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 III
FLEET STREET

WE are now in Fleet Street, and pleasant memories thicken upon us. To the left is the renowned realm of Alsatia, the Temple, the Mitre, and the abode of Richardson; to the right divers abodes of Johnson; Chancery Lane, with Cowley’s birth-place at the corner; Fetter Lane, where Dryden once lived; and Shire or Sheer Lane, immortal for the Tatler.

     Fleet Street was, for a good period, perhaps for a longer one than can now be ascertained, the great place for shows and spectacles. Wild beasts, monsters, and other marvels, used to be exhibited there, as the wax-work was lately; and here took place the famous ceremony of burning the Pope, with its long procession, and bigoted anti-bigotries. However, the lesser bigotry was useful, at that time, in keeping out the greater. Roger North has left us a lively account of one of these processions, in his Examen. It took place towards the close of the reign of Charles the Second, when just fears were entertained of his successor’s design to bring in Popery. The day of the ceremony was the birth-day of Queen Elizabeth, the 17th March.

     “When we had posted ourselves,” says North, “at windows, expecting the play to begin” (he had taken his stand in the Green Dragon Tavern), “it was very dark; but we could perceive the street to fill, and the hum of the crowd grew louder and louder; and at length, with help of some lights below, we could discern, not only upwards towards the bar, where the squib-war was maintained, but downwards towards Fleet Bridge, the whole street was crowded with people, which made that which followed seem very strange; for about eight at night we heard a din from below, which came up the street, continually increasing till we could perceive a motion; and that was a row of stout fellows, that came, shouldered together, cross the street, from wall to wall on each side. How the people melted away, I cannot tell; but it was plain those fellows made clear board, as if they had swept the street for what was to come after. They went along like a wave; and it was wonderful to see how the crowd made way: I suppose the good people were willing to give obedience to lawful authority. Behind this wave (which, as all the rest, had many lights attending), there was a vacancy, but it filled apace, till another like wave came up; and so four or five of these waves passed, one after another; and then we discerned more numerous lights, and throats were opened with hoarse and tremendous noise; and with that advanced a pageant, borne along above the heads of the crowd, and upon it sat a huge Pope, in pontificalibus, in his chair, with a seasonable attendance for state: but his premier minister, that shared most of his ear, was Il Signior Diavolo, a nimble little fellow, in a proper dress, that had a strange dexterity in climbing and winding about the chair, from one of the Pope’s ears to the other.Top of the Page

     “The next pageant was a parcel of Jesuits; and after that (for there was always a decent space between them) came another, with some ordinary persons with halters, as I took it, about their necks; and one with a stenterophonic tube, sounded ‘Abhorrers! Abhorrers!’ most infernally; and, lastly, came one, with a single person upon it, which some said was the pamphleteer, Sir Roger L’Estrange, some the King of France, some the Duke of York; but, certainly, it was a very complaisant, civil gentleman, like the former, that was doing what everybody pleased to have him; and, taking all in good part went on his way to the fire.”

     The description concludes with a brief mention of burning the effigies, which, on these occasions, appear to have been of pasteboard. [1]

     One of the great figures in this ceremony was the doleful image of Sir Edmondbury Godfrey, a magistrate, supposed to have been killed by the Papists during the question of the plot. Dryden has a fine contemptuous couplet upon it, in one of his prologues:—

“Sir Edmondbury first, in woful wise,
Leads up the show, and milks their maudlin eyes.”

     We will begin with the left side, as we are there already; and first let us express our thanks for the neat opening by which St. Bride’s church has been rendered an ornament to this populous thoroughfare. The steeple is one of the most beautiful of Wren’s productions, though diminished, in consequence of its having been found to be too severely tried by the wind. But a ray now comes out of this opening as we pass the street, better even than that of the illuminated clock at night time; for there, in a lodging in the churchyard, lived Milton, at the time that he undertook the education of his sister’s children. He was then young and unmarried. He is said to have rendered his young scholars, in the course of a year, able to read Latin at sight, though they were but nine or ten years of age. As to the clock, which serves to remind the jovial that they ought to be at home, we are loath to object to anything useful; and in fact we admit its pretensions; and yet as there is a time for all things, there would seem to be a time for time itself; and we doubt whether those who do not care to ascertain the hour beforehand, will derive much benefit from this glaring piece of advice.Top of the Page

     “At the west end of St. Bride’s church,” according to Wood, was buried Richard Lovelace, Esq., one of the most elegant of the cavaliers of Charles the First, and author of the exquisite ballad beginning—

“When Love with unconfined wings
     Hovers within my gates,
And my divine Althea brings
     To whisper at my gates;    

“When I lie tangled in her hair,
     And fetter’d in her eye,
The birds that wanton in the air,
     Know no such liberty.
*     *     *     *     *     *     *
“Stone walls do not a prison make,
     Nor iron bars a cage,
Minds innocent and quiet take
     That for an hermitage.”

     This accomplished man, who is said by Wood to have been in his youth “the most amiable and beautiful person that eye ever beheld,” and who was lamented by Charles Cotton as an epitome of manly virtue, died at a poor lodging in Gunpowder Alley, near Shoe Lane, an object of charity. [2] He had been imprisoned by the Parliament and lived during his imprisonment beyond his income. Wood thinks that he did so in order to support the royal cause, and out of generosity to deserving men, and to his brothers. He then went into the service of the French king, returned to England after being wounded, and was again committed to prison, where he remained till the king’s death, when he was set at liberty. “Having then,” says his biographer, “consumed all his estate, he grew very melancholy (which brought him at length into a consumption), became very poor in body and purse, and was the object of charity, went in ragged clothes (whereas, when he was in his glory, he wore cloth of gold and silver), and mostly lodged in obscure and dirty places, more befitting the worst of beggars than poorest of servants,” etc. [3] “Geo. Petty, haberdasher in Fleet street,” says Aubrey, “carried 20 shillings to him every Monday Morning from Sir —— Manny, and Charles Cotton, Esq., for —— months; but was never repaid.” As if it was their intention he should be! Poor Cotton, in the excess of his relish of life, lived himself to be in want; perhaps wanted the ten shillings that he sent. The mistress of Lovelace is reported to have married another man, supposing him to have died of his wounds in France. Perhaps this helped to make him careless of his fortune: but it is probable that his habits were naturally showy and expensive. Aubrey says he was proud. He was accounted a sort of minor Sir Philip Sidney. We speak the more of him, not only on account of his poetry (which, for the most part, displays much fancy, injured by want of selectness), but because his connection with the neighbourhood probably suggested to Richardson the name of his hero in Clarissa. Grandison is another cavalier name in the history of those times. It was the title of the Duchess of Cleveland’s father. Richardson himself was buried in St. Bride’s. He was laid, according to his wish, with his first wife, in the middle aisle, near the pulpit. Where he lived, we shall see presently.Top of the Page

     Not far from Gunpowder Alley, in the burying-ground of the workhouse in Shoe Lane, lies a greater and more unfortunate name than Lovelace—Chatterton. But we shall say more of him when we come to Brook Street, Holborn. We have been perplexed to decide, whether to say all we have got to say upon anybody, when we come to the first place with which he is connected, or divide our memorials of him according to the several places. Circumstances will guide us; but upon the whole it seems best to let the places themselves decide. If the spot is rendered particularly interesting by the division, we may act accordingly, as in the present instance. If not, all the anecdotes may be given at once.

     On the same side of the way as Shoe Lane, but nearer Fleet Market, was Hardham’s, a celebrated snuff-shop, the founder of which deserves mention for a very delicate generosity. He was numberer at Drury Lane Theatre, that is to say, the person who counted the number of people in the house, from a hole over the top of the stage; a practice now discontinued. Whether this employinent led him to number snuffs, as well as men, we cannot say, but he was the first who gave them their distinctions that way. Lovers of

“The pungent grains of titillating dust”

are indebted to him for the famous compound entitled “37.” “Being passionately fond of theatrical entertainments, he was seldom,” says his biographer, “without embryo Richards and Hotspurs strutting and bellowing in his dining-room, or in the parlour behind his shop. The latter of these apartments was adorned with heads of most of the persons celebrated for dramatic excellence; and to these he frequently referred in the course of his instructions.”Top of the Page

     “There is one circumstance, however, in his private character,” continues our authority, “which deserves a more honourable rescue from oblivion. His charity was extensive in an uncommon degree, and was conveyed to many of its objects in the most delicate manner. On account of his known integrity (for he once failed in business, more creditably than he could have made a fortune by it), he was often entrusted with the care of paying little annual stipends to unfortunate women, and others who were in equal want of relief; and he has been known, with a generosity almost unexampled, to continue these annuities, long after the sources of them had been stopped by the deaths or caprices of the persons who at first supplied them. At the same time he persuaded the receivers that their money was remitted to them as usual, through its former channel. Indeed his purse was never shut even to those who were casually recommended by his common acquaintance.” [4]

     This admirable man died in 1772; and by his will bequeathed the interest of £20,000 to a female acquaintance, and at her decease the principal, etc., to the poor of his native city, Chichester.

     Returning over the way we come to Dorset Street and Salisbury Court, names originating in a palace of the Bishop of Salisbury, which he parted with to the Sackvilles. Clarendon lived in it a short time after the Restoration. At the bottom of Salisbury Court, facing the river, was the celebrated play-house, one of the earliest in which theatrical entertainments were resumed at that period. The first mention we find of it is in the following curious memorandum in the manuscript book of Sir Henry Herbert, master of the revels to King Charles I. “I committed Cromes, a broker in Longe Lane, the 16th of Febru., 1634, to the Marsalsey, for lending a church robe with the name of Jesus upon it to the players in Salisbury Court, to present a Flamen, a priest of the heathens. Upon his petition of submission, and acknowledgment of his fault, I released him, the 17 Febru., 1634.” [5]

     It is not certain, however, whether the old theatre in Salisbury Court, and that in Dorset Garden, were one and the same; though they are conjectured to have been so. The names of both places seem to have been indiscriminately applied. Be this as it may, the house became famous under the Davenants for the introduction of operas and of a more splendid exhibition of scenery; but in consequence of the growth of theatres in the more western parts of the town, it was occasionally quitted by the proprietors, and about the beginning of the last century abandoned. This theatre was the last to which people went in boats.Top of the Page

     In a house, “in the centre of Salisbury Square or Salisbury Court, as it was then called,” Richardson spent the greater part of his town life, and wrote his earliest work, Pamela. Probably a good part of all his works were composed there, as well as at Fulham, for the pen was never out of his hand. He removed from this house in 1755, after he had written all his works; and taking eight old tenements in the same quarter, pulled them down, and built a large and commodious range of warehouses and printing offices. “The dwelling-house,” says Mrs Barbauld, “was neither so large nor so airy as the one he quitted, and therefore the reader will not be so ready, probably, as Mr Richardson seems to have been, in accusing his wife of perverseness in not liking the new habitation as well as the old.” [6] This was the second Mrs Richardson. He calls her in other places his “worthy-hearted wife”; but complained that she used to get her way by seeming to submit, and then returning to the point, when his heat of objection was over. She was a formal woman. His own manners were strict and formal with regard to his family, probably because he had formed his notions of life from old books, and also because he did not well know how to begin to do otherwise (for he was naturally bashful), and so the habit continued through life. His daughters addressed him in their letters by the title of “Honoured Sir,” and are always designating themselves as “ever dutiful.” Sedentary living, eternal writing, and perhaps that indulgence in the table, which, however moderate, affects a sedentary man twenty times as much as an active one, conspired to hurt his temper (for we may see by his picture that he grew fat, and his philosophy was in no respect as profound as he thought it); but he was a most kind-hearted, generous man; kept his pocket full of plums for children, like another Mr Burchell: gave a great deal of money away in charity, very handsomely too; and was so fond of inviting friends to stay with him, that when they were ill, he and his family must needs have them to be nursed. Several actually died at his house at Fulham, as at an hospital for sick friends.

