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LONDON CORRESPONDENCE.

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LONDON CORRESPONDENCE. We deem it risrht, to state we do not at all times identify ourselves with our Correspondent's opinions. The celebration of Twelfth Night" appears somewhat to dwindle in popularity as the years go on, but certain features which attend it in London, social as well as ecclesiastical, will con- tinue to prevent the old festival from being for- gotten. For it is upon the Feast of the Epiphany that the Queen's gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh are offered at the altar of the Chapel Royal, St. James's. This is always a solemn and somewhat striking ceremony. The Bishop of London, as Dean of the Chapels Royal, takes the leading part in the service, and at a stated point, after being conducted by a verger from his own pew to the altar, that official retires and conducts from the Royal pew two officers of the household, representing her Majesty, who, clad in full uniform, proceed up the aisle and, kneeling at the altar rails, present the Queen's gifts in small red bags to the bishop. As many persons as can get into the small chapel are customarily present on these occasions, and they cannot fail to be charmed with the excellent singing of the choir. There is an element of old-fashionedness about the whole surroundings, whether of church music or furniture, for no startling innovations are even to be looked for at a chapel royal. One of the characteristic features of a London day was to be noted by any visitor to St. James's for the Epiphany celebration, and that was the playing of the band in the courtyard of the palace, which was just concluding as the service was about to begin. This musical exer- cise takes place every morning at ten o'clock, and even in unpropitious weather seldom fails to draw a crowd of listeners. No one can quite realise what a number of people reside in London who have nothing definite to do until they go to St. James's Palace a few mornings, and witness the throng which listens to the band. All sorts and conditions are to be found among the crowd and while many of the persons who com- pose it look as if they ought to be at work but do not know where to obtain it, there are a number of others who equally ought to be em- ployed but obviously have no intention of putting themselves cut of the way in search of re- munerative toil. The same sort of thing is to be noted at various other points in the capital where similar gatherings congregate London-bridge, for instance, is never without its crowds of idlers lounging over the parapet, watching the coming and going of the steamers, and obviously purposeless of aim or intent. And in any of our streets, if there is a dog fight or a quarrel between a couple of women, to say nothing of a fire, a crowd seems to spring out of the earth ready to remain any length of time in order to see the finish of the business. Where they come from and what they do for a living is a puzzle. There they are, and there they will always be-that is the only conclusion to which the observer can come. Those who stroll by the Palace of Westminster just now will see that an important addition to the historic hall is proceeding rapidly towards completion. When the old law courts, super- seded by the Palace of Justice in the Strand, were demolished, it was felt that something would have to be put in their place, for their removal exposed to view one wall of Westminster Hall in a very naked and unpicturesque fashion. As is the case in all matters architectural, a dispute as to what was the right thing to put there raged fast and furious for a considerable period but at length it was resolved by the Chief Com- missioner of Works to accept the plans of Mr. John Pearson for erecting cloisters on the site, and it is these which have now progressed so far that the roofing is nearly completed. What will be the use of them when they are ready for oc- cupation is not exactly known, but there are various ways in which they can be put to advantage and in any case, they are so designed that they will not detract from, but rather add to, the beauty of the finest architectural pile which London possesses. Not only children who live in the metropolis, but a great number of those who, at one time or another, have come up from the country, will be mournfully interested in the fact that "Punch," the oldest lion in the Zoo- logical Gardens—and believed, in fact, to be the oldest in Europe — is believed to be dying. He was a noble old fellow, for not only was his head so handsomely shaped as to be a model for sculptor or painter, but he was gentle to a high degree, and he had won the affection of his keeper to an extent which was positively touching. It was with a voice almost broken by tenderness that the keeper told an inquirer a few days ago that all that could be done for the poor animal had been done that they could not give him any medicine, and that he refused to touch even the daintiest food. And so Punch" had to lie on his straw bed, unable to move, and waiting patiently for the end to which old age was surely bringing him. All those who ever saw him in his full time of health and grandeur will agree in regretting that the close of the fine old animal's life has apparently now so nearly come. There was a time when the London appren- tices might almost have been called a power in the land, and in many a romance they have figured with their cry of clubs as the de- fenders of their own privileges and the general liberty of the citizens. But for a considerable period the apprenticeship sytem has been a dwindling one, and in the opinion of many skilled persons this will account for some of the loss of England's manufacturing supremacy. Whether this be so or not, a determined effort has lately been made to revive the system, and, in order to encourage it, an Apprentices' Exhi- bition has just been held at the People's Palace, in the East of London. From the time of its opening by the Prince of Wales to its closing a few days ago, this wras a great success, and it should do much to stimulate the energies of the apprentices themselves. So striking were its effects that the suggestion has already been made to hold similar exhibitions in our largest industrial centres, and if this be carried out, good would be practically certain to result. There is much demand in these days for technical education, and, in the opinion of many, the best form in which this can be administered is by actual service at the bench or in the workshop. And it is just such actual service which the apprenticeship system supplies. The complete destruction by fire of two English theatres within a week has once more drawn attention to the extreme insecurity of this species of property, even when it is officially described to be composed of "fire-proof" materials. It most happily was the case that in each instance the audience had left the building before the conflagration occurred, and the imagination fails to picture the horrors we have been spared by that fact. As was shown most lamentably at Exeter last September, an audience which has lost its presence of mind is almost certainly doomed to destruction; and what large assembly of human beings can be ex- pected to preserve that presence of mind in face of what may seem certain death in the most fearful of all its forms ? Perhaps the only lesson taught by the latest fires is that gas is absolutely dangerous in theatres, and that the electric light will have to be made compulsory. It is not only that gas creates peril by its flame, but that the heat it evolves dries the surrounding woodwork almost to tinder point, and that, therefore, any chance spark is liable to produce a blaze. It is now evident that all talk of "fire-proof" con- struction is worse than useless; it is dangerous because so illusory; and the only thing to be done is to minimise the danger as far as pos- sible by strict attention to the lighting arrange- ments. Absolute safety will never be able to be guaranteed, but experience should teach us how near to it we can approach, and we should profit accordingly. The Times has lately been celebrating its centenary, and a provincial paper has thought that it could not do better than show its readers that it had lived even longer than the leading journal. It has accordingly done so in practical fashion by issuing a fac simile of its issue of a date in January, 1788, and no one can see it without feeling interested in the comparison it affords between both newspapers and news of then and now. Among the intelligence it con- tains is set forth The Flame of Liberty blazes in every part of France." From Vienna we learn that the greatest Preparations for War against the Turks are going on and Every new Occurrence indicated the unsettled State of the Dutch;" while one of the advertisements refers to a Society for the Purpose of effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade." There is one point of resemblance between 1788 and 1888, however, which will come home to the heart of every trader the credit system was obviously as obnoxious then as now and the sympathy of many people to-day will go out to the long-since departed newspaper proprietor who announced regarding his advertisements that ready money is expected with all." A number of proprietors would like to say that to-day, if they could feel sure of being able to stand by the declaration. A. F. R.

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