Old London Bridge, A Romance of the Sixteenth Century

Rodwell, G Herbert





Joy of this world for time will not abide;

From day to night it changeth as the tide. Chaucer.

EXACTLY at the time we are writing of, there were two men, the one in London, the other in Westminster, whose minds were equally torn to shreds by perplexities and doubts, as to what would be the best, that is the most agreeable, manner in which they should each employ his future life; both were now their own masters; both had the world before them; both had a peculiar love for self-the one was King Henry the Eighth, the other the Saintly Father Brassinjaw.

Henry was at this time confined to his palace by growing infirmities, occasioned by an unconquerable ulcerous disease, which gave him ample time, but not much temper, for reflection. Brassinjaw, in like manner, had equal time, and quite as little temper, for reflection, by being confined in the cage on London Bridge. This cage was a sort of sentry-box- shaped building, near one of the archways on the Bridge, close to an opening that looked upon the water; by it stood the stocks-there was no door to the cage, but a large cross of wood stood in the way. The cage being elevated upon several stone steps, the passers-by had a good view of the prisoners within, and the prisoners within had a good bantering from the people without.

Henry, who was now so corpulent, that obesity became quite a fashion, was reclining upon a low couch, supported by cushions of amber satin, listening to his favourite, Cromwell, as he descanted upon two of the most pleasing subjects that ever fell upon the ear of Henry the Eighth- MONEY and MARRIAGE.

With respect to the first of these, he was relating with what success his two commissioners, Spikely and Horton, had assisted in despoiling the shrine of Thomas a Becket at Canterbury; two immense coffers had been filled with gold and jewels, each of them so heavy that it took no less than eight strong men to lift.

It is notorious that Henry was a great stickler for the forms of law, so before he would have the name of Thomas a Becket degraded from the list of Saints, the great lawyers of the day were compelled to enact the childish farce of citing a Becket, who had been dead some four hundred years, to appear in court, and answer to the charges contained in a criminal information that had been filed against him Having waited with due solemnity for thirty days, to allow the poor Saint time to travel from wherever he might happen to be, and he not then appearing, sentence was pronounced, that Thomas a Becket was guilty of "rebellion, treason, and contumacy," and all the riches of his shrine were seized by the crown, as being the personal property of the traitor.

Is it possible that such men as Cromwell and Cranmer, and others with minds as great, and holding stations almost as high, could have ever become so degraded as to take part in such proceedings; but all men 21


. had, from fear of the gibbet and the flame, so habituated themselves to follow the will of the tyrant, that they were little better than puppets, to be set in motion by the movement of his finger.

The King chuckled again, as he thought of the treasure the two coffers from Canterbury would place at his immediate command; and when Cromwell drew forth a list of suppressed Abbeys, and other religious houses, and stated in detail that no less than six hundred and forty four convents, ninety colleges, two thousand three hundred and seventy four chantries and free chapels, with one hundred and ten hospitals, were now annexed to the crown, his delight knew no bounds. It was at this moment the King first dropped a hint to Cromwell, that he saw no reason why, one day or other, his trusty and well-beloved Privy-seal should not become the Earl of Essex.

The King had now been a widower for nearly two years, Queen Jane having died twelve days after the birth of her son Edward, in October . It had not been his own fault, that he had thus long remained single, but the difficulty was to fix upon a judicious choice. Ever since the death of Jane, the Protestant party had been decidedly losing ground.

Bishop Gardiner, the fiery bishop as he was called, had wheedled himself into the good graces of the King; it was he, with the King's Highness, it is believed, who drew up the celebrated "Six articles," or bloody statute, as it was commonly denominated.

Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, was the most zealous of all the Papists, and consequently the sworn enemy of Cromwell. Both were equally deep, both equally unscrupulous, as to the means employed to render their party triumphant. Each knowing how great was the influence a wife ever possessed over their master, as long as he liked her, they were both anxious that he should again marry; the one sought for a Roman Catholic Princess, the other a Princess of the reformed religion; and it was to this subject, of vital importance to himself, that Cromwell now led the conversation.

