Old and New London: Volume 1. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
FLEET STREET (NORTHERN TRIBUTARIES—continued).
Clifford's Inn—Dyer's Chambers—The Settlement after the Great Fire—Peter Wilkins and his Flying Wives—Fetter Lane—Waller's Plot and its Victims—Praise-God Barebone and his Doings—Charles Lamb at School—Hobbes the Philosopher—A Strange Marriage—Mrs. Brownrigge—Paul Whitehead—The Moravians—The Record Office and its Treasures—Rival Poets.
Clifford's Inn, originally a town house of the Lords Clifford, ancestors of the Earls of Cumberland, given to them by Edward II., was first let to the students of law in the eighteenth year of King Edward III., at a time when might was too often right, and hard knocks decided legal questions oftener than deed or statute. Harrison the regicide was in youth clerk to an attorney in Clifford's Inn, but when the Civil War broke out he rode off and joined the Puritan troopers.
Clifford's Inn is the oldest Inn in Chancery. There was formerly, we learn from Mr. Jay, an office there, out of which were issued writs, called "Bills of Middlesex," the appointment of which office was in the gift of the senior judge of the Queen's Bench. "But what made this Inn once noted was that all the six attorneys of the Marshalsea Court (better known as the Palace Court) had their chambers there, as also had the satellites, who paid so much per year for using their names and looking at the nature of their practice. I should say that more misery emanated from this small spot than from any one of the most populous counties in England. The causes in this court were obliged to be tried in the city of Westminster, near the Palace, and it was a melancholy sight (except to lawyers) to observe in the court the crowd of every description of persons suing one another. The most remarkable man in the court was the extremely fat prothonotary, Mr. Hewlett, who sat under the judge or the judge's deputy, with a wig on his head like a thrush's nest, and with only one book before him, which was one of the volumes of 'Burns' Justice.' I knew a respectable gentleman (Mr. G. Dyer) who resided here in chambers (where he died) over a firm of Marshalsea attorneys. This gentleman, who wrote a history of Cambridge University and a biography of Robinson of Cambridge, had been a Bluecoat boy, went as a Grecian to Cambridge, and, after the University, visited almost every celebrated library in Europe. It often struck me what a mighty difference there was between what was going on in the one set of chambers and the other underneath. At Mr. Dyer's I have seen Sir Walter Scott, Southey, Coleridge, Lamb, Talfourd, and many other celebrated literati, 'all benefiting by hearing, which was but of little advantage to the owner.' In the lawyers' chambers below were people wrangling, swearing, and shouting, and some, too, even fighting, the only relief to which was the eternal stamping of cognovits, bound in a book as large as a family Bible." The Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas and Lord Chelmsford both at one time practised in the County Court, purchased their situations for large sums, and afterwards sold them. "It was not a bad nursery for a young barrister, as he had an opportunity of addressing a jury. There were only four counsel who had a right to practise in this court, and if you took a first-rate advocate in there specially, you were obliged to give briefs to two of the privileged four. On the tombstone of one of the compensated Marshalsea attorney's is cut the bitterly ironical epitaph, "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God."
Coke, that great luminary of English jurisprudence, resided at Clifford's Inn for a year, and then entered himself at the Inner Temple. Coke, it will be remembered, conducted the prosecution of both Essex and Raleigh; in both cases he was grossly unfeeling to fallen great men.
The George Dyer mentioned by Mr. Jay was not the author of "The Fleece," but that eccentric and amiable old scholar sketched by Charles Lamb in "The Essays of Elia." Dyer was a poet and an antiquary, and edited nearly all the 140 volumes of the Delphin Classics for Valpy. Alternately writer, Baptist minister, and reporter, he eventually settled down in the monastic solitude of Clifford's Inn to compose verses, annotate Greek plays, and write for the magazines. How the worthy, simple-hearted bookworm once walked straight from Lamb's parlour in Colebrooke Row into the New River, and was then fished out and restored with brandy-and-water, Lamb was never tired of telling. At the latter part of his life poor old Dyer became totally blind. He died in 1841.
The hall of Clifford's Inn is memorable as being the place where Sir Matthew Hale and seventeen other wise and patient judges sat, after the Great Fire of 1666, to adjudicate upon the claims of the landlords and tenants of burned houses, and prevent future lawsuits. The difficulty of discovering the old boundaries, under the mountains of ashes, must have been great; and forty thick folio volumes of decisions, now preserved in the British Museum, tell of many a legal headache in Clifford's Inn.
A very singular custom, and probably of great antiquity, prevails after the dinners at Clifford's Inn. The society is divided into two sections—the Principal and Aules, and the Junior or "Kentish Men." When the meal is over, the chairman of the Kentish Men, standing up at the Junior table, bows gravely to the Principal, takes from the hand of a servitor standing by four small rolls of bread, silently dashes them three times on the table, and then pushes them down to the further end of the board, from whence they are removed. Perfect silence is preserved during this mystic ceremony, which some antiquary who sees deeper into millstones than his brethren thinks typifies offerings to Ceres, who first taught mankind the use of laws and originated those peculiar ornaments of civilisation, their expounders, the lawyers.
