JAMES HENRY LEIGH HUNT (1784–1859)
The Town: Its Memorable Characters and Events. St Paul’s to St James’s
(1848; rptd London: Unit Library Ltd, 1903)

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CHAPTER I
ST. PAUL’S, AND THE NEIGHBOURHOOD

AS St. Paul’s Churchyard is probably the oldest ground built upon in London, we begin our perambulations in that quarter. The cross which formerly stood north of the cathedral, and of which Stowe could not tell the antiquity, is supposed by some to have originated in one of those sacred stones which the Druids made use of in worship; but at least it is more than probable that here was a burial-ground of the ancient Britons; because when Sir Christopher Wren dug for a foundation to his cathedral, he discovered abundance of ivory and wooden pins, apparently of box, which are supposed to have fastened their winding-sheets. The graves of the Saxons lay above them, lined with chalk-stones, or consisting of stones hollowed out: and in the same row with the pins, but deeper, lay Roman horns, lamps, lachrymatories, and all the elegancies of classic sculpture. Sir Christopher dug till he came to sand and sea-shells, and to the London clay, which has since become famous in geology; so that the single history of St. Paul’s Churchyard carries us back to the remotest periods of tradition; and we commence our book in the proper style of the old Chroniclers, who were not content, unless they began with the history of the world.

     The Romans were thought to have built a Temple to Diana on the site of the modern cathedral, by reason of a number of relics of horned animals reported to have been dug up there. Sir Christopher Wren asserts that there was no ground for the supposition. There was a similar story of a temple of Apollo at Westminster, built on the site of the present abbey, and said to have been destroyed by an earthquake. “Earthquakes,” observed Sir Christopher, “break not stones to pieces; nor would the Picts be at that pains; but I imagine that the monks, finding the Londoners pretending to a Temple of Diana, where now St Paul’s stands (horns of stags and tusks of boars having been dug up in former times, and it is said also in later years), would not be behindhand in antiquity; but I must assert, that having changed all the foundations of old St. Paul’s, and upon that occasion rummaged all the ground thereabouts, and being very desirous to find some footsteps of such a temple, I could not discover any, and therefore can give no more credit to Diana than to Apollo.” [1]Top of the Page

     Woodward, on the other hand, insisted on the Temple of Diana. He asserted, that a variety of the relics alluded to, in his own possession, were actually dug up on the spot, together with sacrificing vessels sculptured with beasts of chase, and with figures of Diana. In digging between the Deanery and Blackfriars a small brass figure of the goddess has also been found. [2]

     Woodward was an enthusiast, eager to find what he fancied. Wren was willing to find also, but with cooler eyes. It is at the same time worth observing, that though Sir Christopher appears to have rejected the Pagan story with reason, he could not find it in his heart to refuse credit to the gratuitous traditions of old writers in favour of a Christian church “planted here by the Apostles themselves.” [3] He calls the traditions “authentic testimony.”

     It is barely possible that the relics mentioned by Woodward might have been all dug up by the time Sir Christopher set about his inquiry; but let them have been what they might, they would have proved nothing in favour of a Roman Temple, because the Romans never buried under their temples; neither did their legions remain long enough in this country to see the character of the place altered. It was sufficiently remarkable, that proofs had been discovered even of their burying there at all; for, at Rome, none but very extraordinary persons were suffered to be buried within the walls; and the Roman cemeteries in England are proved to have been without them. It can only be accounted for on the supposition that, as no great men are so great as the great men of colonies, the Prefects and their officers at London decreed themselves an honour, which was to be attained at Rome by nothing short of the merits of a Fabricius or a Publicola.Top of the Page

     The first authentic account of the existence of a Christian church on this spot is that of Bede, who attributes the erection of it to King Ethelbert, about the year 610, soon after his conversion by St. Augustine. The building, which was probably of wood, was burned down in 961, but was restored the same year—a proof that, notwithstanding the lofty terms in which it is spoken of by the old historian, it could not have been of any great extent. This second church lasted till the time of William the Conqueror, when it, too, was destroyed by a conflagration, which burned the greater part of the city. Bishop Maurice, who had just been appointed to the see, now resolved to rebuild the cathedral on a much grander scale than before, at his own expense. To assist him in accomplishing this object, the King granted him the stones of an old castle, called the Palatine Tower, which stood at the mouth of the Fleet River, and which had been reduced to ruins in the same conflagration. The Bishop’s design was looked upon as so vast, that “men at that time,” says Stowe, “judged it wold never have bin finished; it was then so wonderfull for length and breadth.” [4] This was in the year 1087; and the people had some reason for their astonishment, for the building was not completed till the year 1240, in the reign of Henry the Third. Some even extend the date to 1315, which is two hundred and twenty-eight years after its foundation; but this was owing rather to repairs and additions than to anything wanting in the original edifice. The cathedral thus patched, altered, and added to, over and over again, with different orders and no orders of architecture, and partially burned, oftener than once, remained till the Great Fire of London, when it was luckily rendered incapable of further deformity, and gave way to the present.

     It was, indeed, a singular structure, and used for singular purposes.

     “The exterior of the building,” says an intelligent writer, himself an architect, “presented a curious medley of the architectural style of different ages. At the western front Inigo Jones had erected a portico of the Corinthian order; thus displaying a singular example of that bigotry of taste, which, only admitting one mode of beauty, is insensible to the superior claims of congruity. This portico, however, singly considered, was a grand and beautiful composition, and not inferior to anything of the kind which modern times have produced: fourteen columns, each rising to the lofty height of forty-six feet, were so disposed, that eight, with two pilasters placed in front, and three on each flank, formed a square (oblong) peristyle, and supported an entablature and balustrade, which was crowned with statues of kings, predecessors of Charles the First, who claimed the honour of this fabric.Top of the PageHad the whole front been accommodated to Roman architecture, it might have deserved praise as a detached composition; but though cased with rustic work, and decorated with regular cornices, the pediment retained the original Gothic character in its equilateral proportions, and it was flanked by barbarous obelisks and ill-designed turrets.

West Front of Old St Paul’s, with Inigo Jones’s Portico     “The whole of the exterior body of the church had been cased and reformed in a similar manner, through which every detail of antiquity was obliterated, and the general forms and proportions only left. The buttresses were converted into regular piers, and a complete cornice crowned the whole: of the windows, some were barely ornamented apertures, whilst others were decorated in a heavy Italian manner, with architrave dressings, brackets, and cherubic heads. The transepts presented fronts of the same incongruous style as the western elevation, and without any of its beauties.” [5]

     In its original state, however, old St. Paul’s must have been an imposing building. Its extent at least was very great. The entire mass measured 690 feet in length, by 130 in breadth, and it was surmounted by a spire 520 feet high. The spire was of timber. It bore upon its summit not only a ball and cross, but a large gilded eagle, which served as a weathercock. But the church having been nearly burned to the ground in June, 1561, owing to the carelessness of a plumber who left a pan of coals burning near some wood-work while he went to dinner, it was hastily restored without the lofty spire: so that in Hollar’s engraving, given by Dugdale, of the building as it appeared in 1656, it stands curtailed of this ornament. Only the square tower, from which the spire sprang up, remains. “The old cathedral,” says Mr Malcolm, on the authority of a note with which he was furnished by the Rev. Mr Watts, of Sion College, “did not stand in the same direction with the new, the latter inclining rather to the south-west and north-east; and the west front of the Old Church came much farther towards Ludgate than the present.”[6]Top of the Page

     It is of the Cathedral, as thus renovated, that Sir John Denham speaks in the following passage of his Cooper’s Hill:—

     “That sacred pile, so vast, so high,
That whether it’s a part of earth or sky,
Uncertain seems, and may be thought a proud
Aspiring mountain, or descending cloud;
Paul’s, the late name of such a muse whose flight
Has bravely reach’d and soar’d above thy height;
Now shalt thou stand, though sword, or time, or fire,
Or zeal, more fierce than they, thy fall conspire,
Secure, whilst thee the best of poets sings,
Preserv’d from ruin by the best of kings.”

