Holborn : The northern tributaries

Old and New London: Volume 2. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.

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Walter Thornbury, 'Holborn : The northern tributaries', in Old and New London: Volume 2, (London, 1878) pp. 542-552. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/old-new-london/vol2/pp542-552 [accessed 22 May 2024].

Walter Thornbury. "Holborn : The northern tributaries", in Old and New London: Volume 2, (London, 1878) 542-552. British History Online, accessed May 22, 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/old-new-london/vol2/pp542-552.

Thornbury, Walter. "Holborn : The northern tributaries", Old and New London: Volume 2, (London, 1878). 542-552. British History Online. Web. 22 May 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/old-new-london/vol2/pp542-552.

In this section



Field Lane—A Description by Dickens—Saffron Hill—Old Chick Lane—Thieves' Hiding Places—Hattou Garden—A Dramatist's Wooing— The Celebrated Dr. Bate—Charles Street—Bleeding Heart Yard—Love or: Murder—Leather Lane—George Morland, the Painter— Robbing One's Own House—Brooke Street—The Poet Chatterton—His Life in London, and his Death—The Great Lord Hardwiche— A Hardworking Apprenticeship—Coach-hire for a Barrel of Oysters—A Start in Life—Greville Street—Lord Brooke's Murder—A Patron of Learning—Gray's Inn Lane—Tom Jones' Arrival in Town—"Your Money or Your Life"—Poets of Gray's Inn Lane—James Shirley, the Dramatist—John Ogilby—John Langhorne—The "Blue Lion"—Fox Court—The Unfortunate Richard Savage.

In speaking of the tributary streams of human activity which flow into Holborn from the north, we shall begin a little to the east of Ely Place, and mention one which has lately been improved out of existence, namely, Field Lane. Field Lane, extending from the foot of Holborn Hill northward, and in this way lying parallel with Fleet Ditch, used to be an infamous haunt of the "dangerous classes." Now, its site, entered off Charterhouse Street, may be visited by the inquiring stranger with somewhat of a feeling of disappointment that respectability is not half so picturesque as its opposite. In 1837, Field Lane was vividly sketched by Charles Dickens, in his "Oliver Twist." "Near to the spot," he says, "on which Snow Hill and Holborn meet, there opens, upon the right hand as you come out of the City, a narrow and dismal alley, leading to Saffron Hill. In its filthy shops are exposed for sale huge bunches of pocket-handkerchiefs of all sizes and patterns, for here reside the traders who purchase them from pickpockets. Hundreds of these handkerchiefs hang dangling from pegs outside the windows or flaunting from the door-posts, and the shelves within are piled with them. Confined as the limits of Field Lane are, it has its barber, its coffee-shop, its beer-shop, and its fried fish warehouse. It is a commercial colony of itself—the emporium of petty larceny, visited at early morning and setting-in of dusk by silent merchants, who traffic in dark back parlours and go as strangely as they come. Here the clothes-man, the shoevamper, and the rag-merchant, display their goods as sign-boards to the petty thief, and stores of old iron and bones, and heaps of mildewy fragments of woollen-stuff and linen, rust and rot in the grimy cellars."

Northward from Field Lane ran Saffron Hill, which once formed a part of the pleasant gardens of Ely Place, and derived its name from the crops of saffron which it bore. But the saffron disappeared, and in time there grew up a squalid neighbourhood, swarming with poor people and thieves. Strype, in 1720, describes the locality as "of small account both as to buildings and inhabitants, and pestered with small and ordinary alleys and courts taken up by the meaner sort of people; others are," he says, "nasty and inconsiderable." Saffron Hill ran from Field Lane into Vine Street, and here we have a name recalling the vineyard of old Ely Place. Cunningham (1849) mentions that so dangerous was this neighbourhood in his day that when the clergy of St. Andrew's, Holborn (the parish in which the purlieu lies), visited it, they had to be accompanied by policemen in plain clothes.

Old Chick Lane debouched into Field Lane. The beginning of its destruction was in 1844. The notorious thieves' lodging-house here, formerly the "Red Lion" tavern, we have already noticed. It had various cunning contrivances for enabling its inmates to escape from the pursuit of justice. Fleet Ditch lay in the rear, and across it by a plank the hunted vagabonds often ran to conceal themselves in the opposite knot of courts and alleys.

Moving westward, we come to Hatton Garden— so called after the Sir Christopher Hatton we have already met with as Lord Chancellor in Elizabeth's reign, and after "Christopher Hatton, his godson, son of John Hatton, cousin and heir-male of the celebrated Sir Christopher Hatton, created Baron Hatton of Kirby, in the county of Northampton, July 29th, 1643, and died 1670."

Strype describes Hatton Garden as "a very large place, containing several streets—viz., Hatton Street, Charles Street, Cross Street, and Kirby Street, all which large tract of ground was a garden, and belonged to Hatton House, now pulled down, and built into houses."

We get a glimpse of active building operations going on here in the middle of the seventeenth century, in Evelyn's "Diary:"—"7th June, 1659. To London to take leave of my brother, and see the foundations now laying for a long streete and buildings in Hatton Garden, designed for a little towne, lately an ample garden."