In the hall is preserved an old oak folding case, containing the forty-seven rules of the institution, now almost defaced, and probably of the reign of Henry VIII. The hall casement contains armorial glass with the bearings of Baptist Hicks, Viscount Camden, &c.
Robert Pultock, the almost unknown author of that graceful story, "Peter Wilkins," from whose flying women Southey drew his poetical notion of the Glendoveer, or flying spirit, in his wild poem of "The Curse of Kehama," lived in this Inn, paced on its terrace, and mused in its garden. " 'Peter Wilkins' is to my mind," says Coleridge (in his "Table Talk"), "a work of uncommon beauty, and yet Stothard's illustrations have added beauties to it. If it were not for a certain tendency to affectation, scarcely any praise could be too high for Stothard's designs. They give me great pleasure. I believe that 'Robinson Crusoe' and 'Peter Wilkins' could only have been written by islanders. No continentalist could have conceived either tale. Davis's story is an imitation of 'Peter Wilkins,' but there are many beautiful things in it, especially his finding his wife crouching by the fireside, she having, in his absence, plucked out all her feathers, to be like him! It would require a very peculiar genius to add another tale, ejusdem generis, to 'Peter Wilkins' and 'Robinson Crusoe.' I once projected such a thing, but the difficulty of a pre-occupied ground stopped me. Perhaps La Motte Fouquieacute; might effect something; but I should fear that neither he nor any other German could entirely understand what may be called the 'desert island' feeling. I would try the marvellous line of 'Peter Wilkins,' if I attempted it, rather than the real fiction of 'Robinson Crusoe.'"
The name of the author of "Peter Wilkins" was discovered only a few years ago. In the year 1835 Mr. Nicol, the printer, sold by auction a number of books and manuscripts in his possession, which had formerly belonged to the well-known publisher, Dodsley; and in arranging them for sale, the original agreement for the sale of the manuscript of "Peter Wilkins," by the author, "Robert Pultock, of Clifford's Inn," to Dodsley, was discovered. From this document it appears that Mr. Pultock received twenty pounds, twelve copies of the work, and "the cuts of the first impression"—i.e., a set of proof impressions of the fanciful engravings that professed to illustrate the first edition of the work—as the price of the entire copyright. This curious document had been sold afterwards to John Wilkes, Esq., M.P.
Fetter Lane did not derive its name from the manufacture of Newgate fetters. Stow, who died early in the reign of James I., calls it "Fewtor Lane," from the Norman-French word "fewtor" (idle person, loafer), perhaps analogous to the even less complimentary modern French word "foutre" (blackguard). Mr. Jesse, however, derives the word "fetter" from the Norman "defaytor" (defaulter), as if the lane had once been a sanctuary for skulking debtors. In either case the derivation is somewhat ignoble, but the inhabitants have long since lived it down. Stow says it was once a mere byway leading to gardens (quantum mutatus!) If men of the Bobadil and Pistol character ever did look over the garden-gates and puff their Trinidado in the faces of respectable passers-by, the lane at least regained its character later, when poets and philosophers condescended to live in it, and persons of considerable consequence rustled their silks and trailed their velvet along its narrow roadway.
In the second year of the war between King and Parliament, the Royal successes at Bath, Bristol, and Cornwall, as well as the partial victory at Edgehill, had roused the moderate party and chilled many lukewarm adherents of the Puritans. The distrust of Pym and his friends soon broke out into a reactionary plot, or, more probably, two plots, in one or both of which Waller, the poet, was dangerously mixed up. The chief conspirators were Tomkins and Challoner, the former Waller's brother-in-law, a gentleman living in Holborn, near the end of Fetter Lane, and a secretary to the Commissioners of the Royal Revenues; the latter an eminent citizen, well known on 'Change. Many noblemen and Cavalier officers and gentlemen had also a whispering knowledge of the ticklish affair. The projects of these men, or of some of the more desperate, at least, were—(1) to secure the king's children; (2) to seize Mr. Pym, Colonel Hampden, and other members of Parliament specially hostile to the king; (3) to arrest the Puritan Lord Mayor, and all the sour-faced committee of the City Militia; (4) to capture the outworks, forts, magazines, and gates of the Tower and City, and to admit 3,000 Cavaliers sent from Oxford by a pre-arranged plan; (5) to resist all payments imposed by Parliament for support of the armies of the Earl of Essex. Unfortunately, just as the white ribbons were preparing to tie round the arms of the conspirators, to mark them on the night of action, a treacherous servant of Mr. Tomkins, of Holborn, overheard Waller's plans from behind a convenient arras, and disclosed them to the angry Parliament. In a cellar at Tomkins's the soldiers who rummaged it found a commission sent from the king by Lady Aubigny, whose husband had been recently killed at Edgehill.
