple piety has a
certain homely immediacy' (p.407).
The Night Watch. Virago,
'They went into the park at Clarence Gate, then followed the path beside
the boating lake. They approached the bandstand and the music grew louder
and less ragged. They walked further, and the tune revealed itself at
last. "Oh!" said Helen, and they laughed; for it was only
"Yes! We Have No Bananas". They left the path and found a
spot they liked the look of, half in sunlight, half in shade. The ground
was hard, the grass very yellow. Helen put down the bag and unpacked
the cloth; they spread it out and kicked off their shoes, then laid
out the food' (p.49-50).
A Saturday in 1947: the modest picnic - 'bread, lettuce,
apples, a nub of cheese' - reflects the austerity of post-war Britain,
when food was still rationed and bananas a rarity.
'Somewhere a baby was crying from a pram; she heard
it stumbling over its breath. A dog was barking, as its owner teased
it with a stick. From the boating lake there came the creak and splash
of oars, the larking about of boys and girls; and from the streets at
the edges of the park, of course, came the steady snarl of motors. Concentrating,
she seemed to hear the scene in all its individual parts: as if each
might have been recorded separately, then put with the others to make
a slightly artificial whole: "A September Afternoon, Regent's Park"'(p.51).
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Lived at 13 Hanover Terrace from 1937 until his death in 1946.
Select Conversations With an Uncle. John Lane, 1895. (A collection
of humorous articles written for the Pall Mall Gazette.):
The Man With a Nose recounts a conversation between two men 'sitting,
one at either end, on that seat on the stony summit of Primrose Hill
which looks towards Regents Park. The paths on the slope below
were dotted out by yellow lamps; the Albert-road was a line of faintly
luminous pale green the tint of gaslight seen among trees; beyond,
the park lay black and mysterious, and still further, a yellow mist
beneath and a coppery hue in the sky above marked the blaze of the Marylebone
The Great Change recounts a conversation about
marriage as uncle and nephew walk through the zoo: 'He gave the bachelor
wart hog a parting dig, and we walked slowly and silently through the
zebra-house towards the elephants' (p.87).
Under the Knife. 1896. Reprinted in The
Complete Short Stories of H.G. Wells. J.M. Dent, 1998.
'I was suddenly brought back to reality by an imminent collision with
the butcher-boy's tray. I found that I was crossing the bridge over
the Regent's Park Canal, which runs parallel with that in the Zoological
Gardens. The boy in blue had been looking over his shoulder at a black
barge advancing slowly, towed by a gaunt white horse. In the Gardens
a nurse was leading three happy little children over the bridge. The
trees were bright green; the spring hopefulness was still unstained
by the dusts of summer; the sky in the water was bright and clear, but
broken by long waves, by quivering bands of black, as the barge drove
through. The breeze was stirring; but it did not stir me as the spring
breeze used to do' (p.160).
Obsessed by a presentiment of death regarding his forthcoming
operation, the narrator feels 'isolated from the life and existence
about me. The children playing in the sun and gathering strength and
experience for the business of life, the park-keeper gossiping with
a nursemaid, the nursing mother, the young couple intent upon each other
as they passed me, the trees by the wayside spreading new pleading leaves
to the sunlight, the stir in their branches I had been part of
it all, but I had nearly done with it now.'
The Invisible Man. 1897. Pan Books, 1987.
'At last I found myself sitting in the sunshine and feeling very ill
and strange, on the summit of Primrose Hill...All I could think clearly
was that the thing had to be carried through; the fixed idea still ruled
After a successful experiment on a neighbour's cat,
Griffin has walked from his lodgings near Great Portland Street to meditate
on his next steps. 'I looked about me at the hillside, with children
playing and girls watching them, and tried to think of all the fantastic
advantages an invisible man would have in the world' (p.96).
The War of the Worlds. 1898. Heinemann, 1968.
