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The Naming Of Streets
by [?]

`Oxford Street’ sounds harsh and ugly. `Manchester Street’ sounds rather charming. Yet `Oxford’ sounds beautiful, and `Manchester’ sounds odious. `Oxford’ turns our thoughts to that `adorable dreamer, whispering from her spires the last enchantments of the Middle Age.’ An uproarious monster, belching from its factory-chimneys the latest exhalations of Hell–that is the image evoked by `Manchester.’ But neither in `Manchester Street’ is there for us any hint of that monster, nor in `Oxford Street’ of that dreamer. The names have become part and parcel of the streets. You see, then, that it matters not whether the name given to a new street be one which in itself suggests beauty, or one which suggests ugliness. In point of fact, it is generally the most pitiable little holes and corners that bear the most ambitiously beautiful names. To any one who has studied London, such a title as `Paradise Court’ conjures up a dark fetid alley, with untidy fat women gossiping in it, untidy thin women quarrelling across it, a host of haggard and shapeless children sprawling in its mud, and one or two drunken men propped against its walls. Thus, were there an official nomenclator of streets, he might be tempted to reject such names as in themselves signify anything beautiful. But his main principle would be to bestow whatever name first occurred to him, in order that he might save time for thinking about something that really mattered.

I have yet to fulfil the second part of my promise: show the futility of trying to commemorate a hero by making a street his namesake. By implication I have done this already. But, for the benefit of the less nimble among my readers, let me be explicit. Who, passing through the Cromwell Road, ever thinks of Cromwell, except by accident? What journalist ever thinks of Wellington in Wellington Street? In Marlborough Street, what policeman remembers Marlborough? In St. James’s Street, has any one ever fancied he saw the ghost of a pilgrim wrapped in a cloak, leaning on a staff? Other ghosts are there in plenty. The phantom chariot of Lord Petersham dashes down the slope nightly. Nightly Mr. Ball Hughes appears in the bow-window of White’s. At cock-crow Charles James Fox still emerges from Brooks’s. Such men as these were indigenous to the street. Nothing will ever lay their ghosts there. But the ghost of St. James–what should it do in that galley?… Of all the streets that have been named after famous men, I know but one whose namesake is suggested by it. In Regent Street you do sometimes think of the Regent; and that is not because the street is named after him, but because it was conceived by him, and was designed and built under his auspices, and is redolent of his character and his time. When a national hero is to be commemorated by a street, he must be allowed to design the street himself. The mere plastering-up of his name is no mnemonic.