Tomkins and Challoner were hung at the Holborn end of Fetter Lane. On the ladder, Tomkins said:—"Gentlemen, I humbly acknowledge, in the sight of Almighty God (to whom, and to angels, and to this great assembly of people, I am now a spectacle), that my sins have deserved of Him this untimely and shameful death; and, touching the business for which I suffer, I acknowledge that affection to a brother-in-law, and affection and gratitude to the king, whose bread I have eaten now about twenty-two years (I have been servant to him when he was prince, and ever since: it will be twenty-three years in August next)—I confess these two motives drew me into this foolish business. I have often since declared to good friends that I was glad it was discovered, because it might have occasioned very ill consequences; and truly I have repented having any hand in it."
Challoner was equally fatal against Waller, and said, when at the same giddy altitude as Tomkins, "Gentlemen, this is the happiest day that ever I had. I shall now, gentlemen, declare a little more of the occasion of this, as I am desired by Mr. Peters [the famous Puritan divine, Hugh Peters] to give him and the world satisfaction in it. It came from Mr. Waller, under this notion, that if we could make a moderate party here in London, and stand betwixt and in the gap to unite the king and the Parliament, it would be a very acceptable work, for now the three kingdoms lay a-bleeding; and unless that were done, there was no hopes to unite them," &c.
Waller had a very narrow escape, but he extricated himself with the most subtle skill, perhaps secretly aided by his kinsman, Cromwell. He talked of his "carnal eye," of his repentance, of the danger of letting the army try a member of the House. As Lord Clarendon says: "With incredible dissimulation he acted such a remorse of conscience, that his trial was put off, out of Christian compassion, till he could recover his understanding." In the meantime, he bribed the Puritan preachers, and listened with humble deference to their prayers for his repentance. He bent abjectly before the House; and eventually, with a year's imprisonment and a fine of £10,000, obtained leave to retire to France. Having spent all his money in Paris, Waller at last obtained permission from Cromwell to return to England. "There cannot," says Clarendon, "be a greater evidence of the inestimable value of his (Waller's) parts, than that he lived after this in the good esteem and affection of many, the pity of most, and the reproach and scorn of few or none." The body of the unlucky Tomkins was buried in the churchyard of St. Andrew's, Holborn.
According to Peter Cunningham, that shining light of the Puritan party in the early days of Cromwell, "Praise-God Barebone," was a leather-seller in Fetter Lane, having a house, either at the same time or later, called the "Lock and Key," near Crane Court, at which place his son, a great speculator and builder, afterwards resided. Barebone (probably Barbon, of a French Huguenot family) was one of those gloomy religionists who looked on surplices, plum-porridge, theatres, dances, Christmas pudding, and homicide as equally detestable, and did his best to shut out all sunshine from that long, rainy, stormy day that is called life. He was at the head of that fanatical, tenderconscienced Parliament of 1653 that Cromwell convened from among the elect in London, after untoward Sir Harry Vane had been expelled from Westminster at the muzzles of Pride's muskets. Of Barebone, also, and his crochetty, impracticable fellows, Cromwell had soon enough; and, in despair of all aid but from his own brain and hand, he then took the title of Lord Protector, and became the most inflexible and wisest monarch we have ever had, or indeed ever hope to have. Barebone is first heard of in local history as preaching in 1641, together with Mr. Greene, a felt-maker, at a conventicle in Fetter Lane, a place always renowned for its heterodoxy. The thoughtless Cavaliers, who did not like long sermons, and thought all religion but their own hypocrisy, delighted in gaunt Barebone's appropriate name, and made fun of him in those ribald ballads in which they consigned rednosed Noll, the brewer, to the reddest and hottest portion of the unknown world. At the Restoration, when all Fleet Street was ablaze with bonfires to roast the Rumps, the street boys, always on the strongest side, broke poor Barebone's windows, though he had been constable and commoncouncilman, and was a wealthy leather-seller to boot. But he was not looked upon as of the regicide or extreme dangerous party, and a year afterwards attended a vestry-meeting unmolested. After the Great Fire he came to the Clifford's Inn Appeal Court about his Fleet Street house, which had been burnt over the heads of his tenants, and eventually he rebuilt it.
In Irving's "History of Dissenters" there is a curious account, from an, old pamphlet entitled "New Preachers," "of Barebone, Greene the felt-maker, Spencer the horse-rubber, Quartermaine the brewer's clerk, and some few others, who are mighty sticklers in this new kind of talking trade, which many ignorant coxcombs call preaching; whereunto is added the last tumult in Fleet Street, raised by the disorderly preachment, pratings, and prattlings of Mr. Barebone the leather-seller, and Mr. Greene the felt-maker, on Sunday last, the 19th December."
The tumult alluded to is thus described: "A brief touch in memory of the fiery zeal of Mr. Barebone, a reverend unlearned leather-seller, who with Mr. Greene the felt-maker were both taken preaching or prating in a conventicle amongst a hundred persons, on Sunday, the 19th of December last, 1641."
