Old and New London: Volume 3. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.
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The Situation and Etymology of Soho—Historical Reminiscences—Newport Market—French Refugees—Gerrard Street—The Toxophilite Society—Dryden's House—Edmund Burke—The "Turk's Head" Tavern, and the Literary Club—The "Literary Society"—Macclesfield or Gerard House—The Prince of Wales's Shooting-ground—L'Hôtel de l'Étoile—St. Anne's Church—The Burial-place of Lord Camelford—Vicissitudes of the King of Corsica—The Parish Watch-house and "Sir Harry Dimsdale."
It has been often remarked—but at the same time, we think, not altogether truthfully—that the past history and character of London cannot be read—like that of Paris, Rome, or Athens—from the appearance of its public buildings and principal thoroughfares. Thus, for instance, Mr. T. Raikes says, in his "Journal," in 1844—"What a difference there is between Paris and London! You may walk through the latter from Hyde Park Corner to Wapping, and, with the exception of a few old churches, the Tower, and the Monument, you see nothing that calls to mind the ancient history of the country. In Paris every street is a memoria technica of some anecdote in former times. The one is all poetry, the other is all prose. The Faubourg St. Honoré is now become the residence of the aristocracy in Paris. It is what the Quai des Tournelles and the Quai d'Anjou were in the times of Charles IX., Henri III., and Henri IV.; what the Palais Royal and the Marais were in the times of Louis XIII. and Louis XIV.; what the Faubourg St. Germain was in the times of Louis XV., XVI., and the Restoration. These different migrations of the nobility have left in their former quarters the traces of past splendour, which time has hitherto respected, but which the barbarism of the present age is eager to destroy. One exception to this feeling may be cited. The beautiful old Hôtel Lambert, in the Rue St. Louis, which I visited with Glengall a few years ago, has been purchased by Prince Czartoryski, who has repaired and restored it to its original freshness. Liberty and equality are fine words, but they will leave no monuments behind them, except railroads, barracks, and model prisons."
But, at all events, there is one portion of our metropolis to which this remark will not apply; for we fancy that no city in Europe can more thoroughly tell the story of its own past history, than can Soho testify to the glories of other days, which still surround its decaying and decayed houses as with a halo.
The name Soho, as it is uncertain in its derivation, so also is it loosely applicable to a neighbourhood which it would be impossible to define accurately. It is enough to describe it roughly as lying between St. Martin's and St. Giles'-in-theFields, Leicester Square and Oxford Street; but its limits on the western side are very vague. It lies mostly in the district of St. Anne's, which was formed out of the parish of St. Martin's-in-theFields, towards the end of the seventeenth century. Pegge mentions the tradition that the name of "Soho"—the watchword at the battle of Sedgemoor, in 1685—was given to a "square" that at that time existed here, called King's Square, in memory of the Duke of Monmouth, whose mansion was upon the south side. Mr. Peter Cunningham, however, negatives this assertion, for he tells us that he has found the name of "Soho" in the rate-books of St. Martin's parish as early as the year 1632. At any rate, people were described as living at the "brick kilns near Soho" as far back as 1636—nearly half a century before the famous battle of Sedgemoor.