     “The best of poets,” is his brother courtier Waller who had some time before written his verses “Upon his Majesty’s repairing of St. Paul’s,” in which he compares King Charles, for his regeneration of the Cathedral, to Amphion and other “antique minstrels,” who were said to have achieved architectural feats by the power of music, and who, he says,

     “Sure were Charles-like kings,
Cities their lutes, and subjects’ hearts their strings;
On which with so divine a hand they strook,
Consent of motion from their breath they took.”

     Jones’s first labour, the removal of the various foreign encumbrances that had so long oppressed and deformed the venerable edifice, Waller commemorates by a pair of references to St. Paul’s history, not unhappily applied: he says the whole nation had combined with his majesty

                    “to grace
The Gentiles’ great Apostle, and deface
Those state-obscuring sheds, that like a chain
Seem’d to confine and fetter him again;
Which the glad Saint shakes off at his command,
As once the viper from his sacred hand.”

     Denham’s prediction did no credit to the prophetic reputation of poetry. Of the fabric which was to be unassailable by zeal or fire the poet himself lived to see the ruin, begun by the one and completed by the other; and he himself, curiously enough, a short time before his death, was engaged as the King’s surveyor-general in (nominally at least) presiding over the erection of the new Cathedral—the successor of the “sacred pile,” of which he had thus sung the immortality.Top of the Page

     When Jones began the repairs and additions of which his portico formed a part, in 1633, the rubbish that was removed was carried, Mr Malcolm informs us, to Clerkenwell fields, where, he suggests, “some curious fragments of antiquity may still remain.” [7] The very beauty of this portico, surmounted with its strange pediment and figures, and dragging at its back that heap of deformity, completed the monstrous look of the whole building, like a human countenance backed by some horned lump. But this was nothing to the moral deformities of the interior. Old St. Paul’s, throughout almost the whole period of its existence, at least from the reign of Henry the Third, was a thoroughfare, and a “den of thieves.” The thoroughfare was occasioned probably by the great circuit which people had been compelled to make by the extent of the wall of the old churchyard—a circumference a great deal larger than it is at present. There is a principle of familiarity in the Catholic worship which, while it excites the devotional tenderness of more refined believers, is apt to produce the consequence, though not the feelings, of contempt among the vulgar. Fear hinders contempt; but when license is mixed with it, and the fear is not in action, the liberties taken are apt to be in proportion. We have seen, in a Catholic chapel in London, a milkmaid come into the passage, dash down her pails, and having crossed herself, and applied the holy water with reverence, depart with the same air with which she came in. The next thing to setting down the pails, under the circumstances above mentioned, would have been to creep with them through the church. Porters and loiterers would follow; and by degrees the place of worship would become a place of lounging, and marketing, and intrigue, and all sorts of disorder. In the reign of Edward the Third, the King complains to the bishop that the “eating-room of the canons” had “become the office and workplace of artisans, and the resort of shameless women.” The complaint turned out to be of no avail; nor had the mandate of the bishop a better result in the time of Richard the Third, though it was accompanied with the penalty of excommunication. An act was passed to as little purpose in the reign of Philip and Mary; and in the time of Elizabeth the new opinions in religion seem to have left the place fairly in possession of its chaos, as if in derision of the old. The toleration of the abuse thus became a matter of habit and indifference; and a young theologian, afterwards one of the witty prelates of Charles the Second (Bishop Earle), did not scruple to make it the subject of what we should now call a “pleasant article.”

     “It must appear strange,” says a note in Brayley’s London and Middlesex (vol. ii., p. 219), “to those who are acquainted with the decent order and propriety of regulation now observed in our cathedral churches, and other places of divine worship, that ever such an extended catalogue of improper customs and disgusting usages as are noticed in various works, should have been formerly admitted to be practised in St. Paul’s church, and more especially that they should have been so long habitually exercised as to be defended on the plea of prescription.Top of the Page

     “These nuisances had become so great, that in the time of Philip and Mary the Common Council found it necessary to pass an act, subjecting all future offenders to pains and penalties. From that act, the church seems to have been not only made a common passage-way for all—beer, bread, fish, flesh, fardels of stuffs, etc., but also for mules, horses, and other beasts. This statute, however, must have proved only a temporary restraint (excepting, probably, as to the leading of animals through the church); for in the reign of Elizabeth, we learn from Londinium Redivivum (vol. iii., p. 71), that idlers and drunkards were indulged in lying and sleeping on the benches at the choir door; and that other usages, too nauseous for description, were also frequent.”

     Among the curious notices relating to the irreverend practices pursued in this church in the time of Elizabeth, collected by Mr Malcolm from the manuscript presentments on visitations preserved at St. Paul’s, are the following:—

     “In the upper quier wher the comon [communion] table dothe stande, there is much unreverente people, walking with their hatts on their heddes, comonly all the service tyme, no man reproving them for yt.”

     “Yt is a greate disorder in the churche, that porters, butchers, and water-bearers, and who not, be suffered (in special tyme of service) to carrye and recarrye whatsoever, no man withstandinge them, or gainsaying them,” etc.

     “The notices of encroachments on St. Paul’s, in the same reign, are equally curious. The chantry and other chapels were completely diverted from their ancient purposes; some were used as receptacles for stores and lumber; another was a school, another a glazier’s shop; and the windows of all were, in general, broken. Part of the vaults beneath the church was occupied by a carpenter, the remainder was held by the bishop, the dean and chapter, and the minor canons. One vault, thought to have been used for a burial-place, was converted into a wine-cellar, and a way had been cut into it through the wall of the building itself. (This practice of converting church vaults into wine-cellars, it may be remarked, is not yet worn out. Some of the vaults of Winchester Cathedral are now, or were lately, used for that purpose.) The shrowds and cloisters under the convocation house, ‘where not long since the sermons in foul weather were wont to be preached,’ were made ‘a common lay-stall for boardes, trunks, and chests, being lett oute unto trunkmakers, where, by meanes of their daily knocking and noyse, the church is greatly disturbed.’ More than twenty houses also had been built against the outer walls of the cathedral; and part of the very foundations was cut away to make offices. One of those houses had literally a closet dug in the wall; from another was a way through a window into a wareroom in the steeple; a third, partly formed by St. Paul’s, was lately used as a play-house; and the owner of the fourth baked his bread and pies in an oven excavated within a buttress.” [8]Top of the Page

     The middle of St. Paul’s was also the Bond-Street of that period, and remained so till the time of the Commonwealth. The loungers were called Paul’s Walkers.

     “The young gallants from the inns of Court, the western and the northern parts of the metropolis, and those that had spirit enough,” says our author, “to detach themselves from the counting-houses in the east, used to meet at the central point, St. Paul’s; and from this circumstance obtained the appellations of Paul’s Walkers, as we now say Bond-street Loungers. However strange it may seem, tradition says that the great Lord Bacon used in his youth to cry, Eastward ho! and was literally a Paul’s Walker.” [9]

     Lord Bacon had a taste for display, which was afterwards exhibited in a magnificent manner, worthy of the grandeur of his philosophy; but this, when he was young, might probably enough have been vented in the shape of an exuberance, which did not yet know what to do with itself. Who would think that the late Mr Fox ever wore red-heeled shoes, and was a “buck about town?”

