Old and New London: Volume 1 was a book published in 1878 by Cassell, Petter & Galpin. Now out of print, it was digitised by the British History Online project.
Citation: Walter Thornbury, Old and New London: Volume 1 (London, 1878) British History Online www.british-history.ac.uk/old-new-london/vol1
LONDON AS IT WAS AND AS IT IS.
Writing the history of a vast city like London is like writing a history of the ocean—the area is so vast, its inhabitants are so multifarious, the treasures that lie in its depths so countless. What aspect of the great chameleon city should one select? for, as Boswell, with more than his usual sense, once remarked, “London is to the politician merely a seat of government, to the grazier a cattle market, to the merchant a huge exchange, to the dramatic enthusiast a congeries of theatres, to the man of pleasure an assemblage of taverns.” If we follow one path alone, we must neglect other roads equally important; let us, then, consider the metropolis as a whole, for, as Johnson’s friend well says, “the intellectual man is struck with London as comprehending the whole of human life in all its variety, the contemplation of which is inexhaustible.” In histories, in biographies, in scientific records, and in chronicles of the past, however humble, let us gather materials for a record of the great and the wise, the base and the noble, the odd and the witty, who have inhabited London and left their names upon its walls. Wherever the glimmer of the cross of St. Paul’s can be seen we shall wander from street to alley, from alley to street, noting almost every event of interest that has taken place there since London was a city.
Had it been our lot to write of London before the Great Fire, we should have only had to visit 65,000 houses. If in Dr. Johnson’s time, we might have done like energetic Dr. Birch, and have perambulated the twenty-mile circuit of London in six hours’ hard walking; but who now could put a girdle round the metropolis in less than double that time? The houses now grow by streets at a time, and the nearly four million inhabitants would take a lifetime to study. Addison probably knew something of London when he called it “an aggregate of various nations, distinguished from each other by their respective customs, manners, and interests—the St. James’s courtiers from the Cheapside citizens, the Temple lawyers from the Smithfield drovers;” but what would the Spectator say now to the 168,701 domestic servants, the 23,517 tailors, the 18,321 carpenters, the 29,780 dressmakers, the 7,002 seamen, the 4,861 publicans, the 6,716 blacksmiths, &c., to which the population returns of thirty years ago depose, whom he would have to observe and visit before he could say he knew all the ways, oddities, humours—the joys and sorrows, in fact—of this great centre of civilisation?
The houses of old London are incrusted as thick with anecdotes, legends, and traditions as an old ship is with barnacles. Strange stories about strange men grow like moss in every crevice of the bricks. Let us, then, roll together like a great snowball the mass of information that time and our predecessors have accumulated, and reduce it to some shape and form. Old London is passing away even as we dip our pen in the ink, and we would fain erect quickly our itinerant photographic machine, and secure some views of it before it passes. Roman London, Saxon London, Norman London, Elizabethan London, Stuart London, Queen Anne’s London, we shall in turn rifle to fill our museum, on whose shelves the Roman lamp and the vessel full-of tears will stand side by side with Vanessas’ fan; the sword-knot of Rochester by the note-book of Goldsmith. The history of London is an epitome of the history of England. Few great men indeed that England has produced but have some associations that connect them with London. To be able to recall these associations in a London walk is a pleasure perpetually renewing, and to all intents inexhaustible.
Let us, then, at once, without longer halting at the gate, seize the pilgrim staff and start upon our voyage of discovery, through a dreamland that will be now Goldsmith’s, now Gower’s, now Shakespeare’s, now Pope’s, London. In Cannon Street, by the old central milestone of London, grave Romans will meet us and talk of Cæsar and his legions. In Fleet Street we shall come upon Chaucer beating the malapert Franciscan friar; at Temple Bar, stare upwards at the ghastly Jacobite heads. In Smithfield we shall meet Froissart’s knights riding to the tournament; in the Strand see the misguided Earl of Essex defending his house against Queen Elizabeth’s troops, who are turning towards him the cannon on the roof of St. Clement’s church.
But let us first, rather than glance at scattered pictures in a gallery which is so full of them, measure out, as it were, our future walks, briefly glancing at the special doors where we shall billet our readers. The brief summary will serve to broadly epitomise the subject, and will prove the ceaseless variety of interest which it involves.
We have selected Temple Bar, that old gateway, as a point of departure, because it is the centre, as near as can be, of historical London, and is in itself full of interest. We begin with it as a rude wooden building, which, after the Great Fire, Wren turned into the present arch of stone, with a room above, where Messrs. Childs, the bankers, store their books and archives. The heads of some of the Rye House conspirators, in Charles II.’s time, first adorned the Bar; and after that, one after the other, many rash Jacobite heads, in 1715 and 1745, arrived at the same bad eminence. In many a royal procession and many a City riot, this gate has figured as a halting-place and a point of defence. The last rebel’s head blew down in 1772; and the last spike was not removed till the beginning of the present century. In the Popish Plot days of Charles II. vast processions used to come to Temple Bar to illuminate the supposed statue of Queen Elizabeth, in the south-east niche (though it probably really represents Anne of Denmark); and at great bonfires at the Temple gate the frenzied people burned effigies of the Pope, while thousands of squibs were discharged, with shouts that frightened the Popish Portuguese Queen, at that time living at Somerset House, forsaken by her dissolute scapegrace of a husband.