     It is a fact not generally known (none of his biographers seem to have known of it) that Richardson [,who] was the son of a joiner, received what education he had (which was very little, and did not go beyond English), at Christ’s Hospital. [7] It may be wondered how he could come no better taught from a school which had sent forth so many good scholars; but in his time, and indeed till very lately, that foundation was divided into several schools, none of which partook of the lessons of the others; and Richardson, agreeably to his father’s intention of bringing him up to trade, was most probably confined to the writing-school, where all that was taught was writing and arithmetic. It was most likely here that he intimated his future career, first by writing a letter, at eleven years of age, to a censorious woman of fifty, who pretended a zeal for religion; and afterwards, at thirteen, by composing love-letters to their sweethearts for three young women in the neighbourhood, who made him their confidant. To these and others he also used to read books, their mothers being of the party; and they encouraged him to make remarks; which is exactly the sort of life he led with Mrs Chapone, Miss Fielding, and others, when in the height of his celebrity. “One of the young women,” he informs us, “highly gratified with her lover’s fervour, and vows of everlasting love, has said, when I have asked her direction, ‘I cannot tell you what to write, but (her heart on her lips) you cannot write too kindly’: all her fear was only that she should incur a slight for her kindness.” This passage, with its pretty breathless parenthesis, is in the style of his books. If the writers among his female coterie in after-life owed their inspiration to him, he only returned to them what they had done for himself. Women seem to have been always about him, both in town and country; which made Mrs Barbauld say, very agreeably, that he “lived in a kind of flower-garden of ladies.” This has been grudged him, and thought effeminate; but we must make allowance for early circumstances, and recollect what the garden produced for us. Richardson did not pretend to be able to do without female society. Perhaps, however, they did not quiet his sensibility so much as they charmed it. We think, in his Correspondence, a tendency is observable to indulge in fancies, not always so paternal as they agree to call them; though doubtless all was said in honour, and the ladies never found reason to diminish their reverence. A great deal has been said of his vanity and the weakness of it. Vain he undoubtedly was, and vanity is no strength; but it is worth bearing in mind, that a man is often saved from vanity, not because he is stronger than another; but because he is less amiable, and did not begin as Richardson did, with being a favourite so early. Few men are surrounded, as he was, from his very childhood, with females; and few people think so well of their species or with so much reason. In all probability too, he was handsome when young, which is another excuse for him. His vanity is more easily excused than his genius accounted for considering the way in which he lived. The tone of Lovelace’s manners and language, which has created so much surprise in an author who was a city printer, and passed his life among a few friends between Fleet Street and a suburb, was caught, probably, not merely from Cibber, but from the famous profligate Duke of Wharton, with whom he became acquainted in the course of his business. But the unwearied vivacity with which lie has supported it is wonderful. His pathos is more easily accounted for by his nerves, which for many years were in a constant state of excitement, particularly towards the close of his life; which terminated in 1761, at the age of seventy-two, with the death most common to sedentary men of letters, a stroke of apoplexy. [8] He was latterly unable to lift a glass of wine to his mouth without assistance.Top of the Page

     At Fulham and Parson’s Green (at which latter place he lived for the last five or six years), Richardson used to sit with his guests about him, in a parlour or summer-house, reading, or communicating his manuscripts as he wrote them. The ladies made their remarks; and alterations or vindications ensued. His characters, agreeably to what we feel when we read of them (for we know them all as intimately as if we occupied a room in their house), interested his acquaintances so far that they sympathised with them as if they were real; and it is well known that one of his correspondents, Lady Bradshaigh, implored him to reform Lovelace, in order “to save a soul.” In Salisbury Court, Richardson, of course, had the same visitors about him but the “flower-garden” is not talked of so much there as at Fulham. In the evening the ladies read and worked by themselves, and Richardson retired to his study; a most pernicious habit for a man of his bad nerves. He should have written early in the morning, taken good exercise in the day, and amused himself in the evening. When he walked in town it was in the park, where he describes himself (to a fair correspondent who wished to have an interview with him, and who recognised him from the description ) as “short, rather plump, about five feet five inches, fair wig, one hand generally in his bosom, the other a cane in it, which he leans upon under the skirts of his coat, that it may imperceptibly serve him as a support when attacked by sudden tremors or dizziness, of a light brown complexion, teeth not yet failing.” “What follows,” observes Mrs Barbauld, “is very descriptive of the struggle in his character, between innate bashfulness and a turn for observation”:—“Looking directly forwards, as passengers would imagine, but observing all that stirs on either hand of him, without moving his short neck; a regular even pace, stealing away ground rather than seeming to rid it; a grey eye, too often overclouded by mistiness from the head, by chance lively, very lively if he sees any he loves; if he approaches a lady his eye is never fixed first on her face, but on her feet, and rears it up by degrees, seeming to set her down as so and so.” [9]

     Latterly Richardson attended little to business. He used even to give his orders to his workmen in writing; a practice which Sir John Hawkins is inclined to attribute to stateliness and bad temper, but for which Mrs Barbauld finds a better reason in his bad nerves. His principal foreman also was deaf, as the knight himself acknowledges. Richardson encouraged his men to be industrious, sometimes by putting half-a-crown among the types as a prize to him who came first in the morning, at others by sending fruit for the same purpose from the country. Agreeably to his natural bashfulness, he was apt to be reserved with strangers. Sir John Hawkins tells us, that he once happened to get into the Fulham stage when Richardson was in it (most likely he got in on purpose); and he endeavoured to bring the novelist into conversation, but could not succeed, and was vexed at it. But Sir John was one of that numerous class of persons who, for reasons better known to others than to themselves,

“Deemen gladly to the badder end,”

as the old poet says; and Richardson probably knew this pragmatical person, and did not want his acquaintance.Top of the Page

     Johnson was among the visitors of Richardson in Salisbury Court. He confessed to Boswell, that although he had never much sought after anybody, Richardson was an exception. He had so much respect for him, that he took part with him in a preposterous undervaluing of Fielding, whom he described in the comparison as a mere writer of manners, and sometimes as hardly any writer at all. And yet he told Boswell that he had read his Amelia through “without stopping:” and according to Mrs Piozzi she was his favourite heroine. In the comparison of Richardson with Fielding, he was in the habit of opposing the nature of one to the manners of the other; but Fielding’s manners are only superadded to his nature, not opposed to it, which makes all the difference. As to Richardson, he was so far gone upon this point, in a mixture of pique and want of sympathy, that he said, if he had not known who Fielding was, “he should have taken him for an ostler.” Fielding, it is true, must have vexed him greatly by detecting the pettiness in the character of Pamela. Richardson, as a romancer, did not like to have the truth forced upon him, and thus was inclined to see nothing but vulgarity in the novelist. This must have been unpleasant to the Misses Fielding, the sisters, who were among the most intimate of Richardson’s friends. Another of our author’s visitors was Hogarth. It must not be forgotten that Richardson was kind to Johnson in money matters; and to use Mrs Barbauld’s phrase, had once “the honour” to be bail for him.

     We conclude our notice, which, on the subject of so original a man, has naturally beguiled us into some length, with an interesting account of his manners and way of life, communicated by one of his female friends to Mrs Barbauld. “My first recollection of him,” says she, “was in his house in the centre of Salisbury Square, or Salisbury Court as it was then called; and of being admitted as a playful child into his study, where I have often seen Dr Young and others; and where I was generally caressed and rewarded with biscuits or bonbons of some kind or other; and sometimes with books, for which he, and some more of my friends, kindly encouraged a taste, even at that early age, which has adhered to me all my long life, and continues to be the solace of many a painful hour. I recollect that he used to drop in at my father’s, for we lived nearly opposite, late in the evening to supper; when, as he would say, he had worked as long as his eyes and nerves would let him, and was come to relax with a little friendly and domestic chat. I even then used to creep to his knee and hang upon his words, for my whole family doated on him; and once, I recollect that at one of these evening visits, probably about the year 1753, I was standing by his knee when my mother’s maid came to summon me to bed; upon which, being unwilling to part from him and manifesting some reluctance, he begged I might be permitted to stay a little longer; and, on my mother objecting that the servant would be wanted to wait at supper (for, in those days of friendly intercourse and real hospitality, a decent maid-servant was the only attendant on his own and many creditable tables, where, nevertheless, such company was received), Mr Richardson said, ‘I am sure Miss P. is now so much a woman, that she does not want anyone to attend her to bed, but will conduct herself with so much propriety, and put out her own candle so carefully, that she may henceforward be indulged with remaining with us till supper is served.’ This hint and the confidence it implied, had such a good effect upon me that I believe I never required the attendance of a servant afterwards while my mother lived; and by such sort of ingenious and gentle devices did he use to encourage and draw in young people to do what was right. I also well remember the happy days I passed at his house at North End; sometimes with my mother, but often for weeks without her, domesticated as one of his own children. He used to pass the greatest part of the week in town; but when he came down, he used to like to have his family flock around him, when we all first asked and received his blessing, together with some small boon from his paternal kindness and attention, for he seldom met us empty-handed, and was by nature most generous and liberal.

     “The piety, order, decorum, and strict regularity that prevailed in his family were of infinite use to train the mind to good habits and to depend upon its own resources. It has been one of the means which, under the blessing of God, has enabled me to dispense with the enjoyment of what the world calls pleasures, such as are found in crowds, and actually to relish and prefer the calm delights of retirement and books. As soon as Mrs Richardson arose, the beautiful Psalms in Smith’s Devotions were read responsively in the nursery, by herself and daughters standing in a circle: only the two eldest were allowed to breakfast with her and whatever company happened to be in the house, for they were seldom without. After breakfast, we younger ones read to her in turns the Psalms and Lessons for the day. We were then permitted to pursue our childish sports, or to walk in the garden, which I was allowed to do at pleasure; for, when my father hesitated upon granting that privilege for fear I should help myself to the fruit, Mrs Richardson said, ‘No, I have so much confidence in her, that, if she is put upon honour, I am certain she will not touch so much as a gooseberry.’ A confidence I dare safely aver that I never forfeited, and which has given me the power of walking in any garden ever since, without the smallest desire to touch any fruit, and taught me a lesson upon the restraint of appetite, which has been useful to me all my life. We all dined at one table, and generally drank tea and spent the evening in Mrs Richardson’s parlour, where the practice was for one of the young ladies to read while the rest sat with mute attention round a large table, and employed themselves in some kind of needle-work. Mr Richardson generally retired to his study, unless there was particular company.Top of the Page

     “These are trifling and childish anecdotes, and savour, perhaps you may think, too much of egotism. They certainly can be of no further use to you than as they mark the extreme benevolence, condescension and kindness of this exalted genius, towards young people; for, in general society, I know he has been accused as being of few words and of a particularly reserved turn. He was, however, all his lifetime the patron and protector of the female sex. Miss M. (afterwards Lady G.) passed many years in his family. She was the bosom friend and contemporary of my mother; and was so much considered as enfant de famille in Mr Richardson’s house, that her portrait is introduced into a family piece.

     “He had many protégées;—a Miss Rosine, from Portugal, was consigned to his care; but of her, being then at school, I never saw much. Most of the ladies that resided much at his house acquired a certain degree of fastidiousness and delicate refinement, which, though amiable in itself, rather disqualified them from appearing in general society to the advantage that might have been expected, and rendered an intercourse with the world uneasy to themselves, giving a peculiar air of shyness and reserve to their whole address; of which habits his own daughters partook, in a degree that has been thought by some a little to obscure those really valuable qualifications and talents they undoubtedly possessed. Yet this was supposed to be owing more to Mrs Richardson than to him; who, though a truly good woman, had high and Harlowean notions of parental authority, and kept the ladies in such order, and at such a distance, that he often lamented, as I have been told by my mother, that they were not more open and conversable with him.