One of the pleasantest memories of Fetter Lane is that which connects it with the school-days of that delightful essay-writer, Charles Lamb. He himself, in one of Hone's chatty books, has described the school, and Bird, its master, in his own charming way.
Both Lamb and his sister, says Mr. Fitzgerald, in his Memoir of Lamb, went to a school where Starkey had been usher about a year before they came to it—a room that looked into "a discoloured, dingy garden, in the passage leading from Fetter Lane into Bartlett's Buildings. This was close to Holborn. Queen Street, where Lamb lived when a boy, was in Holborn." Bird is described as an "eminent writer" who taught mathematics, which was no more than "cyphering." "Heaven knows what languages were taught there. I am sure that neither my sister nor myself brought any out of it but a little of our native English. It was, in fact, a humble day-school." Bird and Cook, he says, were the masters. Bird had "that peculiar mild tone—especially when he was inflicting punishment—which is so much more terrible to children than the angriest looks and gestures. Whippings were not frequent; but when they took place, the correction was performed in a private room adjoining, whence we could only hear the plaints, but saw nothing. This heightened the decorum and solemnity." He then describes the ferule—"that almost obsolete weapon now." "To make him look more formidable—if a pedagogue had need of these heightenings—Bird wore one of those flowered Indian gowns formerly in use with schoolmasters, the strange figures upon which we used to interpret into hieroglyphics of pain and suffering." This is in Lamb's most delightful vein. So, too, with other incidents of the school, especially "our little leaden ink-stands, not separately subsisting, but sunk into the desks; and the agonising benches on which we were all cramped together, and yet encouraged to attain a free hand, unattainable in this position." Lamb recollected even his first copy—"Art improves nature," and could look back with "pardonable pride to his carrying off the first premium for spelling. Long after, certainly thirty years, the school was still going on, only there was a Latin inscription over the entrance in the lane, unknown in our humbler days." In the evening was a short attendance of girls, to which Miss Lamb went, and she recollected the theatricals, and even Cato being performed by the young gentlemen. "She describes the cast of the characters with relish. 'Martha,' by the handsome Edgar Hickman, who afterwards went to Africa."
The Starkey mentioned by Lamb was a poor, crippled dwarf, generally known at Newcastle in his old age as "Captain Starkey," the but of the street-boys and the pensioner of benevolent citizens. In 1818, when he had been an inmate of the Freemen's Hospital, Newcastle, for twenty-six years, the poor old ex-usher of the Fetter Lane school wrote "The Memoirs of his Life," a humble little pamphlet of only fourteen pages, upon which Hone good-naturedly wrote an article which educed Lamb's pleasant postscript. Starkey, it appears, had been usher, not in Lamb's own time, but in that of Mary Lamb's, who came after her brother had left. She describes Starkey running away on one occasion, being brought back by his father, and sitting the remainder of the day with his head buried in his hands, even the most mischievous boys respecting his utter desolation.
That clever but mischievous advocate of divine
right and absolute power, Hobbes of Malmesbury,
was lodging in Fetter Lane when he published his
"Leviathan." He was not there, however, in
1660, at the Restoration, since we are told that on
that glorious occasion he was standing at the door
of Salisbury House, the mansion of his kind and
generous patron, the Earl of Devonshire; and that
the king, formerly Hobbes's pupil in mathematics,
nodded to his old tutor. A short duodecimo sketch
of Hobbes may not be uninteresting. This sceptical philosopher, hardened into dogmatic selfishness
by exile, was the son of a Wiltshire clergyman,
and he first saw the light the year of the Armada,
his mother being prematurely confined during the
first panic of the Spanish invasion. Hobbes, with
that same want of self-respect and love of independence that actuated Gay and Thomson, remained his whole life a tolerated pensioner of his
former pupil, the Earl of Devonshire; bearing, no
doubt, in his time many rebuffs; for pride will be
proud, and rich men require wisdom, when in their
pay, to remember its place. Hobbes in his time
was a friend of, and, it is said, a translator for, Lord
Bacon; and Ben Jonson, that ripe scholar, revised
his sound translation of "Thucydides." He sat at
the feet of Galileo and by the side of Gassendi and
Descartes. While in Fetter Lane he associated
with Harvey, Selden, and Cowley. He talked and
wrangled with the wise men of half Europe. He
had sat at Richelieu's table and been loaded with
honours by Cosmo de Medici. The laurels Hobbes
won in the schools he lost on Parnassus. His translation of Homer is tasteless and contemptible. In
mathematics, too, he was dismounted by Wallis and
others. Personally he had weaknesses. He was
afraid of apparitions, he dreaded assassination, and
had a fear that Burnet and the bishops would burn
him as a heretic. His philosophy, though useful,
as Mr. Mill says, in expanding free thought and
exciting inquiry, was based on selfishness. Nothing
can be falser and more detestable than the maxims
of this sage of the Restoration and of reaction.