It appears that very soon after the death of Queen Jane, the King proposed to the Duchess Dowager of Milan, who replied, " that if she had two heads she might think of the match; but that as she had but one, she would rather decline the honour."

The Princess Mary of Guise was then thought of, but she was already engaged to the King of Scots. Henry then begged of the French King to bring the two sisters of Mary of Guise to Calais, that he might there, as if at a market, choose which he liked best; but this, French gallantry forbade, so the French King very properly declined. Cromwell had artfully led the King on to absolute despair, in not being able to find a Princess in every way worthy of receiving so great a blessing as himself; for a husband; he then told the King that he had just received the miniature of one of the greatest beauties in the world, the lovely Ann of Cleves, sister of the reigning Duke of Cleves, a Protestant, and that her "education, sobriety, and morals were excellent." Then drawing forth the miniature, by Lucas, the court painter of Cleves, he presented it to the enraptured eyes of his Grace.

Henry could always fall in love in five minutes, if he wished to do so, and feeling that way inclined at this moment, he at once looked upon the


fair face of Anne, as that of his future wife. Although, at this time no great beauty himself, he was determined to have beauty in her whom he married, so to be perfectly secure upon this point, it was settled, that Hans Holbein should start immediately to the court of the Duke of Cleves, and return with a correct portrait of the beautiful Anne.

Cromwell hugged himself at the success of his new scheme, for Anne being sister to one of the Princes of the Protestant confederacy, he believed by this match he should place the star of his own destiny so high in the ascendant, that no cloud the opposing party could send forth, would ever again be able to dim it. How poor, how weak and uncertain, are all the schemes built up by man! This, as he thought, well-laid plan- this, apparently sure haven for all his hopes, proved to be the rocky strand upon which his whole venture was wrecked and lost, for when the King saw Anne of Cleves, which he did in secret, he being disguised, she was so unlike the portraits he had received, that he at once took such a loathing to her, that it is said, he had nearly fallen from sickness. Cromwell, as may be supposed, received the whole weight of his indignation: the favourite attempted to excuse the act, by reminding Henry that he had himself desired his minister to find him a " fine large woman." "Yes," said the King, " a fine large woman, but I did not tell you to bring me a Flanders mare."

We will now return to Father Brassinjaw, who still enjoyed the agreeable distinction of being laughed at by hundreds who passed and re-passed, as going to or from the fair. Brassinjaw turned his back upon the scoffers, and leaning his back against the cross-post at the doorway, ruminated seriously upon his future prospects. It appeared that poor Brassinjaw had been degraded from his office in the chapel upon the Bridge, for having been discovered picking out the real diamond eyes from one of the images; and then, in his anguish, having uttered some rather offensive expressions against the most religious Henry, he had been surprised to discover himself suddenly left for hours in the public cage.

" Once a priest, always a priest," said he to himself; " but of what use is it, if we can no longer get anything by it ? I've a great mind to be revenged by changing my creed altogether; but what creed shall I take to? that's a ticklish question." He first thought of the ANABAPTISTS, who, at that time, besides their peculiar theological dogmas, acknowledged no judge or magistrate, no submission to civil law, no right of war, or of capital punishment, except in so far as they were moved individually by what they interpreted to be inspiration of the Holy Ghost.

"There are many points in this," he observed, " that would suit me well. I like the idea of ' no submission to civil law'-that's good-very good ! ' No capital punishment,' that's still better ; but-but-but-" having said but two or three times, he turned his mind upon the " MEN OF THE FAMILY OF LOVE," or Davidians, as they were called, from David George, who sometimes represented himself as Christ, and sometimes as the Holy Ghost. "Why shouldn't I become one of 'the Family ot Love ?' I might then wear a silk liripoop, or any other sort of liripoop I chose, and might let my hair grow as long as I pleased, and use a dagger too if I liked."