     But to conclude with these curious passages:—

     “The Walkers in Paul’s,” continues our author, “during this and the following reigns, were composed of a motley assemblage of the gay, the vain, the dissolute, the idle, the knavish, and the lewd; and various notices of this fashionable resort may be found in the old plays and other writings of the time. Ben Jonson, in his Every Man out of his Humour, has given a series of scenes in the interior of St. Paul’s, and an assemblage of a great variety of characters; in the course of which the curious piece of information occurs, that it was common to affix bills, in the form of advertisements, upon the columns in the aisles of the church, in a similar manner to what is now done in the Royal Exchange: those bills he ridicules in two affected specimens, the satire of which is admirable. Shakspeare also makes Falstaff say, in speaking of Bardolph, ‘I bought him in Paul’s, and he’ll buy me a horse in Smithfield: if I could get me but a wife in the stews, I were mann’d, hors’d, and wiv’d.’”Top of the Page

     To complete these urbanities, the church was the resort of pickpockets. Bishop Corbet, a poetical wit of the time of Charles the First, sums up its character, as the “walke

     “Where all our Brittaine sinners sweare and talk.” [10]

     Only one reformation had taken place in it since the complaint made by Edward the Third: no woman, at the time of Earle’s writing, was to be found there; at least not in the crowd. “The visitants,” he says, “are all men, without exception.” [11] “A commonwealth writer insinuates otherwise; but the visitation was not public. The practice of “walking and talking” in St. Paul’s appears to have revived under James the Second, probably in connection with Catholic wishes; for there was an act of the first of William and Mary, by which transgressors forfeited twenty pounds for every offence; and, what is remarkable, the bishop threatened to enforce this Act so late as the year 1725; “the custom,” says Mr Malcolm, “had become so very prevalent.” [12]

     A proverb of “dining with Duke Humphrey,” has survived to the present day, owing to a supposed tomb of Humphrey, the good Duke of Gloucester, which was popular with the poorer frequenters of the place. They had a custom of strewing herbs before it, and sprinkling it with water. The tomb, according to Stow, was not Humphrey’s, but that of Sir John Beauchamp, one of the house of Warwick. Men who strolled about for want of a dinner, were familiar enough with this tomb; and were therefore said to dine with Duke Humphrey.

     While some of the extraordinary operations above-mentioned were going on (the intriguing, picking of pockets, etc.), the sermon was very likely proceeding. It is but fair, however, to conclude, that in the Catholic times, during the elevation of the host, there was a show of respect. We have heard a gentleman say, who visited Spain in his childhood, that he remembered being at the theatre during a fandango, when a loud voice cried out “Dios”(God); and all the people in the house, including the dancers, fell on their knees. A profound silence ensued. After a pause of a few seconds the people rose, and the fandango went on as before. The little boy could not think what had happened, but was told that the host had gone by. The Deity (for so it was thought) had been sent for to the house of a sick man; and it was to honour him in passing, that the theatre had gone down on their knees. Catholics reform as well as other people, with the growth of knowledge, especially when restrictions no longer make their prejudices appear a matter of duty. We know not how it is in Spain at this moment, with regard to the devout interval of the fandango; but we know what would be thought of it by thousands of the offspring of those who witnessed it on this occasion; and certainly in no Catholic church now-a-days can be seen the abominations of old St. Paul’s.Top of the Page

     The passenger who now goes by the cathedral, and associates the idea of the inside with that of respectful silence and the simplicity of Protestant worship, little thinks what a noise has been in that spot, and what gorgeous processions have issued out of it.

     Old St. Paul’s was famous for the splendour of its shrine and for its priestly wealth. The list of its copes, vestments, jewels, gold and silver cups, candlesticks, etc., occupies thirteen folio pages of the Monasticon. The side aisles were filled with chapels to different saints and the Virgin; that is to say, with nooks partitioned off one from another, and enriched with separate altars; and it is calculated, that, taking the whole establishment, there could hardly be fewer than two hundred priests. On certain holidays this sacred multitude, in their richest copes, together with the lord mayor, aldermen, and city companies, and all the other parish priests of London, who carried a rich silver cross for every church, issued forth from the cathedral door in procession, singing a hymn, and so went through Cheapside and Cornhill to Leadenhall, and back again. The last of these spectacles was for the peace of Guisnes, in 1546; shortly after which Henry the Eighth swept into his treasury the whole glories of Catholic worship—copes, crosses, jewels, church-plate, etc.—himself being the most bloated enormity that had ever mis-used them.

     Among other retainers to the establishment, Henry suppressed a singular little personage, entitled the Boy-Bishop. The Boy-Bishop (Episcopus Puerorum) was a chorister annually elected by his fellows to imitate the state and attire of a bishop, which he assumed on St. Nicholas’s day, the sixth of December, and retained till that of the Innocents, December the twenty-eighth.

     “This was done,” says Brayley, “in commemoration of St. Nicholas, who, according to the Romish Church, was so piously fashioned, that even when a babe in his cradle he would fast both on Wednesdays and Fridays, and at those times was ‘well pleased’ to suck but once a-day. However ridiculous it may now seem, the boy-bishop is stated to have possessed episcopal authority during the above term; and the other children were his prebendaries. He was not permitted to celebrate mass, but he had full liberty to preach; and however puerile his discourses might have been, we find they were regarded with so much attention, that the learned Dean Colet, in his statutes for St. Paul’s school, expressly ordained that the scholars shall, on ‘every Childermas daye, come to Paule’s Churche, and hear the Chylde Bishop’s sermon, and after be at the hygh masse, and each of them offer a penny to the chylde bishop; and with them the maisters and surveyors of the scole.’ Probably,” continues Mr Brayley, “these orations, though affectedly childish, were composed by the more aged members of the church. If the boy-bishop died within the time of his prelacy, he was interred in pontificalibus, with the same ceremonies as the real diocesan; and the tomb of a child-bishop in Salisbury Cathedral may be referred to as an instance of such interment.” [13] Top of the Page

     “From a printed church-book,” says Mr Hone, “containing the service of the boy-bishops set to music, we learn that, on the eve of Innocents’-day, the boy-bishop, and his youthful clergy, in their copes, and with burning tapers in their hands, went in solemn procession, chanting and singing versicles, as they walked into the choir by the west door, in such order that the dean and canons went foremost, the chaplains next, and the boy-bishop with his priests in the last and highest place. He then took his seat, and the rest of the children disposed themselves on each side of the choir, upon the uppermost ascent, the canons resident bearing the incense and the book, and the petit-canons the tapers, according to the rubrick. Afterwards he proceeded to the altars of the Holy Trinity and All Saints, which he first censed, and next the image of the Holy Trinity, his priests all the while singing. Then they all chanted a service with prayers and responses, and, in the like manner taking his seat, the boy-bishop repeated salutations, prayers, and versicles; and in conclusion gave his benediction to the people, the chorus answering Deo Gratias.” [14]