'As I emerged from the top of Baker Street, I saw far away over the
trees in the clearness of the sunset the hood of the Martian giant from
which the howling proceeded' (Book 2, p.131).
This unwelcome visitor
'a walking engine of glittering metal' was to make Regent's Park
famous around the world (the book has been translated into more than
twenty languages). It seems to be immobilized, but the narrator, who
has witnessed the destruction it can cause, gives it a wide berth and
heads up Park Road.
'Far away, through a gap in the trees, I saw a second
Martian, motionless as the first, standing in the park towards the Zoological
Gardens, and silent
I came upon the Red Weed again, and found Regents
Canal a spongy mass of dark red vegetation' (p.132). Primrose Hill has
been made into a 'huge redoubt' by the Martians, and is now full of
their corpses (p.135). They have succumbed to bacteria that humans have
long been immune to.
The novel was parodied as The War of the Wenuses
see the Pozzuoli entry,
and (retaining the English locations) has been set to music - see Wayne.
Ann Veronica. 1909. Virago, 1990.
The heroine is a student at the 'Central Imperial College' near Great
Portland Street and there are several visits to the park to sit and
think (p.176), walk across on her way home (p.179-181), walk around
the Zoo with a biologist she is in love with (p.222-223) and finally
to break off her engagement to a civil servant over strawberries and
cream at a pavilion (p.229-238). Little in the way of description though.
You Can't Be Too Careful. Secker & Warburg, 1941.
'Sheep he was inclined to bully and run after, until one dreadful day
in Regent's Park an old ram suddenly turned on him and stamped and stood
his ground. Whereupon he fled screaming to his mother, who
the danger and disposed of it very rapidly by opening and shutting her
grey and white parasol' (p.32).
Edward Albert, born 1901, lives much of his life in
the vicinity of the park. It is the venue for a school cricket match
(p.48-54), and a discussion with his fiancée about their forthcoming
marriage (p.152-153). Shortly afterwards he returns there to ponder
on the debacle of 'the cardinal moment of their sexual lives' (p.163-164).
Inner and Outer Circles.
Cohen & West, 1958.
'I was sung to sleep by roaring lions; I was woken by the staccato bark
of sea-lions. And while there must sometimes, even in those early days,
have been a hoot or a backfire from a passing motor car, the only sounds
I remember were animal rather than mechanical. Horses clip-clopped along
the road. Life Guards from the Albany Barracks passed daily on their
circuit of the Outer Circle. Even the seasonal lawn mower, though it
filled summer afternoons with the drowsy murmur of machinery, was pulled
by a horse with padded shoes' (p.10).
The author was born in 1900 in a house in Sussex Place,
described in pages 1-11, and lived there until 1913. Childhood memories
of Regent's Park are recounted (p.21-41), as are visits to the Zoo (p.117-124),
fêtes in the Botanical Garden and the Cart Horse Parade on Whit
WEST, REBECCA (pseudonym
of Cicily Isabel Andrews)
Black Lamb and Grey Falcon. 1941.
'While France was falling, and after she had fallen,
my husband and I went every evening to walk for an hour in the rose-
garden at Regent's Park. Under the unstained heaven of that perfect
summer, curiously starred with the silver elephantines of the balloon
barrage, the people sat on the seats among the roses, reading the papers
or looking straight in front of them, their faces white. Some of them
walked among the rose-beds, with a special earnestness looking down
on the bright flowers and inhaling the scent, as if to say, "That
is what roses are like, that is how they smell. We must remember that,
down in the darkness"' (p.1129-1130).
Travels in Germany in the 1930's had alerted
the author to the rise of fascism, and had inspired her to write an
account of Yugoslav culture under threat of eradication by Nazi Germany.
In 1939 Britain's refusal to countenance further aggression meant that
war was inevitable, and in the book's final chapter she considers what
this will mean.