The long hair, the dagger, and the liripoop, or hood of silk, were three


. things the Pope, in consequence of the growing dandyism of the English priesthood, had found it necessary to forbid. "But-but-but-" he continued, and having again said but several times, the PREDESTINARIANS came under his examination; these he rather liked, for they affirmed that ' the elect could NOT sin, nor the regenerate fallfrom grace.' Next he thought of the ARIANS, then the UNITARIANS; but of these he seemed to think but very lightly: not so the next, THE LIBERTINES; this sect caused him to hesitate for some time, and perhaps he might have become a Libertine, but for the ANTINOMIANS, who maintained, both by their teaching and their practice, that the ' chosen were at liberty to help themselves to whatever food, raiment, goods, and chattels their necessities required; and no sin or abomination of the outward man was of any significance, provided only that they sinned not in the inner man." This appeared to Father Brassinjaw so comfortable, so charitable a creed towards its own followers, that he had all but made up his mind, when he was suddenly caused to turn round, by hearing a large bell ringing at no great distance, and a man's voice exclaiming, " yes ! 0 yes! 0 yes !" It was one of the criers, or walking advertisers, who came to announce that the late landlord of the Cardinal's Hat, there upon the Bridge, having been hanged, the whole concern, including the goodwill of that " highly respectable house," was to be sold " by the candle."

The selling by the candle was an old style of auction, which is, we believe, in some few places occasionally employed to this day. The method pursued was this: A piece of candle, about an inch, was lighted when the sale began, and he whose bidding was the last before the candle expired, was declared the purchaser.

The moment Brassinjaw heard the announcement about the candle, a sudden light broke in upon him. He remembered the happy hours he had passed in that delightful spot; how happy then would the man be who could call that spot his own! His mind became suddenly fixed. " The prophecy," he exclaimed, "the prophecy shall be fulfilled ! It was always foretold that one day I should possess a Cardinal's Hat, and now, cost what it will, that Cardinal's Hat shall cover this virtuous head; it shall be mine. Yes," he continued in a tone of great determination, " yes, I will relinquish the SPIRITUAL, for a SPIRITUOUS calling. I will become a publican and -- " he was just going to add " sinner," but seeming to feel that that would be understood without expressing it, he said no more.

When the time came which was to permit of his being allowed to descend from his unenviable exaltation, the two halberdiers, who acted as a guard of dishonour, quietly marched away, and left him to do just as he liked, either to remain or go; there being no door, Father Brassinjaw crept from beneath the cross-beam before mentioned, and at once hurried towards the Cardinal's Hat, to examine more minutely into his intended purchase.

Not a nook or corner did he leave unexamined. There were some odd things connected with this house, which, to any but one who had had such a thorough schooling in the mysteries of deception, and underhand proceedings as Father Brassinjaw, might have been overlooked, or passed by heedlessly. There was not a single room, in the partitions of which


there were not holes, through which those in the next apartment might easily witness all that passed.

Brassinjaw, observing this, began to feel already quite at home, so being alone at the time, he commenced examining every panel of the wainscot, and sure enough, exactly as he began to guess would be the case, so it proved, for more than one were made to slip aside, and leave an opening large enough for a man to pass, and thus secretly enter, room after room, all over the dwelling. Observing a trap-door near one of the tables, indeed exactly under the seat upon which he himself had generally sat, he took hold of the ring, and raising it, had nearly tumbled head long through, from alarm, at finding it opened over the waters, which were at that moment dashing madly down the falls beneath the Bridge. Having steadied his nerves, he examined the trap-door, to see whether it was strong enough to be left over such a dangerous outlet; in doing this, he became quite surprised to find the hinges constructed in a manner, that would allow them to bend equally well both ways, so that, but for a couple of iron bolts protruding from the opposite side of the opening, the trap would, when lowered, fall towards the roaring waters. Upon further examination, he discovered that these bolts too, were moveable, and could be pushed back, although they were held forward by a spring. He shut down the trap, and began to reflect upon the probable use to which such a door might be put ; here his ecclesiastical education was of use to him, and brought to his mind the strange resemblance between this trap and the oubliettes of the Spanish Inquisition. Having once caught the idea, he began to think that if these bolts were made to move, there was, doubtless, some method by which their movement might be accomplished, without going beneath, and forcing them back with the hand, a thing, considering their position, almost impossible to be done. In looking along the floor in the direction the bolts lay, and observing a portion of the boards rotten and rather broken away, he stooped down, and endeavouring to make the small opening larger by breaking away more of the rotten part, in giving a tolerably hard pull at it, the whole plank came up, and there he discovered two ropes attached to the bolts, which, passing along beneath the floor, entered the adjoining room. He carefully replaced the board, and going into the next apartment, found an empty cupboard, at the bottom of which were two round apertures, evidently through which the ropes had at one time passed. In the back of this cupboard he also perceived chinks and holes, so disposed, that a person shut in the cupboard could observe everything that passed in the other room.

