Page:Notes and Queries - Series 9 - Volume 5.djvu/224

This page needs to be proofread.


NOTES AND QUERIES, w* s. v. MARCH 17, 1000.

poles of polished wood worn smooth by centuries of hand-grips affixed by staples to the walls on each side, and boys of whom I was one proceeding from the north of the City Ternplewards, and taking a short cut across Farringdon Street, and so along Stone- cutter Street, past Fleet Market, across Fetter Lane, and through Clifford's Inn, preferred delighted boy -like in sliding down these rails to stumbling down what were then and had been for centuries known as "Breakneck Steps." They are incidentally alluded to in

Nea Ward's ' London Spy.' He speaks of " re- turning down stairs with as much care and caution of tumbling head foremost as he that goes down Green Arbour Court steps in the middle of winter." So there is no question of " Brecknock " Stair or " Brecknock," nor uncertainty as to the precise locus in quo. Washington Irving refers to these steps in describing Goldsmith's lodging in the house, which, when I knew it, was but little changed, in its upper stories at all events, since the poor author occupied the room, erroneously described as a garret, on the first floor. The ground floor, however, through which an access to the head of the steps was pierced, .had been converted into stables some time before the view in the European Magazine was published, and stables they remained in 1850. The upper part of this house and the whole of the rooms in the other eleven houses were then let out as tenements to the lowest, poorest, and most abject of London's casual labouring population ; each room had its in- dividual tenant or independent group of tenants. Green Arbour Court has entirely disappeared, and its site now forms a part of the premises of the Snow Hill Railway Station, though from recent observation I am in- clined to think that it has not wholly lost its use as an abode for carthorses, draught animals employed by the railway company or their auxiliary carriers being, I believe, still accommodated in modern stables on the spot. I scarcely need add that the operations connected with bridging over the Fleet Valley by the Holborn Viaduct necessarily involved the final removal of the notorious ' Breakneck Steps." GNOMON.


BEAR AND RAGGED STAFF (9 th S. iv. 398, 484, 545). I quite agree with your correspondent in his estimate of the value of the ' Tower of London,' by W. H. Ainsworth, as a book of historical reference. For instance, the de- scription of the attack on the Brass Mount is purely fictitious ; but the book is useful as giving sketches by Cruikshank of the

buildings of the Tower as they existed about 1839-40. In Cruikshank's ' Omnibus,' issued in 1842, which contains some very good etch- ings by Cruikshank, is one representing the breaking into the jewel-room at the Tower at the time of the fire, which occurred on the night of 30 Oct., 1841, and at that time MK. E. LENTHALL SWIFTE, an old corre- spondent of 'N. & Q.,' was Keeper of the Crown Jewels. He is represented as breaking down the iron bars with an axe, whilst his wife stands on one side holding a lighted candle. A smaller etching at the foot repre- sents the jewels being handed out after an entrance had been effected. Underneath is inscribed, "Breaking into the Strong Room in the Jewel Tower and Removal of the Re- galia on the night of the Fire, Oct. 30, 1841."

JOHN PICKFORD, M.A. Newbourne Rectory, Woodbridge.

WAGNER'S ' MEISTERSINGER ' (9 th S. v. 8). The Athenaeum of 4 Aug., 1888, in its critique on the first performance of Wagner's 'Die Meistersinger ' at the Bayreuth festival on 26 July, gives the under-mentioned cast : Hans Sachs, Herr Scheidemantel ; Walter, Herr Gudehus ; Eva, Fraulein Bettaque ; Magdalene, Frau Staudigl ; David, Herr Hof- miiller ; Beckmesser, Herr Friedrichs.

EVERARD HOME COLEMAN. 71, Brecknock Road.

THE FUTURE OF BOOKS AND BOOKMEN (9 th S. iv. 476 ; v. 35). Perhaps in connexion with this subject the following couplet from a fine poem by Owen Meredith may be thought worth quoting :

O to be where the meanest mind is more than

Shakespeare ! where one look Shows more than here the wise can find, though

toiling slow from book to book.

One thing is certain, that in our dreams books do not "vanish," but, on the contrary, we sometimes seem to be reading volumes quite new and strange to us.


NURSERY RIMES (9 th S. v. 27, 93). In the Athenceum of 24 Feb., 1883, Prof. J. W. Hales propounded a theory that ' Old Mother Hub- bard ' found her origin in St. Hubert. I do not know if the subject was taken up by other contributors to the columns of the Athenaeum, but I imagine not, as I have only the communication of Prof. Hales amongst my cuttings. JOHN T. PAGE.

West Haddon, Northamptonshire.

In 'Aunt Judy's May - Day Volume for Young People,' edited by Mrs. Alfred Gatty