'There is a lake beside the rose garden,
in which there is a little island, where dwarf and alpine plants are
cultivated among rocks. Across the Chinese bridge that joins it to the
mainland there slowly moved a procession, as grave in their intention
to see the gay fragilities between the stones as if they were going
to a lying-in-state...Most of the people believed, and rightly, that
they were presently to be subjected to a form of attack more horrible
than had ever before been directed against the common man. Let nobody
belittle them by pretending they were fearless. Not being the ox and
the ass, they were horribly afraid. But their pale lips did not part
to say the words that would have given them security and dishonour'
Losing the Plot. 1998. Phoenix, 1999.
'Queen Mary's Gardens were still in gloriously prime condition for early
October...There were several benches around the central water fountain,
each occupied by one person. It's an unwritten English rule that you
never choose one already occupied. Even with three feet of space in
between, you are invading someone's privacy or, more probably, making
them nervous that you're a flasher. Far better to walk endlessly about,
even if your feet are blistering, than act like either a foreigner or
a pervert' (p.155-156).
The narrator manages to find an empty bench, but then a young man sits
down at the other end. 'Not having anything to read, I stared ahead.
He crossed and uncrossed his legs a few times before placing an arm
upon the back of the bench. I lifted my chin and gave the sky a panning
shot that ended a couple of feet above his head. He was smiling.
English? Speaking to a stranger? Oh, shit, that can mean only one thing'
Anxious to get rid of the young man (he's arranged to meet a colleague
here, so can't move away), the narrator has to continue the conversation
but gives a false name, James.
'"They call you James or Jim?"
Thank God I never forget a good comic routine. Rowan Atkinson, was it?
"No," I said. "Most people call me sir."
"Those of a lesser rank. Senior Officers use my full title. Chief
Superintendent Pinkerton, Regional Vice Squad."
His hand left mine and his body left the bench. There are moments when
it pays to possess total recall of trivia' (p.157)
Akayzia Adams and the Masterdragon's Secret.
BlacknBlue Press UK, 2004.
'The fog thickened. The tops of the taller trees disappeared and the
park sank into a wet gloom pierced by streetlamps. Kazy and her grandmother
counted the "missing" trees on their right as they walked.
They stopped at the third gap. A large oak stood there, set back from
the straight line of trees. Kazy pushed the wheelchair towards the misty
shadows of its spreading branches. "What'll we do now?" she
asked. "I can't see zip in this fog"' (p.22).
Kazy has an appointment to meet the 'red-furred creature...the
shape and size of a small, slender bear' but with an 'almost human'
face, that she freed from captivity yesterday. A helpful tramp has explained
the conundrum of the missing trees - they had mysteriously disappeared
after they were first planted - but they're not sure this is the right
'Mrs. Adams turned her head. There, standing calmly
in the fog-darkened shade of the oak tree, was the creature Kazy had
seen the day before. "~aa~aa~aa~aa~aa~aa~". The red-furred
animal beckoned them forward. Kazy turned the wheelchair and pushed
it fully under the canopy of branches..."Hiffa Ammiti," it
said. "What?" Mrs. Adams asked. "Just call me Hiffa,"
it said. "The human Inlanders mostly do." "And what's
an Inlander when it's at home?" "It's - ah - the opposite
to an Outlander, which is what we would call you. I'm afraid it's all
a little complicated" (p.23).
Of more concern at the moment are the sinister cloaked
and hooded figures searching the park for Kazy, but three times round
the missing tree transports the trio to the Inner Lands - an alternative
version of planet Earth without all the dirt and litter. Here Kazy learns
dragon-riding and spellcraft, and joins her classmates in the quest
for the Masterdragon.
Akayzia Adams and the Mirrors of Darkness. BlacknBlue
Press UK, 2004.
'Regents Park was broad and people moved across it in ones or twos.
She could be seen so easily...She lingered about one entrance, then
walked around to another, and another. Third time lucky. He was there,
his white beard and white hair straggling in the breeze...He winked
at her but then walked right past her, muttering into his beard: "Over
here, Missy" (p.97).
