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Running Down to Brighton.
BY W. W. FENN.
Nor a very novel theme, perhaps, but one that always rings pleasantly in the ears of a confirmed Cockney; for it means that he can take his beloved London away from the mud and fog, and plant it with himself in a sort of Neapolitan climate, within an hour and a half of his making up his mind, as he calls it, to go "out of town." Nor is he by any means unwise in his generation, for so long as man is gregarious, and prone to take his pleasure and the air in good company, what pleasanter spot is to be found in October or November, than this queen of watering places; and if nothing very new is to be said about her, surely we should find some consolation in the fact that there is no more agreeable or easy occupation, than canvassing people and localities. with which we are all familiar.
And who is there, that is anybody, who is not familiar with Brighton? Familiar with it under most aspects. Arriving, say, a little before dusk, we spin along the Queen's Road, and down West Street, from the station on to the cliff, where the gay throng has not yet dispersed for its dinner. The sun, setting like a huge red wafer in the sea, the air calm, or only just so much of it as to keep the smoke from overlapping the sea-front of the town; what a contrast we find to the murky atmosphere we left behind us but ninety minutes since! Although the gas is lighted (the gas is always lighted in Brighton long before it is wanted) there is enough of the day still left to show us who is here, or rather who is not here; for if you do not meet Hob or Nob during the first twenty minutes you are in the place, you may be pretty sure that they are not here.
Never mind! they will be down again to-morrow, and in the meantime here is Mob, so taking his arm, you stroll along towards the Bedford, and tell him what sort of weather we have had in town. "Thick fog all day, my dear fellow ;" and he tells you that "the sun has been so hot in the middle of the day here, that you could hardly move." It is five o'clock, and yet the people don't seem inclined to go home; for with the exception of a few invalids, they linger, apparently loath to seek the solitude of their hotels and apartments, as the evenings are the worst time in Brighton. There is very little going on for the Londoner in the evening, and he uses up the daylight to the last inch. The
bright little coveys of Brighton beauties, with or without chaperons, are scuttling along as though they were on their way home, but very likely ten minutes later you will meet them going just as fast in the opposite direction.
The riding-master cavalcades come cantering by; the handsome equipages only gradually disperse, and it is six o'clock, and quite dark, before you are suddenly reminded that you are "treading alone, the gay Parade deserted." Then the next morning is bright and sunny, the bands are playing in the squares, on the Esplanade, and the New Pier: throngs of peacocks and peahens are strutting about, for all the unbridled luxuries of the toilette thrive in this conservatory department of Vanity Fair.
The shops are doing a rattling trade; all along East Street, and so round by Silvani's, you find the same activity and bustle going on. Somebody is sure to be playing on a piano in one of the music shops, and a musical box is sure to be playing in one of the jewellers'. Everything is bright, gay, and charming; there is plenty of money being spent, and you can scarcely believe that there is such a thing as sorrow or poverty in the world. Your spirits are good, your appetite sharpens, you have your luncheon, and almost before you know it, you find that you have been twenty-four hours in the town. So you may go on day after day as long as you please, for it entirely depends on yourself as to how much of this sort of thing you can stand. We have all done it more or less, got tired of it, and tried it again and again. Why not? if we are very young, it amuses us, and if we have reached the respectable age of everybody else, it amuses us likewise; we know all about it, and the very absence of novelty is a sort of relief to us; there is not a point belonging to the place and its occupants, that we don't know by heart; they have been described and written about, and worn threadbare, and for this reason we like them all the better. There is nothing really so comfortable, when we want to be thoroughly at ease, as an old coat; hence we always feel perfectly at home when we "run down to Brighton." Moreover, we have most of us known it from our childhood, and the innate longing to revisit the scenes where part of that time has been spent-that feeling which prompted Goldsmith to write
"And many a year elapsed returns to view,
Where once the cottage stood, the hawthorn grew.
And, as a hare, whom hounds and horn pursue,
should always afford us a poetical reason, if our natures require one, for spending a few days at this "city by the sea." The truth of the quotation about the hare may be exemplified on the surrounding Downs, any morning we like to join the Brighton harriers at the Dyke, Telscombe Tye, the Race-course, or Newmarket Hill; and though there is not much to suggest the cottage having stood, or the hawthorn having grown, where now the Grand Hotel rears its towering head, yet a good many changes worth recalling have taken place since we were under the hands of Dr. Blimber, of Kemp Town.
As it is the habit of present historians to weave together for us all the minute records and details of one or two particular reigns, so let us, following their example, glance at Brighton, simply from the time when our own Queen came to the throne, and when, on her first visit to the Pavilion, she became so disgusted with the vulgar mobbing she then received, that she never made a second attempt to establish herself in that charming marine residence, from which you cannot obtain a single glimpse of the sea.
We need not trouble ourselves with "Brighthelmston," as it is called in Domesday Book, when the luckless Harold drew his contingent of villeins from its hovel-covered beach, to do battle against the Norman Conqueror, on the neighbouring plains of Pevensey. We have nothing to do with it later on, in the reign of Henry VIII., when, as Holinshead tells us, the French, in 1545, came forth into the seas, and arrived on the coast of Sussex before "Bright Hampstead;" nor when Deryk Carver, a brewer, and a Fleming by birth, and the owner of what is now called the Black Lion Street Brewery, the oldest building in the town, figured under the reign of Mary, of sanguinary memory, as the first martyr in Sussex, and who, after a long incarceration, was burned at Lewes; neither will we speculate upon the possible aspect which our pet resort presented when Charles II., on his flight into Normandy, passed a night at the "George" Inn in West Street, rechristened the "King's Head" at the Restoration. We refer the curious on this point to a quaint MS. in the British Museum, entitled, “The last act in the miraculous story of his Majesty's escape: being a true and perfect revelation of his conveyance through many dangers to a safe harbour, out of the reach of his tyrannical enemies, by Colonel Gunter, of Racton in Sussex." According to this account, it will be seen that there is no truth in the story of Charles having slept at Mr. Frank Mancell's, of Ovingdean Grange. This gentleman only figured as a negotiator for the hire of the boat, the progress of