Old and New London: Volume 6. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.
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Earliest Historical Records of Chiswick—Sutton Manor—Chiswick Eyot—The Parish Church—Holland, the Actor—Ugo Foscolo—De Loutherbourg—Kent, the Father of Modern Gardening—Sharp, the Engraver—Lady Thornhill—Hogarth's Monument—A Curious Inscription—Extracts from the Churchwardens' Books—Hogarth's House—Hogarth's Chair—The "Griffin" Brewery—Chiswick Mall—The "Red Lion"—The "White Bear and Whetstone"—The College House—Whittingham's Printing-press—Barbara, Duchess of Cleveland—Dr. Rose and Dr. Ralph—Edward Moore, the Journalist—Alexander Pope's Residence—The Old Manor House—Turnham Green—Encampment of the Parliamentarians during the Civil Wars—The Old "Pack Horse" Inn—The Chiswick Nursery—Chiswick House—Description of the Gardens—The Pictures and Articles of Vertu—Royal Visits—Death of Charles James Fox and George Canning—Garden Parties—Corney House—Sir Stephen Fox's House—The Gardens of the Royal Horticultural Society.
It is curious to note how the gradual—or, we might perhaps say, rapid—extension of the metropolis is affecting the once out-lying towns and villages in its immediate vicinity on both sides of the river. Many places, indeed, as we have already seen, such as Paddington and Bayswater, Stoke Newington and Hackney, Clapham and Camberwell, have already become entirely absorbed into the gigantic city; whilst others are so rapidly increasing in size that they, too, will soon lose all signs of a separate existence. Chiswick, which lies on the bend of the river between Turnham Green and Brentford, still retains many of its rural charms, although their effacement by the hand of the builder may be perhaps but the work of a few years. To a certain extent, however, this progress is apparent even so far west as Chiswick, which we design to form the limit of our journeyings in this direction.
Chiswick is not found in Doomsday-Book, but it is mentioned in the various records of Henry III. by the name of "Chesewicke." According to the Saxon Chronicle, a battle was fought between Chiswick and Turnham Green between Edmund Ironside and the Danes, who were bent on attacking London, approaching it by the Roman road across the "Back Common," as it is now called, but which was the only entrance to the metropolis from the west, the present western road dating no further back than about the eighteenth, or perhaps the close of the seventeenth century. A presumed proof of the antiquity of this road across the "Back Common" is to be found in the urn containing Roman coins dug up in situ in the year 1731, concerning which discovery we shall have more to say presently. With this single fact we must be content with regard to the early history of Chiswick, till we come to the reign of Henry II., when the Doomsday-Book of St. Paul's, in an Inquisition into the manor and churches belonging to the metropolitan cathedral, alludes to the "status Ecclesiæ de Sutton"—Sutton, i.e., South Town, being the popular name for that part of Chiswick which lay between Turnham Green and the river Thames.
In this document we find an account of the glebe, titles, and pension payable to the vicar; and it is worthy of note that now, after the lapse of nearly seven hundred years, there is still paid to the vicar by the Chapter of St. Paul's a "pension" of thirteen shillings annually, and another of two shillings to the chapter by the vicar. From another inquisition, dated 1222, we learn that the then "Firmarius" of the Manor had made a collection of Peter's pence; but, it is added, "sibi retinet," he keeps it for himself. If this "Firmarius" was, as is suspected, a member of the Chapter of London, his act was a "robbing of Peter to pay Paul," and possibly may have given rise to the saying.
The same source of information tells us that at "Sutton" there was a "parva capella" attached to the manor-house; and as the population in this part has very much increased of late years, a new church has been erected recently, almost on the site of the former fabric.
In 1570, Gabriel Goodman, Prebendary of St. Paul's, becoming Dean of Westminster, "diverted" the manor of Chiswick from the cathedral to the abbey. It was perhaps in consequence of the new tie thus springing up that a "Pest House" was built on Chiswick Mall for the use of the Westminster scholars. It was a plain and substantial building, comprising a house, dormitory, and school; and it is a matter of history that during the time of the great plague the school or "College of St. Peter's" at Westminster was carried on at Chiswick by Dr. Busby without interruption to the regular studies. The Pest House was pulled down only a few years ago, and its site is now covered by modern villas. During the demolition of this building it was discovered that some of its walls were as old as the thirteenth century. But we are anticipating.
If Chiswick is approached by way of the Thames, but little of it is seen, as it lies opposite a small island of osiers—called Chiswick Ait or Eyot—which nearly hides it from public view. Thus the steamers rather avoid the place, and all that can be seen of it is perhaps the spire of the old church and one or two of the pleasant houses in the Mall, which runs along the river's bank, almost a continuation of that of Hammersmith, mentioned in the preceding chapter. The visitor to Chiswick, approaching by land, may find it rather an out-ofthe-way place. It is true that part of it, Turnham Green, on the north side, lies on the high road at the western end of Hammersmith, but Chiswick proper lies off the high road and nearer the river, and it is only by walking that one can get at the place; but the walk thither will be well repaid for the trouble taken in accomplishing it. Whatever alterations may pass over this once pretty village, it will always be a spot that the student of English history and English manners will regard with a fair amount of interest, for the sake of several men of mark who have lived or died in its neighbourhood.
The parish church stands near the river, and is dedicated to St. Nicholas, the patron saint of fishermen, who, at the time of its erection, as now, formed the majority of the parishioners. The present structure, though adorned with a handsome tower, is disfigured by a fair share of the deformities of the architecture of the eighteenth century, and in other respects is quite in harmony with its sister edifices which grace—or disgrace—the valley of the Thames between London and Windsor. It consisted originally of only a nave and chancel, and was built about the beginning of the fifteenth century, at which time the tower was erected at the charge and cost of William Bordal, vicar of the parish, who died in 1435. The tower is built of stone and flint, as was originally the north wall of the church. Some aisles or transepts of brick, in the hideous style of the Georgian era, just out on either side, one of them bearing the ominous date of 1772, and the other of 1817. These excrescences were first erected in the shape of transepts; but as the population increased, and more space was needed, they were extended westward, and, so far as they can be described at all, ought perhaps to be termed aisles by courtesy. Recently some improvements and partial restorations have been made in the interior: the pews have given place to low open benches, an organ-chamber has been erected, the west window opened, and the chancel rebuilt and decorated in true ecclesiastical taste, and a new memorial east window inserted. Still, the inside of the nave is a most barn-like structure; and a modern roof, which not many years ago replaced the original handsome open timber-roof of the pre-Reformation era, looks heavy and cumbrous to a degree.
Taking a general view of the interior of the church, we may say that, with the single exception of Bath Abbey, we never saw a sacred edifice whose walls are more hideously disfigured with "pedimental blotches," in the shape of marble mural monuments. These are of every date, from the fine classical piece of sculpture which commemorates one of the Chaloners of Elizabeth's reign—Sir Thomas Chaloner, a distinguished chemist, in the boldest possible relief, and the more modest and retiring tablet which, adorned with a pile of Bibles on either side, records the virtues of the wife of Dr. Walker, a Puritan minister during the Commonwealth, who signalised his incumbency by the first enlargement of the church, and by substituting the "Directory" for the Prayer-book—down to the present century. Among them are monuments to such a cloud of peers and peeresses and honourables, as ought to gladden the heart of "Garter" or "Ulster" himself. There is one to a Duchess of Somerset; another to one of the Burlingtons; three or four to the relatives of Sir Robert Walpole, all titled individuals; and another, very handsome of its kind, to one of Nature's gentlemen, Thomas Bentley, the able and public-spirited partner of Josiah Wedgwood, who resided in the parish, and whose virtues it commemorates. Bentley lived in a large and substantial mansion in the high road leading from Hammersmith to Turnham Green, now (or lately) occupied by Mr. Vaughan Morgan. The bas-reliefs, of which he speaks so often in his correspondence with Wedgwood, still grace the walls of the house, which (if we except a few additions) is much in the same state as when owned by Bentley.