Turning our faces now towards the old black dome that rises like a half-eclipsed planet over Ludgate Hill, we first pass along Fleet Street, a locality full to overflowing with ancient memorials, and in its modern aspect not less interesting. This street has been from time immemorial the high road for royal processions. Richard II. has passed along here to St. Paul’s, his parti-coloured robes jingling with golden bells; and Queen Elizabeth, be-ruffled and be-fardingaled, has glanced at those gable-ends east of St. Dunstan’s, as she rode in her cumbrous plumed coach to thank God at St. Paul’s for the scattering and shattering of the Armada. Here Cromwell, a king in all but name and twice a king by nature, received the keys of the City, as he rode to Guildhall to preside at the banquet of the obsequious Mayor. William of Orange and Queen Anne both clattered over these stones to return thanks for victories over the French; and old George III. honoured the street when, with his handsome but worthless son, he came to thank God for his partial restoration from that darker region than the valley of the shadow of death, insanity. We recall many odd and pleasant figures in this street; first the old printers who succeeded Caxton, who published for Shakespeare or who timidly speculated in Milton’s epic, that great product of a sorry age; next, the old bankers, who, at Child’s and Hoare’s, laid the foundations of permanent wealth, and from simple City goldsmiths were gradually transformed to great capitalists. Izaak Walton, honest shopkeeper and patient angler, eyes us from his latticed window near Chancery Lane; and close by we see the child Cowley reading the “Fairy Queen” in a window-seat, and already feeling in himself the inspiration of his later years. The lesser celebrities of later times call to us as we pass. Garrick’s friend Hardham, of the snuff-shop; and that busy, vain demagogue, Alderman Waithman, whom Cobbett abused because he was not zealous enough for poor hunted Queen Caroline. Then there is the shop where barometers were first sold, the great watchmakers, Tompion and Pinchbeck, to chronicle, and the two churches to notice. St. Dunstan’s is interesting for its early preachers, the good Romaine and the pious Baxter; and St. Bride’s has anecdotes and legends of its own, and a peal of bells which have in their time excited as much admiration as those giant hammermen at the old St. Dunstan’s clock, which are now in Regent’s Park. The newspaper offices, too, furnish many curious illustrations of the progress of that great organ of modern civilisation, the press. At the “Devil” we meet Ben Jonson and his club; and at John Murray’s old shop we stop to see Byron lunging with his stick at favourite volumes on the shelves, to the bookseller’s great but concealed annoyance. Nor do we forget to sketch Dr. Johnson at Temple Bar, bantering his fellow Jacobite, Goldsmith, about the warning heads upon the gate; at Child’s bank pausing to observe the dinnerless authors returning downcast at the rejection of brilliant but fruitless proposals; or stopping with Boswell, one hand upon a street post, to shake the night air with his Cyclopean laughter. Varied as the colours in a kaleidoscope are the figures that will meet us in these perambulations; mutable as an opal are the feelings they arouse. To the man of facts they furnish facts; to the man of imagination, quick-changing fancies; to the man of science, curious memoranda; to the historian, bright-worded details, that vivify old pictures now often dim in tone; to the man of the world, traits of manners; to the general thinker, aspects of feelings and of passions which expand the knowledge of human nature; for all these many-coloured stones are joined by the one golden string of London’s history.
But if Fleet Street itself is rich in associations, its side streets, north and south, are yet richer. Here anecdote and story are clustered in even closer compass. In these side binns lies hid the choicest wine, for when Fleet Street had, long since, become two vast rows of shops, authors, wits, poets, and memorable persons of all kinds, still inhabited the “closes” and alleys that branch from the main thoroughfare. Nobles and lawyers long dwelt round St. Dunstan’s and St. Bride’s. Scholars, poets, and literati of all kind, long sought refuge from the grind and busy roar of commerce in the quiet inns and “closes,” north and south. In what was Shire Lane we come upon the great Kit-Kat Club, where Addison, Garth, Steele, and Congreve disported; and we look in on that very evening when the Duke of Kingston, with fatherly pride, brought his little daughter, afterwards Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, and, setting her on the table, proposed her as a toast. Following the lane down till it becomes a nest of coiners, thieves, and bullies, we pass on to Bell Yard, to call on Pope’s lawyer friend, Fortescue; and in Chancery Lane we are deep among the lawyers again. Ghosts of Jarndyces v. Jarndyces, from the Middle Ages downwards, haunt this thoroughfare, where Wolsey once lived in his pride and state. Izaak Walton dwelt in this lane once upon a time; and that mischievous adviser of Charles I., Earl Strafford, was born here. Hazlitt resided in Southampton Buildings when he fell in love with the tailor’s daughter and wrote that most stultifying confession of his vanity and weakness, “The New Pygmalion.” Fetter Lane brings us fresh stores of subjects, all essentially connected with the place, deriving an interest from and imparting a new interest to it. Praise-GodBarebones, Dryden, Otway, Baxter, and Mrs. Brownrigg form truly a strange bouquet. By mutual contrast the incongruous group serves, however, to illustrate various epochs of London life, and the background serves to explain the actions and the social position of each and all these motley beings.
In Crane Court, the early home of the Royal Society, Newton is the central personage, and we tarry to sketch the progress of science and to smile at the crudity of its early experiments and theories. In Bolt Court we pause to see a great man die. Here especially Dr. Johnson’s figure ever stands like a statue, and we shall find his black servant at the door and his dependents wrangling in the front parlour. Burke and Boswell are on their way to call, and Reynolds is taking coach in the adjoining street. Nor is even Shoe Lane without its associations, for at the north-east end the corpse of poor, dishonoured Chatterton lies still under some neglected rubbish heap; and close by the brilliant Cavalier poet, Lovelace, pined and perished, almost in beggary.
The southern side of Fleet Street is somewhat less noticeable. Still, in Salisbury Square the worthy old printer Richardson, amid the din of a noisy office, wrote his great and pathetic novels; while in Mitre Buildings Charles Lamb held those delightful conversations, so full of quaint and kindly thoughts, which were shared in by Hazlitt and all the odd people Lamb has immortalised in his “Elia”—bibulous Burney, George Dyer, Holcroft, Coleridge, Hone, Godwin, and Leigh Hunt.
Whitefriars and Blackfriars are our next places of pilgrimage, and they open up quite new lines of reading and of thought. Though the Great Fire swept them bare, no district of London has preserved its old lines so closely; and, walking in Whitefriars, we can still stare through the gate that once barred off the brawling Copper Captains of Charles II.’s Alsatia from the contemptuous Templars of King’s Bench Walk. Whitefriars was at first a Carmelite convent, founded, before Blackfriars, on land given by Edward I.; the chapter-house was given by Henry VII. to his physician, Dr. Butts (a man mentioned by Shakespeare), and in the reign of Edward VI. the church was demolished. Whitefriars then, though still partially inhabited by great people, soon sank into a sanctuary for runaway bankrupts, cheats, and gamblers. The hall of the monastery was turned into a theatre, where many of Dryden’s plays first appeared. The players favoured this quarter, where, in the reign of James I., two henchmen of Lord Sanquire, a revengeful young Scottish nobleman, shot at his own door a poor fencing-master, who had accidenally put out their master’s eye several years before in a contest of skill. The two men were hung opposite the Whitefriars gate in Fleet Street. This disreputable and lawless nest of river-side alleys was called Alsatia, from its resemblance to the seat of the war then raging on the frontiers of France, in the dominions of King James’s son-in-law, the Prince Palatine. Its roystering bullies and shifty money-lenders are admirably sketched by Shadwell in his Squire of Alsatia, an excellent comedy freely used by Sir Walter Scott in his “Fortunes of Nigel,” who has laid several of his strongest scenes in this once scampish region. That great scholar Selden lived in Whitefriars with the Countess Dowager of Kent, whom he was supposed to have married; and, singularly enough, the best edition of his works was printed in Dogwell Court, Whitefriars, by those eminent printers, Bowyer & Son. At the back of Whitefriars we come upon Bridewell, the site of a palace of the Norman kings. Cardinal Wolsey afterwards owned the house, which Henry VIII. reclaimed in his rough and not very scrupulous manner. It was the old palace to which Henry summoned all the priors and abbots of England, and where he first announced his intention of divorcing Katherine of Arragon. After this it fell into decay. The good Ridley, the martyr, begged it of Edward VI. for a workhouse and a school. Hogarth painted the female prisoners here beating hemp under the lash of a cruel turnkey; and Pennant has left a curious sketch of the herd of girls whom he saw run like hounds to be fed when a gaoler entered.
