THE STRAND (SOUTH SIDE).
Essex Street was formerly part of the Outer Temple, the western wing of the Knight Templars’ quarter. The outer district of these proud and wealthy Crusaders stretched as far as the present Devereux Court; those gentler spoilers, the mediæval lawyers, having extended their frontiers quite as far as their rooted-out predecessors. From the Prior and Canons of the Holy Sepulchre it was transferred, in the reign of Edward II. to the Bishops of Exeter, who built a palace here and occupied it till the reign of Henry VII. or Henry VIII.
[Pg 26]The first tenant of Exeter House was the ill-fated Walter Stapleton, Lord Treasurer of England, a firm adherent to the luckless Edward II., against his queen and the turbulent barons. In 1326, when Isabella landed from France to chase the Spensers from her husband’s side, and advanced on London, the weak king and his evil counsellors fled to the Welsh frontier; but the bishop held out stoutly for his king, and, as custos of the City of London, demanded the keys from the Lord Mayor, Hammond Chickwell, to prevent the treachery of the disaffected city. The watchful populace, roused by Isabella’s proclamation that had been hung on the new cross in Cheapside, rose in arms, seized the vacillating mayor, and took the keys. They next ran to Exeter House, then newly erected, fired the gates, and burnt all the plate, jewels, money, and goods. The bishop, at that time in the fields, being almost too proud to show fear, rode straight to the northern door of St. Paul’s to take sanctuary. There the mob tore him from his horse, stripped him of his armour, and dragging him to Cheapside, proclaimed him a traitor, a seducer of the king, and an enemy of their liberties, and lopping off his head, set it on a pole. The corpse was buried without funeral service in an old churchyard of the Pied Friars. His brother and some servants were also beheaded, and their bleeding and naked bodies thrown on a heap of rubbish by the river side.
Exeter Place was shortly afterwards rebuilt, but the new house seemed a doomed place, and brought no better fortune to its new owners. Lord Paget, who changed its name to Paget House, fought at Boulogne under the poet Earl of Surrey, was ambassador at the court of Charles V., and on his return obtained a peerage and the garter. He fell with the Protector Somerset, being accused of having planned the assassination of the Duke of Northumberland at Paget House. Released from the Tower, he was deprived of the garter upon the malicious pretence that he was not a gentleman by blood. Queen Mary, however, restored the fallen man to honour, made him Lord Privy Seal, and sent him on an embassy.
[Pg 27]The next occupier of the unlucky house, Thomas Howard, fourth Duke of Norfolk, and son of the poet Earl of Surrey, maintained in its chambers an almost royal magnificence. It was here he was arrested for conspiring, with the aid of Mary Queen of Scots, the Pope, and the King of Spain, to marry Mary and restore the Popish religion.
The duke’s ambition and treason were fully proved by his own intercepted letters; indeed, he himself confessed his guilt, though he had denounced Mary to Elizabeth as a “notorious adulteress and murderer.” To crown his rashness, meanness, and treason, he wrote from the Tower the most abject letters to Elizabeth, imploring her clemency. He was privately beheaded in 1572, but his estates were restored to his children. It was under the mat, hard by a window in the entry towards the duke’s bedchamber, that the celebrated alphabet in cipher was hidden, which the duke afterwards concealed under a roof tile, where it was found, unmasking all his plans.
In the Tower the unhappy plotter had written affecting letters to his son Philip, bidding him worship God, avoid courts, and beware of ambition. The warning of the man whose eyes had been opened too late is touching. The writer, speaking of court life, remarks, “It hath no certainty. Either a man, by following thereof, hath too much worldly pomp, which in the end throws him down headlong, or else he liveth there unsatisfied, either that he cannot obtain to himself that he would, or else that he cannot do for his friends as his heart desireth.”
Poor Philip did not benefit much by these lessons, but remained simple Earl of Arundel, was repeatedly committed to the Tower, as by necessity an ill-wisher to Elizabeth, and eventually died there after ten weary years of imprisonment. His initials are still to be found on the walls of one of the chambers in the Beauchamp Tower.
Fools never learn the lessons which Time tries so hard to beat into them. Plotter succeeds plotter, and the rough[Pg 28] lesson of the headsman seldom teaches the conspirator’s successor to cease from conspiring.
To the Norfolks succeeded Dudley, the false Earl of Leicester, the black or gipsy earl, as he was called from his swarthy Italian complexion. Leicester, like the duke before him, plotted with Mary’s Jesuits and assassins, and at the same time contrived to keep in favour with his own jealous queen, in spite of all his failures and schemings in Holland, and his suspected assassinations of his enemies in England. Leicester died of fever the year of the Armada (1588), on his return from the camp at Tilbury, leaving Leicester Place to Robert Devereux, his step-son, the Earl of Essex, who succeeded to his favour at court, but was doomed to an untimely death.
It was to the great Lord of Kenilworth—that dark, mysterious man, who perhaps deserved more praise than historians usually give him—that Spenser dedicated his poem of “Virgil’s Gnat.” In his beautiful “Prothalamion” on the marriage of Lady Elizabeth and Lady Catherine Somerset, he speaks somewhat abjectly of Leicester, ingeniously contriving to remind Essex of his father-in-law’s bounty. “Near to the Temple,” the needy poet says,
“Stands a stately place,
Where I gayned giftes and the goodly grace
Of that great lord who there was wont to dwell,
Whose want too well now feels my friendless case;
But, ah! here fits not well
Then the poet goes on to eulogise Essex, who, however, it is supposed, after all allowed him to die in want. But there is a mystery about Spenser’s death. He returned from Ireland, beggared and almost broken-hearted, in October or November 1599, and died in the January following, just as Essex was preparing to start to Ireland. In that whirl of ambition, the poor poet may perhaps have been rather overlooked than wilfully slighted. This at least is certain, that he was buried in Westminster Abbey, near Chaucer’s[Pg 29] tomb, the Earl of Essex defraying the expenses of his public funeral.
It was in his prison-house near the Temple that the hair-brained Earl of Essex shut himself sulkily up, when Queen Elizabeth had given him a box on the ears, after a dispute about the new deputy for Ireland, in which the earl had shown a petulant violence unworthy of the pupil of Burleigh.
