[Click the back button on your web browser to return to the section of “Signs of the Times” for which the following serves as an annotation.]

Vauxhall: Situated in London on the south bank of the River Thames, Vauxhall Gardens was a pleasure garden considered to be one of the most popular venues for public entertainment between the mid-seventeenth and mid-nineteenth century. It consisted of many acres of trees and shrubs as well as long, allegedly romantic, walks. Originally named New Spring Gardens, admission was free, but when in 1785 it was renamed Vauxhall Gardens an entrance fee was charged and the money used to gain its numerous attractions. Famous for its spectacular firework exhibitions, it supported enormous crowds and provided other entertainment such as tightrope walkers, concerts and hot air balloon ascents.

“Signs of the Times” mourns the loss of the spiritual in favour of the mechanical, which has become so extreme that even the scientific works of those such as Hartley, Darwin, and Priestly are disregarded in favour of the metaphysical philosophy of men such as the French philosopher, Dr. Pierre Cabanis, who “fairly lays open our moral structure with his dissecting-knives and real metal probes; and exhibits it to the inspection of mankind.” Carlyle considers his approach to such an emotional, vibrant subject, “the land of wonders,” far too sterilised and mechanical. He likens his emotionless examination of life to a man who walks with “scientific stoicism” through Vauxhall Gardens, seeing all the wonderful amusements and scenery as something for “the vulgar” and noticing not the delight and beauty of them, but the unattractive materials and items such as “saltpetre, pasteboard and catgut” used to create them.

Bibliography

Coke, David "Brief History". Vauxhall Gardens 1661-1859. Web. Viewed 5 April 2010.

"Vauxhall Gardens". Wikipedia. Web. Viewed 5 April 2010.

Cannon, J A. "Vauxhall Gardens". Encycopedia.com. Web. Viewed 5 April 2010.


Victorian Web Overview Thomas Carlyle Thomas Carlyle's Works Discussion Questions

Last modified 2 April 2010