     The origin of customs is often as obscure as that of words, and may be traced with probability to many sources. Perhaps the boy-bishop had a reference, not only to St. Nicholas, but to Christ preaching when a boy among the doctors, and to the divine wisdom of his recommendations of a childlike simplicity. The school afterwards founded by Dean Colet was in honour of “the child Jesus.” There was a school attached to the cathedral, of which Colet’s was, perhaps, a revival, as far as scholarship was concerned. The boys in the older school were not only taught singing but acting, and for a long period were the most popular performers of stage-plays. In the time of Richard the Second, these Boy-Actors petitioned the king to prohibit certain ignorant and “inexpert people from presenting the History of the Old Testament.” They began with sacred plays, but afterwards acted profane; so that St. Paul’s singing-school was numbered among the play-houses. This custom, as well as that of the boy-bishop, appears to have been common wherever there were choir-boys; and it doubtless originated, partly in the theatrical nature of the catholic ceremonies at which they assisted, and partly in the delight which the more scholarly of their masters took in teaching the plays of Terence and Seneca. The annual performance of a play of Terence, still kept up at Westminster School, is supposed by Warton to be a remnant of it. The choristers of Westminster Abbey, and of the chapel of Queen Elizabeth (who took great pleasure in their performances), were celebrated as actors, though not so much so as those of St. Paul’s. A set of them were incorporated under the title of Children of the Revels, among whom are to be found names that have since become celebrated as the fellow-actors of Shakspeare—Field, Underwood, and others. It was the same with Hart, Mohun, and others, who were players in the time of Cibber. It appears that children with good voices were sometimes kidnapped for a supply. [15] Tusser, who wrote the Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry, is thought to have been thus pressed into the service; and a relic of the custom is supposed to have existed in that of pressing drummers for the army, which survived so late as the accession of Charles the First. The exercise of the right of might over children, and by people who wanted singers—an effeminate press-gang—would seem an intolerable nuisance; but the children were probably glad enough to be complimented by the violence, and to go to sing and play before a court.Top of the Page

     Ben Jonson has some pretty verses on one of these juvenile actors:

Weep with me, all you that read
     This little story;
And know, for whom a tear you shed
     Death’s self is sorry.

’Twas a child that so did thrive
     In grace and feature,
As heaven and nature seemed to strive
     Which owned the creature.

Years he numbered, scarce thirteen,
     When fates turned cruel;
Yet three filled zodiacs had he been
     The stage’s jewel;

And did act (what now we moan)
     Old men so duly,
As, sooth, the Parcæ thought him one,
     He played so truly.

Till, by error of his fate,
     They all consented;
But viewing him since (alas! too late)
     They have repented;

And have sought (to give new birth)
     In baths to steep him!
But being so much too good for earth,
     Heaven vows to keep him

     This child, we see, was celebrated for acting old men. It is well known that, up to the Restoration, and sometimes afterwards, boys performed the parts of women. Kynaston, when a boy, used to be taken out by the ladies an airing, in his female dress after the play. This custom of males appearing as females gave rise, in Shakspeare’s time, to the frequent introduction of female characters disguised; thus presenting a singular anomaly, and a specimen of the gratuitous imaginations of the spectators in those days; who, besides being contented with taking the bare stage for a wood, a rock, or a garden, as it happened, were to suppose a boy on the stage to pretend to be himself.Top of the Page

     One of the strangest of the old ceremonies, in which the clergy of the cathedral used to figure, was that which was performed twice a year, namely, on the day of the Commemoration and on that of the Conversion of St. Paul. On the former of these festivals, a fat doe, and on the latter, a fat buck, was presented to the Church by the family of Baud, in consideration of some land which they held of the Dean and Chapter at West Lee in Essex. The original agreement made with Sir William Le Baud, in 1274, was, that he himself should attend in person with the animals; but some years afterwards it was arranged that the presentation should be made by a servant, accompanied by a deputation of part of the family. The priests, however, continued to perform their part in the show. When the deer was brought to the foot of the steps leading to the choir, the reverend brethren appeared in a body to receive it, dressed in their full pontificial robes, and having their heads decorated with garlands of flowers. From thence they accompanied it as the servant led it forward to the high altar, where having been solemnly offered and slain, it was divided among the residentiaries. The horns were then fastened to the top of a spear, and carried in procession by the whole company around the inside of the church, a noisy concert of horns regulating their march. This ridiculous exhibition, which looks like a parody on the pagan ceremonies of their predecessors the priests of Diana, was continued by the cathedral clergy down to the time of Elizabeth.

     The modern passenger through St. Paul’s Churchyard has not only the last home of Nelson and others to venerate, as he goes by. In the ground of the old church were buried, and here, therefore, remains whatever dust may survive them, the gallant Sir Philip Sidney (the beau ideal of the age of Elizabeth), and Vandyke, who immortalised the youth and beauty of the court of Charles the First. One of Elizabeth’s great statesman also lay there—Walsingham—who died so poor, that he was buried by stealth, to prevent his body from being arrested. Another, Sir Christopher Hatton, who is supposed to have danced himself into the office of her Majesty’s Chancellor, [16] had a tomb which his contemporaries thought too magnificent, and which was accused of “shouldering” the altar. There was an absurd epitaph upon it, by which he would seem to have been a dandy to the last.

Stay and behold the mirror of a dead man’s house,
Whose lively person would have made thee stay and wonder.
*     *     *     *     *     *     *
When Nature moulded him, her thoughts were most on Mars;
And all the heavens to make him goodly were agreeing;
Thence he was valiant, active, strong, and passing comely;
And God did grace his mind and spirit with gifts excelling.
Nature commends her workmanship to Fortune’s charge,
Fortune presents him to the court and queen,
Queen Eliz. (O God’s dear handmayd) his most miracle.
Now hearken, reader, raritie not heard or seen;
This blessed Queen, mirror of all that Albion rul’d,
Gave favour to his faith, and precepts to his hopeful time;
First trained him in the stately band of pensioners;
*     *     *     *     *     *     *
And for her safety made him Captain of the Guard.
Now doth she prune this vine, and from her sacred breast
Lessons his life, makes wise his heart for her great councells,
And so, Vice-Chamberlain, where foreign princes’ eyes
Might well admire her choyce, wherein she most excels.

     He then aspires, says the writer, to “the highest subject’s seat,” and becomes

Lord Chancelour (measure and conscience of a holy king:)
Robe, Collar, Garter, dead figures of great honour,
Alms-deeds with faith, honest in word, frank in dispence,
The poor’s friend, not popular, the church’s pillar.
This tombe sheweth one, the heaven’s shrine the other. [17]

     The first line in italics, and the poetry throughout, are only to be equalled by a passage in an epitaph we have met with on a Lady of the name of Greenwood, of whom her husband says:—

“Her graces and her qualities were such
That she might have married a bishop or a judge;
But so extreme was her condescension and humility,
That she married me, a poor doctor of divinity;
By which heroic deed, she stands confest,
Of all other women, the phœnix of her sex.”