Garrick erected the monument in the chancel to his friend Charles Holland, the actor, who died at Chiswick House; and he also wrote the inscription. Charles Holland was the son of John Holland, a baker of Chiswick, where he was baptised April 3rd, 1733. He was apprenticed to a turpentine merchant; but strongly imbued with a predilection for the stage, and praised for the display of that talent in his private circle, he applied to Garrick, who gave him good encouragement, but advised him "punctually to fulfil his engagement with his master, and should he then find his passion for the theatre unabated, to apply to him again." This advice he followed; and under Garrick's auspices made his début at Drury Lane Theatre, in 1754, in the part of Oronooko. He distinguished himself principally in the characters of Richard III., Hamlet, Pierre, Timur in "Zingis," and Manley in "The Plain Dealer." Holland was a zealous admirer and follower of Garrick; and, as a player, continued to advance in reputation. His last performance was the part of Prospero, in Shakespeare's "Tempest," November 20th, 1769; and he died of the smallpox on December 7th following. His body was deposited in the family vault in Chiswick churchyard on the 15th of the same month; and his funeral was attended by most of the performers belonging to Drury Lane Theatre.
"If Talents to make entertainment instruction, to support the credit of the Stage by just and manly Action; If to adorn Society by Virtues which would honour any Rank and Profession, deserve remembrance: Let Him with whom these Talents were long exerted, To whom these Virtues were well known, And by whom the loss of them will be long lamented, bear Testimony to the Worth and Abilities of his departed friend Charles Holland, who was born March 12th, 1733, dy'd December 7th, 1769, and was buried near this place. D. Garrick."
Among the other parishioners buried in the church are several members of an old Berkshire family, the Barkers, whose name is still kept in memory by "Barker's Rails," opposite Mortlake: a place well known to all oarsmen as the goal of the University boat-races.
The tower contains a peal of five bells. The curfew was rung every evening at Chiswick as recently as twenty years ago, when it was discontinued through the parsimony of the parishioners. The vestrymen of Chiswick appear to have shown either extreme precaution or else extremely aristocratic tendencies; for in 1817 (as we are told by a tablet on the wall of the church) they passed a resolution that henceforth no corpse should be interred in the vaults beneath the church unless buried in lead.
Chiswick churchyard holds the ashes of more than a fair sprinkling of those whose names have been inscribed on the roll of the Muses, or have achieved or inherited names illustrious in history. Space will permit us to speak of only a few. Here, then, lies the third daughter of the Protector, Oliver Cromwell, Mary, Countess of Fauconberg. She was married at Hampton Court in 1657, and resided at Sutton Court. In person, as we learn from Noble's "Memoirs of the Cromwells," she is said to have been handsome, and yet to have resembled her father. In the decline of her life she grew sickly and pale, and after seeing all the hopes of her family cut off by her father's death, she is said to have exerted such influence as she possessed for the restoration of Monarchy. She bore the character of a pious and virtuous woman, and constantly attended divine service in Chiswick Church to the day of her death.
Here, too, were buried Lord Macartney, our
Ambassador to China, and Ugo Foscolo, the
Italian patriot. The tomb of the latter, restored
and surmounted by a fine block of Cornish granite
in 1861, at the expense of Mr. Gurney, was visited,
during his stay in England, by Garibaldi, who made
a pilgrimage to it, in company with M. Panizzi, at
an hour when few of the good people of Chiswick
were out of their beds. After reposing here for
nearly half a century, the body of Ugo Foscolo was
disinterred and conveyed to his native country, as
is duly recorded by a recent inscription on the
tomb, which is as follows:—
Died Sep. 10, 1827, aged 50.
From the sacred guardianship of Chiswick,
To the honours of Santa Croce, in Florence,
The Government and People of Italy have transported
The remains of the wearied Citizen Poet,
7th June, 1871.
This spot, where for 44 years the Relics of Ugo Foscolo Reposed in honoured Custody,
Will be for ever held in grateful Remembrance
By the Italian Nation.
Ugo Foscolo's was one of the few great names in Italian literature in the present century. He was a native of Zante, of Venetian extraction, and was educated at Padua. After some adventures in the army, he devoted himself to literature, and was remarkable for the terseness and polish of his Italian style. He had studied the finest and best writers of Greece and Italy down to those of the Middle Ages inclusively. Admiring Alfieri beyond all others, he imitated him in keeping as close as possible to the severe style of Dante. Coming to England with good introductions, he might have supported himself in comfort, had it not been for his irritable temper, which was rendered worse by pecuniary losses. He obtained the entrée of Holland House, but took a great dislike to its mistress, saying that "he should be sorry to go even to heaven with Lady Holland." He lived in lodgings in Wigmore Street, made the acquaintance of Rogers, Campbell, and the rest of the literary clique, and contributed to the Quarterly and other periodicals. He was also the author of "Fieste," "Ajax," "Ricciardo," "The Sepulchres," "The Letters of Ortis," the "Essay on Petrarch," and of many other works, the merits of which can be appreciated only by Italian scholars. He died in 1827. In the year 1871, as stated above, his remains were disinterred and carried over to his beloved Italy. Peace to his ashes! In spite of his rudeness to Lady Holland, he was in many ways one of Nature's true nobility.
Another noted individual who reposes here is Miles Corbet, the regicide, who died at the age of eighty-three. Then there is Barbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland, fairest and gayest of the fair but frail beauties of the Court of the second Charles: this lady was the daughter of William, Viscount Grandison, and wife of Roger Palmer, Earl of Castlemaine, one of the Palmers of Wingham, Kent, and of Dorney Court, Backs.
De Loutherbourg, the artist and magnetiser, of whom we have spoken in the preceding chapter; (fn. 1) and Dr. William Rose, critic and journalist, the translator of Sallust, and "a constant writer in the Monthly Review," both lie buried here. Among Dr. Rose's visitors, it appears, were many, if not most, of the literati of the day. J. J. Rousseau took lodgings in Chiswick, during his brief stay in England, in order to be near him; and there is recorded in Faulkner's "Chelsea" an anecdote of another visitor of very opposite principles, Dr. Samuel Johnson, who, as we learn from Boswell, often came to Chiswick. One day, being invited by his host to take a stroll as far as Kew Gardens, at that time in the possession, if not in the actual occupation, of Frederick, Prince of Wales, and subsequently of the Princess Dowager and family, he replied to Rose, "No, sir, I will never walk in the gardens of an usurper;" a tolerably convincing illustration, if one be needed, of the great lexicographer's Jacobite partialities being still unabated at a time when the crushing defeat of Culloden was still rankling in the minds and memories of all adherents of the exiled family.
Another distinguished man whose remains are interred here was Dr. Andrew Duck, an eminent civilian, who died at Chiswick in 1649. He was some time Chancellor of the diocese of Bath and Wells, and afterwards Chancellor of London, and subsequently Master of the Court of Requests. In 1640 he was elected member for Minehead in Somersetshire, and when the Civil War broke out he became a great sufferer for the royal cause. Among other works, Dr. Duck was the author of a book entitled "De Usu et Auctoritate Juris Civilis Romanorum."
