The woman and I are discussing a trip to London this summer and so I broke out one of our travel books to do some research. This is the 1908 edition of Baekeker’s “London and its Environs”. I picked this up at the Case Western book sale last year. It is just this sort of random thing that makes me love that sale.
I mean, look at the binding!
I’m fully in the ebook camp these days but I still love to have reference books in solid, dead tree, carbon sequestering form. And this sort of thing is one of the odd benefits of that choice. Of course word search is less than adequate.
And so, without further ado, here are a few things I have learned:
“The cost of a visit to London depends, of course, on the habits and tastes of the traveller. If he lives in a first-class hotel, dines at the table-d’hote, drinks wine, frequents the theatre and other places of amusement, and drives about in cabs or flys instead of using the economical train or omnibus, he must be prepared to spend 30-40s. a day or upwards.”
Good to know. So, that is a pound and a half to two pounds. The exchange then was about a pound to five US dollars so ten dollars in 1908 is about $251.70 today. Which is still a deal. Opera tickets will run you that easily.
Oh, and in case you are wondering what exactly determines a fly:
The Fly is a vehicle of a superior description and is admitted to the parks more freely than the cabs. Flys must be specially ordered from a livery stable keeper, and the charges are of course higher.
Running transport through the parks? And some things were allowed and others not? I can’t imagine what sort of sight this would be. Did they have people acting as traffic directors? I know that at the same time Central Park in New York was much the same. The paths were designed for running a carriage at high speed as Olmstead was quite the aficionado of such things.
They have a table giving rates from the railway stations so you can find that from Paddington Station to the South Kensington Museum will run you 1s 6d. But there is a new option:
“Within the last few years the ‘intramural’ traffic of London has been practically revolutionized by the development of the system of underground tube-railways, and London is now perhaps the best equipped city in the world in respect of convenient, rapid, and cheap communication between the most important quarters.”
The world, it keeps a changin’. But then it doesn’t.
We need hardly caution newcomers against the artifices of pick-pockets and the wiles of imposters, two fraternities which are very numerous in London. It is even prudent to avoid speaking to strangers in the street…Poor neighbourhoods should be avoided after nightfall.
Indeed, indeed. But however do they live?!?
“In the life of a young English lady of higher ranks her presentation at Court is an epoch of no little importance, for after attending her first drawing-room she is emancipated from the dulness of domesticity and the thraldom of the schoolroom;–she is, in fact, ‘out’, and now enters on the round of balls, concerts and other gaieties, which often play so large a part in her life.”
I really wonder if such things still exist. Years ago the woman and I were having lunch in the British Museum and sitting next to us were two who worked there. The guy spoke with such an accent, really something straight out of a PBS costume drama taking place in Victorian England. To this day when I read any Wodehouse, his is the voice I hear for Bertie.