     “Besides those I have already named, I well remember a Mrs Donellan, a venerable old lady, with sharp piercing eyes; Miss Mulso, etc., etc.; Secker, Archbishop of Canterbury; Sir Thomas Robinson (Lord Grantham), etc., etc., who were frequent visitors at his house in town and country. The ladies I have named were often staying at North End, at the period of his highest glory and reputation; and in their company and conversation his genius was matured. His benevolence was unbounded, as his manner of diffusing it was delicate and refined.” [10]

     Richardson was buried in the nave of St. Bride’s Church; and a stone was placed over his remains, merely recording his name, the year of his death, and his age. In this church were also interred Wynken de Worde, the famous printer; the bowels of Sackville, the poet, whom we shall presently have occasion to mention again; and Sir Richard Baker, the author of the well-known book of English Chronicles. De Worde resided in Fleet Street.Top of the Page

     Between Water Lane and the Temple, and leading out of Fleet Street by a street formerly called White Friars, which has been rebuilt, and christened Bouverie Street, is one of these precincts which long retained the immunities derived from their being conventual sanctuaries, and which naturally enough became as profane as they had been religious. The one before us originated in a monastery of White Friars, an order of Carmelites, which formerly stood in Water Lane, and it acquired an infamous celebrity under the slang title of Alsatia. The claims, however, which the inhabitants set up to protect debtors from arrest, seem to have originated in a charter granted to them by James I., in 1608. For some time after the Reformation and the demolition of the old monastery, Whitefriars was not only a sufficiently orderly district, but one of the most fashionable parts of the city. Among others of the gentry, for instance, who had houses here at this period, was Sir John Cheke, King Edward VI.’s tutor, and afterwards Secretary of State. The reader of our great modern novelist has been made almost as well acquainted with the place in its subsequent state of degradation and lawlessness, as if he had walked through it when its bullies were in full blow. The rags of their Dulcineas hang out to dry, as if you saw them in a Dutch picture; and the passages are redolent of beer and tobacco. The sanctuary of Whitefriars is now extremely shrunk in its dimensions; and the inhabitants retain but a shadow of their privileges. The nuisance, however, existed as late as the time of William III., who put an end to it; and the neighbourhood is still of more than doubtful virtue. One alley, dignified by the title of Lombard Street, is of an infamy of such long standing, that it is said to have begun its evil courses long before the privilege of sanctuary existed, and to have maintained them up to the present moment. The Carmelites complained of it, and the neighbours complain still. In the Dramatis Personæ to Shadwell’s play called the Squire of Alsatia, we have a set of characters so described as to bring us, one would think, sufficiently acquainted with the leading gen try of the neighbourhood; such as—

     “Cheatley. A rascal, who by reason of debts dares not stir out of White-fryers, but there inveigles young heirs in tail, and helps them to goods and money upon great disadvantages; is bound for them, and shares for them till he undoes them. A lewd, impudent, debauch’d fellow, very expert in the cant about the town.

     “Shamwell. Cousin to the Belfonds; an heir, who being ruined by Cheatley, is made a decoy-duck for others; not daring to stir out of Alsatia, where he lives: is bound with Cheatley for heirs, and lives upon ’em a dissolute, debauched life.Top of the Page

     “Capt. Hackman. A block-head bully of Alsatia; a cowardly, impudent, blustering fellow; formerly a sergeant in Flanders, run from his colours, retreated into White-fryers for a very small debt, where by the Alsatians he is dubbed a Captain, marries one that lets lodgings, sells cherry-brandy, etc.

     “Scrapeall. A hypocritical, repeating, praying, psalm-singing, precise fellow, pretending to great piety, a godly knave, who joins with Cheatley, and supplies young heirs with goods and money.”

     But Sir Walter, besides painting the place itself as if he had lived in it (vide Fortunes of Nigel, vol. ii.), puts these people in action, with a spirit beyond anything that Shadwell could have done, even though the dramatist had a bit of the Alsatian in himself—at least as far as drinking could go, and a flood of gross conversation.

     Infamous, however, as this precinct was, there were some good houses in it, and some respectable inhabitants. The first Lord Sackville lived there; another inhabitant was Ogilby, who was a decent man, though a bad poet, and taught dancing; and Shirley another. It appears also to have been a resort of fencing-masters, which probably helped to bring worse company. They themselves, indeed, were in no good repute. One of them, a man of the name of Turner, living in Whitefriars, gave rise to a singular instance of revenge recorded in the State Trials. Lord Sanquire, a Scotch nobleman, in the time of James I., playing with Turner at foils, and making too great a show of his wish to put down a master of the art (probably with the insolence common to the nobility of that period), was pressed upon so hard by the man, that he received a thrust which put out one of his eyes. “This mischief,” says Wilson, “was much regretted by Turner; and the baron, being conscious to himself that he meant his adversary no good, took the accident with as much patience as men that lose one eye by their own default use to do for the preservation of the other.” “Some time after,” continues this writer, “being in the court of the late great Henry of France, and the king (courteous to strangers), entertaining discourse with him, asked him, ‘How he lost his eye:’ he (cloathing his answer in a better shrowd than a plain fencer’s) told him ‘It was done with a sword.’ The king replies, ‘Doth the man live?’ and that question gave an end to the discourse, but was the beginner of a strange confusion in his working fancy, which neither time nor distance could compose, carrying it in his breast some years after, till he came into England, where he hired two of his countrymen, Gray and Carliel, men of low and mercenary spirits, to murther him, which they did with a case of pistols in his house in Whitefriars many years after.” [11] For many years—read five—enough, however, to make such a piece of revenge extraordinary. Gray and Carliel were among his followers. Gray, however, did not assist in the murder. His mind misgave him; and Carliel got another accomplice, named Irweng. “These two, about seven o’clock in the evening (to proceed in the words of Coke’s report), came to a house in the Friars, which Turner used to frequent, as he came to his school, which was near that place, and finding Turner there, they saluted one another; and Turner, with one of his friends, sat at the door asking them to drink; but Carliel and Irweng, turning about to cock the pistol, came back immediately, and Carliel, drawing it from under his coat, discharged it upon Turner, and gave him a mortal wound near the left pap; so that Turner, after having said these words, ‘Lord, have mercy upon me! I am killed,’ immediately fell down. Whereupon Carliel and Irweng fled, Carliel to the town, Irweng towards the river; but mistaking his way, and entering into a court where they sold wood, which was no thoroughfare, he was taken. Carliel likewise fled, and so did also the Baron of Sanchar. The ordinary officers of justice did their utmost, but could not take them; for, in fact, as appeared afterwards, Carliel fled into Scotland, and Gray towards the sea, thinking to go to Sweden, and Sanchar hid himself in England.” [12] Top of the Page

     James, who had shown such favour to the Scotch as to make the English jealous, and who also hated an ill-natured action, when it was not to do good to any of his favourites, thought himself bound to issue a promise of reward for the arrest of Sanquire and the others. It was successful; and all three were hung, Carliel and Irweng in Fleet Street, opposite the great gate of Whitefriars (the entrance of the present Bouverie Street), and Sanquire in Palace Yard, before Westminster Hall. He made a singular defence, very good and penitent, and yet remarkably illustrative of the cheap rate at which plebeian blood was held in those times; and no doubt his death was a great surprise to him. The people, not yet enlightened on these points, took his demeanour in such good part, that they expressed great pity for him, till they perceived that he died a Catholic!

     This and other pretended sanctuaries were at length put down by an act of parliament passed about the beginning of the last century. It is curious that the once lawless domain of Alsatia should have had the law itself for its neighbour; but Sir Walter has shown us, that they had more sympathies than might be expected. It was a local realisation of this old proverb of extremes meeting. We now step out of this old chaos into its quieter vicinity, which, however, was not always as quiet as it is now. The Temple, as its name imports, was once the seat of the Knights Templars, an order at once priestly and military, originating in the crusades, and whose business it was to defend the Temple at Jerusalem. How they degenerated, and what sort of vows they were in the habit of making, instead of those of chastity and humility, the modern reader need not be told, after the masterly pictures of them in the writer from whom we have just taken another set of ruffians. The Templars were dissolved in the reign of Edward II., and their house occupied by successive nobles, till it came into the possession of the law, in whose hands it was confirmed “for ever” by James I. We need not enter into the origin of its division into two parts, the Inner and Middle Temple. Suffice to say, that the word Middle, which implies a third Temple, refers to an outer one, or third portion of the old buildings, which does not appear to have been ever occupied by lawyers, but came into possession of the celebrated Essex family, whose name is retained in the street where it was situated, on the other side of Temple Bar. There is nothing remaining of the ancient buildings but the church built in 1185, which is a curiosity justly admired, particularly for its effigies of knights, some of whose cross legs indicate that they had either been to the Holy Land, or have been supposed to or vowed to go thither. One of the band is ascertained to have been Geoffrey de Magnavile, Earl of Essex, who was killed at Benwell in Cambridgeshire, in 1148. Among the others are supposed to be the Marshals, first, second, and third Earls of Pembroke, who all died in the early part of the thirteenth century. But even these have not been identified upon any satisfactory grounds; and with regard to some of the rest, not so much as a probable conjecture has been offered.Interior of the Round Part of the Temple Church, Previous to the Recent Restorations

     As it is an opinion still prevailing, that these cross-legged knights are Knights Templars, we have copied below the most complete information respecting them which we have hitherto met with. And the passage is otherwise curious. [13]

     The two Temples, or law colleges, occupy a large space of ground between Whitefriars and Essex Street; Fleet Street bounding them on the north, and the river on the south. They compose an irregular mass of good substantial houses, in lanes and open places, the houses being divided into chambers, or floors for separate occupants, some of which are let to persons not in the profession.

     The garden about forty years ago was enlarged, and a muddy tract under it, on the side of the Thames, converted into a pleasant walk. This garden is still not very large, but it deserves its name both for trees and flowers. There is a descent into it after the Italian fashion, from a court with a fountain in it, surrounded with trees, through which the view of the old walls and buttresses of the Middle Temple Hall is much admired. But a poet’s hand has touched the garden, and made it bloom with roses above the real. It is the scene in Shakspeare, of the origin of the factions of York and Lancaster.Top of the Page

                         PLANTAGENET.
“Since you are tongue-ty’d, and so loth to speak,
In dumb significence proclaim your thoughts;
Let him that is a true born gentleman,
And stands upon the honour of his birth,
If he suppose that I have pleaded truth,
From off this brier pluck a white rose with me

                         SOMERSET.
Let him that is no coward nor no flatterer,
But dare maintain the party of the truth,
Pluck a red rose from off this thorn with me.

                         WARWICK.
I love no colours; and, without all colour
Of base insinuating flattery,
I pluck this white rose with Plantagent.

                         SUFFOLK.
I pluck this red rose with young Somerset;
And say withal I think he held the right.”