     Sir Christopher is said to have died of a broken heart, because his once loving mistress exacted a debt of him which he found it difficult to pay. It was common to talk of courtiers dying of broken hearts at that time; which gives one an equal notion of the queen’s power, and the servility of those gentlemen. Fletcher, Bishop of London, father of the great poet, was another who had a tomb in the old church, and is said to have undergone the same fate. It was he that did a thing very unlike a poet’s father. He attended the execution of Mary Queen of Scots, and said aloud, when her head was held up by the executioner, “So perish all Queen Elizabeth’s enemies!” He was then Dean of Peterborough. The Queen made him a bishop, but suspended him for marrying a second wife, which so preyed upon his feelings, that it is thought, by the help of an immoderate love of smoking, to have hastened his end—a catastrophe worthy of a mean courtier. He was well, sick, and dead, says Fuller, in a quarter of an hour. Most probably he died of apoplexy, the tobacco giving him the coup de grace. [18] Top of the Page

     Dr Donne, the head of the metaphysical poets, so well criticised by Johnson, was Dean of St. Paul’s, and had a grave here, of which he has left an extraordinary memorial. It is a wooden image of himself, made to his order, and representing him as he was to appear in his shroud. This, for some time before he died, he kept by his bed-side in an open coffin, thus endeavouring to reconcile an uneasy imagination to the fate he could not avoid. It is still preserved in the vaults under the church, and is to be seen with the other curiosities of the cathedral. We will not do a great man such a disservice as to dig him up for a spectacle. A man should be judged of at the time when he is most himself, and not when he is about to consign his weak body to its elements.

     Of the events that have taken place connected with St. Paul’s, one of the most curious was a scene that passed in the old cathedral between John of Gaunt and the Anti-Wickliffites. It made him very unpopular at the time. Probably, if he had died just after it, his coffin would have been torn to pieces; but subsequently he had a magnificent tomb in the church, on which hung his crest and cap of state, together with his lance and target. Perhaps the merits of the friend of Wickliff and Chaucer are now as much overvalued. The scene is taken as follows, by Mr Brayley, out of Fox’s Acts and Monuments.

     “One of the most remarkable occurrences that ever took place within the old cathedral was the attempt made, in 1376, by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London, under the command of Pope Gregory the Eleventh, to compel Wickliff, the father of the English Reformation, to subscribe to the condemnation of some of his own tenets, which had been recently promulgated in the eight articles that had been termed the Lollards’ Creed. The pope had ordered the above prelates to apprehend and examine Wickliff; but they thought it most expedient to summon him to St. Paul’s, as he was openly protected by the famous John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster; and that nobleman accompanied him to the examination, together with the Lord Percy, Marshall of England. The proceedings were soon interrupted by a dispute as to whether Wickliff should sit or stand; and the following curious dialogue arose on the Lord Percy desiring him to be seated:—

     “Bishop of London.—‘If I could have guessed, Lord Percy, that you would have played the master here, I would have prevented your coming.’

     “Duke of Lancaster.—‘Yes, he shall play the master here for all you.’Top of the Page

     “Lord Percy.—‘Wickliff, sit down! You have need of a seat, for you have many things to say.’

     “Bishop of London.—‘It is unreasonable that a clergyman, cited before his ordinary, should sit during his answer. He shall stand!’

     “Duke of Lancaster.—‘My Lord Percy, you are in the right! And for you, my Lord Bishop, you are grown so proud and arrogant, I will take care to humble your pride; and not only yours, my lord, but that of all the prelates in England. Thou dependest upon the credit of thy relations; but so far from being able to help thee, they shall have enough to do to support themselves.’

     “Bishop of London.—‘I place no confidence in my relations, but in God alone, who will give me the boldness to speak the truth.’

     “Duke of Lancaster (speaking softly to Lord Percy).—‘Rather than take this at the bishop’s hands, I will drag him by the hair of the head out of the court!’” [19]

     Old St. Paul’s was much larger than now, and the churchyard was of proportionate dimensions. The wall by which it was bounded ran along by the present streets of Ave Maria Lane, Paternoster Row, Old Change, Carter Lane, and Creed Lane; and therefore included a large space and many buildings which are not now considered to be within the precincts of the cathedral. This spacious area had grass inside, and contained a variety of appendages to the establishment. One of these was the cross which we have alluded to at the beginning of this chapter, and of which Stow did not know the antiquity. It was called PAULS CROSS, and stood on the north side of the church, a little to the east of the entrance of Canon Alley. It was around Paul’s Cross, or rather in the space to the east of it, that the citizens were wont anciently to assemble in Folkmote, or general convention—not only to elect their magistrates and to deliberate on public affairs, but also, as it would appear, to try offenders and award punishments. We read of meetings of the Folkmote in the thirteenth century; but the custom was discontinued, as the increasing number of the inhabitants, and the mixture of strangers, were found to lead to confusion and tumult. In after times the cross appears to have been used chiefly for proclamations, and other public proceedings, civil as well as ecclesiastical; such as the swearing of the citizens to allegiance, the emission of papal bulls, the exposing of penitents, etc., “and for the defaming of those,” says Pennant, “who had incurred the displeasure of crowned heads.” A pulpit was attached to it, it was not known when, in which sermons were preached, called Paul’s Cross Sermons, a name by which they continued to be known when they ceased in the open air. Many benefactors contributed to support these sermons. In Stow’s time the pulpit was a hexagonal piece of wood, “covered with lead, elevated upon a flight of stone steps, and surmounted by a large cross.” During rainy weather the poorer part of the audience retreated to a covered place, called the shrowds, which are supposed to have abutted on the church wall. The rest, including the lord mayor and aldermen, most probably had shelter at all times; and the king and his train (for they attended also) had covered galleries. [20] Popular preachers were invited to hold forth in this pulpit, but the bishop was the inviter. In the reign of James the First, the lord mayor and aldermen ordered, that every one who should preach there, “considering the journies some of them might take from the universities, or elsewhere, should, at his pleasure, be freely entertained for five days’ space, with sweet and convenient lodging, fire, candle, and all other necessaries, viz., from Thursday before their day of preaching, to Thursday morning following.” [21] “This good custom,” says Maitland, “continued for some time. And the Bishop of London, or his chaplain, when he sent to any one to preach, did actually signify the place where he might repair at his coming up, and be entertained freely.” In earlier times a kind of inn seems to have been kept for the entertainment of the preachers at Paul’s Cross, which went by the name of the Shunamites’ House.Top of the Page

     “Before the cross,” says Pennant, “was brought, divested of all splendour, Jane Shore, the charitable, the merry concubine of Edward the Fourth, and, after his death, of his favourite, the unfortunate Lord Hastings. After the loss of her protectors, she fell a victim to the malice of crook-backed Richard. He was disappointed (by her excellent defence) of convicting her of witchcraft, and confederating with her lover to destroy him. He then attacked her on the weak side of frailty. This was undeniable. He consigned her to the severity of the church: she was carried to the Bishop’s palace, clothed in a white sheet, with a taper in her hand, and from thence conducted to the cathedral and the cross, before which she made a confession of her only fault. Every other virtue bloomed in this ill-fated fair with the fullest vigour. She could not resist the solicitations of a youthful monarch, the handsomest man of his time. On his death she was reduced to necessity, scorned by the world, and cast off by her husband, with whom she was paired in her childish years, and forced to fling herself into the arms of Hastings.”

     “In her penance she went,” says Holinshed, “in countenance and pace demure, so womanlie, that albeit she were out of all araie, save her kertle onlie, yet went she so faire and lovelie, namelie, while the wondering of the people cast a comlie rud in her cheeks (of which she before had most misse), that hir great shame wan hir much praise among those that were more amorous of hir bodie, than curious of hir soule. And manie good folkes that hated her living (and glad were to see sin corrected), yet pitied they more her penance, than rejoiced therein, when they considered that the Protector procured it more of a corrupt intent than any virtuous affection.”

