By Cheryl Bolen
On my recent sojourn in England I came across a small 1909 book titled London’s Lure. Some of that country’s greatest authors are represented in these pages, and I shall be blogging about their observations about their nation’s capital.
Today I present “Lien Chi Altagi at Vauxhall Gardens” written by Oliver Goldsmith:
The people of London are as fond of walking as our friends at Pekin of riding; one of the principal entertainments of the citizens here in Summer is to repair about nightfall to a garden not far from town, where they walk about, show their best clothes and best faces, and listen to a concert provided for the occasion. . .
The illuminations began before we arrived, and I must confess, that upon entering the Gardens, I found every sense overpaid with more than expected pleasure; the lights everywhere glimmering through the scarcely moving trees, the full-bodied concert bursting on the stillness of the night, the natural concert of the birds in the more retired part of the grove, vying with that which was formed by art; the company gaily dressed, looking satisfaction, and the tables spread with various delicacies, all conspired to fill my imagination with visionary happiness of the Arabian lawgiver, and lifted me into an ecstasy of admiration.
“Head of Confucious,” cried I to my friend, “this is fine! This unites rural beauty with courtly magnificence! If we except the virgins of immortality that hang on every tree, and may be plucked at every desire, I do not see this falls short of Mahomet’s paradise!”
“As for virgins,” cries my friend, “it is true they are a fruit that do not much abound in our Gardens here; but if ladies, as plenty as apples in autumn, and as complying as any houri of them all, can content you, I fancy we have no need to go to heaven for paradise.” (Goldsmith in 1774 at the age of 44.)