In Dennis's "Letters," 1721, we come upon a passage relating to an almost-forgotten poet and playwright who, on matrimonial thoughts intent, once haunted this locality. "Mr. Wycherly visited her [the Countess of Drogheda] daily at her lodgings, while she stayed at Tunbridge, and after she went to London, at her lodgings in Hatton Garden, where, in a little time, he got her consent to marry her." This is part of a romantic story told in Cibber's "Lives of the Poets," in repeating which we must begin by informing the reader that one of Wycherly's most successful plays was entitled The Plain Dealer. The writer went down to Tunbridge, to take either the benefit of the waters or the diversions of the place, and when walking one day upon the Wells Walk with his friend Mr. Fairbeard, of Gray's Inn, just as he came up to the bookseller's, the Countess of Drogheda, a young widow, rich and beautiful, came to the bookseller and inquired for The Plain Dealer. "Madam," says Mr. Fairbeard, "since you are for The Plain Dealer, there he is for you," pushing Mr. Wycherley towards her. "Yes," says Mr. Wycherley, "this lady can bear plain dealing, for she appears to be so accomplished, that what would be a compliment to others, when said to her would be plain dealing." "No, truly, sir," said the lady; "I am not without my faults, like the rest of my sex; and yet, notwithstanding all my faults, I love plain dealing, and never am more fond of it than when it tells me of a fault." "Then, madam," says Mr. Fairbeard, "you and 'The Plain Dealer' seem designed by Heaven for each other."

The upshot of the affair was that Mr. Wycherley accompanied the countess on her walks, waited on her home, visited her daily at her lodgings, followed her to town, and, as we have seen, at Hatton Garden brought his wooing to a successful close.

A gallant beginning should have a good ending. But it was not so here: the lady proved unreasonably jealous, and led the poor poet a sad life. Even from a pecuniary point of view he made a bad bargain of his marriage, for after her death her bequest to him was disputed at law, and, drowned in debt, he was immured in a gaol for seven years.

The celebrated physician, Dr. George Bate, who attended Oliver Cromwell in his last illness, died in Hatton Garden in 1668. He was born in 1608 at Maid's Morton, near Buckingham. He rose to great eminence in his profession, and when King Charles kept his court at Oxford, was his principal physician there. When the king's affairs declined, he removed to London, and adapted himself so well to the changed times that he became chief physician to the Lord Protector, whom he is said to have highly flattered. Upon the restoration he got into favour again with the royal party, and was made principal physician to Charles II., and Fellow of the Royal Society. This, we are told, was owing to a report, raised on very slender foundation, and asserted only by his friends, that he gave Cromwell a dose of poison which hastened his death.

Charles Street, which intersects Hatton Garden, is interesting as that in which Joseph Strutt, the antiquarian writer, died, on the 16th of October, 1802. We have already given some particulars regarding him, when speaking of St. Andrew's Churchyard, in which he was buried. There is a publichouse of the name of the "Bleeding Heart" in this street. This is a sign dating from before the Reformation. It is the emblematical representation of the five sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary— viz., the heart of the Holy Virgin pierced with five swords. Bleeding Heart Yard, adjoining the publichouse in Charles Street, is immortalised by Charles Dickens in "Little Dorrit."

Bleeding Heart Yard, says the novelist, "was a place much changed in feature and fortune, yet with some relish of ancient greatness about it. Two or three mighty stacks of chimneys, and a few large dark rooms, which had escaped being walled and subdivided out of the recognition of their old proportions, gave the yard a character. It was inhabited by poor people, who set up their rest among its faded glories as Arabs of the desert pitch their tents among the fallen stones of the Pyramids; but there was a family sentimental feeling prevalent in the yard, that it had a character. . . . . .

"The opinion of the Yard was divided respecting the derivation of its name. The more practical of its inmates abided by the tradition of a murder; the gentler and more imaginative inhabitants, including the whole of the tender sex, were loyal to the legend of a young lady of former time closely imprisoned in her chamber by a cruel father for remaining true to her own true love, and refusing to marry the suitor he chose for her. The legend related how that the young lady used to be seen up at her window, behind the bars, murmuring a love-lorn song, of which the burden was 'Bleeding Heart, Bleeding Heart, bleeding away,' until she died. It was objected by the murderous party that this refrain was notoriously the invention of a tambour-worker, a spinster, and romantic, still lodging in the yard. But forasmuch as all favourite legends must be associated with the affections, and as many more people fall in love than commit murder—which, it may be hoped, howsoever bad we are, will continue until the end of the world to be the dispensation under which we live— the Bleeding-Heart, Bleeding-Heart, bleeding-away story, carried the day by a large majority. Neither party would listen to the antiquaries, who delivered learned lectures in the neighbourhood showing the bleeding heart to have been the heraldic cognisance of the old family to whom the property once belonged. And considering that the hour-glass they turned from year to year was filled with the earthiest and coarsest sand, the Bleeding Heart Yarders had reason enough for objecting to be despoiled of the one little golden grain of poetry that sparkled in it."

