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ber of members had arrived, and without any attention to their usual parliamentary rules, were all making motions at once, which nobody seconded. The most prominent, I was informed, were Mr. Hume, Mr. O'Connell, Mr. Attwood, Mr. Bucking. ham, Mr. Pease, Sir Andrew and Mr. Buxton—the latter almost covered with blacks. The clamor was terrific, and I really expected that the poor foremen who held the pipes would be torn in pieces. Everybody wanted to command the Coldstream. Nothing but shouts of “Here ! here! here !” answered like an Irish echo by cries of “There ! there! there !"
“Oh, save my savings !” —“My poor, poor Bill !" “ More water-more water for my Drunkenness !" “Work awa, lads, work awa—it's no the Sabbath, and ye may just play at what ye like !"
In pleasing contrast to this tumult, was the unusual and cordial unanimity of the members of both Houses, in rescuing whatever was portable from the flames. It was a delightful novelty to see the Lords helping the Commons in whatever they moved or carried. No party spirit—no Whig, pulling at one leg of the table, whilst a Tory tugged at another in the opposite direction. They seemed to belong to the Hand-in-Hand. Peers and Commoners were alike seen burthened with loads of papers or furniture. Mr. Calvert, in particular, worked like any porter. Of course, in rescuing the papers and parchments, there was no time for inspecting their contents, and some curious results were the consequence. Everybody remembers the pathetic story in the Tatler, of the lover who saved a strange lady from a burning theatre, under the idea that he was preserving the mistress of his affections, and some similar mistakes are currently reported to have occurred at the late conflagration-and equally to the chagrin of the parties. I go by hearsay, and cannot vouch for the facts, but it is said that the unpopular Six Acts, including what I believe is called the Gagging Act, were actually preserved by Mr. Cobbett. Mr. O'Connell saved the Irish Coercion Bill, whilst the Reform Bill was snatched like a brand out of the fire,” by a certain noble Duke, who resolutely set his face against it in all its stages ! Amongst others, Mr. Ricardo saved an old tattered flag, which he thought was “the standard of value.”
However deficient in general combination, and concentration
of energies, individual efforts were beyond all praise. The instances of personal exertion and daring were numerous.
Mr. Rice worked amidst the flames till he was nearly baked ; and everybody expected that Mr. Pease would be parched. The greatest danger was from the melted metal pouring down from the windows and roof. The heads of some of the Hon. Gentle. men were literally nothing but lead. Great apprehensions were entertained of the falling in of one of the walls, which eventually gave way, but fortunately every body had retreated on the timely warning of a gentleman, Mr. O'Connell I believe, who declared that he saw a Rent in it.
I did not enter the House of Lords, which was now one mass of glowing fire, but directed my attention towards the Speaker's mansion, which was partially burning. The garden behind was nearly filled with miscellaneous property--and numbers of welldressed gentlemen were every moment rushing into the house, from which they issued again, laden with spits, saucepans, and other culinary implements. I, myself, saw one zealous individual thus encumbered—with a stew-pan on his head, the meat-screen under one arm, the dripping-pan under the other, the frying-pan in his right hand, the gridiron in his left, and the rolling-pin in his mouth. Indeed, it is said that every article in the kitchen was saved down to the salt-box; and the cook declares that such was the anxiety to save her she was “cotched up in twelve gentlemen's arms, and never felt her feet till the corner of Abingdon Street.”
The whole of the Foot Guards were in attendance, as well as a great number of the police, but the thieves had mustered in great force, and there was a good deal of plundering, which was however checked temporarily by a gentleman said to be one of the members and magistrates for Essex, who jumped up on a railing and addressed the populace to the following effect, " How do you
hall dare !" The origin of the fire is involved in much mystery ; nor is it correctly ascertained by whom it was first discovered. Some say that one of the serjeants, in taking up the insignia, was astonished to find the mace as hot as ginger. Others relate that a Mr. Spell, or Shell, or Snell, whilst viewing the House,