If Whitefriars was inhabited by actors, Blackfriars was equally favoured by players and by painters. The old convent, removed from Holborn, was often used for Parliaments. Charles V. lodged here when he came over to win Henry against Francis; and Burbage, the great player of “Richard the Third,” built a theatre in Blackfriars, because the Precinct was out of the jurisdiction of the City, then ill-disposed to the players. Shakespeare had a house here, which he left to his favourite daughter, the deed of conveyance of which sold, in 1841, for £165 15s. He must have thought of his well-known neighbourhood when he wrote the scenes of Henry VIII., where Katherine was divorced and Wolsey fell, for both events were decided in Blackfriars Parliaments. Oliver, the great miniature painter, and Jansen, a favourite portrait painter of James I., lived in Blackfriars, where we shall call upon them; and Vandyke spent nine happy years here by the river side. The most remarkable event connected with Blackfriars is the falling in of the floor of a Roman Catholic private chapel in 1623, by which fifty-nine persons perished, including the priest, to the exultation of the Puritans, who pronounced the event a visitation of Heaven on Popish superstition. Pamphlets of the time, well rummaged by us, describe the scene with curious exactness, and mention the singular escapes of several persons on the “Fatal Vespers,” as they were afterwards called.
Leaving the racket of Alsatia and its wild doings behind us, we come next to that great monastery of lawyers, the Temple—like Whitefriars and Blackfriars, also the site of a bygone convent. The warlike Templars came here in their white cloaks and red crosses from their first establishment in Southampton Buildings, and they held it during all the Crusades, in which they fought so valorously against the Paynim, till they grew proud and corrupt, and were suspected of worshipping idols and ridiculing Christianity. Their work done, they perished, and the Knights of St. John took possession of their halls, church, and cloisters. The incoming lawyers became tenants of the Crown, and the parade-ground of the Templars and the river-side terrace and gardens were tenanted by more peaceful occupants. The manners and customs of the lawyers of various ages, their quaint revels, fox-huntings in hall, and dances round the coal fire, deserve special notice; and swarms of anecdotes and odd sayings and doings buzz round us as we write of the various denizens of the Temple—Dr. Johnson, Goldsmith, Lamb, Coke, Plowden, Jefferies, Cowper, Butler, Parsons, Sheridan, and Tom Moore; and we linger at the pretty little fountain and think of those who have celebrated its praise. Every binn of this cellar of lawyers has its story, and a volume might well be written in recording the toils and struggles, successes and failures, of the illustrious owners of Temple chambers.
Thence we pass to Ludgate, where that old London inn, the “Belle Sauvage,” calls up associations of the early days of theatres, especially of Banks and his wonderful performing horse, that walked up one of the towers of Old St. Paul’s. Hone’s old shop reminds us of the delightful books he published, aided by Lamb and Leigh Hunt. The old entrance of the City, Ludgate, has quite a history of its own. It was a debtors’ prison, rebuilt in the time of King John from the remains of demolished Jewish houses, and was enlarged by the widow of Stephen Forster, Lord Mayor in the reign of Henry VI., who, tradition says, had been himself a prisoner in Ludgate, till released by a rich widow, who saw his handsome face through the grate and married him. St. Martin’s church, Ludgate, is one of Wren’s churches, and is chiefly remarkable for its stolid conceit in always getting in the way of the west front of St. Paul’s.
The great Cathedral has been the scene of events that illustrate almost every age of English history. This is the third St. Paul’s. The first, falsely supposed to have been built on the site of a Roman temple of Diana, was burnt down in the last year of William the Conqueror. Innumerable events connected with the history of the City happened here, from the killing a bishop at the north door, in the reign of Edward II., to the public exposure of Richard II.’s body after his murder; while at the Cross in the churchyard the authorities of the City, and even our kings, often attended the public sermons, and in the same place the citizens once held their Folkmotes, riotous enough on many an occasion. Great men’s tombs abounded in Old St. Paul’s—John of Gaunt, Lord Bacon’s father, Sir Philip Sydney, Donne, the poet, and Vandyke being very prominent among them. Fired by lightning in Elizabeth’s reign, when the Cathedral had become a resort of newsmongers and a thoroughfare for porters and carriers, it was partly rebuilt in Charles I.’s reign by Inigo Jones. The repairs were stopped by the civil wars, when the Puritans seized the funds, pulled down the scaffolding, and turned the church into a cavalry barracks. The Great Fire swept all clear for Wren, who now found a fine field for his genius; but vexatious difficulties embarrassed him at the very outset. His first great plan was rejected, and the Duke of York (afterwards James II.) is said to have insisted on side recesses, that might serve as chantry chapels when the church became Roman Catholic. Wren was accused of delays and chidden for the faults of petty workmen, and, as the Duchess of Marlborough laughingly remarked, was dragged up and down in a basket two or three times a week for a paltry £200 a year. The narrow escape of Sir James Thornhill from falling from a scaffold while painting the dome is a tradition of St. Paul’s, matched by the terrible adventure of Mr. Gwyn, who when measuring the dome slid down the convex surface till his foot was stayed by a small projecting lump of lead. This leads us naturally on to the curious monomaniac who believed himself the slave of a demon who lived in the bell of the Cathedral, and whose case is singularly deserving of analysis. We shall give a short sketch of the heroes whose tombs have been admitted into St. Paul’s, and having come to those of the great demi-gods of the old wars, Nelson and Wellington, pass to anecdotes about the clock and bells, and arrive at the singular story of the soldier whose life was saved by his proving that he had heard St. Paul’s clock strike thirteen. Queen Anne’s statue in the churchyard, too, has given rise to epigrams worthy of preservation, and the progress of the restoration will be carefully detailed.