There were formerly rooks in the Temple trees, a colony brought by Sir Edward Northey, a well-known lawyer in Queen Anne’s time, from his grounds at Epsom. It was a pleasant thought, supposing that the colonists had no objection. The rook is a grave legal bird, both in his coat and habits; living in communities, yet to himself; and strongly addicted to discussions of meum and tuum. The neighbourhood, however, appears to have been too much for him; for, upon inquiring on the spot, we were told that there had been no rooks for many years.Top of the Page

     The oldest mention of the Temple as a place for lawyers has been commonly said to be found in a passage of Chaucer, who is reported to have been of the Temple himself. It is in his character of the Manciple, or Steward, whom he pleasantly pits against his learned employers, as outwitting even themselves:

“A gentle manciple was there of a temple,
Of which achatours (purchasers) mighten take ensample,
For to ben wise in buying of vitáille.
For whether that be paid, or took by taille,
Algate he waited so in his achate,
That he was ay before in good estate;
Now is not that of God a full fair grace,
That such a lewèd (ignorant) mannès wit shall pass
The wisdom of a heap of learned men?” [14]

Spenser, in his epic way, not disdaining to bring the homeliest images into his verse, for the sake of the truth in them, speaks of—

                         ——“those bricky towers
The which on Thames’ broad aged back do ride,
Where now the studious lawyers have their bowers;
There whilom wont the Templar Knights to bide,
Till they decayed through pride.” [15]

The “studious lawyers,” in their towers by the water side, present a quiet picture. Yet in those times, it seems, they were apt to break into overt actions of vivacity, a little excessive, and such as the habit of restraint inclines people to, before they have arrived at years of discretion. In Henry VIII.’s time the gentlemen of the Temple were addicted to “shove and slip-groats,” [16] which became forbidden them under a penalty; and, in the age in which Spenser wrote, so many encounters had taken place, of a dangerous description, that Templars were prohibited from carrying any other weapon into the hall (the dining-room) “than a dagger or knife,”—“as if,” says Mr Malcolm, “these were not more than sufficient to accomplish unpremeditated deaths.” [17] We are to suppose, however, that gentlemen would not kill each other, except with swords. The dagger, or carving knive, which it was customary to carry about the person in those days, was for the mutton.Top of the Page

     A better mode of recreating and giving vent to their animal spirits, was the custom prevalent among the lawyers at that period of presenting masques and pageants. They were great players, with a scholarly taste for classical subjects; and the gravest of them did not disdain to cater in this way for the amusement of their fellows, sometimes for that of crowned heads. The name of Bacon is to be found among the “getters up” of a show at Gray’s Inn, for the entertainment of the sovereign; and that of Hyde, on a similar occasion, in the reign of Charles I.

     A masque has come down to us written by William Browne, a disciple of Spenser, expressly for the society of which he was a member, and entitled the Inner Temple Masque. It is upon the story of Circe and Ulysses, and is worthy of the school of poetry out of which he came. Beaumont wrote another, called the Masque of the Inner Temple and Gray’s Inn. A strong union has always existed between the law and the belles-lettres, highly creditable to the former, or rather naturally to be expected from the mode in which lawyers begin their education, and the diversity of knowledge which no men are more in the way of acquiring afterwards. Blackstone need not have written his farewell to the Muses. If he had been destined to be a poet, he could not have taken his leave; and, as an accomplished lawyer, he was always within the pale of the literæ humaniores. The greatest practical lawyers, such as Coke and Plowden, may not have been the most literary, but those who have understood the law in the greatest and best spirit have; and the former, great as they may be, are yet but as servants and secretaries to the rest. They know where to find, but the others know best how to apply. Bacon, Clarendon, Selden, Somers, Cowper, Mansfield were all men of letters. So are the Broughams and Campbells and Talfourds of the present day. Pope says, that Mansfield would have been another Ovid. This may be doubted; but nobody should doubt that the better he understood a poet, the fitter he was for universality of judgment. The greatest lawyer is the greatest legislator.

     The “pert Templar,” of whom we hear so much between the reigns of the Stuarts and the late king, came up with the growth of literature and the coffee-houses. Everybody then began to write or to criticise; and young men, brought up in the mooting of points, and in the confidence of public speaking, naturally pressed among the foremost. Besides, a variety of wits had issued from the Temple in the reign of Charles and his brother, and their successors in lodging took themselves for their heirs in genius. The coffee-houses by this time had become cheap places to talk in. They were the regular morning lounge and evening resource; and every lad who had dipped his finger and thumb into Dryden’s snuff-box, thought himself qualified to dictate for life. In Pope’s time these pretensions came to be angrily rejected, partly, perhaps, because none of the reigning wits, with the exception of Congreve, had had a Temple education.Top of the Page

“Three college sophs, and three pert Templars came,
The same their talents, and their tastes the same;
Each prompt to query, answer, and debate,
And smit with love of poetry and prate.” [18]

     We could quote many other passages to the same purpose, but we shall come to one presently which will suffice for all, and exhibit the young Templar of those days in all the glory of his impertinence. At present the Templars make no more pretensions than other well-educated men. Many of them are still connected with the literature of the day, but in the best manner and with the soundest views; and if there is no pretensions to wit, there is the thing itself. It would be endless to name all the celebrated lawyers who have had to do with the Temple. Besides, we shall have to notice the most eminent of them in other places, where they passed a greater portion of their lives. We shall therefore confine ourselves to the mention of such as have lived in it without being lawyers, or thrown a grace over it in connexion with wit and literature.

     Chaucer, as we have just observed, is thought, upon slight evidence, to have been of the Temple. We know not who the Mr Buckley was, that says he saw his name in the record; and the name, if there, might have been that of some other Chaucer. The name is said to be not unfrequent in records under the Norman dynasty. We are told by Thynne, in his Animadversions on Speght’s edition of the poet’s works (published a few years ago from the manuscript of Mr Todd, in his Illustrations of Chaucer and Gower), that “it is most certain to be gathered by circumstances of records that the lawyers were not in the Temple until towards the latter part of the reign of King Edward III., at which time Chaucer was a grave man, holden in great credit, and employed in embassy.” “So that methinketh,” adds the writer, “he should not be of that house; and yet, if he then were, I should judge it strange that he should violate the rules of peace and gravity in those years.”Top of the Page

     The first English tragedy of any merit, Gorboduc, was written in the Temple by Thomas Norton and Thomas Sackville, afterwards the celebrated statesman, and founder of the title of Dorset. He was author of a noble performance, the Induction for the [to a] Mirrour of [for] Magistrates, in which there is a foretaste of the allegorical gusto of Spenser. Raleigh was of the Temple; Selden, who died in Whitefriars; Lord Clarendon; Beaumont; two other of our old dramatists, Ford and Marston (the latter of whom was lecturer of the Middle Temple); Wycherley, whom it is said the Duchess of Cleveland used to visit, in the habit of a milliner; Congreve, Rowe, Fielding, Burke, and Cowper. Goldsmith was not of the Temple, but he had chambers in it, died there, and was buried in the Temple Church. He resided, first on the Library Staircase, afterwards in King’s Bench Walk, and finally at No. 2, Brick Court, where he had a first floor elegantly furnished. It was in one of the former lodgings that, being visited by Dr Johnson, and expressing something like a shamefaced hope that he should soon be in lodgings better furnished, “Johnson,” says Boswell, “at the same time checked him, and paid him a handsome compliment, implying that a man of talent should be above attention to such distinctions. ‘Nay, sir, never mind that: Nil te quæsiveris extra.’ [19] (It is only yourself that need be looked for). He died in Brick Court. It is said that when he was on his death-bed, the landing-place was filled with inquirers, not of the most mentionable description, who lamented him heartily, for he was lavish of his money as he went along Fleet Street. We are told by one of the writers of the life prefixed to his works (probably Bishop Percy, who contributed the greater part of it), that “he was generous in the extreme, and so strongly affected by compassion, that he has been known at midnight to abandon his rest in order to procure relief and an asylum for a poor dying object who was left destitute in the streets.” This, surely, ought to be praise to no man, however benevolent: but it is, in the present state of society. However, the offices of the good Samaritan are now reckoned among the things that may be practised as well as preached, without diminution of a man’s reputation for commonsense; and this is a great step. We will here mention, that Goldsmith had another residence in Fleet Street. He wrote his Vicar of Wakefield in Wine Office Court. Of the curious circumstances under which this delightful novel was sold, various inaccurate accounts have been given. The following is Boswell’s account, taken from Dr Johnson’s own mouth:—

     “I received one morning,” said Johnson, “a message from poor Goldsmith, that he was in great distress, and as it was not in his power to come to me, begging that I would come to him as soon as possible. I sent him a guinea, and promised to come to him directly. I accordingly went to him as soon as I was dressed, and found that his landlady had arrested him for his rent, at which he was in a violent passion. I perceived that he had already changed my guinea, and had a bottle of Madeira and a glass before him. I put the cork into the bottle, desired he would be calm, and began to talk to him of the means by which he might be extricated. He then told me that he had a novel ready for the press, which he produced to me. I looked into it, and saw its merit; told the landlady I should soon return, and having gone to a bookseller, sold it for sixty pounds. I brought Goldsmith the money, and he discharged his rent, not without rating his landlady in a high tone for having used him so ill.” [20] Top of the Page

     Johnson himself lived for some time in the Temple. It was there that he was first visited by his biographer, who took rooms in Farrar’s Buildings in order to be near him. His appearance and manners on this occasion, especially as our readers are now of the party, are too characteristic to be omitted. “His chambers,” says Boswell, “were on the first floor of No. 1, Middle Temple Lane—and I entered them with an impression given me by the Rev. Dr Blair, of Edinburgh, who had been introduced to him not long before, and described his having ‘found the giant in his den,’ an expression which, when I came to be pretty well acquainted with Johnson, I repeated to him, and he was diverted at this picturesque account of himself. . . .

     “He received me very courteously; but it must be confessed that his apartment, and furniture, and morning dress, were sufficiently uncouth. His brown suit of clothes looked very rusty; he had on a little shrivelled unpowdered wig, which was too small for his head; his shirt-neck and knees of his breeches were loose; his black worsted stockings ill-drawn up; and he had a pair of unbuckled shoes by way of slippers. But all these slovenly particularities were forgotten the moment he began to talk. Some gentlemen, whom I do not recollect, were sitting with him; and when they went away, I also rose; but he said to me, ‘Nay, don’t go.’—‘Sir,’ said I, ‘I am afraid that I intrude upon you. It is benevolent to allow me to sit and hear you.’ He seemed pleased with this compliment which I sincerely paid him, and answered, ‘Sir, I am obliged to any man who visits me.’” [21] (He meant that it relieved his melancholy.)

     It was in a dress of this sort, and without his hat, that he was seen rushing one day after two of the highest-bred visitors conceivable, in order to hand one of them to her coach. These were his friend Beauclerc, of the St. Albans family, and Madame de Boufflers, mother (if we mistake not) of the Chevalier de Boufflers, the celebrated French wit. Her report, when she got home, must have been overwhelming; but she was clever and amiable, like her son, and is said to have appreciated the talents of the great uncouth. Beauclerc, however, must repeat the story:—Top of the Page

     “When Madame de Boufflers,” says he, “was first in England, she was desirous to see Johnson. I accordingly went with her to his chambers in the Temple, where she was entertained with his conversation for some time. When our visit was over, she and I left him, and were got into Inner Temple Lane, when all at once I heard a noise like thunder. This was occasioned by Johnson, who, it seems, on a little recollection, had taken it into his head that he ought to have done the honours of his literary residence to a foreign lady of quality; and eager to show himself a man of gallantry, was hurrying down the stairs in violent agitation. He overtook us before we reached the Temple-gate, and brushing in between me and Madame de Boufflers, seized her hand and conducted her to the coach. His dress was a rusty-brown morning suit, a pair of old shoes by way of slippers, a little shrivelled wig sticking on the top of his head, and the sleeves of his shirt and the knees of his breeches hanging loose. A considerable crowd of people gathered round, and were not a little struck by his singular appearance.” [22]

     It was in the Inner Temple Lane one night, being seized with a fit of merriment at something that touched his fancy, not without the astonishment of his companions, who could not see the joke, that Johnson went roaring all the way to the Temple-gate; where, being arrived, he burst into such a convulsive laugh, says Boswell, that in order to support himself he “laid hold of one of the posts at the side of the foot-pavement, and sent forth peals so loud, that in the silence of the night, his voice seemed to resound from Temple-bar to Fleet-ditch. This most ludicrous exhibition,” continues his follower, “of the awful, melancholy, and venerable Johnson, happened well to counteract the feelings of sadness which I used to experience when parting from him for a considerable time. I accompanied him to his door, where he gave me his blessing.” [23]

     Between the Temple-gates, at one time, lived Bernard Lintot, who was in no better esteem with authors than the other good bookseller of those times, Jacob Tonson. There is a pleasant anecdote of Dr Young’s addressing him a letter by mistake, which Bernard opened, and found it begin thus:—“That Bernard Lintot is so great a scoundrel.”—“It must have been very amusing,” said Young, “to have seen him in his rage: he was a great sputtering fellow.” [24]

     Between the gates and Temple-bar, but nearer to the latter, was the famous Devil Tavern, where Ben Jonson held his club. Messrs Child, the bankers, bought it in 1787, and the present houses were erected on its site. We believe that the truly elegant house of Messrs Hoare, their successors, does not interfere with the place on which it stood. We rather think it was very near to Temple-bar, perhaps within a house or two. The club-room, which was afterwards frequently used for balls, was called the Apollo, and was large and handsome, with a gallery for music. Probably the house had originally been a private abode of some consequence. The Leges Convivales, which Jonson wrote for his club, and which are to be found in his works, are composed in his usual style of elaborate and compiled learning, not without a taste of that dictatorial self-sufficiency, which, notwithstanding all that has been said by his advocates, and the good qualities he undoubtedly possessed, forms an indelible part of his character. “Insipida poemata,” says he, “nulla recitantur” (Let nobody repeat to us insipid poetry); as if all that he should read of his own must infallibly be otherwise. The club at the Devil does not appear to have resembled the higher one at the Mermaid, where Shakspeare and Beaumont used to meet him. He most probably had it all to himself. This is the tavern mentioned by Pope:—Top of the Page

“And each true Briton is to Ben so civil,
He swears the Muses met him at the Devil.”