The next Holborn tributary to be mentioned is Leather Lane, which runs from Holborn to Liquorpond Street. "Then, higher up," says Stow, "is Lither Lane, turning also to the field, lately replenished with houses built, and so to the bar." Strype, describing it in his own time, says, "The east side of this lane is best built, having all brick houses. . . . . In this lane is 'White Heart Inn,' 'Nag's Head Inn,' and 'King's Head Inn'— all indifferent."

Following Leather Lane northwards, we come to Eyre Street. It is too far removed from our main thoroughfare to be mentioned without an excuse. We make the excuse, however, for the sake of the eminent artist who breathed his last here. Here, in 1804, died George Morland, the celebrated painter. It was in a sponging-house. He had been taken in execution by a publican, for a debt amounting, with costs, to about ten pounds, and was conveyed to this place in Eyre Street Hill, overwhelmed with misfortune, debt, and neglect; every evil being aggravated by the bitterness of self-reproach.

"In this state of desperation," says his biographer, "he drank great quantities of spirits, and more than once attempted to resume the exercise of those talents which hitherto had never failed to procure him the means of relief; but the period was arrived when even that resource failed him, for the next morning he dropped off his chair in a fit, while sketching a bank and a tree in a drawing. This proved to be the commencement of a brain fever; after which he never spoke intelligibly, but remained eight days delirious and convulsed, in a state of utter mental and bodily debility, and expired the 29th of October, 1804, in the fortysecond year of his age.

With regard to the works of this unfortunate and dissipated artist, justly entitled to the appellation of "the English Teniers," it is certain that they will be esteemed so long as any taste for art remains in the kingdom. Even his ordinary productions will give pleasure to all who are charmed with an accurate representation of nature. His command over the implements of his profession was very great, so great, indeed, that the use of them became to him a second nature. Thus pictures flowed from his pencil with the most astonishing rapidity, and without that patience and industry which works even of inferior merit so often require. While he was in the prime of life, with a constitution unimpaired, his chief efforts were in picturesque landscape, in which every circumstance was represented with the utmost accuracy and spirit; and it is such subjects as these, to which he devoted his attention for about seven years, that have secured him an imperishable reputation. In such pieces, the figures he introduced were of the lowest order, but they retained a consistency appropriate to the surroundings. When, from increasing depravity of manners, he left the green woodside, and became the constant inmate of the alehouse, his subjects were of a meaner cast, for he only painted what he saw. "In portraying drovers, stage-coachmen, postilions, and labourers of all descriptions," says Mr. F. W. Blagdon, "he shone in full glory; and his favourite animals, the ass, the sheep, and the hog, were represented with an accuracy peculiar to himself, though with a deficiency of that correctness which is requisite to form a finished picture; because a few strokes will represent a picturesque character, while beauty of form can only arise from repeated comparisons with and amendments from viewing the object delineated. Morland, however, made his sketches at once, and finished them from recollection, and hence his pictures afford the finest specimens of Nature in her roughest state, but nothing that in point of form can be called beautiful: it has even been said, though with what truth I cannot pretend to determine, that he was never able to draw a beautiful horse, like those delineated by Stubbs or Gilpin. But it will never be disputed that as a painter of old, rugged, and working cattle, together with all the localities of a farm-yard or stable, his equal does not, nor ever did, exist."

He was much given to mischievous amusement, and was fond of making a disturbance in the night, and alarming his neighbours. A frolic of this sort had nearly cost him dear:—Whilst living at Lambeth, he, with the assistance of a drunken companion, actually broke open his own house, and enjoyed beyond description the alarm it occasioned his family, some relations being at the time with him on a visit. He was at length taken up by some persons who witnessed the transaction, when it turned out that he had apprised the watchman of his intentions, and even bribed him to assist.

Brooke Street, Holborn, is familiar enough to the general public as leading to the church of St. Alban's—a church which, for sundry reasons, has been of late somewhat prominently before the world. Few, however, of those who pass up and down its well-trodden pavement are aware of the interesting memories which belong to the neighbourhood.

In a lodging in Brooke Street—most probably No. 39—on the 24th of August, 1770, the marvellous boy, Chatterton, put an end to his life by swallowing arsenic in water. The house was then No. 4, and in the occupation of a Mrs. Angel, a sackmaker. The poet was seventeen years and nine months old at the time of his death.

With Chatterton's career in Bristol—where he was born on the 20th November, 1752—with his Rowley forgeries, with his communications with Horace Walpole, and the discovery of their spurious nature, we shall not meddle at present. But we may profitably spend a short time here in speaking of his life from the time of his arrival in the great metropolis till his sad end. Dissatisfied with Bristol, and feeling certain that in London his talent would be duly honoured, he came here about the end of April, 1770. To his correspondents he boasted that he had had three distinct resources to trust to: one was to write, another was to turn Methodist parson, and the last was to shoot himself. The last resource, unfortunately, is in everybody's power. A friendly group saw him start; he arrived in town, and settled first in lodgings in Shoreditch, but afterwards removed to the above-mentioned address in Brooke Street. For the space of four months he struggled against fate, but the records we have of his doings are obscure and untrustworthy. It is true he sent flaming accounts to friends in Bristol of his rising importance; that he found money to purchase and transmit to his mother and sister useless articles of finery; and also that he did his best to form profitable connections: it may well be doubted, however, whether any large amount of success or remuneration rewarded his extraordinary efforts.