"The ruthless head of historical truth," says a writer in the Saturday Review, "has of late years demolished many pretty stories, and has not spared the favourite legend of Soho. In the happy days when we believed in the immaculate purity of Anne Boleyn, when we derived Charing Cross from the chère reine, when we attributed the razing of Fotheringay to the filial piety of King James, and had a child-like faith generally in the honour and virtue of crowned heads, there were many tales to be repeated as constantly appropriate to the certain localities. Among them, and involving a singular perversion of facts, is the popular account of the name of this district. 'Soho' was the Duke of Monmouth's watchword at Sedgemoor, and was applied by his party to the square in which his town-house stood. So ran the tale. There is a sediment of truth in it. The Duke did live in a house on the south side of what was then called King's Square, and his memory was long cherished in that district and elsewhere. But the district was then called, as it is called still, 'Soho,' and King's Square was then, as it is still, in 'Soho.' Monmouth's watchword was derived from the name of the place where his house stood, not exactly from the name of the square, for it was then called generally King's Square, or else Soho Fields, and this name had been known, as Lord Macaulay points out, at least a year before Sedgemoor, and, as he might have pointed out, at least fifty years before that again. Where the name came from is a different question. It is easy to form conjectures about it, and to say it is derived either from the footpad's slang of the sixteenth century, when the fields were lonely at night, and divers persons were robbed in them, and so forth; or else from the cry of the huntsmen in calling off the harriers in the day when all to the west of Holborn and Drury Lane was open country. This sporting derivation of the name will appear the more probable if we remember what Stow says of these parts in 1562, 'The Lord Mayor, aldermen, and many worshipful persons rode to the conduit leads … according to the old custom, and then they went and hunted a hare before dinner and killed her; and thence went to dinner at the banqueting-house at the head of the conduit, where a great number were handsomely entertained by the chamberlain. After dinner they went to hunt the fox. There was a great cry for a mile, and at length the hounds killed him at the end of St. Giles', with great hollowing and blowing of horns at his death.' In reality, however, we do not know much about the matter, and had better let it alone; while for those who like associations of the kind, it will be enough to point out that Monmouth's house stood where there is now a hospital for women, and that the narrow alley called Bateman's Buildings is on part of the site. There is still an old-world air about the place. If you dive down into the streets and lanes, you see everywhere evidences of the greatness of former occupants. If a street-door is open, there is a vision of carved oak-panelling, of fretted ceilings, of frescoed walls, of inlaid floors. Squalid as are some of the tenements, their inhabitants do not need to dream that they dwell in marble halls."
"Once on a time," continues the same writer, "even Seven Dials was fashionable; and is not a king buried in St. Anne's? for one Wright, an oilman in Compton Street, had the body of Theodore of Corsica interred at his own expense, and Horace Walpole pointed the moral of the poor Fleet prisoner's tale in his well-known epitaph. Here and there, at the corners, a little bit of the quaint style now in vogue as Queen Anne's allures the unwary passenger into a noisome alley, and Soho can boast of fully as many smells as Cologne. The paradoxes, in which facts and statistics are so often connected, may receive another example from this densely populated and still more densely perfumed region, for it has been found that children survive the struggles of infancy better in Soho than in many a high and airy country parish. Paintings by Sir James Thornhill and Angelica Kauffmann are to be seen in some of the houses. Modern castiron railings may stand abashed before the finelywrought work which encloses some of the filthiest areas. There are mantelpieces in marble, heavy with Corinthian columns, and elaborate entablatures in many an upper chamber let at so much a week. Visitors to the House of Mercy at the corner of Greek Street have an uncovenanted reward for their charity in seeing how the great Alderman Beckford was lodged when he did not make the speech now inscribed on his monument in Guildhall. Art still reigns in the house opposite, where the Royal Academy held its infant meetings; and it was close by, at the corner of Compton Street, that Johnson and Boswell, Reynolds and Burke, kept their literary evenings, and were derided by Goldsmith. The more purely scientific associations of the place are almost equally remarkable. In the south-west of the square, in the corner near Frith Street, Sir Joseph Banks and Mr. Payne Knight successively flourished, and the Linnæan Society had here its head-quarters before it was promoted to Burlington House. Since the whole of Soho was more or less fashionable, it is nothing remarkable to find Evelyn and Burnet and Dryden residing within its bounds; but there is some interest in the lying in state there of Sir Cloudesley Shovel, when his body, recovered from the sea at Scilly, was on its way to Westminster Abbey. No doubt an effigy surmounted the pall, and the illustrious foundling appeared in the Roman armour and the full-bottomed wig in which he reposes upon his monument. Half the sites of the curious scenes in Soho, half the residences of historical characters have, however, been left without identification. When the Society of Arts began some years ago to follow the French example, and to place little tablets on the houses in which great men lived or died, they did well; but of late, for some years, they have slackened their efforts, and the whole district deserves and still needs the signs of their activity. If they are not disposed to carry on the task, they should formally give it up. Here and there among the narrow streets and the crowded passages a shield of arms attached to the front of a house marks the former residence of a great noble, or the name of a corner suggests the scene of some great event; but for the most part the labyrinth is unexplored, and the sites are forgotten or altogether unknown."
