London, Volume 4

Knight, Charles


LXXXIII.-Westminster Abbey: No. IV.-Poets' Corner.

LXXXIII.-Westminster Abbey: No. IV.-Poets' Corner.



Poets' Corner!

--We could wish, most heartily, we knew the name of him who gave this appellation to the south transept of the Abbey, and thus helped, most probably, to make it what it is, the richest little spot the earth possesses in its connexion with the princes of song: such a man ought himself to have a monument among Them. And, though he may have never written a line, we could almost venture to assert he must have been a kindred spirit, so exquisitely applicable is his phrase;--so felicitously illustrative of the poet, who, with all his exhaustion of old worlds and creation of new, is generally most deeply attached to some of the smallest corners of that on which he moves;--so characteristic is it of the personal relation in which we, his readers, stand toward him: not in the pulpit, the senate, or the academy, does he teach us, but in the quiet corner by the winter fire-side, or in the green nook of the summer woods. In a word, we might have sought in vain for any other appellation that would have expressed,


with equal force, the with which we desire, however unconsciously, to invest this sumptuous abode of our dead poets, or that would have harmonised so finely with our mingled sentiments of affection and reverence for their memory.

But, though we do not know who gave the name, we are at no loss with regard to those whose burial here suggested it. If, immediately we enter, we turn to the right, and gaze on the monuments on the wall by our side, we perceive standing out from the rest in hoar antiquity, a fine old Gothic piece of sculpture, that, though in reality not centuries old, seems at the glance to be coeval with the building itself; that is the tomb of Chaucer, the poet buried in the Abbey, and the true poet England produced. It is, in other respects, of the most interesting memorials of the place. Caxton, who, among his numerous claims to our gratitude, adds that of having sought out and made permanent by printing the manuscript of the Canterbury Tales ( of the editions of which he published under circumstances peculiarly honourable to himself), placed the original inscription here, which he obtained from a learned Milanese. This remained till Brigham, a student in the university of Oxford, took upon him, as a labour of love, the erection of a monument to the illustrious poet's memory. The present tomb was accordingly placed here in . As we pause to gaze on its decayed and blackened front, and to examine, with an interest that finds little to repay it, the remains of the poet's effigy, a kind of melancholy similarity between the fate of Chaucer's reputation and that of his memorial suggests itself: what Spenser calls

black oblivion's rust

has been almost as injurious to the as to the last, and has caused of the greatest, and, as far as qualifications are concerned, most popular of poets, to be the most neglected or unknown by the large majority of his countrymen. There is a rust upon his verses, it is true, that mars, upon the whole, their original music (such as we find it breaking out at intervals where time has not played his fantastic tricks with the spelling and pronunciation), and which, for the few hours of perusal, somewhat dims also the brilliancy of the thoughts,--but that is all; he who devotes day to Chaucer will be delighted the next, and on the will look back with amazement on his ignorance of the writer who, all circumstances of time and position considered, can scarcely be said to have had yet a superior, unless it be Shakspere. And even he has not equalled, in some respects, the man who at once made England a poetical country; there is nothing in the whole range of literature that can be compared, for instance, to the pathos of the story of Griselde. Looked at, again, as a painter of manners, using the word in its largest sense, Froissart, Chaucer's contemporary, appears by his side a man of but idea. Chaucer, like Shakspere, seems to have combined in himself all the qualities which are generally found to belong to different individuals. As the characters of the wonderful prologue to the Canterbury Tales throng upon the memory, is lost in wonder at the extent and variety of the powers that could have created such a diversified assemblage. The gentle veteran knight, the young flute-playing poetical squire, the dainty prioress, the luxurious and respectable monk side by side with the licentious and vagabond friar, the merry and wanton wife of Bath, the poure parson, that sublimest of characters in


the homeliest of shapes, the brawny bagpipe-playing miller, &c., &c.--A restoration of the monument, it appears, is meditated; what a subject for bas-reliefs were these characters of the Canterbury Tales! Chaucer died in , a fact we learn only from the monument; and, like the fabled swan, he may be said to have literally died singing. Among his works we find

A ballad made by Geoffrey Chaucer upon his death-bed,

lying in his great anguish


a touching and memorable passage to be prefixed to a poem, and is naturally anxious to learn the nature of the sentiments that flowed into verse under such circumstances. They are alike worthy of the poet and the occasion, and afford another instance of Chaucer's versatility: the recurrence of the same line at the end of each verse is peculiarly musical and effective, and is interesting as showing how early this favourite trick (if we may be allowed to use that word in a somewhat higher sense than is now common) of modern song-writers was known and practised. The line in question,

And Truth thee shall deliver, it is no dread,

shows the spirit of the poem. Such was the poet buried in the Corner. The next was a worthy successor, Spenser, the author of the

Fairy Queen.