His first literary attempts were of a political kind, and he contrived to write on both sides of the question. He also produced numerous articles of a miscellaneous kind in prose and verse. At one time he seemed in a fair way for fortune, for Lord Mayor Beckford encouraged him, and accepted of the dedication of an essay; but before the essay could appear, Beckford died. He made a profit, however, on the Lord Mayor's death, and wrote down on the back of a MS., "I am glad he is dead, by £3 13s. 6d." Wilkes also took notice of him, but, likely enough, he was more ready with his praise than with his money.

At length, work failed the unfortunate poet, and he began to starve; his literary pursuits were abandoned, and he projected to go out to Africa as a naval surgeon's mate. He had picked up some knowledge of surgery from Mr. Barrett, the historian of Bristol, and now requested that gentleman's recommendation; but he thought proper to refuse. The short remainder of his days was spent in a conflict between pride and poverty.

"Mrs. Angel," says Dix, in his "Life of Chatterton," "stated that for two days, when he did not absent himself from his room, he went without sustenance of any kind. On one occasion, when she knew him to be in want of food, she begged he would take a little dinner with her; he was offended at the invitation, and assured her he was not hungry. Mr. Cross also, an apothecary in Brooke Street, gave evidence that he repeatedly pressed Chatterton to dine or sup with him, and when, with great difficulty, he was one evening prevailed on to partake of a barrel of oysters, he was observed to eat most voraciously."


When he was found lying on his bed, stiff and cold, on the 25th of August, there were remains of arsenic between his teeth. Previous to committing suicide, he seems to have destroyed all his manuscripts; for when his room was broken open, it was found littered with little scraps of paper.

He was interred, after the inquest, in a pauper's burial-ground, as mentioned by us already (Vol. I., p. 134); but there is a story, also related by us elsewhere, to which some credit may perhaps be given, that his body was removed to Bristol, and secretly stowed away in the churchyard of St. Mary Redcliffe. "There can be no more decisive proof," says Mr. Chalmers, "of the little regard he attracted in London, than the secrecy and silence which accompanied his death. This event, though so extraordinary—for young suicides are surely not common —is not even mentioned in any shape in the Gentleman's Magazine, the Annual Register, St. James's or London Chronicles, nor in any of the respectable publications of the day." And so perished in destitution, obscurity, and despair, one who, under happier circumstances, might have ranked among the first of his generation.

Of the house in which the poet terminated his strange career, Mr. Hotten, in his "Adversaria," gives some interesting reminiscences. At the date of Mr. Hotten's writing, the house was occupied by a plumber, of the name of Jefford. "We know," he says, "from the account of Sir Herbert Croft, that Chatterton occupied the garret—a room looking out into the street, as the only garret in this house does. I remember this room very well as it was twenty-six years ago, soon after which the occupier made some alterations in it. It must then have been substantially in the same condition as in 1770; for the walls were old and dilapidated, and the flooring decayed. It was a square and rather large room for an attic. It had two windows in it—lattice windows, or casements—built in a style which I think is called 'Dormer.' Outside ran the gutter, with a low parapet wall, over which you could look into the street below. The roof was very low—so low that I, who am not a tall man, could hardly stand upright in it with my hat on; and it had a very long slope, extending from the middle of the room down to the windows. It is a curious fact that, in the well-known picture (the 'Death of Chatterton,' by Wallis) exhibited at Manchester, St. Paul's is visible through the window; I say a singular fact, because, although this is strictly in accordance with the truth, as now known, the story previously believed was that the house was opposite, where no room looking into the street could have commanded a view of St. Paul's. This, however, could only have been a lucky accident of the painter's. About the time I have mentioned, the tenant divided the garret into two with a partition, carried the roof up, making it horizontal, and made some other alterations which have gone far to destroy the identity of the room. It is a singular coincidence, seeing the connection between the names of Walpole and Chatterton, that my friend, Mrs. Jefford, the wife of the now occupier, who has resided there more than twenty years, was for some years in the service of Horace Walpole, afterwards Lord Orford. She is a very old lady, and remembers Lord Orford well, having entered his family as a girl, and continued in it till he died, near the end of the last century."


The epitaph adopted for Chatterton's monument in Bristol was one written by himself; and with it we leave him, to pass on to a happier subject:—

To the Memory of
Thomas Chatterton.
Reader, judge not; if thou art a Christian,
believe that he shall be judged by
a superior Power; to that Power
alone he is answerable.