In "Burns' Handbook of the Season," Soho is described as "an industrial district characterised by several special features of its own. The principal peculiarity which is most likely to arrest the attention of a stranger here is the display of antique furniture and archæological subjects to be seen in the warehouses of manufacturers, and in the Dryasdust-looking curiosity shops. It is worthy of notice that ancient furniture can be manufactured in this locality, of any age, from the tenth century to the nineteenth, and in all manner of styles, from the clumsy Dutch to those in fashion in the reign of Louis XIV. The curiosity shops in Soho are the means of drawing round them numbers of gentlemen, who are continually fishing for relics of a bygone age. Many men with mediæval idiosyncracies have added to their stock of archæological stores from this antiquarian storehouse of modernmade furniture. Soho is also the emporium of musical-instrument makers; the square is full of pianoforte manufacturers: these lyres find their way into all parts of the civilised world, and tune the minds of millions of the human family to joy and sadness. This district is also a principal rendezvous for foreigners in London, many of whom here ply their avocations as artists and mechanics."
Although, as compared with Belgravia and Tyburnia, the district known as Soho may be called old, yet it has about it none of the poetry of a venerable antiquity. It is a dull, dingy, and dreary part of London, in spite of its proximity to Regent Street and Oxford Street, and it contains little that is picturesque to relieve the monotony of its appearance.
It was laid out for building in the reign of Charles II., and consists almost wholly of straight and narrow streets running at right angles to each other. In many of these streets, however, there are noble and substantial mansions, which were largely occupied by wealthy merchants and members of Parliament, and even by a few peers of the realm, down to the commencement of the present century.
Soho rejoices in a square; but that is of small dimensions and uninviting aspect; and it seems difficult to realise the fact that a century ago, when Mrs. Cornelys' masqued balls were in vogue, it was crowded night after night with the carriages of "the quality," and even of the highest ranks of the nobility; and that, so lately as the first years of her present Majesty's reign, the Duke of Marlborough occupied a residence in it during the Parliamentary session. It is now chiefly occupied by musical and medical publishers, and by other trades which do not depend much on the publicity of a thoroughfare.
We give on page 175 a rare and curious print of the square as it must have been about the year 1700. The view is that of the southern side, in the centre of which, within large iron gates and with a large square courtyard in front, stands Monmouth House. The gardens in the rear are square, and extend as far south as Compton Street; the entrance is flanked by two large houses, the only ones on that side. St. Anne's tower and spire not being built, there is nothing to break the monotony of the square and rectangular streets which cover the ground apparently nearly to Leicester Square. The statue is in the centre as now, and the enclosure is laid out after the regular Dutch type. In the original inscription to this print "Frith" Street is called "Thrift" Street, and "Greek" Street figures as "Grig" Street, while what is now Carlisle Street, running into the square from the west, rejoices in the name of "Merry Andrew" Street. The details of the square we shall give in the next chapter.
That the growth of a population and the building of houses in this neighbourhood was looked upon with no favour at Court, and that St. James's already was beginning to growl out its dislike in the direction of St. Giles's, is clear from a royal proclamation, dated in April, 1671, forbidding the erection of small cottages and other tenements in "the Windmill Fields, Dog Fields, and the fields adjoining 'So Hoe,'" on the ground that such buildings "do choak up the air of his Majesty's palaces and parks, and endanger the total loss of the waters which, by expensive conduits, are conveyed from those fields to our palace at White Hall." It is to be feared that this latter ground of alarm was not without foundation, for certainly it would be no longer possible to supply any of the royal residences with water from this neighbourhood; though Allen tells us that when the square was first laid out, "a fountain of four showers fell into a basin in the centre."
Commencing on the south side of this district, we find immediately behind Leicester Square a very remarkable neighbourhood forming part of Soho, and comprising Newport Market, where the famous orator Henley held his mock preaching. The father of Horne Tooke was a poulterer in this market, or, as he is reported to have told his schoolfellows, "a Turkey merchant." In this queer locality a number of genuine French shops are to be found much as they were during the emigration after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. Many of them are cheap cafés and restaurants, like those near "the barrier" in Paris. Most of the French refugees who came to England settled here; and in a work published in 1688, entitled the "Happy Future of England," it is noticed that they had already filled 800 of the new-built and empty houses in London. Maitland, who wrote in 1739, observes that, "Many parts of the parish abound with French, so that it is an easy matter for a stranger to fancy himself in France."
Newport Market was so named from the townhouse of the Earl of Newport, which stood close by at its north-west angle. It boasts of no attractiveness in the way of buildings, being neither more nor less than a narrow avenue of shops, occupied chiefly by butchers, the market being established for the sale of butcher's meat.