Kazy has been transported back to scruffy everyday London
against her will, and needs help to escape the hooded Watchers searching
for her. Old Billy, the tramp who had explained about the missing trees,
is the only person who can help her.
'She followed him along one of the many paths and they
turned into a small enclosure with some benches and children's play
equipment. He settled onto a bench and put his shopping bag at his side...Kazy
sat on the other side of the bag..."I'll do what I can, girl. But
not in daylight. Dem's here already, your little crew. Includin' a couple
wearin' dark hoods. Saw 'em creepin' in a few minutes afore you. Dat's
why I brought you round here. We'll have to come back after dark"'
Journal and Letters from France and Great Britain.
Troy, N.Y., 1833.
'May 14th 
I am on the whole, better pleased with London, than I expected to be...The
gravel walks, winding along, often bordered with beautiful flowers which
the season now brings forth in all their perfection - these objects
of rural beauty I did not expect to find in London, particularly to
find them so often repeated, and on so grand a scale as they are in
Regent's Park... Here the elegance of the views is heightened by the
most exquisite scenery, which tranquil water can present. Sloping banks
with elegant villas embosomed in trees - where sometimes the aged oak
towers majestically, sometimes the young willow gracefully sweeps the
turf beneath, or the laburnum waves her yellow tresses to the slightest
breeze...This elegant scenery rises around a delicious island, near
which the swan presses her snowy bosom to the waters, and sails proudly
In a letter of introduction the novelist Maria
Edgeworth had written: 'The bearer of this note is...an American
lady, who has a celebrated establishment for the education of young
people near New York; and who is well known by her literary publications...She
has been travelling on the continent for the purpose of seeing the establishments
of education in Paris; and...in London' (p.380). Edgeworth herself had
been scornful of the new Regent's Park, and Mrs. Willard confessed to
a slight disappointment.
'Alas, in this cheating world, all is not gold that
glitters. When I first rode about Regent's Park, I supposed the elegant
buildings there seen, were the residences of the nobility, and I did
not observe other, than their general splendid effect. But I afterwards
found that they were all divided into residences, to be let to private
gentlemen. With one of their tenants, Mr. T , we partook of an
elegant dinner, and he told us they were made more for show, than convenience.
They are not of stone, but of brick stuccoed on the outside' (p.292).
The Kenneth Williams Diaries. Ed. Russell Davies. HarperCollins,
'Friday, 14 May .
Met Andrew R [Ray] about 12 o'c. And we had a boat out in Regent's Park
& then sat in a deckchair. Then we met Joe O [Orton] and Kenneth
H [Halliwell]. That rather spoiled the afternoon. They kept on and on
about their playwriting etc. We went to that café in the park
for tea and intruded on a woman who sat alone. We kept on and on shouting
and bawling at each other till eventually she left...' (p.258).
The author had previously appeared in Orton's play Loot. A fortnight
earlier Orton had noted in his diary
that he and Halliwell had suggested meeting him for a walk in the park,
but were told he preferred to sit in a deckchair and 'watch all the
queens passing.' He was a frequent visitor, having lived in the neighbourhood
for many years. In another entry he recalled an occasion 'as a child,
in '32 when I borrowed 6d. from a parkkeeper for food and my father
accompanied me there, the following week, to find & repay him' (7
September 1975, p.499).
'Sunday, 1 June .
Lunch with Louie [his mother] and at 1 o'c. we went to the park. We
saw two v. beautiful youths who sat near, and smiled charmingly. One
held a rose. They ate some food & placed the litter carefully in
the bin and waved a farewell to both Louie and me before departing as
gracefully as they'd arrived. It was one of those rare moments of polite
unspoken reciprocity that stays in the mind forever' (p.495).
'Saturday 24 June .