Far too much sympathy has been shown with this rash, imperious, and unbearable young noble. He was sent to Ireland, and there concluded a disgraceful, wilful, and traitorous treaty with one of England’s most inveterate and dangerous enemies. He returned from that “cursedest of all islands,” as he called it, against express command, and was with difficulty dissuaded from landing in open rebellion. Generous and frank he may have been, but his submission to the mild and well-deserved punishment of confinement to his own house was as base and abject as it was false and hypocritical.
Alarmed, mortified, and enraged at the duration of his banishment from court, and at the refusal of a renewed grant for the monopoly of sweet wines, Essex betook himself to open rebellion, urged on by ill-advisers and his own reckless impatient spirit. He invited the Puritan preachers to prayers and sermons; he plotted with the King of Scotland. It was arranged at secret meetings at Drury House (then Sir Charles Daver’s) to seize Whitehall and compel the queen to dismiss Cecil and other ministers hostile to Essex.
Sir Christopher Blount was to seize the palace gates, Davies the hall, Davers the guard-room and presence-chamber, while Essex, rushing in from the Mews with some hundred and twenty adherents, was to compel the queen to assemble a parliament to dismiss his enemies, and to fix the succession. All these plans were proposed to Essex in writing—the arch-conspirator was never himself present.
The delay of letters from Scotland led to the premature outbreak of the plot. An order was at once sent summoning[Pg 30] Essex to the council, and the palace guards were doubled.
On Sunday, February 7, 1601, Essex, fearing instant arrest, assembled his friends, and determined to arm and sally forth to St. Paul’s Cross, where the Lord Mayor and aldermen were hearing the sermon, and urge them to follow him to the palace. On the Lord Keeper and other noblemen coming to the house to know the cause of the assembly, Essex locked them into a back parlour, guarded by musketeers, and followed by two hundred gentlemen, drew his sword and rushed into the street like a madman “running a-muck.”
Temple Bar was opened for him; but at St. Paul’s Cross he found no meeting. The citizens crowded round him, but did not join his band. When he reached the house of Sheriff Smith, the crafty Sheriff had stolen away.
In the meantime Lord Burleigh and the Earl of Cumberland, with a herald, had entered the City and proclaimed Essex a traitor; a thousand pounds being offered for his apprehension. Despairing of success, the mad earl then turned towards his own house, and finding Ludgate barricaded by a strong party of citizens under Sir John Levison, attempted to force his way, killing two or three citizens, and losing Tracy, a young friend of his own. Then striking down to Queenhithe, the earl and some fifty followers who were left took boat for Essex Gardens.
On entering his house, he found that his treacherous confidant, Sir Ferdinand Gorges, had made terms with the court and released the hostages. Essex then, by the advice of Lord Sandys, resolved to fortify the place, hold out to the last extremity, and die sword in hand. In a few minutes, however, the Lord Admiral’s troops surrounded the building. A parley ensued between Sir Robert Sidney in the garden, and Essex and his rash ally, Shakspere’s patron, the Earl of Southampton, who were on the roof. The earl’s demands were proudly refused, but a respite of two hours was given him, that the ladies and female servants might[Pg 31] retire. About six the battering train arrived from the Tower, and Essex then wisely surrendered at discretion.
The night being very dark, and the tide not serving to pass the dangers of London Bridge, Essex and Southampton were taken by boat to Lambeth Palace, and the next morning to the Tower.
Essex had fully deserved death. He was executed privately, by his own request, at the Tower, February 25, 1601. Meyrick, his steward, and Cuffe, his secretary, were hanged and quartered at Tyburn. Sir Charles Davers and Sir Christopher Blount perished on Tower Hill. Other prisoners were fined and imprisoned, and the Earl of Southampton pined in durance till the accession of James I. (1603).
Among the even older tenants of Essex House, we must not forget that unhappy woman, the earl’s mother, who, first as Lettice Knollys, then as Countess of Essex, afterwards as Lady Leicester, and next as wife of Sir Christopher Blount, was a barb in Elizabeth’s side for thirty years. Married as a girl to a noble husband, she gave up her honour to a seducer, and there is reason to think that she consented to the taking of his life. While Devereux lived, she deceived the queen by a scandalous amour, and, after his death, by a clandestine marriage with the Earl of Leicester. While Dudley lived, she wallowed in licentious love with Christopher Blount, his groom of the horse. When her second husband expired in agony at Cornbury, not an hour’s gallop from the place in which Amy Robsart died, she again mortified the queen by a secret union with her last seducer, Blount. Her children rioted in the same vices. Essex himself, with his ring of favourites, was not more profligate than his sister Penelope, Lady Rich.
This sister was the (Platonic?) mistress of Sydney, whose stolen love for her is pictured in his most voluptuous verse. On his death at Zütphen, she lived with Lord Montjoy, though her husband, Lord Rich, was still alive. Nor was[Pg 32] her sister Dorothy one whit better. After marrying one husband secretly and against the canon, she wedded Percy, the wizard Earl of Northumberland, whom she led the life of a dog, until he indignantly turned her out of doors. It is not easy, observes Mr. Dixon, except in Italian story, to find a group of women so depraved and so detestable as the mother and sisters of the Earl of Essex.
Essex, the rash noble, who died at the untimely age of thirty-three, had a dangerous, ill-tempered face, if we may judge by More’s portrait of him. He stooped in walking, danced badly, and was slovenly in his dress; yet being a generous, frank friend, an impetuous and chivalrous if not wise soldier, and an enemy of Spain and the Cecils, he became a favourite of the people. The legend of the ring sent by Essex to the queen, and maliciously detained by the Countess of Nottingham, we shall presently discuss. No applications for mercy by Essex (and he made many during his trial) affect the question of his deserving death. That the queen consented with regret to the death of Essex, on the other hand, needs no doubtful legend to serve as proof.
Elizabeth had forgiven the earl’s joining the Cadiz fleet against her wish, she forgave his secret marriage, she forgave his shameful abandonment of his Irish command and even his dishonourable treaty with Tyrone, but she could not forgive an open and flagrant rebellion at a time when she was so surrounded by enemies.