It has been more than once suggested that it would, perhaps, do much for the improvement of the western portion of the metropolis if the site of Newport Market could be used for some such purposes as a railway-station, a market for fish, poultry, &c., or for the erection of a block of Peabody buildings. The property comprised within the area of Newport Market cannot be of much value, and is something worse than an architectural blotch on the map of London.
At the back of Leicester House, as we have already seen, were extensive lawns and gardens, where now stands Lisle Street, and "several noblemen residing in Gerrard Street were allowed to have private entrances into the gardens, where there was space for three pairs of targets." In these gardens, in 1781, Sir Ashton Lever, who has already been mentioned in connection with Saville House, in conjunction with Mr. Waring and other friends, started the Toxophilite Society, of which the then Prince of Wales shortly afterwards condescended to become patron. The butts, however, not having sufficient range, the members used to hold their fête-days at Canonbury Tower, at the Artillery Ground, Finsbury, or at Highbury Barn; holding, however, convivial gatherings in the evening in their own quarters here. For about twenty years this society continued to flourish, and its meetings were well supported; but its members dwindled sadly down during the long war against Napoleon, at the end of which they numbered but twenty-five. They afterwards hired a ground at Bayswater, and in 1834 obtained their present grounds in the Regent's Park, where we shall doubtless find the society again, in full plume and feather, when we reach that place.
In Gerrard Street, on the south side, "the fifth door on the left hand, coming from Newport Street," as he tells his friend Steward in a letter, lived John Dryden. We have Pope's authority, in "Spence's Anecdotes," for the assertion that he used commonly to write in the ground-room next the street. Mr. Peter Cunningham identifies this house with that which is now No. 43, and he quotes Dryden's own dedication of "Don Sebastian" to the Earl of Leicester, in which the poet styles himself "a poor inhabitant of your lordship's garden, whose best prospect is on the garden of Leicester House." Here Dryden died in the year 1700, and here, as John Timbs tells us, took place the disgraceful interference with the poet's funeral procession by a party of drunken Mohocks, headed by Lord Jeffries. Edmund Burke, too, in 1787, was a resident in Gerrard Street, but the number of his house is not known for certain, although Mr. J. T. Smith, who was living here at the same time, says of him, "Many a time when I had no inclination to go to bed at the dawn of day, I have looked down from my window to see whether the author of 'Sublime and Beautiful' had left his drawingroom, where I had seen the great orator many a night after he had left the House of Commons, seated at a table covered with papers, attended by an amanuensis who sat opposite to him."
But Burke and Dryden are not the only literary names on which Soho can pride itself. It was at the "Turk's Head," at the corner of Greek Street and Compton Street, and afterwards in Gerrard Street, that the Literary Club—sometimes also called "The Club"—was founded in 1764 by Dr. Johnson and Sir Joshua Reynolds. The "Turk's Head" had already a reputation of its own, having been a kind of head-quarters for the Loyal Association during the Scottish rising of 1745. "The members," says Mr. Peter Cunningham, "met one evening in every week, at seven, for supper, and generally continued their conversation till a late hour." Sir John Hawkins, Burke, and Goldsmith were among its original members, the latter being admitted in spite of Sir John Hawkins' objection to "Goldy" as a mere literary drudge. At its origin it was composed, or at all events intended to be composed, of representatives of intellectual power in various lines of excellence, Goldsmith gaining admission as "naturalist," on account of his "Animated Nature," whilst Reynolds was, of course, the painter, and Gibbon the historian. In 1772 the supper was changed to a dinner, and the number of members increased from twelve to twenty. In 1783 their landlord died; the original tavern was converted into a private house, and the club removed to Sackville Street. All elections took place by ballot. Johnson himself proposed Boswell, and the last member elected in Johnson's life was Dr. Burney. It was at first called "The Club," but at Garrick's death it was styled the "Literary Club." In 1780 the number of members was raised to forty. After several migrations in the neighbourhood of Dover Street and Sackville Street, in 1799 the club took up its quarters at the "Thatched House" tavern in St. James's Street.