He holds the natural condition of man to be a
state of war—a war of all men against all men;
might making right, and the conqueror trampling
down all the rest. The civil laws, he declares, are
the only standards of good or evil. The sovereign,
he asserts, possesses absolute power, and is not
bound by any compact with the people (who pay him
as their head servant). Nothing he does can be
wrong. The sovereign has the right of interpreting
Scripture; and he thinks that Christians are bound
to obey the laws of an infidel king, even in matters
of religion. He sneers at the belief in a future
state, and hints at materialism. These monstrous
doctrines, which even Charles II. would not fully
sanction, were naturally battered and bombarded by
Harrington, Dr. Henry More, and others. Hobbes
was also vehemently attacked by that disagreeable
Dr. Fell, the subject of the well-known epigram,—
"I do not like thee, Dr. Fell;
The reason why I cannot tell;
But this I know, and know full well,
I do not like thee, Dr. Fell,"
who rudely called Hobbes "irritabile illud et vanissimum Malmsburienise animal." The philosopher of Fetter Lane, who was short-sighted enough to deride the early efforts of the Royal Society, though they were founded on the strict inductive Baconian theory, seems to have been a vain man, loving paradox rather than truth, and desirous of founding, at all risks, a new school of philosophy. The Civil War had warped him; solitary thinking had turned him into a cynical dogmatiser. He was timid as Erasmus; and once confessed that if he was cast into a deep pit, and the devil should put down his hot cloven foot, he would take hold of it to draw himself out. This was not the metal that such men as Luther and Latimer were made of; but it served for the Aristotle of Rochester and Buckingham. A wit of the day proposed as Hobbes's epitaph the simple words, "The philosopher's stone."
Hobbes's professed rule of health was to dedicate the morning to his exercise and the afternoon to his studies. At his first rising, therefore, he walked out and climbed any hill within his reach; or, if the weather was not dry, he fatigued himself within doors by some exercise or other, in order to perspire, recommending that practice upon this opinion, that an old man had more moisture than heat, and therefore by such motion heat was to be acquired and moisture expelled. After this he took a comfortable breakfast, then went round the lodgings to wait upon the earl, the countess, the children, and any considerable strangers, paying some short addresses to all of them. He kept these rounds till about twelve o'clock, when he had a little dinner provided for him, which he late always by himself, without ceremony. Soon after dinner he retired to his study, and had his candle, with ten or twelve pipes of tobacco, laid by him; then, shutting his door, he fell to smoking, thinking, and writing for several hours.
At a small coal-shed (just one of those black bins still to be seen at the south-west end) in Fetter Lane, Dr. Johnson's friend, Levett, the poor apothecary, met a woman of bad character, who duped him into marriage. The whole story, Dr. Johnson used to say, was as marvellous as any page of "The Arabian Nights." Lord Macaulay, in his highly-coloured and somewhat exaggerated way, calls Levett "an old quack doctor, who bled and dosed coal-heavers and hackney-coachmen, and received for fees crusts of bread, bits of bacon, glasses of gin, and a little copper." Levett, however, was neither a quack nor a doctor, but an honest man and an apothecary, and the list of his patients is entirely hypothetical. This simple-hearted, benevolent man was persuaded by the proprietress of the coal-shed that she had been defrauded of her birthright by her kinsman, a man of fortune. Levett, then nearly sixty, married her; and four months after, a writ was issued against him for debts contracted by his wife, and he had to lie close to avoid the gaol. Not long afterwards his amiable wife ran away from him, and, being taken up for picking pockets, was tried at the Old Bailey, where she defended herself, and was acquitted. Dr. Johnson then, touched by Levett's misfortunes and goodness, took him to his own home at Bolt Court.
It was in a house on the east side of this lane,
looking into Fleur-de-Lys Court, that (in 1767)
Elizabeth Brownrigge, midwife to the St. Dunstan's
workhouse and wife of a house-painter, cruelly illused her two female apprentices. Mary Jones, one
of these unfortunate children, after being often
beaten, ran back to the Foundling, from whence
she had been taken. On the remaining one, Mary
Mitchell, the wrath of the avaricious hag now fell
with redoubled severity. The poor creature was
perpetually being stripped and beaten, was frequently chained up at night nearly naked, was
scratched, and her tongue cut with scissors. It
was the constant practice of Mrs. Brownrigge to
fasten the girl's hands to a rope slung from a beam
in the kitchen, after which this old wretch beat
her four or five times in the same day with a broom
or a whip. The moanings and groans of the dying
child, whose wounds were mortifying from neglect,
aroused the pity of a baker opposite, who sent the
overseers of the parish to see the child, who was
found hid in a buffet cupboard. She was taken
to St. Bartholomew's Hospital, and soon died.
Brownrigge was at once arrested; but Mrs. Brownrigge and her son, disguising themselves in Rag
Fair, fled to Wandsworth, and there took lodgings
in a chandler's shop, where they were arrested.