Philip Yorke, the great Lord Chancellor Hardwicke (born 1690), was articled, without a fee, it is said, to an attorney named Salkeld, in Brooke Street. It was rather against the wish of his mother, who was a rigid Presbyterian. She expressed a strong wish, "that Philip should be put apprentice to some 'honester trade;'" and sometimes she declared her ambition to be that "she might see his head wag in the pulpit." However, an offer having been made by Mr. Salkeld, she withdrew her objections, and Philip was transferred to the metroplis, to exhibit "a rare instance of great natural abilities, joined with an early resolution to rise in the world, and aided by singular good luck." He had received an imperfect education—his family being in narrow circumstances— and whilst applying to business here with the most extraordinary assiduity, he employed every leisure moment in endeavouring to supply the defects of his early training. "All lawyer's clerks," says Lord Campbell, in his "Lives of the Lord Chancellors," "were then obliged, in a certain degree, to understand Latin, in which many law proceedings were carried on; but he, not content with being able to construe the 'chirograph of a fine,' (fn. 1) or to draw a 'Nar,' (fn. 2) took delight in perusing Virgil and Cicero, and made himself well acquainted with the other more popular Roman classics, though he never mastered the minutiæ of Latin prosody, and, for fear of a false quantity, ventured with fear and trembling on a Latin quotation. Greek he hardly affected to be acquainted with."

By these means he gained the entire good-will and esteem of his master, who, observing in him abilities and application that prognosticated his future eminence, entered him as a student in the Temple, and suffered him to dine in the Hall during the terms. But his mistress, a notable woman, thinking she might take some liberties with a gratis clerk, used frequently to send him from his business on family errands, and to fetch in little necessaries from Covent Garden and other markets. This, when he became a favourite with his master, and entrusted with his business and cash, he thought an indignity, and got rid of it by a stratagem which prevented complaints or expostulation. In his accounts with his master there frequently occurred "Coach hire for roots of celery and turnips from Covent Garden, and a barrel of oysters from the fishmonger's, &c." This Mr. Salkeld observed, and urging on his wife the impropriety and ill housewifery of such a practice, put an end to it.

There were at that time in Mr. Salkeld's office several young gentlemen of good family and connections, who had been sent there to be initiated in the practical part of the law. With these Philip Yorke, though an articled clerk, associated on terms of perfect equality, and they had the merit of discovering and encouraging his good qualities.

"But the young man," continues Lord Campbell, "still had to struggle with many difficulties, and he would probably have been obliged, from penury, to go upon the roll of attorneys, rising only to be clerk to the magistrates at petty sessions, or, perhaps, to the dignity of town clerk of Dover, had it not been for his accidental introduction to Lord Chief Justice Parker, which was the foundation of all his prosperity and greatness. This distinguished judge had a high opinion of Mr. Salkeld, who was respected by all ranks of the profession, and asked him one day if he could tell him of a decent and intelligent person who might assist as a sort of lawtutor for his sons—to assist and direct them in their professional studies. The attorney eagerly recommended his clerk, Philip Yorke, who was immediately retained in that capacity, and, giving the highest satisfaction by his assiduity and his obliging manners, gained the warm friendship of the sons, and the weighty, persevering, and unscrupulous patronage of the father." In Brooke Street

"Three years he sat his smoky room in,
Pens, paper, ink, and pounce consumin';"

but he now bade adieu to that legal haunt, and had a commodious chamber assigned him in Lincoln's Inn Fields. "Released from the drudgery, not only of going to Covent Garden Market, but of attending captions and serving process, he devoted himself with fresh vigour to the abstruse parts of the law, and to his more liberal studies. Farther, he took great pains to acquire the habit of correct composition in English—generally so much neglected by English lawyers that many of the most eminent of them will be found, in their written 'opinions,' violating the rules of grammar, and, without the least remorse, construing their sentences in a slovenly manner for which a schoolboy would be whipped. The Tatler had done much to inspire a literary taste into all ranks. This periodical had ceased, but being now succeeded by the Spectator, Philip Yorke gave his days and nights to the study of Addison." And now we have started him fairly in the race for the Lord Chancellorship, the goal at which he arrived in 1736. He held the office of Lord Chancellor for twenty years. His reputation as a judge was very high; indeed, so great confidence was placed both in his uprightness and in his professional skill, that during the whole of his Chancellorship, not one of his decisions was set aside, and only three were tried on appeal.

Greville Street, running off Brooke Street, as well as Brooke Street itself, derives its name from Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke, "servant to Queen Elizabeth, counsellor to King James, and friend to Sir Philip Sidney." Brooke House was subsequently known as Warwick House, and stood, according to Mr. Cunningham, where Greville Street now stands.

It was in Brooke House that, on the 1st of September, 1628, Lord Brooke met with his tragical fate. He had been attended for many years by one Ralph Haywood, a gentleman by birth, who thought that the least his master could do for him would be to reward his long services by bequeathing him a handsome legacy. It fell out, however, that Lord Brooke not only omitted Haywood's name from his will, but unfortunately allowed him to become cognisant of the fact. Irritated at this, and, besides, at having been sharply reprimanded for some real or imaginary offence, Haywood determined to have his revenge. He entered Lord Brooke's chamber, had a violent dispute with him, and ended by stabbing him in the back. The assassin then retreated to his own apartment, locked himself in, and committed suicide, killing himself by the same weapon with which he had stabbed his master. Lord Brooke survived only a few days.