Kent, the father of modern gardening, lies buried in the vault of the Cavendishes. He was the Paxton of the last century. Horace Walpole says of him, "As a painter, he was below mediocrity; as an architect, he was the restorer of the science; as a gardener he was thoroughly original, and the inventor of an art which realises painting, and improves nature. Mahomet imagined an elysium, but Kent created many." He frequently declared that he caught his taste for landscape gardening from reading the picturesque descriptions of the poet Spenser. Mason, who notices his mediocrity as a painter, pays the following tribute to his excellence in the decoration of rural scenery:—
The pencil's power; but fir'd by higher forms
Of beauty than that poet knew to paint,
Work'd with the living hues that Nature lent,
And realised his landscapes. Generous he
Who gave to Painting what the wayward nymph
Refus'd her votary, those Elysian scenes
Which would she emulate, her nicest hand
Must all its force of light and shade employ."
Another worthy who reposes here is William Sharp, well-known in his day as a line-engraver, to whom we are indebted for the reproduction of Sir Joshua Reynolds's portrait of John Hunter, considered to be one of the finest prints in existence. Born in the Minories in the year 1749, and early trained in copying by his art the works of the old masters, he would in due time have proved himself a first-rate artist, had he not devoted the best years of his life to the delusions and imposture of Joanna Southcott and the "prophet" Brothers, (fn. 2) whose portrait he engraved in duplicate, in the full belief that when the New Jerusalem arrived a single plate would not suffice to satisfy the demand for impressions! At the foot of each plate he added the words, "Fully believing this to be the man appointed by God, I engrave his likeness.—W. Sharp." It is only fair to add that he maintained his belief in these delusions down to his very last hour. Besides the portraits above mentioned, Sharp's principal works include, "The Doctors of the Church," after Guido; the "Head of the Saviour crowned with Thorns," after Guido; and "St. Cecilia," after Domenichino. He also engraved the "Three Views of the Head of Charles I.," after Vandyck; "The Sortie made by the Garrison of Gibraltar," after Turnbull; and the "Siege and Relief of Gibraltar," after Copley. The plate of the "Three Maries," after Annibal Carracci, was left unfinished at the time of his decease, which took place at Chiswick in 1824. A portrait of Sharp painted by Longdale, was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1823, and was purchased by the trustees of the National Portrait Gallery.
There are also buried here Judith, Lady Thornhill, the widow of Sir James Thornhill, the painter of the ceilings of Blenheim and Greenwich, (fn. 3) and of the dome of St. Paul's; her daughter, married to the immortal Hogarth; a sister of Hogarth; and last, not least, the great caricaturist himself, William Hogarth, to whose memory a large and conspicuous monument, erected by Garrick, stands in the churchyard, on the south side of the church, surmounted with a brazen flame like that on the top of the Monument at London Bridge. The inscription on the tomb is as follows:—"Here lieth the body of William Hogarth, Esq., who died October the 26th, 1764, aged 67 years. Mrs. Jane Hogarth, wife of William Hogarth, Esq., obiit the 13th of November, 1789, ætat. 80 years.
"Farewell, great Painter of mankind,
Who reached the noblest point of art,
Whose pictured morals charm the mind,
And through the eye correct the heart.
"If genius fire thee, Reader, stay;
If Nature touch thee, drop a tear;
If neither move thee, turn away,
For Hogarth's honoured dust lies here.
Dr. C. Mackay, in his interesting volume entitled "The Thames and its Tributaries," from which we have frequently quoted during the progress of this work, criticises the inscription on Hogarth's tomb in rather severe terms, remarking that "the object of an epitaph is merely to inform the reader of the great or good man who rests below," and that, consequently, "there is no necessity for the word of leave-taking." He adds, however, that "The thought in the last stanza is much better; and were it not for the unreasonable request that we should weep over the spot, would be perfect in its way. Men cannot weep that their predecessors have lived. We may sigh that neither virtue nor genius can escape the common lot of humanity, but no more; we cannot weep. Admiration claims no such homage; and, if it did, we could not pay it."
"Dr. Johnson," writes Mrs. Piozzi, "made four lines on the death of poor Hogarth, which were equally true and pleasing; I know not why Garrick's were preferred to them." Johnson's stanzas were, it seems, only an alteration of those written by Garrick, as will be seen from the following letter which appears in Boswell's "Life" of the great doctor, as addressed by him to the great actor at the time when the inscription was in contemplation:—
"Of your three stanzas, the third is utterly unworthy of
you. The first and third together give no discriminative
character. If the first alone were to stand, Hogarth would
not be distinguished from any other man of intellectual
eminence. Suppose you worked upon something like this:
"The hand of Art here torpid lies
That traced the essential form of Grace:
Here Death has closed the curious eyes
That saw the manners in the face.
"If Genius warm thee, Reader, stay,
If merit touch thee, shed a tear;
Be Vice and Dulness far away!
Great Hogarth's honour'd dust is here.
"In your second stanza, pictured morals is a beautiful expression, which I would wish to retain; but learn and mourn cannot stand for rhymes. Art and nature have been seen together too often. In the first stanza is feeling, in the second feel. Feeling for tenderness or sensibility is a word merely colloquial, of late introduction, not yet sure enough of its own existence to claim a place upon a stone. If thou hast neither is quite prose, and prose of the familiar kind. Thus easy is it to find faults, but it is hard to make an epitaph.
Hogarth died on October 26th, 1764. The very day before he died he was removed from his villa at Chiswick to Leicester Fields, (fn. 4) we are told, "in a very weak condition, yet remarkably cheerful." To Hogarth's tomb is appended a short notice to the effect that it was restored, in 1856, by a Mr. William Hogarth of Aberdeen, who, no doubt, was glad to give this proof of his connection with so distinguished a personage.
Carey, the translator of Dante, resided at Chiswick in Hogarth's house, and lies buried in the churchyard close under the south wall of the chancel. His monument was a few years ago rescued from oblivion, and restored at the expense of the vicar, who carefully inclosed it with iron railings.
It would appear from the parish books also, that Joseph Miller, of facetious memory, and who was a comic actor of considerable merit, lies buried here. He was for many years an inhabitant of Strand-on-the-Green, in this parish, where he died at his own house, according to the Craftsman, on the 19th of August, 1738. But it is always said that he was buried in St. Clement Danes. (fn. 5) Near him sleeps James Ralph, well known as a political writer, and a friend of Franklin. He published some poems ridiculed by Pope in the "Dunciad."
It is worthy of remark that the church and churchyard cover the remains of a considerable number of Roman Catholics, including, among many members of old English and Irish families, some of the Towneleys of Towneley, Mr. Chideock Wardour, &c. The Towneleys, we may add, owned a house in the village on the site of the former residence of the Earls of Bedford. In 1838, and again in 1871, the churchyard was enlarged by the addition of ground at its western extremity, the gifts of successive Dukes of Devonshire, as parishioners.
On the outside of the wall of the churchyard, on the north-east, facing the street, is the following curious inscription, which is of interest as showing the sacredness of consecrated ground two centuries ago. It takes much the same view as that expressed at such length by Sir Henry Spelman in his book, "De non temerandis Ecclesiis:"—"This wall was made at ye charges of ye right honourable and truelie pious Lorde Francis Russell, Earle of Bedford, out of true zeale and care for ye keeping of this church yard and ye wardrobe of Godd's saints, whose bodies lay (sic) therein buryed, from violating by swine and other prophanation. So witnesseth William Walker, V. A.D. 1623." Beneath this inscription is a tablet setting forth that the wall was rebuilt in 1831.