The woman was tried at the Old Bailey sessions,
and found guilty of murder. Mr. Silas Told, an
excellent Methodist preacher, who attended her in
the condemned cell, has left a curious, simplehearted account of her behaviour and of what he
considered her repentance. She talked a great deal
of religion, and stood much on the goodness of her
past life. The mob raged terribly as she passed
through the streets on her way to Tyburn.
The women especially screamed, "Tear off her
hat; let us see her face! The devil will fetch
her!" and threw stones and mud, pitiless in their
hatred. After execution her corpse was thrust into
a hackney-coach and driven to Surgeons' Hall for
dissection; the skeleton is still preserved in a
London collection. The cruel hag's husband and
son were sentenced to six months' imprisonment.
A curious old drawing is still extant, representing
Mrs. Brownrigge in the condemned cell. She
wears a large, broad-brimmed gipsy hat, tied under
her chin, and a cape; and her long, hard face wears
a horrible smirk of resigned hypocrisy. Canning,
in one of his bitter banters on Southey's republican
"For this act
Did Brownrigge swing. Harsh laws! But time shall come
When France shall' reign, and laws be all repealed."
In Castle Street (an offshoot of Fetter Lane), in
1709–10 (Queen Anne), at the house of his father,
a master tailor, was born a very small poet, Paul
Whitehead. This poor satirist and worthless man
became a Jacobite barrister and protégé of Bubb
Doddington and the Prince of Wales and his Leicester Fields Court. For libelling Whig noblemen,
in his poem called "Manners," Dodsley, Whitehead's publisher, was summoned by the Ministers,
who wished to intimidate Pope, before the House of
Lords. He appears to have been an atheist, and was
a member of the infamous Hell-Fire Club, that held
its obscene and blasphemous orgies at Medmenham
Abbey, in Buckinghamshire, the seat of Sir Francis
Dashwood, where every member assumed the
name of an Apostle. Later in life Whitehead was
bought off by the Ministry, and then settled down
at a villa on Twickenham Common, where Hogarth
used to visit him. If Whitehead is ever remembered, it will be only for that splash of vitriol that
Churchill threw in his face, when he wrote of the
"May I—can worse disgrace on manhood fall?—
Be born a Whitehead and baptised a Paul."
It was this Whitehead, with Carey, the surgeon of the Prince of Wales, who got up a mock procession, in ridicule of the Freemasons' annual cavalcade from Brooke Street to Haberdashers' Hall. The ribald procession consisted of shoe-blacks and chimney-sweeps, in carts drawn by asses, followed by a mourning-coach with six horses, each of a different colour. The City authorities very properly refused to let them pass through Temple Bar, but they waited there and saluted the Masons. Hogarth published a print of "The Scald Miserables," which is coarse, and even dull. The Prince of Wales, with more good sense than usual, dismissed Carey for this offensive buffoonery. Whitehead bequeathed his heart to Earl Despenser, who buried it in his mausoleum with absurd ceremonial.
At Pemberton Row, formerly Three-Leg Alley,
Fetter Lane, lived that very indifferent poet but
admirable miniature-painter of Charles II.'s time,
Flatman. He was a briefless barrister of the
Inner Temple, and resided with his father till the
period of his death. Anthony Wood tells us that
having written a scurrilous ballad against marriage,
"Like a dog with a bottle tied close to his tail,
Like a Tory in a bog, or a thief in a jail,"
his comrades serenaded him with the song on his wedding-night. Rochester wrote some vigorous lines on Flatman, which are not unworthy even of Dryden himself,—
"Not that slow drudge, in swift Pindaric strains,
Flatman, who Cowley imitates with pains,
And drives a jaded Muse, whipt with loose reins,"
"The chapel of the United Brethren, or Moravians, 32, Fetter Lane," says Smith, in his "Streets of London," "was the meeting-house of the celebrated Thomas Bradbury. During the riots which occurred on the trial of Dr. Sacheveral, this chapel was assaulted by the mob and dismantled, the preacher himself escaping with some difficulty. The other meeting-houses that suffered on this occasion were those of Daniel Burgess, in New Court, Carey Street; Mr. Earl's, in Hanover Street, Long Acre; Mr. Taylor's, Leather Lane; Mr. Wright's, Great Carter Lane; and Mr. Hamilton's, in St. John's Square, Clerkenwell. With the benches and pulpits of several of these, the mob, after conducting Dr. Sacheveral in triumph to his lodgings in the Temple, made a bonfire in the midst of Lincoln's Inn Fields, around which they danced with shouts of 'High Church and Sacheveral,' swearing, if they found Daniel Burgess, that they would roast him in his own pulpit in the midst of the pile."
This Moravian chapel was one of the original eight conventicles where Divine worship was permitted. Baxter preached here in 1672, and Wesley and Whitefield also struck great blows at the devil in this pulpit, where Zinzendorf's followers afterwards prayed and sang their fervent hymns.