It was in good repute at the beginning of the last century. “I dined to-day,” says Swift, in one of his letters to Stella, “with Dr Garth and Mr Addison at the Devil Tavern, near Temple-bar, and Garth treated: and it is well I dine every day, else I should be longer making out my letters; for we are yet in a very dull state, only inquiring every day after new elections, where the Tories carry it among the new members six to one. Mr Addison’s election has passed easy and undisputed; and I believe if he had a mind to be chosen king, he would hardly be refused.” [25] Yet Addison was a Whig. Addison had not then had his disputes with Pope and others; and his intercourse, till his sincerity became doubted, was very delightful. It is impossible to read of those famous wits dining together and not lingering upon the occasion a little, and wishing we could have heard them talk. Yet wits have their uneasiness, because of their wit. Swift was probably not very comfortable at this dinner. He was then beginning to feel awkward with his Whig friends; and Garth, in the previous month of September, had written a defence of Godolphin, the ousted minister, which was unhandsomely attacked in the Examiner by their common acquaintance Prior, himself formerly a Whig.

     There was a multitude of famous shops and coffee-houses in this quarter, all of which make a figure in the Tatler and other works, such as Nando’s coffee-house; Dick’s (still extant as Richard’s); the Rainbow (which is said to have been indicted in former times for the nuisance of selling coffee); Ben Tooke’s (the bookseller); Lintot’s; and Charles Mather’s, alias Bubble-boy, the Toy-man, who, when Sir Timothy Shallow accuses him of selling him a cane “for ten pieces, while Tom Empty had as good a one for five,” exclaims, “Lord! Sir Timothy, I am concerned that you, whom I took to understand canes better than anybody in town, should be so overseen! Why, Sir Timothy, yours is a true jambee, and esquire Empty’s only a plain dragon.” [26]

     The fire of London stopped at the Temple Exchange coffee-house; a circumstance which is recorded in an inscription, stating the house to have been the last of the houses burnt, and the first restored. The old front of this house was taken down about a century ago; but on its being rebuilt, the stone with the inscription was replaced.

     But we must now cross over the way to Shire Lane, which is close to Temple Bar on the opposite side.Top of the Page

     Here, “in ancient times,” says Maitland, writing in the middle of the last century, “were only posts, rails, and a chain, such as are now at Holborn, Smithfield, and White-chapel bars. Afterwards there was a house of timber erected across the street, with a narrow gateway, and an entry on the south side of it under the house.” The present gate was built by Wren after the great fire, but although the work of so great a master, is hardly worth notice as a piece of architecture. It must be allowed that ‘Wren could do poor things as well as good, even when not compelled by a vestry. As the last of the city gates, however, we confess we should be sorry to see it pulled down, though we believe there is a general sense that it is in the way. If it were handsome or venerable we should plead hard for it, because it would then be a better thing than a convenience. The best thing we know of it is a jest of Goldsmith’s; and the worst, the point on which the jest turned. Goldsmith was coming from Westminster Abbey, with Dr Johnson, where they had been looking at the tombs in Poet’s Corner, and Johnson had quoted a line from Ovid:—

“Forsitan et nostrum nomen miscebitur istis.”
(Perhaps, some day, our names may mix with theirs.)

     “When we got to Temple Bar,” says Johnson, “Goldsmith stopped me, pointed to the heads upon it, and slily whispered to me, (‘in allusion,’ says Boswell, ‘to Dr Johnson’s supposed political opinions, and perhaps to his own,’)

“‘Forsitan et nostrum nomen miscebitur istis.’”
(Perhaps, some day, our names may mix with theirs.)

     These heads belonged to the rebels who were executed for rising in favour of the Pretender. The brutality of such spectacles, which outrage the last feelings of mortality, and as often punish honest mistakes as anything else is not likely to be repeated. Yet such an effect has habit in reconciling men’s minds to the most revolting, and sometimes the most dangerous customs, that here were two Jacobites, one of whom made a jest of what we should now regard with horror. However, Johnson must often have felt bitterly as he passed there; and the jesting of such men is frequently nothing but salve for a wound.Top of the Page

     Shire Lane still keeps its name, and we hope, however, altered and improved, it will never have any other; for here, at the upper end, is described as residing old Isaac Bickerstaff, the Tatler, the more venerable but not the more delightful double of Richard Steele, the founder of English periodical literature. The public-house called the Trumpet, now known as the Duke of York, at which the Tatler met his club, is still remaining. At his house in the lane he dates a great number of his papers, and receives many interesting visitors; and here it was that he led down into Fleet Street that immortal deputation of “twaddlers” from the country, who, as a celebrated writer has observed, hardly seem to have settled their question of precedence to this hour. [27]

     In Shire Lane is said to have originated the famous Kit-Kat Club, which consisted of “thirty-nine distinguished noblemen and gentlemen, zealously attached to the Protestant succession of the House of Hanover.” “The club,” continues a note in Spence by the editor, “is supposed to have derived its name from Christopher Katt, a pastry-cook, who kept the house where they dined, and excelled in making mutton-pies, which always formed a part of their bill of fare; these pies, on account of their excellence, were called Kit-Kats. The summer meetings were sometimes held at the Upper Flask on Hampstead Heath.” [28]

      “You have heard of the Kit-Kat Club,” says Pope to Spence. “The master of the house where the club met was Christopher Katt; Tonson was secretary. The day Lord Mohun and the Earl of Berwick were entered of it, Jacob said he saw they were just going to be ruined. When Lord Mohun broke down the gilded emblem on the top of his chair, Jacob complained to his friends, and said a man who would do that, would cut a man’s throat. So that he had the good and the forms of the society much at heart. The paper was all in Lord Halifax’s handwriting of a subscription of four hundred guineas for the encouragement of good comedies, and was dated 1709, soon after they broke up. Steele, Addison, Congreve, Garth, Vanbrugh, Manwaring, Stepney, Walpole, and Pulteney, were of it; so was Lord Dorset and the present Duke. Manwaring, whom we hear nothing of now, was the ruling man in all conversations; indeed, what he wrote had very little merit in it. Lord Stanhope and the Earl of Essex were also members. Jacob has his own, and all their pictures, by Sir Godfrey Kneller. Each member gave his, and he is going to build a room for them at Barn Elms.” [29] Top of the Page

     It is from the size at which these portraits were taken (a three-quarter length), that the word Kit-Kat came to be applied to pictures. The society afterwards met in higher places; but humbleness of locality is nothing in these matters. The refinement consists in the company, and in whatever they choose to throw a grace over, whether venison or beef. The great thing is, not the bill of fare, but, as Swift called it, the “bill of company.”

     We cross to the south side of the street again, and come to Mrs Salmon’s. It is a curious evidence of the fluctuation of the great tide in commercial and growing cities, that, a century ago, this immortal old gentlewoman, renowned for her wax-work, gives as a reason for removing from St.Martin’s-le-Grand to Fleet Street, that it was “a more convenient place for the coaches of the quality to stand unmolested.” [30] Some of the houses in this quarter are of the Elizabethan age, with floors projecting over the others, and looking pressed together like burrows. The inmates of these humble tenements (unlike those of great halls and mansions) seem as if they must have had their heights taken, and the ceiling made to fit. Yet the builders were liberal of their materials. Over the way, near the west corner of Chancery Lane, stood an interesting specimen of this style of building, in the house of the famous old angler, Isaac Walton.

     Walton’s was the second house from the lane, the corner house being an inn, long distinguished by the sign of the Harrow. He appears to have long lived here, carrying on the business of a linen-draper about the year 1624. Another person, John Mason, a hosier, occupied one-half of the tenement. Walton afterwards removed to another house in Chancery Lane, a few doors up from Fleet Street, on the west side, where he kept a sempster’s, or milliner’s shop.

     A great deal has been said lately of the merits and demerits of angling, and Isaac has suffered in the discussion, beyond what is agreeable to the lovers of that gentle pleasure. Unfortunately the brothers of the angle do not argue ingenuously. They always omit the tortures suffered by the principal party, and affect to think you affected if you urge them; whereas their only reason for avoiding the point is, that it is not to be defended. If it is, we may defend, by an equal abuse of reason, any amusement which is to be obtained at another being’s expense; and an evil genius might angle for ourselves, and twitch us up, bleeding and roaring, into an atmosphere that would stifle us. But fishes do not roar; they cannot express any sound of suffering; and therefore the angler chooses to think they do not suffer, more than it is convenient to him to fancy. Now it is a poor sport that depends for its existence on the want of a voice in the sufferer, and of imagination in the sportsman. Angling, in short, is not to be defended on any ground of reflection; and this is the worst thing to say of Isaac; for he was not aware of the objections to his amusement, and he piqued himself upon being contemplative.Top of the Page

     Anglers have been defended upon the ground of their having had among them so many pious men; but unfortunately men may be selfishly as well as nobly pious; and even charity itself may be practised, as well as cruelty deprecated, upon principles which have a much greater regard to a man’s own safety and future comfort, than anything which concerns real Christian beneficence. Doubtless there have been many good and humane men anglers, as well as many pleasant men. There have also been some very unpleasant ones—Sir John Hawkins among them. They make a well-founded pretension to a love of nature and her scenery; but it is a pity they cannot relish it without this pepper to the poor fish. Walton’s book contains many passages in praise of rural enjoyment, which affect us almost like the fields and fresh air themselves, though his brethren have exalted it beyond its value; and his lives of his angling friends, the Divines, have been preposterously over-rated. If angling is to be defended upon good and manly grounds, let it; it is no longer to be defended on any other. The best thing to be said for it (and the instance is worthy of reflection) is, that anglers have been brought up in the belief of its innocence, and that an inhuman custom is too powerful for the most humane. The inconsistency is to be accounted for on no other grounds; nor is it necessary or desirable that it should be. It is a remarkable illustration of what Plato said, when something was defended on the ground of its being a trifle, because it was a custom. “But custom,” said he, “is no trifle.” Here, among persons of a more equivocal description, are some of the humanest men in the world, who will commit what other humane men reckon among the most inhuman actions, and make an absolute pastime of it. Let one of their grandchildren be brought up in the reverse opinion, and see what he will think of it. This, to be sure, might be said to be only another instance of the effect of education; but nobody, the most unprejudiced, thinks it a bigotry in Shakspeare and Steele to have brought us to feel for the brute creation in general; and whatever we may incline to think for the accommodation of our propensities, there will still remain the unanswered and always avoided argument, of the dumb and torn fish themselves, who die agonised, in the midst of our tranquil looking on, and for no necessity.