All these discoveries, far from alarming Brassinjaw, or making him shudder at the thought of what dreadful scenes might perhaps have taken place there, rather whetted his appetite for the acquisition of such a strange abode. Other parties now appearing, Father Brassinjaw left the Cardinal's Hat, more determined than ever to become its sure possessor.

Having once made up his mind to revolutionize his mode of living, he thought the first thing to be done was to change his outward man: this, by the by, is a very common course; many a rogue believes himself reformed, when he puts on the covering of honesty, forgetting that, unless


. the cancer of a vicious heart be thoroughly rooted out, the fruit that heart brings forth will still be rotten at the core, however disguised in outward form.

" First, I'll to the botcher," said Brassinjaw; "my present habiliments are but ill suited to the tapster's trade, though his and mine are not so widely differing as silly people think; the business of both of us is to intoxicate the mind, and make men fools." The more he worked up his own mind to the change he intended to make, the more did he try to believe that his new calling was the honester of the two; and certainly as he, and, alas! thousands of others, had exercised his miscalled holy power, perhaps, the publican would prove the lesser sinner.

As Master Thomas Stow, of Aldgate, was a tailor of no mean repute, our saintly father hied him thither, where, as Horton had formerly done, he found the old man, spectacles on nose, his boy beside him, both hard at work; and, as before, the elder Stow was soundly scolding the younger, for thinking more of old musty tomes, than he ever did of jackets, jerkins, slops, or hose.

The cause of Horton's visit had not more surprised the old tailor, than did the announcement made by Brassinjaw, that he "lacked a comely suit of newest cut," and, odd enough for an intended publican, he desired it might be made "of some right sober colour"-we fear it would be the only part about him that would remain sober, if once he took possession of the Cardinal's Hat.

The old tailor took off his spectacles, wiped them, and then put them on again, and looking full in the face of Brassinjaw, he exclaimed with surprise, " Why, holy father, I should have as much expected to have seen Saint Thomas a Becket himself, rest his holy bones, walk in upon such an errand, as Father Brassinjaw."

" And I should have as soon expected," replied Brassinjaw, "to have seen so wise a tailor, as Master Stow is known to be, swallow his own goose to cure an indigestion, as to have heard him call that rascally rebel, a Becket, a saint! ,Why, know you not, man, that our most religious King, the gentle-hearted Henry-" here Brassinjaw frowning mumbled something to himself, which was no doubt an eulogistic expression, far too flattering to His Grace the King, to be uttered aloud- Yes, the King in his great wisdom, has found out, what any other fool -I mean any fool, might have done for the last four hundred years, that a Becket was but a counterfeit Saint, otherwise, why didn't he, the other day, fiace the lawyers, and answer for himself like a man; but no, he let the action go by default, for he knew he could not deceive King Henry, though he might all the world beside. And now, Master Stow, know that if you would keep your ears to yourself, you had better keep your tongue so too, and never call at Becket saint again."

" I never thought him one !" exclaimed the old tailor, falling in a moment into the humour of the times, which made men call black white, one day, and white black the next; this habit, brought on by fear, extended from the highest to the lowest in the land; " I never thought him one, and it always went against my stomach, as I let the lie slip off my tongue when I said he was. But now, Father Brassinjaw-- "


"Father! father me no more !" said Brassinjaw: 'when I put on thy new doublet, I put off the old priest. So father me no more; I am now no father, though perhaps I may be soon." " But, prithee, what in the name of the saints has wrought this wonderous change in thee ?" enquired the old tailor.

" The times, man, the times! the badness of the times!" replied Brassinjaw, sticking out his two arms quite straight, until he looked like a fat letter T.