Count Zinzendorf, the poet, theologian, pastor, missionary, and statesman, who first gave the Moravian body a vital organisation, and who preached in Fetter Lane to the most tolerant class of all Protestants, was born in Dresden in 1700. His ancestors, originally from Austria, had been Crusaders and Counts of Zinzendorf. One of the Zinzendorfs had been among the earliest converts to Lutheranism, and became a voluntary exile for the faith. The count's father was one of the Pietists, a sect protected by the first king of Prussia, the father of Frederick the Great. The founder of the Pietists laid special stress on the doctrine of conversion by a sudden transformation of the heart and will. It was a young Moravian missionary to Georgia who first induced Wesley to embrace the vital doctrine of justification by faith. For a long time there was a close kinsmanship maintained between Whitefield, the Wesleys, and the Moravians; but eventually Wesley pronounced Zinzendorf as vergingh on anti-Moravianism, and Zinzendorf objected to Wesley's doctrine of sinless perfection. In 1722 Zinzendorf gave an asylum to two families of persecuted Moravian brothers, and built houses for them on a spot he called Hernhut ("watched of the Lord"), a marshy tract in Saxony, near the main road to Zittau. These simple and pious men were Taborites, a section of the old Hussites, who had renounced obedience to the Pope and embraced the Vaudois doctrines. This was the first formation of the Moravian sect.
"On January 24th, 1672–73," says Baxter, "I began a Tuesday lecture at Mr. Turner's church, in New Street, near Fetter Lane, with great convenience and God's encouraging blessing; but I never took a penny for it from any one." The chapel in which Baxter officiated in Fetter Lane is that between Nevil's Court and New Street, once occupied by the Moravians. It appears to have existed, though perhaps in a different form, before the Great Fire of London. Turner, who was the first minister, was a very active man during the plague. He was ejected from Sunbury, in Middlesex, and continued to preach in Fetter Lane till towards the end of the reign of Charles II., when he removed to Leather Lane. Baxter carried on the Tuesday morning lecture till the 24th of August, 1682. The Church which then met in it was under the care of Mr. Lobb, whose predecessor had been Thankful Owen, president of St. John's College, Oxford. Ejected by the commissioners in 1660, he became a preacher in Fetter Lane. "He was," says Calamy, "a man of genteel learning and an excellent temper, admir'd for an uncommon fluency and easiness and sweetness in all his composures. After he was ejected he retired to London, where he preached privately and was much respected. He dy'd at his house in Hatton Garden, April 1, 1681. He was preparing for the press, and had almost finished, a book entituled 'Imago Imaginis,' the design of which was to show that Rome Papal was an image of Rome Pagan."
At No. 96, Fetter Lane is an Independent Chapel, whose first minister was Dr. Thomas Goodwin, 1660–1681—troublous times for Dissenters. Goodwin had been a pastor in Holland and a favourite of Cromwell. The Protector made him one of his commissioners for selecting preachers, and he was also President of Magdalen College, Oxford. When Cromwell became sick unto death, Goodwin boldly prophesied his recovery, and when the great man died, in spite of him, he is said to have exclaimed, "Thou hast deceived us, and we are deceived;" which is no doubt a Cavalier calumny. On the Restoration, the Oxford men showed Goodwin the door, and he retired to the seclusion of Fetter Lane. He seems to have been a good scholar and an eminent Calvinist divine, and he left on Puritan shelves five ponderous folio volumes of his works. The present chapel, says Mr. Noble, dates from 1732, and the pastor is the Rev. John Spurgeon, the father of the eloquent Baptist preacher, the Rev. C. H. Spurgeon.