An historical writer, gifted with an eminently analytical mind, Mr. Hepworth Dixon, has lately, with great ingenuity, endeavoured to refute the charges of ingratitude brought against Bacon for his time serving and (to say the least) undue eagerness in aggravating the crimes of his old and generous friend. There can be, however, no doubt that Bacon too soon abandoned the unfortunate Essex, and, moreover, threw the weight of much misapplied learning[Pg 33] into the scale against the prisoner. No minimising of the favours received by him from Essex can in my mind remove this stain from Bacon’s reputation.
In Essex House was born a less brilliant but a happier and a more prudent man—Robert, Earl of Essex, afterwards the well-known Parliamentary general. A child when his father died on the scaffold, he was placed under the care of his grandmother, Lady Walsingham, and was afterwards at Eton under the severe Saville. A good, worthy, heavy lad, brought up a Presbyterian, he was betrothed when only fourteen to Lady Frances Howard, daughter of the Earl of Suffolk, who was herself only thirteen.
The earl travelled on the Continent for four years, and on his return was married at Essex House. It was for this inauspicious marriage that Ben Jonson wrote one of his most beautiful and gorgeous masques, Inigo Jones contributing the machinery, and Ferrabosco the music. The rough-grained poet seems to have been delighted with the success of the entertainment, for he says, “Nor was there wanting whatsoever might give to the furniture a complement, either in riches or strangeness of the habits, delicacy of dances, magnificence of the scene, or divine rapture of music.”
The countess was already, even at this time, the mistress of Robert Carr, the handsome minion of James I. She obtained a divorce from her husband in 1613, and espoused her infamous lover. The cruel poisoning of Sir Thomas Overbury for opposing the new marriage followed; and the earl and countess, found guilty, but spared by the weak king, lingered out their lives in mutual reproaches and contempt, loathed and neglected by all. Fate often runs in sequences—the earl was unhappy with his second wife, from whom he also was divorced.
Essex emerged from a country retirement to turn general for the Parliament. Just, affable, and prudent, he was a popular man till he became marked as a moderatist desirous for peace, and was ousted by the artful “Self-denying Ordinance.” If he had lived it is probable he would either[Pg 34] have lost his head or have fled to France and turned cavalier. His death during the time that Charles I. remained a prisoner with the Scotch army at Newcastle saved him from either fate. With him the Presbyterian moderatists and the House of Peers finally lost even their little remaining power.
When the earl resigned his commission, the House of Commons went to Essex House to return their ex-general thanks for his great services. A year later they followed him to the grave (1646), little perhaps thinking how bitterly the earl had reproached them for ingratitude, and what plans he had devised to reform the army and to check Cromwell and Fairfax.
On the earl’s death, his Royalist brother-in-law, the Marquis of Hertford, attempted to seize his ready money and papers, but was frustrated by the Parliament.
Whether the next earl, who on being arrested for sharing in the Rye-House plot destroyed himself at the Tower, lived in his father’s house, I do not know, but the mansion, so unlucky to its owners, was occupied by families of rank for some time after the Restoration, and then falling into neglect and ruin, as fashion began to flow westward, was subdivided, and a street, called Essex Street, was built on part of its site.
Samuel Patterson, the bookseller and auctioneer, lived in Essex Street, in 1775, in rooms formerly the residence of Sir Orlando Bridgeman. He was originally a bag-maker. Afterwards Charles Dibdin commenced his entertainments in these rooms, and here his fine song of “Poor Jack” became famous. Patterson’s youngest child was Dr. Johnson’s godson, and became a pupil of Ozias Humphrey. Patterson wrote a book of travels in Sterne’s manner, but claimed a priority to that strange writer.
George Fordyce, a celebrated epicurean doctor of the eighteenth century, lived in the same street. For twenty years he dined daily at Dolly’s Chop-house, and at his[Pg 35] solitary meal he always took a tankard of strong ale, a quarter of a pint of brandy, and a bottle of port. After these potations, he walked to his house and gave a lecture to his pupils.
Dr. Johnson, the year before he died, formed a club in Essex Street, at the Essex Head, a tavern kept by an old servant of his friend, Thrale, the brewer. It was less select than the Literary Club, but cheaper. Johnson, writing to Sir Joshua Reynolds to join it, says, “the terms are lax and the expences light—we meet thrice a week, and he who misses forfeits twopence.” Sir John Hawkins spitefully calls it “a low ale-house association;” but Windham, Daines Barrington, Horsley, Boswell, and Brocklesby were members of it; for rich men were less luxurious than they are now, and enjoyed the sociable freedom of a tavern. Sir Joshua refused to join, probably because Barry, who had insulted him, and was very pugnacious, had become a member. It went on happily for many years, says Boswell, whom Johnson, when he proposed him for election, called “a clubable man.” Towards the end of his life the great lexicographer grew more and more afraid of solitude, and a club so near his home was probably a great convenience to him.
Near Devereux Court are the premises of the well-known tea-dealers, Messrs. Twining. The graceful recumbent stone figures of Chinamen over the Strand front have much elegance, and must have come from some good hand. One of this family was a Colchester rector, and a translator of Aristotle’s Poetics. He was an excellent man, a good linguist and musician, and a witty companion. He was contemporary with Gray and Mason, the poets, at Cambridge. In the back parlour is a portrait of the founder of the house. A century and a half ago ladies used to drive to the door of Twining’s and drink tiny cups of the new and fashionable beverage as they sat in their coaches. There is an epigram extant, written either by Theodore Hook or one of the[Pg 36] Smiths; the point of it is, that if you took away his T, Twining would be Wining.
In 1652 Constantine, the Greek servant of a Levant merchant, opened in Devereux Court a coffee-house, which became known as “The Grecian.” In 1664-5 advertised his Turkey “coffee bery,” chocolate, “sherbet,” and tea, as good and cheap, and announced his readiness to give gratuitous instructions in the art of preparing the said liquors.
In the same year, a Greek named Pasqua Rosee had also established a house in St. Michael’s Alley, Cornhill, for the sale of “the coffee drink.”
John Evelyn describes a Greek fellow-student, afterwards Bishop of Smyrna, drinking coffee when he was at college in about 1637.
In April 1709 Steele, in No. 1 of the Tatler, announces that he shall date all learned articles from the “Grecian,” all gallantry from “White’s,” all poetry from “Wills’s,” all foreign and domestic news from “St. James’s.”