If poets, in the words of Shelley, are

cradled into wrong,

or begin the world with suffering-so, alas! too often do they end it. England's great poet is said to have died of starvation in the neighbouring , . Ben Jonson thus briefly records, in his conversations with Drummond of Hawthornden, the frightful circumstances that attended the last days of the poet :--

The Irish having robbed Spenser's goods, and burnt his house and a little child new born, he and his wife escaped; and, after, he

died for lake of bread


King Street

, and refused


pieces sent to him by my Lord of Essex, adding,

he was sorry he had no time to spend them.

This story sounds altogether terribly like truth; yet, as doubts have been thrown upon it, we are glad to think it possible that there may be some mistake, or at least exaggeration. This great poet had great patrons: , Sir Philip Sidney, then Raleigh, and, lastly, Essex. By Raleigh Spenser was introduced to Elizabeth; which circumstance, according to an old story, led to the Queen's rebuking Lord Burleigh for his parsimony, and desiring that the poet should have reason for his rhyme. In Henslowe the player's Diary, the story is thus corroborated:--

May 4, 1602

. When her Majesty had given order that Mr. Spenser should have a reward for his poems, but Spenser could have nothing, he presented her with these verses:--

It pleased your grace upon a time To grant me reason for my rhyme; But from that time, until this season, I heard of neither rhyme nor reason.

The answer appears to have been a grant of per annum, which Malone discovered among the records in the Rolls Chapel: so we may hope that the poet who had enriched his country's literature with that divinest shape of human beauty-

Heavenly Una with her milk-white lamb

was not haunted in his last hours by the presence of a fiend more horrible than his own creations-infernal Pain and tumultuous Strife, who


The one in hand an iron whip did strain,

The other brandished a bloody knife,

And both did gnash their teeth, and both did threaten life :

-- Hunger, we may hope, was not by the poet's death-bed. Spenser was buried where he had desired to be, near his great predecessor, Chaucer (but on the other side of the entrance), in -, at the expense of the Earl of Essex. It has been recorded that several of his poetical brethren attended, who threw epitaphs, and elegies, and panegyrics on his works, into his grave,

with the pens that wrote them.

Gentle Willy

(Spenser's own designation of Shakspere) we may be tolerably sure was among these mourners. The present monument is an exact transcript of an older set up by the Countess of Dorset in , for which that lady paid Nicholas Stone Mason, the poet, was the chief agent of the restoration, which became necessary, in , through the softness of the original stone. We must not pass on without transcribing the short but beautiful inscription:--

Here lies, expecting the


coming of our Saviour Christ Jesus, the body of Edmund Spenser, the Prince of Poets in his time, whose divine spirit needs no other witness than the works which he left behind him.

This was the inhabitant of Poets' Corner.

The was Beaumont: how was it that we cannot add--with whom rests Fletcher? So thoroughly have their lives become incorporated in the incorporation of their writings and fame, that feels as though Beaumont himself were not all here, entombed thus alone. Most touching and beautiful of friendships! In all the works of these great writers there is no incident half so romantic as their own undivided lives; for, as Aubrey has shown us in his recorded gossip, their literary connexion was but the natural manifestation not merely of kindred tastes and talents, but of an ardent affection for each other, that was as plainly seen in the house where they lived together, and had the same clothes, and most probably a common purse, as in the theatre, where their separate writings were undistinguishable, and where, if were really greater than the other, they kept the secret to themselves so effectually, that to this hour the best critics have been baffled in their attempts to assign to each his due merit. How great that merit is, may be judged by those not familiar with their works from Schlegel's remark upon them. He says--

They hardly wanted anything but a more profound seriousness of mind, and that sagacity in art which observes a due measure in everything, to deserve a place beside the greatest dramatic poets of all nations.

Beaumont was buried before the entrance into the of the chapels here (St. Benedict's), immediately beyond Chaucer's monument, where he lies without memorial or inscription.

Drayton followed Beaumont, whose monument, close to the entrance on the right side, has an inscription too faded to be read, but too beautiful to be lost. The same lady who erected Spenser's monument (Clifford, Countess of Dorset) erected this also; and Aubrey, who mentions that fact, says that Marshall, the stone-cutter, informed him the inscription was by Quarles, but in Ben Jonson's works it.has been printed by his editors as his. It runs thus:--

Do, pious marble, let thy readers know

What they and what their children owe

To Drayton's name; whose sacred dust

We recommend unto thy trust.

Protect his memory and preserve his story,

Remain a lasting monument of his glory.

And when thy ruins shall disclaim

To be the treasury of his name,

His name, that cannot fade, shall be

An everlasting monument to thee.