After alluding to a speech of that gruff and sarcastic judge, Lord Chancellor Thurlow, in which his lordship called the "Thatched House" tavern an "alehouse," Mr. Timbs says that "from the time of Garrick's death the club was known as the 'Literary Club,' since which time, however, it has certainly lost its claim to this epithet. It was originally a club of authors by profession; it now numbers few except titled members, which was very far from being the intention of its founders. The name of the club is now 'The Johnson.'" He also states, in the first volume of his "Club Life in London," that "the centenary of the club was celebrated in 1864, at the Clarendon Hotel, the Dean of St. Paul's (then Dr. Milman) being in the chair. Among the members present were—His Excellency M. Sylvain Van de Weyer; Lords Stanhope, Clarendon, Brougham, Stanley, Cranworth, Kingsdown, Hatherley, and Harry Vane; the Bishops of London (Tait) and Oxford (Wilberforce); Sir Edmund Head, Mr. Spencer Walpole, Mr. Robert Lowe, Sir Henry Holland, Sir Charles Eastlake, Sir Roderick Murchison, Dr. Whewell, Professor Owen, Mr. George Grote, Mr. C. Austin, Mr. H. Reeve, and Mr. George Richmond."
In some of these statements, however, as it would seem from information to which we have had access, and which has been placed at our disposal, Mr. Timbs is not strictly accurate. Another association, known as the "Literary Society," has for many years run a parallel course to the "Literary Club," or, as it was formerly styled, "The Club," founded by Johnson and Reynolds. Though running parallel to each other, there is no rivalry or hostility between the two; for, indeed, many distinguished persons belong to both of them. The "Literary Society" is of comparatively recent origin, and one tradition says it is due to the disappointment of one or two of its originators at their nonadmission into "The Club," where a single black ball has always excluded a candidate. Perhaps, however, the truer account of its origin may be found in the increase of men of literary, scientific, artistic, and administrative attainments of the grade of those who originally founded "The Literary Club." The latter name was not retained for long after Dr. Johnson's death, because it was too limited to express the real constitution of the association, though possibly it may be urged that the innovators may be held open to blame in choosing the present name of "The" Club, as laying claim to a singular and special excellence. There can be no doubt that generation after generation its members have been elected—not merely from among authors, but among painters, lawyers, statesmen, the only test being that of eminence in a man's own profession. In this way "The Club" has secured a series of "representative men," whose names, if given at length, would go far to justify the apparent conceit of the title. For instance, when Sir Charles Eastlake and Mr. George Richmond were chosen, it was held, no doubt, that they succeeded to the place once held in that circle by Sir Joshua Reynolds; that Grote, Hallam, and Milman were no unworthy successors of Edmund Gibbon; and possibly Professor Owen was at least as great a naturalist as Oliver Goldsmith.
"The Club" dined for many years, as stated by Mr. Timbs, at the "Thatched House" tavern, and afterwards at Grillon's, and at the "Clarendon Hotel." It may also be recorded as a matter of interest that at the centenary dinner Lord Brougham was the "father of the club," and that he came all the way from the south of France in order to be present on the occasion. Mr. John Timbs gives a list of seven absentees from that dinner, including Lords Russell and Carlisle; but one of the members who dined on that day at the "Clarendon" tells us expressly that "it was the only meeting within his memory which included all the then members." Lord Macaulay was very desirous to hold the dinner—not at the "Clarendon," but at the old house where the club had been commenced; but this was found to be impossible.
In 1864 the secretary was Dean Milman, who took a great pride in showing to friends the books and archives of the club, including a valuable collection of autographs. Among the other memorials in the possession of the club is the portrait of Sir Joshua Reynolds with his spectacles on, which he painted with his own hand and presented to the society, and which is well known by an engraving.
The "Literary Society," the other association, dates, as we have said, from a far more recent period. Among its members we find the names of the Right Hon. Spencer H. Walpole (president), Lords Coleridge, Chelmsford, Dufferin, Houghton, Lawrence, Cairns, Stratford de Redcliffe, and Selborne; the Archbishop of York and the Bishop of Peterborough; the Dean of Westminster and Professor Partridge; Generals Sir Edward Sabine, Sir William Boxall, Sir Henry Rawlinson, Sir William Erle, Sir James W. Colvile, Sir John W. Lubbock, and Sir Travers Twiss; Mr. George Richmond, Mr. Henry Reeve, Mr. Gathorne Hardy, Colonel Hamley, Captain Douglas Galton, the Right Hon. William Massey, Mr. Charles T. Newton, Mr. J. A. Froude, Rear-Admiral Sherard Osborn, Mr. Kirkman D. Hodgson, and Mr. Matthew Arnold. It may be added that the "Literary Society" meets for dinner once a month on Mondays, at half-past seven, during the season, at Willis's Rooms, from November to July inclusive.