Cheapside, famous from the Saxon days, next invites our wandering feet. The north side remained an open field as late as Edward III.’s reign, and tournaments were held there. The knights, whose deeds Froissart has immortalised, broke spears there, in the presence of the Queen and her ladies, who smiled on their champions from a wooden tower erected across the street. Afterwards a stone shed was raised for the same sights, and there Henry VIII., disguised as a yeoman, with a halbert on his shoulder, came on one occasion to see the great City procession of the night watch by torchlight on St. John’s Eve. Wren afterwards, when he rebuilt Bow Church, provided a balcony in the tower for the Royal Family to witness similar pageants. Old Bow Church, we must not forget to record, was seized in the reign of Richard I. by Longbeard, the desperate ringleader of a Saxon rising, who was besieged there, and eventually burned out and put to death. The great Cross of Cheapside recalls many interesting associations, for it was one of the nine Eleanor crosses. Regilt for many coronations, it was eventually pulled down by the Puritans during the civil wars. Then there was the Standard, near Bow Church, where Wat Tyler and Jack Cade beheaded several objectionable nobles and citizens; and the great Conduit at the east end—each with its memorable history. But the great feature of Cheapside is, after all, Guildhall. This is the hall that Whittington paved and where Walworth once ruled. In Guildhall Lady Jane Grey and her husband were tried; here the Jesuit Garnet was arraigned for his share in the Gunpowder Plot; here it was Charles I. appealed to the Common Council to arrest Hampden and the other patriots who had fled from his eager claws into the friendly City; and here, in the spot still sacred to liberty, the Lords and Parliament declared for the Prince of Orange. To pass this spot without some salient anecdotes of the various Lord Mayors would be a disgrace; and the banquets themselves, from that of Whittington, when he threw Henry V.’s bonds for £60,000 into a spice bonfire, to those in the present reign, deserve some notice and comment. The curiosities of Guildhall in themselves are not to be lightly passed over, for they record many vicissitudes of the great City; and Gog and Magog are personages of importance only secondary to that of Lord Mayor, and not in any way to be disregarded. The Mansion House, built in 1789, leads us to much chat about “gold chains, warm furs, broad banners and broad faces;” for a folio might be well filled with curious anecdotes of the Lord Mayors of various ages—from Sir John Norman, who first went in procession to Westminster by water, to Sir John Shorter (James II.), who was killed by a fall from his horse as he stopped at Newgate, according to custom, to take a tankard of wine, nutmeg, and sugar. There is a word to say of many a celebrity in the long roll of Mayors— more especially of Beckford, who is said to have startled George III. by a violent patriotic remonstrance, and of the notorious John Wilkes, that ugly demagogue, who led the City in many an attack on the King and his unwise Ministers.
The tributaries of Cheapside also abound in interest, and mark various stages in the history of the great City. Bread Street was the bread market of the time of Edward I., and is especially honoured for being the birthplace of Milton; and in Milk Street (the old milk market) Sir Thomas More was born. Gutter Lane reminds us of its first Danish owner; and many other turnings have their memorable legends and traditions.
The Halls of the City Companies, the great hospitals, and Gothic schools, will each by turn detain us; and we shall not forget to call at the Bank, the South-Sea House, and other great proofs of past commercial folly and present wealth. The Bank, projected by a Scotch theorist in 1691 (William III.), after many migrations, settled down in Threadneedle Street in 1734. It has a history of its own, and we shall see during the Gordon Riots the old pewter inkstands melted down for bullets, and, prodigy of prodigies! Wilkes himself rushing out to seize the cowardly ringleaders!
By many old houses of good pedigree and by several City churches worthy a visit, we come at last to the Monument, which Wren erected and which Cibber decorated. This pillar, which Pope compared to “a tall bully,” once bore an inscription that greatly offended the Court. It attributed the Great Fire of London, which began close by there, to the Popish faction; but the words were erased in 1831. Littleton, who compiled the Dictionary, once wrote a Latin inscription for the Monument, which contained the names of seven Lord Mayors in one word:—
But the learned production was, singularly enough, never used. The word, which Littleton called “an heptastic vocable,” comprehended the names of the seven Lord Mayors in whose mayoralties the Monument was begun, continued, and completed.
On London Bridge we might linger for many chapters. The first bridge thrown over the Thames was a wooden one, erected by the nuns of St. Mary’s Monastery, a convent of sisters endowed by the daughter of a rich Thames ferryman. The bridge figures as a fortified place in the early Danish invasions, and the Norwegian Prince Olaf nearly dragged it to pieces in trying to dispossess the Danes, who held it in 1008. It was swept away in a flood, and its successor was burnt. In the reign of Henry II., Pious Peter, a chaplain of St. Mary Colechurch, in the Poultry, built a stone bridge a little further west, and the king helped him with the proceeds of a tax on wool, which gave rise to the old saying that “London Bridge was built upon woolpacks.” Peter’s bridge was a curious structure, with nineteen pointed arches and a drawbridge. There was a fortified gatehouse at each end, and a gothic chapel towards the centre, dedicated to St. Thomas à Becket, the spurious martyr of Canterbury. In Queen Elizabeth’s reign there were shops on either side, with flat roofs, arbours, and gardens, and at the south end rose a great four-storey wooden house, brought from Holland, which was covered with carving and gilding. In the Middle Ages, London Bridge was the scene of affrays of all kinds. Soon after it was built, the houses upon it caught fire at both ends, and 3,000 persons perished, wedged in among the flames. Henry III. was driven back here by the rebellious De Montfort, Earl of Leicester. Wat Tyler entered the City by London Bridge; and, later, Richard II. was received here with gorgeous ceremonies. It was the scene of one of Henry V.’s greatest triumphs, and also of his stately funeral procession. Jack Cade seized London Bridge, and as he passed slashed in two the ropes of the drawbridge, though soon after his head was stuck on the gate-house. From this bridge the rebel Wyatt was driven by the guns of the Tower; and in Elizabeth’s reign waterworks were erected on the bridge. There was a great conflagration on the bridge in 1632, and eventually the Great Fire almost destroyed it. In the Middle Ages countless rebels’ heads were stuck on the gate-houses of London Bridge. Brave Wallace’s was placed there; and so were the heads of Henry VIII.’s victims—Fisher, Bishop of Rochester and Sir Thomas More, the latter trophy being carried off by the stratagem of his brave daughter. Garnet, the Gunpowder-Plot Jesuit, also contributed to the ghastly triumphs of justice. Several celebrated painters, including Hogarth, lived at one time or another on the bridge; and Swift and Pope used to frequent the shop of a witty bookseller, who lived under the northern gate. One or two celebrated suicides have taken place at London Bridge, and among these we may mention that of Sir William Temple’s son, who was Secretary of War, and Eustace Budgell, a brokendown author, who left behind him as an apology the following sophism:—
“What Cato did and Addison approved of cannot be wrong.”