Beautiful, however, as is the concluding thought, we fear the inscription

doth protest too much.

To cease to be read is the same thing to an author as to cease to be remembered; and how few readers are there now of the Poly-olbion! Drayton's involved style and love of mere topography have spoilt, it is to be feared, for ever, what might have been a fine poem, and is unquestionably full of fine poetry., Drayton died in , and was followed years after by his great contemporary, and--if he were the author of the foregoing inscription-panegyrist, Ben Jonson. Near Spenser's memorial these few words strike every visitor to Poets' Corner--

O rare Ben Jonson!

--inscribed beneath a tablet with a head in relief of the poet. His remains do not, however, rest in this part of the Abbey, but in the north aisle of the nave, near Killigrew's monument, where the quaint epitaph was


says Aubrey,

at the charge of Jack Young (afterwards knighted), who, walking here when the grave was covering, gave the fellow eighteen pence to cut it.

The stone very unnecessarily was taken away at the late relaying of the pavement. A story is told in the Abbey with regard to the grave, that seems about as deserving of credit as the marvellous relations of cathedral-guides generally. It states that the Dean of day rallied Jonson about his burial in the Abbey vaults.

I am too poor for that,

was, it is said, the poet's reply;

and no


will lay out funeral charges upon me. No, sir,


feet long by


wide is too much for me:


feet by


will do for all I want.

You shall have it,

said the Dean. On.the poet's death the riddle was explained by a demand for the space agreed; when a hole feet deep was dug, and the coffin set upright in it. The tablet in Poets' Corner is from a design by Gibbs, the architect.

Under the date of , Evelyn writes,

Went to Mr. Cowley's funeral, whose corpse lay at Wallingford House, and was thence conveyed to

Westminster Abbey

in a hearse with


horses, and all funeral decency, near a


coaches of noblemen and persons of quality following; among these all the wits of the town, diverse bishops and clergymen. He was interred next Geoffrey Chaucer, and near Spenser: A goodly monument since erected to his memory.

This is an urn wreathed with laurel, and emitting fire, as typical, we presume, of the inspiration that animated Cowley's poetry. The Latin inscription declares Cowley the Pindar, Horace, and Virgil of England. The monument was raised by George, Duke of Buckingham, the literary opponent of the great poet next buried here, and whose monument we find adjoining Cowley's, with a noble bust and the simplest of inscriptions, to

J. Dryden.

This was not placed here till years after the poet's death; when his friend and patron, Sheffield, Duke of Buckingham, reminded, by Pope's intended epitaph on Rowe, of the

nameless stone

that covered the remains, caused it to be erected with the admirable


bust by Scheemakers. If could desire change in an inscription which is so perfectly refreshing for its simplicity and freedom from panegyric, it would be in order to introduce Pope's couplet :--

This Sheffield raised: the sacred dust below

Was Dryden once; the rest who does not know?

But, after all, the truest taste in such matters would be, we think, to banish everything but the plain name, where that name was such as Dryden's: the longer inscription might then be left for the use of those who feared that the virtues or genius of their deceased friends would not be sufficiently known without. Reflecting on the neglect before alluded to of the Duke towards Dryden's memory, a painful story of a similar nature (indeed, the poet's life was altogether but too full of such neglects and delays) recurs in connexion with his burial. He died in ; and then the world remembered, as it usually does, what a very great man it had lost, and talked of what very great things ought to be accomplished in honour of his remains. What followed may be best narrated in the words of the writer of a biographical account of Congreve's life, as transcribed by Johnson in his

Lives of the Poets.

The passage is long, but interesting; and as there seems really no doubt of its general truth, we cannot persuade ourselves to mutilate it:--

Mr. Dryden dying on the Wednesday morning, Dr. Thomas Sprat, then Bishop of Rochester and Dean of


, sent the next day to the Lady Elizabeth Howard, Mr. Dryden's widow, that he would make a present of the ground, which was

forty pounds

, with all the other Abbey fees. The Lord Halifax likewise sent to the Lady Elizabeth, and Mr, Charles Dryden, her

Milton - Westminster Abbey

son, that if they would give him leave to bury Mr. Dryden, he would inter him with a gentleman's private funeral, and afterwards bestow

five hundred pounds

on a monument in the Abbey; which, as they had no reason to refuse, they accepted. On the Saturday following the company came; the corpse was put into a velvet hearse; and eighteen mourning-coaches, filled with company, attended. When they were just ready to move, the Lord Jefferies, son of the Lord Chancellor Jefferies, with some of his rakish companions, coming by, asked whose funeral it was: and being told Mr. Dryden's, he said,

What! shall Dryden, the greatest honour and ornament of the nation, be buried after this private manner? No, gentlemen! Let all that loved Mr. Dryden, and honour his memory, alight and join with me in gaining my lady's consent to let me have the honour of his interment, which shall be after another manner than this; and I will bestow a thousand pounds on a monument in the Abbey for him!

