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.I-TOWN TOPICS.

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.I- TOWN TOPICS. (From Our London Corre&pondent.) The presence of many cycling athletes in London from France, Italy, Sweden, Den- mark, Germany, Russia, South Africa, Aus- tralia^ America and Switzerland, in connection with the contests for the world's champion- ships at the Crystal Palace, has afforded an op- portunity of international amenities, of whicn the City has not been slow to take advantage. Mr. D. G. Collins, C.C., the acting president and chairman of the City of London Interna- tional Commercial Association; successfully organised a round of festivities which tools place on Tuesday last. At half-past ten in the morning the Lord Mayor and Sheriffs re- ceived a large number of foreign and colonial delegates and sports competitors at the Man- sion House, whence the party passed to the Guildhall. After being shown the treasures of the venerable building they were escorted to the Holborn Viaduct Hotel, where lun- cheon was served. In the afternoon the party visited Buckingham Palace, and in the even- ing there was a special gala performance at the Alhambra in honour of the visitors. Al- together it was a busy but delightful day. London librarians do not, as a body, sup- port the opinion expressed by Sir William Bailey at the recent meeting of the Library Associaton at Newcastle, that newspapers should be abolished from public libraries, as they are cheap enough for everyone to buy. The obvious answer to this is that a man cannot afford to buy every paper, and it is to the advantage of the community that every side of public questions should be read and studiea. Another reason put forward for the retention of the newspapers is that many people out of work, who cannot afford to spend even a half- penny on literature, eagerly scan the adver- tisement columns daily in search of employ- ment. To them it is a great boon to be able to see every newspaper likely to contain offers of work. It is the opinion of the leading London librarians that a very small percent- age of readers use the public libraries in order to study the betting news. Hard times press upon the clerk and the shorthand writer quite as much aa upon the working-man. A week or so ago a firm of London solicitors advertised a va- cancy on the staff. No fewer than 975 replies were received by the first post on the day fol- lowing publication, and scores of others ar- rived by every post afterwards for several days. Of course, not one-tenth of the appli- cants possessed the necessary qualifications for the position, but the mere fact that so many fairly well-educated men should be out of situations shows that business is bad and that & great amount of privation exists. Mr. John Burns, M.P., has been making what he calls a "pilgrimage of duty" through London, and the result of his observations is not at all unfavourable. He has been telling an interviewer that a daily perambulation of three weeks confirms his impression that Lon- don is growing lovelier, healthier, and better every day, and added: "I find the people bet- ter clothed, cleaner, and certainly less drunken. The children are better booted, and wear cleaner pinafores, and I think they are better, because more cheaply, fed. There are not the corner boys there were. I did not 8ee so many women bearing upon their faces the marks of the beast.' Here and there in large blocks of houses and people I was often surprised by the tidy homes and the clean children, representing patient love and care on the part of the mothers." Most people will agree with him when he says: The municipal bodies have not been ploughing the sand. Roads are better paved. The streets are broader and cleaner. Drainage is sweeter, and there is a complete absence of offensive smells. The efforts of the London County Council loomed up wherever one went, and here and there the local authorities were keeping stride and pace with the central authority." Although we do not all approve of Mr. Burns' methods and principles, we all Tecognise in him a keen observer and a. good I judge of social conditions and progress. His testimony, therefore, as to the improved con- I ditions of London life may be relied upon. One marked sign of the growth of London < and of the increasing tendency to live in the j "outer circle" of the suburbs is to be seen in the necessity that has arisen for the enlarge- ment of several of the principal railway sta- tions. Waterloo has long been in the hands of the contractors, and the alterations there will give several new platforms, and simplify the seemingly hopeless tangle of lines. Now it is the turn of Paddington, which has long been unequal to the demands made upon it. It has therefore been decided to increase the number of platforms. Three or four lines will be added, and an extra road for vehicles, for which a part of London-street will prob- ably have to be demolished. Plans are now being prepared, and as soon as the necessary Parliamentary powers have been obtained the work will be proceeded with. This overflow of the residential population from the City and Central London to the suburbs is part of a general movement of great significance and importance from vari- ous points of view. The population of the central portions of all our great cities is either stationary or declining, while that of ,their suburbs is increasing in consequence of the influx from the country as well as from the towns. If the process goes on un- checked the Englishman of the future will be of the City, but not in it; and the subur- ban type will be the most widespread and characteristic of all, as the rural has been'in the past, and as the urban may perhaps be said to be of the present. The Confectioners and Bakers are having their annual exhibition at the Agricultural Hall this week. The interest which this Exhibi- tion excites may be judged from the fact that there are some 15,000 different exhibits, and over 10,000 competitors in the different com- petitions. A model bakery is, perhaps the most interesting exhibit, so far as the general public is concerned, all the different processes of breadmaking being clearly shown. Another attractive exhibit is a stall of Colonial pro- duce arranged by the Canadian Exhibition Commission, which includes biscuits, confec- tonery, tinned, bottled, and fresh fruits, con- densed milk, maple sugar, eggs, and butter. All playgoers are glad to welcome Mr. George Alexander's return to the paths of romantic comedy. As a hero of romance, Mr. Alexander holds the highest position in public favour, and in Mr. Sydney Grundy's dramatic version of Mr. J. M. Forman's story "The ■Garden of Lies," he has a part entirely suited to his abilities. The plot concerns Prince Carol of Novodnia, a. mysterious Balkan prin- cipality, who has married an American heiress. -On the day of their marriage the lady is thrown out of a carriage, and loses all memory of her wedding and her husband; while the Prince, owing to a number of un- expected deaths, succeeds to the throne or Novodnia, and is obliged to leave America at once. This gives rise to a number of very ingenious situations, some of which are re- miniscent of "The Prisoner of Zenda" and ,others of "L'Assommoir." Mr. Alexander takes the part of Denis. Mallory, a young Irishman, in his accustomed finished and effective manner; Miss Lilian Braithwaite makes a handsome and winning princess, and the other- roles are all ably filkdr T. i

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