     John Whitney, author of the Genteel Recreation, or the Pleasures of Angling, a poem printed in the year 1700, recommends the lovers of the art to bait with the eyes of fish, in order to decoy others of the same species. A writer in the Censura Literaria exclaims, “What a Nero of Anglers doth this proclaim John Whitney to have been! and how unworthy to be ranked as a lover of the same pastime, which had been so interestingly recommended by Isaac Walton, in his Contemplative Man’s Recreation.” [31] Top of the Page

     But Isaac’s contemplative man can content himself with impaling live worms, and jesting about the tenderness with which he treats them—using the worm, quoth Isaac, “as if you loved him.” Doubtless John thought himself as good a man as Isaac. He poetizes, and is innocent with the best of them, and probably would not have hurt a dog. However, it must be allowed that he had less imagination than Walton, and was more cruel, inasmuch as he could commit a cruelty that was not the custom. Observe, nevertheless, that it was the customary cruelty which lead to the new one. Why must these contemplative men commit any cruelty at all? The writer of the article in the Censura was, if we mistake not, one of the kindest of human beings, and yet he could see nothing erroneous in torturing a worm. “A good man,” says the Scripture, “is merciful to his beast.” Therefore, “holy Mr Herbert” very properly helps a horse out of a ditch, and is the better for it all the rest of the day. Are we not to be merciful to fish as well as beasts, merely because the Scripture does not expressly state it? Such are the inconsistencies of mankind, during their very acquirement of beneficence.

     On the other side of the corner of Chancery Lane was born a man of genius and benevolence, who would not have hurt a fly—Abraham Cowley. His father was a grocer; himself, one of the kindest, wisest, and truest gentlemen that ever graced humanity. He has been pronounced by one, competent to judge, to have been “if not a great poet, a great man.” But his poetry is what every other man’s poetry is, the flower of what was in him; and it is at least so far good poetry, as it is the quintessence of amiable and deep reflection, not without a more festive strain, the result of his sociality. Pope says of him—

“Forgot his epic, nay pindaric art;
Yet still we love the language of his heart.” [32]

His prose is admirable, and his character of Cromwell a masterpiece of honest enmity, more creditable to both parties than the zealous royalist was aware. Cowley, notwithstanding the active part he took in politics, never ceased to be a child at heart. His mind lived in books and bowers—in the sequestered “places of thought;” and he wondered and lamented to the last, that he had not realised the people he had found there. His consolation should have been, that what he found in himself was an evidence that the people exist.Top of the Page

     Chancery Lane, “the most ancient of any to the west,” having been built in the time of Henry the Third, when it was called New Lane, which was afterwards altered to Chancellor’s Lane, is the greatest legal thoroughfare in England. It leads from the Temple, passes by Sergeants’ Inn, Clifford’s Inn, Lincoln’s Inn, and the Rolls, and conducts to Gray’s Inn. Of the world of vice and virtue, of pain and triumph, of learning and ignorance, truth and chicanery, of impudence, violence, and tranquil wisdom, that must have passed through this spot, the reader may judge accordingly. There all the great and eloquent lawyers of the metropolis must have been, at some time or other, from Fortescue and Littleton, to Coke, Ellesmere, and Erskine. Sir Thomas More must have been seen going down with his weighty aspect; Bacon with his eye of intuition; the coarse Thurlow; and the reverend elegance of Mansfield. In Chancery Lane was born the celebrated Lord Strafford, who was sent to the block by the party he had deserted, the victim of his own false strength and his master’s weakness. It is a curious evidence of the secret manners of those times, which are so often contrasted with the licence of the next reign, that Clarendon, in speaking of some love-letters of this lord, a married man, which transpired during his trial, calls them “things of levity.” What would he have said had he found any love-letters between Lady Carlisle and Pym? Of Southampton Buildings, on the site of which lived Shakspeare’s friend, Lord Southampton, we shall speak immediately; and we shall notice Lincoln’s Inn when we come to the western portion of Holborn. But we may here observe, that on the wall of the Inn, which is in Chancery Lane, Ben Jonson is said to have worked, at the time he was compelled to assist his father-in-law at his trade of bricklaying. In the intervals of his trowel, he is said to have handled his Horace and Virgil. It is only a tradition, which Fuller has handed down to us in his Worthies; but tradition is valuable when it helps to make such a flower grow upon an old wall.

     Sergeants’ Inn, the first leading out of Chancery Lane, near Fleet Street, has been what it’s name implies for many generations. It was occasionally occupied by the Sergeants as early as the time of Henry the Fourth, when it was called Farringdon’s Inn, though they have never, we believe, held possession of the place but under tenure to the Bishops of Ely, or their lessees. Pennant confounds this inn with another of the same name, now no longer devoted to the same purpose, in Fleet Street. [33] Sergeants’ Inn in Fleet Street was reduced to ruins in the great fire, but was soon after rebuilt in a much more uniform style than before. It continued after this to be occupied by the lawyers in 1730, when the whole was taken down, and the present court erected. The office of the Amicable Annuitant Society, on the east side of the court, occupies the site of the ancient hall and chapel. All the judges, as having been Sergeants-at-law before their elevation to the bench, have still chambers in the inn in Chancery Lane. The windows of this house are filled with the armorial bearings of the members, who, when they are knighted, are emphatically equites aurati (knights made golden), at least as far as rings are concerned, for they give rings on the occasion, with mottoes expressive of their sentiments upon law and justice. As to the equites, learned “knights” or horsemen (till “knight” be restored to its original meaning—servant) will never be anything but an anomaly, especially since the brethren no longer even ride to the Hall as they used. The arms of the body of Sergeants are a golden shield with an ibis upon it; or, to speak scientifically, “Or, an Ibis proper;” to which Mr Jekyll might have added, for motto, “In medio tutissimus.” The same learned punster made an epigram upon the oratory and scarlet robes of his brethren, which may be here repeated without offence, as the Sergeants have had among them some of the best as well as most tiresome of speakers:Top of the Page

“The Sergeants are a grateful race;
     Their dress and language show it;
Their purple robes from Tyre we trace,
     Their arguments go to it.”

     One of the customs which used to be observed so late as the reign of Charles I. in the creation of sergeants, was for the new dignitary to go in procession to St. Paul’s, and there to choose his pillar, as it was expressed. This ceremony is supposed to have originated in the ancient practice of the lawyers taking each his station at one of the pillars in the cathedral, and there waiting for clients. The legal sage stood, it is said, with pen in hand, and dexterously noted down the particulars of every man’s case on his knee.

     Clifford’s Inn, leading out of Sergeants’ Inn into Fleet Street and Fetter Lane, is so called from the noble family of De Clifford, who granted it to the students-at-law in the reign of Edward III. The word inn (Saxon, chamber), though now applied only to law places, and the better sort of public-houses in which travellers are entertained, formerly signified a great house, mansion, or family palace. So Lincoln’s Inn, the mansion of the Earls of Lincoln; Gray’s Inn, of the Lords Gray, etc. The French still use the word hôtel in the same sense. Inn once made as splendid a figure in our poetry, as the palaces of Milton:

“Now whenas Phœbus, with his fiery waine,
Unto his inne began to draw apace;” [34]

says Spenser; and his disciple Browne after him:

“Now had the glorious sun tane up his inne.” [35]

     There are three things to notice in Clifford’s Inn: its little bit of turf and trees; its quiet; and its having been the residence of Robert Paltock, author of the curious narrative of Peter Wilkins, with its Flying Women. Who he was, is not known; probably a barrister without practice; but he wrote an amiable and interesting book. As to the sudden and pleasant quiet in this little inn, it is curious to consider what a small remove from the street produces it. But even in the back room of a shop in the main street, the sound of the carts and carriages becomes wonderfully deadened to the ear; and a remove, like Clifford’s Inn, makes it remote or nothing.Top of the Page

     The garden of Clifford’s Inn forms part of the area of the Rolls, so called from the records kept there, in rolls of parchment. It is said to have been the house of an eminent Jew, forfeited to the crown; that is to say, it was most probably taken from him, with all that it contained, by Henry III., who made it a house for converts from the owner’s religion. These converted Jews, most likely none of the best of their race (for board and lodging are not arguments to the scrupulous), appear to have been so neglected, that the number of them soon came to nothing, and Edward III. gave the place to the Court of Chancery to keep its records in. There is a fine monument in the chapel to a Dr Young, one of the masters, which, according to Vertue, was executed by Torregiano, who built the splendid tomb in Henry VII.’s Chapel. Sir John Trevor, infamous for bribery and corruption, also lies here. “‘Wisely,” says Pennant, “his epitaph is thus confined: ‘Sir J. T. M.R. 1717.’ Some other masters,” he adds, “rest within the walls; among them Sir John Strange, but without the quibbling line,

‘Here lies an honest lawyer, that is Strange.’”

Another Master of the Rolls, who did honour to the profession, was Sir Joseph Jekyll, recorded by Pope as an

     .     .     .     .     “odd old Whig,
Who never changed his principles or wig.”

When Jekyll came into the office, many of the houses were rebuilt, and to the expense of ten of them he added, out of his own purse, as much as £350 each house; observing, that “he would have them built as strong and well as if they were his own inheritance.” [36] The Master of the Rolls is a great law dignitary, a sort of under-judge in Chancery, presiding in a court by himself, though his most ostensible office is to take care of the records in question. He has a house and garden on the spot, the latter secluded from public view. The house, however, has not been used as a residence by the present holder of the office or his predecessor.Top of the Page

     Between Chancery and Fetter Lane is the new church of St. Dunstan’s in the West—a great improvement upon the old one, though a little too plain below for the handsome fret-work of its steeple. The old building was eminent for the two wooden figures of wild men, who, with a gentleness not to be expected of them, struck the hour with a little tap of their clubs. At the same time they moved their arms and heads, with a like avoidance of superfluous action. These figures were put up in the time of Charles II., and were thought not to confer much honour on the passengers who stood “gaping” to see them strike. But the passengers might surely be as alive to the puerility as anyone else. An absurdity is not the least attractive thing in this world. They who objected to the gapers, probably admired more things than they laughed at. It must be remembered also, that when the images were set up, mechanical contrivances were much rarer than they are now. Two centuries ago, St. Dunstan’s Churchyard, as it was called, being a portion of Fleet Street in front of the church, was famous for its booksellers’ shops. The church escaped the great fire, which stopped within three houses of it, and consequently was one of the most ancient sacred edifices in London. It was supposed to have been built about the end of the fourteenth century, but has undergone extensive repairs. Besides the clock with the figures, it was adorned by a statue of Queen Elizabeth, which stood in a niche over the east end, and had been transferred thither about the middle of last century from the west side of old Ludgate, which was then removed.

     The only repute of Fetter Lane in the present day is, or was, for sausages. But at one time it is said to have had the honour of Dryden’s presence. The famous Praise God Barebones also, it seems, lived here, in a house for which he paid forty pounds a year, as he stated in his examination on a trial in the reign of Charles II. [37] He paid the above rent, he says “except during the war”: that is, we suppose, during the confusion of the contest between the King and the Parliament, when probably this worthy contrived to live rent free. In this neighbourhood also dwelt the infamous Elizabeth Brownrigg, who was executed in 1767 for the murder of one of her apprentices. Her house, with the cellar in which she used to confine her starved and tortured victims, and from the grating of which their cries of distress were heard, was one of those on the east side of the lane, looking into the long and narrow alley behind, called Flower-de-Luce Court. It was some years ago in the occupation of a fishing-tackle maker.