The churchwardens' books, commencing with the year 1621, contain a variety of curious and interesting entries. "Our dinner, when we went to take our oathes," is a constantly recurring item; so frequent, indeed, and occasionally so costly, that on one occasion the good vicar was scandalised, and adds a foot-note, "Here they eat too much." Another frequent item is that of "Boathier" (hire), for parochial excursions; in one place we read of "Boat-hier for to take the children to Fulham to be Bishoped," i.e. confirmed. We find also frequently large fees paid "for the buryall of creeples;" and in 1665–6 the books contain, inter alia, an account of the Great Plague, and of the sanitary measures adopted by the parish. Among other curious precautions, it should be mentioned that a resolution was passed by the parish that all loose and stray dogs and cats are to be killed for fear of conveying the infection, and that the poor bedesmen are to nurse "the patients ill with the plague."
Then there are sundry entries concerning "plague-water," a supposed antidote to the plague, but which does not appear to have proved an infallible elixir, for in more than one instance we read an entry of "plague-water" for A or B, when the next page has a charge for carrying the said A or B to church. Other sums are charged as paid to "maimed soldiers," "Tory ministers," "plundered persons," and "the widow Steevens in her distraction." In 1643 occurs a charge "for sweeping the church after the soldiers," i.e. after it had been occupied by the London "Train Bands," who were quartered within its walls, and took part in the battle fought on Turnham Green between Prince Rupert and the Parliamentary forces. The records of fast-days, and of revels, feasts, bellringings, and tar-barrels on festive occasions paid out of the church rates—e.g., for "the victory over the Dutch"—show that Chiswick took an active part in the politics of the age. The books during the first half of the last century contain several curious entries of rewards paid to the beadles for driving away out of the parish sundry poor women, who came into its aristocratic precincts in a condition which showed that they were likely to add to the population, and so to entail charges on the parishioners. To account for the disappearance of all earlier registers, it is said, but upon what authority we know not, that when the Protector quartered his troops in the church, he and his soldiers tore up those documents to light the fires, and for other and viler purposes. We may add that although there is a tradition that Lady Fauconberg got possession of her father's body at the Restoration, and deposited it carefully here; and although Miss Strickland, in one of her biographies, mentions a report that the real child of James II. died of "spotted fever," and was buried at Chiswick, no traces of any entry of such burials are to be found in the parish records.
But Chiswick has been remarkable for other
celebrated persons who have lived in it. Amongst
those of whom we have not already spoken, excepting with reference to their graves in the churchyard,
may be mentioned Sir Stephen Fox, the friend of
Evelyn, who occupied the Manor House, now the
asylum kept by Dr. Tuke; Dr. Busby, of scholastic
fame; Pope, who resided for a time in Mawson's Buildings (now Mawson Row); the notorious
Barbara, Duchess of Cleveland; Lord Fauconberg,
the Protector's son-in-law; the Pastons, ancient
Earls of Yarmouth; Sir John Chardin, the traveller; Lord Heathfield, the defender of Gibraltar;
Lord Macartney, our Ambassador in China;
Hogarth, Zoffany, and Loutherbourg, the painters;
Holland, the actor, and friend of Garrick; Dr.
Rose, the translator of Sallust; Carey, the translator
of Dante; Sharp, the engraver; and Carpue, the
anatomist. Thomas Wood, another resident of
Chiswick, was immortalised by an epigram, written
in Evelyn's "Book of Coins" by Pope's own
"Tom Wood of Chiswick, deep divine,
To painter Kent gave all this coin.
'Tis the first coin, I'm bold to say,
That ever churchman gave to lay."
At a short distance north-west of the church,
in a narrow and dirty lane leading towards one
entrance to the grounds of Chiswick House, still
stands the red-bricked house which was once
occupied by Hogarth, and still bears his name.
The house is very narrow from front to back; one
end abuts on the road; but the front of it, which
apparently is in much the same condition now
as when Hogarth lived, looks into a closed and
high-walled garden of about a quarter of an acre,
in which a prominent object is a fine mulberry-tree
planted by the painter's own hand. At the bottom
of the garden stood till recently the workshop in
which he used to ply his art, secluded and alone.
Hard by against the wall were formerly memorials
in stone to his favourite dog, cat, and bull finch.
That over the dog was inscribed—
"Life to the last enjoyed, here Pompey lies,"
and on that of the bird was "Alas! poor Dick;" the memorial over the grave of the cat disappeared many years ago. The two memorials above mentioned remained upon the grounds till quite recently, it being in the agreement when the house was let that they should not be disturbed; their position, however, had long been changed. For some time they were covered over with concrete, to serve as the flooring of a pigsty; but in the end they were carried away, and the bones of Hogarth's "pets" were disinterred. Hogarth's residence is now a private dwelling-house, and the garden is tenanted by a florist. Two leaden urns which adorn the entrance to the house were the gift of David Garrick to his friend.
Mr. Tom Taylor thus describes Hogarth's house, as it was in 1860:—"His house still stands, but sadly degraded within the last few years. It is a snug red-brick villa of the Queen Anne style, with a garden before it of about a quarter of an acre. An old mulberry is the only tree in the neglected garden that may have borne fruit for Hogarth. There is down-stairs a good panelled sitting-room with three windows, a small panelled hall, and a kitchen built on to the house; above, two storeys of three rooms each, with attics over. The principal room on the first floor has a projecting bay-window of three lights, quite in the style of Hogarth's time, and was no doubt added by him. The paintingroom was over the stable at the bottom of the garden. Stable and room have fallen down, but parts of the walls are still standing. The tablets to the memory of pet birds and dogs, formerly let into the garden wall, have disappeared."
It was here that Hogarth used to spend the summers of his later life, enjoying the fresh air and green fields, which in his time were more extensive than they are now, although Chiswick has been less over-built than most of the London suburbs, and still retains much of its old-world character. Besides his favourite amusement of riding, the artist used to occupy himself in painting and in superintending the engravers whom he often invited down from London. And to his Chiswick cottage he came, after his bitter quarrel with Wilkes and Churchill, bringing some plates for re-touching. He was cheerful, but weak, and must have felt that his end was not far off, when in February, 1764, he put the last touches to his "Bathos." His prints now filled a large volume; and as the story goes, at one of the last dinners which he gave he was talking of a final addition to them.
Hogarth was then not in the best of health, and in reply to one of his guests as to what his next picture was to be, he remarked, "My next undertaking shall be the end of all things." "If that is the case," said one of the party, "your business will be finished, for there will be an end of the painter." "You say true," said Hogarth, with a sigh; however, he began his design the next day, and worked at it till it was finished. A strange and yet impressive grouping of objects have we there—a broken bottle, an old broom worn to the stump, the butt-end of an old musket, a cracked bell, a bow unstrung, an empty purse, a crown tumbled to pieces, towers in ruins, the sign-post of a tavern called the "World's End," the moon in her wane, the map of the globe burning, a gibbet falling and the body dropping down, Phœbus and his horses dead in the clouds, a vessel wrecked, Time with his hour-glass and scythe broken, a tobacco-pipe in his mouth with the last whiff of smoke going out, a play-book opened with Exeunt Omnes stamped in the corner. "So far so good," cried Hogarth; "nothing now remains but this," as he dashed into the picture the broken painter's pallet; it was his last performance.
Passing on a few steps farther, we come to a plain house, in the garden of which stands Hogarth's portable sun-dial, duly authenticated. In the same house Hogarth's arm-chair, made of cherrywood, and seated with leather. The latter is much decayed, and one of the arms is wormeaten, but the rest is sound and good.