Lord Brooke was born at Beauchamp Court, in Warwickshire, in 1554, and was educated at Oxford. Upon his return to England, after a Continental tour to finish his education, he was introduced to the Court of Elizabeth by his uncle, Robert Greville. He speedily became a favourite with the Queen, though he did not fail to experience some of the capriciousness, as well as many of the delights, of royal favour. He and Sir Philip Sidney became fast friends, and when, in 1586, the latter unfortunately closed his earthly career, he left Lord Brooke (then simply Mr. Greville) one-half of his books. The reign of James I. opened happily for him. At the king's coronation he was made K.B., and an office which he held, in connection with the Council of the Court of Marches of Wales, was confirmed to him for life. In the second year of James I., he obtained a grant of Warwick Castle. This seems to have gratified him exceedingly; and the castle being in a ruinous condition, he laid out £20,000 in repairing it. He afterwards occupied the posts of Under-Treasurer and Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Lord of the King's Bedchamber. On the death of King James, he continued in the privy council of Charles I., in the beginning of whose reign he founded a history lecture in the University of Cambridge, and endowed it with a salary of £100 a year. He did not long survive this last act of generosity; for though he was a munificent patron of learning and learned men, he at last fell a victim to the extraordinary outrage, as we have seen, of a discontented domestic.

He was the author of several works; but it is for his generosity to more successful authors than himself that he is chiefly to be remembered. "He made Sir Philip Sidney, his dear friend," says Chalmers, "the great exemplar of his life in everything; and Sidney being often celebrated as the patron of the Muses in general, so, we are told, Lord Brooke desired to be known to posterity under no other character than that of Shakespeare's and Ben Jonson's master; Lord Chancellor Egerton and Bishop Overal's patron. His lordship also obtained the office of Clarencieux-at-Arms for Mr. Camden, who very gratefully acknowledged it in his lifetime, and at his death left him a piece of plate in his will. He also raised John Speed from a mechanic to be an historiographer." His kindness to Sir William Davenant must also be mentioned. He took a fancy to that poet when he was very young, and received him into his family, and it is quite likely that the plan of the earlier plays of Davenant was formed in Brooke House; they were published shortly after Lord Brooke's death.

Gray's Inn Lane is the last northern tributary we have to mention. It derives its name, as one might naturally enough conclude, from the adjacent inn of court. "This lane," says Stow, "is furnished with fair buildings, and many tenements on both the sides leading to the fields towards Highgate and Hampstead."

To the novel-reader Gray's Inn Lane will be always interesting. Tom Jones entered the great metropolis by its narrow, dingy thoroughfare, on his way to put up at the "Bull and Gate," in Holborn. Jones, as well as Partridge, his companion, says Fielding, "was an entire stranger in London; and as he happened to arrive first in a quarter of the town the inhabitants of which have very little intercourse with the householders of Hanover or Grosvenor Square (for he entered through Gray's Inn Lane), so he rambled about some time before he could even find his way to those happy mansions where fortune segregates from the vulgar those magnanimous heroes, the descendants of ancient Britons, Saxons, or Danes, whose ancestors, being born in better days, by sundry kinds of merit have entailed riches and honour on their posterity."

It was there he hoped to find Sophia Western, but "after a successless inquiry, till the clock had struck eleven, Jones at length yielded to the advice of Partridge, and retreated to the 'Bull and Gate,' in Holborn, that being the inn where he had first alighted, and where he retired to enjoy that kind of repose which usually attends persons in his circumstances"—the unquiet sleep that lovers have.

We can picture to ourselves the excitement with which Fielding's hero and his companion first rode down Gray's Inn Lane. They had, an hour or two before, had an adventure with a highwayman, an adventure told by the novelist in his chapter on "What Happened to Mr. Jones on his Journey from St. Albans," and which we shall repeat here for the benefit of those who, though perhaps on nodding acquaintance with the "Foundling," have not yet had leisure to listen to all his long history. "They were got about two miles beyond Barnet, and it was now the dusk of the evening, when a genteel-looking man, but upon a very shabby horse, rode up to Jones, and asked him whether he was going to London, to which Jones answered in the affirmative. The gentleman replied, 'I shall be obliged to you, sir, if you will accept of my company; for it is very late, and I am a stranger to the road.' Jones readily complied with the request, and on they travelled together, holding that sort of discourse which is usual on such occasions. Of this, indeed, robbery was the principal topic; upon which subject the stranger expressed great apprehensions; but Jones declared he had very little to lose, and consequently as little to fear. Here Partridge could not forbear putting in his word. 'Your honour,' said he, 'may think it a little, but I am sure if I had a hundred pound bank-note in my pocket as you have, I should be very sorry to lose it. But, for my part, I was never less afraid in my life; for we are four of us"— the guide made the fourth of the party—" and if we all stand by one another, the best man in England can't rob us. Suppose he should have a pistol, he can kill but one of us, and a man can die but once; that's my comfort—a man can die but once.'

