The Old Court Suburb, or Memorials of Kensington, Regal, Critical, and Anecdotical Volume I

Hunt, Leigh





RETURNING out of by the way we entered it, we come, in the most open part of the , to the parish church and church-yard; the former, a small and homely building for so distinguished a suburb; the latter


suggesting a doubt, whether a burialground ought to abut so closely on a public way.

In some moods of the mind, the juxtaposition is very painful. It looks as if death itself were no escape from the turmoils of life. We feel as if the noise of carts and cries were never to be out of one's hearing; as if the tears, however hidden, of those who stood mournfully looking at our graves, were to be mocked by the passing crowd of indifferent spectators; as if the dead might be sensible of the very market going on, with all its night-lights and bustle (as it does here on Saturdays), and of the noise of drunken husbands and wives, persisting in bringing a sense of misery into one's last home.

On the other hand, the sociable man may sometimes be disposed to regard


with complacency this kind of posthumous ntercourse with the living. He may feel as if the dead were hardly the departed-as if they were still abiding among their friends and fellow-creatures, not displeased even to hear the noise and the bustle; or, at least, as if in ceasing to hear our voices they were still, so to speak, reposing in our arms. Morning, somehow, in this view of the case, would seem to be still theirs though they choose to lie in bed; cheerful noon is with them, without their having any of the trouble of it. The names may be read on their tombstones as familiarly as they used to be on their doors; children play about their graves, unthinkingly indeed, but joyously, and with as little thought of irreverence as butterflies; and the good fellow going home at night from his party breathes a jovial, instead of a mournful


blessing on their memories. Perhaps he knew them. Perhaps he has been joining in one of their old favourite glees by Callcott or Spofforth, the former of whom was a Kensington man, and the latter of whom lies buried here, and is recorded at the church door. And assuredly the dead Spofforth would find no fault with his living remembrancer.

In quiet country places there is, in fact, a sort of compromise in this instance between the two feelings of privacy and publicity, which we have often thought very pleasing. The dead in a small, sequestered village, seem hardly removed from their own houses. The last home seems almost a portion of the first. The clergyman's house often has the church-yard as close to it as the garden; and when he goes into his grave, he seems but removed into another room; gone to bed,


and to his sleep. He has not "left." He lies there with his family, still ready to waken with them all, on the heavenly morning.

This, however, is a feeling upon the matter, which we find it difficult to realize in a bustling town. We are there convinced upon the whole, that, whether near to houses or away from them, the sense of quiet is requisite to the proper idea of the church-yard. The dead being actually severed from us, no longer visible, no longer having voices, all sights and sounds, but of the gentlest and quietest kind, seem to be impertinences towards them; not to belong to them. Quiet, being the thing farthest removed from cities, and what we imagine to pervade all space, and the gulfs between the stars, is requisite to make us feel that we are standing on the threshold of heaven.



Upon the whole, therefore, we cannot approve of church-yards in living thoroughfares, and thus must needs object to the one in the place before us; though there are portions of it to the north and west of the church more sequestered (for a small remove in these cases makes a great difference); and in those portions the most noticeable of the graves are situate. They are not many; nor have we much to say of persons lying in the church itself, or in the church vaults. What notice we have to give, whether in church or church-yard, we shall put in chronological order, as not only being most convenient, but having a certain mortal propriety.

But first we must return to the church itself. From what we have said of it, the reader will conclude that it is remarkable, as an edifice, for nothing but the smallness and


homeliness of its appearance; but it has this curious additional claim to consideration; namely, that what with partial rebuildings, and wholesale repairs, it has been altered, since the year , nearly a dozen times. How often before then, we cannot say; nor do we know when it was first built. But the alterations, for the most part, appear to have been as bad as what they altered. They beat the silk stocking, the repeated mendings of which turned it into worsted. They were always worsted, badly darned. They resembled the scape-grace relation of the famous Penn, whom his punning recorder described as a pen that had been "often cut, but never mended." What were improvements or requirements in some respects, became defacements in others, or things to be wished away. The painted window was meagre; the galleries clogged


up, a space already too little, and looked as if they would slide into the pews; the pews themselves were too tall, and aggravated that sense of closeness and crowding, to which the increasing population naturally tended, and which is still the first thing that strikes a visitor of the church.

While writing this passage, however, (for the church is now undergoing another repair), we have the pleasure of observing that the pews are in the act of being made lower; and we hail this undoubted improvement, as an evidence of the better taste which new authorities have brought even into parish church, and which, indeed, was to be expected, from what they have done in other respects. We must add, that its psalmody appears to have been for some time past superior to that of most churches, owing, it would


seem, to the accomplished family of the Callcotts, who have long been residents of the parish, and one of whom, no great while ago, was organist. Nor should the writer omit, that the parish authorities, both clerical and laical, and their servants also, do justice to the example at their head, and are as courteous as becomes their position.