In 1710-11 Addison, starting the “Spectator along with Steele,” tells us his own grave face was well known at the Grecian; and in No. 49 (April 1711), the Spectator describes the spleen and inward laughter with which he views at the Grecian the young Templars come in, about 8 A.M., either dressed for Westminster, and with the preoccupied air of assumed business, or in gay cap, slippers, and particoloured dressing-gowns, rising early to publish their laziness, and being displaced by busier men towards noon. Dr. King relates a story of two hot-blooded young gentlemen quarrelling one evening at this coffee-house about the accent of a Greek word. Stepping out into Devereux Court, they fought, and one of them being run through the body, died on the spot. This Dr. King was principal of St. Mary’s Hall, Oxford, and a staunch Tory. It is he who relates the secret visit of the Pretender to London. He died in 1763.
[Pg 37]Ralph Thoresby, the Leeds topographer, met Dr. Sloane, the secretary of the Royal Society, by appointment at the Grecian in May 1712; and again in June he describes retiring to the Grecian after a meeting of the Royal Society, of which he was a fellow, with the president, Sir Isaac Newton, Dr. Halley, who published the Principia for Newton, and Keill, who opposed Leibnitz about the invention of Fluxions, and defended Newton’s doctrines against the Cartesians. (The Royal Society held its meetings at this time in Crane Court, Fleet Street.) Roger North, Attorney-General under James II., who died in 1733, describes in his Examen the Privy Council Board, as held at the Grecian coffee-house. The Grecian was closed in 1843, and has been since turned into the Grecian Chambers. On what was once the front of the coffee-house frequented by Steele and Addison, there is a bust of Essex, with the date 1676.
In this court, at the house of one Kedder, in 1678, died Marchmont Needham, a vigorous but unprincipled turncoat and newspaper writer, who three times during the civil wars changed his principles to save his worthless neck. He was alternately the author of the Mercurius Britannicus for the Presbyterians, Mercurius Pragmaticus for the king, and Mercurius Politicus for the Independents. The great champion of the late usurper, as the Cavaliers called him, “whose pen, compared with others’, was as a weaver’s beam,” latterly practised as a physician, but with small success.
There is a letter of Pope addressed to Fortescue, his “counsel learned in the law,” at Tom’s coffee-house, in Devereux Court. Fortescue, the poet’s kind, unpaid lawyer, was afterwards (in 1738) Master of the Rolls. Pope’s imitation of the first satire of Horace, suggested by Bolingbroke, was addressed to Mr. Fortescue, and published in 1733. This lawyer was the author of the droll report in Scriblerus of “Stradling versus Styles,” wherein Sir John[Pg 38] Swale leaves all his black and white horses to one Stradling, but the question is whether this bequest includes Swale’s piebald horses. It is finally proved that the horses are all mares.
Dr. Birch, the antiquary, the dull writer but good talker, frequented Tom’s; and there Akenside—short, thin, pale, strumous, and lame, scrupulously neat, and somewhat petulant, vain, and irritable—spent his winter evenings, entangled in disputes and altercations, chiefly on subjects of literature and politics, that fixed on his character the stamp of haughtiness and self-conceit, and drew him into disagreeable situations. Akenside was a contradictory man. By turns he was placid, irritable; simple, affected; gracious, haughty; magnanimous, mean; benevolent, yet harsh, and sometimes even brutal. At times he manifested a childlike docility, and at other times his vanity and arrogance made him seem almost a madman.
Gay, in his Trivia, describes Milford Lane so faithfully that it might pass for a yesterday’s sketch of the same place. He writes—
“Where the fair columns of St. Clement stand,
Whose straitened bounds incroach upon the Strand;
Where the low pent-house bows the walker’s head,
And the rough pavement wounds the yielding tread;
Where not a post protects the narrow space,
And strung in twines combs dangle in thy face.
Summon at once thy courage—rouse thy care;
Stand firm, look back, be resolute, beware!
Forth issuing from steep lanes, the collier’s steeds
Drag the black load; another cart succeeds;
Team follows team, crowds heap’d on crowds appear.”
Stow mentions Milford Lane, but gives no derivation for its name. The coarse poem by Henry Savill, commonly attributed to the witty Earl of Dorset, beginning—
gave the street for a time such a disagreeable notoriety as the pillory gives to a rogue.
Arundel House, in the Strand, was the old inn or town-house of the Bishops of Bath, stolen by force in the rough, greedy times of Edward VI., by the bad Lord Thomas Seymour, the admiral, and the brother of the Protector; from him it derived the name of Seymour Place, and must have been conveniently near to the ambitious kinsman who afterwards beheaded him. This Admiral had married Henry VIII.’s widow, Catherine Parr; and she dying in childbed, he began to woo, in his coarse boisterous way, the young Princess Elizabeth, who had been living under the protection of her mother-in-law, who was indeed generally supposed to have been poisoned by the admiral. His marriage with Elizabeth would have smoothed his way to the throne in spite of her father’s cautious will. It was said that Elizabeth always blushed when she heard his name. He died on the scaffold. Old Bishop Latimer, in a sermon, declared “he was a wicked man, and the realm is well rid of him.” It is certain that, whatever were his plots, he had projected a marriage between Lady Jane Grey and the young king.
The admiral’s house was bought, on its owner’s fall, by Henry Fitz-Alan, Earl of Arundel, for the nominal sum of £41: 6: 8, with several other messuages and lands adjoining. The earl dying in 1579, was succeeded by his grandson, Philip Howard, son of the Duke of Norfolk, the owner of Essex House adjoining, who was beheaded for his intrigues with Mary of Scotland. He died in the Tower in 1598. The house then passed into the keeping of Robert Cary, Earl of Monmouth, during the minority of Thomas Howard, Philip’s son.
In Arundel Palace, in 1603, died the Countess of Nottingham, sister of Sir Robert Cary; she was buried at[Pg 40] Chelsea. It is of this countess that Lady Spelman, a granddaughter of Sir Robert Cary, used to tell the doubtful legend of the ring given by Queen Elizabeth to Lord Essex, which an acute writer of the present day believes to be a pure fabrication of the times of James I.