Lunch with Louie and then we went to the Rose Garden. I remonstrated
with the ticket collectors "Why are you allowing these children
to wreck the deckchairs? They're standing on them" and one said
"They're rather sweet...they told us they were bored." "They
should return to the Caribbean & ruin their own furniture."
"Don't you like black kids?" "No. If you cleared all
the Negroes out of London we'd have an hour's more daylight." They
moved away disgusted. I went over to the little hooligans and said "Clear
off! Or I'll get the Park Police!" & they grudgingly departed,
leaving one ruined chair lying on the grass' (p.562).
'Thursday, 16 May .
You can hear the rooks cawing in Regent's Park
The tits warbling by the zoo
Ducklings quacking round the lake
Where greylags swim two by two
Bird cries have echoed since time began
They'll sing on no matter what
Ptarmigan, ousel and ortolan
I'd happily shoot the lot.'
Other references on p. 220, 254, 303, 525, 559, 632 (meets John Stonehouse),
640, 695, 724 (meets Lionel Bart), 800.
The Kenneth Williams Letters. Ed. Russell Davies. HarperCollins,
'26 February 1976...I've pulled a muscle in the calf whilst running
in the Inner Circle. No, it was nothing to do with any training programme.
It was to get away from a great hulking brute of a man; he'd been stalking
me all the way from Baker Street, after the sewing class. It attracted
considerable attention because he kept brandishing this huge cucumber
and making lewd noises. I won't go into any details. I just thought
"it's coats girls" and flew. It wasn't till I got home that
I realized what a strain I'd given myself' (p.232).
Other references on p. 61, 109, 207, 226.
The Envoy. Arcadia Books, 2008.
'Driscoll turned away. They walked in silence until they reached Regent's
Park. They crossed the road and followed a path into the greensward...Driscoll
finally spoke. "And who do you work for?" Kit knew it was
pointless to dissemble. The nature of the operation would only point
in one direction. "I work for the U.S. government."
"You're talking shit."
Kit was taken aback. "What do you mean?"
"Tell your bosses to fuck off."
"Fine." Kit reached deep in his pocket and felt the Smith
Kit had hoped to recruit the IRA gunman for a mission that would involve
'some diving, some snooping and maybe even a hit or two.' But
now he would have to protect his identity; 'Driscoll's life wasn't worth
having his cover blown. He was going to take Driscoll down to the weeping
willows by the boating lake. There wouldn't be any lovers or watchmen;
the night was now a pelting shower of sleet. The police would write
it off as an internal IRA feud like the last time he had to terminate
an agent's contract.'
'Suddenly there was nothing but flashing white pain. Kit was lying on
his back, struggling for breath. The blow to the solar plexus had come
totally without warning. He hadn't seen Driscoll move at all. Kit couldn't
have reached for the gun even if the Irishman's foot wasn't pinning
his hand. Driscoll meanwhile removed the Smith and Wesson from Kit's
coat pocket. "Very thorough," he said, "you've even got
an American gun." Driscoll pointed the pistol in Kit's face. "But
your fake American accent wouldn't fool anyone"' (p.20).
The Memoirs of Harriette Wilson Written By Herself.
1825. The Navarre Society, 1924. 2 vols.
'In a fit of folly I wrote a letter to Lord G. [Granville] L. [Leveson]
Gower, requesting him to come and meet me in the Regent's Park at eleven
o'clock on a Sunday morning; at the same time assuring him, that desirous
as I was, from all I had heard of his perfections, to make his acquaintance,
yet, if he expected to please me, he must show me just as much respect
and humble deference, as though I had not ordered him up to Marylebone
Fields to be looked at.'
The most celebrated courtesan of the Regency period,
Harriette was described by Sir Walter Scott as 'far from beautiful...but
a smart saucy girl with good eyes and dark hair, and the manners of
a wild schoolboy'. Bored with her current liaison and feeling 'le besoin
d'aimer', she had asked 'my young admirer, the Duke of Leinster...who
was best worth having'.