     “Rowe,” continues Pennant, “has flung this part of her sad story into the following poetical dress; but it is far from possessing the moving simplicity of the old historian.” [22]

Submissive, sad, and lonely was her look;
A burning taper in her hand she bore;
And on her shoulders, carelessly confused,
With loose neglect her lovely tresses hung;
Upon her cheek a faintish flush was spread;
Feeble she seemed, and sorely smit with pain;
While, barefoot as she trod the flinty pavement,
Her footsteps all along were marked with blood.
Yet silent still she passed, and unrepining;
Her streaming eyes bent ever on the earth,
Except when, in some bitter pang of sorrow,
To heaven she seemed, in fervent zeal, to raise,
And beg that mercy man denied her here.

     “The poet has adopted the fable of her being denied all sustenance, and of her perishing with hunger, but that was not a fact. She lived to a great age, but in great distress and miserable poverty; deserted even by those to whom she had, during prosperity, done the most essential services. She dragged a wretched life even to the time of Sir Thomas More, who introduces her story in his Life of Richard the Third. The beauty of her person is spoken of in high terms: ‘Proper she was, and faire; nothing in her body that you would have changed, but if you would have wished her somewhat higher. Thus sai they that knew hir in hir youth. Albeit, some that now see hir, for she yet liveth, deem hir never to have been well visaged. Now she is old, leane, withered, and dried up: nothing left but shrivelled skin and hard bone; and yet, being even such, whoso well advise her visage, might gesse and devise, which parts how filled, would make it a faire face.’” [23] Top of the Page

     To these pictures, which are all drawn with spirit, may be added a portrait in the notes to Drayton’s Heroical Epistles, referring to the one by Sir Thomas More.

     “Her stature,” says the comment, “was mean; her hair of a dark yellow, her face round and full, her eye grey, delicate harmony being betwixt each part’s proportion, and each proportion’s colour; her body fat, white, and smooth; her countenance cheerful, and like to her condition. That picture which I have seen of her, was such as she rose out of her bed in the morning, having nothing on but a rich mantle, cast under her arm, over her shoulder, and sitting in a chair on which her naked arm did lie. What her father’s name was, or where she was born, is not certainly known; but Shore, a young man of right goodly person, wealth, and behaviour, abandoned her bed, after the king had made her his concubine.’” [24]

     Richard, in the extreme consciousness of his being in the wrong, made a sad bungling business of his first attempts on the throne. The penance of Jane Shore was followed by Dr Shawe’s sermon at the same cross, in which the servile preacher attempted to bastardise the children of Edward, and to recommend the “legitimate” Richard, as the express image of his father. Richard made his appearance, only to witness the sullen silence of the spectators; and the doctor, arguing more weakness than wickedness, took to his house, and soon after died. [25]

     In the reign of the Tudors, Paul’s Cross was the scene of a very remarkable series of contradictions. The government, under Henry the Eighth, preached for and against the same doctrines in religion. Mary furiously attempted to revive them; and they were finally denounced by Elizabeth. Wolsey began, in 1521, with fulminating, by command of the Pope, against “one Martin Eleutherius” (Luther). The denouncement was made by Fisher (afterwards beheaded for denying the King’s supremacy); but Wolsey sate by, in his usual state, censed and canopied, with the pope’s ambassador on one side of him, and the emperor’s on the other. During the sermon a collection of Luther’s books was burnt in the churchyard; “which ended, my Lord Cardinal went home to dinner with all the other prelates.” [26] About ten years afterwards the preachers at Paul’s Cross received an order from the king to “teach and declare to the people, that neither the pope, nor any of his predecessors, were anything more than the simple Bishops of Rome.” On the accession of Mary, the discourses were ordered to veer directly round, which produced two attempts to assassinate the preachers in sermon-time; and the moment Elizabeth came to the throne, the divines began recommending the very opposite tenets, and the pope was finally rejected. At the Cross Elizabeth afterwards attended to hear a thanksgiving sermon for the defeat of the Invincible Armada; on which occasion a coach was first seen in England—the one she came in. The last sermon attended there by the sovereign was during the reign of her successor; but discourses continued to be delivered up to the time of the Civil Wars, when, after being turned to account by the Puritans for about a year, the pulpit was demolished by order of Parliament. The “willing instrument” of the overthrow was Pennington, the lord-mayor. The inhabitants who look out of their windows now-a-days on the northern side of St. Paul’s may thus have a succession of pictures before their mind’s eye, as curious and inconsistent as those of a dream—princes, queens, lord-mayors, and aldermen,Top of the Page

A court of cobblers, and a mob of kings,

     Jane’s penance, Richard’s chagrin, Wolsey’s exaltation, clergymen preaching for and against the pope; a coach coming as a wonder, where coaches now throng at every one’s service; and finally, a puritanical lord-mayor, who “blasphemed custard,” laying the axe to the tree, and cutting down the pulpit and all its works.

     The next appendage to the old church, in point of importance, was the Bishop’s or London House, the name of which survives in that of London House Yard. This, with other buildings, perished in the Great Fire; and on the site of it were built the houses now standing between the yard just mentioned and the present Chapter House. The latter was built by Wren. The old one stood on the other side of the cathedral, where the modern deanery is to be found, only more eastward. The bishop’s house was often used for the reception of princes. Edward the Third and his queen were entertained there after a great tournament in Smithfield; and there poor little Edward the Fifth was lodged, previously to his appointed coronation. To the east of the bishop’s house, stretching towards Cheapside, was a chapel, erected by the father of Thomas Becket, called Pardon-Church-Haugh, which was surrounded by a cloister, presenting a painting of the Dance of Death on the walls, a subject rendered famous by Holbein. [27]

     Another chapel called the Charnel, a proper neighbour to this fresco, stood at the back of the two buildings just mentioned. It received its name from the quantity of human bones collected from St. Paul’s Churchyard, and deposited in a vault beneath. The Charnel was taken down by the Protector Somerset about 1549, and the stones were employed in the building of the new palace of Somerset House. On this occasion it is stated that more than a thousand cart-loads of bones were removed to Finsbury Fields, where they formed a large mount, on which three windmills were erected. From these Windmill Street in that neighbourhood derives its name. The ground on which the chapel stood was afterwards built over with dwellings and warehouses, having sheds before them for the use of stationers. Immediately to the north of St. Paul’s School, and towards the spot where the churchyard looks into Cheapside, was a campanile, or bell-house; that is to say, a belfry, forming a distinct building from the cathedral, such as it is accustomed to be in Italy. It was by the ringing of this bell that the people were anciently called together to the general assemblage, called the Folkmote. The campanile was very high, and was won at dice from King Henry the Eighth by Sir Miles Partridge, who took it down and sold the materials. On the side of the cathedral directly the reverse of this (the south-west), and forming a part of the great pile of building, was the parish church of St. Gregory, over which was the Lollards’ Tower, or prison, infamous, like its namesake at Lambeth, for the ill-treatment of heretics.Top of the Page

     “This,” says Brayley, on the authority of Fox’s Martyrology, “was the scene of at least one ‘foul and midnight murder,’ perpetrated in 1514, on a respectable citizen, named Richard Hunne, by Dr Horsey, chancellor of the diocese, with the assistance of a bell-ringer, and afterwards defended by the Bishop of Fitz-James and the whole body of prelates, who protected the murderers from punishment, lest the clergy should become amenable to civil jurisdiction. Though the villains, through this interference, escaped without corporal suffering, the king ordered them to pay £1,500 to the children of the deceased, in restitution of what he himself styles the ‘cruel murder.’” [28]

     The clergy, with almost incredible audacity, afterwards commenced a process against the dead body of Hume for heresy; and, having obtained its condemnation, they actually burned it in Smithfield. The Lollards’ Tower continued to be used as a prison for heretics for some time after the Reformation. Stow tells us that he recollected one Peter Burchet, a gentleman of the Middle Temple, being committed to this prison, on suspicion of holding certain erroneous opinions, in 1573. This, however, is, we believe, the last case of the kind that is recorded.

