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The City Of Pleasure

A Fantasia on Modern Themes

281 pages
Library of Alexandria
The day was the first of May, but the London spring had chosen to be capricious and unseasonable. Instead of the snow and frost and east wind which almost invariably accompany what is termed, with ferocious irony, the merry month, there was strong, brilliant sunshine and a perfect calm. The sun glinted and glittered on the upper surfaces of the balloon, but of course the voyagers could not perceive that. They, in fact, perceived nothing except that the entire world was gradually falling away from them. The balloon had ceased to shiver; it stood as firm as consols, while the City of Pleasure sank and sank, and the upturned faces of more than fifty thousand spectators grew tinier and tinier. It would be interesting and certainly instructive to unfold some of the many mysteries and minor dramas which had diversified the history of the making of the City of Pleasure, from the time when Carpentaria, having conceived the idea of the thing, found the necessary millionaire in the person of Josephus Ilam, to the hurried and tumultuous eve of the opening day; but these are unconnected with the present recital. It needs only to remind the reader of the City’s geography. Towards the lower left-hand corner of any map of London not later than 1905, may be observed a large, nearly empty space in the form of an inverted letter “U.” This space is bounded everywhere, except across the bottom, by the Thames. It is indeed a peninsula made by an extraordinary curve of the Thames, and Barnes Common connects if with the mainland of the parish of Putney. Its dimensions are little short of a mile either way, and yet, although Hammersmith Bridge joins it to Hammersmith at the top, it was almost uninhabited, save for the houses which lined Bridge Road and a scattering of houses in Lonsdale Road and the short streets between Lonsdale Road and the reservoir near the bridge. The contrast was violent; on the north side of the Thames the crowded populousness of Hammersmith, and on the south side—well, possibly four people to the acre. Ilam and Carpentaria, with Ilam’s money, bought or leased the whole of the middle part of the peninsula—over three hundred acres—with a glorious half-mile frontage to the Thames on the east side. They would have acquired all the earth as far as Barnes Common but for the fact that the monomaniacs of the Ranelagh Club Golf Course could not be induced to part with their links, even when offered a fantastic number of thousand pounds per hole. They obtained the closing of the Bridge Road, which cut the peninsula downwards into two halves, and the omnibus traffic between Hammersmith and Barnes was diverted to Lonsdale Road—not without terrific diplomacy, and pitched battles in the columns of newspapers and in Local Government offices. They pulled down every house in Bridge Road, thus breaking up some seventy presumably happy English homes, and then they started upon the erection of the City of Pleasure, which they intended to be, and which all the world now admits to be, the most gigantic enterprise of amusement that Europe has ever seen.