This chair, in which Hogarth used to sit and smoke his pipe, was given by the painter's widow to the present owner's grandfather, who was a martyr to the gout. It moves very easily on primitive stone castors, three in number. To this same individual Mrs. Hogarth offered to sell a quantity of her late husband's pictures for £20; but the bargain was never concluded, and his paintings were eventually dispersed.
The principal street of Chiswick is a narrow, winding thoroughfare, running at right angles from the river, close by the church. In the middle of the village is the Griffin Brewery, where, aided by the medicinal virtues of a spring of their own, Messrs. Fuller, Smith, and Turner produce ales in no way inferior to those of Bass and Allsopp; and not far distant is the brewery of Messrs. Sich and Co., a firm perhaps equally well known.
The Mall, as we have stated above, overlooks the river, and commands beautiful and extensive views. It commences at the vicarage, and extends eastward towards the terrace at Hammersmith, with which it forms a continuous promenade. About half-way along the Mall is an old publichouse, the "Red Lion," which has stood upwards of a century: it is a large house, and some of the rooms and fireplaces bear evident traces of its antiquity. Chained to the lintel of the door is an old whetstone, which was placed there a few years ago, on the demolition of a still older inn which stood next door, on the spot now occupied by the new store-rooms of the Griffin Brewery. This older hostelry bore the sign of the "White Bear and Whetstone." The stone itself, which has been handed over to the safe keeping of the "Red Lion," bears the following inscription, cut upon it in deep letters:—"I am the old whetstone, and have sharpened tools on this spot above 1,000 years." As originally cut, the number of years was evidently 100; the fourth figure is clearly a more recent addition. From the tool-sharpening operation that has been carried on, a portion of the stone is considerably worn away, and with it part of the inscription, which, we were informed by an old inhabitant, ran thus:—"Whet without, wet within." Of the ludicrous uses to which a whetstone may sometimes be put we have given an amusing instance in our account of Fulham Palace. (fn. 6)
A little to the east of the "Red Lion," on the spot now occupied by a row of modern semidetached villas, stood formerly a building called the College House, which was originally the prebendal manor-house of Chiswick, of which we have spoken above. In 1570 it was held by Dr. Gabriel Goodman, Dean of Westminster (one of Fuller's "worthies"), who granted a lease of the manor, in trust, for ninety-nine years, to William Watter and George Burden, that they should within two years convey the farm to the Abbey Church of Westminster. In this lease it was stipulated that the lessee "should erect additional buildings adjoining the manor-house, sufficient for the accommodation of one of the prebendaries of Westminster, the master of the school, the usher, forty boys, and proper attendants, who should retire thither in time of sickness, or at other seasons when the Dean and Chapter should think proper." From that time down to a comparatively recent date a piece of ground was reserved (in the lease to the sub-lessee) as a play-place for the Westminster scholars, although it is not known that the school was ever removed to Chiswick since the time of Dr. Busby, who resided here with some of his scholars, in 1657, "on account of the hot and sickly season of the year." In 1665, when the plague commenced in town, Dr. Busby removed his scholars to Chiswick. But it spread its baneful influence even to this place. Upon this Dr. Busby called his scholars together, and in an excellent oration acquainted them that he had presided over the school for twenty-five years, in which time he had never hitherto deserted Westminster; but that the exigencies of the time required it now. At the end of the last century, according to Lysons, the names of Lord Halifax and John Dryden, who were Busby's scholars, could be seen written on the walls of this interesting old house. When Hughson published his "History of London" (in 1809), the old College House was occupied as an academy. In more recent times the premises were taken by Mr. C. Whittingham, who here set up that printing-press which subsequently turned out so many beautifully-printed octavos and duodecimos, embracing nearly the whole range of English literature. Mr. Whittingham built for himself extensive premises at Chiswick, where he manufactured paper, the reputation of which soon spread, owing to its strength, and yet its softness. This was made principally from old rope, by a process of his own devising. Whittingham commenced business on a small scale in Fetter Lane, but ultimately he realised a handsome income from the "Chiswick Press."
The old house, which in its latter days was known as Chiswick Hall, having been disposed of, was finally demolished in 1874, when the lower part of the walls, which had been embedded in stones and wood-work, was found to be of great thickness. Some part of the old boundary-walls are still standing. The old materials having been used in the alterations carried out in the sixteenth century, there can be no doubt that the fragments found embedded in the walls were from the earlier building, and possibly of Norman origin.
Here, probably at Walpole House, on the Mall, Barbara, Duchess of Cleveland, spent the last few years of her life. Here, in the summer of 1709, says Boyer, she "fell ill of a dropsie what swelled her gradually to a monstrous bulk, and in about three months put a period to her life, in the sixtyninth year of her age." She died October 9th, in the year above mentioned, and was buried in the chancel of the parish church, though no stone marks the spot. The pall of this mistress of royalty was borne by two Knights of the Garter, the Dukes of Ormond and Hamilton, and four other peers of the realm, Lords Essex, Grantham, Lifford, and Berkeley of Stratton. At Walpole House Daniel O'Connell resided for several years while he was studying for the law.
In Chiswick Lane, the road leading from the Mall up to the Kew and London Road, lived Dr. Rose, a pupil of Doddridge, and a schoolmaster of repute. He kept an academy at Kew, where Dr. Johnson came to take tea. Sometimes Rose would be unavoidably absent, and Johnson drank cup after cup, condescending to say little to Mrs. R., as she tells us, except, "Madam, I am afraid I give you a great deal of trouble." Dr. Rose, as we have stated above, lies buried in the neighbouring churchyard.
Another resident was Dr. Ralph, a political writer and historian, who appears in Bubb Dodington's Diary to have been long in the confidence and service of the clique at Leicester House. (fn. 7)
In 1766 the quiet village was frighted from its propriety by the arrival of the celebrated Rousseau, who took lodgings at a small grocer's shop near the house of Dr. Rose. "He sits in the shop," says a writer in the Caldwell papers, "and learns English words, which brings many customers to the shop." At one time Edward Moore, the journalist, lived here. Originally a linen-draper, he became the author of "Fables for the Fair Sex," the tragedy of The Gamester, two forgotten comedies, a collection of periodical essays; and was for some time editor of the World. He was in the habit of attending Chiswick Church, and as the tale goes, his wife called him to account one Sunday for having been very inattentive during the service. Moore at once remarked, "Well, my dear, that's very odd, for I was thinking the whole time of the 'next World.'"
On the west side of Chiswick Lane is Mawson Row—formerly called Mawson's Buildings—a row of red-brick houses, five in number. Alexander Pope and his father lived here for a short time. They removed thither early in 1716, from Binfield, the place of the poet's birth; and left Chiswick for the more famous residence at Twickenham about the year 1719. The elder Pope, who died here in 1717, lies buried in Chiswick churchyard. Portions of the original drafts of the translation of the "Iliad," on which Pope was engaged at this period, and which are preserved in the British Museum, are written upon the backs of letters to Pope and his father, addressed, "To Alexr. Pope, Esquire, at Mawson's Buildings, in Chiswick." Among the writers of these letters appear to be Lord Harcourt, and Teresa Blount.
Higher up Chiswick Lane stands the old Manor House, which was once inhabited by the lords of the manor, and has all the imposing exterior of a French château. It is now a private lunatic asylum. At the junction of the lane with the high road is Grosvenor House, an old-fashioned mansion, which, since 1870, has been occupied as St. Agnes' Orphanage for Girls.