Pleasanter is it to remember the anecdote of the brave apprentice, who leaped into the Thames from the window of a house on the bridge to save his master’s infant daughter, whom a careless nurse had dropped into the river. When the girl grew up, many noble suitors came, but the generous father was obdurate. “No,” said the honest citizen; “Osborne saved her, and Osborne shall have her.” And so he had; and Osborne’s great grandson throve and became the first Duke of Leeds. The frequent loss of lives in shooting the arches of the old bridge, where the fall was at times five feet, led at last to a cry for a new bridge, and one was commenced in 1824. Rennie designed it, and in 1831 William IV. and Queen Adelaide opened it. One hundred and twenty thousand tons of stone went to its formation. The old bridge was not entirely removed till 1832, when the bones of the builder, Pious Peter of Colechurch, were found in the crypt of the central chapel, where tradition had declared they lay. The iron of the piles of the old bridge was bought by a cutler in the Strand, and produced steel of the highest quality. Part of the old stone was purchased by Alderman Harmer, to build his house, Ingress Abbey, near Greenhithe.
Southwark, a Roman station and cemetery, is by no means without a history. It was burned by William the Conqueror, and had been the scene of battle against the Danes. It possessed palaces, monasteries, a mint, and fortifications. The Bishops of Winchester and Rochester once lived here in splendour; and the locality boasted its four Elizabethan theatres. The Globe was Shakespeare’s summer theatre, and here it was that his greatest triumphs were attained. What was acted there is best told by making Shakespeare’s share in the management distinctly understood; nor can we leave Southwark without visiting the “Tabard Inn,” from whence Chaucer’s nine-andtwenty jovial pilgrims set out for Canterbury.
The Tower rises next before our eyes; and as we pass under its battlements the grimmest and most tragic scenes of English history seem again rising before us. Whether Cæsar first built a tower here or William the Conqueror, may never be decided; but one thing is certain, that more tears have been shed within these walls than anywhere else in London. Every stone has its story. Here Wallace, in chains, thought of Scotland; here Queen Anne Boleyn placed here white hands round her slender neck, and said the headsman would have little trouble. Here Catharine Howard, Sir Thomas More, Cranmer, Northumberland, Lady Jane Grey, Wyatt, and the Earl of Essex all perished. Here, Clarence was drowned in a butt of wine and the two boy princes were murdered. Many victims of kings, many kingly victims, have here perished. Many patriots have here sighed for liberty. The poisoning of Overbury is a mystery of the Tower, the perusal of which never wearies though the dark secret be unsolvable; and we can never cease to sympathise with that brave woman, the Countess of Nithsdale, who risked her life to save her husband’s. From Laud and Strafford we turn to Eliot and Hutchinson—for Cavaliers and Puritans were both by turns prisoners in the Tower. From Lord William Russell and Algernon Sydney we come down in the chronicle of suffering to the Jacobites of 1715 and 1745; from them to Wilkes, Lord George Gordon, Burdett, and, last of all the Tower prisoners, to the infamous Thistlewood.
Leaving the crimson scaffold on Tower Hill, we return as sightseers to glance over the armoury and to catch the sparkle of the Royal jewels. Here is the identical crown that that daring villain Blood stole and the heart-shaped ruby that the Black Prince once wore; here we see the swords, sceptres, and diadems of many of our monarchs. In the armoury are suits on which many lances have splintered and swords struck; the imperishable steel clothes of many a dead king are here, unchanged since the owners doffed them. This suit was the Earl of Leicester’s—the “Kenilworth” earl, for see his cognizance of the bear and ragged staff on the horse’s chanfron. This richly-gilt suit was worn by James II.’s ill-starred son, Prince Henry, whom many thought was poisoned by Buckingham; and this quaint mask, with ram’s horns and spectacles, belonged to Will Somers, Henry VIII.’s jester.
From the Tower we break away into the far east, among the old clothes shops, the bird markets, the costermongers, and the weavers of Whitechapel and Spitalfields. We are far from jewels here and Court splendour, and we come to plain working people and their homely ways. Spitalfields was the site of a priory of Augustine canons, however, and has ancient traditions of its own. The weavers, of French origin, are an interesting race—we shall have to sketch their sayings and doings; and we shall search Whitechapel diligently for old houses and odd people. The district may not furnish so many interesting scenes and anecdotes as the West End, but it is well worthy of study from many modern points of view.
Smithfield and Holborn are regions fertile in associations. Smithfield, that broad plain, the scene of so many martyrdoms, tournaments, and executions, forms an interesting subject for a diversified chapter. In this market-place the ruffians of Henry VIII.’s time met to fight out their quarrels with sword and buckler. Here the brave Wallace was executed like a common robber; and here “the gentle Mortimer” was led to a shameful death. The spot was the scene of great jousts in Edward III.’s chivalrous reign, when, after the battle of Poictiers, the Kings of France and Scotland came seven days running to see spears shivered and “the Lady of the Sun” bestow the prizes of valour. In this same field Walworth slew the rebel Wat Tyler, who had treated Richard II. with insolence, and by this prompt blow dispersed the insurgents, who had grown so dangerously strong. In Henry VIII.’s reign poisoners were boiled to death in Smithfield; and in cruel Mary’s reign the Protestant martyrs were burned in the same place. “Of the two hundred and seventy-seven persons burnt for heresy in Mary’s reign,” says a modern antiquary, “the greater number perished in Smithfield; and ashes and charred bodies have been dug up opposite to the gateway of Bartholomew’s Church and at the west end of Long Lane. After the Great Fire the houseless citizens were sheltered here in tents. Over against the corner where the Great Fire abated is Cock Lane, the scene of the rapping ghost, in which Dr. Johnson believed and concerning which Goldsmith wrote a catchpenny pamphlet.
Holborn and its tributaries come next, and are by no means deficient in legends and matter of general interest. “The original name of the street was the Hollow Bourne,” says a modern etymologist, “not the Old Bourne;” it was not paved till the reign of Henry V. The ride up “the Heavy Hill” from Newgate to Tyburn has been sketched by Hogarth and sung by Swift. In Ely Place once lived the Bishop of Ely; and in Hatton Garden resided Queen Elizabeth’s favourite, the dancing chancellor, Sir Christopher Hatton. In Furnival’s Inn Dickens wrote “Pickwick.” In Barnard’s Inn died the last of the alchemists. In Staple’s Inn Dr. Johnson wrote “Rasselas,” to pay the expenses of his mother’s funeral. In Brooke Street, where Chatterton poisoned himself, lived Lord Brooke, a poet and statesman, who was a patron of Ben Jonson and Shakespeare, and who was assassinated by a servant whose name he had omitted in his will. Milton lived for some time in a house in Holborn that opened at the back on Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Fox Court leads us to the curious inquiry whether Savage, the poet, was a conscious or an unconscious impostor; and at the Blue Boar Inn Cromwell and Ireton discovered by stratagem the treacherous letter of King Charles to his queen, that rendered Cromwell for ever the King’s enemy. These are only a few of the countless associations of Holborn.