     It remains to say a word of St. Paul’s School, founded, as we have already mentioned, by Dean Colet, and destined to become the most illustrious of all the buildings on the spot, in giving education to Milton. We have dwelt more upon the localities of St. Paul’s Churchyard than it is our intention to do on others. The dignity of the birth-place of the metropolis beguiled us; and the events recorded to have taken place in it are of real interest. Milton was not the only person of celebrity educated at this school. Bentley, his critic, was probably induced by the like circumstance to turn his unfortunate attention to the poet’s epic in after life, and make those gratuitous massacres of the text, which give a profound scholar the air of the most presumptuous of coxcombs. Here also Camden received part of his education; and here were brought up, Leland, his brother antiquary, the Gales (Charles, Roger, and Samuel), all celebrated antiquaries; Sir Anthony Denny, the only man who had the courage and honesty to tell Henry the Eighth that he was dying; Halley, the astronomer; Bishop of Cumberland, the great grandfather of the dramatist; Pepys, who has lately obtained so curious a celebrity, as an annalist of the court of Charles the Second; and last, not least, one in whom a learned education would be as little looked for as in Pepys, if we are to trust the stories of the time, to wit, John Duke of Marlborough. Barnes was laughed at for dedicating his Anacreon to the duke, as one to whom Greek was unheard of; and it has been related as a slur on the great general (though assuredly it is not so), that having alluded on some occasion to a passage in history, and being asked where he found it, he confessed that his authority was the only historian he was acquainted with, namely, William Shakspeare.Top of the Page

     Less is known of Milton during the time he passed at St. Paul’s School, than of any other period of his life. It is ascertained, however, that he cultivated the writing of Greek verses, and was a great favourite with the usher, afterwards master, Alexander Gill, himself a Latin poet of celebrity. At the back of the old church was an enormous rose-window, which we may imagine the young poet to have contemplated with delight, in his fondness for ornaments of that cast; and the whole building was calculated to impress a mind, more disposed, at that time of life, to admire as a poet, than to quarrel as a critic or a sectary. Gill, unluckily for himself, was not so catholic. Some say he was suspended from his mastership for severity; a quality which he must have carried to a great pitch, for that age to find fault with it; but from an answer written by Ben Jonson to a fragment of a satire of Gill’s, it is more likely he got into trouble for libels against the court. Aubrey says, that the old doctor, his father, was once obliged to go on his knees to get the young doctor pardoned, and that the offence consisted in his having written a letter, in which he designated King James and his son, as “the old foole and the young one.” There are letters written in early life from Milton to Gill, full of regard and esteem; nor is it likely that the regard was diminished by Gill’s petulance against the court. In one of the letters, it is pleasant to hear the poet saying, “Farewell, and on Tuesday next expect me in London, among the booksellers.” [29]

     The parliamentary soldiers annoyed the inhabitants of the churchyard, by playing at nine-pins at unseasonable hours—a strange misdemeanour for that “church militant.” They hastened also the destruction of the cathedral. Some scaffolding, set up for repairs, had been given them for arrears of pay. They dug pits in the body of the church to saw the timber in; and they removed the scaffolding with so little caution, that great part of the vaulting fell in, and lay a heap of ruins. The east end only, and a part of the choir continued to be used for public worship, a brick wall being raised to separate this portion from the rest of the building, and the congregation entering and getting out through one of the north windows. Another part of the church was converted into barracks and stables for the dragoons. As for Inigo Jones’s lofty and beautiful portico, it was turned into “shops,” says Maitland, “for milliners and others, with rooms over them for the convenience of lodging; at the erecting of which the magnificent columns were piteously mangled, being obliged to make way for the ends of beams, which penetrated their centers.” [30] ”The statues on the top were thrown down and broken to pieces.Top of the Page

     We have noticed the lucky necessity for a new church, occasioned by the Great Fire. An attempt was at first made to repair the old building—the work, as we have already mentioned, being committed to the charge of Sir John Denham (the poet), his Majesty’s Surveyor-General. But it was eventually found necessary to commence a new edifice from the foundation. Sir Christopher Wren, who accomplished this task, had been before employed in superintending the repairs, and was appointed head surveyor of the works in 1669, on the demise of Denham. Unfortunately, he had great and ungenerous trouble given him in the erection of the new structure; and, after all, he did not build it as he wished. His taste was not understood, either by court or clergy; he was envied (and towards the close of his life ousted) by inferior workmen; was forced to make use of two orders instead of one, that is to say, to divide the sides and front into two separate elevations, instead of running them up and dignifying them with pillars of the whole height; and during the whole work, which occupied a great many years, and took up a considerable and anxious portion of his time, not unattended with personal hazard, all the pay which he was then, or ever to expect, was a pittance of two hundred a-year. A moiety of this driblet was for some time actually suspended, till the building should be finished; and for the arrears of it he was forced to petition the government of Queen Anne, and then only obtained them under circumstances of the most unhandsome delay. Wren, however, was a philosopher and a patriot; and if he underwent the mortification attendant on philosophers and patriots, for offending the self-love of the shallow, he knew how to act up to the spirit of those venerable names, in the interior of a mind as elevated and well-composed as his own architecture. Some pangs he felt, because he was a man of humanity, and could not disdain his fellow-creatures; but he was more troubled for the losses of the art than his own. He is said actually to have shed tears when compelled to deform his cathedral with the side aisles—some say in compliance with the will of the Duke of York, afterwards James the Second, who anticipated the use of them for the restoration of the old Catholic chapels. Money he despised, except for the demands of his family, consenting to receive a hundred a-year for rebuilding such of the city churches (a considerable number) as were destroyed by the fire! And when finally ousted from his office of surveyor-general, he said with the ancient sage, “Well, I must philosophise a little sooner than I intended.” (Nunc me jubet; fortuna expeditius philosophari). The Duchess of Marlborough, in resisting the claims of one of her Blenheim surveyors, said, “that Sir C. Wren was content to be dragged up in a basket three times a-week to the top of St. Paul’s, at a great hazard, for £200 a year.” But, as a writer of his life has remarked, she was perhaps “little capable of drawing any nice distinction between the feelings of the hired surveyor of Blenheim, and those of our architect, in the contemplation of the rising of the fabric which his vast genius was calling into existence: her notions led her to estimate the matter by the simple process of the rule of three direct; and on this principle she had good reason to complain of the surveyor.” [31] The same writer tells us that Wren’s principal enjoyment during the remainder of his life, consisted in his being “carried once a year to see his great work;” “the beginning and completion of which,” observes Walpole, “was an event which, one could not wonder, left such an impression of content on the mind of the good old man, that it seemed to recall a memory almost deadened to every other use.” The epitaph upon him by his son, which Mr Mylne, the architect of Blackfriars bridge, caused to be rescued from the vaults underneath the church, where it was ludicrously inapplicable, and placed in gold letters over the choir, has a real sublimity in it, though defaced by one of those plays upon words, which were the taste of the times in the architect’s youth, and which his family perhaps had learnt to admire.Top of the Page

Subtus conditur
Hujus ecclesiæ et urbis conditor
Ch. Wren,
Qui vixit annos ultra nonaginta,
Non sibi sed bono publico.
Lector, si monumentum requiris,
Circumspice.