The story runs thus:—When the Countess Catherine was dying, she sent to the Queen to tell her that she had a secret to reveal, without disclosing which she could not die in peace. The Queen came, and the countess then told her that when Essex was in the Tower, under sentence of death, he one morning threw a ring from his window to a boy passing underneath, hiring him to carry it to his friend Lady Scrope, the countess’s sister, and beg of her to present it in his name to the queen, who had promised to protect him whenever he sent her that keepsake, and who was then waiting for some such sign of his submission. The boy not clearly understanding the message, brought the ring to the countess, who showed it to her husband, and he insisted on her keeping it. The countess, having made this disclosure, begged her majesty’s forgiveness; but the queen[Pg 41] answered, “God may forgive you, but I never can!” and burst from the room in a paroxysm of rage and grief. From that time Elizabeth became perturbed in mind, refused to eat or sleep, and died a fortnight after the countess. Now this is absurd. The queen never repented the death of that wrongheaded traitor, and really died of a long-standing disease which had well-defined symptoms.
At Arundel House lodged that grave, wise minister of Henry IV. of France, the Duc de Sully, then only the Marquis de Rosny. He describes the house with complacency as fine and commodious, and having a great number of apartments on the same floor. It was really a mean and low building, but commanding a fine prospect of the river and Westminster, so fine, indeed, that Hollar took a view of London from the roof. The first night of his arrival Sully slept at the French ambassador’s house in Butcher Row adjoining, a poor house with low rooms, a well staircase lit by a skylight, and small casements.
In the time of James I., in whose reign the earldom was restored to Thomas Howard, Arundel House became a[Pg 42] treasury of art. The travelled earl’s collection comprised thirty-seven statues, one hundred and twenty-eight busts, and two-hundred and fifty inscribed marbles, exclusive of sarcophagi, altars, medals, gems, and fragments. Some of his noblest relics, however, he was not allowed to remove from Rome. Of this proud and princely amateur of art Lord Clarendon speaks with too obvious prejudice. He describes him as living in a world of his own, surrounded by strangers, and though illiterate, willing to be thought a scholar because he was a collector of works of art. Yet the historian admits that he had an air of gravity and greatness in his face and bearing. He affected an ancient and grave dress; but Clarendon asserts that this was all outside, and that his real disposition was “one of levity,” as he was fond of childish and despicable amusements. Vansomer’s portraits of the earl and countess contain views of the statue and picture galleries. This illustrious nobleman, whom the excellent Evelyn calls “my noble friend,” died in 1646. At the Restoration his house and marbles were restored to his grandson, Mr. Henry Howard; the antiquities were then lying scattered about Arundel Gardens, and were neglected and corroding, blanching with rain, and green with damp, much to the horror of Evelyn and other antiquaries, who regarded their fate with alarm and pity.
The old Earl of Arundel (whom Clarendon disliked) had been a collector of art in a magnificent and princely way. He despatched artist-agents to Italy, and even to Asia Minor, to buy pictures, drawings, statues, votive slabs, and gems. William Petty collected sculpture for him at Paros and Delos, but the collections were lost off Samos in a storm. He collected Holbein’s and Albert Dürer’s drawings, discovered the genius of Inigo Jones, and brought Hollar from Prague. He left England just before the troubles, having received many affronts from Charles’s ministers, who had neglected to restore his ancient titles, went to Padua, and there died. The marbles Mr. Evelyn induced Mr. Howard, in 1667, to send to the University of Oxford; the statues were also given[Pg 43] to Oxford by a later descendant; and the earl’s library (originally part of that of the King of Hungary) Mr. Evelyn persuaded the Duke of Norfolk to bestow on the Royal Society.
The old earl was, I suspect, a proud, soured, and a rather arrogant, formal person. In a certain dispute about a rectory, he once said to King Charles I.: “Sir, this rectory was an appendant and a manour of mine until my grandfather unfortunately lost both his life and seven lordships, for the love he bore to your grandmother.”
After the Great Fire of London, Mr. Howard lent the Royal Society rooms in his house. In 1678 the palace was taken down, and the present Arundel, Surrey, Howard, and Norfolk streets were erected in its stead. The few marbles that remained were removed to Tart Hall, Westminster, and to Cuper’s Gardens across the river. Tart Hall was the residence of the Countess of Arundel: Cuper’s Gardens belonged to a gardener of the Earl of Arundel. The Duke of Norfolk originally intended to build a more magnificent house on the old site, and even obtained an act of Parliament for the purpose; but fashion was already setting westward, and the design was abandoned.
In Arundel Street lived Rymer, the historical antiquary, who died here in 1715; John Anstis, the Garter king-at-arms, resided here in 1715-16; also Mrs. Porter, the actress, “over against the Blue Ball.”
Gay, in his delightful Trivia sketches the “long Strand,” and pauses to mourn over the glories of Arundel House. His walk is from “the Temple’s silent walls,” and he stays to look down at the site of the earl’s mansion—
——“That narrow street, which steep descends,
Whose building to the shining shore extends;
Here Arundel’s famed structure rear’d its frame—
[Pg 44]The street alone retains an empty name;
Where Titian’s glowing paint the canvas warm’d,
And Raphael’s fair design with judgment charm’d,
Now hangs the bellman’s song, and pasted here
The coloured prints of Overton appear;
Where statues breathed, the work of Phidias’ hands,
A wooden pump or lonely watch-house stands;
There Essex’ stately pile adorned the shore;
There Cecil’s, Bedford’s, Villiers’—now no more.”
In the Strand, between Arundel and Norfolk Streets, in the year 1698, lived Sir Thomas Lyttelton, Speaker of the House of Commons, and father of Pope’s friend, and the author of the History of Henry the Second, a ponderous and pompous work.
Next door to him lived the father of Bishop Burnet—a remarkable person, for he was a poor but honest lawyer, born at Edinburgh in 1643. A bookseller of the same name—a collateral descendant of the bishop whom Swift hated so cordially—afterwards occupied the house.
At the south-west corner of Norfolk Street, near the river, in his wild days lodged the Quaker Penn, son of Cromwell’s stout Bristol admiral. He had been twice beaten and turned out of doors by his father for his fondness for Nonconformist society and prayer-meetings, and for refusing to stand uncovered in the presence of Charles II. or of the Duke of York, of whom later he became the suspected favourite. We do not generally associate the grave and fanatic Penn with a gay and licentious court, nor do we portray him to ourselves as slinking away from hawk-eyed bailiffs; and yet the venerated founder of repudiating Pennsylvania chose this house when he was sued for debts, as being convenient for slipping unobserved into a boat. In the eastern entrance he had a peep-hole, through which he could reconnoitre any suspicious visitor. On one occasion a dun, having sent in his name and waited an unconscionable time, knocked again. “Will not thy master see me?” he said to the servant. The knave was at least candid, for he replied: “Friend, he has seen thee, and he does not like thee.”