At a short distance westward from Chiswick Lane lies the hamlet of Turnham Green, which connects the parish of Hammersmith with that of Chiswick, to which it belongs. The green abuts upon the main road, and is enclosed; and in the centre stands a church of Early-English architecture, which was erected in 1843, when the hamlet was made into an ecclesiastical district.
Without going back to mythical times, to speak of a certain battle which is stated to have been fought here in the British or Saxon times, and without inferring, as does Stukeley, that it was a Roman station simply because an urn of Roman manufacture was dug up here during the reign of George I., we may state that Turnham Green in its time has been the scene of sundry historic events. Here, in 1642, Prince Rupert encamped with his army; and on the day of the "Battle of Brentford" the green witnessed some sharp skirmishing, no less than six hundred of the prince's cavaliers being left dead on the field. The Royalists—headed by Prince Rupert, and followed by King Charles—after leaving Oxford, and making their way through Abingdon, Henley, and other towns, had reached as far as Brentford, which was occupied by a broken regiment of Colonel Hollis's, but "stout men all, who had before done good service at Edgehill." The Royalists, it appears, fancied that they should cut their way through Brentford without any difficulty, go on to Hammersmith, where the Parliament's train of artillery lay, and then take London by a night assault. But Hollis's men opposed their passage, and stopped their march so long at Brentford that the regiments of Hampden and Lord Brooke had time to come up. These three regiments, not without great loss, completely barred the road. The Earl of Essex, having quartered his army at Acton, had ridden to Westminster to give the Parliament an account of his campaign, and while he was absent, Prince Rupert, taking advantage of a dense November fog, had advanced, and fallen unexpectedly upon the Roundheads. The roar of the artillery was heard in the House of Lords, and the Earl of Essex rushed out of the house, mounted his horse, and galloped across the parks in the direction of the ominous sound. As he approached Brentford, the earl learned, to his astonishment, the trick which had been played; he had gathered a considerable force of horse as he rode along, and when he came to the spot he found that the Royalists had given over the attack and were lying quietly on the western side of Brentford. "All that night," says May, "the city of London poured out men towards Brentford, who, every hour, marched thither; and all the lords and gentlemen that belonged to the Parliament army were there ready by Sunday morning, the 14th of November." Essex found himself, in the course of this Sunday, at the head of 24,000 men, who were drawn up in battle array on Turnham Green. How the Royalists took themselves off again to Oxford, by way of Kingston Bridge, is recorded in history; and how the Earl of Essex went in pursuit, crossing over the Thames by a bridge of boats from Fulham to Putney, we have already told. (fn. 8)
Turnham Green was to have been the scene of the Jacobite plot to assassinate William III. on the 15th of February, 1696, as recorded by Macaulay in the 21st chapter of his history. "The place," he writes, "was to be a narrow and winding lane leading from the landing-place on the north of the river to Turnham Green. The spot may still easily be found, though the ground has since been drained by trenches. But during the seventeenth century it was a quagmire, through which the royal coach was with difficulty tugged at a foot's pace." For their complicity in this plot, six gentlemen, named Charnock, Keyes, King, Sir John Frend, Sir William Parkyns, and Sir John Fenwick, were tried, and executed on Tower Hill. The spot is still easily identified. In his "Diary" under date May 1st, 1852, Macaulay has an entry: "After breakfast I went to Turnham Green to look at the place. I found it after some search: the very spot beyond a doubt, and admirably suited for an assassination."
A pamphlet, published in 1680, furnishes details of another sanguinary encounter, on a smaller scale, which took place here; the pamphlet is entitled "Great and Bloody News from Turnham Green, or a Relation of a sharp Encounter between the Earl of Pembroke and his Company with the Constable and Watch belonging to the parish of Chiswick, in which conflict one Mr. Smeethe, a gentleman, and one Mr. Halfpenny, a constable, were mortally wounded."
In 1776, Mr. Alderman Sawbridge, then Lord Mayor, met with a mishap here. Crossing the green, on his way back from a state visit to royalty at Kew, his carriage and suite were stopped by a single highwayman; even the City "sword-bearer" sat still and submitted to see himself and the chief civic dignitary stripped of their valuables. It is said that when the highwayman had thus outraged the City magnates, he rode off towards Kew, and meeting the vicar on the way, made him deliver up his valuables, and among other things his written sermon!
But even Turnham Green has its amusing memories. Angelo, in his "Reminiscences," tells a good story, the scene of which he lays here. "Returning one day from my professional attendance in the country, when I reached Turnham Green I met a happy pair, as I imagined, who were taking a trip from town to pass their honeymoon in the country. They happened, however, to have a quarrel just as a return post-chaise passed by, a little in front of me; the postilion was stopped by the gentleman; and as I stopped also I beheld the gentleman hand the young lady out of the coach and place her in the chaise, singing at the same time the words of an old favourite Vauxhall song, 'How sweet the love that meets return!' It is said that 'a fool and his money are soon parted;' in this case it may be suggested that for 'money' we should read 'bride.'"
Like its neighbour Hammersmith, Turnham Green has numbered among its residents a few men of note in their day; among them, Lord Lovat, the Scottish rebel, and the hero of Gibraltar, Sir George Eliott, Lord Heathfield.
The old "Pack Horse" has been a well-known tavern at Turnham Green for a couple of centuries; it is mentioned in an advertisement in the London Gazette as far back as the year 1697. Here Horace Walpole used often to bait his horse when journeying between London and his favourite Strawberry Hill. The "Pack Horse," as Mr. Larwood tells us, in his "History of Sign-boards," was a common sign for posting inns in former times: and it certainly points back to a very primitive mode of travelling. Another old inn, but which has disappeared within the last few years, was the "King of Bohemia's Head," a name already made familiar to our readers in our account of Drury Lane. (fn. 9)
The locality of Turnham Green has long been famous for its gardens and nurseries. Almost the very last entry in John Evelyn's "Diary" relates to this place; he writes, under date May 18, 1705:—"I went to see Sir John Chardine at Turnham Green; the gardens being very fine and well planted with fruit."
Mr. Glendinning's nursery here has long been in existence as the Chiswick Nursery, and it is said that heaths were cultivated here almost earlier than in any of the metropolitan establishments of this kind. Of late years this nursery has greatly risen in character, and is still constantly improving. New houses have been erected, a wider range of plant-culture has been taken, and a considerable interest is made to attach to it on account of the spirit and enterprise with which new plants are procured, and the successful manner in which they are flowered.
The following epitaph on Jemmy Armstrong, a
sheriff's officer, who died in November, 1801, at
his villa on Turnham Green, commonly known by
the name of "Lock-up Hall," will be found in
"The Spirit of the Public Journals" for 1802:—
"Armstrong's arrested! sued, as will be all,
By old Time's writ, special-original,
The debt to nature due to make him pay.
Death, Fate's bum-bailiff, served him with 'Ca. Sa.'
His doctor 'to file common bail' did move:
Not granted, Jemmy puts in bail above.
By Habeas now remov'd from earth to sky,
Before th' Eternal Judge he'll justify."
From Turnham Green, a broad road lined with lime-trees, and known as the Duke's New Road—from the fact of its having been made by the late Duke of Devonshire—leads to Chiswick House, one of the many seats of his Grace. In the ninth year of King Edward IV., one Baldwin Bray, whose ancestors were settled here for many generations, conveyed the lease of the "manor of Sutton within Cheswyke" to Thomas Coveton and others; and during the civil war this manor was sequestered to the Lord Mayor and Aldermen of London. In 1676 the lease came into the hands of Thomas, Earl of Fauconberg, whose son's greatnephew, Thomas Fowler, Viscount Fauconberg, assigned it about the year 1727 to Richard, Earl of Burlington. After the Earl's death, the lease was renewed to the Duke of Devonshire, who married his daughter and sole heir. The other, or prebendal manor, is still in the hands of the Weatherstone family.