The gentlemen in the coaches, not knowing of the Bishop of Rochester's favour, nor of the Lord Halifax's generous design (they both having, out of respect to the family, enjoined the Lady Elizabeth and her son to keep their favours concealed to the world, and let it pass for their own expense), readily came out of their coaches, and attended Lord Jefferies up to the lady's bedside, who was then sick. He repeated the purport of what he had before said; but she absolutely refusing, he fell on his knees, vowing never to rise till his request was granted. The rest of the company by his desire kneeled also; and the lady, being under a sudden surprise, fainted away. As soon as she recovered her speech, she cried,

No, no!

Enough, gentlemen,

replied he:

my lady is very good; she says, Go, go!

She repeated her former words with all her strength, but in vain, for her feeble voice was lost in their acclamations of joy; and the Lord Jefferies ordered the hearsemen to carry the corpse to Mr. Russel's, an undertaker in


, and leave it there till he should send orders for the embalment, which, he added, should be after the royal manner. His directions were obeyed, the company dispersed, and Lady Elizabeth and her son remained inconsolable. The next day Mr. Charles Dryden waited on the Lord Halifax and the Bishop, to excuse his mother and himself, by relating the real truth; but neither his Lordship nor the Bishop would admit of any plea; especially the latter, who had the Abbey lighted, the ground opened, the choir attending, an anthem ready set, and himself waiting for some time without any corpse to bury. The undertaker, after


days' expectance of orders for embalment, without receiving any, waited on the Lord Jefferies, who, pretending ignorance of the matter, turned it off with an ill-natured jest, saying that those who observed the orders of a drunken frolic deserved no better; that he remembered nothing at all of it; and that he might do what he pleased with the corpse. Upon this, the undertaker waited upon the Lady Elizabeth and her son, and threatened to bring the corpse home and set it before the door. They desired a day's respite, which was granted. Mr. Charles Dryden wrote a handsome letter to the Lord Jefferies, who returned it with this cool answer-

That he knew nothing of the matter, and would be troubled no more about it.

He then addressed the Lord Halifax and the Bishop of Rochester, who absolutely refused to do anything in it. In this distress Dr. Garth sent for the corpse to the

College of Physicians

and proposed a funeral by subscription, to which himself set a most noble example. At last a day, about


weeks after Mr. Dryden's decease, was appointed for the interment. Dr. Garth pronounced a fine Latin oration at the College over the corpse, which was attended to the Abbey by a numerous train of coaches.

Of the truth of this story Dr. Johnson could find no other confirmation than a letter of Farquhar's, stating the funeral was

tumultuary and confused ;

a somewhat strong , we should consider, seeing that the ordinary accounts of the funeral, which do not allude to the story, are equally silent as to any such general features as Farquhar mentions. There is to be added also that, though there are discrepancies in the dates, it is certain that a very unusual delay took place between the death and the burial, and that the procession set out from the College after the delivery of an oration, as described by the writer, instead of from the poet's own house: a circumstance utterly unexplainable, it appears to us, except from the occurrence of some unusual event. The funeral was sufficiently splendid when it did take place. After the oration at the College, the ode of Horace, , set to

mournful music,

was sung, with an accompaniment of trumpets, hautboys, and other instruments. The procession then set out, consisting of several mourners on horseback, then the band,

who made a very harmonious noise,

preceding the corpse, which, lastly, was followed by no less than mourning-coaches, drawn each by horses, and a multitude of other equipages.

Among the remaining poets buried in the Corner there are whose memorials attract the attention of the ordinary visitor-those of Rowe, Prior, and Gay. The and the last are side by side in the corner behind the screen which faces the doorway, whilst Prior's stares you in the face from the screen, as you enter, as if eager to thrust itself upon your notice before your attention is occupied by the greater memorials of the place. Rowe's monument is by Rysbrach, and is chiefly noticeable for a beautiful inscription by Pope,--concluding with the following allusion to his widow :--

To these so mourn'd in death, so lov'd in life,

The childless parent and the widow'd wife

With tears inscribes this monumental stone,

That holds their ashes, ard expects her own.