"Besides the reliance on superior numbers—a kind of valour which hath raised a certain nation among the moderns to a high pitch of glory—there was another reason for the extraordinary courage which Partridge now discovered, for he had at present as much of that quality as was in the power of liquor to bestow.

"Our company were now arrived within a mile of Highgate, when the stranger turned short upon Jones, and pulling out a pistol, demanded that little bank-note which Partridge had mentioned.

"Jones was at first somewhat shocked at this unexpected demand; however, he presently recollected himself, and told the highwayman all the money he had in his pocket was entirely at his service; and so saying, he pulled out upwards of three guineas, and offered to deliver it, but the other answered, with an oath, that would not do. Jones answered, coolly, he was very sorry for it, and returned the money into his pocket.

"The highwayman then threatened, if he did not deliver the bank-note that moment, he must shoot him; holding the pistol at the same time very near to his breast. Jones instantly caught hold of the fellow's hand, which trembled so that he could scarce hold the pistol in it, and turned the muzzle from him. A struggle then ensued, in which the former wrested the pistol from the hands of his antagonist, and both came from their horses on the ground together—the highwayman on his back, the victorious Jones upon him.

"The poor fellow now began to implore mercy of the conqueror, for, to say the truth, he was in strength by no means a match for Jones. 'Indeed, sir,' says he, 'I could have no intention to shoot you, for you will find the pistol was not loaded. This is the first robbery I ever attempted, and I have been driven by distress to this.'

"At this instant, about one hundred and fifty yards distant, lay another person on the ground, roaring for mercy in a much louder voice than the highwayman. This was no other than Partridge himself, who, endeavouring to make his escape from the engagement, had been thrown from his horse, and lay flat on his face, not daring to look up, and expecting every minute to be shot.

"In this posture he lay till the guide, who was no otherwise concerned than for his horse, having secured the stumbling beast, came up to him, and told him his master had got the better of the highwayman.

"Partridge leaped up at this news, and ran back to the place where Jones stood, with his sword drawn in his hand, to guard the poor fellow, which Partridge no sooner saw, than he cried out, 'Kill the villain, sir! Run him through the body! Kill him, this instant!'

"Luckily, however, for the poor wretch, he had fallen into more merciful hands; for Jones, having examined the pistol, and found it to be really unloaded, began to believe all the man had told him before Partridge came up—namely, that he was a novice in the trade, and that he had been driven to it by the distress he had mentioned, the greatest, indeed, imaginable—that of five hungry children, and a wife lying-in of the sixth, in the utmost want and misery; the truth of all which the highwayman most violently asserted, and offered to convince Mr. Jones of, if he would take the trouble to go to his house, which was not above two miles off, saying he desired no favour, but on condition of proving all he alleged.

"Jones at first pretended that he would take the fellow at his word, and go with him, declaring that his fate should depend entirely on the truth of his story. Upon this the poor fellow immediately expressed so much alacrity, that Jones was perfectly satisfied with his veracity, and began now to entertain sentiments of compassion for him. He returned the fellow his empty pistol, advised him to think of honester means of relieving his distress, and gave him a couple of guineas for the immediate support of his wife and family, adding, he wished he had had more, for his sake, for the hundred pounds that had been mentioned was not his own."

They parted, and Jones and Partridge rode on towards London, conversing of highwaymen. Jones threw out some satirical jokes on his companion's cowardice; but Partridge gave expression to a new philosophy:—"A thousand naked men," said he, "are nothing to one pistol; for though, it is true, it will kill but one at a single discharge, yet who can tell but that one may be himself?"

Among the famous residents in Gray's Inn Lane were Hampden and Pym. It was here that they held their consultations, when the matter of the ship-money was pleaded in the Star-Chamber.

Three poets are also to be mentioned in connection with the lane. The first of these is James Shirley, the poet and dramatist. This once wellknown writer was educated at St. John's College, Oxford, and was destined for the Church. Archbishop Laud advised him against carrying out the design, the reason being, according to Shirley's biographer, that the archbishop, who was a rigid observer of the canons of the Church, had noticed that the future poet had a large mole on one of his cheeks. Notwithstanding this, however, Shirley eventually took orders, and obtained a curacy near St. Albans. He would have been better to have remained as he was, for his religious opinions became unsettled, and leaving the Church of England, he soon went over to Rome. After trying to maintain himself by teaching, he made his way to London, took up his abode in Gray's Inn Lane, and became a writer for the stage.

Happily, he lived in a golden age for dramatic genius. Charles I. appreciated him, and invited him to court, and Queen Henrietta Maria conferred on him an appointment in her household. But soon the Civil War broke out. The poet then bade adieu to wife and children, and accompanied the Duke of Newcastle in his campaigns. On the failure of the king's cause he returned to London, ruined and desponding. His patron had perished on the scaffold, and his occupation as a playwright was being denounced from every pulpit in the land. He did the most sensible thing possible in the circumstances—he resumed his occupation of schoolmaster. His success was considerable; and he showed his attention to his profession by publishing several works on grammar.