"Of the Literary Club," says Mrs. Piozzi, in her "Johnsoniana," "I have heard Dr. Johnson speak in the highest terms, and with a magnificent panegyric on each member, when it consisted of only a dozen or fourteen friends; but as soon as the necessity of enlarging it brought in new faces, and took off from his confidence in the company, he grew less fond of the meeting, and loudly proclaimed his carelessness as to who might be admitted, when it was become a mere dinner-club."
It was at the "Turk's Head," too, that a Society of Artists met in May, 1753; and another society, numbering among its members West, Chambers, Wilton, Sandby, and others, who, from the "Turk's Head," petitioned George III. to bestow his patronage on a Royal Academy of Art.
In Gerrard Street, just opposite to Macclesfield Street, looking northwards directly up it, stands Macclesfield or Gerard House, the residence formerly of Charles, first Lord Gerard, and afterwards first Earl of Macclesfield. It is a poor, dulllooking structure, and still stands much as it did when first built, about 1680. It was afterwards tenanted by Lord Mohun, the duellist, and also by Lord Lyttelton. The house is now a lamp manufacturer's warehouse. It still retains many traces of its former magnificence, in the fine ceilings with carved cornices, mantelpieces, and one of the noblest staircases to be seen in London, down which gay ladies swept with their long trains in the days of my Lords Macclesfield and of the gay and profligate Lord Mohun.
The neighbourhood of Gerrard and Macclesfield Streets, as appears from a MS. in the British Museum, was originally an enclosure of ground made by Henry Prince of Wales, elder brother of Charles I., for the purpose of "the exercise of arms." Here, it appears, he built a house, which was standing at the Restoration; and the site afterwards passed, probably by purchase, into the hands of Lord Gerard, who let out the ground around him on building leases.
The house in Windmill Street in which the Museum of John Hunter was formed and located before it was transferred to Leicester Square, is now a foreign restaurant and dining hall, rejoicing in the name of L'Hôtel de l'Étoile.
We learn that as the parish of St. Martin's grew more and more populous, fresh streets being built to the north and west, the inhabitants of the newlybuilt district applied to the bishop and the legislature, by whose joint action a site of land in "Kemp's Field," as it then was called, was granted, though not without difficulty. In 1673, soon after the erection of the new church, it was made into a separate parish, a district cut off from St. Martin's being assigned to it. It was then "discharged from all manner of dependence on the mother church, and ordered to be called the parish church of St. Anne, within the liberty of Westminster." As. however, there was but a slender endowment, and no provision had been made for the completion of the tower and steeple, or for building a rectory house, commissioners were appointed to carry out this work; and in March, 1685, the church was consecrated by Dr. Compton, Bishop of London, "and dedicated," says Allen, "to 'the Mother of the Blessed Virgin.'" The parish commences at the eastern end of Oxford Street, including Soho Square and all the south side of Oxford Street as far as Wardour Street. Its eastern boundary is formed by Crown Street and West Street, and it extends southwards to about the centre of Leicester Square.
Contrary to the usual custom, the chief front of this church is not to the west, but to the east, abutting on Macclesfield Street. It is a fair specimen internally of the classical style of the period, and calls for little remark or detail; but its spire may safely be said to rival that of St. George's, Bloomsbury, in ugliness. The name of the architect was Hakewill.
"The church was dedicated to St. Anne," says Allen, "out of compliment to the Princess Anne of Denmark. It is said to have been surmounted at first by a steeple of Danish architecture, which was 'the only specimen of the kind in London.'" But what the Danish style of art may have been in the early part of the eighteenth century, we are not informed.
In the vaults beneath this church is buried the eccentric and unhappy Lord Camelford, who fell in a duel which he fought at Kensington, in the year 1804. He was the only son of Thomas, first Lord Camelford, and was born in 1775. "This young nobleman," says his biographer in the Gentleman's Magazine, "was not only inclined to the more enlightened pursuits of literature, but his chemical researches, and his talents as a seaman, were worthy of the highest admiration. His lordship had an idea that his antagonist (Captain Best) was the best shot in England, and he was therefore extremely fearful lest his reputation should suffer, if he made any concession, however slight, to such a person."
It was Lord Camelford's eccentric wish, and, indeed, it was commanded by him in his will, that he should be buried in a lonely spot on an island in a lake in Switzerland; but dying at the time when he fell, while the European war was raging, it was impossible for his executors to carry out his instructions at the time; and when the peace came, in 1815, he had been too long in his grave for his wishes to be remembered. So his body still lies in a gorgeous coffin, surmounted with his coronet, in the vaults under St. Anne's Church, which have for many years been sealed down and closed.