The disgraceful disorder of the national records had long been a subject of regret among English antiquaries. There was no certainty of finding any required document among such a mass of ill-stored, dusty, unclassified bundles and rolls—many of them never opened since the day King John sullenly signed Magna Charta. We are a great conservative people, and abuses take a long time ripening before they seem to us fit for removal, so it happened that this evil went on several centuries before it roused the attention of Parliament, and then it was talked over and over, till in 1850 something was at last done. It was resolved to build a special storehouse for national records, where the various collections might be united under one roof, and there be arranged and classified by learned men. The first stone of a magnificent Gothic building was therefore laid by Lord Romilly on 24th May, 1851, and slowly and surely, in the Anglo-Saxon manner, the walls grew till, in the summer of 1866, all the new Search Offices were formally opened, to the great convenience of all students of records. The architect, Sir James Pennethorne, has produced a stately building, useful for its purpose, but not very remarkable for picturesque light and shade, and tame, as all imitations of bygone ages, adapted for bygone uses, must ever be. The number of records stored within this building can only be reckoned by "hundreds of millions." These are Sir Thomas Duffus Hardy's own words. There, in cramped bundles and rolls, dusty as papyri, lie charters and official notices that once made mailed knights tremble and proud priests shake in their sandals. Now—the magic gone, the words powerless—they lie in their several binns in strange companionship. Many years will elapse before all these records of State and Government documents can be classified; but the small staff is industrious, Sir Thomas Hardy is working, and in time the Augean stable of crabbed writings will be cleansed and ranged in order. The useful and accurate calendars of Everett Green, John Bruce, &c., are books of reference invaluable to historical students; and the old chronicles published by order of Lord Romilly, so long Master of the Rolls and Keeper of the Records, are most useful mines for the Froudes and Freemans of the future. In time it is hoped that all the episcopal records of England will be gathered together in this great treasurehouse, and that many of our English noblemen will imitate the patriotic generosity of Lord Shaftesbury, in contributing their family papers to the same Gaza in Fetter Lane. Under the concentrated gaze of learned eyes, family papers (valueless and almost unintelligible to their original possessors), often reveal very curious and important facts. Mere lumber in the manor-house, fit only for the butterman, sometimes turns to leaves of gold when submitted to such microscopic analysis. It was such a gift that led to the discovery of the Locke papers among the records of the nobleman above mentioned. The pleasant rooms of the Record Office are open to all applicants; nor is any reference or troublesome preliminary form required from those wishing to consult Court rolls or State papers over twenty years old. Among other priceless treasures the Record Office contains the original, uninjured, Domesday Book, compiled by order of William, the conqueror of England. It is written in a beautiful clerkly hand in close fine character, and is in a perfect state of preservation. It is in two volumes, the covers of which are cut with due economy from the same skin of parchment. Bound in massive board covers, and kept with religious care under glass cases, the precious volumes seem indeed likely to last to the very break of doom. It is curious to remark that London only occupies some three or four pages. There is also preserved the original Papal Bull sent to Henry VIII., with a golden seal attached to it, the work of Benvenuto Cellini. The same collection contains the celebrated Treaty of the Field of the Cloth of Gold, the initial portrait of Francis I. being beautifully illuminated and the vellum volume adorned by an exquisite gold seal, in the finest relievo, also by Benvenuto Cellini. The figures in this seal are so perfect in their finish, that even the knee-cap of one of the nymphs is shaped with the strictest anatomical accuracy. The visitor should also see the interesting Inventory Books relating to the foundation of Henry VII.'s chapel.
The national records were formerly bundled up any how in the Rolls Chapel, the White Tower, the Chapter House, Westminster Abbey, Carlton Ride in St. James's Park, the State Paper Office, and the Prerogative Will Office. No one knew where anything was. They were unnoticed—mere dusty lumber, in fact—useless to men or printers' devils. Hot-headed Hugh Peters, during the Commonwealth, had, in his hatred of royalty, proposed to make one great heap of them and burn them up in Smithfield. In that way he hoped to clear the ground of many mischievous traditions. This desperate act of Communism that tough-headed old lawyer, Prynne, opposed tooth and nail. In 1656 he wrote a pamphlet, which he called "A Short Demurrer against Cromwell's Project of Recalling the Jews from their Banishment," and in this work he very nobly epitomizes the value of these treasures; indeed, there could not be found a more lucid syllabus of the contents of the present Record Office than Prynne has there set forth.
Dryden and Otway were contemporaries, and
lived, it is said, for some time opposite to each other
in Fetter Lane. One morning the latter happened
to call upon his brother bard about breakfasttime, but was told by the servant that his master
was gone to breakfast with the Earl of Pembroke.
"Very well," said Otway, "tell your master that I
will call to-morrow morning." Accordingly he
called about the same hour. "Well, is your master
at home now ?" "No, sir; he is just gone to
breakfast with the Duke of Buckingham." "The
d—he is," said Otway, and, actuated either by
envy, pride, or disappointment, in a kind of involuntary manner, he took up a piece of chalk which
lay on a table which stood upon the landing-place,
near Dryden's chamber, and wrote over the door,—
"Here lives Dryden, a poet and a wit."
The next morning, at breakfast, Dryden recognised
the handwriting, and told the servant to go to
Otway and desire his company to breakfast with
him. In the meantime, to Otway's line of
"Here lives Dryden, a poet and a wit," he added,—
"This was written by Otway, opposite.
When Otway arrived he saw that his line was linked with a rhyme, and being a man of rather petulant disposition, he took it in dudgeon, and, turning upon his heel, told Dryden "that he was welcome to keep his wit and his breakfast to himself."
A curious old book, a vade mecum for malt worms,
temp. George I., thus immortalises the patriotism
of a tavern-keeper in Fetter Lane:—
"Though there are some who, with invidious look,
Have styl'd this bird more like a Russian duck
Than what he stands depicted for on sign,
He proves he well has croaked for prey within,
From massy tankards, formed of silver plate,
That walk throughout this noted house in state,
Ever since Englesfield, in Anna's reign,
To compliment each fortunate campaign,
Made one be hammered out for ev'ry lown was ta'en."