Newgate is a gloomy but an interesting subject for us. Many wild faces have stared through its bars since, in King John’s time, it became a City prison. We shall look in on Sarah Malcolm, Mrs. Brownrigg, Jack Sheppard, Governor Wall, and other interesting criminals; we shall stand at Wren’s elbow when he designs the new prison, and follow the Gordon Rioters when they storm in over the burning walls.
The Strand stands next to Fleet Street as a central point of old memories. It is not merely full, it positively teems. For centuries it was a fashionable street, and noblemen inhabited the south side especially, for the sake of the river. In Essex Street, on a part of the Temple, Queen Elizabeth’s rash favourite (the Earl of Essex) was besieged, after his hopeless foray into the City. In Arundel Street lived the Earls of Arundel; in Buckingham Street Charles I.’s greedy favourite began a palace. There were royal palaces, too, in the Strand, for at the Savoy lived John of Gaunt; and Somerset House was built by the Protector Somerset with the stones of the churches he had pulled down. Henrietta Maria (Charles I.’s Queen) and poor neglected Catherine of Braganza dwelt at Somerset House; and it was here that Sir Edmondbury Godfrey, the zealous Protestant magistrate, was supposed to have been murdered. There is, too, the history of Lord Burleigh’s house (in Cecil Street) to record; and Northumberland House still stands to recall to us its many noble inmates. On the other side of the Strand we have to note Butcher Row (now pulled down), where the Gunpowder Plot conspirators met; Exeter House, where Lord Burleigh’s wily son lived; and, finally, Exeter ‘Change, where the poet Gay lay in state. Nor shall we forget Cross’s menagerie and the elephant Chunee; nor omit mention of many of the eccentric old shopkeepers who once inhabited the ‘Change. At Charing Cross we shall stop to see the old Cromwellians die bravely, and to stare at the pillory, where in their time many incomparable scoundrels ignominiously stood. The Nelson Column and the surrounding statues have stories of their own; and St. Martin’s Lane is specially interesting as the haunt of half the painters of the early Georgian era. There are anecdotes of Hogarth and his friends to be picked up here in abundance, and the locality generally deserves exploration, from the quaintness and cleverness of its former inhabitants.
In Covent Garden we break fresh ground. We found St. Martin’s Lane full of artists, Guildhall full of aldermen, the Strand full of noblemen—the old monastic garden will prove to be crowded with actors. We shall trace the market from the first few sheds under the wall of Bedford House to the present grand temple of Flora and Pomona. We shall see Evans’s a new mansion, inhabited by Ben Jonson’s friend and patron, Sir Kenelm Digby, alternately tenanted by Sir Harry Vane, Denzil Holles (one of the five refractory members whom Charles I. went to the House of Commons so imprudently to seize), and Admiral Russell, who defeated the French at La Hogue. The ghost of Parson Ford, in which Johnson believed, awaits us at the doorway of the Hummums. There are several duels to witness in the Piazza; Dryden to call upon as he sits, the arbiter of wits, by the fireside at Will’s Coffee House; Addison is to be found at Button’s; at the “Bedford” we shall meet Garrick and Quin, and stop a moment at Tom King’s, close to St. Paul’s portico, to watch Hogarth’s revellers fight with swords and shovels, that frosty morning that the painter sketched the prim old maid going to early service. We shall look in at the Tavistock to see Sir Peter Lely and Sir Godfrey Kneller at work at portraits of beauties of the Carolean and Jacobean Courts; remembering that in the same rooms Sir James Thornhill afterwards painted, and poor Richard Wilson produced those fine landscapes which so few had the taste to buy. The old hustings deserve a word, and we shall have to record the lamentable murder of Miss Ray by her lover, at the north-east angle of the square. The neighbourhood of Covent Garden, too, is rife with stories of great actors and painters, and nearly every house furnishes its quota of anecdote.
The history of Drury Lane and Covent Garden theatres supplies us with endless anecdotes of actors, and with humorous and pathetic narratives that embrace the whole region both of tragedy and comedy. Quin’s jokes, Garrick’s weaknesses, the celebrated O. P. riots, contrast with the miserable end of some popular favourites and the caprices of genius. The oddities of Munden, the humour of Liston, only serve to render the gloom of Kean’s downfall more terrible, and to show the wreck and ruin of many unhappy men, equally wilful though less gifted. There is a perennial charm about theatrical stories, and the history of these theatres must be illustrated by many a sketch of the loves and rivalries of actors, their fantastic tricks, their practical jokes, their gay progress to success or ruin. Changes of popular taste are marked by the change of character in the pieces that have been performed in various ages; and the history of the two theatres will include various illustrative sketches of dramatic writers, as well as actors. There was a vast interval in literature between the tragedies of Addison and Murphey and the comedies of Holcroft, O’Keefe, and Morton; the descent to modern melodrama and burlesque must be traced through various gradations, and the reasons shown for the many modifications both classes of entertainments have undergone.
Westminster, from the night St. Peter came over from Lambeth in the fisherman’s boat, and chose a site for the Abbey in the midst of Thorney Island, to the present day, has been a spot where the pilgrim to historic shrines loves to linger. Need we remind our readers that Edward the Confessor built the Abbey, or that William the Conqueror was crowned here, the ceremony ending in tumult and blood? How vast the store of facts from which we have to cull! We see the Jews being beaten nearly to death for daring to attend the coronation of Richard I.; we observe Edward I. watching the sacred stone of Scotland being placed beneath his coronation chair; we behold for the first time, at Richard II.’s coronation, the champion riding into the Hall, to challenge all who refuse allegiance; we see, at the funeral of Anne of Bohemia, Richard beating the Earl of Arundel for wishing to leave before the service is over. We hear the Te Deum that is sung for the victory of Agincourt, and watch Henry VI. selecting a site for a resting-place; we hear for the last time, at the coronation of Henry VIII., the sanction of the Pope bestowed upon an English monarch; we pity poor Queen Caroline attempting to enter the Abbey to see her worthless husband crowned; and we view the last coronation, and draw auguries of a purer if not a happier age. The old Hall, too; could we neglect that ancient chamber, where Charles I. was sentenced to death, and where Cromwell was throned in almost regal splendour? We must see it in all its special moments; when the seven bishops were acquitted, and the shout of joy shook London as with an earthquake; and when the rebel lords were tried. We must hear Lord Byron tried for his duel with Mr. Chaworth, and mad Lord Ferrers condemned for shooting his steward. We shall get a side-view of the shameless Duchess of Kingston, and hear Burke and Sheridan grow eloquent over the misdeeds of Warren Hastings.