[Pg 45]In Norfolk Street, in Penn’s old house, afterwards resided for thirty years that truly good man, Dr. Richard Brocklesby, who in early life, during the Seven Years’ War, had practised as an army surgeon. He was a friend of Burke and Dr. Johnson. To the former he left, or rather gave, a thousand pounds, and to the latter he offered an annuity of a hundred pounds a year, to enable him to travel for his health, and also apartments in his own house for the sake of medical advice, which Johnson affectionately and gratefully declined. The doctor was one of the most generous and amiable of men; he attended the poor for nothing, and had many pensioners. He died the day after returning from a visit to Burke at Beaconsfield. He had been warned against the fatigue of this journey, but had replied with true Christian philosophy, “My good friend, where’s the difference whether I die at a friend’s house, at an inn, or in a post-chaise? I hope I am prepared for such an event, and perhaps it would be as well to elude the anticipation of it.”
Dr. Brocklesby was ridiculed by Foote, but Foote attacked virtue quite as often as vice. He was the physician who had attended Lord Chatham when he was struck down by illness in the House of Lords, a short time before his death.
In January 1698 Peter the Great arrived from Holland, and went straight to a house prepared for him in Norfolk Street, near the water side. On the following day he was visited by King William and the principal nobility. Incommoded here by visitors, the Czar removed to Admiral Benbow’s house at Deptford, where he could live more retired. This Deptford house was Sayes Place, afterwards the Victualling Office, and had once belonged to the celebrated John Evelyn.
The “Honest Shippen” of Pope—William Shippen, M.P.—lived also in Norfolk Street: a brave, honest man, in an age when nearly every politician had his price. It was of him Sir Robert Walpole remarked “that he would not say who was corrupted, but he would say who was not corruptible, and that was Shippen.”
[Pg 46]Mortimer, a rough, picturesque painter, who was called “the English Salvator Rosa,” and imitated that unsatisfactory artist in a coarse, sketchy kind of way, dwelt in this street.
At No. 21 lived Albany Wallis, a friend and executor of Garrick. In this street also Addison makes that delightful old country gentleman, Sir Roger de Coverley, put up before he goes to Soho Square.
At No. 8, in 1795, lived Samuel Ireland, the father of the celebrated literary impostor; and here were shown to George Chalmers, John Kemble, and other Shaksperian scholars, the forged plays which the public ultimately scented out as ridiculous.
In 1796 Mr. W. H. Ireland published a full confession of his forgeries, fully exonerating his father from all connivance in his foolish fraud, claiming forgiveness for a boyish deception begun without evil intention and without any thought of danger. “I should never have gone so far,” he says, “but that the world praised the papers too much, and thereby flattered my vanity.” After the failure of “Vortigern,” the father, Mr. S. Ireland, still credulous, had written a pamphlet, accusing Malone, his son’s chief assailant, of mean malice and unbearable arrogance.
The true story of the forgery is this. W. H. Ireland, then only eighteen, was articled to a solicitor in New Inn, where he practised Elizabethan handwriting for the sake of deceiving credulous antiquaries. A forged deed exciting the admiration of his father, who was a collector of old tracts and a worshipper of Shakspere, led him to continue his deceptions, and to pretend to have discovered a hoard of Shaksperian MSS. A fellow clerk, one Talbot, afterwards an actor, discovering the forgeries, Ireland made him an accomplice. They then produced a “Profession of Faith,” signed by Shakspere, which Dr. Parr and Dr. Warton (brother of the poet) declared contained “finer things” than all the Church Service. This foolish praise set the secretive lawyer’s clerk on writing original verse,—a poem to Anne Hathaway, and the play of[Pg 47] “Vortigern,” the most recklessly impudent of all his impostures. Boswell was the first to propose a certificate to be signed by all believers in the productions. Dr. Parr, thinking Boswell’s writing too feeble, drew up another, which was signed by twenty-one noblemen, authors, and “celebrated literary characters.” Boswell, characteristically enough, previous to signing his name, fell on his knees, and, “in a tone of enthusiasm and exultation, thanked God that he had lived to witness this discovery, and exclaimed that he could now die in peace.” Lords Kinnaird, Somerset, and Lauderdale were the noblemen. There were also present Bindley, Valpy, Pinkerton, Pye the poet laureate, Matthew Wyatt, and the present author’s grandfather, the Rev. Nathaniel Thornbury, an intimate friend of Jenner and of Dr. Johnson, who had at this time been twelve years dead. The elder Ireland, in his pamphlet, alludes to the solemn and awful manner in which, before crowds of eminent characters, his son attested the genuineness of his forgeries. “I could not,” says the honest fellow, “suffer myself to cherish the slightest suspicion of his veracity.”
Singularly enough Mr. Albany Wallis—(a solicitor, I believe), of Norfolk Street,—who had given to Garrick a mortgage deed bearing Shakspere’s signature, became the most ardent believer in the unprincipled young clerk’s deceptions.
The terms agreed upon for Ireland’s forgery of “Vortigern” was £300 down, and a division of the receipts, deducting charges, for sixty nights. The play, however, lived only one night, for which the Irelands received their half, £103. The commentators Malone and Steevens remained sceptical, and Kemble was suspicious and cold in the cause, though he was to be the hero; but the gulls and quidnuncs were numerous enough to cram the house, and that most commonplace of poets, Sir James Bland Burges, wrote the prologue. The final damnation of the play was secured by[Pg 48] a rhapsody of Vortigern’s, a patch-work thing from “Richard II.” and “Henry IV.” The fatal line—
“And when the solemn mockery is o’er,”
Another eminent historical antiquary, Dr. Birch, lived in Norfolk Street. The son of a Quaker tradesman at Clerkenwell, he became a London clergyman and an historian, famous for his Sunday evenings’ conversaziones, and was killed by a fall from his horse in 1766. He seems to have been a most pleasant, generous, and honest man. He edited Bacon’s Letters and Speeches, and Thurloe’s State Papers, etc. His chief work was his Memoirs of the Reign of Queen Elizabeth. He left books, manuscripts, and money to the British Museum, for which let all scholars bless the good man’s memory. He appears to have been a student of boundless industry, as from the Lambeth Library alone he transcribed with his own hand sixteen quarto volumes. He was rector of St. Margaret Pattens in Fenchurch Street. Dr. Birch must have been a kind husband, for his wife on her deathbed wrote him the following tender letter:—
“This day I return you, my dearest life, my sincere, hearty thanks for every favour bestowed on your most faithful and obedient wife,
We leave it to the watchful cynic to remark that the doctor had been married only one year. It was of this worthy book-worm that Johnson said—“Yes, sir, he is brisk in conversation, but when he takes up the pen it benumbs him like a torpedo.”