To the poet's excessive annoyance, it is said, the widow sympathised so little with the expectations of the monument, that she married again, and thus destroyed at once half the beauty of the thought. Rowe died in . years after Prior was buried in

that last piece of human vanity

which was erected at his own desire, and for which he left a bequest of This certainly was a summary way of deciding the amount of his own reputation; but posterity likes to have its own opinion on these matters, and that opinion, we fear, in spite of the showy monument, is not very favourable to Matthew Prior. The memorial, in the shape of a winged boy holding a medallion portrait, of him who, in the words of Pope's inscription, was

Of manners gentle, of affections mild,

In wit a man, simplicity a child,

suggests more interesting recollections. The author of the most popular of


English musical pieces, the , and of of the best of English ballads,

Black-eyed Susan,

the favourite correspondent of Pope and Swift (how touching are the laments of the latter over his death!), and the almost idolised inmate of the eccentric but benevolent Duke and Duchess of Queensberry, rises always to the memory as of those poets for whom, if we have not any uncomfortable amount of awe and veneration, we have a great deal of genuine love. The worthless couplet-

Life is a jest, and all things show it;

I thought so once, but now I know it

the mere expression of a mood of the poet's mind, should never have been placed on the monument, and it were but an act of kindness to Gay's memory to erase it. There remains to fill up the list of the strictly-poetical inhabitants of the Abbey only Denham, the author of who lies buried beneath the pavement in front of Dryden's monument; and Macpherson, the author--as there is now little doubt but he was--of the poems ushered into the world under such peculiar circumstances as the productions of Ossian, whose resting-place is marked by a plain blue stone and brief inscription, near the centre of the transept. As to the memorial to Milton, remarkable for a piece of vile taste, perpetrated by him who erected it, and who in consequence has been pilloried in the

On poets' tombs see Benson's titles writ ;

-- Shakspere's, to which Milton's lines may be applied with peculiar force, even by those who do not quite agree with the poet in holding any monument unnecessary,

Dear Son of Memory, great heir of fame,

What need'st thou such weak witness of thy name?

-- Phillips's, with its profile effigy, and wreath of and laurel leaves, in illustration of his poem on Cyder, and which was rejected by Dr. Sprat on account of its allusion to Phillips's uncle, Milton, a name, in the bishop's opinion (himself a small poet), too detestable to be read on the wall of a building dedicated to devotion;-- Butler's bust;--Gray's, with its figure in relief of the Lyric Muse holding a medallion of the poet, by Bacon;--Thomson's, Mason's, and Goldsmith's;--they are all but so many instances of the poets' monuments which have no poets reposing beneath them, that Addison alludes to in of his papers in the and which should be carefully dissociated from those that have. This is so little attended to in the Abbey, that a visitor finds it impossible to determine from the mere sight of the tombs or inscriptions, except in or cases, which of the great poets were really buried here. Although but a mere honorary memorial, the we last mentioned, Goldsmith's, is interesting from the associations connected with it. This great poet, essayist, and novelist, who was in himself sufficient to prove Johnson's theory, that genius is but a mind of large general powers accidentally determined in some particular direction-for, whilst Goldsmith's powers were directed in numerous directions, he excelled in all,--this admirable writer, who wanted but of the commonest of qualities, prudence, to have been also of the most admirable of men, was intended to have been


buried in the Abbey, with a magnificent ceremonial, until the knowledge of his numerous unpaid debts caused the withdrawal of the scheme; when the body was interred in the Temple churchyard. A tablet, however, it was decided should be raised to his memory in the Abbey; Reynolds chose the place, immediately over the doorway of the chapel of St. Blaize (adjoining Gay's memorial), and Johnson undertook to prepare the inscription. What followed lives, no doubt, in the memory of most of our readers. Johnson wrote the inscription in Latin, and presented it for the approval of his companions, when they and all disapproved of it, and subsequently prepared a round robin of names, begging him to celebrate the fame of an English author in the language in which he wrote. Johnson flatly refused, saying he would never consent to disgrace the walls of with an English inscription: and so we have before us the Latin inscription; unintelligible perhaps to out of every visitors of the Abbey who have enjoyed and and who are naturally interested in knowing what his friend Johnson would say about him.

The Poets' Corner is not, however, solely confined to poets; divines, philosophers, actors, musicians, dramatists, architects, and critics have found place among them. Barrow, whose life almost justifies the inscription which speaks of

a man almost divine, and truly great, if greatness be comprised in piety, probity, and faith, the deepest learning, equal modesty, and morals in every respect sanctified and sweet,

--Barrow, whom Charles II. used to call an

unfair preacher,

inasmuch as that he left nothing for others to say after him on the


topics he handled,--Barrow lies here, with a tablet and bust over his remains: the latter has the appearance of being a faithful likeness.