Among those who lie buried here is the Lady Grace Pierrepont, daughter of the Marquis of Dorchester. A letter published by Sir Henry Ellis in 1686 speaks of the Countess of Dorchester, Sedley's daughter, as furnishing a fine house in St. James's Square, and having just taken a seat (sitting) in the "newly-consecrated St. Anne's Church."
The church also contains the remains of royalty
of a certain kind—namely, of a king of Corsica,
whose unhappy career and end has been told by
Sir Bernard Burke, in his "Vicissitudes of Families;" and before him by Horace Walpole and by
Boswell. A tablet in the churchyard to his
memory bears the following inscription:—
"Near this place is interred Theodore, King of Corsica, who died in this parish, December 11th, 1756, immediately after leaving the King's Bench Prison by the benefit of the Act of Insolvency; in consequence of which he registered his kingdom of Corsica for the benefit of his creditors.
The grave, great teacher, to a level brings
Heroes and beggars, galley-slaves and kings;
But Theodore this moral learn'd ere dead;
Fate pour'd its lesson on his living head—
Bestow'd a kingdom and denied him bread."
It may interest our readers to know that this fallen monarch was buried at the cost of a small tradesman who had known him in the days of his prosperity, and that the tablet above-mentioned was erected by Horace Walpole, who also wrote the epitaph quoted above.
The King of Corsica was Stephen Theodore, Baron Neuhof of Prussia, and was born at Metz, in 1696. Mr. Cunningham styles him "an adventurer," and certainly in assuming royalty here he went a step further than most other pretenders. He was educated in France, under the care of the Duchess of Orleans. He entered the service of Charles XII. of Sweden, when his name and the distressed state of Corsica induced the inhabitants of the latter island to ask his protection, and in return to offer him their crown. In March, 1736, we are told, he arrived at Aleria in a ship, with two others very richly laden with provisions and ammunition. He was conducted to Corsica, and was elected king amid the acclamations of the people, and was crowned as Theodore I. At this time the Corsicans were in a state of comparative barbarism. Theodore coined money, and maintained an army of 15,000 men at his own cost. The Genoese, in envy and jealousy, published a manifesto filled with falsehoods, and set a price on his head. Finding his life attempted by his own people, he called an assembly, and made them a short speech, which so affected them that they called him their saviour and king. In 1743 he issued a "declaration" calling back to that island all Corsicans in foreign service, under the penalty of confiscation of their estates. His money being now exhausted, he was obliged to seek foreign succour, conferring the regency in his absence on twenty-eight of the nobles. Theodore now went from place to place begging assistance, and in constant fear of assassination. The English sent him to their fleet in the Mediterranean, instructing their admiral to re-establish him on his throne. The admiral, however, told Theodore that the Corsicans meant to oppose his landing. It appears that he was now, in his helpless condition, made the victim of foul play, for on returning soon after to London, money was lent to him by a scheme of the Genoese minister; for this debt he was arrested and sent to prison.
He was arrested by a ruse. He lived in a privileged place—probably the Sanctuary at Westminster—and his creditors seized him by making him believe that Lord Grenville wanted to see him on business of importance; he bit at the bait, thinking that he was to be reinstated at once. We may mention that while in England King Theodore distinguished himself, like his humble successor, the soi-disant Duc de Roussillon, by his fondness for the fair sex. He fell in love with Lady Lucy Stanhope, sister of the second earl, and even made her an offer of marriage; and another lady, a widow, he all but persuaded to share his shadowy crown.
Horace Walpole wrote a paper in the World, as he tells us, in order to promote a subscription for King Theodore during his imprisonment. His Majesty's character, however, as Walpole tells us, was so bad, that the sum raised was only fifty pounds; but "though it was much above his deserts, it was so much below his expectation that he sent a solicitor to threaten the printer with a prosecution for having taken so much liberty with his name; and that, too, after he had accepted the money." Well may Horace Walpole add, "I have done with countenancing kings."
The story of his actual death is thus related by the gossiping pen of Horace Walpole, who met him at several parties in London in 1749:—"King Theodore recovered his liberty only by giving up his effects to his creditors under the Act of Insolvency; all the 'effects,' however, that he had to give up were his right, such as it was, to the throne of Corsica, which was registered accordingly in due form for the benefit of his creditors. As soon as Theodore was at liberty, he took a (sedan) chair and went to the Portuguese minister; but not finding him at home, and not having a sixpence to pay, he desired the chairmen to carry him to a tailor in Soho, whom he prevailed upon to harbour him; but he fell sick the next day, and died in three more."