Strype describes Surrey Street as replenished with good buildings, especially that of Nevison Fox, Esq., towards the Strand, “which is a fine, large, and curious house of his own building,” and the two houses that front the Thames, that on the east side being the Hon. Charles Howard’s,[Pg 49] brother to the Duke of Norfolk. Both of these houses had pleasant though small gardens towards the Thames.
In 1736 died here George Sale, the useful translator of the Mohammedan Bible, the Koran, that strange compound of pure prayers and impure plagiarisms from the laws of Moses. Sale had published his Koran in 1734, and in the year of his death he joined Paul Whitehead, Dr. Birch, and Mr. Strutt, in founding a “Society for the Encouragement of Learning.” He spent many years in writing for the Universal History, in which Bayle’s ten folio volumes were included.
Edward Pierce, a sculptor, son of a painter of altar-pieces and church-ceilings, and a pupil of Vandyke, lived at the corner of Surrey Street, and was buried in the Savoy. He helped Sir Christopher Wren to build St. Clement’s church, and carved the four guardian dragons on the Monument of London. The statue of Sir William Walworth at the fishmongers’ Hall is from his hand, and so is the bust of Thomas Evans in the hall of the painters and stainers. He executed also busts of Cromwell, Wren, and Milton.
The charming actress, Mrs. Bracegirdle, lived in Howard Street. She was the belle and toast of London; every young man of mode was, or pretended to be, in love with her; and the wits wrote verses upon her beauty, in imitation of Sedley and Waller. Congreve tells us that it was the fashion to avow a tenderness for her. Rowe, in an imitation of an ode of Horace, urges the Earl of Scarsdale to marry her (though he had a wife living) and set the town at defiance.
Among this crowd of admirers was a Captain Hill, a half-cracked man-about-town, a drunken, profligate bully, of low character, and a friend of the infamous duellist, Lord Mohun. One of Mrs. Bracegirdle’s favourite parts was Statira, her lover Alexander being her friend and neighbour, the eminent actor Mountfort. Cibber describes him in this character as “great, tender, persistent, despairing, transported, amiable.” Hill, “that dark-souled fellow in the pit,” as Leigh Hunt calls him, mistook the frantic extravagance of stage-passion[Pg 50] for real love, and in a fit of mad jealousy swore to be revenged on Mountfort, and to carry off the lady by force. Lord Mohun, always ready for any desperate mischief, agreed to help him in his design. On the night appointed the friends dined together, and having changed clothes, went to Drury Lane Theatre at six o’clock; but as Mrs. Bracegirdle did not act that night, they next took a coach and drove to her lodgings in Howard Street. They then, finding that she had gone to supper with a Mr. Page, in Princes Street, Drury Lane, went to his house and waited till she came out. She appeared at last at the door, with her mother and brother, Mr. Page lighting them out.
Hill immediately seized her, and endeavoured, with the aid of some hired ruffians, to drag her into the coach, where Lord Mohun sat with a loaded pistol in each hand; but her brother and Mr. Page rushing to the rescue, and an angry crowd gathering, Hill was forced to let go his hold and decamp. Mrs. Bracegirdle and her escort then proceeded to her lodgings in Howard Street, followed by Captain Hill and Lord Mohun on foot. On knocking at the door, as it was said, to beg Mrs. Bracegirdle’s pardon, they were refused admittance; upon which they sent for a bottle of wine to a neighbouring tavern, which they drank in the street, and then began to patrol up and down with swords drawn, declaring they were waiting to be revenged on Mountfort the actor. Messengers were instantly despatched to warn Mountfort, both by Mrs. Bracegirdle’s landlady and his own wife, but he could not be found. The watch were also sent for, and they begged the two ruffians to depart peaceably. Lord Mohun replied, “He was a peer of the realm, that he had been drinking a bottle of wine, but that he was ready to put up his sword if they particularly desired it: but as for his friend, he had lost his scabbard.” The cautious watch then went away.
In the meantime the unlucky Mountfort, suspecting no evil, passed down the street on his way home, heedless of warnings. On coming up to the swordsmen, a female servant heard the following conversation:—
[Pg 51]Lord Mohun embraced Mountfort, and said—
“Mr. Mountfort, your humble servant. I am glad to see you.”
“Who is this?—Lord Mohun?” said Mountfort.
“Yes, it is.”
“What brings your lordship here at this time of night?”
Lord Mohun replied—
“I suppose you were sent for, Mr. Mountfort?”
“No, indeed, I came by chance.”
“Have you not heard of the business of Mrs. Bracegirdle?”
“Pray, my lord,” said Hill, breaking in, “hold your tongue. This is not a convenient time to discuss this business.”
Hill seemed desirous to go away, and pulled Lord Mohun’s sleeve; but Mountfort, taking no notice of Hill, continued to address Lord Mohun, saying he was sorry to see him assisting Captain Hill in such an evil action, and begging him to forbear.
Hill instantly gave the actor a box on the ear, and on Mountfort demanding what that was for, attacked him sword in hand, and ran him through before he had time to draw his weapon. Mountfort died the next day of the wound, declaring with his last breath that Lord Mohun had offered him no violence. Hill fled from justice, and Lord Mohun was tried for murder, but unfortunately acquitted for want of evidence.
That fortunate poet, Congreve, whom Pope declared to be one of the three most honest-hearted and really good men in the Kit-cat Club, lived for some time in Howard Street, where he was a neighbour and frequent guest of Mrs. Bracegirdle.