In another part, beneath the pavement before St. Blaize's Chapel, lie the remains of Johnson, with those of his friend and early associate, when the world was all before them both, and the paths were yet to choose--Garrick, on the side, and those of Sheridan on the other. Why the monument raised to Johnson's memory should have been placed in , instead of over or near his remains in the Abbey, is of those mysteries that we may expect to solve when we have learnt why Nelson-whose memorable words at the battle of the Nile,

Victory or

Westminster Abbey


so peculiarly marked out the proper place of his destinationwas interred at . With regard to Johnson's monument, however, we are too glad at not seeing in the Abbey the classical monstrosity which is absurdly said to commemorate , to care very much about the cause. Garrick's monument, erected at some distance from his remains, on the opposite wall of the transept, is to us chiefly remarkable from the circumstance that it betrayed of the most tolerant of spirits into something very like intolerance. When Charles Lamb says he would

not go so far, with some good Catholics abroad, as to shut players out of consecrated ground,

he does go far enough to afford fresh fuel to the unjust opinion of the actor's art that has so long prevailed in the countries where Shakspere and Moliere each trod the stage--an opinion as mischievous too as unjust; for, by deprecating the profession, it has in a ways helped to lower the characters of the professors: thus making the evil, of which it can with the greatest show of reason afterwards complain. Again, he speaks of the

theatrical airs and gestures

of the monument, not simply from any deficiency of the sculptor's skill to make them natural, but as objecting evidently to anything that could remind us of the theatre. There is a short way to test the truth of all this. At the left-hand corner of the same wall on which is Garrick's monument is that to Handel, in which the musician is represented surrounded by the materials and accessories of art--the organ in the background, a harp in the hands of an angel above, and an effigy of himself in the act of composition, and as if suddenly inspired, in front. No speaks of theatrical or orchestral gestures in connexion with this great work. If, then, Charles Lamb did not overlook the immense difference that there must be between the productions of H. Webber, the artist of the , and those of Roubiliac, the artist of the other, his animadversions will be found strictly to mean that the theatre is, in the abstract, so much less exalted an instrument of enjoyment and instruction than the orchestra, as to make the memory of the painful to us in the presence of the dead, when the other rouses no such sensations: a conclusion to which we respectfully demur, remembering, what the truest lovers of Shakspere seem often to forget, how grand a mission has been given to the stage :--

To hold, as 'twere, the mirror up to nature, to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure.

If it does not do this, it ought; and may be made-when those who have influence over it raise their own minds to its natural level.

Above the monument just referred to, Handel's, is a tablet which reminds us of an interesting event in the history of the musical art in this country, the


commemorations, which took place within the Abbey walls on several different occasions during the last century, and once during the present. The idea was suggested in a conversation between some enthusiastic admirers of the great musician in , who, seeing that, in the following year, a century would have elapsed since his birth, and a quarter of a century since his death, resolved to attempt the getting up of a performance, on the most magnificent scale, of Handel's works, by way of commemoration. The directors of the Concerts of Ancient Music not only highly approved of the scheme, but voluntarily undertook the arduous and responsible duty of arranging the performances. The King, George III., also gave his fullest sanction. On the the performances began, during the whole of which the Abbey presented a magnificent and unique spectacle. At end of the nave was seen a kind of throne, with an enclosure fitted up for royalty, and most regally decorated, in the centre, and other enclosures, on each side, for the bishops and for the Dean and Chapter. At the other end rose the vast orchestra, with upwards of performers, and the organ, in a Gothic frame, at the summit. The choral bands were on steps at the sides, rising stage upon stage till they seemed lost to the eyes of the spectators, in their extremest elevation. Lastly, in the area and galleries, in every nook and corner into which it seemed possible for human beings to introduce themselves, were the spectators, or in number. The triumph of the architect to whom the arrangements for the fitting up of the Abbey had been confided, Mr. Wyatt, was seen in the harmonious aspect which, we are told, the whole presented; all

so wonderfully corresponded with the style of architecture of this venerable and beautiful structure, that there was nothing visible, either for use or ornament, which did not harmonize with the principal tone of the building.

The performances lasted days, and on the. whole produced a deep and most beneficial effect on the permanent interests of the art. For some years the commemorations were repeated annually-at that in the receipts were , a sum considerably exceeding the receipts of the in -but gradually they were given at longer and longer intervals till , when, although the performers had been increased to the number of persons, the receipts exhibited a serious decrease, and in consequence the commemorations for the time ceased. Haydn was present during the last-mentioned performances; and, as he was ever ready to acknowledge, derived from them his deep veneration of the mighty genius of Handel. The last commemoration was that of .