Arrived at the park, she realizes that she has no idea
what he looks like. However it's not difficult to distinguish the only
'gentleman' from those in their 'Sunday new coats and bran new yellow
leather gloves'; the problem rather is that 'I felt at once that he
was not in any respect cut out for the honour of filling up the void
in my heart...I conceived that, having brought a man up to Marylebone
Fields on such a terribly hot morning, it would not have been fair or
lady-like to have dismissed him, until I had given his talents and powers
of pleasing a fair trial. I walked him up to the tip-top of Primrose
Hill, and then towards Hampstead, and then back again to Great Portland
Exhausted, his lordship declares he can go no further.
Harriette hopes that no fatal consequences will follow 'our little rural
bit of pleasure', then 'frankly declared to him that he was not in the
least the sort of person I wanted' (Vol.1, p.254-256). He seems to have
taken it in good part.
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Mrs. Dalloway. 1925. Hogarth, 1980.
'She joined that gently trudging, vaguely gazing, breeze-kissed company
squirrels perching and preening, sparrow fountains fluttering
for crumbs, dogs busy with the railings, busy with each other, while
the soft warm air washed over them and lent to the fixed unsurprised
gaze with which they received life, something whimsical and mollified.'
Walking through the park Maisie's attention is drawn
to a shell-shocked ex-soldier and his wife sitting on a bench in the
Broad Walk; the man's odd behaviour 'gave her quite a turn' (p.25-30).
On another bench a middle-aged man muses on his past life; the ex-soldier
has a vision of the dead (p.62-91).
Flush. 1933. Penguin, 2000.
'At last, with every nerve throbbing and every sense singing, he reached
Regent's Park. And then when he saw once more, after years of absence
it seemed, grass, flowers and trees, the old hunting cry of the fields
hallooed in his ears and he dashed forward to run as he had run in the
fields at home. But now a heavy weight jerked at his throat; he was
thrown back on his haunches' (p.22).
A cocker spaniel country-born and bred, Flush has been
brought to London in 1842 to be a companion for the poet Elizabeth Barrett;
a role that largely confines him to the semi-invalid's back bedroom.
In this imaginative biography the joy of his first outing is dampened
by the discovery that 'where there are flower-beds and asphalt paths
and men in shiny top-hats [park keepers], dogs must be led on chains'
After a second visit (p.41-42), when he resolves to
bite Mr. Browning's leg next time he sees him, life takes another dramatic
turn and he finds himself in Italy, with Mr. Browning now part of the
The Years. 1937. Penguin Classics, 2002.
Sara, 'sallow, angular and plain', says that men never follow her, but
'I can remember being told by a very beautiful woman
when she went
in to Regent's Park to have an ice
at one of those little round
tables laid with a cloth under the trees, the eyes, she said, came through
every leaf like the darts of the sun; and her ice was melted!' (p.127-128).
The period is 1910 - see Galsworthy
for the same sort of male behaviour, 'at once forward and shy', in 1887.
The Diary of Virginia Woolf. Ed. Anne Olivier
Bell. 5 vols. Hogarth, from 1977.
'Regent's Park at 4.30 on a December afternoon is a dreary place. So
many purple leaves seem to be flattened on the path. Then the park keepers
begin whistling, and I remember being afraid of being shut in, as a
child. Then the mist rolls up over the vast open space' (3rd December
1918, Vol. 1, p.224).
'There is no doubt that the greatest happiness in the
world is walking through Regent's Park on a green, but wet green
but red pink and blue evening the flower beds I mean emerging
from the general misty rain and making up phrases after a little
stimulus from little Mr. Murray among his clothes' (6th June 1935, Vol.
4, p.319-320. Murray was her dressmaker).
Other entries in Vol. 4 on pp.115, 167, 277 and 333
show that the park was useful for walking off her anger as well as gaining
inspiration. Vols. 2, 3 and 5 contain brief references but nothing notable.
The Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth.
Vol.8. A Supplement of New Letters, ed. Alan G. Hill. Clarendon, 1993.
'4-5 June, 1812...On Sunday morning [30th May] I had a most pleasant
walk with Henry Robinson through the fields and over Primrose Hill to
High-gate; we crossed the intended Prince Regent's Park at Mary bone
which will be of vast extent, but the ground has in itself no variety
for it is a dead flat, but it will have agreeable views from certain
parts of Hampstead and High-gate hills' (p.113).
In a letter to his sister Dorothy, the poet recounts
a visit to the playwright and poet Joanna Baillie. At her home he met
an old acquaintance who was now Solicitor to the Excise. Together they
'conversed nearly an hour upon politics and alarmed each other not a
little by the mutual communication of thoughts and observations.'
There was much to be alarmed about. Abroad, the country
was at war with Napoleon and was shortly to find itself at war with
America. At home, the assassination of the Prime Minister was feared
to be the signal for a general uprising. Luddites in the distressed
Midlands were attacking the factories and smashing the machines that
were destroying their livelihood. Byron wrote 'A Song for the Luddites'
- 'We will die fighting, or live free' - and spoke in their defence
in the House of Lords; Wordsworth would have seen them as the enemy.
He had long since withdrawn from the radical stance of his youth, when
he had greeted the French Revolution with 'Bliss was it in that dawn
to be alive'.
Even so, he was appalled by the Prince Regent, whose
'conduct is described to be capricious and unprincipled in the extreme;
and he does not appear to have the slightest strain of common human
feelings' (p.96). Leigh Hunt had
expressed similar sentiments two months earlier, but as he had published
them in The Examiner he was sent to jail for it.
The Rebel Fairy. Time Warner Paperback, 2002.
'We were supposed to have spent the evening doing service for the Fairy
Council. Everyone in the Primrose Hill fairy camp has a different responsibility,
from making clothes out of dandelion stalks, to sending out leaflets
for the RSPCF. It's all very fascist. Puck and I were on (guess what!)
litter duty. I mean, who in their right mind wants to spend the night
wandering around Regent's Park picking up Mars Bars wrappers and Coke
A Midsummer Night's Dream is in rehearsal at the Open
Air Theatre but in this modern-day version Charlie, 'a real, honest-to-goodness,
silver-winged sprite', and her friends live 'tucked away in the large
oak in a "V" of green grass overlooking the aviary cages at
London Zoo' (p.20). From here they wreak havoc on the love lives of
a quartet of mortals: so quick bright things come to confusion.
The Day of the Triffids. 1951. Penguin, 1963.
'The only thing we could see on the broad stretches of grass were two
or three little groups of triffids lurching southwards. Somehow or other
they had contrived to pull up their stakes and were dragging them along
behind them on chains. I remembered that there were some undocked specimens,
a few tethered, but most of them double-fenced, in an enclosure beside
the zoo and wondered how they had got out' (p.73).
Security at Regent's Park Zoo, and everywhere else,
has gone to pot following a global disaster, and the plants seven-foot-high
walking carnivores with a deadly sting, originally cultivated for their
yields of high-grade oil are now intent on exterminating the
human race. (And you're worried about GM crops?)
Autobiographies. 1926. Macmillan Papermac, 1980.
From 1867, when he was two, to 1872 the poet lived at 23 Fitzroy Road,
Primrose Hill, but there are no childhood memories of the hill or the
park in this book. On p.158 an anecdote from the late 1880's about the
painter Jack Nettleship, who had 'certain ascetic ambitions, very much
like my own'. Nettleship told him, 'the other night I was arrested by
a policeman was walking around Regent's Park bare-footed to keep
the flesh under good sort of thing to do'. He was carrying his
boots and suspected of being a burglar. The policeman accepted half
a crown and made him promise to put them on again before he met the
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