Congreve, on becoming acquainted with the Duchess of Marlborough, removed from Howard Street to a better house in Surrey Street, where he died, January 19, 1729. The career of this son of a Yorkshire officer had been one long undisturbed triumph. His first play had been revised by Dryden and praised by Southerne. Besides being [Pg 52]commissioner of hackney-coach and wine licences, he also held a place in the Pipe Office, a post in the Custom House, and a secretaryship in Jamaica. He never quarrelled with the wits: both Addison and Steele admired and praised him, and Voltaire eulogises his comedies.
It was here that Voltaire, while lodging in Maiden Lane, visited the gouty and nearly blind dramatist, then infirm and on the verge of life. “Mr. Congreve,” he says, “had one defect, which was his entertaining too mean an idea of his profession—that of a writer—though it was to this he owed his fame and fortune. He spoke of his works as of trifles that were beneath him, and hinted to me in our first conversation that I should visit him upon no other footing than that of a gentleman who led a life of plainness and simplicity. I answered, that had he been so unfortunate as to be a mere gentleman I should never have come to see him; and I was very much disgusted at so unseasonable a piece of vanity.”
The body of Congreve lay in state in the Jerusalem Chamber, and was afterwards interred with great solemnity in Henry VII.’s Chapel. The Duke of Bridgewater and the Earl of Godolphin were amongst those who bore the pall. The monument was erected by the Duchess of Marlborough, to whom the favoured poet had left £10,000. Above his body—
“The ancient pillars rear their marble heads
To bear aloft the arch’d and pond’rous roof,
By its own weight made steadfast and immoveable.”
Congreve’s bequest to the duchess of all his property, except £1000, including £200 to Mrs. Bracegirdle (a legacy afterwards cancelled), created much scandal. The shameless bookseller, Curll, instantly launched forth a life of Congreve, professing to be written by one Charles Wilson, Esq., but generally attributed to Oldmixon. The duchess’s friends were alarmed, and Arbuthnot interfered. Upon being told that some genuine letters and essays were to be[Pg 53] published in the work, Mrs. Bracegirdle or the duchess cried out with defiant affectation and a dramatic drawl, “Not one single sheet of paper, I dare to swear.”
The duchess, who raised a monument in the Abbey to her brilliant but artificial friend, is said to have had a wax image of him made to place on her toilette table. “To this she would talk as to the living Mr. Congreve, with all the freedom of the most polite and unreserved conversation.”
Strand Lane used formerly to lead to a small landing-pier for wherries, called Strand Bridge. In Stow’s time the lane passed under a bridge down to the landing-place. A writer in the Spectator describes how he landed here on a summer morning, arriving with ten sail of apricot boats, consigned to Covent Garden, after having first touched at Nine Elms for melons. In this lane there is a fine Roman bath which, if indeed Roman, is the most western relic of Roman London, the centre of which was on the east end of the Royal Exchange.
No. 165 has been long used as a warehouse for the sale of Dr. Anderson’s pills. Dr. Patrick Anderson was physician to Charles I., and as early as 1649 a man named Inglis sold these quack pills at the Golden Unicorn, over against the Maypole in the Strand. Tom Brown says, “There are at least a score of pretenders to Anderson’s Scotch pills, and the Lord knows who has the true preparation.” Brown died in 1704. Sir Walter Scott used to tell one of his best stories about these pills. It dwelt on the passion for them entertained by a certain hypochondriacal Lowland laird. Bland or rough, old or young, no visitor at his house escaped a dose—“joost ane leetle Anderson;” and his toady “the doer” used always to swallow a brace.
The Turk’s Head Coffee-house stood on the site of No. 142 Strand. Dr. Johnson used to sup at this house to[Pg 54] encourage the hostess, who was a good civil woman, and had not too much business. July 28, 1763, Boswell mentions supping there with Dr. Johnson; and again, on August 3, in the same year, just before he set out for his wildgoose chase in Corsica. No. 132 was the shop of a bookseller named Bathoe. The first circulating library in London was established here in 1740.
Jacob Tonson, Dryden’s grinding publisher and bookseller, lived at the Shakspere’s Head, over against Catherine Street, now No. 141 Strand, from about 1712 till he died, in 1735-6. Tonson seems to have been rough, hard, and penurious. The poet and publisher were perpetually squabbling, and Dryden was especially vexed at his trying to force him to dedicate his translation of Virgil to King William, and when he refused, making the engraver of the frontispiece aggravate the nose of Æneas till it became “a hooked promontory,” like that of the Protestant king. It was to Tonson’s shop at Gray’s Inn, however, that Dryden, on being refused money, probably sent that terrible triplet to the obdurate bibliopole:—
“With leering looks, bull-faced, and freckled fair,
With two left legs, and Judas-colour’d hair,
And frowsy pores that taint the ambient air.”
“Tell the dog,” said Dryden to his messenger, “that he who wrote those can write more.” But Tonson was perfectly satisfied with this first shot, and surrendered at discretion. The irascible poet afterwards accused him of intercepting his letters to his sons at Rome, and he confessed to Bolingbroke on one occasion that he was afraid of Tonson’s tongue.
Tonson’s house, since rebuilt, was afterwards occupied by Andrew Millar, the publisher and friend of Thomson, Fielding, Hume, and Robertson, and after his death by Thomas Cadell, his apprentice, and the friend and publisher of Gibbon the historian. The Seasons, Tom Jones, and the Histories of Hume, Robertson, and Gibbon were[Pg 55] first published at this house. Millar was a Scotchman, and distinguished his shop by the sign of Buchanan’s Head, afterwards the badge of Messrs. Blackwood.
The Illustrated London News, whose office is near Somerset House, was started in 1842 by Mr. Herbert Ingram, originally a humble newsvendor at Northampton; an industrious man, who would run five miles with a newspaper to oblige an old customer. In the first year he sold a million copies; in the second, two; and in 1848, three millions. Dr. Mackay, the song-writer, wrote leaders; Mr. Mark Lemon aided him; Mr. Peter Cunningham collected his column of weekly chat; Thomas Miller, the basket-maker poet, was also on his staff. Mr. Ingram obtained a seat in Parliament, and was eventually drowned in a steamboat collision on Lake Michigan.
And Last updated on: Sunday, 06-Sep-2020 21:44:03 BST