The parks now draw us westward, and we wander through them: in St. James’s seeing Charles II. feeding his ducks or playing “pall-mall;” in Hyde Park observing the fashions and extravagancies of many generations. Romeo Coates will whisk past us in his fantastic chariot, and the beaus and oddities of many generations will pace past us in review. There will be celebrated duels to describe, and various strange follies to deride. We shall see Cromwell thrown from his coach, and shall witness the foot-races that Pepys describes. Dryden’s gallants and masked ladies will receive some mention; and we shall tell of bygone encampments and of many events now almost forgotten.
Kensington will recall many anecdotes of William of Orange, his beloved Queen, stupid Prince George of Denmark, and George II., who all died at the palace, the old seat of the Finches. We are sure to find good company in the gardens. Still as when Tickell sang, every walk
“Seems from afar a moving tulip bed,
Where rich brocades and glossy damasks glow,
And chintz, the rival of the showery bow.”
There is Newton’s house at South Kensington to visit, and Wilkie’s and Mrs. Inchbald’s; and, above all, there is Holland House, the scene of the delightful Whig coteries of Tom Moore’s time. Here Addison lived to regret his marriage with a lady of rank, and here he died. At Kensington Charles James Fox spent his youth.
And now Chelsea brings us pleasant recollections of Sir Thomas More, Swift, Sir Robert Walpole, and Atterbury. “Chelsith,” Sir Thomas More used to call it when Holbein was lodging in his house and King Henry, who afterwards beheaded his old friend, used to come to dinner, and after dinner walk round the fair garden with his arm round his host’s neck. More was fond of walking on the flat roof of his gate-house, which commanded a pleasant prospect of the Thames and the fields beyond. Let us hope the tradition is not true that he used to bind heretics to a tree in his garden. In 1717 Chelsea only contained 350 houses, and these in 1725 had grown to 1,350. There is Cheyne Walk, so called from the Lords Cheyne, owners of the manor; and we must not forget Don Saltero and his famous coffee-house, the oddities of which Steele pleasantly sketched in the Tatler. The Don was famous for his skill in brewing punch and for his excellent playing on the fiddle. Saltero was a barber, who drew teeth, drew customers, wrote verses, and collected curiosities.
“Some relics of the Sheban queen
And fragments of the famed Bob Crusoe.”
Swift lodged at Chelsea, over against the Jacobite Bishop Atterbury, who so nearly lost his head. In one of his delightful letters to Stella Swift describes “the Old Original Chelsea Bun House,” and the r-r-r-r-rare Chelsea buns. He used to leave his best gown and perriwig at Mrs. Vanhomrig’s, in Suffolk Street, then walk up Pall Mall, through the park, out at Buckingham House, and on to Chelsea, a little beyond the church (5,748 steps), he says, in less than an hour, which was leisurely walking even for the contemplative and observant dean. Smollet laid a scene of his “Humphrey Clinker” in Chelsea, where he lived for some time.
The Princess Elizabeth, when a girl, lived at Chelsea, with that dangerous man, with whom she is said to have fallen in love, the Lord Admiral Seymour, afterwards beheaded. He was the second husband of Katherine Parr, one of the many wives of Elizabeth’s father. Cremorne was, in Walpole’s days, the villa of Lord Cremorne, an Irish nobleman; and near here, at a river-side cottage died, in miserly and cynical obscurity, the greatest of our modern landscape painters, Turner. Then there is Chelsea Hospital to visit. This hospital was built by Wren; Charles II., it is said at Nell Gwynn’s suggestion, originated the good work, which was finished by William and Mary. Dr. Arbuthnot, that good man so beloved by the Pope set, was physician here, and the Rev. Philip Francis, who translated Horace, was chaplain. Nor can we leave Chelsea without remembering Sir Hans Sloane, whose collection of antiquities, sold for £20,000, formed the first nucleus of the British Museum, and who resided at Chelsea; nor shall we forget the Chelsea china manufactory, one of the earliest porcelain manufactories in England, patronized by George II., who brought over German artificers from Brunswick and Saxony. In the reign of Louis XV. the French manufacturers began to regard it with jealousy and petitioned their king for special privileges. Ranelagh, too, that old pleasure-garden which Dr. Johnson declared was “the finest thing he had ever seen,” deserves a word; Horace Walpole was constantly there, though at first, he owns, he preferred Vauxhall; and Lord Chesterfield was so fond of it that he used to say he should order all his letters to be directed there.
The West End squares are pleasant spots for our purpose, and at many doors we shall have to make a call. In Landsdowne House (in Berkeley Square) it is supposed by many that Lord Shelburne, Colonel Barre, and Dunning wrote “Junius”; certain it is that the Marquis of Landsdowne, in 1809, acknowledged the possession of the secret, but died the following week, before he could disclose it. Here, in 1774, that persecuted philosopher, Dr. Priestley, the librarian to Lord Shelburne, discovered oxygen. In this square Horace Walpole (that delightful letterwriter) died and Lord Clive destroyed himself. Then there is Grosvenor Square, where that fat, easy-going Minister, Lord North, lived, where Wilkes the notorious resided, and where the Cato-Street conspirators planned to kill all the Cabinet Ministers, who had been invited to dinner by the Earl of Harrowby. In Hanover Square we visit Lord Rodney, &c. In St. James’s Square we recall William III. coming to the Earl of Romney’s to see fireworks let off and, later, the Prince Regent, from a balcony, displaying to the people the Eagles captured at Waterloo. Queen Caroline resided here during her trial, and many of Charles II.’s frail beauties also resided in the same spot. In Cavendish Square we stop to describe the splendid projects of that great Duke of Chandos whom Pope ridiculed. Nor are the lesser squares by any means devoid of interest.
In Pall Mall the laziest-gleaner of London traditions might find a harvest. On the site of Carlton House—the Prince Regent’s palace—were, in the reign of Henry VI., monastic buildings, in which (reign of Henry VIII.) Erasmus afterwards resided. They were pulled down at the Reformation. Nell Gwynn lived here, and so did Sir William Temple, Swift’s early patron, the pious Boyle, and that poor puff-ball of vanity and pretence—Bubb Doddington. Here we have to record the unhappy duel at the “Star and Garter” tavern between Lord Byron and Mr. Chaworth, and the murder of Mr. Thynne by his rival, Count Köningsmark. There is Boydell’s Shakespeare Gallery to notice, and Dodsley’s shop, which Burke, Johnson, and Garrick so often visited. There is also the origin of the Royal Academy, at a house opposite Market Lane, to chronicle, many club-houses to visit, and curious memorabilia of all kinds to be sifted, selected, contrasted, mounted, and placed in sequence for view.
