Wednesday, September 27, 2017

1771 Tobias Smollett 1721–1771 has a curmudgeon describe Vauxhall Gardens

Vauxhall Centre Cross walk in Vauxhall Gardens. Edward Rooker, after a painting by Canaletto printed and sold by Robert Sayer
From Tobias Smollett (1721–1771), The Expedition of Humphry Clinker (1771)
The Expedition of Humphry Clinker takes the form of letters written by various members of a Welsh family as they travel around England and Scotland. This section is written by Matthew Bramble, a curmudgeon with a heart of gold, who is anxious about his health as well as what he regards as the deteriorating state of the nation. 

The diversions of the times are not ill suited to the genius of this incongruous monster, called the public. Give it noise, confusion, glare, and glitter; it has no idea of elegance and propriety ... Vauxhall is a composition of baubles, overcharged with paltry ornaments, ill conceived, and poorly executed; without any unity of design, or propriety of disposition. It is an unnatural assembly of objects, fantastically illuminated in broken masses; seemingly contrived to dazzle the eyes and divert the imagination of the vulgar — Here a wooden lion, there a stone statue; in one place, a range of things like coffee-house boxes, covered a-top; in another, a parcel of ale-house benches; in a third, a puppet-shew representation of a tin cascade; in a fourth, a gloomy cave of a circular form, like a sepulchral vault half lighted; in a fifth, a scanty slip of grass-plat, that would not afford pasture sufficient for an ass's colt. The walks, which nature seems to have intended for solitude, shade, and silence, are filled with crowds of noisy people, sucking up the nocturnal rheums of an aguish climate; and through these gay scenes, a few lamps glimmer like so many farthing candles.