But from looking at the Park of fashion let us turn to the Victoria Park. We visited it one Sunday afternoon, because nothing is to be seen in it save on Sundays, when the laboring population is not at work. This park is emphatically the park of the poor. No fashion enters it; wealth and so-styled respectability shun it. It is situated north-east of London, and immediately adjoins Bethnal Green and Spitalfields, those great rendezvous for the wretched, vile, and suffer-ing. It is miles east of that great airing-place of the aris-tocracy, Hyde Park, and has no fellowship with any of the other parks. It is kicked out of their society for its want of name, ancient associations, and its poverty.
Yet, though the grounds are new and not all laid out, it is a beautiful park. Its entrance-gate is, though not costly, in good taste, and the first department is laid out very gracefully. There are miniature lakes in it, full of swans and other aquatic birds. A beautiful island is formed by one of’ them, and upon it there is an elegant and fairy-like structure in the Chinese style of architecture, which is, in the proper season, almost buried among a profusion of flowers and shrubs and plants. The open fields are kept beautifully green, the walks are well graveled, and it is one of the healthiest spots within ten or fifteen miles of London, in any direction.
The proximity of Bethnal Green is apt to subtract from the pleasure of visiting it, but in a few minutes’ walk, if you choose, you can leave all London out of sight.
It was one Sunday afternoon when we started out to see Victoria Park in all its glory -with the people it was intend-ed for, in it. Our walk lay through a portion of Spitalfields and Bethnal Green, and was not pleasant. The streets were crowded with a filthy set of vagabonds - very likely so because they were unable to obtain work - and the shops were at least half of them open; the gin-shops especially appearing to be driving a heavy business. Some of the streets through which we walked were very low and dirty, and sometimes it was with difficulty that we faced our way through them, the odors that greeted us at every step were so nauseating.
After a long walk we came to Bethnal Green, where there is a good-looking church and a pleasant green, though the houses and streets in the vicinity are all of the poorest kind, or pretty much so.
In a few minutes the Park was in sight. Immediately in front of the Park-gate there are two or three acres of open land, unenclosed, upon which the people gather for any kind of meetings, and we could already see several different crowds or assemblages. The people were the workmen of London, that we could see plainly enough by their brawny arms, work-worn hands, and care-worn faces. The mechan-ics of London, to our eye, are a sad-looking set of men. They are not like the English farmers with their red cheeks and lusty voices; not like the race of English squires fatted upon roast-beef and plum-pudding, but are either beer-bloated and sodden-eyed, or pale and care-worn.
We stopped before one of the crowds of people to see what was the subject of excitement. There were two or three hundred men gathered around a little hillock, upon which a pale young man stood delivering a sort of political speech. Said he, in earnest tones, as we approached.
"Yes! hypocrite Lord Ashley has established a reading-room for working-men! A reading-room for the working--men of London! And what do you suppose this philan-thropic nobleman gives us to read? Why! the only paper which ‘we can find there is the bloody Times! That pa-per which calls the noble Mazzini a scoundrel, which eu-logizes butcher Haynau, which is paid for its advocacy of despotism by Austria–that is the paper which my Lord Ashley dares to offer us to read! He and the proprietors of that paper pretend to love us, and yet refuse to give us our God given rights! Call themselves our friends, and still tax us till we bleed at every pore, and refuse to let us vote."
There was a rough eloquence in the words of the speaker, and the crowd that gathered about him seemed to feel all that the rude orator felt, and to despise the Times and the aristocracy. We watched their faces carefully to get some indications of the spirit within, and saw clearly by the com-pressed lips and clenched fists that they felt keenly the des-potic conduct of the English nobles.
We passed on to another collection of people, and there ‘Universal Suffrage" was the theme of the speaker. He told his hearers how that in England only one in every six of male adults can vote, while all are taxed alike, and detailed some of the abominations which are practiced under the "glorious constitution of old England."
Going on a little further, we found a smaller group gath-ered about an honest Scotchman, who with an open Bible in his hand, was warning his hearers to "flee from the wrath to come." His voice was raised to its highest pitch, and his body kept swaying to and fro in a most ludicrous manner, and we found it impossible to resist a quiet smile. Yet we honored the pious old man for coming to such a place and sowing the good seed, though upon such a barren soil. Every moment his audience grew smaller, until at last only two or three were left, and the preacher closed up his Bible as if in despair.
It is a sad thing, but there are frightful masses of people in London, who know little and care less for the Bible or religion, and what is sadder still, we fear the English churches are in a manner to blame for it. These hard-working men have got to think that a religious man is an aristocrat, that a churchman is one who debars them from their political rights.The State-church they think lives upon what is not its own; its bishops upon immense salaries wrung from the people while they are starving. They see the well-dressed religion-ists in their coaches before the churches, and imagine that the Bible upholds oppression and fraud, and in their anger they cast it beneath their feet. Mistaken men! - and yet as such to be pitied as condemned. It is a startling fact, and one which no proper judge can deny, that infidelity is in. creasing in London among the working classes, and it is our belief that for this infidelity those persons who are practical infidels, though professional Christians, must to a great de-gree be held responsible. These poor men feel that their rights are defrauded from them, and no amount of argument will convince them that their defrauders are good men. It is too much to expect that the oppressed will judge their op-pressors with liberality.
Victoria Park is every pleasant Sunday the scene of gath-erings for almost blasphemous purposes. The language of some of the speakers is many times fearfully wicked, but it indicates to the careful observer the religious condition of the poorest classes of the metropolis. Upon the very spot where we lingered to listen to the pious Scotchman, Bishop Bonner once lived, and some of the trees are now standing which used to flourish in his garden.
Turning in at the Entrance-gate, we were among a better class than those who congregated on the open common out-side of it. There were many men, women, and children wandering over the grounds, but almost all, if not quite, were of the humblest classes. There was but a sprinkling of women, as the women of the wretched classes are, if anything, worse in their tastes than the men. Drunken women are as common, or nearly so, in London, as drunken men.
At the entrance of the eastern park - for a highway divides the park in two - there is a pretty porter’s cottage, or lodge, where we saw all manner of intoxicating liquors, and also edibles.
The eastern park is much larger than the western, but not so well cultivated, or so tastefully laid out and decorated. It is much like any public common, and yet we liked rambling over it better than over its more civilized neighbor, for its wildness savored more of the country, and the breezes seemed freer as they swept over it.