In the church or churchyard also lie Mr. William Hamilton, a Royal Academician of the last century; Sir John Macpherson; Mr. David Williams, who deserves to be remembered as the founder of the Literary Club; and William Hazlitt, the critic and essayist, over whom the grave closed in 1830.
Adjoining the south-east angle of St. Anne's Church is the parish mortuary. This building was formerly the "watch-house" in the days of the old "Charleys;" and here George Prince of Wales, in his youthful days, was more than once confronted with the ministers of parochial authority, on account of his share in some midnight brawl, but allowed to depart on unbuttoning his coat and showing the "star" on his breast beneath, whilst less well-born marauders were detained, to be brought before the "beak" the next day. Mr. J. T. Smith tells the following amusing anecdote concerning a scene witnessed by him at St. Anne's watch-house during one of those nocturnal rambles he occasionally indulged in whilst lodging in Gerrard Street:—
"Sir Harry Dinsdale, usually called Dimsdale, a short, feeble little man, was brought in to St. Anne's Watch-house, charged by two colossal guardians of the night with conduct most unruly. 'What have you, Sir Harry, to say to all this?' asked the Dogberry of St. Anne. The knight, who had been roughly handled, commenced like a true orator, in a low tone of voice, 'May it please ye, my magistrate, I am not drunk; it is languor. A parcel of the bloods of the Garden have treated me cruelly, because I would not treat them. This day, sir, I was sent for by Mr. Sheridan to make my speech upon the table at the Shakespeare Tavern, in Common Garden; he wrote the speech for me, and always gives me half-a-guinea when he sends for me to the tavern. You see I didn't go in my royal robes; I only put'um on when I stand to be member.' Constable: 'Well, but, Sir Harry, why are you brought here?' One of the watchmen then observed, 'That though Sir Harry was but a little shambling fellow, he was so upstroppolus, and kicked him about at such a rate, that it was as much as he and his comrade could do to bring him along.' As there was no one to support the charge, Sir Harry was advised to go home, which, however, he swore he would not do at midnight without an escort. 'Do you know,' said he, 'there's a parcel of raps now on the outside waiting for me.' The constable of the night gave orders for him to be protected to the public-house opposite the west end of St. Giles's Church, where he then lodged. Sir Harry, hearing a noise in the street, muttered, 'I shall catch it; I know I shall.' 'See the conquering hero comes' (cries without). 'Ay, they always use that tune when I gain my election at Garrett.' "
"Sir Harry Dimsdale," remarks Mr. J. T. Smith,
"first came into notice on the death of 'Sir Geoffrey
Dunstan,' a dealer in old wigs, who had been for
many years returned 'member for Garrett,' on his
becoming a candidate. He received mock knighthood, and was ever after known as 'Sir Harry.'"
He exercised the itinerant trade of a muffin-man,
in the afternoon; he had a little bell, which he
held to his ear, smiling ironically at its tingling.
His cry was—
"Muffins! muffins! ladies, come buy me! pretty, handsome, blooming, smiling maids."
Flaxman, the sculptor, and Mrs. Mathews, of bluestocking memory, equipped him as a hardwareman, and as such Mr. J. T. Smith made two etchings of him.
This parish has one point in which it differed two centuries ago, and to a great extent still differs, from the surrounding districts. To use the words of the "London Spy," in 1725, "King Charles II., of pious memory, was a great benefactor to this parish; for soon after the Plague of London he re-peopled it with ten thousand Protestant families from abroad, who prov'd the most implacable enemies the late French king ever had." The same satirist draws an amusing picture, evidently from life, of one of the "shabby-genteel" households of Soho in his day, where a shopkeeper maintained himself, his wife, and a grown-up daughter, on a limited income. He says, "They were extraordinary economists; brewed their own beer, washed at home; made a joint hold out two days, and a shift three; let three parts of their house ready furnished; and kept paying one quarter's rent under another. . . . . The worst the world could say of them was that they liv'd above what they had; that the daughter was as proud a slut as ever clapp'd clog on shoe-leather; and that they entertained lodgers who were no better than they should be." What a picture Charles Dickens could have called up out of this description!