     We cannot preserve the pun in English, unless, perhaps, by some such rendering as, “Here found a grave the founder of this church;” or “Underneath is founded the tomb,” etc. The rest is admirable:

“Who lived to the age of upwards of ninety years,
Not for himself, but for the public good.
Reader, if thou seekest his monument,
               Look around.”

     The reader does look around, and the whole interior of the cathedral, which is finer than the outside, seems like a magnificent vault over his single body. The effect is very grand, especially if the organ is playing. A similar one, as far as the music is concerned, is observable when we contemplate the statues of Nelson and others. The grand repose of the church, in the first instance, gives them a mortal dignity, which the organ seems to waken up and revive, as if, in the midst of the

“Pomp and threatening harmony,” [32]

their spirits almost looked out of their stony and sightless eyeballs. Johnson’s ponderous figure looks down upon us with something of sourness in the expression; and in the presence of Howard we feel as if pomp itself were in attendance on humanity. It is a pity that the sculpture of the monuments in general is not worthy of these emotions, and tends to undo them.

     A poor statue of Queen Anne, in whose reign the church was finished, stands in the middle of the front area, with the figures of Great Britain, France Ireland, and America, round the base. Garth, who was a Whig, and angry with the councils which had dismissed his hero Marlborough, wrote some bitter lines upon it, which must have had double effect, coming from so good-natured a man.Top of the Page

Near the vast bulk of that stupendous frame,
Known by the Gentiles’ great apostle’s name,
With grace divine great Anna’s seen to rise,
An awful form that glads a nation’s eyes:
Beneath her feet four mighty realms appear,
And with due reverence pay their homage there.
Britain and Ireland seem to own her grace,
And e’en wild India wears a smiling face.
But France alone with downcast eyes is seen,
The sad attendant on so good a queen.
Ungrateful country! to forget so soon
All that great Anna for thy sake has done,
When sworn the kind defender of thy cause,
Spite of her dear religion, spite of laws,
For thee she sheath’d the terrors of her sword,
For thee she broke her gen’ral-and her word:
For thee her mind in doubtful terms she told,
And learn’d to speak like oracles of old:
For thee, for thee alone, what could she more?
She lost the honour she had gain’d before;
Lost all the trophies which her arms had won,
(Such Cæsar never knew, nor Philip’s son;)
Resign’d the glories of a ten years’ reign,
And such as none but Marlborough’s arm could gain:
For thee in annals she’s content to shine,
Like other monarchs of the Stuart line.

     Many irreverent remarks were also made by the coarser wits of the day, in reference to the position of her Majesty, with her back to the church and her face to a brandy-shop, which was then kept in that part of the churchyard. The calumny was worthy of the coarseness. Anne, who was not a very clever woman, had a difficult task to perform; and though we differ with her politics, we cannot, even at this distance of time, help expressing our disgust at personalities like these, especially against a female.Top of the Page

‘Paul’s Cross and Preaching There’

Top of the PageNOTES

1. Parentalia, p. 290, quoted in the work next mentioned.

2. Brayley’s London and Middlesex, vol. i., p. 87.

3. Parentalia, p. 27.

4. Survey of London, p. 262. First edition.

5. Fine Arts of the English School, quoted in Brayley, vol. ii., p. 217.

6. Londinium Redivivum, vol. iii., p. 134.

7. Londinium Redivivum, vol. iii., p. 81.Top of the Page

8. Londinium Redivivum, vol. iii., pp. 71, 73.

9. Moser, in the European Magazine, July, 1807.

10. Poems, Gilchrist’s edition, 1807, p. 5.

11. Microcosmographie, quoted in Pennant.

12. Anecdotes of the Manners and Customs of London during the Eighteenth Century, vol. i., p. 281.

13. London and Middlesex, vol. ii., p. 229.

14. Ancient Mysteries Described, etc., 1823, p. 195.

15. Purvey’d is the word of Mr Chalmers; who says, however, that he knows not on what principle the right of “purveying such children” was justified, “except by the maxim that the king had a right to the services of all his subjects.” See Johnson and Steeven’s, Shakspeare, Prolegomena, vol. ii., p. 516.

16. “His bushy beard, and shoe-strings green,
     His high-crown’d hat, and satin doublet,
Mov’d the stout heart of England’s queen,
     Though Pope and Spaniard could not trouble it.”—Gray. Top of the Page

17. Maitland’s History of London, vol. ii., p. 1170.

18. The Bishop’s second wife was a Lady Baker, who is said, by Mr Brayley, to have been young as well as beautiful, and probably did not add to the prelate’s repose.

19. London and Middlesex, vol. ii., p. 231.

20. The active habits of our ancestors enabled them to bear these out-of-door sermons better than their posterity could; yet, as times grew less hardy, they began to have consequences which Bishop Latimer attributed to another cause. “The citizens of Raim,” said he, in a sermon preached in Lincolnshire, in the year 1552, “had their burying-place without the city, which, no doubt, is a laudable thing; and I do marvel that London, being so great a city, hath not a burying-place without, for no doubt it is an unwholesome thing to bury within the city, especially at such a time when there be great sickness, and many die together. I think, verily, that many a man taketh his death in Paul’s Churchyard, and this I speak of experience; for I myself, when I have been there on some mornings to hear the sermons, have felt such an ill-savoured unwholesome savour, that I was the worse for it a great while after; and I think no less, but it is the occasion of great sickness and disease.”—Brayley, vol. ii., p. 315. After all, the bishop may have been right in attributing the sickness to the cemetery. We have seen frightful probabilities of the same kind in our own time; and nothing can be more sensible than what he says of burial-grounds in cities.

21. Maitland, vol. ii., p. 949.

22. The reader, perhaps, will agree with us in thinking, that the last three lines of this poetry are unworthy of the rest, and put Jane in a theatrical attitude which she would not have effected.

23. Some account of London, third edition, p. 394.

24. Chalmers’s British Poets, vol. iv., p. 91.Top of the Page

25. “After which, once ended,” says Stow, “the preacher gat him home, and never after durst look out for shame, but kept him out of sight like an owle; and when he once asked one that had been his old friende, what the people talked of him, all were it that his own conscience well shewed him that they talked no good, yet when the other answered him, that there was in every man’s mouth spoken of him much shame, it so strake him to the hart, that in a few daies after, he withered, and consumed away.”—Brayley, vol. i., p. 312.

26. From a MS. in the British Museum, quoted by Brayley, vol. ii., p. 312.

27. A Dance of Death (for the subject was often repeated) is a procession of the various ranks of life, from the pope to the peasant, each led by a skeleton for his partner. Holbein enlarged it by the addition of a series of visits privately paid by Death to the individuals. The figurantes, in his work, by no means go down the dance “with an air of despondency.” The human beings are unconscious of their partners (which is fine); and the Deaths are as jolly as skeletons well can be.

28. Brayley, vol. ii., p. 320.

29. See Todd’s Milton, vol. vii.; Aubrey’s Letters and Lives; and Ben Jonson’s Poems. Gill’s specimen of a satire is very bad, and the great laureate’s answer is not much better. The first couplet of the latter, however, is to the purpose:—

“Shall the prosperity of pardon still
Secure thy railing rhymes, infamous Gill?”

30. History of London, vol. ii., p. 1166.

31. Life of Sir Christopher Wren in the Library of Useful Knowledge No. 24, p. 27.Top of the Page

32. Wordsworth.

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