The chief remaining memorials of Poets' Corner may, perhaps, be best noticed in the order in which they meet the eye from the entrance door. By the side of Prior's monument is a tablet, by Chantrey, to the great friend of the negroes, Granville Sharp; who was led to make the attempt towards their emancipation by a little personal incident worth remembering, were it only for the mighty contrast between the end achieved and the beginning. Walking day through the streets of London, he beheld a poor negro shivering with cold, hunger, and sickness. He was a slave from Virginia, abandoned by his master in this country on account of illness brought on by the change of climate. Sharp caused him to be conveyed to St. Bartholomew's Hospital, where he


recovered, and went to a situation provided for him by his benefactor. Immediately these circumstances reached the master's ears, he had the hardihood to throw poor Somerset, his late slave, into prison as a runaway. The matter was then brought before the chief magistrate of the city of London, who declared the man free. The master, however, violently seized him, and endeavoured to get him on board his ship, which was about to sail. There was no time to be lost. Somerset was brought by before the judges, who, after several hearings, declared unanimously, in words for ever memorable,

that as soon as any slave sets his foot upon British ground, he is free.

It is only necessary to add, in order to show how deep a debt of gratitude we owe to Granville Sharp, that he nearly exhausted his fortune in carrying this case to its important issue; and that he had the gratification of living to see the good work he had commenced progress to the point of the formal abolition by the legislature of the slave-trade in . Near Sharp's memorial is the bust of St. Evremond, the French wit, and that of Shadwell, the hero of Dryden's tremendous satire-MacFlecknoe, and who had his revenge in seeing the great poet turned out of the laureateship on the accession of Williamn and Mary, and himself put in his place. On the column at the end of the screen, a tablet records the memory of the witty author of the Christopher Anstey. At the back of the screen, near Shakspere's monument, is Mrs. Pritchard's, an actress of whom Churchill says, comically enough, considering it forms part of a panegyric on a really great artist, that

her voice


as free from blemish as her fame.

On the other side of Bishop Blaize's Chapel, the sumptuous monument of the great Duke of Argyll, as he is generally called, strikes the eye alike by its size and beauty. It is as allegorical, and therefore almost as unmeaning as usual, in the chief thought; the Duke is dying at the base of a pyramid, with sorrowing figures of History, Minerva, and Eloquence around him. But the execution is most masterly. Canova is said to have remarked of the figure of Eloquence,

That is


of the noblest statues I have seen in England.

On the floor between the monuments of Handel and Barrow is the full-length statue (on a circular pedestal) of whose writings give a peculiar interest to his burial in the Abbey. The visits of the are ever things to be remembered, and here, as he has himself told us, he was frequently to be found.

When I am in a serious humour,

says he, in the of his papers on the subject,

I very often walk by myself in

Westminster Abbey

, where the gloominess of the place, and the use to which it is applied, with the solemnity of the building, and the condition of the people who lie in it, are apt to fill the mind with a kind of melancholy, or rather thoughtfulness, that is not disagreeable.

In another passage he says,

When I see kings lying by those who deposed them,--when I consider

rival wits placed side by side,--or

the holy men that divided the world with their contests and disputes,--I reflect with sorrow and astonishment on the little competitions, factions, and debates of mankind.

Did Addison, we won-: der, think how applicable these remarks might be, but a few years later, to his own case? feature of his death-bed is well known-his sending for the


young Earl of Warwick to see how a Christian could die; but another, and to our minds more touching incident, was his conduct to Gay, at the same period. He sent for the poet to his bed-side, and begged his forgiveness for an injury which he had done him (what Gay knew not, but supposed Addison referred to some obstruction he had thrown secretly in his path, whilst endeavouring to obtain court favour), and promised him, if he lived, to make amends. He did not live, but Gay, we are sure, with all his heart forgave him; and we can look on the memorials of the

rival wits,

here buried beneath the same roof, and reflect with satisfaction that these at least did not wait for the grave to point its usual moral. Addison, we must remark, is not interred beneath Westmacott's statue, but in the north aisle of Henry VII.'s Chapel. His body, after lying in state in the Jerusalem Chamber, was buried at night, as Tickell, his friend, thus shows in his elegy:--

Can I forget the dismal night that gave

My soul's best part for ever to the grave!

How silent did his old companions tread,

By midnight lamps, the mansions of the dead;

Through breathing statues, then unheeded things;

Through rows of warriors, and through walks of kings,


Beneath the pavement, near Addison's statue, the remains of Cumberland, the dramatist, essayist, and excellent classical scholar, are interred; and near him those of Henderson, an actor, who, equally great in and might, in Garrick's absence, have reached almost Garrick's reputation. As it was, he was overshadowed by the mightier genius, and consequently few now remember the excellence of John Henderson. Passing on, our eyes again directed upwards, we perceive the memorials of the learned Casaubon, a black and white marble monument erected by Stone, and of Camden, which exhibits a halflength figure, book in hand, of the great antiquary. Camden was master of School; and looks in his effigy, which has something of a prim, pedagoguish look about it, as though he is still thinking of the school, and wondering whether he has got any of his pupils around him in his new abode. Yes, there is , and the who, if tradition be true, it must best please the antiquary's shade to see in such a place-Ben Jonson, the boy whose talents he had so early noticed, and whom he subsequently relieved from the degrading position of a bricklayer's labourer by obtaining for him the office of tutor to Raleigh's son. Crossing now to the wall or screen of the choir we have to the right of the entrance the beautifully sculptured monument of Dr. Busby, master of School, and its rigid ungraceful-looking rival (both having similar recumbent figures), that of the eminent divine, Dr. South, by its side. In the papers before referred to we find Addison and Sir Roger standing before Busby's memorial; when the knight exclaims,