     Johnson once lived in Fetter Lane, but the circumstances of his abode there have not transpired. We now, however, come to a cluster of his residences in Fleet Street, of which place he is certainly the great presiding spirit, the Genius loci. He was conversant for the greater part of his life with this street, was fond of it, frequented its Mitre Tavern above any other in London, and has identified its name and places with the best things he ever said and did. It was in Fleet Street, we believe, that he took the poor girl up in his arms, put her to bed in his own house, and restored her to health and her friends; an action sufficient to redeem a million of the asperities of temper occasioned by disease, and to stamp him, in spite of his bigotry, a good Christian. Here, at all events, he walked and talked, and shouldered wondering porters out of the way, and mourned, and philosophised, and was “a good-natured fellow” (as he called himself), and roared with peals of laughter till midnight echoed to his roar.Top of the Page

     “We walked in the evening,” says Boswell, “in Greenwich Park. He asked me, I suppose by way of trying my disposition, ‘Is not this very fine?’ Having no exquisite relish of the beauties of nature, and being more delighted with the busy hum of men, I answered, ‘Yes, sir; but not equal to Fleet Street.’ Johnson. ‘You are right, sir.’” [38]

     Boswell vindicates the taste here expressed by the example of a “very fashionable baronet,” who, on his attention being called to the fragrance of a May evening in the country, observed, “This may be very well, but I prefer the smell of a flambeau at the playhouse.” The baronet here alluded to was Sir Michael le Fleming, who, by way of comment on his indifference to fresh air, died of an apoplectic fit while conversing with Lord Howick (the late Earl Grey), at the Admiralty. [39] However, Johnson’s ipse dixit was enough. He wanted neither Boswell’s vindication, nor any other. He was melancholy, and glad to be taken from his thoughts; and London furnished him with an endless flow of society.

     Johnson’s abodes in Fleet Street were in the following order:—First, in Fetter Lane, then in Boswell Court, then in Gough Square, in the Inner Temple Lane, in Johnson’s Court, and finally, for the longest period, in Bolt Court, where he died. His mode of life, during a considerable portion of his residence in these places, is described in a communication to Boswell by the Rev. Dr Maxwell, assistant preacher at the Temple, who was intimate with Johnson for many years, and who spoke of his memory with affection.

     “About twelve o’clock,” says the doctor, “I commonly visited him, and found him in bed, or declaiming over his tea, which he drank very plentifully. He generally had a levee of morning visitors, chiefly men of letters; Hawkesworth, Goldsmith, Murphy, Langton, Steevens, Beauclerk, &c., &c., and sometimes learned ladies; particularly, I remember, a French lady of wit and fashion doing him the honour of a visit. He seemed to me to be considered as a kind of public oracle, whom everybody thought they had a right to visit and consult; and, doubtless, they were well rewarded. I never could discover how he found time for his compositions. He declaimed all the morning, then went to dinner at a tavern, where he commonly staid late, and then drank his tea at some friend’s house, over which he loitered a great while, but seldom took supper. I fancy he must have read and wrote chiefly in the night; for I can scarcely recollect that he ever refused going with me to a tavern, and he often went to Ranelagh, which he deemed a place of innocent recreation.Top of the Page

     “He frequently gave all the silver in his pocket to the poor, who watched him between his house and the tavern where he dined. He walked the streets at all hours, and said he was never robbed, for the rogues knew he had little money, nor had the appearance of having much.

     “Though the most accessible and communicative man alive, yet when he suspected that he was invited to be exhibited, he constantly spurned the invitation.

     “Two young women from Staffordshire visited him when I was present, to consult him on the subject of Methodism, to which they were inclined. ‘Come’(said he), ‘you pretty fools, dine with Maxwell and me at the Mitre, and we will talk over that subject’; which they did; and after dinner he took one of them on his knees, and fondled them for half an hour together.” [40]

     This anecdote is exquisite. It shows, that, however impatient he was of having his own superstitions canvassed, he was loth to see them inflicted on others. He is here a harmless Falstaff; with two innocent damsels on his knees, in lieu of Mesdames Ford and Page.Top of the Page

     In Gough Square, Johnson wrote part of his Dictionary. He had written The Rambler and taken his high stand with the public before. “At this time,” says Barber, his servant, “he had little for himself, but frequently sent money to Mr Shiels when in distress.” (Shiels was one of his amanuenses in the dictionary.) His friends and visitors in Gough Square are a good specimen of what they always were—a miscellany creditable to the largeness of his humanity. There was Cave, Dr Hawkesworth, Miss Carter, Mrs Macauley (two ladies who must have looked strangely at one another), Mr (afterwards Sir Joshua) Reynolds, Langton, Mrs Williams (a poor poetess whom he maintained in his house), Mr Levett (an apothecary on the same footing), Garrick, Lord Orrery, Lord Southwell, and Mrs Gardiner, wife of a tallow chandler on Snow-hill—“not in the learned way,” said Mr Barber, “but a worthy good woman.” With all his respect for rank, which doubtless he regarded as a special dispensation of Providence, his friend Beauclerk’s notwithstanding, [41] Johnson never lost sight of the dignity of goodness. He did not, however, confine his attentions to those who were noble or amiable; though we are to suppose, that everybody with whom he chose to be conversant had some good quality or other; unless, indeed, he patronised them as the Duke of Montague did his ugly dogs, because nobody would if he did not. The great secret, no doubt, was, that he was glad of the company of any of his fellow-creatures who would bear and forbear with him, and for whose tempers he did not care as much as he did for their welfare. And he was giving alms; which was a catholic part of religion, in the proper sense of the word.

     “He nursed,” says Mrs Thrale, in her superfluous style, “whole nests of people in his house, when the lame, the blind, the sick, and the sorrowful found a sure retreat from all the evils whence his little income could secure them; and commonly spending the middle of the week at our house, he kept his numerous family in Fleet Street upon a settled allowance; but returned to them every Saturday to give them three good dinners and his company, before he came back to us on the Monday night, treating them with the same, or perhaps more, ceremonious civility, than he would have done by as many people of fashion, making the Holy Scripture thus the rule of his conduct, and only expecting salvation as he was able to obey its precepts.” [42]

     Johnson’s female inmates were not like the romantic ones of Richardson.Top of the Page

     “We surely cannot but admire,” says Boswell, “the benevolent exertions of this great and good man, especially when we consider how grievously he was afflicted with bad health, and how uncomfortable his home was made by the perpetual jarring of those whom he charitably accommodated under his roof. He has sometimes suffered me to talk jocularly of his group of females, and call them his seraglio. He thus mentions them, together with honest Levett, in one of his letters to Mrs Thrale: ‘Williams hates everybody; Levett hates Desmoulins, and does not love Williams; Desmoulins hates them both; Poll loves none of them.’” [43]House in Bolt Court, Fleet Street, the Last Residence of Dr Johnson, 1810

     Of his residence in Inner Temple Lane we have spoken before. He lived there six or seven years, and then removed to Johnson’s Court, No. 7, where he resided for ten. Johnson’s Court is in the neighbourhood of Gough Square. It was during this period that he accompanied his friend Boswell to Scotland, where he sometimes humorously styled himself “Johnson of that ilk” (that same, or Johnson of Johnson), in imitation of the local designations of the Scottish chiefs. In 1776, in his sixty-seventh year, still adhering to the neighbourhood, he removed into Bolt Court, No. 8, where he died eight years after, on the 13th December, 1784. In Bolt Court he had a garden, and perhaps in Johnson’s Court and Gough Square: which we mention to show how tranquil and removed these places were, and convenient for a student who wished, nevertheless, to have the bustle of London at hand. Maitland (one of the compilers upon Stow), who published his history of London in 1739, describes Johnson and Bolt Courts as having “good houses, well inhabited”; and Gough Square he calls fashionable. [44]

     Johnson was probably in every tavern and coffee-house in Fleet Street. There is one which has taken his name, being styled, par excellence, “Doctor Johnson’s Coffeehouse.” But the house he most frequented was the Mitre tavern, on the other side of the street, in a passage leading to the Temple. It was here, as we have seen, that he took his two innocent theologians, and paternally dandled them out of their misgivings on his knee. The same place was the first of the kind in which Boswell met him. “We had a good supper,” says the happy biographer, “and port wine, of which he then sometimes drank a bottle.” (At intervals he abstained from all fermented liquors for a long time.) “The orthodox, high-church sound of the Mitre, the figure and manner of the celebrated Samuel Johnson, the extraordinary power and precision of his conversation, and the pride arising from finding myself admitted as his companion, produced a variety of sensations, and a pleasing elevation of mind beyond what I had before experienced.” [45] They sat till between one and two in the morning. He told Boswell at that period that “he generally went abroad about four in the afternoon, and seldom came home till two in the morning. I took the liberty to ask if he did not think it wrong to live thus, and not to make more use of his great talents. He owned it was a bad habit.”Top of the Page

     The next time, Goldsmith was with them, when Johnson made a remark which comes home to everybody, namely, that granting knowledge [is] in some cases to produce unhappiness, “knowledge per se was an object which every one would wish to attain, though, perhaps, he might not take the trouble necessary for attaining it.” One of his most curious remarks followed, occasioned by the mention of Campbell, the author of the Hermippus Redivivus, on which Boswell makes a no less curious comment. “Campbell,” says Johnson, “is a good man, a pious man. I am afraid he has not been in the inside of a church for many years; but he never passes a church without pulling off his hat. This shows that he has good principles.” On which, says Boswell in a note, “I am inclined to think he was misinformed as to this circumstance. I own I am jealous for my worthy friend Dr John Campbell. For though Milton could without remorse absent himself from public worship, I cannot.” [46]

     It was at their next sitting at this house, at which the Rev. Dr Ogilvie, a Scotch writer, was present, that Johnson made his famous joke, in answer to that gentleman’s remark, that Scotland has a great many “noble wild prospects.” Johnson. “I believe, sir, you have a great many. Norway, too, has noble, wild prospects; and Lapland is remarkable for prodigious, noble, wild prospects. But, sir, let me tell you, the noblest prospect which a Scotchman ever sees is the high road that leads him to England!” “This unexpected and pointed sally,” says Boswell, “produced a roar of applause. After all, however” (he adds), “those who admire the rude grandeur of nature, cannot deny it to Caledonia.” [47] Top of the Page

     Johnson had the highest opinion of a tavern, as a place in which a man might be comfortable, if he could anywhere. Indeed, he said that the man who could not enjoy himself in a tavern, could be comfortable nowhere. This, however, is not to be taken to the letter. Extremes meet; and Johnson’s uneasiness of temper led him into the gayer necessities of Falstaff. However, it is assuredly no honour to a man, not to be able to “take his ease at his inn.” “There is no private house,” said Johnson, talking on this subject, “in which people can enjoy themselves so well as at a capital tavern. Let there be ever so great a plenty of good things, ever so much grandeur, ever so much elegance, ever so much desire that everybody should be easy, in the nature of things it cannot be: there must always be some degree of care and anxiety. The master of the house is anxious to entertain his guests; the guests are anxious to be agreeable to him; and no man, but a very impudent dog indeed, can as freely command what is in another man’s house as if it were his own. Whereas, at a tavern, there is a general freedom from anxiety. You are sure you are welcome; and the more noise you make, the more trouble you give, the more good things you call for, the welcomer you are. No servants will attend you with the alacrity which waiters do, who are incited by the prospect of an immediate reward in proportion as they please. No, sir, there is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced, as by a good tavern or inn.” He then repeated with great emotion Shenstone’s lines:—

“‘Whoe’er has travelled life’s dull round,
     Where’er his stages may have been,
May sigh to think he still has found
     The warmest welcome at an inn.” [48]

     “Sir John Hawkins,” says Boswell in a note on this passage, “has preserved very few memorabilia of Johnson.” There is, however, to be found in his bulky tome, a very excellent one upon this subject. “In contradiction to those who, having a wife and children, prefer domestic enjoyments to those which a tavern affords, I have heard him assert, that a tavern chair was the throne of human felicity. ‘As soon’ (said he), ‘as I enter the door of a tavern, I experience an oblivion of care, and a freedom from solicitude: when I am seated, I find the master courteous, and the servants obsequious to my call, anxious to know and ready to supply my wants: wine there exhilarates my spirits, and prompts me to free conversation, and an interchange of discourse with those whom I most love; I dogmatise, and am contradicted; and in this conflict of opinion and sentiments I find delight.”’Top of the Page