The mansion stands near the site of an old house, which, it is said, was built by Sir Edward Warden, or Wardour, but which was pulled down in 1788, and by Kip's print of it seems to have been of the date of James I. Towards the latter end of that king's reign, it certainly was the property and residence of Robert Carr, Earl of Somerset, whose abandoned Countess died there in misery and disgrace. The Earl, who was a partaker in her crimes, survived her many years, but was never able to retrieve his broken fortunes and dishonoured name. On the marriage of his daughter, Lady Ann, with Lord Russell, (fn. 10) he was obliged to mortgage his house at Chiswick to make up the marriage portion which the Earl of Bedford demanded with his wife, and the mortgage never being paid off, the estate passed away into other hands, from whom again it passed through several changes into the possession of Boyle, Earl of Burlington, above mentioned. Faulkner, in his "History of Chiswick," remarks that "it is a curious fact that though Chiswick was sold by the beautiful Lady Ann Carr's father, to enable her to marry, it was not lost to her descendants; for Rachel, the daughter of Lord Russell who was beheaded, and his celebrated wife, married the second Duke of Devonshire, so that the present duke is descended from that lovely girl, and is a possessor of the place where her youth was spent—the home of her ancestors."
The house, which is almost hidden from our view by the tall cedars and other trees among which it stands embowered, was erected by the last Earl of Burlington—the "architect earl," as he is called—in the reign of George II., from a design by Palladio; and it is a standing proof of the skill and taste of the noble designer, though its merits have been variously estimated.
The ascent to the house is by a double flight of steps, on one side of which is the statue of Palladio, on the other that of Inigo Jones. The portico is supported by six fluted columns, of the Corinthian order, surmounted by a pediment; the cornice, frieze, and architraves being as rich as possible. Inside this is an octagonal saloon, which finishes at the top in a dome, through which it is lighted. The interior of the structure is finished with the utmost elegance; the ceilings and mouldings are richly gilt, upon a white ground, giving a chaste air to the whole interior. The principal rooms are embellished with books, splendidly bound, and so arranged as to appear not an encumbrance but ornament. The tops of the book-cases are covered with white marble, edged with gilt borders.
The gardens are laid out in the first taste, the vistas terminated by a temple, obelisk, or some similar ornament, so as to produce the most agreeable effect. At the end opposite the house are two wolves by Scheemakers; the other exhibits a large lioness and a goat. The view is terminated by three fine antique statues, dug up in Adrian's garden at Rome, with stone seats between them. Along the ornamental waters we are led to an inclosure, where are a Roman temple and an obelisk; and on its banks stands an exact model of the portico of St. Paul's, Covent Garden, the work of Inigo Jones. The pleasure-grounds and park include about ninety acres, together with an orangery, conservatory, and range of forcinghouses 300 feet in length.
Horace Walpole, being a connoisseur, must needs find fault with something. He desired that the lavish quantity of urns and statues behind the garden front should be "retrenched;" and this might be desirable if these urns and statues were not exquisite gems of art, and individually of great beauty and value, demanding a more undivided attention than would be given them if considered merely as ornamental appendages to the grounds. The bronze statues of the Gladiator, Hercules with his club, and the Faun, are worthy a place in any gallery. Three colossal statues, removed hither from Rome, although mutilated, are very fine, as are also the profusion of minor marbles scattered throughout the grounds. Nothing can be more exquisite than the taste that presides over the Versailles in little. The lofty walls of clipped yew, inclosing alleys terminated by rustic temples; the formal flower-garden, with walks converging towards a common centre, where a marble copy of the Medicean Venus woos you from the summit of a graceful Doric column; the labyrinthic involution of the walks, artfully avoiding the limits of the demesne, and deceiving you as to its real extent; the artificial water, with its light and elegant bridge, gaily painted barges, and wildfowl disporting themselves on its glassy surface; the magnificent cedars feathering to the ground; the temples and obelisk, happily situate on the banks of the river, or embowered in wildernesses of wood; the breaks of landscapes, where no object is admitted but such as the eye delights to dwell upon; the moving panorama of the Thames removed to that happy distance where the objects on its surface glide along like shadow the absolute seclusion of the scene, almost within the hum of a great city, make this seat of the Duke of Devonshire a little earthly paradise. The house, notwithstanding Lord Hervey's sarcasm (who said that it was "too small to inhabit, and too large to hang to one's watch"), is a worthy monument of the genius and taste of the noble architect. Nowhere in the vicinity of London have wealth and judgment been so happily united; nowhere in the neighbourhood of the metropolis have we so complete an example of the capabilities of the Italian or classic style of landscape gardening.
One of the principal objects of interest in the
garden is an arched gateway, designed by Inigo
Jones, which was originally erected at Chelsea, on
the premises which once belonged to the great
Sir Thomas More, but were afterwards known as
Beaufort House, (fn. 11) from being occupied by the
head of that family. The gate subsequently
belonged to Sir Hans Sloane, but as he neglected
it Lord Burlington begged it from him. Its removal hither occasioned the following lines by
"Passenger. O gate! how cam'st thou here?,
Gate. I was brought from Chelsea last year
Batter'd with wind and weather;
Inigo Jones put me together;
Sir Hans Sloane
Let me alone,
So Burlington brought me hither."
Again, it will be remembered that in his poem
on "Liberty" Thomson thus apostrophizes Lord
"Lo! numerous domes a Burlington confess:
For kings and senates fit, the palace see!
The temple, breathing a religious awe;
E'en framed with elegance the plain retreat,
The private dwelling. Certain in his aim,
Taste never, idly working, spares expense.
See! sylvan scenes, where Art alone pretends
To dress her mistress and disclose her charms;
Such as a Pope in miniature has shown,
A Bathurst o'er the widening forest spreads,
And such as form a Richmond, Chiswick, Stowe."
Dr. Waagen, who visited Chiswick House for the special purpose of art criticism, reports in his "Works of Art and Artists in England," that "among the pictures are many good and many even excellent, but that, unfortunately, they are partly in a bad condition, either from the want of cleaning or from dryness. Several pictures, too," he adds, "are hung in an unfavourable light, so that no decided opinion can be formed of them." Among the pictures are several of Vandyke, Gaspar Poussin, Paul Veronese, Titian, Tintoretto, C. Maratti, Sir Godfrey Kneller, Cornelius Jansen, Holbein, &c., and one very exquisite miniature portrait of Edward VI., after Holbein, by Peter Oliver, son of Isaac Oliver, one of the favourite painters of Charles I. Perhaps the finest of all the paintings is one of Charles I. and his children, by Vandyke, as to which it is uncertain whether it is a duplicate or the original of the picture in Her Majesty's collection at Windsor. Another celebrated picture is by J. Van Eyck, which Horace Walpole mentions in his book on painting in England—"The Virgin and Child attended by Angels," as representing in the figures which it contains several members of Lord Clifford's family (from whom the Earl of Burlington was maternally descended); though the statement was controverted at considerable length by an eminent antiquary and genealogist in the Gentleman's Magazine for 1840.