Then comes Marylebone, formerly a suburb, famous only for its hunting park (now Regent’s Park), its gardens, and its bowling-greens. In Queen Elizabeth’s time the Russian ambassadors were sent to hunt in Marylebone Park; Cromwell sold it—deer, timber, and all—for £13,000. The Marylebone Bowling Greens, which preceded the gardens, were at first the resort of noblemen and gentlemen, but eventually highwaymen began to frequent them. The Duke of Buckingham (whom Lady Mary Wortley Montagu glances at in the line,
“Some dukes at Marybone bowl time away”)
used, at an annual dinner to the frequenters of the gardens, to give the agreeable toast,—”May as many of us as remain unhanged next spring meet here again.” Eventually burlettas were produced—one written by Chatterton; and Dr. Arne conducted Handel’s music. Marylebone, in the time of Hogarth, was a favourite place for prize fights and back-sword combats, the great champion being Figg, that bullet-headed man with the bald, plaistered head, whom Hogarth has represented mounting grim sentry in his “Southwark Fair.” The great building at Marylebone began between 1718 and 1729. In 1739 there were only 577 houses in the parish; in 1851 there were 16,669. In many of the nooks and corners of Marylebone we shall find curious facts and stories worth the unravelling.
The eastern squares, in Bloomsbury and St. Pancras, are regions not by any means to be lightly passed by. Bloomsbury Square was built by the Earl of Southampton, about the time of the Restoration, and was thought one of the wonders of England. Baxter lived here when he was tormented by Judge Jefferies; Sir Hans Sloane was one of its inhabitants; so was that great physician, Dr. Radcliffe, The burning of Mansfield House by Lord George Gordon’s rioters has to be minutely described. In Russell Square we visit the houses of Sir Thomas Lawrence and of Judge Talfourd, and search for that celebrated spot in London legend, “The Field of the Forty Footsteps,” where two brothers, it is said, killed each other in a duel for a lady, who sat by watching the fight. Then there is Red Lion Square, where tradition says some faithful adherents, at the Restoration, buried the body of Cromwell, to prevent its desecration at Tyburn; and we have to cull some stories of a good old inhabitant, Jonas Hanway, the great promoter of many of the London charities, the first man who habitually used an umbrella and Dr. Johnson’s spirited opponent on the important question of tea. Soho Square, too, has many a tradition, for the Duke of Monmouth lived there in great splendour; and in Hogarth’s time Mrs. Cornelys made the square celebrated by her masquerades, which in time became disreputable. Sir Cloudesley Shovel, Sir Joseph Banks, and Burnet, the historian, were all inhabitants of this locality.
Islington brings us back to days when Henry VIII. came there to hawk the partridge and the heron, and when the London citizens wandered out across the northern fields to drink milk and eat cheesecakes. The old houses abound in legends of Sir Walter Raleigh, Topham, the strong man, George Morland, the artist, and Henderson, the actor. At Canonbury, the old tower of the country house of the Prior of St. Bartholomew recalls to us Goldsmith, who used to come there to hide from his creditors, go to bed early, and write steadily.
At Highgate and Hampstead we shall scour the northern uplands of London by no means in vain, as we shall find Belsize House, in Charles II.’s time, openly besieged by robbers and, long afterwards, highwaymen swarming in the same locality. The chalybeate wells of Hampstead lead us on to the Heath, where wolves were to be found in the twelfth century and highwaymen as late as 1803. Good company awaits us at pleasant Hampstead —Lord Erskine, Lord Chatham, Keats, Akenside, Leigh Hunt, and Sir Fowell Buxton; Booth, Wilkes, and Colley Cibber; Mrs. Barbauld, honest Dick Steele, and Joanna Baillie. As for Highgate, for ages a mere hamlet, a forest, it once boasted a bishop’s palace, and there we gather, with free hand, memories of Sacheverell, Rowe, Dr. Watts, Hogarth, Coleridge, and Lord Mansfield; Ireton, Marvell, and Dick Whittington, the worthy demi-god of London apprentices to the end of time.
Lambeth, where Harold was crowned, can hold its own in interest with any part of London—for it once possessed two ecclesiastical palaces and many places of amusement. Lambeth Palace itself is a spot of extreme interest. Here Wat Tyler’s men dragged off Archbishop Sudbury to execution; here, when Laud was seized, the Parliamentary soldiers turned the palace into a prison for Royalists and demolished the great hall. Outside the walls of the church James II.’s Queen cowered in the December rain with her child, till a coach could be brought from the neighbouring inn to convey her to Gravesend to take ship for France. The Gordon rioters attacked the palace in 1780, but were driven off by a detachment of Guards. The Lollards’ Tower has to be visited, and the sayings and doings of a long line of prelates to be reviewed. Vauxhall brings us back to the days when Walpole went with Lady Caroline Petersham and helped to stew chickens in a china dish over a lamp; or we go further back and accompany Addison and the worthy Sir Roger de Coverley, and join them over a glass of Burton ale and a slice of hung beef.
Astley’s Amphitheatre recalls to us many amusing stories of that old soldier, Ducrow, and of his friends and rivals, which join on very naturally to those other theatrical traditions to which Drury Lane and Covent Garden have already led us.
So we mean to roam from flower to flower, over as varied a garden as the imagination can well conceive. There have been brave workers before us in the field, and we shall build upon good foundations. We hope to be catholic in our selections; we shall prune away only the superfluous; we shall condense anecdotes only where we think we can make them pithier and racier. We will neglect no fact that is interesting, and blend together all that old Time can give us bearing upon London. Street by street we shall delve and rake for illustrative story, despising no book, however humble, no pamphlet, however obscure, if it only throws some light on the celebrities of London, its topographical history, its manners and customs. Such is a brief summary of our plan.
St. Paul’s rises before us with its great black dome and stately row of sable columns; the Tower, with its central citadel, flanked by the spear-like masts of the river shipping; the great world of roofs spreas’s below us as we launch upon our venturous voyage of discovery. From Boadicea leading on her scythed chariots at Battle Bridge to Queen Victoria in the Thanksgiving procession of yesterday is a long period over which to range. We have whole generations of Londoners to defile before us—painted Britons, hooded Saxons, mailed Crusaders, Chaucer’s men in hoods, friars, citizens, warriors, Shakespeare’s friends, Johnson’s companions, Goldsmith’s jovial “Bohemians,” Hogarth’s fellow-painters, soldiers, lawyers, statesmen, merchants. Nevertheless, at our spells they will gather from the four winds, and at our command march off to their old billets in their old houses, where we may best cross-examine them and collect their impressions of the life of their times.
¶The subject is as entertaining as any dream Imagination ever evoked and as varied as human nature. Its classification is a certain bond of union, and will act as an excellent cement for the multiform stones with which we shall rear our building. Lists of names, dry pedigrees, rows of dates, we leave to the herald and the topographer; but we shall pass by little that can throw light on the history of London in any generation, and we shall dwell more especially on the events of the later centuries, because they are more akin to us and are bound to us by closer sympathies