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Chapter III.1
THE old Archiepiscopal Palace of Lambeth, on the southern bank of the Thames
-with its Bishop's Walk and Garden, and its terrace fronting the river -- is an
architectural relic of the London of former times, precious to all lovers of the
picturesque, in the utilitarian London of the present day. Southward of this
venerable structure lies the street labyrinth of Lambeth; and nearly midway, in
that part of the maze of houses which is placed nearest to the river, runs the
dingy double row of buildings now, as in former days, known by the name of
Vauxhall Walk.
The network of dismal streets stretching over the surrounding neighborhood
contains a population for the most part of the poorer order. In the thoroughfares
where shops abound, the sordid struggle with poverty shows itself unreservedly
on the filthy pavement; gathers its forces through the week; and, strengthening to
a tumult on Saturday night, sees the Sunday morning dawn in murky gaslight.
Miserable women, whose faces never smile, haunt the butchers' shops in such
London localities as these, with relics of the men's wages saved from the public-
house clutched fast in their hands, with eyes that devour the meat they dare not
buy, with eager fingers that touch it covetously, as the fingers of their richer
sisters touch a precious stone. In this district, as in other districts remote from the
wealthy quarters of the metropolis, the hideous London vagabond -- with the filth
of the street outmatched in his speech, with the mud of the street outdirtied in his
clothes -- lounges, lowering and brutal, at the street corner and the gin-shop
door; the public disgrace of his country, the unheeded warning of social troubles
that are yet to come. Here, the loud self-assertion of Modern Progress -- which
has reformed so much in manners, and altered so little in men -- meets the flat
contradiction that scatters its pretensions to the winds. Here, while the national
prosperity feasts, like another Belshazzar, on the spectacle of its own
magnificence, is the Writing on the Wall, which warns the monarch, Money, that
his glory is weighed in the balance, and his power found wanting.