Here, in church or church-yard, among other less noticeable persons, have been buried-

Imprimis, in the year , , son and heir of ; which said , described in a pardon granted by , as " of our town of Calais, clerk, otherwise called John de Meautis, lately of London, gentleman, otherwise called John de Meautis, lately of Kensington, in


the county of Middlesex, gentleman, otherwise called , of the town of , in the county of , yeoman, or under whatever name he may be registered," is forgiven and absolved from all outlawry and all other consequences of neglects, contempts, concealments, conspiracies, extortions, murders, (murdra !) and whatsoever other felonies and enormities he may have been guilty of. Probably it was a pardon from Richard, the poor little king's uncle, on the understanding that an enemy of the House of York was to become a friend; an expectation which did not hinder , or his son Philip (we know not which) from becoming secretary to Kings Henry the Seventh and Eighth. We notice the name for two other reasons first, because it was that of Bacon's faithful secretary, Sir Thomas Meautis, who raised


the characteristic statue to the philosopher, which sits thinking on his monument at St. Albans; second, to observe, that the alias, Meautis, or Meutice (the name being obviously of French origin) renders it probable that there is more propriety in the vulgar pronunciation of Bewfort for Beaufort, than might otherwise be supposed, especially as we retain it in the word beauty, the English of beaute. There is reason to believe that it was the real old French pronunciation. We have read in some book, but forget where, that the existing mode of speaking French, which has so frittered and clipped it, and rendered its prosody such a puzzle to English readers, is not older than the time of Louis the Fourteenth.

The next distinguished burial we meet with, is that of one ,


a gentleman whose peremptory baptismal name, joined to his chivalrous rank, and to the nature of his death, appears to insist on attention to his memory, upon pain of a challenge from his ghost. He was " slain at Notting Wood (saith the parish register) in fight;" that is to say, we take it, in a duel; for the " fight" was in the year , during the pacific times of King James the First. Sir Manhood was most likely some hot-headed Welshman, the son of a corresponding father, who had thus christened him, by way of injunction to uphold the fame of his ancestors.

From Sir Manhood, we are borne over a considerable interval of time, and brought to Addison's Earl of Warwick, who died in the year , at the age of four and twenty. He was son of the Countess whom Addison married, and was the youth


to whom the moralist is said to have addressed the famous words, "See how a Christian can die." A statue of him, in marble, and in good condition, is still remaining in the church, on the right hand side of the principal entrance from the street. It sits under an epitaph, leaning on an urn; and has an aspect, which, at first sight, you hardly know whether to be male or female. This is owing, partly to the delicate smooth face and flowing hair, and partly to the robe, which has something of the look of a lady's gown. On turning to the legs, and finding them in ancient sandals, you discover that the gown is a Roman toga. Either the face is unlike, or the compliment to its manliness (strangely paid in the first person-virile nescio quid) is clearly undeserved. The whole epitaph, indeed, is contradictory to the tradition


handed down respecting the rakery of this young nobleman; probably on no better foundation than Addison's dying words, which have been supposed to imply some special moral necessity for them, on the part of his hearer. Writers complimented the Earl on his virtues, while he was living; and Addison, in some pleasant letters to him, on the subject of birds, speaks of his " more severe studies," and of their common friend, Virgil. The probability is, that he was of a delicate constitution, and of a lively enough mind, and that his attention had been drawn to the writings of Shaftesbury and others, with a vivacity which Addison thought fit to repress.

Francis Colman, in . Father and grandfather of the two George Colmans, the dramatists, both buried here also. He was sometime British Minister at the Court


of Tuscany. The dramatic propensity of the family appears to have commenced with this gentleman, who interested himself in operatic affairs, and wrote the words of Handel's "Ariadne in Naxos." He was an intimate friend of Gay

Dr. John Jortin, in the year , aged 71. Author of the " Life of Erasmus;" an elegant scholar, critic, and theologian. He lies in the church-yard, under a flat stone, which is surrounded with iron rails, and briefly inscribed with his name, age, and the day on which he " ceased to be mortal" (mortalis esse desiit). Among the improvements which the authorities here are making, we trust we shall see these good words rescued from the dirt which has obscured them.

There were some curious inconsistencies in Jortin. He was a good-natured man,


with unattractive manners; was a writer of elegant sermons, which he read very badly; and was always intimating that he ought to have had greater preferment in the church; though he was suspected, not unreasonably, of differing with it on some points held essential to orthodoxy. His life was written by Dr. Disney the Unitarian. The doctor's book ought to have been more amusing, considering that Jortin had the reputation of being a wit. To the best of our recollection, it contains but one solitary jest, and that more pleasant than exquisite. Jortin, when summoned to make his appearance in some public room, before the bishop who gave him his vicarage, could not find his hat. On returning to his friends, he said, "I have lost my hat, but got a living."

Mr. Thomas Wright, . One of


those didactic gentlemen, who cannot leave off the habit of fault-finding, even in their graves, but must needs lecture and snub the readers of their tomb-stones. This posthumous busy-body, who informs us that his own head is quiet, seems determined that the case shall be different with ours. The following is his epitaph in the churchyard:

" Farewell, vain world! I've had enough of thee; I value not what thou canst say of me; Thy smiles I value not, nor frowns don't fear; All's one to me, my head is quiet here. What faults you've seen in me, take care to shun, Go home, and see there's something to be done."

-Of course there is. But why could not Mr. Thomas Wright let us have a little quiet, as well as himself? Did he despair of being able to give us any pleasure in his company, alive or dead ?