Antique furniture shops (Partridge’s, Malictt’s); the most expensive of modern (Hille in Albemarle Street); shops like Asprey’s that cater still for the wildest whims, even an apparently inexhaustible demand for complex dressing case in pig skin, for swizzle sticks in gold and platinum. The boutiques of the international beauty trade. Gold, diamonds, sapphires; the latest in anti natch and grab security chains. Money. Booksnot ordinary books, Mayfair is not strong on those, but rare books in world famous shopsSothcran (Sackville Street), Quaritch and Sawyer, both in Grafton Street, Maggs in Berkeley Square.
Autographs. Art; millionaires in dinner jackets on hard gilt chairs, sweating, flicking away thousands beneath the flickering closed circuit television at an evening auction sale; the dealers with velvet hoarse polyglot voices breathing cigar smoke. The smell of paint, artist’s paint, marries with the smell of rich people and deep pile carpet, and very heady a concoction it is too.
The establishments that deal in these commodities are, in comparison with the huge stores that fringe Mayfair along Regent Street and Oxford Street, relatively small premised, select and specialist, though some, like the car shops in Berkeley Square or the dress shops of Fenwick or Wetherall, in size threaten at any moment to bloom into emporia. In Oxford Street you may at times feel that you are merely a permutation of a range of standard measure menu; if your particular permutation cannot be matched be fittedthis will not be due to any failure in the supply offered by the shopsit will be your fault; in fact, you may feel, you are a freak, abnormal. But Mayfair still generally admits each customer as a new, different and unique proposition; it allows for the individual whim, and the personal obstinacies of taste; it deals with the hand made, the individual order, and is not always to be rushed. Its three best known long established hotels are characteristic. Claridge’s (Brook Street), comfortable in red brick and gables, discreetly flush with commissionaires and bell boys, sump tuout and generally flying, quite nligdy, a flag or monarch or ex monarch or president m readeoa.
The Connaught, in Carlos Place by Grosvenor Square, charmingly late Victorian, unindmidaung and personal; and Brown Jthat stretch of Dover Street, almost invisible in its discretion, solid and un hurrvine, with world enough and time to read a Henry James novel in, even to bt a Henry James novel in. In contrast the newer, more American type hotels, the Hilton, the Westbury, even the Dorchester, with their rather mechanical articulation of architecture, seem still to have to settle in.
It is time to walk up Bond Street, the ads of MayUir. The choice at you Mart from Piccadilly it bewilderingalmost at once in Old Bond Street two formidable specialists. Sac Frcrcs (No. 45) said to be the only specialists in amber in the world (and they include flics in, if detired), and Barrett & Son (No. 9) for ivory; and then a sequence of famous names in art dealing, jewellery and female beauty culture. The Mayfair art dealers offer through the year (though they tend to be weakest in August and September), shows often of very high quality and often free; pictures are there to be looked at, to do not be dismayed by nn aura of grandeur but walk right in and look.
At Agnews (No. 43), Old Masters in general and in ipccial (they are one of those firms who arc prepared to pay out £100,000 for a few square indies of old paint and cloth apparently without blinking); also for English water colours and oilt, with a most agreeable top gallery, in plushy red with sofas. Marlborough, who have become tincc the war perhaps the dominant London firm in great international contemporary names; they have under contract many of the leading British artist! (non academic) of the middle generationHenry Moore, Francis Bacon, Armitagc, Pasmoreand they are built into a glotty facade apparently indissolubly with Lloyd’s Bank, and there it certainly no incongruity in the alliance.
On the other tide of the ttreet, Colnaghi’t for Old Masters, paintings, drawings, and engravings, with a formidable and well earned reputation for tcrupulout scholarship and for qualitytheir annual shows startle not only the connoisseurs but their rivals in the trade; the New London, a chaste basement de luxe, where the Marlborough displays avant garde exhibition from aU over the world.
Then the velvety windows, ttarred with wealth condensed into the minute brilliance of diamonds, into wrought gold, of Benson’s and of Cartier’s; the elegant doors of Elizabeth Arden, Yardlev, Max Factor opening to the fountain of eternal youth, and, at the corner of Burlington Gardens, the magnificent folly of Atkinson’s with Gothic gable and gilt of 196, and a fltehe with a carillon of twenty three bells that on rare occasions go off like a musical box, sparkling the air up and down Bond Street.