After a time came the Restoration, and with it the revival of his plays, but it brought no long career of prosperity to the poet. His death was remarkable. His house, which was at that time in Fleet Street, was burned to the ground in the Great Fire of 1666, and he was forced, with his wife, to retreat to the suburbs, where the fright and loss so affected them both, that they died within some hours of each other, and were buried in the same grave.

The second poet to be noticed is John Ogilby, whom the late Mr. Jesse terms "unfortunate," but whom Mr. Chalmers characterises by the juster terms of "a very industrious adventurer in literary speculation," and "an enterprising and honest man." He was in his youth bound apprentice to a dancing-master in Gray's Inn Lane. In this line of life he soon made money enough to purchase his discharge from his apprenticeship. His talents as a dancer led to his introduction at court; but unluckily, at a masque given by the Duke of Buckingham, in executing a caper, he fell, and so severely sprained one of the sinews of his leg as to be incapacitated from such lively exhibitions for the future. He had, however, a resource still left for him, as he continued to teach dancing. After a time he became author by profession, and wrote, translated, and edited all the rest of his days. Towards the close of his career he was appointed cosmographer and geographic printer to Charles II.

The third and last poet is the Rev. John Langhorne, known to every school-boy and girl for his lines "To a Redbreast," beginning—

"Little bird with bosom red,
Welcome to my humble shed."

His favourite haunt was the "Peacock," in this lane, a house celebrated in the last century for its Burton ale. It is a pity that Langhorne was too fond of the pleasant beverage: over-indulgence in it is said to have hastened his end. Chalmers certainly suggests a lame excuse for his tippling habits—that he had twice lost his wife. Langhorne deserves remembrance, if for nothing else than the excellent translation of Plutarch's "Lives," which he executed in company with his brother William, and which has become so universally popular. To judge from his writings, he was a man of an amiable disposition, a friend to religion and morality; and, though a wit, we never find him descending to grossness or indelicacy. He was born in 1735, and died on the 1st of April, 1779.

Numerous indeed are the spots in Gray's Inn Lane about which some memory hovers, or concerning which some good anecdote might be unearthed. Towards the close of the eighteenth century there was a public-house in this lane called the "Blue Lion;" but the lion being the work of an artist who had not given very deep study to the personal appearance of the monarch of beasts, the establishment was commonly spoken of by its humorous frequenters as the "Blue Cat." It bore no good character. A Mr. Francis Head, in giving evidence, in 1835, before a Committee of the House of Commons, appointed to inquire into the state of education of the people of England and Wales, said, "I have seen the landlord of this place come into the long room with a lump of silver in his hand, which he had melted for the thieves, and paid them for it. There was no disguise about it; it was done openly."

Walking up Gray's Inn Lane, the first turning one comes to on the right is Fox Court. There is nothing attractive about its outward appearance, but, like nearly every nook and corner of old London, it has its own story to tell. "In this wretched alley," says Mr. Jesse, "the profligate Countess of Macclesfield was delivered of her illegitimate child, Richard Savage. In 'the Earl of Macclesfield's Case,' presented to the House of Lords, will be found some curious particulars respecting the accouchement of the countess, and the birth of the future poet. From this source it appears that Anne, Countess of Macclesfield, under the name of Madame Smith, was delivered of a male child in Fox Court, Holborn, by a Mrs. Wright, a midwife, on Saturday, the 16th of January, 1697, at six o'clock in the morning; that the child was baptised on the Monday following, and registered by Mr. Burbridge, assistant curate of St. Andrew's, Holborn, as the son of John Smith; that it was christened, on Monday, the 18th of February, in Fox Court, and that, from the privacy maintained on the occasion, it was supposed by Mr. Burbridge to be a 'by-blow.' During her delivery, Lady Macclesfield wore a mask. By the entry of the birth in the parish register of St. Andrew's, it appears that the child's putative father, Lord Rivers, gave his son his own Christian name: 'January 1696–7, Richard, son of John Smith and Mary, in Fox Court, in Gray's Inn Lane, baptised the 18th.'"

The life of Savage was a singular one, and, as narrated by his intimate friend, Dr. Johnson, has attracted great interest from all classes of readers. After undergoing experiences of the strangest diversity, at one time living in the most lavish luxury, at another on the brink of starvation; a successful poet to-day, and standing in the felon's dock on a charge of murder to-morrow, he died in 1743, in the debtors' prison at Bristol, exhibiting, as Johnson observes, with characteristic solemnity of antithesis, a lamentable proof that "negligence and irregularity, long continued, will make knowledge useless, wit ridiculous, and genius contemptible."

Fox Court opens into Brooke Street, and Mr. Cunningham points out this strange coincidence between the career of Savage, and that of the equally unfortunate Chatterton: "Savage was born in Fox Court, Brooke Street; Chatterton died in Brooke Street; Savage died in Bristol, and Chatterton was born in Bristol."


  • 1. The record of a fictitious suit, resorted to for the purpose of docking estates tail, and quieting the title to lands.
  • 2. Familiar contraction of Narratio, the "Declaration" or Statement of the plaintiff's grievance, or cause of action.