As the old tailor began to measure him, he continued-" All trades, Master Stow, have their ups and downs; no firm ever lasted for ever, howsoever carefully, cleverly, deeply, it might have been conducted- let the sleeves be large and puffed-perhaps we, of our craft, ought not to complain, for we carried on a roaring trade for some hundreds of years, and he who has left off bankrupt now the market's stopped, has but himself to blame-there was no lack of pickings, Master Stow, there was no lack of pickings-let my money-pouch be wide and deep-and now, Master Stow," he said, as he found the old tailor upon both his knees, measuring his legs, " tell me, man, which think you, will best become my style of figure-the olden slops, and tight-drawn hose, or a neat pair of the new-fangled trousers ?"

By this observation, we may gather that trousers were beginning to be introduced in the time of Henry the Eighth.

" With such a calf as thine," replied the old tailor, at the same time holding out about three-quarters of a yard of the measure, which he had just taken from around Brassinjaw's leg, " with such a calf as thine, it were a sin, a downright sin, to hide a morsel of your legs beneath those silly things called trousers, or 'neath ought beside."

"So Margery, my little housekeeper, has often said," replied Brassin- jaw, "so let it be the slops and hose. And now good, Master Stow, what's stirring in the world ?"

" Stirring !" exclaimed the old tailor, suddenly becoming quite excited; " stirring! marry the whole world is stirring methinks, thanks to that villain, Cromwell-it's no use checking me-he is a villain, and there is but one still greater, and that is his minion, Harry Horton-he told me I should one day remember him, and I don't think it likely I shall ever forget either him or his master."

" But why this fury ?" enquired Brassinjaw; "what has Lord Cromwell done to thee ?"

"Done !" replied the other; "he has undone me. You know my pretty house, and pretty garden, behind Throgmorton Street ? that house, abutted upon the palings of Lord Cromwell's grounds. He thought a tailor, I suppose, too mean a neighbour, to be so close to a dirty blacksmith's son, so coveted a portion of my land; but I loved my garden as my life. and swore I'd never part with it. Now, would you believe it, or can you picture my surprise, when on reaching my home the other night, I found that Lord Cromwell had pulled down the pales, had undermined the foundations of my house, had placed it on huge rollers, and having wheeled it some two and twenty feet, there set it down again; a wall was then built up, and I was robbed of twenty and two feet of my own garden ground !"



Strange as this circumstance may appear, it is no more strange than true. The house was moved away on rollers, unknown to Stow, and the ground added to Cromwell's garden, without the slightest remuneration being offered. Such was the tyranny of those times, that, notwithstanding the grossness of this outrage, " no man durst go to argue the the matter ;" to add to the hardship, Stow had still to pay his whole rent, although one half of his garden had been taken from him; the rent he paid will sound prodigious to a modern ear-it was no less a sum than six and sixpence a year !

The tears quite came into the eyes of the old tailor, as he recounted his wrongs, which he laid entirely to the spite of Horton, whom he said, "he was sure had put the fancy into Lord Cromwell's mind."

" Oh ! then," said Brassinjaw, " you too have a small account to settle with Horton, have ye ? I have one heavier perhaps than yours, but leave it to me, Master Stow, leave it to me, and I'll get payment, with interest too, for both of us. I never let my hawks fly until I am sure they can strike their game-so be not in a hurry-but you shall be paid to your heart's content; this I promise, and I'll keep my word. And now, Master Stow, know ye any one deeply skilled in the mystery of barbery ? Some cunning wight who can make a nostrum that shall cause one's hair to grow both quick and thick ?"

The old tailor said he could not answer for the truth of what he had heard, but that it was reported that, at that very moment there was to be foundin the fair, the very man his new customer required-" Yes," he said, " it is reported so wonderful is the power of this extraordinary pomade that an old lady mistaking it for lip salve, rubbed it over her upper lip, when, in less than three days she had a pair of moustachios, of such prolific growth, that she has been obliged to shave twice a-day ever since! Having said this, the old man looked at Brassinjaw from under his spectacles, as much as to say--" What do you think of that ?"

"That's my man!" exclaimed Brassinjaw, who having impressed upon the old tailor's mind, that not a moment was to be lost in finishing his new habiliments, at once hurried off to the fair.