chapter  9
BREATHING
Pages 20

An Irish essayist and poet, John Fisher Murray, in an article for an 1839 issue of Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, asked why it was that Paris had its leafy boulevards, Madrid its Prado, Rome its Corso, Vienna its Glacis, while the greatest city in the world had nothing remotely equivalent. He was not greatly impressed by the boast that London had more green areas, more public parks, and more planted squares than any of its rivals, for in the " terra incognita" of her East End, people lived "precariously from day to day, in low, unventilated, and densely populated neighbourhoods" without access to such open spaces.' His question was still germane at the end of the Edwardian period; to be sure, an impressive number of people's parks had been added (a large one in the East End) , a great many disused burial grounds had been converted into neighborhood gardens, some West End squares had been opened to the public, and the commons around the margins of the city had been preserved. Yet the fact remained that no major street had been constructed or reconstructed to serve specifically as an urban amenity. Those who cared sufficiently about this lack of generosity toward the streets to remark about it publicly tended to blame the "time-is-money" preoccupation of the Londoner, the climate, vested interests, or, more likely, the absence of a civic authority with the will and the funds to impose some large plan. But there was another explanation. It was that many of those people who had a highly developed civic consciousness became preoccupied in finding alternatives to streets and, to serve their reform purposes, employed rhetoric which presumed the street to be a source, or the source, of urban ills.