     The following anecdote is highly to Johnson’s credit, and equally worthy of everyone’s attention. “Johnson was known to be so rigidly attentive to the truth,” says Boswell, “that even in his common conversation the slightest circumstance was mentioned with exact precision. The knowledge of his having such a principle and habit made his friends have a perfect reliance on the truth of everything that he told, however it might have been doubted if told by many others. As an instance of this I may mention an odd incident, which he related as having happened to him one night in Fleet Street. ‘A gentlewoman’ (said he), ‘begged I would give her my arm to assist her in crossing the street, which I accordingly did; upon which she offered me a shilling, supposing me to be the watchman. I perceived that she was somewhat in liquor.’ This, if told by most people, would have been thought an invention; when told by Johnson. it was believed by his friends, as much as if they had seen what passed.” [49]

     The gentlewoman, however, might have taken him for the watchman without being in liquor, if she had no eye to discern a great man through his uncouthness. Davies, the bookseller, said, that he “laughed like a rhinoceros.” It may be added he walked like a whale; for it was rolling rather than walking. “I met him in Fleet Street,” says Boswell, “walking, or rather, indeed, moving along; for his peculiar march is thus described in a very just and picturesque manner, in a short life of him published very soon after his death:—‘When he walked the streets, what with the constant roll of his head, and the concomitant motion of his body, he appeared to make his way by that motion independent of his feet.’ That he was often much stared at,” continues Boswell, “while he advanced in this manner, may be easily believed; but it was not safe to make sport of one so robust as he was. Mr Langton saw him one day, in a fit of absence, by a sudden start, drive the load off a porter’s back, and walk forwards briskly, without being conscious of what he had done. The porter was very angry, but stood still, and eyed the huge figure with much earnestness, till he was satisfied that his wisest course was to be satisfied and take up his burden again.” [50]

     There is another remark on Fleet Street and its superiority to the country, which must not be passed over. Boswell, not having Johnson’s reasons for wanting society, was a little overweening and gratuitous on this subject; and on such occasions the doctor would give him a knock. “It was a delightful day,” says the biographer; “as we walked to St. Clement’s church, I again remarked that Fleet Street was the most cheerful scene in the world; ‘Fleet Street,’ said I, ‘is in my mind more delightful than Tempè.’ Johnson.—‘Ay, sir, but let it be compared with Mull.’” [51] Top of the Page

     The progress of knowledge, even since Johnson’s time, has enabled us to say, without presumption, that we differ with this extraordinary person on many important points, without ceasing to have the highest regard for his character. His faults were the result of temperament; perhaps his good qualities and his powers of reflection were, in some measure, so too; but this must be the case with all men. Intellect and beneficence, from whatever causes, will always command respect; and we may gladly compound, for their sakes, with foibles which belong to the common chances of humanity. If Johnson has added nothing very new to the general stock, he has contributed (especially by the help of his biographer) a great deal that is striking and entertaining. He was an admirable critic, if not of the highest things, yet of such as could be determined by the exercise of a masculine good sense; and one thing he did, perhaps beyond any man in England, before or since—he advanced, by the powers of conversation, the strictness of his veracity, and the respect he exacted towards his presence, what may be called the personal dignity of literature. The consequence has been, not exactly what he expected, but certainly what the great interests of knowledge require; and Johnson has assisted men, with whom he little thought of co-operating, in setting the claims of truth and beneficence above all others.

     East from Fetter Lane, on the same side of the street, is Crane Court—the principal house in which, facing the entry, was that in which the Royal Society used to meet, and where they kept their museum and library before they removed to their late apartments in Somerset House. The society met in Crane Court up to a period late enough to allow us to present to our imaginations Boyle and his contemporaries prosecuting their eager inquiries and curious experiments in the early dawn of physical science, and afterwards Newton presiding in the noontide glory of the light which he had shed over nature.

Top of the PageNOTES

1. See Walter Scott’s edition of Dryden, vol. x., p. 372. “Abhorrers” were addressers on the side of the court, who had avowed “abhorrence” of the proceeding of the Whigs. The word was a capital one to sound through a trumpet.

2. Aubrey says that his death took place in a cellar in Long Acre; and adds, “Mr Edim. Wylde, etc., had made a collection for him, and given him money.” But Aubrey’s authority is not valid against Wood’s. He is to be read like a proper gossip, whose accounts we may pretty safely reject or believe, as it suits other testimony.

3. Wood’s Atenæ Oxonienses, fol. vol. ii., p. 145.

4. Baker’s Biographia Dramatica. Reed’s edition, 1782, vol. i., p. 207.

5. Malone in the Prolegomena to Shakspeare, as above, vol. iii., p. 287.

6. Correspondence of Samuel Richardson, etc., by Anna Letitia Barbauld, vol. [i] p. 97.

7. Our authority (one of the highest in this way) is Mr Nichols, in his Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century, vol. iv., p. 579.Top of the Page

8. “——Apoplexy cramm’d intemperance knocks
        Down to the ground at once, as butcher felleth ox;”—

says Thomson, in his Castle of Indolence. It was the death which the good-natured, indolent poet probably expected for himself, and which he would have had if a cold and fever had not interfered; for there is an apoplexy of the head alone, as well as of the whole body; and men of letters who either exercise little, or work overmuch, seem almost sure to die of it, or of a palsy; which is a disease analogous. It is the last stroke, given in the kind resentment of nature, to the brains which should have known better than bring themselves to such a pass. In the biography of Italian literati, “Mori d’ apoplessia”—(he died of apoplexy)—is a common verdict.

9. Correspondence, as above, vol. i., p. 177.

10. Correspondence, etc. by Mrs Barbauld, vol. i., p. 183.

11. Life and Reign of King James I., quoted in Howell’s State Trials, vol. ii., p. 745.

12. State Trials, ut supra, p. 762.

13. “It is an opinion which universally prevails with regard to those cross-legged monuments,” says Dr Nash, “that they were all erected to the memory of Knights Templars. Now to me it is very evident that not one of them belonged to that order; but, as Mr Habingdon, in describing this at Alve church, hath justly expressed it, to Knights of the Holy Voyage. For the order of Knights Templars followed the rule of the Canons regular of St. Austin, and, as such, were under a vow of celibacy. Now there is scarcely one of these monuments which is certainly known for whom it is erected; but it is as certain, that the person it represented was a married man. The Knights Templars always wore a white habit, with a red cross on the left shoulder. I believe, not a single instance can be produced of either the mantle or cross being carved on any of these monuments, which surely would not have been omitted, as by it they were distinguished from all other orders, had these been really designed to represent Knights Templars. Lastly, this order was not confined to England only, but dispersed itself all over Europe: yet it will be very difficult to find one cross-legged monument anywhere out of England; whereas they would have abounded in France, Italy, and elsewhere, had it been a fashion peculiar to that famous order. But though, for these reasons, I cannot allow the cross-legged monuments to have been for Knights Templars, yet they had some relation to them, being the memorials of those zealous devotees, who had either been in Palestine, personally engaged in what was called the Holy War, or had laid themselves under a vow to go thither, though perhaps they were prevented from it by death. Some few, indeed, might possibly be erected to the memory of persons who had made pilgrimages there merely out of private devotion. Among the latter, probably, was that of the lady of the family of Mepham, of Mepham in Yorkshire, to whose memory a cross-legged monument was placed in a chapel adjoining to the one collegiate church of Howden in Yorkshire, and is at this day remaining, together with that of her husband on the same tomb. As this religious madness lasted no longer than the reign of Henry III. (the tenth and last crusade being published in the year 1268), and the whole order of Knights Templars was dissolved by Edward II., military expeditions to the Holy Land, as well as devout pilgrimages there, had their period by the year 1312; consequently none of those cross-legged monuments are of a later date than the reign of Edward II., or beginning of Edward III., nor of an earlier than that of King Stephen, when these expeditions first took place in this kingdom.”—History and Antiquities of Worcestershire, fol. vol. i., p. 31. Since Dr Nash wrote, however, it has been denied that even the cross legs had anything to do with crusades.Top of the Page

14. Prologue to the Canterbury Tales. We quote no edition, because where we could we have modernised the spelling; which is a justice to this fine old author in a quotation, in order that nobody may pass it over. With regard to Chaucer being of the Temple, and to his beating the Franciscan in Fleet Street, all which is reported depends upon the testimony of a Mr Buckley, who, according to Speght, had seen a Temple record to that effect.

15. Prothalamion.

16. “Shove-groat, named also Slyp-groat, and Slide-thrift, are sports occasionally mentioned by the writers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and probably were analogous to the modern pastime called Justice Jervis, or Jarvis, which is confined to common pot-houses, and only practised by such as frequent the tap-rooms.”—Strutt’s Sports and Pastimes of the People of England, 1828, chap. i., sect. xix. It is played with half-pence, which are jerked with the palm of the hand from the edge of a table, towards certain numbers described upon it.

17. Londinium Redivivum, vol. ii., p. 290.

18. Sir John Davies, who was afterwards Lord Chief Justice of the King’s Bench, and wrote a poem on the Art of Dancing (so lively was the gravity of those days!) “bastinadoed” a man at dinner in the Temple Hall, for which he was expelled. The man probably deserved it, for Davies had a fine nature; and he went back again by favour of the excellent Lord Ellesmere.

19. Dunciad, book ii.Top of the Page

20. Boswell’s Life of Johnson, eighth edit., 8vo. 1816, vol. iv., p. 27.

21. Boswell’s Life of Johnson, eighth edit. 1816, vol. i., p. 398.

22. Boswell’s Life of Johnson, eighth edit. 1816, vol. i., p. 378.

23. Boswell’s Life of Johnson, eighth edit. 1816, vol. ii., p. 421.

24. Ibid., vol. ii., p. 271.

25. Spence’s Anecdotes, Singer’s edit., p. 355.

26. Swift’s Works, ut supra, vol. iv., p. 41.

27. Tatler, No. 142. According to the author of a lively rattling book, conversant with the furniture of old times, Arbuthnot was a great amateur in sticks. “My uncle,” says he, “was universally allowed to be as deeply skilled in caneology as any one, Dr Arbuthnot not excepted, whose science on important questions was quoted even after his death; for his collection of the various headed sticks and canes, from the time of the first Charles, taken together, was unrivalled.”—Wine and Walnuts, vol. i., p. 242.

28. Talter, No. 86.

29. Spence’s Anecdotes, by Singer, p. 337.

30. Spence’s Anecdotes, by Singer, p. 337.Top of the Page

31. Tatler, as above, vol. iv., p. 600.

32. Censura Literaria, vol. iv., p. 345.

33. Imitations of Horace, Ep. i., book ii.

34. Pennant, ut supra, p. 172.

35. Faerie Queen, book vi., canto iii.

36. Britannia’s Pastorals, book i., song iii.

37. Londinium Redivivum, vol. ii., p. 279.

38. See Malcolm’s Londinium Redivivum, vol. iii., p. 453.

39. Boswell, ut supra, vol. i., p. 441.

40. Malone, on the passage in Boswell, ibid.

41. Boswell, vol. ii., p. 117.

42. Beauclerk, of the St. Alban’s family, was a descendant of Charles II., whom he resembled in face and complexion, for which Johnson by no means liked him the less.

43. Anecdotes of Samuel Johnson, etc. Allman, 1822, p. 69.Top of the Page

44. Boswell, vol. iii., p. 398.

45. Johnson’s Court runs into Gough Square, “a place lately built with very handsome houses, and well inhabited by persons of fashion.”—Maitland’s History and Survey of London, by Entick, folio, 1756, p. 961.

46. Boswell, vol. i., p. 384.

47. Ibid., vol. i., p. 400.

48. Boswell, vol. i., p. 408.

49. Ibid., vol. ii., p. 469.

50. Boswell, vol. ii., p. 455.

51. Boswell, vol. iv., p. 77.

52. Ibid., vol. iii., p. 327.

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