although no dancer, began suddenly, and in his boots, to the
X. Y. Z.
The writer of these lines, who resides in Lambeth, was first awakened to a sense of conflagration by a cry of “Fire" from a number of persons who were running in the direction of Westminster Bridge. Owning myself a warm enthusiast on the subject of ignition, and indeed not having missed a fire for the last fifty years, except one, and that was only a chimney, it may be supposed the exclamation in question had an electric effect. We are all the slaves of some physical bias, strange as it may appear to others with opposite tendencies. It is recorded of some great marshal that he disliked music, but testified the liveliest pleasure at a salvo of artillery or a roll of thunder, and the rumble of an engine has the same effect on the author of these lines. To say I am a guebre, or fire-worshipper, is only to confess the truth. I have a sort of observatory erected on the
roof of my house, from which, if there be a break-out within the circuit of the metropolis, it may be discovered, and before going to bed I invariably visit this look-out.
Every man has his hobby-horse, and, figuratively speaking, mine was always kept harnessed and ready to run to a fire with the first engine. Many a time I have arrived before the turn. cocks, though I perhaps had to traverse half London, and I scarcely remember an instance that I did not appear long before the water. Habit is second nature-I verily believe I could sniff a conflagration by instinct ; and if I was not, I ought to have been, the trainer of the firemen's dog, which at present attracts so much of the public attention, by his eager running along with the Sun, the Globe, the British and the Hand-inHand.
Of course I have seen a great many fires in my time-Rotherhithe, the theatres, the Custom-house, &c., &c. I remember in the days of Thistlewood and Co., when the metropolis was expected to be set on fire, I slept for three weeks in
clothes in order to be ready for the first alarm ; for I had the good fortune to witness the great riots of 1780, when no less than eight fires were blazing at once, and a lamentable sight it was. I say lamentable, because it was impossible to be present at them all at the same time; but my good genius directed me to Langdale's the Distiller, which made (excuse the vulgar popular phrase) a very satisfactory flare-up.
The Rotherhithe fire, not the recent little job, but some fifteen or twenty years ago, was also on a grand scale, and
last. ing. The engine-pipes were wilfully cut; and I remember
my friends rallying me on my well-known propensity, jocularly accusing me of lending my knife and my assistance. The Custom-house was a disappointment; it certainly cleared itself effectually, but it was done by day-light, and consequently
long-room fell short of my anticipations. Drury-lane and Covent-garden were better; but I have observed generally that theatres burn with more attention to stage effect. They avoid the noon: a dark night to a fire is like the black letters in a benefit-bill, setting off the red ones.
The destruction of the Kent Indiaman I should like to have
witnessed, but contrary to the opinion of many experienced amateurs I conceive the Dartford Mills must have been a failure. Powder magazines make very indifferent conflagrations; they are no sooner on fire than they are off,—all is over before you know where you are, and there is no getting under, which quite puts you out. But fires, generally, are not what they used to be. What with gas, and new police, steam, and one cause or other, they have become what one might call slow explosions. A body of flame bursts from all the windows at once, and before B 25 can call fi-er in two syllables, the roof falls in, and all is over. It was not so in my time. First a little smoke would issue from a window-shutter, like the puff of a cigar, and after a long spring of his rattle, the rheumatic watchman had time to knock double and treble knocks, from No. 9 to No. 35, before a spark made its appearance out of the chimney-pot. The Volunteers had time to assemble under arms, and muffle their drums, and the bell-ringers to collect in the belfry, and pull an alarm peal backwards. The parish engines even, although pulled along by the pursy churchwardens, and the paralytic paupers, contrived to arrive before the fire fairly broke out in the shape of a little squib-like eruption from the garret-window. The affrighted family, fourteen in number, all elaborately drest in their best Sunday clothes, saved themselves by the street-door, according to seniority, the furniture was carefully removed, and after an hour's pumping, the fire was extinguished without extending beyond the room where it originated, namely a bedroom on the second floor. Such was the progress in my time of a fire, but it is the fashion now to sacrifice everything to pace.
. Look at our race-horses, and look at our fox-hounds,and I will add look at our conflagrations. All that is cared for is a burst—no matter how short, if it be but rapid. The devouring element never sits down now to a regular meal—it pitches on a house and bolts it.
But I am wandering from the point. The announcement of both Houses of Parliament being in flames thrilled through every fibre. It seemed to promise what I may call a crowning event to the Conflagrationary Reminiscences of an Octogenarian. I snatched up my hat, and rushed into the street, at eighty years