Dr. Busby! a great man: he whipped my grandfather ;--a very great man! I should have gone to him myself, if I had not been a blockhead;--a very great man!

The poet Congreve, we may here add, is buried in another part of the Abbey: why, it would be difficult to say. Lastly, interred below the pavement, are--the critic of the whose nod was so long fate in the literary world; Chambers, the


architect of ; Adam, the builder of the ,


rare Sir William Davenant!

Old Parr, half an immortal himself, and therefore, we suppose, among the poets; and Sheridan, whose death and funeral show, even more brilliantly than usual, that kind of antithesis which the world has so long been accustomed to look on but as a necessary part of the history of men of genius, and which if it missed for any length of time, would, we verily believe, make it begin to look about, and button up its pockets carefully, suspicious that all was not as it should be. Sheridan, no doubt, owed his misfortunes, as much as it was well possible for a man to do, to his own conduct; but when in the close of his life he was left to the most terrible destitution by his courtly friends and quondam admirers, it is melancholy to reflect, that of all the countless thousands his fine powers had delighted, there should be none who, having ample means, were just enough to see that his punishment had been at least as great as his offences, and grateful enough to do something for him who had done so much for all. Whilst the theatre was ringing with the sounds of enjoyment accompanying scene after scene of the the author was lying delirious at home; escaped awhile from the world by that happy provision for unendurable mental anguish. It had been almost better for him if he had never again awakened to consciousness, for among the earliest sounds that met his ear were the threats of an attorney (who held him under arrest), that he would remove him, dying as he was, to a gaol. Well, there was consolation: the world was, no doubt, preparing a splendid funeral; he had only to die to bring back lost friends, make mean patrons generous, change neglect and desolation into universal care and attendance, to become as splendid, and honoured, and be as much cherished as ever. Who could resist such temptations? Sheridan died. And now the charm was broken; the body must be immediately removed; the dead poet cannot be treated as the living might; he is exposed in state at the house of a member of the senate, of which he had been so distinguished an ornament, and here his admirers came in crowds day by day to visit him.-Injurious thought, to suppose they had forgotten him! He is borne to the Abbey; men of royal blood leading the way as mourners, the chief ministers of state following, then the nobles of the land; lastly, an almost interminable line of persons, comprising, we are told, almost all the rank or ability in London.

As we turn our eyes away from the inscription on the plain blue stone at our feet, which has suggested these melancholy but unavoidable reflections, they fall upon stately stone instead of bread; then again upon the memorials of the Prince of Poets, with the horrible doubt that belongs to it; on Goldsmith's, who, after all that has been said of his extravagance, perhaps scarcely received for the whole of his works the amount of years' salary of a minister of state; on Johnson's, whose early struggles in London must be in every 's memory: in short, turn where we will, bounding our vision to the walls of the Abbey, or looking beyond them, we see still the same unnatural disparity between the instruction and enjoyment given, and the reward received; too often little more than

Poets' Corner.

Having now gone through those important portions of the Abbey history which


seemed to require separate notices, our next and concluding paper will be devoted to such a general view of the interior, or rather of its contents, as a visitor, starting from Poets' Corner, and desiring only to have the most essential objects pointed out, may require. In the mean time, it may be useful to present the following
1. General Entrance.
2. Poets' Corner.
3. St. Blaize's Chapel.
4. South Aisle of Choir.
5. South Aisle of Nave.
6. North ditto.
7. New Screen.
8. North Aisle of Choir.
9. West Aisle of North Transept.
10. East Aisle of North Transept.
11. Islip's Chapel.
12. St. John the Baptist's.
13. St. Paul's.
14. Abbot Ware's Mosaic Pavement.
15. Edward the Confessor's Chapel and Shrine.
16. Porch to Henry VII's Chapel.
17. Henry VII.'s Tomb.
18. North Aisle of Henry VII.'s Chapel.
19. South ditto.
20. St. Nicholas's Chapel.
21. St. Edmund's.
22. St. Benedict's.
23. Jerusalem Chamber.
24. College (formerly Abbey) Dining Hall.