Page:Elizabethan People.djvu/101

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67
LIFE IN THE CAPITAL

grew familiar with one another, almost on speaking terms of acquaintance.

The city was circled by a wall, in fact, had grown a little beyond it on the three landward sides. And a large settlement at Southwark across the river extended from the only bridge that spanned the stream.

The streets were narrow, filthy, and ill-paved. The houses were built mostly of wood, with overhanging gables, were covered with red tile, thus giving the city a distinct colour when seen from a distance. As important as any of the great streets as a thoroughfare was the river, then a clear stream of fresh water. Thousands of boatmen plied their clumsy little skiffs, or wherries, for the service of passengers.

In spite of the narrowness and the filth of the poorly paved streets, London possessed many beautiful buildings and several fine prospects. Traders still clung together, venders of one kind of article living in one street, those of another in another. In general they set up their shops in the lower front rooms of their dwellings.

The reign of Elizabeth was a time when the merchant was becoming more and more influential, both in a business and in a social way. Though Sir Thomas Gresham is a figure of magnificent proportions, there is reason to believe that the