Among the other articles of vertu in Chiswick House is a present from the late Emperor of Russia to the late Duke of Devonshire; a magnificent clock in a case of malachite, surmounted with a representation of the Emperor, Peter the Great, in a storm, who is standing in a boat, with his hand upon the helm, in a firm and defiant attitude. The boat itself, which is about a foot long, is of bronze.
The grounds of Chiswick House were considerably enlarged by the late Duke of Devonshire. In Miss Berry's "Journal," under date of June 1st, 1813, is the following entry respecting them:—"Drove with the Duke of Devonshire, in his curricle, to Chiswick, where he showed me all the alterations that he was about to make, in adding the gardens of Lady M. Coke's house to his own. The house is down, and in the gardens he has constructed a magnificent hot-house, with a conservatory for flowers, the middle under a cupola. Altogether, it is 300 feet long. The communication between the two gardens is through what was the old greenhouse, of which they have made a double arcade, making the prettiest effect possible."
In 1814 the Emperor Alexander I. of Russia and the other allied sovereigns visited the Duke of Devonshire here, and the open-air entertainments which were given at Chiswick by the duke in subsequent years were among the chief attractions of the "London season." Sir Walter Scott, in his "Diary," May 17th, 1828, tells us how that, after paying a visit to the Duke of Wellington, he drove to Chiswick, where he had never been before. "A numerous and gay party," he adds, "were assembled to walk and enjoy the beauties of that Palladian dome. The place and highly ornamented gardens belonging to it resemble a picture of Watteau. There is some affectation in the picture, but in the ensemble the original looked very well. The Duke of Devonshire received every one with the best possible manners. The scene was dignified by the presence of an immense elephant, who, under the charge of a groom, wandered up and down, giving an air of Asiatic pageantry to the entertainment." This elephant occupied a paddock near the house; her intelligence, docility, and affection were remarkable; she died in the year 1829.
In June, 1842, Her Majesty and the late Prince Consort visited his grace at Chiswick; and in the month of June, 1844, the duke gave here a magnificent entertainment to the Emperor (Nicholas) of Russia, the King of Saxony, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and about 700 of the nobility and gentry.
It may be added that several of the finest trees in these gardens were planted by royal hands, to commemorate the visits of the Emperor Nicholas, Queen Victoria, and other sovereigns and illustrious persons to the head of the ducal house of Cavendish.
Chiswick has witnessed the death of more than one political celebrity. At the end of August, 1806, the great statesman, Charles James Fox, was in his last illness removed to the Duke of Devonshire's villa, where he died a fortnight later. The bed-chamber which he occupied opens into the Italian saloon, and before the window grew a mountain-ash, which appears to have been to him an object of great interest.
The following anecdotes rest upon the authority of Samuel Rogers:—"Very shortly before Fox died he complained of great uneasiness in his stomach, and Clive advised him to try a cup of coffee. It was accordingly ordered; but not being brought as soon as was expected, Mrs. Fox expressed some impatience; upon which Fox said, with his usual sweet smile, 'Remember, my dear, that good coffee cannot be made in a moment.' Lady Holland announced the death of Fox in her own odd manner to those relatives and intimate friends of his who were sitting in a room near his bedchamber, and waiting to hear he had breathed his last: she walked through the room with her apron over her head. * * * How fondly the surviving friends of Fox cherished his memory! Many years after his death, I was at a fête given by the Duke of Devonshire at Chiswick House. Sir Robert Adair and I wandered about the apartments up and down stairs. 'In which room did Fox expire?' asked Adair. I replied, 'In this very room!' Immediately Adair burst into tears with a vehemence of grief such as I hardly ever saw exhibited by a man."
Undoubtedly, Fox was a great orator. Horace Walpole wrote:—"Fox had not the ungraceful hesitation of his father, yet scarcely equalled him in subtlety and acuteness. But no man ever excelled him in the clearness of argument, which flowed from him in a torrent of vehemence, as declamation sometimes does from those who want argument." Burke once called him "the greatest debater the world ever saw;" and Mackintosh described him as "the most Demosthenean speaker since Demosthenes."
Twenty years afterwards there came hither to die, in the same villa and the same room, and nearly at the same age, the classic and witty and brilliant George Canning. He died on the 8th of August, 1827. The apartment in which the two statesmen breathed their last is thus sketched by Sir Henry Bulwer (Lord Dalling), in his "Historical Characters":—"It is a small low chamber, over a kind of nursery, and opening into a wing of the building, which gives it the appearance of looking into a court-yard. Nothing can be more simple than its furniture or its decorations. On one side of the fire-place are a few bookshelves; opposite the foot of the bed is the low chimney-piece, and on it a small bronze clock, to which we may fancy the weary and impatient sufferer often turned his eyes during those bitter moments in which he was passing from the world which he had filled with his name and was governing with his projects.
Of late years Chiswick House has been used as a suburban nursery for the children of the Prince and Princess of Wales; and occasionally, during the summer season, the Prince and Princess have taken up their residence here, and given gardenparties, which have perhaps even excelled in brilliancy those given in former years.
Corney House, which was pulled down in 1823, originally belonged to the Russell family, who were seated here at the commencement of the seventeenth century. In 1602 Queen Elizabeth paid a visit to its then owner, William, Lord Russell, whose son Francis, first Earl of Bedford, afterwards lived here, and took an interest in the concerns of the parish, as is evident from the inscription on the churchyard wall already mentioned. (fn. 12) The house was for some time the residence of the Earl Macartney; but, like most of the property in the immediate neighbourhood of Chiswick House, it has passed into the hands of the Duke of Devonshire. On the demolition of the mansion the grounds were added to those of Chiswick House; its name, however, is preserved in Corney Reach, a bend of the river between Chiswick and Mortlake Bridge, which has become familiarized in aquatic annals in connection with the University boat-race.
It appears by the Court Rolls that Sir Stephen Fox, in the year 1685, purchased a copyhold estate at Chiswick, on which he built a mansion, which he made his principal residence after he had retired from public business. William III. was so pleased with it that he is said to have exclaimed to the Earl of Portland on his first visit, "This place is perfectly fine; I could live here five days"—a compliment which he never paid to any other place in England except Lord Exeter's mansion at Burleigh. The staircase of Sir Stephen Fox's house was painted by Verrio. The gardens, as we learn from Evelyn's "Diary" (October 30th, 1682), were laid out by the architect, whose name was May:—"The garden much too narrow; the place without water, neere a highway and neere another greate house of my Lord Burlington; with little land about it, so that I wonder at the expense; but women," he quaintly adds, "will have their will." Sir Stephen Fox, who died in 1716, was the father of Henry, first Lord Holland, and grandfather of Charles James Fox.
In 1818, the gardens of the Horticultural Society were established on that part of the grounds of Chiswick House lying between the mansion and Turnham Green. Up to this time, few of the inhabitants of London even visited the village; but when the Horticultural Fêtes were held here Chiswick achieved some notoriety: it rose to be a place of popular resort, and had even its steamboat pier.
Other attractions, however, sprang up and threw Chiswick into the shade; and when, as we have stated in a previous volume, (fn. 13) the head-quarters of the Horticultural Society were removed to South Kensington, the visitors to Chiswick became "few and far between," with the solitary exception of the day of the University boat-race, when the Chiswick bank of the Thames annually receives its moiety of eager and expectant sight-seers.
The Horticultural Society's grounds are now used as nursery and fruit gardens, for the culture of the seeds and rare plants collected by the society from all parts of the world; as a school of horticulture; and for raising plants and flowers for the conservatory and gardens at South Kensington, and for distribution among the Fellows of the Society. The number of plants transferred from Chiswick to South Kensington up to April, 1878, was nearly 50,000.