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Source: Bell's Weekly Messenger (No.1831, Sunday, May 1, 1831.)

General illumination on
Wednesday night.

The spectacle of universal joy, which the metropolis exhibited on Wednesday night, must have convinced even the most prejudiced anti-reformers that its most respectable and intelligent inhabitants are, to a man, opposed to the continuance of their arrogant domination. The illumination was more general, more tasteful and more magnificent than any which took place during the whole of the revolutionary war; and as if it were intended to disappoint the predictions of the Tories, was conducted with the degree of peace and order which will excite in their breasts the bitterest lamentations. With exceptions so few as scarcely to deserve notice, every house in London was shining in a blaze of light. After the Mansion-house, the theatres and some of the banking-houses in the city, the newspaper-offices were particularly conspicuous for the richness of the decorations. In private houses there was such a variety of patriotic devices, and brilliant transparencies, that our columns would be filled if we attempted to describe them; and as no words could render the description of them as pleasing to the reader as the view of them was delightful to the spectator, we think it more advisable to leave them entirely undescribed, than to select any for particular admiration, where all were in intention equally praiseworthy. On the north-side of the Thames, Fleet-street, and Holborn, in the city, and the Strand and Regent-street, in Westminster, were the most glittering parts of the town; but not withstanding their greater capabilities for display none of them equaled in splendour the spectacle exhibited on the High-street of the Borough. The River itself was not without its attractions, for the vessels in the Pool had decorated their mast's and yards with a profusion of lights, which from their elevated position, shone like distant stars in the darkness of the atmosphere. The crowds which perambulated the streets were very numerous, and up to a late hour very good-natured. The seemed to enjoy the consciousness of their own strength, and were in consequence more inclined to laugh at the opponents of reform than to treat them with either reproach or violence. About three houses in Cheapside were not lighted up. The multitude passed them without further observation than that they were occupied by place-holders, dependent on the boroughmongers; and that it would be therefore cruel to force them to join in the general exultation. A similar observation was made before a house in the Borough, where the owner had placed a few candles in his window, which flung their scanty light on a double row of mask's which were "grinning horribly a ghastly smile" at people. In Holborn a slight collision took place between the police and a few idle boys, who, after 12 o'clock, were foolish enough to endeavour to compel Mr Corbyn the druggist, to illuminate his house, which up to that hour had remained safely enveloped in gloom. At a still later hour a similar occurrence took place at Northumberland-house where the people in authority thought it wiser to incur the risk of disturbing the public tranquillity than the expense of placing a few torches front of that aristocratic mansion. With the exception of these slight ebullitions of popular feeling—without which no illumination ever took place in England—there was nothing in the conduct of the multitude which could justify at all the application which some Tory lords made in the course of the day to the Home-office for a prohibition of the illumination, on the ground that it would lead to riot and disturbance. The illumination, as we before stated, was so general—it extended in such various directions in and about London—it lighted up so completely the widest streets and the narrowest alleys in London, that it was impossible for any honest reformer to be dissatisfied with the prospect before him. On the contrary, every heart seemed overflowing with joy and gratitude. The name of the King was upon every tongue, and more than once in the course of the evening we heard the national anthem for his safety chanted in rude chorus by hundreds of his subjects in the streets. The first time was in Southwark, where the leader of the song was a poor fellow who showed his exultation by carrying six lighted candles fastened on his hat; and the last time was in the Strand, where a white horse, drawing a cart, decorated with laurels and evergreens, and reform banners, and illuminated with portable gas, preceded by a large concourse of people, all joining was enthusiastic shouts in "God save the King." Some years ago events like these would have been hailed as the most convincing proof of the nation's loyalty, but now we should not be surprised at hearing that, like the reform bill which gave them birth, they are the most decisive forerunners of approaching revolution.

We should not be doing justice to the townships in the neighbourhood of the metropolis did we not mention that they fully participated in the feelings of London. Ratcliffe, Wapping, Shadwell, Limehouse, and Poplar to the east of the metropolis, particular distinguished themselves, as did also Newington, Lambeth, Kennington and Brixton. At the latter place the pleasure-grounds of several gentlemen were illuminated by several hundreds of lamps, suspended from the branches of the trees. The effect produced by the mixture of their various hues with the foliage was striking and picturesque, and excited great admiration among the spectators. At various places along the river fireworks were let off in the course of the evening, and in most of the parish churches the bells rang merry peals, in accordance with the feelings of the people on this memorable and joyous occasion.

From Blackheath all London appeared as one blaze. The principal illumination at Blackheath, was Grove-house (Mr Owen's), which, with the adjoining picturesque cottages, had a splendid and beautiful effect. The Duke of Northumberland public-house, situate next to the Worship-street police-office, made a display of a very peculiar kind. It is the only public-house in London with that particulars sign, and some five or six years since, Mr Medcalf, the proprietor, went to considerable expense to put up a well executed portrait of the present Duke in his robes, as he appeared at the Coronation of the late King. Recent events, however, had made mine host ashamed of his sign. He is a zealous reformer, and, in order to show his dissatisfaction with the dictatorial conduct of the Duke, he resolved to exhibit his grace, on Wednesday night, in a full suit of mourning. The gilt frame of the portrait was accordingly covered with black, the coronet with crape and the star and garter all graced by badges of the same material, while the mournful predicament in which his grace stood, strikingly contrasted with the lights and branches of laurels displayed from every window of the house.